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Release the Sun

by William Sears

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Chapter 11

THE TUMULT IN TABRIZ

The news of the Bab's arrival at Tabriz caused great excitement. Huge crowds set out to meet Him at the gate. They were eager to extend their welcome to Him. The officials, into whose custody the Bab had been delivered, refused to allow the people to draw near and receive His blessing. One youth, however, was unable to restrain himself. He ran through the gate of the city, past the officials, and rushed out over a mile towards the Bab. He approached the horsemen who were riding in advance and joyously welcomed them. "You are the companions of my Beloved One," he cried, "I cherish you as the apple of my eye." They granted him permission to meet the Bab. As soon as the young man's eyes fell upon Him, a cry of exultation broke from his lips. He fell upon his face and wept profusely. The Bab dismounted, put His arms about the young man and embraced him. Of all the believers of Tabriz, that youth alone on that day succeeded in reaching the Bab and being blessed by His hand. All of the others had to content themselves with seeing Him from afar. A mere glimpse had to satisfy their longing. An immense crowd of people thronged the gate of the city to witness the entry of the Bab. Some were merely curious, while others were earnestly trying to find out if the Bab were in truth

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such a wondrous figure as they had been told. Still others were moved by their faith and devotion, and sought to attain His presence so they could assure Him of their loyalty. As He walked along the streets, the cries of welcome rang out on every side. The great majority of those who saw Him shouted aloud: "God is most great!" They cheered Him on His way. So great was the clamor which His arrival had raised that a crier was sent out among the people to warn them of the danger of continuing this behavior. "Whoever shall make any attempt to approach the Bab, " the people were warned, "or seek to meet him, at any time, all that person's possessions shall be seized and he shall be imprisoned."[F1] The Bab was placed in a room of the Citadel, a fortress-like structure. A detachment of soldiers stood guard at the entrance. In spite of the rigid orders of their superiors, these soldiers soon became His friends. They were entirely obedient to the instructions of the Bab, and permitted whomever He wished to visit Him. They were in reality a protection against the onrush of the multitude who thronged about the house, the Bab said, but they were powerless to prevent those Whom He desired to meet from attaining His presence. This same detachment of soldiers who now guarded and protected Him, would in a future day, and in a mysterious manner, be chosen to discharge the volley that would cause His death; but only after another squadron of soldiers would find themselves powerless to kill Him, a thing described by the historian Nicolas as "unique in the annals of the history of humanity."[F2] One day, shortly after the Bab's arrival in Tabriz, one of His devoted followers, named `Ali-Askar, went to see Him. `Ali-Askar was warned by his friends not to go. "Don't you know that such a foolish attempt on your part will not only involve the loss of your possessions, but will also endanger your very life?" "I am going," he said. He refused to heed their counsel, and made his way to the house where the Bab was imprisoned. Nothing could keep `Ali-Askar from the presence of the Bab, even if it meant giving up his life. In the days past, he had journeyed many miles with Mulla Husayn, the first follower of the Bab. They had taught together in many towns. Time after time, `Ali-Askar would complain bitterly

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to Mulla Husayn of his own earlier failure to recognize the Bab and meet Him in Shiraz. This was a source of great sorrow to `Ali-Askar. "Grieve not," Mulla Husayn told him. "The Almighty will no doubt compensate you in Tabriz for the loss you sustained in Shiraz." Mulla Husayn spoke very confidently. "Not once," he said, "but seven times can He enable you to partake of the joy of His presence, in return for one visit which you have missed." Now that the Bab was in Tabriz, `Ali-Askar would allow nothing to keep them apart. As he approached the door of the house in which the Bab was confined, he was immediately arrested along with the friend who accompanied him. A command was sent from the Bab to the guards: "Suffer these visitors to enter, inasmuch as I Myself have invited them to meet Me." This message silenced the guards at once. `Ali-Askar and his friend were ushered into the Bab's presence. He greeted them affectionately and made them welcome. He gave them many instructions to carry out. He assured them that whenever they wished to visit Him, no one would bar their way. `Ali-Askar said, "Several times I ventured to visit the Bab, so that I might ask questions about the work with which He had entrusted me. Not once did I encounter any opposition on the part of those who were guarding the entrance to His house. "I had forgotten the words which Mulla Husayn had spoken to me until the time of my last visit to the Bab. How great was my surprise when, on my seventh visit, I heard Him speak these words: `Praise be to God, Who has enabled you to complete the number of your visits, and Who has extended to you His loving protection.'" An eye-witness has related the following: "During the first ten days of the Bab's imprisonment in Tabriz, no one knew what would befall Him next. The wildest rumors were circulating about the city. "One day I asked Him whether He would be kept in Tabriz or whether He would be transferred to still another place. "He answered me, saying: `For a period of no less than nine months, we shall remain confined in [Mahku]. From thence we shall be transferred to [Chihriq].' "Five days after the Bab had uttered this prediction, orders were issued to transfer Him and me to the castle of Mahku and to deliver us into the custody of the Warden, `Ali Khan."

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With saddened hearts the people of Tabriz watched the Bab depart from the city. Many were confused by His apparent helplessness and docility. They turned away, as the people had turned away from Christ, and they believed no more. They whispered among themselves as they had whispered in Jerusalem when Christ was delivered in turn to Caiaphas and Pilate. "If this is the Promised One, why is He subjected to the whims of the men of earth?"

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