Memorials of the Faithful
Mirzá Muhammad-'Ali, the Afnán
In the days of Bahá'u'lláh,
during the worst times in
the Most Great Prison, they would not permit any of the
friends either to leave the Fortress or to come in from the
outside. "Skew-Cap"[Áqá Ján. Cf. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 189.] and the Siyyid[Siyyid Muhammad, the Antichrist of the Bahá'í Revelation. Cf. Ibid., pp. 164 and 189.] lived by the second
gate of the city, and watched there at all times, day and
night. Whenever they spied a Bahá'í traveler they would
hurry away to the Governor and tell him that the traveler
was bringing in letters and would carry the answers back.
The Governor would then arrest the traveler, seize his papers,
jail him, and drive him out. This became an established
custom with the authorities and went on for a long time--indeed, for nine years until, little by little, the practice was abandoned.
It was at such a period that the Afnán, Hájí Mirzá Muhammad-'Ali--
that great bough of the Holy Tree[The Afnán are the kindred of the Báb. Ibid., pp. 239; 328.]--journeyed
to Akká, coming from India to Egypt, and from
Egypt to Marseilles. One day I was up on the roof of the
caravanserai. Some of the friends were with me and I was
walking up and down. It was sunset. At that moment,
glancing at the distant seashore, I observed that a carriage
was approaching. "Gentlemen," I said, "I feel that a holy
being is in that carriage." It was still far away, hardly
"Let us go to the gate," I told them. "Although they
will not allow us to pass through, we can stand there till
he comes." I took one or two people with me and we left.
At the city gate I called to the guard, privately gave him
something and said: "A carriage is coming in and I think
it is bringing one of our friends. When it reaches here, do
not hold it up, and do not refer the matter to the Governor."
He put out a chair for me and I sat down.
By this time the sun had set. They had shut the main
gate, too, but the little door was open. The gatekeeper
stayed outside, the carriage drew up, the gentleman had
arrived. What a radiant face he had! He was nothing but
light from head to foot. Just to look at that face made one
happy; he was so confident, so assured, so rooted in his
faith, and his expression so joyous. He was truly a blessed
being. He was a man who made progress day by day, who
added, every day, to his certitude and faith, his luminous
quality, his ardent love. He made extraordinary progress
during the few days that he spent in the Most Great
Prison. The point is that when his carriage had come only
part of the way from Haifa to Akká, one could already perceive his spirit, his light.
After he had received the endless bounties showered on
him by Bahá'u'lláh, he was given leave to go, and he
traveled to China. There, over a considerable period, he
spent his days mindful of God and in a manner conformable
to Divine good pleasure. Later he went on to India,
where he died.
The other revered Afnán and the friends in India felt
it advisable to send his blessed remains to `Iráq, ostensibly
to Najaf, to be buried near the Holy City; for the Muslims
had refused to let him lie in their graveyard, and his
body had been lodged in a temporary repository for safekeeping.
Áqá Siyyid Asadu'lláh, who was in Bombay at
the time, was deputized to transport the remains with all
due reverence to `Iráq. There were hostile Persians on the
steamship and these people, once they reached Búshihr,
reported that the coffin of Mirzá Muhammad-'Ali the
Bábí was being carried to Najaf for burial in the Vale of
Peace, near the sacred precincts of the Shrine, and that
such a thing was intolerable. They tried to take his blessed
remains off the ship, but they failed; see what the hidden
Divine decrees can bring about.
His body came as far as Basrá. And since that was a
period when the friends had to remain in concealment,
Siyyid Asadu'lláh was obliged to proceed as if he were going
on with the burial in Najaf, meanwhile hoping in one
way or another to effect the interment near Baghdád. Because,
although Najaf is a holy city and always shall be,
still the friends had chosen another place. God, therefore,
stirred up our enemies to prevent the Najaf burial. They
swarmed in, attacking the quarantine station to lay hold of
the body and either bury it in Basrá or throw it into the
sea or out on the desert sands.
The case took on such importance that in the end it
proved impossible to bring the remains to Najaf, and Siyyid Asadu'lláh had to carry them on to Baghdád. Here, too, there was no burial place where the Afnán's body
would be safe from molestation at enemy hands. Finally
the Siyyid decided to carry it to the shrine of Persia's Salmán
the Pure,[Herald of the Prophet Muhammad.] about five &farsakhs out of Baghdád, and
bury it in Ctesiphon, close to the grave of Salmán, beside
the palace of the Sásáníyán kings. The body was taken
there and that trust of God was, with all reverence, laid
down in a safe resting-place by the palace of Nawshíraván.
And this was destiny, that after a lapse of thirteen hundred
years, from the time when the throne city of Persia's
ancient kings was trampled down, and no trace of it was
left, except for rubble and hills of sand, and the very palace
roof itself had cracked and split so that half of it toppled to
the ground--this edifice should win back the kingly pomp
and splendor of its former days. It is indeed a mighty arch.
The width of its entry-way is fifty-two paces and it towers
Thus did God's grace and favor encompass the Persians
of an age long gone, in order that their ruined capital
should be rebuilt and flourish once again. To this end,
with the help of God, events were brought about which
led to the Afnán's being buried here; and there is no doubt
that a proud city will rise up on this site. I wrote many letters
about it, until at last the holy dust could be laid to rest
in this place. Siyyid Asadu'lláh would write me from
Basrá and I would answer him. One of the public functionaries
there was completely devoted to us, and I directed
him to do all he could. Siyyid Asadu'lláh informed me
from Baghdád that he was at his wits' end, and had no
idea where he could consign this body to the grave. "Wherever
I might bury it," he wrote, "they will dig it up again."
At last, praised be God, it was laid down in the very spot to which time and again the Blessed Beauty had repaired;
in that place honored by His footsteps, where He
had revealed Tablets, where the believers of Baghdád had
been in His company; that very place where the Most
Great Name was wont to stroll. How did this come about?
It was due to the Afnán's purity of heart. Lacking this, all
those ways and means could never have been brought to
bear. Verily, God is the Mover of heaven and earth.
I loved the Afnán very much. Because of him, I rejoiced.
I wrote a long Visitation Tablet for him and sent
it with other papers to Persia. His burial site is one of the
holy places where a magnificent Mashriqu'l-Adhkár must
be raised up. If possible, the actual arch of the royal
palace should be restored and become the House of Worship.
The auxiliary buildings of the House of Worship
should likewise be erected there: the hospital, the schools
and university, the elementary school, the refuge for the
poor and indigent; also the haven for orphans and the
helpless, and the travelers' hospice.
Gracious God! That royal edifice was once splendidly
decked forth and fair. But there are spiders' webs today,
where hung the curtains of gold brocade, and where the
king's drums beat and his musicians played, the only
sound is the harsh cries of kites and crows. "This is verily
the capital of the owl's realm, where thou wilt hear no
sound, save only the echo of his repeated calls." That is
how the barracks were, when we came to Akká. There
were a few trees inside the walls, and on their branches,
as well as up on the battlements, the owls cried all night
long. How disquieting is the hoot of an owl; how it saddens
From earliest youth until he grew helpless and old, that
sacred bough of the Holy Tree, with his smiling face,
shone out like a lamp in the midst of all. Then he leapt and soared to undying glory, and plunged into the ocean of light. Upon him be the breathings of his Lord, the All-Merciful.
Upon him, lapped in the waters of grace and
forgiveness, be the mercy and favor of God.
Memorials of the Faithful
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