NABIL-E AKBAR, title of Āqā Moḥammad Qāʾeni, a prominent Bahai author and apologist (b. Now Ferest [Razmara,Farhang IX, p. 428], a village near Qāʾen, 23 Ramaḍān 1244/29 March 1829; d. Bukhara, 13 Ḏu’l-ḥejja 1309/6 July 1892).
Mohammad Qāʾeni, also known as Fāżel-e Qāʾeni, received the title Nabil-e Akbar from Bahāʾ-Allāh. He was the son of an influential and popular cleric, Mollā Aḥmad, from a family of mojtaheds. He studied traditional Islamic sciences with his father before going to Sabzavār, where he studied theology and the philosophy of illuminationism (ḥekmat-e ešrāq) with the foremost philosopher of the time in Persia, Ḥājj Mollā Hādi Sabzavāri for five years. On his way to Najaf in 1852 for further studies, he met Sayyed Yaʿqub, a Bābi convert, in Tehran, who gave him the writings of the Bāb, which led to his conversion to the Bābi movement (Solaymāni, pp. 435-42). In Najaf, he studied Islamic jurisprudence with eminent mojtaheds of the ʿOṣuli School, in particular with Shaikh Mortażā Anṣāri, from whom, upon submitting a resāla, he received the license of ejtehād after six years, despite being suspected of being a Bābi. His mastery of both the illuminationist philosophy and Islamic jurisprudence made him a notable scholar of religion (ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, tr., pp. 1-5; Solaymāni, pp. 428-29; Rafʿati, p. 110; Balyuzi, pp. 112-15).
Shortly before leaving for Persia in 1859, Shaikh Ḥasan Rašti, a Bābi convert, persuaded Nabil to visit Bahāʾ-Allāh in Baghdad. He stayed in Baghdad as a guest of Bahāʾ-Allāh and seems to have been one of the few to acknowledge Bahāʾ-Allāh’s mission before it was declared in 1863. Upon Bahāʾ-Allāh’s instruction, he returned to Persia to promulgate the Bābi religion. He is reported to have been initially received in Persia with respect, and the governor of Qāʾen, Hešmat-al-Molk Amir ʿAlam Khan, admired him and valued his company. This aroused the resentment of local ulema, who arranged a debate between him and Mollā Ebrāhim, a learned cleric of Qāʾen (Solaymāni, p. 452; Rafʿati, p. 111). The debate revealed Nabil’s mastery of Islamic sciences, and from then on he was invited to preach from the pulpit (menbar). Preaching in mosques, however, did not prevent him from promoting the Bābi movement privately, and some inhabitants of the region embraced Babism. His missionary activities eventually antagonized the local ulema, who persuaded the governor to have him arrested (Foʾādi Bošruʾi,forthcoming; Solaymāni, pp. 454-55). He was imprisoned and tortured for two months in nearby Birjand and then returned to Qāʾen, where he remained under house arrest for two years before being banished to Mašhad. The governor of Mašhad, Solṭān Morād Mirzā Ḥosām-al-Salṭana, respected Nabil and offered him protection, and after one year he returned to Qāʾen as a free man.
During the year that he was in Mašhad, Mollā Moḥammad-ʿAli Zarandi (Nabil-e Aʿẓam) informed him of Bahāʾ-Allāh’s public declaration of his mission. Nabil wrote a letter to all Bābis in the region, encouraging them to accept Bahāʾ-Allāh’s claim. Local ulema, in particular Sayyed Abu Tṟāleb, a cleric in Qāʾen, wrote letters to eminent ulema lobbying for a death sentence. Finally Nabil was sent in exile to Tehran in 1870 by the royal order (Foʾādi Bošruʾi, forthcoming; Solaymāni, p. 456).
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