December 15, 2010

Quddus, Companion of the Bab – by Harriet Pettibone

He was named Muhammad-'Ali. He was born in the town of Barfurush in the province of Mazindaran in [northern] Persia. His mother died when he was very young. Through her he was a direct descendant of the Imam Hasan, the grandson the Prophet Muhammad. His step-mother loved him devotedly, as did everyone who knew him. When quite young he was sent to school in Mashhad and at eighteen, he had travelled all the way to Karbila, in 'Iraq, where attended the classes of the great religious teacher Siyyid Kazim [a forerunner of the Bab].

Siyyid Kazim's teachings were original and revolutionary. He was preparing his students for a Great One who was to come. In Siyyid Kazim’s classes Muhammad-'Ali appeared to be very young and very humble but Siyyid Kazim recognized his great spiritual potentialities and considered him one of his ablest pupils. At the end of his life Siyyid Kazim advised all of his followers to "quit their homes, scatter far and wide, purge their hearts of every idle desire and dedicate themselves to the quest of Him to whose advent he had so often alluded." He told them that the object of their quest was now revealed. ."The veils that intervene between you and Him are such as only you can remove by your devoted search. Nothing short of prayerful endeavour, of purity of motive, of singleness of mind, will enable you to tear them asunder. Has not God revealed in His Book: 'Whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways will We guide them?'”

In the latter part of May, 1844, Muhammad-'Ali, or Quddus as he was also called, was the eighteenth to find the Great One, the Object of his quest. One evening, in the city of Shiraz, he appeared disheveled and travel-stained. He approached a former friend who was with a companion and asked him if he had attained his goal --upon being told to rest for the moment he said, gazing at his Companion; "Why seek you to hide Him from me? I can recognize Him by His gait. I confidently testify that none besides Him, whether in the East or in the West, can claim to be the Truth. None other can manifest the power and majesty that radiate from His holy person." His friend was told to "marvel no at his strange behaviour. We have in the world of the spirit been communing with this youth. We know him already. We indeed awaited his coming. Go to him and summon him forthwith to Our presence."

From that time -- over a period of fourteen months --Quddus was with his Beloved. Nine of these months were spent in a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. On this historical voyage, "every night from eventide until the break of day, sacrificing comfort and sleep, he would continue with unrelaxing vigilance to watch beside his Beloved, Who was known as the Bab, ready to provide for His wants and to ensure the means of His protection and safety." He refused all comforts preferring to walk every step of the pilgrimage. Upon their return to the port of Bushihr, in Persia, Quddus was summoned to the presence of the Bab, Who with the utmost kindness bade him depart for Shiraz. "The days of your companionship with Me", He told him, are drawing to a close. The hour of separation has struck, a separation which no reunion will follow except in the Kingdom of God, in the Presence of the King of Glory . . . The hand of destiny will ere long plunge you into an ocean of tribulation for His sake . . . The hosts of the unseen will hasten forth to assist you and will proclaim to all the world your heroism and glory. . . ."

In Shiraz, Quddus was hospitably received-by the Bab's uncle, who recognized, through Quddus, the station of his young Kinsman. "So steadfast became his faith and so profound grew his love . . . that he consecrated his whole life to His service." In this city, the first step of his journey dedicated to the services of his faith, Quddus and another believer were tortured and expelled for openly and fearlessly proclaiming the birth of a New Day.

In the course of his journey Quddus passed through many cities, "In each of these cities, notwithstanding the obstacles that beset his path, he succeeded in instilling into the understanding of his hearers the principles which he had so bravely risen to advocate. A friend describes him as follows: 'The charm of his person, his extreme affability, combined with a dignity of bearing, appealed to even the most careless observer. Whoever was intimately associated with him was seized with an insatiable admiration for the charm of that youth. We watched him one day perform his ablutions, and were struck by the gracefulness which distinguished him from the rest of the worshipers in the performance of so ordinary a rite. He seemed, in our eyes, to be the very incarnation of purity and grace."

For two years Quddus resided in the home of his father in his native town of Barfurush in the province of Mazindaran. At this time he was surrounded by the loving devotion of his family and kindred. "He freely associated with all classes of people and by the gentleness of his character and the wide range of his learning had won the affection and unqualified admiration of the inhabitants of the town."

One night a friend arrived at his home -- a friend who had just returned from the Bab and who had been told by Him to find "God's hidden treasure." After an evening shared with a group of friends, Quddus asked Mulla Husayn, the new arrival, of news of the Bab. Mulla Husayn told him all he knew and added that there was nothing in writing to pass on. At this moment Quddus "presented him with the pages of a manuscript which he had in his hands and requested him to read certain of its passages." With rare spiritual insight Mulla Husayn recognized from this creative writing "God's hidden treasure" and when he realized that Quddus was its author he reverently declared; "The hidden treasure of which the Bab has spoken, now lies unveiled before my eyes. Its light has dispelled the gloom of perplexity and doubt. Though my Master be now hidden amid the mountain fastnesses of Adhirbayjan, the sign of His splendour and the revelation of His might stand manifest before me. I have found in Mazindaran the reflection of His glory." Almost immediately he was instructed to go to the city of Mashhad to build a house which was to serve as a private residence for them both. "To it you shall invite every receptive soul who, we hope, may be guided to the river of everlasting life." Together these two friends converted the house into a "rallying center for a multitude of devotees who were fired with an inflexible resolve to demonstrate, by every means in their power, the great inherent energies of their Faith."

What was this Faith that had caused such a transformation in their own lives and in the lives of many whom they met? It was their recognition of the Promised One, for whom Siyyid Kazim had prepared them, and the acceptance of His laws and precepts. This Great Soul known as the Bab claimed not only that He was the Promised One foretold in all the Holy Books of God but that He was also the Forerunner of One, greater than Himself, Who was to come. From the moment Quddus saw Him, he recognized Him, accepted Him and until his death was His devoted follower.

While in Mashhad, Quddus, along with all the other sincere believers of the Bab throughout Persia and ‘Iraq, determined to answer a call given by the Bab. There had been "revealed from the pen of the Bab a Tablet addressed to all the believers of Persia, in which every loyal adherent of the Faith was enjoined to hasten to the land of Kha [province of Khurasan in Persia, city of Mashhad is its capital]."

In the hamlet of Badasht on the border of the province of Mazindaran a conference was held. Three gardens were rented; Quddus occupied one. Eighty-one disciples attended for twenty-two days. On each of these twenty-two days a new Tablet was revealed and each disciple received a new name. It was here that Mubammad-'Ali received the name of Quddus [literally means: ‘Most Holy’]. The primary purpose of this conference was to implement the Bayan, a book revealed by the Bab, which provided the laws for the new day which He had announced. "Quddus, regarded as the exponent of the conservative element within it, affected, in pursuance of a pre-conceived plan designed to mitigate the alarm and consternation which such a conference was sure to arouse, to oppose the seemingly extremist views advocated by the impetuous Tahirih." Through these two amazing, enlightened souls a scene was enacted which channelized a startling "departure from the time-honoured traditions of Islam, witnessed a veritable revolution in the outlook, habits, ceremonials and manner of worship of these hitherto zealous and devout upholders of the Muhammadan Law." This was the event "when the trumpet-blast announcing the formal extinction of the old, and the inauguration of the New Dispensation was sounded."

Quddus, with a number of the friends who had attended the conference decided to go to Mazindaran; on their way they were attacked by the people of the neighborhood in the village of Niyala, Quddus fell into the hands of his opponents and was confined in [the town of] Sari.

Throughout all Persia the followers of the Bab were, at this time, in great danger. The leaders of Islam and of the state were aroused and alarmed at the influence the Bab and His disciples had upon the people. Were this influence to predominate, their own positions might be jeopardized; their fear of this caused them to persecute the Babis. Owing to this condition, measures were taken in self-defense. "On three occasions a number of Babis driven to desperation withdrew in concert from their houses to a chosen retreat and, erecting defensive works about them, defied in arms further pursuit." In the East of Persia at Shaykh-Tabarsi a contest took place which lasted eleven months. Its heroes were the flower of the Bab's disciples -- their leader was Quddus. He had been rescued from his confinement in Sari and immediately assumed the leadership at Tabarsi. Day after day he guided them through the trials of battle and of privation of every kind. "He dispelled," one testified, "whatever doubts lingered in our minds and such were the evidences of his perspicacity that we came to believe that to him had been given the power to read our profoundest thoughts and to calm the fiercest tumults in our hearts."

Quddus had the great gift of creative writing and in spite of inconceivable hardships he continued to write. "The rapidity and copiousness of his composition, the inestimable treasures which his writings revealed, filled his companions with wonder and justified his leadership in their eyes."

During one of the battles Quddus was injured in the mouth and throat. At the sight of the grief of the companions he wrote an appeal; "We should submit," he exhorted them, "to whatever is the will of God. We should stand firm and steadfast in the hour of trial. The stone of the infidel broke the teeth of the Prophet of God; mine have fallen as a result of the bullet of the enemy. Though my body be afflicted, my soul is immersed in gladness. My gratitude to God knows no bounds. If you love me, suffer not that this joy be obscured by the sight of your lamentations." The outcome of this contest, "was a heinous betrayal ending in an orgy of slaughter, staining with everlasting infamy its perpetrators, investing its victims with a halo of imperishable glory, and generating the very seeds which, in a later age, were to blossom into world-wide administrative institutions, and which must, in the fullness of time yield their golden fruit in the shape of a world-redeeming, globe-encircling Order."

At the age of twenty-seven, Quddus, "the last, but in rank the first" of the Letters of the Living, was martyred. He has been referred to by Baha'u'llah as holding a rank second to none except that of the Bab Himself.

"Amidst his torments," writes Nabil, "Quddus was heard whispering forgiveness to his foes. 'Forgive, O my God,' he cried, 'the trespasses of these people. Deal with them in Thy mercy, for they know not what we already have discovered and cherish. I have striven to show them the path that leads to their salvation; behold how they have risen to overwhelm and kill me! Show them, O God, the way of Truth, and turn their ignorance into faith.' "

"He exemplified by his life and glorious martyrdom," says Nabil in another place, "the truth of this tradition: 'Whoso seeketh Me, shall find Me. Whoso findeth Me shall be drawn towards Me. Whoso draweth nigh unto Me, shall love Me. Whoso loveth Me, shall I also love. Him who is beloved of Me, him shall I slay. He who is slain by Me, I myself shall be his ransom.' "

The date of his martyrdom is May 16, 1849. (World Order, July 1948)