November 8, 2015

Mulla Husayn’s first assignment

Before Mulla Husayn met the Báb and became His first believer, he was a disciple of Siyyid Kázim, one of the two forerunners of the Báb – the other was Siyyid Kázim’s teacher, Shaykh Ahmad.

The passing of his beloved master, Shaykh Ahmad, brought unspeakable sorrow to the heart of Siyyid Kázim, who was his appointed successor. Inspired by the verse of the Qur’án, “Fain would they put out God’s light with their mouths; but God only desireth to perfect His light, albeit the infidels abhor it,” Siyyid Kázim arose with unswerving purpose to consummate the task with which his master Shaykh Ahmad had entrusted him. He found himself, after the removal of so distinguished a protector, a victim of the slanderous tongues and unrelenting enmity of the people around him. They attacked his person, scorned his teachings, and reviled his name.

At the instigation of a powerful and notorious shí’ah leader in Karbilá, Iraq, the enemies of Siyyid Kázim leagued together, and determined to destroy him. Thereupon Siyyid Kázim conceived the plan of securing the support and good will of one of the most formidable and outstanding ecclesiastical dignitaries of Persia who lived in the city of Isfáhán and whose authority extended far beyond the confines of that city. This friendship and sympathy, Siyyid Kázim thought, would enable him to pursue unhampered the course of his activities, and would considerably enhance the influence which he exercised over his disciples.

In his gatherings with his followers Siyyid Kázim was often heard to say:

“Would that one amongst you could arise, and, with complete detachment, journey to Isfáhán, and deliver this message from me to that learned shi’ih leader and ask him: ‘Why is it that in the beginning you showed such marked consideration and affection for the late Shaykh Ahmad, and have now suddenly detached yourself from the body of his chosen disciples? Why is it that you have abandoned us to the mercy of our opponents?’

Siyyid Kazim hopee that such a messenger might arise, put his trust in God, travel to Isfáhán and unravel whatever mysteries perplexed the mind of that learned religious leader, and dispel such doubts as might have alienated his sympathy. He further wished that such a messenger would be able to obtain from this highly distinguished religious leader a solemn declaration testifying to the unquestioned authority of Shaykh Ahmad, and to the truth and soundness of his teachings.

Again and again did Siyyid Kázim find opportunity to reiterate his appeal. None, however, ventured to respond to his call except one of his followers who expressed readiness to undertake such a mission. To him Siyyid Kázim replied: “Beware of touching the lion’s tail. Belittle not the delicacy and difficulty of such a mission.” Siyyid Kazim then, turned his face towards his youthful disciple, Mullá Husayn and addressed him in these words:

“Arise and perform this mission, for I declare you equal to this task. The Almighty will graciously assist you, and will crown your endeavours with success.”

Mullá Husayn joyously sprang to his feet, kissed the hem of his teacher’s garment, vowed his loyalty to him, and started forthwith on his journey. With complete severance and noble resolve, he set out to achieve his end.

Arriving in Isfáhán, he sought immediately the presence of the learned religious leader. Clad in mean attire, and covered with the dust of travel, he appeared, amidst the vast and richly apparelled company of the disciples of that distinguished leader, an insignificant and negligible figure. Unobserved and undaunted, he advanced to a place which faced the seat occupied by that renowned teacher. Summoning to his aid all the courage and confidence with which the instructions of Siyyid Kázim had inspired him, he addressed the famous shi’ih learder in these words:

“Hearken, O Siyyid, to my words, for response to my plea will ensure the safety of the Faith of the Prophet of God, and refusal to consider my message will cause it grievous injury.”

These bold and courageous words, uttered with directness and force, produced a surprising impression upon the Siyyid. He suddenly interrupted his discourse, and, ignoring his audience, listened with close attention to the message which this strange visitor had brought. His disciples, amazed at this extraordinary behaviour, rebuked this sudden intruder and denounced his presumptuous pretensions. With extreme politeness, in firm and dignified language, Mullá Husayn hinted at their discourtesy and shallowness, and expressed surprise at their arrogance and vainglory.

The learned Siyyid was highly pleased with the demeanour and argument which the visitor so strikingly displayed. He deplored and apologized for the unseemly conduct of his own disciples. In order to compensate for their ingratitude, he extended every conceivable kindness to that youth, Mulla Husayn, assured him of his support, and besought him to deliver his message. Thereupon, Mullá Husayn acquainted him with the nature and object of the mission with which he had been entrusted.

To this the learned Siyyid replied: “As we in the beginning believed that both Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim were actuated by no desire except to advance the cause of knowledge and safeguard the sacred interests of the Faith, we felt prompted to extend to them our heartiest support and to extol their teachings. In later years, however, we have noticed so many conflicting statements and obscure and mysterious allusions in their writings that we felt it advisable to keep silent for a time, and to refrain from either censure or applause.”

To this Mullá Husayn replied: “I cannot but deplore such silence on your part, for I firmly believe that it involves the loss of a splendid opportunity to advance the cause of Truth. It is for you to set forth specifically such passages in their writings as appear to you mysterious or inconsistent with the precepts of the Faith, and I will, with the aid of God, undertake to expound their true meaning.”

The poise, the dignity and confidence, which characterised the behaviour of this unexpected messenger, greatly impressed the Siyyid. He begged Mulla Husayn not to press the matter at this moment, but to wait until a later day, when, in private converse, he might acquaint him with his own doubts and misgivings. Mullá Husayn, however, feeling that delay might prove harmful to the cause he had at heart, insisted upon an immediate conference with him about the weighty problems which he felt impelled and able to resolve.

The Siyyid was moved to tears by the youthful enthusiasm, the sincerity and serene confidence to which the countenance of Mullá Husayn so admirably testified. He sent immediately for some of the works written by Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim, and began to question Mullá Husayn regarding those passages which had excited his disapproval and surprise. To each reference Mulla Husayn replied with characteristic vigour, with masterly knowledge and befitting modesty. He continued in this manner, in the presence of the assembled disciples, to expound the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim, to vindicate their truth, and to defend their cause, until the time when the call to prayer by Mu’adhdhin, suddenly interrupted the flow of his argument.

The next day, Mulla Husayn similarly, in the presence of a large and representative assembly, and whilst facing the Siyyid, resumed his eloquent defense of the high mission entrusted by an almighty Providence to Shaykh Ahmad and his successor Siyyid Kazim.

A deep silence fell upon his hearers. They were seized with wonder at the cogency of his argument and the tone and manner of his speech. The Siyyid publicly promised that on the following day he would himself issue a written declaration wherein he would testify to the eminence of the position held by both Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim, and would pronounce whosoever deviated from their path as one who had turned aside from the Faith of the Prophet Himself. He would likewise bear witness to their penetrative insight, and their correct and profound understanding of the mysteries which the Faith of Muhammad enshrined.

The Siyyid redeemed his pledge, and with his own hand penned the promised declaration. He wrote at length, and in the course of his testimony paid a tribute to the character and learning of Mullá Husayn. He spoke in glowing terms of Siyyid Kázim, apologized for his former attitude, and expressed the hope that in the days to come he might be enabled to make amends for his past and regrettable conduct towards him. He read, himself, to his disciples the text of this written testimony, and delivered it unsealed to Mullá Husayn, authorizing him to share its contents with whomsoever he pleased, that all might know the extent of his devotion to Siyyid Kázim.

No sooner had Mullá Husayn retired than the Siyyid charged one of his trusted attendants to follow in the footsteps of the visitor and find out the place where he was residing. The attendant followed him to a modest building, which served as a madrisih, [1] and saw him enter a room which, except for a worn-out mat which covered its floor, was devoid of furniture. He watched him arrive, offer his prayer of thanksgiving to God, and lie down upon that mat with nothing to cover him except his ‘abá. [2]

Having reported to his master all that he had observed, the attendant was again instructed to deliver to Mullá Husayn the sum of a hundred túmans, [3] and to express the sincere apologies of his master for his inability to extend to so remarkable a messenger a hospitality that befitted his station.

To this offer Mullá Husayn sent the following reply: “Tell your master that his real gift to me is the spirit of fairness with which he received me, and the open-mindedness which prompted him, despite his exalted rank, to respond to the message which I, a lowly stranger, brought him. Return this money to your master, for I, as a messenger, ask for neither recompense nor reward. ‘We nourish your souls for the sake of God; we seek from you neither recompense nor thanks.’ [Qur’án, 76:9] My prayer for your master is that earthly leadership may never hinder him from acknowledging and testifying to the Truth.” This distinguish religious leader whose name was Hájí Siyyid Muhammad-Báqir died before the year that witnessed the birth of the Faith proclaimed by the Báb. He remained to his last moment a staunch supporter and fervent admirer of Siyyid Kázim.

Having fulfilled the first part of his mission, Mullá Husayn despatched this written testimony of Hájí Siyyid Muhammad-Báqir to his master in Karbilá.... 

(Adapted from ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, by Nabil, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)
[1] The Madrisih or Persian colleges are entirely in the hands of the clergy and there are several in every large town. They generally consist of a court, surrounded by buildings containing chambers for students and masters, with a gate on one side; and frequently a garden and a well in the centre of the court.... Many of the madrisihs have been founded and endowed by kings or pious persons.” (C. R. Markham’s “A General Sketch of the History of Persia,” p. 365.)
[2] A loose outer garment, resembling a cloak, commonly made of camel’s hair.
[3] Worth approximately one hundred dollars, a substantial sum in those days