Memorials of the Faithful
Khurshíd Begum, who was
given the title of Shamsu'd-Duhá,[Pronounced Shams-oz-Zoha.]
the Morning Sun, was mother-in-law to the King
of Martyrs. This eloquent, ardent handmaid of God was
the cousin on her father's side of the famous Muhammad-Baqir
of Isfahán, widely celebrated as chief of the &ulamas
in that city. When still a child she lost both her parents,
and was reared by her grandmother in the home of that
famed and learned mujtahid, and well trained in various
branches of knowledge, in theology, sciences and the arts.
Once she was grown, she was married to Mirzá Hádíy-i-Nahrí;
and since she and her husband were both strongly
attracted to the mystical teachings of that great luminary,
the excellent and distinguished Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashti,[A forerunner of the Báb, and co-founder of the Shaykhí School. See glossary.]
they left for Kárbilá, accompanied by Mirzá Hádí's
brother, Mirzá Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Nahri.[His daughter, at a later date, became the consort of `Abdu'l-Baha. Cf. God Passes By, p. 130, and The Dawn-Breakers, p. 461.] Here they used
to attend the Siyyid's classes, imbibing his knowledge, so
that this handmaid became thoroughly informed on subjects
relating to Divinity, on the Scriptures and on their
inner meanings. The couple had two children, a girl and a boy. They called their son Siyyid `Alí and their daughter Fátimih Begum, she being the one who, when she
reached adolescence, was married to the King of Martyrs.
Shamsu'd-Duhá was there in Kárbilá when the cry of the
exalted Lord was raised in Shíráz, and she shouted back,
"Yea, verily!" As for her husband and his brother, they immediately
set out for Shíráz; for both of them, when visiting
the Shrine of Imám Husayn, had looked upon the
beauty of the Primal Point, the Báb; both had been astonished
at what they saw in that transplendent face, in
those heavenly attributes and ways, and had agreed that
One such as this must indeed be some very great being.
Accordingly, the moment they learned of His Divine summons,
they answered: "Yea, verily!" and they burst into
flame with yearning love for God. Besides, they had been
present every day in that holy place where the late Siyyid
taught, and had clearly heard him say: "The Advent is
nigh, the affair most subtle, most elusive. It behoves each
one to search, to inquire, for it may be that the Promised
One is even now present among men, even now visible,
while all about Him are heedless, unmindful, with bandaged
eyes, even as the sacred traditions have foretold."
When the two brothers arrived in Persia they heard
that the Báb had gone to Mecca on a pilgrimage. Siyyid
Muhammad-'Ali therefore left for Isfahán and Mirzá Hádí
returned to Kárbilá. Meanwhile Shamsu'd-Duhá had become
friends with the "Leaf of Paradise," sister to
Mullá Husayn, the Bábu'l-Báb.["Gate of the Gate", a title of Mullá Husayn, the first to believe in the Báb. For an account of his sister, cf. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 383, note.] Through that lady she
had met Táhirih, Qurratu'l-`Ayn,["Solace of the Eyes."] and had begun to spend
most of her time in close companionship with them both, occupied in teaching the Faith. Since this was in the early days of the Cause, the people were not yet afraid of it.
From being with Táhirih, Shams profited immeasurably,
and was more on fire with the Faith than ever. She spent
three years in close association with Táhirih in Kárbilá.
Day and night, she was stirred like the sea by the gales of
the All-Merciful, and she taught with an eloquent tongue.
As Táhirih became celebrated throughout Kárbilá, and
the Cause of His Supreme Holiness, the Báb, spread all
over Persia, the latter-day &ulamas arose to deny, to heap
scorn upon, and to destroy it. They issued a fatvá or judgment
that called for a general massacre. Táhirih was one
of those designated by the evil &ulamas of the city as an
unbeliever, and they mistakenly thought her to be in the
home of Shamsu'd-Duhá. They broke into Shams's house,
hemmed her in, abused and vilified her, and inflicted
grievous bodily harm. They dragged her out of the house
and through the streets to the bázár; they beat her with
clubs; they stoned her, they denounced her in foul language,
repeatedly assaulting her. While this was going on,
Hájí Siyyid Mihdí, the father of her distinguished husband,
reached the scene. "This woman is not Táhirih!" he
shouted at them. But he had no witness to prove it,[Persian women of the day went heavily veiled in public.] and
the farráshes, the police and the mob would not let up.
Then, through the uproar, a voice screamed out: "They
have arrested Qurratu'l-`Ayn!" At this, the people abandoned
Guards were placed at the door of Táhirih's house and
no one was allowed to enter or leave, while the authorities
waited for instructions from Baghdád and Constantinople.
As the interval of waiting lengthened out, Táhirih asked
for permission to leave for Baghdád. "Let us go there ourselves,"
she told them. "We are resigned to everything. Whatever happens to us is the best that can happen, and the most pleasing." With government permission, Táhirih,
the Leaf of Paradise, her mother and Shamsu'd-Duhá
all left Kárbilá and traveled to Baghdád, but the
snake-like mass of the populace followed them for some
distance, stoning them from a little way off.
When they reached Baghdád they went to live at the
house of Shaykh Muhammad-i-Shibl, the father of Muhammad-Mustafa;
and since many crowded the doors there
was an uproar throughout that quarter, so that Táhirih
transferred her residence elsewhere, to a lodging of her
own, where she continually taught the Faith, and proclaimed
the Word of God. Here the &ulamas, &shaykhs and
others would come to listen to her, asking their questions
and receiving her replies, and she was soon remarkably
well known throughout Baghdád, expounding as she
would the most recondite and subtle of theological themes.
When word of this reached the government authorities,
they conveyed Táhirih, Shamsu'd-Duhá and the Leaf
to the house of the Muftí, and here they remained
three months until word as to their case was received from
Constantinople. During Táhirih's stay at the Muftí's,
much of the time was spent in conversations with him, in
producing convincing proofs as to the Teachings, analyzing
and expounding questions relative to the Lord God,
discoursing on the Resurrection Day, on the Balance and
the Reckoning,[Qur'án 7:7; 14:42; 21:48; 57:25, etc.] unraveling the complexities of inner
One day the Muftí's father came in and belabored them
violently and at length. This somewhat discomfited the
Muftí and he began to apologize for his father. Then he
said: "Your answer has arrived from Constantinople. The
Sovereign has set you free, but on condition that you quit his realms." The next morning they left the Muftí's house and proceeded to the public baths. Meanwhile Shaykh
Muhammad-i-Shibl and Shaykh Sultán-i-'Arab made the
necessary preparations for their journey, and when three
days had passed, they left Baghdád; that is, Táhirih,
Shamsu'd-Duhá, the Leaf of Paradise, the mother of
Mirzá Hádí, and a number of Siyyids from Yazd set out
for Persia. Their travel expenses were all provided by
They arrived at Kirmansháh, where the women took up
residence in one house, the men in another. The work of
teaching went on at all times, and as soon as the &ulamas
became aware of it they ordered that the party be expelled.
At this the district head, with a crowd of people, broke into
the house and carried off their belongings; then they seated
the travelers in open howdahs and drove them from the
city. When they came to a field, the muleteers set them
down on the bare ground and left, taking animals and
howdahs away, leaving them without food or luggage, and
with no roof over their heads.
Táhirih thereupon wrote a letter to the Governor of
Kirmansháh. "We were travelers," she wrote, "guests in
your city. `Honor thy guest,' the Prophet says, `though he
be an unbeliever.' Is it right that a guest should be thus
scorned and despoiled?" The Governor ordered that the
stolen goods be restored, and that all be returned to the
owners. Accordingly the muleteers came back as well,
seated the travelers in the howdahs again, and they went
on to Hamadán. The ladies of Hamadán, even the princesses,
came every day to meet with Táhirih, who remained
in that city two months.[Cf. Nabíl, The Dawn-Breakers, chapter XV.] There she dismissed some of her
traveling companions, so that they could return to Baghdád; others, however, accompanied her to Qazvín.
As they journeyed, some horsemen, kinsfolk of Táhirih's,
that is, her brothers, approached. "We have come,"
they said, "at our father's command, to lead her away,
alone." But Táhirih refused, and accordingly the whole
party remained together until they arrived in Qazvín.
Here, Táhirih went to her father's house and the friends,
those who had ridden and those who had traveled on foot,
put up at a caravanserai. Mirzá Hádí, the husband of
Shamsu'd-Duhá, had gone to Máh-Ku, seeking out the Báb.
On his return, he awaited the arrival of Shams in Qazvín,
after which the couple left for Isfahán, and when they
reached there, Mirzá Hádí journeyed on to Badasht. In
that hamlet and its vicinity he was attacked, tormented,
even stoned, and was subjected to such ordeals that finally,
in a ruined caravanserai, he died. His brother, Mirzá Muhammad-'Ali,
buried him there, along the roadside.
Shams-i-Duha remained in Isfahán. She spent her days
and nights in the remembrance of God and in teaching
His Cause to the women of that city. She was gifted with
an eloquent tongue; her utterance was wonderful to hear.
She was highly honored by the leading women of Isfahán,
celebrated for piety, for godliness, and the purity of her
life. She was chastity embodied; all her hours were spent
in reciting Holy Writ, or expounding the Texts, or unraveling
the most complex of spiritual themes, or spreading
abroad the sweet savors of God.
It was for these reasons that the King of Martyrs married
her respected daughter and became her son-in-law.
And when Shams went to live in his princely house, day
and night the people thronged its doors, for the leading
women of the city, whether friends or strangers, whether
close to her or not, would come and go. For she was a fire
lit by the love of God, and she proclaimed the Word of
God with great ardor and verve, so that she became known among the non-believers as Fátimih, the Bahá'ís' Lady of Light.[The reference is to Muhammad's daughter, Fátimih, "the bright and fair of face, the Lady of Light."]
And so time passed, until the day when the "She-Serpent"
and the "Wolf" conspired together and issued a
decree, a fatvá, that sentenced the King of Martyrs to
death. They plotted as well with the Governor of the city
so that among them they could sack and plunder and carry
off all that vast treasure he possessed. Then the Sháh
joined forces with those two wild animals; and he commanded
that the blood of both brothers, the King of Martyrs
and the Beloved of Martyrs, be spilled out. Without
warning, those ruthless men: the She-Serpent, the Wolf,
and their brutal farráshes and constabulary--attacked;
they chained the two brothers and led them off to prison,
looted their richly furnished houses, wrested away all their
possessions, and spared no one, not even infants at the
breast. They tortured, cursed, reviled, mocked, beat the
kin and others of the victims' household, and would not
stay their hands.
In Paris, Zillú's-Sultan[Eldest son of the Sháh and ruler over more than two-fifths of the kingdom. He ratified the death sentence. Soon after these events, he fell into disgrace. Cf. God Passes By, p. 200; 232.] related the following, swearing
to the truth of it upon his oath: "Many and many a time
I warned those two great scions of the Prophet's House,
but all to no avail. At the last I summoned them one night,
and with extreme urgency I told them in so many words:
`Gentlemen, the Sháh has three times condemned you to
death. His farmáns keep on coming. The decree is absolute
and there is only one course open to you now: you
must, in the presence of the &ulamas, clear yourselves and
curse your Faith.' Their answer was: `Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá!
O Thou Glory of the All-Glorious! May our lives be offered up!' Finally I agreed to their not cursing their Faith. I told them all they had to say was, `We are not Bahá'ís.'
`Just those few words,' I said, `will be enough; then I can
write out my report for the Sháh, and you will be saved.'
`That is impossible,' they answered, `because we are
Bahá'ís. O Thou Glory of the All-Glorious, our hearts
hunger for martyrdom! Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá!' I was enraged,
then, and I tried, by being harsh with them, to force them
to renounce their Faith, but it was hopeless. The decree
of the rapacious She-Serpent and Wolf, and the Sháh's
commands, were carried out."
After those two were martyred, Shamsu'd-Duhá was
hunted down, and had to seek a refuge in her brother's
house. Although he was not a believer, he was known in
Isfahán as an upright, pious and godly man, a man of
learning, an ascetic who, hermit-like, kept to himself, and
for these reasons he was highly regarded and trusted by
all. She stayed there with him, but the Government did
not abandon its search, finally discovered her whereabouts
and summoned her to appear; the evil &ulamas had a hand
in this, joining forces with the civil authorities. Her
brother was therefore obliged to accompany Shamsu'd-Duhá
to the Governor's house. He remained without, while they
sent his sister into the women's apartments; the Governor
came there, to the door, and he kicked and trampled her so
savagely that she fainted away. Then the Governor shouted
to his wife: "Princess! Princess! Come here and take a look
at the Bahá'ís' Lady of Light!"
The women lifted her up and put her in one of the
rooms. Meanwhile her brother, dumbfounded, was waiting
outside the mansion. Finally, trying to plead with him,
he said to the Governor: "This sister of mine has been
beaten so severely that she is at the point of death. What
is the use of keeping her here? There is no hope for her
now. With your permission I can get her back to my house. It would be better to have her die there, rather than here, for after all, she is a descendant of the Prophet, she
is of Muhammad's noble line, and she has done no wrong.
There is nothing against her except her kinship to the son-in-law."
The Governor answered: "She is one of the great
leaders and heroines of the Bahá'ís. She will simply cause
another uproar." The brother said: "I promise you that
she will not utter a word. It is certain that within a few
days she will not even be alive. Her body is frail, weak,
almost lifeless, and she has suffered terrible harm."
Since the brother was greatly respected and trusted by
high and low alike, the Governor released Shamsu'd-Duhá
in his custody, letting her go. She lived for a while in his
house, crying out, grieving, shedding her tears, mourning
her dead. Neither was the brother at peace, nor would the
hostile leave them alone; there was some new turmoil
every day, and public clamor. The brother finally thought
it best to take Shams away on a pilgrimage to Mashhad,
hoping that the fire of civil disturbances would die down.
They went to Mashhad and settled in a vacant house
near the Shrine of the Imám Ridá.[The eighth Imám, poisoned by order of the Caliph Ma'múm, A.H. 203, after the Imám had been officially designated as the Caliph's heir apparent. His shrine, with its golden dome, has been called the glory of the Shí'ih world. "A part of My body is to be buried in Khurásán", the Prophet traditionally said.]
Because he was such a pious man the brother would
leave every morning to visit the Shrine, and there he
would stay, busy with his devotions until almost noon. In
the afternoon as well, he would hasten away to the Holy
Place, and pray until evening. The house being empty,
Shamsu'd-Duhá managed to get in touch with various
women believers and began to associate with them; and
because the love of God burned so brightly in her heart
she was unable to keep silent, so that during those hours when her brother was absent the place came alive. The Bahá'í women would flock there and absorb her lucid and
In those days life in Mashhad was hard for the believers,
with the malevolent always on the alert; if they so
much as suspected an individual, they murdered him.
There was no security of any kind, no peace. But Shamsu'd-Duhá
could not help herself: in spite of all the terrible
ordeals she had endured, she ignored the danger, and was
capable of flinging herself into flames, or into the sea.
Since her brother frequented no one, he knew nothing of
what was going on. Day and night he would only leave
the house for the Shrine, the Shrine for the house; he was
a recluse, had no friends, and would not so much as speak
to another person. Nevertheless there came a day when
he saw that trouble had broken out in the city, and he
knew it would end in serious harm. He was a man so calm
and silent that he did not reproach his sister; he simply
took her away from Mashhad without warning, and they
returned to Isfahán. Here, he sent her to her daughter, the
widow of the King of Martyrs, for he would no longer
shelter her under his roof.
Shamsu'd-Duhá was thus back in Isfahán, boldly teaching
the Faith and spreading abroad the sweet savors of God.
So vehement was the fiery love in her heart that it compelled
her to speak out, whenever she found a listening
ear. And when it was observed that once again the household
of the King of Martyrs was about to be overtaken by
calamities, and that they were enduring severe afflictions
there in Isfahán, Bahá'u'lláh desired them to come to the
Most Great Prison. Shamsu'd-Duhá, with the widow of the
King of Martyrs and the children, arrived in the Holy
Land. Here they were joyously spending their days when
the son of the King of Martyrs, Mirzá `Abdu'l-Husayn,
as a result of the awful suffering he had been subjected to in Isfahán, came down with tuberculosis and died in Akká.
Shamsu'd-Duhá was heavy of heart. She mourned his absence,
she wasted away with longing for him, and it was
all much harder because then the Supreme Affliction came
upon us, the crowning anguish. The basis of her life was
undermined; candle-like, she was consumed with grieving.
She grew so feeble that she took to her bed, unable to
move. Still, she did not rest, nor keep silent for a moment.
She would tell of days long gone, of things that had come
to pass in the Cause, or she would recite from Holy Writ,
or she would supplicate, and chant her prayers--until, out
of the Most Great Prison, she soared away to the world of
God. She hastened away from this dust gulf of perdition
to an unsullied country; packed her gear and journeyed to
the land of lights. Unto her be salutations and praise, and
most great mercy, sheltered in the compassion of her omnipotent
Memorials of the Faithful
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