More Books by H.M. Balyuzi

'Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah
Baha'u'llah The King of Glory
Edward Granville Browne and The Baha'i Faith
Eminent Baha'is in the Time of Baha'u'llah
Khadijih Bagum - Wife of the Bab
Muhammad and the Course of Islam
The Bab The Herald of the Day of Days
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H.M. Balyuzi : Eminent Baha'is in the Time of Baha'u'llah
Eminent Bahá'ís in the Time of Bahá'u'lláh
Some Historical Background
by H. M. Balyuzi

The passing of the Hand of the Cause of God Hasan M. Balyuzi was

a great blow to the many people around the world who were admirers

of his writings. At the time of his death, he was half-way through

a monumental four-volume study of the life and times of the Founder

of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh. He had intended the first volume

in this series to contain the basic biography of Bahá'u'lláh,

together with some chapters on the history of nineteenth-century

Iran as a background for the events of Bahá'í history. As this

volume grew in size, it was decided to transfer most of the

historical chapters to a later one. The first volume, with the

title Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, was published shortly after

Mr Balyuzi's passing and contained three of the historical chapters

(10, 14 and Appendix).

Mr Balyuzi had planned the second volume to consist principally of

biographies of a selection of the most important disciples of

Bahá'u'lláh. By the time of his death, he had completed fourteen

of these, with a further four partially written. Shoghi Effendi,

the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, had included in The Bahá'í World,

Vol. III (pp. 80-81) the names of nineteen Bahá'ís whom he

designated as 'Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh'. Mr Balyuzi intended to

include all of these among his biographies. 'The Story of Badi",

one of these, was told in the first volume (Chapter 33). The life

of Mirza Musa, Aqay-i-Kalim, the brother of Bahá'u'lláh, another

of the Apostles, was so inextricably bound up with that of

Bahá'u'lláh Himself that it was, in effect, also covered in the

first volume. The life of yet another, Mirza

Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani, Mr Balyuzi considered so momentous that

he felt he could not confine it to a mere chapter, and he asked the

present writer to prepare a separate book entirely on the life of

this notable figure. For the remaining sixteen Apostles, Mr Balyuzi

had, at the time of his passing, completed only three biographies

and partially written three more. In the last four months of his

life, however, he had come to realize that to include biographies

of all of the Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh, his second volume would

itself have to become two separate volumes. But his death

supervened and the projected chapters remained unwritten. As a token of Mr Balyuzi's

intentions, the present writer has contributed short accounts of

the remaining Apostle of Bahá'u'lláh in Chapter 20, including Mirza

Abu'l-Fadl, and has briefly completed the three unfinished

biographies, as well as two other chapters. These additions are

clearly indicated in the text for Chapters 9, 13, 14, 17 and 18,

where the added material follows a line of asterisks.

It had also been Mr Balyuzi's intention to write a brief account

of Mirza Hasan, Mirzay-i-Shirazi, the greatest of the Shi'ih

mujtahids of his age, who, as would appear from the account in this

volume, bore secret allegiance to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Since

most of the text of this chapter was to have been a translation of

Mirza Habibu'llah Afnan's account of his father's meeting with this

famous cleric, a curtailed version is included as Chapter 19. It

is clear from statements made in some of the existing chapters, as

well as from notes left among his papers, that a number of other

chapters had been contemplated, such as one on the Seven Martyrs

of Yazd and another on the Tihran persecutions of 1882-3.

For the third volume of this series, Mr Balyuzi had envisaged an

ambitious project. He would set Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets to the Kings

and Rulers of the World against the history of nineteenth-century

Europe. And he would demonstrate how the three 'false gods', of

which Shoghi Effendi had written in The Promised Day is Come (pp.

113-14), had led to the destruction of the once-mighty continent

of Europe. To this end, Mr Balyuzi had already completed some

exhaustive research, had written an introduction, and had

translated those parts of the Suriy-i-Maluk (Tablets to the Kings)

as yet untranslated. But this is as far as he had reached at the

time of his death.

The fourth volume of the series was to have been a collection of

documents, principally from non-Bahá'í sources, relating to the

life of Bahá'u'lláh. Mr Balyuzi had asked the present writer to

take responsibility for the collection of the material for this

volume, and shortly before his passing I had presented him with a

provisional list of contents which he had approved.

Thus, while the third volume must remain forever unwritten, it is

hoped that the material for the fourth volume may eventually be

gathered, translated and published. The historical chapters omitted

from the first volume also remain to be published.

Moojan Momen

My father's death was announced to the Bahá'í community, on 12

February 1980 by a cable from the Universal House of Justice, the

text of which was later chosen by the House of Justice to be

inscribed upon the stone erected over his grave. He lies now within

yards of the resting-place of the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith,

Shoghi Effendi; and visitors to that revered and beautiful spot who

chance upon his grave may read these lines: '...his outstanding

scholarly pursuits will inspire many devoted workers among rising

generations follow his glorious footsteps...'

In her memorial article to my father, soon to be published in The

Bahá'í World, Vol. XVIII, Mrs Marion Hofman writes of him: 'A

student from his youth, he became in the last decade of his life

and in the sight of all the Bahá'í world its pre-eminent scholar,

yielding place only to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, by whose learning Mr.

Balyuzi was himself astonished.'

For all those who knew him, whether as friend, colleague, mentor,

teacher, Bahá'í co-worker, or as member of his family, each will

have his own personal memory of him. Removed now in time by five

years from his physical presence, my own strongest memory is of his

gentleness. Yet I fancy that had I ever asked him how he would

himself best wish to be remembered, then I think that it would have

been his hope that his scholarship might endure. His respect for

learning was central to his faith; and although he was rarely given

to anger, he could never accept calmly any abuse of scholarship,

whether from deliberate falsification or from careless ignorance,

whenever he encountered it.

The time will come, no doubt, when my father's writings will

require revision. The study of history is not a static discipline;

continuing research in any field of enquiry is likely to continue

to bring to light new information, and these hitherto hidden facts

may lead in time to fresh interpretation and different

perspectives. Yet I believe

that his books will abide; for nothing false will ever be found in

them, no half-truths, no distortions of available information

carefully tailored to lend support to his conclusions. Every fact

that they contain, every source of information, every reference,

will have been painstakingly and exhaustively checked and

researched, either by himself or by those whom he entrusted to

assist him. When a book was finally committed to print and

publication, it left my father's pen with his absolute conviction

that he had served truth to the fullest of his ability: for

anything less would have been a denial of the strength and power

of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, in which his belief was absolute

and his faith never failed him.

In The Passing of Shoghi Effendi, written soon after his death in

1957, his widow, Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, opens with these

words: 'All those who were privileged to know the beloved Guardian

Shoghi Effendi from the time of his childhood until his passing

remember him as being incarnate with life; a dynamic, almost

electric force seemed to radiate from him.'

In November 1925, as a boy of seventeen, brought up in a Bahá'í

family but not yet with any commitment to the Faith, my father

arrived to stay for one night in Haifa, en route to start his

University life in Beirut. He arrived there at a time of great

preoccupation and personal sorrow for the Guardian, as Dr John

Ebenezer Esslemont lay dying in the old Pilgrim House. Yet despite

his troubled mind--and my father has written how he sat up with Dr

Esslemont through that night--Shoghi Effendi took time to greet

this youth with great kindness, and stayed to talk with him and

answer his questions for over an hour. In my father's words: 'It

was that bounty of meeting Shoghi Effendi and all that I saw in

him, which confirmed me in the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. The course of

my life was changed.'

After that, my father was to meet Shoghi Effendi on various

occasions during his student days, when holidays were spent in

Haifa with other young Bahá'í students, the last being in February

1932 before he left for England to continue his education there.

This proved to be his last ever meeting with the Guardian. The

nearly fifty years that remained of his life would be spent in the

service of the Bahá'í Cause: a service which was an eloquent

testament to the 'dynamic, almost electric force' of the Guardian

which had so charged and enthused his soul.

In 1938 my father wrote a short biography of Bahá'u'lláh, the

Prophet Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, and Shoghi Effendi

acknowledged its publication by expressing the hope that he would

complete the companion essays which he intended writing on the

lives of the Báb, Who preceded Bahá'u'lláh and heralded His coming,

and of Bahá'u'lláh's son, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, as these, the Guardian

felt, would be of valuable help in the teaching of the Cause. It

was to be another thirty-three years, through circumstances

described in its Foreword, before 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Centre of the

Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, was published, with its dedication 'To the

ever present spirit of the Guardian of the Cause of God'; and nine

years later his book Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory was also

dedicated to Shoghi Effendi.

I can still recall vividly that day in November 1957 when, as a

child of thirteen, I stood on the graveside as Shoghi Effendi's

coffin was lowered into the ground. In that charged moment I can

remember looking up at my father and marking how rigid and

motionless he stood, his face almost devoid of expression. When he

came to speak the final prayer, the one of Bahá'u'lláh's which

begins 'Glory be to Thee, O God, for Thy manifestation of love to

mankind!', he did so almost in a monotone, his voice sounding to

me drained of emotion. I could not properly understand then, but

believe now, in the knowledge of all that happened after, that at

that moment his heart was broken. The depth of his grieving was

such that he was in a state of profound shock, in which his

feelings were numbed so that emotion could find little outlet.

For six years after that he kept going, borne along by the force

of events during a time of great crisis and momentous decisions,

when the duties imposed upon him by his station as a Hand of the

Cause had to be met. But after the culminating events of this

period, the election of the first Universal House of Justice and

the Bahá'í World Congress in London in 1963 the increasingly

fragile prop of physical health finally collapsed, and he plunged

into a dark and despairing retreat, punished by illness of the body

and near mental breakdown.

In her memorial article Mrs Hofman has written of how his mind was

filled with 'forebodings of guilt for his wasted days and

abdication of his responsibilities as a Hand', but also she tells

how, 'all unrecognized, another path was to open before him,

another way of service as a Hand which the Will and Testament of

'Abdu'l-Bahá had delineated: to promote learning'. For it was to

his historical researches that he turned for a lifeline, and

although he was to suffer

from continually deteriorating health for the remainder of his

days, he managed to summon together the spiritual strength and

mental energy to embark upon a decade of writing that saw the

publication of five major works of history: his biographies of the

lives of the three Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith, his work

entitled Edward Granville Brown and the Bahá'í Faith, and Muhammad

and the Course of Islam, this last book written out of his

conviction that an objective evaluation of Islam is an essential

prerequisite to an understanding of the origins of the Bahá'í


In his Foreword to this present volume, Dr Momen has explained how

it came to be written, and how it fits into my father's plan for

a four-volume study of the life and times of Bahá'u'lláh. Those

readers previously unfamiliar with Bahá'í history will certainly

encounter some difficulties, and for them some acquaintance with

my father's earlier books will be found to be of assistance,

particularly The Báb, which gives the background events to some of

the biographies contained in Part I, and also, of course,

Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, intended as volume one of the

four-part work. Reference to Muhammad and the Course of Islam could

be helpful for certain chapters of Part II. The following brief

explanation of the distinction between Babis and Bahá'ís may also

assist the reader, since this was not generally understood in Iran

during most of the period covered by this volume.

Babi is the name given to the followers of the Báb, the young

merchant of Shiraz, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, who in May 1844, at the

age of 25 years, declared Himself to be the Báb, the Gate of God,

the return of the hidden Imam-Mahdi, the Deliverer eagerly awaited

by the world of Shi'ih Islam. His Ministry was to last but six

years, though in that short time He attracted thousands to accept

His Cause, and in doing so inevitably provoked the most bitter

enmity amongst those who did not believe in Him. Supported by the

State, the orthodox Persian clergy instigated a period of brutal

and fanatical persecution, which not only brought the Báb before

a firing-squad to meet His death in July 1850, but almost succeeded

in obliterating the followers of the new religion.

During the few years of His Ministry, the Báb wrote frequently of

the coming of another, 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. In 1863,

thirteen years after the martyrdom of the Báb, a nobleman of

Mazindaran and a Babi, Mirza Husayn-'Ali, declared Himself to be

that One foretold by the Báb, the return of Christ to Earth to lead

mankind into a new epoch of spiritual development. He took the

title Bahá'u'lláh--the Glory of God--a designation first mentioned

by the Báb. Before long the greater part of the surviving Babi

community had accepted the leadership and the Message of

Bahá'u'lláh, and they became known as Baha'is. Some never did,

however, and they remained Babis.

Bahá'u'lláh gave strength and courage back to the beleaguered and

persecuted community of the Báb but, as will be learned from this

volume, He was not able to put an end to the opposition of the

Muslim clergy, and the hounding and sporadic butchering of His

followers was to continue throughout His lifetime. This book tells

the stories of some of those followers.

Although references are given for quotations, and published books

and documents are listed in the bibliography, it seems fitting to

mention the names of those Iranian Bahá'ís whose writings were

important sources for my father: 'Abdu'llah-i-Sahih-Furush, Haji

Mirza; Abu'l-Fadl, Mirza; 'Azizu'llah-i-Jadhdhab, Aqa; Habibu'llah

Afnan, Haji Mirza; Haydar-'Ali, Haji Mirza; Husayn-i-Zanjani,

Mirza; Ibn-i-Asdaq (Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad); Mahmud-i-Furughi, Mirza;

Malik-Khusravi, Muhammad-'Ali; Nabil-i-Akbar (Aqa

Muhammad-i-Qa'ini); Nabil-i-A'zam (Muhammad-i-Zarandi); Na'im

(Mirza Muhammad); Nazimu'l-Hukama (Mirza Siyyid Muhammad);

Samandar, Shaykh Kazim; Sina, Siyyid Isma'il; Sulaymani,

'Azizu'llah; Valiyu'llah Khan, Mirza.

On behalf of my father, most grateful thanks are extended to those

who published several of these historic documents or made available

others as yet unpublished, amongst whom he would have surely

mentioned, as he had done in his previous books, his cousin,

Abu'l-Qasim Afnan. Finally, my father's own words intended for

'Azizu'llah Sulaymani should be quoted: 'The present writer is much

indebted to the author of those eight volumes [Masabih-i-Hidayat],

from which he has gleaned many of his facts.'

All translations from Persian and Arabic, unless otherwise

attributed, were made by my father, including the many important

Tablets by Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, whose

translations have been approved at the Bahá'í World Centre. The

unsparing assistance extended by the Research Department in

connection with these Tablets, as well as that of the Audio-Visual

Department in seeking

out and reproducing the invaluable photographs of early believers,

is acknowledged with deep gratitude.

I have left until last to write about the two people without whose

efforts the publication of this book would not have been possible,

Mrs Marion Hofman and Dr Moojan Momen, not because their

contributions demote them to be considered after others, but

because a proper recognition of their extraordinary service to my

father makes a most fitting postlude at this ending of the road:

the publication of his last major Bahá'í history.

Dr Momen was first introduced to my father in January 1972 by his

uncle, Dr Iraj Ayman. He was at that time completing his medical

studies in London, and in such free time as he had available was

pursuing his interest in the history of the Faith by researches in

the Public Record Office. Dr Ayman was aware that my father was in

great need of an assistant to aid him with research, and so

effected the introduction. There very quickly developed a bond

between them, and a recognition on my father's part of Dr Momen's

considerable ability as an historian, which allowed him to trust

completely Dr Momen's judgement and correctness of method.

Although, at first, still heavily engaged in his studies and later

having to cope with the demands on him as a full-time medical

practitioner, Dr Momen gave unselfishly of his time in carrying out

research for my father in the preparation of The Báb and, most

importantly, Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory; in the Preface to this

latter book my father expressed his profound gratitude to Dr Momen

for his help 'of inestimable value'. Not, however, until 1981 with

the publication of Dr Momen's massive work, The Bábi and Bahá'í

Religions, 1844-1944, could the true measure of Momen's help to my

father be realized. For anyone familiar with that work will not

fail to recognize the enormous volume of research that must have

gone into its preparation. Yet, it was while engaged upon that

preparation, and also pursuing his career in medicine, that Dr

Momen found the time to help my father to the degree and with the

effect that he did.

My father loved Moojan as though he had been of his own family, and

he was amongst the first that I telephoned with the news on the

morning of my father's death. He came at once to be with us and

share in our grief. On that same day we opened letters that my

father had left to be read after his passing. In these he appointed

Dr Momen to be one of his three literary executors, together with

my mother and

myself; and he entrusted to his safekeeping the diaries and letter

books of his father, Muvaqqari'd-Dawlih, which he treasured highly

amongst his collected library. Some time before he had spoken to

Moojan of his dear wish to write a biography of his father, but he

greatly doubted whether he had sufficient time left to him on earth

to accomplish this task. So instead, he enjoined Moojan to give

thought to writing this book, that he himself would never write.

Mrs Marion Hofman first met my father on her wedding day, in

October 1945 from when began a close friendship that endured to the

end of his days, and has continued beyond the grave with her most

moving and beautifully written memorial article for The Bahá'í

World, from which I have earlier quoted.

For my part, I must limit myself here to the bare statement that

Marion has personally edited and prepared all of the seven books

of my father published since 1970 including the present volume;

that she prepared the indexes for Edward Granville Browne and The

Bahá'í Faith, for 'Abdu'l-Bahá, for Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory

and for this present book; and that in so doing she enjoyed his

complete trust and confidence and, since his death, that of his

family too.

When in August 1970 Marion sent to my father copies of the

published Edward Granville Browne and The Bahá'í Faith, after

extensive correspondence and many meetings between them on its

editing and production, he wrote to her: 'The production is

excellent... With warmest love ... and much grateful thanks'; and,

three months earlier, when he saw the typescript of the Index, he

had written to her: 'I am sure this index will serve as a model for

future Bahá'í books'.

He did not live to see a published copy of Bahá'u'lláh, The King

of Glory, but, had he done so, how delighted he would have been

with it, and how much he would have appreciated the efforts of

Marion to produce a book so fitting in its presentation to its


Now, for this present volume, with no one to confirm their

decisions but themselves, Mrs Hofman and Dr Momen have taken the

incomplete manuscript left by my father, and by their determination

and consummate skills, and encouraged by their love for him, have

given life to his book.

I, and my family, are deeply grateful to them both.

London - - - - - - - - - ROBERT BALYUZI
1 February 1985
Page 1
Part I

Thou hast made mention of the loved ones in those regions. Praised

be God, each one of them attained the honour of being remembered

by the True One--exalted is His glory--and the names of them, one

and all, flowed from the Tongue of Grandeur in the kingdom of

utterance. Great indeed is their blessedness and happiness,

inasmuch as they have drunk the choice wine of revelation and

inspiration from the hand of their Lord, the Compassionate, the

Page 2
Page 3

Many, many years ago, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote in a tablet, addressed to

a Bahá'í of Iran, of an incident belonging to the days when Sultan

Muhammad-i-Fatih (the Conqueror), the celebrated Ottoman ruler, had

laid siege to the proud Constantinople; and that great centre of

learning, the world-famed metropolis of the Eastern Roman Empire

(once overwhelmingly rich, but shamelessly despoiled as early as

1205 by uncouth, greedy Crusaders) was, at last, about to fall

before the mighty arms of Islam. At such a moment of destiny a

Byzantine nobleman, convinced that fate had brought Byzantium to

its end, went to visit a prelate, and found that worthy divine busy

in his sanctum, scribbling fast.

'What are you composing so hurriedly, at a time so precarious?' the

nobleman asked.

'Oh, I'm writing a treatise against Muhammad,' replied the prelate.

Hearing that, the sorely-tried and desperate nobleman exploded.

'You utter, utter fool,' he exclaimed. 'Can you not see that you

are late, by far too late! The time for writing a refutation of the

Prophet of Arabia is long, long past. Look out there, over the

ramparts of our city. What do you see? There, look well. There are

rank upon rank of the soldiers of Islam. There are the waving

banners of Islam triumphant. When the Faith of Muhammad was

confined to the wastelands of Arabia, that was the time to write

your silly refutations; not today, not today. We shall very soon

be the vassals of the Great Turk!'

From its inception the Faith of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh has had its

traducers. Fierce persecutions--merciless and relentless--apart,

many there have been, fanatic and shallow, unprincipled and vain,

both in the East and the West, who have taken up their pens,

oftentimes vicious and vitriolic, at times licentious, to refute

that which the Lord of creation has purposed for this age, which

is that Age of Fulfilment promised to Man from the dawn of

historical times.

But none of these outbursts of human ingratitude have had the

slightest effect on the onward march of the Faith of the Báb and

Page 4

Bahá'u'lláh from victory to victory. These traducers, not having

learned their lesson, are still writing tome after tome packed with

falsehood to (as they imagine) besmirch the reputation of the Cause

of God. They are far too late. The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh has

encircled the globe.

Many they were who gave the most precious of all they

possessed--their lives--that the Cause of God should live and

flourish. Their blood watered the plant which the hand of the

Almighty had fashioned into existence; their constancy buttressed

it against tempestuous winds; their unbreakable faith shielded it

from the onrush of malice and evil intent.

And many they were, too, who toiled and laboured all their lives,

to share with their fellow-men the inestimable bounty which was

theirs: the recognition of Him Who shall lead Man to peace--peace

with himself and his Creator. Nothing daunted them, no blow ever

swerved them from their straight path, no rancour embittered their

lives. Serving the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh was the only goal they

knew. This book is their story.
Page 7
A Notable Survivor of Shaykh Tabarsi

Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani, whom Bahá'u'lláh honoured with

the designation Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq--The Name of God the Most

Truthful--was a disciple of the Shaykhi leader, Haji Siyyid

Kazim-i-Rashti. His master laid on him the mandate to reside in

Isfahan, and pave the way, in that renowned city of 'Abbas the

Great, for the Advent of the Qa'im. Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i, the

Babu'l-Bab, on his way with his unique and wondrous mission to

Bahá'u'lláh in Tihran, met Mulla Sadiq, a fellow-disciple and

friend of old, in Isfahan, where he had been living for a while as

directed by Siyyid Kazim, and gave him the tidings of the Advent

of the Báb.[1] However, Mulla Husayn was not allowed to divulge the

identity of the Heavenly Being, the near approach of Whose

appearance had been emphatically asserted by Haji Siyyid Kazim.

[1. The Báb declared His Mission to Mulla Husayn on the night of

22 May 1844.]

Mulla Sadiq himself has told the story of how he came to know and

recognize the Báb--and here it is:

I asked Mulla Husayn to divulge the name of Him who claimed to be

the promised Manifestation. He replied: 'To enquire about that name

and to divulge it are alike forbidden.' 'Would it, then, be

possible,' I asked, 'for me, even as the Letters of the Living, to

seek independently the grace of the All-Merciful and, through

prayer, to discover His identity?' 'The door of His grace,' he

replied, 'is never closed before the face of him who seeks to find

Him.' I immediately retired from his presence, and requested his

host to allow me the privacy of a room in his house where, alone

and undisturbed, I could commune with God. In the midst of my

contemplation, I suddenly remembered the face of a Youth whom I had

often observed while in Karbila, standing in an attitude of prayer,

with His face bathed in tears at the entrance of the shrine of the

Imam Husayn. That same countenance now reappeared before my eyes.

In my vision I seemed to behold that same face,
Page 8

those same features, expressive of such joy as I could never

describe. He smiled as He gazed at me. I went towards Him, ready

to throw myself at His feet. I was bending towards the ground,

when, lo! that radiant figure vanished from before me. Overpowered

with joy and gladness, I ran out to meet Mulla Husayn, who with

transport received me and assured me that I had, at last, attained

the object of my desire. He bade me, however, repress my feelings.

'Declare not your vision to anyone,' he urged me; 'the time for it

has not yet arrived. You have reaped the fruit of your patient

waiting in Isfahan. You should now proceed to Kirman, and there

acquaint Haji Mirza Karim Khan with this Message. From that place

you should travel to Shiraz and endeavour to rouse the people of

that city from their heedlessness. I hope to join you in Shiraz and

share with you the blessings of a joyous reunion with our Beloved.'

(Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 100-101)

Mulla Sadiq, enamoured as he was of the mien and the bearing of

that young Siyyid, Whom he had encountered facing the Shrine of the

Third Imam [Husayn], had, one day, ventured to speak to Him and

invite Him to visit his house, where Siyyid Kazim was expected to

attend a Rawdih-Khani, an assemblage devoted to the recital of the

sufferings of the House of the Prophet, and particularly the

martyrdom of the Third Imam. The young Siyyid had readily and

graciously accepted the invitation. When Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, that

young Siyyid of Shiraz, arrived at Mulla Sadiq's house, Siyyid

Kazim and his disciples were already there and seated. On seeing

the young Shirazi make His entrance, Siyyid Kazim immediately rose

and asked Him to take a seat much higher in the room. Those present

were amazed and speechless because of the marked respect shown by

Siyyid Kazim to this very young Siyyid, Who was unknown in their

circles in Karbila. And the preacher who occupied the pulpit was

momentarily struck dumb. He could not utter a word. This preacher

was none other than Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i, destined to be the

first believer in the new Theophany, that faithful soul who had

apprised Mulla Sadiq of the Advent of the Qa'im of the House of


Now, complete silence settled over that gathering, until Siyyid

Kazim's voice was heard directing Mulla Husayn to recite some lines

of a poem of Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, recalling the sufferings of the

Third Imam. The words which Mulla Husayn uttered caused the young

Shirazi to weep so disconsolately and so bitterly that the entire

congregation was deeply affected. Later, when sherbet was served,

Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad did not partake of it.
Page 9

A few days later, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad once again encountered Mulla

Sadiq in the compound of the Shrine of the Third Imam. He told him

that His uncle had arrived from Shiraz and asked whether Mulla

Sadiq wished to meet him. That afternoon Mulla Sadiq visited the

house where Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad lodged. He found that His uncle

had many visitors: Persians of high rank, divines and merchants.

Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad Himself was busy dispensing tea and other

refreshments. Mulla Sadiq was soon expressing to the Shirazi

merchant the unbounded admiration which he cherished for his

Nephew, so unique in every way. Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali was glad to

hear a total stranger speak in such glowing terms of his Nephew and

replied: 'In Shiraz all the members of our family are well known

for their outstanding qualities, but my young Nephew is unique and

excels them all. But despite His high qualities, He falls short in

one way. He neglects His studies.' Mulla Sadiq responded that

should the young man be kept in Karbila, he himself would undertake

to supervise His studies, to which offer Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali

readily agreed. However, soon after, both he and his remarkable

Nephew returned to Shiraz.

Mulla Sadiq was the son of a well-known man of Khurasan named Mirza

Isma'il. He had two brothers, one of whom, the twenty-two year-old

Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, on hearing in 1848 that a number of Babis

were on their way to Mazindaran, forwent his marriage on the eve

of his wedding day and took the road with his fellow-believers to

follow the standard raised by Mulla Husayn. On the way to Shaykh

Tabarsi he met martyrdom at the hands of the horsemen of

Khusraw-i-Qadikala'i. Mulla Sadiq was the eldest of the brothers.

He had sat at the feet of Haji Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti and had risen

high in the circle of his disciples. But when his teacher had

directed his steps to Isfahan he had accepted the great

responsibility laid upon him.

The Báb had told Mulla Husayn that Mulla Sadiq would unhesitatingly

respond to His call and enrol himself under His banner, and it

happened exactly as the Báb had foretold. As soon as Mulla Sadiq

realized that He, the tidings of Whose advent Mulla Husayn had

given him, was none other than the same young Shirazi Siyyid Whom

he had met, some years before, in Karbila, and Whom he had

exceedingly admired, he threw all caution to the winds and rose up

with all his vigour to serve Him and His Cause. On the very morning

after the night when the full light of truth dawned upon him, he

left Isfahan on
Page 11

foot to walk all the way to Shiraz. He took a path from which there

could be no turning, a path which led away from pomp and power,

from the fruits of worldly success. He well knew what price he was

paying for his devotion. It took Mulla Sadiq twelve days to reach

the abode of his Beloved. But the Báb was not in Shiraz. He had

gone on pilgrimage to Mecca, accompanied by Quddus, who, before

long, returned bearing a Tablet of the Báb. Mulla Sadiq had, in the

meantime, become a Pishnamaz (the cleric who leads the congregation

in prayer in the mosque).

Reading in the Tablet of the Báb, with which Quddus had entrusted

him, the instruction to add to the usual words of the adhan (call

to prayer) the following: 'I bear witness that He whose name is

'Ali-Qabl-i-Muhammad [a reference to the name of the Báb[1]] is the

servant of the Baqiyyatu'llah [the Remnant of God, referring to

Bahá'u'lláh]', Mulla Sadiq set out to give effect to that

unmistakable command. Let Nabil-i-A'zam describe that event and its

[1. 'Qabl' means 'before'.]

...he, one day as he was leading his congregation in prayer in the

Masjid-i-Naw [New Mosque], suddenly proclaimed, as he was sounding

the adhan, the additional words prescribed by the Báb. The

multitude that heard him was astounded by his cry. Dismay and

consternation seized the entire congregation. The distinguished

divines, who occupied the front seats and who were greatly revered

for their pious orthodoxy, raised a clamour, loudly protesting:

'Woe betide us, the guardians and protectors of the Faith of God!

Behold, this man has hoisted the standard of heresy. Down with this

infamous traitor! He has spoken blasphemy. Arrest him, for he is

a disgrace to our Faith.' 'Who,' they angrily exclaimed, 'dared

authorise such grave departure from the established precepts of

Islam? Who has presumed to arrogate to himself this supreme


The populace re-echoed the protestations of these divines, and

arose to reinforce their clamour. The whole city had been aroused,

and public order was, as a result, seriously threatened. The

governor of the province of Fars, Husayn Khan-i-Iravani, surnamed

Ajudan-Bashi, ... found it necessary to intervene and to enquire

into the cause of this sudden commotion. He was informed that a

disciple [Quddus] of a young man named Siyyid-i-Bab, who had just

returned from His pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina and was now living

in Bushihr, had arrived in Shiraz and was propagating the teachings

of his Master. 'This disciple,' Husayn Khan was further informed,

'claims that his teacher is the author of a new revelation and is

the revealer of a book which he asserts is divinely inspired. Mulla

Sadiq-i-Khurasani has embraced that faith, and is fearlessly

summoning the multitude to the acceptance of that message. He

declares its recognition to be the first obligation of every loyal

and pious follower of shi'ah Islam.'
Page 12

Husayn Khan ordered the arrest of both Quddds and Mulla Sadiq. The

police authorities, to whom they were delivered, were instructed

to bring them handcuffed into the presence of the governor. The

police also delivered into the hands of Husayn Khan the copy of the

Qayyumu'l-Asma', which they had seized from Mulla Sadiq while he

was reading aloud its passages to an excited congregation. Quddus,

owing to his youthful appearance and unconventional dress, was at

first ignored by Husayn Khan, who preferred to direct his remarks

to his more dignified and elderly companion. 'Tell me,' angrily

asked the governor, as he turned to Mulla Sadiq, 'if you are aware

of the opening passage of the Qayyumu'l-Asma' wherein the

Page 13

addresses the rulers and kings of the earth in these terms: "Divest

yourselves of the robe of sovereignty, for He who is the King in

truth, hath been made manifest! The Kingdom is God's, the Most

Exalted. Thus hath the Pen of the Most High decreed!" If this be

true, it must necessarily apply to my sovereign, Muhammad Shah, of

the Qajar dynasty, whom I represent as the chief magistrate of this

province. Must Muhammad Shah, according to this behest, lay down

his crown and abandon his sovereignty? Must I, too, abdicate my

power and relinquish my position?' Mulla Sadiq unhesitatingly

replied: 'When once the truth of the Revelation announced by the

Author of these words shall have been definitely established, the

truth of whatsoever has fallen from His lips will likewise be

vindicated. If these words be the Word of God, the abdication of

Muhammad Shah and his like can matter but little. It can in no wise

turn aside the Divine purpose, nor alter the sovereignty of the

almighty and eternal King.'

That cruel and impious ruler was sorely displeased with such an

answer. He reviled and cursed him, ordered his attendants to strip

him of his garments and to scourge him with a thousand lashes. He

then commanded that the beards of both Quddus and Mulla Sadiq

should be burned, their noses be pierced, that through this

incision a cord should be passed, and with this halter they should

be led through the streets of the city. 'It will be an object

lesson to the people of Shiraz,' Husayn Khan declared, 'who will

know what the penalty of heresy will be.' Mulla Sadiq, calm and

self-possessed and with eyes upraised to heaven, was heard reciting

this prayer: 'O Lord, our God! We have indeed heard the voice of

One that called. He called us to the Faith--"Believe ye on the Lord

your God!"--and we have believed. O God, our God! Forgive us, then,

our sins, and hide away from us our evil deeds, and cause us to die

with the righteous.'[1] With magnificent fortitude both resigned

themselves to their fate. Those who had been instructed to inflict

this savage punishment performed their task with alacrity and

[1. Qur'an 3:190-91]

An eye-witness of this revolting episode, an unbeliever residing

in Shiraz, related to me the following: 'I was present when Mulla

Sadiq was being scourged. I watched his persecutors each in turn

apply the lash to his bleeding shoulders, and continue the strokes

until he became exhausted. No one believed that Mulla Sadiq, so

advanced in age and so frail in body, could possibly survive fifty

such savage strokes. We marvelled at his fortitude when we found

that, although the number of the strokes of the scourge he had

received had already exceeded nine hundred, his face still retained

its original serenity and calm. A smile was upon his face, as he

held his hand before his mouth. He seemed utterly indifferent to

the blows that were being showered upon him. When he was being

expelled from the city, I succeeded in approaching him, and asked

him why he held his hand before his mouth. I expressed surprise at

the smile upon his countenance. He emphatically replied: "The first

seven strokes were severely painful; to the rest I seemed to

Page 14

have grown indifferent. I was wondering whether the strokes that

followed were being actually applied to my own body. A feeling of

joyous exultation had invaded my soul. I was trying to repress my

feelings and to restrain my laughter. I can now realise how the

almighty Deliverer is able, in the twinkling of an eye, to turn

pain into ease, and sorrow into gladness. Immensely exalted is His

power above and beyond the idle fancy of His mortal creatures."'

Mulla Sadiq, whom I met years after, confirmed every detail of this

moving episode. (Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 144-8)

Another Babi who shared the sufferings of Mulla Sadiq and Quddus

was Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Ardistani. The farrashes who were

perpetrating these abominations were crying out to the populace:

'0 Muslims! These men have not committed murder, they are not

thieves, they have not cheated anyone, they have not gone beyond

the limits of the law; but they are clever and eloquent men of

learning who want to rob you of your Faith. Since we are parading

these enemies of Religion, now captive and vanquished, before you

to behold, you must be most generous with your offerings and gifts

to us.' A merchant, by whose place of business they were passing,

stopped them in their tracks and told them: 'That being so, let me

have a share of this righteous deed and inflict more pain on these

men.' Having said this, he brought a long and stout piece of timber

and put one end on the shoulder of Quddus and the other on the

shoulder of Mulla Sadiq. Next he attached a measuring device to the

pole and had eighty bales of sugar weighed and placed on it. It was

a hot day. Whenever Quddus and Mulla Sadiq, overcome by the

heaviness of the load and the heat of the day, tried to shift their

feet, their tormentors lashed them mercilessly. At the end of this

fiendish method of torture, the farrashes were suitably rewarded.

When these minions of the governor had done their worst, the three

Babis, covered with wounds and sores, were led out of the city and

told to take to the open road and never come back.[1]

[1. As I write these lines I have before me an account of the

recent persecutions and terrible sufferings of the Bahá'ís of the

tribe of Buwayr-Ahmadi in the province of Fars. The heroism of

these men and women of the present day matches the heroism of

Quddus and Muqaddas and Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Ardistani. The power of

sacrifice and steadfastness conferred on them by Bahá'u'lláh was

well evinced.]

Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas wended his way to Yazd. Along the route,

whenever he came across anyone ready to listen, he told them of the

advent of the Báb. He stayed two months in Yazd and openly made his

announcement. Then he sent a herald to call out throughout the

town: 'Whoever has not met the emissary of Babu'llahu'l-A'zam [the

Page 15

Great Bab] and has not heard him, let him come on Friday to the

mosque of Musalla and listen to the tidings which he brings you.'

On that Friday a huge crowd gathered at the mosque. Mulla Sadiq

ascended the pulpit and told the people, in no uncertain terms,

that He Whose coming had been promised to them had indeed come. He

read them 'one of the best-known and most exquisitely written

homilies of the Báb,' and then spoke to them:

'Render thanks to God, O people of learning, for, behold, the Gate

of Divine Knowledge, which you deem to have been closed, is now

wide open. The River of everlasting life has streamed forth from

the city of Shiraz, and is conferring untold blessings upon the

people of this land. Whoever has partaken of one drop from this

Ocean of heavenly grace, no matter how humble and unlettered, has

discovered in himself the power to unravel the profoundest

mysteries, and has felt capable of expounding the most abstruse

themes of ancient wisdom. And whoever, though he be the most

learned expounder of the Faith of Islam, has chosen to rely upon

his own competence and power and has disdained the Message of God,

has condemned himself to irretrievable degradation and loss.'

(Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 186)

At first no one made any retort, no one raised objections or

disputed with Mulla Sadiq. But before long there arose a murmur of

dissent. Gradually it rose to a crescendo. The fickle crowd rushed

to the pulpit, intending to drag Mulla Sadiq down and murder him.

Let Nabil tell us what happened next:

...The masjid rang with cries of 'Blasphemy!' which an infuriated

congregation shouted in horror against the speaker. 'Descend from

the pulpit,' rose the voice of Siyyid Husayn[1] amid the clamour

and tumult of the people, as he motioned to Mulla Sadiq to hold his

peace and to retire. No sooner had he regained the floor of the

masjid than the whole company of the assembled worshippers rushed

upon him and overwhelmed him with blows. Siyyid Husayn immediately

intervened, vigorously dispersed the crowd, and, seizing the hand

of Mulla Sadiq, forcibly drew him to his side. 'Withhold your

hands,' he appealed to the multitude; 'leave him in my custody. I

will take him to my home, and will closely investigate the matter.

A sudden fit of madness may have caused him to utter these words.

I will myself examine him. If I find that his utterances are

premeditated and that he himself firmly believes in the things

which he has declared, I will, with my own hands, inflict upon him

the punishment imposed by the law of Islam.'

[1. Siyyid Husayn-i-Azghandi, a very influential divine of Yazd,

whose nephew, Mirza Ahmad-i-Azghandi, had embraced the Faith of the

Báb and was also in Yazd at the time. His uncle wished him to stay

in that town and help him parry the pretences of the followers of

Haji Karim Khan, the Shaykhi leader. (HMB)]

By this solemn assurance, Mulla Sadiq was delivered from the savage

attacks of his assailants. Divested of his 'aba and turban,

deprived of his
Page 16

sandals and staff, bruised and shaken by the injuries he had

received, he was entrusted to the care of Siyyid Husayn's

attendants, who, as they forced their passage among the crowd,

succeeded eventually in conducting him to the home of their master.

Mulla Yusuf-i-Ardibili,[1] likewise, was subjected in those days

to a persecution fiercer and more determined than the savage

onslaught which the people of Yazd had directed against Mulla

Sadiq. But for the intervention of Mirza Ahmad and the assistance

of his uncle, he would have fallen a victim to the wrath of a

ferocious enemy.

[1. One of the Huruf-i-Hayy (the Báb's Letters of the Living).


When Mulla Sadiq and Mulla Yusuf-i-Ardibili arrived at Kirman, they

again had to submit to similar indignities and to suffer similar

afflictions at the hands of Haji Mirza Karim Khan and his

associates. Haji Siyyid Javad's[2] persistent exertions freed them

eventually from the grasp of their persecutors, and enabled them

to proceed to Kirman. (Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 186-7)

[2. The Imam-i-Jum'ih of Kirman. He was a distant cousin of the

Bab, and like another celebrated cousin, Haji Muhammad-Hasan, known

as Mirzay-i-Shirazi (see chap. 19), was secretly a believer in Him.

Haji Siyyid Javad rescued Quddus, as well, from his adversaries.


The governor of Kirman gave them an escort of horsemen to see them

safely out of the province. Everywhere, on his way to Khurasan,

Mulla Sadiq gave all whom he met the tidings of the advent of the

Bab. Fear knew him not and nothing daunted him. Eventually he

reached the camp of Mulla Husayn, the Bábu'l-Bab, who, on a

memorable day in Isfahan, had told him that the New Day had dawned.

The destination of Mulla Husayn was Mazindaran. Mulla Sadiq joined

the small band of his fellow-believers, whose number increased as

they went on.

In the heart of the forests of Mazindaran, within the fortress

which they raised around the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi, these

God-intoxicated men defied their adversaries for several months.

Their number was just over three hundred. Apart from a few like

Rida Khan-i-Turkaman

(whose father was a courtier of high rank), the overwhelming

majority of these Babis were clerics, students of theology,

tradesmen, who had never wielded a sword in their lives. Yet they

put armies to flight. Mulla Husayn led sortie after sortie until

he was mortally wounded. Finally, promises and vows that proved to

be false caused the famished Babis to lay down their arms and

abandon their fortress which harboured the remains of the

Babu'l-Bab. They were massacred treacherously, sanctifying with

their blood the soil of Mazindaran, already honoured to have been

the ancestral home of Bahá'u'lláh. Only a few survived the

holocaust, one of whom was Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas of Qurasan.

Page 17

Prince Mihdi-Quli Mirza, who commanded the royal troops, handed

over Mulla Sadiq and Lutf-'Ali Mirza of Shiraz (an Afsharid prince)

to a certain Husayn Khan who was a well-known person in Mazindaran,

and whose father had met his death while fighting the besieged

Babis of Shaykh Tabarsi, to take them home and kill them in the

presence of his mother and sister to help assuage their grief. It

was agreed that should he fail to put them to death he would pay

a thousand tumans to the prince. Husayn Khan must have paid an

equally large sum of money to Mihdi-Quli Mirza, to have the two

Babis released to him. As the Mazindarani grandee and his captives,

chained and bound, went on their way towards his home, at every

village and town he would call the divines to come and examine the

Babis. The divines everywhere, seated and with Mulla Sadiq in

chains standing before them, put every question to him and were

answered politely, clearly, convincingly, based on evidence culled

from the Qur'an and Traditions. And everywhere the divines gave the

same answer to the grandee's question, who asked them time and

again: 'Does this man merit death?' To which the answer came: 'No,

never; we have never before met a man so learned, nor heard such

masterly exposition. Even if he be an infidel, he should not be put

to death.' Thus they progressed through the province of Mazindaran.

Husayn Khan was captivated by the serenity and certitude of Mulla

Sadiq, and came to the decision to spare their lives. When he

reached home he called in the members of his family and told them

all that had happened. 'Everywhere the divines unitedly gave the

verdict', he said, 'that these men do not merit death.' His

relatives were also united in the same answer. Husayn Khan, true

to his word, informed Mihdi-Quli Mirza that he and his relatives

would not be a party to the execution of the two Babis.

The prince wanted them to be sent to Tihran, there to be put to

death. During the time of their detention in the home of Husayn

Khan, Mulla Sadiq and Lutf-'Ali Mirza had helped a shepherd of that

neighbourhood named 'Avad-Muhammad to embrace the Faith of the Báb.

Being apprised of the prince's wish, he told the prisoners that

their only hope lay in escaping. Mulla Sadiq, enfeebled by the

privations he had endured, was unwilling to undergo the hazards

entailed. But the insistence of the shepherd, who was willing to

be privy to any scheme that would give them their freedom, overcame

the reluctance of Mulla Sadiq. 'Avad-Muhammad helped them leave

Page 18

neighbourhood through paths not usually frequented. He also

provided them with food. They walked throughout the night in the

thick forests that cover Mazindaran and sought refuge during the

day in the dense parts of the forest. After two weeks they reached

Miyami with their feet sore and bruised. There they recounted to

the relatives of those heroic men the story of the thirty-three

Babis of that locality who had fallen at Shaykh Tabarsi. They had

to rest for a while at Miyami to recuperate before taking the road

to Mashhad.

Lutf-'Ali eventually reached Tihran where he was caught up by the

upheavals of 1852 and lost his life. For Mulla Sadiq life in

Mashhad became impossible. Around the year 1861 he said farewell

to that city of renown and with a number of persons accompanying

him travelled to Baghdad. There he went into the presence of

Bahá'u'lláh and recognized Him as the One in Whose path the Báb had

sacrificed Himself--the Promised One of the Bayan. For fourteen

months he basked in the sunshine of the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, and then as

directed by Him he returned to his native province of Khurasan.

Again he met bitter opposition from all sides. Particularly

vehement were the assaults made upon him by the followers of Haji

Muhammad-Karim Khan-i-Kirmani.[1] But Mulla Sadiq held his ground,

despite all the machinations of his adversaries. Then, the

headstrong governor-general of Khurasan, Sultan-Murad Mirza, the

Hisamu's-Saltanih (an uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah), fell in with the

opponents of Mulla Sadiq and had him arrested. A week later Mulla

Sadiq was sent to Tihran, in the company of a large number of

Turkaman prisoners. In Tihran he was lodged in Siyah-Chal, the same

prison where Bahá'u'lláh had been immured in 1852. Even there Mulla

Sadiq could not be silenced. He brought a number of his

fellow-prisoners to accept the Faith of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.

[1. He considered himself the successor to Siyyid Kazim, and

fostered opposition to the Báb amongst the Shaykhis.]

Among those he converted was Hakim Masih, a Jewish physician who

was attending the prisoners. He was the first Bahá'í of Jewish

background in Tihran and was the grandfather of Lutfu'llah Hakim

who was in recent years elected to the first Universal House of

Justice. Many well-known men who were acquainted with him visited

him in Siyah-Chal and tried hard to induce him to write a few lines

which they could show to Nasiri'd-Din Shah and obtain his release.

But he consistently refused to comply with their wishes and make

any appeal. He wrote:
Page 19

'It is shameful that a man in need should appeal to another one in

need.' Thus he stayed for twenty-eight months in that prison. Then

Nasiri'd-Din Shah, of his own accord, ordered his release. Mulla

Sadiq refused to leave the dungeon without his fellow-prisoners.

He had pledged his word to them, he said, that they would leave

Siyah-Chal together. When the Shah learned of Mulla Sadiq's stand

he was amazed, but asked for a list of all the inmates of

Siyah-Chal. Besides Mulla Sadiq, there were forty-three names in

that list. All but three were pardoned, and those three had been

arrested only recently and were guilty men.

Mulla Sadiq's son, Ibn-i-Asdaq, who was named and appointed by

Bahá'u'lláh a Hand of the Cause of God, states in a short biography

of his father: 'Twice he was taken to the Inspectorate which was

in the charge of 'Aynu'l-Mulk. There he said: "Some of these men

have been in this prison for seven years. They have no clothing

left, are bare
Page 20

and in utter misery. They ought to be clad and allowed to go home

in peace. The authorities should provide them with suitable clothes

and money and send them home, bring some joy into their miserable

lives." His praiseworthy initiative led to the introduction of the

Faith of God in all the areas where these people lived. Its abiding

results will endure for ever. The descendants and the clans of

those men are within the fold of this Faith, ever ready to be of

service to others.'

After departing from the house of 'Aynu'l-Mulk, Mulla Sadiq stayed

for three days in the mosque of Sipahsalar. From there he moved to

the house of Muhammad-Vali Mirza (a son of Fath-'Ali Shah), who was

greatly attached to him. His sojourn there lasted nineteen days,

and there he came face to face with a number of very influential

divines of Tihran, such as Haji Mulla 'Aliy-i-Kani and Siyyid

Sadiq-i-Sanglaji. These men had heard of the vast learning of Mulla

Sadiq. One after the other, in rapid succession, they asked him

intricate questions and posed him many problems to resolve. It must

be said that none of those divines was favourably inclined towards

Page 21

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Indeed, the two already named were bitterly

hostile. Haji Mulla 'Aliy-i-Kani was the man who, when given

Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to Nasiri'd-Din Shah so that he might write

an answer to it, treated the matter with great disdain. Now, they

all fell under the spell of the speech of Mulla Sadiq. None of

them, however hard he tried, could match, let alone surpass his

deep knowledge, his eloquence, his logic and measured speech. When

these proceedings in the home of his relative were reported to

Nasiri'd-Din Shah, he, of all the people, upbraided

Hisamu's-Saltanih (his own uncle) for condemning such a man as

Mulla Sadiq to imprisonment. He ordered two of his best horses,

richly saddled, to be given to Mulla Sadiq, as well as a gift of

money. The mother of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, who was present that day

in the house of Muhammad-Vali Mirza and sitting with a number of

other ladies of high rank behind a curtain, was listening to the

trial of strength between Mulla Sadiq and the divines of Tihran;

she presented him with rich, valuable clothes befitting his rank.

Mulla Sadiq courteously returned all the royal gifts and wrote a

letter to the Shah expressing his gratitude. Then he borrowed a sum

of money from a fellow-believer in Tihran and took the road to

Khurasan. It was then that he helped Haji Mirza Muhammad-Rida, the

Mu'taminu's-Saltanih, the future Vazir of Khurasan, to embrace the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. (See chap. 5.)

Three years later, Mulla Sadiq returned to Tihran and helped in

changing the secret hiding-place of the remains of the Báb. Having

performed that service, urgently required, he left the capital once

again and visited Kashan, Isfahan and Yazd. Everywhere he went he

fearlessly and energetically taught and propagated the Faith of

Bahá'u'lláh. But his most outstanding service was that which he

rendered in Yazd. There, some of the Afnans (relatives of the Báb)

were still hesitant and uncommitted; Mulla Sadiq made them see and

totally accept the truth of the new Theophany. After this

remarkable achievement, he returned to his native province of

Khurasan where, for six years, he travelled throughout that

province teaching, continuously teaching. During that time he was

constantly attacked, reviled and denounced by adversaries. But he

never faltered, although his sufferings as well as old age were

telling upon him. Finally, physical disabilities forced him to

retire from the field.

Ill and exhausted, his dearest wish now was to attain, once again,

the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. Before long that wish was realized.

Page 22

Bahá'u'lláh summoned him to 'Akka. When that call reached him he

was revived. He sent word that he desired the people to come and

visit him. They came, and to them, Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í alike, he

gave such advice as would serve them well in days to come. His

visitors were greatly moved. His words came from a heart pure and

unsullied, from a soul brave and constant, leaving a deep

impression on all who were privileged to hear him, and evoking a

response commensurate with his earnestness. A good many wished to

accompany and serve him in his pilgrimage. Bahá'u'lláh had,

however, directed him to bring only one person with him, and those

who wished to be with him vied for that honour. Mirza Ja'far was

the man who secured it. His son, the future Hand of the Cause

Ibn-i-Asdaq, accompanied them until they reached Sabzivar. There

he offered his father a small sum of money which he did not accept.

The route which Mulla Sadiq took was through Caucasia. It was a

long and tiring journey, but he stood up to its hardships. And, at

long last, he found himself in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. He had

lived expectantly for that moment. All his toils, his sufferings,

spread over so many years were forgotten at that supreme moment,

and for four months he had the bounty of living close to his Lord.

At the end of that period of untold bliss the Tongue of Grandeur

thus addressed him:

0 My name, the Asdaq![1] Render thanks unto God that We called thee

to appear before the Seat of Glory, to hear Us and to witness the

Light of the Countenance of thy Lord, the Exalted, the Mighty, the

Single, the Supreme; and We sent thee back to inform the people of

what thou hast seen and understood, and to call them to the utmost

constancy, lest their steps falter at the clamour of any corrupt

pretender. 0 My name! recall every day Our counsel to thee in Our

Presence. Verily, thy Lord is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.

(Quoted in Sulaymani, Masabih-i-Hidayat, vol. 7, p. 408)

[1. the most truthful]

The time had come for parting from the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and

he turned homewards by way of Mosul and Baghdad. All along that

route he gave the people he met the tidings of the advent of the

Day of God. Physically he was exhausted, but his spirit shone as

bright as ever. His dedicated soul knew no repose except in obeying

the command of his Lord. When he reached Hamadan, his physical

strength had touched its nadir, but not the bravery of his soul.

He stayed for twelve days in Hamadan, never resting. On the last

day he told his servitors to bring him his best, his most costly

clothes. He put
Page 23

them on, using a good deal of rose-water and perfume. Then he asked

those who were with him to leave him alone for an hour. At the end

of that hour he called them back, and asked one of them to help him

undress. He had only one arm out of his sleeve when he said to the

man who was helping him, 'That is enough'; the next moment he was

gone--gone from this world. Thus, calmly and serenely, death

brought release to Mulla Sadiq, Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq, from untold

tribulations which would have broken a lesser man, but were endured

by him with radiant acquiescence in the path of his Lord. His death

occurred in the year 1889.

Some thirty years later, one evening in Haifa, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the

Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, spoke of Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq,

describing him as a Hand of the Cause of God and 'truly a servant

of the Lord from the beginning of life till his last breath'. And

then He recalled an incident of which He Himself was a witness, an

incident of the far-off days of Baghdad:

...he [Mulla Sadiq] was seated one day in the courtyard of the

men's apartments... I was in one of the rooms just above... At that

moment ... a grandson of Fath-'Ali Shah, arrived at the house. The

prince said to him, 'Who are you?' Ismu'llah answered, 'I am a

servant of this Threshhold. I am one of the keepers of this door.'

And as I listened from above, he began to teach the Faith. The

prince at first objected violently; and yet, in a quarter of an

hour, gently and benignly, Jinab-i-Ismu'llah had quieted him down.

After the prince had so sharply denied what was said, and his face

had so clearly reflected his fury, now his wrath was changed to

smiles and he expressed the greatest satisfaction at having

encountered Ismu'llah and heard what he had to say.

He always taught cheerfully and with gaiety, and would respond

gently and with good humor, no matter how much passionate anger

might be turned against him by the one with whom he spoke. His way

of teaching was excellent... He was a great personage, perfect in

all things... He was truly Ismu'llah, the Name of God. Fortunate

is the one who circumambulates that tomb, who blesses himself with

the dust of that grave... (Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 5, 6, 8)

Page 24
The Story of Two Ashrafs

In the long and glory-studded roll of the Bábi-Bahá'í martyrs of

Persia one encounters the names of two A&afs: the first hailed from

Zanjan, the city of the heroic Hujjat; the second was a native of

Bushruyih who resided in Najafabad--townships from both of which

many an intrepid martyr has stepped into the arena of history to

mark the unshakeable resolve of the faithful and the eternal infamy

of the persecutor. Two eventful decades intervene between the

immolation of the two Ashrafs. The first--Ashraf of Zanjan--was a

siyyid of noble birth in the full prime of his vigorous youth; the

second was an eloquent and erudite guide and mentor of middle age.

The father of Ashraf of Zanjan had stood valiantly under the banner

of Hujjat and had died in the ensuing holocaust. So comely, so

engaging, so handsome was his son that the adversaries were loth

to hand him over to the executioner. They led his mother to the

prison-house that she might persuade him to deny his faith and thus

obtain his freedom. But that brave woman, who had but this one

accomplished son of dazzling beauty, told him: 'Ashraf, my son!

Shouldst thou abjure thy faith, I shall renounce thee for ever.'

Such was the mettle of those who had given their allegiance to


Ashraf, whose full name was Siyyid 'Ali-Ashraf, and who came to be

known as Ashafu'sh-Shuhada'--the Noblest of Martyrs--had attained

the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople, the renowned city of

Hadrian which had fallen into disrepute, and which Bahá'u'lláh had

termed the 'Remote Prison'. That encounter and attainment had set

his faith doubly ablaze. On his return from Rumelia, in an orchard

outside the city gates that belonged to him, he had a room built

in which to praise his Lord and to transcribe the verses flowing

from the Most Exalted Pen. His fellow-believers would foregather

there to benefit by his company. The enemy was alert and watchful.

The young siyyid was seized and cast into prison. With him into

Page 25

went another heroic youth, whose father had also died under the

banner of Hujjat. Naqd-'Ali was blind, but the Most Exalted Pen

honoured him with the designation of Abu-Basir--the Father of

Insight. He too was determined to take the same road as his father,

the road to martyrdom.

The resolve of these two young men could not be shaken, and the day

came when they were led to the scaffold. The Imam-Jum'ih of Zanjan,

related as he was to Ashraf, was there to make a last effort to

save him from death. The mother of Ashraf was also there to see her

son drink of the same cup as her glorious husband. As the

Imam-Jum'ih's importunities increased, urging Ashraf not to throw

away his life, the plea and the injunction of Ashrafs mother was

heard: 'Remember, my son: shouldst thou deny thy faith, the faith

of thy father, I shall renounce thee for ever and ever!'

Such were the circumstances of the death of two heroic men of

Zanjan of imperishable memory, one of them in the very bloom of his

youth. When Ashraf was beheaded, in the presence of his implacable

mother, he was holding in his embrace the decapitated corpse of his

companion. And as Ashraf's mother saw her son die, she held back

her tears and would not let a single one well from her eyes. Her

soul was agonized but happy, for her son's death was in the path of


[1. See Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, LXIX, for

Bahá'u'lláh's account of Ashraf's death. (Ed.)]

The other Ashraf, who hailed from Bushruyih, the home of the

Babu'l-Bab, but resided in Najafabad, and who quaffed the cup of

martyrdom two decades later in 1888 was a man who once commanded

a pulpit. People were attracted to him despite their waywardness,

because he was kind and wise and learned. When he heard the call

of the Lord of Hosts, the Master of the Day of Judgement, his pure

soul responded to it. Then, as it became known that he had embraced

the new Faith, he had to leave Najafabad and seek refuge in a

hamlet near the township of Abadih, where he spent his solitary

days in communion with his Lord. In those far-off days Abadih and

its environs had no Baha'is.

It was to Abadih that the desecrated heads of the Bábi martyrs of

the second episode of Nayriz (1853) together with Babi prisoners

in chains, had been brought on the way to Tihran. The incident was

highly reminiscent of what had occurred more than a millennium

Page 26

before, in the wake of the tragic deaths, on the bank of the river

Euphrates, of the Imam Husayn, the Sayyidu'sh-Shuhada'--the Prince

of Martyrs - and those courageous souls who fearlessly stood by

him, faithful to the House of the Prophet. Then, too, the wicked

of this world had raised the severed heads of the martyrs on their

lances and had herded prisoners--women and children--together, to

parade them in the streets of Kufih and Damascus. Amongst those

remnants of the House of Muhammad there was one solitary

youth--'Ali, now the Fourth Imam--who was too ill to raise himself

from his couch on the day that his father and brother and cousins,

together with the faithful, fell on the plains of 'Iraq. He was the

only male survivor of that dastardly massacre, and though still

stricken by enervating fevers, was then the sole silver-tongued

spokesman of his House. To the unthinking, beguiled and jeering mob

who had hurled their wild imprecations at them, accusing them of

being seceders and traducers of the law, 'Ali II had replied: 'Nay,

indeed, we are the preservers of the law, the trustees and the

Guardian of the Faith of the Apostle of God'.

Now, in mid-nineteenth century, when the implacable enemy once

again brought severed heads hoisted on lances and tortured

prisoners to display before the mob, orders reached Abadih from

higher authorities not to proceed further with the desecrated heads

but to bury them in that township. On a lonesome piece of barren

earth, the heads of the martyrs of Nayriz were thrown into a pit.

(Decades later, 'Abdu'l-Bahá honoured that piece of wasteland, then

turned into a garden, with the designation of

Hadiqatu'r-Rahman--the Orchard of the Merciful.) A notable of the

town of Abadih, Siyyid Muhammad-'Ali, known as Siyyid Mulla Aqa

Jan, noticed amongst the prisoners who were to be taken to Tihran

a young siyyid, twenty years old, named Siyyid Ghulam-'Ali. He was

of arresting beauty, but was desperately ill, hardly able to move.

His heart touched by the plight of this young man, Siyyid

Muhammad-'Ali appealed to the commander of the troops in the name

of their illustrious Ancestor, the Holy Prophet, to allow him to

keep Siyyid Ghulam-'Ali in Abadih and have him nursed to health.

Lutf-'Ali Khan-i-Qashqa'i, a brigadier in charge of the prisoners,

requested from the benevolent notable of Abadih the sum of ten

tumans, before he would release Siyyid Ghulam-'Ali. That

kind-hearted man went about procuring the cash, and caught up with

the troops, already on the move, at Shulgistan.
Page 27

Having at last obtained the release of that sick, emaciated youth,

Siyyid Muhammad-'Ali put him on his own horse and himself led the

animal and walked all the way back to Abadih. There he called in

Aqa Muhammad-Husayn, the Hakim-Bashi (Chief Physician), to restore

that ailing youth to health. But Siyyid Ghulam-'Ali had suffered

much and did not recover. He was buried in the cemetery of Abadih

where his grave is unknown; only his memory remains and the memory

of Siyyid Muhammad-'Ali, whose generous heart guided him to rescue

that maltreated youth from the grasp of the foe, and afford him a

few days of rest and peace before death took him away.

The son of Lutf-'Ali Khan, the Qashqa'i commandant who had maimed

and murdered the Bábis of Nayriz, in the course of time embraced

the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. He was Haji Muhammad-Sadiq Khan, and he

became a devoted Baha'i, so conscious of the enormity of the

cruelties of his father that he was certain their evil consequences

would be visited on him. Qabil, the celebrated Bahá'í poet and

teacher of Abadih, who, on Haji Muhammad-Sadiq Khan's own request,

had retailed to him the story of his father's rapacity, was so

greatly moved by the son's sense of shame and remorse that he wrote

Page 28

of it to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Here is 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í response, which He

wished to be conveyed to Haji Muhammad-Sadiq Khan:

The true morn dawneth from the depths of a darksome night, and the

world-illuminating light of day poureth forth from the canopy of

a night of gloom. The enchanting flower bloometh on a branch of

thorns, and multitudinous plants grow out of the sad, sodden earth.

The delightful fruit sprouteth upon a piece of wood. Thus is seen

the truth of the words: 'Thou bringest the living out of the dead,

and Thou bringest the dead out of the living.' [Qur'an 3: 271] The

Commander of the Faithful[1] was wont to say to Muhammad the son

of Abu-Bakr: 'Thou art my child.' Clear it is that physical

fatherhood and sonship are not factors of true import. Canaan was

the son of Noah and Abraham was the son of Adhar. One father was

a Prophet, but His son was disowned and cut off. Another father was

an idolator, yet his Son was the great and exalted Friend[2]...

Therefore be not saddened. Pray thou and supplicate at the

threshold of the One True God, begging forgiveness for thine

earthly father. 'Abdu'l-Bahá will also, with utmost lowliness,

implore at the threshold of God that perchance the musk-laden

breeze of His forgiveness may waft over the Khan[3] and from the

billowing sea of His grace a wave may pass over him and cleanse him

of the defilement of sin and transgression. This is not far removed

from the ocean of the grace of Baha, His mercy, and His pardon

[1. 'Ali Ibn Abu-Talib, the first Imam.]

[2. A sincere friend. Abraham is known as Khalilu'llah--the Friend of God.]

[3. The father of Haji Muhammad-Sadiq Khan.]

Here, history repeats itself. Lutf-'Ali Khan, the Qashqa'i

commandant, comes to Abadih triumphant after the massacre of the

innocent, with severed heads which he is told to part with, and a

host of suffering captives whom he drives on to Shiraz. His son,

Haji Muhammad-Sadiq Khan, embraces the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and

makes donations to have an edifice raised at the place where the

heads of his father's victims are consigned to earth. This is what

followed the second blood-stained episode of Nayriz. While

subsequent to the first episode of Nayriz (1850), when the valiant

Vahid met a martyr's death, a grandson of one of the Nuri chiefs,

responsible for much of the barbarities there, gave his allegiance

to Bahá'u'lláh. He was a colonel of artillery named Faraju'llah

Khan who, in 1888, related to Edward Granville Browne in the city

of Yazd the story of how his own elders had behaved at Nayriz and

how they had received their meed.[4]

[4. The Nuri chief was Mihr-'Ali Khan, the Shuja'u'l-Mulk. The

account is given by Browne in A Year Amongsr the Persians. pp.

44~42. (This passage will be included in a forthcoming compilation

of the works of E. G. Browne on the Bahá'í Faith.)]

But now, once more to the story of Abadih and the second Ashraf,

Page 29

who, as soon as that township became peopled with the followers of

Bahá'u'lláh, abandoned his retreat in the village of Dih-Daq and

established his residence in the town. During the years that Mirza

Ashraf had lived in the village, because of the fierce opposition

he had encountered in Najafabad he had concealed his true

allegiance from the notables of Abadih with whom he consorted. So

when he came out into the open in Abadih, the fanatics of that town

were shocked and dismayed, shocked because they had known Aqa Mirza

Ashraf as an erudite Shi'ih divine, and dismayed because they were

well aware of his powers of speech and exposition.

In that year (1861) when the intrigues and agitations of Mirza

Buzurg Khan-i-Qazvini, the Persian consul-general in Baghdad, and

Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn-i-Tihrani, the Shaykhu'l-'Iraqayn, were

nearing the end desired by them, the fame of the One so bitterly

opposed by those two plotters was resounding all over Iran. Three

young men of Abadih, two of whom were sons of the Hakim-Bashi, the

same physician who years before had attended Siyyid Ghulam-'Ali,

were studying in Isfahan. They heard of Mirza Husayn-'Ali

(Bahá'u'lláh), Son of the Vazir-i-Nuri, and His achievements within

the Bábi community. One of the sons, Mirza 'Ata'u'llah (later

entitled Siraju'l-Hukama'--the Light of the Physicians), and his

brother Mirza Ishaq, together with their compatriot, Mulla

Muhammad-Husayn, became particularly interested in what had reached

their hearing and in the rumours current amongst the habitues of

the theological seminaries of Isfahan. They told Mirza Asadu'llah

(known in Isfahan as Hakim-Ilahi--the Divine Philosopher), who was

a close friend of Mirza 'Ata'u'llah, of their newly-found interest.

Mirza Asadu'llah was a Babi and he, in his turn, informed Mirza

Hasan (Sultanu'sh-Shuhada'--King of the Martyrs) of the interest

aroused in the minds and hearts of the three young men of Abadih.

A meeting was arranged between them, and before long Mirza

'Ata'u'llah, his brother and their companion gladly gave their

allegiance to the New Theophany. This Siraju'l-Hukama' of future

years, who eventually became the leading physician of the town,

proved to be a tower of strength in the Bahá'í community which was

emerging in Abadih. Several decades later his uncle, Haji

Muhammad-Sadiq, left the Shaykhi fold at the age of eighty-five and

embraced the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, which he served devotedly till

his death at the age of ninety.
Page 30

At the same time that Bahá'u'lláh was on the point of departing

from Baghdad to Constantinople (1863), a number of notables of

Abadih were in 'Iraq on pilgrimage to the holy shrines of the

Imams, including Da'i Husayn, who was to become one of the most

stalwart Bahá'ís of Abadih. Hearing that Bahá'u'lláh was in the

Najibiyyih Garden, just outside Baghdad, he thought seriously of

going there himself, as many were doing, to discover what all that

commotion was about, but fearing the consequences he did not

venture out. He was a friend of Mirza 'Ata'u'llah, the son of the

Hakim-Bashi, and on his way back to his home town discovered at

Isfahan that his friends there were nurturing a secret which

surprised him. They asked him: 'What is going on in Daru's-Salam?

[Baghdad]' He told them all he knew. His friends expressed great

surprise but kept their secret to themselves. Then, all together,

they left Isfahan for Abadih. Ensconced in their home town they

divulged their secret: they had embraced the Faith of the Báb. So

did Da'i Husayn with a devotion
Page 31

fortified by all that he had heard and witnessed in Baghdad, to be

followed by others including his son, Karbila'i Hasan Khan.

It was then that Aqa Mirza Ashraf let it be known that he was a

Baha'i. Soon Abadih became a stronghold of the Faith of

Bahá'u'lláh, and a number of its leading citizens came into the

Bahá'í fold. Of course, as everywhere else in the storm-tossed

Cradle of their Faith, these steadfast Bahá'ís had, from time to

time, to face the venom and fury of their adversaries. One such was

Sultan-Mas'ud Mirza, the Zillu's-Sultan, who was always alert to

inflict some fresh injury upon them. He stretched out his hand,

already stained with the blood of the innocent, snatched Mirza

Ashraf, and had him delivered to the executioner.

A letter written by the father of the present writer to Edward

Granville Browne, on 3 July 1889 gives the full story of the

martyrdom of the second Ashraf--Ashraf of Abadih. Browne published

a partial translation of the letter in the Journal of the Royal

Asiatic Society for October 1889 (pp. 998-9) prefaced by these


Those who were present at the Meeting of the Society on April 15th,

1889 at which my first paper was read, will remember that in the

discussion which followed it, General Houtum-Schindler stated that

a Babi had been put to death at Isfahan in October, 1888. In reply

to inquiries which I made of my friends in Persia, I received a

little time ago a letter containing an account of this event, of

a portion of which I here give the translation:

'You wrote that you had heard from General Schindler of the

martyrdom of one of this sect [the Persian word 'Tayifih' used in

the letter means 'a people', 'nation', 'tribe']. The details are

these. A child, who was one of the servants of the andarun (women's

apartments) of the Prince Zill-es-Sultan, had become acquainted

with several individuals of "the friends" (ahbab), and Aka Mirza

Ashraf of Abade had apprized him of this Matter ['Amr': 'Cause']

(i.e. had converted him to Babiism). News of this reaches the

Prince Zill-es-Sultan. They torment the child to make him tell the

truth, but he in no wise discloses the matter. Guile enters the

hearts of the Prince's servants. One of them goes and inquires of

several of "the friends", "Where is Aka Mirza Ashraf? I have a wife

in Abade, and I desire to send her a letter and some money. Since

Aka Mirza Ashraf has acquaintances in Abade, I wish to send them

by means of him." These, believing this representation, point out

to him the abode of Aka Mirza Ashraf. When they recognize Aka Mirza

Ashraf, they seize him and bring him into the presence of the

Prince. The Prince inquires of Aka Mirza Ashraf, "Art thou of this

sect?" He answers, "I am not." He says, "If thou art not, curse"

(them, or the Báb or Beha). He replies, "Since their wickedness has

not been made apparent to me, I will not curse" (them). ['I have

not seen anything bad from them, I will not curse.']

Page 32

Eventually the Prince obtains a decision from several of the

'Uluma, and telegraphs to Teheran, "If this person be not killed,

the 'Ulama and the populace will raise disturbance: the 'Ulama,

moreover, have pronounced sentence: he himself, also, has confessed

that he is of this sect, and it is necessary to kill him to quiet

the people. " The order comes from Teheran, "Do whatever appears

desirable. " Then the Prince orders the execution of Aka Mirza

Ashraf. According to the accounts I have heard, they cut off his

head and then gibbet him. Afterwards they set fire to his body. I

myself was acquainted with Aqa Mirza Ashraf. [Not translated by

Browne: 'I met him in Bombay in the year 1884. We oftentimes met

each other there.'] His age seemed to be about sixty. He was a man

of understanding and education; a good calligraphist; and extremely

courteous and amiable. [Not translated by Browne: 'In the year

1886, when I was coming from Tihran to Shiraz, I met him again in

Abadih.'] In every way he was a most excellent man.'

Edward Browne inserted the Persian text of this letter in Note Y

of the Appendices to his translation of A Traveller's Narrative,

and followed it by these lines:

On August 4th, the day after I received the above letter, I wrote

to a friend at Isfahan, on whose kindness I felt sure I might rely,

for information which no one was better qualified than himself to

give. On October 8th, just a year after Mirza Ashraf's martyrdom,

I received his answer, which bore the date September 6th, 1889.

'Yes,' he wrote, 'it is quite true that Aga Mirza Ashraf of Abade

was put to death for his religion in the most barbarous manner in

Ispahan about October last. The hatred of the Mullas was not

satisfied with his murder, but they mutilated the poor body

publicly in the maidan in the most savage manner, and then burnt

what was left of it.'

Thus died Aqa Mirza Ashraf of Abaidih, and that was what the

rapacious enemy did to the 'mutilated' body of that 'most excellent

Page 33
The Twin Shining Lights

The Twin Shining Lights or The Twin Luminous Orbs, were two

stalwart brothers, natives of Isfahan, whom the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh

the Most Sublime Pen--extolled as Sultanu'sh-Shuhada' (the King of

Martyrs) and Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada' (the Beloved of Martyrs). Mirza

Muhammad-Hasan, the King of Martyrs, was two years younger than his

brother, Mirza Muhammad-Husayn, the Beloved of Martyrs. They were

beheaded in the city of 'Abbas the Great in the year 1879. Their

deaths were planned, decreed and encompassed by three persons: Mir

Muhammad-Husayn, the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan, stigmatized by

Bahá'u'lláh as Raqsha'--the She-Serpent; Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir,

another influential divine of that city whom the Most Sublime Pen

singled out as Dhi'b--the Wolf; and Sultan-Mas'ud Mirza, the

Zillu's-Sultan, the avaricious, tyrannical son of Nasiri'd-Din Shah

who governed that city of immortal memory. It was the rapacity and

the innate viciousness of those divines, combined with the greed

and corruption of the Prince-Governor, which delivered those noble

souls, whom all the inhabitants of Isfahan knew as selfless,

upright and kindly men, into the hands of the executioner. Decades

later, in Paris, the Prince begged 'Abdu'l-Bahá to believe that he

was only carrying out the orders of his father, the monarch, who

was goaded by those rascally men, Mir Muhammad-Husayn and Shaykh

Muhammad-Baqir, and that he himself was innocent of complicity in

that crime. But he was lying blatantly. It is true that the murders

of those two brothers were envisaged and planned at the beginning

by the two divines, but the Prince-Governor's interest was aroused

by the discovery that a large sum of money was involved.

Mirza Hasan and Mirza Husayn were both rich and highly endowed

Page 34
Page 35

with trading acumen. Following in the footsteps of their father,

Mirza Ibrahim, a brother of Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Nahri and Mirza

Hadiy-i-Nahri,[1] they had for years acted for the Imam-Jum'ih in

the management of his property. Due to their assiduous attention

to the interests of the Imam-Jum'ih the estate of that unscrupulous

divine prospered, but because of the payments they had to make on

his behalf, Mir Muhammad-Husayn came to owe them the sum of

eighteen thousand tumans, which was quite a substantial amount in

those days. The two brothers were merchants and as such always,

naturally, had a number of creditors and debtors. At a time when

the Afnans (the relatives of the Báb) had vast and exceedingly

profitable trading concerns stretching from Hong Kong to Tiflis

(Tbilisi) in the Caucasus,[2] Mirza Hasan and Mirza Husayn, in

Isfahan, acted commercially in concert with them. And now, when the

two brothers asked the Imam-Jum'ih for the money owed to them, he

stalled, and made the payment dependent on a careful scrutiny of

the books. Even then he jibbed at clearing his debt and set about

finding a way to evade payment. One day in the public bath he

happened to meet Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, who was a divine more

influential than himself. He told the latter of his plight (which

was anything but sorrowful), his huge debt to Mirza Hasan and Mirza

Husayn, and spoke at length of the riches of the two brothers.

Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, enticed by the wealth involved, promised the

perfidious Imam-Jum'ih his support and the two of them concocted

a plan to destroy the two honest and upright merchants. Next, they

went to the Prince-Governor with their nefarious design. As soon

as he was apprised of considerable riches, he unhesitatingly agreed

to have Mirza Hasan and Mirza Husayn detained.

[1. The reader is referred to Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, pp. 33-42. (Ed.)]

[2. Haji Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, cousin of the Báb (a son of His

maternal uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad), had the virtual

monopoly of trading in Chinese porcelain ware, and these goods were

manufactured to his specifications for the nobility of Iran, even

for Nasiri'd-Din Shah, with the names of the clients inscribed on

them. His own name: 'Muhammad-'Ali al-Husayni', was inscribed on

some pieces which were ordered for himself or for members of his

family and relatives. Photographs exist of Nasiri'd-Din Shah

sitting at his meal with such Chinese porcelain plates, bowls and

dishes on his table.]

On the 17th day of Rabi'u'l-Avval, which the Shi'ihs consider to

have been the day of the Birth of the Prophet, those two intrepid

men with a younger brother, Mirza Isma'il, called on the

Imam-Jum'ih to offer him their felicitations. Aqa

Muhammad-Baqir-i-Mudarris, who was a father-in-law of

Zillu's-Sultan and a man free of guile and fanaticism, well aware

of the intentions of the two plotting divines, advised

Page 36

Mirza Hasan to take himself away from that hostile assemblage as

soon as he could. Mirza Hasan left the house of the Imam-Jum'ih

silently and quietly and repaired to the house of the man who had

given him a friendly warning. Shortly after, Mirz6 Husayn and the

youthful Mirza Isma'il went to the Imam-Jum'ih, as it was customary

to ask his permission to leave. The Imam-Jum'ih told them to stay

for a while longer, because he had some business to transact with

them, and then, noticing that the other brother was not with them,

enquired where Mirza Hasan was. He became much agitated when he

learned that Mirza Hasan had left, and immediately dispatched his

men to seek him and bring him back. They went in search of him to

his house, only to be told that he was still with the Imam-Jum'ih

and had not returned. Infuriated, the minions of that unscrupulous

divine broke brutally into the house of Mirza Hasan, even into

rooms and apartments--the andaruni--where the ladies of the

household lodged. Neither in his house nor anywhere else could they

find any trace of Mirza Hasan. Then, a mischief-maker informed the

Imam-Jum'ih that the man he was seeking was in the house of Aqa

Muhammad-Baqir-i-Mudarris and they, the two scheming divines, sent

word to Zillu's-Sultan that Mirza Hasan had taken refuge there.

When the Prince-Governor, himself well involved in that diabolical

plot, learned that his own father-in-law had given protection to

Mirza Hasan, he demanded an explanation. Aqa Muhammad-Baqir was

angered, informed Mirza Hasan of Zillu's-Sultan's high-handed

action and together they rode to the residence of the Prince. In

the meantime Mirza Husayn and Mirza Isma'il had both been put under

arrest. And Zillu's-Sultan, as soon as he set eyes on Mirza Hasan,

began to upbraid him. He grew violent in his denunciation, and

seeing that Mirza Hasan would not yield an inch in renouncing his

Faith, took that noble siyyid's firmness as a personal insult and

struck Mirza Hasan's head and face with his cane, drawing blood.

Let the able and creative pen of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl of Gulpaygan tell

the rest of the story of the Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn--the Twin Luminous


During the days of their imprisonment, he [the Prince] sent for

Jinab-i-Mirza [Mirza Hasan] several times and held parleys with

him. One day, he told Jinab-i-Mirza that the Imam-Jum'ih and others

of the 'ulama of Isfahan were complaining that he had become a

believer in this novel Cause. The Mirza replied: 'That is true, but

the reason that the Imam-Jum'ih is inimical
Page 37

towards me is this: I have for several years defrayed all the

expenses of his household, what they ate and what they wore. He

owes me a sum of money, and because I have lately asked him to

settle his debt he has turned against me.' The Prince said: 'That

is true, but now come and renounce this Faith, and curse its

leaders.' Jinab-i-Mirza remained silent. Zillu's-Sultan continued

to press him, saying: 'I swear by the salt of His Majesty the

monarch, and the pure soul of the Commander of the Faithful ['Ali,

the First Imam] that should you curse them, I would always give you

help and support, get from the Imam-Jum'ih all that he owes you and

make your enemies disappointed, make them abandon their hostility.'

Again that manifestation of constancy said nothing. In the end the

Prince said: 'Come, by my life, and curse them.' But his insistence

was of no avail. Seeing that, the Prince was infuriated and

shouted: 'Why don't you curse them?' Jinab-i-Mirza, at last, spoke:

'If Your Highness knew what I know, you would not order me to do

any cursing.' Hearing this, the Prince became totally a changed

man, enraged, bestial, burning with fury, completely beside

himself, his face alarmingly darkening, and his hand went several

times to his sword, half unsheathing it. Finally he took up his

walking-stick and so pounded the head and face of that Rock of

Constancy that the blessed visage was covered with wounds. Then,

before an examining body, Mirza Muhammad-Husayn, too, refused to

renounce his Faith. But being very young and tender in years, Mirza

Isma'il did not follow the example of his two glorious brothers and

took himself apart from the true Faith. Thus he was freed.[1]

However, the Imam-Jum'ih and others thought that the noble descent

and the wealth of the Mirza might bring about his freedom and so,

once again, they took counsel together. There in that gathering

they decided to present the case to the sovereign and obtain

permission to have the Mirza executed. Whereupon, they sent a

telegram to Haji Mulla 'Aliy-i-Kani, who is today the Chief of the

jurists of Tihran, and asked him to inform His Majesty the monarch

that the 'ulama of Isfahan had, in their concern for the security

of the sovereign, detained and imprisoned two Babis, and now

requested his permission to have them put to death, so that

rendering him this service they should be considered as truly

well-wishers of the State. Having received that telegram, the Shah

ordered Zillu's-Sultan to dispatch the two brothers in chains to

Tihran. Being thus commanded, Zillu's-Sultan paused and did not go

ahead with the execution of the Mirza. But the Imam-Jum'ih and

Shaykh Baqir came to realize that the Shah would not involve

himself in the death of those two innocent men, and their journey

to Tihran would undoubtedly result in their release.

[1. It is said that the Imam-Jum'ih, for purposes of his own, gave

out that Mirza Isma'il had renounced his Faith. In any case, we

find Mirza Isma'il, in later years, back in the Bahá'í fold.]

So the two divines took counsel together a third time and decided

to carry out their design through public rioting. Therefore, on the

23rd day of Rabi'u'l-Avval 1296 [17 March 1879], they first ordered

the tradesmen and the shopkeepers in the bazar to shut their shops.

Next, the 'ulama, such as the
Page 38

Imam-Jum'ih; Shaykh Baqir; Haji Mirza Hashim, who was a son of the

previous Imam-Jum'ih; Mirza 'Abdu'l-Javad, son of Aqa

Muhammad-Mihdiy-i-Kabbasi; Aqa Siyyid 'Aliy-i-Burujirdi, and others

of the jurists of Isfahan, numbering more than fifty--each one

accompanied by a huge crowd of rascals and rioters, tradesmen and

people of the bazaar--rode in the direction of the residence of the

governor. With shouts of 'Oh for our Religion! Oh for our Faith!'

they threw the whole city into uproar. As related by a reliable

man, their barbarous yells were heard as far away as Qal'iy-i-Gaz,

which lies at a distance of nine miles from Isfahan.

While this tumult was going on Zillu's-Sultan was in his bath. He

was greatly alarmed by the shouts of the populace and enquired the

reason for this gathering of the masses. He was told that the host

of the 'ulama and their followers had turned out, wishing to make

it known that there should no longer be any delay in dealing with

the case of the Mirza and demanding that His Highness put him to

death; otherwise they themselves with the force at their command

would have him executed. Zillu's-Sultan, leaving his bath, called

the 'ulama to his presence, and they made their demand. The Prince

told them that the two siyyids were not guilty of any treasonable

act and had done nothing hostile to the State; that the quarrel of

the 'ulama with them was totally of a religious and sectarian

nature, and he himself could not intervene in matters of faith and

belief; moreover, 'His Majesty, our sovereign Lord, has expressly

commanded me to send them to the capital; therefore I cannot order

their execution.' The 'ulama said: 'We will order their execution

and will shoulder the responsibility, as far as His Majesty is

concerned.' The Prince replied: 'But I shall not give orders to the

executioner to carry out this deed.' Several of the 'ulama in that

assemblage, one of whom was Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi, a son of Shaykh

Muhammad-Baqir and known as Shaykh Najafi, rolled up their sleeves,

declaring: 'With our own hands we shall slay them.' As the Prince

noticed that those hard-hearted men were thus daring and emboldened

in their wish to spill innocent blood, he told them: 'Write me an

edict and state the necessity of putting them to death. This is a

document that I shall require.' The 'ulama, some sixty of them who

were present, had such a document written, signed and witnessed,

and then sent it to the Prince. And as soon as he set eyes on that

piece of paper, the Prince issued orders for the demolition of the

edifice of sublimity and honour with the hatchet of tyranny, the

cutting down of the spreading tree of generosity and beneficence

with the axe of enmity and rebelliousness. Thus, as orders were

given for the downing of those twin resplendent stars of the

firmament of noble descent, satanic brutes dragged them out of the

prison-house, and by the side of Talar-i-Tavilih (one of the

renowned buildings of Isfahan, reared by the Safavid kings) spilled

their precious blood, which was the very essence of purity, the

repository of humaneness. After they had quaffed the cup of

martyrdom, ropes were fastened to their legs and their sanctified

bodies were dragged to the foot of the gallows, where they lay

throughout the day. The Prince had sent a number of his footmen to

keep watch around them and stop the people from throwing stones and

heaping insults.
Page 39
Page 40

At the close of the day, Shaykh Baqir ordered his own men to take

the corpses to a place near the rivulet 'Niyasarm', where an

archway was standing, place them under that arch, and bring it down

over them. Later, Zillu's-Sultan sent for Mirza Isma'il and told

him to give a proper burial to those two sanctified bodies, and he

committed them to earth in the Takht-i-Fulad cemetery. (Quoted in

Ishraq-i-Khavari, Kitáb-i-Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn, pp. 260-65)

Exactly nine years later, early in 1888, Edward Granville Browne

was in Isfahan. He has told us in his immortal work, A Year Amongst

the Persians, how in that city of 'Abbas the Great, after months

of search and waiting, he met the followers of Bahá'u'lláh. There

it was that he had the privilege to converse, for an hour or two,

with that celebrated veteran of the Faith, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali,

himself a native of Isfahan. And he visited what was known to be

the graves of the Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn in the vast cemetery of


Let Browne himself, in his own inimitable way, tell us the story

of his visit to that sacrosanct spot:

...I asked the dallal whether he knew where the two Siyyids who

suffered martyrdom for the Bábi faith about the year 1879 were


'Yes,' he replied, 'I know the spot well, and will take you there

if you wish it; but surely, Sahib, you who are so eager to obtain

our books, who desire to visit the graves of our martyrs, must be

prompted by some motive beyond mere curiosity. You have been to

Acre, you have been honoured by beholding the Blessed Countenance,

you are yourself a Babi. Say, is it not so? There is no need to

conceal anything from me.'

'My friend,' I answered, 'I am neither a Babi, nor have I been to

Acre; yet I confess that I am actuated by something more than mere

curiosity. I cannot but feel that a religion which has produced

examples of such heroic courage and fortitude as yours, merits a

careful examination, since that must needs contain noble thoughts

which can prompt to noble deeds. In visiting the graves of your

martyrs I would fain pay a tribute of respect to those who gave up

wealth, ease, and consideration, nay, even life itself, for the

faith which they held dearer than all else.'...

Next day, early in the afternoon, my friend the dallal came to

conduct me to the tombs of the martyrs. After a walk of more than

an hour in a blazing sun, we arrived at the vast cemetery called

Takht-i-Fulad ('the Throne of Steel'). Threading our way through

the wilderness of tombstones, my companion presently espied, and

summoned to us, a poor grave-digger, also belonging to the

persecuted sect, who accompanied us to a spot marked by two small

mounds of stones and pebbles. Here we halted, and the dallal,

Page 41

turning to me, said, 'These are the graves of the martyrs. No stone

marks the spot, because the Musulmans destroyed those which we

placed here, and, indeed, it is perhaps as well that they have

almost forgotten the resting-places of those they slew, lest, in

their fanaticism, they should yet further desecrate them. And now

we will sit down for a while in this place, and I will tell you how

the death of these men was brought about. But first it is well that

our friend should read the prayer appointed for the visitation of

this holy spot.'

The other thereupon produced a little book from under his cloak,

and proceeded to read a prayer, partly in Arabic, partly in

Persian. When this was concluded, we seated ourselves by the

graves, and the dallal commenced his narrative.

'This,' said he, pointing to the mound nearest to us, 'is the tomb

of Haji Mirza Hasan, whom we call Sultanu'sh-Shuhada, "the King of

Martyrs", and that yonder is the resting-place of his elder

brother, Haji Mirza Huseyn, called Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada, "the Beloved

of Martyrs". They were Seyyids by birth, and merchants by

profession; yet neither their descent from the Prophet, nor their

rare integrity in business transactions and liberality to the poor,

which were universally acknowledged, served to protect them from

the wicked schemes of their enemies'... (Edward Granville Browne,

A Year Amongst the Persians, pp. 227-8, 231-2)

Edward Browne then proceeds to relate the circumstances of the

martyrdom of the Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn, as he heard them that

afternoon from Aqa Javad, the dallal of Isfahan, and later from the

Bahá'ís of Shiraz. Continuing with the narration of Aqa Javad, he


...'But we cannot mark the spot where they are buried with a stone,

for when one was put up, the Musulmans, whose malignity towards us

is unbounded, and who know very well that we pay visits to these

graves in secret, overthrew it. Our friend here' (pointing to his

companion) 'was brought to believe by means of these martyrs. Was

it not so?'

'Yes,' answered the other, 'some time after their death I saw in

a dream vast crowds of people visiting a certain spot in the

cemetery. I asked in my dream, "Whose are these graves?" An answer

came, "Those of the 'King of Martyrs' and the 'Beloved of

Martyrs'." Then I believed in that faith for which they had

witnessed with their blood, seeing that it was accepted of God; and

since then I visit them continually, and strive to keep them neat

and orderly, and preserve the spot from oblivion by renewing the

border of bricks and the heap of stones which is all that marks


'He is a good man,' rejoined the dallal, 'and formerly those of the

"Friends" who came to visit the graves used to rest for a while in

the little house which he has near here, and partake of tea and,

kalyans. The Musulmans, however, found this out, made a raid on his

house, abused and threatened him, and, before they departed,

destroyed his tea-things and pipes. He is very poor,' he added in

a whisper, 'give him a kran [qiran] for his trouble; it is an

action which has merit.'
Page 42

I accordingly gave a small present to our guide, who departed with

expressions of gratitude. After sitting a little while longer we

too rose to go, and, taking a last look at the graves, from each

of which I carried away a small stone as a memento, we once more

turned our faces towards the city. On our way towards the gate of

the cemetery we again passed the poor grave-digger with his little

boy, and he again greeted me with expressions of thankfulness and

good wishes for my journey.

I was much touched by the kindliness of these poor people, and

communicated something of my thoughts to my companion.

[As Edward Browne relates, Aqa Javad then told him:] '...we are

taught to regard all good men as clean and pure, whatever their

religion.... Has it not struck you how similar were the life and

death of our Founder (whom, indeed, we believe to have been Christ

Himself returned to earth) to those of the Founder of your faith?

Both were wise, even in their childhood, beyond the comprehension

of those around them; both were pure and blameless in their lives;

and both at last were done to death by a fanatical priesthood and

a government alarmed at the love and devotion which they inspired

in their disciples.[1] But besides this the ordinances enjoined

upon us are in many respects like those which you follow. We are

recommended to take to our-selves only one wife, ... we believe

that women ought to be allowed to mix more freely with men, and

should not be compelled to wear the veil.' (Edward Granville

Browne, A Year Amongst the Persians, pp. 234-6)

[1. The Bábis for the most part, unlike the Muhammadans, believe

that Christ was actually crucified by the Jews, and not, as the

latter assert, taken up into heaven miraculously, while another,

resembling Him in appearance, was crucified in His stead. But few

of the Muhammadans are conversant with the Gospels, while the

reverse holds good of the Bábis, many of whom take pleasure in

reading the accounts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. (EGB)]

In suchwise the dallal of Isfahan went on to speak to Browne, on

their walk back to Isfahan. 'Conversing thus,' Browne writes:

...we arrived at the side of the river, just where it is spanned

by the bridge called Pul-i-Khaju, a much finer structure than even

the bridge of thirty-three arches which I had admired so much on

my entry into Julfa. My companion suggested that we should sit here

awhile on the lower terrace (for the bridge is built on two levels)

and smoke a kalyan, and to this I readily consented. (Edward

Granville Browne, A Year Amongst the Persians, p. 238)

The final paragraph of the chapter on Isfahan in Edward Browne's

imperishable book has no connection with the story of the

Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn or the author's encounter with the followers of

Bahá'u'lláh; but it is truly worth quoting in full because it well

describes the depredations and the havoc wrought by the unholy

hands of Zillu's-Sultan and his minions in the splendrous city of

'Abbas the Great:
Page 43

After admiring the massive piers and solid masonry of the bridge,

and the wide sweep here made by the Zayanda-Rud, we resumed our way

along the southern bank in the direction of Julfa. On our way we

visited the deserted palace called Haft-dast ('Seven Hands'). Here

was visible the same neglected splendour and ruined magnificence

which was discernible elsewhere. One building, the Namak-dan

('Salt-cellar'), had just been pulled down by one of the ministers

of the Zillu's-Sultan to afford material for a house which he was

building for himself. Another, called A'ine-khane ('the Chamber of

Mirrors'), was nearly stripped of the ornaments which gave it its

name, the remainder being for the most part broken and cracked.

Everywhere it was the same--crumbling walls, heaps of rubbish, and

marred works of art, still beautiful in spite of injuries, due as

much to wanton mischief as to mere neglect. Would that some portion

of that money which is spent in building new palaces in the

capital, and constructing mihman-khanes [hotels, guesthouses]

neither beautiful nor pleasant, were devoted to the preservation

of the glorious relics of a past age! That, however, is as a rule

the last thing an Oriental monarch cares about. To construct

edifices which may perpetuate his own name is of far more

importance in his eyes than to protect from injury those built by

his predecessors, which, indeed, he is perhaps not sorry to see

crumbling away like the dynasties which reared them. And so it goes

on king succeeding king, dynasty overthrowing dynasty, ruin added

to ruin; and through it all the mighty spirit of the people

'dreaming the dream of the soul's disentanglement', while the

stony-eyed lions of Persepolis look forth in their endless watch

over a nation which slumbers, but is not dead. (Edward Granville

Browne, A Year Amongst the Persians, pp. 238-9)

Unfortunately, Consular Reports of Isfahan, for the period

concerned, do not exist in the Public Record Office in London. They

seem to have been destroyed. However, a dispatch dated June 1879

is extant, sent by Sir Ronald Thomson, the British Minister in

Tihran, to Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Secretary, informing him of

the execution of the two brothers of Isfahan and its circumstances.

Sir Ronald writes:

Several serious disturbances have lately occurred in Isfahan and

unfortunately the governor of that province, being the Zil-i-Sultan

a son of the Shah, instead of being censured or withdrawn was

supported by the government.

The Imam-i-Joomeh, or Chief Priest, owed sum of Eighteen thousand

Tomans (Ts. 18,000) to two respectable and wealthy Seyeds, and to

avoid payment of the debt he accused them of being Babis and

Socialists; they were accordingly seized, their property made away

with by the authorities, and they themselves put to death. This

gave rise to great excitement in Isfahan and news of the occurrence

having been telegraphed to me, I immediately made representations

through the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Shah, and orders

were sent down to Isfahan which resulted in putting a stop to

further atrocities which were in contemplation. (Cited Momen, The

Babi and Bahá'í Religions, p. 277)
Page 44

Let it not be imagined that 'Raqsha'--the She-Serpent--that

faithless Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan thus castigated and designated by

the Most Exalted Pen, lightly escaped the consequences of his

treachery to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. At one time there was a

moment when it seemed that wise counsels might prevail. Some people

were reluctant to allow the spilling of innocent blood. These two

brothers, they averred, were of impeccable record and conduct; they

were noble scions of the noble House of Muhammad, distinguished

descendants of Fatimih; why should their deaths be envisaged? The

unprincipled Imam-Jum'ih, sensing that he might lose his prey,

struck his neck and exclaimed: 'Their blood be on my neck [the same

as 'be it on my head'], I accept full responsibility.' Thus he

envisaged his own destruction, and that dastardly deed, the slaying

of those two brothers, came to pass.

Hardly had a year elapsed since the martyrdom of the

Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn, when on that very spot of the Imam-Jum'ih's

neck which he had struck, in token of his acceptance of full

responsibility for the spilling of innocent blood, there appeared

a swelling which soon turned into a nasty and troublesome boil and

the matter collecting in it was exceedingly unpleasant. That wicked

divine had to abandon Isfahan and his seat of authority, going from

village to village, nowhere finding relief. Finally his whole body

became so malodorous that his own family could not bear to be

anywhere near him. And when he died after months of extreme misery,

porters had to be brought to carry unceremoniously his corpse to

an unknown grave.

And there is a strange sequel to the death of that Imam-Jum'ih of

Isfahan which took place on 21 June 1881. The British Agent S. P.

Aganoor, reporting to the Minister in Tihran, wrote on 4 July:

'...people of Isfahan, in his honer [sic], shut the shops and

Bazars, but the Prince Governor sent ferashes [farrshes] and

ordered to open them.' (Public Record Office, FO 248/384)

Years rolled on, decades passed, the graves of the

Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn remained obscure and forlorn--but not forgotten

by those who cherished their memory. At the beginning of the second

Bahá'í century a beautiful monument was raised over their remains,

and although it has in recent years been destroyed by the same

fanatical spirit that encompassed their deaths and now rules over

Iran, the time will come when the Bahá'ís of the world will honour

these great heroes of their Faith in a manner befitting their

courage, fidelity and sacrifice.
Page 45
Lamentation of the Most Exalted Pen

Many and most poignant were the verses which flowed from the Most

Exalted Pen in lamentation over the appalling tragedy, the cruel

extinction of the Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn--the Twin Shining Lights of

the city of 'Abbas the Great.

The heart-rending cry: 'O Land of Sad [Isfahan]... Where is My

Hasan!... Where is My Husayn!...' was wrung from the lips of the

Supreme Manifestation of God.

Addressing the Son of the Wolf, Bahá'u'lláh wrote in the evening

of His life:

O heedless one! Rely not on thy glory, and thy power. Thou art even

as the last trace of sunlight upon the mountain-top. Soon will it

fade away as decreed by God, the All-Possessing, the Most High. Thy

glory and the glory of such as are like thee have been taken away,

and this verily is what hath been ordained by the One with Whom is

the Mother Tablet. Where is he to be found who contended with God,

and whither is gone he that gainsaid His signs, and turned aside

from His sovereignty? Where are they who have slain His chosen ones

and spilt the blood of His holy ones? Reflect, that haply thou

mayest perceive the breaths of thine acts, O foolish doubter!

Because of you the Apostle [Muhammad] lamented, and the Chaste One

[Fatimih] cried out, and the countries were laid waste, and

darkness fell upon all regions. O concourse of divines! Because of

you the people were abased, and the banner of Islam was hauled

down, and its mighty throne subverted. Every time a man of

discernment hath sought to hold fast unto that which would exalt

Islam, you raised a clamor, and thereby was he deterred from

achieving his purpose, while the land remained fallen in clear


O My Supreme Pen! Call Thou to remembrance the She-Serpent

[Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan] whose cruelty hath caused all created

things to groan, and the limbs of the holy ones to quake. Thus

biddeth Thee the Lord of all names, in this glorious station. The

Chaste One [Fatimih] hath cried out by reason of thine iniquity,

and yet thou dost imagine thyself to be of the family of the

Apostle of God! Thus hath thy soul prompted thee, O thou who hast

withdrawn thyself from God, the Lord of all that hath been and

shall be. Judge thou equitably, O She-Serpent! For what crime didst

thou sting the
Page 46

children of the Apostle of God [King of Martyrs and Beloved of

Martyrs], and pillage their possessions? Hast thou denied Him Who

created thee by His command 'be, and it was'? Thou hast dealt with

the children of the Apostle of God as neither 'Ad hath dealt with

Hud nor Thamud with Salih, nor the Jews with the Spirit of God

[Jesus], the Lord of all being. Gainsayest thou the signs of Thy

Lord which no sooner were they sent own from the heaven of His

Cause than all the books of the world bowed down before them?

Meditate, that thou mayest be made aware of thine act, 0 heedless

outcast! Ere long will the breaths of chastisement seize thee, as

they seized others before thee. Wait, 0 thou who hast joined

partners with God, the Lord of the visible and the invisible. This

is the day which God hath announced through the tongue of His

Apostle. Reflect, that thou mayest apprehend what the All-Merciful

hath sent down in the Qur'an and in this inscribed Tablet. This is

the day whereon He Who is the Dayspring of Revelation hath come

with clear tokens which none can number. This is the day whereon

every man endued with perception hath discovered the fragrance of

the breeze of the All-Merciful in the world of creation, and every

man of insight hastened unto the living waters of the mercy of His

Lord, the King of Kings.... Didst thou imagine that martyrdom could

abase this Cause? Nay, by Him Whom God hath made to be the

Repository of His Revelation, if thou be of them that comprehend.

Woe betide thee, 0 thou who hast joined partners with God, and woe

betide them that have taken thee as their leader, without a clear

token or a perspicuous Book. How numerous the oppressors before

thee, who have arisen to quench the light of God, and how many the

impious who murdered and pillaged until the hearts and souls of men

groaned by reason of their cruelty! The sun of justice hath been

obscured, inasmuch as the embodiment of tyranny hath been

stablished upon the throne of hatred, and yet the people understand

not. 0 foolish one! Thou hast slain the children of the Apostle and

pillaged their possessions. Say: Was it, in thine estimation, their

possessions or themselves that denied God? Judge fairly, O ignorant

one that hath been shut out as by a veil from God. Thou hast clung

to tyranny, and cast away justice; whereupon all created things

have lamented, and still thou art among the wayward. Thou hast put

to death the aged, and plundered the young. Thinkest thou that thou

wilt consume that which thine iniquity hath amassed? Nay, by

Myself! Thus informeth thee He Who is cognizant of all. By God! The

things thou possessest shall profit thee not, nor what thou hast

laid up through thy cruelty. Unto this beareth witness Thy Lord,

the All-Knowing. Thou hast arisen to put out the light of this

Cause; ere long will thine own fire be quenched, at His behest. He,

verily, is the Lord of strength and of might. The changes and

chances of the world, and the powers of the nations, cannot

frustrate Him. He doeth what He pleaseth, and ordaineth what He

willeth through the power of His sovereignty. Consider the

she-camel. Though but a beast, yet hath the All-Merciful exalted

her to so high a station that the tongues of the earth made mention

of her and celebrated her praise. He, verily, overshadoweth all

that is in the heavens, and on earth. No God is
Page 47

there but Him, the Almighty, the Great. Thus have We adorned the

heaven of Our Tablet with the suns of Our words. Blessed the man

that hath attained thereunto, and been illumined with their light,

and woe betide such as have turned aside, and denied Him, and

strayed far from Him. Praised be God, the Lord of the worlds!

(Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 99-103)

And thus did the Most Exalted Pen[1] address Shaykh Kazim of

Qazvin, whom Bahá'u'lláh had honoured with the designation of

[1. Bahá'u'lláh]

He is the Consoler in this sublime, supreme station. O Samandar!

Verily, He, Who is the Supreme Ordainer, consoleth Himself for that

which came upon Him from those who took to oppression and turned

their backs on justice, following the path of satanic souls who

aspire to evil ways. Verily, the people of 'Ad and Thamud meted

unto Salih and Hud that which caused the Sadratu'l-Muntaha to

lament and the Concourse on high to wail. Unto that beareth witness

this Wronged One, sorrowful and exiled. By God, they crucified the

Spirit [Jesus], hamstrung the She-Camel [of Salih] and smashed the

Ark of the Covenant. Thy Lord well knoweth and expoundeth this unto

Page 48

thee. He eulogizeth His chosen ones and consoleth His loved Ones

on this affliction which hath caused justice to moan and the

Faithful Spirit [Gabriel] to wail. Verily, verily, they have slain

My chosen ones and pillaged their property. Thus hath the decree

been fulfilled and yet most of the people are of the heedless.

0 Samandar! Verily, We have seen the beloved Joseph caught by the

fangs of wolves, and Husayn captive in the claws of tyrants. By

God, this nation hath done what the Jews did not do to the Spirit

[Jesus] nor Abu Jahl to Muhammad, My Apostle, Whom We adorned with

the mantle of the 'Seal', and sent unto the denizens of heaven and

earth. They have, verily, committed that which no one in the world

had committed, and to that beareth witness the Lord of Eternity

from this Scene of transcendent glory. After Hasan and Husayn had

attained their station, and some days passed, We laid hands on the

source of tyranny and oppression, through Our Sovereignty. Verily,

thy Lord is the All-Powerful, the Almighty. Great is the

blessedness of those who drew nigh unto them and visited their

resting-places. They are, verily, the people of God in the kingdom

of creation. Thus did the Most Exalted Pen decree in this glorious,

incomparable Book. Woe betide them who have cast the Tablet of God

behind them and followed everyone who hath been a worker of

iniquity and hath gone far astray.

Ponder, 0 My Samandar, My patience and forbearance notwithstanding

My power and might, and My silence in spite of the penetrative

influence of My word which standeth supreme over all the worlds.

Should We have wished We could have seized those who have wronged

Us outwardly with the hand of one of the servants of God, or

through the intervention of well-favoured angels. We act according

to the dictates of wisdom which We have set to be a guiding light

for My people and the denizens of My Kingdom. Verily, thy Lord is

the All-Knowing, the Wise. Ere long We shall take hold of those who

have acted with tyranny as We seized others before them. Verily,

thy Lord commandeth what He willeth. (Quoted in Ishraq-i-Khavari,

Kitáb-i-Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn, pp. 172-4)

And the Tongue of Power and Might[1] thus spoke to the bereaved

family of the Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn:
[1. Bahá'u'lláh]
He is the Consoler

0 Scions of that House! Verily, there hath come upon you in the

path of God that which came upon the descendants of the Apostle and

their women and children in the Land of Taff [Karbila] and

elsewhere. Be ye confident of the grace of God and of His mercy.

He is, verily, with you in every world of His worlds, and He is the

Ever-Watchful, the Ever-Present, the All-Seeing. Woe unto those who

wronged you and slew you and pillaged your possessions. By My life,

they are in manifest loss. Ere long the gales of chastisement will

beat upon them from every side. Verily, He is the All-Informed, the

All-Knowing. Put your trust in God and say: 'Well is it with us,

and blessed are we
Page 49

for that which hath come upon us in His straight Path. Praise be

to God, the Lord of all worlds.' (Quoted in Ishraq-i-Khavari,

Kitáb-i-Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn, p. 172)

The Most Exalted Pen was moved, once again, by the tragedy of

Isfahan thus to inscribe:

In the Name of God, the Almighty, the All-Powerful

Thy letter was received and studied. Verily, that people hath been

guilty of such oppression as hath cast gloom over the dominions of

earth and heaven; those Twin Shining Lights were so wronged that

the hosts of the Supreme Concourse have bewailed their plight.

Ponder the fate of the Son of Zechariah [John the Baptist]: his

head was stricken from his body at the whim of the adulteress of

that age; and ponder what befell the Scion of the Apostle of God

[the Imam Husayn]: he was slain by order of the most debased man

of his time. Was it those who were martyred who found themselves

in great loss, or was it the tyrants? All created things have

loudly proclaimed that it was the tyrants who went down into

manifest perdition.

How burdensome was this affliction, and how profound the abasement

that it caused, yet it was, by God, a supreme exaltation which but

appeared in the guise of abasement. Protect this sublime station

and regard not that which is seen in this day. Verily, God hath

taken hold of these people in the past and will seize them now and

will cleanse the earth of the defilement of their presence. And He

will raise you to that station towards which all faces shall turn,

and in the mention of which all the tongues in the world shall be


Hearken to the call of this Wronged One and cling unto that which

He hath mentioned. Verily, He is a trusted Counsellor... Comfort

and console all the kindred on behalf of this Wronged One. Verily,

He is the Consoler, the All-Knowing . . . That which is required

of thee is to win the goodpleasure of the family of the Two

Martyrs, upon whom be the Glory of God. Shouldst thou ponder for

a while thou wouldst come to know for a certainty that that which

hath transpired is infinite exaltation now and in the future. To

this testifieth He with Whom is the knowledge of the Book. Praise

be to God, the Lord of Lords. (Quoted in Ishraq-i-Khavari,

Kitáb-i-Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn, pp. 182-3)

And the Tongue of Might and Power thus addressed the eloquent poet,

Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, master of limpid verse, himself a glorious

martyr of later years, whom Bahá'u'lláh had honoured and extolled

with the designation of 'Varqa'--Nightingale:
He is the Most Holy, the Supreme

O Varqa! The Servant in Attendance[1] attained My presence and

mentioned what thou hadst written and We found thy letter a mirror

reflecting thy love for the Beloved of the world and thy turning

towards Him. Great is thy blessedness for having drawn nigh, for

having drunk thy fill, and for having been
Page 50

caused to attain. Verily, thy Lord is the Resplendent Expounder.

Verily, We witness the fire that hath encompassed thee in thy love

for thy Lord, We see its flaring up and hear the crackling of its

flames. Exalted be He Who hath ignited it, He Who hath made its

flames to leap high, He Who hath revealed it to all men. He is that

Almighty Lord before the evidence of Whose might the essence of

power acknowledgeth its helplessness. Verily, thy Lord is He who

heareth and seeth, and is the All-Knowing. Rejoice, for this

Wronged One maketh mention of thee as He hath in the past, and even

in this instant, as He paceth, He giveth utterance to these words:

'Verily, We have sensed the sweet scent of thy love, and have

witnessed thy sincerity and thy humility, as thy heart was occupied

with the mention of Me and thy tongue with My wondrous praise.'

Thus hath the Sea of life sprinkled its waters upon thee, that thou

mayest rejoice in the days of thy glorious, incomparable Lord.

[1. Mirza Aqa Jan]

0 Varqa! Thy call was heard and thy letter was presented before the

Throne. Praise be to God! By it the fire of divine love blazed

up... Some of the believers are seen to be sorrowful, even fearful

at the events in the Land of Sad [Isfahan]; whilst it was the Hand

of Divine Might which graciously singled them out and, from the

heaven of His mercy and the clouds of His generosity, caused the

overflowing rains of affluence and abundance to shower upon them.

The consummate power of God adorned them with honour among the

people, so that the tongues of the sincere who enjoyed near access

unto Him spoke forth in their praise. They reached such heights

that their adversaries bore witness to the elevation of their high

rank. Then, at the end of their days, they attained the most

exalted station which is that of supreme sacrifice; this is a

station which God's chosen ones and His loved ones have at all

times desired and everlastingly sought. Notwithstanding, some are

sad and sorrowful. It is hoped that this grief hath appeared

because of the love entertained for them. I swear by the ocean of

divine mysteries that should the station of but one of the servants

now engaged in their service be made manifest, the people of the

world would be shaken asunder. Great is the blessedness of him who

pondereth over that which hath transpired, that he may be informed

of the greatness of this Cause and its sovereignty. This station

which they attained was that which they themselves implored

God--exalted be His glory--to grant them, and which they wished and

desired with the utmost eagerness.

Say: 0 friends! Ye have endured much in the path of your love for

the Beloved of the worlds; ye have witnessed that which it was not

seemly to behold, and have heard that which ill became your ears,

and have endured such burdens in the path of the Friend as were

truly heavier than mountains. Great is the blessedness of your

backs, your eyes and your ears, for that which they bore and they

saw and they heard. Now ye should value this highly exalted

station, and not allow it to be squandered. In all cases this

ephemeral world and all who are therein will suffer death, and all

things therein will be caught in the claws of change. At all times

ask ye God--exalted be He--to keep you in His safekeeping, and to

cause you to be constant in the path of His Cause. Know ye well

that whatever ye have endured or seen or
Page 51

heard for His sake hath been as a token of His special bounty unto

you. And among His eternal bestowals is the mention of you in His

Tablets. Verily, ye have tasted the cup of calamity in His path;

now drink your fill of the purest elixir from the goblets of His

remembrance of you and of His tender mercy unto you... Be not

saddened by what appeareth to be your weakness, your abasement and

your distress. I swear by the Sun of the Heaven of Independence

that honour, wealth and affluence are revolving around you, are

making mention of you and are turning towards you. If, in

accordance with the dictates of divine wisdom, their appearance is

for some days as yet veiled, days will come when each and all of

them will become evident and manifest as the sun. We beseech God

that men will partake of the sweetness of His divine Utterance.

(Quoted in Ishraq-i-Khavari, Kitáb-i-Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn, pp. 184-7)

Let it be said unmistakably and unhesitatingly that, despite the

fearfulness of a few mentioned in this Tablet, the vast majority

of those who had given their allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh remained

firm and steadfast as the immovable rock, happy and blissful to

have entered His fold, and confident of that ultimate victory which

the Báb promised to His Letters of the Living, when He bade

farewell to them. History bears ample witness to this.

Page 52
The Vazir of Khurasan

In Adrianople Bahá'u'lláh revealed one of His most momentous and

most significant Tablets, the Suriy-i-Ghusn (The Surih of the

Branch), and addressed it to Mirza 'Ali-Rida of Mashhad, known as

Mustawfi. The recipient, who came originally from the town of

Sabzivar in the province of Khurasan, was a remarkable man,

well-famed as a Baha'i, and high in the service of the government.

It was Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i, the Bábu'l-Bab, who had guided him

to range himself under the standard of the new Theophany. He had

remained true to that allegiance throughout all the storms and

stresses that followed. When the Persians were beaten by the

Turkamans and the renowned city of Marv was lost to them, one of

the Persian officers who fell into the hands of the Turkamans was

'Abdu'l-'Ali Khan of Maraghih in the province of Adharbayjan, then

a colonel in the Persian army. As soon as Mirza 'Ali-Rida was

apprised of the plight of his fellow-believer, he sent eight

hundred tumans (a substantial sum in those days) through an

intermediary to the Turkamans in Marv, and obtained the release of

the colonel. Thus, Mirza 'Ali-Riday-i-Mustawfi was always ready and

well equipped with the riches he had, to serve the Cause which he

had embraced so ardently. And he never made it a secret that he had

given his allegiance to the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.

It is well to quote here the following lines from the Suriy-i-Ghusn

with which Mirza 'Ali-Riday-i-Mustawfi was honoured:

There hath branched from the Sadratu'l-Muntaha this sacred and

glorious Being, this Branch of Holiness; well is it with him that

hath sought His shelter and abideth beneath His shadow. Verily the

Limb of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root which God

hath firmly implanted in the Ground of His Will, and Whose Branch

hath been so uplifted as to encompass the whole of creation.

Magnified be He, therefore, for this sublime, this blessed, this

mighty, this exalted Handiwork! 0 People! Draw ye nigh unto Him and

savour from Him the fruits of wisdom and knowledge which come from

Page 53

the Glorious, the All-Knowing. Whosoever doth not taste thereof

shall be deprived of the bounties of God, even if he should partake

of all that is on earth, did ye but know. Say: A Word hath, as a

token of Our grace, gone forth from the Most Great Tablet--a Word

which God hath adorned with the ornament of His own Self, and made

it sovereign over the earth and all that is therein, and a sign of

His greatness and power among its people that thereby they would

extol their Lord, the Lord of might and power and wisdom, praise

their Creator, and exalt the sanctity of the Godhead, Who standeth

supreme over all things. This is naught but that which hath been

revealed by Him, the All-Knowing, the Ancient of Days. Say: Render

thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance; for verily He is the

most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you; and

through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth

towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from

Him hath turned away from My Beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and

transgressed against Me. He is the Trust of God amongst you, His

charge within you, His manifestation unto you and His appearance

among His favoured servants... We have sent Him down in the form

of a human temple. Blest and sanctified be God Who createth

whatsoever He willeth through His inviolable, His infallible

decree. They who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch,

are lost in the wilderness of error, are consumed by the heat of

worldly desires, and are of those who will assuredly perish.

(Quoted in Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 135,

and Ishraq-i-Khavari, Ayyam-i-Tis'ih, p. 362)

One cannot overrate the significance of the Suriy-Ghusn, for in it,

in the very early years of His Ministry, Bahá'u'lláh indicated the

powers given to His eldest Son, as well as the developments still

in the womb of a distant future.

Mirza 'Ali-Riday-i-Mustawfi served the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh

faithfully and fearlessly until old age overtook him and he became

infirm. His brother, younger than he, was there to take his place:

Mirza Muhammad-Rida, the Mustasharu'l-Mulk, later entitled

Mu'taminu's-Saltanih. Rising high in the service of the State, he

became the Vazir of Khurasan, a post which he kept to the end of

his days until Nasiri'd-Din Shah treacherously encompassed his

death. Like his illustrious brother he never concealed the fact

that he was a follower of Bahá'u'lláh and totally dedicated to His

Cause. Because the State needed him, needed his profound knowledge

of affairs, his integrity and unblemished honesty, he stayed firmly

at the helm and prospered as the Vazir of Khurasan.

Just once in his remarkable career he ran into trouble with men

standing above him, and that was due to the faithlessness and

perjury on the part of his niece, a daughter of the late Mustawfi.

It was in the
Page 54

year 1883 and Nasiri'd-Din-Shah, on pilgrimage to the holy Shrine

of Imam Rida (the Eighth Imam) in Mashhad, was presented with a

petition by that lady, who was the wife of Haji Qavam, commander

of the Sabzivar cavalry. No doubt goaded by the adversaries of the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, she claimed that her stepmother had left

80,000 ashrafis (gold coins), which belonged to her father, in the

keeping of her uncle, the Vazir of Khurasan. Being a Baha'i, her

uncle was using that money, she alleged, to further the interests

of his co-religionists who would soon be powerful enough to destroy

the State. Nasiri'd-Din Shah was naturally frightened by the tone

and contents of that malicious petition; not only that, he scented

a substantial amount of money to add to his own wealth. So

affrighted was the Shah that, on the day following the receipt of

that document, he ordered four lines of armed soldiers to guard the

route from the arg (citadel) to the Shrine of Imam Rida, before he

would venture out to visit the Shrine. Next, he ordered the

confiscation of the estate of Mirza 'Ali-Riday-i-Mustawfi, and held

a board of enquiry to ascertain the facts. There, in

Page 55

the presence of Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Karim (a noted divine of Mashhad),

Mirza 'Ali-Asghar Khan (the Aminu's-Sultan) and the Vazir of

Khurasan himself, it was proved conclusively that the claim of the

vazir's niece was wholly false and that the vazir was not in

possession of any sum of money which had belonged to his late


In the course of this enquiry it came to light that Aqa 'Azizu'llah

Jadhdhab (see chap. 15) had been entrusted with six hundred

ashrafis by the late Mustawfi. Aqa 'Azizu'llah himself had declared

this trust, although nobody else had any knowledge of it and there

was no record in the Mustawfi's own ledgers and papers. This fact

greatly impressed Aminu's-Sultan, who declared that Aqa 'Azizu'llah

was an angel, because of his transparent honesty. The sum was paid

to the progeny of the late Mustawfi, none of whom measured up to

their father's calibre. However, Nasiri'd-Din Shah, as was his

wont, made good pickings from the riches of Mirza 'Ali-Rida.

The Vazir of Khurasan was utterly fearless. One day during that

same visit of Nasiri'd-Din Shah mention was made, in the court, of

Page 56

poetess of Bushruyih whose fame had reached the ears of the Shah.

He told Haji Muhammad-Baqir Khan, the 'Imadu'l-Mulk and governor

of Tabas, that it seemed that the town of Bushruyih still harboured

some Babis. 'Imadu'l-Mulk tried to evade the issue, replying that

there was a girl there with hallucinations for whom a husband had

been found, and she was cured. Of course the Shah knew how flimsy

was the answer of the Governor of Tabas, and, trying to cajole the

Vazir, commented: 'Oh! and we slew your Qa'im.' Then the Vazir

spoke out: 'O Asylum of the Universe! What did it matter! The One

Who is now sitting there in 'Akka is greater than the Qa'im; and

do you know, Sire, He claims Divinity.' Nasiri'd-Din Shah was both

abashed and frightened. He determined to rid himself of the

courageous Vazir of Khurasan. But that was not an easy task.

Because of his fairness and his boundless generosity, the vazir

had, to the chagrin of the Shah, become a well-loved figure in that

vast province.

Another incident which occurred during that same visit of

Page 57

Shah served to arouse further the baseless fears of that highly

suspicious potentate. From Mashhad he went to the town of Bujnurd.

There it was arranged that he should meet all the khans and

chieftains of Khurasan and watch a march past of the soldiery of

that province. Shuja'u'd-Dawlih of Quchan was one of those

chieftains, a very powerful man.[1] Not only was he well disposed

towards the followers of Bahá'u'lláh, but he had a son,

Hasan-'Ali-Khan, who was devoted to the Bahá'í Faith. The soldiery

of Khurasan were not alone in coming to Bujnurd to present arms to

the monarch of Iran; General Kropotkin of Russia had also arrived

with troops and a regimental band, to greet the Shah. Nasiri'd-Din

Shah took his position on a hillock, surrounded by spectators. When

Shuja'u'd-Dawlih appeared on the scene leading his celebrated and

well-equipped cavalry, the Shah noticed that the Vazir of Khurasan

was riding with him; he was not at all pleased by what he saw,

although he could not help admiring the equipage of

Shuja'u'd-Dawlih. General Kropotkin also expressed his keen

admiration. Nasiri'd-Din Shah was thus even more alarmed by the

position of the Vazir of Khurasan. Then it fell to the vazir to

present the khans and chieftains to the sovereign. Amongst them was

Sulayman Khan of Darjiz, a brave and courageous Bahá'í who was very

ugly in appearance. The Shah asked him jokingly: 'Sulayman Khan!

Where were you on the day they were giving out jamal (beauty)?'

Sulayman Khan replied: 'Sire! I was going about looking for kamal

(perfection). 'It was a perfect answer and even the vazir was taken

aback by it.

[1. He was the hereditary chief of the Za'faranlu tribe.]

Nasiri'd-Din Shah felt that a combination of the Vazir of Khurasan

and Shuja'u'd-Dawlih would be ruinous for him, a sentiment totally

false. He took them both with him to Tihran, intending to destroy

them. However, Hasan-'Ali Khan, the son of Shuja'u'd-Dawlih, could

not and would not sit idly by and see his father eliminated because

of the misplaced fears of the Shah. He kept sending threatening

letters to Tihran, until Nasiri'd-Din Shah had to let his father

return to Quchan. But the Shah detained the Vazir of Khurasan in

the capital, on the pretext of wishing to offer him a portfolio in

his court. Then he gave him the governorship of Kashan. It seems

that Kashan was the place to which the two Qajar monarchs,

Nasiri'd-Din Shah and his father, consigned dignitaries who had

fallen foul of them. Mirza Aqa Khan-i-Nuri, a future Sadr-i-A'zam

Page 58

(prime minister), was sent there in the days of Muhammad Shah, when

Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Antichrist of the Bábi Revelation, held the

reins of power. And when Nasiri'd-Din Shah, the ingrate, dismissed

Mirza Taqi Khan, the Amir Kabir, he directed the unseated prime

minister to go to Kashan, and there had him put to death. (See

Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, chap. 14.)

That one year in Kashan, although he was the governor of the city,

came very hard to the Vazir of Khurasan, but he faced his

banishment bravely. Then Nasiri'd-Din Shah relented, summoned him

to Tihran, gave one of his sisters in marriage to him and conferred

on him the
Page 59

title: Mu'taminu's-Saltanih. The Vazir went back to Mashhad to his

old post, where he was badly needed. Towards the end of the year

1890, Mu'taminu's-Saltanih was once again in Tihran, lodging in the

house of Ruknu'd-Dawlih, a brother of the Shah, who was the

governor-general of Khurasan. In the last days of that year the

Vazir died suddenly, poisoned by order of Nasiri'd-Din Shah. The

poison was administered to him in a cup of what has gained

notoriety as the 'Qajar coffee'.

The remains of the Vazir were taken to Mashhad and buried in a

stone sarcophagus, which he himself had prepared some years before.

His eldest son, Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad Khan, inherited his title. With

the premature death of the second Mu'taminu's-Saltanih, some

fifteen years after his father's, the glory centred in the holy

city of Mashhad for seven decades passed into history.

The Vazir of Khurasan resembled Bahá'u'lláh in his build and

height. In a Tablet revealed in his honour, Bahá'u'lláh thus

addressed him: 'O thou whose temple beareth resemblance to Mine.'

Page 60
The Nightingale

The eminent British orientalist, Edward Granville Browne, was in

Yazd as a young man in the spring of 1888. He had letters of

introduction, addressed to the Afnans (relatives of the Báb) living

in that city, written by the father of the present writer. Haji

Siyyid Mirza--a son of Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan, a brother-in-law

of the Báb known as Afnan-i-Kabir (the Great Afnan)--sent a man to

guide Edward Browne to his house on receiving one of these letters.

In his immortal book, A Year Amongst the Persians, Browne describes

the discussion to which he listened:

On arriving at Haji Seyyid M--s' house, I was delighted to find a

theological discussion in progress. An attempt was evidently being

made to convert an old mulla, of singularly attractive and engaging

countenance, to the Bábi faith. [It is strange that Edward Browne

kept naming Bahá'ís as Babis.] Only one of the Bábis was speaking,

a man of about thirty-five years of age, whose eloquence filled me

with admiration. It was not till later that I learned that he was

'Andalib (the 'Nightingale'), one of the most distinguished of the

poets who have consecrated their talents to the glory of the New

Theophany. 'And so in every dispensation,' he resumed, as soon as

I had received and returned the greetings of those present, 'the

very men who professed to be awaiting the new Manifestation most

eagerly were the first to deny it, abandoning the "Most Firm

Handhold" of God's Truth to lay hold of the frail thread of their

own imaginings. You talk of miracles, but of what evidential value

are miracles to me, unless I have seen them? Has not every religion

accounts of miracles, which had they ever taken place, must, one

would have thought, have compelled all men to believe; for who

would dare, however hard of heart he might be, to fight with a

Power which he could not ignore or understand? No, it is the Divine

Word which is the token and sign of a prophet, the convincing proof

to all men and all ages, the everlasting miracle. Do not

misunderstand the matter: When the Prophet of God called his verses

'signs' (ayat), and declared the Kur'an [Qur'an] to be his witness

and proof, he did not intend to imply, as some vainly suppose, that

the eloquence of the words was a proof. How, for instance, can you

or I, who are Persians, judge whether the eloquence of a book

written in Arabic be supernatural or not?
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No: the essential characteristic of the Divine Word is the

penetrative power (nufudh): it is not spoken in vain, it compels,

it constrains, it creates, it rules, it works in men's hearts, it

lives and dies not. The Apostle of God said "in the month of

Ramazan [Ramadan] men shall fast from sunrise[1] to sunset". See

how hard a thing this is; and yet here in Yezd there are thousands

who, if you bade them break the fast or die, would prefer death to

disobedience. Wherever one arises speaking this Word, know him to

be a Manifestation of the Divine Will, believe in him, and take his

yoke upon you.'

[1. It is actually from the moment dawn appears in the sky, when

a white thread can be distinguished from a black thread. (HMB)]

'But this claim,' said the old Mulla, 'this claim! It is a hard

word that He utters. What can we do or say?'

'For the rest, He hath said it,' replied 'Andalib, 'and it is for

us, who have seen that this Divine Word is His, to accept it.'

There was silence for a little while, and then the old Mulla arose

with a sigh, and repeating, 'It is difficult, very difficult,'

departed from our midst. (Edward Granville Browne, A Year Amongst

the Persians, pp. 401-2)

Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf of Lahijan (of the Caspian province of Gilan),

whose sobriquet, 'Andalib, was given to him by his tutor, wrote a

Page 62

booklet addressed to Edward Browne, but it is not certain that it

ever reached him. It is a lucid apologia, highly learned and


Mirza 'Ali-Ashraf lost his father early in life. However, he had

as his mother a very remarkable woman named Khanum-Jan, who bravely

faced the future and made every effort to give 'Ali-Ashraf and his

sisters, Bilqis and Gawhar, a sound upbringing. 'Ali-Ashraf showed

soon, in his early teens, that he had remarkable talents. He

excelled in calligraphy, and his poetic talent became evident

before long. His tutor felt very proud that he had a pupil so well

endowed. Not only was his intellectual achievement brilliant; his

handiwork was superb, particularly with the production of papier

mache pen-cases (an art in which the Persians excelled) and

illuminated pages in manuscripts. He could easily earn his living

by practising these arts. But he still craved for more knowledge

and set out to learn Arabic. His mastery of that rich language was

equally noteworthy.

There lived in Shiraz an excellent calligraphist named Mirza

'Abdu'r-Rahman. 'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed him to make two copies of

the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, such as Tajalliyat (Effulgences),

Tarazat (Ornaments) and Ishraqat (Splendours), and ask 'Andalib to

illuminate the margins on every page. These books He intended, He

wrote, to donate to the British Museum in London and the

Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris.

Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf, apart from his accomplishments which made of him

an outstanding person in Lahijan, was also a seeker of truth. To

begin with he followed the Shaykhi school. Whatever the Shaykhis

became and did under the leadership of Haji Karim Khan of Kirman,

it should always be remembered that all those who set out in search

of the promised Qa'im, and found Him in the person of the Báb, were

disciples of Siyyid Kazim.

In the days of the Báb two brothers, merchants of Qazvin who had

become Babis, went to Lahijan to engage there in trade. One was

named Haji Shaykh Muhammad--the father of Mulla Kazim-i-Samandar,

a prominent Apostle of Bahá'u'lláh (see chap. 16)--and the other

was Mashhadi Muhammad-Rahim. Before long, the former went back to

Qazvin, and the second made Lahijan his home. There he married and

settled down. Although he exercised great caution in teaching the

Faith, soon he became known as a Babi. Time and again the rabble

of the town pillaged his goods and knocked him about. He was nearly

beggared. But his faith in the Báb was as firm as ever.

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Some time later, a number of Bahá'ís of Qazvin went to Lahijan, one

of whom was Haji Nasir (to be martyred before long). They were

followed by still others seeking refuge there from the persecutions

in Qazvin. Mulla Ja'far, a very learned man, was one of the second

group. In Lahijan he became a tutor. Then another citizen of

Qazvin, named Siyyid Javad, arrived in their midst. But he was a

confirmed Azali (follower of Subh-i-Azal). There were also many

Shaykhis in Lahijan, from the governor and his entourage to

smallholders. Naturally, Siyyid Javad did not associate with the

Baha'is, who were his compatriots. But being surrounded by

influential Shaykhis, and he himself being an agent for one of the

wealthy landlords, Siyyid Javad had to watch his step.

As it happened, Siyyid Javad became friendly with a resident of

Lahijan named Karbila'i Babay-i-Vakil. This Karbila'i Baba was a

just man and free of prejudice. In his careless moments, Siyyid

Javad had spoken such words as made his friend suspect him of being

a Babi. When Karbila'i Baba asked Siyyid Javad whether his guess

was correct or not, the latter readily admitted that he was, and

once the veil was drawn he spoke openly, until soon Karbila'i Baba

embraced the Faith of the Báb. And he, in his turn, aided by Siyyid

Javad, led Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf to become a Babi. Siyyid Javad, who was

going away for a short while, told the two new Babis that they

should eschew the company of the other men of Qazvin who were in

Lahijan. Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf was too intelligent not to try to find out

why Siyyid Javad had banned associating with all those Qazvinis in

the town.

And so Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf went to the trading-house of Mashhadi

Muhammad-Rahim, whose reputation as a Babi was, as the Persian

proverb has it, more widespread than the devilry of Satan, and put

his question without any hedging: 'I know and everyone knows that

you are a Babi. Siyyid Javad, who is from your own home town, has

made me see the truth and I have become a Babi. But why did he warn

me against you? I must know.' Mashhadi Muhammad-Rahim was delighted

and told him the reason. Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf listened and when the

truth dawned upon him, he, without any hesitation, became a Baha'i,

to be followed by Karbila'i Baba. When Siyyid Javad returned, these

two made it known to him that they had found the truth: they were

now followers of Bahá'u'lláh. Then began a period of discussion and

debate which ended six months later when Siyyid Javad also embraced

the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
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Now 'Andalib (whom henceforth we shall name as such, because soon

it was his sobriquet that gained fame while his name 'Ali-Ashraf

was almost forgotten), afire with the zeal of his newly-found

faith, occupied a central position in the teaching field. The

former Azali, Siyyid Javad, was no less active in propagating the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. These two, newly enrolled, were joined by the

veteran Haji Nasir, and the three of them moved to Rasht--the seat

of the governor of Gilan--a provincial capital where greater

opportunities existed for making the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh known to

the public. As a result of their efforts five brothers, whose

surname was Baqiroff, became interested and were to render

outstanding services to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh (as do their

descendants today), particularly Siyyid Nasru'llah who lived in

Tihran and offered the major share of the expenses of

'Abdu'l-Bahá'í travels in Europe and America. Siyyid Ahmad, son of

one of these brothers, travelled to Europe, attended 'Abdu'l-Bahá

in Paris and travelled with Him in 1913 when He visited Stuttgart,

Budapest and Vienna. The descendants of those five brothers have

chosen Sadat-i-uamsi as their surname, bestowed by Bahá'u'lláh.

'Khams' means 'five' in Arabic, and the five siyyid brothers were

known as such.

Back in Lahijan, 'Andalib, who was still dressed in the garb of a

student of theology, turned his attention to some of his

fellow-students and brought two of them into the Faith. One of

these was to become in future years a pillar of the Faith in the

capital, and found a family distinguished by outstanding Bahá'í

services. He was Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, entitled Nazimu'l-Hukama,

the father of the late General Shu'au'llah 'Ala'i, elevated by the

Guardian of the Cause of God to the rank of Hand of the Cause.

Nazimu'l-Hukama writes this about the man who introduced him to the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh:

Gradually he became known as a Babi... I stopped associating with

him ... because keeping his company would cause accusations to be

levelled against me... Then the month of Ramadan arrived and the

period of fasting. He came during that month to the Jami' Mosque

and engaged in prayer. At the end of the ritual prayer, he began

his devotionals silently, in deep meditation. After an hour he left

the mosque. One of the people present commented after he had gone

that he was a Babi. 'This is simulation' said another, adding that

he had gone to buy a piece of cloth (Mahut) from him and found him

finishing his lunch. ['Andalib had already quitted the circle of

the theological college and had set himself up in business as a

Page 65
Page 66

and cloth merchant.] Still another added: 'Yesterday, when he came

out of his house I met him and we walked on together. His hand

smelt of fish. He goes home to have his lunch, then comes to the

mosque to say his prayers just to deceive the people, and goes to

his shop to sell his goods.' All those who spoke were his friends

as well as mine. Not far from the place where we were sitting,

there sat a number of divines.

Apparently the divines were also talking about 'Andalib in such

vile terms that Nazimu'l-Hukama, overhearing them, resolved to go

and have it out the same night with 'Andalib. He has written fully

about all that passed between him and 'Andalib during the next

months. It is a very stirring and exciting account, and it ended

with the conversion of Nazimu'l-Hukama. As he himself describes his

spiritual odyssey:
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At last after a whole year of struggle, similar to being in the

throes of death, I obtained a new lease of life. I made my way out

of the grave and beheld a new world. I had tormented the soul of

the Mirza ['Andalib]. It was again the month of Ramadan. He told

me reprovingly: 'What more do you want of me? You have tired me

out. With all the proofs that I have given you, what more do you

require? Go away. I have given you up.' I answered: 'Will declaring

my faith suffice you or myself? And if someone has truly come to

believe, but does not speak of it, will you or he come to any

harm?' Hearing me say that convinced the Mirza that I had reached

the end of my quest, that it was all up with me now, that after a

whole year's experience of the throes of death, I had been born

again and had attained life eternal.

'Andalib had by this time become known all over the town as a

'Babi'. When his mother became aware of it she was furious.

'Andalib had already, very quietly, led his sisters to give their

allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh, but had left his mother alone. However,

the time had come to win her over to the Cause. She resisted, just

as Nazimu'l-Hukama had resisted for a year. But like him, she too

found it impossible to resist any longer. The whole family was now

united in one common allegiance. Externally, however, pressures

were mounting. Men were heard denouncing 'Andalib from pulpits. And

then a dervish, who was also a siyyid, appeared on the scene.

In time past, dervishes were indeed men who deserved respect.

Certainly there were still dervishes about who were pious and

unworldly. But the vast numbers of them were parasites, greedy and

ungodly. They prospered on simple people's credulity. The dervish

now haunting the bazars of Lahijan was of the latter category. And

he made it a duty to pester 'Andalib. Although 'Andalib paid him

no attention, encouraged by the example of some of the divines, the

dervish waxed bolder and bolder, until the climax was reached on

a Friday. Another Javad of Qazvin, who had come to replace the

aforementioned Siyyid Javad, had on that Friday invited a number

of the Baha'is, including 'Andalib, to lunch. Before going to Mirza

Javad's house, 'Andalib went to his shop on some errand. Although

it was a Friday and shops were shut, that dervish appeared outside

'Andalib's shop and began to taunt him, first with personal abuse

and then with insults to his family. All the while 'Andalib kept

his peace and went on with what he had to do in the shop. But when

the dervish insulted the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, 'Andalib could bear

it no longer; he picked up his metal yardstick and brought it down

with all his force on the head of that insolent man. When he saw

that the dervish was
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bleeding, he closed his shop and hurried to Mirza Javad's house.

There he found his companions talking of how to stop the impudence

of the dervish. There was no need to talk of him anymore, said

'Andalib, because he himself had hit him so hard with his metal

yardstick that he would soon be dead. 'Andalib was still beside

himself with rage, but his host immediately realized that the

consequences of that attack, even were the dervish to live, would

be dire. He sent all the guests home at once, but kept 'Andalib and

found him a hiding-place.

Sure enough, the whole town was now in uproar, and the populace

demanded 'Andalib's blood. Some had seen him entering the house of

Mirza Javad, who, because of his position as the agent of one of

the wealthiest landlords of the district, connected with the Court

of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, was treated with respect. At last the tumult

of the mob reached the ears of the Governor of Lahijan. He asked

to know the reason. When told that Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf, the Bábi, had

grievously injured a dervish, and to compound his felony had failed

to observe the respect due to a siyyid, a descendant of the

Prophet, the Governor immediately ordered the arrest of the

'aggressive Babi'. The officials, hearing that Aqa 'Ali-Ashraf had

been seen that morning entering the house of Mirza Javad-i-Qazvini,

hastened to it. Mirza Javad invited them to search his house.

'Andalib was there but they could not find him. He was hidden

behind a huge cauldron. The mob, however, convinced that 'Andalib

was in Mirza Javad's house, continued to crowd the street, keeping


As it happened, Mashhadi Husayn, an uncle of 'Andalib who had gone

to Rasht, arrived back the same day. Learning that the mob was

seeking 'Andalib to kill him, he flew into a rage. Then, taking

with him a set of clothing, he first visited a bazar in the quarter

where he lived, and where most of the shops belonged to 'Andalib's

cousins and other relatives. He denounced them as poltroons for not

having gone to the aid of his nephew. 'I don't understand', he

said, 'most of the things which 'Ali-Ashraf says, but I do know

this, that he has time and again invited the 'ulama to meet him at

their convenience and discuss the matter with which he is

concerned; and I know this also, that they have declined to meet

him, but are now inciting a vagabond to bring him to harm. Had I

not returned today 'Ali-Ashraf would have been in mortal danger.'

Having castigated the members of his family for their lack of

courage, Mashhadi Husayn went to Mirza Javad's house,

Page 69

gained admittance, made 'Andalib change his clothes and led him

out of the house. He had also brought two stout clubs with him.

Giving one of them to 'Andalib, he commanded him to use it if

attacked. 'If you don't use it, I myself will beat you with this

other club I am holding.' Mashhadi Husayn was indeed very angry.

His mien and the club in his hand struck terror in the hearts of

the would-be assailants. 'Andalib reached home safely and, in order

to let tempers cool down, kept to his house. He had also to

consider the perils which beset other Bahá'ís in Lahijan. But the

rabble kept on agitating; they were still after 'Andalib's blood.

The Governor of Lahijan wrote to him that although the dervish's

wound had healed, people were restive; should he leave the town for

a while, that episode would soon be forgotten. 'Andalib went to


A year later he returned to Lahijan for a short stay. But soon we

find him again in the provincial seat of government--Rasht. Now

that city became once more a scene of intense Bahá'í activity. The

year 1882 (in which the fourteenth century of the Hejira [Hijrah],

according to the lunar reckoning, was inaugurated) saw 'Andalib

tirelessly at work. That year also witnessed a reinvigorated

persecution of the Baha'is, which had its beginning in Tihran. Soon

a number of Bahá'ís were detained in Rasht, and the Governor of

Lahijan, where 'Andalib had gone for a short visit, was directed

to arrest 'Andalib and Aqa Muhammad-Sadiq, an uncle of the

celebrated Samandar of Qazvin, and send them on to Rasht in the

company of a few others.

The governor of the province of Gilan, in the year 1882, was the

notorious 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Vali, who, as a grandson of

Muhammad-Baqir Khan-i-Biglarbagi,[1] a maternal uncle of Muhammad

Shah, was therefore one of the Qajars. Fadlu'llah Khan, the brother

of 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Vali, was the Governor of Lahijan, and,

according to the Vali's decree, had 'Andalib arrested. He was

hauled before Fadlu'llah Khan with something like a hundred books,

none of them related to the Bahá'í Faith for he had succeeded in

effectively concealing those. Once 'Andalib was arrested, the

Governor's men went to find other Bahá'ís in the town. A few were

detained, while others fled, making their way to Mazindaran where

they found conditions to be even worse. Some eventually managed to

reach Mashhad, the holy city of Khurasan.

[1. In all probability Muhammad-Baqir Khan was on the same ship

which the Báb boarded in Bushihr, on His pilgrimage to Mecca.]

Page 70

A few days after his arrest 'Andalib sent a message to the

Governor, enquiring why he was arrested and what crime he had

committed to earn this punishment. If his detention was related to

the Faith which he professed, that was a matter of one's

conscience, a matter over which no court could exercise

jurisdiction. The right way of dealing with the problem would be

to summon the divines of the town to debate the matter with him.

His wish was granted. The divines of Lahijan were summoned and

'Andalib was brought out of gaol to meet them, but the

confrontation proved to be a complete fiasco. To begin with the

divines started shouting all at once. 'Andalib courteously pointed

out that that was not the proper procedure for holding a debate.

When the shouting had died down, one by one he was able to vanquish

them all. The last one of those distinguished divines was a certain

Mirza Ibrahim, inordinately proud of his knowledge and attainment.

He tried very hard to get the better of 'Andalib, but when he

realized it was impossible, he resorted to the usual device and

declared that 'Andalib was a heretic meriting death. By then, all

their faces were glowing with anger and 'Andalib saw that nothing

could be achieved by talking with men who were beside themselves

with rage. They had already condemned him to death. And so he rose

and walked out, first pointing out to the Governor the failure of

the divines to conduct a proper investigation.

The Governor's next step was to send 'Andalib to Rasht. Wherever

he was seen by the public during that transfer from Lahijan to the

provincial capital, he was jeered, mocked and reviled. People spat

on him, pelted him with eggs and threw missiles at him. As he was

being led out of Lahijan, his mother and sisters followed him,

surrounded by the rabble of the town. Although veiled, they were

recognized and insulted. But they continued to walk to the

outskirts of the town until, without having had a chance to speak

with 'Andalib, they had to turn back and go home. Throughout that

walk to the edge of the town, although tried beyond the limit of

human endurance, 'Andalib never lost his composure, but trod the

ground with firm gait, his armour never dented.

In the pestilential gaol of Rasht, 'Andalib found many of his

compatriots. Before long, two of them, Haji Nasir, a survivor of

Shaykh Tabarsi, and Aqa Muhammad-Sadiq of Qazvin succumbed to the

hardships constantly encountered in the prison of Rasht. Even

there, 'Andalib and his fellow-believers were unceasingly assailed

Page 71

the abuse and reviling which not only the gaolers, but the other

wretched inmates of that prison, hurled at them.

'Andalib languished there for more than two years. A number of his

compatriots were freed, but he and two others, Siyyid Mihdi of

Isfahfan and Siyyid 'Abdu'llah of Burujird, were left to suffer.

He petitioned 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Vali in a fine poem. These were its

opening lines:

O thou of the arched eyebrows, didst thou take me to be

the renowned Sam,[1] son of Nariman,
That thou didst put me in chains, and send me
to a horrid dungeon?

[1. Sam was the grandfather of Rustam, the legendary hero of

Firdawsi's Shahnamih (The Book of Kings)].

But his cry went unanswered, save for a poem in rebuttal from the

pen of a poet in the service of the vali.

Then release came in an unexpected way. In all probability those

who had put him in that gaol, and particularly the vali, became

bored with keeping him and ordered him out. The end of this

notorious vali a decade later was to be sudden and miserably

dramatic. In the year AH 1310 (26 July 1892-14 July 1893) a cholera

epidemic hit Iran, starting in Khurasan, and soon reaching Tihran.

Mirza 'Isa, the Vazir of Tihran, died at the time the epidemic

invaded the capital, and 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Vali was appointed to

his office. He put on his
Page 72

robe of honour in a summer resort in Shimran (which these days

adjoins Tihran), and mounted his horse to ride to the capital. On

the way cholera laid him low. His attendants, seeing their master

thus afflicted, fled in horror. He was left alone, totally

helpless, to die by the roadside, and his corpse was ravaged by


[1. Haji Sayyah-i-Mahallaiti has given the above account of the

death of 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Vali in his memoirs. He had suffered at

the hands of 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Vali who was instrumental in

bringing about his imprisonment, together with a number of others.]

After his release 'Andalib went back to his home town, but soon

realized that after all that had happened, it would be impossible

for him to live in Lahijan. Samandar writes that he invited

'Andalib to come and make his home in Qazvin. After a stay there

of one year, 'Andalib went to Tihran and then to Yazd, where we

found him with Edward Browne in the year 1888. (See p. 60.) In a

letter dated 2 July 1889, the father of the present writer informed

Edward Browne that 'Andalib had come to Shiraz:

A few nights ago we were together in our own garden. We stayed

there for two nights. We talked much about your good self. Indeed,

we wished that you were with us. He ['Andalib] is a very, very fine

person, and has some sweet and excellent poems to his credit. It

is not decided where he should go from here. I shall let you know

where he goes next. All the friends here send you their salaams.

As it happened, 'Andalib stayed in Shiraz for the rest of his life

and made that city his permanent home. He settled down, found the

means of earning a living and married.

Before long, 'Andalib received all that his soul craved, permission

to travel to the Holy Land and attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh.

There he found as a fellow-pilgrim the sixteen-year-old son of

Samandar, the future Hand of the Cause of God, Tarazu'llah

Samandari. Both of them were there when the Ascension of

Bahá'u'lláh immersed the Bahá'ís in a sea of grief. The soul of the

poet responded to this harrowing sorrow which wrung from his heart

a dolorous song declaring that his eyes had witnessed the morn of

the Day of Resurrection on the plain of 'Akka. 'Andalib was also

there when the contents of the Kitáb-i-'Ahdi--Bahá'u'lláh's Will

and Testament--became known. Although for many years past, Baha'is

had come to see that the Most Great Branch was indeed that 'Mystery

of God'--Sirru'llah, a designation which His Father had given

Him--they now rejoiced to find that they would march on under His

Page 73

guidance. 'Andalib and Varqa, the two most eloquent of Bahha'i

poets, penned such lines in praise of the Most Great Branch as are

the finest of their genre, rarely equalled in the whole range of

Bahá'í history. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, while graciously and kindly accepting

their offerings, administered a gentle rebuke to them for their

extreme adulation, pointing out that such praise should only be

uttered in homage to Bahá'u'lláh. For Himself, He had chosen the

name 'Abdu'l-Bahá--the Servant of Baha--betokening the essence of

His being.

'Andalib, on his return from the Holy Land, once more engaged in

propagating and teaching the Faith. Twenty-three years later, he

was again given the bounty of visiting the Holy Land and sitting

at the feet of the Master. 'Abdu'l-Bahá had aged considerably in

those years. The faithlessness of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his

associates--who included two other sons of Bahá'u'lláh, the

descendants of the loyal Mirza Musa (Aqay-i-Kalim), and a number

of well-known teachers of the Faith--as well as the intrigues of

the dwindling followers of Mirza Yahya, had left their mark on Him.

Apart from the obnoxious activities of the violators of the

Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and the
Page 74

misdeeds of the Azalis, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had to meet other darts from

enemies of old. Even from Christian quarters voices of opposition

and denigration were raised from time to time. Indeed, the Centre

of the Covenant had to face the whole concourse of mankind, as did

His Father.

Having drunk his fill from the chalice of grace and knowledge

proffered by the Master, 'Andalib returned to Iran by way of the

Caucasus. Reaching Rasht, he found many whom he had guided to

embrace the Faith thirty years before rejoicing at his return. Of

course there were some who had departed from this world. That

homecoming must have been both happy and sad for 'Andalib. In

Lahijan, his mother, grieving for years at her separation from him,

had passed away; and so had Mashhadi Ghulam-'Ali, the husband of

one of his sisters, whose children were all active in the service

of their Faith. 'Andalib stayed for a year in Lahijan, and his

nephew, Mirza Kuchik, always stood ready to serve him. Next,

'Andalib went to Qazvin, where his other sister lived with her

husband, Aqa Muhammad-Taqi 'Amughli, staying at their home. In

Qazvin, too, there were many who remembered him of old and welcomed

him most joyously.

He had been away from his family in Shiraz for more than two years.

At last, he bade farewell to his relatives in Qazvin and set his

face towards Shiraz, where misfortune awaited him. Shortly after

his return his wife died, and in his declining years he was left

alone to bring up his young children, with the help of his eldest

daughter who was then old enough to share his responsibility. His

closing years brought him infirmities, as well, and he passed away

in the early part of 1920. He was buried in the vicinity of the

tomb of the great poet and songster, Hafiz. The passage of time has

effaced his grave and the area where it was is now a public park.

'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a prayer of visitation for 'Andalib and directed

that these words should be inscribed on his tombstone:

Verily, life in the nest of this world was too confined for

'Andalib, the beloved. He winged his flight to the Supreme

Concourse, to limitless heights, that he might rapturously sing

melodious tunes on the branches of the blessed tree. (Unpublished)

Page 75
Varqa, The Silver Tongued Nightingale
O Thou! whence God's Beauty shineth,
I know Thee.
Would my being, my soul Thy ransom be,
I know Thee.

Shouldst Thou behind a hundred-thousand veils cover seek,

By God, O Thou, the Visage of God,
I know Thee.

Shouldst Thou a King choose, or a Servant appear to be,

Apart--at the crest of each Station--apart,
I know Thee.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Varqa

Varqa's name was Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad. His father was Haji Mulla

Mihdi, a native of Yazd: a simple man, not of the rank of the

mujtahids, but yet very learned. Speaking of Varqa's father,

'Abdu'l-Bahá said:

...he was an expert in the field of Muslim sacred traditions and

an eloquent interpreter of orally transmitted texts... He was one

of those who penetrate mysteries, and was a confidant of the

righteous. As a teacher of the Faith he was never at a loss for

words, forgetting, as he taught, all restraint, pouring forth one

upon another sacred traditions and texts.

When news of him spread around the town and he was everywhere

charged, by prince and pauper alike, with bearing this new name,

he freely declared his adherence and on this account was publicly

disgraced. Then the evil 'ulamas of Yazd rose up, issuing a decree

that he must die. Since the mujtahid, Mulla Baqir of Ardikan,

refused to confirm the sentence of those dark divines, Mulla Mihdi

lived on, but was forced to leave his native home. ('Abdu'l-Bahá,

Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 845)

Driven to quit Yazd, Haji Mulla Mihdi, accompanied by two sons,

Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad and Mirza Husayn, set out for 'Akka. It was a

long, long way to go and much hardship awaited him on the road. Let

the Centre of the Covenant conclude this story:

...He was imprisoned along his way; and as he crossed the deserts

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climbed and descended the mountain slopes he endured terrible,

uncounted hardships. But the light of faith shone from his brow and

in his breast the longing was aflame, and thus he joyously, gladly

passed over the frontiers until at last he came to Beirut. In that

city, ill, restive, his patience gone, he spent some days. His

yearning grew, and his agitation was such that weak and sick as he

was, he could wait no more.

He set out on foot for the house of Bahá'u'lláh. Because he lacked

proper shoes for the journey, his feet were bruised and torn; his

sickness worsened; he could hardly move, but still he went on;

somehow he reached the village of Mazra'ih and here, close by the

Mansion, he died. His heart found his Well-Beloved One, when he

could bear the separation no more. Let lovers be warned by his

story; let them know how he gambled away his life in his yearning

after the Light of the World. May God give him to drink of a

brimming cup in the everlasting gardens; in the Supreme Assemblage,

may God shed upon his face rays of light. Upon him be the glory of

the Lord. His sanctified tomb is in Mazra'ih, beside 'Akka.

('Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 85-6)

It is by his sobriquet that Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, the most

accomplished son of Haji Mulla Mihdiy-i-Yazdi, eternally lives:

Varqa, the silver-tongued nightingale, who in dulcet and exultant

tones sang, throughout his life, the praise of Bahá'u'lláh and His

eldest Son, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of His Covenant. The lines

which adorn the opening of this chapter were addressed to the

Centre of the Covenant, and they have their own story to which we

shall come in a later page.

Varqa was born and brought up in Yazd. He was in his early

twenties, when, in the company of his father, he had perforce to

turn his back on his native town and seek other climes. Haji Mulla

Mihdi and his two sons reached Tabriz, where they tarried for a

while. Varqa must have had a good knowledge of the rudiments of

medicine, for in Tabriz a well-known Bahá'í of that city, Mirza

'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Nuri, who served as attendant to the Crown

Prince, Muzaffari'd-Din Mirza, called him in for consultation. The

truth of the matter was that he was most eager to invite Haji Mulla

Mihdi and his sons to his home and to entertain them, but his wife,

a woman of the Shahsavan tribe, was exceedingly hostile towards the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and therefore Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan had to

find ways and means to facilitate visits of these new arrivals from


Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Nuri and his wife, the Shahsavan lady, had

only one daughter and they longed to have another child. Various

medicaments had so far been of no help. Now Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan

suggested to his wife that she let a physician who had recently

come to
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Tabriz attend her. She gladly accepted. The medicine which Varqa

prescribed proved effective, and before long she was with child,

to her overwhelming delight. Next, Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan, who had

become greatly devoted to Varqa and wholly captivated by his

accomplishments, proposed to his wife that they should wed their

daughter to him. At first she demurred, because he was an unknown

young man from a far-off city while she was a person of consequence

with high connections in Tabriz; but finally, overcoming her

scruples, she agreed. Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan was truly overjoyed.

The nuptials over, Haji Mulla Mihdi and his two sons continued

their journey to the Holy Land. As we have seen, just before

reaching the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Haji Mulla Mihdi succumbed

to the rigours he had endured. And Varqa, as soon as he attained

and set eyes on His majestic mien and heavenly visage, was certain

that he had seen them before--but where and how? Then, as he

himself has related, he recalled a dream he had had in childhood.

He had dreamt that he had been playing with his dolls, when God had

come and, taking his dolls away from him, had thrown them onto the

fire. The next day he had spoken of this strange dream to his

parents, who had upbraided him, telling him not to speak of it

again as no one could possibly see God. Now, because of words

spoken to him by Bahá'u'lláh he recalled that childhood dream and

realized that it had been the countenance of Bahá'u'lláh which

appeared to him in his vision. Here is Varqa's own recollection of

the words spoken by Bahá'u'lláh: 'O Varqa! Cast into fire idols of

vain imaginings.'

From the Holy Land Varqa returned to Tabriz, and made that city his

home. Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Nuri took his son-in-law to the Court

of the Crown Prince, and Muzaffari'd-Din Mirza was equally charmed

by Varqa's attainments and qualities. It is related that the Crown

Prince oftentimes asked Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan to bring Varqa with

him to the Court whenever there was to be an assemblage of learned

men, that he might participate in their talks and discussions to

everyone's delight. And the young poet would always rise to the

occasion. Despite his years Varqa was a man of many parts. He was

very eloquent, not only as a composer of lucid verse but as a

writer of excellent prose. He had also a good hand at calligraphy

and other arts which nimble fingers can perform. Besides these, his

knowledge of medicine, scriptures, and the history and literature

of his country, made him an exceptional person.
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Varqa had his home in Tabriz and travelled a good deal throughout

the expanse of the province of Amarbayjan, to teach and promote the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Here and there he met with bitter hostility

and stern opposition; his life was even endangered and he was


But he always enjoyed the protection of his influential

father-in-law and, in extremity, the helping hand of the Crown

Prince of Iran. In contradistinction to his two brothers,

Zillu's-Sultan and Kamran Mirza (the Nayibu's-Saltanih),

Muzaffari'd-Din Mirza never showed any ill will towards the

followers of Bahá'u'lláh. He had his faults but cruelty and avarice

were not among them, whereas the other two powerful princes had

major shares of both.

However, in that fateful year of AH 1300 (AD 1882-3), Varqa decided

to visit after many years' absence his native town of Yazd, whose

people were blindly fanatical and easily swayed by self-seeking

divines. Yazd was part of the domain of Mas'ud Mirza, the

Zillu's-Sultan, which he governed most injudiciously. Very soon,

Varqa fell into the hands of his minions, and there in Yazd he

languished for a whole year in its foul prison. Then he was carried

in chains from Yazd
Page 79

to Isfahan, where Mas'ud Mirza resided. As it happened, another

well-known Baha'i, also an accomplished poet with the sobriquet of

Sina, had just been set free. (See chap. 11.) Having heard that a

'Babi' had been brought from Yazd, Sina was most eager to find out

who his Yazdi co-religionist was, but was told that he could

neither hear nor speak. Sina was greatly astonished when he saw

Varqa there in chains, but greater was the astonishment of the

gaolers when their prisoner began to speak fluently. The guards

escorting him from Yazd to Isfahan had been so insolently abusive

that to spare himself the taunts of those brutish men Varqa had

pretended to be deaf and dumb. After their joyous encounter, Sina,

pained to see that Varqa was placed in a prison where the worst

criminals were kept, tried, with the help of the Bahá'ís of

Isfahan, to have him moved to a more salubrious gaol reserved for

men of rank. That end was achieved through the assistance of Haji

Muhammad-'Ali, Sayyah-i-Mahallati, and here is how it happened.

This amazing man[1] was a confidant of Zillu's-Sultan, the eldest

son of Naisiri'd-Din Shah, and made no secret of it. We know now

of a particular mission entrusted to him by the scheming and

seditious Zillu's-Sultan, whose ardent but unfulfilled wish it was,

throughout his plot-ridden and turbulent life, to supplant his

younger brother, Muzaffari'd-Din Mirza, and obtain the throne of

Iran. This he could not achieve because his mother was not of the

royal House of Qajar. During one of his mysterious journeys to

Adharbayjan, which may have been connected with Zillu's-Sultan's

plots, Sayyah fell into the hands of Muzaffari'd-Din Mirza's men

in Tabriz. Having rightly or wrongly found him guilty, it was

almost certain that they would have put him to death, had not Mirza

'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Nuri intervened to bring about his release.

Sayyah, a much chastened man, went back to Isfahan and was there

at the time Varqa was brought from Yazd. The Bahá'ís of Isfahan,

knowing how it had fared with him in Tabriz, approached Sayyah and

told him that the 'Babi' prisoner brought from Yazd was the

son-in-law of that same Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Nuri who had saved

his own life, suggesting that he should use his influence to ease

the circumstances of Varqa's imprisonment. Sayyah persuaded

Zillu's-Sultan to order the transfer of Varqa to the prison where

distinguished men were detained.

[1. His autobiography and Book of Reminiscences has been published

in recent years. Therein he conceals much that is now common

Page 80

About that time, Zillu's-Sultan had treacherously put to death

Husayn-Quli man, the Bakhtiyari chieftain. Isfandiyar Khan, the son

of the murdered chieftain, was still a prisoner of the

Prince-Governor of Isfahan, and Varqa was sent to join him. It is

said that consorting with Varqa led Isfandiyar Khan to embrace the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Whatever the case, Varqa's poetic talent

charmed the Bakhtiyari leader. Even the boorish Zillu's-Sultan

could not withhold his admiration, and before long he set Varqa

free, thinking it would be to his own advantage, as he was about

to send Sayyah on a secret mission to 'Akka.[1] Varqa returned to


[1. Sayyah's mission was to win the support of Bahá'u'lláh for

Zillu's-Sultan's plots against his father. Of course Sayyah was

sent away--a disappointed man.]

The second time that Varqa attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh was

about a year before His Ascension. Varqa was then accompanied by

two of his sons: 'Azizu'llah and Ruhu'llah. The heroic Ruhu'llah,

who was destined to die a martyr's death together with his father,

was then no more than seven years old, but at that tender age his

pure soul responded, in all its intensity, to the truth and reality

of God as revealed to the world in the human temple of Bahá'u'lláh.

He had
Page 81

inherited an ample share of his father's poetic talent, and thus

he composed, when only two or three years older, his paean of

praise and adoration:
O the joy of that day, when eyes at me stare,

As on gallows-tree, I the praise of the King of Glory declare.

In the course of this second visit to 'Akka, Varqa was summoned to

attend Bahá'u'lláh as a physician, and, after prescribing some

medicine which Bahá'u'lláh took, was sent for a second time for the

same purpose. Mirza Valiyu'llah Khan,[1] Varqa's third son,

recalled decades later:

[1. Elevated to the rank of Hand of the Cause of God by the

Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.]

My father was much with Bahá'u'lláh. One night as He walked back

and forth in His room [at the Mansion of Bahji], Bahá'u'lláh said

to my father: 'At stated periods souls are sent to earth by the

Mighty God with what we call the Power of the Great Ether. And they

who possess this power can do anything; they have all power...

Jesus Christ had this power. People thought of Him as a poor young

man Whom they had crucified; but He possessed the Power of the

Great Ether. Therefore He could not remain
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underground. This ethereal Power arose and quickened the world.

And now look to the Master, for this power is His.'

When Varqa heard these words from Bahá'u'lláh, he yearned to lay

down his life in the path of the Master. And that wish was granted


Varqa, once again, returned to Tabriz. However, the hostility of

his mother-in-law, the Shahsavan lady, allowed him no peace at

home. She had never reconciled herself to the fact that both her

husband and her son-in-law were dedicated Baha'is. Varqa had

thought of divorcing his wife, to rid himself of the bane of his

mother-in-law's constant opposition. But Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan

would not hear of it and advised him not to remain in Tabriz, but

to travel throughout Adharbayjan to teach the Faith. Then his

mother-in-law sought an accomplice who would kill Varqa. As it

happened, some enemies who could sway the mind of the Crown Prince

succeeded in making him suspicious of his faithful attendant, Mirza

'Abdu'llah Khan, who had
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to leave Tabriz in haste because Muzaffari'd-Din Mirza, his mind

totally poisoned, was on the point of ordering his arrest. When his

wife became certain that her husband could not and would not return

to Tabriz, she planned the death of her son-in-law. She told a

servant in their house named Khalil, not knowing that he had been

converted to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, that should he kill Varqa

she would give him a horse and 250 tumans. Instead, Khalil informed

Varqa of the evil designs of his mother-in-law. Then Varqa

realized, at last, that the time had come for him to turn his back

on Tabriz, the city hallowed by the blood of the Báb, wherein he

had found refuge after abandoning his own native city of Yazd. He

left Tabriz and Adharbayjan with a heavy heart, as a letter which

he wrote soon after his arrival at Zanjan amply testifies. In it

he quoted from the writings of Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, the Qa'im-Maqam,

to draw a parallel between his own feeling and that of the great

minister whom Muhammad Shah had treacherously put to death.

Varqa had to leave home and depart from Tabriz in such a way as to

thwart any interference on the part of his mother-in-law. In the

dead of night, he threw his Tablets and all that appertained to his

Faith from a window overlooking the street, left the house very

quietly, collected all that he had thrown into the street, and then

went to the home of a fellow-Bahá'í who was also a native of Yazd.

When the inimical Shahsavan lady learned what had happened, Varqa

was well beyond her reach. Enraged, she sought the help of one of

the mujtahids of Tabriz, related to herself, to obtain a death

warrant from him. 'My son-in-law is a Babi', she roundly declared,

'and ought to be put to death.' The mujtahid refused to comply with

her demand and pleaded ignorance of the case; whereupon she rushed

away and brought Ruhu'llah to him. 'I will prove to you through

this child', she told the mujtahid, 'the apostasy of my

son-in-law.' Ruhu'llah was then asked whether he could say his

daily prayer. The child made his ablutions and said the long Baha'i

prayer, in a mellifluous voice. Now it was the turn of the

mujtahid, who was a just man, to expostulate. He told the lady, in

no uncertain terms, that what she had been trying to do, in

obtaining the condemnation of a man who had reared such a wonderful

child, was a deed heinous and unforgivable.

By now the breach between Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan, Varqa and their

wives had so widened that no alternative but divorce was left.

Varqa took with him the two sons 'Azizu'llah and Ruhu'llah, but

Page 84

Valiyu'llah and the youngest Badi'u'llah had to be left with their

mother because of their ages. Badi'u'llah did not live long. The

Shahsavan lady and her daughter both married again, and their lives

thereafter were anything but happy; at the end both had cause to

rue their fates, which were of their own making, and to feel bitter


In Zanjan, Varqa married Liqa'iyyih Khanum, a daughter of Haji

Iman, and had both 'Azizu'llah and Ruhu'llah with him.

It was not long after the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh that the perfidy

of those who had resolved to break His Covenant came into the open.

Many were those, once shining lights, who became centres of

darkness. But Varqa never wavered. He made his third and last

pilgrimage to the Holy Land, again taking with him both 'Azizu'llah

and Ruhu'llah. He sang the praises of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of

the Covenant, as fervently as he had sung the praises of

Bahá'u'lláh, and addressed a poem to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, some lines of

which appear at the head of this chapter. Another line[1] of the

same poem is this:
[1. One line in the original poem.]
0 Thou, the Root, Thou the Limb of Revelation,
In any garb, any garment, with any mantle,
I know Thee.

'Abdu'l-Bahá gently reproved him because of the poem's

extravagance. Responding, Varqa composed another poem which begins


Cease either, 0 shining Orb, shedding Thy rays on the world,

to flare,

Or strike blind the eyes of those of insight, who witness


Having mentioned the excellence of the poetical work of 'Andalib

(see chap. 6) and Varqa, it is meet to mention here too the

achievement of a young Bahá'í poet of these days, now in his

thirties. He also is a native of Iran. His name is Baha'u'd-Din

Muhammad. 'Abdi is both his surname and his sobriquet. The depth

of feeling and the mastery of the language which he shows, put him

on a par with those veterans of the Faith, even surpassing them in

his imagery and tenderness of expression. Indeed, it can be said

that he is the precursor of a new school of poetry in the domain

of the Bahá'í Faith. Thus ends his eulogy of Varqa:

Page 85

My heart, aflame, sends forth from its narrow cage,

Such fire as puts the rays of sun to shame.

From one drop of my tears that on this earth is shed,

Tulips, red tulips grow from the martyred Varqa's grave.

In the same year that Nasiri'd-Din Shah was to meet his death at

the hands of a disciple of Siyyid Jamalu'd-Din-i-Asadabadi,

circumstances impelled Varqa to move out of Zanjan. He was most

anxious to gain Tihran. In the first instance he wanted to carry

out the oral instructions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who had advised him to

take his Tablets and all his Bahá'í archives away from Zanjan. He

also desired a reunion with Mirza 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Nuri, the

maternal grandfather of his sons, who had established himself in

the capital. Varqa asked Haji Iman, the father of his second wife,

to hire a number of horses for travelling to Tihran. It was,

however, winter time, there was a good deal of snow on the ground,

and steeds were difficult to come by. As days dragged on, Mirza

'Azizu'llah Khan, the eldest son of Varqa, became impatient, and

without informing anyone of his intention took the road to Tihran

on foot. When Varqa learned of his son's departure and took

measures to bring him back, it was too late; 'Azizu'llah had put

a good many miles between himself and Zanjan.

By the time that Mirza 'Azizu'llah Khan had got well away, pack

animals had been procured. Varqa put his Tablets and books in two

trunks, well locked and secured. The night before leaving Zanjan

with Ruhu'llah and Haji Iman, Varqa, accompanied by a number of the

Bahá'ís of that city, went to the Telegraph Office to say farewell

to Mirza 'Ali-Akbar Khan, the director, and to offer him

condolences on the death of his mother which had occurred shortly

before. All went well, but on coming out of the Telegraph Office

they ran into an ill-intentioned divine of Zanjan named Mulla

'Abdu'l-Wasi', who immediately reported what he had seen to the

master of the curfew, and he, in turn, informed 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih,

the newly-appointed governor, that a number of 'Babis' had been

spotted coming out of the Telegraph Office.

Ahmad Khan, the 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih, was a Qajar, though not of the

royal clan. He was imperious, suspicious, unbearably autocratic;

and some of his rash deeds, in future years, were highly

questionable. But it is not at all clear why the fact of a number

of 'Babis' leaving the Telegraph Office should have irked him to

such an extent as to order the arrest of Mirza Husayn and a few

other local Baha'is, and direct
Page 86

his men to go outside the city and search for those who were

believed to have left Zanjan. Varqa, Ruhu'llah and Haji Iman, who

were well on their way to the capital with a caravan, were thus

intercepted and brought back to join the others in

'Ala'u'd-Dawlih's prison. It may have been that this haughty

grandee, suspicious by nature, had thought that the 'Babis' were

hatching a plot against his own person. In those days, and for many

years after, a telegraph office was one of the places where people,

who either had a grudge or a genuine complaint, rushed to take

refuge--a 'bast', as it was called. Whatever the case, Varqa was

back in Zanjan and in its gaol, where the governor could

interrogate him closely. 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih, though of a generation

much younger than the old despotic Qajar princes--like

Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih (Haji Farhad Mirza) and Hisamu's-Saltanih

(Sultan-Murad Mirza), even younger than Zillu's-Sultan

(Sultan-Mas'ud Mirza) and Nayibu's-Saltanih (Kamran Mirza)--proved

no exception to them. On his first encounter with Varqa, he began

a harangue of abuse, to which Varqa replied that such language was

demeaning and not meet for such an assemblage. Whereupon Varqa was

sent back to prison.

When Varqa was stopped on the road to Tihran, miraculously the pack

animal that carried the two trunks of Tablets and books and other

archival material was not halted, and it went all the way safely

to Qazvin, where trusted hands received the trunks and preserved

their contents. But, alack, the personal property of Varqa fell

into the hands of enemies. Amongst all that rich material, rich

both in worth and value, was a water-colour painting of the Báb.

And here is the place to record the marvellous story of that

painting, told to the present writer by Mirza Valiyu'llah Khan

Varqa, the Hand of the Cause of God.

During his long sojourn in Adharbayjan, Varqa met an artist, a

Naqqash-Bashi (Chief Painter) whom he guided into the fold of the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. And this artist, Aqa-Bala Bag, a native of

Shishvan (a village on the banks of Lake Urumiyyih), had a

remarkable tale to tell. He had in his possession a portrait of the

Bab, the only one in existence, that he had done himself. It

happened when the Báb was on His way to Tabriz for

cross-examination by the Court of the Crown Prince. At Urumiyyih

the governor, Malik-Qasim Mirza, who was a descendant of Fath-'Ali

Shah, received the Báb with tokens of great respect but, at the

same time, he worked out a
Page 87

scheme to test Him. He owned a horse notorious for its unruliness,

and on a Friday when the Báb was going to the public bath,

Malik-Qasim Mirza ordered that charger to be brought for Him to

ride. Those who were in the know watched with trepidation as the

Báb came out to mount, but to the astonishment of all the horse

proved exceedingly docile. The Báb mounted it with ease and rode

to the public bath; the Prince-Governor, crestfallen and ashamed,

followed Him all the way on foot. Before reaching the bath, the Báb

turned to Malik-Qasim Mirza, who was then walking beside him, to

ask him not to come any further but return to his house. When the

Báb came out of the public bath, the horse was still there for Him

to ride; and it behaved exactly as before. As the news of this

extraordinary incident spread like a bonfire throughout Urumiyyih,

the populace broke into the public bath and carried away every drop

of water they could find there.

The people of Urumiyyih were certain that a miracle had come to

pass in their midst and they flocked, day after day, to the

governor's residence to see the Báb. One of them was Aqa-Bala, the

Chief Painter. He told Varqa, all those years later, that on his

first visit, as soon as the Báb noticed him, He gathered His 'aba

round Him, as if sitting for His portrait. The next day He did the

same. It was then that Aqa-Bala Bag understood it to be a signal

to him to draw His portrait. On his third visit, he went to the

residence of Malik-Qasim Mirza with the equipment of his art. He

made a rough sketch or two at the time, from which he later

composed a full-scale portrait in black and white. Varqa wrote and

informed Bahá'u'lláh of this tremendous discovery. And Bahá'u'lláh

directed him to instruct Aqa-Bala Bag to make two copies of the

portrait in water-colour, one to be dispatched to the Holy Land,

and one for Varqa himself to keep. The copy sent to the Holy Land

is now preserved in the International Bahá'í Archives on Mount

Carmel, but the one which belonged to Varqa was amongst his

possessions which were looted when he was arrested outside Zanjan.

The original portrait, in black and white, was found long after by

Siyyid Asadu'llah-i-Qumi, who took it with him to the Holy Land and

presented it to 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

During the weeks that followed his detention, Varqa had, almost

daily, to endure verbal assaults by the divines of Zanjan, and by

the governor himself. 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih was a man of many moods.[1]

Page 88

apparently amused him to sit day after day and listen to the

devious arguments of the divines, making his own interjections

every now and then. Endless these futile argumentations seemed to

be, and as endless were the brilliant retorts of Varqa.

'Ala'u'd-Dawlih, by all accounts, was trying in some tortuous way

to entice Varqa to deny his faith in order to gain his release,

while Varqa determinedly rejected those inducements.

[1. In the autumn of the year 1903, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of

India, who had always been an advocate of a forward policy anywhere

in Asia, sailed with an imposing escort into the Persian Gulf. This

official visit of the Viceroy, with the ostentatious showing of the

flag, was meant not only to stamp on the minds of the rulers of

lands bordering on the Gulf, large and small alike, the fact of the

supremacy of Great Britain in those waters, but also to warn off

any European Power, notably Russia and Germany, who might have had

designs of their own in that inhospitable clime. 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih

was then Governor-General of the province of Fars, and at

loggerheads with Salar Mu'azzam (later Nizamu's-Saltanih the

Second), the Governor of the Gulf Ports and Isles. He was

commissioned by the government of Iran to go to Bushihr and there

receive the Viceroy ceremoniously. But as 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih had no

knowledge of English, he took with him from Shiraz the father of

the present writer, who had received part of his education in

Britain, and had served a term of office as the Consul-General of

Iran in Bombay, where he had met Lord Curzon in the course of his


My father's role was to assist in receiving the Viceroy, and to

hold parleys as well with Sir Arthur Hardinge, the British minister

in Tihran who was coming to Bushihr to be there when the Viceroy

arrived. 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih came out of Shiraz with a large retinue

and escort of soldiery, and spent a vast sum of money.

Unfortunately an idiotic misunderstanding--a rigid adherence to

meaningless protocol and unbending stances shared by both sides

(with Lord Curzon in the lead)--prevented the Viceroy leaving his

boat in the harbour of Bushihr, and left 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih fuming on

the shore. And to add to his chagrin, his rival, Salar Mu'azzam,

had stolen a march on him and had gone to Bandar 'Abbas to receive

the Viceroy there, thus avoiding meeting 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih in

Bushihr. The present writer has gained the impression from his

father's letters and diaries that 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih was, although

capable and efficient, a grandee demanding obeisance, whose hauteur

and air of superiority were hard to match and to bear, and who was

easily swayed by his conflicting and fleeting emotions.]

'Ala'u'd-Dawlih, despairing of having any influence over Varqa, to

bend his will told him that he and his son would be sent to Tihran,

and Mirza Husayn, a fellow-Baha'i, would be blown from a cannon.

Varqa cautioned him not to act so impetuously where Mirza Husayn

was concerned. This co-religionist of his, he informed

'Ala'u'd-Dawlih, had come from 'Ishqabad at the behest of

Nasiri'd-Din Shah and with the full knowledge of the Russian

consul-general. Moreover, his son-in-law was a dragoman in the

service of the said consul. It would be more prudent, he advised

the haughty governor, to send Mirza Husayn away from Zanjan, and

let his fate be decided by others. 'Ala'u'd-Dawlih came to his

senses and ordered his farrash-bashi to arrange the transportation

of Mirza Husayn, as well, to Tihran, and collect the cost of the

hiring of a horse from his relatives. They were to be escorted to

the capital by the cavalry in the service of the family of a local

grandee, Jahanshah Khan. Moreover, the possessions of Varqa were

to be sorted by himself, placed in boxes and
Page 89

trunks, and locked up to be taken with him, while the keys and a

full list of the contents would be delivered in Tihran to

Aminu's-Sultan, the Sadr-i-A'zam.
Mirza Husayn writes:

Government farrashes entered the prison, took away the chain on my

neck and carried me to the house of the farrash-bashi. I saw that

Varqa's feet were heavily fettered ... he and Ruhu'llah both looked

at me smilingly and Varqa said, 'See, what a difference there is.'

But immediately a carpenter was brought in who put my feet also in

heavy fetters. Then they produced a long chain and attached it to

my neck. They wanted to attach the other end to Varqa's neck.

However, the guards would not have it, because of the difficulty

of managing two men chained together. That chain remained on my own

neck, and I carried it all the way to Tihran. Haji Iman had been

taken away one day prior to us by the artillerymen, on a

gun-carriage, who had tied his arms to the cannon. He had suffered

a great deal by being carried in that fashion to the capital. But

we were given pack horses to ride and were fully equipped.

This was the Jubilee year of Nasiri'd-Din Shah... Jahanshah Khan's

cavalry were going to Tihran to take part in the celebrations ...

grooms were holding the halters of the horses, pulling us through

the bazar. Horsemen were surrounding us. Crowds of the populace

swirled around with people getting on each other's shoulders to

have a good look. We were taken to the caravanserai of Haji

'Ali-Naqi, and were made to dismount and wait for all the cavalry

to foregather, so that all could march out of the city gate as one

body. Spectators kept increasing. There was no passage left. It was

impossible to move. In the end, they put us in a room and locked

it. We were left in peace and sat down to eat. They had sent some

dulmih (a Persian dish) from my home... Ruhu'llah said: 'We have

been starving since last night. They would not give us anything to

eat.' And Varqa added: 'The farrash-bashi displayed such

miserliness ... gave us no supper last night. We were very hungry.

Your bread and dulmih came to our rescue'... He then observed:

'These horsemen, without knowing it, are giving victory to the

Cause of God, taking us with such pomp to Tihran. One does not know

what is hidden behind the veil of the future. Whatever it may be

it will redound to the victory of the Cause. We do not know, but

He Who is the Master of Providence knows.' After a while they

opened the door of the room and took us out. The horses were all

ready and we were made, one by one, to mount. Ruhu'llah and I had

little else on the saddle and had no difficulty in mounting, but

Varqa had saddle-bags on his horse and found mounting it rather

difficult. The head horseman told one of the bystanders to help

Varqa mount his horse. That man, a Muslim, replied: 'Why should I

defile my hands [by touching him]; let him mount by himself.' The

sergeant-major was infuriated and dismounted. First he whipped that

man, then bent his own knee for Varqa to step on and reach the

saddle. While thus engaged, he was saying: 'Now I know.

Page 90

Aping and imitation cause a people to wither and die,

May a hundred curses on that imitation lie.'[1]

[1. Famous couplet from the Mathnavi of Jalali'd-Din-i-Rumi.]

When we were all mounted the pressure of the crowd and the rush of

increasing numbers of people, milling around, blocked all the

thoroughfares. The horsemen of the government began beating back

the crowds, who were like a billowing ocean. A way was opened for

the horses to gallop through, and thus we reached the city gate and

went out of Zanjan.

It was almost a triumphal exit. Within a few miles of the city,

this cortege stopped at a village called Dizij. Villagers were out

to view the 'Babis', as if they were exotic animals taken around

for exhibition. The Sartip of Dizij had asked Jahanshah Khan's

cavalry to be his guests. Shortly after their arrival, one of the

Sartip's servants came to conduct the prisoners to an assemblage

of the notables and divines. Soldiers with their rifles were well

in evidence. Mirza Husayn writes, 'I was sure they had brought us

from Zanjan to this place to kill us. Varqa had thought likewise.'

They were made to sit on a dais, all eyes fixed on them. Then they

were collectively arraigned. Varqa bravely withstood their

assaults. Having failed to shake him, their tormentors turned to

Ruhu'llah, whose cryptic remarks made them hopeful at first. But

when the divines realized that Ruhu'llah was ingeniously holding

them up to ridicule, their wrath knew no bounds. 'This child is

insulting holy divines,' they kept shouting, 'and why is he not

fettered? Send for the carpenter to come and put fetters on him.'

Mirza Husayn writes: 'They went in search of the carpenter, and

when he came he was so ebullient and elated that he hardly knew how

to proceed. It was as if he had been given the treasures of heaven

and earth. Blithely he fixed fetters on Aqa Ruhu'llah's feet.'

However, the cavalrymen paid no attention to the ringing demands

for slaughter. From that village of ill renown, the cavalrymen made

their way to Sultaniyyih, giving a wide berth to Khayrabad which

was the district from which Mirza Husayn hailed. Strangely, the

people of Sultaniyyih received the 'Babis' with cordiality.

Learning that Varqa was a physician, they came to him asking for


The son of Jahanshah Khan treated the prisoners very well,

providing them with good meals. The sergeant-major who represented

that chieftain was also very kind and considerate. At the end of

that journey to Tihran he became a convert to the Faith of the

prisoners. But there were two guardsmen who vied with each other

in making life
Page 91

hard and unpleasant for the prisoners. Varqa, in particular, was

brutally made to bear much pain, riding as he was atop saddle-bags

with his legs fettered. The guardsmen would not relent to allow his

impedimenta to be shifted. And mulishly they turned a deaf ear to

the sergeant-major's remonstrances. To Atakishi, one of those two,

the sergeant made the observation that indeed by the way he

maltreated the prisoners he bore resemblance to Azraq the Syrian.

(Azraq-i-Shami was a man notorious for causing the captive family

of Imam Husayn to suffer gravely, after the tragedy of Karbila.)

To that appropriate observation Atakishi had the temerity to

retort: 'Not so, not so. It is these people who are Azraqs of the

present day. Now we must take our revenge. They think that they are

the Imams and we are the Syrians (Shimrs), while it is we who are

the Imams and they who are the Syrians.' Varqa was greatly pained

when he heard that observation and this retort. He told Atakishi,

'May God judge between us. You have been very insolent.' Mirza

Husayn writes that Varqa's remark greatly angered Atakishi, who

galloped a long way ahead of the others, only to stop at a spring

to have a drink and smoke. There, as he sat relaxing, unbearable

pain gripped him. Mirza Husayn writes:

Afar we could see someone writhing like a slaughtered cock. He was

shouting, 'My belly is on fire, I am dying, help me.' The horsemen

came along and took him, somehow, off to the next stage which was

Karaj. Varqa was greatly distressed by his condition and prescribed

a remedy for him. But it did not cure him, and on reaching Tihran

the man died. His death invigorated the faith of the

sergeant-major, but it made Varqa very unhappy. He kept saying, 'I

should not have put such an injunction upon him. We should not heap

curses on our enemies, who are ignorant, but pray for them.'

Fearing lest the Bahá'ís of Qazvin would make a bid to free the

prisoners, the horsemen skirted that city. Then, at long last,

Tihran was gained, and the prisoners were taken to the stables of

the house of Jahanshah Khan, the Zanjan magnate, where they were

lodged for the night. The next day they were visited by Mirza

'Azizu'llah Khan, the eldest son of Varqa who had separated himself

from his father. But Varqa bade him never to come near them again,

because, should he be recognized, he would also be arrested and put

in gaol; whereas outside the gaol he could be of help and service

to them all. Thus Mirza 'Azizullah Khan remained free, and in

future years rendered outstanding service to the Cause of

Page 92

Mirza Husayn gives a graphic account of their first days in Tihran.

The day after their arrival they were taken to the house of

Husayn-'Ali Khan, the Mu'inu'd-Dawlih, brother of the Governor of

Zanjan. There they found Haji Iman, like themselves in chains. It

is not at all clear why they were taken to the house of

Mu'inu'd-Dawlih. On the third day another brutish official named

Nayib (Deputy or Lieutenant) Nasru'llah descended upon them, to

convey them to governmental quarters for interrogation. Avenue

'Ala'u'd-Dawlih (later Avenue Firdawsi), Mirza Husayn writes, was

teeming with bystanders, gathered to have a look at the 'Babis' as

if they were a different species of men. They were marched down

that avenue, surrounded by farrashes and executioners dressed in

red, to Maydan-i-Tupkhanih (Artillery Square)--later Maydan-i-Sipah

(Army Square)--dragging their chains with them. There, governmental

quarters were close by. Proceedings in the Chamber of Justice

(which Mirza Husayn called the 'Quintessence of Tyranny') were

futile and inconsequential. And from the first day, in the house

of Mu'inu'd-Dawlih, the captors began their shameless spoliation

of Varqa's very precious belongings. High and low alike helped

themselves to whatever they could. Hajibu'd-Dawlih, the

murderer-to-be, laid hands on the portrait of the Báb and took it

to Nasiri'd-Din Shah. The brutal Nayib Nasru'llah incessantly

clamoured to take possession of a white robe which had been a

garment belonging to Bahá'u'lláh. Varqa's entreaty not to

dispossess him of that robe, so highly prized, did not have the

slightest effect on the hard-hearted Nayib, who took it away and

appeared dressed in it, to taunt Varqa. At the end, when all had

gone, Varqa remarked that everything mulcted from him was of the

very best, worthy to lose in the path of God.

Mirza Husayn writes: 'In short, they heaped injuries upon us. They

had fastened heavy chains on our necks to extort money from us. We

had no money to give them and those chains remained on our necks.'

The gaolers also starved them. Mirza Husayn mentions a grandee of

Qazvin, entitled Ghiyath Nizam, who had fallen foul of the

government and was pushed into prison. But he was a man of

substance, had plenty to spend and a servant to attend to his

needs. This servant informed his master of the plight of the Baha'i

prisoners. The grandee had it announced that on a certain night all

the prisoners (numbering sixty, apart from the Baha'is) would be

his guests for chilaw-kabab (a Persian rice dish with kebab and

other ingredients).
Page 93

On that night, Mirza Husayn writes, every prisoner was given his

portion, but it was denied to the Baha'is. That had been the

decision of the gaolers. On being told by his servant that the

Bahá'ís had been deprived of their share, Ghiyath Nizam flew into

a rage and ordered that a fresh supply of chilaw-kabab, even better

garnished, should be sent in immediately to the Bahá'í prisoners.

The Nayib had tried to exonerate himself, saying that it was by the

order of Hajibu'd-Dawlih that the 'Babis' had not been served with

that favourite dish.

Now, Nasiri'd-Din Shah's jubilee was drawing near. Mirza 'Abdu'llah

Khan-i-Nuri, the maternal grandfather of Varqa's children, sent him

a message to compose an ode for that occasion that it might be

presented to Nasiri'd-Din Shah and thus obtain his release. Varqa's

response was that a poetic talent that had been moved to render

praise unto Bahá'u'lláh and His Son, could not be induced to utter

the praise of any other. And Varqa had no doubt that neither he nor

his son would ever come out of that dungeon alive.

Then came that fatal Friday preceding the day of jubilee

celebrations when Nasiri'd-Din Shah, proud and arrogant as ever,

fell dead within the Shrine of Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim, with a bullet

in his heart. Aminu's-Sultan, the Sadr-i-A'zam, by his presence of

mind and
Page 94

sound tactics saved the day and prevented riots and worse. But as

soon as it became known that Nasiri'd-Din Shah had been

assassinated, the generality of people accepted it as a fact that

the deed had been committed by the 'Babis'. But it was Siyyid

Jamalu'd-Din working for a long time on the disordered mind of

Mirza Riday-i-Kirmani, smarting under injustices, who was

responsible for placing that bullet in the chest of Nasiri'd-Din

Shah, thus bringing to its end his inglorious and disastrous

reign.[1] In the eyes of the people 'Babi' and 'Baha'i' were the

same. Varqa had tried in vain to make Hajibu'd-Dawlih aware of the

difference. However, no matter how much the Bábis--the partisans

and followers of Subh-i-Azal--might have wished to have a hand in

destroying Nasiri'd-Din Shah, they too were not involved in

regicide. It was entirely the subtle work of Siyyid Jamalu'd-Din.

[1. He was assassinated on 1 May 1896.]

Hajibu'd-Dawlih, beside himself with rage, on his own initiative

and without informing either Aminu's-Sultan, the Sadr-i-A'zam, or

Kamran Mirza, the Governor of Tihran (who had cravenly gone into

hiding, totally neglecting his urgent duties), rushed into the

prison to avenge as he thought the death of his sovereign.

Stampeding, roaring and, as Mirza Husayn expresses it, behaving

like a mad dog, he struck terror into the hearts of the inmates of

the dismal dungeon of Tihran. It was a hideous scene. Chains were

strengthened, locks were fastened and made more secure, everything

was done to impede the movement of the startled prisoners; but no

one knew what had happened, no one had the slightest notion of what

had put Hajibu'd-Dawlih into such a rage as to act like a man

deranged. And he had not come just by himself to display such

antics. He had brought a host of underlings, as if he expected a

massive uprising on the part of those helpless and brutally chained

men. Mirza Husayn writes of roof-tops swarming with soldiers, their

rifles trained on the prison yard where a row of executioners were

standing, ready and alert, as if on the lookout for a signal to

commence their gruesome task. So it seemed that all the prisoners,

Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í alike, were about to receive a new measure

of chastisement. But, on that day, the wrath of the ferocious

Hajibu'd-Dawlih was focused on Varqa. It was that silver-tongued

poet whom he particularly intended to destroy. He had already had

his contretemps with the poet, at the time he sequestered the

portrait of the Báb. Varqa's respectful reference to the person of

Page 95

the Báb, which he had written to identify that portrait, had

angered Hajibu'd-Dawlih, and driven that uncouth, brutish courtier

to belabour the poet with his walking-stick.

The Bahá'ís were unchained and hauled out of the dungeon.

Hajibu'd-Dawlih ordered them to be brought, two by two, through a

long corridor, which, Mirza Husayn writes, led from the prison yard

to an inner room. Varqa and Ruhu'llah were the first to go through

that corridor, and as soon as they had gone the intervening door

was shut in the faces of Mirza Husayn and Haji Iman. Those two,

left behind, were, as Mirza Husayn himself writes, both perplexed

and distressed. As they waited, they heard voices raised on the

other side of the partition, and soon after, a farrash appeared to

fetch the instrument of bastinado, followed in a little while by

one of the gaolers carrying a dagger covered with blood, which he

washed in the pool within the prison yard. And before long, one of

the executioners came through with Varqa's garments. Then, to their

mortification, Mirza Husayn and Haji Iman knew that the worst had

happened. But they had yet to learn of the heroism of Ruhu'llah.

Those two now prepared to go through the door to their inevitable

fate, but suddenly the door was shut in their faces, and they could

hear noises and voices beyond it which, in their state of

affliction, they found hard to comprehend. Then, as suddenly as the

door had shut, it was flung open, and out rushed that evil

courtier, Hajibu'd-Dawlih, panic-stricken. All that he could or

would say was: 'Take these two back to the gaol, I will deal with

them tomorrow.' But that morrow never came. Haji Iman and Mirza

Husayn were returned to the dungeon and, as the latter writes, they

saw that all they had of quilts and bedding, clothing and rugs, had

been taken away in their absence. Mirza Husayn writes that they

were too numbed to feel much and they sank down forlorn and

dejected on the bare, damp floor of the dungeon. There could be no

doubt that the inimitable Varqa had been put to death, but where

was Ruhu'llah, what had happened to him? And what exactly had

occurred behind that closed door? Still more puzzling: what had

caused Hajibu'd-Datilih, a man bereft of common humanity, such

distress and bewilderment as they had witnessed? Not all the

gaolers were as vindictive and hard-hearted as that brutish

courtier and his minion, Nayib Nasru'llah. Some of them responded

to the piteous entreaties of Haji Iman and Mirza Husayn and told

them the full story of the martyrdom of Varqa and the immolation

Page 96

Ruhu'llah. This is the story they heard, to their horror and

marvel--horror at the hideous cruelty of the deed, marvel at the

unshakeable constancy of the fearless poet and his glorious son.

Brought face to face with Varqa in that inner room, Hajibu'd-Dawlih

had gone immediately into a fierce tirade: 'You did at last what

you did', he had shouted at Varqa, to which the poet had quietly

answered that he was unaware of having done anything wrong. Varqa's

calm reply had added to the fury of Hajibu'd-Dawlih. It had indeed

maddened him. Dragging his dagger out of its sheath, he had plunged

it into the chest of Varqa, saying with great relish: 'How are

you?' And Varqa had answered him thus: 'Feeling better than you.'

'Tell me,' said Hajibu'd-Dawlih, 'which one shall I slay first,

you, or your son?' And quietly Varqa had replied, 'It is the same

to me.' Then, having torn open Varqa's chest, Hajibu'd-Dawlih had

handed him over to his executioners, whereupon four of them had

fallen on the poet, tearing him apart, limb from limb. As his blood

kept flowing in profusion, Ruhu'llah was crying out: '0 dear

father, father dear, take me, take me, take me with you.'

Having destroyed Varqa, the unspeakable Hajibu'd-Dawlih had turned

to Ruhu'llah, who had just witnessed the dismemberment and

slaughter of his father: 'Do not weep. I shall take you with

myself, make you an allowance, obtain for you a post from the

Shah.' And bravely, Ruhu'llah had replied: 'I do not want you. I

do not want your allowance. I do not want any post that you might

obtain for me. I want to join my father.' Then, he had begun

weeping afresh. Defied, baulked, repelled, Hajibu'd-Dawlih had

ordered his minions to bring a rope and strangle that brave boy.

No rope was available there, and so they had put Ruhu'llah's neck

in the loop of the instrument of the bastinado. When he had become

still, they had dropped the senseless corpse on the floor. Elated,

Hajibu'd-Dawlih had told his minions to bring in the other two

'Babis'. The moment they had opened the door, the corpse of

Ruhu'llah had sprung up and come down with a thud, a yard away. It

was that which had terrified the blood-thirsty Hajibu'd-Dawlih, and

made him flee away, exclaiming that he would deal with the other

two on the morrow, a morrow which never came. That was how Haji

Iman and Mirza Husayn escaped from the clutches of Hajibu'd-Dawlih.

That was how Mirza Husayn lived to see another day, and to recall

the story of the martyrdom of that father and his matchless son.

Page 97

In a dream, Mirza Husayn writes, he saw Ruhu'llah coming towards

him, all smiles, saying: 'Mirza Husayn, did you see how I rode on

the neck of the Emperor?' During their last pilgrimage to the Holy

Land, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had patted Ruhu'llah on his back and had said:

'Should God will it, He can make Ruhu'llah ride on the neck of an

emperor to proclaim the Cause of God.'
Page 98
The Gourmet Who Was a Saint

Mulla Muhammad-Riday-i-Muhammadabadi of Yazd is one of the most

distinguished amongst the Bahá'í martyrs.

He was a God-fearing man, whom nothing of this world ever daunted,

outspoken, courageous to the extreme. He went to prison and

accepted its rigours blissfully, although he was a bon viveur;

indeed a gourmet, a connoisseur of good food.
In his historical work, Samandar writes of him:

He himself has been heard to say: 'When Radiu'r-Ruh,[1] one of the

most eminent divines to believe, came from Baghdad to Yazd, he had

certain Writings with him, including Qasidiy-i-'Izz-i-Vurqa'iyyih.

[Bahá'u'lláh composed this ode in Sulaymaniyyih.] As soon as I set

eyes on it, I exclaimed spontaneously: "Man-Yuzhiruhu'llah[2] of

the Bayan has come." He said: "The One Whose words these are has

not made such a claim." I replied: "On the throne of these words

I see the Promised One of the Bayan seated. "Then Radiu'r-Ruh said:

"Henceforth it is difficult to consort with you." Ere long, that

same eminent man, subsequent to high endeavour, embraced the

blessed Cause of Abha and served it for years, engaged in promoting

the Word of God. The Friends [Baha'is] of Manshad and its environs

were led to the light of faith by him. For a long time, because of

the transgressions of the enemies, he had to spend both summers and

winters in caves and on mountain-tops, suffering untold hardships,

until the day of his death. Upon him be the peace of God and His

glory.' Mulla Muhammad-Rida himself, when detained in Tihran and

summoned to the court of Kamran Mirza [the Nayibu's-Saltinih, son

of Nasiri'd-Din Shah], where the most eminent of the princes and

the high officials of the State had gathered for interrogation,

fearlessly gave appropriate replies to any matter raised and any

question asked. And when Farhad Mirza, the Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih

[uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah] made an abusive remark, he [Mulla

Muhammad-Rida] gave an answer which so accorded with the law of

religion that no one had any more to say and the session ended in

deep silence. (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 220-21)

[1. Mulla Muhammad-Riday-i-Manshadi. whom Bahá'u'lláh honoured with

the designation: Radiu'r-Ruh (Contented Spirit). He was poisoned

by a certain Haji Rasul-i-Mihriri.]
[2. He Whom God shall manifest.]
Page 99

We shall presently see what Prince Farhad Mirza's remarks and Mulla

Muhammad-Rida's comments were.
Samandar goes on to say:

After his release from that long detention, he [Mulla

Muhammad-Rida] went to 'Akka and attained the presence [of

Bahá'u'lláh]. Subsequently, by way of Qazvin, he gained Tihran.

Then, when Nasiri'd-Din Shah was assassinated, he was, once again

arrested and thrown into prison. He passed away while in gaol. Upon

him be the essence of God's mercy and His light.
(Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 221-2)
Page 100

Mulla Muhammad-Rida was truly fearless. Hearing, at the time of his

sojourn in Yazd, that the merchants of that city had come together

to devise ways and means of improving trade and bringing more

prosperity to their people, Mulla Muhammad-Rida unhesitatingly

wrote them a memorandum, telling them that the surest way to gain

their end was to accept and follow the polity of Bahá'u'lláh.

That confrontation with Haji Farhad Mirza, the Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih,

which Samandar has mentioned, occurred in the year AH 1300 (12

November 1882-1 November 1883). In the course of his discussions

with Mulla Muhammad-Rida, Prince Farhad Mirza said: '0 Akhund![1]

You cannot push aside so lightly all the traditions and the sayings

of the past. We have most reliable and trustworthy traditions and

references to the cities Jabulqa and Jabulsa. It is not possible

to ignore them all and uphold the belief that Siyyid-i-Bab, a young

mercer of Shiraz, is the promised Qa'im. Mulla Muhammad-Rida

replied: 'Your Royal Highness! You yourself have written a book on

geography. If such a city exists, a city which is claimed to have

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gates, and according to others 100,000, please tell me in which

part of the world you have placed it in your geography; show me

where in your book you have referred to it and described it; then

I shall accept all your arguments.' This retort went home and

incensed the prince. He kept hitting the ground with his

walking-stick and shouted: 'Akhund! Akhund! Stop! This Bahá'u'lláh

to whom you have lost your heart, I know well. Many a time he has

been my companion in drinking bouts: he is a bibber of wine.' Mulla

Muhammad-Rida kept his composure and replied: 'Your Royal Highness

is, must be, well aware of the law of Islam: the testimony of a

wrongdoer regarding another cannot be entertained. You yourself

have here owned to drinking wine; therefore, your testimony

regarding Bahá'u'lláh is inadmissible.' Prince Farhad Mirza could

bear it no longer, and angrily stamped out of the room. Mulla

Muhammad-Rida's repartee was truly brilliant and accorded with the

prescriptions of Islam.

[1. Akhund is a term applied to the turbaned men of learning,

particularly the divines.]

Mulla Muhammad-Rida came out safely from that imprisonment. Some

thirteen years later Nasiri'd-Din Shah was assassinated [1 May

1896]. Mulla Muhammad-Rida was then in Qum. He was present in a

mosque, when one of the clergy ascended a pulpit and called to the

people assembled: 'Look! 0 men, these detested Babis have murdered

the sovereign. He has fallen a martyr at their hands. They are

pestilential. They ought to be crushed!' Amidst the hush of the

people and the raging of the divine, Mulla Muhammad-Rida spoke out:

'Akhund! Akhund! You are mistaken: this is not the doing of these

people. They cannot have committed this crime.' The people were

astounded and turned to Mulla Muhammad-Rida: 'Akhund! How dare you

defend these Babis? Are you one of them?' Mulla Muhammad-Rida

calmly replied: 'Of course I am one of them.' He was seized, sent

to Tihran and thrown into the Siyah-Chal. This second time he did

not leave the prison alive.

The incomparable Bahá'í scholar and teacher, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl of

Gulpaygan, writes in his great work Kitáb-i-Fara'id (pp. 110-14),

a book unparalleled in both its range and depth:

In the year AH 1300, certain events came to pass in Iran. In most

of the cities they set upon these people [Baha'is]. Everywhere they

seized a number of them, who were innocent of any wrongdoing, and

put them in prison. In Tihran too by the orders of

Nayibu's-Saltinih, Prince Kamran Mirza who was the Minister of War

as well as the Governor of the capital and the province of

Mazindaran, a number were detained and gaoled. Amongst

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these prisoners, four came from the ranks of the learned and the

rest were tradesmen and merchants. Mirza

Muhammad-Riday-i-Muhammadabadi of Yazd was one of the four--a man

distinguished by his old age and constancy. Although, at the

beginning, the aim of the Amir[1] was only to ease the situation

and silence the mischief-makers; yet bit by bit, due to the

uprising of the divines, the aiding and abetting of powerful men,

the incitement of the high-positioned, and the promptings of self,

views were greatly changed and the matter assumed considerable

importance. The flare-up of prejudices caused the authorities to

overlook that which was for the good of the state and the nation,

until most of the leading figures of the country became determined

to destroy these greatly-wronged people. To carry out their corrupt

and impossible designs they resorted to all kinds of means and

intrigues. Briefly, in those days, time and time again, meetings

were held for enquiry and argument in the governing circles. All

manner of debate and proof-seeking was introduced. Evidently, with

them, it is a canon of opposition to begin by resorting to that

which they consider to be axioms of faith and belief. And when they

receive irrefutable answers and find themselves unable to pose any

proof, they turn to miracle-seeking and the supernatural. Having

been worsted and brought to their knees in that arena as well, they

resort to the last weapon of the transgressor and the

evil-intentioned and that is slaying of the innocent and

incarcerating the helpless. Thus it was that in those meetings,

after repeated argumentation and verbal assaults, lengthy and

detailed, the end came with demanding miracles. Those who were

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prominent amongst the friends, one and all, said: 'So be it: the

way is clear, the post and the telegraph afford ample facility for

presenting your request. While the Sun of Truth is here effulgent,

and the Most Sacred Person of the Manifestation of God is here

unveiled, how good it would be if the holders of governmental

authority and the learned of the land would combine and choose a

miracle, a supernatural deed, decide on the day for its fulfilment,

inform the inhabitants of Tihran, and then cable their request to

His Blessed Person; so that truth might be revealed and differences

effaced from the midst of the nation.'

[1. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl refers to Prince Kamran Mirza as Amir Kabir.]

One day, the Amir summoned me to one of those assemblages already

mentioned. A number of the grandees and men holding positions of

authority were present at that meeting. The Amir, after bidding me

sit down, turned to me and said: 'Abu'l-Fadl! Mirza

Muhammad-Riday-i-Yazdi says: "You choose whatever miracle you wish

and cable your choice to the Most Sacred Presence, and declare it

also; undoubtedly, God, great is His glory, will evince and grant

that supernatural deed which you have asked for, and will reveal

His power to the people. But, were that to happen which I consider

to be impossible, and that power should not be revealed, I would

rise to assist you and would make public everywhere my repudiation

of the Bábis."' I replied: 'Your Royal Highness well knows of the

Mirza's veracity and constancy in the Cause of God. Without the

slightest doubt, he must have total assurance to make such a bold,

emphatic assertion.' The Amir then said: 'What is your view and

what do you think of it?' I replied: 'Why do you
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hesitate, why linger? You who, in all of these gatherings, after

resorting to every means, cling to miracles and constantly say that

if this Advent is that Advent promised to us, why does He not bring

forth miracles; now that the leading figures of this Cause show

such constancy and promise you the working of miracles, why do you

hesitate and who or what prevents making the request? By God! They

have completed their proof and have with strength and assurance

established their case. Why do you not pay heed, but instead, for

the sake of those who if closely looked at and investigated would

be found to be the worst enemies of the State, do not follow the

dictates of wisdom in such grave matters?'

In these respects, such matters were discussed and presented as

must engage the attention of those who are possessed of discernment

and cause them wonderment. However, to tabulate and marshal all the

arguments here would unnecessarily lengthen this narrative. But to

cite a few examples, I said: 'My Lord! Do not assume that slaying

and imprisonment will stem the influence of this Cause, and do not

think that faith and belief will alter by torment and suppression.

Rather, should the matter be viewed with a discerning eye, it could

be plainly seen that putting people to death will tend to increase

the worth of this Cause, and the harshness of injunction will serve

to intensify the desire of the people to enquire and investigate.

If you desire your own good and the good of the nation you should

resort to provisions of justice, and view this Cause with

perception and not hostility, that perchance a good name, an

admired name should become your legacy to posterity in books and

written accounts; and whatever has been said regarding the deniers

of past ages should not be said regarding you.' Much of this manner

of advice, devoid of self-interest, was offered. But jealousy

prevailed. The enmity of divines and the assault of vain imaginings

stood in the way. Advice was discarded. Consequences were not taken

into account, until the hands of the All-Powerful rolled up all the

outspread circumstances and the hallucinations [of the adversary]

did not materialize. That which remained eminent and proven was

that neither could the influence of the Cause of God be stemmed by

oppression and suppression, nor could one wipe out the story of

these events from the pages of history, as if they had never


Mirza Abu'l-Fadl has paid glowing tribute to the quality of Mulla

Muhammad-Rida's courage and his unswerving faith. 'Abdu'l-Bahá

mentions it, when He Himself was lauding Mirza Abu'l-Fadl's

humility and selflessness. 'Abdu'l-Bahá recounted in a meeting,

held in His house in Haifa after the death of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl,

that despite his own brilliant contribution to the arguments

conducted in the presence of Prince Kamran Mirza, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl

always stoutly and meekly maintained that on those occasions the

pride of place belonged to Mulla Muhammad-Rida and he outshone them

all by his boldness, firmness and certitude.
Page 105

One night, it is related, Prince Kamran Mirza called Mulla

Muhammad-Rida to his own private apartments to have dinner with

him. Dinner over, he suddenly turned to the prisoner with this

abrupt question: 'Akhund! Tell me: whom do you consider Bahá'u'lláh

to be--an Imam or a Prophet?' Not at a loss for an answer, Mulla

Muhammad-Rida replied: 'Your Royal Highness! We recognize in Him

the Ancient Beauty, the Manifestation of God, the Dawning-Place of

the Sun of Divinity, the Horizon whereupon has appeared the Light

of the Unseen Who is beyond all comprehension. Should we do

otherwise we would have denied all the Prophets Who came in past

ages, and the Glad Tidings imparted by Them would have been made

senseless, since They have foretold the Advent of the Lord of

Hosts, the Heavenly Father, the day when men will come face to face

with the Godhead. We refer to Him by these names, which are not of

our own invention. Moreover, it is not names that we look up to,

because Bahá'u'lláh is sanctified beyond all names, designations,

appellation and description. He is both the Lord of Names and

independent of names.' Then Mulla Muhammad-R&la went on to present

the Prince with proofs and pointers.

The next day the prisoners were, as usual, brought to the

assemblage where the great and mighty of the land had gathered,

although that whole pretence of investigation was a mockery of

justice, as is seen elsewhere in this volume. 'Well,' said Prince

Kamran Mirza, turning to Haji Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi, known

as Haji Akhund, 'what is your view of Mulla Muhammad-Rida; do you

consider him to be a truthful person, is he an honest man?' To

which query Haji Akhund replied: 'Indeed and indeed, he is a

truthful person; he never lies.' Now Kamran Mirza found his chance

to score a decisive point. 'If that is so,' he said, 'then the rest

of you are all liars and deceivers. You have been telling me all

along that in Bahá'u'lláh you witness the Return of Husayn

[Rij'at-i-Husayni], whereas Mulla Muhammad-Rida tells me that the

Light of the Invisible Godhead is shining in the Person of

Bahá'u'lláh.' Haji Mulla 'Ali-Akbar was amazed and said mildly,

'Your Royal Highness! Mulla Muhammad-Rida is the Sufi of the Bábis,

waxing extravagant.' Then, Mulla Muhammad-Rida himself intervened:

'Your Royal Highness! You listen to me. What I have said is the

truth. These are the samovar-centred Baha'is: when the samovar is

boiling and they are seated somewhere safe and secure, they all say

the same
Page 106

as I have told you. That is the belief of all; but now, at the time

of testing, they draw a veil over it all and follow the dictates

of circumspection.' After that there was only silence.

Mulla Muhammad-Rida's courage and outspokenness contributed in no

small measure to the eventual release of all the Baha'is.

This erstwhile divine of Yazd was a man of great vision. He had a

clear picture in his mind of a vast and magnificent town with a

splendorous House of Worship (Mashriqu'l-Adhkar) dedicated to the

glory of Bahá'u'lláh. His notion of a Mashriqu'l-Adhkar was one

constructed with translucent crystal. In the vicinity of Kirman he

came upon a lake which was fed with melting snow and rainwater, and

below the lake
Page 107

there was an extensive area of barren land. All by himself, he set

about working on that land. Here he was going to have his dream

realized. But it was not to be. He was arrested, taken to the city

and put into gaol. When he was taken away, some five hundred

digging tools of various kind were left around that wasteland. His

labour was necessarily slow because of his advanced age, and when

he was arrested and his work was halted he said that there would

be another day. Then people from neighbouring villages came and

helped themselves to the tools which Mulla Muhammad-Rida had

gathered in that desolate spot.

And yet this saintly and selfless man was a bon vivant. The life

he lived was a testimony to the fact that detachment and

monasticism are poles apart. Detachment is not denying oneself all

the good things that this world has to offer; but disallowing

anything, abstract or material, to pose a barrier between oneself

and the recognition and acceptance of Truth, however hard and

exacting it might be to take and tread that shining path. Mulla

Muhammad-Rida always stood fearlessly by the side of the Truth

which he professed. And he lived well and ate very well, for he was

a keen connoisseur, in fact an unashamed gourmet. He chose his lamb

while still a suckling, and fed it with delicious sweets, with nuts

and spices, such as cardamom and cloves. Frequently he had guests

to share with him his repast. The tidiness of his mien and manners

was extraordinary. Once, in his native city of Yazd, the divines

vented their rage on him and caused the governor to have him

bastinadoed in public. That was done in seven thoroughfares. In

each spot Mulla Muhammad-Rida would neatly divest himself of his

turban, his 'aba and his socks, place them in an orderly fashion

on a handkerchief and stretch out his feet, inviting his tormentors

to do their caning. And he never flinched, never uttered a cry of

pain, to the amazement of the passers-by and the discomfiture of

those who wanted to humiliate and torture him.

In the course of his first imprisonment in Tihran, Mulla

Muhammad-Rida's frankness so aroused the ire of Mashhadi 'Ali, the

gaoler, that he took him out into the prison yard, stripped him of

his clothes and lashed him so hard on his bare skin that soon his

back became a mass of weals and wounds. Siyyid Asadu'llah-i-Qumi,

who shared his chain with him at night, wished to smear that

lacerated back with yolks of eggs, to bring the saintly sufferer

some relief. Mulla Muhammad-Rida told him: 'Aqa Siyyid Asadu'llah!

Do you think
Page 108

that when they were punishing me, I was aware of what they were

doing? 0 Siyyid! I was in the presence of the Blessed Perfection,

speaking with Him!' A certain Ghulam-Rida Khan, one of the notables

of Tihran, also happened to be incarcerated at this very time. He

particularly noticed the heroism and endurance of Mulla

Muhammad-Rida. And that led him to give his allegiance to

Bahá'u'lláh. Whenever asked what it was that made him a Baha'i, he

always said 'lashing', and would quickly add: 'Nothing but what I

saw of the blissful constancy of that man under the impact of those

lashes could have ever induced me to turn to the Faith of


Another fellow-prisoner was a poor Jew--sad, forlorn, helpless and

shunned. He was not allowed into the bath, and he had no change of

clothing. Mulla Muhammad-Rida watched the miserable plight of that

solitary figure with increasing concern, until he could stand it

no longer. He proposed to Siyyid Asadu'llah that together they

should give that poor Jew a decent wash in the pool of the prison

yard and provide him with a clean shirt, which they proceeded to

do. The Jew was overwhelmed and wished to know why they were so

kind and considerate to him. Mulla Muhammad-Rida told him that it

was the command and counsel of his Heavenly Father which made him

do what he was doing. He, the Father of them all, had made it a

duty to consort with the followers of all religions in perfect


During his second imprisonment in Tihran two of his fellow-Baha'is

chained with him were Haji Iman and Mirza Husayn, both natives of

Zanjan. Mirza Husayn has bequeathed to posterity the story of that

time, and particularly of Mulla Muhammad-Rida. He witnessed also

and has described the martyrdom in that prison of the noble poet

Varqa together with his heroic young son, Ruhu'llah, at the hands

of the brutal Hajibu'd-Dawlih (see chap. 7). And it was to Mirza

Husayn that 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed these lines, after his release

from prison:

0 thou imprisoned for the sake of the Ancient of Days! Don a

pilgrim's garb, and then give Me My fill to drink and tell Me: Lo,

this is wine. 0 Cup-bearer! When thou givest Me that wine to drink,

tell Me: Lo, this is wine, so that My ears too may take delight.

In numerous letters we have read the astounding story of Varqa and

Ruhu'llah, yet I desire to hear it with Mine Own ears as well.

(Quoted in Sulaymani, vol. I, pp. 210-11)

Aqa Mirza Husayn relates that one day they brought in a young man

named 'Ali, a native of Hamadan, and chained him with them. He had

been accused of robbery.
Page 109

[He] had no shirt. Mulla Muhammad-Rida said to me: 'Mirza Husayn!

This man too is a servant of the Blessed Beauty, although he does

not know his Master. He is bare and we have an extra shirt between

us; let us give it to him.' I replied: 'I have just washed that

shirt; I will give it to you to wear, and you give the shirt that

you are wearing now to this young man.' At that, Mulla

Muhammad-Rida flared up: 'Do you know what you are saying, Mirza

Husayn? Are you not a Baha'i? I would be ashamed to offer my dirty

shirt to the Blessed Beauty.' I gave the clean shirt to 'Ali, who

gratefully wore it. And that was a lesson to me.

Mirza Husayn writes that he prayed to be granted the same degree

of certitude which Mulla Muhammad-Rida had attained; and says that

whatever was given to him Mulla Muhammad-Rida considered to be a

bounty from Bahá'u'lláh, and whatever he, himself, gave to others,

he considered to be an offering to Bahá'u'lláh.

By now the nightmarish reign of Nasiri'd-Din Shah had reached its

end and Muzaffari'd-Din Shah was the ruler of Iran. He was not

vindictive and erratic, but weak, kind-hearted and vacillating. A

number of Bahá'í ladies sent him a cable from Shah-'Abdu'l-'Azim,

begging him to set the Bahá'ís free. The capable but devious

Aminu's-Sulan had fallen from power, and in his place as Prime

Minister sat Mirza 'Ali Khan, the Aminu'd-Dawlih, a disciple and

friend of Prince (or Mirza) Malkam Khan. Muzaffari'd-Din Shah gave

him the telegram he had received from the Bahá'í ladies, and asked

him to investigate the matter.

It was decided to take the five prisoners to the house of

Aminu'd-Dawlih. Aqa Muhammad-Quliy-i-'Attar (the Druggist), Siyyid

Fattah, Haji Iman and Mirza Husayn tied by one chain, and Mulla

Muhammad-Rida tied by a smaller one, were moved out of the prison

and, escorted by soldiers, were paraded in the streets amidst a

gaping, jeering populace, all the way to the home of the Prime

Minister. Their progress was slow, both because of the press of

people, and their own inability to keep a steady pace after sixteen

months of little exercise in gaol. The four managed to go ahead,

but Mulla Muhammad-Rida a much older man, collapsed. Porters had

to be forced into service to carry him. Mulla Muhammad-Rida jested

so much with the sergeant in charge about the quality of his

'steed', to the annoyance of the porters, the amusement of the

public and the consternation of the Bahá'í ladies who moved with

them mixed with the crowd, that the porter carrying him on his back

nearly dropped him in the middle of the road. Then one of the

ladies went near him and whispered:
Page 110

'Akhund, for God's sake, keep quiet.' Mulla Muhammad-Rida replied:

'I shall obey! I am both deaf and dumb.' Mirza Husayn says that it

took them nearly two hours to reach the house of Aminu'd-Dawlih,

who was at the door to meet them. To his query, Mulla Muhammad-Rida

made no answer, pretending now that he could neither hear nor

speak. The people were now doubled up with laughter.

The crowd was thickening outside the house of Aminu'd-Dawlih as the

prisoners were led to the house of his farrash-bashi. There they

were relieved of their chains, given a decent meal sent from the

kitchen of the Prime Minister, and had a good night's rest, after

languishing for all that long time in prison. The farrash-bashi was

awaiting the arrival of the royal rescript to let the prisoners go,

but Aminu'd-Dawlih himself, without any further ado, ordered their

release. However, at this critical juncture, as the prisoners were

about to leave, a divine, who was a siyyid as well, accompanied by

a number of theological students, came riding by as they returned

from the house of the Prime Minister. It was raining and the

farrash-bashi invited them to take shelter in his house while the

rain lasted. Learning that the Bahá'í prisoners were there and

would shortly be going to their homes, the siyyid expressed his

desire to meet them. But all refused to see him, saying that they

were not well enough, except
Page 111

for Mulla Muhammad-Rida. The other four begged him to desist and

not to put his neck into a noose, but he was adamant and would not

listen to them: he would not run away, he stoutly asserted. Aqa

Muhammad-Quli, Mirza Husayn writes, exclaimed in anguish: 'May God

preserve us from the ill-advised actions of this Akhund and that

Siyyid.' The four sat in trepidation as Mulla Muhammad-Rida went

into another room to meet the siyyid. Within fifteen minutes,

according to Mirza Husayn, pandemonium broke loose in the other

room: the theological students were beating Mulla Muhammad-Rida and

he was shouting at the top of his voice to the siyyid: 'You who

could not prove the truth of the Faith of your forefathers, how

dare you tell me to curse Subh-i-Azal? You who do not know who

Subh-i-Azal is and why he should be cursed, are trying to make me

soil my tongue.' Then Mulla Muhammad-Rida rejoined his

fellow-believers, who admonished him, but he was unrepentant and

replied: 'I did well to go... I put him in his place.' The siyyid

must have been terribly confused, taking Mulla Muhammad-Rida to be

a follower of Azal. He immediately wrote a letter to the Prime

Minister, saying: 'It will be most injudicious to set this old,

insolent Babi free.' On receipt of that letter, Aminu'd-Dawlih

ordered the release of the four Zanjanis and further detention of

Mulla Muhammad-Rida, whose case he would personally investigate at

a later date.

Now it became obvious that Mulla Muhammad-Rida was not reprieved,

at least for the time being. Mirza Husayn, in despair, appealed to

the sergeant not to return the old man to the prison, as he had no

one there to look after him, and promised the sergeant seven

tumans, in consideration of his kind-heartedness. Hearing this,

Mulla Muhammad-Rida said laughingly that it reminded him of the

story of Shaykh Faridi'd-Din-i-'Attar and his Mongol captor. He

told the sergeant: 'You are offered seven tumans, but I am not

worth it. Give me two tumans, and I will walk straight back to the

prison.' However, the sergeant promised not to put Mulla

Muhammad-Rida once again in the gaol, but he did not keep his word.

Haji Iman visited that noble man in the dreary gaol the next day.

Mulla Muhammad-Rida asked for some kind of broth. Haji Iman took

it to him, and left him some money as well.

Being left alone, Mulla Muhammad-Rida soon succumbed to the rigours

of prison life. Within ten days he passed out of this world; at

peace with himself, with his fellow-men and with his Maker.

Page 112

'There was, in the city of Najaf,' 'Abdu'l-Bahá has recounted,

among the disciples of the widely known mujtahid, Shaykh

Murtada,[1] a man without likeness or peer. His name was Aqa

Muhammad-i-Qa'ini, and later on he would receive, from the

Manifestation, the title of Nabil-i-Akbar. This eminent soul became

the leading member of the mujtahid's company of disciples. Singled

out from among them all, he alone was given the rank of

mujtahid--for the late Shaykh Murtada was never wont to confer this

[1. When at the instigation of the cleric, Shaykh

'Abdu'l-Husayn-i-Tihrani, Shi'ih divines gathered together to

concert plans against Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, Shaykh

Murtaday-i-Ansari refused to associate himself with their aims and

objects. (See Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, pp. 142-3.)

He excelled not only theology but in other branches of knowledge,

such as the humanities, the philosophy of the Illuminati, the

teachings of the mystics and of the Shaykhi School. He was a

universal man, in himself alone a convincing proof. When his eyes

were opened to the light of Divine guidance, and he breathed in the

fragrances of Heaven, he became a flame of God. Then his heart

leapt within him, and in an ecstasy of joy and love, he roared out

like leviathan in the deep. (Memorials of the Faithful, p. 1)

Indeed, Aqa Muhammad-i-Qa'ini, Nabil-i-Akbar, also known as

Fadil-i-Qa'ini (the Learned One of Qa'in), was a man of great

knowledge. It has been claimed that no one within the enclave of

the Bahá'í Faith has ever surpassed the profundity of his

erudition. As far as the accomplishment demanded of a Shi'ih

mujtahid is concerned, his attainment was superb, but naturally he

had little knowledge of the lore and the scholarship of the West.

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl of Gulpaygan, on the other hand, was well versed

in Islamic studies and had a wide and comprehensive knowledge of

Western thought as well. This comment is just a diversion, and

certainly is not meant to cast a slur on the intellectual eminence

of Nabil-i-Akbar, the learned sage of Qa'in.

When Aqa Muhammad of Qa'in had completed his studentship under

Shaykh Murtaday-i-Ansari, and had obtained his sanction and

blessing, he moved from Najaf to Baghdad. Here, in the city of the

Page 113

'Abbasids, he found himself in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. As Aqa

Muhammad himself has related, having received him most graciously,

Bahá'u'lláh asked him smilingly and in a light vein: 'Do you not

know that we are offenders in the eyes of the government and have

been cast out? People, too, regard us as outlaws and spurn us. You

are a learned man, a mujtahid, and highly respected. Whoever comes

to meet us and consorts with us, he too becomes suspect and

blameworthy in the eyes of the public. How then did you dare to

come to us, not sparing yourself and without concern for your own

position and status?'[1] Then, very kindly, Bahá'u'lláh invited Aqa

Muhammad to stay as His guest, instructing Mirza Aqa Jan to act as

host and see to the comfort of that distinguished pupil of Shaykh


[1. The above are reported words of Bahá'u'lláh, not to be equated

with His writings.]
* * * * * * * *

[Electronic editor's note: In the Foreward to this book, p. x,

Moojan Momen writes: '...the present writer has contributed short

accounts... [The] additions are clearly indicated in the text ...

where the added material follows a line of asterisks.']

Nabil-i-Akbar was born in a village, Naw-Firist, near Birjand in

the district of Qa'in, on 29 March 1829. He came from a family of

eminent clerics and received the usual religious education, going

first to Mashhad to study under the distinguished divines of that

town. While there, he became interested in the study of philosophy

and so he travelled to Sabzivar where Haji Mulla Hadi, the most

eminent Persian philosopher of the nineteenth century, was

delivering classes. After five years of study, Nabil set out for

the Holy Shrines of Najaf and Karbila in order to complete his

education. It was the year 1852 and the persecutions of the Bábis

following the attempt on the life of the Shah were at their height

as Nabil entered Tihran. Through the instrument of certain

ill-disposed persons Nabil found himself arrested as a Babi. He

protested his innocence and obtained his freedom but the incident

set him thinking, and later when he had an opportunity he studied

the writings of the Báb and became a believer.

In 'Iraq, Nabil attended the classes of the eminent mujtahids there

and, in particular, those of Shaykh Murtaday-i-Ansari, obtaining

the rank of mujtahid. On his way back to Iran, Nabil stayed in

Baghdad for a time where he met Bahá'u'lláh. Nabil himself has

written how at first he was blind to Bahá'u'lláh's station and

would always take the most prominent position at the meetings of

the Bábis and deliver an address. Then one day Bahá'u'lláh began

to discourse on a point and resolved the matter in such a manner

that Nabil realized his own ignorance in comparison.

Page 114

Having returned to his home town, Nabil began to teach the Faith.

Although he was received at first with great honour and

distinction, opposition began to mount. Eventually he was arrested

and after a period of imprisonment in Birjand he was sent to

Mashhad. The governor there, Sultan-Murad Mirza, Hisamu's-Saltanih,

released Nabil, but on his return to Qa'in, he was again arrested

and taken to Tihran in 1869. The 'ulama of Tihran plotted to kill

Nabil and he had to flee. He proceeded to 'Akka where he remained

a short time before being instructed by Bahá'u'lláh to return to

Iran to teach the Faith. Nabil travelled through all parts of Iran

and was soon being hunted by
Page 115

the authorities as a believer. He was eventually arrested in

Sabzivar but so impressed the governor of that town that he enabled

Nabil to slip away to 'Ishqabad. From 'Ishqabad, he proceeded with

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl to Bukhara. There Nabil fell ill and died on 6

July 1892.

'Abdu'l-Bahá designated Nabil-i-Akbar a Hand of the Cause of God,

the Guardian of the Faith included him among the Apostles of

Bahá'u'lláh, and it was to him that the Lawh-i-Hikmat (Tablet of

Wisdom) was addressed. In the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, '...because

he stood steadfast in this holy Faith, because he guided souls and

served this Cause and spread its fame, that star, Nabil, will shine

forever from the horizon of abiding light.'[1]

[1. The reader is referred to the inspiring description of

Nabil-i-Akbar's life and achievement in Memorials of the Faithful,

pp. 1-5]
Page 116
The Nobleman of Tunukabun
Conqueror of India

One of the Báb's Letters of the Living was an Indian: Shaykh

Sa'id-i-Hindi. Almost nothing is known about him except that he was

a disciple of Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti. His end is also shrouded in

total obscurity. It is certain that he left almost no imprint in

the annals of the Faith.

Then, at the time the Báb was incarcerated in Chihriq, an Indian

dervish arrived there. His identity was known to no one, and to

this day no one knows who that dervish was. The Báb named him

Qahru'llah (The Wrath of God). And all that Qahru'llah would say

about himself was this:

In the days when I occupied the exalted position of a navvab in

India, the Báb appeared to me in a vision. He gazed at me and won

my heart completely. I arose, and had started to follow Him, when

He looked at me intently and said: 'Divest yourself of your

gorgeous attire, depart from your native land, and hasten on foot

to meet Me in Adhirbayjan. In Chihriq you will attain your heart's

desire.' I followed His directions and have now reached my goal.

(Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 305)

The Báb told Qahru'llah to go back to India, in the same garb and

by the same way he had come. Then, this strange dervish passed as

swiftly out of the arena of history as he had entered it. Who he

was and what happened to him remain mysterious.

The next man from India who comes into view in Babi-Bahá'í history

is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, named Siyyid Basir, who

was devoid of sight but possessed of a keen mind and remarkable

spiritual susceptibilities. Nabil-i-A'zam maintains that it was

Shaykh Sa'id-i-Hindi who, in the town of Mooltan (Multan), met

Siyyid Basir and gave him the tidings of the Advent of the Báb. But

Mirza Husayn-i-Hamadani records this of him in his Tarikh-i-Jadid

(New History):
Page 117 the age of twenty-one, he set out with great pomp and state

(for he had much wealth in India) to perform the pilgrimage; and,

on reaching Persia, began to associate with every sect and party

(for he was well acquainted with the doctrines and tenets of all),

and to give away large sums of money in charity to the poor,

submitting himself the while to the most rigorous religious

discipline. And since his ancestors had foretold that in those days

a Perfect Man should appear in Persia, he was continually engaged

in making enquiries. He visited Mecca, and, after performing the

rites of the pilgrimage, proceeded to the holy shrines of Karbila

and Najaf, where he met the late Haji Siyyid Kazim, for whom he

conceived a sincere friendship. He then returned to India; but, on

reaching Bombay, he heard that one claiming to be the Báb had

appeared in Persia, whereupon he at once turned back thither.

(Quoted in Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 588-9n)

Let the inimitable Nabil relate the rest of the story of this

Indian scion of the Prophet Muhammad. 'Casting behind him the

trappings of leadership, and severing himself from his friends and

kinsmen, he arose with a fixed resolve to render his share of

service to the Cause he had embraced.' (Nabil-i-A'zam, The

Dawn-Breakers, p. 589)

Siyyid Basir first visited Shiraz, but to his great disappointment

found that the Báb was not there. So despondently he took the road

to Tihran and from Tihran he went to Nur. Nabil writes that in Nur

Siyyid Basir 'met Bahá'u'lláh'. He goes on to say:

This meeting relieved his heart from the burden of sorrow caused

by his failure to meet his Master. To those he subsequently met,

of whatever class or creed, he imparted the joys and blessings he

had so abundantly received from the hands of Bahá'u'lláh, and was

able to endow them with a measure of the power with which his

intercourse with Him had invested his innermost being.

I have heard Shaykh Shahid-i-Mazkan relate the following: 'I was

privileged to meet Siyyid Basir ... during his passage through

Qamsar... Day and night, I found him engaged in arguing with the

leading 'ulamas who had congregated in that village. With ability

and insight, he discussed with them the subtleties of their Faith,

expounded without fear or reservation the fundamental teachings of

the Cause, and absolutely confuted their arguments... Such were his

insight and his knowledge of the teachings and ordinances of Islam

that his adversaries conceived him to be a sorcerer, whose baneful

influence they feared would ere long rob them of their position.'

I have similarly heard Mulla Ibrahim, surnamed Mulla Bashi, who was

martyred in Sultanabad [present-day Arak], thus recount his

impression of Siyyid Basir: 'Towards the end of his life, Siyyid

Basir passed through Sultanabad, where I was able to meet him. He

was continually associated with the leading 'ulamas. No one could

surpass his knowledge of the Qur'an
Page 118

and his mastery of the traditions ascribed to Muhammad. He

displayed an understanding which made him the terror of his

adversaries... He stood unrivalled alike in the fluency of his

argument and the facility with which he brought out the most

incontrovertible proofs in support of his theme.' (Nabil-i-A'zam,

The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 589-90)

Next, according to Nabil-i-A'zam, Siyyid Basir journeyed to

Luristan and visited Ildirim Mirza, a brother of Muhammad Shah, who

received him with honours due to him, as a nobleman from India and

a descendant of the Prophet. However, one day Siyyid Basir spoke

of Muhammad Shah in a way that aroused the ire of the prince. Nabil

writes: 'He was furious at the tone and vehemence of his remarks,

and ordered that his tongue be pulled out through the back of his

neck.' This savage treatment, which Siyyid Basir patiently endured,

led to his death. Nabil goes on to say:

The same week a letter, in which Ildirim Mirza had abused his

brother, Khanlar Mirza, was discovered by the latter, who

immediately obtained the consent of his sovereign [Nasiri'd-Din

Shah] to treat him in whatever way he pleased. Khanlar Mirza, who

entertained an implacable hatred for his brother, ordered that he

be stripped of his clothes and conducted, naked and in chains, to

Ardibil, where he was imprisoned and where eventually he died.

(Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 590)

Nabil-i-A'zam had some time before, at the request of Mirza

Ahmad-i-Katib, taken a copy of the Dala'il-i-Sab'ih, one of the

well-known works of the Báb, to Ildirim Mirza. Apparently the Qajar

prince had been glad to receive it and had told Nabil that he was

devoted to the Báb. He had also written a letter to Mirza Ahmad and

given it to Nabil to deliver to that amanuensis of the Báb. When

Nabil returned from the prince's camp, he heard from Mirza Ahmad

at Kirmanshah that Bahá'u'lláh was in that town, on His way to

Karbila. Going into His presence in the company of Mirza Ahmad,

Nabil spoke of the mission he had fulfilled on behalf of his

companion and of Ildirim Mirza's response. Bahá'u'lláh had

observed: 'The faith which a member of the Qajar dynasty professes

cannot be depended upon. His declarations are insincere. Expecting

that the Bábis will one day assassinate the sovereign, he harbours

in his heart the hope of being acclaimed by them the successor. The

love he professes for the Báb is actuated by that motive.'

(Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 588)

And to bring to its end the story of that wonderful and courageous

nobleman from India, it ought to be noted that Siyyid Basir was one

Page 119

the first to see the hollowness of the contentions of Subh-i-Azal.

Neither Shaykh Sa'id, nor Qahru'llah, nor Siyyid Basir left a

permanent trace of their work in the land of their birth. The man

whom Providence had destined to become the spiritual father of the

subcontinent and of Burma was a nobleman of the same province of

Iran which had been the home of the ancestors of Bahá'u'lláh. His

name was Sulayman Khan and he was a native of Tunukabun. But when

he set out in the world to serve the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, he left

behind the garb of a nobleman and attired in the garment of a

humble man of the cloister travelled far and wide. 'Abdu'l-Bahá

says that he 'was given the title of Jamali'd-Din'. He became known

as Jamal Effendi.
Page 120
Jamal Effendi

Sulayman Khan was the son of 'Isa Khan-i-Tunukabuni. 'Isa Khan was

a man of substance and influence in his area of Mazindaran. But his

son decided to try his luck in Tihran. It was in the capital city

of Iran, the city in which Bahá'u'lláh was born, that Sulayman Khan

had his tryst with fate. There he met his destiny, which was not

to rise to high position in the temporal realm, but to scale

spiritual heights. He gave his allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh, donned

the garb of a dervish and took to the road. Forsaking his wealth,

his earthly attachments, his position and station in life, and

possessing an Ottoman passport, he roamed for a long time over the

Ottoman domains, making his way to the Holy Land. 'Abdu'l-Bahá


Here for a time he rested, under the protection of the Ancient

Beauty; here he gained the honor of entering the presence of

Bahá'u'lláh, and listened to momentous teachings from His holy

lips. When he had breathed the scented air, when his eyes were

illumined and his ears attuned to the words of the Lord, he was

permitted to make a journey to India, and bidden to teach the true

seekers after truth.

Resting his heart on God, in love with the sweet savors of God, on

fire with the love of God, he left for India. There he wandered,

and whenever he came to a city he raised the call of the Great

Kingdom and delivered the good news that the Speaker of the Mount

had come. He became one of God's farmers,
Page 121

scattering the holy seed of the Teachings. The sowing was fruitful.

Through him a considerable number found their way into the Ark of

Salvation... To this day, in India, the results of his auspicious

presence are clear to see, and those whom he taught are now, in

their turn, guiding others to the Faith. (Memorials of the

Faithful, pp. 135-6)
The Afnans in Bombay

In the course of the nineteenth century Bombay had developed into

a thriving commercial centre. The Afnans, relatives of the Báb, had

gradually built up what amounted to a trading empire, stretching

from Hong Kong to Baku. They had a branch in Bombay, where a number

of them resided. Mirza Ibrahim, a son of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim,

one of the two brothers of the wife of the Báb, established a

printing-press and publishing house in Bombay. Haji Mirza

Abu'l-Qasim lived in Shiraz, but the other brother, Haji Mirza

Siyyid Hasan, known as Afnan-i-Kabir--the Great Afnan--lived in

Beirut, until he retired to 'Akka, where Edward Granville Browne

met him with obvious delight in the year 1890. A son of the Great

Afnan, Haji Siyyid Mirza, had a long sojourn in Bombay, later to

be replaced by one of his brothers named Haji Siyyid Muhammad.

Another of the Afnans, Aqa Mirza Aqa Nuri'd-Din, also resided in

Bombay for a while, but he soon moved to Port Sa'id. Haji Mirza

Mahmud, a grandson of Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad (the maternal

uncle of the Báb, in answer to whose questions Bahá'u'lláh revealed

the Kitáb-i-Iqan--The Book of Certitude), also took part for a

while in the affairs of the Bombay branch.

It was in the printing-press and by the publishing house, named

Nasiri, which the Afnans owned in Bombay, that the Writings of

Bahá'u'lláh were printed for the first time. The eminent

calligraphist, Miskin-Qalam, went to Bombay for the purpose of

writing copies to be lithographed. And so too did Mirza

Muhammad-'Ali, the second son of Bahá'u'lláh who was also a

distinguished calligraphist, as well as Muhammad-Husayn Khartumi.

The Afnans in Bombay had a few other Persian Bahá'ís with them,

similarly engaged. With them also was Haji Mirza Muhammad-i-Afshar

of Yazd, a learned man who wrote the book entitled

Dala'ilu'l-'Irfan (Proofs of Knowledge), a polemical work setting

forth proofs gleaned from Scriptures and Traditions sustaining the

truth of the Bahá'í Faith. That book was printed in Bombay, three

Page 122

four years after the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh. Despite this

gathering of a number of Persian Bahá'ís in Bombay, no effort had

been made to bring the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh to the notice of the

Indian people. The Afnans and others became acutely aware of the

fact that they needed a teacher and sent a petition to Bahá'u'lláh,

stating their case. They undertook to meet all the expenses. Thus

it was that Bahá'u'lláh directed Sulayman Khan, now generally

spoken of as Jamal Effendi, to India. And thus it was that the

nobleman of Tunukabun became the spiritual father of the

Jamal Effendi in India and Beyond

In the year 1878, Jamal Effendi, accompanied by Mirza Husayn, a

relative, reached Bombay. There he began his sojourn and travelling

in the subcontinent, which lasted for eleven years. Dressed as a

dervish he lived the simple, dedicated life of a true darvish. He

met people from all walks of life, fearing nothing, asking no

favour. He became known as Darvish Jamalu'd-Din, the Bábi. He had

some of
Page 123

the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh printed and widely circulated. Thus he

guided a considerable number, here and there in the subcontinent,

to embrace the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. He visited Ceylon (Sri Lanka

of today), which was known to the Persians as the island of

Sarandib. In Colombo, Sulayman Khan met strong opposition from some

of the leaders of the Buddhists and suffered much hardship. Mirza

Husayn was taken ill in Ceylon and died there: the first Bahá'í to

be buried in that delectable island, where, as legend had it, Adam,

the first man, came down upon the Earth. Jamal Effendi visited

Burma as well, but did not prolong his sojourn there.

After more than a decade of constant travelling and teaching, Jamal

Effendi asked two of the newly-converted Bahá'ís of the

subcontinent--one an engraver and the other a hatter--to accompany

him, and also he took with him a lad named Bashir whom he had

chosen for service in the household of Bahá'u'lláh. The four of

them sailed for Egypt, whence they went to the Holy Land. But soon

after reaching the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Jamal Effendi was

directed by Him to return to India and continue the excellent

pioneering work he had begun. Thus we find him once again in the

subcontinent, in the year 1888, accompanied by Haji

Faraju'llah-i-Tafrishi, one of the 'Akka exiles.
Page 124

Now, he spent a period of time in Burma and went beyond the

subcontinent east to Java, Siam (Thailand) and Singapore; and in

the north from Kashmir to Tibet, from Tibet to Yarqand and Khuqand

(in Chinese Turkistan), then to Badakhshan and Balkh (in


Amir 'Abdu'r-Rahman Khan of Afghanistan, ruthless and harsh,

refused to allow Jamal Effendi to visit Kabul. In reply to his

letter, written from Yarqand, in which he had mentioned wounds

afflicting his feet, the Amir threatened him that should he come

to Kabul, his hands would go the way of his feet. At Badakhshan and

Balu the semi-barbaric people of those regions acted so abominably

that he was forced to fall back on Ladakh (Laddakh) where there was

a British commissioner. Ahmadu'd-Din, employed as chief secretary

by the British official, had been converted to the Faith of

Bahá'u'lláh by Jamal Effendi himself. There, supported by

Abmadu'd-Din, he found a safe place to rest awhile and recuperate,

before going on to the eastern areas of Transoxania.

He was still travelling when the news reached him of the Ascension

of Bahá'u'lláh. 'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed him to stay in the field,

which he did for another five years. Now, old age was creeping on

him. For almost twenty years he had been traversing, back and

forth, vast tracts of the Asian mainland, and visiting islands of

the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. He had suffered grave hardships

at the hands of opponents and adversaries, apart from the toils of

the road. Now, he took with him two of the outstanding Bahá'ís of

Rangoon, Haji Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Shirazi and Dr Khabiru'd-Din, and set

out once more for the Holy Land. His companions had been brought

into the orbit of the Bahá'í Faith by himself. Shortly after his

arrival in 'Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá chose Jamal Effendi to carry out a

delicate mission, which Bahá'u'lláh had desired to be undertaken

by one of His followers. And that was to deliver a message to Mirza

'Ali-Asghar Khan, the Aminu's-Sultan. The message which Bahá'u'lláh

had wished to be given to the Grand Vizier of Nasiri'd-Din Shah was


You took steps to help the prisoners; you freely rendered them a

befitting service; this service will not be forgotten. Rest assured

that it will bring you honor and call down a blessing upon all your

affairs. 0 Aminu's-Sultan! Every house that is raised up will one

day fall to ruin, except the house of God; that will grow more

massive and be better guarded day by day. Then serve the Court of

God with all your might, that you may discover the way to a home

in Heaven, and found an edifice that will endure forever. (Quoted

in 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 136)

Page 125

'Abdu'l-Bahá explains the nature of the service rendered by


In Adhirbayjan the Turkish clerics had brought down Aqa Siyyid

Asadu'llah, hunted him down in Ardabil and plotted to shed his

blood; but the Governor, by a ruse, managed to save him from being

physically beaten and then murdered: he sent the victim to Tabriz

in chains, and from there had him conducted to Tihran.

Aminu's-Sultan came to the prisoner's assistance and, in his own

office, provided Asadu'llah with a sanctuary. One day when the

Prime Minister was ill, Nasiri'd-Din Shah arrived to visit him. The

Minister then explained the situation, and lavished praise upon his

captive; so much so that the Shah, as he left, showed great

kindness to Asadu'llah, and spoke words of consolation. This, when

at an earlier time, the captive would have been strung up at once

to adorn some gallows-tree, and shot down with a gun.

('Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 136-7)

The day Nasiri'd-Din Shah was assassinated, Aminu's-Sultan

displayed a high measure of sagacity and competence, and saved Iran

from potential disturbances. The next Shah, Muzaffari'd-Din,

confirmed Aminu's-Sultan in his post, but intrigues by the Shah's

favourites, and the conflicting policies of Russia and Britain,

forced him out. He was replaced by Mirza 'Ali Khan, the

Aminu'd-Dawlih, who was a friend and collaborator of Prince (or

Mirza) Malkam Khan.
Page 126

Aminu's-Sultan was sent in disgrace to reside in Qum. And as

'Abdu'l-Bahá further relates:

Thereupon this servant dispatched Sulayman Khan to Persia, carrying

a prayer and a missive written by me. The prayer besought God's aid

and bounty and succor for the fallen Minister, so that he might,

from that corner of oblivion, be recalled to favor. In the letter

we clearly stated: 'Prepare to return to Tihran. Soon will God's

help arrive; the light of grace will shine on you again; with full

authority again, you will find yourself free, and Prime Minister.

This is your reward for the efforts you exerted on behalf of a man

who was oppressed.' That letter and that prayer are today in the

possession of the family of Aminu's-Sultan.

From Tihran, Sulayman Khan journeyed to Qum, and according to his

instructions went to live in a cell in the shrine of the Immaculate

[Fatimih, the sister of the eighth Imam: Imam Rida]. ('Abdu'l-Bahá,

Memorials of the Faithful, p. 137)

Sulaymhn Khan, then, met Aminu's-Sultan and delivered to him

'Abdu'l-Bahá'í letter. He received it with great respect and told

Sulayman Khan: 'I had given up hope. If this longing is fulfilled,

I will arise to serve; I will preserve and uphold the friends of

God... Praise be to God, I hope again; I feel that by His aid, my

dream will come true.' 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that Aminu's-Sultan was

joyous and grateful.

The rest is well known to history. Aminu'd-Dawlih's premiership did

not last long. His fall was swift. And Muzaffari'd-Din Shah

summoned Aminu's-Sultan from Qum and installed him once again in

the office of Sadr-i-A'zam. In the words again of 'Abdu'l-Bahá: 'He

assumed the position and functioned with full authority; and at

first he did indeed support the believers, but toward the end, in

the case of the Yazd martyrdoms, he was neglectful. He neither

helped nor protected the sufferers in any way, nor would he listen

to their repeated pleas... Accordingly he too was dismissed, a

ruined man; that flag which had flown so proudly was reversed...'

('Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 138) Aminu's-Sultan

had a third period of office in the first year of the

Constitutional period, but it was only for a brief space of time.

He was assassinated in August 1907, sharing the fate of his

monarch: Nasiri'd-Din Shah.

Many are the stories related about the twenty-year odyssey of Jamal

Effendi, Sulayman Khan, the nobleman of Tunukabun, who was destined

to be the spiritual conqueror of the Indian subcontinent and Burma.

His first companion, Mirza Husayn, laid down his bones in

Page 127
Page 128

the island of Sarandib (Sri Lanka) and the second, Haji

Farajullah-i-Tafrishi, passed away in Bombay, in April 1894.

Another eminent associate of Jamal Effendi was Siyyid Mustafa Rumi,

whom he converted in Madras and took with him to Burma. Siyyid

Mustafa stayed on to build the Burmese Bahá'í community and on his

death in 1945 was named a Hand of the Cause of God by the Guardian

of the Bahá'í Faith. He is buried in Burma.

As for Jamal Effendi himself, he passed away on 20 August 1898 in

Page 129
Na'im of Sidih, a Poet Superb

Mirza Muhammad, who adopted Na'im (Blissful) as his sobriquet, was

a poet of the first rank. His poems mainly touch themes pertaining

to the Bahá'í Faith. Yet their fame has reached circles well beyond

the Community of Bahá'u'lláh. Their lambent, persuasive quality

always enchants.

He was born in the village of Furushan, in the spring of 1856.

Furushan, one of the three villages that constituted a larger unit,

Sidih of Isfahan, had never known the burgeoning of such remarkable

talent as Na'im's within its confines.

Haji 'Abdu'l-Karim, his father, had no other son. That made him

particularly devoted to Mirza Muhammad, giving priority to his

education. But Muhammad had not gone very far with his studies when

his father decided that it was time for him to get married and

settle down to earn a living. Na'im (as we shall henceforth call

him) was then only sixteen years old. His father was a farmer and

that was the only occupation which was open to Na'im. So he put

aside his studies and became a worker on the land. However, he had

a cousin, named Haji Mulla Hasan, who was a prosperous merchant in

Isfahan. As Na'im was a sturdy, hard-working, trustworthy young

man, this cousin took him on to manage his substantial farming and

commercial interests in the district of Sidih and its environs. In

a poem which is autobiographical, Na'im describes how it was that

he had to abandon his studies and adopt a business career.

Compelled by his talent he sought the company of poets and

cultivated the friendship of two brothers, both poets of note whose

sobriquets were Nayyir and Sina. These three found that they had

much in common; they would spend hours reciting their poems, and

proposing and selecting new themes as subjects. And as

Muhsin-i-Na'imi, the Dabir-Mu'ayyid and husband of the daughter of

the poet, comments, these three founded a literary circle in that

lowly village.
Page 130

Nayyir and Sina were, a good deal of the time, travelling about in

search of their livelihood. In October 1880, Sina was in Tabriz and

there he met a stranger. That very remarkable man, famed for his

humour and jest, whose name was Mirza 'Inayatu'llah 'Aliyabadi, is

today very little known, even in his native land and in the memory

of his co-religionists. But there was a time when his pranks and

wisecracks were often told and retold with glee.

Sina has thus related the story of his encounter with 'Aliyabadi:

We were seated in our chamber in the caravanserai of Tabriz, when

Mirza 'Inayat came riding in. He stopped in front of our chamber,

dismounted, and having exchanged greetings, entered and sat down.

Then he asked one of those present to go and fetch him a nargileh.

To another he gave the task of tending his horse. When he had

cleared the room of the two who lacked capacity and understanding,

he paused awhile to rest, and then addressed us: '0 descendants of

the Rasul! [Messenger, i.e. the Prophet Muhummad] I bring you

tidings of the rise of two great Luminaries in the world of

humanity. The first was the Orb of the Qa'im, rising in the year

1260. Then after nine years came the effulgence of "Husayn

Returned" and the world was illumined.'

Sina went on to recount how 'Aliyabadi proceeded to adduce proof

after proof in substantiating his theme. Later, he brought out of

his pocket the Tablet of Naqus (The Clarion Bell), chanted it with

great fervour, and followed it by reciting a verse from the Qur'an

(from the 36th surih: 'Ya Sin'). 'Afterwards he kissed the Tablet,'

Sina related, 'put it on his head, made a present of it to us and

departed.' All that narrative Na'im has put into a gripping and

translucent poem.

This entry, declaration and exit of Mirza 'Inayatu'llah 'Aliyabadi

caused consternation as well as disputation. There and then, Siyyid

Mirza, a companion of Sina, left to go to 'Akka and investigate the

truth of what they had heard.

Sina, telling Na'im of that strange experience in Tabriz, could not

add much more to it, and soon after he went on another journey,

this time to Rasht. Na'im's interest had been greatly aroused. He

craved to know more, and fate threw him into the company of an

Azali, Isma'il-i-Sabbagh (Dyer), who was also a native of Sidih.

This Isma'il in later years changed his name to Mirza Mustafa,

migrated to Tihran and became a scribe. He provided Edward

Granville Browne with many Babi and Azali manuscripts. Na'im met

others as well who were confirmed Baha'is. They met

surreptitiously; the books lent to Na'im
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had to be taken away with great caution and kept well hidden. In

the dead of night Na'im would take out the books he had borrowed

and, at a time when all others were fast asleep, would concentrate

on reading and studying, and sometimes he copied them. Thus he

became well versed in his study of the Bayan. One day the dyer

spoke to him of Azal and his successorship to the Báb. Na'im had

learnt from the Bayan that there could be no successor to the Báb.

However, he took with him one of Azal's works: Jadhbiyyih

(Attraction). That night he had to wait impatiently for a long

while, sitting through dinner until everyone had retired. At last

all was quiet. Na'im gathered together his writing material,

brought out the book hidden in his pocket, and sat down to read it,

prepared to copy it by candlelight. But soon he was bitterly

disappointed. Azal's composition was a mockery of authorship. Na'im

had wasted his time, denied himself sleep and was deeply

disappointed. Soon he fell into meditation. Three points stood out

before him in prominent relief.

Firstly, he saw and admitted that the Bayan was divine script, come

from God. And the Bayan was only the prelude to an Advent greater

than the Advent of the Báb. This he came to believe truly without

a shadow of doubt.

Secondly, he saw that the Báb had divided the Bayan into nineteen

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unities (wahids). But what He had revealed consisted only of nine

unities and ten chapters (Babs). This fact was indicative of the

nearness of the Advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest',

because God never leaves His Revelation incomplete. The

Manifestation promised by the Bayan, he realized, must come very

soon to complete the unfinished task.

The third point of truth which confronted Na'im was the fact that

the laws and ordinances prescribed in the Bayan were so onerous and

difficult to observe that a very rapid renewal of the Law was


In other words, Na'im came to believe in Bahá'u'lláh before he had

seen any of His Writings. He had already rejected Azal's

pretensions as he had recognized his words to be fatuous and

ignorant. That was how Na'im found his spiritual home in the

Community of Bahá'u'lláh.

By then the circle of poets in Sidih had three more members, namely

Mirza Manzar, Muhammad-Taqi and Siyyid Muhammad. Gradually people

became aware that a group of Bahá'í poets was meeting regularly in

their midst. Tongues wagged and the rabble decided to make life

impossible for those six men, who had been brought together by

literary concerns. They became almost housebound, except that Sina

and Nayyir were most of the time on the road, and therefore spared

a good deal of the hatred. They also managed to obtain from Prince

Zillu's-Sultan a decree forbidding the people to molest them.

Na'im's father, in order to rescue his son from persecution,

advised Na'im to take himself away to the holy cities of 'Iraq. But

when he returned, after an absence of several months, he found that

the situation had not altered.

Na'im, by then, was so afire with his love for the Cause of

Bahá'u'lláh that he could not refrain from preaching and teaching

it, although he did not abandon all discretion. Haji Mulla Kazim,

a local divine, brought together a number of his leading colleagues

to investigate this Faith, including Haji Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi of

Isfahan, well known as Aqa Najafi, whom Bahá'u'lláh has stigmatized

as Ibn-i-Dhi'b (the Son of the Wolf). Naturally, Na'im came too,

and wisely and discreetly carried on a dialogue with the host and

the other notables present. This debate became very prolonged, and

it is said that Haji Mulla Kazim found himself so cornered by

Na'im's eloquent dissertation that thrice he retired to his private

chamber to change his shirt which was drenched with perspiration.

And he surrounded
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himself with such an enormous pile of books (for reference in

search of proofs and arguments to buttress his contentions) that

in the end only his huge turban and the upper part of his face

could be seen. Meanwhile Na'im calmly and quietly used the same

material, which that divine was digging out of his books, to

substantiate his own case. The most crushing testimony to Na'im's

amazing knowledge and debating skill came from no less a person

than Aqa Najafi, never a friend of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, who

told the divines of Sidih: 'This young man today scored a triumph

over you and divested you of your honours as men of learning'. Haji

Mulla Kazim, himself, remained silent and later avowed his own

conversion, but alleged that he could not come into the open and

declare himself a Bahá'í due to old age and the lack of any other

means of support.

After that gathering in the home of Haji Mulla Kazim, the fame of

Na'im, in the villages of Sidih, became more pronounced and more

widespread. And the malice of adversaries was correspondingly

intensified. Let us learn his story from his own words:

I embraced the Faith in the year 1298 (4 December 1880-22 November

1881). Previously I used to visit Mulla Isma'il [the Azali dyer of

Sidih] and
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some people became suspicious. Sina had described to Mirza Ja'far

[a crony of the dyer] the experience he had had in Tabriz (see p.

130). Mirza Ja'far and I resolved not to visit Sina again. But I

knew that he kept visiting Sina. One night 'Ali Abu'l and myself

were at Sina's, and he related the story of the martyrdom of the

Bab. 'Ali said: 'Whoever rides a donkey, and thus comes to Isfahan,

cannot be the Qa'im. I said: 'The Prophet also rode a donkey'...

Then I became known in Sidih as a Babi, the butt of insults.

Gradually it became impossible to leave the house, because of the

abuse hurled by the people and their insolence. Mosques and

gatherings buzzed with talk, hearts brimmed with hate, they wished

to kill or eject us. Thus, we lived a whole year in utmost

deprivation and abasement and had to bear countless afflictions,

until the siyyids [the two brothers: Sina and Nayyir] returned from

their travels. Taqi Abu'l went to visit them. In the mosque,

Bahru'l-'Ulum asked him: 'Why do you go to the home of these

siyyids and cause mischief?' Taqi answered back rudely:

'Zillu's-Sultan has given them a letter, forbidding the people to

trouble them, and I am seeking an opponent like you.' At that,

Bahru'l-'Ulum, enraged, rushed up the minaret, screaming: 'The

Faith is m mortal peril! The Faith is in mortal peril.' His shouts

brought the people out, who seized Taqi and trounced him. They were

about to kill him when Haji Amin Khan-i-Yavar [the Major] threw

himself upon him and prevented his murder. The [two] divines of

Furushan--Mir Siyyid 'Ali, the Imam-i-Jum'ih, and

Bahru'l-'Ulum--complained to Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, the Dhi'b [the

Wolf], who told Ruknu'l-Mulk, the deputy-governor, to put matters

right. He sent two farrashs to Sidih to take Taqi to Isfahan. When

the news came that farrashes were on their way, I was sent for

before their arrival and taken to the house of Bahru'l-'Ulum. Taqi

was there, bound up. I was told that Taqi had said: 'Na'im has made

me wayward.' I commented: 'He has said that under duress.' They

replied that they had found a letter in his pocket, written by

Mirza Asadu'llah-i-Isfahani, addressed to me. 'If the letter was

written to me,' I asked, 'what was it doing in his pocket?' We were

thus engaged in conversation when the farrashes arrived. They said

that this man [Na'im] and Taqi and some others ought to be sent to

the city [Isfahan]. A farrash tied up my arms and, together with

Taqi, I was marched off to my own house, which was some distance

away, and a number of spectators surrounded us. Next, they sought

out Nayyir, Sina and Siyyid Muhammad. They were also tied up and

brought to our house. My late father was detained too. He was

dragged by his beard to a butcher's shop where they purchased a

quantity of meat, and then brought to join us. In the meantime, a

man sent by Haji Mirza Asadu'llah, the Kad-khuda [the Magistrate]

came and ordered us to have ready a suitable tip for the farrashes,

and to start right away for the city. Bahru'l-'Uhim also sent his

man to have us moved. They had made everything ready for our

departure. About a hundred men, each holding a cane in his hand and

shouting, preceded our procession. They had tied the five of us

together in such a way that we were forced to walk, step by step,

in line.

That day was Friday when crowds of people were free to gather, and

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spectators had swarmed in from all the neighbouring villages. We

were led on, in that strange way, bare-headed and barefooted.

Streets and roof-tops were so crowded with people that one could

not see where a street opened and where it ended. They took us

round the village, and in the midst of a spacious carrefour we were

ushered into the upper room of a building overlooking the square.

There they tied us to the door-frames, and the farrashes fell upon

us with their canes. We were beaten for two hours. Next, around

sunset, they took us, half alive, to the house of Aqa Muhammad-Taqi

where the farrashes kept beating us throughout the night. During

the fourteen hours of that night, only while the other four were

undergoing beating could one of us have a chance for some rest. As

morning came, with snow lying on the ground, they took us

barefooted to the gate of the mosque, to be beaten there too. Later

they pushed us into our house, took up their rifles and shot five

hens that were running about in the courtyard. While they were

roasting the birds they kept bastinadoing me, leaving the others

alone because they knew that no tips could be forthcoming from

them. In the afternoon, word came from Ruknu'l-Mulk that the guilty

men should be taken to Isfahan.

[Elsewhere, Na'im reverts to these same events:] During those days,

when the five of us were tied together, more than six thousand

spectators were around us, pelting us with stones, throwing ashes

and refuse over us from roof-tops, abusing and cursing us. Yet we

were laughing as we walked through that crowd. One of my companions

commented: 'God has tied our hands and brought us amongst these

people to complete His proofs.' A few
Page 136

steps further, he said, 'We have become the evidence of "Believers

are together one personality"', and still further on, he said,

'This pomp and magnificence He has ordained for us' and again,

'this being cursed and spat upon--this affliction God sends only

to His loved ones' ... and we laughed all the way. Hours on end we

suffered from the lashes of the footmen until, chained, we were

thrown into a prison and sat there awaiting the descent of the


Na'im has related orally that when he was under those lashes his

sister, although not a believer, was so overcome by the piteous

sight which her brother presented that she pulled off her ear-ring

so forcefully as to tear open the ear itself, throwing it to the

farrashes in the hope that it would make them relent. His aged

father, holding his beard, was imploring that heartless crew to

show mercy to his only son, but with no effect. To compound their

villainy they took off the clothes of those five innocent men,

exposed them to the bitter cold of winter and painted their bodies

with different colours to amuse the gaping, swearing crowd. Of

course there were some here and there who took pity, who questioned

it all, but they were a small minority. The majority were purblind

and motivated only by animal instincts. Such is the mob. Such will

always be the mob. Na'im also spoke of his body being very swollen

because of the blows he had received and of his shirt being soaked

with blood and sticking to his body. Later, it was impossible to

pull off his shirt and scissors had to be used to cut it open.

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With bare heads and bare feet, in the heart of winter, the five

Bahá'ís were marched off to Isfahan and gaoled. After a time

Zillu's-Sultan ordered the release of Nayyir. Then Ruknu'l-Mulk

sent for the other four to tell them that he had summoned their

opponents to come and sit with them, to resolve the issue. He meant

to set them free. When the others arrived, Ruknu'l-Mulk informed

them that the prisoners had said 'We are not Babis'. 'In that case,

they should curse the Báb,' they replied. 'How can they?'

Ruknu'l-Mulk retorted. 'They do not know Him.' The Law does not

permit a Muslim to curse someone not known to him, but the

adversaries were persistent. 'In their homes', they declared, 'the

writings of the Báb have been discovered.' Ruknu'l-Mulk called in

his attendant, gave him his keys and told him to fetch a certain

box, from which he extracted diverse books about a variety of

Faiths. Showing the books, Ruknu'l-Mulk told them: 'These books are

mine; the follower of which of these religions do you consider me

to be?' Thus silenced they went away, and Ruknu'l-Mulk had the

prisoners freed and instructed them to leave Isfahan that very


In Furushan, the cleric, Bahru'l-'Ulum, declared that Na'im being

an apostate, his wife should consider herself divorced from him.

That pitiless woman took possession of all that Na'im had, and

would not give him even a small sum of money to take him to Tihran.

Penniless, Na'im, Sina, Muhammad-Taqi and Mirza Manzar took the

road into the wilderness, their destination Tihran. They depended

on the charity and hospitality of Bahá'ís on the long road to the

capital. Day by day they trudged on, occasionally stopping to rest

wherever a Bahá'í home offered them shelter. When, after weeks of

trekking, they reached 'Aliyabad (a stage between Qum and Tihran),

they had nothing left and they were hungry. There they came upon

a dervish who lent them one qiran. On that paltry sum, the four

travel-weary men subsisted until they reached Tihran. When, after

a long search in the capital, they found the whereabouts of that

dervish, to return the money he had lent them, they also gave him

the tidings of the Advent of Bahá'u'lláh, and he became a Baha'i.

But there is more to relate about that walk to Tihran. One day, on

the road to Qum, the travellers found themselves without water,

having drained their vessel. Seized by thirst with no source of

water in sight, and hardly able to walk on, they joyously noticed

a traveller (riding, of course) coming towards them. When he

reached them,
Page 138

they implored his help. Could he point out to them any source of

water in that expanse of barren ground? He could and did. Na'im,

stronger than the rest, took their water vessel and set out in the

direction given by the stranger. He found the place, filled the

vessel and started back to his companions. But, although his thirst

had been allayed, his strength was sapped. As he drew near to his

companions, he found that he could not take one further step. And

they were begging him to hurry, as they too had collapsed and were

unable to move. In his own parlous state, Na'im finally managed by

almost crawling to get close to them.

With life at a low ebb the four men entered Tihran, and by

following directions given to them, they found the orchard in the

street, in a poor quarter of the city, where Bahá'ís had their

gatherings. It is still called the street of the Bábis. That

orchard had to be their home for they had nowhere else to go. Shorn

of all material possessions, they had, first of all, to find means

of livelihood. Na'im chose the only occupation he was capable of

following: to do the work of a scribe and make copies of Tablets

for the Bahá'ís of Tihran. That brought him a little money. Later

he was paid fifteen qirans a month to teach Bahá'í children. (In

those days there were no schools as we know them in Tihran.) It was

hardly a living wage. Na'im and his companions had to burn dead

branches of trees at night, both for warmth and light. They could

not afford candles.

When Na'im found a room of his own, it had no rug to cover the

floor. For fuel, he had to go out early in the morning and collect

the dung he could find in the streets. His small tin samovar was

heated with dung. It all took a long time before he could have a

sip of tea in the morning. When winter came again, it was only that

dung-fuelled tin samovar which could give him some heat. Yet living

out this life of penury never made him complain. And he served the

Cause of Bahá'u'lláh to the utmost of his ability. Whenever he

could afford to buy charcoal and a few pieces of white wood, he

would invite the Bahá'ís in his neighbourhood to come to tea on a

Friday, and join him in reading and reciting Tablets and verses.

Years and years later, when Na'im prospered, one day a Bahá'í came

to his home and found him supervising masons and builders. Seeing

workmen busy at one side making mud bricks, and at the other end

of the compound a mason raising a wall, he reminded Na'im jestingly

of a couplet from one of his poems: 'The mud and brick of

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Page 140

this abode so fleeting, / We used to raise our home everlasting'.

'How can you square all this building activity with the sentiment

you expressed in those lines?' asked Siyyid Mustafay-i-Simnani.

Na'im's answer was: 'The construction of this house itself is

preparation for that "home everlasting", because here believers

will come together and remember their Lord.'

Na'im, an undoubted master of verse, of a poetic ability rarely

matched in his days, was a very unassuming man. The renowned Haji

Amin describes a meeting addressed by Mirza

'Ali-Akbar-i-Rafsanjani[1] which was attended by a knowledgeable

man newly introduced to the Faith. Na'im was also present,

listening attentively and not saying a word. The newcomer was

greatly impressed by all he heard, and was particularly delighted

by some lines of Na'im's poem which closed the talk. Eagerly he

asked the name and identity of the poet and, if he were living,

where he could be found. When hearing that the poet was there in

that very room, and Na'im was pointed out to him, that discerning

man was truly astonished that one who could write such poetry was

so modest!

[1. Mirza 'Ali-Akbar-i-Rafsanjani was an eminent teacher of the

Bahá'í Faith. He and Tarazu'llah Samandari (in later years a Hand

of the Cause of God) travelled together a good deal. Rafsanjani

visited London at the bidding of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 1914.]

Na'im, despite all he had suffered and despite the grinding poverty

of his early years in Tihran, always presented a cheerful face, and

his humour never deserted him. One day in Tihran, one of the

minions of the Court ran into him in the street. The man was

haughty and insolent; using an insulting epithet, and a very common

mode of
Page 141

threat, he said to Na'im: 'Do you want me to burn your father?'

Na'im smilingly replied: 'No sir, by God, oh no sir.' The

self-satisfied official was very pleased, and thought that he had

nonplussed Na'im.

There lived in Tihran a physician of note, Dr Sa'id

Khan-i-Kurdistani. He had, justly, a high reputation for honesty

and integrity, and was a good and competent physician, a man of

profound learning. However, he had abandoned Islam in favour of

Christianity, for which he was an ardent proselytizer. On one

occasion Na'im and Dr Sa'id Khan chanced to meet in a street of

Tihran. They were not total strangers. Na'im, very solemnly, asked

the doctor whether he thought it possible that Christ could have

come once again. Immediately and emphatically, Dr Sa'id Khan said:

'Never'. To which Na'im retorted: 'Then know for certain that

Christ said: "I come at a time when you know not". He did come a

while ago.' Dr Sa'id Khan, it is reported by Na'im himself, was

dumbfounded, but he said nothing except goodbye and departed.

Hard times were at last over for Na'im. Bahá'u'lláh had assured him

in a Tablet that, before long, far more than had been harshly taken

from him would be granted to him. He found employment teaching

Persian in the British Legation, and he prospered. But poverty and

wealth were alike to Na'im. His one goal, whatever his material

condition, his heart's desire at all times, was service to the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Not only was his poetic talent put

brilliantly into the service of the Faith, but his eloquent tongue

made many a soul realize that the Day of God had indeed dawned.

Na'im married again in the same year that witnessed the Ascension

of Bahá'u'lláh. His wife, Ruqayyih Sultan, a native of Isfahan,

proved a true helpmate to her husband, always supporting him

loyally through thick and thin. They had one son and one daughter.

The son, 'Abdu'l-Husayn Na'imi, whose great service besides many

others was to publish the invaluable poetical work of his father,

lies buried in the New Southgate Cemetery, close to the grave of

the Guardian of the Faith. The daughter was married to

Muhsin-i-Na'imi, the Dabir-Mu'ayyid, biographer of his

father-in-law, and a devout teacher of the Bahá'í Faith.

Indeed, Na'im the lucid poet, Na'im the eloquent teacher, Na'im the

servant of Bahá'u'lláh, has left a heritage of praise, fidelity and

selflessness whose fame will only brighten more and more as the

years roll by. And one day the whole world will bow to it.

Page 142
An Eminent Grandson of Fath-'Ali Shah

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is had been the designation of the great Avicenna. It

was also the designation of Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza, a grandson

of Fath-'Ali Shah; his father Muhammad-Taqi Mirza, the

Hisamu's-Saltanih, was the seventh son of that uxorious monarch.

Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza was born in Tabriz in the year 1847. His

father, who had been the governor of Luristan, was one of the

several princes who had either rebelled and risen up to resist the

accession of Muhammad Shah to the throne or had shown overt

displeasure. Eleven of these princes were sent to Adharbayjan to

be detained in the citadel of Ardibil. Muhammad-Taqi Mirza was one

of them. Four of the princes, one of whom was 'Ali Shah, the

Zillu's-Sultan, dug a tunnel and escaped. They gained safety

outside Iran. Then it was that the other seven were moved to Tabriz

and kept there, but not in gaol. Throughout the rest of Muhammad

Shah's reign, Tabriz was the home of Muhammad-Taqi Mirza and his

family. Later, Nasiri'd-Din Shah restored his freedom. One report

has it that he died soon after, because his title Hisamu's-Saltanih

was given to Sultan-Murad Mirza, uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah and

conqueror of Hirat. But there are other instances of two men

receiving the same title; it is confidently related that

Muhammad-Taqi Mirza was still living well beyond the date when

Sultan-Murad Mirza came to be known as Hisamu's-Saltanih.

According to Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza's own evidence, his devotion

to the Bábi-Bahá'í Faith was a precious gift, in his childhood,

from his mother, which was later reinforced by the wise guidance

of the great Hujjatu'l-Islam, Haji Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, generally

known as Mirzay-i-Shirazi. (See chap. 19.) His mother was Khurshid

Bagum, daughter of Suhrab Khan, a Georgian and grandee of Caucasia,

who was taken prisoner when Agha Muhammad Khan, the eunuch king,

stormed the city of Tiflis
Page 143

(Tbilisi). Abu'l-Hasan Mirza was a sickly child. Very early in

life, he lost the sight of one eye through smallpox but it was

miraculously restored before long. When a cholera epidemic reached

Tabriz, his parents, despairing of the child's life, left him with

a wet nurse and hurried to the safety of the countryside. But

Abu'l-Hasan Mirza was destined to live on and become distinguished

as the Bahá'í grandson of Fath-'Ali Shah. Cholera did not touch


At the age of six, Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza was sent for tuition

by Mulla 'Abdu'l-'Ali, who had as pupils many of the scions of the

nobility of Tabriz. When he was eleven, it is stated, he

accompanied his father to Tihran, and there attended the classes

of Mulla 'Aliy-i-Nuri, a divine who taught in the Madrisiy-i-Mulla

Aqa Rida. Under him Abu'l-Hasan Mirza studied logic and syntax, and

made rapid progress in mastering the intricacies of Arabic,

arousing the jealousy of his brothers. Three years later we find

him again with his father in Mashhad, where Muhammad-Taqi Mirza was

taken ill and died. His last word to Abu'l-Hasan Mirza was to go

on with such studies as would entitle him to become a cleric.

After the death of his father, Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza returned

Page 144

Tihran, where, against the wishes of both his mother and himself,

his brothers sent him to the military academy. Yet he managed to

attend daily the classes of Shaykh Ja'far-i-Turk, where again he

made rapid progress in his study of literary subjects. Two years

later he was able to leave the military academy and was freed from

that oppressive environment. Now, he and his mother moved to

Mashhad and made that holy city their home. This happened at the

time when Haji Mirza 'Ali-Akbar, the first Qavamu'l-Mulk of Shiraz

(son of Haji Ibrahim Khan, the king-maker) had been directed by

Nasiri'd-Din Shah to Mashhad and appointed custodian of the sacred

Shrine of the Eighth Imam. Haji Qavamu'l-Mulk was well disposed

towards Khurshid Bagum and her sons. He organized a great fete to

celebrate the entry of Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza, who must have been

about seventeen years of age, into the ranks of the clerics. His

cap was changed to a turban, the garb of a prince was shed, and he

put on the long robe of learned men. Even at that early age Prince

Abu'l-Hasan Mirza had shown poetic talent of a high order and the

mastery of a fluent pen. And at that fete, encouraged by Haji

Qavamu'l-Mulk, he adopted the sobriquet of Hayrat. Now he was

qualified to follow the advice of his late father, and became a

theological student.

His studies, to which he applied himself assiduously, were varied

and fundamental. With Mulla Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Mazniyani, an

accomplished teacher, he continued with literary subjects. He

followed courses in mathematics with Mirza Nasru'llah-i-Shirazi.

Page 145

Philosophy and scholastic theology were pursued with Mulla

Ibrahim-i-Sabzivari, considered to be one of the most learned men

of his age. Three of the leading divines of Mashhad--Mulla

Muhammad-Riday-i-Sabzivari, the mujtahid, Mirza Nasru'llah, and

Haji Mulla 'Abdu'llah, the mujtahid of Kashan--gave him lessons and

directed his studies of jurisprudence and theology. As soon as

opportune, he was resolved to go to the holy cities of 'Iraq to sit

at the feet of the great divines there and obtain from them the

writ which would entitle him to Ijtihad.[1] He stayed six months

in Karbila and four months in Najaf, adding all the time to his

knowledge. Thus, at last, he reached at Samarra the circle of the

greatest Shi'ih divine of his age, Haji Mirza Muhammad-Hasan,

Mirzay-i-Shirazi, who was a second cousin of the glorious Bab. For

two years Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza attended eagerly upon him, until

at the end of that time Mirzay-i-Shirazi gave him the certificate

of Ijtihad. Even more, from that unmatched divine he received

further incentive to strengthen his faith in the Revelation of

Bahá'u'lláh. We cannot be certain that Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza

then knew that Mirzay-i-Shirazi was related to the Báb. One day he

asked the Mirza: 'What do these Bahá'ís say?' and was answered: 'Go

and investigate'.

[1. The power of the Shi'ih divine to issue ex cathedra decrees and


Having received his writ from Mirzay-i-Shirazi, Prince Abu'l-Hasan

Mirza went on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. From Hijaz he

returned to 'Iraq, and stayed another year in Samarra. Then he

turned homewards, a mujtahid given his authority to practise by no

less a person than the great Hujjatu'l-Islam, and a man of profound

learning, possessed of a remarkable poetic talent, a fiery and

eloquent speech, and an able pen. He had also the advantage of

royal descent, and enough of this world's riches to dress

resplendently. He had already been noted with great reverence by

Muhammad Ibn ar-Rashid, the Emir of Jabal, while a pilgrim to

Mecca, and had composed a poem in Arabic praising the emir.

Now, in Mashhad, Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza soon made his mark in the

pulpit. People flocked to hear him preach. The governors of

Khurasan held him in high respect and he had the support of

Mu'taminu's-Saltanih, the Vazir of Khurasan. All went well, until

Mirza 'Abdu'l-Vahhab Khan, the Asafu'd-Dawlih of Shiraz, was

appointed the Vali of the province. Gradually, relations between

Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza and the haughty grandee of Shiraz became

Page 146

strained, until it became impossible for the prince to stay any

longer in Mashhad. He fled to Quchan, where he found a haven with

Husayn-Quli Khan, the Shuja'u'd-Dawlih, hereditary chief of Quchan,

who had also lately given his allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh, and his

protection saved Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza from the evil designs of

Asafu'd-Dawlih. Shuja'u'd-Dawlih was not only powerful; he was, as

well, a man of iron will and action, who would not suffer fools


His character is portrayed in an incident involving the celebrated

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali (the 'Angel of Mount Carmel') and two

companions, who were once set upon by a mob of some two thousand,

incited by a divine named Mulla Kazim whom Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali

had worsted in debate in the presence of Shuja'u'd-Dawlih. Mirza

Haydar-'Ali suffered grave injuries. With his clothes tattered and

blood-stained, bare-headed, shoeless, bleeding from wounds, he just

managed to stagger into a village. The people there took pity on

him and made him comfortable. (Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali writes that

Bahá'u'lláh had foretold what would befall him.) When

Shuja'u'd-Dawlih learned of this event in his own territory he flew

into a terrible rage and ordered condign punishment for all the

culprits amongst whom were theological students. He had their

school closed. Even Mulla Kazim, who was an influential man in his

own sphere, was not spared the lashing of his tongue. Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali was brought into Quchan, where, he writes, he was

besieged by some three to four hundred weeping women and children

begging him to intercede for their menfolk whom Shuja'u'd-Dawlih

had punished and detained.

Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza stayed for one year in Quchan. But a man

of his talents and accomplishment, if he was to reach the public,

required a much wider field than was afforded by a small township

in a corner of Khurasan. He first wrote to Mirza 'Ali-Asghar Khan,

the Aminu's Sultan and grand vizier of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, and put

his case before him. He also sent to Kamran Mirza, the

Nayibu's-Saltanih, son of Nasiri'd-Din, a couplet which has gained

fame, and took the road to 'Ishqabad. And this is that well-famed

couplet,[1] the last line of which is borrowed from a ghazal of


[1. The original poetic line is longer than a line in translation.


0 Nayibu's-Saltanih, tell the sovereign, good and true, to

That a man of Khurasn to him this letter wrote:
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Asaf and the land of Khurasan be thine to boot,

We took the road to Love, mosque or temple is of little


Nasiri'd-Din Shah also used a couplet to reply, taking his last

line too from the same ghazal of Hafiz:

Nayibu's-Saltanih! Tell the Khurasani, a man of spite,

Thus did the Shahanshah to thee this letter indite,

Asaf, good or bad, thine own steps thou watch,

For no one will, in thy account, the sins of others write.

It should be noted that the name of 'Ishqabad, the city to which

Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza went from Quchan, means the 'City of

Love'. The Prince's arrival at that city, the home of a

considerable number of Baha'is, caused a sensation. However, he did

not stop there for long, and was soon on his way to Istanbul,

whence he embarked on a second pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. On

his return, he stayed for two years in the Ottoman capital--the

metropolis which Bahá'u'lláh had designated as 'Madiniy-i-Kabirih'

(the Great City)--commanding the respect of high and low alike. His

profundity of knowledge, mastery of language and lucidity of both

tongue and pen, made him an outstanding, highly respected figure

in the leading circles of the Turkish capital. Even Mirza Aqa

Khan-i-Kirmani, who could not have been unaware of his allegiance

to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, could not but praise him.

The Persian ambassador, Shaykh Muhsin Khan, the Mu'inu'l-Mulk, whom

Bahá'u'lláh commends in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf for his

sense of justice, encouraged the prince to return to Persia, saying

the authorities would make amends for the past. Abu'l-Hasan Mirza

was almost certain that these promises would remain unfulfilled.

Yet he went back. Aminu's-Sultan received him with due

consideration, presented him with a diamond ring, and wrote to

Ruknu'd-Dawlih, a brother of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, who was, by then,

the governor-general of Khurasan, to treat him with respect. It was

rumoured that the Sadr-i-A'zam had promised the prince the

custodianship of the sacred Shrine at Mashhad. This rumour made

Ruknu'd-Dawlih so jealous that he joined hands with the old enemies

of Abu'l-Hasan Mirza, and had him detained and banished to

Kalat-i-Nadiri. There Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza suffered hardships.

As soon as he was freed, he went back to Mashhad, collected his

family, and
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once again took the road to 'Ishqabad in the spring of 1892. Then

he began a tour of the renowned cities of Transoxania, such as

Samarqand and Bukhara. From Transoxania he passed on to Caucasia,

and in that area, too, the Persian residents gathered round him

with expressions of reverence and goodwill.

Next, we find him again in Istanbul and once again embarking on a

pilgrimage to Hijaz, after which he returned to Istanbul and stayed

for nearly a year. He was received by Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid, which

aroused suspicion at the Persian Embassy that, because of his

shabby treatment at home, he might plot with 'Abdu'l-Hamid against

Iran. Finding it best to leave the Ottoman metropolis, he went to

take his leave from the Sultan, who presented him with a bejewelled

snuff-box. Now, at long last, Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza set his face

towards the Holy Land. He reached Beirut, Jerusalem, and then the

city of 'Akka.

Abu'l-Hasan Mirza was a confirmed Bahá'í and, by his own admission,

while at Quchhan he had been honoured by a Tablet from Bahá'u'lláh

which had set him afire, evoking from his superb poetic talent one

of his finest odes. He arrived at 'Akka as a guest of the

Mutasarrif. The notables of the city, hearing that a distinguished

member of the Royal House of Iran was staying in the residence of

their governor, called on him to pay their respects. 'Abdu'l-Bahá

also visited him in the house of the Mutasarrif. It was a brief

visit. Abu'l-Hasan Mirza, although a Baha'i, had not fully

comprehended the station of the Centre of the Covenant. He spoke

boldly in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and continued smoking a

water-pipe. A few days later he returned 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í visit. A

number of Bahá'ís were present when he arrived and they witnessed

'Abdu'l'Baha walking with him slowly and speaking to him--words

which they did not hear. Then all of a sudden the whole mien of the

prince changed. He had been walking shoulder to shoulder with

'Abdu'l-Bahá; now he drew back to follow Him. He became far more

attentive. When he left, it was seen that tears had reddened his


When Abu'l-Hasan Mirza (whom we shall henceforth call

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is) came to depart, 'Abdu'l-Bahá told him to teach the

Faith, but with great circumspection. The Master knew that should

the prince become too well known as a Baha'i, both his enemies and

the adversaries of the Faith would be so infuriated that their show

of hostility and acts of hostility would be redoubled. In a Tablet

Page 149
Page 150

addressed to the Hand of the Cause Ibn-i-Abhar, 'Abdu'l-Bahá laid

particular stress on this fact: the imperativeness of not allowing

the true allegiance of such eminent men to become common knowledge.

He did not even mention Shaykhu'r-Ra'is by name in that Tablet, and

referred to him as 'the illustrious man of Khurashan'.

We do not know how and when it was that Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza

received his designation of Shaykhu'r-Ra'is. But gradually, he came

to be called by that renowned title, and hardly ever Abu'l-Hasan

Mirza. From the Holy Land he went to India. Bombay was his first

port of call, which he reached early in 1894. In Poona, Sultan

Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III (then seventeen years old) offered him

hospitality in his palace at Yevorda with signal honours. They were

related. The mother of the Aga Khan, Lady 'Ali Shah

(Shams'ul-Muluk) was a granddaughter of Fath-'Ali Shah. Even more,

the mother of 'Ali Shah, Aga Khan II, was Sarv-Jahan Khanum, the

twenty-third daughter of the same Qajar monarch, a paternal aunt

of Shaykhu'r-Ra'is.
Page 151

Then Shaykhu'r-Ra'is made a tour of the subcontinent, and about a

year before the assassination of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, he returned to

Iran and resided for a long time in Shiraz. The fact that he was

a dedicated follower of Bahá'u'lláh had become well known. It is

related that at one time, when he came face to face with

Nasiri'd-Din Shah, that capricious monarch remarked that

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is had brought shame both to his status as mujtahid,

and to his position as a Qajar prince. In Shiraz, Shaykhu'r-Ra'is

continued to make use of the pulpit. His powers of speech and his

eloquence were such that, despite the overt displeasure of some of

the divines, people flocked to hear him. However, Haji Shaykh

Yahya, the illustrious Imam-Jum'ih of Shiraz, was very friendly.

Finally, opposition to him mounted high and he took the road to

Isfahan, where he met open hostility from Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi,

known as Aqa Najafi.

One reason apparently for the departure of Shaykhu'r-Ra'is from

Shiraz was the altercation between Muhammad-Rida Khan,

Qavamu'l-Mulk III, and Malik Mansur Mirza, the Shu'a'u's-Saltanih,

Governor-General of the province of Fars, who was a son of the

reigning monarch, Muzaffari'd-Din Shah. Shaykhu'r-Ra'is took the

side of the Prince-Governor. Added to the ill-will of powerful

divines, Shaykhu'r-Ra'is had also to contend with the opposition

of the
Page 152

imperious and powerful Qavamu'l-Mulk. So he was forced to quit

Shiraz. Shu'a'u's-Saltanih was also forced to leave his post.

According to a remarkable book by Majdu'l-Islam of Kirman, which

bears the title Tarikh-i-Inhilal-i-Majlis--The History of the

Dissolution of the Majlis (Parliament)--both Zillu's-Sultan (Mas'ud

Mirza) and Aqa Najafi were displeased by Shaykhu'r-Ra'is's

intention to visit Isfahan. Zillu's-Sultan took himself away for

the time being; thus he evaded offering hospitality to the visitor.

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is cabled Mu'ayyidu's-Saltanih, the head of the

Telegraph Office in Isfahan, to rent a house for him.

Mu'ayyidu's-Saltanih was also a prince of the Qajars, as well as

a Baha'i. Observing the attitude of the Governor of Isfahan and Aqa

Najafi (whom Bahá'u'lláh referred to as the 'Son of the Wolf'),

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is decided to prolong his visit. Anything else would

have been an admission of defeat. Within the spacious house rented

for him, he made arrangements to make use of the pulpit. Here too

his eloquence attracted large crowds which further infuriated the

jealous Aqa Najafi. Prominent Bahá'ís of Isfahan, such

Page 153

as Mirza 'Ali Khan-i-Sarraf (Money-changer) and Aqa

Muhammad-Javad-i-Sarraf, were to be seen oftentimes serving and

supporting Shaykhu'r-Ra'is. All these happenings were noted by Aqa

Najafi and his men, who were biding their time to strike, and

strike hard, at the Bahá'ís of the city of 'Abbas the Great. They

could not touch Shaykhu'r-Ra'is: for one thing, he was a very

distinguished member of the Royal House; for another, the public

was enchanted by him.

At last Shaykhu'r-Ra'is, having successfully defied both

Zillu's-Sultan and Aqa Najafi, left for Tihran. Soon after, Iran

was plunged into the revolution which led to the establishment of

constitutional government. Shaykhu'r-Ra'is chose to play a leading

and conspicuous part in that revolution. His intervention was

contrary to the clear advice given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá that Bahá'ís

should keep out of that struggle, although it ought to be said that

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is had involved himself at an early date.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, learning of the involvement of Shaykhu'r-Ra'is, wrote

that Bahá'ís should keep silent in regard to him. Then came the

coup d-e'tat of Muhammad-'Ali Shah in June 1908 and the bombardment

of Baharistan, the seat of the Majlis (Parliament), together with

the arrest of a sizeable number of the leaders of the

Constitutional Movement and the execution of
Page 154

some of them. Shaykhu'r-Ra'is was amongst those detained and

Take away this chain from my neck, 0 Shah!

And make a chain of people to thee indebted, 0 Shah.

Thus did Shaykhu'r-Ra'is now petition the stubborn monarch who had

thrown his country into chaos and confusion, breaking his oath into

the bargain. Shaykhu'r-Ra'is was pardoned and set free. He admitted

that he had reaped the harvest of disobedience. 'I failed to obey

my Master', he said, 'and I had to pay the penalty.' Whatever

penalty he paid was through action by forces of despotism.

'Abdu'l-Bahá never reproached him.

Now, Shaykhu'r-Ra'is gradually retired from public life. He once

again visited 'Ishqabad. In Mashhad, he had to meet the challenge

of the newly-formed Democratic party, led by Mirza Muhammad, known

as Aqa-Zadih, son of Mulla Muhammad-Kazim-i-Khurasani, the

celebrated pro-Constitutionalists divine who was resident in 'Iraq.

A famous ode composed by Shaykhu'r-Ra'is was printed, and thousands

of copies were widely distributed to prove to the public that the

veteran prince was a Baha'i. One day a number of theological

students stopped Shaykhu'r-Ra'is, as he was about to enter the

Shrine of Imam Rida, telling him that as he was a 'Babi', he could

not be allowed to enter the sacred precincts. Their action was

instigated by the Aqa-Zadih, supported by the

Governor--Nayyiru'd-Dawlih, himself a Qajar prince--who sided with

him. And Shaykhu'r-Ra'is had to take once more the road to


At last old age was telling on Shaykhu'r-Ra'is and he became a

recluse. He died in the year AH 1336 (17 October 1917-6 October

1918) and was buried in a room next to that which harbours the

grave of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, within the precincts of the Shrine of

Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim. The Aqa-Zadih, in Mashhad, carried his vendetta

beyond the grave; he declared openly that should the remains of

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is be brought for interment in the holy city, he would

consign them to flames.

Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza, the Shaykhu'r-Ra'is, bore proudly a title

which had belonged to one of the greatest savants of all time. By

his indirect method and his most effective use of the pulpit he

guided many a soul to the truth of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.

His poetic talent produced a long and wondrous ode on the Advent

Page 155

Bahá'u'lláh, with its refrain, 'tamashshi kun, tamasha kun'--'walk

on and witness'. Here are two of its lines:

The One, by all beloved, stepped out of the Realm Unseen,

On His visage, indeed, the Light of Truth can be seen.

Captivated is the world by His beauty rare!
Walk on and witness.
Lo, by bounty and grace is the Earth replete,
Lo, the Effulgent Light of the Godhead
From a Human Temple shines!
Walk on and witness.

Similarly striking is the ghazal which Shaykhu'r-Ra'is composed in

praise of 'Abdu'l-Bahá:
The King whose crown 'Him Whom God hath purposed'
doth proclaim withal,

After the Ancient Beauty is Sovereign unto all.[1]

[1. Bahá'u'lláh refers to 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as 'Him

Whom God hath purposed'.]

His poem in Arabic, commemorating the construction of the Shrine

of the Báb, remains unmatched. His rejection of Mirza

Muhammad-'Ali's pretensions is emphatically, powerfully and

eloquently worded.

To him 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed the following Tablet:

The Lamp of the Assemblage of the high-minded, the Prince of the

enlightened, Shaykhu'r-Ra'is: May he be a ray of God, and a

dazzling moon!

O kind Friend! What thy musk-laden pen hath inscribed bestowed joy

and brought delight. It was not a dew-drop, but an ocean; not a

lamp, but a beam of sunlight. Praise and glory be to God, Who hath

endowed Creation with such beatitude and conferred such

tranquillity upon the hearts, and by imparting heavenly knowledge

made the friends stars of the East, brilliant moons, so that they

would enkindle the Light of Understanding, and with the showers of

the rain of their utterance make human hearts the envy of meadows

and rose-gardens. O kind Friend! The All-Bountiful God guided thee

and led thee to traverse mountains and deserts to reach the City

of thine ancestors. That Land stood in great need of one mighty

soul like that loving friend to enter therein, engage in

discussion, show the Way of God, embellish the assemblage of men

with mysteries unveiled, and watch over their spiritual lives so

that they might abide under the shade of the tree of hope. Thou

shouldst speak forth, wax eloquent, divulge the hidden secrets,

share the Word of God, inaugurate a school of the Kingdom and give

instruction in heavenly Books, ignite a shining lamp and burn down

the veils of the imaginings of the ignorant. May thy soul be joined

to the Beloved. (Unpublished)
Page 156
A Stalwart Teacher of the Faith

As far as the records of history show, Mirza Mahmud-i-Furughi is

the only Iranian Bahá'í teacher who was given the chance to meet

face to face a Shah of the Qajars, for the purpose of making him

comprehend the nature and the aim of the Bahá'í Faith, and to set

his mind at rest by assuring him that Bahá'ís are not anarchists,

that they do not wish to jeopardize the tranquillity of the realm

and foment rebellion and contention. That monarch was

Muzaffari'd-Din Shah, the ruler whose edict terminated autocracy

in Iran.

The meeting of Mirza Mahmud with Muzaffari'd-Din Shah lasted

Page 157

more than two hours and the details of that historic encounter are

given by Mirza Mahmud in a short autobiography which he, at last,

consented to write. It is a very precious document. Later, we shall

note the circumstances in which he wrote it, after having resisted

for long the demand for a comprehensive autobiography.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, commenting on the meeting between Muzaffari'd-Din

Shah and Mirza Mahmud, wrote: 'Consider how a servant of the Abha

Beauty, all alone, outwardly bereft of all aid and assistance,

converseth in the way he did with such a person, proveth equal to

the task, and causeth wonder.' (Quoted in Sulaymani, vol. 3, p.


Mirza Mahmud came from a remote village in Khurasan named Dughabad,

which was situated in the environs of Turbat-i-Haydariyyih.

Bahá'u'lláh honoured that village with the designation of Furugh

(Splendour, Light). That is why Mirza Mahmud is known as Furughi.

Fadil-i-Furughi--the Savant of Furugh--is also an appellation by

which he is remembered.

Mirza Mahmud had as his father a distinguished survivor of Shaykh

Tabarsi: Mulla Mirza Muhammad, who, prior to his conversion to the

Faith of the Báb, was a highly-respected and influential Shi'ih

divine. Mulla Mirza Muhammad's grandfather was a man of Isfahan,

but it was in Khurasan that his grandson, the great cleric who was

destined to become a devoted follower of the Báb, had his fulcrum

of power. Whenever people had a grievance or had actually been

wronged by a government official, they appealed to Mulla Mirza

Muhammad. He always thoroughly investigated any case brought before

him, and if his findings showed that an official had been guilty

of a misdeed he would personally take action to redress the wrong.

No matter how highly placed the malefactor was, he could not escape

the sentence decreed by the cleric of Dughabad, who would even send

a deputy-governor to gaol.

Then came the Call of the Báb. There were genuine seekers in the

area of Turbat-i-Haydariyyih, but there were also quite a number

seeking only their own gain and concerned only with lining their

pockets. These hypocrites simulated great interest and told Mulla

Mirza Muhammad that they wished him, in whom they placed their

trust, to investigate the claim of the Báb for them. That was the

way to get rid of the 'meddlesome' cleric, they thought. And so

they provided him with a horse and offered him the expenses of his

journey. A few men volunteered to accompany him. Mulla Mirza

Muhammad set out
Page 158

on his quest and hearing that Mulla Husayn had gone towards

Mazindaran, he took the same direction. Of those who had

accompanied him, some, finding it toilsome to cover vast distances,

and also being unsure of their motives, turned back. But five brave

and sincere men stayed with him and went with him into the fortress

of Shaykh Tabarsi. Their names ought not to be forgotten. They were

Shaykh 'Ali of the village of Faydabad, Mulla Muhammad of Mahnih,

Aqa Ahmad and Mirza Hasan Khan of 'Abdu'llahabad, and Mulla

'Abdu'llah of Dughabad. Meeting Quddus and Mulla Husayn left them

in no doubt that the Call of the Báb was not of human invention,

that it was indeed divine.

Thus the renowned and just cleric of Dughabad became one of the

heroic defenders of Shaykh Tabarsi. As he had no desire for

martyrdom, Quddus assured him that he would leave Shaykh Tabarsi

with his life spared. Now we see a man who had never had to wield

a sword or a dagger, who would have been mightily astonished, a

year before, if someone had put a sword in his hand and totally at

a loss as to how to use the unfamiliar weapon, one who knew only

the law, its intricacies and its applications, for whom

fortifications and battlements and trenches were phantasmagoria

removed from the world of reality, going out of Shaykh Tabarsi,

sword in hand, to drive away the relentless enemy. He was wounded

five times by bullets or sword; but as promised by Quddus he came

through. Triumphantly he returned to Dughabad to inform those

ringleaders, who had sent him to Mazindaran in search of truth,

that he had indeed found it. A few accepted his testimony and

embraced the Faith of the Báb. But the hard of heart, desirous only

of material gain, with little concern for justice and truth,

leagued together to rid themselves, once for all, of this

troublesome cleric who had dared much and come home with laurels

of faith and certitude. Mulla Mirza Muhammad was ordered by the

authorities to go to Tihran. He obeyed, but once again returned to

Dughabad. Further incensed, his adversaries planned afresh to have

him cast out of Dughabad.

Their intrigues bore fruit. Mulla Mirza Muhammad was arrested and

put in chains. Mirza Ahmad-i-Azghandi and twenty-two others from

Azghand were also chained and taken to Mashhad in the company of

the undaunted survivor of Shaykh Tabarsi. Their internment in the

citadel of Mashhad lasted a long while, but when release came Mulla

Mirza Muhammad, now a devoted follower of
Page 159

Bahá'u'lláh, went back for the third time to his village. He was

old and frail and infirm, but he had testified to truth to his last

breath, and he had a son of the stature of Mirza Mahmud to don his

mantle. 'Azizu'llah Sulaymani, the biographer of many of the

prominent teachers of the Faith, recalls the person and the

personality of Furughi, a memory of the days of his childhood in


Of middle height, he was a dignified figure possessed of an

attractive and handsome face, a thick beard which was dyed and a

commanding voice. Dressed in the garb of the divines, his speech

and his demeanour reflected his inner strength. One particular

distinction of this man was the fact that he never, never engaged

in backbiting, and no one in his presence ever committed

backbiting, so much was he held in high respect. And if anyone

wanted to break the code, he was denied the chance to proceed, for

in whatever meeting Furughi was present, from start to finish, he

kept people entranced by the recital of scriptures, the narration

of the services and sufferings of early believers, and by relating

something of his own life. (Sulaymani, Masabih-i-Hidayat, vol. 3,

pp. 420-21)
Such a man was the son of Mulla Mirza Muhammad.

A Bahá'í of 'Ishqabad has recalled a particular occasion, a Friday

Page 160

evening, when believers had gathered in that part of the

Mahriqu'l-Adhkar specified for meetings and a booklet had reached

them from the Bahá'ís of the United States, conveying the news of

fresh victories. One of the young men asked Mirza Mahmud whether

he might read from that booklet for all to hear. As the young man

began reading, it was 'Allahu-Abha' that came first. Immediately

Furughi stopped him and, turning to the audience, said: 'Your

brethren in America have greeted you. Let us make our response.'

They all stood up, as Furughi had done, and their voices rang out:

'Allahu-Abha'. They could be heard several streets away. Thus did

the Bahá'ís of 'Ishqabad reciprocate, at Furughi's bidding, the

greetings sent them by American Baha'is.

Furughi always paid particular attention to the welfare of the

youth: not only their upbringing in the spirit of the Faith, but

also their civilized behaviour. But he was never impatient, never

autocratic. Kind and considerate, he led the youth gently to better

manners, better understanding, better conduct. And he was

exceedingly modest. Time and again he had been asked to write his

autobiography. He would have had a rich tale to tell. What he

considered important, however, was not the record of his own

person, but the record of the victories of the Faith. It was only

when he was assured that the Greatest Holy Leaf, with the approval

of the Guardian of the Faith, was eager that he should write the

story of his life, and he was given a note-book in Haifa to fill,

that he took up his pen and wrote, regrettably not at length, but

long enough to make the reader see the mettle and the true

greatness of this dedicated Baha'i. When, in his early youth, he

went with a fellow-believer on his first teaching trip, visiting

a number of localities in his native province of Khurasan, he

presented an account of his journey to Bahá'u'lláh. In response a

Tablet was revealed in his honour:

Verily, We were with thee when thou didst journey away from home,

and didst travel in the land to propagate the Cause of thy Lord,

the Ruler of this world and the Kingdom. We heard thy call giving

the Most Great Announcement, and thy words regarding this wronged

Exile. (Quoted in Sulaymani, Masabih-i-Hidayat, vol. 3, p. 431)

Before long Furughi's zeal and eloquence roused the fury of the

divines of Dughabad. Their clamour caused the Governor of the

district, who was a grandson of Fath-'Ali Shah, to send Furughi to

Mashhad. From his prison-cell there, he managed secretly to send

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a petition to Nasiri'd-Din Shah. His appeal was so worded that it

touched the heart of that cruel monarch who issued orders for the

release of Furughi. As it became known that Furughi would be set

free, the clerics of Mashhad began agitating. The Governor-General

of Khurasan yielded to their demands and banished Furughi to Kalat,

a corner of Khurasan which has seen scores of exiles. Such were the

qualities of Furughi that the Governor of Kalat fell under his

spell. And one day that benevolent man gave him the shattering news

of the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh. Furughi was so grief-stricken that

it seemed his senses would part from him. He began a three-day

fast, breaking it each sunset with only a drink of water, and

prayed throughout the night. On the fourth night, Bahá'u'lláh

appeared in his dreams. The consolation which that dream imparted

to Furughi gave him new life.

Now, the Governor of Kalat asked him to occupy the pulpit every

day, recite the sufferings of the House of Muhammad, and give the

people good advice in the ways of faith. Furughi did as he was

bidden. The power of his speech, once again, caused the clerics to

league themselves in opposition to him. They took their case to the

Governor-General of Khurasan, alleging that Mirza Mahmud had robbed

half of the inhabitants of Kalat of their true faith, had led them

astray. The Governor-General, a weak man, was frightened, and

ordered the good Governor of Kalat to send Furughi away to

Bajgiran, which was a frontier post. The Governor was naturally

very annoyed, but Furughi remained calm and composed and left the

safety of Kalat with confidence. Bajgiran was close to 'Ishqabad,

and the Bahá'ís of that renowned city came and took Furughi away.

He was a free man at last. That was his first journey outside his


After a short sojourn in 'Ishqabad, Furughi went on to the Holy

Land: his first pilgrimage. 'Abdu'l-Bahá took him to Bahji, to the

Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. Furughi, after many a month of tests and

hardship, had found his paradise on earth. A few yards away from

the Shrine stands the stately Mansion where Bahá'u'lláh lived and

where He ascended to His Kingdom. And at this point of time, when

Furughi experienced the supreme thrill of lowering his brow on the

threshold of the Shrine, in the presence of the beloved Master,

there lived in the Mansion that infamous band of men and women who

had the temerity to violate the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.[1] They

had been conspiring for long to undermine the position of

'Abdu'l-Bahá. He,
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Page 163

the forgiving Master, had tried to protect them from the

consequences of their devilish designs. The more assiduously He

endeavoured to save them and protect them, the more blatant became

their impertinence; until a time came when 'Abdu'l-Bahá, compelled

by the demands of the trust reposed in Him, had to take measures

to cleanse the Community of the Most Great Name of the poison which

the violators of the Covenant were instilling into it. During this

first pilgrimage of Furughi still only a few of the Bahá'ís had

come to know of the treachery of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the

arch-breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. Furughi, amazingly

perspicacious, was one of them. The warning imparted by a tradition

of Islam had found its verification in the spiritual

susceptibilities of this very gifted man of Khurasan: 'Beware of

the perspicacity of the believer, because he observes with the

light of God.'
[1. See Balyuzi, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, chap. 5.]

One day, a son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali came in with a dish of

tangerines and laid it before Furughi. 'Sarkar-i-Aqa' (His

Excellency the Master), he said, 'asks you to distribute this dish

of fruit amongst the friends.' 'And who is Sarkar-i-Aqa?' Furughi

asked. 'Why, of course,' replied the son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali,

'it is Aqay-i-Ghusnu'llahi'l-Akbar' (the Greater Branch, Mirza

Muhammad-'Ali). Furughi shook his head. 'No!' he exclaimed. 'The

only Sarkar-i-Aqa is Hadrat-i-Ghusnu'llahi'l-A'zam' (the Most Great


Many years before, Mirza Diya'u'llah, a full brother of Mirza

Muhammad-'Ali, had presented a request to Bahá'u'lláh on behalf of

'Aqa'. He was asked, 'Who is Aqa?' Mirza Diya'u'llah replied,

'Aqay-i-Ghusn-i-Akbar'. And Bahá'u'lláh very sternly reminded him

that there is only one 'Aqa' (one Master); others have names--but

He who is totally 'Aqa' is 'Ghusn-i-A'zam' ('Abdu'l-Bahá).

Furughi did not stop at telling the son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that

there was only one 'Master'. He made it clear that anyone who broke

the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and waxed proud before the Most Great

Branch would forfeit any title or station he had. A branch which

is dried only serves as fuel: no more, no less. And then he

instructed the son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali to take the dish of fruit

away. But, it is related, because the Covenant-breakers had not,

as yet, come into the open, Furughi was apprehensive. Had he

overstepped the mark and talked out of turn? It was not his, he

pondered, to make public the defection of the members of the family

of Bahá'u'lláh. But when he was once again in the presence of

'Abdu'l-Bahá, the smile of the
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beloved Master reassured him that all was well. On a table he saw

a dish piled up with tangerines. 'Abdu'l-Bahá picked up one, peeled

it Himself and offered it to Furghi. He knew then that indeed he

had acted rightly, that the beloved Master had approved what he had


Next, we find Furughi in Cairo, where the matchless Mirza

Abu'l-Fadl was, at that time, resident. At a large gathering of the

Baha'is, Furughi took up the theme of- the Covenant and the

necessity of
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obedience, unreserved and unqualified, to Him Who was the Centre,

the Pivot of the Covenant: the Most Great Branch. Once again

Furughi was very outspoken. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl intervened to ask

Furughi to exercise a measure of restraint. Furughi retorted at

once that in the field of oratory he had not become so unsaddled

as to have to call out, 'O Abu'l-Fadl! Rescue me.[1] Besides,' he

continued, 'do you not know that the Master, in a Tablet with which

He has honoured me, has said: "be a leader of this legion"?' As

soon as Mirza Abu'l-Fadl heard this reference to the Tablet of

'Abdu'l-Bahá, he stood up, went close to Furughi and said, 'I am

the very first person to kiss the knee of this commander!' Furughi,

too, was immediately on his feet. Those two men, both truly great,

embraced each other and kissed each other's cheeks. The union of

the fidelity and constancy of these spiritual giants galvanized the

faith of all who witnessed it. The shafts of hate and malice flung

by the faithless could never pierce the armour thus forged.

[1. Abu'l-Fadl was the patronymic of 'Abbas, a brother of Husayn,

the third Imam, who suffered martyrdom with him at Karbila. He is

always invoked by the Shi'ites for help.]

The Egyptian journey over, Furughi set out for home. His arrival

at Tihran caused a great stir. Bahá'ís gathered in their hundreds

to hear him speak of the beloved Master, of His all-encompassing

love, of the treachery of the Covenant-breakers, of the triumphs

of the Covenant. The news of these gatherings reached the ears of

Nayibu's-Saltanih (Kamran Mirza, governor of Tihran). And he was

alarmed. Are the Bábis hatching a plot to seize power, was his

immediate reaction, fantastic as it sounds! He set spies to find

out who the newcomer was, and how many these 'Babis' were. At one

gathering, his minions counted nine hundred pairs of shoes shed

outside the room. Then Nayibu's-Saltanih ordered the detention of

Mirza Mahmud. Officials went in search of him, discovered his

house, and not finding him at home laid hold of his servant, a

Bahá'í named Siyyid 'Ali, who readily confessed his faith and

marshalled arguments to prove the truth of his beliefs.

Nayibu's-Saltanih listened to Siyyid 'Ali and then told him to go

home and inform his master that Nayibu's-Saltanih desired to meet


As soon as Furughi received that message, he wrote a letter to the

prince, intimating that he would keep a tryst the next day. He had

no fear, although his fellow-believers thought that he would be

walking into the lion's mouth. However, Furughi could not be

persuaded to
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change his mind. Moreover, he had made a solemn promise which he

could not, would not revoke. A man notorious for his wild ways had

only recently embraced the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, bidding farewell

to his indulgences. His name was Abu'l-Qasim, his nickname Khammar

(Vintner). Furughi asked Khammar whether he would be prepared to

hold the reins and lead his horse to the gates of the palace.

Khammar was delighted and felt proud to serve Furughi in that

manner. But arriving at the prince's residence, Furughi was

informed that Nayibu's-Saltanih was too busy to receive him that

day; would he come on the morrow? The following day, once again,

Nayibu's-Saltanih was said to be much occupied.

It was on the third day that Furughi was admitted to see the

prince. Nayibu's-Saltanih expressed astonishment at Furughi's

fearlessness. He had had full opportunity to take himself to a

place of safety; instead he had kept his tryst. In a corner, away

from others, a rug was spread for the two of them to sit and talk.

Some lettuce and a bowl of syrup was brought to them for

refreshment. A knife was there too for cutting the lettuce. At that

moment the Prince referred to Bahá'u'lláh as Mirza Husayn-'Ali.

Furughi was greatly angered. Upbraiding the Prince for his display

of irreverence, he asked for the knife. 'What do you want it for?'

Nayibu's-Saltinih remarked. 'To cut my throat, that you may drink

my blood' was Furughi's answer. 'It seems that your thirst has not

been slaked; perchance, drinking my blood may give you

satisfaction.' Seeing Furghi thus enraged, Nayibu's-Saltanih made

an attempt to pacify him and asked, 'Tell me, what is your view of

Him?' Furughi replied: 'He [Bahá'u'lláh] lives on two planes; one

is the human plane which is common to all; that is the plane

alluded to in the Qur'an: "I am a human being like you, to whom

Revelation comes."[1] Then there is the Divine plane, the plane of

Lordship, which lies beyond human understanding. The Prophet

[Muhammad] has thus spoken of it: "For me, in relation to God,

there are various stages: once He is I and I am He."'[2]

[1. 18:110.]

[2. Paraphrase of an Islamic tradition on the authority of the

Prophet, quoted in Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh,


Next Nayibu's-Saltanih put this question to Furughi, 'I am told

that you are convening many meetings; do you intend to cause

mischief?' Furughi knew that Nayibu's-Saltanih would ask him

something on those lines and was prepared. 'Your Royal Highness,'

he said, 'our
Page 167

books are in your possession; you can easily verify what they

teach. Moreover, our community is composed of all sorts of people.

Within every community you find both good men and bad men. We hold

our meetings to warn the wayward, to still uncontrolled passions,

to help the people distinguish clearly that which is right from

that which is wrong. These are our reasons for holding meetings,

for bringing men together, and not to foment discontent and

disorder. Holding these meetings is also to your advantage. In the

early years of this Faith, some of its followers, because of their

ignorance of the true purport of the teachings of the Báb, made an

attempt on the life of the sovereign which led to great upheavals

and suffering. That event was never repeated, because at our

meetings we help the people to be on their guard and not to slip

into negligence and waywardness.' Nayibu's-Saltanih was greatly

pleased to hear all this and replied to Furughi: 'Now I am assured.

I am satisfied and know that Bahá'ís mean no harm. Go, and hold

your meetings. No one will try to stop you.'

As Furuyhi came out of the orchard, he noticed Abu'l-Qasim, the

vintner, disengaging himself from the shelter of a tree. Very

astonished, he asked Abu'l-Qasim what he was doing there in the

prince's orchard. Khammar replied that, knowing the precarious

situation in which Furughi had been placed, he had stealthily come

into the orchard with a revolver, intending to use it were the

prince found to have devilish designs. He definitely meant to shoot

the prince. Now, he asked, in such a case would he have been

forgiven, or would he only have added one more transgression to all

the rest? Furughi told him that it was a question not at all easy

to answer, but at the earliest opportunity he would present it to


Time passed. One day, Aqa Jamal-i-Burujirdi, still ensconced within

the ramparts of the Faith, made a remark which was obviously

impertinent. He faulted 'Abdu'l-Bahá regarding an opinion which He

had expressed. It so incensed Furughi that he immediately jumped

up and pulled the cushion on which Aqa Jamal was sitting away from

him, saying, 'You have waxed so insolent as to match the

perspicuous text with your puny understanding.'

Before long Furughi returned to 'Ishqabad. In that city, now

teeming with Baha'is, a young man had been guilty of an offence,

and the believers asked Furughi to teach him a lesson. So when this

young man approached Furughi he slapped him hard in the face. The

offender realized immediately what that slapping was meant to

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convey. 'I am sincerely sorry' he said, 'and I regret what I have

done.' The next day he brought a bag of silver and gave it to

Furughi, to give a Feast on his behalf when in the Holy Land.

When Furughi found himself in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, he was

moved to offer his life as a ransom, so grievous were the Master's

sufferings at the hands of the Covenant-breakers. 'You wish to be

relieved of this world and repair at the earliest to the presence

of Bahá'u'lláh,' observed 'Abdu'l-Bahá. 'But, no, you must live.

And the Covenant-breakers will soon receive their desserts.'

One day 'Abdu'l-Bahá pointed out to him a ship which was about to

depart and worked out his itinerary for him. Then Furughi,

remembering all that he had missed or forgotten, the questions that

he had not asked, felt at a loss, wondering what he could do. As

he was pondering the matter, 'Abdu'l-Bahá got up to walk away and

told Furughi to follow Him. When He had gone a little way ahead,

He turned to Furughi and said, 'There is little time left. Tell me,

what did you say to Abu'l-Qasim-i-Khammar, outside the Amiriyyih

garden?' Furughi was taken aback and tried to explain it

implicitly, but 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, 'Tell me in your own words'.

Furughi replied, 'I made it all dependent on the bounty of the

Master.' Then 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied: 'Do you not know your Qur'an?

Is it not written there that "Good deeds blot out misdeeds?"[1]

Give him my greetings and tell him that his transgressions

committed previously are forgiven, but leave those ways alone in

[1. An Arabic proverb.

Next, 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked him what he had done to Jamal-i-Burujirdi.

Furughi said that because he matched the text with his own verdict,

'I pulled away the cushion on which he was sitting'. 'The Blessed

Perfection inspired you to do what you did,' 'Abdu'l-Bahá said. 'He

has joined the Covenant-breakers. Tell the friends to beware of him

and not to be beguiled by him.'

Then 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked him, 'What did you do to that young man in

'Ishqabad? Furughi replied: 'I punished him in front of the

people.' 'What you did was wrong,' said 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

* * * * * * * * * *

[Electronic editor's note: In the Foreward to this book, p. x,

Moojan Momen writes: '...the present writer has contributed short

accounts... [The] additions are clearly indicated in the text ...

where the added material follows a line of asterisks.']

'This type of person should be chastised in private. But God has

forgiven both your wrong and his.'

Furughi returned to Iran by the route that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had

Page 169

indicated, visiting a number of towns and encouraging the

believers. In Tihran, he delivered 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í reply to the

overjoyed Abu'l-Qasim-i-Khammar. Then a few years later he returned

to the Holy Land. Here 'Abdu'l-Bahá indicated to him that he would

be beaten and persecuted for the sake of the Faith; He also

foretold the assassination of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, instructing

Furughi to warn the believers in Iran to be on their guard. And so

it occurred.

On the way back, Furughi visited the Bahá'ís of Abadih. While there

he was set upon by an angry mob and severely beaten. He only just

escaped death in that town. Later in Tihran, Nasiri'd-Din Shah died

at the hand of one of the disciples of Siyyid

Jamalu'd-Din-i-Afghani, and although there was an attempt to lay

the blame at the door of the Bahá'ís this was thwarted. It was

shortly after this that Furughi was given an opportunity of meeting

the new Shah, Muzaffari'd-Din, and of apprising him of the tenets

of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in such a manner that the Shah was

induced to look favourably upon it.

At this time Furughi fell ill and a physician pronounced his case

to be beyond hope. But undaunted, Furughi asked permission to go

to the Holy Land. Although very ill by the time he arrived there,

he was brought back to complete health by 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í

ministrations. He returned to Tihran and went from there to Yazd

in order to answer a challenge by the mujtahid Siyyid

'Aliy-i-Hayiri to an open debate. But on Furughi's arrival, Hayiri

pleaded ill-health and would not come forward.[1]

[1. It should be noted that although there were frequent

persecutions of the Bahá'ís in Yazd at this time, Hayiri never

participated in these.]

From Yazd, Furughi proceeded to Khurasan and his home village of

Dughabad. He had been there but a short while when he was set upon

by a mob, beaten and forced to leave the village. He retired to

'Ishqabad for a time before returning to Mashhad. It was in Mashhad

in October 1910 that two men attempted to assassinate Furughi. But

although they discharged their pistols at his chest at close range,

Furughi survived this attack. He returned to Dughabad for a short

time before setting out once more for 'Ishqabad and Egypt where

'Abdu'l-Bahá was at that time resident, following His strenuous

travels in Europe and America. Furughi was sent to Haifa to

announce 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í return in December 1913 after an absence

of more than three years from the Holy Land.
Page 170

On his return to Iran, Furughi again survived an attempted

assassination in Mashhad and retired to Dughabad where he was

frequently under attack from the enemies of the Faith. His last

pilgrimage to Haifa was in the time of Shoghi Effendi, and it was

shortly after his return to Dughabad that he was invited to a feast

by one who pretended to be his friend, but who administered poison

to him during the meal. The poison caused a severe illness that

Furughi's advanced age could not withstand. Within a short while

he passed away, in AH 1346 (AD 1 July 1927 -- 19 June 1928).

Page 171

Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, known as Ibn-i-Asdaq, whom the Exalted Pen

(Bahá'u'lláh) addressed as Shahid Ibn-i-Shahid (Martyr, son of the

Martyr), was the distinguished son of that great veteran of the

Babi Faith, Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani, who, haltered and

in the company of the incomparable Quddus was paraded in the

streets of Shiraz; fought on the battlements of Shaykh Tabarsi

under the banner of Quddus, and came safely through the holocaust;

attained the Day of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', gave Him

his whole-hearted allegiance, served Him with exemplary devotion,

and was honoured by Him with the designation of Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq.

(See p. 7.)

Ibn-i-Asdaq was the son of such a father. He was a boy of tender

years when, together with his saintly father, he was consigned to

the dungeon of Tihran. And he was still in his teens when, in the

company of his father, he travelled to Baghdad, and into the

presence of Bahá'u'lláh. Not only did he have that supreme bounty,

but the Most Exalted Pen moved to reveal a prayer for him, in which

we read these very significant words: 'I ask Thee, O my God! to

give him to drink of the milk of Thy bounty so that he may raise

the standards of victory through Me,--a victory which is Thine--and

arise to serve Thy Cause, when he groweth up, just as, when a

youth, he hath arisen at Thy Command.' (Unpublished)

Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh chose the son of Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq to be a

promoter of His Cause, a faithful servant at His threshold, when

that future Hand of the Cause of God was still a child. And he was

still a child when the hands of the ungodly brought lashes to bear

on his flesh.

Ibn-i-Asdaq craved martyrdom in the path of his Lord. In the Most

Great Prison ('Akka) he attained once again the presence of

Bahá'u'lláh. 'We testify that thou didst enter the prison, that

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didst present thyself and didst stand at the door, and thou didst

hear the words of this Wronged One by Whom all lamps are ignited.'

(Unpublished) Thus again the Most Exalted Pen moved to address him.

Then he supplicated Bahá'u'lláh to grant him the station of

martyrdom. In January 1880 his supplication was answered.

Thou didst beg the Supreme Lord ... to bestow upon thee a station

whereat in the path of His love thou wouldst give up everything:

thy life, thy spirit, thy reputation, thine existence, all in all.

All of these behests were submitted in the most sanctified, most

exalted Presence of the Abha Beauty. Thus did the Tongue of the

Merciful speak in the Kingdom of Utterance: 'God willing, he shall

be seen in utmost purity and saintliness, as befitteth the Day of

God, and attain the station of the most great martyrdom. Today, the

greatest of all deeds is service to the Cause. Souls that are well

assured should with utmost discretion teach the Faith, so that the

sweet fragrances of the Divine Garment will waft from all

directions. This martyrdom is not confined to the destruction of

life and the shedding of blood. A person enjoying the bounty of

life may yet be recorded a martyr in the Book of the Sovereign

Lord. Well is it with thee that thou hast wished to offer

whatsoever is thine, and all that is of thee and with thee in My

path.' (Bahá'u'lláh, through His amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan;

Page 173

Later, we find Mirza Aqa Jan writing again on the same theme,

bringing to Ibn-i-Asdaq the life-imparting words of Bahá'u'lláh:

What thou hadst written regarding martyrdom in the path of God, was

presented and He spoke thus, supreme is His Power: 'We, verily,

have ordained for him this exalted station, this high designation.

Well it is with him that he attained this station prior to its

appearance, and We accepted from him that which he intended in the

path of God, the One, the Single, the All-Knowing, the

All-Informed.' (Unpublished)

In such manner was Ibn-i-Asdaq honoured with the designation Shahid

Ibn-i-Shahid in the year 1882.

It was then that Ibn-i-Asdaq took to the road, moving from town to

town, city to city, visiting large centres of population as well

as rural areas, teaching with all his ardour the Faith of his Lord,

in the path of which he had begged for martyrdom. 'The movement

itself from place to place,' the Most Exalted Pen instructed him,

'when undertaken for the sake of God, hath always exerted, and can

now exert, its influence in the world. In the Books of old the

station of them that have voyaged far and near in order to guide

the servants of God hath been set forth and written down. ' (Quoted

in Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 70-71)

The first time in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh that we encounter the

mention and concept of Hand of the Cause of God is within a Tablet

which He revealed through His amanuensis in honour of Ibn-i-Asdaq,

dated April 1887. 'This evanescent Khadim [Mirza Aqa Jan was called

Khadimu'llah: Servant of God] beseecheth the All-Abiding Lord to

confirm the chosen ones, that is those souls who are Hands of the

Cause, who are adorned with the robe of teaching, and have arisen

to serve the Cause, to be enabled to exalt the Word of God.'


Ibn-i-Asdaq's marriage brought him close to men of high rank,

associated with royalty. His wife, 'Udhra Khanum, entitled

Diyau'l-Hajiyyih, was a great-granddaughter of Muhammad Shah. A

sister of the wife of Ibn-i-Asdaq was married to

Intizamu's-Saltanih, who had entree in the circles of the nobility,

and had already become a stalwart Baha'i. Ibn-i-Asdaq's marriage

took place in Khurasan, the ancestral home of his father,

Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq; and when the newly-married couple moved to

Tihran, they found a home made ready for them by

Intizamu's-Saltanih and his wife, in one of the best residential

quarters of the capital.
Page 174

Ibn-i-Asdaq was thus well placed, well prepared and well equipped

to meet and talk with people who had a hand in guiding the

destinies of the nation: royalty, nobility, priesthood, men of

letters, devotees of learning. It is related that Ibn-i-Asdaq

himself referred time and again to 'hunting the lion rather than

the fox'. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in later years, directed him, in

particular, to stay with the course he had taken: give the message

of Bahá'u'lláh to those who were at the helm. Whilst holding

converse with the prominent men in the capital, Ibn-i-Asdaq was

also undertaking journeys far and wide to teach the Faith. His

travels were not confined to Persia. He visited India and Russian

Turkistan wherein 'Ishqabad was situated. In the historical city

of Marv, Ibn-i-Asdaq began preliminary work for the construction

of a Mashriqu'l-Adhkar; the land for the temple was donated by the

government, and an architectural plan was drawn up which was sent

to the Holy Land. Moreover, he founded a hospice and a junior

school in Marv.

In India, Ibn-i-Asdaq visited Bombay, Lahore and Delhi. In Burma,

he visited Rangoon and Mandalay, and everywhere he met and talked

with men occupying positions of responsibility. At home Ibn-i-Asdaq

pioneered the establishment of teaching classes for the Bahá'í

women of Tihran.
* * * * * * * * * *

[Electronic editor's note: In the Foreward to this book, p. x,

Moojan Momen writes: '...the present writer has contributed short

accounts... [The] additions are clearly indicated in the text ...

where the added material follows a line of asterisks.']

Page 175

The years immediately following the passing of Bahá'u'lláh were

difficult years for the Bahá'í community. The breakers of

Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant were active in Iran, spreading their claims

and causing agitation and bewilderment. Ibn-i-Asdaq, in conjunction

with the other Hands of the Cause, countered the activities of the

enemies of the Faith, travelling throughout Persia to explain to

the believers the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and confirm them in it.

'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed the Hands of the Cause to establish in

Tihran a Spiritual Assembly to administer the affairs of the Faith.

The Hands of the Cause were appointed permanent members of this

body that
Page 176

eventually evolved to become the National Spiritual Assembly of the

Bahá'ís of Iran.

Ibn-i-Asdaq was the instrument whereby 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í Treatise on

Politics (Risaliy-i-Siyasiyyih) was presented to the Shah and

distributed among the notables of Iran. 'Abdu'l-Bahá also made him

responsible, with Ahmad Yazdani, for delivering in person the

Tablet addressed to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace

at the Hague, in 1919.

Ibn-i-Asdaq was fortunate to be in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on

several occasions as a pilgrim. On the last of his pilgrimages, he

was in Haifa for some thirty months and left shortly before

'Abdu'l-Bahá'í ascension.

Back in Iran, Ibn-i-Asdaq continued to travel and serve the Faith

until his death in 1928 in Tihran.
Page 177
The Honest Merchant of Mashhad

Aqa 'Azizu'llah-i-Jadhdhab, the merchant, whose honesty so

surprised Mirza 'Ali-Asghar Khan, the Aminu's-Sultan, as to declare

him to be an angel, came from the Jewish fold. (See p. 55.)

Mashhad is a holy city and it had had a sizeable Jewish population.

They suffered considerably at the hands of unruly fanatics. As

happened in Europe in medieval times, when Jews were forced to

renounce their faith although many of them whilst ostensibly

professing Christianity kept to their old allegiance, so it

happened in Mashhad in recent times. Let Lord Curzon tell us what

occurred in Mashhad, during the reign of Muhammad Shah:

There still exists a considerable number of Jewish families in

Meshed, although the practice of their own worship is strictly

forbidden, and is only pursued in secret. The story of their

enforced conversion to Mohammedanism[1] in the year 1838 is well

known, and has been repeated by more than one traveller. Dr.

Wolff,[2] who was twice at Meshed, both before and after the

incident, described it in these terms:

[1. It is both incorrect and insulting to speak of Islam as

Mohammedanism. Fortunately the use of that designation has been

largely abandoned. (HMB)]

[2. Dr Joseph Wolff (father of the British diplomat, Sir Henry

Drummond-Wolff) himself came from the Jewish fold but had converted

to Christianity. He was highly polemical. (HMB)]

The occasion was as follows: A poor woman had a sore hand. A

Mussulman [Muslim] physician advised her to kill a dog and put her

hand in the blood of it. She did so; when suddenly the whole

population rose and said that they had done it in derision of their

prophet. Thirty-five Jews were killed in a few minutes; the rest,

struck with terror, became Mohammedans. They are now more zealous

Jews in secret than ever, but call themselves Anusim, the Compelled

Ones. [Narrative of Mission to Bokhara in 1843-1845, vol i p. 239,

and vol. ii p. 72]

Wolff does not add--what is necessary to explain the sudden

outburst--that the incidents of the Jewess and the slaughtered dog

unfortunately occurred on the very day when the Mohammedans were

celebrating the annual Feast of Sacrifice.[3] Superstition and

malice very easily aggravated an innocent act into a deliberate

insult to the national faith; and hence the
Page 178

outbreak that ensued. There is much less fanaticism now than in

those days; but it still behoves a Yehudi [Yahudi], or Jew, to

conduct himself circumspectly and to walk with a modest air in

Meshed. (Persia and the Persian Question, vol. 1, pp. 165-6)

[3. The tenth day of Dhu'l-Hijjah: 'Id al-Adha or 'Id-i-Qurban.


It must also be added that the poor Jewess could not bring herself

to slaughter the stray dog they had cornered. A Muslim was asked

to do it for her, and it was this man, perhaps out of fear, who

dashed about shouting that the Jews were guilty of insolence and

deliberate affront, offering for sacrifice a dog on the day when

sheep or camels are sacrificed in memory of the act of Abraham.

Whatever the case, the Jews of Mashhad, dwelling in the quarter of

the city called the 'Idgah, paid heavily in human lives on that

tenth day of Dhu'l-Hijjah. Some fifty of them suffered death, their

synagogue was demolished, their Torahs consigned to the fire. It

is reported that only one Torah remained; it had been secreted in

a safe place. Then, as that forcible conversion took shape, the

holy city came to have a Jadid-Khanih (New House): the quarter of

the Jadidu'l-Islam (newly converted to Islam).

Of course it is impossible to say how many of those repressed Jews

genuinely became Muslims and how many remained attached to their

old faith. But there was one Jew in Mashhad of whose true

allegiance we have ample evidence; he was Mulla Hizqil (Ezekiel),

known as Namdar, the father of Aqa 'Azizu'llBh. Mulla Hizqil was

a merchant, but he was also very learned, and held classes to teach

his pupils the Torah, the Talmud and other religious works. Even

more, he had a copy of the Mathnavi of Jalali'd-Din-i-Rumi, written

in Hebrew characters, from which he taught his favourite pupils.

Some twelve years prior to that episode of forcible conversion,

Mulla Hizqil invited Mirza 'Askari, an eminent Muslim divine of

Mashhad whom he knew personally, to give him the word of testifying

to utter. He told Mirza 'Askari that studying Torah and other holy

scriptures had convinced him of the truth of Islam. So, years

before the tumult of 1838, Mulla Hizqil had, of his own accord,

become a Muslim, but no one in his family other than his wife, and

certainly none of his pupils, knew of it. Then one day, when

engaged in reading from Rumi's Mathnavi, he turned to his eldest

son and said: 'Shamuyil [Samuel]! Holy scriptures indicate that

today is the day of the Advent of that greatest Manifestation of

Yahweh [Jehovah], Who is the Redeemer of all. I shall be leaving

this world, but beware lest you all remain heedless.'

Page 179

Aqa 'Azizu'llah was two years old when his father died, and under

his mother's care he grew up mindful of his religious duties.

However, when he was eight years of age, and attending a Muslim

school in their quarter, one day a boy tried to cheat him, not

giving back to him some of his writing materials which he had

purloined. Another boy intervened and ordered the cheat: 'Give it

back to him; these people are still Jewish.' Aqa 'Azizu'llah, not

being cognizant of his own origins, was terribly hurt; he told his

mother, 'I will never go again to that place for my lessons; today,

a boy insulted me and called me "Yahudi" [Jewish].' His mother

explained their situation to him, of which the boy had been totally

ignorant, and it revolted him. At that early age, he decided to

revert to the Faith of his forefathers. His mother had said to him:

'Being Yahudi meant that we are descendants of Yahuda, the son of

Jacob. We have been forcibly converted to Islam; but your own

father had, years before that forced conversion, by his own free

will come into the Islamic fold. During that awful night of

massacre and murder, at the instance of Mirza 'Askari, who himself

had given your father the word of Shahadat [testifying] to utter,

we were all taken to the house of Aqa Rajab, who was called Rajab

Bahadur. We ourselves remained safe, but all that we possessed was

pillaged.' Horrified, Aqa 'Azizu'llah ceased going to that Muslim

school for his lessons, and at a tender age started trading. And

he became a master in his work.

Now, the divines of Mashhad had appointed one among themselves to

keep a close watch over the Jadid-Khanih. All the Jadids, even old

ones over seventy, were expected to attend congregational prayers,

and no kosher meat was allowed. Despite all these pressures Aqa

'Azizu'llah was determined to take up the Jewish Faith. He asked

a cousin to teach him the Torah in secrecy, and he never left his

home on a Saturday to avoid setting his eyes on the face of a

Muslim on the Sabbath.

Thus the matter stood with Aqa 'Azizu'llah until the martyrdom of

Badi', who was a youth of Khurasan. Aqa 'Azizu'llah had a

half-brother named Aqa Shahvirdi, who had already, unbeknown to

all, embraced the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. One day Aqa Shahvirdi came

to speak of the courage of that youth and of his glorious

martyrdom. It was the first time that Aqa 'Azizu'llah had heard the

name 'Baha'i' and wanted to know more, but his brother, well aware

of fanaticism all around him, was very circumspect and kept silent.

Two other brothers
Page 180

of Aqa 'Azizu'llah, named Aqa Asadu'llah and Aqa Rahmatu'llah,

resided and traded in the town of Turbat-i-Haydari, whilst he and

Aqa Shahvirdi lived in Mashhad. Aqa 'Azizu'llah's merchandise

consisted mainly of goods in silk and most of his customers were

Turkamans who frequented Mashhad in search of trade.

One day in the year AH 1291 (18 February 1874 -- 6 February 1875),

when Aqa 'Azizullah was newly married, Aqa Shahvirdi came to him

with a proposal: 'I have a very large quantity of damask, the price

has fallen by two-thirds in Mashhad, and more than that there is

no ready cash; if I sell it will have to be against future payment.

But I am told that the market for this fabric is very good at

Badkubih. Should I go there alone and die on the way all will be

lost. Would you accompany me for a month to put this deal through?'

Ties of kinship were too strong and Aqa 'Azizu'llah could not

refuse his brother's request. He gave the charge of his own

trading-house to Aqa Yusuf, one of the Jadids of Mashhad, and the

two brothers set out for the Caucasus. When they reached Nishapur,

Baha'is, such as Shaykh Muhammad-i-Ma'muri (uncle of the martyr,

Shaykh Ahmad-i-Khurasani) and Shaykh Mustafa, came to visit Aqa

Shahvirdi. By then, Aqa 'Azizu'llah was certain that his brother

had become a follower of the new Faith, but, although much

disturbed, he kept his peace. In every town and city they passed

through, there were Bahá'ís whom Aqa Shahvirdi wished to meet and

so he did: in Sabzivar there was Haji Muhammad-Rida (martyred some

years later in 'Ishqabad); in Kushkbagh lived Mulla

Muhammad-i-Kushkbaghi; in Shahrud, Mulla Ghulam-Riday-i-Hirati; in

Badkubih itself (their destination), Mirza 'Abdu'l-Mu'min and Mulla

Abu-Talib; in Shirvan, Karbila'i Isma'il and the family of Samadov.

But everywhere Aqa Shahvirdi would ask the Bahá'ís not to speak to

his brother of their Faith. 'He is a zealot for our old Faith,' Aqa

Shahvirdi would tell them, 'and he will not listen to you.' For his

part Aqa 'Azizu'llah kept silent, and in the homes of his brother's

co-religionists would not touch their cooked food, taking only cups

of tea and boiled eggs offered to him. Thus the two brothers went

about in Caucasia. Badkubih did not provide, after all, a good and

profitable market for damask, and Aqa Shahvirdi thought that he

should try their luck in Tiflis (Tbilisi). He went there by

himself, leaving Aqa 'Azizu'llah behind in the town of Shaki, with

most of their merchandise. The peregrinations of the two brothers

in the Caucasus had taken several months and nowhere had they been

Page 181
able to dispose of their goods profitably.

Aqa 'Azizu'llah then decided to go on alone to the renowned and

historic city of Gandzha (now Kirovabad) where there were better

prospects. Taking his seat in a four-horse carriage (with his

goods) at Shaki, Aqa 'Azizu'llah was put on the alert by the looks

of his fellow-passengers. Had it not been for his sagacity, he

would not have lived to see another day. Although he had learned

some Turkish, he pretended to have no knowledge at all of that

language, and thus, listening to the cartman and the other

passengers talking in Turkish, he realized that they were plotting

to murder him and steal his goods. Reaching Gandzha, he sought out

Mashhadi Muhammad-Ja'far, the rentier of a well-known caravanserai

of that city, to whom he had a letter of introduction from Haji

'Ali-Akbar, a Persian merchant of Shaki. Through his host he was

rescued from the clutches of the villainous cartman and his

passengers. But being on his own in Gandzha, he apparently did not

take full advantage of the favourable market. Later, it was seen

that a temporary situation created by a Christian festival had

limited his sales.

From Caucasia, the two brothers made their way to Istanbul. It took

them fourteen months in the Ottoman capital to sell all their

silken goods. Aqa 'Azizu'llah, who had abandoned his schooling at

an early age, was most anxious to improve his knowledge. During

those months of travelling he brought his mind to it, and being

well endowed with a high intellect, he made rapid progress. His

brother, Aqa Shahvirdi, had a case with him which contained books

and papers. These he would take out, from time to time, and peruse.

This had not
Page 182

escaped Aqa 'Azizu'llah's notice. One day, when Aqa Shahvirdi had

gone to the bazar, Aqa 'Azizu'llah opened that case and came upon

writings which he realized appertained to the Bahá'í Faith, and

they appealed to him, although he could not fully understand them.

Then he had a dream. Let him recount it in his own words:

In my dream I saw it announced that it was the day of the Advent

of Yahveh of the Torah, the Promise of all the Scriptures: God

watching the march past of all the Prophets and their adherents,

examining their deeds and achievements. I went immediately to the

direction indicated, and I saw a vast plain. As far as the eye

could see people were ranged, rank upon rank. Every Prophet with

His followers was seated facing the Qiblih. I marvelled how my eyes

were empowered to see them all. Facing all these ranks and ranges

of people, a Blessed Being was seated on a two-tiered chair,

speaking. I was standing at the end of these ranks and ranges. That

Blessed Being was more than fifty years of age, and had a long,

black beard and a green taj on His head, made of green silk. He

beckoned to me with His hand to go to His presence. With both hands

I pointed to the people, meaning to say, how could I get through?

He beckoned with His blessed hands to all those ranks of people,

and they, one and all, prostrated themselves. Then, once again, He

beckoned to me to come. I was hesitant, lest He was summoning

someone else. Then, when He beckoned a third time, I started to

move, walking over the people who were prostrated, one foot on a

back, another on a head, until I reached Him, threw myself at His

feet and kissed them. He raised me with His blessed hand and said:

'Praise be to God, the best of all creators'.

This dream had a profound effect on Aqa 'Azizu'llah, but he still

remained rooted in his previous beliefs, until he and his brother

reached Istanbul and lodged in Khan-i-Yusufiyan. Whilst there Haji

'Abdu'l-Majid-i-Nishapuri, the father of the glorious Badi', and

a sister of Aqa Husayn-i-Ashchi also arrived at the Turkish

metropolis and took lodgings in the same inn. One day, when his

brother was absent, Aqa 'Azizu'llah sat down with Aba-Badi' (the

Father of Badi') to talk of the Bahá'í Faith and he opened his

heart to him. And soon whatever doubts he had were dispelled. There

and then he gave his total, unhedged allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh,

Whose Cause he served with distinction to the end of his days. Aqa

'Azizu'llah said that he thanked God for the long delay in selling

their merchandise. That delay had kept them in Istanbul and had

made possible the encounter leading him to Truth.

Haji 'Abdu'l-Majid was on his way to the Holy Land. Aqa 'Azizu'llah

requested him not to inform Aqa Shahvirdi, but to mention him in

the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and beg for His bounties.

Page 183

On his return, Haji 'Abdu'l-Majid brought a Tablet addressed to Aqa

'Azizu'llah and permission for the two brothers to go to 'Akka.

When later the hand of the implacable enemy seized Aba-Badi' and

he too drank his fill of the same cup which his son had so

heroically quaffed, it was the destiny of Aqa 'Azizu'llah to give

the remains of that stalwart veteran of the Faith a suitable


Before the two brothers departed from Istanbul they heard the

commotion which preceded the deposition of Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz,

saw the tumult in the Ottoman metropolis, and heard the news of the

overthrow of 'Abdu'l-'Aziz and of his death a few days later. Haji

'Abdu'l-Majid had told them that these events would come to pass,

as Bahá'u'lláh had presaged them. Aqa 'Azizu'llah, young as he was

and elated as he was by his newly-found faith and the news of the

permission to go to the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, did not at first

notice that he had badly injured his hand while using a knife. The

night when Istanbul was thrown into disarray, the injured hand was

so troubling him that he could not sleep. Awake and tossing in his

bed, he noticed that the military were on the move, and the

warships in the straits had all their lights on. And as dawn came

cannons roared: 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, the Sultan who had decreed the

banishment of Bahá'u'lláh, had fallen. That was the first

intimation which Aqa 'Azizu'llah had of the might of the Revelation

of Bahá'u'lláh. And when he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh,

he went down on his knees to kiss His feet. Bahá'u'lláh raised him

up and said: 'Praise be to God, the best of all creators'--the very

words which Aqa 'Azizu'llah had heard in his dream. As he looked

up, he saw that Bahá'u'lláh was wearing a green taj. That too he

had seen in his dream.

Aqa 'Azizu'llah had unreservedly embraced the Bahá'í Faith, but

still certain likes and dislikes of the past persisted. He could

not help preferring kosher meat. On the first day of his arrival

at 'Akka, Haji 'Aliy-i-Malmiri took him to the market-place and

pointed out a butcher's shop to him. Bahá'u'lláh had instructed

Haji 'Ali to show Aqa 'Azizu'llah the shop where he could obtain

the kind of meat he still preferred. Aqa 'Azizu'llah bowed his head

in wonderment. While in 'Akka he came to realize, even more than

before, his disadvantage because of his neglect of his education

in childhood. Appealing to a fellow-believer to teach him some

Arabic every day, he found that a start was made with instruction

in rudiments of Arabic grammar, which further dismayed him. And he

longed for that knowledge of
Page 184

Arabic which would enable him to understand what flowed from the

Most Exalted Pen. He prayed for that knowledge, particularly on

those evenings when, admitted to the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, he

would have the superb honour of hearing Him dictate His verses to

Mirza Aqa Jan. Later on, in Cairo, he discovered to his own

astonishment that he had gained that knowledge.

At last, back in Mashhad after a long absence, Aqa 'Azizu'llah,

because of his fervour and his total dedication to his newly-found

Faith, became a cynosure and widely known as a 'Babi'. He was most

generous and hospitable. Bahá'ís from far and wide frequented his

home. Then, through a mishap, a Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in

honour of a Bahá'í of Mashhad fell into the hands of this Baha'i's

namesake. The incident led to unrest. Aqa 'Azizu'llah's relatives,

particularly some of his nephews, fearing an assault on their

homes, took precipitate action to forestal1 any untoward event.

They seized him, tied his hands and urged him to recant, which he

refused to do despite the persistence of their urging and pleading.

At this juncture, Mirza Aqa Jan Mihdizadih, one of the favourite

pupils of Aqa 'Azizu'llah's father, recalled what that sage had

said regarding the Advent of that Supreme Manifestation of God Who

is the Redeemer of all. Thus reminded, the relatives of Aqa

'Azizu'llah released him, set about investigating and finally did

as he had done: they ranged themselves under the standard of the

Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.

However, a number of the Jadids, moved by fear and jealousy, drew

up a statement to the effect that Aqa 'Azizu'llah was now similar

to gangrene at the heart of the Jadid-Khanih and his baneful

influence would, ere long, totally destroy its life. That malicious

statement was presented to the elders, who, together with Karbila'i

Muhammad-Safi, the man placed at the head of Jadid-Khanih by the

government, went up to the trading-house of Aqa 'Azizu'llah in the

caravanserai of Nasiriyyih. They ordered him to accompany them to

the house of a divine and publicly recant. Should he not do so, he

was told, they would hand him over to the authorities to deal with

and punish as it pleased them. Aqa 'Azizu'llah retorted that he

would gladly accompany them to the presence of the divines, but

then he would tell the clergy that these Jadids, who more than

forty years before were forced to profess Islam, had remained

Jewish, both in their beliefs and in their practices, whereas he,

by embracing the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, had truly recognized the

station of the Prophet, and had come to
Page 185

accept the Qur'an as a holy Book descended from God. Those

hypocrites saw that should they persist in persecuting Aqa

'Azizu'llah, they themselves would be the losers, and crestfallen

they departed and took with them the Head of the Jadid-Khanih.

Henceforth, Aqa 'Azizu'llah began to teach openly and soon the

number of Bahá'ís in the Jadid-Khanih rapidly increased. Some sixty

men enlisted in the community of the Most Great Name, as did the

wives and children of most of them. 'The Most Exalted Pen addressed

them as the children of Khalil [The Friend, Abraham] and the heirs

of Kalim [The Interlocutor, Moses].' (Unpublished Tablet by


Aqa 'Azizu'llah, (whom we shall henceforth sometimes call Jadhdhab,

as this was the surname which he adopted in later years), now went

travelling about in pursuit of his trading activities. 'Ishqabad

(which had a large Bahá'í community) he visited many a time, he

traded in Bukhara long enough for the Amir of that once noble city

of Transoxania to give him a passport, he went as far as Tashkand

(Tashkent) and stayed there for a while. Marv was another historic

city where he lived and traded. Wherever he was, he served the

Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and the interests of his fellow-believers

assiduously and meritoriously. On his third visit to the Holy Land,

in the year AH 1308 (17 August 1890 -- 6 August 1891), Bahá'u'lláh

entrusted to him a particular task to carry out in Istanbul. (See

Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, pp. 399-401.) It was a delicate

task, requiring firmness and sagacity. Jadhdhab performed it

superbly, to the total discomfiture of the Azalis of Istanbul. He

corresponded with Edward Granville Browne and even more

significantly with Tolstoy. In his Materials for the Study of the

Babi Religion (p. 237), Professor Browne lists three letters which

he had received 'From 'Azizu'llah, a Bahá'í Jew of Bukhara. (1) May

24, 1892. (2) May 25, 1892. (3) June 24, 1892.' It was from

Jadhdhab that Edward Browne learned of the authorship of A

Traveller's Narrative. In a letter dated 21 May 1892, written from

Shiraz, the father of the present writer told Edward Browne: 'The

other day a man called Agha Azizullah of Bukhara called on me and

asked for your address saying he wanted to communicate with you

about some important matter--I hope I haven't done wrong in

complying with his request.'
It was at the bidding of 'Abdu'l-Bahá that Aqa

'Azizu'llah-i-Jadhdhab set out to visit Count Leo Tolstoy. Here is

his own account of that unforgettable visit to the great Russian

humanist and writer:
Page 186

After hearing the instructions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and returning from

the Holy Land, left Odessa, on Sunday [sic], 1st Ramadan 1320, AD

14th September 1902, in order to visit Graf Tolstoy: ticket to

Tula, 11 manat and 60 kopek, hiring a phaeton: 7 manat and 60

kopek, driver's tip. [He goes on thus recording his expenses, until

the morning of Thursday:] I started for Yasnaya Polyana, where Graf

Lif [Leo] Ivan Nikolaeyvich Tolstoy lives (expenses 1 manat). On

the way, the conductors said: 'They will not let you enter Yasnaya

Polyana, because the government has expressly forbidden the entry

of any visitors; even his disciples are forbidden. At the railway

station, only a one-minute stop is allowed, and no one is permitted

to leave the train.' I said: 'I am a Persian Baha'i. I have come

specially from 'Akka to visit him, and it is necessary to see him

for some spiritual enquiry.' The two conductors, both of whom were

his friends and pupils, consulted together and decided thus after

some thought: 'There is no alternative', they told me, 'but for us

to let you alight at the signal box, and after passing through the

station tell one or
Page 187

two people to seek you and take you away.' I accepted their offer

and thanked them. It was a very cold night, very dark and it was

snowing. At the signal box where I was let out, it was so dark that

had anyone taken my bedding and valise, by my side, I would not

have noticed and it was so cold that despite wearing a sable

overcoat I was shivering. After the lapse of half-an-hour or more,

two men appeared and very kindly took up my bedding and my valise.

We walked to the station at Nikharnik, where we came upon the

friends of the Graf. They had sent these two men to look for me.

The stove was lighted which well heated the room, and by its heat

we dried our clothes. In the morning, after partaking of tea,

trusting in God, I left my chattels behind and in a droshky drove

to Yasnaya Polyana, where the Graf Lif lived. On the road, I met

a number of his disciples coming away, some riding in carriages and

some on foot. They advised me: 'Do not go any further. The

gendarmes will not permit you to proceed.' But I went ahead, and

stepping out of the droshky at the entrance to the house I met a

gendarme, whom I saluted in Russian. He asked me: 'Why have you

come here?' I said in reply: 'I am a Persian, a Baha'i. There are

some spiritual, mystic matters which I would like to discuss with

the Count.' He said: 'It is forbidden. I am not permitted to allow

anyone to visit him. ' I said: 'May I request to ask someone to

come to take a message from me?' To this they agreed. A few minutes

later someone came. After preliminaries I was informed that he was

Chertkov, a philosopher, who had been banished for two years, and

had recently returned to Russia to visit Graf Tolstoy. Subsequent

to our pourparlers, when he realized that I had come from 'Akka,

bearing messages from 'Abdu'l-Bahá, he went back to the house to

put the situation to the Graf; and when he returned he told the

gendarme, on behalf of the Graf: 'This man has come from 'Akka, a

long way. He has not met me before. He is not one of my disciples

and he is not a Christian. He is a Baha'i, wishing to discuss some

spiritual matters. Let him in to visit me. He will return.' The

gendarme agreed. Chertkov became my guide and led me into a room

specified for visitors.

The Graf had instructed him to let me rest in that room till

lunch-time, since I would be tired, having travelled a distance.

Then we were to meet at lunch-time, to have our talk. I said:

'Although I have not studied Russian, I have been for years trading

in Transcaspian areas, and have become acquainted with Russian

works and press; so I wish to request the perusal of the book which

he [Tolstoy] has recently written, and against which the Christian

clergy of Russia have risen in protest, leading to the present

restrictions.' He [Chertkov] went and fetched me a copy of the

book. After having a wash, I was offered tea. 'I have already had

my tea,' I said. Then I rested for a while. It was Friday [sic],

17 September 1902. From 9 a.m. till noon, I busied myself with the

perusal of the book. Despite my poor knowledge, I understood the

Count's intention. He wanted to say: What harm is there in this

should we, like the Mosaic people and the people of Islam, own that

Christ, similar to other Prophets, was chosen and sent down by God,

yet refrain from injecting the story of the dove and other

imaginings into the
Page 188

minds of the common people, thus making ourselves the

laughing-stock of others. It was just this point which had caused

the clergy to denounce him and had led to his house arrest.

At 1 p.m. I was called to meet him. As it happened, that very day

they had taken away his secretary and put him in the gaol at Tula,

so as to stop his correspondence, because the Graf himself did not

write letters; and his younger daughter had gone to Tula to obtain

the release of the secretary. To meet him, we directed our steps

to a building which stood about three arshins[1] above the ground

level. He was seated on a chair-it was a special chair on which he

could stretch his legs because of pain. After the encounter and

mutual greetings a special table was made ready for Chertkov and

myself to serve us our lunch. On my side, glasses for beverages and

plates had been arranged according to the present usage. Before the

food was brought in, I stated that I did not take alcoholic

beverages, and it was now more than three years that I had ceased

eating meat. He smiled and said, 'I too do not eat meat, but your

avoidance of meat seems to be connected with new teachings.' I

replied: 'Nothing is forbidden, but in a Tablet 'Abdu'l-Bahá has

written that meat is not the natural food for man, and God has not

given man the fangs and the claws for eating meat. How very many

are the Buddhists and the Brahmins who do not eat meat and their

olfactory sense excels others.'... He [Tolstoy] then instructed

that an egg dish be brought for me like his own...

[1. Cubits; a cubit is approximately the length of a forearm.]

Page 189

He then said: 'I do not trust newspapers. Some give praise, some

become abusive. Three times I wanted to find out facts about the

Babis and Bahá'ís and write truthfully about them in my books,

after proper investigation. The last time, twelve days ago, I was

talking with Chertkov over this very matter.' I replied: 'Three

times I set out according to the instructions given to me. The

first time I had messages regarding world peace to deliver to the

High Minister and Commander, Kropotkin. Meeting you and him were

both forbidden. The second time, I had a letter to deliver to

General Kamarov, after which I had to return. And now, this third

time, today is exactly twelve days since I left the presence of

'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akka.'

Then he began to ask me questions. 'Whom do you consider the Báb

to have been,' he asked first; 'when did He appear and what was His

claim?' I replied that the Báb was a young Man and His name was

Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad... Then he asked what the state of the Cause

was after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, and I replied that it was

ever progressing. Next, his query was about the claim of the

Blessed Perfection, and I answered that He was 'the Speaker on

Sinai', 'the Everlasting Father', 'the Spirit of Truth', 'the

Heavenly Father' Whom the Sons of Israel and the Christians expect;

the Return or Advent of Husayn, according to the beliefs of Shi'ih

Islam; and according to the views of the Sunnis the Advent of the

Báb was the Advent of the Mahdi (Mihdi), the Advent of Bahá'u'lláh

was the Second Coming of the Christ; and according to the beliefs

of the Zoroastrians, it was the Advent of Shah Bahram. Briefly, His

Advent accords with the prophecy of Isaiah and Daniel... He has

come to rescue all the peoples of the world from vain imaginings.

To summarize the other queries of Tolstoy and Aqa 'Azizu'llah's

replies. He told Tolstoy of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, its laws and

ordinances and the legislative powers given to the Universal House

of Justice, some of the underlying principles of the Faith, such

as equality of men and women, abandonment of all prejudices, the

oneness of religion. Tolstoy also wished to know whether people of

Faiths other than Islam had embraced the Bahá'í Faith in noticeable

numbers. Jadhdhab gave him a satisfactory answer, adding that he

himself had come from the Jewish fold. He also told Tolstoy of the

Bahá'í School in 'Ishqabad and how it worked. Tolstoy's next query

was concerned with the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, to which Jadhdhab

replied that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was the Expounder of the Book, and His

station was that of total 'Servitude'. He also spoke of the

rebellion of 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í half-brothers, to which Tolstoy

commented: 'It should have been so, that opposition should have

come from the members of the family of Bahá'u'lláh Himself. This

is what has happened to me. I rose up to educate a limited number

of people, and my own son is
Page 190

constantly active in Petersburg, day and night, in and out of the

Court, to bring about my death.'

With these remarks Tolstoy's queries seem to have ended, and the

time had come to give him the message from 'Abdu'l-Bahá, of which

Aqa 'Azizu'llah was the bearer. 'Abdu'l-Bahá wished Tolstoy to

leave an indelible mark in the annals of religion. There have been

many philosophers who have raised their banners high; Tolstoy could

raise his, as a philosopher, even higher, but as a unifier in the

sphere of religion, he could leave a greater mark. Then, it seems,

Aqa 'Azizu'llah asked Tolstoy what he thought of Bahá'u'lláh, after

all he had heard. Aqa 'Azizu'llah writes: 'He raised both his hands

and said, "How can I deny the One who calls out to the whole of

mankind? I tried to educate a limited number of people in Russia,

and you have seen how I have been prevented by the gendarmerie."'

Tolstoy seems to have promised Aqa 'Azizu'llah to write about the

Bahá'í Faith, and had presented him with a number of his books and

photographs. The rest of the day Aqa 'Azizu'llah spent in the

company of Tolstoy's daughter, his secretary (who had been

released), his physician, and Chertkov Zhukovsky. Towards sunset,

he writes, he bade them all farewell and left for Badkubih.

Jadhdhab had lived also in Bombay for a while. He was always at the

service of the Baha'is, and travelled a good deal to teach and make

the Faith widespread. His home was always open to all. Whenever

travelling teachers came to his home, he not only provided

hospitality and afforded them every facility, but would always,

unbeknown to them, put some cash in their saddle-bag, that they

should not find themselves wanting anywhere. His brothers Aqa

Shahvirdi, Aqa Rahmatu'llah and Aqa Asadu'llah were equally active

in the service of the Faith, but he excelled them all. Aqa

Asadu'llah met the death of a martyr in Marv.

Aqa 'Azizu'llah was living and trading in Bayram 'Ali, in the

vicinity of Marv, when the Bolshevik Revolution overtook him. His

factory was seized and so was his trading-house. Then he retired

to Mashhad, his home town. He was now an old man, well-tried and

well-tested. He lived on until the summer of 1935 and passed away

in Mashhad, at the age of ninety-four.
Page 191
He Who Lived in Fire and Was Not
Consumed by It

Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar, designated by the Guardian of the Baha'i

Faith an 'Apostle of Bahá'u'lláh', was born in the month of

Muharram AH 1260--that same auspicious year which witnessed the

dawn of the Day of God. He was the eldest son of Haji Shaykh

Muhammad, entitled Nabil-i-Akbar, a well-known and highly-respected

merchant of Qazvin, and one of the stalwart men of that city--the

city of Tahirih the Pure--who, from earliest times, recognized the

Manifestation of God and paid homage to him. But let Samandar

himself relate his story:

The late Nabil was the son of Haji Rasul, and a grandson of Haji

Rida, famed as Juvayni. Of the public buildings raised by Haji

Rida, only a caravanserai and a wall remain... Haji Rasul was a

merchant. Towards the end of his life he chose to be a resident of

Karbila, where he spent his last twenty-two years, engaged in

visitation and devotions. My late father joyfully sent him, all

those years, all the money he required for his sustenance. Twice

he came home for a short visit. The second time he came, I was a

child and I remember him. He was a pious man, and one of the

Shaykhis. Although he was a contemporary of Haji Siyyid Kazim, he

did not associate with him. But as it happened, when the Exalted

One [the Báb] went to Karbila he met Him oftentimes in the Shrine

of Imam Husayn and was greatly attracted by His mien and devotion.

Such a spark was lighted in the heart of Haji Rasul that it blazed

in His remembrance. Although he had no knowledge of that which had

come to pass, he came to love His blessed Being and felt submissive

towards Him, confessing His superiority.

The best proof of this is the fact that when he came on his last

visit to Iran, my father had become enrolled, a servant in the

Court of the Exalted One. His brother [Samandar's uncle] complained

to their father, saying, 'My brother has joined these people.' The

father was alarmed. 'Why should it be so?' he asked. Then they

talked about the One Who had put forth a claim,
Page 192

and the identity of the Founder of the Bábi Faith. When all was

explained to him, he said: 'The One Whom you name and describe is

a merchant, a turbaned Siyyid of Shiraz, Whom I met many a time

when he came on pilgrimage to Karbila. In all these years that I

have resided in that holy city, I have come across pilgrims of all

sorts and of many a land: siyyids, learned men, mystics, murshids,

noblemen, grandees, commonalty, merchants--all sorts of men. And

I have never met any blessed Being possessed of such humility and

such nobility. Firstly, I do not believe that He has come forth

with such a claim. And secondly, if it were proved to me that that

heavenly Siyyid had indeed made that claim, I cannot consider Him

a man of falsehood. That visage and that brow would never, never

reflect anything but conspicuous truth...' (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp.


[1. All quotations from Samandar are from this book unless

otherwise attributed.]

Samandar states that because his father was a man deeply devoted

to the practices of his Faith, his compatriots had come to call him

Shaykh Muhammad, although he was a merchant. And Shaykh Muhammad

gave his allegiance to Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, then to Siyyid

Kazim-i-Rashti (after the passing of the former). Because his male

issue did not live long, Shaykh Muhammad appealed to Siyyid Kazim

and begged his prayers that he might have a son to survive him. His

wish was granted, and the son who was born next was given the same

name as the Teacher in Karbila; he grew up to be an Apostle of

Bahá'u'lláh. Samandar did not know where and how his father

received the tidings of the Advent of the Báb. But he remembered

hearing of such great personages as the Bábu'l-Bab, Vahid of Darab,

Mulla Jalil-i-Urumi and Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Qazvini (both

Letters of the Living), whom he did not meet. But those whom he did

meet in his father's house make a very impressive list: Mulla

Yusuf-'Aliy-i-Ardibili (another Letter of the Living), Shaykh

'Aliy-i-'Azim, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali (uncle of the Báb), Mirza

Asadu'llah-i-Dayyan, Mirza 'Aliy-i-Sayyah, and the heroic Haji

Sulayman Khan.
Samandar writes:

Because the year of my birth was the same as the year of the Advent

[of the Báb], I being born on the 17th day of Muharram [7 February

1844], ... the sires I have named used to hold me, a little boy,

in their arms and show great kindness . After attaining the honour

of belief, my father repeatedly gained the further honour of

attaining the presence of the Exalted One: in Tabriz, in Maku, in

Chihriq. During his visit to Maku, he received a Tablet from the

Exalted One, in the handwriting of Aqa Siyyid Husayn, the

amanuensis [also a Letter of the Living], which was revealed in

answer to a question presented by him...
Page 193

Of the various episodes and happenings [writes Samandar] which

touched my late father and about which I heard him speak (others

also having knowledge of them), the event of the assassination of

Haji Mulla Taqi[1] is particularly noteworthy. When Haji Mulla Taqi

was murdered in Qazvin, my father was in Tabriz. Soon, however, he

left to return to Qazvin. It was in Miyanaj that he heard the news

of the assassination of a divine of his native town. In Zanjan, he

found out who the murdered divine was. It occurred to him that men

who were makers of mischief might point the finger of accusation

at him and cause great trouble. Upon thinking further, he reached

the conclusion that the date of his departure from Tabriz was known

to a number of men in high position, obtaining their witness by

correspondence would be feasible and easy, and people would have

the perception to distinguish between fact and fiction. On reaching

Qazvln and riding through several quarters, he came upon an

acquaintance who showed great surprise and astonishment at seeing

him at such a time. Out of kindness, he made my father dismount and

walk by paths less frequented to his home. He said, 'I myself will

bring your goods and effects. Part of the wall of your house is in

ruins; reach your home by that way.' My father did as he was told,

and through bypaths and the fallen wall he gained his home. And his

acquaintance brought the luggage and took the goods to the owner

named by my father.

[1. The uncle and father-in-law of Tahirih. (HMB)]

Page 194

I myself was a young boy at the time, but was aware of what was

happening. I was not allowed to see my father, but I did notice the

disposal of the chattels of travel. Witnessing the state my mother

was in, I realized that my father had come home. But instead of

joy, sorrow and lamentation prevailed. My mother was bemoaning the

return of my father. My late aunt kept striking her head and

breast, telling my father: 'Why did you return at such a time?' My

father retorted: 'If you wish, I shall go in these travel-stained

clothes to the governor's house and ask him to write to Tabriz and

make enquiries from a number of well-known merchants who were my

neighbours there in the same caravanserai.' My mother and aunt

replied: 'Alas! it is too late; the time for making such

distinctions has passed. They have put your name at the top of the

list of wanted men and are all looking for you. So demanding are

they that even your brother, who does not share your beliefs and

for that reason is hostile towards you, has found living so

constricted that, terror-stricken, he has gone into hiding in a

subterranean place. Make haste; there is no time to tarry.'

He consented, and was taken to the home of Mashhadi Baqir-i-Sabbagh

(the dyer), who was the husband of the daughter of my aunt. Only

one house separated his house from ours. In it they had a

subterranean room ... which could be reached only in the centre of

an upper room. A plank was placed over the entrance. My uncle, Aqa

Muhammad-Rida, had also been lodged there.

Within two hours a number of farrashes, accompanied by an

executioner and a certain Siyyid Muhsin, appeared outside our

house, knocking furiously at the gate which was not opened to them.

Then they brought a ladder, stormed the house, poured over the wall

and the roof, searched everywhere, and found no one. When they came

over the wall and the roof, I, a little boy, was in the courtyard,

trembling from head to foot. (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 19-24)

Samandar goes on to say that a woman, a neighbour of theirs, told

the murderous crew that a short while before she had seen the man

whom they were seeking, being taken to the other house. That house

too was stormed, but despite a thorough search no one was found

there either. The entrance to the secret subterranean room was well

concealed by the carpet covering the floor. Moreover, the cradle

of a child had been placed over the spot where the entrance might

have been discovered.

At last the tension was eased. Tahirih was taken to Tihran, a move

planned and directed by Bahá'u'lláh. And innocent blood was shed

because of the vindictiveness of the clerics. Shaykh Muhammad could

leave his hiding-place and ride once again to Tabriz, where he set

up his trading-post, as before. Of course the merchants and

traders, with whom he had dealings, wished to know the truth of

what had
Page 195

happened in Qazvin. He related the whole story of the murder of

Haji Mulla Taqi and the confession of the assassin, who was a

native of Shiraz in no way connected with anyone in Qazvin. A few

days later, some men came to the mart seeking him. He was told that

Aqa Mirza Ahmad, the mujtahid, wished to see him. Never having met

that divine, Shaykh Muhammad was rather perturbed by this summons.

Then those emissaries of the mujtahid got hold of his shawl and

dragged him out. A number of muleteers, who hailed from a district

close to Qazvin and knew Shaykh Muhammad personally, came to his

rescue, and in the melee that ensued the Shaykh was severely


But that was nothing compared with what came next. On arriving at

the abode of the mujtahid, Shaykh Muhammad uttered the words of

attestation: 'I bear witness that there is no God save God; I bear

witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.' The overbearing

divine had a few words with him, and then ordered his minions to

bastinado him, a man totally innocent and without any guile or

deception. It was a cold day in the heart of winter. The minions

of the mujtahid threw him on the ground and began beating him.

Spectators crowded round, spitting on his face. Some of them

carried stones and bricks to hurl at him. Still others, adept at

uttering coarse words, began abusing him. Appealing to men with

hearts of stone was useless. His thoughts and his words were

directed to the Primal Point, the glorious Bab. But his eyes could

see the strokes descending upon him, and he noticed a nail getting

looser and looser, about to fall off. That brought a smile to his

lips. At that moment the superintendent or chief constable

(darughih) arrived and immediately noticed that smile. Astonished,

he said to the Shaykh: 'They are killing you and you are smiling!'

It was the darughih's intervention which saved Shaykh Muhammad. He

himself estimated later that he had suffered two thousand strokes.

Now, the mujtahid ordered the chief constable to expel Shaykh

Muhammad from Tabriz. That official managed to move the Shaykh to

his own home, got him a hat to wear, and brought a physician to see

to his lacerated feet. And Shaykh Muhammad answered his questions,

told him who he was and what had brought him to Tabriz. Shaykh

Muhammad knew for certain that if he were publicly expelled from

Tabriz, it would make it impossible for him to carry on trading

even in his own native city. Some of his compatriots, whenever they

Page 196

came to visit him (which was not often), urged him to take himself

away; one of them in particular was very insistent, because he had

his greedy eyes on the bales of silk which Shaykh Muhammad


Then a certain Haji Siyyid Mihdi, also a native of Qazvin, who,

having gone bankrupt, was then engaged in brokerage, found a way

to rescue the Shaykh from his dilemma. He took the case to Haji Mir

Muhammad-Husayn-i-Isfahani, a well-known merchant who was famed for

his benevolence and good deeds. Having heard the story of Shaykh

Muhammad, this merchant sent for the chief constable and instructed

him to have all the merchandise belonging to Shaykh Muhammad moved

to the caravanserai known as Tabataba'i, which he owned. Although

all the rooms there were occupied, they managed to have an upper

room prepared for Shaykh Muhammad. Under the protection of the

Isfahani merchant, the Shaykh found calmness and was freed of

interference by ill-wishers. Next, that same kind and God-fearing

Isfahani merchant interceded with the despotic divine, and obtained

permission for Shaykh Muhammad of Qazvin to stay in Tabriz. For

years, the say& had his trading-house in that caravanserai,

enjoying the sincere friendship of the Isfahani merchant. And Haji

Mir Muhammad-Husayn often visited Shaykh Muhammad, sometimes twice

a week.

When Shaykh Muhammad attained the presence of the glorious Bab, it

is said, he was told by Him: 'They scourged you and you suffered

for My sake; in truth, it was I Who was scourged.'

(Tarikh-i-Samandar, p. 30) Not long after, the Báb and His faithful

disciple were shot in the public
Page 197

square of Tabriz. And within two years of that dire deed, Iran

touched the nadir of inhumanity. In the blood-bath of August 1852,

two more of the Báb's Letters of the Living were made to drink the

cup of martyrdom: Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi, His amanuensis, and the

incomparable Tahirih, while in Tabriz they were about to snatch

away Shaykh Muhammad, but the Isfahani merchant once again

delivered him from the fury of the foe.

Shaykh Muhammad was further honoured by attaining the presence of

Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad at the time when Mirza Yahya was also in

that city. The Shaykh had received a piece of writing from Mirza

Yahya in which he had clearly shown what a poltroon he was. Trying

to hide from all in order to save his life, he had written:

'Whosoever claims to have seen me is an infidel, and whosoever

states that he has heard my voice is one who joins partners with

Samandar writes:

My father intended to retire to Baghdad. He ended his trading

connections in Tabriz, came to Qazvin, and tried to settle his

accounts with his partner by
Page 198

correspondence and close down the partnership. He told me: 'I have

written several times to my partner to send his account, but he has

not done so, and time is getting short for travelling.' I said in

answer to him: 'You see that the soreness of my eyes has greatly

increased; otherwise I would have gone with your permission and

settled the whole affair. Now I fear that because of his

procrastination the time for travelling will lapse and winter will

set in. Therefore I feel that you yourself should go to Lahijan for

a few days, settle your accounts with your partner and, God

willing, return soon.' He replied: 'Yes, I myself would like to go

to Lahijan to see my brother, Mashhadi Muhammad-Rahim, and my

partner, having shared so many years of our lives together, now

that I have reached the end of my journeys and the end of my days.'

Divination was also favourable, and the day after that very night

he made his preparations, bought a horse, and left for Lahijan. A

few days after his arrival there he was taken ill, and departed

from this world soon after. That was in the year AH 1278 [9 July

1861 -- 28 June 1862]. (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 32-3)

Samandar thus continues his narrative:

It is a known fact that in Iran, the children of those who bear

this name [Baha'i] are oftentimes not immune [from opposition] in

bazars and streets. Youngsters and the ignorant often make verbal

attacks on them, particularly at times of perturbation... I myself

have from the days of my childhood suffered hearing such ridicule,

and even to this day such words reach my ears. I wish to record the

account of one of these incidents which has a tale to tell, a

memory for generations to come.

I well remember a time when I was very young, not yet adolescent,

and my father was away. I went to make some purchases from a

grocer's shop at the end of our lane. A few men were idling their

time around that shop. They saw me approaching from afar, and

decided amongst themselves to do me some harm. As I neared the

shop, one of them who was a well-built man, to do a good deed

approached me and, without saying a word, slapped me hard on the

face. I remember that the grocer, knowing that I had come to make

purchases at his shop, stopped them and told them to leave me

alone. Since I had gone to buy some provisions from him, I went

forward and gave him the money. Whilst he was weighing the things,

I could hear those men talking about me. I heard one of them say,

'Is he a bastard or not?' Another said in reply: 'If he was

conceived prior to his father's ratting and becoming a Babi, then

he is not a bastard; but he is one if his conception took place

when his father had already become a Babi.' (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp.

Samandar goes on to say:

Most of the people, high and low, who caused harm to this sacred

Cause had no profit from it, and before long went down in ignominy.

Should I put on paper the full story of all, everything we have

heard and seen, these pages would not suffice. In brief, some of

them were seen fallen on evil days, dying in utmost misery. My

father told me this: 'A good while after the episode of

Page 199

Tabriz and the beating I received there, I found myself in an

assemblage, seated in a place of honour, and noticed a man sitting

in a lowly place whose whole mien and bearing spoke of misery. That

man turned to me and said: "I beseech your forgiveness." "What

for?" I asked. "At one time", he said, "I brought upon you great

suffering." I answered: "If you did what you say you have done, in

the path of God, do not ask for forgiveness; and if you did it out

of selfish desire, turn to God and beseech His forgiveness." Then

he replied: "I and two or three others were the men who caused your

afflictions. We went to the mujtahid and incited him to have you

beaten. They and I were seized by miseries in diverse ways. Forgive

us."' (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 35-6)

The son of such a father as Shaykh Muhammad could not but become

in his turn a pillar of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in his native city

of Qazvin. Throughout his life he followed in the footsteps of his

father, engaged in trade. The glorious Báb had been the son of a

merchant, and had uncles similarly earning their livings. He

Page 200

began trading at the tender age of fifteen. The Prophet of Arabia

traded as the agent of a rich widow of Mecca whom He eventually

married, leading caravans with merchandise along the barren wastes

of Arabia to the fertile lands of the north. Shaykh

Kazim-i-Samandar excelled both in trade and in learning. One of his

teachers was Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, an uncle of Bahá'u'lláh. This

notable of Nur accompanied his nephew, Mirza Yahya, when the latter

hurriedly fled from Iran in a desperate attempt to save his own

life, after having endangered the lives of the members of his

family and the people close to them, in the province of Mazindaran.

On his return from Baghdad, Samandar writes, 'my father kept him

[Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin] in our house, ostensibly to teach me'.

Another tutor of Samandar was Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Ardistani. He was

the one who in very early days suffered indignities in Shiraz,

together with Quddus and Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani. They

were flogged, a noose was fastened through their nostrils, and thus

they were paraded in the streets of Shiraz. Samandar writes:

In the days of my father, in Tabriz, I studied under him [Mulla

'Ali-Akbar] for two years. Then with my father's permission I

accompanied him to Qazvin, whence he went to Ardistan. After the

declaration of the Abha Beauty, he became hesitant for a while,

sunk in his own thoughts. Even in a Tablet, He [Bahá'u'lláh]

commanded me to bear a message to him, this great teacher of mine.

But before long the Will of God prevailed, and that sagacious,

acute and subtle man, subsequent to deep investigation, came

through the test and attained the highest degree of certitude and

knowledge, and engaged in glorifying his Lord and teaching His

Faith until he passed away. (Tarikh-i-Samandar, p. 172)

Following his trade, Samandar was oftentimes travelling to Tabriz,

to Rasht and Lahijan, to Tihran. And as soon as Bahá'u'lláh made

known His Mission, Samandar gave Him his fealty. He was already

familiar with the follies of Mirza Yahya, but as he puts it


I did not know the extent of his folly. A certain Mulla

'Abdu'r-Rahim, a believer of early days, had written a letter to

Mirzk Yahya, and he had answered him in his own handwriting, with

which I was familiar. One of the questions which he [Mulla

'Abdu'r-Rahim] had asked was this: some physicians prepare pills

with the flesh of serpents, and sometimes they mix it with other

ingredients and make an electuary. At other times they prescribe

the cooked meat of a serpent to cure certain ailments. Is it lawful

to partake of such flesh? That man, Azal, had written an answer in

Arabic. These were his words: 'Is there a dearth of things to eat,

that you wish to eat serpents and
Page 201

scorpions?' Yes, that answer made me see that that man was more

stupid than I had ever thought him. His answer showed that he had

not understood the question. (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 138-9)

Samandar was always engaged in search of knowledge. At the same

time as he diligently attended to his business transactions, he was

continuously delving into his books, making a thorough study of all

the Scriptures of the past, learning all the time. Samandar has

left his own testimony indicating his unceasing effort to find

truth and investigate it with an open mind. He writes of his

studies of the Old and New Testaments, of the text of the holy

Qur'an, of traditions of Islam. He takes his stand on the

exhortation of Bahá'u'lláh to consort with all peoples, with men

of all Faiths, in peace and in harmony. According to his own

admission, he even tried to apply the test of independent

investigation to the writings of Azal, Mirza Yahya, whom he calls

'Mir'at' (Mirror). (He had been designated thus by the Báb.)

Samandar writes: 'I did whatever was in my power to investigate,

to discover, to evaluate. Not a whiff of truth did I ever find

coming from the direction of the Mir'at. On the contrary,

malodorous is all that is wafted from his bourne...'

(Tarikh-i-Samandar, p. 144)

In the year AH 1291 (AD 18 February 1874 -- February 1875)

Samandar, in the company of Haji Nasir (one of the survivors of

Shaykh Tabarsi), attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. That

pilgrimage inspired Samandar to start on the road to his destiny:

to become a pillar of the Faith, an Apostle of Bahá'u'lláh.

Nine years later, that year when the rage of Nasiri'd-Din Shah and

his two unprincipled, avaricious sons--Mas'ud Mirza, the

Zillu's-Sultan, and Kamran Mirza, the Nayibu's-Saltanih--exploded

into wholesale arrests and imprisonment of the followers of

Bahá'u'lláh, Samandar had to clear the hurdle of mischievous

misrepresentation by a man who, in later years, came to see the

enormity of his deed. There was in Qazvin a Mulla 'Ali, a man of

many talents. The present writer remembers the praises spoken of

him by the Hand of the Cause of God, Tarazu'llah Samandari, who had

received tuition from him. Samandar (Tarazu'llah's father), having

found Mulla 'Ali to be receptive and willing to listen, had led him

to full recognition of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, and afterwards had

provided him with a home in his own house where he became a tutor

to his son. He was called Mu'allim (Teacher) par excellence.

Page 202

Mulla 'Ali had a nephew who was hostile towards the Cause of

Bahá'u'lláh. In the first instance, he showed his displeasure at

the arrangement which resulted in his uncle's change of residence.

He did not wish him to live in the house of a Babi! Having failed

to prevent it, he went about telling tales and bringing grave

accusations against Samandar. As Samandar himself writes:

He carried on his vendetta to such an extent that the government

became really suspicious. 'My uncle', he said, 'has been kept a

prisoner by this Babi. He does not allow him to leave the house.'

Therefore the governor sent his farrash-bashi and a number of

farrashes, together with the plaintiff himself, to put the matter

right. As it happened, the Mu'allim had gone on a journey with Aqa

Muhammad-i-Qa'ini, known as Fadil, to accompany him part of the

way, leave him at a certain spot, and return [to Qazvin].

(Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 44-5)

Then Samandar refers to the events in the capital, the arrests made

there and the possibility of the unrest spreading to other places.

He goes on to say:

I had come home from the market-place. My son came with a letter

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Tabriz bearing the news at the end of it that 'This very minute a

telegram arrived from Yazd to the effect that Varqa has been

accused and detained'. My son went back to the bazar, and I was

sitting sunk in my thoughts when a hard knock was heard on the

gate. It was the second gate. And soon the farrashes poured in,

saying that they had come to release Mulla 'Ali. I thought they had

come to get me. (Tarikh-i-Samandar, p. 45)

Samandar tried then to rescue his papers, but they espied him and

held fast to him. He was carried out of his house and subjected to

close questioning. All that while the nephew of Mulla 'Ali was

lashing him with his waspish tongue. But Samandar kept calm and

told his tormentors that they could search everywhere in the house

for Mulla 'Ali, but they would be wasting their time because the

Mu'allim was not there; he had been there, but had gone away. He

was returned to his home, while the search went on, which was in

vain. Samandar's household was naturally alarmed, the women and

children distressed, but he asked for a hubble-bubble to be brought

for him and the farrash-bashi. They sat down quietly by the

flower-bed and had a smoke together, while the intense search

continued for Mulla 'Ali. Once the farrashes were satisfied that

the man whom they sought was indeed not in that house, they

prepared to leave, taking Samandar with them. They realized they

had made a great mistake, but no one was prepared to admit it. In

the meantime the rabble was growing in number, and the

ill-intentioned nephew of Mulla 'Ali was becoming louder with his

denunciations. Samandar was threatened with death, but as dignified

as ever he kept calm and unruffled. While the mob was thickening

and chaos increased, the deputy-governor made his appearance. He

and the farrash-bashi took counsel together and came to the

conclusion that Samandar was telling the truth and others were

prevaricating. He was allowed to return home accompanied by

farrashes who were suitably compensated.

Now, back at home, Samandar was given letters that had come from

Tihran. They all conveyed the news that Bahá'ís were being

arrested, and more of them would certainly soon be seized. For the

time being, however, there was a pause, because Sultan-Murad Mirza,

the Hisamu's-Saltanih, had died. This despotic and self-willed

uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah had in his time caused misery and

hardship in the realm. Bahá'ís too had suffered at his hands.

Samandar and his compatriots in Qazvin had been warned to take

precautionary measures before they were engulfed. Samandar writes:

Page 204

This matter caused fresh alarm. It was decided that I should leave

that night and go to a place not well known, and see what the

unknown morrow would bring. I told my cousin, who, in those days,

was with me in the trading-house, to send a number of sugar-cones

as a gift to the farrash-bashi... In the darkness of the night, I

gained the residence which was in an obscure quarter. Within two

days, a telegram came from Rasht announcing that my cheque had not

been met. The owner of the goods concerned had rushed to my house

and to my place of trading, demanding his money. But I had no ready

money available. (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 48-50)

Then Samandar proceeds to explain that it was obvious that

adversaries were at work; otherwise there was no reason for

dishonouring his cheque. Next he moved to another house, more

distant than the previous one. The owner of this second house, in

Samandar's own words, was of the 'people of the Evangel' (the New

Testament: i.e. Christian). 'He showed the utmost kindness,'

Samandar writes. 'He even told me that whatever money I required

to go away he would put at my disposal.' But Samandar had sixty

tumans brought from his own trading-house, which he left in the

care of his host. Samandar had decided to leave because all the

news coming from Rasht was bad. The Bahá'ís in charge of his

trading-house--Haji Nasir and his son--had been detained. He was

on the point of leaving his home town when he received a message

from a relative, advising him to consult with a few others before

taking an irrevocable step. So, Samandar tells us, he rode the

following night to the home of that relative, where two other

Bahá'ís had been called to meet him. The man who was owed one

hundred tumans had called several times demanding his money.

Samandar, as he states himself, had intended to pay him in kind

from the goods in his warehouse. One of those present offered to

lend Samandar five hundred tumans right away, which he was

reluctant to accept. But the host, a very wise man, intervened to

persuade Samandar to accept the loan. Thus the creditor was paid

the next day. Samandar states that when he came to pay back the

loan, the lender refused to charge him any interest.

Samandar had to stay nearly three weeks in the house of this

relative, and then a well-known siyyid, also a merchant, who was

highly esteemed in Qazvin and was not a Baha'i, escorted him to his

own home; and no one dared to lift a finger against him.

Samandar's own deliverance from grave dangers was dramatic, but he

had soon to mourn the cruel loss of a dear and close friend: no

Page 205

a person than Haji, the survivor of the holocaust of Shaykh

Tabarsi, in whose company he had attained the presence of

Bahá'u'lláh. Haji Nasir was thrown into prison, as was his eldest

son, Aqa 'Ali. As a result, Samandar's business activities in Rasht

were totally halted. Considerable effort was required to prove to

the authorities that the prisoners were agents for Samandar and did

not own the trading-house in Rasht. In the meantime, Haji Nasir,

now advanced in years, could not withstand the rigours of

incarceration and passed away, a martyr in the path of Bahá'u'lláh.

When his corpse was brought out of the prison the rabble of the

town assaulted it, tore his eyes out of their sockets, cut off his

nose, and subjected the lifeless body to divers insults. A decent

burial was denied to it. It was dragged to a ruined spot and there

pelted with stones until well covered.

The Mu'allim, Mulla 'Ali, when he returned to Qazvin sought out a

friend in the service of the government, and presented his case

proving the falsehood of the accusations brought against Samandar.

The governor intended to arrest Mulla 'Ali's nephew, who had been

the cause of all the mischief. But the young man fled the town,

only to come back, years later, apologetic and remorseful. And

Mulla 'Ali returned to his post, tutoring the sons of Samandar. In

appreciation of the services of Mulla 'Ali, Bahá'u'lláh instructed

Haji Amin[1] to present to him an 'aba on behalf of Himself. The

Mu'allim, as Samandar himself has written, lived for nearly

thirty-six years in the home of that incomparable promoter of the

Faith. Such are the words of Bahá'u'lláh, immortalizing the

life-long service of Mulla 'Ali:

[1. Haji Abu-l-Hasan-i-Amin-i-Ardikani, the Trustee of the


We have accepted that which he hath achieved in the path of God,

the Lord of all the worlds. Say: O Mu'allim! Thou art the first

teacher who hast attained the good-pleasure of God and hast been

mentioned by Him in His conspicuous Book. We bear witness that thou

hast attained that which was sent down from My holy Kingdom and

recorded in My Most Holy Book, and thou didst observe that which

thou wert commanded by thy Lord, the Supreme, the All-Powerful.

Verily We have ordained these verses to be thy recompense for that

which thou didst accomplish in the path of God, and have sent them

unto thee that thou mayest render thanks unto thy Lord, the

All-Commanding, the All-Knowing. Thereby have We immortalized thy

name and made it to be remembered in all of the centres of learning

in the world. Verily, thy Lord is the Omnipotent, the Almighty.

Rejoice by reason of what hath flowed from My Most Exalted Pen in

the prison of 'Akka, as a token of Our grace unto thee and unto all

who have held firmly to the Cord
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that no man can sever. Glory be unto thee and unto all learned men

who have come to recognize this mighty Cause. 0 Samandar! Convey

to him that which hath been revealed for him. God willing yet

another revelation of loving kindness will reach him. A garment of

honour will also be bestowed on him, though it be only a robe. But

that robe is, in the sight of God, more valued than that which the

kings and rulers possess. 0 Samandar! The Mu'allim hath attained

unto that which most of the people are unable to comprehend. Verily

thy Lord is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. (Quoted in

Ishraq-i-Khavari, Ma'idiy-i-Asmani, vol. 8, p. 193)

Samandar attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akka twice, and

went for a third time on pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the

early years of the Ministry of' 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Of his first

pilgrimage to 'Akka he writes:

In the month of Sha'ban AH 1290 [October 1873] this servant, with

bales of merchandise consisting of silk and coarse silken material,

left Qazvin for Rasht, accompanied by Haji Muhammad-Hasan, the

goldsmith, my own maternal uncle (who had his wife and

mother-in-law with him), Haji Mulla
Page 207

Baba, Kallih-Darri'i, and Aqa 'Abdu'llah, the son of the late Mulla

Malik-Muhammad-i-Qazvini. There we attended to our business

concerns, and took with us Haji Muhammad-Nasir [the martyr][1] who

was in charge of the trading-house in Rasht, and went on our way.

In those days there was as yet no railway between Badkubih and

Tiflis. We travelled by commercial cart. The late Haji Nasir and

I stayed in Istanbul for trading purposes. Others in our company

went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while we two asked once again

for permission. When it came, we left Istanbul with

Mansur-i-Usku'i. We reached 'Akka on 11 Muharram 1291 coinciding

with the period of fasting [March 1874]. We were in His sacred

presence throughout Naw-Ruz and Ridvan. Another pilgrim at the time

was Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq [Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani]. He

spoke to us about what they had experienced in Mazindaran. Haji

Nasir [another survivor of Shaykh Tabarsi] was there too. (Quoted

in Sulaymani, vol. 7, pp. 32-3)

[1. This pilgrimage occurred a year or so before the death of Haji

Nasir, described a few paragraphs earlier.]

The encounter of those two veterans of the Faith, who had known

Mulla Husayn and Quddus, had campaigned together under their

command and had then come into each other's company~, once again,

under the shadow of the Supreme Manifestation of God, must have

been for those who witnessed their reunion an occasion hard to

match. Samandar goes on to say:

One day the Blessed Perfection, Who was staying in the house of

Aqay-i-Kalim at the Khan-i-Jurayni,[2] addressed Haji Nasir in

words such as these, as far as I can remember: 'Jinab-i-Haji! You

have toiled much and suffered much in the path of God. If you

yourself have forgotten what you have done and endured, God has

not. But the worlds of God are not confined to this world. Were it

so the Exalted Prophets would not have consented to bear such

adversities wrought by men; the Manifestation who preceded Me would

not have consented to be suspended and martyred with volleys of

malice and malignity; and I would not have consented to be dragged,

bare-headed and barefooted, in utmost degradation, from Niyavaran

to Tihran to bear untold blows.' In brief, He expounded this theme

in most excellent words. He was telling the Haji that he will be

recompensed in the worlds to come. (Quoted in Sulaymani, vol. 7,

pp. 33-4)
[2. Better known as Khan-i-'Avamid.]

Then Samandar takes care to explain that he is not reporting the

exact words of Bahá'u'lláh, but the purport of His utterance.

Samandar has also recorded what he heard about Napoleon III. It was

while Samandar was in Istanbul that the fallen French Emperor died.

He says that he intended, when in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, to

ask Him why it was that those who had persecuted the Faith, its

Page 208

Founders and followers were still enjoying power while Napoleon III

had gone the way predicted in the Tablet addressed to him. But when

he went into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, such were the bounties

of that attainment that he gave no more thought to Napoleon; until

one day, unrequested, Bahá'u'lláh Himself spoke about the French

Emperor, and the enormities committed by the rulers of Persia and

Turkey. Napoleon, Bahá'u'lláh said, was godless. Intellect was his

god, and he believed that he himself was the wisest of all men. As

soon as he was challenged and found wanting, the hand of God seized

him and struck him down. Then He spoke of developments in Persia

and Turkey and told Samandar that the oppressors of these lands

would also, in due time, receive their deserts. Two years later,

'Abdu'l-'Aziz of Turkey met his doom, and in 1896, Nasiri'd-Din of

Iran, on the very eve of his Jubilee celebrations, fell before the

bullet of an assassin.

Samandar attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh once again, a year

before His ascension. He writes: 'In the year 1308 [17 August 1890

-- 6 August 1891], in his company [Mu'allim's] I travelled to 'Akka

by way
Page 209

of Istanbul and Alexandria, and together we attained the presence

of Bahá'u'lláh' (Tarikh-i-Samandar, pp. 204-5). One day when

Samandar had just left Bahá'u'lláh's room at Bahji and was still

standing by the curtained doorway, his ears caught these words of

Bahá'u'lláh, Who was pacing within; they were uttered most firmly,

most emphatically Samandar relates: 'You are going to 'Akka'; go

into the presence of Sarkar-i-Aqa.' And who could

Aqa--Sarkar-i-Aqa--be but the Most Great Branch, 'Abdu'l-Bahá?

Samandar, who always sought the presence of the Most Great Branch

in 'Akka, was greatly surprised, he writes, by Bahá'u'lláh's

emphatic command. It was only in after years, when the

Covenant-breakers rose in rebellion, that the full purport of those

words of Bahá'u'lláh dawned upon him. And Samandar had reason to

remember particularly, to the end of his days, the malice of those

who had known Light and had called upon Darkness to guide them,

those who had sinned against the Holy Ghost, in the judgement of

Jesus Christ.

Samandar's account of his return from this pilgrimage with the

Mu'allim continues:

After two months we were permitted to leave. On the way home, Varqa

[the martyr] and two of his sons, also Haji Mirza

Muhammad-i-Khunsari (who was one of the mujtahids, a divine) were

our fellow-travellers as far as Rasht and Qazvin. Thereafter, he

[the Mu'allim] was always in attendance upon the Friends, in their

meetings and gatherings, reciting verses and prayers, until his

passing from this temporary phase to the world eternal.

(Tarikh-i-Samandar, p. 205)
Mulla 'Ali died towards the end of November 1913.

In the year AH 1317 (AD 12 May 1899 -- 30 April 1900), accompanied

by his wife, his son Aqa Ghulam-'Ali, the widow of his brother Haji

Shaykh Muhammad-'Ali (he who committed suicide in Istanbul because

of the base intrigues of the partisans of Mirza Yahya),[1] and Aqa

'Aliy-i-Arbab (the son of the martyred Haji Nasir), Samandar again

went on pilgrimage to 'Akka. His daughhter Thurayya had been

married to Mirza Diya'u'llah, the third surviving son of

Bahá'u'lláh and a breaker of His Covenant. By this time Mirza

Diya'u'llah was dead and his widow had her home in the Mansion of

Bahji with other Covenant-breakers. Samandar sought a meeting with

her and they met within the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. Samandar himself

has written the full account of all that happened on this occasion,

which was
Page 210

published in Egypt shortly afterwards. It is a sorry tale and

reveals the lowest depths of human degradation. The infamous crew,

entrenched in the Mansion of Bahji, made this meeting after long

years between a distraught, uncertain, grief-stricken woman and her

caring, sorrowing parents, a scene of sordid revenge and conflict.

Thurayya, her tears flowing, complained bitterly that they had

unjustly neglected her. Samandar tried gently to reason with her

and asked her to come away with them, but Thurayya refused: she

would never depart from the vicinity of her husband's grave.

Diya'u'llah was buried in a room next to the inner Shrine of

Bahá'u'lláh.[2] An old hag had been sent to watch the meeting

between Thurayya and her parents. As soon as Mirza Ghulam-'Ali

caught hold of his sister's hand to lead her to the Pilgrim House

nearby, the old woman shouted horribly at Thurayya, who screamed

in return. At that, a number of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's partisans

rushed in and dragged Samandar and those who were with him into the

Mansion, cursing and beating him all the while. There they were

detained, howled at and jeered by a mob. Mirza Aqa Jan, the

faithless amanuensis of Bahá'u'lláh, and Javad-i-Qazvini were

foremost amongst them. And in the meantime, the fickle Mirza

Badi'u'llah, the youngest son of Bahá'u'lláh, and Mirza

Husayn-i-Khartumi, who had had the honour of being Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali's companion in captivity but had gravitated towards the

arch-breaker of the Covenant, hastened to the Seraye [Government

House] in 'Akka, shamelessly reporting to the authorities that a

group of people had come ostensibly to visit the Shrine of

Bahá'u'lláh and had stayed on till nightfall, in order to kidnap

a woman. The Mutasarrif sent an interrogator with a number of

horsemen to Bahji. They put Samandar, his wife, son and two others

who were with them in a carriage and took them to 'Akka. There they

were driven straight to the Master's house and left. When informed

of the base behaviour of the Covenant-breakers, 'Abdu'l-Bahá

Himself went to see the Mutasarrif and informed that official of

the truth of the matter. The Mutasarrif said that Thurayya should

be brought out of the Mansion and united with her parents, but

'Abdu'l-Bahá forbade it. Upon Samandar, who intended to take his

case to the courts, He laid the same injunction. He, the very

manifestation of mercy, told Samandar that any action to retrieve

Thurayya would
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greatly sadden Mirza Diya'u'llah's mother, who was still grieving

over his death. The interrogator who had gone out to Bahji, when

apprised of the facts of the case advised strongly that Samandar

should take action, but again 'Abdu'l-Bahá would not allow it. They

had been vindictive and foolish, He said, but we should be


[1. See Bahá'u'lláh, the King of Glory, pp. 387-8, for

Bahá'u'lláh's account of his suicide.(Ed.)]

[2. In recent years. the heirs of the Covenant-breakers moved the

remains of Mirza Diya'u'llah to a building they had erected over

the grave of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the arch-breaker of the Covenant

of Bahá'u'lláh, in the vicinity of Bahji.]

An incalculable service rendered by Samandar to future generations

is his meticulous recording of events and conversations pertaining

to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í pronouncement on the

waywardness of Lisanu'l-Mulk-i-Sipihr, the author of

Nasikhu't-Tavarikh (a massive several-volumed world history), which

Samandar has put down on paper, is particularly important. Sipihr

has commented, in common with many others, that if the Báb had

stood where He was when the first volley only severed the ropes

suspending Him, and had told the spectators to behold that rifle

shots could not harm Him, He would have scored an immediate triumph

and people, there and then, would have given Him their allegiance.

Sipihr expresses, furthermore, his glee and gratitude that the Báb

took refuge in a chamber nearby. Samandar asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to

explain to him the reason for the Báb's action. The Master, he

records, felt very strongly the presentation of this reference to

the martyrdom of the Báb; His visage changed colour, and He said

most emphatically that it was decreed by God as an incontrovertible

sign to arouse the people out of their negligence. Had the Báb not

retired to that chamber, the adversaries would not have allowed Him

to live a minute longer, and thus would have prevented people from

realizing what had happened.

Samandar was indeed both a keen observer and a keen recorder. Mirza

Abu'l-Fadl of Gulpaygan apart, there is no one else amongst the

learned men within the Bahá'í fold to match him in those respects.

In one of his works, he tabulates and describes his journeys,

thirty-one in number, which he undertook from the year AH 1271, at

the age of eleven, to the year 1334, when he had reached the

seventy-fourth year of his life. These journeys were made either

for trading purposes, or for the promotion of the interests of the

Faith. Sometimes the two were combined. Here are some of his

journeys, presented and described by himself:

Seventh journey, to Tihran: Because the Tablets and communications

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showed evidences of a fresh outpouring of Light causing surprise,

I set out for Tihran, accompanied by my brother, the late Haji

Shaykh Muhammad-'Ali. We stayed at Saray-i-Amir [a well-known

caravanserai]. We met the late Haji Mirza Rida-Quli [brother of

Bahá'u'lláh]. As it happened, Aqa Mirza Hadi, the son of Azal, was

also in Tihran. We met him as well...

Sixteenth journey, to Tihran: I believe it was towards the end of

the year 1312. The rebellion of the Covenant-breakers was being

intensified, and coming more into the open. In this journey, Haji

Muhammad Isma'il, the son of the late Haji Khalil, accompanied me.

We stayed with Mashhadi 'Ibad Bag-i-Shirvani, the Qavamu't-Tujjar

(because at that time we had trading ties). We met all of the

prominent Friends. In Tihran, I answered Khartumi's[1] letter. Aqa

Jamal[2] wanted to meet me. I refused to go to his house, and said

that he should come where I was. He did not. After some twenty days

or more and meeting the Friends, we returned to Qazvin...

[1. See p. 210.]

[2. Aqa Jamal-i-Burujirdi, one of the foremost Covenant-breakers.]

Twentieth journey, to Tabriz: 'Abdu'l-Bahá had sanctioned a journey

to Zanjan and Adharbayjan. Developments had delayed this journey.

In the year 1321 I embarked upon it. [Here Samandar details the

marriages of two of his daughters, taking place at this time.] We

[Samandar had taken his nephew, Shaykh Ahmad, with him] stayed nine

days in Zanjan, at the house of Ustad Hasan, the son-in-law of Haji

Iman. Thence we went to Tabriz, staying for nearly seventy days at

the home of Haji Muhammad-'Ali Aqa, meeting the Friends. (Quoted

in Sulaymani, vol. 7, pp. 43-4. The following details of journeys

are also from this source.)

Together with his host, Samandar visited Milan, attending the

marriage festivities of Aqa Asadu'llah, the nephew of the host.

Then on his way back to Qazvin, he once again visited Zanjan to

meet the Bahá'ís there.

His twenty-fifth journey was to Rasht. 'This journey was undertaken

at the request of the Friends of that city, to teach the Faith.'

He stayed at the homes of Aqa 'Aliy-i-Arbab and his own son, Mirza

Ghulam-'Ali. He was in Rasht for three months, and held a special

class to teach the Bayan.

Samandar's twenty-sixth journey, sanctioned by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, was

to Tihran. He writes that one of the sons of Siyyid Nasru'llah

Baqiroff, together with a son of the martyred Varqa, took him from

Qazvin to Tihran, again to teach the Faith and particularly the

contents of the Bayan. This stay in Tihran lasted for

two-and-a-half months.

The twenty-seventh journey was to Rasht. 'The members of the

Spiritual Assembly of Rasht, once again, asked me, through Mirza

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Musa Khan, Hakim Bashi, to visit Rasht. Although I had just

returned from Tihran, I complied.' Accompanied by his wife, the

mother of Aqa Mirza Tarazu'llah (the future Hand of the Cause of

God), he left for Rasht. At the request of Haji Yusuf-i-'Attar, he

also took Mirza 'Abdu'l-Ghani, the son of that Bahá'í friend, with

him. They travelled by carriage to Rasht. But, before long, a

Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, sent from Tihran by the Hand of the Cause

of God, Ibn-i-Abhar, directed him to co-operate with Aqa Mirza

Na'im (the celebrated Bahá'í poet) and Ibn-i-Abhar, in the writing

of a book in refutation of Kitáb-i-Nuqtatu'l-Kaf.[1] This book had

just been published by Edward Granville Browne, under his own name

as editor, in the Gibb Memorial Series. It carried two misleading

introductions, one in Persian and the other in English. Decades

later, the Persian savant, Mirza Muhammad Khan-i-Qazvini, confessed

in writing that he personally had composed the Persian Introduction

to the Nuqtatu'l-Kaf. The English Introduction, of course, must

have been written by Edward Browne.

[1. See H. M. Balyuzi, Edward Granville Browne and the Bahha'i

Faith. The present writer has no knowledge of what happened to the

book written by Na'im, Samandar and Ibn-i-Abhar. It certainly was

not published. Shortly after, the great scholar, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl,

began writing such a refutation. But he had not gone far when his

death put an end to it. His nephew, Siyyid Mihdi, finished the

book. It was published in 'Ishqabad under the title of

Kashfu'l-Ghita' (Rending the Veil of Error). But, because of its

intemperate language and certain inaccuracies 'Abdu'l-Bahá stopped

its circulation.]

To go back to Samandar's account, he states that after a stay of

only three weeks in Rasht he returned to Qazvin, and then within

a week in the company of Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Ardikani (Haji Amin:

the Trustee of Huququ'llah) he and his wife left for Tihran. There

he stayed in the house of Aqa Siyyid Hashim, his brother-in-law and

son of one of the five Baqiroff brothers. It took them, Samandar

writes, about two months and a half to complete the book. Whilst

busy with writing, Samandar says, he was meeting the Bahá'ís of

Tihran. The task finished, Samandar went back to Qazvin in the

company of Ibn-i-Asdaq, a Hand o~ the Cause of God and the son of

Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani, entitled Ismullahu'l-Asdaq.

Samandar's twenty-ninth journey was to Tihran. On the 13th day of

Dhu'l-Hijjah 1332 (2 November 1914), he received a visit from Mirza

Musa Khan, the Hakim-Bashi, another stalwart Bahá'í of Qazvin. The

evening of this Friday was closing in, Samandar writes, as the

lamps were being lighted. Hakim-Bashi came in with an envelope in

his hand, addressed to the two of them. It was from the Master,

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instructing them to go to Tihran and help in reconciling the

members of that Spiritual Assembly, who apparently had been at

loggerheads. The next day they were on the road, and a carriage

took them quickly to Tihran where they lodged with Haji

Ghulam-Riday-i-Isfahani. Their host, whom the Guardian of the

Bahá'í Faith appointed the Trustee of Huququ'llah after the death

of Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Amin, eventually adopted the surname of

Amin-i-Amin. Samandar and Hakim-Bashi (who defrayed all the

expenses of the journey, returning the money which Samandar had

paid) stayed for fifteen days in Tihran. Their mission, carried out

with tact and understanding, was successful.

The thirtieth journey of Samandar was again to Tihran, to assist

Siyyid Mihdi of Gulpaygan, in co-operation with a number of other

distinguished Baha'is, with the task of bringing to completion the

work begun by Mirza Abu'l-Fadl. The way Samandar refers to the

course of this task makes it abundantly clear that, at the time he

was writing, the work was far from finished.
Page 215

Samandar's last journey, his thirty-first, took place in September

1915. It was to Rasht. His companion in the carriage which set out

from Qazvin was Ibtihaju'l-Mulk, whose home was in Rasht. And there

lived Samandar's son, Aqa Ghulam-'Ali, who by then had a grown-up

family. Samandar's wish was to meet all the Bahá'ís of Rasht, but

particularly Aqa 'Aliy-i-Arbab and Aqa 'Ali's brother. His

distinguished companion on that journey was to meet a martyr's

death within a few short years of those very happy days which these

two devoted servants of Bahá'u'lláh spent together in that waning

summer of 1915. In Rasht, Samandar spent most of his time meeting

enquirers in the home of a physician, Mirza Mihdi Khan. This

zealous Baha'i, a native of Hamadan of Jewish background, has

written an absorbing autobiography, which unfortunately has not

seen the light of day. Those were indeed joyous days for Samandar.

More members of his family came over from Qazvin. He stayed in

Rasht till 20 March 1916.

Old age had brought infirmities, but despite his failing sight and

increasing weakness, Samandar was tireless in serving the Cause of

his Lord. Right to the end he was active in the teaching field.

Early in 1918, in the midst of winter, Samandar winged his flight

to realms beyond. He was truly an 'Apostle of Bahá'u'lláh'. He was

both a man of the world, very successful as a merchant, and a

saint, the soul of rectitude and integrity. Tablets revealed in his

honour by Bahá'u'lláh were legion. Bahá'u'lláh Himself has borne

witness to this bounty bestowed on Samandar: 'Were one to collect

together all that hath been sent down unto thee of the verses of

thy Lord, he would witness a mighty book, greater than other

Tablets. This is of the grace of thy Lord. He is sufficient unto

thee, by virtue of His truth. No God is there but Him, the

Glorious, the Bestower.' (Quoted in Sulaymani, vol. 7, pp. 50-51)

Many, also, are the Tablets which 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed to

Samandar. All of them, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and Tablets of

'Abdu'l-Bahá, are mirrors of the station attained by Shaykh

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The Most Exalted Pen addressed Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, the son of

Mirza Zaynu'l-'Abidin, a close relative of the glorious Bab, as

Nuri'd-Din: the Light of Faith. He was born in Shiraz, in the year

1842, and from his infancy was called Mirza Aqa, as a letter of the

Báb to His wife indicates.

At the age of four the child was stricken by smallpox and was so

ill that no recovery seemed at all possible. He had a brother,

three years his senior, named Mirza 'Ali-Rida who also contracted

smallpox, but his malady seemed not so severe. At this time, in

September 1846, the Báb was quietly preparing to leave Shiraz to

turn to other climes, away from the domain of the Ajudan-Bashi, the

governor-general of Fars. Mirza Zaynu'l-'Abidin was a paternal

cousin of the father of the Báb, and his wife, Zahra Bigum, was a

sister of the wife of the Báb. Shortly before His departure the Báb

went to bid farewell to them. The two children, both very ill, were

asleep on a couch in the courtyard. The Báb lifted the sheet on the

bed of Mirza Aqa and prayed over him, but He paid no attention to

the elder brother. That child, seven years old, died the same night

but Mirza Aqa recovered. He was the only surviving child of Mirza

Zaynu'l-'Abidin and Zahra Bigum.

Khadijih Bigum, the wife of the Báb, was particularly attached to

this nephew and that tender feeling was much enhanced by the

content of a letter which reached her from her glorious Husband,

then cruelly incarcerated in the mountain-fortress of Maku:

Do not expect any assistance from thy brothers. They will not help,

it is enough that they refrain from insults. Overlook their faults.

Even Our enemies have not caused the like of what resulted from the

acts of Siyyid 118[1] in Isfahan. God grant that when the light of

thine eyes Mirza
Page 217

Aqa reacheth maturity, he will be thy help and support. O God!

Preserve him from all the evil of the envious and the contumacious.

[1. 118 is the numerical equivalent of Hasan. Siyyid Hasan was one

of the two brothers of Khadijih Bigum. He is the Afnan-i-Kab'ir

(the Great Afnan) of future years.]

What the Báb had said of Mirza Aqa made Khadijih Bigum give special

attention to the education and upbringing of the young boy. And

Mirza Aqa was destined to have the distinction of being the third

member of the family of the Báb to believe in him.

Then came in rapid succession the triple tragedy of the martyrdom

of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali (the uncle of the Báb), followed by the

martyrdom of the glorious Báb Himself, and soon the death of the

nineteen-year-old Haji Mirza Javad, the son of Haji Mirza Siyyid

'Ali, far away from home at Jiddah.

The relatives of the Báb: two other maternal uncles and in

particular the two brothers-in-law, were naturally grief-stricken

and, although not believers as yet, were known to a hostile public

as men related to the Báb and therefore suspect. No matter how hard

they tried to dissociate themselves from the newly-proclaimed Faith

and to show themselves as staunch Muslims, currying favour with the

Shi'ih priesthood, they were regarded with suspicion. Two brothers

of the wife of Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, one of the maternal

uncles of the Báb--Haji 'Abdu'l-Husayn and Haji

Muhammad-Khalil--were viciously inimical, shouting abuse and

defamation in public and making the life of their sister

unbearable. Many a time it was mooted to declare these relatives

of the Báb apostate, but they managed to ride the storm although

suffering in the process, both mentally and materially. Two of the

well-known divines of the day, both related to the Báb and secretly

believers in Him, would, as far as it was feasible for them,

provide protection for any believer under the scrutiny of public

gaze. And yet tongues wagged. Immunity from the effects of the

poison constantly instilled into the body politic was not possible.

Those mujtahids were Haji Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, the

Hujjatu'l-Islam, soon to be famed as Mirzay-i-Shirazi, and Haji

Mirza Javad, the Imam-Jum'ih of Kirman.

The sorrows of the wife of the Báb, very evident and hard to

conceal; the presence of the widow and daughters of Hujjat of

Zanjan in the house where Khadijih Bigum lived; the occasional

visits of the destitute and pitiable captives brought from Nayriz

and the reluctance of the elders of the family to become involved,

all gave the young Mirza Aqa cause to think and investigate. But

these were matters that
Page 118

his mind could not unravel, and he found himself asking his aunt

to throw light upon them. Although he was no more than thirteen

years old, his questing mind convinced Khadijih Bigum that the time

had come to acquaint him with the story of the glorious Bab. And

the young soul of Mirza Aqa responded with its full ardour to the

tidings given him by his aunt. The Qa'im of the House of Muhammad

had come in the Person of his own kinsman, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad,

the Báb, Whom a wayward generation had rejected and put to death.

Love for Him--the glorious Bab, the martyred Qa'im--invaded and

conquered completely the heart of the young boy. He desired

intensely to quaff of the same cup, to give his life that the Cause

of the Báb might live and flourish. Khadijih Bigum saw unmistakably

the fulfilment of the promise which years ago her Husband had

imparted to her from the fortress wherein He was incarcerated. And

now Khadijih Bigum realized that her lion-hearted nephew was truly

destined to be a distinguished and faithful servitor of the Cause

of God.

Every day Mirza Aqa would present himself before his bereaved

aunts, Khadijih Bigum and the widow of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, to

carry out their wishes, and would from time to time take them to

visit orchards and sanctuaries outside the city, amongst them the

mausoleums of the two great poets, Sa'di and Hafiz, and a famous

orchard named Pudunak.[1]

[1. The Báb Himself oftentimes visited these mausoleums. known as

Haft-Tanrin (Seven Men) and Chihil-Tanan (Forty Men), which are

resting-places of a number of saintly figures.]

Before long the father of Mirza Aqa retired from his trading

pursuits and confined himself to farming. Mirza Aqa, now

adolescent, formed a partnership with Haji Mirza Buzurg, the

youngest son of Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad (an uncle of the Báb),

who was of the same age as himself. They entered the world of

commerce under the supervision of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim (the

brother of Khadijih Bigum) and Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad. Each of

them had a capital of seven-hundred-and-fifty tumans to start with.

Mirza Aqa, whilst embarking on a business career, was also quietly

nurturing relationships with a few other Babis who lived in Shiraz.

Then it was that he determinedly turned his attention to his own

parents to help them embrace the Faith revealed by their Kinsman.

In this he succeeded and they gave their allegiance unreservedly

to the Báb. His next spiritual undertaking was not at all easy to

achieve. He
Page 219
Page 220

challenged boldly no less a person than Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad,

the uncle of the Báb. This highly revered merchant, whose

brothers-in-law were in the forefront of the bitter adversaries of

the Báb, had, as far as discretion allowed, tried to shield those

who were associated with his Nephew. He would have gone to any

length to save his Nephew from the malevolence of His foes, but to

give Him his allegiance he decidedly would not. From the very

beginning Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad had refused to take the path

which his martyred younger brother had taken. Now, faced with a

determined young man, only seventeen years old, he hedged himself

with traditions, both genuine and of doubtful authenticity. To fend

off the persistent appeals of his enthusiastic young relative, Haji

Mirza Siyyid Muhammad used every armour of the orthodox.

Haji Mirza Habibu'llah Afnan, the distinguished son of Aqa MirzA

Aqa, has put on paper his father's reminiscences of that spiritual

struggle between himself, a boy of seventeen, and the venerable

uncle of the Báb:

At the beginning when I broached the subject the uncle expressed

total refusal. I went on presenting proofs supporting my argument.

We went through several meetings until one day, when I was

strenuously following my line, he said with great amazement: 'Mirza

Aqa! Do you mean to say that the son of my sister is the Qa'im of

the House of Muhammad?' I replied: 'Why not?' Then he showed still

more amazement and said: 'It is strange, very strange.' I replied:

'There is nothing strange about it!' Then he became very pensive.

That made me smile. He asked me: 'Why do you smile?' I answered:

'It will not be polite if I say why.' He said: 'Do not be shy, tell

me.' I replied: 'Now that you allow me I will say it. What you said

just now is exactly what Abu-Lahab[1] exclaimed: "Is it possible

for my nephew to be a Prophet!" Indeed it was possible, and the

Nephew of Abu-Lahab was the Messenger of God. Now, would you

investigate and find out for yourself? This Sun has arisen from

your house, this Light has shone from your abode; you must feel

proud. Don't be amazed, don't seek avoidance. God the Almighty has

the power to have made the Son of your sister the Qa'im of the

House of Muhammad. The hand of God is not tied. As the Qur'an

declares: His hand is free!' Then he [the uncle of the Báb] said:

'Nur-i-Chashm, you gave me an answer which is unanswerable! What

can I say and what should I do now?' I replied: 'Firstly, it is

necessary that you go on pilgrimage to 'Iraq and meet your sister

who is there [the mother of the Báb]. Secondly, Ishan [the Blessed

Beauty] is in Baghdad. Stop there for a few days. Present your

difficulties to Him. Try, endeavour, put your trust in God. Let us

hope that you shall attain and reach faith. Man has to strive [a

reference to a Qur'anic verse].' Having
Page 221

listened to me, he commented: 'It is good what you say. It touched

my heart.' (pp. 157-60 of unpublished memoirs written by Haji Mirza

Habibu'llah Afnan of his father's [Aqa Mirza Aqa] reminiscences)

[1. An uncle of Muhammad who rejected and opposed His Mission.


Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, we know, went to the holy cities of

'Iraq having his younger brother, Haji Mirza Hasan-'Ali, with him;

went into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh without his brother; and

presented his questions--questions which evoked from the pen of

Bahá'u'lláh the Book of Certitude (Kitáb-i-Iqan).[1]

[1. The gist of the questions presented to Bahá'u'lláh by Haji

Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, found amongst his papers in his own

handwriting, is given in Baha''u'llah, The King of Glory, pp. 163-5

Haji Mirza Habibu'llah has further written:

Having received and read the Kitáb-i-Iqan, which contained answers

to his questions, and having attained faith and assurance, he [Haji

Mirza Siyyid Muhammad] visited the holy cities, and after meeting

his sister, the mother of the Báb, returned to Shiraz. Believers

came to visit him and received spiritual sustenance from him. He

[Aqa Mirza Aqa] used to say: 'After attaining his presence he

thanked me most profoundly and told me: "Although considering age

you are as my own son, but in the realm of the Spirit you are as

my father, because if it were not for your insistence I would never

have attained the measure of faith which is the utmost desideratum

of those who seek nearness to God." He then prayed for me with his

whole heart.' (Unpublished memoirs written by Haji Mirza

Habibu'llah Afnan of his father's [Aqa Mirza Aqa] reminiscences,

pp. 165-6)

Bahá'u'lláh, in those days, had not as yet declared His Mission,

but from Baghdad He was addressing Tablets to the wife of the Báb,

and to a number of devout Babis such as Mirza 'Abdu'l-Karim,

Shaykh-'Ali Mirza and Haji Abu'l-Hasan. His signature read as 152,

equivalent to Baha. The wife of the Báb always turned to


Subsequent to the return of Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad from 'Iraq,

Mirza Aqa and his father, Mirza Zaynu'l-'Abidin, wrote and asked

permission to travel to Baghdad and visit Bahá'u'lláh. Khadijih

Bigum, in order to introduce her nephew, sent to Bahá'u'lláh the

Letter of the Báb, the Letter already mentioned in these pages.

Both father and son were honoured with an answer, and the letters

were in the handwriting of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

In the Tablet addressed to Aqa Mirza Aqa, the receipt of the Letter

of the Báb to Khadijih Bigum is acknowledged in these words:

Then, know thou that the Letter that was of God hath reached Us,

and this is loved by Me more than anything else in heaven and on

earth, and more than aught that was or shall be. We ask of God to

bestow on thee the best of all rewards and to raise thee to an

exalted and glorious station. (Unpublished)
Page 222

Time passed, Bahá'u'lláh was called to Istanbul, and on the twelfth

day of Ridvan, as He was about to leave the Garden of Najibiyyah

and take the road to the capital of the Ottoman Empire, He revealed

a Tablet which exists in His own handwriting addressed to Aqa Mirza

Aqa, reading thus:
Aqa in Shin[1]

[1. Sh, the 15th letter of the Persian alphabet, is pronounced

Shin. Here the city of Shiraz is indicated.]
He is the Glorious!

Hearken to what the departing Dove revealeth unto thee, as He

prepareth to leave the realm of 'Iraq--such are the methods of God

decreed for His Messengers. Let this not cause thee sorrow. Put thy

trust in thy Lord and the Lord of thy forefathers... Those who are

endowed with the insight of the spirit are independent of all that

was and shall be created, and are able to behold the mysteries of

the Cause behind the thickest veils. Say, 0 beloved of God! Fear

none and let nothing grieve thee; be steadfast in the Cause. By

God, those who have drunk of the love of God, the Glorious, the

Effulgent, have no fear of anyone, and show patience in calamity,

like unto the patience of the lover toward the good-pleasure of the

beloved. With them affliction ranketh greater than that which the

lovers perceive in the countenance of the beloved. Say, 0 concourse

of evil-doers! Ere long the Cause of God will, in truth, be

exalted, and the standards of those who join partners with God will

perish, and the people shall enter the Faith of God, the Sovereign,

the Supreme, the Ancient of Days. Well is it with those who have

now hastened forth in the love of God and received the tidings of

the breath of the Holy Spirit. Glory be unto you, 0 concourse of

believers in the unity of God.

Know then that thy letter hath reached Us, and We have given this

reply to create in thy heart the warmth of yearning, to cause thee

to turn to the paradise of this resplendent Name, to make thee

detached from all, and to enable thee to soar to such heights as

have not been attained by the wings of the worldly-wise who are not

under the shadow of God's countenance and who are indeed of the

perplexed. (Unpublished)

The news of the departure of Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdad, and of the

hostile behaviour of the governments and the high officials of the

two empires, Persian and Ottoman, trickled through to Persia and

caused consternation amongst the Bábis. But when the Tablet

addressed to Aqa Mirza Aqa reached Shiraz, it brought not only

relief from anxiety, but great happiness. The promise of the Báb

had been fulfilled: 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' had come

forth. Now, at least for the time being, joy and exhilaration

prevailed. Although sorrow, much sorrow, was to come; the

Manifestation of God was to suffer and suffer grievously; yet the

very fact of His
Page 223

Advent reanimated the community of the Báb and gave the Bábis,

hereafter to be known as Baha'is, vigour renewed.

In Shiraz Aqa Mirza Aqa, the recipient of such a powerful Tablet

in the handwriting of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, stepped into the arena

of teaching, more than ever determined to serve his Lord, to make

his fellow-citizens aware of the precious hour in which they lived.

There were still many people alive in Shiraz who remembered vividly

the day when the glorious Báb stood on the pulpit of Masjid-i-Vakil

and spoke to the multitude, who remembered the cruelties inflicted

on Him and His faithful followers, who remembered the parading of

Quddus and Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq in the streets of their city. Aqa

Mirza Aqa made friends with a number of those men who were well

known for their integrity and succeeded in clearing away their

Page 224

About fifty of them, members of a family known as Khayyat (Tailor)

thus embraced the Faith. Mulla 'Abbas-'Aliy-i-Shamsabadi, who

hailed from the district of Marvdasht,[1] was one who came into

the Bábi fold subsequent to the incident in the Mosque of Vakil.

Aqa Mirza Aqa sought his aid in establishing friendly relations

with the prominent men of Marvdasht. His efforts led to the

conversion of Haji Muhammad-Kazim-i-Nasrabadi, a mystic of his time

and very powerful in the area of Ramjird. Mirza Mihdi

Khan-i-Fathabadi, a noted poet, was another convert. Karbila'i

Hasan Khan and Karbila'i Sadiq, both of Sarvistan, who had just

learned of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, and Muhammad-Hashim Khan of

Band-i-Amir[2] found in Aqa Mirza Aqa a highly trustworthy and

efficient agent to attend to their affairs in Shiraz, which were

indeed considerable.

[1. Persepolis is situated in the area of Marvdasht.]

[2. Bendemir of Thomas Moore's 'Lalla Rookh' (Lalih-Rukh).]

Aqa Mirza Aqa was regularly corresponding with Sultanu'sh-Shuhada'

(King of the Martyrs) and Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada' (Beloved of the

Martyrs), the two brothers, Mirza Hasan and Mirza Husayn, whom the

treachery and bad faith of the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan and Prince

Mas'ud Mirza, the Zillu's-Sultan, later sent to their deaths. (See

chap. 3.) He also had business dealings with them. Unfortunately

most of their correspondence has been lost with the passage of

time, but what remains speaks eloquently of their intimate

friendship and of the conditions under which the Cause of

Bahá'u'lláh had to fare in those early days.

It was from Adrianople that Bahá'u'lláh sent Nabil-i-A'zam to 'Iraq

and Iran, bearing the tidings of the Advent of Him Whose Name

adorns all of the Scriptures of mankind. Furthermore, Nabil had

been appointed by Bahá'u'lláh to perform the rites of pilgrimage

on His behalf in the House of the Báb. Nabil reached Shiraz by the

way of Bushihr and stayed at the house of Aqa Mirza Aqa. Prior to

anything else he proceeded to perform the rites of pilgrimage. He

knew by heart the Tablet of Hajj (Pilgrimage). When night fell he

left the city, and as dawn broke from the heights overlooking

Shiraz, Nabil could discern the outlines of the city. Then he began

to recite the Tablet of pilgrimage and walked on to descend into

the plain. Having gone through Darvazih Qur'an--the Gate of

Qur'an,[3] within a distance of
Page 225

a thousand paces from the gate to the city he stopped at a

building[1] reared by Karim Khan-i-Zand, and made his ablutions in

the waters of Rukni (Ab-i-Rukni). The waters of Rukni or Ruknabad

have been eulogized by the great poet Hafiz. Then, having completed

his ablutions, Nabil perfumed himself, put on a decorous and costly

robe, and walked on towards the city. The sun had not yet risen

when he reached the city-gates. There, lost to the world, he

prostrated himself and put his forehead on the ground, on the

sacred soil of Shiraz. The muleteers and the attendants of

caravans, who were leaving the city at that early hour, were

puzzled by the sight of Nabil, and thinking that he had swooned

sprinkled rose-water on his face. But at that moment Nabil was in

a world apart. He circumambulated the House of the Báb and

completed all the rites of pilgrimage.

[3. In an upper room over this gateway there is laid a voluminous

copy of the Qur'an, said to be in the handwriting of Imam Hasan,

the Second Imam.]

[1. Called Tanurih-Asiyabi, it was situated approximately where the

headquarters of the Gendarmerie of Shiraz stand today, in the

Qur'an Avenue.]

Before telling anyone else of the message which Bahá'u'lláh had

entrusted to him Nabil gave it to Khadijih Bigum, the wife of the

Bab. Upon hearing it, she immediately responded without the

slightest hesitation, and acknowledged with joy the station of

Bahá'u'lláh: He in Whose path her glorious Husband had given His

life. It was Khadijih Bigum, who, weeks before the encounter

between her Husband and Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i, had witnessed the

effulgent light of God shining from His Person, and had recognized

Him as the Qa'im of the House of Muhammad. And now, at once, she

gave her allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh. To this immediate, unqualified

response which was evoked from the heart and the soul of Khadijih

Bigum, the Most Exalted Pen has testified abundantly:

O My Leaf!... Thou art with the Supreme Companion, and this Wronged

One is making mention of thee in the Prison of 'Akka. Thou art she,

who, before the creation of the world of being, found the fragrance

of the garment of the Merciful... Thou art the one who, as soon as

the call uttered by the Lord of the Kingdom of Names reached thy

hearing, turned to Him, and was so attracted as to lose all

restraint! (See Faydi, Khanadan-i-Afnan, pp. 1 and 3 of a 4-page

Tablet attached to p. 185.)

Having delivered the message of Bahá'u'lláh to Khadijih Bigum,

Nabil turned his attention to others of his co-religionists in

Shiraz, meeting them individually or in groups. The Baha'is, for

their part, became greatly attached to Nabil, ready to do his

bidding. Feeling the great eagerness and total devotion of the

Bahá'ís of Shiraz, Nabil then
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took another step. He called all of them together to a large

gathering and asked them to bring along every Tablet, every book

related to the Cause which they had. Let us hear of what happened

in the words of Aqa Mirza Aqa, as recorded by his son, Haji Mirza


As requested by Nabil I invited the friends to come to a meeting,

and I chose the house of Mirza 'Abdu'l-Karim as the place for

holding this meeting because his house was well-appointed. The

uncle [Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad] was particularly invited to come

and grace this meeting. When all had arrived Nabil spoke. He

declared the Advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', He Whose

Revelation had been promised in the Bayan. That Supreme

Manifestation of Godhead, he stated, was Bahá'u'lláh and none

other. Next he divided the writings which the Bahá'ís had brought

with them into three sections. Taking up the first section, he

said: 'These are from the pen of the Primal Point [the Báb],

sacred, precious, very dear to us.' Then he pointed to the second

portion and said: 'These are revealed by "Him Whom God shall make

manifest". The Báb promised His Advent, made the acceptance or

rejection of all He had revealed in His own Book, the Bayan,

dependent on the good-pleasure and all-pervading will of that

Supreme Manifestation, and warned us not to tarry for a moment but

to give Him when He comes instant recognition and allegiance. We

have been barred by the Báb from taking the wayward path followed

by the people preceding us, thus straying into the wilderness. He

[Bahá'u'lláh] is that Supreme Manifestation of Godhead in Whose

path the Báb sacrificed Himself, with His own blood pledging His

brave and devout followers to remain constant and faithful, not to

deprive themselves of the bounty of responding to the call of the

Speaker of the Mount. Now all that was promised in the Bayan and

in the Qayyumu'l-Asma' has come to pass. Note the Qa'im [the Báb]

and the Qayyum [Bahá'u'lláh]. Note the pronouncement of the Báb

regarding the year nine when all good would be realized. Indeed

that prophecy is fulfilled. It is Bahá'u'lláh Who is leading us to

the understanding of the Cause of God. Whoever ranges himself under

His shadow is of the people of the Light, and whoever takes himself

away is of the people of the nether world and totally cut off from

the reality of the Cause of the Báb.' He [Nabil] spoke in that vein

for nearly an hour.

Then he [Nabil] took up the third portion of the writings and said:

'These belong to doubters and people of wrong thought and their

place is in the fire.' Saying that, he threw them into the

fire-place where a fire was burning. This action of Nabil caused

an uproar and protest; particularly Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, who

did not expect such action on the part of Nabil in his presence,

was very angry and vociferously protested, saying time and again:

'Do you take faith to be like weed; you cut it in daytime and it

grows again during the night?'

Then it was that this servant intervened and spoke. Aqa Mirza

'Abdu'l-Karim, Haji Abu'l-Hasan and Shaykh-'Ali Mirza came to my

aid. Courteously and humbly it was put to him: 'Firstly,

investigate for yourself to find
Page 227

the truth of Nabil's words. Secondly, you should know for a

certainty that, according to the text of the Bayan, no one save

"Him Whom God shall make manifest" has the temerity to put forth

a claim so great. Regard the Báb: despite His virtues, the truth

which He bore, the guidance which was His to give, He was made the

target of malice and hate. He was the Truth, He spoke the truth;

and you yourself came to realize it when you attained the presence

of Ishan [Bahá'u'lláh] in Baghdad, when He resolved your

difficulties and within the span of two nights revealed for you the

Kitáb-i-Iqan, thus dispelling all your doubts. Even if revealing

that book should not provide the proof needed for anyone else, it

should be the entire and complete proof for your person, leaving

not the slightest doubt and giving you the assurance that He is the

Truth, that turning away from Him is the very essence of

waywardness. (Unpublished memoirs written by Haji Mirza Habibu'llah

Afnan of his father's [Aqa Mirza Aqa] reminiscences, pp. 169-73)

Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad said no more. But Nabil did not cease

following up his course until the uncle of the Báb openly declared

his belief and recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh. In subsequent

meetings, in the presence of all, Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad

prostrated himself to render thanks for having been guided to the

straight path, and praised the Blessed Perfection for that bounty

of recognition. Tears of joy coursed down his cheeks. His

acknowledgement of the station of Bahá'u'lláh led everyone else in

Shiraz to do the same, everyone that is who had accepted the Báb.

And thus not a soul remained in the city of the Báb among His

followers who did not turn to Bahá'u'lláh and recognize in Him the

Redeemer of Mankind. Shiraz, the city where the Dawn had broken,

became free of blemish. It was the grace of the Báb which kept His

native town cleansed and purified.

A certain Shaykh Muhammad of Yazd lived in Shiraz. Prior to the

Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh he would state that He was a

Manifestation of God, but when the call of Bahá'u'lláh was raised

Shaykh Muhammad rose up in opposition. The Bahá'ís of Shiraz cut

him off. Subsequently he left and made his way to Istanbul. Thus

Shiraz remained immune from his sedition, but he caused a good deal

of mischief in Istanbul, leagued with leading Azalis.

Nabil, having brought his mission to a successful conclusion in

Shiraz, left for Isfahan. Soon after, Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim, whom

Bahá'u'lláh had honoured with the designation 'Muballigh' (Teacher,

Missioner), moved to Shiraz, his father's native town. Haji

'Abdu'r-Rasul, the father of Muballigh, was a convert from Judaism

to Islam. And the sister of Muballigh, Hajiyyih Bibi Gawhar, was

married to
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Haji Mirza Hasan-'Ali, known as Khal-i-Asghar, the youngest of the

three maternal uncles of the Báb. Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim was a

merchant and his arrival at Shiraz did not at first cause any stir.

However, the purpose of his visit was not trading but teaching the

Faith, particularly to the remaining members of the Family of the

Bab. He directed his attention to Haji Mirza Buzurg, son of Haji

Mirza Siyyid Muhammad (uncle of the Báb), to Siyyid Muhammad-Husayn

(paternal grandfather of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i

Faith), and to Mirza Abu'l-Hasan and Mirza Mahmud, sons of Haji

Mirza Abu'l-Qasim (the brother-in-law of the Báb). All became


Aqa Mirza Aqa also tried to bring his paternal relatives, who were

mustawfis (auditors and controllers of governmental accounts), and

the Lashkar-Nivis (Paymaster-General) into the circle of the Faith,

but there he did not succeed. These men showed such hostility that

all family ties were snapped, and two generations later the

descendants of Aqa Mirza Aqa and the descendants of these

relatives, although all of them lived in Shiraz, became total

strangers. It is a well-told tale in
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the family that Aqa Mirza Aqa together with Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim

were one day locked in argument with Mirza 'Abbas, who was a son

of Haji Mirza Ibrahim-i-Lashkar-Nivis and a cousin of Mirza Aqa

(the son of a paternal aunt). Mirza 'Abbas remained adamantly

opposed. At last he said: 'If there be truth in this claim of the

Bab, let me fall down when mounting my horse outside this house,

and let the bone in my right thigh crack. ' Aqa Mirza Aqa replied:

'Ask God to illumine your heart with the light of faith, not maim

you.' But he refused to change his plea and sure enough, he met

with the accident he had mentioned, exactly at the place he had

named. The rest of his life he had to hobble with a stick, but to

faith he obstinately remained alien.

After a long stay in Shiraz, Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim went to Yazd and

promised to do his utmost to bring Haji Mirza Hasan-'Ali and Haji

Mirza Siyyid Hasan, the Afnan-i-Kabir, into the Bahá'í Faith. As

it happened, Mulla Muhammad--Nabil-i-Akbar--reached Yazd at the

same time. The combined efforts of the Muballigh and Nabil-i-Akbar

convinced the uncle of the Báb and His brother-in-law that the

Faith of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh was true. That victory achieved,

the only one left to be won over was Haji Mirza Abul-Qasim, the

brother of Afnan-i-Kabir. Nabil-i-Akbar, after a sojourn of about

a year in Yazd, made for Shiraz where he stayed for thirteen

months. During that time Haji Mirza Abul-Qasim yielded to the

urgent pleas of his son, Siyyid Muhammad-Husayn, and his nephew,

Aqa Mirza Aqa, and turned to Bahá'u'lláh. Then he was honoured with

a Tablet, and thus the circle was closed. All of the Afnans were

now safe and secure in the enclave of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.

There were two grandees in Shiraz, Mushiru'l-Mulk and

Qavamu'l-Mulk, who were most of the time at daggers drawn, bitterly

fighting over offices and posts of which the Governor disposed.

Mushiru'l-Mulk, in particular, striving to create difficulties for

his rival and to make the Governor suspicious, made the Bahá'ís the

butt of his intrigues. When Sultan-Murad Mirza, the

Hisamu's-Saltanih, an uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, arrived as the

Governor-General of Fars, Mushiru'l-Mulk, who enjoyed the post of

the Vazir of the province, drew up a list of prominent Bahá'ís of

Shiraz which included the names of Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad and

Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, and gave the list to Hisamu's-Saltanih to

persecute them. Qavamu'l-Mulk, on this occasion, intervened and

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mischief. But Mushriru'l-Mulk would not sit still. He found a way

to raise an uproar. Mirza Aqay-i-Rikab-Saz was one of the early

Babis of Shiraz, having given his allegiance to the Báb after the

incident of the Mosque of Vakil. Strangely, he had close

connections with Shaykh Husayn-i-Zalim, the Nazimu'sh-Shari'ih, a

bitter enemy of the Báb. On the very day that the Báb was brought

to the Masjid-i-Vakil (the Mosque of Vakil) and asked to speak from

the pulpit, this Shaykh Husayn insulted Him and tried to hit Him

with his walking-stick. Mirza Aqa's wife was very hostile towards

the Faith and, induced by Mushriru'l-Mulk, she sold her husband to

the infamous Shaykh Husayn. That treachery led to the arrest of

Mirza Aqa. Not only this excellent calligraphist,[1] but several

Bahá'ís besides him were detained as well and thrown into prison,

where they endured several hardships. These were Mashhadi Nabi,

Mashhadi Muhammad-Ja'far-i-Khayyat, Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Bazzaz (the

mercer), Karbila'i Muhammad-Hashim, Karbila'i Hasan

Khan-i-Sarvistani, Mashhadi Abu'l-Qasim-i-Kharraz (the

haberdasher), Mirza Baqir, Mulla 'Abdu'llah-i-Fadil-i-Zarqani, and

Mulla 'Abdu'llah-i-Buka'.

[1. The frontispiece of Buha'u'llah, The King of Glory is the first

page of the Kitáb-i-Iqan from the copy belonging to the author, in

the handwriting of Mirza Aqay-i-Rikab-Saz, who had a good hand at

Naskh script.]

Aqa Mirza Aqa (Nuri'd-Din) made every endeavour to bring about

their release. At last Mushru'l-Mulk himself stood bail for Mulla

'Abdu'llah-i-Fadil and Mulla 'Abdu'llah-i-Buka'. Qavamu'l-Mulk, on

the other hand, brought about the release of Karbila'i Hasan Khan,

and the Imam-Jum'ih managed to get Haji Abu'l-Hasan out of the

gaol. Mirza Baqir was heavily bastinadoed and expelled from Shiraz;

he went to Kirman, where he was martyred. Mirza Aqay-i-Rikab-Saz,

Mashhadi Nabi and Mashhadi Muhammad-Ja'far-i-Khayyat met their

martyrdom in Hisamu's-Saltanih's prison.[2] The mercer, Haji

Abu'l-Hasan, after his release, found it impossible to live in

Shiraz. He fled to the villages in the districts of Sarvistan and

Kurbal, taking with him his two sons, children of tender age (the

future Mirza Muhammad-Baqir Khan Dihqan [Dehkan] and Mirza

Muhammad-'Ali Khan). Oftentimes, he had to seek refuge in caves and

on the mountain-side to escape the venom of the foe. After a while

he returned to Shiraz and took his abode in the House of the Báb.

Every now and then he attended the Imam-Jum'ih, so that the

Page 231

public should perceive his attachment to that influential divine.

Actually his wife was related to the Imam-Jum'ih. Finally he opened

a shop in the bazar known as Bazar-i-Haji.

[2. When they were martyred, the rabble in Shiraz committed

abominations. shameful to describe.]

Shaykh Salman was the courier who took supplications of the Baha'is

of Persia to the Holy Land and brought Tablets revealed by

Bahá'u'lláh. When in the year AH 1288 (23 March 1871 -- 10 March

187Z) he passed through Shiraz, he told Aqa Mirza Aqa that on his

return he would be bringing a pilgrim to the Holy Land to stay with

the wife of the Báb whilst in Shiraz. However, caution led him not

to mention the identity of this pilgrim and guest. Before long, Aqa

Mirza Aqa received a letter from Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada' (Beloved of

the Martyrs), stating that Aqa Siyyid Yahya and his sister would

be leaving soon for the Holy Land, and whilst in Shiraz they should

Page 232

guests of Khadijih Bigum. Munirih Khanum (soon to be wedded to

'Abdu'l-Bahá) reached Shiraz in Shavval 1288 (December 1871 --

January 1872), and stayed for two weeks with the wife of the Báb.

Khadijih Bigum asked Munirih Khanum to present to Bahá'u'lláh a

request from her: that the House of the Báb be repaired once again,

and that she be permitted to reside in it. (She had been living in

the house of the uncle of the Báb.)

Bahá'u'lláh granted Khadijih Bigum's request, and the task of the

restoration of the house was given to Aqa Mirza Aqa and Haji Siyyid

'Ali, a son of Afnan-i-Kabir. A mason of Shiraz, Ustad

'Abdu'r-Razzaq, a devoted Baha'i, was chosen for the work, but the

house was not restored exactly as it had been in the days of the

Bab. The work done, Khadijih Bigum took her residence there.

Fiddih, the faithful negress, attended her, and for a while very

few knew that Khadijih Bigum had moved into that house, but before

long Bahá'ís became aware of it and started frequenting it more and

more. The fanatical residents of the houses of that street sat up

and took notice, began to whimper, and went complaining to the

mullas. Very soon it all came to the ears of Prince Farhad Mirza,

the Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih, an uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, who was at

this time the Governor-General of Fars. And so Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih

decided to damage the House of the Báb. Two of his private

secretaries who were Bahá'ís immediately informed Aqa Mirza Aqa of

what the crafty prince intended to do. Mirza Aqa at once moved his

aunt and the negress attendant, at night-time, to his own house

which was close to the Jami' Mosque of Shiraz. Khadijih Bigum

stayed in her nephew's house for nearly six months.

Around this time the Bahá'í community of Shiraz was prospering.

There were some two hundred men and women, amongst them a number

of very brave and devout believers, raised by the hand of the

Almighty to serve His Cause and give it victory. Foremost amongst

them stood Mirza 'Abdu'l-Karim, Mirza 'Ali-Akbar (son of the poet

known as Sabir), Mudhahibb-Bashi (the Chief Illuminator),

Shayakh-'Ali Mirza, Haji Mirza Buzurg-i-Afnan (a son of Haji Mirza


Muhammad), Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, Haji Ghulam-Husayn Khan and Mirza

Muhammad-Baqir Khan (Dihqan-Dehkan--of later years).

Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih was still the Governor when, due to the avarice

of the Imam-Ju'mih of Isfahan and the cunning of Zillu's-Sultan,

the two illustrious brothers, Sultanu'sh-Shuhada' (King of the

Martyrs) and Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada' (Beloved of the Martyrs), were

Page 233

beheaded. They had had commercial dealings with Aqa Mirza Aqa. As

the news of that foul treachery and the martyrdom of such

distinguished and well-famed men reached Shiraz, commotion came

upon the city, particularly in mercantile quarters. Since amongst

the Bahá'í merchants Aqa Mirza Aqa was the most prominent, the

Afnans felt that he ought to leave Shiraz, at least for a short

while, lest Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih should follow the pattern of

Zillu's-Sultan, his great-nephew, and attempt to extort money and,

in the process of lining his pockets, jeopardize the life of this

Afnan who was known to
Page 234

everyone as an outspoken member of the Bahá'í Faith. Within

twenty-four hours, Aqa Mirza Aqa was hurried out of Shiraz by his

relatives and was on his way to Bushihr, where without lingering

he took a boat to Bombay.

The martyrdom of the two illustrious brothers in Isfahan was indeed

very hard for Aqa Mirza Aqa to bear. They had been life-long

friends and business associates. Bahá'u'lláh honoured him, in this

period of engulfing sorrow, with this Tablet:
He is the Comforter, the All-Knowing

0 My Afnan! That which thou hadst repeatedly sent to our Name Mihdi

was read in Our presence, and from it We sensed the fragrance of

sorrow caused by this calamity which hath robed the Temple of

Grandeur with the garment of grief. Thy Lord is, in truth, the

Source of praise, the All-Knowing. Verily, over this supreme

affliction My Most Exalted Pen hath lamented. To this beareth

witness what the Maker of the heavens hath sent down in His

manifest Book. Well is it with him who recalleth those who met a

martyr's death in the path of God, whether in former or in recent

times, or in these days, and readeth what was sent down for them

from God, the Lord of the worlds. 0 My Afnan! Verily the divine

Lote-Tree hath moaned and the Rock hath cried out, but the

evil-doers are deep in slumber. Ere long the scourge of the wrath

of thy Lord shall make them aware. Verily, He is the All-Knowing,

the All-Informed. 0 My Afnan! It is incumbent on everyone who hath

drunk of the wine of the love of God to share, with the denizens

of the Supreme Concourse, in this supreme affliction and great

calamity, for they mourn as they see the utmost sorrow of this

Wronged One-the evidence of His grace, His fidelity and His bounty.

Verily, He is the Gracious, the Ancient of Days. Nevertheless thou

and all the other beloved ones of God should evince the utmost

resignation, acquiescence, patience and submissiveness to the will

of God... (Unpublished)

And there were other Tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh concerning the

martyrdom of the twin luminaries of Isfahan, addressed to Aqa Mirza

Aqa and others of the Afnans in Shiraz and Yazd.

Aqa Mirza Aqa arose, as was his wont, to propagate the Faith of

Bahá'u'lláh in Bombay, where he resided at 5 Appolo Street. Haji

Mirza Muhammad-i-Afshar and Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Muballigh were

both in Bombay and aided his efforts. He gave the message of

Bahá'u'lláh to anyone who was willing to listen. One of these was

named Muss, of Jewish background. This merchant and his family came

into the circle of the Faith and went on pilgrimage to the Holy


Although away from Shiraz, Aqa Mirza Aqa was constantly

Page 235

attending to the welfare of the wife of the Báb, writing to her and

sending on her letters to Bahá'u'lláh. And this brave, dedicated,

indefatigable man's services in every field of Bahá'í activity

evoked from the Most Exalted Pen a Tablet which conferred upon him

the designation of Nuri'd-Din--the Light of Faith.

0 My Afnan, upon thee rest My Glory, My Bounty and My Mercy.

Verily, the Servant-in-Attendance [Mirza Aqa Jan] came and made

mention of thee in Our presence. We therefore extolled thee in such

wise as to cause the cities of remembrance and utterance to be set

ablaze. Verily thy Lord is the Supreme Ruler over all things. We

have named thee, at this moment, Nuri'd-Din. We beseech God that

He may ordain for thee that which will draw thee near unto Him and

be of profit to thee. He verily is the All-Gracious, the

All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Quoted in Faydi, Khanadan-i-Afnan, p.

* * * * * * * * * *

[Electronic editor's note: In the Foreward to this book, p. x,

Moojan Momen writes: '...the present writer has contributed short

accounts... [The] additions are clearly indicated in the text ...

where the added material follows a line of asterisks.']

Then in 1882, the wife of the Báb passed away and Zahra Bigum--her

sister and Aqa Mirza Aqa's mother-took up residence in the House

of the Báb on the instructions of Bahá'u'lláh. Later, Bahá'u'lláh

Page 236

custodianship of the House of the Báb a hereditary office among her

descendants. Zahra Bigum passed away in 1889 and the custodianship

became the responsibility of Aqa Mirza Aqa, although he was at that

time resident in Egypt, where he had established his trading-house

in Port Sa'id. In July 1891, less than a year before the Ascension

of Bahá'u'lláh, Aqa Mirza Aqa arrived for pilgrimage in Haifa with

members of his family. The story of this pilgrimage, which lasted

for nine months and encompassed many episodes of great interest and

significance, is the subject of chapter 41 of Bahá'u'lláh, The King

of Glory, as described by Haji Mirza Habibu'llah, the son of Aqa

Mirza Aqa, in his autobiography.

In 1903, 'Abdu'l-Bahá issued instructions for the restoration of

the House of the Báb exactly as it was in the time of the Báb. Aqa

Mirza Aqa (who was the only living person who remembered the

details of the house as it had been) came to Shiraz and, with the

assistance of the believers there, undertook the task even though

these were difficult times for the Bahá'ís and persecutions had

erupted in many parts of the land. The restoration was almost

complete when Aqa Mirza Aqa took ill and passed away on 15 November

Page 237
The Angel of Mount Carmel
A shining, world-illuminating day is the night
of godly men,
Verily, the enlightened know not the gloom
of a darksome night.
- - - - - - - - - - - - Sa'di

Western Bahá'ís who came on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the

latter years of the Ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá met, at times, on

Mount Carmel a very old man, bent with age. His dignity, serenity

and vivacity so profoundly impressed and moved them that they spoke

of him as the Angel of Mount Carmel. That aged man was Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali of Isfahan, a well-tested veteran of the Bahá'í Faith.

Page 238

long life had been a mighty adventure of the spirit--a remarkable

and rich story to tell. In the evening of his life, in the shadow

of the Mountain of God, he wrote it down at the request of Aqa

Khusraw Biman,[1] a Persian Bahá'í of Zoroastrian background

residing in Poona, India; and gave his book the title:

Bihjatu's-Sudur--The Delight of Hearts. Aqa Khusraw had it

published in India, in the year 1913. The odyssey of Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali does not merely delight the heart; it stirs the soul.

[1. Aqa Khusraw kept a hotel in Poona close to the railway station.

It was called the National Hotel and was the best in the town. Many

Bahá'í functions of early days took place in that hotel. The

present writer has vivid recollections of the dignified, kindly

gentleman to whom the National Hotel belonged. (See illustration,

p. 260.)]

In the Public Record Office in London documents are deposited that

touch upon a wondrous episode in the life of Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali: his arrest in Cairo in the company of a number of his

fellow-believers and their banishment to the Sudan. The archives

of Yale University in the United States likewise contain documents

that further expose the malignancy of those who were responsible

for the banishment of those Baha'is.

Some time towards the end of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in Adrianople,

when the insubordination of Subh-i-Azal and his coterie of

mischief-makers had already moved to a climax, Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. He stayed for

seven months in that uneasy city. Then, he was directed to Istanbul

to take charge of communications. However, before long

circumstances made him desirous of a change of residence, and

Bahá'u'lláh instructed him to go to Egypt, and to be very

circumspect. In a Tablet revealed soon after, addressed to him,

Bahá'u'lláh clearly presaged the perils that awaited him. On the

same boat which took Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali and his companion,

Mirza Husayn, to Egypt there was also another Baha'i, Haji

Ja'far-i-Tabrizi, travelling in commercial pursuits. He was the

same dedicated man, who, later in Adrianople, cut his throat when

he learned that the Ottoman authorities had decided to exclude him

from the group of the Bahá'ís who were to be banished with

Bahá'u'lláh. However, on this boat Haji Ja'far and Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali were not to show any sign that they had known each

other in the past, and their transactions and treatment of one

another were to be entirely on the basis of commercial clients:

sellers and
Page 239

buyers of goods. But, when Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali reached Egypt,

he found his compatriots there very hostile and suspicious, for

Persians of Istanbul had done their worst. The accusations which

they had levelled against Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali were both

ludicrous and enormous; of course they were accusations which

stemmed from the fact that he was a Baha'i. He had been told by

Bahá'u'lláh to be very discreet, but now he realized that he must

seek a middle course between any attempt at concealment of his

faith, which was pointless, impossible and derogatory, and a bold

assertion of it in the face of solid, fanatical and blind

opposition. And he found that middle course and won the hearts of

his prejudiced, hostile compatriots. He told them that they had

been sadly misinformed: it was totally untrue that he and his

co-religionists had denied the Holy Prophet of Islam and His

illustrious Book; he and his co-religionists believed in Muhammad

and the Qur'an with the whole intensity of their souls. It was

equally untrue, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali assured those Persians of

Egypt, that he and his co-religionists had assumed the appellations

that fell exclusively within the domain of the Imams of the House

of Muhammad. They believed in the Holy Imams and would never brook

any disrespect towards them. He and his co-religionists, Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali asserted, were forbidden to engage in futile verbal

disputes. They presented what they had to present with love, with

compassion, with understanding.

Let us recall what Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali told Edward Granville

Browne, at Isfahan in 1888, two years before Browne visited 'Akka

and witnessed the power and the majesty that emanated from the

person of Bahá'u'lláh. Browne wrote:

...I learned ... that he ... was one of the chief missionaries of

the new faith, for which he had suffered stripes, imprisonment, and

exile more than once. I begged him to tell me what it was that had

made him ready to suffer these things so readily. 'You must go to

Acre,' he replied, 'to understand that.'

'Have you been to Acre?' I said, 'and if so, what did you see


'I have been there often,' he answered, 'and what I saw was a man

perfect in humanity.'

More than this he would not say (A Year Amongst the Persians, pp.


Having disarmed the adversaries, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali could,

then, consort with his compatriots in amity and mutual respect. He

Page 240

says in his autobiography that he and his companion, Mirza Husayn,

were oftentimes invited to the homes of the notables of the Persian

community. He gained not only good friends for the Faith which he

professed, but eventually he led some of them to give their own

allegiance to that Faith. Haji Muhammad-Hasan-i-Kaziruni became a

Bahá'í but did not avow it publicly. Haji Mirza Javad-i-Shirazi,

who had known the Báb as a young boy and had met Him when He was

engaged in trading, opened his heart to Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali and

spoke admiringly of the martyred Prophet, Whom he had encountered

in His early youth. Haji Mirza Muhammad-Rafi' was another prominent

member of the Persian community in Egypt, who became 'truthfully

attracted and strivingly friendly'.

But the case which was indeed miraculous was that of Haji

Abu'l-Qasim-i-Shirazi. He was a merchant in Mansuriyyih, very

wealthy but miserly, seventy years old. Siyyid Husayn-i-Kashani had

told him of the Bahá'í Faith, but Haji Abu'l-Qasim had paid scant

attention to what he had heard. Now, meeting Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali

he became a changed man. For twenty-odd years he had lived away

from his family who were in Shiraz, leading a solitary, miserly

existence in a caravanserai. When he fearlessly and openly espoused

the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, he sent Siyyid Husayn to Shiraz to bring

his family out to Egypt and wedded his daughter to him. As we shall

presently see, this marital union caused a stir and a good deal of

acrimonious correspondence between the Persian and the British

authorities. Next, Haji Abu'l-Qasim applied to Haji Mirza Husayn

Khan, the Mushiru'd-Dawlih, Persian ambassador in Istanbul,

specifically for a passport which should take him without hindrance

to Adrianople, to the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. Haji

Abu'l-Qasim-i-Shirazi had, indeed, attained second birth.

As it happened, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali's sojourn in Egypt coincided

with Haji Mirza Safa's periodic visits. Bahá'u'lláh had warned Haji

Mirza Haydar-'Ali that he would meet that self-styled murshid and

to be on his guard.[1] Haji Mirza Safa was a chameleon and changing

colour came easily to him. It was known that he had the ear of the

Persian ambassador in Istanbul. Although his share of mischief in

plotting against Bahá'u'lláh was undeniable, Haji Mirza Safa now

began associating with Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali in good rapport, even

going to the length of praising Bahá'u'lláh in tones of

Page 241

awe and wonderment. But it soon became evident that the man was

indeed false, and that he had his hand in the oppression which soon

overtook Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali. Nevertheless, only a few short

months later when Nabil-i-A'zam was detained in Cairo and thrown

into prison, it was the anger and the intervention of Haji Mirza

Safa which brought about his release from the clutches of the

Persian consul-general and his transference to a more salubrious

place in Alexandria.

[1. See Balyuzi, Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, pp. 198-201 and

481-2. (Ed.)]

In all these cases, the real villain was Haji Mirza Hasan Khan, the

consul-general of Iran. His was the false heart, pulsating with

greed, replete with envy. All that he cared for was how to fleece

his fellow-countrymen, how to break those who were defenceless. To

begin with he showed every manner of friendliness to Haji Mirza


There was a certain Haji Mirza Husayn, an engraver of Shiraz

[writes this veteran of the Bahá'í Faith], whose faith,

affiliation, avocation and path consisted of worldly pleasures and

pursuits, of good food and good bedding; and to attain these ends

he would sacrifice everything else. The Consul made use of this man

covertly to frighten away the Persians so that they should cease

consorting with me, while he himself would be associating with me

in a friendly manner, simulating sincerity and truthfulness, to

learn who were meeting me in secret. One month passed, and the

Persians stopped associating with me openly. But at nightfall some

came, either singly, or two by two; many of them avowed their

belief [in this Faith] and did not speak falsely. Then the Consul

and the engraver thought of provoking mischief and arresting me,

together with the other believers. But in Egypt there was freedom

of conscience and religion, and they could not lay their hands on

anyone in the name of faith and belief. Satanic motives and

self-ridden thoughts made the Consul and the engraver concoct a

plan... (Bihjatu's-Sudar, p. 91)

The plan was to inveigle Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali into believing that

Haji Mirza Hasan Khan really wished to investigate and know the

truth. The engraver, an ingenious hypocrite, set about encouraging

and persuading him to believe that, and to this end meetings were

arranged in the house of the engraver himself. Then, Haji Mirza

Hasan Khan twice visited Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali in the latter's

house, accompanied by the engraver. He was all friendliness,

expressing his disgust in regard to the attitude and behaviour of

the people. And apparently Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali believed that his

protestations were genuine.

Next, the Haji writes about another hypocrite, a dervish from

Page 242

Kashan, named Darvish Hasan. And he, too, succeeded in deceiving

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, for he had played his game well and gained

the Haji's confidence. As the Haji writes, Darvish Hasan had made

himself an intermediary between the Consul, the engraver and their

intended victim. Every day he would come to the Haji with accounts

(of his own fabrication) of what the Consul and the engraver had

said or done, and would do the same with the others in regard to

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali. Whereas when consorting with the Baha'is

he would avow ardently his belief in their Faith, when meeting the

Consul and the engraver he would never pretend that he was a

Baha'i, and they took it that the dervish was just attempting to

be discreet.

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali then writes of Haji Mirza Safa's

dissimulation. That self-styled murshid claimed that he had known

the Báb during the days of His sojourn in Bushihr, and had been

greatly impressed by Him. And when he had heard, he said, that a

young Siyyid of Shiraz had raised a call, he was certain that this

Siyyid could be none other than the young merchant whom he had met

in Bushihr. He told Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali that before long he had

come across the Ahsanu'l-Qisas (or Qayyumu'l-Asma', the Báb's

commentary on the Surih of Joseph) and also the commentary on the

Surih of Kawthar; and knowing that the Báb had received no formal

education, he could not but believe that whatever flowed from the

pen of that young Siyyid was divinely inspired. He had been to

Tabriz, he averred, to attain the presence of the Báb, but many

difficulties and hindrances arose, barring him from his object.

Haji Mirza Safa even went to the length of avowing that the Advent

of the Báb was the precursor to the Advent of Bahá'u'lláh. And he

visited Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali several times. But the Haji had been


The man, amongst many of the learned and the erudite, whom Haji

Mirza Haydar-'Ali found to be truly outstanding was Mirza Ja'far

Aqa: a philosopher of immense learning and knowledge, possessed of

such eloquence and power of speech as Haji Mirza Safa could never

hope to match. He had attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in

Adrianople and given Him his allegiance. Mirza Ja'far Aqa was

particularly enchanted by the Most Great Branch, the eldest Son of

Bahá'u'lláh, and considered himself to be truly the servant of that

'Mystery of God' (Sirru'llah). Of others in Egypt there was Shafi'

Effendi, a Sufi murshid, who had his own hermitage and conclave of

dervishes, and was led to embrace the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. Haji

Page 243

Mirza Haydar-'Ali states that after what happened to him

personally, Shafi' Effendi could no longer live in Egypt and had

to leave everything and go away. Still, there was another Sufi

murshid of the Mawlavis, who had come very close to the Faith of

Bahá'u'lláh, a man of great influence. Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali had

high hopes, he writes, to establish firm contacts with the

Egyptians through his good offices. But then the axe fell and the

treacherous Haji Mirza Hasan Khan, the consul-general of Iran,

wielded that axe whereby all ties were sundered. After the remove

of more than a century, that which endures is the shining example

of the 'Angel of Mount Carmel', and all that remains of Haji Mirza

Khan is a name coupled with infamy.

It was the night of the 21st day of Ramadan, the eve of the

anniversary of the martyrdom of 'Ali Ibn 'Ali-Talib, the first

Imam, a night held holy by the Shi'his--and not revered by them

alone. Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali writes:

The Consul invited me to visit him that night in his house. All the

Persians, he said, are engaged this night with prayer and

meditation until dawn, even the servants of the Consulate go away.

There would be no one about, he stated, to cause us concern, and

we would have the whole night to consort and to talk.

There was a man, irreligious, inclined to mysticism, eloquent, of

good conversation, knowledgeable, who repudiated all faiths. He had

known me in Iran and felt kindly towards me. He came to Egypt and

heard of the Cause of God and claimed: 'I will answer them, I will

prove their falsity.' Some people, to satisfy their own

understanding and to test him and me, brought him to my home. When

he saw me, he told the intermediary: 'I am neither a believer in

this Cause, nor in the previous Causes, but I have seen this man

and know that I cannot stand up to him in any respect. To say I do

not give way and to behave unjustly, should it confound those who

are present, would firstly neither confound him, nor secondly,

confound the one who disputes with him. And to act in this manner

is far removed from equity, courtesy, wisdom, generosity and

humanity.' When the Consul offered me that invitation, this man

[whose name Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali does not divulge] said: 'Going

to the house of the Consul is a rash act and inadvisable, because

should the Consul wish to harm thee and detain thee and inflict an

injury on thee, he cannot possibly act against thee, Egypt enjoying

freedom as she does, unless under the pretence of friendly

invitation he gets thee into his own home and under his roof and

beneath the flag of his government. Then, whatever the accusation

that he levels against thee, whatever the harm that he causes thee,

neither the Egyptian government, nor any other government can

question him and take him to task. Moreover, you have no one to

Page 244

complain to other governments and stand up to the Consul.' I put

down his warning to irresolution, wild imaginings and lack of

assurance. (Bihjatu's-Sudar, pp. 95-96)

But this unnamed man, truly discerning, knew his Consul better than

did Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, who fell into the trap set for him by

Haji Mirza Hasan Khan. A few lines later, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali

adds: 'That irreligious man, whose name was Aqa Karim, now I have

remembered it...' Such are the freshness and spontaneity in the

autobiographical writing of the Haji which add immensely to its

charm and interest.

Then Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali records the contents and some verses

of a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh, addressed to him from Adrianople, in

which he is told of perils awaiting him. Thus had Bahá'u'lláh

addressed him:

We hear thy cry and supplication at thy remoteness from the

Dawning-Place of Lights. Be patient and do not bewail thy plight.

Be content with that which God hath ordained for thee. He, verily,

payeth the due recompense of those who are patient. Hast thou not

seen My incarceration, My affliction, My injury, My suffering?

Follow, then, the ways of thy Lord, and among His methods is the

suffering of His well-favoured servants. Let nothing grieve thee.

Put thy trust in thy Lord. He shall verily confirm thee, draw thee

nigh unto Him and grant thee victory. Should affliction overtake

thee in My path and abasement in My name, rejoice and be of the

thankful. Thus have We imparted unto thee the word of truth so that

when calamities descend upon thee, thy feet may not slip and thou

shalt be as firm and steadfast as a mountain in the Cause of thy

Lord... (Bihjatu's-Sudar, pp. 96-7)

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali had shown this Tablet to many, including Aqa

Karim. Trying to dissuade him from accepting the invitation of the

Consul, Aqa Karim reminded him of that Tablet and the unmistakable

warning which it conveyed. But Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali was not to

be dissuaded. On the appointed night (the eve of the anniversary

of the martyrdom of 'Ali Ibn Abi-Talib), he, accompanied by Mirza

Husayn and Darvish Hasan, went to the house of the Persian

consul-general. The hypocritical Haji Mirza Hasan Khan received his

guests with apparent joy and open arms. They sat down to talk and

enjoy refreshments. Then, nearing the dawn, the Consul got up and

retired to his private quarters, without uttering a word of

farewell. And shortly after, his guests were told that they could

go home and a lantern was ready for them. But they soon found

Page 245

themselves surrounded and led away to imprisonment. They had indeed

walked into a trap. Thus did nine years of captivity begin for the

'Angel of Mount Carmel'. Describing their capture, he writes:

Such behaviour caused astonishment. What did this mean, subsequent

to all that kindliness and expression of kindness? In any case we

rose up to depart. Only one lantern was needed, but every few steps

that we took, more lanterns and more men appeared, until some

thirty to forty men, like wolves, encircled me and the other two,

and all of a sudden each one of us was seized by eight or nine men,

as if we were Rustams[1] and men of war. We were carried in such

a way to the prison they had prepared that nowhere were our feet

touching the ground. In that prison they put chains round our necks

and our feet were fettered. Then they disrobed us and took away our

clothes, and left nothing undone or unsaid in the way of beatings

and abuse. But, praise to God, I was very happy. Day had dawned

when they left us and bolted and locked the door of our prison.

There we were all alone: Mirza Husayn, Darvish Hasan and myself.

When I spoke with joy and gratitude of our plight, I found that

Mirza Husayn was somewhat unhappy and discontented, while Darvish

Hasan was utterly distressed and unresponsive. I managed to comfort

Mirza Husayn to a degree. (Bihjatu's-Sudar, p. 98)

[1. The legendary hero of ancient Iran, immortalized by the

Shahnamih of Firdawsi.]

However, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali writes, Darvish Hasan began to show

the nature of his duplicity. When the time came for breaking the

fast, in the evening the Consul's servants brought the prisoners

tea and some food. Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali remarks on the abusive

language and the impertinence of the Consul's minions. So insulting

and so insolent they were, he writes, that the food which they

served tasted venomous to the palates of the three men, held

unjustifiably and illegally in custody. He goes on to say:

They went to our house and brought everything we had to the Consul.

Of Writings, Tablets, best products and specimens of calligraphy,

and fine valuables, the Consul, Mirza Hasan Khan of Khuy, took

possession himself. What was left the others grabbed. Then they

brought some old clothes and bedding most of which were not ours,

insisting that they were. We made no enquiry regarding other

things, because it was obvious that they had helped themselves to

everything. We only said that those old clothes and bedding did not

belong to us. Whereupon they so maltreated us, so mocked and

reproved us, that we regretted having said anything to them. Next

they forced me to write a receipt and put my seal to it, declaring

that all the goods and chattels in my house had been given to me

except Books and Writings. They wrote that document in the way they

wanted, told me to copy it and seal it, and insisted that the other

two should sign it as well. Then it was found that Darvish Hasan

was illiterate. They intended that this document should serve

Page 246

as a positive proof to my ownership of those Books and Writings.

Having procured what they wanted, they proceeded to put those Books

and Writings before the Egyptian authorities, indicating that He

[Bahá'u'lláh] was claiming Lordship and Divinity and that He had

instituted a new religion. Coupled with these statements were the

same sorts of calumnies and insinuations that people have always

levelled against the Manifestation of the Light, whenever He has

appeared. They told the authorities that these were the men who had

intended to assassinate His Majesty the Shah of Iran, and, having

failed to carry out their purpose, were now intent on murdering His

Highness the Khedive and taking possession of Egypt. And it is

certain that they have accomplices, people who are like-minded:

Egyptians, Persians and Turks in other countries... With these

accusations they beguiled the Khedive, who became apprehensive and

frightened. Thus it was that the Consul was empowered to seize

anyone whom he knew to be of this Faith. From the third day onward

they laid hands on anyone who had been consorting with me and put

him in gaol. In Mansurah, they arrested Haji Abu'l-Qasim. When they

were about to fasten him with chains, this pure-hearted, aged man

took the chain with both hands and kissed it. And on his lips were

the words: 'Bismi'llahi'l-Bahiyyi'l-Abha' [In the Name of the God

of Glory, the Most Glorious]. They had prepared a place near my

prison to receive these later detainees. The Consul had some three

hundred men arrested, Persians and others, even Christians and

Persian Jews. It came to my ears that he had covertly sent for a

number of Egyptians, asking them for what reason they had visited

my house. These men would have to bribe him to shut his mouth and

stop his reporting them to the Egyptian authorities. We could hear

the conversation of the people brought in. In any case we were very

happy because our captivity and imprisonment had come to us in the

path of God. (Bihjatu's-Sudar, pp. 99-100)

However, it is apparent that the behaviour and the talk of Darvish

Hasan caused Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali great distress at times. And

so did the abusive and insulting language which the ruffians and

rascals in the service of the Consul used, whenever they came to

attend to the needs of the prisoners.
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali goes on to say:

One night, he [the Consul] invited a number of prominent Persians

and grandees of Egypt to a sumptuous festivity, and sent for me to

be brought to that assemblage, in chains, with hands tied. As soon

as I entered there, God is my witness, I saw in my mind's eye a

renewal of the court of Ibn-Ziyad[1] in Kufih and the hauling in

of the prisoners of Karbila. They wanted to keep me standing while

firing questions at me. I salaamed and sat down. (Bihjatu's-Sudar,

p. 101)

[1.'Ubaydu-llah Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufih under Yazid, the

second Umayyad caliph, who was greatly instrumental in encompassing

the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the third Imam.]
Page 247

And Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali nonplussed the deceitful Consul further

still. He himself began addressing the Consul and his guests,

declaring first that it had always been the destiny of those who

had followed the Light of God to suffer darts and torment,

affliction and captivity, hardship and imprisonment in the path of

their Faith. Then turning to the guests of the Consul, he told

them: 'Ask this man', indicating Haji Mirza Hasan Khan, the Consul,

'what wrong-doing, what wickedness he discovered in me, what

plotting, what transgression he uncovered, to subject me to this

treatment.' Haji Mirza Hasan Khan of Khuy knew that he was beaten

and signalled to his minions to take Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali away.

Another day, the Consul, still smarting under the defeat which he

had suffered, but still as vindictive as ever, took a number of the

people of Adharbayjan, pilgrims on their way to Mecca, into the

prison, and 'in order to show them', as Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali puts

it, 'his power and authority', as soon as he came in, gave the

prisoner a blow with his walking-stick and told him: 'Speak the

truth. What is your name?' to which query he received the answer:


'But', said the Consul, 'you have been called by other names, such

as Gabriel, Katib-i-Vahy (the Scribe of Revelation),

Amira'l-Mu'minin (Commander of the Faithful).' I said that I had

never applied these designations to myself; someone else must have

done that. The Consul affirmed that. Then I said that whoever had

related that had not mentioned his name. 'But I know his name: it

is Satan, because Satan leads you to evil deeds and enormities, and

to speak against people about matters that you do not comprehend.'

[See Qur'an 2:164.] Now, I was hit by a man who said: 'Are you

insulting the ambassador?'

Next, they brought a man to the prison who demanded from me his

brother's clothes. He said that his brother had given me his

clothes to keep for him. Then he mentioned his brother's name. I

said that I did not know that man, and knew nothing about his

clothes. He became rude and aggressive, but as soon as the Consul's

men went away, he kissed me and said: 'I am

'Abdu'llah-i-Najafabadi; I have attained the Presence [of

Bahá'u'lláh]. Now I have come here to go on pilgrimage to Mecca and

Medina. I heard of your detention, and knew that you had been

robbed of everything. I had two Ottoman pounds and wanted to give

them to you.' (Bihjatu's-Sudar, pp. 101-2)

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali then relates the story of that intrepid

Bahá'í of Najafabad. Aqa 'Abdu'llah had found that the only way to

meet the prisoners was to make up the fictitious account of his

brother's clothes. He stayed with Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali for nearly

Page 248

six hours . Then the Consul's men came and took him away. At

Jiddah, Aqa 'Abdu'llah met Haji Mirza Safa, the Sufi murshid whom

Bahá'u'lláh had mentioned to Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, and entered

his service. Other Persians there told the murshid that the man

whom he had taken into his service was a 'Babi' and had been to

Adrianople. When questioned, Aqa 'Abdu'llah readily admitted that

everything said about him was correct, and stated bravely that he

had never failed the murshid in serving him. Haji Mirza Safa had

no complaint on that account, and asked Aqa 'Abdu'llah what he had

seen in Adrianople. He replied: 'Whatever I had heard about the

Prophets in the past, I found there.' Then Haji Mirza Safa said:

'Why is it that so many of the learned, the divines, the

philosophers have not seen it and you have?' Aqa 'Abdu'llah was

ready with his answer. The same had happened when Muhammad came;

men of rank and learning failed to recognize Him, but Bilal, an

Ethiopian slave, then a shepherd, a seller of dates, and

Salman-i-Farsi (the Persian) did, and came to believe in Him. The

murshid was nonplussed, increased his wages and told him to go away

and not to visit Medina. Aqa 'Abdu'llah left quietly but he went

to Medina, notwithstanding. When he was reproached by Haji Mirza

Safa, Aqa 'Abdu'llah very politely pointed out that visiting the

Shrine of the Prophet took preference. Then the murshid took him

back into his service, and tried to win him away from his Faith.

But, as Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali has it:

...he [Aqa 'Abdu'llah] said: 'The likes of us have to bear the

burden and toil, so that you and those like you should live in

safety and comfort.' [The murshid] asked then: 'What is it that

makes you and those like you so brave and so ready with your

answers?' He [Aqa 'Abdu'llah] replied: 'If ye be of the truthful

then crave for death [Qur'an 2: 88]. Stating the truth requires no

deliberation, no premeditation, no precaution.' May my life be a

sacrifice to his power of constancy. (Bihjatu's-Sudar, p. 103)

Then Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali relates what he heard a man accused of

theft say about the 'Babis'. The room where he was kept was next

door to the main room where all others were housed, and he could

hear the conversation of the people there. This man had spoken at

length of the 'Babis', recalled all their past history and had

concluded that nothing at all can utterly destroy them. Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali says that that poor man was severely beaten and

tortured for having sided with the 'Babis'.

The Haji records that before long the treatment to which they [the

Page 249

Bahá'í prisoners] were subjected was completely changed. Their food

was restricted to half a loaf of bread and the water they were

given to drink was so little that they suffered greatly from

thirst. 'We were so enfeebled', he writes, 'that we could hardly

move ourselves.' At this juncture the two Ottoman pounds, which Aqa

'Abdu'llah had given to the Haji, came to their aid. Darvish Hasan

was all the while whining and reviling the Haji so as to win

favours from the Consul's lackeys. All this time, Haji Mirza

Haydar-'Ali relates, the Consul was busy arresting people and

fining them--sums varying from a few pounds to five hundred; before

releasing them he would send them to spit on the Haji. Some of

these wretched men felt so ashamed that they could not raise their

heads to look at him, but they were forced to do so and to spit and


Thus days passed. Then one night, as the Haji relates:

...six o'clock after sunset, they came and took Darvish Hasan away.

Next, they came for Mirza Husayn; and finally they took me away.

In the Consulate there was an array of chairs, occupied by the

Consul and members of the Egyptian police. A number of hell's

lackeys were also in evidence, as well as a number of men chained

whose hands were tied together. The Consul pointed me out and said,

'This man is the source of all mischief, he is their Gabriel and

their Prophet.' Then I was handed over to the Egyptian police. My

hands were tied very tightly behind my back. Praise be to God, that

in the path of His love and for the sake of His name, they put

heavy chains on my neck. They wrote down the names of each one of

us, and they also recorded our nativity and the names of our

fathers, and these were given to the police. We were seven Persians

and an Egyptian teacher of English. Because I was teaching him

Persian, this Egyptian was accused of being friendly towards me.

Amongst those detained were 'Abdu'l-Vahhab-i-Zanjani and

Hashrim-i-Kashani, outwardly my servants. They were my friends and

spiritual brothers. Another one of those, detained was Haji

Abu'l-Qasim-i-Isfahani. They had taken Mirza Ja'far Aqa to task for

being friendly towards me and having been seen in my company, but

had been properly told off. Shafi' Effendi, who was a murshid and

had a hermitage, found it no longer possible to live in Cairo. Haji

Abu'l-Qasim-i-Shirazi had also been detained. They made him pay a

thousand pounds to gain his freedom. He paid it and did not recant

faith. He also gave ten pounds to a Christian to give to me. That

man came to Sudan and gave me the money. The Haji passed away soon

after. His son-in-law, Aqa Siyyid Husayn-i-Kashi, was a British

subject, and everywhere he spoke of the Consul's misdeeds. He met

a martyr's death at the instigation of the Consul. There was no one

to take up the prosecution and the culprit went free.

(Bihjatu's-Sudar, pp. 105-6)
Page 250

The case of Aqa Siyyid Husayn-i-Kashi became a cause celebre, when

his nationality was being hotly debated. Dispatches kept in the

Public Record Office in London, as well as a number of documents

belonging to the Persian Embassy which are now preserved in the

archives of Yale University, provide details of the controversies

aroused by the chicanery and greed of Haji Mirza Hasan Khan, the

Persian consul-general in Cairo. (See Momen, chap. 15.)

* * * * * * * * * *

[Electronic editor's note: In the Foreward to this book, p. x,

Moojan Momen writes: '...the present writer has contributed short

accounts... [The] additions are clearly indicated in the text ...

where the added material follows a line of asterisks.']

As for Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, he and his six fellow-Bahá'ís were

exiled to Khartum in the Sudan in conditions of the greatest

hardship. When they first arrived there, the minds of the

Government officials and of the people had been so poisoned against

them that they were harshly treated. Later, however, as their true

characters became known, they won the respect and admiration of

everyone in Khartum from the Governor down. After their exile had

lasted nine years, Bahá'u'lláh succeeded in sending one of the Arab

believers, Haji Jasim-i-Baghdadi, to Khartum with messages and

greetings for them. A short while later, in 1877, General Gordon

was made Governor of the city, and by petitioning him the Baha'i

exiles were able to obtain permission to leave.

From Khartum they made their way to Mecca and from there to 'Akka.

Here Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali spent several months, being frequently

in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. Then he was instructed to leave for

Iran. For almost thirty years he travelled around Iran, visiting

Bahá'í communities and teaching the Faith. On several occasions,

both during the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh and during 'Abdu'l-Bahá's

ministry, he visited the Holy Land, and remained there for varying

periods of time. He also travelled in Egypt, India, Caucasia and

Turkistan. Finally, in about 1903, he came to settle permanently

in the Holy Land, where he died in Haifa on 27 December 1920.

Truly, in his long years of steadfast and uncomplaining service,

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, the Angel of Mount Carmel, had fulfilled

this injunction laid upon him by Bahá'u'lláh (Tablets, p. 246):

We have brought thee into being to serve Me, to glorify

My Word and to proclaim My Cause. Centre thine energies

upon that wherefor thou hast been created by virtue of the Will of

supreme Ordainer, the Ancient of Days.
Page 251
The Great Mujtahid

Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, known as Mirzay-i-Shirazi, was the greatest

mujtahid of his day. He was considered the sole Marja'u't-Tuqlid

for the entire Shi'ih world, which meant that all the Shi'ihs in

every country looked to him as their spiritual leader and as their

guide and exemplar in matters of application of the Holy Law of


The father of this great man was Mir Mahmud-i-Khushnivis, a

resident of Shiraz famed for his calligraphy in the Nasta'liq

style. He was a paternal cousin of the father of the Báb.

Mirzay-i-Shirazi was born on 5 May 1815 in Shiraz and received his

initial education there. He was later sent to Isfahan which was at

that time the foremost city of learning in Iran. In about 1843 he

travelled to 'Iraq but at first used to return frequently to

Isfahan, until he began to attend the classes of Shaykh

Murtiday-i-Ansari. It was then that he decided to settle in 'Iraq.

Little by little he became known as the most prominent student of

Shaykh Murtida, who was acknowledged as the leading mujtahid of the

Shi'ih world. When Shaykh Murtida died in 1864, Mirzay-i-Shirazi

succeeded him as teacher of his circle of students. Over the next

few years, his stature among the other 'ulama increased to the

point that when Siyyid Husayn-i-Turk died in 1882, Mirzay-i-Shirazi

became acknowledged as the sole Marja'u't-Taqlid for the Shi'ih

world. He is also called Hujjatu'l-Islam (the Proof of Islam),

Ayatu'llah (the Sign of God) and Mujaddid (Renewer, i.e. of Islam)

by his biographers.

In 1875, Mirzay-i-Shirazi transferred his residence from Najaf to

Samarra and remained there until his death. In 1891-2 there

occurred the famous protest against the Tobacco Regie. As a result

of a fatwa which is said to have been issued by Mirzay-i-Shirazi,

the Government of Iran and the foreign diplomatic establishment

were amazed to observe an almost complete cessation of the use of

tobacco in Iran. The Shah was forced to capitulate and the tobacco

concession was cancelled.
Page 252

Mirzay-i-Shirazi died on 20 February 1895 and his body was carried

from Samarra to Najaf, where it was buried.

The story of Mirzay-i-Shirazi does not end there, however. It has

an interesting aspect from the point of view of the Bahá'í Faith.

For, unknown to all, Mirzay-i-Shirazi had since his youth been a

believer in the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. He only chose to reveal this

towards the end of his life and then only to a relative, Aqa Mirza

Aqa, Nuri 'd-Din-i-Afnan, who was an Afnan on his mother's side,

but whose father was a paternal cousin of Mirzay-i-Shirazi. The

events leading up to this interview have been recorded by Aqa Mirza

Aqa's son, Mirza Habibu'llah Afnan, and the rest of this chapter

is a translation of his account. (Footnotes are by the translator.


When, in 1311 [1893-4], the mother of Aqa Siyyid Husayn-i-Afnan

[Sahibih-Sultan Bigum] with her daughter Fatimih Bigum, who is the

mother of the late Muvaqqari'd-Dawlih,[1] were visiting the Holy

Shrines in 'Iraq, they went to the house of Mirza Hujjatu'l-Islam

[Mirzay-i-Shirazi] in order to introduce themselves to him.

[1. The father of Mr Balyuzi: (MM)]

After the formalities, the mother said: 'I am the wife of the late

Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim and this is my daughter. We would ask for

your special blessing and favour.'
'Which Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim?' he asked.

'The maternal uncle of Aqa Mirza Aqa,' she replied.

'Which Aqa Mlrza Aqa?'
'The son of the late Mirza Zaynu'l-'Abidin.'

Then he remembered who it was and said: 'The Aqa Mirza

Zaynu'l-'Abidin who lived near the gate of the Masjid-i-Jami'?'

'Yes,' she replied, and he was overjoyed.
'Where is Aqa Mirza Aaa now?' he then asked.

'He was living in Egypt, but it appears from what he has written

that he now intends to return to Shiraz.'

'Do you know whether he has already travelled and reached Shiraz

or not?'
'He has still not arrived.'

'How much longer are you intending to remain at the Holy Shrines?'

'We will stay for perhaps fifteen more days and when we have

completed our pilgrimage, we will return to Bushihr.'

Page 253

'Please remember to do the following when you return to Bushihr.

If you find that Aqa Mirza Aqa has already passed through that town

and is on his way to Shiraz, then let it be. But if he arrives

while you are in Bushihr, please say to him from me: "Be sure to

come to the Holy Shrines and visit me, for it has been many years

that I have been deprived of meeting members of my family." And if

you leave Bushihr before he arrives, leave a message for him with

a trustworthy person that it is necessary for me to see him.'

(The late Hujjatu'l-Islam had family ties with the late Aqa Mirza

Aqa, that is to say their fathers were paternal cousins and were

also related to the father of the Báb. It was for this reason that

he was trying to arrange this meeting.)

The days of the pilgrimage of those two ladies at the Holy Shrines

drew to a close and they went to bid farewell to Hujjatu'l-Islam.

They said to him: 'We are taking our leave today.' He urged them

once more not to forget his message to Aqa Mirza Aqa and to ensure

that when he came to the Holy Shrines, he would come and see him.

After completing their pilgrimage the ladies returned to Bushihr

and on the very same day the ship carrying Aqa Mirza Aqa arrived

at Bushihr. They met each other and the ladies conveyed the message

of Hujjatu'l-Islam.

Aqa Mirza Aqa has said: 'I was very hesitant as to whether I should

go and visit or not. Eventually, I decided that I ought to go. The

same ship took me on to Basrah and from Basrah I travelled to

Baghdad. I sent a letter to Hujjatu'l-Islam saying: "In conformity

with your wishes, your message has been forwarded to me [in which]

you had stressed that when I reached 'Iraq I should visit you. I

am now at Baghdad. Whenever you appoint a time I shall come to see


'I sent the letter through one of the Arab Bahá'ís and instructed

him to identify himself as my messenger and then deliver it. When

the letter reached him and he realized I was in Baghdad, he sent

the following reply:

"'0 Light of my eyes! Dear and honoured one! Your letter was

received. Since at the present time there is much coming and going

of pilgrims, please remain in Baghdad for fifteen days even though

it may be an inconvenience to you. Then at the expiry of the

fifteen days, come here so that we can meet. I am very eager to

meet you. I am sending this reply with your messenger."

'After seeing this reply, I remained in Baghdad, according to the

Page 254

instructions, for fifteen days. At the expiry of that time, I set

out to Samarra with a number of the Arab Baha'is. Upon our arrival,

the Arabs found a place for us to stay and we settled in there.

'The following morning I called on His Honour and found an old man

with a radiant face, sitting with pillows around him on which he

was resting. The people who were being admitted to his presence

would kiss his hand, sit in his presence for an hour or so, and

then be dismissed. I, like the others, went forward, kissed his

hand and introduced myself. He looked at me and enquired after my

health. He asked: "Where are you staying?" I did not know but the

Arab Bahá'ís who were with me gave the address. He did not speak

to me any more nor pay any attention to me, and after sitting for

more than one hour, I got up and again without paying any attention

to me, he said "Farewell!"

'I was annoyed at his ignoring me and was not in a good mood. "What

a thing to do," I said to myself. "I have caused myself a lot of

trouble for no reason and have come here from Bushihr to no

purpose." I was very offended. I arrived at the place where I was

staying and said to my companions, "Let us make preparations to

leave at first light tomorrow."

'At the time of the call to prayer, which was two hours before

sunrise, I was up and drinking tea, the others were busy collecting

their belongings, it was just getting light and I was looking from

the shutters towards the gate of the house when I saw an akhund

[divine] coming. When he reached the door of the house, he called

out to one of the Bahá'ís whose name was 'Ali. 'Ali went over to

speak to him and he said, "Say that I have a message from His

Honour the Mirza, which I want to convey to Aqa Mirza Aqa." 'Ali

conveyed the message and I went over and spoke to the akhund. He

said, "His Honour, the Hujjatu'l-Islam, has asked that you come to

see him alone, without your companions."

'I decided to go, but my companions said: "We cannot let you go

alone. Anything could happen."

"'These thoughts are wrong," I replied. "He must want to see me

about something since he has specially sent for me."

'In the end my companions agreed and I set out without them. The

name of the akhund was Shaykh Hasan and he was one of the intimates

of Hujjatu'l-Islam. I went with him until we reached the door of

the house of His Honour the Mirza, where I had been the

Page 255
previous day. But he carried on round the corner.

"'The house of His Honour the Mirza is here, 0 Shaykh," I said to

him; "where are you going?"

"'This is the biruni [outer apartments]," he replied. "He has

instructed that you be taken in through the door of the andaruni

[inner apartments] which are private."

'He went on another twenty paces and opened a door. In the corner

of the hallway there was a room. He opened the door and held up the

curtain. I went in and found His Honour, the Hujjatu'l-Islam, as

on the previous day, with cushions around him, lying down.

'I greeted him and he replied. Then he said to Shaykh Hasan: "Go

and make some tea and bring it. No one is to be permitted to come

here, for it is fifty years since I have seen any of my relatives.

I want one hour free from interruption to be with him. Even the

children are not to be permitted."

'After giving these instructions, he said, "Also, close the door."

And so Shaykh Hasan closed the door and left. Then he opened his

arms and embraced me. He wept copiously and I felt so sorry for him

that I began to weep too. He sat me down next to him and poured out

expressions of affection and favour.

"'I know that you were annoyed at the way we met yesterday and were

displeased. I realized that you were angered. What can I do with

such people? What can I do? It was for this reason that I sent

Shaykh Hasan to you in the early morning to bring you here so that

I can meet you."
'At this moment, say& Hasan brought in the tea.

"'Leave it and go ," he said. "Aqa Mirza Aqa will pour the tea."

'Shaykh Hasan put down the tray and left. I poured some tea and

offered it to him. He said, "You drink it." I declined but he

insisted and so I drank the tea. He ordered me to fill up the same

cup again and he drank from it. Then we began speaking. He asked

a few questions about where I had been during these years, what I

had heard and which persons I had met. I asked: "What sort of

persons?" He said: "Persons who have put forward claims and have

caused controversy--that is to say, people with new ideas."

'I replied: "In 1294 [sic] when I travelled from Shiraz, I went to

Bombay where I occupied myself trading. Here I was friendly with

and associating with Iranian and foreign merchants. I met all types

of people and we would discuss every kind of topic. For example,

I met
Page 256

Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Shirazi,[1] who is known as Muballigh, and

he spoke of many important matters. When I considered what he said

and weighed his words justly, I could not refute them."

[1. A prominent Bahá'í teacher who was responsible for the

conversion of some of the Afnan family.]
"'Where did you go after Bombay?"

"'In 1305 [19 September 1887 -- September 1888], I went from

Bombay to Egypt, and I remained for some time in Port Sa'id and

Cairo and was in contact with all sorts of people."

"'Where did you go from there and whom did you meet?"

'It suddenly occurred to me, from his questions, that perhaps he

wanted to extract a confession from me and cause me trouble. But

I thought about this and seeing that there was no one present but

myself and him, I thought it unlikely that he was planning

anything. So I decided to answer his questions cautiously.

"'For a time I went to visit my uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan,[2]

and I met there some important people from among the notables such

as Aqa Muhammad-Mustafay-i-Baghdadi[3] and others."

[2. Known as Afnan-i-Kabir, a Bahá'í resident in Beirut.]

[3. One of the prominent Bahá'í residents of Beirut (see chap.

"'What did they speak of?"

"'They spoke of the new cause, and whatever they said was supported

by proofs from the verses of the Qur'an and the Hadith of the

Prophet [Muhammad] to such an extent that no fair-minded person

could deny it. And so I wanted very much to see Your Honour so that

I could ask you what my position is according to religious law and

what my moral and religious duty is. Should they be accepted or


"'God, may He be exalted, has said that the parts of the body are

for the use of creation that mankind may utilize each of them.

Thus, for example, eyes are created for seeing, ears for hearing,

the tongue for speech, hands for touching and feet for walking, but

He has created the heart for knowing and understanding Him and has

ordained it as the place of His effulgence. He has said: 'The heart

of man is the throne of the All-Merciful.' Since it is thus, Satan

has no place there. And therefore if this cause is not from God,

it will have no effect on the heart and being of a man. Whatever

the heart accepts and understands must, without doubt, come from

God--it will not err."

'When I heard this reply of his, I became more confident and felt

free to speak.
Page 257

"'Now, my dear friend, where did you go from Beirut?" he asked.

"'I went to 'Akka."

'He smiled and asked, "And what did you find there?"

"'From what point of view do you mean?"

"'From both the material and spiritual points of view."

"'From a worldly point of view, I found such majesty, power, and

authority that no king or emperor could hope to rival. And as for

the spiritual realm, whatever you have heard of the previous

manifestations of the power of God [i.e., the Prophets] or have

seen in their books, you will find a more complete and one thousand

times more mighty a demonstration of that revelation in this holy

Personage. For example, from the Holy Prophet [Muhammad] the verses

of the Holy Qur'an were revealed in thirty sections [juz'],

gradually over a period of twenty-two years. From this holy Being,

that is to say, Bahá'u'lláh, in one month ten times the Holy Qur'an

is revealed with the utmost correctness and eloquence for the world

of humanity. And it is such that no fair-minded man can refute it

nor produce the like of it."

"'It is indeed so, if one be fair-minded," he replied. "I myself

have seen some of these writings and they cannot be compared with

the verses of previous revelations. No, they are much more eloquent

and profound."

'Then respectfully I asked, "When did you come to this conclusion?"

'He smiled and said: "Do you want to hear a confession from me

then, my son?"

"'God forbid! It is only because Your Eminence is the most learned

of mankind that I wanted to know so as to increase the certainty

in my own heart. "

"'My dear friend! Since you want to know, I will tell you. I was

a young man, studying at Isfahan, when the Báb came to that town.

I was present at a gathering with the Imam-Jum'ih and the

theological students at the house of the late Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih,

Manuchihr Khan. They were asking Him questions of every sort,

testing His knowledge, and He was answering each one convincingly

and with the utmost eloquence so that all of us fell into an

astonished silence. Then one of the theological students asked a

question and He began to give a full reply. That student showed

himself to be unfair and recalcitrant. His answer to that person

decided me and I was convinced and understood everything. Nor did

I allow this understanding to wane.
Page 258

Whatever of His verses and commentaries came to hand, I read and

they renewed my inner, spiritual being. No doubt has since then

entered my mind, and this outward glory that God has granted me is

on account of the fact that I approached this matter fairly and

accepted this Cause."

'After hearing these words and becoming completely reassured about

that holy man, I said: "Now that this blessed Cause is manifest and

proven to Your Eminence and the reins of control over millions of

the Shi'ite sect are in your hands, if you consider it advisable,

you could make this matter public so that the people will be saved

from ignorance and error and will enter the way of right guidance."

"'What are you saying, my son? These people are not fair-minded.

Is my rank higher than that of Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i or Aqa Mirza

Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Barfurushi [Quddus] and Akhund Mulla

Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zanjani [Hujjat] and the others? They would have

done the same with me as they did with them. The best thing was for

me to conceal my belief. In the meantime, I was able to perform

such services that were I to tell you of them, you yourself would

testify that it was right for me to conceal the matter and help the


"'I would like to hear of the assistance that you have given," I


"'In 1301 [sic],[1] a number of the believers were arrested by

Nayibu's-Saltanih, Kamran Mirza, in Tihran and kept in prison in

harsh circumstances for two years. Every day they were interrogated

and matters were made very difficult for them. I wrote to

Nasiri'd-Din Shah saying: 'Why have you, without any reason and

without my authorization [fatwa], caused such harm to befall them?

It has been due to you that this Faith has spread among the peoples

and countries. The Apostle of God [i.e., Muhammad] has said:

"Mankind seeks after what is forbidden." Your prohibitions and

persecutions have strengthened this cause. You must certainly, as

soon as my letter arrives, send for the prisoners, be kind to them

and set them free. And from now onwards, do not cause anyone to be

killed on account of this matter.' After the arrival of my letter,

Nasiri'd-Din Shah summoned the prisoners, gave them one sharafi

each and set them free. Among them was Haji Mulla 'Ali-Akbar

[-i-Shahmirzadi, Haji Akhund], Aqa Mirza Abu'l-Fadl

[-i-Gulpaygani], Haji Amin, Mashhadi 'Aliyi-Qazvini and other

important persons. That was one of the things that I did to serve

the Cause.

[1. AH 1300 was the year of these arrests, AD 12 November 1882 --

1 November 1883.]
Page 259

"'And another was when Siyyid Jamalu'd-Din-i-Asadabadi, who is

known as Afghani, was planning some mischief in Istanbul. He had

interpolated some material into the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and had inserted

some rubbish of his own into that book. Among the things that he

had inserted was that the mosques of Islam should be demolished and

razed to the ground. Mecca should be destroyed and Medina pulled

down. With some other things, he translated this into Turkish and

gave it to Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid so that the Sultan might become

angry and mischief might result therefrom. Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid

wrote an account of this book to me and asked me what should be

done. I replied: 'You have no right to interfere in such matters.

Whoever has done this has done so out of spite. Send all such books

to me. After investigating the matter, I will decide what is to be

done with them.' Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid sent them and I had Shaykh

Hasan throw them all into the river where they sank and were


"'My son! You have no idea how often the 'ulama of Iran have

written to me and asked for fatwas [decrees against the Baha'is].

I have somehow managed to answer all their questions and have

silenced them. If I were to tell you it all, it would tire you.

Among them was [Mirza Hasan-i-] Ashtiyani ... from Tihran; Shaykh

[Muhammad-] Baqir[1] and Shaykh [Muhammad-] Taqi[2] from Isfahan;

Siyyid 'Ali-Akbar [-i-Fal-Asiri] and Shaykh Tahir-i-'Arab from

Shiraz; Mulla 'Abdu'llah-i-Burujirdi from Hamadan; and others from

various places. Perhaps one hundred letters in all, and to each one

I have given an answer and silenced its author."
[1. Stigmatized by Bahá'u'lláh as 'The Wolf'.]

[2. Son of the last-named. also called Aqa Najafi.]

'After hearing these words from the Hujjatu'l-Islam, I said: "Truly

your help and assistance for this Cause have been inestimable and

are worthy of praise."...
'Then he said: "When will you be leaving?"

"'My only intention was to meet you," I replied. "I have no other

business here."

"'Then it is better if you go soon, since, when you arrived in

Baghdad some mischief-makers came and said something to the effect

that someone has come from 'Akka to Baghdad to teach. I gave them

their reply saying: 'It is Aqa Mirza Aqa, one of my cousins. I have

personally invited him to visit the Holy Places and to come and

meet me. Do not interfere in this matter."'
Page 260

'We embraced and said farewell and I left. As I left the house I

found the Arab Bahá'ís gathered, worried, around the house of His

Holiness. When they saw me they were relieved.
"'What are you doing?" I said.

"'We became worried because you took so long. We were thinking all

sorts of things. Being distressed, we left our residence and

gathered around the house of His Holiness waiting for you."

"'That was not necessary."

'I returned with my friends to our residence. The same day we left

for Baghdad and Basrah and eventually reached Bushihr.'

Page 261
The Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh
by Moojan Momen

Because the author's intention to write biographical chapters on

the nineteen Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh was thwarted by his death in

1980, it has fallen to the present writer to provide short accounts

of the eleven Apostles not dealt with by Mr Balyuzi in this and the

preceding volume.

The following are the nineteen persons designated as Apostles of

Bahá'u'lláh by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith:[1]

[1. As mentioned in the Foreword, the first two were included in

Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, and chapters about the 3rd, 6th,

7th, 9th, 13th and 19th Apostles appear in Part I of this volume.

Biographical notes for the remaining eleven Apostles form the

material of this chapter.]

1. Mirza Musa, surnamed Kalim, the only true brother of Bahá'u'lláh

2. Mirza Buzurg, surnamed Badi'

3. Siyyid Hasan, surnamed Sultanu'sh-Shuhada' (See chap. 3.)

4. Mulla Abu'l-Hasan, surnamed Amin
5. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl (-i-Gulpaygani)

6. Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, surnamed Varqa (See chap. 7.)

7. Mirza Mahmud (Furughi) (See chap. 13.)
8. Mulla 'Ali-Akbar (Haji Akhund)

9. Mulla Muhammad, surnamed Nabil-i-Akbar (See chap. 9.)

10. Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi (Vakilu'd-Dawlih)
11. Mirza Muhammad-Taqi (Ibn-i-Abhar)
12. Mulla Muhammad, surnamed Nabil-i-A'zam

13. Shaykh Kazim, surnamed Samandar (See chap. 16.)

14. Mirza Muhammad Mustafa
15. Mirza Husayn, surnamed Mishkin-Qalam
16. Mirza Hasan, surnamed Adib
17. Shaykh Muhammad-'Ali
Page 262
Page 263

18. Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, surnamed Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin

19. Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad (Ibn-i-Asdaq) (See chap. 14.)

Mulla Abu'l-Hasan, surnamed Amin

Mulla Abu'l-Hasan-i-Ardikani, who is known as Haji Amin or

Amin-i-Ilahi, was born in about the year AH 1232 (AD 21 November

1816 -- 10 November 1817) in Ardikan, a small town near Yazd. At

seventeen years of age he married into a family of Babis of the

town. He was persuaded to investigate the new religion and

eventually, shortly after the martyrdom of the Báb, he declared his

belief. When news of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh came, he

accepted immediately and travelled throughout Iran meeting other

Babis and teaching them of the advent of Bahá'u'lláh. After a time

he became the assistant of Haji Shah-Muhammad Manshadi,

Aminu'l-Bayan, who was the Trustee of the Huququ'llah.[1] He would

travel about the country, earning his living by trading and also

by acting as a writer for those who could not write. At the same

time he collected the Huququ'llah and any letters that the

believers wished to forward to Bahá'u'lláh, and also distributed

Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh when these were received. He came to 'Akka

while Bahá'u'lláh was still imprisoned in the citadel and succeeded

in establishing contact with the exiles. He was the first Baha'i

from the outside world to be able to meet Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akka (in

the Public Baths). He returned to 'Akka on several further

occasions. When Haji Shah-Muhammad Manshadi was killed in 1880,

Haji Abu'l-Hasan was appointed Trustee (Amin) of the Huququ'llah.

In 1891 he was imprisoned with Haji Akhund for three years in

Tihran and Qazvin. In the time of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he continued his

travels, visiting 'Akka and Haifa on several occasions. Towards the

end of his life he resided in Tihran and Haji Ghulam-Rida,

Amin-i-Amin, was appointed his assistant. He died in 1928 and was

posthumously named a Hand of the Cause of God by Shoghi Effendi.

[1. The 'Right of God'--a payment by believers instituted in the

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani

Mirza Muhammad, who is known to Bahá'ís as Mirza Abu'l-Fadl or

Mirza Abu'l-Fada'il, was born in 1844 into a family of religious

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scholars in Gulpaygan. He studied the Islamic sciences, becoming

well versed in both the traditional transmitted branches of

knowledge as well as the rational philosophic branches. He studied

at Karbila, Najaf and Isfahan and eventually became the head of a

religious college, the Madrisiy-i-Madar-i-Shah (the religious

college of the Mother of the Shah). The story of his introduction

to the Bahá'í Faith through a humble blacksmith is well known to

Baha'is. The confirmation of his belief came in 1876 after a period

of studying the Writings of the Faith and seeing the prophecies of

Bahá'u'lláh come true.

His conversion led to his dismissal from his post and imprisonment

for five months. He then became the secretary of Manakji Sahib, the

Zoroastrian agent in Tihran. In December 1882 he was arrested,

together with a large number of Bahá'ís of Tihran, and was in

prison for twenty-two months. After this he began extensive travels

throughout Iran. It was principally through his writings that the

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Bahá'í Faith was presented to the Jews of Iran in such a way as to

bring a large number of them into the Bahá'í fold. In 1888 he

travelled to 'Ishqabad and later to Samarqand and Bukhara. In 1894

he spent ten months in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akka and

then on the instructions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá proceeded to Cairo, where

he settled for a number of years and was successful in converting

some of the students of the foremost institution of learning of the

Sunni world, al-Azhar. Between 1900 and 1904 he travelled to Paris

and the United States where his talks and his writings enabled the

nascent Bahá'í communities to gain a clearer understanding of the

tenets of the Faith. He then lived in Beirut and Cairo until his

death in the latter city on 21 January 1914.
Mulla 'Ali-Akbar (Haji Akhund)

Haji Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi, who is known as Haji Akhund,

was born in Shahmirzad in about 1842. He was the son of a mulla of

that village and after some preliminary studies in his own

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village, he proceeded to Mashhad to attend the religious colleges

there. In Mashhad he pursued every avenue of religious enquiry

until eventually, in about 1861, he encountered the Bábis and was

converted. When news of his conversion spread, the religious

students rose against him and forced him to leave the town. He

returned to Shahmirzad but was eventually forced to leave there as

well. He settled in Tihran. There, he became so well known as a

Bahá'í that 'Abdu'l-Bahá relates that whenever there was an

outburst against the Baha'is, he would wrap his 'aba around himself

and sit waiting for the guards to come and arrest him. (Memorials

of the Faithful, p. 11) He was arrested many times and is known to

have been imprisoned on at least the following occasions: in 1868

on the orders of Mulla 'Ali Kani; in 1872 for seven months by

Nayibu's-Saltanih; in 1882 for two years by Nayibu's-Saltanih,

together with many other Tihran Baha'is; in about 1887; and in 1891

when he was imprisoned for two years with Haji Amin. He visited

'Akka on three occasions, in about 1873, 1888 and 1899. He was

entrusted with many important tasks, in particular the

custodianship and transfer of the remains of the Báb. He was

appointed by Bahá'u'lláh as one of the Hands of the Cause of God

and was responsible for much of the teaching work, as well as for

administering the community of the Bahá'ís of Iran. He died in

Tihran on 4 March 1910.
Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi (Vakilu'd-Dawlih)

Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi was born in Shiraz in AH 1246 (AD 22 June

1830 -- 11 June 1831), the second son of Haji Siyyid Muhammad, the

maternal uncle of the Báb. In his youth he met the Báb both in

Shiraz and Bushihr. Then in about 1854 he settled in Yazd where he

soon became one of the prominent merchants of the town. Here he was

visited by Mulla Muhammad-i-Qa'ini who spoke to him about the

religion of the Báb. His belief in the Báb was confirmed by a

journey in 1857 to Baghdad where he met Bahá'u'lláh. Because of his

prominence in the town of Yazd, he was asked by the Russian

Government to be their Consular Agent in the town, and hence he

became known as Vakilu'd-Dawlih (Representative of the Government),

but Bahá'u'lláh named him Vakilu'l-Haqq (Representative of the True

One, i.e. God). In those days, Iranian merchants were anxious to

be consular agents of Foreign Powers, as this was one way of

avoiding the
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arbitrary exactions of provincial governors and other government


While he was still a resident of Yazd, Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi

purchased property in the town of 'Ishqabad in Russian Transcaspia.

This town became a refuge for Bahá'ís escaping from persecution in

Iran, and soon there was a large Bahá'í community there.

Bahá'u'lláh had indicated that a Mashriqu'l-Adhkar should be built

in the city and later, in the time of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Bahá'í

community asked for permission to begin the building. 'Abdu'l-Bahá

wrote to Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi asking him to go to 'Ishqabad to

supervise the work. And so in 1900 Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi

concluded all of his business affairs in Yazd and left for

'Ishqabad. There, he not only supervised the erection of the

Mashriqu'l-Adhkar but paid for most of the building materials from

his own funds. Then in 1906, with the
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structure of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar almost complete, Haji Mirza

Muhammad-Taqi travelled to Haifa where he was warmly received by

'Abdu'l-Bahá. He remained in Haifa until his passing in 1909, and

is buried in the Bahá'í cemetery at the foot of Mount Carmel.

Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, Ibn-i-Abhar

Mirza Muhammad-Taqi was born in Abhar, a village between Qazvi and

Zanjan. His father, who came from a family of the leading divines

of Abhar, became a believer in the Báb through reading some of His

writings. Because of persecution, the family moved to Qazvin and

in about 1868 became followers of Bahá'u'lláh. In 1874 his father

died by poison and after this Ibn-i-Abhar moved to Zanjan where he

reinvigorated the Bábi community, causing most of them to enter the

Bahá'í fold. His activities in Zanjan, however, led to his

imprisonment for fourteen months. After his release, he travelled

throughout Iran and later made a trip to the Holy Land in 1886. He

was appointed a Hand of the Cause of God in the same year and

travelled extensively in Iran, Caucasia, Turkmenistan and India.

From 1890 to 1894 he was imprisoned in a dungeon in Tihran, and for

a time wore the same chains as had been put on Bahá'u'lláh when a

prisoner in Siyah-Chal. After his release, he went to the Holy Land

and then to 'Ishqabad. In 1897 he participated in the gathering of

the Hands of the Cause which led to the formation of the Central

Spiritual Assembly in Tihran. Settling in Tihran, he assisted in

the establishment of the Tarbiyat Bahá'í School, while his wife,

Munirih Khanum, the daughter of Haji Akhund, played a major role

in the founding of the Girls' School. In 1907 he travelled through

India with two American Baha'is, Harlan Ober and Hooper Harris,

accompanied by Mirza Mahmud Zarqani. His travels within Iran were

extensive, and on eleven occasions he visited the Holy Land. He

passed away in 1917.
Mulla Muhammad, surnamed Nabil-i-A'zam

Mulla Muhammad was born in Zarand on 29 July 1831 of humble

parents. He was a shepherd by occupation but strove hard to

overcome the handicap of a meagre education. He learnt to read the

Qur'an and often went with his father to Qum where he listened to

the discourses of the prominent religious figures there. In 1847,

while on a
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visit to his maternal uncle in the village of Rubat-Karim, Nabil

overheard a conversation about the Báb and was immediately

interested. Later, through Siyyid Husayn-i-Zavari'i he was more

fully informed of the Faith of the Báb and became a believer. Nabil

proceeded to Qum where Siyyid Isma'il-i-Zavari'i confirmed his

belief, and together they tried to join the Bábis at Shaykh Tabarsi

but found that they were too late. He took up residence in Tihran

in the same madrisih (religious college) as Mirza Ahmad, the

transcriber of the Báb's writings, and met many of the Bábis who

lived in or were passing through that town, including Bahá'u'lláh.

At the time of the execution of the Seven Martyrs of Tihran in

1850, Nabil was persuaded to return to his home village, but later

he left for Qum hoping to meet Mirza Ahmad there. Failing to find

him, Nabil proceeded to Kashan and eventually located Mirza Ahmad

in Kirmanshah; he remained there until after Bahá'u'lláh's passage

through that town in 1851. Bahá'u'lláh instructed them to proceed

to Tihran where they engaged themselves in transcribing and

distributing the writings of the Báb, until the situation became

too dangerous and Nabil returned to Zarand.

There followed the attempt on the life of the Shah in 1852 and the

persecution of the Bábi community to the point of its near

annihilation. During those dark days, Nabil put forward a claim to

leadership of the Bábi community stating that he was in receipt of

Divine inspiration. But later, when he visited Baghdad and came to

recognize Bahá'u'lláh's station, he withdrew his claim.

From Baghdad and Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh sent Nabil on numerous

journeys to the Bábis of Iran. During the Adrianople years, his

major task was to alert the Bábis to Bahá'u'lláh's claim to be 'He

Whom God shall make manifest'. On one journey, he was instructed

to perform the pilgrimage to the House of the Báb in Shiraz and the

House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, being the first to do this

according to the laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh.

From Adrianople, Nabil was sent by Bahá'u'lláh to Egypt on a

mission which resulted in his imprisonment (see Bahá'u'lláh, The

King of Glory, pp. 265-8). When freed Nabil hurried to 'Akka, but

being espied by the followers of Azal who had stationed themselves

near the city-gate, he was ejected from the city. He wandered

around the countryside, living for a time on Mount Carmel and for

a time in Nazareth until he was able to enter 'Akka. He was sent

by Bahá'u'lláh
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on yet another journey to Iran during which he confirmed the belief

of many of the Baha'is. He then took up residence in 'Akka until

the time of the passing of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892. Overwhelmed with

sorrow at this event, Nabil ended his own life by jumping into the

sea. He was a great poet and, besides writing a lengthy history of

the Faith, he has preserved many of the historical events of the

Faith in the form of poetry which he used to send to the Baha'is

of Iran. A complete collection of his extensive poetical writings

has not yet been made.
Mirza Muhammad Mustafa

The father of Mirza Muhammad Mustafay-i-Baghdadi, Shaykh Muhammad

Shibi, was a distinguished follower of the Shaykhi leader, Siyyid

Kazim-i-Rashti, and was indeed his personal representative in

Baghdad. When Mulla 'Aliy-i-Bastami, the Letter of the Living, was

brought to Baghdad and imprisoned there (see The Báb, pp. 59-61),

Shaykh Muhammad Shibi visited him in prison, learnt of the claim

of the Báb and became a believer. Later, that distinguished Letter

of the Living, Tahirih, stayed at the house of Shaykh Muhammad

Shibl in Baghdad for a period and when the time came that she was

to be expelled from 'Iraq, Shaykh Muhammad and Mirza Mustafa

accompanied her to Qazvin and then travelled on to Tihran, where

they met Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i. Such were the events that filled

the childhood and youth of Mirza Mustafa, who was born in Baghdad

in about 1837. During the period that Bahá'u'lláh was in Baghdad,

Mirza Mustafa became devoted to Him, although, of course,

Bahá'u'lláh had not put forward a claim at this time. In 1874 Mirza

Mustafa was arrested along with many others of the Bahá'ís of

Baghdad, and after this he travelled to 'Akka and sought permission

from Bahá'u'lláh to live in the vicinity of that city. Bahá'u'lláh

instructed him to take up his residence in Beirut where he was

frequently of service to those Bahá'ís travelling to 'Akka. After

the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, he moved to Alexandretta

(Iskandarun), where he died in 1910.
Mirza Husayn, surnamed Mishkin-Qalam

Mirza Husayn, a native of Shiraz but resident in Isfahan, was a

Sufi of the Ni'matu'llahi Order. He was a calligrapher of the first

rank, a fine
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poet, and was also noted for his witty and subtle mind, all of

these being qualities highly prized in nineteenth-century Iran.

And so Mirza Husayn or Mishkin-Qalam, his artistic name by which

he is usually known, was never short of wealthy patrons. However,

he himself preferred to travel as a wandering dervish with few

possessions. 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that he first heard of the Faith

in Isfahan, but it was in Baghdad a few years after Bahá'u'lláh's

departure from that city that Mishkin-Qalam learned more about the

new religion from Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin and Nabil-i-A'zam. He set out

for Adrianople and after a brief sojourn in Aleppo reached the

presence of Bahá'u'lláh where his belief was confirmed. After a

while, he travelled to Istanbul and his talents soon brought him

to the attention of the notables of that capital city. However, the

Iranian ambassador plotted against him and caused his arrest. When

Bahá'u'lláh and His
Page 272

companions were exiled to 'Akka, Mishkin-Qalam was sent with them

in the same ship but was compelled to go on to Cyprus where he

remained in detention and exile. He was eventually freed and came

to 'Akka in 1886, taking up residence in the Khan-i-'Avamid. After

the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, he travelled to Egypt, Damascus and

India (the last in 1905). 'Abdu'l-Bahá, when He heard that

Mishkin-Qalam was growing old and weak in India, recalled him to

the Holy Land and he remained there until his death in about 1912.

Mirza Hasan, surnamed Adib

Haji Mirza Hasan was born in Talaqan in September 1848. His father

was an eminent cleric and Haji Mirza Hasan underwent the usual

religious education at Tihran and Mashhad. From 1874 onwards he was

employed by one of the Qajar princes, I'tidadu's-Saltanih, and

later by another prince, Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih. These two princes used

to publish a large number of books which were written for them by

their employees but published in their own names. In this way,

Mirza Hasan contributed to such important works as the

encyclopaedic Namiy-i-Danishvaran, until his becoming known as a

Bahá'í caused his dismissal from such work. He was also, for a

time, Imam-Jum'ih (Friday prayer leader) and teacher at the

Daru'l-Funun, Iran~s first educational establishment founded on

modern lines. He was given the title Adibu'l-'Ulama (litterateur

of the 'ulama) and was a poet of considerable talent.

It was his close friend, the eminent cleric Shaykh Hadi Najmabadi,

who pointed out to Mirza Hasan the similarity between his views and

those of the Baha'is, and this prompted the latter to investigate

the Bahá'í Faith. In about 1889, after prolonged conversations with

Nabil-i-Akbar, he was converted and soon afterwards was designated

by Bahá'u'lláh as one of the Hands of the Cause of God. After the

passing of Bahá'u'lláh, Mirza Hasan was much involved in dealing

with the activities of the Covenant-breakers. In AH 1315 (AD 2 June

1897 -- 21 May 1898), he participated in the meetings of the Hands

of the Cause which evolved over several years into the Central

Spiritual Assembly of Tihran, the precursor of the Iranian National

Spiritual Assembly. He was chairman of this body. He also played

an important part in the founding of the Tarbiyat Schools in Tihran

and in their administration. In 1903 he travelled to Isfahan where

he was
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briefly imprisoned during the upheaval there. From there he

proceeded to Shiraz, Bombay, and eventually to 'Akka. 'Abdu'l-Bahá

instructed him to travel through India and Burma in the company of

the American Bahh'i, Sidney Sprague. He eventually returned to

Tihran where he died on 2 September 1919.
Shaykh Muhammad-'Ali

Shaykh Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Qa'ini was the nephew of Nabil-i-Akbar. He

was possessed of many talents, excelling in oratory, calligraphy

and music. He was born in Naw-Firist near Birjand in AH 1277 (AD

20 July 1860 -- 8 July 1861). His parents died when he was young

and he was brought up by an uncle, Mulla Aqa 'Ali. While still a

young man undertaking religious studies at Mashhad, he was apprised

of the
Page 274

Bahá'í Faith and soon became an ardent believer. He became the

close companion of his erudite uncle Nabil-i-Akbar until the

latter's death in 1892. He lived in 'Ishqabad for a while and then

in Tihran where he married the daughter of Nabil-i-Akbar. In 1903,

he was instructed to accompany Mirza Hasan-i-Adib to India, but

while travelling there he was caught up in the upheavals against

the Bahá'ís in Isfahan during that year. He was stripped of his

possessions, severely beaten, and was fortunate to escape with his

life. He had to return to Tihran but later reached India and

remained there for one-and-a-half years. He then travelled to

Haifa. Here 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked him to go to 'Ishqabad and to take

charge of the education of children there.

He established himself in 'Ishqabad and, apart from various

journeys made for the service of the Faith, he lived there for the

rest of his life. After the death of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani,

Shaykh Muhammad-'Ali was asked to go to Haifa to bring to

completion, with the help of others, the unfinished writings of

Mirza Abu'l-Fadl. He was in Haifa for one-and-a-half years after

the First World War, leaving for 'Ishqabad shortly before

'Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing. He fell ill in 'Ishqabad and after a

prolonged illness died in April 1924.

Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, surnamed Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin

Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, surnamed by Bahá'u'lláh Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin

(the Ornament of the Near Ones) was noted among the companions of

Bahá'u'lláh for his wit and humour, his learning and calligraphy,

but above all for Bahá'u'lláh's high regard for him. He was born

in Rajab 1233 (May 1818) in one of the villages of Najafabad near

Isfahan of a family of Muslim clerics. He himself underwent a

religious education and was made a preacher at a mosque in

Najafabad. Although he heard of the Báb's claim in 1844 while he

was on pilgrimage to Karbila, it was not until 1851 that he was

taught the new religion and became a believer. Many others were

converted in Najafabad and the town soon became a stronghold of the

Babi Faith. Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin decided to visit Baghdad and meet

the leading Babis who were in exile there. He failed to find Mirza

Yahya who was keeping himself hidden from the believers, and

Bahá'u'lláh was at this time on His two-year sojourn in the

Sulaymaniyyih area. Disappointed, Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin set off for

home. As he approached
Page 275

Najafabad, however, he learned of a violent outburst of persecution

against the believers and that officials of the Governor were

searching for him. He therefore retraced his steps to Baghdad and

was fortunate in meeting Bahá'u'lláh on this occasion, an encounter

that confirmed his faith in the new religion. Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin

became one of the pillars of the Bábi community in Najafabad and

Isfahan, and when he heard of Bahá'u'lláh's claim to be the One

promised by the Báb, he unhesitatingly accepted.

A further outburst of persecution in 1864 precipitated

Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin's departure from Najafabad. He settled in

Baghdad and occupied himself with transcribing Tablets. In 1870 the

Bahá'ís in Baghdad were rounded up and exiled to Mosul. The Baha'is

in Mosul, under the leadership and guidance of Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin,

soon became a model Bahá'í community reflecting something of the

spirit of the 'Akka community. While there, it became

Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin's task to transcribe the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh

that arrived from
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'Akka on their way to Iran. Thus these Tablets could be distributed

more widely and each of those to whom a Tablet was addressed could

have a copy.

In Dhu'l-Hijjah 1302 (September -- October 1885) Bahá'u'lláh gave

permission for Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin to come to 'Akka where he took

up residence in the Khan-i-'Avamid, continuing to transcribe

Tablets and frequently having the honour of being in Bahá'u'lláh's

company. Following the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin

remained faithful to the Covenant until his passing in 1903.

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Part II

The ancestors of Bahá'u'lláh dwelt near the Caspian Sea in the

famed province of Tabaristan (now Mazindaran). Although born in

Tihran Bahá'u'lláh maintained His ties with Mazindaran which

embraces Nur, the seat of His ancestral home. Three of the

following chapters relate some of the history of these regions,

while two chapters trace His genealogy and give some remarkable

prophecies of His advent.
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Page 279
On the Shores of the Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea, on the shores of which many a generation of the

ancestors of Bahá'u'lláh lived and prospered, is known in Persian

as the Sea of Khazar (Daryay-i-Khazar). Khazars were a people of

Turkish origin whose haunts bordered the north of that vast inland

sea. And their story is strange indeed. They, who had no connection

whatsoever with the Children of Israel, voluntarily adopted the

Jewish Faith. They did it in order to free themselves of tutelage

to either the Muslim Arabs or the Christian Byzantines. Being

Jewish in faith would liberate them from both Islam and

Christianity, they reasoned. We shall examine their history in some

detail anon; but the point to note, now, is their love of

independence, their intense abhorrence of submission to the will

and the whims of neighbours and magnates of other lands. This love

of liberty which bordered almost on rebelliousness, they shared

with other dwellers of the coastal regions of the Caspian Sea,

particularly the people of Tabaristan--the home of the ancestors

of Bahá'u'lláh.

When the Arab hosts conquered Iran in the middle of the seventh

century and brought Islam with them to present to the vanquished,

the inhabitants of the Iranian provinces adjoining the Caspian Sea,

sheltered in the fastnesses of mount and forest, refused to let the

Arabs in and refused to alter their religious affiliation.

Moreover, they received with open arms anyone who had challenged

the caliphs of Damascus and later of Baghdad, and gave them

sustenance and refuge. Most of those who had taken up arms against

the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids were scions of the House of the

Prophet. And it was the pacific influence of those who had escaped

from the clutches of the caliphs that led the recalcitrants to

embrace Islam. Their Islam, however, was different from that

professed by the caliphs, for it was to Shi'ism, in its various

guises, that they inclined.

In the following pages we shall take a closer look into the

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of these people who lived in the periphery of the Caspian Sea: the

Sea of Khazar.

'Abda'r Rahman III, perhaps the greatest of all the rulers of

al-Andalus (Moorish Spain), in AD 929 proclaimed himself Caliph and

Amira'l-Mu'minin (Commander of the Faithful)--a powerful rival to

both the 'Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad (who were also Sunnis) and to

the Isma'ili Shi'ih caliphs of Cairo (the Fatimids). 'Abda'r Rahman

was a very remarkable man. Following the style set by the

'Abbasids, he took the title an-Nasir li-Dini'llah: Defender of the

Faith of God. A man free of prejudice and fanaticism, he raised

Hisdai Ibn Shaprut, his court physician and a Jew, to the highest

position of trust in his kingdom. And Hisdai served him with

devotion. Then it came to Hisdai's ears that far away,

half-the-world distant to the East, there was a king, who, with his

people, professed the Faith that he himself did. Hisdai Ibn Shaprut

was as remarkable a man as his enlightened master. He has put it

on record that he first heard of that incredible Jewish realm from

merchants of Khurasan. He found it hard to believe. Then envoys

from Byzantium reached Cordoba and they confirmed everything which

the Khurasani merchants had related. They even could give Hisdai

the name of the king of that Jewish Land, which happened to be

Yusuf (Joseph).

Bursting with curiosity and enthusiasm, Hisdai addressed a

respectful letter to King Joseph of Khazaria. The letter was very

long and the writer longed for more information regarding

everything. He wrote:

I feel the urge to know the truth, whether there is really a place

on this earth where harassed Israel can rule itself, where it is

subject to nobody. If I were to know that this is indeed the case,

I would not hesitate to forsake all honours, to resign my high

office, to abandon my family, and to travel over mountains and

plains, over land and water, until I arrived at the place where my

Lord, the King rules... And I also have one more request: to be

informed whether you have any knowledge ... of the Final Miracle

[the coming of the Messiah] which, wandering from country to

country, we are awaiting. Dishonoured and humiliated in our

dispersion, we have to listen in silence to those who say: 'every

nation has its own land and you alone possess not even a shadow of

a country on this earth'. (Quoted in Arthur Koestler, The

Thirteenth Tribe, p. 71)

King Joseph, in his reply to the Jewish minister of 'Abda'r-Rahman,

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made it clear that he and his people did not, at any time, claim

descent from Israel. He stated unequivocally that the people of

Khazaria were of the seed of Japheth (Yafith), the third son of

Noah. King Joseph went on to say that Togarma, the grandson of

Japheth, was the common ancestor of all the Turkish tribes. 'We

have found', he writes, 'in the family registers of our fathers,

that Togarma had ten sons, and the names of their [sic] offspring

are as follows: Uigur, Dursu, Avars, Huns, Basilii, Tarniakh,

Khazars, Zagora, Bulgars, Sabir. We are the sons of Khazar, the

seventh...' (Quoted in Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe, p.


King Joseph then related the story of King Bulan, and how it

happened that he came to accept the Jewish Faith and gave up


When Bulan, perhaps the first hereditary king of Khazaria [writes

Sale Wittmayer Baron], adopted the monotheistic faith, he

apparently embraced it only in the form of a minimal 'religion of

Abraham,' which he had heard invoked by spokesmen of Christianity

and Islam as well as of Judaism. He may have been attracted by a

legend, current in Arab and Jewish circles, that Turks and other

Mongols were descendants of Abraham's sons by Keturah. According

to Ibn Fadhlan,[1] the Khazar kings customarily had twenty-five

wives. 'Each of them is the daughter of one of the kings who

confront him [the vassal princes], taken freely or by force. He

also has sixty slave-girls, concubines, all of superb beauty. Each

of them, concubines as well as free-born ladies, lives in a castle

of her own.' The khagan [khagan] may indeed have felt that such a

harem was a legitimate imitation of King Solomon's polygamous

establishment and of the wise king's use thereof as an instrument

of imperial policy. Hebrew books must have been extremely scarce.

Certainly talmudic tractates had then only begun to be circulated

in the more civilized countries. Even copies of Scripture had to

be brought out of a cave, according to the Cambridge fragment...

[1. Ibn Fadlan: Ahmad. son of Fadlan (son of Rashid, son of Himad),

was a jurisconsult of Baghdad. In the days of al-Muqtadir, the

'Abbasid caliph (AD 908-32), he headed a mission to the king of the

Bulgars. He wrote a travelogue. which has been quoted by such

eminent writers and geographers as Mas'udi. Istakhri and Yaqut.


Only at the end of the century did King Obadiah conform more fully

with the accepted tenets and observances of official Judaism.

Afterwards, King Joseph, in his letter to Hisdai ibn Shaprut to

which we owe that assertion, admitted the irregularity of the

Khazar calendar. When Petahiah arrived in that vicinity he was

shocked to learn that 'in the land of Kedar [Khazar] there are no

Jews, only heretics. And Rabbi Petahiah asked them: Why do you not

believe in the words of the sages? They replied: Because our

fathers did not teach them to us. On the eve of Sabbath they cut

all the bread which they eat on the Sabbath. They eat in the dark,

and sit the whole day on one spot. Their prayers consist only of

psalms. And when Rabbi Petahiah imparted to them
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our ritual and prayer after meals they were pleased. They also

said: We have never heard what the Talmud is.' (A Social and

Religious History of the Jews, vol. 3, pp. 201-2)

We shall see later what eventually happened to Khazaria. Now, we

ought to go back in time to the years when the people of Khazaria

were still pagans and idolaters; we need not go back to the origins

of the Khazars. They certainly were Turks, and certainly not

Mongolians. Even in recent times certain outbursts of nationalistic

and racial fervour have tended to confuse the issue. It was

definitely very misplaced for the Turks of Anatolia to take pride

in being of the same stock and breed as Chingiz Khan.

In the days of Chosroes I -- Parviz, the great Anushirvan the Just

(reigned AD 531-79)--three gold 'guest thrones' were kept in the

throne-room of his palace in Ctesiphon. They were reserved for

three potentates well known in the world of those times: namely,

the Emperors of China, Byzantium and Khazaria. It is not recorded

that any of them ever paid a visit to Ctesiphon or ever met

Chosroes, but the fact that those gold thrones were there awaiting

them is a sure indication of the attractive qualities of the

Sasanid monarch, and of the position which the ruler of Khazaria

had attained, to be ranked with the Emperors of China and


The grandson of Anushirvan, Chosroes II, gained his throne with the

aid of Emperor Maurice of Byzantium and overthrew a pretender, but

in the year AD 602 Maurice went down before a mob and Phocas, a

mere centurion, usurped his throne. Maurice, who had been forced

to abdicate, was cruelly murdered, together with five sons, by a

successor entirely unworthy of his rule. 'The reign of Phocas',

writes Gibbon,[1] 'afflicted Europe with ignominious peace, and

Asia with desolating war... Every province of the empire was ripe

for rebellion; and Heraclius, exarch of Africa, persisted above two

years in refusing all tribute and obedience to the centurion who

disgraced the throne of Constantinople.' Although urged to rescue

and govern the empire, the exarch was old and called upon his son

Heraclius to undertake this dangerous enterprise. Sailing with his

fleet from Carthage to Constantinople, Heraclius stripped Phocas

of his crown and ascended the throne of the Caesars. He had to

begin rebuilding an almost shattered Roman polity. Byzantium was

indeed in a parlous
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condition, for the troops of Chosroes, who had considered it his

duty to avenge the death of his benefactor, had made deep inroads

into Byzantine territory. Heraclius was faced with a formidable

task, but his great advantage was the weakness of character of the

Persian monarch.

[1. 1. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Vol. 2, chap. 46]

In the beginning Heraclius could do nothing to stem the Persian

avalanche. Antioch fell, and so did Jerusalem. The True Cross was

seized and carried by the victors. Now, Heraclius sought a reliable

ally, and his choice rested on the pagan king of Khazaria. Let us

look at the picture, as depicted by Edward Gibbon:

To the hostile league of Chosroes with the Avars, the Roman emperor

opposed the useful and honourable alliance of the Turks. At his

liberal invitation, the horde of Chozars [Khazars] transported

their tents from the plains of the Volga to the mountains of

Georgia; Heraclius received them in the neighbourhood of Teflis

[Tiflis], and the khan with his nobles dismounted from their

horses, if we may credit the Greeks, and fell prostrate on the

ground, to adore the purple of the Caesar. Such voluntary homage

and important aid were entitled to the warmest acknowledgements;

and the emperor, taking off his own diadem, placed it on the head

of the Turkish prince, whom he saluted with a tender embrace and

the appellation of son. After a sumptuous banquet, he presented

Ziebel with the plate and ornaments, the gold, the gems, and the

silk, which had been used at the Imperial table, and, with his own

hand, distributed rich jewels and ear-rings to his new allies. In

a secret interview, he produced the portrait of his daughter

Eudocia, condescended to flatter the Bábarian with the promise of

a fair and august bride, obtained an immediate succour of 40,000

horse, and negotiated a strong diversion of the Turkish arms on the

side of the Oxus. (1. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the

Roman Empire. Vol. 2, chap. 46)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When the ambition of Chosroes was reduced to the defence of his

hereditary kingdom, the love of glory, or even the sense of shame,

should have urged him to meet his rival in the field. In the battle

of Nineveh, his courage might have taught the Persians to vanquish,

or he might have fallen with honour by the lance of a Roman

emperor. The successor of Cyrus chose rather, at a secure distance,

to expect the event, to assemble the relics of the defeat, and to

retire by measured steps before the march of Heraclius, till (A.D.

627. Dec. 29) he beheld with a sigh the once loved mansions of

Dastagerd. Both his friends and enemies were persuaded, that it was

the intention of Chosroes to bury himself under the ruins of the

city and palace; and, as both might have been equally adverse to

his flight, the monarch of Asia, with Sira, and three concubines,

escaped through an hole in the wall nine days before the arrival

of the Romans. (1. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman

Empire. Vol. 2, chap. 46)
Page 284

The faithless, cringing Chosroes took to his heels. He abandoned

armies to their fate. All that he cared for was his own personal

safety. This was the man who had straddled Byzantium. This was the

man who had dared to tear up the letter of the Prophet of Arabia.

His own son put him in chains and had him stabbed to death.

It is time now to break away from the sad, tragic and demeaning

story of Parviz, Chosroes II, and look forward a century to a new

chapter of Khazar history.

When the Sasanian hegemony was swept away by the Arab onslaught,[1]

the Khazar kingdom became conscious of its isolation. And as the

Arabs penetrated into the Caucasus, they broke, time and again,

through the mountain pass of Darband, close to the Caspian Sea,

which they named 'Bab-al-Abwab' (The Gate of Gates), to ravish the

land of the Khazars. On the other hand, when the opportunity

presented itself, Khazars did the same, erupted into the

newly-conquered lands of Islam and caused chaos and confusion. In

the year AD 730 Khazars occupied both Georgia and Armenia,

annihilated an Arab army outside the city of Ardibil (in the

Persian province of Adharbayjan, home of Shaykh Safiyyi'd-Din, the

ancestor of the Safavids), and rode on as far as Mosul and


[1. Yazdigird 111, the last of this dynasty, was defeated at

Nihavand near Ecbatana (present-day Hamadan) in 641. The genealogy

of Bahá'u'lláh can be traced to him (see chap. 23).

The last time the Arabs made their way into Khazaria, under the

command of the Umayyad Marwan (destined to be the last caliph of

Damascus), the Khazars were caught unaware and suffered heavy

defeat. They had to sue for peace and Marwan demanded the

conversion of the Khazar king to Islam. It seems that the khagan

complied and nominally became a Muslim; but with the withdrawal of

Marwan, he went back to his paganism. Most likely this episode

brought the khagan and his people to their final choice: to adopt

a monotheistic Faith, which would give them such stamina and

strength as to be able to withstand both the pressure of the

Byzantine Christendom and the Islam of the Arabs. And strange

enough, at about the same time that Charles Martel defeated the

Muslims at Poitiers near Tours (October, AD 732) and stopped the

Muslim incursion, the Khazars inflicted such a crushing defeat on

the Arabs that they did not try ever again to outflank the

Byzantine bastion and pour into the vast areas of Eastern Europe.

As Dimitri Obolensky, Professor of Russian
Page 285

and Balkan History in the University of Oxford, has stated: 'The

main contribution of the Khazars to world history was their success

in holding the line of the Caucasus against the northward onslaught

of the Arabs.' (The Byzantine Commonwealth, p. 172)

The Jewish Khazaria lived for centuries. It prospered and its

people remained firmly wedded to their Jewish Faith. Even St. Cyril

(Constantine, 826-69), the celebrated 'Apostle of the Slavs', who

visited Khazaria, could make no impression on those determined

Turks, bent on preserving their independence. In recent times, much

has been written and said about a 'Third Force' in world politics.

It can be conjectured that the Kingdom of Khazaria was in its day,

and considered itself to be, that 'Third Force', neither inclined

to Christianity nor to Islam, treading a middle path, at peace with

all and committed to none. Of course that idyllic condition could

not be sustained for long. Fresh migrations from the hinterlands

of the Euro-Asian continental block, brought the Viking to descend

on Europe, and the Rus (Rhous and Rhos as well) to make life

miserable for the inhabitants of the Eastern marches. In the year

AD 833 the Khazar ruler sent an appeal to Emperor Theophilus of

Byzantium to help him build a fortress on the River Don, to serve

as a garrison post needed because of the increasing menace of the

Rus. The Emperor was delighted to render assistance and the

fortress of Sarkel came into being. Arthur Koestler writes:

Sarkel was built just in time; it enabled them [the Khazars] to

control the movements of the Rus flotillas along the lower reaches

of the Don and the Don--Volga portage (the 'Khazarian Way'). By and

large it seems that during the first century of their presence on

the scene,[1] the plundering raids of the Rus were mainly directed

against Byzantium (where, obviously, richer plunder was to be had),

whereas their relations with the Khazars were essentially on a

trading basis, though not without friction and intermittent

clashes. At any rate, the Khazars were able to control the Rus

trade routes and to levy their 10 per cent tax on all cargoes

passing through their country to Byzantium and to the Muslim lands.

[1. Very roughly. 830-930.]

They also exerted some cultural influence on the Northmen, who, for

all their violent ways, had a naive willingness to learn from the

people with whom they came into contact. The extent of this

influence is indicated by the adoption of the title 'Kagan'

[Khagan] by the early Rus rulers of Novgorod. This is confirmed by

both Byzantine and Arab sources; for instance, Ibn Rusta, after

describing the island on which Novgorod was built, states: 'They

Page 286

have a king who is called Kagan Rus.' Moreover, Ibn Fadlan reports

that the Kagan Rus has a general who leads the army and represents

him to the people. (Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe, p. 92)

Koestler, himself a Hungarian, further writes:

The Magyars had been the Khazars' allies, and apparently willing

vassals, since the dawn of the Khazar Empire... About their origin

all we know with certainty is that the Magyars were related to the

Finns, and that their language belongs to the so-called

Finno-Ugrian language family, together with that of the Vogul and

Ostyak people living in the forest regions of the northern Urals.

Thus they were originally unrelated to the Slavonic and Turkish

nations of the steppes in whose midst they came to live--an ethnic

curiosity, which they still are to this day. Modern Hungary, unlike

other small nations, has no linguistic ties with its

neighbours--the Magyars have remained an ethnic enclave in Europe,

with the distant Finns as their only cousins. (Arthur Koestler, The

Thirteenth Tribe, p. 96)

As Koestler remarks, some time in the 'early centuries of the

Christian era', the Magyars were pushed out of the Urals by other

nomads. That has been the recurring theme of all the migrations

along and across the Eurasian expanse: one group being forced

westwards or southwards by another. For nearly I 50 years, to the

end of the ninth century, Magyars lived under Khazar domination;

the Khazars and Magyars never fought each other. This was indeed

a strange phenomenon. There existed a state of intermediate warfare

between other groupings, as well as between these two and others.

Indeed, such was the nature of their relationships that the Magyars

acted as stewards for the Khazars to collect levies.

Koestler writes: 'The arrival of the Rus radically changed this

profitable state of affairs. At about the time when Sarkel was

built, there was a conspicuous movement of the Magyars across the

Don to its west bank' (Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe, p.

97). The Khazars (here Koestler accepts Toynbee's explanation)

placed the Magyars to the west of the Don, in order to set up a

barrier against the incursions of the Slavs. Khazars did all they

could to make Magyars a stable group of people, provided them with

a king and even went to the extent of having a number of their

clans dwell amongst the Magyars and become one with them. But by

the end of the ninth century of the Christian era, Magyars once

again set out westwards and settled down in the territory which we

know now as Hungary. The Khazars had lost a prop. And the pressure

of the Slavs continued unabated. Apart from the perils posed by the

Slavs, a
Page 287

Turkish tribe--he fierce Ghuzz (who within little more than a

century were to defeat Sultan Sanjar,[1] the Saljuqid, and capture

him)--attacked another Turkish tribe which tried to move into and

settle down in Khazaria, but was driven out.
[1. Reigned 1118-57.]

Perils abounded and the days of the Jewish Khazaria were numbered.

D. M. Dunlop writes: 'By the 9th century at all events the Russians

were strong enough to occupy a part of the Khazar territory in the

west, including the city of Kiev.' That was the beginning of the

end. When the Russians sailed into the Caspian Sea to raid Persian

territory, they had the unwilling assistance of the Khazars. But

the situation was getting out of hand, and around AD 960 the

Khazars came to the conclusion that to allow the Russians to come

down the Volga into the Caspian Sea was a dangerous game. They

tried to put a stop to it. However, as Khazaria was slowly

declining, the Russians were gathering more strength. The downfall

and extinction of Khazaria, its date and circumstances, have all

remained a matter of contention amongst historians, past and

present. However, Dunlop asserts that the year 965 was 'the year

in which the Russians invaded Khazaria', and that 'the Khazar

kingdom in its traditional form hardly survived the Russian

invasion.' (The History of the Jewish Khazars, pp. 238, 224, 247)

Historians have yet to settle (if it ever can be settled) the

problem of the date of Khazaria's extinction. Some have been bold

enough to state that it was the Mongol invasion of the early

thirteenth century that destroyed Khazaria. Even if that proud land

and its proud people eked out an impoverished independent existence

for another two centuries, the eminent fact is that by the end of

the tenth century of the Christian era the Khazaria which had

defied the Arabs as well as the Byzantines had ceased to be. And

the Jewish Khazars, just as the other clans and tribes and

groupings had done, took the road to the West. They spread over

Europe. Many of the Jews of the Diaspora in central, northern and

eastern Europe are the descendants of those very brave men: the

Turks who cherished a way of life, all their own, unfettered by

submission and homage to Powers mightier than themselves.

Page 288
The Story of Tabaristan

Tabaristan, the renowned province lying south of the Caspian Sea,

known today by the even more honoured name of Mazindaran, has ever

been a land of marvels. Great men strode across its scene. The

manliness of its inhabitants and their intense desire to remain

self-ruled and independent have remained unsurpassed. Tabari, the

foremost historian of Islam, as his name indicates stepped out of

this delectable corner of Iran. Even Fars and its Persepolis of

ancient splendour cannot compete with the magnificence of

Mazindaran. Here dwelt the ancestors of Bahá'u'lláh.

In the preface to his abridged translation of Ibn Isfandiyar's

History of Tabaristan (E. J. W. Gibb Memorial, Volume II), Edward

Granville Browne, the distinguished orientalist of the University

of Cambridge, wrote:

Separated from the rest of Persia by the lofty barrier of the

Elburz Mountains, culminating in the great cone of Damawand

(Dunbawand), the Caspian provinces have always possessed, to a

certain extent, a history and character apart. Long after the

Sasanian dynasty had fallen and the rest of Persia had been subdued

by the Arabs, the Ispahbads continued to strike their Pahlawi

coinage and maintain the religion of Zoroaster in the mountains and

forests of Tabaristan; and their struggles against the Arabs were

only ended about A.D. 838 by the capture and cruel execution of the

gallant Mazyar, the son of Qarin, the son of Wanda-Hurmuz.

Twenty-five years later was established the Shi'ite rule of the

Zaydi Sayyids, which lasted till A.D 928; and these were followed

by the noble house of Ziyar, of whom Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus was

especially conspicuous for his literary eminence.[1] Even after the

disastrous Mongol invasion, representatives of the ancient

aristocracy of Tabaristan continued to wield a more or less

considerable power.

[1. This is a mistake. The author of the celebrated book:

Qabus-Namih, was 'Unsuru-l-Ma'ali Kaykavus, a grandson of

Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus. (HMB)]

Of this strange and interesting country the clearest and most

Page 289
Page 290

recollection must remain in the mind of every traveller who has

visited it. I merely traversed it in about a week on my homeward

journey from Persia in the autumn of 1888, yet of no part of that

journey do I preserve a more vivid impression; the first entry,

from the great stony plain of 'Iraq-i-'Ajami into the lower hills

at Agh, with its rippling streams and almost English hedgerows; the

long winding climb to the eastern shoulder of the mighty Damawand;

the deep canons of the Lar; the Alpine beauties of Rene; the

gradual descent, through rock-walled valleys, into virgin forests,

bright with the red blossoms of the wild pomegranate, and carpeted

with ferns and mosses; the sluggish streams and stagnant pools of

coast-ward fenlands; ancient Amul, with its long slender bridge;

Barfurush and the swampy rice-fields of Shaykh Tabarsi, memorable

in the history of the Bábi religion; and the sandy downs towards

the Caspian Sea. (History of Tabaristan, pp. x-xi)

In the following pages we shall examine the witness of Ibn

Isfandiyar, whose love for Tabaristan glows through the pages of

his book.[1]

[1. The author both summarizes and translates Ibn Isfandiyar and

also quotes Browne's translation; the extracts from Browne are

indicated. (Ed.)]
On the Characteristics and Wonders of Tabaristan

From time immemorial, Tabaristan has been the refuge and the

stronghold of mighty kings and magnates. Because of its natural

strength and difficult mountain passes, like a storehouse where

rarities and treasures are sent thereto for safekeeping, any ruler

overcome by an enemy, finding it impossible to dwell anywhere else

in this world, would seek security in this domain and find release

from the stratagems of the foe. The land was one and the king was

one; and the people of Tabaristan had no need of the goods of any

other land. Whatever exists in the abundance of the world, needed

for good living, can be procured therein. In all seasons one finds

there gladsome vegetation, waters pure and luscious, all varieties

of bread, good and wholesome, of wheat, rice and millet; all sorts

of meat and flesh of beasts and birds, contrary to what can be

found in other domains; delicious foods; bright and clear

beverages, wines yellow, red and white, coloured like unto a flower

and ruby and similar to rose-water, in clarity and delicacy like

unto the tears of lovers: bringer of joy and exultation like

achieving union with the beloved, of little nuisance like the

company of men of good intent, productive of power and profit,

bereft of the headache of intoxication, fragrant like pure

Page 291

musk. The winter of Tabaristan is like unto the autumn of other

districts, and its summer resembles the spring of other lands. All

its earth is covered with groves and orchards, so that eyes meet

nothing but greenery. The urban and the rural areas are joined

together. Springs and water channels flow from their sources over

pebbles. The mountain, the plain and the sea are together united.

The air as it blows from the north is soft and equable. But due to

the proximity of the sea and the plenteousness of rainfall at

times, the moisture and the mist exceed those of other places.

It was related by the Qadi Abu 'Abdi'r-Rahman Muhammad b.[1]

al-Hasan b. 'Abdu'l-Hamid al-Lamrasaki to Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali b.

Muhammad al-Yazdadi, on the authority of his father, who had it

from men of ancient time, that there lived in the neighbourhood of

Lamrasak a man named Shahr-Khwastan [Shahr-Khastan] the son of

Zardastan, possessed of great wealth in personal and landed

property and cattle, aged, experienced, and surrounded by numerous

sons, cousins and kinsmen, all loyally attached to him. When

Farrukhan, the great Ispahbad [Ispahbud], had completed the

construction of Sari and the great Dyke, all the people, save

Shahr-Khwastan, offered him their congratulations and eulogies. The

Ispahbad was vexed at this omission and despatched two horsemen to

bring Shahr-Khwastan before him. When they arrived, he was holding

a great banquet, at which all the local nobles and gentry were

present. Ordering the two messengers to be hospitably entertained,

he packed in sacks samples of all the products of Tabaristan,

garments of wool, silk, linen and cotton, bread-stuffs of all

sorts, sweetmeats,[2] apples, cereals, water-cresses, fresh and

salted game, birds, fruits, wines, fragrant herbs, flowers, and the

like, and, furnished with these, set off for Sari, where he arrived

at day-break. By chance the Ispahbad was giving a great banquet,

at which he was presiding, seated on a high throne, whence, after

pronouncing a khutba [ceremonial discourse] after the fashion of

kings, he addressed the people as follows. '0 men of Tabaristan,

know that ye were a people dwelling apart in a corner of the world,

of whom no fame was spread abroad, and to whose country none were

attracted. Ye dwelt in jungles with the wild beasts and beasts of

prey, ignorant of the enjoyments of life, the ways of men, soft

raiment, good horses and agreeable perfumes. It was I who

introduced you to nobler aims and a richer and more desirable life;

who built for you fine cities which attracted travellers and

merchants from afar, so that rare and precious merchandises flowed

into your country, and ye became notable and famous in the world,

and your cities celebrated for their wealth and splendour. For all

this I deserve your thanks.' Then all those present, except

Shahr-Khwastan, rose up and applauded. The Ispahbad, observing with

displeasure Shahr-Khwastan's silence, cried to him, 'What ails thee

that thou art tongueless as a fish
Page 292

and soulless as a serpent?' [The word that Browne has translated

as 'soulless' is 'Pichan' in Persian, which means 'twisting'.] Said

the other, 'If permission be accorded me, I will speak;' and, on

receiving permission, he produced and opened the ten sacks which

he had brought with him, and displayed their contents. Then he

spoke as follows: 'May the Ispahbad-Ispahbadan[1] live long! O

assembly, [lend me your ears, for an hour, and consider what I have

to say.' He brought out those edibles and beverages and clothings

out of the sacks for the people to see. Then he said:] 'We were in

this land men independent of imports from other countries,

contented with what sufficed for our needs, and enjoying ample ease

and luxury. None hindered us, nor envied us, nor contended with us,

nor coveted our country, nor was cognizant of its secrets.[2] We

had need of no one; we had houses, corn-lands and hunting-grounds

within the Great Dyke, and every two parasangs was stationed a

head-man, captain or squire, whom all man [sic] readily obeyed. Now

this Prince[3] [omitted in translation: 'may he prosper and

triumph'] hath made all strangers and foreigners to know us and our

land, [and the secrets of our domain, and tore open the veil

concealing our condition and caused enemies and adversaries to

appear. Whilst no creature, barred, could find a way into this

province] and hath caused them to flock hither and settle here, and

ere long they will pick a quarrel with us, strive to take our land,

and drive forth our children as wanderers and exiles.' Then the

Ispahbad and the people perceived that he spoke truly, and asked

what should now be done, to which he replied, 'The thing is done,

and there is now no averting it. Had you consulted with me sooner,

I would have shewn you a way. Please God that by the Prince's

[king's] good fortune no harm may result.' (Ibn Isfandiyar's

History of Tabaristan, pp. 30-32, translated by E. G. Browne and

amended by the author)]

[1. Ibn, or Bin: 'the son of'. (HMB) (footnote is from page 291)]

[2. Edward Browne has shortened the list of all the foodstuffs and

delicacies. (HMB) (footnote is from page 291)]
[1. Ispahbud-i-Ispahbudan. (HMB)]

[2. Left out by Edward Browne: 'No one had any inclination towards

us'. (HMB)]
[3. King and ruler' in the original. (HMB)]

'The virtue, beauty, health and excellence of the women of

Tabaristan have been already mentioned [by Ibn Isfandiyar] in

connection with the narrative of the building of Amul by

Firuz-Shah.' (E.G.B., p. 32)

Ibn Isfandiyar quotes Abu'l-Hasan-i-Yazdadi as having heard from

a centenarian Khurasani that he had been all the world over, and

had never found a domain like Tabaristan for 'enjoying life', for

'security', for 'comfort' and for 'cleanliness'. Furthermore:

You never find therein deadly snakes, scorpions, lion and tiger and

beasts and insects that are injurious; like the snakes of Sajistan

and Hindustan [India] and scorpions of Nisibin and Qashan [Kashan],

Jashk and Muqan; locusts of 'Askar; tarantulas and fleas of

Ardibil; beasts of Arabia, crocodiles of Egypt, sharks of Basrah;

or famine of Damascus, heat of 'Umman and Siraf and Ahvaz. And the

whole world agrees that for residence a man of
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good taste cannot find a land better than Tabaristan. Of materials

and goods permissible, such as wood and fruit, reeds and herbs,

medicinal substances of the plain and the mount, mines of sulphur,

copperas, collyrium stone, and many a mine of gold and silver,

which bring profit and means of living to the poor and provide

merchandise and goods for the use of the rich, all can be found

there. All kinds of choice cloths of linen, cotton, silk and wool

in varied grades of golden and woollen materials are exported to

the east and the west of the world.

Yazdadi has related that in the first instance, they came to

Tabaristan for satin and woven cloth, for the costly silk material:

'uttabi [so named after its inventor, 'Uttab] and all kinds of

highly-priced brocades and greatly-valued scarlet cloth, and

expensive wine, and camphor, the very best of its kind; and striped

cloth, silken and woollen and narrow; and thick coverlets and

blankets, be it Jahrumi carpets or Mahfuri; also Baghdadi crystal

glass, and 'Abbadani mats... They did not find anywhere else in the

world goods of such excellence. Until our days the market wherein

to obtain the wares of Saqsin [a country in Turkistan] and Bulghar

[Bulgaria], was the city of Amul. And the people of Tabaristan

traded with Bulghar and Saqsin, because Saqsin is situated opposite

Amul on the other side of the sea. It is said that a ship takes

three months to reach Saqsin... And there are women in Tabaristan

who earn fifty dirhams a day by their handiwork...

It is related that a man of Tabaristan got married in Mecca. And

as it is the way of loving one's native land, he used every day to

talk lavishly of his city, until one day he said that one never

finds a beggar in Amul. The people of Mecca decided to give lie to

his claim, until one day they found a man [that is, a beggar] and

took him there [to meet the Tabari who was making so much noise].

He [the Tabari] asked the mendicant: 'Are you from Amul? [The

mendicant] answered: 'Yes, I am from Amul, and the quarter in which

I live is Hazmih Kuy. 'The mendicant described every aspect of

Amul. The Tabari then tried to confuse him, asking the names they

used in Amul for certain objects, and found his answers to be

wrong. And so he told the man that he was fraudulent. Then that man

admitted that he was really a native of Ray and had been taken to

Amul in his childhood by his parents. (Ibn Isfandiyar, History of

Tabaristan, HMB translation; see pp. 33-4.)
Edward Browne takes up the translation here:

The taxes and imposts of Tabaristan are light, and especially was

this the case under the rule of the House of Bawand [Bavand], while

the water is abundant, good, and freely accessible to all. The

satraps, governors and Ispahbads of Tabaristan have always enjoyed

a great influence, and Kisras and Caliphs alike have sought their

advice and counsel. Their doctors, scribes, physicians, astronomers

and poets also include many famous names, and, from the time of

Feridun [Firaydun] and Minuchihr [Manuchihr], who have been already

mentioned, many great and notable men have sought refuge there...

(Ibn Isfandiyar's History of Tabaristan, p. 34 as translated by

Edward Granville Browne)
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Ibn Isfandiyar mentions that Dara, 'fleeing before Alexander, took

refuge in Tabaristan, and sent a message to the invader, saying,

"I grant that you have conquered the Seven Climes, but what will

you do with Farshwadjar?"'[1] (Ibn Isfandiyar, History of

Tabaristan, p. 35)
[1. An ancient name for Mazindaran and Gilan.]

Now we come to the 'wonders of Tabaristan': Ibn Isfandiyar first

mentions Mount Damavand and says:

'Ali Ibn Rabban al-Katib mentions in his book Firdaws al-Hlkmat

that from the village Ask to the summit, the ascent takes two days,

and that [the summit] is like a conical dome. There is permanent

snow all round it except at the top, where in the space of thirty

jaribs snow does not settle either in the summer or in the winter.

There it is all sand, into which the feet sink. When you stand on

the sand at the summit all the peaks round look like hills, and the

Caspian Sea can be seen right at the front. There are three[2]

cavities at the top of this mount from which sulphurous vapours are

emitted, and tremendous sounds are heard coming out of these

cavities, caused by the flaming of fire; and in truth, there is

fire within this mount; and because of the heavy wafting of wind

no animal can stay there. It is said that the Philosopher's Stone

of the alchemists can be obtained there. Yazdadi relates that in

the days of Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus there was a young man called the

son of Amir Ka, who found there red sulphur and produced gold. When

the king came to know he ran away. (Ibn Isfaniyar, History of

Tabaristan, HMB translation; see pp. 35-6.)

[2. Browne translates as 'thirty craters and fissures.' (Ed.)]

Ibn Isfandiyar mentions a number of other wonders that are found

in Tabaristan. One of these is located in the district of

Umidvarih-Kuh. There is a well in that area, he says, which is

called Chah-i-Vijan, and cannot be fathomed. Time and again great

lengths of ropes were taken there, tied together and let down into

the well, but the bottom could not be touched. And when they threw

stones into it the noise of their falling could be heard for a long

time. He further records that in summertime a scented and cool

breeze blows out from the depths of the well. There are trees

around it which provide fragrant timber. Sitting on that wood

during the summer affords coolness (History of Tabaristan, p. 39).

Ibn Isfandiyar is most keen to enumerate and describe as many as

possible of the 'wonders of Tabaristan', some of which are trivial,

such as the description of a mountain where a poisonous plant

Some Rulers of Tabaristan

The most notable of all the rulers and kings who came out of

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Page 296

Tabaristan were the sovereigns of Al-i-Buyih or the Buwayhids (AD

932-1062). There were three brothers: 'Ali, Hasan and Ahmad, to

whom the 'Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad were compelled to assign the

titles: 'Imadu'd-Dawlih (the Mainstay of the State), Ruknu'd-Dawlih

(the Pillar of the State), and Mu'izzu'd-Dawlih (He Who Gives Might

to the State), respectively. Ahmad occupied Baghdad, and made the

caliph his puppet. The Buwayhids--were Shi'ihs of the

Ithna-Ashariyyah, or Twelver, denomination. Spiritually they did

not owe allegiance to the 'Abbasids. But facing an Islamic world,

preponderantly Sunni, they had to maintain the caliph on his

throne. The people of Daylam and Gil (Tabaristan and Gilan), having

stood out for long against the encroachments of the Arab invaders,

and clinging to their Zoroastrian Faith for many decades, spurned

the Islam of the caliphs: Damascene or 'Iraqi, and always gave

refuge to those descendants of 'Ali, who, fleeing from the

tyrannies of the caliphs, sought security amongst them. And it was

a descendant of 'Ali, a member of the House of Muhammad, who led

them into the Shi'ih fold.

mentioned by the author. Numerals refer to the chronological

sequence of the Imams and AD dates are given.
1. 'Ali Ibn Abi-Talib 63Z-661
2. Hasan Ibn 'Ali 661-669
3. Husayn Ibn 'Ali 669-680
4. 'Ali II, Zaynu'l-'Abidin 680-712
5. Muhammad al-Baqir 712-734
6. Ja'far as-Sadiq 734-765
7. Musa al-Kazim 765-799
8. 'Ali Ibn Musa'r-Rida 799-818

Let us begin the story of Tabaristan where Ibn Isfandiyar begins,

with the tragic tale of one of the most accomplished men whom one

encounters in the chronicles of Islam: 'Abdu'llah Ibna'l-Muqaffa'.

This extraordinary man, although professing Islam, was in truth an

enthusiastic Manichaean. By translating Pahlavi texts into Arabic,

with his own embroidering and interpellation, he tried to diffuse

Manichaean doctrines. Al-Muqaffa', whose real name was Dadhbih, son

of Dasdhjushras, fell to the fury of Mansur, the second of the

'Abbasid caliphs (AD 754-75), who had him put to death in a most

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horrific manner. For the people of Tabaristan, who would not submit

to the Arab caliph, the work and the fate of 'Abdu'llah

Ibna'l-Muqaffa' provided both an inspiration and a warning.


mentioned by the author. Numerals refer to the chronological

sequence of the Caliphs and AD dates are given.
2. 'Al-Mansur 754-775
5. Ar-Rashid 786-809
7. Al-Ma'mun 813-833
8. Al-Mu'tasim 833-842
10. Al-Mutawakkil 847-861
12. Al-Musta'in 862-866
18. Al-Muqtadir 909-932
20. Ar-Radi 934-940

According to Ibn Isfandiyar, Farshvdhgar[1] encloses Tabaristan,

Daylamistan and Gilan (History of Tabaristan, p. 14). Then this

author of the history of Tabaristan gives details of the early days

of city-building in that delectable area, and ascribes actions to

kings and rulers and heroes of the ancient past, who, we know now,

were chiefly mythical figures, but also we know that some of them

were historic persons whose real names have been forgotten in the

course of centuries by their fellow-countrymen, and feats have come

to be ascribed to them which are figments of imagination. But this

much is certain, that well-famed towns and cities of Tabaristan (or

Mazindaran) go back to antiquity (History of Tabaristan, pp.

14-30). Ibn Isfandiyar relates that the Jami' Mosque of the town

of Sari was built by a descendant of Imam 'Ali during the reign of

Harun ar-Rashid (AD 786-809), but Prince Mazyar, the son of Qaran,

completed the construction (History of Tabaristan, p. 17).

[1. According to Arsene Darmesteter (1849-94). the celebrated

French orientalist, this name is a corruption of Patashkhwar, the

name of the mountain range which separates Tabaristan from the rest

of the Iranian Plateau.]

Having mentioned Prince Mazyar, it is well to stop here and tell

his story. Even if Mazyar did, as Ibn Isfandiyar alleges, finish

the work of raising a mosque at Sari, he remained firmly wedded to

his Zoroastrian Faith. He was a leader of the Mubayyadah (the

White-Clad), deadly opposed to the other grouping, the Musawwidah,

who donned black garments to indicate their attachment to the House

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'Abbas. Mazyar yearned with all the intensity of his soul to drive

the Arabs out of the whole of Iran, and detested those of his own

nation who had not only embraced the Faith of the Arabian Prophet,

but were totally submissive to their conquerors and, even more,

supported them. Mazyar made a pact with Afshin, who was also of

royal lineage (his ancestors had ruled over Transoxania and hence

Haydar al-Afshin was wrongly called a Turk), to end the domination

of the 'Abbasids. According to Ibn Isfandiyar, Qaran, the father

of Mazyar, had gone to Baghdad at the invitation of the caliph who

wished him to embrace Islam, but Qaran refused and returned home.

Mazyar was at odds with his own great uncle, Ispahbud Shahriyar,

and wished to be the sole champion of Tabaristan. He picked a

quarrel with Shahriyar, but was routed in the battle that ensued

and fled to the domain of a cousin. The victor in that contest was

firmly demanding that the vanquished should be handed over to him.

Mazyar managed to escape and took refuge with 'Abdu'llah Ibn Sa'id

al-Jarshi, the Caliph Ma'mun's (AD 813-33) representative in Ray,

who had been well acquainted with Mazyar's father and grandfather.

After a while this representative took Mazyar with him to Baghdad.

There the prince of Tabaristan met Bizist, the astronomer (or

rather, the astrologer) to Ma'mun. This man was a native of Amul

and promised Mazyar every assistance within his capacity. His

praises of Mazyar made Ma'mun eager to receive him. To make the

story short, the caliph was greatly impressed by Mazyar and when

the right moment came, the prince of Tabaristan was given the

mountainous regions of Tabaristan to rule.

Mazyar very soon found means to rid himself of Ispahbud Shapur, a

grandson of Ispahbud Sharvin. Gradually Mazyar's excesses became

hard for the people to bear. Ma'mun came to hear of their

complaints and sent his astronomer to investigate. Mazyar, while

giving Bizist a most friendly reception, managed to terrify him.

Consequently, when he and the qadis of Amul and Ruyan reached

Baghdad they declared that all was well. However, the qadi of Amul

could not escape the pangs of conscience and confessed that he had

lied to the caliph. Ma'mun was then on the point of leaving Baghdad

to levy war on Byzantium, and promised that on his return he would

take action against Mazyar. In the meantime, the people of Amul and

Ruyan broke into revolt. Mazyar put down the rebellion with a heavy

hand and stopped a description of the true picture reaching

Baghdad, whilst
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continuously sending false reports to the caliph. Though himself

an ardent leader and supporter of the Mubayyadah, in his reports

to Ma'mun he laid all the blame for unrest and revolt at the door

of those White-Clads and assured the caliph that he had the

situation well in hand. Ma'mun, in order to satisfy himself, sent

an emissary, Muhammad Ibn Sa'id, to find how matters stood in

Tabaristan. He too, beguiled by Mazyar, exonerated him. Now Ma'mun

took the extraordinary step of turning over the whole of Tabaristan

to its prince. (His governance lasted two years, to AD 839. Ed.)

Well satisfied with his success, Mazyar came almost into the open.

He meant to destroy the 'Abbasids, and began persecuting all who

were inclined towards them. Muslims were flung into prisons and

their gaolers were Mazdeans and Khurramdinis.[1] Ma'mun died in the

year 833 and his brother, Muhammad al-Mu'tasim, succeeded him.

'Abdu'llah, the Tahirid emir of Khurasan and Ray, took Mazyar to

task but Mazyar did not heed him. It is claimed that Babak (a

Mazdean or a Mazdaki), who was little more than an adventurer, was

in league with Mazyar and Afshin, but the latter betrayed him and

sent him in chains to Baghdad where Mu'tasim put him cruelly to

death. Mazyar, who knew that before long he would have to fight for

his life, was turning Tabaristan into a well-entrenched and

fortified war camp. Afshin, on the other hand, had his eyes on the

vastness of Khurasan. He hoped that the Tahirid emir, in any

contest, would be worsted by Mazyar, and then it would fall to him

to liberate Khurasan from the 'Abbasid yoke. However, Mazyar's

wretched rule nullified all that Afshin had hoped. The prince of

Tabaristan dispossessed the Bavandi Ispahbuds, in the first

instance, and then, apart from one brother, Kuhyar, who had served

him well, he denied his other brothers and his relatives what was

theirs by right. His enormities mounted high and the people of

Tabaristan were heartily sick of him.

[1. Khuramdinis are reputed to have been followers of Mazdak, the

heresiarch of the days of Ghubra and Chosroes I, Sasanian


At last 'Abdu'llah, the Tahirid emir, struck. Three armies

converged on Tabaristan. Now Mazyar's relatives, even his favoured

brother, Kuhyar, betrayed him. It was Kuhyar who led the enemy to

his brother's lair. A present-day historian, Isma'il Mahjuri,

writes that the men on the trail of Mazyar went through passes and

passed by forts that 'until that day no stranger's feet had

trodden'. Mazyar was taken into custody and hauled before the

Tahirid emir, who, well
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aware of Afshin's complicity with Mazyar, asked the chained prince

of Tabaristan to give him the letters he had received from the

prince of Transoxania. Furthermore, on the road to 'Iraq and

Samarra, the Tahirid gave Mazyar so much wine to drink that the

prince's tongue was loosened, and he blurted out all the details

of his secret pact with Afshin. Thus that brave man from

Transoxania was also doomed. Mu'tasim himself supervised and

directed Afshin's arrest. No matter how tyrannous and devious the

prince of Tabaristan was, no matter how many he had injudiciously

sent to their death, he was a very brave man and he yearned to free

his native land. Afshin, too, was brave and had motives beyond

reproach. Their cruel deaths showed, once again, the hollowness of

the claims of the 'Abbasids. Their rule was far from humane. The

twin corpses of Mazyar and Afshin graced the gates of Mu'tasim's

capital for many years.

Mazyar was dead, but not the independent spirit of the people of

Tabaristan. Their goal was the same as Mazyar's: to make a clean

sweep of the alien rule. Now as the tyranny of the governor

appointed by the Tahirids pressed hard upon them, the people of

Tabaristan turned to the scions of the House of the Prophet to

extricate them from the clutches of their oppressors.

When 'Abdu'llah al-Ma'mun, the seventh 'Abbasid caliph, named 'Ali

Ibn Musa ar-Rida, the eighth Imam, to be his successor, many of his

relatives (and he had twenty-one brothers) made their way to the

great city of Ray and its neighbourhood. But those halcyon days did

not last long. Under pressure from his rebellious kinsmen, Ma'mun

was forced to change his decision. Shi'ihs have always maintained

that at Tus in Khurasan, where Harun ar-Rashid, the father of

Ma'mun, had died and was buried, the 'Abbasid caliph gave Imam Rida

poisoned grapes, causing his death. The magnificent Shrine of Imam

Rida at Mashhad in Khurasan is one of the holiest shrines of the

Islamic world. In the shadow of the tomb is also situated the grave

of Harun ar-Rashid, held in opprobrium by the Shi'ihs. Following

the death of the eighth Imam, the descendants of 'Ali who had

congregated in Iran fled to the safety of Daylamistan (soon to

attain fame as the homeland of the Buwayhids) and Tabaristan. Some

of them lost their lives, but the majority found protection

afforded by the Ispahbuds of Tabaristan.

After the death of al-Mutawakkil (AD 847-61), the 'Abbasid caliph

who was particularly hostile to the family of 'Ali, the descendants

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'Ali began to assert themselves. One of them, Yahya Ibn 'Umar--a

descendant of Zayd, the son of the fourth Imam--who lived in

retirement in Kufah, took steps to lead a revolt. A century before,

his grandsire Zayd, driven to rebellion because the minions of the

Umayyad caliph Hisham (AD 724-43) had denied him justice, had done

the same and had lost his life.

Now, when it became evident that Yahya Ibn 'Umar was going to

challenge the 'Abbasids, the people of 'Iraq came to him with a

proposition: if it was impecuniosity which had induced him to

appear as a rebel, they would collect all he needed of the goods

of the world and present them to him. But Yahya refused to accept

riches from them because his whole object, he said, was to rescue

the Faith of Muhammad from degradation. He too lost his life,

fighting Muhammad, the Tahirid emir of Khurasan, whom the caliph

sent against him. When Yahya died, more of his kinsmen, scions of

the House of 'Ali, hastened to the refuge of Daylam and Tabaristan.

Once the Tahirids had Tabaristan in their power, they installed a

tyrannical and brutal governor, Muhammad Ibn Aws, who made life

miserable for the people of that region. For a while they just

groaned, but finally they appealed to the cowed descendants of 'Ali

to come to their rescue. In the city of Ruyan there lived a

descendant of Hasan, the second Imam, named Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim,

famed for his piety and integrity. The leaders of the people of

Tabaristan invited him to put himself at their head, to challenge

the Tahirids and their 'Abbasid overlords. Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim

felt unable to shoulder the responsibility but directed these

determined men to take their case to his brother-in-law, Hasan Ibn

Zayd, who lived in Ray. As soon as the notables of Tabaristan made

their proposal to Hasan Ibn Zayd, he eagerly undertook to lead them

into battle. That resolute, unflinching man is known to history as

Da'ia'l-Kabir (the Great Caller). He fought many battles, and

disentangled many rivalries amongst the Ispahbuds of that enclave

by the Caspian Sea. His chief adversary was the Tahirid Sulayman,

son of Amir 'Abdu'llah. When worsted on every side Sulayman hit

upon a plan to win over the Daylamites, but the plan miscarried and

the defeated Sulayman escaped to Gurgan. Having abandoned his wife

and children at Sari, he wrote to the Da'i to beg the restoration

of his family, and the latter was magnanimous enough to accede to

his request. That final victory over the Tahirid brought great joy

to the Da'i because he felt that his fallen
Page 302
kinsman, Yahya Ibn 'Umar, had been avenged.

Once firmly established in the governance of Tabaristan, the Da'i

proceeded with the establishment of the Shi'ih doctrine throughout

his domain. He instructed his appointees in all the towns and

cities of Tabaristan to follow in every detail the rulings of 'Ali

Ibn Abi-Talib, the first Imam, and gave them a specific line of

guidance which made the Shi'ih practice the pattern for the whole

province. But his brand of Shi'ism was Zaydi, neither Isma'ili nor

Ithna-'Ashari. As for Sulayman, he realized that the role he had

played in Tabaristan was over, and so wended his way to Baghdad

where the caliph, al-Musta'in, gave him the constabulary of his


The fame of the Da'i reached an ever-widening circle, and large

numbers of the descendants of 'Ali came pouring into Tabaristan.

It is related that whenever Da'i rode out, three hundred siyyids

with drawn swords accompanied him. But Da'i knew no peace. His very

successes in capturing city after city outside Tabaristan, which

included the great city of Ray, brought forces against him which

he could not withstand. He became a fugitive, but had another turn

of fortune which regained him much that he had lost. But once again

an adversary loomed on the horizon--no less a person than Ya'qub

Ibn Layth-i-Saffar. Ya'qub himself had been an adventurer and had

risen from humble beginnings to great power. He too was a Shi'ih,

and a Twelver to boot. He had nothing but contempt for the

'Abbasids, and no respect for the Da'i's pretensions. Ya'qub came

storming into Tabaristan, and although the Daylams scorned him he

took it out of the people of other regions, particularly those of

Kujur. The Saffarid intruder was not obstructed by human beings

only. Elements and insects of the thick woods also combined to

punish him. Forty consecutive days of lightning, thunder and rain

decimated the ranks of his army. Nearly forty thousand of his

soldiers perished. Flies killed most of the camels which carried

his equipage. Ya'qub was glad to leave Tabaristan behind him.

Next, Da'i came up against one of the Ispahbuds of the House of

Bavand. His name was Rustam, and although outwardly at peace with

the Da'i, he intended to have the whole of Tabaristan to himself.

However, his effort remained fruitless; the ebbs and tides of the

flow of fortune kept Da'i still riding the storms. But then gout

killed him. His was an amazing episode. Muhammad, his brother,

succeeded him. Ispahbud Rustam tried once again to assert himself

and once
Page 303

again was beaten. In the end he lost his life by treachery.

Now another star had risen on the horizon of Khurasan. Amir

Isma'il, the Samanid, although claiming descent from the nobility

of pre-Islamic Iran, was a Sunni devoted to the House of 'Abbas.

He had overthrown 'Amr, the brother of Ya'qub Ibn Layth who was a

Twelver Shi'ih, at the express order of the 'Abbasid caliph. And

next he turned on Muhammad Ibn Zayd in Tabaristan. Muhammad died

on the battlefield, and his son Zayd was captured and taken to

Bukharh. Zayd's tragic story reached the ears of Amir Isma'il.

Magnanimously the Saminid ruler allowed him, should he wish, to

return to Tabaristan. But Zayd preferred retirement in Bukhara.

Muhammad Ibn Zayd, who ruled over Tabaristan for sixteen years, was

a very generous man, helping his kinsmen in Medinah and providing

them with ample funds. Moreover, he rebuilt the Shrines of the

Imams in Najaf and Karbila, which the impious hands of the

'Abbasid, al-Mutawakkil, had desecrated and destroyed.

The reign of the House of 'Ali in Tabaristan was over, but not

their influence. Abu-Muhammad, Hasan Ibn 'Ali, known as

Nasiru'l-Haqq--a descendant of 'Umar al-Ashraf, son of the fourth

Imam--had to flee to Daylamistan in company with many others of the

descendants of the first Imam. As soon as he reached safety he

began to teach the Shi'ih doctrine. Jastan III of Daylam, the son

of Vahsudan, embraced that variety of Islam which he was preaching.

Until this point of time, there is every reason to believe that the

rulers and the people of Daylam had tenaciously kept their old

Faith. Although its identity is not very clear, it has been alleged

that it may not have been Zoroastrian (Mazdean). Whatever the case,

the independent spirit of the people of Daylam, evident long before

the coming of Islam and the Arabs, had made these brave people the

cynosure of the vastly greater number of men amongst whom they

lived. But here we must once again make a diversion and go with the

years, to learn a little more about the Daylamites from whose

lowest ranks the glorious House of Buyih emerged.

That Caspian province, north of the Elburz range, which is known

today as Gilan, was known as Daylaman in the days when Sasinians

were the masters of Iran. And in that province, Siyyid

Ahmad-i-Kasravi[1] tells us, dwelt two tribes, one named Gil and

the other
Page 304

Daylam. The first tribe had its haunts in those areas where today

the cities of Rasht and Lahijan are situated, the second grouping

occupied more southerly regions, where we now have the settlements

of Rudbar and Alamut.[2] Apparently these two tribes came from the

same stock. In the course of time they separated. The Daylams were

more numerous and more powerful, and were determined to reject

whatever and whomsoever were alien to their land. Rebellious in

pre-Islamic times, the coming of Islam and the Arabs made them even

more determined not to submit. They fought the Arabs in battle

after battle.

[1. A brilliant but erratic Persian historian of recent years. His

highly unorthodox and extravagant views led him into a courtroom,

on trial for heresy. Fanatics broke into the Court of Justice and

murdered him.]

[2. Alamut became the fortress of Hasan-i-Sabbah. the Isma'ili

ruler (AlD 1090-1124).]

Towards the end of the second century Hejira (Hijrah), circa AD

796, one encounters the dynasty of Jastaniyan holding the reins of

authority in the Daylam country. The most famous of these rulers

was Jastan III. The friendly reception which he accorded to

Nasiru'l-Haqq resulted in the conversion of the Daylams to the

Faith of the Arabian Prophet. They became fervent Shi'ihs, totally

rejecting the 'Abbasids. Jastan unhesitatingly took up the cudgels

on the part of the descendants of 'Ali and fought the Samanids.

Although once defeated, he did not give up the contest. But the

next episode in the history of this dynasty is indeed strange.

Jastan III was murdered by his brother, 'Ali, whose name indicates

that he had become a Muslim. Next we hear of 'Ali breaking away

from the long tradition of his people and becoming a partisan of

al-Muqtadir (908-32), the vacillating, unreliable 'Abbasid caliph.

But true to his colours Muqtadir eventually dismissed 'Ali. Now the

power of the Jastaniyans was on the wane.

An event of great interest which occurred during the years of

Muqtadir's caliphate was the raid of the hitherto unknown Russians

on the shores of Tabaristan. They were uncouth pagans and robbers.

Their sudden descent on Tabaristan caused some havoc, many were

killed and homes and warehouses were pillaged; but the Russian

raiders were driven out in the end.

The Samanids did not keep Tabaristan for long. As soon as their

official, Muhammad-i-Bal'ami, withdrew, Nasiru'l-Haqq gathered

forces from Gil and Daylam and wrested the province from its

unwanted occupiers. Further attempts to win Tabaristan for the

Samanids proved fruitless and Nasiru'l-Haqq remained its master to

the end of his days, although he left governance to others and

Page 305

from rulership, devoting his time to literature and the furtherance

of knowledge and authorship. Men came from far and wide to sit at

his feet and learn. Nasiru'l-Haqq (also known as Nasir-i-Kabir:

Nasir, the Great) died at the advanced age of ninety-five.

The rest of the story of the siyyids and their rule over Tabaristan

is characterized by constant struggle. There were many claimants,

and the Samanids were never totally absent from the scene. One of

them, Amir Nasr, a very accomplished ruler, never took the field

himself except once and that nearly ended in disaster. But now,

other men of ability and ambition had arrived, men such as Makan,

the son of Kaki; Asfar, the son of Shiruyih; Mardavij, the son of

Ziyar. As soon as Hasan Ibn Qasim, the last of the siyyid

potentates, was killed outside the city of Amul in the year 928,

Asfar established himself as the sole ruler of Tabaristan. Asfar

and Mardavij were both Daylamites, Makan in Ray represented the

Samanids. The two Daylamites fell out between themselves, and Asfar

lost. Now, Mardavij, whom C. E. Bosworth characterizes as 'one of

the fiercest of these Daylami condottieri' (The Islamic Dynasties,

p. 92), had the field entirely to himself and ranged as far as

Isfahan and Hamadan.

About this time, the three brothers, 'Ali, Hasan and Ahmad (see p.

296)) sons of Buyih, a Daylamite who had been for years in the

service of Makan, seeing him much reduced, left him and joined

Mardavij. They were destined to found a dynasty which overpowered

the 'Abbasids--the desideratum of all the Daylamites. Mardavij,

although outwardly converted to Islam, was secretly, like his

brother Vushmagir and Asfar, a dedicated Mazdean. He tried to

revive the traditions of the Sasanians, and detested the Caliphate

as heartily as any faithful man of Daylam and Gil. At Isfahan (in

the winter of 934-5) he suddenly ordered the observance of the

rites of Sadih, the winter festival[1] of the Mazdeans. Soon, in

that city, he met his death at the hands of his Turkish officers.

Finding that they had been negligent with the preparation for the

festival--lighting a huge bonfire on the banks of Zayandih-Rud--he

was enraged, and the Turks, fearing for their lives, caught him

unaware in his bath and murdered him. Thus died one of the most

remarkable men of Daylam, whom Bosworth stigmatizes as one of the

'condottieri'. (Mardavij, a Ziyarid, ruled from AD 927 to 935. Ed.)

[1. The four great festivals of pre-Islamic Iran consisted of

Naw-ruz (Spring), Tir (Summer), Mihragan (Autumn), Sadih (Winter).

Mihragan--the festival of Mihr (Sun), recalled the worship of

Page 306

Strangely enough, the sons of Buyih did not remain tied to the

Al-i-Ziyar (Ziyarids), and the obvious reason can be found in the

ambitions which they themselves nurtured. They were set to dominate

the whole world of Islam. Of course they did not attain that

zenith, but nevertheless they rose to great heights. The whole of

Tabaristan, and not only Tabaristan but the whole complex of

Islamic society, stretching from the vale of Oxus and the foothills

of Hindu-Kush to the waters of the Atlantic, experienced many an

upheaval in the opening decades of the fourth Hejira century.

Vushmagir had to contend with the Al-i-Buyih right to the end. And

when he died in a riding accident, his two sons, Bisutun, or

Bihistun, and Qabus, fought over his heritage. The younger, Qabus,

was soon forced to seek refuge in Bukhara, of all places. Mansur,

the Samanid Amir, helped him, whereas the elder brother had been

aided by 'Adudu'd-Dawlih, the greatest ruler of the Buwayhids.

However, Bisutun died in 978 and Qabus came into full possession

of Tabaristan. Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus (reigned 978-1012) is one of

the most notable princes of Tabaristan. He was a talented man, well

versed in literature, and was also a man of great ability. But the

rivalries of the Buwayhids entangled him as well. 'Adudu'd-Dawlih

had incurred the displeasure of his father, Ruknu'd-Dawlih, because

he had challenged his cousin, Izzu'd-Dawlih Bakhtiyar the son of

Mu'izzu'd-Dawlih Ahmad (one of the three brothers, founders of the

Buwayhid Dynasty), and led his armies to Baghdad. But the ailing

Ruknu'd-Dawlih, who died in Isfahan in September 976, was

reconciled with his son before his death, appointing him his

successor. 'Adudu'd-Dawlih had a full brother, Mu'ayyidu'd-Dawlih

Buyih, and a half-brother Fakhru'd-Dawlih 'Ali. Now,

'Adudu'd-Dawlih, disregarding the injunctions of his father, sent

Mu'ayyidu'd-Dawlih to fight their half-brother, who, unable to

withstand the onslaught, fled to Tabaristan and sought the aid of

Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus. Mu'ayyidu'd-Dawlih demanded in rude terms

the surrender of Fakhru'd-Dawlih, which infuriated a man as refined

as Shamsu'l-Ma'ali. Inevitably battle was joined between them, but

Qabus did not have an army strong enough to keep the Buwayhid at

bay. Together with the Buwayhid prince, who had taken refuge with

him, he took the road to Khurasan. There, Nuh II, the Samanid Amir,

gave Qabus the aid he required. But treachery undid them. Once

again, in Khurasan, Qabus and Fakhru'd-Dawlih found themselves

hopelessly stranded,
Page 307

because the Samanids, themselves rapidly in decline, could no

longer aid them. The stalwart men who had come to the fore were

Sabuk-takin and his son, Mahmud, the Ghaznavid, Turks and

fanatically Sunni.

However, death came to the rescue of Fabru'd-Dawlih. First,

'Adudu'd-Dawlih and then, within a year, Mu'ayyidu'd-Dawlih died.

Fakru'd-Dawlih came back to regain his patrimony. But he proved to

be an ingrate. He gave Tabaristan to a general who had deserted the

Samanids. Fakru'd-Dawlih was indeed a man of uncertain character.

The great vizier, Sahib Ibn 'Abbad, had helped him to his throne

and with wise guidance had enabled him to retain it, but as soon

as Sahib died, Fakhru'd-Dawlih broke his word, confiscated all of

Sahib's property and threw the relatives of that wonderful man into

prison. Death overtook Fakru'd-Dawlih in 997. At last, after

seventeen years of exile, Shamsu'l-Ma'ali returned to his beloved

Tabaristan. Notwithstanding all his splendid attainments,

Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus, having known bitter years of adversity, had

developed a hardness and harshness of character which lost him many

friends. After some years, the independent spirit of the people of

Tabaristan could no longer tolerate his excesses. Condemning to

death Ispahbud Shahriyar, the Bavandi prince, as well as Na'im

Zaman, his own chamberlain and a much loved man, brought its

retribution. Qabus fled to Bastam in Khurasan. His son,

Falaku'l-Ma'ali Manuchihr, stood by him and wished him to return.

But Qabus knew that he could no longer rule the people of

Tabaristan. Manuchihr placed him in a fortress for his own safety,

but a number of generals made their way into the fortress and

murdered him. Thus ended the life of one of the most talented and

accomplished men who had ever adorned the scene of Tabaristan. Now

the days of the Ziyarids as well as the Buwayhids were drawing to

a close.

Falaku'l-Ma'ali Manuchihr had to make his submission to Mahmud, the

Ghaznavid, and marry a daughter of that unbearable fanatic. The end

of the Ziyarid rule is a matter of conjecture. Did Unsuru'l-Ma'ali,

Kaykavus, the author of the celebrated work, Qabus- Namih,[1] and

his son Gilan-Shah (for whose edification that book was composed

by his learned and worldly-wise father) ever rule over Tabaristan?

Opinions differ and diverge. But that which is certain is the

fact--sad though it is--that the curtain had come down

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over the independence of Tabaristan in the days of Falaku'l-Ma'ali

Manuchihr, attachment to whom made Abu'n-Najm Ahmad, the famed poet

of Damghan, adopt Manuchihri as his nom de plume.

[1. Translated into English by Reuben Levy under the title of 'A

Mirror for Princes'.]

One could relate in detail the adventures, oftentimes gripping, of

the Ispahbuds, whose forebear was Kayus, a Sasanid prince, brother

of the great Anushirvan, Chosroes I . Those Ispahbuds of the House

of Bavand grace the history of Tabaristan, but they did not spring

from the stock of Daylam or Gil. We have already had glimpses of

the House of Jastan which brought forth wise and just rulers.

Tabaristan had another line of Ispahbuds, variously known as

Musafirids, Salarids, or Kangarids, who had Daylamistan within

their grasp, but only for a short time. Adharbayjan was their main

hunting-ground until the Isma'ilis of Alamut ended their power in

the middle of the eleventh century.

The story of Tabaristan, independent Tabaristan, had reached its

close. The Saljuqs, who came next, rode roughshod over that

dearly-cherished province by the Caspian Sea. But some flicker of

its independence remained, until it was totally extinguished by the

man who established Shi'ism throughout Iran: the Safavid, Shah


Tabaristan of ancient fame was dead. But Mazindaran (the new

Tabaristan) lived to attain the apogee of honour and distinction.

Therein dwelt, flourished and prospered the ancestors of

Bahá'u'lláh--the Supreme Manifestation of the Almighty God.

Page 309
The Ancestry of Bahá'u'lláh

The celebrated Baha-i scholar, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani, has

written that at the time when he lived in Tihran a controversy

arose amongst some of the Bahá'ís regarding the purpose of verses

composed by Shalmaghani that point to the Advent of a Manifestation

of God in future years.

Abu-Ja'far Muhammad Ibn 'Ali was a native of the village of

Shalmaghan, which was situated in the region of Wasit in 'Iraq. So

he was known as ash-Shalmaghani. He was a Shi'ih and a close

associate of Husayn Ibn Ruh, who claimed to be the third deputy of

the Hidden Imam. Husayn Ibn Ruh was a prominent member of the House

of Nawbakht, and owed his appointment to the previous deputy:

Abu-Ja'far Muhammad Ibn 'Uthman al-'Umari. Despite his high

connections, he was thrown into gaol by the highly-capricious

'Abbasid caliph, al-Muqtadir.

Shalmaghani is greatly vilified, because during the period of

Husayn Ibn Ruh's incarceration he changed his views and denied the

existence of a Hidden Imam. The Twelvers, amongst whom Shalmaghani

had enjoyed prestige and leadership, then directed their efforts

towards his destruction. During the caliphate of ar-Radi (AD

934-40) Shalmaghani and Ibrahim Ibn Abi-'Awn, one of his ardent

supporters, were both put to death and their bodies were burned.

In a Tablet addressed to Mullazadih of Tabriz, 'Abdu'l-Bahá points

out that Shalmaghani spoke the word of truth, foretelling the rise

of the Divine Luminary from the horizon of Iran, but that men

devoid of truth denounced him and condemned him to death.

The following pages are from the pen of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, to whom

'Abdu'l-Bahá referred Aqa Khusraw Biman for information concerning

the ancestry of Bahá'u'lláh. His reply was later published

Page 310

as a pamphlet in Bombay and is here translated, in part, by the

present author.[1]

[1. Sharh-i-Shajarih Namih-i-Mubarakih (Description of the Blessed

Genealogy). See Bibliography.]

'Some considered that the poem under consideration carried the

tidings of the Advent of the Primal Point. They took the word

"Farsi" that appears in the poem to be the same as "Shirazi".

Others considered the reference to be to the Advent of the Abha

Beauty, because Shalmaghani had denied that the appearance of the

Promised One would be from the House of Hashim, and had prophesied

that the Light of Abha would shine from the House of Kisra

[Chosroes]. Thus it is proved [they concluded] that the prophecy

gave the tidings of the Advent of the Blessed Beauty and not of the


'Sometime previous to that I had noted these words in the Dasatir

[a book related to the Mazdean Faith]: "Should it remain of high

Heaven, I shall raise up one of your people and shall show Him the

Way, and shall not take away prophethood and Lordship from thy

children". And in other books of the Parsis I had observed amongst

the tidings which they carry the definite statement that this

bounty shall be realized after the passage of twelve hundred and

some more years from the time of the inception of the Faith of

Islam: that is to say, before 1300 years have come to pass from the

birth of Islam that shining Luminary will appear over that

delectable horizon. Briefly, for these reasons I reached the

conclusion that the ancestry of the House of Nuris goes back to the

ancient dynasties of Iran; and therefore Shalmaghani intended in

that poem to convey the tidings of the Advent of the Abha Beauty

and not the Advent of the Primal Point.

'However, since firmly holding this conception without the support

of the testimony of history was not a rational act, I went out to

investigate the matter in the history of Tabaristan. Historians

maintain that consequent to the victory of the Muslims over Iran

and the extinction of the Sasanids, some princes of Iran captured

Mazindaran, and several dynasties branching out from them reigned

over that domain for a very long time. Such were the Badustaniyan,

who, as it is retailed in Habibu's-Siyar [a history by Khundmir,

AD 1523], after the abandonment of the capital by Yazdigird the son

of Shahriyar [Yazdigird III, the last of the Sasanids], took over

Mazindaran and
Page 311

protected it from domination by the Arabs. The seat of the

government of the Badustaniyan was at the city of Amul and the city

of Barfurush and also other central cities of Tabaristan. For many

a generation the governance of these cities belonged to this

dynasty. And of the kings of Tabaristan there is also the dynasty

of Al-i-Ziyar whose first ruler was Mardavij, the son of Ziyar, who

came to power in the year AH 315 [AD 927] and within a short time

brought all the cities of Tabaristan under his independent reign.

The Ziyarids held power for nearly one-hundred-and-sixty years.

Their capital was Gurgan or Jurjan. They were descendants of

Sasanids. The most famous of them is 'Unsuru'l-Ma'ali Kavus the son

of Vushmagir, son of Mardavij, son of Ziyar of Daylam. To this day,

his book the Qabus-Namih, which he wrote in a style eloquent and

strong for the edification of his son, Gilan-Shah, is well-famed

and pleasing to masters of ethics.

'Again, of the kings of Tabaristan is the dynasty of the Sipahbudan

of Mazindaran. Historians consider them to have been the real kings

of Mazindaran, and trace their descent back to Anushirvan the Just.

The residence and the seat of government of this dynasty was mostly

in the district of Nur and Kujur. Every ruler of this line dwelt

with his family and offspring in the castles of these areas. And

the people of Tabaristan--peasant and landlord, ruler and

governor--kept their Zoroastrian Faith until the third century of

the Hijrah. It was then that Da'iy-i-Kabir, Hasan Ibn

Zayd-i-'Alawi, conquered Tabaristan and the star of the 'Alawid

Zaydiyyih rulership rose over Eastern lands. When that happened all

the people of Tabaristan, young and old, rich and poor, without

compulsion and dislike, guided by this great Emir, were converted

to Islam and became known far and wide as faithful to the Imamate

of the Zaydiyyih School. The rulership remained with this dynasty

until the star of the Safavids rose in turn. Tabaristan was then

governed by the celebrated Emir, Aqa Rustam-i-Ruzafzun. He refused

to acknowledge the sovereignty of Shah Isma'il. Because of that the

emirate of that House became extinct. All of those emirs were well

known for their devotion to the Imams, and for their patronage of

knowledge and learned men. Some of the celebrated savants have

penned invaluable tomes dedicated to the rulers of Gurgan and

Tabaristan. Eminent poets have composed lambent odes in praise of

the Sipahbuds of Mazindaran. One such was Manuchihri, the

well-famed poet of the fifth century AH [eleventh century AD] who

Page 312

Falaku'l-Ma'ali Manuchihr, the son of Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus, the

son of Vushmagir, from whose name he adopted his sobriquet. And

another was the celebrated Khaqani, who composed splendid odes in

praise of the Sipahbuds of Mazindaran. Another famous poet,

Zahiri-Fariyabi [twelfth century AD], although in the service and

a panegyrist of Qizil-Arslan [AD 1186-91, Atabak of Adharbayjan]

and a fervent Sunni himself, addressing his patron in an ode tells

him that after thirty years of service in 'Iraq, it is the King of

Mazindaran who supplies the daily bread of the poet. And in another

ode, equivocally he says: "Decided have I to turn towards

Mazindaran. Love of Abu-Bakr and friendship for 'Umar provide not

the means of living."

'In brief, when I noticed these occasions in history books I became

convinced that in all probability I could find correctly the

genealogy of the Abha Beauty. Then a number of trustworthy people

stated that Rida-Quli Khan, entitled Amiru'sh-Shu'ara, has

mentioned in his book Nizhad-Namih that the descent of the House

of Nuris goes back to the just king, Anushirvan. This was a

reliable source, because Hidayat [Rida-Quli Khan's sobriquet],

although immersed in waywardness, is one of the most celebrated

historians of Iran. Rawdatu's-Safay-i-Nasiri is one of his works,

over which he has toiled many years and has rearranged a famous

book. Secondly, Hidayat is an enemy of the Cause of God. The

nonsense which he has included and published in the Appendices to

Rawdatu's-Safa, even overtaking the author of Nasikhu't-Tavarikh

[a history of the world in several volumes by Muhammad-Taqi

Khan-i-Sipihr of Kashan, entitled Lisfinu'l-Mulk] in shameless

fabrication and disparagement, provides clear proof of his enmity.

Therefore it was evident that had he had any doubt regarding the

descent of the House of Nuris from the just monarch, Anushirvan,

he never would have put it on record and given it wide publicity.

'Fortunately, at that very time I met the late Haji Mirza Rida-Quli

[a half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh] at the home of one of the noblemen

of Tihran. The host, prompted by me, asked Haji Mirza Rida-Quli to

explain who the forebears were of the House of Nuris. He replied

that their descent was from Yazdigird-i-Shahriyar [the last of the

Sasanids]. Our host further enquired whether they had a

genealogical table to indicate their descent, or was it only a

matter of oral tradition and repetition passed on by the prominent

personages of the House? Haji Mirza Rida-Quli replied that such a

genealogical table existed,
Page 313

in which the names, the professions, and the entitlements of every

one of the forebears of this House are all recorded, right up to

Yazdigird the son of Shahriyar. One could gather from what he said

that there were several copies extant of that genealogical table

in the possession of his cousins and the prominent members of his


'When these evidences were all obtained I presented a supplication

to the Holy Threshold of the Abha Beauty, stating the variety of

views expressed regarding Shalmaghani's intent and the tidings

related to Iran and the historical evidences that exist. In answer

I was honoured with a Tablet, dated 26 Sha'ban 1299 [July 1882].

Regarding the intent of Shalmaghani in his poem, the Pen of the

All-Merciful did thus inscribe in that holy Tablet: "0 Abu'l-Fadl!

Verily thou hast spoken the truth and hast brought to light that

which was enshrined in his words..." (Sharh-i-Shajarih

Namih-i-Mubarakih, p. 14)

'As it happened, in those years Ustad Javanmard, the principal of

the Parsi School of Yazd and a teacher of the school, who was a

prominent Bahá'í of Parsi origin, wrote a supplication and enquired

about the genealogy of the Blessed Perfection. In answer to that

supplication the Tablet of Shir-Mard was revealed. In that Tablet

it is said: "You had enquired about the pure-natured ancestors;

Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani, upon whom be My Glory, has written of

heavenly works on this theme that would impart information and

increase perception." Since the text of the Tablet was not

available, here the gist of it was quoted.

'What I have written here is also the gist of the treatise which

I wrote about the holy Family. And since on 28th of Rabi'u'l-Avval

1300 [February 1883], on the orders of Kamran Mirza, the

Nayibu's-Saltanih, a number of friends and myself were arrested in

Tihran, and all my books and writings were looted, the manuscript

of that treatise fell into the hands of enemies and was lost to

Page 314
The Testimony of Ahl-i-Haqq

Ahl-i-Haqq--The People of Truth (the name by which they refer to

themselves)--are known to the public at large as 'Aliyu'llahi,

those who assert the divinity of 'Ali: 'Ali Ibn Abi-Talib, the

cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, the husband of His beloved

daughter, Fatimah, the first to believe in Him (apart from His

wife, Khadijah), the first rightful Imam, the fourth Caliph. Their

own answer to the above allegation is best summed up in this

God, we do not consider 'Ali to be,
And, in no way, separate from God is he.

It was believed and reported by so eminent a historian as Tabari

that 'Abdu'llah Ibn Saba, a Jewish convert, introduced the belief

in the divinity of 'Ali into the realm of Islam, and paid with his

life for that blasphemy, 'Ali himself ordering his death. This view

has been contested in recent years. Whether such a person as

'Abdu'llah Ibn Saba existed or not, the fact remains that the

belief in the divinity of 'Ali was current in Islam from early

days. On occasions it found fantastic expression. There was a group

called Mukhti'ah--the Errant--who maintained that the Angel Gabriel

made an error by bringing the call to Prophethood to Muhammad,

because Prophethood had really been ordained for 'Ali. Even more

ludicrous was the belief of a group of people called Azdariyyah,

who alleged that 'Ali, the father of Hasan and Husayn (the second

and third Imams), was really a man named 'Ali al-Azdari, while the

Imam 'Ali was the Creator, and the Creator cannot possibly have


Enough has been said to indicate the nature of aberrations

regarding 'Ali. Those groups and many others similar to them in the

Shi'ih camp, who upheld such fantastic views, were collectively

called Ghulat--Extremists.

But the Ahl-i-Haqq of recent centuries have nothing in common with

those weavers of fancy, those producers of weird and grotesque

Page 315

notions who flourished amazingly in early times. They are an

esoteric denomination; of that there can be no doubt. But they are

also people distinguished for their integrity, tolerance,

amiability and charity. Although they have been much harmed by the

ignorant and the fanatic, they never harm anyone. Their stronghold

is the township of Kirand and the Guran country in western Iran,

not far from the city of Kirmanshah and the border with 'Iraq.

When Bahá'u'lláh, banished from Iran, reached Kirand on His way to

'Iraq, the notables and the generality of the inhabitants of that

delectable township received Him with marked respect.

That area of western Iran is mostly peopled by ethnic minorities,

chiefly the Kurds. The majority of Kurds are Sunnis, but a sizeable

number of them belong to Ahl-i-Haqq. Consequently almost all the

literature of this esoteric group is in Kurdish, but with a modicum

in Turkish. In Syria and Lebanon, the Ahl-i-Haqq are known as

Nusayri. The Company of Yaristan is another appellation for them,

Yaristan meaning the 'Abode of Friends'.

The fanatics in the Islamic world did great harm to the people of

Yaristan, condemning their prominent men to death. That persecution

drove them underground, and they drew an effective veil over their

beliefs. As a result dissension and varied beliefs appeared among

them. One of the early leaders of Yaristan, Sultan Ishaq (Isaac),

warned his followers against making their beliefs widely known

until the advent of Khavandigar (the Lord). Sultan Ishaq was truly

a ruler, and his seat of government was at Huwayzih in the Persian

oil-province of Khuzistan. He himself was a devotee of Siyyid

Muhammad-i-Musha'sha'. This siyyid, at the hour of death, passed

his power and position to Sultan Ishaq. The Ahl-i-Haqq believe that

because the Sultan had purity of heart and intent, truth was

unfolded to him. But he had inveterate enemies, notably his

brothers, who, although many people had chosen to follow the

Sultan, led a mob against him. Consequently Sultan Ishaq abdicated

and with a number of his followers took the road to northern

regions: Kirand and Guran and Qal'iy-i-Zanjir. When they reached

the vale of Shish, enemies were at their heels. Pir-Binyamin

(Benjamin) asked the Sultan to find a way of rescue. Sultan Ishaq

guided his people to climb to the top of the mount and spend the

night there. The enemies stopped at the base of the mountain,

awaiting dawn to rush the besieged and cut them down. Then, it is

believed, the Sultan ordered this Pir-Binyamin or
Page 316

another elder, named Pir-Davar, to take a handful of dust and throw

it at the enemies, whereupon a tremendous storm arose: thunder,

lightning and tempestuous winds. A few of the Sultan's followers

then charged the enemy, who, in the dark and in the thick of the

storm began fighting each other. When dawn came, only a small

number of them had survived the struggle, and when they realized

what had happened, they fled the field.

Now, the story goes, Pir-Binyamin begged the Sultan to show some

particular favour towards those of his followers who had lost their

lives. Sultan Ishaq ordered the Company of Yaristan to fast for

three days in memory of the martyrdom of those Yars (Friends). The

Kurds observe this fast, but there are differences amongst them as

to the exact time and date; some consider it to be at that time of

year when the Pleiades face the moon.

Once the peril was averted, Sultan Ishaq and his followers went to

Kirand and settled in that neighbourhood. The Sultan took his abode

at Qal'iy-i-Zanjir. This place is considered by Ahl-i-Haqq to be

equivalent to the Ka'bah. It is named after Pir-Davar. Very few

ever visit it, because the pilgrimage there is conditional upon

total detachment and renunciation of all earthly ties. There are

two mountains in that area called Valahu and Balabanu by

Ahl-i-Haqq. The latter is the mountain of Sulaymaniyyih, to which

Bahá'u'lláh went. There Darvish Sidq-'Ali, the attendant of the

Shrine of Pir-Davar, on meeting Him came to see in Him all the

signs by which the Promised One was to be recognized.

Darvish Sidq-'Ali became greatly devoted to Bahá'u'lláh. Thus did

'Abdu'l-Bahá speak of him:

He was a dervish; a man who lived free and detached from friend and

stranger alike. He belonged to the mystic element and was a man of

letters ... unlike the other Sufis he did not devote his life to

dusty hashish ... only searched for God, spoke of God, and followed

the path of God.

He had a fine poetic gift and wrote odes to sing the praises of Him

Whom the world has wronged and rejected...

That free and independent soul discovered, in Baghdad, a trace of

the untraceable Beloved. He witnessed the dawning of the Daystar

above the horizon of 'Iraq, and received the bounty of that

sunrise. He came under the spell of Bahá'u'lláh, and was enraptured

by that tender Companion. Although he was a quiet man, one who held

his peace, his very limbs were like so many tongues crying out

their message. When the retinue of Bahá'u'lláh was about to leave

Baghdad he implored permission to go along
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as a groom. All day, he walked beside the convoy, and when night

came he would attend to the horses. He worked with all his heart.

Only after midnight would he seek his bed and lie down to rest; the

bed, however, was his mantle, and the pillow a sun-dried brick.

...In his high station, that of groom, he reigned like a king;

indeed he gloried over the sovereigns of the earth. He was

assiduous in attendance upon Bahá'u'lláh; in all things, upright

and true...

While in the barracks, Bahá'u'lláh set apart a special night and

He dedicated it to Darvish Sidq-'Ali. He wrote that every year on

that night the dervishes should bedeck a meeting place, which

should be in a flower garden, and gather there to make mention of


This eminent dervish spent his whole life-span under the sheltering

favor of God. He was completely detached from worldly things. He

was attentive in service, and waited upon the believers with all

his heart. He was a servant to all of them, and faithful at the

Holy Threshold... (Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 368)

That dervish festival mentioned by 'Abdu'l-Bahá is styled

'Id-i-Laylatu'l-Quds--the Festival of the Night of Holiness. It is

said that whenever Sultan Ishaq visited the mountains of

Sulaymaniyyih and its environs he told his followers that He Who

ruled over destinies of nations would come there and decide the


Sultan Ishaq was apparently a contemporary of Amir Timur-i-Gurkani

(Tamerlane, AD 1370-1405). He had seven sons, all of whom arose

after the passing of their father to promote his teachings. Each

one of them laid a foundation of belief, and that was why there

came to be seven denominations within the Circle of Yaristan.

Apparently all of the seven were in agreement about points of

belief, differing only about fasting. The following paragraphs

describe how that difference is explained.

Shah Ibrahim, a grandson of Sultan Ishaq, was established in

Baghdad and the fame of his virtues spread far and wide. In Tabriz

the ruler, Shah Jahan, had an official whose son fell terribly ill

and the physicians were unable to cure him. Hearing of the

miraculous deeds attributed to Shah Ibrahim, the official took his

son to Baghdad where Shah Ibrahim cured the boy. Today the book of

Qushchi-'Ughli, the son of that official, is well regarded and

treasured by Ahl-i-Haqq. That book of verses, all in Turkish, has

many references to the advent of the Báb and His martyrdom in

Adharbayjan, and to the advent of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad and His

sojourn in the Holy Land. Until Qushchi came to Baghdad the

membership of Yaristan was confined
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to the Kurds, but after his attachment to Shah Ibrahim an

appreciable number of Turks came within its orbit.

Seven men, it is related, took the road to Baghdad, full of zeal,

singing, dancing, and playing their musical instruments, but since

they had not been summoned by Shah Ibrahim and had not obtained his

permission before setting out, they were endangered by a snowstorm

and died in a cave where they had taken refuge. Pir-Binyamin

requested Shah Ibrahim to bestow some favour upon them, and he

instituted fasting for a week in their memory. Again Pir-Binyamin

intervened. Many of the members of Yaristan, he pleaded, would

succumb should they refrain from eating and drinking for seven

days. Then Shah Ibrahim reduced the days of fasting to three. This

is why, it is explained, the Turks of Yaristan observe the fast in

memory of those who perished in the cave, while the Kurds of

Yaristan do it in remembrance of the martyrs who died defending

Sultan Ishaq.

Khan-Atash, who was a contemporary of Nadir Shah (1736-47), the

Afsharid, put a ban on fasting. He is the last of the spiritual

guides and was a descendant of Sultan Ishaq. He based his

pronouncement on the words of Sultan Ishaq and Shah Ibrahim, who

had definitely stated that their decree of fasting would endure

until the Advent of Khavandigar, and then the command would be His.

Khan-Atash declared that this Advent was close at hand, and the

people of Yaristan should be exceedingly happy and rejoice.

Khan-Atash left no successor.

Haji Mirza 'Abdu'llah-i-Sahih-Furush (resident in Tihran) was a

prominent member of the Company of Yaristan. Having

enthusiastically embraced the Bahá'í Faith and being well

acquainted with all the texts of Ahl-i-Haqq, he was moved to

compose a book,[1] ,pointing out and proving that the prophecies

contained in those texts have all been fulfilled in the Advents of

the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.

[1. The title of his book was Istidlaliyyih Baray-i-Ahl-i-Haqq. He

died several decades ago. See Bibliography. (Ed.)]

Many are the words of wisdom and of right counsel which Sultan

Ishaq bequeathed to the Company of Yaristan. Would to God that all

the people of Iran had given a receptive ear to these words, as did

the Kurds and the Turks who found their spiritual home in Yaristan:

'If thou carest for thine own Faith thou wilt not abuse the Faith

of any other.'

The elders and seers of Yaristan have spoken of two Advents, in the

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fullness of time. At first, they have predicted, Binyamin

(Benjamin) will step forth, to be followed by the greater Advent

of Havangar (Khavangar) or Khavandigar (the Lord). Shaykh Amir, who

lived some two centuries prior to the Advent of the Báb, specified

that Binyamin was to declare the nearness of the Coming of the


Siyyid Fardi, who also lived about two hundred years before the

days of the Báb, told his disciples, when his death was close at

hand, that a man named Taymur (Timur) would come out of the village

of Banyaran (which is in the district of Guran), in the guise of

Ayut-Hushyar. He will be, the Siyyid declared, the 'Herald of

Truth'. Indeed, during the reign of Muhammad Shah (1834-48), a

young man named Taymur, nearly twenty years old, came from that

village, love-intoxicated, and cried out: '0 Yaristan, I have

tidings for you; my Lord, the generous King is here. I am Taymur,

Taymur: Ayut-Hushyar, come to herald Mihdi of Shah Khavangar.'

Taymur had several thousands of the people of Yaristan gathered

round him. In
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the early part of the reign of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, Taymur was

arrested and the Shi'ih divines condemned him to death.

Qushchi-'Ughli clearly prophesied the emergence of the company

which had attained salvation from the area of Khurasan, and indeed

that referred to the Bábu'l-Báb (Mulla Husayn) and his companions,

who took the road to Mazindaran from Khurasan.

Taymur had, in a couplet in Kurdish, spoken of the eighteen (the

exact number of the Báb's Letters of the Living) who would stand

with their Commander. Lachin, another seer of Yaristan, clearly

named the city of Shiraz as the place where choice gifts of the

spirit would be offered.

Other seers of Yaristan, such as Naw-ruz, Karim and Rustam,

specified the years that Binyamin would have to fulfil his mission,

which tally with the number of years of the Ministry of the Báb;

and pointed to the martyrdom of the Báb and His disciple, Anis

(Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zunuzi), at Tabriz. Still others foresaw

the upheaval of Zanjan and the exodus from Khurasan. All these

prophecies are in Kurdish verse. Then we have Murad, another Kurd

and a poet, who very clearly mentioned the attempt which would be

made on the life of the Shah, because he would be considered

responsible for the martyrdom of the Lord of the Age. That same

Murad left no doubt that Husayn, the Deliverer on Whose brow rests

the crown of divine sovereignty, would be put in chains during the

reign of Nasiri'd-Din Shah. And Lachin, already quoted, made the

Advent of Husayn, who is Shah Khavandigar, the point in time

marking the commencement of a trial of strength with the Qajars and

the rapid downfall of that clan. He also specified Damavand as the

area from which Shah Khavandigar would step into the arena of the

world. Lachin dwelt particularly on the cruelties and the misdeeds

of the Qajars and plainly declared that their iniquities would

cause lamentation, and that He Who rides the charger of Truth would

quit Iran.

Moreover, Shaykh Amir foretold the retirement of Bahá'u'lláh to


He went away to a place unknown to all. The King and the Lord of

Binyamin went away to a place, unknown to all. Men are looking for

Him in vain. The Lord is manifest in a human temple and people know


Then, Naw-ruz specified the mountain Valahu (the range of mountains

on which Sulaymaniyyih is situated) as the place where

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Faith would be renewed. Haydar was the next seer to look into the

future and see the return of the King of Truth--Bahá'u'lláh--from

the mountain where He dwelt; and he commented on the bounties which

He would shower on the people. Astounding, also, is Il-Bagi's

wording of his prophecy: 'The Bábis shall follow Baha.' And once

again Lachin foretold the doom of the Qajars: 'by the roar of men,

lion-hearted, and by the call of the dragon of the Lord, tremble

shall the very foundations of the Qajars.'

Shir Khan was another Kurdish seer who foretold in detail the

Advent of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, the Declaration of His Cause in

springtime (the Ridvan period), the opposition of the divines, the

frustration of their designs, and Bahá'u'lláh's journey to

Istanbul. 'Baghdad and Istanbul we shall bring under our dominion'.

Rustam, already quoted, foretold a good deal more of those events

associated with the rise and the diffusion of the Faith of

Bahá'u'lláh: 'How wonderful is the horseman [the rider] who, with

sword drawn, shall conquer Najaf, Baghdad, Istanbul, Rum [Ottoman

domains], and Farang [Europe], and reach the shores of the Black

Sea.' 'The King of Truth is in Sham [Syria], and the Herald at


Khan Almas pointed to the Turkish Revolution (1908), the spread of

the Faith in the West, the degradation of Iran, the Ministry of

'Abdu'l-Bahá, the establishment of the House of Justice.

Finally, to crown these breath-taking prophecies which are found

in the texts (mainly and chiefly Kurdish) of the people of

Yaristan, let us hear once again from Murad:

The King of Glory seated on the throne of sovereignty called the

peoples of the world to gather and dwell under the pavilion of

unity. Murad! to these He gave the tidings that 'We have revealed

all that was hidden'. The Lord of the World, the Master of all who

dwell therein, now established on the seat of Judgement. He shall

judge between nations, and give the people that which they deserve.

Page 322
The Land of Ta

The Land of Ta--the area of Tihran, capital-city of Iran--was a

home of ancient splendour. And it had a tryst with destiny. Its

hour of incomparable honour, of crowning glory, of supernal bliss,

arrived on the 12th day of November 1817. For on that

never-to-be-forgotten day, Tihran witnessed within its compass the

birth of the Supreme Manifestation of God.

This chapter will tell the story of the environs of Tihran from

earliest times. Thus, in the Apocrypha--the Book of Judith:

Therefore [Nebuchadnezzar][1] was very angry with all this country,

and sware by his throne and kingdom, that he would surely be

avenged upon all those coasts of Cilicia, and Damascus, and Syria,

and that he would slay with the sword all the inhabitants of the

land of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and all Judea, and all

that were in Egypt, till ye come to the borders of the two seas.

[1. Reigned 605-662 BC.]

Then he marched in battle array with his power against king

Arphaxad in the seventeenth year, and he prevailed in his battle:

for he overthrew all the power of Arphaxad, and all his horsemen,

and all his chariots,

And became lord of his cities, and came unto Ecbatane, and took the

towers, and spoiled the streets thereof, and turned the beauty

thereof into shame. He took also Arphaxad in the mountains of Ragau

and smote him through with his darts, and destroyed him utterly

that day. (I:12-15)

Ragau mentioned in the Book of Judith is the celebrated city of Ray

(Rhages). The mountains of Ragau are the ranges in Shimran, the

area of a number of summer resorts at the foothills of Elburz

(Alburz), which today are for the most part joined together and

modern Tihran has reached up to them. One of these delectable spots

was Murgh-Mahallih, much loved by Bahá'u'lláh. In ancient times the

great city of Ray (or Rayy) was well to the south of the Shimran

ranges and the large village of Tihran. A few of the summer resorts

in the upper slopes of Elburz were (and still are) exceedingly

pleasant in the summer months, but isolated oftentimes in the heart

of the winter.
Page 323

Avesta, the Zoroastrian scriptures, also contains reference to the

area of Ray. It is described as a sacred enclave. Overlooking old

Rhages (which, as we shall see, was totally destroyed centuries

ago) was the mountain known as Mt. Bibi Shahr-Banu. On it a shrine

has been erected, to which men are not admitted. Shahr-Banu, most

reliable historians agree, was a daughter of Yazdigird III, the

last of the Sasanian kings who went down before the sweeping tide

of Islam. Shahr-Banu was made a prisoner and taken to Medinah.

'Umar, the second caliph, gave her to Husayn, who inherited the

Imamate from his brother, Hasan, and fell a martyr on the bank of

the Euphrates. Legend has it that after the appalling slaughter of

the descendants of the Prophet on the plain of Karbila, Shahr-Banu,

to escape from the unholy hands of the minions of the Umayyad

usurpers, rode Duldul--the renowned horse of her illustrious

husband who was decapitated and trampled by the hooves of the

steeds of a merciless foe--and fled from the battlefield. The enemy

set out in pursuit. But Duldul sprouted wings and thus Shahr-Banu

made good her escape. That wonderful horse, it was believed by the

credulous, carried the
Page 324

daughter of Yazdigird all the way to the distant Ray. There, it was

maintained, a cleft in the hillside opened to swallow her, after

which the gaping aperture was closed.

That is the legend which gained currency over the centuries. But

the truth is quite apart. Discarding the miraculous element, the

fact of the matter is that Shahr-Banu could not have been on the

bank of the Euphrates. She died, long before the terrible

destruction of the House of the Prophet, at the time she gave birth

to 'Ali, the fourth Imam, known as Zaynu'l-'Abidin (the Adornment

of the Devout). 'Ali, the Medial (Awsat), as he was also known, on

the day his glorious father quaffed the cup of martyrdom was a

sickly boy of uncertain health, fever-ridden, and pining on his

bed. Thus he remained the sole survivor of the holocaust, and the

mantle of Imamate came to rest on his shoulders. And because the

blood of the Sasanians ran in his veins, in the eyes of the

Persians, smarting under defeat, his spiritual heritage was greatly

enhanced. It was in Persia that many of his descendants found

refuge and support, escaping from the tyrannies of the caliphs of

Damascus and, later, of Baghdad.

On that mount of Bibi-Shahr-Banu, sanctified in Islamic times by

a legend, once stood a temple dedicated to Nahid:[1] Anahita. Hence

the reference in Avesta to the sacredness of the area of Ray, which

included then the village that has grown into a colossal

capital-city: Tihran--the birthplace of Bahá'u'lláh. Anahita was

one of the supreme 'Izids' of the Mazdean (Zoroastrian) Faith.

Greeks knew Anahita as Aphrodite and Romans as Venus Erucina. In

the area of Tihran and the mountainous region to the north of it,

which in early Islamic times came to be known as Qasran, the

worship of Anahita was widespread.

[1. Nahid, Zuhrah in Arabic, means Venus. The Arabic name denotes

the brilliance of this planet.]

It is asserted that Alexander the Great set out to destroy

Zoroastrianism in Iran. He demolished Mazdean temples and put their

priests to death. The inhabitants of Ray and its environs, being

strongly attached to their religion and even described as

fanatical, suffered heavily in the days of Alexander. Nizami of

Gandzha (now Kirovabad in Soviet Caucasia), one of the most

eloquent classical poets of Persia who flourished in the twelfth

century AD under the Saljuqs, graphically relates these

depredations of Alexander. Apparently his successors in Iran, the

Seleucids, followed the same
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Page 326

policy of repression in relation to the Mazdeans. Then a great

earthquake hit Ray and razed it to the ground. When Seleucus

Nicator came to rebuild that city of renown, he named it Europos.

The Seleucids had their day. On the whole, Iran flourished under

them, but soon the onrush of the Parthians, who were of Iranian

stock, swept them into limbo. The Parthian dynasty of the Arsacids

(Ashkaiyan in Persian), who now held sway, made the city of Ray

their spring capital. Under the Arsacids the area of Tihran came

to assume a central position. And the Mazdeans regained their

freedom of belief. The Arsacids, although destroying the semi-Greek

Seleucids, were themselves influenced by Hellenism. They did give

recognition to Ahuramazda of Zoroastrianism, but they also

propagated the worship of Mithra and Anahita. Even more, they

revered Zeus and Apollo of the Greeks. Later, Artemis also joined

their Parthenon. Arsacids, with their liberal beliefs, practised

complete religious toleration.

The Arsacids had, before long, to cope with the rising power of

Rome. In the year 53 BC, in the vicinity of Carrhea (Harran of

Islamic times) in Mesopotamia, they inflicted a crushing defeat on

the Roman legions. Crassus, the Roman general, was killed. There

and then the Roman expansion to the East came to a halt and ended.

Octavius (Augustus, the first emperor of Rome) was an officer in

the army of Crassus and was present at the battle of Carrhea.

It was during the reign of Augustus and the Arsacid Farhad V that

Jesus was born, in Bethlehem. The Jews were now enslaved, once

again, groaning under a foreign yoke. The glories of David and

Solomon had long become memories of a dead past. Now even the brave

deeds of Judas Maccabeus, who heroically defied Antiochus Epiphanes

(176-164 BC), were fast receding into a dim memory. And the yoke

of the Romans rested heavily on the children of Israel.

The Parthians, on the other hand, besides the tolerance which they

habitually practised, were exceedingly kind and helpful to the Jews

because they resented the Romans and their tyrannies. The Arsacid

kings even went to the length of actively supporting the Jews to

drive out Herod, who was a puppet of Rome, in the year 40 BC and

helped put Antigonus, the 'last representative'[1] of the

Maccabees, on the throne. For three years Antigonus held the Romans

at bay, and died bravely when the inevitable happened: Romans

triumphed and Herod was restored.

[1. The words quoted are from Magnus, Outlines of Jewish History,

p. 23. (Ed.)]
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Page 328

But now to go back to the story of Ray and Tihran: Ray, as we have

seen, was chosen by the Arsacid kings to be their spring resort,

and that city became known by their name, 'Arshak'


In the year AD 226, after a reign of nearly five centuries, the

Arsacids lost their throne to Ardashir,[1] who ruled in the

province of Fars. Ardashir was the grandson of Sasan, a priest of

a temple in the city of Istakhr, dedicated to Anahita. When

Ardashir overthrew the Parthians he claimed descent from the

Achaemenians, and set out to restore the Mazdean Faith to its

pristine purity. Now the religion of Zoroaster was beset with the

problem of Zervanism. The most authoritative work in English on

Zervanism is that of the late R. C. Zaehner (Spalding Professor of

Eastern Religions and Ethics in the University of Oxford). In his

introduction to that voluminous and exceedingly readable and

informative tome, Zurvan, A Zoroastrian Dilemma, Prof. Zaehner


[1. Ardashir (or Ardishir) is the same as Artaxerxes in Greek. In

his day his name had this form in Middle Persian: Artakhishatr. In

the Achaemenian times it was pronounced thus: Artakhishatra.]

Both the Zoroastrians in Sassanian times and the Shi'ah Muslims in

the Safavi period proved to be exceptionally intolerant of other

religions--largely, one suspects, to emphasize their difference

from the neighbouring states. (Prof. R. C. Zaeher in his

Introduction to Zurvan, A Zoroastrian Dilemma, p. 3)

He goes on to say:

...Zoroastrianism was uncompromisingly dualist. Nor was its dualism

the classic dualism between spirit and matter which would have

provided a common meeting-ground with the Indian Jains ..., with

the Gnostics to the West, and with the Manichaeans in Iran itself.

It was a dualism of spirit, postulating two principles at the

origin of the Universe--the Spirit of Good or Ohrmazd, and the

Spirit of Evil or Ahriman. This extremely original idea dates back

to Zoroaster himself, and it is his basic contribution to the

philosophy of religion...

Though it was no doubt Zoroaster himself who sowed the seed of

spiritual dualism, it was left to his epigones in later times to

systematize it...

It can be readily understood that so fundamental a dualism might

well produce a reaction, since the history of religion proves that

the nature of man seems to demand a unified godhead. This reaction

duly appeared: it is what we call Zervanism. As might be expected

in a heterodox sect, in Zervanism we do appear to find traces of

alien ideas which were so rigorously excluded from the Zoroastrian


...The Zervanites tried to re-establish the unity of the godhead

by positing a principle prior and superior to Ohrmazd and Ahriman,

thereby doing away
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with that essential dualism which is the hub of the Zoroastrian

position... (Prof. R. C. Zaeher in his Introduction to Zurvan, A

Zoroastrian Dilemma, pp. 3-5)

Here is not the place to counter the belief that the Faith of

Zoroaster was not essentially monotheist, although duality is

apparent in its own guise. This is not the place either to present

a detailed account of Zervanism, its arguments, its duels with the

revived Mazdeanism under the Sasanians. But before leaving the

subject it ought to be said that Zervanism, despite suppression,

endured throughout the Sasanian period, sometimes even in the


In the days of the Sasanians, the governance of Ray resided with

the family of Mihran. This powerful family took its name from a

village of that name and had arisen to prominence in the whole area

of Tihran. In the present-day Tihran there is a large garden called

Mihran, situated in the road until recently known as Avenue

Kurush-i-Kabir (Cyrus the Great). That is the site of the old

village. Bahram-i-Chubin, who rebelled against Chosroes II--Khusraw

Parviz--and even occupied the throne for a while at Ctesiphon, was

an outstanding member of the family of Mihran. At the end Chosroes

defeated him and Bahrim fled to Turkistan. His grandson,

Siyavakhsh, was the Governor of Ray and the area of Tihran when the

armies of Islam invaded Iran.

Throughout the reign of the Sasanians, the area of Tihran

maintained its supremacy in the domain of religion. Two great

fire-temples sprang up: one to the north of Tihran, within the

environ of Qasran on the heights of Mt. Tuchal; the other, to the

south, in the vicinity of the present-day Shrine of Shah

'Abdu'l-'Azim. The worship of Nahid (Anahita) also held its ground

firmly right to the end.

Iran and Byzantium ruined themselves with their constant warfare.

Chosroes II, at first scoring victory after victory over the

Byzantines, even overrunning Jerusalem and carrying away what was

believed to be the true cross, wilted under brilliant and desperate

counter-attacks by Heraclius. He, who had defied the summons of the

Arabian Prophet, fled miserably from the battlefield, Byzantine

armies penetrated deep into Persian territory, and the disgraced

and crestfallen Chosroes was deposed by his son, Shiruyih, and

murdered in his prison-cell. How awesome sound those prophetic

verses of the Qur'an which foreshadowed the victory of the

Byzantines and the abasement of the overbearing Parviz:

Page 330

Rum [the Byzantines] were defeated in the near land. They, after

their defeat, shall be victorious, in a few years. Command belongs

to God, before and after; and on that day the believers shall

rejoice in God's aid. God will aid whomsoever He willeth. And He

is the All-Mighty, the Merciful. The promise of God: God faileth

not to fulfil His promise, but most men do not know it. (Qur'an


Very soon after the debacle of Chosroes II, the triumphant armies

of Islam poured into Iran and Yazdigird III, the last of the

Sasanians, suffered the same fate as Darius III, Codomanus, the

last of the Achaemenians. He was treacherously murdered.

Writing of the ancestors of Bahá'u'lláh, the Guardian of the Baha'i

Faith states:

He derived His descent, on the one hand, from Abraham (the Father

of the Faithful) through his wife Katurah, and on the other from

Zoroaster, as well as from Yazdigird, the last king of the

Sasaniyan dynasty. He was moreover a descendant of Jesse, and

belonged, through His father, Mirza 'Abbas, better known as Mirza

Buzurg--a nobleman closely associated with the ministerial circles

of the Court of Fath-'Ali Shah--to one of the most ancient and

renowned families of Mazindaran (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.


The extinction of the Sasanian dynasty occurred in the year AD 641,

at the Battle of Nihavand. After that battle, which the Arab

historians came to call Fath-al-Futuh--Victory of

Victories--Yazdigird was a fugitive, and was murdered ten years

later, in the vicinity of Marv in Khurasan.

The coming of Islam made no appreciable difference to the way of

life in the area of Ray and Tihran. According to the great

historian at-Tabari (whose name indicates that he was a man of

Tabaristan), in the year AH 22 (AD 644) Zinabi,[1] a general in the

service of Siyavakhsh, the hereditary governor of Ray, betrayed his

master because of a grudge against him, and opened the gates of the

city to the Arab commander. Later he strove hard to make peace

between the conquerors and the people of Ray. The Mazdeans agreed

to pay jizyah (poll-tax), like other dhimmis (people of the Book).

However, they proved insubordinate and turbulent. With the passage

of time, the number of the Mazdeans decreased; but bending knees

to the caliphs of Damascus and later of Baghdad was abhorrent even

to the newly converted. And before long Shi'ism spread throughout

the area. A number of the prominent disciples of the fifth and the

Page 331

Imams--Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja'far as-Sadiq--were men of Ray, such

as Yahya Ibn Abi'l-'Ala, 'Atiyyah Ibn Najih Abu-Mutahhar,

'Abdu'r-Rahim Ibn Sulayman, and 'Isa Ibn Mahan.
[1. Originally Zinbudi: the head of the armoury.]

Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim, whose shrine in the area of Ray has for

centuries been a place of pilgrimage, died there in the year AH

250. He led a secluded life while residing in Ray, and used to

visit from time to time a grave in the neighbourhood, claiming that

Hamzih, a son of Imam Muss al-Kazim, the seventh Imam, was buried

there. The Shrine of Imam-Zadih Hamzih, himself a scion of the

House of Muhammad, now stands, in its magnificence, next to that

of Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim.

Next, we hear that several villages in the area of Ray and Tihran,

such as Vanak, had rallied to the Zaydi sect. This development was

due to the fact that on the other side of the Elburz range, in the

Caspian province of Tabaristan, descendants of 'Ali Ibn Abi-Talib,

following the Zaydi rite, had come to power. Zayd was a son of the

fourth Imam--'Ali, known as Zaynu'l-'Abidin, whom the tyrannies of

the Umayyads drove into open revolt; despite the advice of his

nephew, Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq, he gathered a force to wage war on

the caliph at Damascus. The result was a foregone conclusion. Zayd

suffered defeat and martyrdom. Eventually a sect grew up bearing

his name, although he himself had never made a particular claim to

a position of spiritual authority.

In the days when the 'Abbasids--the scions of 'Abbas, the uncle of

the Prophet--rose up in the name of the House of Muhammad to

overthrow the Umayyads, Abu-Muslim of Khurasan became the engineer

of their victory over the ungodly, as they said. But very soon the

'Abbasids went the way of the Umayyads, and Abu-Ja'far al-Mansur

treacherously put Abd-Muslim to death in 755. Before long a sect

sprang up claiming that Abu-Muslim was not dead, but lived in

hiding in the mountains of Ray. These are the mountains which rise

up from the plain of Tihran and overlook it; they afforded in those

early centuries many places of refuge. As time went on these

Muslimiyyahs (so they were called) changed their tune. Abu-Muslim,

they asserted, would emerge in the fullness of time to vanquish the

ingrates and the unfaithful. But it was still in the caves of

Elburz where they located their hero, who had chosen to withdraw

for the time being from the world. 'Withdrawal and Return' was fast

becoming the pattern of dissident beliefs.
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The Khurram-Dinan (or Khurramiyyah) were another group of

innovators and recalcitrants, both strong and troublesome, in the

area of Ray and Tihran. They were the ones who cherished the memory

of Mazdak, the heresiarch who was put to death, with a large number

of his followers, by Chosroes I in 528.

As centuries rolled on, Ray became the most populous city of Asia,

and the Tihran area flourished accordingly. An amazing development

was the congregation of the descendants of 'Ali, the first Imam,

in these environs. The large number of shrines harbouring the

remains of the sons and grandsons of the Imam that one encounters

in the plain and running up to the heights of the Elburz range and

even beyond onto those heights themselves, are evidences of that

remarkable turn of events in the first centuries of the Muslim Era.

A modern writer of Iran, Dr Husayn Kariman, divides the descendants

of 'Ali, who made their way to the northern limits of that land,

into four categories. First, there were those who suffered by the

tyrannies of the Umayyads, and particularly by the enormities of

their despicable agent, Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf. Next came the group who

had been heartened by the fact that 'Abdu'llah al-Ma'mun had named,

in the year 815, the eighth Imam, 'Ali Ibn Musa'r-Rida, as his

successor. But before long, under pressure from the dispossessed

'Abbasids, Ma'mun changed his mind and secretly, it is claimed,

encompassed the death of Imam Rida by poisoning. The 'Alawiyyin,

noting the treachery, had hastily to seek places of refuge. The

third category consisted of those descendants of 'Ali who had

rallied to the support of their kinsmen, in rebellion against the

caliphs. Once their leaders were destroyed they had to find routes

of escape. The fourth group were those 'Alawiyyin who flocked to

Mazindaran (Tabaristan) when their relatives found power and

authority in that region. And it must be said at once that the

dwellers of both sides of the Elburz range, discontented as they

were with the caliphs, received the descendants of 'Ali with joy.

We have already described how Hasan Ibn Zayd, then living in Ray,

accepted the rulership of Tabaristan (see pp. 30I-2), where he

established the Shi'ih doctrine throughout his domain. Within a few

years he was master not only of Tabaristan, but of the whole area

of Damavand and Ray and Tihran as well, where he was firmly

established by the year 867. Hasan was succeeded by his brother

Muhammad, who, although unable to retain Ray, did succeed in

building shrines over the graves of the descendants of 'Ali in

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northern regions. Centuries later some of them, such as the shrines

of Imam-Zadih Hasan, Imam-Zadih Ma'surn and Imam-Zadih Zayd, were

to harbour for a while the remains of the Báb--the Qa'im of the

House of Muhammad.

The Samanids, who came to power in Transoxania and Khurasan and

ruled from Bukhara (819-1000), had their origins in the Mihran

family of the area of Tihran. (See p. 329.) When Amir Isma'il was

presented with the domain of Ray, he declined to annex it to his

kingdom. 'This is a city of ill omen,' he declared. In contrast,

for the sake of obtaining the governorship of Ray, 'Umar Ibn Sa'd

and Shimr had consented to take up arms against the grandson of the

Prophet and encompass his martyrdom on the banks of the Euphrates.

The coming of the Buwayhids (932-1062) out of the Daylam country

on the shores of the Caspian, and their establishment particularly

in Ray where Hasan (entitled Ruknu'd-Dawlih) ruled,[1] made Shi'ism

of Ithna-'Ashariyyah (Twelvers) the dominant force in the whole

area of Ray and Tihran. Sultan Mahmud (998-1000), the Ghaznavid

centred on the land that is now Afghanistan, followed the Buwayhids

to power. He was fanatically and intolerantly Sunni in his

religious profession, took Islam with the sword to India, and

inflicted great hardships on the Shi'ih population of the area of

Tihran. His actions were indeed shameful, particularly so as they

came in the wake of the benevolent rule of the Buwayhids. He set

up two hundred gallows and hanged as many prominent and outstanding

Shi'ites as he could catch in his net. He accused them of being

Qirmati (Carmathian). Not only the Shi'ihs, but the Mu'tazilites

as well suffered at the hands of Mahmud. The great library of

Sahib--the wise and learned vizier of the Buwayhids--was raided and

despoiled. Ibn Athir, the celebrated Arab historian, amply

testifies to the depredations of the agent of Sultan Mahmud in that

well-stocked library. But once he was in his grave and the

Ghaznavid domination had ended, the Shi'ite supremacy was restored

in that area.

[1. He was one of the three brothers who were the builders of

Buwayhid power. (Ed.)]

Then came the Saljuqids (1038-1194). They too were Sunni, but like

the Shi'ite Buwayhids they lorded it over the 'Abbasid caliphs, who

were reduced to impotence. Indeed, gone were the might and

dominance of Harun and Ma'mun. The 'Abbasids had become puppets in

the hands of both Shi'ihs and Sunnis.

The changes that took place in the fortunes of the Shi'ihs of Ray

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Tihran, under the Saljuqid kings, were truly spectacular. Learning,

in whatever quarter it was found, was greatly respected. And Tihran

came to be noticed more and more. In the Fars-Namih of Ibn Balkhi,

dedicated to Sultan Muhammad--the Saljuqid monarch (1105-18), son

of the well-famed Malik-Shah (1072-92)--particular mention is made

of the pomegranates of Tihran, whose excellence is compared to the

goodness of the pomegranates of the district of Kavar in Fars.

In the days of Nizamu'l-Mulk--the celebrated vizier of the

Saljuqids Alp-Arslan and his son Malik-Shah--who was a staunch

Sunni of the Shafi'ite school, the village of Tarasht in the area

of Tihran had become a Shi'ih stronghold where regular conferences

and seminars were held to discuss matters of text and tradition.

The learned man who directed these circles was a well-known Shi'ih

theologian: Khajih Ja'far Ibn Muhammad, author of several books.

The Saljuqid vizier, as already stated, was a Sunni of very decided

views; moreover, he was not altogether well-intentioned towards

those who believed in the Imamate. But he made it a point to go

from Ray, every week, to that Shi'ih village, and sit at the feet

of the Shi'ih theologian.

The Saljuqids were succeeded by the Kharazmshahis who were also

Sunnis and exerted pressure on the Shi'ihs of the area of Ray and

Tihran. But it was of no avail and Shi'ism became deeply rooted.

We come now to the catastrophe of the Mongol invasion which shook

the whole Realm of Islam to its foundations and left the great city

of Ray for ever desolate. It happened in the reign of 'Ala'u'd-Din

Muhammad-i-Kharazmshah (1200-20). Sultan Muhammad was a foolish

king. His overbearing haughtiness, the veniality and greed of his

chief frontiersman, the senseless execution of the emissaries of

the Mongol overlord (who, incidentally, were Muslims) directed the

wrath and the fury of Chingiz Khan (whose intentions, at the very

beginning, were thoroughly peaceful and neighbourly) to the vast

Empire of the Kharazmshah. Even worse, 'Ala'u'd-Din Muhammad proved

a bad planner, a bad general and a cringing coward. While scores

of flourishing districts and cities, homes of culture and beauty,

were burned and devastated, while thousands perished and thousands

more took to the wilderness, the hapless 'Ala'u'd-Din Muhammad

died, an abandoned fugitive, in the forlorn island of Abaskun off

the coast of Tabaristan. His very brave son,
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faced the Mongol hordes with the utmost courage, but the enemy was

far too strong. Furthermore, fellow-Muslims betrayed him and he was

murdered by a demented Kurd on a lone hilltop.

Now that Ray was in ruins, and was never to rise again, the area

of Tihran became of prime importance. Its people, as we have seen,

had been staunch Shi'ihs for a long time. They were regarded

jealously by their Sunni neighbours who began concocting fables

about them, and some of these fables are strangely reflected in

such authoritative works as Mu'jama'l-Buldan of Yaqut al-Hamavi.

In the succeeding centuries which saw the rise and the downfall of

the descendants of Chingiz, the appearance of many petty kingdoms,

the scourge of Amir Timur (Tamerlane), the civilizing influence of

his progeny (which stood in amazing contrast to Timur's own

destructiveness), the ruined Ray and the flourishing Tihran were

crossed and re-crossed, visited and re-visited by many a magnate.

The Al-i-Baduspan of Ruyan in the western part of Tabaristan,

towards the middle of the fourteenth century captured the whole

area of Tihran and Ray. These Ispahbuds also had Nur and Kujur

within their domains. They are known as Rustamdariyans as well,

because they were centred in Rustamdar. Their rule endured in that

area of Tabaristan well into the reign of Shah 'Abbas the Great,

the Safavi ruler.

Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, who led an embassy from the court of Henry

III, King of Castile, to the court of Tamerlane, gives a good

account of Tihran, where he stayed for a couple of days in the best

house of the town; Tamerlane himself had lodged there.

In our narrative we have now reached the days of the Safavids. With

them Iran is made new. Isma'il, a scion of Shaykh Safiyyi'd-Din of

Ardibil, at the age of thirteen came out of the forests of Gilan

by the Caspian Sea to avenge the death of his father and his

grandfather. He claimed that he was a descendant of Imam Muss

al-Kazim, the seventh Imam. It is now proved, beyond any measure

of doubt, that he was not a siyyid. Of a certainty he was of

Kurdish origin, and had Turkish blood as well as Greek. Despina,

a daughter of Kalo Ioannes, the last Greek emperor of Trebizond,

was the mother of his mother. Habitually he spoke and wrote in

Turkish, and composed poems in Turkish. He dragged an Iran mostly

Sunni into the Twelver Shi'ih fold. Iran lacked enough Shi'ih

divines. He brought those whom he needed from Jabal 'Amil in Syria.

And there is no question that Shaykh Safiyyi'd-Din, whose name was

given to the
Page 336

dynasty which Isma'il founded, was a Kurd, a Sunni and the head of

a Sufi fraternity.

It is with the advent of Shah Tahmasb I, son of the founder of the

dynasty and its second monarch, that Tihran rises to eminence. In

the first place Tahmasb had his capital in Qazvin, which is within

a short distance from Tihran. Secondly, Tahmasb was a pious man,

narrow-minded even with his piety, as evidenced by his treatment

of Anthony Jenkinson, a traveller from England in search of trade.

He spent time and money liberally to restore and beautify the

Shrine of Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim. Visiting that shrine, Shah Tahmasb

had to pass through Tihran. The trees and verdure, and the

plenteousness of water there, pleased him, and he decided to have

it surrounded by a moat and give it battlements and four gates.

Towers to the number of the surihs of the Qur'an--one hundred and

fourteen--were placed in the battlements, and within each tower one

of the surihs was entombed.

Pietro della Valle, the 'Roman patrician' who sojourned for seven

years in Persia during the reign of Shah 'Abbas the Great, became

well acquainted with 'Abbas. During one of his peregrinations,

waiting on the Shah, he visited Tihran with his Nestorian Christian

wife, Ma'ani, whom he had married in Baghdad. Pietro liked Tihran

and was enchanted by the stately plane trees which he found

adorning its thoroughfares. Apparently, unlike his grandfather,

'Abbas was not fond of Tihran. He had no palace of his own within

the city, and was forced to live in tents outside. Moreover, on one

occasion the people of Tihran had insulted him by seeming


During the Afghan invasion, which resulted in the virtual

extinction of Safavid rule, Tihran, for long a stronghold of

Shi'ism, suffered greatly at the invaders' hands. For a while, they

took a defensive position in Tihran and added to its

fortifications. Nothing of importance happened in Tihran or to

Tihran in the succeeding decades. Occasionally, Nadir Shah, the

Afsharid, passed through it; and once he encamped there for a

fairly long time.

In the wake of the assassination of Nadir Shah in the year 1747,

a period of total anarchy ensued. There were three chief contenders

for power: an Afghan named Azad Khan; Muhammad-Hasan Khan, the

chieftain of the Qajars (who occupied a good part of the area that

was Tabaristan); and Karim Khan-i-Zand, a Lur and in no way

Page 337

Karim Khan was in Tihran when his stubborn rival, the Qajar chief,

was treacherously murdered and decapitated in his haunts by the

Caspian Sea. The murderer carried the trophy triumphantly to

Tihran, hoping for high reward. But the wretch had thoroughly

misjudged the Zand Khan. As soon as Karim set eyes on the head of

his rival, sorrow seized his heart and his tears flowed. He ordered

the execution of the murderer, and the head of Muhammad-Hasan Khan

was respectfully interred in the precincts of the Shrine of Shah

'Abdu'l-'Azim. Such a man was Karim Khan-i-Zand.

Karim Khan ascended the throne in Tihran, but refused to assume the

designation of 'Shah'. He was only Vakilu'r-Ru'aya, he said, 'the

Deputy of the People'. Then he had a fresh moat dug round Tihran,

added to its fortifications and battlements and ordered the

construction of a number of mansions and government buildings. He

intended to make Tihran his capital-city. But soon he changed his

mind and went to Shiraz--the immortal Shiraz of the glorious Bab,

as it would become--and established his capital there.

We have now almost reached the end of our story of Tihran, which

the Qajars made their capital-city. And Tihran in the nineteenth

century witnessed many infamies, great and small, the handiwork of

the Qajar usurpers. Aqa Muhammad Khan, the eunuch-king and first

of the Qajars, who inaugurated a dynasty which ruled from 1779 to

1925, began his blood-stained reign in the foothills of the Elburz

range by ordering an odious deed--foul to commit and foul to

relate--the dastardly treatment meted to the last of the Zands: the

brave, the generous, and immensurably high-minded Lutf-'Ali Khan.

And what then of the Land of Ta? At a time when the New Age was

foreshadowed by Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim; when its Herald

Prophet the Báb was preparing the way for 'Him Whom God shall make

manifest', and was martyred; when that glorious, expected One,

Bahá'u'lláh, the 'Lord of Hosts' and the 'Master of the Day of

Judgement', received in a dungeon in Tihran an intimation of His

Mission and was exiled to live and die in Ottoman domains--the Land

of Ta was the scene of much tyranny and degradation, and its

suffering and eclipse are still evident. Yet its true station,

destined to be
Page 338

perceived and understood by all mankind, was promised and extolled

by Bahá'u'lláh in these glowing words:

Let nothing grieve thee, O Land of Ta, for God hath chosen thee to

be the source of joy to all mankind... Rejoice with great joy, for

God hath made thee 'the Day Spring of His light' inasmuch as within

thee was born the Manifestation of His Glory.
Page 339
The Village of Quch-Hisar

Quch-Hisar is one of the several villages of the rural district of

Ghar, in the vicinity of Tihran. Ghar forms part of the larger

district of Ray which includes the precincts of the Shrine of

Shah-Zadih 'Abdu'l-'Azim. Quch-Hisar belonged to Bahá'u'lláh, and

Haji Mirza Aqasi, the wily Sadr-i-A'zam of Muhammad Shah and the

Antichrist of the Bábi Revelation, had had his covetous eyes on

this excellent property.

We know there were strong ties of friendship between Mirza Buzurg,

the Vazir-i-Nuri, father of Bahá'u'lláh, and Mirza Abu'l-Qasim,

Qa'im-Maqam the Second, the high-minded vazir of Muhammad Shah. We

also know that it was the statesmanship, the effort and endeavour

of this Qa'im-Maqam that secured the throne for Muhammad Shah. He

had pledged his word to the late Nayibu's-Saltanih, stood by his

word, and, in the teeth of strong opposition by a number of royal

pretenders, brought the son of his late master from far-off Tabriz

and had him crowned. Qa'im-Maqam had been faithful, but not so the

ingrate who now occupied the imperial seat. Muhammad Shah listened

to the promptings of the Antichrist, and destroyed his benefactor.

One of the first acts of Qa'im-Maqam, on gaining Tihran, was to

appoint Mirza Buzurg, the Vazir-i-Nuri to a post in Luristan. He

was given the administration of Burujird and a considerable area

of the Bakhiyari country which had suffered from unrest. A royal

rescript issued by Muhammad-Shah is extant, dated August 1835, in

appreciation of the services rendered by Mirza Buzurg in Burujird

and its environs.

But very soon, too soon, those halcyon days came to an end. Haji

Mirza Aqasi triumphed, Qa'im-Maqam was treacherously

Page 340

murdered,[1] and the friends of Qa'im-Maqam found themselves in

dire straits. Mirza Buzurg was recalled from Burujird, deprived of

all posts and positions, even of his stipend, and forced into the

seclusion of his home. He had a large family to support, and before

long he ran into financial difficulties. From then to the end of

his days, life was a continuous struggle against impoverishment.

And Quch-Hisar was a property mortgaged time and again.

At the time of his affluence, Mirza Buzurg had gradually bought

two-thirds of the village of Quch-Hisar. The rest he held on lease

and was successfully farming the whole of the property. And at the

time of adversity, Quch-Hisar proved invaluable as a security to

borrow money for day-to-day expenses. That inevitable oft-repeated

borrowing by Mirza Buzurg began in Dhu'l-Hijjah, the closing month

of the year AH 1251 (April 1836). Haji Mulla 'Abbas-'Aliy-i-Nuri,

a trusted confidant of Mirza Buzurg, mortgaged a third of

Quch-Hisar on his behalf. Aqa Bahram, a well-known eunuch of the

royal household, provided the money. It was a short-term

arrangement, and on the last day of Muharram, the first month of

1252, Mirza Buzurg raised money from some other source and redeemed

this debt. Immediately, on the following day (the 1st day of

Safar), the same Haji Mulla 'Abbas-'Aliy-i-Nuri mortgaged the same

section of the property on behalf of the Vazir, and borrowed 700

tumans for him from Mirza Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Ashtiyani. When six

months had expired and Mirza Buzurg had been unable to settle the

debt, the Ashtiyani lender almost foreclosed the mortgage. However,

the Vazir negotiated a fresh agreement with that creditor to last

for another six months. Apart from the property at Quch-Hisar,

Mirza Buzurg was, perforce, using the houses in which he and his

large family lived in Tihran as securities to raise further loans.

That was the state to which the malevolence of Haji Mirza Aqasi had

reduced him.

[1. He was strangled because Muhammad Shah had pledged his word to

his father never to be privy to the spilling of the blood of that

good man and accomplished vazir. See index references to

Qa'im-Maqam in Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, The Báb and

'Abdu'l-Bahá for further information on him.]

In April 1837, Mirza Buzurg paid his debt to that Ashtiyani in

full. Next, in June 1838, one-sixth of Quch-Hisar was mortgaged to

Karbila'i Muhammad-Hadi Astarabadi for one year for the sum of 670

tumans. The condition was that if the sum was not repaid within the

set time together with an additional 74 tumans, the property would

revert to Karbila'i Muhammad-Hadi. Fortunately, within forty days,

Page 341

Mirza Buzurg was able to borrow 251 tuimans and this together with

a silk robe was sufficient to repay the mortgage. But so difficult

was Mirza Buzurg's position that in July 1838 we find him

mortgaging the property again, this time to the daughter of the

deceased Haji Muhsin for the sum of 375 tumans. This debt must also

have been paid off after a short while although no documentary

evidence exists as to when and how.

The strain of his financial predicament took its toll on Mirza

Buzurg and in the middle of 1839(the beginning of AH 1255), he

passed away.

Mirza Buzurg had named Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi of Nur as his trustee

and his own brother, Mulla (or Shaykh) 'Azizu'llah, the supervisor

for the disposition of his inheritance. This arrangement, however,

had been entirely verbal and there was no written document to

support it. Therefore Bahá'u'lláh drew up such a document, and

asked the people who knew of His father's wishes to affix their

seals and signatures to it. Haji Mulla 'Abbas-'Aliy-i-Nuri, Mulla

Mirza Baba, Mulla Qasim and Mirza 'Ali-Riday-i-Sunji witnessed this

document. Mirza Buzurg had also stated that whatever of his

property he had distributed amongst his offspring in his own

lifetime was entirely their concern and no longer his, and that

which was his own to leave behind comprised the sheep in Takur and

the village of Quch-Hisar. He had specified, as well, that his

debts amounted to 1,200 tumans. He had charged his trustee to clear

his debts, divide two-thirds of whatever was left amongst his

inheritors, in accordance with the law of the Qur'an, and use the

remaining third in any way the trustee himself deemed advisable.

Once these preliminaries were completed and implemented, Mulla

'Azizu'llah, on behalf of Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi of Nur and the

minors amongst the children of Mirza Buzurg (Mirza Yahya, Mirza

Muhammad-Quli, Fatimih-Sultan Khanum, Nisa' Khanum and others),

acting together with Mirza Mihdi (a full older brother of

Bahá'u'lláh)[1] and Mirza Muhammad-Hasan (His half-brother),

mortgaged one-sixth of Quch-Hisar and borrowed 200 tumans from

Mirza Ahmad, Mustawfiy-i-Nuri. It was a short-term loan for two

months only. It is strange that this debt was not paid in time and

Mirza Ahmad-i-Mustawfi foreclosed the mortgage and took the land

into his own possession. Mirza 'Ali-Riday-i-Sunji then bought it

from Mirza Ahmad. It is interesting to note that one of the

witnesses of that
Page 342

mortgage which resulted in the loss of one-sixth of Quch-Hisar was

Mulla 'Abdu'l-Fattah, one of the victims of the holocaust of 1852.

Another witness was Haji Mulla 'Abbas-'Ali, the confidant of Mirza

Buzurg, who had acted in previous years on his behalf. A third

witness was Mulla Mirza Baba, another martyr of future years.

[1. Mirza Mihdi was already dead, but this refers, presumably, to

his estate. (Ed.)]

A letter, written by Shaykh Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Nuri to Haji Mulla

'Abbas-'Ali is extant, in which he states that in order to clear

Mirza Buzurg's debts, he himself gave half of the village of

Quch-Hisar to Mirza Husayn-'Ali (Bahá'u'lláh), took from Him 80

tumans in cash, and passed on to Him 700 tumans of His father's

debts. He also questions the validity of Mirza 'Ali-Rida's

transaction. The same mujtahid of Nur wrote to Mirza 'Ali-Rida,

directing him to cancel the sale and take back his money, which he

apparently did. Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi claimed that as Mirza Buzurg's

trustee, he should have been consulted, and his consent obtained.

Thus with the help of the mujtahid of Nur, that one-sixth of the

property also passed into the possession of Bahá'u'lláh. And since

He was the holder of two-thirds of Quch-Hisar, the whole estate was

placed under His management, and other owners whose holdings were

small received their annual dues from Him.

In the year 1844 some officials, casting their eyes on this

prosperous and profitable property, laid an unjust claim to it,

stating that Quch-Hisar had, in reality, been part of Crown lands.

Bahá'u'lláh took the case to Muhammad-Shah. Now the chief witness

was Mustawfiyu'l-Mamalik, and he testified most definitely that the

village of Quch-Hisar had never been part of Crown lands in the

rural district of Ghar and Fashafuyih. The royal rescript,

accordingly, directed the highhanded officials to cease interfering

in the affairs of that village. It seems that Haji Mirza Aqasi had

penned the royal edict, which was issued in June 1844. This peril

over, the next centred in the very person of Haji Mirza Aqasi, and

made itself felt within three years.

Let the inimitable pen of Nabil-i-'A'zam relate the rest of the

story of Quch-Hisar:

Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Grand Vazir of Muhammad Shah, though

completely alienated from Bahá'u'lláh's father, showed his Son

every mark of consideration and favour. So great was the esteem

which the Haji professed for Him, that Mirza Aqa Khan-i-Nuri, the

I'timadu'd-Dawlih, who afterwards succeeded Haji Mirza Aqasi,[1]

felt envious. He resented the superiority
Page 343

which Bahá'u'lláh, as a mere youth, was accorded over him. The

seeds of jealousy were, from that time, implanted in his breast.

Though still a youth, and while His father is yet alive, he

thought, He is given precedence in the presence of the Grand Vazir.

What will happen to me, I wonder, when this young man shall have

succeeded His father?

[1. Not immediately; in between them came Mirza Taqi Khan, the

Amir-Nizam and Amir Kabir, who was responsible for ordering the

execution of the Báb.]

After the death of the Vazir [Mirza Buzurg], Haji Mirza Aqasi

continued to show the utmost consideration to Bahá'u'lláh. He would

visit Him in His home, and would address Him as though He were his

own son. The sincerity of his devotion, however, was very soon put

to the test. One day, as he was passing through the village of

Quch-Hisar, which belonged to Bahá'u'lláh, he was so impressed by

the charm and beauty of that place and the abundance of its water

that he conceived the idea of becoming its owner. Bahá'u'lláh, Whom

he had summoned to effect the immediate purchase of that village,

observed: 'Had this property been exclusively my own, I would

willingly have complied with your desire. This transitory life,

with all its sordid possessions, is worthy of no attachment in my

eyes, how much less this small and insignificant estate. As a

number of other people, both rich and poor, some of full age and

some still minors, share with me the ownership of this property,

I would request you to refer this matter to them, and to seek their

Page 344

consent.' Unsatisfied with this reply, Haji Mirza Aqasi sought to

achieve his ends through fraudulent means. As soon as Bahá'u'lláh

was informed of his evil designs, He, with the consent of all

concerned, immediately transferred the title of the property to the

name of the sister of Muhammad Shah, who had repeatedly expressed

the desire to become its owner. The Haji, furious at this

transaction, ordered that the estate should be forcibly seized,

claiming that he already had purchased it from its original

possessor. The representatives of Haji Mirza Aqasi were severely

rebuked by the agents of the sister of the Shah, and were requested

to inform their master of the determination of that lady to assert

her rights. The Haji referred the case to Muhammad Shah, and

complained of the unjust treatment to which he had been subjected.

That very night, the Shah's sister had acquainted him with the

nature of the transaction. 'Many a time', she said to her brother,

'Your Imperial Majesty has graciously signified your desire that

I should dispose of the jewels with which I am wont to adorn myself

in your presence, and with the proceeds purchase some property. I

have at last succeeded in fulfilling your desire. Haji Mirza Aqasi,

however, is now fully determined to seize it forcibly from me.' The

Shah reassured his sister, and commanded the Haji to forgo his

claim. The latter, in his despair, summoned Bahá'u'lláh to his

presence and, by every artifice, strove to discredit His name. To

the charges he brought against Him, Bahá'u'lláh vigorously replied,

and succeeded in establishing His innocence. In his impotent rage,

the Grand Vazir exclaimed: 'What is the purpose of all this

feasting and banqueting in which you seem to delight? I, who am the

Prime Minister of the Shahanshah of Persia, never receive the

number and variety of guests that crowd around your table every

night. Why all this extravagance and vanity? You surely must be

meditating a plot against me.' 'Gracious God!' Bahá'u'lláh replied.

'Is the man who, out of the abundance of his heart, shares his

bread with his fellow-men, to be accused of harbouring criminal

intentions?' Haji Mirza Aqasi was utterly confounded. He dared not

reply. Though supported by the combined ecclesiastical and civil

powers of Persia, he eventually found himself, in every contest he

ventured against Bahá'u'lláh, completely defeated. (Unpublished)

Needless to say, prior to the sale of Quch-Hisar to the sister of

Muhammad Shah, Haji Mirza Aqasi had used every means, fair and

foul, to prevent it. He had incited a number of the heirs of Mirza

Buzurg to appeal to Siyyid Abu'l-Qasim, the Imam-Jum'ih of Tihran,

with the plea that Bahá'u'lláh had deprived them of their

patrimony. The Imam-Jum'ih, being a just man, had investigated the

case put to him most thoroughly and assiduously, and found that the

plea was false. He had given a clear verdict accordingly. Shaykh

Muhammad-Taqi, the mujtahid of Nur, had lent his support to


Having failed miserably to achieve his purpose in an ecclesiastical

court, Haji Mirza Aqasi had next tried to utilize the power and

Page 345

influence of Mahmud Khan, the notorious Kalantar of Tihran. He had

induced Mirza Muhammad-Taqi,[1] a younger son of the Vazir-i-Nuri,

to draw up a statement pledging himself not to enter any

transaction, regarding any part of the village of Quch-Hisar,

without the knowledge and consent of the Kalantar. Mirza Rida-Quli,

the brother of Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, and their mother, Kulthum

Khanum, had also certified this document and affixed their seals

to it. But, in truth, they were not entitled to the ownership of

any part or section of that village. When Bahá'u'lláh was apprised

of this curious stratagem of Haji Mirza Aqasi, He personally bought

the one-twelfth of the property which belonged to His

nephews--Mirza Muhammad-Baqir and Mirza Mahmud, sons of Mirza

Muhammad-'Ali--and then, with the full consent of other

smallholders, sold the property of Quch-Hisar to the sister of

Muhammad Shah. Within a few months, Muhammad Shah was dead and Haji

Mirza Aqasi had fallen from power. Thus ended the saga of


[1. He was a poet with the sobriquet of 'Parishan'. In later years,

he satirized Bahá'u'lláh. He died relatively young.]

Page 346

'ABDU'L-BAHÁ. Memorials of the Faithful. Translated and annotated

by Marzieh Gail. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1971.

'ABDU'LLAH-I-SAHIH-FURUSH. Istidlaliyyih Baray-i-Ahl-i-Haqq.

Tihran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, BE 123/AD 1966.

ABUL-FADL, MIRZA. Kitábu'l-Fara'id. Cairo: undated. Written in AH

1315/AD 1897.

- - - Sharh-i-Shajarih Namih-i-Mubarakih (Description of the

Blessed Genealogy). Bombay: Mustafa'i, AH 1321/AD 1905.

BAHÁ'U'LLÁH. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. Trans. by Shoghi

Effendi. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, rev. edn


- - - Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Trans. by Shoghi

Effendi. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, rev. edn


- - - Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.

Trans. by Habib Taherzadeh with the assistance of a Committee at

the Bahá'í World Centre. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1978.

BARON, SALO WITTMAYER. A Social and Religious History of the Jews.

Vol. III. New York: Columbia University Press, 1957.

BOSWORTH, C. E. The Islamic Dynasties. Edinburgh: Edinburgh

University Press, Paperback edn (rev.), 1980.

BROWNE, E. G. An Abridged Translation of the History of Tabaristan,

by Muhammad B. Al-Hasan B. Isfandiyar, compiled about AH 613 (AD

1216). An abridged translation. Leyden: E. J. Brill. London:

Bernard Quaritch, 1905.

- - - Materials for the Study of the Bábi Religion. Cambridge

University Press, 1918.

- - - (ed.) A Traveller's Narrative written to illustrate the

Episode of the Báb. Vol. II. Cambridge University Press, 1891.

- - - A Year Amongst the Persians. Cambridge University Press, 2nd

edn 1926.

CURZON, G. N. Persia and the Persian Question. 2 vols. London:

Longmans, Green and Co., 1892.

DIEULAFOY, JANE. La Parse, La Chaldee et la Susiane. Paris:

Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1887.

DUNLOP, D. M. The History of the Jewish Khazars. Princeton Oriental

Studies, Vol. 16. Princeton University Press, 1954.

Page 347

FAYDI, MUHAMMAD-'ALI. Khanadan-i-Afnan. Tihran, BE 128/AD 1971.

GIBBON, EDWARD. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Vol. 2,

Chap. XLVI. (repr. of last edn revised by the author). London:

Alex. Murray & Son, 1870.

GONZALEZ DE CLAVIJO, RUY. Narrative of his embassy to the court of

Timour, at Samarcand, AD 1403-6. Trans. by Clements R. Markham.

London: for the Hakluyt Society, 1859.

HAYDAR-'ALL, HAJI MIRZA. Bihjatu's-Sudur. Bombay: 1913.

ISHRAQ-I-KHAVARI, 'ABDU'L-HAMID. Kitáb-i-Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn.

Tihran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, BE 123/AD 1966.

- - - Risaliy-i-Ayyam-i-Tis'ih. Tihran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust,

BE 103/AD 1946.

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. 21 (NS). London: 1889.

KARIMAN, DR HUSAYN. Tihran dar gudhashtih va ha'l. Tihran:

Intisharat-i-Danishgah-i-Milli. Shahansahi 2535/AD 1976.

KIRMANI, AHMAD MAJDU'L-ISLAM. Tarikh-i-Inhilal-i-Majlis. (ed.

Mahmud Khalilpur). Isfahan: Intishrat-i-Danishgah-i-Isfahan, SH

1351/AD 1972-3.

KOESTLER, ARTHUR. The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and its

Heritage. London: Hutchinson & Co (Publishers) Ltd, 1976.

LEVY, REUBEN. A Mirror for Princes. The Qabus Nama by Kai-Ka'us Ibn

Iskandar, Prince of Gurgan. Trans. from the Persian. London: The

Cresset Press, 1951.

MAGNUS, LADY. Outlines of Jewish History. London: Vallentine,

Mitchell, rev. edn 1958.

Ma'idiy-i-Asmani. A compilation of Bahá'í Writings. Compiled by

'Abdu'l-Hamid Ishraq-i-Khavari. Vol. 8. Tihran: Bahá'í Publishing

Trust, BE 129/AD 1972.

MALIK-KHUSRAVI NURI, MUHAMMAD-'ALI. "Milk-i-Hadrat-i-Bahá'u'lláh:

Qariyyih Quch-Hisar". Ahang-i-Badi', year 26, nos. 4-5. Tihran:

National Bahá'í Youth Committee, BE 128/AD 1971.

MOMEN, MOOJAN. The Bábi and Bahá'í Religions, 1844-1944. Oxford:

George Ronald, 1981.

NABfL-I-A'ZAM (MUHAMMAD-I-ZARANDI). The Dawn-Breakers. Nabil's

Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Revelation. Wilmette,

Illinois: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1932.

OBOLENSKY, DIMITRI. The Byzantine Commonwealth--Eastern Europe, 500

-- 1453. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971.

SAMANDAR, SHAYKH KAZIM. Tarikh-i-Samandar. Tihran: Bahá'í

Publishing Trust, BE 131/AD 1974.

SHOGHI EFFENDI. The Advent of Divine Justice. Wilmette, Illinois:

Bahá'í Publishing Trust, rev. edn 1969.

- - - God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá'í Publishing Trust,

7th ptg 1974.

- - - The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i

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Page 348

SULAYMANI, 'AZIZU'LLAH. Masabih-i-Hidayat. 8 vols. Tihran: Baha'i

Publishing Trust, Vol. 1, BE 104/AD 1947; Vol. 3, BE 123/AD 1966;

Vol. 7, BE 129/AD 1972.

VALLE, PIETRO DELLA. The travels of Signor Pietro della Valle, a

noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta. London, 1665.

ZAEHNER, R. C. Zurvan, A Zoroastrian Dilemma. Oxford: Clarendon

Press, 1955.
Page 349
'Aba = Outer cloak or mantle.
Ajudan-Bashi = Chief Adjutant.
Akhund = See Mulla.
Allahu-Abha 'God is All-Glorious'.

Amir Kabir = Title of Mirza Taqi Khan-i-Farahani, who became Grand

Azali = Follower of Mirza Yahya, Subh-i-Azal.
Babi = Follower of the Báb.
Bahá'í = Follower of Bahá'u'lláh.
Biruni = Outer or men's quarters.
Darvish = Dervish. A Sufi vowed to poverty
Farman = Order or royal decree.
Farrash = Footman, lictor or attendant.
Farrrash-Bashi = Head footman or chamberlain.

Farsang (Farsakh)= A distance of approximately 3 miles, or 67


Fatwa (Fatva) = Sentence or judgment by a Muslim Mufti.

Haji = Muslim who has performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj.

Huququ'llah = 'Right of God'; payment by believers instituted in

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.

Ijtihad = The power of the Shi'ih divine to issue ex cathedra

decrees and judgments.

Imam = Applied particularly by Shi'ihs to one of the twelve

Apostolic successors of Muhammad. An imam is also one who leads a

congregation in prayer.

Imam-Jum'ih = Member of the 'ulama who leads the Friday prayers.

Jarib = 10,000 square metres.

Ka'bah (Ka'bih) = Most Holy Shrine of Islam, in Mecca.

Kajavih = A kind of pannier, howdah, or litter.
Kalantar = Mayor.

Khan = Prince or chieftain. A khan is also an inn.

Kisras = Caesars.
Madrisih = School or religious college.
Masjid = Mosque.

Mirza = Prince when after a name, or simply 'mister' when prefixed

to a name.
Page 350
Most Exalted Pen = A designation of Bahá'u'lláh.

Mu'adhdhin = Muezzin, one who sounds the call to prayer.

Mujtahid = Doctor of Law.
Mulla = One who has had a theological education.
Murshid = Sufi spiritual guide.
Mutasarrif = Governor, under the Vali.
Nargileh = See Qalyan.
Parasang = See Farsang.

Pasha = Honorary title given to provincial governors, ministers and

military officers of high rank in Turkey.
Qadi (Cadi) = A religious judge.

Qa'im = 'He Who shall arise'; the Promised One of Shi'ih Islam.

Qalyan = A pipe for smoking through water.

Qiblih = 'Point of Adoration', towards which people turn in prayer

(i.e., Mecca for Muslims, the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji for

Sadr-i-A'zam = Grand Vizier, Prime Minister.
Sardar = Sirdar, military commander.

Shaykh = Elder, teacher, master of a dervish order, etc.

Shayki = Member of the school founded by Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i.

Shi'ih(s) = Followers of the first Imam, 'Ali, cousin and

son-in-law of Muhammad, and of his eleven hereditary successors;

in contrast to the more numerous Sunnis, who uphold the line of

elected Caliphs beginning with Abu-Bakr.

Siyyid = Descendant of Muhammad, entitled to wear the green turban.

Sufi = Muslim mystic.

Surih (Sura) = Chapter of the Qur'an; also a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh.

Taj = 'Crown'; a felt head-dress.
Tuman = Unit of Iranian currency.

'Ulama = 'Those who know'; persons learned in Islamic law.

Vali = Governor-General, governor of a Turkish province.

Vazir (Vizir) = Vizier, minister of state.
Page 351

[Note: page 351 begins an Index. For this electronic copy it is the

beginning page of a List of Illustrations.]

Page iv: [i: Murza Muhammad-Taqi, known as Ibn-i-Abhar 'Nothing

daunted them, no blow ever swerved them from their straight path,

no rancour embittered their lives. Serving the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh

was the only goal they knew.']

Page 5: [i: Map of Iran (See map of Northern Iran, page 289)]

Page 10: [i: [Top half:] The Masjid-i-Vakil in Shiraz in which the

Báb was invited to clarify His position (Dieulafoy, La Perse)

[Bottom half:] The Bazar of Vakil in Shiraz (Dieulafoy, La Perse)]

Page 12: [i: Husayn Khan-i-Iravani, surnamed Ajudan-Bashi Governor

of the Province of Fars]

Page 19: [i: Sultan-Murad Mirza, the Hisamu's-Saltanih

Governor-General of Khurasan]

Page 20: [i: Sultan-Murad Mirza, the Hisamu's-Saltanih

Governor-General of Khurasan]

Page 27: [i: Luft-'Ali Khan, commander of the Qashqa'i Regiment in

the second upheaval of Nayriz (1853), whose son embraced the Faith

of Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 30: [i: Mirza 'Ata'u'llah, later entitled Siraju'l-Hukama'

(the Light of the Physicians), a Bahá'í who became the leading

physician of Abadih]

Page 34: [i: [Top] Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, an influential divine of

Isfahan whom Bahá'u'lláh stigmatized as Dhi'b--the Wolf [Bottom:

Sultan-Mas'ud Mirza, Zillu's-Sultan (1850-1918) Governor of


Page 39: [i: [Top] A street in Isfahan in the time of

Zillu's-Sultan (Dieulafoy, La Perse) [Bottom: The pavilion of

Zillu's-Sultan in Isfahan (Dieulafoy, Le Perse)]

Page 47: [i: Nurayn-i-Nayyirayn (The Twin Shining Lights), Mirza

Muhammad-Hasan, the King of Martyrs (left), and Mirza

Muhammad-Husayn, the Beloved of Martyrs (right)]

Page 54: [i: Mirza Muhammad-Rida, entitled Mu'taminu's-Saltanih,

the Vazir of Khurasan]

Page 55: [i: Nasiri'd-Din Shah (reigned 1848-1896)]

Page 56: [i: Shuja'u'd-Dawliy-i-Quchani, hereditary chief of the

Za'faranlu tribe of Khurasan]

Page 58: [i: The Governor of Kashan with his attendants (Dieulafoy,

La Perse)]

Page 59: [i: Mirza Taqi Khan, the Amir-Nizam, first Prime Minister

of Nasiri'd-Din Shah]

Page 61: [i: Haji Siyyid Mirza, a son of Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan


Page 65: [i: Three of the five Baqiroff brothers (front row), whose

descendants use the surname of Sadat-i-Khamsi. They are Siyyid

Nasru'llah (left), Mir 'Ali Naqi (center), Siyyid Asadu'llah

(right). Two of the second generations stand behind: Siyyid Mihdi

(left) and Mir Nasir (right).]

Page 66: [i: Siyyid Muhammad, entitled Nazimu'l-Hukama, the head

of the 'Ala'i family, is seated with his children around him. They

are (front row from left to right): 'Ata'u'llah, Rida, Qudsiyyih,

Ni'matu'llah, Diya'u'llah, Shu'a'u'llah (the late Hand of the Cause

of God), and (back row, left) Mihdi; the other man is


Page 71: [i: A view showing the condition of prisoners in a gaol

in Iran during the period of this book. Two Bahá'ís are among


Page 73: [i: Mirza 'Ali-Ashraf, an eloquent poet, whose sobriquet

was 'Andalib]

Page 78: [i: Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad-i-Varqa, the Martyr, referred to

by 'Abdu'l-Bahá as a Hand of the Cause of God]
Page 80: [i: Sultan-Mas'ud Mirza, Zillu's-Sultan]

Page 81: [i: Mirza Valiyu'llah Khan (left) and Mirza 'Azizu'llah

Khan (right), the third and the eldest sons of Varqa, in Tihran in

1908. The former was later appointed a Hand of the Cause of God.]

Page 82: [i: Ruhu'llah, son of Varqa, who was martyred in 1896 with

his father, when about twelve years of age]

Page 93: [i: Varqa and Ruhu'llah, with their fellow-Bahá'ís of

Zanjan, Mirza Husayn and Haji Iman (reading from left to right),

shortly before the first two met their death in the royal palace

in Tihran following the assassination of Nasiri'd-Din Shah in 1896]

Page 99: [i: Mulla Muhammad-Riday-i-Muhammadabadi of Yazd]

Page 100: [i: Haji Farhad Mirza, the Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih]

Page 102: [i: Mirza Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani]

Page 103: [i: Kamran Mirza, Nayibu's-Saltanih, third son of

Nasiri'd-Din Shah]

Page 106: [i: Haji Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi, known as Haji

Akhund, one of the four Hands of the Cause of God appointed by


Page 110: [i: Mirza 'Ali Khan, the Aminu'd-Dawlih]

Page 114: [i: Aqa Muhammad-i-Qa'ini, Nabil-i-Akbar, referred to by

'Abdu'l-Bahá as a Hand of the Cause of God]

Page 119: [i: A specimen of the writing of Muhammad-i-Zarandi,

Nabil-i-A'zam; the pages contain prayers of Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 120: [i: Sulayman Khan-i-Tunukhbuni, known as Jamal Effendi]

Page 122: [i: Aqa Husayn-i-Isfahani, Mishkin-Qalam, holding an

example of his calligraphy]

Page 123: [i: Jamal Effendi with an unidentified boy of the Indian


Page 125: [i: Mirza 'Ali-Asghar Khan, the Aminu's-Sultan]

Page 128: [i: [Top] Siyyid Mustafa Rumi, builder of the Burmese

Bahá'í community, appointed posthumously by Shoghi Effendi as a

Hand of the Cause of God [Bottom] The tomb of Siyyid Mustafa Rumi

in Daidanaw, Burma.]

Page 131: [i: A group of Bahá'ís including Sina (middle row, 4th

from left) and Na'im (back row, 3rd from right), both poets of


Page 133: [i: Mirza Muhammad, whose sobriquet was Na'im, a poet of

the first rank]

Page 135: [i: Bahá'ís of Isfahan, including the poet Sina--Siyyid

Isma'il--(last on right in first row) and Aqa Mirza Asadu'llah

Khan-i-Vazir 2nd from left in first row), who became the secretary

of Zillu's-Sultan, the Governor of Isfahan]

Page 136: [i: Mirza' Asadu'llah Khan-i-Vazir, a distinguished

Bahá'í of Isfahan and its Vazir for some three decades. Following

Bahá'u'lláh's instruction, he assisted in the protection and

transport of the remains of the Báb from Tihran to 'Akka in 1899.]

Page 139: [i: Bahá'ís of Tihran, among whom are (first row, seated,

from left): (1) Mirza Muhammad Na'im, (2) Mirza

'Ali-Akbar-i-Muhibbu's-Sultan; (seated behind, from left) (3) Dr

Yunis Khan-i-Afrukhtih, (4) Mirza Mahmud-i-Furughi, (5) the Hand

of the Cause Ibn-i-Abhar, (6) Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Gulpaygani, (7) the

Hand of the Cause Haji Akhund, (8) Mirza Mahmud-i-Nayyir, (9)

Siyyid Isma'il Sina]

Page 140: [i: Mirza 'Ali-Akbar-i-Rafsanjani, London 11 January

Page 143: [i: Fath-'Ali Shah (reigned 1797-1834)]
Page 144: [i: Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza]

Page 149: [i: Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza, Shaykhu'r-Ra'is]

Page 150: [i: Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, known as Ibn-i-Abhar, one

of the four Hands of the Cause of God appointed by Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 151: [i: Malik Man,sur Mirza, the Shu'a'u's-Saltanih,

Governor-General of the province of Fars]

Page 152: [i: Bahá'ís of Isfahan, with Prince Abu'l-Hasan Mirza,

Shaykhu'r-Ra'is (first row, centre), and including Aqa

Muhammad-Javad-i-Sarraf (back row, 3rd from right)]

Page 153: [i: Muhammad-'Ali Shah, (reigned 1907-1909]

Page 156: [i: Muzaffari'd-Din Shah, (reigned 1896-1907)

Page 159: [i: Mirza Mahmud-i-Furughi]

Page 162: [i: Mirza Mahmud-i-Furughi (seated, left) and Shaykh

Muhammad-'Ali (right), both designated Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 164: [i: A gathering of Bahá'ís with Mirza Abu'l-Fadl in

Cairo, April 1907 (seated, 3rd from right), on the occasion of the

pilgrimage to 'Akka of Thornton Chase, the first American Baha'i

(seated next to him) and Mr and Mrs Arthur S. Agnew (seated across

the table). Also identified are Haji Mirza Niyaz, one of the early

believers of Persia, loved by all, who iived many years in Cairo

until his death in 1919 (seated at front, with white turban);

Husayn Ruhi, who owned and directed two schools in Cairo (at table,

centre foreground); and Shaykh Muhyiddin Sabri Sanandaji al-Kurdi

(standing, hatless, below the tree at left), a disciple of Mirza

Abu'l-Fadl and a well-known scholar and Bahá'í teacher invited by

'Abdu'l-Bahá to go to Tunisia and North Africa]

Page 172: [i: Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, known as Ibn-i-Asdaq, one of the

four Hands of the Cause of God appointed by Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 174: [i: Ibn-i-Asdaq]

Page 176: [i: The Consulting Assembly of Tihran, 1899, established

at the behest of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which eventually became the National

Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Iran. Members shown are (front

row, left to right) Haji Mirza 'Abdu'llah-i-Sahih-Furush, Mirza

'Azizu'llah Khan Varqa, Mirza Zakariyya; (second row) Dr

Asifu'l-Hukama, the Hand of the Cause Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, known

as Adib, the Hand of the Cause Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad, known as

Ibn-i-Asdaq, the Hand of the Cause Haji Mulla

'Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi, known as Haji Akhund, Haji Mirza

Muhammad-i-Afnan, Mirza Siyavash; (back row, from left) Mirza

Muhammad Khan Jadhbih and Aqa Muhammad-Husayn-i-Kashi]

Page 181: [i: A view of Istanbul, the Golden Horn, in the late

nineteenth century]
Page 186: [i: Aqa 'Azizu'llah-i-Jadhdhab]
Page 188: [i: Count Leo Tolstoy]

Page 193: [i: The Masjid-i-Shah in Qazvin, in which it is probably

that Haji Mulla Taqi, The Hujjatu'l-Islam of Qazvin and the

father-in-law of Tahirih, was fatally stabbed (Dieulafoy, La

Page 196: [i: An early panorama view of Tabriz]

Page 197: [i: The fortress, or citadel, of Tabriz where the Báb was

confined for about forty days before being sent to the castle of

Maku. His martyrdom occurred in the public square in Tabriz, 9 July

1850, following almost three-years' imprisonment in Maku and

Chihriq (Dieulafoy, La Perse)

Page 199: [i: Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar, Apostle of Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 202: [i: Bahá'ís of Qazvin, including Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar

(seated, centre), Mirza Musa Khan, Hakim-Bashi (on his left),

Tarazu'llah Samandari, later appointed a Hand of the Cause of God

(standing 2nd from right) and (on his left) Muhammad Labib, author

of The Seven Martyrs of Hurmuzak]

Page 206: [i: Haji Amin, Trustee of the Huququ'llah (seated,

right), with Hakim-Bashi and (standing ) Muhammad Labib]

Page 208: [i: Napoleon III, the French Emperor who first ignored

and later spurned the two Tablets which Bahá'u'lláh addressed to


Page 214: [i: Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Amin (centre), assisted by Haji

Ghulam Riday-i-Isfahan, later Amin-i-Amin (on his left) and Mirza

Taqiy-i-Qajar (on his right)]

Page 219: [i: Afnan relatives of the Báb and other Bahá'ís of

Shiraz in the company of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim (seated above at

right), a brother-in-law of the Báb and the great-grandfather of

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. Others identified

are: (front row, from left) Shaykh 'Ali Mirza, a nephew of the

Imam-Jum'ih; Mirza Abu'l-Hasan, the maternal grandfather of H. M.

Balyuzi; Mirza Mihdi, a poet of note whose sobriquet was Sabir;

Mirza Buzurg, a cousin of the Báb; Siyyid Muhammad-Husayn, the

paternal grandfather of Shoghi Effendi; Aqa Mirza Aqa, Nuri'd-Din;

(second row, from left) unknown; Mirza 'Ali-Akbar, the son of

Sabir; Mirza Mahmud, son of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, above; Haji

Ghulam-Husayn Khan, the host and outstanding Bahá'í of Shiraz;

Mirza Hadi, the father of Shoghi Effendi; Mirza Siyyid 'Ali; Mirza

Muhammad-Baqir Khan (Dihquan); Mirza Rahim, brother of Mirza Hadi.

(The three at the back are unidentified.)]

Page 223: [i: The pulpit of the Masjid-i-Vakil in Shiraz, where the

Báb addressed the Friday

congregation on the invitation of the Imam-Jum'ih, Shaykh


Page 228: [i: Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim, whom Bahá'u'lláh designated

'Muballigh' (Teacher)]

Page 231: [i: Shaykh Salman (seated, right), the courier between

Bahá'u'lláh and the Bahá'ís of Iran, in Shiraz in the year AH 1288

(1871-72), with Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Bazzaz (seated, left), the

father of Mirza Muhammad-Baqir Khan (Dihqan), and (standing)

'Abbas-Quli Khan]

Page 233: [i: Some of the Bahá'í community of Shiraz in AH 1297 (AD

1879), identified as follows (from left to right): (1st row,

seated) Aqa Mirza 'Ali, son of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim-i-Afnan; Aqa

Mirza Ibrahim, son of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim-i-Afnan; Mirza

'Ali-Akbar, son of the poet known as Sabir; (2nd row, seated) Aqa

Mirza Mahmud, son of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim-i-Afnan; Aqa Mirza

Abu'l-Hasan, son of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim-i-Afnan and grandfather

of H. M. Balyuzi; Haji Mirza Buzurg, son of Haji Mirza Siyyid

Muhammad, uncle of the Báb; Aqa Siyyid Husayn-i-Afnan, father of

Aqa Mirza Hadi (father of Shoghi Effendi); (3rd row) Mirza

Muhammad-Baqir Khan (Dihqan); Haji Ghulam-Husayn Khan; Mirza Siyyid

'Ali; (back row) Aqa Mirza Rahim, brother of Aqa Mirza Hadi; next

two unknown; Aqa Mirza 'Abdu'llah-i-Isfahani, father of Dr

Habibu'llah Salmanpur]

Page 235: [i: Aqa Mirza Aqa, Nuri'd-Din, in Egypt, circa 1885.]

Page 237: [i: Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, the Angel of Mount Carmel,

with Sulayman Khan, known as Jamal Effendi, the Conqueror of India]

Page 260: [i: The National Hotel in Poona, India, 1907, taken

during the visits of four Bahá'í teachers (see footnote, p. 238):

(in the back seat of the 1st carriage) Mulla Muhammad-Taqi,

Ibn-i-Abhar and Mr Hooper Harris; (in the back seat of the 2nd

carriage) Mr Harlan Ober and Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, diarist of

'Abdu'l-Bahá'í travels in the West; (standing behind the front

wheels of the 2nd carriage) Aqa Khusraw]

Page 262: [I: Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh (numbered as the list

beginning on page 261)]
Page 264:

[i: [Left] Mulla Abu'l-Hasan-i-Ardikani, known as Haji Amin,

appointed posthumously a Hand of the Cause of God by Shoghi

Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith [Right] Mirza

Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani 'It is a rare thing to find a person

perfect from every direction, but he was such a person.'

('Abdu'l-Bahá speaking to Bahá'ís in Haifa, the night after Mirza

passing, 22 January 1914)]

Page 265: [i: Haji Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi, known as Haji

Akhund, appointed a Hand of the Cause of God by Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 267: [i: [Left] Haji' Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, known as

Vakilu'd-Dawlih, the chief builder, in 'Ishqabad, of the first

Mashriqu'l-Adhkar [Right] Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, known as

Ibn-i-Abhar, appointed a Hand of the Cause of God by Bahá'u'lláh]

Page 271:

[i: [Left] Mirza Muhammad Mustafay-i-Baghdadi, one of the believers

who assisted in the transport of the remains of the Báb to 'Akka

in 1899 [Right] Aqa Husayn-i-Isfahani, known as Mishkin-Qalam (see

Bahá'u'lláh, The King of Glory, pp. 161 and 251, for specimens of

his highly-valued calligraphy)]

Page 273: [i: [Left] Mirza Hasan, entitled Adibu'l-'Ulama and known

as Adib, one of the four Hands of the Cause of God appointed by

Bahá'u'lláh [Right] Shaykh Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Qa'ini, nephew and

close companion of Nabil-i-Akbar]
Page 275: [i: Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, surnamed

Jinab-i-Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin, a designation conferred upon him by


Page 289: [i: Map of Northern Iran (See map of Iran, p. 5.)]

page 295:
[i: [Note: A Table in columnar format entitled]
mentioned in this chapter

Dates are according to the Muslim (AH) calendar, followed after an

oblique stroke by the Christian (AD) dates. See also the list of

Dynasties and Rulers of Iran, p. 325. Bosworth, The Islamic

Dynasties, lists and describes the dynasties in Iran after

Muhammad; many of the following dates come from this book.

BADUSPANIDS 45-1006/665-1599


Sharvin (Sharwin I) 155-181/772-797
Shahriyhr I 181-210/797-825
Shapur 21O-222/825-837
Rustam I 253-282/867-895
DABWAYHIDS (DABUYIDS) 25-141/645-758
Farrukhan (Farkhan Ibn Dabwayh) 90-1O3/708-21

JASTANIYANS (JUSTANIDS) From 2nd cent. -- 315/c. 796-927

Vahsudan (Wahsudan) uncertain
Jastan III 290-300/903-912
'Ali 300-304/912-916

MUSAFIRlDS or SALARIDS or KANGARIDS c. 304-c.483/c.916-1090

SAFFARIDS 253 -- c. 900/867 -- c. 1495
Ya'qub Ibn Layth-Saffar 253-265/867-879
'Amr Ibn Layth 265-289/879-901
SAMANIDS 204-395/819-1005
Isma'il I 279-295/892-907
Nasr II 301-331/914-942
Mansur I 350-366/961-976
Nuh II 366-387/976-997
TAHlRlDS 205-259/821-873
'Abdu'llah 213-230/828-845
Muhammad 248-259/862-873
ZAYDiS (SIYYIDS), TABARISTAN 250-316/864-928
Hasan Ibn Zayd (Da'ia'l-Kabir) 250-270/864-883
Muhammad Ibn Zayd 270-287/883-900
Hasan Nasiru'l-Haqq 301-304/913-916
Hasan Ibn Qasim 304-316/916-928
ZIYARIDS 315 -- c. 483/927 -- c.1090
Mardavij 315-323/927-935
Vushmagir 323-356/935-967
Bisutun 356-367/967-978
Shamsu'l-Ma'ali Qabus 367-402/978-1012
Falaku'l-Ma'ali Manuchihr 402-420/1012-1O29

'Unsuru'l-Ma'ali, Kaykavus 441-?c. 483/1049-?c. 1090

Gilan Shah ?c. 483/?c. 1090 (rule uncertain)]

Page 319: [i: Haji Mirza 'Abdu'llah-i-Sahih-Furush (left), author

of a book on the Ahl-i-Haqq, with Mirza Ghulam-Husayn]

Page 323: [i: Murgh-Mahallih, a much-loved summer residence of

Bahá'u'lláh in the district of Shimran]
Page 325:
[i: [Note: A Table in columnar format entitled]
mentioned in this book, alphabetically by dynasty
See also the list and note on p. 295.
Cyrus II, the Great 559-c. 529 BC
Artaxerxes II 404-359 (358) BC
Darius III. Codomanus 336-330 BC
AFSHARlDS 1148-1210/ 1736-1795
Nadir Shah 1148-1160/1736-1747
Farhad V 2 BC - AD 4
BUWAYHIDS 320-454/932-1O62
Line in Kirman
Mu'izzu'd-Dawlih (Ahmad) 324-338/936-949
'Adudu'd-Dawlih 338-372/949-983 (also in Fars)
Line in Fars and Khuzistan

Imadu'd-Dawlih ('Ali) 322-338/934-949 (also in Jibal)

Line in Jibal
Ruknu'd-Dawlih (Hasan) 335-366/947-976
Brunch in Hamadan und Isfahan
Mu'ayyidu'd-Dawlih Buyih 366-373/977-983
Brunch in Ray

Fakhru'd-Dawlih 'Ali 366-387/977-997 (also in Hamadan)

GHAZNAVIDS 366-582/977-1186
Mahmud Sultan 388-421/998-1030

KHARAZMSHAHIS (KHWARAZM-SHAHS) c. 470-628/c. 1077-1231

'Ala'u'd-Din Muhammad-i-Kharazmshah 596-617/1200-1220

Jalalu'd-Din-i-Mankubarni 617-628/1220-1231
QAJARS 1193-1342/1779-1925
Aqa Muhammad Khan 1193-1212/177-1797
Fath-'Ali Shah 1212-1250/1797-1834
Muhammad Shah 1250-1264/1834-1848
Nasiri'd-Din 1264-1313/1848-1896
Muzaffari'd-Din 1313-1324/1896-1907
Muhammad-'Ali 1324-1327/1907-1909
SAFAVIDS 907-l145/1501-1732
Shah Isma'il 907-930/1501-1524
Tahmasb I 930-984/1524-1576
'Abbas I, the Great 996-1038/1588-1629
SALJUQS (SELJUQS) 429-590/1038-1194
Alp Arslan 455-465/1063-1072
Malik Shah I 465-485/1072-1092
Muhammad I 498-511/1105-1118
Sanjar 511-552/1118-1157
Ardashir I 226-241
Chosroes I (Anushirvan) 531-579
Chosroes II (Khusraw Parviz) 590-628
Yazdigird III 632-641
Seleucus I Nicator 312-281 BC
TIMURIDS 771-912/1370-1506
Timur (-i-Lang or -i-Gurkani) 771-807/1370-1405
ZANDS 1163-1209/1750-1794
Karim Khan 1163-1193/1750-1779
Lutf-'Ali Khan 1203-1209/1789-1794]
Page 327:

(Adapted from a map drawn by Major A. Krziz in 1857-8)

Page 343:

[i: Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Grand Vizier of Muhammad Shah]

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