July 1, 2014

The Martyrdom of the Báb – by Hand of the Cause William Sears

A wave of violence unprecedented in its cruelty, its persistency, and its breadth swept the face of the entire land. From Khurasan on the eastern border of Persia to Tabriz on the west, from the northern cities of Zanjan and Tihran stretching as far south as Nayriz, the country was enveloped in darkness. Many recalled the prophecy of Shaykh Ahmad who spoke so glowingly of the Twin Revelations that were at hand. He had warned his followers to expect these days of suffering. "Pray God," he told them, "that you may not be present in (1) the day of the coming of the Prophet or (2) the day of His return, as there will be many civil wars. If any of you should be living at that time, he shall see strange things between the years 1844 and 1851." [1] Nicolas in his account of those days says: "The anxious priests, feeling their flock quivering with impatience and ready to escape their control, redoubled their slanders . . .; the grossest lies, the most bloody fictions were spread among the bewildered populace, torn between terror and admiration." [2]

When the news of the death of His beloved uncle reached the Báb, and he heard the moving account of the tragic fate of the "seven martyrs of Tihran," His heart was plunged in sorrow. He wrote a special tribute in their honor which testified to the exalted position they occupied in His eyes. The Báb said that these seven heroes were the "Seven Goats" spoken of in the prophecies of Islam who on the Day of Judgement would "walk in front of the Promised Qa’im [He who shall arise]." [3]

It was at this moment that the Prime Minister, Mirza Taqi Khan, issued the command that brought the Báb out of His prison-cell in Chihriq. The Prime Minister had at last decided to strike at the very head of the Faith. The forces of the Shah and the members of the clergy were suffering humiliating defeats all across the land. Remove the Báb, the Prime Minister told himself, and the old order could be restored. He called his counsellors together and unfolded to them his plan. This was a drastic change from the Prime Minister's original plan. Up to now, Mirza Taqi Khan had felt that the most effective way of destroying the Báb's influence would be to ruin him morally "to bring him out of his retreat in Chiriq where a halo of suffering, holiness, science and eloquence made him radiate like a sun; to show him to the people just as he was . . . a vulgar charlatan, a weak dreamer who did not have courage enough to conceive, still less to direct the daring enterprises" of Tabarsi, Nayriz and Zanjan, "or even take part in them." [4]

These counsellors pointed out that the Báb's conduct while He was in prison gave no evidence that He was such a person as the Prime Minister suggested. He bore all hardships without complaint. He prayed and worked incessantly. Those who came near Him felt the power of His personality. Did they not have the alarming example of the two wardens of Mah-Ku and Chihriq? Both had been bitter enemies of the Báb, but through His mere presence among them, they had become enraptured friends. Had not the authorities sent the greatest religious leader of them all, Vahid, to investigate and discredit the Báb? He, too, upon meeting Him had forsaken the King, his own fame, and his very life for this Prisoner. Was there any comfort to be found in this? What about Manuchihr Khan's [the Governor of Isfahan] conversion?

What about the reports of the spies near the prison of Chihriq? They reported that the Báb spoke often of His death during these days. It was said that He referred to His death as something not only familiar, but pleasant. Suppose He should display an undaunted courage if exhibited in chains throughout the country? Suppose He confused and bewildered the subtle doctors they chose to debate against Him? Suppose they bowed down in belief before Him as the wisest of all, Vahid, had done? Suppose He became more of a hero and martyr than ever to the people as a result of this treatment? What then?

Gobineau himself in his history, says, "Those who came near him felt in spite of themselves the fascinating influence of his personality, of his manner and of his speech. His guards were not free from that weakness." [5]

The risk was too great. After weighing the matter with care, the counsellors of the Prime Minister decided against this plan. They dared not take the chance.

Now the Prime Minister insisted on more drastic action against the Báb. He cursed the laxity with which his predecessor, Haji Mirza Aqasi, had allowed so great a peril to grow. He was determined that this weak policy must cease at once. To allow the Báb to continue to gain in glory and prestige was unthinkable.

"Nothing," he told them, "short of his public execution can, to my mind, enable this distracted country to recover its tranquility and peace!"

Seeing his wrath, not a single voice dared to speak against his plan. After a long silence, one quiet courageous voice arose in protest. It was that of the Minister of War who was later to succeed Mirza Taqi Khan. He suggested a less violent course. The Prime Minister was very displeased. He put down this opposition at once.

"Nothing short of the remedy I advocate can uproot this evil and bring us the peace for which we long," he said.

Disregarding the advice of any who disagreed with him, the Prime Minister dispatched an order to the governor of Tabriz, commanding that the Báb be brought from Chihriq to Tabriz. The order requested that the Báb be imprisoned in this city where He would later be told of His fate. The Prime Minister was afraid to bring the Báb to Tihran for an execution, lest His presence there set in motion forces which the Prime Minister would be powerless to control. Therefore, the Báb was to be done to death in Tabriz, in the north. [6]

Three days after the Báb was transferred from prison to Tabriz, a second order was sent to the governor. This order instructed him to execute the Báb. He refused. "This is a task only for the most ignoble," he said indignantly. "Who am I to be called upon to slay an innocent descendent of our own Prophet?" 

The Báb was descended from the family of Bani-Hashim, which was the family of Muhammad, and through Isma’il from Abraham, Himself, Whose "seed would inherit the earth."

The governor, as well as most of the people, was familiar with the prophecy in their Books which said that "should a youth from Bani-Hashim be made manifest and summon the people to a new book and to new laws, all should hasten to Him and embrace His Cause." [7]

The Prime Minister was very angry with the governor, but he was determined that nothing should stop this execution. He ordered his own brother, Mirza Hasan Khan, to carry out his orders. The brother tried to inform the governor of these new instructions, but the governor refused to meet him, pretending to be ill. Mirza Hasan Khan then personally took over the plans for the execution.

He ordered the immediate transfer of the Báb to a death cell in the city barracks. He had the Báb's turban and sash, the twin emblems of His noble lineage, ripped off. He ordered Sam Khan, the head of the execution regiment, to post ten special guards outside the door of the Báb's cell.

As the Báb was being led through the courtyard to His cell in the barracks, a young boy from Tabriz rushed forward from the crowd. He was but eighteen years old. His face was haggard, his feet were bare, his hair dishevelled. He forced his way through the mob, ignoring the peril to his own life which such an action involved. He flung himself at the feet of the Báb.

"Send me not from Thee, O Master," he implored. "Wherever Thou goest, suffer me to follow Thee."

The Báb smiled down upon him and spoke gently. "Muhammad- 'Ali, arise," He told the young man, "and rest assured that you will be with Me. Tomorrow you will witness what God hath decreed."

Dr. T. K. Cheyne writes: "It is no doubt a singular coincidence that both [the Báb] and Jesus Christ are reported to have addressed these words to a disciple: 'Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.' "

The youth was arrested and cast into the same cell with the Báb and condemned to death with Him. Soon the story of this young man became known to everyone. He had learned of the Faith of the Báb when the Báb had first passed through Tabriz on His way to prison at Mah-Ku. At once he became an ardent believer. 

He longed to visit the Báb in His prison and offer his life for the Faith. The boy's stepfather was one of the most illustrious citizens of Tabriz. He refused to let the boy leave the city. He feared that his son would shame the family by publicly admitting that he believed in the Báb, so he confined the boy to his room and put a strict watch over him. The young man began to sicken in this confinement until at length the stepfather became worried.

Shaykh Hasan, who was related to the stepfather, had just been sent to Tabriz by the Báb with a number of manuscripts. He gives the following eye-witness account of his meeting with that young man.

"Every day I visited him," Shaykh Hasan recalls, "and every day I witnessed the tears of sorrow that rained from his eyes. After, the Báb had been scourged and returned to Chihriq, I visited him again. This time I was surprised to note the joy and gladness which, had illumined his countenance. His handsome face was wreathed in smiles as he stepped forward to receive me.

"'The eyes of my Beloved have beheld this face of mine,' he said, 'and these eyes have gazed upon his countenance.'

"'Let me tell you the secret of my happiness,' he said. 'After the Báb had been taken back to Chihriq, one day as I lay confined in my cell, I turned my heart to Him and besought Him in these words: Thou beholdest, 0 my Best-Beloved, my captivity and helplessness, and knowest how eagerly I yearn to look upon Thy face. Dispel the gloom that oppresses my heart, with the light of Thy countenance."

"'I was so overcome with emotion that I seemed to lose consciousness. Suddenly I heard the voice of the Báb, and lo! He was calling me. He bade me: "Arise!" I beheld the majesty of His countenance as He appeared before me. He smiled as He looked into my eyes. I rushed forward and flung myself at His feet. "Rejoice," He said, "the hour is approaching when, in this very city, I shall be suspended before the eyes of the multitude and shall fall a victim to the fire of the enemy. I shall choose no one except you to share with Me the cup of martyrdom. Rest assured that this promise which I give you shall be fulfilled."

"'I was entranced by the beauty of that vision. When I recovered, I found myself immersed in an ocean of joy, a joy the radiance of which all the sorrows of the world could never obscure. That keeps ringing in my ears. That vision haunts me both in the daytime and in the night season. The memory of that smile has removed all the loneliness of my confinement.

"'I am firmly convinced,' the young man told me, 'that the hour at which His pledge is to be fulfilled can no longer be delayed.'

"I urged him to be patient and to conceal his emotion. He promised not to divulge his secret and undertook to show the utmost forbearance and kindness toward his stepfather. I assured the stepfather of the boy's willingness to obey, and succeeded in obtaining his release from his confinement. "

That youth continued until the day of his martyrdom to associate in a state of complete serenity and joy with his parents and kinsmen. Such was his behavior towards his friends and relatives that, on the day he laid down his life for his Beloved, the people of Tabriz all wept and bewailed him." [10]

The young man's confidence in his vision never diminished, and the day came at last when he saw the Báb with his own eyes in the barracks courtyard. He flung himself at His feet, looked up at that wondrous smile he knew so well, and heard the Báb fulfill His promise with the words: "Arise, you shall be with Me."

On that last night in His barracks cell, the face of the Báb was aglow with a joy such as had never shone from His face before. Dr. T. K. Cheyne in his account of the Báb writes: "We learn that, at great points in his career. . . such radiance of might and majesty streamed from his countenance that none could bear to look upon the effulgence of his glory and beauty. Nor was it an uncommon occurrence for unbelievers to bow down in lowly obeisance on beholding His holiness." [11]

Siyyid Husayn has left the following eye-witness account of the Báb's last night on earth: "Indifferent to the storm that raged about Him, He conversed with us with gaiety and cheerfulness. The sorrows that had weighed so heavily upon Him seemed to have completely vanished. "

'Tomorrow,' He said, 'will be the day of My martyrdom. Would that one of you might now arise and, with his own hands, end My life. I prefer to be slain by the hand of a friend than by that of the enemy.'

"We shrank, however, at the thought of taking away with our own hands so precious a life. We refused, and remained silent. The young boy suddenly sprang to his feet and announced himself ready to obey whatever the Báb might desire. 'This same who has risen to comply with My wish,' the Báb declared, will together with Me suffer martyrdom. Him will I choose to share with Me its crown.'" [12]

Early the next morning, the chief-attendant came to the barracks to conduct the Báb into the presence of the leading doctors of law in Tabriz. They were to authorize His execution by signing a death warrant, thus relieving the Prime Minister of the entire responsibility.

The Báb was engaged in a confidential conversation with Siyyid Husayn, one of His closest followers, who had been serving as His secretary. Husayn had been with the Báb throughout His imprisonment. The Báb was giving him last minute instructions.

"Confess not your Faith," the Báb advised Husayn. "Thereby you will be enabled, when the hour comes, to convey to those who are destined to hear you, the things of which you alone are aware."

The Báb was thus engaged when the chief-attendant arrived. He insisted upon the Báb's immediate departure. The Báb turned and rebuked the chief-attendant severely.

"Not until I have said to him all those things I wish to say," the Báb warned, "can any earthly power silence me. Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall they be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention."

The chief-attendant was amazed at such a bold speech on the part of a prisoner. However, he still insisted that the Báb accompany him with no further delay. The conversation with Husayn was left unfinished. The Báb and the eighteen-year-old boy who was to die with Him were led, one by one, into the presence of each of three doctors of law. The guards made certain that the irons about the neck and wrists were secure. To the iron collar about the Báb's neck they tied a long cord which was held by another attendant. Then, so that everyone could see Him in His humiliation, they walked Him about the town. They led Him through the streets and the bazaars, overwhelming Him with blows and insults. [13] He was paraded publicly, as Christ had been, an object of derision.

To the people of Tabriz the Báb was no longer triumphant. He was to die. He was being humbled and degraded just as the Prime Minister had planned. The crowds packed the streets along which he was led. The people climbed upon each other's shoulders the better to see this Personage Who was so much talked about. What a pity He was so powerless, they said. Quite obviously this could not be a Man of God, and certainly not the Promised One.

The followers of the Báb who were in the crowd scattered in all directions. They were trying to arouse among the onlookers a feeling of pity or sympathy which might help them save their Master.

Jesus had entered Jerusalem hailed on all sides, with palm leaves strewn in His path, only to be mocked and reviled in that same Jerusalem with the week. In like manner the glory that had attended the Báb's first triumphant entry into Tabriz was now forgotten. This time the crowd, restless and excitable, flung insulting words at Him. They wanted to be entertained with miracles and signs of wonder, and the Báb was failing them. They pursued Him as He was led through the streets. They broke through the guards and struck Him in the face. When some missile hurled from the crowd would reach its mark, the guards and the crowd would burst into laughter.

The Báb was then brought before the priest who had previously incited the clergy to scourge Him. As soon as he saw the Báb approaching, he seized the death-warrant and thrust it at the attendant. "No need to bring him into my presence," he cried. 'This death warrant I signed long ago, the very day I saw him at that gathering here in Tabriz. He is the same man I saw then, and has not since surrendered any of his claims. Take him away!"

The other priests in turn also refused to meet the Báb face to face. Their hatred of Him had increased since the day of His previous triumph over them.

“We are satisfied that it is right to pronounce the sentence of death," they said. "Do not bring him into our presence." The chief-attendant, having secured the necessary death-warrants, delivered the Báb into the hands of Sam Khan, the leader of the regiment that was to execute Him.

Sam Khan found himself increasingly affected by the behavior of his Captive. He had placed a guard of ten soldiers about the Báb's cell door and had carefully supervised it himself. Throughout every step he felt an increasing attraction to this unusual Prisoner. He was in constant fear that his action in taking such a holy life might bring upon him the wrath of God. Finally, unable to bear this worry any longer, he approached the Báb and spoke to Him privately.

"I profess the Christian Faith," he said, "and entertain no ill-will against you. If your Cause be the Cause of Truth, then enable me to free myself from the obligation to shed your blood."

The Báb comforted him with these words: "Follow your instructions and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity."

The hour for the execution could not be put off any longer. The crowds had been gathering for some time. They streamed into the public square. They came from all the neighboring villages.

Sam Khan ordered his men to drive a nail into the pillar between the doors of the barracks. To the nail they made fast the ropes by which the Báb and His young companion were to be separately suspended. Thus was fulfilled before the eyes of the people gazing upon the scene, the words of the prophecy in their own sacred Writings which foretold that when the Promised One was slain, He would be suspended like unto Christ before the gaze of the public. Muhammad-' Ali begged Sam Khan to allow him to be placed in such a manner that his own body would shield that of the Báb. He was eventually suspended so that his head rested upon the breast of the Báb.

The Journal Asiatique's account of that event states: "The Báb remained silent. His pale handsome face . . . his appearance and his refined manners, his white delicate hands, his simple but very neat garments - everything about him awakened sympathy and compassion." [14]

About ten thousand people had crowded into the public square. They were thronged on the roofs of the adjoining houses as well. All were eager to witness the spectacle. Yet each person was willing to change from an enemy into a friend at the least sign of power from the Báb. They were still hungry for drama, and He was disappointing them. Just as the crowd had stood on Golgotha, reviling Jesus, wagging their heads and saying, "Save thyself! If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross!" so, too, did the people of Tabriz mock the Báb and jeer at His seeming impotence.

As soon as the Báb and His companion were fastened to the pillar, the regiment of soldiers arranged itself in three files, each file having two hundred and fifty men. The leader of the regiment, Sam Khan, could delay the command no longer. The Báb had told him to do his duty; therefore, it was apparently the will of God that his regiment should take the life of the Báb. This was a source of great sorrow to him.

Reluctantly he gave the command, "Fire!"

In turn, each of the files opened fire upon the Báb and His companion until the entire regiment had discharged its volley of bullets.

There were over ten thousand eye-witnesses to the electrifying spectacle that followed. One of the historical accounts of that staggering moment states: "The smoke of the firing of the seven hundred and fifty rifles was such as to turn the light of noonday sun into darkness.

"As soon as the cloud of smoke had cleared away, an astounded multitude looked upon a scene which their eyes could scarcely believe.

"There, standing before them, alive and unhurt, was the companion of the Báb, whilst He, Himself, had vanished from their sight. Though the cords with which they were suspended had been rent in pieces by the bullets, yet their bodies had miraculously escaped the volleys." [15]

Cries of astonishment, confusion and fear rang out from the bewildered multitude.

"The Báb has vanished!"

"He is freed!" they shrieked.

"It is a miracle! He was a man of God!"

"They are slaying a man of God!"

An intense clamor arose on all sides. The crowd was already dangerous. The public square became a bedlam as a frantic search for the Báb began.

M. C. Huart, a French author who wrote of this episode, says: "The soldiers in order to quiet the excitement of the crowd which, being extremely agitated, was quite ready to believe the claims of a religion which thus demonstrated its truth, showed the cords broken by the bullets, implying that no miracle had really taken place." [16]

"Look!" their actions implied. "The seven hundred and fifty musket-balls have shattered the ropes into fragments. This is what freed them. It is nothing more than this. It is no miracle."

Uproars and shouts continued on all sides. The people still were not certain themselves what really had happened.

M. C. Huart, giving his view of that astonishing event, states:

"Amazing to believe, the bullets had not struck the condemned but, on the contrary, had broken the bonds and he was delivered. It was a real miracle."

L. M. Nicolas also wrote of this episode, saying: "An extraordinary thing happened, unique in the annals of the history of humanity: the bullets cut the cords that held the Báb and he fell on his feet without a scratch." [17]

The frenzied search by the authorities for the Báb came to an end within but a few feet of the execution post. They found Him back in His cell in the barracks, in the same room He had occupied the night before. He was completing His conversation with His secretary, Siyyid Husayn. He was giving to him those final instructions which had been interrupted that morning. An expression of unruffled calm was upon His face. His body, obviously, had emerged unscathed from the shower of bullets.

The Báb looked at the chief-attendant and smiled.

"I have finished My conversation," He said. "You may now proceed to fulfill your duty."

The chief-attendant was much too disturbed to resume his duties. He recalled vividly the words with which the Báb had rebuked him when he had interrupted that conversation: "Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall they be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention."

The chief-attendant refused to continue with any part of the execution. He left the scene of that barracks cell shaken to the core of his being. He resigned his post and cut himself off from the enemies of the Báb forever.

The head of the Christian regiment, Sam Khan, was likewise stunned by what had taken place. He, too, remembered clearly the words which the Báb had spoken to him: "If your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity." Sam Khan had given the order to fire, yet the Báb had been freed. Surely the Lord had delivered him from the need to shed the blood of this Holy Man. He would not go on with the execution. Sam Khan ordered his regiment to leave the barracks square immediately. He told the authorities plainly that he was finished with this unjust act.

"I refuse," he said, "ever again to associate myself and my regiment with any act which involves the least injury to the Báb." As he marched his regiment out of the public square he swore before all of them: "I will never again resume this task even if it costs me my life."

After the departure of Sam Khan and his regiment, a colonel of the bodyguard volunteered to carry out the execution.

On that same wall and to that same nail, the Báb and His companion were lashed a second time. The new firing squad formed in line. As the regiment prepared to fire the final volley, the Báb spoke His last words to the gazing multitude.

"Had you believed in Me, 0 wayward generation," He said, "everyone of you would have followed the example of this youth who stood in rank above most of you, and willingly would have sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me, but that day I shall have ceased to be with you."

A dead silence fell over the square. In the ominous hush, the only sound was the metallic click of rifles being readied to fie. The crowd stirred restlessly. The rifles were raised, the command given, and the rifles thundered. The bodies of the Báb and His youthful companion were shattered by the blast.

As Jesus had expired on the cross so that men might be called back to God, so did the Báb breathe His last against a barracks wall in the city of Tabriz, Persia. The historian Nicolas in his account of those hours writes, "Christians believe that if Jesus had wished to come down from the cross he could have done so easily; he died of his own free will because it was written that he should and in order that the prophecies might be fulfilled. The same is true of the Báb so [His followers] say . . . He likewise died voluntarily because his death was to be the salvation of humanity. Who will ever tell us the words that the Báb uttered in the midst of the unprecedented turmoil which broke out. . . .who will ever know the memories which stirred his noble soul?” [18]

Christ in His agony in the garden of Gethsemane cried out, "Father! if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done." [19] The Báb in the frozen winter of Mah-Ku likewise called out to mankind that it was God's will and not His own that impelled Him to "throw Himself headlong into that ocean of superstition and hatred which was fatally to engulf Him." Both Christ and the Báb uttered the same words of warning, "O wayward generation!" 

The martyrdom of the Báb took place at noon on Sunday, July 9, 1850, thirty years from the time of His birth in Shiraz. 

An historical account of that second and final volley states: "This time the execution was effective. . . . But the crowd, vividly impressed by the spectacle they had witnessed, dispersed slowly, hardly convinced that the Báb was a criminal." [20] 

On the evening of the day of His martyrdom, the mangled bodies of the Báb and His companion were removed from the courtyard of the public square. They were thrown at the edge of a moat outside the gate of the city. Four companies of ten sentinels each were posted to keep watch in turn over the remains so that none of His  followers might claim them. 

On the morning following the martyrdom, an official from one  of the foreign consulates, accompanied by an artist, went to the  moat and ordered that a sketch be made of the remains. Nabil, in his history, gives the words of an eye-witness, "It was such a faithful portrait of the Báb! . . . No bullet had struck His forehead, His cheeks, or His lips. I gazed upon a smile which seemed to be still  lingering upon his countenance." [21] 

On the afternoon of the second day, Sulayman Khan, a follower of the Báb, arrived from Tihran. He had heard of the threat to the life of the Báb and had left Tihran to try to rescue Him. To his dismay, he arrived too late. He resolved to rescue the bodies of the Báb and His companion in spite of the sentinels, and no matter what the risk to his own life. 

In the middle of that same night, with the help of a friend, he succeeded in bearing away the bodies. The two friends watched the sentinels carefully. The hearts of the guards were not in the task of standing watch through a long night; so while they slept, Sulayman Khan and his friend stole the sacred remains, and carried them from the edge of the moat to a silk factory owned by one of the believers. The remains were placed the next day in a specially constructed wooden case and were hidden in a place of safety.

The sentinels awakened, and finding their trust had been spirited away, sought to justify themselves by pretending that while they slept wild beasts had carried away the bodies. Their superiors also concealed the truth and did not report it to the authorities for fear of losing their own positions.

This pleased the followers of the Báb, who were anxious to prevent any further investigation which might take from them those blessed remains. 

Meanwhile, from the pulpits of Tabriz, the religious leaders boastfully proclaimed that the Báb's remains had been devoured by wild animals. 

"This proves us right and him false," they cried out. "For it is written in our prophecies that the holy body of the Promised One will be preserved from beasts of prey and from all creeping things." 

Nicolas in his history says, "The most reliable testimony of the actual witnesses of the drama and of its actors does not leave me any doubt that the body of [the Báb] was carried away by pious hands and, at last . . . received a burial worthy of him." [22] 

Sulayman Khan reported the rescue of the remains of the Báb to Baha'u'llah in Tihran. Baha’u’llah immediately sent a special messenger to Tabriz to arrange for the bodies to be transferred to the capital. 

"This decision," Nabil tells us, "was prompted by the wish of the Báb Himself." 

In His own handwriting, the Báb had expressed the desire to be buried near His Loved One. In a letter written in the neighborhood of a shrine near Tihran, Nabil says that the Báb addressed the saint buried there in words such as these: "Well is it with you to have found your resting place . . . under the shadow of My Beloved.  Would that I might be entombed within the precincts of that holy ground." [23]  

Baha’u’llah respected that wish by having the remains of the Báb transferred to that very spot! But the place remained secret until Baha’u’llah’s departure from Persia. 

The hand of the wrath of God began, almost at once, to strike down those primarily responsible for the martyrdom of the Báb. That same lack of mercy which had been shown to those who had injured Him throughout His life was now visited upon the last of His persecutors. 

The governor of Shiraz, who first imprisoned the Báb, was hurled from power and abandoned by friend and foe alike. The high priest, or judge, who had scourged Him, was stricken with paralysis and died an agonizing death. The king, Muhammad Shah, who had refused to meet the Báb, was struck down by illness and succumbed to a complication of maladies far before his time. His Prime Minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi, who had twice banished Him to prison, was toppled from power and died in poverty and exile.  

The mayor of Tihran, Mahmad Khan, who held prisoner Tahirih and the seven martyrs of Tihran and assisted in their deaths, was strangled and hanged from the gallows.  

The new ruler, Nasiri'd-Din Shah, who permitted the slaying of the Báb, was awaiting a day of assassination which was to be far more dreadful and dramatic than that of his father.

His Prime Minister, Mirza Taqi Khan, who ordered the Bab's execution, and who encouraged the wholesale slaughter of so many of His followers, was seized in the grip of this same relentless, punishing retribution. His greatest crime was the taking of the life of the Báb. His greatest massacre was that which took place in Zanjan after the martyrdom of the Báb. Eighteen hundred were   slain in Zanjan village alone. Although the soldiers had promised on their honor to spare the followers of Hujjat who willingly came out of their shelters, they lined them up in rows, to the accompaniment of drums and trumpets, and pierced them with bayonets. Then the victorious army forced those of high standing who were left to march on foot before their horses all the way to Tihran with chains about their necks and shackles on their feet. When they appeared before the Prime Minister, Mirza Taqi Khan, he ordered that the veins of three leaders be slashed open. He would make an example of them, he said, as he had made of the Báb.

The victims did not betray the least fear or emotion. They told the Prime Minister that the lack of good faith which the authorities, the army, and himself had been guilty of was a crime which Almighty God would not be satisfied with punishing in an ordinary way. God would demand, they told him, a more impressive and striking retribution for the slayer of a Prophet and the persecutor of His people. They prophesied that the Prime Minister, himself,   would very soon suffer the very same death which he, in his hatred, was now inflicting upon them.  

Gobineau in his history says, "The only thing I can affirm . . .   is that I was given assurance that the prophecy had really been made by the martyrs of Zanjan." [24]  

It happened precisely as those victims had foretold. Mirza Taqi Khan fell from the favor of the king. Court intrigue and greed combined to complete his downfall. All the honors he had enjoyed  were stripped from him. He had to flee in disgrace from the capital. Wherever he went he was pursued by royal hatred. Finally the hand of revenge caught up with him. The former Prime Minister's veins were slashed open. His blood stains the wall of that bath   of the Palace of Fin to this very day, a witness to the atrocities his own hand had wrought. [25]  

The wave of retributive justice was still not at an end. Mirza Hasan Khan, the Prime Minister's brother, who carried out the execution of the Báb, was subjected to a dreadful punishment. No one would come to his aid. In despair, he succumbed and died.  

The commander of the regiment that volunteered to replace that of Sam Khan lost his life during the bombardment of Muhammirih by the British. The regiment itself came to a dreadful end. In spite of the unaccountable failure of Sam Khan and his soldiers to destroy the life of the Báb, this regiment was willing to renew the attempt, and did eventually riddle His body with bullets. Two hundred and fifty of its members, that same year, with their officers, were crushed in a terrible earthquake. They were resting on a hot summer's day under the shadow of a wall, between Tabriz and Ardibil. The structure suddenly collapsed and fell upon them,   leaving not one survivor. [26]

The remaining five hundred members of the regiment suffered an ever more dramatic fate. They were executed by a firing squad.   Thus they met the same identical fate as that which their hands had inflicted upon the Báb. Three years after His martyrdom, that regiment mutinied. The authorities ordered that all of its members   should be mercilessly shot. Significantly, there was not only one volley, but, as in the case of the Báb, a second volley was fired to make sure that none survived. Then their bodies were pierced with spears and lances. Their remains were left exposed to the gaze of the public as had been the bodies of the Báb and His companion.  

This event caused much concern and whispering in Tabriz.  

"Is this not the regiment that destroyed the Báb?" the people asked each other. "They have been overtaken by the same fate. Could it be the vengeance of God that has now brought the whole regiment to so dishonorable an end?"  

When the leading lawyers overheard these misgivings and doubts they were alarmed. They issued a warning stating that all who expressed such thoughts would be severely punished. To demonstrate their anger they made an example of a few of the people. Some were fined and some were beaten. All were warned under threat of further punishment to cease such talk at once.

"It can only revive the memory of a terrible adversary," they were told.

History records that from the very hour that the volley of bullets was fired at the Báb, "a gale of exceptional severity arose and swept over the whole city. A whirlwind of dust of incredible density obscured the light of the sun and blinded the eyes of the people." The city of Tabriz remained wrapped in that fearful darkness from noon until night.

This was the hour promised in the Old Testament in the Book of Amos Who said: "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the sky on a clear day." [27]

The "lamb had been slain just as it was promised in the Revelation of St. John. The events that soon took place in the city of the Báb's birth were also foreshadowed in that Book:

"And the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain men seven thousand."

A written account of the period following the execution of the Báb states: "This earthquake occurred in Shiraz after the martyrdom of the Báb. The city was in a turmoil, and many people were destroyed. Great agitation also took place through diseases, cholera, dearth, scarcity, famine, and afflictions, the like of which had never been known." [28]

The prophecies and promises of Christ were fulfilled with the coming of the Báb, although the religious leaders turned to them a blind eye and a deaf ear. These religious authorities, as testified to by the introduction to the most authentic history of the Báb, "confidently expected that the promised Advent would not substitute a new and richer revelation for the old, but would endorse and fortify the system of which they were the functionaries. It would enhance incalculably their personal prestige, would extend their authority far and wide among the nations, and would win for them the reluctant but abject homage of mankind. When the Báb proclaimed a new code of religious law, and by precept and example instituted a profound moral and spiritual reform, the priests immediately scented mortal danger. They saw their monopoly undermined, their ambitions threatened, their own lives and conduct put to shame. They rose against Him in sanctimonious indignation."

"The cause of the rejection and persecution of the Báb," this historical analysis continues, "was in its essence the same as that of the rejection and persecution of the Christ. If Jesus had not brought a New Book, if He had not only reiterated the spiritual principles taught by Moses but had continued Moses' rules and regulations too, He might as merely a moral reformer have escaped the vengeance of the Scribes and Pharisees. But to claim that any part of the Mosaic law, even such material ordinances as those dealing with divorce and the keeping of the Sabbath, could be altered - and altered by an unordained preacher from the village of Nazareth - this was to threaten the interests of the Scribes and the Pharisees themselves, and since they were the representatives of Moses and of God, it was blasphemy against the Most High. As soon as the position of Jesus was understood, His persecution began. As He refused to desist, He was put to death.

"For reasons exactly parallel, the Báb was from the beginning opposed." [29]

There is but one parallel in all recorded history to the brief turbulent ministry of the Báb. It is the passion of Jesus Christ. There is a remarkable similarity in the distinguishing features of Their careers. Their youthfulness and meekness; the dramatic swiftness with which each ministry moved toward its climax; the boldness with which They challenged the time-honored conventions, laws, and rites of the religions into which They had been born; the role which the religious leaders played as chief instigators of the outrages They were made to suffer; the indignities heaped upon Them; the suddenness of Their arrest; the interrogations to which They were subjected; the scourgings inflicted upon Them; Their passing first in triumph, then in suffering through the streets of the city where They were to be slain; Their public parade through the streets on the way to the place of martyrdom; Their words of hope and promise to a companion who was also to die with Them; the darkness that enveloped the land in the hour of Their martyrdom; and finally Their ignominious suspension before the gaze of a hostile multitude.

"So momentous an event could hardly fail to arouse widespread and keen interest even beyond the confines of the land in which it occurred." [30]

One particularly moving document on the Báb points out: "This illustrious soul arose with such power that he shook the supports of the religion, of the morals, the conditions, the habits, and the customs of Persia, and instituted new rules, new laws, and a new religion. Though the great personages of State, nearly all of the clergy and the public men arose to destroy and annihilate him, he alone withstood them and moved the whole of Persia." [31]

"Many persons from all parts of the world," one writer states, "set out for Persia and began to investigate wholeheartedly the matter."

A noted French publicist testifies: "All Europe was stirred to pity and indignation." "Among the littérateurs of my generation in the Paris of 1890," he said, "the martyrdom of the Báb was still as fresh a topic as had been the first news of his death. We wrote poems about him. Sarah Bernhardt entreated Catulle Mendés for a play on the theme of this historic tragedy." [32]

A drama was published in 1903 entitled "The Báb" and was played in one of the leading theatres of St. Petersburg. The drama was publicized in London and was translated into French in Paris and into German by the poet Fiedler.[33]

M. J. Balteau in a lecture on the Faith of the Báb quotes M. Vambery's words spoken in the French Academy, words which testify to the depth and power of the Báb's teachings. The Báb, he states, "has expressed doctrines worthy of the greatest thinkers." [34]

The famous Cambridge scholar, Edward Granville Browne, wrote: "Who can fail to be attracted by the gentle spirit of [the Báb]? His sorrowful and persecuted life, his purity of conduct and youth; his courage and uncomplaining patience under misfortune . . . but most of all his tragic death, all serve to enlist our sympathies on behalf of the young Prophet of Shiraz." [35]

"That Jesus of the age . . . a prophet and more than a prophet," is the judgement passed by the distinguished English clergyman, Dr. T. K. Cheyne. "His combination of mildness and power is so rare," he states, "that we have to place him in a line with supernormal men." [36]

Sir Francis Younghusband in his book The Gleam has written: "The story of the Báb . . . was the story of spiritual heroism unsurpassed . . . The Báb's passionate sincerity could not be doubted, for he had given his life for his faith. And that there must be something in his message that appealed to men and satisfied their souls, was witnessed to by the fact that thousands gave their lives in his cause and millions now follow him . . . his life must be one of those events in the last hundred years which is really worth study." [37]

The French historian, A. L. M. Nicolas, wrote: "His life is one of the most magnificent examples of courage which it has been the privilege of mankind to behold . . . He sacrificed himself for humanity, for it he gave his body and his soul, for it he endured privations, insults, torture and martyrdom. He sealed, with his very lifeblood, the covenant of universal brotherhood. Like Jesus, he paid with his life for the proclamation of a reign of concord, equity and brotherly love. More than anyone, he knew what dreadful dangers he was heaping upon himself . . . but all these considerations could not weaken his resolve. Fear had no hold upon his soul and, perfectly calm, never looking back, in full possession of all his powers, he walked into the furnace." [38]

At last the clergy and the state prided themselves on having crushed the life from the Cause they had battled so long. The Báb was no more. His chief disciples were destroyed. The mass of His followers throughout the land had been beaten, exhausted, and silenced. The King and the Prime Minister rejoiced. If they were to believe their counsellors, they would never hear of the Báb again. His Faith was swiftly receding into oblivion and the wings of death were hovering over it. The combined forces which had engulfed it on every side had at last put out the light which the young Prince of Glory had kindled in His land.

Yet, at that very moment in a suburb of the capital, Baha’u’llah was receiving a visitor, a friend who was soon to be the new Prime Minister. He told Baha’u’llah: "The Báb has been slain. He has been put to death in Tabriz. It is all over. At last the fire which I feared might engulf and destroy you has been extinguished."

Baha’u’llah replied: "If this be true, you can be certain that the flame that has been kindled will by this very act, blaze forth more fiercely than ever and will set up a conflagration such as the combined forces of the statesmen of this realm will be powerless to quench." [39]

Gobineau echoes this statement, recording in his history that "instead of appeasing the flames, it had fanned them into greater violence." [40]

Judged by the standards of the world, the life of Christ had been a catastrophic failure. Of His chosen disciples one had betrayed Him, another had denied Him, and only a handful stood at the foot of the cross. Centuries were to pass before the world ever heard of His name. Judged by the standards of the same world, the life of the ill-fated Youth of Shiraz appeared to be one of the saddest and most fruitless in history. The work He had so gloriously conceived and so heroically undertaken, seemed to have ended in a colossal disaster.

Swift as a meteor that short heroic career had flashed across the skies of Persia. Now death had plunged it into the darkness of despair. This was but the last in the series of heartbreaks which had beset His path from the beginning.

At the very outset of His career, the Báb went to Mecca, the heart of Islam, to proclaim publicly His Mission. He was treated to icy indifference. He planned to return to the city of Karbila and establish His Cause. His arrest prevented it. The program He outlined for His chosen disciples was for the most part unfulfilled. The moderation He urged them to observe was forgotten in the first flush of enthusiasm that seized the early pioneers of His Faith. His only chance of meeting the king was dashed to the ground by the Prime Minister. His ablest disciples were struck down one after the other. The flower of His followers was slain in ruthless carnage all across the land. Then followed His own martyrdom. All these events, on the surface so humiliating, would seem to have marked the lowest depths to which His Cause had fallen. They seemed to threaten the virtual extinction of all His hopes.

Yet burning like a flame through the darkness of all these setbacks and sufferings was the Báb's constant promise that before the year nine would pass, the Promised One of all religions would appear. There was never a moment of doubt in His teaching. He was only the Herald of a greater One to come. He knew that the seed had been firmly planted in the fields and meadows of human hearts. He was the Dawn, the Sun was yet to come.

Of all those great figures who loved Him so dearly not one soul was left alive save Baha’u’llah, Who with His family and a handful of devoted followers was driven destitute into exile and prison in a foreign land. [41] He was banished from place to place until He reached the "Mountain of God in Israel, the Holy Land. Baha’u’llah was exiled, a prisoner, to the fortress situated on the plain of 'Akka, and those startling words of the prophecy given several hundred years before about the 'last days" of the Twin Messengers were literally fulfilled: "All of them [the companions of the Herald] shall be slain except One Who shall reach the plain of 'Akka, the banquet Hall of God." [42]

Although the Faith of God had been crushed into the ground at an early age and rudely trampled upon, this very process would bring about its germination. Buried in the earth, warmed by the blood of Its martyrs, His Faith would blossom out in glory at a later date with the brightness of the sun, and would fulfill prophecy with the exactness of the stars.

The Dawn would give way to the Sun, and the era promised to the earth since the beginning of time, the Day of the "One fold and the One shepherd" would be ushered in by the sacrifice of that gentle Youth from Shiraz: the Báb, the Gate of God.   

(Bill Sears, ‘Release the Sun’)

1. Les Livre des Sept Preuves, translated by Nicolas, pp. 54-60.
2. A. L. M. Nicolas, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad dit le Báb, p. 387.
3. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 463.
4. Comte de Gobineau, Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale, pp. 210-213.
5. Ibid.
6. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 500-504.
7. Ibid., pp. 321-322; and Note 4.
8. Ibid., pp. 506-507.
9. Dr. T. K. Cheyne, The Reconciliation of Races and Religions, p. 185.
10. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 306-308.
11. Dr. T. K. Cheyne, The Reconciliation of Races and Religions, pp. 8-9.
l2. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 507-512.
13. Comte de Gobineau, Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale, p. 220.
14. Journal Asiatique, 1866, tome 7, p. 378.
15. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 512-514.
16. M. C. Huart, La Religion de Báb, pp. 3-4.
17. A. L. M. Nicolas, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammud dit le Báb, p. 375.
18. A. L. M. Nicolas, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad dit le Báb, pp. 203-204, 376.
19. Luke 22:42.
20. M. C. Huart, La Religion de Báb, pp. 3-4.
21. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 518.
22. A. L. M. Nicolas, Siyyid 'All-Muhammad dit le Báb, p. 377.
23. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 520-521.
24. Comte de Gobineau, Les Religions et les Philosophies das l’Asie Centrale, pp. 207-209.
25. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 83.
26. Ibid., p. 83-85.
27. Amos 8:9.
28. (1) 'Abdul-Baha Some Answered Questions, p. 65
(2) Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 53- 54.
29. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, Introduction, pp. xxxi-xxxii.
30. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 55-57.
31. 'Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 30-31.
32. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 56.
33. Ibid.
34. M. J. Balteau, Le Babisme, p. 28.
35. E. G. Browne, article: "The Babis of Persia," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1899, p. 933.
36. (1) Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 55. (2) Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 516, footnote.
37. Ibid., pp. 516-517, footnote.
38. A. L. M. Nicolas, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad dit le Báb, pp. 203-204, 376.
39. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 522.
40. Comte de Gobineau, Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Aisie Centrale, pp. 224-225.
41. Nabil, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 651-654.
42. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, Fara'id, pp. 50-51.