The train of dire events that followed in swift succession the calamitous attempt on the life of Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh mark, as already observed, the termination of the Bábí Dispensation and the closing of the initial, the darkest and bloodiest chapter of the history of the first Bahá’í century. A phase of measureless tribulation had been ushered in by these events, in the course of which the fortunes of the Faith proclaimed by the Báb sank to their lowest ebb. Indeed ever since its inception trials and vexations, setbacks and disappointments, denunciations, betrayals and massacres had, in a steadily rising crescendo, contributed to the decimation of the ranks of its followers, strained to the utmost the loyalty of its stoutest upholders, and all but succeeded in disrupting the foundations on which it rested.
From its birth, government, clergy and people had risen as one man against it and vowed eternal enmity to its cause. Muḥammad Sháh, weak alike in mind and will, had, under pressure, rejected the overtures made to him by the Báb Himself, had declined to meet Him face to face, and even refused Him admittance to the capital. The youthful Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, of a cruel and imperious nature, had, both as crown prince and as reigning sovereign, increasingly evinced the bitter hostility which, at a later stage in his reign, was to blaze forth in all its dark and ruthless savagery. The powerful and sagacious Mu‘tamid, the one solitary figure who could have extended Him the support and protection He so sorely needed, was taken from Him by a sudden death. The Sherif of Mecca, who through the mediation of Quddús had been made acquainted with the new Revelation on the occasion of the Báb’s pilgrimage to Mecca, had turned a deaf ear to the Divine Message, and received His messenger with curt indifference. The prearranged gathering that was to have taken place in the holy city of Karbilá, in the course of the Báb’s return journey from Ḥijáz, had, to the disappointment of His followers who had been eagerly awaiting His arrival, to be definitely abandoned. The eighteen Letters of the Living, the principal bastions that buttressed the infant strength of the Faith, had for the most part fallen. The “Mirrors,” the “Guides,” the “Witnesses” comprising the Bábí hierarchy had either been put to the sword, or hounded from their native soil, or bludgeoned into silence. The program, whose essentials had been communicated to the foremost among them, had, owing to their excessive zeal, remained for the most part unfulfilled. The attempts which two of those disciples had made to establish the Faith in Turkey and India had signally failed at the very outset of their mission. The tempests that had swept Mázindarán, Nayríz and Zanján had, in addition to blasting to their roots the promising careers of the venerated Quddús, the lion-hearted Mullá Ḥusayn, the erudite Vaḥíd, and the indomitable Ḥujjat, cut short the lives of an alarmingly large number of the most resourceful and most valiant of their fellow-disciples. The hideous outrages associated with the death of the Seven Martyrs of Ṭihrán had been responsible for the extinction of yet another living symbol of the Faith, who, by reason of his close kinship to, and intimate association with, the Báb, no less than by virtue of his inherent qualities, would if spared have decisively contributed to the protection and furtherance of a struggling Cause.
The storm which subsequently burst, with unexampled violence, on a community already beaten to its knees, had, moreover, robbed it of its greatest heroine, the incomparable Ṭáhirih, still in the full tide of her victories, had sealed the doom of Siyyid Ḥusayn, the Báb’s trusted amanuensis and chosen repository of His last wishes, had laid low Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Qasvíní, admittedly one of the very few who could claim to possess a profound knowledge of the origins of the Faith, and had plunged into a dungeon Bahá’u’lláh, the sole survivor among the towering figures of the new Dispensation. The Báb—the Fountainhead from whence the vitalizing energies of a newborn Revelation had flowed—had Himself, ere the outburst of that hurricane, succumbed, in harrowing circumstances, to the volleys of a firing squad leaving behind, as titular head of a well-nigh disrupted community, a mere figurehead, timid in the extreme, good-natured yet susceptible to the slightest influence, devoid of any outstanding qualities, who now (loosed from the controlling hand of Bahá’u’lláh, the real Leader) was seeking, in the guise of a dervish, the protection afforded by the hills of his native Mázindarán against the threatened assaults of a deadly enemy. The voluminous writings of the Founder of the Faith—in manuscript, dispersed, unclassified, poorly transcribed and ill-preserved, were in part, owing to the fever and tumult of the times, either deliberately destroyed, confiscated, or hurriedly dispatched to places of safety beyond the confines of the land in which they were revealed. Powerful adversaries, among whom towered the figure of the inordinately ambitious and hypocritical Ḥájí Mírzá Karím Khán, who at the special request of the Sháh had in a treatise viciously attacked the new Faith and its doctrines, had now raised their heads, and, emboldened by the reverses it had sustained, were heaping abuse and calumnies upon it. Furthermore, under the stress of intolerable circumstances, a few of the Bábís were constrained to recant their faith, while others went so far as to apostatize and join the ranks of the enemy. And now to the sum of these dire misfortunes a monstrous calumny, arising from the outrage perpetrated by a handful of irresponsible enthusiasts, was added, branding a holy and innocent Faith with an infamy that seemed indelible, and which threatened to loosen it from its foundations.
And yet the Fire which the Hand of Omnipotence had lighted, though smothered by this torrent of tribulations let loose upon it, was not quenched. The flame which for nine years had burned with such brilliant intensity was indeed momentarily extinguished, but the embers which that great conflagration had left behind still glowed, destined, at no distant date, to blaze forth once again, through the reviving breezes of an incomparably greater Revelation, and to shed an illumination that would not only dissipate the surrounding darkness but project its radiance as far as the extremities of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Just as the enforced captivity and isolation of the Báb had, on the one hand, afforded Him the opportunity of formulating His doctrine, of unfolding the full implications of His Revelation, of formally and publicly declaring His station and of establishing His Covenant, and, on the other hand, had been instrumental in the proclamation of the laws of His Dispensation through the voice of His disciples assembled in Badasht, so did the crisis of unprecedented magnitude, culminating in the execution of the Báb and the imprisonment of Bahá’u’lláh, prove to be the prelude of a revival which, through the quickening power of a far mightier Revelation, was to immortalize the fame, and fix on a still more enduring foundation, far beyond the confines of His native land, the original Message of the Prophet of Shíráz.
At a time when the Cause of the Báb seemed to be hovering on the brink of extinction, when the hopes and ambitions which animated it had, to all human seeming, been frustrated, when the colossal sacrifices of its unnumbered lovers appeared to have been made in vain, the Divine Promise enshrined within it was about to be suddenly redeemed, and its final perfection mysteriously manifested. The Bábí Dispensation was being brought to its close (not prematurely but in its own appointed time), and was yielding its destined fruit and revealing its ultimate purpose—the birth of the Mission of Bahá’u’lláh. In this most dark and dreadful hour a New Light was about to break in glory on Persia’s somber horizon. As a result of what was in fact an evolving, ripening process, the most momentous if not the most spectacular stage in the Heroic Age of the Faith was now about to open.
During nine years, as foretold by the Báb Himself, swiftly, mysteriously and irresistibly the embryonic Faith conceived by Him had been developing until, at the fixed hour, the burden of the promised Cause of God was cast amidst the gloom and agony of the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán. “Behold,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself, years later, testified, in refutation of the claims of those who had rejected the validity of His mission following so closely upon that of the Báb, “how immediately upon the completion of the ninth year of this wondrous, this most holy and merciful Dispensation, the requisite number of pure, of wholly consecrated and sanctified souls has been most secretly consummated.” “That so brief an interval,” He, moreover has asserted, “should have separated this most mighty and wondrous Revelation from Mine own previous Manifestation is a secret that no man can unravel, and a mystery such as no mind can fathom. Its duration had been foreordained.”
St. John the Divine had himself, with reference to these two successive Revelations, clearly prophesied: “The second woe is past; and, behold the third woe cometh quickly.” “This third woe,” ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, commenting upon this verse, has explained, “is the day of the Manifestation of Bahá’u’lláh, the Day of God, and it is near to the day of the appearance of the Báb.” “All the peoples of the world,” He moreover has asserted, “are awaiting two Manifestations, Who must be contemporaneous; all wait for the fulfillment of this promise.” And again: “The essential fact is that all are promised two Manifestations, Who will come one following on the other.” Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í, that luminous star of Divine guidance who had so clearly perceived, before the year sixty, the approaching glory of Bahá’u’lláh, and laid stress upon “the twin Revelations which are to follow each other in rapid succession,” had, on his part, made this significant statement regarding the approaching hour of that supreme Revelation, in an epistle addressed in his own hand to Siyyid Kaẓím: “The mystery of this Cause must needs be made manifest, and the secret of this Message must needs be divulged. I can say no more. I can appoint no time. His Cause will be made known after Ḥín (68).”
The circumstances in which the Vehicle of this newborn Revelation, following with such swiftness that of the Báb, received the first intimations of His sublime mission recall, and indeed surpass in poignancy the soul-shaking experience of Moses when confronted by the Burning Bush in the wilderness of Sinai; of Zoroaster when awakened to His mission by a succession of seven visions; of Jesus when coming out of the waters of the Jordan He saw the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descend like a dove and light upon Him; of Muḥammad when in the Cave of Hira, outside of the holy city of Mecca, the voice of Gabriel bade Him “cry in the name of Thy Lord”; and of the Báb when in a dream He approached the bleeding head of the Imám Ḥusayn, and, quaffing the blood that dripped from his lacerated throat, awoke to find Himself the chosen recipient of the outpouring grace of the Almighty.
What, we may well inquire at this juncture, were the nature and implications of that Revelation which, manifesting itself so soon after the Declaration of the Báb, abolished, at one stroke, the Dispensation which that Faith had so newly proclaimed, and upheld, with such vehemence and force, the Divine authority of its Author? What, we may well pause to consider, were the claims of Him Who, Himself a disciple of the Báb, had, at such an early stage, regarded Himself as empowered to abrogate the Law identified with His beloved Master? What, we may further reflect, could be the relationship between the religious Systems established before Him and His own Revelation—a Revelation which, flowing out, in that extremely perilous hour, from His travailing soul, pierced the gloom that had settled upon that pestilential pit, and, bursting through its walls, and propagating itself as far as the ends of the earth, infused into the entire body of mankind its boundless potentialities, and is now under our very eyes, shaping the course of human society?
He Who in such dramatic circumstances was made to sustain the overpowering weight of so glorious a Mission was none other than the One Whom posterity will acclaim, and Whom innumerable followers already recognize, as the Judge, the Lawgiver and Redeemer of all mankind, as the Organizer of the entire planet, as the Unifier of the children of men, as the Inaugurator of the long-awaited millennium, as the Originator of a new “Universal Cycle,” as the Establisher of the Most Great Peace, as the Fountain of the Most Great Justice, as the Proclaimer of the coming of age of the entire human race, as the Creator of a new World Order, and as the Inspirer and Founder of a world civilization.
To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the “Everlasting Father”; the “Lord of Hosts” come down “with ten thousands of saints”; to Christendom Christ returned “in the glory of the Father,” to Shí‘ah Islám the return of the Imám Ḥusayn; to Sunní Islám the descent of the “Spirit of God” (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Sháh-Bahrám; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.
In the name He bore He combined those of the Imám Ḥusayn, the most illustrious of the successors of the Apostle of God—the brightest “star” shining in the “crown” mentioned in the Revelation of St. John—and of the Imám ‘Alí, the Commander of the Faithful, the second of the two “witnesses” extolled in that same Book. He was formally designated Bahá’u’lláh, an appellation specifically recorded in the Persian Bayán, signifying at once the glory, the light and the splendor of God, and was styled the “Lord of Lords,” the “Most Great Name,” the “Ancient Beauty,” the “Pen of the Most High,” the “Hidden Name,” the “Preserved Treasure,” “He Whom God will make manifest,” the “Most Great Light,” the “All-Highest Horizon,” the “Most Great Ocean,” the “Supreme Heaven,” the “Pre-Existent Root,” the “Self-Subsistent,” the “Day-Star of the Universe,” the “Great Announcement,” the “Speaker on Sinai,” the “Sifter of Men,” the “Wronged One of the World,” the “Desire of the Nations,” the “Lord of the Covenant,” the “Tree beyond which there is no passing.” He derived His descent, on the one hand, from Abraham (the Father of the Faithful) through his wife Katurah, and on the other from Zoroaster, as well as from Yazdigird, the last king of the Sásáníyán dynasty. He was moreover a descendant of Jesse, and belonged, through His father, Mírzá ‘Abbás, better known as Mírzá Buzurg—a nobleman closely associated with the ministerial circles of the Court of Fatḥ-‘Alí Sháh—to one of the most ancient and renowned families of Mázindarán.
To Him Isaiah, the greatest of the Jewish prophets, had alluded as the “Glory of the Lord,” the “Everlasting Father,” the “Prince of Peace,” the “Wonderful,” the “Counsellor,” the “Rod come forth out of the stem of Jesse” and the “Branch grown out of His roots,” Who “shall be established upon the throne of David,” Who “will come with strong hand,” Who “shall judge among the nations,” Who “shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips slay the wicked,” and Who “shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Of Him David had sung in his Psalms, acclaiming Him as the “Lord of Hosts” and the “King of Glory.” To Him Haggai had referred as the “Desire of all nations,” and Zachariah as the “Branch” Who “shall grow up out of His place,” and “shall build the Temple of the Lord.” Zachariah had extolled Him as the “Lord” Who “shall be king over all the earth,” while to His day Joel and Zephaniah had both referred as the “day of Jehovah,” the latter describing it as “a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.” His Day Ezekiel and Daniel had, moreover, both acclaimed as the “day of the Lord,” and Malachi described as “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” when “the Sun of Righteousness” will “arise, with healing in His wings,” whilst Daniel had pronounced His advent as signalizing the end of the “abomination that maketh desolate.”
To His Dispensation the sacred books of the followers of Zoroaster had referred as that in which the sun must needs be brought to a standstill for no less than one whole month. To Him Zoroaster must have alluded when, according to tradition, He foretold that a period of three thousand years of conflict and contention must needs precede the advent of the World-Savior Sháh-Bahrám, Who would triumph over Ahriman and usher in an era of blessedness and peace.
He alone is meant by the prophecy attributed to Gautama Buddha Himself, that “a Buddha named Maitreye, the Buddha of universal fellowship” should, in the fullness of time, arise and reveal “His boundless glory.” To Him the Bhagavad-Gita of the Hindus had referred as the “Most Great Spirit,” the “Tenth Avatar,” the “Immaculate Manifestation of Krishna.”
To Him Jesus Christ had referred as the “Prince of this world,” as the “Comforter” Who will “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” as the “Spirit of Truth” Who “will guide you into all truth,” Who “shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak,” as the “Lord of the Vineyard,” and as the “Son of Man” Who “shall come in the glory of His Father” “in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” with “all the holy angels” about Him, and “all nations” gathered before His throne. To Him the Author of the Apocalypse had alluded as the “Glory of God,” as “Alpha and Omega,” “the Beginning and the End,” “the First and the Last.” Identifying His Revelation with the “third woe,” he, moreover, had extolled His Law as “a new heaven and a new earth,” as the “Tabernacle of God,” as the “Holy City,” as the “New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” To His Day Jesus Christ Himself had referred as “the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory.” To the hour of His advent St. Paul had alluded as the hour of the “last trump,” the “trump of God,” whilst St. Peter had spoken of it as the “Day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” His Day he, furthermore, had described as “the times of refreshing,” “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets since the world began.”
To Him Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, had alluded in His Book as the “Great Announcement,” and declared His Day to be the Day whereon “God” will “come down” “overshadowed with clouds,” the Day whereon “thy Lord shall come and the angels rank on rank,” and “The Spirit shall arise and the angels shall be ranged in order.” His advent He, in that Book, in a súrih said to have been termed by Him “the heart of the Qur’án,” had foreshadowed as that of the “third” Messenger, sent down to “strengthen” the two who preceded Him. To His Day He, in the pages of that same Book, had paid a glowing tribute, glorifying it as the “Great Day,” the “Last Day,” the “Day of God,” the “Day of Judgment,” the “Day of Reckoning,” the “Day of Mutual Deceit,” the “Day of Severing,” the “Day of Sighing,” the “Day of Meeting,” the Day “when the Decree shall be accomplished,” the Day whereon the second “Trumpet blast” will be sounded, the “Day when mankind shall stand before the Lord of the world,” and “all shall come to Him in humble guise,” the Day when “thou shalt see the mountains, which thou thinkest so firm, pass away with the passing of a cloud,” the Day “wherein account shall be taken,” “the approaching Day, when men’s hearts shall rise up, choking them, into their throats,” the Day when “all that are in the heavens and all that are on the earth shall be terror-stricken, save him whom God pleaseth to deliver,” the Day whereon “every suckling woman shall forsake her sucking babe, and every woman that hath a burden in her womb shall cast her burden,” the Day “when the earth shall shine with the light of her Lord, and the Book shall be set, and the Prophets shall be brought up, and the witnesses; and judgment shall be given between them with equity; and none shall be wronged.”
The plenitude of His glory the Apostle of God had, moreover, as attested by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, compared to the “full moon on its fourteenth night.” His station the Imám ‘Alí, the Commander of the Faithful, had, according to the same testimony, identified with “Him Who conversed with Moses from the Burning Bush on Sinai.” To the transcendent character of His mission the Imám Ḥusayn had, again according to Bahá’u’lláh, borne witness as a “Revelation whose Revealer will be He Who revealed” the Apostle of God Himself.
About Him Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í, the herald of the Bábí Dispensation, who had foreshadowed the “strange happenings” that would transpire “between the years sixty and sixty-seven,” and had categorically affirmed the inevitability of His Revelation had, as previously mentioned, written the following: “The Mystery of this Cause must needs be made manifest, and the Secret of this Message must needs be divulged. I can say no more, I can appoint no time. His Cause will be made known after Ḥín (68)” (i.e., after a while).
Siyyid Káẓim-i-Rashtí, Shaykh Aḥmad’s disciple and successor, had likewise written: “The Qá’im must needs be put to death. After He has been slain the world will have attained the age of eighteen.” In his Sharḥ-i-Qaṣídiy-i-Lámíyyíh he had even alluded to the name “Bahá.” Furthermore, to his disciples, as his days drew to a close, he had significantly declared: “Verily, I say, after the Qá’im the Qayyúm will be made manifest. For when the star of the former has set the sun of the beauty of Ḥusayn will rise and illuminate the whole world. Then will be unfolded in all its glory the ‘Mystery’ and the ‘Secret’ spoken of by Shaykh Aḥmad.… To have attained unto that Day of Days is to have attained unto the crowning glory of past generations, and one goodly deed performed in that age is equal to the pious worship of countless centuries.”
The Báb had no less significantly extolled Him as the “Essence of Being,” as the “Remnant of God,” as the “Omnipotent Master,” as the “Crimson, all-encompassing Light,” as “Lord of the visible and invisible,” as the “sole Object of all previous Revelations, including The Revelation of the Qá’im Himself.” He had formally designated Him as “He Whom God shall make manifest,” had alluded to Him as the “Abhá Horizon” wherein He Himself lived and dwelt, had specifically recorded His title, and eulogized His “Order” in His best-known work, the Persian Bayán, had disclosed His name through His allusion to the “Son of ‘Alí, a true and undoubted Leader of men,” had, repeatedly, orally and in writing, fixed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the time of His Revelation, and warned His followers lest “the Bayán and all that hath been revealed therein” should “shut them out as by a veil” from Him. He had, moreover, declared that He was the “first servant to believe in Him,” that He bore Him allegiance “before all things were created,” that “no allusion” of His “could allude unto Him,” that “the year-old germ that holdeth within itself the potentialities of the Revelation that is to come is endowed with a potency superior to the combined forces of the whole of the Bayán.” He had, moreover, clearly asserted that He had “covenanted with all created things” concerning Him Whom God shall make manifest ere the covenant concerning His own mission had been established. He had readily acknowledged that He was but “a letter” of that “Most Mighty Book,” “a dew-drop” from that “Limitless Ocean,” that His Revelation was “only a leaf amongst the leaves of His Paradise,” that “all that hath been exalted in the Bayán” was but “a ring” upon His own hand, and He Himself “a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest,” Who, “turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth.” He had unmistakably declared that He had “sacrificed” Himself “wholly” for Him, that He had “consented to be cursed” for His sake, and to have “yearned for naught but martyrdom” in the path of His love. Finally, He had unequivocally prophesied: “Today the Bayán is in the stage of seed; at the beginning of the manifestation of Him Whom God shall make manifest its ultimate perfection will become apparent.” “Ere nine will have elapsed from the inception of this Cause the realities of the created things will not be made manifest. All that thou hast as yet seen is but the stage from the moist-germ until We clothed it with flesh. Be patient until thou beholdest a new creation. Say: Blessed, therefore, be God, the Most Excellent of Makers!”
“He around Whom the Point of the Bayán (Báb) hath revolved is come” is Bahá’u’lláh’s confirmatory testimony to the inconceivable greatness and preeminent character of His own Revelation. “If all who are in heaven and on earth,” He moreover affirms, “be invested in this day with the powers and attributes destined for the Letters of the Bayán, whose station is ten thousand times more glorious than that of the Letters of the Qur’ánic Dispensation, and if they one and all should, swift as the twinkling of an eye, hesitate to recognize My Revelation, they shall be accounted, in the sight of God, of those that have gone astray, and regarded as ‘Letters of Negation.’” “Powerful is He, the King of Divine might,” He, alluding to Himself in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, asserts, “to extinguish with one letter of His wondrous words, the breath of life in the whole of the Bayán and the people thereof, and with one letter bestow upon them a new and everlasting life, and cause them to arise and speed out of the sepulchers of their vain and selfish desires.” “This,” He furthermore declares, “is the king of days,” the “Day of God Himself,” the “Day which shall never be followed by night,” the “Springtime which autumn will never overtake,” “the eye to past ages and centuries,” for which “the soul of every Prophet of God, of every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted,” for which “all the divers kindreds of the earth have yearned,” through which “God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets, and beyond them those that stand guard over His sacred and inviolable Sanctuary, the inmates of the Celestial Pavilion and dwellers of the Tabernacle of Glory.” “In this most mighty Revelation,” He moreover, states, “all the Dispensations of the past have attained their highest, their final consummation.” And again: “None among the Manifestations of old, except to a prescribed degree, hath ever completely apprehended the nature of this Revelation.” Referring to His own station He declares: “But for Him no Divine Messenger would have been invested with the Robe of Prophethood, nor would any of the sacred Scriptures have been revealed.”
And last but not least is ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s own tribute to the transcendent character of the Revelation identified with His Father: “Centuries, nay ages, must pass away, ere the Day-Star of Truth shineth again in its mid-summer splendor, or appeareth once more in the radiance of its vernal glory.” “The mere contemplation of the Dispensation inaugurated by the Blessed Beauty,” He furthermore affirms, “would have sufficed to overwhelm the saints of bygone ages—saints who longed to partake for one moment of its great glory.” “Concerning the Manifestations that will come down in the future ‘in the shadows of the clouds,’ know verily,” is His significant statement, “that in so far as their relation to the source of their inspiration is concerned they are under the shadow of the Ancient Beauty. In their relation, however, to the age in which they appear, each and every one of them ‘doeth whatsoever He willeth.’” And finally stands this, His illuminating explanation, setting forth conclusively the true relationship between the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and that of the Báb: “The Revelation of the Báb may be likened to the sun, its station corresponding to the first sign of the Zodiac—the sign Aries—which the sun enters at the vernal equinox. The station of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, on the other hand, is represented by the sign Leo, the sun’s mid-summer and highest station. By this is meant that this holy Dispensation is illumined with the light of the Sun of Truth shining from its most exalted station, and in the plenitude of its resplendency, its heat and glory.”
To attempt an exhaustive survey of the prophetic references to Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation would indeed be an impossible task. To this the pen of Bahá’u’lláh Himself bears witness: “All the Divine Books and Scriptures have predicted and announced unto men the advent of the Most Great Revelation. None can adequately recount the verses recorded in the Books of former ages which forecast this supreme Bounty, this most mighty Bestowal.”
In conclusion of this theme, I feel, it should be stated that the Revelation identified with Bahá’u’lláh abrogates unconditionally all the Dispensations gone before it, upholds uncompromisingly the eternal verities they enshrine, recognizes firmly and absolutely the Divine origin of their Authors, preserves inviolate the sanctity of their authentic Scriptures, disclaims any intention of lowering the status of their Founders or of abating the spiritual ideals they inculcate, clarifies and correlates their functions, reaffirms their common, their unchangeable and fundamental purpose, reconciles their seemingly divergent claims and doctrines, readily and gratefully recognizes their respective contributions to the gradual unfoldment of one Divine Revelation, unhesitatingly acknowledges itself to be but one link in the chain of continually progressive Revelations, supplements their teachings with such laws and ordinances as conform to the imperative needs, and are dictated by the growing receptivity, of a fast evolving and constantly changing society, and proclaims its readiness and ability to fuse and incorporate the contending sects and factions into which they have fallen into a universal Fellowship, functioning within the framework, and in accordance with the precepts, of a divinely conceived, a world-unifying, a world-redeeming Order.
A Revelation, hailed as the promise and crowning glory of past ages and centuries, as the consummation of all the Dispensations within the Adamic Cycle, inaugurating an era of at least a thousand years’ duration, and a cycle destined to last no less than five thousand centuries, signalizing the end of the Prophetic Era and the beginning of the Era of Fulfillment, unsurpassed alike in the duration of its Author’s ministry and the fecundity and splendor of His mission—such a Revelation was, as already noted, born amidst the darkness of a subterranean dungeon in Ṭihrán—an abominable pit that had once served as a reservoir of water for one of the public baths of the city. Wrapped in its stygian gloom, breathing its fetid air, numbed by its humid and icy atmosphere, His feet in stocks, His neck weighed down by a mighty chain, surrounded by criminals and miscreants of the worst order, oppressed by the consciousness of the terrible blot that had stained the fair name of His beloved Faith, painfully aware of the dire distress that had overtaken its champions, and of the grave dangers that faced the remnant of its followers—at so critical an hour and under such appalling circumstances the “Most Great Spirit,” as designated by Himself, and symbolized in the Zoroastrian, the Mosaic, the Christian, and Muḥammadan Dispensations by the Sacred Fire, the Burning Bush, the Dove and the Angel Gabriel respectively, descended upon, and revealed itself, personated by a “Maiden,” to the agonized soul of Bahá’u’lláh.
“One night in a dream,” He Himself, calling to mind, in the evening of His life, the first stirrings of God’s Revelation within His soul, has written, “these exalted words were heard on every side: ‘Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Ere long will God raise up the treasures of the earth—men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him.’” In another passage He describes, briefly and graphically, the impact of the onrushing force of the Divine Summons upon His entire being—an experience vividly recalling the vision of God that caused Moses to fall in a swoon, and the voice of Gabriel which plunged Muḥammad into such consternation that, hurrying to the shelter of His home, He bade His wife, Khadíjih, envelop Him in His mantle. “During the days I lay in the prison of Tihrán,” are His own memorable words, “though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear.”
In His Súratu’l-Haykal (the Súrih of the Temple) He thus describes those breathless moments when the Maiden, symbolizing the “Most Great Spirit” proclaimed His mission to the entire creation: “While engulfed in tribulations I heard a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My head. Turning My face, I beheld a Maiden—the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of My Lord—suspended in the air before Me. So rejoiced was she in her very soul that her countenance shone with the ornament of the good-pleasure of God, and her cheeks glowed with the brightness of the All-Merciful. Betwixt earth and heaven she was raising a call which captivated the hearts and minds of men. She was imparting to both My inward and outer being tidings which rejoiced My soul, and the souls of God’s honored servants. Pointing with her finger unto My head, she addressed all who are in heaven and all who are on earth, saying: ‘By God! This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you, could ye but understand. This is the Mystery of God and His Treasure, the Cause of God and His glory unto all who are in the kingdoms of Revelation and of creation, if ye be of them that perceive.’”
In His Epistle to Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, His royal adversary, revealed at the height of the proclamation of His Message, occur these passages which shed further light on the Divine origin of His mission: “O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And he bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow.… This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of Thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred.… His all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of Thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me.” “By My Life!” He asserts in another Tablet, “Not of Mine own volition have I revealed Myself, but God, of His own choosing, hath manifested Me.” And again: “Whenever I chose to hold My peace and be still, lo, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, standing on My right hand, aroused Me, and the Most Great Spirit appeared before My face, and Gabriel overshadowed Me, and the Spirit of Glory stirred within My bosom, bidding Me arise and break My silence.”
Such were the circumstances in which the Sun of Truth arose in the city of Ṭihrán—a city which, by reason of so rare a privilege conferred upon it, had been glorified by the Báb as the “Holy Land,” and surnamed by Bahá’u’lláh “the Mother of the world,” the “Day-spring of Light,” the “Dawning-Place of the signs of the Lord,” the “Source of the joy of all mankind.” The first dawnings of that Light of peerless splendor had, as already described, broken in the city of Shíráz. The rim of that Orb had now appeared above the horizon of the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán. Its rays were to burst forth, a decade later, in Baghdád, piercing the clouds which immediately after its rise in those somber surroundings obscured its splendor. It was destined to mount to its zenith in the far-away city of Adrianople, and ultimately to set in the immediate vicinity of the fortress-town of ‘Akká.
The process whereby the effulgence of so dazzling a Revelation was unfolded to the eyes of men was of necessity slow and gradual. The first intimation which its Bearer received did not synchronize with, nor was it followed immediately by, a disclosure of its character to either His own companions or His kindred. A period of no less than ten years had to elapse ere its far-reaching implications could be directly divulged to even those who had been intimately associated with Him—a period of great spiritual ferment, during which the Recipient of so weighty a Message restlessly anticipated the hour at which He could unburden His heavily laden soul, so replete with the potent energies released by God’s nascent Revelation. All He did, in the course of this pre-ordained interval, was to hint, in veiled and allegorical language, in epistles, commentaries, prayers and treatises, which He was moved to reveal, that the Báb’s promise had already been fulfilled, and that He Himself was the One Who had been chosen to redeem it. A few of His fellow-disciples, distinguished by their sagacity, and their personal attachment and devotion to Him, perceived the radiance of the as yet unrevealed glory that had flooded His soul, and would have, but for His restraining influence, divulged His secret and proclaimed it far and wide.