There was, in the city of Najaf, among the disciples of the widely known mujtahid, Shaykh Murtaḍá, a man without likeness or peer. His name was Áqá Muḥammad-i-Qá’iní, and later on he would receive, from the Manifestation, the title of Nabíl-i-Akbar. This eminent soul became the leading member of the mujtahid’s company of disciples. Singled out from among them all, he alone was given the rank of mujtahid— for the late Shaykh Murtaḍá was never wont to confer this degree.
He excelled not only in theology but in other branches of knowledge, such as the humanities, the philosophy of the Illuminati, the teachings of the mystics and of the Shaykhí School. He was a universal man, in himself alone a convincing proof. When his eyes were opened to the light of Divine guidance, and he breathed in the fragrances of Heaven, he became a flame of God. Then his heart leapt within him, and in an ecstasy of joy and love, he roared out like a leviathan in the deep.
With praises showered upon him, he received his new rank from the mujtahid. He then left Najaf and came to Baghdád, and here he was honored with meeting Bahá’u’lláh. Here he beheld the light that blazed on Sinai in the Holy Tree. Soon he was in such a state that he could rest neither day nor night.
One day, on the floor of the outer apartments reserved for the men, the honored Nabíl was reverently kneeling in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. At that moment Ḥájí Mírzá Ḥasan-‘Amú, a trusted associate of the mujtahids of Karbilá, came in with Zaynu’l-‘Ábidín Khán, the Fakhru’d-Dawlih. Observing how humbly and deferentially Nabíl was kneeling there, the Ḥájí was astonished.
“Sir,” he murmured, “what are you doing in this place?”
Nabíl answered, “I came here for the same reason you did.”
The two visitors could not recover from their surprise, for it was widely known that this personage was unique among mujtahids and was the most favored disciple of the renowned Shaykh Murtaḍá.
Later, Nabíl-i-Akbar left for Persia and went on to Khurásán. The Amír of Qá’in— Mír ‘Alam Khán — showed him every courtesy at first, and greatly valued his company. So marked was this that people felt the Amír was captivated by him, and indeed he was spellbound at the scholar’s eloquence, knowledge, and accomplishments. One can judge, from this, what honors were accorded to Nabíl by the rest, for “men follow the faith of their kings.”
Nabíl spent some time thus esteemed and in high favor, but the love he had for God was past all concealing. It burst from his heart, flamed out and consumed its coverings.
A thousand ways I tried
My love to hide— But how could I, upon that blazing pyre
Not catch fire!
He brought light to the Qá’in area and converted a great number of people. And when he had become known far and wide by this new name, the clergy, envious and malevolent, arose, and informed against him, sending their calumnies on to Ṭihrán, so that Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh rose up in wrath. Terrified of the Sháh, the Amír attacked Nabíl with all his might. Soon the whole city was in an uproar, and the populace, lashed to fury, turned upon him.
That enraptured lover of God never gave way, but withstood them all. At last, however, they drove him out— drove out that man who saw what they did not— and he went up to Ṭihrán, where he was a fugitive, and homeless.
Here, his enemies struck at him again. He was pursued by the watchmen; guards looked everywhere for him, asking after him in every street and alley, hunting him down to catch and torture him. Hiding, he would pass by them like the sigh of the oppressed, and rise to the hills; or again, like the tears of the wronged, he would slip down into the valleys. He could no longer wear the turban denoting his rank; he disguised himself, putting on a layman’s hat, so that they would fail to recognize him and would let him be.
In secret, with all his powers he kept on spreading the Faith and setting forth its proofs, and was a guiding lamp to many souls. He was exposed to danger at all times, always vigilant and on his guard. The Government never gave up its search for him, nor did the people cease from discussing his case.