Abdu’l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah. When Abdu’l-Baha passed away on 28 November 1921, He was eulogized as One who led humanity to the “Way of Truth,” as a “pillar of peace” and the embodiment of “glory and greatness.”
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.