In the exercise of these acts of worship, his brother alone was associated with him, while his nephew, who attended to their daily needs, observed the fasts, and in his hours of leisure joined them in their devotions. Every time he approached him, he found him so wrapt in his devotions that he felt it impossible to venture a question.
He soon decided to retire, like him, for forty days from the society of men. All his companions followed his example with the exception of three who acted as their personal attendants. There, for the first time, he inhaled the fragrance of Him who, for years, had led in that city the life of a merchant and humble citizen.
He expressed the hope that, God willing, he would arrive in time to join them in their evening prayer. On that very day, a few hours before sunset, whilst walking outside the gate of the city, his eyes fell suddenly upon a Youth of radiant countenance, who wore a green turban and who, advancing towards him, greeted him with a smile of loving welcome.
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He extended to me a warm invitation to visit His home, and there refresh myself after the fatigues of my journey. I prayed to be excused, pleading that my 53 two companions had already arranged for my stay in that city, and were now awaiting my return. I was profoundly impressed by the gentle yet compelling manner in which that strange Youth spoke to me. As I followed Him, His gait, the charm of His voice, the dignity of His bearing, served to enhance my first impressions of this unexpected meeting. He knocked at the door, which was soon opened by an Ethiopian servant.
His invitation, uttered with power and majesty, penetrated my soul. Might not my visit to this house, I thought to myself, enable me to draw nearer to the Object of my quest? Might it not hasten the termination of a period of intense longing, of strenuous search, of increasing anxiety, which such a quest involves?
As I entered the house and followed my Host to His chamber, a feeling of unutterable joy invaded my being. Immediately 55 we were seated, He ordered a ewer of water to be brought, and bade me wash away from my hands and feet the stains of travel.
I pleaded permission to retire from His presence and perform my ablutions in an adjoining room. He refused to grant my request, and proceeded to pour the water over my hands. He then gave me to drink of a refreshing beverage, after which He asked for the samovar 5 and Himself prepared the tea which He offered me. It seems that His will has decreed otherwise. You need have no fear of having broken your pledge. He, too, stood beside me and prayed. Whilst praying, I unburdened my soul, which 56 was much oppressed, both by the mystery of this interview and the strain and stress of my search.
I testify that Thy word faileth not, and that Thy promise is sure. I have, accordingly, journeyed to Persia, have arisen to accomplish his will, and am still engaged in my quest.commomounma.tk
As to His age, He is more than twenty and less than thirty. He is endowed with innate knowledge. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking, and is free from bodily deficiency. Many and diverse are the requirements which He who claims to be its visible embodiment must needs fulfil. All my attainments are but a speck of dust in the face of the immensity of His knowledge. Nay, immeasurable is the difference! I bitterly reproved myself, and resolved at that very moment to alter my attitude and to soften my tone.
I shall truly be indebted to you for such deliverance.
THE APOSTOLIC AGE
He, that great One, who comes after me will, unasked, reveal it for you. That commentary will constitute one of the weightiest testimonies of His truth, and one of the clearest evidences of the loftiness of His position.
I pray you to overlook my weaknesses and failings. He opened the book, glanced at certain passages, closed it, and began to address me. Within a few minutes He had, with characteristic vigour and charm, unravelled all its mysteries and resolved all its problems. These truths, which I had never heard before, seemed to be endowed with refreshing vividness and power. The all-encompassing grace of God has saved you. It is for God to test His servants, and not for His servants to judge Him in accordance with their deficient standards.
Were I to fail to resolve your perplexities, could the Reality that shines within Me be regarded as powerless, or My knowledge be accused as faulty?
Nay, by the righteousness of God! Whoso hesitates will indeed be in grievous loss. Do not the peoples of the earth testify that the fundamental purpose of their creation is the knowledge and adoration of God? It behoves them to arise, as earnestly and spontaneously as you have arisen, and to seek with determination and constancy their promised Beloved. The overpowering effect of the manner in which He wrote was heightened by the gentle intonation of His voice which accompanied His writing.
Not for one moment did He interrupt the flow of the verses which streamed from His pen. I sat enraptured by the magic of His voice and the sweeping force of His revelation. At last I reluctantly arose from my seat and begged leave to depart. That same Ethiopian servant appeared again and spread before us the choicest food.
That holy repast refreshed alike my body and soul. In the presence of my Host, at that hour, I felt as though I were feeding upon the fruits of Paradise. I could not but marvel at the manners and the devoted attentions of that Ethiopian servant whose very life seemed to have been transformed by the regenerating influence of his Master. All the delights, all the ineffable glories, which the Almighty has recounted in His Book as the priceless possessions of the people of Paradise—these I seemed to be experiencing that night. And peace be upon His Messengers!
And praise be to God, the Lord of all beings! Eighteen souls must, in the beginning, spontaneously and of their own accord, accept Me and recognise the truth of My Revelation. Unwarned and uninvited, each of these must seek independently to find Me. And when their number is complete, one of them must needs be chosen to accompany Me on My pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. It is incumbent upon you not to divulge, either to your companions or to any other soul, that which you have seen and heard. I, too, will there join you in congregational prayer.
Beware lest your attitude towards Me betray the secret of your faith. Ere we depart, we shall appoint unto each of the eighteen souls his special mission, and shall send them forth to accomplish their task. We shall instruct them to teach the Word of God and to quicken the souls of men. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously!
Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanised my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!
Faithful to the directions of my newly found Beloved, I immediately set myself to carry out His wishes.
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As I began to organise my classes and perform my devotions, a vast concourse of people gathered gradually about me. Ecclesiastical dignitaries and officials of the city also came to visit me. They marvelled at the spirit which my lectures revealed, unaware that the Source 66 whence my knowledge flowed was none other than He whose advent they, for the most part, were eagerly awaiting. He would send at night-time that same Ethiopian servant to the masjid, bearing to me His most loving message of welcome.
Every time I visited Him, I spent the entire night in His presence. Wakeful until the dawn, I sat at His feet fascinated by the charm of His utterance and oblivious of the world and its cares and pursuits. How rapidly those precious hours flew by! At daybreak I reluctantly withdrew from His presence. How eagerly in those days I looked forward to the approach of the evening hour! With what feelings of sadness and regret I beheld the dawning of day! To each of them extend the utmost loving-kindness.
Leave them not to themselves, for they have dedicated their lives to the quest of their Beloved. Pray to God that He may graciously enable them to walk securely in that path which is finer than a hair and keener than a sword. Certain ones among them will be accounted, in the sight of God, as His chosen and favoured disciples.
As to others, they will tread the middle way. The fate of the rest will remain undeclared until the hour when all that is hidden shall be made manifest. I immediately set about to provide the means for their comfort. Obedient to your summons, we have forsaken our 67 homes and have gone forth in search of our promised Beloved.