October 10, 2018

Roses from ‘Abdu’l-Baha

The next morning while I [Ali Kuli Khan] was in our room with my family [in Akka, during their pilgrimage in 1906], a gentle rapping attracted me to the door. There I found 'Abdu'l-Bahá standing with a large white handkerchief full of flowers. He said, "Give these flowers to Florence Khanum [American wife of Ali Kuli Khan] and bring me back the handkerchief." This I obeyed instantly. To our joy and delight, we found the flowers to be no other than a bridal bouquet of white roses. In them I found another small bouquet. It was easy to see its significance! All can imagine our joy upon receiving that blessing! My wife burst into tears of joy; for in this lovely act of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's she found the fulfilment of a prayer she had offered for a long time. The prayer was that she might receive a rose from the hand of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. 
- Ali Kuli Khan  (Notes of pilgrimage during 1906; published in ‘1906 Pilgrim Notes of Ali Kuli Khan’)

September 18, 2018

The story of two brothers - “two most blessed souls”: their virtues are praised by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

...Among those who left their homeland were two carpenters, Ustád Báqir and Ustád Ahmad. These two were brothers, of pure lineage, and natives of Káshán. From the time when both became believers each held the other in his embrace. They harkened to the voice of God, and to His cry of “Am I not your Lord?” they replied, “Yea, verily!”

For a time they stayed on in their own country, occupied with the remembrance of God, characterized by faith and knowledge, respected by friend and stranger alike, known to all for righteousness and trustworthiness, for austerity of life and the fear of God. When the oppressor stretched forth his hands against them, and tormented them beyond endurance, they emigrated to ‘Iráq, to the sheltering care of Bahá’u’lláh. They were two most blessed souls. For some time they remained in ‘Iráq, praying in all lowliness, and supplicating God.

Then Ustád Aḥmad departed for Adrianople, while Ustád Báqir remained in ‘Iráq and was taken as a prisoner to Mosul. Ustád Ahmad went on with the party of Bahá’u’lláh to the Most Great Prison, and Ustád Báqir emigrated from Mosul to Akká. Both of the brothers were under the protection of God and free from every earthly bond. In the prison, they worked at their craft, keeping to themselves, away from friend and stranger alike. Tranquil, dignified, confident, strong in faith, sheltered by the All-Merciful, they happily spent their days. Ustád Báqir was the first to die, and some time afterward his brother followed him.

These two were firm believers, loyal, patient, at all times thankful, at all times supplicating God in lowliness, with their faces turned in His direction. During that long stay in the prison they were never neglectful of duty, never at fault. They were constantly joyful, for they had drunk deep of the holy cup; and when they soared upward, out of the world, the friends mourned over them and asked that by the grace of Bahá’u’lláh, they should be favored and forgiven. These two were embosomed in bounty, and Divinely sustained, and the Blessed Beauty was well pleased with them both; with this provision for their journey, they set out for the world to come. Upon them both be the glory of God the All-Glorious; to each be a seat of truth in the Kingdom of Splendors. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk; ‘Memorials of the Faithful’)

August 17, 2018

What happened to the regiment who executed the Báb

Aqa Jan Khan-i-Khamsih who carried out
the order for the execution of the Báb 
The circumstances pertaining to the execution of the Báb provide us with many lessons to reflect on.

As we recall, the Armenian regiment that was ordered to perform that heinous task of executing the Báb and His companion Anis by firing squad on July 9th, 1950 didn’t succeed at their mission. This was because before carrying out their order their Christian commander Sam Khan had some doubts about that assignment. To him, the Prisoner looked kind and compassionate. He wondered for what crime was He to be put to death? Unable to still the voice of his conscience, Sam Khan had approached the Báb and confessed that as a Christian he entertained no ill against Him, but that he had to carry out his assignment. He told the Báb: ‘If your Cause be the Cause of truth, enable me to free myself from the obligation to shed your blood.' To this request the Báb had told him: 'Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity.'

Having received this assurance from the Báb, Sam Khan ordered his regiment of seven-hundred and fifty soldiers to carry out their duty. They positioned themselves in three rows and fired seven-hundred and fifty bullets. When the smoke of the gunpowder settled they discovered to their amazement that the two captives were completely unharmed. Their commander, Sam Khan, witnessing this miracle refused to order his soldiers to make a second attempt. Another regiment was therefore brought in. Their commander was Aqa Jan Khan-i-Khamsih. Whereas the first regiment was composed of Armenian Christians, the soldiers belonging to the second regiment were Muslims. They were known as the Nasiri regiment.

July 24, 2018

An example of how the Guardian lived frugally and simply – by Hand of the Cause Furutan

Throughout our pilgrimage [1941] we visited the Shrines of the Báb and 'Abdu'l-Baha in the company of the beloved Guardian. He would chant the Tablet of Visitation in the Shrine of the Báb and then in the Shrine of 'Abdu'l-Baha.

He always removed his half-boots outside the doors of the Shrines. One day I noticed that the right wrist of the Guardian was in a white bandage and he had difficulty in moving it. I immediately thought that I should help remove his shoes. I bent down on my knees and started to undo the knots of his bootlaces. He was just bending down, and said very quietly, "Don't go to the trouble." I said, "Beloved Guardian, this is my honor." I removed his shoes, took my handkerchief from my pocket, and cleaned them. As I was cleaning his boots I noticed that one of them had a hole in it and the other one was repaired.

I was truly saddened. I knew that the Guardian lived frugally and simply, but I had not been aware of its extent.  
- Ali-Akbar Furutan  (‘Hand of the Cause of God Furutan’, by Iran Furutan Muhajir)

July 9, 2018

July 1850: Safeguarding the sacred remains of the Báb and His companion

Moat surrounding city of Tabriz, circa 1930s
On the evening of the very day of the Báb's execution, which fell on the ninth of July 1850…, during the thirty-first year of His age and the seventh of His ministry, the mangled bodies of the Báb and His companion were transferred from the courtyard of the barracks to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city. Four companies, each consisting of ten sentinels, were ordered to keep watch in turn over them so that none of His followers might claim them.

On the following day the Russian Consul in Tabriz visited the spot, and ordered the artist who had accompanied him to make a drawing of the remains as they lay beside the moat. Nabil, in his chronical, ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, relates the following account from a believer by the name of Hájí ‘Alí-‘Askar who saw this drawing:

“An official of the Russian consulate, to whom I was related, showed me that same sketch on the very day it was drawn. It was such a faithful portrait of the Báb that I looked upon! No bullet had struck His forehead, His cheeks, or His lips. I gazed upon a smile which seemed to be still lingering upon His countenance. His body, however, had been severely mutilated. I could recognize the arms and head of His companion, who seemed to be holding Him in his embrace. As I gazed horror-struck upon that haunting picture, and saw how those noble traits had been disfigured, my heart sank within me. I turned away my face in anguish and, regaining my house, locked myself in my room. For three days and three nights, I could neither sleep nor eat, so overwhelmed was I with emotion. That short and tumultuous life, with all its sorrows, its turmoil, its banishments, and eventually the awe-inspiring martyrdom with which it had been crowned, seemed again to be re-enacted before my eyes. I tossed upon my bed, writhing in agony and pain.”

June 27, 2018

Tabriz, July 1850: Anís accompanies the Báb in facing the firing squad

Tabriz, 19th Century
[The day before His martyrdom]: Deprived of His turban and sash, the twin emblems of His noble lineage, the Báb, together with Siyyid Ḥusayn, His amanuensis, was driven to yet another confinement which He well knew was but a step further on the way leading Him to the goal He had set Himself to attain. That day witnessed a tremendous commotion in the city of Tabríz. The great convulsion associated in the ideas of its inhabitants with the Day of Judgment seemed at last to have come upon them. Never had that city experienced a turmoil so fierce and so mysterious as the one which seized its inhabitants on the day the Báb was led to that place which was to be the scene of His martyrdom.

As He approached the courtyard of the barracks, a youth [Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alíy-i-Zunúzí, surnamed Anís, meaning “companion”] suddenly leaped forward who, in his eagerness to overtake Him, had forced his way through the crowd, utterly ignoring the risks and perils which such an attempt might involve. His face was haggard, his feet were bare, and his hair dishevelled. Breathless with excitement and exhausted with fatigue, he flung himself at the feet of the Báb and, seizing the hem of His garment, passionately implored Him: “Send me not from Thee, O Master. Wherever Thou goest, suffer me to follow Thee.”

“Muhammad-‘Alí,” answered the Báb, “arise, and rest assured that you will be with Me. To-morrow you shall witness what God has decreed.”

June 10, 2018

Karbila, circa 1841: A meeting between the Báb and His forerunner Siyyid Kazim -- its profound and long-lasting effect on a disciple of Siyyid Kazim who was also present

Karbila, circa 1930s
In the following incident Nabil gives an example of Siyyid Kazim’s efforts to prepare his disciples to gradually remove the veils of age-old erroneous understandings and superstition, to become ready to recognize their Lord, the Báb:

In those days Siyyid Kázim became increasingly aware of the approach of the Hour at which the promised One [the Báb] was to be revealed. He realised how dense were those veils that hindered the seekers from apprehending the glory of the concealed Manifestation. He accordingly exerted his utmost endeavour to remove gradually, with caution and wisdom, whatever barriers might stand in the way of the full recognition of that Hidden Treasure of God.

He repeatedly urged his disciples to bear in mind the fact that He whose advent they were expecting would appear neither from Jabúlqá nor from Jabúlsá.’ [1] He even hinted at His presence in their very midst:

“You behold Him with your own eyes,” he often observed, “and yet recognise Him not!”

To his disciples who questioned him regarding the signs of the Manifestation, he would say:

“He is of noble lineage. He is a descendant of the Prophet of God, of the family of Háshim. [2] He is young in age, and is possessed of innate knowledge. His learning is derived, not from the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad, [his master] but from God. My knowledge is but a drop compared with the immensity of His knowledge; my attainments a speck of dust in the face of the wonders of His grace and power. Nay, immeasurable is the difference. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking, and is of extreme devoutness and piety.” 

May 18, 2018

An example of ‘Abdu’l-Baha drawing from “the power of Baha’u’llah”

One day after a meeting when, as usual, many people had crowded round Him, 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived home very tired. We were sad at heart that He should be so fatigued, and bewailed the many steps to be ascended to the flat. Suddenly, to our amazement, the Master ran up the stairs to the top very quickly without stopping.

He looked down at us as we walked up after Him, saying with a bright smile, from which all traces of fatigue had vanished:

"You are all very old! I am very young!"

Seeing me full of wonder, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said: "Through the power of Bahá'u'lláh all things can be done. I have just used that power."

That was the only time we had ever seen Him use that power for Himself, and I feel that He did so then to cheer and comfort us, as we were really sad concerning His fatigue.

Might it not also have been to show us an example of the great Reserve of Divine Force always available for those of us who are working in various ways in the "Path of the Love of God and of Mankind." A celestial strength which reinforces us when our human strength fails. 
- Lady Blomfield  (‘The Chosen Highway’)

April 10, 2018

June-July 1849: The Báb’s immeasurable sorrow when the news of the martyrdom of Mulla Husayn, the heroes of Tabarsí, and Quddus reached Him

The news of the tragic fate which had befallen the heroes of Tabarsí brought immeasurable sorrow to the heart of the Báb. Confined in His prison-castle of Chihríq, severed from the little band of His struggling disciples, He watched with keen anxiety the progress of their labours and prayed with unremitting zeal for their victory. How great was His sorrow when, in the early days of Sha’bán in the year 1265 A.H., [June 22-July 21, 1849 A.D.] He came to learn of the trials that had beset their path, of the agony they had suffered, of the betrayal to which an exasperated enemy had felt compelled to resort, and of the abominable butchery with which their career had ended.

“The Báb was heart-broken,” His amanuensis, Siyyid Ḥusayn-i-‘Azíz, subsequently related [to Nabil], “at the receipt of this unexpected intelligence. He was crushed with grief, a grief that stilled His voice and silenced His pen. For nine days He refused to meet any of His friends. I myself, though His close and constant attendant, was refused admittance. Whatever meat or drink we offered Him, He was disinclined to touch. Tears rained continually from His eyes, and expressions of anguish dropped unceasingly from His lips. I could hear Him, from behind the curtain, give vent to His feelings of sadness as He communed, in the privacy of His cell, with His Beloved. I attempted to jot down the effusions of His sorrow as they poured forth from His wounded heart. Suspecting that I was attempting to preserve the lamentations He uttered, He bade me destroy whatever I had recorded. Nothing remains of the moans and cries with which that heavy-laden heart sought to relieve itself of the pangs that had seized it. For a period of five months He languished, immersed in an ocean of despondency and sorrow.”

March 18, 2018

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells a story about an incident during His childhood

[On another day, the Master gave them a story out of His own life:]

I was a child, nine years old. In the thick of those calamities, [Baha'u'llah was confined in the Siyah-Chal] when the enemy attacked, they stoned our house and it had filled up with stones. We had nobody to help us. There was only my mother, [1] my sister, [2] and Aqa Mirza Muhammad-Quli. [3] To protect us, my mother took us away from the Shimiran Gate to the Sangilaj quarter, where in the back lanes she found a house. In that house she watched over us and forbade us ever to set foot on the street. But one day the problem of how to get food became so urgent that my mother said to me: ‘Can you go to your aunt’s house? [4] Tell her to find a few krans [5] for us, no matter how.’

Our aunt lived in the Takyih [6] of Haji Rajab-’Ali, near the house of Mirza Hasan Kajdamagh. I went there. She tried everywhere and finally managed to collect five krans, which she tied up in the corner of a handkerchief and gave me.

On my way back through the Takyih, the son of Mirza Hasan recognized me. Immediately he called out, ‘This one is a Bábí!’ and the boys ran after me. The house of Mulla Ja’far of Astarabad was not far away, and I reached it and went into the entry. The son of Mulla Ja’far saw me but he did not put me out. Neither did he rout the boys.

February 25, 2018

Táhirih’s arrest in Qazvin and subsequent release through the intervention of Baha’u’llah

Táhirih was a woman of rare accomplishment. Most Persian women were not educated, but Táhirih's father had recognized early on that his young daughter was gifted with an especially keen mind. He loved her dearly and educated her the same way he educated his sons. Táhirih had grown into a woman as famous for her intelligence as for her beauty -- more than equal to any man in her knowledge of religion and in her ability to present strong, clear arguments. She possessed other talents as well. In a land where people had, for centuries, turned to their poets as often as their prophets for inspiration, Tahirih was known for the exquisite poetry she wrote. Her father, highly regarded among Persia's religious leaders, had taught his daughter well.

Still, she was a woman in a Muslim society. When men gathered in her father's house for religious discussion, Táhirih had to speak from behind a curtain, for women were not permitted to be in the company of men who were not members of their immediate family. She could never expect to be a spiritual leader, no matter how great her knowledge and skill. Some mullas even argued that women did not possess souls and ranked little higher than animals. How could they possibly understand religion?

"Would that she had been a boy," said her father, "for he would have shed illumination upon my household, and would have succeeded me."

Táhirih's marriage had been arranged according to the customs of the day, and she became mother to a daughter and two sons.

One day in the library of her cousin's house, she had happened upon the writings of Shaykh Ahmad, which captured her interest and led her into correspondence with Siyyid Kazim. Determined to study with him, Táhirih had traveled to Karbala, but ten days before her arrival Siyyid Kazim died.

February 1, 2018

‘Abdu’l-Baha recalls an example of Baha’u’llah’s majesty and power while officially still a prisoner

One day the government leaders, pillars of the country, the city’s ‘ulamás, leading mystics and intellectuals came out to the Mansion. The Blessed Beauty paid them no attention whatever. They were not admitted to His presence, nor did He inquire after any of them. I sat down with them and kept them company for some hours, after which they returned whence they had come. Although the royal farmán specifically decreed that Bahá’u’lláh was to be held in solitary confinement within the Akká fortress, in a cell, under perpetual guard; that He was never to set foot outside; that He was never even to see any of the believers—notwithstanding such a farmán, such a drastic order, His tent was raised in majesty on the heights of Mount Carmel. What greater display of power could there be than this, that from the very prison, the banner of the Lord was raised aloft, and rippled out for all the world to see! Praised be the Possessor of such majesty and might; praised be He, weaponed with the power and the glory; praised be He, Who defeated His foes when He lay captive in the Akká prison! 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (From a talk; ‘Memorials of the Faithful’)

January 18, 2018

circa 1850: Nabil, the author of Dawn-Breakers, took ‘Abdu’l-Baha to school one day

One day Mírzá Ahmad conducted me [Nabil, he was then about 19 years old] to the house of Bahá’u’lláh, whose wife, the Varaqatu’l-’Ulya, [the Most Exalted Leaf] the mother of the Most Great Branch, had already healed my eyes with an ointment which she herself had prepared and sent to me by…Mírzá Ahmad.

The first one I met in that house was that same beloved Son of hers, who was then a child of six. He smiled His welcome to me as He was standing at the door of the room which Bahá’u’lláh occupied. I passed that door, and was ushered into the presence of Mírzá Yahyá, [Baha’u’llah’s half-brother] utterly unaware of the station of the Occupant [Baha’u’llah] of the room I had left behind me….

On another occasion, when I visited that same house, I on the point of entering the room that Mírzá Yahyá occupied, when Áqáy-i-Kalím, [Baha’u’llah’s faithful brother] whom I had previously met, approached and requested me, since Isfandíyár, their servant, had gone to market and had not yet returned, to conduct “Áqá” [‘Abdu’l-Baha] to the Madrisiy-i-Mírzá-Sálih [school] in his stead and then return to this place. I gladly consented, and as I was preparing to leave, I saw the Most Great Branch, a child of exquisite beauty, wearing the kuláh [hat]  and cloaked in the jubbiy-i-hizari’í, [A kind of overcoat] emerge from the room which His Father occupied, and descend the steps leading to the gate of the house. I advanced and stretched forth my arms to carry Him. “We shall walk together,” He said, as He took hold of my hand and led me out of the house.

We chatted together as we walked hand in hand in the direction of the madrisih [school] known in those days by the name of Pa-Minar. As we reached His classroom, He turned to me and said: “Come again this afternoon and take me back to my home, for Isfandíyár is unable to fetch me. My Father will need him to-day.” I gladly acquiesced, and returned immediately to the house of Bahá’u’lláh…

I… returned to the madrisih in time to conduct the Most Great Branch to His home. 
- Nabil  (‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

January 10, 2018

Quddús’ amazing ability to pen copious writings – their recital and tributes by Mulla Husayn provided daily spiritual food at Fort Tabarsi

We know from the Baha’i Writings that Quddus, in addition to being the last Letter of the Living and the chosen companion of the Báb during His pilgrimage to Mecca, has a high station. The Guardian elucidates on it in ‘God Passes By’:

“Quddús, immortalized by Him [the Báb] as Ismu'llahi'l-Akhir (the Last Name of God); on whom Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Kullu't-Ta'am later conferred the sublime appellation of Nuqtiy-i-Ukhra (the Last Point); whom He elevated, in another Tablet, to a rank second to none except that of the Herald of His Revelation; whom He identifies, in still another Tablet, with one of the ‘Messengers charged with imposture’ mentioned in the Qur'án; whom the Persian Bayan extolled as that fellow-pilgrim round whom mirrors to the number of eight Vahids revolve; on whose ‘detachment and the sincerity of whose devotion to God's will God prideth Himself amidst the Concourse on high;’ whom 'Abdu'l-Bahá designated as the ‘Moon of Guidance;’ and whose appearance the Revelation of St. John the Divine anticipated as one of the two ‘Witnesses’ into whom, ere the ‘second woe is past,’ the ‘spirit of life from God’ must enter” (Shoghi Effendi, 'God Passes By')

Here is an example of Qúddus’ amazing keenness of understanding concerning the manifold meanings of the Word of God: 

Following the conference of Badasht, Quddús was en route to his home town when he fell into the hands of his opponents and placed under house arrest.

Nabil, the great Baha’i chronicler, explains that while Quddus was in confinement in the home of a leading clergy of the town of Sari, Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí, the latter asked Quddús “to write a commentary on the Súrih of Ikhlas, better known as the Súrih of Qul Huva’lláhu’l-Ahad” (Nabil, ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi).

December 5, 2017

A believer’s eagerness to provide financial assistance to Baha’u’llah – but chose a wrong method

Aqa Mirza Ja'jar was an erudite divine of Islam. In his youth, he taught at a theological school... He left the school altogether when he embraced the Cause and became a very steadfast believer. In those days, the Ancient Beauty was in Baghdad. Knowing that He was living an austere life in that city, Mirza Ja'jar wished to provide some funds for the relief of His blessed Person. In the end he came up with a plan. There were many vases and other ornaments made of copper in the mosques of Yazd. He used to go to a mosque at night, climb to the upper chambers, dismantle the ornamental copper vessels which were hanging from the ceiling, and take them home. Little by little he stole similar vessels from several mosques. In the end he gathered nearly half a ton of these copper items... He then transported them to Ardikan (about 100 miles from Yazd) to the home of a certain Ustad Kazim, an ironmonger. There he cut the copper articles to pieces and eventually succeeded in selling the metal for 70 tumans (a large sum of money in those days) in silver coins. He placed the silver inside a specially made leather cummerbund, tied it around his waist and set off on his journey on foot to Baghdad where he attained the presence of Baha’u’llah and presented the money to Him. The Blessed Beauty accepted the money from him, and bestowed upon him His blessings and favors. But He ordered him to accompany Mirza Aqa Jan, Khadimu'llah (the Servant of God), to the banks of the river and throw the money into its waters. Mirza Jajar became a servant of the household, and was among those companions who accompanied Baha’u’llah to Istanbul. 
- Adib Taherzadeh  (‘The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, vol. 4')

November 20, 2017

Two dreams that ‘Abdu’l-Baha had about two months before He passed away

Bedroom of  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, where He passed away
Two months before His ['Abdu'l-Baha's] passing He told His family of a dream He had had. 

“I seemed,” He said, “to be standing within a great mosque, in the inmost shrine, facing the Qiblih, in the place of the Imám himself. I became aware that a large number of people were flocking into the mosque. More and yet more crowded in, taking their places in rows behind Me, until there was a vast multitude. As I stood I raised loudly the call to prayer. Suddenly the thought came to Me to go forth from the mosque. When I found Myself outside I said within Myself: ‘For what reason came I forth, not having led the prayer? But it matters not; now that I have uttered the Call to prayer, the vast multitude will of themselves chant the prayer.’”

A few weeks later, whilst occupying a solitary room in the garden of His house, He recounted another dream to those around Him. 

“I dreamed a dream,” He said, “and behold, the Blessed Beauty (Bahá’u’lláh) came and said to Me: ‘Destroy this room.’” None of those present comprehended the significance of this dream until He Himself had soon after passed away, when it became clear to them all that by the “room” was meant the temple of His body. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (‘God Passes By’)

November 1, 2017

‘Abdu’l-Baha had the Power of Ether

Here is a fascinating insight about the Master, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, which Juliet Thompson, heard from Valíyu’lláh Varqa, a member of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s entourage during His visit to America in 1912. The following is an entry from her diary:

The next morning, Thursday, though I [Juliet Thompson] went unusually early to the Master, He had already left the house. But Lua, Valíyu’lláh Khán [son of the great Baha’i poet and martyr, Varqa], and I had a wonderful morning. Valíyu’lláh told us so many things.

“My father,” he said, “spent much time with the Blessed Beauty. The Blessed Beauty Himself taught him.

“One time when my father was in His room, Bahá’u’lláh rose and strode back and forth till the very walls seemed to shake. And He told my father that once in an age the Mighty God sent a Soul to earth endowed with the power of the Great Ether, and that such a Soul had all power and was able to do anything. ‘Even this walk of Mine’ said Bahá’u’lláh, ‘has an effect in the world.’

“Then He said that His Holiness Jesus Christ had also come with the power of the Great Ether, but the haughty priesthood of His day thought of Him as a poor, unlettered youth and believed that if they should crucify Him, His Teachings would soon be forgotten. Therefore they did crucify Him. But because His Holiness Jesus possessed the power of the Great Ether, He could not remain underground. This ethereal power rose and conquered the whole earth. ‘And now,’ the Blessed Beauty said, ‘look to the Master, for this same Power is His.’

October 12, 2017

1848: Baha’u’llah suffered the humiliating bastinado punishment

Town of Ámul, circa 1935
About nine miles from Fort Tabarsi, where Baha’u’llah had planned to join the heroic believers, He and His companions were arrested by the soldiers of the acting governor of the area and taken to the town of Ámul, Mazindran in northern Iran.

The hostile clerics of Ámul had created a major commotion in the town. Having Baha’u’llah and His companions in their midst, the situation was further exacerbated by the divines calling upon the people to protect their religion by demanding severe punishment upon the captives – including murder. People were told to come to the mosque, fully armed -- the butcher with his axe, the carpenter with his hatchet – prepared to make a rush at Baha'u'llah and murder Him. The divines of Ámul were particularly marked for their rapacity.

The Acting Governor realized that any indulgence on his part would be fraught with personal danger. By inflicting a befitting punishment upon the captives, he sought to check the mob’s passions. He ordered punishment by bastinado - a form of torture that involves being beaten on the soles of the feet with a rod. He also promised that the captives would be kept in custody following this punishment until the return of the governor.

October 2, 2017

Baha’u’llah visits Mulla Husayn and his companions at Fort Tabarsi

Taking refuge from the attacks of the people of Barfurúsh and neighbouring villages at the persistent instigation of the vindictive leading divine of that district, Mulla Husayn and his companions arrived at the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi on October 12, 1848. This shrine was situated about fourteen miles S.E. of the town of Barfurúsh in the heart of the forests of Mazindaran. Upon their arrival, Mullá Husayn gave one of the believers who had built the Bábíyyih house in Mashhad preliminary instructions for the design of a fort which was to be constructed for their defense around the shrine. Through Mulla Husayn’s guidance and encouragement his companions began building the fort according that design.  Despite continual harassment and fierce attacks by the people of the surrounding villages, who hemmed them in on every side, they valiantly defended themselves. When construction of the fort was completed, Mullá Ḥusayn undertook the necessary preparations for the siege which the fort was destined to sustain, and provided, despite the obstacles which stood in his way, whatever provisions seemed essential for the safety of its occupants.

Meanwhile, news of the situation facing Mulla Husayn and his 300 plus companions reached Baha’u’llah who was staying at his ancestral home of Nur. He learned how, because of the treachery and broken pledges of the authorities in Sari and Barburush, they had been forced to use arms to defend themselves, and had hurriedly thrown up a wall and built a fortress around the mausoleum of Shaykh Tabarsi and were now beleaguered within it. Baha'u'llah decided to visit them and when His preparations were complete, travelled to the village of Afra [located in the vicinity of the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi], which belonged to a certain Nazar-'Ali Khan. When He arrived in Afra, He ordered for a sumptuous dinner to be prepared for the inmates of the fortress and sent one of the believers to inform them of His impending arrival.

September 13, 2017

The first example of Mulla Husayn’s amazing heroism and swordsmanship

Mulla Husayn was still in Mashhad during the conference of Badasht as a guest of the Governor-General of the province of Khurasan - where he was treated with courtesy and consideration. After leaving the camp of the Governor-General, he was preparing his anticipated trip to Karbila when a messenger arrived bearing to him the Báb’s turban and conveying the news that a new name, that of Siyyid ‘Alí, had been conferred upon him by his Master.

“Adorn your head,” was the message, “with My green turban, the emblem of My lineage, and, with the Black Standard unfurled before you, hasten to the Jazíriy-i-Khadrá, [literally: ‘Verdant Isle’] and lend your assistance to My beloved Quddús.”

As soon as that message reached him, Mullá Husayn arose to execute the wishes of his Master. Leaving Mashhad for a place situated at a farsang’s distance [about 3 miles] from the city, he hoisted the Black Standard, placed the turban of the Báb upon his head, assembled his companions, mounted his steed, and gave the signal for their march to the Jazíriy-i-Khadrá. His companions, who were two hundred and two in number, enthusiastically followed him. That memorable day was July 21st, 1848.

Wherever they tarried, at every village and hamlet through which they passed, Mullá Husayn and his fellow-disciples would fearlessly proclaim the message of the New Day, would invite the people to embrace its truth, and would select from among those who responded to their call a few whom they would ask to join them on their journey.

August 13, 2017

Baha’u’llah’s servant: Isfandiyar - "the essence of love, radiant with sanctity and perfection, luminous with light"

Isfandiyar was a gem from Africa, pure and untarnished, and yet firm and steadfast as a diamond under all pressures and persecutions. He manifested his inherent qualities when faced with perils which endangered his life as a Babi. His wonderful countenance reflected the rays of love and courage.

Isfandiyar was a servant in the house of Baha'u'llah and, as a fruitful tree planted in good soil, he yielded a spiritual harvest. His love for Baha'u'llah was unlimited and, though many Ministers and other high government officials coveted him as a servant in their household, he remained ever-faithful to his own Master.

At the time when the persecution of the Babis began in the capital and Baha'u'llah was taken to the Siyah-Chal, the enemies of the new Faith were looking for Isfandiyar so that they could force him to betray the followers of the Bab whom he had seen in the house of Baha'u'llah. The Shah had commanded many people to find Isfandiyar and they were searching for him everywhere. But when he heard of the misfortune which had befallen the family of his beloved Master, nothing could keep him away from them.

We can imagine Isfandiyar standing among the ruins of his Master's house, drowned in an ocean of tribulation, his heart heavy with the weight of anguish. He seemed to have lost everything in the world. He did not think of all the rich furnishings, clothes and jewels which had been looted from the house of Baha'u'llah. But the thought of his Master in the Siyah-Chal and the members of that noble family now dispersed and at the mercy of their foes was more than he could bear. "Where are the children?" he asked himself. "What has befallen their saintly mother?" Isfandiyar decided to find them, but there was no trace of the family in the surrounding neighbourhood. No one knew where they had gone or what fresh misfortune had overtaken them.

July 3, 2017

1848: Baha’u’llah describes the consternation that seized the Bábís when Tahirih suddenly appeared unveiled at the conference of Badasht

We soon joined her [Táhirih] at Badasht, where We rented a garden for her use, and appointed the same Muhammad-Hádí who had achieved her deliverance, as her doorkeeper. About seventy of Our companions were with Us and lodged in a place in the vicinity of that garden. 

We fell ill one day, and were confined to bed. Táhirih sent a request to call upon Us. We were surprised at her message, and were at a loss as to what We should reply. Suddenly We saw her at the door, her face unveiled before Us. How well has Mírzá Áqá Ján [1] commented upon that incident. “The face of Fátimih,” he said, “must needs be revealed on the Day of Judgment and appear unveiled before the eyes of men. At that moment the voice of the Unseen shall be heard saying: ‘Turn your eyes away from that which ye have seen.’” [2]

How great was the consternation that seized the companions on that day! Fear and bewilderment filled their hearts. A few, unable to tolerate that which was to them so revolting a departure from the established customs of Islám, fled in horror from before her face. Dismayed, they sought refuge in a deserted castle in that neighbourhood. Among those who were scandalised by her behaviour and severed from her entirely were the Siyyid-i-Nahrí and his brother Mírzá Hádí, to both of whom We sent word that it was unnecessary for them to desert their companions and seek refuge in a castle. Our friends eventually dispersed, leaving Us at the mercy of Our enemies. 
- Bahá’u’lláh  (Quoted by Nabil in ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)
[1] Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis
[2] According to Islámic traditions, Fátimih, Muhammad’s daughter, will appear unveiled as she crosses the bridge “Sirat“ on the Day of Judgment. At her appearance a voice from heaven will declare: “Turn your eyes away, O concourse of people!”

June 15, 2017

How Mulla Husayn received his famous sword

The whole province of Khurásán was in those days [1848] in the throes of a violent agitation. The activities which Quddús and Mullá Husayn had initiated, their zeal, their courage, their outspoken language, had aroused the people from their lethargy, had kindled in the hearts of some the noblest sentiments of faith and devotion, and had provoked in the breasts of others the instincts of passionate fanaticism and malice. A multitude of seekers constantly poured from every direction into Mashhad, eagerly sought the residence of Mullá Husayn, and through him were ushered into the presence of Quddús.

Their numbers soon swelled to such proportions as to excite the apprehension of the authorities. The chief constable viewed with concern and dismay the crowds of agitated people who streamed unceasingly into every quarter of the holy City [Mashhad]. In his desire to assert his rights, intimidate Mullá Husayn, and induce him to curtail the scope of his activities, he issued orders to arrest immediately the latter’s special attendant, whose name was Hasan, and subject him to cruel and shameful treatment. They pierced his nose, passed a cord through the incision, and with this halter led and paraded him through the streets.

Mullá Husayn was in the presence of Quddús when the news of the disgraceful affliction that had befallen his servant reached him. Fearing lest this sad intelligence might grieve the heart of his beloved chief, he arose and quietly retired. His companions soon gathered round him, expressed their indignation at this outrageous assault upon so innocent a follower of their Faith, and urged him to avenge the insult. Mullá Husayn tried to appease their anger. “Let not,” he pleaded, “the indignity that has befallen Hasan afflict and disturb you, for Husayn is still with you and will safely deliver him back into your hands to-morrow.”

May 10, 2017

The story of Tahirih’s house arrest and her bold prediction of upcoming release

Upon their return from Karbila, [circa 1848] Tahirih and her few companions were falsely accused of having been involved in the murder of her husband, Mullá Taqí, who was a fiercest opponent of the Báb’s teachings that she was promoting.

Nabil records: “The circumstances of the murder fanned to fury the wrath of the lawful heirs of Mullá Taqí, who now determined to wreak their vengeance upon Táhirih. They succeeded in having her placed in the strictest confinement in the house of her father, and charged those women whom they had selected to watch over her, not to allow their captive to leave her room except for the purpose of performing her daily ablutions. They accused her of really being the instigator of the crime. ‘No one else but you,” they asserted, ‘is guilty of the murder of our father. You issued the order for his assassination.’”

Following devious schemes and false promises the kinsmen of murdered Mullá Taqí managed to murder those few remarkable companions of Tahirih, among them were “Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí, one of the Letters of the Living and her brother-in-law, and Siyyid ‘Abdu’l-Hádí, who had been betrothed to her daughter, travelled with her all the way from Karbilá to Qazvín.” (Nabil, ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

While “still in confinement, Táhirih, as soon as she was informed of the designs of her enemies, addressed the following message to Mullá Muhammad… the Imám-Jum’ih of Qazvín”: (ibid) 


April 7, 2017

circa 1848: Baha’u’llah’s first imprisonment

Baha’u’llah’s first imprisonment took place in Tihran when He was informed of the plight of a number of companions and supporters of Táhirih who were brought as prisoners to the Capital from Qazvin. They were falsely charged with the murder of Táhirih’s father-in-law, while Táhirih herself was placed in the strictest confinement in the house of her father in Qazvin. Bahá’u’lláh was at that time residing in Ṭihrán.

Nabil explains:

As He [Baha’u’llah] was already acquainted with the kad-khudá [alderman] in whose home they [the companions and supporters of Táhirih] were incarcerated, He decided to visit them and intervene in their behalf. That avaricious and deceitful official, who was fully aware of the extreme generosity of Bahá’u’lláh, greatly exaggerated in the hope of deriving a substantial pecuniary advantage for himself, the misfortune that had befallen the unhappy captives.”

“They are destitute of the barest necessities of life,” urged the kad-khudá. “They hunger for food, and their clothing is wretchedly scanty.” Bahá’u’lláh extended immediate financial assistance for their relief, and urged the kad-khudá to relax the severity of the rule under which they were confined.

The kad-khudá consented to relieve a few who were unable to support the oppressive weight of their chains, and for the rest did whatever he could to alleviate the rigour of their confinement. Prompted by greed, he informed his superiors of the situation, and emphasised the fact that both food and money were being regularly supplied by Bahá’u’lláh for those who were imprisoned in his house. These officials were in their turn tempted to derive every possible advantage from the liberality of Bahá’u’lláh. They summoned Him to their presence, protested against His action, and accused Him of complicity in the act for which the captives had been condemned.

April 2, 2017

The Furutan family's first pilgrimage during WW II

Hand of the Cause Mr Furutan 1953
Early in 1941, during the Second World War, means were miraculously provided for me and my family to go on pilgrimage. In the company of my mother, my wife, and my eight-year-old daughter, together with other pilgrims, we set out on our journey. Passing through Qazvin, Hamadan, Kermanshah and Qasr-i-Shirin, we reached Baghdad.

We stayed for two days in that historical city, holy to Baha'is, and met with the friends there. Then via Rutbah, we arrived at Zemakh, which was then on the border of Palestine. Our luggage was inspected at the border, and since we carried two very expensive silk rugs, which were the gift of a believer, we were asked to pay a considerable amount of duty. However, when we explained that these rugs were brought for the House of 'Abdu'l-Baha, they were released without charge.

The director of Customs, who was Christian and a handsome and courteous man, happened to travel in the same bus with us to Haifa, and asked me about the value of the rugs. I said that I did not know as they were the gift of another believer. He offered to pay me an equivalent amount for an identical pair if I would promise to buy and send them to him in Zemakh on my return to Iran. I had to excuse myself from accepting this responsibility while the War was continuing, explaining that I had no experience in these affairs. He said that he would trust me with such a large amount only because I was a Baha'i and could not understand why I refused his request. I replied that I had to excuse myself precisely because I was a Baha'i! When we reached Haifa we parted as friends.

March 14, 2017

Mullá Husayn finds “God’s hidden treasure” in Mázindarán

In about 1848, four years after recognizing the Báb and becoming His first believer, and receiving the title of Bábu’l-Báb (the Gate of the Gate), Mulla Husayn left the city of Mashhad, in the province of Khurasan, north-east of Tihran, where he had lived since 1844. Desiring to see his Lord Who was imprisoned in the castle of Mah-Ku in the province of Adhirbayjan, north-west of Tihran, he told his friends: “I have vowed to walk the whole distance that separates me from my Beloved.” (a distance of about 900 miles). “I shall not relax in my resolve until I shall have reached my destination.”

His friends offered to arrange for a more conventional and comfortable mode of travel for this long and arduous journey, but Mulla Husayn declined their help. Upon his insistence, he finally allowed one of his friends to accompany him and to act as his servant throughout his pilgrimage to Ádhirbayján. On his way to Tihran, Mulla Husayn was enthusiastically greeted by the believers in the towns through which he passed. They too offered him the same assistance and received from him the same reply.

When Mulla Husayn arrived in Tihran he was visited by many believers. Nabil, the great Baha’i historian, recorded what he heard from Áqáy-i-Kalím, Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful brother, about Mulla Husayn:

“When Mulla Husayn arrived at Tihran, I, together with a large number of believers, went to visit him. He seemed to us the very embodiment of constancy, of piety and virtue. He inspired us with his rectitude of conduct and passionate loyalty. Such were the force of his character and the ardour of his faith that we felt convinced that he, unaided and alone, would be capable of achieving the triumph of the Faith of God.”

February 15, 2017

An example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ability to see the light of the spirit of a human being at a considerable distance – narrated by the Master

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. … [two Azalís] 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 Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí—that great bough of the Holy Tree [1] — 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 within sight.
“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.

January 4, 2017

Language barrier...

In a talk about our need for an international language, given at the Esperanto Society in Edinburgh, Scotland, on January 7, 1913, ‘Abdu’l-Baha cited the following funny incident to demonstrate how language barriers could cause misunderstandings:

I recall an incident which occurred in Baghdad. There were two friends who knew not each other's language. One fell ill, the other visited him, but not being able to express his sympathy in words resorted to gesture, as if to say, "How do you feel?” - with another sign the sick replied, "I shall soon be dead;” and his visitor, believing the gesture to indicate that he was getting better, said, "God be praised!” 
(Star of the West, vo. 4, no. 2, April 9, 1913)

December 8, 2016

Gifts from one Manifestation of God to Another

Tihran, circa 1808
A remarkable event, which may be unique in religious history, took place in the very early years of the Bábí-Bahá’í Faith. It happened while the Báb, escorted by government soldiers, was being exiled from His native city of Shiraz to the Fortress of Mah-ku, in the northwestern corner of Persia (Iran). This event took place about 10 miles south of the capital city of Tihran in the year 1847. We’ll review a brief background to the incident, the event itself, as well as an amazing episode that occurred shortly thereafter.

In the spring of 1847, Gurgin Khan, the nephew and successor of Isfahan’s friendly Governor, Manuchihr Khan, became aware of the secret arrangements that his uncle had made to allow the Báb to stay in Isfahan for the previous four months, instead of sending Him to Tihran.  When he discovered this, he immediately brought the situation to the attention of the Shah in Tihran. The Shah, who was firmly convinced of the loyalty of Manuchir Khan, realized, when he received this message, that the late governor's sincere intention had been to await a favourable occasion when he could arrange a meeting between him and the Báb, and that his sudden death had interfered with the execution of that plan. He issued an imperial mandate summoning the Báb to the capital.

On the afternoon of the eighth day after Naw-Ruz 1847, the Báb and His mounted escort arrived at the fortress of Kinar-Gird, which lies about 30 miles to the south of Tihran. They had decided to spend the night in the neighbourhood of that fortress and proceed to the capital the next day, when a messenger arrived with a written order from Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Prime Minister for the head of the escort, Muhammad Big, instructing him to proceed to the village of Kulayn, and there await further instructions. The village of Kulayn, a hamlet owned by Aqasi was situated some ten miles southwest of the capital. The Báb remained there for a period of twenty days. Nearing the end of that period, He dispatched a letter to the King requesting an audience to set forth the truth of His condition and expecting this to be a means for the attainment of great advantages for the country.

November 10, 2016

The Egyptian Baha’i merchant who wanted to see Baha’u’llah

Abdu’l-Karim was an Egyptian merchant of considerable wealth, who had heard the story of the new Revelation, and accepted it with the ardor of his eager temperament. After some time he felt that he could not be content without seeing the Messenger of God whose presence in the world had stirred his heart. So he wrote a letter to Acca, where Baha’u’llah, the new Manifestation of God, was and begged permission to visit Him.

Baha’u’llah’s answer greatly surprised him. He was told that he could come to Acca, but first he must put himself in a position where he owed no man anything.

Abdu’l-Karim had carried on his business for many years in the customary Oriental fashion, sending his caravans across the desert laden with a precious freight of riches. He had established lines of credit everywhere, and probably never dreamed of doing business on a cash basis. His commerce was constantly expanding and perhaps he was not too scrupulous in his dealings. We may be certain it had not occurred to him that his interest in the new Day of God would require him to revise his approach to doing business with his fellow man. A successful merchant is apt to fall into the habit of considering his own advantage first. Naturally Abdu’l-Karim was absorbed in the conduct of his rapidly broadening trade connections, for he was a man of fifty years when this momentous influence came into his life.

Abdu’l-Karim accepted without hesitation the required stipulation. Before all else he wanted to see the Manifestation of God, and everything became of secondary importance in comparison with this event.

He began, therefore, to arrange his affairs with this point in view. Previously he had thought only of expansion, of increase. Now his one desire was to reach the condition where he would owe no man anything. So he began to pay off his debts. As money came in, instead of investing it again, he paid a debt with it, until at length, after five years, he had attained his goal, and he did not owe a penny to anyone!

October 20, 2016

The sifter of wheat in Isfahan

At the time of the Báb, Isfahan, a central city in Persia, was known among cities for the great learning of its clergy. However, the first to embrace the Cause of the Báb in that city was a man, a sifter of wheat, who, as soon as the Call reached his ears, unreservedly accepted the Message. 

His name was Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Gandum-Pak-Kun. He is mentioned in the Persian Bayan and praised as one who "donned the robe of discipleship". 

With marvelous devotion he served Mulla Husayn, and through his close association with him became a zealous advocate of the new Revelation. 

A few years later, when the soul-stirring details of the siege of the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi were recounted to him, he felt an irresistible impulse to throw in his lot with those heroic companions of the Báb who had risen for the defense of their Faith. Carrying his sieve in his hand, he immediately arose and set out to reach the scene of that memorable encounter. He joined the company of the defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi and perished during that siege.

"Why leave so hurriedly?" his friends asked him, as they saw him running in a state of intense excitement through the bazaars of Isfahan.

"I have arisen," he replied, "to join the glorious company of the defenders of the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi! With this sieve which I carry with me, I intend to sift the people in every city through which I pass. Whomsoever I find ready to espouse the Cause I have embraced, I will ask to join me and hasten forthwith to the field of martyrdom."

September 14, 2016

A young dervish recognizes Baha’u’llah’s station in 1844

While Baha’u’llah was spreading the Divine Message of the Báb in the district of Nur in northern Iran in 1844, an amazing incident took place which Nabil recorded:

One day, in the course of one of His riding excursions into the country, Bahá’u’lláh, accompanied by His companions, saw, seated by the roadside, a lonely youth. His hair was dishevelled, and he wore the dress of a dervish. [1] By the side of a brook he had kindled a fire, and was cooking his food and eating it. Approaching him, Bahá’u’lláh most lovingly enquired: “Tell Me, dervish, what is it that you are doing?” “I am engaged in eating God,” he bluntly replied. “I am cooking God and am burning Him.” The unaffected simplicity of his manners and the candour of his reply pleased Bahá’u’lláh extremely. He smiled at his remark and began to converse with him with unrestrained tenderness and freedom. Within a short space of time, Bahá’u’lláh had changed him completely. Enlightened as to the true nature of God, and with a mind purged from the idle fancy of his own people, he immediately recognised the Light which that loving Stranger had so unexpectedly brought him. That dervish, whose name was Muṣṭafá, became so enamoured with the teachings which had been instilled into his mind that, leaving his cooking utensils behind, he straightway arose and followed Bahá’u’lláh. On foot, behind His horse, and inflamed with the fire of His love, he chanted merrily verses of a love-song which he had composed on the spur of the moment and had dedicated to his Beloved. “Thou art the Day-Star of guidance,” ran its glad refrain. “Thou art the Light of Truth. Unveil Thyself to men, O Revealer of the Truth.” Although, in later years, that poem obtained wide circulation among his people, and it became known that a certain dervish, surnamed Majdhúb, and whose name was Mustafá Big-i-Sanandají, had, without premeditation, composed it in praise of his Beloved, none seemed to be aware to whom it actually referred, nor did anyone suspect, at a time when Bahá’u’lláh was still veiled from the eyes of men, that this dervish alone had recognised His station and discovered His glory. 
- Nabil  (‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)
[1] Poor one, Religious mendicant, Islamic mystic