Sulaymán Khán was the emigrant and settler who was given the title of Jamáli’d-Dín. He was born in Tunukábán, into an old family of that region. He was cradled in wealth, bred to ease, reared in the comfortable ways of luxury. From his early childhood he had high ambitions and noble aims, and he was honor and aspiration personified. At first he planned to outdistance all his fellows and achieve some lofty rank. For this reason he left his birthplace and went to the capital, Ṭihrán, where he hoped to become a leader, surpassing the rest of his generation.
In Ṭihrán, however, the fragrance of God was borne his way, and he listened to the summons of the Well-Beloved. He was saved from the perturbations of high rank; from all the din and clatter, the glory, the pomps and palaces, of this heap of dust, the world. He threw off his chains, and by God’s grace, discovered peace. To him, the seat of honor was now no different from the place where people removed their slippers at the door, and high office was a thing soon gone and forgotten. He was cleansed from the stain of living, his heart was eased, for he had burst the shackles that held him to this present life.
Putting on the garments of a pilgrim, he set out to find his loving Friend, and came to the Most Great Prison. Here for a time he rested, under the protection of the Ancient Beauty; here he gained the honor of entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, and listened to momentous teachings from His holy lips. When he had breathed the scented air, when his eyes were illumined and his ears attuned to the words of the Lord, he was permitted to make a journey to India, and bidden to teach the true seekers after truth.
Resting his heart on God, in love with the sweet savors of God, on fire with the love of God, he left for India. There he wandered, and whenever he came to a city he raised the call of the Great Kingdom and delivered the good news that the Speaker of the Mount had come. He became one of God’s farmers, scattering the holy seed of the Teachings. This sowing was fruitful. Through him a considerable number found their way into the Ark of Salvation. The light of Divine guidance was shed upon those souls, and their eyes were brightened with beholding the mighty signs of God. He became the focal point of every gathering, the honored guest. To this day, in India, the results of his auspicious presence are clear to see, and those whom he taught are now, in their turn, guiding others to the Faith.
Following his Indian journey, Sulaymán Khán came back to Bahá’u’lláh, but when he arrived, the ascension had taken place. Continuously, he shed his tears, and his heart was a thurible for sorrow. But he remained loyal to the Covenant, well rooted in Heaven.
Not long before His passing, Bahá’u’lláh had said: “Should someone go to Persia, and manage to convey it, this message must be delivered to Amínu’s-Sulṭán:1 ‘You took steps to help the prisoners; you freely rendered them a befitting service; this service will not be forgotten. Rest assured that it will bring you honor and call down a blessing upon all your affairs. O Amínu’s-Sulṭán! Every house that is raised up will one day fall to ruin, except the house of God; that will grow more massive and be better guarded day by day. Then serve the Court of God with all your might, that you may discover the way to a home in Heaven, and found an edifice that will endure forever.’” After the departure of Bahá’u’lláh, this message was conveyed to Amínu’s-Sulṭán.
In Ádhirbáyján the Turkish clerics had brought down Áqá Siyyid Asadu’lláh, hunted him down in Ardabíl and plotted to shed his blood; but the Governor, by a ruse, managed to save him from being physically beaten and then murdered: he sent the victim to Tabríz in chains, and from there had him conducted to Ṭihrán. Amínu’s-Sulṭán came to the prisoner’s assistance and, in his own office, provided Asadu’lláh with a sanctuary. One day when the Prime Minister was ill, Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh arrived to visit him. The Minister then explained the situation, and lavished praise upon his captive; so much so that the Sháh, as he left, showed great kindness to Asadu’lláh, and spoke words of consolation. This, when at an earlier time, the captive would have been strung up at once to adorn some gallows-tree, and shot down with a gun.
After a time Amínu’s-Sulṭán lost the Sovereign’s favor. Hated, in disgrace, he was banished to the city of Qum. Thereupon this servant dispatched Sulaymán Khán to Persia, carrying a prayer and a missive written by me. The prayer besought God’s aid and bounty and succor for the fallen Minister, so that he might, from that corner of oblivion, be recalled to favor. In the letter we clearly stated: “Prepare to return to Ṭihrán. Soon will God’s help arrive; the light of grace will shine on you again; with full authority again, you will find yourself free, and Prime Minister. This is your reward for the efforts you exerted on behalf of a man who was oppressed.” That letter and that prayer are today in the possession of the family of Amínu’s-Sulṭán.
From Ṭihrán, Sulaymán Khán journeyed to Qum, and according to his instructions went to live in a cell in the shrine of the Immaculate.2 The relatives of Amínu’s-Sulṭán came to visit there; Sulaymán Khán inquired after the fallen Minister and expressed the wish to meet him. When the Minister learned of this, he sent for Sulaymán Khán. Placing all his trust in God, Sulaymán Khán hastened to the Minister’s house and, meeting him in private, presented the letter from ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. The Minister rose, and received the letter with extreme respect. Then addressing the Khán he said: “I had given up hope. If this longing is fulfilled, I will arise to serve; I will preserve and uphold the friends of God.” Then he expressed his gratitude, indebtedness and joy, and added, “Praise be to God, I hope again; I feel that by His aid, my dream will come true.”
In brief, the Minister pledged himself to serve the friends, and Sulaymán Khán took his leave. The Minister then desired to give him a sum of money to defray the expenses of his journey, but Sulaymán Khán refused, and despite the Minister’s insistence, would accept nothing. The Khán had not yet reached the Holy Land on his return journey when Amínu’s-Sulṭán was recalled from exile and immediately summoned to the Premiership again. He assumed the position and functioned with full authority; and at first he did indeed support the believers, but toward the end, in the case of the Yazd martyrdoms, he was neglectful. He neither helped nor protected the sufferers in any way, nor would he listen to their repeated pleas, until all of them were put to death. Accordingly he too was dismissed, a ruined man; that flag which had flown so proudly was reversed, and that hoping heart despaired.
Sulaymán Khán lived on in the Holy Land, near the Shrine which the Exalted Assembly circle about. He kept company with the believers until the day of inescapable death, when he set out for the mansions of Him Who liveth, and dieth not. He turned his back on this heap of dust, the world, and hurried away to the country of light. He broke out of this cage of contingent being and soared into the endless, placeless Realm. May God enfold him in the waters of His mercy, cause His forgiveness to rain down upon him, and bestow on him the wonders of abounding grace. Salutations be unto him, and praise.
This was a patient and long-enduring man, a native of Káshán. He was one of the very earliest believers. The down was not yet upon his cheek when he drank of the love of God, saw with his own eyes the heavenly table spread out before him, and received his faith and his portion of abounding grace.
In a little while he left his home and set out for the rose garden that was Baghdad, where he achieved the honor of entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. He spent some time in Iraq, and won a crown of endless favor: he would enter the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and many a time would accompany Him on foot to the Shrine of the Two Káẓims; this was his great delight.
‘Abdu’r-Raḥmán was among the prisoners exiled to Mosul, and later he fairly dragged himself to the fortress at ‘Akká. Here he lived, blessed by Bahá’u’lláh. He carried on a small business, trifling, but he was content with it, happy and at peace. Thus, walking the path of righteousness, he lived to be eighty years old, at which time, serenely patient, he soared away to the Threshold of God. May the Lord enfold him there with His bounty and compassion, and clothe him in the garment of forgiveness. His luminous grave is in ‘Akká.
This man, noble and high-minded, was the son of the respected ‘Abdu’l-Faṭṭáḥ who was in the ‘Akká prison. Learning that his father was a captive there, he came with all speed to the fortress so that he too might have a share of those dire afflictions. He was a man wise, understanding, in a tumult from drinking the wine of the love of God, but with a wonderful, basic serenity and calm.
He had inherited the nature of his father, and he exemplified the saying that the child is the secret essence of its sire. For this reason, over a long period, he found delight in the neighborhood of the Divine Presence, enjoying utter peace. Daytimes, he would carry on his trade, and at night he would come in all haste to the door of the house, to be with the friends. He was close to all those who were staunch and true; he was full of courage; he was grateful to God, abstemious and chaste, expectant of and relying on the bounty and grace of the Lord. He made his father’s lamp to shine, brightened the household of ‘Abdu’l-Faṭṭáḥ, and left descendants to remain behind him in this swiftly passing world.
He always did what he could to provide for the happiness of the believers; he always saw to their well-being. He was sagacious, grave, and steadfast. By God’s grace, he stayed loyal to the end, and sound in faith. May God give him to drink from the cup of forgiveness; may he sip from the spring of God’s bounty and good pleasure; may God raise him up to the heights of Divine bestowal. His sweet-scented tomb is in ‘Akká.
In the flower of tender youth, Muḥammad-‘Alí, the illumined, heard the cry of God, and lost his heart to heavenly grace. He entered the service of the Afnán, offshoot of the Holy Tree, and lived happy and content. This was how he came to the city of ‘Akká, and was for quite a time present at the Sacred Threshold, winning a crown of lasting glory. The eye of Bahá’u’lláh’s grace and favor was upon him. He served with a loyal heart. He had a happy nature, a comely face; he was a man believing, seeking, tested and tried.
During the days of Bahá’u’lláh, Muḥammad-‘Alí remained steadfast, and after the Supreme Affliction his heart did not fail him, for he had drunk the wine of the Covenant and his thoughts were fixed on the bounties of God. He moved to Haifa and lived, a firm believer, near the Ḥaẓíratu’l-Quds by the Holy Shrine on Mount Carmel till his final breath, when death came and the carpet of his earthly life was rolled up and put away.
This man was a true servant of the Threshold, a good friend to the believers. All were pleased with him, finding him an excellent companion, gentle and mild. May God succor him in His exalted Kingdom, and give him a home in the Abhá Realm, and send upon him abounding grace from the gardens of Heaven—the place of meeting, the place of the mystical contemplation of God. His amber-scented dust is in Haifa.
Early in his youth this spiritual man, who came from Tabríz, had sensed the mystic knowledge and drunk the heady wine of God, and he remained staunch as ever in the Faith during his years of helpless age.
He lived for a time in Ádhirbáyján, enamored of the Lord. When he became widely known thereabouts as one bearing the name of God, the people ruined his life. His relatives and friends turned against him, finding a new excuse to hound him with every passing day. Finally he broke up his home, took his family and fled to Adrianople. He reached there during the close of the Adrianople period and was taken prisoner by the oppressors.
Along with us homeless wanderers, and under the protection of the Ancient Beauty, he came to the Most Great Prison and was a confidant and companion, sharing with us the calamities and tribulations, humble and long-enduring. Afterward, when the restrictions were somewhat relaxed, he engaged in trade, and through the bounty of Bahá’u’lláh was comfortable and at peace. But his body had become enfeebled from the earlier hardships, and all the suffering, and his faculties had deteriorated; so that ultimately he fell ill, beyond hope of a remedy; and not far from Bahá’u’lláh, and shadowed by His protection, he hastened away from this least of worlds to the high Heavens, from this dark place to the land of lights. May God immerse him in the waters of forgiveness; may He bring him into the gardens of Paradise, and there keep him safe forevermore. His pure dust rests in ‘Akká.
This man, a carpenter and a master craftsman, came from Káshán. For faith and certitude, he was like a sword drawn from the scabbard. He was well known in his own city as a man righteous, true and worthy of trust. He was high-minded, abstemious and chaste. When he became a believer, his urgent longing to meet Bahá’u’lláh could not be stilled; full of joyous love, he went out of the Land of Káf (Káshán) and traveled to Iraq, where he beheld the splendor of the rising Sun.
He was a mild man, patient, quiet, mostly keeping to himself. In Baghdad, he worked at his craft, was in touch with the friends, and sustained by the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. For some time he lived in utter happiness and peace. Then those who had been taken prisoner were sent away to Mosul, and he was among the victims and like them exposed to the wrath of the oppressors. He remained in captivity for quite a while and when freed came to ‘Akká. Here too he was a friend to the prisoners and in the Fortress he continued to practice his skill. As usual he was inclined to solitude, apt to stay apart from friend and stranger alike, and much of the time lived by himself.
Then the supreme ordeal, the great desolation, came upon us. Qulám-‘Alí took on the carpentry work of the Holy Tomb, exerting all his sure powers. To this day, the glass roof which is over the inner courtyard of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh remains as the product of his skill. He was a man crystal clear of heart. His face shone; his inner condition was constant; at no time was he changeable or unstable. He was staunch, loving, and true till his last breath.
After some years in this neighborhood, he rose upward to the neighborhood of the all-embracing mercy of God, and became a friend to those who dwell in the high Heavens. He had the honor of meeting Bahá’u’lláh in both worlds. This is the most precious bestowal, the costliest of all gifts. To him be salutations and praise. His bright grave is in ‘Akká.
His name was Mírzá Áqá and he was spirit itself. He came from Káshán. In the days of the Báb, he was drawn to the sweet savors of God; it was then he caught fire. He was a fine youth, handsome, full of charm and grace. He was a calligrapher second to none, a poet, and he had as well a remarkable singing voice. He was wise and perceptive; staunch in the Faith of God; a flame of God’s love, severed from all but God.
During the years when Bahá’u’lláh resided in Iraq, Jináb-i-Muníb left Káshán and hastened to His presence. He went to live in a small and humble house, barely managed to subsist, and set about committing to writing the words of God. On his brow, the bestowals of the Manifestation were clear to see. In all this mortal world he had only one possession, his daughter; and even his daughter he had left behind in Persia, as he hurried away to Iraq.
At the time when, with all pomp and ceremony, Bahá’u’lláh and His retinue departed from Baghdad, Jináb-i-Muníb accompanied the party on foot. The young man had been known in Persia for his easy and agreeable life and his love of pleasure; also for being somewhat soft and delicate, and used to having his own way. It is obvious what a person of this type endured, going on foot from Baghdad to Constantinople. Still, he gladly measured out the desert miles, and he spent his days and nights chanting prayers, communing with God and calling upon Him.
He was a close companion of mine on that journey. There were nights when we would walk, one to either side of the howdah of Bahá’u’lláh, and the joy we had defies description. Some of those nights he would sing poems; among them he would chant the odes of Ḥáfiẓ, like the one that begins, “Come, let us scatter these roses, let us pour out this wine,”1 and that other: To our King though we bow the knee, We are kings of the morning star. No changeable colors have we— Red lions, black dragons we are!
The Blessed Beauty, at the time of His departure from Constantinople, directed Jináb-i-Muníb to return to Persia and promulgate the Faith. Accordingly he went back, and over a considerable period he rendered outstanding services, especially in Ṭihrán. Then he came again, from Persia to Adrianople, and entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, enjoying the privilege of attending upon Him. At the time of the greatest catastrophe, that is, the exile to ‘Akká, he was made a prisoner on this Pathway and traveled, by now feeble and ill, with the party of Bahá’u’lláh.
He had been stricken by a severe ailment and was pitifully weak. Still, he would not agree to remaining behind in Adrianople where he could receive treatment, because he wanted to sacrifice his life and fall at the feet of his Lord. We journeyed along till we reached the sea. He was now so feeble that it took three men to lift him and carry him onto the ship. Once he was on board, his condition grew so much worse that the captain insisted we put him off the ship, but because of our repeated pleas he waited till we reached Smyrna. In Smyrna, the captain addressed Colonel ‘Umar Bayk, the government agent who accompanied us, and told him: “If you don’t put him ashore, I will do it by force, because the ship will not accept passengers in this condition.”
We were compelled, then, to take Jináb-i-Muníb to the hospital at Smyrna. Weak as he was, unable to utter a word, he dragged himself to Bahá’u’lláh, lay down at His feet, and wept. On the countenance of Bahá’u’lláh as well, there was intense pain.
We carried Jináb-i-Muníb to the hospital, but the functionaries allowed us not more than one hour’s time. We laid him down on the bed; we laid his fair head on the pillow; we held him and kissed him many times. Then they forced us away. It is clear how we felt. Whenever I think of that moment, the tears come; my heart is heavy and I summon up the remembrance of what he was. A great man; infinitely wise, he was, steadfast, modest and grave; and there was no one like him for faith and certitude. In him the inner and outer perfections, the spiritual and physical, were joined together. That is why he could receive endless bounty and grace.
His grave is in Smyrna, but it is off by itself, and deserted. Whenever this can be done, the friends must search for it, and that neglected dust must be changed into a much-frequented shrine,2 so that pilgrims who visit there may breathe in the sweet scent of his last resting-place.
Among that company of pure and goodly souls was Mírzá Muṣṭafá, a leading citizen of Naráq and one of the earliest believers. His face shone with the love of God. His mind was concerned with the anemones of mystic meanings, fair as meadows and beds of flowers.
It was in the days of the Báb that he first set his lips to the intoxicating cup of spiritual truth, and he had a strange tumult in his brain, a fierce yearning in his heart. In the path of God he threw down whatever he possessed; he gambled everything away, gave up his home, his kin, his physical well-being, his peace of mind. Like a fish on the sand, he struggled to reach the water of life. He came to Iraq, joined the friends of his soul, and entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. For some time he lived there, joyful and content, receiving endless bounty. Then he was sent back to Persia, where, to the utmost of his capacity, he served the Faith. He was a whole and accomplished man, staunch, firmly rooted as the hills; sound, and worthy of trust. To him, in all that turmoil and panic, the wild dogs howling were only buzzing flies; tests and trials rested his mind; when cast into the fire of afflictions that broke out, he proved to be shining gold.
On the day when the convoy of Bahá’u’lláh was leaving Constantinople for Adrianople, Mírzá Muṣṭafá arrived from Persia. There was no opportunity for him to reach Bahá’u’lláh except once; and he was thereupon directed to return to Persia. At such a moment he had the honor of being received.
When Mírzá Muṣṭafá reached Ádhirbáyján, he began to spread the Faith. Day and night he remained in a state of prayer, and there in Tabríz he drank of a brimming cup. His fervor increased, his teaching raised a tumult. Then the eminent scholar, the renowned Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Khurásání, came to Ádhirbáyján and the two of them joined forces. The result was such overwhelming spiritual fire that they taught the Faith openly and publicly and the people of Tabríz rose up in wrath.
The farráshes hunted them down, and caught Mírzá Muṣṭafá. But then the oppressors said, “Mírzá Muṣṭafá had two long locks of hair. This cannot be the right man.” At once, Mírzá Muṣṭafá took off his hat and down fell the locks of hair. “Behold!” he told them. “I am the one.” They arrested him then. They tortured him and Shaykh Aḥmad until finally, in Tabríz, those two great men drained the cup of death and, martyred, hastened away to the Supreme Horizon.
From youth till old age, this illustrious man, Mírzá Muṣṭafá, devoted his entire life to service on the pathway of God. Today he dwells in the all-glorious Realm, in the neighborhood of the ineffable mercy of God, and he rejoices with exceeding gladness, and he celebrates the praise of his Lord. Blessedness be his, and a goodly home.1 To him be tidings of great joy, from the Lord of Lords. May God grant him an exalted station, in that high Company.
This distinguished man was one of the greatest of all the Báb’s companions and all the loved ones of Bahá’u’lláh. When he lived under Islám, he was already famed for his purity and holiness of life. He was talented and highly accomplished in many directions. He was the leader and spiritual exemplar of the entire population of Najaf-Ábád, and the eminent of that area showed him unbounded respect. When he spoke out, his was the deciding opinion; when he passed judgment, it took effect; for he was known to all as the standard, and the authority of last resort.
He had no sooner learned of the Báb’s Declaration than he cried out from the depths of his heart, “O our Lord! we have indeed heard the voice of one that called. He called us to the Faith—‘Believe ye on your Lord’—and we have believed.”1 He rid himself of all impeding veils; his doubts dispelled, he began to extol and glorify the Beauty promised from of old. In his own home, and at Iṣfahán, he became notorious for declaring far and wide that the advent of the long-desired One had come to pass. By the hypocrites, he was mocked, cursed and tormented. As for the people, “the mass, as a snake in the grass,” who had worshiped him before, now rose up to do him harm. Every day brought on a fresh cruelty, a new torment from his oppressors. He endured it all, and went on teaching with great eloquence. He remained staunch, unmoved, as their wrath increased. In his hands he held out a full cup of Divine glad tidings, offering to all who came that heady draught of the knowledge of God. He was utterly without fear, knew nothing of danger, and swiftly followed the holy path of the Lord.
After the attempt on the Sháh, however, there was no shelter anywhere; no evening, no morning, without intense affliction. And since his staying on in Najaf-Ábád at such a time was a great danger to the believers, he left there and traveled to Iraq. It was during the period when the Blessed Beauty was in Kurdistán, when He had gone into seclusion and was living in the cave on Sar-Galú, that Jináb-i-Zayn arrived in Baghdad. But his hopes were dashed, his heart grieved, for all was silence: there was no word of the Cause of God, no name nor fame of it; there were no gatherings, no call was being raised. Yaḥyá, terror-stricken, had vanished into some dark hiding place. Torpid, flaccid, he had made himself invisible. Try as he might, Jináb-i-Zayn could find not one soul. He met on a single occasion with His Eminence Kalím. But it was a period when great caution was being exercised by the believers, and he went on to Karbilá. He spent some time there, and occupied himself with copying out the Writings, after which he returned home to Najaf-Ábád. Here the foul persecutions and attacks of his relentless enemies could hardly be endured.
But when the Trump had been sounded a second time,2 he was restored to life. To the tidings of Bahá’u’lláh’s advent his soul replied; to the drum beat, “Am I not your Lord?” his heart drummed back: “Yea, verily!”3 Eloquently, he taught again, using both rational and historical proofs to establish that He Whom God Shall Manifest—the Promised One of the Báb—had indeed appeared. He was like refreshing waters to those who thirsted, and to seekers, a clear answer from the Concourse on high. In his writing and speaking, he was first among the righteous, in his elucidations and commentaries a mighty sign of God.
In Persia his life was in imminent peril; and since remaining at Najaf-Ábád would have stirred up the agitators and brought on riots, he hastened away to Adrianople, seeking sanctuary with God, and crying out as he went, “Lord, Lord, here am I!” Wearing the lover’s pilgrim dress, he reached the Mecca of his longing. For some time he tarried there, in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, after which he was commanded to leave, with Jináb-i-Mírzá Ja‘far-i-Yazdí, and promulgate the Faith. He returned to Persia and began to teach most eloquently, so that the glad tidings of the Lord’s advent resounded to the high heavens. In the company of Mírzá Ja‘far he traveled everywhere, through cities flourishing and ruined, spreading the good news that the Blessed Beauty was now manifest.
When the believers were taken prisoner in Iraq and banished to Mosul, Jináb-i-Zayn became their chief. He remained for some time in Mosul, a consolation to the rest, working to solve their many problems. He would kindle love in people’s hearts, and make them kind to one another. Later he asked for permission to attend upon Bahá’u’lláh; when this was granted he arrived at the Prison and had the honor of entering the presence of his Well-Beloved. He then busied himself with writing down the sacred verses, and encouraging the friends. He was love itself to the emigrants, and warmed the travelers’ hearts. He never rested for a moment, and received new grace and bounty every day, meanwhile taking down the Bahá’í Scriptures with faultless care.
From his early years till his last breath, this eminent man never failed in service to the Manifestation. After the ascension he was consumed with such grieving, such constant tears and anguish, that as the days passed by, he wasted away. He remained faithful to the Covenant, and was a close companion to this servant of the Light of the World, but he longed to rise out of this life, and awaited his departure from day to day. At last, serene and happy, rejoicing in the tidings of the Kingdom, he soared away to that mysterious land. There he was loosed from every sorrow, and in the gathering-place of splendors he was immersed in light.
Unto him be salutations and praise from the luminous Realm, and the glory of the All-Glorious from the Concourse on high, and great joy in that Kingdom which endures forever. May God provide him with an exalted station in the Abhá Paradise.
This man of God came from the district of Tafrísh. He was detached from the world, fearless, independent of kindred and stranger alike. He was one of the earliest believers, and belonged to the company of the faithful. It was in Persia that he won the honor of belief, and began to assist the friends; he was a servant to every believer, a trusted helper to every traveler. With Músáy-i-Qumí, upon whom be the glory of God, he came to Iraq, received his portion of bounty from the Light of the World, and was honored with entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, attending upon Him and becoming the object of bestowals and grace.
After a time, ‘Aẓím and Ḥájí Mírzá Músá went back to Persia, where he continued to render service to the friends, purely for God’s sake. Without wage or stipend he served Mírzá Naṣru’lláh of Tafrísh for a number of years, his faith and certitude growing stronger with every passing day. Mírzá Naṣru’lláh then left Persia for Adrianople, and in his company came Jináb-i-‘Aẓím, and entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. He kept on serving with love and loyalty, purely for the sake of God; and when the convoy departed for ‘Akká, ‘Aẓím received the distinction of accompanying Bahá’u’lláh, and he entered the Most Great Prison.
In the prison he was chosen to serve the Household; he became the water carrier both within doors and on the outside. He undertook many hard tasks in the barracks. He had no rest at all, day or night. ‘Aẓím—“the great, the magnificent”—was magnificent as to character. He was patient, long-suffering, forbearing, shunning the stain of this earth. And since he was the family water carrier, he had the honor of coming into Bahá’u’lláh’s presence every day.
He was a good companion to all the friends, a consolation to their hearts; he brought happiness to all of them, the present and the absent as well. Many and many a time, Bahá’u’lláh was heard to express His approval of this man. He always maintained the same inner condition; he was constant, never subject to change. He was always happy-looking. He did not know the meaning of fatigue. He was never despondent. When anyone asked a service of him, he performed it at once. He was staunch and firm in his faith, a tree that grew in the scented garden of God’s tenderness.
After he had served at the Holy Threshold for many long years, he hastened away, tranquil, serene, rejoicing in the tidings of the Kingdom, out of this swiftly fading life to the world that does not die. The friends, all of them, mourned his passing, but the Blessed Beauty eased their hearts, for He lavished grace and praise on him who was gone.
This knight of the battlefield was one of the most learned of seekers after truth, well versed in many branches of knowledge. For a long time he was in the schools, specializing in the fundamentals of religion and religious jurisprudence, and making researches into philosophy and metaphysics, logic and history, the contemplative and the narrated sciences.1 He began, however, to note that his fellows were arrogant and self-satisfied, and this repelled him. It was then that he heard the cry out of the Supreme Concourse, and without a moment’s hesitation he raised up his voice and shouted, “Yea, verily!”; and he repeated the words, “O our Lord! We have heard the voice of one that called. He called us to the Faith—‘Believe ye on your Lord’—and we have believed.”2
When he saw the great tumult and the riots in Yazd, he left his homeland and went to Najaf, the noble city; here for safety’s sake he mingled with the scholars of religion, becoming renowned among them for his own wide knowledge. Then, listening to the voice from Baghdad, he hastened there, and changed his mode of dress. That is, he put a layman’s hat on his head, and went to work as a carpenter to earn his living. He traveled once to Ṭihrán, returned, and sheltered by the grace of Bahá’u’lláh was patient and content, rejoicing in his garb of poverty. In spite of his great learning he was humble, self-effacing, lowly. He kept silent at all times, and was a good companion to every sort of man.
On the journey from Iraq to Constantinople, Mírzá Ja‘far was one of Bahá’u’lláh’s retinue, and in seeing to the needs of the friends, he was a partner to this servant. When we would come to a stopping-place the believers, exhausted by the long hours of travel, would rest or sleep. Mírzá Ja‘far and I would go here and there to the surrounding villages to find oats, straw and other provisions for the caravan.3 Since there was a famine in that area, it sometimes happened that we would be roaming from village to village from after the noon hour until half the night was gone. As best we could, we would procure whatever was available, then return to the convoy.
Mírzá Ja‘far was patient and long-suffering, a faithful attendant at the Holy Threshold. He was a servant to all the friends, working day and night. A quiet man, sparing of speech, in all things relying entirely upon God. He continued to serve in Adrianople until the banishment to ‘Akká was brought about and he too was made a prisoner. He was grateful for this, continually offering thanks, and saying, “Praise be to God! I am in the fully-laden Ark!”4
The Prison was a garden of roses to him, and his narrow cell a wide and fragrant place. At the time when we were in the barracks he fell dangerously ill and was confined to his bed. He suffered many complications, until finally the doctor gave him up and would visit him no more. Then the sick man breathed his last. Mírzá Áqá Ján ran to Bahá’u’lláh, with word of the death. Not only had the patient ceased to breathe, but his body was already going limp. His family were gathered about him, mourning him, shedding bitter tears. The Blessed Beauty said, “Go; chant the prayer of Yá Sháfí—O Thou, the Healer—and Mírzá Ja‘far will come alive. Very rapidly, he will be as well as ever.” I reached his bedside. His body was cold and all the signs of death were present. Slowly, he began to stir; soon he could move his limbs, and before an hour had passed he lifted his head, sat up, and proceeded to laugh and tell jokes.
He lived for a long time after that, occupied as ever with serving the friends. This giving service was a point of pride with him: to all, he was a servant. He was always modest and humble, calling God to mind, and to the highest degree full of hope and faith. Finally, while in the Most Great Prison, he abandoned this earthly life and winged his way to the life beyond.
This man who was close to the Divine Threshold was the respected son of ‘Alí-‘Askar-i-Tabrízí. Full of yearning love, he came with his father from Tabríz to Adrianople, and by his own wish, went on with joy and hope to the Most Great Prison. From the day of his arrival at the fortress of ‘Akká he took over the coffee service, and waited upon the friends. This accomplished man was so patient, so docile, that over a forty-year period, despite extreme difficulties (for day and night, friend and stranger alike thronged the doors), he attended upon each and every one who came, faithfully helping them all. During all that time Ḥusayn-Áqá never offended a soul, nor did anyone, where he was concerned, utter a single complaint. This was truly a miracle, and no one else could have established such a record of service. He was always smiling, attentive as to the tasks committed to his care, known as a man to trust. In the Cause of God he was staunch, proud and true; in times of calamity he was patient and long-suffering.
After the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh the fires of tests leaped up and a whirlwind of violation battered the edifice down. This believer, in spite of a close tie of kinship, remained loyal, showing such strength and firmness that he manifested the words: “In the Cause of God, the blame of the blamer shall he not fear.”1 Not for a moment did he hesitate, nor waver in his faith, but he stood firm as a mountain, proud as an impregnable citadel, and rooted deep.
The Covenant-breakers took his mother away to their own place, where her daughter lived. They did everything they could think of to unsettle her faith. To an extent beyond belief, they lavished favors upon her, and plied her with kindnesses, hiding the fact that they had broken the Covenant. Finally, however, that respected handmaid of Bahá’u’lláh detected the odor of violation, whereupon she instantly quit the Mansion of Bahjí and hurried back to ‘Akká. “I am the handmaid of the Blessed Beauty,” she said, “and loyal to His Covenant and Testament. Though my son-in-law were a prince of the realm, what would that profit me? I am not to be won over by kinship and displays of affection. I am not concerned with external tokens of friendliness from those who are the very embodiment of selfish desire. I stand by the Covenant, and I hold to the Testament.” She would not consent to meet with the Covenant-breakers again; she freed herself completely from them, and turned her face to God.
As for Ḥusayn-Áqá, never did he separate himself from ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. He had the utmost consideration for me and was my constant companion, and it followed that his passing was a formidable blow. Even now, whenever he comes to mind I grieve, and mourn his loss. But God be praised that this man of God, in the days of the Blessed Beauty, remained at all times in close proximity to His House, and was the object of His good pleasure. Time and again, Bahá’u’lláh was heard to comment that Ḥusayn-Áqá had been created to perform this service.
After forty years of serving, he forsook this swiftly passing world and soared away to the realms of God. Greetings and praise be unto him, and mercy from his bountiful Lord. May his grave be encircled with lights that stream from the exalted Companion. His resting-place is in Haifa.
The distinguished ‘Alí-‘Askar was a merchant from Tabríz. He was much respected in Ádhirbáyján by all who knew him, and recognized for godliness and trustworthiness, for piety and strong faith. The people of Tabríz, one and all, acknowledged his excellence and praised his character and way of life, his qualities and talents. He was one of the earliest believers, and one of the most notable.
When the Trumpet first sounded, he fainted away, and at the second blast, he was awakened to new life.1 He became a candle burning with the love of God, a goodly tree in the Abhá gardens. He led all his household, his other kindred and his friends to the Faith, and successfully rendered many services; but the tyranny of the wicked brought him to an agonizing pass, and he was beset by new afflictions every day. Still, he did not slacken and was not dispirited; on the contrary, his faith, his certitude and self-sacrifice increased. Finally he could endure his homeland no more. Accompanied by his family, he arrived in Adrianople, and here, in financial straits, but content, he spent his days, with dignity, patience, acquiescence, and offering thanks.
Then he took a little merchandise with him from Adrianople, and left for the city of Jum‘ih-Bázár, to earn his livelihood. What he had with him was trifling, but still, it was carried off by thieves. When the Persian Consul learned of this he presented a document to the Government, naming an enormous sum as the value of the stolen goods. By chance the thieves were caught and proved to be in possession of considerable funds. It was decided to investigate the case. The Consul called in Ḥájí ‘Alí-‘Askar and told him: “These thieves are very rich. In my report to the Government, I wrote that the amount of the theft was great. Therefore you must attend the trial and testify conformably to what I wrote.”
The Ḥájí replied: “Your Honor, Khán, the stolen goods amounted to very little. How can I report something that is not true? When they question me, I will give the facts exactly as they are. I consider this my duty, and only this.”
The Consul was beside himself. He began to threaten and belabor ‘Alí-‘Askar. “Do you want to make me out a liar?” he cried. “Do you want to make me a laughingstock? I will jail you; I will have you banished; there is no torment I will spare you. This very instant I will hand you over to the police, and I will tell them that you are an enemy of the state, and that you are to be manacled and taken to the Persian frontier.”
The Ḥájí only smiled. “Jináb-i-Khán,” he said. “I have given up my life for the truth. I have nothing else. You are telling me to lie and bear false witness. Do with me as you please; I will not turn my back on what is right.”
When the Consul saw that there was no way to make ‘Alí-‘Askar testify to a falsehood, he said: “It is better, then, for you to leave this place, so that I can inform the Government that the owner of the merchandise is no longer available and has gone away. Otherwise I shall be disgraced.”
That fine and rare old man was taken captive in Adrianople along with the rest, and he accompanied the Blessed Beauty to the ‘Akká fortress, this prison-house of sorrows. With all his family, he was jailed in the path of God for a period of years; and he was always offering thanks, because the prison was a palace to him, and captivity a reason to rejoice. In all those years he was never known to express himself except in thankfulness and praise. The greater the tyranny of the oppressors, the happier he was. Time and again Bahá’u’lláh was heard to speak of him with loving kindness, and He would say: “I am pleased with him.” This man, who was spirit personified, remained constant, true, and joyful to the end. When some years had passed, he exchanged this world of dust for the Kingdom that is undefiled, and he left powerful influences behind.
As a rule, he was the close companion of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. One day, at the beginning of our time in the Prison, I hurried to the corner of the barracks where he lived—the cell that was his shabby nest. He was lying there, running a high fever, out of his head. On his right side lay his wife, shaking and trembling with chills. To his left was his daughter, Fáṭimih, burning up with typhus. Beyond them his son, Ḥusayn-Áqá, was down with scarlet fever; he had forgotten how to speak Persian, and he kept crying out in Turkish, “My insides are on fire!” At the father’s feet lay the other daughter, deep in her sickness, and along the side of the wall was his brother, Mashhadí Faṭṭáḥ, raving and delirious. In this condition, ‘Alí-‘Askar’s lips were moving: he was returning thanks to God, and expressing joy.
Praise be to God! He died in the Most Great Prison, still patient and thankful, still with dignity and firm in his faith. He rose up to the retreats of the compassionate Lord. Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious; to him be salutations and praise: upon him be mercy and forgiveness forever and ever.
This eminent man had high ambitions and aims. He was to a supreme degree constant, loyal and firmly rooted in his faith, and he was among the earliest and greatest of the believers. At the very dawn of the new Day of Guidance he became enamored of the Báb and began to teach. From morning till dark he worked at his craft, and almost every night he entertained the friends at supper. Being host in this way to friends in the spirit, he guided many seekers to the Faith, attracting them with the melody of the love of God. He was amazingly constant, energetic, and persevering.
Then the perfume-laden air began to stir from over the gardens of the All-Glorious, and he caught fire from the newly kindled flame. His illusions and fancies were burned away and he arose to proclaim the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. Every night there was a meeting, a gathering that rivaled the flowers in their beds. The verses were read, the prayers chanted, the good news of the greatest of Advents was shared. He spent most of his time in showing kindness to friend and stranger alike; he was a magnanimous being, with open hand and heart.
The day came when he set out for the Most Great Prison, and arrived with his family at the ‘Akká fortress. He had been afflicted with many a hardship on his journey, but his longing to see Bahá’u’lláh was such that he found the calamities easy to endure; and so he measured off the miles, looking for a home in God’s sheltering grace.
At first he had means; life was comfortable and pleasant. Later on, however, he was destitute and subjected to terrible ordeals. Most of the time his food was bread, nothing else; instead of tea, he drank from a running brook. Still, he remained happy and content. His great joy was to enter the presence of Bahá’u’lláh; reunion with his Beloved was bounty enough; his food was to look upon the beauty of the Manifestation; his wine, to be with Bahá’u’lláh. He was always smiling, always silent; but at the same time, his heart shouted, leapt and danced.
Often, he was in the company of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. He was an excellent friend and comrade, happy, delightful; favored by Bahá’u’lláh, respected by the friends, shunning the world, trusting in God. There was no fickleness in him, his inner condition was always the same: stable, constant, firmly rooted as the hills.
Whenever I call him to mind, and remember that patience and serenity, that loyalty, that contentment, involuntarily I find myself asking God to shed His bounties upon Áqá ‘Alí. Misfortunes and calamities were forever descending on that estimable man. He was always ill, continually subjected to unnumbered physical afflictions. The reason was that when at home and serving the Faith in Qazvín, he was caught by the malevolent and they beat him so brutally over the head that the effects stayed with him till his dying hour. They abused and tormented him in many ways and thought it permissible to inflict every kind of cruelty upon him; yet his only crime was to have become a believer, and his only sin, to have loved God. As the poet has written, in lines that illustrate the plight of Áqá ‘Alí: By owls the royal falcon is beset. They rend his wings, though he is free of sin. “Why”—so they mock—“do you remember yet That royal wrist, that palace you were in?” He is a kingly bird: this crime he did commit. Except for beauty, what was Joseph’s sin?
Briefly, that great man spent his time in the ‘Akká prison, praying, supplicating, turning his face toward God. Infinite bounty enfolded him; he was favored by Bahá’u’lláh, much of the time admitted to His presence and showered with endless grace. This was his joy and his delight, his great good fortune, his dearest wish.
Then the fixed hour was upon him, the daybreak of his hopes, and it came his turn to soar away, into the invisible realm. Sheltered under the protection of Bahá’u’lláh, he went swiftly forth to that mysterious land. To him be salutations and praise and mercy from the Lord of this world and the world to come. May God light up his resting-place with rays from the Companion on high.
These were two brothers who, in the path of God, captives along with the rest, were shut in the ‘Akká fortress. They were brothers of the late Pahlaván Riḍá. They left Persia and emigrated to Adrianople, hastening to the loving-kindness of Bahá’u’lláh; and under His protection, they came to ‘Akká.
Pahlaván Riḍá—God’s mercy and blessings and splendors be upon him; praise and salutations be unto him—was a man to outward seeming untutored, devoid of learning. He was a tradesman, and like the others who came in at the start, he cast everything away out of love for God, attaining in one leap the highest reaches of knowledge. He is of those from the earlier time. So eloquent did he suddenly become that the people of Káshán were astounded. For example this man, to all appearances unschooled, betook himself to Ḥájí Muḥammad-Karím Khán in Káshán and propounded this question:
“Sir, are you the Fourth Pillar? I am a man who thirsts after spiritual truth and I yearn to know of the Fourth Pillar.”1
Since a number of political and military leaders were present, the Ḥájí replied: “Perish the thought! I shun all those who consider me the Fourth Pillar. Never have I made such a claim. Whoever says I have, speaks falsehood; may God’s curse be on him!”
A few days later Pahlaván Riḍá again sought out the Ḥájí and told him: “Sir, I have just finished your book, Irshádu’l-‘Avám (Guidance unto the Ignorant); I have read it from cover to cover; in it you say that one is obligated to know the Fourth Pillar or Fourth Support; indeed, you account him a fellow knight of the Lord of the Age.2 Therefore I long to recognize and know him. I am certain that you are informed of him. Show him to me, I beg of you.”
The Ḥájí was wrathful. He said: “The Fourth Pillar is no figment. He is a being plainly visible to all. Like me, he has a turban on his head, he wears an ‘abá, and carries a cane in his hand.” Pahlaván Riḍá smiled at him. “Meaning no discourtesy,” he said, “there is, then, a contradiction in Your Honor’s teaching. First you say one thing, then you say another.”
The point is that Riḍá, a man considered to be unlettered, was able, in an argument, to best such an erudite “Fourth Pillar.” In the phrase of ‘Allámiy-i-Ḥillí, he downed him with the Fourth Support.3
Whenever that lionhearted champion of knowledge began to speak, his listeners marveled; and he remained, till his last breath, the protector and helper of all seekers after truth. Ultimately he became known far and wide as a Bahá’í, was turned into a vagrant, and ascended to the Abhá Kingdom.
As for his two brothers: through the grace of the Blessed Beauty, after they were taken captive by the tyrants, they were shut in the Most Great Prison, where they shared the lot of these homeless wanderers. Here, during the early days at ‘Akká, with complete detachment, with ardent love, they hastened away to the all-glorious Realm. For our ruthless oppressors, as soon as we arrived, imprisoned all of us inside the fortress in the soldiers’ barracks, and they closed up every issue, so that none could come and go. At that time the air of ‘Akká was poisonous, and every stranger, immediately following his arrival, would be taken ill. Muḥammad-Báqir and Muḥammad-Ismá‘íl came down with a violent ailment and there was neither doctor nor medicine to be had; and those two embodied lights died on the same night, wrapped in each other’s arms. They rose up to the undying Kingdom, leaving the friends to mourn them forever. There was none there but wept that night.
When morning came we wished to carry their sanctified bodies away. The oppressors told us: “You are forbidden to go out of the fortress. You must hand over these two corpses to us. We will wash them, shroud them and bury them. But first you must pay for it.” It happened that we had no money. There was a prayer carpet which had been placed under the feet of Bahá’u’lláh. He took up this carpet and said, “Sell it. Give the money to the guards.” The prayer carpet was sold for 170 piasters4 and that sum was handed over. But the two were never washed for their burial nor wrapped in their winding sheets; the guards only dug a hole in the ground and thrust them in, as they were, in the clothes they had on; so that even now, their two graves are one, and just as their souls are joined in the Abhá Realm, their bodies are together here, under the earth, each holding the other in his close embrace.
The Blessed Beauty showered His blessings on these two brothers. In life, they were encompassed by His grace and favor; in death, they were memorialized in His Tablets. Their grave is in ‘Akká. Greetings be unto them, and praise. The glory of the All-Glorious be upon them, and God’s mercy, and His benediction.