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Abstract:
The historical application of taqiyyah and instances where Bábís cooperated with the authorities in suppression of their peers, and the attitude of government officials towards these individuals.
Notes:
The draft of this paper, below, differs from the published version, which can be downloaded here: manuchehri_taqiyyih_babi_bahai.pdf.

Taqiyyah (Dissimulation) in the Babi and Bahá'í Religions

by Sepehr Manuchehri

published in Australian Bahá'í Studies, 2, pages 219-251
2000
Beware that in this divine dispensation testimony is not limited by speech and belief is not entrusted on the tongue. The sign of faith is the preparedness for being sacrificed in the path of the Lord. You cannot claim to be a Bábí unless you reach the ultimate stage of detachment from personal welfare, material comforts and family life. Now return to your home and ponder in solace: At the time of reckoning the mob will attack your house, confiscate your life possessions, take your wife, massacre your children and force you to recant in exchange for freedom. In that hour if you have the resolve to take in all of the afflictions and remain steadfast in the Cause, only then are you considered to be a Bábí.

- Mulla Jalil Urumi (Letter of Living) to Haji Nasir Qazvini [1]

Introduction

Many customs and traditions that are prevalent amongst the followers of various Islamic sects today are not based on the fundamental principals of the Islamic belief. Rather they have gradually been instilled in the sub-culture during centuries. Taqiyyah or dissimulation of one's true belief has been a common practice amongst the followers of Ismailiya, Wahhabiya, Haydari, Nemati and Shaykhi schools of thought during the Qajar era.[2]

Susan Maneck (Hikmat in the Bahá'í Writings and History 1996) remarks that 'Iranians often tend to reserve access to their inner self to a small circle of intimates. Among these persons, interactions ought to be pure and constant, maintaining a spiritual integrity. With those outside that circle one behaves with reserve and formality, concealing one's true intentions. Far from being insincere they see it as conducting themselves with wisdom.' Maneck accurately reflects the use of wisdom in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and within the Bahá'í community.

This paper intends to portray the historical application of Taqiyyah in the progress of Bábí and Bahá'í religions. It considers the practice of Taqiyyah during the revelation of the Báb, amongst the early Bábí disciples, treatises and compilations written under Taqiyyah. It looks at cases of Mass Taqiyyah, instances where Bábís cooperated with the authorities in suppression of their peers and describes the attitude of the government officials towards these individuals.

Though the origins of Taqiyyah can be traced back to the early Shiite communities, some Iranian sources allege its wide spread practice amongst the first generation of Iranian Zoroastrians following the introduction of Islamic rule.[3] However most sources agree that Taqiyyah in one form or another has been a feature of religious life in Iran during the 18th and 19th Century.[4]

The version of popular Islamic thought promulgated in Iran was at odds with that of the other countries under Islamic rule. The major point of difference lay in the excessive praise and importance placed in Imam Ali (son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed) and the adoption of an alternative version of the early Islamic history. Built on accepting the guardianship of the twelve Holy Imams, the Shiite theology emphasised subjugation and promised taking revenge against the forces of infidel oppression at the coming of the promised Mahdi.[5]

Shiite thought established Taqiyyah as a means to safeguard the believers from the oppressors of the time. This was seen as a tactical manoeuvre designed to protect and consolidate their numbers in order to assist and support the promised Mahdi in due time and rise up against the established and corrupt world order.

However the circumstances surrounding the coming of Mahdi and differing opinions concerning the Day of Resurrection caused major disagreements within the Shiite hierarchy. This caused many scholars to postpone the coming of Mahdi in their literature to a distant future. Various stories and legends became popular concerning the intimate details surrounding his lengthy 'disappearance' and his likely 'reappearance'. Scholars who did not support such myths viewed the coming of Mahdi in a more humanistic sense. They remoulded the concept of Taqiyyah to the dissimulation of the personal details of Mahdi. Numerous traditions and literature were released concerning the practice of Taqiyyah on His name and the details of his coming in the writings of Shaykh Abbas Qumi and Qu Baqir Majlissi.[6] The majority of these traditions were attributed to Imam Ja'afar Sadiq the sixth Holy Imam.[7]

It is interesting to note that by the time of the Qajar period the practice of Taqiyyah was widespread amongst the followers of alternative Islamic Schools (Ismailiya, Wahhabiya, Shaykhi and Sufi) as a safeguard against the dominant and powerful Usuli Shiite Ulama. Taqiyyah was even used by minorities such as Jews and Bábís to protect their numbers against the constant harassment of mainstream Islam.

Taqiyyah in Shaykhi Thought

The practice of Taqiyyah confined Shaykhi eschatology to philosophical arguments. Shaykh Ahmad Ahsai's frequent references to the necessity of Taqiyyah owing to the limited capacity of the ordinary believer to grasp the true meaning of the secrets of religion indicates his hesitation to declare his more controversial views.[8] Moreover, his configuration of the 'Perfect Shi'a' did not necessarily affirm the immediate resurgence of the Hidden Imam. The 'Perfect Shi'a' was a protomessianic figure. But his guidance to the extent that it was recognised by the public did not herald the return of the Imam Mahdi, at least in consistent theological language.

The same approach can be observed in the works of Ahsai's successor Siyyid Kazim Rashti. Rashti acknowledges:

Elaboration on the secrets of the subject of Ma'ad would lead us to raise various matters which are not appropriate to our time. Since the people of this age cannot tolerate them and this would accelerate their denial. As our Lord Sadiq, peace be up on him, has said 'Not all that is known is to be said, and not the right time has come for all that is to be said, and not all appropriate sayings should be said to those who are incompetent of understanding.' Therefore, owing to their complexity, reference to these matters without full explanation are beyond public comprehension. This is the reason why the Holy Imams and the adepts among Shiites constantly covered the delicate details of this subject under the cloak if outward expressions so that the secret gem would be safely protected from the encroachments of the ignorant.[9]

Prudence and secrecy inspired an allegorical language. Signs of metaphorical speculations can be detected in Ahsai's works which on one occasion specify the date of birth and the date of revelation of the Qa'im in a codified message.[10] Perhaps this triggered the followers of the Shaykhi school to refer to Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim as Hamil (Carrier),[11] a title that points to a knowledge of hidden secrets and a responsibility to protect them.

The Shaykhi thought became popular in Iran and the Atabat. Advocation of this thought by the political establishment (represented by Haji Ababa Karim Khan Kirmani, a leading student of Ahsai and an influential member of the Qajar clan) and the renowned Mujtahids in major cities (such as Mulla Moamaqani in Tabriz) popularised discussions on the intimate details of the return of Mahdi and his proposed reappearance.

Taqiyyah thus became an important tool for the promulgation of the Shaykhi thought on the one hand, and the concealment of their hidden 'secrets' on the other. Shaykh Ahmad used this dual approach during his travels in Iran whilst promoting his vision.

Revelation of the Báb

The Báb initially laid claim to the position of the 'Deputy' of the Hidden Imam. Many early Bábís were ordered to transmit this claim to the public and other believers.[12] This approach was intended to create a sense of anticipation for the appearance of an unidentified promised person. In His work Dala'il Sab'a, the Báb declares:

Since I was aware of the limits of the public, I ordered the concealment of my name.[13]

In December 1844 he instructed Mulla Husayn in the following words:

Do not reveal the word of your Lord to those who would deny it. Observe the practice of Taqiyyah in order to avoid persecution and imprisonment.[14]

Mulla Husayn appreciated the practical importance of this approach. For instance, he refused in the first weeks after his conversion, to disclose the personal details of the Báb to his Shaykhi compatriots in Shiraz. This caused resentment amongst some of them who took their grievance to the newly arrive Quddús: 'Jinab-i Akhund has attained the presence of the Lord, recognised His station and remains unwilling to disclose His details.' Mulla Husayn was forced to explain instructions from the Báb requiring the concealment of His name. At this time the Báb was seen to be passing by. Kahn immediately looked up and said: 'I do not see this Cause as distinct from this young Siyyid.' Mulla Husayn then responded by a verse from Rumi 'I desire a sharp vision who recognises the King in disguise.'[15]

The Báb in his early correspondence with his disciples strongly forbade them to divulge his identity.[16] On a few occasions He quoted well-known traditions from Imam Ja'far Sadiq on the necessity of Taqiyyah:

Taqiyyah is my faith and the faith of my forefathers. Anyone who does not practice Taqiyyah has no faith.[17]

also:

By your refined wisdom my Lord, you made Taqiyyah your command. Thus people practiced it from the beginning of occultation up to now. And that practice was the testimony to [peoples'] eagerness to come to your presence.[18]

After his return from Mecca, the Báb was arrested in Bushihr and taken into custody in the residence of Husayn Khan Nazimu'l Dowla, the Governor of Fars. On the same Friday, the Báb was pressured by the Ulama, particularly the Imam Jumha of Shiraz, to publicly renounce His earlier claims in the grand Mosque of Vakil in front of a congregation of the faithful. The Báb attended the prayer session and publicly denied his claim to the position of 'Deputyship' of the Hidden Imam. This renunciation no doubt saved his life from the evil intentions of the Shirazi Ulama who had earlier encouraged Husayn Khan to execute Him. The public renunciation although pleasing Shaykh Abu Torab, the Imam Jumha, failed to impress the new Shaykhi converts and early believers in general.[19]

In the early phase of His revelation, the Báb revealed His position as that of 'Bábíya' or the Gate leading to the presence of the Hidden Imam and clearly instructed His followers to conceal His name.[20] Haji Siyyid Javad Karbalai recounts a lengthy interrogation of his friend and colleague Mulla Ali Bastami (second Letter of Living) in Karbila, in an effort to learn the name of the Báb. The conversation as recorded in Kashfu'l Qita indicates the loyalty of Mulla Ali to this instruction from the Báb.

After a few months the Báb observed a greater acceptance and readiness amongst His people and gradually moved His claim to that of Zikryya and Qaiemyya meaning that of the Hidden Imam in its entirety. In the final years of His life He publicly announced the station of Mazhariah meaning that of a manifestation from God.

The reception of His message was not free from confusion. A number of early believers instantly recognised His true station right from the onset. This naturally resulted in confusion and disagreement amongst the Bábí community during the early phase of the revelation. At a time when the Báb intended to convey his message with caution, many of his leading followers (e.g. Tahirih, Váhid and Hujjat) openly declared the coming of the promised Mahdi and proclaimed His message linking it to the earlier Shaykhi prophecies. No doubt the adoption of such a cautious policy by the Báb managed to attract the maximum attention with the minimum possible controversy during the early months. However the scope and impact of His revolutionary claims would eventually draw the full wrath of the Ulama. Bahá'u'lláh mentions this fact in one of His tablets:

The Báb in response to the weakness of the people revealed His message with wisdom. In one instance He writes 'This revelation is the point of Quran in its entirety'... on another occasion he reveals 'If people were not weak the word Mashiyya would not have been mentioned.' No doubt these utterings were made in wisdom. If He had revealed what was revealed in His final years during the early period, the fire of opposition and denial would have inflicted in the early days what was inflicted on Him in the final days.[21]

The Báb openly declared His station as the promised Qá'im during the public trial in Tabriz. After the punishment handed to Him following the trial, He wrote a letter to Prince Nasiru'l Din Mírzá:

This weak soul has no desire contrary to the will of the Lord and the Guardians of His Cause. Though my being is mere nothingness but since my heart is able to recognize the true meaning of the oneness of God, the manifestation of His prophet and the Guardianship of His Imams, and my tongue confesses to all that has been revealed by Him. I hope for His mercy and have no desire save His contentment.
If certain words – contrary to His will – have been revealed from my pen, my purpose has not been that of rebellion. In any event I seek forgiveness of His Excellency. This servant has no knowledge to warrant any claims... Certain prayers and words that have been revealed from the tongue do not represent any concerns.
And the claim to the deputyship of His Excellency Hujaullah – peace be up on Him – is void. This servant has not laid such a claim or any other one. Request is made for clemency from His Royal Excellency (king) and your Excellency to honour this servant with your mercy, kindness and forgiveness.[22]

A quick comparison between the above letter and His earlier repentance in Shíráz reveals a familiar pattern:

  1. The Báb regards any claims to the position of Deputyship of the Hidden Imam as void. In fact He repeatedly spoke of being the Hidden Imam and an independent manifestation from God during His exile to Azarbayijan. Such claims were far greater than His early position of Bábíya or Gateship which he adopted only months earlier in Gateship. The Báb had bestowed the title of Bábíya and Deputyship to Mullá Husayn as early as the Shíráz period. The title of Bábu'l-Báb further illustrates Shíráz Husayn's new transformation. Therefore theologically from that point onwards the Báb was no longer the Deputy to the Hidden Imam.

  2. The Báb rejects any suggestion of leading a rebellion against the State. The Qajar establishment were seriously concerned about the hidden agenda of the Báb. Overtures and suggestions of possible revolt were made by the Ulama keen to form an alliance with the State in suppression of the Bábí movement. After the involvement of the Royal troops in the Tabarsi and Zanjan uprisings – events that Ulama had created – many Bábís openly supported a revolt against the oppressive forces. This in turn increased the suspicion of the officials.

  3. The Báb rejects any notions of having acquired knowledge. This issue was floated by the Ulama to belittle His reputation in revealing verses in speed and writing in a style similar to that of Quran. Ulama claimed that the Báb had earlier acquired such knowledge from their peers. In effect claiming that the Báb was repeating what they had taught Him earlier.

  4. The Báb refers to His thorough understating of the fundamental Shiite principles. These are namely Tawhid (Oneness), Nabuvva (Prophethood) and Velaya (Guardianship). This was partly in response to Ulama's claim that he had developed a psychological disorder and confused the basic concepts of religion. The Báb in effect conveyed his appreciation of the popular understanding of Shiite teachings and his intimate knowledge of these issues.

Taqiyyah Amongst the Early Disciples

Many of the Báb's loyal followers observed his instructions on the practice of Taqiyyah and became the source of invaluable service to the new Cause. Others used Taqiyyah to selfishly protect their livelihood. Some went further and actually provided assistance to the officials in persecuting the other Bábís.

Siyyid Hassan and Siyyid Husayn Yazdi both met the Báb whilst in Isfahan. Siyyid Husayn immediately became His scribe and recorded many of the divine tablets and letters revealed by Him. The two brothers continued to serve the Báb in this capacity until His exile to Maku. Siyyid Hassan was ordered by the Báb in Maku to recant his faith, retire from service and return. Siyyid Husayn stayed until the end and similarly followed Báb's instructions, practiced Taqiyyah and was saved from the enemies after His execution. A short time after the Báb's execution, Siyyid Husayn went to the Russian Consul General in Tabriz and conveyed certain information on the final hours of Báb's life and Bábí teachings in general. The Russian Consul General took Siyyid Husayn to Tehran with himself under diplomatic protection. Siyyid Husayn was well respected in the Bábí community as the only disciple who personally witnessed the final four years of the Báb's life and was a privy to the secrets of the Cause. He was known as Aziz (favourite) Katib (scribe) and Katib-ul-Bayan (scribe of Bayán). Bahá'u'lláh refers to the two brothers in one of His tablets:[23]

In the presence of the Compassionate Lord in Azarbayijan were two souls. He sent away Husayn according to His mercy and expelled Hassan according to His justice. Although he was held in high regards by my Forerunner and Beloved[23]

Mírzá Mohammed Zakir (Rowza Khan) Yazdi was a leading Shaykhi student who had accompanied Mulla Husayn to Shiraz. He became one of the Letters of Living and was ordered to spread the new message in the city of Yazd. His arrival and initial enthusiasm was met with severe opposition by the intolerant Ulama who immediately issued a Fatwa to take his life. He became disillusioned and searched for means to save his life. He relied on his Shaykhi credentials and claimed to be a devoted follower of Haji Mohammed Karim Khan Kirmani. He even married a woman from the Kirmani clan. With a combination of Taqiyyah and support from his new family he managed to spare his life and maintain his reputation amongst the Mullahs. Privately he remained a Bábí and taught the faith secretly to close confidants. He continued to practice Taqiyyah until the end.[24]
Qahr'ullah was a Dervish from India who had travelled to Persia and became a Bábí. He met the Báb in Chihriq and was instantly transformed to such an extent that he openly declared the coming of Mahdi various villages in Azarbayijan. His open proclamation caused a stir in the city of Khoy and as a result many Bábís were persecuted. The Báb ordered him to leave Iran. He returned to India only to come back to Chihriq after a few months and sought refuge in close proximity to Báb's cell. When the Báb was taken to Tabriz for execution, Qahr'ullah followed Him barefooted. He was present at the hour of execution. After the execution he was arrested and interrogated. During the process, he practiced Taqiyyah and claimed to be a Sufi follower and was subsequently released. He was later killed in Tehran.[25]
Many of the Bábí women who visited Tahirih whilst she was held captive at the residence of Kalantar Khan observed Taqiyyah. They pretended to be housemaids and carried back and forth correspondence between the Bábís and Tahirih.[26]

Prominent Bábí leaders never encouraged other believers to practice Taqiyyah. In situations where a Bábí questioned his loyalties or doubted his beliefs, they were advised to make a personal choice. Buddas on a number of occasions told his followers during the Tabarsi uprising:

The Lord is detached from any form of assistance from His followers. If all of you leave I shall reveal the Lord through my walking-stick.[27]

Following the martyrdom of Mulla Husayn and increasing hardships inside the fortress, a number of Bábís lead by Mirza Mohammed Husayn Motavalli Qumi decided to leave the fortress. Qumi became their spokesman and met with Quddús. Upon hearing his intentions Quddús replied 'Very well, leave whenever you can.'[28]

Mirza Mohammed Husayn Motavalli Qumi surrendered to the government forces claiming: 'I had initially approached Bábís to investigate their cause. After spending some time with them I observed many words and no action. I did not see any truth in their claims and left.'[29] A short time later he became disillusioned. Openly praising the Bábís and at other times questioning their resolve. When the Prince learnt about his state of mind, he sent Qumi to the nearby city of Sari fearing that he was a Bábí infiltrator.[30]

The defection of Qumi instantly intensified the official propaganda encouraging the Bábís to surrender. This in turn caused more Bábís to reconsider their situation. Aqa Rasul Behnamiri and thirty of his companions left the fortress after they obtained permission from Quddús. They were not lucky. All were sprayed with bullets in the vicinity of the fortress. Their bodies were taken to nearby towns and publicly beheaded. Quddús would repeatedly say 'We passed over the actions of Aqa Rasul and God forgave him.'[31]

Mirza Mohammed Husayn Motavalli Qumi was arrested years later in Tehran following the unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Shah. After torture he recanted his faith and cooperated with the officials in the identification of other Bábís in order to save his life. He survived the ordeal and later met Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad only to become an Azali at a later date.

Taqiyyah Amongst the Second Generation of Bábí Notables

Many learned and respected Bábís practiced Taqiyyah before and after the martyrdom of the Báb in order to avoid involvement in various uprisings, persecutions and afflictions. Such Bábís were fully aware of the significance of their actions. Many chose to assist their fellow Bábís secretly in times of need. The scope of such assistance was limited to their degree of caution and Taqiyyah.

It appears that these Bábís were not ready to sacrifice their positions, titles and life comforts for their faith. Taqiyyah amongst them was no longer a tool to protect the identity of the Báb or His position. This requirement was largely superseded after the execution of the Báb. These Bábís represented the prosperous class of Ulama and Bazari merchants who were in some way dependent on the Ulama or the ruling establishment for their survival.

It is interesting to note that many from this group later changed their ways, declared their faith and lost their lives for the Cause. Clearly they had an internal struggle between conscientious belief and human desires. A struggle that resulted in them abandoning the practice of Taqiyyah.

Haji Mulla Baqir Ardakani was the Imam Jumha in the city of Ardikan. He became one of the first disciples of Vahid. He continued to practice as a Mullah in the local mosque after becoming a Bábí. He led the mass prayers, conducted religious ceremonies and preached Islamic traditions. Gradually rumours began to circulate about his hidden loyalties. Rival Mullahs and ambitious officials rose in his opposition and signed an open petition calling him an infidel and requesting his removal. The petition was sent to the Governor of Kirman. Haji Mulla Baqir Ardakani subsequently met the Governor, practiced Taqiyyah and convinced him that the allegations are not correct. The Governor became fond of the Haji and paid for his expense to travel to Karbila in order to become a Mujtahid. He spent two years in Karbila and returned to his native Ardikan. Such was the Governor's respect for him that a welcome party was dispatched to the outskirts of Ardikan to greet him. Upon his arrival he instantly received recognition from the leading Mullahs of Yazd and Ardikan to engage as a Mujtahid. He returned to his duties as the Imam Jumha and publicly distanced himself from the Bábí faith. He continued to assist Bábís in secret and later became a Bahá'í.[32]
Mullah Mohammed Ja'far Kirmani was a leading cleric in the city of Kirman practicing as an Islamic teacher in that city. He became a Bábí after he met Mullah Sadiq Muqaddas Khorassani in Kirman. He was considered as one of the learned Bábís. When Haji Mohammed Karim Khan Kirmani the Shaykhi leader found out about his conversion, he organised a public campaign forcing Mullah Mohammed Ja'far to be sidelined and isolated by his former followers. Mullah Mohammed Ja'far resorted to the local Mujtahids and Imam Jumha for assistance. They publicly announced that he was not a Bábí. After a short while he re-commenced his duties as a teacher in the mosque, occasionally standing in as the acting Imam Jumha. Mullah Mohammed Ja'far Kirmani continued to assist the Bábís in secret but refused to meet any of the prominent Bábí leaders. He sent a letter to the Báb and received a tablet in response. He continued to practice Taqiyyah and maintained his Islamic credentials choosing to remain a Mullah until the end of his life.[33]
Shaykh Mohammed Taqi Hashtroudi was a former Shaykhi student and considered as a learned Bábí. He was extremely conservative, living and practicing a life of Taqiyyah. It was acknowledged amongst the Bábís that he 'ran miles away' at the mention of the name Bábí. He enjoyed particular respect and influence within the Shaykhi followers. Mulla Mohammed Mamqani (one of the Shaykhi Mullahs who signed the Báb's execution order) displayed sincere affection towards Shaykh Mohammed Taqi and would invite him to his house every time he visited Tabriz. Shaykh Mohammed Taqi Hashtroudi would secretly meet with the Bábís during the night. His counterparts never found out about his real convictions.[34]
Haji Mirza Ibrahim Sabzevari was one of the grand Mujtahids in the city of Sabzevar and enjoyed enormous powers as the religious head and Imam Jumha of that city. He had met the Báb whilst He was in Isfahan and secretly believed in Him. However he practiced Taqiyyah and dissimulated his thoughts. He assisted the Bábís of that city during desperate times.[35]
Aqa Mirza Ahmad Azqandi was a leading student of Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim. He enjoyed the respect of the Shaykhi community. He declared his faith in the Báb following a meeting with Mullah Husayn and wrote a treatise in support of Báb's claims. Following a series of persecutions in Yazd, he suffered an enormous financial loss, battered reputation and threats to his personal safety. In the following decades he refused to get involved in the Bábí cause and practiced Taqiyyah to save his life. Following the execution of the Báb, he became reinvigorated, abandoning the practice of Taqiyyah in order to assist his fellow Bábís.[36]
Abu'l Hassan Mirza Haj Shaykhu'l Rais was a Qajar Prince and a leading poet who enjoyed recognition in the literary circles in the City of Mashhad. Mirza Saeed Khan was a former Foreign Minister who was seconded to administer the Imam Rida estate in the City of Mashhad during his retirement. Both practiced Taqiyyah in order to protect their lives from what they called 'the savagery of the mob, particularly the Mujtahids.' They are known to have assisted the Bábís on a number of occasions. In at least one instance, they requested the Bábís to observe Taqiyyah to escape the persecutions.[37]
Haji Mirza Hassan Shirazi was considered to be the Grand Mujtahid of Shiites and an expert in Islamic philosophy. He exercised considerable influence over the general Shiite population including officials in the Royal court of Nasir'ul-Din Shah. His famous Fatwa on banning the use of tobacco caused the political turmoil at the time. Haji Mirza Hassan Shirazi was a second cousin of the Báb and had met Him in the house of the Imam Jumha in Isfahan. After observing the power of His words, he declared his faith. From that period onwards, Haji Mirza Hassan exercised extreme caution in his contacts with the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and other believers. He managed to save himself by practicing Taqiyyah. He is known to have intervened on at least one occasion to assist the Bábís in captivity.[38]
Haji Mulla Mohammed Hamzih Shariatmadar was a respected old cleric in the City of Babol (Bar-foroosh). He constantly assisted and protected the Bábís and in response to questions from the general public would say 'I do not consider them bad and will not make negative comments about them.'[39] He set out to join the Bábís in Shaykh Tabarsi but was unable to get there due to the military embargo. Under instructions from Quddus, the 85 year old married his sister in order to protect her and a number of tablets and writings from Quddus. He performed final prayers for the funerals of Bábí martyrs and sought forgiveness for their killers. Other Mullahs became furious and called him a traitor and an infidel. Haji Mulla Mohammed Hamzih Shariatmadar managed to free the body of Quddus and bury it in the outskirts of the city. When his rival counterpart Saeedu'l Ulama provoked the mob to dig up and burn his remains, Haji complained vehemently to the Governor and warned of the wrath of God comparing this to the actions of the oppressors of Imam Husayn in Karbila. The Governor issued an order preventing Saeedu'l Ulama from carrying out his wish.[40]
The Mirza Mohammed Riza Abrari in Yazd was an influential senior Mullah. He was a former student of Siyyid Kazim Rashti who later believed in Báb. He practiced Taqiyyah to such an extent that his son was unaware of his belief. In the final hour of his life, he called his son Shaykh Zinul'Abedin to his bedside and encouraged him to investigate and accept the claims and teachings of the Báb.[41]
Aqa Shaykh Sadiq was a well-known scholar and teacher in Yazd and enjoyed a great deal of respect from the Ulama. He practiced Taqiyyah and never declared his faith in public. This caused him to continue teaching in the Shaf'ite school in Yazd for another 12 years. When rumours began to spread, he was banned from teaching altogether.[42]
Haji Mulla Mohammed Ali was another scholar and teacher who was the acting Imam Jumha on the locality of Dih Abad close to the City of Yazd. He became a Bábí in secret and was known for practicing Taqiyyah. He encouraged the Governor to build a special school for the young children in that locality. Once the school was built, he became the senior teacher. When rumours of his faith spread, he left his job and escaped to Yazd.[43]
Mirza Riza Quli Hakim brother of Bahá'u'lláh practiced as a Physician in the Royal Court in Tehran. His persistence in Taqiyyah was such that he refrained from mentioning His name or declaring His relationship with himself.[44]
Haji Mirza Yahya Dowlat-Abadi was a leading Bábí figure in Isfahan. After allegations of his Bábí affiliations surfaced, he was taken in to custody. In order to please the Shaykh Najafi the Mujtahid of Isfahan and protect his financial interests, Haji Mirza Yahya Dowlat-Abadi agreed to attend a number of his sermons and publicly denounce and slander the faith. His denunciation came during a heavy round of persecutions in nearby Najaf Abad in which many Bábís were arrested and killed. Later he announced his allegiance to Azal and began to persecute the local Bahá'ís. Bahá'u'lláh devotes a full section in the Epistle to the Son of Wolf to his activities and treason.
Mirza Aqa Rekab-Saz was a renowned Bahá'í in Yazd. The enemies provoked his wife – who was biased against the faith – to make an official complaint against him to the Governor. She agreed and alleged that Mirza Aqa was a Bahá'í engaged in copying Bahá'í Scriptures and regularly met with other notable Bahá'ís. Mirza Aqa decided to quell the rumours by practicing Taqiyyah. He became a regular participant in the daily prayers in the mosque of the senior Shaykh in the city. Gradually he gave the impression that he is not a Bábí and saved his life. He was later martyred in another round of persecutions.[45]
Haji Mirza Kamalul'Din Naraqi was a leading Imam Jumha and mullah of his native town of Naraq. He had travelled to Baghdad, met Bahá'u'lláh and became a Bahá'í at the age of 20. Upon his return to Naraq, the people appointed him as their Imam Jumha. He continued in this capacity and practiced Taqiyyah for a further year. One day he became wary of Taqiyyah and during his daily sermon thought to himself: 'Taqiyyah and caution is not the path of the lovers of religion. The days in this life will pass and there will be no recourse but regret.' Immediately he began to speak on the importance of the fundamental teachings and their priority over minor religious issues and promised the crowd that he will re-commence his duties in the mosque on another day. He then left the mosque and returned to Baghdad immediately.[46]

From Taqiyyah to total Denial

For many Bábís the practice of Taqiyyah was a forerunner to their eventual abandonment of their faith. Most of these Bábís had cautiously adopted Taqiyyah and then gradually moved on to severe ties with the Cause even refusing to assist other Bábís.

Mulla Hadi Qazvini was a Shaykhi student of Siyyid Kazim Rashti who later came to Shiraz and became one of the Letters of Living. He did not get involved in the Tabarsi uprising and shielded his life through Taqiyyah. Following the open declaration of Bahá'u'lláh, Mulla Hadi became a devout Azali and rose in His opposition. Mulla Hadi was expelled from the community by Bahá'u'lláh during the Adrine period and spent his final days in oblivion.[47]
Mulla Mohammed Taqi Horavi was a leading Mujtahid of his time. Islamic clerics in Isfahan relied on his knowledge and understanding of Shiite theology. He handled the judicial matters in that City. Later he became a Bábí and translated His 'Sahifeh Adliya' from Arabic to Farsi. He sent a number of letters to the Báb in Maku and in reply received many tablets from His pen. Months later fear and insecurity caused him to practice Taqiyyah and he gradually distanced himself from the Bábís. He spent his final days in Karbila isolated and suffered a lonely death.[48]
Mulla Ali Akbar Ardistani was one the early Bábís who accepted the faith during Mullah Husayn's stay in Isfahan. He then followed Mulla Sadiq Muqaddas to Shiraz. They were arrested, heavily tortured and carried around the Bazaar. After that event he adopted Taqiyyah and never again involved himself at times of danger.[49]
Mirza Husayn Yazdi was an influential Mullah in the city of Yazd. He copied and distributed many of the Báb's treatises. When rumours circulated about his Bábí affiliations, he practiced Taqiyyah and ordered his followers to inflict lashes on an arrested Bábí (Mulla Ali Naqi Rowza Khan). He survived a major upheaval against the Bábís in that city and was subsequently appointed as the head of the Islamic school and amassed considerable wealth. On another occasion he ordered two other Bábís to be beaten until such time that they recant their faith.[50]
Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani was a leading Azali and the son-in-law of Mirza Yahya Azal. He practiced Taqiyyah and on many occasions publicly humiliated teachings of the Báb and the character of Azal. His famous book 'Sad Khatabeh' is a testimony to his open adoption of Taqiyyah.[51]
Taqiyyah amongst the rank and file Bábís was a personal choice. Many Bábís openly engaged in other unlawful activities and yet called themselves a Bábí. Ustad Mohammad Ali Salmani recalls his early days as a Bábí:

The majority of Bábís were not steadfast and many were involved in unacceptable behaviours. I visited Aqa Mohammad Javad Najafabadi – a genuinely honest Bábí – at his house on the 21st Day of Ramadan. He was a good Bábí but happened to drink wine. He was filtering wine in his residence where the odour had alerted the neighbours. They surrounded the house, arrested us and took us to the prison... We were five in total. Mohammed Javad – a good old man who used to travel to nearby districts and teach – Abdul'Karim Isfahani who has now become a covenant breaker, Mohammed Sadiq the brother of Abdul'Karim who displayed little conviction in the cause, Mulla Ali my teacher who was a genuine and well natured individual and myself.[52]

He continues:

We consulted amongst ourselves in jail and agreed to exclude Mohammed Sadiq from our ranks because he was not stable. We told the authorities that he has been arrested by mistake and they later released him. Thus we then became four in number and decided against dissimulation (Taqiyyah) as it was not desirable. We agreed that it was best to say the same thing (during interrogations) and maintain consistency.[53]

Treatises and Compilations

In many instances the learned Bábís who practiced Taqiyyah left behind significant literary works in support of the new revelation. Unfortunately in some cases the opposition of their children to the Faith resulted in the loss of most of these treatises. The impact of these treatises in guiding the general population to the Cause is difficult to verify. However their very existence indicates the internal struggle within the learned class of Bábís who chose to practice Taqiyyah.

Shaykh Mohammed Taqi Hashtroudi wrote a book entitled 'Abvab-Al-Hoda' in support of the Bábí cause from a Shaykhi perspective. This work includes the author's detailed personal recollections from the classes of Shaykh Ahmad Ahsai and Siyyid Kazim Rashti in detail. In certain sections he resorts to abusive language whilst condemning the enemies of the faith such as Mulla Mohammed Mamaqani (ironically one of his ardent followers!). He submitted this book during his final days to Mulla Mostafa Tabrizi one of his Bábí contacts in Tabriz.[54]
Aqa Mirza Ahmad Azqandi whilst observing Taqiyyah and caution wrote a treatise in support of Báb's claims at the request of his Bábí friend.[55]
Haji Mulla Mohammed Hamzih Shriatmadar published a book entitled 'Asrar-Al-Shahada' five years after the martyrdom of the Báb. He writes:

'Báb' means the Gate. As the Prophet (Mohammed) was the City of knowledge and Ali – peace be upon him – was the gate to that city... Similarly the first gate was Jinab-i Mirza Ali Mohammed who was from a merchant family. Although I never met him, I have read a book written by Him when he was 27 years of age. In His younger days He spent less than a year in Karbila in the company of Jinab-i Haji Siyyid Kazim (Rashti). He only studied elementary subjects and developed an extraordinary power to write and an incredible mental capacity to create (works) ... He wrote six or seven volumes in a style close to the Quranic verses and many powerful Khotab similar to 'Sahifeh Sajadieh' (written by Imam Ali). He wrote a commentary to the Sura of the Cow (Baqarah) with difficult and strange combinations of words. These works were delivered to me. They were written with a pleasant style of handwriting. He had a quick pen and wrote in style. He claimed the position of Bábíya and named himself the Báb ... The second Báb after Him was Jinab-i Haji Mohammed Ali the son of a Mazandarani farmer who lived at the same age and appeared slightly older than Him. He accompanied (the Báb) to Mecca ... and similar to (the Báb) had not studied conventional theory. After returning from Mecca He wrote an incomplete commentary on the Surah of Oneness (Tawhid). I read approximately five to six thousand verses revealed by Him at a quick pace. The slant and message of this work were solely on the oneness of God... The third Báb was Jinab-i Akhund Mulla Husayn Bushruieh. He was competent in the conventional theory, theology, fundamentals and grammar. He considered his knowledge of Bábíya a mere drop of ocean in comparison to the other two. He was quite brave, had a fighting spirit and was skilled with the sword ... (after Shaykh Tabarsi) they brought Haji Mohammed Ali and several of his followers to town. Haji was taken to Sabzeh-Maydan and was set on fire. When the public questioned me about my opinion of the oppressor/oppressed parties, or regarding their infidelity of Islam, I used to remain silent. Not writing a response or uttering an answer... This was a summary of their story. Although they have been eliminated for now, their future fate may be unpredictable. Must ponder on the consequence (of actions) and its implications... Others alleged that prophets and Imams were witches and considered them mentally unstable, infidel or mad. This was due to their own stupidity and deficiency in understanding and comprehension. How can it be that a knowledgeable, honest, learned, respected and perfect man born as a Shiite in a Shiite family and raised amongst the Shiites seeking the religion of Siyyid Al Mursalin (Mohammed) would lie and lean towards blasphemy? The insane and mentally ill will not do what he does... If people are investigating, they must ask him or remain quite and leave Him to His Lord. They must not denounce Him according to their imperfect minds...[56]

Mulla Alyaz was a Jewish Physician in the City of Hamadan who secretly declared his faith following a meeting with Tahirih in that City. He then practiced Taqiyyah in order to protect his life and the security of the Jewish minority in Hamadan. He subsequently assisted Comte de Gobineau in compiling information and detailing certain events relating to Bábí history.[57]

Unfortunately not all of the compilations and writings were complimentary to the Cause. The Azali Bábís and in particular Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani and Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi showed little hesitation in the alteration and falsification of Bábí teachings and history in their works. Azali Bábí' regarded Taqiyyah as an imperative requirement.

Contrary to Bahá'ís who had begun to discard the practice of Taqiyyah with the passage of time and gradually moved to stamp out this practice from their ranks, Azalis stayed loyal to the Taqiyyah and praised its adoption in their literature. Azali leaders such as Haji Mirza Hadi Dowlatabadi, Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani and Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi all had publicly renounced the Báb and Azal in a series of formal meetings with Ulama, officials and common people. However in the case of Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani and Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi their repeated Taqiyyah were never believed by the general public and government authorities.

Aqa Khan Kirmani allocated a considerable section to raising the status of Taqiyyah in the Bábí religion in his book Hasht Behesht. He regards those who practice Taqiyyah as true believers. This may have been aimed at countering the negative impressions created in the minds of most Bábís following the flagrant manner which Azali leaders used in public to slander their faith. Hasht Behesht lists the advantages of Taqiyyah:

Taqiyyah is a sign of true religion and if (a follower) of an aborted religion practices Taqiyyah, he will be destroyed instantly. Aborted religions have no features other than some superficial customs and ceremonies... Aborted religions do not possess any hidden secrets or truths. Therefore practicing Taqiyyah in these religions will cause them to be destroyed and annulled. The more the hidden secrets, Taqiyyah and concealment in a religion, the more the authenticity and truth of that religion ... believer is the person who displays more Taqiyyah. Increased concealment in a religion will cause greater power, influence and respect in its teachings... Secrets and truths are like roots and bases. The healthier the root and base, the greater the appearance of a tree. It has been said by the learned that a tree without a firm base will not produce green branches. Hiding a secret will hasten the prosperity of the revelation. Just as a plant will not grow if the seed is not hidden inside the ground... Whosoever keeps secrets will experience an eternal joy in his heart...[58]

Aqa Khan ventures further and classifies secrets into four levels. The concealers of secrets in the upper level cannot disclose their message to those from a lower level. The highest level is level four where Aqa Khan claims 'even they do not know what secret they are concealing.'[59]

According to Aqa Khan one must behave in a cordial fashion with the enemies and not share 'secrets' with them. In his more political work 'Sad Khatabeh' Aqa Khan contradicts his earlier claims:

One of the evils of conversion by force and declaration without thought which manifests itself amongst the Iranians is Taqiyyah. Curse on Taqiyyah ... though Iranians contend themselves by taking this course, they neglect the fact that half of the moral values of this nations have been corrupted due to Taqiyyah which was originally instilled in their veins through the sword of the Arabs...[60]

During this work he switches from Taqiyyah to outright opposition to the Báb and personal insult:

The philosophical teachings of Mulla Sadra, theologies of Shaykh Morteza, Irfan of Shaykh Ahmad and Bayán of the Báb: How have they benefited this beleaguered country? They have not increased government revenue, increased their standard of living or removed the threats of Russian and British influence. Though every day their poverty is increased and their plight becomes more sorrowful...[61]

Also:

Siyyid Báb had no warships to support his claims. Despite his arrogance, his people displayed no bravery or grandeur. Despite his self-praise, he possessed no considerable knowledge or power. Therefore he based his government on Islam and staked his reputation on the love of the Holy Imams.[62]

And:

Siyyid Báb has called himself the Lord of all in the Heavens and in the Earth. We can say that such arrogance is not new in the Islamic nation ... rotten Dervishes and forgotten leaders have made such claims but none have dared to call themselves God.[63]

Mirza Aqa Khan and other Azalis claimed loyalty to the Báb and his teachings. Yet they continued this style of taqiyyah to discredit the Babi movement in general. This duality in approach reduced their moral credentials amongst the Bábís and nullified their vehement campaign against Bahá'u'lláh.

In contrast, the Bahá'ís were clearly instructed by Bahá'u'lláh to consider 'steadfastness in the Cause of God' above all other teachings. Bahá'u'lláh writes to Haji Siyyid Javad Karbalai in these words:

Certain souls who confess to recognising the Lord ... if they fail to observe certain actions or do not consider them in accordance with wisdom, [one] must not treat them in harshness... There are certain teachings that compliance with them will cause no harm to the individuals. It is a duty of all to observe them ... in this age the important necessity is for all to recognize the manifestation of God and be steadfast in His Cause.[64]

The conflicting statements made by Azali Bábís in regards to the Báb caused Mirza Abu'l Fadl Golpayegani to write these words to Edward Browne:

Are they (Aqa Khan and Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi) proclaiming the Islamic Faith or the Azali Faith? Unless we assume that they are practicing Taqiyyah and have concealed their religion in disguise. This excuse is contrary to Mr. Browne's view of the Azalis, considering them as brave and independent people. This excuse is also in variance with their (Aqa Khan and Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi) initiative in setting up a United Islamic Front. Therefore we can either say that they are genuine Moslems and Mr Browne has portrayed them as Azali. Or that they are genuine Azalis ... and their open invitations for a united Islam and concern for the Islamic religion stems from Taqiyyah... Mr Browne claims to be an independent observer. How can he ignore these apparent contradictions? ... these two souls are either hard line Shiites or wayward infidels.[65]

Pressure from the Family

In many cases the emotional pressure and physical harassment by the members of the immediate family coerce the new converts into observing Taqiyyah. Some chose not to disclose their new affiliation with the family right from the start. From the family's point of view, public disclosure of their member's new faith was an open invitation for unwanted persecutions. It was a preamble to provoking the enmity of their neighbours and imposition of economic and social embargoess on the whole family. The easiest way out of the crisis was encouraging the 'wayward' member to observe Taqiyyah.

Recognition of the new faith caused many families to be disrupted, separated or even destroyed. The other members of the family with reputation, business or influence in the old system, those who wanted to achieve a higher status in the existing order or those who simply wanted to protect the status quo did not want to be drawn in to a raging conflict over religion. Whence they treated the 'wayward' family member with the utmost contempt.

Mirza Abu'l Fadl conveyed this point to Prince Kamran Mirza who planned to massacre the Bahá'ís in Tehran: 'Many Bahá'ís conceal their faith to such an extent that their immediate family members remain unaware of their faith. Their identification is not possible by peaceful means.'[66]
Mulla Alyaz was a Jewish Physician in Hamadan. When he declared his interest in the faith to his father, his family became alarmed. His father – the influential leader of the local Jewish Community in Hamadan – concerned at the potential danger facing the Jewish minority at the hands of the Ulama and the mob, insisted that his son reconsider this matter. Mulla Alyaz became a Bábí without his father's knowledge and concealed this matter from him for a considerable period of time.[67]
Mirza Aqa Ismu'llah Moniru'l Monib had a merchant father who was a hard line Shiite. He was extremely opposed to the Báb and the Bábís. When Monib became a Bábí, he initially practiced Taqiyyah and concealed the matter from his father. A short time later he experienced a spiritually transformation, spending a considerable time in meditation and displaying outward signs of emotional attachment to the Cause. When his father found out, he took his son to the outskirts of Kashan in the company of a few of his colleagues. He then ordered them to kill his own son and abandon his body. After Monib pleaded with his father, he reluctantly agreed to free him on the condition that he leave the city and never return.[68]
Mirza Aqa Rekab-Saz was forced to practice Taqiyyah in Yazd after his wife made a formal complaint to the Governor.[70]
Mulla Abul'Hassan Ardikani observed Taqiyyah and concealed his beliefs from his immediate family until the final day of his life.[70]
The relatives of Shaykh Zainu'l Abidin Abrari encouraged him to practice Taqiyyah in public.[71]

Mass Taqiyyah

Many instances of mass Taqiyyah have been recorded in various Bábí accounts. Mass Taqiyyah occurred in localities where the persecutions and opposition to the Cause were particularly intense. A major disadvantage of mass Taqiyyah was the abandonment of the faith by their children and grandchildren.

Following the ill-fated attempt on the life of Nasiru'l Din Shah, an official order was issued to all Governors and Regional Rulers to 'vehemently attempt to arrest them and destroy their numbers. Ulama are reminded to issue Fatwas for their execution and consider their possessions Hallal.'[72]

The number of mass Taqiyyah cases amongst the Bábís reached such a proportion that according to Nabil: 'it caused the ignorant to assume that there are no more believers left.'[73] Similarly Browne records that despite his best efforts he was unable to obtain Bábí literature during his travels in Iran.
The numerous children and grandchildren of Aqa Siyyid Ismail Kashfi – one of the devoted disciples of Vahid – following his return from Nayriz, moved away from this cause and displayed little resolve in investigation and participation in (Bábí) activities.[73B]
Many of the Bábís in Qum followed the example set by Mirza Mohammad Husayn Motavalli Qumi, refusing the take part in uprisings and were thus protected from the afflictions for years.[74]
Many Bábís in the city of Yazd practiced Taqiyyah following the persecutions there after the ill-fated attempt on the life of the Shah (year 1268 HQ). Many more practiced Taqiyyah during another round of persecutions in the year 1300 HQ.[75]
Many Bábís in Zanjan practiced Taqiyyah after the violent crushing of the Zanjan uprising and again following the attempt on the life of the Shah. The children and grand children of the martyrs in Zanjan distanced themselves from the faith and refused to meet other Bábís or disclose their relationship to the martyrs. They continued to live in hiding, isolated from one another and in a state of total concealment.[76]
Many Bábís practiced Taqiyyah during the persecutions in Tehran following the crack down by Prince Kamran Mirza in 1300 HQ.[77] In Hamadan many Bábís observed Taqiyyah in order to protect their lives.[78]
A great majority of the Bábís in the locality of Hendijan publicly practiced Taqiyyah and convinced the Mujtahids that they have converted back to Islam. Whilst many became Moslems over time, a number of them continued to uphold Taqiyyah for a considerable period of time.[79]
After the martyrdom of the Báb, many of His relatives in Shiraz lived in fear of their lives. They practiced Taqiyyah for years until such time that Bahá'u'lláh dispatched His teachers to Shiraz.[80]
Mirza Ahmad Kashani was one of the early believers in Kashan. He had met the Báb whilst He was staying in the house of Haji Mirza Jani Kashani. During the persecution of the Bábís following the attempt on the life of the Shah, the mob attacked his house in order to arrest him. He remained hidden for a while and then decided to leave for Baghdad. He joined a fellow Kashani on the way. At Baghdad he observed his travelling companion in the House of Bahá'u'lláh and realised that they had both been concealing their intentions from one another earlier during their journey from Kashan[81]
Mulla Ali Akbar Shirazi practiced Taqiyyah to conceal his true affiliations from his friends Mulla Qulam Hosayn and Mulla Mohammad Riza. Later he abandoned Taqiyyah and began to talk to them about the Cause.[82]
Haji Shaykh Zainu'l Abedin Abrari recalls meeting a Bábí in Karbila who had escaped the persecutions in the City of Yazd. When asked about further information about the Cause, the Bábí pleads with him: 'Haji this is not the place for such conversation' and asks him to practice Taqiyyah.[83]

Cooperation with Officials

A number of Bábís cooperated with the authorities in the identification, arrest and persecution of their fellow Bábís in return for saving their lives. Such Bábís had to prove their 'sincerity' to the authorities by implementing tough sanctions against their colleagues. In certain instances it is difficult to ascertain whether their cooperation was done voluntarily or under duress.

Vahid managed to convert many of the Ulama in the township of Istahbanat on his way to Nayriz. Many of them sensing that the government troops were planning an attack, joined forces and under the leadership of Haji Rasul Mehrizi – formerly a devout follower of Vahid – and attacked their fellow Bábís. The same individual later provoked the Ulama in Yazd in organising another persecution against the Bábís. At least on one occasion he lashed the Bábís with his own hands.[84]
Another Bábí was Aqa Siyyid Ismail Maranjani. He initially requested Vahid for his consent to marry his daughter. When this was refused, Aqa Siyyid Ismail Maranjani attacked and looted the Bábís, stole Vahid's horse and joined the opposition forces, eventually assuming the leadership of the hard line Mullahs in Nayirz.[85]
Following the ill-fated attempt on the life of Nasiru'l Din Shah, prison officials were busily interrogating Azim. Mirza Mohammed Husayn Motavalli Qumi – a defected Bábí – intervened saying 'there are souls greater that Azim under His shadow' pointing to Bahá'u'lláh. On another occasion he cut off the ear of Azim to please his interrogators.[86]
In the year 1300 HQ two Bábí defectors named Karbalai Mohammed and Mirza Qulam Husayn actually initiated the persecutions in Tehran. They visited Aqa Siyyid Sadiq Tabatabai the grand Mujtahid, formally made a number of complaints against the Bábís and submitted a list of the names of more than 1000 Bábís within the Tehran province to the Mullah. During the meeting they advised the Mujtahid that the Bábís call him Dajjal (in Islamic tradition, the evil character who will oppose the promised Mahdi and attempt to take His life). This infuriated Aqa Siyyid Sadiq Tabatabai to such an extent that he immediately drafted a letter to Prince Kamran Mirza requesting the massacre of all Bábís. He enclosed the list of Tehrani Bábís with the letter. Following the receipt of the letter, Prince Kamran Mirza arranged a private meeting with the two Bábís and questioned them about the activities of the Bábís in Tehran and specifically about Siyyid Mahdi Dahaji. Finally he advise them to continue their associations with the Bábís and Bahá'ís. They were to inform him of potential Bahá'í gatherings so he could dispatch his troops for their mass arrest.

The Bahá'ís learnt of the wickedness of Karbalai Mohammed and Mirza Qulam Husayn and refused to associate with them. After a short time Karbalai Mohammed again visited Aqa Siyyid Sadiq Tabatabai the grand Mujtahid complaining that 'the Prince has not acted on your earlier correspondence.' The Mujtahid wrote a second letter to Kamran Mirza threatening that 'if you do not arrest and execute the Bahá'ís, the masses will take the initiative in to their own hands.'

Finally the government officials led by Karbalai Mohammed raided the houses of the Bahá'ís. Karbalai Mohammed started by questioning the owner and would go inside and collect the Bahá'í literature as evidence. Amongst the seized items were the Bayán-i-Farsi, Commentary on the Surah of Kowthar, Commentary on the Surah of Baqarah, Tablets from Bahá'u'lláh and a photograph of Sutanu'l Shohada. Karbalai Mohammed delivered these items directly to the house of the Mujtahid.

Simultaneously Mirza Qulam Husayn led another group of government officials in another part of Tehran. He caused the capture of many including Mirza Abul Fadl Golpayegani. A total of 37 Bábís and Bahá'ís were arrested during this round of persecutions.[87]

Clever Responses Under Pressure

Many Bábís used a combination of vague and two-sided satirical language in order to trick the authorities in to believing they were not a Bábí.

Mulla Abdullah Fadil was one of the learned Bábís (formerly a respected Mullah) captured by the Hissamu'l Dowla the Governor of Fars on orders from Shaykh Husayn the Mujtahid of the City in 1287 HQ. In response to the question of whether you are a Bábí, he replied:

What can I say. May God never bring afflictions to His creatures. Every man has rivals and enemies in his own class and occupation. The creed of Ulama are no exception. The majority of the respected people of Fars hold me in high regards and this has caused their jealousy. In the past they have alleged that I am a Sufi simply because I had referred to the words of Shaykhu'l Rais and Sadru'l Mota'ahelin. Now they have alleged in the presence of His Excellency that I am a Bábí.[88]

The Governor asked, 'So what they allege about you and others is untrue?' Mulla Abdullah Fadil replied 'I search after the truth and have not yet reached the essence of the matter. I have no knowledge of the supernatural and hidden secrets.' This reply convinced the Governor who arranged for his freedom.[88]

Mohammed Khan Baluch was a Sufi from the southern Balushistan province who had met Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká and became a Bahá'í. During the persecution in Shiraz in 1287 HQ he was captured. The Governor asked him 'Are you a Bábí? ' He replied 'It is obvious that I am a Dervish. And dervishes follow a style not a religion.' The Governor asked him to insult Subh-i Azal. Mohammed Khan Baluch used a humorous tone to condemn the morning (subh), noon and night of Eternity (Azal). The audience became amused and the Governor arranged for his freedom.[89]
Aqa Mirza Mahdi was a respected Mulla in the city of Rasht. He had become a Bábí following a series of discussions with Andalib. In the year 1297 HQ the enemies provoked the Mujtahid of that city Aqa Mirza Abdu'l Baqi to capture and execute him. The Mujtahid invited Aqa Mirza Mahdi to his house. When he entered the house, Aqa Mirza Mahdi observed crowds of people had gathered awaiting on receiving orders from the Mujtahid to persecute him. He immediately embraced the Mujtahid and greeted him in a warm and friendly manner. The Mujtahid became surprised and told the audience: 'I had suspected that such rumours are false. I have no doubts regarding the faith and loyalty of Mirza Mahdi.' Mirza Mahdi replied:

'Let me begin by explaining why some people think that I am a Bábí:
'I met up with a Dervish accidentally a short time ago. He was a pleasant talker and I socialised with him.
'After a few days he asked me: Is it true that you followers of Ithna Ashari Shiism are awaiting the appearance of the Qa'im in the year 1260 according to the traditions and Ahadith from the Holy Imams?
'I answered: 'Yes we are waiting for His coming. But I have not heard traditions regarding the year 1260.'
'He recited the famous tradition from Abi Labid Makhzoumi. I did not believe him. He requested a copy of the book Baharu'l Anvar. I gave him the book. He opened a particular page and showed me the exact tradition. I became disillusioned and started to debate the matter. I asked about Dajjal and miracles and this is how he responded (lengthy summary of discussions).
'As hard as I tried I failed to prove his errors. He produced some damning answers and prevented me from stating my convictions.
'Anyhow we did not see one another afterward. I took my concerns to the teacher of my school who is an expert in tradition and Ahadith. Others learnt of the discussions and called me a Bábí.
'Now I request your expertise to give me sufficient answers so that I could debate and defeat the Bábís in the future.'[90]

Aqa Mirza Mahdi used this opportunity to relay what he had heard from Andalib prior to his declaration. His words had a deep effect on the stunned audience. The Mujtahid said to him: 'If you had asked me earlier I would have provided the answers and punished the Dervish accordingly. However today time is short and we must leave the full answers to another time.' He then allowed Mirza Mahdi to walk free.[91]

In Bushruieh following one of the upheavals a Mulla Mohammed Taqi was captured and told to recant his faith to save his life. He went to the local mosque and declared:

Some people are known to be Bábís and the public, in particular the Mujtahids, curse them. Therefore I curse them.

He then stood down and returned to his house. This infuriated the local Mujtahid who claimed that Mulla Mohammed Taqi had effectively cursed him. He wrote to the Ulama in Tabass and received a reply saying 'What has transpired is sufficient. Do not take any further actions.' [92]

Haji Mirza Kamal'ul Din Naraqi after a year of practicing Taqiyyah went to the mosque and addressed the congregation on the importance of observing the fundamental principles of the faith and their priority over the details, stood down from the pulpit and abruptly left the mosque. Many called him 'mentally disturbed' and others suggested that he may have become a Bábí.[93]
Haji Shaykh Zinu'l Abidin Abrari one of the (secret Bábí) Mujtahids in the city of Yazd was invited by the Ulama to attend a grand meeting in order to consider the fate of one of the captured Bábís. He recalls:

'They discussed the execution warrant and considered his infidelity and religion ... I remained quiet and internally bemused throughout. The chief of Ulama Shaykh Sabzevari asked: Why are you silent? The religion of the Lord is under threat. It is not the place for silence.
'I replied: "Islam is in the utmost strength and its teachers have the utmost courage. As there are innocent lives being lost. Today the real protectors of religion, that is the Chief Mujtahids and Ulama and deputies of the Imam are present in the Atabat and remain unaware of such conflict and bloodshed. It is best to convey the present situation to them and await their orders prior to taking any actions. In addition I cannot see the logic in killing Shaykh Sadiq. If the purpose is to kill one Bábí, what is the result? So many have been massacred, what has been achieved? If the purpose is to prevent the masses from becoming Bábís, this approach is wrong. Because when a soul renowned for his steadfastness and honesty is killed, he becomes more important and attracts many others. Therefore it is appropriate that this committee makes the following resolution: to punish those who make allegations against others, and to treat the alleged Bábís with kindness. So the masses will not be attracted to the and not become terrorised by our actions." This introduction managed to quell the fire of hatred and anger in the gathering to an extent that they abandoned the thought of killing Shaykh Sadeq.[94]

Following the murder of Mulla Taqi Borqani in Qazvin, the general assumption was that it was planned by Aqa Hadi Farhadi. The mob attacked his house but could not find him. Aqa Hadi managed to conceal his identity and was busily planing to free Tahirih. The angry mob captured his brother Aqa Mahdi, took him to the main square and began inflicting lashes on his bare body. They wanted to find out the whereabouts of Aqa Hadi. At the same time the disguised Aqa Hadi approached the perpetrators and asked with a Yazdi accent 'Who is this person and why are you torturing him?' They replied: 'His brother has murdered Haji Mulla Taqi and has gone in to hiding. He will not reveal where.' Aqa Hadi answered: 'Do not torture this poor soul. I witnessed a caravan arriving in Yazd coming from this City two days ago and amongst them was a certain Aqa Hadi. He is probably the same person that you are looking for.'[95]
Haji Mulla Mohammed Hamzih Shari'atmadar always assisted and supported local Bábís in the city of Barforoosh. Whenever the public asked about the Bábí claims and ideas he would reply 'I do not consider them bad and will not make negative comments about them.'[96]
Haji Mulla Baqir Ardakani the Imam Jumha of Ardikan was secretly a Bábí. The rival mullahs found out about his conversion and submitted a petition to the local Governor asking for his execution. When he met the Governor, Haji Mulla Baqir Ardakani resorted to pleasantries and managed to attract the mind and heart of the Governor. The Governor then ignored the petition, sent the Haji to Karbila for two years and arranged an elaborate welcome party after his return.[97]

Embarrassment in the Presence of Officials

Taqiyyah and dissimulation did not always save the lives of the Bábís.

Aqa Rasul Behnamiri and thirty of his followers left the Tabarsi fortress and intended to convey their allegiance to the government forces. As they surrendered they were sprayed with bullets. Their bodies were taken to nearby towns and beheaded in public view.[98]
During the interrogations the government officials repeatedly asked Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani, Shaykh Ahmad Ruhi and Haji Mirza Husayn Khan whether they are Bábí or Bahá'í. They all concealed their beliefs and used a combination of abusive terms and hate words to distance themselves from the Cause. When asked: 'You are the son-in-laws of Azal. How can you not be a Bábí or Azali?' They replied by swearing at the Báb and Azal. A short time later the same officials beheaded all three and sent their heads to the Royal Court in Tehran.[99]

In other instances the Taqiyyah of the individuals became the object of ridicule for the interrogators:

During the interrogations of the Bábí captives following the attempt on the life of the Shah, Siyyid Husayn Motavalli Qumi became one of the Bábís who recanted their faith and wanted to save his own life. As the officials were questioning Azim, Qumi intervened saying: 'There are souls greater that Azim under His shadow' pointing to Bahá'u'lláh. The chief interrogator became infuriated and hit him in the face saying: 'Your mischievous actions are obvious to all. Shut your mouth and be quite.'[100]
During the interrogation of the Bábís in Tehran in year 1300 HQ, Mirza Zinu'l Abidin Jarrah claimed to be a Sufi and a follower of Mirza Kouchak Hamadani. He added: 'I also curse the Bábís.' Prince Kamran Mirza became angry and after a heavy round of verbal insult told him: 'Do you assume that I am ignorant about your affairs, pursuing a line of trickery?' He then imprisoned Mirza Zinu'l Abidin Jarrah along with the other captives. On another occasion Kamran Mirza addressed the Bábí recanters with these words: 'During the times of peace and comfort you are firm Bahá'ís and at times of difficulty and distress you make false allegations against decent people.'[101]
On one occasion Haji Mirza Rida Quli Hakim the brother of Bahá'u'lláh visited Mirza Husayn Khan Moshirul'Dowla the Premier. The Premier introduced him to the guests as the brother of Bahá'u'lláh. Hakim protested: 'Why didn't you introduce my relationship with my famous father?' Mirza Husayn Khan replied:

'You must be proud of having such a brother. Thousands of souls from all backgrounds recognize his station with utmost respect. How is it that you run away from such a privilege? ... Your brother is the one individual who saved my face in front of the Ottoman authorities. The reason is that every time Iranian dignitaries and Princes visited Istanbul they would immediately go around to every Ottoman minister and official seeking money. This had caused the Ottoman authorities to assume that Iranians are all beggars by nature. When your brother was brought in to Istanbul, He did not visit the house of any of the Ottoman official except those who came to His house. This convinced the Ottoman authorities that there are grand personalities amongst the Iranians.'[102]

On another occasion Haji Mirza Rida Quli Hakim went to the house of Mirza Husayn Khan Moshirul'Dowla. He was entertained by the host, his two brothers and other member of the Qatar establishment. Mirza Husayn Khan asked him: 'What is the news from the Gentlemen?' Hakim who claimed to be a follower of Mulla Ali Kani, started to talk about this Mulla. Mirza Husayn Khan intervened saying: 'I meant the brothers.' Hakim replied: "I have no links or correspondence with them. Mr Ala'ul Malek can testify to this fact.' Mirza Husayn Khan became infuriated and said:

Hakim, did you assume that I had an ulterior motive for asking this question? This is not true. During my term as Ambassador certain actions were implemented in Istanbul, but they were wrong. The (former) Premier Mirza Aqa Khan committed a great treason to this country. For years and years enormous cash reserves from this country were sent to Saudi Arabia. God intended to finally channel this wealth back to Iran. However the Iranian Government did not realize this fact. I am telling you the position and station of His Cause is far greater than the personal servitude of people like me and you.[103]

During a personal visit, Mirza Abdul's Khan Ala'ul Malek one of the Qajar officials told Mirza Fadlu'llah Khan Nizamu'l Mamalek (nephew of Hakim):

Your uncle (Mirza Rida Quli) assumes that our friendship is based on superficial worldly matters. However as I sense that you are a clever young man, I confide in you that I associate with this family for certain other considerations. I can see that the likes of you people will not associate with us in the future.[104]


Conclusions
  1. Taqiyyah was formally included as part of the Shiite theology in the early part of the 18th century. As early as the Safavid period certain Mujtahids promoted certain traditions from the Holy Imams in relation to the coming of the Mahdi. Their purpose was to safeguard his identity against the ferocity of the opposition.

  2. The Founders of Shaykhi school used Taqiyyah to promulgate their anticipation for the coming of the 'Perfect Shi'a'. Shaykhi literature contain numerous references to 'secrets' of resurrection and the inability of the common people to understand them.

  3. At the time of the revelation of Báb, the ferocity of prejudice and hatred was such that He first revealed His position as the Deputy to the Hidden Imam. Taqiyyah was an essential requirement during the early phase of the revelation simply because the level of prejudice within the society could have totally crushed the movement before it had a chance to spread.

  4. The Báb even ordered many of his followers to practice Taqiyyah in order to spread the cause and carry out importance services for the faith.

  5. As the Bábí cause progressed and their numbers grew, the Báb revealed his true identity as the Hidden Imam and a manifestation from God. This claim effectively made the Bábí faith independent from other Shiite sects. Mulla Husayn was now appointed to the position of Deputy of the Hidden Imam.

  6. After the martyrdom of the Báb and the severe persecutions that followed in the ensuing years, the practice of Taqiyyah became popular amongst the Bábís. There were many instances of learned Bábís concealing their faith and evidence of Mass Taqiyyah in a number of cities.

  7. Many of those who recanted their faith continued to support and assist other Bábís in times of need. For others the practice of Taqiyyah was a forerunner to their eventual abandonment of their faith. A few even engaged in the active persecution of their former colleagues. On the other hand many abandoned Taqiyyah and later lost their life for their Faith.

  8. There are a number of treatises and compilations written by Bábís who practiced Taqiyyah. It is difficult to ascertain their success in assisting the Cause. Such works were indicative of the inner struggle within the Bábís in proclaiming their true identity.

  9. Taqiyyah was in many instances used to conceal one's faith from the threats posed by the immediate family members.

  10. Taqiyyah did not always result in saving one's life. It was largely a circumstantial confession. Many Bábís lost their lives even though they had earlier recanted their faith.

  11. Bahá'u'lláh clearly announced that the recognition of the manifestation of God and 'steadfastness' His Cause is more important than observing any of the other teachings. Gradual abandonment of Taqiyyah amongst the Bahá'ís was one of the distinguishing feature of the new religion from the Bábí era. After this time the practice of Taqiyyah became unofficially superseded.

  12. In contrast the Azali Bábís glorified Taqiyyah in their literature. Taqiyyah was considered a virtue and classified into various levels of concealment. Prominent Azali leaders openly recanted their faith and even abused the Báb and Azal in the process. The extent of Taqiyyah in their words and actions caused Mirza Abu'l Fadl to question Edward Browne's method of portraying of Azali Bábís. Taqiyyah became one of the distinguishing features of the Azali-Bahá'í split.



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The above draft of this paper differs from the published version, which can be downloaded here: manuchehri_taqiyyih_babi_bahai.pdf.
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