…calamities have always been and will continue to be the lot of God’s chosen ones. Therefore, blessed is the one who is satisfied with and thankful for all that hath visited him. For nothing from God touches a person except what is best for him of all that hath been created between the heavens and the earth. Since people are unaware of this mystery and its secrets, they are saddened when calamity strikes. God willing, thou wilt be always seated upon the seat of assurance and nourished with the fruits of understanding. Verily, He is the best of all providers and protectors.1
As we contemplate and celebrate the Declaration of the Bab, I hope we can take a few moments to reflect how this mighty day, 171 years ago, not only altered the course of mankind’s history, but also simultaneously changed the life of one young, innocent bride forever.
The young bride was Khadijih Bagum, dearly beloved and cherished wife of The Bab, who paid the high price of enforced separation from Her Husband after a brief two years of marriage and endured forty years of suffering.
The Bab’s Declaration in Shiraz on the night of 22 May 1844, followed by His proclamation in Mecca that He was the promised Qaim, set in motion a chain of hostile reactions and severe persecution. These adverse repercussions would turn His life and that of His young wife’s from their relatively peaceful newly married life into one of terrible trials and ordeals leading ultimately to the martyrdom of the Bab.
Whenever Khadijih Bagum spoke of the days of her marriage and the enforced separation from her Husband, and related the sufferings of the Bab, grief would so overwhelm her as to deprive her, for a while, of the power of speech.2
Yet, while Khadijih Bagum’s life was marked with intense grief and suffering, she remained steadfast to the Covenant of God and single-mindedly unwavering in her devotion to Him. The glowing tributes recorded in historical records, the tender and loving letters from The Bab and Tablets written by Baha’u’llah to her all testify to her noble spirit and unflagging faithfulness.
O well-beloved! …Thou shalt not be a woman, like other women, if thou obeyest God in the Cause of Truth, the greatest Truth.3
And truly, Khadijih Bagum proved that she was indeed a woman like no other.
She was the first member of the Afnan family to recognise the station of the Bab
The wife of the Bab…perceived at the earliest dawn of His Revelation the glory and uniqueness of His Mission and felt from the very beginning the intensity of its force.4
Long before the Bab’s declaration to Mulla Husayn, Khadijih Bagum had through her close association and her observation of every aspect of His life, discovered her Husband’s extraordinary spiritual endowments.
One memorable night, sometime before the Bab declared His mission, Khadijih Bagum related the events that took place which confirmed her belief in Him.
…she saw the upper chamber of the House immersed in light. What was the source of all this light, and where had the lamps come from, she asked herself. But this was not tangible light; it was divine light, and she did not see it with her outward eyes but with her inner sight.
…There she saw that world-illuminating Sun and light-shedding Moon standing in the middle of the room with His hands raised heavenward. While her eyes were fixed upon the dazzling light emanating from His being, a feeling of awe and fright came over her. She wanted to return but was unable to move. Her awe grew to such intensity that she felt stupefied.5
The Bab would later say to her the next morning:
Know thou that the Almighty God is manifested in Me. I am the One whose advent the people of Islam have expected for over a thousand years. God has created Me for a great Cause, and you witnessed the divine revelation. Although I had not wished that you see Me in that state, yet God had so willed that there may not be any place in your heart for doubt and hesitation.6
Khadijih Bagum relates that as soon as she heard The Bab speak those words, she believed in Him. She prostrated herself before Him and her heart became calm and assured.
From that moment I lived only to serve Him, evanescent and self-effacing before Him, no thought of self ever intruding.7
Her capacity to bear great hardships
To her the Bab confided the secret of His future sufferings, and revealed before her eyes the significance of the events that were to unfold in His Day. Knowing how difficult the days and years ahead will be for His beloved, the Bab entrusted her with a special prayer written by Himself:
In the hour of your perplexity, recite this prayer ere you go to sleep. I Myself will appear to you and will banish your anxiety.8
Her instant recognition of the station of the Bab and Baha’u’llah
Khadijih Bagum did not only perceive the greatness and station of the Bab, she recognised the station of Baha’u’llah from the early days in Baghdad and remained one of His most devoted followers.9
I did not hesitate for a moment and my submission was instantaneous and total.10
Her devotion to the sufferings of others
Khadijih Bagum survived the Bab by 32 years. During those years, despite her own anguish and tribulations, she made it her personal mission to reach out and console other suffering souls who had sustained grave hardships in the Cause of the Faith. Despite grave dangers, she took in the women survivors and children from the second upheaval of Nayriz. These traumatised and grief-stricken souls were brought to Shiraz riding on camels and mules and paraded half-naked before the public. The deep care that she poured upon these women helped to bring some blessed relief to their suffering.11
Her continued teaching efforts
Khadijih Bagum took it upon herself to ensure that Cause of the Bab be passed on and shine brilliantly in the hearts of the members of His own family. At that time no one among the Afnan family had embraced the Faith. She chose to share the seed of this new faith to her 13 year old nephew Aqa Mirza Aqa. It is from the fruits of her effort that we owe the bulk of the information about Khadijih Bagum life as recorded by the son of Aqa Mirza Aqa and his wife. H.M. Balyuzi, the Hand of the Cause appointed by Shoghi Effendi was an Afnan, a descendant of the Bab’s family.
Her faith and rank in Baha’i history and in the Tablets of Baha’u’llah
Thou art she, who, before the creation of the world of being, found the fragrance of the garment of the Merciful.12
In the Kitab-i-Badi, Baha’u’llah confers to Khadijih Bagum the designation the Most Virtuous of All Women. In the same book, she is also referred to as “the most chaste”, “the remnant of God”, “the consort of God”.
No one except Tahirih, among the women of her generation, surpassed her in the spontaneous character of her devotion nor excelled the fervour of her faith.13
Khadijih Bagum is the only female member of the Bab’s family honoured with the station of a martyr14)
From a young, innocent bride to a pillar of strength for His Cause for forty years. Khadijih Bagum, dearly beloved wife of the Bab breathed and lived her entire being in honour of her Beloved Husband. Their life together in this world lasted but two brief years, when separation befell them. In the Bab’s own words during His journey to Mecca:
My sweet love…God is my witness that since the time of separation sorrow has been so intense that it cannot be described…
May we remember this Auspicious Day by never forgetting the high price that these blessed souls paid for mankind.
Photo: Courtesy Chris Combe via Flickr.
- From a Tablet written by Baha’u’llah to Khadijih Bagum (Provisional translation of a previously unpublished Tablet approved for the inclusion in Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees p.44 by Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani). [↩]
- H.M. Balyuzi, Khadijih Bagum [↩]
- The Bab, Suratul-Qaraba p.7 (as quoted by H.M Balyuzi, Khadijih Bagum pp.7-9). [↩]
- Nabil-i-Azam, The Dawn Breakers p. 191 [↩]
- Arbab, Akhtaran-i-Taban, vol 1, pp. 9-11 (as quoted by Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani, Twin Divine Trees p. 34). [↩]
- Ibid p. 35 [↩]
- H.M. Balyuzi, Khadijih Bagum [↩]
- Nabil-i-Azam, The Dawn Breakers p.143 [↩]
- Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, vol 2, p. 383 [↩]
- H.M.Balyuzi, Khadijih Bagum p. 31 [↩]
- Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani, Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, pp. 50-51 [↩]
- Baha’u’llah, H.M. Balyuzi, Khadijih Bagum p.14 [↩]
- Nabil-i-Azam, The Dawn Breakers, p. 191 [↩]
- Baha’u’llah singled her out for this very special privilege, as stated in a Tablet dated 1883 (as quoted by Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani, Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees p. 56 [↩]