Other Early Believers

Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqíy-i-Afnán

It is little wonder that soon after its revelation the Kitáb-i-Íqán became the source of divine knowledge for all the believers and the cause of converting countless souls to the Faith. Several of the Báb's kinsmen acknowledged the truth of the Message of the Báb by studying this book.

One such was Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí,* entitled the Vakílu'd-Dawlih, one of the most eminent believers among the Afnán. As soon as he read the Kitáb-i-Íqán, which was revealed in honour of his father, he recognized the truth of the Cause and hastened to Baghdád to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. He was accompanied on this journey by his elder brother Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí, who also embraced the Faith and became a most outstanding believer.

This meeting with Bahá'u'lláh exerted a tremendous influence upon Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí. His whole being was magnetized by love for Bahá'u'lláh and he became filled with a new spirit which enabled him to realize the station of Bahá'u'lláh before His Declaration and to arise in His service. His devotion and enthusiasm in the Cause of God were exemplary and, as he walked in the streets of Baghdád, he radiated such heavenly joy that the believers in that city used to refer to him as the 'delightful Afnán'. It seemed as if the flame of divine love kindled by the hand of Bahá'u'lláh had completely burned away all his attachments to this world.


* A cousin of the Báb, the son of Hájí Mírzá Siyyid Muhammad for whom Bahá'u'lláh revealed the Kitáb-i-Íqán.

The Dawn-Breakers, Genealogy of the Báb
In this state he returned to Yazd, where he continued his work as a merchant and was highly esteemed by its citizens. Although from the beginning of this Dispensation the people of Yazd have been fanatical enemies of the new-born Faith and have ruthlessly persecuted its followers in that city, yet the family of the Afnán were not involved in this. Government officials and other dignitaries treated them with consideration and respect. In particular, they had a high regard for Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí whose deeds and personality endeared him to the authorities.

Towards the close of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry, the nucleus of a Bahá'í community began to grow rapidly in 'Ishqábád, in the province of Turkistán. Several Bahá'í families from Persia migrated to this city where they enjoyed a measure of freedom in their Bahá'í activities.

At one stage, Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí arranged for the purchase of some properties in 'Ishqábád and, upon informing Bahá'u'lláh of this, he was instructed to use a certain portion of these properties for the building of a Mashriqu'l-Adhkár After the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí, as directed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, travelled to 'Ishqábád and undertook the task of supervising the construction of this House of Worship. He dedicated all his efforts towards, and expended all his financial resources in, the execution of this vast undertaking. With the help of other Bahá'ís, he erected this noble edifice, the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in the Bahá'í world.*

When the building of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár was completed and the interior ornamentation was well on the way, 'Abdu'l-Bahá summoned Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí to the Holy Land. He left 'Ishqábád in 1325 A.H. (A.D. 1907), committing all his affairs and those of the House of Worship to his eldest son, Hájí Mírzá Mahmúd, and spent his last days in the presence of the Master.

He passed away in the Holy Land and is buried on the slopes


* As a result of an earthquake in the area this building became dangerous and had to be demolished in 1963.

of Mount Carmel, in the shadow of the Shrine of the Báb and in the vicinity of the Cave of Elijah.

No account of Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí would be complete without referring to his early days when, as a youth of fifteen, he would sit in the presence of the Báb listening to His melodious voice as He revealed prayers and the verses of God. In his brief memoirs, which he wrote in 'Ishqábád, Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí speaks of those days:

I remember that every Sunday I used to go to the house of my illustrious aunt, the mother of the Báb, where I had the great privilege of attaining His presence...I remember especially on one occasion He permitted me to sit in His presence, and graciously cut a slice of melon which He gave to me. He was busy writing some prayers and verses. He then handed me one of the prayers He had revealed during the week and asked me to chant it in His presence...The Báb left Shíráz for Mecca via Búshihr that same week or the week after...Two or three months later I went to Búshihr to join my father...On His return from Mecca the Báb came to our house in Búshihr where I spent several days in His presence. During those days every moment of His time was spent in revealing the verses of God and writing prayers...One evening with tearful eyes I begged Him in all sincerity to pray for me so that I might spend my days in the service of God and in the end attain to His good pleasure. He assured me that it would be so.1

Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí was an embodiment of detachment, humility and servitude. His only aim in life was to serve the Cause he loved so much. He often communed with Bahá'u'lláh in spirit and through prayer. Of him it is reported that every day at home he would put on his best clothes, sit for a few hours in a room by himself and with the utmost devotion and sincerity turn his heart and soul to Bahá'u'lláh, regarding himself as being in the very presence of the Blessed Beauty.

'Abdu'l-Bahá has said that whenever He was overtaken by grief, His meeting with Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí would


1. Khánidán-i-Afnán, pp. 111-12.
cause His sadness to disappear and His heart to be filled with joy.

During His darkest hours of incarceration in 'Akká, when the Covenant-breakers were working hand-in-hand with the Turkish authorities to threaten His life, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a Tablet to Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí and instructed him to arrange for the election of the Universal House of Justice,* should the threats against Him be carried out.

In the same Tablet 'Abdu'l-Bahá speaks of the greatness of the Cause of God and foreshadows the future attacks which will be made against it. These are His prophetic and ominous words, written at a time when the Message of Bahá'u'lláh had reached only a small number of people in the Western world:

How great, how very great is the Cause! How very fierce the onslaught of all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. Ere long shall the clamour of the multitude throughout Africa, throughout America, the cry of the European and of the Turk, the groaning of India and China, be heard from far and near. One and all, they shall arise with all their power to resist His Cause. Then shall the knights of the Lord, assisted by His grace from on high, strengthened by faith, aided by the power of understanding, and reinforced by the legions of the Covenant, arise and make manifest the truth of the verse: 'Behold the confusion that hath befallen the tribes of the defeated!' 2

In his devoted services Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí brought victory and honour to the Cause of God. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has designated him as one of the '...four and twenty elders which sat before God on their seats...', mentioned in the Revelation of S. John the Divine.†


* Bahá'u'lláh ordained the Universal House of Justice as the supreme body of the Faith. It was first elected in 1963 and has its seat in Haifa.

† Of the other twenty-three 'elders', only nineteen have been named, i.e., the Báb and eighteen Letters of the Living.

2. Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 17, for the words quoted.

No account of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh would be complete without referring to Mullá Muhammad-i-Zarandí, surnamed Nabíl-i-A'zam, one of His outstanding Apostles who played a great role in the propagation of His Message and the dissemination of His words. He is immortalized by his detailed narratives, a part of which, The Dawn-Breakers, mainly dealing with the story of the Báb, has been translated into English by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith. The other part dealing with the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh remains to be published. In his early days Nabíl was a shepherd. He had a great love of nature and would often spend the night lying on the ground in contemplation of the stars and in solitary communion with his Creator. While following his flock over the fields he would chant the verses of the Qur'án and pray to God that He might enable him to find the truth during this life.

One day in 1847 he overheard two men telling the story of the Báb. His heart was immediately attracted to the new Message and soon afterwards he came in contact with a believer who taught him the Faith. He became an ardent follower of the Báb and, in spite of many obstacles which were placed in his path, remained active in the promotion of His Message.

His first meeting with Bahá'u'lláh was in Tihrán around the year 1850. At that stage, however, Nabíl did not appreciate the loftiness of His station. Later, when the Bábí community seemed leaderless and the believers dispirited and confused, Nabíl in his delusion claimed to be 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', and disseminated some of his own writings among the Bábís. Then he came to Baghdád and attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. This time his inner eyes beheld the glory of His Revelation and his soul was quickened by His mighty Spirit. He prostrated himself at His feet and begged forgiveness for his presumption. As an act of repentance and in order to demonstrate the measure of his humility towards Bahá'u'lláh, he cut his beard, which in those days was the sym-


The Dawn-Breakers, Preface
bol of a man's dignity, made a brush and with it swept the approaches to the house of Bahá'u'lláh.

Animated by an ardent desire to serve Bahá'u'lláh and fortified by His unfailing grace, Nabíl was enabled to render notable services to His Cause. His loyalty and devotion to Him were exemplary. He stands out among all the companions of Bahá'u'lláh as one who was dominated by a passionate love for Him. So intense was this love that those who came in contact with him could not fail to detect its fire burning within his soul.

Nabíl was a gifted poet, an inspired genius who wrote most fluently. Some of his narratives are actually composed in verse. These poems reveal the intensity of his faith, and the ardour of his love.

Bahá'u'lláh sent him on many important missions to Persia. In these travels, wherever he went he imparted the news of Bahá'u'lláh and inspired the believers to arise and serve Him. When Bahá'u'lláh left Baghdád for Constantinople, Nabíl could not stay behind. He dressed in the garb of a dervish and followed the route to Constantinople on foot and incognito, joining Bahá'u'lláh's party on the way. From Constantinople Bahá'u'lláh directed him to Persia, to teach and to spread the news of the Cause there. From Persia he proceeded to Adrianople, the scene of the proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh's Message. Again Bahá'u'lláh sent him to Persia to disseminate His Writings and help the believers to appreciate the significance of His Revelation. With great zeal and enthusiasm he travelled far and wide and assisted in establishing the basis of a growing Bahá'í community, distinct from the very small number who in their blindness followed Mírzá Yahyá. The latter community, known as the Azalís, in future years declined into insignificance and oblivion. It was during this period, also, that the word Bahá'í denoting the followers of Bahá'u'lláh came to replace the term Bábí.

Another mission with which Nabíl was entrusted by Bahá'u'lláh after this journey was to proceed to Egypt to appeal to the Khedive on behalf of seven fellow-believers who had been


committed to prison at the instigation of one of the enemies of the Faith, the Persian Consul-General in that country. Soon after his arrival, however, Nabíl himself was cast into a prison in Alexandria. There he came in contact with Fáris Effendi, a Christian physician and clergyman who was also a prisoner. Nabíl taught him the Faith and Fáris Effendi became a deep and devoted believer, probably the first Christian to do so.

When Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to 'Akká, the ship that carried Him anchored in Alexandria close to the prison. By a strange coincidence Nabíl was informed of this. He and Fáris Effendi sent a letter to Bahá'u'lláh on the ship informing Him of their fate. Bahá'u'lláh sent a Tablet in reply, expressing His pleasure at receiving their letter and assuring them of His loving-kindness. He especially wrote words of encouragement to Fáris Effendi, who, addressing Bahá'u'lláh as his glorious Lord, begged that he might be accepted as one of His devoted servants.

Some time later Nabíl was able to leave Egypt. He travelled to the Holy Land and came to the gate of 'Akká in disguise, but the enemies of Bahá'u'lláh recognized him and reported him to the authorities, who expelled him from the city. After that he lived in various parts of the Holy Land and for some time in a cave on Mount Carmel. He spent his days in prayer and supplication, longing for the time when he could enter the presence of his Lord again. At last his prayers were answered, the doors of the prison were flung open to the believers, and Nabíl entered the presence of Bahá'u'lláh with tremendous joy. That was the moment of victory for him. He spent the rest of his life in 'Akká and often had the privilege of attaining His presence. It was in 1887 that he began the important task of writing his narratives which he begins with these words as a preface:

It is my intention, by the aid and assistance of God, to devote the introductory pages of this narrative to such accounts as I have been able to obtain regarding those twin great lights, Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsá'í and Siyyid Kázim-i-

Rashtí, after which it is my hope to recount, in their chronological order, the chief events that have happened since the year '60,* the year that witnessed the declaration of the Faith by the Báb, until the present time, the year 1305 A.H.†

In certain instances I shall go into some detail, in others I shall content myself with a brief summary of events. I shall place on record a description of the episodes I myself have witnessed, as well as those that have been reported to me by trustworthy and recognised informants, specifying in every case their names and standing. Those to whom I am primarily indebted are the following: Mírzá Ahmad-i-Qazvíní, the Báb's amanuensis; Siyyid Ismá'íl-i-Dhabíh; Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí; Shaykh Abú-Turáb-i-Qazvíní; and, last but not least, Mírzá Músá, Áqáy-i-Kalím, brother of Bahá'u'lláh.

I render thanks to God for having assisted me in the writing of these preliminary pages, and for having blessed and honoured them with the approval of Bahá'u'lláh, who has graciously deigned to consider them and who signified, through His amanuensis Mírzá Áqá Ján, who read them to Him, His pleasure and acceptance. I pray that the Almighty may sustain and guide me lest I err and falter in the task I have set myself to accomplish.3

When Bahá'u'lláh passed away, Nabíl was inconsolable. He could not live without his Beloved. The fire of love, which had burned within him so fiercely and so long, had now engulfed him and was about to set him aflame with the blaze of sacrifice. For some time, he tried very hard to adjust but this became increasingly difficult and, at last, unable to contain the ocean of love which surged within his soul, he took his life by drowning in the sea. He was truly a lover of the Blessed Beauty. He left behind a note paying homage to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, writing the date of his death in a single Arabic word 'Gharíq' (drowned). The numerical value of this word is 1310 A.H. (A.D. 1892-3).

One of his last contributions was to write an account of the passing of Bahá'u'lláh which stirs the heart. He was, moreover,


* 1260 A. H. (A.D. 1844).

† A.D. 1887-8.

3. Nabíl-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, from the Preface.
chosen by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to select from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh those passages which now constitute the text of the Tablet of Visitation.* This Tablet is recited in the Most Holy Tomb† and the Shrine of the Báb, and for the commemoration of the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh and the martyrdom of the Báb. It is a unique Tablet, which is used by Bahá'ís throughout the world on these and other appropriate occasions.

Nabíl's contribution to Bábí and Bahá'í history is enormous in its scope. The believers find his already published narratives not only informative, but also a source of inspiration and deepening in the Faith. He has left behind a treasure-house which the passage of time shall never destroy, and from which generations yet unborn will reap their own harvest of knowledge and inspiration.

Companions of Bahá'u'lláh

By the time the Kitáb-i-Íqán was revealed, a considerable number of Bábís had come to Baghdád for the sole purpose of attaining Bahá'u'lláh's presence. Many had recognized His station and had become His ardent followers years before the Declaration of His Mission. Of these, He permitted a few to remain in Baghdád, while the rest He directed to return to their homes and spread the Cause of God in their native lands.

In this way, a small community of dedicated souls who were magnetized by His power came into being in Baghdád. These God-intoxicated companions of Bahá'u'lláh, the spiritual giants of this Dispensation, were the lovers of His beauty, the embodiments of detachment, a new race of men who had completely


* The first four paragraphs of this Tablet (no. 180, Prayers and Meditation by Bahá'u'lláh) are extracted from a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh to one of His followers, Áqá Bábá; paragraphs five and six come from another Tablet revealed for an individual Bahá'í whom I have not been able to identify, and the last paragraph from a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh to Khadíjih-Bagum, the wife of the Báb.

† The Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahjí.



The indefatigable special messenger of Bahá'u'lláh



A cousin of the Báb
And a renowned follower of Bahá'u'lláh

submitted themselves to His will and longed to sacrifice everything, even their lives, in His path. No earthly power was able to deflect their thoughts from His glory, nor any human agency to separate them from His person. They circled around Him as the moth does around a candle, and were unaware of their own selves in their adoration of Him. Their greatest joy was to attain His presence and the first thought that must have occurred to them after leaving Him was how they might enter His presence again. They lived in a state of perpetual expectation, hoping that through His bounty Bahá'u'lláh might summon them to His house or bestow upon them the great honour of visiting their gatherings and feasts.

History has not seen such a degree of love, of dedication and utter self-abnegation manifested by men, and never in the history of religion have so many devoted followers gathered around a Figure Whom they knew to be their Lord, years before His Declaration. Indeed, the Báb had indicated in His Writings that the station of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' was so exalted that, before the unveiling of His glory, holy souls would recognize Him and with absolute devotion would long to lay down their lives in His path.

Not only did this happen before His Declaration, but there were some who became assured of His exalted station even during the ministry of the Báb. Although it was in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán that Bahá'u'lláh received the first intimations of His Revelation, yet, prior to this, several of the early Bábís recognized Him as the One foretold by the Báb.

One of these was Táhirih, that immortal heroine of the Bábí Dispensation. Long before Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál, she became fully aware of His station, and wrote some of her most beautiful poetry extolling Him as her Lord and the object of her adoration. Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí, a most zealous Bábí, was another who realized in advance the station of Bahá'u'lláh. The Báb had assured him that he would meet 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' in the city of Karbilá. In that very city, a year before Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the


Síyáh-Chál, by chance he met Bahá'u'lláh in the street, Who confided to him the secret of His station which would be revealed at a later time in Baghdád. Several others, who were endowed with insight and spiritual vision, were likewise guided to behold the Glory of God shining behind a myriad veils of concealment.

Many are puzzled by this. For how could a Manifestation of God be recognized before He Himself had received the first intimation of His Mission? 'Abdu'l-Bahá has explained this. He states that a Manifestation of God is always a Manifestation. He has within Him all the divine attributes long before He receives the call of Prophethood. He is like a man asleep, or like a lamp placed under a cover, its light concealed from the eyes of men. The Prophet does not reveal His powers and attributes until the hour strikes for the birth of His mission. That hour marks His appearance as a Manifestation of God, although the declaration of His mission may come later when He publicly announces it. The birth of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation took place in Tihrán, whereas He did not declare this until ten years later outside Baghdád.

No wonder that the companions of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád, who had spiritual eyes to behold the glory of their Lord prior to the Declaration of His Mission, were filled with the spirit of ecstasy and joy. They lived in a state of complete detachment, oblivious of this world and all its peoples. Of their fervour and love for Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi writes:

The joyous feasts which these companions, despite their extremely modest earnings, continually offered in honour of their Beloved; the gatherings, lasting far into the night, in which they loudly celebrated, with prayers, poetry and song, the praises of the Báb, of Quddús and of Bahá'u'lláh; the fasts they observed; the vigils they kept; the dreams and visions which fired their souls, and which they recounted to each other with feelings of unbounded enthusiasm; the eagerness with which those who served Bahá'u'lláh performed His errands, waited upon His needs, and carried

heavy skins of water for His ablutions and other domestic purposes; the acts of imprudence which, in moments of rapture, they occasionally committed; the expressions of wonder and admiration which their words and acts evoked in a populace that had seldom witnessed such demonstrations of religious transport and personal devotion--these, and many others, will forever remain associated with the history of that immortal period, intervening between the birth hour of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation and its announcement on the eve of His departure from 'Iráq.4

Speaking of these companions, Nabíl has recorded the following:

So intoxicated were those who had quaffed from the cup of Bahá'u'lláh's presence, that in their eyes the palaces of kings appeared more ephemeral than a spider's web...The celebrations and festivities that were theirs were such as the kings of the earth had never dreamt of...

Many a night, no less than ten persons subsisted on no more than a pennyworth of dates. No one knew to whom actually belonged the shoes, the cloaks, or the robes that were to be found in their houses. Whoever went to the bazaar could claim that the shoes upon his feet were his own, and each one who entered the presence of Bahá'u'lláh could affirm that the cloak and robe he then wore belonged to him. Their own names they had forgotten, their hearts were emptied of aught else except adoration for their Beloved...O, for the joy of those days, and the gladness and wonder of those hours! 5


4. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 135.

5. ibid., p. 137, for the passage quoted.