By Eileen Maddocks
Siyyid Káẓim (1793–1843) continued to earn his living as a mujtahid throughout Iraq and Persia, seeking to attract students who would be receptive to the knowledge that the coming of the promised One was near. “In those days Siyyid Káẓim became increasingly aware of the approach of the Hour at which the promised One was to be revealed. He realised how dense were those veils that hindered the seekers from apprehending the glory of the concealed Manifestation. He accordingly exerted his utmost endeavour to remove gradually, with caution and wisdom, whatever barriers might stand in the way of the full recognition of that Hidden Treasure of God. He repeatedly urged his disciples to bear in mind the fact that He whose advent they were expecting would appear neither from Jábulqá nor from Jábulsá. (1) He even hinted at His presence in their very midst.” (2)
Siyyid Káẓim suffered much hardship and persecution during his ministry. One might ask why. If the Shia Islamic world was awaiting the wondrous day of the return that was foretold in many Quranic texts and hadith, why did the intimations that this day was near arouse such hostility? The short answer was human perversity. Islamic clergy and nobility wanted no changes from the corrupt status quo. They wanted no upsets to their status in society, and most of the illiterate, poverty-stricken masses followed whatever the imams decreed.
Siyyid Káẓim died just five months before Mírzá ‘Alí-Muḥammad would reveal his identity as the promised One to the Siyyid’s foremost disciple, Mullá Ḥusayn. But the venerated teacher was blessed with meeting, and probably recognizing, this blessed person at least twice. The first event occurred in Karbilá when Siyyid Káẓim Shaykh and his friend and confidant Ḥasan-i-Zunúzí went to visit a highly esteemed visitor to Karbilá. Ḥasan-i-Zunúzí gave Nabíl-i-A’zam the following account.
We soon reached a house, at the door of which stood a Youth, as if expectant to receive us. He wore a green turban (3), and His countenance revealed an expression of humility and kindliness which I can never describe. He quietly approached us, extended His arms towards Siyyid Káẓim, and lovingly embraced him. His affability and loving-kindness singularly contrasted with the sense of profound reverence that characterised the attitude of Siyyid Káẓim towards him. We were soon led by Him to the upper floor of that house, and entered a chamber bedecked with flowers and redolent of the loveliest perfume. He bade us be seated. We observed a silver cup which had been placed in the centre of the room, which our youthful Host, soon after we were seated, filled to overflowing, and handed to Siyyid Káẓim, saying: “A drink of a pure beverage shall their Lord give them.” Siyyid Káẓim held the cup with both hands and quaffed it. A feeling of reverent joy filled his being, a feeling which he could not suppress. . . All that was spoken at that memorable gathering was the above-mentioned verse of the Qur’an. I was mute with wonder, and knew not how to express the cordiality of His welcome, the dignity of His bearing, the charm of that face, and the delicious fragrance of that beverage. How great was my amazement when I saw my teacher quaff without the least hesitation that holy draught from a silver cup, the use of which, according to the precepts of Islam, is forbidden to the faithful. I could not explain the motive which could have induced the Siyyid to manifest such profound reverence in the presence of that Youth.
Three days later, Shaykh Ḥasan saw that same Youth arrive and take His seat in the midst of the assembled disciples of Siyyid Káẓim.
He sat close to the threshold, and with the same modesty and dignity of bearing listened to the discourse of the Siyyid. As soon as his eyes fell upon that Youth, the Siyyid discontinued his address and held his peace. Whereupon one of his disciples begged him to resume the argument which he had left unfinished. “What more shall I say?” replied Siyyid Káẓim, as he turned his face toward the Báb [Mírzá ‘Alí-Muḥammad]. “Lo, the Truth is more manifest than the ray of light that has fallen upon that lap!” I immediately observed that the ray to which the Siyyid referred had fallen upon the lap of that same Youth whom we had recently visited. (4)
One of the students asked his teacher why he did not reveal the name of the promised One or identify His person.
To this the Siyyid replied by pointing with his finger to his own throat, implying that were he to divulge His name, they both would be put to death instantly. This added still further to my perplexity. I had already heard my teacher observe that so great is the perversity of this generation, that were he to point with his finger to the promised One and say: “He indeed is the Beloved, the Desire of your hearts and mine,” they would still fail to recognise and acknowledge Him. I saw the Siyyid actually point out with his finger the ray of light that had fallen on that lap, and yet none among those who were present seemed to apprehend its meaning. . . that a mystery inscrutable to us all, lay concealed in that strange and attractive Youth. (5)
Siyyid Káẓim passed away on December 31, 1843, and was interred within the precincts of the shrine of the Imam Ḥusayn. He left behind him “a band of earnest and devoted disciples who, purged of all worldly desire, set out in quest of their promised Beloved.” (6) Perhaps the foremost of these disciples was Mullá Ḥusayn, who would meet and recognize the promised One in just five months.
1 In Shia Islamic tradition, Jábulqá and Jábulsá are the names for the mythic cities where the hidden Imam has been hiding and waiting. Siyyid Káẓim was hinting that the advent would not be a literal return of the twelth Imam, the Qa’im, but of a new Prophet of God.
2 Nabíl-i-A’zam, The Dawn-Breakers, 24‒25. This book is in print and is also available online at http://bahai-library.com/nabil_dawnbreakers.
3 Green turbans were worn by men who were descended from the Prophet Muḥammad.
4 The Dawn-Breakers, 27.
5 Ibid., 28‒29.
6 Ibid., 45.