The Bab in the words of Shoghi Effendi
In this extract from a letter addressed to the Bahá’ís of the West known as The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh, Shoghi Effendi explains the station of the Báb.
Dearly-beloved friends! That the Báb, the inaugurator of the Bábí Dispensation, is fully entitled to rank as one of the self-sufficient Manifestations of God, that He has been invested with sovereign power and authority, and exercises all the rights and prerogatives of independent Prophethood, is yet another fundamental verity which the Message of Bahá’u’lláh insistently proclaims and which its followers must uncompromisingly uphold. That He is not to be regarded merely as an inspired Precursor of the Bahá’í Revelation, that in His person, as He Himself bears witness in the Persian Bayán, the object of all the Prophets gone before Him has been fulfilled, is a truth which I feel it my duty to demonstrate and emphasize. We would assuredly be failing in our duty to the Faith we profess and would be violating one of its basic and sacred principles if in our words or by our conduct we hesitate to recognize the implications of this root principle of Bahá’í belief, or refuse to uphold unreservedly its integrity and demonstrate its truth. Indeed the chief motive actuating me to undertake the task of editing and translating Nabíl’s immortal Narrative has been to enable every follower of the Faith in the West to better understand and more readily grasp the tremendous implications of His exalted station and to more ardently admire and love Him.
There can be no doubt that the claim to the twofold station ordained for the Báb by the Almighty, a claim which He Himself has so boldly advanced, which Bahá’u’lláh has repeatedly affirmed, and to which the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has finally given the sanction of its testimony, constitutes the most distinctive feature of the Bahá’í Dispensation. It is a further evidence of its uniqueness, a tremendous accession to the strength, to the mysterious power and authority with which this holy cycle has been invested. Indeed the greatness of the Báb consists primarily, not in His being the divinely-appointed Forerunner of so transcendent a Revelation, but rather in His having been invested with the powers inherent in the inaugurator of a separate religious Dispensation, and in His wielding, to a degree unrivaled by the Messengers gone before Him, the scepter of independent Prophethood.
The short duration of His Dispensation, the restricted range within which His laws and ordinances have been made to operate, supply no criterion whatever wherewith to judge its Divine origin and to evaluate the potency of its message. “That so brief a span,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself explains, “should have separated this most mighty and wondrous Revelation from Mine own previous Manifestation, is a secret that no man can unravel and a mystery such as no mind can fathom. Its duration had been foreordained, and no man shall ever discover its reason unless and until he be informed of the contents of My Hidden Book.” “Behold,” Bahá’u’lláh further explains in the Kitáb-i-Badí’, one of His works refuting the arguments of the people of the Bayán, “behold, how immediately upon the completion of the ninth year of this wondrous, this most holy and merciful Dispensation, the requisite number of pure, of wholly consecrated and sanctified souls had been most secretly consummated.”
The marvelous happenings that have heralded the advent of the Founder of the Bábí Dispensation, the dramatic circumstances of His own eventful life, the miraculous tragedy of His martyrdom, the magic of His influence exerted on the most eminent and powerful among His countrymen, to all of which every chapter of Nabíl’s stirring narrative testifies, should in themselves be regarded as sufficient evidence of the validity of His claim to so exalted a station among the Prophets.
However graphic the record which the eminent chronicler of His life has transmitted to posterity, so luminous a narrative must pale before the glowing tribute paid to the Báb by the pen of Bahá’u’lláh. This tribute the Báb Himself has, by the clear assertion of His claim, abundantly supported, while the written testimonies of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have powerfully reinforced its character and elucidated its meaning.
Where else if not in the Kitáb-i-Íqán can the student of the Bábí Dispensation seek to find those affirmations that unmistakably attest the power and spirit which no man, except he be a Manifestation of God, can manifest? “Could such a thing,” exclaims Bahá’u’lláh, “be made manifest except through the power of a Divine Revelation and the potency of God’s invincible Will? By the righteousness of God! Were any one to entertain so great a Revelation in his heart the thought of such a declaration would alone confound him! Were the hearts of all men to be crowded into his heart, he would still hesitate to venture upon so awful an enterprise.” “No eye,” He in another passage affirms, “hath beheld so great an outpouring of bounty, nor hath any ear heard of such a Revelation of loving-kindness… The Prophets ‘endowed with constancy,’ whose loftiness and glory shine as the sun, were each honored with a Book which all have seen, and the verses of which have been duly ascertained. Whereas the verses which have rained from this Cloud of divine mercy have been so abundant that none hath yet been able to estimate their number… How can they belittle this Revelation? Hath any age witnessed such momentous happenings?”
Commenting on the character and influence of those heroes and martyrs whom the spirit of the Báb had so magically transformed Bahá’u’lláh reveals the following: “If these companions be not the true strivers after God, who else could be called by this name?… If these companions, with all their marvelous testimonies and wondrous works, be false, who then is worthy to claim for himself the truth?… Has the world since the days of Adam witnessed such tumult, such violent commotion?… Methinks, patience was revealed only by virtue of their fortitude, and faithfulness itself was begotten only by their deeds.”
Wishing to stress the sublimity of the Báb’s exalted station as compared with that of the Prophets of the past, Bahá’u’lláh in that same epistle asserts: “No understanding can grasp the nature of His Revelation, nor can any knowledge comprehend the full measure of His Faith.” He then quotes, in confirmation of His argument, these prophetic words: “Knowledge is twenty and seven letters. All that the Prophets have revealed are two letters thereof. No man thus far hath known more than these two letters. But when the Qá’im shall arise, He will cause the remaining twenty and five letters to be made manifest.” “Behold,” He adds, “how great and lofty is His station! His rank excelleth that of all the Prophets and His Revelation transcendeth the comprehension and understanding of all their chosen ones.” “Of His Revelation,” He further adds, “the Prophets of God, His saints and chosen ones, have either not been informed, or, in pursuance of God’s inscrutable decree, they have not disclosed.”
Of all the tributes which Bahá’u’lláh’s unerring pen has chosen to pay to the memory of the Báb, His “Best-Beloved,” the most memorable and touching is this brief, yet eloquent passage which so greatly enhances the value of the concluding passages of that same epistle. “Amidst them all,” He writes, referring to the afflictive trials and dangers besetting Him in the city of Baghdád, “We stand life in hand wholly resigned to His Will, that perchance through God’s loving kindness and grace, this revealed and manifest Letter (Bahá’u’lláh) may lay down His life as a sacrifice in the path of the Primal Point, the most exalted Word (the Báb). By Him, at Whose bidding the Spirit hath spoken, but for this yearning of Our soul, We would not, for one moment, have tarried any longer in this city.”
Dearly-beloved friends! So resounding a praise, so bold an assertion issued by the pen of Bahá’u’lláh in so weighty a work, are fully re-echoed in the language in which the Source of the Bábí Revelation has chosen to clothe the claims He Himself has advanced. “I am the Mystic Fane,” the Báb thus proclaims His station in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, “which the Hand of Omnipotence hath reared. I am the Lamp which the Finger of God hath lit within its niche and caused to shine with deathless splendor. I am the Flame of that supernal Light that glowed upon Sinai in the gladsome Spot, and lay concealed in the midst of the Burning Bush.” “O Qurratu’l-‘Ayn!” He, addressing Himself in that same commentary, exclaims, “I recognize in Thee none other except the ‘Great Announcement’—the Announcement voiced by the Concourse on high. By this name, I bear witness, they that circle the Throne of Glory have ever known Thee.” “With each and every Prophet, Whom We have sent down in the past,” He further adds, “We have established a separate Covenant concerning the ‘Remembrance of God’ and His Day. Manifest, in the realm of glory and through the power of truth, are the ‘Remembrance of God’ and His Day before the eyes of the angels that circle His mercy-seat.” “Should it be Our wish,” He again affirms, “it is in Our power to compel, through the agency of but one letter of Our Revelation, the world and all that is therein to recognize, in less than the twinkling of an eye, the truth of Our Cause.”
“I am the Primal Point,” the Báb thus addresses Muhammad Sháh from the prison-fortress of Máh-Kú, “from which have been generated all created things… I am the Countenance of God Whose splendor can never be obscured, the light of God whose radiance can never fade… All the keys of heaven God hath chosen to place on My right hand, and all the keys of hell on My left… I am one of the sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God. Whosoever hath recognized Me, hath known all that is true and right, and hath attained all that is good and seemly… The substance wherewith God hath created Me is not the clay out of which others have been formed. He hath conferred upon Me that which the worldly-wise can never comprehend, nor the faithful discover.” “Should a tiny ant,” the Báb, wishing to stress the limitless potentialities latent in His Dispensation, characteristically affirms, “desire in this day to be possessed of such power as to be able to unravel the abstrusest and most bewildering passages of the Qur’án, its wish will no doubt be fulfilled, inasmuch as the mystery of eternal might vibrates within the innermost being of all created things.” “If so helpless a creature,” is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s comment on so startling an affirmation, “can be endowed with so subtle a capacity, how much more efficacious must be the power released through the liberal effusions of the grace of Bahá’u’lláh!”
To these authoritative assertions and solemn declarations made by Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb must be added ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own incontrovertible testimony. He, the appointed interpreter of the utterances of both Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb, corroborates, not by implication but in clear and categorical language, both in His Tablets and in His Testament, the truth of the statements to which I have already referred.
In a Tablet addressed to a Bahá’í in Mázindarán, in which He unfolds the meaning of a misinterpreted statement attributed to Him regarding the rise of the Sun of Truth in this century, He sets forth, briefly but conclusively, what should remain for all time our true conception of the relationship between the two Manifestations associated with the Bahá’í Dispensation. “In making such a statement,” He explains, “I had in mind no one else except the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, the character of whose Revelations it had been my purpose to elucidate. The Revelation of the Báb may be likened to the sun, its station corresponding to the first sign of the Zodiac—the sign Aries—which the sun enters at the Vernal Equinox. The station of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, on the other hand, is represented by the sign Leo, the sun’s mid-summer and highest station. By this is meant that this holy Dispensation is illumined with the light of the Sun of Truth shining from its most exalted station, and in the plenitude of its resplendency, its heat and glory.”
“The Báb, the Exalted One,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá more specifically affirms in another Tablet, “is the Morn of Truth, the splendor of Whose light shineth throughout all regions. He is also the Harbinger of the Most Great Light, the Abhá Luminary. The Blessed Beauty is the One promised by the sacred books of the past, the revelation of the Source of light that shone upon Mount Sinai, Whose fire glowed in the midst of the Burning Bush. We are, one and all, servants of their threshold, and stand each as a lowly keeper at their door.” “Every proof and prophecy,” is His still more emphatic warning, “every manner of evidence, whether based on reason or on the text of the scriptures and traditions, are to be regarded as centered in the persons of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. In them is to be found their complete fulfillment.”
And finally, in His Will and Testament, the repository of His last wishes and parting instructions, He in the following passage, specifically designed to set forth the guiding principles of Bahá’í belief, sets the seal of His testimony on the Báb’s dual and exalted station: “The foundation of the belief of the people of Bahá (may my life be offered up for them) is this: His holiness the exalted One (the Báb) is the Manifestation of the unity and oneness of God and the Forerunner of the Ancient Beauty (Bahá’u’lláh). His holiness, the Abhá Beauty (Bahá’u’lláh) (may my life be offered up as a sacrifice for His steadfast friends) is the supreme Manifestation of God and the Day-Spring of His most divine Essence.” “All others,” He significantly adds, “are servants unto Him and do His bidding.”