A Year Amongst the Persians: From the Persian Frontier to Tabriz




THERE is always a pleasant sense of excitement and expectation in entering for the first time a foreign country. Especially is this the case when to visit that country has long been the object of one's ambition. Yet that which most sharply marks such a transition, and most forcibly reminds the traveller that he Is amongst another race--I mean a change of language--is not observable by one who enters Persia from the north-west; for the inhabitants of the province of Adharbayjan; which forms this portion of the Persian Empire, uniformly employ a dialect of Turkish, which, though differing widely from the speech of the Ottoman Turks, is not so far removed from it as to render either language unintelligible to those who speak the other. If, amongst the better classes in the towns of Adharbayjan, and here and there in the villages, the Persian language is understood or spoken, it is as a foreign tongue acquired by study or travel; while the narrow, affected enunciation of the vowels, so different from the bold, broad pronunciation of Persia proper, and the introduction of the Y-sound after K and G, at once serve to mark the province


to which the speaker belongs. It is not till Kazvin is reached, and only four or five stages separate the traveller from Teheran, that the Persian distinctly predominates over the Turkish language; while even four stages south of the capital, as far as the sacred city of Kum, the latter is still generally understood.

      The country immediately beyond the frontier was as desolate and devoid of cultivation as that which we had just quitted, and it was not until we reached the Persian frontier-village of Avajik that we had any opportunity of observing that change of costume which constitutes the other great sign of entry amongst a new race. Indeed the approach of night, which overtook us ere we reached our destination, prevented us even then from getting more than a very partial idea of the differences which distinguish a Persian from a Turkish village. So far as we could see, however, the change was distinctly for the better, the, square houses, built of unbaked clay, were clean and commodious, while a goodly array of poplar trees gave to the place an appearance of verdure which contrasted pleasantly with our too vivid recollections of the hideous waste of Diyadin.

      Immediately on our arrival we sent our letter of introduction, which had been given to us by the Persian Consul at Erzeroum, to Pasha Khan, the sar-hadd-dar, or Warden of the Marches, intending to pay our respects to him in the morning before our departure. While we were eating our supper, however, a message came from him to say that he would, if we pleased, receive us at once, as he was in the habit of rising late. As this invitation was practically equivalent to a command, we hastened, in spite of our weariness and disinclination to move, to respond to it, and were presently ushered by our host, who was one of the great man's retainers, into the presence of Pasha Khan, having previously removed our boots on an intimation from the farrashes who stood at the door of the presence-chamber. We were invited to seat ourselves on the floor opposite the frontier-chief, who sat in a corner of the room, on the side next the door, reclining on


cushions. On one side of him was seated his vazir, on the other a grim-looking secretary, whose face was adorned with a pair of fierce moustaches, and whose hand still held the letter of introduction which he had been reading to Pasha Khan. The Warden of the Marches conversed with me for a short time, in a somewhat fitful manner, in Persian, enquiring particularly about the terms on which England stood with Russia. Seeing however, that he was disinclined to prolong the interview, and that he appeared moody and preoccupied (a fact due, as we subsequently learned, to a quarrel which had arisen between him and his brother), we were preparing to take our leave when several servants entered bearing trays of pilaw and sherbet, of which, though we had already supped, we were compelled by politeness to partake. The sherbet was excellent, as was also the pilaw (consisting of pieces of lamb's flesh buried in rice), which we had to eat, awkwardly enough, with our hands. This accomplishment which, in spite of assiduous efforts, I never succeeded in thoroughly acquiring, is far from being so easy as might at first sight appear. The rice is pressed by the four fingers into a wedge shaped bolus, which is then thrust into the mouth by an upward motion of the terminal joint of the thumb, placed behind it. Any grains of rice which remain clinging to the fingers must then be collected by a semi-circular sweep of the thumb into another smaller bolus, which is eaten before a fresh handful of rice is taken up. It is wonderful what dexterity the Persians acquire in this method of eating, which is indeed far more cleanly and convenient than might be supposed. To the foreigner, however, it is hardly less difficult of acquisition than the Persian manner of sitting on the heels; and if, on this our first attempt, we did not meet with the ridicule of our entertainers, it was rather from their politeness than from any dexterity on our part. On the conclusion of the meal we took our leave, Pasha Khan ordering our host in his capacity of farrash to accompany us on our journey as far as Kara Ayne. For this we were very grateful, not


so much because we hoped for any advantage from our escort, as because we had feared that it might be larger; for a large escort naturally involves considerable expense.

      Next day (24th October) we started a little before 8 a.m., and we were now able to contrast the appearance of the numerous villages through which we passed with those on the Turkish side of the frontier. The comparison was certainly very much to the advantage of Persia. The houses, surrounded by gardens of poplars, were neater, cleaner, and better built than is usual in Turkey; while nearly every village contained at least one house of considerable size. The change in the costume of the people was equally striking: the fez had entirely disappeared, and its place was taken either by the thickly-lined, close-fitting skull-cap of cloth trimmed with black wool, which is called "shikari," or by the hideous long-haired papak of black or brown colour which I have already noticed as constituting the head-dress of our muleteers.

      Before we had gone very far we were overtaken by two more of Pasha Khan's mounted irregulars, who appeared desirous of attaching themselves to us as an additional escort, in spite of our unwillingness to accept their services. About 2 p.m. we reached the village of Kara Ayne, which was to be our halting-place for the night. Hearing that there was a bazaar, I was minded to visit it, but found it to be a single shop kept by a leper, whose stock- in-trade appeared to consist chiefly of small tawdry mirrors and very rank tobacco.

      On the following day we were joined by two more armed horsemen, making five in all, so that our cavalcade now presented a most imposing appearance, and there seemed to be every chance that, at this rate of proceeding, we should accumulate a small army before reaching Tabriz. In order, as I believe, to sustain our flagging faith in their utility, and to convince us of the danger of the road, an alarm of robbers was started by our escort as we were traversing a narrow defile.


Assuring us that only three days ago three men had been robbed and murdered in this very spot, they galloped wildly ahead, now cautiously ascending and peeping over the summit of a hillock, now madly descending it at break-neck speed, and scouring across the country. In the caravan all were huddled together in a compact mass; and, in spite of our scepticism, 'Ali insisted on the rifle being got ready for action, while he continued to brandish an old sword (which he had bought at Erzeroum) in the most truculent manner. Notwithstanding all these preparations, no robbers appeared; and, after we had been sufficiently entertained by the evolutions of our escort, we were permitted to lapse once more into tranquillity. Early in the afternoon, after fording a river (the eminently picturesque bridge being broken down), and passing a pretty hamlet situated by the side of a stream, we arrived at the village of Zorawa, where we halted for the night. Here we obtained very fair quarters in the house of a fine-looking old man, with some knowledge of Persian. Four or five of the inhabitants came in to stare at us and smoke their kalyans ("hubble-bubbles"), with intermittent attempts to mend a broken door. 'Ali struck up a great friendship with our host, and, inspired by this, and the reflection that on the morrow we should reach a town of some importance, made him a present of all that remained of our tea.

      Next day (26th October) we found to our delight that our escort was reduced to two, who still continued their attempts to scare us with alarms of robbers. Whether the road was indeed dangerous I do not know, but it was certainly amazingly bad. About mid-day, on emerging from a very fine gorge, we saw at our feet a wide and cultivated plain, surrounded almost entirely by mountains, except to the right, in the direction of Urumiyye. In this plain lay the beautiful little city of Khuy, and, somewhat nearer to us, the suburb of Pire--both surrounded by a mass of gardens. The latter we reached in about an hour, and here we rested for a while. Thence onwards to the very walls of


Khuy (appropriately styled "Daru's-safa," "the Abode of Delight") our way lay through pleasant gardens of poplars, willows, and fruit-trees, and fields planted with cotton. At 3.30 p.m. we entered the town, and put up at a clean and well- constructed caravansaray.

      While the baggage was being unloaded, I perceived that we were undergoing an attentive scrutiny on the part of a magnificent-looking dervish, who wore on his head a green turban, of which one end depended over his shoulder, and carried in his hand a shining battle-axe. Presently he began to address enquiries to 'Ali, and, on learning from him that I spoke Persian, approached me and entered into conversation. He proved to be a native of Kirman, Mir Jalalu'd-Din by name; and his extraordinary fertility of imagination, which often carried him far beyond the bounds, not only of the probable, but of the possible, rendered him a very amusing companion, if not a very reliable informant. He at once constituted himself our guide, philosopher, and friend, and hardly quitted us during the three days which we spent at Khuy, declaring that he perceived us to be excellent fellows, worthy of his society and conversation. He assured us that he had travelled much, and had thrice visited London, once in company with the Shah; that he had instructed members of the Russian royal family in Persian; and that besides this, his native tongue, he was conversant with no less than ten languages, including Kurdish, Russian, and the dialect of Sistan on the eastern frontier of Persia. Having given us these details about himself, he began to question us as to our destination, and, on learning that we were bound for Tabriz, told us that we must on no account omit to visit the towns of Salmas, Khusravabad, and Dilmaghan, more especially the last, in which, as he declared, there were no less than a thousand English residents, who, through converse with dervishes and Sufis, had become enlightened and philosophical. While we were engaged in conversation, a man entered the room to enquire our names and whence we


came, the object for which this information was sought being as Mir Jalalu'd-Din informed us with perfect gravity, that it might be inserted in the newspapers of Tabriz! His imagination being now temporarily exhausted, our worthy friend bade us good-night; and, promising to be with us betimes in the morning, and to show us something of the town, left us to repose.

      Our first business on awaking in the morning was to make enquiries as to the possibility of obtaining a bath in the adjacent hammam, and this indulgence was without difficulty accorded to us. On our return we found our friend the dervish awaiting our arrival. He at once launched out into a disquisition on things pertaining to his order. The true 'arif or adept, he informed us, was distinguished by four external signs: the tabar, or axe, which serves to protect him during his wanderings in the desert from ferocious beasts; the keshkul, or gourd slung on chains, in which he receives alms; the taj, or felt cap embroidered with texts, which crowns his head; and the gisu, or long locks, which fall over his shoulders. He then showed me some pills, compounded, as he assured me, after a prescription of the sage Lokman, of a substance called barsh, and known by the name of habb-i-nishat, or "pills of gladness." One of these he offered me to eat, assuring me that it would not fail to produce a most delightful sense of exhilaration and ecstasy; but, although I complied with his invitation, I failed to observe any such effect.

      About II a.m. we accompanied him for a stroll through the town. He first took us to a neighbouring caravansaray and introduced us to a Syrian Christian of Urumiyye, named Simon Abraham, who practised the trade of a photographer, and spoke English (which he had learned from the missionaries settled at that place) very well. He, in his turn, introduced us to another Syrian Christian, called Dr Samuel, who kept a dispensary at the opposite side of the caravansaray, and who likewise possessed a good knowledge of English. Both received us very cordially and did much to render pleasant our sojourn at Khuy.


      In the afternoon we were taken by the indefatigable Mir Jalalu'd-Din to visit a tekye, or retreat for dervishes, situated near the walls of the town. The dervishes, who were a most heterogeneous crew, including, besides Persians, Kurds and negroes, received us very hospitably, and gave us tea. On our return to the caravansaray, our companion introduced us to a rammal, or geomancer, who occupied a room adjacent to ours. This votary of the occult sciences, Mirza Taki by name, was a native of Kirmanshah. So far as I could see, he never quitted his cell, dividing his time between opium-smoking, tea-drinking, and casting the four dice-like brass cubes pivoted together whereby he essayed to unravel the mysteries of the future. After offering us a share of his tea, he proceeded to cast his dice and tell me my fortune, scribbling on a piece of paper the while, somewhat as follows:--"Three, two, one, two" (counting the numbers uppermost on the dice), "Praise be to Allah! thou wert born under a lucky star. One, one, three, four; thy journey will be a long one, and seven months at least will elapse ere thou shalt see again thy native land. Two, two, four, two; I take refuge with Allah, the Supreme, the Mighty! What is it that I see? Thou shalt without doubt incur a great danger on the road, and indeed it seemeth to me that one will attempt thy life before thou reachest Tabriz. Four, three, one, four; thou hast already lost, or wilt shortly lose, two things of value " (I immediately thought of my watch, and then recollected that I had informed Mir Jalalu'd-Din of its loss). "Four, four, two, one; our refuge is in God! A violent storm will overtake thee on thy voyage homewards, but from this thou wilt, In-sha'llah, escape, by means of a talisman which I will prepare for thee. Three, one, one, three; on thy return home thou wilt marry and have four sons and three daughters. Four, two, three, one; thou hast, alas! several powerful enemies, and an evil influence threatens thy star; but shouldst thou escape these (as, please God, thou wilt do, by the help of a charm which I will presently write for thee), thou wilt without


doubt gain the favour of thy Queen, and attain unto great prosperity--In-sha'llah! Thy fortune," he continued, sweeping up the implements of his craft, "is, praise be to Allah, far from bad; a proof of which is that thou hast fallen in with one truly skilled in the occult sciences, and endowed with all kinds of knowledge, who is able not only to warn thee of the misfortunes which threaten thee, but also to provide thee with the means of averting, or at least of mitigating, the same. The talismans which thou needest now are as follows:--One to protect thee from the attempt on thy life which will be made before thou reachest Tabriz; one to ensure thy safety in the storm which will assail thee on thy homeward voyage; one---"

      "Honoured sir!" I interrupted at this point, "before giving you the trouble of writing so many charms, I would fain have some further proof of the efficacy of your science. I do not, indeed, like many of my countrymen, deny its existence, but of its truth I would desire a proof which you can easily afford me. To describe the events of the past is without doubt less difficult than to predict those of the future. Tell me, then, the name of my birthplace, the number of my brothers and sisters, and the adventures which have already befallen me. Then, indeed, shall I know for certain that you are a skilful magician, and that the science which you practise is not (as some of my unbelieving countrymen assert) a vain and useless thing."

      Reasonable as this request appeared to me to be, it did not seem to meet with the approbation of the geomancer, who appeared suddenly to lose interest in the conversation, seeing which we withdrew to our own room, where we subsequently received a visit from our Syrian friends.

      Next morning, before I was dressed, Mir Jalalu'd-Din appeared with two small manuscripts, both of which, he said, belonged to a poor Sufi, who was willing to sell them for a small sum only because he was stricken down by a mortal disease. One of these manuscripts contained, besides the well-known


philosophical poem of Sheykh Mahmud Shabistari known as the Gulshan-i-Raz or "Rose Garden of Mystery," a treatise on the mystical science of managing the breath, from which he read me several long extracts. The other consisted of a few scattered pages from a work on medicine, which, he gravely informed me, had been written by the band of Galen himself, and discovered by himself and a comrade amongst the mins of one of the pyramids destroyed by the English! Not wishing to hurt the feelings of my ingenious friend by giving expression to my doubts, and thinking that some compensation was due to him for the trouble which he had been at to entertain us, I agreed to purchase these manuscripts for the moderate sum which he named.

      We next visited the dispensary of Dr Samuel, whither H--- had already preceded us. Here for the first time I was able to appreciate the difficulties incidental to the practice of medicine amongst a people whose curiosity prompts them to hover round the physician long after their own cases have been dealt with, and who are only too eager to throw out hints on diagnosis and treatment whenever they get the opportunity. Our visit to the dispensary was so far unfortunate that, on returning to our caravansaray towards evening, after a stroll in the bazaar and a chat with the postmaster, I found a crowd of people assembled outside, who, on beholding me, cried out, "He comes! the Firangi hakim has arrived," and thronged after me into the square. This assembly consisted of several sick people, accompanied by a number of their friends and relatives, who, hearing that we had some knowledge of medicine, were anxious to consult us. On enquiry I learned that they had previously been attending Dr Samuel, from whom they had obtained medicine, of which they had only made a very brief trial. I therefore told them that they had better give his treatment a fair chance before deserting it for some new remedy, especially as I was convinced, both by conversation with the Syrian doctor, and by observation of his practice, that he was at least as competent as myself to advise them.


      It was with much regret that on the following morning (29th October) we prepared to quit Khuy. For some time I despaired of ever getting off. Inside the room, where we were vainly attempting to pack our things, were our Syrian friends together with Mir Jalalu'd-Din, who had come to bid us farewell Outside were crowds of sick people come for advice and treatment, irregular soldiers anxious to be engaged as an escort, and idle spectators; while above all was visible the ugly grinning face of Feyzu'llah, the muleteer, trying to hasten our departure with cries of "Gidakh!" which, in the Turkish dialect of Adharbayjan, signifies "Let us go." At length, about 11 a.m., our preparations were completed, and we were on the point of starting, when Mir Jalalu'd-Din (who had disappeared for a while previously) approached me to bid me farewell and to give me two more proofs of his good will. The first of these was a letter of introduction to a brother dervish at Tabriz, who, he assured me, would very probably consent to accompany me on my travels, and would perhaps even return with me to my native country. Unfortunately, I was unable to put this statement to the test, and the letter was never used. The second was a small white circular object, looking like an unperforated and much worn shirt button, which he said was a talisman, sufficient, in all probability, to protect me against the danger of being robbed or murdered which had been predicted by the opium-smoking geomancer. As a further precaution, however, he added that I should do well, in the event of robbers making their appearance, to dismount from my horse, take a handful of dust from the road, blow on it, and scatter it around me, at the same time uttering the "Bismi'llah," when the robbers would infallibly disperse. He then asked me to give him a nadhr, or offering of money for the dervishes, who would exert their influence to protect me from harm, and, having received this, he finally bade me farewell.

      Quitting the town by a gate opposite to that by which we had entered it, we passed through a long avenue of poplars,


and shortly afterwards reached a point where the road bifurcated, one branch running southwards in the direction of Urumiyye, and the other, which we pursued, eastwards towards the hills which we must cross to reach Tabriz. Near the summit of one of these hills was a small imamzade, or shrine, which, as Farach informed us, was reputed most efficacious in curing persons afflicted with hydrophobia, or bitten by a serpent. After a short stage of four hours we reached a little village called Seyyid Taju'd-Din, where we halted for the night.

      Next day we continued to ascend for about two hours, until we reached the top of the pass. From this we had a magnificent view of the great salt lake of Urumiyye, glittering in the sun, and studded with numerous rocky islands, which, as an effect of the mirage, appeared deeply indented at the base. Descending by the dry bed of a river which did duty for a road, we soon entered the plain which skirts the lake on this its northern side. Here we fell in with a wandering snake-charmer, who, after exhibiting to us the immunity with which he handled his snakes, pressed us to buy pieces of dirty bread, which he assured us would prove an infallible remedy for snake-bites. This, however, I declined to do, for I thought myself sufficiently provided with talismans for the present.

      Before 2 p.m. we reached our halting-place, Tasuch, a large but uninteresting village distant about a mile from the shore of the lake. Nothing worthy of note befell us here, except the loss of a purse of money, which event our friend the geomancer, had he known of it, might perhaps have claimed as the fulfilment of a part of his prediction.

      The following day's march took us to Dize-Khalil, a good- sized village with a fair bazaar, situated amidst gardens of poplars near the north-east corner of the lake. Here we obtained good quarters, where our host brought us, together with a present of flowers, an old copy of the Pilgrim's Progress left behind by some previous traveller.


      Next day, Tuesday, 1st November, after a tedious march of nearly ten hours, broken by a short halt about 2 p.m. at a disconsolate village called Miyan, we reached Tabriz, the capital of the province of Adharbayjan, the residence of the Vali-'ahd, or Crown Prince, and one of the largest, if not the largest, of the cities of Persia. Although we were provided with letters of introduction to Mr Abbott, the British Consul, it was too late to think of presenting them that evening, and accordingly, after threading our way for nearly an hour through the vast suburbs which surround the city, we were glad to alight at the first respectable caravansaray which we came to.

      On the following morning we repaired to the British Consulate, and were very kindly received by Mr Abbott and his wife, who invited us to be their guests during our sojourn in Tabriz. We gladly accepted this invitation, for we had not seen a European since leaving Erzeroum, and had not slept in a proper bed since we quitted the Hotel d'Italie at Trebizonde.

      We remained at Tabriz four days. During this time we became acquainted with Mr Whipple, one of the American missionaries, who kindly undertook to pilot us through the interminable labyrinth of bazaars (perhaps the most extensive in Persia), and the Turkish Consul, Behjet Bey, who, in addition to an excellent knowledge of Persian, possessed the best temper, the keenest sense of humour, the cheeriest laugh, and the most voracious appetite that I have ever seen in one of his nation.

      Although Tabriz is so important a town, it offers few attractions to the sight-seer beyond the bazaars, the "Blue Mosque" (Masjid-i-Kabud), and the citadel (Arg), of which the two last are said to date from the time of Harunu'r-Rashid.

      Both of these monuments of antiquity we visited on the second day after our arrival. The Blue Mosque is now little more than a ruin, but the handsome tiles and inscriptions which still adorn its walls bear witness to its ancient splendour. The citadel (also said to have been originally a mosque) consists of


a square enclosure with a single entrance, opposite to which rises a lofty, massive rectangular tower, accessible by means of a staircase in the left lateral wall of the quadrangle. The opposite side of the quadrangle is formed by a large anbar, or magazine, now used as a storehouse for arms and ammunition.

      The view from the summit of the citadel is very extensive, and enabled me in some degree to realise the magnitude of the city, which lay below us like a map. From this height, in former days, criminals were sometimes hurled into the ditch below. On one occasion, we were informed, a woman condemned to suffer death in this manner was so buoyed up by the air inflating her loose garments that she reached the ground uninjured. Whether this story is true or false I cannot say, neither did I pay much attention to its recital, my thoughts being occupied with the tragic death of the young prophet of Shiraz, Mirza 'Ali Muhammad, better known as the Bab, which took place on 9th July 1850, at or near this spot. As I shall have to say a good deal about the Babi religion in subsequent chapters, it may not be altogether out of place to give here a brief account of the life and death of its founder, although the history of these is well known, and has been repeatedly set forth.*

      Mirza 'Ali Muhammad was born at Shiraz on 9th October 1820. His father, Seyyid Muhammad Riza, a cloth-merchant in that town, died while he was still of tender age, leaving him to the care of his uncle Haji Sewid 'Ali. At the age of seventeen he was sent to the port of Bushire on the Persian Gulf, where, while engaged in transacting the business with which he had been entrusted, he rendered himself conspicuous not less by the


austerity of his morals than by the sweetness and amiability of his disposition. Addicted from an early age to religious meditation, he was soon impelled to abandon commercial pursuits and to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca and the shrines of the Imams (so dear to every pious Persian) at Nejef and Kerbela. Here he became the pupil of Haji Seyyid Kazim of Resht, a theologian who, notwithstanding the enmity and opposition of the orthodox Shi'ite clergy, had already begun to exert a considerable influence on Persian thought, and to gather round him a numerous band of ardent disciples. Mirza 'Ali Muhammad, in spite of his youth and retiring disposition, soon attracted the attention of this teacher, who did not fail to be struck by the sweet and thoughtful countenance of the young Shirazi. Nor was Seyyid Kazim the only one who yielded to a charm which few could wholly resist. Many other learned and devout men began to look with respect and affection on one whose humility only served to throw his other virtues into bolder relief. Thus were sown the seeds of that devotion which was destined ere long to write the testimony of its sincerity in letters of blood throughout the length and breadth of the Persian land, and which was to prove once more to the world that all the torments which the tyrant can devise or the torturer execute are impotent to subdue the courage born of faith and enthusiasm.

      It is unnecessary for me to describe in detail the process whereby there grew up in the mind of Mirza 'Ali Muhammad a conviction that he was destined to become the reformer and saviour of his nation. Suffice it to say, that, after a prolonged inward struggle, on 23rd May 1844 he proclaimed himself to the world as the Bab or Gate whereby men might win to the sacred mysteries and spiritual truths of which he had become the recipient.

      Before long he had gathered round himself a number of disciples. Amongst these were many of the most distinguished pupils of Seyyid Kazim, whose recent death had left them temporarily without a recognised head. They eagerly adopted the


doctrines of their former fellow-student, and began to preach them openly wherever they went, so that in a short time the fame of Mirza 'Ali Muhammad was noised abroad throughout the whole of Persia, and everywhere men began to say that the Imam Mahdi had come at last for the deliverance of the nations and the establishment of universal justice and peace.

      At first but little attention was paid to the new sect by the government or clergy, but towards the end of the summer of 1845 they began to be alarmed at its rapid spread, and took measures to check its progress. The Bab, who had just returned from Mecca to Bushire, was brought to Shiraz and placed in confinement. His followers were prohibited from discussing his doctrines in public, and some of the more active were beaten, mutilated, and expelled from the town. In the early summer of 1846, however, a plague broke out in Shiraz, and, during the general consternation caused by this, the Bab effected his escape, and made his way to Isfahan, where he was well received by Minuchihr Khan, governor of that city, who afforded him protection and hospitality for nearly a year.

      Early in 1847 Minuchihr Khan died, and his successor, anxious to curry favour with the Government, sent the Bab, under the care of an escort of armed horsemen, to the capital. So serious were the apprehensions already entertained by the Government of a popular demonstration in the prisoner's favour, that his guards had received instructions to avoid entering the towns by which they must needs pass. At Kashan, however, a respectable merchant named Mirza Jani*, who subsequently suffered


martyrdom for his faith, prevailed on them by means of a bribe to allow their prisoner to tarry with him two days. At the village of Khanlik, also near Teheran, a number of believers came out to meet the Bab. Amongst these was Mirza Huseyn 'Ali of Nur in Mazandaran, who, at a later date, under the title of Beha'u'llah ("the Splendour of God"), was recognised by the great majority of the Babis as their spiritual chief, and who, till his death on 16th May 1892, resided at Acre in Syria, surrounded by a band of faithful followers, and visited yearly by numbers of pilgrims

      The king, Muhammad Shah, and his chief minister, Haji Mirza Aghasi, dreading the effect likely to be produced in the capital by the presence of the Bab, determined to send him to the fortress of Maku on the north-west frontier of Persia, without allowing him to enter Teheran. Thither he was accordingly conveyed; but at Zanjan and Milan he received a popular ovation and even at Maku it was found impossible to prevent him from receiving occasional letters and visits from his adherents. Nor did the plan of transferring him to the sterner custody of Yahya Khan, governor of the castle of Chihrik, near Urumiyye, meet with much better success in this respect.

      Meantime, while the Bab was occupying the weary days of his imprisonment in compiling and arranging the books destined to serve as a guide to his followers after the fate which he had but too much cause to apprehend should have removed him from their midst, his emissaries were actively engaged in propagating his doctrines. Fiery enthusiasm on the part of these was met by fierce opposition from the orthodox party, headed by the clergy and it needed only the confusion and disorder introduced into all departments of the empire by the death of Muhammad Shah (5th October 1848) to bring the two factions into armed collision The strife, once kindled, rapidly assumed the most alarming proportions, and the reign of the new king, Nasiru'd-Din Shah, was inaugurated by formidable insurrections of the Babis at Yezd, Niriz, Zanjan, and in Mazandaran. Of the two latter


risings I shall have to say something when I come to speak of the places at which they occurred. For the present it is sufficient to state that, after the rising in Mazandaran had been suppressed with great difficulty and the sacrifice of many lives, a revolt, which threatened to defy the united efforts of the whole Persian army, broke out at Zanjan. Thereupon, by the advice of Mirza Taki Khan (at that time prime minister to the young king), an attempt was made to strike terror into the hearts of the insurgents, and to fill their minds with despair, by the public execution of the Bab, who, though innocent of any direct share in the plans or councils of the rebels, was regarded as the source from which they drew the enthusiasm which inspired them with a resolution so obstinate and a courage so invincible.

      Accordingly, orders were despatched to Tabriz to bring the Bab thither from his prison-house, and, after the form of a trial, to put him to death. After enduring all manner of insults at the hands of the Government authorities, the clergy, and the rabble of the city, through the streets of which he was dragged for many hours, he was finally brought to the place of execution, near the citadel, a little before sundown. An immense crowd, drawn thither some by sympathy, others by a vindictive desire to witness the death of one whom they regarded as an arch-heretic, but actuated for the most part, probably, by mere curiosity, was here assembled. Many of those who composed it were at least half- convinced of the divine mission of the Bab; others, who had come with feelings of animosity or indifference, were moved to compassion by the sight of the youthful victim, who continued to manifest the same dignity and fortitude which had characterised him during the whole period of his imprisonment.

      The Bab was not to suffer alone. The sentence which had been pronounced against him included also two of his disciples. One of these, Aka Seyyid Huseyn of Yezd, who had been his companion and amanuensis during the whole period of his captivity, either actuated by a momentary but uncontrollable fear of death,


or, as the Babis assert with more probability, obediently to orders received from his Master, bidding him escape at all hazards and convey to the faithful the sacred writings of which he was the depository, declared himself willing to renounce the creed for which he had already sacrificed so much, and the Master to whom he had hitherto so faithfully adhered. His recantation was accepted and his life spared, but his death was only deferred for two years. In September 1852 he met the fate which he no longer affected to fear amongst the martyrs of Teheran.

      The other disciple was a young merchant of Tabriz, named Aka Muhammad 'Ali. Although every effort was made to induce him to follow the example of his comrade, and though his wife and little children were brought before him, entreating him with tears to save his life, he stood firm in his faith, and only requested that at the moment of death he might still be allowed to fix his gaze on his Master. Finding all efforts to alter his decision unavailing, the executioners proceeded to suspend him alongside of his Master at the distance of a few feet from the ground by means of cords passed under the arms. As he hung thus he was heard to address the Bab in these words: "Master! art thou satisfied with me?" Then the file of soldiers drawn up before the prisoners received the command to fire, and for a moment The smoke of the volley concealed the sufferers from view. When it rolled away, a cry of mingled exultation and terror arose from the spectators, for, while the bleeding corpse of the disciple hung suspended in the air pierced with bullets, the Bab had disappeared from sight! It seemed, indeed, that his life had been preserved by a miracle, for, of the storm of bullets which had been aimed a him, not one had touched him; nay, instead of death they had brought him deliverance by cutting the ropes which bound him so that he fell to the ground unhurt.

      For a moment even the executioners were overwhelmed with amazement, which rapidly gave place to alarm as they reflected what effect this marvellous deliverance was likely to have on the


inconstant and impressionable multitude. These apprehensions, however, were of short duration. One of the soldiers espied the Bab hiding in a guardroom which opened on to the stone platform over which he had been suspended. He was seized, dragged forth, and again suspended; a new firing-party was ordered to advance (for the men who had composed the first refused to act again); and before the spectators had recovered from their first astonishment, or the Babis had had time to attempt a rescue, the body of the young prophet of Shiraz was riddled with bullets.

      The two corpses were dragged through the streets and bazaars, and cast out beyond the city gates to be devoured by dogs and jackals. From this last indignity, however, they were saved by the devotion of Suleyman Khan and a few other believers, who, whether by force, bribes, or the influence of powerful friends, succeeded in obtaining possession of them. They were wrapped in white silk, placed in one coffin, and sent to Teheran, where, by order of Mirza Yahya Subh-i-Ezel ("the Morning of Eternity," who, though but twenty years of age, had been chosen to succeed the Bab), they were deposited in a little shrine called Imam-zade-i-Ma'sum, which stands by the Hamadan road not far from Ribat-Karim. Here they remained undisturbed for seventeen or eighteen years, till the schism originated by Beha deprived his half-brother Ezel of the supremacy in the Babi Church which he hitherto enjoyed, when they were removed by the Beha'is, to whom alone is now known the last resting-place of the glorious martyrs of Tabriz.

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