Re: Question about vita of Baha`ullah.

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Posted by Jack ( on May 24, 2003 at 20:54:29:

In Reply to: Question about vita of Baha`ullah. posted by Noebel on May 23, 2003 at 23:19:17:

Hi Noebel,

Below is a snippet of information pertaining to Baha'u'llah and his two year retreat in Kurdistan. Enjoy!

There is much evidence that Bahá'u'lláh was sympathetic to and had close relations with many Muslim mystics, Sufis, during his lifetime. The clearest evidence for this comes from the Baghdad period. When Bahá'u'lláh left Baghdad because of disunity among the Bábís, he took up the lifestyles of a wandering dervish among the Sulaymaniyyah mountains. He soon became regarded as a Sufi shaykh and was invited by the head of the Khalidiyyah (Naqshbandiyyah Order) in the Kurdish town of Sulaymaniyyah to stay in their takiyyah (retreat). While there, Bahá'u'lláh expounded on the great mystical text, the Futúhát Makkiyyah of Ibn al-`Arabí. He also composed a poem, the Qasídah-yi Warqá'iyyah (Ode of the Dove), in the style of the Tá'iyyah, a famous poem of the Sufi master, Ibn Fárid. Although the Bábís of Baghdad managed to persuade Bahá'u'lláh to return there, he continued his ties with the Kurdish Sufis, who visited him from time to time in Baghdad. He was in touch not only with the Naqshbandiyyah Order but also with the Qádiriyyah Order, since, during these years in Baghdad, he wrote the Four Valleys for a Kurdish Sufi leader whom he had met in Sulaymáníyyih, Shaykh `Abdu'r-Rahmán Tálabání of Kirkúk, the head of the Talabánís, a prominent Kurdish family, and leader (shaykh) of the Qádirí Sufi order in Kurdistan. Bahá'u'lláh also wrote the Seven Valleys for Shaykh Muhiyu'd-Dín, a Sufi of the Qádirí order, who was to succeed his father as a Sufi shaykh in Gilzarda. In these texts, Bahá'u'lláh showed himself to be perfectly at home with Sufi terminology and concepts.

During the rest of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourns, he remained in touch with Sufi initiates and shaykhs. Hájí Mírzá Ridá Qulí Safá, a well-known Sufi shaykh of the Ni`matu'lláhí order, visited him in Istanbul, Hájí Muhammad `Alí Pírzádih, a celebrated Sufi, boarded Bahá'u'lláh's ship at Alexandria to pay his respects, and Hájí Muhammad `Alí Sayyah, visited Bahá'u'lláh in Akka. Many Ottoman officials were inclined to Sufism and several of these came to regard Bahá'u'lláh very highly on account of the spirituality they observed in him. Among these was Sulayman Pasha, a Sufi of the Qádiriyyah Order, who was governor of Edirne, while Bahá'u'lláh was there and Bahá'u'lláh instructed `Abdu'l-Bahá to respond to a request from Safvet Pasha for a commentary on an Islamic Tradition much favoured by Sufis ("I was a Hidden Treasure . . .).

Among those who became Bahá'ís during the time of Bahá'u'lláh, there were many who were either Sufis, or were inclined towards Sufism. Among these was the famous calligrapher Mírzá Muh@ammad H@usayn Mishkín-Qalam, who was a Sufi of the Ni`matulláhí order, Sulaymán Khán, later known as Jamál Effendi, and Ahmad Yazdí, to whom the Arabic Tablet of Ahmad was addressed, together with several of the companions of Bahá'u'lláh in his journeys, including Darvish Sidq `Alí, Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí Isfahání, and Hájí Muhammad Khan Balúch. Many other prominent disciples of Bahá'u'lláh either showed interest in Sufism or wore the garb of dervishes for a time. These include Mullá Muhammad Zarandí Nabil-i A`zam and Mullá Muhammad Qá'iní Nabíl-i Akbar.

There were also a number of conversions among Iranian Sufi dervishes, who, even after conversion, continued as wandering dervishes. Hájí Qalandar of Hamadan, upon becoming a Bahá'í took to the road and lived the life of a wandering dervish, meeting with and converting other dervishes. He visited Akka on several occasions, once in the company of another Bahá'í dervish Sádiq-`Alí Qazvíní (Mazandarání n.d., 6:711-12). Hájí `Abdu'l-Karím of Qazvin, a twenty-year-old man from a wealthy family, met Hájí Qalandar and was converted both to the Bahá'í Faith and the dervish way of life. Leaving behind all his property, he took the Sufi name of `Árif-`Ali and began to travel. After a time, a certain Ismá`íl joined him as student, taking the Sufi name Hájí Tayfúr. These two travelled through the Ottoman domains eventually reaching Akka, where Bahá'u'lláh gave Hájí `Abdu'l-Karím the name of Hájí Mu'nis (Mazandarání n.d., 6:554-5). In Baghdad, the two travellers met and converted Hájí Tavangar, another dervish from Qazvin and four of his companions (Mazandarání n.d., 6:555-6). In this way, the Bahá'í Faith gradually spread among the dervishes. On one occasion, a group of six Bahá'í dervishes appeared in Akka to visit Bahá'u'lláh.

It would appear that Bahá'u'lláh looked to Sufism and mysticism as a way of attracting Sunnis to the Bahá'í Faith, since Sunnis were usually hostile to anything that emerged from Iran and which they therefore considered tainted with Shi`ism. This process started in Baghdad where Bahá'u'lláh produced several mystical works in a style familiar to Sufis. But it was from Akka that Bahá'u'lláh appears to have organised and directed a campaign to spread the Bahá'í Faith among Arab, Turkish and Indian Sunnis through Bahá'í mystics, who would travel through these lands in the garb of dervishes, speaking to the people and hoping to guide a few to the Bahá'í Faith. They would, of course, use Bahá'u'lláh's Seven Valley and Four Valleys as well as his mystical poetry for this. Among those who appear to have been specifically instructed by Bahá'u'lláh to carry out this campaign were Hájí Qalandar, who after visiting Bahá'u'lláh, travelled through Syria, Iraq and Anatolia (Mazandarání n.d., 6:711-12); Jamal Effendi, who was instructed by Bahá'u'lláh to travel in the garb of a Sufi dervish throughout the Ottoman domains and to teach the Bahá'í Faith thus (1871-5; Samandar, Tarikh, 213 and Momen 1999-2000, 50) and who was later instructed to continue in the same way throughout India, south-east and central Asia (Momen 1999-2000); Hájí Eliyáhú who, after visiting Bahá'u'lláh in Akka, travelled throughout the Sunni world in dervish dress (Mazandarání n.d., 6:674); and Sayyid Háshim of Káshán, who spent seven years, on Bahá'u'lláh's instructions, wandering through Iraq, Syria and the Arabian peninsula dressed as a darvish, (Vahid-Tehrani n.d., 1-2). None of these individuals appears to have had any great success, however, except for Jamál Effendi's efforts in India and Burma. Later, `Abdu'l-Bahá appears to have abandoned this plan in favour of using Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygání to approach the more orthodox Sunni Muslims at the Azhár University in Cairo.
Source: Moojan Momen, Mysticism and the Baha'i Community;


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