he Baha'i Movement is now well known throughout the world, and the time has come when Nabil's unique narrative of its beginnings in darkest Persia will interest many readers. The record which he sets down with such devoted care is in many respects extraordinary. It has its thrilling passages, and the splendour of the central theme gives to the chronicle not only great historical value but high moral power. Its lights are strong; and this effect is more intense because they seem like a sunburst at midnight. The tale is one of struggle and martyrdom; its poignant scenes, its tragic incidents are many. Corruption, fanaticisms and cruelty gather against the cause of reformation to destroy it, and the present volume closes at the point where a riot of hate seems to have accomplished its purpose and to have driven into exile or put to death every man, woman, and child in Persia who dared to profess a leaning towards the teaching of the Bab.
Nabil, himself a participant in some of the scenes which he recites, took up his lonely pen to recite the truth about men and women so mercilessly persecuted and a movement so grievously traduced.
He writes with ease, and when his emotions are strongly stirred his style becomes vigorous and trenchant. He does not present with any system the claims and teaching of Baha'u'llah and His Forerunner. His purpose is the simple one of rehearsing the beginnings of the Baha'i Revelation and of preserving the remembrance of the deeds of its early champions. He relates a series of incidents, punctiliously quoting his authority for almost every item of information. His work in consequence, if less artistic and philosophic, gains in value as a literal account of what he knew or could from credible witnesses discover about the early history of the Cause.
The main features of the narrative (the saintly heroic
There exists in English, however, a literature about Persia in the nineteenth century which will give the Western reader ample information on the subject. From Persian writings which have already been translated, or from books of European travellers like Lord Curzon, Sir J. Malcolm, and others not a few, he will find a lifelike and vivid if unlovely picture of the Augean conditions which the Bab had to confront when He inaugurated the Movement in the middle of the nineteenth century.
All observers agree in representing Persia as a feeble and
backward nation divided against itself by corrupt practices
and ferocious bigotries. Inefficiency and wretchedness, the
fruit of moral decay, filled the land. From the highest to
the lowest there appeared neither the capacity to carry out
methods of reform nor even the will seriously to institute
them National conceit preached a grandiose self-content.
A pall of immobility lay over all things, and a general paralysis
of mind made any development impossible.
To a student of history the degeneracy of a nation once so powerful and so illustrious seems pitiful in the extreme. Abdu'l-Baha, who in spite of the cruelties heaped on Baha'u'llah, on the Bab, and on Himself, yet loved His country, called their degradation "the tragedy of a people"; and in that work, "The Mysterious Forces of Civilisation," in which He sought to stir the hearts of His compatriots to undertake radical reforms, He uttered a poignant lament over the present fate of a people who once had extended their conquests east and west and had led the civilisation of mankind. "In former times," he writes, "Persia was verily the heart of the world and shone among the nations like a lighted taper. Her glory and prosperity broke from the horizon of humanity like the true dawn disseminating the light of knowledge and illumining the nations of the East and West. The fame of her victorious kings reached the ears of the dwellers at the poles of the earth. The majesty of her king of kings humbled the monarchs of Greece and Rome Her governing wisdom filled the sages with awe, and the rulers of the continents fashioned their laws upon her polity. The Persians being distinguished among the nations of the earth as a people of conquerors, and justly admired for their civilisation and learning, their country became the glorious centre of all the sciences and arts, the mine of culture and a fount of virtues. ...How is it that this excellent country now, by reason of our sloth, vanity, and indifference, from the lack of knowledge and organisation, from the poverty of the zeal and ambition of her people, has suffered the rays of her prosperity to be darkened and well-nigh extinguished?"
Other writers describe fully those unhappy conditions to which Abdu'l-Baha refers.
At the time when the Bab declared His Mission, the
government of the country was, in Lord Curzon's phrase,
"a Church-State." Venal, cruel, and immoral as it was, it
was formally religious. Muslim orthodoxy was its basis and
permeated to the core both it and the social lives of the
people. But otherwise there were no laws, statutes, or charters
to guide the direction of public affairs. There was no
House of Lords nor Privy Council, no synod, no Parliament.
The Shah was despot, and his arbitrary rule was reflected
Descendants of the Shahs were thrust into the most lucrative posts throughout the country, and as the generations went by they filled innumerable minor posts too, far and wide, till the land was burdened with this race of royal drones who owed their position to nothing better than their blood and who gave rise to the Persian saying that "camels, fleas, and princes exist everywhere."
Even when a Shah wished to make a just and wise decision in any case that might be brought before him for judgment, he found it difficult to do so, because he could not rely on the information given him. Critical facts would be withheld, or the facts given would be distorted by the influence of interested witnesses or venal ministers. The system of corruption had been carried so far in Persia that it had become a recognised institution which Lord Curzon describes in the following terms:
"I come now to that which is the cardinal and differentiating
feature of Iranian administration. Government, nay,
life itself, in that country may be said to consist for the
most part of an interchange of presents. Under its social
aspects this practice may be supposed to illustrate the generous
sentiments of an amiable people; though even here it
has a grimly unemotional side, as, for instance, when, congratulating
yourself upon being the recipient of a gift, you
find that not only must you make a return of equivalent
cost to the donor, but must also liberally remunerate the
bearer of the gift (to whom your return is very likely the
sole recognised means of subsistence) in a ratio proportionate
"...The `madakhil' is a cherished national institution
in Persia, the exaction of which, in a myriad different forms,
whose ingenuity is only equalled by their multiplicity, is the
crowning interest and delight of a Persian's existence. This
remarkable word, for which Mr. Watson says there is no
precise English equivalent, may be variously translated as
commission, perquisite, douceur, consideration, pickings and
stealings, profit, according to the immediate context in which
it is employed. Roughly speaking, it signifies that balance
of personal advantage, usually expressed in money form,
which can be squeezed out of any and every transaction. A
negotiation, in which two parties are involved as donor and
recipient, as superior and subordinate, or even as equal contracting
agents, cannot take place in Persia without the party
who can be represented as the author of the favour or service
claiming and receiving a definite cash return for what he
has done or given. It may of course be said that human
nature is much the same all the world over; that a similar
system exists under a different name in our own or other
countries, and that the philosophic critic will welcome in the
Persian a man and a brother. To some extent this is true.
But in no country that I have ever seen or heard of in the
world, is the system so open, so shameless, or so universal
as in Persia. So far from being limited to the sphere of
To read the foregoing is to perceive something of the difficulty of the Bab's mission; to read the following is to understand the dangers he faced, and to be prepared for a story of violence and heinous cruelty.
"Before I quit the subject of the Persian law and its
administration, let me add a few words upon the subject of
penalties and prisons. Nothing is more shocking to the
European reader, in pursuing his way through the crime-stained
and bloody pages of Persian history during the last
and, in a happily less degree, during the present century,
than the record of savage punishments and abominable tortures,
testifying alternately to the callousness of the brute
and the ingenuity of the fiend. The Persian character has
ever been fertile in device and indifferent to suffering; and
in the field of judicial executions it has found ample scope
for the exercise of both attainments. Up till quite a recent
"...Under a twofold governing system, such as that of which I have now completed the description--namely, an administration in which every actor is, in different aspects, both the briber and the bribed; and a judicial procedure, without either a law or a law court--it will readily be understood that confidence in the Government is not likely to exist, that there is no personal sense of duty or pride of honour, no mutual trust or co-operation (except in the service of ill-doing), no disgrace in exposure, no credit in virtue, above all no national spirit or patriotism."
From the beginning the Bab must have divined the reception which would be accorded by His countrymen to His teachings, and the fate which awaited Him at the hands of the mullas. But He did not allow personal misgivings to affect the frank enunciation of His claims nor the open presentation of His Cause. The innovations which He proclaimed, though purely religious, were drastic; the announcement of His own identity startling and tremendous. He made Himself known as the Qa'im, the High Prophet or Messiah so long promised, so eagerly expected by the Muhammadan world. He added to this the declaration that he was also the Gate (that is, the Bab) through whom a greater Manifestation than Himself was to enter the human realm.
Putting Himself thus in line with the traditions of Islam,
and appearing as the fulfilment of prophecy, He came into
conflict with those who had fixed and ineradicable ideas
(different from His) as to what those prophecies and traditions
meant. The two great Persian sects of Islam, the
shi'ah and the sunnis, both attached vital importance to the
ancient deposit of their faith but did not agree as to its contents
or its import. The shi'ah, out of whose doctrines the
Babi Movement rose, held that after the ascension of the
High Prophet Muhammad He was succeeded by a line of
twelve Imams. Each of these, they held, was specially endowed
The sunnis, on the other hand, take a less exalted view of the office of those who have succeeded the High Prophet. They regard the vicegerency less as a spiritual than as a practical matter. The Khalif is, in their eyes, the Defender of the Faith, and he owes his appointment to the choice and approval of the People.
Important as these differences are, both sects agree, however,
in expecting a twofold Manifestation. The shi'ahs look
for the Qa'im, who is to come in the fulness of time, and also
for the return of the Imam Husayn. The sunnis await the
appearance of the Mihdi and also "the return of Jesus Christ."
When, at the beginning of his Mission, the Bab, continuing
the tradition of the shi'ahs, proclaimed His function under
the double title of, first, the Qa'im and, second, the Gate,
or Bab, some of the Muhammadans misunderstood the latter
reference. They imagined His meaning to be that He was a
fifth Gate In succession to Abu'l-Hasan-'Ali. His true meaning,
however, as He himself clearly announced, was very
There are many authentic traditions showing that the Qa'im on His appearance would bring new laws with Him and would thus abrogate Islam. But this was not the understanding of the established hierarchy. They 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 Bab revealed His Bayan, 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. They declared before the Shah and all the people that this upstart was an enemy of sound learning, a subverter of Islam, a traitor to Muhammad, and a peril not only to the holy church but to the social order and to the State itself.
The cause of the rejection and persecution of the Bab
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 a merely 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 that dealt 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 Pharisees themselves, and
For reasons exactly parallel, the Bab was from the beginning opposed by the vested interests of the dominant Church as an uprooter of the Faith. Yet, even in that dark and fanatical country, the mullas (like the Scribes in Palestine eighteen centuries before) did not find it very easy to put forward a plausible pretext for destroying Him whom they thought their enemy.
The only known record of the Bab's having been seen by
a European belongs to the period of His persecution when
an English physician resident in Tabriz, Dr. Cormick, was
called in by the Persian authorities to pronounce on the
Bab's mental condition. The doctor's letter, addressed to a
fellow practitioner in an American mission in Persia, is given
in Professor E. G. Browne's "Materials for the Study of the
Babi Religion." "You ask me," writes the doctor, "for some
particulars of my interview with the founder of the sect
known as Babis. Nothing of any importance transpired in
this interview, as the Bab was aware of my having been
sent with two other Persian doctors to see whether he was
of sane mind or merely a madman, to decide the question
whether he was to be put to death or not. With this knowledge
he was loth to answer any questions put to him. To all
enquiries he merely regarded us with a mild look, chanting
in a low melodious voice some hymns, I suppose. Two other
siyyids, his intimate friends, were also present, who subsequently
were put to death with him, besides a couple of
government officials. He only deigned to answer me, on my
saying that I was not a Musulman and was willing to know
something about his religion, as I might perhaps be inclined
to adopt it. He regarded me very intently on my saying
this, and replied that he had no doubt of all Europeans
coming over to his religion. Our report to the Shah at that
time was of a nature to spare his life. He was put to death
some time after by the order of the Amir-Nizam, Mirza Taqi
Khan. On our report he merely got the bastinado, in which
operation a farrash, whether intentionally or not, struck him
Such was the impression made by the Bab upon a cultivated Englishman. And as far as the influence of His character and teaching have since spread through the West, no other record is extant of His having been observed or seen by European eyes.
His qualities were so rare in their nobility and beauty, His personality so gentle and yet so forceful, and His natural charm was combined with so much tact and judgment, that after His Declaration He quickly became in Persia a widely popular figure. He would win over almost all with whom He was brought into personal contact, often converting His gaolers to His Faith and turning the ill-disposed into admiring friends.
To silence such a man without incurring some degree of public odium was not very easy even in the Persia of the middle of last century. But with the Bab's followers it was another matter.
The mullas encountered here no cause for delay and
found little need for scheming. The bigotry of the Muhammadans
Many of the incidents of this unhappy story are given by Nabil in his history, and among these the happenings at Mazindaran, Nayriz, and Zanjan stand out by reason of the character of the episodes of the heroism of the Babis when thus brought to bay. On these three occasions a number of Babis, driven to desperation, withdrew in concert from their houses to a chosen retreat and, erecting defensive works about them, defied in arms further pursuit. To any impartial witness it was evident that the mullas' allegations of a political motive were untrue. The Babis showed themselves always ready--on an assurance that they would be no longer molested for their religious beliefs--to return peacefully to their civil occupations. Nabil emphasises their care to refrain from aggression. They would fight for their lives with determined skill and strength; but they would not attack. Even in the midst of a fierce conflict they would not drive home an advantage nor strike an unnecessary blow.
Abdu'l-Baha is quoted in the "Traveller's Narrative," pp. 34-35, as making the following statement on the moral aspect of their action:
"The minister (Mirza Taqi Khan), with the utmost arbitrariness,
without receiving any instructions or asking permission,
sent forth commands in all directions to punish and
chastise the Babis. Governors and magistrates sought a pretext
for amassing wealth, and officials a means of acquiring
profits; celebrated doctors from the summits of their pulpits
incited men to make a general onslaught; the powers of the
religious and the civil law linked hands and strove to eradicate
Baha'u'llah, on proclaiming some years later His Mission, left no room for uncertainty as to the law of His Dispensation in such a predicament when He affirmed: "It is better to be killed than to kill."
Whatever resistance the Babis offered, here or elsewhere, proved ineffective. They were overwhelmed by numbers. The Bab Himself was taken from His cell and executed. Of His chief disciples who avowed their belief in Him, 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.
But the fire, though smothered, was not quenched. It burned in the hearts of the exiles who carried it from country to country as they travelled. Even in the homeland of Persia it had penetrated too deeply to be extinguished by physical violence, and still smouldered in the people's hearts, needing only a breath from the spirit to be fanned into an all-consuming conflagration.
The Second and greater Manifestation of God was proclaimed
in accordance with the prophecy of the Bab at the
date which He had foretold. Nine years after the beginning
Now the great Movement for which the Bab had prepared the way began to show the full range and magnificence of its power. Though Baha'u'llah Himself lived and died an exile and a prisoner and was known to few Europeans, His epistles proclaiming the new Advent were borne to the great rulers of both hemispheres, from the Shah of Persia to the Pope and to the President of the United States. After His passing, His son Abdu'l-Baha carried the tidings in person into Egypt and far through the Western world. Abdu'l-Baha visited England, France, Switzerland, Germany, and America, announcing everywhere that once again the heavens had opened and that a new Dispensation had come to bless the sons of men. He died in November, 1921; and to-day the fire that once seemed to have been put out for ever, burns again in every part of Persia, has established itself on the American continent, and has laid hold of every country in the world. Around the sacred writings of Baha'u'llah and the authoritative exposition of Abdu'l-Baha there is growing a large volume of literature in comment or in witness. The humanitarian and spiritual principles enunciated decades ago in the darkest East by Baha'u'llah and moulded by Him into a coherent scheme are one after the other being taken by a world unconscious of their source as the marks of progressive civilisation. And the sense that mankind has broken with the past and that the old guidance will not carry it through the emergencies of the present has filled with uncertainty and dismay all thoughtful men save those who have learned to find in the story of Baha'u'llah the meaning of all the prodigies and portents of our time.
Nearly three generations have passed since the inception
of the Movement. Any of its early adherents who escaped
the sword and the stake have long since passed away in the
course of nature. The door of contemporary information as
to its two great leaders and their heroic disciples is closed
for ever. The Chronicle of Nabil as a careful collection of
facts made in the interests of truth and completed in the
He entered the presence of Baha'u'llah in Kirmanshah and Tihran before the date of the exile to Iraq, and afterwards was in attendance upon Him in Baghdad and Adrianople as well as in the prison-city of Akka. He was sent more than once on missions to Persia to promote the Cause and to encourage the scattered and persecuted believers, and he was living in Akka when Baha'u'llah passed away in 1892 A.D. The manner of his death was pathetic and lamentable, for he became so dreadfully affected by the death of the Great Beloved that, overmastered by grief, he drowned himself in the sea, and his dead body was found washed ashore near the city of Akka.
His chronicle was begun in 1888, when he had the personal assistance of Mirza Musa, the brother of Baha'u'llah. It was finished in about a year and a half, and parts of the manuscript were reviewed and approved, some by Baha'u'llah, and others by Abdu'l-Baha.
The complete work carries the history of the Movement up to the death of Baha'u'llah in 1892.
The first half of this narrative, closing with the expulsion
of Baha'u'llah from Persia, is contained in the present volume.
Its importance is evident. It will be read less for the few
stirring passages of action which it contains, or even for its
many pictures of heroism and unwavering faith, than for the
abiding significance of those events of which it gives so unique
"In theory the king may do what he pleases; his word is law. The saying that `The law of the Medes and Persians altereth not' was merely an ancient periphrasis for the absolutism of the sovereign. He appoints and he may dismiss all ministers, officers, officials, and judges. Over his own family and household, and over the civil or military functionaries in his employ, he has power of life and death without reference to any tribunal. The property of any such individual, if disgraced or executed, reverts to him. The right to take life in any case is vested in him alone, but can be delegated to governors or deputies. All property, not previously granted by the crown or purchased--all property, in fact, to which a legal title cannot be established--belongs to him, and can be disposed of at his pleasure. All rights or privileges, such as the making of public works, the working of mines, the institution of telegraphs, roads, railroads, tramways, etc., the exploitation, in fact, of any of the resources of the country, are vested in him, and must be purchased from him before they can be assumed by others. In his person are fused the threefold functions of government, legislative, executive, and judicial. No obligation is imposed upon him beyond the outward observance of the forms of the national religion. He is the pivot upon which turns the entire machinery of public life.
"Such is, in theory, and was till lately in practice, the
character of the Persian monarchy. Nor has a single one of
these high pretensions been overtly conceded. The language
in which the Shah addresses his subjects and is addressed by
them, recalls the proud tone in which an Artaxerxes or Darius
spoke to his tributary millions, and which may still be read
in the graven record of rock-wall and tomb. He remains the
Shahinshah, or King of Kings; the Zillu'llah, or Shadow of
God; the Qibliy-i-'Alam, or Centre of the Universe; `Exalted
like the planet Saturn; Well of Science; Footpath of Heaven;
Sublime Sovereign, whose standard is the Sun, whose splendour
is that of the Firmament; Monarch of armies numerous
"...Such is the divinity that doth hedge a throne in Persia, that not merely does the Shah never attend at state dinners or eat with his subjects at table, with the exception of a single banquet to his principal male relatives at Naw-ruz, but the attitude and language employed towards him even by his confidential ministers are those of servile obeisance and adulation. `May I be your sacrifice, Asylum of the Universe,' is the common mode of address adopted even by subjects of the highest rank. In his own surrounding there is no one to tell him the truth or to give him dispassionate counsel. The foreign Ministers are probably almost the only source from which he learns facts as they are, or receives unvarnished, even if interested, advice. With the best intentions in the world for the undertaking of great plans and for the amelioration of his country, he has little or no control over the execution of an enterprise which has once passed out of his hands and has become the sport of corrupt and self-seeking officials. Half the money voted with his consent never reaches its destination, but sticks to every intervening pocket with which a professional ingenuity can bring it into transient contact; half the schemes authorised by him are never brought any nearer to realisation, the minister or functionary in charge trusting to the oblivious caprices of the sovereign to overlook his dereliction of duty.
"...Only a century ago the abominable system prevailed of blinding possible aspirants to the throne, of savage mutilations and life-long captivities, of wanton slaughter and systematic bloodshed. Disgrace was not less sudden than promotion, and death was a frequent concomitant of disgrace.
"...Fath-'Ali Shah ... and his successors after him,
have proved so extraordinarily prolific of male offspring that
the continuity of the dynasty has been assured; and there is
"...Just as, in the course of his [Nasiri'd-Din Shah's] European travels, he picked up a vast number of what appeared, to the Eastern mind, to be wonderful curiosities, but which have since been stacked in the various apartments of the palace, or put away and forgotten; so in the larger sphere of public policy and administration he is continually taking up and pushing some new scheme or invention which, when the caprice has been gratified, is neglected or allowed to expire. One week it is gas; another it is electric lights. Now it is a staff college; anon, a military hospital. To-day it is a Russian uniform; yesterday it was a German man-of-war for the Persian Gulf. A new army warrant is issued this year; a new code of law is promised for the next. Nothing comes of any of these brilliant schemes, and the lumber-rooms of the palace are not more full of broken mechanism and discarded bric-a-brac than are the pigeon-holes of the government bureaux of abortive reforms and dead fiascoes.
"...In an upper chamber of the same pavilion, Mirza
Abu'l-Qasim, the Qa'im-Maqam, or Grand Vazir, of Muhammad
Shah (the father of the present monarch), was strangled
in 1835, by order of his royal master, who therein followed
an example set him by his predecessor, and set one himself
that was duly followed by his son. It must be rare in history
to find three successive sovereigns who have put to death,
from jealous motives only, the three ministers who have
either raised them to the throne or were at the time of their
fall filling the highest office in the State. Such is the triple
distinction of Fath-'Ali, Muhammad, and Nasiri'd-Din Shahs."
B. THE GOVERNMENT
"In a country so backward in constitutional progress, so
destitute of forms and statutes and charters, and so firmly
stereotyped in the immemorial traditions of the East, the
personal element, as might be expected, is largely in the
ascendant; and the government of Persia is little else than
the arbitrary exercise of authority by a series of units in a
"...Of the general character and accomplishments of
the ministers of the Persian Court, Sir J. Malcolm, in his
History, wrote as follows in the early years of the century:
`The Ministers and chief officers of the Court are almost
always men of polished manners, well skilled in the business
of their respective departments, of pleasant conversation,
subdued temper, and very acute observation; but these agreeable
and useful qualities are, in general, all that they possess.
Nor is virtue or liberal knowledge to be expected in men
whose lives are wasted in attending to forms; whose means
of subsistence are derived from the most corrupt sources;
whose occupation is in intrigues which have always the same
objects: to preserve themselves or ruin others; who cannot,
without danger, speak any language but that of flattery and
deceit; and who are, in short, condemned by their condition
to be venal, artful, and false. There have, no doubt, been
many ministers of Persia whom it would be injustice to class
under this general description; but even the most distinguished
for their virtues and talents have been forced in some degree
to accommodate their principles to their station; and, unless
where the confidence of their sovereign has placed them beyond
the fear of rivals, necessity has compelled them to
"...I now come to that which is the cardinal and differentiating feature of Iranian administration. Government, nay, life itself, in that country may be said to consist for the most part of an interchange of presents. Under its social aspects this practice may be supposed to illustrate the generous sentiments of an amiable people; though even here it has a grimly unemotional side, as, for instance, when, congratulating yourself upon being the recipient of a gift, you find that not only must you make a return of equivalent cost to the donor, but must also liberally remunerate the bearer of the gift (to whom your return is very likely the sole recognised means of subsistence) in a ratio proportionate to its pecuniary value. Under its political aspects, the practice of gift-making, though consecrated in the adamantine traditions of the East, is synonymous with the system elsewhere described by less agreeable names. This is the system on which the government of Persia has been conducted for centuries, and the maintenance of which opposes a solid barrier to any real reform. From the Shah downwards, there is scarcely an official who is not open to gifts, scarcely a post which is not conferred in return for gifts, scarcely an income which has not been amassed by the receipt of gifts. Every individual, with hardly an exception, in the official hierarchy above mentioned, has only purchased his post by a money present either to the Shah, or to a minister, or to the superior governor by whom he has been appointed. If there are several candidates for a post, in all probability the one who makes the best offer will win.
"...The `madakhil' is a cherished national institution
in Persia, the exaction of which, in a myriad different forms,
whose ingenuity is only equalled by their multiplicity, is the
"...Among the features of public life in Persia that
most quickly strike the stranger's eye, and that indirectly
arise from the same conditions, is the enormous number of
attendants and retainers that swarm round a minister, or
official of any description. In the case of a functionary of
rank or position, these vary in number from 50 to 500.
Benjamin says that the Prime Minister in his time kept 3,000.
Now, the theory of social and ceremonial etiquette that prevails
in Persia, and indeed throughout the East, is to some
extent responsible for this phenomenon, personal importance
being, to a large extent, estimated by the public show which
it can make, and by the staff of servants whom on occasions
it can parade. But it is the institution of `Madakhil' and of
illicit pickings and stealings that is the root of the evil. If
the governor or minister were bound to pay salaries to the
whole of this servile crew their ranks would speedily dwindle.
The bulk of them are unpaid; they attach themselves to their
master because of the opportunities for extortion with which
that connection presents them, and they thrive and fatten
on plunder. It may readily be conceived how great a drain
is this swarm of blood-suckers upon the resources of the
country. They are true types of unproductive labourers, absorbing
but never creating wealth; and their existence is little
short of a national calamity.... It is a cardinal point of
Persian etiquette when you go out visiting to take as many
of your own establishment with you as possible, whether riding
or walking on foot; the number of such retinue being
accepted as an indication of the rank of the master."
D. THE ECCLESIASTICAL ORDER
"Marvellously adapted alike to the climate, character,
and occupations of those countries upon which it has laid its
adamantine grip, Islam holds its votary in complete thrall
from the cradle to the grave. To him, it is not only religion,
it is government, philosophy, and science as well. The Muhammadan
"...These Siyyids, or descendants of the Prophet, are an intolerable nuisance to the country, deducing from their alleged descent and from the prerogative of the green turban, the right to an independence and insolence of bearing from which their countrymen, no less than foreigners, are made to suffer.
"...As a community, the Persian Jews are sunk in great poverty and ignorance.... Throughout the Musulman countries of the East these unhappy people have been subjected to the persecution which custom has taught themselves, as well as the world, to regard as their normal lot. Usually compelled to live apart in a Ghetto, or separate quarter of the towns, they have from time immemorial suffered from disabilities of occupation, dress, and habits, which have marked them out as social pariahs from their fellow-creatures. ...In Isfahan, where there are said to be 3,700, and where they occupy a relatively better status than elsewhere in Persia, they are not permitted to wear the `kulah' or Persian head-dress, to have shops in the bazaar, to build the walls of their houses as high as a Muslim neighbour's, or to ride in the streets.... As soon, however, as any outburst of bigotry takes place in Persia or elsewhere, the Jews are apt to be the first victims Every man's hand is then against them; and woe betide the luckless Hebrew who is the first to encounter a Persian street mob.
"...Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of Mashhad
life, before I leave the subject of the shrine and the pilgrims,
is the provision that is made for the material solace of the
letter during their stay in the city. In recognition of the
long journeys which they have made, of the hardships which
they have sustained, and of the distances by which they are
"Before I quit the subject of the Persian law and its administration,
let me add a few words upon the subject of
penalties and prisons. Nothing is more shocking to the European
reader, in pursuing his way through the crime-stained
and bloody pages of Persian history during the last and, in a
happily less degree, during the present century, than the
record of savage punishments and abominable tortures, testifying
alternately to the callousness of the brute and the
ingenuity of the fiend. The Persian character has ever been
fertile in device and indifferent to suffering; and in the field
of judicial executions it has found ample scope for the exercise
of both attainments. Up till quite a recent period, well
within the borders of the present reign, condemned criminals
have been crucified, blown from guns, buried alive, impaled,
shod like horses, torn asunder by being bound to the heads of
two trees bent together and then allowed to spring back to
their natural position, converted into human torches, flayed
"...Under a twofold governing system, such as that of which I have now completed the description--namely, an administration in which every actor is, in different aspects, both the briber and the bribed; and a judicial procedure, without either a law or a law court--it will readily be understood that confidence in the Government is not likely to exist, that there is no personal sense of duty or pride of honour, no mutual trust or co-operation (except in the service of ill-doing), no disgrace in exposure, no credit in virtue, above all no national spirit or patriotism. Those philosophers are right who argue that moral must precede material, and internal exterior, reform in Persia. It is useless to graft new shoots on to a stem whose own sap is exhausted or poisoned. We may give Persia roads and railroads; we may work her mines and exploit her resources; we may drill her army and clothe her artisans; but we shall not have brought her within the pale of civilised nations until we have got at the core of the people, and given a new and a radical twist to the national character and institutions. I have drawn this picture of Persian administration, which I believe to be true, in order that English readers may understand the system with which reformers, whether foreigners or natives, have to contend, and the iron wall of resistance, built up by all the most selfish instincts in human nature, that is opposed to progressive ideas. The Shah himself, however genuine his desire for innovation, is to some extent enlisted on the side of this pernicious system, seeing that he owes to it his private fortune; while those who most loudly condemn it in private are not behind their fellows in outwardly bowing their heads in the temple of Rimmon. In every rank below the sovereign, the initiative is utterly wanting to start a rebellion against the tyranny of immemorial custom; and if a strong man like the present king can only tentatively undertake it, where is he who shall preach the crusade?"
(Extracts from Lord Curzon's "Persia and the Persian
"Though young and tender of age, and though the Cause He revealed was contrary to the desire of all the peoples of the earth, both high and low, rich and poor, exalted and abased, king and subject, yet He arose and steadfastly proclaimed it. All have known and heard this. He feared no one; He was reckless of consequences. Could such a thing be made manifest except through the power of a Divine Revelation, and the potency of God's invincible Will? By the righteousness of God! Were anyone to entertain so great a Revelation in his heart, the thought of such a declaration would alone confound him! Were the hearts of all men to be crowded into his heart, he would still hesitate to venture upon so awful an enterprise. He could achieve it only by the permission of God, only if the channel of his heart were to be linked with the Source of Divine grace, and his soul be assured of the unfailing sustenance of the Almighty. To what, We wonder, do they ascribe so great a daring? Do they accuse Him of madness as they accused the Prophets of old? Or do they maintain that His motive was none other than leadership and the acquisition of earthly riches?
"Gracious God! In His Book, which He hath entitled `Qayyumu'l-Asma' `--the first, the greatest, and mightiest of all books--He prophesied His own martyrdom. In it is this passage: `O Thou Remnant of God! I have sacrificed myself wholly for Thee; I have accepted curses for Thy sake; and have yearned for naught but martyrdom in the path of Thy love. Sufficient Witness unto me is God, the Exalted, the Protector, the Ancient of Days!'
"...Could the Revealer of such utterance be regarded as walking in any other way than the way of God, and as having yearned for aught else except His good pleasure? In this very verse there lieth concealed a breath of detachment for which, if it were breathed upon the world, all beings would renounce their life, and sacrifice their soul.
"...And now consider how this Sadrih of the Ridvan
of God hath, in the prime of youth, risen to proclaim the
"...No sooner had that eternal Beauty revealed Himself in Shiraz, in the year sixty, and rent asunder the veil of concealment, than the signs of the ascendancy, the might, the sovereignty, and power emanating from that Essence of Essences and Sea of Seas, were manifest in every land. So much so, that from every city there appeared the signs, the evidences, the tokens, and testimonies of that Divine Luminary. How many were those pure and kindly hearts which faithfully reflected the light of that eternal Sun! And how manifold the emanations of knowledge from that Ocean of Divine Wisdom which encompassed all beings! ln every city, all the divines and nobles rose to hinder and repress them, and girded up the loins of malice, of envy, and tyranny for their suppression. How great the number of those holy souls, those essences of justice, who, accused of tyranny, were put to death! And how many embodiments of purity, who showed forth naught but true knowledge and stainless deeds, suffered an agonising death! Notwithstanding all this, each of these holy beings, up to his last moment, breathed the name of God and soared in the realm of submission and resignation. Such was the potency and transmuting influence which He exercised over them, that they ceased to cherish any desire but His Will, and wedded their souls to His remembrance.
"Reflect: Who in the world is able to manifest such transcendent
power, such pervading influence? All these stainless
hearts and sanctified souls have, with absolute resignation,
responded to the summons of His decree. Instead of making
complaint, they rendered thanks unto God, and, amidst the
darkness of their anguish, they revealed naught but radiant
acquiescence in His Will. It is well known how relentless
was the hate, and how bitter the malice and enmity, entertained
"Do thou ponder these momentous happenings in thine
heart, so that thou mayest apprehend the greatness of this
Revelation, and perceive its stupendous glory."
"The cardinal point wherein the Shi'ahs (as well as the
other sects included under the more general term of Imamites)
differ from the Sunnis is the doctrine of the Imamate. According
to the belief of the latter, the vicegerency of the
Prophet (Khilafat) is a matter to be determined by the choice
and election of his followers, and the visible head of the
Musulman world is qualified for the lofty position which he
holds less by any special divine grace than by a combination
of orthodoxy and administrative capacity. According to the
Imamite view, on the other hand, the vicegerency is a matter
altogether spiritual; an office conferred by God alone, first
by His Prophet, and afterwards by those who so succeeded
him, and having nothing to do with the popular choice or
approval. In a word, the Khalifih of the Sunnis is merely
the outward and visible Defender of the Faith: the Imam of
the Shi'ahs is the divinely ordained successor of the Prophet,
one endowed with all perfections and spiritual gifts, one whom
all the faithful must obey, whose decision is absolute and
final, whose wisdom is superhuman, and whose words are
authoritative. The general term Imamate is applicable to
all who hold this latter view without reference to the way in
which they trace the succession, and therefore includes such
sects as the Baqiris and Isma'ilis as well as the Shi'ah or
kunyih--Abu'l-Qasim--as the Prophet, and according to the Shi'ahs it is not lawful for any other to bear this name and this kunyih together. He was born at Surra-man-Ra'a, A.H. 255, and succeeded his father in the Imamate, A.H. 260.
"The Shi'ahs hold that he did not die, but disappeared in
an underground passage in Surra-man-Ra'a, A.H. 329; that
he still lives, surrounded by a chosen band of his followers,
in one of those mysterious cities, Jabulqa and Jabulsa; and
that when the fulness of time is come, when the earth is
filled with injustice, and the faithful are plunged in despair,
he will come forth, heralded by Jesus Christ, overthrow the
infidels, establish universal peace and justice, and inaugurate
a millennium of blessedness. During the whole period of his
Imamate, i.e. from A.H. 260 till the present day, the Imam
Mihdi has been invisible and inaccessible to the mass of his
followers, and this is what is signified by the term `Occultation'
(Ghaybat). After assuming the functions of Imam and
presiding at the burial of his father and predecessor, the
Imam Hasan-i-'Askari, he disappeared from the sight of all
save a chosen few, who, one after the other, continued to act
as channels of communication between him and his followers.
These persons were known as `Gates' (Abvab). The first of
them was Abu-'Umar-'Uthman ibn-i-Sa'id Umari; the second
Abu-Ja'far Muhammad-ibn-i-'Uthman, son of the above;
the third Husayn-ibn-i-Ruh Naw-bakhti; the fourth Abu'l-Hasan
Ali-ibn-i-Muhammad Simari. Of these `Gates' the first was
appointed by the Imam Hasan-i-'Askari, the others by the
then acting `Gate' with the sanction and approval of the
Imam Mihdi. This period--extending over 69 years--during
which the Imam was still accessible by means of the `Gates,'
is known as the `Lesser' or `Minor Occultation' (Ghaybat-i-Sughra).
This was succeeded by the `Greater' or `Major
Occultation' (Ghaybat-i-Kubra). When Abu'l-Hasan Ali, the
last of the `Gates,' drew near to his latter end, he was urged
by the faithful (who contemplated with despair the prospect
of complete severance from the Imam) to nominate a successor.
This, however, he refused to do, saying, `God hath
a purpose which He will accomplish.' So on his death all
GENEALOGY OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD Quraysh : Abd-i-Manaf _____________________________ : : Hashim Abdu'l-sh-Shams : : Abdu'l-Muttalib Umayyih : : : Umayyad Caliphs ______________________________________ : : : Abdu'llah Abu-Talib Abbas : : Muhammad : : : Fatimih Ali : ____________________ : : Hasan Husayn Umayyad Caliphs, 661-749 A.D. Abbasid Caliphs, 749-1258 A.D Fatimite Caliphs, 1258-1517 A.D. Ottoman Caliphs, 1517-19 A.D. Birth of Muhammad, August 20th, 570 A.D. Declaration of His Mission, 613-14 A.D. His flight to Medina, 622 A.D. Abu-Bakri's-Siddiq-ibn-i-Abi-Quhafih, 632-34 A.D. Umar-ibn-i'l-Khattab 634-44 A.D. Uthman-ibn-i-'Affan, 644-56 A.D. Ali-ibn-i-Abi-Talib, 656-61 A.D.
"...The law in Persia, and, indeed, among Musulman
peoples in general, consists of two branches: the religious,
and the common law that which is based upon the Muhammadan
Scriptures, and that which is based on precedent; that
which is administered by ecclesiastical, and that which
"From the Shar', I pass to the Urf, or Common Law.
Nominally this is based on oral tradition, on precedent, and
on custom. As such, it varies in different parts of the country.
But, there being no written or recognised code, it is found
to vary still more in practice according to the character or
caprice of the individual who administers it.... The administrators
of the Urf are the civil magistrates throughout
the kingdom, there being no secular court or bench of judges
after the Western model. In a village the case will be brought
before the kad-khuda, or headman; in a town before the
darughih, or police magistrate. To their judgment are submitted
all the petty offences that occupy a city police-court
or a bench of country magistrates in England. The penalty
in the case of larceny, or assault, or such like offences, is, as
a rule, restitution, either in kind or in money value; while,
if lack of means renders this impossible, the criminal is soundly
thrashed. All ordinary criminal cases are brought before the
hakim, or governor of a town; the more important before
the provincial governor or governor-general. The ultimate
court of appeal in each case is the king, of whose sovereign
authority these subordinate exercises of jurisdiction are
merely a delegation, although it is rare that a suppliant at
any distance from the capital call make his complaint heard
so far.... Justice, as dispensed in this fashion by the
officers of government in Persia, obeys no law and follows