March 22, 2010

The Bab’s stay in Isfahan – the amazing initial reception by the clergy and the people

In September of 1846, the Bab, accompanied by one of His followers by the name of Siyyid Kazim-i-Zanjani, left Shiraz and proceeded north towards Isfahan – a distance of about 360 miles. As He approached the outskirts of the city, He wrote a letter to Manuchihr Khan, the governor of the province, in which He requested him to appoint a place where He should dwell with the sanction of the government. The letter was entrusted to His companion, Siyyid Kazim who delivered it to the governor prior to the Bab reaching the gate of the city of Isfahan. When the governor received the letter he became so touched by the expressions of courtesy that the Bab had exhibited and amazed at His exquisite penmanship that he felt moved to instruct the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan, the foremost ecclesiastical authority of that province, to receive the Bab in his own home and to accord Him a kindly and generous reception. The Imam-Jumi’h accordingly instructed his own brother to proceed with a number of his favorite companions to meet and escort the expected Visitor to the gate of the city. As the Bab approached, the Imam-Jum'ih went out to welcome Him in person, and conducted Him ceremoniously to his house. It should be noted that this Imam-Jum’ih, whose name was Mir Siyyid Muhammad, was acknowledged in Persia as the principle ecclesiastical dignitary of the entire country. The governor of Isfahan was reported to have been a man of vigor and courage who, about five years prior to the Bab’s coming to Isfahan, had completely crushed a rebellion by the a number of the tribes in the area and had secured peace and justice for the people of Isfahan.

“Such were the honours accorded to the Bab in those days,” the great historian Nabil writes, “that when, on a certain Friday, He was returning from the public bath to the house, a multitude of people were seen eagerly clamouring for the water which He had used for His ablutions. His fervent admirers firmly believed in its unfailing virtue and power to heal their sicknesses and ailments. The Imam-Jum'ih himself had, from the very first night, become so enamoured with Him who was the object of such devotion, that, assuming the functions of an attendant, he undertook to minister to the needs and wants of his beloved Guest. Seizing the ewer from the hand of the chief steward and utterly ignoring the customary dignity of his rank, he proceeded to pour out the water over the hands of the Bab.” (Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 201)

The Bab was a guest of the Imam-Jumi’h for 40 days. One night, after supper, when there were also some other high ranking clerics present, the Imam-Juumi’h, so touched by the extraordinary traits of the Bab’s character, ventured to request Him to reveal a commentary on one of the Surihs (chapers) of the Qur’an. The one he specifically requested was the Surih of Va'l-'Asr. [Time and Age]. This Surih is numbered 103 and is composed of only 3 verses:

“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
I swear by the declining day!
Verily, man's lot is cast amid destruction,
Save those who believe and do the things which be right, and enjoin
truth and enjoin steadfastness on each other.” (translation by Rodwell)

This is how Nabil recorded this amazing incident:

“His request was readily granted. Calling for pen and paper, the Bab, with astonishing rapidity and without the least premeditation, began to reveal, in the presence of His host, a most illuminating interpretation of the aforementioned Surih. It was nearing midnight when the Bab found Himself engaged in the exposition of the manifold implications involved in the first letter of that Surih. … The Bab soon after began to chant, in the presence of His host and his companions, the homily with which He had prefaced His commentary on the Surih. Those words of power confounded His hearers with wonder. They seemed as if bewitched by the magic of His voice. Instinctively they started to their feet and, together with the Imam-Jum'ih, reverently kissed the hem of His garment.” (Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 201)

The verses that the Bab revealed on that occasion, explaining the first letter of a three-verse Surih in the Qur’an “equalled in number a third of the Qur'án..” itself. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 14) This is really amazing, especially when one is reminded that the entire Qur’an was revealed by Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years! (Adapted from: A Traveller’s Narrative by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, God Passes By written by Shoghi Effendi, and the Dawn-Breakers by Nabil)