June 15, 2017

How Mulla Husayn received his famous sword

The whole province of Khurásán was in those days [1848] in the throes of a violent agitation. The activities which Quddús and Mullá Husayn had initiated, their zeal, their courage, their outspoken language, had aroused the people from their lethargy, had kindled in the hearts of some the noblest sentiments of faith and devotion, and had provoked in the breasts of others the instincts of passionate fanaticism and malice. A multitude of seekers constantly poured from every direction into Mashhad, eagerly sought the residence of Mullá Husayn, and through him were ushered into the presence of Quddús.

Their numbers soon swelled to such proportions as to excite the apprehension of the authorities. The chief constable viewed with concern and dismay the crowds of agitated people who streamed unceasingly into every quarter of the holy City [Mashhad]. In his desire to assert his rights, intimidate Mullá Husayn, and induce him to curtail the scope of his activities, he issued orders to arrest immediately the latter’s special attendant, whose name was Hasan, and subject him to cruel and shameful treatment. They pierced his nose, passed a cord through the incision, and with this halter led and paraded him through the streets.

Mullá Husayn was in the presence of Quddús when the news of the disgraceful affliction that had befallen his servant reached him. Fearing lest this sad intelligence might grieve the heart of his beloved chief, he arose and quietly retired. His companions soon gathered round him, expressed their indignation at this outrageous assault upon so innocent a follower of their Faith, and urged him to avenge the insult. Mullá Husayn tried to appease their anger. “Let not,” he pleaded, “the indignity that has befallen Hasan afflict and disturb you, for Husayn is still with you and will safely deliver him back into your hands to-morrow.”

In the face of so solemn an assurance, his companions ventured no further remarks. Their hearts, however, burned with impatience to redress that bitter injury. A number of them eventually decided to band themselves together and loudly raise, through the streets of Mashhad, the cry of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” [1]   as a protest against this sudden affront to the dignity of their Faith. That cry was the first of its kind to be raised in Khurásán in the name of the Cause of God. The city re-echoed with the sound of those voices. The reverberations of their shouts reached even the most outlying regions of the province, raised a great tumult in the hearts of the people, and were the signal for the tremendous happenings that were destined to transpire in the future.

In the midst of the confusion that ensued, those who were holding the halter with which they dragged Hasan through the streets, perished by the sword. The companions of Mullá Husayn conducted the released captive into the presence of their leader and informed him of the fate that had befallen the oppressor. “You have refused,” Mullá Husayn is reported to have remarked, “to tolerate the trials to which Hasan has been subjected; how can you reconcile yourselves to the martyrdom of Husayn?” [2]

This incident served to intensify the unsettled environment in the city of Mashhad. The entire province and the surrounding areas were in a state of unrest with segments of the population repudiating the authority of the central government. All these troubles began immediately after Muhammad Sháh had condemned the Báb to captivity in the mountain-stronghold of Ádhirbayján. The King experienced a sudden reversal of fortune, such as he had never known before, which struck at the very foundations of his rule. Appalling upsets surprised his forces that were engaged in maintaining internal order throughout the provinces. The standard of rebellion was hoisted in Khurásán, and so great was the consternation provoked by that uprising that the Sháh’s projected campaign to Hirát was immediately abandoned.

The city of Mashhad, which had just recovered its peace and tranquility after a recent rebellion, was plunged once again into confusion and distress as a result of this harsh and inhumane incident involving Mulla Husayn’s attendant and the resulting rescue and attempt at retaliation by some Babis. The news of these fresh disturbances suddenly reached Prince Hamzih Mírzá who was earlier stationed with his men and munitions at a distance of four farsangs [about 12 miles] from the city, ready to face whatever emergency might arise. The prince immediately dispatched a detachment to the city with instructions to obtain the assistance of the governor for the arrest of Mullá Husayn, and to conduct him into his presence. The captain of the Prince’s artillery, immediately intervened. “I deem myself,” he pleaded, “one among the lovers and admirers of Mullá Husayn. If you contemplate inflicting any harm upon him, I pray you to take my life and then to proceed to execute your design; for I cannot, so long as I live, tolerate the least disrespect towards him.”

The prince, who knew full well how much he stood in need of that officer, was greatly embarrassed at this unexpected declaration. “I too have met Mullá Husayn,” was his reply as he tried to remove the apprehension of his artillery captain. “I too cherish the utmost devotion to him. By summoning him to my camp, I am hoping to restrict the scope of the mischief which has been kindled and to safeguard his person.” The prince then addressed in his own handwriting a letter to Mullá Husayn in which he urged the extreme desirability of his transferring his residence for a few days to his headquarters, and assured him of his sincere desire to shield him from the attacks of his infuriated opponents. He gave orders that his own highly ornamented tent be pitched in the vicinity of his camp and be reserved for the reception of his expected guest.

On the receipt of this communication, Mullá Husayn presented it to Quddús, who advised him to respond to the invitation of the prince. “No harm can befall you,” Quddús assured him. “As to me, I shall this very night set out in the company of Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alíy-i-Qazvíní, one of the Letters of the Living, for Mázindarán. Please God, you too, later on, at the head of a large company of the faithful and preceded by the ‘Black Standards,’ will depart from Mashhad and join me. We shall meet at whatever place the Almighty will have decreed.”

Mullá Husayn joyously responded. He threw himself at the feet of Quddús and assured him of his firm determination to discharge with fidelity the obligations which he had imposed upon him. Quddús lovingly took him in his arms and, kissing his eyes and his forehead, committed him to the Almighty’s unfailing protection. Early that same afternoon, Mullá Husayn mounted his steed and rode out with dignity and calm to the encampment of Prince Hamzih Mírzá, and was ceremoniously conducted by ‘Abdu’l-‘Alí Khán, the prince’s artillery captain, who, together with a number of officers, had been appointed by the prince to go out and welcome him, to the tent that had been specially erected for his use….

Mullá Husayn returned from the camp of Prince Hamzih Mírzá to Mashhad, from which place he was to proceed seven days later to Karbilá accompanied by whomsoever he might desire. The prince offered him a sum to defray the expenses of his journey, an offer that he declined, sending the money back with a message requesting him to expend it for the relief of the poor and needy. ‘Abdu’l-‘Alí Khán likewise volunteered to provide all the requirements of Mullá Husayn’s intended pilgrimage, and expressed his eagerness to pay also the expenses of whomsoever he might choose to accompany him. All that he accepted from him was a sword and a horse, both of which he was destined to utilise with consummate bravery and skill in repulsing the assaults of a treacherous enemy.

My pen can never adequately describe the devotion which Mullá Husayn had kindled in the hearts of the people of Mashhad, nor can it seek to fathom the extent of his influence. His house, in those days, was continually besieged by crowds of eager people who begged to be allowed to accompany him on his contemplated journey. Mothers brought their sons, and sisters their brothers, and tearfully implored him to accept them as their most cherished offerings on the Altar of Sacrifice.
(Adapted from ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, by Nabil; translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

[1] “O Lord of the Age!” one of the titles of the promised Qá’im
[2] Allusion to his own martyrdom