Another of those who left their homes and came to settle in the neighborhood of Bahá’u’lláh was Ḥájí Muḥammad Khán. This distinguished man, a native of Sístán, was a Balúch. When he was very young, he caught fire and became a mystic—an ‘áríf, or adept. As a wandering dervish, completely selfless, he went out from his home and, following the dervish rule, traveled about in search of his murshid, his perfect leader. For he yearned, as the Qalandar dervishes would say, to discover that “priest of the Magi,” or spiritual guide.
Far and wide, he carried on his search. He would speak to everyone he met. But what he longed for was the sweet scent of the love of God, and this he was unable to detect in anyone, whether Gnostic or philosopher, or member of the Shaykhí sect. All he could see in the dervishes was their tufted beards, and their palms-up religion of beggary. They were “dervish”—poor in all save God—in name only; all they cared about, it seemed to him, was whatever came to hand. Nor did he find illumination among the Illuminati; he heard nothing from them but idle argument. He observed that their grandiloquence was not eloquence and that their subtleties were but windy figures of speech. Truth was not there; the core of inner meaning was absent. For true philosophy is that which produces rewards of excellence, and among these learned men there was no such fruit to be found; at the peak of their accomplishment, they became the slaves of vice, led an unconcerned life and were given over to personal characteristics that were deserving of blame. To him, of all that constitutes the high, distinguishing quality of humankind, they were devoid.
Thus at the very moment when he heard the call from the Kingdom of God, he shouted, “Yea, verily!” and he was off like the desert wind. He traveled over vast distances, arrived at the Most Great Prison and attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. When his eyes fell upon that bright Countenance he was instantly enslaved. He returned to Persia so that he could meet with those people who professed to be following the Path, those friends of other days who were seeking out the Truth, and deal with them as his loyalty and duty required.
Both going and returning, the Ḥájí betook himself to each one of his friends, foregathered with them, and let each one hear the new song from Heaven. He reached his homeland and set his family’s affairs in order, providing for all, seeing to the security, happiness and comfort of each one. After that he bade them all goodby. To his relatives, his wife, children, kin, he said: “Do not look for me again; do not wait for my return.”
He took up a staff and wandered away; over the mountains he went, across the plains, seeking and finding the mystics, his friends. On his first journey, he went to the late Mírzá Yúsuf Khán (Mustawfíyu’l-Mamálik), in Ṭihrán. When he had said his say, Yúsuf Khán expressed a wish, and declared that should it be fulfilled, he would believe; the wish was to be given a son. Should such a bounty become his, Yúsuf Khán would be won over. The Ḥájí reported this to Bahá’u’lláh, and received a firm promise in reply. Accordingly, when the Ḥájí met with Yúsuf Khán on his second journey, he found him with a child in his arms. “Mírzá,” the Ḥájí cried, “praise be to God! Your test has demonstrated the Truth. You snared your bird of joy.” “Yes,” answered Yúsuf Khán, “the proof is clear. I am convinced. This year, when you go to Bahá’u’lláh, say that I implore His grace and favor for this child, so that it may be kept safe in the sheltering care of God.”
Ḥájí Muḥammad then went to the blissful future martyr, the King of Martyrs, and asked him to intercede, so that he, the Ḥájí, might be allowed to keep watch at the doorway of Bahá’u’lláh. The King of Martyrs sent in this request by letter, after which Ḥájí Khán duly arrived at the Most Great Prison and made his home in the neighborhood of his loving Friend. He enjoyed this honor for a long time, and later, in the Mazra‘ih garden as well, he was very frequently in Bahá’u’lláh’s presence. After the Beloved had ascended, Ḥájí Khán remained faithful to the Covenant and Testament, shunning the hypocrites. At last, when this servant was absent on the journeys to Europe and America, the Ḥájí made his way to the travelers’ hospice at the Ḥaẓíratu’l-Quds; and here, beside the Shrine of the Báb, he took his flight to the world above.
May God refresh his spirit with the musk-scented air of the Abhá Paradise, and the sweet savors of holiness that blow from the highest Heaven. Unto him be greetings and praise. His bright tomb is in Haifa.
Muḥammad-Ibráhím Amír came from Nayríz. He was a blessed person; he was like a cup filled with the red wine of faith. At the time when he was first made captive by the tender Loved One, he was in the flower of his youth. Then he fell a prey to the oppressors, and following the upheaval in Nayríz and all the suffering, his persecutors laid hold of him. Three farráshes pinned his arms and tied his hands behind him; but the Amír by main strength burst his bonds, snatched a dagger from a farrásh’s belt, saved himself and ran away to Iraq. There he engaged in writing down the sacred verses and later won the honor of serving at the Holy Threshold. Constant and steadfast, he remained on duty day and night. During the journey from Baghdad to Constantinople, from there to Adrianople, and from there to the Most Great Prison, he was always at hand to serve. He married the handmaid of God, Ḥabíbih, who also served at the Threshold, and his daughter Badí‘ih became the helpmeet of the late Ḥusayn-Áqá Qahvih-chí.
Thus the Amír was steadfast in service throughout his life; but after the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh his health steadily declined, and at last he left this world of dust behind him and hastened away to the unsullied world above. May God illumine the place where he rests with rays from the all-highest Realm. Unto him be salutations and praise. His bright shrine is in ‘Akká.
This honored man, Mírzá Mihdí, was from Káshán. In early youth, under his father’s tutelage, he had studied sciences and arts, and had become skilled in composing both prose and verse, as well as in producing calligraphy in the style known as shikastih.1 He was singled out from his fellows, head and shoulders above the rest. When still a child, he learned of the Lord’s Advent, caught fire with love, and became one of those who “gave their all to purchase Joseph.” He was chief of the yearning seekers, lord of lovers; eloquently, he began to teach the Faith, and to prove the validity of the Manifestation.
He made converts; and because he yearned after God, he became a laughingstock in Káshán, disparaged by friend and stranger alike, exposed to the taunts of his faithless companions. One of them said: “He has lost his mind.” And another: “He is a public disgrace. Fortune has turned against him. He is done for.” The bullies mocked him, and spared him nothing. When life became untenable, and open war broke out, he left his homeland and journeyed to Iraq, the focal center of the new Light, where he gained the presence of all mankind’s Beloved.
He spent some time here, in the friends’ company, composing verses that sang the praises of Bahá’u’lláh. Later he was given leave to return home, and went back to live for a while in Káshán. But again, he was plagued by yearning love, and could bear the separation no more. He returned, therefore, to Baghdad, bringing with him his respected sister, the third consort.2
Here he remained, under the bountiful protection of Bahá’u’lláh, until the convoy left Iraq for Constantinople, at which time Mírzá Mihdí was directed to remain behind and guard the Holy House. Restless, consumed with longing, he stayed on. When the friends were banished from Baghdad to Mosul, he was among the prisoners, a victim along with the others. With the greatest hardship, he got to Mosul, and here fresh calamities awaited him; he was ill almost all the time, he was an outcast, and destitute. Still he endured it for a considerable period, was patient, retained his dignity, and continually offered thanks. Finally he could bear the absence of Bahá’u’lláh no longer. He sought permission, was granted leave to come, and set out for the Most Great Prison.
Because the way was long and hard, and he suffered cruelly on the journey, when he finally reached the ‘Akká prison he was almost helpless, and worn to the bone. It was during the time when the Blessed Beauty was imprisoned within the citadel, at the center of the barracks. Despite the terrible hardships, Mírzá Mihdí spent some days here, in great joy. To him, the calamities were favors, the tribulations were Divine Providence, the chastisement abounding grace; for he was enduring all this on the pathway of God, and seeking to win His good pleasure. His illness worsened; from day to day he failed; then at the last, under sheltering grace, he took his flight to the inexhaustible mercy of the Lord.
This noble personage had been honored among men, but for God’s love he lost both name and fame. He bore manifold misfortunes with never a complaint. He was content with God’s decrees, and walked the ways of resignation. The glance of Bahá’u’lláh’s favor was upon him; he was close to the Divine Threshold. Thus, from the beginning of his life till the end, he remained in one and the same inner state: immersed in an ocean of submission and consent. “O my Lord, take me, take me!” he would cry, until at last he soared away to the world that no man sees.
May God cause him to inhale the sweet scent of holiness in the highest Paradise, and refresh him with the crystalline wine cup, tempered at the camphor fountain.3 Unto him be salutations and praise. His fragrant tomb is in ‘Akká.
Among the exiles, neighbors, and prisoners there was also a second Mír ‘Imád,1 the eminent calligrapher, Mishkín-Qalam.2 He wielded a musk-black pen, and his brows shone with faith. He was among the most noted of mystics, and had a witty and subtle mind. The fame of this spiritual wayfarer reached out to every land. He was the leading calligrapher of Persia and well known to all the great; he enjoyed a special position among the court ministers of Ṭihrán, and with them he was solidly established.3 He was famed throughout Asia Minor; his pen was the wonder of all calligraphers, for he was adept at every calligraphic style. He was besides, for human virtues, a bright star.
This highly accomplished man first heard of the Cause of God in Iṣfahán, and the result was that he set out to find Bahá’u’lláh. He crossed the great distances, measured out the miles, climbing mountains, passing over deserts and over the sea, until at last he came to Adrianople. Here he reached the heights of faith and assurance; here he drank the wine of certitude. He responded to the summons of God, he attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, he ascended to that apogee where he was received and accepted. By now he was reeling to and fro like a drunkard in his love for God, and because of his violent desire and yearning, his mind seemed to wander. He would be raised up, and then cast down again; he was as one distracted. He spent some time under the sheltering grace of Bahá’u’lláh, and every day new blessings were showered upon him. Meanwhile he produced his splendid calligraphs; he would write out the Most Great Name, Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá, O Thou Glory of the All-Glorious, with marvelous skill, in many different forms, and would send them everywhere.4
He was then directed to go on a journey to Constantinople, and set out with Jináb-i-Sayyáḥ. When he reached that Great City, the leading Persians and Turks received him with every honor at first, and they were captivated by his jet black, calligraphic art. He, however, began boldly and eloquently to teach the Faith. The Persian ambassador lurked in ambush; betaking himself to the Sulṭán’s vazírs he slandered Mishkín-Qalam. “This man is an agitator,” the ambassador told them, “sent here by Bahá’u’lláh to stir up trouble and make mischief in this Great City. He has already won over a large company, and he intends to subdue still more. These Bahá’ís turned Persia upside down; now they have started in on the capital of Turkey. The Persian Government put 20,000 of them to the sword, hoping by this tactic to quench the fires of sedition. You should awaken to the danger; soon this perverse thing will blaze up here as well. It will consume the harvest of your life; it will burn up the whole world. Then you can do nothing, for it will be too late.”
Actually that mild and submissive man, in that throne city of Asia Minor, was occupied solely with his calligraphy and his worship of God. He was striving to bring about not sedition but fellowship and peace. He was seeking to reconcile the followers of different faiths, not to drive them still further apart. He was of service to strangers and was helping to educate the native people. He was a refuge to the hapless and a horn of plenty to the poor. He invited all comers to the oneness of humankind; he shunned hostility and malice.
The Persian ambassador, however, wielded enormous power, and he had maintained close ties with the ministers for a very long time. He prevailed on a number of persons to insinuate themselves into various gatherings and there to make every kind of false charge against the believers. Urged on by the oppressors, spies began to surround Mishkín-Qalam. Then, as instructed by the ambassador, they carried reports to the Prime Minister, stating that the individual in question was stirring up mischief day and night, that he was a troublemaker, a rebel and a criminal. The result was, they jailed him and they sent him away to Gallipoli, where he joined our own company of victims. They despatched him to Cyprus and ourselves to the ‘Akká prison. On the island of Cyprus, Jináb-i-Mishkín was held prisoner in the citadel at Famagusta, and in this city he remained, a captive, from the year 85 till 94.
When Cyprus passed out of Turkish hands, Mishkín-Qalam was freed and betook himself to his Well-Beloved in the city of ‘Akká, and here he lived encompassed by the grace of Bahá’u’lláh, producing his marvelous calligraphs and sending them about. He was at all times joyous of spirit, ashine with the love of God, like a candle burning its life away, and he was a consolation to all the believers.
After the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, Mishkín-Qalam remained loyal, solidly established in the Covenant. He stood before the violators like a brandished sword. He would never go half way with them; he feared no one but God; not for a moment did he falter, nor ever fail in service.
Following the ascension he made a journey to India, where he associated with the lovers of truth. He spent some time there, making fresh efforts every day. When I learned that he was getting helpless, I sent for him at once and he came back to this Most Great Prison, to the joy of the believers, who felt blessed to have him here again. He was at all times my close companion. He had amazing verve, intense love. He was a compendium of perfections: believing, confident, serene, detached from the world, a peerless companion, a wit—and his character like a garden in full bloom. For the love of God, he left all good things behind; he closed his eyes to success, he wanted neither comfort nor rest, he sought no wealth, he wished only to be free from the defilement of the world. He had no ties to this life, but spent his days and nights supplicating and communing with God. He was always smiling, effervescing; he was spirit personified, love embodied. For sincerity and loyalty he had no match, nor for patience and inner calm. He was selflessness itself, living on the breaths of the spirit.
If he had not been in love with the Blessed Beauty, if he had not set his heart on the Realm of Glory, every worldly pleasure could have been his. Wherever he went, his many calligraphic styles were a substantial capital, and his great accomplishment brought him attention and respect from rich and poor alike. But he was hopelessly enamored of man’s one true Love, and thus he was free of all those other bonds, and could float and soar in the spirit’s endless sky.
Finally, when I was absent, he left this darksome, narrow world and hastened away to the land of lights. There, in the haven of God’s boundless mercy, he found infinite rewards. Unto him be praise and salutations, and the Supreme Companion’s tender grace.
Ustád ‘Alí-Akbar, the Cabinet-Maker,1 was numbered among the just, a prince of the righteous. He was one of Persia’s earliest believers and a leading member of that company. From the beginning of the Cause a trusted confidant, he loosed his tongue to proclaim the Faith. He informed himself as to its proofs, and went deep into its Scriptures. He was also a gifted poet, writing odes in eulogy of Bahá’u’lláh.
Exceptionally skilled in his craft, Ustád produced highly ingenious work, fashioning carpentry that, for intricacy and precision, resembled mosaic inlay. He was expert in mathematics as well, solving and explaining difficult problems.
From Yazd, this revered man traveled to Iraq, where he achieved the honor of entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, and received abundant grace. The Blessed Beauty showered favors upon Ustád ‘Alí, who entered His presence almost every day. He was one of those who were exiled from Baghdad to Mosul, and he endured severe hardships there. He remained a long time in Mosul, in extremely straitened circumstances but resigned to the will of God, always in prayer and supplication, and with a thankful tongue.
Finally he came from Mosul to the Holy Shrine and here by the tomb of Bahá’u’lláh he would meditate and pray. In the dark of the night, restless and uneasy, he would lament and cry out; when he was supplicating God his heart burned within him; his eyes would shed their tears, and he would lift up his voice and chant. He was completely cut off from this dust heap, this mortal world. He shunned it, he asked but one thing—to soar away; and he hoped for the promised recompense to come. He could not bear for the Light of the World to have disappeared, and what he sought was the paradise of reunion with Him, and what his eyes hungered to behold was the glory of the Abhá Realm. At last his prayer was answered and he rose upward into the world of God, to the gathering-place of the splendors of the Lord of Lords.
Upon him be God’s benediction and praise, and may God bring him into the abode of peace, as He has written in His book: “For them is an abode of peace with their Lord.”2 “And to those who serve Him, is God full of kindness.”3
This chief of free souls, of wanderers for the love of God, was only an infant when, in Mázgán, he was suckled at the breast of grace. He was a child of the eminent scholar, Shaykh-i-Mázgání; his noble father was one of the leading citizens of Qamṣar, near Káshán, and for piety, holiness, and the fear of God he had no peer. This father embodied all the qualities that are worthy of praise; moreover his ways were pleasing, his disposition good, he was an excellent companion, and for all these things he was well known. When he threw off restraint and openly declared himself a believer, the faithless, whether friend or stranger, turned their backs on him and began to plot his death. But he continued to further the Cause, to alert the people’s hearts, and to welcome the newcomers as generously as ever. Thus in Káshán the fame of his strong faith reached as high as the Milky Way. Then the pitiless aggressors rose up, plundered his possessions and killed him.
‘Alí-Akbar, the son of him who had laid down his life in the pathway of God, could live in that place no longer. Had he remained, he too, like his father, would have been put to the sword. He passed some time in Iraq, and received the honor of being in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. Then he went back to Persia, but again he longed to look upon Bahá’u’lláh, and with his wife he set out over the deserts and mountains, sometimes riding, sometimes on foot, measuring off the miles, passing from one shore to the other, reaching the Holy Place at last and in the shade of the Divine Lote-Tree finding safety and peace.
When the beauty of the Desired One had vanished from this world, ‘Alí-Akbar remained loyal to the Covenant and prospered under the grace of God. By disposition and because of the intense love in his heart, he yearned to write poetry, to fashion odes and ghazals, but he lacked both meter and rhyme: I planned a poem, but my Beloved told me, “Plan only this, that thine eyes should behold Me.” With rapturous longing, his heart desired the realms of his compassionate Lord; consumed by burning love, he left this world at last, and pitched his tent in the world above. May God send down upon his grave, from the Kingdom of His forgiveness, a heavy rain1 of blessings, bestow a great victory upon him, and grant him mercies, pressed down and running over, in the retreats of Heaven.
This youth of God was from Iṣfahán, and from an early age was known to its leading divines for his excellent mind. He was of gentle birth, his family was known and respected, and he was an accomplished scholar. He had profited from philosophy and history alike, from sciences and arts, but he thirsted after the secret of reality, and longed for knowledge of God. His feverish thirst was not allayed by the arts and sciences, however limpid those waters. He kept on seeking, seeking, carrying on debates in gatherings of learned men until at last he discovered the meaning of his longing dream, and the enigma, the inviolable secret, lay open before him. Suddenly he caught the scent of fresh flowers from the gardens of the splendor of God, and his heart was ashine with a ray from the Sun of Truth. Whereas before, he was like a fish taken from the water, now he had come to the wellspring of eternal life; before, he was a questing moth; now he had found the candle flame. A true seeker after truth, he was instantly revived by the supreme Glad Tidings; his heart’s eye was brightened by the new dawn of guidance. So blinding was the fire of Divine love that he turned his face away from his life, its peace, its blessings, and set out for the Most Great Prison.
In Iṣfahán he had enjoyed every comfort, and the world was good to him. Now his yearning for Bahá’u’lláh freed him from all other bonds. He passed over the long miles, suffered intense hardships, exchanged a palace for a prison, and in the ‘Akká fortress assisted the believers and attended upon and served Bahá’u’lláh. He who had been waited upon, now waited on others; he who had been the master was now the servant, he who had once been a leader was now a captive. He had no rest, no leisure, day or night. To the travelers he was a trusted refuge; to the settlers, a companion without peer. He served beyond his strength, for he was filled with love of the friends. The travelers were devoted to him, and the settlers grateful. And because he was continuously busy, he kept silent at all times.
Then the Supreme Affliction came upon us and the absence of Bahá’u’lláh was not to be endured. Mírzá Muḥammad could not stay quiet, day or night. He wasted away, like a candle burning down; from the fiery anguish, his liver and heart were inflamed, and his body could bear no more. He wept and supplicated day and night, yearning to soar away to that undiscovered country. “Lord, free me, free me from this absence,” he would cry, “let me drink of reunion’s cup, find me a lodging in the shelter of Thy mercy, Lord of Lords!”
At last he quit this dust heap, the earth, and took his flight to the world that has no end. May it do him good, that cup brimming with the grace of God, may he eat with healthy relish of that food which gives life to heart and soul. May God lead him to that happy journey’s end and grant him an abundant share in the gifts which shall then be bestowed.1
One of the captives who were sent on from Baghdad to Mosul was Mírzá Muḥammad-i-Vakíl. This righteous soul was among those who became believers in Baghdad. It was there he drank from the cup of resignation to the will of God and sought his rest in the shade of the celestial Tree. He was a man high-minded and worthy of trust. He was also an extremely capable and energetic administrator of important affairs, famous in Iraq for his wise counsel. After he became a believer, he was distinguished by the title of Vakíl—deputy. It happened in this way:
There was a notable in Baghdad by the name of Ḥájí Mírzá Hádí, the jeweler. He had a distinguished son, Áqá Mírzá Músá, who had received from Bahá’u’lláh the title “Letter of Eternity.” This son had become a staunch believer. As for his father, the Ḥájí, he was a princely individual known for his lavish openhandedness not only in Persia and Iraq but as far away as India. To begin with he had been a Persian vazír; but when he saw how the late Fatḥ-‘Alí Sháh eyed worldly riches, particularly the worldly riches of Persian vazírs, and how he snatched whatever they had accumulated, and how, not content with confiscating their costly vanities and lumber, he punished and tortured them right and left, calling it a legal penalty—the Ḥájí dreaded that he too might be catapulted into the abyss. He abandoned his position as vazír, and his mansion, and fled to Baghdad. Fatḥ-‘Alí Sháh demanded that the Governor of Baghdad, Dávúd Páshá, send him back, but the Páshá was a man of courage and the Ḥájí was widely known for his able mind. Accordingly, the Páshá respected and helped him and the Ḥájí set up in business as a jeweler. He lived with pomp and splendor, like a great prince. He was one of the most remarkable men of his time, for within his palace he carried on a life of gratification and opulence, but he left his pomp, style and retinue behind, occupied himself with his business affairs and realized great profits.
The door of his house was always open. Turks and Persians, neighbors, strangers from far places, all were his honored guests. Most of Persia’s great, when they came on pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines, would stop at his house, where they would find a banquet laid out, and every luxury ready to hand. The Ḥájí was, indeed, more distinguished than Persia’s Grand Vazír; he outshone all the vazírs for magnificence, and as the days passed by he dispensed ever more largesse to all who came and went. He was the pride of the Persians throughout Iraq, the glory of his fellow nationals. Even on the Turkish vazírs and ministers and the grandees of Baghdad he bestowed gifts and favors; and for intelligence and perceptivity he had no equal.
Because of the Ḥájí’s advancing years, toward the end of his days his business affairs declined. Still, he made no change in his way of life. Exactly as before, he continued to live with elegance. The prominent would borrow heavily from him, and never pay him back. One of them, the mother of Áqá Khán Maḥallátí, borrowed 100,000 túmáns1 from him and did not repay one penny, for she died soon after. The Íl-Khán, ‘Alí-Qulí Khán, was another debtor; another was Sayfu’d-Dawlih, a son of Fatḥ-‘Alí Sháh; another, Válíyyih, a daughter of Fatḥ-‘Alí Sháh; these are only a few examples out of many, from among the Turkish amírs and the great of Persia and Iraq. All these debts remained unpaid and irrecoverable. Nevertheless, that eminent and princely man continued to live exactly as before.
Toward the close of his life he conceived a remarkable love for Bahá’u’lláh, and most humbly, would enter His presence. I remember him saying one day, to the Blessed Beauty, that in the year 1250 and something over, Mírzá Mawkab, the famed astrologer, visited the Shrines. “One day he said to me,” the Ḥájí continued, “‘Mírzá, I see a strange, a unique conjunction in the stars. It has never occurred before. It proves that a momentous event is about to take place, and I am certain that this event can be nothing less than the Advent of the promised Qá’im.’”
Such was the situation of that illustrious prince when he passed away, leaving as heirs a son and two daughters. Thinking him to be as wealthy as ever, the people believed that his heirs would inherit millions, for everyone knew his way of life. The Persian diplomatic representative, the latter-day mujtahids, and the faithless judge all sharpened their teeth. They started a quarrel among the heirs, so that in the resulting turmoil they themselves would make substantial gains. With this in view they did whatever they could to ruin the heirs, the idea being to strip the inheritors bare, while the Persian diplomat, the mujtahids, and the judge would accumulate the spoils.
Mírzá Músá was a staunch believer; his sisters, however, were from a different mother, and they knew nothing of the Cause. One day the two sisters, accompanied by the son-in-law of the late Mírzá Siyyid Riḍá, came to the house of Bahá’u’lláh. The two sisters entered the family apartments while the son-in-law settled down in the public reception rooms. The two girls then said to Bahá’u’lláh: “The Persian envoy, the judge, and the faithless mujtahids have destroyed us. Toward the close of his life, the late Ḥájí trusted no one but Yourself. We ourselves have been remiss and we should have sought Your protection before; in any case we come now to implore Your pardon and help. Our hope is that You will not send us away despairing, and that through Your favor and support we shall be saved. Deign, then, to look into this affair, and to overlook our past mistakes.”
Replying, the Blessed Beauty declared with finality that intervention in affairs of this kind was abhorrent to Him. They kept on pleading with Him, however. They remained a whole week in the family apartments, clamoring every morning and evening for favor and grace. “We will not lift our heads from off this Threshold,” they said. “We will seek sanctuary here in this house; we will remain here, by the door of Him Who guards the angels, until He shall deign to look into our concerns and to save us from our oppressors.”
Each day, Bahá’u’lláh would counsel them, saying, “Matters of this kind are in the hands of the mujtahids and the government authorities. We do not interfere in such affairs.” But they kept on with their importunities, insisting, imploring, begging for help. It happened that the house of Bahá’u’lláh was bare of worldly goods, and these ladies, accustomed to the best of everything, could hardly be satisfied with bread and water. Food had to be procured for them on credit. Briefly, from every direction, there were problems.
Finally one day Bahá’u’lláh summoned me to His presence. “These esteemed ladies,” He said, “with all their exactions, have put Us to considerable inconvenience. There is no help for it—you will have to see to this case. But you must solve this entire, complicated matter in a single day.”
The next morning, accompanied by Áqáy-i-Kalím, I went to the house of the late Ḥájí. We called in appraisers and they collected all the jewels in an upper apartment; the ledgers and account books having to do with the properties were placed in a second room; the costly furnishings and art objects of the house in a third. A number of jewelers then went to work and set a value on the gems. Other experts appraised the house, the shops, the gardens, the baths. As soon as they began their work I came out and posted someone in each room so that the appraisers could duly complete their tasks. By this time it was nearly noon. We then had luncheon, after which the appraisers were directed to divide everything into two equal parts, so that lots could be cast; one part would be that of the daughters, and one that of the son, Mírzá Músá.2 I then went to bed, for I was ill. In the afternoon I rose, had tea, and repaired to the family apartments of the mansion. Here I observed that the goods had been divided into three parts. I said to them: “My instructions were that everything should be divided into two parts. How is it that there are three?” The heirs and other relatives answered as one: “A third must certainly be set aside. That is why we have divided everything into three. One share is for Mírzá Músá, one for the two daughters, and the third we place at Your disposal; this third is the portion of the deceased and You are to expend it in any way You see fit.”
Greatly disturbed, we told them, “Such a thing is out of the question. This you must not require, for it cannot be complied with. We gave our word to Bahá’u’lláh that not so much as a copper coin would be accepted.” But they, too, swore upon oath that it must be as they wished, that they would agree to nothing else. This servant answered: “Let us leave this matter for the present. Is there any further disagreement among you?” “Yes,” said Mírzá Músá, “what has become of the money that was left?” Asked the amount, he answered: “Three hundred thousand túmáns.” The daughters said: “There are two possibilities: either this money is here in the house, in some coffer, or buried hereabouts—or else it is in other hands. We will give over the house and all its contents to Mírzá Músá. We two will leave the house, with nothing but our veils. If anything turns up we, as of now, freely accord it to him. If the money is elsewhere, it has no doubt been deposited in someone’s care; and that person, well aware of the breach of trust, will hardly come forward, deal honorably by us, and return it—rather, he will make off with it all. Mírzá Músá must establish a satisfactory proof of what he says; his claim alone is not evidence.” Mírzá Músá replied: “All the property was in their hands; I knew nothing of what was going on—I had no hint of it. They did whatever they pleased.”
In short, Mírzá Músá had no clear proof of his claim. He could only ask, “Is such a thing possible, that the late Ḥájí had no ready funds?” Since the claim was unsupported, I felt that pursuing it further would lead to a scandal and produce nothing of value. Accordingly I bade them: “Cast the lots.” As for the third share, I had them put it in a separate apartment, close it off, and affix a seal to the door. The key I brought to Bahá’u’lláh. “The task is done,” I said. “It was accomplished only through Your confirmations. Otherwise it could not have been completed in a year. However, a difficulty has arisen.” I described in detail the claim of Mírzá Músá and the absence of any proof. Then I said, “Mírzá Músá is heavily in debt. Even should he expend all he has, still he could not pay off his creditors. It is best, therefore, if You Yourself will accept the heirs’ request, since they persist in their offer, and bestow that share on Mírzá Músá. Then he could at least free himself from his debts and still have something left over.”
On the following day the heirs appeared and implored the Blessed Beauty to have me accept the third share. “This is out of the question,” He told them. Then they begged and entreated Him to accept that share Himself and expend it for charitable purposes of His own choice. He answered: “There is only one purpose for which I might expend that sum.” They said, “That is no concern of ours, even if You have it thrown into the sea. We will not loose our hold from the hem of Your garment and we will not cease our importunities until You accede to our request.” Then He told them, “I have now accepted this third share; and I have given it to Mírzá Músá, your brother, but on the condition that, from this day forward, he will speak no more of any claim against yourselves.” The heirs were profuse in their thanks. And so this weighty and difficult case was settled in a single day. It left no residue of complaints, no uproar, no further quarrels.
Mírzá Músá did his best to urge some of the jewels on me, but I refused. Finally he requested that I accept a single ring. It was a precious ring, set with a costly pomegranate ruby, a flawless sphere, and unique. All around the central stone, it was gemmed with diamonds. This too I refused, although I had no ‘abá to my back and nothing to wear but a cotton tunic that bespoke the antiquity of the world, nor did I own a copper coin. As Ḥáfiẓ would say: “An empty purse, but in our sleeve a hoard.”
Grateful for the bounty he had received, Mírzá Músá offered Bahá’u’lláh everything he possessed: orchards, lands, estates—but it was refused. Then he appointed the ‘ulamás of Iraq to intercede for him. They hastened to Bahá’u’lláh in a body and begged Him to accept the proffered gifts. He categorically refused. They respectfully told Him: “Unless You accept, in a very short time Mírzá Músá will scatter it all to the winds. For his own good, he should not have access to this wealth.”
Then in his own hand, Mírzá Músá penned deeds of gift, made out according to each of the five creeds, in Arabic and Persian; two copies he made, and chose the ‘ulamás as his witnesses. Through certain ‘ulamás of Baghdad, among them the famed scholar ‘Abdu’s-Salám Effendi, and the erudite and widely known Siyyid Dávúd Effendi, he presented the deed of gift to Bahá’u’lláh. The Blessed Beauty told them: “We are appointing Mírzá Músá himself as Our deputy.”
After Bahá’u’lláh’s departure for Rumelia, Mírzá Músá, with a promissory note, purchased from the Government the tithes of Hindíyyih, a district near Karbilá, and suffered a terrible loss, close to 100,000 túmáns. The Government confiscated his properties and sold them for next to nothing. When told of the matter, Bahá’u’lláh said, “Do not speak of this, ever again. Do not so much as utter a word about those estates.” Meanwhile the exile from Adrianople to ‘Akká took place. Mírzá Muḥammad went to the Government authorities and said to them: “I am the deputy (vakíl) of Bahá’u’lláh. These properties do not belong to Mírzá Músá. How is it that you have taken them over?” But he had no documents to support him, for the title deeds were in ‘Akká, and on this account the Government rejected his claim. However, in the process, he became known to all as Mírzá Muḥammad the Deputy. This is how he received the title.
When we were in Adrianople, Mírzá Músá sent on the ruby ring, through Siyyid ‘Alí-Akbar, and the Blessed Beauty directed us to accept it. After we reached ‘Akká the believers fell ill, and lay suffering in their beds. I sent the ring to India, to one of the friends, asking him to sell it with all possible speed and forward the proceeds to us in ‘Akká to be expended on the sick. That blessed individual never sent us a penny. Two years later he wrote to say that he had sold the ring for twenty-five pounds and had spent that sum on the pilgrims. This, when the ring was of such great value. I made no complaint. Rather, I praised God, thanking Him that out of all that wealth not a fleck of dust had settled on my robe.
Mírzá Muḥammad was taken prisoner and sent away from Baghdad to Mosul, where he fell a prey to fearful ills. He had been rich; in God’s path he was now poor. He had enjoyed his ease and comfort; now, for the love of God, he suffered pain and toil. He lived on for a time in Mosul, suppliant, resigned, and lowly. And then, severed from all save God, irresistibly drawn by the gentle gales of the Lord, he rose out of this dark world to the land of light. Unto him be salutations and praise. May God shed down upon him the waters of forgiveness, and open before his grave the gates of Heaven.
Ḥájí Muḥammad-Riḍá came from Shíráz. He was a man spiritually minded, lowly, contrite, the embodiment of serenity and faith. When the call of God was lifted up, that needy soul hurried into the shelter of heavenly grace. As soon as he heard the summons, “Am I not your Lord?” he cried out: “Yea, verily!”1 and became as a lamp to the people’s feet.
For a long time he served the Afnán, Ḥájí Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, and was his loyal and close companion, trusted in all things. Later, following a journey to distant countries, he went to the Holy Land, and there in utter submission and lowliness bowed his head before the Sacred Threshold and was honored with entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, where he drank in endless bounties from cupped hands. For quite a time he remained there, attending upon Bahá’u’lláh almost every day, encompassed by holy favor and grace. He was outstanding as to character, and lived after the commandments of God: tranquil and long-suffering, in his surrender to God’s will he was selflessness itself. He had no personal aims whatever, no feeling of attachment to this fleeting world. His one desire was to please his Lord, his one hope, to walk the holy path.
He went on, then, to Beirut, serving the honored Afnán in that city. He spent a long time in this wise, returning again and again to enter the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and gaze upon that Most Great Beauty. Later, in Sidon, he fell ill. Unable to make the journey to ‘Akká, in perfect acquiescence and contentment he ascended to the Abhá Kingdom, and was plunged in the ocean of lights. By the Supreme Pen, endless bounty was bestowed upon his memory. He was indeed one of the loyal, the steadfast, a solid pillar of servitude to Bahá’u’lláh. Many and many a time, from the lips of the Blessed Beauty, we heard his praise.
Unto him be greetings and praise, and the glory of the All-Glorious. Upon him be compassion and most great mercy from the Lord of the High Heavens. His shining grave is in Sidon, near the place called the Station of John the Holy.
This youth was from Tabríz, and he was filled with the love of God like a cup flowing and brimming over with red wine. In the flower of his youth he left Persia and traveled to Greece, making his living as a merchant there; till a day came when, guided by Divine bounty, he went from Greece to Smyrna, and there he was given the glad tidings of a new Manifestation on earth. He shouted aloud, was frenzied, was drunk with the music of the new message. He escaped from his debits and credits, set out to meet the Lord of his heart, and entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. For some time, a trusted attendant and companion, he served the Blessed Beauty. He was then directed to seek a lodging in the city of Haifa.
Here he faithfully waited upon the believers, and his home was a way station for Bahá’í travelers. He had an excellent disposition, a wonderful character, and high, spiritual aims. He was friendly with friend and stranger alike; he was kind to people of every nation and wished them well.
When the Most Great Light ascended to the Concourse above, Ḥusayn Effendi remained faithful to Him, steadfast and firm; and as before, he continued to be a close friend to the friends. Thus he lived for a considerable period, and felt himself better off than the kings of the earth. He became the son-in-law of Mírzá Muḥammad-Qulí, brother of the Blessed Beauty, and remained for a time peaceful and serene. He carefully avoided any occasion of being seduced into error, for he dreaded that the tempest of afflictions might mount in fury, surge ever higher, and sweep many a soul into the fathomless gulf.1 He would sigh and mourn, for this fear was with him at all times. At last he could bear the world no longer, and with his own hands stripped off the garment of life.
Praise be unto him, and salutations, and the mercy of God, and Divine acceptance. May God pardon him and make him to enter the highest Heaven, the Paradise that towers above all the rest. His sweet-scented grave is in Haifa.
Yet another of the emigrants and settlers was the valiant Jamshíd-i-Gurjí, who came from Georgia, but grew up in the city of Káshán. He was a fine youth, faithful, trustworthy, with a high sense of honor. When he heard of a new Faith dawning, and awoke to the tidings that on Persia’s horizons the Sun of Truth had risen, he was filled with holy ecstasy, and he longed and loved. The new fire burned away those veils of uncertainty and doubt that had closed him round; the light of Truth shed down its rays, the lamp of guidance burned before him.
He remained in Persia for a time, then left for Rumelia, which was Ottoman territory, and in the Land of Mystery, Adrianople, won the honor of entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh; it was there that his meeting took place. His joy and fervor were boundless. Later, at Bahá’u’lláh’s command he made a journey to Constantinople, with Áqá Muḥammad-Báqir and Áqá ‘Abdu’l-Ghaffár. In that city, the tyrannous imprisoned him and put him in chains.
The Persian ambassador informed against Jamshíd and Ustád Muḥammad-‘Alí-i-Dallák as enemy leaders and fighters. Jamshíd he described as a latter-day Rustam1 while Muḥammad-‘Alí, according to the envoy, was a ravening lion. These two respected men were first imprisoned and caged; then they were sent out of Turkish territory, under guard to the Persian frontier. They were to be delivered over to the Persian Government and crucified, and the guards were threatened with terrible punishments should they once relax their vigilance and let the prisoners escape. For this reason, at every stopping place the victims were kept in some almost inaccessible spot. Once they were thrown into a pit, a kind of well, and suffered agonies all through the night. The next morning Jamshíd cried out: “O you who oppress us! Are we Joseph the Prophet that you have thrown us in this well? Remember how He rose out of the well as high as the full moon? We too walk the pathway of God, we too are down here for His sake, and we know that these depths are the heights of the Lord.”
Once arrived at the Persian frontier, Jamshíd and Muḥammad-‘Alí were handed over to Kurdish chiefs to be sent on to Ṭihrán. The Kurdish chiefs could see that the prisoners were innocent men, kindly and well-disposed, who had fallen a prey to their enemies. Instead of dispatching them to the capital, they set them free. Joyfully, the two hastened away on foot, went back to Bahá’u’lláh and found a home close by Him in the Most Great Prison.
Jamshíd spent some time in utter bliss, receiving the grace and favor of Bahá’u’lláh and ever and again being admitted to His presence. He was tranquil and at peace. The believers were well-pleased with him, and he was well-pleased with God. It was in this condition that he hearkened to the celestial bidding: “O thou soul who art well-assured, return unto thy Lord, well-pleased with Him, and well-pleasing unto Him.”2 And to God’s cry: “Return!” he replied, “Yea, verily!” He rose out of the Most Great Prison to the highest Heaven; he soared away to a pure and gleaming Kingdom, out of this world of dust. May God succor him in the celestial company,3 bring him into the Paradise of Splendors, and safe in the Divine gardens, make him to live forevermore.
There were three brothers, all from Tabríz: Ḥájí Ḥasan, Ḥájí Ja‘far, and Ḥájí Taqí. These three were like eagles soaring; they were three stars of the Faith, pulsing with the light of the love of God.
Ḥájí Ḥasan was of the earlier day; he had believed from the new Luminary’s first dawning. He was full of ardor, keen of mind. After his conversion he traveled everywhere, through the cities and villages of Persia, and his breath moved the hearts of longing souls. Then he left for Iraq, and on the Beloved’s first journey, attained His presence there. Once he beheld that beauteous Light he was carried away to the Kingdom of Splendors; he was incandescent, he became a thrall of yearning love. At this time he was directed to go back to Persia. He was a peddler, a vendor of small wares, and would travel from city to city.
On Bahá’u’lláh’s second journey to Iraq, Ḥájí Ḥasan longed to behold Him again, and there in Baghdad was once more bedazzled by His presence. Every so often he would journey to Persia and then return, his thoughts centered on teaching and furthering the Cause. His business fell apart. His merchandise was carried away by thieves, and thus, as he put it, his load was lifted from him—he was disencumbered. He shunned every worldly tie. He was held fast as by a magnet; he fell hopelessly, madly in love with the tender Companion, with Him Who is the Well-Beloved of both worlds. He was known everywhere for the ecstasy he was in, and experienced strange states of being; sometimes, with utmost eloquence, he would teach the Faith, adducing as proofs many a sacred verse and holy tradition, and bringing sound and reasonable arguments to bear. Then his hearers would comment on the power of his mind, on his wisdom and his self-possession. But there were other times when love suddenly flamed within him, and then he could not remain still for an instant. At those times he would skip, and dance, or again in a loud voice he would cry out a verse from the poets, or a song. Toward the end of his days he became a close friend of Jináb-i-Muníb; the two exchanged many a recondite confidence, and each carried many a melody in his breast.
On the friends’ final journey he went to Ádhirbáyján, and there, throwing caution to the winds, he roared out the Greatest Name: “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!” The unbelievers there joined forces with his relatives, and they lured that innocent, that man in his ecstasy, away to a garden. Here, they first put questions to him and listened to his answers. He spoke out; he expounded the secret verities of the Faith, and set forth conclusive proofs that the Advent had indeed come to pass. He recited verses from the Qur’án, and traditions handed down from the Prophet Muḥammad and the Holy Imáms. Following that, in a frenzy of love and longing rapture, he began to sing. It was a shahnáz melody he sang; the words were from the poets, to say that the Lord had come. And they killed him; they shed his blood. They wrenched and hacked his limbs apart and hid his body underneath the dust.
As for Ḥájí Muḥammad-Ja‘far, the gently born, he too, like his brother, was bewitched by the Blessed Beauty. It was in Iraq that he entered the presence of the Light of the World, and he too caught fire with Divine love and was carried away by the gentle gales of God. Like his brother, he was a vendor of small wares, always on a journey from one place to the next. When Bahá’u’lláh left Baghdad for the capital of Islám, Ḥájí Ja‘far was in Persia, and when the Blessed Beauty and His retinue came to a halt in Adrianople, Ja‘far and Ḥájí Taqí, his brother, arrived there from Ádhirbáyján. They found a corner somewhere and settled down. Our oppressors then stretched out arrogant hands to send Bahá’u’lláh forth to the Most Great Prison, and they forbade the believers to accompany the true Beloved, for it was their purpose to bring the Blessed Beauty to this prison with but a few of His people. When Ḥájí Ja‘far saw that they had excluded him from the band of exiles, he seized a razor and slashed his throat.1 The crowds expressed their grief and horror and the authorities then permitted all the believers to leave in company with Bahá’u’lláh—this because of the blessing that came from Ja‘far’s act of love.
They stitched up his wound but no one thought he would recover. They told him, “For the time being, you will have to stay where you are. If your throat heals, you will be sent on, along with your brother. Be sure of this.” Bahá’u’lláh also directed that this be done. Accordingly, we left Ja‘far in the hospital and went on to the ‘Akká prison. Two months later, he and his brother Ḥájí Taqí arrived at the fortress, and joined the other prisoners. The safely delivered Ḥájí grew more loving, more ardent with every passing day. From dusk till dawn he would stay awake, chanting prayers, shedding his tears. Then one night he fell from the roof of the caravanserai and ascended to the Kingdom of miracles and signs.
Ḥájí Taqí, born under a fortunate star, was in every sense a true brother to Ḥájí Ja‘far. He lived in the same spiritual condition, but he was calmer. After Ḥájí Ja‘far’s death, he would stay in one room, all alone. He was silence itself. He would sit there, all alone, properly and courteously, even during the night. One midnight he climbed up to the roof to chant prayers. The next morning they found him where he had fallen, on the ground by the wall. He was unconscious, and they could not tell whether this was an accident or whether he had thrown himself down. When he came to himself he said: “I was weary of this life, and I tried to die. Not for a moment do I wish to linger in this world. Pray that I may go on.”
This, then, is the life story of those three brothers. All three were souls well-assured; all three were pleased, and pleasing unto God.2 They were flames; they were captives of the Faith; they were pure and holy. And therefore, cut off from the world, turning their faces toward the Most High Kingdom, they ascended. May God wrap them in the garment of His grace in the realm of forgiveness, and immerse them in the waters of His mercy forever and ever. Greetings be unto them, and praise.
Among those souls that are righteous, that are luminous entities and Divine reflections, was Jináb-i-Muḥammad-Taqí, the Afnán.1 His title was Vakílu’d-Dawlih. This eminent Bough was an offshoot of the Holy Tree; in him an excellent character was allied to a noble lineage. His kinship was a true kinship. He was among those souls who, after one reading of the Book of Íqán, became believers, bewitched by the sweet savors of God, rejoicing at the recital of His verses. His agitation was such that he cried out, “Lord, Lord, here am I!” Joyously, he left Persia and hurried away to Iraq. Because he was filled with longing love, he sped over the mountains and across the desert wastes, not pausing to rest until he came to Baghdad.
He entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, and achieved acceptance in His sight. What holy ecstasy he had, what fervor, what detachment from the world! It was beyond description. His blessed face was so comely, so luminous that the friends in Iraq gave him a name: they called him “the Afnán of all delights.” He was truly a blessed soul, a man worthy to be revered. He never failed in his duty, from the beginning of life till his last breath. As his days began, he became enamored of the sweet savors of God, and as they closed, he rendered a supreme service to the Cause of God. His life was righteous, his speech agreeable, his deeds worthy. Never did he fail in servitude, in devotion, and he would set about a major undertaking with alacrity and joy. His life, his behavior, what he did, what he left undone, his dealings with others—were all a way of teaching the Faith, and served as an example, an admonishment to the rest.
After he had achieved the honor, in Baghdad, of meeting Bahá’u’lláh, he returned to Persia, where he proceeded to teach the Faith with an eloquent tongue. And this is how to teach: with an eloquent tongue, a ready pen, a goodly character, pleasing words, and righteous ways and deeds. Even enemies bore witness to his high-mindedness and his spiritual qualities, and they would say: “There is none to compare with this man for his words and acts, his righteousness, trustworthiness, and strong faith; in all things he is unique; what a pity that he is a Bahá’í!” That is: “What a pity that he is not as we are, perverse, uncaring, committing sins, engrossed in sensuality, the creatures of our passions!” Gracious God! They saw with their own eyes that the moment he learned of the Faith he was transformed, he was severed from the world, he began to emit rays from the Sun of Truth; and still, they failed to profit by the example he set.
During his days in Yazd he was, outwardly, engaged in commercial pursuits, but actually teaching the Faith. His only aim was to exalt the Word of God, his only wish, to spread the Divine sweet savors, his only thought, to come nearer and ever nearer to the mansions of the Lord. There was no remembrance on his lips but the verses of God. He was an embodiment of the good pleasure of Bahá’u’lláh, a dawning-point of the grace of the Greatest Name. Many and many a time, Bahá’u’lláh expressed to those about Him, His extreme satisfaction with the Afnán; and consequently, everyone was certain that he would in future initiate some highly important task.
After the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, the Afnán, loyal and staunch in the Covenant, rendered even more services than he had before; this in spite of many obstacles, and an overwhelming load of work, and an infinite variety of matters all claiming his attention. He gave up his comfort, his business, his properties, estates, lands, hastened away to ‘Ishqábád and set about building the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár; this was a service of very great magnitude, for he thus became the first individual to erect a Bahá’í House of Worship, the first builder of a House to unify man. With the believers in ‘Ishqábád assisting him, he succeeded in carrying off the palm. For a long period in ‘Ishqábád, he had no rest. Day and night, he urged the believers on. Then they too exerted their efforts, and made sacrifices above and beyond their power; and God’s edifice arose, and word of it spread throughout East and West. The Afnán expended everything he possessed to rear this building, except for a trifling sum. This is the way to make a sacrifice. This is what it means to be faithful.
Afterward he journeyed to the Holy Land, and there beside that place where the chosen angels circle, in the shelter of the Shrine of the Báb, he passed his days, holy and pure, supplicating and entreating the Lord. God’s praise was always on his lips, and he chanted prayers with both his tongue and heart. He was wonderfully spiritual, strangely ashine. He is one of those souls who, before ever the drumbeat of “Am I not your Lord?” was sounded, drummed back: “Yea, verily Thou art!”2 It was in the Iraq period, during the years between the seventies and the eighties of the Hijra, that he first caught fire and loved the Light of the World, beheld the glory dawning in Bahá’u’lláh and witnessed the fulfillment of the words, “I am He that liveth in the Abhá Realm of Glory!”
The Afnán was an uncommonly happy man. Whenever I was saddened, I would meet with him, and on the instant, joy would return again. Praise be to God, at the last, close by the Shrine of the Báb, he hastened away in light to the Abhá Realm; but the loss of him deeply grieved ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá.
His bright grave is in Haifa, beside the Ḥaẓíratu’l-Quds, near Elijah’s Cave. A tomb must be erected there, and built solidly and well. May God shed upon his resting-place rays from the Paradise of Splendors, and lave that holy dust with the rains that beat down from the retreats of the Exalted Companion. Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious.
When he was very young, people thought of ‘Abdu’lláh Baghdádí as a libertine, solely devoted to pleasure. He was regarded by all as the sport of inordinate desires, mired down in his physical passions. But the moment he became a believer, he was carried away by the sweet savors of God, and was changed into a new creation. He found himself in a strange rapture, completely transformed. He had been of the world, now he was of Heaven; he had lived by the flesh, now he lived by the spirit; he had walked in darkness, now he walked in light. He had been a slave to his senses, now he was a thrall of God. He had been clay and earthenware before, now he was a dear-bought pearl; a dull and lusterless stone before, now a ruby glowing.
Even among the nonbelievers, people were astonished at the change. What could have come over this youth, they wanted to know; how did it happen that he was suddenly detached from the world, eager and devoted? “He was tainted, corrupted,” they said; “today he is abstemious and chaste. He was sunk in his appetites, but is now the soul of purity, living a righteous life. He has left the world behind him. He has broken up the feast, dismissed the revelers, and folded the banquet cloth away. His mind is distracted by love.”
Briefly, he let go his pleasures and possessions, and journeyed to ‘Akká on foot. His face had turned so bright, his nature so luminous, that it was a joy to look at him. I used to say: “Áqá ‘Abdu’lláh, what condition are you in?” And he would answer to this effect: “I was in darkness; now, by the favor of the Blessed Beauty, I am in light. I was a heap of dust; He changed me to a fertile field. I was in constant torment; I am now at peace. I was in love with my chains; He has broken them. I was avid for this one and that; now I cling to the Lord. I was a bird in a cage; He let me out. Today, though I live in the desert, and I have the bare ground for my bed and pillow, it feels like silk. In the old time, my coverlet was satin, and my soul was on the rack. Now I am homeless, and happy.”
But his burning heart broke when he saw how victimized was Bahá’u’lláh, how patiently He suffered. ‘Abdu’lláh yearned to die for Him. And thus it came about that he offered up his life for his tender Companion, and hastened away, out of this dark world to the country of light. His luminous grave is in ‘Akká. Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious; upon him be mercy, out of the grace of the Lord.
Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá was a blazing light. He was the son of the famous scholar Shaykh Muḥammad-i-Shibl; he lived in Iraq, and from his earliest youth was clearly unique and beyond compare; wise, brave, deserving in every way, he was known far and wide. From childhood, guided by his father, he had lit the light of faith in the chapel of his heart. He had rid himself of the hindering veils of illusion, gazed about with perceptive eyes, witnessed great new signs of God and, regardless of the consequences, had cried aloud: “The earth hath shone out with the light of her Lord!”1
Gracious God! The opposition was powerful, the penalty obvious, the friends, every one of them, terrified, and off in some corner hiding their belief; at such a time this intrepid personality boldly went about his business, and like a man, faced up to every tyrant. The one individual who, in the year seventy, was famed in Iraq for his love of Bahá’u’lláh, was this honored person. A few other souls, then in Baghdad and its environs, had crept away into nooks and crannies and, imprisoned in their own lethargy, there they remained. But this admirable Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá would boldly, proudly come and go like a man, and the hostile, because of his physical strength and his courage, were afraid to attack him.
After Bahá’u’lláh’s return from His journey to Kurdistán, the virile strength and bearing of that gallant individual was still further enhanced. Whenever leave was granted, he would attend upon Bahá’u’lláh, and would hear from His lips expressions of favor and grace. He was the leader, among all the friends in Iraq, and after the great separation, when the convoy of the Beloved left for Constantinople, he remained loyal and staunch, and withstood the foe. He girded himself for service and openly, publicly, observed by all, taught the Faith.
As soon as Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration that He was “He Whom God Shall Manifest”2 had become known far and wide, Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá—being among those souls who had become believers prior to this Declaration, and before the call was raised—cried out: “Verily, we believe!” Because, even before this Declaration, the very light itself pierced through the veils that had closed off the peoples of the world, so that every seeing eye beheld the splendor, and every longing soul could look upon its Well-Beloved.
With all his strength, then, Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá arose to serve the Cause. He rested neither day nor night. After the Ancient Beauty had departed to the Most Great Prison; after the friends had been taken prisoner in Baghdad and sent away to Mosul; after the hostility of outstanding enemies and the opposition of the populace of Baghdad, he did not falter, but continued to stand his ground. A long time passed in this way. But with his yearning for Bahá’u’lláh, the tumult in his heart was such that he set out alone for the Most Great Prison. He reached there during the period of extreme restrictions, and had the honor of entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh.
He asked then for leave to find a lodging somewhere in the neighborhood of ‘Akká, and was permitted to reside in Beirut. There he went and faithfully served the Cause, assisting all the pilgrims as they arrived and departed. He was an excellent servitor, a generous and kindly host, and he sacrificed himself to see to their affairs as they passed through. For all this he became known everywhere.
When the Sun of Truth had set and the Light of the Concourse on high had ascended, Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá remained loyal to the Covenant. He stood so firm against the waverers that they dared not draw a breath. He was like a shooting star, a missile hurled against the demons;3 against the violators, an avenging sword. Not one of the violators so much as dared pass through the street where he lived and if they chanced to meet him they were like those described in the Qur’án: “deaf, dumb, blind: therefore they shall not retrace their steps from error!”4 He was the very embodiment of: “The blame of the blamer shall not deflect him from the path of God, and the terrible might of the reviler shall not shake him.”
Living in the same manner as before, he served the believers with a free mind and pure intent. With all his heart, he assisted the travelers to the Holy Land, those who had come to circumambulate that place which is ringed around by the Company on high. Later he moved from Beirut to Iskandarún, and there he spent some time, until, drawn as if by a magnet to the Lord, detached from all save Him, rejoicing in His glad tidings, holding fast to the cord that none can sever—he ascended on the wings of the spirit to his Exalted Companion.
May God lift him up to the highest Heaven, to the fellowship of glory.5 May God bring him into the land of lights, the mysterious Kingdom, the assemblage of the splendors of the mighty, all powerful Lord. Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious.