The Chosen Highway
PART I: THE BAB
"No sooner had mankind attained the stage of maturity, than the Word revealed to men's eyes the latent energies with which it had been endowed, energies which manifested themselves in the plentitude of their glory when the Ancient Beauty appeared in the year sixty in the person of `Ali Muhammad, [footnote: 1260 A.H.] the Bab."
"All created things have their degree or stage of maturity... In the human kingdom, man reaches his maturity when the light of his intelligence attains the greatest power and development.... There are periods and stages in the collective life of humanity. At one time... the stage of childhood, at another... the period of youth, but now it has entered upon its long-predicted phase of maturity.... Humanity has emerged from its former state of limitation and preliminary training. New powers, new moral standard, new capacities are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and blessing of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of maturity."
In order better to understand the extraordinary character of the great events which took place, as recorded in this Chronicle, it might be well briefly to consider a certain aspect of the religious world of Persia in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
Numerous Muslim thinkers are known to have been expecting the coming of the Twelfth Imam. Many of the prophecies pointed to the year A.H. 1260 [footnote: corresponding to A.D. 1844.] It is good to remember that these Muslim Mystics were acquainted with the Christian Scriptures, and acknowledged "His Holiness Christ," as the "Spirit of God."
Each of the divisions of these religious people was looking for One, who should fulfil all prophecy, according to their own particular explanation.
This "Coming" was to them an event of the very greatest importance - nobody apathetic, everybody cared. The enthusiasm was real, and became fanatical whenever an interpretation of any particular prophecy was suggested, differing from that which they accepted as "Orthodox."
At this time there were two learned, highly honoured, and saintly men, Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i and Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti. These two were the only men of the large number of Mullas and scholars in Persia who, at that time, had any vision of the near approach of the Holy One, the Forerunner. They set themselves to the work of preparation for the Great day, ignoring personal risk of persecution or death.
They taught to their followers, the Shaykhis, as they were called, three chief articles of faith:
The Spiritual interpretation of the Qur'an, which had become obscured in the superficial reading; the rescue of it, so to speak,
from the strictly literal, which they held to be stultifying to souls and minds of the people, veiling the Truth from them. "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth Life."
That the "ascent" of Muhammad to Heaven was a spiritual event, not a literal journey.
They believed, not in the resurrection of the material body, but in the resurrection of the soul, the spiritual body.
Now the Shaykhi sect was much hated and reviled by the Mullas, although the ordinary person knew very little of the teaching, which was given in close secrecy, and their written leaflets were most carefully guarded by the initiated.
Their interpretation of the prophecies led them to look for the Coming of that Imam, the Qa'im, who should be their Divine Leader; this "Coming" they held to be imminent, indeed they became more and more convinced that He was already on earth.
Therefore it naturally came about that members of the Shaykhi sect were standing well prepared to hail the Imam, when He should proclaim Himself.
Siyyid Kazim, who succeeded Shaykh Ahmad, gave directions to his followers that, as soon as he should have passed into the invisible world, they were to go into every part of the country separately, and search for the Imam, who, he assured them, was already on earth waiting to call the people.
He directed them to prepare themselves by prayer, and by purifying their hearts, to recognize that Promised One, to announce whose appearance it was the mission of himself and of his friend, Shaykh-Ahmad.
He gave them certain signs, by which they should know this divinely-sent Herald.
These signs were written down in the form of a five-pointed star, following the chief lines of the human body - filled with Persian and Arabic writing.
"He would be young - neither tall nor short - large, kind, dark eyes, finely pencilled brows.
He would not smoke, nor drink alcohol.
He would be uninstructed in the learning of he world, His knowledge would be immanent.
He would be of the `pure lineage,' that is a Siyyid, a descendant of the prophet Muhammad."
Siyyid `Ali Muhammad was born in Shiraz in the year 1819. His father, having died when He was still a child, His mother took Him to live with herself and her brother, Haji Siyyid `Ali. His devoted mother and uncle brought Him up with loving care.
Many are the stories told of His childhood.
He showed that His knowledge was innate.
His school master came to His uncle and said: "If you pay school fees to me, it is a present! I can teach him nothing! His explanations of difficult passages in the Qur'an are marvellous! His answers to complex problems are amazing!"
His mother one day rebuked a servitor after the ablution in preparation for the sunset prayer.
"Beloved Mother," said Siyyid `Ali Muhammad, then a child of six, "would it not be well to repeat the purifying ablution before praying - that the rebuke may not tarnish thy prayer?"
So gentle and loving was his character that all who know Him loved Him. The beauty of his mind was reflected in His person. He passed all His time, when He was not dutifully helping His uncle in his work, meditating upon the Holy books.
"Surely," said the people, "He is a heavenly should, this youth who walks with the dignified and serene step, who is of so shining a countenance, and withal so beautiful, and, moreover, greatly learned in the Sacred Writings."
Now there was a sweet and lovely cousin of Siyyid `Ali Muhammad named Khadijih-Sultan-Bagum; these two had played together as little children, and had been great friends.
According to the custom of the country they did not meet as they began to grow up.
One night Khadijih-Sultan-Bagum had a vision, which many years afterwards she related to Munirih Khanum, wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was destined to play a great role in this amazing tale:
"I dreamed a dream in which Fatimih, the daughter of Muhammad, came to me and said: `Arise! I desire that you
become the wife of my son." So majestic she looked, as she stood, tall, slender, and graceful, so wonderful was the beautiful mien, so marvellous her loveliness of expression, so glorious her countenance, that I could no longer gaze upon her, but looked down, feeling overcome with awe, and all unworthy of so high an honour.
"I did not speak of this vision to my sisters; they would have thought me to be filled with pride and self-assertion! But the vision filled my thought day and night; it seemed to enfold me in a kind of sacred atmosphere of joy indescribable!
"A few days after this vision, the mother of my playmate of years agone, Siyyid `Ali Muhammad, came to me, and standing in the self-same attitude, and in the very same spot as the visitant of my dream, spoke words to me, which I understood as conveying her wish that I should be the wife of her son.
"By this I became aware that her son, afterwards my glorious husband, was a Chosen One!"
Accordingly this lovely girl became the wife of Siyyid `Ali Muhammad. All the people wondered at the sublime beauty of the bridal pair.
Alas, that their happiness should be so brief duration, should be cut short by one of the great world tragedies!
Their was a marriage of pure love; they both came of a family who took but one wife; this was remarkable, as the custom of the country was to marry two if not more, and it was often made very difficult to evade this custom!
In many ways the family was held in an almost sacred veneration by the friends and neighbours, both of high and of low degree.
One evening He, Siyyid `Ali Muhammad, said to His bride, as the newly wedded pair sat together:
"To-night there will come a very particularly dear friend, whom I am earnestly expecting; go to your rest; do not wait up for me, he may be quite late."
She saw a grave expression of determination on His face, as she rose to obey His wish; her intuitive soul at once understood that the guest for whom He waited must be of no ordinary kind.
As she went she turned to look at her Husband, the beautiful youth with the serene, earnest face, who then, as though in
answer to the call of an invisible command, took His seat exactly facing the door, upon which he fixed His eyes.
There she left Him seated, waiting! Waiting!
At length a step was heard, and the awaited one came. The young wife, wondering too much for sleep, heard what caused even greater wonder.
This visitor was he who afterwards became known as the Babu'l-Bab, his name being Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i. He was one of the foremost disciples of Siyyid Kazim, and had now come to Shiraz in fulfilment of the charge laid upon his students, that after his death, "they should first spend forty days in retreat in the Mosque at Kufih, fasting and praying, being thus prepared to become capable of recognizing the Imam, they were to disperse, travelling far and wide in search of Him, and having found Him, to let all the world know."
On his arrival the awaited visitor announced that he was seeking for his master, and took from his wallet the Tablet before mentioned, the five-pointed star, following the chief lines of the form of the human body - filled with writing containing the description of the signs by which he should know Him whom he sought.
As this was recounted by the guest, the young host listened gravely, and then, taking of his green turban, said: "Look well at me, do I not show these signs?" His calm face was illumined by a smile full of meaning.
"That is a very high claim," wonderingly said the visitor. Siyyid `Ali Muhammad then reminded him of a day long ago at the table of Siyyid Kazim, who, speaking of the chapter in the Qur'an describing the story of Joseph, impressively told them to remember the discussion of that evening on the "Mystery of Joseph," adding that one day, in the future, the reason for this solemn injunction would be made clear to them.
Then and there Siyyid `Ali Muhammad wrote a detailed commentary of the "Mystery of Joseph," revealing the hidden meaning of he story; this he handed to his visitor.
As Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i read, his eyes were opened, and he became greatly perturbed and overcome, and excited. He wished to rush forth proclaiming the wondrous tidings to the world.
He had found the Herald! Him whom he sought, the Imam, the Qa'im.
"Restrain thin enthusiasm for awhile, my friend, it is not yet the time to give forth the tidings. Be patient! Wait! Wait until eighteen persons of insight shall of themselves separately, through inner guidance, have recognized me.
The Bab Himself was the "Primal Point" and, with the eighteen to be by him appointed as they should come to Him, constituted "The Nineteen Letters of the Living."
This declaration was made on the twenty-third day of the month of May, in the year 1844.
What a day in the history of the world!
The Bab, the Herald of Bahá'u'lláh, the Promised one, opened the new age of mankind. On this day was born `Abbas Effendi, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Son of Bahá'u'lláh and Centre of His Covenant.
On this day the first telegraphic message was flashed along the wires in these remarkable words:
"Behold what God hath wrought!"
Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i was straightway named the Babu'l-Bab, i.e., "The-gate-leading-to-the-Gate," and took his place as the first one of the sacred band of illuminated disciples who became known as "The Nineteen Letters of the Living."
When certain others had come to the Bab, and had been added to this band, He sent them forth far and wide into the length and breadth of the land, to give the glad tidings of their divine Leader. In these words He addressed them:
"O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of god in this Day. You have been chosen as the repositories of His mystery. It behoves each one of you to manifest the attributes of God, and to exemplify by your deeds and words the signs of His righteousness, His power and glory. The very members of your body must bear witness to the loftiness of your purpose, the integrity of your life, the reality of your faith, and the exalted character of your devotion. For verily I say, this is the Day spoken of by God in His book [foontote: The Qur'an]: `On that day will We set a seal upon their mouths; yet shall their hands speak
unto Us, and their feet shall bear witness to that which they shall have done.' Ponder the words of Jesus addressed to His disciples, as He sent them forth to propagate the Cause of God. In words such as the, He bade them arise and fulfil their mission: `Ye are even as the fire which in the darkness of the night has been kindled upon the mountain-top. Let your light shine before the eyes of men. Such must be the purity of your character and the degree of renunciation, that the people of the earth may through you recognize and be drawn closer to the heavenly father who is the sources of purity and grace. For none has seen the Father who is in heaven. You who are His spiritual children must by your deeds exemplify His virtues, and witness to his glory. You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? Such must be the degree of your detachment, that into whatever city you should enter to proclaim and teach the Cause of god, you should in no wise expect either meat or reward from its people. Nay, when you depart out of that city, you should shake the dust from off your feet. as you have entered it pure and undefiled, so must you depart from that city. For verily I say, the heavenly Father is ever with you and keeps watch over you. If you be faithful to Him, He will assuredly deliver into your hands all the treasures of the earth, and will exalt you above all the rulers and kings of the world.' O My Letters! Verily I say, immensely exalted is this Day above the days of the Apostles of old. nay, immeasurable is the difference! You are the witnesses of the Dawn of the promised Day of God. You are the partakers of the mystic chalice of His Revelation. Gird up the loins of endeavour, and mindful of the words of God as revealed in His Book: `Lo, the Lord thy God [footnote: The Qur'an] is come, and with Him is the company of His angels arrayed before Him!' Purge your hearts of worldly desires, and let angelic virtues be your adorning. Strive that by your deeds you may bear witness to the truth of these words of God, and beware lest, by `turning back,' He may `change you for another people,' who `shall not be you like,' and who shall take from you the kingdom of God. The days when idle worship was deemed sufficient are ended. The time is come when naught but the purest motive, supported by
deeds of stainless purity, can ascend to the throne of the Most high and be acceptable unto Him. `The good word riseth up unto Him, and the righteous deed will cause it to be exalted before Him.' You are the lowly, of whom God has thus spoken in His Book: `And we desire to show favour to those who were [footnote: The Qur'an] brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make them Our heirs.' You have been called to this station; you will attain to it, only if you arise to trample beneath your feet every earthly desire, and endeavour to become those `honoured servants of His who speak not till he hath spoken, and who do His bidding.' You are the first letters that have been generated from the Primal Point, [footnote: One of the Bab's titles.] the first Springs that have welled out from the source of this Revelation. Beseech the Lord your God to grant that no earthly entanglements, no worldly affections, no ephemeral pursuits, may tarnish the purity, or embitter the sweetness, of that grace which flows through you. I am preparing you for the advent of a might Day. Exert your utmost endeavour that, in the world to come, I, who am now instructing you, may, before the mercy-seat of God, rejoice in your deeds and glory in your achievements. The secret of the Day that is to come is now concealed. It can neither be divulged nor estimated. The newly born babe of the Day excels the wisest and most venerable men of this time, and the lowliest and most unlearned of that period shall surpass in understanding the most erudite and accomplished divines of this age. Scatter throughout the length and breadth of this land, and, with steadfast feet and sanctified hearts, prepare the way for His coming. Heed not your weaknesses and frailty; fix you gaze upon the invincible power of the Lord, your God, the Almighty. Has He not, in past days, caused Abraham, in spite of his seeming helplessness, to triumph over the forces of Nimrod? Has He not enabled Moses, whose staff was His only companion, to vanquish Pharaoh and his hosts? Has He not established the ascendancy of Jesus, poor and lowly as He was in the eyes of men, over the combined forces of the Jewish people? Has He not subjected the barbarous and militant tribes of Arabia to the holy and transforming
discipline of Muhammad, His Prophet? Arise in His name, put your trust wholly in Him, and be assured of ultimate victory."
Having sent forth these messengers, the Bab set out for Mecca, where the great public proclamation of His Message took place.
The mullas of Shiraz, alarmed by the sensational reports of the pilgrims returning from Mecca, fearing the influence of His pure teaching, and most of them entirely failing to comprehend the significance of the event, went in a body to the Governor of the town, Husayn Khan, imploring him to take the Bab prisoner, and to keep Him in his own house in absolute solitude, that He might trouble the land no longer with His teaching.
Accordingly Husayn Khan sent ten of his own soldier guards to make the Bab prisoner as He was returning to Shiraz. They met Him at night.
"Friends, where are you going?" asked the Bab.
"For a particular purpose," the soldiers replied, hesitating to tell Him what that purpose was.
"That purpose I know, you have orders to take me as prisoner to Shiraz. Here am I! I am He whom you seek."
The soldiers were amazed at the courage of the gentle-voiced and beautiful Youth, Who willingly gave Himself up to be a prisoner in the hands of so cruel a Governor.
They treated this calm and dignified young descendant of Muhammed with great respect, their demeanour being rather that of retainers of a Prince, than of soldiers in charge of a prisoner.
Arrived at Shiraz, Husayn Khan thought it wise to allow the Bab to be confined in the house of His uncle, requiring Him to undertake to teach no more in Shiraz. The uncle was also called upon to become surety for Him, that the promises should be kept.
Meanwhile "the Letters of the Living" were journeying throughout the land of Iran, carrying the good news of the Appearing of the Qa'im, the "Awaited One," for whose coming the prayers of the faithful had been offered up to the Court of the Invisible for so many centuries.
Despite the terrible danger to life and property, which overshadowed all who professed the new faith, numbers of these
fearless souls continued to offer allegiance to the Bab, and wrote many letters to Him, questioning Him and assuring him of their devotion, even unto death!
These followers were now called Babis, and their numbers grew and increased -albeit few were able to come into touch with the young Prophet, whom they accepted as a Divine Messenger, because He was so frequently undergoing mock trial succeeding mock trial, being taken from one remote stronghold to a yet more distant fastness. His friends and His family were often unable to discover his whereabouts, all communication with them being forbidden. It was also very difficult to carry out any plan for letters to reach Him, or for receiving His Tablets in reply, such grave risks did any messenger run who attempted to reach Him.
To the fact that so many intrepid souls gallantly made these attempts, and that some were successful, we are indebted for such of His writings as remain to us.
These Tablets, as a rule, contain no name of those persons for whom they were written, and many of those which ultimately arrived at their destination were promptly buried under the earth or otherwise hidden, so as to escape destruction by their ever-watchful enemies.
Others again were destroyed by their owners who, when arrested, often made a sign to the wife, or some member of their family, to burn them (these priceless treasures!), in case they might incriminate any others of the friends, if found through treacherous spies; for by such persons were the brave Babis constantly surrounded.
An old Persian Bahá'í, Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani, told me that when he was a boy, about nine years old, he was passing by an inn in his native town of Kashan, where many soldiers were gathered together.
"The Bab is here. He is being taken to Tihran," someone whispered.
"I remember being told that a gentleman of the town, Haji Muhammad Isma'il, gave a sum of between fifty and sixty tumans [footnote: A tuman was at that time equal to a pound sterling.] to the soldier guards to allow the Blessed One to spend that one night at his house."
This friend was afterwards denounced as a Babi, taken prisoner, chained with Bahá'u'lláh at Tihran, and, with his brother, Mirza Jani, one of the first historians of the Cause, eventually gained the crown of martyrdom.
"My eldest brother heard some prophecies interpreted by a Mulla in our Mosque - he became convinced and embraced the Babi faith; afterwards we three others also became Babis; later on, when `He, Whom God should make Manifest,' Bahá'u'lláh, had made His proclamation, we accepted him, and then we became Bahá'ís." [footnote: His story, as told to me, I will give in its own period further on.]
Meanwhile, the Shah of Iran, having been in much perplexity concerning the Bab, of Whose teaching he had heard varying accounts, each contradicting the other, had sent for Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, one of the most learned scholars of his time, and a highly esteemed divine. Preparations were made for his welcome, beautiful rugs and embroidered shawls were laid down before him, to show with what honour this guest was received.
The Shah directed him to go to Shiraz, see this Prophet, Whom all were discussing, seek out the truth of the reports, and return to inform him of all he should be able to discover.
Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi went to Shiraz, saw the Bab, had long talks with Him, going into the fulfilment of prophecies, their explanations and interpretations! As he himself knew much of the Qur'an by heart, and nearly thirty thousand traditions foretelling the Promised One, and being withal of a character described as "Holy," he was well chosen for this mission, being suitably equipped, mentally and spiritually, to investigate so important a matter.
The result was that he, Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, became convinced of the truth, embraced the faith, and was sent forth by the Bab to proclaim the New Day.
He was destined in the future to attain the crown of martyrdom, in the town of Nayriz.
Arrived again at Tihran, he went to ask many question of Mirza Husayn-`Aii Nuri (afterwards Bahá'u'lláh).
On this day `Abbas Effendi told us that He, being a little boy, was sitting on the knee of Qurratu'l-`Ayn, who was in the private parlour of His mother, Asiyih Khanum, the door of this room being open, they could hear from behind the curtain, the voice of Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, who was talking and "arguing with my Father."
Qurratyu'l-`Ayn, that beautiful, fearless poetess, addressing the Siyyid with her musical, yet penetrating voice, said:
"O Siyyid this is not the time for arguments, for discussions, for idle repetitions of prophecies or traditions! It is the time for deeds! The day for words has passed!
"If you have courage, now is the appointed hour for manifesting it; if you are a man of deeds, show a proof of your manhood by proclaiming day and night:
"The Promised Herald Has come!
"He has come, the Qa'im, the Imam, the Awaited One has come! He has come!"
`Abbas Effendi told us that He remembered this episode very distinctly, the expression of enthusiasm on her lovely, radiant face as she spoke those inspiring words from behind the curtain, which hung before the door, was wonderfully impressive.
`Abbas Effendi added:
"She used often, during her short visit, to take me on to her knee, caress me, and talk to me. I admired her most deeply."
Siyyid Ja`far-i-Kashafi foretold that his son, Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, would be,martyred as an infidel; this tragic prophecy was eventually fulfilled in the town of Nayriz.
Qurratu'l-`Ayn heard of the Herald who was the "Awaited One" through the disciples of Siyyid Kazim, and soon after the death of this beloved teacher she wrote to the Bab.
The Bab made her one of the "Nineteen letters of the Living." He said of this marvellous woman:
"Lo! She answered my call, even before I had called her."
Mulla Husayn, the first believer in the Bab, was one day summoned to the presence of his Master:
"I have a very important mission for you," said the Bab.
"Take this tablet, it is for a great and holy person."
While Mull Husayn listened in wonder and awe, the Bab
continued. "Go to Tihran, seek out one, who is a very highly placed personage and who is well known to be, above all things, spiritual, showing forth loving kindness and charity."
The disciple journeyed to Tihran, filled with thought of the sacred importance of his secret mission.
Having arrived, he prepared to inquire carefully, day after day, knowing by faith of intuition that the Great One was in reality on earth, moreover [Footnote: The Bab declared His own message to be preparatory to that of "He whom God shall make Manifest," the Promised One of all peoples. -ED.] that he should find him, though as yet veiled, in that very town of Tihran.
After some days had passed in fruitless seeking, he met one of the `ulamas, to whom the errand was confided, though not, of course, in its [Footnote: "Learned ones"; applied generally to the clergy.] entire sacredness.
"There is but one personage in all this place who could possibly be the one you seek," he said.
"Tell me of him," said the Babu'l-Bab.
"He is one of the noble class, but above all ostentation, seldom attending stately functions. Extremely wealthy, but caring naught for luxury and sumptuous faring. Full of a marvellous wisdom is he, yet he has never been instructed of men, even when a young boy, not consenting to receive lessons from the usual teachers of youth. He is the helper of all in need of succour. A refuge for those in sorrowful weariness; a comfort to all the afflicted. A strong champion of those who suffer wrong. to the shelter of his house all who hunger or thirst are warmly welcomed. His hospitality is given freely to every comer. His doors are always opened to the friendless, and his heart to every tale of grief.
"The people say:
" `He refuses all the lucrative posts which are offered to him; surely even his wealth must diminish, if he despises all means of adding to it, whilst he continues to bestow his goods so lavishly on these worthless poor creatures.'
"It is very difficult to understand his conduct, so differing from that of our other friends. What can be the meaning or the good of it all? Well, it certainly is not the way to fill his coffers with tumans.
"But the poor of people, the forsaken, the sick and the miserable, revere and love him with a kind of worshipful adoration; they speak of him as the `Father of the Poor.'
"Moreover, it is whispered by many of his friends, both rich and poor, that there is something about him of the other world, the world of holiness.
"Say, my friend, think you this is he whom you seek?"
The Babu'l-Bab, as he heard these things, knew that he had found Him whom he sought.
"Without doubt this is He. Now how can the precious Tablet be delivered to this unique personage?"
"I can do this, for I am frequently at his house, where I give teaching to some of his brethren."
So this tutor was entrusted to deliver the Tablet of the Bab to Mirza Husayn-`Ali Nuri, who, when He had read the wonderful, inspired words, called His brother, Mirza Musa, saying: "Read this - if there be any truth in this mortal world, it is to be found in the words of the writer of this Tablet."
Mirza Husayn-`Ali sent back to Shiraz by messenger a present of tea to the Bab.
The contents of this Tablet being noised abroad amongst certain persons, the tidings of the appearance of the Forerunner of a new Manifestation caused great agitation in Tihran.
The following extract from the Tablet of the Bab was translated for me by Mirza Munir, son of one of the most devoted Bahá'ís, known as Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin, i.e., "the adorning of the favored."
As was the Bab's custom, no name is given of him to whom the Tablet was written, nor of the friends mentioned in it; it seems to speak eloquently of the danger, which was the atmosphere in which the Writer and his disciples lived.
The Bab, having been told that the `ulamas wished for a sign a sort of trial by ordeal, consented to gratify there desire, thereby giving them proof of His willingness to meet them upon their own ground. He left it, moreover, to them to select the sign.
TABLET OF HIS HOLINESS THE BAB
"In the Name of God the Most Merciful!
"Praise be unto God, Who hath bestowed upon me the Grace to thank Him for His ordeals.
"I thank Him for the calamities which have descended upon me, and for the hardships which have bestrewn my path.
"These misfortunes have come to me through those who believe not in the One True God, and are of the rebellious.
"I bring my sorrows and my griefs unto God
"Ere long the unjust shall see their punishment.
"What thou has written to me I have received, and I became aware of that which hath come through thy love.
"May God reward thee for that which thou has wrought in His Religion, and for that which thou wilt achieve in His Path.
"I swear by Him, in whose hand is my soul, that those who quaff of the Chalice of Love are saved, and that those who reject me and my Mission shall perish.
"How can I describe that which befell me in that land?
"Verily, all the ink of the world, and all the parchments of the earth would fall short.
"By a sign it shall be made known unto thee, what are some of the calamities which overwhelmed me, when I journeyed from that land to present myself to one whom God had appointed to be ruler over it.
"I arrived at this place and tarried a space by the permission of His Honour Mu`tamdu'd-Dawlih; may God preserve and increase his good fortune and reward him with His bounties according to his merits. In truth he did not fail to care for us, and to take trouble on our behalf.
"One night a promise was made in Mu`tamidu'd-Dawlih's presence, and that of many nobles concerning that which God had ordained and desired.
"This will in truth take place, should the `ulamas present themselves, on the day of the Great Feast as appointed for that `Trial by Ordeal.'
"This was agreed upon between me and the `ulamas.
"Soon shall God establish the Truth by His Word, and make manifest the deeds of the people.
"Ere long I shall make a journey to the presence of Maliku'l
Fadl (the lord of grace); shouldst thou hear of this visit, present thyself in that place, and relate whatsoever thou hast seen of the actions of the ignorant.
"Verily, we are from God, and unto God shall we return.
"Peace be upon thee, and upon Ahmad, and upon that one whom thou didst mention in thy letter - and upon those who shall join them.
"To-day is the appointed day, and this day shall be fulfilled that which [footnote: 7th of Dhi'l-Hijjih, A.H. 1262, last month of the Muhammadan year (Lunar).] I promised thee - at five minutes before noontide shall take place - should the `ulamas present themselves!"
The `ulamas failed to keep the appointment, thereby showing that they did not wish to know the Truth, which it was clearly their duty to investigate.
They were afraid of suffering defeat, and thus bringing about the humiliation of their religion.
Their refusal betrayed their lack of faith in the justice of their opposition.
They feared that the Truth of the Bab's Mission would at the projected Ordeal, be proclaimed to the world.
Thus the spectres of grief and sorrow, and woe, and disappointment, stalked beside this Chosen One at all times.
This Tablet was written in 1846, two years after His proclamation.
The persecution of this "Awaited Qa'im," during the whole six years of His Mission, seems incredible - very difficult to understand, knowing as we do that prayers were constantly offered up for his Coming by those very mullas, who showed themselves to be His most cruel and bitter enemies, and that He showed forth all the requisite signs, mentioned in the prophecies. But this rejection was accepted by those who believed in the Bab, as in itself, one of the proofs of His Truth, being also a fulfilling of prophecy.
THE WAITING SERVANTS
It has been said that in the "Latter Days," "The Great Day of God," which is understood to be the day of the Universal Manifestation, He Who should link all the religions and races
of the world together in a vast bond of honour and love, free from self-seeking, hatred, and prejudice, would appear.
It has been said, and by many believed, that in His Day the Lord God would send to the earth ten thousand thousand of His Saints.
These Saints, referred to as "the Waiting Servants," would be manifested in every religion, in every race, every tongue, every colour, and every nation in the world.
These "Waiting Servants" would, many of them, gather round the Forerunner, and in due time would hasten to that One "Whom God shall make Manifest," to be Their Apostles and Their Disciples. They would, wherever their abode, be the first to recognise the lessons of the Diving Educator, would be as leaven in the lethargic mass of people, and, arising to set about their Father's work, would be as pure "life blood in the arteries of the sick body of the world."
It is believed that a number of the "Waiting Servants" were already manifested in Persia, and therefore were ready to recognise the Bab as the Promised One, the Imam, their Expected Leader, Whose ultimate mission was to herald the Great Universal Manifestation.
One of the most devoted of these "Waiting Servants" was the beautiful poetess of Qazvin, Zarrin-Taj (Crown of Gold), Fatmih Khanum, to whom the revered Siyyid Kazim gave the name of Qurratu'l-`Ayn (Consolation of the Eyes), so rare was her loveliness of body and soul. The story of her [footnote She received the title of Tahirih, the Pure One, from the Bab.] fearless devotion and cruel martyrdom is elsewhere told. [footnote: By practically all historians of The Episode of the Bab, but notably Nabil and Professor E. G. Browne. Lady Blomfield, too, has written an account. -ED.]
Many others, in defiance of torture and death, arose to serve the Cause of the Bab. Shaykh Slih, Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, Mulla Husayn, Quddus, Mirza Jani, and Mirza Isma`il, the brothers of Kashan, and many, many others. Not only were they steadfast unto death, but some of them even prayed to be permitted the honour of shedding their life blood for the watering of the Tree of Life. In their high devotion they counted the greatest gift of God to be that of martyrdom, which to them was the Crown of Life.
Mirza Jani and Mirza Isma`il went with Bahá'u'lláh to carry help to the Babis who were defending themselves in Shaykh Tabarsi. On the way they were arrested. Bahá'u'lláh was set free through some friends of the royal circle, and the two brothers were bought as slaves by a fellow-townsman and promptly set free.
Trial after trial of the Bab took place, for the most part in the strictest secrecy, no friend being present, none but implacable, cruel enemies surrounding Him.
At these mock trials, with their false accusations, He is said to have spoken so wisely that He could not be condemned, or again to have answered not one word to their subtle questions, holding His peace.
When it became known that the friends of the Bab had succeeded in finding out the castle in which He was imprisoned, and that large numbers of them were flocking to the prison gate, the enemies caused Him to be taken to some other more remote fastness; these changes usually took place in the darkness of night, so that the brave followers should not deliver him from their hands.
Persistently the "Waiting Servants" gathered round Him, gallant and fearless, increasing in numbers, and in disregard of the danger of bonds, imprisonments, torture, and death, of which the shadow was always near these devoted ones, who refused to forsake Him, Whom they recognised as their Lord.
Thus the amazing six years passed (1844 to 1850).
The authorities, instigated by the religious enemies, who feared the increasing numbers of His adherents and their determined steadfastness, which threatened their own influence and power, decided upon the bold step of putting the Bab to death, hoping thereby to end His "troubling of the land."
"Let us kill this man, then see where his followers will be."
Accordingly, the Bab and His devoted disciple, Aqa Muhammad-`Ali Zunuzi, were taken to Tabriz, there to be done to death.
The night before this took place, the Bab said to him who so loved Him:
"Wilt thou not send me to the other world? It is surely better to go by the hand of a friend than of a foe."
This He said to test the love and faith of him.
The answer came.
"Thy body is human, but Thy word is the word of God. I am ready to obey."
"It is well, thou shalt not be required to do this thing, O My companion, but I say unto thee, that never shalt thou be separated from me, thou shalt be for ever with me."
On the next day the Bab was brought out from his prison into the public square. His green turban was taken off, so that He should not be recognized as a descendant of Muhammad; the people would not have permitted the sacrilege of putting a Siyyid to death. As to the mark on His forehead, the sacred sign, only the learned would be likely to see that, knowing its significance, and it was these very learned ones who had encompassed His death, in spite of this sign. [Footnote: The above details were told to the writer by Haji `Ali Yazdi.]
The Bab and His friend were bound with ropes, and hung upon a wall, with their arms extended in the form of a cross. A company of soldiers stood ready, and the word of command was given to fire!
When the smoke had cleared, the Bab was seen to be seated in an adjoining room unharmed. Only the ropes, by which He was suspended, were severed. He was calmly writing. He looked up as official rushed in, then continued His work. Soon he laid down His pen, saying:
"It is finished. I am ready."
He was then conducted to the place of martyrdom.
The officials, in terror and amazement, gave the word to fire once more.
The soldiers laid down their arms saying: "This thing is of God, we refuse to obey."
Another company was hastily brought, and the heroic young Herald allowed Himself to be sent forth into the other world by the bullets of His enemies.
The Martyrdom of the Bab and His friend took place on the 9th of July in the year 1850.
His Holiness the Bab had accomplished His mission, under
difficulties inexpressible, in bonds and imprisonment, steadfastly facing scorn, contempt, revilings. he had succeeded in establishing the conditions of purity of heart in many "Waiting Servants," who had become his devoted follower; this condition of heart being necessary in order to be able to recognize "Him Whom God shall make Manifest."
"Blessed are they whose hearts are pure, for they shall see God."
As His Holiness the Spirit (the Lord Christ) hath said aforetime.
So the Bab said to his believers:
"The pure of heart shall see, that is with eyes of the spirit they shall recognize God, in his Great Manifestation now about to arise, as the glorious Sun on a dark and weary world."
And the "Gate" was thrown wide open into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Through this "Gate" the "Waiting Servants" should pass, drawing with them the despairing, the humble and lowly of heart, those whose heads are adorned with the Crown of Severance from all things of earth, and those pure and holy one, whose lives are made perfect through love.
The Body of the the Bab
The bodies of the Bab and of His faithful disciple, Aqa Muhammad-Ali, were taken in the dead of the night, wrapped in one aba, to the house of Rahim Khan-i-Kalantar.
The devoted Babi, who achieved this task with the wonderful courage and promptitude necessary to its success, Mirza Sulaym'an Khan, was afterwards martyred in the most cruel manner--lighted candles were inserted into the skin of various parts of his body; whilst they burned, and his torturers gloated over his sufferings, he sang praises to God, and chanted prayers with his last breath.
From the house of the Kalantar, the two bodies being put into one wooden case, were taken and hidden in the warehouse of one Mirza Ahmad-i-M'il'an'i, a place of concealment little likely to be discovered. Here they remained until Bahá'u'lláh
requested M'irz'a Sulaym'an Kh'an to undertake again the dangerous guardianship of the revered bodies, and to bring them to Tihran.
This was done, and they were successfully placed with great secrecy in the tomb of a descendant of an Imam. In this appropriate resting-place they were hidden for some years.
At length 'Abdu'l-Bahá arranged for the precious remains to be brought to Mount Carmel, near Haifa.
Those who were charged with the transportation had many obstacles to encounter on their way. To have taken it on board a ship, or on to any train, would have led to the disaster of discovery. Accordingly, they hired mules, and riding in a Takht-i-Ravan" (similar to a howdah), with the box, they brought it all the way by land from Tihran through Baghdad, and at length arrived in safety at Haifa.
Here it remained in secret, first in one house, then being taken for greater security to another hiding-place.
After some years it was placed in the mausoleum (tomb shrine), which had been especially built by 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Mount Carmel.
The body of the faithful companion," Aqa Muhammad-Ali, was now mingled with that of the the Bab, his head resting on the breast of his beloved Master. Thus even in the earthly bodies, the promise, given the night before their martyrdom, was fulfilled.
"I say unto thee that never shall thou be separated from me; thou shalt be for ever with me."
Immediately upon His release from the prison of 'Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá began to build a shrine for the body of the Bab, his head resting on the breast of his beloved Master. Thus even in the earthly bodies, the promise, given the night before their martyrdom, was fulfilled.
"I say unto thee that never shalt thou be separated from me; thou shalt be for ever with me."
Immediately upon His release from the prison of Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá began to build a shrine for the body of the the Bab, which had been kept so long in a secret place. Having with much difficulty, self-sacrifice, and great trouble accomplished this, He proceeded to have the sacred remains of the martyred Herald, and the beloved disciple, laid in a marble casket, which was placed in the shrine with great and solemn reverence.
Several persons who were present on the moving occasion of that sacred ceremony have tried to describe to the writer what they saw, and above all, what they felt.
"But it is impossible to find the words with which to tell you
of the event of that great day. Perhaps you may touch the spirit of it with your spirit. The Master, bare-headed, with His hair like a halo of silver, His white robe falling around Him, His feet bare, descended into the tomb. His beautiful voice rose and fell in the cadence of the funeral chant, His face all shining and glorious, as though it were lighted from within.
"He Himself placed the earthly body of His Holiness the the Bab, with that of His beloved and faithful disciple, in the marble sarcophagus.
"And when He spoke to us of the meaning of that day's event-of sacrifice, of love, of steadfastness, of heroism, shown all down the ages by those Great Messengers of God-our hearts, you can imagine, were too full for any utterance. We could but fee, Oh, the blindness of humanity! How it is unworthy of those whom it tortures and martyrs. And Oh, the stupendous love which came and endured for the sake of that same humanity!"