It is reported from Shaykh Bahā’ī: I was blessed with the opportunity to visit the city of Najaf and I had hoped to see the great scholar (Ardabīlī) before he would come to see me. I entered his residence and came to a room which just had a simple mat for a carpet and a number of books were there as well. I sat down and took a few books to look through while I waited. All of a sudden a person entered and greeted me and then sat at the end of the room. I responded to his greeting and assumed it must have been a servant of Ardabīlī’s. An hour passed and it crossed my mind that God forbid the person who had come in might very well be Ardabīlī himself, so I asked him his name to which he replied, Ahmad. I immediately got up, went over to him, took his hand and apologised (for not earlier addressing him), since I hadn’t seen him before I didn’t recognise him. Ardabīlī (then sat where at the front of the room where he would normally sit) and responded: “Why are you apologising? I greeted you and you in turn responded kindly. I then noticed you were reading these religious books and this was more beloved to God then to have a mere conversation with me.” After this we engaged in an extensive discussion.
Towards the end Ardabīlī got up and went back to sit at the place at the end of the room that he was sitting in before. I asked him the reason for this and he said the verse of the Qur’an had come to his mind, and trying to avoid any form of ostentation, he preferred to sit on the floor just like before I recognised him.
It is narrated that Shaykh Bahā’ī and Shāh Abbās both visited Najaf and in the presence of the Shāh a debate took place between Shaykh Bahā’ī and Muqqadas Ardabīlī. During this discussion, despite the fact that the truth was with Ardabīlī, Ardabīlī admitted the truth was actually in favour of Shaykh Bahā’ī. Ardabīlī didn’t try to show his superiority over Shaykh Bahā’ī in front of Shāh Abbas, and in this manner the discussion came to an end in favour of Shaykh Bahā’ī. The following day, Ardabīlī encountered Shaykh Bahā’ī in one of the streets and said to him: “The discussion you mentioned last night, for this reason and for that reason it was actually incorrect and for this and that reason what I mentioned was the correct view.”
Shaykh Bahā’ī responded: “Why didn’t you mention this last night (during the debate) then?!” to which Ardabīlī replied: “I was perfectly able to mention it last night but because you are the Shaykh al-Islām of Iran and highly respected by the Shāh, if I had said anything you would have been belittled in his eyes and this would have been detrimental to Islām.” 
1 – Surah Qasas, verse 83
2 – Translated from hawzah.net
3 – Badī’ al-Hikmah by Ayatollah Mujtahidī Tehrānī, p. 57
Sadiq Meghjee is a frequent contributor to Iqra Online and has been studying in the seminary of Qom for 6 years. Prior to entering the seminary he pursued an accounting qualification and worked in London. His field of interest is intellectual history.