Siyyid Kazim, the revered leader of a prominent group of prophetic Sufi Muslims, passed away in the year 1843. Just before his death he called upon all of his leading disciples to scatter far and wide in search of the Promised One, Who, he asserted, was alive and preparing to announce His advent.
One of these disciples, widely regarded as the ablest of them all, was a Persian by the name of Mulla Husayn. Soon after his teacher’s death he set out in his search. After a period of intense prayer and fasting, he felt inspired to go to the city of Shiraz in southern Persia. Almost immediately after arriving, a chain of remarkable events was set in motion. These were later recounted to an individual who wrote the most comprehensive history of these days. Here is that individual’s account of Mulla Husayn’s arrival in the city to which he had felt drawn “as if by a magnet”:
On that very day, a few hours before sunset, whilst walking outside the gate of the city, his [Mulla Husayn’s] eyes fell suddenly upon a Youth of radiant countenance, who wore a green turban and who, advancing towards him, greeted him with a smile of loving welcome. He embraced Mulla Husayn with tender affection as though he had been his intimate and lifelong friend. Mulla Husayn thought Him at first to be a disciple of Siyyid Kazim who, on being informed of his approach to Shiraz, had come out to welcome him. – Nabil-i-Azam, The Dawnbreakers, p. 52.
Mulla Husayn is reported to have described what happened next as follows:
The Youth who met me outside the gate of Shiraz overwhelmed me with expressions of affection and loving-kindness. He extended to me a warm invitation to visit His home, and there refresh myself after the fatigues of my journey. I prayed to be excused, pleading that my two companions had already arranged for my stay in that city, and were now awaiting my return. ‘Commit them to the care of God,’ was His reply; ‘He will surely protect and watch over them.’ Having spoken these words, He bade me follow Him. I was profoundly impressed by the gentle yet compelling manner in which that strange Youth spoke to me. As I followed Him, His gait, the charm of His voice, the dignity of His bearing, served to enhance my first impressions of this unexpected meeting.
We soon found ourselves standing at the gate of a house of modest appearance. He knocked at the door, which was soon opened by an Ethiopian servant. ‘Enter therein in peace, secure,’ were His words as He crossed the threshold and motioned me to follow Him. His invitation, uttered with power and majesty, penetrated my soul. I thought it a good augury to be addressed in such words, standing as I did on the threshold of the first house I was entering in Shiraz, a city the very atmosphere of which had produced already an indescribable impression upon me. Might not my visit to this house, I thought to myself, enable me to draw nearer to the Object of my quest? Might it not hasten the termination of a period of intense longing, of strenuous search, of increasing anxiety, which such a quest involves? As I entered the house and followed my Host to His chamber, a feeling of unutterable joy invaded my being. Immediately we were seated, He ordered a ewer of water to be brought, and bade me wash away from my hands and feet the stains of travel. I pleaded permission to retire from His presence and perform my ablutions in an adjoining room. He refused to grant my request, and proceeded to pour the water over my hands. He then gave me to drink of a refreshing beverage, after which He asked for the samovar and Himself prepared the tea which He offered me.
. . . It was about an hour after sunset when my youthful Host began to converse with me. . . .
“I sat spellbound by His utterance, oblivious of time and of those who awaited me. Suddenly the call . . . summoning the faithful to their morning prayer, awakened me from the state of ecstasy into which I seemed to have fallen. All the delights, all the ineffable glories, which the Almighty has recounted in His Book as the priceless possessions of the people of Paradise—these I seemed to be experiencing that night. Methinks I was in a place of which it could be truly said: ‘Therein no toil shall reach us, and therein no weariness shall touch us’; ‘No vain discourse shall they hear therein, nor any falsehood, but only the cry, “Peace! Peace!”’; ‘Their cry therein shall be, “Glory be to Thee, O God!” and their salutation therein, “Peace!” And the close of their cry, “Praise be to God, Lord of all creatures!”’ “Sleep had departed from me that night. I was enthralled by the music of that voice which rose and fell as He chanted; . . . again acquiring ethereal, subtle harmonies as He uttered the prayers He was revealing. . . . “He then addressed me in these words: ‘O thou who art the first to believe in Me! Verily I say, I am the Bab, the Gate of God.’ . . . – ibid, pp. 52-57.
At that very moment, on May 23, 1844, the Baha’i Faith began.