Ridvan celebrates Baha’u’llah’s time in the garden of Ridvan where He publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God. The Ridvan Festival is 12 days long and is also the time of year where Baha’is elect their governing bodies.
On July 9th 1850, the Bab, the forerunner to Baha’u’llah, was executed in Tabriz, Persia by a firing squad of 750 men. The Bab, which means “the Gate” in Arabic, was a Messenger of God whose role was to herald the coming of the latest Manifestation of God: Baha’u’llah. In 1909, after being hidden away for more than half a century, the Bab’s remains were finally interred on Mount Carmel, Israel.
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.
One of the questions I love to ask of others is: what attracted you to the Baha’i Faith? Was it the social applications of the Baha’i teachings? Or the beauty of the Writings? The tribulations suffered by the Manifestations? Or a dream?
Everyone has a different response to this question and historical accounts of early Baha’is are filled with their answers. One of the proofs of the Bab’s station that fascinates me is the sheer speed with which He revealed the Word of God. Consider the following account of the spiritually thunderstruck Mulla Husayn when the Bab declared His mission:
He took up His pen… and with incredible rapidity revealed the entire Surih of Mulk, the first chapter of His commentary on the Surih 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 Surih of Mulk was finished. I sat enraptured by the magic of His voice and the sweeping force of His revelation.
Balyuzi, The Bab, p. 20
I am also moved by this first-hand account of Siyyid Yahya Darabi, a learned divine:
How am I to describe this scene of inexpressible majesty? Verses streamed from His pen with a rapidity that was truly astounding. The incredible swiftness of His writing, the soft and gentle murmur of His voice, and the stupendous force of His style, amazed and bewildered me. He continued in this manner until the approach of sunset. He did not pause until the entire commentary of the Surih was completed. He then laid down His pen and asked for tea.
Not only was the speed of the Bab’s revelation a proof to those who were blessed to witness it, but it was also a fact that was championed as a verity of His station to others. Mulla Aliy-i-Bastami was a Letter of the Living and the first Babi martyr. He was punished and killed because he affirmed, in the presence of one of the leading exponents of Shi’ah Islam, that the Bab revealed in 48 hours verses equal in number to those of the Qu’ran. 1 The Bab Himself stated that the rapidity with which He spoke the revealed word was constrained only by the capacity of His amanuensis. 2
The verses which have rained from this Cloud of Divine mercy have been so abundant that none hath yet been able to estimate their number. A score of volumes are now available. How many still remain beyond our reach! How many have been plundered and have fallen into the hands of the enemy, the fate of which none knoweth!
Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p.217
Despite the Bab’s restraint, despite the loss of so many texts, and despite the fact that His ministry was so short (it was only 6 years compared to the 29 year ministry of Baha’u’llah), the quantity of the writings of the Bab are nearly equal to those of the One whose advent He proclaimed.
The Bab had two amanuenses (Siyyid Husayn and Mirza Ahmad) but He also wrote verses in His own hand. The Bab was an accomplished calligrapher of exquisite beauty. In A Traveller’s Narrative, Abdu’l-Baha describes a specimen of the Bab’s penmanship. He writes of Mulla Abdu’l-Karim, who was to deliver a box containing the Bab’s writings, ring and pen case to Baha’u’llah shortly before His execution, and who was pressured by those in his company to open the box and reveal its contents. The Master states:
Importuned by the company, he produced a long epistle in blue, penned in the most graceful manner with the utmost delicacy and firmness in a beautiful minute shikastih hand, written in the shape of a man so closely that it would have been imagined that it was a single wash of ink on the paper. When they had read this epistle [they perceived that] He had produced three hundred and sixty derivatives from the word Baha. Then Mulla Abdu’l-Karim conveyed the trust to its destination.
Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p.25
When you visit the International Archives Building in Haifa, Israel you can see a “hakal” (a passage written in the shape of a five pointed star, a symbol for the human body) in the Bab’s hand. Despite historical distance, an inability to read Persian or Arabic, and an unfamiliarity with calligraphic styles, seeing this priceless document is still powerful. In this same vein, the answers my friends give are all valid and moving; once you are convinced of something, all other proofs are remarkable. What is amazing are the scores of answers, the scores of proofs, not only among Baha’is of my generation, but by Baha’is over the course of history. This Cause is an ocean and we all submerge ourselves in different ways, from different shores, and to different depths to discover different mysteries.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
It was not the speed that captured me (well I wasn’t there), but the fact that it was perfectly composed the FIRST time!
What writer could do that? Magic? No. The Hand of God’s Manifestation.
No misspellings, perfect grammar, clear, deep, a perfect metaphor.
And writing in shapes!! The first time??? impossible for any common person.
Any writer is humbled by such power and skill. I’m lucky to write this without red lines!
Shirlie Burriston (October 10, 2013 at 7:46 PM)
Hello Shirlie! Yes, what a fantastic point! While we may not have been there, our bumbling first drafts (to speak for myself anyway) are a good comparison to revelation that was perfect the moment it was written. I hadn’t considered that — what an excellent point!
Sonjel (October 10, 2013 at 12:05 PM)
Thank you Sonjel for your informed and interesting analysis of one of the Báb’s many extraordinary feats. Indeed, no man can produce text of such beauty and profundity with such rapidity. Personally, for me, an even more profound and heartfelt proof (than the speed of the Báb’s revelation) of the self-same Mulla Husayn’s account of his interview with the Báb was how he was touched by His loving-kindness:
“Had my youthful Host no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient—that He received me with that quality of hospitality and loving-kindness which I was convinced no other human being could possibly reveal.”
Sam Karvonen (October 10, 2013 at 7:49 PM)
Dear Sam, Thank you so much for sharing this. Isn’t that account of Mulla Husayn’s truly wonderful? I am so thankful that he recounted what happened at that momentous event.
Sonjel (October 10, 2013 at 12:08 PM)
Good to read an essay, an analysis, an exploration, written by a fellow Canadian in Prince Edward Island(PEI), an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. When I was investigating the Bahaí Faith in Canada back in the 1950s, there were only several 100 Bahaís in all of Canada; as far as I know there were only a small handful, if any, in PEI.
After 60 years of membership in, and association with, this world Faith which claims to be the newest of the Abrahamic religions, I have come to study it myself from many different personal and disciplinary perspectives: some 90 at last count. Readers here might like to check out my website to explore some of these ways of examining the Bahaí Faith from various inter-disciplinary viewpoints in the arts and sciences at: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/
My mother joined the Bahaí Faith in 1953 when there were an estimated 200,000 Bahaís in the world, 90% of them in Iran. Now there are 5 to 8 million Bahaís worldwide, and 90% of them live outside of Iran. In 1965 I was a youth in Ontario and received, with all the other youth worldwide, the first letter of the Universal House of Justice to youth: 10 June 1965. What a transformation with all those youth conferences in 2013 less than 50 years later!!
RonPrice (October 10, 2013 at 2:06 AM)
Dear Ron, Thank you for your comment and for putting into perspective the growth of the Faith! There are about 100 believers on PEI now!
Sonjel (October 10, 2013 at 12:11 PM)