Open Rebellion of Mirza Yahya
Would that he had been content therewith! Nay, he even
attempted to shed the sacred blood (of Bahá'u'lláh) and then
raised a great clamour and tumult around him, attributing unto
Bahá'u'lláh malevolence and cruelty towards himself. What
sedition he stirred up and what a storm of mischief he raised
whilst in the Land of Mystery (Adrianople)! At last, he wrought
that which caused the Day-Star of the world to be sent an exile
to this, the Most Great Prison, and sorely wronged, and in the
West of this Great Prison He did set.
Shedding of the sacred blood is a reference to Mirza Yahya's attempt on the life of Bahá'u'lláh.
Soon after his arrival in Adrianople, Mirza Yahya realized that there was no longer any danger to his life because within a short period Bahá'u'lláh had won the respect and admiration of the dignitaries, including the governor of Adrianople. The inhabitants of the city showed such a spirit of friendliness and cooperation towards the exiled community that Bahá'u'lláh instructed the believers to engage in some work or profession and integrate themselves into the community. Since there was no apparent reason for persecution of the Bahá'ís, Mirza Yahya emboldened by Siyyid Muhammad, decided to emerge from his self-imposed seclusion.
Through his constant association with Siyyid Muhammad and a certain Haji Mirza Ahmad-i-Kashani, an infamous mischief-maker notorious for his vulgar conduct and foul language, Mirza Yahya began openly to sound his rebellion against Bahá'u'lláh. He who always felt so insignificant when he came face to face with Bahá'u'lláh and fell speechless in His presence, was now, prompted by his wicked lieutenant, to rise up against Him and attempt to wrest the leadership of the community from His hands.
To achieve this long-cherished ambition, Mirza Yahya embarked upon a plan which involved him in further acts of crime. He decided that the only way to accomplish his goal was to take Bahá'u'lláh's life, for he knew that he had neither the courage nor the personality to confront Him. Indeed, it was not unthinkable for a man who had already masterminded the assassination of several believers in Baghdad, including the Bab's own cousin, to contemplate ways and means of taking Bahá'u'lláh's life.
The first attempt was carried out by Mirza Yahya's own hands when he poisoned Bahá'u'lláh with a deadly substance. Shoghi Effendi describes this shameful episode:
Desperate designs to poison Bahá'u'lláh and His companions,
and thereby reanimate his own defunct leadership, began, approximately
a year after their arrival in Adrianople, to agitate his
mind. Well aware of the erudition of his half-brother, Aqay-i-Kalim,
in matters pertaining to medicine, he, under various
pretexts, sought enlightenment from him regarding the effects of
certain herbs and poisons, and then began, contrary to his wont,
to invite Bahá'u'lláh to his home, where, one day, having
smeared His tea-cup with a substance he had concocted, he succeeded
in poisoning Him sufficiently to produce a serious illness
which lasted no less than a month, and which was accompanied
by severe pains and high fever, the aftermath of which left
Bahá'u'lláh with a shaking hand till the end of His life. So grave
was His condition that a foreign doctor, named Shishman, was
called in to attend Him. The doctor was so appalled by His livid
hue that he deemed His case hopeless, and, after having fallen at
His feet, retired from His presence without prescribing a remedy.
A few days later that doctor fell ill and died. Prior to his death
Bahá'u'lláh had intimated that doctor Shishman had sacrificed
his life for Him. To Mirza Aqa Jan, sent by Bahá'u'lláh to visit
him, the doctor had stated that God had answered his prayers,
and that after his death a certain Dr Chupan, whom he knew to
be reliable, should, whenever necessary, be called in his stead.
[146 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 165-6.]
Despite this heinous crime, Bahá'u'lláh advised His followers not to spread the news of the poisoning. But Mirza Yahya lost his nerve and shamefully accused Bahá'u'lláh of trying to poison him, and as a result, the story had to be told. The believers and those who were in close contact with them then became aware that the poison administered by Mirza Yahya had been the cause of Bahá'u'lláh's serious illness. The contrast between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood, Bahá'u'lláh's sin-covering eye and Mirza Yahya's corruption and wickedness, was evident to all.
This episode created deep turmoil and agitation within the community. Some time passed and the situation was beginning to simmer down when another serious attempt by Mirza Yahya to assassinate Bahá'u'lláh brought about an unprecedented commotion within the community, resulting in the final parting of the ways between Bahá'u'lláh and His unfaithful half-brother.
This time Mirza Yahya made plans to carry out his sinister designs in the public bath[*] frequented by Bahá'u'lláh. For some time he began to show favours to Ustad Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Salmani,[**] a barber who served in the household of Bahá'u'lláh and was His bath attendant. eventually Mirza Yahya intimated to Salmani in a subtle way that he could render a great service to the Cause if he were to assassinate Bahá'u'lláh while attending Him in the bath.
[* Public baths, known in the West as Turkish baths, were the only type available to people in those days because houses had no baths built in them. These baths, with their warm and steamy atmosphere, were used by people as a place to wash and relax for hours. This meant that a public bath was a place for social occasions where people gathered, exchanged news and discussed many topics. In these baths people were not fully naked and wore loin-cloths. Often, friends used to go to the bath on the same day in order to spend time together. The baths provided customers with attendants who washed them and performed other services such as the applying of henna, shaving and massaging. Important people usually had their own bath attendants.]
[** For a story of his life and services, see Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2 p. 155. Salmani should not be confused with Shaykh Salman.]
The following is a summary translation of Salmani's memoirs describing this shameful incident:
One day I went to the bath and awaited the arrival of the Blessed
Beauty. Azal [Mirza Yahya] arrived first. I attended to him and
applied henna. He began to talk to me. For some time he had been
trying hard to make me his follower but he was doing this in a
secret way. He said to me: 'Last night I dreamt that someone had
a sweeping brush in his hand and was sweeping the area around
me.'[***] He gave me to understand that this person was the Blessed
Beauty. From the tone of his conversation, I knew that he wanted
me to do something for him but he did not tell me anything and
soon left the bath...
[*** The connotation of these words in Persian is that Bahá'u'lláh was a humble
servant of Mirza Yahya.]
I was deep in my thoughts concerning the words of Azal. I did
not understand his purpose in implying that the Blessed Beauty
was sweeping the floor around him. However, it was quite clear
that he wanted me to carry out a special task for him. At the same
time I noted that Haji Mirza Ahmad was trying to convert me to
follow Azal. During the course of several days he persisted in trying
to win me over.
He said, 'A certain Mirza Na'im, the former Governor of Nayriz,
killed many believers and perpetrated many crimes against the
Cause.' He then praised courage and bravery in glowing tern He
said that some were brave by nature and at the right time they
would manifest that quality in their actions. He then continued the
story of Mirza Na'im. 'From the persecuted family of the believers
there remained a young boy aged ten or eleven. One day, when
Mirza Na'im went into the bath, this boy went in with a knife. As
he was coming out of the water, the boy stabbed him and ripped
his belly open. Mirza Na'im screamed and his servants who were
in the ante-room rushed in. They went for the boy, attacked and
beat him. Then they went to see how their master was. The boy,
although wounded, rose up and stabbed him again.' Azal praised
courage again and said, 'How wonderful it is for a man to be brave.
Now, see what they are doing to the Cause of God. Everybody
harms it, everyone has arisen against me, even my brother. I have
no comfort whatsoever and am in a wretched state.' His tone
implied that he, the nominee of the Bab, was the wronged one, and
his Brother (I take refuge in God!) was the usurper and aggressor.
Then he once mom praised courage and said that the Cause of
God needed help. In all this talk, the tone of his remarks, the story
of Mirza Na'im, the praise of courage and his encouragement to
me, he was in fact telling me to kill Bahá'u'lláh.
The effect of all this upon me was so disturbing that in all my
life I had never felt so shattered. It was as if the whole building was
falling upon my head. I was frightened; without uttering a word
I went out to the ante-room: My mind was in a state of the utmost
agitation. I thought to myself that I would go inside and cut Azal's
head off regardless of consequences. Then I thought, to kill him
is easy but perhaps I would offend the Blessed Beauty. One thing
which prevented me from carrying out my intention was the
thought that if I killed him and then went into the presence of
the Blessed Beauty, and He asked me why I had killed him, what
answer could I give?
I returned to the bath and being extremely angry, I shouted at
him, 'Go and get lost, clear of!' He whimpered and trembled and
asked me to pour water over him. I complied. Washed or unwashed
he went out in a state of great trepidation and I have never seen
My state of mind, however, was such that nothing could calm
me. As it happened, that day the Blessed Beauty did not come to
the bath, but Aqa Mirza Musay-i-Kalim [Bahá'u'lláh's faithful
brother] came. I told him that Azal had set me on fire with his
sinister suggestion. Aqa Mirza Musa said: 'He has been thinking
of this for years, this man has always been thinking in this way. Do
not pay any attention to him.' He counselled me to disregard the
whole thing and went inside the bath.
However, when my work was finished in the bath, I went to the
Master ['Abdu'l-Bahá] and reported to Him what Mirza Yahya had
told me, and how I was filled with rage and wanted to kill him ...
the Master said, 'This is something that you alone know. Do not
mention it to anyone, it is better that it remain hidden.' I then went
to Mirza Aqa Jan, reported the details of the incident, and asked
him to tell Bahá'u'lláh. He returned and said, 'Bahá'u'lláh says to
tell Ustad Muhammad-'Ali not to mention this to anyone.'
That night I collected all the writings of Azal and went to the
tea-room[*] of Bahá'u'lláh's house and burnt them all in the brazier.
Before doing so, I showed them to seven or eight of the believers
who were present. They all saw that they were the writings of Azal.
They all protested to me and asked me the reason for doing this.
I said, 'Until today I esteemed Azal highly, but now he is less than
a dog in my sight.'[**]
[** Reception room of Bahá'u'lláh where the believers usually gathered.]
[** In Persian, this designation is much more insulting than it sounds in English.]
Because of Bahá'u'lláh's sin-covering eye and His loving kindness towards Mirza Yahya and because Yahya was Bahá'u'lláh's half-brother, the faithful believers treated him with respect and consideration. But after these vicious attacks on Bahá'u'lláh, it was natural for them to turn their backs on him. After Salmani failed to keep the details of the incident to himself, the news spread and created a great upheaval in the community.
At this point Bahá'u'lláh decided to formally declare to Mirza Yahya as the nominee of the Bab, His claim to be the Author of a new Revelation, 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', as foretold by the Bab. Of course, Mirza Yahya was well aware of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration in the Garden of Ridvan and the Tablets subsequently revealed by Him. But now the time had come for the Supreme Manifestation of God to formally announce His station to the one who was nominated by the Bab to be the leader of His followers until the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.
In order to communicate this message to Mirza Yahya, Bahá'u'lláh revealed the Suriy-i-Amr (Surih of Command) in His own handwriting and instructed His amanuensis Mirza Aqa Jan to take the Tablet to Mirza Yahya, read it aloud and demand a conclusive reply from him. On being apprised of the contents of the Tablet and the claims of Bahá'u'lláh, Mirza Yahya indicated that he needed some time during which to meditate on the subject. The following day he sent a message to Bahá'u'lláh that he himself had become the recipient of divine Revelation and it was incumbent upon all to obey and follow him.
Such a claim maintained by so perfidious a person evolved the wrath of God and brought about the eventual split between Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahya. It must be remembered that the majority of the believers in Adrianople were faithful to Bahá'u'lláh and until then had associated freely with Mirza Yahya and a small number of his henchmen; now the situation changed.
Mirza Yahya's response to the Suriy-i-Amr- was a clear signal for separation. Bahá'u'lláh, who was then residing in the house of Amru'llah, changed His residence to the house of Rida Big. This was on 10 March 1866. Only the members of His own family and one servant moved to this house and He allowed no one else to attain His presence. As a result, the community of exiles was cut off from His blessed person and left entirely on its own. This withdrawal, similar to His withdrawal to the mountains of Kurdistan a few years earlier, plunged the community into a grievous state and created severe tests and trials for the believers. On the other hand, it afforded each one of the exiles the opportunity to choose between Bahá'u'lláh and His unfaithful brother.
Bahá'u'lláh's faithful followers, those lovers of His beauty, became dispirited. The light had departed from their midst and they were enveloped in a darkness that obscured their vision and left them helpless and disconsolate. Aqay-i-Kalim, Bahá'u'lláh's faithful brother who carried the weight of responsibility during Bahá'u'lláh's retirement in the house of Rida Big, recounted to Nabil these words:
That day witnessed a most great commotion. All the companions
lamented in their separation from the Blessed Beauty.
[147 Quoted in ibid. p. 167. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By.)]
Another witness to those grievous days has recorded:
Those days were marked by tumult and confusion. We were sore-perplexed
and greatly feared lest we be permanently deprived of
the bounty of His presence.
[148 Quoted in ibid. p. 167. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By.)]
Even those who were unfaithful to Bahá'u'lláh were disturbed by His withdrawal, as they knew only too well that it was through His guiding influence that they were living in relative safety and security. These men were now left to their own devices and were soon engulfed in a most troublesome situation created by their own hands.
The retirement of Bahá'u'lláh to the house of Rida Big and His refusal to meet with any of the exiles created a situation in which everyone was left by himself to decide his own spiritual destiny. Those few who were inclined towards Mirza Yahya congregated together and began to launch their attacks on the faithful ones, while the rest occupied their time mostly in prayer and devotions, supplicating God to relieve them of this grievous separation from their Lord. Before taking up residence in the house of Rida Big, Bahá'u'lláh ordered His brother Aqay-i-Kalim to send half of the furniture, bedding and utensils to the house of Mirza Yahya. He also sent him certain historic relics such as the rings of the Bab, His seals and manuscripts. These were the items which the Bab had sent to Bahá'u'lláh prior to His martyrdom and which were coveted by Mirza Yahya. Bahá'u'lláh also asked Darvish Sidq-'Ali, one of His faithful followers, to act as a servant in the household of Mirza Yahya. Although loath to serve the one who was in his sight the embodiment of deceit and falsehood, this devoted soul wholeheartedly obeyed Bahá'u'lláh and engaged himself in Mirza Yahya's service. Soon other circumstances relieved him of this most unpleasant task. As already mentioned, those few individuals who were weak and vacillating in their faith joined Mirza Yahya and, emboldened by the absence of Bahá'u'lláh, began their contemptible activities against the Faith of God.
Mirza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad started a vigorous letter-writing campaign to discredit Bahá'u'lláh in the eyes of the believers and the authorities. They loaded their letters with lies and disgraceful calumnies, accusing Bahá'u'lláh of the very crimes they themselves had committed, and disseminated them far and wide among the believers in Persia and Iraq. These slanderous letters disturbed the Babi community and confused many. Some weaker believers lost their faith altogether; a small number were inclined towards Mirza Yahya. A few wrote to Bahá'u'lláh for clarification. As a result several Tablets were revealed in this period describing the true state of affairs. However, the majority of the believers remained faithful to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. These souls arose with determination and dedication to vindicate the truth of the Cause of God. Many of them, such as Nabil-A'zam, Munib and Ahmad-i-Yazdi,[*] who travelled throughout Persia, championed the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and defended it valiantly against the onslaught of the unfaithful.
[* See Taherzadeh, Revelation of vol. 2 for accounts of these two.]
It was through Mirza Yahya's own actions that the news of his infidelity to the Cause of God was effectively communicated to the community in Persia and signalled the permanent rupture between him and his illustrious brother. While Bahá'u'lláh had withdrawn Himself from the community in Adrianople, Siyyid Muhammad and Mirza Yahya were actively engaged in damaging His reputation in government circles. The latter sent a petition to the governor, Khurshid Pasha, and his assistant, 'Aziz Pasha. It was couched in obsequious language, contained false statements about Bahá'u'lláh, and was aimed at discrediting Him in the eyes of the governor who was one of His ardent admirers.
Later, the governor shared this letter with Bahá'u'lláh and its contents became known to the believers. Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali,[*] who arrived in Adrianople a few months after this shameful episode, writes of Mirza Yahya's petition to the authorities in these words:
[* For his story see Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2.]
When Azal arose in hostility with his satanic spirit to oppose and
challenge the Blessed Beauty, through calumnies and false accusations, he
wrote a letter to the Governor of Adrianople. We all saw
this letter: It opened with these words: 'May my soul and body be
a sacrifice to thee.' It went on to say: 'O thou 'Aziz ['Aziz Pasha],
we come to you in destitution, grant us some corn.' He continues
falsely to accuse the Ancient Beauty of having cut off his livelihood.
The opening sentence of his letter, the statement of his needs
and the complaints all demonstrate that God cannot be confused
with man, and that there is no likeness between the two. We see
the contrast, for instance, in these words of the Ancient Beauty as
He addressed the late Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz:[**] 'O thou Ra'is [Chief],
hearken to the voice of God, the Supreme Ruler, the Help in Peril,
the Self-Subsisting. He verily calleth between earth and heaven and
summoneth mankind to the scene of effulgent glory.'
[** This Tablet is actually addressed to 'Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizir of the Sultan.]
In this blessed Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh prophesies that the Sultan
will lose his throne and the country will pass out of his hands...
To return to our subject: Bahá'u'lláh had, through an intermediary,
proved to the Governor that these allegations [by Mirza Yahya]
were false and, in a message, explained to him that these calumnies
were designed to hurt and humiliate Him.'
[149 Haydar-'Ali, Bihjatu's-Sudur, p. 76.]
Concerning these distasteful events, Shoghi Effendi writes:
He [Bahá'u'lláh] was soon after informed that this same brother
[Mirza Yahya] had despatched one of his wives to the government
house to complain that her husband had been cheated of his rights,
and that her children were on the verge of starvation — an accusation
that spread far and wide and, reaching Constantinople,
became, to Bahá'u'lláh's profound distress, the subject of excited
discussion and injurious comment in circles that had previously
been greatly impressed by the high standard which His noble and
dignified behaviour had set in that city.
[150 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 167-8.]
Some time later in a Tablet[***] to Shaykh Salman, Bahá'u'lláh reveals the agony of His heart during this period and recounts the calumnies
of Mirza Yahya concerning his share of the government allowance, which was always divided equitably between the exiles. In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh explains that had it not been for the sake of His companions in exile, He would have never accepted any allowance from the authorities. Indeed, soon after these heart-rending events, Bahá'u'lláh refused to draw this allowance and sometimes had to sell some of His belongings in order to provide for His daily needs.
[*** See Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2, ch. 13, and vol. 1, pp. 109-13.]
As a result of the many calumnies which were circulating in Adrianople and were extremely hurtful to Him and His loved ones, Bahá'u'lláh ended His retirement which had lasted about two months and came forward to check the misdeeds of His wicked opponents. It was at this time that Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani was finally and effectively expelled from the community and the parting of Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahya — referred to as 'the Most Great Separation' — became official. The two-month withdrawal of Bahá'u'lláh was an act of providence in that it identified the unfaithful. When Bahá'u'lláh emerged every one of the exiles knew to which side he belonged. The few gathered around Mirza Yahya intensified their evil activities and spread their shameful calumnies further to the heart of the Ottoman Empire, poisoning the minds of the Grand Vizir and the Sultan against Bahá'u'lláh.
The announcement by Bahá'u'lláh of 'the Most Great Separation' had an electrifying effect on the community of believers in Persia. The great majority of the followers of the Bab, estimated by Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali in his immortal Bihjatu's-Sudur to be about 99 percent, embraced the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. From that time onward those who followed Mirza Yahya were identified as the breakers of the Covenant of the Bab and became known as Azalis, after Mirza Yahya's title Subh-i-Azal. At the same time the followers of Bahá'u'lláh were designated as the people of Baha, the Bahá'ís.
The separation between Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahya was a clear signal for the followers of Bahá'u'lláh to dissociate themselves from Mirza Yahya and those who had gathered around him. Mirza Yahya was now living with his family in a separate house and Siyyid Muhammad was among the Muslims. For about 18 months these two continued to devise ways and means of discrediting Bahá'u'lláh and His faithful companions. They spread calumnies and falsehoods among the citizens of Adrianople and the authorities in Istanbul, all aimed at undermining the foundations of the Cause of God and tarnishing the good reputation and honour of its Author. In Persia, too, Mirza Yahya distributed among the believers his letters loaded with untrue stories. The confusion created by his venomous statements gave rise to much conflict and disturbance in that community.
About one-and-a-half years passed and Mirza Yahya's intrigues and machinations had reached their climax when suddenly the hand of God struck him down, brought about his doom and degraded him in the eyes of his supporters and the authorities in Adrianople. The incident that precipitated this downfall was entirely of his own making.
Siyyid Muhammad was heavily engaged in his activities aimed at publicly discrediting Bahá'u'lláh. In the course of his plottings he came up with the idea of arranging a public confrontation between Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahya. In advocating this confrontation, Siyyid Muhammad was confident that Bahá'u'lláh would never accept such a challenge because he had observed over the years that Bahá'u'lláh usually did not seek to appear in public. He also knew of His forbearance and sin-covering attitude whenever He was confronted with those who opposed Him. For these reasons he apprised his Muslim associates of his plans.
This type of event, known in Islam as 'mubahilih', goes back to the days of Muhammad when a deputation of the unbelievers of Najran in Medina challenged the Prophet to a confrontation. It is a challenge between truth and falsehood. The two parties come together face to face and it is believed that in such a confrontation the power of truth will destroy the ungodly. Siyyid Muhammad confidently asserted to the Muslim community that whereas Mirza Yahya was ready and willing to take part in a public confrontation, Bahá'u'lláh was not.
While these wild statements were circulating in Adrianople, the believers in Persia were in a state of agitation because of Mirza Yahya's false propaganda. One of the believers from Shiraz, a certain Mir Muhammad-i-Mukari (driver of beasts of burden) came to Adrianople. This believer had accompanied the Bab as a caravan-driver from Baghdad to Mecca and, later, accompanied Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdad to Istanbul.
Mir Muhammad was of the opinion that a public confrontation would help to clarify the situation. He urged Siyyid Muhammad to induce Mirza Yahya to meet Bahá'u'lláh in a public place for all to see and he himself promised to invite Bahá'u'lláh to accept the challenge. This he did and Bahá'u'lláh responded positively to his request. Shoghi Effendi describes this episode:
Foolishly assuming that his illustrious Brother would never
countenance such a proposition, Mirza Yahya appointed the mosque of
Sultan Salim as the place for their encounter. No sooner had
Bahá'u'lláh been informed of this arrangement than He set forth,
on foot, in the heat of midday, and accompanied by this same Mir
Muhammad, for the afore-mentioned mosque, which was situated
in a distant part of the city, reciting, as He walked, through the
streets and markets, verses, in a voice and in a manner that greatly
astonished those who saw and heard Him.
'O Muhammad!', are some of the words He uttered on that
memorable occasion, as testified by Himself in a Tablet, 'He Who
is the Spirit hath, verily, issued from His habitation, and with Him
have come forth the souls of God's chosen ones and the realities
of His Messengers. Behold, then, the dwellers of the realms on
high above Mine head, and all the testimonies of the Prophets in
My grasp. Say: Were all the divines, all the wise men, all the kings
and rulers on earth to gather together, I, in very truth, would
confront them, and would proclaim the verses of God, the Sovereign,
the Almighty, the All-Wise. I am He Who feareth no one,
though all who are in heaven and all who are on earth rise up
against Me... This is Mine hand which God hath turned white
for all the worlds to behold. This is My staff; were We to cast it
down, it would, of a truth, swallow up all created things.' Mir
Muhammad, who had been sent ahead to announce Bahá'u'lláh's
arrival, soon returned, and informed Him that he who had challenged
His authority wished, owing to unforeseen circumstances,
to postpone for a day or two the interview. Upon His return to His
house Bahá'u'lláh revealed a Tablet, wherein He recounted what
had happened, fixed the time for the postponed interview, sealed
the Tablet with His seal, entrusted it to Nabil, and instructed him
to deliver it to one of the new believers, Mulla Muhammad-i-Tabrizi,
for the information of Siyyid Muhammad, who was in the
habit of frequenting that believer's shop. It was arranged to demand
from Siyyid Muhammad, ere the delivery of that Tablet, a
sealed note pledging Mirza Yahya, in the event of failing to appear
at the trysting-place, to affirm in writing that his claims were false.
Siyyid Muhammad promised that he would produce the next day
the document required, and though Nabil, for three successive
days, waited in that shop for the reply, neither did the Siyyid
appear, nor was such a note sent by him. That undelivered Tablet,
Nabil, recording twenty-three years later this historic episode in
his chronicle, affirms was still in his possession, 'as fresh as the day
on which the Most Great Branch had penned it, and the seal of the
Ancient Beauty had sealed and adorned it', a tangible and irrefutable
testimony to Bahá'u'lláh's established ascendancy over a
[151 ibid pp. 168-9. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By.)]
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, the celebrated Bahá'í teacher, was in Adrianople at the time and recounts the events as he witnessed them on that memorable day The following is a summary translation of his memoirs:
The meeting was to be on Friday at the mosque of Sultan Salim
at the time of the congregational prayer when the Muslims gather
inside in great numbers... Mir Muhammad-i-Mukari from Shiraz
who was a Babi ... could not imagine that Azal had broken the
Covenant. So he begged the Blessed Beauty to enlighten him.
Bahá'u'lláh said to him that if ever Azal came face to face with Him
at a meeting-place, then he could consider Azal's claims to be true.
Mir Muhammad accepted this statement as a criterion for distinguishing
between truth and falsehood and he endeavoured to
bring this meeting about.
The news and date of the confrontation became known among
the peoples of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions in the
city. All of them had heard of the miracles of Moses and the story
of His confrontation with Pharaoh. And now they were expecting
the meeting face to face in the mosque between His Holiness the
Shaykh Effendi [a designation by which the people called Bahá'u'lláh
to express their reverence for Him] and Mirza 'Ali [for fear
of being recognized, Azal called himself by this name], who had
denied Him. Therefore, from the morning of Friday until noon,
a large multitude drawn from the followers of these three religions
had thronged the area between the house of Amru'llah ... and the
entrance to the mosque. The crowd was so large that it was difficult
to move about. Bahá'u'lláh, the Day-Star of Glory, emerged from
His home ... and as He passed through the crowd, people showed
such reverence as is difficult to describe. They greeted Him with
salutations, bowed and opened the way for Him to pass. Many
of them prostrated themselves at His feet and kissed them.
Bahá'u'lláh, the countenance of majesty and omnipotence, in
acknowledgement greeted the crowd by raising His hands (as was
customary among the Ottomans), and expressed His good wishes.
This continued all the way to the mosque. As soon as He entered
the mosque, the preacher, who was delivering his discourse,
became speechless or perhaps he forgot his words. Bahá'u'lláh
went forward, seated Himself and then gave permission for the
preacher to continue. Eventually the preaching and prayers came
to an end. But Azal did not turn up. We heard that he had feigned
illness and asked to be excused.
...When Bahá'u'lláh was about to leave the mosque He said:
'We' owe a visit to the Mawlavis. We had better go to their takyih.'
As He rose to go, the Governor of Adrianople and other dignitaries,
together with the divines, availed themselves of the opportunity
to be in His presence and so they accompanied Him. As a token
of their humility and courtesy, the Governor, the Shaykhu'l-Islam,
the 'ulama [divines and men of learning] and other dignitaries
walked four or five steps behind Bahá'u'lláh while the stream of
His utterance was flowing. Sometimes, through His grace and
loving-kindness, Bahá'u'lláh would stop and beckon the Governor
and the others to walk in front.[*] But they would refuse to do so.
In this way, with majesty and glory born of God, Bahá'u'lláh
arrived in the takyih.
[* When an important person walked, it was considered discourteous if his subordinates walked in front of, or abreast of, him except at night, when someone would carry a lantern before him. In order to show their humility, subordinates always walked a few steps behind. For example, this is how the oriental believers conducted themselves when they were walking with Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi.]
[152 Haydar-'Ali, Bihjatu's-Sudur, pp. 77-8.]
Mirza Yahya was now discredited in the eyes of many in Adrianople. In Persia the news of this episode spread among the believers. A Tablet known as Lawh-i-Mubahilih, addressed to Mulla Sadiq-i-Khurasani and describing this event, reached the Bahá'í community in that land and caused some wavering souls among the friends to recognize the power and majesty of Bahá'u'lláh in breaking up, once and for all, this great 'idol' of the Babi community.
This dramatic downfall of Mirza Yahya was, as testified by Shoghi Effendi, clearly foretold by St Paul in the following passage:
Let no man deceive you by any means; for [that day shall not
come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin
be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth
himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that
he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall
consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the
brightness of His coming...
[153 2 Thess. 2:3,4, 8.]
The downfall of this perfidious figure who betrayed his Lord and rose up against Him coincided with an unprecedented outpouring from the Supreme Pen. The verses of God were sent down in great profusion and resulted, soon afterwards, in the proclamation of His Message to the kings and rulers of the world.
The casting out of Mirza Yahya and his followers from the community of the Most Great Name brought about his gradual downfall and ultimate extinction in later years. In the summer of 1868 the edict of Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, which condemned Bahá'u'lláh to life-long imprisonment in the fortress-city of 'Akka in the Holy Land, sent Mirza Yahya to the island of Cyprus. There he was confined in the city of Famagusta until 1878 when the island passed from Turkish to British rule. He then decided to remain in Cyprus and receive a pension from the British government, living freely on that island until his death in 1912. During this time he achieved nothing significant.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, in one of His talks, describes how in all these years Mirza Yahya did not succeed in converting a single soul on that island to his cause. Instead he spent his life in the company of his many wives and was father to several ill-bred children of low intelligence and capacity.
At last, he wrought that which caused the Day-Star of the
world to be sent an exile to this, the Most Great Prison, and
sorely wronged, and in the West of this Great Prison He did set.
The circumstances that brought about the exile of Bahá'u'lláh to the Most Great Prison in 'Akka are briefly described in chapter 8.
One of the main contributory factors prompting 'Ali-Pasha, the Grand Vizir, to submit to the Sultan his recommendation for Bahá'u'lláh's exile, was the exaggerated reports and falsehoods he received from Mirza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad. Their campaign of misrepresentation, lasting almost 18 months, included letters from Mirza Yahya to government officials. These were filled with calumnies confirmed by a constant flow of anonymous letters written by Siyyid Muhammad and his accomplice, Aqa Jan Big, known as Kaj Kulah, and were all aimed at discrediting Bahá'u'lláh. They perverted the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and accused Him, among other things, of having conspired, with the aid of His Persian followers, with the Bulgarian leaders and high-ranking officials of certain European powers, to conquer Constantinople and overthrow the government. Such preposterous claims alarmed the authorities and hastened their resolve to banish Bahá'u'lláh to the prison city of 'Akka where they thought His Cause would die away and be consigned to oblivion forever'.