12

First Converts Outside the
Muslim Community

It was mainly through 'Abdu'l-Bahá's labours and the influence of His magnetic personality that the animosity of the people of 'Akká towards Bahá'u'lláh and the company of exiles began to change gradually into understanding and, eventually, respect. The door of Bahá'u'lláh's house which had been closed to the faces of friends and foes alike was now opened, and some believers travelled from Persia and were able to attain His presence in the house of 'Údí Khammár.

The Story of Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq

Notable among the visitors was Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurásání.* 'Sádiq' meaning 'truthful', Bahá'u'lláh entitled him Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq (the Name of God, the Most Truthful). As we shall see, he was instrumental in confirming the first Jewish convert to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.

It was Bahá'u'lláh who, unasked, had sent a Tablet to Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq in Khurásán and invited him to travel to 'Akká for the purpose of attaining His presence. He was one of the most outstanding and devoted believers in this Dispensation. He was a man of learning. Prior to his conversion to the Faith of the Báb he had been a Muslim divine esteemed for his uprightness and dignity, and renowned throughout the province of Khurásán for his piety and truthfulness. A Shaykhí, he had had the unique privilege of

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* see also vol. 1, pp. 92-3; vol. 2, pp. 110, 293n, 388.

meeting the Báb several times in the city of Karbilá prior to His declaration. He had been deeply impressed by the radiance and gentleness mingled with majesty which the youthful Báb evinced as He prayed most tearfully at the Shrine of Imám Husayn. Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq is reported to have exclaimed when his eyes first fell on Him, 'Glorified be our Lord, the Most High!' He had become a devoted admirer of that Youth while in Karbilá, in spite of the fact that the Ismu'lláh was a learned divine, one who was held in high esteem by the people, while the Báb was a youth with little education. He had also witnessed the extraordinary reverence shown to that Youth by Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashtí,* the celebrated leader of the Shaykhí community, who knew that He was none other than the Qá'im Himself, the Promised One of Islám.

Soon after the Declaration of the Báb in 1844, when Mullá Husayn was on his way to Tihrán, he met Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq in the city of Isfahán, informed him of the advent of the Báb and gave him some of His Writings to read. Upon reading a few pages he became an ardent believer. But Mullá Husayn, as bidden by the Báb, was not allowed to reveal the identity of the Báb as yet.

In his narratives, Nabíl-i-A'zam records the circumstances in which the Ismu'lláh became an ardent believer:

Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurásání, formerly known as Muqaddas, and surnamed by Bahá'u'lláh, Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq, who according to the instructions of Siyyid Kázim, had during the last five years been residing in Isfahán and had been preparing the way for the advent of the new Revelation, was also among the first believers who identified themselves with the Message proclaimed by the Báb. As soon as he learned of the arrival of Mullá Husayn in Isfahán, he hastened to meet him. He gives the following account of his first interview, which took place at night in the home of Mírzá Muhammad-'Alíy-i-Nahrí: 'I asked Mullá Husayn to divulge the name of Him who claimed to be the promised
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* see Nabíl-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, for further information.

Manifestation. He replied, "To enquire about that name and to divulge it are alike forbidden." "Would it, then, be possible," I asked, "for me, even as the Letters of the Living, to seek independently the grace of the All-Merciful and, through prayer, to discover His identity?" "The door of His grace," he replied, "is never closed before the face of him who seeks to find Him." I immediately retired from his presence, and requested his host to allow me the privacy of a room in his house where, alone and undisturbed, I could commune with God. In the midst of my contemplation, I suddenly remembered the face of a Youth whom I had often observed while in Karbilá, standing in an attitude of prayer, with His face bathed in tears at the entrance of the shrine of Imám Husayn. That same countenance now reappeared before my eyes. In my vision I seemed to behold that same face, those same features, expressive of such joy as I could never describe. He smiled as He gazed at me. I went towards Him, ready to throw myself at His feet. I was bending towards the ground, when, lo! that radiant figure vanished from before me. Overpowered with joy and gladness, I ran out to meet Mullá Husayn, who with transport received me and assured me that I had, at last, attained the object of my desire. He bade me, however, repress my feelings. "Declare not your vision to anyone," he urged me; "the time for it has not yet arrived. You have reaped the fruit of your patient waiting in Isfahán. You should now proceed to Kirmán, and there acquaint Hájí Mírzá Karím Khán* with this Message. From that place you should travel to Shíráz and endeavour to rouse the people of that city from their heedlessness. I hope to join you in Shíráz and share with you the blessings of a joyous reunion with our Beloved."' 1
Soon after he embraced the Faith of the Báb, persecutions and sufferings descended upon the Ismu'lláh and he bore them with exemplary patience and joy. He was one of the three believers who were severely tortured for the first time in the history of the Faith in Persia. The other two were Quddús†
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* see vol. 1, Appendix IV.

† The last but the greatest of the company of the Báb's disciples. See The Dawn-Breakers.


1. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 100-101.
Letters of the Living
and Mullá 'Alí-Akbar-i-Ardistání. The scene of these harrowing persecutions was the city of Shíráz. Nabíl recounts the following story concerning Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq, whom he refers to as Mullá Sádiq:

An eye-witness of this revolting episode, an unbeliever residing in Shíráz, related to me the following: 'I was present when Mullá Sádiq was being scourged. I watched his persecutors each in turn apply the lash to his bleeding shoulders, and continue the strokes until he became exhausted. No one believed that Mullá Sádiq, so advanced in age and so frail in body, could possibly survive fifty such savage strokes. We marvelled at his fortitude when we found that, although the number of the strokes of the scourge he had received had already exceeded nine hundred, his face still retained its original serenity and calm. A smile was upon his face, as he held his hand before his mouth. He seemed utterly indifferent to the blows that were being showered upon him. When he was being expelled from the city, I succeeded in approaching him, and asked him why he held his hand before his mouth. I expressed surprise at the smile upon his countenance. He emphatically replied: "The first seven strokes were severely painful; to the rest I seemed to have grown indifferent. I was wondering whether the strokes that followed were being actually applied to my own body. A feeling of joyous exultation had invaded my soul. I was trying to repress my feelings and to restrain my laughter. I can now realise how the almighty Deliverer is able, in the twinkling of an eye, to turn pain into ease, and sorrow into gladness. Immensely exalted is His power above and beyond the idle fancy of His mortal creatures."' Mullá Sádiq, whom I met years after, confirmed every detail of this moving episode.2
This episode may be considered only as a prelude to many more agonizing persecutions that this man of God went through till the end of his life. Many times in the course of his travels throughout the length and breadth of Persia where he was engaged in teaching the Faith, he was surrounded by the enemies who inflicted all kinds of tortures and afflictions upon
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2. The Dawn-Breakers. pp. 147-8.
him and were intent on taking his life. He was one of the companions of Quddús and Mullá Husayn in the Fortress of Shaykh Tabarsí.* After going through harrowing experiences of pain and suffering in that fortress, his life was providentially spared so as to manifest, at a later time, yet greater heroism and self-sacrifice in the path of the One who was the object of the adoration of the Báb and His disciples.

Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh as readily as he had the Báb's. He attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád and became fully convinced of His exalted station as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' long before Bahá'u'lláh made His Declaration in the Garden of Ridván. For about fourteen months he basked in the sunshine of Bahá'u'lláh's loving-kindness in that city, and then, as bidden by Him, returned to Persia, ablaze with the love of his new-found Master. He stood out as a tower of strength among the believers and became an instrument for guiding countless souls into the Cause of God. Among them were many people who became renowned in the Faith, such as Ahmad-i-Yazdí, the recipient of the celebrated Tablet of Ahmad, and Hájí Mírzá Hasan-Álí, the youngest uncle of the Báb.

The journey to 'Akká, the scene of his second pilgrimage, was undertaken at an advanced age. The sufferings and hardships of well-nigh thirty years had taken their toll and left him frail, laden with infirmities and weakness. When Bahá'u'lláh summoned him to 'Akká, He instructed him to leave his son† at home and travel in the company of a believer who could take care of him throughout the journey. He arrived in 'Akká probably in the early part of 1874, because Shaykh Kázim-i-Samandar‡ states that when he, together with two of his companions, Hájí Nasír-i-Qazvíní§ and Mansúr-i

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* see The Dawn-Breakers.

† He was 'Alí-Muhammad, known as Ibn-i-Asdaq, later appointed by Bahá'u'lláh as a Hand of the Cause of God.

‡ see pp. 88-91.

§ see vol. 2, pp. 245-7.

Uskú'í, arrived in 'Akká, Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq was present there. Shaykh Kázim arrived in 'Akká on 1 March 1874. This pilgrimage to the presence of his Lord was the crowning glory of the life of Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq. After staying several months in 'Akká, during which he was ushered into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh many times, he was bidden, in a Tablet revealed for him in 'Akká, to return home.

In this Tablet3 Bahá'u'lláh showers His blessings upon him and affirms that in both this visit and his previous one to Baghdád, he had drunk deep of the waters of everlasting life from the hands of his Lord. He then commands him to convey His counsels to the friends so that they may be enabled to adorn themselves with the ornament of goodly character and live a saintly life. He states that the most meritorious of all deeds in this day is to remain steadfast in the Cause of God in such wise that the vain imaginings of the people may be powerless to influence them.

Lawh-i-Ahbáb (Tablet of the Friends)

Bahá'u'lláh has revealed many Tablets in honour of Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq. Among them is the Lawh-i-Ahbáb. This is one of Bahá'u'lláh's well-known Tablets revealed in Arabic and contains many passages of loving encouragement addressed to various individuals. This Tablet appears to have been revealed when Bahá'u'lláh was still in the barracks of 'Akká or soon after He had left it. For in it He mentions that He had written Tablets to some of the kings and also pays glowing tribute to Badí'. It is one of those Writings referred to as the 'Salt of His Tablets'.

In the Lawh-i-Ahbáb, Bahá'u'lláh showers praises upon Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq in such profusion that it is not possible to describe them all. He refers to him as the one who recognized the Promised One as soon as he heard His call--a reference to his meeting Mullá Husayn and reading some passages from the Writings of the Báb. It is clear from the utterances of

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3. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 4, p. 362.
Bahá'u'lláh in this and other Tablets that Bahá'u'lláh regarded him as one of His most devoted followers and a true believer in every sense of the word, one who would be worthy of emulation by all.

Most of the Lawh-i-Ahbáb contains passages addressed to the friends. Bahá'u'lláh's counsels in this Tablet are many and cannot be summarized. They are revealed in such terms that no pen can describe them. The power and beauty of the words of the Manifestation of God can be felt only in their own utterances, and not through man's explanation of them. Nevertheless, here is an attempt, however inadequate, to refer to a few of His teachings in this Tablet.

Bahá'u'lláh exhorts the believers to steadfastness in His Cause and to detachment from everything beside God, and to unity among themselves. He reminds them that He has accepted sufferings and tribulations so that mankind might become united. He warns them never, therefore, to allow differences to enter their midst. He gives them a commandment: first to live their lives in accordance with His teachings and then to conquer the hearts of men in His Name by holy deeds and exalted character. He enjoins on them to teach the Cause with wisdom, counsels them to arise for the triumph of His Faith in such wise that no earthly power can deter them from executing their purpose, assures them that the glances of His loving-kindness are directed towards them, and prophesies the advent of a day when the banners of victory will be planted in every city, when the peoples of the world will glory in the believers' names and lament over all the sufferings they have borne in the path of their Lord.

The following words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá paying tribute to this noble and outstanding believer, Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq, upon whom He conferred posthumously the rank of Hand of the Cause of God, stand out as a eulogy to his cherished memory:

He was like a surging sea, a falcon that soared high. His visage shone, his tongue was eloquent, his strength and
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steadfastness astounding. When he opened his lips to teach, the proofs would stream out; when he chanted or prayed, his eyes shed tears like a spring cloud. His face was luminous, his life spiritual, his knowledge both acquired and innate; and celestial was his ardour, his detachment from the world, his righteousness, his piety and fear of God.4
No story of Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq would be complete without referring to his imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán where he succeeded in confirming the faith of the first believer of Jewish background. Soon after this historic conversion, a great many of the Jewish people in Persia recognized Bahá'u'lláh as the promised Lord and became ardent and active believers. To appreciate the story, it is essential to understand the circumstances prevailing at the time in Persia concerning the religious minorities and their attitude to the new-born Faith.

Religious Minorities in Persia

At the time of the coming of the Báb, there were three religious minorities in Persia--the Zoroastrians, the Jews and the Christians. The great majority of the nation consisted of Shí'ah Muslims. Of the three minorities, the Jews and, to a lesser extent, the Zoroastrians were treated with contempt and at times were persecuted by the fanatic mob, often at the instigation of the Muslim clergy. The Christians, mostly of Armenian and Assyrian background, enjoyed greater freedom and respect. This was mainly due to their religious ties with European governments which exercised great influence in Persia at the time.

The Zoroastrians, and more especially the Jews, were the underprivileged people. They lived in ghettos and always went in fear of persecution. In their relationship to Muslims, they had to observe certain rules, such as showing respect to a Muslim in the street, and never having an argument with him.

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4. Memorials of the Faithful, p. 8.
If accompanying him, never to walk alongside him but to be one or two steps behind. Not to touch his garments as otherwise they would become defiled. The money which a Jew or a Zoroastrian handed to a devout Muslim would have to be washed before he could put it in his pocket.

Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí has recorded some of the incidents that used to occur daily in a certain area of Yazd and which often sparked off disturbances involving the large Zoroastrian community there. The following is a summary of his notes:

The Muslim clergy wielded great power and the government was weak. Every day, they would find a pretext and invent a story against the Zoroastrians. For instance, they would inform the public that a cerain Zoroastrian was seen to be riding his donkey in the presence of Muslims.* It was understood that such an act was an offence, because it was not considered courteous to ride if a Muslim was walking. This accusation would result in the corporal punishment of the victim. Or, they would claim that the colour of the head-dress of a certain Zoroastrian merchant was dark and somewhat resembled the colour of the headdress of the Siyyids.† The colour ought to have been bright yellow. The mass hysteria created as a result of such an incident was so powerful that almost instantly it could bring about an upheaval in the city.

On another day, they would accuse a certain Zoroastrian that he had passed a Muslim in the street but failed to salute him. Or that a certain Muslim had reason to beat up a Zoroastrian, but in the course of being beaten up, the poor Zoroastrian had mustered such audacity as to raise his hand as if intending to defend himself. Such a person would then be punished by the authorities. It was an established ruling

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* A great part of the Zoroastrian community in Persia lived in Yazd and surrounding villages. Those in the villages often had to ride on donkeys to come to the city, but once in the bazaars they had to dismount as a sign of respect to the Muslims.

† The descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Theirs was the exclusive right to wear green turbans.

that every Zoroastrian who came out of his house had to carry a piece of cloth with him. This was needed if he had to sit somewhere, for he would not be allowed to sit* unless he spread the cloth and sat on it, as otherwise he would have defiled the earth.5
Being ill-treated during centuries of Islámic rule, the Jews and Zoroastrians immensely disliked the Muslims and had developed some defensive tactics. The most effective one was to keep their distance from Islámic peoples and institutions. They despised the culture, the Arabic language and anything to do with Islám.

The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh appeared within such a society. Both were from Islámic background. The Báb was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Like Jesus Christ, who was from Jewish background and practised that Faith, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh before the birth of the New Faith were practising Muslims. And when they revealed themselves as the Manifestations of God, their words and teachings, especially those of the Báb, had such strong links with the religion of Islám that in the early days the new Faith appeared to the minority religions in Persia to be a sect of Islám. For this reason it was very natural for Jews and Zoroastrians to avoid the Bábís and Bahá'ís at all costs. Another disadvantage was that a great part of the Writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh were revealed in Arabic which was not only incomprehensible to them, but despised and hated because it was the language of Islám.

It will be readily seen that the conversion of Jews and Zoroastrians to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh which to all outward appearances was the extension of Islám, whose literature was in the Arabic language and whose followers were exclusively from Muslim background, was one of the miracles of the time. It also demonstrates the creative power of the Revelation of

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* In those days people did not use chairs in shops, business premises and homes, and it was common to sit on the floor.


5. 'History of the Faith in the Province of Yazd', unpublished.
Bahá'u'lláh which, in spite of so many barriers, exerted a tremendous influence upon these people, vivified their souls, granted them a new vision, enrolled them under the banner of His Cause and enabled them to render meritorious services in spreading His message, first among their own communities and later the whole nation.

There can be no greater proof of the universality of the message of Bahá'u'lláh and the authenticity of His claim to be the Promised One of all ages, than the Jews and Zoroastrians of Persia embracing His Faith in the nineteenth century. Their conversion was not superficial, nor was it an expedient measure to free themselves from the yoke of suppression and tyranny. Rather, when these people joined the ranks of the Bahá'ís, their sufferings were multiplied. Not only would they become fresh targets for attack by the Muslims who abhorred their conversion to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, but also their own communities often persecuted them, and in some instances they were martyred by their own people. For instance, in Yazd the Zoroastrian priests rose up against a number of people in that community who had become Bahá'ís. The fierce persecutions which started within the Zoroastrian enclave by the Zoroastrian people and often in alliance with the Muslim clergy and fanatics against the newly converted followers of Bahá'u'lláh are reminiscent of the cruelties perpetrated by the Muslims, the chief adversaries of the Faith in Persia. Thus, in the villages surrounding Yazd, a couple of Bahá'ís of Zoroastrian background were martyred. In the city an outstanding personality within the community was done to death because of his genuine interest and sympathy towards the newly emerging Faith.

The fate of the Jews who had embraced the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh was no brighter. They too were subjected to harassment and persecution from within their ghettos as well as from outside. The conversion of Jews and Zoroastrians to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh was a genuine act of faith. They fully recognized Him as the Promised One of their own Holy

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Books, One who is described by Shoghi Effendi in these words:

He Who in such dramatic circumstances was made to sustain the overpowering weight of so glorious a Mission was none other than the One Whom posterity will acclaim, and Whom innumerable followers already recognize, as the Judge, the Lawgiver and Redeemer of all mankind, as the Organizer of the entire planet, as the Unifier of the children of men, as the Inaugurator of the long-awaited millennium, as the Originator of a new 'Universal Cycle', as the Establisher of the Most Great Peace, as the Fountain of the Most Great Justice, as the Proclaimer of the coming of age of the entire human race, as the Creator of a new Word Order, and as the Inspirer and Founder of a world civilization.

To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the 'Everlasting Father,' the 'Lord of Hosts' come down 'with ten thousands of saints'; to Christendom Christ returned 'in the glory of the Father,' to Shí'ah Islám the return of the Imám Husayn; to Sunní Islám the descent of the 'Spirit of God' (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Sháh-Bahrám; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.6

The entry into the Faith by members of these two religious minorities in Persia during its early days demonstrated to the people of that country that the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh was an independent religion. It silenced and discomfited the enemies who, in order to undermine the new Faith, had dismissed it as the outcome of an irresponsible adventure by its Founders who were of Muslim extraction, and had falsely introduced it to the public as a sect of Islám.

It also demonstrated the power of Bahá'u'lláh's creative Word in that once they accepted Bahá'u'lláh, the followers of these two religions also acknowledged the authenticity and the divine origin of the Messages of all the Prophets, the Founders of the world's major religions, including Christ and

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6. God Passes By, pp. 93-4.
Muhammad. A great many Muslims in the early days of the Faith were amazed to hear words of praise and glorification of the Prophet Muhammad and proofs of the truth of His Mission coming from the Bahá'ís who had once belonged to the Jewish or Zoroastrian communities. This angered the fanatic Muslims very much. For they knew that for over one thousand years very few, if any, Muslims had succeeded in making the Jews or Zoroastrians acknowledge the truth of Islám, and now, through the words of Bahá'u'lláh, thousands had been converted. But there were others among the Muslims who were pure-hearted and were deeply moved when they heard these people had accepted the truth of Islám; consequently some were led to investigate the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and eventually become Bahá'ís.

The Bahá'í community in Persia consisted from the early days of believers who had come from the three major religious backgrounds. The majority were from the Islámic and the rest from the Jewish and Zoroastrian Faiths. But the Faith did not make much headway among the Christians in Persia. The majority of the Christians who entered the Faith came from countries of the Western world. This process started during the early years of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry.

The Story of Hakím Masíh, the First Jewish Believer

The first of the Jewish community to recognize the truth of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh in Persia was a notable physician named Masíh (Messiah) referred to as Hakím Masíh.* Being highly skilled in his profession, he was appointed as a physician to the court of Muhammad Sháh, and when the Sháh made a journey to 'Iráq, Hakím Masíh accompanied him. When in Baghdád, he learnt that Táhirih was staying in the home of one of the early believers, and was holding discussions with the divines in the city. He went there to see what was being said. No sooner

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* The title of Hakím was given to people who were skilled physicians and were endowed with wisdom and divine knowledge.

had he heard the utterances of Táhirih addressed to the company of divines, and witnessed their helplessness to refute her proofs in support of her newly found Faith, than he was captivated by her powerful arguments and sheer personality. Although he was not allowed to enter into any discussions, Hakím Masíh was very curious to find out how Táhirih had acquired such eloquence and powers which bordered on the supernatural.

Shaykh Kázim-i-Samandar* has recorded the following in his memoirs:

I met Hakím Masíh who was of Jewish descent. He was the first among the Jews to enter the community of the friends (i.e. Bahá'ís). It surprised me when I discovered that he was friendly, faithful, full of enthusiasm and love; and so said to him, 'There is a large gap between the Faith of Moses and this great Cause, how did you make this long and glorious journey and arrive at this abode?' He said, 'My visit to Baghdád coincided with the time that Táhirih was in that city. Through some circumstances I was present at some of the meetings where she conversed with the divines. I was astonished and awestruck by the way she talked, by the manner in which she conducted her conversations, and by the power of her utterances. I became attracted and began to meditate and decided to investigate this Cause and deepen my knowledge of it. I made some enquiries in Baghdád and later in other places, until I attained my heart's desire.7
Some years after meeting Táhirih in Baghdád, Hakím Masíh met Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq, a meeting brought about by Providence. The Ismu'lláh had been arrested because of his allegiance to the Faith, put in chains and brought to Tihrán under escort. This cruel act was carried out by order of the Governor of Khurásán who was enforcing an edict issued by no less than eighteen divines of Islám in that province. The Ismu'lláh was forced to take with him his youngest son, Ibn-i-Asdaq, who was a mere child at the time. Two other believers
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* see pp. 88, 257.


7. Táríkh-i-Samandar, p. 348.
were also chained and taken to Tihrán with him.

The intention was to execute them in the capital city. Instead, the Government ordered that they be imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál. Father and child were chained together and kept in that terrible dungeon for about two years and four months.

The hardships of prison life took their toll and the young child became seriously ill. The chief gaoler, a certain Mashhadí 'Alí, was a kind person and he sent for a physician. But no physician could be found who would be willing to treat a patient who was a Bábí. In desperation he called on Hakím Masíh who was Jewish. He accepted and immediately went to the prison.

For a period of two months he regularly attended the child until he recovered from his illness. At the same time, having been so deeply impressed by Táhirih, this gave him the opportunity to learn about the Faith from an illustrious believer. Even after his patient had fully recovered he used to spend hours in the prison, sitting at the Ismu'lláh's feet and learning about the Faith. Soon after, he became a believer fully aware that the Promised One of the Old Testament, the 'Everlasting Father', the Lord of Hosts, had manifested Himself. When Bahá'u'lláh was informed of His conversion, He revealed an exalted Tablet in his honour. He has revealed other Tablets for him too, but unfortunately most of these were destroyed. This is because in those days the believers used to protect their Bahá'í materials by hiding them underground or inside the walls, so that they might not fall into the hands of the enemy. Sadly, when unearthed, the Tablets of Hakím Masíh were found to have been destroyed by moisture.

In one of these Tablets,8 Bahá'u'lláh urges Hakím Masíh to be steadfast in the Cause of God so that he may not be shaken by the winds of opposition which were blowing from the direction of the enemies. He states that the people were following the dictates of their passions and corrupt desires,

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8. Unpublished.
and directs him to counsel such people to abandon their evil ways and turn to their God. Bahá'u'lláh, in this Tablet, showers His favours upon Hakím Masíh and affirms that He has bestowed upon him a great station. Hakím Masíh taught the Faith to his family who became ardent believers. Notable among his descendants was Dr Lutfu'lláh Hakím, his youngest grandson, who served the Master and Shoghi Effendi with exemplary devotion and was elected to the Universal House of Justice in 1963 when that Supreme Body of the Faith came into being for the first time.

The light of the new Faith of God which shone forth in the heart of Hakím Masíh illumined many more among his coreligionists in Persia. At first, a few embraced the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh in Hamadán and Káshán and soon great numbers from the Jewish community joined the Faith and swelled the ranks of the believers in Persia. There are many Tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in honour of the believers of Jewish background.

Zoroastrians Enter the Faith

The introduction and growth of the Cause among the followers of Zoroaster was no less spectacular and far-reaching. The following story is related by 'Abdu'l-Bahá:

...they relate that the possessions of a certain Bábí in Káshán were plundered, and his household scattered and dispersed. They stripped him naked and scourged him, defiled his beard, mounted him face backwards on an ass, and paraded him through the streets and bazaars with the utmost cruelty, to the sound of drums, trumpets, guitars and tambourines. A certain guebre* who knew absolutely naught of the world or its denizens chanced to be seated apart in a corner of a caravansaray. When the clamour of the people rose high he hastened into the street, and, becoming
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* Zoroastrian. (A.T.)

HAKÍM MASÍH

HAKÍM MASÍH

The first believer converted to the Faith from the Jewish
community of Persia

KAY- KHUSRAW-I-KHUDÁDÁD

KAY- KHUSRAW-I-KHUDÁDÁD

Believed to be the first to embrace the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh
from the Zoroastrian community

cognizant of the offence and the offender, and the cause of his public disgrace and punishment in full detail, he fell to making search, and that very day entered the society of the Bábís, saying, 'This very ill-usage and public humiliation is a proof of truth and the very best of arguments. Had it not been thus it might have been that a thousand years would have passed ere one like me became informed.9
Hájí Mu'ínu's-Saltanih, a historian from Tabríz, has stated that the believer who was persecuted in the above account was a certain Hájí Muhammad-Ridá, a merchant of Káshán, and that the Zoroastrian who acknowledged the truth of the Faith of the Báb was Suhráb-i-Púr-Kávús. Unfortunately, there is not much information available about him.

The first to believe among the Zoroastrians during the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh is reputed to be Kay-Khusraw-i-Khudádád and the story of his becoming aware of the truth of the Faith is similar to that of Suhráb-i-Púr-Kávús. Kay-Khusraw, a native of Yazd, was also living in Káshán as a merchant. He saw one of the believers tortured and put to death. This harrowing scene evoked in him an urge to investigate the Cause and as a result he became a follower. Some early believers among the Zoroastrians who came in contact with him in Káshán owe their allegiance to the Cause through his teaching work.

Kay-Khusraw-i-Khudádád was well-known in the Zoroastrian community. He was a member of a special 'Council of Zoroastrians' set up by Mánikchí Sáhib. The latter went from India to Persia with a view to helping his co-religionists in that country and obtaining more freedom for them. He met Násiri'd-Dín Sháh and succeeded in securing a royal decree absolving the Zoroastrians from payment of a certain religious tax which for years had been imposed upon religious minorities in Persia. He also invited a number of prominent Zoroastrians to serve on the above Council which was recognized by the Sháh.

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9. A Traveller's Narrative, p. 34.
Lawh-i-Mánikchí Sáhib

Mánikchí passed through Baghdád on his way to Persia when Bahá'u'lláh was in that city. He attained His presence there and became His admirer. In later years he maintained friendly contact with Bahá'u'lláh through correspondence. He was assisted in this by Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, who after embracing the Faith worked as a secretary for Mánikchí for some years. In answer to a letter, Bahá'u'lláh revealed a Tablet for him known as the Lawh-i-Mánikchí Sáhib.10 This is mainly revealed in pure Persian,* for the latter was keen to promote the Persian language in its original form. Although Mánikchí did not become a Bahá'í, he remained a sympathetic friend.

From the literary point of view, the Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh to Mánikchí Sáhib is a masterpiece of the pure Persian language. In its lucidity and eloquence, its richness and beauty, it is no less outstanding than other celebrated Tablets revealed either in Arabic or Persian. This Tablet contains some of the choicest utterances of Bahá'u'lláh. The celebrated passage, 'Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch', was revealed in this Tablet.† Bahá'u'lláh here invites the peoples of the world to enter the portals to freedom which have been opened wide through His Revelation, and to drink deep from the springs of knowledge which have welled forth from His utterances. He uses the analogy of an eyelid, a small shutter, which can obstruct the vision, to illustrate that the veil of covetousness can likewise obscure the light of the soul. He likens harsh

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* When Islám became the main religion of Persia, Arabic words were introduced into the Persian language. The present Persian language incorporates many Arabic words, which have become part of the Persian vocabulary. As against this, there is the 'pure Persian' which is not commonly spoken, but is occasionally written. Some scholars have excelled themselves in this field: Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl was one. But pure Persian is not in general use. In most of Bahá'u'lláh's Writings in Persian, Arabic and Persian words are used together. Only a small number of Bahá'u'lláh's Writings, those addressed to Zoroastrian believers, are mainly revealed in pure Persian.

† This famous passage is to be found also in the Ishráqát.


10. Majmú'iy-i-Alváh, p. 259.
words to a deadly sword, and a kindly tongue to refreshing food, states that God, the Creator, approves of any process through which the individual may be enabled to shed some of his ignorance and increase his knowledge and understanding, affirms that man will experience peace and tranquillity when he becomes the well-wisher of all that dwell on earth and exhorts the peoples to leave the darkness of enmity and enter the light of unity.

The following is a small portion of the Tablet to Mánikchí which has been translated into English by Shoghi Effendi:

The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations in its exigencies and requirements.

We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned. They that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy.

Incline your ears to the sweet melody of this Prisoner. Arise, and lift up your voices, that haply they that are fast asleep may be awakened. Say: O ye who are as dead! The Hand of Divine bounty proffereth unto you the Water of Life. Hasten and drink your fill. Whoso hath been re-born in this Day, shall never die; whoso remaineth dead, shall never live.11

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11. Gleanings, CVI.
Lawh-i-Haft Pursish (Tablet of Seven Questions)

The Council of Zoroastrians which was set up by Mánikchí Sahib consisted of the most prominent Zoroastrians of Yazd. At one time there were nineteen councillors, six of whom became Bahá'ís. As we have already mentioned, Kay-Khusraw-i-Khudádád, the first believer, was among them. Others who joined the Faith were men of learning or people held in high esteem by the community. Notable among them was the renowned Ustád Javán-Mard, the Secretary of the Council. He was a teacher by profession and became a devoted believer. He wrote a letter to Bahá'u'lláh and asked some questions. The Lawh-i-Haft Pursish, in pure Persian, was revealed in his honour. Bahá'u'lláh in this Tablet calls him by a new name, Shír-Mard (Lion of a man). The following is a short extract from the Lawh-i-Haft Pursish, translated by Shoghi Effendi:

O high priests! Ears have been given you that they may hearken unto the mystery of Him Who is the Self-Dependent, and eyes that they may behold Him. Wherefore flee ye? The Incomparable Friend is manifest. He speaketh that wherein lieth salvation. Were ye, O high priests, to discover the perfume of the rose-garden of understanding, ye would seek none other but Him, and would recognize, to His new vesture, the All-Wise and Peerless One, and would turn your eyes from the world and all who seek it, and would arise to help Him...Whatsoever hath been announced in the Books hath been revealed and made clear. From every direction the signs have been manifested. The Omnipotent One is calling, in this Day, and announcing the appearance of the Supreme Heaven.12
Shír-Mard was the first Zoroastrian Bahá'í to be buried instead of having his body disposed of in the Dakhmih* as was
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* An open tower, usually built outside the city in which the dead bodies of Zoroastrians are placed and exposed to nature. After the flesh has been devoured by vultures, the bones are thrown into a deep well.


12. Quoted in The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 79-80.
the custom among his people. Other Bahá'ís from the Zoroastrian background followed his example and built a special Bahá'í Cemetery. This action provoked fierce opposition from the community. The Bahá'í Cemetery was attacked and some of the graves were desecrated.

This opposition was not over the issue of burials only. The mere act of conversion to a new Faith, something which had never happened to Zoroastrians since the early days of Islám, provoked the wrath of the high priests against the newly converted Bahá'ís who openly proclaimed to the community that the Sháh-Bahrám, the Promised One of the Zoroastrians, had been manifested in the person of Bahá'u'lláh. Soon persecutions began, sometimes with the tacit approval of the Muslim clergy. A certain Master Khudábakhsh a distinguished member of the Council of Zoroastrians and a school teacher of wide repute, although not officially a Bahá'í, was shot dead because of his sympathy and generous support for the Bahá'ís. Others were persecuted in different ways. But soon the number of converts to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh grew, and to the astonishment of both Muslims and Zoroastrians, a great many families acknowledged the station of Bahá'u'lláh and swelled the ranks of the believers especially in Yazd and its surrounding villages.

The conversion of Muslims, Jews and Zoroastrians to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in Persia in the early days of the ministries of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh was followed by the conversion of adherents of other Faiths in other parts of the world. Within a short period of time, the followers of all religions, creeds and ideologies as well as pagans, agnostics and atheists, representing peoples of all colours, races and tribes, embraced the Faith, and began to build unitedly the foundations of the Bahá'í world community. So dynamic has been the process of entry into the Faith by the peoples of the world that within less than a hundred years since Bahá'u'lláh's Declaration in the Garden of Ridván, an army of pioneers and travelling teachers

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from every conceivable background has arisen to circle the globe for the spreading of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and the diffusion of the light of His Faith to the world's multitudes. This process which began in the early days of the Faith is now gathering momentum and will continue to forge ahead until the goals of the unification of the entire human race and universal allegiance to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh are totally fulfilled.
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THE HOUSE OF 'ÚDÍ KHAMMÁR IN 'AKKÁ

THE HOUSE OF 'ÚDÍ KHAMMÁR IN 'AKKÁ

The room where The Kitáb-i-Aqdas was revealed is at the upper left


THE ROOM WHERE THE KITÁB-I-AQDAS WAS REVEALED

THE ROOM WHERE THE KITÁB-I-AQDAS WAS REVEALED

The room of Bahá'u'lláh in the house of 'Údí Khammár. The furnishings were added later