December 8, 2016

Gifts from one Manifestation of God to Another

Tihran, circa 1808
A remarkable event, which may be unique in religious history, took place in the very early years of the Bábí-Bahá’í Faith. It happened while the Báb, escorted by government soldiers, was being exiled from His native city of Shiraz to the Fortress of Mah-ku, in the northwestern corner of Persia (Iran). This event took place about 10 miles south of the capital city of Tihran in the year 1847. We’ll review a brief background to the incident, the event itself, as well as an amazing episode that occurred shortly thereafter.

In the spring of 1847, Gurgin Khan, the nephew and successor of Isfahan’s friendly Governor, Manuchihr Khan, became aware of the secret arrangements that his uncle had made to allow the Báb to stay in Isfahan for the previous four months, instead of sending Him to Tihran.  When he discovered this, he immediately brought the situation to the attention of the Shah in Tihran. The Shah, who was firmly convinced of the loyalty of Manuchir Khan, realized, when he received this message, that the late governor's sincere intention had been to await a favourable occasion when he could arrange a meeting between him and the Báb, and that his sudden death had interfered with the execution of that plan. He issued an imperial mandate summoning the Báb to the capital.

On the afternoon of the eighth day after Naw-Ruz 1847, the Báb and His mounted escort arrived at the fortress of Kinar-Gird, which lies about 30 miles to the south of Tihran. They had decided to spend the night in the neighbourhood of that fortress and proceed to the capital the next day, when a messenger arrived with a written order from Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Prime Minister for the head of the escort, Muhammad Big, instructing him to proceed to the village of Kulayn, and there await further instructions. The village of Kulayn, a hamlet owned by Aqasi was situated some ten miles southwest of the capital. The Báb remained there for a period of twenty days. Nearing the end of that period, He dispatched a letter to the King requesting an audience to set forth the truth of His condition and expecting this to be a means for the attainment of great advantages for the country.

The Prime Minster, Haji Mirza Aqasi, fearing that the contemplated interview should rob him of his position of unquestioned pre-eminence in the affairs of the State and result in his eventual loss of power, persuaded the Shah to postpone granting such an audience to the Báb. “He finally succeeded in persuading his sovereign to transfer so dreaded an opponent to a remote and isolated corner of his realm, and was thus able to relieve his mind of a thought that continually obsessed him.” (‘The Dawn-Breakers’)

While in the hamlet of Kulayn, the Báb received three believers from Tihran. One of them who had been closely associated with Bahá'u'lláh in Tihran, had been commissioned by Baha’u’llah to present to the Báb “a sealed letter together with certain gifts which, as soon as they were delivered into His hands, provoked in His soul sentiments of unusual delight. His face glowed with joy as He overwhelmed the bearer with marks of His gratitude and favour.” (‘The Dawn-Breakers’)

“That message, received at an hour of uncertainty and suspense, imparted solace and strength to the Báb. It dispelled the gloom that had settled upon His heart, and imbued His soul with the certainty of victory. The sadness which had long lingered upon His face, and which the perils of His captivity had served to aggravate, visibly diminished. He no longer shed those tears of anguish which had streamed so profusely from His eyes ever since the days of His arrest and departure from Shiraz. The cry "Beloved, My Well-Beloved," which in His bitter grief and loneliness He was wont to utter, gave way to expressions of thanksgiving and praise, of hope and triumph. The exultation which glowed upon His face never forsook Him until the day when the news of the great disaster which befell the heroes of Shaykh Tabarsi again beclouded the radiance of His countenance and dimmed the joy of His heart.” (‘The Dawn-Breakers’)

It was also in this hamlet of Kulayn that an amazing incident took place. Nabil, the great Baha’i historian recorded it in his book ‘The Dawn-Breakers’ – a book that was translated and edited by the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi:

“I have heard Mulla Abdu'l-Karim [one of the three believers that visited the Bab] recount the following incident: "My companions and I were fast asleep in the vicinity of the tent of the Báb when the trampling of horsemen suddenly awakened us. We were soon informed that the tent of the Báb was vacant and that those who had gone out in search of Him had failed to find Him. We heard Muhammad Big [escort commander] remonstrate with the guards. 'Why feel disturbed?' he pleaded. 'Are not His magnanimity and nobleness of soul sufficiently established in your eyes to convince you that He will never, for the sake of His own safety, consent to involve others in embarrassment? He, no doubt, must have retired, in the silence of this moonlit night, to a place where He can seek undisturbed communion with God. He will unquestionably return to His tent. He will never desert us.'

“In his eagerness to reassure his colleagues, Muhammad Big set out on foot along the road leading to Tihran. I, too, with my companions, followed him. Shortly after, the rest of the guards were seen, each on horseback, marching behind us. We had covered about a maydán [distance of a public square] when, by the dim light of the early dawn, we discerned in the distance the lonely figure of the Báb. He was coming towards us from the direction of Tihrán.

'Did you believe Me to have escaped?' were His words to Muhammad Big as He approached him.

'Far be it from me,' was the instant reply as he flung himself at the feet of the Báb, 'to entertain such thoughts.' Muhammad Big was too much awed by the serene majesty which that radiant face revealed that morning to venture any further remark.

“A look of confidence had settled upon His countenance, His words were invested with such transcendent power, that a feeling of profound reverence wrapped our very souls. No one dared to question Him as to the cause of so remarkable a change in His speech and demeanour. Nor did He Himself choose to allay our curiosity and wonder.”” (‘The Dawn-Breakers’)
(Adapted from ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, by Nabil, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi; ‘The Bab, Herald of the Day of Days’, by Balyuzi; ‘Release the Sun’, by William Sears; ‘Robe of Light, vol. 1’, by David Ruhe)