December 9, 2010

How Tahirih recognized the Bab

One of the most courageous of all the followers of the Bab was a woman. She was among His chosen disciples. She was known as Tahirih, which means "The Pure One." The members of her family ranked high among the religious leaders of Persia. Her father was one of the most famous of all. From her earliest childhood, she was regarded by her fellow-townsmen as a prodigy. Her knowledge and gifts were so outstanding that her father often was heard to lament, "Would that she had been born a boy, for he would have shed illumination upon my household, and would have succeeded me." ['Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 191]

She was renowned for both her intelligence and her beauty. Her brother, `Abdu'l-Vahhab said, "None of us, her brothers or her cousins dared to speak in her presence, her learning so intimidated us; and if we ventured to express some hypothesis upon a disputed point of doctrine, she demonstrated in such a clear, precise and conclusive manner that we were going astray, that we instantly withdrew confused." [A. L. M. Nicolas, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad dit la Bab, p. 273]

A. L. M. Nicolas’ historical account tells us that "her reputation became universal throughout Persia, and the most haughty `Ulamas [religious scholars] consented to adopt some of her hypotheses and opinions."

One day while visiting in the home of her cousin, she discovered some books in his library which interested her very much. They were written by Shaykh Ahmad and his successor, Siyyid Kazim [the two forerunners of the Bab]. Her cousin warned her that her father would be very displeased if he found her reading them. "He is opposed to these modern thinkers," he told her.

However, she persuaded him, and took the books home to study. Her father raised violent objections, had heated discussions with her, and criticized and denounced the writings of Shaykh Ahmad. She eagerly read all of their books that she could find. Shaykh Ahmad was dead, but Siyyid Kazim was still living in Karbila, so Tahirih began corresponding with him. His letters excited in her an ever keener interest in the coming of a promised Messenger. She had a great longing to go to Karbila to study under Siyyid Kazim.

She knew that her father would never grant his permission. However, with the help of her uncle, she secured permission to visit the shrines at Karbila and Najaf [in Iraq]. Her family willingly granted permission for this, believing that a pilgrimage might bring her back to her senses and to more orthodox ways. They did not suspect that her true purpose in going was to meet Siyyid Kazim.

She made the journey in 1843. She looked forward to studying under Siyyid Kazim. During those days she thought only of his promise: the approaching appearance of a new spiritual Teacher in the world. Tahirih told her uncle that she wished to be the first woman to serve Him when He appeared.

"Oh, when will the day come," she said, "when new laws will be revealed on earth! I shall be the first to follow those new Teachings and to give my life for my sisters!" [Martha Root, Tahirih the Pure, p. 22]

Tahirih's grief was very deep when she reached Karbila and found that Siyyid Kazim had died just ten days before her arrival. Her sorrow softened when she was permitted to stay in his home, and was given access to all his writings, some of which had never been published. She studied them eagerly. In each one of them she discovered that same thrilling promise of a great Figure soon to appear on earth.

While she was in Karbila, Tahirih met Mulla Husayn who was just starting out on his search for the Promised One. Her hopes were set ablaze. She, like Mulla Husayn, spent her time in prayer and meditation. One night in a dream, a young man appeared before her. He raised his hands toward heaven and in a beautiful voice recited many wonderful verses, one of which she wrote down. She awakened with a feeling of joy which flooded her being.

One day, some time later, a friend placed in her hands certain writings of the Bab. As her eyes looked down upon a page, she discovered the exact same words she had written down from her dream. To her intense delight she realized that the Message of the Author was true.

Tahirih wrote immediately to the Bab, telling Him that she believed Him to be that promised Messenger foretold in all the holy Books, and so long and eagerly awaited. To the one who delivered the letter for her, she added: "Say to Him, from me, ‘The effulgence of Thy face hath flashed forth, and the rays of Thy visage arose on high. Then speak the word, "Am I not your Lord?" and "Thou art, Thou art!" we will all reply.'" [Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 81] (William Sears, Release the Sun, pp. 103-105)