Tahirih

“Solace of the Eyes” (Qurratu’l-‘Ayn)

Tahirih (“The Pure One”), as she was known after the conference of Badasht.

Tahirih had caught fire. She set out for Karbila, hoping to meet Siyyid Kazim, but she arrived late: ten days before she reached that city,  he passed away. Not long before his death the Siyyid had shared with his disciples the good news that the promised Advent was at hand. “Go forth,” he repeatedly told them, “and seek out your Lord.” Thus the most distinguished of his followers gathered for retirement and prayer, for fasts and vigils, in the Masjid-i-Kufih, while some awaited the Advent in Karbila. Among these was Tahirih, fasting by day, practicing religious disciplines, and spending the night in vigils, and chanting prayers. One night when it was getting along toward dawn she laid her head on her pillow, lost all awareness of this earthly life, and dreamed a dream; in her vision a youth, a Siyyid, wearing a black cloak and a green turban, appeared to her in the heavens; he was standing in the air, reciting verses and praying with his hands upraised. At once, she memorized one of those verses, and wrote it down in her notebook when she awoke. After the Báb had declared His mission, and His first book, “The Best of Stories,”[1] was circulated, Tahirih was reading a section of the text one day, and she came upon that same verse, which she had noted down from the dream. Instantly offering thanks, she fell to her knees and bowed her forehead to the ground, convinced that the Báb’s message was truth.

[1The “Ahsanu’l-Qisas,” the Báb’s commentary on the Surih of Joseph, was called the Qur’án of the Bábís, and was translated from Arabic into Persian by Tahirih. Cf. God Passes By, p. 23.]

This good news reached her in Karbila and she at once began to teach. She translated and expounded “The Best of Stories,” also writing in Persian and Arabic, composing odes and lyrics, and humbly practicing her devotions, performing even those that were optional and supernumerary. When the evil ulamas in Karbila got wind of all this, and learned that a woman was summoning the people to a new religion and had already influenced a considerable number, they went to the Governor and lodged a complaint. Their charges, to be brief, led to violent attacks on Tahirih, and sufferings, which she accepted and for which she offered praise and thanks. When the authorities came hunting for her they first assaulted Shamsu’d-Duha, mistaking her for Tahirih. As soon, however, as they heard that Tahirih had been arrested they let Shams go — for Tahirih had sent a message to the Governor saying, “I am at your disposal. Do not harm any other.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 193)

Tahirih was the only woman enrolled as a Letter of the Living by the Bab. She later wished to join the defenders at Tabarsi but was prevented and soon after she was brutally martyred in the garden of Ilkhani.

If I see you, face to face, eye to eye

I will tell you of my sadness, point by point, item by item

Like the east wind I search for you

In the streets, door to door, house to house

For your sweet lips, your gentile features

Your fragrance, blossom to blossom, flower to flower

Separated from you my heart bleeds through both eyes

To the sea, spring to spring, river to river

Love for you has woven this afflicted heart

To the stuff of life

Strand to strand, thread to thread

Qurratu’l-‘Ayn