Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Quiet Audience

Mulla Husayn will long be remembered for being the first Letter of the Living, the first of those great souls to recognize the Bab, paving the way for all of us who came after him.

After the last of the Letters of the Living recognized Him, the Bab sent each of them on their own special mission. One was sent to Iraq. Another was to join Him on His Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Most were sent to teach the Faith in their hometowns. But Mulla Husayn was given a special mission, one that would have great and wonderful consequences.

He was sent by the Bab north, to spread the Cause in the cities of Isfahan, Kashan, Tihran, and Khurasan. Now this was not a random assignment. He had already made a name for himself in those areas, having visited them on behalf of Siyyid Kazim. He had proven himself an able scholar, wise, virtuous, and detached from all save God. It made a lot of sense to send him to these cities.

But, of course, there was more to it than just that. Before he left, the Bab told Mulla Husayn that one of the cities he was to visit held "a mystery of such transcendent holiness as neither Hijaz nor Shiraz can hope to rival". This meant that he would encounter something greater than either Muhammad or the Bab Himself. Hijaz, of course, referred to Muhammad, while Shiraz referred to the Bab. This, obviously, would not have been lost on Mulla Husayn. So he likely went forth not only willing to do his Lord's bidding, but eager to see what this mystery would be. He also would have been praying to God for assistance in being able to recognize it.

As you can imagine, things were very interesting wherever he went on this journey. He went to Isfahan first, being the first major city on his route. When he got there, he went to the school which he had previously visited on behalf of Siyyid Kazim, only to discover that the great teacher whose admiration and support he had won had passed away. Those former students who were now in charge of the school allowed their jealousy of his knowledge and wisdom to prevail, and denounced Mulla Husayn and his Message. One of the only people to accept the new Message in this city of scholars was a lowly sifter of wheat, whose story I shall recount another time.

From Isfahan, he went on to Kashan, Qum, and then on to Tihran.

In Tihran he took lodging at a famous religious school, directed by the leader of the Shaykhi community, the very community of Siyyid Kazim and Mulla Husayn.

This leader, however, ignored the very purpose of the Shaykhi community, namely to search for the Promised One after the passing of Siyyid Kazim, and was too caught up in being the head of it, instead. When Mulla Husayn delivered his Message, this teacher ignored the Bab's claim and instead rebuked Mulla Husayn for abandoning the Shaykhi community.

As you can imagine, Mulla Husayn delivered his message with wisdom and courtesy, and likely responded to the criticism with detachment. He left this leader to his own devices, and proceeded to spread the Message of the Bab in other parts of the city, leaving the school's lodgings early in the morning and returning late at night.

One of the students, however, Mulla Muhammad of Nur, had overheard the discussion between his teacher and Mulla Husayn. He was deeply touched by this new Message, and ashamed of the arrogance shown by his teacher.

On his own, around midnight one evening, Mulla Muhammad sought out Mulla Husayn in his rooms. Despite the late hour, he found him awake and seated by a lamp. Mulla Husayn greeted his unexpected guest with such loving welcome that this man was even further moved by his Message.

"I can now see", Mulla Husayn told him, "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."

The conversation which followed led Mulla Husayn to recognize that great Mystery hidden in Tihran. But like the story of the Sifter of Wheat, that is for another time.

What is interesting here, and deeply relevant to our own circumstances today, is this encounter with Mulla Muhammad.

Many times we will find ourselves in a conversation, showing a truth or presenting a cogent argument, with someone who is just not open to the idea at all. And often during these moments we may be inclined to push a point or react with either dismay or anger. But most of the time the impact of the conversation will not be with the person with whom we are speaking. It will be with someone who just happens to overhear it. And if we push our point, or show anger at their "not getting it", then we are no different than anyone else. but when we respond with calm courtesy, and dignity, we can stand out.

I remember being in a used bookstore in San Diego many years ago, and looking through the religious section. Another customer came over to me and showed interest in the fact that I was interested in religious studies. We began to talk, and in the course of the conversation I naturally mentioned that I was a Baha'i. Things, as they say, went south from there. He began to chastise me, yell at me, tell me that I was going to hell, and so on. A preternatural calm came over me during this time, which is most unusual for me, and I responded to his comments with quiet courtesy, and simple points referenced from the Bible itself. Each of my comments had the singular effect of making him more and more upset. My calm reaction to his tirade did nothing but further fuel his anger. It finally got to the point where the owner of the store came over and proceeded to kick this poor man out. I, in the meantime, went back to looking over the section, wondering why I was so calm.

The owner came over and apologized profusely for this whole scene, which was no fault of his own. I assured him of this point, and thanked him for his intervention. Then, to my surprise, a few moments later, a woman came from the other side of the bookshelves and said, "I heard what you were saying about the Baha'i Faith. And if this faith leads you to remain so calm under such an attack, I want to know more. Can you tell me about it?"

Whether it is in a bookstore under circumstances like this, or on-line in a conversation in which someone has posted a prejudicial comment, our calm reaction to such things is probably not going to teach the person showing such hatred or anger. It can, however, teach those who are watching.

And in the case of Mulla Husayn, it led to him being able to share the Message of the Bab with Baha'u'llah Himself.

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