One of the most beautiful works which Bahá'u'lláh revealed in Constantinople is the Mathnaví. It is a masterpiece of Persian poetry, noted for the beauty and power of its composition, and acclaimed as one of the most soul-stirring among His poems. No pen can adequately describe the contents of this great work even in the original language. For every one of its three hundred lines is a book in itself with infinite depth and profound significances. Like a vast ocean which gushes out through a tiny outlet, Bahá'u'lláh reveals, with a potency that overwhelms the soul, a small measure of the glory and power of God and vouchsafes to mankind a glimmer of His divine Revelation. The knowledge He bestows upon the pure in heart, the mysteries He unravels for the sincere, the insight He confers upon the seeker, the wisdom He dispenses to the wise, and the counsels and exhortations He delivers to His loved ones, all these stand out in this divine poem as the ultimates to which man can hope to attain.

In this poem, and within the bounds of a finite world, Bahá'u'lláh has unveiled the mysteries of a vast and limitless Revelation, disclosed some of the realities of the world of man and indicated how he can achieve the summit of glory. Some of His exhortations in this work are in the same vein as those in The Hidden Words.

Bahá'u'lláh has identified Himself in the poem as the Day-Star of Truth which sheds its radiance upon all created things. Just as the physical sun is the primary cause of life on this planet, so the Supreme Manifestation of God is the source of spiritual life for all mankind. He releases spiritual energies


into the human world which cause man to progress and grow.

In one of His Tablets,1 Bahá'u'lláh states that the primary purpose of divine revelation is not merely the changing of laws in human society nor is it to impart knowledge; but rather, its purpose is to pour forth heavenly bounties so that at the time of divine revelation all created things may become the instruments of the grace of God and acquire fresh capacities.

When the Mathnaví was revealed the news of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh and its significance had not been fully communicated to the Bábí Community. Therefore Bahá'u'lláh calls on Himself in this poem to rend asunder the veils and let the sun of His Revelation arise in full splendour. In another passage He calls on Himself to shed upon this dark world a measure of His light, to open the doors of the knowledge of God to humanity, and to waft over them the musk-laden breezes of His mercy so that the spiritually dead may be resurrected from their sepulchres of ignorance and heedlessness.

Alluding to the diffusion of the light of His Faith to the Western world, Bahá'u'lláh makes a remarkable statement. He urges the innermost spirit of God within Himself to unveil His glory so that the Sun may rise from the West. Elsewhere in His writings, Bahá'u'lláh has prophesied that although the Cause of God was born in the East, its influence would appear in the West.*

In the Mathnaví Bahá'u'lláh describes His coming as the advent of the Day of God and the appearance of springtime. In many of His Tablets He has referred to this theme. Just as the physical spring gives new life to all creation in this world, so the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh enables the hearts of men to be filled with His love and to manifest the noblest fruits of virtues and perfections. These heavenly qualities manifested by the believer do not originate entirely from himself. Without


* The rise and establishment of the Bahá'í Faith in the Western world has been remarkable. For further information see God Passes By and volumes of The Bahá'í World.

1. Bahá'u'lláh, Iqtidárát, pp. 90-91.
the light of the sun the eye is a useless instrument and the seed an impotent organism. Similarly if it were not for the appearance of the Manifestations of God no man could ever attain to nobility and righteousness. It is through the radiance of these Suns of Truth that humanity has been led progressively from darkness into light.

One of the themes of the Mathnaví is that man himself is a manifestation of God, that within him are deposited the powers and attributes of God, and that God's light is reflected in him; yet he is veiled from these bounties and spends the precious hours of his life unaware of the exalted forces latent within him. Bahá'u'lláh warns that not until man makes an effort to purify his heart can these qualities and attributes be manifested in him. In The Hidden Words, speaking with the voice of God, Bahá'u'lláh states:

O Son of Being!
Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favour upon thee.2

Bahá'u'lláh teaches in the Mathnaví that man will not be able to receive the light of God in this day unless he acquires a new eye. Eyes which are fixed on the things of this world can never see the glory of His Revelation, and ears which are tuned to the voices of the ungodly cannot hear the melodies of the Kingdom. By 'new eyes' and 'new ears' He means spiritual eyes and spiritual ears. He states that since the eye of the spirit receives its light from God it is shameful to let it turn to a stranger, and re-affirms that the purpose of God in creating the inner eye was that man might behold the beauty of His Manifestation in this world. In The Hidden Words Bahá'u'lláh reveals:

O Son of Dust!
Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet

2. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, no. 11, Arabic.
melody of My voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness.3
In a Tablet4 He affirms that should the eyes of an observer be as large as the universe and turn for one moment to someone other than Him, such a person is not worthy to enter His presence. We can appreciate this statement of Bahá'u'lláh if we ponder the case of a man who seeks illumination from a candle when the sun is shining at its zenith.

In another Tablet,5 Bahá'u'lláh explains that this is the Day of God, and nothing else is worthy of mention. He further states that this is the day of eyes, of ears and of hearts. He calls on His loved ones to try to acquire these three and reminds them that only a tiny impediment can prevent the eyes from seeing, the ears from hearing and hearts from understanding.

The veils which come between the inner eye of the soul and the Manifestation of God all originate from the world of man. A great many people in the world today are as yet unable to witness the glory of Bahá'u'lláh, the Supreme Manifestation of God, for they have wrapped their hearts in many veils. One of the cruellest veils is that of tradition. Men are born into a tradition and are inclined to remain as prisoners within it for life. History shows that whenever God has manifested Himself and brought new standards and teachings for mankind, such men have followed their fathers, religious leaders and countrymen in denouncing the new Manifestation of God. The best example is the coming of Christ when only a handful of people recognized Him, while the rest, who were slaves of tradition, rejected His Cause. One of the most important teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is that man should not imitate his fellow men in matters of faith, that he should carry out an


3. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, no. 11, Persian.

4. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. VII, p. 200.

5. Bahá'u'lláh, Iqtidárát, p. 272.

unfettered search after truth and open his inner eyes to behold the glory of the new-born Faith of God in this day.

Another grievous veil which has prevented people from recognizing the Manifestation of God is that of knowledge. Men who possess knowledge often become proud, sometimes without realizing it, and close their eyes to the truth. This is one of those 'veils of glory'--spoken of in Islám and referred to by Bahá'u'lláh in many of His Writings, including the Kitáb-i-Íqán--whereby one of the lofty attributes of God becomes a barrier.* Though knowledge is a praiseworthy attribute for man to acquire and Bahá'u'lláh, like Muhammad, has enjoined His followers to gain knowledge, yet it becomes a 'veil of glory' if through it man is rendered vain and egotistical.

In the early days of the Faith, a certain wealthy and knowledgeable person from Káshán set off with his family for pilgrimage to the cities of Najaf and Karbilá. Circumstances had forced him to engage a Bábí caravan-driver by the name of Háshim Khán to transport the party to its destination and back. The reason for his reluctance to travel in company with Háshim Khán, in spite of the fact that the latter was known to be the most trusted caravan-driver in the area, was that he was a Bábí. Háshim Khán was tall and strong. He had little education, yet his heart was touched by the light of God's infant Faith. As a result, he was endowed with the gift of understanding and was able to convince people in his simple way of the truth of the Cause he had espoused. He was commonly referred to as Háshim Bábí. The merchant and his family shunned Háshim throughout the journey. They did not wish to associate with one who in their estimation had embraced a heretical Faith. On such long journeys the party has to stop two or three times a day for rest and to feed the animals. On one occasion when they were resting, the merchant decided to speak to Háshim to try to guide him back to the fold. So he called him to come and join the others. Having thanked him


* See vol. 1, pp. 43-4.

for his selfless service and care, he began to converse with Háshim and remarked, 'How is it that with all my knowledge, I have failed to appreciate the validity of the Message of the Báb while you, an almost illiterate person, claim to have recognized the truth of His Mission?'

Háshim took a handful of sand in his hand and said, 'People like me have no merit in society. They are like the sand in the desert which has no value, yet, when the sun rises in the morning this sand is the first to become illumined by its rays. A learned man, however, is like a precious jewel. It is kept in a box and locked up in a room, and when the sun rises it remains in darkness.' The merchant was moved by this answer. He continued to learn from Háshim all the way home, until the veils which obscured his vision were removed and the jewel of his heart was enlightened by the radiance of God's newborn Faith. This simple answer by Háshim is very profound indeed. While it exalts the station of knowledge, it demonstrates that when the Sun of Truth appears in the world, men of learning must make an effort to open their hearts and souls to its rays and to become illumined by them.

Other veils which prevent people from embracing the new Faith of God are prejudices of all kinds, materialism, wealth, power and many others which have surrounded human society today and plunged it into a state of utter darkness and deprivation.


In the Mathnaví Bahá'u'lláh speaks about the potency of His Revelation and affirms that through it man can scale the loftiest heights of virtue and spirituality. He calls on His loved ones to endeavour to attain this station by turning to Him with pure hearts and with devotion, and then detaching themselves from earthly things. In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has stated that the greatest achievement for man is detachment from all things save God. The soul can acquire faith and


progress towards God to the degree of its detachment from this world. But detachment is often misunderstood and is taken to mean renouncing the world. Many sects and groups of people are inclined to shut themselves away in monasteries or similar institutions, thinking that such a practice will enhance their spiritual status. The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh are emphatically against this. For instance, in His second Tablet to Napoleon III, Bahá'u'lláh addresses the monks in these words:

O concourse of monks! Seclude not yourselves in churches and cloisters. Come forth by My leave, and occupy yourselves with that which will profit your souls and the souls of men. Thus biddeth you the King of the Day of Reckoning. Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, verily, is a befitting seclusion, were ye of them that perceive it. He that shutteth himself up in a house is indeed as one dead. It behoveth man to show forth that which will profit all created things, and he that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for fires.6

Man may possess all the good things of the world, live in luxury and yet be detached from earthly things.* God has created this world and all it contains for man's use and enjoyment, provided he lives in accordance with the teachings of God.

Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets7 mentions that this world is filled with material bounties from God, that all good and beautiful things are manifestations of His attributes and that to possess them is not attachment. He warns, however, that the things of this world are all transitory and man should not fix his affection upon them, nor allow himself to be possessed by them. In the same Tablet Bahá'u'lláh explains the meaning of attachment to the world as being attachment to those who have denied Him and turned aside from His Cause. In another Tablet8 Bahá'u'lláh states that there are three barriers between


* See vol. 1, pp. 75-7.

6. Quoted in The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 95.

7. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. VIII, p. 29.

8. ibid., vol. IV, p. 26.

God and man. He exhorts the believers to pass beyond them so that they may be enabled to attain His presence. The first one, which we have just discussed, is attachment to this mortal world. The second is attachment to the next world and all that is destined for man in the life hereafter. And the third is attachment to the 'Kingdom of Names'.

To understand the significance of the second barrier let us remember that the purpose of life is to know and worship God. One of the traditions of Islám states that in the beginning God was a hidden treasure; because He desired to be discovered and recognized, He created man. And man, through endeavour and spiritual instinct, has been successful in discovering God. Through the powers and attributes which God has bestowed upon him, as well as through the light which His Manifestations have shed on his path, he has been enabled to know his Creator* and worship Him. Bahá'u'lláh states in The Hidden Words:

O Son of Man!
I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.9

And in a prayer which Bahá'u'lláh revealed for His followers to recite He writes: 'I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee...' †10

This, therefore, is the purpose of creation. Man's deeds are praiseworthy in the sight of God when they are performed solely for His love and for no other reason. To this Bahá'u'lláh testifies in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: 'Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.'11 If man's motive for his actions


* Since it is not possible to know God in His essence, man attains to the knowledge of God when he knows His Manifestation. See vol. 1, pp. 175-7.

† Worship of God is not only through prayer and devotion. Bahá'u'lláh has ordained that work performed in the spirit of service to mankind is also to be regarded as worship.

9. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, no. 4, Arabic.

10. Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, clxxxi.

11. Quoted in Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 12.

["Observe My commandments..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶4
is that he may reap a reward for himself in the next world, then this is attachment. To be detached means to do everything for the sake of God and to seek no recompense.

What a contrast between this attitude and that prevailing in human society at the present time, where almost every action is designed to bring forth rewards for the individual. The attitude of expediency and self-interest has so conditioned the mind of man today that even in spiritual matters such as faith and belief in God, man often looks for something that will primarily satisfy his own needs. Many people today join one religion or another in the hope of receiving some spiritual help or other benefit such as peace of mind or salvation. This is not the right motive for following a religion. For the story of every religion is written with the language of love. A true lover has no ulterior motives or self-interest, but only a passionate love for his beloved. Man's first duty is to recognize and love the Manifestation of God and then to follow Him, for He alone in the whole of creation deserves to be glorified and exalted and is worthy of praise and worship.

Man, because of his animal nature, is a selfish being. The instinct for survival drives him to find food, clothing and other necessities of life. Then he seeks after security, wealth, power and similar possessions. All these, as well as his intellectual, emotional and spiritual pursuits, revolve around his own self, and are aimed to serve his well-being, prosperity and happiness. He is always in search of things to add to his possessions as long as he can derive some benefit from them.

When man encounters the Faith of God and recognizes its glory he tends to add it, in the usual way, to his other treasures. He puts his religion on a par with his other pursuits, and selfishly expects to benefit from it just as he benefits from his other possessions. He wants the Faith of God to serve him and bring him joy and satisfaction. This concept and practice is attachment to the world and against the law of creation. For God has not given His Revelation in order that it may satisfy


the selfish interests of man. On the contrary, man is expected to arrange his life in such a way as to serve and revolve around the Revelation of God. If the individual follows the Cause of God unselfishly and with pure motive, his life will be so blessed that the powers and attributes of God will be revealed within his soul. Whereas if he seeks these attributes to gratify his own ego, such a motive will cause him to be deprived of the outpouring of God's grace and bounty.

In this day those who have fully recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh, and are endowed with the gift of true understanding, have embraced His Faith not because they discovered that it would bring happiness to them, solve their personal problems, remove their afflictions and enrich their spiritual lives, but rather because they recognized that Bahá'u'lláh is the Manifestation of God for this age and were drawn to Him as iron is attracted to a magnet. Their eyes have been dazzled by the glory of His Revelation and their hearts seized by the potency of His Word. They know that the Cause He has revealed is exalted above all creation and that man has come into being primarily to serve it. This, and only this, should be the motive for following the Faith of God.

When the believer turns with true love to the Manifestation of God, he cannot help but leave aside his own interests and desires and seek only the good pleasure of His Lord. Yet in so doing, he will receive heavenly virtues and powers as a byproduct of his love for and submission to the Manifestation of God. Indeed, it is true to say that the only people who experience real happiness and acquire divine virtues to the utmost are those who with no self-interest recognize and follow the Manifestation of God and are detached from the rewards of this life and the next.

Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh-i-Misbáh was one of the great scholars of the Faith. His life and learning have shed imperishable lustre on the annals of the Cause during the ministries of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. In his collection of gem-like meditations we find this short yet profound statement:


He who seeks reward for his deeds will be given the Garden of Paradise; and he who seeks God is in no need of paradise.12

The third barrier which Bahá'u'lláh mentions is attachment to the 'Kingdom of Names'. In His Writings there are many references to this kingdom. For instance in a Tablet Bahá'u'lláh states:

The Pen of the Most High is unceasingly calling; and yet, how few are those that have inclined their ear to its voice! The dwellers of the kingdom of names have busied themselves with the gay livery of the world, forgetful that every man that hath eyes to perceive and ears to hear cannot but readily recognize how evanescent are its colours.13

God in His own essence is exalted above attributes. However, in all His dominions and within each of His worlds, both spiritual and physical, He reveals the kingdom of His attributes. Every created thing manifests the names and attributes of God. In the spiritual world, these attributes are manifest with such intensity that man will never be able to comprehend them in this life. In the human world, however, these attributes appear within the 'Kingdom of Names' and man often becomes attached to these names.

In the Lawh-i-Nasír,*14 speaking with the voice of God, Bahá'u'lláh states that a name from among His names which He had created with one Word and into which He had breathed a new life, rose up against Him and opposed His authority. Because of attachment to this name, He testifies that some people of the Bayán rejected His Cause and deprived themselves of His glory. Here Bahá'u'lláh is alluding to the name 'Azal', † the title of Mírzá Yahyá. Indeed, this name, which is one of the attributes of God, became a barrier for many who blindly


* See pp. 245-47.

† 'Azal' (Eternity) is one of the attributes of God. This was a title conferred upon Mírzá Yahyá who was referred to as Subh-i-Azal (Morn of Eternity).

12. Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh-i-Misbáh, Díván-i-Misbáh, p. 337.

13. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section xcvi.

14. Bahá'u'lláh, Majmú'iy-i-Alváh, pp. 173-4.

followed him because of their attachment to an exalted title. Mírzá Yahyá himself was also misled by this name. He extolled its virtues and remained attached to it till the end of his life.

In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh exhorts His followers not to become the bond-slaves of the Kingdom of Names. The well-known Islámic saying, 'The Names come down from heaven', has many significances. In this world every one of God's attributes is clad with a name, and every such name reveals the characteristics of its attribute. For instance, generosity is an attribute of God, and it manifests itself in human beings. However, a person who has this attribute often becomes proud of it and loves to be referred to as generous. When his generosity is acknowledged by other people, he becomes happy, and when it is ignored, unhappy. This is one form of attachment to the Kingdom of Names. Although this example concerns the name 'generosity', the same is true of all the names and attributes of God manifested within the individual. Usually, man ascribes these attributes to his own person rather than to God and employs them to exalt his own ego. For instance, a learned man uses the attribute of knowledge to become famous and feels gratified and uplifted when his name is publicized far and wide. Or there is the individual whose heart leaps with feelings of pride and satisfaction when he hears his name mentioned and finds himself admired. These are examples of attachment to the Kingdom of Names.

Human society at present exerts a pernicious influence upon the soul of man. Instead of allowing him to live a life of service and sacrifice, it teaches him to pride himself on his accomplishments. From early childhood he is trained to develop his ego and to seek to exalt himself above others. His ultimate aim is to achieve self-importance, success and power.

The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, the true Exemplar of the teachings of Bahá'u'


lláh, demonstrated this form of detachment by His actions. Throughout His life, He never wished to exalt His name nor did He seek publicity for Himself. For instance, He had an immense dislike of being photographed. He said'...to have a picture of oneself is to emphasize the personality...' 15 During the first few days of His visit to London, He refused to be photographed. However, as a result of much pressure by the newspaper reporters, and persistent pleas by the friends to take His photograph, 'Abdu'l-Bahá acquiesced in order to make them happy.

The exalted titles which were conferred upon Him by Bahá'u'lláh were indicative of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's lofty station. Yet 'Abdu'l-Bahá never applied them to Himself. Instead, after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, He took the title of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of Bahá) and urged the believers to call Him only by this name. True servitude at the threshold of Bahá'u'lláh was all he prized. These are some of His words as He describes with utter self-effacement the reality of His station:

My name is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My qualification is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My reality is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. My praise is 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection* is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion...No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except 'Abdu'l-Bahá. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory.16

One of the distinguishing features of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic world order is that it does not harbour egotistical personalities. Bahá'u'lláh has conferred authority on its institutions, whether local, national or international. But the individuals who are privileged to serve on them are devoid of any authority. Unlike men who wield power in the world today and seek to acquire fame and popularity, members of Bahá'í institutions cannot but manifest humility and self-effacement if they are to

* Bahá'u'lláh.

15. Quoted in The Chosen Highway, p. 165.

16. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 139.

remain faithful to Bahá'u'lláh. Those who do not succeed, through immaturity or lack of faith, in living up to these standards are indeed attached to the Kingdom of Names and are deprived of the bounties of God in this age.

To sever oneself from the Kingdom of Names may prove to be the most difficult task for a Bahá'í, and the struggle may indeed last a lifetime. If a man can only realize that his virtues are not intrinsically his own, but rather are manifestations of the attributes of God, then he is freed from the Kingdom of Names and becomes truly humble. Such a man will bestow divine perfections upon the world of humanity. This is the loftiest station that God has destined for man.

Some of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh attained this exalted station where they viewed their virtues as having emanated from the realms of God and not from themselves. One such person was Nabíl-i-Akbar,* who may be regarded as one of the most learned among the Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí has described a meeting at Qazvín where this great man was speaking to some of the believers. Here are some of his words concerning Nabíl-i-Akbar:

I was so enchanted by the talks of this great Fádil † that I must have recounted his words in various gatherings on numerous occasions. One feature of his greatness was that no one could surpass his extraordinary power for expounding and elucidating matters. For instance, if he wished, he could prove that water was hot and dry and fire cold and wet, and no one was capable of arguing with him. Yet I have observed that even as the ocean of his utterance was surging and he was speaking with great vigour and conviction, he would, should someone point out a mistake he had made in his discourse, or should he himself become aware of it, immediately acknowledge his ignorance and confess his misjudgement.


* See vol. 1, pp. 91-5.

† Literally 'an erudite man of great eminence'; an appellation by which Nabíl-i-Akbar was often known.

One of his profound and weighty observations was that man is naturally impotent, ignorant, weak, wretched and imperfect, whereas all strength, power, knowledge, wisdom, ascendancy, virtue and goodness are from God, praised be His glory. Therefore man should under all circumstances regard himself as imperfect, ignorant and a captive of self and passion. He should not feel depressed or hurt if people impute to him these characteristics which, after all, are inherent within him. On the contrary, he should be happy and thankful to them, while at the same time he should feel disappointed in himself, should take refuge in God and beg protection from his own base and appetitive nature.17

Men such as these were truly detached from the Kingdom of Names. No doubt it is concerning these men that Bahá'u'lláh writes:

O Shaykh! This people have passed beyond the narrow straits of names, and pitched their tents upon the shores of the sea of renunciation. They would willingly lay down a myriad lives, rather than breathe the word desired by their enemies. They have clung to that which pleaseth God, and are wholly detached and freed from the things which pertain unto men. They have preferred to have their heads cut off rather than utter one unseemly word.18

These thoughts of Nabíl-i-Akbar are fully supported by the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Many Bahá'í prayers revealed by Him are replete with passages in which man confesses his weakness, ignorance and poverty and God's might, wisdom and sovereignty.

The Veil of Ego

There are passages in the Mathnaví in which Bahá'u'lláh exhorts man to burn away every veil that comes between him and God. Then and only then can he behold the beauty and grandeur of his Lord. One of these veils is the ego. Bahá'u'lláh


17. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 189-90.

18. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 74.

calls on the individual to kindle a fire within his soul and burn away every trace of self so that the concept and the very word 'I' may totally disappear from his being. Indeed this is one of the most profound teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. When a person tries to exalt himself, to celebrate his own name and aspires to become famous he is, in fact, going right against the plan of creation. Such an individual hinders the flow of the bounties of God to himself. Although outwardly he may be considered a great success, in reality he has failed to fulfil the purpose for which he was created. When a man attains to real greatness, he then recognizes his helplessness, unworthiness and impotence. And when he becomes truly learned he genuinely discovers that he is ignorant. It is then that he can manifest the attributes of God within himself and impart them to others.

We find among the meditations of 'Azízu'lláh Misbáh the following utterances which truly exemplify his own life of detachment and self-effacement:

To relinquish one's love for oneself and to destroy every trace of self, is a proof that one has comprehended the meaning of existence and the purpose of life.19

The difference between true knowledge and formal learning is that the former creates lowliness and humility within the soul; the latter drives insatiably towards the search for glory and exaltation.20

Notable among those who had attained the station of true knowledge was Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, the great Bahá'í scholar and one of the Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh.* He is renowned for his vast knowledge, not only within the Bahá'í community but throughout the East. He was an acknowledged authority on many subjects including history and divine philosophy and was an outstanding master of Arabic and Persian literature. Once in academic circles in Egypt he was referred to as 'God of the pen, a pillar of history and the corner-stone of knowledge and virtue.'


* More information about him will be contained in vol. III of this series.

19. Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh-i-Misbáh, Díván-i-Misbáh, p. 365.

20. ibid., p. 343.

Dr. Habíb Mu'ayyad, who knew him personally, has written a great deal in his memoirs concerning the greatness of this man. Here is one passage:

Once people asked him [Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl] how he had acquired this vast erudition and how he had become the recipient of this God-given knowledge. He became so displeased with his questioners that he angrily remarked 'Who is Abu'l-Fadl! * What is Abu'l-Fadl! I am only a drop from the vast ocean of Bahá'u'lláh's school. If you also enter the same school, you will become the master of Abu'l-Fadl. If you don't believe me go to Gulpáygán, † see my relatives and then you will understand.' 21

The following story gives us a glimpse of his greatness. In the early years of this century, 'Abdu'l-Bahá sent Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl to the United States of America to teach and help the believers deepen in the Faith. After his return, he and a number of American pilgrims were seated in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akká. The pilgrims began to praise Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl for the help he had given them, saying that he had taught many souls, defended the Cause most ably against its adversaries, and had helped to build a strong and dedicated Bahá'í community in America. As they continued to pour lavish praise upon him, Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl became increasingly depressed and dejected, until he burst into tears and wept loudly. The believers were surprised and could not understand this, even thinking that they had not praised him enough!

Then 'Abdu'l-Bahá explained that by praising him they had bitterly hurt him, for he considered himself as utter nothingness in the Cause and believed with absolute sincerity that he was not worthy of any mention or praise. ‡

Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl has truly set an example for Bahá'ís to


* His name meant 'the father of learning'. (A.T.)

† The birthplace of Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl where his relatives lived. (A.T.)

‡ This account by Harlan F. Ober was given to the writer by the Hand of the Cause of God Mr. John Robarts.

21. Quoted by Dr. Habíb Mu'ayyad, Habíb, vol. II, p. 310.
follow, in that throughout his Bahá'í life he never used the word 'I' to ascribe merit to himself.

Courage and Sacrifice

In the Mathnaví Bahá'u'lláh speaks about the greatness of His Cause, and in matchless language portrays the longing of the Prophets of the past to attain His presence and partake of the outpourings of His Revelation. In this poem He extols the lovers of His Beauty who unhesitatingly sacrifice their lives in the path of God, and exhorts them never to turn away from the field of martyrdom.

Those who truly recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh accepted persecutions and sufferings for His love. They knew that after embracing the Faith of God their lives would be endangered. Indeed, when they left their homes to go out they could not be sure they would ever return. The enemy was poised at all times to strike at any one who was identified with the new-born Faith. So, those who followed the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh in the early days clearly understood that at any time they might have to lay down their lives in the path of God. This was their test of faith and the great majority of them remained steadfast till the end.

The following account depicting the scene of the martyrdom of one of the early believers, demonstrates this faith.

Here is one who laid down his life in such a dramatic fashion that many among the multitude of spectators who had thronged the square to deride the victim and make merry at the sight of his execution were moved to tears. Even the hearts of those callous men who had been appointed to commit this heinous deed were deeply touched.

The illustrious hero who appeared on this tragic scene was 'Alí-Akbar-i-Hakkák, a very attractive and handsome young man from Yazd, Persia. He was an engraver by profession and highly skilled in his art. He was married and had a four year-old son by the name of Habíbu'lláh. As soon as the


tragic news of the Nayríz upheaval reached Yazd, 'Alí-Akbar set out at once on a journey to visit the historic site where the peerless Vahíd together with his band of valiant crusaders had fought and fallen. On his return to Yazd he manifested such a spiritual joy and overwhelming zeal in the teaching work that soon he was denounced and branded as a 'Bábí' whereupon the despotic Governor had him arrested on a charge of heresy and reported the matter to Tihrán asking for instructions.

Nearly two months wore on and no word came from Tihrán. Therefore a fine was exacted from the captive and then he was released on bail on the understanding that as soon as the decree was received he should place himself immediately at the disposal of the Governor.

Unruffled by the dire fate which awaited him, 'Alí-Akbar resumed his occupation in a spirit of complete resignation until after a lapse of three months a message came from Tihrán to the effect that any person found to belong to the Bábí Faith should be put to death forthwith. This odious order invested the Governor with plenary powers to carry out his design. Therefore early in the morning of 15 July 1852 he sent his men to arrest 'Alí-Akbar at his home. Having done so they conducted him to the Governor's office in the barracks where the Governor interviewed him.

Though the people in Yazd were steeped in prejudice against the new Faith and apt to fly into a fierce fury at the sight of anyone who was identified as 'Bábí', they nevertheless admired 'Alí-Akbar for his rare qualities and charming manners. Moreover, his reputation as the best engraver had won him real affection by all who had come to know him. Even the Governor and the officials felt reluctant to have him executed. They did everything in their power to make him utter a mere word of lip-denial against the new Faith and thus save his own life. They employed many a word of persuasion, threat and promise but none could induce this valiant hero to recant nor did the pomp and might of a ruthless potentate influence this stout-hearted man of God to compromise his cherished faith in favour of this fleeting life and its earthly vanities. The Governor grew


angry; he could not tolerate one who dared to challenge his authority and persist in his own ideas.

Furious with rage, the Governor summoned his Farrásh-Báshí (chief steward) and ordered him to put this defiant Bábí to death at once by blowing him from the mouth of a cannon. The order was immediately passed on to the artillery unit who hauled their gun out of the barracks to the adjoining public square. Then the Farrásh-Báshí accompanied by the executioner led the valiant victim to the square amidst a gathering multitude of spectators.

Eager to save 'Alí-Akbar from his fate, the Farrásh-Báshí employed ingenious ways of intimidation and inducement in a futile effort to break down his spirit and make him abjure his allegiance to the new Faith.

The cannon from which he was to be blown was an old type muzzle-loader, and the Farrásh-Báshí, knowing that it was as yet unloaded, hit upon the idea of staging a mock execution in the hope that the victim would succumb to the fright and terror that such an ordeal would usually provoke. Therefore, assuming a wild and serious look, he barked orders at the executioner to hurry up, tie down the victim tightly to the mouth of the gun and have him blown off without further delay. Thus 'Alí-Akbar was bound to the gun and left in this frightful position for quite a long while during which the gun crew kept running back and forth pretending to be adjusting their gun, as though they were just about to fire.

During the whole time the Farrásh-Báshí was watching the victim closely, urging him to recant. However, he was amazed to see that instead of becoming terrified and shaken 'Alí-Akbar had maintained his calm and fortitude throughout. The Farrásh-Báshí soon realized that intimidation had failed to bring about what he hoped for. He ran towards the gunner, stopped him from his false attempt at discharging the unloaded gun, and asked the executioner to set the victim free.

By that time (about 11 a.m.) the whole square was fully packed with a seething mass of spectators who looked stupefied and bewildered.


As soon as 'Alí-Akbar was unfastened the Farrásh-Báshí came over to him expressing his sympathy in a kindly manner. He then conducted him to an adjacent public cistern away from the crowd where he offered him a seat near to himself on a little platform. He reasoned with 'Alí-Akbar most earnestly, urged and persuaded him again and again to denounce the Faith and save his own life, but the effort proved unsuccessful. There sat 'Alí Akbar solid as a rock, immovable and uncompromising, resisting the full force of these dire tests. As these painful moments dragged on, the Farrásh-Báshí began to perceive with bitter plainness that nothing whatever could induce this invincible youth to recant. Dismayed and disappointed, he led him back to the scene of death and ordered the gun crew to load their gun forthwith. Meanwhile a new idea occurred to him which might well prove effective in breaking down the victim's fortitude. He sent his men to fetch 'Alí-Akbar's poor wife and child to the scene--a very strong and challenging inducement indeed. After a few moments the unfortunate wife appeared in a state of panic holding the hand of their beloved child who looked sweet and attractive in his best suit.

She faced her husband and weeping bitterly implored, 'Come and have pity on this child!' 'What am I to do without you?' she sobbed. But 'Alí-Akbar did not answer; he turned his back on them. Again the wife and child came forward and stood in front of him. She flung herself at his feet, begging and imploring. But 'Alí-Akbar kept silent and once again turned away from them. Then the little child ran over to his father and grabbing the hem of his garment exclaimed 'Daddy, Daddy, why do you turn away from me? Don't you love me any more?'

These simple, these piercing words must have moved 'Alí-Akbar more than anything else. Perhaps he could not bear it, for he raised his head heavenward in such a gesture as to make an impassioned appeal. It seemed as if he were saying: 'Oh God! I entreat Thee to spare me from further temptations.'

The tragic episode had reached its climax. The occasion


had become so gripping, so heart-rending that many among the onlookers were stricken with grief and sympathy. Even the Farrásh-Báshí's eyes were dimmed with tears.

The heroic self-renunciation and superhuman fortitude manifested by this gallant martyr shattered the last scrap of hope which the Farrásh-Báshí entertained in making the victim abjure his faith. Browbeaten and dismayed, he decided to put an end to this sad spectacle by carrying out the Governor's order at once.

So the victim was presently bound up once again to the mouth of the cannon in front of his unfortunate wife and child. As soon as this had been done the site was cleared of all those who stood nearby, but the child refused to be pushed further away. He became restive and kept crying and pleading, 'Take me to my Daddy! Let me go near him!'

The dreadful end was now at hand. A tense feeling had seized upon the souls and a sense of dread and awe overwhelmed the whole mass of the people in the square.

At a sharp signal from the Farrásh-Báshí the gunner ignited the explosive charge which was designed to send the victim sky-high, torn into bits in a split of a second. But to the profound amazement of all the gun didn't go off! Again and again the charge was ignited but the gun still wouldn't go off! Everybody looked stupefied and spellbound.

The Farrásh-Báshí ran towards the victim and calling him by his name exclaimed, 'We don't want you to be killed; it seems that God does not wish it either. Now won't you have sympathy for your child?!' But he did not say a word, even when his horror-stricken wife and child rushed once again to his side. He stayed as calm and unconcerned as ever.

In the meantime the gunner was busy at the breech refilling the charge. The Farrásh-Báshí paused a moment in earnest expectation. Perhaps he would now give way. Perhaps he would say a word of denial. Perhaps something would happen that could save his life.

However, to 'Alí-Akbar's mind a compromise was utterly unthinkable...The soul longed and craved to sacrifice his puny frame for the love of his Lord and to take


his flight to the abode of the Beloved. Now the golden opportunity had offered itself ... His prolonged and unexampled fortitude served increasingly to throw into relief the striking contrast between his own noble vision and the Farrásh-Báshí's base pattern of thought.

Far from being grieved and shaken, how jubilant, how thrilled, how relaxed must have felt his soul when the Farrásh-Báshí in his utter despair and bewilderment signalled once again to fire.

And this time in a flash of a second the body of 'Alí-Akbar, blasted into bits amidst a tremendous burst of fire and smoke, flew sky-high, then came down from heaven like a swarm of tiny meteors, accompanied by a shower of crimson droplets, to be scattered far and wide all over the square.

The Governor ordered that the fragments of his body should be left exposed until sunset, that they might be trampled upon by men and animals.

This tragic martyrdom came as a shattering blow to the entire body of the early believers, particularly to his unfortunate wife. Her grief knew no bounds as she continued to weep and wail, and to beat her head.22

In contrast to this heroism there were those who were so afraid of being identified with the Faith that they would literally run away from the followers of Bahá'u'lláh.

Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, in his detailed 'History of the Faith in the Province of Yazd'* has recounted this interesting story concerning a certain Siyyid Abu'l-Qásim-i-Baydá:

Áqá Siyyid Abu'l-Qásim was a merchant by profession and a gifted poet. His pen-name was Baydá [Shining]. He was a well-respected citizen who used to associate with merchants and dignitaries of the city. He was a staunch Muslim, very truthful and honest, and a grandson of Hájí Mullá Ridá, a well-known Rawdih-Khán (professional narrator of

* Not to be confused with the 'History of the Martyrs of Yazd' by the same author.

22. From the History of the Martyrs of Yazd, written by the author's father Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí; this version is edited and translated by Habíb Taherzadeh.
the tragedies of Karbilá where Imám Husayn was martyred) who used to live in the district of Málamír and was a neighbour of this servant.* When Siyyid Abu'l-Qásim wanted to visit his grandfather he had to pass by the house of this servant. Because our house was known as the house of the Bábís, he was so frightened to approach it that he used to run with tremendous speed and pass it by as quickly as possible so as not to be affected by its evil influence. Eventually this man embraced the Faith, used to attend meetings in the house and often talked about his earlier days, saying, 'Every time I passed by this house my whole being would so tremble that during the whole day I felt disturbed and shaken.' 23

A somewhat similar story is recounted by Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí when he was staying at a Khán † with some believers in one of the towns of Persia. He describes how two people knocked on his door at night out of curiosity to find out about the beliefs of the Bahá'ís. After some hours of talking one of them accepted the Faith. This is the story as he writes it:

One of them embraced the Faith. The other one who was staying in the same Khán took the Kitáb-i-Íqán to his room so that he might learn about the Cause. He told me the story himself in these words:

'In the evening I sat down and began to read. After a while I was overtaken by fear in case someone would walk in and find out that this was the book of the Bábís,‡ then my life and all my possessions would be gone with the wind. So I locked the door and continued to read the book. Then I thought that as it was early in the evening, if someone came and found that I had locked the room so early he would think that since you people were in the Khán, the


* Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí.

† Eastern inn with a large court-yard.

‡ For a long time the Bahá'ís have been referred to as Bábís by the Persians. Even now some still confuse the two.

23. Unpublished, not to be confused with the published History of the Martyrs of Yazd by the same author.
reason for my locking the door was that I was reading the book of the Bábís. At this time I decided to go to bed and sleep. Then I began to think that if anyone discovered that I had gone to bed so early, he would become certain that the Bábís had left their book with me and therefore I had gone to bed early that I might arise later at night and read it peacefully. To be concise, at last I took the book into the stable and placed it in the manger. I returned to my room and began to meditate, wondering how I could read this book after all...'

At this point, he decided to read the Qur'án and pray. He continued:

'In a state of helplessness, humility and self-effacement I turned my heart to God, the Knower, the Merciful. I begged Him to show me the way to salvation and confer upon me the water of life. Suddenly it flashed across my mind that I was distressed, alarmed, and trembling with fear merely because I was trying to read or keep this book. How fearless and stout-hearted must have been its Author, from Whose heart, tongue and pen this book had come into being. To produce it was a miracle. How potent is His influence that He has filled the hearts of many people with such courage and strength as to welcome martyrdom.' 24

Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí goes on to describe how this man embraced the Faith and acquired such courage that whenever he had time during his business hours he used to make copies of the Kitáb-i-Íqán in public and teach the people openly.

These incidents, common in those days, clearly illustrate that followers of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh did not enter the Faith because of its novelty, or for any personal gain or sensational reason. This Cause was baptized in the fire of adversity and martyrdom and the heroic souls who embraced it had truly recognized its glory and were transformed into a new and wonderful creation.

In one of His Tablets25 Bahá'u'lláh explains that the persecutions heaped on the believers, the opposition of the clergy and the perversity of the masses, all served to restrain un-


24. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 168-9.

25. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 1, p. 68.

worthy souls from entering the Cause of God. In that same Tablet, He calls on His followers to appreciate the special bounties of this unique period in which only a few are chosen. For, when His Faith is fully established throughout the world, He states, men without merit will claim allegiance to it.

When Bahá'u'lláh was in Baghdád a certain Mírzá Muhít-i-Kirmání, a Shaykhí who had attained the presence of the Báb and whose attitude towards the Faith was that of concealed opposition, sent a message to Bahá'u'lláh through Prince Kayván Mírzá. He requested a confidential interview with Bahá'u'lláh late at night so that no one except the Prince would know about it. The reason given for this secrecy was that, should the meeting become public knowledge, the position of Mírzá Muhít in the Muslim community would be undermined. Bahá'u'lláh asked the Prince to share with him two lines of an ode He had composed while in Kurdistán, setting forth the conditions for those who wish to partake of His glory. These are the lines:

If thine aim be to cherish thy life, approach not our court; but if sacrifice be thy heart's desire, come and let others come with thee. For such is the way of Faith, if in thy heart thou seekest reunion with Bahá; shouldst thou refuse to tread this path, why trouble us? Begone!

Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have said to the Prince, 'If he be willing, he will openly and unreservedly hasten to meet Me; if not I refuse to see him.' 26

When Mírzá Muhít heard this, he did not find the courage to go and meet Bahá'u'lláh. A few days later he died.

Bahá'u'lláh touches upon several other subjects and reveals many mysteries in the Mathnaví which are beyond the scope of this work. Indeed this soul-stirring poem is a marvellous depository of divine wisdom, which it is impossible to exhaust.


26. Quoted in The Dawn-Breakers, p. 96 (Brit.), p. 138 (U.S.).