Early Life in Tihran

The first-born of that marriage was a daughter, Sarih Khanum; she is generally known as ‘Ukht’, Arabic for sister, because Bahá’u'lláh has thus referred to her. The next was a son, Mirza Mihdi, who died in his father’s lifetime; and Mirza Husayn-’Ali (Bahá’u'lláh) was the third-born. The fourth was another son, Mirza Musa, entitled Aqay-i-Kalim later years, and the fifth was another daughter, Nisa’ Khanum, who was married eventually to Mirza Majid-i-Ahi, a secretary of the Russian Legation.

(H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u'llah – The King of Glory, p. 13)


In certain instances I shall go into some detail, in others I shall content myself with a brief summary of events. I shall place on record a description of the episodes I myself have witnessed, as well as those that have been reported to me by trustworthy and recognized informants, specifying in every case their names and standing. Those to whom I am primarily indebted are the following: Mirza Ahmad-i-Qazvini, the Báb’s amanuensis; Siyyid Isma’il-i-Dhabih; Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi; Shaykh Abu-Turab-i-Qazvini; and, last but not least, Mirza Musa, Aqay-i-Kalim, brother of Bahá’u'lláh.

(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. lxiii)

During his stay in Tihran, Mulla Husayn each day would leave his room early in the morning and would return to it only an hour after sunset. Upon his return he would quietly and alone re-enter his room, close the door behind him, and remain in the privacy of his cell until the next day.[1] Mirza Musa, Aqay-i-Kalim, the brother of Bahá’u'lláh, recounted to me the following: “I have heard Mulla Muhammad-i-Mu’allim, a native of Nur, in the province of Mazindaran, who was a fervent admirer of both Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, relate this story: ‘I was in those days recognized as one of the favoured disciples of Haji Mirza Muhammad, and lived in the same school in which he taught. My room adjoined his room, and we were closely associated together. On the day that he was engaged in discussion with Mulla Husayn, I overheard their conversation from beginning to end, and was deeply affected by the ardour, the fluency, and learning of that youthful stranger. I was surprised at the evasive answers, the arrogance, and contemptuous behaviour of Haji Mirza Muhammad. That day I felt strongly attracted by the charm of that youth, and deeply resented the unseemly conduct of my teacher towards him. I concealed my feelings, however, and pretended to ignore his discussions with Mulla Husayn. I was seized with a passionate desire to meet the latter, and ventured, at the hour of midnight, to visit him. He did not expect me, but I knocked at his door, and found him awake seated beside his lamp. He received me affectionately, and spoke to me with extreme courtesy and tenderness. I unburdened my heart to him, and as I was addressing him, tears, which I could not repress, flowed from my eyes. “I can now see,” he said, “the reason why I have chosen to dwell in this place. Your teacher has contemptuously rejected this Message and despised its Author. My hope is that his pupil may, unlike his master, recognize its truth. What is your name, and which city is your home?” “My name,” I replied, “is Mulla Muhammad, and my surname Mu’allim. My home is Nur, in the province of Mazindaran.” “Tell me,” further enquired Mulla Husayn, “is there to-day among the family of the late Mirza Buzurg-i-Nuri, who was so renowned for his character, his charm, and artistic and intellectual attainments, anyone who has proved himself capable of maintaining the high traditions of that illustrious house?” “Yea,” I replied, “among his sons now living, one has distinguished Himself by the very traits which characterised His father. By His virtuous life, His high attainments, His loving-kindness and liberality, He has proved Himself a noble descendant of a noble father.” “What is His occupation?” he asked me. “He cheers the disconsolate and feeds the hungry,” I replied. “What of His rank and position?” “He has none,” I said, “apart from befriending the poor and the stranger.” “What is His name?” “Husayn-’Ali.” “In which of the scripts of His father does He excel?” “His favourite script is shikastih-nasta’liq.” “How does He spend His time?” “He roams the woods and delights in the beauties of the countryside.”[2] “What is His age?” “Eight and twenty.” The eagerness with which Mulla Husayn questioned me, and the sense of delight with which he welcomed every particular I gave him, greatly surprised me. Turning to me, with his face beaming with satisfaction and joy, he once more enquired: “I presume you often meet Him?” “I frequently visit His home,” I replied. “Will you,” he said, “deliver into His hands a trust from me?” “Most assuredly,” was my reply. He then gave me a scroll wrapped in a piece of cloth, and requested me to hand it to Him the next day at the hour of dawn. “Should He deign to answer me,” he added, “will you be kind enough to acquaint me with His reply. I received the scroll from him and, at break of day, arose to carry out his desire.

[1 According to Samandar (manuscript, p. 2), Mulla Husayn, on his way from Shiraz to Tihran in the year 1260 A.H., was the bearer of a Tablet revealed by the Báb for Muhammad Shah.]

[2 "On one occasion," writes Dr. J. E. Esslemont, "Abdu'l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, related to the writer the following particulars about His Father's early days: 'From childhood He was extremely kind and generous. He was a great lover of outdoor life, most of His time being spent in the garden or the fields. He had an extraordinary power of attraction, which was felt by all. People always crowded around Him. Ministers and people of the Court would surround Him, and the children also were devoted to Him. When He was only thirteen or fourteen years old He became renowned for His learning.... When Bahá'u'lláh was twenty-two years old, His father died, and the Government wished Him to succeed to His father's position in the Ministry as was customary in Persia, but Bahá'u'lláh did not accept the offer. Then the Prime Minister said: "Leave him to himself. Such a position is unworthy of him. He has some higher aim in view. I cannot understand him, but I am convinced that he is destined for some lofty career. His thoughts are not like ours. Let him alone."'" ("Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era," pp. 29-30.)]

“‘As I approached the house of Bahá’u'lláh, I recognized His brother Mirza Musa, who was standing at the gate, and to whom I communicated the object of my visit. He went into the house and soon reappeared bearing a message of welcome. I was ushered into His presence, and presented the scroll to Mirza Musa, who laid it before Bahá’u'lláh. He bade us both be seated. Unfolding the scroll, He glanced at its contents and began to read aloud to us certain of its passages. I sat enraptured as I listened to the sound of His voice and the sweetness of its melody. He had read a page of the scroll when, turning to His brother, He said: “Musa, what have you to say? Verily I say, whoso believes in the Qur’án 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 judgment and has strayed far from the path of justice.” He spoke no more. Dismissing me from His presence, He charged me to take to Mulla Husayn, as a gift from Him, a loaf of Russian sugar and a package of tea,[1] and to convey to him the expression of His appreciation and love.

[1 Tea and that variety of sugar being extremely rare in Persia at that time, both were used as gifts among the higher classes of the population.]

“‘I arose and, filled with joy, hastened back to Mulla Husayn, and delivered to him the gift and message of Bahá’u'lláh. With what joy and exultation he received them from me! Words fail me to describe the intensity of his emotion. He started to his feet, received with bowed head the gift from my hand, and fervently kissed it. He then took me in his arms, kissed my eyes, and said: “My dearly beloved friend! I pray that even as you have rejoiced my heart, God may grant you eternal felicity and fill your heart with imperishable gladness.” I was amazed at the behaviour of Mulla Husayn. What could be, I thought to myself, the nature of the bond that unites these two souls? What could have kindled so fervid a fellowship in their hearts? Why should Mulla Husayn, in whose sight the pomp and circumstance of royalty were the merest trifle, have evinced such gladness at the sight of so inconsiderable a gift from the hands of Bahá’u'lláh? I was puzzled by this thought and could not unravel its mystery.

“‘A few days later, Mulla Husayn left for Khurasan. As he bade me farewell, he said: “Breathe not to anyone what you have heard and witnessed. Let this be a secret hidden within your breast. Divulge not His name, for they who envy His position will arise to harm Him. In your moments of meditation, pray that the Almighty may protect Him, that, through Him, He may exalt the downtrodden, enrich the poor, and redeem the fallen. The secret of things is concealed from our eyes. Ours is the duty to raise the call of the New Day and to proclaim this Divine Message unto all people. Many a soul will, in this city, shed his blood in this path. That blood will water the Tree of God, will cause it to flourish, and to overshadow all mankind.”

(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 106)

So this tutor was entrusted to deliver the Tablet of the Báb to Mirza Husayn-’Ali Nuri, who, when He had read the wonderful, inspired words, called His brother, Mirza Musa, saying: “Read this — if there be any truth in this mortal world, it is to be found in the words of the writer of this Tablet.”

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 24)

“She remained in her company until the call of the Báb, bidding Us proceed to Khurasan, reached Our ears. We decided that Tahirih should proceed immediately to that province, and commissioned Mirza [1] to conduct her to a place outside the gate of the city, and from thence to any locality she deemed advisable in that neighbourhood. She was taken to an orchard in the vicinity of which was a deserted building, where they found an old man who acted as its caretaker. Mirza Musa returned and informed Us of the reception which had been accorded to them, and highly praised the beauty of the surrounding landscape. We subsequently arranged for her departure for Khurasan, and promised that We would follow within the space of a few days.

[1 Aqay-i-Kalim, brother of Bahá'u'lláh.]

(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 460)

Among the Arabians taught by Tahirih was Shaykh Sultan, whose daughter married Mirza Musa, brother of Bahá’u'lláh. Their daughter eventually married Muhammad-’Ali, half-brother of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Mirza Musa and his wife were always devoted to Bahá’u'lláh. This uncle, Mirza Musa, who came into exile with us, was a very kind helper in everything. At one time he did almost all the cooking, for which he had a talent; he would also help with the washing.

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 47)

It is important to realize that the arrival of Haji Sulayman Khan at Tabriz was an act of providence directed by Bahá’u'lláh Himself. As soon as He was informed that the martyrdom of the Báb was imminent, Bahá’u'lláh had summoned Haji Sulayman Khan to His presence and instructed him to proceed immediately and speedily to Tabriz.

Now, when the latest news reached Him, He directed His faithful brother, Mirza Musa (entitled Aqay-i-Kalim) to send a trusted person to Tabriz and bring the casket to Tihran. This was done and the sacred remains were taken via Zanjan (where they were kept for one night) to Tihran. The casket arrived at a time when Bahá’u'lláh had departed from Tihran for Karbila. According to His instructions the casket containing the remains of the Báb and His companion was delivered to Aqay-i-Kalim who placed it in the Shrine of Imam-Zadih Hasan[1] in a safe location. The only other person who was involved in this mission was Mirza ‘Abdu’l-Karim-i-Qazvini, known as Mirza Ahmad.

[1 A Muslim shrine in Tihran.]

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u'llah v 3, p. 424)

The Bábí community was not informed of the reasons behind this appointment. It must have come as a surprise to many when they realized that the appointee of the Báb was a youth in his teens and those who knew his personality were aware of his shallowness and vanity. Apart from Mulla ‘Abdu’l-Karim, the only other person who was privy to this secret arrangement was Bahá’u'lláh’s faithful brother Mirza Musa, entitled Aqay-i-Kalim. It must be stated here that the Báb in all His writings urged the believers to be ready for the manifestation of ‘Him Whom God shall make manifest’ and no one else. So imminent was His advent that the Báb never contemplated the appointment of a successor to Himself. Indeed, He confirms this in the Bayan saying that in His Dispensation there was to be no mention of successorship. Yet Mirza Yahya, as we shall see later, broke the Covenant of the Báb and claimed to be His successor.

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 92)

One day I remember very well, though I was only six years old at the time. It seems that an attempt had been made on the life of the Shah by a half-crazy young Bábí. My father was away at his country house in the village of Niaviran, which was his property, the villagers of which were all and individually cared for by him. Suddenly and hurriedly a servant came rushing in great distress to my mother.

“The master, the master, he is arrested — I have seen him! He has walked many miles! Oh, they have beaten him! They say he has suffered the torture of the bastinado! His feet are bleeding! He has no shoes on! His turban has gone! His clothes are torn! There are chains upon his neck!My poor mother’s face grew whiter and whiter. We children were terribly frightened and could only weep bitterly. Immediately everybody, all our relations, and friends, and servants fled from our house in terror, only one man-servant, Isfandiyar remained, and one woman. Our palace, and the smaller houses belonging to it were very soon stripped of everything; furniture, treasurers, all were stolen by the people.

Mirza Musa, my father’s brother, who was always very kind to us, helped my mother and her three children to escape into hiding. She succeeded in saving some few of the marriage treasurers, which were all of our vast possessions left to us. These things were sold; with the money my mother was able to pay the gaolers to take food to my father in the prison, and to meet other expenses incurred later on.

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 40)

When the insane youth shot at the Shah, the fanatics rejoiced. Here was a grand opportunity!

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, then only eight years old, was broken-hearted at the ruthless treatment of His adored Father. The child suffered agonies, as a description of the tortures was related in His hearing — the cruel scourging of the feet, the long miles Bahá’u'lláh had to walk afterwards, barefooted, heavy chains cutting into the delicate flesh, the loathsome prison; the excruciating anxiety lest His very life should be taken — made a load of suffering, piteous for so young and sensitive a child to endure.

All the former luxury of the family was at an end. deserted as they were by relations and friends. Homeless, utterly impoverished, engulfed in trouble, and misery, suffering from sheer want and extraordinary privations — such were the conditions under which His childhood’s life was spent.

These things counted not at all whilst He was with His Father; so that the exile and the earlier days in Baghdad were happy, in spite of outside miseries. But when Bahá’u'lláh retreated into the wilderness of Sulaymaniyyih the dear child was beside Himself with grief.

He occupied Himself with copying those Tablets of the Báb which had remained with them. He tried to help His dear mother, Asiyih Khanum, in her arduous tasks.

During this time He was taken by His uncle, Mirza Musa, to some of the meetings of the friends. There He spoke to them with a marvellous eloquence, even at that early age of eleven or twelve years. The friends wondered at His wisdom and the beauty of His person, which equalled that of His mind.

He prayed without ceasing for the return of Bahá’u'lláh. He would sometimes spend a whole night through praying a certain prayer. One day after a night so spent they found a clue! Very soon the Beloved One returned!

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 80)

The Russian minister, as soon as he learned of the action which the government contemplated taking, volunteered to take Bahá’u'lláh under his protection, and invited Him to go to Russia. He refused the offer and chose instead to leave for Iraq. Nine months after His return from Karbila, on the first day of the month of Rabi’u'th-Thani, in the year 1269 A.H.,[1] Bahá’u'lláh, accompanied by the members of His family, among whom were the Most Great Branch[2] and Aqay-i-Kalim,[3] and escorted by a member of the imperial body-guard and an official representing the Russian legation, set out from Tihran on His journey to Baghdad.

[1 January 12,1853 A.D.]

[2 'Abdu'l-Bahá.]

[3 Mirza Musa, commonly called Aqay-i-Kalim, the ablest and most distinguished among Bahá'u'lláh's brothers and sisters, and His staunch and valued supporter.]

(Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 650)

On the first day of the month of Rabi’u'th-Thani, of the year 1269 A.H., (January 12, 1853), nine months after His return from Karbila, Bahá’u'lláh, together with some of the members of His family, and escorted by an officer of the Imperial body-guard and an official representing the Russian Legation, set out on His three months’ journey to Baghdad. Among those who shared His exile was His wife, the saintly Navvab, entitled by Him the “Most Exalted Leaf,” who, during almost forty years, continued to evince a fortitude, a piety, a devotion and a nobility of soul which earned her from the pen of her Lord the posthumous and unrivalled tribute of having been made His “perpetual consort in all the worlds of God.” His nine-year-old son, later surnamed the “Most Great Branch,” destined to become the Center of His Covenant and authorized Interpreter of His teachings, together with His seven-year-old sister, known in later years by the same title as that of her illustrious mother, and whose services until the ripe old age of four score years and six, no less than her exalted parentage, entitle her to the distinction of ranking as the outstanding heroine of the Bahá’í Dispensation, were also included among the exiles who were now bidding their last farewell to their native country. Of the two brothers who accompanied Him on that journey the first was Mirza Musa, commonly called Aqay-i-Kalim, His staunch and valued supporter, the ablest and most distinguished among His brothers and sisters, and one of the “only two persons who,” according to Bahá’u'lláh’s testimony, “were adequately informed of the origins” of His Faith. The other was Mirza Muhammad-Quli, a half-brother, who, in spite of the defection of some of his relatives, remained to the end loyal to the Cause he had espoused.

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 108)

On account of their love for Him, two others with the utmost willingness accompanied Bahá’u'lláh into exile. They were His younger brother Mirza Musa, surnamed Aqay-i-Kalim by the Pen of Bahá’u'lláh, and the youngest half-brother Mirza Muhammad-Quli who was in his teens. Both brothers remained with Him and shared the hardships of repeated banishment’s from land to land.

Aqay-i-Kalim, whose heart was awakened on that historic occasion when the envoy of the Báb delivered His message to Bahá’u'lláh, was the most loyal of His brothers and a trusted supporter, staunch in his faith and indefatigable in his efforts to shield and protect Bahá’u'lláh. Until ‘Abdu’l-Bahá assumed such functions, he would frequently deputize for Bahá’u'lláh in meeting ministers, government officials, notables and divines. His life of service and devotion elevated him to a rank foremost among the Apostles of Bahá’u'lláh.

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u'llah v 1, p. 14)

On January 12, 1853, Bahá’u'lláh and his family, escorted by a Persian officer and a Russian official, set out on their journey west to Baghdad. Bahá’u'lláh’s two brothers who had helped prepare for the journey rode with them. Although the brothers had not been named in the order of banishment, they had chosen to share the family’s exile.

(Druzelle Cederquist, The Story Of Bahá’u'lláh, p. 113)

At Karand, which has been a Centre of ‘Aliyu’llahis,[1] the Governor, Hayat-Quli Khan, who belonged to that sect, greeted Bahá’u'lláh with marked reverence. ‘He was shown, in return,’ the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith writes, ‘such kindness by Bahá’u'lláh that the people of the entire village were affected, and continued, long after, to extend such hospitality to His followers on their way to Baghdad that they gained the reputation of being known as Bábís.’

[1] Those who equate the Imam ‘Ali with God. They are known for their tolerance, charity and compassion.]

As the frontier was reached, on Bahá’u'lláh’s instructions Mirza Musa went ahead to Khaniqayn and rented an orchard, redolent with flowers, as it was springtime and the days of Naw-Ruz. Water ran through its brooks and the birds were singing. On one side there was an orangery and on the other palm trees. Bahá’u'lláh stopped there and rested. He told His entourage that all that His enemies had devised had come to nought.

(H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u'llah – The King of Glory, p. 105)