Rúhu’lláh and his father, Varqá, in prison in Tehran shortly before their martyrdoms in 1896. Photo courtesy of Médiathèque Baha’ie Francophone www.bahai-biblio.org.
Mírzá ‘Alí-Muhammad Varqá and his son, Rúhu’lláh, were two of the outstanding servants of Bahá’u'lláh. A brief account of their remarkable and devoted lives can be found in The Revelation of Bahá’u'lláh, Vol. 4, by Adib Taherzadeh. Here is an excerpt from that book about Rúhu’lláh and his complete devotion to the service of God.
Truly, Rúhu’lláh was no ordinary child. He was an inspired being and acted as a spiritual giant. At a young age he wrote beautiful poetry which clearly demonstrates how deep was his love for Bahá’u'lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, how vast his knowledge of the Faith and how profound his understanding of the real purpose of life. He used to speak about the Faith in gatherings of divines and men of learning with such eloquence and knowledge, and produce such irrefutable proofs of the truth of the Faith that many were confounded after hearing him. His answers were profound yet simple and very compelling.
There are some delightful stories related to this indefatigable child-teacher of the Cause of God. To cite an example: Although only twelve years of age, Rúhu’lláh attended with his father several meetings in Zanján at which the divines of the city were present. The Governor of Zanján, ‘Alá’u'd-Dawlih, had especially arranged these meetings in order that Varqá might confront the divines in defence of his Faith. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-’Alí has written about this in his celebrated book of reminiscences, the Bihjatu’s-Sudúr:
Varqá . . . was prepared to prove, by the power of divine
assistance, the authenticity of this most great Revelation
which is promised in all the heavenly Books, and to establish the
validity of the basic principles, laws both spiritual and physical,
and even secondary matters in the Faith using the Qur’án as the basis
of his argument . . .
This prompted ‘Alá’u'd-Dawlih, the Governor of Zanján, to convene
several meetings. He ordered the divines of Zanján to attend, and
arranged for Bahá’í books and Tablets to be taken to these meetings.
After reading some of these, the objections of the divines were
adequately answered sometimes by Varqá and sometimes by Rúhu’lláh. The
answers, which were all supported by the verses of the Qur’án, were
convincing and irrefutable.
Since the defeat of the divines in their argument became evident to
the Governor, who was a powerful and courageous personality, the
divines did not dare to label Varqá as an infidel and issue his death
warrant. In these meetings ‘Alá’u'd-Dawlih often permitted the twelve-
year-old Rúhu’lláh to speak with the divines. He used to prove the
subject with amazing courage, eloquence and profundity. His talks were
so sweet that the Governor admitted that the proofs which that child
had adduced were a great miracle in his sight . . .
Another story goes like this: Once Rúhu’lláh and his older brother were walking in town. A Muslim clergyman tiding on his donkey spotted the two boys and from their appearance he knew they were strangers in Zanján. So he went to them and said, ‘Who are you?’
Rúhu’lláh answered, ‘We are sons of Varqá, a native of Yazd.’ ‘What is your name?’ the clergyman demanded. ‘My name is Rúhu’lláh,’ came the answer. ‘That is a great name,’ said the clergyman. ‘Christ was Rúhu’lláh and He used to raise the dead and give them life.’ ['Rúhu'lláh' literally means the 'Spirit of God', a title of Christ mentioned in the Qur'án.]
‘Sir, if you slow down the pace of your donkey,’ Rúhu’lláh declared with great enthusiasm, ‘I too shall raise you from the dead and give you a new life!’
The clergyman hurriedly left saying, ‘You two must be Bábí children!’ [For many years in Persia Bahá'ís were known as 'Bábís'.]
The full story of the circumstances which led to the martyrdom of Varqá and his twelve-year-old son Rúhu’lláh is beyond the scope of this book. Both of them were engulfed in a series of arrests and imprisonments. They were transferred from prison to prison weighed down with chains, their feet placed in stocks. As a result they suffered much hardship and torture until at the end Varqá was martyred when in a rage Hájibu’d-Dawlih, the chief steward in charge of the Prison of Tihrán, pierced his stomach with a dagger. Rúhu’lláh saw his father fall to the ground, and then his body was cut into pieces. A short while later, refusing to recant his faith and earnestly wishing to join his father, that noble and heroic child was strangled to death. This was in May 1896.