Mírzá Yahyá and Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání

In many of His Tablets revealed in Baghdád and Sulaymáníyyih, Bahá'u'lláh alludes to the unfaithfulness of Mírzá Yahyá and to the instigator of his wickedness, Siyyid Muhammad. The crisis which Mírzá Yahyá created within the ranks of the believers was to reach its climax in Adrianople, with a complete break between the followers of Bahá'u'lláh and those of Mírzá Yahyá. Before this period, however, through the all-pervasive power which Bahá'u'lláh exerted upon the community in Baghdád, Mírzá Yahyá was unable to raise the standard of rebellion. His sojourn in 'Iráq was spent mostly in hiding and seclusion. He arrived in Baghdád in disguise and left it in the same fashion a decade later.

At the time of Bahá'u'lláh's release from the Síyáh-Chál, Mírzá Yahyá, who for almost two years had lived in disguise in various parts of Mázindarán and Gílán, moved to Kirmánsháh. So that no one might identify him there, he took work with a certain 'Abdu'lláh-i-Qazvíní, a maker of shrouds, and was engaged in selling his goods.

Bahá'u'lláh, on His way to 'Iráq, passed through various towns before He arrived in Kirmánsháh in the early winter months of 1853. In contrast to Mírzá Yahyá, Bahá'u'lláh, although despised by the Sháh and afflicted by poverty, manifested such greatness that en route several people of rank and position came to visit Him and pay their respects. In Kirmánsháh a certain prince, 'Imádu'd-Dawlih, sent Him a message and was disappointed that Bahá'u'lláh did not receive him.


But Mírzá Yahyá was afraid to make contact with Bahá'u'lláh in Kirmánsháh. Such was his state that when his half-brother, Mírzá Músá, went to see him, he was apprehensive lest someone should discover his identity. At last he mustered enough courage to come and meet Bahá'u'lláh, and expressed his desire to go to Baghdád, engage in a trade there, and live incognito and alone in a house close to Bahá'u'lláh's. With a small sum of money that Bahá'u'lláh gave him, he bought a few bales of cotton, disguised himself in the garb of an Arab and made his way to Baghdád.

Soon after his arrival he appeared outside the house of Bahá'u'lláh. Mírzá Músá, who answered the door, did not recognize him at first for he was dressed as a dervish, with a kashkúl (alms box) hanging from his shoulder. He stayed there for a few days but asked that his arrival and identity should not be divulged to anyone in Baghdád. Thereafter he found accommodation in the Arab quarter of the city where no Persians lived, and moved there. During the day-time he refused to meet anybody. In the evenings after dark he often used to go to the house of Bahá'u'lláh and meet with Mírzá Músá, returning to his quarters in the dead of night.

In the meantime, he employed a Persian merchant named Abu'l-Qásim and used him as a link between himself and the believers in Baghdád. Being nominally the leader of the Bábí community he now began to disseminate his misguided ideas to them, using Abu'l-Qásim as his intermediary.

It was during his early days in Baghdád that Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání came into contact with him. Siyyid Muhammad, who was to become the 'Antichrist of the Bahá'í Revelation', had embraced the Bábí Faith soon after the Declaration of the Báb. He was residing in Karbilá when Bahá'u'lláh paid a visit to that city, about one year after the martyrdom of the Báb. On that occasion some of the followers of the Báb, as well as some Shaykhís who were all men of learning and knowledge in Karbilá, recognized the extraordinary qualities of greatness in Bahá'u'lláh, and demonstrated by their words and attitude their


unbounded love and admiration for Him. But Siyyid Muhammad, from the start, was filled with envy. The marks of veneration and esteem shown to Bahá'u'lláh by others only served to fan the fire of animosity and jealousy which had begun to burn within him.

When Bahá'u'lláh arrived in 'Iráq for the second time, in 1853, Siyyid Muhammad could not fail to see the authority with which He was conducting the affairs of the Bábí community. Before His arrival in that country the followers of the Báb were confused and leaderless. Bahá'u'lláh, having breathed a new life into them, gave them courage and gathered them together.

Such a transformation of spirit brought about by Bahá'u'lláh further aroused the envy of Siyyid Muhammad and increased his animosity. Being an unscrupulous schemer, he found in Mírzá Yahyá a willing tool who he knew could be used to oppose Bahá'u'lláh. Together, they kindled dissension among the believers, misrepresented Bahá'u'lláh and His Cause, and created a situation in which the fortunes of the Faith began to decline. It was at this point that Bahá'u'lláh left for the mountains of Kurdistán.

During His absence, the news of the martyrdom of a believer of Najaf-Ábád, Persia, reached Baghdád. This alarmed Mírzá Yahyá, for he thought that the authorities in Tihrán might look for him and, learning of his whereabouts, have him arrested in Baghdád. These thoughts forced him to change his abode. With the help of a certain Mírzá 'Alíy-i-Tabrízí, he purchased a quantity of shoes and, disguised as a Jew, proceeded to Basrah where he lived for some time and carried on his work as a shoe merchant. Later, he bought a consignment of silk materials which he took with him to Baghdád. There, under the assumed name of Hájí 'Alíy-i-Lás Furúsh* and changing his headgear from a hat to a large turban, he embarked on his new occupation.

Mírzá Yahyá's cowardly behaviour was matched only by his


* Dealer in silk.

acts of infamy which have for ever stained the annals of the Faith. While Bahá'u'lláh was absent in the mountains of Kurdistán, he committed a shameful act which inflicted dishonour upon the Báb, by marrying His second wife* and, a month later, giving her in marriage to Siyyid Muhammad. When Bahá'u'lláh learned of this His grief knew no bounds. In a Tablet He asserts that the whole creation wept for this betrayal, and He further refers to it in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf in these words:

Reflect a while upon the dishonour inflicted upon the Primal Point. Consider what hath happened. When this Wronged One, after a retirement of two years during which He wandered through the deserts and mountains, returned to Baghdád, as a result of the intervention of a few, who for a long time had sought Him in the wilderness, a certain Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí of Rasht came to see Him, and related, before a large gathering of people, that which had been done, affecting the honour of the Báb, which hath truly overwhelmed all lands with sorrow. Great God! How could they have countenanced this most grievous betrayal. Briefly, We beseech God to aid the perpetrator of this deed to repent, and return unto Him. He, verily, is the Helper, the All-Wise.1

Another act which brought untold suffering and grief upon Bahá'u'lláh was the murder of a number of illustrious Bábís by the order of Mírzá Yahyá. The most eminent among these was the accomplished Mírzá Asadu'lláh of Khuy, surnamed Dayyán ('One Who Rewards', or 'Judge') by the Báb. To him the Báb had referred as the repository of the trust of God and the treasury of His knowledge. He had, moreover, promised that he would be the third person to believe in 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.


* In nineteenth-century Persia the way of life differed radically from present-day life in the West. Social and religious circumstances in Muslim countries almost required a man (especially if he were an eminent person) to take more than one wife. During His six-months' sojourn in Isfahán, the Báb took a second wife, Fátimih, who was a sister of Mullá Rajab 'Alíy-i-Qahír, a Bábí from Isfahán.

1. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 176-7.
While Bahá'u'lláh was in Kurdistán, Dayyán, who was then living in Ádhirbáyján, wrote a letter to Mírzá Yahyá in which he asked certain questions. The childish and irrelevant answers which he received were sufficient to convince him of the latter's ignorance and lack of spiritual qualities. It is alleged that after this communication, Dayyán, immersed in meditation, was so carried away as to claim for himself the station of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.

However, in the Kitáb-i-Badí', Bahá'u'lláh has refuted this allegation and asserts that Dayyán made no such claim. He mentions that Dayyán had written and circulated some prayers, a copy of which He Himself had received, but that there was nothing in them against the teachings of the Báb and His Covenant. On the contrary, Dayyán's words bore ample testimony to his humility and servitude, to his faith in God and his loyalty to the Manifestations of God. Bahá'u'lláh states that when Mírzá Yahyá saw these prayers he became highly jealous of Dayyán and determined to harm him.

Dayyán had also written an epistle in which he exposed Mírzá Yahyá's ignorance, refuted the latter's claim to be the successor of the Báb and quoted many passages from the Writings of the Báb in support of his arguments. Mírzá Yahyá was infuriated by this epistle and in response wrote a book entitled Mustayqiz (Sleeper Awakened). In it he severely rebuked Dayyán, together with a fellow-believer named Siyyid Ibráhím who was a close friend and admirer of Dayyán, condemned their actions, denounced the former as the 'Father of Calamities' and the latter as the 'Father of Iniquities', and called upon the Bábís in vile language to arise and take their lives.

At the same time he sent his servant Mírzá Muhammad-i-Mázindarání to Ádhirbáyján with explicit orders to kill Dayyán. When Mírzá Muhammad arrived there, however, he found that Dayyán had already left for Baghdád.

Upon his arrival in that city, Dayyán was confronted with a number of Bábís who, as a result of Mírzá Yahyá's pronouncements, were hostile to him. His life was threatened and the


situation became so serious that one day, from early morning until late in the afternoon, Bahá'u'lláh called all those who were involved to His house, one by one, rebuked them for their behaviour and clearly commanded them to desist from perpetrating such a crime.

Two days later, Dayyán was honoured by meeting Bahá'u'lláh in His house. There he witnessed the fulfilment of the Báb's promise to him that he would believe in 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. He recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh, acknowledged His Faith and prostrated himself at His feet.

A few days after this glorious attainment, Dayyán was murdered in Baghdád by the aforementioned Mírzá Muhammad-i-Mázindarání. This tragic event brought much sorrow to the heart of Bahá'u'lláh and to the believers. On that day a gale of exceptional fury swept over Baghdád, causing a thick layer of dust to rise and obscure the light of the sun. Darkness encompassed the city and the people, frightened and panic-stricken, had to take refuge in their homes.

After the murder of Dayyán, Mírzá Yahyá, turning his attention to others who admired Dayyán, issued instructions to kill them also, including Mírzá 'Alí-Akbar (a cousin of the Báb on His father's side), who was put to death by the same servant.

In Epistle to the Son of the Wolf Bahá'u'lláh, addressing Hájí Mírzá Hádíy-i-Dawlat Ábádí, the successor of Mírzá Yahyá, has mentioned the episode in these words:

And likewise He [the Báb] addresseth Dayyán, who was wronged and suffered martyrdom, saying: 'Thou shalt recognize thy worth through the words of Him Whom God shall make manifest.' He, likewise, hath pronounced him to be the third Letter to believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest, through these words: 'O thou who art the third Letter to believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest!' And likewise He saith: 'Should God, however, be willing, He will make thee known through the words of Him Whom God shall make manifest.' Dayyán, who, according to the

words of Him Who is the Point*--may the souls of all else but Him be sacrificed for His sake--is the repository of the trust of the one true God--exalted be His glory--and the treasury of the pearls of His knowledge, was made by them to suffer so cruel a martyrdom that the Concourse on high wept and lamented. He it is whom He (the Báb) had taught the hidden and preserved knowledge and entrusted him therewith, through His words: 'O thou who art named Dayyán! This is a hidden and preserved Knowledge. We have entrusted it unto thee, and brought it to thee, as a mark of honour from God, inasmuch as the eye of thine heart is pure. Thou wilt appreciate its value, and wilt cherish its excellence. God, verily, hath deigned to bestow upon the Point of the Bayán a hidden and preserved Knowledge, the like of which God hath not sent down prior to this Revelation. More precious is it than any other knowledge in the estimation of God--glorified be He! He, verily, hath made it His testimony, even as He hath made the verses to be His testimony.' This oppressed one, who was the repository of the knowledge of God, together with Mírzá 'Alí-Akbar, one of the relatives of the Primal Point†--upon him be the glory of God and His mercy--and Abu'l-Qásim-i-Káshí and several others suffered martyrdom through the decree pronounced by Mírzá Yahyá...

As to Dayyán--upon him be the glory of God and His mercy--he attained Our presence in accordance with that which had been revealed by the pen of the Primal Point. We pray God to aid the heedless to turn unto Him, and such as have turned aside to direct themselves towards Him, and them that have denied Him to acknowledge this Cause, which, no sooner did it appear than all created things proclaimed: 'He that was hidden in the Treasury of Knowledge, and inscribed by the Pen of the Most High in His Books, and His Scriptures, and His Scrolls, and His Tablets, is come!' 2

The news of Bahá'u'lláh's impending departure for Constantinople alarmed and frightened Mírzá Yahyá. Bahá'u'lláh

* The Báb.

† The Báb.

2. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 174-7.
advised him to proceed to Persia and there disseminate the Writings of the Báb. But he was not interested in the Cause, for his major concern was his own protection. Nor did he regard Persia as a place of safety, since the authorities in that country, both civil and ecclesiastical, were determined to uproot the Cause and exterminate the Bábís.

At first his thoughts centred upon fleeing to India or Abyssinia. But later he changed his mind, and came to Bahá'u'lláh with a plan to take up residence in Huvaydar, in the vicinity of Baghdád, in a garden which belonged to Shaykh Sultán, a devoted Arab follower of Bahá'u'lláh.* He particularly asked that Shaykh Sultán be instructed by Bahá'u'lláh to build a small cottage of reeds, in which he could live apart from everyone. Bahá'u'lláh acceded to his request and Shaykh Sultán began to build the cottage for him. Soon afterwards, however, Mírzá Yahyá, feeling insecure, returned to Bahá'u'lláh to complain that the place selected was not ideal as a hiding-place; he preferred to go to Mosul before Bahá'u'lláh's departure. He made it clear that he did not wish to accompany Bahá'u'lláh's party, for he feared that once they left Baghdád, the authorities might deal treacherously with them, either by handing them over to the Persian authorities, or by killing them on the way.

Having at last come to a decision, he sent a certain Hájí Muhammad-Kázim, who resembled him, to Government-house to procure a passport for him. This was done and the passport was issued in his newly-assumed name of Mírzá 'Alíy-i-Kirmán-Sháhi. Disguised, and having chosen yet another name, Mírzá Yahyá left Baghdád with an Arab servant and proceeded towards Mosul.

Speaking of this, Bahá'u'lláh in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf has written:

We especially appointed certain ones to collect the writings of the Primal Point.† When this was accomplished, We sum-

* See p. 67, n. 2.

† The Báb.

moned Mírzá Yahyá and Mírzá Vahháb-i-Khurásání, known as Mírzá Javád, to meet in a certain place. Conforming with Our instructions, they completed the task of transcribing two copies of the works of the Primal Point. I swear by God! This Wronged One, by reason of His constant association with men, hath not looked at these books, nor gazed with outward eyes on these writings. When We departed, these writings were in the possession of these two persons. It was agreed that Mírzá Yahyá should be entrusted with them, and proceed to Persia, and disseminate them throughout that land. This Wronged One proceeded, at the request of the Ministers of the Ottoman Government to their capital. When We arrived in Mossoul [Mosul], We found that Mírzá Yahyá had left before Us for that city, and was awaiting Us there. Briefly, the books and writings were left in Baghdád, while he himself proceeded to Constantinople and joined these servants. God beareth now witness unto the things which have touched this Wronged One, for after We had so arduously striven, he (Mírzá Yahyá) abandoned the writings and joined the exiles. This Wronged One was, for a long period, overwhelmed by infinite sorrows until such time when, in pursuance of measures of which none but the one true God is aware, We despatched the writings unto another place and another country, owing to the fact that in 'Iráq all documents must every month be carefully examined, lest they rot and perish. God, however, preserved them and sent them unto a place which He had previously ordained. He, verily, is the Protector, the Succourer.

Wherever this Wronged One went Mírzá Yahyá followed Him. Thou art thyself a witness and well knowest that whatever hath been said is the truth. The Siyyid of Isfahán,* however, surreptitiously duped him. They committed that which caused the greatest consternation. Would that thou wouldst inquire from the officials of the government concerning the conduct of Mírzá Yahyá in that land.3

'Abdu'l-Bahá mentions that among those who accompanied Bahá'u'lláh on the journey to Constantinople was Siyyid

* Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání.

3. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 167-8.
Muhammad-i-Isfahání, and that he would often denounce Mírzá Yahyá and his behaviour. It was obvious, however, that he was not sincere in this.

When Bahá'u'lláh's party reached the vicinity of Mosul, Siyyid Muhammad informed 'Abdu'l-Bahá that he had just seen Mírzá Yahyá in the area and wondered whether he should bring him along. 'Abdu'l-Bahá tells us that when Mírzá Yahyá appeared and saw some strangers around, he pretended that he did not know Bahá'u'lláh or any of those travelling with Him. He introduced himself as Hájí 'Alí and said that he was returning from Mecca. Thereafter, he travelled with the party in such a way that during the day he would not associate with anyone. Only at night would he join the companions of Bahá'u'lláh, taking his rest in a tent by himself.

In this manner Mírzá Yahyá travelled most of the way to Constantinople. On the journey his only confidant was Siyyid Muhammad, whom Bahá'u'lláh later expelled from His company. It was in Adrianople that the Siyyid openly joined Mírzá Yahyá and, as we shall see in later volumes, together they precipitated a crisis unparalleled in the history of the Faith.

One of the best testimonials to Mírzá Yahyá's ignorance and falsehood is to be found in his writings. Having been brought up by Bahá'u'lláh from the age of eight, he naturally knew of the Faith from his teens. As a youth, he gave a considerable part of his time to the study of the Writings of the Báb. In one of His Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh has stated that Mírzá Yahyá learnt everything parrot-fashion. His understanding of the Faith was therefore superficial, and many of the disciples of Bahá'u'lláh have testified to this. Men of insight who came in contact with him were disillusioned by his ignorance and shallowness.

As the nominee of the Báb, Mírzá Yahyá became the centre of attraction for the believers after His martyrdom, and all were anxious to see him. Shaykh Salmán was one of these. After many requests for an interview, the former agreed to meet him on a certain hill-top near Baghdád. During their entire conversation Mírzá Yahyá spoke of trivialities and Shaykh Salmán,


who had keen insight, could not detect in him any sign of greatness. Like many other Bábís he soon realized that Mírzá Yahyá, whose fame as the leader of the Bábí community was widespread throughout the land, was a mere figure-head, lacking all the qualities of leadership and spirituality.

At one stage, Bahá'u'lláh had asked Mírzá Yahyá to transcribe some of the Writings of the Báb; for four years he was occupied in this task, as a result of which he learnt to copy the style of the Báb's handwriting. Later, when he rebelled against Bahá'u'lláh, he used this very technique to compose passages apparently similar to those of the Báb in both tone and calligraphy. In these so-called Tablets which he circulated, Mírzá Yahyá introduced many false statements concerning his own position in the Faith. He also corrupted, in some instances, the text of the Báb's Writings and made certain insertions in support of his claim to be the successor of the Báb.

Most of Mírzá Yahyá's writings are composed of strings of clumsy and meaningless words which, in turn, constitute nonsensical sentences. A mere glance at any of them reveals the ignorance, the incapacity and blindness of an ambitious man who was driven, all his life, by an indomitable passion for leadership and power.