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Release the Sun

by William Sears

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Chapter 8

THE AVENGING HAND OF GOD

The few months which the Bab spent as a prisoner in the home of His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid `Ali, were to be His last days of friendship and tranquility. They were now drawing rapidly to a close. What memories must have stirred in His mind as He shared those last free hours with His family and friends. This uncle had shown great love for the Bab throughout His entire life. In His early childhood, the Bab lost His father, and was brought up by the same uncle. Anxious to give Him every advantage, Haji Mirza Siyyid `Ali had placed the Bab under the care of a tutor while He was still a child. Those days have been preserved for history through the words of that tutor: "The sweetness of His speech utterance still lingers in my memory. I felt impelled to take Him back to His uncle ... to tell him how unworthy I felt to teach so remarkable a child. "I have brought Him back to you," the tutor told Haji Mirza Siyyid `Ali. "And commit Him into your protection. He is not to be treated as a mere child. I can already discern evidences in Him of a mysterious power." The Bab's uncle scolded Him and said, "Have you forgotten my instructions? Return to school and follow the example of your

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fellow pupils. Do not speak out, but observe silence and listen to every word spoken by your teacher." The little boy promised to obey faithfully, but it was impossible to restrain His spirit. The tutor said frankly, "Day after day He continued to display such remarkable signs of wisdom that I felt helpless to teach Him."[F1] A well-known priest went to the home of the Bab's uncle at this time. He has given the following account of that visit: "Early one morning I heard from the prayer-room, which was next to mine, a tiny sweet voice. It was a little child's voice raised in prayer. Such prayers, such a voice, such devotion that I was absolutely enraptured. I waited patiently until dawn and then I saw a boy of about seven years of age. As soon as I gazed upon the child, I saw such a beautiful expression that I felt sure that I could never find another like Him in the whole human race." The priest followed the boy to the tiny school that He attended. He could not forget that face. He went to the tutor and inquired about the child. "What do you think of this boy?" he asked. The tutor spoke with great feeling. "What can I say about this child! He comes to my school as a pupil, but in reality, He is the teacher and I am the pupil. If you could but hear the wonderful things He says in the classroom. Such deep and important questions He speaks about. What can I say about this child? To me He seems to be ready to give out a message to the world." The admiration of the tutor for this little boy increased the priest's interest and wonder. He returned to the home of the Bab's uncle and told him what the tutor had said. The uncle then confided to the priest the dream which he had had about his nephew when the Bab was five years old. "I dreamed that a pair of scales hung from heaven," he said. "On one side of the scales was one of the Prophets. On the other side, this child was placed by an invisible hand. Then, the side with the child slowly weighed down the other."[F2] The Bab's uncle was finally persuaded to take the boy out of school. With the greatest of love and care the uncle raised the child. When He was seventeen the Bab left Shiraz for Bushihr where He engaged in business for His uncle as a merchant. During this time He won the esteem of all the merchants because of His honesty and kindness.

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An eye-witness who met the Bab in those days has said: "I often heard those who were associated with Him testify to the purity of His character, to the charm of His manners and to His high integrity. A trust was confided to His care to dispose of, at a fixed price. When the Bab sent the payment, it far exceeded the amount fixed. The owner wrote the Bab asking the reason. The Bab replied, "What I have sent you is entirely your due. There is not a single farthing in excess of what is your right. There was a time when the trust you delivered to me attained this value. Failing to sell it at that price, I now feel it my duty to offer you the whole of that sum."[F3] When the Bab was twenty-two, He married and had one child, a son, whom He named Ahmad. The child died the year before the Bab proclaimed His Mission. He wrote movingly of the passing of His son whom He had loved dearly. "O God, my God!" He said. "Would that a thousand Ishmaels were given to Me, this Abraham of Thine, that I might have offered them, each and all, as a loving sacrifice unto Thee. Grant that the sacrifice of My son, My only son, may be acceptable unto Thee. Grant that it be a prelude to the sacrifice of My own, My entire self, in the path of Thy good pleasure. Endow with Thy grace My life-blood which I yearn to shed in Thy path. Cause it to water and nourish the seed of Thy Faith. Endow it with celestial potency, that this infant seed of God may germinate in the hearts of men, that it may thrive and prosper, that it may grow to become a mighty tree, beneath the shadow of which all the peoples of the earth may gather."[F4] The wife of the Bab understood His mission from the very beginning. The Bab confided to her the secret of His future sufferings. He unfolded to her eyes the significance of the events that were soon to take place, and told her not to disclose this secret to anyone. He counselled her to be patient and resigned to the Will of God. In order to lighten the burden of her woes in the days to come, He entrusted her with a special prayer. The reading of this prayer, He promised, would remove her difficulties. "In the hour of your perplexity," He directed her, "recite this prayer ere you go to sleep. I Myself will appear to you and will banish your anxiety."[F5] These peaceful days within the circle of His family were now at an end. He would soon be caught up in a whirlwind of adversity

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which would never cease until it had carried Him swiftly to the field of martyrdom. The governor of Shiraz, Husayn Khan, exerted every effort to involve the Bab in fresh embarrassments. He was outraged because Vahid's acceptance to the Bab had for a time tied his hands. He feared to offend the king. Yet he could not bear to see the Bab moving about once again free and unmolested. The sight of the constant stream of followers and friends who were once more entering His house enraged him. The Bab was very courageous in proclaiming His Faith. He sent a message to one of the leading figures of the city of Zanjan, saying: "He Whose virtues the late Siyyid Kazim unceasingly extolled, and to the approach of Whose Revelation he continually alluded, is now revealed. I am that Promised One."[F6] Husayn Khan decided to employ spies to watch the Bab secretly for evidence of the slightest mistake on His part. The governor sent repeated letters to the Prime Minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi, expressing his grave concern at the huge numbers who were embracing His Cause. The Prime Minister responded promptly to the governor's entreaties. He told Husayn Khan that he was sick and tired of the turmoil in Shiraz. "Have done with the reformer," he ordered. "Have him killed immediately and secretly."[F7] One of Husayn Khan's agents came to him with the news that the people gathered about the Bab were now so many as to constitute a public menace. The spy reported: "The eager crowd that presses in each night to see him surpasses in number those that gather every day before the seat of your government. Among them are men who are celebrated for their exalted rank as well as for their profound learning. So great has become their love for the Bab, that none of your subordinates other than myself is willing to acquaint you with the truth about conditions." Husayn Khan's anger was now directed not only at the Bab and His companions, but also at his own untrustworthy assistants. The spy suggested a plan. "If you will permit me," he said, "I will surprise the Bab at midnight and will deliver him in handcuffs along with certain of his companions who can be made to confirm the truth of my statements." The governor refused. "I know better than you what has to be

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done," he said. "Watch me, I will show you how to deal with him." Husayn Khan summoned the chief constable. "Go to the house of the Bab's uncle," he commanded. "Quietly and unobserved, scale the wall, climb to the roof and from there suddenly enter his home. Arrest the Bab and bring him here to me. Bring all who are in his company, and seize all the books you can find." Husayn Khan slowly closed his fingers into a fist as though he were crushing some hated thing. "I swear that this night I shall have the Bab executed before my eyes," he said. "I shall slay him with all his companions. That should quench the fire they have kindled in my region. It will be a final warning to all who seek to disturb the peace of this land. By this act tonight, I will stamp out this great menace once and for all."[F8] Later that night the chief constable, as instructed, broke into the house, arrested the Bab, and seized all documents. He ordered the Bab and His companions to accompany him to the house of the governor. The Bab was calm and unruffled. He knew the hour of separation had struck. He quoted words from the chief constable's Holy Book. "That with which they are threatened is for the morning," He paused significantly. "Is not the morning near?" The chief constable did not understand that by those words the Bab foretold the beginning of suffering on both sides. He conducted the Bab and His friends into the street where he put them under guard. As they were approaching the market-place, they heard cries of excitement. People were rushing frantically from the city as though fleeing from an appalling calamity. The constable was filled with dread as an awesome sight passed before them. A long train of coffins was being hurried through the streets. Each coffin was followed by a procession of men and women loudly uttering cries of anguish. The chief constable stopped one of the mourners. "What has happened?" he cried. "In the name of God, answer me! What dreadful thing has struck our city?" "Flee for your life," he was warned. "Cholera! A violent plague has suddenly broken out. The city has been devastated. Already since the hour of midnight, it has taken the lives of over a hundred

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people. All of us have abandoned our homes and are calling upon God to aid us!" The chief constable rushed his prisoners through the streets to the home of the governor. The house was deserted. The governor had fled. "Where has he gone," the chief constable asked. "Out of the city," he was told. "Already three of his servants have died of the plague. Several members of his family are now dangerously ill. He has forsaken them and sought refuge in a garden outside the city." The chief constable decided to take the Bab to his own home. He would keep Him and His friends there until he received further instructions from the governor. As he approached his home, he heard the sound of weeping. He became terrified. As he rushed forward, he remembered those words of the Bab's spoken such a short time before: "That with which they are threatened is for the morning, "Is not the morning near?" The constable was told that his own son had been stricken with the cholera and was almost dead. He was crushed by the news. Perhaps, he told himself, the manner in which he and the governor had treated their prisoner was responsible for this suffering. He turned and approached the Bab. He threw himself at His feet and implored Him to save the life of his son. "Do not punish him for the guilt which his father has committed," he pleaded. "I repent of what I have done. I swear that at this very moment I have resigned my post under Husayn Khan." The Bab comforted the constable. He directed him to take some of the water which He had poured out. He told him to give it to his son to drink. "It will save his life," He promised. The chief constable followed directions, and shortly after his son recovered. As soon as the constable saw the signs of recovery in his son, he sat down and wrote a long letter to Husayn Khan. He told the governor the entire story of that night of panic, and begged him to cease his attacks on the Bab. "Have pity on yourself," he wrote, "as well as those who are entrusted to your care." The governor replied: "Release him." Husayn Khan insisted however that the Bab leave the city of

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Shiraz at once.[F9] If he could not triumph over Him personally, he could at least drive Him out from the circle of His friends. By this harsh action, Husayn Khan brought the days of his own peace and prestige to an end. History records that a short time later he was dismissed from office. From the day of his dismissal, he fell victim to several misfortunes. No one was willing to come to his assistance. In the end his plight was so tragic that he was unable to earn his daily living. Sunk in misery and shame, he languished until his death. The Bab Himself foretold the governor's downfall. In a letter written to the Shah, He said of Husayn Khan: "his cruelty has drawn the punishment of heaven."[F10] The Bab was obedient to the decree of Husayn Khan. He made plans to leave Shiraz at once. Thus, in the summer of 1846, He bade farewell to His native town, His family, and to His friends. He left His family in the care of His uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid `Ali. He embraced His uncle lovingly in parting. "I will again meet you," He promised him, "amidst the mountains of Adhirbayjan, from whence I will send you forth to obtain the crown of martyrdom. I Myself will follow you, ... and will join you in the realm of eternity."[F11]

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