Pride of Martyrs: The original Badí'
The original Badí' played a historic role during the beginnings of the Bahá'í Faith in the 19th Century. It was a role of such courage and bravery, that it is an honour for anybody to carry his name. He was Áqá Buzurg-i-Níshápúrí (1852-1869) who was given the title Badí' (wondrous, new) by Bahá'u'lláh. This is his story:
From Adrianople, the Remote Prison, and later from 'Akká, the Most Great Prison, Bahá'u'lláh addressed the rulers of the world in a series of Letters. To them He declared His divine Mission, and called them to serve the cause of peace and justice and righteousness.
Text and photographs extracted from the book: "Bahá'u'lláh: The King of Glory" by H.M. Balyuzi, Oxford, George Ronald, 1980.
One of the earliest of these momentous Letters was addressed to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh. It was revealed in Adrianople, but its dispatch to the ruler of Irán had to await the lapse of some years. The story of the bearer of that Tablet, of how he delivered it to Tihrán, and of what happened to him after he delivered his trust, is thrilling and soul-stirring, appalling as well. Here it is, together with extracts from that Tablet, translated by the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.
The day had come in the life of this seventeen-year-old youth when he felt that he had to turn to Bahá'u'lláh. And he began to walk - to walk all the way from Mosul to the waters of the Mediterranean, to the foot of the citadel of 'Akká, where he knew, his Lord was incarcerated.
He arrived in 'Akká early in 1869 and, since he was still wearing the garb of a simple water-carrier, he had no trouble slipping past the vigilant guards at the city gates. Once inside the city, however, he was at a loss, for he had no idea how to contact his fellow-believers and could not risk betraying himself by making enquiries. Uncertain as to the course he should follow, he repaired to a mosque in order to pray. Towards evening, a group of Persians entered the mosque and, to his delight, Badí' recognized 'Abdu'l-Bahá among them. He wrote a few words on a piece of paper and managed to slip this to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The same night, arrangements were made to enable him to enter the citadel and go into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh.
Badí' had the honour of two interviews with Bahá'u'lláh. During the course of these, Bahá'u'lláh made reference to the Tablet that He had already revealed, addressed to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh - the Letter which opens thus:
'O King of the Earth! Hearken to the call of this Vassal; verily, I am a Servant Who believed in God, and in His Signs and sacrificed myself in His path. To this testifieth the calamity that surroundeth Me: such calamity as none of the creatures of God hath borne. My Lord, the All-Knowing, is witness unto what I say. I have summoned the people unto naught save Thy Lord and the Lord of the worlds, and for His love I have encountered that, the like of which the eyes of creation have not seen.'
Many were the men, veterans, who had longed for the honour to be entrusted with that Letter. But Bahá'u'lláh had made no move and waited. He had waited a long time until the forlorn, the weary youth, who had come to receive the gift of second birth from His hands, reached the gates of 'Akká, and entered the citadel. At those two interviews Áqá Buzurg of Khurásán came face to face with his Lord, and became Badí' - the Wonderful. Bahá'u'lláh wrote that in him 'the spirit of might and power was breathed'.
We know that to him was given the task which others, much older, much more tried and experienced than he, had hoped to perform, that Badí' asked for the honour of delivering the Tablet to the Sháh and that it was bestowed upon him. Since it would have entailed risks to have carried the Tablet out of 'Akká, Badí' was instructed to go to Haifa and wait there, and that on his way back to Persia he must travel alone and not contact the believers.
Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí has recorded in his history Bihjatu's-Sudúr an account he heard from Hájí Sháh-Muhammad-i-Amín: '… And so we went outside the town, onto Mount Carmel, and I delivered the box to him. He held it with both hands and kissed it, then he prostrated himself. There was also a sealed envelope for him which he took from me. He walked some twenty or thirty paces away from me and, turning towards the place of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment, he sat down and read it. He then prostrated himself again and his face was radiant with joy and ecstasy… I said to him, "Come with me into Haifa for I have been instructed to deliver a sum of money to you." He replied, "I won't come into the town with you, you go and bring the money." I went and returned but could not find him anywhere - he had departed.'
Hájí Sháh-Muhammad-i-Amín has further related: 'The late Hájí 'Alí, brother of Hájí Ahmad of Port Sa'id, used to recount: "From Trebizond to Tabríz I was in his [Badí''s] company for some of the stages of the journey. He was full of joy, laughter, gratitude and forbearance. And I only knew that he had been in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and was now returning to his home in Khurásán. Time and again I observed that, having walked a little more or less than one hundred paces, he would leave the road and, turning to face 'Ákká, would prostrate himself and could be heard to say: 'O God, that which you have bestowed upon me through Your bounty, do not take back through Your justice; rather grant me strength to safeguard it.'"'
Badí' plodded on, a solitary figure, over deserts and mountain peaks, for four months, never seeking a companion, never choosing a friend with whom he could share his great secret. His father had no knowledge of his return. In Tihrán, as bidden by Bahá'u'lláh, Badí' did not go in search of his fellow Bahá'ís, but spent three days in fasting while he made certain where the Sháh's summer camp was, and went straight there, sitting on a hillock, all day long, so that he might be seen and taken to the Sháh. The hour came when the Sháh set out on a hunting expedition; Badí' approached him calmly, addressing the monarch with respect: 'O King! I have come to thee from Sheba with a weighty message'. Násiri'd-Dín Sháh may have been taken aback, but the confident tone of that youth had already impressed on his consciousness that this message had come to him from Bahá'u'lláh. In the words of Shoghi Effendi, 'at the Sovereign's order, the Tablet was taken from him and delivered to the mujtahids of Tihrán who were commanded to reply to that Epistle - a command which they evaded, recommending instead that the messenger should be put to death. That Tablet was subsequently forwarded by the Sháh to the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople in the hope that its perusal by the Sultán's ministers might serve to further inflame their animosity.'
We have known that Badí' was tortured and that he remained undaunted and steadfast to the very end. We have known that the pen of Bahá'u'lláh, for the space of three years, lauded his valour and constancy. We have known that to him was given the title of Fakhru'sh-Shuhadá' - The Pride of Martyrs, and that Bahá'u'lláh characterized His references to his 'sublime sacrifice' as 'the Salt of My Tablets'. But it was left to the strange ways of Providence to bring to light the full story of the last days of Badí', his ordeal and his immolation. It is a horrific story, but moving, a story of which every Bahá'í cannot but be proud. The fiendish cruelty which it discloses, sickens, but the unassailable integrity, the never-wavering faith, the invincible courage of that wonderful youth of seventeen ennoble the soul.
Bottom photograph: Photothèque Bahá'í
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