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God Passes By
First Period: The Ministry Of The Bab (1844-1853)
• CHAPTER I The Birth of the Babi Revelation
• CHAPTER II The Bab's Captivity in Adhirbayjan
• CHAPTER III Upheavals in Mazindaran, Nayriz and Zanjan
• CHAPTER IV The Execution of the Bab
• CHAPTER V The Attempt on the Life of the Shah and Its Consequences
Second Period: The Ministry Of Baha'u'llah (1853-1892)
• CHAPTER VI The Birth of The Baha'i Revelation
• CHAPTER VII Baha'u'llah's Banishment to Iraq
• CHAPTER VIII Baha'u'llah's Banishment to Iraq (Continued)
• CHAPTER IX The Declaration of Baha'u'llah's Mission and His Journey to Constantinople
• CHAPTER X The Rebellion of Mirza Yahya and the Proclamation of Baha'u'llah's Mission in Adrianople
• CHAPTER XI Baha'u'llah's Incarceration in Akka
• CHAPTER XII Baha'u'llah's Incarceration in Akka (Continued)
• CHAPTER XIII Ascension of Baha'u'llah
Third Period: The Ministry Of Abdu'l-Baha (1892-1921)
• CHAPTER XIV The Covenant of Baha'u'llah
• CHAPTER XV The Rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali
• CHAPTER XVI The Rise and Establishment of the Faith in the West
• CHAPTER XVII Renewal of Abdu'l-Baha's Incarceration
• CHAPTER XVIII Entombment of the Bab's Remains on Mt. Carmel
• CHAPTER XIX Abdu'l-Baha's Travels in Europe and America
• CHAPTER XX Growth and Expansion of the Faith in East and West
• CHAPTER XXI The Passing of Abdu'l-Baha
Fourth Period: The Inception Of The Formative Age Of The Baha'i Faith (1921-1944)
• CHAPTER XXII The Rise and Establishment of the Administrative Order
• CHAPTER XXIII Attacks on Baha'i Institutions
• CHAPTER XXIV Emancipation and Recognition of the Faith and Its Institutions
• CHAPTER XXV International Expansion of Teaching Activities
On the 23rd of May of this auspicious year the Baha'i world will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Faith of Baha'u'llah. It will commemorate at once the hundreth anniversary of the inception of the Babi Dispensation, of the inauguration of the Baha'i Era, of the commencement of the Baha'i Cycle, and of the birth of Abdu'l-Baha. The weight of the potentialities with which this Faith, possessing no peer or equal in the world's spiritual history, and marking the culmination of a universal prophetic cycle, has been endowed, staggers our imagination. The brightness of the millennial glory which it must shed in the fullness of time dazzles our eyes. The magnitude of the shadow which its Author will continue to cast on successive Prophets destined to be raised up after Him eludes our calculation.
Already in the space of less than a century the operation of the mysterious processes generated by its creative spirit has provoked a tumult in human society such as no mind can fathom. Itself undergoing a period of incubation during its primitive age, it has, through the emergence of its slowly-crystallizing system, induced a fermentation in the general life of mankind designed to shake the very foundations of a disordered society, to purify its life-blood, to reorientate and reconstruct its institutions, and shape its final destiny.
To what else can the observant eye or the unprejudiced mind, acquainted with the signs and portents heralding the birth, and accompanying the rise, of the Faith of Baha'u'llah ascribe this dire, this planetary upheaval, with its attendant destruction, misery and fear, if not to the emergence of His embryonic World Order, which, as He Himself has unequivocally proclaimed, has ";deranged the equilibrium of the world and revolutionized mankind's ordered life";? To what agency, if not to the irresistible diffusion of that world-shaking, world-energizing, world-redeeming spirit, which the Bab has affirmed is ";vibrating in the innermost realities of all created things"; can the origins of this portentous crisis, incomprehensible to man, and admittedly unprecedented in the annals of the human race, be attributed? In the convulsions of contemporary society, in the frenzied, world-wide ebullitions of men's thoughts, in the fierce antagonisms inflaming races, creeds and classes, in the shipwreck of nations, in the downfall of kings, in the dismemberment of empires, in the extinction of dynasties, in the collapse of ecclesiastical hierarchies, in the deterioration of time-honored institutions, in the dissolution of ties, secular as well as religious, that had for so long held together the members of the human race--all manifesting themselves with ever-increasing gravity since the outbreak of the first World War that immediately preceded the opening years of the Formative Age of the Faith of Baha'u'llah--in these we can readily recognize the evidences of the travail of an age that has sustained the impact of His Revelation, that has ignored His summons, and is now laboring to be delivered of its burden, as a direct consequence of the impulse communicated to it by the generative, the purifying, the transmuting influence of His Spirit.
It is my purpose, on the occasion of an anniversary of such profound significance, to attempt in the succeeding pages a survey of the outstanding events of the century that has seen this Spirit burst forth upon the world, as well as the initial stages of its subsequent incarnation in a System that must evolve into an Order designed to embrace the whole of mankind, and capable of fulfilling the high destiny that awaits man on this planet. I shall endeavor to review, in their proper perspective and despite the comparatively brief space of time which separates us from them, the events which the revolution of a hundred years, unique alike in glory and tribulation, has unrolled before our eyes. I shall seek to represent and correlate, in however cursory a manner, those momentous happenings which have insensibly, relentlessly, and under the very eyes of successive generations, perverse, indifferent or hostile, transformed a heterodox and seemingly negligible offshoot of the Shaykhi school of the Ithna-'Ashariyyih sect of Shi'ah Islam into a world religion whose unnumbered followers are organically and indissolubly united; whose light has overspread the earth as far as Iceland in the North and Magellanes in the South; whose ramifications have spread to no less than sixty countries of the world; whose literature has been translated and disseminated in no less than forty languages; whose endowments in the five continents of the globe, whether local, national or international, already run into several million dollars; whose incorporated elective bodies have secured the official recognition of a number of governments in East and West; whose adherents are recruited from the diversified races and chief religions of mankind; whose representatives are to be found in hundreds of cities in both Persia and the United States of America; to whose verities royalty has publicly and repeatedly testified; whose independent status its enemies, from the ranks of its parent religion and in the leading center of both the Arab and Muslim worlds, have proclaimed and demonstrated; and whose claims have been virtually recognized, entitling it to rank as the fourth religion of a Land in which its world spiritual center has been established, and which is at once the heart of Christendom, the holiest shrine of the Jewish people, and, save Mecca alone, the most sacred spot in Islam.
It is not my purpose--nor does the occasion demand it,--to write a detailed history of the last hundred years of the Baha'i Faith, nor do I intend to trace the origins of so tremendous a Movement, or to portray the conditions under which it was born, or to examine the character of the religion from which it has sprung, or to arrive at an estimate of the effects which its impact upon the fortunes of mankind has produced. I shall rather content myself with a review of the salient features of its birth and rise, as well as of the initial stages in the establishment of its administrative institutions--institutions which must be regarded as the nucleus and herald of that World Order that must incarnate the soul, execute the laws, and fulfill the purpose of the Faith of God in this day.
Nor will it be my intention to ignore, whilst surveying the panorama which the revolution of a hundred years spreads before our gaze, the swift interweaving of seeming reverses with evident victories, out of which the hand of an inscrutable Providence has chosen to form the pattern of the Faith from its earliest days, or to minimize those disasters that have so often proved themselves to be the prelude to fresh triumphs which have, in turn, stimulated its growth and consolidated its past achievements. Indeed, the history of the first hundred years of its evolution resolves itself into a series of internal and external crises, of varying severity, devastating in their immediate effects, but each mysteriously releasing a corresponding measure of divine power, lending thereby a fresh impulse to its unfoldment, this further unfoldment engendering in its turn a still graver calamity, followed by a still more liberal effusion of celestial grace enabling its upholders to accelerate still further its march and win in its service still more compelling victories.
In its broadest outline the first century of the Baha'i Era may be said to comprise the Heroic, the Primitive, the Apostolic Age of the Faith of Baha'u'llah, and also the initial stages of the Formative, the Transitional, the Iron Age which is to witness the crystallization and shaping of the creative energies released by His Revelation. The first eighty years of this century may roughly be said to have covered the entire period of the first age, while the last two decades may be regarded as having witnessed the beginnings of the second. The former commences with the Declaration of the Bab, includes the mission of Baha'u'llah, and terminates with the passing of Abdu'l-Baha. The latter is ushered in by His Will and Testament, which defines its character and establishes its foundation.
The century under our review may therefore be considered as falling into four distinct periods, of unequal duration, each of specific import and of tremendous and indeed unappraisable significance. These four periods are closely interrelated, and constitute successive acts of one, indivisible, stupendous and sublime drama, whose mystery no intellect can fathom, whose climax no eye can even dimly perceive, whose conclusion no mind can adequately foreshadow. Each of these acts revolves around its own theme, boasts of its own heroes, registers its own tragedies, records its own triumphs, and contributes its own share to the execution of one common, immutable Purpose. To isolate any one of them from the others, to dissociate the later manifestations of one universal, all-embracing Revelation from the pristine purpose that animated it in its earliest days, would be tantamount to a mutilation of the structure on which it rests, and to a lamentable perversion of its truth and of its history.
The first period (1844-1853), centers around the gentle, the youthful and irresistible person of the Bab, matchless in His meekness, imperturbable in His serenity, magnetic in His utterance, unrivaled in the dramatic episodes of His swift and tragic ministry. It begins with the Declaration of His Mission, culminates in His martyrdom, and ends in a veritable orgy of religious massacre revolting in its hideousness. It is characterized by nine years of fierce and relentless contest, whose theatre was the whole of Persia, in which above ten thousand heroes laid down their lives, in which two sovereigns of the Qajar dynasty and their wicked ministers participated, and which was supported by the entire Shi'ah ecclesiastical hierarchy, by the military resources of the state, and by the implacable hostility of the masses. The second period (1853-1892) derives its inspiration from the august figure of Baha'u'llah, preeminent in holiness, awesome in the majesty of His strength and power, unapproachable in the transcendent brightness of His glory. It opens with the first stirrings, in the soul of Baha'u'llah while in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, of the Revelation anticipated by the Bab, attains its plenitude in the proclamation of that Revelation to the kings and ecclesiastical leaders of the earth, and terminates in the ascension of its Author in the vicinity of the prison-town of Akka. It extends over thirty-nine years of continuous, of unprecedented and overpowering Revelation, is marked by the propagation of the Faith to the neighboring territories of Turkey, of Russia, of Iraq, of Syria, of Egypt and of India, and is distinguished by a corresponding aggravation of hostility, represented by the united attacks launched by the Shah of Persia and the Sultan of Turkey, the two admittedly most powerful potentates of the East, as well as by the opposition of the twin sacerdotal orders of Shi'ah and Sunni Islam. The third period (1892-1921) revolves around the vibrant personality of Abdu'l-Baha, mysterious in His essence, unique in His station, astoundingly potent in both the charm and strength of His character. It commences with the announcement of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah, a document without parallel in the history of any earlier Dispensation, attains its climax in the emphatic assertion by the Center of that Covenant, in the City of the Covenant, of the unique character and far-reaching implications of that Document, and closes with His passing and the interment of His remains on Mt. Carmel. It will go down in history as a period of almost thirty years' duration, in which tragedies and triumphs have been so intertwined as to eclipse at one time the Orb of the Covenant, and at another time to pour forth its light over the continent of Europe, and as far as Australasia, the Far East and the North American continent. The fourth period (1921-1944) is motivated by the forces radiating from the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, that Charter of Baha'u'llah's New World Order, the offspring resulting from the mystic intercourse between Him Who is the Source of the Law of God and the mind of the One Who is the vehicle and interpreter of that Law. The inception of this fourth, this last period of the first Baha'i century synchronizes with the birth of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Era, with the founding of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Baha'u'llah--a system which is at once the harbinger, the nucleus and pattern of His World Order. This period, covering the first twenty-three years of this Formative Age, has already been distinguished by an outburst of further hostility, of a different character, accelerating on the one hand the diffusion of the Faith over a still wider area in each of the five continents of the globe, and resulting on the other in the emancipation and the recognition of the independent status of several communities within its pale.
These four periods are to be regarded not only as the component, the inseparable parts of one stupendous whole, but as progressive stages in a single evolutionary process, vast, steady and irresistible. For as we survey the entire range which the operation of a century-old Faith has unfolded before us, we cannot escape the conclusion that from whatever angle we view this colossal scene, the events associated with these periods present to us unmistakable evidences of a slowly maturing process, of an orderly development, of internal consolidation, of external expansion, of a gradual emancipation from the fetters of religious orthodoxy, and of a corresponding diminution of civil disabilities and restrictions.
Viewing these periods of Baha'i history as the constituents of a single entity, we note the chain of events proclaiming successfully the rise of a Forerunner, the Mission of One Whose advent that Forerunner had promised, the establishment of a Covenant generated through the direct authority of the Promised One Himself, and lastly the birth of a System which is the child sprung from both the Author of the Covenant and its appointed Center. We observe how the Bab, the Forerunner, announced the impending inception of a divinely-conceived Order, how Baha'u'llah, the Promised One, formulated its laws and ordinances, how Abdu'l-Baha, the appointed Center, delineated its features, and how the present generation of their followers have commenced to erect the framework of its institutions. We watch, through these periods, the infant light of the Faith diffuse itself from its cradle, eastward to India and the Far East, westward to the neighboring territories of Iraq, of Turkey, of Russia, and of Egypt, travel as far as the North American continent, illuminate subsequently the major countries of Europe, envelop with its radiance, at a later stage, the Antipodes, brighten the fringes of the Arctic, and finally set aglow the Central and South American horizons. We witness a corresponding increase in the diversity of the elements within its fellowship, which from being confined, in the first period of its history, to an obscure body of followers chiefly recruited from the ranks of the masses in Shi'ah Persia, has expanded into a fraternity representative of the leading religious systems of the world, of almost every caste and color, from the humblest worker and peasant to royalty itself. We notice a similar development in the extent of its literature--a literature which, restricted at first to the narrow range of hurriedly transcribed, often corrupted, secretly circulated, manuscripts, so furtively perused, so frequently effaced, and at times even eaten by the terrorized members of a proscribed sect, has, within the space of a century, swelled into innumerable editions, comprising tens of thousands of printed volumes, in diverse scripts, and in no less than forty languages, some elaborately reproduced, others profusely illustrated, all methodically and vigorously disseminated through the agency of world-wide, properly constituted and specially organized committees and Assemblies. We perceive a no less apparent evolution in the scope of its teachings, at first designedly rigid, complex and severe, subsequently recast, expanded, and liberalized under the succeeding Dispensation, later expounded, reaffirmed and amplified by an appointed Interpreter, and lastly systematized and universally applied to both individuals and institutions. We can discover a no less distinct gradation in the character of the opposition it has had to encounter-- an opposition, at first kindled in the bosom of Shi'ah Islam, which, at a later stage, gathered momentum with the banishment of Baha'u'llah to the domains of the Turkish Sultan and the consequent hostility of the more powerful Sunni hierarchy and its Caliph, the head of the vast majority of the followers of Muhammad--an opposition which, now, through the rise of a divinely appointed Order in the Christian West, and its initial impact on civil and ecclesiastical institutions, bids fair to include among its supporters established governments and systems associated with the most ancient, the most deeply entrenched sacerdotal hierarchies in Christendom. We can, at the same time, recognize, through the haze of an ever-widening hostility, the progress, painful yet persistent, of certain communities within its pale through the stages of obscurity, of proscription, of emancipation, and of recognition --stages that must needs culminate in the course of succeeding centuries, in the establishment of the Faith, and the founding, in the plenitude of its power and authority, of the world-embracing Baha'i Commonwealth. We can likewise discern a no less appreciable advance in the rise of its institutions, whether as administrative centers or places of worship--institutions, clandestine and subterrene in their earliest beginnings, emerging imperceptibly into the broad daylight of public recognition, legally protected, enriched by pious endowments, ennobled at first by the erection of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of Ishqabad, the first Baha'i House of Worship, and more recently immortalized, through the rise in the heart of the North American continent of the Mother Temple of the West, the forerunner of a divine, a slowly maturing civilization. And finally, we can even bear witness to the marked improvement in the conditions surrounding the pilgrimages performed by its devoted adherents to its consecrated shrines at its world center--pilgrimages originally arduous, perilous, tediously long, often made on foot, at times ending in disappointment, and confined to a handful of harassed Oriental followers, gradually attracting, under steadily improving circumstances of security and comfort, an ever swelling number of new converts converging from the four corners of the globe, and culminating in the widely publicized yet sadly frustrated visit of a noble Queen, who, at the very threshold of the city of her heart's desire, was compelled, according to her own written testimony, to divert her steps, and forego the privilege of so priceless a benefit.
FIRST PERIOD: THE MINISTRY OF THE BAB (1844-1853)
CHAPTER I -- The Birth of the Babi Revelation
May 23, 1844, signalizes the commencement of the most turbulent period of the Heroic Age of the Baha'i Era, an age which marks the opening of the most glorious epoch in the greatest cycle which the spiritual history of mankind has yet witnessed. No more than a span of nine short years marks the duration of this most spectacular, this most tragic, this most eventful period of the first Baha'i century. It was ushered in by the birth of a Revelation whose Bearer posterity will acclaim as the ";Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve,"; and terminated with the first stirrings of a still more potent Revelation, ";whose day,"; Baha'u'llah Himself affirms, ";every Prophet hath announced,"; for which ";the soul of every Divine Messenger hath thirsted,"; and through which ";God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets."; Little wonder that the immortal chronicler of the events associated with the birth and rise of the Baha'i Revelation has seen fit to devote no less than half of his moving narrative to the description of those happenings that have during such a brief space of time so greatly enriched, through their tragedy and heroism, the religious annals of mankind. In sheer dramatic power, in the rapidity with which events of momentous importance succeeded each other, in the holocaust which baptized its birth, in the miraculous circumstances attending the martyrdom of the One Who had ushered it in, in the potentialities with which it had been from the outset so thoroughly impregnated, in the forces to which it eventually gave birth, this nine-year period may well rank as unique in the whole range of man's religious experience. We behold, as we survey the episodes of this first act of a sublime drama, the figure of its Master Hero, the Bab, arise meteor-like above the horizon of Shiraz, traverse the sombre sky of Persia from south to north, decline with tragic swiftness, and perish in a blaze of glory. We see His satellites, a galaxy of God-intoxicated heroes, mount above that same horizon, irradiate that same incandescent light, burn themselves out with that self-same swiftness, and impart in their turn an added impetus to the steadily gathering momentum of God's nascent Faith.
He Who communicated the original impulse to so incalculable a Movement was none other than the promised Qa'im (He who ariseth), the Sahibu'z-Zaman (the Lord of the Age), Who assumed the exclusive right of annulling the whole Qur'anic Dispensation, Who styled Himself ";the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things ... the Countenance of God Whose splendor can never be obscured, the Light of God Whose radiance can never fade."; The people among whom He appeared were the most decadent race in the civilized world, grossly ignorant, savage, cruel, steeped in prejudice, servile in their submission to an almost deified hierarchy, recalling in their abjectness the Israelites of Egypt in the days of Moses, in their fanaticism the Jews in the days of Jesus, and in their perversity the idolators of Arabia in the days of Muhammad. The arch-enemy who repudiated His claim, challenged His authority, persecuted His Cause, succeeded in almost quenching His light, and who eventually became disintegrated under the impact of His Revelation was the Shi'ah priesthood. Fiercely fanatic, unspeakably corrupt, enjoying unlimited ascendancy over the masses, jealous of their position, and irreconcilably opposed to all liberal ideas, the members of this caste had for one thousand years invoked the name of the Hidden Imam, their breasts had glowed with the expectation of His advent, their pulpits had rung with the praises of His world-embracing dominion, their lips were still devoutly and perpetually murmuring prayers for the hastening of His coming. The willing tools who prostituted their high office for the accomplishment of the enemy's designs were no less than the sovereigns of the Qajar dynasty, first, the bigoted, the sickly, the vacillating Muhammad Shah, who at the last moment cancelled the Bab's imminent visit to the capital, and, second, the youthful and inexperienced Nasiri'd-Din Shah, who gave his ready assent to the sentence of his Captive's death. The arch villains who joined hands with the prime movers of so wicked a conspiracy were the two grand vizirs, Haji Mirza Aqasi, the idolized tutor of Muhammad Shah, a vulgar, false-hearted and fickle-minded schemer, and the arbitrary, bloodthirsty, reckless Amir-Nizam, Mirza Taqi Khan, the first of whom exiled the Bab to the mountain fastnesses of Adhirbayjan, and the latter decreed His death in Tabriz. Their accomplice in these and other heinous crimes was a government bolstered up by a flock of idle, parasitical princelings and governors, corrupt, incompetent, tenaciously holding to their ill-gotten privileges, and utterly subservient to a notoriously degraded clerical order. The heroes whose deeds shine upon the record of this fierce spiritual contest, involving at once people, clergy, monarch and government, were the Bab's chosen disciples, the Letters of the Living, and their companions, the trail-breakers of the New Day, who to so much intrigue, ignorance, depravity, cruelty, superstition and cowardice opposed a spirit exalted, unquenchable and awe-inspiring, a knowledge surprisingly profound, an eloquence sweeping in its force, a piety unexcelled in fervor, a courage leonine in its fierceness, a self-abnegation saintly in its purity, a resolve granite-like in its firmness, a vision stupendous in its range, a veneration for the Prophet and His Imams disconcerting to their adversaries, a power of persuasion alarming to their antagonists, a standard of faith and a code of conduct that challenged and revolutionized the lives of their countrymen.
The opening scene of the initial act of this great drama was laid in the upper chamber of the modest residence of the son of a mercer of Shiraz, in an obscure corner of that city. The time was the hour before sunset, on the 22nd day of May, 1844. The participants were the Bab, a twenty-five year old siyyid, of pure and holy lineage, and the young Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in Him. Their meeting immediately before that interview seemed to be purely fortuitous. The interview itself was protracted till the hour of dawn. The Host remained closeted alone with His guest, nor was the sleeping city remotely aware of the import of the conversation they held with each other. No record has passed to posterity of that unique night save the fragmentary but highly illuminating account that fell from the lips of Mulla Husayn.
";I sat spellbound by His utterance, oblivious of time and of those who awaited me,"; he himself has testified, after describing the nature of the questions he had put to his Host and the conclusive replies he had received from Him, replies which had established beyond the shadow of a doubt the validity of His claim to be the promised Qa'im. ";Suddenly the call of the Mu'adhdhin, summoning the faithful to their morning prayer, awakened me from the state of ecstasy into which I seemed to have fallen. All the delights, all the ineffable glories, which the Almighty has recounted in His Book as the priceless possessions of the people of Paradise--these I seemed to be experiencing that night. Methinks I was in a place of which it could be truly said: `Therein no toil shall reach us, and therein no weariness shall touch us;' `no vain discourse shall they hear therein, nor any falsehood, but only the cry, ";Peace! Peace!";'; `their cry therein shall be, ";Glory to Thee, O God!"; and their salutation therein, ";Peace!";, and the close of their cry, ";Praise be to God, Lord of all creatures!";' Sleep had departed from me that night. I was enthralled by the music of that voice which rose and fell as He chanted; now swelling forth as He revealed verses of the Qayyumu'l-Asma', again acquiring ethereal, subtle harmonies as He uttered the prayers He was revealing. At the end of each invocation, He would repeat this verse: `Far from the glory of thy Lord, the All-Glorious, be that which His creatures affirm of Him! And peace be upon His Messengers! And praise be to God, the Lord of all beings!'";
";This Revelation,"; Mulla Husayn has further testified, ";so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendor and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanized my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: `Awake, for, lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He Who is your promised One is come!'";
A more significant light, however, is shed on this episode, marking the Declaration of the Mission of the Bab, by the perusal of that ";first, greatest and mightiest"; of all books in the Babi Dispensation, the celebrated commentary on the Surih of Joseph, the first chapter of which, we are assured, proceeded, in its entirety, in the course of that night of nights from the pen of its divine Revealer. The description of this episode by Mulla Husayn, as well as the opening pages of that Book attest the magnitude and force of that weighty Declaration. A claim to be no less than the mouthpiece of God Himself, promised by the Prophets of bygone ages; the assertion that He was, at the same time, the Herald of One immeasurably greater than Himself; the summons which He trumpeted forth to the kings and princes of the earth; the dire warnings directed to the Chief Magistrate of the realm, Muhammad Shah; the counsel imparted to Haji Mirza Aqasi to fear God, and the peremptory command to abdicate his authority as grand vizir of the Shah and submit to the One Who is the ";Inheritor of the earth and all that is therein";; the challenge issued to the rulers of the world proclaiming the self-sufficiency of His Cause, denouncing the vanity of their ephemeral power, and calling upon them to ";lay aside, one and all, their dominion,"; and deliver His Message to ";lands in both the East and the West";--these constitute the dominant features of that initial contact that marked the birth, and fixed the date, of the inception of the most glorious era in the spiritual life of mankind.
With this historic Declaration the dawn of an Age that signalizes the consummation of all ages had broken. The first impulse of a momentous Revelation had been communicated to the one ";but for whom,"; according to the testimony of the Kitab-i-Iqan, ";God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory."; Not until forty days had elapsed, however, did the enrollment of the seventeen remaining Letters of the Living commence. Gradually, spontaneously, some in sleep, others while awake, some through fasting and prayer, others through dreams and visions, they discovered the Object of their quest, and were enlisted under the banner of the new-born Faith. The last, but in rank the first, of these Letters to be inscribed on the Preserved Tablet was the erudite, the twenty-two year old Quddus, a direct descendant of the Imam Hasan and the most esteemed disciple of Siyyid Kazim. Immediately preceding him, a woman, the only one of her sex, who, unlike her fellow-disciples, never attained the presence of the Bab, was invested with the rank of apostleship in the new Dispensation. A poetess, less than thirty years of age, of distinguished birth, of bewitching charm, of captivating eloquence, indomitable in spirit, unorthodox in her views, audacious in her acts, immortalized as Tahirih (the Pure One) by the ";Tongue of Glory,"; and surnamed Qurratu'l-'Ayn (Solace of the Eyes) by Siyyid Kazim, her teacher, she had, in consequence of the appearance of the Bab to her in a dream, received the first intimation of a Cause which was destined to exalt her to the fairest heights of fame, and on which she, through her bold heroism, was to shed such imperishable luster.
These ";first Letters generated from the Primal Point,"; this ";company of angels arrayed before God on the Day of His coming,"; these ";Repositories of His Mystery,"; these ";Springs that have welled out from the Source of His Revelation,"; these first companions who, in the words of the Persian Bayan, ";enjoy nearest access to God,"; these ";Luminaries that have, from everlasting, bowed down, and will everlastingly continue to bow down, before the Celestial Throne,"; and lastly these ";elders"; mentioned in the Book of Revelation as ";sitting before God on their seats,"; ";clothed in white raiment"; and wearing on their heads ";crowns of gold";--these were, ere their dispersal, summoned to the Bab's presence, Who addressed to them His parting words, entrusted to each a specific task, and assigned to some of them as the proper field of their activities their native provinces. He enjoined them to observe the utmost caution and moderation in their behavior, unveiled the loftiness of their rank, and stressed the magnitude of their responsibilities. He recalled the words addressed by Jesus to His disciples, and emphasized the superlative greatness of the New Day. He warned them lest by turning back they forfeit the Kingdom of God, and assured them that if they did God's bidding, God would make them His heirs and spiritual leaders among men. He hinted at the secret, and announced the approach, of a still mightier Day, and bade them prepare themselves for its advent. He called to remembrance the triumph of Abraham over Nimrod, of Moses over Pharaoh, of Jesus over the Jewish people, and of Muhammad over the tribes of Arabia, and asserted the inevitability and ultimate ascendancy of His own Revelation. To the care of Mulla Husayn He committed a mission, more specific in character and mightier in import. He affirmed that His covenant with him had been established, cautioned him to be forbearing with the divines he would encounter, directed him to proceed to Tihran, and alluded, in the most glowing terms, to the as yet unrevealed Mystery enshrined in that city--a Mystery that would, He affirmed, transcend the light shed by both Hijaz and Shiraz.
Galvanized into action by the mandate conferred upon them, launched on their perilous and revolutionizing mission, these lesser luminaries who, together with the Bab, constitute the First Vahid (Unity) of the Dispensation of the Bayan, scattered far and wide through the provinces of their native land, where, with matchless heroism, they resisted the savage and concerted onslaught of the forces arrayed against them, and immortalized their Faith by their own exploits and those of their co-religionists, raising thereby a tumult that convulsed their country and sent its echoes reverberating as far as the capitals of Western Europe.
It was not until, however, the Bab had received the eagerly anticipated letter of Mulla Husayn, His trusted and beloved lieutenant, communicating the joyful tidings of his interview with Baha'u'llah, that He decided to undertake His long and arduous pilgrimage to the Tombs of His ancestors. In the month of Sha'ban, of the year 1260 A.H. (September, 1844) He Who, both on His father's and mother's side, was of the seed of the illustrious Fatimih, and Who was a descendant of the Imam Husayn, the most eminent among the lawful successors of the Prophet of Islam, proceeded, in fulfillment of Islamic traditions, to visit the Kaaba. He embarked from Bushihr on the 19th of Ramadan (October, 1844) on a sailing vessel, accompanied by Quddus whom He was assiduously preparing for the assumption of his future office. Landing at Jaddih after a stormy voyage of over a month's duration, He donned the pilgrim's garb, mounted a camel, and set out for Mecca, arriving on the first of Dhi'l-Hajjih (December 12). Quddus, holding the bridle in his hands, accompanied his Master on foot to that holy Shrine. On the day of Arafih, the Prophet-pilgrim of Shiraz, His chronicler relates, devoted His whole time to prayer. On the day of Nahr He proceeded to Muna, where He sacrificed according to custom nineteen lambs, nine in His own name, seven in the name of Quddus, and three in the name of the Ethiopian servant who attended Him. He afterwards, in company with the other pilgrims, encompassed the Kaaba and performed the rites prescribed for the pilgrimage.
His visit to Hijaz was marked by two episodes of particular importance. The first was the declaration of His mission and His open challenge to the haughty Mirza Muhit-i-Kirmani, one of the most outstanding exponents of the Shaykhi school, who at times went so far as to assert his independence of the leadership of that school assumed after the death of Siyyid Kazim by Haji Muhammad Karim Khan, a redoubtable enemy of the Babi Faith. The second was the invitation, in the form of an Epistle, conveyed by Quddus, to the Sherif of Mecca, in which the custodian of the House of God was called upon to embrace the truth of the new Revelation. Absorbed in his own pursuits the Sherif however failed to respond. Seven years later, when in the course of a conversation with a certain Haji Niyaz-i-Baghdadi, this same Sherif was informed of the circumstances attending the mission and martyrdom of the Prophet of Shiraz, he listened attentively to the description of those events and expressed his indignation at the tragic fate that had overtaken Him.
The Bab's visit to Medina marked the conclusion of His pilgrimage. Regaining Jaddih, He returned to Bushihr, where one of His first acts was to bid His last farewell to His fellow-traveler and disciple, and to assure him that he would meet the Beloved of their hearts. He, moreover, announced to him that he would be crowned with a martyr's death, and that He Himself would subsequently suffer a similar fate at the hands of their common foe.
The Bab's return to His native land (Safar 1261) (February- March, 1845) was the signal for a commotion that rocked the entire country. The fire which the declaration of His mission had lit was being fanned into flame through the dispersal and activities of His appointed disciples. Already within the space of less than two years it had kindled the passions of friend and foe alike. The outbreak of the conflagration did not even await the return to His native city of the One Who had generated it. The implications of a Revelation, thrust so dramatically upon a race so degenerate, so inflammable in temper, could indeed have had no other consequence than to excite within men's bosoms the fiercest passions of fear, of hate, of rage and envy. A Faith Whose Founder did not content Himself with the claim to be the Gate of the Hidden Imam, Who assumed a rank that excelled even that of the Sahibu'z-Zaman, Who regarded Himself as the precursor of one incomparably greater than Himself, Who peremptorily commanded not only the subjects of the Shah, but the monarch himself, and even the kings and princes of the earth, to forsake their all and follow Him, Who claimed to be the inheritor of the earth and all that is therein--a Faith Whose religious doctrines, Whose ethical standards, social principles and religious laws challenged the whole structure of the society in which it was born, soon ranged, with startling unanimity, the mass of the people behind their priests, and behind their chief magistrate, with his ministers and his government, and welded them into an opposition sworn to destroy, root and branch, the movement initiated by One Whom they regarded as an impious and presumptuous pretender.
With the Bab's return to Shiraz the initial collision of irreconcilable forces may be said to have commenced. Already the energetic and audacious Mulla Aliy-i-Bastami, one of the Letters of the Living, ";the first to leave the House of God (Shiraz) and the first to suffer for His sake,"; who, in the presence of one of the leading exponents of Shi'ah Islam, the far-famed Shaykh Muhammad Hasan, had audaciously asserted that from the pen of his new-found Master within the space of forty-eight hours, verses had streamed that equalled in number those of the Qur'an, which it took its Author twenty-three years to reveal, had been excommunicated, chained, disgraced, imprisoned, and, in all probability, done to death. Mulla Sadiq-i-Khurasani, impelled by the injunction of the Bab in the Khasa'il-i-Sab'ih to alter the sacrosanct formula of the adhan, sounded it in its amended form before a scandalized congregation in Shiraz, and was instantly arrested, reviled, stripped of his garments, and scourged with a thousand lashes. The villainous Husayn Khan, the Nizamu'd-Dawlih, the governor of Fars, who had read the challenge thrown out in the Qayyumu'l-Asma', having ordered that Mulla Sadiq together with Quddus and another believer be summarily and publicly punished, caused their beards to be burned, their noses pierced, and threaded with halters; then, having been led through the streets in this disgraceful condition, they were expelled from the city.
The people of Shiraz were by that time wild with excitement. A violent controversy was raging in the masjids, the madrisihs, the bazaars, and other public places. Peace and security were gravely imperiled. Fearful, envious, thoroughly angered, the mullas were beginning to perceive the seriousness of their position. The governor, greatly alarmed, ordered the Bab to be arrested. He was brought to Shiraz under escort, and, in the presence of Husayn Khan, was severely rebuked, and so violently struck in the face that His turban fell to the ground. Upon the intervention of the Imam-Jum'ih He was released on parole, and entrusted to the custody of His maternal uncle Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali. A brief lull ensued, enabling the captive Youth to celebrate the Naw-Ruz of that and the succeeding year in an atmosphere of relative tranquillity in the company of His mother, His wife, and His uncle. Meanwhile the fever that had seized His followers was communicating itself to the members of the clergy and to the merchant classes, and was invading the higher circles of society. Indeed, a wave of passionate inquiry had swept the whole country, and unnumbered congregations were listening with wonder to the testimonies eloquently and fearlessly related by the Bab's itinerant messengers.
The commotion had assumed such proportions that the Shah, unable any longer to ignore the situation, delegated the trusted Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, surnamed Vahid, one of the most erudite, eloquent and influential of his subjects--a man who had committed to memory no less than thirty thousand traditions--to investigate and report to him the true situation. Broad-minded, highly imaginative, zealous by nature, intimately associated with the court, he, in the course of three interviews, was completely won over by the arguments and personality of the Bab. Their first interview centered around the metaphysical teachings of Islam, the most obscure passages of the Qur'an, and the traditions and prophecies of the Imams. In the course of the second interview Vahid was astounded to find that the questions which he had intended to submit for elucidation had been effaced from his retentive memory, and yet, to his utter amazement, he discovered that the Bab was answering the very questions he had forgotten. During the third interview the circumstances attending the revelation of the Bab's commentary on the surih of Kawthar, comprising no less than two thousand verses, so overpowered the delegate of the Shah that he, contenting himself with a mere written report to the Court Chamberlain, arose forthwith to dedicate his entire life and resources to the service of a Faith that was to requite him with the crown of martyrdom during the Nayriz upheaval. He who had firmly resolved to confute the arguments of an obscure siyyid of Shiraz, to induce Him to abandon His ideas, and to conduct Him to Tihran as an evidence of the ascendancy he had achieved over Him, was made to feel, as he himself later acknowledged, as ";lowly as the dust beneath His feet."; Even Husayn Khan, who had been Vahid's host during his stay in Shiraz, was compelled to write to the Shah and express the conviction that his Majesty's illustrious delegate had become a Babi.
Another famous advocate of the Cause of the Bab, even fiercer in zeal than Vahid, and almost as eminent in rank, was Mulla Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zanjani, surnamed Hujjat. An Akhbari, a vehement controversialist, of a bold and independent temper of mind, impatient of restraint, a man who had dared condemn the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy from the Abvab-i-Arba'ih down to the humblest mulla, he had more than once, through his superior talents and fervid eloquence, publicly confounded his orthodox Shi'ah adversaries. Such a person could not remain indifferent to a Cause that was producing so grave a cleavage among his countrymen. The disciple he sent to Shiraz to investigate the matter fell immediately under the spell of the Bab. The perusal of but a page of the Qayyumu'l-Asma', brought by that messenger to Hujjat, sufficed to effect such a transformation within him that he declared, before the assembled ulamas of his native city, that should the Author of that work pronounce day to be night and the sun to be a shadow he would unhesitatingly uphold his verdict.
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