which was to enable them, in the course of time, to noise abroad the fame of that bountiful Giver, swell the ranks of His admirers, scatter far and wide His writings, enlarge the limits of His congregation, and lay a firm foundation for the future erection of the institutions of His Faith. And finally, before the gaze of the diversified communities that dwelt within its gates, the first phase in the gradual unfoldment of a newborn Revelation was ushered in, the first effusions from the inspired pen of its Author were recorded, the first principles of His slowly crystallizing doctrine were formulated, the first implications of His august station were apprehended, the first attacks aiming at the disruption of His Faith from within were launched, the first victories over its internal enemies were registered, and the first pilgrimages to the Door of His Presence were undertaken.
This life-long exile to which the Bearer of so precious a Message was now providentially condemned did not, and indeed could not, manifest, either suddenly or rapidly, the potentialities latent within it. The process whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifested to the eyes of men was slow, painfully slow, and was characterized, as indeed the history of His Faith from its inception to the present day demonstrates, by a number of crises which at times threatened to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered.
One such crisis which, as it deepened, threatened to jeopardize His newborn Faith and to subvert its earliest foundations, overshadowed the first years of His sojourn in Iraq, the initial stage in His life-long exile, and imparted to them a special significance. Unlike those which preceded it, this crisis was purely internal in character, and was occasioned solely by the acts, the ambitions and follies of those who were numbered among His recognized fellow-disciples.
The external enemies of the Faith, whether civil or ecclesiastical, who had thus far been chiefly responsible for the reverses and humiliations it had suffered, were by now relatively quiescent. The public appetite for revenge, which had seemed insatiable, had now, to some extent, in consequence of the torrents of blood that had flowed, abated. A feeling, bordering on exhaustion and despair, had, moreover, settled on some of its most inveterate enemies, who were astute enough to perceive that though the Faith had bent beneath the grievous blows their hands had dealt it, its structure had remained essentially unimpaired and its spirit unbroken. The orders issued to the governors of the provinces by the Grand Vizir had had, furthermore,
a sobering effect on the local authorities, who were now dissuaded from venting their fury upon, and from indulging in their sadistic cruelties against, a hated adversary.
A lull had, in consequence, momentarily ensued, which was destined to be broken, at a later stage, by a further wave of repressive measures in which the Sultán of Turkey and his ministers, as well as the Sunní sacerdotal order, were to join hands with the Sháh and the Shí'ah clericals of Persia and Iraq in an endeavor to stamp out, once and for all, the Faith and all it stood for. While this lull persisted the initial manifestations of the internal crisis, already mentioned, were beginning to reveal themselves--a crisis which, though less spectacular in the public eye, proved itself, as it moved to its climax, to be one of unprecedented gravity, reducing the numerical strength of the infant community, imperiling its unity, causing immense damage to its prestige, and tarnishing for a considerable period of time its glory.
This crisis had already been brewing in the days immediately following the execution of the Báb, was intensified during the months when the controlling hand of Bahá'u'lláh was suddenly withdrawn as a result of His confinement in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán, was further aggravated by His precipitate banishment from Persia, and began to protrude its disturbing features during the first years of His sojourn in Baghdád. Its devastating force gathered momentum during His two year retirement to the mountains of Kurdistán, and though it was checked, for a time, after His return from Sulaymáníyyih, under the overmastering influences exerted preparatory to the Declaration of His Mission, it broke out later, with still greater violence, and reached its climax in Adrianople, only to receive finally its death-blow under the impact of the irresistible forces released through the proclamation of that Mission to all mankind.
Its central figure was no less a person than the nominee of the Báb Himself, the credulous and cowardly Mírzá Yahyá, to certain traits of whose character reference has already been made in the foregoing pages. The black-hearted scoundrel who befooled and manipulated this vain and flaccid man with consummate skill and unyielding persistence was a certain Siyyid Muhammad, a native of Isfahán, notorious for his inordinate ambition, his blind obstinacy and uncontrollable jealousy. To him Bahá'u'lláh had later referred in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the one who had "led astray" Mírzá Yahyá, and stigmatized him, in one of His Tablets, as the "source of envy and the quintessence of mischief," while `Abdu'l-Bahá had described the
relationship existing between these two as that of "the sucking child" to the "much-prized breast" of its mother. Forced to abandon his studies in the madrisiyi-i-Sadr of Isfahán, this Siyyid had migrated, in shame and remorse, to Kárbilá, had there joined the ranks of the Báb's followers, and shown, after His martyrdom, signs of vacillation which exposed the shallowness of his faith and the fundamental weakness of his convictions. Bahá'u'lláh's first visit to Kárbilá and the marks of undisguised reverence, love and admiration shown Him by some of the most distinguished among the former disciples and companions of Siyyid Kázim, had aroused in this calculating and unscrupulous schemer an envy, and bred in his soul an animosity, which the forbearance and patience shown him by Bahá'u'lláh had served only to inflame. His deluded helpers, willing tools of his diabolical designs, were the not inconsiderable number of Bábís who, baffled, disillusioned and leaderless, were already predisposed to be beguiled by him into pursuing a path diametrically opposed to the tenets and counsels of a departed Leader.
For, with the Báb no longer in the midst of His followers; with His nominee, either seeking a safe hiding place in the mountains of Mazindarán, or wearing the disguise of a dervish or of an Arab wandering from town to town; with Bahá'u'lláh imprisoned and subsequently banished beyond the limits of His native country; with the flower of the Faith mown down in a seemingly unending series of slaughters, the remnants of that persecuted community were sunk in a distress that appalled and paralyzed them, that stifled their spirit, confused their minds and strained to the utmost their loyalty. Reduced to this extremity they could no longer rely on any voice that commanded sufficient authority to still their forebodings, resolve their problems, or prescribe to them their duties and obligations.
Nabíl, traveling at that time through the province of Khurásán, the scene of the tumultuous early victories of a rising Faith, had himself summed up his impressions of the prevailing condition. "The fire of the Cause of God," he testifies in his narrative, "had been well-nigh quenched in every place. I could detect no trace of warmth anywhere." In Qazvín, according to the same testimony, the remnant of the community had split into four factions, bitterly opposed to one another, and a prey to the most absurd doctrines and fancies. Bahá'u'lláh upon His arrival in Baghdád, a city which had witnessed the glowing evidences of the indefatigable zeal of Táhirih, found among His countrymen residing in that city no more than a single Bábí, while in Kazímayn inhabited chiefly by Persians, a mere handful
of His compatriots remained who still professed, in fear and obscurity, their faith in the Báb.
The morals of the members of this dwindling community, no less than their numbers, had sharply declined. Such was their "waywardness and folly," to quote Bahá'u'lláh's own words, that upon His release from prison, His first decision was "to arise ... and undertake, with the utmost vigor, the task of regenerating this people."
As the character of the professed adherents of the Báb declined and as proofs of the deepening confusion that afflicted them multiplied, the mischief-makers, who were lying in wait, and whose sole aim was to exploit the progressive deterioration in the situation for their own benefit, grew ever more and more audacious. The conduct of Mírzá Yahyá, who claimed to be the successor of the Báb, and who prided himself on his high sounding titles of Mir'atu'l-Azalíyyih (Everlasting Mirror), of Subh-i-Azal (Morning of Eternity), and of Ismu'l-Azal (Name of Eternity), and particularly the machinations of Siyyid Muhammad, exalted by him to the rank of the first among the "Witnesses" of the Bayán, were by now assuming such a character that the prestige of the Faith was becoming directly involved, and its future security seriously imperiled.
The former had, after the execution of the Báb, sustained such a violent shock that his faith almost forsook him. Wandering for a time, in the guise of a dervish, in the mountains of Mazindarán, he, by his behavior, had so severely tested the loyalty of his fellow-believers in Núr, most of whom had been converted through the indefatigable zeal of Bahá'u'lláh, that they too wavered in their convictions, some of them going so far as to throw in their lot with the enemy. He subsequently proceeded to Rasht, and remained concealed in the province of Gílán until his departure for Kirmansháh, where in order the better to screen himself he entered the service of a certain `Abdu'lláh-i-Qazvíní, a maker of shrouds, and became a vendor of his goods. He was still there when Bahá'u'lláh passed through that city on His way to Baghdád, and expressing a desire to live in close proximity to Bahá'u'lláh but in a house by himself where he could ply some trade incognito, he succeeded in obtaining from Him a sum of money with which he purchased several bales of cotton and then proceeded, in the garb of an Arab, by way of Mandalíj to Baghdád. He established himself there in the street of the Charcoal Dealers, situated in a dilapidated quarter of the city, and placing a turban upon his head, and assuming the name of Hájí Alíy-i-Lás-Furúsh, embarked on his newly-chosen occupation.
Siyyid Muhammad had meanwhile settled in Kárbilá, and was busily engaged, with Mírzá Yahyá as his lever, in kindling dissensions and in deranging the life of the exiles and of the community that had gathered about them.
Little wonder that from the pen of Bahá'u'lláh, Who was as yet unable to divulge the Secret that stirred within His bosom, these words of warning, of counsel and of assurance should, at a time when the shadows were beginning to deepen around Him, have proceeded: "The days of tests are now come. Oceans of dissension and tribulation are surging, and the Banners of Doubt are, in every nook and corner, occupied in stirring up mischief and in leading men to perdition. ...Suffer not the voice of some of the soldiers of negation to cast doubt into your midst, neither allow yourselves to become heedless of Him Who is the Truth, inasmuch as in every Dispensation such contentions have been raised. God, however, will establish His Faith, and manifest His light albeit the stirrers of sedition abhor it. ...Watch ye every day for the Cause of God.... All are held captive in His grasp. No place is there for any one to flee to. Think not the Cause of God to be a thing lightly taken, in which any one can gratify his whims. In various quarters a number of souls have, at the present time, advanced this same claim. The time is approaching when ... every one of them will have perished and been lost, nay will have come to naught and become a thing unremembered, even as the dust itself."
To Mírzá Áqá Ján, "the first to believe" in Him, designated later as Khádimu'-lláh (Servant of God)--a Bábí youth, aflame with devotion, who, under the influence of a dream he had of the Báb, and as a result of the perusal of certain writings of Bahá'u'lláh, had precipitately forsaken his home in Káshán and traveled to Iraq, in the hope of attaining His presence, and who from then on served Him assiduously for a period of forty years in his triple function of amanuensis, companion and attendant--to him Bahá'u'lláh, more than to any one else, was moved to disclose, at this critical juncture, a glimpse of the as yet unrevealed glory of His station. This same Mírzá Áqá Ján, recounting to Nabíl his experiences, on that first and never to be forgotten night spent in Kárbilá, in the presence of his newly-found Beloved, Who was then a guest of Hájí Mírzá Hasan-i-Hakím-Báshí, had given the following testimony: "As it was summer-time Bahá'u'lláh was in the habit of passing His evenings and of sleeping on the roof of the House.... That night, when He had gone to sleep, I, according to His directions, lay down for
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