On a spring evening on May 22rd, 1844, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad announced that He was the bearer of a Divine Revelation whose aim was to prepare the world for “Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest,” a Messenger of God known as Baha’u’llah. Baha’is refer to Siyyid Ali-Muhammad by His title, the Bab, which is Arabic for “the Gate,” and that eventful evening is celebrated every year by Baha’is around the world.
Mulla Husayn: The Unlikely Hero Who Advanced the Cause of Truth
You are destined to exhibit such courage, such skill and heroism as shall eclipse the mightiest deeds of the heroes of old. Your daring exploits will win the praise and admiration of the dwellers in the eternal Kingdom. – The Bab to Mulla Husayn in Mahku before His transference to Chihriq 1
He was frail of form and slender with a fragile frame. 2
He appeared before the great clerics and the learned of his time “an insignificant and negligible figure.” 3
His childhood friend declared him as one not in possession of strength or bodily endurance. 4
Contemporary reports indicate he had been sickly as a child and suffered from epilepsy and heart palpitations. 5
He was the first person to recognise the station of the Bab, which means “the Gate”, the Prophet-herald of the Baha’i Faith, and was given the title Jinab-i Bab’u’l-Bab (Gate of the Gate). 6
He was the first Letter of the Living appointed by the Bab, a title given by the Bab to His first 18 followers. 7
He appeared before one of the most formidable and outstanding ecclesiastical dignitaries of Persia at that time in the assemblage of scholars and moved the great Haji Siyyid Muhammad Baqir of Isfahan to tears. 8
He was the man who with a single stroke of his sword cut across the trunk of a tree, shattering it into six pieces, the barrel of a musket, and the body of his adversary in the battle on the outskirts of Barfurush. 9
He was the man whose name struck fear and terror in the hearts of his adversaries: “They fled at the mention of him; they trembled at his approach.” 10
His skill and prowess as an unrivalled warrior in battle made him a legend evoking the enthusiasm of poets across Persia, who lavished praise in tributes of him. 4
He emerged unscathed and triumphant in each of the four major battles he fought in despite the overwhelming forces arrayed against him, “a period rendered memorable by deeds so heroic that even his bitterest foes felt bowed to confess their wonder.” 11
He distinguished himself in every encounter with acts of valour, of chivalry, of skill and of strength. 2
He stunned his comrades who were “mute with wonder” by the “display of his stupendous force, his indomitable will and complete intrepidity.” They said, “We were all convinced that he had ceased to be the Mulla Husayn whom we had known, and that in him resided a spirit which God alone could bestow.” 12
He was the man whom Baha’u’llah in the Kitab-i-Iqan, personally ascribed with these words:
Among them was Mulla Husayn, who became the recipient of the effulgent glory of the Sun of divine Revelation. But for him, God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory. 13
The first time I properly sat down to read about the person of Mulla Husayn was 10 years ago. I was a young mother going through chemotherapy at that time. I was terrified, weak and bald. To stand at the precipice staring into the abyss of one’s own mortality shook me to the core. And yet as I read about the life of Mulla Husayn, his courage, fearlessness and heroism from 200 years ago reached out to me from the pages of The Dawn-Breakers. This was a young man who, by all accounts, was frail and trembling but lived a life of a warrior.
It is said the Heroic Age of Mulla Husayn is over. But I believe with all my heart that the pattern of his life which made him an unexpected and unlikely hero is not. What was Mulla Husayn’s secret? What transformed this seemingly insignificant youth into one of the greatest legends of our Faith?
The Secret of Stopping
He stopped to prepare himself at the start of his holy quest.
As mind boggling and as counter-intuitive as most of us have been conditioned to live, Mulla Husayn deliberately and purposefully stopped. At every pivotal moment of his life, he stopped.
One of the biggest tasks Mulla Husayn set out to do in obedience to the fervent calls of his beloved teacher Siyyid Kazim before his passing, was to search for the Promised One.
We see that the first thing of great significance that Mulla Husayn did after setting out from Karbila was to stop at the Masjid-i-Kufih to spend “forty days in that place, where he led a life of retirement and prayer.” 14
So wrapt was he in his devotions and so “immersed in contemplation and prayer” he could neither be interrupted nor distracted during that entire period he had set aside. In The Dawn-Breakers, Nabil writes:
By his fasts and vigils he prepared himself for the holy adventure upon which he was soon to embark. 15
He stopped even though time was of the essence. He stopped when he was besieged and under fire by fierce some enemies. He stopped to inquire of his Lord. He stopped to receive spiritual guidance. He stopped to nourish his inner life with spiritual sustenance for his mission ahead. He stopped to listen. He stopped to purify himself. He stopped to connect to the Source.
The Secret of Submission
He prayed in the midst of battle.
No matter how pressing or urgent the task before him beckoned, even when his own life was under attack, Mulla Husayn never rushed headlong into battle. He neither succumbed to the pressure of his peers nor the pressing expectations of others to retaliate. He was perturbed by neither the furor to charge ahead in defence, nor the fear to retreat. 16
In that legendary battle on the outskirts of Barfurush, Mulla Husayn and his companions were besieged by enemies whose “savagery rested upon their countenances, and the foulest imprecations fell unceasingly from their lips.” 17
Faced with such a fierce and angry lot, Mulla Husayn’s companions were quick to unsheathe their swords. He restrained them, despite their very justified pleas to defend themselves in the line of fire that had immediately claimed six lives. He replied not once, but twice, saying, “Not yet” and, “The time is not yet come.” 18
After a bullet pierced the breast of a companion, a Siyyid from Yazd, Mulla Husayn raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Faithful to Thy command, I now arise with my companions to resist the attack which they have launched against us.” 19
It would seem that the bedrock of Mulla Husayn’s heroism was rooted in the fact that his every movement and stillness was wholly directed by Him. His was a wholehearted submission and yielding to a higher Voice.
The Secret of Lowliness
You are the lowly, of whom God has thus spoken in His Book. And We desire to show favour to those who were brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make them Our heirs. – The Bab, addressing the Letters of the Living 8
We have come to believe that heroes are mighty and strong. But Mulla Husayn’s brand of heroism rests in the fact that he was lowly. It is such a profound statement that God favours the lowly. That the very qualities the world deems unworthy and unlikely for success are the very things that spiritual leaders are made of. The legacy of Mulla Husayn is rooted in his lowliness.
The Secret of Being Faithful
He set out in complete single-mindedness to finish every task instructed of him.
Scattered liberally across The Dawn-Breakers is this phrase that its author, Nabil Zarandi, keeps repeating in his narration of Mulla Husayn’s journey.
With complete severance and noble resolve, he set out to achieve his end. 3
Mulla Husayn set forth, as bidden by his Master, on his journey to Mazandaran. 20
Mulla Husayn set out immediately to carry out the instructions he had received. 21
Alone and with a heart wholly detached from all else but God, Mulla Husayn set out on his journey to Mashad. 22
His entire life’s mission was one of faithfully carrying out to completion the instructions he had received. He never deviated either in spirit nor in letter. Neither did he tarry nor delay in carrying to completion the task set before him. He didn’t linger a moment longer when it was not part of the plan to stay despite the many occasions where lavish hospitality and comforts were assured. 23
Over the course of his young life, Mulla Husayn carried out, with single-minded resolution, what was instructed to him by Siyyid Kazim, the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Quddus up to his last breath.
Until the hour of his martyrdom, Mulla Husayn remained faithful to his pledge. 24
The life of Mulla Husayn cannot be confined within the pages of a historical narrative because such a light cannot be dimmed nor weakened over the passage of time. This light finds new expressions of heroism over the ages. May we continue to be confounded by the insignificant, the unlikely and the lowly because that is where unexpected hidden seeds of heroism are birthed.
Sharon Karvonen is a mother, a wife and an aspiring warrior. She is inspired by kindness. And nobility found in unexpected places. After being away for twenty years living in Finland and Afghanistan, she is back in Penang, Malaysia, the island where she was born.