June 10, 2018

Karbila, circa 1841: A meeting between the Báb and His forerunner Siyyid Kazim -- its profound and long-lasting effect on a disciple of Siyyid Kazim who was also present

Karbila, circa 1930s
In the following incident Nabil gives an example of Siyyid Kazim’s efforts to prepare his disciples to gradually remove the veils of age-old erroneous understandings and superstition, to become ready to recognize their Lord, the Báb:

In those days Siyyid Kázim became increasingly aware of the approach of the Hour at which the promised One [the Báb] was to be revealed. He realised how dense were those veils that hindered the seekers from apprehending the glory of the concealed Manifestation. He accordingly exerted his utmost endeavour to remove gradually, with caution and wisdom, whatever barriers might stand in the way of the full recognition of that Hidden Treasure of God.

He repeatedly urged his disciples to bear in mind the fact that He whose advent they were expecting would appear neither from Jabúlqá nor from Jabúlsá.’ [1] He even hinted at His presence in their very midst:

“You behold Him with your own eyes,” he often observed, “and yet recognise 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 Háshim. [2] He is young in age, and is possessed of innate knowledge. His learning is derived, not from the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad, [his master] 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.” 

Siyyid Kazim
Certain of the Siyyid Kazim’s disciples, despite the testimonies of their master, believed him to be the promised One, for in him they recognised the signs to which he was alluding. Among them was a certain Mullá Mihdíy-i-Khú’í, who went so far as to make public this belief. Whereupon Siyyid Kazim was sore displeased, and would have cast him out from the company of his chosen followers had he not begged forgiveness and expressed his repentance for his action.

Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí, [one of his disciples] himself, informed me [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.

“I was so perturbed,” he once related to me, “that for days I could neither eat nor sleep. My days were spent in the service of Siyyid Kázim, to whom I was greatly attached.

One day, at the hour of dawn, I was suddenly awakened by Mullá Naw-rúz, one of his intimate attendants, who, in great excitement, bade me arise and follow him. We went to the house of Siyyid Kázim, where we found him fully dressed, wearing his ‘abá, 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 Karbilá. 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 Kázim, and lovingly embraced him. His affability and loving-kindness singularly contrasted with the sense of profound reverence that characterised the attitude of Siyyid Kázim 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 Kázim, saying: ‘A drink of a pure beverage shall their Lord give them.’  Siyyid Kázim 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 Islám, 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’ [Imam Husayn] had failed to excite.

Three days later, I saw that same Youth arrive and take His seat in the midst of the company of the assembled disciples of Siyyid Kázim. He sat close to the threshold, and with the same modesty and dignity of bearing listened to the discourse of the Siyyid. As soon as his eyes fell upon that Youth, the Siyyid discontinued his address and held his peace. Whereupon one of his disciples begged him to resume the argument which he had left unfinished.

‘What more shall I say?’ replied Siyyid Kázim, as he turned his face toward the Báb. ‘Lo, the Truth is more manifest than the ray of light that has fallen upon that lap!’

I immediately observed that the ray to which the Siyyid referred had fallen upon the lap of that same Youth whom we had recently visited.

‘Why is it,’ that questioner enquired, ‘that you neither reveal His name nor identify His person?’

To this the Siyyid replied by pointing with his finger to his own throat, implying that were he to divulge His name, they both would be put to death instantly.

This added still further to my perplexity. I had already heard my teacher observe that so great is the perversity of this generation, that were he to point with his finger to the promised One and say: ‘He indeed is the Beloved, the Desire of your hearts and mine,’ they would still fail to recognise and acknowledge Him. I saw the Siyyid actually point out with his finger the ray of light that had fallen on that lap, and yet none among those who were present seemed to apprehend its meaning. I, for my part, was convinced that the Siyyid himself could never be the promised One, but that a mystery inscrutable to us all, lay concealed in that strange and attractive Youth.

Several times I ventured to approach Siyyid Kázim and seek from him an elucidation of this mystery. Every time I approached him, I was overcome by a sense of awe which his personality so powerfully inspired.
Shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbila,
cica 1930s

Many a time I heard him remark: ‘O Shaykh Hasan, rejoice that your name is Hasan [praiseworthy]; Hasan your beginning, and Hasan your end. You have been privileged to attain to the day of Shaykh Ahmad, you have been closely associated with me, and in the days to come yours shall be the inestimable joy of beholding “what eye hath seen not, ear heard not, nor any heart conceived.”’

“I often felt the urge to seek alone the presence of that Háshimite Youth and to endeavour to fathom His mystery. I watched Him several times as He stood in an attitude of prayer at the doorway of the shrine of the Imám Husayn. So wrapt was He in His devotions that He seemed utterly oblivious of those around Him. Tears rained from His eyes, and from His lips fell words of glorification and praise of such power and beauty as even the noblest passages of our Sacred Scriptures could not hope to surpass. The words ‘O God, my God, my Beloved, my heart’s Desire’ were uttered with a frequency and ardour that those of the visiting pilgrims who were near enough to hear Him instinctively interrupted the course of their devotions, and marvelled at the evidences of piety and veneration which that youthful countenance evinced. Like Him they were moved to tears, and from Him they learned the lesson of true adoration. Having completed His prayers, that Youth, without crossing the threshold of the shrine and without attempting to address any words to those around Him, would quietly return to His home. I felt the impulse to address Him, but every time I ventured an approach, a force that I could neither explain nor resist, detained me. My enquiries about Him elicited the information that He was a resident of Shíráz, that He was a merchant by profession, and did not belong to any of the ecclesiastical orders. I was, moreover, informed that He, and also His uncles and relatives, were among the lovers and admirers of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim.

Shrine of Imam Husayn in Karbila,
circa 1930s
Soon after, I learned that He had departed for Najaf on His way to Shíráz. That Youth had set my heart aflame. The memory of that vision haunted me. My soul was wedded to His till the day when the call of a Youth from Shíráz, proclaiming Himself to be the Báb, reached my ears. The thought instantly flashed through my mind that such a person could be none other than that selfsame Youth whom I had seen in Karbilá, the Youth of my heart’s desire. 
(Adapted from 'The Dawn-Breakers' by Nabil, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

[1] Mysterious cities where Shi’ah’sbelieve the 12th Imám to be living with his chosen companions, waiting to come forth in the fullness of time and fill the earth with justice (‘Baha’i Glossary’, by Marzieh Gail)
[2] Family of Prophet Muhammad