The Russian Empire, 1892
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A Treatise for Alexander Tumansky
My bosom friend:
Praise be to God, and to the one who illumined the world with the light of His Most Great Name, and exaltation be upon the Manifestations of His Cause and the Dawning-Places of His mention among the tribes and nations.
Your noble letter dated 25 Muharram, which you posted from Bombay, arrived in Samarkand, filling my breast with joy and my heart with delight. I ask God — blessed and exalted be He — to confirm you in aiding the Cause of your Lord and to bless me again with the attainment of your presence. He is, verily, the Near One, the Beloved.
You mentioned that you sent my "Treatise on Job" [Risaliy-i Ayyubiyyih] to Mr. [Edward Granville] Browne — may God cause his name to be mentioned in all ages and centuries — that he might translate and publish it. In my last letter, which I dispatched to you from Bukhara, I wrote a detailed elucidation of it, which has no doubt by now arrived and been read. Just briefly, the "Treatise on Job" and the "Treatise on the Dated Verses" [Risaliy-i ayat-i mu'arrakhih] that I wrote out in by own hand were in Ashkhabad with Mirza Haydar `Ali Usku'i. Recently, it was sent to the
Holy Land on request. If you can find a copy of it, it is correct. Any other text, wherever you find it, contains errors and is undeserving of being printed and published.
[1. Haji Mirza Haydar `Ali, an outstanding early Bahá'í who suffered exile from Egypt to Sudan, authored Bahjat-i sudur [Bombay: Parsi Press, 1913]; Eng. trans. by Abu'l-Qasim Faizi, Stories from the Delight of Hearts (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1980).]
In regard to the questions you raised, my response to the first is as follows. I wrote that the length of time Jerusalem flourished after it was rebuilt by order of Cyrus of Iran through the mediation of Ezra until its destruction at the hands of the Roman Emperor Titus was four hundred and thirty years. This contradicts what Abu'l-Fida and others stated in their own books. Any investigation of this matter must be preceded by two introductory comments.
The first introductory comment: It is hidden from no mature historian that the chronicles of ancient nations in their entirety are hardly free of imperfections. To the contrary, all the histories of bygone peoples are so liberally mixed with fables and superstitions that no correct account unadulterated by legends and written before Christ can be found. For in the past ages the technical means of preserving scholarly works, including paper and ink, were largely nonexistent and it was extremely difficult to spread about knowledge and science.
Because of the feebleness of civilization and the prevalence of barbarity, most tribes and nations avoided all but their own kind and were forbidden to befriend and show love to strangers. Most groups in the past, such as the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, and Hebrews, considered strangers to be ritually impure, counting the very act of eating with them to
be against the law, much less giving them books — especially religious books. For they considered it an imperative of their faith to preserve their holy books from foreigners. They branded anyone who shared his scriptures with persons of other religions an unbeliever deserving of death. Indeed, the mobeds or priests of the Zoroastrians, the Brahmins of the Hindus, and the judges of the Hebrews refused to share their holy books with the laymen of their own religions! They considered protection of the scriptures one of the functions of their spiritual leaders.
Therefore, it was not possible for every person to acquire books, and the preservation of dates and events was extremely difficult. In 2 Kings, the twenty-second chapter, it is mentioned that during the reign of Josiah, the King of the Jews, he gave a command that the House of the Lord be repaired. Hilkiah the high priest found the Torah and sent it to Josiah with Shaphan the secretary. When Josiah read the holy book and saw the threats God had made against the children of Israel therein he rent his clothes. He said to his notables, "Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." By contemplating this incident one can understand to what extent the people had never heard of the Torah. The laity of the children of Israel had never seen the Torah. Neither had their king set eyes on it. Indeed, the high priest himself only stumbled across it in the midst of the filth while the House of God was being cleaned.
[1. 2 Kings 22:13.]
In bygone ages, because of the lack of scientific means, the greatest erudition to which historians could aspire was preserving the chronicles of their own communities while remaining wholly unaware of the histories of foreign nations. Anyone who looks at the Islamic histories will be struck that what is written about other peoples is pure fable. This is so even though the advances made by the Muslims in various sciences and branches of knowledge in the first centuries of Islam were such that the horizons were illuminated by their brilliance. Through the Muslims of North Africa and Spanish Andalusia this knowledge and these sciences passed to Europe. Nevertheless, several great Muslim thinkers remained so ignorant of the history of foreign nations that they wrote accounts of the prophets and rulers of the non-Muslims that consisted of pure error and fabulous legends.
Indeed, in spite of all the advances and technological progress made by Muslim scientists in the ages of the Umayyad caliphs of Spain, the Fatimid rulers of Egypt, and the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad, they failed even to record correctly the history of Islam itself. For no Islamic chronicle can be found that is not flattering to the state and full of religious and sectarian prejudices, and which is free of disputes over the year and month in which events occurred.
In past ages all nations remained woefully uninformed of conditions outside their own communities, and this situation continued unaltered until the opening years of this noble century, which in reality is the prince of centuries and the best of ages. During the reign of the Qajar ruler Fath-`Ali Shah [1797-1834 A.D.], Fadil Khan Gurrusi Hamadani, a renowned scholar and a great man of piety, translated the Pentateuch from Hebrew into Persian. European scholars have, by founding
institutions of higher education and perfecting the technology of printing, enabled knowledge to be more widely spread about and brought down the price of books. In this way, Muslim scholars now have learned about the history of the children of Israel and other communities and groups.
In sum, the point of this lengthy discussion is that, for the reasons mentioned above, to reconcile the ancient histories with one another is a task of supreme difficulty. Indeed, it is impossible. For instance, the author is sitting in his own house in Samarkand, writing these pages. I referred to two books of history. The first was the Polished Mirrors [Mir'at al-wadiyyah] by the American Protestant Cornelius van Dyck, and instructor in the large evangelical college in Beirut [the American Protestant College], a renowned teacher. I note that he fixed 580 B.C. as the birthdate of Cyrus (that is, Kaykhusraw, the king of Iran), who commanded along with his viceroys that Jerusalem be rebuilt. In the same work, in his biography of Confucius the famous Chinese legislator, he placed the birth of that great man on the very day Cyrus was born. He said that this wise man was a contemporary of Ezra the Hebrew priest and Cyrus the king of Iran. He died in the year 429 B.C. at the age of seventy. But this would give 499 B.C. as the year of birth for both Cyrus and Confucius.
The second book was A Tour of the Sciences [Siyahat al-ma'arif] by the pen of Nawfal Effendi, the son of Mi'matu'llah from Tripoli, Ottoman Syria. he is also a well-known Protestant scholar, and he wrote that Confucius died in 479 B.C. That would put his birthdate at 549 B.C. In short, in these times, when things are easy, scientific means exist, and books are plentiful and inexpensive, two contemporary historians record dates at such variance with one another.
Indeed, even within one volume such contradictions exist. What then was the situation of the ancients, who could neither obtain books easily nor discover the circumstances of other peoples?
The second introductory comment is as follows: The chronicles of the nations of old contain weaknesses and defects, and the scribes and writers of those communities mixed these historical matters pertaining to their own peoples with heavenly revelation, writing it all down in one volume. For this reason, their descendants accept hoary fables, which pervade the chronicles of all premodern peoples, as an element of worship. They expend the utmost effort in correcting and interpreting these stories.
For example, Jewish scholars are unaware of the identity of the historians or authors who penned the books of Samuel, Kings, Esther, and Mordechai. Yet they consider all these books to be divine revelation, putting them in the same category as books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, which truly are revelation and heavenly speech. Even more amazing, they ascribe the practice of idol worship to Solomon, yet continue to consider his writings to be divine revelation.
The reason Jewish scholars believe Solomon guilty of idol worship is that the anonymous author of Kings wrote that Solomon, because of his love for women, built temples for their idols and had sacrifices made to their gods, straying from the path of David. Yet how eloquent is God's saying in His noble Book, "And they follow what the Satans recited over Solomon's kingdom. Solomon disbelieved not, but the Satans disbelieved."
[1. 1 Kings 11:1-9; Qur'an 1:102.]
In sum, this admixture has taken on the proportions of a major calamity. The research scholars of the community and its best minds have proven impotent in solving the problem. Every group has a cause for rejecting the holy book of every other group. For nearly thirteen hundred years outstanding intellects have discussed and disputed the historical discrepancies between the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an. Jewish and Christian scholars, owing to their belief in the genuineness of the ancient Hebrew chronicles, inevitably rejected the Qur'an. For their part the Muslim thinkers, because of their certitude about the Qur'an and their conviction that the ancient histories were adulterated with superstitions, elaborated the doctrine of the textual corruption of the Hebrew Bible. If only the wise among these communities to this day had distinguished historical texts from revelation, it would not have been difficult to resolve this question. At this point there is no further space to elaborate on this theme. I have written a sufficient explanation of this subject in the "Treatise on the Dated Verses" which was to loosen this knot.
Now that you have read these two introductory comments I can continue. The writer of this letter preferred the date 430 B.C., in spite of the chronological discrepancies that exist, for two reasons. First, this date accords with the beliefs of the Jewish scholars themselves, and that essay was penned, as you know, at the request of the elders of that community. It should be obvious that the proverb has a bearing here:
"The people of the house know best what is in the house." In the same way, the children of Israel are more conscientious in preserving the days and years of the glory and abasement of their own people.
[1. As the date of the edict for rebuilding Jerusalem referred to in Daniel 9:24-25. Cf. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, trans. by Laura Clifford Barney (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1981) ch. 10.]
Second, otherwise the dated verses in chapters 8 and 12 of the Book of Daniel would not bear on the advent of Baha'u'llh. For by other dating systems, between one hundred and five hundred years has already passed since the date suggested by the prophecy. The magnificent promises pledged in these two pieces of revelation would then not have come to pass — inevitably reducing the divine revelation to mere whimsy. It is recognized that one will not reject or consider whimsical a book safeguarded by the oppressed children of Israel for nearly twenty-three hundred years, which they preserved by their own blood, called their holy book, and accounted a revelation from the heavens, merely because of the chronicles written by Abu'l-Fida and others.
Therefore, with all the disputes over dates that can be witnessed, the people of knowledge can only discuss the matter with representatives of each community and give precedence to the chronology they put forward for their own history. It was this very method I myself pursued in the "Treatise on Job" and elsewhere. If on the other hand, the dates are prophecies and glad-tidings, external events must be taken into consideration. An example is the case of the famous saying, "In the year '60, He will manifest His Cause and exalt His mention." Since the advent of the Primal Point [the Bab] — may his exalted name be glorified — occurred in the year 1260 of the Muslim calendar, scholars applied the saying to that year.
The allusions to dates in the saying to Abu-Labid Fakhrumi are of the same sort. Similar also are the
dates recorded in chapters 8 and 9 of the Book of Daniel and in Chapters 11 and 12 of the Book of Revelation by Saint John. The Protestant teachers of theology see Daniel 9:25-26 as referring to the Advent of Christ. There he says,
Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and a moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed on shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed.
Protestant professors have said that seven weeks means forty-nine days, for they reckon according to the rule affirmed by the learned of the children of Israel that every day mentioned in scripture must be counted as a year. In Hebrew they state this rule by saying "Yom lashana." The intent is thus forty-nine years, the time that elapsed between the issuing of the command and the construction undertaken through Ezra the priest. The intent of the phrase sixty-two weeks according to the above-mentioned law is 434 years, during which the sanctuary was built and flourished for the second time — a period that ended when the Roman emperor Titus had the Temple destroyed.
In sum, the interpretation of this piece of revelation is as follows: God informed Daniel that after forty-nine years the House of God would be built up. And after 434 years, when the anointed one shall have been
cut off and had nothing, a notorious prince would come and destroy Jerusalem with a flood of conquering fury. Protestant researchers refer to these verses in proving the truth of the revelation of Christ and have considered establishing the truth of the revealed scripture more important than the sayings of historians.
Dear brother of my soul, for long they have said, "Whoever authors a work exposes himself to danger." That is, anyone who pens a treatise makes himself a target for marksmen. The author of this letter has no leisure to carry out extensive research on every word of every book he writes. Although Samarkand has become, under the just and glorious government of Russia, a center of order and repose, not a day passes that the Shi'i community leaves this servant in peace or that they do not send him death threats.
The two treatises were written with great attention to detail. No one is permitted to add a word to or subtract a word from them. Anytime someone else, after having been illumined by the Most Great Luminary, spends as this writer has, thirty years of his life studying history, collating and reconciling the statements of various nations, he will understand the true situation, and who is in the right. God, may He be exalted, knows the reality of all things.
The second question concerned the fixing the time of the blessed Manifestation, which this writer put in the year 1285 A. H. [1868 A.D.]. In A Traveller's Narrative [written by `Abdu'l-Bahá], the date was given as 1269 A.H. [1852 A.D.]. On this matter I would like to say first of all, in summary, that my intention in that treatise was to specify the date when Bahá'u'lláh arrived
in the Promised Land, and to show how his arrival on those shores accorded with the prophecies of the holy scriptures. It is recognized and established that he arrived there in 1285 A.H. [1868 A.D.]. In addition, in the second place, in these pages the author wishes to write a short history, from the dawn of that radiant essence to the time of his sunset on this darkened globe. Thus might any cause for doubt or suspicion be removed and the object be attained. Confirmation is from God, the Exalted, the Great.
[1. [`Abdu'l-Bahá], A Traveller's Narrative [Maqalih'i sayyah], trans. E.G. Browne (Cambridge University Press, 1891).]
Now briefly to explain the events of Bahá'u'lláh's life — may his mention be glorified. You are certainly aware that Bahá'u'lláh was born in the holy city of Tehran on 2 Muharram 1233 [19 November 1817]. After being weaned, he received training and education in the courtyards of his father, the renowned Mirza Buzurg Nuri, one of the ministers of the Qajar state known for the beauty of his calligraphy and famed for the purity of his character. Although Bahá'u'lláh never entered any of Iran's schools and never studied at any seminary, at the very outset and in the flower of his youth the signs of greatness and glory and the lights of understanding and intelligence shone forth from his countenance. Owing to his aspect of meekness and the awe he inspired — the first signs of the manifestations of divinity — great scholars were too timid to address him in salons and gatherings.
A prominent Muslim related one incident, saying, "One day we had gathered together with a number of the great men of the country and officials of the state in presence of Mirza Nazar `Ali Hakim Qazvini, the beloved adviser of Muhammad Shah Qajar [r. 1834-48 A.D.]. He served as an exemplar for the mystics of those times. Mirza Nazar `Ali gave a talk according to the sciences of the Sufis, speaking of how human beings can reach maturity and attain the
various ranks of spiritual perfections. But his egotism and carnal passion awoke, and his feet slipped from the stirrup of his speech. He began making mention of his own spiritual advances.
"He said, `For example, let us say that at this very moment my servant comes and says that Jesus is standing at the door of the palace and wants permission to meet me. Because I have no further need, I do not see any desire in me for such an encounter.'
"Those attending the gathering fell completely silent for a moment. Most, according to the custom of the flatterers of the time, began calling out, `Yes, yes indeed!' in confirmation of what he had said.
"At that point Bahá'u'lláh was agitated by the imbecility of this remark about Jesus — may the life of all on earth be his sacrifice. His annoyance publicly blazed forth, and he was unable to bear the affront that had been dealt the Manifestation of God.
"He said to Mirza Nazar `Ali, `Sir, I have a question, if you will permit me to ask it.'
"The mystic replied, `Please go ahead.'
"Bahá'u'lláh proceeded: `In spite of all the affection in which the shah holds you, let us say that at this moment the chief executioner should come with ten of his henchmen and announce that the shah is asking for you. Examine your inner soul carefully. Would you be anxious or would you answer him with a completely calm heart, free of all fear?'
"After a little contemplation, Mirza Nazar `Ali responded, `The only fair thing to say is that I would be anxious in the extreme, and the courage to remain upright and calm would flee from me. Indeed, the very power of speech would disappear.'
"Bahá'u'lláh said, `Given that this is the case, you cannot with the same lips make your former assertion.'
"Those present at that salon were startled at the severity of this statement and astonished at the originality of this reply. It left them no opportunity to rebut it or to engage in dispute."
One of the ancients spoke well indeed when he said, "Anyone who makes claims that are beyond him will be proven false by the witness of tests."
In short, that holy one was famed among the people, from his earliest years until his acceptance of the Cause of the Bab, for his greatness, majesty, sharpness of intellect, and correct understanding, and was known for his piety and trustworthiness. In the end, after his acceptance of that holy Cause, all those expressions of praise and popular acclaim were transformed into obstinacy and denial, and esteem and admiration ended in accusations and libel.
Those with experience of the world will not find this amazing. Refer to Matthew 5:11-12; "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." These verses inform us that slandering and telling all sorts of lies about the chosen ones of the All-Glorious is the wont of unbelievers and of the ignorant. By this sign the Eternal Truth perpetually distinguishes those in the right from those in the wrong.
When Bahá'u'lláh reached the age of twenty-seven in 1260 A.H. [1844 A.D.], the cry of the Advent of the most great Bab was raised, and the radiant flame of the Primal Point glowed from the province of Fars. Bahá'u'lláh embraced his sacred Cause, and the society of the faithful in Tehran was illumined by that shining lamp. By his aid the divine Word became influential in that region. When the fire of calamity engulfed Iran
and enemies encompassed the friends in the labyrinth of affliction, Quddus and his companions set out with the intent to emigrate. At that point Bahá'u'lláh met at Badasht with that holy soul and with other friends. He was then thirty-two years of age.
Aqa Muhammad Hasan Isfahani, the merchant, said, "In the beginning of my young manhood I went on visitation with my uncle to the shrine of Imam Rida at Mashhad. At Badasht we encountered that caravan of divine unity. When it came time for daily prayers, we noticed a youth not garbed as a clergyman, but rather clothed as a secular scribe or secretary, who was leading the congregational prayers. We asked his identity and were informed that he was Bahá'u'lláh. At the request of Quddus, he was leading the people."
At the age of thirty-three, while he was on his way to Shaykh Tabarsi, royal troops took him prisoner and jailed him in Amul, confiscating his property. When he reached the age of thirty-five, he set out for Iraq, meeting with the friends in Karbila.
Haji Sayyid Javad Karbala'i, a grandson of Sayyid Mihdi Bahru'l-`Ulum, when young, attained the honor of meeting the great Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i [1753-1826 A.D.]. He also studied for a while in the class of Sayyid Kazim Rashti [d. 1844 A.D.]. Sayyid Javad traveled for years in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Arabia, and India, meeting in each country with the philosophers, jurisprudents, and scholars of every religion. In Shiraz, while the Bab was still a child, he entered the presence of that Blessed One at the house of Haji Mirza Sayyid Muhammad, the Bab's uncle. After the Bab announced for the second time that he was the Promised One [Qa'im], he was honored to meet with and believe in that holy soul. During the years that the Most Great Luminary [Bahá'u'lláh] was dawning from Iraq [1853-63 A.D.],
he often had the joy of meeting him. On this basis, he encountered the great on a scale few attain, and he was, in the level of his learning, character, and piety, a copy of the morals of the prophets and a wonder of the world of creation.
In Tehran in 1295 A.H. [1878 A.D.] Sayyid Javad related an anecdote to this author. He said, "When Bahá'u'lláh arrived in Iraq, some friends and myself set out to meet with him. Before meeting him, we considered him merely to be one of the friends, bereft of the adornments of learning and mystical insight. For we knew that he had not studied in a seminary and that he was not born into a family of scholars.
"When in the first salon we entered his blessed presence, formal greetings were exchanged after the manner of people of knowledge. The discussion turned to theological issues and spiritual questions, and Bahá'u'lláh, in that very first gathering, presented explanations and tore the veil from obscure problems. We, each of whom had considered himself the very apogee of the heaven of knowledge, suddenly saw ourselves to be mired in the lowest depths of ignorance. Compared to that Most Great Ocean, we perceived ourselves to be more lowly than a drop of water. After that gathering, I never opened my lips to speak in his most illumined presence and always remained humble, quiet, and self-effacing when with him.
"Notwithstanding, Haji Sayyid Muhammad Isfahani grew envious of my extreme submissiveness and was always picking on me. In the end, one day his anger and jealousy blazed up.
"He said, `After all, Bahá'u'lláh is one of us, so what is the reason for all this humility and lowliness we show him? What accounts for the deference everyone demonstrates while in his presence"'
"I replied, `My eyes and those of others have seen my lord. I know not who he is, or what. I only know he passes my understanding and yours, and that he transcends the imagination of scholars and philosophers.'"
On his return from Karbala to Iran, Bahá'u'lláh stopped over at the delightful area of Shimran. At that point a major event occurred in Tehran. A few ordinary Babis, owing to the pressure put on the Cause by its enemies, and the Babis' overwhelming grief at the martyrdom of the Bab, set out without the knowledge of their leaders or wise men to assassinate Nasiru'd-Din Shah. On 28 Shawwal 1268, corresponding to 15 August 1852, they attempted to shoot him. In the aftermath, the monarch's fury fell on both the guilty and the innocent, failing to distinguish between the plotters and those uninvolved. Bahá'u'lláh was also taken and incarcerated, spending about three months manacled in the prison at Tehran, which was unequaled for its severity, filth, foulness, and gloom.
When his sacred honor was restored and the accusation of conspiring with the assassins was proved false, he was rescued by the efforts of the consul of the glorious government of Russia — may God increase its light and glory. At the command of the shah, he set out for Iraq with a few attendants.
At the age of thirty-seven, he arrived with his wife in Baghdad, the Abode of Peace. At this point he began to attain fame and renown in the world and to manifest himself for the first time among the tribes and nations. For although in those times most prominent Babis were putting forth claims to leadership of the Babi order and each was calling the people to himself under a particular name, in the presence of the true sun the planets possess no brilliance.
The exaltation of the divine call far transcends the
importance and vileness of the call of selfishness. Consider Matthew 24:26-28, "So if they say to you, `Lo he is in the wilderness,' do not go out; if they say, `Lo he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together." These verses inform you that the divine Cause is implemented in the world through power and shines radiantly with the speed of lightning throughout all the regions of the earth.
Therefore, in the shortest period of time the fame of Bahá'u'lláh's blessed name spread over the horizons, and the spiritual breezes wafted from Baghdad to the rest of the world. Seekers after religious truth made the pilgrimage to his door, and around his soul the guiding lights of the people gathered. After the ascension of the Primal Point — may his name be exalted — the Babi community was caught like sheep without a shepherd in the grasp of Iran's wolves. Because of the claims put forth by the leaders of the people of the Bayan, the believers had universally become sorrowful, dejected, and anxious. But not they were attracted like moths to that refulgent Lamp, and the society of the spiritual ones took on a new brilliance because of his blessed existence.
In this situation, the fire of envy was kindled in the hearts of some of the internal leaders, and their breasts were filled with enmity and rancor because of his renown and far-famed splendor. Therefore, Bahá'u'lláh, after about one year's residence in Baghdad, set out for regions with the hope of extinguishing the flames of obstinacy. Without informing even a single person, whether relatives or outsiders, he left Baghdad. No one knew in which direction he had traveled.
As soon as Bahá'u'lláh departed from Baghdad, all
at once the warmth and fire of the Babi community and the renown and influence of the divine Word were extinguished and became as naught. The people were stricken with utter grief, coldness, and weakness. This exiled, fugitive community was left without refuge or asylum. They could find no interpreter or elucidator for spiritual sciences and knowledge. Bahá'u'lláh's emigration and absence lasted for nearly two years, and the firm cord of the Cause of God was near to being severed. The names of the Bab came close to disappearing from the lips of the people. Moreover, those claiming leadership were in hiding out of fear. Individuals from among the people undeservedly gained renown for having the power of the divine Word.
In the end, some of the wise in the community, the likes of Shaykh Sultan and Jinab-i Khadim , arose to search for Bahá'u'lláh. They asked everyone for any news of that sought-after Essence. Finally, they found a trace of him in the ravines of the mountains around Sulaymaniyyah and hastened to him with the greatest submission and supplication. They accompanied him back to Baghdad.
When Bahá'u'lláh settled in Baghdad for the second time, once more the faithful gathered together with warmth and the Cause of God became influential. Spiritual words, the only means of transforming the character of barbarous nations, again flowed from his blessed pen. He took the reins of the community, and through beautiful advice and penetrating counsel he guided it back to the path of rectitude after it had strayed into false roads and ugly deeds because of the mismanagement of ignorant leader.
In those times, as well, the Bab's illustrious uncle, Mirza Sayyid Muhammad Shirazi, set out on a visitation to the holy shrines of the Imams in Karbala
and Najaf. In Baghdad, through the mediation of Haji Sayyid Jadad, he attained the blessed presence of Bahá'u'lláh. At the request of the Bab's uncle, the Book of Certitude and some Arabic Tablets vindicating the Cause of the Primal Point were revealed by the Most High Pen, unveiling the mysteries of the books of the prophets.
Because these sacred Tablets were penned, the seal on the words of God was broken and the door of wondrous knowledge was opened. The faithful were given a strong right arm with which to crush the doubts raised by the wrongdoers and to attract ready souls to the realm of certainty. The light of the Cause shone forth with even greater brightness, and the divine Word became more influential. The authority of the Word of God and the exaltation of the blessed name of Bahá'u'lláh provoked a raging assault from the enemies of God. In the end, the vehemence of the foes forced him to emigrate to the Ottoman capital. WHY BAHA'U'LLAH SET OUT FOR ISTANBUL FROM BAGHDAD
While Bahá'u'lláh was residing in Baghdad, Nasiru'd-Din Shah sent Shaykh `Abdu'l-Husayn Tihrani, a Shi'i jurisprudent and one of the most prominent Muslim clergymen in the Iranian capital, to Iraq to oversee the construction and gilding of the dome over the Imam's shrine at Kazimayn. As is ever the case with Shi'i divines, when he witnessed the influence of the Cause of God and the gatherings of the friends, the flames of hatred and envy blazed in his inner soul.
The first step he took to scatter the friends of God and to extinguish the lamp of His Cause was to convince the Muslim clergy at Najaf and Karbala to gather in Kazimayn and, with general turmoil and by stirring
up the common people, to put an end to the holy life of Bahá'u'lláh and to chop down the Lote-Tree of the Cause. But this grave step could not be taken without the concurrence of Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari, a far-famed jurisprudent and a scholarly giant. Because of his piety and uprightness, he refused to join the other clergy in this lawless act.
Helpless, they consulted with one another and made other plans. Finally, they reached a consensus that they should invite Bahá'u'lláh as a guest to their gathering. Perhaps on this pretext they might be able to accomplish their aim. In sum, one day they set a time and all the Shi'i scholars, jurisprudents, seminary students, and town leaders of Karbala and Najaf gathered in Kazimayn at the house of `Abdu'l-Husayn Tihrani. In the name of hospitality, they also sought the presence of Shaykh Murtada al-Ansari at that calamitous meeting. The leaders of three cities had assembled. When the proceedings got under way, `Abdu'l Husayn unveiled the real reason the meeting had been called. With eloquence and a honeyed tongue he explained to the huge audience the necessity for containing and suppressing the Babi community, attempting to prove his case.
[1. Murtada la-Ansri (1800-1864) was widely recognized after 1850 as the spiritual leader of the Shi'i world and its chief source for emulation. See J. Cole, "Imami Jurisprudence and the Role of the Ulama: Mutaza Ansari on Emulating the Supreme Exemplar," in Nikki R. Keddie, ed., Religion and Politics in Iran (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983)]
When Shaykh Murtada heard this speech, he immediately arose and gave as his reason for refusing to agree with the other jurisprudents his lack of knowledge
concerning the doctrines of the people of the Bayan. However much the clergy sitting with him tried to convince him, all their labors proved fruitless. Without any further thought he set out for Najaf. From that city he sent a letter of apology to Bahá'u'lláh.
Although the departure of Shaykh Murtada from the gathering of the clergy had severely weakened them, they did not slacken for a moment in their determination to carry out their plan. They consulted once again and reached the opinion that first they should send an eloquent spokesman to Bahá'u'lláh who would call on him to renounce the holy Law and return to the Shi'i branch of Islam. They nominated Mulla Hasan, a man of erudition well known for his powers of the intellect and his mellifluous tongue, to undertake this mission.
It so happened that, the same day, Bahá'u'lláh went as a guest to the home of the illustrious Mirza Hasan Khan, a prominent Iranian Shi'i. Mulla Hasan received permission to be present at the same gathering. But when he saw the dignity, awe-inspiring deportment, calmness, and grandeur of that holy Being, he found no power within himself to so boldly set his mission afoot.
On the contrary, he said, "The clergy have sent me to inquire as to the beliefs and aims of this community, and to ask for proofs of its truth."
Bahá'u'lláh replied: "During the entire period of my residence in Iraq, I have always hoped that sometime the clergy of the Shi'is would gather together and arise to investigate this matter, making inquiries and receiving answers. Thus might the truth be distinguished from error, and the people be preserved in the end from perdition."
Then he provided proofs in the course of giving an
exposition both eloquent and radiant, referring both to scriptural texts and rational evidence for the truth of the holy Law of the Bayan. Moreover, he vindicated the status of the Bab as the Promised One whose advent had been prophesied.
When he completed his discourse, Mulla Hasan said, "In truth, it is impossible to imagine any addition to this argument, and no objection could be made to this proof. But the nature of the clergy is well known. If they are not content with scholarly proofs but insist on a sign from heaven, may I answer them positively or not?"
Bahá'u'lláh replied, "Yes. Let the clergy reach accord and ask for one miraculous sign, that the Eternal Truth may make it manifest and the divine proof become universal and apparent for all the people of the world."
After they finished their conversation, Mulla Hasan returned from Baghdad to Kazimayn and related to the clergy the answer he had heard. `Abdu'l-Husayn Tihrani became agitated and replied, "I say that these people must give up this new path and return to the Shi'ih religion. You say that we should arrange a public debate and hold scholarly discourses!" He wanted to give permission to the common people dwelling in Karbala, Najaf, and Kazimayn — most of whom were evildoers from Iran or bloodthirsty desert Arabs — to run riot, so that they might murder all the oppressed Babis. But the power of the Ottoman rulers in Baghdad stood in the way of creating such a public disorder. The massacre at Karbala during the governorship of Najib Pasha had instilled a fear of disturbances in the cities'
leaders. In the end, a single threat from the governor in Baghdad dispersed that obstinate gathering and extinguished the flames of inquiry.
[1. Carried out by government troops in January, 1843, in response to the Shi'i city's rebellion against Ottoman Sunni rule. See J. Cole and Moojan Momen, "Mafia, Mob and Shi'ism in Iraq: The Rebellion of Ottoman Karbala," Past and Present, forthcoming.]
When `Abdu'l-Husayn failed in this plan, he hatched another plot. He began associating with and befriending an official of the Iranian government, Mirza Buzurg Khan Qazvini, who at that time lived in Baghdad. He beguiled him with promises of worldly treasures and the fulfillment of all his desires in the next life, bringing his views into accord with his own. With Tihrani's concurrence, Qazvini began a correspondence with the shah and other great men in Tehran.
Admittedly, to frighten the officials of the state about the Babi community required very little contriving. But it was the case that several reprehensible clergymen and habitually drunk government officials alarmed the king and the men of state by spreading lies and slanders which suggested that the Babis were meeting and preparing for an insurrection. The monarch's desire to curb and root out this oppressed community was reawakened, and the high aspirations of the great men of Iran were wasted in dispersing the gatherings of the faithful. To this end powerful conspiracies were set in motion.
It is no exaggeration to say that in those days Bahá'u'lláh demonstrated a steadfastness and detachment that exceeded all the stories of old. Indeed, what he did was beyond the capacity of mere human beings. For the well-informed know that Iraq, because it is the site of the revered Shi'i shrines, served as a gathering
place for Shi'i Bedouin Arabs and an asylum for Iranian fugitives and evildoers.
On the one hand, Tihrani gave his permission and issued a legal opinion that if criminals could ambush Bahá'u'lláh with a pistol or other weapon at a crossing, they would be rewarded by the favors of the shah and would merit divine pardon for their past sins. On the other hand, he continually engaged in a deceitful correspondence with government officials and Shi'i clergy, assigning them the task of encouraging the shah to kill and wipe out the innocent Babi community. Moreover, the fire of rancor and jealousy had ignited in the hearts of those Babi leaders who were partisans of Mirza Yahya Nuri, Subh-i Azal. Tihrani even agreed to cooperate with them in uprooting the blessed Lote-Tree.
One day the flames of intrigue blazed forth, and a number of persons, foreigners and natives, Shi'is and Babis, joined together as a united group to assassinate Bahá'u'lláh. They armed themselves and watched for him day and night at crossroads. Bahá'u'lláh put his trust in God and detached himself from all besides Him, associating with the public in broad daylight and in the evening, with the utmost steadfastness. He avoided meeting no one. He gave no thought to the number of his foes, refused to plead with anyone, and not even for one day did he take cover. On several occasions enemies within his own household poisoned his beverages, and that holy being suffered from that tampering. Although the poison affected his holy body, the most glorious Protector preserved him, rescuing him from that sly fox.
Mirza Sa'id Khan, an Iranian government official renowned for his knowledge, erudition, and beautiful letter-writing style, was then serving as the minister of
foreign affairs. When he saw that from every direction the waves of trials were beating down on that Ark of guidance, he began to worry that the life of that blessed being would be snuffed out. In the midst of fear and hope he penned a letter in Tehran to Bahá'u'lláh, counseling him that in his view "the enemy is powerful and extremely tenacious, and there is no one to help you. Certainly, you must remove yourself from their midst and preserve your life."
Bahá'u'lláh wrote him a reply demonstrating his steadfastness and perseverance in the Cause of God, his detachment from all save Him, and his desire to be martyred in the path of God...
[1. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl here quotes the original of the Persian Tablet Shikar shikan shavand for which there is as yet no authorized translation.]
When this blessed Tablet reached the eyes of the foreign minister, the patience and steadfastness shown by Bahá'u'lláh astonished him. His post required that he correctly report the situation to the shah and pay close attention to the welfare of the state and the community. But out of fear that he might be accused of sympathizing, he sealed his lips and closed his eyes to the best interests of the government and the people, crawling silently into a corner.
Finally, the frantic efforts of `Abdu'l-Husayn Tihrani and the Iranian official in Iraq, the cooperation of the clergy and great men in Iran, and the carefully planned steps taken by Mirza Husayn Khan, ambassador to Istanbul, all bore fruit. Nasiru'd-Din Shah requested the Ottoman sultan `Abdu'l-`Aziz either to have Bahá'u'lláh killed or to exile him from Baghdad, which neighbored Iran and served as a crossroads for Shi'i pilgrims on their way to the shrines of the Imams.
On this bilateral issue a great many negotiations were carried on. In the end, the Ottoman sultan commanded Bahá'u'lláh to set out for Istanbul from Baghdad. When the decree was received in Baghdad, the Ottoman governor there had it delivered to Bahá'u'lláh, who decided to travel to Istanbul. At that time he was forty-seven years of age.
On the first of the month of Uardibihisht [21 April 1863], when the breezes of spring were smiling, the birds were trilling on their branches, the flower buds had opened, and green plants had newly sprung up, Bahá'u'lláh moved to the garden of Najib Pasha. He stayed there twelve days during which the leaders of Iraq and the great men of Baghdad who had been touched in their hearts, while he lived there, by his excellent character, his manifest radiance, and his obvious glory, gathered in astonishingly large crowds to see him off properly, unhappy at his departure. One by one they attained the honor of bidding him farewell and returned home filled with grief and sorrow.
[1. Now known to the Bahá'ís as the Garden of Ridvan.]
His sincere friends and believers were in a state of bereavement and dejection such as no pen can depict. All hoped to be permitted to travel with him so that they would not be deprived of his spirit-bestowing presence. One day, while encamped at the garden of Najib Pasha, in a gathering with friends, Bahá'u'lláh opened his lips and revealed his blessed Cause. By his most holy, most glorious manifestation, he filled the sorrow-laden breasts of those loyal to him with the greatest joy, strictly enjoining all to patience and steadfastness. This was the time of clear effulgence and the beginning of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration.
Bahá'u'lláh then traveled with his close family
and a few servants to Istanbul — a four-month journey. When he arrived in the capital, because of his dignity and firmness, he did not live in the place designated by the officials of the exalted Ottoman state. Nor did he seek meetings with the ministers of state. He complained to no one of the wrongs he had been done.
Some of the notables of the country came to see him and showed him moderate respect. They saw in him all the grandeur and brilliance they had heard about and were touched in their hearts by him. They counseled him that according to custom, he must meet with the foreign minister and all the other ministers of the exalted state. He should reveal to them all past occurrences, so that they might become aware of the truth of the matter and explain it to the sultan, and might undertake to protect him. Thus might the road be barred to the insinuations of those bearing a grudge against him and the fire of the hatred of the Iranians not be transferred here.
Bahá'u'lláh silenced each of them with an answer. His response may be summarized thus: "Our intention in setting out for Istanbul was to demonstrate to the Ottoman government that we seek the favor of no one but God Himself, supplicating no one else. If the officials of the exalted state, as is the duty of just governments, arise to discover the reality and vindicate the truth, the answers will, of course, be revealed to them. If not, our taking trouble will untie no knots and our efforts will bear no fruit. It is obvious that the all-conquering will of God will become manifest in this regard. Should God encompass you with harm, none can rescue from it but Him."
The ambassador to Istanbul, Mirza Husayn Khan, a consummate politician, reckoned that he should
seize this opportunity. He painted Bahá'u'lláh's detachment and contentment as arrogance and haughtiness. He announced to the Ottoman officials, "I warned you that this group cares for no one and counts no one worthy of their respect. Their dreams are too grandiose to imagine, and their goals too exalted to be borne by any state." In short, several of them conspired to turn the hearts of the Ottoman grandees away from their love for and desire to protect that holy one.
After Bahá'u'lláh had resided in Istanbul for four months, the sultan issued an edict that he and his companions should set out for Edirne [Adrianople] in Rumelia and should settle in that city, far from Iran. In accordance with this command, Bahá'u'lláh journeyed from Istanbul to Edirne and dwelled there with his followers. The country's notables and the great clergymen of that city came to visit him, and after they witnessed his sanctity they accepted him with honor and respect. Because of this, the generality of the Babis were allowed peace.
Unlike the rest of the Iranians, whom the inhabitants of that land despised and whom the Sunni Muslims rejected as Shi'i heretics, the Babis were honored and given a high place. They easily found lodging and engaged in some skilled trade, and because the divine Educator arranged things well, they became renowned for their gentle disposition and good character.
Suddenly, in the Azali group, the flames of envy and hostility were kindled, which had until then remained hidden in their breasts. From obscurity these feelings emerged into the daylight, and the turmoil prophesied in the holy books with such clarity came to pass. For this group found that every day the influence of the blessed Cause increased and the lights of its existence shone more brilliantly above the horizon.
Therefore, they endeavored ever more mightily to promulgate and popularize the Azali message, all the while opposing the Bahá'í group.
Bahá'u'lláh treated them with the utmost calm and forbearance, returning their obstinacy with sincerity and conciliation. In the end, Sayyid Muhammad Isfahani set out from Edirne to Istanbul and joined all the enemies in rending the chaste veil of the people of Baha and fabricating all manner of accusations and slanders. The great men of Iran living in the Ottoman capital found in him a powerful means and a wondrous instrument for the accomplishment of their own purposes. They were greatly emboldened to spread lies about the beliefs of the Bahá'ís, accusing this oppressed group before the Ottomans of holding false doctrines.
Since the Turks considered Isfahani a Babi, and were unaware of his enmity, they thought him a man without any ulterior motives and imagined his calumnies to be unquestionably true. He always bore Bahá'u'lláh hatred and showed him opposition. From the beginning, even before that holy one made any public claims, his dignity and authority aroused rejection and envy in some hearts. For years Sayyid Muhammad Isfahani made careful plans to assassinate him.
I have heard that one time he appended to some of Bahá'u'lláh's letters forged statements maligning the prophets and messengers, as well as stupid assertions about the rightly guided caliphs revered by the Sunnis. Then he showed these to the Christian and Muslim communities, in order to stir all those groups to a united enmity for that holy one, and in the hope that the resulting tumult might lead to his murder and to the extermination of the Bahá'ís.
In truth, the groups opposed to the Bahá'í Faith have no other choice if they wish to uproot it than to lie steadfastly and to utter ugly statements about this religion, accusing the Bahá'ís of unworthy acts. Yet such a strategy can provoke only laughter, and these infirm minds can arouse only tears, for they seek the aid of falsehood and count slander as a proof for their own religion. They are heedless that a liar has never become a trusted counselor, no untruth has ever been persuasive, no slanderer has ever proved a victorious soldier, and calumny has never attained the station of general acceptance. For scholars throughout the world associate with the Bahá'ís, referring to the spiritual books of this people. They are instantly aware of the unwisdom and irreligiousness of the slanderers.
When Bahá'u'lláh had lived in Edirne for nearly five years, the sultan decreed that he alone should be exiled from Edirne to `Akka as a result of the machinations of the Iranian ambassador to Istanbul, the slanders of Sayyid Muhammad Isfahani, and the complicity of the Ottoman first minister. In the course of this incident, astonishing events occurred that are worthy of the notice of historians and have startled those who have heard of them. However, at this moment I have no leisure to provide the details. Should God — may His splendor be exalted — grant me life and vigor, I shall treat this period extensively in another work.
When Bahá'u'lláh set out from Edirne, in accordance with the decree of the empire, the inhabitants of that city generally were perturbed. The terms of the imperial edict were unusually harsh and severe, and most believed that they would smother that radiant lamp at sea. The citizens of the town gathered at the house of that holy One, and Christians and Muslims wept together loudly.
The friends were in such a state from the extremity of their grief that all would have been content to be put to death, and all were determined to end their own existences. For the people of Baha had paid for their friendship with that holy One in the coin of their own lives, all of them having repeatedly tasted the fear of being murdered or burned alive in the path of his love. Anyone familiar with the history of this people knows how many souls gave up their lives with love and refused to accept insults to the blessed Name as a price for satisfying and silencing the foes.
In the course of these events, after Bahá'u'lláh's firm decision had been taken to leave, all made a suicide pact together, preferring annihilation to continuing existence. Haji Muhammad Ja'far Tabrizi, the merchant, cut his own throat, and Aqa `Abdu'l-Ghaffar Isfahani threw himself into the sea. When `Umar Pasha, who was overseeing Bahá'u'lláh's exile and banishment, witnessed this sort of anxiety in the people, whether Muslim, Christian, or Babi, he silenced the former with reproaches and comforted the Babis with promises. He informed the sultan of the situation by telegraph, and a second decree was issued allowing the friends to travel with Bahá'u'lláh rather than being dispersed.
That holy One set out from Edirne on 20 Rabi' II, 1285 [August 1868] with his family and a group of Babis. On 12 Jumadi I of the same year, he arrived in `Akka, a port on the Mediterranean Sea situated in the Holy Land. With this emigration, the divine promises and the prophecies of the holy scriptures were fulfilled. At this point Bahá'u'lláh was fifty-three years of age.
God knows what injustices he bore at the hands of friend and foe during his residence in that land and to what extent various afflictions encompassed that holy
Being. Even though the waves of trials washed over him, he raised the sweet call with the shrill pen of the Mist High in Asia, Europe, and Africa, purifying through the influence of his word souls in the grip of delusions from the filth of their vain imaginings, and educating them in spiritual truths. His inimitable Tablets, which revived the abandoned ways of humanity and civilization and breathed new life into the dusty bones of eloquence and learning, embellished the world with a new and wondrous adornment. He taught the beautiful ways of brotherhood and friendly association with all nations and religions to those with capacity.
Should any person of insight contemplate with subtlety the life story of that ocean of compassion and mountain of steadfastness, he would confess that no one among the ancients underwent such afflictions and that none of them has ever demonstrated such perseverance. For from the beginning of his arrival in Baghdad until his ascension to the highest realm, not one day turned to night save that he was troubled by three matters and assaulted by three weighty affairs. The first was the education and counseling of the friends with their differing views. Second, he answered questions and objections from the leaders of sects and religions. Third, he faced the savage enmity of oppressors and tyrants.
In short, he rested not one day from training up God's servants and giving the Message to those in every land. Finally in Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1309 [29 May 1892], he ascended to the most exalted horizon, shutting the door of his presence on his loyal followers. Nothing remains to us but grief and sorrow. How appropriate is what one of the ancients wrote:
I was created by his noble resting place and dust, Its earth transformed the breeze of his fragrance into perfume;
In conclusion, let me say that my aim in writing this brief life, which represents no more than a tiny drop in the ocean of the astounding events associated with this Most Great Manifestation, was to inform you that the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad in Muharram of 1269 [November 1852] was the beginning of the dawn of that luminous sun and the commencement of his renown among young and old. The possessors of certainty pointed to the blessed verse, "And you shall surely know its tiding after a while [hin]" as a prophecy of this event.
[1. Qur'an 38:88. The Arabic word hin has the numerical value of 69, standing for 1269 A.H.]
The time of his emigration from the Abode of Peace, Baghdad, and the days he tarried in the garden of Najib Pasha, constituted the beginning of him manifestation and declaration. During the period he resided in Edirne his blessed call was raised up, and his summons reached most of the kings and leaders of the world. The arrival of the holy one in `Akka in 1285 A.H. [1868 A.D.] fulfilled the divine prophecies in the holy scriptures. None knows this save the possessors of insight, and knowledge of the Book is from Him.
The third question concerned the identity of the author of The New History (Tarikh-i Jadid). The
author of The New History was the late Mirza Husayn Hamadani. He was a youth and an associate of Rida Khan, the son of Muhammad Khan Turkman, who was mentioned in The New History as a martyr at Fort Shaykh Tabarsi. In the beginning, the above-mentioned historian found employment with an Iranian government official as a secretary by virtue of his skill in calligraphy and in the arts of writing letters and composition. On Nasiru'd-Din Shah's first journey to Europe, he traveled in those lands with the royal entourage. On the return, he stopped over for a while in Istanbul.
[1. Mirza Huseyn Hamadani, The Tarikh-i-Jadid, translated by Edward G. Browne (Cambridge University Press, 1893).]
After he returned to Iran, during the public disturbances of 1291 A.H. [1874 A.D.] when Aqa Jamal Burujirdi was incarcerated in the shah's prison after his debate with the clergy of Tehran, he too was among those imprisoned. When he was delivered from Tehran's jail, he began working as a writer in the office of Manakji, the famous Zoroastrian. Manakji considered him honorable, for had he not been known as a Babi, he would never have been hired.
[1. For Manakji, See Susan Stiles, "Early Zoroastrian Conversions to the Bahá'í Faith in Yazd, Iran," in Juan R. Cole and Moojan Momen, eds., Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol. 2: From Iran East and West (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1984) pp. 67-93.]
It happened that one evening he and Muhammad Isma'il Khan-i Zand, an expert in writing Old Persian, were guests of Manakji. He asked them each to author a volume, as he was zealous in collecting books. Whenever he met anyone capable of composing and writing well, he assigned him the task of penning works and composing volumes. Therefore, on the above-mentioned evening, he requested Muhammad Isma'il Khan
to write a chronicle of the kings of Iran and expressed his wish to Mirza Husayn that he compose a work on the history of the Babis.
Muhammad Isma'il Khan completed a volume entitled The Heavenly World (Farazistan) in the pure Persian language on the ancient Iranian kingdom, from the early prophet Mah-Abad to the fall of the Sassanians. In reality he made that book a hodgepodge of imaginings and fables from the Shahnamih, the Chahar Chaman, and the Disatir.
[1. The Shahnamih of the Firdawsi is a medieval Muslim verse reworking of Zoroastrian stories about pre-Islamic Iranian heroes. The Disatir is a literary forgery with Sufi leanings published in Bombay in 1818 from an Iranian manuscript (See Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Beliefs and Practices [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979] pp. 197-98).]
Mirza Husayn came to me and requested my assistance. He said, "Since no lengthy and correct history of the events associated with this religion has yet been composed, it is most difficult to record them and to write about it properly. For, owing to flattery [of the Persian government] and error, what they have written about the events associated with this Manifestation is nothing but unfounded accusation and complete untruth. The things one can still hear of oral history show great differences and discrepancies, the reconciliation of which would be difficult."
I replied, "The history set down by Haji Mirza Jani Kashi, who was one of the martyrs in Tehran and one of the righteous men of that time, is in the hands of the friends. But he was a merchant with no skill at writing history, and he left out the dates. Still, since he was a religious man, he transmitted correctly the
events he saw and heard. Obtain a copy of this work and take the events from it. Fix their dates and chronology from "Nasikh at-tawarikh and the appendices to Rawdat as-safa.
[1. Two works of history written during the reign of Nasiru'd-Din Shah. Muhammad Taqi Lisanu'l-Mulk Sipihr, Nasikh't-tawarikh, 8 vols. (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1957); Rida Quli Khan Hidayat, Tarikh rawdate's-safay-i nasiri, vols. 8-10 (Qum: Hidayat, 1339 A.H.).]
"After the work has been written out, go over every section with Haji Sayyid Javad Karbala'i (who has been repeatedly mentioned in these pages). He accompanied the friends everywhere, from the appearance of the Primal Point to the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in `Akka, and is an expert and conscientious witness to those pure events. Working with meticulous care, produce a correct history that this book may be brought to a successful fruition by the will of the One True God. Thus may it be worthy of seeing publication by the scholars of the world."
He wanted me to write the beginning of the proposed volume and set him off on the right foot. At this request I composed two pages as a preface to that work, ornamenting it with praise of the Beloved, moral counsel, and exhortations to independent thinking. He had in mind to produce the book in two volumes. The first would deal with the events associated with the advent of the Bab, and the second would center on the occurrences attending the rise of Bahá'u'lláh. But after he completed the first volume, his destiny gave him no time, and he died in Rasht in 1299 A.H. [1882 A.D.].
Manakji, however, did not allow the history to take form as I had suggested. Rather, he made the
above-mentioned historian write whatever he himself dictated. For Manakji's custom was to dictate a subject to a secretary and then tell the secretary to read him back the first draft. First the secretary would read him the draft he had composed with taste and talent. After Manakji had added passages or deleted them, weighing and judging them, the rough draft would be copied in final form. But since Manakji wholly lacked knowledge and ability when it came to written and spoken Persian, in this way most of the books and treatises ascribed to him are full of disconnected sentences, with beautiful phrases mixed with ugly ones.
In addition to this fault, ignorant transcribers and poor calligraphers copying The New History have often written according to their own imaginations. Today, every copy of the book is like an effaced painting, to the extent that a correct version cannot be found, unless the autograph manuscript of the author be located. Others are not dependable.
As for Haji Mirza Jani Kashani, he was a famed merchant of Kashan. At the beginning of the dispensation of the Bab he embraced his faith. He was the brother of Dhabih, who later received the name "Anis" in the Tablet to the First Minister (Lawh-i Ba'is). When they were bringing the Bab from Isfahan to Tehran at the command of Muhammad Shah, Mirza Jani showed him the hospitality of his own house for three days in Kashan.
After a short time, the mirza went from Kashan to Tehran, residing at Hadrat `Abdu'l-Azim. He penned his history in that village. In the tumult of 1268 A.H. [1852 A.D.], he was among those arrested and imprisoned with Bahá'u'lláh, sharing a single corner and bound with the same chains. After a few days he perished, innocent, in that disturbance, attaining the
station of martyrdom. Today I cannot acquire a copy of his history, for it is a great distance from Samarkand to Tehran, and the times are frowning on the Bahá'ís. 21 Rabi II 1313 [31 October 1892] Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani Postscript
Those who have read this letter are aware that in 1305 A.H. [1888 A.D.] the hand of fate directed the travels of this poor one, Abu'l-Fadl Muhammad the son of Muhammad Rida Gulpaygani, to the town of Hamadan. In that city, at the request of a number of elders from the children of Israel, I composed the "Treatise on Job" in vindication of the most holy Cause. In the shortest period of time, copies of it spread around the world. At the end of last year, one of the friends sent a copy of it to Mr. Browne, a reader in one of the colleges of Cambridge University. The above-mentioned instructor translated it into English so that it might be published.
Mr. Browne asked you, in view of your correspondence with me, to put to me three questions. The first dealt with discrepancies in the ancient dates given by the author for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The second concerned difference in the date for the advent of Bahá'u'lláh given the treatise with that supplied by A Travellers Narrative. The third centered on the identity of the author of The New History, known as the history of Manakji the Zoroastrian.
Therefore, in answer to that gentlemen, this treatise
was composed. Because of the limitations imposed by my being outside Iran and my lack of leisure, I have observed the dictates of brevity. Although the author is a believer in the holy path of the Bahá'í Faith, God is my witness — and He suffices as a witness — that I have not been unduly influenced in the writing of this history by my love or faith. My devotion to Bahá'u'lláh has not deflected me from the path of fairness. For the station of a historian is beyond that of love and devotion and too sacred to be defiled by bias and prejudice. A historian must put to one side his love or hate for various groups when writing about historical events and must with the utmost justice and equity record what he knows. For truthfulness is a precious gem and the fairness of human beings is their purest ornament.
In 1293 A.H. [1876 A.D.] the present writer was living in Tehran and steadfastly held to the doctrine of the Shi'is. It happened that I encountered some Bahá'ís. At first I determined to refute and silence them. For nearly eight months I conducted debates at numerous gatherings with the scholars of this community. In the end, when my own delusions were shattered and the back of my opposition was broken, I pursued the path of independent reasoning and investigation. I exerted my utmost efforts to examine closely the proofs put forth for this religion, and associated in a brotherly fashion with the leaders of various religions and rites, including Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians, Sunnis, Shi'is, Azali Babis, and Bahá'ís.
I inquired into the life of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith from both friend and foe and referred with great care to the holy scriptures, deeply going into the words of the sanctified ones. Late at night and at early dawn I
supplicated God with the utmost humility and helplessness to bestow on me guidance and insight. Finally, by the will of God, I attained a universal vision of the divine laws, and my disturbed heart was filled with calm, repose, certainty, and insight.
When hen the gloom of blind obedience lifted and the light of certitude dawned, I was arrested and sent to the shah's prisons several times. While in captivity I underwent numerous sessions with the Shi'i clergy and state officials, discussing religion and theological issues with them. On one of these occasions, I had a debate in the evening with Mu'tamadu'd-Dawlih Farhad Mirza, the uncle of Nasiru'd-Din Shah, at a gathering that included the great minister Na'ibu's-Saltanih Kamran Mirza (the shah's son) and other high government officials. He thought himself especially deserting of knowledge and the throne by virtue of his father's high rank, and considered himself among his peers to be a man of the pen and an heir to the sword.
[1. For Mu'tamadu'd-Dawlih Farhad Mirza, see Hasan-e Fasa'i, History of Persia under Qajar Rule, trans. H. Busse (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972) pp. 403-16; for Kamran Mirza and the Bahá'ís, see Moojan Momen, ed., The Babi and Bahá'í Religions 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts (Oxford: George Ronald, 1981) p. 507 and index.]
But omniscient God is my witness that in these numerous sessions and debates I found that the clergy and the notables had no proof for their case save an unsheathed sword, and that the Bahá'ís relied on nothing but rational evidence. If anyone hesitates to accept the truth of this statement, even now the two parties are present. Let him arrange a gathering and hold a debate between them, listening attentively to the arguments
and assertions of each, that light may be distinguished from darkness and truth from error.
In sum, I endeavored with all my power and might, indeed, more than anyone else, to seek information about this group, using independent reasoning. What is recorded in these pages I have heard from the great ones of Islam and from the fair-minded of all religions. But I have taken the ages of Bahá'u'lláh at various points of his biography from the poetry of Mirza Muhammad Zarandi, Nabil. I supplicate the glorious favors of the Generous, the Bestower, that this treatise will be pleasing to those who have attained a high station, and will stir and awaken the heedless. 11 Jumadi II 1313 [19 December 1892] Abu'l-Fadl Muhammad, son of Muhammad Rida Gulpaygani
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