Release the Sun
THE ENCHANTMENT OF THE KING'S MESSENGER
Mulla Husayn came to visit the Bab in Shiraz. Immediately strong voices were raised against him. "Mulla Husayn has returned to Shiraz," they cried to the authorities. "Now, with his chief, the Bab, he is scheming some fierce onslaught against our time honored institutions!" So grave and menacing was the situation, that the Bab instructed Mulla Husayn to return to his home province of Khurasan. He also dismissed all the rest of His companions except `Abdu'l-Karim, whom He kept with Him to help transcribe His writings. His disciples spread throughout the length and breadth of the land fearlessly proclaiming the regenerating power of the newborn Revelation. Soon the fame of the Bab spread far beyond the circle of His disciples. It reached the authorities. They became alarmed at the enthusiasm with which the people everywhere accepted His message. An historical account states that the followers of the Bab were "ardent, brave, carried away, ready for anything. ... every one of its members thought himself of no importance, and burned with a desire to sacrifice his life-blood and his belongings for the
cause of Truth."[F1] This was no longer a local matter, the authorities argued. The same flood of persecution which surrounded Jesus, now gradually engulfed the Bab. The combined opposition of the church and state unleashed what historians have called the most appalling wave of hatred imaginable. Soon the sands of Persia were stained by a freely given, red river of human martyrdom. However, the Bab spoke such searching truths on these occasions that day by day the crowds that followed Him greatly increased in number. His purity of conduct at an age when passions are intense impressed the people who met Him. He was possessed of extraordinary eloquence and daring. An historian of those times, Comte de Gobineau, writes: "From his first public appearances, they sent their most able Mullas [religious leaders] to argue with him and confuse him. ... instead of benefiting the clergy, they contributed quite a little to spread and exalt, at their own expense, the renown of this enthusiastic teacher."[F2] The Bab exposed, unsparingly, their vices and their corruption. Like Jesus, He proved their infidelity to their own belief. He shamed them in their lives. He defeated them with their own Holy Book in His hand. Gobineau says further that the Bab was "of extreme simplicity of manner, of a fascinating gentleness; those gifts were further heightened by his great youth and his marvelous charm. He drew about himself a number of persons who were deeply edified. He did not open his lips (we are assured by those who knew him) without stirring the hearts to their very depths."[F3] Sir Francis Younghusband in his book, The Gleam, writes of His "wonderful charm of appearance. Men were impressed by his knowledge and by his penetrating eloquence of speech. ... As soon as he ascended the pulpit there was silence."[F4] Another historical document states: "By the uprightness of his life the young Siyyid [the Bab] served as an example to those about him. He was willingly listened to ... when he condemned the abuses in all classes of society. His words were repeated and
elaborated upon and they spoke of him as the true Master and gave themselves to him unreservedly."[F5] These impressions of the Bab did not come from His followers and sympathizers alone. Comte de Gobineau states in his history of the times that "even the orthodox Muhammadans who were present [at these meetings when the Bab spoke] have retained an indelible memory of them and never recall them without a sort of terror. They agreed unanimously that [His] eloquence ... was of an incomparable kind, such that, without having been an eye-witness, one could not possibly imagine."[F6] Soon all of Persia was stirring with stories about the Bab. The people eagerly hungered for more news. A wave of enthusiasm swept over the country. Leading figures of both State and Church either attended these meetings in person or delegated their most able representatives to inquire into the truth of the matter. The Journal Asiatic states that the Faith of the Bab had many followers "in all classes of society, and many among them were of important standing; great lords, members of the clergy, military men and merchants had all accepted this doctrine."[F7] Those in authority began to ask searching questions. Finally the Crown itself became interested. Muhammad Shah, the king, decided to investigate. He felt that he should know if the reports about this remarkable young man were true. So he summoned his Prime Minister. "Who is there," he asked, "that can be trusted to make this investigation?" After much consultation, the king and the Prime Minister chose someone in whom they both had the greatest faith. He was surnamed Vahid. Vahid was known to be the most learned, eloquent, and influential of all the king's people. If anyone could silence the Bab, it would be he. The great leaders of Persia all testified to his knowledge and wisdom. His father was one of the most celebrated religious doctors of that age, and now Vahid had followed in his father's footsteps and even eclipsed him. His fame and popularity were known throughout the land. He was admitted to be outstanding among all the leading figures of Persia. Whenever he was present at a meeting, he was invariably the chief speaker. Furthermore, Vahid, because of his wisdom, was frequently consulted by the government in times of trouble.[F9]
He was living at that time in Tihran as an honored guest of the king, therefore they thought at once of Vahid when he sought an honest person to send on this important mission. The king was very disturbed. He wished to know what political significance the rise of this new Faith might have, so he gave Vahid careful instructions. "Go at once to Shiraz. Interview the Bab. Find out if these tales of wonder we hear are true. Then report to us personally and detail what you discover." The Prime Minister was not above planting a seed in Vahid's mind before he left. "If you can discredit and unmask him, it will add greatly to your own stature," he told him. Vahid mounted the horse which had been given to him by the king and left immediately for Shiraz. On the way, he decided upon the questions which he would ask the Bab. These questions Vahid felt would test the Bab's knowledge to the utmost, and upon the answers which He gave would rest, in Vahid's opinion, the truth or falsehood of His claim to be a Messenger of God. When Vahid arrived in Shiraz, he met an intimate friend whose name was `Azim. "You have met the Bab, " Vahid said to his friend. "What do you think of him? Are you satisfied with him? Is he a charlatan?" "Meet him yourself," `Azim replied. "Make your own decision. But, as a friend, I would advise you to be careful. You will regret any discourtesy you show to him." Vahid arranged to meet the Bab, Who welcomed him with affection. For nearly two hours Vahid courteously directed question after question at the Bab. Her pointed out the most obscure passages of Holy Scripture. He dwelt upon the mysterious prophesies and traditions which must be fulfilled at the time of the coming of the Promised One. He spoke at great length of certain difficult and vague metaphysical themes. The Bab listened patiently to Vahid's learned and detailed references, quietly noting his questions. Vahid suddenly felt ashamed of this long and showy display of his own learning. Later he reported: "Quietly the Bab began to speak. He gave brief but persuasive answers to each of my questions. The conciseness and clarity of his replies excited my admiration and wonder. My feeling of superiority vanished. I was embarrassed by my own presumptuous-
ness and pride. I felt so abased that I hurriedly asked permission to retire. I told him: `If it please God, I shall in my next interview submit the rest of my questions and conclude my inquiry.'" Vahid withdrew. As soon as he left the Bab he hastened to the home of his friend `Azim and told him what had happened during the first interview to cause his own deep humiliation. Vahid was confident that his inquiry into the Faith of the Bab would end with the second interview. He had his questions clearly in mind. They were direct and to the point this time. He would be polite, as `Azim suggested, but firm. However, when he entered the Bab's presence and began to speak with Him, Vahid found himself discussing things which had nothing whatsoever to do with his inquiry. All the questions which he had intended to submit to the Bab had disappeared from his memory. Then later, to his great surprise, he found that the Bab was answering those forgotten questions. He spoke with that same brevity and lucidity which had so excited his admiration before. "I seemed to have been in a daze during the first part of that interview," he later observed. "Then, when I realized what the Bab was saying, that he was answering my unasked questions, I awoke with a start. I was thrilled. Yet, in spite of my attention to him, a voice kept whispering to me: `Might not this all be a mere accidental coincidence?' I became so agitated that I could not collect my thoughts. I refused to remain. A second time I begged leave to retire." Vahid returned to `Azim again and told him what had happened. `Azim spoke frankly to this most learned of all Persians. "Would that schools had been utterly abolished," he said, "and that neither of us had ever entered one, if through our little-mindedness and conceit this acquired knowledge is withholding us from the redeeming Grace of God, and is causing pain to Him Who is the bearer of His Message." Vahid admitted that pride in his own knowledge had been like a curtain which separated him from the Bab. `Azim entreated him, "This time go with humility and detachment from all that you have learned in the past. Perhaps he will relieve your doubt and perplexity." This third and final interview has been reported in detail by
Vahid not only for the king and Prime Minister, but also for posterity. Vahid states: "I resolved that in my third interview, I would not ask aloud for proof of his mission. Instead, in my innermost heart, I would request the Bab to write a commentary upon a special chapter of Holy Scripture which had always interested me. "`If he does this,' I told myself, `and if its style and truth distinguish it from the standards current amongst men, then I shall acknowledge his truth. I shall even embrace his cause. However, if he fails, I shall denounce him.' "As soon as I was ushered into the Bab's presence, a sense of fear, for which I could not account, seized me. My limbs quivered as I beheld his face. On repeated occasions I had been in the presence of the king without feeling the slightest trace of timidity, but I was now so awed and shaken, that I could not remain standing on my feet. "The Bab beheld my plight. He arose to his feet and came to me. He took my hand and seated me beside him. "`Seek from Me' he said. `Whatever is your heart's desire.' `I will readily reveal it to you.' "I was helpless. I felt powerless to speak. He looked at me, smiled, and said, `Were I to reveal unto you the commentary on the Surih of Kawthar, would you acknowledge that My words are born of the Spirit of God? Would you recognize that My utterance can in no wise be associated with sorcery or magic?' "Tears came to my eyes as I heard him speak these words. All I was able to say were the words: `O our Lord, with ourselves we have dealt unjustly: if Thou forgive us not and have not pity upon us, we shall surely be of those who perish.'" Then the Bab called for his pen-case and paper. He began to reveal the commentary which Vahid's inmost heart had requested. No less than two thousand verses were revealed by the Bab on that occasion. The bewildering rapidity with which they were written was even less remarkable than their matchless beauty and profound meaning.[F10] Even more startling to Vahid was the fact that this explanation which the Bab gave was the one which he himself had discovered after long meditation. He believed himself to be the only one who had reached this hidden meaning, and he had never made it known to anyone.[F11]
Vahid's report on this interview communicates his sense of wonder: "How am I to describe this scene of inexpressible majesty? Verses streamed from His pen with a rapidity that was truly astounding. The incredible swiftness of His writing, the soft and gentle murmur of His voice, the stupendous force of His style, all amazed and bewildered me. He continued in this manner until the approach of sunset, not pausing until the entire commentary was completed. Then he laid down His pen and asked for tea to be brought. Soon after, He began to read it aloud in my presence. My heart leaped madly as I heard Him pour out, in accents of unutterable sweetness, those treasures hidden in that holy chapter. I was so entranced by its beauty that three times I was on the verge of fainting. The Bab revived my failing strength by sprinkling rose-water upon my face. When He had completed His recital, the Bab arose to depart." With `Abdu'l-Karim, Vahid devoted three days and three nights to transcribing the newly revealed commentary. They verified all the prophecies and traditions in the text and found them to be entirely accurate. Vahid summed up his report on his investigation of the Bab by saying: "Such was the state of certitude to which I had attained that nothing could shake my confidence in the greatness of His Cause." Vahid discharged his responsibility to the king, writing a detailed and personal account of his investigation of the Bab. Vahid himself did not return to the capital. He began to summon the people to accept the new Messenger of God. Such was his enthusiasm and fervor, that other learned doctors decided Vahid must have suddenly lost his mind. A history of the times states that Vahid "wrote without fear or care a detailed account of his observations to the ... chamberlain in order that the latter might submit it to the notice of the late king, while he [Vahid] himself journeyed to all parts of Persia, and in every town and station summoned the people from the pulpit-tops in such wise that other learned doctors [leaders] decided that he must be mad, accounting it a sure case of bewitchment."[F12] When the report was given to the king that Vahid had investigated the Bab, found His Cause to be the truth, and had accepted it himself, the king was greatly troubled. He spoke confidentially to his Prime Minister.
"We have been told," he said, "that Vahid has become a follower of the Bab. If this is true, it would be wise for us to cease belittling the cause of this young man from Shiraz." Immediately the Prime Minister began to attack Vahid for having fallen under the spell of a sorcerer, but the king would still not hear any evil spoken of this great figure. He rebuked the Prime Minister. "Vahid is a man of noble lineage. He is also a man of great learning and great virtue." Husayn Khan, at whose home Vahid stayed during his interviews with the Bab, also attacked him openly. To him also the king sent an imperial command which read: "It is strictly forbidden to any one of our subjects to utter any such words as would detract from the exalted rank of Vahid. He will never incline his ear to any Cause unless he believes it will be for the advancement of the best interests of our realm." Thus ended the story of the king's investigation of the Cause of the Bab. Vahid, acknowledged as the most outstanding of the leaders of Persia, selected as his personal messenger by the king himself, embraced the Faith of the Bab and began to teach it. To Husayn Khan, the governor, who challenged him, saying, "Have you fallen under the enchantment of the Bab's magic spell?" Vahid replied: "No one but God can captivate the heart of Vahid. He alone can change the hearts of men. Whoever can ensnare my heart is of God and His word is unquestionably the voice of Truth."[F13] Vahid was but one of many illustrious figures who were being attracted to the Faith of the Bab. The Prime Minister and the people of the court tried to belittle each of these new believers in the eyes of the king. One day as the Shah was riding on horseback, an old man crossed the street in front of him. Undisturbed by the presence of the king, the old man approached him and greeted him cheerfully. The king was very much taken with the old man's courtesy, dignity and manner. He replied to the greeting and invited the old man to come and visit him at the palace. Before they had returned to the royal residence, those close to the king began whispering to him. "Does your Majesty not realize that this old man is none other than one of the famous and newly converted followers of the Bab?
He has proclaimed himself so. He has publicly announced his undying loyalty to the cause of that youth." The king knew they were jealous and envious of the attention he had bestowed upon the old man. He was displeased with them, and at the same time confused by their constant backbiting. "How strange!" he exclaimed. "Whoever is distinguished by learning, by uprightness of conduct, and by courtesy of manners, my own court immediately denounces as a follower of the Bab? Why? Why is this?"[F14] Because of the orders of the king, Husayn Khan was no longer able to express his hatred of Vahid openly; therefore, he began quietly to undermine Vahid's friendship with the king. In the days to come this treachery would lead to Vahid's martyrdom in his native town of Nayriz.