In the Land of Refuge



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The Genesis of the Bábí and Bahá’í Faiths in Shiraz and Fars


Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán


Translated and Annotated by

Ahang Rabbani

Translator’s Dedication


mona
In memory of Muná Mahmúdnizhád who, at age 17,
was among ten Bahá’í women executed
in Shíráz on 18 June 1983.
The primary charge against her:
teaching Bahá’í children’s classes.


Contents
Foreword ……………………………………………...…………….. 1
Text—Translation of Táríkh Amrí Fárs va Shíráz

1. Childhood and Early Life of the Báb …………………….… 13

2. Commerce and Marriage ………………………………….... 24

3. The Burning Bush …………………………………………. 35

4. Return of the Báb to Shíráz ……………………………….. 53

5. Vahíd and the Nayríz Episodes ……………………………. 70

6. The Household of Hujjat …………………………………... 83

7. Conversion of the Family of the Báb …………………….… 88

8. First Martyrs of Shíráz in 1867 ………………………….… 106

9. The Passing of Khadíjih Bagum …………………...……… 123

10. Events of the 1880s …………………………………...… 139

11. Events of the Early 1890s ………………………..……… 163

12. Troubles in Ábádih ……………………………………… 179


13. Profile of Turmoil: Spring 1903 ………………………… 199

14. The Second Restoration of the House of the Báb ……….. 221

15. Political Turmoil During the Constitutional Movement … 238

16. Bahá’í Martyrdom in Nayríz ………………………...…… 267

17. Political Reforms and Upheavals of 1909–10 ……………. 277

Appendices—Materials for Study of the Bahá’í Community of Shíráz

1. Glimpses of Shíráz, 1910–51 ………………………………. 282

2. Bahá’í Historical Places in Shíráz …………………………... 315

3. The Governors of Fárs …………………………………..… 324

4. Conversion of the Great-Uncle of the Báb …...…….………. 338

5. The Paternal Genealogy of the Báb …………....…………… 367

6. The Afnán Genealogy ………………………...……………. 371

7. Fárs and Shíráz ………………………………..…………… 443

8. Surih Hajj for the House of the Báb in Shiraz ….………….... 453
Bibliography ………………………………………………………466

Foreword by Translator



Sanctified be God! The All-Glorious Providence has decreed for the land of Sh[íráz] to be the dawning-place of light and fire. That is, before God, the appearance of these two attributes is most prominent and most evident in that realm. And this is because the fire of opposition broke forth brightly in that city before it appeared in all other lands.

—Bahá’u’lláh1




Background to the Narrative

In the 1920s in Iran, Mírzá Asadu’lláh Fádil Mázandarání, a renowned scholar and capable historian, undertook a massive project to compose a documented history of the Bábí–Bahá’í religions, which he entitled Táríkh Zuhúru’l-Haqq [The History of the Appearance of the True One]—an effort that was greatly encouraged by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith.2 For his history, Mázandarání needed detailed accounts of events and occurrences during the first century of the Bahá’í Faith. With the aim of gathering such data and documentation, he and others traveled extensively throughout Iran and vicinity, combing through the Bahá’í community for available information, such as tablets, memoirs, letters, pictures, narratives, poems, historical sites, and family trees. However, Mázandarání recognized that he needed much more information, so he turned to Shoghi Effendi for assistance.

In the latter part of 1924, Shoghi Effendi began the process of recording the recollections of the Bahá’ís who had witnessed the early years of the Bábí and Bahá’í Movements. Knowing that these memoirs would have a profound effect on the understanding of future Bahá’ís about the genesis of their religion, Shoghi Effendi called for a systematic campaign to assemble such narratives. In the Haifa–‘Akká area, companions of Bahá’u’lláh such as Áqá Husayn Áshchí [broth-maker] and Áqá Abú’l-Qásim Bághbán [gardener] were interviewed for what they remembered of the formative days of the Bábí–Bahá’í Faiths. Sometimes, as in the case of Áshchí, such interviews happened literally on the person’s deathbed.

During the next two decades, Shoghi Effendi wrote to the Bahá’ís of Iran urging them to prepare detailed histories of each local community, particularly those that had a significant Bahá’í presence from the earliest days. He further called upon individuals who had witnessed the unfolding of the Heroic Age (1844–1921) in the “Cradle of the Faith” (Iran) to record their experiences in writing.

In accordance with this request, the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Shíráz entrusted the task of writing a comprehensive history of the Bahá’í Faith in this central region to Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán, the hereditary custodian of the House of the Báb in Shíráz, who readily obeyed and wrote of what he had witnessed and the remarkable stories that he had heard from those associated with the founding of the Bábí–Bahá’í Faiths. Mírzá Habíbu’lláh notes:
In accordance with the instructions of the Guardian of the Cause of God in his wondrous and blessed letter, which stated: “Each town must write a brief history of the Faith since the dawning of the Sun of Horizons,” the Spiritual Assembly [of Shíráz] entrusted this service to this unworthy servant, Hájí Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán. Even though this ephemeral servant considers himself unprepared for this great enterprise, yet hopeful of the divine confirmations of the Beloved, has committed to paper to a prescribed degree what he has seen or heard from reliable observers, that the sanctified command of the Guardian be fulfilled.3

Fars

Fárs and Shíráz

The land of Fárs is a province that millennia earlier had given birth to two great dynasties—the Achaemenian in the sixth century BC and the Sassanian in the third century AD. These empires were administered by leaders of great insight and learning, and engendered cultivated societies, formidable armies, great visions for humanity, and just rulers whose achievements were legendary and unprecedented. Indeed, the brilliance of their triumphs was so dazzling that the name of the region was extended to the entire country, and Persia—from Persis, the Greek form of Fárs—was born.4 Therefore, for Persians the name Fárs evokes a deep sense of pride and heritage. It calls to mind the past splendors associated with that cradle of civilization, when wise rulers from their seat in Persepolis wielded authority over a kingdom that extended from North Africa to China—kings who governed with such liberty and equity that the authors of the Old Testament were prompted to speak most glowingly of their benevolence.

The language of the nation, Fársí—the language of Fárs—descends lineally from the language that Cyrus and Darius spoke and is the language in which the proclamations were engraved by their command on the rock-tablets of Bí-sitún and Naqsh Rustam, and upon the walls and columns of Persepolis. This language stirs a profound sense of spirituality and refinement derived from the poetry of Háfiz, voice of the invisible and the master of Persian lyrical poetry, and Sa‘dí, the sweet-tongued poet and the author of the famous Gulistán, a book of sonnets called the Garden of Roses. No other Iranian writers to this day enjoy—not only in their own country but also wherever their language is cultivated—a wider celebrity or a greater reputation than these two poets of Shíráz. Indeed, for Iranians, there is no Persian language more elevated than that which they have learned from Háfiz and Sa‘dí, and deep in their collective consciousness the legacy of these two towering literary giants of Shíráz pervades modern Iranian culture.5

Beyond the circle of Iranians, the Bahá’í world community will forever associate the name of Shíráz with the opening chapter of its own history, for it was in Shíráz that the initial emanation of the divine revelation for this religion broke forth from the merchant-Prophet of that city. The Báb, He Who is acclaimed as the “Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve,”6 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,”7 arose meteor-like over the horizon of Shíráz.



Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán

It was in the House of the Báb in Shíráz that Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán (1875–1951) was born and then reared by none other than Khadíjih Bagum, the widow of the Báb. The stories that he heard from her were the bittersweet stories of the Báb and the deeply devoted disciples who circled around the Báb in Shíráz. Khadíjih Bagum had a particular affinity towards the young lad’s father, Áqá Mírzá Áqá Núri’d-Dín, who, at a time when tribulations had most fiercely beset Khadíjih Bagum, was promised by the Báb to be the family member who would arise for her protection and support, and who had done just that. This immense love of Khadíjih Bagum likewise readily embraced Núri’d-Dín’s children, and Mírzá Habíbu’lláh basked in the brilliance of her attention and affection.

In 1891–92 at the age of 16, Mírzá Habíbu’lláh was fortunate to be able to accompany his family to the Holy Land, where he spent some nine months in the immediate proximity of Bahá’u’lláh in the Mansion of Bahjí. Subsequently, from Egypt he remained in constant communication for the next decade with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and periodically visited Him in ‘Akká, where as a trusted Afnán he was privy to some of the heart-wrenching scenes of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry and granted a glimpse into the most private inner workings of the Bahá’í Faith—he witnessed the disloyalty of the half-brothers of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, their corrupt ways, the consequent anguish of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s efforts to conceal their perversion and their violation of laws, and the means by which this sad news was transmitted to the Bahá’í community.

At the turn of the century, in 1902, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wished for Núri’d-Dín and his family, including his son, Mírzá Habíbu’lláh, to return to Shíráz to rebuild the House of the Báb, which had fallen into disrepair. Shortly before the completion of this reconstruction, Núri’d-Dín passed away, and it fell to Mírzá Habíbu’lláh to complete the construction and to become the custodian of that sacred edifice. This was the hallmark service of his life, as for the next half-century he served with great distinction as the hereditary custodian of the House of the Báb in Shíráz. Consequently, he stood uniquely qualified to tell the story of the Bábí and Bahá’í Movements in Shíráz as well as to recount his recollections of the days of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the Holy Land.



Narratives of Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán

Mírzá Habíbu’lláh wrote two lengthy documents. The date of composition of the first narrative, entitled Táríkh Amrí Fárs va Shíráz, is not known with any degree of precision, although it has been estimated to be in the 1920s or possibly in the early- to mid-1930s. The original version was handwritten by Mírzá Habíbu’lláh, and the final draft was written by Mírzá Abú’l-Hasan Ansif Nayrízí. This final copy was edited by the author, whose handwritten remarks are evident along various margins and lines throughout the manuscript; this is the version used for translation purposes.

Of this first narrative, unquestionably the most valuable portions are those on the life of the Báb in Shíráz, a city acclaimed by the young Prophet as the baladu’l-amn, “the land of refuge.”8 Mírzá Habíbu’lláh did not wish to write a comprehensive history of the Báb’s life, since he knew full well that others had already attempted such an undertaking—men like Nabíl Zarandí, surnamed Nabíl A‘zam, who was well known to Mírzá Habíbu’lláh. Rather, his objective was to tell stories of the Báb’s sublime life that were current among the Báb’s immediate family in Shíráz, particularly reminiscences he had heard from Khadíjih Bagum.9

The second narrative, entitled Khátirát Hayát, is the account of Mírzá Habíbu’lláh’s pilgrimages to the Holy Land and his decade-long stay in Egypt. The exact date of the composition of this autobiography is unknown, but the author’s sons, Abú’l-Qásim and Hasan Afnán, indicate that it was first composed shortly after Mírzá Habíbu’lláh’s return to Iran.10 Based upon the evidence in the narrative and family records, it is known that these notes were recopied and reorganized in the mid-1940s.11 Of this narrative, the most important part is the author’s recollection of being near Bahá’u’lláh from the middle of July 1891 until shortly after Naw-Rúz 1892, that is, a little more than two months prior to the passing of Bahá’u’lláh. The remaining portions are singularly important, as they clarify many aspects of the first decade of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry when the opposition of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s half-brothers was at its height.12

Mírzá Habíbu’lláh was a well-educated man. He attended the same school that the Báb had attended and received tuition from one of the city’s ablest educators. Bahá’u’lláh arranged for him to study with His own sons in the Mansion of Bahjí. Subsequently, he spent many years receiving daily instructions from the celebrated Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl Gulpáygání, one of the most erudite Bahá’ís of his generation. Therefore, the style of his composition is very learned and represents an important literary achievement in its own right. It is hoped that in due course the original Persian of these two narratives will also be published so that students of history will become better acquainted with his elegant style of composition.13

Notes on the Present Translation

In the course of this translation, every effort has been exerted to stay as close to the original document as possible, to the degree that a literal rendering has often been preferred to a more stylistic one. Footnotes have been added to augment information, clarify obscure points, and provide a more detailed perspective. Occasionally, comments by the translator have been added to improve the clarity or continuity of the material. These comments are enclosed in square brackets, thus […]. All comments within parentheses are by the author, Mírzá Habíbu’lláh. The numbers in pointed brackets, < >, correspond to the Afnán family genealogy in appendix 6. The system of transliteration used in this monograph is consistent with the method used in other academic publications and varies from the system used in most Bahá’í publications by: (1) avoiding subdots and underlines (e.g., Fádil), and (2) dropping the izafih connecting the first name to the surname (e.g., Husayn-‘Alí Núrí, instead of Husayn-‘Alíy-i-Núrí). The page numbers of the original manuscript are indicated in square brackets, such as [p. 10], every five pages.

The following table provides a comparison between pages of the original manuscript and the chapters of the English rendering. The page numbers are followed by line number; for example, 77:6 indicates the 6th line of page 77.
Chapter Pages in Original

1 2:1–21:4

2 21:4–41:10

3 41:10–77:5

4 77:6–115:5

5 115:5–145:10

6 145:10–153:6

7 153:7–183:11

8 183:11–222:8

9 222:9–254:4

10 254:5–305:12

11 306:1–350:10

12 350:11–409:4

13 409:5–464:12

14 465:1–500:12

15 501:1–569:12

16 570:1–595:2

17 595:3–602:9 (end)


Since any single Islamic year (denoted AH) typically overlaps with two Christian years, where only the Islamic year of the event is known, the equivalent Gregorian date is given as the first of the two years partially covered by that Islamic year.

Typically, the original text refers to the Central Figures by such honorific titles as “His Holiness” or “His blessed Person,” and these honorifics have been omitted for the most part. Nor does the translation reproduce such expressions commonly used in the Iranian literature of the Bahá’í Faith as, “May my life be a sacrifice unto His Sacred Threshold.” Many key individuals are often referred to by titles, such as His Holiness the Exalted One, a reference to the Báb; or the Blessed Perfection or the Blessed Beauty, expressions used for Bahá’u’lláh; or “the exalted wife,” a term used to refer to Khadíjih Bagum, the widow of the Báb. These titles have been replaced with their more recognizable names, the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, or Khadíjih Bagum.

By the time Mírzá Habíbu’lláh wrote his narrative, many principal personalities featured in this history had died, and the original text therefore often refers to them as “the late” or “the deceased.” These terms, too, have largely been omitted.

Some details of the events recorded in Mírzá Habíbu’lláh’s chronicle differ from those found in Nabíl’s Narrative, the standard history of these events. However, given that the chronicle represents an oral tradition within the family of the Báb, it has its own importance and must form part of the analysis of historians. It should be emphasized that the spoken words attributed to the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in these pages cannot be ascribed with scriptural authority or equated with their authorized Writings. No one took notes at the time those words were uttered, although it cannot be ruled out that some may indeed be the very words spoken.

All renderings of the Sacred Writings from Persian and Arabic, unless otherwise specified, are by the present translator. If an authorized source (such as Gleanings) is not cited, then the renderings should be considered as falling in the class of provisional translations intended to convey the essence (mazmún) of communications by the Founders of the Bábí–Bahá’í Faiths. Such summary renderings are not to be confused with full authorized translation of the Bahá’í Holy Texts, which will be disseminated in due time by the Bahá’í World Centre.

Regarding these Texts, it should be noted that three major compilations have been immensely helpful in locating the original Tablets quoted by Mírzá Habíbu’lláh in his narratives:




  1. “Núri’d-Dín Collection,” which includes some 161 densely scribed pages containing Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablets to the author’s father.14 This unpublished compilation was prepared at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s request, and the translator is grateful to Abu’l-Qasim Afnán for making his copy accessible.




  1. The Iranian National Bahá’í Manuscript Collection (INBMC) volumes 51 and 52 contain many Tablets addressed to believers in Fárs. These volumes have been assembled and compared with the original texts. Volume 51 (633 pages) contains Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, while volume 52 (683 pages) provides Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. As these volumes represent a most valuable mine of information for future researchers, to the extent possible, Tablets quoted by Mírzá Habíbu’lláh have been located in these volumes and the appropriate reference provided. The translator is indebted to the staff of the Persian-American Affairs Office of the National Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of the United States for granting him a copy of these two volumes.




  1. It should also be noted that a number of the Tablets quoted by Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Afnán have previously been published in Khándán Afnán, and these Tablets have also been identified and footnoted. However, for the purpose of this translation, greater reliance has been placed on the accuracy of the INBMC volumes.


Comment on the Appendices

To provide further historical perspective on the Bahá’í community of Shíráz, an additional narrative is included as appendix 1, namely, a history of Shíráz during the first half of the twentieth century by Abu’l-Qasim Afnán. Also, Mr. Afnán contributed most of materials for an essay on historical places in Shíráz of significance to the Bábí–Bahá’í Faiths (appendix 2). Furthermore, biographical data on the governors of Fárs, the Afnán family, and the paternal kin of the Báb are provided in separate sections, as is a section on the fascinating story of the conversion of Khál Akbar, the great-uncle of the Báb. Appendix 7 is a general overview of the history and languages of Fárs.



Acknowledgments

This effort would not have been possible without the loving kindness of the following people. I owe an immense debt of gratitude for their help with this project:

Abú’l-Qásim Afnán kindly encouraged me to translate the narratives of his father. He also provided other valuable information, some of which appears throughout the book in footnotes and under his name.

Prof. Juan R.I. Cole generously shared a copy of the Táríkh Amrí Fárs va Shíráz, making this effort possible.

The Bahá’í World Centre kindly reviewed this project and offered beneficial guidance.

Dr. Khazeh Fananapazir, Maryam Afnan-Rabbani, Dr. Moojan Momen, my late father Dr. Iraj Rabbani and Hasan Afnán offered several valuable suggestions and contributions. I am also deeply grateful to my sons, Bayan and Tebyan, for their assistance.


Ahang Rabbani

Houston, Texas

February 1998

Note: Although the translation of this book was completed in February 1998, various obstructions outside my control delayed its publication. In the meantime, on 20 February 1999 the Review Committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom graciously reviewed and approved this monograph (as well as my forthcoming translation of Mírzá Habíbu’lláh’s Khátirát Hayát, entitled Memories of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá), referring to it as “a magnificent book and a delight to read.” Also, I had the opportunity to reconsider parts of translation and to add further research notes. During this interval, with great care, Christine Zerbinis read the manuscript and offered a number of suggestions towards its improvement. All errors and shortcomings, however, are mine.



A.R.

April 2008


Chapter 1
The Childhood and Early Life of the Báb


The Beginning of the History

[p. 2:1] The names of the paternal and maternal ancestors of the Báb are as follows:

The blessed name of the Báb was Áqá Mírzá ‘Alí-Muhammad,15 son of Mír[zá] Muhammad-Ridá, the son of Áqá Mír[zá] Nasru’lláh, the son of Áqá Mír[zá] Fathu’lláh, the son of Áqá Mír[zá] Ibráhím.16 He was born into a highly regarded family of Husayní Siyyids17 to whose nobility, integrity, trustworthiness, piety, devotion, and detachment everyone in the province of Fárs would testify. Merchants by profession, they were all considered exemplary in integrity and purity in the entire region of Fárs. The mother of the Báb was Fátimih Bagum, the daughter of Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Husayn, who was the son of Áqá Mírzá ‘Abid,18 the son of Áqá Mírzá Siyyid Muhammad. This family also ranked among the renowned and trustworthy merchants of Fárs.

Early Years

His blessed birth took place on the first night of Muharram AH 1235 [20 October 1819], in the house belonging to His mother’s paternal uncle, Áqá Mírzá ‘Alí.19 The oft- recounted utterances of that exalted lady, the mother of the Báb, were along these lines:


From the moment of birth, it was evident that, unlike other children, He was not rapacious in drinking milk. Normally, He was serene and made no noise. During the twenty-four-hour period, He would desire milk only four times. While nursing he would be most gentle, and no movement was discerned from His mouth. Often I would become anxious and ask myself, “Why is this Child not like other children? Perhaps He has some illness that prevents His desiring milk.” Then I would console myself, saying, “If He really had some unknown illness, He would manifest signs of agitation and restlessness.”

Unlike other children, He did not complain or behave in an unseemly manner during the weaning period. I was most thankful that now that the Exalted Lord had granted me this one Child, He was gentle and agreeable.


Moreover, according to what trustworthy persons have reported, it was evident from the beginning of His childhood that He had an extraordinary character that excited the wonder and amazement of all, whether relatives, friends, or strangers, for He [p. 5] was unlike any other child.

Schooling

According to Mullá Fathu’lláh Maktab-Dár [the school-master], son of Mullá Mand-‘Alí, when His blessed age had reached five years old,20 He was taken to the [quranic school of] Shaykh ‘Abid,21 known as Shaykh Anám,22 located in Qahviyih Awlíyá,23 one of the mystic convents occupied by the mystics of Fárs, on the Tayr marketplace,24 near the house of His maternal grandfather, and His respected maternal uncle. Mullá Fathu’lláh Maktab-Dár, son of Mullá Mand-‘Alí, was the custodian of the Masjid Vakíl.25 Like his father, he was one of the early believers [in the Báb] and, because of the persecutions and harassment, became a fugitive and forced to travel extensively.26 He related:


When they brought His Holiness to the maktab [quranic school], I worked for Shaykh Anám in the Qahviyih Awlíyá, which is one of the mystic convents in the old neighborhood of Shíráz,27 where the school had several rooms with a circular portico around them. The honored Shaykh ‘Abid, a man of many qualities, was the schoolmaster and taught the children of the noblemen, the affluent, the merchants, and other distinguished citizens. He was a tall, ever-dignified man with a long beard. A follower of the late Shaykh Ahmad Ahsá’í and Siyyid Kázim Rashtí, he ranked among the leading figures and divines of Shíráz.

At that time, I served the Shaykh as the khalifih (that is, the [school’s] principal). Those wishing for their youngster to receive tuition from him, had to come beforehand and meet with him in person. They would ask the Shaykh for a place either through a letter or through a distinguished intermediary. This was because the Shaykh did not accept the children of just anyone and was particularly reluctant to accept lads from the bazaarí shopkeepers, because of their ill manners and dirty clothing.



Description of His Condition During Childhood

In any event, one morning, I saw the honored Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá,28 who had been a friend of Shaykh Anám in the past, come to the Qahviyih [Awlíyá]. He sat next to the Shaykh and described his situation as follows:


“After forty years, the Exalted Lord has graced me with a Child who has caused me to wonder over His behavior.” The Shaykh asked him to explain further, but he only replied, “It is hard to say.” [The Shaykh] insisted, to which [the father] offered:

“O venerable Shaykh! Which of His amazing conditions should I recount? Such peculiar characteristics are manifest in Him that the people are astonished. Now, when He is five years old, He sometimes raises His hands to the threshold of the One God, and recites prayers. He wakes in the middle of the night29 and stands to offer His obligatory prayers, in the midst of which He weeps. Sometimes He is sad, on other occasions He is happy, or immersed in rapture, or preoccupied with the imaginary world. My astonishment and bewilderment prevents me from describing further. Were I to recount all that I have observed from the time of His birth until the present, it would make a thick book.”

“At such a [young] age, He tells whether an unborn child is a boy or a girl, for the whole clan. After the birth, it is as He foretold.

“And again, some time ago, together with His maternal uncle, the esteemed Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, we were at the bathhouse of Bazaar Murgh quarter.30 This Child was sleeping between His uncle and me, when suddenly He rose and stated, ‘The vaulted roof of the Garm-Khánih [steam chamber] of Mírzá Hádí’s bathhouse, which was for women, has just caved in, and five women and one child have been [killed] under the rubble.’ His uncle said to Him, ‘Áqá, please sleep and refrain from saying such things. What manner of talk is this!’ He responded, ‘It is as I said.’ It was not long after that we heard a tumult of voice from the direction of the bathhouse, saying that Mírzá Hádí’s bathhouse was wrecked and a number of women were under the rubble. One person said twenty women [were killed]; another said thirty or forty; but later it was determined that five women and a child had been killed. The truth was just as He had said.

“In another instance, a while ago He informed us, ‘Last night, I dreamt that a large balance was suspended in mid-air in a [p. 10] vast space. Imám Ja‘far Sádiq was seated on one of the plates, and, because of His weight, that plate was resting on the ground while the other plate was suspended in the air. An invisible person lifted Me and placed Me on the empty plate. My plate was now heavier than the other, and I came to the ground and the first dish rose into the air.’ I said to Him, ‘Alas, Child, how bizarre! Do not talk like that.’

“What should I say! There are so many astonishing stories about Him that I cannot tell. At one time, Áqá Mírzá Siyyid Hasan31 suggested that this Child might be under the spell of jinn or fairies, and he said that we should take Him to those knowledgeable in such matters and request protective prayers for Him. Even though I do not believe that such things are true and trustworthy, in the light of his [Siyyid Hasan’s] comment I brought Áqá Muhammad-Hasan, the Munajjim [astrologer], to the house and described for him the details. He made some calculations and said, ‘He is protected from the malevolence of jinn and fairies, and he has not suffered any harm from sprites.’ Then he asked for His birthdate. Thereupon, he wrote certain protective charms and prayers and gave them [to us], recited some mysterious verses and, having learned of His birthdate, he left. After the departure of Áqá Muhammad-Hasan, the Child tore up the talismans, the writings he had left, and the sheet of instructions he had given [us], and tossed them out, saying to me, ‘In the words of the mystic: You make a great show of assistance, but I am that assistance.32

“In short, for some time I have been consumed with the difficulties of this Child, and I do not know which of His conditions I should describe to you. It is now time for His education and training, and I wish Him to receive His tuition and religious training from you.”

I was most astounded by the descriptions of the venerable Mírzá [Muhammad-Ridá], and the Shaykh was astonished as well. It was decided that at an agreeable time on [the following] Thursday morning the Child would be brought to the school.

On the promised morning, the Child arrived followed by a servant33 carrying a small [copper-tray] filled with sweets and a student’s version of the Qur’án, which is customary for the new pupil to read from in the schools in Shíráz.

Because of Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá’s descriptions of Him, the Shaykh, several of the students who had reached the age of maturity, and I were thoroughly enthralled in watching Him. He came in, greeted [everyone], and sat before Shaykh Anám. Soon after, His maternal uncle, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, arrived as well and sat next to the Shaykh. After the exchange of formal pleasantries, the Shaykh took the Qur’án from the tray of sweetmeats, opened it, and said [to the young Pupil], “Come Áqá, read.” He smiled and said, “As you please.” As was customary, the Shaykh told Him to read, “He is the Deliverer, the All-Knowing.”34 His Holiness remained silent. The Shaykh repeated the verse, but He kept His silence. The Shaykh persisted. He [the Báb] asked, “Who is ‘He’. Can you explain?” The Shaykh responded, “‘He’ is God. You are still a child, and what concern of Yours is the meaning of ‘He’?” The Pupil responded, “I am the Deliverer, the All-Knowing!” The Shaykh was deeply enraged and picked up his stick and said to Him, “Do not utter such things here!” His Holiness commenced reading, and His maternal uncle smiled and ordered certain arrangements and then left.35


The late Áqá Muhammad Ibráhím Ismá‘íl Beg, who was a well-known, trusted, and respected merchant, related:
I was twelve years old at that time, and on that day Siyyid-i Báb came and sat between me and Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá Mustawfí who was about the same age as I. In fact, He [the Báb] kneeled, in a refined way. His head was bowed over the student Qur’án, but He did not read a word, so I asked, “Why are You not reading the lesson [aloud] like the other children?” He made no reply; however, two other lads sitting near us [p. 15] were heard reading poems from Háfiz aloud, and they came to this verse:
From Heaven’s heights the birdsong calls to you

in sorrow that you’re trapped in walls of clay.


He turned quickly to me and said, “That is your answer.” I replied, “Well done.”36
Similarly, it is related:
Since Shaykh Anám was a learned man and a follower of Shaykh Ahmad [Ahsá’í], each morning he conducted a seminary session in Qahviyih Awlíyá where several of his [theological] students would gather to engage him in discussions and debates. One day a scientific topic was being discussed, and after considerable debate it remained unresolved, since it was particularly complex. The venerable Shaykh stated, “Tonight I will study the [authoritative] books on this topic, and tomorrow we will discuss the matter again and solve it completely.” At this point, the exchange was concluded.

Suddenly the young Pupil [who had been listening] raised His blessed head and with sound reasoning, irrefutable proof, and scientific evidence, propounded the answer they sought and removed all complexities. They were wonder-struck and amazed. The [seminarian] students informed the Shaykh that they had no recollection of ever having discussed that topic so that this Child could have memorized it like a parrot and now repeat it for them. They expressed their bewilderment, and the Shaykh responded that he too was filled with awe. Full of amazement, he asked Him where He had gained this knowledge. The Pupil smiled and offered this couplet from Háfiz:


Should the Holy Spirit’s grace again assist,

Others too will do what Christ has done.37


In all events, during those tender years, many such manifestations of extraordinary and innate qualities were observed in Him and are testified to by both friends and foes, and are beyond my abilities to describe.38

His father, Áqá Mír[zá] Muhammad-Ridá, passed away when the Báb was only nine years old,39 and from then on He was reared in the bosom of His maternal uncle, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí. This uncle had witnessed such remarkable and astonishing feats by Him with his own eyes, that when He declared His Cause, without requiring any proof or evidence, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí readily and unhesitatingly accepted His claim and became a believer. He sacrificed his life and possessions in the path of the Beloved of the world.



The Testimony of the Khál Azam

My paternal grandmother, [Zahrá Bagum], who was a paternal cousin of the Báb’s mother, related that she had personally heard the uncle [Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí] discussing [the claim of the Báb] with his younger brother, Hájí Mírzá Hasan-‘Alí, and the latter was resisting the argument saying, “Brother, what religious principles are these that you have turned to now? You have departed from our ancestral religion and follow our Nephew!” The eminent, martyred-uncle responded, “You should know well that God Most High has fulfilled the proof before me. After what I saw with my own eyes in His childhood and what I know with complete confidence about him since His adulthood, there is no room for doubt for anyone, especially for me.”

He then continued:

Have you forgotten our journey to Sabz-Púshán40 when He was a child aged nine years old? There was a group of us, and He came along as well. When we arrived, being completely exhausted, we performed our ablutions, offered our late afternoon and the evening obligatory prayers, [p. 20] paid our homage of visitation, ate dinner, and went to bed. It was not long after, at midnight, that I awoke and noticed that He was not in bed. Deeply perturbed, I was overtaken with anxiety that perhaps He had fallen from the mountain. Finally, after searching extensively, I heard a voice raised in the obligatory prayer and prayers of glorification to the Lord, coming from the lower extremities [of the mountain]. When I followed the melody of that chant, I found the Child, standing alone and in private, in consummate rapture voicing prayers and supplications to the One Who transcends all mention, on the deserted mountainside and at that late hour of the night. My beloved brother, I ask: After observing such things, is there any room for doubt? With a knowledge born of certainty, with truth that stands most manifest, and with my own unimpeachable observations, it is thoroughly evident that the Promised One whom we had anticipated has now appeared after twelve hundred and sixty years. The proof has been completed. Whosoever denies these revealed verses, each page of which stands equal to the whole of the Qur’án, must surely be among the most inequitable.


In short, our grandmother often spoke to us on this theme.


Chapter 2
Commerce and Marriage

Commerce

[p. 21:4] When the Báb had reached the age of fifteen, He joined the commercial office of His uncle, [Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí], in Shíráz.41 He remained for a short while in Shíráz and then moved to the port city of Búshihr. In that city, His office was in the Mínandí caravansary. Although it was before the declaration of His Cause, the many signs and evidences of His sanctity and the wondrous verses that flowed from His blessed pen would attract the envy and the jealousy of men of learning.42

One day in Egypt during the time when the illustrious Abú’l-Fadl was occupied with writing the Kitáb-i Fará’íd, we came to talk about the early years of the Báb prior to His declaration and the period when He was engaged in trading. Mírzá Abú’l-Fadl related the following to me:
I myself heard Hájí Siyyid Javád known as Karbalá’í relate that
when His Holiness [the Báb] was active as a merchant in Búshihr, because of my friendship and close association with His maternal uncles, I used to stay with them whenever I visited either Shíráz or Búshihr. One day Hájí Mírzá Siyyid Muhammad, a maternal uncle [of the Báb], came to me with a request, “Give some good counsel to my Nephew. Tell Him not to write or speak about certain studies that can only provoke the jealousy of certain people. These people cannot tolerate seeing a young merchant of little schooling demonstrate such scientific erudition and therefore become envious and resentful.” He was very insistent that I should counsel Him [to desist from such activities], but in the end I replied with this verse:
The luster of the fair of face cannot be veiled,

Shut him in and out of eyelet will he show his visage.


and added: “We are earthbound and He is celestial. Our counsel is no use to Him.”43
In Búshihr He engaged in commerce for six years44 and associated with all strata of society, including the ‘ulamá, the merchants, and the shopkeepers, and dealt with all in such wise that they were very satisfied and grateful in every respect. In every gathering and assembly, men praised His splendid qualities.

During one of my journeys to the sacred presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, He spoke one day about the time the Báb stayed [in Búshihr] and of his commercial activities. He stated:


During His stay in Búshihr, the Báb achieved extraordinary things and thoroughly demolished the foundation of people’s corrupt practices. The merchants of Búshihr had a custom that after a deal had been concluded they would renege and barter to receive a considerable discount. Some of them came to His Holiness, negotiated purchase of indigo dye, and bought a very large quantity. After they had sealed the bargain and moved the lots of indigo to their own office, they returned to renege and bargain. His Holiness did not accept and said, “You made a bargain, [p. 25] signed papers, and the transaction has been completed. I will not give a discount and will not renegotiate.” They insisted. He replied, “What I said is final.” They pleaded, “It is the custom of the country.” He responded, “Many of these customs are wrong and will soon be abolished.” No matter how much they insisted, He would not agree. The merchants were obstinate, and at last He said, “[If] the price is high, return the merchandise as I will not barter.” They insisted, “It is the custom here.” He replied, “I wish to put an end to this custom.” They insisted, “If a merchant has bought commodities and moved them to his warehouse, and then returns them, he will forfeit his standing with merchants.” “It is your choice,” He told them, “accept the terms and refrain from re-negotiation.” Again they insisted, “But this is the custom of the realm.” Yet again, He reminded them, “I am ending this custom.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued relating:
Eventually, He [the Báb] ordered the merchandise brought back to His shop and did not yield to their efforts at bargaining. He changed many of their unseemly practices during the period He was a merchant in Búshihr.

Soon thereafter, one of His maternal uncles arrived at Búshihr, and the same merchants who had returned the indigo dye came to see the uncle and complained about His behavior, saying, “He has ruined our reputation. We had a deal on dyes, however, as customary, we wished to renegotiate, but He did not comply. He arranged for the goods to be brought back from our store. This is a great insult to us as merchants. You should counsel Him not to repeat such offenses.”

The maternal uncle approached the Báb advising Him, “Why do You refuse to yield to people’s wishes and disrupt the established customs of the realm?” He told him, “Even now, if they should wish to bargain after a transaction is completed, I would refuse again.”
That was a very blissful day. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá smiled unceasingly and repeated several times, “Prior to His declaration, the Báb announced that He would change many of the accepted ways.”

In short, after six years’ residence in Búshihr, [the Báb] wrote several times to His uncles, “I plan to visit the ‘Atabát.45 One of you should come to Búshihr and take over the business so I can commence my journey to the ‘Atabát.” The uncles procrastinated and did not comply with His wish. When the time for His departure arrived, He settled His accounts with everyone, prepared a detailed ledger, sealed the books, and left them in the office. He then sealed the entrance to the office and entrusted the key to the custodian of that building with the instructions that whichever of His maternal uncles should arrive first from Shíráz to Búshihr should be allowed to enter. Thereupon, He wrote to Shíráz “Though I wrote you repeatedly asking that one of you come to Búshihr as I have a journey to the ‘Atabát in mind, you have not come. Therefore, I have sealed the door of the shop and entrusted the key to the custodian and have left for the ‘Atabát.”46 So, after six years in Búshihr, He left for the ‘Atabát.

Once His blessed letter was received in Shíráz, [His eldest maternal uncle,] Hájí Mírzá Siyyid Muhammad became deeply worried and perturbed, complaining, “What manner of conduct is this? Our good name in the commercial community will be ruined, and the chain of our business transactions will be broken! What will happen to our accounts with the people?” To this, the illustrious uncle, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, responded, “Rest assured! I know Him, and our Nephew does not do anything wrong. [I am certain that] He has arranged people’s accounts before leaving.”

The uncle, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid Muhammad, set out for Búshihr.47 Upon his arrival, he secured the key from the custodian of the caravansary, noted the seal on the door of the room, opened the door, and began a careful examination of the books. He found that the accounts relating to every person were most satisfactory and accurate. Relieved, he wrote to his brothers, “the accounts and record books are in order” [p. 30] and expressed praise and gratitude for their Nephew.48




In the ‘Atabát

The Báb arrived at the ‘Atabát. His blessed stay in the ‘Atabát is an extensive story, but it will be related here briefly, as our attention is focused on events in Fárs.

One day Mullá Husayn, who at that time was engaged in studies in the ‘Atabát under the tutelage of Siyyid [Kázim Rashtí], saw His Holiness [the Báb] while He was standing in prayer at the sanctuary of the Shrine of the Prince of Martyrs.49 He saw a young Siyyid, aged twenty-two, offering His supplications with an intense humility and rapture that was not to be observed previously among any of the ‘ulamá, the mystics, or the pilgrims [to that sacred Shrine]. He was carried away with petitioning God and performing the rites of pilgrimage. Mullá Husayn was astounded and attracted by his beauty and perfection. He approached [the Báb] and greeted Him. However, wrapped in devotions, His Holiness did not reply. Mullá Husayn moved to the back and waited there. Having completed the pilgrimage prayers in the inner sanctuary, [the Báb] went out to the courtyard, and to Mullá Husayn’s utter astonishment, repeated the pilgrimage prayers there.

Once more, Mullá Husayn approached and greeted Him. Being occupied with His prayers, [the Báb] did not respond, which further deepened the Akhúnd’s wonder.50

When [the Báb] had completed the pilgrimage prayers, He moved outside from the courtyard. The Akhúnd [Mullá Husayn] approached Him and greeted Him. This time, [the Báb] returned his greeting and apologized, “Twice you have showed your courtesy, but absorbed and transported in the rites of pilgrimage, concentrating only on the exalted Shrine of the Imám—upon Him be peace—I did not respond. For this, I wish to apologize. Whosoever attains that sacred ground must forget himself and all worldly matters. As such, I had become oblivious of My own Self and overcome with other conditions. Once more, I apologize to you.”51

Hearing such a speech only served to enhance the amazement of the Akhúnd, as he had never thought that a young merchant could manifest such extraordinary depth of humility, reverence, piety, and veneration. It was unusual and contrary to the fashionable neglect of religion. Therefore, he extensively expressed the depth of his gratitude and thanks, and asked, “Master, where is Your home, for I wish to make the customary courtesy call?” [The Báb] told him how to find the house. [Mullá Husayn] then said, “Siyyid [Kázim Rashtí] holds a service of prayers and admonition at his own home every Friday morning. Should You decide to attend, it would greatly honor the assembly, and we would be profoundly grateful.” [The Báb] responded, “There is no harm in that,” and promised to attend the session.

The Akhúnd reported with great care the details of what had transpired to Siyyid [Kázim] who had smiled and recited this verse:
That which my heart had understood in dreams

was hidden behind this veil, and is now found.


During the last two or three years, Hájí Siyyid Kázim Rashtí devoted his sermons and lectures solely to the manifestation of the Promised Proof. He repeatedly expounded on the signs of His appearance and the characteristics of the Lord of Command. Many a time he would tell [his students that the promised Qá’im] must be young, not instructed by anyone else, and must be a scion of the Baní-Háshim.52

On the morning of the appointed Friday, [the Báb] made his promised visit to the home of the Siyyid where the latter was occupied with preaching from the pulpit and the house was filled to capacity with worshippers. Finding no seat available, His Holiness [the Báb] sat at the threshold. On seeing His countenance, the late Siyyid said no more, preferring pure silence. All those present were astonished. After a quarter of an hour, he resumed an oration regarding the signs of the manifestation of the Promised One. He said, “Behold, He is manifest as the sun” [p. 35]. With these words he concluded his arguments and descended the pulpit.53 It was at this moment that with the utmost reverence Akhúnd Mullá Husayn approached His Holiness [the Báb] and led Him to a seat next to the Siyyid.

Were I to detail the sojourn of the Báb in the ‘Atabát and the events that transpired there and the glad tidings imparted by the late Siyyid, it would be like a Qur’án commentary or a thick book of history. But our purpose is to outline the events in Fárs.

Return from the ‘Atabát

After six months of His blessed stay in the ‘Atabát had passed, His mother, longing to see her only Offspring, earnestly petitioned her brother, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, to proceed for the ‘Atabát and to bring His Holiness to Shíráz—a matter that she greatly insisted upon. Deeply devoted to his sister and Nephew, the illustrious uncle agreed and proceeded at once to the ‘Atabát.

On meeting His Holiness, he stated, “I have come to accompany you in Your return to Shíráz.” [The Báb] refused. However much the uncle insisted, He refused, stating, “I intend to remain in the ‘Atabát for some time.”

Because his sister was looking forward to His Holiness’s arrival in Shíráz, the uncle did not defer to this refusal. Through a message transmitted by Hájí Siyyid Javád Karbalá’í, he appealed to the Siyyid [Kázim] to convince His Holiness to return to Shíráz.

One day, the uncle himself went to the home of the Siyyid [Kázim] and explained the situation as follows: “My Nephew lived in Búshihr for six years before coming to the ‘Atabát. His mother has no other child beside Him and deeply longs to see Him and plans to arrange for His marriage. He has not consented to what I say, in bidding Him return to Shíráz. Therefore, I beg of you to speak with Him, that He may accompany me to Shíráz.” At first, the Siyyid replied, “Is it up to us to interfere? Allow us the benefit of His presence for a while longer.” The illustrious uncle responded, “As His mother is anticipating His arrival and her approval is important as well, kindly tell Him to agree to return to Shíráz.”

Eventually, the Siyyid transmitted the message to His Holiness [the Báb], saying, “If it pleases You, return to Shíráz.” Because it was the wish of the Siyyid, His Holiness agreed. In the company of His uncle, He set out for Shíráz.54



Marriage

There He rejoined His mother and relatives. After several months He expressed the desire to return to the ‘Atabát. Hearing that His Holiness entertained such considerations caused His mother to grow deeply anxious, and with great urgency she spoke with her brother, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, about His marriage. Having spoken with the illustrious consort, Khadíjih-Sultán Bagum, daughter of the late Áqá Mírzá ‘Alí and a paternal cousin of the Báb’s mother, the arrangements for the wedding ceremony were made. The wedding55 took place on Friday, the eighteenth of Rajab AH 1258 [25 August 1842] in the presence of an assemblage of the merchants, the noblemen, and the ‘ulamá of Fárs.56

And since the appointed time for His Manifestation was near, He did not travel anywhere, but prayers and verses in Arabic and expositions on [divine] sciences continually flowed from His pen.

Ahmad, the Báb’s Son

After a year, that is in AH 1259 [1843], God granted Him a son who died at birth. Before his birth, [the Báb] had prophesied, “The child is a boy named Ahmad, but it is not his destiny to live.” The child was buried in the Bíbí Dukhtarán cemetery of Shíráz.57 My paternal grandmother, [Zahrá Bagum], who was the sister of Khadíjih Bagum, related for me the details surrounding the child’s birth:


[p. 40] The delivery of the child was very difficult, to the point that several times we lost all hope for the mother’s recovery. During the final surge of the labor pains, the mother of His Holiness went to Him. He asked her, “Has she delivered?” to which she responded negatively. [The Báb] then took a small mirror that lay by His side, penned a prayer and a talisman on the face of the mirror, gave it to His mother, [saying that she should] take it to His wife and hold it before her face. She took the mirror and held it before [Khadíjih Bagum]. As her gaze fell upon the mirror, instantly the lifeless child was delivered, and the mother recovered.58

The Báb’s mother then returned to His presence and remonstrated with her Son, “As You evidently possessed such [preternatural] abilities, why did You not perform this act sooner and preserve the life of the child?” He smiled and replied, “It is not My destiny to leave any progeny.” His mother was infuriated with this comment but said no more.59


The wife of the Báb recounted for me:
One night I dreamt that there was a fearsome male lion in the courtyard. My hands were around the neck of the lion. The beast dragged me around the courtyard two and a half times. I woke up, profoundly alarmed and trembling with fright. His Holiness asked me the cause of my agitation, and I told him what I had dreamt. His comment was: “You awoke too soon, as [your dream portends that] our life together will not last more than two-and-a-half years.” And what He said, transpired.

Chapter 3
The Burning Bush



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