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.
He left, then, for Bukhárá and ‘Ishqábád, continuously teaching the Faith in those regions. Like a candle, he was using up his life; but in spite of his sufferings he was never dispirited, rather his joy and ardor increased with every passing day. He was eloquent of speech; he was a skilled physician, a remedy for every ill, a balm to every sore. He would guide the Illuminati by their own philosophical principles, and with the mystics he would prove the Divine Advent in terms of “inspiration” and the “celestial vision.” He would convince the Shaykhí leaders by quoting the very words of their late Founders, Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim, and would convert Islamic theologians with texts from the Qur’án and traditions from the Imáms, who guide mankind aright. Thus he was an instant medicine to the ailing, and a rich bestowal to the poor.
He became penniless in Bukhárá and a prey to many troubles, until at the last, far from his homeland, he died, hastening away to the Kingdom where no poverty exists.
Nabíl-i-Akbar was the author of a masterly essay demonstrating the truth of the Cause, but the friends do not have it in hand at the present time. I hope that it will come to light, and will serve as an admonition to the learned. It is true that in this swiftly passing world he was the target of countless woes; and yet, all those generations of powerful clerics, those shaykhs like Murtaḍá and Mírzá Ḥabíbu’lláh and Áyatu’lláh-i-Khurásání and Mullá Asadu’lláh-i-Mázindarání— all of them will disappear without a trace. They will leave no name behind them, no sign, no fruit. No word will be passed down from any of them; no man will tell of them again. But because he stood steadfast in this holy Faith, because he guided souls and served this Cause and spread its fame, that star, Nabíl, will shine forever from the horizon of abiding light.
It is clear that whatever glory is gained outside the Cause of God turns to abasement at the end; and ease and comfort not met with on the path of God are finally but care and sorrow; and all such wealth is penury, and nothing more.
A sign of guidance, he was, an emblem of the fear of God. For this Faith, he laid down his life, and in dying, triumphed. He passed by the world and its rewards; he closed his eyes to rank and wealth; he loosed himself from all such chains and fetters, and put every worldly thought aside. Of wide learning, at once a mujtahid, a philosopher, a mystic, and gifted with intuitive sight, he was also an accomplished man of letters and an orator without a peer. He had a great and universal mind.
Praise be to God, at the end he was made the recipient of heavenly grace. Upon him be the glory of God, the All-Glorious. May God shed the brightness of the Abhá Kingdom upon his resting-place. May God welcome him into the Paradise of reunion, and shelter him forever in the realm of the righteous, submerged in an ocean of lights.
Among the Hands of the Cause of God who have departed this life and ascended to the Supreme Horizon was Jináb-i-Ismu’lláhu’l-Aṣdaq. Another was Jináb-i-Nabíl-i-Akbar. Still others were Jináb-i-Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar and Jináb-i-Shaykh Muḥammad-Riḍáy-i-Yazdí. Again, among others, was the revered martyr, Áqá Mírzá Varqá.
Ismu’lláhu’l-Asdaq was truly a servant of the Lord from the beginning of life till his last breath. When young, he joined the circle of the late Siyyid Káẓim and became one of his disciples. He was known in Persia for his purity of life, winning fame as Mullá Ṣádiq the saintly. He was a blessed individual, a man accomplished, learned, and much honored. The people of Khurásán were strongly attached to him, for he was a great scholar and among the most renowned of matchless and unique divines. As a teacher of the Faith, he spoke with such eloquence, such extraordinary power, that his hearers were won over with great ease.
After he had come to Baghdád and attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, he was seated one day in the courtyard of the men’s apartments, by the little garden. I was in one of the rooms just above, that gave onto the courtyard. At that moment a Persian prince, a grandson of Fatḥ-‘Alí Sháh, arrived at the house. The prince said to him, “Who are you?” Ismu’lláh answered, “I am a servant of this Threshhold. I am one of the keepers of this door.” And as I listened from above, he began to teach the Faith. The prince at first objected violently; and yet, in a quarter of an hour, gently and benignly, Jináb-i-Ismu’lláh had quieted him down. After the prince had so sharply denied what was said, and his face had so clearly reflected his fury, now his wrath was changed to smiles and he expressed the greatest satisfaction at having encountered Ismu’lláh and heard what he had to say.
He always taught cheerfully and with gaiety, and would respond gently and with good humor, no matter how much passionate anger might be turned against him by the one with whom he spoke. His way of teaching was excellent. He was truly Ismu’lláh, the Name of God, not for his fame but because he was a chosen soul.
Ismu’lláh had memorized a great number of Islamic traditions and had mastered the teachings of Shaykh Aḥmad and Siyyid Káẓim. He became a believer in Shíráz, in the early days of the Faith, and was soon widely known as such. And because he began to teach openly and boldly, they hung a halter on him and led him about the streets and bázárs of the city. Even in that condition, composed and smiling, he kept on speaking to the people. He did not yield; he was not silenced. When they freed him he left Shíráz and went to Khurásán, and there, too, began to spread the Faith, following which he traveled on, in the company of Bábu’l-Báb, to Fort Ṭabarsí. Here he endured intense sufferings as a member of that band of sacrificial victims. They took him prisoner at the Fort and delivered him over to the chiefs of Mázindarán, to lead him about and finally kill him in a certain district of that province. When, bound with chains, Ismu’lláh was brought to the appointed place, God put it into one man’s heart to free him from prison in the middle of the night and guide him to a place where he was safe. Throughout all these agonizing trials he remained staunch in his faith.
Think, for example, how the enemy had completely hemmed in the Fort, and were endlessly pouring in cannon balls from their siege guns. The believers, among them Ismu’lláh, went eighteen days without food. They lived on the leather of their shoes. This too was soon consumed, and they had nothing left but water. They drank a mouthful every morning, and lay famished and exhausted in their Fort. When attacked, however, they would instantly spring to their feet, and manifest in the face of the enemy a magnificent courage and astonishing resistance, and drive the army back from their walls. The hunger lasted eighteen days. It was a terrible ordeal. To begin with, they were far from home, surrounded and cut off by the foe; again, they were starving; and then there were the army’s sudden onslaughts and the bombshells raining down and bursting in the heart of the Fort. Under such circumstances to maintain an unwavering faith and patience is extremely difficult, and to endure such dire afflictions a rare phenomenon.
Ismu’lláh did not slacken under fire. Once freed, he taught more widely than ever. He spent every waking breath in calling the people to the Kingdom of God. In ‘Iráq, he attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, and again in the Most Great Prison, receiving from Him grace and favor.
He was like a surging sea, a falcon that soared high. His visage shone, his tongue was eloquent, his strength and steadfastness astounding. When he opened his lips to teach, the proofs would stream out; when he chanted or prayed, his eyes shed tears like a spring cloud. His face was luminous, his life spiritual, his knowledge both acquired and innate; and celestial was his ardor, his detachment from the world, his righteousness, his piety and fear of God.
Ismu’lláh’s tomb is in Hamadán. Many a Tablet was revealed for him by the Supreme Pen of Bahá’u’lláh, including a special Visitation Tablet after his passing. He was a great personage, perfect in all things.
Such blessed beings have now left this world. Thank God, they did not linger on, to witness the agonies that followed the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh— the intense afflictions; for firmly rooted mountains will shake and tremble at these, and the high-towering hills bow down.
He was truly Ismu’lláh, the Name of God. Fortunate is the one who circumambulates that tomb, who blesses himself with the dust of that grave. Upon him be salutations and praise in the Abhá Realm.
Yet another Hand of the Cause was the revered Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar, upon him be the glory of God, the All-Glorious. Early in life, this illustrious man attended institutions of higher learning and labored diligently, by day and night, until he became thoroughly conversant with the learning of the day, with secular studies, philosophy, and religious jurisprudence. He frequented the gatherings of philosophers, mystics, and Shaykhís, thoughtfully traversing those areas of knowledge, intuitive wisdom, and illumination; but he thirsted after the wellspring of truth, and hungered for the bread that comes down from Heaven. No matter how he strove to perfect himself in those regions of the mind, he was never satisfied; he never reached the goal of his desires; his lips stayed parched; he was confused, perplexed, and felt that he had wandered from his path. The reason was that in all those circles he had found no passion; no joy, no ecstasy; no faintest scent of love. And as he went deeper into the core of those manifold beliefs, he discovered that from the day of the Prophet Muḥammad’s advent until our own times, innumerable sects have arisen: creeds differing among themselves; disparate opinions, divergent goals, uncounted roads and ways. And he found each one, under some plea or other, claiming to reveal spiritual truth; each one believing that it alone followed the true path— this although the Muḥammedic sea could rise in one great tide, and carry all those sects away to the ocean floor. “No cry shalt thou hear from them, nor a whisper even.”
Whoso ponders the lessons of history will learn that this sea has lifted up innumerable waves, yet in the end each has dissolved and vanished, like a shadow<