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Abstract:
Includes translated excerpts from a number of Persian sources on these two individuals.

Historical Account of Two Indian Babis:
Sa'en Hindi and Sayyid Basir Hindi

by Sepehr Manuchehri

2001-03
India was the birthplace of at least four early believers who recognised the Bab. Perhaps the most prominent of them all is Sa'eed Hindi, one of the Letters of Living who arrived in Shiraz in the company of Mulla Husayn. The other was Darvish Qahr'u'llah who set out to meet the Bab in Maku and became resident in the very mountain where he was imprisoned[1].

There are two other Indian Babi's which were quite prominent in their time and demonstrated a great devotion and servitude to the Bab: Sa'en Hindi and Sayyid Basir Hindi.

Sa'en Hindi

Sa'en can be classified as one of the early Babi's who recognised the Bab in 1844. His real name is unknown and he was called Sa'en during his stay in the Atabat. Similarly his exact birthplace remains a mystery, but his title, accent and religious practices indicated that he was borne in the Indian subcontinent.

His name does not rate a mention in some of the contemporary histories perhaps because older accounts such as Nuqtatu'l Kaaf or Tarikh-e Jadid fail to mention his name. I speculate that he was the second Indian to believe in the Bab after Sa'eed Hindi. Although one can argue that his conversion may have been prior to or concurrent with that of Sa'eed Hindi.

His conversion seems more significant however, as compared to his counterparts Sa'en never met the Bab. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Gulpayegani writes the following eye witness account as told by Haji Sayyid Javad Karbalai[2]:
" The late Haji Sayyid Javad recalls one of the strange experiences of this time. There was an Indian man, unattached, from the people of meditation who used to live at one of the mosques in the vicinity of the Shrine of Husayn situated near our house (*in Karbila*). He was known in Hindi as Sa'en. A number of scholars held him in high regards and benefited from his words. Others made speculations about him. Some believed he mastered numerology and some thought he knew the secrets of Alchemy. He lived an alternative life style. Some times he was in a state of bewilderment and would communicate to whoever went to his presence. At other times he was in a state of thought and meditation and would not speak to anyone. I happened to know him well and used to benefit from his words. When the time of departure (*to Bushihr*) came, my relatives and friends came to farewell me. As the mule-carrier packed my belongings, I remembered to say good-bye to the Sa'en. I apologised from the gentlemen who had gathered to see me, asked them to consume a Qalyan and went back to say farewell to the Sa'en. As I entered the mosque, Sa'en was deep in meditation. I had no option but to hold a pen and wrote on a piece of paper the following:
'Jinab-i Sa'en, I intend to leave for Bushihr and will depart soon. Please remember me in your prayers.'
I left that piece of paper next to him. Sa'en picked up the paper, looked at it and pointed to a pen. I gave him a pen. He started to write things on it. In the midst of writing he would look at me and tears would flow from his eyes. Once he completed his writing, he threw the piece of paper back at me and returned to a state of meditation. I picked up the paper and observed a few digits written in parallel. I did not understand the meanings. This further made me anxious and bewildered. I had an important and critical journey ahead with risks to my personal safety. He may have wanted to warn against my departure. Time was slipping and the mule carrier was in a hurry and my dear guests were awaiting to see me off. I found no option but to pray to the Shrine of Husayn. I arrived at my balcony, stood in the direction of Qiblih, raised my hands for prayer and asked:
'O Lord, you are aware that in this journey I desire naught but your will and have no personal ambitions. I consider the Sa'en one of your truthful servants. I like him not because of his numerology or alchemy. I beg you .. to resolve the mystery of his writing as per your grace and ordain me the knowledge to understand it.'
As I continued to pray, this piece of paper was in my possession. Once again I glanced at the writing. It was discovered that he had written the reason for my travel. In the first line there were digits that added up to Mahdi Mowjoud (*Present Mahdi*) and on the second line the total of the digits were Ali Muhammad Rabb (*Ali Muhammad God*).
     
First Line 463640   104540
Second Line   2200 44084010307

As the mystery became evident to me, I rejoiced, left the balcony and ran towards the mosque. As I entered, the Sa'en had just completed his meditation. I greeted him and said:

'Jinab-i Sa'en, my purpose of the journey is exactly what you had written.'

Sa'en smiled and said in a Hindi dialect:

'Bali Shiraj Miravad Ma'loom Mishavad' (*yes, appears are going to Shiraj*)

Indians refer to "Shiraz" as "Shiraj" as they do not have the letter z. The late Haji said that this experience was a source of immense joy and happiness. Because he had not even disclosed (*my destination*) Shiraz to his wife. The Sa'en did not have prior knowledge of this ..."
Sayyid Basir Hindi

Like his counterpart, Sayyid Basir Hindi was a mystic. He was born in Multan - in present day Pakistan. Not content with leading the local Sufi order, he was keen to explore new ideas and converse with various people. The following extract is an account of his life give by Fadil Mazandaran[3]:
" The Sayyid known as Basir was born in Multan India to a family of the descendants of the Prophet, the family of Sayyid Jalal Hindi who was one of the famous leaders of an influential Sufi order. This order had many followers amongst the Daghdari and Jalaliah schools in Iran. His predecessors and relatives in India continue to enjoy enormous respect and following in that land. A number of Sufi leaders have arisen from this particular family. He was just seven when he contracted chicken-pox and lost sight in both of his eyes. Despite this he became quite well versed in the inner meaning of the sciences and the outer characteristics of modern sciences. Relying on his ingenious mind and fantastic intelligence he studied different customs and learnt various philosophies of his time.

He inherited material riches after assuming the leadership of the local Sufi order. He practised self-reliance and detachment from early youth and became interested in travelling and exploring new horizons. His adherents included Sayyids and Hindi's alike. His personal attributes of dedication, graciousness, generosity and knowledge has never been denied by anyone. He was known for his inner and outer radiance. He continued to live in various provinces of India until the age of 21 and then stepped outside of the bounds of his country with the purpose of discovering the truth.

He set out to attend the Haj and for this he crossed Iran. He had earlier heard from his Grand fathers that the "Grand Guardian" will one day appear from this country. Whilst in Iran, he mixed with the followers of various religions and ideologies and became a magnet for the scientists of his time. After visiting Mecca he left for Iraq, met Haji Sayyid Kazim Rashti and became devoted to him. He then returned to his native India where within a short period of time was informed through Shaykh Sa'id about the appearance of the Bab .. He quickly returned to Iran and learnt that He was in Mecca. He followed suit and was finally privileged to meet the Bab in Masjid u'l Haram.

Afterwards he travelled to Shiraz and started to guide and teach various souls in different regions with the utmost wisdom {Hikmat} using his own particular style. As he was well versed in various scientific concepts such as medicine, numerology, astrology, alchemy as well as philosophical arguments, his words appeared attractive to the people. The audience verified his mastery in conducting miracles.

When the Mazandaran uprising commenced he rushed to Nur in order to aid the believers. However he was not able to join because of the embargo imposed by the troops. He spent sometime with Mirza Mustafa Qalandar - a Sufi adherent whom he respected in Gilan. They both were persecuted by the locals and expelled from (the port of) Bandar Anzali. Certain households denied them food and water. Then he travelled to Qazvin and managed to attract many souls there. In Tehran he became a companion of Shaykh Azim and was later privileged to meet the Abha Beauty in Mazandaran expressing his servitude and devotion.

After the martyrdom of the Bab he experienced a strange personal experience and his tongue became a source of new verses and words. He conducted effective teaching campaigns in the areas of Kashan, Qum, Iraq, Lorestan and Mazandaran. It has been verified that often during the course of discussions with the Mullah's he referred to the exact page number and location of the appropriate Hadith or verse in a particular book. Thus he influenced and attracted Mulla Abu'l Hasan Golpayegani and his sons in Qahrud ..

Haji Sayyid Ibrahim, the only knowledgeable Mullah in the town of Qamsar - also became attracted to the Sayyid. Once the Sayyid asked Haji Ibrahim to visit him in Kashan. On the proposed day the Haji, pre-occupied with other matters, forgot about the appointment and rested at night. Suddenly remembering about the event he rose from his sleep in the middle of the night and rushed outside towards Kashan dressed only in his pyjamas without any turbans or shoes. He realised he had travelled 3-4 Km when he returned to wear his clothes and once again ventured towards Kashan. When he finally reached the Sayyid and explained his predicament. The Sayyid advised: We could have chosen to take you all the way to Kashan in the same fashion ..."
The following is a slightly different account of the life of Sayyid Basir Hindi recorded by Avarih[4]:
"This author has read the various accounts of Basir given in the history of Nabil Zarandi and other similar manuscripts. In order to establish factual information set out to interview senior believers of this Cause in every city and township. During the course of interviews I heard numerous stories and accounts from the trusted servants of this Cause who had witnessed the events. This author will note the established facts in the following passage and will leave out dubious or suspect accounts.

Sayyid Basir was born in India and belonged to the (Sufi) order of Jalali's. His great grand father was a certain Sayyid Jalal - a respected Sufi leader in India. Their family had long been a focal point of various seekers and included many spiritual guides, notables and leaders. It had been agreed that following his father's passing, Sayyid Basir would replace him as the Sufi leader .. In his early youth he shared the contents of one of his dreams with his father, and his father interpreted this dream as meaning that the land of Iran will be the birthplace of a new revelation and a grand person will dawn which will expand mysticism and religion in to a new high and refresh the souls accordingly. Sayyid Basir loved mystics and mixed with the leaders and guides from every school.

He travelled to Iran and arrived in Kirman to the house of Vakil u'l Mulk. He was resident in that city for a while and associated with the people through utmost humility .. He then travelled to the Atabat and met Sayyid Kazim Rashti at the peak of his fame. Basir attended his lectures a number of times. The late Sayyid (Rashti) praised and respected him both publicly and privately. Afterwards he returned to his native land and spent most of his time with Haji Sayyid Javad Karbalai - at a time when the latter was in Bombay. When he heard the news of the Bab's claim through one of the followers of Sayyid Kazim Rashti in Bombay, he cut short his plans to travel to Mecca and instead left for Iran seeking to meet the Bab.

In Shiraz he was informed that the Bab had travelled to Mecca. He followed suit and met the Bab in Masjid Al-Haram. He raised a few questions, heard sufficient answers and instantly declared his faith. From then on he set out to teach and guide the souls, spending his wealth for this purpose in every town and city."
Avarih does not mention the role of Shaykh Sa'id Hindi in converting Basir and refers to at least two influential Shaykhis with whom he was acquainted at Bombay during 1844. The interaction between Haji Sayyid Javad Karbalai and Sayyid Basir is also interesting. This indicates that at the time of the Bab's declaration the Haji was in Bombay. It may partially explain why he was not a part of Mulla Husayn's companions who arrived in Shiraz. The burning question: Was he in Bombay on business or was he seeking the Qa'im in that land?

Avarih also regarded the stories concerning Basir doing "miracles" to be dubious and did not include the details in his passage. However as we shall see later the performance of miracles (Khavareq A'da't) was one of Basir's specialties in teaching the faith in villages and townships.

Sayyid Basir Hindi was killed exactly one year after the martyrdom of the Bab. Fadil Mazandarani provides two slightly varying account of the circumstances leading up to his execution. The first is given in Zuhur Al-Haqq Volume 4 p 18:
" When Ildram Mirza (*Prince Governor of Lorestan - a province in western Iran*) became the ruler of the province of Lorestan, he started to dialogue with a number of Babi elders about the new Cause. He had read a number of works by the Bab including the Seven Proofs and other works. As part of his travel teachings, Sayyid Basir Hindi arrived at the Governor's quarters where the two spent days interviewing and conversing. Until one day during the course of the discussions, the conversation shifted to the character of Muhammad Shah. Sayyid uttered some words concerning the oppressions of Muhammad Shah in regards to the Bab. The arrogant Prince became infuriated and instantly ordered his executioners to cut his throat with s sharp dagger and pull his tongue out from behind."[5]
In Zuhur Al-Haqq Volume 3 p 456 we read:
      "Evidently Ildram Mirza asked the Sayyid: What is the news?
      Sayyid replied: What news is greater than the fact that the Promised One has just appeared!
      The Prince enquired about the sings concerning the persona of Dajjal.
      Sayyid answered: There is no Dajjal greater than Haji Mirza Aqasi (Premier) who resembles the Dajjal complete with his physical characteristics.
      Prince asked: Where is his donkey?
      Sayyid replied: His donkey was your late brother Muhammad Shah!"[6]
In political terms, Sayyid was a little naive and through his outspoken views actually alienated Ildram Mirza who had earlier been introduced to the Babi cause by Mulla Abdu'l Karim Qazvini (the Bab's secretary) and given copies of the Bab's writings through Nabil Zarandi. Apart from killing Sayyid Basir, Ildram Mirza never committed any atrocities against the Babi's in general. There is no evidence of Sayyid meeting any other Qajar officials prior to this.

There are also brief references made to Sayyid Basir Hindi in Azali writings attributed to Izzat'ul Hajiah Khanum and Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Naraqi.

Izzat'ul Hajiah Khanum was the half-sister of Bahá'u'lláh and wrote a polemic known as Tanbihu'l Na'emin in response to Abdu'l Baha's Lawh-i Ammih ("Tablet to the Aunt"). In this work the following is noted:
"If we trust Him (*Bahá'u'lláh*) and his disciples that a mere claim is sufficient proof (*of revelation*), this helpless woman reminds (*all*) that prior to this, there were other persons who made similar claims and whose verses were more mystical. Persons such as Sayyid Hindi who claimed the position of Mirror-hood following the (*martyrdom*) of the Point of Bayan and installation of His Excellency Samareh (*Azal*) as His vicar and mirror. Certain strange behaviour such as prior knowledge of events did emanate from him. He dared to challenge His Excellency Samareh with utter disrespect. A group of individuals followed him and were eventually killed..."[7]
Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Naraqi writes in his Tazkurat'ul Qafilin:
"The commoner Indian Sayyid actually declared himself to be the vicar and mirror of the Bab after the installation of Hazrat-i Azal - peace be upon him. He demonstrated some unexplainable behavioural traits such as perceiving one's private thoughts and other miracles that I personally witnessed. He spoke disrespectfully of Hazrat-i Azal..."[8]
Sayyid Mihdi Dahaji also writes in his Khatirat:
" After the martyrdom of the Bab, this servant was left wondering about who to recognise and follow next. They (*Babi's*) advised that a certain Mirza Yahya who resides in Tehran has been nominated by the Point of Bayan. This servant accepted this claim largely because I was unaware of any opposition and did not entertain the possibility of any disagreements. A short time later news came that Mirza Asadu'llah Khoyee .. and a number of others whose names is not necessary to be repeated such as Haji Mirza Musa Qumi, Sayyid Basir Hindi and others do not accept Aqa Mirza Yahya. This servant became unsettled and bewildered ..."[9]
Sayyid Basir seems to have been a charismatic figure who impressed his audience through a combination of Sufi and spiritual experiences. His blindness and mobility appear to have helped him build a following. His mysticism and personal devotion to the Babi Cause was never in dispute and certainly he was one of the more "genuine" claimants to appear in the Babi community following the martyrdom of the Bab. He questioned the character of Azal as a leader and forwarded his own claim within 12 months of the martyrdom of the Bab. This makes him amongst the first claimants to the position of Mirror-hood. He was one of the few claimants who chose to travel around and reach out to the masses. His personal wealth was also instrumental in moving around the countryside.

Notes
    [1] "Practice of Taqiyyah in Babi and Bahai Religions," by Sepehr Manuchehri, contains a more detailed account of his life.
    [2] Kashf Al-Ghitaa p74
    [3] Fadil Mazandarani in Zuhur Al-Haqq Volume 3 pp. 453-457
    [4] Avarih in Kavakeb u'l Doriah pp. 58-60
    [5] Fadil Mazandarani in Zuhur Al-Haqq Volume 4 p 18:
    [6] Fadil Mazandarani in Zuhur Al-Haqq Volume 3 p. 456
    [7] Izzat'ul Hajiah Khanum in Tanbihu'l Na'emin in response to Abdu'l-Bahá's Lawh-i Ammih, "Tablet to the Aunt," p. 43
    [8] Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Naraqi in his Tazkurat'ul Qafilin p. 95
    [9] Sayyid Mihdi Dahaji in his Khatirat p. 59
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