In the name of God,
the Most Mighty, the Most High.
May my spirit be a sacrifice unto you!
Praise unto God, the Lord of the End and the Beginning, and salutations unto
those Who are the instruments of His bounty amongst people!
The incident of the slaying of the illustrious martyr, the late Haji
Muhammad-Rida - may my spirit be a sacrifice unto the dust of his resting-place
- in the city of 'Ishqabad and the just verdict rendered in the course of the
subsequent trial by the stalwart and glorious Russian Government - may God
prolong her sovereignty on the west, the east, the north and the south - is
deserving of a befitting mention in history and is a subject of discussion
among the friends in all the cities and regions. I, therefore, thought it was
imperative to write of these occurrences for the believers in Isfahan in order
that you may read these pages in the gatherings of the friends where all may
raise their supplicating voices in prayer so that the life, sovereignty, pomp
and glory of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III and the ministers of his
all-powerful nation may long endure. These events were particularly important
since the exalted Tablets that have been recently received make reference to
this issue in words, the gist of which are: In gratitude for the protection
which has always surrounded the Cause of the Lord of Creation, this
wronged-community must never forget the support and fair treatment it has
received from the glorious Government of Russia and should ceaselessly beseech
divine confirmations and blessings for her Emperor as well as her kind General
Indeed this was the first instance of justice and assistance that the world
afforded this community through the equity of this great Monarch and renowned
Czar, which bolted out the threat of inveterate enemies towards a handful of
meek who have no other champion save the exalted God.
It is astonishing to recall that the land of Kharazm, which contains
Turkmenistan, with 'Ishqabad situated within its boarders, was the same violent
realm where each year at least a thousands Iranian captives were put to the
sword and Shi'ih women and daughters were subject of untold atrocities. And
this was in addition to the multitudes [of the Iranian Shi'ihs], who, worse
than the Sudanese salves, were sold in Bukhárá, Samarqand and
Kiev as well as other cities of Turkmenistan. However, it is now nine years
that through the potency of the Russian Government, which has become the haven
of justice in the East, the wolf and the sheep, and the beast and the prey, lay
down together and drink from the same stream. Exalted is God, the Lord of
[Meeting Haji Muhammad-Rida]
It was on 17 Dhi'l-Qa'dih 1306 A.H.
that in the company of the honored Afnans, I arrived in 'Ishqabad. The very
first time that I was in the presence of the illustrious martyr [Haji
Muhammad-Rida], I discovered in him the highest attainments of perseverance,
tenderness, morality, fidelity and humility. He was a sincere helper to
everyone and dealt with the friends and foes with affection and generosity.
However, by reason of his steadfastness and fame in the Faith, he was
constantly harassed and beleaguered by the proponents of enmity and hate, and
in the same way that you observe in Iran, he too was falsely labeled and
slandered. For instance, he was referred to as "the Imam Rida of the Babis" and
- I take refuge unto God - they noised among the people that he harbored
resentment towards the Sanctified Prophets. It should be noted that 'Ishqabad
is now the gathering place of the troublemakers of Tabriz who because of the
policies and the skilled administration of Amir-Kabir, the Amir-Nizam of
Azarbayijan province, have escaped here and are taking advantage of the
liberties offered by the Russian Government.
In short, it had been over a year since a group of thugs had risen in
opposition to that choice friend and were determined to slay that essence of
goodness. The leaders of this band and the original advocates of this mischief
were: Mulla Ahmad Tajjir [merchant] of Yazd; Mihdi Tajjir Kashani; Mulla Mihdi
Ruzih-khan [soothsayer] of Tabriz; Mashhadi Samad Tabrizi; Mashhadi Jalil
Tabrizi; and a large number of people of Iran and Caucasia.
It was in the latter part of Dhi'l-Hajjih
when the illustrious martyr requested this servant to draft a will for him, to
which I consented. A few days passed. When one day we saw each other in the
streets, he inquired, "Why have you not prepared the will?" "What is the
haste?" I asked. "Time is short and affairs may fall into disarray," he
Some days later, that is, on the first of Muharram
, he came to this servant's house in the company of Aqa
Ghulam-Husayn, who was his close companion, trusted friend and business
partner, and also accompanied by Aqa Mirza Mihdi Rashti. In accordance with his
instructions, a will was prepared stating essentially: "All my possessions in
'Ishqabad, completely and in their entirety, I leave to my illustrious master
Aqa Siyyid Ahmad Shirazi
who is of the Afnan
of the Sacred Lote-Tree." Verbally, he added: "My residence and its furniture
in Isfahan belong to me and are hereby bequeathed to my survivors. All my books
and papers in Isfahan, whether Bahá'í or otherwise, must go to my two brothers
(meaning, his two brothers who lived in Isfahan)." He emphasized that
everything he was involved with in 'Ishqabad belonged to the esteemed Aqa
Siyyid Ahmad, and that he only served as a caretaker for the properties of the
exalted Afnan, on whose behalf he collected rents and who paid for the daily
expenses of the illustrious martyr.
In short, this will was written in the presence of Aqa Ghulam-Husayn and Aqa
Mirza Mihdi Tajjir Rashti.
Since the month of Muharram 1307 A.H.
had arrived, the Iranians of the city, much the same was as
in their native land, commenced setting up takiyyih
and organizing dastih
. During these nights and days, the Shi'ihs committed such
unseemly acts in front of the foreigners, which are unworthy of description or
further mention. And it was in the course of these gatherings that they laid
plans to slay the illustrious martyr. However, because of the presence of the
Russian soldiers, they were unable to carry out their dreadful scheme during
the 'Ashura period
. In this wise, the ten
days of the 'Ashura came to an end and the ruzih-khanis were concluded.
On the twelfth of Muharram
however, about three hours into the morning, as the illustrious martyr was
passing through the bazaar, two of the Tabrizi thugs, one known as Husayn and
the other named 'Ali-Akbar and referred to as 'Ali-Baba, in full view of the
public, surrounded and martyred Haji Muhammad-Rida with thirty-one stabs,
cutting him into pieces, making the earth crimson with the noble blood of that
essence of love, purity, faith and fidelity.
At the time of martyrdom, over five hundred of the shopkeepers were present
who inwardly were of the same mind as the murderers and outwardly cheered them
and shouted expressions of immense joy. Nevertheless, because of the alertness
of the authorities, the perpetrators were unable to escape and immediately were
seized. The city's medical examiner as well as the senior security officers
came at once, but, alas, it was too late and his sanctified soul had winged its
flight to its heavenly habitation in the most exalted pavilion.
Even though the two thugs were chained and made captive by the hand of fate,
and the city's security forces were vigilant and watchful, the fervor of the
enemies and the uproar of the men of enmity was of such intensity that not one
of the friends dared to go near the sacred remains laying on the ground. In
this manner, until sometime after noon, the remains of that hallowed being
remained in the dust of the same location.
Eventually, in accordance with the instructions of Aqa Muhammad-Rida Arbab,
Aqa Ghulam-Husayn asked Mashhadi 'Ali-Haydar Shirvani, who was renowned for
generosity, leadership and ability, to help him rescue the remains, hoping that
with Shirvani's presence no other incident would occur. The honored Mashhadi
'Ali-Haydar consented and came to the location, but no one else had the courage
to help and whoever they approached for assistance refused.
At last, Mashhadi Muhammad-Quli Urdubadi, who was a pious and righteous young
man, came forth and lifted the remains over his shoulders and brought it to the
Caravansary which belonged to Aqa Siyyid Ahmad Afnan and was in the
custodianship of the illustrious martyr. In the process, however, he had to
sustain the intense and unrelenting attack of the enemies who rushed forth to
commit every manner of unseemly atrocity. Having no other course, Aqa
Ghulam-Husayn and Aqa Mashhadi 'Ali-Haydar closed the Caravansary's gate, but
from the adjacent roofs, the foes continued to bombard them with rocks and
subject them to every manner of insult and abuse, trying to prevent them from
washing the blessed body. Under such conditions, the believers succeeded in
washing the body and at midnight, with the utmost difficulty and hardship,
buried that sanctified soul at a choice location outside the city of
[Plot for General Massacre of Bahá'ís]
The following day, the uproar of the enemies reached a new height.
News was received that they had laid plans for killing of twenty-four of the
believers, who were considered leaders of the Bahá'í community of 'Ishqabad.
For this purpose they had collected and spent a very large sum in order to stir
the naive people's sense of false pride by such nonsense as: "This matter is a
matter of our Faith! We are Muslim and Iranian. This has nothing to do with the
Russian Government for them to interfere!"
In short, on the afternoon of the second day, a group of Tabrizi ruffians
rushed to the middle of bazaar and with drawn weapons attacked Aqa Mirza
'Abdu'l-Karim Tajjir Ardabili, Mashhadi Yusuf, Mashhadi Ibrabim Tajjir Milani,
Mashhadi Muhammad-Quli Urdubadi and some other of the believers. However, as
the friends were vigilant, they were unable to inflict any injuries.
[Meeting General Kamaroff]
By then, the situation had become most difficult and perilous.
Therefore, that same day at sundown, together with the above-mentioned friends
and others of the believers, we went to the office of the distinguished
Komaroff, who was a General in the Russian Government and the Governor-General
of Kharazm and Marv. After our arrival had been announced, while the rest of
the friends stayed outside, this servant and the honored Aqa Mirza
'Abdu'l-Karim Ardibili were led into the General's presence. When we entered
his office, permission was granted for us to sit. With the utmost gentleness
and affection, he inquired after our situation. Our translator was the honored
Mirza Ahmad Bayk, who was a Sunni from Caucasia with pleasing manners. It
became evident that it had been reported to the General: "The slain person -
and I take refuge unto God! - had insulted the chosen ones of Islam and on
hearing this, the two murderers had been unable to restrain their anger and had
killed him in a fit of rage and are now in prison."
This servant stated: "It is now over eight or nine years that under the
protection of the Russian Government the [Bahá'í] community has been engaged in
commerce and labor in 'Ishqabad and during this period you have not heard any
mention of wrongdoing or misconduct committed by any of them. Even in the case
of the illustrious martyr, who was killed with the most evident brutality, we
had no intention of imposing on the favors of the authorities or filling a
complaint. This was because of our awareness that the provincial officials
always maintained law and order, and provided protection to the people.
However, now the situation has gone past the point of patience and forbearance
because news has reached us that the Shi'ih sect has arisen to slay a number of
Bahá'ís. For the longest time the Shi'ihs have insisted on their accusation
that we do not believe in God, the Prophet [Muhammad] and have enmity towards
the Sanctified Imams. However, since these accusations have become old in Iran
and the officials of the realm no longer heed such utter rubbish, they have
therefore decided to raise these slanders here to create mischief."
The General inquired, "Do you believe in the Chosen Ones of Islam? Do you
speak contemptuously of them?"
"We do not speak negatively of anyone," this servant responded, "and are
disallowed from uttering the slightest insult or abuse even towards our
staunchest enemies, much less the eminent figures of the religions or those
sent by the Almighty God. And the truth of this statement is in the fact - and
I take refuge unto God! - that if we had been derisive towards the chosen ones
of Islam before the Muslims, surely we would have spoken more readily and with
greater ease of such things in front of foreigners who disbelieve in the
Immaculate Figures of Islam. Your Excellency can inquire of the prominent
Russians or of the Christians in this region that have met and spoken with this
servant of the manner in which we refer to the past Prophets."
The General responded, "Yes, I know that you never speak disrespectfully of
anyone. I have your books and I am not unfamiliar with your views. However, it
is possible that a person in the heat of anger would speak contrary to one's
belief or traditions."
"This did not occur either," I stated, "since if the late Haji - and I take
refuge unto God! - had spoken an offensive word, then they should have brought
a complaint to the authorities who would have dealt with him according to the
law and would have punished him appropriately. In that event no one could have
objected. However, since they decided to murder him on their own, this proves
that the perpetrators are lying and had no justification for their deed."
He remarked, "That is indeed true."
We continued to have a marvelous discussion, but its details are beyond the
available space in this missive. With his own hand, the General wrote the name
of the felons and through the translator, Mirza Ahmad Bayk, sent clear and
strong instructions about the security of the city and the friends to the
, who was responsible for the
city's security and military. Subsequently, we left his office.
When that evening had concluded and the morning sun had risen, the
thugs and the ruffians, who on the previous day had been intent on killing the
friends, fled the city. Three of them, however, were captured, and these were:
Asadu'llah, Ibrahim and Ghaffar. But, the last two men were innocent and were
apprehended in error. When people learned of their imprisonment, fear seized
the enemies and peace was restored throughout the city.
The officials of the Russian Government embarked on an investigation to
discover the identity of the instigators of the mischief as it was evident to
those endowed with understanding that two worthless thugs could not by
themselves have mustered the audacity to perpetrate the murder of the
illustrious martyr without the full backing of powerful elements. Therefore, an
astute and competent native of Russia, who is known in the language of this
realm as the "Salischi", was appointed to the task of interrogating the
associates of the murderers and others suspected of instigating this incident.
Thus he began to prosecute his charge and investigate the matter.
As a preface to a better understanding of the [subsequent] events, I should
acquaint you with certain details. Prior to the arrival of this ephemeral
servant in 'Ishqabad, there existed little friendly association or friendship
between the Bahá'ís and the Christians. However, after the arrival of this
servant in this region, doors of association, gatherings and discussions
between the Russian and the Christian scholars and myself were opened. Majority
of times and days, the learned ones of this region would come to the dwelling
of this servant and discuss religious and scientific topics. The discussions,
however, never exceeded those limits which could lead to severing of ties of
affection or darkening of the horizon of friendship. Therefore, following my
arrival in 'Ishqabad, the teachings and principals of the Faith became widely
disseminated among the Christians, they completely recognized the scholarly and
intellectual attainments of the Bahá'ís and our superior and more excellent
achievements. Strong bonds of sincerity and brotherhood were established
between the Christians and Bahá'ís, and they gained a thorough understanding
of the profound difference between the beliefs of the enemies of the Faith and
those of the Bahá'ís, since they associated and dealt with both groups. In us
they saw naught save knowledge, learning, righteousness, forbearance, affection
and friendship and in our [Muslim] enemies they observed nothing but malice,
hypocrisy, slander, lies and enmity. As such, the martyrdom of the Haji
occurred, touched the hearts of these people and proved the wickedness of the
enemies and our meekness in such manner that its description is well nigh
impossible. Therefore, they exerted their utmost in discovering the purpose of
the opponents in slaying the Haji and demonstrating their wicked intent to the
Russian Government authorities. Towards this end, they confided to the Salischi
and other eminent officials whatever they had seen or heard.
In short, for nearly two months, interrogations and investigations were
conducted which resulted in the imprisonment of Mulla Ahmad Tajjir Yazdi, Mulla
Mihdi Ruzih-khan Tabrizi, Mashhadi Samad Tabrizi and Mashhadi Jalil Turk. When
these men, who were the true masterminds and instigators of the martyrdom, were
seized, profound fear and fright overcame the enemies, and anxiety and
apprehension shook them to the very core of their existence.
First, it was Mihdi Tajjir Kashi - the staunchest of our enemies - who
immediately fled. After him, whoever had been involved in the martyrdom or had
participated in the conspiracy also fled. In all, some sixty or seventy of them
retreated in haste from 'Ishqabad. In Mashhad, Tihran and Tabriz they took
refuge at the door of the Iranian officials and the 'ulama of that region. And
those who had remained in 'Ishqabad would fabricate false tales and disseminate
various fictitious rumors. Each day, they spread a new tale of the imminent
arrival of such and so Amir with such and so General from Tihran to arrest the
Babis and carry them off to Tihran in chains. They hoped that these rumors
would overwhelm the friends with fear in the hope that they would leave
'Ishqabad for other regions. In every town of Azarbayijan and Khurasan, the
'ulama and the merchants had united in their support of our enemies and the
persecution of the friends.
Indeed, during those days, the believers in 'Ishqabad exhibited such degree of
forbearance which entitles them to every praise and acclaim. This is because in
order to frighten the friends, the enemies conspired on such schemes that no
other mind could fathom and were so thoroughly united in their opposition that
no recourse seemed possible.
However, the believers placed their reliance solely on divine confirmations
and the bounties of the Almighty God. The administration of justice by the
Russian Government and the fact that His Majesty the King of Iran was ignoring
the various false petitions presented by the foes, were sources of comfort and
tranquility. During these days, from Quchan, Mashhad and Tabriz, Muslim
merchants and other enemies telegraphed Tihran and spent a considerable fortune
promoting their own nefarious designs. However, divine favors and bounties,
which has invariably always reduced the oppressor and succored the meek, would
neutralize the schemes of the enemies and bring to naught their campaigns of
mischief. It is self-evident and clear that truth, righteousness, charity and
honesty will always conquer and defeat oppression, enmity, lies, and malice.
In truth, the unfortunate people of Iran have acquired the same manners and
behaviors that the ignorant 'ulama and unworthy leaders have shown and
instilled in them and indeed this is their greatest misfortune and a potent
sword in severing the cords of their self-worth and integrity. Forever they
will be shamed and disgraced before the civilized world and will be considered
barbarians and savages by the enlightened humanity.
[Preparation for Trail]
In short, nearly two months after these events, and the conclusions of
the interrogations and investigations, when the renowned General - may he be
preserved with glory and resplendence - reported the details to St. Petersburg
and to the presence of His Majesty the exalted Czar. About the middle of the
, His Majesty the
Emperor issued a royal command instructing the formation of the "Voennyi Sud"
court, which in Russian refers to a military court. Voennyi Sud, which is also
known as "Polevoy Sud"
, is the highest
level of the [military] judicial system and no one in the country, not even the
person of the Emperor, can reject its ruling or reverse its decision, or
dismiss its proceedings. Moreover, this is the only court with the authority to
issue a death sentence.
And this is but one of the bounties of the His Majesty the Czar and the
illustrious General - may both be exalted with the effulgence of glory and
happiness - towards this community, because if the case was submitted to other
courts, the deliberations would have been prolonged, their impacts on the
enemies lessened and would have been the cause of much concern to the
After the case was sent to the Voennyi Sud, a government official by the title
of Persetatil, who was among the most eminent military commanders and a man of
profound knowledge, nobility and compassion, arrived in 'Ishqabad. The news of
his arrival quickly spread throughout the city and every one of our foes began
to wonder about his own fate, what he could do to exonerate himself. In short,
fear and anticipation enveloped all.
On Saturday, 22 Rabi'u'l-Avval
corresponded to the Russian 4 Noyábir, about one hundred and fifty
subpoenas were issued by the court in the name of the Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís.
The documents read: "On 24 Rabi'u'l-Avval, corresponding to 6th
the Russian month, you must be present yourself at the Qilub
building at 9 in the morning for the trial of 'Ali-Akbar
and eight others on the charge of assassination of the late Haji
A great commotion overtook the city when the subpoenas - known as "yavitis
" in Russian - were received and became the
sole topic of conversations. In addition to sending emissaries to various parts
of Iran and appealing to the royal court, the enemies sought the help of
prominent men of 'Ishqabad and day and night, the city's wise searched for
On the morning of the 24th
, rank upon rank of the friends and foes,
filled with hope and fear, some arriving in fayatun
, proceeded towards the Qilub courthouse. Relying on
divine confirmation and filled with assurance, the friends too directed their
steps towards the courtroom. When we arrived, the proceedings commenced as will
be outline below, even though no description can help one visualize and imagine
the true state of what transpired.
Qilub is one the governmental buildings in 'Ishqabad and in appearance is
dissimilar to the governmental offices in Isfahan and Iran. It has a large hall
in the middle of the building, which served as the trial-room and is about the
same size as the main reception hall of the Chil-Sutun
building in Isfahan. This hall can accommodate about five
hundred people and has a dais, which is about a meter high above the floor. In
addition, there are three more rooms to the right, to the left and to the back
of this platform.
When we entered the hall, saw that his honor Persetatil, who, with great
ceremony and pomp, sat at the center of dais upon the seat of justice. To his
right and left, there sat four governmental officials [Judges]. Before them was
a table at one end of which a framed mirror was installed. The mirror had
inscriptions by three of the Russian Emperors enjoining administration of
justice in judicial proceedings and on the frame there was a golden eagle,
which is the emblem of the Russian State.
On the right of the platform was the Perokyror [prosecutor], a Government
official who spoke on behalf of the deceased, and he was joined by a clerk
known as Sekretar [secretary]. On the left of the platform was the Zashtinik
[defense], together with a secretary, who spoke on behalf of the defenders. In
total, there were nine Judges serving on the court.
Inside the courtroom, city officials, military officers and prominent
merchants of Russian, Muslim and Christian backgrounds were seated, observing
In accordance with the instructions of the distinguished General, Turkish and
Persian translators from Russia and of Sunni religion were present and sitting
to the left. In front of all, the nine criminals were sitting and from behind,
soldiers known in their native tongue as "Saldat", surrounding them. A Shi'ih
cleric was also present. Everyone observed complete silence.
Upon arrival at the Qilub building, those that were involved in the
trial, from plaintiff to defendants, their witnesses, the friends and the
non-Bahá'ís were instructed to the room on the right-hand side of the courtroom
and guards were positioned so that no one would enter or exit without
permission, and no one would speak with another.
First the Shi'ih cleric, following the court's instructions, swore in the
defendants' witnesses in the name of God and by the Sacred Qur'an in accordance
with the Islamic laws so they would not offer false testimony, show bias due to
friendship or kinship, and speak naught save the truth. In the same fashion,
the Shi'ih cleric was himself swore in by the Justice of the court so he too
would not speak other than the truth and give true testimony. Nevertheless, the
testimony of the majority of them, including the person of the Shi'ih cleric,
was so remote from equity and truth that everyone present, including the
Justice of the court
and the government
officials [Judges], readily realized their hollowness.
The Christians, who served as the witnesses for the friends, were swore in by
their priest who was also present. After that, the friends were summoned
collectively and each was asked to state his religion and testify that he was a
follower of Baha. The Justice of the court inquired from the honored Aqa Mirza
'Abdu'l-Karim Ardabili, "Who will serve as the Bahá'í mujtahid and the leading
learned?" He asked this for the purpose of swearing-in ceremony of the Bahá'ís.
The Mirza responded, "We have no clergy, but have men of learning and
knowledge." The Justice asked of them and Mirza introduced this servant.
The Justice then inquired of me, "In what manner do you take an oath in your
I responded, "We have no such practice and no such law has been enjoined upon
us. However, we abide by whatever the Government requires of us and with
genuine happiness and contentment will follow the commands of the authorities."
He stated, "I now wish to establish a covenant with you and hold you to it as
a solemn oath. Firstly, since I have heard that you associate with all people
with the utmost sincerity, kindness and brotherhood, and do not consider
differences in religion a reason for enmity and intolerance nor cause for
departure from equity and humanity, therefore, I ask that in your testimony you
treat these defendants the same way and do not utter untrue words about them.
Secondly, since taking an oath is not a common practice in your religion, you
must make sure that your witnesses speak no lie because otherwise I will
sentence you to Siberia."
I responded, "God willing and with His aid, we will commit no such wrong and
will completely abide by your instructions."
He then inquired, "Are your people and the Shi'ih community permitted to
inter-marry and do such marriages occur?"
I submitted, "Since complete separation has not occurred as yet,
inter-religious marriage may happen. In fact, there are cases where someone is
a Bahá'í while his father is a Shi'ih, or vice versa. Or many times it has been
seen that out of two brothers, one is a Shi'ih and the other a Bahá'í. The same
can be seen among cousins and other kinsmen. Therefore, we are commanded to
associate, marry, and observe other social interactions."
Thereupon, the Justice of the court called on the Shi'ih cleric and asked, "Do
your people marry Christian girls? That is, through legal, religious means?"
He responded positively. "Do they marry Jews?" Again, response was
affirmative. "How about marrying fire-worshippers?" Once more, he responded
The Justice realized that the Shi'ih was being frugal with truth.
After this, he began to question the witnesses of both sides, by starting
first with the Bahá'í side.
That day, which was 24 Rabi'u'l-Avval, corresponding to the Russian 6
Noyábir, the process of questioning and trial continued from the morning
till five hours into the night. Almost every three hours, they granted five
minutes of recess so people could exit the building to rest, smoke, or refresh,
before returning to the proceedings. During the trial no one was permitted to
speak or smoke in the courtroom and even the Justice of the court and the
Judges followed these rules. From two and half-hours to sundown until darkness,
people were allowed to return to their homes, but had to come back at dusk at
which time the court reconvened.
The second day of trial, which was Tuesday, 25 Rabi'u'l-Avval
, corresponding to the Russian 7 Noyábir, continued
in the same vein as the day before. From the morning until the middle of the
night, the court proceedings were underway. This day was devoted to taking
testimonies from the defense witnesses.
Once testimonies were completed during these initial two days, on Wednesday,
26 [Rabi'u'l-Avval], corresponding to the Russian 8 Noyábir, the court
was adjourned due to national holiday in Russia.
On the morning of Thursday, 27 Rabi'u'l-Avval, once more everyone
proceeded towards Qilub. Hearts were trembling and spirits were filled with
trepidation not knowing what fate awaited behind the shroud of destiny and in
whose favor would the all-encompassing Divine Will incline. We were anxious
because that day marked the final day of proceedings and the verdict was to be
pronounced on that occasion. Truly it was a stressful day and everyone's
behavior testified to their inner agitation. The size of audience was greater
than the two previous occasions. In fact, the courtroom was exceedingly crowded
and the Justice of the court instructed that no one else should be allowed
When the court came to order, the Justice took his seat and at first, the
Perokyror rose and with eloquent words and brilliant deduction - which
thoroughly astonished the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians - spoke for over
an hour, proving the guilt of the defendants. When he had concluded, the
Zashtinik rose and speaking for nearly an hour, endeavored to dismiss the
testimony of all the Bahá'ís. When his presentation came to an end, once more
the Perokyror rose and demonstrated the errors of the defense's objections and
in such wise these two great men debated before the Judges until one hour past
When these discussions were concluded, the Justice turned to the defendants
and said, "Prisoners! The Perokyror has proven the guilt of seven of you and
your responsibility in this crime is clear and well-established. However, the
guilt of one of you, namely, Asadu'llah, is less than the others. For the other
six, he has requested the death penalty, recommending you to be hanged to the
death for your actions. If you can show cause why capital punishment should not
be administered in your case, speak now, perchance it would lessen your
After the Justice spoke these words, the defendants requested permission to
change their translator to Yahya Bayk Qarabaghi, who knew Persian, Russian and
Turkish. The Justice consented. Yahya Bayk who was present came forth to assume
his duty. Thereupon, the defendants rose one by one and spoke in their own
defense, words that most evidently were untrue.
When these appeals were completed, the Justice and the eminent Judges who had
sat on his sides on the platform rose and retired to the room behind the main
hall for the purpose of preparing documents on the court's decision. During
this time, no one was permitted to enter their room. For two hours, the Judges
continued their private deliberations, while everyone patiently awaited the
outcome and wondered what the Hand of the Almighty had in store for them: who
would be victorious and vindicated and who would be defeated and humiliated. In
truth, a most strange and astonishing mood governed the audience, as everyone
knew that the court's decision was final and irreversible.
It was nearly sundown when the Justice returned and with utmost dignity and
poise stood at his designated spot, with everyone in the court also standing in
silence. He then read aloud the decisions that he had written in private as the
interpreter translated point by point. The summary of the decision was:
Regarding the case against the nine men who are accused of the murder of Haji
Muhammad-Rida Isfahani and stand present, after thorough examination and
investigation it has been determined that two of them, Ibrahim and Ghaffar,
were blameless and are hereby released. 'Ali-Akbar, known as 'Ali-Babi Tabrizi,
and Husayn Tabrizi are to be hanged to the death for their part in the murder
of the Haji. Mulla Mihdi Ruzih-khan Tabrizi who from the pulpit cursed and
insulted [the Bahá'ís], thereby inciting the people into mischief, is to be
exiled and imprisoned for life in the farthest regions of Siberia. Mulla Ahmad
Tajjir Yazdi, Mashhadi Samad Tajjir Tabrizi and Mashhadi Jalil Tabrizi, who
incited the ruffians are sentenced to fifteen years of "Qatur vajni rabut" in Siberia. Asadu'llah is sentenced to 16
months of imprisonment and afterwards he is to be deported from Russia.
We hereby grant the distinguished General Komaroff, the Governor-General of
'Ishqabad and Turkmenistan, the authority to reduce these sentences.
Once the court's decision was read and translated, the spectators were
dismissed, some joyous and some sad. Praise unto God, the Lord of both
The meaning of "Qatur vajni rabut" is: In cased where a person is found
deserving of the death penalty and the esteemed Christian nation [of Russia]
decides that by reason of compassion and wishing to avoid capital punishment at
all costs, can instead be imprisoned in Siberia. Because of the bitter cold [in
that region], it is not possible to farm or raise dairy animals in Siberia, but
prisoners work in hard labor camps in mines or other locations. However, due to
its considerable hardships and difficulties, the majority die under the most
miserable conditions, and perhaps only one in a thousand survive to complete
his sentence, and even then he is not permitted to return to his native town
and must spend the rest of his days in the Siberian region, where he can work
and earn a living. Because of these conditions, majority of those found guilty
prefers death to imprisonment in Siberia.
[Effect of the Verdict:]
On the day that the court announced its verdict, the hand of destiny
inscribed an astonishing event on the pages of history and delivered yet
another bitter humiliation to the enemies. The details are as follows: When the
Judges were engaged in private deliberation and none were yet aware what the
final decision would be and which side would be rendered victorious by the
all-conquering Providence, one of the men present in the court, without
thinking or observing the protocols, had rushed outside and had announced to an
spectator, "Mulla Ahmad and other defendants are freed!" The recipient of this
news also, without pausing to consider or determine the veracity or falsehood
of this remark, had in great haste, which according to the well-known hadith,
"Haste is work of Satan!", and which is a character of the people of hate and
oppression, boarded a fayatun [carriage] and had reached the bazaar, crying,
"Glad tidings! Mulla Ahmad and others are liberated and are now free!"
On hearing this false news, a tremendous commotion had ensued, much like the
great uproar and tumult that occurred on the day of the martyrdom of the Haji.
People began to insult and mock the Bahá'í storekeepers, who were engaged in
their work. The Muslims brought three sheep to be sacrificed in front of the
shops of Samad, Mulla Ahmad and Mashhadi Jalil, and butchers stood knife in
hand awaiting the arrival of the defendants to slaughter the sacrifice sheep.
Meanwhile, they shouted every manner of insult at the friends and constantly
cursed them in the most cruel and abusive way. Rank upon rank of people had
gathered in the streets and squares, waiting to welcome the prisoners.
It was then that of a sudden, He, Who decrees destiny and rules with manifest
might, turned the page and with the conclusion of the court's proceedings, the
correct verdict became known to the people. Suddenly, all their joy turned into
bitter sorrow, and their jubilation was transformed into humiliation and shame.
Sheep that had been brought for sacrifice were quickly removed from the scene
and everyone went into hiding much like thieves fleeing the law.
During these events, unaware of all that was transpiring outside, this servant
was in the courtroom awaiting the Judges' decisions. When I came out, I saw a
condition in the believers which remains beyond any written description. During
that one-hour after the receipt of this false news and encountering their
insult, abuse and mistreatment of the enemies, the friends has withstood such a
calamity that they were hardly able to utter a word. In fact, for one or two
hours, the Bahá'ís did not believe what this servant, or others who had been in
the courthouse, reported to them, until they heard it directly from the enemies
and saw with their own eyes how quickly they dispersed and sought a place to
hide. "And thus decreed their Lord, the Powerful, the Sovereign, the Mighty,
If one was to closely compare the ways that the Russian and the Iranian
Governments administer justice and conduct trials, he would be totally
astonished in their difference. Because if such a murder had occurred in Iran,
where eminent merchants had arisen in support of either the murderer or the
victim, it is quite obvious what great sums would have had to be spent on both
sides and what large bribes would have been received. Moreover, because of the
persistent intercessions and interference, it would have not been possible to
arrive at a just decision nor maintain the impartiality of the judge. In the
case of the murder of the Haji, the governmental authorities in Russia did not
accept a single coin from anyone and in fact, due to their devotion to equity
and justice, no one dared to even mention the word "bribe" or mediate on behalf
On the other hand, the Shi'ih community spent considerable fortune and
sustained great losses in filling the pockets of the 'ulama and the influential
men of Iran, in the hope that through their assistance, the attention of the
Russian Government would be compromised from receiving punishment for their
savage and despicable deeds. However, the all-conquering will of the Almighty
did not allow bloodthirsty oppressors, who had openly perpetrated such an
heinous act, to find respite under the blanket of safety. The integrity of the
officials of the Russian Government - may God perpetually brighten their days -
prevented these ruffians from transforming the security and justice of this
region into the violence and oppression of another Iran.
Since at the conclusion of the court's proceedings it was decreed in
writing and was announced in the courtroom that the distinguished General
Komaroff - may God unceasingly enrich his days with glory and good fortune -
could reduce the punishment of the criminals, therefore, Mulla Ahmad and other
prisoners sent messages to their kinsmen, begging and pleading: "since the
General has not yet signed the court order, go to the Babis and ask them to
intercede with the General, perchance he would reduce our sentence and the door
of liberty may open before us."
Consequently, as emissaries, they sent Haji Rida, who was a brother of Mulla
Ahmad, and a number of other merchants, including, Rida Bayk Akbar, a learned
and distinguished man who for many years had served the Russian Government and
had attained an exalted position, and Yahya Bayk Qarabaghi, who was renowned in
learning, sincerity, problem-solving and prevention of misconduct, and Aqa
Muhammad-Rida Arbab Isfahani. These men came to this servant and Aqa Mirza
'Abdu'l-Karim, and asked that we attain the presence of the illustrious General
and intercede on behalf of the prisoners.
The following day, this servant, Aqa Mirza 'Abdu'l-Karim, Aqa Ghulam-Husayn
Isfahani and Aqa Mashhadi Yusuf, went to the General's house. In the courtyard
outside the Governor's residence, we met Haji Rida and some other Shi'ihs who
had gone to plead mitigation of sentence of the prisoners, but were not
permitted into the Governor's presence. After speaking with us, they thought
best to join our group in order to gain an audience with the General. So,
together we proceeded.
Once our arrival was announced, permission was granted for us to go in and
Mirza 'Abdu'l-Karim spoke about the purpose of our visit. Simultaneously, Javad
Bayk translated his words into Russian. In response, the General stated, the
essence of which is:
To the Russian nation, the Shi'ih community has become the source of shame
and infamy throughout the world as it has been His Majesty the Emperor's view
all religions are considered the same.
You should be praised since despite all the injuries perpetrated against you
by the defendants, you have arisen to intercede on their behalf. Is it not true
that if a Babi had murdered a Shi'ih in 'Ishqabad, in turn the Shi'ihs would
have killed every member of your community in Iran? I am well pleased with you.
However, I cannot promise that I will reduce their punishment. But should I
decide to reduce their sentence, I will keep in mind to advise you
After that, once more Aqa Mirza 'Abdu'l-Karim rose to plead intercession for
the prisoners. For the second time, the General spoke words close to his
Haji Rida and other Shi'ihs were present in this meeting and heard what
On the following day, it was rumored throughout the city that the Siberian
sentence of the prisoners had been reduced and also it was noised that the two
condemned would be hanged on 4 Rabi'u'th-Thani
[Day of Punishment:]
In accordance with the instructions of the officials, two gallows were
raised near the royal prison and a hole, two or three meters deep, was dug
under them, where bodies could fall. The murderers themselves were forced to
construct these gallows and the hole.
The occurrences of these events greatly burned the inside of people and were
giving an ever-present admonishment to the unruly ruffians in the observance of
the legal codes and the importance of the civilized ways.
When the sun of the morning of 4 Rabi'u'th-Thani rose, everyone knew that it
marked the day of hanging of the two condemned. An astonishing commotion and a
great tumult could be seen everywhere. Due to their ignorance and prejudice,
people [Muslims] were most agitated, but because of the power of the
authorities, unable to utter any objections. Signs of mischief was evident on
everyone's face which betrayed their inner anger and rage.
First, in accordance with the command of the Russian authorities, Turkmen
cavalry surrounded the execution field. Chief military officers and prominent
citizens were present by the Governor's instructions. A large multitude had
also gathered to observe the event. Since the compassionate Christian people
disdain killing, and to the extent possible even their military men avoid such
an act, therefore, a Turkman was hired to place the ropes on the neck of the
prisoners, sending them to where they belonged. The Shi'ih cleric was present,
so the prisoners could repent and utter Islamic confession of faith
. When everything was ready, the two
murderers were brought to gallows.
With a condition that cannot be described, the Shi'ih cleric took their
repentance and they uttered words of confession. Thereupon, the executioner
placed the ropes around their necks, when of a sudden, contrary to everyone's
expectation, the all-encompassing Hand of the Almighty ordained otherwise. That
is, at that point, the Perokyror stood and read aloud an official decree, which
was immediately translated. Its essence was this:
Since the representatives of the Babi community have requested the
distinguished General to mitigate the punishment of the offenders,
consequently, the General, as means of expressing his good-pleasure, gratitude
and admiration for these [Bahá'í] representatives, has commuted the death
sentence of these men and has decided against their hanging. These two are to
be removed to Siberia for fifteen years of "Qatur vajni rabut" sentence, and
because of this mercy, may they eternally be thankful to the Government.
When this decree was read to the population, every tongue spoke in praise and
gratitude of divine bestowal and with the utmost cheer and joy people returned
home, while the prisoners were removed to their cell.
In truth, this incident greatly enhanced the position of the friends and
increased their standing and prestige. From what some in the audience have
described, this intercession so profoundly touched the eminent Christians
present on the field of execution that some were moved to tears, saying,
"Consider the devotion of the Babi community to the qualities of forgiveness,
leniency, compassion, kindness and forbearance that they even interceded in
behalf of those who slay them, and in such wise show mercy towards those who
spend days and nights plotting their murder!"
From the beginning of the incident of the martyrdom until now, the
divine benediction and bounties have ceaselessly encompassed the friends and
the exalted and blessed Almighty has confirmed our every step. Before the
authorities of the Russian Government, our truthfulness, wisdom, honesty,
integrity and charity towards all nations and the uprightness of conduct under
all conditions had been demonstrated.
The incident of the intercession was solely through the Divine will for it was
Almighty's doing that the decree pardoning the prisoners from execution was
read in public where a large multitude of the Russians, the Christians and the
Muslims, including the Shi'ih cleric, were present. This was a mighty bounty
and a great blessing, which on one hand provided the friends with an added
measure of stature and on the other, robbed the ignorant [Muslims] of the
opportunity to claim, "The liberty of these two murderers was a miracle of the
Imam!" or devise equally nonsensical reasons. However, if one wished to truly
appreciate the depth of ignorance of these Shi'ihs, one should note that even
now they fabricate such ridiculous and absurd claims and have further ruined
their own reputation, nay, the reputation of all Iranians, before the world
community and proven their folly and stupidity.
During these days, joy and delight has surrounded the friends on all
directions and the shower of divine bounty has continued to fall on the
believers with ever-greater profusion. On the other hand, we are immensely
elated as the court proceedings have been concluded and the truth of our claim
has been well-established before the officials of the Russian Government. We
have unbounded joy and eternal gratitude because of the arrival of the Sacred
Tablets and Divine Verses confirming Almighty's pleasure with our deeds and
actions. In many Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh has bestowed endless blessings upon the
illustrious martyr, and designated for him stations beyond the imaginings of
the inhabitants of the world and exalted above the conceptions of those
occupying the highest heavenly pavilions. Moreover, He has revealed His
good-pleasure for the actions of the believers in the course of these events.
In particular, in one of the Sanctified Tablets, in response to a sum that one
of the friends had contributed, permission was granted for that fund to be used
towards improvements of the resting place of that sacred and hallowed remain,
which is located on a choice spot outside the town of 'Ishqabad. However, these
days, because of the bitter cold and snow, these improvements cannot be carried
out and must be delayed, and God willing, when the weather is more agreeable
and the Spring has arrived, and days and nights are equal, they will be
undertaken and completed.
A few days after the execution sentence of the two ruffians was pardoned, by
the authorities' command, a picture of six of them in the special uniform of
the Siberian prisoners was taken as they were being sent to Siberia by way of
Badkubih. The day that they were being removed for Badkubih was yet another
occasion for the enemies' commotion and remorse. From that day until now, which
has been over a month, the merchants and the Shi'ih leaders in Badkubih,
Mashhad, Tihran and Tabriz are engaged in intrigue, hoping to rescue the
prisoners from their fate. We will see how the divine decree unfolds and what
is hidden behind the veil of destiny.
This was a summary of the events pertaining to the killing of the illustrious
martyr, which were outlined most succinctly.
This servant supplicates that the friends would not forget him in their
On behalf of this ephemeral servant, convey my heartfelt greetings to your
esteemed father, distinguished brother, the honored Aqa Mirza Mihdi - may God
prolong his days of delight - and other friends in Isfahan.
May your brow always shine with the resplendent rays of glory, grandeur and
Written by Abu'l-Fadl Gulpaygani on 29 Jamadu'l-Avval 1307
15 July 1889.
End of August 1889.
28 August 1889.
Siyyid Ahmad was a son of Haji Mirza
Siyyid Hasan, known as the Afnan Kabir. He was a devoted believer and for a
while lived in Yazd and 'Ishqabad, engaged in commerce. In mid 1890, he visited
'Akka and it was there that he learned of being accused of theft in Istanbul.
He hurried to that city, suffered bitterly at the hands of foes, including an
enemy of the Cause by the name of Muhammad-'Ali Isfahani, but was able to prove
his innocence and establish their slander. Detailing this incident, Bahá'u'lláh
in one of His Tablets reveals, "There were several myrmidons in Istanbul who
perpetrated great harms against the honored Afnan, Aqa Siyyid Ahmad. Since the
honored Afnan was meek and gentle, these men manifested greatest enmity,
uttered the worst slanders and incited the opposition of the lowest elements of
society against him
;" [Muhammad-'Ali Faizi, Khanidan Afnan 64.] He attained
the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akka where he remained until His ascension.
Subsequently, he undertook travels to promote the Cause and once more returned
to 'Akka where he received the endless bounties of the Master. He then went to
'Ishqabad and from there in 1899 to Yazd where he established the first
Spiritual Assembly of that city; [Khatirat Malamiri 61]. He eventually went to
Shiraz where he was killed during a night burglary. On hearing the news,
'Abdu'l-Bahá was deeply grieved and conferred upon him the rank of a martyr;
403 and Khanidan Afnan 66]. The Master revealed two
condolences Tablets and a Tablet of Visitation to mark Siyyid Ahmad's
28 August - 26 September 1889.
Theaters for passion-plays commemorating
the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.
Mourning groups and processions.
In order to act out the injuries befallen
the Imam and His companions, a number in the Shi'ih mourning procession would
cut themselves, often quiet severely, and with blood gushing out from their
foreheads or as they beat their bare backs with sharp knives, would continue
the march - a horrendous scene which greatly incites public sympathy.
Soothsaying sessions, typically devoted
to telling and acting out the events of Karbila, which led to the martyrdom of
Imam Husayn and His family.
The first ten days of Muharram is a
period of special feverish observance for the Shi'ih, reaching its emotional
height on the tenth day of the month which marks the martyrdom of the Imam and
8 September 1889.
Colonel in the Russian military.
Circa 9 November 1889.
Military court-marshals conducted in
the field under the auspices of the Voennyi Sud court.
16 November 1899.
The correct spelling may likely be
Plural for court summons, literally
meaning to show up.
Horse driven flatbed or luxury
A famous building in Isfahan used
previously for official purposes.
The author consistently refers to the
"hadrat-i Sud," a reference to the chief Judge. This has been rendered as
"Justice of the court" to distinguish him from the other 8 Judges.
19 November 1899.
 Vajni rabut
28 November 1899.
It is an Islamic tradition that prior
to death one should utter a specific formula, testifying to the oneness of God
and the Prophethood of Muhammad.
21 January 1890.