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.
Purity of Heart, Determination and Devotion: A Tribute to Mulla Husayn
In honour of the Declaration of the Bab, I have been thinking of that immortal hero who was the first to receive and embrace the truth of the Bab’s revelation: the young, pure-hearted, determined and devoted Mulla Husayn. We are indebted to Mulla Husayn because he left us with an account of that pivotal evening, unlike the Festival of Ridvan for which no historical records of the exact words or manner of Baha’u’llah’s declaration exists. In Release the Sun, William Sears tells us:
Never before in the history of religion have the exact words of such an unforgettable meeting been preserved by an eye-witness. Mulla Husayn, however, has left in everlasting language a memory of the first announcement by Ali Muhammad, the Bab. He could never forget the inner peace and serenity which he had felt in the life-creating presence of the Bab. He spoke often to his companions of that wondrous night. 1
What happened on that fateful evening and its impact on the world are sublime — attempting to comprehend it is like trying to imagine the size of the universe. Reflecting on Mulla Husayn’s story, however, helps me to get a better idea of the spiritual import of the Bab’s declaration. In thinking about Mulla Husayn, I am struck by 3 outstanding qualities that he demonstrated in the moments leading to and immediately following the birth of the Bab’s revelation: his purity of heart, his determination in pursuing his quest, and his devotion and faithfulness to the Bab, the object of his heart’s desire.
His Purity of Heart
Mulla Husayn and other students of Siyyid Kazim knew that the Beloved of their hearts was alive and in their midst and that they had to find Him. Can you imagine feeling such certainty and yet such lack of knowledge? Many believed that 1844 was the time of the Promised One’s appearance and His signs and evidences would be as clear as the midday sun — if your heart was pure enough to find Him. Siyyid Kazim had told his pupils that “the Object of our quest was now revealed. The veils that intervened between you and Him are such as only you can remove by your devoted search. Nothing short of prayerful endeavour, of purity of motive, of singleness of mind, will enable you to tear them asunder.” 2 Before setting out to look for the Bab, Mulla Husayn spent 40 days praying and fasting, preparing himself “for the holy adventure upon which he was soon to embark.” 3 Other followers of Siyyid Kazim, unsure how to proceed, attempted to follow the example of Mulla Husayn. At times they wanted to ask him for guidance but they found him so wrapt in devotions that they couldn’t bear to interrupt him and so they too sought solitude and prayer.
When you read about how exactly Mulla Husayn found the Bab, you can’t help but be struck by how he followed the promptings of his pure heart. Nabil writes:
Immediately after the completion of his forty days’ retirement, Mulla Husayn, together with his two companions, departed for Najaf. He left Karbila by night […] and proceeded directly to Bushihr, on the Persian Gulf. There he started on his holy quest after the Beloved of his heart’s desire. There, for the first time, he inhaled the fragrance of Him who, for years, had led in that city the life of a merchant and humble citizen. There he perceived the sweet savours of holiness with which that Beloved’s countless invocations had so richly impregnated the atmosphere of the city. He could not, however, tarry longer in Bushihr. Drawn as if by a magnet which seemed to attract him irresistibly towards the north, he proceeded to Shiraz. 4
Balyuzi recounts of Mulla Husayn’s arrival in Shiraz and of his determination. He writes:
Mulla Husayn was a man of profound scholarship and unbending will. Nothing daunted him. Now, reaching the gates of Shiraz, he sent his companions into the city to obtain lodgings, but he himself tarried for a while in the fields. […] Mulla Husayn was fatigued after the trying journey from the coast up the precipitous tracks of the rising plateau. But his mind was alert and his soul yearned for that peace which the attainment of his goal would bring him. As he walked and pondered he came face to face with a Youth of striking appearance… 5
Perhaps this determination initially confused Mulla Husayn. After the Bab’s declaration that all the indications Mulla Husayn listed as signs of the Promised One were manifest in Him,
Mulla Husayn was for the moment shocked and bewildered. He tried to resist a claim so breath-taking. But Truth looked him in the face. He marshalled arguments. But Truth is its own argument. 6
It is impossible to imagine what Mulla Husayn must have felt but we can revel in his description of his feelings. He recounts:
This Revelation, so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendour and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanized my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. 7
What strikes me most is that not only did Mulla Husayn accept the truth of the Bab’s station, but he was also faithfully obedient to the Bab’s command not to divulge what he had learned until others learned the truth too. Mulla Husayn kept his word, despite knowing the world’s most powerful and precious secret, even when others, like Quddus, accused him of keeping the Bab hidden! Such devotion and dedication are beyond words!
These three spiritual qualities of Mulla Husayn leap off the pages of historical accounts. If you would like to read more about Mulla Husayn and the Declaration of the Bab, I highly recommend the following books:
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.