The one to whom the Bab declared His mission and the first to believe in the Him as the Promised One fell as a martyr at the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi on 2 February 1849 at the age of thirty-five. He was the first of the Bab's eighteen disciples who were called the Letters of the Living, and was designated by the Bab as Babu'l-Bab which means the 'Gate of the Gate'.
He was born in the hamlet of Zirak near the small town of Bushruyih in the north-eastern Iranian province of Khurasan. His father appears to have been a wealthy cloth dyer who was also a local cleric. His mother was a respected poet. We know that he had at least one brother and sister. He furthered his own religious studies in Mashhad and Isfahan, and then at the age of eighteen went to Karbali as one of the students of the Shaykhi leader Siyyid Kazim Rashti. He became so highly respected that some thought that he might be his teacher’s successor. One of Mulla Husayn’s major assignments was to meet a preeminent Shi’ih cleric of his age and defend the Shaykhi views.
After Siyyid Kazim's death Mulla Husayn prayed and fasted for 40 days, felt inspired to go back to Iran in search for the Promised One that his teacher, Siyyid Kazim, had alluded to. Siyyid Kazim had left no instructions as to the whereabouts of the Promised One. In Shiraz, on 22 May 1844, Mulla Husayn encountered the Bab and, during a dramatic interview with Him, declared his belief. The night of his acceptance (22 May, 1844) effectively marks the start of the Babi religious movement. Other members of his group gradually, each independently, followed his lead, including his brother and nephew.
Nabil writes of him: “The traits of mind and of character which, from his very youth, he displayed, the profundity of his learning, the tenacity of his faith, his intrepid courage, his singleness of purpose, his high sense of justice and unswerving devotion, marked him as an outstanding figure among those who, by their lives, have borne witness to the glory and power of the new Revelation” (The Dawn-Breakers, p. 383)
The Bab assigned an exceptionally unique mission to Mulla Husayn which required a trip to Tihran: “I shall … direct your steps to that city which enshrines a Mystery of such transcendent holiness ... as Shiraz cannot hope to rival." (The Bab, quoted in The Dawn-Breakers, p. 96) This he accomplished by finding Baha’u’llah, presenting Him with some of the Bab’s Writings resulting in His belief in the New Religion. Mulla Husayn also fulfilled other special assignments for the Bab, including forwarding a letter to Muhammad Shah, the king of Persia and his Prime Minister, Mirza Aqasi before returning to his home province of Khurasan where he made the city of Mashhad a focal point for the Cause of the Bab.
He traveled extensively in Iran, including visiting the Bab again in Shiraz and in the prison fort of Maku. In July 1848, at the Bab's instructions, he left Mashhad at the head of a group of followers,
carrying the messianic symbol of the Black Standard, eventually reaching the town of Barfurush in the province of Mazindaran where his party of about seventy men was attacked by the incited mob. This event lead to the Shaykh Tabarsi ‘upheaval’ during which Mulla Husayn was killed. Accounts of this conflict note his physical frailty, and contrast his former life as a scholar to his new life as a fearless and much feared warrior.
The Babis accorded Mulla Husayn an exalted station. He was the 'Gate' to the Bab, acting as his deputy; 'the first to believe'; and the 'primal mirror'. He was also regarded by some as the 'Return' of the Prophet Muhammad and of the Imam Husayn, as well as the Qa’im of Khurasan. The Bab's eulogies and prayers for him amount to three times the volume of the Qur’an. Baha’u’llah stated that if it had not been for him “God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory”. (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 223)
(Adapted from: Basic Baha’i Dictionary by Wendi Momen, A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha’i Faith by Peter Smith, Release the Sun by William Sears)