May 17, 2019


Sadness and inactivity had settled among the disciples of Siyyid Kázim following their leader’s death three weeks before. Everyone seemed lost and grieving. This is how Mullá Husayn, a fellow disciple, found them when he returned to the Shaykhí school in Karbilá in Iraq after visiting his home in Bushru’i, Persia. He tried to cheer them up and reminded them of the need to fulfill their mission as Shaykhís: to find the Promised One. He scolded them and told them it was their duty to arise and follow their departed leader’s wishes.

“Do you remember”, said Mullá Husayn, what our master told us before his death? “Yes,” replied a student. “Scatter far and wide, detach yourselves from all earthly things, humbly and prayerfully beseech your Lord to sustain and guide you. Never relax in your determination to seek and find Him who is your true Guide and Master, who will graciously aid you and enable you to recognize Him. Be firm until the day when He will choose you as the companions and the heroic supporters of the Promised One.”

Despite this, they all declared that they accepted their own failure and his greatness. Therefore, if he were to declare himself to be the Promised One, they would all follow him. “God forbid!” cried Mullá Husayn, horrified. “Far be it from His glory that I, who am but dust, should be compared to Him who is the Lord of Lords! Had you truly listened to our master’s teachings, you would surely not have spoken such terrible words.” One by one, however, the students all gave excuses as to why they should remain in Karbilá. Realizing their despondence, Mullá Husayn turned away and, along with his brother and nephew, left to fulfill the important mission that Siyyid Kázim had entrusted to his students.

On their way to Najaf, they stopped at a mosque in the town of Kufah, where they performed 40 days of fasting and prayer in preparation for their sacred mission. They were soon joined by thirteen Shaykhí companions who had finally decided to embark on the quest as well. Mullá Husayn, his brother and nephew moved on to Búshihr, where Mullá Husayn’s soul began to vibrate from the traces of his Beloved’s presence. He and his companions were then drawn as by a magnet northward to the city of Shíraz. When they arrived there a few hours before sunset, Mullá Husayn sent his companions to find accommodations and promised to meet them later for evening prayers.

As he was walking just beyond the city walls, Mullá Husayn suddenly saw a young man with a luminous face and wearing a green turban approach him. This stranger greeted him with much love, embraced him and invited him to his home. Mullá Husayn, surprised, begged to be excused because his companions had found lodging and were waiting for him. “Commit them to the care of God,” replied the young man. “He will surely protect them.” He then asked Mullá Husayn to follow him.

Stunned by this encounter, Mullá Husayn felt compelled to follow this mysterious man to his modest home. When they arrived, Mubárak, the young man’s Ethiopian servant, opened the door. “Enter therein, in peace,” said Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad. As he followed Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad up the stairs to his chambers, an indescribable feeling of joy flooded his soul. Could this man help him in finding the object of his quest? With peerless courtesy, Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad ordered water and a towel so that he could wash the dust of travel from his hands and feet. Tea was then served, but soon Mullá Husayn arose and asked to be excused, stating that his brother and nephew were waiting for him. “You surely have made the hour of your return conditional upon the will and pleasure of God. It seems that His will has decreed otherwise. You need have no fear of having broken your promise,” said his host.

They then spoke about the Shaykhí community and the mission they had been given. After some time, the young man asked Mullá Husayn whether Siyyid Kázim had given any indication as to what this Promised One should look like? “Yes, he is a pure descendant of the Prophet Muhammad”, he replied. “He is between 20 and 30 years, of medium height, does not smoke and has no physical infirmities. He also possesses an innate knowledge that can only come from God.”

“Behold,” announced Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, “all these signs are manifest in Me.” Mullá Husayn was rocked by this declaration. He answered his host politely but boldly. “He whose advent we await is a man of unsurpassed holiness, and the Cause he is to reveal, a Cause of tremendous power. How often has Siyyid Kázim told us: My own knowledge is but a drop compared with that which He has been endowed. No, immeasurable is the difference!” As soon as Mullá Husayn uttered these words, he began to tremble in fear and regret and secretly begged God, should his host refer to this subject again, to ask him humbly to prove his claim and deliver him from his anxiety and suspense.

“Observe attentively,” calmly repeated Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, “might not the Person intended by Siyyid Kázim be none other than I?” Mullá Husayn then gave his host a dissertation he himself had written and egotistically wondered whether his host’s knowledge would exceed his own. Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad graciously scanned the document, then flawlessly resolved its mysteries and problems, adding astonishing truths that throbbed with power. Mullá Husayn was amazed and humbled. His host then gathered up His pen and paper and declared that now was the time to reveal His commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, a chapter in the Qu’rán. Mullá Husayn was shocked, suddenly remembering that Siyyid Kázim had once told him the Promised One would write a commentary, unasked, on that very chapter.

Mullá Husayn watched in awe as his host proceeded to write with a rapidity of strokes that amazed him, His voice chanting in musical tones as His pen scratched the paper. With every note of His voice and every word He revealed, he felt as though his spirit was flying ever higher through the hills and valleys of heaven itself. Mullá Husayn, totally spellbound and in a state ecstasy, suddenly realized morning had come when the call for dawn prayers rang out. The date was May 23, 1844. Then his host spoke aloud these words:

O thou who art the first to believe in Me! I say, I am the Báb, the Gate of God, and thou art the Bábu’l-Báb, the gate of that Gate. Eighteen souls must, in the beginning, spontaneously and of their own accord, accept Me and recognize the truth of My Revelation. Unwarned and uninvited, each of them must seek independently to find Me, and when their number is complete, one of them must be chosen to accompany Me on My pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. It is incumbent upon you not to divulge, either to your companions or any other soul, that which you have seen and heard. Be engaged in prayer and teaching.

These eighteen souls, Mullá Husayn being the first and the Báb the nineteenth, became known as the Letters of the Living. After giving him His instructions and dismissing him, Mullá Husayn left the Báb’s home a completely changed man.

[1] Samuel F. Morse sent the very first telegraph message in the U.S. on May 24, 1844, using the biblical quote “What Hath God Wrought?” (Numbers 23: 23). This quote was chosen by a woman named Annie Ellsworth.

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