There was, in the city of Najaf, among the disciples of the widely known mujtahid, Shaykh Murtaḍá, a man without likeness or peer. His name was Áqá Muḥammad-i-Qá’iní, and later on he would receive, from the Manifestation, the title of Nabíl-i-Akbar.1 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 Murtaḍá was never wont to confer this degree.
He excelled not only in theology but in other branches of knowledge, such as the humanities, the philosophy of the Illuminati, the teachings of the mystics and of the Shaykhí 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 a leviathan in the deep.
With praises showered upon him, he received his new rank from the mujtahid. He then left Najaf and came to Baghdad, and here he was honored with meeting Bahá’u’lláh. Here he beheld the light that blazed on Sinai in the Holy Tree. Soon he was in such a state that he could rest neither day nor night.
One day, on the floor of the outer apartments reserved for the men, the honored Nabíl was reverently kneeling in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. At that moment Ḥájí Mírzá Ḥasan-‘Amú, a trusted associate of the mujtahids of Karbilá, came in with Zaynu’l-‘Ábidín Khán, the Fakhru’d-Dawlih. Observing how humbly and deferentially Nabíl was kneeling there, the Ḥají was astonished.
“Sir,” he murmured, “what are you doing in this place?”
Nabíl answered, “I came here for the same reason you did.”
The two visitors could not recover from their surprise, for it was widely known that this personage was unique among mujtahids and was the most favored disciple of the renowned Shaykh Murtaḍá.
Later, Nabíl-i-Akbar left for Persia and went on to Khurásán. The Amír of Qá’in—Mír ‘Alam Khán—showed him every courtesy at first, and greatly valued his company. So marked was this that people felt the Amír was captivated by him, and indeed he was spellbound at the scholar’s eloquence, knowledge, and accomplishments. One can judge, from this, what honors were accorded to Nabíl by the rest, for “men follow the faith of their kings.”
Nabíl spent some time thus esteemed and in high favor, but the love he had for God was past all concealing. It burst from his heart, flamed out and consumed its coverings.
A thousand ways I tried My love to hide— But how could I, upon that blazing pyre Not catch fire!
He brought light to the Qá’in area and converted a great number of people. And when he had become known far and wide by this new name, the clergy, envious and malevolent, arose, and informed against him, sending their calumnies on to Ṭihrán, so that Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh rose up in wrath. Terrified of the Sháh, the Amír attacked Nabíl with all his might. Soon the whole city was in an uproar, and the populace, lashed to fury, turned upon him.
That enraptured lover of God never gave way, but withstood them all. At last, however, they drove him out—drove out that man who saw what they did not—and he went up to Ṭihrán, where he was a fugitive, and homeless.
Here, his enemies struck at him again. He was pursued by the watchmen; guards looked everywhere for him, asking after him in every street and alley, hunting him down to catch and torture him. Hiding, he would pass by them like the sigh of the oppressed, and rise to the hills; or again, like the tears of the wronged, he would slip down into the valleys. He could no longer wear the turban denoting his rank; he disguised himself, putting on a layman’s hat, so that they would fail to recognize him and would let him be.
In secret, with all his powers he kept on spreading the Faith and setting forth its proofs, and was a guiding lamp to many souls. He was exposed to danger at all times, always vigilant and on his guard. The Government never gave up its search for him, nor did the people cease from discussing his case.
He left, then, for Bukhárá and ‘Ishqábád, continuously teaching the Faith in those regions. Like a candle, he was using up his life; but in spite of his sufferings he was never dispirited, rather his joy and ardor increased with every passing day. He was eloquent of speech; he was a skilled physician, a remedy for every ill, a balm to every sore. He would guide the Illuminati by their own philosophical principles, and with the mystics he would prove the Divine Advent in terms of “inspiration” and the “celestial vision.” He would convince the Shaykhí leaders by quoting the very words of their late Founders, Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim, and would convert Islamic theologians with texts from the Qur’án and traditions from the Imáms, who guide mankind aright. Thus he was an instant medicine to the ailing, and a rich bestowal to the poor.
He became penniless in Bukhárá and a prey to many troubles, until at the last, far from his homeland, he died, hastening away to the Kingdom where no poverty exists.
Nabíl-i-Akbar was the author of a masterly essay demonstrating the truth of the Cause, but the friends do not have it in hand at the present time. I hope that it will come to light, and will serve as an admonition to the learned. It is true that in this swiftly passing world he was the target of countless woes; and yet, all those generations of powerful clerics, those shaykhs like Murtaḍá and Mírzá Ḥabíbu’lláh and Áyatu’lláh-i-Khurásání and Mullá Asadu’lláh-i-Mázindarání—all of them will disappear without a trace. They will leave no name behind them, no sign, no fruit. No word will be passed down from any of them; no man will tell of them again. But because he stood steadfast in this holy Faith, because he guided souls and served this Cause and spread its fame, that star, Nabíl, will shine forever from the horizon of abiding light.
It is clear that whatever glory is gained outside the Cause of God turns to abasement at the end; and ease and comfort not met with on the path of God are finally but care and sorrow; and all such wealth is penury, and nothing more.
A sign of guidance, he was, an emblem of the fear of God. For this Faith, he laid down his life, and in dying, triumphed. He passed by the world and its rewards; he closed his eyes to rank and wealth; he loosed himself from all such chains and fetters, and put every worldly thought aside. Of wide learning, at once a mujtahid, a philosopher, a mystic, and gifted with intuitive sight, he was also an accomplished man of letters and an orator without a peer. He had a great and universal mind.
Praise be to God, at the end he was made the recipient of heavenly grace. Upon him be the glory of God, the All-Glorious. May God shed the brightness of the Abhá Kingdom upon his resting-place. May God welcome him into the Paradise of reunion, and shelter him forever in the realm of the righteous, submerged in an ocean of lights.
Among the Hands of the Cause of God who have departed this life and ascended to the Supreme Horizon was Jináb-i-Ismu’lláhu’l-Aṣdaq. Another was Jináb-i-Nabíl-i-Akbar. Still others were Jináb-i-Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar and Jináb-i-Shaykh Muḥammad-Riḍáy-i-Yazdí. Again, among others, was the revered martyr, Áqá Mírzá Varqá.
Ismu’lláhu’l-Aṣdaq was truly a servant of the Lord from the beginning of life till his last breath. When young, he joined the circle of the late Siyyid Káẓim and became one of his disciples. He was known in Persia for his purity of life, winning fame as Mullá Ṣádiq the saintly. He was a blessed individual, a man accomplished, learned, and much honored. The people of Khurásán were strongly attached to him, for he was a great scholar and among the most renowned of matchless and unique divines. As a teacher of the Faith, he spoke with such eloquence, such extraordinary power, that his hearers were won over with great ease.
After he had come to Baghdad and attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, he was seated one day in the courtyard of the men’s apartments, by the little garden. I was in one of the rooms just above, that gave onto the courtyard. At that moment a Persian prince, a grandson of Fatḥ-‘Alí Sháh, arrived at the house. The prince said to him, “Who are you?” Ismu’lláh 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, Jináb-i-Ismu’lláh 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’lláh 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 truly Ismu’lláh, the Name of God, not for his fame but because he was a chosen soul.
Ismu’lláh had memorized a great number of Islámic traditions and had mastered the teachings of Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim. He became a believer in Shíráz, in the early days of the Faith, and was soon widely known as such. And because he began to teach openly and boldly, they hung a halter on him and led him about the streets and bázárs of the city. Even in that condition, composed and smiling, he kept on speaking to the people. He did not yield; he was not silenced. When they freed him he left Shíráz and went to Khurásán, and there, too, began to spread the Faith, following which he traveled on, in the company of Bábu’l-Báb, to Fort Ṭabarsí. Here he endured intense sufferings as a member of that band of sacrificial victims. They took him prisoner at the Fort and delivered him over to the chiefs of Mázindarán, to lead him about and finally kill him in a certain district of that province. When, bound with chains, Ismu’lláh was brought to the appointed place, God put it into one man’s heart to free him from prison in the middle of the night and guide him to a place where he was safe. Throughout all these agonizing trials he remained staunch in his faith.
Think, for example, how the enemy had completely hemmed in the Fort, and were endlessly pouring in cannon balls from their siege guns. The believers, among them Ismu’lláh, went eighteen days without food. They lived on the leather of their shoes. This too was soon consumed, and they had nothing left but water. They drank a mouthful every morning, and lay famished and exhausted in their Fort. When attacked, however, they would instantly spring to their feet, and manifest in the face of the enemy a magnificent courage and astonishing resistance, and drive the army back from their walls. The hunger lasted eighteen days. It was a terrible ordeal. To begin with, they were far from home, surrounded and cut off by the foe; again, they were starving; and then there were the army’s sudden onslaughts and the bombshells raining down and bursting in the heart of the Fort. Under such circumstances to maintain an unwavering faith and patience is extremely difficult, and to endure such dire afflictions a rare phenomenon.1
Ismu’lláh did not slacken under fire. Once freed, he taught more widely than ever. He spent every waking breath in calling the people to the Kingdom of God. In Iraq, he attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, and again in the Most Great Prison, receiving from Him grace and favor.
He was like a surging sea, a falcon that soared high. His visage shone, his tongue was eloquent, his strength and steadfastness astounding. When he opened his lips to teach, the proofs would stream out; when he chanted or prayed, his eyes shed tears like a spring cloud. His face was luminous, his life spiritual, his knowledge both acquired and innate; and celestial was his ardor, his detachment from the world, his righteousness, his piety and fear of God.
Ismu’lláh’s tomb is in Hamadán. Many a Tablet was revealed for him by the Supreme Pen of Bahá’u’lláh, including a special Visitation Tablet after his passing. He was a great personage, perfect in all things.
Such blessed beings have now left this world. Thank God, they did not linger on, to witness the agonies that followed the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh—the intense afflictions; for firmly rooted mountains will shake and tremble at these, and the high-towering hills bow down.
He was truly Ismu’lláh, the Name of God. Fortunate is the one who circumambulates that tomb, who blesses himself with the dust of that grave. Upon him be salutations and praise in the Abhá Realm.
Yet another Hand of the Cause was the revered Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar, upon him be the glory of God, the All-Glorious. Early in life, this illustrious man attended institutions of higher learning and labored diligently, by day and night, until he became thoroughly conversant with the learning of the day, with secular studies, philosophy, and religious jurisprudence. He frequented the gatherings of philosophers, mystics, and Shaykhís, thoughtfully traversing those areas of knowledge, intuitive wisdom, and illumination; but he thirsted after the wellspring of truth, and hungered for the bread that comes down from Heaven. No matter how he strove to perfect himself in those regions of the mind, he was never satisfied; he never reached the goal of his desires; his lips stayed parched; he was confused, perplexed, and felt that he had wandered from his path. The reason was that in all those circles he had found no passion; no joy, no ecstasy; no faintest scent of love. And as he went deeper into the core of those manifold beliefs, he discovered that from the day of the Prophet Muḥammad’s advent until our own times, innumerable sects have arisen: creeds differing among themselves; disparate opinions, divergent goals, uncounted roads and ways. And he found each one, under some plea or other, claiming to reveal spiritual truth; each one believing that it alone followed the true path—this although the Muḥammedic sea could rise in one great tide, and carry all those sects away to the ocean floor. “No cry shalt thou hear from them, nor a whisper even.”1
Whoso ponders the lessons of history will learn that this sea has lifted up innumerable waves, yet in the end each has dissolved and vanished, like a shadow drifting by. The waves have perished, but the sea lives on. This is why ‘Alí Qabl-i-Akbar could never quench his thirst, till the day when he stood on the shore of Truth and cried: Here is a sea with treasure to the brim; Its waves toss pearls under the great wind’s thong. Throw off your robe and plunge, nor try to swim, Pride not yourself on swimming—dive headlong.
Like a fountain, his heart welled and jetted forth; meaning and truth, like soft-flowing crystal waters, began to stream from his lips. At first, with humility, with spiritual poverty, he garnered the new light, and only then he proceeded to shed it abroad. For how well has it been said, Shall he the gift of life to others bear Who of life’s gift has never had a share? A teacher must proceed in this way: he must first teach himself, and then others. If he himself still walks the path of carnal appetites and lusts, how can he guide another to the “evident signs”2 of God?
This honored man was successful in converting a multitude. For the sake of God he cast all caution aside, as he hastened along the ways of love. He became as one frenzied, as a vagrant and one known to be mad. Because of his new Faith, he was mocked at in Ṭihrán by high and low. When he walked through the streets and bázárs, the people pointed their fingers at him, calling him a Bahá’í. Whenever trouble broke out, he was the one to be arrested first. He was always ready and waiting for this, since it never failed.
Again and again he was bound with chains, jailed, and threatened with the sword. The photograph of this blessed individual, together with that of the great Amín, taken of them in their chains, will serve as an example to whoever has eyes to see. There they sit, those two distinguished men, hung with chains, shackled, yet composed, acquiescent, undisturbed.
Things came to such a pass that in the end whenever there was an uproar Mullá ‘Alí would put on his turban, wrap himself in his ‘abá and sit waiting, for his enemies to rouse and the farráshes to break in and the guards to carry him off to prison. But observe the power of God! In spite of all this, he was kept safe. “The sign of a knower and lover is this, that you will find him dry in the sea.” That is how he was. His life hung by a thread from one moment to the next; the malevolent lay in wait for him; he was known everywhere as a Bahá’í—and still he was protected from all harm. He stayed dry in the depths of the sea, cool and safe in the heart of the fire, until the day he died.
After the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, Mullá ‘Alí continued on, loyal to the Testament of the Light of the World, staunch in the Covenant which he served and heralded. During the lifetime of the Manifestation, his yearning made him hasten to Bahá’u’lláh, Who received him with grace and favor, and showered blessings upon him. He returned, then, to Írán, where he devoted all his time to serving the Cause. Openly at odds with his tyrannical oppressors, no matter how often they threatened him, he defied them. He was never vanquished. Whatever he had to say, he said. He was one of the Hands of the Cause of God, steadfast, unshakable, not to be moved.
I loved him very much, for he was delightful to converse with, and as a companion second to none. One night, not long ago, I saw him in the world of dreams. Although his frame had always been massive, in the dream world he appeared larger and more corpulent than ever. It seemed as if he had returned from a journey. I said to him, “Jináb, you have grown good and stout.” “Yes,” he answered, “praise be to God! I have been in places where the air was fresh and sweet, and the water crystal pure; the landscapes were beautiful to look upon, the foods delectable. It all agreed with me, of course, so I am stronger than ever now, and I have recovered the zest of my early youth. The breaths of the All-Merciful blew over me and all my time was spent in telling of God. I have been setting forth His proofs, and teaching His Faith.” (The meaning of teaching the Faith in the next world is spreading the sweet savors of holiness; that action is the same as teaching.) We spoke together a little more, and then some people arrived and he disappeared.
His last resting-place is in Ṭihrán. Although his body lies under the earth, his pure spirit lives on, “in the seat of truth, in the presence of the potent King.”3 I long to visit the graves of the friends of God, could this be possible. These are the servants of the Blessed Beauty; in His path they were afflicted; they met with toil and sorrow; they sustained injuries and suffered harm. Upon them be the glory of God, the All-Glorious. Unto them be salutation and praise. Upon them be God’s tender mercy, and forgiveness.
In 1266 A.H.1 the trusted messenger, Shaykh Salmán, first heard the summons of God, and his heart leapt for joy. He was then in Hindíyán. Irresistibly attracted, he walked all the way to Ṭihrán, where with ardent love he secretly joined the believers. On a certain day he was passing through the bázár with Áqá Muḥammad Taqíy-i-Káshání, and the farráshes followed him and discovered where he lived. The next day, police and farráshes came looking for him and took him to the chief of police.
“Who are you?” the chief asked.
“I am from Hindíyán,” replied Salmán. “I have come to Ṭihrán and am on my way to Khurásán, for a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Imám Riḍá.”
“What were you doing yesterday,” the chief asked, “with that man in the white robe?”
Salmán answered, “I had sold him an ‘abá the day before, and yesterday he was to pay me.”
“You are a stranger here,” the chief said. “How could you trust him?”
“A money-changer guaranteed the payment,” Salmán replied. He had in mind the respected believer, Áqá Muḥammad-i-Ṣarráf (money-changer).
The chief turned to one of his farráshes and said, “Take him to the money-changer’s and look into it.”
When they reached there the farrásh went on ahead. “What was all this,” he said, “about the sale of an ‘abá and your vouching for the payment? Explain yourself.”
“I know nothing about it,” the money-changer replied.
“Come along,” said the farrásh to Salmán. “All is clear at last. You are a Bábí.”
It happened that the turban which Salmán had on his head was similar to those worn in Shúshtar. As they were passing a crossroads, a man from Shúshtar came out of his shop. He embraced Salmán and cried: “Where have you been, Khájih Muḥammad-‘Alí? When did you arrive? Welcome!”
Salmán replied, “I came here a few days ago and now the police have arrested me.”
“What do you want with him?” the merchant asked the farrásh. “What are you after?”
“He is a Bábí,” was the answer.
“God forbid!” cried the man from Shúshtar. “I know him well. Khájih Muḥammad-‘Alí is a God-fearing Muslim, a Shí‘ih, a devout follower of the Imám ‘Alí.” With this he gave the farrásh a sum of money and Salmán was freed.
They went into the shop and the merchant began to ask Salmán how he was faring. Salmán told him: “I am not Khájih Muḥammad-‘Alí.”
The man from Shúshtar was dumbfounded. “You look exactly like him!” he exclaimed. “You two are identical. However, since you are not he, give me back the money I paid the farrásh.”
Salmán immediately handed him the money, left, went out through the city gate and made for Hindíyán.
When Bahá’u’lláh arrived in Iraq, the first messenger to reach His holy presence was Salmán, who then returned with Tablets addressed to the friends in Hindíyán. Once each year, this blessed individual would set out on foot to see his Well-Beloved, after which he would retrace his steps, carrying Tablets to many cities, Iṣfahán, Shíráz, Káshán, Ṭihrán, and the rest.
From the year 69 until the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh in 1309 A.H.,2 Salmán would arrive once a year, bringing letters, leaving with the Tablets, faithfully delivering each one to him for whom it was intended. Every single year throughout that long period, he came on foot from Persia to Iraq, or to Adrianople, or to the Most Great Prison at ‘Akká; came with the greatest eagerness and love, and then went back again.
He had remarkable powers of endurance. He traveled on foot, as a rule eating nothing but onions and bread; and in all that time, he moved about in such a way that he was never once held up and never once lost a letter or a Tablet. Every letter was safely delivered; every Tablet reached its intended recipient. Over and over again, in Iṣfahán, he was subjected to severe trials, but he remained patient and thankful under all conditions, and earned from non-Bahá’ís the title of “the Bábís’ Angel Gabriel.”
Throughout his entire life, Salmán rendered this momentous service to the Cause of God, becoming the means of its spread and contributing to the happiness of the believers, annually bringing Divine glad tidings to the cities and villages of Persia. He was close to the heart of Bahá’u’lláh, Who looked upon him with especial favor and grace. Among the Holy Scriptures, there are Tablets revealed in his name.
After the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, Salmán remained faithful to the Covenant, serving the Cause with all his powers. Then, as before, he would come to the Most Great Prison every year, delivering mail from the believers, and returning with the answers to Persia. At last, in Shíráz, he winged his way to the Kingdom of glory.
From the dawn of history until the present day, there has never been a messenger so worthy of trust; there has never been a courier to compare with Salmán. He has left respected survivors in Iṣfahán who, because of the troubles in Persia, are presently in distress. It is certain that the friends will see to their needs. Upon him be the glory of God, the All-Glorious; unto him be salutations and praise.
In the days of Bahá’u’lláh, during the worst times in the Most Great Prison, they would not permit any of the friends either to leave the Fortress or to come in from the outside. “Skew-Cap”1 and the Siyyid2 lived by the second gate of the city, and watched there at all times, day and night. Whenever they spied a Bahá’í traveler they would hurry away to the Governor and tell him that the traveler was bringing in letters and would carry the answers back. The Governor would then arrest the traveler, seize his papers, jail him, and drive him out. This became an established custom with the authorities and went on for a long time—indeed, for nine years until, little by little, the practice was abandoned.
It was at such a period that the Afnán, Ḥájí Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí—that great bough of the Holy Tree3—journeyed to ‘Akká, coming from India to Egypt, and from Egypt to Marseilles. One day I was up on the roof of the caravanserai. Some of the friends were with me and I was walking up and down. It was sunset. At that moment, glancing at the distant seashore, I observed that a carriage was approaching. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I feel that a holy being is in that carriage.” It was still far away, hardly within sight.
“Let us go to the gate,” I told them. “Although they will not allow us to pass through, we can stand there till he comes.” I took one or two people with me and we left.
At the city gate I called to the guard, privately gave him something and said: “A carriage is coming in and I think it is bringing one of our friends. When it reaches here, do not hold it up, and do not refer the matter to the Governor.” He put out a chair for me and I sat down.
By this time the sun had set. They had shut the main gate, too, but the little door was open. The gatekeeper stayed outside, the carriage drew up, the gentleman had arrived. What a radiant face he had! He was nothing but light from head to foot. Just to look at that face made one happy; he was so confident, so assured, so rooted in his faith, and his expression so joyous. He was truly a blessed being. He was a man who made progress day by day, who added, every day, to his certitude and faith, his luminous quality, his ardent love. He made extraordinary progress during the few days that he spent in the Most Great Prison. The point is that when his carriage had come only part of the way from Haifa to ‘Akká, one could already perceive his spirit, his light.
After he had received the endless bounties showered on him by Bahá’u’lláh, he was given leave to go, and he traveled to China. There, over a considerable period, he spent his days mindful of God and in a manner conformable to Divine good pleasure. Later he went on to India, where he died.
The other revered Afnán and the friends in India felt it advisable to send his blessed remains to Iraq, ostensibly to Najaf, to be buried near the Holy City; for the Muslims had refused to let him lie in their graveyard, and his body had been lodged in a temporary repository for safekeeping. Áqá Siyyid Asadu’lláh, who was in Bombay at the time, was deputized to transport the remains with all due reverence to Iraq. There were hostile Persians on the steamship and these people, once they reached Búshihr, reported that the coffin of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí the Bábí was being carried to Najaf for burial in the Vale of Peace, near the sacred precincts of the Shrine, and that such a thing was intolerable. They tried to take his blessed remains off the ship, but they failed; see what the hidden Divine decrees can bring about.
His body came as far as Basra. And since that was a period when the friends had to remain in concealment, Siyyid Asadu’lláh was obliged to proceed as if he were going on with the burial in Najaf, meanwhile hoping in one way or another to effect the interment near Baghdad. Because, although Najaf is a holy city and always shall be, still the friends had chosen another place. God, therefore, stirred up our enemies to prevent the Najaf burial. They swarmed in, attacking the quarantine station to lay hold of the body and either bury it in Basra or throw it into the sea or out on the desert sands.
The case took on such importance that in the end it proved impossible to bring the remains to Najaf, and Siyyid Asadu’lláh had to carry them on to Baghdad. Here, too, there was no burial place where the Afnán’s body would be safe from molestation at enemy hands. Finally the Siyyid decided to carry it to the shrine of Persia’s Salmán the Pure,4 about five farsakhs out of Baghdad, and bury it in Ctesiphon, close to the grave of Salmán, beside the palace of the Sásáníyán kings. The body was taken there and that trust of God was, with all reverence, laid down in a safe resting-place by the palace of Nawshíraván.
And this was destiny, that after a lapse of thirteen hundred years, from the time when the throne city of Persia’s ancient kings was trampled down, and no trace of it was left, except for rubble and hills of sand, and the very palace roof itself had cracked and split so that half of it toppled to the ground—this edifice should win back the kingly pomp and splendor of its former days. It is indeed a mighty arch. The width of its entry-way is fifty-two paces and it towers very high.
Thus did God’s grace and favor encompass the Persians of an age long gone, in order that their ruined capital should be rebuilt and flourish once again. To this end, with the help of God, events were brought about which led to the Afnán’s being buried here; and there is no doubt that a proud city will rise up on this site. I wrote many letters about it, until at last the holy dust could be laid to rest in this place. Siyyid Asadu’lláh would write me from Basra and I would answer him. One of the public functionaries there was completely devoted to us, and I directed him to do all he could. Siyyid Asadu’lláh informed me from Baghdad that he was at his wits’ end, and had no idea where he could consign this body to the grave. “Wherever I might bury it,” he wrote, “they will dig it up again.”
At last, praised be God, it was laid down in the very spot to which time and again the Blessed Beauty had repaired; in that place honored by His footsteps, where He had revealed Tablets, where the believers of Baghdad had been in His company; that very place where the Most Great Name was wont to stroll. How did this come about? It was due to the Afnán’s purity of heart. Lacking this, all those ways and means could never have been brought to bear. Verily, God is the Mover of heaven and earth.
I loved the Afnán very much. Because of him, I rejoiced. I wrote a long Visitation Tablet for him and sent it with other papers to Persia. His burial site is one of the holy places where a magnificent Mashriqu’l-Adhkár must be raised up. If possible, the actual arch of the royal palace should be restored and become the House of Worship. The auxiliary buildings of the House of Worship should likewise be erected there: the hospital, the schools and university, the elementary school, the refuge for the poor and indigent; also the haven for orphans and the helpless, and the travelers’ hospice.
Gracious God! That royal edifice was once splendidly decked forth and fair. But there are spiders’ webs today, where hung the curtains of gold brocade, and where the king’s drums beat and his musicians played, the only sound is the harsh cries of kites and crows. “This is verily the capital of the owl’s realm, where thou wilt hear no sound, save only the echo of his repeated calls.” That is how the barracks were, when we came to ‘Akká. There were a few trees inside the walls, and on their branches, as well as up on the battlements, the owls cried all night long. How disquieting is the hoot of an owl; how it saddens the heart.
From earliest youth until he grew helpless and old, that sacred bough of the Holy Tree, with his smiling face, shone out like a lamp in the midst of all. Then he leapt and soared to undying glory, and plunged into the ocean of light. Upon him be the breathings of his Lord, the All-Merciful. Upon him, lapped in the waters of grace and forgiveness, be the mercy and favor of God.
Among the most eminent of those who left their homeland to join Bahá’u’lláh was Mírzá Ḥasan, the great Afnán, who during the latter days won the honor of emigrating and of receiving the favor and companionship of his Lord. The Afnán, related to the Báb, was specifically named by the Supreme Pen as an offshoot of the Holy Tree. When still a small child, he received his portion of bounty from the Báb, and showed forth an extraordinary attachment to that dazzling Beauty. Not yet adolescent, he frequented the society of the learned, and began to study sciences and arts. He reflected day and night on the most abstruse of spiritual questions, and gazed in wonderment at the mighty signs of God as written in the Book of Life. He became thoroughly versed even in such material sciences as mathematics, geometry, and geography; in brief, he was well grounded in many fields, thoroughly conversant with the thought of ancient and modern times.
A merchant by profession, he spent only a short period of the day and evening at his business, devoting most of his time to discussion and research. He was truly erudite, a great credit to the Cause of God amongst leading men of learning. With a few concise phrases, he could solve perplexing questions. His speech was laconic, but in itself a kind of miracle.
Although he first became a believer in the days of the Báb, it was during the days of Bahá’u’lláh that he caught fire. Then his love of God burned away every obstructing veil and idle thought. He did all he could to spread the Faith of God, becoming known far and wide for his ardent love of Bahá’u’lláh.
I am lost, O Love, possessed and dazed, Love’s fool am I, in all the earth. They call me first among the crazed, Though I once came first for wit and worth…
After the ascension of the Báb, he had the high honor of serving and watching over the revered and saintly consort of the blessed Lord. He was in Persia, mourning his separation from Bahá’u’lláh, when his distinguished son became, by marriage, a member of the Holy Household. At this, the Afnán rejoiced. He left Persia and hastened to the sheltering favor of his Well-Beloved. He was a man amazing to behold, his face so luminous that even those who were not believers used to say that a heavenly light shone from his forehead.
He went away for a time and sojourned in Beirut, where he met the noted scholar, Khájih Findík. This personage warmly praised the erudition of the great Afnán in various circles, affirming that an individual of such wide and diverse learning was rare throughout the East. Later on, the Afnán returned to the Holy Land, settling near the Mansion of Bahjí and directing all his thoughts toward aspects of human culture. Much of the time he would occupy himself with uncovering the secrets of the heavens, contemplating in their detail the movements of the stars. He had a telescope with which he would make his observations every night. He lived a happy life, carefree and light of heart. In the neighborhood of Bahá’u’lláh his days were blissful, his nights bright as the first morning in spring.
But then came the Beloved’s departure from this world. The Afnán’s peace was shattered, his joy was changed to grief. The Supreme Affliction was upon us, separation consumed us, the once bright days turned black as night, and all those roses of other hours were dust and rubble now. He lived on for a little while, his heart smoldering, his eyes shedding their tears. But he could not bear the longing for his Well-Beloved, and in a little while his soul gave up this life and fled to the eternal one, passed into the Heaven of abiding reunion and was immersed beneath an ocean of light. Upon him be most great mercy, plenteous bounty, and every blessing, as the ages and cycles roll on. His honored tomb is in ‘Akká at the Manshíyyih.
Muḥammad-‘Alí of Iṣfahán was among the earliest of believers, guided to the Faith from its very beginning. He was one of the mystics; his house was a gathering place for them, and the philosophers. Noble, high-minded, he was one of Iṣfahán’s most respected citizens, and served as a host and sanctuary for every stranger, rich or poor. He had verve, an excellent disposition, was forbearing, affable, generous, a boon companion; and it was known throughout the city that he enjoyed a good time.
Then he was led to embrace the Faith and caught fire from the Sinaitic Tree. His house became a teaching center, dedicated to the glory of God. Day and night the believers flocked there, as to a lamp lit by heavenly love. Over a long period, the sacred verses were chanted in that house and the clear proofs set forth. Although this was widely known, Muḥammad-‘Alí was not molested, because he was a kinsman of the Imám-Jum‘ih of Iṣfahán. Finally, however, things came to such a pass that the Imám-Jum‘ih himself sent him away, telling him: “I can protect you no longer. You are in grave danger. The best thing for you is to leave here, and go on a journey.”
He left his home then, went to Iraq, and entered the presence of the world’s Desired One. He spent some time there, progressing every day; he had little to live on, but was happy and content. A man of excellent disposition, he was congenial to believers and others alike.
When Bahá’u’lláh and His retinue left Baghdad for Constantinople, Muḥammad-‘Alí was in His company, and continued on with Him to the Land of Mystery, Adrianople. Not one to be inconstant, he maintained his characteristic immutability of heart. Whatever happened, he remained the same. In Adrianople as well, his days passed happily, under the protection of Bahá’u’lláh. He would carry on some business which, however trifling, would bring in surprisingly abundant returns.
From Adrianople, Muḥammad-‘Alí accompanied Bahá’u’lláh to the fortress of ‘Akká, was put in jail there, and was numbered among Bahá’u’lláh’s fellow captives for the rest of his life, achieving that greatest of all distinctions, to be in prison with the Blessed Beauty.
He spent his days in utter bliss. Here, too, he carried on a small business, which occupied him from morning till noon. In the afternoons he would take his samovar, wrap it in a dark-colored pouch made from a saddlebag, and go off somewhere to a garden or meadow, or out in a field, and have his tea. Sometimes he would be found at the farm of Mazra‘ih, or again in the Riḍván Garden; or, at the Mansion, he would have the honor of attending upon Bahá’u’lláh.
Muḥammad-‘Alí would carefully consider every blessing that came his way. “How delicious my tea is today,” he would comment. “What perfume, what color! How lovely this meadow is, and the flowers so bright!” He used to say that everything, even air and water, had its own special fragrance. For him the days passed in indescribable delight. Even kings were not so happy as this old man, the people said. “He is completely free of the world,” they would declare. “He lives in joy.” It also happened that his food was of the very best, and that his home was situated in the very best part of ‘Akká. Gracious God! Here he was, a prisoner, and yet experiencing comfort, peace and joy.
Muḥammad-‘Alí was past eighty when he finally departed to eternal light. He had been the recipient of many Tablets from Bahá’u’lláh, and of endless bounty, under all conditions. Upon him be the glory of God the Most Glorious. Upon him be myriads of heavenly blessings; may God favor him with gladness forever and ever. His luminous grave is in ‘Akká.
Among those who emigrated and were companions in the Most Great Prison was Áqá ‘Abdu’ṣ-Ṣáliḥ. This excellent soul, a child of early believers, came from Iṣfahán. His noble-hearted father died, and this child grew up an orphan. There was none to rear or care for him and he was the prey of anyone who chose to do him harm. At last he became adolescent, and older now, sought out his Well-Beloved. He emigrated to the Most Great Prison and here, at the Riḍván, achieved the honor of being appointed gardener. At this task he was second to none. In his faith, too, he was staunch, loyal, worthy of trust; as to his character, he was an embodiment of the sacred verse, “Of a noble nature art thou.”1 That is how he won the distinction of being gardener at the Riḍván, and of thus receiving the greatest bounty of all: almost daily, he entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh.
For the Most Great Name was held prisoner and confined nine years in the fortress-town of ‘Akká; and at all times, both in the barracks and afterward, from without the house, the police and farráshes had Him under constant guard. The Blessed Beauty lived in a very small house, and He never set foot outside that narrow lodging, because His oppressors kept continual watch at the door. When, however, nine years had elapsed, the fixed and predetermined length of days was over; and at that time, against the rancorous will of the tyrant, ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, and all his minions, Bahá’u’lláh proceeded out of the fortress with authority and might, and in a kingly mansion beyond the city, made His home.
Although the policy of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd was harsher than ever; although he constantly insisted on his Captive’s strict confinement—still, the Blessed Beauty now lived, as everyone knows, with all power and glory. Some of the time Bahá’u’lláh would spend at the Mansion, and again, at the farm village of Mazra‘ih; for a while He would sojourn in Haifa, and occasionally His tent would be pitched on the heights of Mount Carmel. Friends from everywhere presented themselves and gained an audience. The people and the government authorities witnessed it all, yet no one so much as breathed a word. And this is one of Bahá’u’lláh’s greatest miracles: that He, a captive, surrounded Himself with panoply and He wielded power. The prison changed into a palace, the jail itself became a Garden of Eden. Such a thing has not occurred in history before; no former age has seen its like: that a man confined to a prison should move about with authority and might; that one in chains should carry the fame of the Cause of God to the high heavens, should win splendid victories in both East and West, and should, by His almighty pen, subdue the world. Such is the distinguishing feature of this supreme Theophany.
One day the government leaders, pillars of the country, the city’s ‘ulamás, leading mystics and intellectuals came out to the Mansion. The Blessed Beauty paid them no attention whatever. They were not admitted to His presence, nor did He inquire after any of them. I sat down with them and kept them company for some hours, after which they returned whence they had come. Although the royal farmán specifically decreed that Bahá’u’lláh was to be held in solitary confinement within the ‘Akká fortress, in a cell, under perpetual guard; that He was never to set foot outside; that He was never even to see any of the believers—notwithstanding such a farmán, such a drastic order, His tent was raised in majesty on the heights of Mount Carmel. What greater display of power could there be than this, that from the very prison, the banner of the Lord was raised aloft, and rippled out for all the world to see! Praised be the Possessor of such majesty and might; praised be He, weaponed with the power and the glory; praised be He, Who defeated His foes when He lay captive in the ‘Akká prison!
To resume: ‘Abdu’ṣ-Ṣáliḥ lived under a fortunate star, for he regularly came into the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. He enjoyed the distinction of serving as gardener for many years, and he was at all times loyal, true, and strong in faith. He was humble in the presence of every one of the believers; in all that time he never hurt nor offended any one. And at the last he left his garden and hastened to the encompassing mercy of God.
The Ancient Beauty was well pleased with ‘Abdu’ṣ-Ṣáliḥ, and after his ascension revealed a Visitation Tablet in his honor, also delivering an address concerning him, which was taken down and published together with other Scriptures.
Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious! Upon him be God’s gentleness and favor in the Exalted Realm.
Yet another from amongst that blessed company was Ustád Ismá‘íl, the builder. He was the construction overseer of Farrukh Khán (Amínu’d-Dawlih) in Ṭihrán, living happily and prosperously, a man of high standing, well regarded by all. But he lost his heart to the Faith, and was enraptured by it, till his holy passion consumed every intervening veil. Then he cast caution aside, and became known throughout Ṭihrán as a pillar of the Bahá’ís.
Farrukh Khán ably defended him at first. But as time went on, he summoned him and said, “Ustád, you are very dear to me and I have given you my protection and have stood by you as best I could. But the Sháh has found out about you and you know what a bloodthirsty tyrant he is. I am afraid that he will seize you without warning, and he will hang you. The best thing for you is to go on a journey. Leave this country, go somewhere else, and escape from this peril.”
Composed, happy, Ustád gave up his work, closed his eyes to his possessions, and left for Iraq, where he lived in poverty. He had recently taken a bride, and loved her beyond measure. Her mother arrived, and by subterfuge, obtained his permission to conduct the daughter back to Ṭihrán, supposedly for a visit. As soon as she reached Kirmánsháh, she went to the mujtahid, and told him that because her son-in-law had abandoned his religion, her daughter could not remain his lawful wife. The mujtahid arranged a divorce, and wedded the girl to another man. When word of this reached Baghdad, Ismá‘íl, steadfast as ever, only laughed. “God be praised!” he said. “Nothing is left me on this pathway. I have lost everything, including my bride. I have been able to give Him all I possessed.”
When Bahá’u’lláh departed from Baghdad, and traveled to Rumelia, the friends remained behind. The inhabitants of Baghdad then rose up against those helpless believers, sending them away as captives to Mosul. Ustád was old and feeble, but he left on foot, with no provisions for his journey, crossed over mountains and deserts, valleys and hills, and in the end arrived at the Most Great Prison. At one time, Bahá’u’lláh had written down an ode of Rúmí’s for him, and had told him to turn his face toward the Báb and sing the words, set to a melody. And so as he wandered through the long dark nights, Ustád would sing these lines: I am lost, O Love, possessed and dazed, Love’s fool am I, in all the earth. They call me first among the crazed, Though I once came first for wit and worth. O Love, who sellest me this wine,1 O Love, for whom I burn and bleed, Love, for whom I cry and pine— Thou the Piper, I the reed. If Thou wishest me to live, Through me blow Thy holy breath. The touch of Jesus Thou wilt give To me, who’ve lain an age in death. Thou, both End and Origin, Thou without and Thou within— From every eye Thou hidest well, And yet in every eye dost dwell.
He was like a bird with broken wings but he had the song and it kept him going onward to his one true Love. By stealth, he approached the Fortress and went in, but he was exhausted, spent. He remained for some days, and came into the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, after which he was directed to look for a lodging in Haifa. He got himself to Haifa, but he found no haven there, no nest or hole, no water, no grain of corn. Finally he made his home in a cave outside the town. He acquired a little tray and on this he set out rings of earthenware, and some thimbles, pins and other trinkets. Every day, from morning till noon, he peddled these, wandering about. Some days his earnings would amount to twenty paras,2 some days thirty; and forty on his best days. Then he would go home to the cave and content himself with a piece of bread. He was always voicing his thanks, always saying, “Praise be to God that I have attained such favor and grace; that I have been separated from friend and stranger alike, and have taken refuge in this cave. Now I am of those who gave their all, to buy the Divine Joseph in the market place. What bounty could be any greater than this!”
Such was his condition, when he died. Many and many a time, Bahá’u’lláh was heard to express His satisfaction with Ustád Ismá‘íl. Blessings hemmed him round, and the eye of God was on him. Salutations be unto him, and praise. Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious.
Still another of those who emigrated from their native land to be near Bahá’u’lláh was the great Nabíl.1 In the flower of youth he bade farewell to his family in Zarand and with Divine aid began to teach the Faith. He became a chief of the army of lovers, and on his quest he left Persian Iraq for Mesopotamia, but could not find the One he sought. For the Well-Beloved was then in Kurdistán, living in a cave at Sar-Galú; and there, entirely alone in that wasteland, with no companion, no friend, no listening soul, He was communing with the beauty that dwelt in His own heart. All news of Him was completely cut off; Iraq was eclipsed, and in mourning.
When Nabíl discovered that the flame which had once been kindled and tended there was almost out, that the believers were few, that Yaḥyá2 had crawled into a secret hole where he lay torpid and inert, and that a wintry cold had taken over—he found himself obliged to leave, bitterly grieving, for Karbilá. There he stayed until the Blessed Beauty returned from Kurdistán, making His way to Baghdad. At that time there was boundless joy; every believer in the country sprang to life; among them was Nabíl, who hastened to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, and became the recipient of great bestowals. He spent his days in gladness now, writing odes to celebrate the praises of his Lord. He was a gifted poet, and his tongue most eloquent; a man of mettle, and on fire with passionate love.
After a time he returned to Karbilá, then came back to Baghdad and from there went on to Persia. Because he associated with Siyyid Muḥammad he was led into error and sorely afflicted and tried; but like the shooting stars, he became as a missile to drive off satanic imaginings,3 and he repulsed the evil whisperers and went back to Baghdad, where he found rest in the shade of the Holy Tree. He was later directed to visit Kirmánsháh. He returned again, and on every journey was enabled to render a service.
Bahá’u’lláh and His retinue then left Baghdad, the “Abode of Peace,” for Constantinople, the “City of Islám.” After His departure, Nabíl put on the dress of a dervish, and set out on foot, catching up with the convoy along the way. In Constantinople he was directed to return to Persia and there teach the Cause of God; also to travel throughout the country, and acquaint the believers in its cities and villages with all that had taken place. When this mission was accomplished, and the drums of “Am I not your Lord?” were rolling out—for it was the “year eighty”4—Nabíl hurried to Adrianople, crying as he went, “Yea verily Thou art! Yea verily!” and “Lord, Lord, here am I!”
He entered Bahá’u’lláh’s presence and drank of the red wine of allegiance and homage. He was then given specific orders to travel everywhere, and in every region to raise the call that God was now made manifest: to spread the blissful tidings that the Sun of Truth had risen. He was truly on fire, driven by restive love. With great fervor he would pass through a country, bringing this best of all messages and reviving the hearts. He flamed like a torch in every company, he was the star of every assemblage, to all who came he held out the intoxicating cup. He journeyed as to the beat of drums and at last he reached the ‘Akká fortress.
In those days the restrictions were exceptionally severe. The gates were shut, the roads closed off. Wearing a disguise, Nabíl arrived at the ‘Akká gate. Siyyid Muḥammad and his wretched accomplice immediately hurried to the Governorate and informed against the traveler. “He is a Persian,” they reported. “He is not, as he seems, a man of Bukhárá. He has come here to seek for news of Bahá’u’lláh.” The authorities expelled him at once.
Nabíl, despairing, withdrew to the town of Ṣafad. Later he came on to Haifa, where he made his home in a cave on Mount Carmel. He lived apart from friend and stranger alike, lamenting night and day, moaning and chanting prayers. There he remained as a recluse, and waited for the doors to open. When the predestined time of captivity was over, and the gates were flung wide, and the Wronged One issued forth in beauty, in majesty and glory, Nabíl hastened to Him with a joyful heart. Then he used himself up like a candle, burning away with the love of God. Day and night he sang the praises of the one Beloved of both worlds and of those about His threshold, writing verses in the pentameter and hexameter forms, composing lyrics and long odes. Almost daily, he was admitted to the presence of the Manifestation.5
This went on until the day Bahá’u’lláh ascended. At that supreme affliction, that shattering calamity, Nabíl sobbed and trembled and cried out to Heaven. He found that the numerical value of the word “shidád”—year of stress—was 309, and it thus became evident that Bahá’u’lláh foretold what had now come to pass.6
Utterly cast down, hopeless at being separated from Bahá’u’lláh, fevered, shedding tears, Nabíl was in such anguish that anyone seeing him was bewildered. He struggled on, but the only desire he had was to lay down his life. He could suffer no longer; his longing was aflame in him; he could stand the fiery pain no more. And so he became king of the cohorts of love, and he rushed into the sea.
Before that day when he offered himself up, he wrote out the year of his death in the one word: “Drowned.”7 Then he threw down his life for the Well-Beloved, and was released from his despair, and no longer shut away.
This distinguished man was erudite, wise, and eloquent of speech. His native genius was pure inspiration, his poetic gift like a crystal stream. In particular his ode “Bahá, Bahá!” was written in sheer ecstasy. Throughout all his life, from earliest youth till he was feeble and old, he spent his time serving and worshiping the Lord. He bore hardships, he lived through misfortunes, he suffered afflictions. From the lips of the Manifestation he heard marvelous things. He was shown the lights of Paradise; he won his dearest wish. And at the end, when the Daystar of the world had set, he could endure no more, and flung himself into the sea. The waters of sacrifice closed over him; he was drowned, and he came, at last, to the Most High.
Upon him be abundant blessings; upon him be tender mercies. May he win a great victory, and a manifest grace in the Kingdom of God.
Áqá Ṣidq-‘Alí was yet one more of those who left their native land, journeyed to Bahá’u’lláh and were put in the Prison. 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. He spent some time wearing the dress of poverty, drinking the wine of the Rule and traveling the Path,1 but unlike the other Ṣúfís he did not devote his life to dusty hashish; on the contrary, he cleansed himself of their vain imaginings and 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. Among them is a poem written while he was a prisoner in the barracks at ‘Akká, the chief couplet of which reads: A hundred hearts Thy curling locks ensnare, And it rains hearts when Thou dost toss Thy hair.
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 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.
As he journeyed, filled with yearning love, he would sing poems. He greatly pleased the friends. In him the name2 bespoke the man: he was pure candor and truth; he was love itself; he was chaste of heart, and enamored of Bahá’u’lláh. 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.
The convoy of the lovers went on; it reached Constantinople; it passed to Adrianople, and finally to the ‘Akká prison. Ṣidq-‘Alí was present throughout, faithfully serving its Commander.
While in the barracks, Bahá’u’lláh set apart a special night and He dedicated it to Darvísh Ṣidq-‘Alí. 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 God. He went on to say that “dervish” does not denote those persons who wander about, spending their nights and days in fighting and folly; rather, He said, the term designates those who are completely severed from all but God, who cleave to His laws, are firm in His Faith, loyal to His Covenant, and constant in worship. It is not a name for those who, as the Persians say, tramp about like vagrants, are confused, unsettled in mind, a burden to others, and of all mankind the most coarse and rude.
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.
Then came that hour when, not far from his Lord, he stripped off the cloak of life, and to physical eyes passed into the shadows, but to the mind’s eye betook himself to what is plain as day; and he was seated there on a throne of lasting glory. He escaped from the prison of this world, and pitched his tent in a wide and spacious land. May God ever keep him close and bless him in that mystic realm with perpetual reunion and the beatific vision; may he be wrapped in tiers of light. Upon him be the glory of God, the All-Glorious. His grave is in ‘Akká.
These two blessed souls, Mírzá Maḥmúd of Káshán and Áqá Riḍá of Shíráz, were like two lamps lit with God’s love from the oil of His knowledge. Encompassed by Divine bestowals from childhood on, they succeeded in rendering every kind of service for fifty-five years. Their services were countless, beyond recording.
When the retinue of Bahá’u’lláh left Baghdad for Constantinople, He was accompanied by a great crowd of people. Along the way, they met with famine conditions. These two souls strode along on foot, ahead of the howdah in which Bahá’u’lláh was riding, and covered a distance of seven or eight farsakhs every day. Wayworn and faint, they would reach the halting-place; and yet, weary as they were, they would immediately set about preparing and cooking the food, and seeing to the comfort of the believers. The efforts they made were truly more than flesh can bear. There were times when they had not more than two or three hours sleep out of the twenty-four; because, once the friends had eaten their meal, these two would be busy collecting and washing up the dishes and cooking utensils; this would take them till midnight, and only then would they rest. At daybreak they would rise, pack everything, and set out again, in front of the howdah of Bahá’u’lláh. See what a vital service they were able to render, and for what bounty they were singled out: from the start of the journey, at Baghdad, to the arrival in Constantinople, they walked close beside Bahá’u’lláh; they made every one of the friends happy; they brought rest and comfort to all; they prepared whatever anyone asked.
Áqá Riḍá and Mírzá Maḥmúd were the very essence of God’s love, utterly detached from all but God. In all that time no one ever heard either of them raise his voice. They never hurt nor offended anyone. They were trustworthy, loyal, true. Bahá’u’lláh showered blessings upon them. They were continually entering His presence and He would be expressing His satisfaction with them.
Mírzá Maḥmúd was a youth when he arrived in Baghdad from Káshán. Áqá Riḍá became a believer in Baghdad. The spiritual condition of the two was indescribable. There was in Baghdad a company of seven leading believers who lived in a single, small room, because they were destitute. They could hardly keep body and soul together, but they were so spiritual, so blissful, that they thought themselves in Heaven. Sometimes they would chant prayers all night long, until the day broke. Days, they would go out to work, and by nightfall one would have earned ten paras, another perhaps twenty paras, others forty or fifty. These sums would be spent for the evening meal. On a certain day one of them made twenty paras, while the rest had nothing at all. The one with the money bought some dates, and shared them with the others; that was dinner, for seven people. They were perfectly content with their frugal life, supremely happy.
These two honored men devoted their days to all that is best in human life: they had seeing eyes; they were mindful and aware; they had hearing ears, and were fair of speech. Their sole desire was to please Bahá’u’lláh. To them, nothing was a bounty at all, except service at His Holy Threshold. After the time of the Supreme Affliction, they were consumed with sorrow, like candles flickering away; they longed for death, and stayed firm in the Covenant and labored hard and well to spread that Daystar’s Faith. They were close and trusted companions of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, and could be relied on in all things. They were always lowly, humble, unassuming, evanescent. In all that long period, they never uttered a word which had to do with self.
And at the last, during the absence of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, they took their flight to the Kingdom of unfading glory. I sorrowed much because I was not with them when they died. Although absent in body, I was there in my heart, and mourning over them; but to outward seeming I did not bid them good-by; this is why I grieve.
Unto them both be salutations and praise; upon them be compassion and glory. May God give them a home in Paradise, under the Lote-Tree’s shade. May they be immersed in tiers of light, close beside their Lord, the Mighty, the All-Powerful.
The late Pidar-Ján was among those believers who emigrated to Baghdad. He was a godly old man, enamored of the Well-Beloved; in the garden of Divine love, he was like a rose full-blown. He arrived there, in Baghdad, and spent his days and nights communing with God and chanting prayers; and although he walked the earth, he traveled the heights of Heaven.
To obey the law of God, he took up a trade, for he had nothing. He would bundle a few pairs of socks under his arm and peddle them as he wandered through the streets and bázárs, and thieves would rob him of his merchandise. Finally he was obliged to lay the socks across his outstretched palms as he went along. But he would get to chanting a prayer, and one day he was surprised to find that they had stolen the socks, laid out on his two hands, from before his eyes. His awareness of this world was clouded, for he journeyed through another. He dwelt in ecstasy; he was a man drunken, bedazzled.
For some time, that is how he lived in Iraq. Almost daily he was admitted to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. His name was ‘Abdu’lláh but the friends bestowed on him the title of Pidar-Ján—Father Dear—for he was a loving father to them all. At last, under the sheltering care of Bahá’u’lláh, he took flight to the “seat of truth, in the presence of the potent king.”1
May God make fragrant his sepulcher with the outpouring rains of His mercy and cast upon him the eye of Divine compassion. Salutations be unto him, and praise.
Another of those who emigrated to Baghdad was Sháykh Ṣádiq of Yazd, a man esteemed, and righteous as his name, Ṣádiq.1 He was a towering palm in the groves of Heaven, a star flaming in the skies of the love of God.
It was during the Iraq period that he hastened to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. His detachment from the things of this world and his attachment to the life of the spirit are indescribable. He was love embodied, tenderness personified. Day and night, he commemorated God. Utterly unconscious of this world and all that is therein, he dwelt continually on God, remaining submerged in supplications and prayers. Most of the time, tears poured from his eyes. The Blessed Beauty singled him out for special favor, and whenever He turned His attention toward Ṣádiq, His loving-kindness was clear to see.
On a certain day they brought word that Ṣádiq was at the point of death. I went to his bedside and found him breathing his last. He was suffering from ileus, an abdominal pain and swelling. I hurried to Bahá’u’lláh and described his condition.
“Go,” He said. “Place your hand on the distended area and speak the words: ‘O Thou the Healer!’”2
I went back. I saw that the affected part had swollen up to the size of an apple; it was hard as stone, in constant motion, twisting, and coiling about itself like a snake. I placed my hand upon it; I turned toward God and, humbly beseeching Him, I repeated the words, “O Thou the Healer!” Instantly the sick man rose up. The ileus vanished; the swelling was carried off.
This personified spirit lived contentedly in Iraq until the day when Bahá’u’lláh’s convoy wended its way out of Baghdad. As bidden, Ṣádiq remained behind in that city. But his longing beat so passionately within him that after the arrival of Bahá’u’lláh at Mosul, he could endure the separation no more. Shoeless, hatless, he ran out alongside the courier going to Mosul; ran and ran until, on that barren plain, with mercy all about him, he fell to his rest.
May God give him to drink from “a wine cup tempered at the camphor fountain,”3 and send down crystal waters on his grave; may God perfume his dust in that desert place with musk, and cause to descend there range on range of light.