Written and illustrated by Violetta Zein

A stunning photograph of the Monument to the Greatest Holy Leaf entirely designed by Shoghi Effendi. Source: Luminous Spot.

This is My testimony for her who hath heard My voice and drawn nigh unto Me. Verily, she is a leaf that hath sprung from this preexistent Root. She hath revealed herself in My name and tasted of the sweet savours of My holy, My wondrous pleasure. At one time We gave her to drink from My honeyed Mouth, at another caused her to partake of My mighty, My luminous Kawthar. Upon her rest the glory of My name and the fragrance of My shining robe.

Bahá’u’lláh’s immortal words about His saintly daughter, inscribed and gilded around the base of the dome of the Greatest Holy Leaf’s Monument.

DISCLAIMER: ONLY THE GREATEST HOLY LEAF’S WORDS QUOTED FROM HER LETTERS, AND CABLES CAN BE CONSIDERED HIS OWN; ALL OTHER REPORTED UTTERANCES OF THE GREATEST HOLY LEAF SHOULD BE VIEWED AS PILGRIM NOTES.

This part covers the life of the Greatest Holy Leaf from her birth in 1846 to the age of 7 in 1853.


Leopold Kupelwieser: The Heart of Mary. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi introduces a completely original concept wherein in each religions Dispensation, a single woman—an immortal heroine—towers above the rest of her sisters in rank and station:


…The Greatest Holy Leaf, the “well-beloved” sister of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, the “Leaf that hath sprung” from the “Pre-existent Root,” the “fragrance” of Bahá’u’lláh’s “shining robe,” elevated by [Bahá'u'lláh] to a “station such as none other woman hath surpassed,” and comparable in rank to those immortal heroines such as Sarah, Ásíyih, the Virgin Mary, Fáṭimih and Ṭáhirih, each of whom has outshone every member of her sex in previous Dispensations.

In Judaism, Sarah was that immortal, unattainable heroine.

In the Christian Dispensation, the Virgin Mary was that woman.

In Islám, the saintly daughter of the Prophet Muḥammad, Fáṭimih, occupied that station.

During the Bábí Dispensation, it was Ṭáhirih, who rose in rank above every woman of her time.

And in the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, a Dispensation set to last for 5,000 centuries, the woman that occupies that exalted rank is His very own daughter, Bahíyyih Khánum, known as the Greatest Holy Leaf.

Bahíyyih Khánum, like the Virgin Mary, Fáṭimih, and Ṭáhirih, embodies for this Dispensation the ideals of feminine virtues, both physical and mystical or theological.

She, like her companions, Sarah, Ásíyih, the Virgin Mary, Fáṭimih and Ṭáhirih, is the essence of the feminine aspect of the divine.

This chronology honors the life of an extraordinary woman, Bahíyyih Khánum, the only daughter ever born to Bahá'u'lláh and Ásíyih Khánum.

Bahíyyih Khánum was a first-hand witness to the most momentous events of the Heroic Age of the Faith.

She was born just two years after the Declaration of the Báb, and met some of the most outstanding Bábís of the time, She was a teenager when she was a witness to the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad.

She would go on to play a pivotal role in the emergence of the Bahá'í Faith as an independent world religion.

Bahíyyih Khánum was so self-effacing, so humble, so meek, so unassuming, so unpresuming, so modest, that two separate things occurred: first, she is not as well-known in the details of her luminous life as the male counterparts in the Bahá'í Dispensation.

Second, which logically follows the first, because of this the Greatest Holy Leaf’s rank and station as a spiritual giant, as a determined, courageous, and heroic woman is not common knowledge.

This is what this chronology aims to address, by offering as many details as possible on the unparalleled life of the Greatest Holy Leaf, her unique station in Bahá'í history, and the impact she had on key events in the history of our Faith.

Bahíyyih Khánum transcended the limitations of the Persian culture she was born into, a culture well-known for its fanatic Shí’ah faith, its narrow outlook, and its uncompromising refusal to modernize and advance with the times.

The story of the life of the Greatest Holy Leaf is the story of triumph over adversity, of embracing change, and of the power of a stainless character to overcome hardships.

The record of the life, achievements and services of the Greatest Holy Leaf span the Heroic Age and the beginning of the Formative Age, her staunch protection of the Covenant and services to Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi, are a source of strength, comfort, reassurance, and also awe for each and every one of us.

Bahíyyih Khánum’s life is a source of hope for all those who are apprehensive about the ability of people and humanity as a whole to overcome not only ignorance, but blindness, cruelty, narrow-mindedness and oppression which plague the world we live in.

This introduction to the life of the Greatest Holy Leaf would be incomplete if it did not address one of the most extraordinary facets of the life, role, and station of Bahíyyih Khánum, namely the fact that she lived in an era during which women had no equality, they were invisible, they were prohibited from playing an important role in not only society but the religion they were born in, and they enjoyed very few rights.

Unlike Bahíyyih Khánum, most women of her time in the Middle East were illiterate and uneducated, they were veiled, they had no status, and they were never mentioned in books of history.

The Greatest Holy Leaf would overcome each and every one of these limitations and soar to a station unique and exalted above all women in religious history, past, present, and future.

The Greatest Holy Leaf was most commonly known simply as Khánum, which means “Lady” in Persian. In almost every pilgrim note of enamored, enkindled Bahá'ís, men and women, teenagers and adults, they will refer to her simply as Khánum.

Perhaps it is because they had entered her presence that pilgrim after pilgrim addressed her as Khánum, thought of her as Khánum, and wrote letters to each other about Khánum.

Her presence was so majestic, she was the quintessence of dignity and noble bearing, and Khánum embodied this aspect of meeting the Greatest Holy Leaf in person.

In her eulogy for the Greatest Holy Leaf, Marjorie Morten gave an insight into the term:

It is this Khánum, the woman, her pervading spirit, who lives on in the hearts of all who knew and loved her—Khánum, moving serene and steadfast through the days; showing goodness in a simple sharing of each day’s portion and leaving for us to take and share in turn precious morsels of the substance that was for her the daily bread of life.

As for me, I cannot bring myself to refer to her by a single word, and will confine myself to two appellations: the Greatest Holy Leaf and Bahíyyih Khánum.

In Ṭihrán in 1846—two years after the birth of their eldest son 'Abdu'l-Bahá and one year after their younger son ‘Alí-Muḥammad—a daughter was born to Bahá'u'lláh and Ásíyih Khánum.

She would be the only daughter they would ever have, she would be utterly steadfast, devoted and faithful to Bahá'u'lláh from her first breath to her last, and she would come to fundamentally affect Bahá'í history.

Her birth name was Fáṭimih Sulṭán.

Bahá'u'lláh would later give her the name Bahíyyih Khánum—the feminine version of “Bahá” or “Glory, Bahá'u'lláh’s own name—and we would all come to know her best as “Varaqiy-i-'Ulyá” or “The Greatest Holy Leaf.”

Bahíyyih Khánum’s father, Mírzá Ḥusayn ‘Alí, was born in Ṭihrán on 12 November 1817, at the hour of dawn. His parents were Mírzá Buzurg, Vazir-i-Nuri, and his wife Khadíjih Khánum. He would later be known as Bahá'u'lláh.

from His earliest childhood, Bahá'u'lláh distinguished Himself among His relatives and friends. He was far advanced, well beyond His years in His knowledge, wisdom and intelligence, and He felt powerful divine forces from His early childhood.

As a teenager, Bahá'u'lláh did not attend school. He already had the innate capacity of solving the most arduous problems of all those who came to see Him, and so He never received a formal education.

Bahá'u'lláh spent His youth between Ṭihrán, and Takúr, his family’s village in their ancestral province of Núr.

In October 1835, when He was 17 years old, Bahá'u'lláh married Ásíyih Khánum, from the village of Yalrúd, a neighboring town to His home village of Takúr.

Bahá'u'lláh and Ásíyih Khánum were married for 9 years during which they lost two baby boys. Their third child, born in 1844, they named ‘Abbás, and He would later be known around the world as 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Two years later, in 1846, their daughter Bahíyyih Khánum was born.

Two months after the birth of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh received the message of the Báb and He became a Bábí upon reading the first words of a Tablet the Báb had addressed to Him.

Bahíyyih Khánum’s mother, Ásíyih Khánum,

Ásíyih Khánum was a tall, slender, graceful young woman, exception among her peers. She was remarkably wise and intelligent and had the bearing and loveliness of a queen.

Her character was extraordinary, and wherever she went, her presence created a penetrating atmosphere of love, happiness, and gentle courtesy. She was full of consideration for everyone, gentle, remarkably unselfish, and displayed in her every act the loving-kindness of her pure heart. 

Ásíyih Khánum possessed a lofty station in the history of religion. She was the manifestation of a 2,500-year old Biblical prophecy in the Book of Isaiah Chapter 54 verses 2 to 5 which speak about Ásíyih Khánum and her marriage to Bahá'u'lláh:

Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited...For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

On the night of 23 May 1844, hours after the Declaration of the Báb had begun and the Báb was revealing the first chapter of the Qayyúmu'l-Asmá' to Mullá Ḥusayn, a boy named ‘Abbás was born to Bahá'u'lláh and Ásíyih Khánum, He was their third boy, and the first of their children who would live to adulthood.

He would be known as 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

'Abdu'l-Bahá was two years older than His sister Bahíyyih Khánum, and He, like His sister, spent His first years in a loving and caring environment of privilege and wealth.

Both the childhood of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Bahíyyih Khánum would be marked by the most important event in their father’s life: His conversation from Shí’ah Islam to the Bábí Faith, and His complete and full acceptance of the message and claims of the Báb.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, like His father, would spend His childhood never formally schooled between the capital city of Persia, Ṭihrán, and the idyllic, gorgeous mountain region of Mázindarán.

'Abdu'l-Bahá would receive His education from His family and most particularly His father. He has a happy and carefree early childhood, and was very close to His younger siblings.

In 1945, one year after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Ásíyih Khánum gave birth to another son, ‘Alí Muḥammad. Little is known about ‘Alí Muḥammad except for the fact that he passed away at the age of 7 in 1852. He was one year older than Bahíyyih Khánum.

In 1848, two years after her birth, Bahíyyih Khánum’s younger brother, Mírzá Mihdí was born in Ṭihrán, in the same house where 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Bahíyyih Khánum were born.

He was a deeply sweet and gentle soul, known to all as “the Purest Branch” and he was born during one of the most tumultuous period in Bábí history. He was a very gentle and sweet soul, and by the time his family left Persia for their first exile, he was only four years old.

Bahíyyih Khánum was born into a family of great wealth, prestige and renown.

Both Bahíyyih Khánum’s parents were from prominent families in the district of Núr in the norther Persian region of Mázindarán.

Bahíyyih Khánum’s paternal grandfather, was Mírzá Buzurg who was a famous calligrapher and served as a Minister to Imám-Virdi Mírzá, the twelfth son of the Persian Qajar King, Fatḥ ‘Alí Sháh. Mírzá Burzurg was later appointed governor of the Persian provinces of Borujird and Lorestan.

Bahíyyih Khánum’s maternal grandfather, was Mírzá Ismá‘íl-i-Yálrúdí, an aristocrat and minister in the Qajar court in the village of Yalrud in Mázindarán.

Through her father Bahá'u'lláh, Bahíyyih Khánum was the descendent of two Manifestations of God: Zoroaster and Abraham and David the King of Judah in 1,000 BC,

Bahíyyih Khánum was of distinguished royal Persian blood, a descendent of Yazdigird III, the last king of the Sásáníyán royal dynasty which ruled Persia from the third to the seventh centuries.

Bahíyyih Khánum, aristocratic and kingly ancestry destined her for spiritual greatness.

Her selfless life of devoted service would defy human understanding.

Bahíyyih Khánum was born in a Bábí family.

She was four years old when the Báb was martyred in Tabríz. She lived through the entire ministry of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and the first 11 years of the ministry of Shoghi Effendi.

In this sense, Bahíyyih Khánum provides a direct link between the three Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith and the Guardian, and between the Heroic and Formative ages of the Faith.

Bahíyyih Khánum’s father Bahá'u'lláh was the Supreme Manifestation of God heralded by all previous Manifestations. He received the Revelation from God in the Síyáh-Chál when she was 6 years old and declared His mission in Baghdad when she was 16.

She shared in Bahá'u'lláh’s, 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s, and Shoghi Effendi’s sufferings, served them all faithfully and firmly, and won the crown bestowed on her as the outstanding heroine of the Bahá'í Dispensation.

In Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, Baharieh Maani compiles the statements of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá regarding Bahíyyih Khánum’s station:

Bahá'u'lláh has testified that she appeared in His name, a reference to the fact that of all the members of His family, His eldest daughter was named “Bahíyyih” the feminine form of Bahá. He also refers to her as the “Leaf that hath sprung” from the “Pre-existent Root”, and the “fragrance' of His 'shining robe.”

'Abdu'l-Bahá has addressed Bahíyyih Khánum as “My well-beloved, deeply spiritual sister,” “dear sister, beloved of my heart and soul,” “my honoured and distinguished sister,” “my affectionate sister,” “my sister and beloved of my soul,” “my cherished sister,” “my sister in the spirit, and the companion of my heart,” “Greatest and Most Merciful Holy Leaf.”

According to Shoghi Effendi, Bahíyyih Khánum was:

next to 'Abdu'l-Baha, among the members of the Holy Family, as the brightest embodiment of that love which is born of God and of that human sympathy which few mortals are capable of evincing.

The Guardian describes the Greatest Holy Leaf’s station in these terms:

The people of the Concourse on High seek the fragrance of thy presence, and the dwellers in the retreats of eternity circle about thee.

Shoghi Effendi also refers to Bahíyyih Khánum as:

That sacred treasure, that jewel of Heaven, was the very sign and token of spiritual attributes and qualities and perfections, the very model of high honour and nobility and heavenly ways.

And the Guardian describes the Greatest Holy Leaf in his writings as "the Most Exalted, the pure, the holy, the immaculate, the brightly shining Leaf,” "the Remnant of Baba,” "His trust,” the "eternal fruit," and "the one last remembrance of the Holy Tree,” "that rich mine of faithfulness,” that Orb of the heaven of eternal glory,” "torch of tender love", "source of grace and mercy,” "symbol of bounty and generosity,” "day-spring of detachment in this world of being,” "trust left by Bahá among His people,” "remnant left by Him among His servants,” "sweet scent of His garment,” "that quintessence of love and purity within the towering pavilions of eternity,” "this heavenly being," "never failing spring of grace," "essence of loving-kindness,” "that Leaf of the eternal Lote-Tree,” "that rare treasure of the Lord,” a "trusted supporter of the peerless Branch of Bahá'u'lláh, and a companion to Him beyond compare,” "His competent deputy,” "His representative and vicegerent, with none to equal her", "Liege Lady of the people of Bahá,” "that most resplendent Leaf,” "that archetype of the people of Bahá."

That is who Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf is.

That is the peerless station she occupies in the history of religion and in the Bahá'í Faith.

Bahíyyih Khánum’s earliest childhood were filled with peaceful happy memories of her beloved parents and her brothers, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, older than her by two years and ‘Alí-Muḥammad, one year older than her.

Bahíyyih Khánum remembered her mother, Ásíyih Khánum, as “queenly in her dignity and loveliness, full of consideration for everybody, gentle, of a marvelous unselfishness.” Ásíyih Khánum was full of loving-kindness, and she brought with her, wherever she went, an atmosphere of love, happiness, and gentle courtesy.

Both Bahá'u'lláh and Ásíyih Khánum stayed busy with their service to the disenfranchised in Ṭihrán, and their home was always open to those in need. They were known as "The Father of the Poor" and "The Mother of Consolation."

One of the few memories of Bahíyyih Khánum’s childhood were the times when she and her family went to their country house in Mázindarán.

Bahíyyih Khánum and her brothers loved to play in the beautiful gardens, filled with wonderful fruit, flowers and flowering trees.

Bahíyyih Khánum, her older brothers 'Abdu'l-Bahá, born in 1844, and ‘Alí-Muḥammad, Born in 1845, and her younger brother Mírzá Mihdí—born in 1848—spent their early childhood in an environment of privilege, wealth and love between their homes in Takúr, Mázindarán, and Ṭihrán.

The defining character of their childhood was, of course, the fact that their father, Bahá'u'lláh, was a prominent Bábí.

As such, the children grew up in a deeply spiritual environment, where they witnessed the foremost heroes of the Bábí Dispensation visiting their homes: Ṭáhirih, Mullá Ḥusayn, Vaḥíd, and Sayyáḥ, the messenger of the Báb among many other eminent Bábís and Letters of the Living, not to mention their very own uncle and Bahá'u'lláh’s younger faithful brother, Mírzá Músá, who would have a very important role throughout their childhood, youth, and adulthood.

Soon after the martyrdom of the Báb, Mírzá Taqí Khán, the Prime Minister of Naṣiri'din Sháh who had ordered the execution of the Báb, asked Bahá'u'lláh to leave Persia for some time. Bahá'u'lláh travelled to Karbilá, in Iraq, where He stayed for 8 months.

During Bahá'u'lláh's stay in Karbilá, Ásíyih Khánum, and Bahá'u'lláh's four children: 'Abdu'l-Bahá, almost 8, 'Alí Muḥammad, around 6 and a half, Bahíyyih Khánum, 5 and Mírzá Mihdí, 2, lived in Núr, between Takúr, Bahá'u'lláh's ancestral home, and Yalrúd, Ásíyih Khánum's birthplace.

In early 1852, a tragedy struck Bahá'u'lláh’s family in Núr, when His second son 'Alí-Muḥammad died at the age of seven.

A few months later, in April 1852, Bahá'u'lláh returned to Persia.

When Bahíyyih Khánum was six years old, her life changed forever.

On 15 August 18523, three half-crazed Bábís, rendered mad by the martyrdom of the Báb two years earlier, decided to avenge Him by assassinating Naṣiri'd-Dín Sháh. They were armed with short daggers and pellet pistols, and only managed to inflict superficial wounds on the Sháh before they were stopped.

The reprisals began immediately.

Bahá'u'lláh—the most prominent Bábí in Persia—was arrested the next day, 16 August 1852, in the village of Zarkandih and brought to Ṭihrán barefoot and in chains. He was brutalized along the way, pelted with stones by the crowd, insulted, and ridiculed, and His headdress was snatched off His head.

Bahá'í was forced to walk towards the most infamous prison in the Persian Empire, the Síyáh-Chál (Dark Pit) a former water cistern converted into a terrifying dungeon, under the fierce summer sun, an estimated distance of about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles).

Ásíyih Khánum, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahíyyih Khánum, and Mírzá Mihdí, learned of Bahá'u'lláh’s imprisonment from Isfandíyár, the family’s African servant and a Bábí, who suddenly stormed into the house with terrifying news:

The master, the master (Bahá'u'lláh), He is arrested—I have seen Him! He has walked many miles! Oh, they have beaten Him! They say He has suffered the torture of the bastinado! His feet are bleeding! He has no shoes on! His turban has gone! His clothes are torn! There are chains upon His neck!

Ásíyih Khánum, devastated, grew paler and paler as the servant was speaking, and the children were so frightened, all they could do was weep bitterly.

Several things happened Immediately after the news that Bahá'u'lláh was arrested.

All of the Holy Family’s relatives and friends abandoned them.

All their servants fled the home, terrified. The only two servants left were Isfandíyár, and a woman.

The family’s palace and all the smaller houses surrounding it were stripped of all their treasures and furniture, stolen by the crowds.

Mírzá Músá, Bahá'u'lláh’s faithful younger brother, was always very kind to Ásíyih Khánum and the children and helped them escape into hiding.

Before they fled their home, Ásíyih Khánum was able to save a few of her marriage treasures. When she had married Bahá'u'lláh 17 years earlier, her very wealthy family’s dowry had taken 40 donkeys to transport to her new home. It had taken a jeweler six months to craft the wedding jewelry, and even the buttons of her garments were made of gold inlaid with jewels.

These buttons and other treasures would save the family’s life.

Ásíyih Khánum sold them and used the money to bribe the jailers, allowing her to bring safe food for Bahá'u'lláh to eat in the Síyáh-Chál, as well as defray the expenses of living in hiding.

'Abdu'l-Bahá would later say about this time in the family’s life:

In Ṭihrán, we possessed everything at a nightfall, and on the morrow we were shorn of it all, to the extent that we had no food to eat.

In the space of a single night, Bahá'u'lláh’s family had gone from being one of the wealthiest in Persia, to being utterly penniless and dispossessed

Ásíyih Khánum and Bahá'u'lláh had lived in a rented house near the Gate of Shimrán, the northern gate of the city of Ṭihrán since shortly after their wedding in October 1835. It was in this house that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahíyyih Khánum, and Mírzá Mihdí had been born, and the only home they had ever lived in, apart from visits to their family home in Takúr, in Mázindarán.

On 16 August 1852, Ásíyih Khánum grabbed her three children, aged 8, 6, and 4, and they ran for their life. Holding Mírzá Mihdí in her arms with 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Bahíyyih Khánum following close behind, Ásíyih Khánum hurried through from the north of the city to its center, a neighborhood they would not be recognized in, in a completely foreign part of the huge city.

They were rushing through unfamiliar streets and narrow, dusty lanes towards the general vicinity of the Síyáh-Chál, where Bahá'u'lláh was already being kept. At the time and even until several decades later, the people of this neighborhood were well-known for encouraging their children to persecute Bábís and throw stones at them, but nowhere was safe for Bábís, especially not the family of Bahá'u'lláh.

Ásíyih Khánum and the children passed through the central part of Ṭihrán where the palace of the Sháh and the government ministers’ mansions were located, and entered the covered bazar, dark even in the middle of the day, and they came emerged out onto a crowded and dangerous part of a road where people held religious meetings.

Once they passed that part of the road, they arrived into the Sangdaj neighborhood of Ṭihrán, where they were able to find a small place to shelter themselves.

Ásíyih Khánum, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahíyyih Khánum, and Mírzá Mihdí had just escaped death and crossed the capital city of the kingdom for hours on foot in broad daylight to safety.

Until the end of His life, 'Abdu'l-Bahá would recall the courage and presence of mind of His saintly mother, Ásíyih Khánum who had just saved the entire family of Bahá'u'lláh from certain death.

The family was now so poor that Ásíyih Khánum found herself unable to feed the children. At one point in their hiding, all Ásíyih Khánum could feed each child was a handful of raw flour in the palm of their little hands as a substitute for bread.

While His family struggled to stay alive and get information about Bahá'u'lláh’s health, He spent four months in a living hell, in conditions and surroundings so abject they defy human understanding.

Bahá'u'lláh had been thrown into Ṭihrán’s most infamous dungeon, the Síyáh-Chál (Black Pit), reserved for the worst criminals of Persia.

The Siyáh-Chál was located in the heart of Ṭihrán, a stone’s throw from the Sháh’s palace and adjacent to the marketplace which served for public executions.

Part of the reason the Síyáh-Chál was such a horrifying prison, famous for its humidity and pitch black, was that it had originally been built as an underground reservoir for one of Ṭihrán’s public baths. The Síyáh-Chál had only one entrance.

Inside, a single lightless corridor led to seven steep flights of stairs into the dungeon where prisoners were kept. Not a single ray of light filtered down to that hellish place, and the fever-stricken air was icy and humid, pervaded with a loathsome smell.

Bahá'u'lláh and the 40 Bábís imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál were in the cold, in the dark, ankle-deep with filth and crawling with vermin.

The conditions Bahá'u'lláh was kept in were worse than its poisonous, gloomy environment.

The Siyáh-Chál was already overcrowded with 150 prisoners when Bahá'u'lláh arrived, most with neither clothes nor bedding, an unlikely assortment of thieves, highway-robbers, murderers and Bábís.

Bahá'u'lláh had been used from childhood to the finest fabrics, silks, brocades and velvets, now replaced with two enormous iron chains, named Qará-Guhar (Black Pearl) and Salásil (Chain), each weighing more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) and infamous throughout Persia for their galling weight.

The chains were so heavy that they were supported by wooden forks, but any movement by Bahá'u'lláh and His 5 companions caused the chains to cut deeper and deeper, not only into their flesh, but into the flesh of all six who were chained together. This made sleep and rest impossible for them.

The prisoners had no food, and it was only with tremendous difficulty and by selling some of her dowry that Ásíyih Khánum managed to get any food delivered to Bahá'u'lláh in the hellish Síyáh-Chál.

Bahá'u'lláh would carry the marks of these chains on His blessed body for the rest of His life. His feet were placed in fetters locked together with strong, heavy bolts and screws, and He was chained to five other Bábís, 23 hours a day.

For four months, from August to December 1852, except for one hour a day in the yard, Bahá'u'lláh could not move.

When He first arrived, Bahá'u'lláh was denied food and drink for three days and three nights.

Later, the food He received had been poisoned by His enemies hoping to obtain the favor of the Sháh’s mother. Although He survived the poisoning, the tainted food affected Bahá'u'lláh’s health for years.

Every day, the jailers would enter the Síyáh-Chál and call out the name of a Bábí that was to be executed, and each day, the executioners would tell Bahá'u'lláh of their heroic and joyful martyrdom.

One youth had a premonitory dream about his martyrdom, which Bahá'u'lláh explained to him. When his time came to be executed, he had no shoes and Bahá'u'lláh gave him His. 

Bahá'u'lláh’s Revelation from God informing Him that He was a Manifestation of God occurred shortly after the Bábí holocaust which had nearly wiped the Faith of the Báb from the earth, eradicating 20,000 of Bahá'u'lláh’s fellow-believers.

The Bahá'í Revelation was ushered into the world over the course of 12 days from 16 to 27 October 18523.

This outpour of Revelation occurred in the gravest of all circumstances. Bahá'u'lláh was suffering through the second month of His third imprisonment. He was plunged in foul, icy darkness, and rendered nearly immobile by the weight of His chains.

At this most critical hour, the Most Great Spirit, personified by a Maid of Heaven descended upon, and revealed itself to the agonized soul of Bahá’u’lláh, bearing the most wondrous of messages: the birth of His Prophetic Mission as the Manifestation of God for today, “Him Who God shall make manifest,” the One promised by the Báb, and that He was the herald of the Bahá'í Revelation, ordained to last no less than 1,000 years, and the inception of a new Universal Cycle destined to extend over a period of at least 500,000 years.

It was while Bahá'u'lláh was engulfed in tribulations that He describes hearing “a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My head,” and beheld a Maiden, the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of God, suspended in the air before Him. T

he Maiden was so rejoiced in her very soul that her countenance shone with the good-pleasure of God and her cheeks glowed with His brightness.

Suspended between earth and heaven, the Maiden raised a call that captivated the hearts and minds of men, and imparted “to both My inward and outer being tidings which rejoiced My soul, and the souls of God’s honored servants.”

Even though the Greatest Holy Leaf was only 6 years old, she was fully aware not only of the perilous conditions in which she and her family were living, but also the mortal danger in which Bahá'u'lláh and every single person in Ṭihrán accused of being a Bábí was in.

All Bábís were accused of being infidels and apostates to Islám and they were all being mercilessly hunted down in retribution for the botched attempt on the life of the Sháh.

Bahíyyih Khánum and her family lived very close to the Síyáh-Chál and the marketplace that was used as a place of execution.

At the time in Persia, when religious fanaticism swept through the land, exciting the entire population, it was the national custom to not condemn people whom they considered infidels, like the Bábís, to death in an official manner.

The state divested itself of the responsibility to put these infidels to death itself, through the dark offices of the State executioner. What they did instead, was hand the people they had branded as infidels to the Persian people to deal with them as they saw fit.

Every morning, one or more Bábís were taken out of the Síyáh-Chál and tortured and killed in a variety of horrific ways, and the people of Ṭihrán were given free rein to inflict on these pour souls any barbaric method of torture they wanted.

Bahíyyih Khánum explained that the various classes of merchants in Ṭihrán each had their own method of torture: the butchers had their style of torture, the bakers tortured and killed the infidels in their own specific way, the shoe cobblers had their preferred tortures, and the blacksmiths had devised their own barbaric ways to make the Bábís suffer.

Everyone, butchers, bakers, shoe cobblers, blacksmiths and others, were given absolute free rein to torture and kill Bábís during the Bábí holocaust in the summer of 1852 by the Persian government itself.

The mob was whipped up into a frenzy by the joyful chants of the crowd and the loud beating of drums, and these torturers and murderers, and the frantic bloodthirsty populace watching them were completely fanatical.

The Bábís were unaffected.

They were stoic, heroic and quiet, and that made the Muslim population and their executioners more and more furious because their methods of torture and execution never quelled the extraordinary spirit animating the Bábí victims.

The Bábís did not flinch, instead, they chanted prayers, they begged God to forgive their tormentors, and they praised God until they could no longer draw breath.

For the next nearly 8 decades of her life, Bahíyyih Khánum would never forget the traumatizing sound of these horrific events, and the pervading anxiety that filled her life during the months of her Father’s imprisonment.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahíyyih Khánum, and Mírzá Mihdí hung to their mother, not knowing if that day’s victim of torture and execution amidst the sounds of the mob were their adored Father and Husband.

The radiant spirits of the imprisoned Bábís, while all this was taking place, were soaring, and never flagged, even for a moment. They desired, more than anything, the crown of martyrdom, they were completely unafraid of torture, and they chanted prayers night and day.

Ásíyih Khánum was desperate to obtain any news about her beloved Husband, and, in the company of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, she would leave their apartment late at night or very early in the morning on her quest for any information.

Ásíyih Khánum defied mortal danger to go out every day in search for information about Bahá'u'lláh, because at the time in Ṭihrán, Bábí women and children were not spared the same fate as the men.

During those dark hours, Bahíyyih Khánum cowered in the dark, holding her four-year-old little brother Mírzá Mihdí, shivering with terror, and waiting, unbearable hour after unbearable hour, for her mother to return, and learn what information she had been able to gather.

As soon as Ásíyih Khánum would return, Mírzá Músá would join the family to find out what she had been able to learn.

Bahá'u'lláh mercifully avoided a death sentence thanks in large part to the intercession of the Russian Consul, Prince Dolgorukov.

SOURCES FOR PART I

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