In 1783, Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsá’í travelled through Persia with the expectation that the advent of the Qá’im, the Promised One of Islám is drawing near. Amongst his students was a gifted young man named Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashtí who shortly before his death in 1843, instructed Mulla Husayn, one of his students, to go out and search for the Qá’im.
It was this quest that led Mullá Husayn, his brother, and a nephew to the city of Shíráz on May 22, 1844. While walking outside the gates of the city a few hours before sunset, he was unexpectedly greeted by a young man. He is said to have related,
The Youth who met me outside the gate of Shíráz overwhelmed me with expressions of affection and loving-kindness. He extended to me a warm invitation to visit His home, and there refresh myself after the fatigues of my journey. I prayed to be excused, pleading that my two companions had already arranged for my stay in that city, and were now awaiting my return. “Commit them to the care of God,” was His reply; “He will surely protect and watch over them.” Having spoken these words, He bade me follow Him. I was profoundly impressed by the gentle yet compelling manner in which that strange Youth spoke to me.*
He accompanied the young man to his house, where tea was served and preparations begun for the evening prayer. Mullá Husayn then relates the astonishing thing that happened next:
Overwhelmed with His acts of extreme kindness, I arose to depart. “The time for evening prayer is approaching,” I ventured to observe. “I have promised my friends to join them at that hour in the [mosque].” With extreme courtesy and calm He replied: “You must surely have made the hour of your return conditional upon the will and pleasure of God. It seems that His will has decreed otherwise. You need have no fear of having broken your pledge.” His dignity and self-assurance silenced me. I renewed my ablutions and prepared for prayer. He, too,stood beside me and prayed…. It was about an hour after sunset when my youthful Host began to converse with me. “Whom, after Siyyid Kázim,” He asked me, “do you regard as his successor and your leader?” “At the hour of his death,” I replied, “our departed teacher insistently exhorted us to forsake our homes, to scatter far and wide, in quest of the promised Beloved. I have, accordingly, journeyed to Persia, have arisen to accomplish his will, and am still engaged in my quest.” “Has your teacher,” He further enquired, “given you any detailed indications as to the distinguishing features of the Qá’im?” “Yes,” I replied, “He is of a pure lineage, is of illustrious descent, and of the seed of Fátimih. As to His age, He is more than twenty and less than thirty. He is endowed with innate knowledge. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking, and is free from bodily deficiency.” He paused for a while and then with vibrant voice declared: “Behold, all these signs are manifest in Me!”*
The young man, whose name was Siyyid Alí Muhammád, proceeded to demonstrate that each of the signs given by Siyyid Kázim were indeed applicable to Him. Yet Mullá Husayn was unsure. He had prepared two tests for anyone claiming to be the Qá’im, and decided to place them before Siyyid Alí Muhammád in order to prove the matter one way or the other. Those tests, Mullá Huysan related, were as follows:
The first was a treatise which I had myself composed, bearing upon the abstruse and hidden teachings propounded by Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim. Whoever seemed to me capable of unravelling the mysterious allusions made in that treatise, to him I would next submit my second request, and would ask him to reveal, without the least hesitation or reflection, a commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, in a style and language entirely different from the prevailing standards of the time. I had previously requested Siyyid Kázim, in private, to write a commentary on that same Súrih, which he refused, saying: “This is, verily, beyond me. He, that great One, who comes after me will, unasked, reveal it for you. That commentary will constitute one of the weightiest testimonies of His truth, and one of the clearest evidences of the loftiness of His position.”*
So Mullá Husayn asked his Host to comment on the treatise he had written. The result of that request only further astonished him:
He graciously complied with my wish. He opened the book, glanced at certain passages, closed it, and began to address me. Within a few minutes He had, with characteristic vigour and charm, unravelled all its mysteries and resolved all its problems. Having to my entire satisfaction accomplished, within so short a time, the task I had expected Him to perform, He further expounded to me certain truths which could be found neither in the reported sayings of the Imáms of the Faith nor in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kázim. These truths, which I had never heard before, seemed to be endowed with refreshing vividness and power…. He then proceeded to say: “Now is the time to reveal the commentary on the Súrih of Joseph.” He took up His pen and with incredible rapidity revealed the entire Súrih of Mulk, the first chapter of His commentary on the Súrih of Joseph. The overpowering effect of the manner in which He wrote was heightened by the gentle intonation of His voice which accompanied His writing. Not for one moment did He interrupt the flow of the verses which streamed from His pen. Not once did He pause till the Súrih of Mulk was finished. I sat enraptured by the magic of His voice and the sweeping force of His revelation. At last I reluctantly arose from my seat and begged leave to depart…. At that moment the clock registered two hours and eleven minutes after sunset…. “This night,” He declared, “this very hour will, in the days to come, be celebrated as one of the greatest and most significant of all festivals. Render thanks to God for having graciously assisted you to attain your heart’s desire, and for having quaffed from the sealed wine of His utterance.”*
From that day forward, Siyyid Alí Muhammád refered to Himself as the Báb (the Gate) and Mullá Husayn became the first disciple amongst 18 disciples who became known as the Letters of Living (حروف الحي ). Amongst them was also the Persian poetess, Qurratu´l-’Ayn (Solace of the Eyes), also known as Tahirih (The Pure).
It was the beginning of six tumultuous years in Persia were thousands of the Báb’s followers were put to death and the Báb Himself was executed by firing squad in Tabriz, on July 9th, 1850. Mullá Husayn would be killed when the army beseiged a group of Bábís at Fort Tabarsí in 1849.
*Dawn Breakers (تاریخ نبیل زرندی )
The following short presentation includes scenes of historic Shiraz, the House of the Báb and the room in which the Báb met with Mullá Husayn. This place of pilgrimage for the Bahá’ís, was razed to the ground by the revolutionary government of Iran. Despite these and many other attrocities committed against the descendents of those early believers, today the youth of Shiraz have spoken up in defense of the rights of their Bahá’í brothers and sisters.