Another among the prisoners was Abu’l-Qásim of Sulṭán-Ábád, the traveling companion of Áqá Faraj. These two were unassuming, loyal and staunch. Once their souls had come alive through the breathings of the Faithful Spirit they hastened out of Persia to Adrianople, for such was the unabating cruelty of the malevolent that they could no longer remain in their own home. On foot, free of every tie, they took to the plains and hills, seeking their way across trackless waters and desert sands. How many a night they could not sleep, staying in the open with no place to lay their heads; with nothing to eat or drink, no bed but the bare earth, no food but the desert grasses. Somehow they dragged themselves along and managed to reach Adrianople. It happened that they came during the last days in that city, and were taken prisoner with the rest, and in the company of Bahá’u’lláh they traveled to the Most Great Prison.
Abu’l-Qásim fell violently ill with typhus. He died about the same time as those two brothers, Muḥammad-Báqir and Muḥammad-Ismá‘íl, and his pure remains were buried outside ‘Akká. The Blessed Beauty expressed approval of him and the friends, all of them, wept over his afflictions and mourned him. Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious.
In all these straits, Áqá Faraj was the companion of Abu’l-Qásim. When, in Persian Iraq, he first heard the uproar caused by the Advent of the Most Great Light, he shook and trembled, clapped his hands, cried out in exultation and hastened off to Iraq. Overcome with delight, he entered the presence of his holy Lord. He was gathered into the loving fellowship, and blissfully received the honor of attending upon Bahá’u’lláh. Then he returned, bearing glad tidings to Sulṭán-Ábád.
Here the malevolent were lying in wait, and disturbances broke out, with the result that the sainted Mullá-Báshí and some other believers who had none to defend them were struck down and put to death. Áqá Faraj and Abu’l-Qásim, who had gone into hiding, then hurried away to Adrianople, to fall, ultimately, with the others and with their Well-Beloved, into the ‘Akká prison.
Áqá Faraj then won the honor of waiting upon the Ancient Beauty. He served the Holy Threshold at all times and was a comfort to the friends. During the days of Bahá’u’lláh he was His loyal servitor, and a close companion to the believers, and so it was after Bahá’u’lláh’s departure: he remained true to the Covenant, and in the domain of servitude he stood like a towering palm; a noble, superior man, patient in dire adversity, content under all conditions.
Strong in faith, in devotion, he left this life and set his face toward the Kingdom of God, to become the object of endless grace. Upon him be God’s mercy and good pleasure, in His Paradise. Greetings be unto him, and praise, in the meadows of Heaven.
Among the women who came out of their homeland was the sorrowing Fáṭimih1 Begum, widow of the King of Martyrs. She was a holy leaf of the Tree of God. From her earliest youth she was beset with uncounted ordeals. First was the disaster which overtook her noble father in the environs of Badasht, when, after terrible suffering, he died in a desert caravanserai, died hard—helpless and far from home.
The child was left an orphan, and in distress, until, by God’s grace, she became the wife of the King of Martyrs. But since he was known everywhere as a Bahá’í, was an impassioned lover of Bahá’u’lláh, a man distracted, carried away, and since Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh thirsted for blood—the hostile lurked in their ambush, and every day they informed against him and slandered him afresh, started a new outcry and set new mischief afoot. For this reason his family was never sure of his safety for a single day, but lived from moment to moment in anguish, foreseeing and dreading the hour of his martyrdom. Here was the family, everywhere known as Bahá’ís; their enemies, stony hearted tyrants; their government inflexibly, permanently against them; their reigning Sovereign rabid for blood.
It is obvious how life would be for such a household. Every day there was a new incident, more turmoil, another uproar, and they could not draw a breath in peace. Then, he was martyred. The Government proved brutal and savage to such a degree that the human race cried out and trembled. All his possessions were stripped away and plundered, and his family lacked even their daily bread.
Fáṭimih spent her nights in weeping; till dawn broke, her only companions were tears. Whenever she gazed on her children, she would sigh, wearing away like a candle in devouring grief. But then she would thank God, and she would say: “Praised be the Lord, these agonies, these broken fortunes are on Bahá’u’lláh’s account, for His dear sake.” She would call to mind the defenseless family of the martyred Ḥusayn, and what calamities they were privileged to bear in the pathway of God. And as she pondered those events, her heart would leap up, and she would cry, “Praise be to God! We too have become companions of the Prophet’s Household.”2
Because the family was in such straits, Bahá’u’lláh directed them to come to the Most Great Prison so that, sheltered in these precincts of abounding grace, they might be compensated for all that had passed. Here for a time she lived, joyful, thankful, and praising God. And although the son of the King of Martyrs, Mírzá ‘Abdu’l-Ḥusayn, died in the prison, still his mother, Fáṭimih, accepted this, resigned herself to the will of God, did not so much as sigh or cry out, and did not go into mourning. Not a word did she utter to bespeak her grief.
This handmaid of God was infinitely patient, dignified and reserved, and at all times thankful. But then Bahá’u’lláh left the world, and this was the supreme affliction, the ultimate anguish, and she could endure no more. The shock and alarm were such that like a fish taken from the water she writhed on the ground, trembled and shook as if her whole being quaked, until at last she took leave of her children and she died. She rose up into the shadowing mercy of God and was plunged in an ocean of light. Unto her be salutations and praise, compassion and glory. May God make sweet her resting-place with the outpourings of His heavenly mercy; in the shade of the Divine Lote-Tree3 may He honor her dwelling.
He is God!4
Thou seest, O my Lord, the assemblage of Thy loved ones, the company of Thy friends, gathered by the precincts of Thine all-sufficing Shrine, and in the neighborhood of Thine exalted garden, on a day among the days of Thy Riḍván Feast—that blessed time when Thou didst dawn upon the world, shedding thereon the lights of Thy holiness, spreading abroad the bright rays of Thy oneness, and didst issue forth from Baghdad, with a majesty and might that encompassed all mankind; with a glory that made all to fall prostrate before Thee, all heads to bow, every neck to bend low, and the gaze of every man to be cast down. They are calling Thee to mind and making mention of Thee, their breasts gladdened with the lights of Thy bestowals, their souls restored by the evidences of Thy gifts, speaking Thy praise, turning their faces toward Thy Kingdom, humbly supplicating Thy lofty Realms.
They are gathered here to commemorate Thy bright and holy handmaid, a leaf of Thy green Tree of Heaven, a luminous reality, a spiritual essence, who ever implores Thy tender compassion. She was born into the arms of Divine wisdom, and she suckled at the breast of certitude; she flourished in the cradle of faith and rejoiced in the bosom of Thy love, O merciful, O compassionate Lord! And she grew to womanhood in a house from which the sweet savors of oneness were spread abroad. But while she was yet a girl, distress came upon her in Thy path, and misfortune assailed her, O Thou the Bestower, and in her defenseless youth she drank from the cups of sorrow and pain, out of love for Thy beauty, O Thou the Forgiver!
Thou knowest, O my God, the calamities she joyfully bore in Thy pathway, the trials she confronted in Thy love, with a face that radiated delight. How many a night, as others lay on their beds in soft repose, was she wakeful, humbly entreating Thy heavenly Realm. How many a day did Thy people spend, safe in the citadel of Thy sheltering care, while her heart was harried from what had come upon Thy holy ones.
O my Lord, her days and her years passed by, and whenever she saw the morning light she wept over the sorrows of Thy servants, and when the evening shadows fell she cried and called out and burned in a fiery anguish for what had befallen Thy bondsmen. And she arose with all her strength to serve Thee, to beseech the Heaven of Thy mercy, and in lowliness to entreat Thee and to rest her heart upon Thee. And she came forth veiled in holiness, her garments unspotted by the nature of Thy people, and she entered into wedlock with Thy servant on whom Thou didst confer Thy richest gifts, and in whom Thou didst reveal the ensigns of Thine endless mercy, and whose face, in Thine all-glorious Realm, Thou didst make to shine with everlasting light. She married him whom Thou didst lodge in the assemblage of reunion, one with the Company on high; him whom Thou didst cause to eat of all heavenly foods, him on whom Thou didst shower Thy blessings, on whom Thou didst bestow the title: Martyrs’ King.
And she dwelt for some years under the protection of that manifest Light; and with all her soul she served at Thy Threshold, holy and luminous; preparing foods and a place of rest and couches for all Thy loved ones that came, and she had no other joy but this. Lowly and humble she was before each of Thy handmaids, deferring to each, serving each one with her heart and soul and her whole being, out of love for Thy beauty, and seeking to win Thy good pleasure. Until her house became known by Thy name, and the fame of her husband was noised abroad, as one belonging to Thee, and the Land of Ṣád (Iṣfahán) shook and exulted for joy, because of continual blessings from this mighty champion of Thine; and the scented herbage of Thy knowledge and the roses of Thy bounty began to burgeon out, and a great multitude was led to the waters of Thy mercy.
Then the ignoble and the ignorant amongst Thy creatures rose against him, and with tyranny and malice they pronounced his death; and void of justice, with harsh oppression, they shed his immaculate blood. Under the glittering sword that noble personage cried out to Thee: “Praised be Thou, O my God, that on the Promised Day, Thou hast helped me to attain this manifest grace; that Thou hast reddened the dust with my blood, spilled out upon Thy path, so that it puts forth crimson flowers. Favor and grace are Thine, to grant me this gift which in all the world I longed for most. Thanks be unto Thee that Thou didst succor me and confirm me and didst give me to drink of this cup that was tempered at the camphor fountain5—on the Day of Manifestation, at the hands of the cupbearer of martyrdom, in the assemblage of delights. Thou art verily the One full of grace, the Generous, the Bestower.”
And after they had killed him they invaded his princely house. They attacked like preying wolves, like lions at the hunt, and they sacked and plundered and pillaged, seizing the rich furnishings, the ornaments and the jewels. She was in dire peril then, left with the fragments of her broken heart. This violent assault took place when the news of his martyrdom was spread abroad, and the children cried out as panic struck at their hearts; they wailed and shed tears, and sounds of mourning rose from out of that splendid home, but there was none to weep over them, there was none to pity them. Rather was the night of tyranny made to deepen about them, and the fiery Hell of injustice blazed out hotter than before; nor was there any torment but the evil doers brought it to bear, nor any agony but they inflicted it. And this holy leaf remained, she and her brood, in the grip of their oppressors, facing the malice of the unmindful, with none to be their shield.
And the days passed by when tears were her only companions, and her comrades were cries; when she was mated to anguish, and had nothing but grief for a friend. And yet in these sufferings, O my Lord, she did not cease to love Thee; she did not fail Thee, O my Beloved, in these fiery ordeals. Though disasters followed one upon another, though tribulations compassed her about, she bore them all, she patiently endured them all, to her they were Thy gifts and favors, and in all her massive agony—O Thou, Lord of most beauteous names—Thy praise was on her lips.
Then she gave up her homeland, rest, refuge and shelter, and taking her young, like the birds she winged her way to this bright and holy Land—that here she might nest and sing Thy praise as the birds do, and busy herself in Thy love with all her powers, and serve Thee with all her being, all her soul and heart. She was lowly before every handmaid of Thine, humble before every leaf of the garden of Thy Cause, occupied with Thy remembrance, severed from all except Thyself.
And her cries were lifted up at dawntide, and the sweet accents of her chanting would be heard in the night season and at the bright noonday, until she returned unto Thee, and winged her way to Thy Kingdom; went seeking the shelter of Thy Threshold and soared upward to Thine everlasting sky. O my Lord, reward her with the contemplation of Thy beauty, feed her at the table of Thine eternity, give her a home in Thy neighborhood, sustain her in the gardens of Thy holiness as Thou willest and pleasest; bless Thou her lodging, keep her safe in the shade of Thy heavenly Tree; lead her, O Lord, into the pavilions of Thy godhood, make her to be one of Thy signs, one of Thy lights.
Khurshíd Begum, who was given the title of Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá,1 the Morning Sun, was mother-in-law to the King of Martyrs. This eloquent, ardent handmaid of God was the cousin on her father’s side of the famous Muḥammad-Báqir of Iṣfahán, widely celebrated as chief of the ‘ulamás in that city. When still a child she lost both her parents, and was reared by her grandmother in the home of that famed and learned mujtahid, and well trained in various branches of knowledge, in theology, sciences and the arts.
Once she was grown, she was married to Mírzá Hádíy-i-Nahrí; and since she and her husband were both strongly attracted to the mystical teachings of that great luminary, the excellent and distinguished Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rashtí,2 they left for Karbilá, accompanied by Mírzá Hádí’s brother, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alíy-i-Nahrí.3 Here they used to attend the Siyyid’s classes, imbibing his knowledge, so that this handmaid became thoroughly informed on subjects relating to Divinity, on the Scriptures and on their inner meanings. The couple had two children, a girl and a boy. They called their son Siyyid ‘Alí and their daughter Fáṭimih Begum, she being the one who, when she reached adolescence, was married to the King of Martyrs.
Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá was there in Karbilá when the cry of the exalted Lord was raised in Shíráz, and she shouted back, “Yea, verily!” As for her husband and his brother, they immediately set out for Shíráz; for both of them, when visiting the Shrine of Imám Ḥusayn, had looked upon the beauty of the Primal Point, the Báb; both had been astonished at what they saw in that transplendent face, in those heavenly attributes and ways, and had agreed that One such as this must indeed be some very great being. Accordingly, the moment they learned of His Divine summons, they answered: “Yea, verily!” and they burst into flame with yearning love for God. Besides, they had been present every day in that holy place where the late Siyyid taught, and had clearly heard him say: “The Advent is nigh, the affair most subtle, most elusive. It behoves each one to search, to inquire, for it may be that the Promised One is even now present among men, even now visible, while all about Him are heedless, unmindful, with bandaged eyes, even as the sacred traditions have foretold.”
When the two brothers arrived in Persia they heard that the Báb had gone to Mecca on a pilgrimage. Siyyid Muḥammad-‘Alí therefore left for Iṣfahán and Mírzá Hádí returned to Karbilá. Meanwhile Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá had become friends with the “Leaf of Paradise,” sister to Mullá Ḥusayn, the Bábu’l-Báb.4 Through that lady she had met Ṭáhirih, Qurratu’l-‘Ayn,5 and had begun to spend most of her time in close companionship with them both, occupied in teaching the Faith. Since this was in the early days of the Cause, the people were not yet afraid of it. From being with Ṭáhirih, Shams profited immeasurably, and was more on fire with the Faith than ever. She spent three years in close association with Ṭáhirih in Karbilá. Day and night, she was stirred like the sea by the gales of the All-Merciful, and she taught with an eloquent tongue.
As Ṭáhirih became celebrated throughout Karbilá, and the Cause of His Supreme Holiness, the Báb, spread all over Persia, the latter-day ‘ulamás arose to deny, to heap scorn upon, and to destroy it. They issued a fatvá or judgment that called for a general massacre. Ṭáhirih was one of those designated by the evil ‘ulamás of the city as an unbeliever, and they mistakenly thought her to be in the home of Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá. They broke into Shams’s house, hemmed her in, abused and vilified her, and inflicted grievous bodily harm. They dragged her out of the house and through the streets to the bázár; they beat her with clubs; they stoned her, they denounced her in foul language, repeatedly assaulting her. While this was going on, Ḥájí Siyyid Mihdí, the father of her distinguished husband, reached the scene. “This woman is not Ṭáhirih!” he shouted at them. But he had no witness to prove it,6 and the farráshes, the police and the mob would not let up. Then, through the uproar, a voice screamed out: “They have arrested Qurratu’l-‘Ayn!” At this, the people abandoned Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá.
Guards were placed at the door of Ṭáhirih’s house and no one was allowed to enter or leave, while the authorities waited for instructions from Baghdad and Constantinople. As the interval of waiting lengthened out, Ṭáhirih asked for permission to leave for Baghdad. “Let us go there ourselves,” she told them. “We are resigned to everything. Whatever happens to us is the best that can happen, and the most pleasing.” With government permission, Ṭáhirih, the Leaf of Paradise, her mother and Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá all left Karbilá and traveled to Baghdad, but the snakelike mass of the populace followed them for some distance, stoning them from a little way off.
When they reached Baghdad they went to live at the house of Shaykh Muḥammad-i-Shibl, the father of Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá; and since many crowded the doors there was an uproar throughout that quarter, so that Ṭáhirih transferred her residence elsewhere, to a lodging of her own, where she continually taught the Faith, and proclaimed the Word of God. Here the ‘ulamás, shaykhs and others would come to listen to her, asking their questions and receiving her replies, and she was soon remarkably well known throughout Baghdad, expounding as she would the most recondite and subtle of theological themes.
When word of this reached the government authorities, they conveyed Ṭáhirih, Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá and the Leaf to the house of the Muftí, and here they remained three months until word as to their case was received from Constantinople. During Ṭáhirih’s stay at the Muftí’s, much of the time was spent in conversations with him, in producing convincing proofs as to the Teachings, analyzing and expounding questions relative to the Lord God, discoursing on the Resurrection Day, on the Balance and the Reckoning,7 unraveling the complexities of inner truths.
One day the Muftí’s father came in and belabored them violently and at length. This somewhat discomfited the Muftí and he began to apologize for his father. Then he said: “Your answer has arrived from Constantinople. The Sovereign has set you free, but on condition that you quit his realms.” The next morning they left the Muftí’s house and proceeded to the public baths. Meanwhile Shaykh Muḥammad-i-Shibl and Shaykh Sulṭán-i-‘Arab made the necessary preparations for their journey, and when three days had passed, they left Baghdad; that is, Ṭáhirih, Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá, the Leaf of Paradise, the mother of Mírzá Hádí, and a number of Siyyids from Yazd set out for Persia. Their travel expenses were all provided by Shaykh Muḥammad.
They arrived at Kirmánsháh, where the women took up residence in one house, the men in another. The work of teaching went on at all times, and as soon as the ‘ulamás became aware of it they ordered that the party be expelled. At this the district head, with a crowd of people, broke into the house and carried off their belongings; then they seated the travelers in open howdahs and drove them from the city. When they came to a field, the muleteers set them down on the bare ground and left, taking animals and howdahs away, leaving them without food or luggage, and with no roof over their heads.
Ṭáhirih thereupon wrote a letter to the Governor of Kirmánsháh. “We were travelers,” she wrote, “guests in your city. ‘Honor thy guest,’ the Prophet says, ‘though he be an unbeliever.’ Is it right that a guest should be thus scorned and despoiled?” The Governor ordered that the stolen goods be restored, and that all be returned to the owners. Accordingly the muleteers came back as well, seated the travelers in the howdahs again, and they went on to Hamadán. The ladies of Hamadán, even the princesses, came every day to meet with Ṭáhirih, who remained in that city two months.8 There she dismissed some of her traveling companions, so that they could return to Baghdad; others, however, accompanied her to Qazvín.
As they journeyed, some horsemen, kinsfolk of Ṭáhirih’s, that is, her brothers, approached. “We have come,” they said, “at our father’s command, to lead her away, alone.” But Ṭáhirih refused, and accordingly the whole party remained together until they arrived in Qazvín. Here, Ṭáhirih went to her father’s house and the friends, those who had ridden and those who had traveled on foot, put up at a caravanserai. Mírzá Hádí, the husband of Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá, had gone to Máh-Kú, seeking out the Báb. On his return, he awaited the arrival of Shams in Qazvín, after which the couple left for Iṣfahán, and when they reached there, Mírzá Hádí journeyed on to Badasht. In that hamlet and its vicinity he was attacked, tormented, even stoned, and was subjected to such ordeals that finally, in a ruined caravanserai, he died. His brother, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, buried him there, along the roadside.
Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá remained in Iṣfahán. She spent her days and nights in the remembrance of God and in teaching His Cause to the women of that city. She was gifted with an eloquent tongue; her utterance was wonderful to hear. She was highly honored by the leading women of Iṣfahán, celebrated for piety, for godliness, and the purity of her life. She was chastity embodied; all her hours were spent in reciting Holy Writ, or expounding the Texts, or unraveling the most complex of spiritual themes, or spreading abroad the sweet savors of God.
It was for these reasons that the King of Martyrs married her respected daughter and became her son-in-law. And when Shams went to live in his princely house, day and night the people thronged its doors, for the leading women of the city, whether friends or strangers, whether close to her or not, would come and go. For she was a fire lit by the love of God, and she proclaimed the Word of God with great ardor and verve, so that she became known among the non-believers as Fáṭimih, the Bahá’ís’ Lady of Light.9
And so time passed, until the day when the “She-Serpent” and the “Wolf” conspired together and issued a decree, a fatvá, that sentenced the King of Martyrs to death. They plotted as well with the Governor of the city so that among them they could sack and plunder and carry off all that vast treasure he possessed. Then the Sháh joined forces with those two wild animals; and he commanded that the blood of both brothers, the King of Martyrs and the Beloved of Martyrs, be spilled out. Without warning, those ruthless men—the She-Serpent, the Wolf, and their brutal farráshes and constabulary—attacked; they chained the two brothers and led them off to prison, looted their richly furnished houses, wrested away all their possessions, and spared no one, not even infants at the breast. They tortured, cursed, reviled, mocked, beat the kin and others of the victims’ household, and would not stay their hands.
In Paris, Ẓillu’s-Sulṭán10 related the following, swearing to the truth of it upon his oath: “Many and many a time I warned those two great scions of the Prophet’s House, but all to no avail. At the last I summoned them one night, and with extreme urgency I told them in so many words: ‘Gentlemen, the Sháh has three times condemned you to death. His farmáns keep on coming. The decree is absolute and there is only one course open to you now: you must, in the presence of the ‘ulamás, clear yourselves and curse your Faith.’ Their answer was: ‘Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá! O Thou Glory of the All-Glorious! May our lives be offered up!’ Finally I agreed to their not cursing their Faith. I told them all they had to say was, ‘We are not Bahá’ís.’ ‘Just those few words,’ I said, ‘will be enough; then I can write out my report for the Sháh, and you will be saved.’ ‘That is impossible,’ they answered, ‘because we are Bahá’ís. O Thou Glory of the All-Glorious, our hearts hunger for martyrdom! Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!’ I was enraged, then, and I tried, by being harsh with them, to force them to renounce their Faith, but it was hopeless. The decree of the rapacious She-Serpent and Wolf, and the Sháh’s commands, were carried out.”
After those two were martyred, Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá was hunted down, and had to seek a refuge in her brother’s house. Although he was not a believer, he was known in Iṣfahán as an upright, pious and godly man, a man of learning, an ascetic who, hermit-like, kept to himself, and for these reasons he was highly regarded and trusted by all. She stayed there with him, but the Government did not abandon its search, finally discovered her whereabouts and summoned her to appear; the evil ‘ulamás had a hand in this, joining forces with the civil authorities. Her brother was therefore obliged to accompany Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá to the Governor’s house. He remained without, while they sent his sister into the women’s apartments; the Governor came there, to the door, and he kicked and trampled her so savagely that she fainted away. Then the Governor shouted to his wife: “Princess! Princess! Come here and take a look at the Bahá’ís’ Lady of Light!”
The women lifted her up and put her in one of the rooms. Meanwhile her brother, dumbfounded, was waiting outside the mansion. Finally, trying to plead with him, he said to the Governor: “This sister of mine has been beaten so severely that she is at the point of death. What is the use of keeping her here? There is no hope for her now. With your permission I can get her back to my house. It would be better to have her die there, rather than here, for after all, she is a descendant of the Prophet, she is of Muḥammad’s noble line, and she has done no wrong. There is nothing against her except her kinship to the son-in-law.” The Governor answered: “She is one of the great leaders and heroines of the Bahá’ís. She will simply cause another uproar.” The brother said: “I promise you that she will not utter a word. It is certain that within a few days she will not even be alive. Her body is frail, weak, almost lifeless, and she has suffered terrible harm.”
Since the brother was greatly respected and trusted by high and low alike, the Governor released Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá in his custody, letting her go. She lived for a while in his house, crying out, grieving, shedding her tears, mourning her dead. Neither was the brother at peace, nor would the hostile leave them alone; there was some new turmoil every day, and public clamor. The brother finally thought it best to take Shams away on a pilgrimage to Mashhad, hoping that the fire of civil disturbances would die down.
They went to Mashhad and settled in a vacant house near the Shrine of the Imám Riḍá.11
Because he was such a pious man the brother would leave every morning to visit the Shrine, and there he would stay, busy with his devotions until almost noon. In the afternoon as well, he would hasten away to the Holy Place, and pray until evening. The house being empty, Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá managed to get in touch with various women believers and began to associate with them; and because the love of God burned so brightly in her heart she was unable to keep silent, so that during those hours when her brother was absent the place came alive. The Bahá’í women would flock there and absorb her lucid and eloquent speech.
In those days life in Mashhad was hard for the believers, with the malevolent always on the alert; if they so much as suspected an individual, they murdered him. There was no security of any kind, no peace. But Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá could not help herself: in spite of all the terrible ordeals she had endured, she ignored the danger, and was capable of flinging herself into flames, or into the sea. Since her brother frequented no one, he knew nothing of what was going on. Day and night he would only leave the house for the Shrine, the Shrine for the house; he was a recluse, had no friends, and would not so much as speak to another person. Nevertheless there came a day when he saw that trouble had broken out in the city, and he knew it would end in serious harm. He was a man so calm and silent that he did not reproach his sister; he simply took her away from Mashhad without warning, and they returned to Iṣfahán. Here, he sent her to her daughter, the widow of the King of Martyrs, for he would no longer shelter her under his roof.
Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá was thus back in Iṣfahán, boldly teaching the Faith and spreading abroad the sweet savors of God. So vehement was the fiery love in her heart that it compelled her to speak out, whenever she found a listening ear. And when it was observed that once again the household of the King of Martyrs was about to be overtaken by calamities, and that they were enduring severe afflictions there in Iṣfahán, Bahá’u’lláh desired them to come to the Most Great Prison. Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá, with the widow of the King of Martyrs and the children, arrived in the Holy Land. Here they were joyously spending their days when the son of the King of Martyrs, Mírzá ‘Abdu’l-Ḥusayn, as a result of the awful suffering he had been subjected to in Iṣfahán, came down with tuberculosis and died in ‘Akká.
Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá was heavy of heart. She mourned his absence, she wasted away with longing for him, and it was all much harder because then the Supreme Affliction came upon us, the crowning anguish. The basis of her life was undermined; candle-like, she was consumed with grieving. She grew so feeble that she took to her bed, unable to move. Still, she did not rest, nor keep silent for a moment. She would tell of days long gone, of things that had come to pass in the Cause, or she would recite from Holy Writ, or she would supplicate, and chant her prayers—until, out of the Most Great Prison, she soared away to the world of God. She hastened away from this dust gulf of perdition to an unsullied country; packed her gear and journeyed to the land of lights. Unto her be salutations and praise, and most great mercy, sheltered in the compassion of her omnipotent Lord.
A woman chaste and holy, a sign and token of surpassing beauty, a burning brand of the love of God, a lamp of His bestowal, was Jináb-i-Ṭáhirih.1 She was called Umm-Salmá; she was the daughter of Ḥájí Mullá Ṣáliḥ, a mujtahid of Qazvín, and her paternal uncle was Mullá Taqí, the Imám-Jum‘ih or leader of prayers in the cathedral mosque of that city. They married her to Mullá Muḥammad, the son of Mullá Taqí, and she gave birth to three children, two sons and a daughter; all three were bereft of the grace that encompassed their mother, and all failed to recognize the truth of the Cause.
When she was still a child her father selected a teacher for her and she studied various branches of knowledge and the arts, achieving remarkable ability in literary pursuits. Such was the degree of her scholarship and attainments that her father would often express his regret, saying, “Would that she had been a boy, for he would have shed illumination upon my household, and would have succeeded me!”2
One day she was a guest in the home of Mullá Javád, a cousin on her mother’s side, and there in her cousin’s library she came upon some of the writings of Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í.3 Delighted with what he had to say, Ṭáhirih asked to borrow the writings and take them home. Mullá Javád violently objected, telling her: “Your father is an enemy of the Twin Luminous Lights, Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim. If he should even dream that any words of those two great beings, any fragrance from the garden of those realities, had come your way, he would make an attempt against my life, and you too would become the target of his wrath.” Ṭáhirih answered: “For a long time now, I have thirsted after this; I have yearned for these explanations, these inner truths. Give me whatever you have of these books. Never mind if it angers my father.” Accordingly, Mullá Javád sent over the writings of the Shaykh and the Siyyid.
One night, Ṭáhirih sought out her father in his library, and began to speak of Shaykh Aḥmad’s teachings. The very moment he learned that his daughter knew of the Shaykhí doctrines, Mullá Ṣáliḥ’s denunciations rang out, and he cried: “Javád has made you a lost soul!” Ṭáhirih answered, “The late Shaykh was a true scholar of God, and I have learned an infinity of spiritual truths from reading his books. Furthermore, he bases whatever he says on the traditions of the Holy Imáms. You call yourself a mystic knower and a man of God, you consider your respected uncle to be a scholar as well, and most pious—yet in neither of you do I find a trace of those qualities!”
For some time, she carried on heated discussions with her father, debating such questions as the Resurrection and the Day of Judgment, the Night-Ascent of Muḥammad to Heaven, the Promise and the Threat, and the Advent of the Promised One.4 Lacking arguments, her father would resort to curses and abuse. Then one night, in support of her contention, Ṭáhirih quoted a holy tradition from the Imám Ja‘far-i-Ṣádiq;5 and since it confirmed what she was saying, her father burst out laughing, mocking the tradition. Ṭáhirih said, “Oh my father, these are the words of the Holy Imám. How can you mock and deny them?”
From that time on, she ceased to debate and contend with her father. Meanwhile she entered into secret correspondence with Siyyid Káẓim, regarding the solution of complex theological problems, and thus it came about that the Siyyid conferred on her the name “Solace of the Eyes” (Qurratu’l-‘Ayn); as for the title Ṭáhirih (“The Pure One”), it was first associated with her in Badasht, and was subsequently approved by the Báb, and recorded in Tablets.
Ṭáhirih had caught fire. She set out for Karbilá, hoping to meet Siyyid Káẓim, but she arrived too late: ten days before she reached that city, he passed away. Not long before his death the Siyyid had shared with his disciples the good news that the promised Advent was at hand. “Go forth,” he repeatedly told them, “and seek out your Lord.” Thus the most distinguished of his followers gathered for retirement and prayer, for fasts and vigils, in the Masjid-i-Kúfih, while some awaited the Advent in Karbilá. Among these was Ṭáhirih, fasting by day, practicing religious disciplines, and spending the night in vigils, and chanting prayers. One night when it was getting along toward dawn she laid her head on her pillow, lost all awareness of this earthly life, and dreamed a dream; in her vision a youth, a Siyyid, wearing a black cloak and a green turban, appeared to her in the heavens; he was standing in the air, reciting verses and praying with his hands upraised. At once, she memorized one of those verses, and wrote it down in her notebook when she awoke. After the Báb had declared His mission, and His first book, “The Best of Stories,”6 was circulated, Ṭáhirih was reading a section of the text one day, and she came upon that same verse, which she had noted down from the dream. Instantly offering thanks, she fell to her knees and bowed her forehead to the ground, convinced that the Báb’s message was truth.
This good news reached her in Karbilá and she at once began to teach. She translated and expounded “The Best of Stories,” also writing in Persian and Arabic, composing odes and lyrics, and humbly practicing her devotions, performing even those that were optional and supernumerary. When the evil ‘ulamás in Karbilá got wind of all this, and learned that a woman was summoning the people to a new religion and had already influenced a considerable number, they went to the Governor and lodged a complaint. Their charges, to be brief, led to violent attacks on Ṭáhirih, and sufferings, which she accepted and for which she offered praise and thanks. When the authorities came hunting for her they first assaulted Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá, mistaking her for Ṭáhirih. As soon, however, as they heard that Ṭáhirih had been arrested they let Shams go—for Ṭáhirih had sent a message to the Governor saying, “I am at your disposal. Do not harm any other.”
The Governor set guards over her house and shut her away, writing Baghdad for instructions as to how he should proceed. For three months, she lived in a state of siege, completely isolated, with the guards surrounding her house. Since the local authorities had still received no reply from Baghdad, Ṭáhirih referred her case to the Governor, saying: “No word has come from either Baghdad or Constantinople. Accordingly, we will ourselves proceed to Baghdad and await the answer there.” The Governor gave her leave to go, and she set out, accompanied by Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá and the Leaf of Paradise (the sister of Mullá Ḥusayn) and her mother. In Baghdad she stayed first in the house of Shaykh Muḥammad, the distinguished father of Áqá Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá. But so great was the press of people around her that she transferred her residence to another quarter, engaged night and day in spreading the Faith, and freely associated with the inhabitants of Baghdad. She thus became celebrated throughout the city and there was a great uproar.
Ṭáhirih also maintained a correspondence with the ‘ulamás of Káẓimayn; she presented them with unanswerable proofs, and when one or another appeared before her she offered him convincing arguments. Finally she sent a message to the Shí‘ih divines, saying to them: “If you are not satisfied with these conclusive proofs, I challenge you to a trial by ordeal.”7 Then there was a great outcry from the divines, and the Governor was obliged to send Ṭáhirih and her women companions to the house of Ibn-i-Álúsí, who was muftí of Baghdad. Here she remained about three months, waiting for word and directions from Constantinople. Ibn-i-Álúsí would engage her in learned dialogues, questions would be asked and answers given, and he would not deny what she had to say.
On a certain day the muftí related one of his dreams, and asked her to tell him what it meant. He said: “In my dream I saw the Shí‘ih ‘ulamás arriving at the holy tomb of Imám Ḥusayn, the Prince of Martyrs. They took away the barrier that encloses the tomb, and they broke open the resplendent grave, so that the immaculate body lay revealed to their gaze. They sought to take up the holy form, but I cast myself down on the corpse and I warded them off.” Ṭáhirih answered: “This is the meaning of your dream: you are about to deliver me from the hands of the Shí‘ih divines.” “I too had interpreted it thus,” said Ibn-i-Álúsí.
Since he had discovered that she was well versed in learned questions and in sacred commentaries and Texts, the two often carried on debates; she would speak on such themes as the Day of Resurrection, the Balance, and the Ṣiráṭ,8 and he would not turn away.
Then came a night when the father of Ibn-i-Álúsí called at the house of his son. He had a meeting with Ṭáhirih and abruptly, without asking a single question, began to curse, mock and revile her. Embarrassed at his father’s behavior, Ibn-i-Álúsí apologized. Then he said: “The answer has come from Constantinople. The King has commanded that you be set free, but only on condition that you leave his realms. Go then, tomorrow, make your preparations for the journey, and hasten away from this land.”
Accordingly Ṭáhirih, with her women companions, left the muftí’s house, saw to arranging for their travel gear, and went out of Baghdad. When they left the city, a number of Arab believers, carrying arms, walked along beside their convoy. Among the escort were Shaykh Sulṭán, Shaykh Muḥammad and his distinguished son Muḥammad-Muṣṭafá, and Shaykh Ṣáliḥ, and these were mounted. It was Shaykh Muḥammad who defrayed the expenses of the journey.
When they reached Kirmánsháh the women alighted at one house, the men at another, and the inhabitants arrived in a continuous stream to seek information as to the new Faith. Here as elsewhere the ‘ulamás were soon in a state of frenzy and they commanded that the newcomers be expelled. As a result the kad-khudá or chief officer of that quarter, with a band of people, laid siege to the house where Ṭáhirih was, and sacked it. Then they placed Ṭáhirih and her companions in an uncovered howdah and carried them from the town to an open field, where they put the captives out. The drivers then took their animals and returned to the city. The victims were left on the bare ground, with no food, no shelter, and no means of traveling on.
Ṭáhirih at once wrote a letter to the prince of that territory, in which she told him: “O thou just Governor! We were guests in your city. Is this the way you treat your guests?” When her letter was brought to the Governor of Kirmánsháh he said: “I knew nothing of this injustice. This mischief was kindled by the divines.” He immediately commanded the kad-khudá to return all the travelers’ belongings. That official duly surrendered the stolen goods, the drivers with their animals came back out of the city, the travelers took their places and resumed the journey.
They arrived in Hamadán and here their stay was a happy one. The most illustrious ladies of that city, even the princesses, would come to visit, seeking the benefits of Ṭáhirih’s teaching. In Hamadán she dismissed a part of her escort and sent them back to Baghdad, while she brought some of them, including Shamsu’ḍ-Ḍuḥá and Shaykh-Ṣáliḥ, along with her to Qazvín.
As they traveled, some riders advanced to meet them, kinsmen of Ṭáhirih’s from Qazvín, and they wished to lead her away alone, unescorted by the others, to her father’s house. Ṭáhirih refused, saying: “These are in my company.” In this way they entered Qazvín. Ṭáhirih proceeded to her father’s house, while the Arabs who had formed her escort alighted at a caravanserai. Ṭáhirih soon left her father and went to live with her brother, and there the great ladies of the city would come to visit her; all this until the murder of Mullá Taqí,9 when every Bábí in Qazvín was taken prisoner. Some were sent to Ṭihrán and then returned to Qazvín and martyred.
Mullá Taqí’s murder came about in this way: One day, when that besotted tyrant had mounted his pulpit, he began to mock and revile the great Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í. Shamelessly, grossly, screaming obscenities, he cried out: “That Shaykh is the one who has kindled this fire of evil, and subjected the whole world to this ordeal!” There was an inquirer in the audience, a native of Shíráz. He found the taunts, jeers and indecencies to be more than he could bear. Under cover of darkness he betook himself to the mosque, plunged a spearhead between the lips of Mullá Taqí and fled. The next morning they arrested the defenseless believers and thereupon subjected them to agonizing torture, though all were innocent and knew nothing of what had come to pass. There was never any question of investigating the case; the believers repeatedly declared their innocence but no one paid them any heed. When a few days had passed the killer gave himself up; he confessed to the authorities, informing them that he had committed the murder because Mullá Taqí had vilified Shaykh Aḥmad. “I deliver myself into your hands,” he told them, “so that you will set these innocent people free.” They arrested him as well, put him in the stocks, chained him, and sent him in chains, along with the others, to Ṭihrán.
Once there he observed that despite his confession, the others were not released. By night, he made his escape from the prison and went to the house of Riḍá Khán—that rare and precious man, that star-sacrifice among the lovers of God—the son of Muḥammad Khán, Master of the Horse to Muḥammad Sháh. He stayed there for a time, after which he and Riḍá Khán secretly rode away to the Fort of Shaykh Ṭabarsí in Mázindarán.10 Muḥammad Khán sent riders after them to track them down, but try as they might, no one could find them. Those two horsemen got to the Fort of Ṭabarsí, where both of them won a martyr’s death. As for the other friends who were in the prison at Ṭihrán, some of these were returned to Qazvín and they too suffered martyrdom.
One day the administrator of finance, Mírzá Shafí‘, called in the murderer and addressed him, saying: “Jináb, do you belong to a dervish order, or do you follow the Law? If you are a follower of the Law, why did you deal that learned mujtahid a cruel, a fatal blow in the mouth? If you are a dervish and follow the Path, one of the rules of the Path is to harm no man. How, then, could you slaughter that zealous divine?” “Sir,” he replied, “besides the Law, and besides the Path, we also have the Truth. It was in serving the Truth that I paid him for his deed.”11
These things would take place before the reality of this Cause was revealed and all was made plain. For in those days no one knew that the Manifestation of the Báb would culminate in the Manifestation of the Blessed Beauty and that the law of retaliation would be done away with, and the foundation-principle of the Law of God would be this, that “It is better for you to be killed than to kill”; that discord and contention would cease, and the rule of war and butchery would fall away. In those days, that sort of thing would happen. But praised be God, with the advent of the Blessed Beauty such a splendor of harmony and peace shone forth, such a spirit of meekness and long-suffering, that when in Yazd men, women and children were made the targets of enemy fire or were put to the sword, when the leaders and the evil ‘ulamás and their followers joined together and unitedly assaulted those defenseless victims and spilled out their blood—hacking at and rending apart the bodies of chaste women, with their daggers slashing the throats of children they had orphaned, then setting the torn and mangled limbs on fire—not one of the friends of God lifted a hand against them. Indeed, among those martyrs, those real companions of the ones who died, long gone, at Karbilá, was a man who, when he saw the drawn sword flashing over him, thrust sugar candy into his murderer’s mouth and cried, “With a sweet taste on your lips, put me to death—for you bring me martyrdom, my dearest wish!”
Let us return to our theme. After the murder of her impious uncle, Mullá Taqí, in Qazvín, Ṭáhirih fell into dire straits. She was a prisoner and heavy of heart, grieving over the painful events that had come to pass. She was watched on every side, by attendants, guards, the farráshes, and her foes. While she languished thus, Bahá’u’lláh dispatched Hádíy-i-Qazvíní, husband of the celebrated Khátún-Ján, from the capital, and they managed, by a stratagem, to free her from that embroilment and got her to Ṭihrán in the night. She alighted at the mansion of Bahá’u’lláh and was lodged in an upper apartment.
When word of this spread throughout Ṭihrán, the Government hunted for her high and low; nevertheless, the friends kept arriving to see her, in a steady stream, and Ṭáhirih, seated behind a curtain, would converse with them. One day the great Siyyid Yaḥyá, surnamed Vaḥíd, was present there. As he sat without, Ṭáhirih listened to him from behind the veil. I was then a child, and was sitting on her lap. With eloquence and fervor, Vaḥíd was discoursing on the signs and verses that bore witness to the advent of the new Manifestation. She suddenly interrupted him and, raising her voice, vehemently declared: “O Yaḥyá! Let deeds, not words, testify to thy faith, if thou art a man of true learning. Cease idly repeating the traditions of the past, for the day of service, of steadfast action, is come. Now is the time to show forth the true signs of God, to rend asunder the veils of idle fancy, to promote the Word of God, and to sacrifice ourselves in His path. Let deeds, not words, be our adorning!”
In Badasht, there was a great open field. Through its center a stream flowed, and to its right, left, and rear there were three gardens, the envy of Paradise. One of those gardens was assigned to Quddús,12 but this was kept a secret. Another was set apart for Ṭáhirih, and in a third was raised the pavilion of Bahá’u’lláh. On the field amidst the three gardens, the believers pitched their tents. Evenings, Bahá’u’lláh, Quddús and Ṭáhirih would come together. In those days the fact that the Báb was the Qá’im had not yet been proclaimed; it was the Blessed Beauty, with Quddús, Who arranged for the proclamation of a universal Advent and the abrogation and repudiation of the ancient laws.
Then one day, and there was a wisdom in it, Bahá’u’lláh fell ill; that is, the indisposition was to serve a vital purpose. On a sudden, in the sight of all, Quddús came out of his garden, and entered the pavilion of Bahá’u’lláh. But Ṭáhirih sent him a message, to say that their Host being ill, Quddús should visit her garden instead. His answer was: “This garden is preferable. Come, then, to this one.” Ṭáhirih, with her face unveiled, stepped from her garden, advancing to the pavilion of Bahá’u’lláh; and as she came, she shouted aloud these words: “The Trumpet is sounding! The great Trump is blown! The universal Advent is now proclaimed!”13 The believers gathered in that tent were panic struck, and each one asked himself, “How can the Law be abrogated? How is it that this woman stands here without her veil?”
“Read the Súrih of the Inevitable,”14 said Bahá’u’lláh; and the reader began: “When the Day that must come shall have come suddenly… Day that shall abase! Day that shall exalt!…” and thus was the new Dispensation announced and the great Resurrection made manifest. At the start, those who were present fled away, and some forsook their Faith, while some fell a prey to suspicion and doubt, and a number, after wavering, returned to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. The Conference of Badasht broke up, but the universal Advent had been proclaimed.
Afterward, Quddús hastened away to the Fort of Ṭabarsí15 and the Blessed Beauty, with provisions and equipment, journeyed to Níyálá, having the intention of going on from there by night, making His way through the enemy encampment and entering the Fort. But Mírzá Taqí, the Governor of Ámul, got word of this, and with seven hundred riflemen arrived in Níyálá. Surrounding the village by night, he sent Bahá’u’lláh with eleven riders back to Ámul, and those calamities and tribulations, told of before, came to pass.
As for Ṭáhirih, after the breakup at Badasht she was captured, and the oppressors sent her back under guard to Ṭihrán. There she was imprisoned in the house of Maḥmúd Khán, the Kalántar. But she was aflame, enamored, restless, and could not be still. The ladies of Ṭihrán, on one pretext or another, crowded to see and listen to her. It happened that there was a celebration at the Mayor’s house for the marriage of his son; a nuptial banquet was prepared, and the house adorned. The flower of Ṭihrán’s ladies were invited, the princesses, the wives of vazírs and other great. A splendid wedding it was, with instrumental music and vocal melodies—by day and night the lute, the bells and songs. Then Ṭáhirih began to speak; and so bewitched were the great ladies that they forsook the cithern and the drum and all the pleasures of the wedding feast, to crowd about Ṭáhirih and listen to the sweet words of her mouth.
Thus she remained, a helpless captive. Then came the attempt on the life of the Sháh;16 a farmán was issued; she was sentenced to death. Saying she was summoned to the Prime Minister’s, they arrived to lead her away from the Kalántar’s house. She bathed her face and hands, arrayed herself in a costly dress, and scented with attar of roses she came out of the house.
They brought her into a garden, where the headsmen waited; but these wavered and then refused to end her life. A slave was found, far gone in drunkenness; besotted, vicious, black of heart. And he strangled Ṭáhirih. He forced a scarf between her lips and rammed it down her throat. Then they lifted up her unsullied body and flung it in a well, there in the garden, and over it threw down earth and stones. But Ṭáhirih rejoiced; she had heard with a light heart the tidings of her martyrdom; she set her eyes on the supernal Kingdom and offered up her life.