Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi, who later became one of the secretaries of the Bab, related to Nabil, the great early historian of the Faith, a fascinating account of the first time he met the Bab – which occurred before the Bab’s Declaration on May 23rd, 1844. It happened in the city of Karbila, which is located about 55 miles southwest of Baghdad on the Euphrates. This city is viewed as a Holy city by Shi’ih Muslims since Imam Husayn was martyred and buried there. It is considered in Islam to be one of the two “supreme shrines”, the other being Najaf.
At the time of their meeting, Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi was in the company of his teacher and master, Siyyid Kazim, who was one of the two forerunners of the Bab. Siyyid Kazim was preaching about the advent of the Qa’im [the Promised One of Muslims, Whom the Bab later claimed to be]. Mulla Husayn and a number of others who would later embrace the faith of the Bab, were among the students of Siyyid Kazim at the time of his death on December 31, 1843.
This was a time when Siyyid Kazim, realizing the approaching Hour of the Bab’s Declaration, was exerting his utmost endeavor to “remove gradually, with caution and wisdom, whatever barriers might stand in the way of the full recognition of that Hidden Treasure of God.” For instance, he hinted at the presence of that Promised One in their very midst, but for fear of causing danger to His Blessed Person, refrained from identifying him clearly. He would tell them: “‘You behold Him with your own eyes and yet recognize 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 Hashim. He is young in age, and is possessed of innate knowledge. His learning is derived, not from the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad [their previous master before Siyyid Kazim], 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.’”
In such an atmosphere of spiritual suspense, each student of Siyyid Kazim tried to reconcile in his own mind who the Promised one might be – some thought it could be Mulla Husay, who was away on an assignment; others felt inclined towards Siyyid Kazim himself. It was very confusing!
Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi was also affected by all this. He told Nabil that “he too entertained such doubts, that he prayed to God that if his supposition was well founded he should be confirmed in his belief, and if not that he should be delivered from such idle fancy.” He once told him that "I was so perturbed that for days I could neither eat nor sleep. My days were spent in the service of Siyyid Kazim, to whom I was greatly attached.” The something extraordinary happened. “One day,” he told Nabil many years later, “at the hour of dawn, I was suddenly awakened by … one of Siyyid Kazim’s attendants, who, in great excitement, bade me arise and follow him.”
He led me directly “to the house of Siyyid Kazim, where we found him fully dressed, wearing his aba, and ready to leave his home. He asked me to accompany him. 'A highly esteemed and distinguished Person,' he said, 'has arrived. I feel it incumbent upon us both to visit Him! The morning light had just broken when I found myself walking with him through the streets of Karbila.”
“We soon reached a house, at the door of which stood a Youth, as if expectant to receive us. He wore a green turban, and His countenance revealed an expression of humility and kindliness which I can never describe. He quietly approached us, extended His arms towards Siyyid Kazim, and lovingly embraced him. His affability and loving-kindness singularly contrasted with the sense of profound reverence that characterized the attitude of Siyyid Kazim towards him. Speechless and with bowed head, he received the many expressions of affection and esteem with which that Youth greeted him. We were soon led by Him to the upper floor of that house, and entered a chamber bedecked with flowers and redolent of the loveliest perfume. He bade us be seated. We knew not, however, what seats we actually occupied, so overpowering was the sense of delight which seized us. We observed a silver cup which had been placed in the centre of the room, which our youthful Host, soon after we were seated, filled to overflowing, and handed to Siyyid Kazim, saying: 'A drink of a pure beverage shall their Lord give them.'[Qur'án, 76:21] Siyyid Kazim held the cup with both hands and quaffed it. A feeling of reverent joy filled his being, a feeling which he could not suppress. I too was presented with a cupful of that beverage, though no words were addressed to me. All that was spoken at that memorable gathering was the above-mentioned verse of the Qur'án. Soon after, the Host arose from His seat and, accompanying us to the threshold of the house, bade us farewell. I was mute with wonder, and knew not how to express the cordiality of His welcome, the dignity of His bearing, the charm of that face, and the delicious fragrance of that beverage. How great was my amazement when I saw my teacher quaff without the least hesitation that holy draught from a silver cup, the use of which, according to the precepts of Islam, is forbidden to the faithful. I could not explain the motive which could have induced the Siyyid to manifest such profound reverence in the presence of that Youth -- a reverence which even the sight of the shrine of the ‘Siyyidu'sh-Shuhada’ ['the Prince of Martyrs', a reference to Imam Husayn] had failed to excite.” (Adapted from the Dawn-Breakers, Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Revelation,Translated and Edited by Shoghi Effendi pp. 25-26)