June 14, 2015

The Blast of the Trumpet – the amazing way in which a woman announced the birth of a new cycle for humanity

It was the end of June, 1848. Outside the village of Badasht, located about 400 Km northeast of Tehran, Persia, on the other side of the Elburz Mountains in the Province of Semnan, there was a great open field that contained some gardens and a stream that flew through its center.

Warm breezes rustled the leaves of trees whose fruits would slowly ripen into peaches and pomegranates, cherries and apples-plump, juicy, and sweet. Amidst these pleasant surroundings Baha’u’llah had rented three gardens. One was assigned to Quddus, but according to ‘Abdu’l-Baha that “was kept a secret.” Another was set apart for Tahirih, and in a third was raised the pavilion of Bahá'u'lláh.  In each of the three gardens was a tent spread with soft carpets large enough for guests to gather.

There, near the gentle ripple and splash of a stream, with the mountains tall and purple in the distance, tents were pitched for the eighty-one Bábis who attended what would become later known as the Conference of Badasht. These disciples who had gathered from various provinces were Baha’u’llah’s guests from the day of their arrival to the day they dispersed. Tahirih was the only woman present among them. Mulla Husayn was unavoidably absent, since he had been detained by authorities in Mashhad.

The conference at Badasht lasted twenty-two days. Its purpose was to make clear the Báb's true mission and to make a decisive break with past traditions. With the Báb in a remote prison, few of His followers had been able to talk to Him or to have access to His holy book, the Bayán. Many still thought of the Báb as a reformer of Islam, unaware that His Cause was much greater. From its first day the conference at Badasht began to open the eyes of the Bábis.

The Guardian explains: “On each of the twenty-two days of His [Baha’u’llah’s] sojourn in that hamlet He revealed a Tablet, which was chanted in the presence of the assembled believers. On every believer He conferred a new name, without, however, disclosing the identity of the one who had bestowed it. He Himself was henceforth designated by the name Bahá. Upon the Last Letter of the Living was conferred the appellation of Quddus, while Qurratu'l-'Ayn was given the title of Tahirih. By these names they were all subsequently addressed by the Báb in the Tablets He revealed for each one of them.” (Shoghi Effendi, 'God Passes By')

‘Abdu’l-Baha explains that Bahá'u'lláh, Quddus and Tahirih would come together in the evenings. “In those days the fact that the Báb was the Qá'im had not yet been proclaimed; it was the Blessed Beauty, with Quddus, Who arranged for the proclamation of a universal Advent and the abrogation and repudiation of the ancient laws.” (Abdu'l-Baha, 'Memorials of the Faithful')

“Then one day, and there was a wisdom in it, Bahá'u'lláh fell ill; that is, the indisposition was to serve a vital purpose. All of a sudden, in the sight of all, Quddus came out of his garden, and entered the pavilion of Bahá'u'lláh. But Tahirih sent him a message, to say that their Host being ill, Quddus should visit her garden instead. His answer was: "This garden is preferable. Come, then, to this one." Tahirih, with her face unveiled, stepped from her garden, advancing to the pavilion of Bahá'u'lláh; and as she came, she shouted aloud these words: "The Trumpet is sounding! The great Trump is blown! The universal Advent is now proclaimed!"[1] The believers gathered in that tent were panic struck, and each one asked himself, "How can the Law be abrogated? How is it that this woman stands here without her veil?" (Abdu'l-Baha, 'Memorials of the Faithful') They gasped in horror at what they saw!

Tahirih stood before them with her face unveiled – an unthinkable act for any decent Muslim woman of the time. Though she was modestly dressed, it was as if she stood unclothed before them.

The Bábi men, who normally refrained even from looking upon her shadow, were aghast. Some quickly covered their eyes with their hands or hid them in the folds of their clothing to avoid looking upon her face. Others ran out of the tent altogether. One Bábi was so distressed that he cut his own throat with a knife.

Tahirih remained calm. The removal of her veil expressed her insight into the true spirit of Badasht more powerfully than a thousand well-chosen words. The time had come to cast aside old ideas and outworn ways, to open wide one's arms and receive the bounties of a new revelation.

One bounty to come, of which Tahirih was confident, would be the unveiling of the true and equal worth of women. "I am the blast of the trumpet, I am the call of the bugle," Tahirih proclaimed. "This day is the day of festivity and universal rejoicing, the day on which the fetters of the past are burst asunder. Let those who have shared in this great achievement arise and embrace each other," she said to the assembled Bábis. [2]

But the emotional disturbance caused by her bold act was like the unsettling tremor of an earthquake. Some Babis were shaken to the very core, their perceptions so shattered that they left the gathering at Badasht and no longer chose to call themselves Bábis.

Baha’u’llah soothed the other agitated Bábis and restored calm to their assembly by calling for a chapter from the Koran to be read aloud. "Read the Surih of the Inevitable,"[3] said Bahá'u'lláh; and the reader began: ‘When the Day that must come shall have come suddenly... Day that shall abase! Day that shall exalt!...’ and thus was the new Dispensation announced and the great Resurrection made manifest.

“At the start, those who were present fled away, and some forsook their Faith, while some fell a prey to suspicion and doubt, and a number, after wavering, returned to the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. The Conference of Badasht broke up, but the universal Advent had been proclaimed.” (Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful)

The words seemed to describe how many of the believers felt that very day at Badasht, but their deeper meaning predicted an upheaval for all humankind - the beginning of a great new cycle in the world. That this passage from the Koran was chosen to be read that day, under the guiding hand of Baha’u’llah, was not accidental. The great new cycle had begun, and it could not be turned back.

When the followers of the Báb left the gardens of Badasht at the end of the twenty-two days, their new spirit matched their new names. They felt enlightened and energized, strong and eager to teach the Cause of the Báb. Most did not know, however, that their new names had been given to them by Baha’u’llah, nor did they know that each new tablet at the conference had been revealed by Baha’u’llah, though some guessed that it might be so. The Báb alone knew, for between Him and Baha’u’llah had flowed a constant stream of letters.

Together the Báb and Baha’u’llah had guided the Babis a step closer toward their destiny. The tremendous change in store for humankind would require not only new laws and customs, but a new mind and spirit - a transformation that would not take place easily. At Badasht the Babis had seen the first glimmer of what it would mean for them to be the dawn-breakers for a new Day. 

(Adapted from ‘Memorials of the Faithful’, by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, ‘God Passes By’, by Shoghi Effendi, and ‘The Story of Baha’u’llah’, by Druzelle Cederquist)

It’s remarkable that while these events were taking place in Persia in 1848, many significant events were also taking place in Europe and America. For a brief summary please visit: Discovering Something New
Notes
[1] Cf. Qur'án 74:8 and 6:73. Also Isaiah 27:13 and Zechariah 9:14.
[2] See Nabil, ‘Dawn-Breakers’, pp.295-96, 297 n2
[3] Qur'án 56:4-6: The passage referred to the Day of Judgment, "when the earth shall be shaken with a shock, And the mountains shall be crumbled with a crumbling, And shall become scattered dust.”