This, however, failed to allay the prevailing emotion. Precautions, warnings and restrictions served only to aggravate a situation that had already become critical. It was at this juncture that the Grand Vizir issued his historic order for the immediate convocation of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of Tabríz to consider the most effectual measures which would, once and for all, extinguish the flames of so devouring a conflagration.
The circumstances attending the examination of the Báb, as a result of so precipitate an act, may well rank as one of the chief landmarks of His dramatic career. The avowed purpose of that convocation was to arraign the Prisoner, and deliberate on the steps to be taken for the extirpation of His so-called heresy. It instead afforded Him the supreme opportunity of His mission to assert in public, formally and without any reservation, the claims inherent in His Revelation. In the official residence, and in the presence, of the governor of Ádhirbayján, Násiri'd-Dín Mírzá, the heir to the throne; under the presidency of Hájí Mullá Mahmúd, the Nizámu'l-`Ulamá, the Prince's tutor; before the assembled ecclesiastical dignitaries of Tabríz, the leaders of the Shaykhí community, the Shaykhu'l-Islám, and the Imám-Jum'ih, the Báb, having seated Himself in the chief place which had been reserved for the Valí-`Ahd (the heir to the throne), gave, in ringing tones, His celebrated answer to the question put to Him by the President of that assembly. "I am," He exclaimed, "I am, I am the Promised One! I am the One Whose name you have for a thousand years invoked, at Whose mention you have risen, Whose advent you have longed to witness, and the hour of Whose Revelation you have prayed God to hasten. Verily, I say, it is incumbent upon the peoples of both the East and the West to obey My word, and to pledge allegiance to My person."
Awe-struck, those present momentarily dropped their heads in silent confusion. Then Mullá Muhammad-i-Mamaqaní, that one-eyed white-bearded renegade, summoning sufficient courage, with characteristic insolence, reprimanded Him as a perverse and contemptible follower of Satan; to which the undaunted Youth retorted that He maintained what He had already asserted. To the query subsequently addressed to Him by the Nizámu'l-`Ulamá the Báb affirmed that His words constituted the most incontrovertible evidence of His mission, adduced verses from the Qur'án to establish the truth of His assertion, and claimed to be able to reveal, within the space of two days and two nights, verses equal to the whole of that Book. In answer to a criticism calling His attention to an infraction by Him of the rules
of grammar, He cited certain passages from the Qur'án as corroborative evidence, and, turning aside, with firmness and dignity, a frivolous and irrelevant remark thrown at Him by one of those who were present, summarily disbanded that gathering by Himself rising and quitting the room. The convocation thereupon dispersed, its members confused, divided among themselves, bitterly resentful and humiliated through their failure to achieve their purpose. Far from daunting the spirit of their Captive, far from inducing Him to recant or abandon His mission, that gathering was productive of no other result than the decision, arrived at after considerable argument and discussion, to inflict the bastinado on Him, at the hands, and in the prayer-house of the heartless and avaricious Mírzá `Alí-Asghar, the Shaykhu'l-Islám of that city. Confounded in his schemes Hájí Mírzá Aqásí was forced to order the Báb to be taken back to Chihríq.
This dramatic, this unqualified and formal declaration of the Báb's prophetic mission was not the sole consequence of the foolish act which condemned the Author of so weighty a Revelation to a three years' confinement in the mountains of Ádhirbayján. This period of captivity, in a remote corner of the realm, far removed from the storm centers of Shíráz, Isfahán, and Tihrán, afforded Him the necessary leisure to launch upon His most monumental work, as well as to engage on other subsidiary compositions designed to unfold the whole range, and impart the full force, of His short-lived yet momentous Dispensation. Alike in the magnitude of the writings emanating from His pen, and in the diversity of the subjects treated in those writings, His Revelation stands wholly unparalleled in the annals of any previous religion. He Himself affirms, while confined in Máh-Ku, that up to that time His writings, embracing highly diversified subjects, had amounted to more than five hundred thousand verses. "The verses which have rained from this Cloud of Divine mercy," is Bahá'u'lláh's testimony in the Kitáb-i-Iqán, "have been so abundant that none hath yet been able to estimate their number. A score of volumes are now available. How many still remain beyond our reach! How many have been plundered and have fallen into the hands of the enemy, the fate of which none knoweth!" No less arresting is the variety of themes presented by these voluminous writings, such as prayers, homilies, orations, Tablets of visitation, scientific treatises, doctrinal dissertations, exhortations, commentaries on the Qur'án and on various traditions, epistles to the highest religious and ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm, and laws and
ordinances for the consolidation of His Faith and the direction of its activities.
Already in Shíráz, at the earliest stage of His ministry, He had revealed what Bahá'u'lláh has characterized as "the first, the greatest, and mightiest of all books" in the Bábí Dispensation, the celebrated commentary on the Súrah of Joseph, entitled the Qayyúmu'l-Asmá, whose fundamental purpose was to forecast what the true Joseph (Bahá'u'lláh) would, in a succeeding Dispensation, endure at the hands of one who was at once His arch-enemy and blood brother. This work, comprising above nine thousand three hundred verses, and divided into one hundred and eleven chapters, each chapter a commentary on one verse of the above-mentioned Súrah, opens with the Báb's clarion-call and dire warnings addressed to the "concourse of kings and of the sons of kings;" forecasts the doom of Muhammad Sháh; commands his Grand Vizir, Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, to abdicate his authority; admonishes the entire Muslim ecclesiastical order; cautions more specifically the members of the Shí'ah community; extols the virtues, and anticipates the coming, of Bahá'u'lláh, the "Remnant of God," the "Most Great Master;" and proclaims, in unequivocal language, the independence and universality of the Bábí Revelation, unveils its import, and affirms the inevitable triumph of its Author. It, moreover, directs the "people of the West" to "issue forth from your cities and aid the Cause of God;" warns the peoples of the earth of the "terrible, the most grievous vengeance of God;" threatens the whole Islámic world with "the Most Great Fire" were they to turn aside from the newly-revealed Law; foreshadows the Author's martyrdom; eulogizes the high station ordained for the people of Bahá, the "Companions of the crimson-colored ruby Ark;" prophesies the fading out and utter obliteration of some of the greatest luminaries in the firmament of the Bábí Dispensation; and even predicts "afflictive torment," in both the "Day of Our Return" and in "the world which is to come," for the usurpers of the Imamate, who "waged war against Husayn (Imám Husayn) in the Land of the Euphrates."
It was this Book which the Bábís universally regarded, during almost the entire ministry of the Báb, as the Qur'án of the people of the Bayán; whose first and most challenging chapter was revealed in the presence of Mullá Husayn, on the night of its Author's Declaration; some of whose pages were borne, by that same disciple, to Bahá'u'lláh, as the first fruits of a Revelation which instantly won His enthusiastic allegiance; whose entire text was translated into Persian by the brilliant and gifted Táhirih; whose passages inflamed
the hostility of Husayn Khán and precipitated the initial outbreak of persecution in Shíráz; a single page of which had captured the imagination and entranced the soul of Hujjat; and whose contents had set afire the intrepid defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsí and the heroes of Nayríz and Zanján.
This work, of such exalted merit, of such far-reaching influence, was followed by the revelation of the Báb's first Tablet to Muhammad Sháh; of His Tablets to Sultán `Abdu'l-Majíd and to Najíb Páshá, the Valí of Baghdád; of the Sahífiy-i-baynu'l-Harámayn, revealed between Mecca and Medina, in answer to questions posed by Mírzá Muhít-i-Kirmání; of the Epistle to the Sheríf of Mecca; of the Kitábú'r-Rúh, comprising seven hundred Súrahs; of the Khasá'il-i-Sab`ih, which enjoined the alteration of the formula of the adhán; of the Risáliy-i-Furú-i-`Adlíyyih, rendered into Persian by Mullá Muhammad-Taqíy-i-Haratí; of the commentary on the Súrah of Kawthar, which effected such a transformation in the soul of Vahíd; of the commentary on the Súrah of Va'l-`Asr, in the house of the Imám-Jum'ih of Isfahán; of the dissertation on the Specific Mission of Muhammad, written at the request of Manúchihr Khán; of the second Tablet to Muhammad Sháh, craving an audience in which to set forth the truths of the new Revelation, and dissipate his doubts; and of the Tablets sent from the village of Síyáh-Dihán to the `ulamás of Qazvín and to Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, inquiring from him as to the cause of the sudden change in his decision.
The great bulk of the writings emanating from the Báb's prolific mind was, however, reserved for the period of His confinement in Máh-Ku and Chihríq. To this period must probably belong the unnumbered Epistles which, as attested by no less an authority than Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb specifically addressed to the divines of every city in Persia, as well as to those residing in Najaf and Kárbilá, wherein He set forth in detail the errors committed by each one of them. It was during His incarceration in the fortress of Máh-Ku that He, according to the testimony of Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunúzí, who transcribed during those nine months the verses dictated by the Báb to His amanuensis, revealed no less than nine commentaries on the whole of the Qur'án--commentaries whose fate, alas, is unknown, and one of which, at least the Author Himself affirmed, surpassed in some respects a book as deservedly famous as the Qayyúmu'l-Asmá.
Within the walls of that same fortress the Bayán (Exposition)-- that monumental repository of the laws and precepts of the new Dispensation and the treasury enshrining most of the Báb's references
and tributes to, as well as His warning regarding, "Him Whom God will make manifest"--was revealed. Peerless among the doctrinal works of the Founder of the Bábí Dispensation; consisting of nine Vahíds (Unities) of nineteen chapters each, except the last Vahíd comprising only ten chapters; not to be confounded with the smaller and less weighty Arabic Bayán, revealed during the same period; fulfilling the Muhammadan prophecy that "a Youth from Baní-Háshim ... will reveal a new Book and promulgate a new Law;" wholly safeguarded from the interpolation and corruption which has been the fate of so many of the Báb's lesser works, this Book, of about eight thousand verses, occupying a pivotal position in Bábí literature, should be regarded primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations. This Book at once abrogated the laws and ceremonials enjoined by the Qur'án regarding prayer, fasting, marriage, divorce and inheritance, and upheld, in its integrity, the belief in the prophetic mission of Muhammad, even as the Prophet of Islám before Him had annulled the ordinances of the Gospel and yet recognized the Divine origin of the Faith of Jesus Christ. It moreover interpreted in a masterly fashion the meaning of certain terms frequently occurring in the sacred Books of previous Dispensations such as Paradise, Hell, Death, Resurrection, the Return, the Balance, the Hour, the Last Judgment, and the like. Designedly severe in the rules and regulations it imposed, revolutionizing in the principles it instilled, calculated to awaken from their age-long torpor the clergy and the people, and to administer a sudden and fatal blow to obsolete and corrupt institutions, it proclaimed, through its drastic provisions, the advent of the anticipated Day, the Day when "the Summoner shall summon to a stern business," when He will "demolish whatever hath been before Him, even as the Apostle of God demolished the ways of those that preceded Him."
It should be noted, in this connection, that in the third Vahíd of this Book there occurs a passage which, alike in its explicit reference to the name of the Promised One, and in its anticipation of the Order which, in a later age, was to be identified with His Revelation, deserves to rank as one of the most significant statements recorded in any of the Báb's writings. "Well is it with him," is His prophetic announcement, "who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayán." It is with that self-same Order that the Founder of the promised
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