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TAGS: Bab, Life of (documents); Bab, Trial of
LOCATIONS: Iran (documents); Tabriz
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Translation of source documents preserved from the 1848 trial.

Trial of the Báb:
Alim-i Hashtrud's account

translated by Denis MacEoin
"The Trial of the Bab" in Hashtrud's Abwab al-huda, from Mu`in al-Saltana p. 201 ff.

There is also the account of `Alim-i Hashtrud, who was in Tabriz at that time; and the narratives of some others from the early period, both believers and non-believers, agree with Hashtrudi's account....

Hashtrudi says: it was near sunset when they brought the Bab, who had just emerged from the public bath, to that assembly of misery. When he entered, the `ulama, who had arrived early, had already occupied the main seats, sitting to the left and right of the heir to the throne., and there was no room left for anyone to sit. His holiness entered the assembly and greeted those present, but no-one returned his greeting, nor did they show him a place to sit. For a moment, the Bab remained standing, like someone who awaits a welcome and expects to be shown a seat by the owner of the house or his host, but no-one paid any heed. But on the faces of those present could be clearly seen the signs of imposture and meanness, of hatred and enmity, of obstinacy and opposition.

So his holiness went to a corner, with that polite and dignified manner which he always possessed, and removing his hands from his sleeves, sat down in the posture of oneness. The ulama had been conversing a little together in private, and had asked the heir to the throne about the health of the king and his wife, and he had answered them. And they had uttered prayers and murmured `Amen' in the most abjectly flattering manner.

When they turned their attention to his holiness the Bab, they asked: `What is this affair of yours, and what is the truth of the matter, and what is the nature of your claim?'

His holiness the exalted, without the least change in his manner, and with the utmost firmness and dignity, declared: `I am the Qa'im for whom you have been waiting' (Ana 'l-Qa'im alladh kuntum bihi muntazirun).

No sooner had they heard these words, it was as if an earthquake had struck and had cast the inhabitants of the place into a state of fear and confusion. A strange murmuring passed among those present at the assembly. One said: `I ask God's forgiveness, and repent to Him. What audacity has this man shown!' Another said: `There is no god but God.' Another said from the bottom of his heart: `May God protect us from it. Amen.' [Another] said: `No strength or power is there save in God, the Exalted, the Great. Why hasn't the ground opened up and why haven't the heavens fallen?'

At that time, the ulama and clerics of the Muslims and the judges of the holy law considered themselves to be God's representatives and the pillars of heaven and earth, inasmuch as the ulama interfered greatly through their legal rulings and their sentencing in the affairs of the nation and the important matters of state. The dominance of the ulama of those days cannot be compared to what it is today....

After a great murmuring and much talking, they demanded evidence, and started to ask academic questions. First of all, the heir to the throne took a silver ball on which had been drawn circles and lines [showing] the form of the heavens, corresponding to the heavenly bodies of Ptolemy, and which the astronomers and astrologers call a globe. Nasir al-Din Mirza held it in his hand, then rolled it in the direction of his holiness, asking a question concerning the stars and planets. His holiness replied: `I have not studied astronomy or astrology, and am unlettered and bereft in the acquisition of such sciences.'[1]

The fuqaha' and `ulama' said: 'What is the proof of the truth and the evidence for the rightness of your claim?'[2] His holiness the Most Mighty Gate replied, saying: 'The verses of God [possess?] a divine spirit, inasmuch as they descended upon a beloved and honoured servant [illegible]. [Illegible] is a [confirmation?] of this, inasmuch as he has said: "He shall appear with verses like the Qur'an". [Such verses] descend upon and flow from my tongue and pen. The lasting proof is the verses of God.'

They said: [illegible]

Without hesitation, his holiness the most exalted began to recite verses, and continued to do so for a little time. The `ulama criticized the verses of his holiness on the grounds of [illegible], and said: 'They do not comply with the rules of grammar and syntax, and are replete with errors.'

[Text reverts abruptly to Mu'in al-Saltana here.] But none of the historians, including `Alim-i Hashtrudi himself, who is the narrator of this account and the author of the Abwab al-huda, have recorded the verses that were revealed at that time. I myself have taken much trouble and asked both believers and non-believers, but have never obtained a text of those verses. I would also hesitate to square this with the text[3] of the verses cited by Nasir al-Din Mirza in his letter,[4] as I shall soon explain in my account of my own opinion.

[Returning to Hashtrudi's narrative?.] Then his holiness the most exalted [said?]: 'I am unlettered [man ummi hastam] and have studied none of your sciences. These verses flow forth upon my tongue and mind, but you divines, who hold the rules of grammar and syntax in such high esteem, will you please tell me which rules of grammar does the following passage, which was revealed in the noble Qur'an, conform to? And a word from Him, his name is the Messiah.5 " A word" [kalima], which is [grammatically] feminine is referred to by a masculine pronoun. He should have said "from it".[6] And [in the case of] the words It is only a reminder to men,[7] which were revealed in respect of the Qur'an itself, the [masculine form] huwa should have been used, since the pronoun refers back to the Qur'an or the Book of God, which is masculine, not feminine.[8] And [in the case of] the verse: It is one of the greatest things, as a warning to men,9 which refers to the Prophet himself,[10] it should have read `He', since the Prophet is not feminine. And [in the case of] this noble verse, where He has said These two men are sorcerers,11 the scholars of grammar say that (the particle) in [illegible] is a `word resembling the verb', whose noun should be in the accusative. The accusative case is indicated by the letter ya' [?], so it should read: These two men are indeed sorcerers.[12]

`Similarly you `ulama say that nunation is a form peculiar to the noun, and is never used for a verb, yet in the noble Qur'an He has said: We shall drag him by the forelock.[13] `We shall drag' is an imperfect verb in the first person (plural) which has been altered [? ma'a 'l-ghayr] and given nunation. Likewise, in the Qur'an the feminine has been mentioned in the masculine form: Some women in the city said.[14] This should have read: `[they (fem.)] said [qalat]. Likewise, He has mentioned the pronoun before the [noun?], when He says: Say, He is God, One.15

When the speech reached this point, the `ulama were unable to give a reply. Whereupon, Mirza Ahmad[16] the Imam-Jum'a, who was recognized as the leading mujtahid of Tabriz, said to his holiness the exalted: `You say you have studied no branches of learning, so where did you pick up all this?' His holiness the Herald said in reply: `These things flow forth upon my tongue just like those verses. I have not studied them.'

At this point, Haji Mulla Mahmud, Nizam al-'Ulama', the teacher and Mullabashi of the Wali-'Ahd, asked his holiness: `Will you reveal a verse suitable to the circumstances and appropriate to this gathering?' But just then the sun had gone down and night had started to fall, and the servants had lit magnificent lamps such as various kinds of candelabra (chil-chiragh, jar, mirdanak ?), and gold and silver and crystal candlesticks, such as were fit for a king's court, and the gathering was lit up anew by pure [reading sada] light and illumination.

In accordance with the request of Nizam al-'Ulama', verses resembling the Light Verse[17] were revealed, but neither Hashtrudi nor any other historian has recorded the precise words of these verses. So, just as I have written, they too have written that verses like the Light Verse of the Qur'an were sent down. Although I have searched hard, I have not been able to obtain an accurate record of those verses.

In the end, Haji Mulla Mahmud wrote down those revealed verses, and kept them for himself. At this point, the Wali-'Ahd asked for tea to be served. The servants and butlers served to those present. After the tea and hookahs had been served, Nizam al-'Ulama' said to the Bab that he wanted him to reveal the same verses a second time. The Bab began to write down the verses and [several words illegible Nizam al-'Ulama?] also wrote down [illegible these verses?].

The text of these new verses differed slightly from that of the first. [Haji?] Mulla Mahmud turned to those present and said: `[word unclear] Look, these [two?] (sets of) verses are different [illegible -- from one another?].'

[A digression follows concerning thoughts expressed in a Bahá'í gathering `fifty years ago" about this incident.]

After these discussions and remarks, Haji Mirza `Al, the son of Mirza Mas'ud, the Foreign Minister,[18] who [illegible] was someone well-versed in Arabic, and who had been accounted among the invitees in order to help distinguish between truth and falsehood, asked the Bab: `What grammatical form [sigha] does the phrase qawluhu[19] take?' His holiness the exalted did not reply. He got up and left the gathering. The oppressors returned the Bab to his prison in the Citadel.


    [1] Reading end of sentence as: va az tahsul-i un qabul 'uluum bu bahr va ummu hastam].

    [2] Reading this section as: fuqahau' wa 'ulamau' guftand [illegible] dalul-i haquqat wa burhaun-i sidq-i id'au-yi shumau chust?

    [3] Reading matn.

    [4] This is presumably a reference to the letter (now in the Majlis Library) assumed to be by Nasir al-Din Mirza, but which Browne believed to have been written by Amur Aslaun Khaun (see Browne Materials, pp. 248-255 for notes with the text and translation of this letter, and a reproduction of the original.)

    [5] The passage is quoted incorrectly and incompletely here, reading wa kalimatun minhu ismuhu 'l-Masuh. The correct quotation reads [Qur'an 3:45] (inna 'llauha yubashshiruki) bi-kalimatin minhu ismuhu 'l-Masuhu ('Isau ibn Maryama).

    [6] The argument presented here is confused. The problematic pronoun in this passage is not the hu in minhu, but the hu in ismuhu (which is in fact not problematic, since it refers forward to Jesus, not back to the word kalima.

    [7] Qur'an 74:31.

    [8] The original reads: wa mau hiya illau dhikrau li 'l-bashar. The pronoun hiya must be assumed to take its gender from the word dhikrau, which is feminine. `It' is generally taken to refer to the Qur'an.

    [9] Qur'an 74:35-36.

    [10] This is by no means an obvious reading of the text.

    [11] Qur'an 20:63. The Arabic reads: In haudhauni la-sauhirauni.

    [12] The emendation in Arabic reads: Inna haudhayni la-sauhirayni. This is strictly incorrect, since the last word should still read la-sauhiraun. In fact, the argument put forward here misses the point. Where the particle in is used as the `lightened' form (al-mukhaffafa min al-thaqula) of inna, it requires a following la, which is provided in the Qur'anic text. (See W. Wright, A Grammar of the Arabic Language, 3rd. ed., Cambridge, CUP, 1971, vol. 2, p. 81 D.

    [13] Qur'an 96:15. The original reads: la-nasfa'an bi 'l-nausiyya, where the verb is written, not with the suffixed nuun of the energetic, but with a fatha and tanwun. This affects only the written form, not the spoken.

    [14] Qur'an 12:30. The original reads: wa qaula niswa fi 'l-maduna.

    [15] Qur'an 112:1. The original reads: Qul: huwa 'llauhu ahadun. Presumably, the argument that would have followed here is that this passage should have read: Allauhu, huwa ahadun.

    [16] Amanat argues that Hashtrudi is in error in including Murzau Ahmad among the participants (Resurrection and Renewal, p. 388, f.n. 64).

    [17] Qur'an 24:35.

    [18] Haujj Murzau Mas'uud Ansauru Ishluqu Garmruudu became Foreign Minister in 1251/1835-36. His eldest son, Haujj Murzau 'Alu, was a calligrapher and poet.

    [19] Ar. `His word'.

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