throughout has for its constant theme mankind’s toilsome journey towards the
Kingdom of God and paints its promised attainment with fervor and vividness and
illimitable joy. These exquisite, pictures have been for a hundred generations
and more a source of undying comfort and happiness to a struggling race. But
the Bible nowhere describes the inwardness of that Kingdom nor develops the
psychology of it, nor explains why the Kingdom should come at that particular
stage of man's journey. Jesus admits expressly that He had other things to say
and gives as His reason for withholding the knowledge that mankind in His day
was not advanced and mature enough to understand its future
But now the Herald of the Kingdom had come and gone. The
Seal of the Prophets had likewise come and gone. The next great spiritual event
was the actual coming of the Kingdom which both these Revelators had announced.
With the Báb the Kingdom actually begins. He stands both
as a Revealer Prophet bringing His own Dispensation and Laws and also as a
Forerunner of One, Bahá'u'lláh, bearing a Revelation immeasurably greater than
1. Siyyid 'Alí-Muḥammad
of Shíráz, a descendant of Muḥammad, known to history as the Báb.
1819-50. He was the Qá'im of Islám and Fore-runner of Bahá'u'lláh, “He Whom God Should manifest."
Standing at the close of the whole Prophetic Cycle His
Revelation is described as including twenty-five out of the twenty-seven
letters of all knowledge; and with Him each and every past Prophet has a
separate Covenant, concerning the One whom He heralded, the Supreme World
Redeemer. Thus He stands at the confluence of the Prophetic Cycle which is
closed and of the Age of Fulfillment which now opens. The Bahá'í Era begins
with His Declaration on the evening of May 22nd, 1844, and ushers in the
universal Age of Truth. The creative energies which He imparts endow mankind
with the capacity to attain its maturity which will enable it in course of time
and in conjunction with the still greater power generated by Bahá'u'lláh to
achieve the organic unification of the human race.
To any spiritually expectant soul, the Báb’s declaration
would have indicated that the Kingdom of God had indeed come. No earlier
Manifestation, not even Jesus Christ Himself had issued a challenge to the
rulers of the world proclaiming the Self-Sufficiency of His Cause, denouncing
the vanity of their ephemeral power and calling upon them to lay aside, one and
all, their dominion, and deliver His Message to lands in both the East and the
West. But to such men as the Persian authorities, such claims merely proved the
Author was an undoubted mountebank and probably not in his right mind and that
His Cause would quickly collapse of its own weight.
The progress of the Báb’s teaching never kept pace with
the ardour of His own desire. His pilgrimage to Mecca bore no visible fruit,
and upon His return He, Himself,
1. Muḥammad, the
"Seal of the Prophets" was the last Prophet in the Age of Promise;
the Báb closed that Age and opened the Age of Fulfillment.
was arrested and brought under escort to Shíráz where He was violently
buffeted in open court and released only on parole. His disciples carrying His
Message through the country were everywhere opposed and often manhandled and
persecuted. Some were tortured and some killed.
But at the same time the fire of the Bábís kindled
interest and enthusiasm through the countryside and the bazaars. The Báb’s own
eloquence and radiant charm warmed the hearts of many. And when the upper
officials of Church and State, at the end of two years and more, took stock of
the situation they found that the Báb had captivated the hearts of high and low
in the important Shí’ih city of Iṣfáhán and that His Cause was now
spreading among the merchant class, through the Army and the landed gentry.
Thoroughly alarmed at the result of their slackness, they formed a carefully
designed plan which they would pursue remorselessly till this monstrous heresy
(as they thought it) had been stamped out.
In 1847 the Báb was carried to the lonely mountain fastness of Ádhírbáyján and
there imprisoned first in the castle of Máh-Kú and then in that of Chihríq,
where He spent the short remainder of His life. Shí’ih Mullás denounced
His teachings and from their pulpits incited their congregations against all
Bábís, appealing to their fanaticasm. Bábís were assaulted, their houses
entered and spoiled, their women maltreated. The courts gave no protection, no
redress. The Bábís were practically outlawed.
In three neighborhoods, those of Ṭabarsí, of Nayríz
and of Zanján, the Bábís stood at bay and were only overcome by the King's
troops using perjury and treachery as well as overwhelming numbers.
Deeply angered by the cruel imprisonment of their
beloved Lord, the Bábís fought back in His name with such success that the new
Prime Minister resolved to end this conflict at once by putting the Báb to
death, with or without legal warrant. The Báb was brought from Chihríq
to Ṭabríz where He was shot to death.
The occasion of His martyrdom provides the spiritual
history of martyrdom with an undoubted miracle, attested by witnesses on both
sides. The Báb was suspended by a rope
to a beam let into the prison wall, a favored disciple being suspended across
His breast. A Christian regiment was chosen to be the firing force and its
colonel, horrified at the thought of raising his hand against so holy a Man,
implored Him to excuse him from committing so great a sacrilege. "Follow your instructions," said the
Báb, "and if your intention be
sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity."
Just before the execution the Báb drew aside His
amanuensis, Siyyid Ḥusayn , for a confidential conversation in one of the
rooms of the prison. The gaoler interrupted and ordered the Báb to go at once.
"Not until I have said to him all
those things that I wish to say," the Báb warned the gaoler, "can any earthly power silence Me. Though all
the world be armed against Me, yet shall they be powerless to deter Me from
fulfilling, to the last word, My intention." He then went with the
The Christian regiment opened fire at the Báb and His
disciple, tied to the beam of wood, and when the smoke from seven hundred and
fifty rifles had cleared away, it was seen by ten thousand onlookers that the
Báb had disappeared and the disciple was standing unharmed, on
1. A. L. M. Nicolas Siyyid
'Alí-Muḥammad dit le Báb, p. 375-9; The Dawnbreakers, Nabíl’s
Narrative, ch xxiii.
the ground. A frantic search ensued and the Báb was discovered completing His
talk with His amanuensis. "I have
finished my conversation with Siyyid Ḥusayn ," He said, "Now you may proceed to fulfil your intention."
The Christian regiment refused to continue the execution.
Their place was taken by Muslims and the Báb and His disciple were instantly
Their bodies were thrown out in a moat but rescued by the
disciples and now they rest in the Holy Land in a beautiful mausoleum built by
thousands of believers from all parts of the world.
The Bábís refused to be discouraged, even by the execution
of their Lord, and continued to make converts to His Cause.
Two years later an effort to assassinate the Sháh was made by two obscure and
irresponsible youths and this gave the priests the excuse they were looking
for. Throughout the whole of Persia the Bábís were hunted out and hounded down,
and the ordeal of torture and massacre did not cease till the soil of Persia
was incarnadined with the blood of martyrs and the authorities felt absolutely
assured that the Faith of the Báb was dead and could never rise again.