THE EXECUTION OF MULLÁ MUHAMMAD 'ALÍ OF BÁRFURÚSH.
When, in the summer of A.D. 1849, the remnant of the brave defenders of Sheykh Tabarsí, beguiled by the treacherous promises of Prince Mahdi-Kulí Mirzá, evacuated the fortress which they had held so long and so gallantly, and yeilded themselves up to the besiegers, they were at first received with an apparent friendliness and
even respect which served to lull them into a false security and to render easy the perfidious massacre wherein all but a few of them perished on the morrow of their surrender.
From this massacre some of the Bábí chiefs were reserved to grace the Prince's triumphal entry in Bárfurúsh. Amongst these the Táríkh-i-Jadíd mentions the following:- Mullá Muhammad 'Alí of Bárfurúsh, called by the Bábís "His Excellency the Most Holy" (Jenáb-i-Kuddús); Áká Mírzá Muhammad Hasan, the brother of Mullá Huseyn of Bushraweyh; Mullá Muhammad Sádik. of Khurásán; Hájí Mírzá Muhammad Hasan of Khurásán; Sheykh Ni'matu 'llah of Ámul; Hájí Nasír of Kazvín; Mullá Yúsuf of Ardabíl; and Áká Seyyid 'Abdu'l-'Azím of Khúy.
Jenáb-i-Kuddús (for the sake of brevity I shall make use of the title in preference of the name of him who is the subject of this note) requested the Prince to send him to Teherán there to undergo judgement before the Sháh. The Prince was at first disposed to grant this request, thinking, perhaps, that to bring so notable a captive into the Royal Presence might serve to obliterate in some measure the record of those repeated failures to which his unparalleled incapacity had given rise. But when the Sa'ídu'l-'Ulamá heard of this plan, and saw a possibility of his hated foe escaping from his clutches, he went at once to the Prince, and strongly represented to him the danger of allowing one so eloquent and so plausible to plead his cause before the King. These arguments were, according to the Táríkh-i-Jadíd (from which these particulars are taken), backed up by an offer to pay the Prince a sum of 400 (or, as others say, of 1000) túmáns on condition that Jenáb-i-Kuddús should be surrendered unconditionally into his hands. To this arrangement the Prince, whether moved by the arguments or the túmáns of the Sa'ídu'l-'Ulamá, eventually consented, and Jenáb-i-Kuddús was delivered over to his inveterate enemy.
The execution took place in the meydán, or public square, of Bárfurúsh. The Sa'ídu'l-'Ulamá first cut off the ears of Jenáb-i-Kuddús and tortured him in other ways, and then killed him with the blow of an axe. One of the
Sa'ídu'l-'Ulamá's disciples then severed the head from the lifeless body, and others poured naphtha over the corpse and set fire to it. The fire, however, as the Bábís relate (for Subh-i-Ezel corroborates the Tárikh-i-Jadíd in this particular), refused to burn the holy remains; and so the Sa'ídu'l-'Ulamá gave orders that the body should be cut in pieces, and these pieces case far and wide. This was done, but, as Hájí Mírzá Jání relates, certain Bábís not known as such to their fellow-townsmen came at night, collected the scattered fragments, and buried them in an old ruined madrasa or college hard by. By this madrasa, as the Bábí historian relates, had Jenáb-i-Kuddús once passed in the company of a friend with whom he was conversing on the transitoriness of this world, and to it he had pointed to illustrate his words, saying, "This college, for instance, was once frequented, and is now deserted and neglected; a little while hence they will bury here some great man, and many will come to visit his grave, and again it will be frequented and thronged with people."
Jenáb-i-Kuddús is said to have foretold his death and the manner thereof to several other persons, including his wife and her mother; and Subh-i-Ezel told me that he had seen at Teherán a letter in his handwriting, taken from his pocket when he was buried, wherein the date and manner of his death were clearly set forth; also that he had previously to the siege of Sheykh Tabarsí written a letter to Mullá Huseyn of Bushraweyh wherein the following sentence occurred:-
[one line of Persian/Arabic text]
"It is as though I had buried myself in the earth with seventy righteous men." This letter Subh-i-Ezel had copied at Baghdad.
As for the Sa'ídu'l-'Ulamá, he did not escape the Divine vengeance; for, as the Tárikh-i-Jadíd relates, all the vital heat seemed to be withdrawn from his body, and even in the midst of summer he used to suffer so severely from cold that when he went to the mosque two chafing-dishes full of burning charcoal were carried with him and
placed on either side of him. Yet, in spite of these and the thick skin cloak which he wore, he could hardly remain long enough to perform his prayers, and used to hasten back as soon as he was able to his house, where, enveloped in wraps and covered with quilts, he would sit shivering over his kursí1.
Concerning the writings of Jenáb-i-Kuddús, see note 1 at the foot of p. 30 supra.
1 The kursí - much used by the Persians during winter - is, roughly speaking, like a large table with very short legs. A chafing-dish containing ignited charcoal is placed beneath it, as are also the legs of those who sit around it. With a good supply of quilts, pillows, and amusing books, it affords the means of passing a cold winter's day very comfortably.