December 8, 2016

Gifts from one Manifestation of God to Another

Tihran, circa 1808
A remarkable event, which may be unique in religious history, took place in the very early years of the Bábí-Bahá’í Faith. It happened while the Báb, escorted by government soldiers, was being exiled from His native city of Shiraz to the Fortress of Mah-ku, in the northwestern corner of Persia (Iran). This event took place about 10 miles south of the capital city of Tihran in the year 1847. We’ll review a brief background to the incident, the event itself, as well as an amazing episode that occurred shortly thereafter.

In the spring of 1847, Gurgin Khan, the nephew and successor of Isfahan’s friendly Governor, Manuchihr Khan, became aware of the secret arrangements that his uncle had made to allow the Báb to stay in Isfahan for the previous four months, instead of sending Him to Tihran.  When he discovered this, he immediately brought the situation to the attention of the Shah in Tihran. The Shah, who was firmly convinced of the loyalty of Manuchir Khan, realized, when he received this message, that the late governor's sincere intention had been to await a favourable occasion when he could arrange a meeting between him and the Báb, and that his sudden death had interfered with the execution of that plan. He issued an imperial mandate summoning the Báb to the capital.

On the afternoon of the eighth day after Naw-Ruz 1847, the Báb and His mounted escort arrived at the fortress of Kinar-Gird, which lies about 30 miles to the south of Tihran. They had decided to spend the night in the neighbourhood of that fortress and proceed to the capital the next day, when a messenger arrived with a written order from Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Prime Minister for the head of the escort, Muhammad Big, instructing him to proceed to the village of Kulayn, and there await further instructions. The village of Kulayn, a hamlet owned by Aqasi was situated some ten miles southwest of the capital. The Báb remained there for a period of twenty days. Nearing the end of that period, He dispatched a letter to the King requesting an audience to set forth the truth of His condition and expecting this to be a means for the attainment of great advantages for the country.

November 10, 2016

The Egyptian Baha’i merchant who wanted to see Baha’u’llah

Abdu’l-Karim was an Egyptian merchant of considerable wealth, who had heard the story of the new Revelation, and accepted it with the ardor of his eager temperament. After some time he felt that he could not be content without seeing the Messenger of God whose presence in the world had stirred his heart. So he wrote a letter to Acca, where Baha’u’llah, the new Manifestation of God, was and begged permission to visit Him.

Baha’u’llah’s answer greatly surprised him. He was told that he could come to Acca, but first he must put himself in a position where he owed no man anything.

Abdu’l-Karim had carried on his business for many years in the customary Oriental fashion, sending his caravans across the desert laden with a precious freight of riches. He had established lines of credit everywhere, and probably never dreamed of doing business on a cash basis. His commerce was constantly expanding and perhaps he was not too scrupulous in his dealings. We may be certain it had not occurred to him that his interest in the new Day of God would require him to revise his approach to doing business with his fellow man. A successful merchant is apt to fall into the habit of considering his own advantage first. Naturally Abdu’l-Karim was absorbed in the conduct of his rapidly broadening trade connections, for he was a man of fifty years when this momentous influence came into his life.

Abdu’l-Karim accepted without hesitation the required stipulation. Before all else he wanted to see the Manifestation of God, and everything became of secondary importance in comparison with this event.

He began, therefore, to arrange his affairs with this point in view. Previously he had thought only of expansion, of increase. Now his one desire was to reach the condition where he would owe no man anything. So he began to pay off his debts. As money came in, instead of investing it again, he paid a debt with it, until at length, after five years, he had attained his goal, and he did not owe a penny to anyone!

October 20, 2016

The sifter of wheat in Isfahan

At the time of the Báb, Isfahan, a central city in Persia, was known among cities for the great learning of its clergy. However, the first to embrace the Cause of the Báb in that city was a man, a sifter of wheat, who, as soon as the Call reached his ears, unreservedly accepted the Message. 

His name was Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Gandum-Pak-Kun. He is mentioned in the Persian Bayan and praised as one who "donned the robe of discipleship". 

With marvelous devotion he served Mulla Husayn, and through his close association with him became a zealous advocate of the new Revelation. 

A few years later, when the soul-stirring details of the siege of the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi were recounted to him, he felt an irresistible impulse to throw in his lot with those heroic companions of the Báb who had risen for the defense of their Faith. Carrying his sieve in his hand, he immediately arose and set out to reach the scene of that memorable encounter. He joined the company of the defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi and perished during that siege.

"Why leave so hurriedly?" his friends asked him, as they saw him running in a state of intense excitement through the bazaars of Isfahan.

"I have arisen," he replied, "to join the glorious company of the defenders of the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi! With this sieve which I carry with me, I intend to sift the people in every city through which I pass. Whomsoever I find ready to espouse the Cause I have embraced, I will ask to join me and hasten forthwith to the field of martyrdom."

September 14, 2016

A young dervish recognizes Baha’u’llah’s station in 1844

While Baha’u’llah was spreading the Divine Message of the Báb in the district of Nur in northern Iran in 1844, an amazing incident took place which Nabil recorded:

One day, in the course of one of His riding excursions into the country, Bahá’u’lláh, accompanied by His companions, saw, seated by the roadside, a lonely youth. His hair was dishevelled, and he wore the dress of a dervish. [1] By the side of a brook he had kindled a fire, and was cooking his food and eating it. Approaching him, Bahá’u’lláh most lovingly enquired: “Tell Me, dervish, what is it that you are doing?” “I am engaged in eating God,” he bluntly replied. “I am cooking God and am burning Him.” The unaffected simplicity of his manners and the candour of his reply pleased Bahá’u’lláh extremely. He smiled at his remark and began to converse with him with unrestrained tenderness and freedom. Within a short space of time, Bahá’u’lláh had changed him completely. Enlightened as to the true nature of God, and with a mind purged from the idle fancy of his own people, he immediately recognised the Light which that loving Stranger had so unexpectedly brought him. That dervish, whose name was Muṣṭafá, became so enamoured with the teachings which had been instilled into his mind that, leaving his cooking utensils behind, he straightway arose and followed Bahá’u’lláh. On foot, behind His horse, and inflamed with the fire of His love, he chanted merrily verses of a love-song which he had composed on the spur of the moment and had dedicated to his Beloved. “Thou art the Day-Star of guidance,” ran its glad refrain. “Thou art the Light of Truth. Unveil Thyself to men, O Revealer of the Truth.” Although, in later years, that poem obtained wide circulation among his people, and it became known that a certain dervish, surnamed Majdhúb, and whose name was Mustafá Big-i-Sanandají, had, without premeditation, composed it in praise of his Beloved, none seemed to be aware to whom it actually referred, nor did anyone suspect, at a time when Bahá’u’lláh was still veiled from the eyes of men, that this dervish alone had recognised His station and discovered His glory. 
- Nabil  (‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)
[1] Poor one, Religious mendicant, Islamic mystic

August 5, 2016

How the second “Letter of the Living” recognized the Báb…

This is the story of Mulla Aliy-i-Bastami, one of the Letters of the Living, "the first to leave the House of God (Shiraz) and the first to suffer for His sake…" (The Báb, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, ‘God Passes By’) He was “one of the foremost disciples of Siyyid Kazim…. He was endowed with such vast learning, and was so deeply conversant with the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad, that many regarded him as even superior to Mulla Husayn.” (Nabil, ‘The Dawn-Breakers’)

Following the death of their leader, Siyyid Kazim, Mulla Ali and twelve other followers of Siyyid Kazim decided to follow the example of Mulla Husayn and begin their search for the Promised One – as they were instructed to do so by Siyyid Kazim. Mulla Husayn had just started his spiritual preparation in retirement by praying and fasting for forty days. On several occasions Mulla 'Ali approached Mulla Husayn to ask him where he was going and what his destination would be. Every time he neared Mulla Husayn, he found him so deeply wrapt in prayer that he felt it improper to venture a question. Mulla 'Ali decided to retire in a like manner from the society of men and prepare his own heart for the quest. His companions followed his example with the exception of three who acted as their personal attendants.

As soon as the forty days were up, Mulla Husayn decided to leave Karbila at once for Persia where he felt his search should begin. His brother and nephew also accompanied him. An inner prompting led him to Bushihr on the Persian Gulf. Though he could feel the sweet savors of His holiness the Báb in Bushir something suddenly turned him like a compass needle to the north. He set out at once on foot for the city of Shiraz. When he arrived at the gate of the city, he directed his brother and his nephew, who had accompanied him, to go to the prayer-house and await his return. "Something draws my heart into the city," he said, "but I shall meet you for evening prayers." A few hours before sunset, Mulla Husayn's eyes fell upon the Báb and received an invitation to His House and became the first believer in the Bábi Dispensation.

Shortly after Mulla Husayn had left Karbila, Mulla ‘Ali accompanied by twelve companions also followed him towards Persia.

July 10, 2016

The story of how Baha’u’llah’s Father received the title of “Buzurg” - “the Great” – from the King of Persia

Specimen of the calligraphy of Mirza Buzurg
The father of Bahá'u'lláh was Mirza 'Abbas-i-Nuri. His family lived in the district of Nur, in the northern Persian province of Mazindaran.

One day during the reign of Fath-'Ali Shah, (the king of Persia from 1797 to 1834), the king was shown a masterpiece of calligraphy made by a very celebrated calligrapher who had passed away. Marvellous was the beauty of that piece of handwriting, and Fath-'Ali Shah wondered if anyone living in Persia could match its excellence. One of his sons mentioned the name of Mirza 'Abbas-i-Nuri. Thereupon king sent his representative to the District of Nur to show that masterpiece to Mirza ‘Abbas (Baha’u’llah’s father) and challenge him if he could to produce its like.

Upon receiving that masterpiece, Mirza 'Abbas first produced a piece like the original and then added some additional lines of his own, had them suitably illuminated and presented to Fath-'Ali Shah.

The Shah's admiration was boundless. A royal decree bestowed upon Mirza 'Abbas the name Mirza Buzurg, [the ‘Great’] and invested him with a robe of honour - a garment which the monarch himself had worn. At the same time the Shah exempted the people of the village of Takur, Mirza Buzurg’s home, from the payment of taxes. A few years later, Mirza Buzurg was appointed vizier to the twelfth son of Fath-'Ali Shah, who was the chief of the clans of the Qajar tribe, to which the royal family itself belonged.

Mirza Buzurg prospered in the service of the State, until the days of Muhammad Shah (reigned 1834-48), when he encountered the ill will of that monarch's notorious Prime Minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi, and lost his position and much of his considerable wealth.  
(Adapted from ‘Baha’u’llah, The King of Glory’, by Balyuzi)

June 27, 2016

An example of how Baha’u’llah during His younger years chastised a famous religious leader for showing disrespect towards Christ

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, a famous Baha’i scholar, relates in one of his works what he himself heard from a divine. 

In a gathering where Baha’u’llah was present a famous high-ranking Sufi religious leader who was highly esteemed by Muhammad Shah, was holding forth on the station that a human being can attain. Referring to himself, he said, 'Should my servant come to me and say that Jesus the Christ was at the door, asking for me, my detachment is such that I would express no wish to see Him.' Some of those present kept silent, while others out of flattery murmured assent. Only Baha’u’llah spoke up. He turned to the boastful divine who had expressed such disrespect for a Manifestation of God, and said: 'You are very close to the person of the sovereign and he is very devoted to you, but if the chief executioner with ten of his men were to come to this door and tell you that the monarch wanted to see you, would you take it calmly or would you be perturbed?' The arrogant religious leader paused for a while before replying, 'In truth, I would feel anxious.' 'In that case,' said Baha'u'llah, 'you should not make such an assertion.' 

Baha'u'llah's authoritative statement, according to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, left them all speechless. 
(Adapted from “Baha’u’llah, The King of Glory’, by H.M. Balyuzi)

June 17, 2016

A mujtahid’s dream about Baha’u’llah during His youthful years – recalled by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

'Abdu'l-Baha has described how His own grandmother, who lived in Yalrud (a village near Takur) went one day at dawn to the house of a famous mujtahid to pray. This mujtahid (a doctor of Islamic law) was Shayk Muhammad-Taqi, a distant relative of the family. After the morning prayer he told ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s grandmother that he had some excellent news for her. He had had a dream in which he had found himself outside a house which no one was allowed to enter, because, said the door-keeper, within it the Qa'im of the House of Muhammad (the Promised One of Shi’ih Muslims) was closeted with Mirza Husayn-'Ali of Nur [Baha’u’llah]. At first the mujtahid had expressed his surprise that the son of a vizier should be so privileged; but on remembering their distant kinship, he had ascribed the privilege to this fact. 
(Adapted from ‘Baha’u’llah, The King of Glory’, by H.M. Balyuzi)

June 14, 2016

An example of Baha’u’llah’s great sagacity and insight as a youth

In the village of Yalrud which is near Baha’u’llah’s ancestral home in Takur, in northern Iran, there lived a mujtahid by the name of Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi who was well-famed throughout the land. He had a thousand scholars of divinity around him, whom he taught and, from time to time, presented with a complex question to resolve.

Whenever Baha’u’llah returned to His home in Takur, He would usually stop for a while in Yalrud, and here He would visit the mujtahid, who was distantly related to His family.

During a visit to Yarud, when Baha’u’llah was sitting in the company of Shaykh Muhmmmad-Taqi and other scholars and divines, He was asked to resolve a question they had been unable to answer to the mujtahid's satisfaction.

The problem was this:

An Islamic tradition states that ‘Fatimih is the best of the women of this world, but for the one born of Mary’. But since Mary had no daughter, what did this conundrum mean?

Baha'u'llah replied that the initial statement emphasized the impossibility of its alternative, since there could be no other woman comparable to Fatimih. It was like saying that a certain monarch is the greatest of the kings of this world, except for the one who comes down from Heaven; since no king has or will come down from Heaven, the uniqueness of that one monarch is stressed.

Baha'u'llah’s explanation left the great mujtahid silent, but next day he upbraided his disciples for having let him down badly. 'I have taught and trained you for years on end,' he complained, 'but when the need arises, I find you wanting in understanding, whereas an unturbaned youth has brilliantly explained the problem I had presented to you.' 
(Adapted from ‘Baha’u’llah, The King of Glory’, by H.M. Balyuzi)

May 14, 2016

An example of how the Báb changed unseemly business practices while He was a merchant in Bushihr, Persia – related by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

During His stay in Bushihr, the Báb achieved extraordinary things and thoroughly demolished the foundation of people's corrupt practices. The merchants of Bushihr had a custom that after a deal had been concluded they would renege and barter to receive a considerable discount.

Some of them came to His Holiness, negotiated purchase of indigo dye, and bought a very large quantity. After they had sealed the bargain and moved the lots of indigo to their own office, they returned to renege and bargain. His Holiness did not accept and said, "You made a bargain, signed papers, and the transaction has been completed. I will not give a discount and will not renegotiate." They insisted. He replied. "What I said is final." They pleaded: "It is the custom of the country." He responded: "Many of these customs are wrong and will soon be abolished." No matter how much they insisted, He would not agree. The merchants were obstinate, and at last He said, "[If] the price is high, return the merchandise as I will not barter." They insisted: "It is the custom here." He replied: "I wish to put an end to this custom." They insisted: "If a merchant has bought commodities and moved them to his warehouse, and then returns them, he will forfeit his standing with merchants." "It is your choice," He told them, "accept the terms and refrain from renegotiation.” Again they insisted: "But this is the custom of the realm." Yet again, He reminded them, "I am ending this custom." Eventually, He [the Báb] ordered the merchandise brought back to His shop and did not yield to their efforts at bargaining.

He changed many of their unseemly practices during the period He was a merchant in Bushihr. 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (Words of 'Abdu'l-Baha, quoted by Mirza Habibu’llah Afnan in ‘The Genesis of the Bábi-Bahá’í Faiths in Shiraz and Fars’, translated and annotated by Ahang Rabbani) 

April 23, 2016

An example of Baha’u’llah bestowing physical healing upon a believer

There was a believer by the name of Shaykh Ṣádiq of Yazd. He had emigrated from Persia to Baghdád during the time of Baha’u’llah. ‘Abdu’l-Baha has described him as “a man esteemed, and righteous as his name, Ṣádiq. [truthful, loyal] He was a towering palm in the groves of Heaven, a star flaming in the skies of the love of God.”

Here is the story told by the Master:

“It was during the ‘Iráq period that he hastened to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. His detachment from the things of this world and his attachment to the life of the spirit are indescribable. He was love embodied, tenderness personified. Day and night, he commemorated God. Utterly unconscious of this world and all that is therein, he dwelt continually on God, remaining submerged in supplications and prayers. Most of the time, tears poured from his eyes. The Blessed Beauty singled him out for special favor, and whenever He turned His attention toward Ṣádiq, His loving-kindness was clear to see.

On a certain day they brought word that Ṣádiq was at the point of death. I went to his bedside and found him breathing his last. He was suffering from ileus, an abdominal pain and swelling. I hurried to Bahá’u’lláh and described his condition. “Go,” He said. “Place your hand on the distended area and speak the words: ‘O Thou the Healer!’” [Yá Sháfí]

I went back. I saw that the affected part had swollen up to the size of an apple; it was hard as stone, in constant motion, twisting, and coiling about itself like a snake. I placed my hand upon it; I turned toward God and, humbly beseeching Him, I repeated the words, “O Thou the Healer!” Instantly the sick man rose up. The ileus vanished; the swelling was carried off.” 
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (‘Memorials of the Faithful’)

February 21, 2016

Tablets of the Divine Plan changed the lives of an American couple

In 1919, 'Abdu'l-Baha, The Center of the Covenant of Baha’u’llah, sent Tablets (letters) to America outlining a great plan for a spiritual divine civilization for the whole world. A copy of these Tablets were sent to two Baha’is in California – Mr. and Mrs. Hyde Dunn.

Upon reading these Tablets they felt overwhelmed with a desire for service. They prayed humbly: "Lord, here I am! Lord, here I am!”

A deep urge came to them to carry the Glad Tidings of the Baha'i Cause to Australia and New Zealand.

They worked and economized and finally landed in Australia with barely fifteen dollars. Mr. Dunn, who later became known as “Father Dunn” was taken ill, but “Mother Dunn” (Mrs. Dunn) went out to earn for those first few weeks. Then Father Dunn gained strength and went out and found a position.

“He who ariseth to serve the Cause of God verily the doors of might and power shall be thrown open before his face!” He just needs to ARISE in faith first.

For four years these two pioneer teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Hyde Dunn, traveled throughout Australia, earning their living, and both telling the dear Australian friends about the Baha’i Cause for world peace.

January 10, 2016

"...thousands of worlds of incomparable splendor were unveiled to my eyes…” - a spiritual experience by a youth

Mirza Aqa Jan embraced the religion of the Báb when he was about sixteen years old and became instantly “aflame with devotion.” He was neither learned nor rich and made his living in his hometown of Kashan making and selling soap. Soap-making was a humble trade in those days, often carried out at home by people who were not well educated.

Mirza Aqa jan was also a seeker of truth who had seen the Báb in his dreams and believed in Him. He had also read the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and felt the urge to attain His presence. He left his home in Kashan unexpectedly and traveled to Iraq.

When he reached Baghdad, he learned that Bahá’u’lláh was visiting the Babís in the neighboring town of Karbila and where He was the guest of one of the resident Bábis. This was before Baha’u’llah’s Declaration in the Garden of Ridvan. Mirza Aqa Jan followed Baha’u’llah to Karbila.

Bahá’u’lláh liked to spend the hot summer nights on the flat roof of the house, as people often did. There He chanted His prayers under a canopy of stars and slept in the fresh night air.

One night Bahá’u’lláh invited Mirza Aqa Jan who had just arrived in Karbala to join Him on the roof. Bahá’u’lláh was already sleeping when Mirza Aqa jan spread out his bedding nearby on a carpet and lay down for a brief rest.

Many years later, Mirza Aqa jan related the following amazing account to the great Baha’i historian, Nabil: