The Herald of the Day of Days
by H.M. Balyuzi
TO THE SHINING MEMORY OF A LONE AND NOBLE
WOMAN WHO SUFFERED IN SILENCE FOR FORTY YEARS
THIS STORY OF HER BELOVED HUSBAND IS DEDICATED
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
A Note on the Construction of Persian Names . . . . . . . . . xiii
Prologue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1. All Hail Shiraz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2. He Whom They Sought . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3. Tihran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
4. The First Martyr . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
6. Forces of Opposition Arrayed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
7. Belief and Denial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
8. The City of 'Abbas the Great . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
9. The Antichrist of the Babi Revelation . . . . . . . . . . 117
10. Where the Aras Flows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
11. The Grievous Mountain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
12. That Midsummer Noon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
13. The Dawn-Breakers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
Epilogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
1. The Siege of Karbila . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193
2. The Martyrdom of the Bab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
3. Prelude to the Episode of Nayriz . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
4. The Seven Martyrs of Tihran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
5. The Episode of Zanjan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209 <pviii>
6. Lord Palmerston's Enquiry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214
7. Myth-Making . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 <pxi>
The present book completes the trilogy on the lives of the Founders of the Baha'i Faith. However, now that additional material is at my disposal, it is my hope to expand at a future date the volume on the life of Baha'u'llah, and also to write a supplement to the volume on the life of 'Abdu'l-Baha.
This book is the first in the range of Baha'i literature to make extensive use of official documents from governmental archives. I am greatly indebted to Moojan Momen who has generously shared with me the results of his able research in the Public Record Office of London and elsewhere.
The two British Foreign Secretaries who received news and dispatches regarding the Bab and the Babis were the Earl of Aberdeen, who held office from September 1841 to July 1846, under Sir Robert Peel; and Viscount Palmerston, whose tenure of office extended from July 1846 to January 1852, under Lord John Russell. The British envoy chiefly involved in forwarding such reports to London was Lt.-Col. (later Sir Justin) Sheil, the Minister in Tihran. Lord Palmerston's letters to him (F.O. 248/134) state that his dispatches concerning the Bab and the Babis were 'laid before the Queen'.
My deep gratitude goes to Abul-Qasim Afnan, who has unstintingly made available to me the chronicle-history and the autobiography of his father, the late Haji Mirza Habibu'llah, as well as letters written by and to the relatives of the Bab, together with many other documents of inestimable value.
It should be borne in mind that apart from quotations from the Writings of the Bab, speeches attributed to Him or to anyone else in these pages must not be taken as exact reportage of words spoken at the time. They only convey <pxii> the sense and purport of what was said on those occasions. Obviously no one was taking notes. It is possible, however, that a few short sentences here and there, which immediately engrave themselves on the mind, are exact utterances, the very words spoken.
As the bibliography indicates I have consulted a number of books; but of printed works, the main sources have been God Passes By and Nabil's Narrative, The Dawn-Breakers. I am much indebted to the Baha'i Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois, for permission to quote from these and other sources, as well as to Cambridge University Press, the Public Record Office, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., A. & C. Black Ltd., Faber & Faber Ltd., William Heinemann Ltd., Methuen Co. Ltd., and World Order, A Baha'i Magazine. Full acknowledgment is made in the bibliography and notes.
I am profoundly grateful to the Hands of the Cause Paul Haney and Abul-Qasim Faizi for reading the manuscript and for their review and advice. As in the past Marion Hofman's generous help has smoothed the path to publication. My indebtedness to her is immense. And without my wife's assistance and support I could not have completed my task.
I should also like to thank Miss Dorothy Wigington, Mr. Farhang Afnan and Mr. Rustom Sabit for their care in reading the proofs, and Mr. Horst W. Kolodziej for his excellent reproduction of a number of old documents and photographs.
Finally, a word as to the Prologue; this in my view provides a necessary background for the story of the Bab. But should the reader find in it too many unfamiliar facts, he may turn immediately to the first chapter.
London October 1972
A Note on the Construction of
In times past the people of Persia had no surnames, but in many instances they were known by the name of the district, city, town, or even the village from which they came: for example, Khurasani, Mazindarani, Tihrani, Isfahani, and Shirazi.
There were also various honorific prefixes and suffixes by which a person was distinguished. A descendant of the Prophet Muhammad had (and has) the prefix of 'Siyyid'. At times, 'Mirza' took the place of 'Siyyid', and at times the two were used together. 'Mirza' by itself did not denote any particular ancestry, except when placed after a proper name to mark royal descent.
The suffix 'Khan' served at one time as a title, but with passing years, it became merely honorific, even meaningless, and at no time was it a surname.
The prefix 'Haji' or 'Haj' indicated then, as now, one who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Mashhadi and Karbila'i, as prefixes, marked pilgrimage to Mashhad or Karbila, but as suffixes pointed out nativity.
There were also innumerable titles conferred by the sovereign in Iran, consisting of diverse combinations, sometimes ludicrous, sometimes grammatically impossible. Occasionally they indicated a definite rank and profession. As time passed, these titles multiplied absurdly, until they were swept away by legislation in the 1920's.
Finally, a person was often distinguished from others by a combination of prefixes and suffixes attached to his name which, if omitted, might cause him to be taken for another Person. <pxiv>
Today the situation is much changed, but for the period described in this book, the author can identify people only by the names they then used, however difficult they may be.
Quotations are reproduced in their original form, even though differing from the spelling and transliteration of Persian words adopted in this book. Translations from Persian sources are by the author unless otherwise attributed.
The text of the Authorized Version of the Bible is Crown copyright and the extracts used herein are reproduced by permission. <pxv>
The Bab, the Exalted One, is the Morn of Truth,
Whose Light shineth throughout all regions.
O people of the Bab! sorely persecuted,
compelled to silence, but steadfast now as at
Sheykh Tabarsi and Zanjan, what destiny is
concealed for you behind the veil of the Future?
EDWARD GRANVILLE BROWNE
About the time that the thirteen colonies of North America were gaining their independence to form the nucleus of the mighty Republic of the West, France was inching her way towards a revolution such as the world had never seen, and Britain was striding along the road to a revolution of a different kind, industrial, agrarian and economic in nature, a cleric of the Islamic Shi'ah persuasion left his island-home in the Persian Gulf for the great centres of Shi'ah learning and Shi'ah devotion in 'Iraq. His purpose was to find a much larger audience in order to give voice to thoughts and presentiments that had developed with his years.
Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i (1743-1826), the founder of the Shaykhi school, belonged to the ancient tribe of Banu-Sakhr, and his family originated from the region of Ahsa on the Arabian mainland. His father's name was Shaykh Zayni'd-Din, and Bahrayn had been their home. Shaykh Ahmad first visited Najaf, where the Tomb of 'Ali, the first Imam, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, is situated. Then in Karbila, close by the Shrine of the martyred Husayn, the third Imam, he began to preach and a circle of earnest students gathered round him. He asked the leading Shi'ah divines of the holy cities of 'Iraq to issue him a licence which would give him recognition as a mujtahid in his own right, that is, a divine empowered to interpret and prescribe. They all declared that they considered Shaykh Ahmad to be a man of knowledge and talent <p2> superior to their own, and that their testimonial was written solely at his request.
The fame of Shaykh Ahmad soon spread throughout Iran. Fath-'Ali Shah (reigned 1797-1834) and Muhammad-'Ali Mirza, a son of the Shah who held the life-long tenure of the governorship of Kirmanshah, were particularly desirous to meet him. But Shaykh Ahmad preferred to go to Iran by way of Bushihr (Bushire) in the south, rather than by the nearer and more accessible route of Kirmanshah in the west. From Bushihr he went to Shiraz and thence to Yazd, where he stayed for a number of years. Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti, a young man barely out of his teens, who shared the same views, joined him there (sometime in 1231 A.H.: 1815-16). Shaykh Ahmad was then making his final arrangements to go on pilgrimage to the holy city of Mashhad, prior to his visit to Tihran. He received Siyyid Kazim with great affection and asked him to remain at Yazd to take up his own patient work of many years. In Mashhad and later in Tihran, Shaykh Ahmad was shown every mark of high respect and reverence.
[1 The Rukni'd-Dawlih.]
[2 Mashhad (Meshed) contains the Shrine of Imam Rida, the eighth Imam.]
Eventually Siyyid Kazim travelled north to be in his company, and together they went to Kirmanshah, as the Prince-Governor had been urgently begging his father to let Shaykh Ahmad visit him. They stayed in Kirmanshah as long as the Governor lived. After his premature death, they departed for Karbila, where Shaykh Ahmad, his zeal unabated and his powers untouched by advancing years, preached and taught. He was in his early eighties when he took the road to Mecca and Medina. From that journey he did not return and lies buried in the famed cemetery of Baqi', in the vicinity of the Tomb of the Prophet Muhammad.
Shaykh Ahmad's constant theme was the near advent of <p3> the Deliverer of the Latter Days, promised to the world of Islam, the Qa'im of the House of Muhammad or the Mihdi (Mahdi).(1) In the course of his last pilgrimage to the holy CitieS of Arabia, he told a merchant from Isfahan who was with him: 'You will attain the presence of the Bab; salute Him on my behalf.'(2) Shaykh Ahmad did not believe in physical resurrection nor in the physical ascent (Mi'raj) of the Prophet Muhammad to heaven on the night that the Angel Gabriel took Him to view the celestial world. Mi'raj was an experience of the spirit, Shaykh Ahmad maintained. Moreover he asserted that the signs and portents of the coming of the Qa'im, given by the Prophet and the Imams, were allegorical. These and similar doctrines were anathema to the orthodox, but while Shaykh Ahmad lived, royal patronage muted their hostile criticism.
[1 Haji Muhammad-Isma'il-i-Gulpaygani.]
[2 The following verse in the Qur'an (xvii, 4) refers to the:
Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night
from the Holy Mosque to the Further Mosque
the precincts of which We have blessed,
that We might show him some of Our signs.
He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing.
-- Arberry, The Koran Interpreted
The Holy Mosque (Masjid-al-Haram) is the Ka'bah in Mecca; the Further Mosque (Masjid al-Aqsa) is in Jerusalem.]
Siyyid Kazim (1793-1843), who, in accordance with the will of Shaykh Ahmad, succeeded him in guiding his disciples, was the son of Siyyid Qasim of Rasht, a town in northern Iran close to the Caspian Sea. He came from a family of well-known merchants and was no more than thirty-three years old when he occupied the seat of authority. The orthodox divines now began their vitriolic assaults in earnest until, at last, Siyyid Kazim felt that he <p4> needed solid support in Iran from the ranks of the orthodox. For that purpose he chose one of his ablest disciples, Mulla Husayn, a native of the small town of Bushruyih in Khurasan, to go to Isfahan and secure the aid of Haji Siyyid Muhammad-Baqir-i-Rashti, a noted divine whose influence was felt far and wide. Mulla Husayn succeeded brilliantly in accomplishing the mission entrusted to him, obtained the support of that famous man in writing, and then proceeded to Mashhad to acquire a similar pledge from yet another powerful divine.
In the meantime not only did Siyyid Kazim suffer from the intrigues and onslaughts of his adversaries headed by Siyyid Ibrahim-i-Qazvini, but the whole of Karbila was thrown into turmoil. These disorders were of long standing and gradually the authority of the Ottoman government had ceased to exist. Within the town there were several factions at odds with one another, but all determined to resist the re-establishment of Ottoman power. Two successive Valis (governor-generals) of 'Iraq tried to force the people of Karbila to submission, but failed conspicuously. However, in the closing months of the year 1842, Najib Pasha, a man resolute and even obstinate, came to occupy the post of Vali. Affairs in Karbila had gradually gone from bad to worse. Lawlessness had increased and mob rule prevailed. Najib Pasha's first thought was to resolve this problem which had baffled his predecessors. He tried to negotiate a settlement, but neither he nor the rebels of Karbila could really trust one another. Najib Pasha moved near-by to Musayyib and sent Sar'askar (Colonel) Sa'du'llah Pasha with a small force to reduce the town. Negotiations proceeded apace. Emissaries came and went. Persian princes, who lived in Karbila, took part in the negotiations, but nothing was achieved.
During those fatal weeks, at the end of the year 1842 and the beginning of 1843, Siyyid Kazim, who was greatly respected <p5> both for his wisdom and humanity, took a leading role, urging all parties to act with moderation and in a spirit of conciliation. Twice, in company with a small delegation, he visited the camps of Najib Pasha and Sa'du'llah Pasha outside Karbila. Lieutenant-Colonel Farrant, the British Special Commissioner, reported his efforts to Constantinople:
[1 'Abdu'l-Baha has related this story of Siyyid Kazim's works of charity: "Ali-Shah [the Zillu's-Sultan, see Prologue II, p. 10] claimed the throne of Iran. He showed great benevolence towards the divines of Karbila and Najaf, sent them money and stood up for them. However, he was unsuccessful and betook himself to Karbila. There he fell on hard times and suffered poverty. He expected the divines to come to his help and applied to them, one by one. But none heeded him. One night he and his family had to go to bed hungry. At midnight he heard a knock on his door. When he opened it he found someone, who had pulled his 'aba over his head so as to hide his face. This man put a purse with money in it into his hands and went away.
'Time passed. Indigence and want recurred. Again the same person, head covered with 'aba, came at midnight, handed a sum of money and went away without a word. To the repeated question "who are you?" he gave no answer. Then, that man came a third time with a purse containing money. This time Ali Shah followed him and saw him enter the house of Haji Siyyid Kazim and shut the door. 'Ali-Shah related this event in many gatherings. He used to say: "O people I am not a Shaykhi, but this deed is the work of righteousness. None but a man of truth would act in this way."'(3)]
The Chief Priest Hajee Seid Kausem did all in his power
to prevent hostilities, he preached against their proceedings,
he was abused and threatened, they would not
listen to him -- this I have heard from many people at
Kerbella -- at this time all were unanimous in defending
. . . to the very last he entreated them to listen to the <p6>
Pacha but without avail, he shewed great courage on the
occasion, as he had all the chief Geramees and Mollahs
[1 Probably 'yaramaz', meaning 'good-for-nothing'.]
Unhappily, his counsel was ignored by both rebels and Turks. In January 1843, after a siege of twenty-four days, the holy city was taken by assault, causing great suffering to the innocent inhabitants. The files of the Public Record Office in London contain several documents that throw light on this episode, as well as on the central part played by Siyyid Kazim. (See Appendix 1.)
During the siege Haji Siyyid Kazim had spent himself in an effort to forestall violence and protect all parties to the conflict. Although only fifty years of age, he became aware that his life was nearing its close. He was warned of this, we are told, by the dream of an Arab shepherd who recounted it to him. When his disciples expressed their distress, Siyyid Kazim replied:
Is not your love for me for the sake of that true One whose
advent we all await? Would you not wish me to die, that
the promised One may be revealed?(5)
The year 1844 was about to dawn when Siyyid Kazim breathed his last and was laid to rest near the tomb of Imam Husayn. His death was reported by Farrant, who wrote on January 24th 1844 to Sir Stratford Canning, sending a copy in February to Lt.-Col. (later Sir) Justin Sheil,(6) the British charge d'affaires in Tihran:
Hajee Seid Kausem one of the Chief Priests of Kerbella
died lately on his return from a visit to Samerrah -- Seid
Ibrahim Kasveenee the other Chief Priest who was greatly
opposed to him, will now enjoy full power, and all contention
between the two religious parties will cease.(7) <p7>
When Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i returned to Karbila from his highly successful mission in Iran, his teacher was dead. He had not appointed anyone to succeed him.
To follow the events of this narrative, it may be helpful to consider their background in some aspects of Iranian history.
[1 For other aspects the reader is referred to the Introduction of Nabil's The Dawn-Breakers.]
Muhammad Shah, the third monarch of the Qajar dynasty, ruled the land in 1843, but real power rested in the hands of Haji Mirza Aqasi, his unprepossessing Grand Vizier. The Qajars were a tribe of Turkish origin. Aqa Muhammad Khan, a eunuch chieftain of this tribe, arose in the year 1779 to carve out a kingdom for himself. Fifteen years later he finally won the crown of Iran when he captured and brutally murdered Lutf-'Ali Khan, the last ruler of the Zand dynasty, who was brave and high-minded but piteously young. The eunuch king was utterly and savagely ruthless, and he managed to hold off the Russians in the area of the Caucasus until 1797 when he was struck down by three assassins. He was succeeded by his nephew, Fath-'Ali Shah, a man of soft heart and weak will, who was highly uxorious. At his death in 1834, fifty-three sons and forty-six daughters survived him.
During the reign of Fath-'Ali Shah, Iran lost heavily to Russia in a series of disastrous wars. Her ministers, comfortably cocooned in their isolation from the currents of world affairs, and totally ignorant of the realities of the European situation, believed that with the aid of the Emperor of France the Russian menace could be thwarted. Hard on the heels of General Gardanne, Bonaparte's envoy, not <p8> one but two envoys from the more familiar 'Ingriz' (English) came in 1808. Sir Harford Jones had been dispatched from the court of King George III and Sir John Malcolm from India. In 1801 the latter, on behalf of the Marquis of Wellesley, Governor-General of India, concluded an abortive treaty with the shrewd and immensely ambitious Grand Vizier of Fath-'Ali Shah. But in the intervening years Bonaparte, subsequent to his debacle in Egypt and Syria, showered his dubious favours on the Persians, and the British connexion was conveniently ignored by the ministers of Fath. -'Ali Shah, who had entered into the Treaty of Finkenstein (1807) with the French. Moreover, in the same period, the most capable Haji Ibrahim Khan, who had contributed more than anyone to the downfall of the Zand dynasty and the ensuing victories of the eunuch king, fell from power and, as legend has it, met his death in a boiling cauldron.
[1 Haji Ibrahim Khan (the I'timadu'd-Dawlih).]
Indeed, high hopes centred on what the Emperor of France would do for Iran, only to be dashed by Bonaparte's change of policy; when he met Tsar Alexander I at Tilsit (1807) he did not remember any of his promises. And so General Gardanne was ignominiously ousted from Tihran, and Sir Harford Jones and Sir John Malcolm were left at peace, to glower at each other, much to the amusement and also surprise and embarrassment of the Persian ministers. But as Napoleon's star waned, so did the interest of the British in Persian affairs. The wars with Russia went on until the Persians acknowledged defeat in the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813.
Amidst abysmal ignorance, nepotism and malpractice which abounded in the realm, there stood two men in particular, untouched by corruption, who were fully aware of the needs of their country: Prince 'Abbas Mirza, the heir to the throne, and his vizier, Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, Qa'im <p9> Maqam-i-Farahani. But their attempts at reform could not obtain the success they deserved because of the obscurantism surrounding the person of the sovereign. It was this Crown Prince who sent the first group of Iranian students to Britain to learn the crafts of the West. Their story, which does no credit to the government in London, is preserved in a number of documents lodged in the Public Record Office. Incidentally, one of these men, a student of medicine, was named Mirza Haji Baba, the eponym of the chief character of James Morier's well-known satire.
Prince 'Abbas Mirza, worsted in the field by the Russians, now tried to provide his country with a modern army and engaged British instructors. As in the past, Tihran gave him little help. Yet he was under constant pressure to resume hostilities. The divines, particularly, were urging it. Yet Russia had no desire to fight; nor had Fath.-'Ali Shah: war was too expensive. Prince Menchikov arrived from St. Petersburg (the present-day Leningrad) not to dictate but to negotiate. But the demands of those who sought war-the clerics and the powerful court faction of Allah-Yar Khan -- proved irresistible; Menchikov returned to St. Petersburg.
[1 This incident is referred to by Baha'u'llah in His Tablet to Nasiri'd-Din Shah.]
[2 The Asafu'd-Dawlih, who later rose in rebellion against the central government during the reign of Nasiri'd-Din Shah.]
In the war that soon followed the Persians were soundly beaten and Russian forces surged forward to occupy the city of Tabriz. The first to abandon the field was a group of clerics, who, with raised standards, had accompanied the army. By the Treaty of Turkumanchay (1828), onerous and humiliating in the extreme, Iran was excluded from the Caucasus. In addition to the payment of heavy indemnities, she lost her rights in the Caspian Sea and the frontier between Russia and Iran was fixed on the river Aras. <p10>
Prince 'Abbas Mirza was now a sad and broken man. Rash actions forced upon him had brought total desolation. His modern army was shattered. Because he knew of the intrigues that plagued his father's court, and to make certain that his eldest son would not be left undefended, he asked for guarantees from the Tsar, which were readily given. After this ordeal of defeat and submission Prince 'Abbas Mirza did not live long. He died at the age of forty-five, and a year later his father followed him to the grave.
The eldest son of 'Abbas Mirza, named heir-apparent by Fath-'Ali Shah, came into his heritage by a combination of the assured support of Britain and Russia, and the wise strategy of Qa'im-Maqam. Sir John Campbell, the British Minister in Tihran, and Sir Henry Lindesay Bethune, who took command of the forces loyal to the son of 'Abbas Mirza, brought him safely from Tabriz to Tihran. Qa'im-Maqam, in the meantime, secured the backing of influential men in the capital, where another son of the late king had styled himself 'Adil Shah and was claiming the throne. But his reign was brief, and soon Muhammad Shah, the heir-apparent, was well entrenched in Tihran, for Sir Henry Lindesay Bethune (whom a Persian historian calls Mr. Lenzi) easily routed other pretenders.(8)
[1 In reality 'Ali-Shah, the Zillu's-Sultan, not to be confused with Prince Sultan Mas'ud Mirza, the Governor-General of Isfahan, who had the same title in later years.]
Muhammad Shah did not wish to seem beholden to the British officials who had helped him to his throne, nor did he show much gratitude to Qa'im-Maqam, the architect of his victory. Within a year he contrived the death of that great minister who had served him and his father so well. By the death of Qa'im-Maqam, treacherously designed, Iran sustained a tremendous and irreparable loss. Qa'im-Maqam was not only a brilliant statesman, but also a master <p11> of prose whose style rescued the language from encrusted artificialities.
[1 See Balyuzi, 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 373 and note.]
His successor as the Grand Vizier was Haji Mirza Aqasi, a man ignorant and devoid of all graces, affecting deep piety. This is how Sir Henry Layard(9) saw him in 1840:
We waited upon the Prime Minister, the Haji Mirza
Aqasi, who was then the man of the greatest influence,
power and authority in Persia. The Shah had committed
to him almost the entire government of his kingdom,
occupying himself but little with public affairs, aware
of his own incapacity for conducting them. 'The Haji'-the
name by which he was familiarly known -- was, by all
accounts, a statesman of craft and cunning, but of limited
abilities. He was cruel and treacherous, proud and overbearing,
although he affected the humility of a pious
mulla who had performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and
the holy shrines of the Imams. The religious character
which he had assumed made him intolerant and bigoted,
and he was known to be a fanatical hater of Christians.
He had been the Shah's tutor and instructor in the Koran,
and had acquired a great influence over his pupil, who had
raised him to the lofty position which he then held. He had
the reputation of being an accomplished Persian and
Arabic scholar, but he was entirely ignorant of all European
languages. His misgovernment, and the corruption
and general oppression which everywhere existed had
brought Persia to the verge of ruin. Distress, misery, and
discontent prevailed to an extent previously unknown.
He was universally execrated as the cause of the misfortunes
and misery from which the people and the State
were suffering. We found him seated on his hams, in the
Persian fashion, on a fine Kurdish carpet spread in a
handsome hall. Before him was a large tray filled with ices <p12>
and a variety of fruit . . . He was a man of small stature,
with sharp and somewhat mean and forbidding features,
and a loud shrill voice. His dress was simple -- almost
shabby -- as became a mulla and a man devoted to religious
life . . . It was evident that the Haji suspected that
we were spies and agents of the British Government.
However, he declared that the Shah was willing that we
should visit any part of his territories where we could
travel in safety, and that orders had been issued for the
preparation of our farman [royal decree]; for his Majesty
had said that we belonged to a friendly nation, and his
quarrel was not with England but with Lord Palmerston,
who had treated Persia ill, and had recalled the Queen's
Ambassador(10) without sufficient cause . . .
Nor was Iran on good terms with the Ottomans. Layard's book, Early Adventures, indicates the considerable extent of the incursions which the Turks had made into Iranian territory. The meeting between Layard and Haji Mirza Aqasi in 1840 took place in Hamadan, not far from the frontier, where Muhammad Shah was encamped with his army. The relations between the Ottoman and Iranian governments were further strained by the storming and sacking of Karbila in January 1843, where the chief sufferers were Persian. We have seen how the Persian princes living in Karbila at the time of its investment by the troops of Najib Pasha took a hand in negotiations. They were exiles and fugitives who had contested with Muhammad Shah and offended him, and senior among them was 'Ali-Shah, the Zillu's-Sultan.
Yet another issue reared its ugly head to exacerbate relations between Iran and the Ottoman Empire, that of Shi'ah against Sunni. Sheil, the British Minister in Tihran, reported to the Foreign Secretary, the Earl of Aberdeen: <p13>
If the Moollahs, and in particular the chief priest of Ispahan,
Hajee Syed Moollah Mahomed Baukir, whose
religious influence in Persia is powerful, should use the
present opportunity for regaining their former position
by exerting their authority among the people, and preaching
a crusade against the rival branch of Mahommedanism,
it is not easy to foresee the consequences.(11)
Indeed, reported Sheil, the Persian Foreign Minister and Haji Mirza Aqasi were considering the possibility of war.(12) This chief priest of Isfahan, mentioned by Sheil, was the same divine from whom Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i obtained unqualified support for Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti.
It is helpful to compare the authority of the divines of these two great branches of Islam. The Shi'ah divine in contradistinction to the Sunni has the power of 'Ijithad', that is, issuing ex cathedra decrees and judgments. His position is, in a sense, analogous to that of the English judge who can, within the boundaries of equity and common law, establish precedents. The Sunni divine belongs to one of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence: the Hanafi, the Shafi'i, the Maliki and the Hanbali. The jurisconsults, who founded these four schools or rites, which are named after them, set certain standards from which the Sunni divine cannot deviate. The Shi'ah divine, on the other hand, relies exclusively on the text of the Qur'an and the Traditions ascribed to the Prophet and the Imams, all of which are wide open to interpretation. Moreover, the Shi'ah mujtahid -- the divine who pronounces ex cathedra -- does so, it is understood, as the deputy of the Sahibu'z-Zaman, the Lord of the Age.
ALL HAIL SHIRAZ
All hail, Shiraz, hail! Oh site without peer!
May God be the Watchman before thy gate,
That the feet of Misfortune enter not here!
Lest my Ruknabad be left desolate . . .
In the afternoon of May 22nd 1844 a traveller stood outside the gates of Shiraz. He had come from Karbila, on a spiritual quest to his native land of Iran. A boat had taken him to Bushihr the Persian Gulf. From that insalubrious port his route had lain over forbidding mountains to the renowned city of Shiraz. He was accompanied by his brother and his nephew, both barely twenty years old, and he himself but in his early thirties. They had undertaken this journey for a purpose which to many seemed fantastic. But for themselves and many more like them it was real and urgent.
This traveller was the same Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i, who, after the accomplishment of his highly fruitful mission in Iran on behalf of Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti, had reached Karbila only to find his teacher dead. He had learned that Siyyid Kazim's parting counsel to his disciples had been to leave their homes and their cloisters, to abandon their studies and their debates and go out into the world to seek 'the Lord of the Age' (Sahibu'z-Zaman) whose advent had for centuries been the hope of countless millions. His supernal light would soon break upon the world, Siyyid Kazim had said. Mulla Husayn together with a number of Siyyid Kazim's disciples kept vigil for forty days in the old <p16> mosque of Kufih, nearly in ruins, and then set out on different routes to do their master's bidding.
Mulla Husayn was a man of profound scholarship and unbending will. Nothing daunted him. Now, reaching the gates of Shiraz, he sent his companions into the city to obtain lodgings, but he himself tarried for a while in the fields. His mind was occupied with the object of his quest, a quest that had brought him all those wearisome miles to Shiraz, the home and the resting-place of two of the greatest poets of Iran. Here, some five hundred years before, Hafiz had composed his superb, ethereal lyrics. Here Sa'di had lived a good part of his life and had written his lucid prose, his lambent verse. Here had worked and died a host of men celebrated both in their own days and thereafter. The air of Shiraz, the plain of Shiraz, the roses of Shiraz, the cypresses of Shiraz, have all been lavishly praised.
Forty-four years later, the young Edward Granville Browne, the future eminent orientalist of the University of Cambridge, looked at the plain of Shiraz from the heights facing the road to Bushihr, that mountain pass which is named Allah-u-Akbar (God is the Greatest) because the traveller thus expresses his wonderment at beholding such a beauteous plain. Browne wrote:
[1 See Plate facing p. 17.]
Words cannot describe the rapture which overcame me
as, after many a weary march, I gazed at length on the
reality of that whereof I had so long dreamed, and found
the reality not merely equal to, but far surpassing, the
ideal which I had conceived. It is seldom enough in one's
life that this occurs. When it does, one's innermost being is
stirred with an emotion which baffles description, and which
the most eloquent words can but dimly shadow forth.(1)
This was the city that Mulla Husayn was about to enter. It was as if a magnet had drawn him, with his brother and <p17> his nephew, to Shiraz. Nor were they alone in being thus drawn.
On this hot afternoon of May 22nd, Mulla Husayn was fatigued after the trying journey from the coast up the precipitous tracks of the rising plateau. But his mind was alert and his soul yearned for that peace which the attainment of his goal would bring him. As he walked and pondered he came face to face with a Youth of striking appearance. That young Man, who was gentle and gracious and whose turban proclaimed His descent from the Prophet Muhammad, greeted him with great kindness. Mulla Husayn was amazed and overwhelmed by the warmth of this unexpected welcome. It was the courtesy coupled with the dignified mien of this young Siyyid which particularly impressed him. Then the young Man invited him to be His guest and to partake of the evening meal at His house. Mulla Husayn mentioned that his companions had gone ahead and would be awaiting him, to which the young Siyyid replied: 'Commit them to the care of God; He will surely protect and watch over them'.
[1 A descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.]
[2 The quotations in this chapter without reference numbers are taken from Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, ch. III.]
'We soon found ourselves standing at the gate of a house of modest appearance,' Mulla Husayn has recounted. 'He knocked at the door, which was soon opened by an Ethiopian servant. "Enter therein in peace, secure," were His words as He crossed the threshold and motioned me to follow Him. His invitation, uttered with power and majesty, penetrated my soul. I thought it a good augury to be addressed in such words, standing as I did on the threshold of the first house I was entering in Shiraz, a city the very atmosphere of which had produced already an indescribable impression upon me. <p18>
[1 Qur'an xv, 46.]
Shiraz had cast its spell upon Mulla Husayn. But little did he think that his youthful Host, whose utterance rang with authority, was that 'Lord of the Age', that 'Qa'im of the House of Muhammad' whom he was seeking. Yet he could not escape the feeling that the unexpected encounter might in some way bring him near the end of his quest. At the same time he was uneasy at having left his brother and nephew with no news of himself. He further recounts: 'Overwhelmed with His acts of extreme kindness, I arose to depart. "The time for evening prayer is approaching," I ventured to observe. "I have promised my friends to join them at that hour in the Masjid-i-Ilkhani". With extreme courtesy and calm He replied: "You must surely have made the hour of your return conditional upon the will and pleasure of God. It seems that His will has decreed otherwise. You need have no fear of having broken your pledge." ' Such undoubted assurance should have made Mulla Husayn aware that he was about to experience the supreme test of his life.
[1 A well-known mosque in Shiraz.]
They prayed together. They sat down to converse. And suddenly his Host asked Mulla Husayn: 'Whom, after Siyyid Kazim, do you regard as his successor and your leader?' Furthermore, He asked: 'Has your teacher given you any detailed indications as to the distinguishing features of the promised One?' Mulla Husayn replied that Siyyid Kazim had laid the injunction upon his disciples to disperse after his death and seek 'the Lord of the Age', and indeed he had given them indications by which they could come to recognize Him. 'He is of a pure lineage, is of illustrious descent,' said Mulla Husayn, 'and of the seed of Fatimih. As to His age, He is more than twenty and less than thirty. He is endowed with innate knowledge,... abstains from smoking, and is free from bodily deficiency.' <p19>
[1 The daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, and the wife of 'Ali. the first Imam.]
There was silence -- the pause that precedes the breaking of the dawn. Mulla Husayn has told us that the silence was broken with 'vibrant voice' by his Host who declared to him:
Behold, all these signs are manifest in Me.
Mulla Husayn was for the moment shocked and bewildered. He tried to resist a claim so breath-taking. But truth looked him in the face. He marshalled arguments. But Truth is its own argument.
Mulla Husayn said: 'He whose advent we await is a Man of unsurpassed holiness, and the Cause He is to reveal [is] a Cause of tremendous power. Many and diverse are the requirements which lIe who claims to be its visible embodiment must needs fulfil. How often has Siyyid Kazim referred to the vastness of the knowledge of the promised One! How often did he say: "My own knowledge is but a drop compared with that with which He has been endowed. All my attainments are but a speck of dust in the face of the immensity of His knowledge. Nay, immeasurable is the difference!"'
In days gone by Mulla Husayn had written a dissertation on some of the abstruse doctrines and teachings which Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim had enunciated. He carried a copy of this treatise with him. He now presented it to his Host and asked Him to peruse it, and elucidate the mysteries which it contained. Not only did his Host after a rapid look through that treatise shed light upon it, He went far beyond it. Then Mulla Husayn was given the proof of which he had ample knowledge. There is a Surih (Arabic 'Surah': chapter) in the Qur'an entitled the Surih of Joseph. It tells the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, he whom his brothers betrayed and sold into slavery, who suffered imprisonment in Egypt, but rose to rule that land. It is highly allegorical. Siyyid <p20> Kazim had told Mulla Husayn, when requested by him to write a commentary on that chapter of the Qur'an: 'This is, verily, beyond me. 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.'
[1 Surih xii.]
Mulla Husayn's Host told him: 'Now is the time to reveal the commentary on the Surih of Joseph.'
'He took up His pen,' Mulla Husayn related, 'and with incredible rapidity revealed the entire Surih of Mulk, the first chapter of His commentary on the Surih of Joseph. 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. Not once did He pause till the Surih of Mulk was finished. I sat enraptured by the magic of His voice and the sweeping force of His revelation.'
But Mulla Husayn was anxious to rejoin his companions. Since that afternoon -- and long ago it seemed -- when he had sent them into the city and had himself lingered outside the city-gates, he had had no news of them nor they of him. So he rose and asked to be permitted to depart. His Host smilingly told him: 'If you leave in such a state, whoever sees you will assuredly say: "This poor youth has lost his mind." ' 'At that moment,' Mulla Husayn has said, 'the clock registered two hours and eleven minutes after sunset.'
In that moment a new Dispensation was born.
'This night,' said He who ushered in the new Dispensation, He who was to herald a new cycle, 'this very hour will, in the days to come, be celebrated as one of the greatest and most significant of all festivals.'
[1 Today that night and that hour are celebrated with joy and reverence and gratitude all over the world.]
The evening meal was now served. Mulla Husayn afterwards <p21> recalled: '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 . . . Had my youthful Host no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient -- that He received me with that quality of hospitality and loving-kindness which I was convinced no other human being could possibly reveal.
'I sat spellbound by His utterance, oblivious of time and of those who awaited me . . . Sleep had departed from me that night. I was enthralled by the music of that voice which rose and fell as He chanted; now swelling forth as He revealed verses of the Qayyumu'l-Asma', again acquiring ethereal, subtle harmonies as He uttered the prayers He was revealing. At the end of each invocation, He would repeat this verse: "Far from the glory of thy Lord, the All-Glorious, be that which His creatures affirm of Him! And peace be upon His Messengers! And praise be to God, the Lord of all beings!"' Such was Mulla Husayn's recollection of that momentous night.
[1 The commentary on the Surih of Joseph.]
[2 Qur'an xxxvii, 180.]
Then He who stood as the Vicegerent of God on earth thus addressed Mulla Husayn, who only a few hours before had been so anxious, tormented and unsure:
O thou who art the first to believe in Me! Verily I say,
I am the Bab, the Gate of God, and thou art the Babu'l-Bab,
the gate of that Gate. 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. There I shall
deliver the Message of God to the Sharif of Mecca. <p22>
And then He laid this injunction upon 'the first to believe' in Him: 'It is incumbent upon you not to divulge, either to your companions or to any other soul, that which you have seen and heard.'
'This Revelation,' Mulla Husayn has further related, 'so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendour and overwhelmed by its crushing force. 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.'
On that early morning of May 23rd 1844 when Mulla Husayn stepped out into the streets of Shiraz, his heart brimming with joy, he abandoned a priestly career which would have brought him high honours. He abandoned it willingly and knowingly for a task which, though great and noble, would bring him jeers and humiliation. He was well-known amongst the circle of the divines who exercised authority. He had the capacity, the intelligence and the learning which would have placed him in years to come in the forefront of the spiritual guides of the nation. Power and riches would have been his. But by giving his allegiance to the young Siyyid of Shiraz whom he had met under such strange circumstances, Mulla Husayn renounced all this, and chose a path in the opposite direction.
Mulla Husayn was not alone in his high resolve. Others <p23> with similar prospects of a clerical vocation journeyed to Shiraz in search of light and truth. They too had set out at the bidding of Siyyid Kazim. As if by a magnet, they were drawn to Shiraz. How can one explain it otherwise? They had no intimation that in this city lived the One whom they sought. A force far greater than themselves led their steps to Shiraz, to their journey's end. As ordained by the Bab, they found Him, each one, independently. They were true, sincere and eager and they had their reward.
The last to arrive was a youth of twenty-two, whose home was in Barfurush in the province of Mazindaran which borders the Caspian Sea. When he was a boy in his early teens, his father, Aqa Muhammad-Salih, had died. Devoting himself to the pursuit of learning he had joined the circle of Siyyid Kazim in Karbila. Eventually, he became an outstanding disciple of that remarkable teacher. It is recorded that the night before this youth, whose name was Mulla Muhammad-'Ali, reached Shiraz, the Bab told Mulla Husayn that on the following day one would arrive whose acceptance of the new theophany would 'complete the number of My chosen disciples'. Next evening as the Bab, accompanied by Mulla Husayn, was going towards His house, they encountered a young man whose dress and appearance showed the effects of a long journey. The newcomer went to Mulla Husayn whom he knew well as a fellow-disciple of Siyyid Kazim, greeted him and immediately asked whether he had found the object of his quest. Mulla Husayn was not at liberty to divulge the fact that he had, and he tried to pacify his friend and avoid the subject. It was useless, for that youth had seen the Bab. His retort to Mulla Husayn was astounding: 'Why seek you to hide Him from me? I can recognise Him by His gait. I confidently testify that none besides Him, whether in the East or in the West, can claim to be the Truth. None other can manifest the power and majesty <p24> that radiate from His holy person.' Mulla Husayn was amazed, and leaving the newcomer he walked on and told the Bab what had transpired. Having already anticipated the arrival of that youth, although he had certainly not received any word from him, the Bab observed: 'Marvel not at his strange behaviour. We have in the world of the spirit been communing with that youth. We know him already... Go to him and summon him forthwith to Our presence.' Thus did Mulla Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Barfurushi, whom the Bab honoured with the title of Quddus (the Most Holy), attain his heart's desire.
[1 Now named Babul.]
These disciples of the Bab are called the Letters of the Living. All but one met the Bab face to face, and recognized in Him the Lord of the Age whom they sought. That single exception was a gifted woman, an accomplished writer of verse, courageous, a total stranger to fear, of whom Lord Curzon says:
[1 Huruf-i-Hayy. Hayy (the Living) is an Arabic word, numerically equivalent to eighteen.]
Beauty and the female sex also lent their consecration to
the new creed, and the heroism of the lovely but ill-fated
poetess of Kazvin, Zerin Taj (Crown of Gold), or
Kurrat-el-Ain (Solace of the Eyes), who, throwing off
the veil, carried the missionary torch far and wide, is one
of the most affecting episodes in modern history.(2)
And here is the tribute of another eminent Englishman, Edward Granville Browne, to this unique woman:
The appearance of such a woman as Kurratu'l-'Ayn is
in any country and any age a rare phenomenon, but in
such a country as Persia it is a prodigy -- nay, almost a
miracle. Alike in virtue of her marvellous beauty, her <p25>
rare intellectual gifts, her fervid eloquence, her fearless
devotion and her glorious martyrdom, she stands forth
incomparable and immortal amidst her countrywomen
Had the Babi religion no other claim to greatness, this
were sufficient -- that it produced a heroine like Kurratu'l-'Ayn.(3)
Qurratu'l-'Ayn belonged to a family famed for its learning. Her father, Haji Mulla Salih, and her uncle, Haji Mulla Muhammad-Taqi,(4) were both leading figures among the clergy. But they were far too orthodox for this great woman's spiritual susceptibilities, although a younger uncle, Haji Mulla 'Ali, had become a supporter of the Shaykhi school. Qurratu'l-'Ayn was married to the son of Haji Mulla Muhammad-Taqi -- her cousin, Mulla Muhammad. They had children, but their marriage was disastrous. Mulla Muhammad was even more fanatical and narrow-minded than his father and a wide gulf yawned between husband and wife.
[1 The school of Shaykh Ahmad.]
Qurratu'l-'Ayn had another cousin, Mulla Javad, who had accepted the rational views of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim. Having learned in this cousin's library of the teaching of the illustrious sage of Karbila who had gone far beyond the limits of orthodoxy, Qurratu'l-'Ayn corresponded with Siyyid Kazim and gave him her allegiance. From him she received the name Qurratu'l-'Ayn. In vain did her elders attempt to dampen her enthusiasm. No persuasion or threat could stop the tide of her newly-found devotion. And when she decided to leave her home and her family and join the circle of Siyyid Kazim, nothing could thwart her purpose. To appreciate the boldness and gravity of her action, one must realize how sheltered were the Eastern women of those days; her behaviour could be seen only as scandalous and almost unprecedented. However, she reached Karbila too <p26> late. Ten days prior to her arrival Siyyid Kazim had passed away. Qurratu'l-'Ayn remained in Karbila. She was convinced that before long the One promised to them would appear. Now, many of the disciples of Siyyid Kazim were setting out on their search. One of them was Qurratu'l-'Ayn's brother-in-law, the husband of her younger sister Mardiyyih. She gave this relative, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, a sealed letter and told him to deliver it to the One whom they expected and sought. A verbal message in verse was added to the letter: 'Say to Him, from me,' she said,
'The effulgence of thy face flashed forth and
the rays of thy visage arose on high;
Then speak the word, "Am I not your
Lord?" and "Thou art, Thou art!"
we will all reply.'(5)
When Mirza Muhammad-'Ali reached the presence of the Bab, he gave Him the letter and the message; and the Bab numbered her among the Letters of the Living. Thus it was that this fearless, eloquent pioneer of woman's emancipation joined the ranks of the first disciples of the Bab. Qurratu'l-'Ayn is better known as Tahirih -- the Pure One -- a designation by which she will ever be remembered.
[1 We shall see on p. 163 how she acquired this name.]
The Letters of the Living, the eighteen disciples who found the Bab 'independently and of their own accord', were:
Mulla Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Barfurushi entitled Quddus.
Mulla Husayn-i-Bushru'i, entitled Babu'l-Bab.
Mirza Muhammad- Hasan-i-Bushru'i, brother of Mulla Husayn.
Mirza Muhammad-Baqir nephew of Mulla Husayn.
Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Qazvini brother-in-law of Tahirih.
Mulla Ahmad-i-Ibdal-i-Maraghi'i. <p27>
These nine were martyrs who fell during 'the Mazindaran upheaval' (see p. 175).
Mulla' 'Aliy-i-Bastami the first martyr of the Babi Dispensation.
He was put to death somewhere in 'Iraq.
Qurratu'l-'Ayn Tahirih whose original name was Umm-Salamih.
Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi known as Katib (the Amanuensis), and also 'Aziz
Tahirih and Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi suffered martyrdom
in the holocaust of August 1852, subsequent to the
attempt made by two Babis on the life of Nasiri'd-Din
Shaykh Sa'id-i-Hindi (the Indian). He met his death some
where in India, though no one knows how and where
Mulla Baqir-i-Tabrizi. He lived on to the advent of
Baha'u'llah and believed in Him.
Mirza Hadiy-i-Qazvini son of Haji Mirza 'Abdu'l-Vahhab,
and brother of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali (the fifth name
above). Mirza Hadi remained apart from other Babis
and taught the Faith with caution.
Mirza Muhammad Rawdih-Khan-i-Yazdi. He too remained
apart from other Babis and was generally known as a
Shaykhi. But he never renounced his faith and taught it
whenever he could.
Mulla Khuda-Bakhsh-i-Quchani, later known as Mulla 'Aliy-i-
Razi. He died a natural death, but his son Mashiyyatu'llah
later met with martyrdom in his youth.
Mulla Hasan-i-Bajistani. Doubts assailed him after the
martyrdom of the Bab, because he did not consider himself
worthy of the station given to him. Forced to leave his
home, he went to 'Iraq and attained the presence of
Mulla 'Aliy-i-Bastami was given the mission to return to 'Iraq and inform the people in that heartland of the Shi'ah persuasion that the Bab had appeared, but not to divulge, as yet, any particulars that might reveal His identity. To him the Bab said:
Your faith must be immovable as the rock, must weather
every storm and survive every calamity. Suffer not the
denunciations of the foolish and the calumnies of the
clergy to afflict you, or to turn you from your purpose.
For you are called to partake of the celestial banquet
prepared for you in the immortal Realm. You are the first
to leave the House of God, and to suffer for His sake. If
you be slain in His path, remember that great will be
your reward, and goodly the gift which will be bestowed
Mulla 'Ali was soon on his way to 'Iraq. Then the Bab called together the other sixteen disciples and spoke to them, adjuring them to go out into the world and serve their God in the light of the faith given to them:
O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name
of God in this Day. You have been chosen as the repositories
of His mystery. It behoves each one of you to
manifest the attributes of God, and to exemplify by your
deeds and words the signs of His righteousness, His power
and glory. The very members of your body must bear
witness to the loftiness of your purpose, the integrity
of your life, the reality of your faith, and the exalted
character of your devotion. For verily I say, this is the
Day spoken of by God in His Book: 'On that day will
We set a seal upon their mouths; yet shall their hands
speak unto Us, and their feet shall bear witness to that
which they shall have done.' Ponder the words of Jesus
addressed to His disciples, as He sent them forth to <p29>
propagate the Cause of God. In words such as these, He
bade them arise and fulfil their mission: 'Ye are even as
the fire which in the darkness of the night has been
kindled upon the mountain-top. Let your light shine
before the eyes of men. Such must be the purity of your
character and the degree of your renunciation, that the
people of the earth may through you recognise and be
drawn closer to the heavenly Father who is the Source of
purity and grace. For none has seen the Father who is
in heaven. You who are His spiritual children must by
your deeds exemplify His virtues, and witness to His
glory. You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have
lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? Such must
be the degree of your detachment, that into whatever
city you enter to proclaim and teach the Cause of God,
you should in no wise expect either meat or reward from
its people. Nay, when you depart out of that city, you
should shake the dust from off your feet. As you have
entered it pure and undefiled, so must you depart from
that city. For verily I say, the heavenly Father is ever
with you and keeps watch over you. If you be faithful
to Him, He will assuredly deliver into your hands all the
treasures of the earth, and will exalt you above all the
rulers and kings of the world.' O My Letters! Verily I
say, immensely exalted is this Day above the days of the
Apostles of old. Nay, immeasurable is the difference I
You are the witnesses of the Dawn of the promised Day
of God. You are the partakers of the mystic chalice of His
Revelation. Gird up the loins of endeavour, and be mindful
of the words of God as revealed in His Book: 'Lo
the Lord thy God is come, and with Him is the company
of His angels arrayed before Him!' Purge your hearts
of worldly desires, and let angelic virtues be your adorning.
Strive that by your deeds you may bear witness to the
truth of these words of God, and beware lest, by 'turning
back', He may 'change you for another people', who <p30>
'shall not be your like', and who shall take from you the
Kingdom of God. The days when idle worship was
deemed sufficient are ended. The time is come when
naught but the purest motive, supported by deeds of
stainless purity, can ascend to the throne of the Most
High and be acceptable unto Him. 'The good word
riseth up unto Him, and the righteous deed will cause
it to be exalted before Him.' You are the lowly, of
whom God has thus spoken in His Book: 'And We
desire to show favour to those who were brought low
in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among
men, and to make them Our heirs.' You have been
called to this station; you will attain to it, only if you arise
to trample beneath your feet every earthly desire, and
endeavour to become those honoured servants of His
who speak not till He hath spoken, and who do His
bidding'. You are the first Letters that have been generated
from the Primal Point [the Bab], the first Springs that
have welled out from the Source of this Revelation.
Beseech the Lord your God to grant that no earthly
entanglements, no worldly affections, no ephemeral
pursuits, may tarnish the purity, or embitter the sweetness,
of that grace which flows through you. I am preparing
you for the advent of a mighty Day. Exert your
utmost endeavour that, in the world to come, I, who am
now instructing you, may, before the mercy-seat of God,
rejoice in your deeds and glory in your achievements.
The secret of the Day that is to come is now concealed.
It can neither be divulged nor estimated. The newly born
babe of that Day excels the wisest and most venerable
men of this time, and the lowliest and most unlearned of
that period shall surpass in understanding the most
erudite and accomplished divines of this age. Scatter
throughout the length and breadth of this land, and, with
steadfast feet and sanctified hearts, prepare the way for
His coming. Heed not your weaknesses and frailty; fix <p31>
your gaze upon the invincible power of the Lord, your
God, the Almighty. Has He not, in past days, caused
Abraham, in spite of His seeming helplessness, to triumph
over the forces of Nimrod? Has He not enabled Moses,
whose staff was His only companion, to vanquish Pharaoh
and his hosts? Has He not established the ascendancy of
Jesus, poor and lowly as He was in the eyes of men, over
the combined forces of the Jewish people? Has He not
subjected the barbarous and militant tribes of Arabia to
the holy and transforming discipline of Muhammad, His
Prophet? Arise in His name, put your trust wholly in
Him, and be assured of ultimate victory.
[1 Qur'an xxxvi. 65.]
[2 Qur'an lxxxix, 23.]
[3 ibid. xivii.]
[5 ibid. xxviii 4.]
HE WHOM THEY SOUGHT
The gentle spirit of the Bab is surely high up in
the cycles of eternity. Who can fail, as Prof. Browne
says, to be attracted by him?
-- T. K. Cheyne, D.Litt., D.D.
Siyyid (or Mirza) 'Ali-Muhammad, known to history as the Bab, was the son of Siyyid (or Mir) Muhammad-Rida, a mercer of Shiraz.(1) He was born on October 20th 1819 (Muharram 1st, 1235 A.H.). Through both His father and His mother He was descended from Imam Husayn, the third Imam. Thus He stood in direct line of descent from the Prophet Muhammad. According to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpaygani, Siyyid Muhammad-Rida, the Bab's father, died when his only child was an infant, unweaned. Then the care of the child devolved upon a maternal uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. He was the only relative of the Bab to espouse His Cause openly during His lifetime and, as will be seen, to accept martyrdom for His sake. But according to a manuscript history of the Babi-Baha'i Faith in Shiraz by Haji Mirza Habibu'llah-i-Afnan, Siyyid Muhammad-Rida passed away when his son was nine years old, and 'Abdu'l-Baha appears to confirm this account.
[1 He was the son of Fatimih and 'Ali.]
[2 Haji Mirza Habibu'llah's father, Aqa Mirza-Aqa, was a nephew of the wife of the Bab, and his paternal grandfather, Aqa Mirza Zaynu'l-'Abidin, was a paternal cousin of the father of the Bab. (See Foreword for other details of the manuscript.)]
[3 Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, p. 2.]
Two of Siyyid Muhammad-Rida's paternal cousins rose <p33> to eminence in the ranks of the Shi'ah divines, and both bore allegiance, in strict secrecy, to their kinsman when His claim to be 'the Qa'im of the House of Muhammad' became publicly known. Of the two, the more famed and distinguished was Haji Mirza Muhammad-Hasan (1815-95), known as Mirzay-i-Shirazi, who, like all the leading Shi'ah divines, resided in 'Iraq. He was the most influential ecclesiastic of his time, powerful enough to wreck the Tobacco Regie, the monopoly concession which Nasiri'd-Din Shah (reigned 1848-96) gave to Major Gerald F. Talbot, a British citizen, in the summer of 1889.(2) Mirzay-i-Shirazi put the use of tobacco under an interdict and the people of Iran, even the women in the Shah's harem, ceased to use it. Nasiri'd-Din Shah was forced early in 1892 to cancel the concession and pay the Tobacco Corporation an indemnity of Ï500,000. The father of Mirzay-i-Shirazi, named Mirza Mahmud, was a noted calligraphist, and was uncle to the father of the Bab.
The other celebrated ecclesiastic, cousin to Siyyid Muhammad-Rida, was Haji Siyyid Javad, the Imam-Jum'ih of Kirman. It was Quddus who gave this dignitary the news of the advent of the Bab. Haji Siyyid Javad extended his protection to Quddus, despite the clamour of his adversaries.
[1 Literally, 'The Leader of Friday' -- the leading imam (he who leads the congregation in prayer) in a town or city.]
The mother of the Bab was Fatimih-Bagum. She was the daughter of Mirza Muhammad-Husayn, a merchant of Shiraz, and had three brothers. Of these, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali became the guardian of the Bab, while Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad and Haji Mirza Hasan-'Ali, although not enlisted in the ranks of the followers of their illustrious Nephew, feature in His story.
Every account that we have of Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad's childhood indicates that He was not an ordinary child. <p34> When He was sent to school, He so surprised the schoolmaster, Shaykh 'Abid, with His wisdom and intelligence that the bewildered man took the child back to His uncle, and said that he had nothing to teach this gifted pupil: 'He, verily, stands in no need of teachers such as I.' The uncle had already noticed the remarkable qualities of his ward, and it is recorded that on this occasion he was very stern with Him: 'Have You forgotten my instructions? Have I not already admonished You to follow the example of Your fellow-pupils, to observe silence, and to listen attentively to every word spoken by Your teacher?' It was totally alien to the nature of that gentle child to disregard the wishes of His guardian. He returned to school and conducted Himself on the pattern of other children. Nothing, however, could restrain the superior mind and intelligence possessed by that exceptional boy. As time went on, the schoolmaster became convinced that he could not help his student; in the role of instructor he felt as the instructed.
It should also be said that schools such as that attended by Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, which were common in those days, were one-man affairs and matters taught were elementary, although pupils were trained to read the Qur'an, even if they could not possibly understand the meaning of the sacred text which is of course in Arabic. The Bab did not go beyond this school nor the tuition of Shaykh 'Abid. Thus His schooling was meagre.
The Bab was only five years old when He was sent to receive tuition from Shaykh 'Abid. Haji Mirza Habibu'llah's narrative contains an account of His first day at school, related by Aqa Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Isma'il Bag, a well-known merchant of Shiraz, who was a fellow-scholar at the age of twelve. The Bab had taken a seat, with great courtesy, in between this boy and another pupil who was also much older than Himself. His head was bowed over the primer put in front of Him, the first lines of which He had been <p35> taught to repeat. But He would not utter a word. When asked why He did not read aloud as other boys were doing He made no reply. Just then two boys, sitting near them, were heard to recite a couplet from Hafiz, which runs thus:
From the pinnacles of Heaven they call out unto thee;
I know not what hath thee here entrapped.(3)
'That is your answer,' said the Bab, turning to Aqa Muhammad-Ibrahim.
Haji Mirza Habibu'llah also tells us that, apart from teaching boys, Shaykh 'Abid had a regular class for theological students. On one occasion some of these students posed a question which after a long period of discussion remained unresolved. Shaykh 'Abid told them that he would consult some authoritative works that same night and on the morrow present them with the solution. Just then the Bab, who had been listening, spoke and with sound reasoning propounded the answer which they sought. They were wonder-struck, for they had no recollection of discussing that particular subject within earshot of the Bab, who might then have looked up references in books and memorized them to repeat parrot-wise. Shaykh 'Abid asked Him where He had gained that knowledge. The boy replied smilingly with a couplet from Hafiz:
Should the grace of the Holy Spirit once again deign to assist,
Others will also do what Christ could perform.(3)
Not only did the mental faculties of the Bab astound the schoolmaster; the nobility of His character impressed him even more. Indeed all those who were close or near to His person could not but yield to the charm of His being. Years later, when the Bab had raised the call of a new theophany, the schoolmaster casting his mind over the past told Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i, a learned scion of a celebrated <p36> priestly family (the Bahru'l-'Ulum), that Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad was always dignified and serene, that He was very handsome and cared little for the pastimes of other boys. Some mornings, the schoolmaster recalled, He was late coming to school and when asked the reason He remained silent. On occasions Shaykh 'Abid sent other pupils to call at His home and ask Him to come to school. They would return to say that they had found Him at His devotions. One day, when He had come late to school and was questioned by Shaykh 'Abid, the Bab said quietly that He had been in the house of His 'Grandfather'. Thus do the Siyyids refer to their ancestor the Prophet Muhammad. To the schoolmaster's remonstrances that He was only a child of ten from whom such rigorous attention to devotions was not demanded, He replied quietly again, 'I wish to be like My Grandfather'. At that time, Shaykh 'Abid said, he had taken the words of Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad as childish naivete.(4)
[1 Literally, the 'Sea of All Knowledge'.]
A certain book-binder of Shiraz named Siyyid Muhammad, whose house neighboured that of the Bab's, but who in later years removed to Saray-i-Amir in Tihran to ply his trade, had heard Shaykh 'Abid relate that it was customary, when the season was clement, for the boys to invite their teacher and their fellow-pupils on Fridays (the day of rest) to an outing in one of the numerous gardens which bordered the city of Shiraz. At times they would find that the Bab had betaken Himself to a shaded, secluded spot in a corner of the orchard to pray and meditate.
[1 A well-known inn (caravanserai).]
Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i had himself encountered the Bab in the years of His childhood. He was normally a resident of Karbila and had attended regularly the discourses of Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti, eventually becoming one of his ardent disciples. But he was also a man of travel who <p37> embarked now and then on long journeys. Twice he went on pilgrimage to Mecca and spent some time there teaching and discoursing. He visited India and stayed in Bombay for a while. One of his journeys took him to Shiraz, at a time when the Bab was about nine years old. Being well acquainted with Haji Siyyid Muhammad (one of the Bab's maternal uncles), Haji Siyyid Javad visited him occasionally. Decades later he recalled that on one of these visits he could hear the intonations of a melodious, enraptured voice, coming from the direction of the alcove reserved for devotions. Before long a boy stepped out of the recess and Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad introduced Him as his nephew who was orphaned. Another visit coincided with the Bab's return from school. Haji Siyyid Javad noticed that He held a batch of papers and asked what they were. Very courteously the boy replied that they were His calligraphic exercises. When Haji Siyyid Javad inspected them he marvelled at their excellence.
[1 See Plate facing p. 48.]
On yet another and later occasion, when the Bab was for a time engaged in trading in the port of Bushihr, Haji Siyyid Javad spent six months in that town, living in the same inn as the Bab. Thus they often met. Still later, in Karbila, Haji Siyyid Javad again met the Bab, who by then was in His early twenties.
[1 See Plates between pp. 80 and 81.]
When Mulla 'Aliy-i-Bastami reached 'Iraq with the tidings of the advent of the Bab, the news spread rapidly among the divines and the students of theology. Haji Siyyid Javad was one of those particularly attracted, and he often urged Mulla 'Ali to divulge the name of Him who had put forth such a tremendous claim. But the Bab had emphatically forbidden Mulla 'Ali to mention His name or give any clue to His identity. To all insistent requests Mulla 'Ali merely said that before long His identity would be revealed to <p38> them. No one, according to the testimony of Haji Siyyid Javad, suspected that the Bab could be the young merchant of Shiraz who had only recently lived among them. Most of the Shaykhis believed that the Bab must be one of the close disciples of Siyyid Kazim.
Then it occurred to Haji Siyyid Javad to invite Mulla 'Ali to his own home and question him more closely. Seated on the roof of the house, in the neighbourhood of the Shrine of Imam Husayn, the two of them conversed at length about the 'Great Event', but no matter how hard he tried, Haji Siyyid Javad could not induce his guest to disclose the secret which he had been bidden to withhold. So frustrated did he feel that, on his own admission, Haji Siyyid Javad gripped the arms of Mulla 'Ali, pushed him hard against the wall and exclaimed: 'What am I to do with you, Mulla 'Ali! Kill you? Won't you say who that wondrous Being is? Won't you relieve us of this misery?' Gasping for breath, Mulla 'Ali replied: 'Siyyid Javad! It is forbidden. You yourself are a man of learning. You should know better. It is forbidden.' And then quite unexpectedly and without knowing why, Mulla 'Ali added that the Bab had specially mentioned that all His letters extant in 'Iraq, whoever the recipient might have been, ought to be sent to Shiraz. No sooner had Mulla 'Ali spoken than Haji Siyyid Javad had, in a flash, a mental picture of Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, whom he had known and admired since His childhood. He ran down the stairs to the room where he kept his papers, gathered up the letters he had received from Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad and hurried back to the roof. The moment Mulla 'Ali caught sight of the seal on those letters he burst into tears, and so did Haji Siyyid Javad. They wept for joy, and between his sobs Mulla 'Ali kept repeating: 'Aqa Siyyid Javad! Aqa Siyyid Javad! I did not mention any name to you. It is forbidden to mention His blessed name. Don't mention His name to anyone.'(5) <p39>
Thus did Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i Faith, to which he remained steadfastly loyal throughout his long life. We shall hear later a good deal more of this remarkable man.
Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad had some six to seven years of schooling with Shaykh 'Abid. In all probability He left the school at the Qahviy-i-Awliya' before He was thirteen. According to Haji Mirza Habibu'llah's narrative, He joined Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, His uncle-guardian, in business when He was fifteen years old, and shortly afterwards moved to Bushihr. Pages of commercial accounts which He kept put it beyond doubt that the Bab left Shiraz for Bushihr when He was nearly sixteen. There can be little doubt that at an early age the Bab took over the complete management of the trading-house in Bushihr. His scrupulous attention to detail and His undeviating fairness in transactions became widely known in the region. A man who had consigned to Him some goods to sell was astonished to find, when he received his money, that it was more than could be obtained at current prices. He wanted to return some of it. The Bab told him that it was only fair and just that he should be given that particular sum, because his goods would have fetched exactly that amount had they been offered for sale when the market was at its best.
[1 Islamic law specifies fifteen as the age of maturity.]
[2 See Plate facing p. 49.]
A.-L.-M. Nicolas maintains that the Bab was also engaged in writing and composing, during this period of His sojourn in Bushihr. He mentions a treatise, the Risaliy-i-Fiqhiyyib, as having come from the pen of the Bab during those years.(6) His statement is corroborated by Haji Mirza Habibu'llah's narrative:
One day in Egypt during the time when Mirza Abu'l
Fadl was occupied with writing his book, the Fara'id <p40>
we came to talk about the early years of the Bab, prior
to His declaration, and the period when He was engaged
in trading. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl related the following to me:
'I myself heard the late Haji Siyyid Javad Karbila'i say
that when the Bab was pursuing the career of a merchant
in Bushihr, he . . . because of his friendship with the
uncles of the Bab used to stay with them whenever he
visited either Shiraz or Bushihr. One day Haji Mirza
Siyyid Muhammad came to him with a request. "Give
some good counsel to my nephew . . . tell Him not to
write certain things which can only arouse the jealousy
of some people: these people cannot bear to see a young
merchant of little schooling show such erudition, they feel
envious." Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad had been very
insistent that Haji Siyyid Javad should counsel the Bab to
desist from writing. Haji Siyyid Javad had however
replied with these lines of verse: "The fair of face cannot
put up with the veil; Shut him in, and out of the window
will he show his visage," and had added: "We are earthbound
and He is celestial. Our counsel is of no use to
Mulla Muhammad-i-Zarandi, Nabil-i-A'zam, lays particular stress on the Bab's strict regard for His devotions on Fridays. Even the torrid conditions of Bushihr, he states, did not deter the Bab. Writers of such histories as the Nasikhu't-Tavarikh,(7) hostile to the Bab, have alleged that long exposure to the severe heat of the sun in that seaport, while engaged in prayers, affected His mind. They have gone on to assert that it was this derangement of mind which led Him to make extravagant claims. But Haji Mirza Jani of Kashan refutes any suggestion that the Bab deliberately practised austerities, or that He found Himself a 'murshid' (spiritual guide) to direct Him along such lines.
Unfortunately records of the years that the Bab spent in Bushihr are scant. We cannot be certain as to the exact dates when He took over the complete management of the <p41> trading-house and when He retired. Haji Mu'inu's-Saltanih of Tabriz states in his chronicle that the Bab assumed direct responsibility at the age of twenty. If that statement be correct, the period during which He acted on His own was quite brief. According to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl of Gulpaygan, He journeyed to the holy cities of 'Iraq in the spring of 1841, stayed in 'Iraq for nearly seven months and returned to His 'native province of Fars' in the autumn of that year. Haji Mirza Habibu'llah states that the Bab's sojourn in Bushihr lasted six years. According to him, when the Bab decided to go on pilgrimage to the holy cities of 'Iraq, He wrote to His uncles in Shiraz asking them to come and take over the business from Him. His uncles, however, procrastinated, whereupon the Bab settled all the outstanding matters in Bushihr Himself, brought His books up to date, locked and sealed the door of the office and left the keys with the gatekeeper of the caravanserai, to be handed over to any one of His uncles. He informed His uncles of what He had done and explained that since they had not heeded His repeated pleas He had no other alternative, determined as He was to go on pilgrimage to the holy cities. Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad was greatly perturbed lest their credit be damaged and their clients suffer serious loss. But Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali assured him that their nephew would never do anything to compromise them and that all accounts would be found in perfect order. Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad hurried to Bushihr where a close inspection of the books satisfied him that nothing had been left to chance.
[1 The holy cities of 'Iraq are: (1) Najaf and (2) Karbila (both already mentioned), which have within them the shrines of the first and the third Imams, respectively; (3) Kazimayn, in the close vicinity of Baghdad, which harbours the shrines of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the seventh Imam, and Imam Muhammad al-Taqi, the ninth Imam; (4) Samarra, where the shrines of the tenth and the eleventh Imams, 'Ali an-Naqi and Hasan al-'Askari, are situated.] <p42>
While in Karbila the Bab visited Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti and attended his discourses. But these occasional visits did not and could not make Him a pupil or disciple of Siyyid Kazim. His adversaries have alleged that He sat at the feet of Siyyid Kazim for months on end to learn from him. But accounts that we have from close associates of Siyyid Kazim all indicate that the Shaykhi leader welcomed and received Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, on every occasion, with great reverence. Here is a long account by Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi:
My days were spent in the service of Siyyid Kazim, to
whom I was greatly attached. One day, at the hour of
dawn, I was suddenly awakened by Mulla Naw-ruz, one
of his intimate attendants, who, in great excitement, bade
me arise and follow him. We went to the house of Siyyid
Kazim, where we found him fully dressed, wearing his
'aba, and ready to leave his home. He asked me to accompany
him. 'A highly esteemed and distinguished Person,'
he said, 'has arrived. I feel it incumbent upon us both to
visit Him.' The morning light had just broken when I
found myself walking with him through the streets of
Karbila. We soon reached a house, at the door of which
stood a Youth, as if expectant to receive us. He wore a
green turban, and His countenance revealed an expression
of humility and kindliness which I can never describe.
He quietly approached us, extended His arms towards
Siyyid Kazim, and lovingly embraced him. His affability
and loving-kindness singularly contrasted with the sense
of profound reverence that characterised the attitude of
Siyyid Kazim towards Him. Speechless and with bowed
head, he received the many expressions of affection and
esteem with which that Youth greeted him. We were
soon led by Him to the upper floor of that house, and
entered a chamber bedecked with flowers and redolent
of the loveliest perfume. He bade us be seated. We knew
not, however, what seats we actually occupied, so overpowering <p43>
was the sense of delight which seized us. We
observed a silver cup which had been placed in the centre
of the room, which our youthful Host, soon after we were
seated, filled to overflowing, and handed to Siyyid Kazim,
saying: 'A drink of a pure beverage shall their Lord
give them.' Siyyid Kazim held the cup with both hands
and quaffed it. A feeling of reverent joy filled his being, a
feeling which he could not suppress. I too was presented
with a cupful of that beverage, though no words were
addressed to me. All that was spoken at that memorable
gathering was the above-mentioned verse of the Qur'an.
Soon after, the Host arose from His seat and, accompanying
us to the threshold of the house, bade us farewell.
I was mute with wonder, and knew not how to express
the cordiality of His welcome, the dignity of His bearing,
the charm of that face, and the delicious fragrance of
that beverage. How great was my amazement when I saw
my teacher quaff without the least hesitation that holy
draught from a silver cup, the use of which, according to
the precepts of Islam, is forbidden to the faithful. I could
not explain the motive which could have induced the
Siyyid to manifest such profound reverence in the presence
of that Youth -- a reverence which even the sight of the
shrine of the Siyyidu'sh-Shuhada' had failed to excite.
Three days later, I saw that same Youth arrive and take
His seat in the midst of the company of the assembled
disciples of Siyyid Kazim. He sat close to the threshold,
and with the same modesty and dignity of bearing listened
to the discourse of the Siyyid. As soon as his eyes fell
upon that Youth, the Siyyid discontinued his address and
held his peace. Whereupon one of his disciples begged
him to resume the argument which he had left unfinished.
'What more shall I say?' replied Siyyid Kazim, as he <p44>
turned his face toward the Bab. 'Lo, the Truth is more
manifest than the ray of light that has fallen upon that
lap!' I immediately observed that the ray to which the
Siyyid referred had fallen upon the lap of that same Youth
whom we had recently visited. 'Why is it,' that questioner
enquired, 'that you neither reveal His name nor identify
His person?' To this the Siyyid replied by pointing with
his finger to his own throat, implying that were he to
divulge His name, they both would be put to death
instantly. This added still further to my perplexity. I had
already heard my teacher observe that so great is the
perversity of this generation, that were he to point with
his finger to the promised One and say: 'He indeed is the
Beloved, the Desire of your hearts and mine,' they would
still fail to recognise and acknowledge Him. I saw the
Siyyid actually point out with his finger the ray of light
that had fallen on that lap, and yet none among those who
were present seemed to apprehend its meaning. I, for my
part, was convinced that the Siyyid himself could never
be the promised One, but that a mystery inscrutable to us
all, lay concealed in that strange and attractive Youth.
Several times I ventured to approach Siyyid Kazim and
seek from him an elucidation of this mystery. Every time
I approached him, I was overcome by a sense of awe
which his personality so powerfully inspired.(8)
[1 Qur'an lxxvi, 21.]
[2 'Siyyidu'sh-Shuhada'' can be variously translated as the 'Head', the 'Chief', the 'Master' or 'Prince of the Martyrs'. It is applied to Imam Husayn (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) who was the third Imam.]
Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi has gone on to relate:
I often felt the urge to seek alone the presence of that
Hashimite Youth and to endeavour to fathom His
mystery. I watched Him several times as He stood in an
attitude of prayer at the doorway of the shrine of the
Imam Husayn. So wrapt was He in His devotions that
He seemed utterly oblivious of those around Him. Tears
rained from His eyes, and from His lips fell words of <p45>
glorification and praise of such power and beauty as even
the noblest passages of our sacred Scriptures could not
hope to surpass. The words 'O God, my God, my Beloved,
my heart's Desire,' were uttered with a frequency and
ardour that those of the visiting pilgrims who were near
enough to hear Him instinctively interrupted the course
of their devotions, and marvelled at the evidences of piety
and veneration which that youthful countenance evinced.
Like Him they were moved to tears, and from Him they
learned the lesson of true adoration. Having completed
His prayers, that Youth, without crossing the threshold
of the shrine and without attempting to address any words
to those around Him, would quietly return to His home.
I felt the impulse to address Him, but every time I ventured
an approach, a force that I could neither explain nor
resist, detained me. My inquiries about Him elicited the
information that He was a resident of Shiraz, that He was
a merchant by profession, and did not belong to any of
the ecclesiastical orders. I was, moreover, informed that
He, and also His uncles and relatives, were among the
lovers and admirers of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim.
I learned that He had departed for Najaf on His way to
Shiraz. That Youth had set my heart aflame. The memory
of that vision haunted me. My soul was wedded to His
till the day when the call of a Youth from Shiraz, proclaiming
Himself to be the Bab, reached my ears. The
thought instantly flashed through my mind that such a
person could be none other than that selfsame Youth
whom I had seen in Karbila, the Youth of my heart's
[1 Hashim was the great-grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad.]
According to Haji Mirza Habibu'llah's narrative, as the sojourn of the Bab in the holy cities lengthened into months, His mother, anxious to have her only son back in Shiraz, asked her brother, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, to go to 'Iraq and persuade Him to return. He could not deny his sister's request, but when he reached 'Iraq he found that his nephew, who had once been his ward, was unwilling to leave the <p46> holy cities. Thereupon he appealed to Haji Siyyid Javad-i- Karbila'i for help, who was at first reluctant to lend his support, not wishing to lose the company of the young Shirazi Siyyid whom he had over the course of years so tremendously admired. However, when he learned that His mother was greatly concerned, he consented to intervene. At last the Bab complied with their request and agreed to return. After a few months in Shiraz He declared His intention of going once again to 'Iraq. His mother, alarmed and agitated by this decision, once more sought the aid of her brother. Their efforts resulted in the marriage of the Bab to Khadijih-Bagum, daughter of Haji Mirza 'Ali,(10) the paternal uncle of His mother. The marriage took place in August 1842. Khadijih-Bagum had two brothers: Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim and Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan, and both of them, though not counted among His followers in His lifetime, have a place in the story of the Bab. The descendants of these two brothers-in-law of the Bab, and the descendants of His maternal uncles, are known as the Afnan (the Twigs).
[1 See Plate facing p. 80.]
A son was born to Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad and Khadijih-Bagum in the year 1843, whom they named Ahmad, but he did not live long. Haji Mirza Habibu'llah states that the child was still-born. The Bab notes the birth of Ahmad in the Qayyumu'l-Asma' His commentary on the Surih of Yusuf (Joseph). Speaking of His wedding with His well-beloved, who was herself descended from the Well-Beloved (Muhammad is known as Habibu'llah -- the Well-Beloved of God), and relating how He had called upon the angels of Heaven and the cohorts of Paradise to witness that wedding, the Bab then addresses His wife:
O well-beloved! Value highly the grace of Dhikr [the
Bab],(11) the Greatest, for it comes from God, the Loved <p47>
One. Thou shalt not be a woman, like other women, if
thou obeyest God in the Cause of Truth ... and
take pride in being the consort of the Well-Beloved,
who is loved by God the Greatest. Sufficient unto
thee is this glory which cometh unto thee from God, the
All-Wise, the All-Praised. Be patient in all that God hath
ordained concerning the Bab and His Family. Verily, thy
son, Ahmad, is with Fatimih, the Sublime, in the
[1 The daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.]
And there is this further reference to Ahmad in the Qayyumu'l-Asma:
All praise be to God Who bestowed upon the Solace
of the Eyes, in His youth, Ahmad. We did verily raise
him up unto God . . . O Solace of the Eyes I Be patient
in what thy God hath ordained for thee. Verily He
doeth whatsoever He willeth. He is the All-Wise in the
exercise of His justice. He is thy Lord, the Ancient of
Days, and praised be He in whatever He ordereth.(12)
[1 The Bab refers to Himself time and again in this Book as 'Qurratu'l-'Ayn' -- the Solace of the Eyes.] <p48>
Rejoice with great joy, for God hath made thee
'the Day-Spring of His light', inasmuch as within
thee was born the Manifestation of His Glory. Be
thou glad for this name that hath been conferred
upon thee -- a name through which the Day-Star of
grace hath shed its splendour, through which both
earth and heaven have been illumined.
-- Baha'u'llah, addressing the city of Tihran
. . . We stand, life in hand, wholly resigned to His
will; that perchance, through God's loving kindness
and His grace, this revealed and manifest Letter
may lay down His life as a sacrifice in the path of the
Primal Point, the most exalted Word.
-- Baha'u'llah, from the Kitab-i-Iqan
[1 'Nuqtiy-i-Ula' -- the Bab.]
Mulla Husayn was sorely disappointed when he realized that he was not to be the companion of the Bab, on His pilgrimage to Mecca. But for the man who was the first to find Him and believe in Him the Bab had marked out a task infinitely glorious. Mulla Husayn was to go from Shiraz to Tihran, where the fulfilment of that task awaited him. He had travelled to Shiraz on a quest. There he had reached its end, had found the Qa'im of the House of Muhammad. Now he was to undertake another quest, and he was not entirely aware of the consequences that would attend its success. To him the Bab said:
In this pilgrimage upon which We are soon to embark,
We have chosen Quddus as Our companion. We have <p49>
left you behind to face the onslaught of a fierce and
relentless enemy. Rest assured, however, that a bounty
unspeakably glorious shall be conferred upon you.
Follow the course of your journey towards the north,
and visit on your way Isfahan, Kashan, Qum, and Tihran.
Beseech almighty Providence that He may graciously
enable you to attain, in that capital, the seat of true
sovereignty, and to enter the mansion of the Beloved.
A secret lies hidden in that city. When made manifest, it
shall turn the earth into paradise. My hope is that you
may partake of its grace and recognise its splendour.
From Tihran proceed to Khurasan, and there proclaim
anew the Call. From thence return to Najaf and Karbila
and there await the summons of your Lord. Be assured
that the high mission for which you have been created
will, in its entirety, be accomplished by you. Until you
have consummated your work, if all the darts of an
unbelieving world be directed against you, they will be
powerless to hurt a single hair of your head.(1)
When the time came for Mulla Husayn to leave Shiraz, the Bab told him:
Grieve not that you have not been chosen to accompany
Me on My pilgrimage to Hijaz. I shall, instead, direct
your steps to that city which enshrines a Mystery of such
transcendent holiness as neither Hijaz nor Shira can hope
to rival. My hope is that you may, by the aid of God, be
enabled to remove the veils from the eyes of the wayward
and to cleanse the minds of the malevolent. Visit, on your
way, Isfahan, Kashan, Tihran, and Khurasan. Proceed
thence to 'Iraq, and there await the summons of your
Lord, who will keep watch over you and will direct you
to whatsoever is His will and desire. As to Myself, I
shall, accompanied by Quddus and My Ethiopian servant,
proceed on My pilgrimage to Hijaz. I shall join
the company of the pilgrims of Fars, who will shortly be
sailing for that land. I shall visit Mecca and Medina, and <p50>
there fulfil the mission with which God has entrusted
Me. God willing, I shall return hither by the way of Kufih,
in which place I hope to meet you. If it be decreed
otherwise, I shall ask you to join Me in Shiraz. The hosts
of the invisible Kingdom, be assured, will sustain and
reinforce your efforts. The essence of power is now
dwelling in you, and the company of His chosen angels
revolves around you. His almighty arms will surround
you, and His unfailing Spirit will ever continue to guide
your steps. He that loves you, loves God; and whoever
opposes you, has opposed God. Whoso befriends you,
him will God befriend; and whoso rejects you, him will
[1 His name was Mubarak.]
[2 To raise the Call of the Qa'im.]
Mulla Husayn was known in Isfahan, for there he had obtained testimonials from the great mujtahid, Haji Siyyid Muhammad-Baqir, in support of Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti. That eminent divine was now dead, but his son, Haji Siyyid Asadu'llah, walking in the footsteps of his illustrious father, refused to associate himself with the adversaries of Mulla Husayn. Another noted divine, Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Kalbasi, did likewise, and sternly admonished those who opposed Mulla Husayn to cease their clamouring and investigate dispassionately whatever he was advocating. The Governor, Manuchihr Khan, the Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih, similarly declined to heed their strictures.
The first person in Isfahan to embrace the new Faith was a youth, a sifter of wheat. The Bab immortalizes his memory in the Persian Bayan:(3)
Isfahan, that outstanding city, is distinguished by the
religious fervour of its shi'ah inhabitants, by the learning
of its divines, and by the keen expectation, shared by high
and low alike, of the imminent coming of the Sahibu'z-Zaman.
In every quarter of that city, religious institutions <p51>
have been established. And yet, when the Messenger
of God had been made manifest, they who claimed to be
the repositories of learning and the expounders of the
mysteries of the Faith of God rejected His Message. Of all
the inhabitants of that seat of learning, only one person,
a sifter of wheat, was found to recognise the Truth, and
was invested with the robe of Divine virtue!(4)
[1 The Lord of the Age.]
Others eventually followed the example of that youth, among them Mirza Muhammad 'Aliy-i-Nahri and his brother Mirza Hadi, who were Siyyids and highly respected. Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani was another convert. Siyyid Kazim had told Mulla Sadiq to establish his residence in Isfahan and pave the way for the coming of the Qa'im. That man of iron courage (whom we shall encounter again in the course of this story) met Mulla Husayn in the home of Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Nahri. Mulla Sadiq himself relates:
[1 He is usually known as Gandum-Pak-Kun (the Sifter of Wheat); his name was Mulla Ja'far. He was one of the martyrs of Shaykh Tabarsi.]
I asked Mulla Husayn to divulge the name of Him who
claimed to be the promised Manifestation. He replied:
'To enquire about that name and to divulge it are alike
forbidden.' 'Would it, then, be possible,' I asked, 'for
me, even as the Letters of the Living, to seek independently
the grace of the All-Merciful and, through prayer
to discover His identity?' 'The door of His grace,' he
replied, 'is never closed before the face of him who
seeks to find Him.' I immediately retired from his presence,
and requested his host to allow me the privacy of
a room in his house where, alone and undisturbed, I
could commune with God. In the midst of my contemplation,
I suddenly remembered the face of a Youth whom I
had often observed while in Karbila, standing in an attitude
of prayer, with His face bathed in tears, at the entrance <p52>
of the shrine of the Imam Husayn. That same countenance
now reappeared before my eyes. In my vision I
seemed to behold that same face, those same features,
expressive of such joy as I could never describe. He
smiled as He gazed at me. I went towards Him, ready to
throw myself at His feet. I was bending towards the
ground, when, lo! that radiant figure vanished from before
me. Overpowered with joy and gladness, I ran out to
meet Mulla Husayn, who with transport received me and
assured me that I had, at last, attained the object of my
desire. He bade me, however, repress my feelings. 'Declare
not your vision to anyone,' he urged me; 'the time for it
has not yet arrived. You have reaped the fruit of your
patient waiting in Isfahan. You should now proceed to
Kirman, and there acquaint Haji Mirza Karim Khan
with this Message. From that place you should travel to
Shiraz and endeavour to rouse the people of that city
from their heedlessness. I hope to join you in Shiraz and
share with you the blessings of a joyous reunion with our
[1 Haji Mirza Muhammad-Karim Khan-i-Kirmani considered himself to be the successor to Siyyid Kazim. He fostered bitter opposition to the Bab within the Shaykhi school.]
In Kashan, Mulla Husayn found a responsive and eager heart in a well-known merchant of that town, named Haji Mirza Jani. He too features prominently in the story of the Bab. The next stage in Mulla Husayn's journey was the city of Qum, where the shrine of Ma'sumih, the sister of Imam Rida, the eighth Imam, is situated. He found no attentive ears in Qum. Then came the crucial stage of his journey, when he entered the capital city of Iran, for there lay the 'Mystery' which the Bab had mentioned.
[1 He was the first to attempt to write a history of the new theophany.]
In Tihran Mulla Husayn took a room in a theological institution called the madrisih (school) of Mirza Salih., <p53> alternatively the madrisih of Paminar. The director of the institution, Haji Mirza Muhammad-i-Khurasani, was the leading Shaykhi in the capital. He not only refused to heed what Mulla Husayn imparted, but severely remonstrated with him and accused him of having betrayed the trust of Siyyid Kazim. Haji Mirza Muhammad made it clear that in his view Mulla Husayn's presence in Tihran posed a threat to the Shaykhi community. Mulla Husayn replied that he did not intend to stay long in Tihran, nor had he done or said anything which detracted from the position of the founders of the Shaykhi school.
[1 Pay-i-Minar, named after the quarter of the city where it was located.]
As far as he could, Mulla Husayn kept away from the madrisih of Mirza Salih. He went out early in the mornings and returned after sunset. Mulla Muhammad-i-Mu'allim, a native of the district of Nur in Mazindaran, has described how Mulla Husayn accomplished his mission:
[1 Teacher or tutor.]
I was in those days recognised as one of the favoured
disciples of Haji Mirza Muhammad, and lived in the same
school in which he taught. My room adjoined his room,
and we were closely associated together. On the day that
he was engaged in discussion with Mulla Husayn, I overheard
their conversation from beginning to end, and was
deeply affected by the ardour, the fluency, and learning
of that youthful stranger. I was surprised at the evasive
answers, the arrogance, and contemptuous behaviour
of Haji Mirza Muhammad. That day I felt strongly
attracted by the charm of that youth, and deeply resented
the unseemly conduct of my teacher towards him. I
concealed my feelings, however, and pretended to ignore
his discussions with Mulla Husayn. I was seized with a
passionate desire to meet the latter, and ventured, at the
hour of midnight, to visit him. He did not expect me,
but I knocked at his door, and found him awake seated <p54>
beside his lamp. He received me affectionately, and spoke
to me with extreme courtesy and tenderness. I unburdened
my heart to him, and as I was addressing him, tears, which
I could not repress, flowed from my eyes. 'I can now see,'
he said, 'the reason why I have chosen to dwell in this
place. Your teacher has contemptuously rejected this
Message and despised its Author. My hope is that his
pupil may, unlike his master, recognise its truth. What is
your name, and which city is your home?' 'My name,' I
replied, 'is Mulla Muhammad, and my surname Mu'allim.
My home is Nur, in the province of Mazindaran.' 'Tell
me,' further inquired Mulla Husayn, 'is there to-day
among the family of the late Mirza Buzurg-i-Nuri, who
was so renowned for his character, his charm, and artistic
and intellectual attainments, anyone who has proved
himself capable of maintaining the high traditions of
that illustrious house?' 'Yea,' I replied, 'among his sons
now living, one has distinguished Himself by the very
traits which characterised His father. By His virtuous life,
His high attainments, His loving-kindness and liberality,
He has proved Himself a noble descendant of a noble
father.' 'What is His occupation?' he asked me. 'He
cheers the disconsolate and feeds the hungry,' I replied.
'What of His rank and position?' 'He has none,' I said,
'apart from befriending the poor and the stranger.' 'What
is His name?' 'Husayn-'Ali.' 'In which of the scripts of
His father does He excel?' 'His favourite script is
shikastih-nasta'liq.' 'How does He spend His time?' 'He
roams the woods and delights in the beauties of the
countryside.' 'What is His age?' 'Eight and twenty.'
The eagerness with which Mulla Husayn questioned me,
and the sense of delight with which he welcomed every
particular I gave him, greatly surprised me. Turning to
me, with his face beaming with satisfaction and joy, he
once more enquired: 'I presume you often meet Him?'
'I frequently visit His home,' I replied. 'Will you,' he
said, 'deliver into His hands a trust from me?' 'Most <p55>
assuredly,' was my reply. He then gave me a scroll
wrapped in a piece of cloth, and requested me to hand it to
Him the next day at the hour of dawn. 'Should He deign
to answer me,' he added, 'will you be kind enough to
acquaint me with His reply?' I received the scroll from
him and, at break of day, arose to carry out his desire.
[1 Baha'u'llah's father was famed for his calligraphy.]
As I approached the house of Baha'u'llah, I recognised
His brother Mirza Musa, who was standing at the gate,
and to whom I communicated the object of my visit. He
went into the house and soon reappeared bearing a message
of welcome. I was ushered into His presence, and
presented the scroll to Mirza Musa, who laid it before
Baha'u'llah. He bade us both be seated. Unfolding the
scroll, He glanced at its contents and began to read aloud
to us certain of its passages. I sat enraptured as I listened
to the sound of His voice and the sweetness of its melody.
He had read a page of the scroll when, turning to His
brother, He said: 'Musa, what have you to say? Verily I
say, whoso believes in the Qur'an and recognises its
Divine origin, and yet hesitates, though it be for a moment,
to admit that these soul-stirring words are endowed with
the same regenerating power, has most assuredly erred in
his judgment and has strayed far from the path of justice.'
He spoke no more. Dismissing me from His presence,
He charged me to take to Mulla Husayn, as a gift from
Him, a loaf of Russian sugar and a package of tea, and to
convey to him the expression of His appreciation and love.
I arose and, filled with joy, hastened back to Mulla
Husayn, and delivered to him the gift and message of
Baha'u'llah. With what joy and exultation he received
them from me! Words fail me to describe the intensity
of his emotion. He started to his feet, received with bowed
head the gift from my hand, and fervently kissed it. He
then took me in his arms, kissed my eyes, and said: 'My
dearly beloved friend! I pray that even as you have
rejoiced my heart, God may grant you eternal felicity
and fill your heart with imperishable gladness.' I was
amazed at the behaviour of Mulla Husayn. What could be, <p56>
I thought to myself, the nature of the bond that unites
these two souls? What could have kindled so fervid a
fellowship in their hearts? Why should Mulla Husayn,
in whose sight the pomp and circumstance of royalty were
the merest trifle, have evinced such gladness at the sight
of so inconsiderable a gift from the hands of Baha'u'llah?
I was puzzled by this thought and could not unravel
A few days later, Mulla Husayn left for Khurasan. As
he bade me farewell, he said: 'Breathe not to anyone what
you have heard and witnessed. Let this be a secret hidden
within your breast. Divulge not His name, for they who
envy His position will arise to harm Him. In your moments
of meditation, pray that the Almighty may protect Him,
that, through Him, He may exalt the downtrodden,
enrich the poor and redeem the fallen. The secret of
things is concealed from our eyes. Ours is the duty to
raise the call of the New Day and to proclaim this Divine
Message unto all people. Many a soul will, in this city,
shed his blood in this path. That blood will water the
Tree of God, will cause it to flourish, and to overshadow
From Mashhad, the holy city that has within it the Shrine of the eighth Imam, Mulla Husayn addressed his first letter to the Bab. He gave, as instructed by Him, the full details of his journey from Shiraz to Khurasan. He presented the list of names of those who had responded to the call of the new theophany: a list which had become further enriched in Khurasan by the enrolment of Mirza Ahmad-i-Azghandi, the most learned of the divines of that renowned province; Mulla Mirza Muhammad-i-Furughi, another divine of immense learning; Mirza Muhammad-Baqir-i-Qa'ini, whose house in Mashhad was to gain the distinction of being known as the Babiyyih, since its doors would be always open to those who sought Mulla Husayn and to all the Babis; Mulla Ahmad-i-Mu'allim, who had been a tutor to the sons of <p57> Siyyid Kazim; and Mulla Shaykh 'Ali, to whom the Bab gave the title of 'Azim (Great). But above all, Mulla Husayn recounted what had transpired in Tihran, culminating in the gracious response of the nobleman of Nur. He sent his letter, again as instructed by the Bab, to Tabas (a town in the province of Khurasan) where agents of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali received it and dispatched it to Yazd, whence it reached Shiraz. The arrival of Mulla Husayn's letter and the tidings which it conveyed brought unbounded joy to the Bab. Soon after, in the month of September, He left Shiraz, accompanied by Quddus, and the faithful Ethiopian servant, Mubarak.
From Bushihr, while waiting to take the boat to Jiddah (Jaddah), the Bab wrote His first letter to His wife. It opens with these moving words:
[1 See Frontispiece.]
'In the Name of God, exalted is He. My sweet love, may
God preserve thee.' 'God is my witness,' He continues, 'that
since the time of separation sorrow has been so intense that
it cannot be described,' and adds His hope that God, 'the
Lord of the world,' may 'facilitate the return journey in the
best manner.' Two days previously He had reached Bushihr,
and informs His wife that 'the weather is exceedingly hot,
but God, the Lord of the world, is the Protector.' The boat,
it seemed, would be sailing the same month; 'God, the Lord
of the world, will provide protection by His grace.' He had
not been able to see His mother at the time of His departure,
and asks His wife to give her His salutation (salam) and
request her prayers. He would write to Bombay for the
goods required. And the letter ends thus: 'God willing
that which is decreed will come to pass. Peace be upon thee
and the mercy of God and His blessings.'(7)
The ship, bearing pilgrims to Jiddah, set sail on the nineteenth day of Ramadan 1260 -- October 2nd 1844.(8) <p58>
THE FIRST MARTYR
The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change.
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
-- T. S. Eliot
Lady Sheil, whose husband was the British envoy in Tihran, states in her book, Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia that the Bab declared His mission in Kazimayn, near Baghdad, and that 'Incensed at this blasphemy, the Turkish authorities issued orders for his execution, but he was claimed by the Persian consul as a subject of the Shah, and sent to his native place'.(1) Obviously Lady Sheil was confused. She had heard of the arrest of Mulla 'Aliy-i-Bastami in 'Iraq and of his imprisonment. She mistook him for the Bab.
[1 See note 6, Prologue.]
Mulla 'Ali, as we have seen, was directed to 'Iraq by the Bab, and took with him a copy of the Qayyumu'l-Asma the commentary on the Surih of Yusuf (Joseph). The news and the message that he gave aroused eager interest and ready response from his hearers. But hostile reaction was also swift. It was Mulla 'Ali who, in Karbila, informed Qurratu'l-'Ayn of the advent of the Bab. He was not at liberty to mention His Name. We do not know whether, in view of the fact that Qurratu'l-'Ayn had been elevated to the high and honoured position of a Letter of the Living, Mulla 'Ali gave <p59> her any information other than the tidings of the appearance of the Bab. The disciples of Siyyid Kazim were in a much stronger position there than in Najaf, in spite of the fact that in Karbila they had a redoubtable opponent in the person of Siyyid Ibrahim-i-Qazvini. There in Karbila, Mulla 'Ali remained safe. But the story was different in Najaf. Nabil-i-A'zam writes:
In the presence of Shaykh Muhammad-Hasan, one of
the most celebrated ecclesiastics of shi'ah Islam, and in the
face of a distinguished company of his disciples, Mulla
'Ali announced fearlessly the manifestation of the Bab,
the Gate whose advent they were eagerly awaiting. 'His
proof,' he declared, 'is His Word; His testimony, none
other than the testimony with which Islam seeks to vindicate
its truth. From the pen of this unschooled Hashimite
Youth of Persia there have streamed, within the space of
forty-eight hours, as great a number of verses, of prayers,
of homilies, and scientific treatises, as would equal in
volume the whole of the Qur'an, which it took Muhammad,
the Prophet of God, twenty-three years to reveal!'
That proud and fanatic leader, instead of welcoming, in an
age of darkness and prejudice, these life-giving evidences
of a new-born Revelation, forthwith pronounced Mulla
'Ali a heretic and expelled him from the assembly. His
disciples and followers, even the Shaykhis, who already
testified to Mulla 'Ali's piety, sincerity, and learning,
endorsed, unhesitatingly, the judgment against him. The
disciples of Shaykh Muhammad-Hasan, joining hands
with their adversaries, heaped upon him untold indignities.
They eventually delivered him, his hands bound in chains,
to an official of the Ottoman government, arraigning him
as a wrecker of Islam, a calumniator of the Prophet, an
instigator of mischief, a disgrace to the Faith, and worthy
of the penalty of death. He was taken to Baghdad under
the escort of government officials, and was cast into prison
by the governor of that city.(2) <p60>
Aqa Muhammad-Mustafay-i-Baghdadi',(3) in a short autobiography which he wrote at the instance of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, describes Mulla 'Ali's arrival in 'Iraq and the events which followed:
The messenger, Mulla 'Ali al-Bastami, reached Kufih
in the year A.H. 1260 [A.D. 1844] and distributed books,
treatises and tablets amongst the divines. Due to this a
body of the divines in Najaf and Karbila were seized with
consternation. They arose in opposition and stirred themselves
to vociferous denunciation. The Government
hearing of what had transpired, became concerned lest
disorders might ensue, and deemed it politic to imprison
the messenger, confiscate the books and tablets in his
possession and send him to the seat of the province, that
is Baghdad. The Vali, at that time, was Najib Pasha, the
same man who captured Karbila . . .
[1 Aqa Muhammad-Mustafa wrote in Arabic.]
[2 See Prologue I.]
When the messenger reached Baghdad the Vali kept
him in prison and placed the books and the treatises in the
council-chamber. My father, Shaykh Muhammad, visited
the messenger every day in the prison, and heard the Word
of God from him for three months. Whatever he heard
he imparted to those who were seekers, so that, during
this short time, a large number of people came to believe.
Shaykh Bashir an-Najafi was one of them, a mujtahid
seventy-five years old. Then there were Shaykh Sultan
al-Karbila'i and a group with him in Karbila; Siyyid
Muhammad-Ja'far, Siyyid Hasan Ja'far, and Siyyid 'Ali
Bishr and a group with him in the town of Kazimiyyah;
Shaykh Muhammad Shibl [the author's father], Siyyid
Muhsin al-Kazimi, Shaykh Salih al-Karimi and a group
with them of villagers like Shaykh 'Abbas, Mulla Mahmud,
'Abdu'l-Hadi and Mihdi . . .
When the Government noticed that the Cause was gaining
ground day by day, the afore-mentioned Vali, Najib
Pasha, ordered the divines of all the regions to come to <p61>
Baghdad...(4) They summoned my father, Shaykh
Muhammad, to present himself. But my father left
Baghdad in disguise, because he had learned that the Vali
intended to make him give witness against the Cause of
the Day of Judgment. They brought the messenger to
this terrible assembly and asked him who the Lord of
the Cause was. He answered: 'The awaited Spirit of Truth
hath come. He is the One promised in the Books of God.'
Then he read them some verses and prayers and called
upon them to believe. It went hard with them to accept
the Cause. They arose to deny and to reject it, full of
haughtiness. They agreed to denounce the messenger as
a heretic and passed the sentence of death upon him, and
thus ended that assemblage of ill omen. The Vali sent the
account of the proceedings to the Sublime Porte, whence
came the orders that the messenger should bc sent in
fetters, together with his books, to the capital. The
messenger languished for six months in the gaol of
Baghdad and was then dispatched to the Sublime Porte,
under escort, by way of Mosul. The fame of the Cause
was noised abroad in Mosul, and when he passed Mosul
nothing more was heard of him.(5)
The circumstances of Mulla 'Ali's arrest were also noted by Major Henry Rawlinson,(6) then British Political Agent in Baghdad, who, on January 8th 1845, reported to Sir Stratford Canning, the Ambassador in Istanbul:
I have the honor to report for Your Excellency's
information the following circumstances which are at
present causing much excitement at this place, and which
threaten in their consequences to give rise to renewed
misunderstanding between the Persian Turkish Govts.
About three months ago, an inferior priest of Shiraz
appeared in Kerbela, bearing a copy of the Koran, which
he stated to have been delivered to him, by the forerunner
of the Imam Mehdi, to be exhibited in token of
his approaching advent. The book proved on examination <p62>
to have been altered and interpolated in many essential
passages, the object being, to prepare the Mohammedan
world for the immediate manifestation of the Imam, and
to identify the individual to whom the emendations of
the text were declared to have been revealed, as his inspired
& true precursor. It was in consequence pronounced
by a part of the Sheeah divines at Nejef and
Kerbela, to be a blasphemous production, and the priest
of Shiraz was warned by them of the danger; which he
incurred in giving currency to its contents -- but a considerable
section nevertheless of the Sheeahs of Nejef,
who under the name of Usuli, or 'Transcendentalists', have
lately risen into notice as the disciples of the High Priest
Sheikh Kazem, and who are in avowed expectation of the
speedy advent of the Imam, adopted the proposed
readings, and declared themselves ready to join the
Precursor; as soon as he should appear amongst them-These
parties owing to local dissensions, were shortly
afterwards denounced to the Govt. by the orthodox
Sheeas as heretics, and attention being thus drawn to the
perverted copy of the Koran, upon which they rested their
belief, the volume was seized & its bearer being brought
to Bagdad, was cast into prison, as a blasphemer against
Islam and a disturber of the public peace.(7)
[1 Major Rawlinson nowhere mentions the name of the priest who is alleged to have been the possessor of a 'spurious' version of the Qur'an. It is obvious that the priest, about whom he was writing, could have been none other than Mulla 'Aliy-i-Bastami, whom he wrongly designated as 'Shirazee' for the simple reason that he had come from Shiraz. His frequent references to the disciples of Siyyid Kazim as 'Usuli' indicate that his knowledge of the issue was meagre, for these disciples were known as Shaykhis. The term could have been more appropriately applied to the opponents of Siyyid Kazim. They and their counterpart the 'Akhbaris', followed different methods of interpretation within the Shi'ah fold. For a description of these schools of thought, see Browne, A Literary History of Persia, Vol. IV, pp. 374-6.] <p63>
Mulla 'Ali was the first martyr of the Babi Faith. Though his arrest and sufferings lasted only a few months, he was the centre of conjecture, the subject of official report, and the cause of increased rancour between the Sunni and Shi'ah sects, and the Ottoman and Iranian governments. European officials who were drawn into this obscure drama included Major Rawlinson, who submitted frequent and lengthy reports to Sir Stratford Canning in Istanbul and Lt.-Col. Sheil in Tihran, and received their advice and instructions; M. de Titow, Russian envoy in Istanbul who joined Canning in urging the Sublime Porte to restrain Najib Pasha from putting 'the Persian Priest' to death, and instead to inflict on him only 'the mildest punishment consistent with the public tranquillity'; and Lord Aberdeen, the British Foreign Secretary in London, who was apprised of the final outcome.
Although the dispatches of Major Rawlinson are in certain aspects subject to grave reservations, for his knowledge was sometimes meagre and at second hand, even inaccurate, they do portray the agitation, confusion and opposition created by the claim of the Bab and the teaching of Mulla 'All. Thus he wrote to Canning:
The Soonnee Priesthood have taken up the case in a
rancorous spirit of bigotry, and their inveteracy has
enlisted the sympathies of the entire Sheeah sect, in
favor of the imprisoned Persian. . . the question has
now become one of virulent contest, between the Soonee
& Sheeah sects, or which is the same thing in this part
of the Ottoman Empire, between the Turkish & Persian
It was the Governor (Vali) of Baghdad, Najib Pasha, who bore the responsibility of controlling these passions; but being himself a fanatical Sunni, he was resolved that the Shi'ahs should submit to the Sunni authority, and <p64> determined to bar any intrusions of the Persians into the affairs of his Pashalik. Nevertheless, as reported by Rawlinson:
[1 His province.]
Nejib Pasha at the same time, to give all due formality
to his proceedings, and to divest the affair of the
appearance of mere sectarian persecution, has brought in
the chief Priests from Nejef & Kerbela, to hold a solemn
Court of Inquisition in conjunction with the heads of the
Soonnee religion in Bagdad, but I do not anticipate
much benefit from this compulsory & most unwilling
attendance of the former parties -- They will probably
make an effort to save the life of their unfortunate
countryman, proposing the banishment of the messenger
and of the heads of the Usuli sect, as the simplest method
of suppressing the heresy, but they will be intimidated
& overruled. . .(9)
Indeed, such an unwieldy court of Sunni and Shi'ah divines could come to no agreement about Mulla 'Ali's punishment. On January 16th 1845, Rawlinson wrote to Sheil, in Tihran:
The Court of Inquisition convened for the trial of the
Persian priest, was held on Monday last [January 13th],
H.E. Nejib Pasha presiding, and Moola Abdool Azeez
being also present, to afford his countenance to the
accused -- The perverted copy of the Koran being produced
in Court, was unanimously condemned as a
blasphemous production, and parties avowing a belief
in the readings which it continued [sic], were declared to
be liable to the punishment of death -- It was then argued
whether or not the Shirazee had thus avowed his belief
in a blasphemous production -- he himself distinctly
repudiated the charge, and although witnesses were
brought forward, who stated that he had in their presence <p65>
declared his adoption of the spurious text, of which he
was the bearer, yet as there was reason to suspect the
fidelity of their evidence, the Sheeah divines were disposed
to give him the benefit of his present disavowal -- After
much discussion the Soonee law-officers adjudged
the culprit to be convicted of blasphemy & passed sentence
of death on him accordingly, while the Sheeahs
returned a verdict, that he was only guilty of the dissemination
of blasphemy, & liable in consequence to
no heavier punishment than imprisonment or banishment. . .
To this Rawlinson added:
I understand that considerable uneasiness is beginning
to display itself at Kerbela & Nejef, in regard to the expected
manifestation of the Imam, and I am apprehensive
that the measures now in progress will rather increase
than allay the excitement.(10)
[1 Rawlinson's letter to Sheil carries the statement that Mulla 'Ali abjured his faith. Apart from the evidence of the devotion and heroism of the disciples of the Bab, which history amply provides, several factors must be considered. Major Rawlinson was not present at that meeting of the divines, which he termed 'the Court of Inquisition'. Therefore his information was secondhand. The emergence of Sunni-Shi'ah antagonism was another factor which would certainly have clouded the issue. The 'advent of the Imam' need not, necessarily, have troubled the Sunni conscience, because Sunnis have never believed in the Imamate and the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. Furthermore, that which Mulla 'Ali is supposed to have rejected, according to Rawlinson, was a 'perverted copy of the Koran'. Would Mulla 'Ali ever have an interpolated copy of the Qur'an to announce the message he had to give, or to prove it? And then the question must also be asked: if Mulla 'Ali, the man who brought the news of the advent of the Bab, had recanted, how was it that 'considerable uneasiness' was becoming perceptible in Karbila and Najaf, 'in regard to the expected manifestation of the Imam'?] <p66>
The personal intervention of Najib Pasha had served also to influence the course of events in another way. By referring the matter to the Sublime Porte, he prevented the extradition of the Persian prisoner to his native land, as requested by the Iranian Prime Minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi.
A similar request for the transfer of Mulla 'Ali to Persian jurisdiction was made to Major Rawlinson by the Governor of Kirmanshah, Muhibb-'Ali Khan, for, as he wrote:
In the first place it is improper to arrest and imprison
anyone on a mere accusation, which may be true or false,
-- and in the second place, supposing that he (the Shirazee)
were guilty; as a subject of the exalted Govt. of Persia,
he ought not to be subject to arrest -- if his crime were
proved, his punishment should bc that of banishment
from the Turkish territory -- I have therefore considered
it necessary to represent this matter to you my friend, and
to request that, as a well wisher to the preservation of
friendship between the two Governments, You will
communicate with H. Excy. Nejib Pasha on the subject,
and will suggest to him, that if the guilt of the Persian
be fully substantiated, he may be sent to Kermanshah, in
order that I may transfer him to Tehran for punishment-
if on the other hand, the accusations against him
prove to be malicious and without foundation, he may be
at once released and set at liberty.
Under any circumstances his continued imprisonment
is unbecoming and contrary (to custom).(11)
This request was duly submitted by Rawlinson to Najib Pasha but, as the Governor had already referred the matter to the Sublime Porte after the religious court's examination, the prisoner remained in Turkish custody.
It was on April 15th that Rawlinson reported to Canning that 'Nejib Pasha received orders by yesterday's post to transmit to Constantinople the Persian priest who has been in confinement for the last 3 months at Bagdad . . . His <p67> Excy. is preparing to obey these instructions with all available despatch.' He also says in the same letter:
. . . [the] more in fact these Mujtiheds are degraded
by the Turkish Govt., the more complete, I think, will
be their ascendancy over the minds of their disciples and
the only results, therefore, which are likely to attend the
proscription of their public duties, are the more complete
isolation of the Persian community of this province, and
an increase of the rancorous feeling with which the
dominant Soonee party is regarded -- (12)
[1 Shi'ah divines.]
On the last day of April, Rawlinson wrote once more to Canning:
I take this opportunity of reporting that the Persian
priest of Shiraz so long detained in confinement at this
place, was sent a prisoner to Constantinople in company
with the Tartar who conveyed the last Bagdad post.(13)
[1 Official courier.]
Meanwhile, as early as February, Major Rawlinson came to an erroneous conclusion about the Bab, which subsequent events belied. He wrote to Canning on the 18th:
. . . the excitement which has been for some time prevalent
in this vicinity among the Sheeah sect in connection with
the expected manifestation of the Imam Mehdi, is beginning
gradually to subside, the impostor who personated
the character of the forerunner of the Imam . . . having
been deterred by a sense of personal danger from a further
prosecution of the agitation, which he set on foot at
Kerbela in the Autumn on his passage from Persia to
He was also in error in stating to Sheil, ten days later, that 'the impostor . . . joined as a private individual the Caravan <p68> of pilgrims which is travelling to Persia by the route of Damascus and Aleppo'.(15)
In considering this episode of the arrest, imprisonment and banishment of the first Babi martyr, there are four aspects which deserve special note. First is the fact that while the Babis in Shiraz were being punished by Husayn Khan, Governor of the province of Fars, the Persian Government was trying to rescue Mulla 'Ali in Baghdad. Secondly, whereas the Shi'ah divines were demanding a light punishment, the Sunnis were clamouring for the death penalty. A third point, important to students of the Babi Faith, is that from the earliest stage of its history rumours and misinformation about the Bab abounded. It is also of considerable interest that this episode was reported to Lord Aberdeen, the British Foreign Secretary in London.
[1 See ch. 6.]
As to Mulla 'All, what precisely happened to him, how and where he died and where he was interred, have all remained mysteries. It has been said that he died in the prison of Karkuk, but no definite proof exists. He was the first of the concourse of martyrs whose numbers were soon to swell into hundreds and thousands. <p69>
PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA: THE HOUSE OF KA'BAH
Vaunt not thyself, O thou who leadeth the pilgrims on their way,
That which thou seest is the House, and that which I see is the
Lord of that House.
The Bab embarked for Jiddah, probably on an Arab sailing-boat named Futuh-ar-Rasul Victories of the Messenger. If so, He had as fellow-passenger a maternal uncle of Muhammad Shah, Muhammad-Baqir Khan, the Biglarbagi of Tihran, who was attended by Shukru'llah Khan-i-Nuri, a prominent official of the province of Fars. We know for certain that two of His fellow-townsmen on the boat were Haji Abu'l-Hasan, who pursued the same trade as the Bab's father, and Shaykh Abu-Hashim, brother of Shaykh Abu-Turab, the Imam-Jum'ih of Shiraz. The former was captivated by the charm and the sublime bearing of his compatriot, the young Siyyid of whose claim he was unaware, and gave Him his allegiance without the slightest hesitation when he learned of His claim. Shaykh Abu-Hashim, however, was already jealous of the respect commanded by the Bab and became His implacable enemy, even though his brother, the Imam-Jum'ih, served the interests of the Bab to the best of his ability.(1)
[1 The principal official responsible for public order in a town or city.]
Haji Abu'l-Hasan has related(2) that during the voyage Shaykh Abu-Hashim became daily more arrogant and <p70> quarrelsome, molesting the passengers and making the young Siyyid a particular target for his invective. When the Arab captain could no longer tolerate his insolent behaviour, he ordered him to be seized and thrown into the sea. According to Haji Abu'l-Hasan, it was the Bab who stepped forward to intercede for him. However, the captain was determined to be rid of the troublesome Shaykh. And when the Bab noticed that the sailors were about to throw Shaykh Abu-Hashim overboard, He hurled Himself upon him, caught hold of him and earnestly requested the captain to pardon the wrong-doer. The Arab captain was astonished, because it had been the young Siyyid who had suffered most from the Shaykh's malice. But the Bab replied that, since people who behaved in that manner harmed only themselves, one should be tolerant and forgiving.
The rites of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) are to be performed on the ninth and tenth days of the month of Dhi'l-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim lunar year. On the tenth day the 'Id-al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifices) is celebrated throughout the Muslim world. It commemorates the sacrifice offered by Abraham of His son. Whenever the 'Id-al-Adha falls on a Friday, the Hajj of that year is termed the Hajj-i-Akbar (the Greatest Hajj). In the year 1260, the tenth of Dhi'l-Hijjah was a Friday (December 20th 1844), and therefore the number of pilgrims was commensurately greater. An Islamic tradition points to the appearance of the Qa'im in a year of the Hajj-i-Akbar.
[1 In Persia this Feast is usually called 'Id-i-Qurban.]
Another particularly notable pilgrim in that year 1260 was a divine of high repute, Siyyid Ja'far-i-Kashfi, whose son Siyyid Yahya (later known as Vahid) was to become one of the most distinguished followers of the Bab.
The journey to Jiddah was long, tedious and exhausting. Seas were rough and storms frequent. An Arab sailing-boat did not afford much comfort. 'For days we suffered <p71> from the scarcity of water. I had to content myself with the juice of sweet lemon,' the Bab writes in the Persian Bayan.(3) Haji Abu'l-Hasan recounts:
During the entire period of approximately two months,
from the day we embarked at Bushihr to the day when we
landed at Jaddih, the port of Hijaz, whenever by day or
night I chanced to meet either the Bab or Quddus, I
invariably found them together, both absorbed in their
work. The Bab seemed to be dictating, and Quddus
was busily engaged in taking down whatever fell from
His lips. Even at a time when panic seemed to have seized
the passengers of that storm-tossed vessel, they would be
seen pursuing their labours with unperturbed confidence
and calm. Neither the violence of the elements nor the
tumult of the people around them could either ruffle the
serenity of their countenance or turn them from their
At Jiddah the Bab and His companions put on the ihram, the garb of the pilgrim. He travelled to Mecca on a camel, but Quddus would not mount and walked all the way, keeping pace with it. On the tenth day of Dhi'l-Hijjah the Bab offered the prescribed sacrifice. The meat of the nineteen lambs which He bought was all given to the poor and the needy; nine of the animals were sacrificed on His own behalf, seven on behalf of Quddus and three for Mubarak.(5) Haji Mirza Habibu'llah-i-Afnan, quoting Haji Abu'l Hasan, relates in his chronicle that after the completion of the rites of the Haji, at a time when the court of the House of Ka'bah and the roofs of adjoining houses teemed with pilgrims, the Bab stood against the structure of the Ka'bah, laid hold of the ring on its door and thrice repeated, in a clear voice:
[1 A sheet of cloth, unstitched.]
I am that Qa'im whose advent you have been awaiting. <p72>
Haji Abu'l-Hasan recalled, many years later, that a sudden hush fell upon the audience. The full implication of those momentous words must, at the time, have eluded that vast concourse of people. But the news of the claim of the young Siyyid soon spread in an ever-widening circle.
One day in Mecca, the Bab came face to face with Mirza Muhammad-Husayn-i-Kirmani, known as Muhit. They happened to meet close by the sacred Black Stone (Hajar al-Aswad). The Bab took Muhit's hand, saying:
[1 He had pretensions to leadership of the Shaykhi sect after the death of Siyyid Kazim.]
O Muhit! You regard yourself as one of the most outstanding
figures of the shaykhi community and a distinguished
exponent of its teachings. In your heart you even
claim to be one of the direct successors and rightful
inheritors of those twin great Lights, those Stars that have
heralded the morn of Divine guidance. Behold, we are
both now standing within this most sacred shrine. Within
its hallowed precincts, He whose Spirit dwells in this
place can cause Truth immediately to be known and
distinguished from falsehood, and righteousness from
error. Verily I declare, none besides Me in this day,
whether in the East or in the West, can claim to be the
Gate that leads men to the knowledge of God. My proof
is none other than that proof whereby the truth of the
Prophet Muhammad was established. Ask Me whatsoever
you please; now, at this very moment, I pledge Myself
to reveal such verses as can demonstrate the truth of My
mission. You must choose either to submit yourself
unreservedly to My Cause or to repudiate it entirely. You
have no other alternative. If you choose to reject My
message, I will not let go your hand until you pledge your
word to declare publicly your repudiation of the Truth
which I have proclaimed. Thus shall He who speaks the
Truth be made known, and he that speaks falsely shall be
condemned to eternal misery and shame. Then shall the
way of Truth be revealed and made manifest to all men. <p73>
Muhit was taken by surprise and was overwhelmed. He replied to the Bab:
My Lord, my Master! Ever since the day on which my
eyes beheld You in Karbila, I seemed at last to have found
and recognised Him who had been the object of my
quest. I renounce whosoever has failed to recognise
You, and despise him in whose heart may yet linger the
faintest misgivings as to Your purity and holiness. I
pray You to overlook my weakness, and entreat You to
answer me in my perplexity. Please God I may, at this
very place, within the precincts of this hallowed shrine,
swear my fealty to You, and arise for the triumph of Your
Cause. If I be insincere in what I declare, if in my heart I
should disbelieve what my lips proclaim, I would deem
myself utterly unworthy of the grace of the Prophet of
God, and regard my action as an act of manifest disloyalty
to 'Ali, His chosen successor.
The Bab knew how vacillating Muhit was, and answered:
Verily I say, the Truth is even now known and distinguished
from falsehood. O shrine of the Prophet of God,
and you, O Quddus, who have believed in Me! I take
you both, in this hour, as My witnesses. You have seen
and heard that which has come to pass between Me and
him. I call upon you to testify thereunto, and God, verily,
is, beyond and above you, My sure and ultimate Witness.
His is the All-Seeing, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
O Muhit! Set forth whatsoever perplexes your mind, and
I will, by the aid of God, unloose My tongue and undertake
to resolve your problems, so that you may testify to
the excellence of My utterance and realise that no one
besides Me is able to manifest My wisdom.(6)
Muhit presented his questions and then departed hurriedly for Medina. The Bab, in answer to them, revealed the Sahifiyi- Baynu'l-Haramayn, which, as its name 'The Epistle Between <p74> the Two Shrines' indicates, was composed on the road to the city of the Prophet (Medina). Muhit, contrary to his promise, did not remain long in Medina, but received the Bab's treatise in Karbila. To the end of his days, Muhit was shifty and irresolute, and the headship of the Shaykhi community did not go to him, but to Haji Muhammad-Karim Khan-i-Kirmani.
The last act of the Bab in Mecca was to address a Tablet to the Sharif (Sherif) of Mecca, in which He proclaimed His advent and His Divine mandate. Quddus delivered it together with a volume of the Writings of the Bab. But the Sharif was preoccupied and ignored the communication put in his hands. Haji Niyaz-i-Baghdadi recounts:
In the year 1267 A.H.. [A.D. 1850-51], I undertook a
pilgrimage to that holy city, where I was privileged to
meet the Sherif. In the course of his conversation with
me, he said: 'I recollect that in the year '60, during the
season of pilgrimage, a youth came to visit me. He
presented to me a sealed book which I readily accepted
but was too much occupied at that time to read. A few days
later I met again that same youth, who asked me whether
I had any reply to make to his offer. Pressure of work had
again detained me from considering the contents of that
book. I was therefore unable to give him a satisfactory
reply. When the season of pilgrimage was over, one day,
as I was sorting out my letters, my eyes fell accidentally
upon that book. I opened it and found, in its introductory
pages, a moving and exquisitely written homily which was
followed by verses the tone and language of which bore
a striking resemblance to the Qur'an. All that I gathered
from the perusal of the book was that among the people of
Persia a man of the seed of Fatimih and descendant of
the family of Hashim, had raised a new call, and was
announcing to all people the appearance of the promised
Qa'im. I remained, however, ignorant of the name of
the author of that book, nor was I informed of the <p75>
circumstances attending that call.' 'A great commotion,'
I remarked, 'has indeed seized that land during the last
few years. A Youth, a descendant of the Prophet and a
merchant by profession, has claimed that His utterance
was the Voice of Divine inspiration. He has publicly
asserted that, within the space of a few days, there could
stream from His tongue verses of such number and excellence
as would surpass in volume and beauty the
Qur'an itself -- a work which it took Muhammad no less
than twenty-three years to reveal. A multitude of people,
both high and low, civil and ecclesiastical, among the
inhabitants of Persia, have rallied round His standard
and have willingly sacrificed themselves in His path.
That Youth has, during the past year, in the last days of
the month of Sha'ban [July 1850], suffered martyrdom
in Tabriz, in the province of Adhirbayjan. They who
persecuted Him sought by this means to extinguish the
light which He kindled in that land. Since His martyrdom,
however, His influence has pervaded all classes of people.'
The Sherif, who was listening attentively, expressed his
indignation at the behaviour of those who had persecuted
the Bab. 'The malediction of God be upon these evil
people,' he exclaimed, 'a people who, in days past,
treated in the same manner our holy and illustrious
ancestors!' With these words the Sherif concluded his
conversation with me.(7)
The Bab reached Medina on the first day of the year A.H. 1261: Friday, January 10th 1845.(8) It was the first of Muharram and the day of His birth. From Medina He proceeded to Jiddah, where He took a boat bound for the port of Bushihr. <p76>
FORCES OF OPPOSITION ARRAYED
But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep . . .
The London Times of Wednesday, November 19th 1845, carried this item of news on its third page, taken from the Literary Gazette of the preceding Saturday:
MAHOMETAN SCHISM. -- A new sect has lately set itself
up in Persia, at the head of which is a merchant who had
returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca, and proclaimed
himself a successor of the Prophet. The way they treat
such matters at Shiraz appears in the following account
(June 23): -- Four persons being heard repeating their
profession of faith according to the form prescribed by
the impostor, were apprehended, tried, and found guilty
of unpardonable blasphemy. They were sentenced to lose
their beards by fire being set to them. The sentence was
put into execution with all the zeal and fanaticism
becoming a true believer in Mahomet. Not deeming
the loss of beards a sufficient punishment, they were
further sentenced the next day, to have their faces blacked
and exposed through the city. Each of them was led by a
mirgazah (executioner), who had made a hole in his
nose and passed through it a string, which he sometimes <p77>
pulled with such violence that the unfortunate fellows
cried out alternately for mercy from the executioner and
for vengeance from Heaven. It is the custom in Persia
on such occasions for the executioners to collect money
from the spectators, and particularly from the shopkeepers
in the bazaar. In the evening when the pockets
of the executioners were well filled with money, they led
the unfortunate fellows to the city gate, and there turned
them adrift. After which the mollahs at Shiraz sent men
to Bushire, with power to seize the impostor, and take
him to Shiraz, where, on being tried, he very wisely denied
the charge of apostacy laid against him, and thus escaped
An American quarterly, the Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art,(1) in its issue of January-April 1846, reproduced the same item of news which was again in full from the Literary Gazette of London. As far is known, these were the earliest references to the Faith the Bab in any Western publication. British merchants, of who then happened to be in Shiraz, were responsible for that report, which, as we shall see, although correct in its essentials, was not devoid of error.
The Bab, returning from His pilgrimage to Mecca, arrived at Bushihr sometime in the month of Safar 1261 A.H. (February-March 1845). There He parted from Quddus, saying:
The days of your companionship with Me are drawing to
a close. The hour of separation has struck, a separation
which no reunion will follow except in the Kingdom of
God, in the presence of the King of Glory.(2)
Quddus left for Shiraz and took with him a letter from the Bab addressed to His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. Meeting Quddus and hearing all he had to impart convinced Haji <p78> Mirza Siyyid 'Ali of the truth of the Cause of his Nephew, and he immediately pledged Him his unqualified allegiance.
Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas now reached Shiraz, accompanied by Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Ardistani, who had once been his pupil in Isfahan. Mulla Sadiq established himself in a mosque known as Baqir-Abad, where he led the congregation in prayer. But as soon as he received a Tablet from the Bab, sent from Bushihr, he moved to the mosque adjoining His house. There he carried out the specific instruction of the Bab to include in the traditional Islamic Call to Prayer-the Adhan -- these additional words: 'I bear witness that He whose name is 'Ali Qabl-i-Muhammad ['Ali preceding Muhammad, the Bab] is the servant of Baqiyyatu'llah [the Remnant of God, Baha'u'llah].'(3)
Then the storm broke. Shaykh Abu-Hashim, notorious for his behaviour on the pilgrim boat, had already written to his compatriots in Shiraz to arouse their fury. Now the divines of that city, led by Shaykh Husayn-i-'Arab, Haji Shaykh Mihdiy-i-Kujuri and Mulla Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Mahallati, were demanding blood. Quddus, Muqaddas and Mulla 'Ali-Akbar were arrested, hauled before the Governor-General, and mercilessly beaten, after which they suffered the punishments and indignities described in the London report already quoted (see p. 76). But there were three of them, not four.
[1 The Nazimu'sh-Shari'ih, who universally earned the epithet of 'Zalim', the Tyrant.]
[2 Tarikh-i-Jadid (p. 202) names a fourth person, a certain Mulla Abu-Talib, a friend of Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas. His identity is unknown. A letter exists, written by Mulla 'Ali-Akbar Ardistani to the Bab, when he was seeking permission to visit Him. Since their chastisement, he says, he had been living in ruins outside Shiraz. The letter makes it absolutely certain that he was the only one who had remained and that both Quddus and Muqaddas had gone.]
The Governor-General of the province of Fars was <p79> Husayn Khan, who was called Ajudan-Bashi (the adjutant major), and had also the titles of Sahib-Ikhtiyar and Nizamu'd-Dawlih. Husayn Khan was a native of Maraghih in Adharbayjan, and had served as Persian envoy both to London and Paris. In London, in June 1839, Lord Palmerston was at first inclined not to meet him, but then decided to receive him unofficially. At that time relations between Britain and Iran had reached a low point. Captain Hennell, the British Political Agent, had been forced to withdraw from Bushihr, and at the same time a British naval force had occupied the island of Kharg (Karrack). Palmerston thundered at Husayn Khan: 'Had the Admiral on arriving on board turned his guns upon the town [Bushihr] and knocked it about their ears, in my opinion he would have been justified in so doing'.(4) When the envoy returned home, Muhammad Shah was so displeased that he had him severely bastinadoed. Nor had Husayn Khan's mission to France, it would seem, been any more successful, although some obscurity surrounds his dealings with the French. In Paris he engaged a number of officers to train the Persian army, and there were irregularities in the matter of their travelling expenses. But more serious issues were involved, which are described by Sir Henry Layard in the following passage:
[1 See note 9, Prologue.]
M. Bore, with all his learning and enlightenment,
was a religious fanatic and profoundly intolerant of
heretics. After residing with him for a fortnight, and
having been treated by him with great kindness and hospitality,
I found myself compelled, to my great sorrow, to <p80>
leave his house [in 1840] under the following circumstances.
The Embassy which the King of the French had
sent to the Shah had not succeeded in obtaining the object
of its mission, and had left Persia much irritated at its
failure, which was mainly attributed by it and the French
Government to English intrigues. The truth was, I
believe, that they had been duped by Hussein Khan, who
had been sent as ambassador to Paris. The subject was an
unpleasant one for me to discuss, and I avoided it in
conversation with my host. One day, however, at dinner,
it was raised by M. Flandin,(5) the French artist, who
denounced my country and countrymen in very offensive
terms, M. Bore himself joining in the abuse. They
accused the English Government and English agents of
having had recourse to poison to prevent Frenchmen from
establishing themselves and gaining influence in Persia,
and of having actually engaged assassins to murder
M. Outray, when on his way on a diplomatic mission to
Tehran. I denied, with indignation, these ridiculous and
calumnious charges, and high words having ensued, I
moved from M. Bore's house to a ruined building occupied
by Mr. Burgess.(6)
[1 M. Bore resided in Julfa, Isfahan. He was a layman sent by the French Government to obtain a foothold for the French in Iran. Later he became a Jesuit priest, and was the head of a Jesuit establishment in Galata when Layard met him in Constantinople. It is likely he sent copious notes to his superiors about the Bab and the Babis.]
[3 An English merchant in Tabriz.]
Failure in London and tortuosity in Paris did not commend themselves to Muhammad Shah; and so, for the next few years, Husayn Khan lived under a cloud. But in 1845 we find him riding high in the province of Fars. He had been given that governorship because he was reputed to be a man stern in his judgments, and Fars needed an iron hand.
Indeed Fars had been in a terrifying plight. The people of Shiraz, high and low alike, had effectively played cat and mouse with the governors sent from Tihran to rule over them. Firaydun Mirza, the Farman-Farma, Muhammad Shah's own brother, much favoured by Haji Mirza Aqasi <p81> and much detested by the Shirazis, was ousted by a combination of the grandees and the mob.
Mirza Nabi Khan-i-Qazvini, the Amir-i-Divan,(7) was also forced out, not once, but twice. On the second occasion many leading citizens -- headed by Haji Qavamu'l-Mulk(8) and Muhammad-Quli Khan-i-Ilbagi, a powerful chieftain of the Qashqa'i tribe -- went to Tihran, to demand the reinstatement of Firaydun Mirza, whom they had previously challenged and maligned. Muhammad Shah kept them waiting in the capital. Mirza Rida (Meerza Reza), the acting British Agent in Shiraz, reported on August 7th 1844 to Captain Hennell in Bushihr:
On the Evening of the 11th Rajab [July 28th] one of the
King's Chapurs [couriers] arrived at Shiraz, bringing
two Royal Firmans [edicts] which had been issued at the
instance of His Excellency Colonel Sheil, to be published
at Shiraz and Bushire . . .
One day the people, consisting of the principal and
respectable Inhabitants and Merchants, were assembled in
the Mosque, in order to hear the Firman from the Pulpit,
when the turbulent and evil [sic] disposed tumultuously
rushed in to prevent its being read, because addressed to
the Ameer [Amir, the Governor]; These were of the
followers of the Hajee Kuwaum [Haji Qavam]. The Ameer
then gave the Shiraz Firman into the hands of Resheed
Khan, Surteep [Rashid Khan-i-Sartip], who took it to the
New Mosque in the Naamutee [Ni'mati-Khanih] Quarter,(9)
where it was published from the Reading Desks to the
assembled Moollahs, respectable Inhabitants, and Merchants.
On the following day when the Ameer directed that the
Firman should be read in the Dewan Khaneh [Divan-Khanih -- the
Court, the rioters fully armed again rushed
in impetuously. Syed Hussein Khan and Resheed Khan
then assembled their followers and topchees [tupchi:
gunner], and complaining bitterly, requested permission <p82>
to meet them . . . nor was it without difficulty and much
persuasion that the Ameer could induce them to desist
pending instructions from the Capital.
The several Quarters of Shiraz are for the most part at
feud -- Thieving and disturbance are on the increase -- The
Ameer has not been dismissed nor has a new Governor
And matters went from bad to worse. Mirza Rida's report to his chief, the following November 24th, was one long catalogue of woes, not totally devoid of amusing points:
Last Friday, from the ten Quarters of Hyedree [Haydari]
and Naamutte [Ni'mati] a Mob and Crowd was again
collected in the open plain, which has ever been the
scene of their conflicts, for the purpose of fighting. From
Midday to Sunset they fought with slings and stones,
sticks and arms . . . As Meerza Mahomed Ali, the
secretary of Hajee Kuwam [Haji Qavam], a fine intelligent
youth, was leaving his dwelling about midday
upon some business, a drunken lootee, without reason
or previous quarrel, plunged a dagger into his right side
. . . two cousins, both young, in a state of Drunkenness,
were disputing regarding a woman, no person not even
the woman being present, when one struck a dagger into
the thigh of the other, who expired two days after.. .
some men of the Fehlee Tribe were sitting together one
night, talking over occurrences of former years, when
. . . an excellent horseman, was shot in the side with a
pistol, and immediately yielded his life.(11)
[1 'Luti': mobster, bravo.]
[2 Fayli: a clan of the Qashqa'is.]
Qubad Khan, a nephew of the Ilkhani (the supreme head of the Qashqa'i tribe), who governed Firuzabad in the heart of the Qashqa'i terrain, had, for a financial consideration, <p83> put armed men at the disposal of some headmen of the village of Maymand to settle a vendetta -- and so the story trails on.
Towards the end of the year 1844 Husayn Khan was given the governorship of Fars, but as late as December 21st and December 24th Mirza Rida was still pouring out tales of woe to Captain Hennell in Bushihr. Matters had reached such a pitch, he said, that people were stripped naked in plain daylight in public thoroughfares, and if anyone offered resistance he was repeatedly stabbed; at night so many matchlocks were fired at random that no sleep was possible, and in any case people had to keep awake to guard their homes. The unpleasant yet humorous experience of a physician clearly shows the breakdown of law in Shiraz at that time:
. . . some of the Alwat brought a horse to the door of
a Physician's Dispensary, whose equipment and clothes
were of the best, saying, 'We have an invalid who is very
ill, take the trouble to come to him and we will attend
you.' The Poor Physician starts for the sickman's [sic]
dwelling, and they take him through two or three streets
when they desire him to be so good as to dismount from
the horse; he does so, and they strip him from head to foot
and go their way.(12)
[1 'Alvat': plural of 'Luti'.]
During that period of anarchy the Bab was on pilgrimage and absent from Shiraz. Husayn Khan arrived at his post in the early part of 1845, when the Bab was about halfway back to His native land. The new Governor set about with all dispatch to give the Shirazis a lesson which he was certain they would take to heart. There were mutilations and executions until order was finally restored. But in little more than three years when Muhammad Shah died, Shirazis, headed <p84> once again by the astute Haji Qavamu'l-Mulk and the headstrong Muhammad-Quli Khan (the Ilbagi of the Qashqa'is), rebelled and forced the dismissal of Husayn Khan.
[1 The chieftain next in rank to the Ilkhani. The central government made these appointments.]
Husayn Khan was the first official in Persia to raise his hand against the Bab and His people. Having meted out cruel punishments to Quddus and the other two Babis, and having acquainted himself with the identity of the Bab and ascertained that He had arrived at Bushihr, Husayn Khan commissioned a body of horsemen to go to that port, arrest the Bab and bring Him to Shiraz. In the meantime the Bab had completed His arrangements to return to the city of His birth.
At Dalaki, some forty miles to the north-east of Bushihr, where the coastal plain ends and the plateau begins to rise, Husayn Khan's horsemen encountered the Bab. He was the first to notice them and sent His Ethiopian servant to call them to Him. They were reluctant to approach Him, but Aslan Khan, a man senior in their ranks, accepted the invitation. However, to the Bab's query regarding the purpose of their mission they evasively replied that the Governor had sent them to make some investigation in that neighbourhood. But the Bab said to them:
The governor has sent you to arrest Me. Here am I; do
with Me as you please. By coming out to meet you, I
have curtailed the length of your march, and have made
it easier for you to find Me.(13) <p85>
BELIEF AND DENIAL
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd:
The glory, jest and riddle of the world!
-- Alexander Pope
The Bab was now a captive, and a captive, apart from a few short months, He remained to the very end. The escort, which should have arrested Him and taken Him in chains to the city of His birth, was subdued and reverent. He rode to Shiraz almost in triumph. It would have been feasible to avoid Husayn Khan's horsemen and seek a safe retreat; but He Himself chose to reveal Himself to His would-be captors. Even more, He said to their spokesman who was enthralled by His unrivalled act, and was entreating Him to take the road to safety, to go to Mashhad and find refuge in the shrine of the eighth Imam:
May the Lord your God requite you for your magnanimity
and noble intention. No one knows the mystery
of My Cause; no one can fathom its secrets. Never will
I turn My face away from the decree of God. He alone
is My sure Stronghold, My Stay and My Refuge. Until My
last hour is at hand, none dare assail Me, none can <p86>
frustrate the plan of the Almighty. And when My hour
is come, how great will be My joy to quaff the cup of
martyrdom in His name! Here am I; deliver Me into the
hands of your master. Be not afraid, for no one will
When the identity of the Bab became known some members of His family felt concern, even alarm, lest great harm might come to Him, and they themselves suffer in the process. Only one uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, His former guardian, who had reared Him and established Him in the world of commerce, believed in His Divine Mission. So did His wife. But the rest, even His mother, were sceptical and one or two were definitely antagonistic.
When Muhammad, the Arabian Prophet, refused to bend to the dictates of His tribe, the elders of Quraysh went to His aged uncle, Abu-Talib, in whose home He had grown to manhood, and demanded that Muhammad be put under restraint. Abu-Talib urged his Nephew to be moderate, but finding Muhammad determined to pursue His course, assured Him that his protection would never waver. The elders of Quraysh then decided on a stratagem to erode the support that Muhammad received from His clan -- the Banu-Hashim. A boycott was ordered, but the descendants of Hashim, with the solitary exception of Abu-Lahab, one of the several uncles of the Prophet, moved to a section at the edge of the town and lived for three years in a state of siege, in defence of Muhammad, although most of them still worshipped their old idols.
[1 Such was the verdict of the Qur'an (cxi) on Abu-Lahab:
Perish the hands of Abu Lahab, and perish he!
His wealth avails him not, neither what he has earned;
he shall roast at a flaming fire
and his wife, the carrier of the firewood,
upon her neck a rope of palm-fibre.(2) ]
The relatives of the Bab did as Muhammad's relatives <p87> before them. Whatever doubts they may have had, they stood by Him.
Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, another maternal uncle of the Bab, did not come to believe in his Nephew as the Qa'im of the House of Muhammad until more than a decade later, when he presented his questions and his doubts to Baha'u'llah and received in answer the Kitab-i-Iqan -- The Book of Certitude. Yet, such were the magnetic powers of the Bab that when He reached Bushihr and was welcomed by this uncle, the latter wrote in these terms to his family in Shiraz:
It has gladdened our hearts that His Honour the Haji
[the Bab] has arrived safely and is in good health. I am at
His service and honoured to be in His company. It is
deemed advisable that He should stay here for a while
God willing, He will, before long, honour those parts
with His presence, be assured . . . His blessed Person is
our glory. Be certain of His Cause and do not let people's
idle talk cause doubts to creep into your hearts. And have
no fear whatsoever. The Lord of the world is His Protector
and gives Him victory . . .
At the end of his letter Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad sent a message, on behalf of his wife, to the mother of the wife of the Bab: 'You have a son-in-law who is peerless in the world. All the peoples of the world ought to obey Him.'(3) And in a letter written shortly after, to Haji Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, one of his sons, the same Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad quoted the Bab as saying: My proof is My Book -- let him who can, produce the like of these verses.
Similarly, Muhammad had said in the Qur'an:(4)
Say: 'Bring a Book from God that gives
better guidance than these, and follow it,
if you speak truly.' <p88>
Then if they do not answer thee, know that
they are only following their caprices;
and who is further astray than he who
follows his caprice without guidance from
God? Surely God guides not the people
of the evildoers.
-- xxviii, 49-50.
Those are the signs of God that We recite to thee in truth;
in what manner of discourse then, after God and His signs,
will they believe?
-- xlv, 5.
The Bab's entry into Shiraz was truly majestic. It bore no resemblance to the condition envisaged by the Governor. He had ordered the Bab to be brought to Shiraz in chains. Instead, there was the Bab riding, calm and serene, at the head of the horsemen. They went straight to the citadel where the Governor resided. Husayn Khan received the Bab with overbearing insolence: 'Do you realise what a great mischief you have kindled? Are you aware what a disgrace you have become to the holy Faith of Islam and to the august person of our sovereign? Are you not the man who claims to be the author of a new revelation which annuls the sacred precepts of the Qur'an?'(5) The Bab spoke in reply these words from the Qur'an:(6)
O believers, if an ungodly man
comes to you with a tiding, make
clear, lest you afflict a people
unwittingly, and then repent of
what you have done.
[1 Rodwell translates this as 'clear it up at once . . . '] <p89>
Husayn Khan was beside himself with rage, and ordered an attendant to strike the Bab's face. His turban fell off but was replaced gently by Shaykh Abu-Turab, the Imam-Jum'ih, who treated the Bab with respect and consideration. On the other hand, Shaykh Husayn-i-'Arab, the Tyrant, who was also present, following the example set by the arrogant Governor of Fars, assailed the Bab vehemently both with hand and tongue. In the meantime news had reached the mother of the Bab of this shameless behaviour towards her Son. Moved by her pleadings, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali hurried to the citadel to demand the release of his Nephew. Husayn Khan agreed to let the Bab go to His home, if His uncle would promise that apart from the members of His family no one else would be allowed to meet Him. Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali protested that he himself was a well-known merchant of the city, with many connections and a host of friends and acquaintances, all of whom would wish to visit his Nephew, who had just returned from pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Husayn Khan, realizing that an immediate ban was not possible, set a time limit of three days, after which the Bab should be kept incommunicado.
The months during which the Bab lived under surveillance in His native town saw the birth of the Babi community. Hitherto His identity had remained unrevealed, and only individuals, here and there and unrelated to one another, were Babis. Apart from the first few months of His Ministry, when the body of the Letters of the Living was gradually forming, the Bab had not had a group of disciples around Him. Even then, because of the condition which the Bab had laid down for the attainment of those who were to be the first believers, cohesion as one firmly-knit body was not feasible. And as soon as the requisite number was enrolled, <p90> the Bab sent them out into the world to spread the glad tidings of the New Day. But, once again in Shiraz, despite the oppressive measures of Husayn Khan, an appreciable number of Babis came into the presence of the Bab, consorted with Him and received instruction and Tablets from Him. Viewed in this light, this Shiraz episode would seem the most fecund period in the short Ministry of the Bab.
[1 They were to find Him 'independently and of their own accord'.]
Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i, who, as we have seen, had known the Bab from His childhood, now hurried to Shiraz; and soon after came a man destined to achieve high fame in the ranks of the 'Dawn-Breakers'. He was Siyyid Yahya of Darab, the son of the same greatly-revered Siyyid Ja'far-i-Kashfi, whom we noted before as a fellow-pilgrim of the Bab. Siyyid Yahya was a divine of great erudition, and he thought that he could easily overcome the Bab in argument. As he lived in Tihran, close to royal circles, Muhammad Shah asked Siyyid Yahya to go to Shiraz and investigate the claim of the Bab. In Shiraz he was the guest of the Governor. Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i arranged a meeting between the Bab and Siyyid Yahya in the house of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. At that first encounter Siyyid Yahya, proud of his vast knowledge, brought out one abstruse point after another from the Qur'an, from Traditions, from learned works. To all of them the Bab listened calmly, and gave answers concise and convincing. Siyyid Yahya was subdued, but still he searched for a test which would relieve him from the necessity of giving his allegiance to the Bab. He told Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i that if only the Bab would show forth a miracle, his lingering doubts would vanish, to which Haji Siyyid Javad replied that to demand the performance of a miracle, when faced with the brilliance of the Sun of Truth, was tantamount to seeking light from a flickering candle. Siyyid Yahya has himself related:
I resolved that in my third interview with the Bab I
would in my inmost heart request Him to reveal for me a <p91>
commentary on the Surih of Kawthar. I determined not
to breathe that request in His presence. Should He,
unasked by me, reveal this commentary in a manner that
would immediately distinguish it in my eyes from the
prevailing standards current among the commentators
on the Qur'an, I then would be convinced of the Divine
character of His Mission, and would readily embrace His
Cause. If not, I would refuse to acknowledge Him. As
soon as I was ushered into His presence, a sense of fear
for which I could not account, suddenly seized me. My
limbs quivered as I beheld His face. I, who on repeated
occasions had been introduced into the presence of the
Shah and had never discovered the slightest trace of
timidity in myself, was now so awed and shaken that I
could not remain standing on my feet. The Bab, beholding
my plight, arose from His seat, advanced towards me, and,
taking hold of my hand, seated me beside Him. 'Seek
from Me,' He said, 'whatever is your heart's desire. I will
readily reveal it to you.' I was speechless with wonder
Like a babe that can neither understand nor speak, I felt
powerless to respond. He smiled as He gazed at me and
said: 'Were I to reveal for you the commentary on the
Surih of Kawthar, would you acknowledge that My words
are born of the Spirit of God? Would you recognise that
My utterance can in no wise be associated with sorcery or
magic?' Tears flowed from my eyes as I heard Him speak
these words. All I was able to utter was this verse of the
Qur'an: 'O our Lord, with ourselves have we dealt
unjustly: if Thou forgive us not and have not pity on us,
we shall surely be of those who perish.'
[1 Qur'an, cviii. Kawthar is said to be a river in Paradise.]
It was still early in the afternoon when the Bab requested
Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali to bring His pen-case and
some paper. He then started to reveal His commentary on
the Surih of Kawthar. How am I to describe this scene of
inexpressible majesty? Verses streamed from His pen
with a rapidity that was truly astounding. The incredible
swiftness of His writing, the soft and gentle murmur of <p92>
His voice, and the stupendous force of His style, amazed
and bewildered me. He continued in this manner until
the approach of sunset. He did not pause until the entire
commentary of the Surih was completed. He then laid
down His pen and asked for tea. Soon after, He began to
read it aloud in my presence. My heart leaped madly as I
heard Him pour out, in accents of unutterable sweetness,
those treasures enshrined in that sublime commentary.
I was so entranced by its beauty that three times over I
was on the verge of fainting. He sought to revive my
failing strength with a few drops of rose-water which He
caused to be sprinkled on my face. This restored my vigour
and enabled me to follow His reading to the end.(7)
The Bab's conquest of Siyyid Yahya was total. That night and the two following nights, as instructed by the Bab, Siyyid Yahya remained a guest in the house of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, until he himself and Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qazvini, the scribe, (later known as Mirza Ahmad-i-Katib), completed the transcription of the Bab's commentary. Siyyid Yahya has stated:
We verified all the traditions in the text and found them
to be entirely accurate. Such was the state of certitude to
which I had attained that if all the powers of the earth were
to be leagued against me they would be powerless to
shake my confidence in the greatness of His Cause.(8)
Siyyid Yahya had stayed away for such a long time from the Governor's residence that Husayn Khan's suspicions were aroused. To his impatient queries, Siyyid Yahya replied:
No one but God, who alone can change the hearts of
men, is able to captivate the heart of Siyyid Yahya. Whoso
can ensnare his heart is of God, and His word unquestionably
the voice of Truth.(9) <p93>
Husayn Khan was nonplussed and, for the moment, could only hold his peace; but he wrote bitterly to Muhammad Shah to denounce Siyyid Yahya. Nabil-i-A'zam states that Muhammad Shah reprimanded his Governor, replying:
It is strictly forbidden to any one of our subjects to utter
such words as would tend to detract from the exalted
rank of Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi. He is of noble lineage,
a man of great learning, of perfect and consummate
virtue. He will under no circumstances incline his ear
to any cause unless he believes it to be conducive to the
advancement of the best interests of our realm and to the
well-being of the Faith of Islam.(10)
Nabil has also recorded that
Muhammad Shah . . . was reported to have addressed
these words to Haji Mirza Aqasi: 'We have been lately
informed that Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi has become a
Babi. If this be true, it behoves us to cease belittling the
cause of that siyyid.'(10)
'Abdu'l-Baha has stated that Siyyid Yahya:
wrote without fear or care a detailed account of his observations
to Mirza Lutf-'Ali, the chamberlain in order that
the latter might submit it to the notice of the late king
while he himself journeyed to all parts of Persia, and in
every town and station summoned the people from the
pulpit-tops in such wise that other learned doctors
decided that he must be mad, accounting it a sure case
At the bidding of the Bab, Siyyid Yahya went first to Burujird in the province of Luristan, where his father lived, to give that much-revered divine the tidings of the New Day. The Bab expressly told him to treat his father with great <p94> gentleness. Siyyid Ja'far-i-Kashfi did not wholly turn away from the Faith which his illustrious son was fervently professing and advocating, but showed no desire to identify himself with it. Siyyid Yahya, as commanded by the Bab, did not burden his father more and went his own way which he had gladly chosen -- the way that was to lead him to martyrdom. Siyyid Yahya is known as Vahid -- the Unique One -- a designation given to him by the Bab.
[1 'The Discloser': he was called 'Kashfi' because of the powers of divination attributed to him.]
[2 A letter has survived in the handwriting of Vahid, addressed to Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, the uncle of the Bab. Therein Vahid presents proof to convince him of the truth of the claim of his Nephew. See Plate facing p. 81 for an example of Vahid's handwriting.]
The divines of Shiraz were insistent that the Bab should attend a Friday gathering in one of the mosques and clarify his position. What they really demanded was the complete renunciation of any claim. This attendance in a mosque on a Friday did take place, but the date of it is not known.
Nabil-i-A'zam thus describes the summoning of the Bab to the Mosque of Vakil:(12)
The Bab, accompanied by Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali,
arrived at the Masjid at a time when the Imam-Jum'ih
had just ascended the pulpit and was preparing to deliver
his sermon. As soon as his eyes fell upon the Bab, he
publicly welcomed Him, requested Him to ascend the
pulpit, and called upon Him to address the congregation.
The Bab, responding to his invitation, advanced towards
him and, standing on the first step of the staircase, prepared
to address the people. 'Come up higher,' interjected
the Imam-Jum'ih. Complying with his wish, the
Bab ascended two more steps. As He was standing, His
head hid the breast of Shaykh Abu-Turab, who was occupying
the pulpit-top. He began by prefacing His public <p95>
declaration with an introductory discourse. No sooner
had He uttered the opening words of 'Praise be to God,
who hath in truth created the heavens and the earth,'
than a certain siyyid known as Siyyid-i-Shish-Pari, whose
function was to carry the mace before the Imam-Jum'ih,
insolently shouted: 'Enough of this idle chatter! Declare,
now and immediately, the thing you intend to say.'
The Imam-Jum'ih greatly resented the rudeness of the
siyyid's remark. 'Hold your peace,' he rebuked him, 'and
be ashamed of your impertinence.' He then, turning to
the Bab, asked Him to be brief, as this, he said, would
allay the excitement of the people. The Bab, as He faced
the congregation, declared: 'The condemnation of God
be upon him who regards me either as a representative
of the Imam or the gate thereof. The condemnation of
God be also upon whosoever imputes to me the charge
of having denied the unity of God, of having repudiated
the prophethood of Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets,
of having rejected the truth of any of the messengers of
old, or of having refused to recognise the guardianship
of 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, or of any of the
imams who have succeeded him.' He then ascended to the
top of the staircase, embraced the Imam-Jum'ih, and,
descending to the floor of the Masjid, joined the congregation
for the observance of the Friday prayer. The
Imam-Jum'ih intervened and requested Him to retire.
'Your family,' he said, 'is anxiously awaiting your return.
All are apprehensive lest any harm befall you. Repair
to your house and there offer your prayer; of greater
merit shall this deed be in the sight of God.' Haji Mirza
Siyyid 'Ali also was, at the request of the Imam-Jum'ih,
asked to accompany his nephew to his home. This
precautionary measure which Shaykh Abu-Turab thought
it wise to observe was actuated by the fear lest, after the
dispersion of the congregation, a few of the evil-minded
among the crowd might still attempt to injure the person
of the Bab or endanger His life. But for the sagacity, the
sympathy, and the careful attention which the <p96>
Imam-Jum'ih so strikingly displayed on a number of such
occasions, the infuriated mob would doubtless have been
led to gratify its savage desire, and would have committed
the most abominable of excesses. He seemed to
have been the instrument of the invisible Hand appointed
to protect both the person and the Mission of that
Regarding that gathering in the Mosque of Vakil, 'Abdu'l-Baha has written:
One day they summoned him to the mosque urging
and constraining him to recant, but he discoursed from
the pulpit in such wise as to silence and subdue those
present and to stablish and strengthen his followers. It
was then supposed that he claimed to be the medium of
grace from His Highness the Lord of the Age (upon him
be peace); but afterwards it became known and evident
that his meaning was the Gate-hood [Babiyyat] of another
city and the mediumship of the graces of another person
whose qualities and attributes were contained in his
books and treatises.(14)
[1 Sahibu'z-Zaman, i.e., the Qa'im, the Mihdi (Mahdi).]
Haji Mirza Habibu'llah-i-Afnan has this record in his chronicle:
'The late Haji Mirza Muhammad-Sadiq-i-Mu'allim
[Teacher], who was a man of good repute, was relating the
story of that day for the late 'Andalib.(15) My brother, Haji
Mirza Buzurg, and I were present. This is the summary of
what he said: "I was about twenty-five years old and able to
judge an issue. It was noised abroad that the Governor, by
the request of the divines, had ordered that the people of
Shiraz, of all classes, should gather in the Masjid-i-Vakil,
as the Siyyid-i-Bab was going to renounce His claim. I too
went to the mosque to find a place near [the pulpit] so that <p97>
I might hear well all that He had to say. From the morning
onwards, people, group by group, thronged the mosque.
Three hours before sunset there was such a press of people
in the mosque that the cloisters and the courtyard and the
roofs, even the minarets, were fully crowded. The Governor,
the divines, the merchants and the notables were sitting
in the cloisters, near the stone pulpit. (This is a pulpit
carved out of one piece of marble. It has fourteen steps.)
I was also sitting near it. Voices were heard in the courtyard,
saying: 'He is coming.' He came through the gate, accompanied
by ten footmen and 'Abdu'l-Hamid Khan-i-Darughih
[chief of police], and approached the pulpit. He had His
turban on and an 'aba on His shoulders. He displayed such
power and dignity and His bearing was so sublime that I
cannot describe it adequately. That vast gathering seemed
as naught to Him. He paid no heed to that assemblage of
the people. He addressed Husayn Khan and the divines:
'What is your intention in asking Me to come here?' They
answered: 'The intention is that you should ascend this
pulpit and repudiate your false claim so that this commotion
and unrest will subside.' He said nothing and went up to the
third step of the pulpit. Shaykh Husayn, the Tyrant, said
with utmost vehemence: 'Go to the top of the pulpit so
that all may see and hear you.' The Bab ascended the pulpit
and sat down at the top. All of a sudden, silence fell upon
that assemblage. It seemed as if there was not a soul in the
mosque. The whole concourse of people strained their ears.
He began to recite at the start a homily in Arabic on Divine
Unity. It was delivered with utmost eloquence, with
majesty and power. It lasted about half an hour, and the
concourse of people, high and low, learned and illiterate
alike, listened attentively and were fascinated. The people's
silence infuriated Shaykh Husayn, who turned to the Governor
and said: 'Did you bring this Siyyid here, into the presence
of all these people, to prove His Cause, or did you <p98>
bring Him to recant and renounce His false claim? He will
soon with these words Will over all these people to His side.
Tell Him to say what He has to say. What are all these idle
tales?' Husayn Khan, the Sahib-Ikhtiyar, told the Bab:
'O Siyyid! say what you have been told to say. What is this
idle chatter?' The Bab was silent for a moment and then He
addressed the crowd: 'O people! Know this well that I
speak what My Grandfather, the Messenger of God, spoke
twelve hundred and sixty years ago, and I do not speak
what My Grandfather did not. "What Muhammad made
lawful remains lawful unto the Day of Resurrection and what
He forbade remains forbidden unto the Day of Resurrection",
and according to the Tradition that has come down
from the Imams, "Whenever the Qa'im arises that will be
the Day of Resurrection".' The Bab, having spoken those
words, descended from the pulpit. Some of the people,
who had been inimical and hostile, that day foreswore their
antagonism. But when the Bab came face to face with
Shaykh Husayn, that enemy raised his walking-stick to
strike Him. The late Mirza Abu'l-Hasan Khan, the
Mushiru'l-Mulk, who was then a young man, brought
forward his shoulder to ward off the attack, and it was his
shoulder that was hit."
[1 The Bab was quoting a Muslim Tradition.]
[2 He and his father, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the first Mushiru'l-Mulk, were the Viziers of Fars, in succession, over a period of forty years.]
'That Haji [Haji Mirza Muhammad-Sadiq], who was not a believer but a well-wisher, related this story to the late 'Andalib. His meaning was that the Bab, on that occasion, affirmed His Cause and completed His proof before the concourse of people.'
Haji Mirza Habibu'llah goes on to say: 'Then the divines came together and passed a sentence of death on the Bab. They wrote out their verdict and affixed their seals to it. The <p99> instigator of this move and the source of all mischief was Shaykh Husayn, the Tyrant, who held the title of Nazim'ush-Shariy'ih. Their numbers included Shaykh Abu-Hashim, Shaykh Asadu'llah, Shaykh Mihdiy-i-Kujuri and Mulla Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Mahallati. Next they took what they had written and sealed to the late Shaykh Abu-Turab, the Imam-Jum'ih, because he had refused to heed their pleas and had declined to attend their meeting. Now they presented their paper to the Imam-Jum'ih and asked him to put his seal on it that "we may finish off this Siyyid". Shaykh Abu-Turab, on perusing the verdict, became very angry, threw that piece of paper on the ground and said, "Have you gone out of your minds? I will never put my seal on this paper, because I have no doubts about the lineage, integrity, piety, nobility and honesty of this Siyyid. I see that this young Man is possessed of all the virtues of Islam and humanity and of all the faculties of intellect. There can be only two sides to this question: He either speaks the truth, or He is, as you allege, a liar. If He be truthful I cannot endorse such a verdict on a man of truth, and if He be a liar, as you aver, tell me which one of us present here is so strictly truthful as to sit in judgment upon this Siyyid. Away with you and your false imaginings, away, away!" No matter how hard they tried and how much they insisted, the late Shaykh Abu-Turab did not grant them their wish; and because he declined to put his seal on their paper, their plan was brought to naught and they did not succeed in achieving their objective.'
According to Nicolas, Muhammad Shah asked Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi to go to Shiraz and investigate the Cause of the Bab, when the account of the gathering in the Mosque of Vakil was presented to him.(16)
'Abdu'l-Baha tells us that when the news of the journeys of Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi and the anger provoked by them <p100> reached Zanjan, Mulla Muhammad 'Ali the divine, who was a man of mark possessed of penetrating speech, sent one of those on whom he could rely to Shiraz to investigate this matter. This person, having acquainted himself with the details of these occurrences in such wise as was necessary and proper, returned with some [of the Bab's] writings. When the divine heard how matters were and had made himself acquainted with the writings, notwithstanding that he was a man expert in knowledge and noted for profound research, he went mad and became crazed as was predestined: he gathered up his books in the lecture-room saying, 'The season of spring and wine has arrived,' and uttered this sentence:-'Search for knowledge after reaching the known is culpable.' Then from the summit of the pulpit he summoned and directed all his disciples [to embrace the doctrine], and wrote to the Bab his own declaration and confession . . .
Although the doctors of Zanjan arose with heart and soul to exhort and admonish the people they could effect nothing. Finally they were compelled to go to Teheran and made their complaint before the late king Muhammad Shah, requesting that Mulla Muhammad 'Ali be summoned to Teheran.
Now when he came to Teheran they brought him before a conclave of the doctors . . . after many controversies and disputations nought was effected with him in that assembly. The late king therefore bestowed on him a staff and fifty tumans for his expenses, and gave him permission to return.(17)
The confidant whom Mulla Muhammad-'Ali of Zanjan, better known as Hujjat (the Proof), sent to Shiraz to investigate the Cause of the Bab was named Mulla Iskandar. Nabil-i-A'zam describes his return:
[1 He was called Hujjatu'l-Islam (The Proof of Islam), an appellation given to highly-placed and well-recognized divines. The Bab gave him the designation: Hujjat-i-Zanjani.] <p101>
He arrived at a time when all the leading 'ulamas of the
City had assembled in the presence of Hujjat. As soon as
he appeared, Hujjat enquired whether he believed in, or
rejected, the new Revelation. Mulla Iskandar submitted
the writings of the Bab . . . and asserted that whatever
should be the verdict of his master, the same would he
deem it his obligation to follow. 'What!' angrily exclaimed
Hujjat. 'But for the presence of this distinguished company,
I would have chastised you severely. How dare you
consider matters of belief to be dependent upon the
approbation or rejection of others?' Receiving from the
hand of his messenger the copy of the Qayyumu'l-Asma',
he, as soon as he had perused a page of that book, fell
prostrate upon the ground and exclaimed: 'I bear witness
that these words which I have read proceed from the
same Source as that of the Qur'an. Whoso has recognised
the truth of that sacred Book must needs testify to the
Divine origin of these words, and must needs submit to
the precepts inculcated by their Author. I take you,
members of this assembly, as my witnesses: I pledge such
allegiance to the Author of this Revelation that should He
ever pronounce the night to be the day, and declare the
sun to be a shadow, I would unreservedly submit to His
judgment, and would regard His verdict as the voice of
Mulla Muhammad-'Ali of Zanjan, who, like Siyyid Yahya of Darab, was destined to become a brilliant star in the Babi firmament, was a practitioner of the Akhbari school,(19) and that had placed him oftentimes at odds with other divines of his rank and station. Beyond that variance Mulla Muhammad-'Ali was always very forceful and emphatic in the expression of his views. That forthrightness, sustained by his vast knowledge and lucid speech, had led to serious disputations with his peers. Time and again the mediation of no less a person than the monarch himself had saved the situation from deterioration into violence. He had <p102> once before been summoned to Tihran, where, in the presence of Muhammad Shah, he had worsted his opponents. As the common parlance has it, he was not a man to mince his words.
There were a number of Babis in Karbila eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Bab. The news that the Bab had changed His route shook the faith of a few of them. As instructed by the Bab Himself, these Babis left Karbila for Isfahan. At Kangavar, situated between Kirmanshah and Hamadan, they encountered Mulla Husayn, the Babu'l-Bab, and his brother and nephew, whose destination was Karbila. But, hearing what had happened, Mulla Husayn decided to accompany them to Isfahan. There he received the news from Shiraz that the Bab was under constraint. He determined to continue on to Shiraz, accompanied, as before, by his brother and nephew. He took off his turban and clerical robes and put on the accoutrements of a horseman of the Hizarih tribe in Khurasan. Thus he entered the gate of Shiraz and reached the house of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. Some days later Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Nahri with his brother Mirza Hadi, and Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qazvini arrived at Shiraz, and with them were Mulla 'Abdu'l-'Aliy-i-Hirati and Mulla Javad-i-Baraghani, who were fickle and deeply jealous of Mulla Husayn. In spite of Mulla Husayn's disguise, the enemies of the Bab soon recognized him, and the cry went up denouncing his presence in Shiraz. Then the Bab directed Mulla Husayn to Yazd, whence he was to proceed to Khurasan. Others He also told to leave; only Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim remained to be His scribe. Those who had professed the Faith of the Bab to gain their own ends, such as Mulla 'Abdu'l'-Aliy-i-Hirati, went to Kirman and attached themselves to Haji Muhammad-Karim Khan-i-Kirmani, who, by this date, had assumed the leadership of the Shaykhi community. <p103>
A number of other Babis, as previously mentioned, also repaired to Shiraz and attained the presence of the Bab. One of them was Mulla Shaykh 'Ali of Khurasan, whom the Bab designated as 'Azim (Great). He was still in Shiraz when Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi came to make his investigation. Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi was another. Moreover, Shiraz itself had by this time a group of native Babis. Haji Abu'l Hasan, the Bab's fellow-pilgrim, was one; another was a nephew of Shaykh Abu-Turab, the Imam-Jum'ih, a youth named Shaykh-'Ali Mirza; yet another, Haji Muhammad Bisat, a close friend of the same Imam-Jum'ih; and to name a few more: Mirza-Aqay-i-Rikab-Saz (Stirrup-maker), destined to fall a martyr, one of the very few who quaffed the cup of martyrdom in Shiraz itself; Luft-'Ali Mirza, a descendant of the Afshar kings (1736-95), whom we shall meet in a subsequent chapter; Aqa Muhammad-Karim, a merchant, who was eventually compelled by continued persecution to abandon his native city; Mirza Rahim, a baker, who became an ardent teacher of the Faith; Mirza 'Abdu'l Karim, who had the office of key-holder to the shrine known as Shah-Chiragh (King of the Lamp) where Mir Ahmad, a brother of the eighth Imam, is buried, Mashhadi Abu'l Qasim-i-Labbaf (Quilt-maker), whose son Hishmat achieved fame as a poet; Mirza Mihdi, a poet of note, whose soubriquet was Sabir (Patient), and his son, Mirza 'Ali-Akbar. Most of these native Babis of Shiraz embraced the Faith after hearing the Bab from the pulpit of the Mosque of Vakil. By the summer of 1846, the Bab had cleared the way for another chapter in the progress of His Ministry. He bequeathed all His property jointly to His mother and to His wife, who was to inherit subsequently the whole estate. <p104> Then He took up His residence in the house of His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. That was the house where He was born and where He had spent much of His childhood. At the time of this move, He told those of His followers who had come to make their home in Shiraz to go to Isfahan. Included in that group were Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi, one of the Letters of the Living, who later became the amanuensis of the Bab, Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi and Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qazvini, the scribe.
[1 'Azim is numerically equivalent to Shaykh 'Ali.]
[2 Many of the relatives of the Bab, including His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, were buried inside this shrine.]
[3 See Plate facing p. 193.]
One evening it was reported to the Governor that a large number of Babis had gathered in the house of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. Husayn Khan ordered 'Abdu'l-Hamid Khan, the Darughih (chief constable) of Shiraz, to rush the house of the uncle of the Bab, surprise its occupants and arrest everyone he found there. According to Nicolas, Haji Mirza Aqasi had instructed the Governor to put the Bab to death in secret. It was apparently Husayn Khan's intention to carry out the orders of the Grand Vizier that night. However, that very night a severe cholera epidemic swept the city, and Husayn Khan fled precipitately. The chief constable and his men entered Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali's house by way of the roof-top, but found no one with the Bab, except His uncle and one disciple, Siyyid Kazim-i-Zanjani. With the Governor gone, the chief constable decided to take the Bab to his own house. Reaching his home, 'Abdu'l-Hamid Khan <p105> found, to his horror and distress, that within the few hours of his absence his sons had been struck by cholera. He pleaded with the Bab for their recovery. It was now the hour of dawn and the Bab was preparing to say His morning prayer. He gave 'Abdu'l-Hamid Khan some of the water with which He was making His ablutions and told him to take it to his sons to drink; they would recover, the Bab assured the chief constable. They recovered indeed, and 'Abdu'l-Hamid Khan was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that he sought out the Governor and begged Husayn Khan to permit him to release the Bab. 'Abdu'l-Baha states in A Traveller's Narrative that Husayn Khan consented on condition that the Bab agreed to depart from Shiraz.(20)
[1 On October 15th 1846, Major Hennell reported from Bushihr to Sheil in Tihran that cholera reached Shiraz about September 22nd, and that 'immediately the fact was ascertained' Husayn Khan left Shiraz and went well away. At the time of his writing, Hennell states, the Governor had come back, to Bagh-i-Takht, a garden and palace on the northern heights overlooking Shiraz. On November 16th, Hennell reported that 'the cholera has ceased its ravages at Shiraz', that it had spread as far away as Fasa and Jahrum, that there had been no fatal cases in Bushihr, and that Basrah and Baghdad in Turkish domains had suffered most, deaths numbering up to 200 a day in Basrah. (F.O. 268/113.)]
When this book had reached the stage of paginated proofs, the writer received a number of very important documents, one of which is a historical find of prime importance. It is a letter from the Bab to His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, written at Kunar-Takhtih, a stage further from Dalaki, the Bushihr-Shiraz road. It was at Dalaki that He encountered the horsemen sent to arrest Him. He mentions the esteem shown to Him by those horsemen. But the importance of this letter lies in the fact that it is precisely dated: 24th of the 2nd Jamadi 1261, which corresponds to June 30th 1845. The date of the Bab's departure from Bushihr had nowhere been recorded and had remained unknown. It must have taken Him another week, at least, to reach Shiraz Departing for Isfahan in the last days of September 1846, His sojourn in His native city was, thus, less than fifteen months. <p106>
THE CITY OF 'ABBAS THE GREAT
The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon Death's purple altar now
See where the victor-victim bleeds:
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.
-- James Shirley
Autumn was setting in when the Bab left the house of 'Abdu'l-Hamid Khan, turned His back on Shiraz and took the road to Isfahan. He was attended by Siyyid Kazim-i-Zanjani.(1) No opportunity had there been for Him to see His mother and His wife, and they never met again. But He said farewell to His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid.
His family was in great distress, and the confounded and frustrated Governor turned upon them to give vent to his fury. First he seized and chastised the venerable Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, then had his men break into the house of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, the brother-in-law of the Bab, who was dangerously ill in bed. He was dragged out, carried to the Governor's residence, threatened, reviled and fined. Porters took him back to his house, slinging him over their shoulders since he was unable to walk. The people of Shiraz were warned that if a single sheet of the writings of the Bab was found in their possession, they would be severely punished. In their panic, scores dashed to the house of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim with bundles of the writings of <p107> the Bab, all written in His own hand, threw them into the open portico of the house and dashed away, lest they might be seen with the incriminating material. Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali advised the members of that household to wash away the ink and bury the sodden paper.
[1 The present writer remembers hearing from his mother her recollections of her paternal grandmother, the wife of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, which included an account of the washing away of the writings of the Bab. Huge copper collanders were used for the purpose. The paper was either buried or thrown into wells.]
A day or two before the house of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali was raided, Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim wrote to Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, who was still in Bushihr, in tones of great dismay: opposition was mounting, even a relative by marriage was vociferously denouncing the Bab (whom he names as Haji Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad throughout his letter) and Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. As there were certain matters which Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali could not manage by himself, he desired Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad to come as soon as possible from Bushihr, to do all that was needed to settle their affairs. 'Some people may feel ashamed and keep within bounds when they see you,' he wrote. He wanted to be freed of their trading engagements so that he could take his family and leave Shiraz, to avoid any further injustices.
Isfahan, towards which the Bab set His face, was and is, par excellence, the city of 'Abbas the Great, the most illustrious of the Safavid monarchs (1501-1732), who is best known in the West because of his association with the Sherley brothers and the East India Company, with whose aid he drove the Portuguese out of the Persian Gulf. He is 'The Great Sophy' of Shakespeare. Isfahan had been the capital of the Saljuqs (Seljucids), centuries before, but it had suffered neglect in the intervening years. Shah 'Abbas <p108> moved his capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, and began restoring the city which was to be styled, erelong, Nisf-i-Jahan -- Half-the-World. Magnificent mosques and colleges and pavilions, and the largest public square in the world, are prominent among that great ruler's works, and are there today to inspire wonder and admiration. But with the decline and eventual fall of the Safavids, Isfahan, too, declined and met with repeated misfortunes in the days of the Qajars, who pulled down or painted over Safavid buildings.
In that autumn of 1846, the Governor-General of Isfahan was a Georgian eunuch: Manuchihr Khan, the Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih. He had been, writes Layard,
purchased in his childhood as a slave, had been brought
up a Musulman, and reduced to his unhappy condition.
Like many of his kind, he was employed when young in
the public service, and had by his remarkable abilities
risen to the highest posts. He had for many years enjoyed
the confidence and the favour of the Shah. Considered
the best administrator in the kingdom, he had been sent
to govern the great province of Isfahan, which included
within its limits the wild and lawless tribes of the Lurs
and Bakhtiyari, generally in rebellion, and the semi-independent
Arab population of the plains between the Luristan
Mountains and the Euphrates. He was hated and
feared for his cruelty, but it was generally admitted that
he ruled justly, that he protected the weak from oppression
by the strong, and that where he was able to enforce
his authority life and property were secure.(2)
Layard established a close friendship with Muhammad-Taqi Khan, the chieftain of the Chahar-Lang section of the Bakhtiyaris. Manuchihr Khan captured this chieftain, after lengthy manoeuvres, and sent him with his family to Tihran, where he died. Chiefly for that reason Layard is not at all complimentary in his copious writings about <p109> Manuchihr Khan. There is no doubt that the Bakhtiyari chieftain was in rebellion against the central government and even intended to take himself and his territory out of its jurisdiction. The proof is afforded by the fact that he sent Henry Layard to the island of Kharg, then occupied by British forces, to sound the British authorities for support. Hennell told Layard that although Britain was in a state bordering on war with Iran, she would not countenance or encourage insurrection or secession.
Disregarding Layard's prejudices, the fact remains that historical evidence exists in plenty to prove that Manuchihr Khan had, in the company of his peers, his ample share of avarice and cruelty. He had been a faithful servant of Muhammad Shah, had fought battles for him to make his throne secure, and had, in successive appointments, pacified a vast area of the country, stretching from Kirmanshah in the west to Isfahan in the central regions, and to the waters of the Persian Gulf in the south. When he served as the Vizier of the province of Fars, he put down an uprising, brought some seventy to eighty prisoners with him to Shiraz, and outside the gate of Bagh-i-Shah had a tower erected with their living bodies, which was held firm by mortar.
The Bab, as He approached Isfahan, wrote a letter to Manuchihr Khan in which he asked for shelter. Siyyid Kazim-i-Zanjani took the letter to the Governor, who, greatly impressed by it, sent it on to Siyyid Muhammad, the Sultanu'l-'Ulama, the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan, and requested that high dignitary to open his home to the Bab. The Imam-Jum'ih dispatched a number of people close to himself, amongst them his brother, some distance out of the city to escort the Bab to Isfahan, and at the city-Limits he <p110> himself welcomed the Visitor with respect and reverence. He went far beyond the usual marks of cordial hospitality, even to the extent of pouring water from a ewer over the hands of the Bab, a task normally performed by attendants.
[1 This man in future years proved so hostile, bloodthirsty and rapacious that Baha'u'llah designated him as 'Raqsha', the She-Serpent.]
There were, by this time, an appreciable number of Babis in Isfahan, many of them natives of the city and some directed there by the Bab Himself. Amongst the wider public the fame of the Bab spread rapidly. There was one occasion when people came to take away the water He had used for His ablutions, so greatly did they value it. His host was enthralled by the Bab. One night, after the evening meal, he asked his Guest to write for him a commentary on the Surih of V'al-'Asr (Afternoon -- Qur'an ciii), one of the shortest Surihs:
By the afternoon!
Surely Man is in the way of loss,
save those who believe, and do righteous deeds,
and counsel each other unto the truth,
and counsel each other to be steadfast.(3)
The Bab took up His pen and wrote His commentary, there and then, to the astonishment and delight of all who were present. It was past midnight when the assemblage broke up. Mulla Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Hirati, one of the divines of Isfahan, was so overcome by the power of the Bab's pen and voice that he said with great feeling:
Peerless and unique as are the words which have streamed
from this pen, to be able to reveal, within so short a time
and in so legible a writing, so great a number of verses
as to equal a fourth, nay a third, of the Qur'an, is in itself
an achievement such as no mortal, without the intervention
of God, could hope to perform.(4)
People of all ranks flocked to the house of the Imam-Jum'ih. Manuchihr Khan himself called there to meet the Bab. He was a proud man and a powerful Governor, ruling <p111> over an important section of the realm. His visit to a young Siyyid, hitherto unknown, indicates the measure of change wrought in him by that one letter which he had received from the Bab. Indeed, Manuchihr Khan was to become a changed man under the influence of the Bab, who had been a fugitive and an exile at his door. He now asked the Bab for a treatise on 'Nubuvvat-i-Khassih' -- the specific station and mission of the Prophet Muhammad. Again surrounded by a number of the leading divines of Isfahan, the Bab wrote instantaneously the treatise which the Governor desired. Within two hours He produced a disquisition of fifty pages, superbly reasoned, proving unassailably the claim and the achievement of Islam, and ending His theme on the subject of the advent of the Qa'im and the Return of Imam Husayn (Rij'at-i-Husayni). Manuchihr Khan's immediate response was:
Hear me! Members of this revered assembly, I take you
as my witnesses. Never until this day have I in my heart
been firmly convinced of the truth of Islam. I can henceforth,
thanks to this exposition penned by this Youth,
declare myself firm belief in the Faith proclaimed by the
the Apostle of God. I solemnly testify to my belief in the
reality of the superhuman power with which this Youth
is endowed, a power which no amount of learning can
It was inevitable that soon the jealousy of the clergy would be aroused. Aqa Muhammad-Mihdi, the son of the renowned Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Kalbasi, began to use the pulpit to insult and disparage the Bab. When Haji Mirza Aqasi heard of the situation in Isfahan, he wrote to upbraid the Imam-Jum'ih for having harboured the Bab. <p112> The Grand Vizier was afraid that Manuchihr Khan, because of the confidence that Muhammad Shah reposed in him, might succeed in arranging a meeting between the Bab and the monarch. The hold which Haji Mirza Aqasi had on Muhammad Shah was chiefly due to the quasi-religious nature of their relationship. He was the murshid (spiritual guide) and his king was the murid (disciple). The Imam-Jum'ih, still loyal, took no step in opposition, but endeavoured to reduce the number of visitors.
[1 Because of his stupidity Aqa Muhammad-Mihdi as mockingly called Safihu'l-'Ulama -- the Foolish One of the Learned.]
As the clamour of the opponents increased, Manuchihr Khan thought of a scheme to silence them. He invited the leading divines to meet the Bab at his home and argue their case. Haji Siyyid Asadu'llah, the son of the celebrated Haji Siyyid Muhammad-Baqir-i-Rashti, declined the invitation and advised the rest to do the same:
I have sought to excuse myself and I would most certainly
urge you to do the same. I regard it as most unwise
of you to meet the Siyyid-i-Bab face to face. He will, no
doubt, reassert his claim and will, in support of his argument,
adduce whatever proof you may desire him to give,
and, without the least hesitation, will reveal as a testimony
to the truth he bears, verses of such a number as
would equal half the Qur'an. In the end he will challenge
you in these words: 'Produce likewise, if ye are men of
truth.' We can in no wise successfully resist him. If we
disdain to answer him, our impotence will have been
exposed. If we, on the other hand, submit to his claim, we
shall not only be forfeiting our own reputation, our own
prerogatives and rights, but will have committed ourselves
to acknowledge any further claims that he may feel
inclined to make in the future.(6)
Only Haji Muhammad-Ja'far-i-Abadi'i took Haji Siyyid Asadu'llah's advice and kept away. In the presence of Manuchihr Khan, Mirza Hasan-i-Nuri was the first to pose a question. Mirza Hasan was a follower of the Ishraqi <p113> school (Platonism), and his question concerned certain elements of the philosophy of Mulla Sadra contained in his celebrated work: the Hikmatu'l-'Arshiyyah (Celestial or Divine Philosophy).(7) The Bab's answers, even though couched in simple terms, were beyond the grasp of Mirza Hasan's mind. The Foolish One of the Learned' was the next to face the Bab, and he began to probe into points of Islamic jurisprudence. Unable to withstand the force of the Bab's exposition he started a verbal assault which the Governor quickly brought to an end. Sensing the mood of the audience Manuchihr Khan deemed it prudent that the Bab should stay under the protection of his roof and not return to the house of the Imam-Jum'ih, where he had been a guest for forty days.
The next move came from the divines. Like their compatriots in Shiraz, they gathered together and passed a verdict on the Bab which carried with it the sentence of death. Both Haji Siyyid Asadu'llah-i-Rashti and Haji Muhammad-Ja'far-i-Abadi'i refused to be identified with it, but the Imam-Jum'ih, with an eye to his position, wrote:
I testify that in the course of my association with this
youth I have been unable to discover any act that would
in any way betray his repudiation of the doctrines of
Islam. On the contrary, I have known him as a pious and
loyal observer of its precepts. The extravagance of his
claims, however, and his disdainful contempt for the
things of the world, incline me to believe that he is devoid
of reason and judgment.(8)
Muhammad Shah had already instructed Manuchihr Khan to send the Bab to Tihran. The transforming power of the Bab can now be discerned. Manuchihr Khan had served the Qajar monarch faithfully at all times. His generalship had helped to secure Muhammad Shah's position. But, once conquered by the Bab and won over to <p114> His Cause, Manuchihr Khan unhesitatingly availed himself of the Shah's command, not to send the Bab immediately to the capital which would have put Him at the mercy of Haji Mirza Aqasi, but to shield Him from His enemies. Under public gaze the Bab was escorted out of Isfahan, guarded by five hundred horsemen. Nabil-i-A'zam writes:
Imperative orders had been given that at the completion
of each farsang one hundred of this mounted escort
should return directly to Isfahan. To the chief of the last
remaining contingent, a man in whom he placed implicit
confidence, the Mu'tamid confidentially intimated his
desire that at every maydan twenty of the remaining
hundred should likewise be ordered by him to return to
the city. Of the twenty remaining horsemen, the Mu'tamid
directed that ten should be despatched to Ardistan for the
purpose of collecting the taxes levied by the government,
and that the rest, all of whom should be of his tried and
most reliable men, should, by an unfrequented route,
bring the Bab back in disguise to Isfahan. They were,
moreover, instructed so to regulate their march that
before dawn of the ensuing day the Bab should have
arrived at Isfahan and should have been delivered into
his custody . . . At an unsuspected hour, the Bab reentered
the city, was directly conducted to the private
residence of the Mu'tamid, known by the name of 'Imarat-i-Khurshid
[the Sun-House], and was introduced, through
a side entrance reserved for the Mu'tamid himseLf, into
his private apartments. The governor waited in person
on the Bab, served His meals, and provided whatever was
required for His comfort and safety.(9)
[1 Three miles roughly to a farsang or farsakh.]
[2 Maydan is a public square or an arena; as a measure of distance it was an indeterminate sub-division of a farsang.]
'Abdu'l-Baha states in A Traveller's Narrative that Manuchihr Khan gave secret orders for the return of the Bab when He <p115> and His escort had reached Murchih-Khar, some thirty-five miles to the north of Isfahan.(10)
Wild rumours began to circulate regarding the fate of the Bab. It was believed that He had been executed in Tihran To allay the fears of the Babis of Isfahan the Bab allowed Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qazvini, Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi and Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi to be brought to meet Him. He entrusted them with the task of transcribing His Writings. Not long afterwards, He instructed them to tell the other Babis who had moved to Isfahan to leave the city and go northwards, to Kashan, or Qum or Tihran.
Not long before his death, Manuchihr Khan offered the Bab all his immense fortune, and the resources of his army which were considerable, that they might march to Tihran and approach the person of Muhammad Shah. Manuchihr Khan was certain that the monarch, who trusted him completely, would listen to his plea, recognize the truth of the Revelation of the Bab, and whole-heartedly lend his support to the promotion of the new Faith. And Manuchihr Khan looked even beyond the frontiers of Iran, for he told the Bab: '. . . I hope to be enabled to incline the hearts of the rulers and kings of the earth to this most wondrous Cause . . .' To this the Bab replied:
[1 According to Nicolas, the French envoy in Tihran (M. de Bonniere) wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, on March 4th 1847, that Mu'tamidu'd-Dawlih, the Governor of Isfahan, had died, leaving a fortune estimated at 40 million francs.(11)]
May God requite you for your noble intentions. So lofty
a purpose is to Me even more precious than the act itself.
Your days and Mine are numbered, however; they are
too short to enable Me to witness, and allow you to
achieve, the realisation of your hopes. Not by the means
which you fondly imagine will an almighty Providence
accomplish the triumph of His Faith. Through the poor <p116>
and lowly of this land, by the blood which these shall
have shed in His path, will the omnipotent Sovereign
ensure the preservation and consolidate the foundation
of His Cause. That same God will, in the world to come,
place upon your head the crown of immortal glory, and
will shower upon you His inestimable blessings. Of the
span of your earthly life there remain only three months
and nine days, after which you shall, with faith and
certitude, hasten to your eternal abode.(12)
The Bab, in His Tablet addressed to Muhammad Shah, states that He foretold, in a letter to two divines in Yazd, the date of the death of Manuchihr Khan, eighty-seven days before it occurred. And He mentions that Manuchihr Khan had offered Him all that he possessed, even taking off his rings and placing them before Him.
Manuchihr Khan had come to realize that his wealth was the product of oppression. The Bab accepted both his repentance and his wealth, then returned to him his riches for his use until his death, which occurred in the month of Rabi'u'l-Avval 1263 A.H. (February-March 1847 A.D.)
Even though in his will Manuchihr Khan left all his property to the Bab, his nephew and successor, Gurgin Khan, appropriated everything after his death, and informed Muhammad Shah that the Bab was in Isfahan, having been kept, well-protected, by the late Governor in the seclusion of 'Imarat-i-Khurshid. Muhammad Shah's trust in Manuchihr Khan was not shaken. He felt certain that that wise man and faithful servant had guarded the Bab against all possible harm until an opportune time when a meeting between himself and the Bab could be arranged. He issued orders for the removal of the Bab to the capital in such wise that He should not be recognized en route.
Those four months in the private residence of the Governor of Isfahan were the calmest that the Bab was to experience throughout His Ministry.(13) <p117>
THE ANTICHRIST OF THE BABI REVELATION
No! by heav'n, which He
Holds, and the abyss and the immensity
Of worlds and life, which I hold with Him -- No I
I have a victor, true, but no superior
Homage he has from all, but none from me.
I battle it against Him, as I battled
In highest heav'n. Through all eternity
And the unfathomable gulfs of Hades
And the interminable realms of space
And the infinity of endless ages,
All, all, will I dispute. And world by world
And star by star and universe by universe
Shall tremble in the balance, till the great
Conflict shall cease, if ever it shall cease . . .
-- Lucifer in Cain by Lord Byron
Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Grand Vizier and the spiritual guide of Muhammad Shah, has been called the Antichrist of the Babi Revelation.(1) He was a man bankrupt of ideas and bereft of graces. A native of Iravan in the Caucasus, his real name was Mirza 'Abbas. From the day he learned of the advent of the Bab, he bore Him intense enmity which never abated. It was he who prevented a meeting between the Bab and Muhammad Shah, when, by the direct order of the Shah himself, the Bab was moved from Isfahan and it seemed that the cherished hope of Manuchihr Khan for their meeting would at last be realized.
[1 Yerevan or Erivan, today the capital of the Armenian Socialist Soviet Republic.] <p118>
Following the instructions of Muhammad Shah, Gurgin Khan gave the custody of the Bab to Muhammad Big-i-Chaparchi (the chief courier). Muhammad Big belonged to the sect of Ahl-i-Haqq (the People of Truth), commonly known as the 'Aliyu'llahi, who have had a long tradition of tolerance, liberalism and rectitude.(2) 'Abdu'l-Baha states in A Traveller's Narrative that the guards who escorted the Bab, on this journey to the north, were Nusayri horsemen. Nusayris and 'Aliyu'llahis are almost identical.
The first town on their road to the capital was Kashan. Haji Mirza Jani, the Babi merchant of that town, had dreamt that he beheld the Bab approaching Kashan by the 'Attar (Druggist) Gate. Keeping watch by that gate, on the eve of Naw-Ruz, he saw his dream fulfilled, for there was the Bab on horseback coming towards Kashan. As he went forward to kiss His stirrup, the Bab told him: 'We are to be your Guest for three nights.'(3) This was exactly what he had heard the Bab say to him in his dream. Muhammad Big, noticing the warmth of their greeting, thought that the young Siyyid in his charge and the citizen of Kashan were friends of long standing, and he readily agreed to let the Bab stay in the house of Haji Mirza Jani. A colleague, however, refused to give his consent; he had been told, he said, not to allow the Bab to enter any city en route. After a lengthy argument Muhammad Big succeeded in persuading this colleague to withdraw his objection. Haji Mirza Jani was prepared to invite the whole escort to be his guests, but the Bab did not permit it. Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi, who had already proceeded to Kashan as bidden by the Bab, that night attained His presence. While the Bab was dictating a Tablet to Siyyid Husayn, in honour of Haji Mirza Jani, a friend of the Kashani merchant was announced. His name was Siyyid 'Abdu'l-Baqi, and he was reputed for his erudition; he sat and listened to the Bab, but failed to be moved by what he heard and noticed. Some days after the Bab left Kashan he <p119> learned who that young Siyyid was. He was sorrow-stricken that he had not recognized the powers of the Bab and withdrew from society for the rest of his life.
On the second day after Naw-Ruz the Bab rejoined His escort to journey towards Qum, the next city on the road to Tihran. They did not enter Qum but went on to the village of Qumrud, where the entire population was 'Aliyu'llahi. Nabil-i-A'zam writes:
[1 Qum is the second holy city of Iran. Mashhad which holds the Shrine of Imam Rida has pride of place.]
At the invitation of the headman of the village, the
Bab tarried one night in that place and was touched by
the warmth and spontaneity of the reception which those
simple folk had accorded Him. Ere He resumed His
journey, He invoked the blessings of the Almighty in their
behalf and cheered their hearts with assurances of His
appreciation and love.(4)
Two days later, in the afternoon of March 28th, they reached the fortress of Kinar-Gird, only twenty-eight miles from Tihran. The long journey from Isfahan was almost over. But here Haji Mirza Aqasi intervened and sent instructions to Muhammad Big to take the Bab to the village of Kulayn, where the great Shi'ah jurisconsult, Muhammad ibn-i-Ya'qub was born and is buried. Haji Mirza Aqasi himself was the owner of Kulayn, and a tent which belonged to him was pitched outside the village to accommodate the Bab. It was a delectable spot with lush vegetation, orchards and running brooks. The Bab was delighted, but uncertainties of the future overshadowed Him. Days passed without <p120> further instruction from Tihran. Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi and his brother Siyyid Hasan, as well as Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qazvini and Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi, came to Kulayn to attend the Bab. And from Tihran came Mulla Mihdiy-i-Khu'i accompanied by Mulla Muhammad-Mihdiy-i-Kindi, the latter bearing a letter and presents from Baha'u'llah. Receiving them brought the Bab untold joy.(5)
[1 Commonly known as al-Kulayni, he died in A.D. 941. He was the author of Usul al-Kafi (Usul-i-Kafi in Persian usage), one of the four books that form the compendium of the belief and practice of Ithna-'Asharis ('Twelvers'). These are the Shi'ahs who believe in the major occultation of the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad ibn-i-Hasan al-'Askari.]
According to A Traveller's Narrative the Bab's sojourn in Kulayn was lengthened into twenty days.(6) During this time a remarkable incident occurred which Mulla 'Abdu'l Karim has thus related:
My companions and I were fast asleep in the vicinity of
the tent of the Bab when the trampling of horsemen suddenly
awakened us. We were soon informed that the tent
of the Bab was vacant and that those who had gone out in
search of Him had failed to find Him. We heard Muhammad
Big remonstrate with the guards. 'Why feel disturbed?'
he pleaded. 'Are not His magnanimity and
nobleness of soul sufficiently established in your eyes to
convince you that He will never, for the sake of His own
safety, consent to involve others in embarrassment? He,
no doubt, must have retired, in the silence of this moonlit
night, to a place where He can seek undisturbed communion
with God. He will unquestionably return to His
tent. He will never desert us.' In his eagerness to reassure
his colleagues, Muhammad Big set out on foot
along the road leading to Tihran. I, too, with my companions,
followed him. Shortly after, the rest of the
guards were seen, each on horseback, marching behind
us. We had covered about a maydan when, by the dim
light of the early dawn, we discerned in the distance the
lonely figure of the Bab. He was coming towards us
from the direction of Tihran. 'Did you believe Me to
have escaped?' were His words to Muhammad Big as He
approached him. 'Far be it from me,' was the instant reply
as he flung himself at the feet of the Bab, 'to entertain <p121>
such thoughts.' Muhammad Big was too much awed by
the serene majesty which that radiant face revealed that
morning to venture any further remark. A look of confidence
had settled upon His countenance; His words
were invested with such transcendent power, that a
feeling of profound reverence wrapped our very souls.
No one dared to question Him as to the course of so
remarkable a change in His speech and demeanour. Nor
did He Himself choose to allay our curiosity and wonder.(7)
Nearly three weeks had passed since His arrival at Kulayn when the Bab wrote to Muhammad Shah to ask for a meeting. And now Haji Mirza Aqasi made the move which consigned the Bab to prison for the rest of his days. According to A Traveller's Narrative, he persuasively told Muhammad Shah:
The royal cavalcade is on the point of starting, and to
engage in such matters as the present will conduce to the
disruption of the kingdom. Neither is there any doubt
that the most notable doctors of the capital also will
behave after the fashion of the doctors of Isfahan, which
thing will be the cause of a popular outbreak, or that,
according to the religion of the immaculate Imam, they
Will regard the blood of this Seyyid as of no account
yea, as more lawful than mother's milk. The imperial
train is prepared for travel, neither is there hindrance
or impediment in view. There is no doubt that the
presence of the Bab will be the cause of the gravest trouble
and the greatest mischief. Therefore, on the spur of the
moment, the wisest plan is this:-to place this person in
the Castle of Maku during the period of absence of the
royal train from the seat of the imperial throne, and to
defer the obtaining of an audience to the time of return.(8)
Mirza Abu'l-Fadl states that Haji Mirza Aqasi played on the fears of Muhammad Shah by instancing in particular the <p122> rebellion in Khurasan of Muhammad-Hasan Khan, the Salar, and the earlier defiance of the central government by Hasan-'Ali Khan, Aga Khan I. Whatever arguments the Grand Vizier used, he succeeded in preventing a meeting between the Bab and Muhammad Shah in that spring of 1847. And it was never to take place.
[1 In the opinion of the present writer, the second revolt of the Aga Khan, in 1840, was entirely due to the tortuous policies and the maladroitness of Haji Mirza Aqasi himself.]
In April, the Shah sent a reply to the letter of the Bab which, according to A Traveller's Narrative, was couched in these terms:
Since the royal train is on the verge of departure from
Teheran, to meet in a befitting manner is impossible. Do
you go to Maku and there abide and rest for a while,
engaged in praying for our victorious state; and we have
arranged that under all circumstances they shall shew
you attention and respect. When we return from travel
we will summon you specially.(9)
Nabil-i-A'zam, in his narrative, gives this version of the contents of Muhammad Shah's letter:
Much as we desire to meet you, we find ourself unable, in
view of our immediate departure from our capital, to
receive you befittingly in Tihran. We have signified our
desire that you be conducted to Mah-Ku, and have issued
the necessary instructions to 'Ali Khan, the warden of the
castle, to treat you with respect and consideration. It is
our hope and intention to summon you to this place upon
our return to the seat of our government, at which time
we shall definitely pronounce our judgment. We trust that
we have caused you no disappointment, and that you will
at no time hesitate to inform us in case any grievances
befall you. We fain would hope that you will continue <p123>
to pray for our well-being and for the prosperity of our
Husayn Khan, the Governor of Fars, was attending the Shah in the capital at the very time that Haji Mirza Aqasi blocked the path of the Bab and prevented His entry into Tihran. <p124>
WHERE THE ARAS FLOWS
Over the banks of Aras shouldst thou, O Zephyr, pass,
Kiss the earth of that vale and refreshen thy breath thereby.
Mah-Ku, a town of the province of Adharbayjan, is in the extreme north-west of Iran, close to the point where the Russo-Turkish frontiers meet. Within a short distance of the town of Mah-Ku and its bleak fortress perched on a mountain peak above, the Aras flows, the Araxes of the Greeks. Haji Mirza Aqasi contrived to have the Bab banished to this remote corner of the land, well away from the capital, and well away from the areas where His Faith was born and nurtured. But the road to Mah-Ku was through Tabriz, the second city of the realm and the seat of the Crown Prince.
[1 Also Maku or Ma-Kuh.]
The same horsemen, still under the command of Muhammad Big, were given the task of escorting the Bab to Tabriz. They had, by then, become greatly devoted to Him. His utter kindness coupled with His majesty of bearing had totally captivated them. Two of the followers of the Bab were allowed to remain with Him: Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi and his brother, Siyyid Hasan.
On the road north, one of the halting-places was the village of Siyah-Dihan, close by Qazvin. There the Bab addressed a letter to the Grand Vizier, and also wrote to some of the leading divines of Qazvin, including the father and the uncle of Qurratu'l-'Ayn. A number of the Babis attained His presence in the village of Siyah-Dihan during <p125> His one night there, and among these was Mulla Iskandar of Zanjan, the same man who had visited Shiraz as Hujjat's emissary to learn what he could about the Bab. Now the Bab entrusted to him a letter for Haji Sulayman Khan-i-Afshar, who happened to be in Zanjan; he had been a fervent supporter of Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti. To him the Bab wrote:
He whose virtues the late siyyid unceasingly extolled,
and to the approach of whose Revelation he continually
alluded, is now revealed. I am that promised One. Arise
and deliver Me from the hand of the oppressor.(1)
Haji Sulayman Khan received the letter within three days but did not heed it and left for the capital.
At that time Hujjat was in Tihran, kept there under surveillance. But the moment he heard of the Bab's letter to Sulayman Khan, he sent a message to the Babis of Zanjan to march out and rescue the Bab. A sizable number of Babis from Hujjat's native town and from Qazvin and Tihran came together and made a concerted effort to carry out their daring scheme. At midnight they reached the spot where the Bab and His escort were bivouacked. The guards were asleep and there was every opportunity to escape. But the Bab told His would-be rescuers that He would not run away. The mountains of Adhirbayjan too have their claims.'(2)
[1 See pp. 100 -- 102.]
Before His mission reached its end Muhammad Big came to believe in the Bab. Grief-stricken he went to the Bab and asked to be forgiven: 'The journey from Isfahan has been long and arduous. I have failed to do my duty and to serve <p126> You as I ought. I crave Your forgiveness, and pray You to vouchsafe me Your blessings.' To this the Bab replied: 'Be assured. I account you a member of My fold. They who embrace My Cause will eternally bless and glorify you, will extol your conduct and exalt your name.'(3) Later, Muhammad Big met Haji Mirza Jani once again, and recounted for him the story of that journey to Tabriz. The Kashani merchant included Muhammad Big's story in his chronicle, and Mirza Husayn-i-Hamadani, the author of the Tarikh-i-Jadid (The New History) in turn made use of it in his own work:
[1 Muhammad Big's son, named 'Ali-Akbar Big, became, in future years, a follower of Baha'u'llah. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl met him in Tihran and heard from him how it happened that his father came to accept the Bab.]
. . . we proceeded to Milan, where many of the inhabitants
came to see His Holiness, and were filled with
wonder at the majesty and dignity of that Lord of mankind.
In the morning, as we were setting out from Milan,
an old woman brought a scald-headed child, whose head
was so covered with scabs that it was white down to the
neck, and entreated His Holiness to heal him. The guards
would have forbidden her, but His Holiness prevented
them, and called the child to him. Then he drew a handkerchief
over its head and repeated certain words; which
he had no sooner done than the child was healed. And in
that place about two hundred persons believed and underwent
a true and sincere conversion . . . on leaving Milan,
while we were on the road His Holiness suddenly urged
his horse into so swift a gallop that all the horsemen
composing the escort were filled with amazement, seeing
that his steed was the leanest of all. We galloped after
him as hard as we could, but were unable to come up with
him, though the horsemen were filled with apprehension
lest he should effect his escape. Presently he reined in his
horse of his own accord, and, so soon as we came up to
him, said with a smile, 'Were I desirous of escaping, you
could not prevent me.' And indeed it was even as he said;
had he desired in the least degree to escape, none could <p127>
have prevented him, and under all circumstances he
shewed himself endowed with more than human strength.
For example, we were all practised horsemen inured to
travel, yet, by reason of the cold and our weariness, we
were at times hardly able to keep our saddles, while he,
on the other hand, during all this period shewed no sign
of faintness or weariness, but, from the time when he
mounted till he alighted at the end of the stage, would
not so much as change his posture or shift his seat.(4)
[1 A village in the vicinity of Tabriz.]
The stage beyond the village of Milan was the city of Tabriz itself. As the news spread that the Bab was approaching the city, the Babis there tried to go out to meet him, but they were stopped and sent back. Only a youth managed to break through the cordon of guards and soldiers. Barefooted, he ran more than a mile till he reached the Bab and His escort. Such was the state of his ecstasy that he flung himself forward in the path of one of the horsemen, caught the hem of his cloak and eagerly and fervently kissed his stirrup. Addressing them all, he cried out: 'Ye are the companions of my Well-Beloved. I cherish you as the apple of my eye.'(5) And when he came into the presence of the Bab, he fell prostrate on the ground and unrestrainedly wept. The Bab dismounted, raised him up, embraced him and wiped his tears.
The Bab's entry into Tabriz, the scene three years later of His martyrdom in its public square, bears close resemblance to the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, less than a week before He was led to Golgotha to be crucified.
And they that went before, and they that followed, cried,
saying, Hosanna I Blessed is he that cometh in the name of
Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that
cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
[1 Mark xi, 9-10.] <p128>
That is how St. Mark recounts the joy of the people who gave Jesus a regal welcome into Jerusalem.
When the Bab was brought into Tabriz the streets were crowded, and amongst the surging mass were Babis who had been deprived of coming close to their Master; but vast numbers were there who were not His followers. Those narrow thoroughfares echoed with the cry of 'Allah-u-Akbar' -- God is the Greatest -- the opening line of the Adhan, the call to prayer which every devout Muslim repeats time and again in the course of his devotions. Officials were alarmed by this wonderful and unprecedented reception, and sent town criers to warn the people against attempting to gain access to the Siyyid-i-Bab.
'Abdu'l-Baha states that the Bab was kept for forty days in Tabriz.(6) During that time He was strictly secluded, and His only visitors were Haji Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Milani, a well-known merchant, and Haji 'Ali-'Askar. When they first approached the house where the Bab was lodged, guards stopped them, but Siyyid Hasan asserted the authority of the Bab and gained them admittance. After that no one ever tried to bar their way, and they attained the presence of the Bab several times.
[1 Persecution forced him to abandon Tabriz. With his family he went to Adrianople and was exiled in the company of Baha'u'llah to 'Akka. He features in the Memorials of the Faithful by 'Abdu'l-Baha (pp. 161-4).]
At last came the orders for the removal of the Bab to Mah-Ku. That town was the birthplace of Haji Mirza Aqasi, although he is generally known as Iravani because his family originated there. The vast majority of the inhabitants of Mah-Ku and its environs were Kurds who were Sunni by persuasion. 'Ali Khan, the warden of the castle, was a Kurd, simple, rough and uncouth. He was arrogantly unbending <p129> at the start of the Bab's incarceration, and would not allow any follower of the Bab to stay in the town, even for one night. When Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi reached Mah-Ku he found that the only shelter available to him was a mosque outside the town. But he was able to meet and exchange letters and messages with Siyyid Hasan, who came into the town each day with a guard to buy provisions, and thus for a while he maintained a link between the Bab and His people.
[1 See plates facing p. 160.]
[2 From Iravan. See p. 117 and note.]
But one day the Bab advised Siyyid Hasan that these secret contacts with Shaykh Hasan were to end; He Himself would tell 'Ali Khan to permit visitors to come and go in peace. Both men were greatly astonished, since they knew well the character and attitude of the warden, who had even tried to prevent the people of Mah-Ku from coming to the foot of the mountain to obtain a glimpse of the Bab. By now the Bab had won the love and esteem of these hardened frontiersmen, who had shown such marked hostility when He was first brought to their fortress, nor could 'Ali Khan prevent their gathering daily at the mountain's base to gaze upwards in the hope of receiving His blessing.
At an early hour on the morning following the Bab's advice to Siyyid Hasan, the inmates of the castle were startled by an incessant and agitated knocking. It was 'Ali Khan, peremptorily pounding the gate and shouting at the guardsmen for admittance. A guard rushed in to say that the warden wished to come immediately into the presence of the Bab. Siyyid Husayn presented the request, and the Bab replied that He would receive 'Ali Khan at once. The warden was visibly shaking, obviously caught up by some tremendous emotion. He threw himself at the feet of the Bab and begged to be relieved of his misery:
'Deliver me from my perplexity. I adjure You, by the
Prophet of God, Your illustrious Ancestor, to dissipate <p130>
my doubts, for their weight has well-nigh crushed my
heart. I was riding through the wilderness and was
approaching the gate of the town, when, it being the
hour of dawn, my eyes suddenly beheld You standing by
the side of the river engaged in offering Your prayer. With
outstretched arms and upraised eyes, You were invoking
the name of God. I stood still and watched You. I was
waiting for You to terminate Your devotions that I
might approach and rebuke You for having ventured to
leave the castle without my leave. In Your communion
with God, You seemed so wrapt in worship that You were
utterly forgetful of Yourself. I quietly approached You;
in Your state of rapture, You remained wholly unaware
of my presence. I was suddenly seized with great fear and
recoiled at the thought of awakening You from Your
ecstasy. I decided to leave You, to proceed to the guards
and to reprove them for their negligent conduct. I soon
found out, to my amazement, that both the outer and
inner gates were closed. They were opened at my request,
I was ushered into Your presence, and now find You, to
my wonder, seated before me. I am utterly confounded.
I know not whether my reason has deserted me.' The Bab
answered and said: 'What you have witnessed is true and
undeniable. You belittled this Revelation and have contemptuously
disdained its Author. God, the All-Merciful,
desiring not to afflict you with His punishment, has
willed to reveal to your eyes the truth. By His Divine
interposition, He has instilled into your heart the love
of His chosen One, and caused you to recognise the
unconquerable power of His Faith.'(7)
All the arrogance of the warden left him. He was totally conquered. He became humble. The first words that he uttered were:
A poor man, a shaykh, is yearning to attain Your presence.
He lives in a masjid [mosque] outside the gate of Mah-Ku.
I pray You that I myself be allowed to bring him to <p131>
this place that he may meet You. By this act I hope that
my evil deeds may be forgiven, that I may be enabled to
wash away the stains of my cruel behaviour toward Your
He went away and returned with Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi.
'Ali Khan's change of heart and attitude radically altered the situation. The prison gates no longer barred the Bab from His followers. Babis came from everywhere to attain the presence of their Lord, among them Mulla Husayn, the Babu'l-Bab. The Bab received him at the gate of the castle and celebrated the Feast of Naw-Ruz with him. Ere his departure, the Bab directed him to visit Tabriz and other towns of the province of Adharbayjan, and then proceed to Zanjan, Qazvin, Tihran, and finally to the province of Mazindaran.
'Ali Khan's devotion to the person of the Bab increased day by day. He did everything possible to mitigate the rigours of prison life. Every Friday he came up the mountain to offer his homage. Haji Mirza Aqasi was alarmed by the news reaching him from Mah-Ku, and so was the Russian Minister in Tihran, Prince Dimitri Ivanovich Dolgorukov. In dispatches to Count Nesselrode, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, dated February 4th and December 24th 1848, he mentions that, in the previous year, the Bab had been removed from the vicinity of the Russian border by his demand.(9) This assertion is borne out by a letter of Mulla Ahmad-i-Ibdal, one of the Letters of the Living, written when he was in Kazimayn, close to Baghdad. It is not clear to whom the letter is addressed, most probably to one of the uncles of the Bab.(10) Mulla Ahmad writes:
These days, God willing, I intend to go and attain the
presence of my Lord . . . These days pilgrims arrived
here from Urumiyyih. I sought the news of my Lord
from them. They said that He was in a district of <p132>
Urumiyyih, called Chihrum [Chihriq?]. The Governor of
Urumiyyih wished, at first, to keep Him in the town itself,
but the clerics had taken fright lest disturbances might
arise, and had refused their consent; curses of God rest
upon them. It is said that the Governor is acting with
kindness, and from the towns of Adharbayjan people
come in large groups, attain His presence and return
believers. According to what has been related there is a
tremendous upsurge, that is to say, many, many people
have become devoted to Him . . . And as to the reason
for the departure of Dhikr, on Him be peace from Mah-Ku,
it is this, that the Russian Envoy had heard that He
was in Mah-Ku, and, being afraid of disturbance, told the
Vizier, Haji Mirza Aqasi: 'Send the Dhikr, on whom be
peace, to some other area of your realms, because Mah-Ku
is on the frontier and close to our territory, and we
are afraid of disturbances; a few years ago, a certain
Mulla Sadiq claimed to be the deputy [of the Imam] and
within a month gathered 30,000 followers round him.'
Russians had witnessed that and had taken fright.
'Abdu'l-Baha states that the Bab's incarceration in the castle of Mah-Ku lasted nine months. According to Nabil-i-A'zam, on the twentieth day after Naw-Ruz (April 9th 1848), He left that mountain fastness on the Russian and Turkish frontiers.(11)
At Mah-Ku the Bab revealed the Dala'il-i-Sab'ih (The Seven Proofs) and began the composition of the Persian Bayan (Exposition or Utterance). Nabil-i-A'zam writes:
[1 A copy of the Persian Bayan, in the handwriting of Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi, to whom He dictated it, exists in the International Archives of the Baha'i Faith.]
I have heard Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi bear witness to
the following: 'The voice of the Bab, as He dictated the
teachings and principles of His Faith, could be clearly
heard by those who were dwelling at the foot of the <p133>
mountain. The melody of His chanting, the rhythmic
flow of the verses which streamed from His lips caught our
ears and penetrated into our very souls. Mountain and
valley re-echoed the majesty of His voice. Our hearts
vibrated in their depths to the appeal of His utterance.'(12) <p134>
THE GRIEVOUS MOUNTAIN
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The man chosen by Haji Mirza Aqasi to take the Bab away from the castle of Mah-Ku was Rida-Quli Khan-i-Afshar, an officer with the rank of Sartip (brigadier, in today's usage). He was the son of Haji Sulayman Khan, the official who, in Zanjan, failed to heed the Bab's message to him. Haji Sulayman Khan was intensely devoted to Siyyid Kazimi-Rashti, who had told him that he would live to see the advent of the Qa'im; he often expressed surprise that the Qa'im had not appeared for him to recognize, despite this unequivocal promise. Although he met the Bab in Mecca, he attached himself to Haji Muhammad-Karim Khan-i-Kirmani and refused to listen to the Babis. His devotion to Siyyid Kazim was of such a character that, having obtained the hand of a daughter of Siyyid Kazim for his son, he began his day by paying his respects in person to his daughter-in-law. It was this son who was entrusted with the task of moving the Bab from Mah-Ku to Urumiyyih and Chihriq. And soon he too became captivated by the Prisoner in his charge. Eventually, Rida-Quli Khan became an avowed, <p135> zealous Babi, and broke away from his father, who persisted in his hostility to the Bab.
[1 The Bab named Chihriq 'Jabal-i-Shadid' -- the Grievous Mountain. 'Shadid' is numerically equal to Chihriq. He called Mah-Ku 'Jabal-i-Basit' -- the Open Mountain. 'Basit' is numerically equal to Mah-Ku.]
The castle of Chihriq is in the neighbourhood of Urumiyyih, known today as Rida'iyyih. Its warden, Yahya Khan, was a Kurdish chieftain, whose sister was married to Muhammad Shah. The son of this union was called 'Abbas Mirza, after the Shah's own father, and bore also his title, Nayibu's-Saltanih (Viceroy or Regent). Because this child was such a favourite of Muhammad Shah, the mother of the heir to the throne, Nasiri'd-Din Mirza, was exceedingly jealous of him. Her jealousy put his life in jeopardy after the death of his father, but Colonel Farrant's intervention saved him. He was exiled to Qum, but even then he was not secure, for he was accused of being in league with the Babis. Mirza Husayn-i-Mutavalli (Custodian) of Qum was forced, under torture, to sign a confession implicating 'Abbas Mirza in faked Babi plots. This unfortunate prince spent many years of his life in exile, mostly in 'Iraq. He was eventually allowed to return to Iran and was given the title of Mulk-Ara; but he was always dose to misfortune and danger.
[1 See Plate facing p.161.]
[2 'Abbas Mirza was then nine years old. Farrant was the British charge d'affaires in the absence of Sheil.]
[3 This man was in the fortress of Shaykh Tabarsi and betrayed his fellow-believers. Some years later in Baghdad he fell on evil days and Baha'u'llah gave him a monthly allowance.]
Yahya Khan, the warden of Chihriq, was harsh and unpredictable, but before long he too felt unable to keep the gates of his castle closed against the Babis. The same power, which had held 'All Khan of Mah-Ku spellbound, captured the heart of Yahya Khan. So many Babis came to Chihriq that it was impossible to house them and rooms had to be found for them in Iski-Shahr, which was not far away. Food and all other necessities were purchased in Iski-Shahr. Once <p136> some honey was bought there for the Bab, but He found the quality to be inferior and the price exorbitant and had it returned.
Honey of a superior quality [He said] could no doubt have
been purchased at a lower price. I who am your example
have been a merchant by profession. It behoves you in
all your transactions to follow in My way. You must
neither defraud your neighbour nor allow him to defraud
you. Such was the way of your Master. The shrewdest
and ablest of men were unable to deceive Him, nor did He
on His part choose to act ungenerously towards the meanest
and most helpless of creatures.(1)
Khuy was another town of Adharbayjan which was not far from Chihriq. Not long had passed since the Bab's arrival at Chihriq when Khuy became aware that a number of its prominent citizens among the siyyids, divines and officials had become Babis. Mirza Asadu'llah, on whom the Bab conferred the designation of Dayyan,(2) was one of them. Dayyan means the conqueror or the judge. Mirza Asadu'llah, a proud man, high in the service of the government, and a man of vast learning who wielded a fluent pen, had for long withstood the attempts of the Babis to convert him. Not only did he refuse to yield any ground to them, he also proved a vociferous antagonist. Then he had a dream which induced him to write to the Bab. And when he received the answer to his letter he gave the Bab his allegiance with a zeal and fervour that thoroughly alarmed his father, who was a personal friend of the Grand Vizier. He wrote to Haji Mirza Aqasi, expatiating on his son's bewitchment and deploring his grave aberrations.
[1 He was a master of Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew and Syriac.]
[2 The Bab revealed the Lawh-i-Hurufat (Tablet of the Letters) in honour of Mirza Asadu'llah. 'Had the Point of the Bayan [Nuqtiy-i-Bayan] no other testimony with which to establish His truth,' He states, 'this were sufficient -- that He revealed a Tablet such as this, a Tablet such as no amount of learning could produce.'(3)] <p137>
Once again Haji Mirza Aqasi found himself thwarted. The Faith of the Bab was spreading and he could not contain it. And now the Grand Vizier had the additional anxiety of watching the rapid deterioration of Muhammad Shah's health. The monarch was only forty years old, but as a sufferer from gout his malady was wearing him down.
At Chihriq itself a dervish arrived from India. Who he truly was, no one knew and no one knows even now. The Bab gave him the name Qahru'llah (the Wrath of God). All that this dervish would say about himself was:
In the days when I occupied the exalted position of a
navvab in India, the Bab appeared to me in a vision. He
gazed at me and won my heart completely. I arose, and
had started to follow Him, when He looked at me intently
and said: 'Divest yourself of your gorgeous attire, depart
from your native land, and hasten on foot to meet Me in
Adhirbayjan. In Chihriq you will attain your heart's desire.'
I followed His directions and have now reached my goal.(4)
The Bab instructed him to go back to his native land, the same way he had come, as a dervish and on foot. Qahru'llah would have no companion on that long journey back. His fate remains a mystery just as does the fate of Shaykh Sa'id, the Indian Letter of the Living.
The Bab had been in Chihriq for three months when Haji Mirza Aqasi decided He should be taken, once more; to Tabriz. Before the summons came, the Bab sent away those Babis who had congregated in and around Chihriq; among them was the redoubtable 'Azim. At the same time, He commissioned Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi to collect the <p138> Writings He had revealed in the two castles, and hand them for safe-keeping to Siyyid Ibrahim-i-Khalil, who resided in Tabriz.
[1 See p. 103.]
When the Bab reached Urumiyyih, on his way to Tabriz, the Governor, Malik Qasim Mirza, a descendant of Fath-'Ali Shah, received Him reverently. Nevertheless, he decided to pose a test for his Guest. On a Friday, when the Bab planned to go to the public bath, he directed that a particularly unruly horse be brought to convey Him. Those who knew of his plan awaited the outcome with bated breath. Miraculously, the horse stood quietly for the Bab, who mounted and rode it to the bath with perfect control. The Prince-Governor, ashamed and abashed, walked on foot beside the Bab's steed nearly to His destination, until the Bab asked him to return to his house. The news spread and stunned the town. When the Bab came out of the bath and mounted the same horse again, men, women and children rushed in to take away every drop of the water He had used.
From now on the Governor's residence was thronged daily by people who wished to meet the Bab or just to catch a glimpse of Him. During this time, Aqa-Bala Big, the Naqqash-Bashi (Chief Painter) made a portrait of the Bab, the only one ever drawn of Him; its story is of tremendous interest.
Aqa-Bala Big was a native of Shishvan, a village on the banks of Lake Urumiyyih. Like scores of others, he was attracted to Government House to see the Bab. Years later he related his experience to Varqa, the Baha'i martyr-poet. He had noticed that as soon as the Bab's eyes alighted on him He arranged His 'aba neatly and looked at him intently. This happened again the next day, and Aqa-Bala Big realized that the Bab was giving him a sign that he might draw His portrait. The painter made a rough sketch there and then. Later, he composed the portrait in black and white. When Varqa informed Baha'u'llah of this, he was <p139> instructed to ask the painter to make two copies of the portrait in water colour, one to be sent to the Holy Land and one to be kept by Varqa himself. The copy taken to the Holy Land is in the International Archives of the Baha'i Faith. The copy which the martyr-poet held was among his possessions, looted at the time of his arrest. The original black and white portrait was discovered years later by Siyyid Asadu'llah-i-Qumi, who conveyed it to the Holy Land and presented it to 'Abdu'l-Baha.
[1 The present writer heard this account from Valiyu'llah Varqa, the son of the martyr-poet, who had the rank of a Hand of the Cause by appointment of the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith.]
The Bab must have reached Tabriz in the last week of July 1848. Muhammad Shah's illness was, by then, giving concern to Haji Mirza Aqasi, and the wily old Grand Vizier, conscious of his approaching downfall, was already seeking ways and means of softening the blow. Over the course of years he had grown to be a very rich man, owning villages and farmlands and urban property. He knew that with the death of Muhammad Shah he would lose not only his position and power, but also his enormous wealth. When Muhammad Shah was dying, Haji Mirza Aqasi was no longer to be seen within the precincts of the palace, for his powerful enemies in the Court, whom he had not been able to destroy, were ready to pounce on him. He retired to his village of 'Abbasabad. There his body-guard, recruited from his home town of Mah-Ku, disintegrated. The people of Tihran who had suffered so much at their hands now found opportunities to avenge themselves, and Haji Mirza Aqasi found himself in such straits that he felt constrained to write to the boy-prince, 'Abbas Mirza, and a number of prominent courtiers, to plead for harmony and friendship. As <p140> no response was forthcoming from these quarters, he put on a bold face and tried to regain his residence in Tihran. But the artillery General, who commanded the royal guard at the citadel, let him know that his stay in Tihran was undesirable. So he tried to reach Adharbayjan, the province to which he had exiled the Bab, to take refuge with the inhabitants of his native town. He had not gone far from the capital when he was turned back. Deserted and mocked, he had no course open but to seek sanctuary in the shrine of Shah 'Abdu'l-'Azim. Such was the end of all power for Haji Mirza Aqasi, the Antichrist of the Babi Revelation.
[1 They included men such as Mirza Yusuf, the Mustawfiu'l-Mamalik and 'Abbas-Quli Khan-i-Javanshir.]
In Tabriz the Bab was brought before the Crown Prince, Nasiri'd-Din Mirza, who was only seventeen years old and had recently been given the governorship of Adharbayjan. A panel of the prominent divines of Tabriz gathered to examine the Bab. The leading men of that panel were: Haji Mirza Mahmud, the Nizamu'l-'Ulama, who was the chief tutor of the Crown Prince; Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani, a disciple of Siyyid Kazim and an outstanding figure among the Shaykhis; Haji Murtida-Quliy-i-Marandi, the 'Alamu'l- Huda; Haji Mirza 'Ali-Asghar, the Shaykhu'l-Islam; and Mirza Ahmad, the Imam-Jum'ih. The procedures of that high tribunal were frivolous from beginning to end. Here were the shining lights of the religious hierarchy of Tabriz, assembled to learn from a young Siyyid, who claimed to be the bearer of a Message from God, what the nature of His claim was and what proofs He could adduce to substantiate it. That they failed miserably to be just and to apply themselves to the problem before them need not be sought in the evidence of the followers of the Bab. Two of the best known Persian histories of the time plentifully provide that evidence. <p141> These are the Nasikhu't-Tavarikh by Muhammad-Taqi Khan of Kashan(5) and the Supplement to the Rawdatu's-Safa of Mirkhund by Rida-Quli Khan-i-Hidayat; both works were written during the reign of Nasiri'd-Din Shah. From these two histories, Edward Granville Browne prepared a version of the proces-verbal of that infamous tribunal for the Appendices to his translation of A Traveller's Narrative. He also used another book, the Qisasu'l-'Ulama (Chronicles of the Divines) written in 1873. Typical are these two questions, said to have been put to the Bab by Nizamu'l-'Ulama:
[1 Like the Imam-Jum'ih, the Shaykhu'l-Islam was a leading divine of a city, who enjoyed certain privileges. Although the sovereign appointed the Shaykhu'l-Islam, there were many instances when the position passed from father to son.]
[2 Also, Mirkhwand. He died A.H. 903, A.D. 1497 -- 8]
'As the Prophet or some other wise man hath said
"Knowledge is twofold -- knowledge of bodies, and
knowledge of religions"; I ask, then, in Medicine, what
occurs in the stomach when a person suffers from
indigestion? Why are some cases amenable to treatment?
And why do some go on to permanent dyspepsia or
syncope [swooning], or terminate in hypochondriasis?'
'The science of "Applications" is elucidated from the
Book and the Code, and the understanding of the Book
and the Code [the Qur'an and the Traditions] depends
on many sciences, such as Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic.
Do you who are the Bab conjugate Kala?'
[1 Qala, the third person singular of 'to say'.]
The Bab is alleged to have replied that He had learned to conjugate Arabic words in His childhood, but had forgotten the rules. This is supposed to have been the answer of a Person who had revealed the Qayyumu'l-Asma', the Commentary on the Surih of Kawthar, the Commentary on the Surih of V'al-'Asr -- all in Arabic.
When the Bab stated dearly: 'I am that person for whose <p142> appearance ye have waited a thousand years,' Nizamu'l-'Ulama retorted:
'That is to say you are the Mahdi, the Lord of Religion?'
'Yes,' answered the Bab.
'The same in person, or generically?'
'What is your name, and what are the names of your father and mother? Where is your birthplace? And how old are you?'
'My name is 'Ali Muhammad,' answered the Bab. 'My mother was named Khadija and my father Mirza Riza the cloth-seller; my birth-place is Shiraz; and of my life, behold, thirty-five years have elapsed.'
[1 Critics such as Mirza Kazim Big (Kazem-Beg) have observed that giving the age of the Bab as thirty-five indicates that the whole account is spurious. Furthermore, it was not the mother of the Bab who was named Khadijih, but His wife.]
'The name of the Lord of Religion is Muhammad; his father was named Hasan and his mother Narjis; his birthplace was Surra-man-Ra'a; and his age is more than a thousand years. There is the most complete variance. And besides I did not send you.'
'Do you claim to be God?' asked the Bab.
'Such an Imam is worthy of such a God,' replied Nizamu'l-'Ulama.
'I can in one day write two thousand verses. Who else can do this?'
'When I resided at the Supreme Shrines I had a secretary who used to write two thousand verses a day. Eventually he became blind. You must certainly give up this occupation, or else you too will go blind.'(6)
Even from these few quotations the absurdity of the trial may be seen.
The authors of Nasikhu't-Tavarikh, the Supplement to Rawdatu's-Safa and Qisasu'l-'Ulama took their material from <p143> a tract written by the same Nizamu'l-'Ulama who presided over the tribunal in Tabriz. But Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi, the son of Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani, and no less an opponent of the Faith of the Bab than his father, in a book written specifically to refute that Faith, took Nizamu'l-'Ulama to task for having perverted the truth. Shaykh Muhammad-Taqi was himself present at the tribunal; in his book he underlined, one by one, Nizamu'l-'Ulama's misrepresentations. His testimony to the powers of the Bab, which he recorded despite his avowed, unrelenting antagonism, has recently been reprinted. Eventually, Nizamu'l-'Ulama collected as many copies as he could of his own tract and destroyed them.
Nabil-i-A'zam states, on the authority of Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi, that the person most insolent in the course of that mock trial was Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani. The Bab was sitting between him and the Crown Prince, and when He affirmed that He was the Qa'im, whose advent they expected, Mulla Muhammad called out in anger:
[1 It is of interest that another son of Mulla Muhammad, named Mirza Isma'il, embraced the new Revelation.]
'You wretched and immature lad of Shirazi You have already convulsed and subverted 'Iraq; do you now wish to arouse a like turmoil in Adhirbayjan?'
The Bab's answer to his outburst was only this: 'Your Honour, I have not come hither of My own accord. I have been summoned to this place.'
Mulla Muhammad, yet more haughty and disdainful, shouted back: 'Hold your peace, you perverse and contemptible follower of Satan!'
And the Bab replied serenely: 'Your Honour, I maintain what I have already declared.'
Then, according to Nabil-i-A'zam, Nizamu'l-'Ulama posed this challenge:
'The claim which you have advanced is a stupendous one; <p144> it must needs be supported by the most incontrovertible evidence.'
'His own word,' said the Bab, 'is the most convincing evidence of the truth of the Mission of the Prophet of God.' And He quoted from the Qur'an a verse in support of His argument: '"Is it not enough for them that We have sent down to Thee the Book?"'
[1 Qur'an xxix , 51.]
Nizamu'l-'Ulama rejoined: 'Describe orally, if you speak the truth, the proceedings of this gathering in language that will resemble the phraseology of the verses of the Qur'an so that the Vali-'Ahd [Crown Prince] and the assembled divines may bear witness to the truth of your claim.'
The Bab had spoken no more than a few words in response to this request when Mulla Muhammad rudely intervened:
'This self-appointed Qa'im of ours has at the very start of his address betrayed his ignorance of the most rudimentary rules of grammar!'
'The Qur'an itself does in no wise accord with the rules and conventions current amongst men,' said the Bab. 'The Word of God can never be subject to the limitations of His creatures. Nay, the rules and canons which men have adopted have been deduced from the text of the Word of God and are based upon it. These men have, in the very texts of that holy Book, discovered no less than three hundred instances of grammatical error, such as the one you now criticise. Inasmuch as it was the Word of God, they had no other alternative except to resign themselves to His will.'
But Mulla Muhammad turned a deaf ear to the Bab, and another divine interrupted with an absurd question about the tense of a verb. Then the Bab spoke this verse of the Qur'an: 'Far be the glory of thy Lord, the Lord of all greatness, from what they impute to Him, and peace be upon <p145> His Apostles!' And He rose up from His seat and walked out.(7)
[1 An undated letter has come to light in the handwriting of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, written during the Ministry of Baha'u'llah and addressed to 'Alau'd-Dawlih, a governor of Tihran. The Shah instructed the Governor to put certain questions to the 'Babis' arrested by Aminu's-Sultan, including Aqa Jamal-i-Burujirdi, the only one he mentions by name. Only Aminu's-Sultan and Haji Aqa Muhammad, a divine, should be present for the questioning, he instructed, and the replies of the Babis were to be recorded and presented to him. He himself, he said, might then have to meet these 'Babis', to determine exactly what their aims and purposes were.
Nasiri'd-Din Shah's language was abusive, but two points are particularly worth noting in this long tirade: first, his admission that, before the tribunal in Tabriz, the Bab stood firmly by His claim that He was the Qa'im; second, his insistence that he wanted to know what were the beliefs and intentions of the 'Babis'.
During the governorship of 'Alau'd-Dawlih, Aqa Najaf-'Ali, a Baha'i of Tabriz, was arrested, resulting in the apprehension of a number of Baha'is in Tihran. Aqa Najaf-'Ali had recently returned from 'Akka and was the bearer of a number of Tablets. He lost his life but the other Baha'is were eventually freed.]
Shortly after these proceedings, it was decided to inflict corporal punishment upon the Bab, and He was taken to the house of Muhammad-Kazim Khan, the farrash-bashi. As the guards refused to carry out the sentence, Mirza 'Ali-Asghar, the Shaykhu'l-Islam, personally administered the bastinado. When the news reached Urumiyyih that the Bab had been subjected to such indignity, many of those who had been attracted to His Faith abandoned it. In Tabriz, the Bab was seen by Dr. Cormick, an English physician, the only Westerner ever to have met Him. The Reverend Benjamin Labaree, D.D., of the American Presbyterian Mission <p146> at Urumiyyih, asked Dr. Cormick for the particulars of his visit. The English physician wrote in answer:
[1 Literally, 'chief-lictor', a Roman officer who executed sentences on offenders.]
You ask me for some particulars of my interview with
the founder of the sect known as Babis. Nothing of any
importance transpired in this interview, as the Bab was
aware of my having been sent with two other Persian
doctors to see whether he was of sane mind or merely a
madman, to decide the question whether to put him to
death or not. With this knowledge he was loth to answer
any questions put to him. To all enquiries he merely
regarded us with a mild look, chanting in a low melodious
voice some hymns, I suppose. Two other Sayyids, his
intimate friends, were also present, who subsequently
were put to death with him, besides a couple of government
ofFIcials. He only once deigned to answer me, on my
saying that I was not a Musulman and was willing to know
something about his religion, as I might perhaps be
inclined to adopt it. He regarded me very intently on my
saying this, and replied that he had no doubt of all
Europeans coming over to his religion. Our report to
the Shah at that time was of a nature to spare his life. He
was put to death some time after by the order of the
Amir-i-Nizam Mirza Taqi Khan. On our report he
merely got the bastinado, in which operation a farrash,
whether intentionally or not, struck him across the face
with the stick destined for his feet, which produced a
great wound and swelling of the face. On being asked
whether a Persian surgeon should be brought to treat
him, he expressed a desire that I should be sent for, and
I accordingly treated him for a few days, but in the
interviews consequent on this I could never get him to
have a confidential chat with me, as some Government
people were always present, he being a prisoner.
He was very thankful for my attentions to him. He was <p147>
a very mild and delicate-looking man, rather small in
stature and very fair for a Persian, with a melodious soft
voice, which struck me much. Being a Sayyid, he was
dressed in the habits of that sect, as were also his two
companions. In fact his whole look and deportment went
far to dispose one in his favour. Of his doctrine I heard
nothing from his own lips, although the idea was that
there existed in his religion a certain approach to Christianity.
He was seen by some Armenian carpenters, who
were sent to make some repairs in his prison, reading the
Bible, and he took no pains to conceal it, but on the contrary
told them of it. Most assuredly the Musulman fanaticism
does not exist in his religion, as applied to Christians,
nor is there that restraint of females that now exists.(8)
[1 This is a mistake. The two brothers, Siyyid Hasan and Siyyid Husayn, were not put to death with the Bab, contrary to Browne's note accompanying this account.]
It must have been sometime in the first days of August 1848 that the Bab was restored to Chihriq. From there, He addressed a letter to Haji Mirza Aqasi:
O thou who hast disbelieved in God, and hast turned thy
face away from His signs!(9)
That letter, stern and unsparing, is known as the Khutbiy-i-Qahriyyih (Sermon of Wrath). The Bab sent it to Hujjat who was still in Tihran unable to return to his native town to give it in person to the Grand Vizier. Hujjat carried out the task entrusted to him. By then Haji Mirza Aqasi had fallen from power, to end his days in obscurity in 'Iraq.
Muhammad Shah died on September 4th 1848. Less
than a year later, Haji Mirza Aqasi followed him to the grave.
[1 There was a certain Haji Riday-i-Qasi(10) in Shiraz, always ready to start a riot or head a revolt. The present writer recalls being told by his paternal grandmother that one day, at dawn, Haji Qasi came galloping past their door, rattling a long stick (or a lance) in a hole in the wall, shouting: 'O house of the Siyyids, may you rest in safety, Muhammad Shah has gone to hell.' She remembered that incident very well, although at the time she was no more than seven or eight years old.] <p148>
THAT MIDSUMMER NOON
Transcendent Star, past mortal ken
The glory of your Life through all the spheres
Bathes the unending vista of the years.
The radiance of the Light you brought to men
Has purified the planet's heart anew I
Your blood was poured upon its dearth like dew,
Ichor of God's decree, let each drop shed
Raise up the nations, and the living dead,
Revive the vision of the spirit's youth:
Auroral is the fountain of your Truth.
-- Beatrice Irwin
The death of Muhammad Shah and the downfall of Haji Mirza Aqasi were events of far-reaching consequence. The new monarch was very young and inexperienced, while the man who now occupied the seat left vacant by the disappearance of Haji Mirza Aqasi was capable and uncorrupted, but self-willed and headstrong. Mirza Taqi Khan, the Amir-Nizam (better known by his later title Amir-i-Kabir) had by sheer force of his abilities raised himself from humble origins to a position of power. His father had been a cook in the employment of the illustrious Qa'im-Maqam. And it had been that great minister who had first noticed high promise in the young Taqi. Although Nasiri'd-Din Shah now reigned over Iran, it was Mirza Taqi Khan who ruled it.
Once again, within the confines of Chihriq, the Bab had uninterrupted communication with His followers. Mulla <p149> Adi Guzal, a native of Maraghih (Adharbayjan), acted as a courier, often traversing vast distances on foot. Decades later 'Abdu'l-Baha recalled a day when this indefatigable man arrived at Tihran, dressed as a dervish and much travel-stained. Vahid, on learning who he was and from whence he had come, bent low and kissed the mud-encrusted feet of the courier, for he had been in the presence of the Beloved.
One of this courier's journeys took him to Quddus, with the gift of a valuable pen-case and a silk turban sent by the Bab. And when Quddus and Mulla Husayn and their companions died as martyrs in Mazindaran, the Bab chose this same faithful courier to go on pilgrimage in His stead to the land drenched with their blood. Thus Mulla Adi Guzal was the first Babi to set eyes on the scenes of that carnage. He was also, for two months, the Bab's personal attendant in the castle of Chihriq.(1)
Sulayman Khan, the son of Yahya Khan of Tabriz, was one of the prominent followers of the Bab who attained His presence in this castle, after making the journey in disguise. He had no liking for service at court, and had gone to 'Iraq, to live under the shadow of the Shrine of Imam Husayn. There he found himself attracted to the teachings of Siyyid Kazim and, hearing later of the advent of the Bab, gave Him his allegiance. The news of the plight of his fellow-believers, who were hounded and besieged in Mazindaran, drew him back to his native land. He reached Tihran dressed as a cleric. Mirza Taqi Khan, however, made him discard his turban and long cloak, and forced him to wear a military uniform. But he could not prevail upon him to enter the service of the Government. Sulayman Khan's primary purpose remained unfulfilled: to give aid to Quddus and the Babu'l-Bab proved impossible, but his sudden <p150> departure from Karbila was not to be in vain, or barren of significant result.
[1 The father of Sulayman Khan was an attendant of 'Abbas Mirza, and then of his son, Muhammad Shah.]
Another visitor to Chihriq during the closing months of the life of the Bab was His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali. His life too was nearing its end, to be laid down in the path of his Nephew. Two years had passed since the day his Nephew bade him farewell in Shiraz, and Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali could no longer bear the pangs of separation. He settled his accounts, closed his books and took the road to Adharbayjan. Having attained his heart's desire, he wrote to his brother, HajI Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, to help him see the truth of their Nephew's mission. His letter was written on the fifth day of Jamadiu'l-Ula -- the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab. 'On such a day,' he told his brother, 'the resplendent Light of God shone forth . . . This is the day of Resurrection . . . the day to behold the Visage of God.'(2) The One promised, expected and awaited had indeed come, he asserted, and come with verses constituting the primal proof of all the Manifestations of God. He desired all the members of his family to see his letter. One cannot but marvel at the quality of devotion and certainty that this letter reveals.
To meet, after such a long interval, the uncle who had stood in loco parentis to Him when He was orphaned, must have given the Bab intense joy. But within a few months of His uncle's visit, news came that brought Him unbearable sorrow. At Shaykh Tabarsi in Mazindaran a large number of His followers had been massacred, including nine of His first disciples, the Letters of the Living; amongst them were the Babu'l-Bab who had first believed in Him, and Quddus, His companion on the journey to Hijaz, the beloved disciple whose primacy was unquestioned.
[1 Towards the end of June 1849.]
According to His amanuensis: <p151>
The Bab was heart-broken at the receipt of this unexpected
intelligence. He was crushed with grief, a grief
that stilled His voice and silenced His pen. For nine days
He refused to meet any of His friends. I myself, though
His close and constant attendant, was refused admittance.
Whatever meat or drink we offered Him, He was disinclined
to touch. Tears rained continually from His eyes,
and expressions of anguish dropped unceasingly from
His lips. I could hear Him, from behind the curtain,
give vent to His feelings of sadness as He communed, in
the privacy of His cell, with His Beloved. I attempted to
jot down the effusions of His sorrow as they poured
forth from His wounded heart. Suspecting that I was
attempting to preserve the lamentations He uttered, He
bade me destroy whatever I had recorded. Nothing remains
of the moans and cries with which that heavy-laden
heart sought to relieve itself of the pangs that had
seized it. For a period of five months He languished,
immersed in an ocean of despondency and sorrow.(3)
Conscious that His own life was fast approaching its end, the Bab put all His Writings, His pen-case, His seals and rings in a box which He entrusted to Mulla Baqir-i-Tabrizi, one of the Letters of the Living, with instructions to deliver it, together with a letter, to Mirza Ahmad-i-Katib (Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qazvini). Nabil-i-A'zam writes:
Mulla Baqir departed forthwith for Qazvin. Within
eighteen days he reached that town and was informed
that Mirza Ahmad had departed for Qum. He left
immediately for that destination and arrived towards the
middle of the month of Sha'ban. I was then in Qum
I was living in the same house with Mirza Ahmad . . In
those days Shaykh 'Azim, Siyyid Isma'il, and a number
of other companions likewise were dwelling with us
Mulla Baqir delivered the trust into the hands of Mirza
Ahmad, who, at the insistence of Shaykh 'Azim, opened it <p152>
before us. We marvelled when we beheld, among the
things which that coffer contained, a scroll of blue paper,
of the most delicate texture, on which the Bab, in His own
exquisite handwriting, which was a fine shikastih script,
had penned, in the form of a pentacle, what numbered
about five hundred verses, all consisting of derivatives
from the word 'Baha'. That scroll was in a state of perfect
preservation, was spotlessly clean. . . So fine and
intricate was the penmanship that, viewed at a distance,
the writing appeared as a single wash of ink on the paper.
We were overcome with admiration as we gazed upon a
masterpiece which no calligraphist, we believed, could
rival. That scroll was replaced in the coffer and handed
back to Mirza Ahmad, who, on the very day he received
it, proceeded to Tihran. Ere he departed, he informed us
that all he could divulge of that letter was the injunction
that the trust was to be delivered into the hands of Jinab-i-Baha
[1 Towards the end of June 1850.]
[2 There were 360 derivatives. (Browne, ed., A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, p. 42.)]
It was also during the last few months of His life that the Bab composed the Arabic Bayan, which, in the estimation of Nicolas, is the epitome of the teachings of the Bab.
The man who took the decision to have the Bab executed was Mirza Taqi Khan, the Grand Vizier of Nasiri'd-Din Shah His obdurate nature brooked no opposition. Mirza Aqa Khan-i-Nuri, who had a ministerial post, made a faint protest, but his voice went unheeded. Orders were sent to Hamzih Mirza, the Hishmatu'd-Dawlih, Governor-General of Adharbayjan, to bring the Bab to Tabriz. When these were carried out further orders came from the Grand Vizier, brought by no less a person than his brother, Mirza Hasan Khan, the Vazir Nizam. They were to the effect that the Bab should be executed by a firing squad, in full public view. <p153> Hishmatu'd-Dawlih refused absolutely to be associated in any way with such a dastardly action. His response was: 'I am neither Ibn-i-Ziyad nor Ibn-i-Sa'd that he should call upon me to slay an innocent descendant of the Prophet of God.'(5)
[1 Men responsible for the tragedy of Karbila, and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.]
The Grand Vizier, on being informed by Mirza Hasan Khan of this refusal, instructed his brother to carry out the orders under his own authority. Divested of His turban and sash which indicated His lineage, the Bab and His attendants were taken on foot to the barracks, from the house which the Governor had put at their disposal. On the way to the citadel, a youth, barefoot and dishevelled, threw himself at the feet of the Bab, beseeching Him: 'Send me not from Thee, O Master. Wherever Thou goest, suffer me to follow Thee.' To this the Bab replied: 'Muhammad-'Ali, arise, and rest assured that you will be with Me. Tomorrow you shall witness what God has decreed.'(6)
This youth, Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zunuzi, had long been devoted to the Bab, but his stepfather had used every subterfuge to prevent him from meeting the Bab and voicing his allegiance, even going to the length of locking him up in his own house. Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi was related to the family, and thus had access to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. Visiting him one day, Shaykh Hasan found the youth transformed, no longer wretched and bemoaning his fate, but happy and at peace. 'The eyes of my Beloved,' he told Shaykh Hasan, 'have beheld this face, and these eyes have gazed upon His countenance.' He then recounted an experience he had had:
[1 Siyyid 'Aliy-i-Zunuzi.]
Let me tell you the secret of my happiness. After the Bab
had been taken back to Chihriq, one day, as I lay confined <p154>
in my cell, I turned my heart to Him and besought Him in
these words: 'Thou beholdest, O my Best-Beloved, my
captivity and helplessness, and knowest how eagerly I
yearn to look upon Thy face. Dispel the gloom that
oppresses my heart, with the light of Thy countenance.'
What tears of agonising pain I shed that hour! I was so
overcome with emotion that I seemed to have lost
consciousness. Suddenly I heard the voice of the Bab, and,
lo! He was calling me. He bade me arise. I beheld the
majesty of His countenance as He appeared before me.
He smiled as He looked into my eyes. I rushed forward
and flung myself at His feet. 'Rejoice,' He said; 'the hour
is approaching when, in this very city, I shall be suspended
before the eyes of the multitude and shall fall a victim
to the fire of the enemy. I shall choose no one except you
to share with Me the cup of martyrdom. Rest assured that
this promise which I give you shall be fulfilled.'(7)
[1 Following his examination in the summer of 1848.]
Now, two years later, in a thoroughfare of Tabriz, Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zunuzi received the same promise and assurance from the Bab.
That night the Bab was joyous. He knew that on the following day He would quaff the cup of martyrdom. He also knew that His Mission on this earth was totally accomplished, despite fierce opposition mounted by the divines and rulers of the land, and despite the tyrannies and indignities to which He had been mercilessly subjected. No power had succeeded in quenching the flame of faith which His Word had set ablaze. He had knowingly sacrificed His life for the sake of the Redeemer promised unto all Faiths. The near advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' (Man-Yuzhiruhu'llah) had been His constant theme. He had made the acceptance of His own Book -- the mighty Bayan -- dependent upon the good pleasure of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', Whom He had addressed in the early days of His Ministry: <p155>
O Thou Remnant of God! I have sacrificed myself wholly
for Thee; I have accepted curses for Thy sake, and have
yearned for naught but martyrdom in the path of Thy
And now on this night -- His last on earth -- He was happy and contented. He told the faithful disciples who were with Him that He preferred to meet His death at the hand of a friend rather than at the hands of enemies, and invited them to fulfil His wish. Among those men who so dearly loved Him, only Mirza Muhammad-'Ali dared to undertake that fearsome task, but his companions restrained him. 'This same youth who has risen to comply with My wish,' the Bab said, 'will, together with Me, suffer martyrdom. Him will I choose to share with Me its crown.' And He added: 'Verily Muhammad-'Ali will be with Us in Paradise.'(9)
Jesus was crucified with two criminals, and St. Luke tells us:
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed
on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not
thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward
of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou
comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day
shalt thou be with me in paradise.
[1 xiii, 39-43.]
In the morning they took the Bab to the homes of the leading divines: Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani, Mulla Murtida-Quliy-i-Marandi and Mirza Baqir, to obtain the death-warrants. These men needed no inducement: they had the warrants written, signed and sealed, ready to <p156> deliver to the farrash-bashi, and did not even deign to show their faces to the Prisoner.
Again we are reminded of St. Luke:
And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote
And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him
on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it
that smote thee?
And many other things blasphemously spake they
And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and
the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led
him into their council, saying,
Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If
I tell you, ye will not believe:
And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let
Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of
the power of God.
Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God?
And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.
And they said, What need we any further witness? for
we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
[1 xxii, 63-71.]
The stepfather of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali now made an attempt to save him. Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi and his brother, at the instructions of the Bab Himself, had recanted so that they could take to the followers of the Bab His last words and wishes. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali refused all blandishments, declared his desire to die with his Master, and told Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani to his face: 'I am not mad. Such a charge should rather be brought against you who have sentenced to death a man no less holy than the promised Qa'im. He is not a fool who has embraced His Faith and is longing to shed his blood in His path.'(10) His young <p157> child was brought to him. They thought that, perchance, the sight of the boy might soften his heart. But Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's resolve remained unshaken. God would provide for his child and protect him.
So at noon they led the Bab and His disciple to the square in front of the citadel of Tabriz. Sam Khan, the commander of the Armenian regiment detailed to execute them, was ill at ease. The Prisoner looked kind and compassionate. For what crime was He to be put to death? Unable to still the voice of his conscience, Sam Khan approached the Bab: 'I profess the Christian Faith and entertain no ill will against you. If your Cause be the Cause of truth, enable me to free myself from the obligation to shed your blood.' To this the Bab replied: 'Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity.'(11)
The Bab and His disciple were suspended by ropes from a nail in the wall, the head of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali resting on the breast of the Bab. Seven hundred and fifty soldiers were positioned in three files. Roofs of the buildings around teemed with spectators.
Each row of soldiers fired in turn. The smoke from so many rifles clouded the scene. When it lifted the Bab was not there. Only His disciple could be seen, standing under the nail in the wall, smiling and unconcerned. Bullets had only severed the ropes with which they were suspended. Cries rang out from the onlookers: 'The Siyyid-i-Bab has gone from our sight!'
A frantic search followed. The Bab was found, sitting in the same room where He had been lodged the night before, in conversation with His amanuensis. That conversation had been interrupted earlier in the day. Now it was finished and He told the farrash-bashi to carry out his duty. But the farrash-bashi was terror-stricken and ran away, nor did he ever return to his post. Sam Khan, for his part, told his <p158> superiors that he had carried out the task given to him; he would not attempt it a second time. So Aqa Jan Khan-i-Khamsih and his Nasiri regiment replaced the Armenians, and the Bab and His disciple were suspended once again at the same spot.
Now the Bab addressed the multitude gathered to see Him die:
Had you believed in Me, O wayward generation, every
one of you would have followed the example of this youth,
who stood in rank above most of you, and willingly
would have sacrificed himself in My path. The day will
come when you will have recognised Me; that day I shall
have ceased to be with you.(12)
And St. Luke relates:
And there followed him a great company of people
and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem,
weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they
shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that
never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on
us; and to the hills, Cover us.
[1 xxiii, 27-30]
The Nasiri regiment fired. The bodies of the Bab and His disciple were shattered, and their flesh was united. But the face of the Bab was untouched. Then a storm descended upon Tabriz. Tempestuous winds blew and dust darkened the skies, and the skies remained dark, until the darkness of the day merged into the darkness of the night.
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness
over all the earth until the ninth hour. <p159>
And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple
was rent in the midst.
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said,
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having
said thus, he gave up the ghost.
[1 Luke xxiii, 44-6.]
Thus at noon, one midsummer day -- Sunday July 9th 1850 -- they put to death a Manifestation of God, just as at noon, centuries before, another Manifestation of God was slain.
[1 Sha'ban 28th, 1266 .A.H.]
When night fell, they dragged the bodies through the streets of Tabriz, and threw them on the edge of the moat surrounding the city. Soldiers were stationed there to guard over them, lest the Babis attempt to retrieve the precious remains. Not far away, two Babis, feigning madness, kept vigil throughout the night.
Next morning the Russian Consul took an artist with him to make a drawing of the remains of the Bab.
Sulayman Khan, that loyal disciple who attained the presence of the Bab in Chihriq, reached Tabriz the day after His martyrdom. He had intended to rescue his Master. But that was not to be. Now, he went straightway to Haji Mirza Mihdi Khan, the Kalantar (Mayor) of Tabriz, who was a friend of long standing, and told him that he had decided to dare everything that very night and carry the bodies away by a surprise attack on the soldiers guarding them on the edge of the moat. The Kalantar told Sulayman Khan to withdraw for the moment and assured him that there was a much safer and more reliable way to achieve his purpose.
There was in Tabriz a certain Haji Allah-Yar, a confidant of the Kalantar, well-known for his exploits. Instructed by <p160> the Kalantar, Haji Allah-Yar used such means as he knew best to take the bodies away from under the eyes of the soldiers. He delivered the remains to Sulayman Khan, who had them moved to the silk factory of Haji Ahmad, a Babi of Milan. There they were enshrouded and hidden under the bales of silk. Next day a casket was made to contain them, and they were sent away to safety. Haji Allah-Yar refused to accept any reward for his service.(13)
Soldiers reported the disappearance of the bodies. Wild
beasts had devoured the remains, they alleged, while they
slept. And the divines gave credence to that story and
shouted for joy. What better proof could there be to show
how false the Siyyid-i-Bab was? Beasts do not, cannot
consume the remains of the Imam. 
[1 See Appendix 2 for extracts from British official documents which report the execution and the disposition of the bodies.] <p161>
Knowest thou what the seekers of life should seek?
Death -- and submitting cast their lives at the
He who towards Ka'bah his steps directs
Should not heed the wounding thorn in deserts forlorn.
-- 'Azizu'llah Misbah
The Bab appeared in a country renowned for a glorious and envied past; but since the beginning of the nineteenth century Iran had declined rapidly. The structure of the State had begun to falter under the Safavid dynasty (1501-1732), enjoying only a brief revival in the next two reigns. But by the middle of the nineteenth century, Persia was materially impoverished, intellectually stagnant, spiritually moribund. The condition of the peasantry was appalling. Corruption had eaten deep into the vitals of the nation and oppression and tyranny were widespread. It is said that every man has his price; the adage was particularly true of the Persians of the mid-nineteenth century. Offices of State and governorships were shamelessly bought and sold. Taxes and customs revenues were farmed. Bribery, peculation and extortion were legitimized under the respectable name of Madakhil (Perquisites). Historic cities and buildings were falling into ruin. Many a traveller has remarked on the magnificent aspect of famous cities, towns and villages when seen from afar, with their domes and minarets, citadels and gateways, <p162> groves and orchards; but how miserable and dilapidated they were found to be when one entered them. The toll of disease and neglect and insecurity had reduced the population of a country with an area the size of Western Europe to well below ten million.
[1 Afsharid Nadir Shah (1736-47) and the Zand ruler, Karim Khan (1750-79).]
The burden of a semi-feudal state was indeed onerous, and no less so was the burden of the dominance established by the divines. Certainly, they had in their ranks men of the calibre and quality of Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti, Haji Siyyid Muhammad-Baqir-i-Rashti and Shaykh Murtiday-i-Ansari, men who had high regard for truth and righteousness; just as there were in the service of the State men of enlightened vision and shining integrity. But collectively the divines abused the power they had obtained with the advent of the Safavid dynasty.
[1 Known both as Rashti and Shafti.]
The fall of a nation from the pinnacle of achievement is more marked than the decline from lesser heights.
The Call to a New Day
The Call of the Bab was a call to awakening, a claim that a New Day had dawned. But the magnitude of this claim was not easily realized; one of the first to do so was Qurratu'l-'Ayn. When Mulla 'Aliy-i-Bastami was condemned and imprisoned in Baghdad, she was still at Karbila. Because of complaints by the Shi'ah divines, the Government sent her back to Baghdad, where she lodged in the house of Shaykh Muhammad Shibl, the father of Aqa Muhammad Mustafay-i-Baghdadi, until the Government moved her to the house of the Mufti of Baghdad. So outspoken was she in her public statements that some of her fellow-believers from Kazimayn were alarmed and, according to Aqa Muhammad-Mustafa, agitated against her. Siyyid 'Ali Bishr, the <p163> most learned of them, wrote a letter on their behalf to the Bab, which Nawruz-'Ali, once an attendant of Siyyid Kazim, took to Him in Mah-Ku, returning with His answer which rang with high praise of Qurratu'l-'Ayn. It caused Siyyid 'Ali Bishr and his party from Kazimayn to withdraw from the Faith they had previously espoused with enthusiasm. The Bab described Qurratu'l-'Ayn, in that Epistle, as Tahirih, the Pure, and Siddiqih, the Truthful, and laid an injunction on His followers in 'Iraq to accept without question whatever she might pronounce, for they were not in a position to understand and appreciate her station. By this time a large number of Babis had assembled in Baghdad, and Qurratu'l-'Ayn was constantly and openly teaching the Faith. She had received a copy of the Commentary on the Surih of Kawthar, which the Bab had revealed for Vahid, and she made full use of it, driving the opposing divines to desperation. When she threw down a challenge to them to debate the issue with her, their only reply was vehement denunciation.
[1 In a book which the Mufti, Mahmud al-Alusi, wrote, he spoke of Qurratu'l-'Ayn with great admiration.]
[2 These included Siyyid Taha and Siyyid Muhammad-Ja'far.]
Najib Pasha was still at his post as Vali of Baghdad, but he was now a chastened man. Moreover, the opponents of Qurratu'l-'Ayn were the Shi'ah divines and Najib Pasha, being a Sunni, would take no action to please them, but he reported to the Sublime Porte that Qurratu'l-'Ayn had challenged them. The authorities in Constantinople were also not prepared to give comfort to Shi'ahs by making a martyr of Qurratu'l-'Ayn. At the same time they had no wish to champion her cause. They told Najib Pasha that, as Qurratu'l-'Ayn was Persian, she should confine her challenge to the divines of her native land; she should be sent to Persia. So Qurratu'l-'Ayn (or Tahirih as we shall <p164> call her), accompanied by a number of ardent and prominent Babis,(1) quitted Baghdad and was escorted to the frontier by Muhammad Aqa Yavar, an officer in the service of Najib Pasha, who became attracted to the Cause she was advocating.
[1 Yet only two years before they had refused to hand over Mulla 'Ali to the Persian Government, that he might reach safety.]
Various eventful stops were made by Tahirih and her companions in their journey across Persia to Qazvin. In the small town of Kirand, her eloquence and the clarity of her disquisition so impressed the chiefs of that area that they offered to place twelve thousand men under her command, to follow her wherever she went. The great majority (if not all) of the inhabitants of Kirand and its neighbourhood were 'Aliyu'llahis. Tahirih gave them her blessing, told them to keep to their homes, and moved on to Kirmanshah. The challenge she presented to Aqa 'Abdu'llah-i-Bihbihani, the leading divine of that town, thoroughly discomfited him. With the populace clamouring for a positive answer, and the Governor treating Tahirih with great respect, the cornered divine sought to free himself from his dilemma by writing to her father in Qazvin, asking him to send some of his close relatives to remove her from Kirmanshah. Aqa Muhammad-Mustafa, himself an eye-witness, vividly describes how four men came from Qazvin, joined forces with a Qazvini officer stationed in Kirmanshah, invaded the house where Tahirih's companions resided, and beat and robbed them of all they possessed. When the Governor learned what had happened, he ordered the arrest of the culprits and restored to the Babis their property. It was soon known that Aqa 'Abdu'llah had conspired to bring about this situation.
From Kirmanshah, Tahirih and her companions moved on to fresh scenes of triumph in the small town of Sahnih, before reaching Hamadan. Here her brothers arrived from Qazvin to beg her to return with them to their native place. She agreed on condition that she should stay in Hamadan <p165> long enough to make the public cognizant of the Faith of the Bab. During her days in Hamadan, she issued a challenge to Ra'isu'l-'Ulama, the leading divine of the city, whose response was to have the bearer of her treatise, Mulla Ibrahim-i-Mahallati, himself a distinguished divine, beaten and thrown out of his house. Mulla Ibrahim lingered between life and death for some days, and although he recovered, his martyrdom was not far off. This reverse was outweighed by Tahirih's success in converting two ladies of the Royal Family, married to scions of the aristocracy of Hamadan, and even more significant were her talks with two of the most learned Jewish rabbis, which led to attracting members of the Jewish Faith to the Babi fold. Hamadan, flourishing on the site of ancient Ecbatana, is the city where the tombs of Esther and Mordecai are situated.
[1 Mulla Ilyahu and Mulla Lalihzar.]
[2 The first Jewish Baha'i was Hakim Masih, a doctor (later to become court physician to Muhammad Shah who met Tahirih in Baghdad, and was deeply impressed by her eloquence and masterly exposition. Years later, while attending his son, he met Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas, a survivor of Shaykh Tabarsi, to whom Baha'u'llah had given the designation of Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq (the Name of God, the Most Truthful). This encounter led Hakim Masih to embrace the Baha'i Faith. He was the grandfather of Dr. Lutfu'llah Hakim. (See Balyuzi, 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 78n.)]
As promised, Tahirih then left for Qazvin in the company of her brothers. Before departing, she asked most of the Arab Babis, who were with her, to return to 'Iraq. Only a few stayed behind, to join her later in Qazvin, but within a month she requested all of her fellow-believers, Arab and Persian alike, who had travelled with her, to leave her native town. Of the large company who had come from 'Iraq, attending and supporting her, only Mulla Ibrahim-i-Mahallati and Shaykh Salih-al-Karimi remained with her in Qazvin. <p166>
Three of the others went on to Tihran, where they met the Babu'l-Bab. In April 1890, Edward Granville Browne, returning from Akka, met one of them, Aqa Muhammad-i-Mustafa, in Beirut and inquired about that meeting and the appearance of Mulla Husayn. He learned that the Babu'l-Bab was
[1 They were Shaykh Muhammad Shibl and his son, Aqa Muhammad-Mustafa and Shaykh Sultan-i-Karbila'i.]
Lean and fragile to look at, but keen and bright as the
sword which never left his side. For the rest, he was not
more than thirty or thirty-five years old, and his raiment
[1 Mulla Husayn's sword is in the International Archives of the Baha'i Faith.]
At Qazvin, Tahirih refused to be reunited with her husband and went to her father's house. Her impetuous uncle, Haji Mulla Taqi, felt greatly insulted and his wrath knew no bounds. His denunciation of those whom he considered to be responsible for his daughter-in-law's waywardness became fiercer than ever before. Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim were the particular targets of his vilification. Then, one morning at dawn, he was found in the mosque, fatally stabbed. Immediately the Babis were accused of his murder, and even Tahirih was considered guilty, was kept under close watch, and her life was in danger. Although a Shirazi(3) confessed that he had slain Haji Mulla Taqi because of his rabid animosity towards Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim, three Babis, totally innocent of the crime, were put to death -- Shaykh Salih-al-Karimi in Tihran, and Mulla Ibrahim-i-Mahallati and Mulla Tahir in Qazvin. These three were the first martyrs of the Babi Faith in Persia itself, and their deaths constituted the first public execution of Babis. <p167> Haji Asadu'llah, a well-known merchant of the Farhadi family, was also martyred, while in prison, by partisans of Tahirih's husband, the Imam-Jum'ih of Qazvin, and a report was circulated that he had died from natural causes
[1 It is of interest that Shaykh Salih, martyred in Persia, was a native of 'Iraq, while the first martyr of the Babi Faith, Mulla 'Aliy-i-Bastami, was a Persian who met his death in 'Iraq.]
Tahirih was now totally isolated. Baha'u'llah gave the task of rescuing her to Mirza Hadi, the nephew of the martyred Haji Asadu'llah. This young man, who had left Qazvin at the outset of agitation against the Babis, returned at the risk of his life and successfully carried out his mission. Tahirih reached Tihran in safety. Thus it was that she could be at the conference of Badasht, where she rendered her most signal service to the Faith of the Bab.
The Conference of Badasht
The gathering of the Babis at Badasht coincided with the removal of the Bab, from the castle of Chihriq to Tabriz for His public examination. Contrary to certain allegations the Babis did not congregate in Badasht to concert plans to rescue Him. They came there, guided by Baha'u'llah, to settle a vital and cardinal issue: was this persuasion of theirs just an offshoot of Islam, or was it an independent Faith? Until then no public claim had been made that the Bab, as the Qa'im of the House of Muhammad, was an Inaugurator of a new theophany. Strange it seems, in perspective, that about the time when a decision was being reached in a tiny hamlet on the edge of Khurasan, hundreds of miles away in the city of Tabriz, the Bab was announcing His station before a tribunal summoned to question Him.
[1 The station of the Bab is discussed and defined by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, in The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah, reprinted in the collection of his writings entitled The World Order of Baha'u'llah, to which the reader is referred.]
'Abdu'l-Baha states that Baha'u'llah and Quddus had agreed that the time had come to declare the advent of a new Dispensation.(4) However, there were faint hearts in the Babi <p168> ranks, as events were to prove. Tahirih had met opposition from fellow-Babis because she had always been bold enough to assert that this was indeed a new day. Any announcement at Badasht would have to be emphatic and unhedged, to make a persuasive impact. And this it was, in a most dramatic way.
Baha'u'llah had rented three gardens in Badasht: Quddus lived in one, Tahirih in the second, and Baha'u'llah had a tent pitched in the third. Other Babis, among whom were a number of the Letters of the Living such as Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the brother-in-law of Tahirih, and Mulla Baqir-i-Tabrizi, lived under tents in the grounds facing the three gardens.
[1 Mulla Husayn was prevented from reaching Badasht.]
During the three weeks of the conference, argument and counter-argument were put forward, and differences of view and approach arose between Quddus and Tahirih. At last it was Tahirih's unheard-of gesture, courageous beyond belief and description, followed by Baha'u'llah's decisive intervention, which made clear to all that a new Dispensation had begun. Tahirih's brave act was to cast aside her veil. Men were shaken to the depths of their being to see her thus. Some fled with horror from the scene. One, in desperation, tried to cut his throat. When the uproar subsided, Baha'u'llah called for a copy of the Qur'an and directed a reciter to read the fifty-sixth surih, 'al-Waqi'a':
[1 Literally, 'The Event'; Professor Arberry has translated it as 'Terror' and George Sale as 'The Inevitable'. The present writer prefers in this instance Sale's rendering of the whole surih to Arberry's; verses 1-12 are quoted. The incident is taken from 'Abdu'l-Baha, The Memorials of The Faithful, p. 201, and Cheyne, The Reconciliation of Races and Religions, pp. 101-3.]
When the inevitable day of judgment shall suddenly
come, no soul shall charge the prediction of its coming
with falsehood: it will abase some, and exalt others. When <p169>
the earth shall be shaken with a violent shock; and the
mountains shall be dashed in pieces, and shall become as
dust scattered abroad; and ye shall be separated into three
distinct classes: the companions of the right hand (how
happy shall the companions of the right hand be!), and
the companions of the left hand (how miserable shall the
companions of the left hand be!), and those who have
preceded others in the faith shall precede them to paradise
These are they who shall approach near unto God: they
shall dwell in gardens of delight.
At Badasht the faint-hearted fell away. And when those who had remained steadfast left the hamlet it was to go out into a world, for them, greatly changed. That change was in a sense a reflection of the transformation they had experienced. They were determined to assert their freedom from the fetters of the past. In a country tightly wedded to blind, rigid orthodoxy, the deportment of the Babis would arouse bitter hostility. There were Babis, undoubtedly, who in their newly-found consciousness of emancipation, committed repellent excesses, and they deserved rejection by their fellow-countrymen. But for the majority, the animosity now directed against them created a situation which was new, and in turn required counter-measures to ensure their very existence. The opposition they had met in the past was sporadic, and not nation-wide, depending on the character, influence and power of the leaders, directors and instigators of such opposition, in any particular locality. The open welcome which the Bab had received when He reached Isfahan, following the barbaric treatment He had suffered at the hands of the Governor-General and the divines of Fars; the enthusiasm and eagerness with which the people had, at first, greeted Him both in Tabriz and Urumiyyih; the friendly reception which Quddus had found in Kirman, after being humiliated in Shiraz; the reverence shown conspicuously to Tahirih in Kirand and Kirmanshah; the respect and kindly <p170> attention accorded to the Babu'l-Bab by Hamzih Mirza, the Governor-General of Khurasan -- all were to become only memories, sadly lacking counterparts in the era whose opening was marked by the Bab's public declaration of His station as the promised Qa'im during His examination at Tabriz, the echoing affirmation of the dawning of a new and independent religious Dispensation at the conference of Badasht, and by the death of Muhammad Shah.
[1 Also known as Hishmatu'd-Dawlih, the brother of Muhammad Shah, who, at a later date, was the Governor-General of Adharbayjan, and refused to superintend the execution of the Bab.]
Hardly had the conference of Badasht ended when the people of the village of Niyala attacked the Babis. Nabil-i-A'zam heard the story from Baha'u'llah Himself:
We were all gathered in the village of Niyala and were
resting at the foot of a mountain, when, at the hour of
dawn, we were suddenly awakened by the stones which
the people of the neighbourhood were hurling upon us
from the top of the mountain. The fierceness of their attack
induced our companions to flee in terror and consternation.
I clothed Quddus in my own garments and despatched
him to a place of safety, where I intended to
join him. When I arrived, I found that he had gone.
None of our companions had remained in Niyala except
Tahirih and a young man from Shiraz, Mirza 'Abdu'llah.
The violence with which we were assailed had brought
desolation into our camp. I found no one into whose
custody I could deliver Tahirih except that young man,
who displayed on that occasion a courage and determination
that were truly surprising. Sword in hand, undaunted
by the savage assault of the inhabitants of the village, who
had rushed to plunder our property, he sprang forward
to stay the hand of the assailants. Though himself
wounded in several parts of his body, he risked his life
to protect our property. I bade him desist from his act. <p171>
When the tumult had subsided, I approached a number
of the inhabitants of the village and was able to convince
them of the cruelty and shamefulness of their behaviour.
I subsequently succeeded in restoring a part of our plundered
The Episode of Shaykh Tabarsi
It was mid-July 1848 when the Babis were scattered by the assault of the villagers of Niyala. They took different routes, but many of them came together again. Baha'u'llah travelled to Nur, His home in Mazindaran. Quddus was arrested and taken to the town of Sari, also in Mazindaran, where he was lodged, under restraint, in the home of Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, the leading divine. Tahirih also went to the same province, and she too was arrested. Later, she was sent to the capital and was given into the charge of Mahmud Khan, the Kalantar (Mayor) of Tihran, who detained her until the hour of her martyrdom in August 1852.
Mulla Husayn, whose visit to the camp of Hamzih Mirza had prevented him from attending the conference of Badasht, had in the meantime returned to Mashhad, and intended to go to Karbila. But an emissary of the Bab overtook him with an urgent message. The Bab had conferred on him the name of Siyyid 'Ali, had sent him a green turban of His own to wear, and had instructed him to go to the aid of Quddus with the Black Standard unfurled before him -- the Standard of which the Prophet Muhammad had said:
Should your eyes behold the Black Standards proceeding
from Khurasan, hasten ye towards them, even though ye
should have to crawl over the snow, inasmuch as they
proclaim the advent of the promised Mihdi, the Vicegerent
Mulla Husayn began his long march to Mazindaran to rescue Quddus, accompanied by many of the Babis who had <p172> scattered after the incident in Niyala, and some of the newly-converted who ranged themselves behind the Black Standard. Their numbers, on that journey, swelled into hundreds. On their way they raised the call of the New Day, finding eager supporters, but also such venomous hostility that they could not take residence in any town or village. Yet they did not intend to engage in combat with anyone, let alone the forces of the State. They were only demonstrating their belief and their vision.
As they approached Barfurush, its leading divine, Sa'idu'l- 'Ulama, was so vituperative in denouncing Mulla Husayn that the whole town rose up to oppose the Babis. Clashes and casualties were inevitable. Mulla Husayn himself, in the fray, cut through the trunk of a tree and the barrel of a gun, in one stroke of his sword, to fell an adversary. The people of Barfurush were worsted and asked for a truce, and because of their unrest, their leaders begged Mulla Husayn to leave on the morrow for Amul. 'Abbas-Quli Khan-i-Larijani, whom Nicolas names as 'the chief military personage of the province,'(7) gave Mulla Husayn a solemn promise, fortified by an oath on the Qur'an, that Khusraw-i-Qadi-Kala'i and his horsemen would escort the Babis to safety through the forests. This military chief impressed on Khusraw the need to do his duty by Mulla Husayn, and to show him respect and consideration. But Sa'idu'l-'Ulama corrupted Khusraw by telling him that he personally would accept responsibility before God and man for any injury, or even death, that might be inflicted on the Babis. Once in <p173> the depths of the forest, Khusraw and his hundred men treacherously attacked the Babis. He received his desert at the hands of a man of learning, not a hardened trooper, who at the first opportunity stabbed and killed Khusraw with a dagger.
[1 The fame of this feat spread far and wide. Later, when the Grand Vizier reprimanded Prince Mihdi-Quli Mirza, commander of an army sent against the defenders of Shaykh Tabarsi, because he had fled before them, the Prince sent him pieces of the musket-barrel smashed by the sword of Mulla Husayn, with this message: 'Such is the contemptible strength of an adversary who, with a single stroke of his sword, has shattered into six pieces the tree, the musket, and its holder.'(8)]
[2 Mirza Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Juvayni.]
The Grand Vizier was particularly irked and infuriated that the Babis could defeat and put to flight his force, although, for the most part, they were untrained in the arts of war. True, one could find in their ranks men such as Rida Khan-i-Turkaman, an accomplished young courtier, whose father was the Master of the Horse in the royal establishment. But these were exceptions. The vast majority were artisans, small traders, merchants, students of theology, divines.
[1 A martyr of Shaykh Tabarsi.]
Khusraw's treachery and death, and raids by hostile villagers on the exposed flanks of the Babi camp, forced Mulla Husayn to seek a place where the Babis could be safely lodged. Arriving on October 12th 1848 at the shrine of Shaykh Ahmad ibn-i-Abi-Talib-i-Tabarsi, about fourteen miles south-east of Barfurush, he gave orders for the construction of a fortress round the shrine, under the supervision of the builder of the Babiyyih in Mashhad (see p. 56). They were harassed at every stage by neighbouring villagers and had often to defend themselves. No sooner was their work finished than they received a visit from Baha'u'llah, who advised Mulla Husayn to seek the release of Quddus, that he might be with them. This mission was soon accomplished and, towards the end of that year, Quddus joined them in the newly-built fortress, to be acknowledged by Mulla Husayn as above him in rank.
On January 30th 1849, Lt.-Col. Farrant, then charge d'affaires in Tihran, reported to Lord Palmerston that some five hundred persons, 'disciples of a Fanatic, who calls <p174> himself the door, or gate of the true Mahomedan Religion', had assembled in Mazindaran, that fighting had broken out, and that 'Abbas-Quli Khan-i-Larijani had been ordered to proceed to that province and arrest the leaders.(9)
The Babis would gladly have lived peacefully within the four walls they had erected around the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi. But the continuous clamouring of the divines, led by Sa'idu'l-'Ulama of Barfurush, and the despotic, obstinate and haughty nature of the Grand Vizier, combined to deny them peace and security. One army after another was sent to reduce them. In sorties from their fortress they inflicted heavy losses on the besieging forces, causing commanders to flee for their lives. Some of the commanders died on the battlefield, while Quddus, during one of the sorties, received a bullet wound in his mouth.
[1 Such as 'Abdu'llah Khan-i-Turkaman and Habibu'llah Khan-i-Afghan.]
Baha'u'llah, accompanied by His brother Mirza Yahya, with Haji Mirza Jani of Kashan, and Mulla Baqir of Tabriz (one of the Letters of the Living), set out from Tihran to join the defenders of Shaykh Tabarsi, but they were intercepted and taken to Amul. Baha'u'llah offered to bear the punishment intended for the others, and was bastinadoed.
At dawn of February 2nd 1849, Mulla Husayn led his last sortie. 'Abbas-Quli Khan, in joint command of the Government forces, had climbed a tree and, picking out the figure of Mulla Husayn on horseback, shot him in the chest. He did not know whom he had mortally wounded, until a timorous siyyid from Qum turned traitor and informed him. Mulla Husayn was carried by his companions to the fort, where he died and was buried inside the shrine. He was thirty-five years old. Baha'u'llah wrote of him in the Kitab-i-Iqan -- The Book of Certitude: -- 'But for him, God <p175> would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory.'(10)
[1 Mirza Husayn-i-Mutavalli.]
Now Mirza Muhammad-Baqir-i-Qa'ini replaced Mulla Husayn in leading the companions. But the end could not be far off. Of the three hundred and thirteen defenders of the fortress, a number had died, many were wounded, and a few wavered in their resolve. The pressure of the forces arrayed against them increased. Cannon were levelled at them. Food became scarce and they ate grass, leaves of trees, the skin and ground bone of their slaughtered horses, the boiled leather of their saddles. 'Abdu'l-Baha speaks of their sufferings in the Memorials of the Faithful.
For eighteen days they remained without food. They lived
on the leather of their shoes. This too was soon consumed,
and they had nothing left but water. They drank a mouthful
every morning, and lay famished and exhausted in
their fort. When attacked, however, they would instantly
spring to their feet, and manifest in the face of the enemy
a magnificent courage and astonishing resistance...
Under such circumstances to maintain an unwavering
faith and patience is extremely difficult, and to endure
such dire afflictions a rare phenomenon.(11)
The end came not through abject surrender, but through the perfidy of the foe. Prince Mihdi-Quli Mirza, brother of Muhammad Shah, took a solemn oath on the Qur'an that their lives and property would be inviolate should they come out of the fortress and disperse in peace. A horse was sent for Quddus to take him to the camp of the Prince. But once the companions had been lured out of the fortress, the oath was conveniently forgotten. The Babis were massacred, the fortress was pillaged and razed to the ground. Hideous outrages were committed upon the corpses of the slain, and a vast area of the forest was strewn with their remains: disembowelled, hacked to pieces, burned. Survivors were <p176> few. No more than three or four were kept to be heavily ransomed. A few who were left for dead recovered. Still a few others were sold into slavery and eventually found their way back to the company of their fellow-believers. All the dead were Persians except two Arabs of Baghdad who had come out with Tahirih from 'Iraq.(12)
Quddus was taken to Barfurush, his native town, where Sa'idu'l-'Ulama, his pitiless foe, awaited him. Prince Mihdi-Quli Mirza, oblivious to his pledge, forsook Quddus and gave him into the hands of that bloodthirsty priest. Imprecations were heaped upon the head of the captive. He was made to suffer refined tortures and searing agonies which an insanely jealous adversary had devised for him. At the height of his torments he was heard to say:
Forgive, O my God, the trespasses of this people. Deal
with them in Thy mercy, for they know not what we
already have discovered and cherish.(13)
In the public square of Barfurush (the Sabzih-Maydan), Sa'idu'l-'Ulama struck Quddus down with an axe, and any instrument which a frenzied mob could lay its hands on was used to tear his flesh and dismember him. Then they threw his shattered, mutilated body onto a blazing fire lit in the square. That night, when all were gone, Haji Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Hamzih, a divine, humane and compassionate, universally acclaimed for his integrity, collected from the dying embers what remained of the body of the martyr, and reverently buried it.
The martyrdom of Quddus took place in the month of May 1849, seven months after his fellow-Babis had first taken refuge in the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi.(14) It marked the end of an episode which had begun; eleven months before, with the raising of the Black Standard on the plain of Khurasan; <p177> during which deeds of incredible heroism by some three hundred Babis had stunned and humiliated opposition forces vastly outnumbering them; which had witnessed the deaths of half the Letters of the Living, including the first, the Babu'l-Bab, and Quddus, the last and greatest; and which closed with acts of treachery and atrocious cruelty. Words which Quddus spoke during their occupation of the fort are a fitting commentary upon the spirit of those who defended it:
Never . . . have we under any circumstances attempted to
direct any offensive against our opponents. Not until
they unchained their attack upon us did we arise to defend
our lives. Had we cherished the ambition of waging holy
war against them, had we harboured the least intention of
achieving ascendancy through the power of our arms
over the unbelievers, we should not, until this day, have remained
besieged within these walls. The force of our arms
would have by now, as was the case with the companions
of Muhammad in days past, convulsed the nations of the
earth and prepared them for the acceptance of our Message.
Such is not our way, however, which we have
chosen to tread. Ever since we repaired to this fort, our
sole, our unalterable purpose has been the vindication,
by our deeds and by our readiness to shed our blood in
the path of our Faith, of the exalted character of our
mission. The hour is fast approaching when we shall be
able to consummate this task.(15)
The Year 1850
While Quddus and his companions were defending themselves at Shaykh Tabarsi, Babis in other parts of Persia were increasingly the victims of an intense and systematic persecution on the part of both civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The reason was not far to seek and was stated by Sheil, once more at his post in Tihran after a long period <p178> of absence, when he addressed Lord Palmerston on February 12th 1850:
. . . unluckily the proselytes are all of the Mahommedan
faith, which is inflexible in the punishment of a
relapsed Mussulman. Thus both the temporal and religious
authorities have an interest in the extermination
of this sect.
It is conjectured that in Teheran this religion has
acquired votaries in every class, not even excluding the
artillery and regular Infantry -- Their numbers in this
city, it is supposed, may amount to about two thousand.(16)
Sheil's dispatches took note of four occurrences in particular, in the year 1850: the execution of the Bab, the episodes of Nayriz and Zanjan, and the public martyrdom of seven Babis in Tihran.
[1 See ch. 12.]
The Episode of Nayriz
The incomparable Vahid -- Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi -- the trusted emissary whom Muhammad Shah had sent to investigate the claims of the Bab and who had returned His devoted supporter -- was in Yazd in the early weeks of 1850, fearlessly proclaiming the advent of the Qa'im in the person of the Bab. Unwise acts by a purported fellow-believer put his life in danger in that city, and he was forced to leave secretly for Nayriz in the province of Fars. On hearing of his approach, the people of his native quarter of Chinar Sukhtih who loved and honoured Vahid, together with a number of the notables of Nayriz, went out to meet him, thus bringing on their families threats of dire punishment by the Governor of Nayriz, Zaynu'l-'Abidin Khan, who was fearful and desired to prevent Vahid's entry to the <p179> town.(17) But these warnings went unheeded; Vahid continued his journey and on arrival at his native quarter, went straight to the Masjid-i-Jum'ih where, ascending the pulpit, he addressed a congregation estimated to have numbered fifteen hundred. He said:
[1 See Appendix 3. Vahid, as a man of influence, possessed houses in Yazd, Nayriz, and his native town of Darab.]
My sole purpose in coming to Nayriz is to proclaim the
Cause of God. I thank and glorify Him for having enabled
me to touch your hearts with His Message. No need for
me to tarry any longer in your midst, for if I prolong my
stay, I fear that the governor will ill-treat you because of
me. He may seek reinforcement from Shiraz and destroy
your homes and subject you to untold indignities.(18)
But the people refused to let him go, for they were willing and prepared, they assured him, to meet any misfortune and hardship that might overtake them.
Zaynu'l-'Abidin Khan, thwarted in his efforts to prevent Vahid's entrance into Nayriz, and aroused to fury by the influence he was exerting on the populace, schemed to entrap and arrest him. For this purpose he recruited a thousand trained soldiers. Some of those who had joined Vahid now broke away and forsook him, thus adding to the strength of his opponents. The menace posed by the Governor became so severe that Vahid could find no way to secure the safety of his people and himself, other than by taking refuge with seventy-two of his companions in the fort of Khajih outside Nayriz. The Governor sent his brother, 'Ali-Asghar Khan, to attack this small band with the force he had gathered. They did not succeed, but his brother was killed in the engagement. The Babis now lived under conditions of siege, and their water supply was cut off. They build a water-cistern, strengthened their fort, and were reinforced by additional residents of Nayriz. Meanwhile, appeals were being made by Zaynu'l-'Abidin Khan for assistance from Shiraz, until the Governor-General of <p180> Fars, Prince Firuz Mirza (the Nusratu'd-Dawlih), who had ordered the extermination of the besieged Babis, sent an army to conclude the affair.(19) Even this large force could not overcome the resistance of the defenders of the fortress. Not only did victory elude it, but heavy losses were suffered.
[1 Sheil, reporting to Lord Palmerston on July 22nd 1850, stated that the defenders 'twice repulsed the Shah's troops.' (F.O. 60/152.)]
What had happened at Shaykh Tabarsi was now reenacted in Nayriz. Zaynu'l-'Abidin Khan and his associates resorted to fraud to overcome the Babis. They suspended their attack and sent a written message to Vahid, which said, in effect:
Hitherto, as we were ignorant of the true character of
your Faith, we have allowed the mischief-makers to
induce us to believe that every one of you has violated
the sacred precepts of Islam. Therefore did we arise
against you, and have endeavoured to extirpate your
Faith. During the last few days, we have been made
aware of the fact that your activities are untinged by any
political motive, that none of you cherish any inclination
to subvert the foundations of the State. We also have been
convinced of the fact that your teachings do not involve
any grave departure from the fundamental teachings of
Islam. All that you seem to uphold is the claim that a man
has appeared whose words are inspired and whose testimony
is certain, and whom all the followers of Islam
must recognise and support. We can in no wise be convinced
of the validity of this claim unless you consent to
repose the utmost confidence in our sincerity, and accept
our request to allow certain of your representatives to
emerge from the fort and meet us in this camp, where we
can, within the space of a few days, ascertain the character
of your belief. If you prove yourselves able to demonstrate
the true claims of your Faith, we too will readily <p181>
embrace it, for we are not the enemies of truth, and none
of us wish to deny it. Your leader we have always recognised
as one of the ablest champions of Islam, and we
regard him as our example and guide. This Qur'an, to
which we affix our seals, is the witness to the integrity of
our purpose. Let that holy Book decide whether the claim
you advance is true or false. The malediction of God and
His Prophet rest upon us if we should attempt to deceive
you. Your acceptance of our invitation will save a whole
army from destruction, whilst your refusal will leave them
in suspense and doubt. We pledge our word that as soon
as we are convinced of the truth of your Message, we shall
strive to display the same zeal and devotion you already
have so strikingly manifested. Your friends will be our
friends, and your enemies our enemies. Whatever your
leader may choose to command, the same we pledge
ourselves to obey. On the other hand, if we fail to be
convinced of the truth of your claim, we solemnly promise
that we shall in no wise interfere with your safe
return to the fort, and shall be willing to resume our
contest against you. We entreat you to refuse to shed more
blood before attempting to establish the truth of your
Vahid was well aware of the dishonesty of this message; nevertheless, he walked out in person, with five attendants, into the camp of his enemies, where he was received for three days with great ceremony. But all the while they were planning a stratagem to overcome the occupants of the fort. Under duress, they compelled Vahid to write a letter to his people, assuring them that a settlement had been reached, and that they should abandon the fortress and return to their homes. Vahid attempted to caution his companions against this treachery in a second letter which was never delivered to them. Thus, within a month, did the defenders of the fort of Khajih meet the same fate as the defenders of Shaykh Tabarsi. <p182>
Four years later, a divine of Nayriz, a man who was just and truthful and courageous, wrote the whole story of that episode high on an inner wall of the Masjid-i-Jum'ih in the Bazar quarter. Although he had to write with circumspection to avoid being denounced, he composed his narrative in such a way that one can, without difficulty, read more of it between the lines. His account bears out the fact that Vahid was given solemn assurances, that he was received with great esteem and reverence, that those who had pledged their word broke their pledges, that the quarter of Chinar-Sukhtih, which was then a stronghold of the Babis of Nayriz, and the quarter of the Bazar were sacked, that houses were demolished, huge sums of money extorted, and Nayriz was reduced to a state of desolation.
[1 Siyyid Ibrahim, the son of Siyyid Husayn.]
[2 It is populated today by Baha'is.]
The circumstances of Vahid's martyrdom recall the tragedy of Karbila. All alone, he was assailed in the streets of Nayriz, as Imam Husayn, whose descendant he was, had been assailed on the Euphrates plain. There the body of the Imam had been trampled into the dust by the hooves of horses, and in Nayriz the corpse of Vahid suffered similar indignities. When the victorious army marched back to Shiraz, it took as prisoners women and children, with the heads of the martyrs of Nayriz raised aloft on lances. Damascus had witnessed a similar scene centuries before, when the family of the martyred Husayn, which included his only surviving son, was paraded in its streets, to be led into the court of the tyrant Yazid, preceded by the head of the Imam and those of his sons and brothers and nephews -- the flower of the House of Muhammad.
The Seven Martyrs of Tihran
At the beginning of 1850, seven Babis were arrested in Tihran, charged with plotting to assassinate the Grand <p183> Vizier. They are known as the Seven Martyrs of Tihran. The accusation was palpably false. There were many Babis in Tihran better equipped to engage in such an exercise. But more significant, all seven were men of outstanding character and repute, and respected by their countrymen. The real reason for their arrest was their espousal of the Faith of the Bab. Although efforts were made by men high in the professions they represented, to persuade them to give lip-denial to their most sacred beliefs, they steadfastly refused and were beheaded.
The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith has vividly described this terrible scene, which was enacted in a public square of Tihran (the Sabzih-Maydan):
The defiant answers which they flung at their persecutors;
the ecstatic joy which seized them as they drew near the
scene of their death; the jubilant shouts they raised as they
faced their executioner; the poignancy of the verses which,
in their last moments, some of them recited; the appeals
and challenges they addressed to the multitude of onlookers
who gazed with stupefaction upon them; the
eagerness with which the last three victims strove to
precede one another in sealing their faith with their blood;
and lastly, the atrocities which a bloodthirsty foe degraded
itself by inflicting upon their dead bodies which lay
unburied for three days and three nights in the Sabzih-Maydan,
during which time thousands of so-called devout
Shi'ah kicked their corpses, spat upon their faces, pelted,
cursed, derided, and heaped refuse upon them -- these
were the chief features of the tragedy of the Seven Martyrs
of Tihran, a tragedy which stands out as one of the
grimmest scenes witnessed in the course of the early unfoldment
of the Faith of Baha'u'llah.(21)
Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, the uncle of the Bab, was one of these martyrs. He had recently returned from his visit to the Bab in Chihriq (see p. 150) and could easily have left the <p184> capital, when rumours were rife following the events of Mazindaran and Yazd. But he fearlessly stayed on, spurned all efforts made to induce him to recant, and met death gladly in the path of his Nephew.
The other six were: Mirza Qurban-'Ali of Barfurush, Haji Mulla Isma'il-i-Qumi, Siyyid Husayn-i-Turshizi, Haji Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Kirmani, Siyyid Murtaday-i-Zanjani and Aqa Muhammad-Husayn-i-Maraghi'i.
Mirza Qurban-'Ali had been a Ni'matu'llahi dervish, and a leading figure of that mystic order. He was well-known in the ruling circles of the capital and greatly respected. Mirza Taqi Khan (the Grand Vizier) particularly wished to save him, but the faith of the dervish remained unshakable. At his execution, the first blow of the executioner's sword only knocked his turban off his head, whereupon he recited aloud:
Happy he whom love's intoxication
So hath overcome that scarce he knows
Whether at the feet of the Beloved
It be head or turban which he throws!(22)
Haji Mulla Isma'il had been a disciple of Siyyid Kazim. Even at the moment of his execution, someone came up to him with a message from a friend, pleading with him to recant, but his answer was:
Zephyr, prythee bear for me a message
To that Ishmael who was not slain,
'Living from the street of the Beloved
Love permits not to return again.'(23)
[1 Ishmael (Isma'il), the son of Abraham, by Hagar.]
Haji Muhammad-Taqi and Siyyid Murtada were merchants of note, and Siyyid Husayn had been a divine famed <p185> for his piety. Siyyid Murtada was a brother of that Siyyid Kazim-i-Zanjani who attended the Bab during His journey to Isfahan and later fell a martyr at Shaykh Tabarsi. Aqa Muhammad-Husayn had been tortured to betray his companions, but he would not implicate innocent men in fictitious plots.
The Bab, from his remote prison in Chihriq and already overwhelmed by calamity, eulogized these heroic men as the 'Seven Goats' of Islamic tradition, who would precede the promised Qa'im, their true Shepherd, to His own martyrdom.
[1 See Appendix 4.]
The Episode of Zanjan
The fiercest and most devastating of the three military actions against the Babis began in Zanjan, in May 1850 after the return of Hujjat from his detention in Tihran. (See p. 125.) Although he had enjoyed the protection of Muhammad Shah in his defence of the Faith of the Bab, he was feared and hated as an infidel by the divines of Zanjan. With the death of the Shah and the accession to power of Mirza Taqi Khan under the succeeding reign, he was the object of a concealed hostility on the part of the authorities, while enjoying the devoted loyalty and affection of countless men and women of his native town.
A small quarrel between children, in which Hujjat intervened to save the Babi child, sparked into flame the smoldering animosity against Hujjat and a plan was made to seize and bring him before the Governor. Failing in this, his opponents subjected one of his companions to painful injury and death. Then, by the Governor's decree, Zanjan was split into two opposing camps, a large number of men were recruited from surrounding villages, and Hujjat and his companions were forced to seek safety in the nearby fort of 'Ali-Mardan Khan. Counting women and children, about <p186> three thousand of Hujjat's supporters entered the fort, which they held against repeated attack and siege for almost nine months.
Edward Granville Browne, who visited Zanjan nearly forty years later, could find no natural advantages in the fort to account for the 'desperate resistance offered by the Babis', and concluded that their success in holding off the vastly superior regiments of the Shah should 'be attributed less to the strength of the position which they occupied than to the extraordinary valour with which they defended themselves'.(24) They were sustained in their cruel ordeal by the indomitable Hujjat, whom no calamity could overcome, and by the tenacity of their own devotion to the Bab, their promised Qa'im. A British observer in the 'Persian camp before Zenjan' reported to Sheil in Tihran:
They [the Babis] fight in the most obstinate and spirited
manner, the women even, of whom several have been
killed, engaging in the strife -- and they are such excellent
marksmen that up to this time a good many have fallen
of the Government troops.(25)
The most celebrated of the women was a village girl, Zaynab, who dressed as a man and, for five months until her death in the struggle, guarded the ramparts with the men. Hujjat gave her the name of Rustam-'Ali.
Finding that all efforts to defeat the Babis were fruitless, the commander determined to adopt the same treacherous tactics as had succeeded at Tabarsi and Nayriz. He drew up a proposal for peace, assuring the defenders of the forgiveness of the Shah and pledging with a sealed copy of the Qur'an the safety of all who would leave the fort. Hujjat, fully conscious of their intentions but honouring the Qur'an, sent a delegation of nine young children and men over eighty to the camp of the commander. They were insolently <p187> received and most were thrown into a dungeon. It was the signal for a final month-long siege, in which some eighteen regiments were brought into action, subjecting the now famished and depleted Babis to a constant bombardment of cannon. With the wounding of Hujjat, the fort was captured, but its occupants continued their struggle from nearby houses, throwing the opposing army into despair. Then Hujjat's wife and baby son were killed, and a few days later he himself died of his wounds. There were left of the Babis only two hundred able-bodied men who were struck down in a fierce attack. When the survivors had been inhumanly tortured, killed and their bodies mutilated, the body of Hujjat was discovered and exposed for three days to dishonour in the public square. Hands unknown rescued and carried it away. Already Hujjat's eight-year-old son had been 'literally cut into small pieces', and the wives and daughters of the Babis were handed over to the soldiers.(26)
[1 See Appendix 5. ]
Yet never had the martyrs of Zanjan sought a holy war, nor contemplated disloyalty to their country and sovereign. Assailed by enemies who purposed only their destruction, they had courageously defended themselves. The spirit of their defence shines in these words of Hujjat in his last days:
The day whereon I found Thy beloved One, O my God,
and recognised in Him the Manifestation of Thy eternal
Spirit, I foresaw the woes that I should suffer for Thee
. . . Would that a myriad lives were mine, would that
I possessed the riches of the whole earth and its glory,
that I might resign them all freely and joyously in Thy
On January 6th 1851 Sheil closed his reports on Zanjan:
For the present, the doctrines of Bab have received a
check -- In every part of Persia his disciples have been <p188>
crushed or scattered -- But though there is a cessation of
the open promulgation of his tenets, it is believed that
in secret they are not the less cherished . . .(28)
The Dawn-Breakers had paid dearly with their lives that the Faith of the Bab might live on. And it did live on, to attain its efflorescence in the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. <p189>
I am the Primal Point from which have been generated
all created things . . . I am the Countenance of God Whose
splendor can never be obscured, the Light of God Whose
radiance can never fade . . . I am one of the sustaining
pillars of the Primal Word of God. Whosoever hath recognized
Me, hath known all that is true and right, and
hath attained all that is good and seemly.
-- The Bab
On the third day after the martyrdom of the Bab, His remains, inextricably united with those of His heroic, faithful disciple, were placed in a casket and taken to a locality which was safe and secure.
What happened, during the next fifty years, to the remains of the Bab cannot be better summarized than in the words of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith:
Subsequently, according to Baha'u'llah's instructions,
they were transported to Tihran and placed in the shrine
of Imam-Zadih Hasan. They were later removed to the
residence of Haji Sulayman Khan himself in the Sar-Chashmih
quarter of the city, and from his house were
taken to the shrine of Imam-Zadih Ma'sum, where they
remained concealed until the year 1284 A.H. (1867-1868),
when a Tablet, revealed by Baha'u'llah in Adrianople
directed Mulla 'Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi and Jamal-i-Burujirdi
to transfer them without delay to some other <p190>
spot, an instruction which, in view of the subsequent
reconstruction of that shrine, proved to have been providential.
[1 He was, as we have seen, instrumental in rescuing the remains of the Bab.]
[2 Also known generally as Haji Akhund. He was a Hand of the Cause, appointed by Baha'u'llah.]
Unable to find a suitable place in the suburb of Shah
'Abdu'l-'Azim, Mulla 'Ali-Akbar and his companion
continued their search until, on the road leading to
Chashmih-'Ali [the 'Ali Springs], they came upon the
abandoned and dilapidated Masjid-i-Masha'u'llah, where
they deposited, within one of its walls, after dark, their
precious burden, having first re-wrapt the remains in a
silken shroud brought by them for that purpose. Finding
the next day to their consternation that the hiding-place
had been discovered, they clandestinely carried the casket
through the gate of the capital direct to the house of
Mirza Hasan-i-Vazir, a believer and son-in-law of Haji
Mirza Siyyid 'Aliy-i-Tafrishi, the Majdu'l-Ashraf, where
it remained for no less than fourteen months. The long-guarded
secret of its whereabouts becoming known to the
believers, they began to visit the house in such numbers
that a communication had to be addressed by Mulla
'Ali-Akbar to Baha'u'llah, begging for guidance in the
matter. Haji Shah Muhammad-i-Manshadi, surnamed
Aminu'l-Bayan, was accordingly commissioned to receive
the Trust from him, and bidden to exercise the utmost
secrecy as to its disposal.
[1 Thieves must have seen Haji Akhund and Jamal-i-Burujirdi place the casket in a niche and brick it up. Whoever they were, they moved some of the bricks and broke open the casket, but finding that it did not contain any valuables they left it alone.]
[2 In the house of Mirza Hasan-i-Vazir, the remains were either deposited in a new casket, or the original broken casket was put inside a larger one. Some pieces of blood-stained and torn linen must have fallen out, when the remains were being secured. Many years later, Dr. Yunis Khan-i-Afrukhtih, in the course of professional attendance upon the family of Majdu'l-Ashraf, learned that they had in their possession pieces of linen soaked with the blood of the Bab. Dr. Afrukhtih persuaded them to part with those precious relics. They are now in the International Archives of the Baha'i Faith.] <p191>
Assisted by another believer, Haji Shah Muhammad
buried the casket beneath the floor of the inner sanctuary
of the shrine of Imam-Zadih Zayd, where it lay undetected
until Mirza Asadu'llah-i-Isfahani was informed of its exact
location through a chart forwarded to him by Baha'u'llah.
Instructed by Baha'u'llah to conceal it elsewhere, he first
removed the remains to his own house in Tihran, after
which they were deposited in several other localities
such as the house of Husayn-'Aliy-i-Isfahani and that of
Muhammad-Karim-i-'Attar, where they remained hidden
until the year 1316 (1899) A.H., when, in pursuance of
directions issued by 'Abdu'l-Baha, this same Mirza
Asadu'llah, together with a number of other believers,
transported them by way of Isfahan, Kirmanshah,
Baghdad and Damascus, to Beirut and thence by sea to
'Akka, arriving at their destination on the 19th of the
month of Ramadan 1316 A.H. (January 31, 1899),
fifty lunar years after the Bab's execution in Tabriz.(1)
Forty years after the martyrdom of the Bab, on a day in spring, Baha'u'llah was standing under the shade of a cluster of cypress trees on the slopes of Mount Carmel. In front of Him stretched the curve of the Bay of Haifa, beyond which loomed a sinister sight, the grim citadel of 'Akka -- His first abode when He was brought, a Prisoner and an Exile, to the Holy Land. In darkest days He had told His people not to grieve, the prison gates would open and He would raise His tent on the fair mountain across the bay.
He it was Whose advent the Bab had come to herald. For Him -- He Whom God shall make manifest -- the young Martyr-Prophet had suffered tribulations, had sacrificed His life. In His Dispensation, the Dispensation of His Forerunner had found its fulfilment, regained its splendour. And now as Baha'u'llah -- the Lord of Hosts -- looked at the expanse of rock below those cypress trees (which today still stand, firm and proud), He told His Son, 'Abdu'l-Baha, who would shortly wield authority in His Name, that a mausoleum <p192> should be raised on that mountain-mass to receive the remains of the Bab.
A decade went by before 'Abdu'l-Baha could carry out that command. The sons of Baha'u'llah, who had strayed away from His Covenant, strove hard to block the enterprise. But at last the land was secured, the access route was obtained, the foundation-stone was laid, and construction work had begun. Then the mischief wrought by those violators of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah led to the incarceration of 'Abdu'l-Baha within the walls of 'Akka. His life was in peril, but though, for a while, all His activities were either curtailed or stopped, the work of constructing that mausoleum on Mount Carmel was never allowed to lapse.
In the year 1908, the despotism of the Ottoman rulers came to an end, and 'Abdu'l-Baha found His freedom. The next year on Naw-Ruz Day -- March 21st -- in a vault beneath the building which He had raised with undaunted resolution and with heart-ache, He deposited the casket containing the remains of the Bab within a marble sarcophagus, the gift of the Baha'is of Rangoon. Nearly forty years later, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, undertook to adorn the Shrine of the Bab with a superstructure, both strong and beautiful, crowned with a golden dome. Today it shines dazzlingly in the heart of Mount Carmel -- the Mountain of God -- a spiritual home for a flourishing world community and a beacon of hope for the whole of mankind. <p193>
THE SIEGE OF KARBILA
The best and fullest account of the upheavals in Karbila is contained in a sixty-six-page dispatch from Lt.-Col. Farrant, the British Special Commissioner, to Sir Stratford Canning (later Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe), the British Ambassador in Istanbul.(1) His description of the position and the condition of Karbila is particularly worthy of note:
'The town of Kerbella is situated about four hours distance from the right bank of the Euphrates on the confines of the Syrian desert, south south west of Bagdad about 55 miles distant, and is about 1 [and] 3/4[ths] miles in circumference, surrounded by a brick wall about 24 feet high with twenty nine bastions each of which is capable of containing one gun -- it contains 3400 houses of a very inferior description; the houses closely crowded together approach within three yards of the wall -- the streets are very narrow, the tops of the houses are surrounded by a brick parapet and can be fired from without exposure, it has six gates three of which are very small -- The tomb of Imaum Hossein is a fine building and stands nearly in the centre of the town, that of his brother Abbas in the South East quarter about two hundred and fifty yards from the Najif gate. The town is surrounded by gardens which approach close to the walls, leaving only a small footpath. The gardens are filled with huge date trees, intersected with numerous ditches, and extend to some distance from the town which is not perceptible until you are close under the walls. Its strength <p194> consists in its situation, but it appeared to me that a few good troops ought to be able to take it in a short time. The houses mostly belonged to Persians who have left their country and settled there for generations. Many of the rich men in Persia have houses and land there, that in time of need they may have a safe place of refuge, or wishing in their old age to retire to a place held in such veneration by them-
'The population varies from ten thousand to twenty thousand and eighty thousand, it is always fluctuating, and I was informed that during the time the pilgrims arrive, the streets are almost impassable -- The houses are mostly divided into several small courts, occasionally one hundred persons are crowded into one of these houses, which to outward appearance could with difficulty contain half that number -- The poorer pilgrims take up their abodes in the Courts of the Mosques-
'The working classes at Kerbella viz Bakers small shopkeepers day labourers c were all Persians.'
Najib Pasha had warned the Persian, the British and the French Agents that he intended to attack Karbila. In a long letter addressed to the Persian Agent in Baghdad dated Shavval 16th 1258 (November 18th 1842), he had, after detailing the history of the rebellion in Karbila and its consequences, uttered this clear warning:
'Being, however, near the shrines of Ali & Hoosein [Husayn] I thought it my duty to visit them; with this auspicious determination I proceeded thither, when the rebel above named [Ibrahim Za'farani] declared that if I came with troops he would not permit my entrance; and I ascertained that he had also prepared the means of opposition. To withdraw in this position of affairs from my publickly announced purpose was a difficult step; & should the report of it spread abroad, it might, God forbid, affect the <p195> whole order of government, the rejection, too, of the petitions of loyal & suffering subjects, who are the most sacred charge of the deity to us, is contrary to all the rules requirements of justice; I therefore, determined to proceed under the Imperial shadow, and the aid of the Almighty to the punishment of the rebels, as a warning example to his equals; & if, as I hear, he is prepared for resistance he shall submit to my entrance by force. There are many subjects of Iran in the town alluded to; let there hereafter be no claims, on the part of that high power, in behalf of these persons; let them come out with their children, families and property . . . in fact they must not be in that town in the hour of hostility, as this is quite inconsistent with the state of the town & place. You must therefore in compliance with your duty in such cases, without delay, inform, all those whom it may concern, of these facts; for which friendly aid this letter is written and despatched; and, please God you will doubtless thus act on the receipt thereof, without delay favour me with a reply to the same.'(2)
[1 In the dispatch, his name is spelt Ibrahim Zaffranee.]
However, no warning was given to the Persians to quit Karbila as Farrant's report makes clear: 'The Mollahs also excited the religious feelings of the peoples, making them believe it was a common cause, a religious war, a Persian seyd who was present, stated to me that many of the Persians fought or gave assistance, that he amongst many did not leave the town, thinking it would not be taken, and rumours were spread that the Shah was sending a large force to their assistance, he also stated that those Persians who were unfitted or refused to bear arms were obliged to give money . . . likewise they considered themselves safe, as their Consul did not come to order them away.'
Instead, Farrant reports: 'The Persian Consul in reply to the Pacha begged him to postpone his intended attack, that if the town was taken by assault many innocent people (Persian subjects) would suffer, who at present were unable <p196> to come away . . . that if he would delay his expedition for four or six months to give the Persians time to arrange their affairs, he would proceed to Kerbella, and bring the Persians away, and arrange everything for him.
'Three days before receiving the Pacha's letter, the Consul asserts he wrote privately to the Chief Priest Hajee Seid Kausem saying "we hear the Pacha will move on Kerbella, and if he is determined, he will certainly come, he is not an Ali Pacha -- tell the Persians they had better come out -- " After the receipt of the Pacha's official letter he again wrote to the Chief Priest [Siyyid Kazim] of the Pacha's fixed determination, and requested him to tell all the Persians to quit the town -- This letter he sent by a confidential person, but it appears it never reached, as the Chief Priest declares he never wrote to him, although he requested him to come to Kerbella -- '
Farrant goes on to say: 'The Pacha would not listen to the propositions of the Consul -- H.R.H. The Zel-i Sultan (son of the late Shah of Persia, a refugee) accompanied by Hajee Seid Kausem Chief Priest, Seid Wahab Governor of Kerbella, Seid Hossainee and Seid Nasseroola [Siyyid Nasru'llah], influential people of Kerbella, came to the Pacha's camp at Mossaib and remained four days -- The Pacha told them he did not wish to injure the people, that Kerbella was in rebellion and belonged to the Sultan . . .' However, he was willing to make concessions, should the people of Karbila submit to his rule and let soldiers be stationed in their city.
[1 The nominal Governor. He was either willingly or by force of circumstances allied to the rebels.]
Farrant further relates: 'The Pacha told His R.H. the Zel i Sultan and Chief Priest before leaving his camp to warn all Persians to separate themselves from the Geramees (and gave the Prince a paper to that effect) that if they could not leave the town, they should retire altogether to one <p197> quarter of it, or else with their families and property seek protection in the Courts of the tombs of Hoossein and Abbas, for he was determined to proceed to extremities if the Kerbellai's refused to submit to his orders . . .'
Farrant reports a second excursion by Haji Siyyid Kazim and 'Ali-Shah, the Zillu's-Sultan, on behalf of the people of Karbila, this time to the camp of Sa'du'llah Pasha, the Colonel commissioned by Najib Pasha to invest the city. 'About the 1st January ,' writes Farrant, 'the Persian Consul accompanied by Seid Ibrahim Kasveenee arrived at Najib Pacha's camp at Mossaib from Bagdad -- 'The army had now been eleven days before Kerbella and much fighting had taken place, and many on both sides had been killed.' The talks which Mulla 'Abdu'l-'Aziz (Persian Consul) and Siyyid Ibrahim had with Najib Pasha bore no result, and as Farrant reports: 'The Consul and Chief Priest returned to Bagdad, they had been four or five days in the Pacha's camp -- The Chief Priest in Kerbella Hajee Seid Kausem it is said (he told me also the same thing) wrote to the Persian Consul and Seid Ibrahim Kasveenee begging the former to come on to Kerbella, that "his presence was necessary, it was the hour of danger" -- This letter was received by them after they had quitted the Pacha's camp about two hours. Rumours in the town were very prevalent, that the Shah of Persia was sending an army of twenty thousand men to their assistance, which gave great confidence to the Persians inside -- Persians have informed me that they heard these reports and many believed them, also they have most positively assured me that their Consul never wrote or communicated with them, and on learning, that he had returned to Bagdad, did not consider there was any danger. The Consul asserts he wrote to the Chief Priest Hajee Seid Kausem, which the latter most positively denies . . .
[1 Siyyid Ibrahim-i-Qazvini, the adversary of Siyyid Kazim, who had left Karbila altogether during this turbulent period.] <p198>
'. . . The walls were daily crowded,' Farrant writes, 'by the inhabitants who vented the grossest abuse on the Sultan, and cursed the soldiers and their religion. The chief people in Kerbella did all in their power to excite the religious feelings of the Sheeahs against the Soonies, the Priests also were most active, I have been told, and as they could not fight, repaired any damages the walls might receive. They prayed also in the Mosques encouraging and exciting the people by telling them it was a religious war.'
And then came the final assault. Farrant reports: 'Before daylight on the 13 January the storming party moved from Camp accompanied by the main body which halted at the battery, a soldier advanced and clambered up the breach, observing that the guards had left their posts, and the few who remained were asleep at the bottom of the wall round a fire -- he returned to the Seraskier and reported what he had seen-
"The storming party was then ordered to move forward . . .'
There was panic and slaughter. Farrant states that the sanctuary of the tomb of 'Abbas was violated, but Sa'du'llah Pasha personally intervened to prevent the desecration of the Shrine of Imam Husayn. The boastful leaders fled the city and as Farrant puts it: 'The principal cause of the late affair at Kerbella may be ascribed to the chiefs of that place who supported the Geramees in opposition to the Government, and in the time of danger withdrew from the contest and left the innocent and helpless to the fury of the soldiers.' 'Many flung themselves over the walls and were dashed to pieces,' Farrant reports, 'whilst others sought shelter in the houses of H.R.H. The Zil i Sultan and Hajee Seid Kausem [Siyyid Kazim] Chief Priest, the latter shewed me a court in his house where 66 persons of all ages and sexes were suffocated, or crushed to death flying from the fury of the soldiers . . .' <p199>
Farrant further reports: 'No Prince of the Royal blood nor any Persian of rank were [sic] killed, the sufferers were all of the poorer classes, small shopkeepers and labourers, also a few learned men -- The wife of Prince Holakoo Meerza [Hulaku Mirza] was severely wounded by a soldier (she is closely connected with the Shah of Persia being a daughter of the late Hoossein Ali Meerza Prince Governor of Fars) . . . The Secretary of Seid Ibrahim Kasveenee Chief Priest; Seid Mahomed Ali Moosvee [Siyyid Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Musavi] was seized by the soldiers and forced to carry outside the walls some plunder for them, he stated who he was, but it was of no avail, on arriving outside the gate, they cut off his head and took it to the cashier of the Seraskier Pacha for a reward -- he was a young man much respected . . . The house of Alee Werdee Khan ['Ali-Virdi Khan] (an uncle of the present Shah) was also entered by the soldiers, this house was defended by the Arabs. The Khan jumped into a well to save his life, one of his servants went and informed the Seraskier who immediately sent some men to his relief -- The Khan was taken to the Seraskier nearly dead with cold, who sent him into the haram [Shrine] of Hoossein for safety -- Why the Khan did not leave the town before the siege is a mystery, it is said that he was very active in advising the Persians to remain in the town -- '
The exaggerated reports from Mulla 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, the Persian Agent in Baghdad, had served to heighten the crisis. He had apparently been slack in the exercise of his duties and when the siege was over, alarmed by the magnitude of the disaster, he endeavoured to make a quick getaway from Baghdad. Although the following report which he made to the Prime Minister of Iran, Haji Mirza Aqasi, is unreliable and highly-coloured, it is of sufficient interest to reproduce.
'In short,' he wrote, 'there is no one left in Kerbelah, and of those who are alive, they are either wounded, naked or destitute of property. According to what is described, about <p200> 5,000 persons were killed in the shrine of Abbass, and property pillaged is beyond estimate -- no one has anything left. Whatever the people of Persia possessed was brought to this place; afterwards it will become known, what quantity of Persian property was there . . . Whatever Ali Nakee Meerza ['Ali-Naqi Mirza] and Imam Verdee Meerza [Imam-Virdi Mirza] (sons of Fatteh Ali Shah [Fath-'Ali Shah]) possessed was plundered even to the stripping naked their wives . . . The wives of the people who were not killed were made captives . . . Moollah Ali a person belonging to Ali Pasha, who is at present in the service of Mahomed Nejeeb Pasha, interceded for the women -- Sadoollah Pasha (Colonel) replied, that "the troops being without women, they must remain some nights with them, after which we will dismiss them" . . .
[1 'Abbas was a brother of Imam Husayn.]
'Besides what I have related, the two shrines were converted into barracks, and all the troops which are in Kerbelah have been quartered in the two shrines with their horses and cattle -- They have tied their cattle in the apartments of the shrine and the college, and the troops have made their own quarters in the corridor and private apartments, and twice a day their drums and band play within the shrine -- On whatever persons they wish to inflict punishment, it is done within the shrine of Imam Hoossein . . . The remainder of the Sheeahs, who are in Nejeff Hillah, Kazimeyn and Bagdad are dispirited to such a degree, that they have not the courage to weep at this calamity --
'All those who were in the private apartments of Hajee Syed Kazim (Chief Priest) and in the house of Ali Shah (Zil.e.Sultan) remained in safety -- at the most about 200 persons were killed in the outer apartments of Hajee Syed Kazim . . .
'From the commencement to the close of the siege occupied 24 days -- and from the day that the Pasha informed me, <p201> he would send troops against Kerbelah until they arrived there occupied 15 days, and notwithstanding my wishes that he would delay, until the people of Persia should quit Kerbelah, he neither gave any delay nor opportunity for their doing so . . .
'On account of these circumstances, the stay of your devoted servant in Bagdad is needless -- As yet I have received no money from Kermanshah, if you were graciously pleased to grant it, and wrote to the Shoojah ood. dowleh [Shuja'u'd-Dawlih], to send some money speedily to me your devoted servant, to pay some of my debts, it is possible that I might be able to bring the Zil.i.Sultan along with me.'(3)
[1 Mulla 'Abdu'l-'Aziz dared not go to Karbila because he feared his creditors. Siyyid Kazim had urged him to visit the holy city.]
[2 Zillu's-Sultan was not in a distressed condition, and his presence in Iran was not welcomed.]
'The latest accounts from Kerbella,' wrote Lt.-Col. Farrant at the end of his long report on the siege, 'state the town to be perfectly quiet and its population daily increasing.' <p202>
THE MARTYRDOM OF THE BAB
The martyrdom of the Bab was reported by Lt.-Col. Sheil to Lord Palmerston, the British Foreign Secretary, on July 22nd 1850:
'The founder of this sect has been executed at Tabreez -- He was killed by a volley of musketry, and his death was on the point of giving his religion a lustre which would have largely increased its proselytes. When the smoke and dust cleared away after the volley, Bab was not to be seen, and the populace proclaimed that he had ascended to the skies-The balls had broken the ropes by which he was bound, but he was dragged from the recess where after some search, he was discovered, and shot.
'His death according to the belief of his disciples will make no difference, as Bab must always exist.'(1)
At the time of the martyrdom of the Bab, R. W. Stevens, the British Consul, was absent from Tabriz, and his brother, George, was left in charge of the Consulate. The latter had failed to report the event to Sheil. On July 24th, R. W. Stevens, back at his post, rectified that omission and added that the body of the Bab and His disciple had been 'thrown into the Town ditch where they were devoured by dogs.'(2) Sheil wrote to Palmerston, on August 15th, that 'Although the advice and opinions of foreign agents are generally unpalatable to the Persian Minister, I nevertheless think it my duty to bring under his observation any flagrant abuse or outrage that reaches my knowledge. I persuade myself that on such occasions notwithstanding the absence of <p203> acknowledgment on the part of the Ameer-i-Nizam [Mirza Taqi Khan, the Grand Vizier], he may perhaps privately take steps for applying a remedy.' He went on to say that the Consul at Tabriz had reported that the body of the Bab 'by order of the Ameer-i-Nizam's brother, was thrown into the ditch of the town to be devoured by dogs, which actually happened.'(3) He enclosed the copy of the letter he had written to the Grand Vizier on this subject. This is what he wrote to Mirza Taqi Khan:
'Your Excellency is aware of the warm interest taken by the British Government in all that concerns the honor respectability and credit of this Government, and it is on this account I make you acquainted with a recent occurrence in Tabreez which perhaps has not been brought to Your Excellency's knowledge -- The execution of the Pretender Bab in that city was accompanied by a circumstance which if published in the Gazettes of Europe would throw the utmost discredit on the Persian Ministers. After that person was put to death, his body by orders of the Vezeer.i.Nizam was thrown into the ditch of the town to be devoured by dogs which actually happened -- This act resembles the deeds of bye gone ages, and could not I believe now occur in any country between China and England -- Feeling satisfied that it did not receive Your Excellency's sanction, and knowing what sentiments it would excite in Europe, I have thought it proper to write this friendly communication, not to let you remain in ignorance of the occurrence.'(4)
Palmerston wrote back on October 8th: '. . . Her Majesty's Government approve of your having called the attention of the Ameer-i-Nizam . . . to the manner in which the corpse of the Pretender Bab was treated after his execution at Tabreez.'(5) <p204>
PRELUDE TO THE EPISODE OF NAYRIZ
On February 12th 1850, Lt.-Col. Sheil, back at his post in Tihran after a long leave of absence, reported to Lord Palmerston:
'. . . a serious outbreak lately took place at Yezd, which however the Governor of that city with the assistance of the priesthood succeeded in quelling -- 'The exciters of the insurrection were the partizans of the new Sect called Babee, who assembled in such numbers as to force the Governor to take refuge in the citadel, to which they laid siege -- The Moollas conscious that the progress of Babeeism is the decay of their own supremacy determined to rescue the Governor, and summoning the populace in the name of religion to attack this new Sect of infidels, the Babees were overthrown and forced to take flight to the adjoining province of Kerman . . .
'The tenets of this new religion seem to be spreading in Persia -- Bab the founder, a native of Sheeraz, who has assumed this fictitious name, is imprisoned in Azerbijan, but in every large town he has disciples, who with the fanaticism or fortitude so often seen among the adherents of new doctrines, are ready to meet death . . . Bab declares himself to be Imam Mehdee, the last Imam, who disappeared from human sight but is to reappear on earth -- His decrees supersede the Koran among his disciples, who not only revere him as the head of their faith, but also obey him as the temporal Sovereign of the world, to whom all other monarchs must submit -- Besides this inconvenient doctrine, they have adopted other tenets pernicious to society . . . <p205>
'Conversion by the sword is not yet avowed, argument and inspiration from heaven being the present means of instilling or attaining faith in the Mission of Bab -- If left to their own merits the not novel doctrines of this Preacher will doubtless sink into insignificancy, it is persecution only which can save them from neglect and contempt, and unluckily the proselytes are all of the Mahommedan faith, which is inflexible in the punishment of a relapsed Mussulman -- Thus both the temporal and religious authorities have an interest in the extermination of this Sect.
'It is conjectured that in Teheran this religion has acquired votaries in every class, not even excluding the artillery and regular Infantry -- Their numbers in this city, it is supposed, may amount to about two thousand.'(1)
[1 Part of this passage is also quoted on p. 178.]
The incident at Yazd, which the British Minister was
reporting to the Foreign Secretary, concerned the activities
of a man named Muhammad-'Abdu'llah, who professed
belief in the new Revelation. Vahid was in Yazd at the
time, fearlessly proclaiming the advent of the Qa'im.
Navvab-i-Radavi, an influential man of the city, who hated
Vahid as much as Sa'idu'l-'Ulama had hated Quddus, was
plotting to destroy him. Despite Vahid's injunction,
Muhammad-'Abdu'llah went ahead with his own schemes
which resulted in clashes with the civil authority, and his
own death. Vahid was forced to leave Yazd in the dead of
night, on foot. His house in Yazd was pillaged, and his
servant Hasan was seized and put to death. While horsemen
sent by his adversaries were searching for him, he hid in the
mountains; and by mountain tracks made his way to Bavanat
in the province of Fars. There were many in that area who
gave him whole-hearted support, among them the renowned
Haji Siyyid Isma'il, the Shaykhu'l-Islam of Bavanat.
Then by way of Fasa he approached the city of Nayriz.
[1 See p. 176.] <p206>
THE SEVEN MARTYRS OF TIHRAN
In the course of 1849, Prince Dolgorukov, the Russian Minister in Tihran, had protested to the Persian Government that while going into the presence of the Shah he had been forced to witness the dragging away of the writhing corpses of eight criminals, executed in front of the Shah. Dolgorukov considered it an affront to him, the envoy of the Tsar, to be presented with such a spectacle. Sheil had backed Dolgorukov's protest.(1) Palmerston had, in turn, approved Sheil's action. On February 12th 1850, Prince Dolgorukov sent this report to Count Nesselrode in St. Petersburg:
'Minds are in an extraordinarily excited state due to the execution which has just taken place in the great square of Tihran. I have already once expressed my opinion that the method by which last year the troops of the Shah under the command of Prince Mahdi Quli Mirza exterminated the Babis will not lessen their fanaticism.
'From that time on the Government has learned that Tihran is full of these dangerous sectaries who do not recognize civil statutes and preach the partitioning of the property of those who do not join their doctrine. Becoming fearful for the social peace, the ministers of Persia decided to arrest some of these sectaries and, according to the common version, having received during the interrogation their confession of their faith, executed them. These persons, numbering seven, and arrested at random, since the Babis are counted already by thousands within the very <p207> capital, would by no means deny their faith and met death with an exultation which could only be explained as fanaticism brought to its extreme limit. The Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mirza Muhammad Ali, on the contrary affirms that those people have confessed nothing and that their silence was interpreted as a sufficient proof of their guilt.
'One can only regret the blindness of the Shah's authorities who imagine that such measures could extinguish religious fanaticism, as well as the injustice which guides their actions when examples of cruelty, with which they are trying to frighten the people, are committed without distinction against the first passer-by who falls into their hands . . .'(2)
Ten days later (February 22nd 1850), Sheil wrote to Palmerston that apparently the advice tendered by Her Majesty's Government that criminals should not be executed in the presence of the Sovereign had had some effect, because a few days before, seven Babis, accused of conspiring to assassinate the Grand Vizier, had been put to death in public with no untoward incident. Sheil asserted that this fact proved the feasibility of public executions. Mirza Taqi Khan had earlier stated that with executions in public there was the risk of a malefactor being snatched and spirited away. Sheil felt, however, that on this occasion there was sympathy for the executed, because the story of a conspiracy to murder the Grand Vizier was not generally believed. He further observed that the Babis had been offered their lives, were they to recant, and they had firmly refused to do so. His own comment to the Grand Vizier had been that executing the Babis was the surest way of propagating their doctrines.(3)
Lord Palmerston in answer to Sheil stated that Her Majesty's Government was pleased to learn that Nasiri'd-Din Shah had agreed with the advice not to have executions <p208> carried out in his presence, but added, 'the punishment of men for religious belief, besides being unjust and cruel, is also an erroneous practice, and tends to encourage and propagate the belief which it is intended to suppress.'(4) <p209>
THE EPISODE OF ZANJAN
The episode of Zanjan covered the period from May to December 1850, and much engaged the attention of the British and Russian envoys. On May 25th Sheil reported to Palmerston: 'At Zenjan . . . an attempt at insurrection was made by the Sect of the Babees whose leader is the chief priest of the town -- Five hours after the receipt of this intelligence a Battalion of Infantry 400 horse and three guns marched towards Zenjan -- This is an instance unexampled in Persia of military celerity, which perhaps would not be surpassed in many countries of Europe.'(1) A month later, Sheil reported: 'The insurrection at Zenjan has not yet been quelled. The Babees of that city continue to defend themselves with the zeal of proselytes and the contempt of life inculcated by their faith . . .'(2)
Prince Dolgorukov, the Russian Minister, commented on July 31st: 'The Government has exhausted all possible means to compel the Babis to submit voluntarily. Muhammad Ali who heads the two or three hundred of these fanatics in Zanjan, has fortified himself in one of the quarters of the said town and terrifies the inhabitants. The Amir was finally forced to take energetic measures, and the former beglerbegi of Tabriz, Muhammad Khan, has just been sent against them with an army of 2000 men and four cannons.'(3) Dolgorukov had grossly underestimated the number of the Babis. (See pp. 185-6.)
Sheil wrote on August 22nd: 'The Babees of Zenjan still continue to maintain that nearly defenceless city against the <p210> Shah's troops.'(4) On September 5th he reported: '. . . these fanatics are reduced to a few hundred fighting men, they continue to maintain a hopeless contest with undaunted resolution, refusing submission on any terms . . .'(5)
Dolgorukov reported on September 14th: 'The Babis, who are engaged there in a life and death struggle against the troops of the Shah, are still resisting the attacks of Muhammad Khan, and one can only wonder at the fierceness with which they meet the danger of their situation. Their leader Mulla Muhammad Ali, has appealed to the Turkish Minister, Sami Effendi, and also to Colonel Sheil for their mediation. However, my English colleague is of the opinion that it would be very difficult to force the Persian Government to consent to foreign intervention in favor of the above mentioned sectaries.'(6) On October 6th, the Russian Minister was in a petulant mood: 'I think it would have been better if they [the Persian Government] had given more serious attention to the affairs of Zanjan. The Babis have been fighting against 6000 of the Shah's best troops for almost five months now, and Muhammad Khan, who is already master of three quarters of the city, cannot take the quarter which they have fortified themselves and are defending . . . with a heroism and a fury worthy of a better application.'(7) In his dispatch of November 9th, Dolgorukov wrote: 'New military units have just been dispatched against the Babis of Zanjan. This time the Governor of that city, a brother of the Shah's mother, Amir Aslan Khan, is accused of provoking the resistance, which the Babis offer the Shah's army, by his incautious behavior.'(8) And, at last, on December 26th Dolgorukov could report: 'The Zanjan disturbances have ended. After a siege which lasted for almost six months the Shah's troops have destroyed the center of the rebellion. The Babis who defended themselves to the last, and whose numbers were finally reduced to twenty men, who sought refuge in a cellar, were <p211> torn to pieces. In addition to monetary expenditures, this struggle has cost Persia 1500 in killed and disabled.'(9)
Meanwhile Sheil had been reporting on September 25th: 'The disciples of Bab have barricaded a portion of that town, from which they cannot be expelled without a greater loss of life than the assailants seem willing to encounter.'(10) And he wrote on October 25th: 'Contrary to all rational expectation the small portion of Zenjan occupied by the Babees continues to set at defiance the efforts of the Shah's troops to expel that sect from the City.' In the same dispatch he stated that 'General Sir Henry Bethune who visited the scene of operations, expressed a conviction that three hours with ordinary troops would finish the affair . . .'(11) Bethune was the man who had helped Muhammad Shah to his throne. Sheil seems to have become wearied of reporting on Zanjan, for on November 23rd he wrote: 'I continue unable to make any variation in my reports relative to Zenjan -- The same feeble ineffectual attempts at assault, the same repulses still mark the progress of the siege.' Then he made the extraordinary assertion that it had been affirmed that the defenders of Zanjan were not Babis at all, that they had been heard to 'proclaim from the walls in hearing of the troops, the creed that "there is no God but God, and Mahomed is his prophet." ' Those men were fighting, it was said, because of the enormities perpetrated by the troops. Even more extraordinary is this fantastic and incredibly false statement in that same dispatch of November 23rd: 'Moolla Mahomed Ali, their chief, has the reputation of having proclaimed himself to be the true Bab, and his predecessor to have been an impostor.'(12) On December 16th Sheil wrote to Palmerston: 'Her Majesty's Consul at Tabreez having informed me that great atrocities are committed at Zenjan by the soldiery particularly by their shocking treatment of such women as have been captured, I brought the circumstances to the knowledge of the Persian Minister -- <p212> The Ameer-i.Nizam thanked me for the information, and said he would take immediate steps for preventing such barbarous proceedings, which are entirely opposed to his sentiments and feelings -- ' '. . . the mode in which my communication was received by the Ameer. i. Nizam shows an improvement in his tone, and in the temper with which he listens to suggestions of the above nature.'(13)
On December 24th, Sheil reported to Palmerston: 'This protracted siege, if siege it can be called, is inexplicable -- An English gentleman who lately passed through Zenjan informed me a few days ago that the portion of the town occupied by the Babees is confined to three or four houses, and that their numbers are utterly insignificant -- They have adopted a mode of defence which seems to exceed the military skill of the Persian commanders -- The entire of the space included within these houses is mined or excavated and connected by passages. Here the Babees live in safety from the shot and shells of the assailants, who evidently have no predilection for underground warfare.'(14)
Lord Palmerston on February 11th 1851 wrote to Sheil that '. . . Her Majesty's Government approve of your having called the attention of the Ameer-i-Nizam . . . to the acts of violence committed by the Persian Troops against Zenjan.'(15)
And finally, here is the last report of Sheil on the episode of Zanjan. It is dated January 6th 1851. 'I have the honor to report to Your Lordship that Zenjan has been at length captured -- Moolla Mahomed Ali, the leader of the insurgents, had received a wound in the arm, which terminated in his death -- His followers dismayed by the loss of their chief, yielded to an assault which their relaxation in the energy of their defence encouraged the commander of the Shah's troops to make -- This success was followed by a great atrocity -- The pusillanimity of the troops, which the events of this siege had rendered so notorious, was equalled <p213> by their ferocity -- All the captives were bayonetted by the soldiers in cold blood, to avenge . . . the slaughter of their comrades -- Religious hatred may have conspired with the feelings excited by a blood feud, which among the tribes are very strong, to cause this ruthless act -- Four hundred persons are said to have perished in this way, among whom it is believed were some women and children -- Of the fact itself there can be no doubt, as it is admitted by the Government in its notification of the reduction of the city, though it may be presumed that in the number there is exaggeration.'(16) <p214>
LORD PALMERSTON'S ENQUIRY
Lord Palmerston wrote to Sheil on May 2nd 1850:
'I have to instruct you to furnish me with a more detailed account than that contained in your despatch No. 20, of the 12th of February, of the difference between the tenets of the new sect of Bab, and those of the established religion of Persia.'(1)
Sheil answered Lord Palmerston on June 21st:
'In conformity with Your Lordship's instructions I have the honor to enclose an account of the new Sect of Bab -- The statement contained in the enclosure numbered No. I is taken from an account given to me by a disciple of Bab, and which I have no doubt is correct. The other is extracted from a letter from a chief Priest in Yezd, and cannot be trusted-
'This is the simplest of religions. Its tenets are summed up in materialism, communism, and the absolute indifference of good and evil, and of all human actions.'(2)
Unfortunately both accounts sent to Palmerston are highly inaccurate. Moreover, Sheil's own comments indicate that he himself did not have an open mind. Plainly the account given to him, as he had stated, 'by a disciple of Bab', was not a verbatim rendering into English, but a reconstruction with interpolations, as witnessed by these two sentences: 'They believe in Mahomed as a Prophet and in the divine origin of the Koran: but Bab contends that until this moment only the apparent meaning of the Koran was understood and that he has come to explain the real secret and divine <p215> essence of God's word. But it will be seen in a subsequent part of this account that the words Prophet and Divine origin have no signification.' Further evidence is provided by Sheil's rough notes with marginal additions(3) from which the account by a Babi is drawn.
What disciple of the Bab would say: 'The intercourse of the sexes is very nearly promiscuous -- There is no form of marriage; a man and woman live together as long as they please and no longer, and if another man desires to have possession of that woman, it rests with her, not with the man who has been her husband, if he can be so termed:-A man may have wives without limit; a woman has a similar licence.' This Babi, unless his account was garnished, was either a nihilist of sorts, or totally ignorant of what the teaching of the Bab was.
Equally extraordinary, confused and contrary to the Writings of the Bab in the Persian and Arabic Bayan are the following lines in that account by a Babi: 'There is no hell or heaven, therefore there is no hereafter -- annihilation is man's doom in fact -- he with every living and vegetable thing, in short everything whatever, will be absorbed in the Divinity -- Everything is God, and therefore absorbed, which is the phrase of the Soofees, who consider every thing is a reflection of God -- Hell is suffered and heaven is enjoyed in this world; but there is no such thing as crime, nor of course virtue, only as they concern the relations of man and man in this world. A man's will is his Law in all things . . .
'The most absolute materialism seems to form the essence of their belief -- God is one -- Every individual substance and particle, living or not, is God, and the whole is God-and every individual thing, always was, always is, and always will be.'(4) The account by the Chief Priest of Yazd, which was a vitriolic attack on the Bab and Vahid, and which Sheil had <p216> ruled out in his letter to the Foreign Secretary as 'cannot be trusted', was not dissimilar, in some respects, to the account by 'a disciple of Bab'.
These extracts make it clear how misinformed was Lord Palmerston, the British Foreign Secretary, by the reports of his representative in Tihran. <p217>
The volume of writing in the West about the Babi and Baha'i Faiths is not insignificant. There are copious scholarly works on the subject in Russian, French and English. We have the works of Alexander Toumansky, Baron Rosen, Mirza Kazem-Beg, Count Gobineau, A.-L.-M. Nicolas, and Edward Granville Browne. We also have attacks and refutations, but these latter categories belong to more recent years, when the Baha'i Faith has been making considerable headway in the Western world.
There is another genre of writing which merits attention, if only for a negative reason. These writings do not enlighten; they create myths. Generally speaking, remarks by travellers and casual visitors to Iran fall within this category, but are by no means confined to such writers.
A sizable book could be compiled of the remarks and observations which are myth-making. Here we must be content with only a few extracts. Some of these solemn pronunciations are highly amusing, as with the following which is taken from a book by Arthur Arnold:
[1 1833-1902, a radical politician and writer. M.P. for Salford and editor of Echo.]
'The measure of injustice and oppression which these courts of the Koran inflict upon the Christians may seem mild, in comparison with the treatment by which they suppress nonconformity within the pale of their own community. We have seen an example in the sentence of "a hundred sticks", which the incautious expression of <p218> liberal views brought upon the friend of the Zil-i-Sultan [Zillu's-Sultan], who added to free speech the wickedness of wearing trousers of European cut. There is, however, in Ispahan a surviving heresy, the most notable in Persia, which, when proved against a man, is almost a death warrant.
[1 Prince Sultan Mas'ud Mirza, the eldest son of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, Governor-General of Isfahan and the adjoining provinces.]
[2 At the time of Arnold's visit, Mirza Asadu'llah Khan, a Baha'i, was the Vizier of Isfahan.]
'Early in the present century, a boy was born at Shiraz, the son of a grocer, whose name has not been preserved. Arrived at manhood, this grocer's son expounded his idea of a religion even more indulgent than that of Mahommed. He is known by the name of Bab (the gate), and his followers are called Babis. In 1850, Bab had established some reputation as a prophet, and was surrounded by followers as ready to shed their blood in his defence as any who formed the body-guard of Mahommed in those early days at Medina, when he had gained no fame in battle, and had not conceived the plan of the Koran. Bab was attacked as an enemy of God and man, and at last taken prisoner by the Persian Government, and sentenced to death. He was to be shot. Tied to a stake in Tabriz, he confronted the firing party and awaited death. The report of the muskets was heard, and Bab felt himself wounded, but at liberty. He was not seriously hurt, and the bullets had cut the cord which bound him. Clouds of smoke hung about the spot where he stood, and probably he felt a gleam of hope that he might escape when he rushed from the stake into a neighbouring guardhouse. He had a great reputation, and very little was necessary to make soldiers and people believe that his life had been spared by a genuine miracle. Half the population of Persia would perhaps have become Babis, had that guardhouse contained <p219> the entrance to a safe hiding place. But there was nothing of the sort. The poor wretch was only a man, and the soldiers saw he had no supernatural powers whatever. He was dragged again to the firing place and killed. But dissent is not to be suppressed by punishment, and of course Babism did not die with him. Two years afterwards, when the present Shah was enjoying his favourite sport, and was somewhat in advance of his followers, three men rushed upon his Majesty and wounded him in an attempted assassination. The life of Nazr-ed-deen [Nasiri'd-Din] Shah, Kajar, was saved by his own quickness and by the arrival of his followers, who made prisoners of the assassins. They declared themselves Babis, and gloried in their attempt to avenge the death of their leader and to propagate their doctrines by the murder of the Shah. The baffled criminals were put to death with the cruelty which the offences of this sect always meet with. Lighted candles were inserted in slits cut in their living bodies, and, after lingering long in agony, their tortured frames were hewn in pieces with hatchets.
'In most countries, the theory of punishment is, that the State, on behalf of the community, must take vengeance upon the offender. But in Persia it is otherwise. There, in accordance with the teaching of the Koran, the theory and basis of punishment is, that the relations of the victim must take revenge upon the actual or would-be murderers. In conformity with this idea, the Shah's chamberlain executed on his Majesty's behalf, and with his own hand, one of the conspirators. Yet the Babis remain the terror and trouble of the Government of Ispahan, where the sect is reputed to number more followers than anywhere else in Persia. But many of them have, in the present day, transferred their allegiance from Bab to Behar, a man who was lately, and may be at present, imprisoned at Acca, in Arabia, by the Turkish Government. Behar represents himself as God the Father in human form, and declares that Bab occupies the <p220> same position, in regard to himself, that John the Baptist held to Jesus Christ. We were assured that there were respectable families in Ispahan who worship this imprisoned fanatic, who endanger their property and their lives by a secret devotion, which, if known, would bring them to destitution, and probably to a cruel death.'(1)
Our second extract is from a much weightier book written by an American diplomat, Mr. S. G. W. Benjamin, the first United States Minister accredited to Iran:
[1 'In the winter of 1882-1883 the author was appointed by President Arthur to the Legation in Persia, just created by Act of Congress. In 1885, with the accession of the Democratic party to power, he returned to private life, in accordance with the practice of the diplomatic service of the United States.'(2)]
'But the most remarkable sect now in Persia is probably that of the Babees, or followers of the Bab. Their importance is not so much due to their numbers or political influence, as to the fact that the sect is of recent origin, full of proselyting zeal, and gaining converts every day in all parts of Persia, and latterly also in Turkey. The Babees present one of the most important religious phenomena of the age. It must be admitted, however, that they very strongly resemble in their communistic views the doctrines enounced [sic] by the famous Mazdak [Mazdak], who was executed by Chosroes I after bringing the empire to the verge of destruction by the spread of his anarchical tenets.
'In 1810 was born Seyed Alee Mohammed, at Shiraz . . . Like all the founders of oriental religions, he began his career with a period of seclusion and meditation. He accepted Mahomet and Alee in the creed which he considered himself predestined to proclaim; but he added to this the declaration that their spirits had in turn entered into his own soul, and that he was therefore a great prophet, -- the Bab, who was to bring their gospel to a legitimate conclusion. It <p221> became his mission, therefore, to announce that all things were divine, and that he, the Bab, was the incarnate presentment of the universal life. To this doctrine was added a socialism which formulated the equality of all, sweeping away social classes and distinctions, and ordaining a community of property, and also, at first, of wives. The new doctrines took hold of the heart of the masses; men and women of all ranks hastened to proclaim their yearning for something that promised to better their condition, by embracing the wild teachings of the Bab . . . the Government could not long remain blind to the possible results if the movement were allowed to spread unchecked. Therefore, after several serious tumults, the Bab was seized and executed at Tabreez. This only served to add fuel to the fire. A fierce persecution broke forth; but the Babees were not willing to submit tamely to suppression . . . The Babees are now obliged to practise their faith in secret, all of those in Persia being outwardly of the Sheah sect. But their activity does not cease, and their numbers are increasing rapidly. The sect has also extended to Turkey. The leader of the Turkish branch resides at Constantinople.
'In Persia the title of the present head of the sect is Sob-e-Azel [Subh-i-Azal]. As his belief in the Bab is a secret, his name is not mentioned in this connection . . . Just now there seems to be unusual activity among the Babees, emissaries or missionaries are secretly pervading the country, not only seeking to make proselytes but also presenting modifications in belief. The community in wives is no longer a practised tenet of the Bab sect, while it is proclaimed with increasing emphasis that the Bab is none other than God himself made manifest in the flesh.'(3)
The next extract is by another diplomat, General Sir Thomas Edward Gordon, who had once been the Military Attache and Oriental Secretary of Queen Victoria's Legation <p222> in Tihran, and wrote his book after a second visit to Iran:
'The Babi sect of Mohammedans, regarded as seceders from Islam, but who assert their claim to be only the advocates for Mohammedan Church reform, are at last better understood and more leniently treated -- certainly at Tehran. They have long been persecuted and punished in the cruellest fashion, even to torture and death, under the belief that they were a dangerous body which aimed at the subversion of the State as well as the Church. But better counsels now prevail, to show that the time has come to cease from persecuting these sectarians, who, at all events in the present day, show no hostility to the Government; and the Government has probably discovered the truth of the Babi saying, that one martyr makes many proselytes . . .
'An acknowledged authority on the Bab, the founder of this creed, has written that he "directed the thoughts and hopes of his disciples to this world, not to an unseen world." From this it was inferred he did not believe in a future state, nor in anything beyond this life. Of course, among the followers of a new faith, liberal and broad in its views, continued fresh developments of belief must be expected; and with reference to the idea that the Babis think not of a hereafter, I was told that they believe in the reincarnation of the soul, the good after death returning to life and happiness, the bad to unhappiness. A Babi, in speaking of individual pre-existence, said to me, "You believe in a future state; why, then, should you not believe in a preexistent state? Eternity is without beginning and without end." This idea of re-incarnation, generally affecting all Babis, is, of course, an extension of the original belief regarding the re-incarnation of the Bab, and the eighteen disciple-prophets who compose the sacred college of the sect . . .
'The Babi reform manifests an important advance upon <p223> all previous modern Oriental systems in its treatment of woman. Polygamy and concubinage are forbidden, the use of the veil is discouraged, and the equality of the sexes is so thoroughly recognised that one, at least, of the nineteen sovereign prophets must always be a female. This is a return to the position of woman in early Persia, of which Malcolm speaks when he says that Quintus Curtius told of Alexander not seating himself in the presence of Sisygambis till told to do so by that matron, because it was not the custom in Persia for sons to sit in presence of their mother.'(4)
It must be said that Sir Thomas Gordon's long account of the Babis (from which only a few passages are taken) is good in many respects; nevertheless, it perpetuates myths.
Finally, here are two extracts from a book so highly rated that, when it was published in 1915, it was put on the 'Secret List' of the British Foreign Office, and kept there for more than a decade:
[1 Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf. Gordon Lorimer was one of the ablest members of the Indian Political Department, and held various posts in the area of the Persian Gulf. In 1904, he was commissioned by the Government of India to prepare the Gazetteer. At the end of 1913, Lorimer replaced Sir Percy Z. Cox as Consul-General in Bushihr and Political Resident in the Persian Gulf. In February a mishap with a revolver caused his untimely death. The present writer well remembers the event. The Gazetteer was made ready for publication by Capt. R. L. Birdwood.]
'A religious heresy which was destined to produce serious political consequences in Persia made its appearance during the later years of Muhammad Shah: this was Babism the creed of the Babis or followers of the Bab. The founder was Saiyid 'Ali Muhammad, the son of a grocer of Shiraz, who, being sent as a youth to represent his father at Bushehr, soon left that place on pilgrimage to Makkah and afterwards sat as a student at the feet of Haji Saiyid Kazim, the <p224> greatest Mujtahid of the day at Karbala. On the death of his teacher he returned to Bushehr, where he proclaimed himself a prophet, the 23rd May 1844 being accounted the date of his manifestation in that character.
'"He now assumed the title of the Bab, or gate, through whom knowledge of the Twelfth Imam Mahdi could alone be attained. His pretensions undoubtedly became more extravagant as time proceeded, and he successfully announced himself as the Mahdi, as a re-incarnation of the prophet, and as a Revelation or Incarnation of God himself." The Babi faith was ecclesiastically proscribed throughout Persia; and massacres of its adherents, with counter-assassinations of leading persecutors, became the order of the day.'
[1 Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question, Vol. I, p. 497.]
'The new Babi religion in Persia, of which the institution may be dated from 1844, the year in which Mirza 'Ali Muhammad, commonly known as the Bab, declared his mission, does not appear to have obtained as yet much hold on the coast of the Persian Gulf, notwithstanding that the Bab visited Bushehr at an early stage in his public career. It was reported that at Bushehr there were in 1905 only about so Babis, chiefly employed in the Customs Department or in the Artillery; a very few others were found at the ports of Bandar 'Abbas and Lingeh, and possibly at Shehr-i-Viran in the Liravi district; but at Baghdad, which was the headquarters of the Babi religion from 1853 to 1864, it did not appear that there are any. It is probable, however, that Babis are to be found in places where their existence has not been ascertained.'(5) <p225>
'ABDU'L-BAHA. Memorials of the Faithful. Translated from
the original Persian text and annotated by Marzieh Gail.
Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1971.
ARBERRY, ARTHUR J. The Koran Interpreted. Vol. One, Suras
I-XX; Vol. Two, Suras XXI-CXIV. London: George
Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1955; 2nd imp. 1963.
ARNOLD, ARTHUR. Through Persia by Caravan. Vol. II.
London: Tinsley Brothers, 1877.
Baha'i World, The. An International Record. Vol. VIII,
1938-1940. Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i Publishing
BAHA'U'LLAH. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah.
Trans. by Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i
Publishing Trust, 1935; rev.ed. 1952; repr. 1969. London:
Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1949.
The Kitab-i-Iqan. The Book of Certitude. Trans. by
Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i Publishing
Trust, 1931; 2nd ed. 1950; 3rd repr. 1960. London:
Baha'i Publishing Trust, 2nd ed. 1961.
BALYUZI, H. M. 'Abdu'l-Baha. The Centre of the Covenant
of Baha'u'llah. London: George Ronald, 1971; 2nd repr.
-- Baha'u'llah, a brief life, followed by an essay entitled
The Word Made Flesh. London: George Ronald, 1963;
4th repr. 1973 (Oxford).
-- Edward Granville Browne and the Baha'i Faith. London:
George Ronald, 1970. <p226>
BENJAMIN, S. G. W. Persia and the Persians. London: John
BROWNE, E. G. A Literary History of Persia. In four volumes.
Vol. IV: Persian Literature in Modern Times. Cambridge
University Press, 1924.
-- (ed.) Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion. Cambridge
University Press, 1918; repr. 1961.
(ed.) The Tarikh-i-Jadid or New History of Mirza 'Ali
Muhammad the Bab by Mirza Huseyn of Hamadan, trans.
from the Persian, with an Introduction, Illustrations, and
Appendices. Cambridge University Press, 1893.
-- (ed.) A Traveller's Narrative written to illustrate the
Episode of the Bab. Edited in the original Persian, and
translated into English, with an Introduction and Explanatory
Notes. Vol. I, Persian Text. Vol. II, English
Translation and Notes. Cambridge University Press, 1891.
A Year Amongst the Persians: Impressions as to the
Life, Character and Thought of the People of Persia,
received during twelve months' residence in that country
in the years 1887-8. London: A. & C. Black, 1893.
2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1926. 3rd ed.
London: A. & C. Black, 1959.
CHEYNE, T. K. The Reconciliation of Races and Religions.
London: Adam & Charles Black, 1914.
CURZON, G. N. Persia and the Persian Question. In two
volumes. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1892. Frank
Cass & Co. Ltd., 1966.
FLANDIN, EUGENE-NAPOLEON and COSTE, PASCAL. Voyage
en Perse pendant les annees 1840 et 1841. Paris, 1851.
GOBINEAU, M. LE COMTE DE;. Les Religions et les Philosophies
dans l'Asie Centrale. Paris, 1865 and 1866.
GORDON, SIR THOMAS EDWARD. Persia Revisited (1895).
London: Edward Arnold, 1896.
KAZEMZADEH, FIRUZ. Russia and Britain in Persia 1864 -- 1914.
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1968. <p227>
KELLY, J. B. Britain and the Persian Gulf. 1795-1880. Oxford:
The Clarendon Press, 1968.
LAYARD, SIR HENRY. Early Adventures in Persia Susiana and
Babylonia. In two volumes. London: John Murray, 1887.
LORIMER, J. G. Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf 'Oman and
Central Arabia. In two volumes. Calcutta, 1915 and 1908.
Repr. Farnborough, Hants. and Shannon, Ireland: Gregg
International Publishers Ltd and Irish University Press,
NABIL-I-A'ZAM (Muhammad-i-Zarandi). The Dawn-Breakers.
Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Baha'i Revelation.
Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1932;
Repr. 1953. London: Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1953.
NICOLAS L.-M. Seyyed Ali Mohammed dit le Bab. Paris:
Dujarric & Cie., 1905.
SALE, GEORGE (ed.) The Koran. Trans. into English from the
Original Arabic, with Explanatory Notes. London:
Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd., 1927.
SHEIL, LADY MARY LEONORA. Glimpses of Life and Manners
in Persia. London: John Murray, 1856.
SHOGHI EFFENDI. God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois: Baha'i
Publishing Trust, 1944; 5th repr. 1965.
-- The World Order of Baha'u'llah. Wilmette, Illinois:
Baha'i Publishing Trust, 1938; rev. 1955; 2nd imp. 1965.
SOHRAB, AHMAD. Risaliy-i-Tis'a-'Ashariyyih. Nineteen Discourses
on the Bab and His two heralds: Shaykh Ahmad-
i-Ahsa'i and Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti. Cairo, 1919.
The reader is also referred to bibliographies contained in
the following works (listed above):
Balyuzi, Edward Granville Browne and the Baha'i Faith pp.
123 -- 5.
Browne, Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, Sec. III,
pp. 175 -- 243. <p228>
Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, Note A,
pp. 173 -- 211.
Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 491-3 (Brit.),
pp. 669-71 (U.S.). <p229>
Full details of authors and titles are given in the bibliography. Page numbers are given for the American and British editions of Nabil-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers. All Foreign Office documents (reference F.O.) are held by the Public Record Office, London. They are Crown copyright and appear verbatim by kind permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
PROLOGUE I AND II
1. See Sohrab, Risaliy-i-Tis'a-'Ashariyyih, p. 13, for an account of Shaykh Ahmad's discourses. (This source is discussed in Balyuzi, 'Abdu'l-Baha', p. 417.)
2. ibid., p. 14.
3. See note 1 above, pp. 19-20.
4. F.O. 248/108 of May 15th 1843, enclosed in letter of May 20th 1843 to Sheil.
5. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 33 (Brit.), p. 45 (U.S.).
6. Sheil served as the British Minister in Tihran from August 1842 to February 1853, except for a period of leave from October 1847 to November 1849, when Col. Farrant deputised for him. Sheil was knighted in 1855.
7. F.O. 248/113.
8. The other pretenders were Husayn-'Ali Mirza, the Farman-Farma, Governor-General of Fars, and Hasan-'Al Mirza, the Shuja'u's-Saltanih, Governor General of Kirman, both sons of Fath-'Ali Shah. Three of the sons of the Farman-Farma managed to take themselves to London.
9. Sir Henry Layard (1817-1894) was the discoverer of the ancient city of Nineveh. He was elected to the British parliament as a Liberal, and served a term as the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In 1877 he was appointed Ambassador in Constantinople. His account is taken from Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia, Vol. I, pp. 257-61. <p230>
10. The Ambassador recalled was Sir John MacNeill and the quarrel between Iran and Britain was over the city of Hirat. This beautiful city had always been considered an integral part of the province of Khurasan, but since the assassination of Nadir Shah, the Afshar king, in 1747, Hirat had passed into possession of Afghan rulers. Muhammad Shah was intent on regaining Hirat, but Anglo-Russian rivalry and the British fear of Russian designs on India, hitherto almost non-existent, had become dominant factors in the international scene, bound to shadow the destiny of Iran; the British believed that the acquisition of Hirat by the Persians would, in the main, benefit Russia. They took counter-measures in the Persian Gulf and occupied the island of Kharg, close to Bushihr.
11. F.O. 60195 of February 14th 1843.
CHAPTER 1: ALL HAIL SHIRAZ
Opening quotation: Gertrude Lowthian Bell (1868-1926), Poems from the Divan of Hafiz Wm. Heinemann Ltd., London, 1897, No. xxx.
1. Browne, A Year Amongst the Persians (1926 ed.), p. 284.
2. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question Vol. I, p. 497, n. 2.
3. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative Vol. II, p. 309.
4. Since they originated from the small town of Baraghan, they were known as Baraghani.
5. Qurratu'l-'Ayn's words are quoted in The Dawn-Breakers P. 56 (Brit.), pp. 81-2 (U.S.); and in verse form in A Persian Anthology trans. by E. G. Browne, ed. by E. Denison Ross, Methuen & Co., London, 1927, p. 72.
CHAPTER 2: HIM WHOM THEY SOUGHT
Opening quotation: T. K. Cheyne, The Reconciliation of Races and Religions p. 74.
1. Mir Muhammad-Rida's father was named Mir Nasru'llah his grandfather Mir Fathu'llah, and his great-grandfather Mir Ibrahim.
2. For details of this unedifying transaction, see Kazemzadeh, Russia and Britain in Persia 1864-1914, ch. 4. The contract was signed on March 8th 1890.
3. Translated by H. M. Balyuzi.
4. Shaykh Muhammad was known as Shaykh 'Abid, and also as <p231> Shaykhuna and Shaykh-i-Anam. That his real name was Muhammad is attested by this verse in the Arabic Bayan one of the last works of the Bab: 'Say O Muhammad, My teacher, do not beat me ere my years have gone beyond five.'
His school was in the quarter called Bazar-i-Murgh (Poultry Market), housed in a mosque-like structure which went by the name of Qahviy-i-Awliya'. It was close to the house of Haji Mirza Siyyid 'Ali, the uncle-guardian of the Bab. In its courtyard were a number of graves: three were particularly revered as those of saintly personages, one of whom was called Awliya'-though no one really knew whose were the graves.
It is known that Shaykh 'Abid wrote a monograph on the childhood of the Bab, but the manuscript has always been in the possession of people not well-disposed to the Faith of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, and they have persistently refused to give it up or to divulge its contents. Shaykh 'Abid was also destined in later years to accept the Faith proclaimed by his former Pupil.
5. Account taken from Mirza Abu'l Fadl's unpublished writings.
6. Nicolas, Seyyed Ali Mohammed Dit le Bab, PP. 189-90.
7. Written in several volumes during the reign of Nasiri'd-Din Shah by Lisanu'l-Mulk of Kashan, whose soubriquet was Sipihr.
8. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 20-2 (Brit.), pp. 25-9 (U.S.).
9. ibid., pp. 22-3 (Brit.), p. 30 (U.S.).
10. Haji Mirza 'Ali's father was named Mirza 'Abid.
11. By Dhikr, he means Himself. Repeatedly in the Qayyumu'l- Asma', the Bab refers to Himself as Dhikr, and was known to His followers as Dhikru'llah-al-A'zam (Mention of God, the Most Great), or Dhikru'llah-al-Akbar (Mention of God, the Greatest), and sometimes as Hadrat-i-Dhikr. 'Hadrat' prefixed to the name of a Manifestation of God has been translated as 'His Holiness'. But this English rendering is totally inadequate, for 'Hadrat' has no English equivalent when placed prior to the name of a Manifestation of God. It conveys also the sense of His Honour, His Eminence, His Excellency, and the like.
12. From the Qayyumu'l-Asma', translated by H. M. Balyuzi.
CHAPTER 3: TIHRAN
Opening quotations: Baha'u'llah, (1) Gleanings, LVI (2) Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 161 (Brit.), p. 252 (U.S.). <p232>
1. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 58 (Brit.), pp. 86-7 (U.S.).
2. ibid., p. 66 (Brit.), p. 96 (U.S.).
3. Two works of the Bab are entitled Bayan (Utterance): the larger one is in Persian, and the other which is much shorter is in Arabic.
4. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 69 (Brit.), p. 99 (U.S.).
5. ibid., p. 70 (Brit.), pp. 100-1 (U.S.).
6. ibid., PP. 71-4 (Brit.), pp. 104-8 (U.S.).
7. See Foreword, paragraph 4.
8. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 9.
CHAPTER 4: THE FIRST MARTYR
Opening quotation: T. S. Eliot, 'Choruses from The Rock', I. 'The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven'. Collected Poems 1909-1962, Faber & Faber Ltd., London, 1963.
1. London 1856, P. 177.
2. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 61-2 (Brit.), pp. 90-1 (U.S.).
3. Throughout his life Aqa Muhammad-Mustafa served the Faith which he had embraced, with zeal and distinction. He spent many years in Beirut where he attended to the needs and requirements of pilgrims. His son, Aqa Husayn Iqbal, did the same in subsequent years, with great devotion. Another son, Dr. Zia Bagdadi (Dr. Diya Baghdadi) resided in the United States, where his services were inestimable.
4.'There gathered Shaykh Najaf, the son of Shaykh Ja'far, and Shaykh Musa from Najaf; Siyyid Ibrahim al-Qazvini from Karbila; Shaykh Muhammad-Hasan Yasin and Shaykh Hasan Asadu'llah from Kazimiyyah; Siyyid Muhammad al-Alusi and Siyyid 'Ali, the Naqib-al-Ashraf, and Muhammad-Amin al-Wa'iz and Shaykh Muhammad-Sa'id, the Shafi'i Mufti from Baghdad. There were others also besides these.' (Aqa Muhammad-Mustafay-i-Baghdadi.)
5. Translated by H. M. Balyuzi. Aqa Muhammad-Mustafay-i- Baghdadi's autobiography is no more than 24 pages long. It is the second of two booklets printed together in Cairo. There is no publication date.
6. Major-General Sir Henry Rawlinson (1810-95) was one of the outstanding European figures in the nineteenth century. It was he who transcribed the cuneiform inscriptions on the rocks of Bisitun in Western Iran, which record the achievements of the great Darius. He discovered the key to decipher them. <p233> Like Sir John Malcolm, he entered the service of the East India Company at the age of seventeen. Six years later, he went with two other British officers to train the Persian army, but after two years he was dismissed because Muhammad Shah had begun to quarrel with the British. Next he served in Qandahar. By his own wish he was transferred to 'Iraq, because he wanted to be close to Western Iran and continue his research. He also continued the unfinished work of Layard at Nineveh. The British Museum has a wealth of archaeological finds donated by him From 1859-60, he briefly occupied the post of British Minister in Tihran. Then to the end of his life he served on the India Council in London and devoted his time to writing and to scientific pursuits. From 1870-84, the Trustees of the British Museum issued four volumes of cuneiform inscriptions under his close supervision.
7. F.O. 248/114 of January 8th 1845, enclosed in Rawlinson's letter to Sheil of January 16th 1845.
10. F.O. 248/114 of January 16th 1845.
11. F.O. 248/114 (undated). Translation by Rawlinson, enclosed in his letter to Sheil of January 16th 1845.
12. F.O. 195/727 of April 15th 1845.
13. F.O. 195/237 of April 30th 1845.
14. F.O. 195/237 of February 18th 1845.
15. F.O. 248/114 of February 28th 1845.
CHAPTER 5: PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA
Opening quotation: translation by H. M. Balyuzi.
1. His son, Haji Shaykh Yahya, succeeded him as Imam-Jum'ih, and lived till 1919 to an advanced age. He extended his protection to the Baha'is on every possible occasion.
2. Haji Mirza Habibu'llah's narrative.
3. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 91 (Brit.), p. 131 (U.S.).
4. ibid. pp. 90-1 (Brit.), p. 130 (U.S.).
5. ibid. p. 92 (Brit.), pp. 132-3 (U.S.).
6. ibid. pp. 93-5 (Brit.), pp. 134-6 (U.S.).
7. ibid. pp. 96-7 (Brit.), pp. 138-40 (U.S.).
8. ibid. p. 97 (Brit.), p. 140 (U.S.). <p234>
CHAPTER 6: FORCES OF OPPOSITION ARRAYED
Opening quotation: Isabella in Measure for Measure, Act II, sc. ii.
1. Published by Leavitt, Trow & Co., New York & Philadelphia.
2. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 99 (Brit.), p. 142 (U.S.).
3. ibid., PP. 100-1 (Brit.), p. 144 (U.S.).
4. Cited Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf, p. 310.
5. Eugene-Napoleon Flandin (1809-76) was an archaeologist and painter of note. He and Coste, an architect, were members of the suite of M. de Sercey, Louis-Philippe's envoy to the Court of Muhammad-Shah. They stayed in Iran, after the envoy's departure, to draw her ancient monuments. The result of their labours, Voyage en Perse, was published in 1851 by the French Government.
6. Early Adventures in Persia, Vol. I, pp. 326-8.
7. Father of Mirza Husayn Khan, the Mushiru'd-Dawlih and Sipahsalar, who was the Persian ambassador in Constantinople in 1863, at the time of Baha'u'llah's exile to Adrianople. Mirza Husayn Khan later rose to be the Sadr-i-A'zam (Grand Vizier).
8. Haji Mirza 'Ali-Akbar, the Qavamu'l-Mulk, was a younger son of Haji Ibrahim Khan, the Grand Vizier who concluded a treaty with Sir John Malcolm, and later fell into disgrace and was barbarously put to death by Fath-'Ali Shah. Most of his family perished with him. However, the young Mirza 'Ali-Akbar survived to be restored to favour in later years and given the title of Qavamu'l-Mulk. He and his descendants, over several generations, greatly influenced the destinies of the inhabitants of Fars.
9. Sartip was a high rank in those days both in the civil and the military establishment; today it means brigadier. The Farman (Firman) was to be read in the Masjid-i-Naw. Quarters of a city either belonged to the Ni'mati-Khanih or the Haydari-Khanih.
10. F.O. 248/113 of August 7th 1844, enclosed in a letter of August 14th 1844, from Hennell to Sheil.
11. F.O. 248/113 of November 24th 1844, enclosed in Hennell's letter to Sheil of December 11th 1844.
12. F.O. 248/113 of December 24th 1844, enclosed in Hennell's letter to Sheil of January 4th 1845.
13. The Dawn-Breakers p. 104 (Brit.), pp. 148-9 (U.S.). <p235>
CHAPTER 7: BELIEF AND DENIAL
Opening quotation: An Essay on Man Epistle II.
1. The Dawn-Breakers p. 105 (Brit.), pp. 149-50 (U.S.).
2. Arberry (ed.), The Koran Interpreted.
3. See Foreword, paragraph 4.
4. Arberry (ed.), The Koran Interpreted. Verse numbers first extract are 49-50, although Arberry gives 50-1.
5. The Dawn-Breakers, 105-6 (Brit.), p. 150 (U.S.).
6. Arberry (ed.), The Koran Interpreted.
7. The Dawn-Breakers pp. 125-6 (Brit.), pp. 174-6 (U.S.).
8. ibid. p. 126 (Brit.), p. 176 (U.S.).
9. ibid. pp. 126-7 (Brit.), p. 176 (U.S.).
10. ibid. p. 127 (Brit.), p. 177 (U.S.).
11. Browne (ed.), Traveller's Narrative Vol. II, p. 8.
12. Masjid-i-Vakil: built by Karim Khan-i-Vakil, the founder of the Zand dynasty.
13. The Dawn-Breakers pp. 107-9 (Brit.), pp. 153-4 (U.S.).
14. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative Vol. II, p. 7.
15. 'Andalib (Nightingale) was the soubriquet of Mirza 'Ali-Ashraf of Lahijan in the Caspian province of Gilan. 'Andalib was a poet of superb accomplishment and an eloquent teacher. He met Edward Granville Browne in Yazd in the year 1888. A very long letter exists, in his handwriting, addressed to Edward Browne, in which he cites proofs from the Bible, in support of the Baha'i Faith, and encourages Browne to visit Baha'u'llah in 'Akka. It is not known whether a copy of the letter ever reached Browne.
16. Nicolas, Seyyed Ali Mohammed dit le Bab p. 233.
17. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, pp. 9-10.
18. The Dawn-Breakers pp. 128-9 (Brit.), p. 179 (U.S.).
19. See footnote ch. 4, p. 62.
20. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II p. II.
CHAPTER 8: THE CITY OF 'ABBAS THE GREAT
Opening quotation: The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses 1659.
1. It has been stated by one writer that Aqa Muhammad-Husayn-i- Ardistani was also with the Bab on this journey.
2. Layard, Early Adventures in Persia Vol. I, pp. 311-12.
3. Arberry (ed.), The Koran Interpreted.
4. The Dawn-Breakers p. 145 (Brit.), p. 202 (U.S.). <p236>
5. ibid., p. 146 (Brit.), p. 204 (U.S.).
6. ibid., p. 148 (Brit.), pp. 205-7 (U.S.).
7. Sadru'd-Din Muhammad of Shiraz, who died in the year A.H. 1050 (A.D. 1640-1) is generally known as Mulla Sadra. Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i wrote commentaries on two of his works: Hikmatu'l-'Arshiyyah (Divine Philosophy) and Masha'ir (Faculties).
8. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 150 (Brit.), p. 209 (U.S.).
9. ibid., pp. 150 -- 1 (Brit.), pp. 209 -- 11 (U.S.).
10. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, p. 13.
11. Nicolas, Seyyed Ali Mohammed Dit le Bab, p. 242, n. 192.
12. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 152-3 (Brit.), p. 213 (U.S.).
13. 'Abdu'l-Baha states in A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, p. 13, that the Bab's sojourn in the private residence of Manuchihr Khan lasted four months.
CHAPTER 9: THE ANTICHRIST OF THE BABI REVELATION
Opening quotation: Act II, sc. ii.
1. See Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 164.
2. In the early days of Islam, these people were ranked with those groups of zealots who had earned the generic term of Ghulat (Extremists, or 'those who exaggerate'). They identified 'Ali, the first Imam, with the Godhead. 'Abdu'llah Ibn-Saba, a Jewish convert to Islam who originated this doctrine, was put to death by 'Ali himself. ' 'Ali is not God but is not separate from Him either' is the statement attributed to them today.
3. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 156 (Brit.), p. 217 (U.S.).
4. ibid., p. 161 (Brit.), pp. 224-5 (U.S.).
5. The account of this journey is given in The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 156 -- 62 (Brit.), pp. 217 -- 27 (U.S.).
6. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, p. 14.
7. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 162-3 (Brit.), pp. 228-9 (U.S.).
8. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, pp. 14-15.
9. ibid., pp. 15 -- 16.
10. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 163 (Brit.), pp. 230-I (U.S.).
CHAPTER 10: WHERE THE ARAS FLOWS
Opening quotation: translation by H. M. Balyuzi.
1. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 165-6 (Brit.), p. 235 (U.S.).
2. ibid., p. 166 (Brit.), p. 236 (U.S.). <p237>
4. Browne (ed.), The Tarikh-i-Jadid, pp. 220-1.
5. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 167 (Brit.), p. 238 (U.S.).
6. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, p. 16.
7. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 173-4 (Brit.), p. 247 (U.S.).
8. ibid., p. 174 (Brit.), pp. 247-8 (U.S.).
9. Dossier No. 177, Tihran, 1848, pp. 49-5- and p. 360. See Appendix 5, n. 2.
10. See Foreword, paragraph 4.
11. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, p. 16.
12. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 175 (Brit.), p. 249 (U.S.).
CHAPTER 11: THE GRIEVOUS MOUNTAIN
Opening quotation: In Memoriam A.H.H. (Prologue, v. 5.)
1. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 219 (Brit.), p. 303 (U.S.).
2. After the martyrdom of the Bab, a number of His followers turned to Dayyan for guidance. They were known as 'Dayyaniyyih'. Most of them lived in the provinces of Adharbayjan and Gilan. Dayyan went to the length of claiming to be 'He Whom God shall make manifest', but meeting Baha'u'llah in 'Iraq, he retracted his claim. (See BalyuZi: Edward Granville Browne and the Baha'i Faith, pp. 43 and note, 44, 79.)
3. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 220 (Brit.), p. 304 (U.S.).
4. ibid., pp. 21-2 (Brit.), p. 305 (U.S.).
5. See Ch. 2, n. 7.
6. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, Vol. II, pp. 278-89. The questions and replies are extracted from this much longer report of the trial.
7. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 230-1 (Brit.), pp. 316-19 (U.S.). The quotations are taken from these pages; one reply of the Bab is paraphrased.
8. Browne, Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, pp. 260-2.
9. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 234 (Brit.), p. 323 (U.S.).
10. Haji Qasi's end was sad. Some seventeen years later, in spite of assurances given to him, he was strangled on the platform of Persepolis, and his corpse was left dangling there, by the orders of an uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, Haji Sultan Murad Mirza, the Hisamu's-Saltanih, who was on his way to take up the reins of governorship in Shiraz. <p238>
CHAPTER 12: THAT MIDSUMMER NOON
Opening quotation: 'The Bab' in The Baha'i World Vol. VIII, p. 945. Beatrice Irwin (1877-1956) was a British Baha'i of Irish descent, who lived a good part of her life in the United States, but travelled both in her work and as a Baha'i teacher to many parts of the world. Educated at Cheltenham College and Oxford, she was a pioneer in the field of lighting engineering, and also devoted much of her life to advancing the cause of world peace. Her writings include The Gates of Light, The New Science of Colour and Heralds of Peace.
1. In later years he became known as Mirza 'Aliy-i-Sayyah (Traveller), married a daughter of Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi and made his home in Karbila. He was one of the four Baha'is sent with Subh-i-Azal to Cyprus, by the Ottoman Government. He died there on August 4th 1871.
2. See Foreword, paragraph 4.
3. The Dawn-Breakers p. 314 (Brit.), pp. 430-1 (U.S.). Account of Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi (or 'Aziz).
4. ibid. pp. 370-1 (Brit.), p. 505 (U.S.).
5. ibid. p. 371 (Brit.), p. 506 (U.S.).
6. ibid. p. 372 (Brit.), p. 507 (U.S.).
7. ibid. pp. 223-4 (Brit.), pp. 307-8 (U.S.).
8. Cited Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah p. 101.
9. The Dawn-Breakers p. 373 (Brit.), p. 508 (U.S.), and Sohrab, Risaliy-i-Tis'a-'Ashariyyih p. 74.
10. The Dawn-Breakers p. 374 (Brit.), pp. 509-10 (U.S.).
11. ibid. p. 375 (Brit.), p. 512 (U.S.).
12. ibid. p. 376 (Brit.), p. 514 (U.S.).
13. ibid. p. 378 (Brit.), pp. 518-19 (U.S.).
CHAPTER 13: THE DAWN-BREAKERS
Opening quotation: Divan-i-Misbah. 'Azizu'llah Misbah. (1876-1945), poet, educationalist, master of belles-lettres was an eminent Baha'i of Iran. A book of his prose: Munshi'at-i-Misbah reprinted many times, became a textbook, for use in schools.
1. Shaykh Muhammad Shibl and his son, Aqa Muhammad-Mustafa (then about ten years old); Shaykh Sultan-i-Karbila'i; Siyyid Ahmad-i-Yazdi, the father of Siyyid Husayn (the amanuensis of the Bab); Shaykh Salih Karimi and Mulla Ibrahim-i-Mahallati were of that number. <p239>
2. Browne (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative Vol. II, xliii.
3. He was variously named as Mulla 'Abdu'llah, Salih, and Mirza Tahir, the Baker.
4. 'Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of The Faithful p. 201.
5. The Dawn-Breakers pp. 215-16 (Brit.), p. 299 (U.S.).
6. ibid. p. 253 (Brit.), p. 351 (U.S.).
7. Nicolas, Seyyed 'Ali Mohammed dit le Bab p. 296.
8. The Dawn-Breakers p. 240 (Brit.), p. 332 (U.S.).
9. F.O. 60/144.
10. Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Iqan p. 142 (Brit.), p. 223 (U.S.).
11. Cited The Dawn-Breakers p. 284n. (Brit.), p. 395n. (U.S.). Also in another translation in 'Abdu'l-Baha's Memorials of the Faithful p. 7.
12. They were al-Haj Muhammad al-Karradi and Sa'id al-Jabbawi. Haji Muhammad was nearly eighty years old. In his younger days, he had led a hundred men in the war between the Ottomans and Ibrahim Pasha, son of the celebrated Muhammad-'Ali Pasha of Egypt.
13. The Dawn-Breakers p. 298 (Brit.), p. 411 (U.S.).
14. In 1970, the present writer received, through the good offices of his cousin, Abu'l-Qasim Afnan, the photostatically-produced copy of a manuscript describing this episode in Babi history. It is in the handwriting of Aqa Muhammad-Baqir-i-Tihrani, a merchant, whose brother, Mushiru't-Tujjar, was one of the 'Five Martyrs' of Sari. (These five were murdered in the early years of the Constitutional Movement in Persia: see Balyuzi, Edward Granville Browne and the Baha'i Faith.) Aqa Muhammad-Baqir states, in a short introduction, that he visited Barfurush sometime in the year 1319 A.H. (April 20th 1901-April 9th 1902), where he chanced upon a manuscript of the history of the Babis at Shaykh Tabarsi, written by one of them, which he copied for himself and the benefit of others. He does not mention the name of the owner of the original. This history begins with an account of the author joining Mulla Husayn; by this he can be identified, although he nowhere names himself. There is no doubt that he was Mirza Lutf-'Ali or Lutf-'Ali Mirza of Shiraz, a descendant of the Afsharid monarchs of the 18th century A.D. He was one of the few survivors of Shaykh Tabarsi, who managed to escape in the company of Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani, but in the holocaust of August 1852 (see Balyuzi, Baha'u'llah p. 18) he died a martyr's death.
On receiving and examining this chronicle, the present writer <p240> recalled that E. G. Browne mentions, in his Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, a manuscript history of the episode of Shaykh Tabarsi by Lutf-'Ali Mirza, sent to him by Mirza Mustafa, the Azali scribe. As this manuscript is now in Cambridge University Library, a photostatic reproduction was obtained by the kindness of the Librarian. According to the scribe (whose real name was Isma'il-i-Sabbagh-i-Sidihi), the manuscript which he copied for Prof. Browne was faulty, but he could find no other for comparison.
Lutf-'Ali Mirza's chronicle ends abruptly, and Aqa Muhammad-Baqir, the copyist, incorrectly concludes that the author must have died of starvation, since the last lines of his chronicle describe the state of famine caused by the siege.
The present writer is currently engaged in collating the two manuscripts.
15. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 285 (Brit.), p. 396 (U.S.).
16. F.O. 60/150, See Appendix 3.
17. Mulla Baqir, the imam of the Chinar-Sukhtih quarter; Mirza Husayn-i-Qutb, the Kad Khuda (Headman) of the Bazar quarter; and Haji Muhammad-Taqi, a prominent and wealthy merchant, who later earned the surname of Ayyub (Job) from Baha'u'llah, because of his intense sufferings, his patience in tribulation and his steadfastness -- these were among the notables who went out to the village of Runiz in the district of Fasa to meet Vahid.
18. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 353-4 (Brit.), pp. 479-80 (U.S.).
19. They were commanded by Mihr-'Ali Khan-i-Nuri, the Shuja'u'l-Mulk, and Mustafa-Quli Khan-i-Qaraguzlu, the I'timadu's-Saltanih.
20. The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 361-2 (Brit.), pp. 488-9 (U.S.).
21. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 47.
22. Browne (ed.), The Tarikh-i-Jadid, p. 255.
23. ibid., p. 253.
24. Browne, A Year Amongst The Persians, p. 81. (1926 ed.).
25. F.O. 60/153. K. W. Abbott's dispatch of August 30th 1850, enclosed with Sheil's report of September 5th 1850 to Palmerston.
26. F.O. 248/142 of December 9th 1850, R. W. Stevens, Consul at Tabriz to Sheil.
27. The Dawn-Breakers, p. 419 (Brit.), p. 572 (U.S.).
28. F.O. 60/158 of January 6th 1851. <p241>
1. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 273-4.
APPENDIX I: THE SIEGE OF KARBILA
1. F.O. 248/108, of May 15th 1843, enclosed in Farrant's letter to Sheil of May 20th 1843. All quotations unidentified by a number in this Appendix are taken from this document.
2. F.O. 248/108, of November 18th 1842, enclosed in Farrant's letter to Sheil of May 2nd 1843.
3. F.O. 60/95 (undated), enclosed in Sheil's letter to Aberdeen of February 4th 1843.
APPENDIX 2: THE MARTYRDOM OF THE BAB
1. F.O. 60/152.
2. F.O. 248/142, of July 24th 1850.
3. F.O. 60/153
4. F.O. 60/153, of August 3rd 1850, translated by Taylour Thomson.
5. F.O. 248/140.
APPENDIX 3: PRELUDE TO THE EPISODE OF NAYRIZ
1. F.O. 60/150, of February 12th 1850.
APPENDIX 4: THE SEVEN MARTYRS OF TIHRAN
1. F.O. 60/145, of July 27th 1849.
2. Dossier No. 133, Tihran, 1850; pp. 100-5. Translation by Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh in 'Excerpts from Dispatches Written During 1848-1852' by Prince Dolgorukov, Russian Minister to Persia; quoted by kind permission of World Order, A Baha'i Magazine, Vol. I, No. 1, 1966. The dispatches were published as an appendix to M. S. Ivanov's book, The Babi Uprisings in Iran.
3. F.O. 60/150. See Appendix 3.
4. F.O. 248/140, of May 2nd 1850. <p242>
APPENDIX 5: THE EPISODE OF ZANJAN
1. F.O. 60/151, of May 25th 1850.
2. F.O. 60/152, of June 25th 1850.
3. Dossier No. 133, Tihran, 1850; pp. 470-1. See Appendix note 2, for details.
4. F.O. 60/153.
6. Dossier No. 134, Tihran, 1850; p. 562. See Appendix 4, note 2, for details.
7. Dossier No. 133, Tihran, 1850; p. 582. op. cit.
8. Dossier No. 134, Tihran, 1850; p. 99. op. cit.
9. Dossier No. 134, Tihran, 1851; p. 156. op. cit.
10. F.O. 60/153.
12. F.O. 60/154.
13. ibid., of December 16th 1850.
14. ibid., of December 24th 1850.
15. F.O. 248/143.
16. F.O. 60/158.
APPENDIX 6: LORD PALMERSTON'S ENQUIRY
1. F.O. 248/140.
2. F.O. 60/152.
3. F.O. 248/141.
4. F.O. 60/152, enclosed with Sheil's letter to Palmerston.
APPENDIX 7: MYTH-MAKING
1. Arnold, Through Persia by Caravan, Vol. II, pp. 32-5.
2. Benjamin, Persia and The Persians, Preface.
3. ibid., pp. 353-5.
4. Gordon, Persia Revisited, pp. 81-91.
5. Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Vol. I, part 2, pp. 1966-7 and 2384.