E. G. Browne's "A Traveller's Narrative:" Note Y



(1)                 The Martyrs of Isfahán.

        Of the martyrdom of Seyyid Hasan and Seyyid Huseyn (called by the Behá'ís Mahbúbu'sh-shuhadá "the Darling of Martyrs" and Sultánu'sh-shuhadá "the King of Martyrs"), with which the present history concludes, I gave the substance of what I had heard at Isfahán and Shíráz at pp. 489-592 of my first paper on the Bábís in the J. R. A. S. for 1889. That account will be found to agree in all material details with the version contained in this work, and, as regards the actual facts of the case, I have but little to add, except that, according to Subh-i-Ezel, one of his followers named Mullá Kázim (of whose martyrdom the Behá'ís make no mention) was put to death in Isfahán at or about the same time (see B. ii, p. 995, note on p. 490).

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During my stay in Kirmán, however, I became intimate with a certain Sheykh S----- (not the Bábí courier whom, in Note Z, I have designated by the same abbreviation), a dervish endowed with considerable intellectual gifts not yet wholly destroyed by excessive indulgence in narcotics and stimulants, who had spent the greater part of his life in that eager and restless search after religious novelties called by such as pursue it seyr-i-kulúb (an expression which I can render but clumsily as "spiritual sight-seeing"), and who, so far as the prevailing antinomianism of his character can permit one to describe him as holding any definite religion at all, was an adherent of the Bábí faith, for which in his youth be but narrowly escaped martyrdom. One evening this Sheykh S-----, being in a communicative mood, gave me an account of a conversation alleged to have taken place between himself and the Sháh's eldest son, the Prince Zillu's-Sultán, relating in part to the martyrdom of these two Seyyids. That Sheykh S-----'s story is substantially true I see no reason to doubt, inasmuch as many other things which he related to me have subsequently been confirmed by other testimony, and, so far as I could judge, untruthfulness was not one of his faults. At all events his narrative is too characteristic to be consigned to oblivion, and I therefore give it for what it is worth as nearly as I can remember in his own words.

        "When I was at Isfahán," said Sheykh S-----, "I was for some time living on the bounty and in the house of one of the Zillu's-Sultán's attendants, just as I am now living at the expense of Mírzá -----. This man was himself one of the 'Friends' (i.e. the Bábís). Through him, as I suppose, the Zillu's-Sultán learned that I had visited Acre. At any rate, one evening he summoned me into his presence. On entering the room where he was sitting, I halted near the door and made my obeisance. 'Come nearer,' said he. I advanced a few paces, and again halted. 'Nearer,' said he again. In short he continued to bid me approach until I was close to him, when he commanded me to be seated. 'Now,' said he, 'I hear that you have been to Acre. I do not ask whether you are a Bábí or not. A man may go amongst the Jews or the Christians or the Guebres out of curiosity without becoming one of them, and I will suppose

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that you went amongst the Bábís for the same reason. I ask you, then, being myself curious, what you saw and heard from the time that you entered Acre to the time when you left it two stages behind you?' Seeing his humour, I perceived no better course than to relate to him all that I saw and heard, even as I have related it to you1. When I had finished, the Prince said, 'Stand up.' I did so, and he cast over my shoulders a costly shawl, exclaiming as he did so, 'Bravo! You have told me the truth without exaggeration or suppression.' Then he asked me to let him see the epistle (~~~) with which I had been honoured. I gave it to him, and he read it attentively. When he had finished it he laid it down and remained silent for a while wrapped in thought. Then he said, 'Let me keep this by me to-night: I will return it to you to-morrow.' I accordingly withdrew, leaving the epistle in his hands. On the morrow, when I went to receive it back, the Prince said, 'You have heard, of course, how I killed those two Seyyids here because they were Bábís?' 'I was not in Isfahán at the time,' I answered, 'but of course I heard about it.' 'Well,' said the Prince, 'I will tell you how it happened. The Imám-Jum'a and Sheykh Bákir owed those two Seyyids money, and coveted their wealth and possessions, wherefore they fell to compassing their death, so that they might plunder their houses and recover the bonds which they had given to them. On their information and complaint I arrested the two Seyyids and cast them into prison, for I feared these doctors of religion, and they had said to me, "Either you will slay these two Seyyids, or you will cease to be governor of Isfahán." On the second or third day after this, in the evening, I, being alone with the Binánu'l-Mulk and my secretary, caused the two Seyyids to be brought before me, and thus addressed them:- "I do not wish to kill you. I would not willingly shed the blood of a Seyyid. But I fear Sheykh Bákir and the Imám-Jum'a. If you will but curse that Seyyid of Shíráz1, I will at

       1 The substance of Sheykh S----'s narrative, which I heard him repeat several times, will be found at p. 519 of my first paper on the Bábís in the J. R. A. S. for 1889.]
       2 i.e. Mírzá 'Alí Muhammad the Báb.

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once release you, and thenceforth neither I nor the clergy will have any right to interfere with you further." "We cannot," they replied, "do this thing which you ask of us." I then said, "Look at the matter in another way; either you regard this Seyyid as God, or you do not. If you do not, then curse him. If you do, then he is a boundless sea of light, and your cursing him will no more harm him than casting a dog into the ocean would render it impure." When I had said this, the younger of the two brothers, Seyyid Huseyn, raised his head and answered, "You are a prince and the King's son; such words beseem you not." On hearing these words I was overcome with anger, and, standing up, smote the speaker on the face. Directly I had done so I was sorry, and ordered them to be taken back to prison. As they still refused to recant, they were executed in the Maydán-i-Sháh. Afterwards their bodies were dragged by the feet through the streets and bazaars, and cast out of the gate beyond the city walls.' When the Prince Zillu's-Sultán had concluded his narrative he swore thrice 'by the death of Jalálu'd-Dawla' ('bi-marg-i- Jalálu'd-Dawla')1 saying, 'for three days after this I could neither sleep nor eat for thinking of those Seyyids.' There was a third brother, younger than the two who were killed, who cursed the Báb, abjured the Bábí faith, and was released."

       1 To swear by the death of any one presumably dear to one's self is a very common form of asseveration amongst the Persians. The oath implies "may So-and-so die if I speak falsely." Hence the dearer the friend whose death is sworn by, the more binding and solemn the oath. This is why a Persian always swears "bi-marg-i-khudat" ("by thy death"), never "bi-marg-i-khudam" ("by my own death"), for, since one is bound to regard one's own life as of little value, the latter oath would be considered far less solemn. Jalálu'd-Dawla is the title of Prince Zillu's-Sultán's eldest son, who was, till March 1888, governor of Shíráz and the province of Fárs.

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(2)                 The Martyrdom of Mírzá Ashraf of Ábádé in October 1888.

        Concerning this event, which occurred very shortly after I left Persia, but of which I heard for the first time from General Houtum-Schindler at the meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society on April 15th, 1889, before which I read my first paper on the Bábís, I received on August 3rd a letter from one of my Persian friends at Shíráz dated July 3rd, 1889. Of this letter I published a translation at pp. 998-999 of my second paper. As the matter is of considerable interest and is not likely to be chronicled elsewhere, I think it will not be out of place to reproduce here the original text of the letter, which runs as follows:-

[half page of Persian/Arabic text]

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[one page of Persian/Arabic text]

[page 406]

[six lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        On August 4th, the day after I received the above letter, I wrote to a friend at Isfahán, on whose kindness I felt sure I might rely, for information which no one was better qualified than himself to give. On October 8th, just a year after Mírzá Ashraf's martyrdom, I received his answer, which bore the date September 6th, 1889. "Yes," he wrote, "it is quite true that Aga Mirza Ashraf of Ábâdé was put to death for his religion in the most barbarous manner in Ispahan about October last. The hatred of the Mullas was not satisfied with his murder, but they mutilated the poor body publicly in the maidan in the most savage manner, and then burnt what was left of it."

(3)                 The persecutions of Si-dih and Najafábád.

        The same letter from which the above extract is quoted continues immediately as follows:- "Since then we have had two other persecutions of Bábís, one in Sihdih and the other in Nejifabad. In Sihdih, where the Bábí community is small, their houses were burned and their wives and children ill-treated. The men saved themselves by flight to Tehran, and I am told that about 25 of them have just returned to Ispahan and are in the Prince's Stables in bast1. In Nejifabad there are about 2000 Bábís. They

       1 Sanctuary.

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tried the same game with them, but some hundreds of them took refuge in the English Telegraph Office in Julfa, and the Prince [Zillu's-Sultán] took their part and banished from Nejifabad to Kerbela the Mujtahid who persecuted them. So the result is that they are freer now than they have ever been. I take very great interest in the poor people, not only for their own sakes but for the sake of Persia also, as if liberty is gained for them it will be a great step towards shaking the power of the Mullâs and getting liberty for all. Just before the last persecution of the Bábís the Mujtahids in Ispahan, especially Hájí Nejifi, tried a persecution of Jews also, and threatened Christians with the same. The 13 rules of Omar (I believe, at least, most of them may be traced to him) were enforced for a short time:- (1) That no Jew should wear an `abá1. (2) That they should wear a mark on their dress. (3) Not to ride any beast of burden in the city. (4) Not to leave their houses on a wet day2. (5) Not to purchase merchandize from a Moslem. (6) That when a Jew meets a Moslem he is to salute him and walk behind him. (7) Not to return abuse. (8) Not to build a house higher than a Muslim neighbour. (9) Not to eat in presence of a Muslim during the Ramazán, &c."

        On May 16th, 1890, I received from one of my friends in Teherán a letter dated April 13th. Knowing the interest which I took in the Bábís, he was kind enough to include in this letter a brief account of these persecutions, which runs as follows:-

        "You have doubtless heard of the late Bábí massacre at Isfahan, and I will only therefore tell you, in case you have not, the principal points. They are inhabitants of a district called Seh-deh, and last summer a number of

       1 A kind of cloak worn over the kabá.
       2 All non-Muhammadans are regarded by the Persian Shi'ites as unclean (najis), but, as is the case with other impurities, the true believer is only defiled by touching them or their garments when they are moist, for what is dry does not pollute. Hence this enactment, which is generally enforced against Zoroastrians at Yezd. I have heard of a Zoroastrian being punished with the bastinado for venturing into the bazaars with wet clothes on a rainy day.

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them, owing to constant persecution, left their villages and came to Isfahan, whence after a time they returned home, with the exception of a certain number who came to Tehran. On the return of these men to their homes about six weeks ago they were attacked by a mob headed by a man called Agha Nedjefy, and seven or eight of them were killed and their bodies burnt with oil. They then took refuge at the Telegraph Office, and finally, after persistent representations from this [i.e. the British] Legation, have been received by the Deputy Governor. It is hoped that on the Zil's1 return in a few days they will be able to go home. Agha Nedjefy has been summoned to Tehran and well received. Of course they are said to be Bábis, though there seems to be no real proof that they are of that persuasion. When the murders took place they were under the care of an escort which was intimidated by the mob and left them."

        From a comparison of the above extracts it would appear that the Bábís of Si-dih and Najafábád were subjected to two separate persecutions. The first of these, which took place previously to September 1889, seems to have been limited to the destruction of property, and not to have resulted in actual bloodshed. The second, which, according to the last extract cited, must have taken place about March 1st, 1890, was brought about by the return of the fugitive Bábís to their homes, and resulted in the death of seven or eight persons.

        Almost at the very time when the second letter from which I have quoted was being written, I heard at Acre some account of the latest phase of this episode. On the last day of my sojourn there (April 20th, 1890) Áká Mírzá Áká Ján "Khádimu'lláh" came into the room where we were sitting, bearing in his hand a letter which had just arrived from Persia. From this letter he read out what purported to be an exact copy of a telegram sent from Teherán by the Prince Zillu's-Sultán to his deputy at Isfahán. The message was a long one and I had no

       1 i.e. the Zillu's-Sultán, the Sháh's eldest son, till February 1888 Prince-Governor of the greater part of Southern Persia, and still Governor of Isfahán and the surrounding districts.

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opportunity of copying it, but its general tenour I remember perfectly well, while some of the expressions contained in it were too remarkable to be forgotten. It contained the most positive orders couched in the most emphatic language to put an effectual stop to these unprovoked molestations of the Bábís. "If you do not instantly restore order and quiet, silence these mischief-makers who disturb the peace of my government, and give efficient protection to quiet law-abiding folks, I will come myself, post, and give you a lesson." Then followed a string of threats and reproaches, ending in these most significant words - "After all you know me. It is not necessary for me to introduce myself1." That the contents of a telegram sent from the Prince-Governor of Isfahán to his deputy should be known at Acre may appear astonishing, but I have more than once been amazed at the rapidity and completeness with which the Bábís become informed of all that concerns their interests.

        The intercession of the British Minister with the Persian Government on behalf of the persecuted Bábís called forth a violent protest from the Teherán correspondent of the Akhtar2. Of a portion of this article, which was dated Sha'bán 9th, A.H. 1307 (= March 31st, 1890) from Teherán, and appeared in the issue of Shawwál 8th (= May 26th) of the same year, I append a translation.

        "Some little time ago troubles arose in Isfahán by reason of an assault made by a party of Jews on a [Musulmán] student [of theology], and the towns-folk attacked the Jews, with whom it went ill. After that again a disturbance occurred in Si-dih of Isfahán, and several of the innovators3, who were wont to disparage the conduct of the Musulmáns, suffered injury and loss.

       1 ~~~
       2 The Akhtar (Star) is the chief Persian newspaper, and almost the only one which contains any news as we understand the word. It is published weekly at Constantinople, and has a large circulation throughout the East. Lately, however, it has for some reason been suppressed.
       3 A euphuism for the Bábís, whom other Persians are as a rule very loath to mention by name.

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The Imperial Government made strenuous efforts to put a stop to the mischief, and did not allow the flame of that disturbance to spread; but the most astonishing thing is the interference of the English Embassy in such matters, and the submission of the ministers of the Persian Government to such conduct, which oversteps the rights of states and nations, on the part of the afore-mentioned Embassy. What has come to the English Embassy that, in face of the autonomy of the Persian Empire of eternal duration, it should send a special representative to Isfahán for the investigation of this matter, take down the names of these mischievous and seditious innovators, and thus embolden these misleaders of men, who are hostile alike to Church and State, and are, indeed, enemies to the whole human race, in their sedition?

        "All these things are the result of the heedlessness of that day when the ministers of state first admitted the interference of foreigners under the guise of benevolent intercession in such contingencies, until now they have changed intercession into arrogance, and benevolence into hostility, and have carried intervention to such a pitch that within the Persian dominions they meddle in a quarrel between two subjects of the Sháh between whom and themselves no sort of connection or relation subsists, and send thither the second secretary of the Embassy to conduct investigations. Yet no one asks of them, 'Sir Ambassador, what concern of thine is it? Should such an event happen in your country, would you allow another to meddle with it? Show us then by what right you have been led to interfere in this matter?'"

        On the whole, however, the Bábís are much less liable to suffer molestation now than they were formerly, and not uncommonly the malicious attempts of their inveterate foes the Mullás to inaugurate a persecution prove abortive, as is shewn by the following translation from a letter written to me from Shíráz on October 19th, 1888, by the correspondent whose account of Mírzá Ashraf's martyrdom I have already quoted.

        "You have asked me concerning the trouble about the Bábís in Shíráz. It was not of such consequence as to be worth writing about. A black maid-servant had stolen sundry

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articles from the house of K----- Khán, and, out of mere enmity towards her master, had got possession of a copy of the Íkán which was amongst his books. This she laid before Seyyid 'Alí Akbar, one of the 'Ulamá of Shíráz notorious for boundless fanaticism. He attempted to induce the authorities of Shíráz to put K----- Khán and several other persons to death, but the Government paid no heed to his representations, and, indeed, censured and upbraided him. A telegram also came from Teherán sternly forbidding him. When he perceived that he was not supported or countenanced by the Government authorities, he was discomfited and reduced to silence.

        "In Bushire also one of the Mullás wished to act ill towards several persons of this sect. Sa'du'l-Mulk, the Governor of Bushire, promptly issued an order for the expulsion of the Mullá himself; though at length, by much intercession, it was decreed that he might remain on condition of never [again] meddling in such matters."

        An event which took place still more recently in the Russian dominions may perhaps have a salutary effect in checking the ferocious intolerance of the Mullás, at any rate outside Persia. Baron Rosen has described this occurrence, from notes made on the spot by M. Toumansky, in connection with two epistles from Behá to the "revelation" of which it gave rise. This account, together with the text of these epistles, will be found at pp. 247-250 of the forthcoming sixth volume of the Collections Scientifiques &c. Availing myself of Baron Rosen's generous permission to make full use of his still unpublished work, I conclude this note with a translation of his narrative.

        "At 7 a.m. on September 8th (August 27th, old style) 1889, two fanatical Persian Shi'ites, Mash-hadi 'Alí Akbar and Mash-hadí Huseyn, threw themselves, dagger in hand, on a certain Hájí Muhammad Rizá of Isfahán, who was peaceably traversing one of the most frequented streets of 'Ishkábád, and inflicted on him 72 wounds, to which he succumbed. Hájí Muhammad Rizá was one of the most respected of the Bábís of 'Ishkábád. The crime was perpetrated with such audacity that neither the numerous witnesses of the occurrence, nor the constable who was on the spot could save the victim of this odious attack. The

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assassins yielded themselves up to the police without any resistance; they were placed in a cab and conveyed to the prison. During the transit they fell to licking up the blood which was dripping from their daggers. The examination, conducted with much energy by the military tribunal, gave as its result that Muhammad Rizá had fallen victim to the religious bigotry of the Shi'ites. Fearful of Muhummad Rizá's influence, the Shi'ites of 'Ishkábád, acting in accordance with the orders of Mullás who had come expressly for this purpose from Khurásán, resolved to cut short the Bábí propaganda by killing Hájí Muhammad Rizá. Knowing well, however, that the crime would not remain unpunished, they left it to chance to determine what persons should sacrifice themselves for the Shi'ite cause. Thus it was that the individuals named above became the assassins of Muhammad Rizá, who had never injured them in any way. The sentence of the tribunal was severe: 'Alí Akbar and Huseyn, as well as two of their confederates, were condemned to be hanged, but the penalty of death was commuted by His Majesty the Emperor to hard labour for life.

        "This sentence was hailed by the Bábís with an enthusiasm easy to understand. It was the first time since the existence of the sect, i.e. for nearly fifty years, that a crime committed on the person of an adherent of the new religion had been punished with all the rigour of the law. The impression produced on the chief of the sect, Behá, appears to have been equally profound. The two revelations which we shall submit to the reader sufficiently prove this. They are also interesting from another point of view: they are almost the only Bábí documents of which we can understand all the meanings, all the allusions."

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