Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl: a true seeker


In his series The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Adib Taherzadeh shares with us this little vignette from the life of Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl:

Noticing the long beard and large turban of Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl — indications of his vast knowledge – the blacksmith Ustád Husayn-i-Na’l-Band…said, ‘Is it true that in the Traditions of Shí’ah Islam it is stated that each drop of rain is accompanied by an angel from heaven? And that this angel brings down the rain to the ground?’ ‘This is true,’ Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl responded….‘Is it true’, the blacksmith asked, ‘that if there is a dog in a house no angel will ever visit that house?’ Before thinking of the connection between the two questions, Mirza Abu’l-Fadl responded in the affirmative. ‘In that case’, commented the blacksmith, ‘no rain should ever fall in a house where a dog is kept.’ Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl…was now confounded by an illiterate blacksmith.  His rage knew no bounds, and his companions noticed that he was filled with shame. They whispered to him, ‘This blacksmith is a Bahá’í!’[1]

A few months later Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl, 1844-1914, son of a prominent religious leader, head of a religious college, respected scholar, prolific author, himself became a Bahá’í.[2]

To me, the account is remarkable for its show of humility.  Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl did not grow defensive, did not argue, did not grope for a justification that allowed him to save face.  He became visibly ashamed, openly acknowledging the flaws he found in his own thinking.  In his anguish he showed forth independence of thought, detachment from pride and preconceived notions, a desire to pursue truth over his own reputation.  He did as Bahá’u’lláh counsels in the Kitáb-i-Íqán:

When a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading to the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse and purify his heart…from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge…. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory….[3]

As soon as Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl became a Bahá’í, he began openly and actively sharing his new faith with others, although it brought upon him hardships like losing a comfortable position teaching at a college and numerous arrests.  Like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and at his instruction, Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl travelled as far as the United States to help the Bahá’ís there deepen their knowledge and understanding of the Faith and grow united.  He did not act as those scholars whose contributions to society merely, as Bahá’u’lláh says, “begin with words and end with words.”[4]  Instead he exemplified the guidance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a talk during his travels in the West:

We cannot bring love and unity to pass merely by talking of it. Knowledge is not enough. Wealth, science, education are good, we know: but we must also work and study to bring to maturity the fruit of knowledge.[5]

What contributions to society could be made if our scholars, our leaders—if all of us, like Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl, exhibited the humility to embrace new truths, even at the expense of painfully rebuilding our frameworks for understanding reality?  What progress could be achieved if we all showed forth the detachment to renounce material comforts that did not fall in line with our discoveries?

[1] Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v. 3, p.91.

[2] Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v. 3, p.91; Momen, Moojan.  “Gulpáygání, Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl”.

[3] Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 191; Momen, Moojan.  “Gulpáygání, Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl”.

[4] Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p.19.

[5] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p.54.

Photograph: Mirza Abu’l-Fadl Wikimedia


  • Very balanced article ~~~ wish that all so called erudite scholars could read this account and reflect upon this humble example of a man who was confronted with a new truth, though it was at the highest level of position in society.

  • should have said though “he’ instead of it….