March 3, 2011

The Báb’s First Disciples – The Letters of the Living

They were seventeen men and one woman.

• The first to believe in the Báb was Mulla Husayn Bushrú’í.

• The second to believe in the Báb was Mulla Ali Bastamí.

• Two of them were brothers, a third a nephew of them.

• Two were cousins.

• Ten of them were Muslim clerics before becoming Bábis.

• One of them was referred to by the Báb, in allegorical language, as the return of the Imam Ali.

• One of them was instrumental in bringing the news of the Advent of the Báb to the attention of Tahirih who was in Karbala, Iraq at the time – before she became a Babi.

• One of them didn’t personally meet the Báb .

• One of them became known as the First Babi martyr.

• One of them was the son of a famous Persian mujtahid (a prominent religious scholar).

• One of them visited Baha’u’llah in Baghdad.

• One of them became the Báb’s secretary -- His amanuensis.

• One of them went to India, another to Iraq, proclaimed the Advent of the Báb, was arrested and tried in Baghdad, and sentenced to work for life in the imperial naval dock in Istanbul.

• One became the Báb’s intermediary to deliver His correspondence and some other items to Baha’u’llah.

• One became a Baha’i after visiting Baha’u’llah in Baghdad. He then received permission from Baha’u’llah to spend the rest of his life in Istanbul and became the last surviving Letter of the Living.

• One of them was an accomplished poet and a scholar. She became instrumental in announcing the dawn of a new era in religion.

• One accompanied the Báb on His pilgrimage to Mecca.

• One brought the News concerning the Declaration of the Báb to Baha’u’llah.

• Five of them participated in the historic Conference of Badasht.

• Eight of them were killed at Fort Tabarsi.

• One was designated by the Báb as the “Primal Mirror” of His Dispensation and acclaimed by Baha’u’llah in the Kitab-i-Iqan as “the one but for whom ‘God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory;’” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 49)

• One was immortalized by the Báb as “Ismu'llahi'l-Akhir (the Last Name of God)” and on whom Baha’u’llah “later conferred the sublime appellation of Nuqtiy-i-Ukhra (the Last Point)” and elevated him in another Tablet to “a rank second to none except that of the Herald of His Revelation”. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 49). He was designated by ‘Abdu’l-Baha as the “Moon of Guidance” and his “appearance the Revelation of St. John the Divine anticipated as one of the two ‘Witnesses’ into whom, ere the ‘second woe is past,’ the ‘spirit of life from God’ must enter.” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 49)

• Some of them were noted for their roles in shaping the evolution of the Babi history.

• A few chose not to remain in the forefront of the Babi Faith.

• Three of them were executed – one savagely tortured before his death, “a death which even Jesus Christ, as attested by Bahá'u'lláh, had not faced in the hour of His greatest agony.” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 49)

Within approximately two months following the private Declaration of the Báb to Mulla Husayn, His first believer, sixteen men and one woman found themselves drawn to Him and became His first followers. Each of the eighteen recognized Him independently, gave Him allegiance, and agreed not to reveal His identity until the appointed time. The Báb gave each of these first disciples the title "Letter of the Living." Below is the list of these eighteen Disciples of the Báb according to the historian Nabíl:

Mullá Husayn Bushrú’í (c. 1814–49): the first to declare his belief in the Báb (in Shiraz on 23 May 1844). He was given the title Bábu’l-Báb (Gate of the Gate) by the Báb. He was killed on 2 February 1849 at Fort Tabarsi.

Mullá ‘Alí Bastamí (d. 1846): the second to recognize the Báb. According to Nabil, twelve of his companions, each independently, also recognized the Báb soon after him and became among the Letters of the Living. The Báb gave Mullá ‘Alí the title "the Second Who Believed" and identified him in His Persian Bayan, in allegorical language, as the return of the Imam Ali – indicative of his high station. Mulla ‘Ali was directed by the Bab to go to the twin cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq and announce the Advent of the Promised One. Tahirih (the Pure One), then known as Fátimih Umm-Salamih Baraghání, was in Karbala at that time and therefore heard about the claims of the Báb from Mulla ‘Ali. Mulla ‘Ali was subsequently arrested and tried in Baghdad in January 1845 and later sentenced to work for life in the imperial naval docks, where he died in an Istanbul prison. He is known to be the first Bábí martyr.

 Mullá Husayn’s younger brother, Mírzá Muhammad Hasan Bushrú’í (d. 1849). He accompanied Mullá Husayn on his travels and became badly wounded in Fort Tabarsi at the same time that his brother was killed. According to some accounts, he then served as leader of the Bábí forces and was subsequently killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

 Mulla Husay’s nephew, Mírzá Muhammad Báqir Bushrú’í (d. 1849). He is reported to have led the forces at Shaykh Tabarsí after his uncle Mullá Mírzá Muhammad Hasan was wounded. He was subsequently killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Mullá Khudá-Bakhsh Qúchání (later named Mullá ‘Alí Rází): returned to Karbala from Shiraz and is reported to not have actively participated in the Bábí community.

Mullá Hasan Bajistání: While active at first in propagating the Bábí Cause, he later retired to Karbala and considered himself unworthy of the station conferred on him by the Báb as one of the Letters of the Living. He later visited Baha’u’llah in Baghdad, sometime between 1853 and 1863.

Siyyid Husayn Yazdí (d. 1852): He accompanied the Báb as His secretary during His imprisonment in Mákú and Chihríq and became known as Kátib (the Amanuensis). He was later executed during an outbreak of persecutions in 1852 that followed an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the shah by a small group of Bábís seeking revenge for the execution of the Báb.

Mírzá Muhammad Rawdih-Khán Yazdí (or Dhákir-i-Masá’ib): He returned from Shiraz to Yazd and chose not to reveal his beliefs because of the intense persecution of the Bábís in his hometown. He continued, however, to teach the Bábí Faith covertly to the end of his life.

Sa’íd Hindí: He went to India and converted one or two persons there before contact with him ceased.

Mullá Mahmúd Khú’í (d. 1849): Was killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Mullá Jalíl Urúmí (d. 1849): He taught the Bábí Faith especially in the province of Azerbaijan and the town of Qazvin and was later killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Mullá Ahmad Abdál Marághi’í (d. 1849): He was present at the Conference of Badasht, and was subsequently killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Mullá Báqir Tabrízí (d. c. 1881): Earlier in his life while he was in Karbala he assisted Táhirih and traveled to Iran with her. He was present at the Conference of Badasht and later visited the Báb while He was in prison in Azerbaijan, acting as an intermediary to carry His correspondence and other items that He wished to be delivered to Bahá’u’lláh. He then became a follower of Bahá’u’lláh after visiting Him in Baghdad and traveled twice to Acre and with Bahá’u’lláh’s permission, spent his last years in Istanbul. He was the last surviving Letter of the Living.

Mullá Yúsuf Ardibílí (d. 1849): noted for his learning and eloquence; played an active and prominent role among the Bábís; killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí Qazvíní (d. 1849): He was the cousin and brother-in-law of Táhirih and the son of a famious mujtahid (i.e., a preeminent religious scholar) in Qazvin by the name of Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Vahháb. He was closely associated with Tahirih while both were in Karbala Tahirih entrusted him with a sealed letter and a verbal message to be delivered to the Promised One whom they both sought. He was present at the Conference of Badasht and was later killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Táhirih (c. 1814–52) (the Pure One), the title given to Fátimih (Fatima) Baraghání, also known as Umm-Salamih. She is also known by the titles Qurratu’l-‘Ayn (Solace of the Eyes) and Zarrín-Táj (Crown of Gold). She was a prominent Shaykhí and an accomplished poet, who became the only woman among the Letters of the Living. She is the only Letter of the Living who didn’t meet the Báb personally and was accorded the distinction of becoming a Letter of the Living on the basis of a message she sent via her brother-in-law to the Bab. She was a very active participant at the Conference of Badasht, appearing there without her veil to signal the dawn of a new era in religion and humanity. During the persecutions that decimated the Bábí ranks after the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the shah she was executed in September 1852.

Mullá Muhammad-‘Alí Bárfurúshí (circa 1822–49), was the last Letter of the Living. The Bab gave him the title of Quddús, which means the Most Holy. He, accompanied the Báb on His pilgrimage to Mecca during 1844 to 1845). He was present at the Conference of Badasht and played a very active role. He was subsequently arrested and detained in Sárí for more than three months but was eventually released through the efforts of Mullá Husayn. Quddus joined the Bábí forces at Shaykh Tabarsí in late 1848 and played a leading role in the Bábí defense. He was taken prisoner on 10 May 1849, following the final siege at Shaykh Tabarsí, savagely tortured, and killed on 16 May 1849 in Barfurush (Babul), the town of his birth. According to Bahá’u’lláh he ranked second only to the Báb, and is described by Shoghi Effendi as the first in rank among the Letters of the Living. 
(Adapted from ‘God Passes By’, by Shoghi Effendi; and the Baha’i Encyclopedia site at: