October 20, 2016

The sifter of wheat in Isfahan

At the time of the Báb, Isfahan, a central city in Persia, was known among cities for the great learning of its clergy. However, the first to embrace the Cause of the Báb in that city was a man, a sifter of wheat, who, as soon as the Call reached his ears, unreservedly accepted the Message. 

His name was Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Gandum-Pak-Kun. He is mentioned in the Persian Bayan and praised as one who "donned the robe of discipleship". 

With marvelous devotion he served Mulla Husayn, and through his close association with him became a zealous advocate of the new Revelation. 

A few years later, when the soul-stirring details of the siege of the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi were recounted to him, he felt an irresistible impulse to throw in his lot with those heroic companions of the Báb who had risen for the defense of their Faith. Carrying his sieve in his hand, he immediately arose and set out to reach the scene of that memorable encounter. He joined the company of the defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi and perished during that siege.

"Why leave so hurriedly?" his friends asked him, as they saw him running in a state of intense excitement through the bazaars of Isfahan.

"I have arisen," he replied, "to join the glorious company of the defenders of the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi! With this sieve which I carry with me, I intend to sift the people in every city through which I pass. Whomsoever I find ready to espouse the Cause I have embraced, I will ask to join me and hasten forthwith to the field of martyrdom."

Such was the devotion of this youth that the Báb, in the Persian Bayan, refers to him in such terms:

"Isfahan, that outstanding city, is distinguished by the religious fervour of its shi'ah inhabitants, by the learning of its divines, and by the keen expectation, shared by high and low alike, of the imminent coming of the Sáhibu'z-Zamán. [Lord of the Age] In every quarter of that city, religious institutions have been established. And yet, when the Messenger of God had been made manifest, they who claimed to be the repositories of learning and the expounders of the mysteries of the Faith of God rejected His Message. Of all the inhabitants of that seat of learning, only one person, a sifter of wheat, was found to recognize the Truth, and was invested with the robe of Divine virtue!"

Furthermore, the Báb explains how this example of the sifter of wheat in Isfahan fulfills certain prophecies concerning the Promised One:

“In the land of Sad [Isfahan], which to outward seeming is a great city, in every corner of whose seminaries are vast numbers of people regarded as divines and doctors, yet when the time came for inmost essences to be drawn forth, only its sifter of wheat donned the robe of discipleship. This is the mystery of what was uttered by the kindred of the Prophet Muhammad -- upon them be the peace of God -- concerning this Revelation, saying that the abased shall be exalted and the exalted shall be abased.” (The Báb, Excerpt from the Persian Bayan, ‘Selections from the Writings of the Báb)

Baha’u’llah also refers to this incident in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in a passage addressed to the “concourse of divines”:

“Call ye to mind the shaykh whose name was Muhammad-Hasan, who ranked among the most learned divines of his day. When the True One was made manifest, this shaykh, along with others of his calling, rejected Him, while a sifter of wheat and barley accepted Him and turned unto the Lord. Though he was occupied both night and day in setting down what he conceived to be the laws and ordinances of God, yet when He Who is the Unconstrained appeared, not one letter thereof availed him, or he would not have turned away from a Countenance that hath illumined the faces of the well-favoured of the Lord.” (Baha’u’llah, ‘The Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

It’s amazing how this sifter of wheat, Mulla Muhammad Ja'far, received the great blessing of having his name mentioned by both Manifestations of God. His example is also mentioned in a letter written on behalf of the beloved Guardian:

“The believers should be urged to consider individually the needs in their immediate region, and to go forth to pioneer in near and distant cities and towns. They must be encouraged by your Assembly to remember that small people, often poor and obscure people, have changed the course of human destiny more than people who started out with wealth, fame and security. It was the Sifter of Wheat who, in the early days of our Faith, arose and became a hero and martyr, not the learned priests of his city!" (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi quoted by Ruhiyyih Khanum in ‘The Priceless Pearl’)
(Adapted from ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, by Nabil, ‘Release the Sun’, by Bill Sears, ‘The Báb- the Herald of the Day of Days’, by Balyuzi, and the ‘Notes’ section of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, by the Universal House of Justice)