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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 527-582


THE spark that had kindled the great conflagrations of Mázindarán and Nayríz had already set aflame Zanján 1 and its surroundings when the Báb met His death in Tabríz. Profound as was His sorrow at the sad and calamitous fate that had overtaken the heroes of Shaykh Tabarsí, the news of the no less tragic sufferings that had been the lot of Vahíd and his companions, came as an added blow to His heart, already oppressed by the weight of manifold afflictions. The consciousness of the dangers that thickened around Him; the memory of the indignity He endured when He was last conducted to Tabríz; the strain of a prolonged and rigorous captivity amidst the mountain fastnesses of Ádhirbayján; the terrible butcheries that marked the closing stages of the Mázindarán and Nayríz upheavals; the outrages to His Faith wrought by the persecutors of the Seven Martyrs of Tihrán—even these were not all the troubles 528 that beclouded the remaining days of a fast-ebbing life. He was already prostrated by the severity of these blows when the news of the happenings at Zanján, which were then beginning to foreshadow their sad events, reached Him and served to consummate the anguish of His last days. What pangs must He have endured as the shadows of death were fast gathering about Him! In every field, whether in the north or in the south, the champions of His Faith had been subjected to undeserved sufferings, had been infamously deceived, had been robbed of their possessions, and had been inhumanly massacred. And now, as if to fill His cup of woes to over-flowing, 529 there broke forth the storm of Zanján, the most violent and devastating of them all. 2
I now proceed to relate the circumstances that have made of that event one of the most thrilling episodes in the history of this Revelation. Its chief figure was Hujjat-i-Zanjání, whose name was Mullá Muhammad-‘Alí, 3 one of the ablest ecclesiastical dignitaries of his age, and certainly one of the most formidable champions of the Cause. His father, Mullá Rahím-i-Zanjání, was one of the leading mujtahids of Zanján, and was greatly esteemed for his piety, his learning and force of character. Mullá Muhammad-‘Alí, surnamed Hujjat, was born in the year 1227 A.H. 4 From his very boyhood, he showed such capacity that his father lavished the utmost care upon his education. He sent him to Najaf, where he distinguished himself by his insight, his ability and fiery ardour. 5 His scholarship and keen intelligence excited the admiration of his friends, whilst his outspokenness and the strength of his character made him the terror of his adversaries. His father advised him not to return to Zanján, 530 where his enemies were conspiring against him. He accordingly decided to establish his residence in Hamadán, 6 where he married one of his kinswomen, and lived there for about two and a half years, when the news of his father’s death decided him to leave for his native town. The ovation accorded him on his arrival inflamed the hostility of the ‘ulamás, who, despite their avowed opposition, received at his hands every mark of consideration and kindness. 7
From the pulpit of the masjid which his friends erected in his honour, he urged the vast throng that gathered to hear him, to refrain from self-indulgence and to exercise moderation in all their acts. 8 He ruthlessly suppressed every form of abuse, and by his example encouraged the people to adhere rigidly to the principles inculcated by the Qur’án. Such were the care and ability with which he taught his disciples that they surpassed in knowledge and understanding the recognised ‘ulamás of Zanján. For seventeen years, he pursued his meritorious labours and succeeded in purging the minds and hearts of his fellow-townsmen from whatever seemed contrary to the spirit and teachings of their Faith. 9
When the Call from Shíráz reached him, he despatched his trusted messenger, Mullá Iskandar, to enquire into the claims of the new Revelation; and such was his response to 531 that Message that his enemies were stirred to redouble their attacks upon him. Unable, hitherto, to disgrace him in the eyes of the government and the people, they now endeavoured to denounce him as an advocate of heresy and a repudiator of all that is sacred and cherished in Islám. “His reputation for justice, for piety, wisdom, and learning,” they whispered to one another, “has been such as to render it impossible for us to shake his position. When summoned to Tihrán, in the presence of Muhammad Sháh was he not able, by his magnetic eloquence, to win him over to his side, and make of him one of his devoted admirers? Now, however, that he has so openly championed the cause of the Siyyid-i-Báb, we can surely succeed in obtaining from the government the order for his arrest and banishment from our town.”
They accordingly drew up a petition to Muhammad Sháh, in which they sought, by every device their malevolent and crafty minds could invent, to discredit his name. “While still professing himself a follower of our Faith,” they complained, “he, by the aid of his disciples, was able to repudiate our authority. Now that he has identified himself with the cause of the Siyyid-i-Báb and won over to that hateful creed two-thirds of the inhabitants of Zanján, what humiliation will he not inflict upon us! The concourse that throngs his gates, the whole masjid can no longer contain. Such is his influence that the masjid that belonged to his father and the one that has been built in his honour, have been connected and made into one edifice in order to accommodate the ever-increasing multitude that hastens eagerly to follow his lead in prayer. The time is fast approaching when not only Zanján but the neighbouring villages also will have declared themselves his supporters.”
The Sháh was greatly surprised at the tone and language with which the petitioners sought to arraign Hujjat. He shared his astonishment with Mírzá Nazar-‘Alí, the Hakím-Báshí, and recalled the glowing tribute which many a visitor to Zanján had paid to the abilities and integrity of the accused. He decided to summon him, together with his opponents, to Tihrán. In a special gathering at which he himself, together with Hájí Mírzá Aqásí and the leading officials of the government, as well as a number of the recognised ‘ulamás 532 of Tihrán, had assembled, he called upon the ecclesiastical leaders of Zanján to vindicate the claims they had advanced. Whatever questions they submitted to Hujjat, regarding the teachings of their Faith, he answered in a manner that could not fail to win the unqualified admiration of his hearers and to establish the sovereign’s confidence in his innocence. The Sháh expressed his entire satisfaction, and amply rewarded Hujjat for the excellent manner in which he had succeeded in refuting the allegations of his enemies. He bade him return to Zanján and resume his valuable services to the cause of his people, assuring him that he would under all circumstances support him and asking to be informed of any difficulty with which he might be faced in the future. 10
His arrival at Zanján was the signal for a fierce outburst on the part of his humiliated opponents. As the evidences of their hostility multiplied, the marks of devotion on the part of his friends and supporters correspondingly increased. 11 Utterly disdainful of their machinations, he pursued his activities with unrelaxing zeal. 12 The liberal principles which he unceasingly and fearlessly advocated struck at the very root of the fabric which a bigoted enemy had laboriously reared. They beheld with impotent fury the disruption of their authority and the collapse of their institutions.
It was in those days that his special envoy, Mashhadí Ahmad, whom he had confidentially despatched to Shíráz with a petition and gifts from him to the Báb, arrived at 533 Zanján and delivered into his hands, while he was addressing his disciples, a sealed letter from his Beloved. In the Tablet he received, the Báb conferred upon him one of His own titles, that of Hujjat, and urged him to proclaim from the pulpit, without the least reservation, the fundamental teachings of His Faith. No sooner was he informed of the wishes of his Master than he declared his resolve to devote himself to the immediate enforcement of whatever injunction that Tablet contained. He immediately dismissed his disciples, bade them close their books, and declared his intention of discontinuing his courses of study. “Of what profit,” he said, “are study and research to those who have already found the Truth, and why strive after learning when He who is the Object of all knowledge is made manifest?”
As soon as he attempted to lead the congregation in offering the Friday prayer, enjoined upon him by the Báb, 13 the Imám-Jum’ih, who had hitherto performed that duty, vehemently protested, on the ground that this right was the exclusive privilege of his own forefathers, that it had been conferred upon him by his sovereign, and that no one, however exalted his station, could usurp it. “That right,” Hujjat retorted, “has been superseded by the authority with which the Qá’im Himself has invested me. I have been commanded by Him to assume that function publicly, and I cannot allow any person to trespass upon that right. If attacked, I will take steps to defend myself and to protect the lives of my companions.”
His fearless insistence on the duty laid upon him by the Báb caused the ‘ulamás of Zanján to league themselves with the Imám-Jum’ih 14 and to lay their complaints before Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, pleading that Hujjat had challenged the validity 534 of recognised institutions and trampled upon their rights. “We must either flee from this town with our families and belongings,” they pleaded, “and leave him in sole charge of the destinies of its people, or obtain from Muhammad Sháh an edict for his immediate expulsion from this country; for we firmly believe that to allow him to remain on its soil would be courting disaster.” Though Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, in his heart, distrusted the ecclesiastical order of his country and had a natural aversion to their beliefs and practices, he was forced eventually to yield to their pressing demands, and submitted the matter to Muhammad Sháh, who ordered the transfer of Hujjat from Zanján to the capital.
A Kurd named Qilij Khán was commissioned by the Sháh to deliver the royal summons to Hujjat. The Báb had meanwhile arrived in the neighbourhood of Tihrán on His way to Tabríz. Ere the arrival of the royal messenger at Zanján, Hujjat had sent one of his friends, a certain Khán-Muhammad-i-Tub-Chí, to his Master with a petition in which he begged to be allowed to rescue Him from the hands of the enemy. The Báb assured him that His deliverance the Almighty alone could achieve and that no one could escape from His decree or evade His law. “As to your meeting with Me,” He added, “it soon will take place in the world beyond, the home of unfading glory.”
The day Hujjat received that message, Qilij Khán arrived at Zanján, acquainted him with the orders he had received, and set out, accompanied by him, for the capital. Their arrival at Tihrán coincided with the Báb’s departure from the village of Kulayn, where He had been detained for some days.
The authorities, apprehensive lest a meeting between the Báb and Hujjat might lead to fresh disturbances, had taken the necessary precautions to ensure the absence of the latter from Zanján during the Báb’s passage through that town. The companions who were following Hujjat at a distance, whilst he was on his way to the capital, were urged by him to return and try to meet their Master and to assure Him of his readiness to come to His rescue. On their way back to their homes, they encountered the Báb, who again expressed His desire that no one of His friends should attempt to 535 deliver Him from His captivity. He even directed them to tell the believers among their fellow-townsmen not to press round Him, but even to avoid Him wherever He went.
No sooner had that message been delivered to those who had gone out to welcome Him on His approach to their town than they began to grieve and deplore their fate. They could not, however, resist the impulse that drove them to march forth to meet Him, forgetful of the desire He had expressed.
As soon as they were met by the guards who were marching in advance of their Captive, they were ruthlessly dispersed. On reaching a fork in the road, there arose an altercation 536 between Muhammad Big-i-Chaparchí and his colleague, who had been despatched from Tihrán to assist in conducting the Báb to Tabríz. Muhammad Big insisted that their Prisoner should be taken into the town, where He should be allowed to pass the night in the caravanserai of Mírzá Ma’súm-i-Tabíb, the father of Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alíy-i-Tabíb, a martyr of the Faith, before resuming their march to Ádhirbayján. He pleaded that to pass the night outside the gate would be to expose their lives to danger, and would encourage their opponents to attempt an attack upon them. He eventually succeeded in convincing his colleague that he should conduct the Báb to that caravanserai. As they were passing through the streets, they were amazed to see the multitude that had crowded onto the housetops in their eagerness to catch a glimpse of the face of the Prisoner.
Mírzá Ma’súm, the former owner of the caravanserai, had lately died, and his eldest son, Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí, the leading physician of Hamadán, who, though not a believer, was a true lover of the Báb, had arrived at Zanján and was in mourning for his father. He lovingly received the Báb in the caravanserai he had specially prepared beforehand for His reception. That night he remained until a late hour in His presence and was completely won over to His Cause.
“The same night that witnessed my conversion,” I heard him subsequently relate, “I arose ere break of day, lit my lantern, and, preceded by my father’s attendant, directed my steps towards the caravanserai. The guards who were stationed at the entrance recognised me and allowed me to enter. The Báb was performing His ablutions when I was ushered into His presence. I was greatly impressed when I saw Him absorbed in His devotions. A feeling of reverent joy filled my heart as I stood behind Him and prayed. I myself prepared His tea and was offering it to Him when He turned to me and bade me depart for Hamadán. ‘This town,’ He said, ‘will be thrown into a great tumult, and its streets will run with blood.’ I expressed my strong desire to be allowed to shed my blood in His path. He assured me that the hour of my martyrdom had not yet come, and bade me be resigned to whatever God might decree. At the hour 537 of sunrise, as He mounted His horse and was preparing to depart, I begged to be allowed to follow Him, but He advised me to remain, and assured me of His unfailing prayers. Resigning myself to His will, with regret I watched Him disappear from my sight.”
On his arrival at Tihrán, Hujjat was conducted into the presence of Hájí Mírzá Aqásí; who, on behalf of the Sháh and himself, expressed his annoyance at the intense hostility which his conduct had aroused among the ‘ulamás of Zanján. “Muhammad Sháh and I,” he told him, “are continually besieged by the oral as well as written denunciations brought against you. I could scarcely believe their indictment relating to your desertion of the Faith of your forefathers. Nor is the Sháh inclined to credit such assertions. I have been commanded by him to summon you to his capital and to call upon you to refute such accusations. It grieves me to hear that a man whom I consider infinitely superior in knowledge and ability to the Siyyid-i-Báb has chosen to identify himself with his creed.” “Not so,” replied Hujjat; “God knows that if that same Siyyid were to entrust me with the meanest service in His household, I would deem it an honour such as the highest favours of my sovereign could never hope to surpass.” “This can never be!” burst forth Hájí Mírzá Aqásí. “It is my firm and unalterable conviction,” Hujjat reaffirmed, “that this Siyyid of Shíráz is the very One whose advent you yourself, with all the peoples of the world, are eagerly awaiting. He is our Lord, our promised Deliverer.
Hájí Mírzá Aqásí reported the matter to Muhammad Sháh, to whom he expressed his fears that to allow so formidable an adversary, whom the sovereign himself believed to be the most accomplished of the ‘ulamás of his realm, to pursue unhindered the course of his activities would be a policy fraught with gravest danger to the State. The Sháh, disinclined to credit such reports, which he attributed to the malice and envy of the enemies of the accused, ordered that a special meeting be convened at which he should be asked to vindicate his position in the presence of the assembled ‘ulamás of the capital.
Several meetings were held for that purpose, before each 538 of which Hujjat eloquently set forth the basic claims of his Faith and confounded the arguments of those who tried to oppose him. “Is not the following tradition,” he boldly declared, “recognised alike by shí’ah and sunní Islám: ‘I leave amidst you my twin testimonies, the Book of God and my family’? Has not the second of these testimonies, in your opinion, passed away, and is not our sole means of guidance, as a result, contained in the testimony of the sacred Book? I appeal to you to measure every claim that either of us shall advance, by the standard established in that Book, and to regard it as the supreme authority whereby the righteousness of our argument can be judged.” Unable to defend their case against him, they, as a last resort, ventured to ask him to produce a miracle whereby to establish the truth of his assertion. “What greater miracle,” he exclaimed, “than that He should have enabled me to triumph, alone and unaided, by the simple power of my argument, over the combined forces of the mujtahids and ‘ulamás of Tihrán?”
The masterly manner in which Hujjat refuted the unsound claims advanced by his adversaries won for him the favour of his sovereign, who from that day forth was no longer swayed by the insinuations of his enemies. Although the entire company of the ‘ulamás of Zanján, as well as a number of the ecclesiastical leaders of Tihrán, had declared him to be an infidel and condemned him to death, yet Muhammad Sháh continued to bestow his favours upon him and to assure him that he could rely on his support. Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, though at heart unfriendly to Hujjat, was unable, in the face of such unmistakable evidences of royal favour, to resist his influence openly, and by his frequent visits to his house, and by the gifts he lavished upon him, that deceitful minister sought to conceal his resentment and envy.
Hujjat was virtually a prisoner in Tihrán. He was unable to go beyond the gates of the capital, nor was he allowed free intercourse with his friends. The believers among his fellow-townsmen eventually determined to send a deputation and ask him for fresh instructions regarding their attitude towards the laws and principles of their Faith. He charged them to observe with absolute loyalty the admonitions he had received from the Báb through the messengers he had 539 sent to investigate His Cause. He enumerated a series of observances, some of which constituted a definite departure from the established traditions of Islám. “Siyyid Kázim-i-Zanjání,” he assured them, “has been intimately connected with my Master both in Shíráz and in Isfahán. He, as well as Mullá Iskandar and Mashhadí Ahmad, both of whom I sent to meet Him, have positively declared that He Himself is the first to practise the observances He has enjoined upon the faithful. It therefore behoves us who are His supporters to follow His noble example.”
These explicit instructions were no sooner read to his companions than they became inflamed with an irresistible desire to carry out his wishes. They enthusiastically set to work to enforce the laws of the new Dispensation, and, giving up their former customs and practices, unhesitatingly identified themselves with its claims. Even the little children were encouraged to follow scrupulously the admonitions of the Báb. “Our beloved Master,” they were taught to say, “Himself is the first to practise them. Why should we who are His privileged disciples hesitate to make them the ruling principles of our lives?”
Hujjat was still a captive in Tihrán when the news of the siege of the fort of Tabarsí reached him. He longed, and deplored his inability, to throw in his lot with those of his companions who were struggling with such splendid heroism for the emancipation of their Faith. His sole consolation in those days was his close association with Bahá’u’lláh, from whom he received the sustaining power that enabled him, in the time to come, to distinguish himself by deeds no less remarkable than those which that company had manifested in the darkest hours of their memorable struggle.
He was still in Tihrán when Muhammad Sháh passed away, leaving the throne to his son Násiri’d-Dín Sháh. 15 The Amír-Nizám, the new Grand Vazír, decided to make Hujjat’s imprisonment more rigorous, and to seek in the meantime a way of destroying him. On being informed of the imminence of the danger that threatened his life, his captive decided to 540 leave Tihrán in disguise and join his companions, who eagerly awaited his return.
His arrival at his native town, which a certain Karbilá’í Valí-‘Attar announced to his companions, was a signal for a tremendous demonstration of devoted loyalty on the part of his many admirers. They flocked out, men, women, and children, to welcome him and to renew their assurances of abiding and undiminished affection. 16 The governor of Zanján, Majdu’d-Dawlih, 17 the maternal uncle of Násiri’d-Dín Sháh, astounded by the spontaneity of that ovation, ordered, in the fury of his despair, that the tongue of Karbilá’í Valí-‘Attar be immediately cut out. Though at heart he loathed Hujjat, he pretended to be his friend and well-wisher. He often visited him and showed him unbounded consideration, yet he was secretly conspiring against his life and was waiting for the moment when he could strike the fatal blow.
That smouldering hostility was soon to be fanned into flame by an incident that was of little importance in itself. The occasion was afforded when a quarrel suddenly broke out between two children of Zanján, one of whom belonged to a kinsman of one of the companions of Hujjat. The governor immediately ordered that child to be arrested and placed in strict confinement. A sum of money was offered 541 by the believers to the governor, in order to induce him to release his young prisoner. He refused their offer, whereupon they complained to Hujjat, who vehemently protested. “That child,” he wrote to the governor, “is too young to be held responsible for his behaviour. If he deserves punishment, his father and not he should be made to suffer.”
Finding that the appeal had been ignored, he renewed his protest and entrusted it to the hands of one of his influential comrades, Mír Jalíl, father of Siyyid Ashraf and martyr of the Faith, directing him to present it in person to the governor. The guards stationed at the entrance of the house at first refused him admittance. Indignant at their refusal, he threatened to force his way through the gate, and succeeded, by the mere threat of unsheathing his sword, in overcoming their resistance and in compelling the infuriated governor to release the child.
The unconditional compliance of the governor with the demand of Mír Jalíl stirred the furious indignation of the ‘ulamás. They violently protested, and deprecated his submission to the threats with which their opponents had sought to intimidate him. They expressed to him their fear that such a surrender on his part would encourage them to make still greater demands upon him, would enable them before long to assume the reins of authority and to exclude him from any share in the administration of the government. They eventually induced him to consent to the arrest of Hujjat, an act which they were convinced would succeed in checking the progress of his influence.
The governor reluctantly consented. He was repeatedly assured by the ‘ulamás that his action would under no circumstances endanger the peace and security of the town. Two of their supporters, Pahlaván 18 Asadu’lláh and Pahlaván Safar-‘Alí, both notorious for their brutality and prodigious strength, volunteered to seize Hujjat and deliver him hand-cuffed to the governor. Each was promised a handsome reward in return for this service. Clad in their amour, with helmets on their heads, and followed by a band of ruffians recruited from among the most degraded of the population. 542 they set out to accomplish their purpose. The ‘ulamás were in the meantime busily engaged in inciting the populace and encouraging them to reinforce their efforts.
As soon as the emissaries arrived in the quarter in which Hujjat was living, they were unexpectedly confronted by Mír Salah, one of his most formidable supporters, who, together with seven of his armed companions, strenuously opposed their advance. He asked Asadu’lláh whither he was bound, and, on receiving from him an insulting answer, unsheathed his sword and, with the cry of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” 19 sprang upon him and wounded him in the forehead. Mír Salah’s audacity, in spite of the heavy amour which his adversary was wearing, frightened the whole band and caused them to flee in different directions. 20
The cry which that stout-hearted defender of the Faith raised on that day was heard for the first time in Zanján, a cry that spread panic through the town. The governor was terrified by its tremendous force, and asked what that shout could mean and whose voice had been able to raise it. He was gravely shaken when told that it was the watchword of Hujjat’s companions, with which they called for the assistance of the Qá’im in the hour of distress.
The remnants of that affrighted band encountered, shortly after, Shaykh Muhammad-i-Tub-Chí, whom they immediately recognised as one of their ablest adversaries. Finding him unarmed, they fell upon him and, with an axe one of them was carrying, struck him and broke his head. They bore him to the governor, and no sooner had they laid down the wounded man than a certain Siyyid Abu’l-Qásim, one of the mujtahids of Zanján who was present, leaped forward and, with his penknife, stabbed him in the breast. The governor too, unsheathing his sword, struck him on the mouth and was followed by the attendants who, with the weapons they carried with them, completed the murder of their hapless victim. As their blows rained upon him, unmindful of his sufferings, he was heard to say: “I thank Thee, O my God, for having vouchsafed me the crown of martyrdom.” 543 He was the first among the believers of Zanján to lay down his life in the path of the Cause. His death, which occurred on Friday, the fourth of Rajab, in the year 1266 A.H., 21 preceded by forty-five days the martyrdom of Vahíd and by fifty-five days that of the Báb.
The blood that was shed on that day, far from allaying the hostility of the enemy, served further to inflame their passions, and to reinforce their determination to subject to the same fate the rest of the companions. Encouraged by the governor’s tacit approval of their expressed intentions, they resolved to put to death all upon whom they could lay their hands, without obtaining beforehand an express authorisation from the government officials. They solemnly covenanted among themselves not to rest until they had extinguished the fire of what they deemed a shameless heresy. 22 They compelled the governor to bid a crier proclaim throughout Zanján that whoever was willing to endanger his life, to forfeit his property, and expose his wife and children to misery and shame, should throw in his lot with Hujjat and his companions; and that those desirous of ensuring the well-being and honour of themselves and their families, should withdraw from the neighbourhood in which those companions resided and seek the shelter of the sovereign’s protection.
That warning immediately divided the inhabitants into two distinct camps, and severely tested the faith of those who were still wavering in their allegiance to the Cause. It gave rise to the most pathetic scenes, caused the separation of fathers from their sons and the estrangement of brothers and of kindred. Every tie of worldly affection seemed to be dissolving on that day, and the solemn pledges were forsaken in favour of a loyalty mightier and more sacred than any earthly allegiance. Zanján fell a prey to the wildest excitement. The cry of distress which members of divided families, in a frenzy of despair, raised to heaven, mingled with the blasphemous shouts which a threatening enemy 544 hurled upon them. Shouts of exultation hailed at every turn those who, tearing themselves from their homes and kinsmen, enrolled themselves as willing supporters of the Cause of Hujjat. The camp of the enemy hummed with feverish activity in preparation for the great struggle upon which they had secretly determined. Reinforcements were rushed into the town from the neighbouring villages, at the command of its governor and with the encouragement of the mujtahids, the siyyids, and the ‘ulamás who supported him. 23
Undeterred by the growing tumult, Hujjat ascended the pulpit and, with uplifted voice, proclaimed to the congregation: “The hand of Omnipotence has, in this day, separated truth from falsehood and divided the light of guidance from the darkness of error. I am unwilling that because of me you should suffer injury. The one aim of the governor and of the ‘ulamás who support him is to seize and kill me. They cherish no other ambition. They thirst for my blood and seek no one besides me. Whoever among you feels the least desire to safeguard his life against the perils with which we are beset, whoever is reluctant to offer his life for our Cause, let him, ere it is too late, betake himself from this place and return whence he came.” 24
That day more than three thousand men were recruited by the governor from the surrounding villages of Zanján. Meanwhile Mír Salah, accompanied by a number of his comrades, who observed the growing restiveness of their 545 opponents, sought the presence of Hujjat and urged him, as a precautionary measure, to transfer his residence to the fort of ‘Alí-Mardán Khán, 25 adjacent to the quarter in which he was residing. Hujjat gave his consent and ordered that their women and children, together with such provisions as they might require, be taken to the fort. Though they found it occupied by its owners, the companions eventually induced them to withdraw, and gave them in exchange the houses in which they themselves had been dwelling.
The enemy was meanwhile preparing for a violent attack upon them. No sooner had a detachment of their forces opened fire upon the barricades the companions had raised than Mír Ridá, a siyyid of exceptional courage, asked his leader to allow him to attempt to capture the governor and to bring him as a prisoner to the fort. Hujjat, unwilling to comply with his request, advised him not to risk his life.
The governor was so overcome with fear when informed of that siyyid’s intention that he decided to leave Zanján immediately. He was, however, dissuaded from taking that course by a certain siyyid who pleaded that his departure would be the signal for grave disturbances such as would disgrace him in the sight of his superiors. The siyyid himself 546 set out, as evidence of his earnestness, to launch an offensive against the occupants of the fort. He had no sooner given the signal for attack and advanced at the head of a band of thirty of his comrades, than he unexpectedly encountered two of his adversaries who were marching with drawn swords towards him. Believing that they intended to assail him, he, with the whole of his band, was suddenly seized with panic, straightway regained his home, and, forgetful of the assurances he had given to the governor, remained the whole day closeted within his room. Those who were with him promptly dispersed, renouncing the thought of pursuing the attack. They were subsequently informed that the two men they had encountered had no hostile intention against them, but were simply on their way to fulfil a commission with which they had been entrusted.
That humiliating episode was soon followed by a number of similar attempts on the part of the supporters of the governor, all of which utterly failed to achieve their purpose. Every time they rushed to attack the fort, Hujjat would order a few of his companions, who were three thousand in number, to emerge from their retreat and scatter their forces. He never failed, every time he gave them such orders, to caution his fellow-disciples against shedding unnecessarily the blood of their assailants. He constantly reminded them that their action was of a purely defensive character, and that their sole purpose was to preserve inviolate the security of their women and children. “We are commanded,” he was frequently heard to observe, “not to wage holy war under any circumstances against the unbelievers, whatever be their attitude towards us.”
This state of affairs continued 26 until the orders of the 547 Amír-Nizám reached one of the generals of the imperial army, Sadru’d-Dawliy-i-Isfahání by name, 27 who had set out at the head of two regiments for Ádhirbayján. The written orders of the Grand Vazír reached him in Khamsíh, bidding him cancel his projected journey and proceed immediately to Zanján and there give his assistance to the forces that had been mustered by the government. “You have been commissioned by your sovereign,” the Amír-Nizám wrote him, “to subjugate the band of mischief-makers in and around Zanján. It is your privilege to crush their hopes and exterminate their forces. So signal a service, at so critical a moment, will win for you the Sháh’s highest favour, no less than the applause and esteem of his people.”
This encouraging farmán stirred the imagination of the ambitious Sadru’d-Dawlih. He marched instantly on Zanján at the head of his two regiments, organised the forces which the governor placed at his disposal, and gave orders for a combined attack upon the fort and its defenders. 28 The 548 contest raged in the environs of the fort three days and three nights, in the course of which the besieged, under the direction of Hujjat, resisted with splendid daring the fierce onslaught of their assailants. Neither their overwhelming numbers nor the superiority of their equipment and training could enable them to reduce the intrepid companions to an unconditional surrender. 29 Undeterred by the fire of the cannon with which they were deluged, and forgetful of both sleep and hunger, they rushed in a headlong charge out of the fort, utterly unmindful of the perils incurred by such a sally. To the imprecations with which an opposing host greeted their appearance from their retreat, they shouted their answer of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” and, carried away by the spell which that invocation threw upon them, hurled themselves upon the enemy and scattered his forces. The frequency and success of these sallies demoralised their assailants and convinced them of the futility of their efforts. They were soon compelled to acknowledge their powerlessness to win a decisive victory. Sadru’d-Dawlih himself had to confess that after the lapse of nine months of sustained fighting, all the men who had originally belonged to his two regiments, no more than thirty crippled soldiers were left to support him. Filled with humiliation, he was forced, eventually, to admit his powerlessness to daunt the spirit of his opponents. He was degraded from his rank and gravely reprimanded by his sovereign. The hopes he had fondly cherished were, as the result of that defeat, irretrievably shattered. 549
So abject a defeat struck dismay into the hearts of the people of Zanján. Few were willing, after that disaster, to risk their lives in hopeless encounters. Only those who were compelled to fight ventured to renew their attacks upon the besieged. The brunt of the struggle was mainly borne by the regiments which were being successively despatched from Tihrán for that purpose. While the inhabitants of the town, and particularly the merchant class among them, profited greatly by the sudden influx of such a large number of forces, the companions of Hujjat suffered want and privation within the walls of the fort. Their supplies dwindled rapidly; their only hope of receiving any food from outside lay in the efforts, often unsuccessful, of a few women who could manage, under various pretexts, to approach the fort and sell them at an exorbitant price the provisions they so sadly needed.
Though oppressed with hunger and harassed by fierce and sudden onsets, they maintained with unflinching determination the defence of the fort. Sustained by a hope that no amount of adversity could dim, they succeeded in erecting no less than twenty-eight barricades, each of which was entrusted to the care of a group of nineteen of their fellow-disciples. At each barricade, nineteen additional companions were stationed as sentinels, whose function it was to watch and report the movements of the enemy.
They were frequently surprised by the voice of the crier whom the enemy sent to the neighbourhood of the fort to induce its occupants to desert Hujjat and his Cause. “The governor of the province,” he would proclaim, “and the commander-in-chief too, are willing to forgive and extend a safe passage to whoever among you will decide to leave the fort and renounce his faith. Such a man will be amply rewarded by his sovereign, who, in addition to lavishing gifts upon him, will invest him with the dignity of noble rank. Both the Sháh and his representatives have pledged their honour not to depart from the promise they have given.” To this call the besieged would, with one voice, return contemptuous and decisive replies.
Further evidence of the spirit of sublime renunciation animating those valiant companions was afforded by the behaviour of a village maiden, who, of her own accord, threw 550 in her lot with the band of women and children who had joined the defenders of the fort. Her name was Zaynab, her home a tiny hamlet in the near neighbourhood of Zanján. She was comely and fair of face, was fired with a lofty faith, and endowed with intrepid courage. The sight of the trials and hardships which her men companions were made to endure stirred in her an irrepressible yearning to disguise herself in male attire and share in repulsing the repeated attacks of the enemy. Donning a tunic and wearing a head-dress like those of her men companions, she cut off her locks, girt on a sword, and, seizing a musket and a shield, introduced herself into their ranks. No one suspected her of being a maid when she leaped forward to take her place behind the barricade. As soon as the enemy charged, she bared her sword and, raising the cry of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” flung herself with incredible audacity upon the forces arrayed against her. Friend and foe marvelled that day at a courage and resourcefulness the equal of which their eyes had scarcely ever beheld. Her enemies pronounced her the curse which an angry Providence had hurled upon them. Overwhelmed with despair and abandoning their barricades, they fled in disgraceful rout before her.
Hujjat, who was watching the movements of the enemy from one of the turrets, recognised her and marvelled at the prowess which that maiden was displaying. She had set out in pursuit of her assailants, when he ordered his men to bid her return to the fort and give up the attempt. “No man,” he was heard to say, as he saw her plunge into the fire directed upon her by the enemy, “has shown himself capable of such vitality and courage.” When questioned by him as to the motive of her behaviour, she burst into tears and said: “My heart ached with pity and sorrow when I beheld the toil and sufferings of my fellow-disciples. I advanced by an inner urge I could not resist. I was afraid lest you would deny me the privilege of throwing in my lot with my men companions.” “You are surely the same Zaynab,” Hujjat asked her, “who volunteered to join the occupants of the fort?” “I am,” she replied. “I can confidently assure you that no one has hitherto discovered my sex. You alone have recognised me. I adjure you by the Báb not to withhold 551 from me that inestimable privilege, the crown of martyrdom, the one desire of my life.”
Hujjat was profoundly impressed by the tone and manner of her appeal. He sought to calm the tumult of her soul, assured her of his prayers in her behalf, and gave her the name Rustam-‘Alí as a mark of her noble courage. “This is the Day of Resurrection,” he told her, “the day when ‘all secrets shall be searched out.’ 30 Not by their outward appearance, but by the character of their beliefs and the manner of their lives, does God judge His creatures, be they men or women. Though a maiden of tender age and immature experience, you have displayed such vitality and resource as few men could hope to surpass.” He granted her request, and warned her not to exceed the bounds their Faith had imposed upon them. “We are called upon to defend our lives,” he reminded her, “against a treacherous assailant, and not to wage holy war against him.”
For a period of no less than five months, that maiden continued to withstand with unrivalled heroism the forces of the enemy. Disdainful of food and sleep, she toiled with fevered earnestness for the Cause she most loved. She quickened, by the example of her splendid daring, the courage of the few who wavered, and reminded them of the duty each was expected to fulfil. The sword she wielded remained, throughout that period, by her side. In the brief intervals of sleep she was able to obtain, she was seen with her head resting upon her sword and her shield serving as a covering for her body. Every one of her companions was assigned to a particular post which he was expected to guard and defend, while that fearless maid alone was free to move in whatever direction she pleased. Always in the thick and forefront of the turmoil that raged round her, Zaynab was ever ready to rush to the rescue of whatever post the assailant was threatening, and to lend her assistance to any one of those who needed either her encouragement or support. As the end of her life approached, her enemies discovered her secret, and continued, despite their knowledge that she was a maid, to dread her influence and to tremble at her approach. The 552 shrill sound of her voice was sufficient to strike consternation into their hearts and to fill them with despair.
One day, seeing that her companions were being suddenly enveloped by the forces of the enemy, Zaynab ran in distress to Hujjat and, flinging herself at his feet, implored him, with tearful eyes, to allow her to rush forth to their aid. “My life, I feel, is nearing its end,” she added. “I may myself fall beneath the sword of the assailant. Forgive, I entreat you, my trespasses, and intercede for me with my Master, for whose sake I yearn to lay down my life.”
Hujjat was too much overcome with emotion to reply. Encouraged by his silence, which she interpreted to mean that he consented to grant her appeal, she leaped out of the gate and, raising seven times the cry “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” rushed to stay the hand that had already slain a number of her companions. “Why befoul by your deeds the fair name of Islám?” she shouted, as she flung herself upon them. “Why flee abjectly from before our face, if you be speakers of truth?” She ran to the barricades which the enemy had erected, routed those who guarded the first three of the defences, and was engaging in overcoming the fourth, when, beneath a shower of bullets, she dropped dead upon the ground. Not a single voice among her opponents dared question her chastity or ignore the sublimity of her faith and the enduring traits of her character. Such was her devotion that after her death no less than twenty women of her acquaintance embraced the Cause of the Báb. To them she had ceased to be the peasant girl they had known; she was the very incarnation of the noblest principles of human conduct, a living embodiment of the spirit which only a Faith such as hers could manifest.
The messengers who acted as intermediaries between Hujjat and his companions were one day directed to inform the guards of the barricades to carry out the Báb’s injunction to His followers and to repeat nineteen times, each night, each of the following invocations: “Alláh-u-Akbar,” 31 “Alláh-u-‘Azam,” 32 “Alláh-u-Ajmal,” 33 “Alláh-u-Abhá,” 34 and “Alláh-u-Athar.” 35 The very night the behest was received, all the 553 defenders of the barricades joined in shouting those words simultaneously. So loud and compelling was that cry that the enemy was rudely awakened from sleep, abandoned the camp in horror, and, hurrying to the environs of the governor’s residence, sought shelter in the neighbouring houses. A few were so shocked with terror that they instantly dropped dead. A considerable number of the inhabitants of Zanján fled, panic-stricken, to the adjoining villages. Many believed that stupendous uproar to be a sign heralding the Day of Judgment; to others it signified the sending forth, on the part of Hujjat, of a fresh summons which they felt would be the prelude to a sudden offensive against them more terrible than any they had yet experienced.
“What,” Hujjat was heard to remark, when informed of the terror that sudden invocation had inspired, “if I had been permitted by my Master to wage holy war against these cowardly miscreants! I am bidden by Him to instil into men’s hearts the ennobling principles of charity and love, and to refrain from all unnecessary violence. My aim and that of my companions is, and ever will be, to serve our sovereign loyally and to be the well-wishers of his people. Had I chosen to follow in the footsteps of the ‘ulamás of Zanján, I should, as long as I live, have continued to remain the object of the slavish adoration of this people. Never shall I be willing to barter for all the treasures and honours this world can give me, the undying loyalty I bear His Cause.”
The memory of that night still lingers in the minds of those who experienced its awe and terror. I have heard several eye-witnesses express in glowing terms the contrast between the tumult and disorder that reigned in the camp of the enemy and the atmosphere of reverent devotion that filled the fort. While those in the fort were invoking the name of God and praying for His guidance and mercy, their opponents, officers and men alike, were absorbed in acts of debauchery and shame. Though worn and exhausted, the occupants of the fort continued to observe their vigils and chant such anthems as the Báb had instructed them to repeat. The camp of the enemy at that same hour resounded with peals of noisy laughter, with imprecations and blasphemies. That night in particular, no sooner had the invocation 554 pealed out than the dissolute officers, who were holding their wine-glasses in their hands, dropped them instantly to the ground and rushed out headlong, in bare feet, as if stunned by that stentorian outcry. Gambling tables were overturned in the midst of the disorder that ensued. Half dressed and bareheaded, a number ran out into the wilderness, while others betook themselves in haste to the homes of the ‘ulamás and roused them from their sleep. Alarmed and overawed, these began to direct their fiercest invectives against one another for having kindled the fire of such great mischief.
As soon as the enemy had discovered the purpose of that loud clamour, they returned to their posts, reassured, though greatly humiliated, by their experience. The officers directed a certain number of their men to lie in ambush and to fire in any direction from which those voices might again proceed. Every night they succeeded in this way in slaying a number of the companions. Undeterred by the losses they were repeatedly sustaining, Hujjat’s supporters continued to raise, with undiminished fervour, their invocation, despising the perils which the offering of the prayer involved. As their number diminished, that prayer grew louder and acquired added poignancy. Even the imminence of death was powerless to induce the intrepid defenders of the fort to give up what they deemed the noblest and most powerful reminder of their Beloved.
The contest was still raging when Hujjat was moved to address his written message to Násiri’d-Dín Sháh. “The subjects of your Imperial Majesty,” he wrote him, “regard you both as their temporal ruler and as the supreme custodian of their Faith. They appeal to you for justice, and look upon you as the supreme protector of their rights. Our controversy primarily concerned the ‘ulamás of Zanján only, and under no circumstances involved either your government or people. I myself was summoned by your predecessor to Tihrán and was requested by him to set forth the basic claims of my Faith. The late Sháh was entirely satisfied, and highly commended my efforts. I resigned myself to leave my home and settle in Tihrán, with no other intention than that of abating the fury that raged round my person and of 555 extinguishing the fire which the mischief-makers had kindled. Though free to return to my home, I preferred to remain in the capital, wholly relying upon the justice of my sovereign. In the early days of your reign, the Amír-Nizám, while the Mázindarán upheaval was still in progress, suspected me of treason and determined to destroy my life. Finding no one in Tihrán able to protect me, I determined, in self-defence to flee to Zanján, where I resumed my labours and strove with all my might to advance the true interest of Islám. I was pursuing my work when Majdu’d-Dawlih arose against me. I several times appealed to him to exercise moderation and justice, but he refused to grant my request. Instigated by the ‘ulamás of Zanján, and encouraged by the adulation they lavished upon him, he determined to arrest me. My friends intervened and attempted to stay his hand. He continued to rouse the people against me, and they in their turn have acted in a manner that has led to the present situation. Your Majesty has until now refrained from extending his gracious assistance to us, who are the innocent victims of such ferocious cruelty. Our enemies have even sought to represent our Cause, in the eyes of your Majesty, as a conspiracy against the authority with which you have been invested. Surely every unbiased observer will readily admit that we cherish in our hearts no such intention. Our sole aim is to advance the best interests of your government and people. I and my principal companions hold ourselves in readiness to leave for Tihrán, that we may, in your presence as well as in that of our chief opponents, establish the soundness of our Cause.”
Not content with his own petition, he bade his leading supporters address similar appeals to the Sháh and stress his request for justice.
No sooner had the messenger who was carrying those petitions to Tihrán set out on his way than he was seized and brought back into the presence of the governor. Infuriated by the action of his opponents, he ordered the messenger to be immediately put to death. He destroyed the petitions and in their stead wrote the Sháh letters which he loaded with abuse and insult, and, adding the signatures of Hujjat and his chief companions, despatched them to Tihrán. 556
The Sháh was so indignant after the perusal of these insolent petitions that he gave orders for the immediate despatch of two regiments equipped with guns and munitions to Zanján, commanding that not one supporter of Hujjat be allowed to survive.
The news of the Báb’s martyrdom had meanwhile reached the hard-pressed occupants of the fort through Siyyid Hasan, brother of Siyyid Husayn, the Báb’s amanuensis, who had arrived from Ádhirbayján on his way to Qazvín. The news spread among the enemy and was welcomed by them with shouts of wild delight. They hastened to ridicule and hurl their taunts at the efforts of His adherents. “For what reason,” they cried in haughty scorn, “will you henceforth be willing to sacrifice yourselves? He in whose path you long to lay down your lives, has himself fallen a victim to the bullets of a triumphant foe. His body is even now lost both to his enemies and to his friends. Why persist in your stubbornness when a word is sufficient to deliver you from your woes?” However much they strove to shake the confidence of the bereaved community, they failed, in the end, to induce the feeblest among them either to desert the fort or to recant his Faith.
The Amír-Nizám was meanwhile urging his sovereign to despatch further reinforcements to Zanján. Muhammad Khán, the Amír-Tumán, at the head of five regiments and equipped with a considerable amount of arms and munitions, was finally commissioned to demolish the fort and wipe out its occupants.
During the twenty days that hostilities were suspended, Azíz Khán-i-Mukrí, surnamed Sardár-i-Kull, who was on a military mission to Íraván, 36 arrived at Zanján and succeeded in meeting Hujjat through his host, Siyyid ‘Alí Khán. The latter related to Azíz Khán the circumstances of a touching interview he had had with Hujjat, when he had obtained all the information he required regarding the intentions and proposals of the besieged. “Should the government,” Hujjat 557 had told him, “refuse to entertain my appeal, I am willing, with its permission, to depart with my family to a place beyond the confines of this land. Should it refuse to grant even this request and persist in attacking us, we should feel constrained to arise and defend ourselves.” Azíz Khán assured Siyyid ‘Alí Khán that he would do all in his power to induce the authorities to effect a speedy solution of this problem. No sooner had Siyyid ‘Alí Khán retired than Azíz Khán was surprised by the farrásh 37 of the Amír-Nizám, who had come to arrest Siyyid ‘Alí Khán and to conduct him to the capital. He was seized with great fear and, in order to avert any suspicion from himself, began to abuse Hujjat and to denounce him openly before the farrásh. By this means he was able to ward off the danger that threatened his own life.
The arrival of the Amír-Tumán was the signal for the resumption of hostilities on a scale such as Zanján had never before experienced. Seventeen regiments of cavalry and infantry had rallied to his standard, and fought under his command. 38 No less than fourteen guns were, at his orders, directed against the fort. Five additional regiments, which the Amír had recruited from the neighbourhood, were being trained by him as reinforcements. The very night he arrived, he issued orders that the trumpets be sounded as a signal for the resumption of the attack. The officers in charge of his artillery were commanded to open fire instantly upon the besieged. The booming of the cannons, which could be heard distinctly at a distance of about fourteen farsangs, 39 had scarcely begun when Hujjat ordered his companions to make use of the two guns they themselves had constructed. One of them was transported to a high position commanding the Amír’s headquarters. A ball struck his tent and mortally 558 wounded his steed. The enemy was meanwhile directing, with unrelenting fury, its fire upon the fort, and had succeeded in killing a large number of its occupants.
As the days-went by; it became increasingly evident that the forces under the command of the Amír-Tumán, in spite of their great superiority in number, equipment, and training, were unable to achieve the victory they had fondly anticipated. The death of Farrukh Khán, son of Yahyá Khán and brother of Hájí Sulaymán Khán, one of the generals of the enemy’s army, aroused the indignation of the Amír-Nizám, who addressed a strongly worded communication to the commanding officer, reprimanding him for his failure to force the besieged to an unconditional surrender. “You have sullied the fair name of our country,” he wrote him, “have demoralised the army, and have wasted the lives of its ablest officers.” He was bidden enforce the strictest discipline among his subordinates and cleanse his camp from every stain of debauchery and vice. He was, moreover, urged to take counsel with the chiefs of the people of Zanján, and was warned that, failing to achieve his end, he would be degraded from his position. “If your combined endeavours,” he added, “prove powerless to force their submission, I myself will proceed to Zanján, and will order a wholesale massacre of its inhabitants, irrespective of their position or belief. A town that can bring so much humiliation to the Sháh and distress to his people is utterly unworthy of the clemency of our sovereign.”
In a frenzy of despair, the Amír-Tumán summoned all the kad-khudás 40 and chiefs of the people, showed them the text of that letter, and by his earnest entreaties succeeded in rousing them to immediate action. The next day every able-bodied man in Zanján had enlisted under the Amír-Tumán’s standard. Headed by their kad-khudás and preceded by four regiments, a vast multitude of people marched, to the sound of a flourish of trumpets and the beating of drums, in the direction of the fort. Undaunted by their clamour, the companions of Hujjat raised simultaneously the cry of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” then poured out of the gates and flung themselves upon them. That encounter was the fiercest and most desperate engagement that had yet 559 been experienced. The flower of Hujjat’s supporters fell on that day, victims to a ruthless carnage. Many a son was butchered in circumstances of unbridled cruelty under the eyes of his mother, while sisters gazed with horror and anguish upon the heads of their brothers raised on spears and brutally disfigured by the weapons of their foes. In the midst of a tumult in which the boisterous enthusiasm of the companions of Hujjat faced the fury and barbarism of an exasperated enemy, the voices of women, who were struggling side by side with the men, could be heard from time to time, animating the zeal of their fellow-disciples. The victory that was miraculously achieved on that day was, in no small measure, attributable to the shouts of exultation which those women raised in the face of a mighty foe, shouts which acquired added poignancy by their own acts of heroism and self-sacrifice. Disguised in the garb of men, some had rushed forward, in their eagerness to supplant their fallen brethren, while the rest were seen carrying on their shoulders skins full of water, with which they strove to allay the thirst, and revive the strength, of the wounded. Confusion reigned meanwhile in the camp of the enemy. Deprived of water, and distressed by defection in their ranks, they fought a losing battle, unable to retreat and impotent to conquer. No less than three hundred companions quaffed, that day, the cup of martyrdom.
One of Hujjat’s supporters was a man named Muhsin, whose function it was to sound the adhán. 41 His voice was endowed with a quality of warmth and richness that no man in the neighbourhood could equal. Its reverberation, as he summoned the faithful to prayer, could be distinctly felt as far as the adjoining villages, and penetrated the hearts of those who heard it. Oftentimes did the worshippers in that vicinity, in whose ears the voice of Muhsin was ringing, express their indignation at the charges of heresy imputed to Hujjat and his friends. So loud grew their protestations that they eventually reached the ears of the leading mujtahid of Zanján, who, unable himself to impose silence upon them, implored the Amír-Tumán to devise some means of eradicating from the minds of the people the belief in the piety 560 and uprightness of Hujjat and his companions. “Day and night,” he complained, “I strive through my public discourse, no less than by private converse with the people, to instil into their minds the conviction that that wretched band is the sworn enemy of the Prophet and the wrecker of His Faith. The cry of that evil man, Muhsin, robs my words of their influence and nullifies my exertions. To exterminate that miserable wretch is surely your first obligation.”
The Amír refused at first to entertain his appeal. “You and your like,” he replied, “are to be held responsible for having declared the necessity of waging holy war against them. We are but the servants of the government, and our duty is to obey the orders we receive. If you seek, however, to put an end to his life, you should be prepared to make the proper sacrifice.” The siyyid immediately understood the purpose of the Amír’s allusion. He had no sooner regained his house than he sent him, by the hand of a messenger, the gift of a hundred túmáns. 42
The Amír promptly ordered a number of his men, who were famed for their marksmanship, to lie in wait for Muhsin and shoot him when in the act of prayer. It was the hour of dawn when, as he raised the cry of “Lá Ilah-à-Illa’llah,” 43 a bullet struck him in the mouth and killed him instantly. Hujjat, as soon as he was informed of that cruel act, ordered another of his companions to ascend the turret and continue the prayer from where Muhsin had left off. Though his life was spared until the cessation of hostilities, he, together with certain of his brethren, was made to suffer, eventually, a death no less atrocious than that of his fellow-disciple.
As the days of the siege were drawing to a close, Hujjat urged all those who were betrothed to celebrate their nuptials. For each unmarried youth among the besieged he chose a spouse, and, within the limits of the means at his disposal, contributed from his own purse whatever could add to the comfort and gladness of the newly married. He sold all the jewels his wife possessed, and, with the money, provided whatever could be obtained to bring happiness and pleasure to those he had joined in wedlock. During more than three months these festivities continued, festivities which were 561 intermingled with the terrors and hardships of a long-protracted siege. How often did the clamour of an advancing foe drown the acclamations of joy with which bride and bridegroom greeted each other! How suddenly was the voice of merriment stilled by the cry of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” that summoned the faithful to arise and repulse the invader! With what tenderness would the bride entreat the bridegroom to tarry awhile longer beside her ere he rushed forth to win the crown of martyrdom! “I can spare no time,” he would reply. “I must hasten to obtain the crown of glory. We shall surely meet again on the shores of the great Beyond, the home of a blissful and eternal reunion.”
No less than two hundred youths were joined in wedlock during those tumultuous days. Some a month, others a few days, and still others for but a brief moment, were able to tarry undisturbed in the company of their brides; no one among them failed, as the beating of the drum announced the hour of his departure, to respond joyously to the call. Each and every one ungrudgingly offered himself as a sacrifice for his true Beloved; all drank, eventually, the cup of martyrdom. No wonder the spot that has been the theatre of untold sufferings and has witnessed such heroism has been named Ard-i-A‘lá 44 by the Báb, a title that has remained for all time linked with His own blessed name.
Among the companions was a certain Karbilá’í ‘Abdu’l-Báqí, the father of seven sons, five of whom Hujjat joined in wedlock. The nuptial ceremonies were hardly at an end when cries of terror suddenly announced the resumption of a fresh offensive against them. They sprang to their feet and, forsaking their loved ones, instantly rushed out to repulse the invader. All five fell in turn in the course of that encounter. The eldest of them, a youth greatly esteemed for his intelligence, and of renowned courage, was captured and conducted into the presence of the Amír-Tumán. “Lay him upon the ground,” cried the infuriated Amír, “and kindle upon his breast, which dared nourish so great a love for Hujjat, a fire that shall consume it.” “Wretched man,” burst forth the undaunted youth, “no flame that the hands of your men are able to kindle, could destroy the love that 562 glows in my heart.” The praise of his Beloved lingered on his lips until the last moment of his life.
Among the women who distinguished themselves by the tenacity of their faith was one named Umm-i-Ashraf, 45 who was newly married when the storm of Zanján broke out. She was within the fort when she gave birth to her son Ashraf. Both mother and child survived the massacre that marked the closing stages of that tragedy. Years afterwards, when her son had grown into a youth of great promise, he was involved in the persecutions that afflicted brethren. Unable to persuade him to recant, his enemies endeavoured to alarm his mother and convince her of the necessity of saving him, ere it was too late, from his fate. “I will disown you as my son,” cried the mother, when brought face to face with him, “if you incline your heart to such evil whisperings and allow them to turn you away from the Truth.” Faithful to his mother’s admonitions, Ashraf met his death with intrepid calm. Though herself a witness to the cruelties inflicted on her son, she made no lamentation, neither did she shed a tear. This marvellous mother showed a courage and fortitude that amazed the perpetrators of that shameless deed. “I have now in mind,” she exclaimed, as she cast a parting glance at the corpse of her son, “the vow I made on 563 the day of your birth, while besieged in the fort of ‘Alí-Mardán Khán. I rejoice that you, the only son whom God gave me, have enabled me to redeem that pledge.”
My pen is powerless to portray, much less to render befitting tribute to, the consuming enthusiasm that glowed in those valiant hearts. Violent as were the winds of adversity they were powerless to quench its flame. Men and women laboured with unabating fervour to strengthen the defences of the fort and reconstruct whatever the enemy had demolished. What leisure they could obtain was consecrated to prayer. I very thought, every desire, was subordinated to the paramount necessity of guarding their stronghold against the onslaughts of the assailant. The part the women played in these operations was no less arduous than that accomplished by their men companions. Every woman, irrespective of rank and age, joined with energy in the common task. They sewed the garments, baked the bread, ministered to the sick and wounded, repaired the barricades, cleared away from the courts and terraces the balls and missiles fired upon them by the enemy, and, last but not least, cheered the faint in heart and animated the faith of the wavering. 46 Even the children joined in giving whatever assistance was in their power to the common cause, and seemed to be fired by an enthusiasm no less remarkable than that which their fathers and mothers displayed.
Such was the spirit of solidarity that characterised their labours, and such the heroism of their acts, that the enemy was led to believe their number was no less than ten thousand. It was generally conceded that a continual supply of provisions found its way, in an unaccountable manner, to the fort, and that fresh reinforcements were being steadily despatched from Nayríz, from Khurásán, and from Tabríz. The power of the besieged seemed to them as unshakable as ever, their resources inexhaustible.
The Amír-Tumán, exasperated by their unyielding tenacity 564 and spurred by the rebukes and protestations of the authorities in Tihrán, determined to resort to the abject weapons of treachery in order to exact the complete submission of the besieged. 47 Firmly convinced of the futility of his efforts to face his opponents in the field honourably, he craftily called for the suspension of hostilities, and gave currency to the report that the Sháh had decided to abandon the whole enterprise. He represented his sovereign as having, from the very beginning, discountenanced the idea of extending his support to the forces that fought in Mázindarán and Nayríz, and of having deplored the shedding of so much blood for so insignificant a cause. The people of Zanján and the surrounding villages were led to believe that Násiri’d-Dín Sháh had actually ordered the Amír-Tumán to negotiate a friendly settlement of the issues between him and Hujjat, and that it was his intention to put an end, as speedily as possible, to this unhappy state of affairs.
Assured that the people had been deceived by his cunning plot, he drew up an appeal for peace, in which he assured Hujjat of the sincerity of his intention of achieving a lasting settlement between him and his supporters. He accompanied that declaration with a sealed copy of the Qur’án, as a testimony of the sacredness of his pledge. “My sovereign,” he added, “has forgiven you. You, as well as your followers, I hereby solemnly declare to be under the protection of his Imperial Majesty. This Book of God is my witness that if any of you decide to come out of the fort, you will be safe from any danger.”
Hujjat reverently received the Qur’án from the hand of the messenger, and, as soon as he had read the appeal, bade its bearer inform his master that he would send an answer in the course of the following day. That night he gathered together his chief companions and spoke to them of the misgivings he entertained as to the sincerity of the enemy’s declarations. “The treacheries of Mázindarán and of Nayríz 565 are still vivid in our minds. That which was perpetrated against them, the same they purpose to perpetrate against us. In deference to the Qur’án, however, we shall respond to their invitation, and shall despatch to their camp a number of our companions, that thereby their deceitfulness may be exposed.”
I have heard Ustád Mihr-‘Alíy-i-Haddad, who survived the massacre of Zanján, relate the following: “I was one of the nine children, none of whom were more than ten years old, who accompanied the delegation sent by Hujjat to the Amír-Tumán. The rest were men of over eighty years of age. Among them were Karbilá’í Mawla-Qulí-Áqá-Dadash, Darvísh-Salah, Muhammad-Rahím, and Muhammad. Darvísh-Salah was a most impressive figure, tall of stature, white-bearded, and of singular beauty. He was greatly esteemed for his honourable and just conduct. His intervention on behalf of the downtrodden invariably received the consideration and sympathy of the authorities concerned. He renounced, after his conversion, all the honours he had received, and, though far advanced in age, enrolled himself among the defenders of the fort. He marched before us carrying the sealed Qur’án as we were led into the presence of the Amír-Tumán.
“Reaching his tent, we stood at its entrance awaiting his orders. To our salute he gave no response, and treated us with marked contempt. He kept us standing half an hour before he deigned to address us in a tone of severe reprimand. ‘A meaner and more shameless people than you,’ he cried in haughty scorn, ‘has never been seen!’ He had hurled his denunciations at us when one of the companions, the oldest and feeblest among them, begged to be allowed to say a few words to him, and, on obtaining his permission, spoke, unlettered though he was, in a manner that could not fail to excite our profound admiration. ‘God knows,’ he pleaded, ‘that we are, and will ever remain, loyal and law-abiding subjects of our sovereign, with no other desire than to advance the true interests of his government and people. We have been grievously misrepresented by our ill-wishers. No one of the Sháh’s representatives was inclined to protect or befriend us; no one was found to plead our Cause before 566 him. We repeatedly appealed to him, but he ignored our entreaty and was deaf to our call. Our enemies, emboldened by the indifference which characterised the attitude of the ruling authorities, assailed us from every side, plundered our property, violated the honour of our wives and daughters, and captured our children. Undefended by our government and encompassed by our foes, we felt constrained to arise and defend our lives.’
“The Amír-Tumán turned to his lieutenant and asked him what action he would advise him to take. ‘I am at a loss,” the Amír added, ‘as to the answer I should give this man. Were I at heart religious, I would unhesitatingly embrace his cause.’ ‘Nothing but the sword,’ replied his lieutenant, ‘will deliver us from this abomination of heresy.’ ‘I still hold the Qur’án in my hand,’ interposed Darvísh-Salah, ‘and carry the declaration which you, of your own accord, chose to make. Are the words we have just heard our reward for having responded to your appeal?’
“The Amír-Tumán, in a burst of fury, offered that Darvísh-Salah’s beard be torn out, and that he, with those who were with him, be thrown into a dungeon. I and the rest of the children were scared, and attempted to escape. Raising the cry of ‘Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!’ we hurried in the direction of our barricades. Some of us were overtaken and made prisoners. As I was fleeing, the man who was pursuing me laid hold of the hem of my garment. I tore myself away from him and managed to reach the gate that led to the approaches of the fort, in a state of utter exhaustion. How great was my surprise when I saw one of the companions, a man named Iman-Qulí, being savagely mutilated by the enemy. I was horrified as I gazed upon that scene, knowing as I did that on that very day the cessation of hostilities had been proclaimed and the most solemn pledges given that no acts of violence would be committed. I was soon informed that the victim had been betrayed by his brother, who, on the pretext of desiring to speak with him, had handed him over to his persecutors.
“I straightway hastened to Hujjat, who lovingly received me and, wiping the dust from my face, and clothing me with new garments, invited me to be seated by his side and bade 567 me tell him the fate of his companions. I described to him all that I had seen. ‘It is the tumult of the Day of Resurrection,’ he explained, ‘a tumult such as the world has never seen before. This is the day on which “man shall fly from his brother, and his mother and his father, and his wife and his children.” 48 This is the day when man, not content with having abandoned his brother, sacrifices his substance in order to shed the blood of his nearest kinsman. This is the day when “every suckling woman shall forsake her sucking babe; and every woman that hath a burden in her womb shall cast her burden. And thou shalt see men drunken, yet they are not drunken; but it is the mighty chastisement of God!”’” 49
Seating himself in the centre of the maydán, 50 Hujjat summoned his followers. On their arrival, he arose and, standing erect in their midst, spoke to them in these words: “I am well pleased with your unflinching endeavours, my beloved companions. Our enemies are bent upon our destruction. They harbour no other desire. Their intention was to trick you into coming out of the fort, and then to slaughter you mercilessly after their hearts’ desire. Finding that their treachery has been exposed, they have, in the fury of their rage, ill-treated and imprisoned the oldest and the youngest among you. It is clear that not until they capture this fort and scatter you, will they lay down their arms or cease their persecutions against us. Your continued presence in this fort will eventually cause you to be taken captive by the enemy, who will of a certainty dishonour your wives and slay your children. Better is it, therefore, for you to make your escape in the middle of the night and to take your wives and children with you. Let each one seek a place of safety until such time as this tyranny shall be overpast. I shall remain alone to face the enemy. It were better that my death should allay their thirst for revenge than that you should all perish.”
The companions were moved to their very depths and, with tears in their eyes, declared their firm resolve to remain, to the end, by his side. “We can never consent,” they exclaimed, to abandon you to the mercy of a murderous enemy! Our lives are not more precious than your life, 568 neither are our families of a more noble descent than that of your kinsmen. Whatever calamity may yet befall you, is what we shall welcome for ourselves.”
All except a few remained true their pledge. These, unable to bear the ever-increasing distress of a prolonged siege, and encouraged by the advice Hujjat himself had given them, betook themselves to a place of safety outside the fort, thus separating themselves from the rest of their fellow-disciples.
Nerved to a resolve of despair, the Amír-Tumán ordered all able-bodied men in Zanján to assemble in the neighbourhood of his camp, ready to receive his commands. He reorganised the forces of his regiments, appointed their officers, and added them to the host of fresh recruits that had massed in the town. He ordered no less than sixteen regiments, each equipped with ten guns, to march against the fort. Eight of these regiments were charged to attack the fort every forenoon, after which the remainder of the forces were to replace them in their offensive until the approach of evening. The Amír himself took the field, and was seen in the forenoon of every day directing the efforts of his host, assuring them of the reward awaiting their success, and warning them of the punishment which, in the event of defeat, the sovereign would inflict upon them.
For one whole month the siege continued. Not content with attacks by day, the enemy several times attacked them by night also. The fierceness of their onslaughts, the overwhelming force of their numbers, and the rapid succession of the onsets, thinned the ranks of the companions and aggravated their distress. Reinforcements for the enemy continued to pour in from all directions, while the besieged languished in a state of misery and hunger. 51
The Amír-Nizám meanwhile decided to strengthen the hands of the Amír-Tumán by the appointment of Hasan-‘Alí Khán-i-Karrúsí, who was commanded to march at the head of two sunní regiments to Zanján. His arrival was the signal for the concentration of the enemy’s artillery on 569 the fort. A tremendous bombardment threatened the structure with immediate destruction. It lasted for a number of days, during which the stronghold stood firm in spite of the increasing fire which was directed against it. The friends of Hujjat displayed, during those days, a valour and skill that even their bitterest foes were compelled to admire.
One day, while the bombardment was still in progress, a bullet struck Hujjat in the right arm, as he was performing his ablutions. Though he ordered his servant not to inform his wife of the wound he had received, yet such was the man’s grief that he was powerless to conceal his emotion. His tears betrayed his distress, and no sooner had the wife of Hujjat learned of the injury inflicted on her husband than she ran in distress and found him absorbed in prayer in a state of unruffled calm. Though bleeding profusely from his wound, his face retained its expression of undisturbed confidence. “Pardon this people, O God,” he was heard to say, “for they know not what they do. Have mercy upon them, for they who have led them astray are alone responsible for the misdeeds the hands of this people have wrought.”
Hujjat sought to calm the agitation that had seized his wife and relatives at the sight of the blood that covered his body. “Rejoice,” he told them, “for I am still with you and desire you to be wholly resigned to God’s will. What you now behold is but a drop compared to the ocean of afflictions that will be poured forth at the hour of my death. Whatever be His decree, it is our duty to acquiesce and bow down to His will.”
No sooner had the news that he had been wounded reached the companions than they laid down their arms and hastened to him. The enemy, meanwhile, taking advantage of the momentary absence of their adversaries, redoubled their attack upon the fort and were able to force their passage through its gate. 52 That day they took captive no less than a hundred of the women and children, and plundered all their 570 possessions. Despite the severity of that winter, these captives were left exposed in the open for no less than fifteen days and nights to a biting cold such as Zanján had rarely experienced. Clad in the thinnest of garments, with no covering to protect them, they were abandoned, without food and shelter, in the wilderness. Their only protection was the gauze that covered their heads, with which they sought in vain to shield their faces from the icy wind that blew mercilessly upon them. Crowds of women, most of whom were inferior to them in social position, flocked from the various quarters of Zanján to the scene of their sufferings and poured upon them contempt and ridicule. “You have now found your god,” they scornfully exclaimed, as they danced wildly around them, “and have been rewarded abundantly by him.” They spat in their faces and heaped upon them the foulest invectives.
The capture of the fort, though robbing Hujjat’s companions of their chief instrument of defence, failed either to daunt their spirit or discourage their efforts. All property on which the enemy could lay its hands was plundered, and the women and children who were left defenceless were made captives. The rest of the companions, together with the remaining women and children, crowded into the houses that lay in the close vicinity of Hujjat’s residence. They were divided into five companies, each consisting of nineteen times nineteen companions. From each of these companies, nineteen would rush forth together and, raising with one voice the cry of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” would fling themselves into the midst of the enemy and would succeed in scattering its forces. The uplifted voices of these ninety-five companions would alone prove sufficient to paralyse the efforts, and crush the spirit, of their assailants.
This state of affairs continued for a few days, bringing in its wake both humiliation and loss to an enemy that had believed itself capable of achieving immediate and signal victory. Many were killed in the course of these encounters. Officers, to the distress of their superiors, were beginning to desert their posts, the captains of the artillery were abandoning their guns, whilst the rank and file of the army was demoralised and completely exhausted. The Amír-Tumán 571 was himself weary of the coercive measures to which he had been compelled to resort in order to maintain the discipline of his men and to keep unimpaired their efficiency and vigour. He was drive against to take counsel with the remainder of his officers, and to seek a desperate remedy for a situation that was fraught with grave danger to his own life no less than to that of the inhabitants of Zanján. “I am weary,” he confessed, “of the grim resistance of this people. They are evidently animated by a spirit which no amount of encouragement from our sovereign can hope to call forth in our men. Such self-renunciation surely no one in the ranks of our army is able to manifest. No power that I can command is able to arouse my men from the slough of despair into which they have fallen. Whether they triumph or fail, these soldiers believe themselves doomed to eternal damnation.”
Their mature deliberations resulted in the decision to 572 dig out underground passages from the site which their camp occupied to a place underneath the quarter in which the dwellings of Hujjat’s adherents were situated. They determined to blow up these houses and by this means to force them to an unconditional surrender. For one whole month they laboured to fill these underground passages with all manner of explosives, and continued, at the same time, to demolish with fiendish cruelty such houses as remained standing. Wishing to accelerate the work of destruction, the Amír-Tumán ordered the officers in charge of his artillery to direct their fire upon Hujjat’s residence, as the buildings that intervened between that house and the camp of the enemy had been razed to the ground, there remaining no further obstacle in the way of its ultimate destruction.
A section of his dwelling had already collapsed when Hujjat, who was still living within its walls, turned to his wife Khadíjih, who was holding Hádí, their baby, in her arms, and warned her that the day was fast approaching when she and her infant might be taken captive, and bade her be prepared for that day. She was giving vent to her distress when a cannon-ball struck the room which she occupied, and killed her instantly. Her child, whom she was holding to her breast, fell into the brazier beside her, and shortly afterwards died of the injuries he had received, in the house of Mírzá Abu’l-Qásim, the mujtahid of Zanján.
Hujjat, though filled with grief, refused to yield to idle sorrow. “The day whereon I found Thy beloved One, O my God,” he cried, “and recognised in Him the Manifestation of Thy eternal Spirit, I foresaw the woes that I should suffer for Thee. Great as have been until now my sorrows, they can never compare with the agonies that I would willingly suffer in Thy name. How can this miserable life of mine, the loss of my wife and of my child, and the sacrifice of the band of my kindred and companions, compare with the blessings which the recognition of Thy Manifestation has bestowed on me! Would that a myriad lives were mine, would that I possessed the riches of the whole earth and its glory, that I might resign them all freely and joyously in Thy path.”
The tragic loss their beloved leader had sustained, and the grievous wound inflicted upon him, distressed the companions 573 of Hujjat, and filled them with burning indignation. They determined to make a last and desperate effort to avenge the blood of their slaughtered brethren. Hujjat, however, dissuaded them from making that attempt, and exhorted them not to hasten the issue of the conflict. He bade them resign themselves to the will of God and to remain calm and steadfast to the end, whenever that end might come.
As time went on, their number diminished, their sufferings multiplied, and the area within which they could feel secure was reduced. On the morning of the fifth of the month of Rabí’u’l-Avval, in the year 1267 A.H., 53 Hujjat, who had already, for nineteen days, endured the severe pain caused by his wound, was in the act of prayer and had fallen prostrate upon his face, invoking the name of the Báb, when he suddenly passed away.
His sudden death came as a severe shock to his kindred and companions. Their grief at the passing of so able, so accomplished, and so inspiring a leader, was profound; the loss was irreparable. Two of his companions, Dín-Muhammad-Vazír and Mír Ridáy-i-Sardár, straightway undertook, ere the enemy was made aware of his death, to inter his remains in a place which neither his kindred nor his friends could suspect. At midnight the body was borne to a room that belonged to Dín-Muhammad-Vazír, where it received burial. They demolished that room in order to ensure the safety of the remains from desecration, and exercised the utmost care to maintain the secrecy of the spot.
More than five hundred women who survived that terrible tragedy were, immediately after the death of Hujjat, gathered together in his house. His companions, in spite of the death of their leader, continued to face, with undiminished zeal, the forces of their assailants. Of the great multitude that had flocked to the standard of Hujjat, there remained only two hundred vigorous men; the rest either had died or were utterly incapacitated by the wounds they had received.
The knowledge of the removal of so inspiring a leader nerved the enemy to resistance and decided them to wipe 574 out what still remained of the formidable forces they had been unable to subdue. They launched a general attack, fiercer and more determined than any previous one. Animated by the beating of drums and the sound of trumpets, and encouraged by the shouts of exultation raised by the populace, they threw themselves upon the companions with unbridled ferocity, resolved not to rest until the whole company had been annihilated. In the face of this fierce onset, the companions raised once more the cry of Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” and rushed forth, undismayed, to continue the heroic struggle until all of them had been either slain or captured.
That massacre had scarcely been perpetrated when the signal was given for a pillage, unexampled in its scope and ferocity. Had not the Amír-Tumán issued orders to spare what remained of the house and belongings of Hujjat, and to refrain from any acts of violence against his kindred, even more dastardly attacks would have been made by his rapacious army. His intention was to inform the authorities in Tihrán and to seek from them whatever advice they wished to give him. He failed, however, to restrain indefinitely the spirit of violence which animated his men. The ‘ulamás of Zanján, flushed with the victory that had cost them such exertion and loss of life, and which had involved to such an unprecedented degree their reputation and prestige, endeavoured to incite the populace to commit every imaginable outrage against the lives of their men captives and the honour of their women. The sentinels who guarded the entrance to the house in which Hujjat had been living, were driven from their posts in the general tumult that ensued. The populace joined hands with the army to plunder the property and assail the persons of the few who still survived that memorable struggle. Neither the Amír-Tumán nor the governor was able to allay the thirst for plunder and revenge which had seized the whole town. Order and discipline no longer existed in the midst of the general confusion.
The governor of the province was, however, able to induce the officers of the army to gather together the captives into the house of a certain Hájí Ghulám and to keep them in custody until the arrival of fresh instructions from Tihrán. 575 The entire company were huddled together like sheep in that wretched place, exposed to the cold of a severe winter. The enclosure into which they were crowded was roofless and without furniture. For a few days they remained without food. From thence the women were removed to the house of a muJtahid named Mírzá Abu’l-Qásim, in the hope that he would induce them to recant, in return for which they would be offered their freedom. The greedy mujtahid, however, had, with the aid of his wives, his sisters and daughters, succeeded in seizing all they had been allowed to carry with them; had stripped them of their garments, clothed them in the meanest attire, and appropriated for himself whatever valuables he could find among their belongings.
After suffering untold hardships, these women captives were allowed to join their relatives, on condition that these would undertake full responsibility for their future behaviour. The rest were dispersed throughout the neighbouring villages, the inhabitants of which, unlike the people of Zanján, welcomed the newcomers with treatment that was at once affectionate and genuine. The family of Hujjat, however, was detained in Zanján until the arrival of definite instructions from Tihrán.
As to the wounded, they were placed in custody until such time as the authorities in the capital should send directions as to how they were to be treated. Meanwhile the severity of the cold to which they were exposed and the cruelties they underwent were such that within a few days they had all perished.
The rest of the captives were delivered by the Amír-Tumán into the hands of the Karrusi, the Khamsíh, and the Iráqí regiments, with orders that they be immediately executed. They were conducted in procession, to the accompaniment of drums and trumpets, to the camp where the army was stationed. 54 All these regiments combined to add 576 to the horror of the abominations perpetrated against the poor sufferers. Armed with their lances and spears, they flung themselves upon the seventy-six companions who still remained, piercing and mutilating their bodies with a savage ruthlessness that excelled the dark deeds of even the most refined torture-mongers of their race. The spirit of revenge which that day dominated those barbarous men passed all bounds. Regiment vied with regiment in committing the foulest atrocities which their ingenious minds could devise. They were preparing to swoop afresh upon their victims when a certain Hájí Muhammad-Husayn, father of ‘Abá-Básir, sprang to his feet and, raising the call of the adhán, 55 thrilled the multitude that had gathered about him. Though in the hour of his death, such were the fervour and majesty with which he pealed out the words “Alláh-u-Akbar,” 56 that the entire Iráqí regiment immediately proclaimed their refusal to continue participating in such shameful deeds. Deserting their posts, and raising the cry “Yá ‘Alí!” they fled from that place in horror and disgust. “Accursed be the Amír-Tumán!” they were heard to exclaim, as they turned their backs on that scene of bloodshed and horror. “That wretch 577 has deceived us! With devilish persistence he sought to convince us of this people’s disloyalty to the Imám ‘Alí and to his kindred. Never, though we all be slain, will we consent to assist in such criminal deeds.”
A number of these captives were blown from guns; others were stripped naked, ice-cold water was poured upon their bodies, and they were lashed severely. Still others were smeared with treacle and left to perish in the snow. Despite the shame and cruelties they were made to suffer, not one of these captives was known either to recant or to utter one angry word against his persecutors. Not even a whisper of discontent escaped their lips, nor did their countenances betray a shadow of regret or grief. No amount of adversity could succeed in darkening the light that shone in those faces; no words, however insulting, could disturb the serenity of their expressions. 57
No sooner had the persecutors finished their work than they began to seek for the body of Hujjat, the place of whose burial the companions had carefully concealed. The most inhuman tortures had proved powerless to induce them to disclose the identity of that spot. The governor, exasperated by the failure of his search, asked that the seven-year-old son of Hujjat, whose name was Husayn, be brought to him that he might attempt to induce him to disclose the secret. 58 My son, he said, as he gently caressed him, “I am filled with grief at the knowledge of all the afflictions that have been the lot of your parents. Not I, but the mujtahids of Zanján, 578 should be held responsible for the abominations that have been committed. I am now willing to accord the remains of your father a befitting burial, and wish to atone for the shameful deeds that have been perpetrated against him.” By his gentle insinuations, he succeeded in getting the child to reveal the secret, and thereupon sent his men to fetch the body. No sooner had the object of his desire been delivered into his hands than he ordered that it be dragged with a rope, to the sound of drums and trumpets, through the streets of Zanján. For three days and three nights, unspeakable injuries were heaped upon the body, which lay exposed to the eyes of the people in the maydán. 59 On the third night, it was reported that a number of horsemen had succeeded in carrying away the remnants of the corpse to a place of safety in the direction of Qazvín. As to Hujjat’s kinsmen, orders were received from Tihrán to conduct them to Shíráz and to deliver them into the hands of the governor. There they languished in poverty and misery. Whatever possessions still remained to them the governor seized for himself, and condemned the victims of his rapacity to seek shelter in a ruined and dilapidated house. Hujjat’s youngest son, Mihdí, died 579 of the privations he and his family were made to suffer, and was buried in the very midst of the ruins that had served as his shelter.
I was privileged, nine years after the termination of that memorable struggle, to visit Zanján and witness the scene of those terrible butcheries. I beheld with grief and horror the ruins of the fort of ‘Alí-Mardán Khán, and trod the ground that had been saturated with the blood of its immortal defenders. I could discern on its gates and walls traces of the carnage that marked its surrender to the enemy, and could discover upon the very stones that had served as barricades, stains of the blood that had been so profusely shed in that neighbourhood.
As to the number of those who fell in the course of these encounters, no accurate estimate has as yet been made. So numerous were those who participated in that struggle, and 580 so prolonged the siege which they withstood, that to ascertain their names and number would be a task that I would hesitate to undertake. A tentative list of such names, which readers might do well to consult, has been prepared by Ismu’lláhu’l-Mím and Ismu’lláhu’l-Asad. Many and conflicting are the reports as to the exact number of those who struggled and fell under the banner of Hujjat in Zanján. Some have estimated that there were as many as a thousand martyrs; according to others, they were more numerous. I have heard it stated that one of the companions of Hujjat who undertook to record the names of those who had suffered martyrdom, had left a written statement in which he had computed the number of those who had fallen prior to the death of Hujjat to be a thousand, five hundred and ninety-eight, whilst those who had suffered martyrdom afterwards were thought to have been in all two hundred and two persons.
For the account I have related of the happenings of Zanján I am primarily indebted to Mírzá Muhammad ‘Alíy-i-Tabíb-i-Zanjání, to ‘Abá-Básir, and to Siyyid Ashraf, all martyrs of the Faith, with each of whom I was closely acquainted. The rest of my narrative is based upon the manuscript which a certain Mullá Husayn-i-Zanjání wrote and sent to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, in which he recorded all the information he could glean from different sources regarding the events connected with that episode.
What I have related of the struggle of Mázindarán has been similarly inspired, to a very great extent, by the written account sent to the Holy Land by a certain Siyyid Abú-Tálib-i-Sháhmírzádí, as well as by the brief survey prepared here by one of the believers named Mírzá Haydar-‘Alíy-i-Ardistání. I have, moreover, ascertained certain facts connected with that struggle from persons who actually participated in it, such as Mullá Muhammad-Sádiq-i-Muqaddas, Mullá Mírzá Muhammad-i-Furúghí, and Hájí ‘Abdu’l-Majíd, father of Badí and martyr to the Faith.
As to the events relating to the life and deeds of Vahíd, I have obtained my information regarding what took place in Yazd from Ridá’r-Rúh, who was one of his intimate companions. As to the later stages of that struggle in Nayríz, my narrative is mainly drawn from such information as I 581 could gather from the detailed account sent to the Holy Land by a believer of that town, named Mullá Shafi, who had carefully investigated the matter and had reported it to Bahá’u’lláh. Whatever my pen has failed to record, future generations will, I hope, gather together and preserve for posterity. Many, I confess, are the gaps in this narrative, for which I beg the indulgence of my readers. It is my earnest hope that these gaps may be filled by those who will, after me, arise to compile an exhaustive and befitting account of these stirring events, the significance of which we can as yet but dimly discern. 582
1. Capital of the district of Khamsíh. Zanján is the capital of the district of Khamsíh. “Khamsíh is a small province to the east of Kaflan-Kúh or Mountain of the Tiger, between ‘Iráq and Ádhirbayján. Its capital, Zanján, is a beautiful city surrounded by an embattled wall fortified with towers like all Persian cities. The inhabitants are of the Turkish race and the Persian language is seldom spoken, unless it be by government employees. The surrounding country is studded with villages which are fairly prosperous. Powerful tribes visit them, especially in the winter and spring.” (Ibid., p. 191.)   [ Back To Reference]
2. “Now in these years [A.H. 1266 and 1267] throughout all Persia fire fell on the households of the Bábí’s, 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.” (“A Traveller’s Narrative,” pp. 47–8.)   [ Back To Reference]
3. “There lived in that city a mujtahid called Mullá Muhammad-‘Alíy-i-Zanjání. He was a native of Mázindarán and studied under a celebrated master. Dignified with the title of Sharífu’l-‘Ulama, Muhammad-‘Alí had concentrated his attention on dogmatic theology and jurisprudence, and had become famous. The Muhammadans affirm that, in his function as mujtahid, he showed himself restless and turbulent. No question ever seemed to him either sufficiently studied or properly solved. His repeated fatvás disconcerted the conscience and confused the practices of the faithful. Eager for change, he was neither tolerant in discussion nor moderate in debate. Sometimes he would unduly prolong the fast of Ramadán for reasons which no one had advanced before; sometimes he would alter the ritual of prayer in quite a novel way. He became obnoxious to the peaceful and odious to the traditionalists. But it is also admitted that he counted many followers who considered him a saint, prized his zeal, and put their faith in him. An impartial judge could recognize in him one of the Muhammadans who are only so in appearance, but urged on by a living faith and an abundant religious zeal for which they are eager to find a scope. His misfortune was that he found, or thought he found, a natural use for his powers in the overthrow of traditions whose minor significance did not justify such a disturbance.” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” pp. 191–192.)   [ Back To Reference]
4. 1812–13 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
5. “Among the ‘Ulamás of the city was a man called Akhund Mullá ‘Abdu’r-Rahím renowned for his piety. He had a son who lived in Najaf and at Karbilá where he attended the lectures of the celebrated Sharífu’l-‘Ulamáy-i-Mázindarání. This young man was of a restless nature and rather impatient with the narrowness of Shi’ism.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 332.)   [ Back To Reference]
6. “On his way back from the Holy Land he stopped at Hamadán where the citizens welcomed him cordially and entreated him to remain.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 336.)   [ Back To Reference]
7. “All the ‘Ulamás of the city called on him and left concerned over the few words which he had spoken and which revealed quite a novel turn of mind. Indeed the attitude of the newcomer very quickly proved to these pious men that their conjectures were well founded.” (Ibid.)   [ Back To Reference]
8. “There was a caravansary of the days of Sháh-‘Abbás which had gradually become a síghih-khanih: in order to prevent a breach of the Shí’ite law a certain Mullá Dúst-Muhammad who made his residence there, would bless the transitory union between the male visitors to the place and the inmates. Hujjatu’l-Islám, such was the title which our hero had assumed, ordered the institution to be closed, gave in marriage the greater number of these women and secured employment for the others in respectable families. He also caused a wine dealer to be whipped and his house to be torn down.” (Ibid., pp. 332–333.)   [ Back To Reference]
9. “But this was the limit of his activity. Always troubled with the problems raised by a religion founded upon hadíths which were frequently contradictory, he perplexed the conscience of the faithful by peculiar fatvás which upset old traditions. Thus he restored the hadíth according to which Muhammad would have said: The month of Ramadán is always full.’ Without investigating the origin of that tradition, without enquiring whether those who had related it were worthy of faith, he commanded that it should be literally obeyed, thus inducing his hearers to fast on the day of Fitr which is held to be a grievous sin. He also permitted that prostrations be made at prayer time by resting the head upon a crystal stone. All these innovations won for him a large number of partisans who admired his science and his activity; but they displeased the official clergy whose hatred, further augmented by anxiety, soon knew no bounds.” (Ibid., p. 333.)   [ Back To Reference]
10. “Hujjat came and, by his courtesy and his captivating personality, soon won over all those who came in contact with him, even His Majesty. One day, so the story goes, he was in the palace of the Sháh with several of his colleagues, when one of them, an ‘Ulamá of Káshán, brought out a document and besought the king to sign it. It was a royal decree granting certain stipends. Hujjat rose up and bitterly denounced a clergy who begged pensions from the government. He had recourse to the hadíths and to the Qur’án to show how shameful was such a practice which had originated with the Baní-Umayyih. His colleagues were beside themselves with anger, but the Sháh, pleased with such frankness, presented our hero with a staff and a ring and authorized him to return to Zanján.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” pp. 373–374.)   [ Back To Reference]
11. “The inhabitants of Zanján came in crowds to meet him and offered sacrifices of oxen, chickens and sheep. Twelve children, each twelve years of age, with red kerchiefs about their necks to show their readiness to sacrifice their all, were in the center of the cortège. It proved a triumphal entry.” (Ibid., p. 334.)   [ Back To Reference]
12. “He transformed his disciples into models of virtue and temperance; henceforth the men quenched their thirst at the fountains of spiritual life. They fasted during three months, lengthened their prayers by adding to them daily the invocation of Ja’far-i-Tayyar, performing once a day their ablutions with the water of the Qur (legal measure of purity) and finally on Fridays they crowded the Mosques.” (Ibid., p. 334.)   [ Back To Reference]
13. “Finally, he uttered in a clear voice the Friday prayer which must be said instead of the habitual daily one said when the Imám comes. He then expounded several sayings of the Báb and concluded thus: ‘The goal for which the world has been striving is now here, free from veils and obstacles. The sun of Truth has risen and the lights of imagination and imitation have been extinguished. Fix your eyes upon the Báb, not upon me, the least of his slaves. My wisdom compared to his is as an unlighted candle to the sun at midday. Know God by God and the sun by its rays. So, today has appeared the Sáhibu’z-Zamán. The Sultán of Possibilities is living.’ Needless to say, these words made a deep impression upon the audience. Nearly all accepted this message and conversed among themselves regarding the true nature of the Báb.” (Ibid., p. 335.)   [ Back To Reference]
14. “The conversion of Mullá Muhammad-‘Alí and his numerous partisans had in fact exhausted the patience of the Imám-Jum’ih and of Shaykhu’l-Islám. They wrote indignant letters to His Majesty who in reply gave orders for the arrest of the offender.” (Ibid., p. 336.)   [ Back To Reference]
15. “He was in Tihrán until the day when, after the death of Muhammad Sháh, Násiri’d-Dín Mírzá now Násiri’d-Dín Sháh, appointed as governor of Zanján, one of his uncles, Amír Arslán Khán Majdu’d-Dawlih, who was Ishiq Aghasí of the palace.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 337.)   [ Back To Reference]
16. “He made a triumphant entry into his native city. Now that he was a Bábí, to his old friends were added the believers in the new doctrine. A large number of men, rich and respected, soldiers, merchants, even Mullás came to meet him, at a distance of one or two stations away, and conducted him home, not as an exile who returns, not as a suppliant who asks only rest, not even as a rival strong enough to demand respect, but he entered as a master.” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” p. 193.)

“The author of ‘Nasikhu’t-Tavarikh’ himself acknowledged that a goodly number of citizens of Zanján, and among them high officials, traveled the distance of two stations to meet him. He was received like a conqueror and many heads of sheep were sacrificed in his honor. None of his opponents dared ask him why he had left Tihrán and had returned to Zanján; but Islám was severely tried as the Zanjánís did not hesitate to preach throughout the city the new doctrine. The Muhammadan writer points out that all the Zanjánís were simple-minded and so fell easily into the snare; but contradicting himself he declares that only the knaves, greedy for worldly possessions, and the impious ones gathered round the new leader. However they were quite numerous and, according to his story, about fifteen thousand, which seems rather an exaggerated estimate.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” pp. 337–338.)   [ Back To Reference]

17. “Majdu’d-Dawlih, governor of the city, a cruel, heartless and severe man, enraged at the news of the return of so troublesome a person as Hujjat, ordered that Muhammad Big be whipped and that the tongue of Karbilá’í Valí be cut out.” (Ibid., p. 337.)   [ Back To Reference]
18. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
19. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
20. “At the spectacle, the Muhammadans took flight and the wounded man was cared for the aunt of Mír Salah in her own house.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 341.)   [ Back To Reference]
21. May 16, 1850 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
22. “The governor and the ‘Ulamás wrote to His Majesty reports in which their fear and perplexity were revealed. The Sháh, hardly rid of the war in Mázindarán and enraged at the thought of another sedition in another section of his empire, urged also by his son Sadr-i-‘Azam and by the ‘ulamás who had declared a holy war, gave orders to kill the Bábís and plunder their possessions. It was on Friday the third of Rajab that the order came to Zanján.” (Ibid., pp. 341–342.)   [ Back To Reference]
23. “All was bewildering confusion. The Muhammadans were frantically running to and fro, looking for their wives, their children or their belongings. They came and went crazed, aghast, weeping over what they had to abandon. Families were separated, fathers thrusting back their sons, wives their husbands, children their mothers. Whole houses remained deserted. so great was the haste, and the governor sent soldiers to the neighboring villages to secure new recruits for the holy war.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 342.)   [ Back To Reference]
24. “The Bábís, on the other hand, were not passive. They were organizing for their own protection. Hujjat was exhorting them never to attack but always to defend themselves. ‘Brothers,’ he would say to them, ‘do not be ashamed of me. Do not believe that because you are the companions of the Sáhibu’z-Zamán you are to conquer the world by the sword. I take God as witness; they will kill you, they will burn you, they will send your heads from town to town. The only victory in store for you is to sacrifice yourselves, your wives and your possessions. God has always decreed that in every age the blood of the believers is to be the oil of the lamp of religion. You have learned of the tortures endured by the saintly martyrs of Mázindarán. They were put to death because they affirmed that the promised Mihdí had come. I say to you, whosoever has not the strength to bear such torture, let him go over to the other side for we will have to endure martyrdom. Is not our master in their power?’” (Ibid., pp. 342–343.)   [ Back To Reference]
25. “Picture to yourself a Persian city. The streets are narrow, of a width of four or five or eight feet at the most. The surface unpaved has so many holes that one must proceed cautiously to avoid breaking one’s legs. The houses, with no windows opening on the street, present on both sides unbroken walls, generally about fifteen feet high and topped with a terrace without a railing, sometimes crowned by a bala-Khanih or open pavilion which is usually an indication of a wealthy house. All that is of adobe or bricks baked in the sun. The uprights are of bricks baked in the kiln. This type, of venerable antiquity and in use even before historical times in the ancient cities of Mesopotamia, has many advantages: it is inexpensive, it is sanitary, it adapts itself to modest or pretentious plans; it can be a cottage or a palace entirely covered with mosaics, brilliant paintings and gold ornaments. But, as is always the case in this world, so many advantages are offset by the ease with which such dwellings crumble to pieces. Cannon balls are not needed, the rain is quite sufficient to demolish them. Thus we can visualize these famous sites covered, according to tradition, with immense cities of which nothing remains but ruins of temples and palaces and mounds scattered over the plains.

“In a few years whole districts vanish without leaving a trace, if the houses are not kept in repair. As all the cities of Persia are constructed after the same plan and of the same material, it is easy to visualize Zanján with her crenellated walls with high towers, her crooked streets unpaved and full of ruts. In the midst of these rose a formidable citadel called ‘Chateau d’’Alí-Mardán Khán.’” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” pp. 197–198.)   [ Back To Reference]

26. “He [the governor of Zanján] fearing for himself at once took measures to safeguard his authority and forwarded to Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí Khán Amír-i-Kabir a garbled account of the affair; for he was fearful lest another should acquire more influence than he possessed and so his authority and consideration should be weakened. In consequence of his representations Siyyid ‘Alí Khán Lieutenant-Colonel of Fírúz-Kúh received the royal command to proceed with a numerous body of horse and foot to Zanján, and to arrest Mullá Muhammad-‘Alí, who had retired with his followers (nearly five thousand in number) to the citadel. On his arrival Siyyid ‘Alí Khán laid siege to the citadel and thus was the fire of strife kindled, and day by day the number of those slain on either side increased until at length he suffered an ignominious defeat and was obliged to ask for reinforcements from the capital. The government wished to send Ja’far-Qulí Khán, Lieutenant-Colonel, the brother of I’timádu’d-Dawlih, but he excused himself, and said to Mírzá Taqí Khán Amír-i-Kabir: ‘I’m not an Ibn-i-Zíyad to go and make war on a band of siyyids and men of learning of whose tenets I know nothing, though I should be ready enough to fight Russians Jews or other infidels.’ Other officers besides him showed a disinclination to take part in this war. Amongst these was Mír Siyyid Husayn Khán of Fírúz-Kúh, whom Mírzá Taqí Khán the Amír dismissed and disgraced as soon as he became acquainted with his sentiments. So also many of the officers who were of the sect of the ‘Alíyu’lláhís, although they went to the war withdrew from it when they learned more of the matter. For their chief had forbidden them to fight, and therefore they fled. For it is written in their books that when the soldiers of Gurán shall come to the capital of the king then the Lord of the Age (whom they call God) shall appear; and this prophecy was now accomplished. They also possess certain poems which contain the date of the Manifestation, and these too came true. So they were convinced that this was the Truth become manifest, and begged to be excused from taking part in the war, which thing they declared themselves unable to do. And to the Bábís they said: ‘In subsequent conflicts, when the framework of your religion shall have gathered strength, we will help you.’ In short, when the officers of the army perceived in their opponents naught but devotion, godliness, and piety, some wavered in secret and did not put forth their full strength in the war.” (The “Taríkh-i-Jadíd,” pp. 138–43.)   [ Back To Reference]
27. According to Gobineau (p. 198), he was the grandson of Hájí Muhammad Husayn Khán-i-Isfahání.   [ Back To Reference]
28. “On the fourth day, the Muhammadans saw with great joy Sadru’d-Dawlih, grandson of Hájí Muhammad-Husayn Khán of Isfahán, enter their section of the city coming from Sultaníyyih, at the head of the tribe of Khamsíh. For several days thereafter, reinforcements arrived in great numbers. First of all, Siyyid ‘Alí Khán and Shahbar Khán, one from Fírúz-Kúh, the other from Marághih, with two hundred horsemen from their respective tribes. After them came Muhammad-‘Alí Khán-i-Sháh-Sun with two hundred mounted afshars; fifty artillerymen with two field guns and two mortars, so that the governor was provided with as much assistance as he could have wished and surrounded with a goodly number of military chieftains, among whom were several who were famous throughout the country.” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” 198–199.)

“One of the most terrible encounters related in the journal of the siege, is the one which took place on the fifth of Ramadán. Mustafá Khán, Qájár, with the fifteenth regiment of Shigaghí Sadru’d-Dawlih with his horsemen of Khamsíh; Siyyid ‘Alí Khán of Fírúz-Kúh with his own regiment; Muhammad Áqá, colonel, with the regiment of Násir called the royal regiment; Muhammad-‘Alí Khán with the Afshar cavalry; Major Nabí Big with his cavalry and a troop made up of loyal citizens of Zanján; all these men at dawn attacked the fortifications of the Bábís. The resistance of the Bábís was magnificent but disastrous. They saw their best leaders fall, one after another, leaders brave and true, saints who could not be replaced: Núr-‘Alí the hunter; Bakhsh-‘Alí the carpenter; Khudádád and Fathu’llah Big, all indispensable to the attainment of victory. They all fell, some in the morning and others in the evening.” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” p. 200.)   [ Back To Reference]

29. “I have seen at Zanján the ruins of that fierce encounter; whole sections of the city have not yet been rebuilt and probably never will be. Some of those who took part in the tragedy have related to me upon the very spot certain incidents: the Bábís ascended and descended the terraces while carrying their cannon with them. Sometimes the earthen floor, not very firm, gave way and they had to raise the heavy gun again by dint of man power and had to prop the ground up with beams. When the enemy approached the crowd surrounded the guns with enthusiasm, all arms extended to lift them up and, when the carriers fell under the bullets of the assailants, a hundred comrades vied with each other for the honor of replacing them. Assuredly this was true faith!” (Ibid., pp. 200–201.)   [ Back To Reference]
30. Qur’án, 86:9.   [ Back To Reference]
31. “God the Great.”   [ Back To Reference]
32. “God the Most Great.”   [ Back To Reference]
33. “God the Most Beauteous.”   [ Back To Reference]
34. “God the Most Glorious.”   [ Back To Reference]
35. “God the Most Pure.”   [ Back To Reference]
36. According to Gobineau (p. 202), Azíz Khán was “general-in-chief of the troops of Ádhirbayján and then first aide-de-camp of the king. He was passing through Zanján, on his way to Tiflis, to congratulate the grand duke, heir apparent of Russia, on the occasion of his arrival in Caucasia.”   [ Back To Reference]
37. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
38. “Muhammad Khán, then Bigliyirbigí and Mír-panj, or general of the division, today become Amír-Tumán, joined the troops already engaged in this city; he brought them three thousand men of the regiments of Shigaghí and certain regiments of the guards with six cannon and two mortars. Almost at the same time Qásim Khán arrived from the frontier of Karabagh, entering Zanján from another quarter, and the major Arslán Khán with cavalry from Khirghan, and ‘Alí-Agbar, captain of Khúy, arrived with infantry. For each one had received orders from the king and they were all hastening to comply.” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” p. 201.)   [ Back To Reference]
39. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
40. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
41. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
42. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
43. There is no God but God.   [ Back To Reference]
44. “The Exalted Spot,” title given to Zanján by the Báb.   [ Back To Reference]
45. “Mother of Ashraf.”   [ Back To Reference]
46. “The desperate resistance offered by the Bábís must therefore be attributed less to the strength of the position which they occupied than to the extraordinary valour with which they defended themselves even the women took part in the defence, and I subsequently heard it stated on good authority that like the Carthaginian women of old, they cut off their long hair and bound it round the crazy guns to afford them the necessary support.” (E. G. Browne’s “A Year amongst the Persians,” p. 74.)   [ Back To Reference]
47. “Decidedly the situation was becoming critical for the Muhammadans and it looked as though they would never overcome such a tenacious resistance. Moreover, why take so much trouble? Why endanger uselessly the lives,—not of the soldiers, mere cannon fodder they,—but those of the officers and the generals? Why expose oneself daily to ridicule and to defeat? Why not follow the example of Shaykh Tabarsí? Why not resort to deceit? Why not make the most sacred promises, even though it might later become necessary to massacre those gullibles who had put their trust in them?” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 350.)   [ Back To Reference]
48. Qur’án, 80:34.   [ Back To Reference]
49. Qur’án, 22:2.   [ Back To Reference]
50. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
51. “Finally the threats of the court, the encouragement and the reinforcements arrived so fast, there was such a disproportion as to soldiers and supplies between the Bábís and their adversaries that the outcome became both evident and imminent.” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” p. 203.)   [ Back To Reference]
52. “The regiment of Karrus under the command of the chief of the tribe, Hasan-‘Alí Khán (today minister to Paris), took the fort of ‘Alí-Mardán Khán; the fourth regiment broke into the house of Áqá Azíz, one of the strongholds of the city, and burnt it to the ground; the regiment of guards blew up the hotel located near the Hamadán gate and, though it lost one captain and several soldiers, nevertheless it remained in possession of the place.” (Ibid., p. 203.)   [ Back To Reference]
53. January 8, 1851 A.D.   [ Back To Reference]
54. “Then Muhammad Khán Bigliyirbigí, Amír Arslán Khán and the other commanders, although they had guaranteed on their honor to spare the lives of the Bábís, assembled them in front of their troops to the accompaniment of drums and trumpets and ordered one hundred men, chosen from the different regiments, to take the prisoners and place them in a row. The command was then given to pierce them with bayonets, which was done. Then the leaders of the Bábís, Sulaymán the shoemaker and Hájí Kázim Giltughí were blown to pieces from the mouths of mortars. This type of execution invented in Asia, but practised also by the English troops during the revolt in India, with the refinement with which European science and intelligence invest everything they do, consists in tying the victim to the mouth of the cannon loaded with powder. When the explosion takes place, the victim is torn to pieces, the size of the pieces depending upon the amount of powder used.

“The execution over, the captives were sorted again. They set aside Mírzá Ridá, lieutenant of Mullá Muhammad-‘Alí, and on all those of high standing or importance they placed chains about their necks and shackles on their hands and feet. They then decided to disregard the royal command and to take them to Tihrán in order to augment their triumph. As for the few unfortunates who were left and whose life or death was of no importance to anyone, they were abandoned and the victorious army returned to the capital, dragging with them their prisoners, who walked ahead of the horses of the victorious generals.

“Upon their arrival in Tihrán, the Amír Nizám, prime minister, found it necessary to make an example of this new execution and Mírzá Ridá, Hájí Muhammad-‘Alí and Hájí Muhsin were condemned to have their veins slashed open. The three victims learned the news without betraying the least emotion; they declared, nevertheless, that the lack of good faith, of which the authorities had been guilty, was not one of those crimes that the Almighty could be satisfied with punishing in the ordinary way; He would demand a punishment more impressive and striking for the persecutors of His saints. Consequently, they foretold that the prime minister would very soon suffer the same death that he was inflicting upon them.

“I have heard this prophecy referred to and I do not doubt for an instant that they who informed me of it, were firmly convinced of its truth. I must however state here that when I was told about it, four years had elapsed since the Amír-Nizám was thus put to death by royal edict. The only thing I can affirm therefore is that I was given assurance that the prophecy had really been made by the martyrs of Zanján.” (Comte de Gobineau’s “Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale,” pp. 207–209.)   [ Back To Reference]

55. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]
56. “God is Most Great.”   [ Back To Reference]
57. “After the execution, the spectators invaded the field of death, some searching for the body of a friend in order to bury it, others moved only by morbid curiosity. It is said that a Muhammadan, named Valí-Muhammad, came upon the body of one of his neighbours and, noticing that he was not quite dead, he called to him and said, ‘I am your neighbor Valí-Muhammad. If you need anything call on me.’ The other indicated that he was thirsty. Immediately the Muhammadan fetched a large stone and returning to his neighbor, said, ‘Open your mouth, I bring you water.’ As the dying man complied he crushed his head with the stone.

“At last, the Bigliyirbigí started for Tihrán, taking with him forty-four prisoners among whom were the son of Mírzá Ridá, Hájí Muhammad-‘Alí and Hájí Muhsin the surgeon. These three were put to death after their arrival, the others were doomed to rot in prison.” (A. L. M. Nicolas’ “Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad dit le Báb,” p. 363.)   [ Back To Reference]

58. “It was not enough for them to have gained the victory, they had even to insult the bodies of their enemies. They were eager to question the Bábís but, no matter how great the torture with which they threatened them, the Bábís refused to speak. They poured boiling oil upon the head of Áqá Dín-Muhammad, but he remained silent. Finally, the Sardár had the son of the deceased chief brought before him. This child was but seven years of age, his name was Áqá Husayn and, through clever threats and insidious flattery, they succeeded in making him speak.” (Ibid., p. 361.)   [ Back To Reference]
59. See Glossary.   [ Back To Reference]