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.

Táhirih had stayed among his followers in that city, spending her time in prayer and meditation, until one night she was visited with a remarkable dream. In this dream a young man wearing a black robe and a green turban appeared to her in the heavens and, with upraised hands, recited certain verses -- the same verses that she later read in a copy of the Báb's commentary on the Surih of Joseph.

When the fearless Táhirih declared her belief in the Báb, she had indeed become a spiritual leader. Her passionate and persuasive arguments convinced multitudes in city after city of the truth of the Báb and His Cause. Princes, mullas, and government officials were won over by her knowledge, her eloquence, and the indomitable force of her character. Táhirih taught many women as well, among them the respected widow of Siyyid Kazim.

On her return to Qazvin, Táhirih had caused a furor. She had refused to return to the home of her husband, Mulla Muhammad, who thought of himself, along with his father and uncle, as the best of the mujtahids [doctors of religion] of Persia. Táhirih sent her reply with his messenger:

"Say to my presumptuous and arrogant kinsman, 'If your desire had really been to be a faithful mate and companion to me, you would have hastened to meet me in Karbila and would on foot have guided my howdah all the way to Qazvin. I would, while journeying with you, have aroused you from your sleep of heedlessness and would have shown you the way of truth. But this was not to be. Three years have elapsed since our separation. Neither in this world nor in the next can I ever be associated with you. I have cast you out of my life forever.'"

For a Muslim husband to be addressed with such words by his wife was unheard of and enraged both Mulla Muhammad and his father, Mulla Taqi. They subsequently branded Táhirih a heretic and bent all their efforts to sully her reputation.

It was Mulla Taqi who was later murdered in the mosque -- struck down by a man enraged at his cruel condemnation of a man who had done nothing more than praise Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim.

Yet even after the murderer had confessed, the family and friends of Mulla Taqi were determined to make the bold and independent Táhirih suffer for the crime. 

"No one else but you is guilty of the murder of our father," they said. "You issued the order for his assassination."

Her accusers questioned her for hours about the crime, but to every question Táhirih replied with calm dignity, "This deed has been perpetrated without our knowledge."

Her father tried to protect her by keeping her in his own house, but her accusers were determined to have their way. It was not justice they wanted, but blood. Táhirih's life was in grave danger.

When Baha’u’llah learned of Táhirih's situation, He at once set in motion a plan to rescue her. Swiftly, in the dark of night, He sent a trusted Bábi and his wife to Qazvin, [the town where Táhirih was put in house arrest] giving them careful instructions. The woman, disguised as a beggar, was to deliver a letter directly into Táhirih's hands and wait. When Táhirih was ready, the two women were to walk together along the back ways of Qazvin until they came to the city gate. There the Bábi man would meet them with three horses, and they would ride the back roads to Tehran.

''As soon as the gates [of Tehran] are opened, you must enter the city and proceed immediately to My house," Baha’u’llah instructed them. "You should exercise the utmost caution lest her identity be disclosed. The Almighty will assuredly guide your steps and will surround you with His unfailing protection."

The Bábi husband and wife did just as Baha’u’llah told them. Táhirih's life depended on their obedience to His instructions.

Morning brought the angry relatives of the murdered man of Qazvin to Táhirih's door, but Táhirih was not at home. The surprised and angry relatives searched everywhere in Qazvin, but she was nowhere to be found. Táhirih was safely in Tehran.

Táhirih rested for a few days in the home of her protector, Baha’u’llah. Because of Baha’u’llah’s social position and the great esteem in which He was held by all, His home was a safe haven in which Bábis could gather.

One day the illustrious Vahid -- the shah's messenger who had become a Bábi -- was a visitor in Baha’u’llah’s home. Vahid sat explaining certain spiritual traditions while others listened. Tahirih herself listened from behind the customary curtain, holding the four-year-old child ‘Abdu'l-Baha on her lap.

Vahid was eloquent as always, but Táhirih was tired of talk. This was a brilliant new Day, the Day of the Qa'im! [the Promised One of Muslims] Suddenly she could contain herself no longer:

"Cease idly repeating the traditions of the past," she said from behind the curtain, "for the day of service, of steadfast action, is come. Now is the time to show forth the true signs of God, to rend asunder the veils of idle fancy, to promote the Word of God, and to sacrifice ourselves in His path. Let deeds, not words, be our adorning!"

Because of Baha'u'llah's swift action, Táhirih was be able to join her fellow believers at Badasht. Though Baha’u’llah would direct the course of that historic conference, Táhirih herself would make it a gathering that none would forget. 
(Adapted from ‘The Story of Baha’u’llah’, by Druzelle Cederquist)