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A Traveler’s Narrative

  • Author:
  • ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 94
Go to printed page GO
Pages 21-40

[Pages 21–40]

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 22 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 Husayn of Bushrúyih and his followers, and slew six or seven persons. They were busy compassing the destruction of the rest also when Mullá Husayn 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 23 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 Husayn 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 Husayn 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 Muhammad-‘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 Husayn’s horse caught in a noose, for he was 24 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 Muhammad-‘Alí the mujtahid, while in Nayríz Siyyid Yahyá 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 25 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 Ádhirbayján, Prince Hamzih Mírzá, was unwilling that the execution of this sentence should be at his hands, and said to the brother of the Amír, Mírzá Hasan 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 Hasan 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 26 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 Hasan 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 Hasan 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 Muhammad-‘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 Muhammad 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 Muhammad-‘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 27 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 Husayn 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. 1 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 second night at midnight the Bábís carried away the two bodies.
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 28 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 Yahyá Khán, one of the nobles of Ádhirbayján 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 Hájí Alláh-Yár, who, by whatever means and proceedings it was, obtained the body without trouble or difficulty and handed it over to Hájí 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 Tihrán, they sent it away from Ádhirbayján. 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 29 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 30 throughout the civilized world. Of this event the marrow is this, that during the time when the Báb was residing in Ádhirbayján a youth, Sádiq 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 Tihrán, 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 31 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 Tihrán. 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 Yahyá, 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 Tihrán. And this harshness and punishment was due to the immoderate importunity of Hájí ‘Alí Khán, the Hajíbu’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 32 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 Hajíbu’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 Shrines 2 [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 [Muhammad], and (as it hath been understood) encouragements to amendment of character, severance from worldly states, and dependence on the inspirations of God. But the 33 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. 3 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,’ 4 and become adorned with the robe of ‘blessed be God, the Best of Creators.’ 5 And this event will disclose itself in the year [A.H. one thousand two hundred and] sixty-nine, 6 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’ 7 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 34 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 Tihrán (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 35 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 Tihrán 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 36 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 Muhammad, 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. 37 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 Muhammad Sháh He returned to Tihrán, 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 Tihrán, 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 Yahyá.
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 Yahyá 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 38 the idea of molestation, until Bahá’u’lláh quitted Tihrán 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 Yahyá 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 39 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 40 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.
1. 9 July 1850.   [ Back To Reference]
2. Atabát ‘Alíyat, literally Supreme Shrines, a term by which the Shí’ih Muslims referred to the cities of Kazímayn, Najaf, and Karbilá and generally applied to the region of eastern ‘Iráq, of which Baghdád was the center. When Bahá’u’lláh was released from prison and banished from Persia, He chose Baghdád for the place of His exile.   [ Back To Reference]
3. That is, Bahá’u’lláh.   [ Back To Reference]
4. Qur’án 95:4.   [ Back To Reference]
5. Qur’án 23:14.   [ Back To Reference]
6. 1852. Hin, according to the Abjad notation, equals 68. Cf. The Dawn-Breakers: Nabíl’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá’í Revelation, trans. and ed. Shoghi Effendi (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1932), p. 18, note 1: In 1268 Bahá’u’lláh, chained in the Black Pit of Tihrán, received the first intimations of His Divine Mission, and that same year hinted of this in His odes.   [ Back To Reference]
7. Qur’án 27:90.   [ Back To Reference]