Morteza grabbed him by the throat and squeezed him. Abolghasem’s face became red. “Morteza, stop!” He could hardly breathe. It was the fourth time Morteza had visited the Shrine of the Imam Reza in Mashhad. As in previous times, he had traveled all the way on foot. Morteza was seventeen and a devoted Muslim who yearned with all his heart to serve the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam. But as he was walking to that holy shrine, he heard someone whisper in his ear. The mysterious whisperer told him this: “You claim you are a faithful Muslim, Morteza, but you do not know the meaning of the word ‘Bábí’.”
Morteza was puzzled by what he heard, so when he returned to his city, he asked his uncle what the word ‘Bábí’ meant. Uncle Abolghasem told him the Bábís believe that the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam of Shia, has emerged. As a dogmatic Muslim, Morteza could not bear to hear these words. Like a wild animal who attacks his prey, Morteza grabbed his uncle by the throat and squeezed him hard. Abolghasem was gasping for air when Morteza finally released him. Afterwards, Morteza apologized for his violent reaction, and though it was late at night the two men decided to sit down and talk about the Bábí religion. Afterwards, Morteza lay awake, thinking about their conversation.
Morteza was a well-known merchant, and when he went to the bazaar the next day to open his shop, he asked all his fellow merchants to gather around him because he had news for them. The merchants expected that he would have some astounding news of his pilgrimage to Mashhad, but instead he made the following announcement: “The Mahdi has come! The Hidden Imam has emerged!” But the dogmatic people he addressed did not believe a word he said and one said to the others, “Poor Morteza, he must have lost his mind....”
Some months passed, and, gradually, people came to the conclusion that Morteza was not insane at all. His manner had changed since he had come to believe that Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Báb, was the One who had come to bring peace and justice to the world. Before long, people started persecuting Morteza, treating him cruelly and telling him he must renounce his religion. Eventually, the Muslims who were persecuting Morteza decided to kill him. When Morteza found this out, he fled the city and moved his family to Shiraz in order to protect them. Throughout his life, Morteza remained steadfast in his faith, and, no matter what he faced, he never renounced his religion.
Thanks to the divine approvals and my ancestor’s pure heart and courage, I was born into a Bahá’í family and I am always thankful for this. Every time I think of the story of my great-grandfather Morteza, I am inspired by how bravely he faced the persecution he endured because of his beliefs, and I am reminded of Bahá’u’lláh’s words, “A lover feareth nothing and no harm can come nigh him: Thou seest him chill in the fire and dry in the sea.” (The Seven Valleys).