ecclesiastics, powerful, jealous, alarmed and hostile, was the explosive force that loosed a véritable avalanche of calamities which swept down upon the Faith and the people among whom it was born. It raised to fervid heat the zeal that glowed in the souls of the Báb's scattered disciples, who were already incensed by the cruel captivity of their Leader, and whose ardor was now further inflamed by the outpourings of His pen which reached them unceasingly from the place of His confinement. It provoked a heated and prolonged controversy throughout the length and breadth of the land, in bazaars, masjids, madrisihs and other public places, deepening thereby the cleavage that had already sundered its people. Muhammad Sháh, at so perilous an hour, was meanwhile rapidly sinking under the weight of his physical infirmities. The shallow-minded Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, now the pivot of state affairs, exhibited a vacillation and incompetence that seemed to increase with every extension in the range of his grave responsibilities. At one time he would feel inclined to support the verdict of the `ulamás; at another he would censure their aggressiveness and distrust their assertions; at yet another, he would relapse into mysticism, and, wrapt in his reveries, lose sight of the gravity of the emergency that confronted him.
So glaring a mismanagement of national affairs emboldened the clerical order, whose members were now hurling with malignant zeal anathemas from their pulpits, and were vociferously inciting superstitious congregations to take up arms against the upholders of a much hated creed, to insult the honor of their women folk, to plunder their property and harass and injure their children. "What of the signs and prodigies," they thundered before countless assemblies, "that must needs usher in the advent of the Qá'im? What of the Major and Minor Occultations? What of the cities of Jabúlqá and Jabúlsá? How are we to explain the sayings of Husayn-ibn-Rúh, and what interpretation should be given to the authenticated traditions ascribed to Ibn-i-Mihríyár? Where are the Men of the Unseen, who are to traverse, in a week, the whole surface of the earth? What of the conquest of the East and West which the Qá'im is to effect on His appearance? Where is the one-eyed Anti-Christ and the ass on which he is to mount? What of Súfyán and his dominion?" "Are we," they noisily remonstrated, "are we to account as a dead letter the indubitable, the unnumbered traditions of our holy Imáms, or are we to extinguish with fire and sword this brazen heresy that has dared to lift its head in our land?"
To these defamations, threats and protestations the learned and
resolute champions of a misrepresented Faith, following the example of their Leader, opposed unhesitatingly treatises, commentaries and refutations, assiduously written, cogent in their argument, replete with testimonies, lucid, eloquent and convincing, affirming their belief in the Prophethood of Muhammad, in the legitimacy of the Imáms, in the spiritual sovereignty of the Sáhibu'z-Zamán (the Lord of the Age), interpreting in a masterly fashion the obscure, the designedly allegorical and abstruse traditions, verses and prophecies in the Islámic holy Writ, and adducing, in support of their contention, the meekness and apparent helplessness of the Imám Husayn who, despite his defeat, his discomfiture and ignominious martyrdom, had been hailed by their antagonists as the very embodiment and the matchless symbol of God's all-conquering sovereignty and power.
This fierce, nation-wide controversy had assumed alarming proportions when Muhammad Sháh finally succumbed to his illness, precipitating by his death the downfall of his favorite and all-powerful minister, Hájí Mírzá Aqásí, who, soon stripped of the treasures he had amassed, fell into disgrace, was expelled from the capital, and sought refuge in Kárbilá. The seventeen year old Násiri'd-Dín Mírzá ascended the throne, leaving the direction of affairs to the obdurate, the iron-hearted Amír-Nizám, Mírzá Taqí Khán, who, without consulting his fellow-ministers, decreed that immediate and condign punishment be inflicted on the hapless Bábís. Governors, magistrates and civil servants, throughout the provinces, instigated by the monstrous campaign of vilification conducted by the clergy, and prompted by their lust for pecuniary rewards, vied in their respective spheres with each other in hounding and heaping indignities on the adherents of an outlawed Faith. For the first time in the Faith's history a systematic campaign in which the civil and ecclesiastical powers were banded together was being launched against it, a campaign that was to culminate in the horrors experienced by Bahá'u'lláh in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán and His subsequent banishment to Iraq. Government, clergy and people arose, as one man, to assault and exterminate their common enemy. In remote and isolated centers the scattered disciples of a persecuted community were pitilessly struck down by the sword of their foes, while in centers where large numbers had congregated measures were taken in self-defense, which, misconstrued by a cunning and deceitful adversary, served in their turn to inflame still further the hostility of the authorities, and multiply the outrages perpetrated by the oppressor. In the East at Shaykh Tabarsí, in the south in Nayríz, in the west in Zanján, and
in the capital itself, massacres, upheavals, demonstrations, engagements, sieges, acts of treachery proclaimed, in rapid succession, the violence of the storm which had broken out, and exposed the bankruptcy, and blackened the annals, of a proud yet degenerate people.
The audacity of Mullá Husayn who, at the command of the Báb, had attired his head with the green turban worn and sent to him by his Master, who had hoisted the Black Standard, the unfurling of which would, according to the Prophet Muhammad, herald the advent of the vicegerent of God on earth, and who, mounted on his steed, was marching at the head of two hundred and two of his fellow-disciples to meet and lend his assistance to Quddús in the Jazíriy-i-Khadrá (Verdant Isle)--his audacity was the signal for a clash the reverberations of which were to resound throughout the entire country. The contest lasted no less than eleven months. Its theatre was for the most part the forest of Mazindarán. Its heroes were the flower of the Báb's disciples. Its martyrs comprised no less than half of the Letters of the Living, not excluding Quddús and Mullá Husayn, respectively the last and the first of these Letters. The directive force which however unobtrusively sustained it was none other than that which flowed from the mind of Bahá'u'lláh. It was caused by the unconcealed determination of the dawn-breakers of a new Age to proclaim, fearlessly and befittingly, its advent, and by a no less unyielding resolve, should persuasion prove a failure, to resist and defend themselves against the onslaughts of malicious and unreasoning assailants. It demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt what the indomitable spirit of a band of three hundred and thirteen untrained, unequipped yet God-intoxicated students, mostly sedentary recluses of the college and cloister, could achieve when pitted in self-defense against a trained army, well equipped, supported by the masses of the people, blessed by the clergy, headed by a prince of the royal blood, backed by the resources of the state, acting with the enthusiastic approval of its sovereign, and animated by the unfailing counsels of a resolute and all-powerful minister. Its outcome was a heinous betrayal ending in an orgy of slaughter, staining with everlasting infamy its perpetrators, investing its victims with a halo of imperishable glory, and generating the very seeds which, in a later age, were to blossom into world-wide administrative institutions, and which must, in the fullness of time, yield their golden fruit in the shape of a world-redeeming, earth-encircling Order.
It will be unnecessary to attempt even an abbreviated narrative of this tragic episode, however grave its import, however much misconstrued
by adverse chroniclers and historians. A glance over its salient features will suffice for the purpose of these pages. We note, as we conjure up the events of this great tragedy, the fortitude, the intrepidity, the discipline and the resourcefulness of its heroes, contrasting sharply with the turpitude, the cowardice, the disorderliness and the inconstancy of their opponents. We observe the sublime patience, the noble restraint exercised by one of its principal actors, the lion-hearted Mullá Husayn, who persistently refused to unsheathe his sword until an armed and angry multitude, uttering the foulest invectives, had gathered at a farsang's distance from Barfurúsh to block his way, and had mortally struck down seven of his innocent and staunch companions. We are filled with admiration for the tenacity of faith of that same Mullá Husayn, demonstrated by his resolve to persevere in sounding the adhán, while besieged in the caravanserai of Sabsih-Maydán, though three of his companions, who had successively ascended to the roof of the inn, with the express purpose of performing that sacred rite, had been instantly killed by the bullets of the enemy. We marvel at the spirit of renunciation that prompted those sore pressed sufferers to contemptuously ignore the possessions left behind by their fleeing enemy; that led them to discard their own belongings, and content themselves with their steeds and swords; that induced the father of Badí, one of that gallant company, to fling unhesitatingly by the roadside the satchel, full of turquoises which he had brought from his father's mine in Nishápúr; that led Mírzá Muhammad-Taqíy-i-Juvayní to cast away a sum equivalent in value in silver and gold; and impelled those same companions to disdain, and refuse even to touch, the costly furnishings and the coffers of gold and silver which the demoralized and shame-laden Prince Mihdí-Qulí Mírzá, the commander of the army of Mazindarán and a brother of Muhammad Sháh, had left behind in his headlong flight from his camp. We cannot but esteem the passionate sincerity with which Mullá Husayn pleaded with the Prince, and the formal assurance he gave him, disclaiming, in no uncertain terms, any intention on his part or that of his fellow-disciples of usurping the authority of the Sháh or of subverting the foundations of his state. We cannot but view with contempt the conduct of that arch-villain, the hysterical, the cruel and overbearing Sa'ídu'l-`Ulamá, who, alarmed at the approach of those same companions, flung, in a frenzy of excitement, and before an immense crowd of men and women, his turban to the ground, tore open the neck of his shirt, and, bewailing the plight into which Islám had fallen, implored his congregation to fly to arms
and cut down the approaching band. We are struck with wonder as we contemplate the super-human prowess of Mullá Husayn which enabled him, notwithstanding his fragile frame and trembling hand, to slay a treacherous foe who had taken shelter behind a tree, by cleaving with a single stroke of his sword the tree, the man and his musket in twain. We are stirred, moreover, by the scene of the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh at the Fort, and the indefinable joy it imparted to Mullá Husayn, the reverent reception accorded Him by His fellow-disciples, His inspection of the fortifications which they had hurriedly erected for their protection, and the advice He gave them, which resulted in the miraculous deliverance of Quddús, in his subsequent and close association with the defenders of that Fort, and in his effective participation in the exploits connected with its siege and eventual destruction. We are amazed at the serenity and sagacity of that same Quddús, the confidence he instilled on his arrival, the resourcefulness he displayed, the fervor and gladness with which the besieged listened, at morn and at even-tide, to the voice intoning the verses of his celebrated commentary on the Sád of Samad, to which he had already, while in Sarí, devoted a treatise thrice as voluminous as the Qur'án itself, and which he was now, despite the tumultuary attacks of the enemy and the privations he and his companions were enduring, further elucidating by adding to that interpretation as many verses as he had previously written. We remember with thrilling hearts that memorable encounter when, at the cry "Mount your steeds, O heroes of God!" Mullá Husayn, accompanied by two hundred and two of the beleaguered and sorely-distressed companions, and preceded by Quddús, emerged before daybreak from the Fort, and, raising the shout of "Yá Sáhibu'z-Zamán!", rushed at full charge towards the stronghold of the Prince, and penetrated to his private apartments, only to find that, in his consternation, he had thrown himself from a back window into the moat, and escaped bare-footed, leaving his host confounded and routed. We see relived in poignant memory that last day of Mullá Husayn's earthly life, when, soon after midnight, having performed his ablutions, clothed himself in new garments, and attired his head with the Báb's turban, he mounted his charger, ordered the gate of the Fort to be opened, rode out at the head of three hundred and thirteen of his companions, shouting aloud "Yá Sáhibu'z-Zamán!", charged successively the seven barricades erected by the enemy, captured every one of them, notwithstanding the bullets that were raining upon him, swiftly dispatched their defenders, and had scattered their forces when, in the ensuing tumult,
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