of the besiegers, who, on the very day they had drawn up and written out an appeal for peace and, enclosing with it a sealed copy of the Qur'án as a testimony of their pledge, had sent it to Hujjat, did not shrink from throwing into a dungeon the members of the delegation, including the children, which had been sent by him to treat with them, from tearing out the beard of the venerated leader of that delegation, and from savagely mutilating one of his fellow-disciples. We call to mind, moreover, the magnanimity of Hujjat who, though afflicted with the sudden loss of both his wife and child, continued with unruffled calm in exhorting his companions to exercise forbearance and to resign themselves to the will of God, until he himself succumbed to a wound he had received from the enemy; the barbarous revenge which an adversary incomparably superior in numbers and equipment wreaked upon its victims, giving them over to a massacre and pillage, unexampled in scope and ferocity, in which a rapacious army, a greedy populace and an unappeasable clergy freely indulged; the exposure of the captives, of either sex, hungry and ill-clad, during no less than fifteen days and nights, to the biting cold of an exceptionally severe winter, while crowds of women danced merrily around them, spat in their faces and insulted them with the foulest invectives; the savage cruelty that condemned others to be blown from guns, to be plunged into ice-cold water and lashed severely, to have their skulls soaked in boiling oil, to be smeared with treacle and left to perish in the snow; and finally, the insatiable hatred that impelled the crafty governor to induce through his insinuations the seven year old son of Hujjat to disclose the burial-place of his father, that drove him to violate the grave, disinter the corpse, order it to be dragged to the sound of drums and trumpets through the streets of Zanján, and be exposed, for three days and three nights, to unspeakable injuries. These, and other similar incidents connected with the epic story of the Zanján upheaval, characterized by Lord Curzon as a "terrific siege and slaughter," combine to invest it with a sombre glory unsurpassed by any episode of a like nature in the records of the Heroic Age of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
To the tide of calamity which, during the concluding years of the Báb's ministry, was sweeping with such ominous fury the provinces of Persia, whether in the East, in the South, or in the West, the heart and center of the realm itself could not remain impervious. Four months before the Báb's martyrdom Tihrán in its turn was to participate, to a lesser degree and under less dramatic
circumstances, in the carnage that was besmirching the face of the country. A tragedy was being enacted in that city which was to prove but a prelude to the orgy of massacre which, after the Báb's execution, convulsed its inhabitants and sowed consternation as far as the outlying provinces. It originated in the orders and was perpetrated under the very eyes of the irate and murderous Amír-Nizám, supported by Mahmúd Khán-i-Kalántar, and aided by a certain Husayn, one of the `ulamás of Káshán. The heroes of that tragedy were the Seven Martyrs of Tihrán, who represented the more important classes among their countrymen, and who deliberately refused to purchase life by that mere lip-denial which, under the name of taqíyyih, Shí'ah Islám had for centuries recognized as a wholly justifiable and indeed commendable subterfuge in the hour of peril. Neither the repeated and vigorous intercessions of highly placed members of the professions to which these martyrs belonged, nor the considerable sums which, in the case of one of them--the noble and serene Hájí Mírzá Siyyid `Alí, the Báb's maternal uncle--affluent merchants of Shíráz and Tihrán were eager to offer as ransom, nor the impassioned pleas of state officials on behalf of another--the pious and highly esteemed dervish, Mírzá Qurbán-`Alí--nor even the personal intervention of the Amír-Nizám, who endeavored to induce both of these brave men to recant, could succeed in persuading any of the seven to forego the coveted laurels of martyrdom. The defiant answers which they flung at their persecutors; the ecstatic joy which seized them as they drew near the scene of their death; the jubilant shouts they raised as they faced their executioner; the poignancy of the verses which, in their last moments, some of them recited; the appeals and challenges they addressed to the multitude of onlookers who gazed with stupefaction upon them; the eagerness with which the last three victims strove to precede one another in sealing their faith with their blood; and lastly, the atrocities which a bloodthirsty foe degraded itself by inflicting upon their dead bodies which lay unburied for three days and three nights in the Sabzih-Maydán, during which time thousands of so-called devout Shí'ahs kicked their corpses, spat upon their faces, pelted, cursed, derided, and heaped refuse upon them--these were the chief features of the tragedy of the Seven Martyrs of Tihrán, a tragedy which stands out as one of the grimmest scenes witnessed in the course of the early unfoldment of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Little wonder that the Báb, bowed down by the weight of His accumulated sorrows in the Fortress of Chihríq, should have acclaimed and glorified them, in the pages
of a lengthy eulogy which immortalized their fidelity to His Cause, as those same "Seven Goats" who, according to Islámic tradition, should, on the Day of Judgment, "walk in front" of the promised Qá'im, and whose death was to precede the impending martyrdom of their true Shepherd.
The Execution of the Báb
The waves of dire tribulation that violently battered at the Faith, and eventually engulfed, in rapid succession, the ablest, the dearest and most trusted disciples of the Báb, plunged Him, as already observed, into unutterable sorrow. For no less than six months the Prisoner of Chihríq, His chronicler has recorded, was unable to either write or dictate. Crushed with grief by the evil tidings that came so fast upon Him, of the endless trials that beset His ablest lieutenants, by the agonies suffered by the besieged and the shameless betrayal of the survivors, by the woeful afflictions endured by the captives and the abominable butchery of men, women and children, as well as the foul indignities heaped on their corpses, He, for nine days, His amanuensis has affirmed, refused to meet any of His friends, and was reluctant to touch the meat and drink that was offered Him. Tears rained continually from His eyes, and profuse expressions of anguish poured forth from His wounded heart, as He languished, for no less than five months, solitary and disconsolate, in His prison.
The pillars of His infant Faith had, for the most part, been hurled down at the first onset of the hurricane that had been loosed upon it. Quddús, immortalized by Him as Ismu'lláhi'l-Ákhir (the Last Name of God); on whom Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Kullu't-Tá'am later conferred the sublime appellation of Nuqtiy-i-Ukhrá (the Last Point); whom He elevated, in another Tablet, to a rank second to none except that of the Herald of His Revelation; whom He identifies, in still another Tablet, with one of the "Messengers charged with imposture" mentioned in the Qur'án; whom the Persian Bayán extolled as that fellow-pilgrim round whom mirrors to the number of eight Vahíds revolve; on whose "detachment and the sincerity of whose devotion to God's will God prideth Himself amidst the Concourse on high;" whom `Abdu'l-Bahá designated as the "Moon of Guidance;" and whose appearance the Revelation of St. John the Divine anticipated as one of the two "Witnesses" into whom, ere the "second woe is past," the "spirit of life from God" must enter--such a man had, in the full bloom of his youth, suffered, in the Sabzih-Maydán of Barfurúsh, a death which even Jesus Christ, as attested by Bahá'u'lláh,
had not faced in the hour of His greatest agony. Mullá Husayn, the first Letter of the Living, surnamed the Bábu'l-Báb (the Gate of the Gate); designated as the "Primal Mirror;" on whom eulogies, prayers and visiting Tablets of a number equivalent to thrice the volume of the Qur'án had been lavished by the pen of the Báb; referred to in these eulogies as "beloved of My Heart;" the dust of whose grave, that same Pen had declared, was so potent as to cheer the sorrowful and heal the sick; whom "the creatures, raised in the beginning and in the end" of the Bábí Dispensation, envy, and will continue to envy till the "Day of Judgment;" whom the Kitáb-i-Iqán acclaimed as the one but for whom "God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory;" to whom Siyyid Kázim had paid such tribute that his disciples suspected that the recipient of such praise might well be the promised One Himself--such a one had likewise, in the prime of his manhood, died a martyr's death at Tabarsí. Vahíd, pronounced in the Kitáb-i-Iqán to be the "unique and peerless figure of his age," a man of immense erudition and the most preeminent figure to enlist under the banner of the new Faith, to whose "talents and saintliness," to whose "high attainments in the realm of science and philosophy" the Báb had testified in His Dalá'il-i-Sab`ih (Seven Proofs), had already, under similar circumstances, been swept into the maelstrom of another upheaval, and was soon to quaff in his turn the cup drained by the heroic martyrs of Mazindarán. Hujjat, another champion of conspicuous audacity, of unsubduable will, of remarkable originality and vehement zeal, was being, swiftly and inevitably, drawn into the fiery furnace whose flames had already enveloped Zanján and its environs. The Báb's maternal uncle, the only father He had known since His childhood, His shield and support and the trusted guardian of both His mother and His wife, had, moreover, been sundered from Him by the axe of the executioner in Tihrán. No less than half of His chosen disciples, the Letters of the Living, had already preceded Him in the field of martyrdom. Táhirih, though still alive, was courageously pursuing a course that was to lead her inevitably to her doom.
A fast ebbing life, so crowded with the accumulated anxieties, disappointments, treacheries and sorrows of a tragic ministry, now moved swiftly towards its climax. The most turbulent period of the Heroic Age of the new Dispensation was rapidly attaining its culmination. The cup of bitter woes which the Herald of that Dispensation had tasted was now full to overflowing. Indeed, He Himself had
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