Courage and Sacrifice: Mírzá Abu’l-Fazl

Mirza Abu'l-Fazl (1844 - 1914)


Photo courtesy of International Bahá’í Library Collections.










In the early decades of the Faith of the Báb and then of Bahá’u’lláh, the primary courage and sacrifice demanded of the believers was the courage to face the threat of physical harm, including death. Many of the early converts to the Faith were fully aware that their conversion could mean their death, yet, once convinced of the truth of Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous claim to be the Promised One of all the religions of God, they did not fail to risk their wealth and lives for their Lord.  They became souls ignited by the spirit of God, soaring in the illimitable realms of the spirit, rather than people whose focus was the transitory things of this brief physical life.

Mirza Abu’l-Fadl, however, demonstrated another type of courage and sacrifice. Before his conversion, he was a Muslim who lived in Cairo as a renowned and erudite scholar of Islam. He was a man highly respected and whose advice was often sought. And, not surprisingly, he had acquired a very high opinion of himself as one who, with his knowledge and accomplishments, could best others in argument and explain things to those less intellectually able than himself.  Mirza Abu’l-Fadl was steeped in the kind of knowledge that can act as a veil to obscure spiritual truth, as Bahá’ulláh tells us:

Know verily that Knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic. The one welleth out from the fountain of divine inspiration; the other is but a reflection of vain and obscure thoughts. The source of the former is God Himself; the motive-force of the latter the whisperings of selfish desire. The one is guided by the principle: “Fear ye God; God will teach you;” the other is but a confirmation of the truth: “Knowledge is the most grievous veil between man and his Creator.” The former bringeth forth the fruit of patience, of longing desire, of true understanding, and love; whilst the latter can yield naught but arrogance, vainglory and conceit.                        Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqán

Mirza Abu’l-Fadl had the remarkable courage to tear aside these veils of knowledge, at the price of great emotional pain and turmoil, and to persist in his investigation of the Faith, with great scepticism, until at last, after much prayer and soul-searching, he realized in his heart the truth of Bahá’u’lláh’s claims.  Then he attained true knowledge:

The first Tajalli [Effulgence] which hath dawned from the Day-Star of Truth is the knowledge of God — exalted be His glory. And the knowledge of the King of everlasting days can in no wise be attained save by recognizing Him Who is the Bearer of the Most Great Name. He is, in truth, the Speaker on Sinai Who is now seated upon the throne of Revelation. He is the Hidden Mystery and the Treasured Symbol. All the former and latter Books of God are adorned with His praise and extol His glory. Through Him the standard of knowledge hath been planted in the world and the ensign of the oneness of God hath been unfurled amidst all peoples.

 Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh

Armed with this true knowledge, he then, for the remainder of his life, used his great intellectual gifts in the service of his Lord and became one of the humblest and most self-effacing persons that one could ever meet. He became one the greatest scholars of the Bahá’í Faith and was highly admired by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whom he served during their lifetimes.  

This remarkable story is told by Adib Taherzadeh in The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Vol. III.  Here is an excerpt that recounts Mirza Abu’l-Fadl’s story of his realization of the truth:

One night I was roused from my slumber and I began to   
admonish myself in these words: ‘It is about one year that
you have been associating and arguing with these Bahá’ís.
These men are illiterate and uneducated, yet they have
asserted their ascendancy over you every time, they have
adduced proofs and demonstrated the validity of their
Cause. Although you consider yourself to be a learned man
and a researcher in the Holy Books, commentaries and
traditions, yet you know that these men are much more
resourceful than you are. It is as if they are inspired and
assisted by God, and the Holy Spirit speaks through them.
You have also been a witness to their exalted character and
heavenly virtues. Why then should you interpret their
words as the breathings of the evil whisperer? You
remember how enchanted you were when you read the
story of the ‘Show of Sultan Salim’ in the Lawh-i-Ra’ís!
How you were attracted by the eloquence and sublimity of
those words! Now, you ought to read and investigate the
writings of the one who claims to be the revealer of the
Word of God with the eye of justice and fairness. If this
Cause be untrue, the first to contend it is God. Therefore, its
survival is impossible…

I arose, performed my ablutions and said prayers. I then
took the Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh [Lawh-i-Ra’ís] which,
although it had been in my possession for a long time, I had
not been moved to read. I opened it, turned tearfully and
with devotion to God, and began to read it. It was then that I
heard the voice of God… calling me through the
mouthpiece of this Manifestation, ‘Am I not your Lord?’
To that call reaching me from the Beauty of the All-Glorious,
I responded with all my heart, ‘Thou art, thou
art! I believed.

I passed from the state of idle fancies and vain imaginings
into that of certitude… I became highly attracted to the
Word of God and carried away by its power. I felt such love
and devotion towards the Dayspring of Divine Revelation
[Bahá’u’lláh] and experienced such joy and ecstasy in myself
that I cannot ever describe it. Words cannot express the   
heights of spirituality to which I had been transformed… I
knew that if I served these souls who had become the cause
of my guidance to the end of my days, and if I laid down my
Life in their path, I should never be able to repay them for
giving me eternal salvation and spiritual life…

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