In one of the most successful Web Talks the Wilmette Institute has offered, Shahrokh Monjazeb spoke on January 14 about the first stage of Bahá’u’lláh’s three-part revelation of His mission in a talk entitled “Veiled and Concealed in the Hidden Habitation of His Inner Being: The Birth of the New Revelation in the Síyáh-Chál.”
Monjazeb began by explaining that most Bahá’ís have an incomplete understanding of Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration of His mission, partly because Bahá’ís are only called upon to celebrate one stage—His declaration in the Garden of Ridván. However, His declaration came in stages (just as there were stages of revelation in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bábí Faith). For Bahá’u’lláh, the three stages include (1) His hidden declaration in the Síyáh-Chál, (2) His “private, open declaration” in the Garden of Ridván, and (3) His open, public declaration to the kings and rulers in 1866, in other tablets over a number of years, and in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
In his talk, Monjazeb concentrated on the first declaration (though in his webinar From Concealment to Glorious Splendor: The Three Stages of Baháu’lláh’s Declaration, which started on January 15, he is discussing all three stages). That first declaration, Monjazeb described as “very mystical, very secretive, and elusive.” To put Bahá’u’lláh’s first declaration into perspective, Monjazeb referred to Shoghi Effendi’s analysis of Bahá’ul’lláh’s life in God Passes By (107): (1) His twenty-seven years from His birth in 1817 to May 22, 1844, or two or three months later, when the Báb made His declaration; (2) His active discipleship from 1844 until mid-August 1852 when He was thrown into the Síyáh-Chál after being falsely accused of an attempt on the life of the Shah; (3) His four months in the Síyáh-Chál, from mid-August 1852 until mid-December 1852; and His release from the Síyáh-Chál in 1852 until His death on May 29, 1892.
Monjazeb discussed the fact that the term “hidden declaration” for Bahá’u’lláh’s first revelation of His mission is an oxymoron and contradictory. It was a “mystical declaration, nonverbal”; it created commotion in the spiritual world; it was a “muted event.” But it was very significant, coming as it did in 1852. Since the beginning of the Bahá’í era, only two years have been designated Holy Years. One was 1952–53, the centenary of the birth of the Bahá’í revelation, which Shoghi Effendi asked the Bahá’ís to celebrate. The second Holy Year was 1992–93, the centenary of the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, which the Universal House of Justice asked the Bahá’ís to commemorate.
The circumstances of Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment, Monjazeb explained, were very grim. The Báb’s cause was on the brink of extinction. Bahá’u’llah Himself was arrested “as an accomplice in the attempt on the life of the Shah.” He was interrogated for three days at the Shah’s encampment. Then He was dragged in bare feet in summer heat some three miles to Tehran. The Síyáh-Chál into which He was thrown was a former cistern for a bath house; it was damp, dirty, and lacked any light. Bahá’u’lláh’s thumbs were tied together behind His back. His shoulders bore extremely heavy chains that bowed His neck to the floor and necessitated a wooden stick to hold up His chin.
At the mid-point of Bahá’u’lláh’s incarceration, Monjazeb continued, His first intimation of His mission began on October 11. In a tablet He revealed in the Acre period, Bahá’u’lláh says that the revelation continued for twelve days, ending on October 28. (Monjazeb conjectures that the twelve days Bahá’u’lláh stayed in the Garden of Ridván might commemorate the twelve days of revelation in the Síyah-Chál, for He was under no restrictions and could have stayed a shorter amount of time or longer.)
Monjazeb then spoke again about the darkness of the prison, the pain associated with Bahá’u’llah’s thumbs being tied behind his back, and the muted nature of His first intimation of His revelation. A decade and a half later Bahá’u’lláh wrote about the “Most Great Spirit” appearing to Him and announcing His station to the rest of the world. He also wrote about the “Maid of Heaven” appearing to Him, which is the spirit of the Báb announcing to Bahá’u’lláh’s His mission.
Monjazeb took care to note that Bahá’u’lláh was a Manifestation from the moment of His birth. On that day in the Síyáh-Chál He was “invested” with His mission.
During the second week of December 1852 Bahá’u’lláh was released from prison for noncomplicity in the attempt on the life of the Shah. His family, according to His daughter Bahíyyih Khánum, noticed a change in Him. But for a decade, until 1863, Bahá’u’lláh did not divulge his revelation to anyone.
Shoghi Effendi, Monjazeb noted, closes his chapter on “The Birth of the Bahá’í Revelation” with indirect references (God Passes By 103) to the three stages of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation:
The rim of that Orb had now appeared above the horizon of the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán. Its rays were to burst forth, a decade later, in Baghdád, piercing the clouds which immediately after its rise in those somber surroundings obscured its splendor. It was destined to mount to its zenith in the far-away city of Adrianople, and ultimately to set in the immediate vicinity of the fortress-town of ‘Akká.
It is very difficult to capture the depth of the wisdom and knowledge that Monjazeb brought to his talk on the first of Bahá’u’lláh’s three revelations of His mission, and thus we highly recommend that you listen to the Web Talk, which has now been uploaded to the Wilmette Institute’s YouTube channel. It is a testament to Monjazeb’s skill in imparting knowledge that some seventy-three learners of the eighty-six who signed up for the talk stayed until almost the very end of the question-and-answer session. After the Web Talk ended, ten learners registered for Monjazeb’s course so that they could watch the remaining five talks in the webinar.
One listener praised Monjazeb this way:
Shahrokh has an ability to go deep into the tablets in ways very few people can. He knows the languages; he has read hundreds of tablets in Arabic and Persian that are unavailable in English; and he knows all the names, so if Shoghi Effendi mentions someone three times in God Passes By, I would never notice, but Shahrokh notices, puts that information in context, and puts all the pieces together. He is also absolutely amazing that way and utterly and completely faithful to the Covenant. So his sincerity comes across.
Shahrokh Monjazeb is a scholar of Bahá’í history and sacred scripture. For over two decades he has been involved with the work of translating into English the writings of the Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith. He is a published author and lecturer the writings and presentations of whom focus on Bahá’í sacred text and their literary and historical significance in the context of socio-spiritual condition of human society. Monjazeb has been a regular presenter at the annual conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies since 1991 and is the author of a monograph on Bahá’u’lláh entitled Bahá’u’lláh: A Brief Survey of His Life & Works. He currently assists the Bahá’í World Center, in limited capacity, with the translation of Bahá’u’lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s writings from their original Persian and Arabic into English.
In November (November 22–January 17, 2017), Monjazeb will be offering another webinar entitled The Epistle of Kings: A Comprehensive Study of Súriy-i-Mulúk, Baha’u’llah’s First Proclamatory Tablet To the Kings of the Nineteenth Century. You can read more and register here.