When Siyyid Kazim died in Karbila, Iraq, on December 31, 1843, his enemies became emboldened and renewed their hurtful activities to further discredit his teachings and ridicule those who followed them. For a time, fear and anxiety filled the hearts of Siyyid Kazim’s faithful disciples as they found themselves leaderless and unsure as to what course of action to take in such a gloomy setting. This condition however was drastically improved with the return of Mulla Husayn on January 22, 1844, from a highly successful mission to Iran that his teacher Siyyid Kazim had entrusted him with. Mulla Husayn was a man whose great learning and strength of character were acknowledged even by his enemies. He had devoted himself to study from early childhood and his progress in theology and jurisprudence had won him no little consideration.
Mulla Husayn cheered and strengthened the disconsolate disciples of his beloved chief, reminded them of his unfailing promise, and pleaded for unrelaxing vigilance and unremitting effort in their search for the concealed Beloved. Living in the close to the house that Siyyid Kazim had occupied, for three days he received visits from a considerable number of mourners who hastened to convey to him, as the leading representative of Siyyid Kazim’s disciples, their distress and sorrow at the passing of their leader.
Mulla Husayn afterwards summoned a group of his most distinguished and trusted fellow-disciples and enquired about the expressed wishes and the last exhortations of their departed leader. They told him that Siyyid Kazim had told them emphatically many times, during Mulla Husayn’s absence, to leave their homes, scatter far and wide, purge their hearts from every idle desire, and dedicate themselves to the quest of Him to whose advent he had so often alluded. Furthermore, they told Mulla Husayn that their teacher had told them, “that the Object of our quest was now revealed. The veils that intervened between you and Him are such as only you can remove by your devoted search. Nothing short of prayerful endeavour, of purity of motive, of singleness of mind, will enable you to tear them asunder. Has not God revealed in His Book: ‘Whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways will We guide them’?” [Qura’n 29:69]
Mulla Husayn asked them: “Why, then have you chosen to tarry in Karbila? Why is it that you have not dispersed, and arisen to carry out his earnest plea?”
The disciples responded: “We acknowledge our failure… to your greatness we all bear witness. Such is our confidence in you, that if you claim to be the promised One, we shall all readily and unquestionably submit. We herein pledge our loyalty and obedience to whatever you bid us perform.”
“God forbid!” exclaimed Mulla Husayn. “Far be it from His glory that I, who am but dust, should be compared to Him who is the Lord of Lords! Had you been conversant with the tone and language of Siyyid Kazim, you never would have uttered such words. Your first obligation, as well as mine, is to arise and carry out, both in the spirit and in the letter, the dying message of our beloved chief.”
Mulla Husayn arose instantly from his seat, and went directly to see the well-known figures among the disciples of Siyyid Kazim who were not present at this gathering. To each and all he fearlessly delivered the parting message of his chief, emphasised the pressing character of their duty, and urged them to arise and fulfil it. To his plea, however, they returned evasive and unworthy answers. One of them remarked: “Our enemies are many and powerful. We must remain in this city [Karbila] and guard the vacant seat of our departed chief.” Another observed: “It is incumbent upon me to stay and care for the children whom the Siyyid has left behind.”
Mulla Husayn immediately recognised the futility of his efforts. Realising the degree of their folly, their blindness and ingratitude, he spoke to them no more. He retired, having acquitted himself of the obligation he felt to urge and awaken his fellow-disciples, he left them to their idle pursuits and set out for the town of Najaf, about 90 kilometres to the south in Iraq. With him were his brother, Muhammad-Hasan, and his nephew Muhammad-Baqir, who had accompanied him in his earlier travels to his native town of Bushruyih, in the province of Khurasan in Persia.
On their way to Najaf they arrived at a Mosque. Mulla Husayn decided to spend forty days in that place, where he led a life of retirement and prayer. By his fasts and vigils he prepared himself for the holy adventure upon which he was soon to embark. In the exercise of these acts of worship, his brother alone was associated with him, while his nephew, who attended to their daily needs, observed the fasts, and in his hours of leisure joined them in their devotions.
Their quiet and secluded setting was unexpectedly interrupted after a few days when some additional disciples joined them. These were Mulla ‘Aliy-i-Bastami, one of the foremost disciples of Siyyid Kazim, together with twelve other companions. Mulla ‘Ali was endowed with such vast learning, and was so deeply conversant with the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, that many regarded him as even superior to Mulla Husayn.
On several occasions Mulla ‘Ali attempted to enquire from Mulla Husayn as to his destination after his period of retirement came to an end. Every time he approached him, however, he found him so wrapt in his devotions that he felt it impossible to venture a question. Mulla ‘Ali soon decided to retire like, Mulla Husayn, for forty days from the society of men. All his companions followed his example with the exception of three who acted as their personal attendants.
Immediately after the completion of his forty days’ retirement, Mulla Husayn, together with his brother and nephew, proceeded for the town of Najaf and visited on route the shrine of Imam ‘Ali in Najaf. From there they continued on to Búshihr, on the Persian Gulf, where he started on his holy quest after the Beloved of his heart’s desire. There, for the first time, he inhaled the fragrance of Him who, for years, had led in that city the life of a merchant and humble citizen. There he perceived the sweet savours of holiness with which that Beloved’s countless invocations had so richly impregnated the atmosphere of that city.
Mulla Husayn could not, however, tarry longer in Búshihr. Drawn as if by a magnet which seemed to attract him irresistibly towards the north, he headed to Shiraz. Arriving at the gate of that city, he instructed his brother and his nephew to proceed directly to the Masjid-i-Ilkhani, and there to remain until his arrival. He expressed the hope that, God willing, he would arrive in time to join them for their evening prayer… and that’s how he met the Báb!
(Adapted from ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, by Nabil, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)