Letters of the Living

The Bab had eighteen disciples whom He called Letters of the Living. Each of the eighteen Letters of the Living recognized the Bab in different ways. Some like Tahirih, the poetess, had dreams, others visions, and Mulla Husayn had his own experience.

Mulla Husayn, born in 1813, was a young and ardent Muslim and a devoted student of Siyyid Kazim, a wise teacher. Siyyid Kazim was unusual in that he was preparing his scholars to recognize the Promised One whose coming he saw as imminent. In fact, shortly after Siyyid Kazim passed away, Mulla Husayn came to visit him and was distraught to learn that his beloved teacher was gone. He asked his fellow students to tell him what Siyyid Kazim said before he passed. They said he told them many times, “You must leave your homes, travel far and wide, purify your hearts, and search for the Promised One. The only way you can find Him is to search. You must pray to make your hearts pure – and search.”

It was 1844 and, immediately, Mulla Husayn set off to find the Promised One. After forty days of praying and fasting to make his heart pure, he felt drawn to the northern Persian city of Shiraz. While walking outside the city gate he saw what he described as a beautiful Youth with a green turban walking towards him. This young man was the Bab and He greeted Mulla Husayn as if He had known him all His life. He invited him to His home and asked why he had come to Shiraz. Mulla Husayn told Him he had been sent by his teacher to seek the Promised One. The Bab asked him if his teacher had given any signs by which he could recognize the Promised One. Mulla Husayn said:

“Yes, Siyyid Kazim said that the Promised One would be a pure descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and of the family of Fatimih. He would be more than twenty and less than thirty years old. He would have knowledge without having studied. He would be of medium height, would not smoke, and would be physically perfect.”

The Bab was silent for a moment, and then He declared in a strong voice, “Behold, all those signs are manifest in Me!”

Mulla Husayn was stunned but he remembered his teacher said that the Promised One would have more knowledge than any one else on earth. And without being asked he would write an entire commentary on the Surih of Joseph, a mystical passage of the Quran. Soon, in the presence of Mulla Husayn, the Bab began to chant and write a commentary on the Surih of Joseph. Mulla Husayn was astonished. Later that night on May 23, 1844, the Bab declared Himself in full to Mulla Husayn, and the young man gave his allegiance to the Bab, the Lord of the New Day. The Bab then said these words to him:

“O thou who art the first to believe in Me! verily, I say, I am the Bab, the Gate of God, and thou art the Babu’l-Bab, 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 these must seek independently to find Me. And when their number is complete, one of them must needs be chosen to accompany Me on My pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. There I shall deliver the Message of God to the Sharif of Mecca.”

Thus began the awakening of the eighteen souls who longing for the redeemer would soon recognize the Bab, and, also, thus began the illustrious life of Mulla Husayn who would soon enough be martyred along with hundreds of the followers of the Bab who were betrayed and sacrificed their lives after months in a prolonged battle called the Battle of Fort Shaykh Tabarsi. Meanwhile, however, Mulla Husayn was a great teacher; everywhere he went he boldly announced the coming of the Bab and encouraged all who heard him to investigate the cause of the Bab whom he recognized and said was the Promised One. Many prominent and ordinary people from all walks of life became followers of the Bab upon hearing the proofs offered by the scholarly Mulla Husayn. His friends were surprised at his transformation, and Mulla Husayn, who found himself the first believer in the religion of the Bab, later said:

“This Message, which was given to me so suddenly and without any preparation, came like a clap of thunder. For a while I could neither see, nor feel, nor hear. It was too great to be true. I could not realize what had happened. I became excited and happy. Before, I had been weak and powerless. I became glad and strong. I felt that I had so much courage and power that, even if all the world were to rise up against me, I would be able to meet any attack or difficulty. The world and all things seemed like a handful of dust in my grasp.”

In short, the Bab strengthened Mulla Husayn and told him: “He that loves you, loves God; and whoever opposes you, has opposed God. Who befriends you, him will God befriend; and whoso rejects you, him will God reject.”

As part of his efforts to teach the religion of the Bab, Mulla Husayn wrapped up some of the Writings of the Bab and had them delivered to the home of Baha’u’llah in Tehran. When Baha’u’llah started to read the Bab’s Writings, he immediately turned to His brother and said:

“Verily, I say, whoso believes in the Quran and recognizes its Divine origin, and yet hesitates, though it be for a moment, to admit that these soul-stirring words are endowed with the same regenerating power, has most assuredly erred in his judgement and has strayed far from the path of justice.”

The Bab had told Mulla Husayn to have someone hand-deliver the package of His Writings to Baha’u’llah. When the messenger came back with a gift from Baha’u’llah, Mulla Husayn was so happy he told the messenger, “My dearly beloved friend! I pray that God will give you happiness forever, and fill your heart with a gladness that will never die.”

He said this because the Bab told Mulla Husayn, that in Tehran there was a “Mystery which is more holy than anything in Hijaz or Shiraz.” Mulla Husayn took this to mean that Baha’u’llah was “Him Whom God shall make manifest” because Shiraz is where the Bab lived and Hijaz is an area in Saudi Arabia that includes Mecca and Medina, Islam’s Holiest cities and the historical home of the Prophet Muhammad.

Throughout His revelation the Bab warned His followers to be vigilant and to recognize “Him Whom God shall make manifest.” He said:

“Were I to be assured that in the day of His manifestation thou wilt deny Him, I would unhesitatingly disown thee …. If, on the other hand, I be told that a Christian, who beareth no allegiance to My Faith, will believe in Him, the same will I regard as the apple of My eye.”

Later Baha’u’llah said, regarding the Bab, “In no age or dispensation hath any Manifestation made mention, in such detail and in such explicit language, of the Manifestation destined to succeed Him.”

Meanwhile at the beleaguered Fort Tabarsi, Mulla Husayn told the Bab’s followers that Quddus would be joining them, and he asked them to obey Quddus as if he were the Bab Himself. He said, “As for me, you must consider me his lowly servant. You must obey Quddus so completely that even if he were to tell you that you must all kill me, you must obey without hesitation. If you hesitate, you will be untrue to your faith. You must not talk to him unless he invites you to. You must give up your own wishes and desires, and follow his plans and his commands. You must act in such a way that I will be proud of you.”

The light that was the life of Mulla Husayn worked joyfully and tirelessly to upraise the banner of the Bab, and at the Battle of Fort Shaykh Tabarsi, he showed such valor and courage over all the engagements that his friends and even his enemies were astonished. Finally, however, he gave his life. He was shot in the chest. He was 36 years old.

As for the Bab, soon He would be executed at the barracks in Tabriz, and, for this and more, He was unlike any Manifestation of God. He had only one imperative. Here the Bab speaks to God and says that His Revelation has prepared the way for Him Whom God shall make manifest:

“Bear Thou witness that, through this Book, I have covenanted with all created things concerning the mission of Him Whom Thou shalt make manifest, ere the covenant concerning My own mission had been established. Sufficient witness art Thou and they that have believed in Thy signs.” Furthermore, He states: “… If on the day of His Revelation all that are on earth bear Him allegiance, Mine inmost being will rejoice, inasmuch as all will have attained the summit of their existence…. If not, My soul will be saddened. I truly have nurtured all things for this purpose. How, then, can any one be veiled from Him?”