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Release the Sun

by William Sears

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Chapter 10

THE KING'S SUMMONS

Muhammad Shah, the king of Persia, was torn between two conflicting desires. He wanted to meet the Bab. He was anxious to see in person this young Man Who could win over to His Faith someone as learned and gifted as Vahid, and a man of such nobility, stature and wealth as Manuchihr Khan. He was eager to know more of this young Prophet Who could so powerfully affect such illustrious people. Yet he was alarmed at the same time. He was frightened of what might happen if the Bab gained too much popularity. His Prime Minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi, constantly warned him to beware of the Bab. The priests at Court spoke of the Bab in the same manner the religious authorities had spoken of Jesus, saying: "He is a political revolutionary. He will undermine your state and destroy your influence over your subjects." The king wavered. He blew hot and cold. Prompted by the Prime Minister, he at one time issued instructions to do away with the Bab, then later withdrew them. Now, thinking it would have pleased his friend, the late Manuchihr Khan, the king again expressed his eagerness to meet the Bab in person. Therefore, he summoned the Bab to the capital city of Tihran. The historian Nicolas wrote: "The Shah, whimsical and fickle, forgetting that he had, a short time before, ordered the murder of

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the Reformer [the Bab], felt the desire of seeing at last the man who had aroused such universal interest."[F1] The king's order read: "Send the Bab in disguise, in the company of a mounted escort. Exercise the utmost consideration towards Him in the course of his journey, and strictly maintain the secrecy of His departure. Visit no towns or villages enroute." The king said he wished to protect the Bab from His enemies in this manner. In reality, the Prime Minister had arranged the plan for an entirely different reason. He preferred the Bab to remain in disguise and hidden for fear of the influence that he might exercise upon the inhabitants of the cities through which he passed. The captain of the escort was told, "Beware lest anyone discover his identity or suspect the nature of your mission. No one but you, and even the members of his escort, should be allowed to recognize him. Should anyone question you concerning him, say that he is a merchant whom you have been instructed to conduct to the capital, and of whose identify you are completely ignorant." Late one night, in accordance with the instructions of the king, the Bab set out for Tihran. Enroute to the capital, the Bab's guards discovered His identity in spite of the precautions, and became His supporters. His alluring charm, combined with a compelling dignity and loving kindness, won them over and transformed them. In their eagerness to serve and please Him, they told Him : "We are strictly forbidden by the government to allow you to enter any village or house. We are told to proceed by an unfrequented route directly to Tihran so that you shall come in contact with no one. However, if it be your wish, wee are ready to ignore these instructions and escort you through the streets of every town." The Bab replied that He preferred to go by way of the country, for the cities were unholy. The people paid tribute to the shrines with their lips while with their acts they heaped dishonor upon them. Outwardly they reverenced, but inwardly they disgraced. The Prime Minister sent a message which intercepted the party one day's journey from Tihran and commanded the guard not to take the Bab to Tihran, but to the village of Kulayn instead, and to hold Him there until further instructions. The Prime Minister was determined that the Bab should never reach the capital. The Prime Minister continually reminded the king of the religious revolts that had taken place in the past in Mirman and Khurasan,

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and warned him that the Bab was just such a dangerous threat to the peace of the realm. The Prime Minister's influence over the king was unlimited. Comte de Gobineau, the French historian, wrote: "His [the king's] disposition, naturally weak, had become very melancholy and, as he craved love and could not find it in his family either with wives or children, he had centered all his affection upon the aged Mulla [Haji Mirza Aqasi], his tutor. He made of him his only friend, his confidant, then his first and all-powerful minister, even his god!"[F2] The Journal Asiatique states that the Prime Minister gained such power over the king that one could truly say that the Prime Minister was the real sovereign.[F3] P. M. Sykes in his A history of Persia states, "Haji Mirza Aqasi, who had been its virtual ruler for thirteen years was utterly ignorant of statesmanship ... yet too vain to receive instruction ... brutal in his language; insolent in his demeanor; indolent in his habits; he brought the exchequer to the verge of bankruptcy and the country to the brink of revolution." Haji Mirza Aqasi finally persuaded Muhammad Shah, to send the Bab to a remote fortress called Mahku. According to one historian, the king had been suffering from illness for some time. The Bab had promised to heal him if He were permitted to come to Tihran. Haji Mirza Aqasi feared that if the Bab should bring about such a cure, the king would no longer be under his thumb.[F4] He induced the king to write to the Bab as follows: "Much as we desire to meet you, we find ourselves unable, in view of our immediate departure from our capital, to receive you befittingly in Tihran. We have signified our desire that you be conducted to Mahku."[F5] The Bab had written earlier to the king asking for an audience with him. He had requested permission to come to the capital so that before the king and all the religious leaders of the land, He might present the proofs of His Mission. He agreed to leave the decision of its truth or falsehood entirely in the hands of the king. He said that He would accept the judgement of the king as final; and in case of failure, was ready to sacrifice His head.[F6] Both the Prime Minister and the king had originally welcomed this letter. They were convinced that once the Bab was faced by the noted religious leaders of the land, they could humiliate Him and divest Him of all prestige. However, when they received the

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news of His overwhelming victories in debate at Shiraz, and especially when word came of the conversion of both Vahid and Manuchihr Khan to His Faith, they were no longer eager, or even willing, to have Him at the capital. When the king's message reached the Bab, telling Him of His transfer to the prison of Mahku, He knew whose hand was behind the cruel order. "You summoned Me from Isfahan to meet the doctors [religious leaders] and for the attainment of a decisive settlement," He wrote the Prime Minister. "What has happened now that this excellent intention has been changed for Mahku and Tabriz?"[F7] In these words, the Bab foreshadowed the suffering He was to face in the northern city of Tabriz where He would be summoned from prison, once to be beaten and a second time to be slain. Thus the king broke his promise to meet the Bab, and the Royal party including the young son of the king, Prince Farhad Mirza, left with the Shah and the Prime Minister for a lovely park in the neighborhood of Tihran. While there the prince approached the Prime Minister and asked him, "Haji, why have you sent the Bab to Mahku?" The Prime Minister replied, "You are still too young to understand certain things, but know this: had he come to Tihran, you and I would not at this moment be walking free from care in this cool shade." The historical document Journal Asiatique records: "As the order of the Prime Minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi, became generally known ... from Isfahan to Tihran everyone spoke of the iniquity of the clergy and of the government towards the Bab; everywhere the people muttered and exclaimed against such an injustice." The Bab was ordered to proceed first to Tabriz. He refused to accept the funds provided by the government for the expense of the journey. All of the allowances that were given by the Prime Minister, the Bab bestowed upon the poor. For His own needs He used the money which He had earned as a merchant. Rigid orders were given to avoid entering any of the towns on the journey to Tabriz. When the party at last approached the gate of the city, the leader of the escort, Muhammad Big, approached the Bab. "The journey from Isfahan," he said, "has been long and arduous. I feel I have failed to do my duty toward you, and have failed to

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serve you as I should have. I can only ask for your pardon and forgiveness." "Be assured I account you as a member of My fold," the Bab told him. "They who embrace My Cause will bless and glorify you, and will extol your conduct and exalt your name." The rest of the guards followed the example of their chief, and with tears in their eyes, bade the Bab a last affectionate farewell. Reluctantly, the delivered Him to the soldiers of the governor of Tabriz.

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