Confrontation with Mírzá Yahyá

Foremost among the 'letters of negation' referred to by Bahá'u'lláh in the Tablet of Salmán was Mírzá Yahyá, who was swiftly struck down by the hand of power and might. During the one-year period that Bahá'u'lláh stayed in the house of Ridá Big and His subsequent return to the house of Amru'lláh, He never met Mírzá Yahyá or Siyyid Muhammad whom He had expelled from His presence. Mírzá Yahyá with his family now lived in a separate house, and Siyyid Muhammad was living among the Muslims in the city. After a stay of about three months in the house of Amru'lláh, Bahá'u'lláh moved His residence to the house of 'Izzat Áqá which was situated in the same quarter of the city. He remained there till the end of His stay in Adrianople.

Soon after transferring His residence to this house, an event of the utmost significance occurred which toppled Mírzá Yahyá to his doom and degraded him in the eyes of his supporters as well as the authorities in Adrianople. This was in the month of Jamádíyu'l-Avval, 1284 A.H. (September 1867). Having for years observed the exemplary patience with which Bahá'u'lláh had endured all the calumnies and falsehoods which Mírzá Yahyá had heaped upon Him while counting on His forbearance, knowing that He did not generally seek to appear in public and assuming that He would never consider meeting His unfaithful brother face to face, Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání, in order to strengthen his own position, expressed to a few Persians of Muslim faith in Adrianople that, whereas he and Mírzá Yahyá were ready to confront Bahá'u'lláh in public he was sure that Bahá'u'lláh would not respond to the challenge.


This form of confrontation, known as mubáhilih, had taken place in Islám. For instance, when a deputation of the Christians of Najrán in Medina were talking of offering a challenge to the Prophet Muhammad, it was to be a confrontation in the form of mubáhilih. This is a challenge between truth and falsehood; the two parties come together, each one invoking God to annihilate the other, and calling on His wrath to strike down the faithless. It is expected in these circumstances that the power of Truth will destroy the forces of falsehood.

The person who became instrumental in bringing this matter to its conclusion was Mír Muhammad-i-Mukárí from Shíráz, a caravan-driver who had accompanied the Báb on His pilgrimage to Mecca, and later, Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdád to Constantinople.* Although he was uneducated, Mír Muhammad was a man of great discernment, wisdom and courage. He was a Bábí and, being confused with the differences which had arisen in the Faith, he travelled especially to Adrianople in order to investigate the truth for himself. While in that city, he moved freely among the companions of Bahá'u'lláh and the supporters of Mírzá Yahyá alike.

Soon after his arrival he heard Siyyid Muhammad's propaganda about a confrontation with Bahá'u'lláh. This created great interest in Mír Muhammad who urged Siyyid Muhammad to induce Mírzá Yahyá to meet Bahá'u'lláh in a public place for a mubáhilih. He in turn promised personally to invite Bahá'u'lláh to accept the challenge. This is how Shoghi Effendi describes this important event:

A certain Mír Muhammad, a Bábí of Shíráz, greatly resenting alike the claims and the cowardly seclusion of Mírzá Yahyá, succeeded in forcing Siyyid Muhammad to induce him to meet Bahá'u'lláh face to face, so that a discrimination might be publicly effected between the true and the false. Foolishly assuming that his illustrious Brother would never countenance such a proposition, Mírzá Yahyá appointed the mosque

* See p. 409.

of Sultán Salím as the place for their encounter. No sooner had Bahá'u'lláh been informed of this arrangement than He set forth, on foot, in the heat of midday, and accompanied by this same Mír Muhammad, for the afore-mentioned mosque, which was situated in a distant part of the city, reciting, as He walked, through the streets and markets, verses, in a voice and in a manner that greatly astonished those who saw and heard Him.

'O Muhammad!', are some of the words He uttered on that memorable occasion, as testified by Himself in a Tablet, 'He Who is the Spirit hath, verily, issued from His habitation, and with Him have come forth the souls of God's chosen ones and the realities of His Messengers. Behold, then, the dwellers of the realms on high above Mine head, and all the testimonies of the Prophets in My grasp. Say: Were all the divines, all the wise men, all the kings and rulers on earth to gather together, I, in very truth, would confront them, and would proclaim the verses of God, the Sovereign, the Almighty, the All-Wise. I am He Who feareth no one, though all who are in heaven and all who are on earth rise up against me...This is Mine hand which God hath turned white for all the worlds to behold. This is My staff; were We to cast it down, it would, of a truth, swallow up all created things.' Mír Muhammad, who had been sent ahead to announce Bahá'u'lláh's arrival, soon returned, and informed Him that he who had challenged His authority wished, owing to unforeseen circumstances, to postpone for a day or two the interview. Upon His return to His house Bahá'u'lláh revealed a Tablet, wherein He recounted what had happened, fixed the time for the postponed interview, sealed the Tablet with His seal, entrusted it to Nabíl, and instructed him to deliver it to one of the new believers, Mullá Muhammad-i-Tabrízí, for the information of Siyyid Muhammad, who was in the habit of frequenting that believer's shop. It was arranged to demand from Siyyid Muhammad, ere the delivery of that Tablet, a sealed note pledging Mírzá Yahyá, in the event of failing to appear at the trysting-place, to affirm in writing that


* Part of the Tablet of Mubáhilih, addressed to Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurásání. See vol. 1 and Memorials of the Faithful. (A.T.)

his claims were false. Siyyid Muhammad promised that he would produce the next day the document required, and though Nabíl, for three successive days, waited in that shop for the reply, neither did the Siyyid appear, nor was such a note sent by him. That undelivered Tablet, Nabíl, recording twenty-three years later this historic episode in his chronicle, affirms was still in his possession, 'as fresh as the day on Which the Most Great Branch had penned it, and the seal of the Ancient Beauty had sealed and adorned it,' a tangible and irrefutable testimony to Bahá'u'lláh's ascendancy over a routed opponent.1
Mírzá Áqá Ján mentions2 that when Bahá'u'lláh left for the mosque with Mír Muhammad, he himself was not in the house, as he had gone to attend to some business in town. He heard the news and hastened back. On his way he saw a large crowd on both sides of the street and they told him that Bahá'u'lláh had just gone to the mosque of Sultán Salím. Mírzá Áqá Ján immediately went to the mosque, where he found Bahá'u'lláh uttering the verses of God in majestic tone and in great profusion. None of the companions of Bahá'u'lláh was permitted by Him to accompany Him except Mír Muhammad and Mírzá Áqá Ján who followed. Those members of the public who were in the mosque were amazed by what they saw. So powerful were the words of Bahá'u'lláh that a Persian man who heard them was awestruck; he was trembling all over and tears flowed from his eyes. Bahá'u'lláh at one point ordered Mír Muhammad to go and call Mírzá Yahyá to come with all his sins and transgressions and face his Lord.3 Bahá'u'lláh remained in the mosque till near sunset, while Mírzá Yahyá and Siyyid Muhammad stayed at home and gave some excuses to Mír Muhammad for not attending.

Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, who was in Adrianople at the time, has written the account of that day. This is a translation of some of his reminiscences:

The meeting was to be on Friday at the mosque of Sultán Salím at the time of the congregational prayer when the

1. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 168-9.

2. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. VII, p. 240.

3. ibid., p. 241.

Muslims gather inside in great numbers...Mír Muhammad-i-Mukárí from Shíráz who was a Bábí...could not imagine that Azal had broken the Covenant. So he begged the Blessed Beauty to enlighten him. Bahá'u'lláh said to him that if ever Azal came face to face with Him at a meeting place, then he could consider Azal's claims to be true. Mír Muhammad accepted this statement as a criterion for distinguishing between truth and falsehood, and he endeavoured to bring this meeting about.

The news and date of the confrontation became known among the peoples of Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions in the city. All of them had heard of the miracles of Moses and the story of His confrontation with Pharaoh. And now they were expecting the meeting face to face in the mosque between His Holiness the Shaykh Effendi (a designation by which the people called Bahá'u'lláh to express their reverence for Him) and Mírzá 'Alí who had denied Him. (For fear of being recognized, Azal had called himself by this name.) Therefore, from the morning of Friday until before noon, a large multitude drawn from the followers of these three religions had thronged the area between the house of Amru'lláh...and the entrance to the mosque. The crowd was so large that it was difficult to move about.* Bahá'u'lláh, the Day-Star of Glory, emerged from His home...and as He passed through the crowd, people showed such reverence as is difficult to describe. They greeted Him with salutations, bowed and opened the way for Him to pass. Many of them


* The statement by Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí that the public had gathered in the streets to watch Bahá'u'lláh going to the mosque need not be viewed as contrary to Shoghi Effendi's statement that Bahá'u'lláh set off for the mosque as soon as he was informed of the arrangement. We must bear in mind that for some time Siyyid Muhammad had been telling some of the Muslims about Mírzá Yahyá's readiness for a mubáhilih. Bahá'u'lláh obviously knew about this propaganda. When Mírzá Yahyá appointed the mosque of Sultán Salím, the sensational news spread very rapidly among the people. It appears that Mír Muhammad, who had acted all along as a focal point for this confrontation, went to the house of Bahá'u'lláh on Friday and informed Him of the arrangements; Bahá'u'lláh then readily set off for the mosque with him. (A.T.)

prostrated themselves at His feet and kissed them. Bahá'u'lláh, the Countenance of majesty and omnipotence, in acknowledgement greeted the crowd by raising His hands (as was customary among the Ottomans), and expressed His good wishes. This continued all the way to the mosque. As soon as He entered the mosque, the preacher, who was delivering his discourse, became speechless or perhaps he forgot his words. Bahá'u'lláh went forward, seated Himself and then gave permission to the preacher to continue. Eventually the preaching and prayers came to an end. But Azal did not turn up. We heard that he had feigned illness and asked to be excused.

In every city in the Ottoman Empire, there are Mawlavís, who are dervishes and followers of Mawlaví,* the author of Mathnaví. Every Friday they hold their services in their takyihs (centres of congregation) when they whirl around their master and chant certain words in unison. Inside its chambers some play music and sing delightful melodies. When Bahá'u'lláh was about to leave the mosque He said: 'We owe a visit to the Mawlavís. We had better go to their takyih.' As He rose to go, the Governor of Adrianople and other dignitaries, together with the divines, availed themselves of the opportunity to be in His presence and so they accompanied Him. As a token of their humility and courtesy, the Governor, the Shaykhu'l-Islám,† the 'ulamᇠand other dignitaries walked four or five steps behind Bahá'u'lláh while the stream of His utterance was flowing.§ Sometimes, through His grace and loving-kindness, Bahá'u'lláh would stop and beckon the Governor and the others to walk in front. But they would refuse to do so. In this way, with


* Jaláli'd-Dín-i-Rúmí.

† The head of the Muslim ecclesiastical institution in the city.

‡ Divines and men of learning.

§ When an important person walked it was considered discourteous if his subordinates walked in front of, or abreast of him except at night when someone carried a lantern before him. In order to show their humility they always walked a few steps behind. This is how, for example, the oriental believers conducted themselves when they were walking with Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi.

majesty and glory born of God, Bahá'u'lláh arrived in the takyih. At that time the Shaykh of the Mawlavís was standing in the centre and the dervishes were circling around and chanting. As soon as their eyes beheld Him, they all stopped their service without any reason. They bowed and showed their respect for Him and became absolutely silent. Bahá'u'lláh then seated Himself, permitted others who were with Him to be seated, and then He gave permission to the Shaykh to resume his service again.

The news was widely circulated in Adrianople that when Shaykh Effendi* had entered the mosque the preacher was unable to deliver his sermon and when he went to the taykih, the dervishes and their leader forgot their words and stopped their service. The following evening some believers attained His presence and I was among them...Bahá'u'lláh made these remarks: 'When We entered the crowded mosque, the preacher forgot the words of his sermon, and when We arrived inside the takyih, the dervishes were suddenly filled with such awe and wonder that they became speechless and silent. However, since people are brought up in vain imaginings, they foolishly consider such events as supernatural acts and regard them as miracles!' † 4

Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí then describes how much he was touched by these words of Bahá'u'lláh. Through these words he clearly saw the difference between the ways of God and those of man. He recalls his meetings with men of eminence, leaders of religion and outstanding personalities who, without exception, were eager to publicize their slightest achievements and to exploit every opportunity through which they could enhance their fame and consolidate their positions. But this is not so with the Manifestations of God. Bahá'u'lláh, in this instance, by refuting the claims of the people who attributed miracles to Him, demonstrated that His glory does not depend upon the

* Bahá'u'lláh.

† These are not the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh, but convey their import. (A.T.)

4. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 77-9.
praise of men and their actions. He stands far above the human world and is its Ruler.

The detailed news of the mubáhilih and Mírzá Yahyá's failure to appear before Bahá'u'lláh was communicated to the believers in Persia by a certain Áqá Mírzá Hádíy-i-Shírází. He wrote a full account of this event and quoted those Tablets which Bahá'u'lláh had revealed for this particular occasion. His account was widely circulated among the believers. This event, which established Bahá'u'lláh's ascendancy in the eyes of the public over one who is stigmatized by Him as the 'source of perversion', removed the veil from the eyes of many among the followers of the Báb and enabled them to embrace the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.

It may interest the student of the Bible to note that, according to Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, the rise and fall of Mírzá Yahyá was clearly foretold by St. Paul in the following passages:

Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God...

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming...5

Mírzá Yahyá's dramatic fall was accompanied by an unprecedented outpouring of revelation by Bahá'u'lláh which soon afterwards resulted in the proclamation of His Message to the kings and rulers of the world.

Shoghi Effendi, in his masterly writings, has described the momentous upsurge of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation in these words:

The 'Most Great Idol,'* had at the bidding and through the

* Mírzá Yahyá. (A.T.)

5. II Thessalonians, ii. vv. 3, 4, 8; stated by Shoghi Effendi in a letter to Isfandíyár-i-Majzúb, 17 November 1935.
power of Him Who is the Fountain-head of the Most Great justice been cast out of the community of the Most Great Name, confounded, abhorred and broken. Cleansed from this pollution, delivered from this horrible possession, God's infant Faith could now forge ahead, and, despite the turmoil that had convulsed it, demonstrate its capacity to fight further battles, capture loftier heights, and win mightier victories.

A temporary breach had admittedly been made in the ranks of its supporters. Its glory had been eclipsed, and its annals stained forever. Its name, however, could not be obliterated, its spirit was far from broken, nor could this so-called schism tear its fabric asunder. The Covenant of the Báb, to which reference has already been made, with its immutable truths, incontrovertible prophecies, and repeated warnings, stood guard over that Faith, insuring its integrity, demonstrating its incorruptibility, and perpetuating its influence.

Though He Himself was bent with sorrow, and still suffered from the effects of the attempt on His life, and though He was well aware a further banishment was probably impending, yet, undaunted by the blow which His Cause had sustained, and the perils with which it was encompassed, Bahá'u'lláh arose with matchless power, even before the ordeal was overpast, to proclaim the Mission with which He had been entrusted to those who, in East and West, had the reins of supreme temporal authority in their grasp. The daystar of His Revelation was, through this very Proclamation, destined to shine in its meridian glory, and His Faith manifest the plenitude of its divine power.

A period of prodigious activity ensued which, in its repercussions, outshone the vernal years of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry. 'Day and night,' an eye-witness has written, 'the Divine verses were raining down in such number that it was impossible to record them. Mírzá Áqá Ján wrote them as they were dictated, while the Most Great Branch was continually occupied in transcribing them. There was not a moment to spare.' 'A number of secretaries,' Nabíl has testified, 'were busy day and night and yet they were unable to cope with the task. Among them was Mírzá Báqir-i-Shírází...He alone


transcribed no less than two thousand verses every day. He laboured during six or seven months. Every month the equivalent of several volumes would be transcribed by him and sent to Persia. About twenty volumes, in his fine penmanship, he left behind as a remembrance for Mírzá Áqá Ján.' Bahá'u'lláh, Himself, referring to the verses revealed by Him, has written: 'Such are the out-pourings...from the clouds of Divine Bounty that within the space of an hour the equivalent of a thousand verses hath been revealed.' 'So great is the grace vouchsafed in this day that in a single day and night, were an amanuensis capable of accomplishing it to be found, the equivalent of the Persian Bayán would be sent down from the heaven of Divine holiness.' 'I swear by God!' He, in another connection has affirmed, 'In those days the equivalent of all that hath been sent down aforetime unto the Prophets hath been revealed.' 'That which hath already been revealed in this land (Adrianople),' He, furthermore, referring to the copiousness of His writings, has declared, 'secretaries are incapable of transcribing. It has, therefore, remained for the most part untranscribed.' 6

6. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 170-1.