Friends and Foes

Hájí Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá'í

Notable among the companions of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Iráq, one who rendered memorable services to the Faith and was especially mentioned by Nabíl in the aforementioned story, is Hájí Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá'í to whom reference has been made in previous chapters.

He was one of the outstanding disciples of Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashtí, and in his early youth had met the renowned Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsá'í, who was the founder of the Shaykhí sect of Islám. He was distinguished by his learning and knowledge, his piety and uprightness. He was reserved in his speech and very gentle in his manners, and had a dignified bearing which endeared him to people.

Hájí Siyyid Javád was one of the early believers of the Bábí Dispensation. He had known the Báb from the days of His childhood, years before His Declaration, and was fascinated by the remarkable qualities which were so strikingly apparent in Him. Some years later, he went to Búshihr and for almost six months lived in the building where the Báb and His uncle had their business premises. There he became attracted to the Báb and attained His presence many times, but never did it cross his mind that the Promised One of Islám could be any other than one of the divines or men of learning.

In a spoken chronicle recorded by Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, the outstanding scholar of the Faith, Hájí Siyyid Javád recalls with excitement the circumstances which led him to embrace the Faith of the Báb in Karbilá:


...It was in 1844 that Mullá 'Alíy-i-Bastámí returned to Karbilá from Shíráz, bringing the news of the appearance of the Báb* and announcing that he himself together with other disciples had already attained His presence. This news, which spread rapidly, created a great excitement among the divines who trusted Mullá 'Alí and had regard for his dignity and pious life.

Mullá 'Alí only mentioned the title of the Báb, however, and refused to disclose His identity. He used to say: 'The Báb has appeared and some of us have attained His presence, but He has forbidden us to mention His name or disclose His identity or that of His family at the present time. Soon however His Message will be noised abroad and His name will be disclosed to all.'

This news brought about an amazing sensation in 'Iráq. In all the gatherings the appearance of the Báb was the topic of discussion. Many people speculated as to His identity, but no one ever suspected that Mírzá 'Alí-Muhammad could be the Báb. The possibility never crossed anyone's mind, owing to the fact that He was only a youth and a merchant by profession. The people without exception thought that the Báb, the Gate of the knowledge of God, would appear from among the learned and not from the trading and professional classes. The Shaykhís, in particular, thought that He would be one of the leading disciples of Siyyid Kázim.

One day I invited Mullá 'Alí to my home...We talked about this wonderful event, but in spite of the strong bonds of love and friendship which existed between us, I could not extract from him any clues by which I could recognize the person of the Báb. In the end I became desperate. Jokingly I gripped his arms and pushed him hard against the wall...There I held him, demanding that he disclose the name of that wondrous Being. But Mullá 'Alí calmly reminded me that he was forbidden to do so...In the midst of all this, Mullá 'Alí quite inadvertently mentioned that the Báb had re-


* Literally, 'Gate': One Who is regarded as an intermediary between the faithful and the Promised One. This is a designation well known to the followers of Shí'ah Islám.

quested him to collect any letters He had written to people in Karbilá and send them back to Shíráz.

On hearing this, the thought of Mírzá 'Alí-Muhammad suddenly flashed through my mind. Although it seemed very unlikely, I wondered whether it could be He. So I rushed to my room and fetched some of His letters which were addressed to me. As soon as Mullá 'Alí's eyes fell upon the seal of the Báb, he burst into tears. I was so filled with emotion that I too wept. Between his sobs Mullá 'Alí's constant plea to me was: 'I did not mention His name. Please do not disclose it to anyone...'

It was not long after this that the Báb declared His station in Mecca and the news of this was widely spread throughout the Muslim world and His identity disclosed.1

Soon after this interview, Hájí Siyyid Javád travelled to Shíráz and attained the presence of the Báb, this time as an ardent believer. He dedicated his life to the service of the Cause in Karbilá. It was in this city in the year 1851 that he met Bahá'u'lláh for the first time. He immediately recognized the greatness of Bahá'u'lláh, but did not appreciate His glorious station until some time later.

The following is a translation of his spoken chronicle as he describes his first meeting with Bahá'u'lláh:

...I was in Karbilá when the news of the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in that city reached me. The first person who gave me this information was Hájí Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání.*

Before I attained His presence I expected to find Him a youth of noble lineage, the son of a vizir, but not one endowed with immense knowledge or wisdom. Together with some friends I went to meet Bahá'u'lláh. As was their custom, my friends would not enter the room before me; so I went in first and occupied the seat of honour in that gathering.

After we had exchanged greetings Bahá'u'lláh turned to those present and asked them what subjects they, the disciples of the late Siyyid,† usually discussed when they


* The 'Antichrist of the Bahá'í Revelation'.

† Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashtí.

1. Masábih-i-Hidáyat, vol. 11, pp. 489-91.
gathered in a meeting. Did they discuss the topics of religion as current among men? What would they do if God manifested Himself to man, rolled up the old doctrines and philosophies, revealed a new set of teachings and opened up a new page in divine knowledge? What then would be their position?

Bahá'u'lláh spoke for some time in this vein. It was not long before I realized that we, known to be men of learning and knowledge, dwelt in the depths of ignorance, whereas He, whom we considered to be only a youth, the son of a vizir, stood upon the highest pinnacle of understanding and wisdom.

After this experience, whenever I entered His presence, I would sit at His feet in absolute humility and refrain from speaking. I always listened attentively to Him in order to benefit from His knowledge and understanding. This attitude of mine, however, used to annoy my friend Hájí Siyyid Muhammad. Once he rebuked me, saying: 'Assuming that all agree that Jináb-i-Bahá is of the same calibre as ourselves, why do you sit in silence and show so much humility towards Him?'

I pleaded with my friend not to be angry with me. I told him that I could neither specify a station for Him nor, God forbid, consider Him as one of us. I regarded Him as incomparable and unique.2

Early in 1852 Bahá'u'lláh returned from Karbilá to His native city and was imprisoned a few months later in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán. Hájí Siyyid Javád was in Karbilá when Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to 'Iráq after His release from that dungeon. During the ten years of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in 'Iráq, he was a faithful companion, one who truly recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh before His Declaration.

When Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to Adrianople, Hájí Siyyid Javád travelled to Persia and lived in various parts of the country, serving the Faith with great distinction. He remained a loyal and steadfast believer until his death in Kirmán about 1882.


2. Masábih-i-Hidáyat, vol. 11, pp. 504-6.
Some Powerful Enemies

At the time that the companions of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád were basking in the sunshine of His presence and the fortunes of the Faith had begun to rise, a campaign of opposition and enmity towards its Author was mounting. The machinations of a number of the 'ulamá, headed by the crafty and evil-minded Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn, and ably assisted by the scheming Mírzá Buzurg Khán, the Persian Consul-General in Baghdád to whom reference has been made in a previous chapter, were now beginning to have effect.

Their letters of calumny and accusation against Bahá'u'lláh, in which they grossly misrepresented His Cause, were influencing the tyrannical Násiri'd-Dín Sháh. The Persian Foreign Minister, Mírzá Sa'íd Khán, was greatly surprised by Bahá'u'lláh's steadfastness and courage in the face of mounting opposition from His powerful enemies. He did not take any steps, however, to allay the Sháh's fears and suspicions, but instead unquestioningly carried out his orders. These were to instruct the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, Hájí Mírzá Husayn Khán, the Mushíru'd-Dawlih, to persuade the Ottoman government to remove Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdád, mainly on the grounds that His presence in a city so close to the borders of Persia would exert a harmful influence upon its people. A special dispatch was sent from Tihrán to Constantinople, urging the Ambassador to meet 'Álí Páshá, the Grand Vizir of the Sultán, and Fu'ád Páshá, the Foreign Minister, to discuss the whole situation with them and obtain an order from the Sultán for the transfer of Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdád.

In this communication, Mírzá Sa'íd Khán condemns the Bábí community as a misguided and detestable sect whose foundation, he affirms, had been uprooted through the concerted efforts of the government and the sovereign himself. He points out the necessity of exterminating each and every one of its members and deplores the release of Bahá'u'lláh from the Síyáh-Chál, which he attributes to lack of prudence on the part


of the government of the time. He accuses Bahá'u'lláh of being the source of mischief, of secretly corrupting and misleading ignorant men and weaklings, and expresses concern at Bahá'u'lláh's rising prestige in Baghdád and at the increasing number of His followers who would willingly give their lives in His path. In order to imbue his correspondent with his own fears, he quotes the following celebrated Arabic verse: 'I see beneath the ashes the glow of fire, and it wants but little to burst into flames.'

In this communication he further speaks about the cordial relationship and good intentions which bind the two Islámic nations together on a basis of equality regarding all matters vital to their common interests. He then states that the Sháh has ordered him to send this communication by special messenger to Constantinople, and to instruct the Ambassador to proceed without delay in presenting the case to the Sultán's Grand Vizir and his Foreign Minister, putting before them two possible solutions. The one which the Persian government favoured was an extradition order, instructing Námiq Páshá, the Governor of Baghdád, to hand over Bahá'u'lláh and some of His followers to the Persian authorities in Kirmánsháh. In this way the Persian government could keep them in custody in a suitable place and prevent them from spreading their Cause. Should this suggestion prove to be unacceptable to the Sultán's government, Mírzá Sa'íd Khán proposed an alternative, which was to transfer Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdád to a remote part of the Ottoman territory where He could be confined far from the borders of Persia.

In order to strengthen his case, Mírzá Sa'íd Khán enclosed in this dispatch the original letter which Mírzá Buzurg Khán, the Consul-General in Baghdád, had sent through the Governor of Kirmánsháh to the Sháh, and which contained alarming reports, lies and misrepresentations concerning Bahá'u'lláh. But reports of Bahá'u'lláh's outstanding qualities and attributes had from time to time reached the Sultán, who had been so impressed by these accounts that he resolutely refused to accede to the


demands of the Persian government for the extradition of Bahá'u'lláh from his territory. Instead, through 'Álí Páshá he issued orders that Bahá'u'lláh proceed to Constantinople as a guest of the Ottoman government. A mounted escort was ordered to accompany Him for His protection.

In the meantime the believers in Baghdád, unaware of such moves, were happy in their enjoyment of nearness to Bahá'u'lláh.