Touching the individual known as the Báb and the true nature of this sect diverse tales are on the tongues and in the mouths of men, and various accounts are contained in the pages of Persian history and the leaves of European chronicles. But because of the variety of their assertions and the diversity of their narratives not one is as worthy of confidence as it should be. Some have loosed their tongues in extreme censure and condemnation; some foreign chronicles have spoken in a commendatory strain; while a certain section have recorded what they themselves have heard without addressing themselves either to censure or approbation.
Now since these various accounts are recorded in other pages, and since the setting forth thereof would lead to prolixity, therefore what relates to the history of this matter (sought out with the utmost diligence during the time of my travels in all parts of Persia, whether far or near, from those without and those within, from friends and strangers), and that whereon the disputants are agreed, shall be briefly set forth in writing, so that a summary of the facts of the case may be at the disposal of those who are athirst after the fountain of knowledge and who seek to become acquainted with all events.
The Báb was a young merchant of the Pure Lineage. He was born in the year one thousand two hundred and thirty-five [A.H.] on the first day of Muharram,1 and when after a few years His father Siyyid Muḥammad-Riḍá died, He was brought up in Shíráz in the arms of His maternal uncle Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí the merchant. On attaining maturity He engaged in trade in Búshihr, first in partnership with His maternal uncle and afterwards independently. On account of what was observed in Him He was noted for godliness, devoutness, virtue, and piety, and was regarded in the sight of men as so characterized.
In the year one thousand two hundred and sixty [A.H.], when He was in His twenty-fifth year, certain signs became apparent in His conduct, behavior, manners, and demeanor whereby it became evident in Shíráz that He had some conflict in His mind and some other flight beneath His wing. He began to speak and to declare the rank of Báb-hood.2 Now what He intended by the term Báb [Gate] was this, that He was the channel of grace from some great Person still behind the veil of glory, Who was the possessor of countless and boundless perfections, by Whose will He moved, and to the bond of Whose love He clung. And in the first book which He wrote in explanation of the Súrih of Joseph,3 He addressed Himself in all passages to that Person unseen from Whom He received help and grace, sought for aid in the arrangement of His preliminaries, and craved the sacrifice of life in the way of His love.
Amongst others is this sentence: “O Remnant of God, I am wholly sacrificed to Thee; I am content with curses in Thy way; I crave naught but to be slain in Thy love; and God the Supreme sufficeth as an Eternal Protection.”
He likewise composed a number of works in explanation and elucidation of the verses of the Qur’án, of sermons, and of prayers in Arabic; inciting and urging men to expect the appearance of that Person; and these books He named “Inspired Pages” and “Word of Conscience.” But on investigation it was discovered that He laid no claim to revelation from an angel.
Now since He was noted amongst the people for lack of instruction and education, this circumstance appeared in the sight of men supernatural. Some men inclined to Him, but the greater part manifested strong disapproval; whilst all the learned doctors and lawyers of repute who occupied chairs, altars, and pulpits were unanimously agreed on eradication and suppression, save some divines of the Shaykhí party who were anchorites and recluses, and who, agreeably to their tenets, were ever seeking for some great, incomparable, and trustworthy person, whom they accounted, according to their own terminology, as the “Fourth Support” and the central manifestation of the truths of the Perspicuous Religion.
Of this number Mullá Ḥusayn of Bushrúyih, Mírzá Aḥmad of Azghand, Mullá Ṣádiq Muqaddas [the Holy], Shaykh Abú-Turáb of Ishtihard, Mullá Yúsúf of Ardibíl, Mullá Jalíl of Urúmíyyih, Mullá Mihdí of Kand, Shaykh Sa’íd the Indian, Mullá ‘Alí of Bastám, and the like of these came out unto Him and spread themselves through all parts of Persia.
The Báb Himself set out to perform the circumambulation of the House of God.4 On His return, when the news of His arrival at Búshihr reached Shíráz, there was much discussion, and a strange excitement and agitation became apparent in that city. The great majority of the doctors set themselves to repudiate Him, decreeing slaughter and destruction, and they induced Ḥusayn Khán Ajúdán-báshí, who was the governor of Fárs, to inflict a beating on the Báb’s missionaries, that is on Mullá Ṣádiq Muqaddas; then, having burnt his moustaches and beard together with those of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí of Barfurúsh and Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar of Ardistán, they put halters on all the three and led them round the streets and bazaars.
Now since the doctors of Persia have no administrative capacity, they thought that violence and interference would cause extinction and silence and lead to suppression and oblivion; whereas interference in matters of conscience causes stability and firmness and attracts the attention of men’s sight and souls; which fact has received experimental proof many times and often. So this punishment caused notoriety, and most men fell to making inquiry.
The governor of Fárs, acting according to that which the doctors deemed expedient, sent several horsemen, caused the Báb to be brought before him, censured and blamed Him in the presence of the doctors and scholars, and loosed his tongue in the demand for reparation. And when the Báb returned his censure and withstood him greatly, at a sign from the president they struck Him a violent blow, insulting and contemning Him, in such wise that His turban fell from His head and the mark of the blow was apparent on His face. At the conclusion of the meeting they decided to take counsel, and, on receiving bail and surety from His maternal uncle Ḥájí Siyyid ‘Alí, sent Him to His house forbidding Him to hold intercourse with relations or strangers.
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 Gatehood [Bábíyyat] of another city and the mediumship of the graces of another Person Whose qualities and attributes were contained in His books and treatises.
At all events, as has been mentioned, by reason of the doctors’ lack of experience and skill in administrative science, and the continual succession of their decisions, comment was rife; and their interference with the Báb cast a clamor throughout Persia, causing increased ardor in friends and the coming forward of the hesitating. For by reason of these occurrences men’s interest increased, and in all parts of Persia some [of God’s] servants inclined toward Him, until the matter acquired such importance that the late king Muḥammad Sháh delegated a certain person named Siyyid Yaḥyá of Daráb, who was one of the best known of doctors and Siyyids as well as an object of veneration and confidence, giving him a horse and money for the journey so that he might proceed to Shíráz and personally investigate this matter.5
When the above-mentioned Siyyid arrived at Shíráz he interviewed the Báb three times. In the first and second conferences questioning and answering took place; in the third conference he requested a commentary on the Súrih called Kawthar6, and when the Báb, without thought or reflection, wrote an elaborate commentary on the Kawthar in his presence, the above-mentioned Siyyid was charmed and enraptured with Him, and straightway, without consideration for the future or anxiety about the results of this affection, hastened to Burújird to his father Siyyid Ja’far, known as Kashfí, and acquainted him with the matter. And, although he was wise and prudent and was wont to have regard to the requirements of the time, he wrote without fear or care a detailed account of his observations to Mírzá Lutf-‘Alí 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 of bewitchment.
Now when the news of the decisions of the doctors and the outcry and clamor of the lawyers reached Zanján, Mullá Muḥammad-‘Alí the divine, who was a man of mark possessed of penetrating speech, sent one of those on whom he could rely to Shíráz 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 Báb’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 Báb his own declaration and confession.
Although the doctors of Zanján arose with heart and soul to exhort and admonish the people they could effect nothing. Finally they were compelled to go to Ṭihrán and made their complaint before the late king Muḥammad Sháh, requesting that Mullá Muḥammad-‘Alí might be summoned to Ṭihrán. So the royal order went forth that he should appear.
Now when he came to Ṭihrán they brought him before a conclave of the doctors; but, so they relate, after many controversies and disputations naught was effected with him in that assembly. The late king therefore bestowed on him a staff and fifty túmáns for his expenses, and gave him permission to return.
At all events, this news being disseminated through all parts and regions of Persia, and several proselytes arriving in Fárs, the doctors perceived that the matter had acquired importance, that the power to deal with it had escaped from their hands, and that imprisonment, beating, tormenting, and contumely were fruitless. So they signified to the governor of Fárs, Ḥusayn Khán, “If thou desirest the extinction of this fire, or seekest a firm stopper for this rent and disruption, an immediate cure and decisive remedy is to kill the Báb. And the Báb has assembled a great host and meditates a rising.”
So Ḥusayn Khán ordered ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd Khán the high constable to attack the house of the Báb’s maternal uncle at midnight on all sides, and to bring Him and all His followers handcuffed. But ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd Khán and his hosts found no one in the house save the Báb, His maternal uncle, and Siyyid Kázim of Zanján; and as it chanced that on that night the sickness of the plague and the extreme heat of the weather had compelled Ḥusayn Khán to flee, he released the Báb on condition of His quitting the city.
On the morning after that night the Báb with Siyyid Kázim of Zanján set out from Shíráz for Iṣfahán. Before reaching Iṣfahán He wrote a letter to the Mu’tamídu’d-Dawlih, the governor of the province, requesting a lodging in some suitable place with the sanction of the government. The governor appointed the mansion of the Imám-Jum’ih. There He abode forty days; and one day, agreeably to the request of the Imám, He wrote without reflection a commentary on [the Súrih of] V’al-‘Asr before the company.7 When this news reached the Mu’tamíd he sought an interview with Him and questioned Him concerning the “Special Mission.” At that same interview an answer proving the “Special Mission” was written.
The Mu’tamíd then gave orders that all the doctors should assemble and dispute with Him in one conclave, and that the discussion should be faithfully recorded without alteration by the instrumentality of his private secretary, in order that it might be sent to Ṭihrán, and that whatever the royal edict and decree should ordain might be carried out.
The doctors, however, considering this arrangement as a weakening of the Law, did not agree, but held a conclave and wrote, “If there be doubt in the matter there is need of assembly and discussion, but as this person’s disagreement with the most luminous Law is clearer than the sun therefore the best possible thing is to put in practice the sentence of the Law.”
The Mu’tamíd then desired to hold the assembled conference in his own presence so that the actual truth might be disclosed and hearts be at peace, but these learned doctors and honorable scholars, unwilling to bring the Perspicuous Law into contempt, did not approve discussion and controversy with a young merchant, with the exception of that most erudite sage Áqá Muḥammad-Mihdí, and that eminent Platonist Mírzá Ḥasan of Núr. So the conference terminated in questionings on certain points relating to the science of fundamental dogma, and the elucidation and analysis of the doctrines of Mullá Sadrá. So, as no conclusion was arrived at by the governor from this conference, the severe sentence and harsh decision of the learned doctors was not carried out; but, anxious to abate the great anxiety quickly and prevent a public tumult effectually, he gave currency to a report that a decree had been issued ordering the Báb to be sent to Ṭihrán in order that some decisive settlement might be arrived at, or that some courageous divine might be able to confute [Him].
He accordingly sent Him forth from Iṣfahán with a company of his own mounted bodyguard; but when they reached Murchih-Khar he gave secret orders for His return to Iṣfahán, where he afforded Him a refuge and asylum in his own roofed private quarters; and not a soul save the confidential and trusty dependents of the Mu’tamíd knew aught of the Báb.
A period of four months passed in this fashion, and the Mu’tamíd passed away to the mercy of God. Gurgín Khán, the Mu’tamíd’s nephew, was aware of the Báb’s being in the private apartments, and represented the matter to the Prime Minister. Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, that celebrated minister, issued a decisive command and gave instructions that they should send the Báb secretly in disguise under the escort of Núsayrí horsemen to the capital.
When He reached Kinár-Gird a fresh order came from the Prime Minister appointing the village of Kulayn as an abode and dwelling-place. There He remained for a period of twenty days. After that, the Báb forwarded a letter to the Royal Presence craving audience to set forth the truth of His condition, expecting this to be a means for the attainment of great advantages. The Prime Minister did not admit this, and made representation to the Royal Presence: “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 Iṣfahán, which thing will be the cause of a popular outbreak, or that, according to the religion of the immaculate Imám, they will regard the blood of this siyyid 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 Báb 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 Mákú 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.”
(After the titles). “Since the royal train is on the verge of departure from Ṭihrán, to meet in a befitting manner is impossible. Do you go to Mákú 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 show you attention and respect. When we return from travel we will summon you specially.”
Besides this the followers of the Báb recount certain messages conveyed [from Him] by the instrumentality of Muḥammad Big (amongst which was a promise to heal the foot of the late king, but on condition of an interview, and the suppression of the tyranny of the majority), and the Prime Minister’s prevention of the conveyance of these letters to the Royal Presence. For he himself laid claim to be a spiritual guide and was prepared to perform the functions of religious directorship. But others deny these accounts.
At all events in the course of the journey He wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying, “You summoned Me from Iṣfahán to meet the doctors and for the attainment of a decisive settlement. What has happened now that this excellent intention has been changed for Mákú and Tabríz?”
Although He remained forty days in the city of Tabríz the learned doctors did not condescend to approach Him and did not deem it right to meet Him. Then they sent Him off to the Castle of Mákú, and for nine months lodged Him in the inaccessible castle which is situated on the summit of that lofty mountain. And ‘Alí Khán of Mákú, because of his excessive love for the family of the Prophet, paid Him such attention as was possible, and gave permission [to some persons] to converse with Him.
Now when the accomplished divines of Ádhirbáyján perceived that in all the parts round about Tabríz it was as though the last day had come by reason of the excessive clamor, they requested the government to punish the [Báb’s] followers, and to remove the Báb to the Castle of Chihríq. So they sent Him to that castle and consigned Him to the keeping of Yaḥyá Khán the Kurd.
Glory be to God! Notwithstanding these decisions of great doctors and reverend lawyers, and severe punishments and reprimands—beatings, banishments, and imprisonments—on the part of governors, this sect was daily on the increase, and the discussion and disputation was such that in meetings and assemblies in all parts of Persia there was no conversation but on this topic. Great was the commotion which arose: the doctors of the Perspicuous Religion were lamenting, the common folk clamorous and agitated, and the Friends rejoicing and applauding.
But the Báb Himself attached no importance to this uproar and tumult, and, alike on the road and in the castles of Mákú and Chihríq, evening and morning, nay, day and night, in extremest rapture and amazement, He would restrict Himself to repeating and meditating on the qualities and attributes of that absent-yet-present, regarded-and-regarding Person of His.8 Thus He makes a mention of Him whereof this is the purport:
“Though the ocean of woe rageth on every side, and the bolts of fate follow in quick succession, and the darkness of griefs and afflictions invade soul and body, yet is My heart brightened by the remembrance of Thy countenance and My soul is as a rosegarden from the perfume of Thy nature.”
In short, after He had remained for three months in the Castle of Chihríq, the eminent doctors of Tabríz and scholars of Ádhirbáyján wrote to Ṭihrán and demanded a severe punishment in regard to the Báb for the intimidation and frightening of the people. When the Prime Minister Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí beheld the ferment and clamor of the learned doctors in all districts of Persia, he perforce became their accomplice and ordered Him to be brought from Chihríq to Tabríz. In the course of His transit by Urúmíyyih the governor of the district Qásim Mírzá treated Him with extraordinary deference, and a strange flocking together of high and low was apparent. These conducted themselves with the utmost respectfulness.
When the Báb reached Tabríz they brought Him after some days before the government tribunal. Of the learned doctors the Nizámu’l-‘Ulamá, Mullá Muḥammad-i-Mamaqání, Mírzá Aḥmad the Imám-Jum’ih, Mírzá ‘Alí-Aṣghar the Shaykhu’l-Islám, and several other divines were present. They asked concerning the claims of the Báb. He advanced the claim of Mihdí-hood; whereon a mighty tumult arose. Eminent doctors in overwhelming might compassed Him on all sides, and such was the onset of orthodoxy that it had been no great wonder if a mere youth had not withstood the mountain of Elburz. They demanded proof. Without hesitation He recited texts, saying, “This is the permanent and most mighty proof.” They criticized His grammar. He adduced arguments from the Qur’án, setting forth therefrom instances of similar infractions of the rules of grammar. So the assembly broke up and the Báb returned to His own dwelling.
The heaven-cradled Crown-Prince was at that time governor of Ádhirbáyján. He pronounced no sentence with regard to the Báb, nor did he desire to interfere with Him. The doctors, however, considered it advisable at least to inflict a severe chastisement, and beating was decided on. But none of the corps of farráshes would agree to become the instruments of the infliction of this punishment. So Mírzá ‘Alí-Aṣghar the Shaykhu’l-Islám, who was one of the noble Siyyids, brought Him to his own house and applied the rods with his own hand. After this they sent the Báb back to Chihríq and subjected Him to a strict confinement.
Now when the news of this beating, chastisement, imprisonment, and rigor reached all parts of Persia, learned divines and esteemed lawyers who were possessed of power and influence girt up the loins of endeavor for the eradication and suppression of this sect, exerting their utmost efforts therefore. And they wrote notice of their decision, to wit “that this person and his followers are in absolute error and are hurtful to Church and State.” And since the governors in Persia enjoyed the fullest authority, in some provinces they followed this decision and united in uprooting and dispersing the Bábís. But the late King Muḥammad Sháh acted with deliberation in this matter, reflecting, “This Youth is of the Pure Lineage and of the family of him addressed with ‘were it not for thee.’ So long as no offensive actions which are incompatible with the public peace and well-being proceed from him, the government should not interfere with him.” And whenever the learned doctors appealed to him from the surrounding districts, he either gave no answer, or else commanded them to act with deliberation.
Notwithstanding this, between eminent doctors and illustrious scholars and those learned persons who were followers of the Báb opposition, discussion, and strife did so increase that in some provinces they desired [to resort to] mutual imprecation; and for the governors of the provinces, too, a means of acquiring gain was produced, so that great tumult and disturbance arose. And since the malady of the gout had violently attacked the king’s foot and occupied his world-ordering thought, the good judgment of the Chief Minister, the famous Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, became the pivot of the conduct of affairs, and his incapacity and lack of resource became apparent as the sun. For every hour he formed a new opinion and gave a new order: at one moment he would seek to support the decision of the doctors, accounting the eradication and suppression of the Bábís as necessary: at another time he would charge the doctors with aggressiveness, regarding undue interference as contrary to justice: at another time he would become a mystic and say, “All these voices are from the King,”9 or repeat with his tongue, “Moses is at war with Moses,”10 or recite, “This is nought but Thy trial.”11 In short this changeable minister, by reason of his mismanagement of important matters and failure to control and order the affairs of the community, so acted that disturbance and clamor arose from all quarters and directions: the most notable and influential of the doctors ordered the common folk to molest the followers of the Báb, and a general onslaught took place. More especially when the claim of Mihdí-hood reached the hearing of eminent divines and profound doctors they began to make lamentation and to cry and complain from their pulpits, saying, “One of the essentials of religion and of the authentic traditions transmitted from the holy Imáms, nay, the chief basis of the foundations of the church of His Highness Ja’far, is the Occultation of the immaculate twelfth Imám (upon both of them be peace). What has happened to Jábulqá? Where has Jábulsá gone? What was the Minor Occultation? What has become of the Major Occultation? What are the sayings of Ḥusayn ibn Rúh, and what the tradition of Ibn Mihríyár? What shall we make of the flight of the Guardians and the Helpers? How shall we deal with the conquest of the East and the West? Where is the Ass of Antichrist? When will the appearance of the Súfyán be? Where are the signs which are in the traditions of the Holy Family? Where is that whereon the Victorious Church is agreed? The matter is not outside one of two alternatives: either we must repudiate the traditions of the Holy Imáms, grow wearied of the Church of Ja’far, and account the clear indications of the Imám as disturbed dreams; or, in accordance with the primary and subsidiary doctrines of the Faith and the essential and explicit declarations of the most luminous Law, we must consider the repudiation, nay, the destruction of this person as our chief duty. If so be that we shut our eyes to these authentic traditions and obvious doctrines universally admitted, no remnant will endure of the fundamental basis of the Church of the immaculate Imám: we shall neither be Sunnites, nor shall we be of the prevalent sect to continue awaiting the promised Saint and believing in the begotten Mihdí.12 Otherwise we must regard as admissible the opening of the Gate of Saintship, and consider that He Who is to arise of the family of Muḥammad possesses two signs: the first condition, Holy Lineage; the second, [that He is divinely] fortified with brilliant verses. What can we do with these thousand-year-old beliefs of the delivered band of Shí‘ites, or what shall we say concerning their profound doctors and preeminent divines? Were all these in error? Did they journey in the vale of transgression? What an evidently false assertion is this! By God, this is a thing to break the back! O people, extinguish this fire and forget these words! Alas! woe to our Faith, woe to our Law!”
But the Bábí chiefs composed treatises against them, and set in order replies according to their own thought. Were these to be discussed in detail it would conduce to prolixity, and our object is the statement of history, not of arguments for believing or rejecting; but of some of the replies the gist is this: that they held the Proof as supreme, and the evidence as outweighing traditions, considering the former as the root and the latter as the branch, and saying, “If the branch agree not with the root it serves not as an argument and is unworthy of reliance; for the reported consequence has no right to oppose itself to the established principle, and cannot argue against it.” Indeed in such cases they regarded interpretation as the truth of revelation and the essence of true exegesis: thus, for instance, they interpreted the sovereignty of the Qá’im as a mystical sovereignty, and His conquests as conquests of the cities of hearts, adducing in support of this the meekness and defeat of the Chief of Martyrs (may the life of all being be a sacrifice for him). For he was the true manifestation of the blessed verse “And verily our host shall overcome for them,”13 yet, notwithstanding this, he quaffed the cup of martyrdom with perfect meekness, and, at the very moment of uttermost defeat, triumphed over his enemies and became the most mighty of the troops of the Supreme Host. Similarly they regarded the numerous writings which, in spite of His lack of education, the Báb had composed, as due to the promptings of the Holy Spirit; extracted from books contrary sayings handed down by men of mark; adduced traditions apparently agreeing with their objects; and clung to the announcements of certain notables of yore. They also considered the conversion of austere and recluse doctors and eminent votaries of the Perspicuous Religion [of Islám] as a valid proof, deemed the steadfastness and constancy of the Báb a most mighty sign, and related miracles and the like; which things, being altogether foreign to our purpose, we have passed by with brevity, and will now proceed with our original topic.
At the time of these events certain persons appeared amongst the Bábís who had a strange ascendancy and appearance in the eyes of this sect. Amongst these was Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí of Mázindarán, who was the disciple of the illustrious Siyyid (may God exalt his station) Ḥájí Siyyid Kázim of Rasht, and who was the associate and companion of the Báb in His pilgrimage journey. After a while certain manners and states issued from him such that all, acting with absolute confidence, considered obedience to him as an impregnable stronghold, so that even Mullá Ḥusayn of Bushrúyih, who was the leader of all and the arbiter appealed to alike by the noble and the humble of this sect, used to behave in his presence with great humility and with the self-abasement of a lowly servant.
This personage set himself to exalt the word of the Báb with the utmost steadfastness, and the Báb did full justice to speech in praising and glorifying him, accounting his uprising as an assistance from the Unseen. In delivery and style he was “evident magic,” and in firmness and constancy superior to all. At length in the year [A.H.] 1265 at the sentence of the chief of lawyers the Sa’ídu’l-‘Ulamá’ the chief divine of Barfurúsh, he yielded his head and surrendered his life amidst extremest clamor and outcry.
And amongst them was she who was entitled Qurratu’l-‘Ayn the daughter of Ḥájí Ṣáliḥ, the sage of Qazvín, the erudite doctor. She, according to what is related, was skilled in diverse arts, amazed the understandings and thoughts of the most eminent masters by her eloquent dissertations on the exegesis and tradition of the Perspicuous Book, and was a mighty sign in the doctrines of the glorious Shaykh of Ahsá. At the Supreme Shrines she borrowed light on matters divine from the lamp of Kázim, and freely sacrificed her life in the way of the Báb. She discussed and disputed with the doctors and sages, loosing her tongue to establish her doctrine. Such fame did she acquire that most people who were scholars or mystics sought to hear her speech and were eager to become acquainted with her powers of speculation and deduction. She had a brain full of tumultuous ideas, and thoughts vehement and restless. In many places she triumphed over the contentious, expounding the most subtle questions. When she was imprisoned in the house of [Maḥmúd] the Kalantar of Ṭihrán, and the festivities and rejoicings of a wedding were going on, the wives of the city magnates who were present as guests were so charmed with the beauty of her speech that, forgetting the festivities, they gathered round her, diverted by listening to her words from listening to the melodies, and rendered indifferent by witnessing her marvels to the contemplation of the pleasant and novel sights which are incidental to a wedding. In short in elocution she was the calamity of the age, and in ratiocination the trouble of the world. Of fear or timidity there was no trace in her heart, nor had the admonitions of the kindly-disposed any profit or fruit for her. Although she was of [such as are] damsels [meet] for the bridal bower, yet she wrested preeminence from stalwart men, and continued to strain the feet of steadfastness until she yielded up her life at the sentence of the mighty doctors in Ṭihrán. But were we to occupy ourselves with these details the matter would end in prolixity.
Well, Persia was in this critical state and the learned doctors perplexed and anxious, when the late Prince Muḥammad Sháh died, and the throne of sovereignty was adorned with the person of the new monarch. Mírzá Taqí Khán Amír-Nizám, who was Prime Minister and Chief Regent, seized in the grasp of his despotic power the reins of the affairs of the commonwealth, and urged the steed of his ambition into the arena of willfulness and sole possession. This minister was a person devoid of experience and wanting in consideration for the consequences of actions; bloodthirsty and shameless; and swift and ready to shed blood. Severity in punishing he regarded as wise administration, and harshly entreating, distressing, intimidating, and frightening the people he considered as a fulcrum for the advancement of the monarchy. And as His Majesty the King was in the prime of youthful years the minister fell into strange fancies and sounded the drum of absolutism in [the conduct of] affairs: on his own decisive resolution, without seeking permission from the Royal Presence or taking counsel with prudent statesmen, he issued orders to persecute the Bábís, imagining that by overweening force he could eradicate and suppress matters of this nature, and that harshness would bear good fruit; whereas [in fact] to interfere with matters of conscience is simply to give them greater currency and strength; the more you strive to extinguish the more will the flame be kindled, more especially in matters of faith and religion, which spread and acquire influence so soon as blood is shed, and strongly affect men’s hearts. These things have been put to the proof, and the greatest proof is this very transaction. Thus they relate that the possessions of a certain Bábí in Káshán were plundered, and his household scattered and dispersed. They stripped him naked and scourged him, defiled his beard, mounted him face backwards on an ass, and paraded him through the streets and bazaars with the utmost cruelty, to the sound of drums, trumpets, guitars, and tambourines. A certain gabr who knew absolutely naught of the world or its denizens chanced to be seated apart in a corner of a caravansary. When the clamor of the people rose high he hastened into the street, and, becoming cognizant of the offence and the offender, and the cause of his public disgrace and punishment in full detail, he fell to making search, and that very day entered the society of the Bábís, saying, “This very ill-usage and public humiliation is a proof of truth and the very best of arguments. Had it not been thus it might have been that a thousand years would have passed ere one like me became informed.”
At all events the minister with the utmost arbitrariness, without receiving any instructions or asking permission, sent forth commands in all directions to punish and chastise the Bábís. Governors and magistrates sought a pretext for amassing wealth, and officials a means of [acquiring] profits; celebrated doctors from the summits of their pulpits incited men to make a general onslaught; the powers of the religious and the civil law linked hands and strove to eradicate and destroy this people.
Now this people had not yet acquired such knowledge as was right and needful of the fundamental principles and hidden doctrines of the Báb’s teachings, and did not recognize their duties. Their conceptions and ideas were after the former fashion, and their conduct and behavior in correspondence with ancient usage. The way of approach to the Báb was, moreover, closed, and the flame of trouble visibly blazing on every side. At the decree of the most celebrated of the doctors, the government, and indeed the common people, had, with irresistible power, inaugurated rapine and plunder on all sides, and were engaged in punishing and torturing, killing and despoiling, in order that they might quench this fire and wither these [poor] souls. In towns where these were but a limited number all of them with bound hands became food for the sword, while in cities where they were numerous they arose in self-defense agreeably to their former beliefs, since it was impossible for them to make inquiry as to their duty, and all doors were closed.
In Mázindarán amongst other places the people of the city of Barfurúsh at the command of the chief of the lawyers the Sa’ídu’l-‘Ulamá’ made a general attack on Mullá Ḥusayn of Bushrúyih and his followers, and slew six or seven persons. They were busy compassing the destruction of the rest also when Mullá Ḥusayn ordered the adhán to be sounded and stretched forth his hand to the sword, whereupon all sought flight, and the nobles and lords coming before him with the utmost penitence and deference agreed that he should be permitted to depart. They further sent with them as a guard Khusraw of Qádí-Kalá with horsemen and footmen, so that, according to the terms of the agreement, they might go forth safe and protected from the territory of Mázindarán. When they, being ignorant of the fords and paths, had emerged from the city, Khusraw dispersed his horsemen and footmen and set them in ambush in the forest of Mázindarán, scattered and separated the Bábís in that forest on the road and off the road, and began to hunt them down singly. When the reports of muskets arose on every side the hidden secret became manifest, and several wanderers and other persons were suddenly slain with bullets. Mullá Ḥusayn ordered the adhán to be sounded to assemble his scattered followers, while Mírzá Lutf-‘Alí the secretary drew his dagger and ripped open Khusraw’s vitals. Of Khusraw’s host some were slain and others wandered distractedly over the field of battle. Mullá Ḥusayn quartered his host in a fort near the burial-place of Shaykh Tabarsí, and, being aware of the wishes of the community, relaxed and interrupted the march. This detachment was subsequently further reinforced by Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí of Mázindarán with a number of other persons, so that the garrison of the fort numbered three hundred and thirteen souls. Of these, however, all were not capable of fighting, only one hundred and ten persons being prepared for war. Most of them were doctors or students whose companions had been during their whole life books and treatises; yet, in spite of the fact that they were unaccustomed to war or to the blows of shot and sword, four times were camps and armies arrayed against them and they were attacked and hemmed in with cannons, muskets, and bomb-shells, and on all four occasions they inflicted defeat, while the army was completely routed and dispersed. On the occasion of the fourth defeat Abbás-Qulí Khán of Laríján was captain of the forces and Prince Mihdí-Qulí Mírzá commander in the camp. The Khán above mentioned used at nights to conceal and hide himself in disguise amongst the trees of the forest outside the camp, while during the day he was present in the encampment. The last battle took place at night and the army was routed. The Bábís fired the tents and huts, and night became bright as day. The foot of Mullá Ḥusayn’s horse caught in a noose, for he was riding, the others being on foot. Abbás-Qulí Khán recognized him from the top of a tree afar off, and with his own hand discharged several bullets. At the third shot he threw him from his feet. He was borne by his followers to the fort, and there they buried him. Notwithstanding this event [the troops] could not prevail by superior force. At length the Prince made a treaty and covenant, and swore by the Holy Imáms, confirming his oath by vows plighted on the glorious Qur’án, to this effect: “You shall not be molested; return to your own places.” Since their provisions had for some time been exhausted, so that even of the skins and bones of horses naught remained, and they had subsisted for several days on pure water, they agreed. When they arrived at the army food was prepared for them in a place outside the camp. They were engaged in eating, having laid aside their weapons and armor, when the soldiers fell on them on all sides and slew them all. Some have accounted this valor displayed by these people as a thing miraculous, but when a band of men are besieged in some place where all avenues and roads are stopped and all hope of deliverance is cut off they will assuredly defend themselves desperately and display bravery and courage.
In Zanján and Nayríz likewise at the decree of erudite doctors and notable lawyers a bloodthirsty military force attacked and besieged. In Zanján the chief was Mullá Muḥammad-‘Alí the mujtahid, while in Nayríz Siyyid Yaḥyá of Daráb was the leader and arbiter. At first they sought to bring about a reconciliation, but, meeting with cruel ferocity, they reached the pitch of desperation; and, the overpowering force of the victorious troops having cut off every passage of flight, they unclosed their hands in resistance. But although they were very strong in battle and amazed the chiefs of the army by their steadfastness and endurance, the overwhelming military force closed the passage of flight and broke their wings and feathers. After numerous battles they too at last yielded to covenants and compacts, oaths and promises, vows registered on the Qur’án, and the wonderful stratagems of the officers, and were all put to the edge of the sword.
Were we to occupy ourselves in detail with the wars of Nayríz and Zanján, or to set forth these events from beginning to end, this epitome would become a bulky volume. So, since this would be of no advantage to history, we have passed them over briefly.
During the course of the events which took place at Zanján the Prime Minister devised a final and trenchant remedy. Without the royal command, without consulting with the ministers of the subject-protecting court, he, acting with arbitrary disposition, fixed determination, and entirely on his own authority, issued commands to put the Báb to death. This befell in brief as follows. The governor of Ádhirbáyján, Prince Ḥamzih Mírzá, was unwilling that the execution of this sentence should be at his hands, and said to the brother of the Amír, Mírzá Ḥasan Khán, “This is a vile business and an easy one; anyone is capable and competent. I had imagined that His Excellency the Regent would commission me to make war on the Afghans or Uzbegs or appoint me to attack and invade the territory of Russia or Turkey.” So Mírzá Ḥasan Khán wrote his excuse in detail to the Amír.
Now the Siyyid Báb had disposed all His affairs before setting out from Chihríq towards Tabríz, had placed His writings and even His ring and pen-case in a specially prepared box, put the key of the box in an envelope, and sent it by means of Mullá Báqir, who was one of His first associates, to Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím of Qazvín. This trust Mullá Báqir delivered over to Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím at Qum in presence of a numerous company. At the solicitations of those present he opened the lid of the box and said, “I am commanded to convey this trust to Bahá’u’lláh: more than this ask not of me, for I cannot tell you.” Importuned by the company, he produced a long epistle in blue, penned in the most graceful manner with the utmost delicacy and firmness in a beautiful minute shikastih hand, written in the shape of a man so closely that it would have been imagined that it was a single wash of ink on the paper. When they had read this epistle [they perceived that] He had produced three hundred and sixty derivatives from the word Bahá. Then Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím conveyed the trust to its destination.
Well, we must return to our original narrative. The Prime Minister issued a second order to his brother Mírzá Ḥasan Khán, the gist of which order was this: “Obtain a formal and explicit sentence from the learned doctors of Tabríz who are the firm support of the Church of Ja’far (upon him be peace) and the impregnable stronghold of the Shí‘ite faith; summon the Christian regiment of Urúmíyyih; suspend the Báb before all the people; and give orders for the regiment to fire a volley.”
Mírzá Ḥasan Khán summoned his chief of the farráshes, and gave him his instructions. They removed the Báb’s turban and sash which were the signs of His Siyyid-hood, brought Him with four of His followers to the barrack square of Tabríz, confined Him in a cell, and appointed forty of the Christian soldiers of Tabríz to guard Him.
Next day the chief of the farráshes delivered over the Báb and a young man named Áqá Muḥammad-‘Alí who was of a noble family of Tabríz to Sám Khán, colonel of the Christian regiment of Urúmíyyih, at the sentences of the learned divine Mullá Muḥammad of Mamaqán, of the second ecclesiastical authority Mullá Mírzá Báqir, and of the third ecclesiastical authority Mullá Murtadá-Qulí and others. An iron nail was hammered into the middle of the staircase of the very cell wherein they were imprisoned, and two ropes were hung down. By one rope the Báb was suspended and by the other rope Áqá Muḥammad-‘Alí, both being firmly bound in such wise that the head of that young man was on the Báb’s breast. The surrounding housetops billowed with teeming crowds. A regiment of soldiers ranged itself in three files. The first file fired; then the second file, and then the third file discharged volleys. From the fire of these volleys a mighty smoke was produced. When the smoke cleared away they saw that young man standing and the Báb seated by the side of His amanuensis Áqá Siyyid Ḥusayn in the very cell from the staircase of which they had suspended them. To neither one of them had the slightest injury resulted.
Sám Khán the Christian asked to be excused; the turn of service came to another regiment, and the chief of the farráshes withheld his hand. Áqá Ján Big of Khamsíh, colonel of the bodyguard, advanced; and they again bound the Báb together with that young man to the same nail. The Báb uttered certain words which those few who knew Persian understood, while the rest heard but the sound of His voice.
The colonel of the regiment appeared in person: and it was before noon on the twenty-eighth day of Sha’bán in the year [A.H.] one thousand two hundred and sixty-six.14 Suddenly he gave orders to fire. At this volley the bullets produced such an effect that the breasts [of the victims] were riddled, and their limbs were completely dissected, except their faces, which were but little marred.
Then they removed those two bodies from the square to the edge of the moat outside the city, and that night they remained by the edge of the moat. Next day the Russian consul came with an artist and took a picture of those two bodies in the posture wherein they had fallen at the edge of the moat.
On the third day the people did not find the bodies, and some supposed that the wild beasts had devoured them, so that the doctors proclaimed from the summits of their pulpits saying, “The holy body of the immaculate Imám and that of the true Shí‘ite are preserved from the encroachments of beasts of prey and creeping things and wounds, but the body of this person have the wild beasts torn in pieces.” But after the fullest investigation and inquiry it hath been proved that when the Báb had dispersed all His writings and personal properties and it had become clear and evident from various signs that these events would shortly take place, therefore, on the second day of these events, Sulaymán Khán the son of Yaḥyá Khán, one of the nobles of Ádhirbáyján devoted to the Báb, arrived, and proceeded straightway to the house of the mayor of Tabríz. And since the mayor was an old friend, associate, and confidant of his; since, moreover, he was of the mystic temperament and did not entertain aversion or dislike for any sect, Sulaymán Khán divulged this secret to him saying, “Tonight I, with several others, will endeavor by every means and artifice to rescue the body. Even though it be not possible, come what may we will make an attack, and either attain our object or pour out our lives freely in this way.” “Such troubles,” answered the mayor, “are in no wise necessary.” He then sent one of his private servants named Ḥájí Alláh-Yár, who, by whatever means and proceedings it was, obtained the body without trouble or difficulty and handed it over to Ḥájí Sulaymán Khán. And when it was morning the sentinels, to excuse themselves, said that the wild beasts had devoured it. That night they sheltered the body in the workshop of a Bábí of Milán: next day they manufactured a box, placed it in the box, and left it as a trust. Afterwards, in accordance with instructions which arrived from Ṭihrán, they sent it away from Ádhirbáyján. And this transaction remained absolutely secret.
Now in these years [A.H. one thousand two hundred and] sixty-six and sixty-seven throughout all Persia fire fell on the households of the Bábís, and each one of them, in whatever hamlet he might be, was, on the slightest suspicion arising, put to the sword. More than four thousand souls were slain, and a great multitude of women and children, left without protector or helper, distracted and confounded, were trodden down and destroyed. And all these occurrences were brought about solely by the arbitrary decision and command of Mírzá Taqí Khán, who imagined that by the enactment of a crushing punishment this sect would be dispersed and disappear in such wise that all sign and knowledge of them would be cut off. Ere long had passed the contrary of his imagination appeared, and it became certain that [the Bábís] were increasing. The flame rose higher and the contagion became swifter: the affair waxed grave and the report thereof reached other climes. At first it was confined to Persia: later it spread to the rest of the world. Quaking and affliction resulted in constancy and stability, and grievous pains and punishment caused acceptance and attraction. The very events produced an impression; impression led to investigation; and investigation resulted in increase. Through the ill-considered policy of the Minister this edifice became fortified and strengthened, and these foundations firm and solid. Previously the matter used to be regarded as commonplace: subsequently it acquired a grave importance in men’s eyes. Many persons from all parts of the world set out for Persia, and began to seek with their whole hearts. For it hath been proved by experience in the world that in the case of such matters of conscience laceration causeth healing; censure produceth increased diligence; prohibition induceth eagerness; and intimidation createth avidity. The root is hidden in the very heart, while the branch is apparent and evident. When one branch is cut off other branches grow. Thus it is observed that when such matters occur in other countries they become extinct spontaneously through lack of attention and exiguity of interest. For up to the present moment of movements pertaining to religion many have appeared in the countries of Europe, but, noninterference and absence of bigotry having deprived them of importance, in a little while they became effaced and dispelled.
After this event there was wrought by a certain Bábí a great error and a grave presumption and crime, which has blackened the page of the history of this sect and given it an ill name throughout the civilized world. Of this event the marrow is this, that during the time when the Báb was residing in Ádhirbáyján a youth, Ṣádiq by name, became affected with the utmost devotion to the Báb, night and day was busy in serving Him, and became bereft of thought and reason. Now when that which befell the Báb in Tabríz took place, this servant, actuated by his own fond fancies, fell into thoughts of seeking blood-revenge. And since he knew naught of the details of the events, the absolute autocracy of the Amír-Nizám, his unbridled power, and sole authority; nor [was aware] that this sentence had been promulgated absolutely without the cognizance of the Royal Court, and that the Prime Minister had presumptuously issued the order on his own sole responsibility; since, on the contrary, he supposed that agreeably to ordinary custom and usage the attendants of the court had had a share in, and a knowledge of this sentence, therefore, [impelled by] folly, frenzy, and his evil star, nay, by sheer madness, he rose up from Tabríz and came straight to Ṭihrán, one other person being his accomplice. Then, since the Royal Train had its abode in Shimírán, he thither directed his steps. God is our refuge! By him was wrought a deed so presumptuous that the tongue is unable to declare and the pen loath to describe it. Yet to God be praise and thankfulness that this madman had charged his pistol with shot, imagining this to be preferable and superior to all projectiles.
Then all at once commotion arose, and this sect became of such ill repute that still, strive and struggle as they may to escape from the curse and disgrace and dishonor of this deed, they are unable to do so. They will recount from the first manifestation of the Báb until the present time; but when the thread of the discourse reaches this event they are abashed and hang their heads in shame, repudiating the presumptuous actor and accounting him the destroyer of the edifice and the cause of shame to mankind.
Now after the occurrence of this grave matter all of this sect were suspected. At first there was neither investigation nor inquiry, but afterwards in mere justice it was decided that there should be investigation, inquiry, and examination. All who were known to be of this sect fell under suspicion. Bahá’u’lláh was passing the summer in the village of Afchih situated one stage from Ṭihrán. When this news was spread abroad and punishment began, everyone who was able hid himself in some retreat or fled the country. Amongst these Mírzá Yaḥyá, the brother of Bahá’u’lláh, concealed himself, and, a bewildered fugitive, in the guise of a dervish, with kashkúl in hand, wandered in mountains and plains on the road to Rasht. But Bahá’u’lláh rode forth with perfect composure and calmness from Afchih, and came to Níyávarán, which was the abode of the Royal Train and the station of the imperial camp. Immediately on His arrival He was placed under arrest, and a whole regiment guarded Him closely. After several days of interrogation they sent Him in chains and fetters from Shimírán to the jail of Ṭihrán. And this harshness and punishment was due to the immoderate importunity of Ḥájí ‘Alí Khán, the Ḥajíbu’d-Dawlih, nor did there seem any hope of deliverance, until His Majesty the King, moved by his own kindly spirit, commanded circumspection, and ordered this occurrence to be investigated and examined particularly and generally by means of the ministers of the imperial court.
Now when Bahá’u’lláh was interrogated on this matter He answered in reply, “The event itself indicates the truth of the affair and testifies that this is the action of a thoughtless, unreasoning, and ignorant man. For no reasonable person would charge his pistol with shot when embarking on so grave an enterprise. At least he would so arrange and plan it that the deed should be orderly and systematic. From the very nature of the event it is clear and evident as the sun that it is not the act of such as Myself.”
So it was established and proven that the assassin had on his own responsibility engaged in this grievous action and monstrous deed with the idea and design of taking blood revenge for his Master, and that it concerned no one else. And when the truth of the matter became evident the innocence of Bahá’u’lláh from this suspicion was established in such wise that no doubt remained for anyone; the decision of the court declared His purity and freedom from this charge; and it became apparent and clear that what had been done with regard to Him was due to the efforts of His foes and the hasty folly of the Ḥajíbu’d-Dawlih. Therefore did the government of eternal duration desire to restore certain properties and estates which had been confiscated, that thereby it might pacify Him. But since the chief part of these was lost and only an inconsiderable portion was forthcoming, none came forward to claim them. Indeed Bahá’u’lláh requested permission to withdraw to the Supreme Shrines15 [of Karbilá and Najaf] and, after some months, by the royal permission and with the leave of the Prime Minister, set out accompanied by one of the King’s messengers for the Shrines.
Let us return, however, to our original subject. Of the Báb’s writings many remained in men’s hands. Some of these were commentaries on, and interpretations of the verses of the Qur’án; some were prayers, homilies, and hints of [the true significance of certain] passages; others were exhortations, admonitions, dissertations on the different branches of the doctrine of the Divine Unity, demonstrations of the special prophetic mission of the Lord of existing things [Muḥammad], and (as it hath been understood) encouragements to amendment of character, severance from worldly states, and dependence on the inspirations of God. But the essence and purport of His compositions were the praises and descriptions of that Reality soon to appear which was His only object and aim, His darling, and His desire.16 For He regarded His own appearance as that of a harbinger of good tidings, and considered His own real nature merely as a means for the manifestation of the greater perfections of that One. And indeed He ceased not from celebrating Him by night or day for a single instant, but used to signify to all His followers that they should expect His arising: in such wise that He declares in His writings, “I am a letter out of that most mighty book and a dewdrop from that limitless ocean, and, when He shall appear, My true nature, My mysteries, riddles, and intimations will become evident, and the embryo of this religion shall develop through the grades of its being and ascent, attain to the station of ‘the most comely of forms,’17 and become adorned with the robe of ‘blessed be God, the Best of Creators.’18 And this event will disclose itself in the year [A.H. one thousand two hundred and] sixty-nine,19 which corresponds to the number of the year of ‘after a while,’ and ‘thou shalt see the mountains which thou thinkest so solid passing away like the passing of the clouds’20 shall be fulfilled.” In short He so described Him that, in His own expression, He regarded approach to the divine bounty and attainment of the highest degrees of perfection in the worlds of humanity as dependent on love for Him, and so inflamed was He with His flame that commemoration of Him was the bright candle of His dark nights in the fortress of Mákú, and remembrance of Him was the best of companions in the straits of the prison of Chihríq. Thereby He obtained spiritual enlargements; with His wine was He inebriated; and at remembrance of Him did He rejoice. All of His followers too were in expectation of the appearance of these signs, and each one of His intimates was seeking after the fulfillment of these forecasts.
Now from the beginning of the manifestation of the Báb there was in Ṭihrán (which the Báb called the Holy Land) a Youth of the family of one of the ministers and of noble lineage, gifted in every way, and adorned with purity and nobility. Although He combined lofty lineage with high connection, and although His ancestors were men of note in Persia and universally sought after, yet He was not of a race of doctors or a family of scholars. Now this Youth was from His earliest adolescence celebrated amongst those of the ministerial class, both relatives and strangers, for single-mindedness, and was from childhood pointed out as remarkable for sagacity, and held in regard in the eyes of the wise. He did not, however, after the fashion of His ancestors, desire elevation to lofty ranks nor seek advancement to splendid but transient positions. His extreme aptitude was nevertheless admitted by all, and His excessive acuteness and intelligence were universally avowed. In the eyes of the common folk He enjoyed a wonderful esteem, and in all gatherings and assemblies He had a marvelous speech and delivery. Notwithstanding lack of instruction and education such was the keenness of His penetration and the readiness of His apprehension that when during His youthful prime He appeared in assemblies where questions of divinity and points of metaphysic were being discussed, and, in presence of a great concourse of doctors and scholars loosed his tongue, all those present were amazed, accounting this as a sort of prodigy beyond the discernment natural to the human race. From His early years He was the hope of His kindred and the unique one of His family and race, nay, their refuge and shelter.
However, in spite of these conditions and circumstances, as He wore a kuláh on His head and locks flowing over His shoulder, no one imagined that He would become the source of such matters, or that the waves of His flood would reach the zenith of this firmament.
When the question of the Báb was noised abroad signs of partiality appeared in Him. At the first He apprised His relatives and connections, and the children and dependents of His own circle; subsequently He occupied His energies by day and night in inviting friends and strangers [to embrace the new faith]. He arose with mighty resolution, engaged with the utmost constancy in systematizing the principles and consolidating the ethical canons of that society in every way, and strove by all means to protect and guard these people.
When He had [thus] established the foundations in Ṭihrán He hastened to Mázindarán, where He displayed in assemblies, meetings, conferences, inns, mosques, and colleges a mighty power of utterance and exposition. Whoever beheld His open brow or heard His vivid eulogies perceived Him with the eye of actual vision to be a patent demonstration, a latent magnetic force, and a pervading influence. A great number both of rich and poor and of erudite doctors were attracted by His preaching and washed their hands of heart and life, being so enkindled that they laid down their lives under the sword dancing [with joy].
Thus, amongst many instances, one day four learned and accomplished scholars of the divines of Núr were present in His company, and in such wise did He expound that all four were involuntarily constrained to entreat Him to accept them for His service. For by dint of His eloquence, which was like “evident sorcery,” He satisfied these eminent doctors that they were in reality children engaged in the rudiments of study and the merest tyros, and that therefore they must read the alphabet from the beginning. Several protracted conferences were passed in expounding and elucidating the Point and the Alif of the Absolute, wherein the doctors present were astounded, and filled with amazement and astonishment at the seething and roaring of the ocean of His utterance. The report of this occurrence reached the hearing of far and near, and deep despondency fell on the adversaries. The regions of Núr were filled with excitement and commotion at these events, and the noise of this mischief and trouble smote the ears of the citizens of Barfurúsh. The chief divine of Núr, Mullá Muḥammad, was in Qishlaq. When he heard of these occurrences he sent two of the most distinguished and profound of the doctors, who were possessed of wondrous eloquence, effective oratorical talent, conclusiveness of argument, and brilliant powers of demonstration, to quench this fire, and to subdue and overcome this Young Man by force of argument, either reducing Him to penitence, or causing Him to despair of the successful issue of His projects. Glory be to God for His wondrous decrees! When those two doctors entered the presence of that Young Man, saw the waves of His utterance, and heard the force of His arguments, they unfolded like the rose and were stirred like the multitude, and, abandoning altar and chair, pulpit and preferment, wealth and luxury, and evening and morning congregations, they applied themselves to the furtherance of the objects of this Person, even inviting the chief divine to tender his allegiance. So when this Young Man with a faculty of speech like a rushing torrent set out for Ámul and Sarí He met with that experienced doctor and that illustrious divine in Qishlaq of Núr. And the people assembled from all quarters awaiting the result. His accomplished reverence the divine, although he was of universally acknowledged excellence, and in science the most learned of his contemporaries, nevertheless decided to have recourse to augury as to [whether he should engage in] discussion and disputation. This did not prove favorable and he therefore excused himself, deferring [the discussion] until some other time. His incompetency and shortcoming thereby became known and suspected, and this caused the adherence, confirmation, and edification of many.
In brief outline the narrative is this. For some while He wandered about in those districts. After the death of the late prince Muḥammad Sháh He returned to Ṭihrán, having in His mind [the intention of] corresponding and entering into relations with the Báb. The medium of this correspondence was the celebrated Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím of Qazvín, who was the Báb’s mainstay and trusted intimate. Now since a great celebrity had been attained for Bahá’u’lláh in Ṭihrán, and the hearts of men were disposed towards Him, He, together with Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím, considered it as expedient that, in face of the agitation amongst the doctors, the aggressiveness of the greater part of [the people of] Persia, and the irresistible power of the Amír-Nizám, whereby both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh were in great danger and liable to incur severe punishment, some measure should be adopted to direct the thoughts of men towards some absent person, by which means Bahá’u’lláh would remain protected from the interference of all men. And since further, having regard to sundry considerations, they did not consider an outsider as suitable, they cast the lot of this augury to the name of Bahá’u’lláh’s brother Mírzá Yaḥyá.
By the assistance and instruction of Bahá’u’lláh, therefore, they made him notorious and famous on the tongues of friends and foes, and wrote letters, ostensibly at his dictation, to the Báb. And since secret correspondences were in process the Báb highly approved of this scheme. So Mírzá Yaḥyá was concealed and hidden while mention of him was on the tongues and in the mouths of men. And this mighty plan was of wondrous efficacy, for Bahá’u’lláh, though He was known and seen, remained safe and secure, and this veil was the cause that no one outside [the sect] fathomed the matter or fell into the idea of molestation, until Bahá’u’lláh quitted Ṭihrán at the permission of the King and was permitted to withdraw to the Supreme Shrines.
When He reached Baghdád and the crescent moon of the month of Muharram of the year [A.H. one thousand two hundred and] sixty-nine (which was termed in the books of the Báb “the year of ‘after a while’” and wherein He had promised the disclosure of the true nature of His religion and its mysteries) shone forth from the horizon of the world, this covert secret, as is related, became apparent amongst all within and without [the society]. Bahá’u’lláh with mighty steadfastness became a target for the arrows of all amongst mankind, while Mírzá Yaḥyá in disguise passed his time, now in the environs and vicinity of Baghdád engaged for better concealment in various trades, now in Baghdád itself in the garb of the Arabs.
Now Bahá’u’lláh so acted that the hearts of this sect were drawn towards Him, while most of the inhabitants of ‘Iráq were reduced to silence and speechlessness, some being amazed and others angered. After remaining there for one year He withdrew His hand from all things, abandoned relatives and connections, and, without the knowledge of His followers, quitted ‘Iráq alone and solitary, without companion, supporter, associate, or comrade. For nigh upon two years He dwelt in Turkish Kurdistán, generally in a place named Sar-Galú, situated in the mountains, and far removed from human habitations. Sometimes on rare occasions He used to frequent Sulaymáníyyih. Ere long had elapsed the most eminent doctors of those regions got some inkling of His circumstances and conditions, and conversed with Him on the solution of certain difficult questions connected with the most abstruse points of theology. Having witnessed on His part ample signs and satisfactory explanations they observed towards Him the utmost respectfulness and deference. In consequence of this He acquired a great fame and wonderful reputation in those regions, and fragmentary accounts of Him were circulated in all quarters and directions, to wit that a stranger, a Persian, had appeared in the district of Sulaymáníyyih (which hath been, from of old, the place whence the most expert doctors of the Sunnites have arisen), and that the people of that country had loosed their tongues in praise of Him. From the rumor thus heard it was known that that Person was none other than Bahá’u’lláh. Several persons, therefore, hastened thither, and began to entreat and implore, and the urgent entreaty of all brought about His return.
Now although this sect had not been affected with quaking or consternation at these grievous events, such as the slaughter of their Chief and the rest, but did rather increase and multiply; still, since the Báb was but beginning to lay the foundations when He was slain, therefore was this community ignorant concerning its proper conduct, action, behavior, and duty, their sole guiding principle being love for the Báb. This ignorance was the reason that in some parts disturbances occurred; for, experiencing violent molestation, they unclosed their hands in self-defense. But after His return Bahá’u’lláh made such strenuous efforts in educating, teaching, training, regulating, and reconstructing this community that in a short while all these troubles and mischiefs were quenched, and the utmost tranquility and repose reigned in men’s hearts; so that, according to what hath been heard, it became clear and obvious even to statesmen that the fundamental intentions and ideas of this sect were things spiritual, and such as are connected with pure hearts; that their true and essential principles were to reform the morals and beautify the conduct of the human race, and that with things material they had absolutely no concern.
When these principles, then, were established in the hearts of this sect they so acted in all lands that they became celebrated amongst statesmen for gentleness of spirit, steadfastness of heart, right intent, good deeds, and excellence of conduct. For this people are most well-disposed towards obedience and submissiveness, and, on receiving such instruction, they conformed their conduct and behavior thereto. Formerly exception was taken to the words, deeds, demeanor, morals, and conduct of this sect: now objection is made in Persia to their tenets and spiritual state. Now this is beyond the power of man, that he should be able by interference or objection to change the heart and conscience, or meddle with the convictions of anyone. For in the realm of conscience naught but the ray of God’s light can command, and on the throne of the heart none but the pervading power of the King of Kings should rule. Thus it is that one can arrest and suspend [the action of] every faculty except thought and reflection; for a man cannot even by his own volition withhold himself from reflection or thought, nor keep back his musings and imaginings.
At all events the undeniable truth is this, that for nigh upon thirty-five years no action opposed to the government or prejudicial to the nation has emanated from this sect or been witnessed [on their part], and that during this long period, notwithstanding the fact that their numbers and strength are double what they were formerly, no sound has arisen from any place, except that every now and then learned doctors and eminent scholars (really for the extension of this report through the world and the awakening of men) sentence some few to death. For such interference is not destruction but edification when thou regardest the truth, which will not thereby become quenched and forgotten, but rather stimulated and advertised.
I will at least relate one short anecdote of what actually took place. A certain person violently molested and grievously injured a certain Bábí. The victim unclosed his hand in retaliation and arose to take vengeance, unsheathing his weapon against the aggressor. Becoming the object of censure and reprimand of this sect, however, he took refuge in flight.
When he reached Hamadán his character became known, and, as he was of the clerical class, the doctors vehemently pursued him, handed him over to the government, and ordered chastisement to be inflicted. By chance there fell out from the fold of his collar a document written by Bahá’u’lláh, the subject of which was reproof of attempts at retaliation, censure and reprobation of the search after vengeance, and prohibition from following after lusts. Amongst other matters they found these expressions contained in it: “Verily God is quit of the seditious,” and likewise: “If ye be slain it is better for you than that ye should slay. And when ye are tormented have recourse to the controllers of affairs and the refuge of the people; and if ye be neglected then entrust your affairs to the Jealous Lord. This is the mark of the sincere, and the characteristic of the assured.” When the governor became cognizant of this writing he addressed that person saying, “By the decree of that Chief whom you yourself obey correction is necessary and punishment and chastisement obligatory.” “If,” replied that person, “you will carry out all His precepts I shall have the utmost pleasure in [submitting to] punishment and death.” The governor smiled and let the man go.
So Bahá’u’lláh made the utmost efforts to educate [His people] and incite [them] to morality, the acquisition of the sciences and arts of all countries, kindly dealing with all the nations of the earth, desire for the welfare of all peoples, sociability, concord, obedience, submissiveness, instruction of [their] children, production of what is needful for the human race, and inauguration of true happiness for mankind; and He continually kept sending tracts of admonition to all parts, whereby a wonderful effect was produced. Some of these epistles have, after extreme search and inquiry, been examined, and some portions of them shall now be set down in writing.
All these epistles consisted of [exhortations to] purity of morals, encouragement to good conduct, reprobation of certain individuals, and complaints of the seditious. Amongst others this sentence was recorded:
“My captivity is not My abasement: by My life, it is indeed a glory unto Me! But the abasement is the action of My friends who connect themselves with Us and follow the devil in their actions. Amongst them is he who taketh lust and turneth aside from what is commanded; and amongst them is he who followeth the truth in right guidance. As for those who commit sin and cling to the world they are assuredly not of the people of Bahá.”
“He is God, exalted is His state, wisdom and utterance. The True One (glorious is His glory) for the showing forth of the gems of ideals from the mine of man, hath, in every age, sent a Trusted One. The primary foundation of the faith of God and the religion of God is this, that they should not make diverse sects and various paths the cause and reason of hatred. These principles and laws and firm sure roads appear from one dawning-place and shine from one dayspring, and these diversities were out of regard for the requirements of the time, season, ages, and epochs. O unitarians, make firm the girdle of endeavor, that perchance religious strife and conflict may be removed from amongst the people of the world and be annulled. For love of God and His servants engage in this great and mighty matter. Religious hatred and rancor is a world-consuming fire, and the quenching thereof most arduous, unless the hand of Divine Might give men deliverance from this unfruitful calamity. Consider a war which happeneth between two states: both sides have foregone wealth and life: how many villages were beheld as though they were not! This precept is in the position of the light in the lamp of utterance.”
“O people of the world, ye are all the fruit of one tree and the leaves of one branch. Walk with perfect charity, concord, affection, and agreement. I swear by the Sun of Truth, the light of agreement shall brighten and illumine the horizons. The all-knowing Truth hath been and is the witness to this saying. Endeavor to attain to this high supreme station which is the station of protection and preservation of mankind. This is the intent of the King of intentions, and this the hope of the Lord of hopes.”
“We trust that God will assist the kings of the earth to illuminate and adorn the earth with the refulgent light of the Sun of Justice. At one time We spoke in the language of the Law, at another time in the language of the Truth and the Way; and the ultimate object and remote aim was the showing forth of this high supreme station. And God sufficeth for witness.”
“O friends, consort with all the people of the world with joy and fragrance. If there be to you a word or essence whereof others than you are devoid, communicate it and show it forth in the language of affection and kindness: if it be received and be effective the object is attained, and if not leave it to him, and with regard to him deal not harshly but pray. The language of kindness is the lodestone of hearts and the food of the soul; it stands in the relation of ideas to words, and is as an horizon for the shining of the Sun of Wisdom and Knowledge.”
“If the unitarians had in the latter times acted according to the glorious Law [which came] after His Highness the Seal [of the Prophets] (may the life of all beside Him be His sacrifice!), and had clung to its skirt, the foundation of the fortress of religion would not have been shaken, and populous cities would not have been ruined, but rather cities and villages would have acquired and been adorned with the decoration of peace and serenity.”
“Through the heedlessness and discordance of the favored people and the smoke of wicked souls the Fair Nation is seen to be darkened and enfeebled. Had they acted [according to what they knew] they would not have been heedless of the light of the Sun of Justice.”
“This Victim hath from earliest days until now been afflicted at the hands of the heedless. They exiled Us without cause at one time to ‘Iráq, at another time to Adrianople, and thence to ‘Akká, which was a place of exile for murderers and robbers; neither is it known where and in what spot We shall take up Our abode after this greatest prison-house. Knowledge is with God, the Lord of the Throne and of the dust and the Lord of the lofty seat. In whatever place We may be, and whatever befall Us, the saints must gaze with perfect steadfastness and confidence towards the Supreme Horizon and occupy themselves in the reformation of the world and the education of the nations. What hath befallen and shall befall hath been and is an instrument and means for the furtherance of the Word of Unity. Take hold of the command of God and cling thereto: verily it hath been sent down from beside a wise Ordainer.”
“With perfect compassion and mercy have We guided and directed the people of the world to that whereby their souls shall be profited. I swear by the Sun of Truth which hath shone forth from the highest horizons of the world that the people of Bahá had not and have not any aim save the prosperity and reformation of the world and the purifying of the nations. With all men they have been in sincerity and charity. Their outward [appearance] is one with their inward [heart], and their inward [heart] identical with their outward [appearance]. The truth of the matter is not hidden or concealed, but plain and evident before [men’s] faces. Their very deeds are the witness of this assertion. Today let everyone endowed with vision win his way from deeds and signs to the object of the people of Bahá and from their speech and conduct gain knowledge of their intent. The waves of the ocean of divine mercy appear at the utmost height, and the showers of the clouds of His grace and favor descend every moment. During the days of sojourn in ‘Iráq this Oppressed One sat down and consorted with all classes without veil or disguise. How many of the denizens of the horizons entered in enmity and went forth in sympathy! The door of grace was open before the faces of all. With rebellious and obedient did We outwardly converse after one fashion, that perchance the evildoers might win their way to the ocean of boundless forgiveness. The splendors of the Name of the Concealer were in such wise manifested that the evildoer imagined that he was accounted of the good. No messenger was disappointed and no inquirer was turned back. The causes of the aversion and avoidance of men were certain of the doctors of Persia and the unseemly deeds of the ignorant. By [the term] ‘doctors’ in these passages are signified those persons who have withheld mankind from the shore of the Ocean of Unity; but as for the learned who practice [their knowledge] and the wise who act justly, they are as the spirit unto the body of the world. Well is it with that learned man whose head is adorned with the crown of justice, and whose body glorieth in the ornament of honesty. The Pen of Admonition exhorteth the friends and enjoineth on them charity, pity, wisdom, and gentleness. The Oppressed One is this day a prisoner; His allies are the hosts of good deeds and virtues; not ranks, and hosts, and guns, and cannons.21 One holy action maketh the world of earth highest paradise.