The source of the Bāb and Bahā’u’llāh’s Knowledge

Baha’is believe that the Bab, Bahā’u’llāh, and `Abdu’l-Bahā were divinely inspired and received knowledge directly from God. For instance this is how Bahā’u’llāh claims he received divine knowledge:

“Whenever We desire to quote the sayings of the learned and of the wise, presently there will appear before the face of thy Lord in the form of a tablet all that which hath appeared in the world and is revealed in the Holy Books and Scriptures.”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Tablets of Bahā’u’llāh Revealed After the Kitāb-i-Aqdas, p. 149.

The Bāb’s Education

One day I was in the Khāl’s (the Bāb’s uncle) house when I saw that his highness (the Bāb) returned from school while he was holding some papers. I asked him, “What are these?” He replied with a weak whisper, “These are my homework (or calligraphy practices).”

Reference: Mīrzā Abu l-Faḍl Gulpāygānī and Mirza Mihdī Gulpāygānī, Kashf al-ghitā’ (Tashkent, 1919), pp. 56–57.

Esslemont too admits that the Bāb had received education at school:

“In childhood He learned to read, and received the elementary education customary for children.”

Reference: J. E. Esslemont, Bahā’u’llāh and the New Era, p. 13.

He then continues in the footnote:

On this point a historian remarks: “The belief of many people in the East, especially the believers in the Bāb (now Baha’is) was this: that the Bāb received no education, but that the Mullās, in order to lower him in the eyes of the people, declared that such knowledge and wisdom as he possessed were accounted for by the education he had received. After deep search into the truth of this matter we have found evidence to show that in childhood for a short time he used to go to the house of Shaykh Muḥammad (also known as Abid) where he was taught to read and write in Persian. It was this to which the Bāb referred when he wrote in the book of Bayān: ‘O Muḥammad, O my teacher! . . . ’”

Nabīl Zarandī claims that the Bāb studied at school for five years:

The Bāb was six or seven years of age when He entered the school of Shaykh Abid. The school was known by the name of “Qahviyih-Awliya.” The Bāb remained five years at that school where He was taught the rudiments of Persian.

Reference: Nabīl Zarandī, The Dawn-Breakers: Nabīl’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahā’ī Revelation, p. 75 (footnote).

Bahā’u’llāh’s Education

`Abdu’l-Bahā admits that his father received education at home. We will allow Adib Taherzadeh, a member of the Universal House of Justice from 1988–2000, to tell us how Bahā’u’llāh was educated:

In Persia in the nineteenth century . . . There were two educated classes, divines and government officials, plus a small number of others . . . The second class included government officials, clerks and some merchants, who received a certain elementary education in their childhood. This consisted of reading, writing, calligraphy, the study of the Qur’ān and the works of some famous Persian poets. All this was usually accomplished within the span of a few years, after which many of them would marry, as was customary, in their late teens.
It was to this class that Bahā’u’llāh belonged. His father was a senior dignitary at the court of the Shāh and famous as a calligrapher–an art which carried with it great prestige in royal circles. Bahā’u’llāh as a child received a simple education for a brief period of time. Like His father, He excelled in calligraphy. Some specimens of His exquisite handwriting are kept in the International Bahā’ī Archives on Mount Carmel.

Reference: Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahā’u’llāh, vol. 1, pp. 18–19.

Adib Taherzadeh gives us further information elsewhere:

Bahā’u’llāh received an elementary education during His childhood in Tihran [sic]. The nobility of those days usually employed the services of a teacher at home to tutor their children. The main subjects were calligraphy, the study of the Qur’an and the works of the Persian poets. This type of schooling ended after only a few years when the child was in his early teens. Bahā’u’llāh’s education did not go further than this.

Reference: Adib Taherzadeh, The child of the covenant: A Study Guide to the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Baha (Oxford: George Ronald, 2000), p. 19.

According to these words, the reason Bahā’u’llāh didn’t go to school was because he was born in a noble family and it was customary in these families to not send their children to school. Rather they would employ a private teacher to teach their children. It is well known that the quality of teaching received from a private tutor usually far exceeds the education that one might attain in a public school.

The final witness to how Bahā’u’llāh was educated is someone who knew him from childhood and as `Abdu’l-Bahā claims, apparently reared him. This person is no one but his sister, Khānum Buzurg (also known as Shāh Sultan Khānum and `Izziye Khānum). Although she became a follower of Mīrzā Yahyā, nonetheless, she was held with high esteem and was greatly respected by `Abdu’l-Bahā. The bond between `Abdu’l-Bahā and his aunt was so strong that `Abdu’l-Bahā used these words to address her:

Do you not remember that during my childhood and infancy what devotion I had to you, and now, for the sake of the Blessed Dust (Turbat Mubāraki) and the Encircling Place of the Most High Ones (Maṭāf Mala’ A`lā), I still have the utmost love (for you).

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb (Egypt), vol. 2, p. 180.

O intelligent aunt! I swear by the Encircling Place of the Most High Ones that in intelligence, cognition, reason, and understanding you have distinction and superiority over those who claim they are the pole/axis of the Merciful (Lord’s) world. The child that you had nurtured in your lap of love and affection had no similarity with his other brothers in any aspect and he wouldn’t accept any position.

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb (Egypt), vol. 2, p. 183.

These words show that Khānum Buzurg had very close ties to Bahā’u’llāh and `Abdu’l-Bahā until they split up over the Bab’s successorship.

The words also clearly show that Khānum Buzurg possessed a very high degree of intelligence. Furthermore, the child that `Abdu’l-Bahā is referring to who she had nurtured, is most probably Bahā’u’llāh himself because he is the one that “wouldn’t accept any positions.” These statement show that the Aunt knew a fair amount about the internal affairs of Bahā’u’llāh and how he had been schooled.

There are at least five tablets from `Abdu’l-Bahā that have been addressed to her in a bid to persuade her to become a follower of Bahā’u’llāh. In the longest tablet, `Abdu’l-Bahā refers to her as kind (mihrabān), pure (ṭayyiba), honored (mukrama). It is in this tablet that he asks her to “awaken those who are asleep.” In a response to this request, she sends him a letter with the title Ṭanbīh al-na’imīn (Awakening the asleep) to refute his claims.

Please find the references below:

  1. `Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb (Egypt), vol. 2, pp. 162–186.
  2. `Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb (Egypt), vol. 2, pp. 170–186.
  3.  `Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb (Egypt), vol. 2, p. 172.
  4.  This document is the only non-Baha’i source used in this book. The sections that we are citing from this document bear very close resemblance to what we mentioned from Baha’i sources.

It is in this letter that she explains how Bahā’u’llāh—her brother—was tutored:

The Mirzā (meaning Bahā’u’llāh), who was your father, from the beginning of his life to when he came of age—because the means were at hand and because of the gathering of the companions—was engrossed in studying and endeavored in homework. He wouldn’t disengage from learning the rudiments for a moment. After studying the rudiments of Arabic and literature he inclined towards the science of philosophy (ḥikmat) and mysticism (`irfān) so that he might benefit from these. It was such that he would spend most of the day and night socializing with high statured philosophers and the gatherings of mystics and Sufis. When it was blown in Seraph’s Trumpet of Appearance (meaning when the Bāb made his claims), he (meaning Bahā’u’llāh) was a man who had seen most of the words and phrases of the mystics and philosophers and had heard and understood most of the signs of the appearance (of the Mahdi) . . . after returning from Badasht and after the Shaykh Ṭabarsī Fort war was over, he was engaged day and night in socializing with great Islamic scholars and followers of mysticism . . .

Reference: `Izziye Khānum (Khānum Buzurg), Tanbīh al-nā’imīn, pp. 4–5.

Both friend and foe, admit that Bahā’u’llāh received education and was engaged in studying and socializing with the scholars in his youth.

Courtesy: Twelve Principles – A Comprehensive Investigation on the Bahai Teachings

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