April 12, 2021

1851 Karbilá, Iraq: A disciple of the Báb becomes the first person to whom Baha’u’llah confided His Divine Mission – as foreordained by the Báb in 1848

It was during Bahá’u’lláh’s nine-month exile to Karbilá in 1851 (on the order of the Persian Prime Minister) that He “encountered, as He was walking through the streets, Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí, to whom He confided the secret He was destined to reveal at a later time in Baghdád. He found him eagerly searching after the promised Husayn, to whom the Báb had so lovingly referred and whom He had promised he would meet in Karbilá. (Nabil, ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí was an elderly Babi, quietly went about his life as a scribe and quite unknown to the community of Babis in Karbila. He had been an early disciple of Siyyid Kazim and one who during his days among the Shaykhis in Karbila had fleetingly encountered the Báb, not yet known to be the One awaited, visiting Him with Siyyid Kazim when first He had arrived from Shiraz. During Shaykh Hasan’s first months of conversion as a Bábi he had journeyed to Chihriq to join the Báb in that distant prison, there to act as transcriber of His works. It was then 1848 and Shaykh Hasan was moved to join the valiant defenders of Fort Shaykh Tabarsi, for the mustering summons had gone forth to the faithful. He expressed his wish to the Báb, only to be startled by His countermanding the intention.

The Báb told him: “Participation in that struggle is not enjoined upon you. You should proceed to Karbila and should abide in that holy city, inasmuch as you are destined to behold, with your own eyes, the beauteous countenance of the promised Husayn. As you gaze upon that radiant face, do also remember Me. Convey to Him the expression of My loving devotion!” And then He added, “Verily I say, I have entrusted you with a great mission! Beware lest your heart grow faint, lest you forget the glory with which I have invested you.” (Nabil, ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

Soon thereafter Shaykh Hasan departed from the fortress-prison of Chihriq, journeyed to Karbila in Iraq as instructed and settled into life in that city. Fearing that a prolonged stay m that center of pilgrimage might arouse suspicion, he decided to marry and to earn his livelihood as a scribe. He lived thus for two years untill he heard of the martyrdom of his Master in Tabriz, and then waited through another year of anticipation.

It was 5th of October 1851 when Shaykh Hasan passed by the gate of the inner courtyard of the Shrine of Imam Husayn, and there for the first time he saw Baha’u’llah. Many years later, He recalled that incrediblehonor and experience.

Shaykh Hasan's predestined encounter momentarily opened the door into the coming day of light, revealing the key Spirit of the future in a first flash of brilliance, a luminous moment of self-identification. Moreover, it signaled the fulfillment of the Shi'ite expectation of the return of the Imam Husayn, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, killed in October 680 AD.

How fitting that the Prime Minister of Persia should send Baha’u’llah on exile to Karbila, the place of his spiritual predecessor, (Imam Husayn) there to be discovered in the very month of the battle death of the Imam, this through the Bab's prescience in dispatching a disciple to Karbila for the unique mission of first recognition of the Great One!

(Adapted from ‘Robe of Light’, by David Ruhe)