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The Dawn-Breakers: Nabíl’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá’í Revelation

  • Author:
  • Nabil

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1932 edition
  • Pages:
  • 676
Go to printed page GO
Pages 430-465


THE news of the tragic fate which had befallen the heroes of Tabarsí brought immeasurable sorrow to the heart of the Báb. Confined it His prison-castle of Chihríq, severed from the little band of His struggling disciples, He watched with keen anxiety the progress of their labours and prayed with unremitting zeal for their victory. How great was His sorrow when, in the early days of Sha’bán in the year 1265 A.H., 1 He came to learn of the trials that had beset their path, of the agony they had suffered, of the betrayal to which an exasperated enemy had felt compelled to resort, and of the abominable butchery with which their career had ended.
“The Báb was heart-broken,” His amanuensis, Siyyid Husayn-i-’Aziz, subsequently related, “at the receipt of this unexpected intelligence. He was crushed with grief, a grief that stilled His voice and silenced His pen. For nine days He refused to meet any of His friends. I myself, though His close and constant attendant, was refused admittance. Whatever meat or drink we offered Him, He was disinclined to touch. Tears rained continually from His eyes, and expressions of anguish dropped unceasingly from His lips. I could hear Him, from behind the curtain, give vent to His feelings of sadness as He communed, in the privacy of His cell, with His Beloved. I attempted to jot down the effusions of His sorrow as they poured forth from His wounded heart. Suspecting that I was attempting to preserve the lamentations He uttered, He bade me destroy whatever I had recorded. Nothing remains of the moans and cries with which that heavy-laden heart sought to relieve itself of the pangs that had seized it. For a period of five months He languished, immersed in an ocean of despondency and sorrow.” 431
With the advent of Muharram in the year 1266 A.H., 2 the Báb again resumed the work He had been compelled to interrupt. The first page He wrote was dedicated to the memory of Mullá Husayn. In the visiting Tablet revealed in his honour, He extolled, in moving terms, the unswerving fidelity with which he served Quddús throughout the siege of the fort of Tabarsí. He lavished His eulogies on his magnanimous conduct, recounted his exploits, and asserted his undoubted reunion in the world beyond with the leader whom he had so nobly served. He too, He wrote, would soon join those twin immortals, each of whom had, by his life and death, shed imperishable lustre on the Faith of God. For one whole week the Báb continued to write His praises of Quddús, of Mullá Husayn, and of His other companions who had gained the crown of martyrdom at Tabarsí.
No sooner had He completed His eulogies of those who had immortalised their names in the defence of the fort, than He summoned, on the day of Ashura, 3 Mullá Adi-Guzal, 4 one of the believers of Marághih, who for the last two months had been acting as His attendant instead of Siyyid Hasan, the brother of Siyyid Husayn-i-’Aziz. He affectionately received him, bestowed upon him the name Sáyyah, entrusted to his care the visiting Tablets He had revealed in memory of the martyrs of Tabarsí, and bade him perform, on His behalf, a pilgrimage to that spot. “Arise,” He urged him, “and with complete detachment proceed, in the guise of a traveller, to Mázindarán, and there visit, on My behalf, the spot which enshrines the bodies of those immortals who, with their blood, have sealed their faith in My Cause. As you approach the precincts of that hallowed ground, put off your shoes and, bowing your head in reverence to their memory, invoke their names and prayerfully make the circuit of their shrine. Bring back to Me, as a remembrance of your visit, a handful of that holy earth which covers the remains of My beloved ones, Quddús and Mullá 432 Husayn. Strive to be back ere the day of Naw-Rúz, that you may celebrate with Me that festival, the only one I probably shall ever see again.”
Faithful to the instructions he had received, Sáyyah set out on his pilgrimage to Mázindarán. He reached his destination on the first day of Rabí’u’l-Avval in the year 1266 A.H., 5 and by the ninth day of that same month, 6 the first anniversary of the martyrdom of Mullá Husayn, he had performed his visit and acquitted himself of the mission with which he had been entrusted. From thence he proceeded to Tihrán.
I have heard Áqáy-i-Kalím, who received Sáyyah at the entrance of Bahá’u’lláh’s home in Tihrán, relate the following: “It was the depth of winter when Sáyyah, returning from his pilgrimage, came to visit Bahá’u’lláh. Despite the cold and snow of a rigorous winter, he appeared attired in the garb of a dervish, poorly clad, barefooted, and dishevelled. His heart was set afire with the flame that pilgrimage had kindled. No sooner had Siyyid Yahyáy-i-Darábí, surnamed Vahíd, who was then a guest in the home of Bahá’u’lláh, been informed of the return of Sáyyah from the fort of Tabarsí, than he, oblivious of the pomp and circumstance to which a man of his position had been accustomed, rushed forward and flung himself at the feet of the pilgrim. Holding his legs, which had been covered with mud to the knees, in his arms, he kissed them devoutly. I was amazed that day at the many evidences of loving solicitude which Bahá’u’lláh evinced towards Vahíd. He showed him such favours as I had never seen Him extend to anyone. The manner of His conversation left no doubt in me that this same Vahíd would ere long distinguish himself by deeds no less remarkable than those which had immortalised the defenders of the fort of Tabarsí.”
Sáyyah tarried a few days in that home. He was, however, unable to perceive, as did Vahíd, the nature of that power which lay latent in his Host. Though himself the recipient of the utmost favour from Bahá’u’lláh, he failed to apprehend the significance of the blessings that were being showered upon him. I have heard him recount his experiences, during his sojourn in Famagusta: “Bahá’u’lláh overwhelmed 433 me with His kindness. As to Vahíd, notwithstanding the eminence of his position, he invariably gave me preference over himself whenever in the presence of his Host. On the day of my arrival from Mázindarán, he went so far as to kiss my feet. I was amazed at the reception accorded me in that home. Though immersed in an ocean of bounty, I failed, in those days, to appreciate the position then occupied by Bahá’u’lláh, nor was I able to suspect, however dimly, the nature of the Mission He was destined to perform.”
Ere the departure of Sáyyah from Tihrán, Bahá’u’lláh entrusted him with an epistle, the text of which He had dictated to Mírzá Yahyá, 7 and sent it in his name. Shortly after, a reply, penned in the Báb’s own handwriting, in which He commits Mírzá Yahyá to the care of Bahá’u’lláh and urges that attention be paid to his education and training, was received. That communication the people of the Bayán 8 have misconstrued as an evidence of the exaggerated claims 9 which they have advanced in favour of their leader. Although the text of that reply is absolutely devoid of such pretensions, and does not, beyond the praise it bestows upon Bahá’u’lláh and the request it makes for the upbringing of Mírzá Yahyá, contain any reference to his alleged position, yet his followers have idly imagined that that letter constitutes an assertion of the authority with which they have invested him. 10
At this stage of my narrative, when I have already recounted the outstanding events that occurred in the course 434 of the year 1265 A.H., 11 I am reminded that that very year witnessed the most significant event in my own life, an event which marked my spiritual rebirth, my deliverance from the fetters of the past, and my acceptance of the message of this Revelation. I seek the indulgence of the reader if I dwell too long on the circumstances of my early life, and recount with too great detail the events that led to my conversion. My father belonged to the tribe of Táhirí, who led a nomadic life in the province of Khurásán. His name was Ghulám ‘Alí, son of Husayn-i-‘Arab. He married the daughter of Kalb-‘Alí, and by her had three sons and three daughters. I was his second son, and was given the name of Yar-Muhammad. I was born on the eighteenth of Safar in the year 1247 A.H., 12 in the village of Zarand. I was a shepherd by profession, and was given in my early days a most rudimentary education. I longed to devote more time to my studies, but was unable to do so, owing to the exigencies of my situation. I read the Qur’án with eagerness, committed several of its passages to memory, and chanted them whilst I followed my flock over the fields. I loved solitude, and watched the stars at night with delight and wonder. In the quiet of the wilderness, I recited certain prayers attributed to the Imám ‘Alí, the Commander of the Faithful, and, as I turned my face towards the Qiblih, 13 supplicated the Almighty to guide my steps and enable me to find the Truth.
My father oftentimes took me with him to Qum, where I became acquainted with the teachings of Islám and the ways and manners of its leaders. He was a devout follower of that Faith, and was closely associated with the ecclesiastical leaders who congregated in that city. I watched him as he prayed at the Masjid-i-Imám-Hasan and performed, with scrupulous care and extreme piety, all the rites and ceremonies prescribed by his Faith. I heard the preaching of several eminent mujtahids who had arrived from Najaf, attended their lectures, and listened to their disputations. Gradually I came to perceive their insincerity and to loathe the baseness of their character. Eager as I was to ascertain the trustworthiness of the creeds and dogmas which they strove to impose upon me, I could neither find the time nor obtain the 435 facilities with which to satisfy my desire. I was often rebuked by my father for my temerity and restlessness. “I fear,” he often remarked, “that your aversion to these mujtahids may some day involve you in great difficulties and bring upon you reproach and shame.”
I was in the village of Rubat-Karím, on a visit to my maternal uncle, when, on the twelfth day after Naw-Rúz, in the year 1263 A.H., 14 I accidentally overheard, in the masjid of that village, a conversation between two men which first made me acquainted with the Revelation of the Báb. “Have you heard,” one of them remarked, “that the Siyyid-i-Báb has been conducted to the village of Kinár-Gird and is on his way to Tihrán?” Finding his friend ignorant of that episode, he proceeded to relate the whole story of the Báb, giving a detailed account of the circumstances attending His Declaration, of His arrest in Shíráz, His departure for Isfahán, the reception which both the Imám-Jum’ih and Manúchihr Khán had extended to Him, the prodigies and wonders He had manifested, and the verdict that the ‘ulamás of Isfahán had pronounced against Him. Every detail of that story excited my curiosity and stirred in me a keen admiration for a Man who could throw such a spell over His countrymen. His light seemed to have flooded my soul; I felt as if I were already a convert to His Cause.
From Rubat-Karím I returned to Zarand. My father remarked Upon my restlessness, and expressed his surprise at my behaviour. I had lost my appetite and sleep, and was determined to conceal the secret of my inner agitation from my father, lest its disclosure might interfere with the eventual realisation of my hopes. I remained in that state until a certain Siyyid Husayn-i-Zavari’í arrived at Zarand and was able to enlighten me on a subject which had become the ruling passion of my life. Our acquaintance speedily ripened into a friendship which encouraged me to share with him the longings of my heart. To my great surprise, I found him already enthralled by the secret of the theme which I had begun to disclose to him. “One of my cousins,” he proceeded to relate, “Siyyid Ismá’íl-i-Zavari’í by name, convinced me of the truth of the Message proclaimed by the Siyyid-i-Báb. 436 He informed me that he had several times met the Siyyid-i-Báb in the house of the Imám-Jum’ih of Isfahán, and had seen Him actually reveal, in the presence of His host, a commentary on the Súrih of Va’l-‘Asr. 15 The rapidity of the Báb’s composition, and the force and originality of His style, had excited his surprise and admiration. He was amazed to find that, whilst revealing His commentary, and without lessening the speed of His writing, He was able to answer whatever questions those who were present were moved to ask Him. The fearlessness with which my cousin arose to preach the Message aroused the hostility of the kad-khudás 16 and siyyids of Zavárih, who compelled him to return to Isfahán, where he had of late been residing. I too, unable to remain in Zavárih, departed for Káshán, in which town I spent the winter and met Hájí Mírzá Jání, of whom my cousin had spoken, and who gave me a treatise written by the Báb, entitled ‘Risaliy-i-‘Adlíyyih,’ urging me to read it carefully and return it to him after a few days. I was so charmed by the theme and language of that treatise that I proceeded immediately to transcribe the whole text. When I returned it to its owner, he, to my profound regret, informed me that I had just missed the opportunity of meeting its Author. ‘The Siyyid-i-Báb Himself,’ he said, ‘arrived on the eve of the day of Naw-Rúz and spent three nights as a Guest in my home. He is now on His way to Tihrán, and if you start immediately, you will certainly overtake Him.’ Straightway I arose and departed, walking all the way from Káshán to a fortress in the neighbourhood of Kinár-Gird. I was resting under the shadow of its walls when a pleasant-looking man emerged from that fortress and asked me who I was and whither I was going. ‘I am a poor siyyid,’ I replied, ‘a wayfarer and stranger to this place.’ He took me to his home and invited me to spend the night as his guest. In the course of his conversation with me, he said: ‘I suspect you to be a follower of the Siyyid who was staying for a few days in this fortress, from whence He was transferred to the village of Kulayn, and who, three days ago, left for Ádhirbayján. I esteem myself as one of His adherents. My name is Hájí Zaynu’l-Ábidín. I intended not to separate myself 437 from Him, but He bade me remain in this place and convey to any of His friends whom I might meet His loving greetings, and dissuade them from following Him. “Tell them,” He instructed me, “to consecrate their lives to the service of My Cause, that haply the barriers that hinder the progress of this Faith may be removed, so that My followers may, with safety and freedom, worship their God and observe the precepts of their Faith.” I immediately abandoned my project and, instead of returning to Qum, decided to come to this place.’”
The story which this Siyyid Husayn-i-Zavari’í related to me served to allay my agitation. He shared with me the copy of the “Risaliy-i-‘Adlíyyih” he had brought with him, the reading of which imparted strength and refreshment to my soul. In those days I was a pupil of a siyyid who taught me the Qur’án and whose incapacity to enlighten me on the tenets of his Faith became more and more evident in my eyes. Siyyid Husayn, whom I asked for further information about the Cause, advised me to meet Siyyid Ismá’íl-i-Zavari’í, whose invariable practice it was to visit, every spring, the shrines of the imám-zádihs 17 of Qum. I induced my father, who was reluctant to separate himself from me, to send me to that city with the object of perfecting my knowledge of the Arabic language. I was careful to conceal from him my real purpose, fearing that its disclosure might involve him in embarrassments with the Qádí 18 and the ‘ulamás of Zarand and prevent me from achieving my end.
While I was in Qum, my mother, my sister, and my brother came to visit me in connection with the festival of Naw-Rúz, and stayed with me for about a month. In the course of their visit, I was able to enlighten my mother and my sister about the new Revelation, and succeeded in kindling in their hearts the love of its Author. A few days after their return to Zarand, Siyyid Ismá’íl, whom I impatiently awaited, arrived, and was able, in the course of his discussions with me, to set forth in detail all that was required to win me over completely to the Cause. He laid stress on the continuity of Divine Revelation, asserted the fundamental oneness of the Prophets of the past, and explained their close relationship 438 to the Mission of the Báb. He also disclosed the nature of the work accomplished by Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsá’í and Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashtí, neither of whom I had previously heard. I asked as to the duty incumbent at the present time upon every loyal adherent of the Faith. “The injunction of the Báb,” he replied, “is that all those have accepted His Message should proceed to Mázindarán and their assistance to Quddús, who is now hemmed in by the forces of an unrelenting foe.” I expressed my eagerness to join him, 439 as he himself was intending to journey to the fort of Tabarsí. He advised me, however, to remain in Qum together with a certain Mírzá Fathu’llah-i-Hakkak, a lad of my age whom he had recently guided to the Cause, until the receipt of his message from Tihrán.
I waited in vain for that message, and, finding that no word came from him, decided to leave for the capital. My friend Mírzá Fathu’llah subsequently followed me. He was eventually arrested and shared the fate of those who were put to death in the year 1268 A.H. 19 as a result of the attempt on the life or the Sháh. Arriving in Tihrán, I proceeded directly to the Masjid-i-Sháh, which was opposite a madrisih, 20 at the entrance of which I, later on, unexpectedly encountered Siyyid Ismá’íl-i-Zavari’í, who hastened to inform me that he had just written me the letter and was on the point of despatching it to Qum.
We were preparing ourselves to leave for Mázindarán, when the news reached us that the defenders of the fort of Tabarsí had been treacherously slaughtered and that the fort itself had been levelled with the ground. We were filled with distress at the receipt of the appalling news, and mourned the tragic fate of those who had so heroically defended their beloved Cause. One day I unexpectedly came across my maternal uncle, Naw-Rúz-‘Alí, who had come on purpose to fetch me. I informed Siyyid Ismá’íl, who advised me to leave for Zarand and not to arouse further hostility on the part of those who insisted upon my return.
On my arrival at my native village, I was able to win over my brother to the Cause, which my mother and my sister had already embraced. I also succeeded in inducing my father to allow me to leave again for Tihrán. I took up my residence in the same madrisih where I had been accommodated on my previous visit, and there met a certain Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Karím, whom, I subsequently learned, Bahá’u’lláh had named Mírzá Ahmad. He affectionately received me and told me that Siyyid Ismá’íl had entrusted me to his care and wished me to remain in his company until the former’s return to Tihrán. The days of my companionship with Mírzá Ahmad will never be forgotten. I found him 440 the very incarnation of love and kindness. The words with which he inspired me and animated my faith are indelibly graven upon my heart.
Through him I was introduced to the disciples of the Báb, with whom I associated and from whom I obtained fuller information regarding the teachings of the Faith. Mírzá Ahmad was in those days earning his livelihood as a scribe, and devoted his evenings to copying the Persian Bayán and other writings of the Báb. The copies which he so devotedly prepared were given by him as gifts to his fellow-disciples. I myself was several times the bearer of such gifts from him to the wife of Mullá Mihdíy-i-Kandí, who had forsaken his infant son and hastened to join the occupants of the fort of Tabarsí.
During those days I was informed that Táhirih, who, ever since the dispersal of the gathering at Badasht, had been living in Núr, had arrived at Tihrán and was confined in the house of Mahmúd Khán-i-Kalántar, where, although a prisoner, she was treated with consideration and courtesy.
One day Mírzá Ahmad conducted me to the house of Bahá’u’lláh, whose wife, the Varaqatu’l-‘Ulya, 21 the mother of the Most Great Branch, 22 had already healed my eyes with an ointment which she herself had prepared and sent to me 441 by this same Mírzá Ahmad. The first one I met in that house was that same beloved Son of hers, who was then a child of six. He smiled His welcome to me as He was standing at the door of the room which Bahá’u’lláh occupied. I passed that door, and was ushered into the presence of Mírzá Yahyá, utterly unaware of the station of the Occupant of the room I had left behind me. When brought face to face with Mírzá Yahyá, I was startled, immediately I observed his features and noted his conversation, at his utter unworthiness of the position that had been claimed for him.
On another occasion, when I visited that same house, I on the point of entering the room that Mírzá Yahyá occupied, when Áqáy-i-Kalím, whom I had previously met, approached and requested me, since Isfandíyár, their servant, had gone to market and had not yet returned, to conduct “Áqá” 23 to the Madrisiy-i-Mírzá-Sálih in his stead and then return to this place. I gladly consented, and as I was preparing to leave, I saw the Most Great Branch, a child of exquisite beauty, wearing the kuláh 24 and cloaked in the jubbiy-i-hizari’í, 25 emerge from the room which His Father occupied, and descend the steps leading to the gate of the house. I advanced and stretched forth my arms to carry Him. “We shall walk together,” He said, as He took hold of my hand and led me out of the house. We chatted together as we walked hand in hand in the direction of the madrisih known in those days by the name of Pa-Minar. As we reached His classroom, He turned to me and said: “Come again this afternoon and take me back to my home, for Isfandíyár is unable to fetch me. My Father will need him to-day.” I gladly acquiesced, and returned immediately to the house of Bahá’u’lláh. There again I met Mírzá Yahyá, who delivered into my hands a letter which he asked me to take to the Madrisiy-i-Sadr and hand to Bahá’u’lláh, whom I was told I would find in the room occupied by Mullá Báqir-i-Bastamí. He asked me to bring back the reply immediately. I fulfilled the commission and returned to the madrisih in time to conduct the Most Great Branch to His home.
One day Mírzá Ahmad invited me to meet Hájí Mírzá 442 Siyyid ‘Alí, the Báb’s maternal uncle, who had recently returned from Chihríq and was staying in the home of Muhammad Big-i-Chaparchí, in the neighbourhood of the gate of Shimírán. I was struck, when I gazed at his face, with the nobility of his features and the serenity of his countenance. My subsequent visits to him served to heighten my admiration for the sweetness of his temper, his mystical piety and strength of character. I well remember how on one occasion Áqáy-i-Kalím urged him, at a certain gathering, to leave Tihrán, which was then in a state of great ferment, and escape its dangerous atmosphere. “Why fear for my safety?” he confidently replied. “Would that I too could share in the banquet which the hand of Providence is spreading for His chosen ones!”
Shortly after, the stirrers-up of mischief were able to kindle a grave turmoil in that city. Its immediate cause was the action of a certain siyyid from Káshán, who was living in the Madrisiy-i-Daru’sh-Shafa’ and whom the well-known Siyyid Muhammad had taken into his confidence and claimed to have converted to the Báb’s teachings. Mírzá Muhammad-Husayn-i-Kirmání, who lodged in that same madrisih and who was a well-known lecturer on the metaphysical doctrines of Islám, attempted several times to induce Siyyid Muhammad, 443 who was one of his pupils, to break off his acquaintance with that siyyid, whom he believed to be unreliable, and to refuse him admittance to the gathering of the believers. Siyyid Muhammad refused, however, to be admonished by this warning, and continued to associate with him until the beginning of the month of Rabí’u’th-Thání in the year 1266 A.H., 26 at which time the treacherous siyyid went to a certain Siyyid Husayn, one of the ‘ulamás of Káshán, and delivered into his hands the names and addresses of about fifty of the believers who were then residing in Tihrán. That same list was immediately submitted by Siyyid Husayn to Mahmúd Khán-i-Kalántar, who ordered that all of them be arrested. Fourteen of them were seized and brought before the authorities.
One the day they were captured, I happened to be with my brother and my maternal uncle, who had arrived from Zarand and had lodged in a caravanersai outside the gate of Naw. The next morning they departed for Zarand, and 444 as I returned to the Madrisiy-i-Daru’sh-Shafa’, I discovered in my room a package upon which was placed a letter addressed to me by Mírzá Ahmad. That letter informed me that the treacherous siyyid had at last denounced us and had raised a violent commotion in the capital. “The package which I have left in this room,” he wrote, “contains all the sacred writings that are in my possession. If you ever reach this place in safety, take them to the caravanserai of Hájí Nad-‘Alí, where you will find in one of its rooms a man bearing that name, a native of Qazvín, to whom you will deliver the package together with the letter which accompanies it. From thence you will proceed immediately to the Masjid-i-Sháh, where I hope to be able to meet you.” Following his directions, I delivered the package to the Hájí and succeeded in reaching the masjid, where I met Mírzá Ahmad and heard him relate how he had been assailed and had sought refuge in the masjid, in the precincts of which he was immune from further attack.
In the meantime, Bahá’u’lláh had sent from the Madrisiyi-Sadr a message to Mírzá Ahmad informing him of the designs of the Amír-Nizám, who had, already on three different occasions, demanded his arrest from the Imám-Jum’ih. He was also warned that the Amír, ignoring the right of asylum with which the masjid had been invested, intended to arrest those who had sought refuge in that sanctuary. Mírzá Ahmad was urged to leave in disguise for Qum, and was charged to direct me to return to my home in Zarand.
Meanwhile, my relations, who had recognised me in the Masjid-i-Sháh, pressed me to leave for Zarand, pleading that my father, who had been misinformed of my arrest and impending execution, was in grave distress, and that it was my duty to hasten and relieve him of his anxieties. Acting on the advice of Mírzá Ahmad, who counselled me to seize this God-sent opportunity, I left for Zarand and celebrate the Feast of Naw-Rúz with my family, a Feast that was doubly blessed inasmuch as it coincided with the fifth day of Jamádiyu’l-Avval in the year 1266 A.H., 27 the anniversary of the day on which the Báb had declared His Mission. The Naw-Rúz of that year has been mentioned in the “Kitáb-i-Panj-Sha’n,” 445 one of the last works of the Báb. “The sixth Naw-Rúz,” He wrote in that Book, “after the Declaration of the Point of the Bayán, 28 has fallen on the fifth day of Jamádiyu’l-Avval, in the seventh lunar year after that same Declaration.” In that same passage, the Báb alludes to the fact that the Naw-Rúz of that year would be the last He was destined to celebrate on this earth.
In the midst of the festivities which my relatives celebrated in Zarand, my heart was set upon Tihrán, and my thoughts centred round the fate which might have befallen my fellow-disciples in that agitated city. I longed to hear of their safety. Though in the house of my father, and surrounded with the solicitude of my parents, I felt oppressed by the thought of being severed from that little band, whose perils I could well imagine and whose afflictions I longed to share. The terrible suspense under which I lived, while confined in my home, was unexpectedly relieved by the arrival of Sádiq-i-Tabrízí, who came from Tihrán and was received in the house of my father. Though delivering me from the uncertainties which had been weighing so heavily upon me, he, to my profound horror, unfolded to my ears a tale of such terrifying cruelty that the anxieties of suspense paled before the ghastly light which that lurid story cast upon my heart.
The circumstances of the martyrdom of my arrested brethren in Tihrán—for such was their fate—I now proceed to relate. The fourteen disciples of the Báb, who had been captured, remained incarcerated in the house of Mahmúd Khán-i-Kalántar from the first to the twenty-second day of the month of Rabí’u’th-Thání. 29 Táhirih was also confined on the upper floor of that same house. Every kind of ill treatment was inflicted upon them. Their persecutors sought, by every device, to induce them to supply the information they required, but failed to obtain a satisfactory answer. Among the captives was a certain Muhammad-Husayn-i-Maraghiyí, who obstinately refused to utter a single word despite the severe pressure that was brought to bear upon him. They tortured him, they resorted to every possible measure in order to extort from him any hint that could 446 serve their purpose, but failed to achieve their end. Such was his unswerving obstinacy that his oppressors thought him to be dumb. They asked Hájí Mullá Ismá’íl, who had converted him to his Faith, whether or not he could talk. “He is mute, but not dumb,” he replied; “he is fluent of speech and is free from any impediment.” He had no sooner called him by his name than the victim answered, assuring him of his readiness to abide by his will.
Convinced of their powerlessness to bend their will, they referred the matter to Mahmúd Khán, who, in his turn, submitted their case to the Amír-Nizám, Mírzá Taqí Khán, 30 the Grand Vazír of Násiri’d-Dín Sháh. The sovereign in those days refrained from direct interference in matters pertaining to the affairs of the persecuted community, and was often ignorant of the decisions that were being made with regard to its members. His Grand Vazír was invested with plenary powers to deal with them as he saw fit. No one questioned his decisions, nor dared disapprove of the manner in which he exercised his authority. He immediately issued a peremptory order threatening with execution whoever among these fourteen prisoners was unwilling to recant his faith. Seven were compelled to yield to the pressure that was brought to bear upon them, and were immediately released. The remaining seven constitute the Seven Martyrs of Tihrán:
1. Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, surnamed Khal-i-‘Azam, 31 the Báb’s maternal uncle, and one of the leading merchants of Shíráz. It was this same uncle into whose custody the Báb, after the death of His father, was entrusted, and who, on his Nephew’s return from His pilgrimage to Hijáz and His arrest by Husayn Khán, assumed undivided responsibility for Him by pledging his word in writing. It was he who surrounded Him, while under his care, with unfailing solicitude, who served Him with such devotion, and who acted as intermediary between Him and the hosts of His followers who flocked to Shíráz to see Him. His only child, a Siyyid Javád, died in infancy. Towards the middle of the year 1265 A.H., 32 447 this same Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí left Shíráz and visited the Báb in the castle of Chihríq. From thence he went to Tihrán and, though having no special occupation, remained in that city until the outbreak of the sedition which brought about eventually his martyrdom.
Though his friends appealed to him to escape the turmoil that was fast approaching, he refused to heed their counsel and faced, until his last hour, with complete resignation, the persecution to which he was subjected. A considerable number among the more affluent merchants of his acquaintance offered to pay his ransom, an offer which he rejected. Finally he was brought before the Amír-Nizám. “The Chief Magistrate of this realm,” the Grand Vazír informed him, “is loth to inflict the slightest injury upon the Prophet’s descendants. Eminent merchants of Shíráz and Tihrán are willing, nay eager, to pay your ransom. The Maliku’t-Tujjar has even interceded in your behalf. A word of recantation from you is sufficient to set you free and ensure your return, with honours, to your native city. I pledge my word that, should you be willing to acquiesce, the remaining days of your life will be spent with honour and dignity under the sheltering shadow of your sovereign.” “Your Excellency,” boldly replied Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, “if others before me, who quaffed joyously the cup of martyrdom, have chosen to reject an appeal such as the one you now make to me, know of a certainty that I am no less eager to decline such a request. My repudiation of the truths enshrined in this Revelation would be tantamount to a rejection of all the Revelations that have preceded it. To refuse to acknowledge the Mission of the Siyyid-i-Báb would be to apostatise from the Faith of my forefathers and to deny the Divine character of the Message which Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, and all the Prophets of the past have revealed. God knows that whatever I have heard and read concerning the sayings and doings of those Messengers, I have been privileged to witness the same from this Youth, this beloved Kinsman of mine, from His earliest boyhood to this, the thirtieth year of His life. Everything in Him reminds me of His illustrious Ancestor and of the imáms of His Faith whose lives our recorded traditions have portrayed. I only request of you that you allow me to be 448 the first to lay down my life in the path of my beloved Kinsman.”
The Amír was stupefied by such an answer. In a frenzy of despair, and without uttering a word, he motioned that he be taken out and beheaded. As the victim was being conducted to his death, he was heard, several times, to repeat these words of Háfiz: “Great is my gratitude to Thee, O my God, for having granted so bountifully all I have asked of Thee.” “Hear me, O people,” he cried to the multitude that pressed around him; “I have offered myself up as a willing sacrifice in the path of the Cause of God. The entire province of Fárs, as well as ‘Iráq, beyond the confines of Persia, will readily testify to my uprightness of conduct, to my sincere piety and noble lineage. For over a thousand years, you have prayed and prayed again that the promised Qá’im be made manifest. At the mention of His name, how often have you cried, from the depths of your hearts: ‘Hasten, O God, His coming; remove every barrier that stands in the way of His appearance!’ And now that He is come, you have driven Him to a hopeless exile in a remote and sequestered corner of Ádhirbayján and have risen to exterminate His companions. Were I to invoke the malediction of God upon you, I am certain that His avenging wrath would grievously afflict you. Such is not, however, my prayer. With my last breath, I pray that the Almighty may wipe away the stain of your guilt and enable you to awaken from the sleep of heedlessness.” 33
These words stirred his executioner to his very depths. Pretending that the sword he had been holding in readiness in his hands required to be resharpened, he hastily went away, determined never to return again. “When I was appointed to this service,” he was heard to complain, weeping bitterly the while, “they undertook to deliver into my hands only those who had been convicted of murder and highway robbery. I am now ordered by them to shed the blood of 449 one no less holy than the Imám Musay-i-Kázim 34 himself!” Shortly after, he departed for Khurásán and there sought to earn his livelihood as a porter and crier. To the believers of that province, he recounted the tale of that tragedy, and expressed his repentance of the act which he had been compelled to perpetrate. Every time he recalled that incident, every time the name of Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí was mentioned to him, tears which he could not repress flowed from his eyes, tears that were a witness to the affection which that holy man had instilled into his heart.
2. Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí, 35 a native of Barfurúsh in the province of Mázindarán, and an outstanding figure in the community known by the name of Ni’matu’lláhí. He was a man of sincere piety and endowed with great nobleness of nature. Such was the purity of his life that a considerable number among the notables of Mázindarán, of Khurásán and Tihrán had pledged him their loyalty, and regarded him as the very embodiment of virtue. Such was the esteem in which he was held by his countrymen that, on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Karbilá, a vast concourse of devoted admirers thronged his route in order to pay their homage to him. In Hamadán, as well as in Kirmansháh, a great number of people were influenced by his personality and joined the company of his followers. Wherever he went, he was greeted with the acclamations of the people. These demonstrations of popular enthusiasm were, however, extremely distasteful to him. He avoided the crowd and disdained the pomp and circumstance of leadership. On his way to Karbilá, while passing through Mandalíj, a shaykh of considerable influence became so enamoured of him that he renounced all that he had formerly cherished and, leaving his friends and disciples, followed him as far as Ya’qubíyyih. Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí, however, succeeded in inducing him to return to Mandalíj and resume the work which he had abandoned.
On his return from his pilgrimage, Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí met Mullá Husayn and through him embraced the truth of the Cause. Owing to illness, he was unable to join the defenders 450 of the fort of Tabarsí, and, but for his unfitness to travel to Mázindarán, would have been the first to join its occupants. Next to Mullá Husayn, among the disciples of the Báb, Vahíd was the person to whom he was most attached. During my visit to Tihrán, I was informed that the latter had consecrated his life to the service of the Cause and had risen with exemplary devotion to promote its interests far and wide. I often heard Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí, who was then in the capital, deplore that illness. “How greatly I grieve,” I heard him several times remark, “to have been deprived of my share of the cup which Mullá Husayn and his companions have quaffed! I long to join Vahíd and enrol myself under his banner and strive to make amends for my previous failure.” He was preparing to leave Tihrán, when he was suddenly arrested. His modest attire witnessed to the degree of his detachment. Clad in a white tunic, after the manner of the Arabs, cloaked in a coarsely woven ‘abá, 36 and wearing the head-dress of the people of ‘Iráq, he seemed, as he walked the streets, the very embodiment of renunciation. He scrupulously adhered to all the observances of his Faith, and with exemplary piety performed his devotions. “The Báb Himself conforms to the observances of His Faith in their minutest details,” he often remarked. “Am I to neglect on my part the things which are observed by my Leader?”
When Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí was arrested and brought before the Amír-Nizám, a commotion such as Tihrán had rarely experienced was raised. Large crowds of people thronged the approaches to the headquarters of the government, eager to learn what would befall him. “Since last night,” the Amír, as soon as he had seen him, remarked, “I have been besieged by all classes of State officials who have vigorously interceded in your behalf. 37 From what I learn of the position you occupy and the influence your words exercise, you are not 451 much inferior to the Siyyid-i-Báb Himself. Had you claimed for yourself the position of leadership, better would it have been than to declare your allegiance to one who is certainly inferior to you in knowledge.” “The knowledge which I have acquired,” he boldly retorted, “has led me to bow down in allegiance before Him whom I have recognised to be my Lord and Leader. Ever since I attained the age of manhood, I have regarded justice and fairness as the ruling motives of my life. I have judged Him fairly, and have reached the conclusion that should this Youth, to whose transcendent power friend and foe alike testify, be false, every Prophet of God, from time immemorial down to the present day, should be denounced as the very embodiment of falsehood! I am assured of the unquestioning devotion of over a thousand admirers, and yet I am powerless to change the heart of the least among them. This Youth, however, has proved Himself capable of transmuting, through the elixir of His love, the souls of the most degraded among His fellow men. Upon a thousand like me He has, unaided and alone, exerted such influence that, without even attaining His presence, they have flung aside their own desires and have clung passionately to His will. Fully conscious of the inadequacy of the sacrifice they have made, these yearn to lay down their lives for His sake, in the hope that this further evidence of their devotion may be worthy of mention in His Court.”
“I am loth,” the Amír-Nizám remarked, “whether your words be of God or not, to pronounce the sentence of death against the possessor of so exalted a station.” “Why hesitate? burst forth the impatient victim. “Are you not aware that all names descend from Heaven? He whose name is ‘Alí, 38 in whose path I am laying down my life, has 452 from time immemorial inscribed my name, Qurbán-‘Alí, 39 in the scroll of His chosen martyrs. This is indeed the day on which I celebrate the Qurbán festival, the day on which I shall seal with my life-blood my faith in His Cause. Be not, therefore, reluctant, and rest assured that I shall never blame you for your act. The sooner you strike off my head, the greater will be my gratitude to you.” “Take him away from this place!” cried the Amír. “Another moment, and this dervish will have cast his spell over me!” “You are proof against that magic,” Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí replied, “that can captivate only the pure in heart. You and your like can never be made to realise the entrancing power of that Divine elixir which, swift as the twinkling of an eye, transmutes the souls of men.”
Exasperated by the reply, the Amír-Nizám arose from his seat and, his whole frame shaking with anger, exclaimed: “Nothing but the edge of the sword can silence the voice of this deluded people!” “No need,” he told the executioners who were in attendance upon him, “to bring any more members of this hateful sect before me. Words are powerless to overcome their unswerving obstinacy. Whomever you are able to induce to recant his faith, release him; as for the rest, strike off their heads.”
As he drew near the scene of his death, Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí, intoxicated with the prospect of an approaching reunion with his Beloved, broke forth into expressions of joyous exultation. “Hasten to slay me,” he cried with rapturous delight, “for through this death you will have offered me the chalice of everlasting life. Though my withered breath you now extinguish, with a myriad lives will my Beloved reward me; lives such as no mortal heart can conceive!” “Hearken to my words, you who profess to be the followers of the Apostle of God,” he pleaded, as he turned his gaze to the concourse of spectators. “Muhammad, the Day-Star of Divine guidance, who in a former age arose above the horizon of Hijáz, has to-day, in the person of ‘Alí-Muhammad, again risen from the Day-Spring of Shíráz, shedding the same radiance and imparting the same warmth. A rose is a rose in whichever garden, and at whatever time, it may bloom.” Seeing on 453 every side how the people were deaf to his call, he cried aloud: “Oh, the perversity of this generation! How heedless of the fragrance which that imperishable Rose has shed! Though my soul brim over with ecstasy, I can, alas, find no heart to share with me itS charm, nor mind to apprehend its glory.”
At the sight of the body of Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, beheaded and bleeding at his feet, his fevered excitement rose to its highest pitch. “Hail,” he shouted as he flung himself upon it, “hail the day of mutual rejoicing, the day of our reunion with our Beloved!” “Approach,” he cried to the executioner, as he held the body in his arms, “and strike your blow, for my faithful comrade is unwilling to release himself from my embrace, and calls me to hasten together with him to the court of the Well-Beloved.” A blow from the executioner fell immediately upon the nape of his neck. A few moments later, and the soul of that great man had passed away. That cruel stroke stirred in the bystanders feelings of mingled indignation and sympathy. Cries of sorrow and lamentation ascended from the hearts of the multitude, and provoked a distress that was reminiscent of the outbursts of grief with which every year the populace greets the day of Ashura. 40
3. Then came the turn of Hájí Mullá Ismá’íl-i-Qumí, who was a native of Farahán. In his early youth, he departed for Karbilá In quest of the Truth which he was diligently striving to discover. He had associated with all the leading ‘ulamás of Najaf and Karbilá, had sat at the feet of Siyyid Kázim, and had acquired from him the knowledge and understanding which enabled him, a few years later when in Shíráz, to acknowledge the Revelation of the Báb. He distinguished himself by the tenacity of his faith and the fervour of his devotion. As soon as the injunction of the Báb, bidding His 454 followers hasten to Khurásán, reached him, he enthusiastically responded, joined the companions who were proceeding to Badasht, and there received the appellation of Sirru’l-Vujud. Whilst in their company, his understanding of the Cause grew deeper and his zeal for its promotion correspondingly increased. He grew to be the very embodiment of detachment, and felt more and more impatient to demonstrate in a befitting manner the spirit with which his Faith had inspired him. In the exposition of the meaning of the verses of the Qur’án and the traditions of Islám, he displayed an insight which few could rival, and the eloquence with which he set forth those truths won him the admiration of his fellow-disciples. In the days when the fort of Tabarsí had become the rallying centre for the disciples of the Báb, he languished disconsolate upon a sick-bed, unable to lend his assistance and play his part for its defence. No sooner had he recovered than, finding that that memorable siege had ended with the massacre of his fellow-disciples, he arose, with added determination, to make up by his self-sacrificing labours for the loss which the Cause had sustained. That determination carried him eventually to the field of martyrdom and won him its crown.
Conducted to the block and waiting for the moment of his execution, he turned his gaze towards those twin martyrs who had preceded him and who still lay entwined in each other’s embrace. “Well done, beloved companions!” he cried, as he fixed his gaze upon their gory heads. “You have turned Tihrán into a paradise! Would that I had preceded you!” Drawing from his pocket a coin, which he handed to his executioner, he begged him to purchase for him something with which he could sweeten his mouth. He took some of it and gave the rest to him, saying: “I have forgiven you your act; approach and deal your blow. For thirty years I have yearned to witness this blessed day, and was fearful lest I should carry this wish with me unfulfilled to the grave.” “Accept me, O my God,” he cried, as he turned his eyes to heaven, “unworthy though I be, and deign to inscribe my name upon the scroll of those immortals who have laid down their lives on the altar of sacrifice.” He was 455 still offering his devotions when the executioner, at his request, suddenly cut short his prayer. 41
4. He had hardly expired when Siyyid Husayn-i-Turshízí, the mujtahid, was conducted in his turn to the block. He was a native of Turshíz, a village in Khurásán, and was highly esteemed for his piety and rectitude of conduct. He had studied for a number of years in Najaf, and was commissioned by his fellow-mujtahids to proceed to Khurásán and there propagate the principles he had been taught. When he arrived at Kazímayn, he met Hájí Muhammad-Taqíy-i-Kirmání, an old acquaintance of his, who ranked among the foremost merchants of Kirmán, and who had opened a branch of his business in Khurásán. As he was on his way to Persia, he decided to accompany him. This Hájí Muhammad-Taqí had been a close friend of Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, the Báb’s maternal uncle, through whom he had been converted to the Cause in the year 1264 A.H., 42 while preparing to leave Shíráz on a pilgrimage to Karbilá. When informed of the projected journey of Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí to Chihríq for the purpose of visiting the Báb, he expressed his eager desire to accompany him. Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí advised him to carry out his original purpose and proceed to Karbilá and there await his letter, which would inform him whether it would be advisable to join him. From Chihríq, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí was ordered to depart for Tihrán, in the hope that after a short stay in the capital he would be able to renew his visit to his Nephew. Whilst in Chihríq, he expressed his reluctance to return to Shíráz, inasmuch as he could no longer endure .the increasing arrogance of its inhabitants. 456 Upon his arrival in Tihrán, he requested Hájí Muhammad-Taqí to join him. Siyyid Husayn accompanied him from Baghdád to the capital and through him was converted to the Faith.
As he faced the multitude that had gathered round him to witness his martyrdom, Siyyid Husayn raised his voice and said: “Hear me, O followers of Islám! My name is Husayn, and I am a descendant of the Siyyidu’sh-Shuhada, who also bore that name. 43 The mujtahids of the holy cities of Najaf and Karbilá have unanimously testified to my position as the authorised expounder of the law and teachings of their Faith. Not until recently had heard thee name of the Siyyid-i-Báb. The mastery I have obtained over the intricacies of the Islámic teachings has enabled me to appreciate the value of the Message which the Siyyid-i-Báb has brought. I am convinced that, were I to deny the Truth which He has revealed, I should, by this very act, have renounced my allegiance to every Revelation that has preceded it. I appeal to every one of you to call upon the ‘ulamás and mujtahids of this city and to convene a gathering, at which I will undertake in their presence to establish the truth of this Cause. Let them then judge whether I am able to demonstrate the validity of the claims advanced by the Báb. If they be satisfied with the proofs which I shall adduce in support of my argument, let them desist from shedding the blood of the innocent; and if I fail, let them inflict upon me the punishment I deserve.” These words had scarcely dropped from his lips when an officer in the service of the Amír-Nizám haughtily interjected: “I carry with me your death-warrant signed and sealed by seven of the recognised mujtahids of Tihrán, who have in their own handwriting pronounced you an infidel. I will myself be answerable to God on the Day of Judgment for your blood, and will lay the responsibility upon those leaders in whose judgment we have been asked to put our trust and to whose decisions we have been compelled to submit.” With these words he drew out his dagger and stabbed him with such force that he immediately fell dead at his feet.
5. Soon after, Hájí Muhammad-Taqíy-i-Kirmání was led 457 to the scene of execution. The ghastliness of the sight he beheld provoked his violent indignation. “Approach, you wretched and heartless tyrant,” he burst forth as he turned to his persecutor, “and hasten to slay me, for I am impatient to join my beloved Husayn. To live after him is a torture I cannot endure.”
6. No sooner had Hájí Muhammad-Taqí uttered these words than Siyyid Murtadá, who was one of the noted merchants of Zanján, hastened to take precedence of his companions. He flung himself over the body of Hájí Muhammad-Taqí, and pleaded that, being a siyyid, his martyrdom would be more meritorious in the sight of God than that of Hájí Muhammad-Taqí. As the executioner 458 unsheathed his sword, Siyyid Murtadá invoked the memory of his martyred brother, who had struggled side by side with Mullá Husayn; and such were his references that the onlookers marvelled at the unyielding tenacity of the faith with which he was inspired.
7. In the midst of the turmoil which the stirring words of Siyyid Murtadá had raised, Muhammad-Husayn-i-Maraghiyí rushed forward and begged that he be allowed to be martyred immediately ere his companions were put to the sword. As soon as his eyes fell upon the body of Hájí Mullá Ismá’íl-i-Qumí, for whom he entertained a deep affection, he impulsively threw himself upon him and, holding him in his embrace, exclaimed: “Never will I consent to separate myself from my dearly beloved friend, in whom I have reposed the utmost confidence and from whom I have received so many evidences of a sincere and deep-felt affection!”
Their eagerness to precede one another in laying down their lives for their Faith astonished the multitude who wondered which of the three would be preferred to his companions. They pleaded with such fervour that eventually they were beheaded, all three, at one and the same moment.
So great a faith, such evidences of unbridled cruelty, human eye has rarely beheld. Few as they were in number, yet when we recall the circumstances of their martyrdom, we are compelled to acknowledge the stupendous character of that force which could evoke so rare a spirit of self-sacrifice. When we remember the exalted rank these victims had occupied, when we observe the degree of their renunciation and the vitality of their faith, when we recall the pressure which from influential quarters had been exerted to avert the danger with which their lives were threatened, above all when we picture to our minds the spirit that defied the atrocities which a heartless enemy so far bemeaned themselves as to inflict upon them, we are impelled to look upon that episode as one of the most tragic occurrences in the annals of this Cause. 44 459
At this stage of my narrative I was privileged to submit to Bahá’u’lláh such sections of my work as I had already revised and completed. How abundantly have my labours been rewarded by Him whose favour alone I seek, and for whose satisfaction I have addressed myself to this task! He graciously summoned me to His presence and vouchsafed me His blessings. I was in my home in the prison-city of ‘Akká, and lived in the neighbourhood of the house of Áqáy-i-Kalím, when the summons of my Beloved reached me. That day, the seventh of the month of Rabí’u’th-Thání in the year 1306 A.H., 45 I shall never forget. I here reproduce the gist of His words to me on that memorable occasion:
“In a Tablet which We yesterday revealed, We have explained the meaning of the words, ‘Turn your eyes away,’ 46 in the course of Our reference to the circumstances attending the gathering at Badasht. We were celebrating, in the company of a number of distinguished notables, the nuptials of one of the princes of royal blood in Tihrán, when Siyyid Ahmad-i-Yazdí, father of Siyyid Husayn, the Báb’s amanuensis, appeared suddenly at the door. He beckoned to Us, and seemed to be the bearer of an important message which he wished immediately to deliver. We were, however, unable at that moment to leave the gathering, and motioned to him to wait. When the meeting had dispersed, he informed 460 Us that Táhirih had been placed in strict confinement in Qazvín, and that her life was in great danger. We immediately summoned Muhammad-Hádíy-i-Farhádí, and gave him the necessary directions to release her from her captivity, and escort her to the capital. As the enemy had seized Our house, We were unable to accommodate her indefinitely in Our home. Accordingly, We arranged for her transference from Our house to that of the Minister of War, 47 who, in those days, had been disgraced by his sovereign and had been deported to Káshán. We requested his sister, who still was numbered among Our friends, to act as hostess to Táhirih.
“She remained in her company until the call of the Báb, bidding Us proceed to Khurásán, reached Our ears. We decided that Táhirih should proceed immediately to that province, and commissioned Mírzá 48 to conduct her to a place outside the gate of the city, and from thence to any locality she deemed advisable in that neighbourhood. She was taken to an orchard in the vicinity of which was a deserted building, where they found an old man who acted as its caretaker. Mírzá Músá returned and informed Us of the reception which had been accorded to them, and highly praised the beauty of the surrounding landscape. We subsequently arranged for her departure for Khurásán, and promised that We would follow within the space of a few days.
“We soon joined her at Badasht, where We rented a garden for her use, and appointed the same Muhammad-Hádí who had achieved her deliverance, as her doorkeeper. About seventy of Our companions were with Us and lodged in a place in the vicinity of that garden.
“We fell ill one day, and were confined to bed. Táhirih sent a request to call upon Us. We were surprised at her message, and were at a loss as to what We should reply. Suddenly We saw her at the door, her face unveiled before Us. How well has Mírzá Áqá Ján 49 commented upon that incident. ‘The face of Fátimih,’ he said, ‘must needs be revealed on the Day of Judgment and appear unveiled before the eyes of men. At that moment the voice of the Unseen 461 shall be heard saying: “Turn your eyes away from that which ye have seen.”
“How great was the consternation that seized the companions on that day! Fear and bewilderment filled their hearts. A few, unable to tolerate that which was to them so revolting a departure from the established customs of Islám, fled in horror from before her face. Dismayed, they sought refuge in a deserted castle in that neighbourhood. Among those who were scandalised by her behaviour and severed from her entirely were the Siyyid-i-Nahrí 50 and his brother Mírzá Hádí, to both of whom We sent word that it was unnecessary for them to desert their companions and seek refuge in a castle.
“Our friends eventually dispersed, leaving Us at the mercy of Our enemies. When, at a later time, We went to Ámul, such was the turmoil which the people had raised that above four thousand persons had congregated in the masjid and had crowded onto the roofs of their houses. The leading mullá of the town denounced Us bitterly. ‘You have perverted the Faith of Islám,’ he cried in his mázindarání dialect, ‘and sullied its fame! Last night I saw you in a dream enter the masjid, which was thronged by an eager multitude that had gathered to witness your arrival. As the crowd pressed round you, I beheld, and, lo, the Qá’im was standing in a corner with His gaze fixed upon your countenance, His features betraying great surprise. This dream I regard as evidence of your having deviated from the path of Truth.’ We assured him that the expression of surprise on that countenance was a sign of the Qá’im’s strong disapproval of the treatment he and his fellow-townsmen had accorded Us. He questioned Us regarding the Mission of the Báb. We informed him that, although We had never met Him face to face, yet We cherished, none the less, a great affection for Him. We expressed Our profound conviction that He had, under no circumstances, acted contrary to the Faith of Islám.
The mullá and his followers, however refused to believe Us, and rejected Our testimony as a perversion of the truth. They eventually placed Us in confinement, and forbade Our 462 friends to meet Us. The acting governor of Ámul succeeded in effecting Our release from captivity. Through an opening in the wall that he ordered his men to make, he enabled Us to leave that room, and conducted Us to his house. No sooner were the inhabitants informed of this act than they arose against Us, besieged the governor’s residence, pelted Us with stones, and hurled in Our face the foulest invectives.
“At the time We proposed to send Muhammad-Hádíy-i-Farhádí to Qazvín, in order to achieve the deliverance of Táhirih and conduct her to Tihrán, Shaykh Abú-Turáb wrote Us, insisting that such an attempt was fraught with grave risks and might occasion an unprecedented tumult. We refused to be deflected from Our purpose. That Shaykh was a kind-hearted man, was simple and lowly in temper, and behaved with great dignity. He lacked courage and determination, however, and betrayed weakness on certain occasions.”
A word should now be added regarding the closing stages of the tragedy that witnessed to the heroism of the Seven Martyrs of Tihrán. For three days and three nights they remained abandoned in the Sabzih-Maydán, which adjoined the imperial palace, exposed to untold indignities which an unrelenting foe heaped upon them. Thousands of devout shí’ahs gathered round their corpses, kicked them with their 463 feet, and spat upon their faces. They were pelted, cursed, and mocked by the angry multitude. Heaps of refuse were flung upon their remains by the bystanders, and the foulest atrocities were perpetrated upon their bodies. No voice was raised in protest, no hand was stretched to stay the arm of the barbarous oppressor.
Having allayed the tumult of their passion, they buried them outside the gate of the capital, in a place which lay beyond the limits of the public cemetery, adjoining the moat, between the gates of Naw and of Sháh Abdu’l-’Azim. They were all laid in the same grave, thus remaining united in body, as they had been in spirit during the days of their earthly life. 51
The news of their martyrdom came as an added blow to the Báb, who was already plunged in sorrow at the fate that had befallen the heroes of Tabarsí. In the detailed Tablet He revealed in their honour, every word of which testified to the exalted position they occupied in His eyes, He referred to them as those very “Seven Goats” spoken of in the traditions of Islám, who on the Day of Judgment shall “walk in front of the promised Qá’im.” They shall symbolise by their life the noblest spirit of heroism, and by their death shall manifest true acquiescence in His will. By preceding the Qá’im, the Báb explained, is meant that their martyrdom will precede that of the Qá’im Himself, who is their Shepherd. What the Báb had predicted came to be fulfilled, inasmuch as His own martyrdom occurred four months later in Tabríz.
That memorable year witnessed, in addition to the martyrdom of the Báb and that of His seven companions in Tihrán, the momentous happenings of Nayríz which culminated in the death of Vahíd. Towards the end of that same year, Zanján likewise became the centre of a storm which raged with exceptional violence throughout the surrounding district, bringing in its wake the massacre of a vast number of 464 the Báb’s staunchest disciples. That year, rendered memorable by the magnificent heroism which those staunch supporters of His Faith displayed, not to speak of the marvellous circumstances that attended His own martyrdom, must ever remain as one of the most glorious chapters ever recorded in that Faith’s blood-stained history. The entire face of the land was blackened by the atrocities in which a cruel and rapacious enemy freely and persistently indulged. From Khurásán, on the eastern confines of Persia, as far west as Tabríz, the scene of the Báb’s martyrdom, and from the northern cities of Zanján and Tihrán stretching south as far as Nayríz, in the province of Fárs, the whole country was enveloped in darkness, a darkness that heralded the dawning light of the Revelation which the expected Husayn was soon to manifest, a Revelation mightier and more glorious than that which the Báb Himself had proclaimed. 52 465
1. June 22-July 21, 1849 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
2. November 17-December 17, 1849 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
3. The tenth of Muharram the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Imám Husayn, fell in that year on November 26, 1849 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
4. According to the “Kashfu’l-Ghitá” (p. 241) his full name was Mírzá ‘Alíy-i-Sáyyah-i-Maraghih’í. He had acted as the servant of the Báb in Máh-Kú, ranked among His leading companions, and subsequently embraced the Message of Bahá’u’lláh.   [ Back To Reference]
5. January 15, 1850 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
6. January 23, 1850 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
7. Surnamed Subh-i-Azal.   [ Back To Reference]
8. Followers of Mírzá Yahyá.   [ Back To Reference]
9. The claims of this young man were based on a nomination-document now in the possession Prof. Browne, and have been supported by a letter given in a French version by Mons. Nicolas. Forgery, however, has played such great part in written documents of the East that I hesitate to recognize the genuineness of this nomination. And I think it very improbable that any company of intensely earnest men should have accepted the document in preference to the evidence of their own knowledge respecting the inadequate endowments of Subh-i-Azal…. The probability is that the arrangement already made was further sanctioned, viz. that Bahá’u’lláh was for the present to take the private direction of affairs and exercise his great gifts as a teacher, while Subh-i-Azal (a vain young man) gave his name as ostensible head, especially with view to outsiders and to agents of the government.” (Dr. T. K. Cheyne’s “The Reconciliation of Races and Religions,” pp. 118–19.)   [ Back To Reference]
10. “I adjure thee by God, the One, the Mighty, the Omnipotent, to ponder in thine heart those writings which were sent in his [Mírzá Yahyá’s] name to the Primal Point [the Báb], that thou mayest recognise and distinguish, as manifest as the sun, the signs of the True One.” (The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” p. 125.)   [ Back To Reference]
11. 1848–9 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
12. July 29, 1831 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
13. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
14. 1847 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
15. Qur’án, 103.   [ Back To Reference]
16. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
17. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
18. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
19. 1851–2 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
20. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
21. Literally “The Most Exalted Leaf.”   [ Back To Reference]
22. Title of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.   [ Back To Reference]
23. Meaning “Master” by which title ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was then designated.   [ Back To Reference]
24. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
25. A kind of overcoat.   [ Back To Reference]
26. February 14-March 15, 1850 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
27. 1850 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
28. One of the titles of the Báb.   [ Back To Reference]
29. February 14, March 15, 1850 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
30. He was the son of Qurbán, the head cook of the Qá’im-Magam, the predecessor of Hájí Mírzá Aqásí.   [ Back To Reference]
31. Literally, “The Greatest Uncle.”   [ Back To Reference]
32. 1848–9 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
33. “He took off his turban, and, raising his face towards heaven, exclaimed, ‘O God, Thou art witness of how they are slaying the son of Thy most honourable Prophet without fault on his part.’ Then he turned to the executioner and recited this verse: ‘How long shall grief of separation from Him slay me? Cut off my head that Love may bestow on me a head.’” (Mathnaví, Book 6, p. 649, 1, 2; ed. ‘Alá’u’d-Dawlih.) (“A Traveller’s Narrative,” Note B, p. 174.)   [ Back To Reference]
34. The Seventh Imám.   [ Back To Reference]
35. According to Hájí Mu’inu’s-Saltanih’s narrative (p. 131), Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí the dervish, met the Báb in the village of Khánliq.   [ Back To Reference]
36. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
37. “Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí was famous amongst mystics and dervishes, and had many friends and disciples in Tihrán, besides being well known to most of the nobles and chief men, and even to the Sháh’s mother. She, because of her friendship for him and the compassion she felt for his plight, said to his Majesty the king: ‘He is no Bábí, but has been falsely accused.’ So they sent and brought him out saying: ‘Thou art a dervish, a scholar, and a man of learning; thou dost not belong to this misguided sect; a false charge has been preferred against thee.’ He replied: ‘I reckon myself one of the followers and servants of His Holiness, though whether or no He hath accepted me as such, I wot not.’ When they continued to persuade him, holding out hopes of a pension and salary, he said: ‘This life and these drops of blood of mine are of but small account; were the empire of the world mine, and had I a thousand lives, I would freely cast them all at the feet of His friends:

‘To sacrifice the head for the Beloved,

in mine eyes appears an easy thing indeed;

Close thy lips, and cease to speak of mediation,

For of mediation lovers have no need.’ So at length they desisted in despair, and signified that he should die.” (The “Taríkh-i-Jadíd,” p. 254.)   [ Back To Reference]

38. Reference to the Báb.   [ Back To Reference]
39. Qurbán means “Sacrifice”; hence, “Sacrifice for the Báb.”   [ Back To Reference]
40. “When he was brought to the foot of the execution-pole, the headman raised his sword and smote him on the neck from behind. The blow only bowed his head, and caused the dervish’s turban which he wore to roll some paces from him on the ground. Immediately as it were with his last breath, he sent a fresh pang through the heart of everyone capable of emotion by reciting these verses:

‘Happy he whom love’s intoxication

So hath overcome that scarce he knows

Whether at the feet of the Beloved

It be head or turban which he throws!’”

(The “Taríkh-i-Jadíd”, pp. 254–5.)   [ Back To Reference]

41. “Now when they were ready to begin their work of decapitation and slaughter, it was Hájí Mullá Ismá’íl’s turn to die, one came to him, saying: ‘Such an one of your friends will give such-and-such a sum of money to save you from death, on condition of your recanting, that thus they may be induced to spare you. In a case of dire necessity, when it is a question of saving your life, what harm is there in merely saying, “I am not a Bábí,” so that they may have a pretext for releasing you?’ He replied: ‘Were I willing to recant, even without money none would touch me.’ Being further pressed and greatly importuned, he drew himself up to his full height amidst the crowd, and exclaimed, so that all might hear:

‘Zephyr, prithee bear for me a message

To that Ishmael who was not slain:

“Living from the street of the Beloved

Love permits not to return again.”’”

(The “Taríkh-i-Jadíd,” pp. 253–4.)   [ Back To Reference]

42. 1847–8 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
43. The Imám Husayn.   [ Back To Reference]
44. “After detailing the occurrences briefly set forth above, the Bábí historian proceeds to point out the special value and unique character of the testimony given by the “Seven Martyrs.’ They were men representing all the more important classes in Persia—divines, dervishes, merchants, shopkeepers, and government officials; they were men who had enjoyed the respect and consideration of all; they died fearlessly, willingly, almost eagerly, declining to purchase life by that mere lip-denial which, under the name of kitmán or taqíyyih, is recognised by the by the shí’ahs as a perfectly justifiable subterfuge in case of peril; they were not driven to despair of mercy as were those who died at Shaykh Tabarsí and Zanján and they sealed their faith with their blood in the public square of the Persian capital wherein is the abode of the foreign ambassadors accredited to the court of the Sháh. And herein the Bábí historian is right: even those who speak severely of the Bábí movement generally, characterising it as a communism destructive of all order and all morality, express commiseration for the guiltless victims. To the day of their martyrdom we may well apply Gobineau’s eloquent reflection on a similar tragedy enacted two years later: …”This eventful day brought to the Báb more secret followers than many sermons could have done. I have just said that the impression created by the prodigious endurance of the martyrs was deep and lasting. I have often heard repeated the story of that day by eye witnesses, by men close to the government, some even important officials. From their accounts, one might easily have believed that they were all Bábís, so great was the admiration they felt for memories which were not to the honor of Islám, and so high was the esteem they entertained for the resourcefulness, the hopes and the chances of success of the new doctrine.” (“A Traveller’s Narrative,” Note B, pp. 175–176.)   [ Back To Reference]
45. December 11, 1888 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
46. According to Islámic traditions, Fátimih, Muhammad’s daughter, will appear unveiled as she crosses the bridge “Sirát“ on the Day of Judgment. At her appearance a voice from heaven will declare: “Turn your eyes away, O concourse of people!”   [ Back To Reference]
47. Mírzá Áqá Khán-i-Núrí, who succeeded the Amír-Nizám as Grand Vazír of Násiri’d-Dín Sháh.   [ Back To Reference]
48. Áqáy-i-Kalím, brother of Bahá’u’lláh.   [ Back To Reference]
49. Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis.   [ Back To Reference]
50. Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alíy-i-Nahrí.   [ Back To Reference]
51. “When the executioners had completed their bloody work, the rabble onlookers, awed for a while by the patient courage of the martyrs, again allowed their ferocious fanaticism to break out in insults to the mortal remains of those whose spirits had now passed beyond the power of their malice. They cast stones and filth at the motionless corpses, abusing them, and crying out, ‘This is the recompense of the people of affection and of such as pursue the Path of Wisdom and Truth!’ Nor would they suffer their bodies to be interred in a burial-ground, but cast them into a pit outside the Gate of Sháh Abdu’l-’Azim, which they then filled up.” (“A Traveller’s Narrative,” Note B, pp. 174–5.)   [ Back To Reference]
52. ‘While these developments were taking place in the north of Persia, the provinces of the center and the south were deeply stirred by the enthusiastic appeals of the missionaries of the new doctrine. The people—light, credulous, ignorant, superstitious in the extreme—were dumbfounded by the accounts of continuous miracles of which they heard every minute; the Mullás, deeply concerned, feeling that their wavering flock was ready to escape their control, multiplied their slanders and defamation; the grossest lies, the most cruel fictions were circulated among the bewildered masses, divided between terror and admiration.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 387.)   [ Back To Reference]