Click to jump to section. Be sure to read the Overview and Terminology sections before the Outline.
Web Search Terms
Outline of the Events
Anis Early Days (early 1848)
New Shah (5 Sep 1848, age 17)
Reasons for Move to Tabriz
Bab Sends off Writings
Journey from Chihriq to Tabriz
Msg #1 - Prince to Summon Bab
Prince Summons Bab
Arrival at Tabriz and in the Prince's Hands
Bab Arrives in Tabriz
Accommodated by Prince
Msg #2 - Clergy to Assess the Bab's Orthodoxy
Clergy #1 Refuse Debate
Msg #3 - Farman (Decree) Arrives
Prince Dissents #1
Prince's Lay Assessment
Prince Passes Over the Bab; Dissents #2
In the Hands of His Enemies
Private Execution Avoided
HK Reports Prince's Dissent to PM and Receives Instruction
Time Gap: 5-7 Days
Anis and others take Letters to the Clergy
Msg #4 - PM Instructs HK #4
Transfer to the Barracks
Company In the Cell
Letter from Anis
Anis Martyrdom Decision
Execution Day - Mon 9 Jul
Leading Out to Face Sentence
Hand-Over to Sam Khan
Anis Not To Be Executed?
Sam Khan Affected
At the Square for Execution
Crowd of Onlookers
Bringing Out to Execution Location
Spike and Ropes
Readings During Preparations
Description of the Firing Squad 1 : Its Number, Terminology, Position and Composition
Effect of the First Three Volleys
Anxieties of the Authorities
Finding the Bab
New Detachment and Resuspension
Times of Execution
Date of Execution
After the Execution
Schema of the Days following Execution
The Remains in the Square
Moving the Bodies from the Barracks to the Moat
Guarding the Remains at the Moat
Descriptions and Sketch of the Remains
Remains are Buried
Remains are Rescued and Carried Away
Enclosing the Remains
Ensure you have the latest version (not an old copy) at paintdrawer.co.uk/david/folders/Research/Bahai/Bab/bab-martyrdom-outline.htm. You can see the version date above.
This document is an outline for those researching the martyrdom of the Bab, intended as an assistance to read original accounts against. It highlights differences between accounts, issues, and possible scenarios and resolutions, but ultimately it is up to the researcher how little or how much they wish to follow this assistive outline. Original accounts are here and a readable account is here.
This outline covers some of the closing events of Chihriq, the Bab's transfer to Tabriz, His examinations and imprisonments with some of His companions, and His conveyance to execution with Anis (2-3 weeks after arrival).
Given most readers' familiarity just with the Dawnbreaker version, as an assistance it has been noted where that narrative omits important events.
Below is an outline of the presentation style used. Sometimes a source is in blue, and if clicked will give a text fragment you can copy to use to find the item in the original accounts. There are currently only a few of these but more will be added.
• Brief overall summary of all sources first, in black, omitted for simple cases.
SOURCES SOURCES: Then a summary of individual source(s), in black, prefixed with the capitalised source names and a colon sometimes a green comment is added.
- Commentary lines follow, bulleted in green.
Messages - During the account, messages travel back and forward to Tehran via Qazvin. It is 630 km between Tabriz and Tehran. Persian relay riders went at '177 miles/day' → 2.2 full days (according to one source), which needs to be expanded to account for terrain, rest, lack of horse changes etc, perhaps to 3 days. (See also Curzon's, Persia and the Persian Question, vol. 1 for details inc Tabriz to Tehran and historically - p39, p41+/pdf 66, 68+ where Tabriz to Qazvin is 72 farsakhs for 424 km, or 4 days between Tabriz to Teheran for a laden animal.)
Next Days - Often accounts say 'the next day' and 'next morning'. When they say this, the impression can be had that we should not necessarily take this precisely but may sometimes read them to mean 'shortly after' and 'shortly after on a morning' respectively. Perhaps in the original tellings they did originally narrate the next day/next morning after some event, but on inadvertently losing that event the 'next day' becomes incorrectly joined to an earlier remaining narrative.
Day Start - The Muslim day lasted from one sunset to the next, and can cause confusion of days when interpreted in terms of western days which run from midnight to midnight.
This section gives the terms, shorthands and their meanings encountered in the accounts.
Shah = Nasruddin Shah = His Excellency the Regent (born 16 Jul 1831 – died 1 May 1896, reigned as Shah from 5 Sep 1848, aged 17).
PM = Mírzá Takí Khán = Prime Minister = Amír-i-Kabír ("Great Leader") = Amir-i-Nazim = Grand Vizier = Resided in Tehran - see Balyuzi's 'The Bab: Herald of the Day of Days' p148 regarding him.
ex-PM = Hájí Mirzá Aqásí = Previous Prime Minister.
HK = Mirza Hasan Khan = Mirzá Hasan = Prime Minister's Brother = Vazir-Nizám or inspector of the regular army.
Prince = Prince Hamzé Mírzá = Hamzih Mirzá Hishmatu’d-Dawlih (Dawla="State, Government") = Navvab Hamzih Mirza = Navvab = Sháhzádih ("Prince") = Governor of Adhirbáyján = Shah's brother = Resided at the Citadel in Tabriz.
Crown Prince = Vali Ahd = The one to become Shah when the Shah dies = Nasruddin Shah before Sep 1848 (see Shah above).
Clergy Condemning the Bab in the last day(s) = Hájí Mírzá Báqir, Mullá Muhammad Mámaghání, Mullá Muhammad-'Ali-i-Mamaqáni (Sheykhí), Siyyid-i-Zunúzi.
Delegate from Tehran (asks Prince to summon the Bab) = Sulayman Khán, the Afshar.
Háji Mirzá 'Alí = Son of Háji Mírzá Mas’úd = Former Minister of Foreign Affairs under old Shah (Muhammad Sháh) = Was at Prince's Meeting.
Sam Khan = Christian General of the first attempt to execute the Bab.
The Bab = Sayyed ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi = The Gate.
SH = Áká Seyyid Huseyn = Secretary/Emanuensis = Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdí.
SHas = Áká Seyyid Hasan = SH's brother.
Anis = Mírzá Muhammad ‘Alí (Martyred with the Bab).
Farman/Firman = Decree By or On Behalf Of the Shah (→ Wikipedia).
Fatwa = Judgment of Mufti (Clergy) (→ Wikipedia).
S = Siyyid = Descendent of Muhammad.
Farsakh = Distance laden animal travels in an hour.
Tehran = Capital of Persia - Map
Tabriz = Capital of Azerbaijan region, 630 km NW of Tehran and near the edge of Persia and under Russian influence - Map.
Chihriq = A Citadel in Azerbaijan region 180km from Tabriz where the Bab was imprisoned. Location at Map 38.083056, 44.599722.
Urumiyyih = Urumia = Urmiya = Ooroumia = Urmia is a city / Azerbaijan region 40km SE of Chihriq. Location at Map 37.555278, 45.0725 & Wikipedia.
The Citadel = arg = A giant structure that was the Prince's residence and also had prisons. There are barracks at its base where the Bab was held, and outside the barracks the Square (BRO: 'Square of the Lord of the age') where the execution was staged. Not far was the bazaar, where some of the public parading of the Bab would have been, and no doubt nearby the residences of the clergy they were taken to. (→ Wikipedia & Google Images).
Nayriz = Niriz.
Mazindaran = Mazandaran.
A few useful search terms when researching these events:-
Bab, Ali Muhammad/Mohamed/Mohammed/Mohammad/Mahomet, Babeddin.
Babi(s), Babee(s), Baby, Babism, Babeeism, Babist.
Tabriz, Tabreez, Tauris.
Barracks, Small Barracks, Barrack Square, Caserne, Casernement, Square, Place.
Citadel, Ark, Arg, Citadelle, Bastille, Ali Shah, Alishah.
• All accounts may be considered to show bias by interpretation, embellishment or omission, and SIP as an official history definitely shows this at certain points, however where accounts lack a motive their details can be useful, particularly if they are early, such as SIP is.
• Some of these sources such as GOB & BEK utilise SIP. However, although they use it, how they write shows they have spoken to many other witnesses and Babis and also appreciate that SIP is biased as an official history. Because of this, their accounts are important to consider both in their differences from and in their affirmations of SIP.
ANITCH1850 = 1850, Letter to Russian Foreign Ministry (Anitchkov, Russian Consul).
JS1850 = 1850-07-22, Letter (Sir Justin Sheil).
SHE1856 = 1856, Lady Sheil.
AHM = 1869, Ahmad ibn Abul Hasan Sharif of Shiraz.
BNE = 1923, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, 1923 ed, by J E Esslemont.
BEK = 1865, Bab i babidy, by Mirza Kazem-Bek.
BRO = 1890, Religious Systems of the World, by E G Browne.
DAW = 1890, Dawnbreakers, by Nabil-i-Zarandi.
GOB = 1865, Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale, by Gobineau.
JAD = 1880, Tarikh-i-Jadid of Mirza, of Husayn Hamadani, with Nabil-i-Akbar's revisions sometimes marked as JADn.
MHK = 1896, Mírzá Mihdí Khán.
NQK = 1851+, Nuqta-al-Kaf (some rescension of).
SIP = 1858, Násikhu’t tavarikh, vol. 3, of Mirza Muhammad Taqi Khan Lisanu’l Mulk Sipihr.
TRN = 1886, Traveller's Narrative (see note below on authorship).
TZH = 1944, Tarikh Zuhur-Al-Haqq Volume 6 by Fadil Mazandarini. This work draws for the execution on NQK and Tarikh Hajji Moulin, the latter getting his material from the (no longer available) eyewitness Hashatroudi, and other sources. For the rescue of the remains it draws on Hand of the Cause Mirza Hassan Adib Taleqani.
YAY = 1889, Mirza Yahya.
NIC = 1905, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad dit le Báb by A L M. Nicolas.
NQK : This is a very early work, which comes down to us in various copies which have been slanted toward Bahá'u'lláh or toward Subh-i-Azal; however the common interest in the Bab would mean it was unaffected by such partisan questions.
JAD : A substantial history of the Bab of 1880 utilising early sources, which suffered from being published by a Zoroastrian editor who improved it in unknown places and ways, probably mostly in the digressions, however it was revised by the veteran Bahá'í Nabil-i-Akbar, reportedly at Bahá'u'lláh's request.
TRN Authorship : Although generally TRN has been ascribed to Abdu'l-Bahá, Abdu'l-Bahá was asked on several occasions and he replied that he was a major contributor to it but that it was a group production effort - see Star of West, 1912, vol 3, iss 8, lower half of p7 starting at Is Professor Browne correct in his statement that Abdul-Baha wrote "A Traveler's Narrative" • and Light of the World, at 19 Nov 1919 starting at Mr. Latimer then asked concerning the authorship and authenticity of the Traveller's Narrative
DAW : Whilst being a late work, it must be balanced that Nabil will have read earlier works and used their findings. Shoghi Effendi translated Dawnbreakers not because it is word-for-word accurate (no work ever is) but undoubtedly because it is written in an inspiring and sacred spirit imbued with later sentiments and also gives a superb overview of the entire history. Shoghi Effendi has specifically denied claims to any special ability when it comes to writing such things as history, beyond hard work and his great personal merits, so whilst his accounts need to be given great respect, there's no need to feel that because Dawnbreakers and God Passes By mention things in a particular way, that they necessarily have to have happened in that way. Nabil's history was looked over by Bahá'u'lláh and sent back for correction, but the corrected version was stolen and the version used for Dawnbreakers was the original uncorrected version. Even if the corrected version were to turn up, an approval by Bahá'u'lláh wouldn't necessarily mean endorsement of its contents, rather an endorsement of its spirit and historical gist or even simply an endorsement that the person has given their best effort.
• Anis, enflamed by the Bab's message, is incarcerated and has a vision of his martyrdom.
DAW: Whilst the Bab is imprisoned in Chihriq (Apr-Jul 1848 - before His 2nd journey to Tabriz for trial and return), Anis in Tabriz hears of the Bab's message. Anis is fired to visit the Bab in Chihriq; ashamed at his 'madness' and strenuously objecting, his stepfather S Aliy-i-Zunuzi (a notable of Tabriz) confines him in his house with a watch. The Bab in due course arrives and returns back to Chihriq. Anis is in tears at the confinement but one day is full of joy after a vision of his martyrdom with the Bab. Anis promises to 'be good' at Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi's advice (who is related to Anis' stepfather), and on that the latter obtains Anis' release. Anis gets on excellently with his kinsmen and all Tabriz come to admire him.
- Some modern publications (eg Ruhi 4 (sec 8 p41)) portray Anis as hearing the message directly from the Bab when the Bab is in Tabriz the 1st time (on His way to Mah Ku, a year before Chihriq), but there seems no special reason to read the paragraph in DAW in this unobvious way when it has a very straightforward meaning. It would also be in Anis' passionate nature to want to rush to attain the Bab's presence immediately rather than waiting a year or more. There is a youth who rushes to greet the Bab almost like Anis would on the Bab's approach mid-Chihriq (see DAW ch. 12) which may have encouraged this approach however DAW doesn't give the hint that this was Anis and this event is the wrong visit to Tabriz as DAW clearly states Anis is confined at this time.
• A new Shah (age 17) and Prime Minister take their seats.
JAD: The Shah - Muhammad Sháh - passes away and is replaced by the Crown Prince Násiru’d-Dín Sháh. In so doing the PM Hájí Mírzá Ákásí becomes replaced by Mírzá Takí Khán, the older falling into disgrace. The new PM acts with hostility to the Bab, as had the previous.
DAW: The PM deals with the Babis as he feels fit with no one daring to disapprove, the young Shah having little knowledge of matters and refraining from interference. The old Shah had been very tolerant of diverse religious views and was 'impressionable and tender-hearted' (albeit reliant on ministers who had their own agendas).
GOB: 'kind and patient... [Muhammad Sháh] was completely indifferent regarding the success or failure of this or that religious doctrine; he was rather pleased to witness the conflict of opinions which were proof to him of the universal blindness.
- The new Shah had earlier, as Crown Prince, headed the panel in Tabriz that arraigned the Bab mid-Chihriq, where he had claimed to be the Qa'im - the clergy's fatwas condemning Him to death for heresy were ignored, but the Bab was bastinadoed.
• Upheavals in the land cause the government to eradicate the Bab.
DAW: To stem, by the Bab's execution, the escalations of Niriz, Tabarsi, Mazindaran, Zanjan and general upheavals and for the 'interest of the State'.
JAD: The insurrections of Zanjan, Mazindaran, Niriz; fear of general revolution (overthrow of state).
SIP: Mazindaran, Tabarsi, Zanjan insurrections, and future ones - better to liquidate the troubles for the sake of the state by removing the Bab. The Shah regrets the Bab had not been brought to Tehran earlier in place of Chihriq so people could then see directly for themselves and not feed off myth.
GOB: Outwardly Zanjan but more particularly "the Reason of State" (i.e. having to kill an innocent man for fundamental stability and good) being the driving force. The PM's original thought is to humiliate and demoralise the Bab to Tehran and then finish off His reputation there, but he decides otherwise in case the Bab turns it into a triumph.
NQK: The Empress of Russia sends the Russian consul in Tabriz to investigate and report back on the Bab's circumstances. On news of this they put the Bab to death.
- SIP and GOB's ideas of PM and Shah are analogous in wishing to demolish the Bab by displaying Him in Tehran.
• 40 days before transferring to Tabriz, the Bab sends off His writings and personal belongings.
DAW: 40 days before the Prince's respectful officer arrives to take the Bab to Tabriz.
DAW TRN: The Bab sends His writings and seals etc in a chest with a letter (in which the key) via Mulla Baqir to DAW: Mirza Ahmad amanuensis / TRN: Mulla 'Abdu'l-Karim of Qazvin = same person.
DAW: The Bab enjoins secrecy, that it only be shown to Mirza Ahmad; so Mulla Baqir goes to Qazvin then Qum (end of Jun 1850) where he reaches Mirza Ahmad, with Nabil-i-Zarandi and others staying with him.
DAW TRN: Mirza Ahmad is prevailed upon to open the trust and they find the (DAW: 500 / TRN: 360) derivatives of Baha. The same day Mirza Ahmad proceeds to Tihran to deliver the trust to Bahá'u'lláh.
BALYUZI: Some other details of the Bab's last period in Chihriq are the Bab's uncle's visit, the Bab's grief at Tabarsi, the Bab's writing the Bayan (in the last few months): See Baluzi's 'The Bab: Herald of the Day of Days.
- TRN's 360 derivatives seems preferable for being less exaggerated and also of symbolic purpose, not only for the general use of 360 to mean perfection (eg 360 degrees in a circle, 365 days in a year which used to be 360 with intercalary additions, etc) but also because 361 = 19 x 19 = 'the perfection of unity in all things', perhaps omitting 1 as the spiritual origin to make 360.
- Of interest is that both TRN and DAW use the same expression "single wash of ink", suggesting the stories are related despite the number of derivatives differing. Other instances in DAW and TRN show similarities suggesting certain accounts are related.
• The PM asks the Prince to summon the Bab (the message traversing 630 km).
SIP GOB AHM JAD YAY DAW: In Tehran, the PM ( / SIP: on PM's advice) sends (SIP GOB AHM YAY: Suleyman Khan Afshar) to Prince Hamzih in Tabriz, asking the Prince to summon the Bab.
GOB : After doing so, the Prince would learn what to do.
DAW: The PM carefully didn't reveal the real purpose (that of executing the Bab), for the Prince was 'distinguished among the princes of royal blood for his kind-heartedness and rectitude of conduct'.
SIP TRN: The Prince is also instructed to execute the Bab (both accounts are very brief).
JAD: The PM has been given full authority to act. It mentions 'according to one account' where the order includes showing the Bab's heresy and His execution by clerical warrant, but is introduced in a way that suggests such particulars are not certain.
TRN: The PM issues his remedy of the execution without royal command or consultation but on his own arbitrary authority. However this is immediately contradicted in the next paragraph by the Prince's statement indicating it had been issued by 'His Excellency the Regent'. (Reading carefully these can be resolved as two messages, the first the PM's instruction, then the farman.)
DAW: PM asks for advice but only the Minister of War dares speak out.
- These and later instructions suggest that the instructions gradually evolved, taking their final form in a Msg #4 to HK that assigns the task to HK (the PM's brother). Accounts differ in when the final form is presented.
- The reason for the gradual unfolding seems to be due to the Prince's tender heart; however it may be presumed the PM spoke things more fully to his own stern brother HK.
- Another reason for evolving instructions may be that the PM himself hadn't fully decided on the process, taking each step as things play out.
- It is peculiar that the PM even tries to do the execution through the Prince if he feels it is such a problem, which may again suggest evolving decisions. In Chihriq the Bab is however in the Prince's region and the Prince would normally be a natural person to carry out arrangements.
• The Prince summons the Bab to Tabriz, some disciples coming with Him, a journey of about 180 km.
DAW: With mounted escort, using a trusted officer of the Prince, urging utmost consideration. The Prince is kind-hearted, and assumes the purpose of summoning the Bab will be to allow Him home.
BEK: With SHas and SH ($14).
NEWSPAPERS: The jailers refused to give up the Bab to execution. [But at that time the motive of execution was obscured.]
GOB: With 'two of his disciples' Anis and SH, chained and guarded.
- The presence of Anis and SH does dovetail with Anis later running letters to the clergy, and that these same two are highlighted as being taken before the clergy later. If Anis is a merchant as YAY reports it would perhaps facilitate his moving around. However SHas is given instead of Anis in other accounts and that fits better, as the brother of SH. There could be an argument for all three, but if it were just two it would favour SH and SHas.
- DAW is probably accurate given the Prince's nature now and later and good expectations for the move, but as a high-profile prisoner on a long journey it is natural He would be guarded, even if respectfully, here called an 'escort'. The existance of chains differs, but they would be a natural description in official versions telling things the correct way. Perhaps we should say the Bab is 'escorted under a respectful guard'.
- It would have taken a while for the delegate to travel to the Prince from Tehran to Tabriz (630 km), the Prince to summon the Bab from Chihriq (180 km) and the Bab then to travel to Tabriz (180 km) - 990 km. This would seem to give plenty of time for the PM to formulate further plans, however it must be remembered he would have many other distractions of state to deal with.
• After a 180 km journey, the Bab arrives in Tabriz, the capital of Azerbaijan.
- Some say that the Bab arrived 19 Jun 1850, others 29 Jun. Maybe there are other options. However, 29 Jun is a little tight to fit everything in - after arrival, 3 days for Msg#2 to arrive, clergy and Prince meetings, 5-7 days for HK to report back and PM assign him, 1-3 days in the barracks, alone adding up to 10-15 days.
• The Bab is accommodated well.
DAW: The Bab is accommodated extremely respectfully in the home of the Prince's friend.
JAD: After the Prince's lay meeting he sends the Bab back: 'go now to your lodging, and rest'.
GOB: The Prince delivers the three to the 'citadel' (then meets the Mullahs, who refuse to meet the Bab).
BEK: They were thrown into a 'dungeon' where Anis and S Ahmad had been for several days.
- The Prince's residence would have been at/beside the citadel.
- At the Bab's arrival the Prince expects he will be releasing the Bab and so accommodates Him respectfully, and DAW and JAD capture this well.
- One may imagine the accommodation at the friend's house could be in the citadel itself and include a respectful guard/watch. This arrangement had happened at Tabriz on His way to Mah Ku, where in DAW (ch. 12) the house of his confinement was 'one of the chief houses in that city' and marked in a photograph as on the citadel. That previous occasion suggests there's no need on this occasion for him to have been moved under the pressure of HK or the realisation of the intent of execution, unless the accommodation, chosen on the assumption the Bab was going home, was unsuitable for such a change of perspective, which could then entail a slight movement to a tighter arrangement, but none is ever mentioned. So although DAW calls the Bab's lodging a 'home', BEK and GOB may also correctly reflect the Bab's placement in the citadel (albeit 'dungeon' would better reflect the barracks, although it's possible they were utilising official accounts which like to report the 'correct' thing).
- The changing perception of circumstances, through more specific instructions, HK's pressure, and the final transferring of authority to HK, may be reflected early on by the Tehran delegate bringing the Bab disrespectfully to the Prince's lay meeting with only the companionship of SH allowed, in the midst of which the Prince himself acts with an entirely different attitude. In general the Prince hardly seems to be in control even before he passes authority over to HK.
- For Anis and S Ahmad, see further on.
• The PM orders the Prince to assess the Bab's religious orthodoxy/heresy.
DAW: 3 days after the Bab's arrival...
DAW: The Prince is ordered by the PM, through HK, to make the Bab's heresy plain and then execute the Bab on receiving the farman (decree).
DAW: And to execute any adherents, using Sam Khan and the Urumiyyih regiment, at the barracks.
GOB: The PM is 'still somewhat bemused by his first idea' (of parading the Bab to Tehran).
- Logistics - It would have been more practical to send this note using the original Tehran delegate who came to the Prince to get him to summon the Bab, even if its communication were tactically delayed and deployed either when the Bab arrived or if the farman were slow in coming. If not, perhaps the PM expected to arrange a farman fairly easily during all that time but on finding some hindrance or still turning possibilities in his mind has to send this delaying note.
• The four messages show an evolution unobvious in individual texts.
- Mostly likely precise detailing of how any execution should be carried out would have been absent, appearing later in Msg #3 or #4, since noted later are reports of other planned methods of execution; it is quite possible that in this message the instruction may have been simply to assess the Bab via the clergy without any mention of execution, fitting the PM's cautious step-wise method of concealing his purpose from the Prince (as seen in Msg #1 to get him to bring the Bab there) and further we see how in DAW the Prince reacts to message #3 (the farman) not to this one (there is a hidden time-gap in DAW narration), and also how in JAD the Prince's lay meeting shows little sign of the Prince being aware of the real implications, holding the meeting simply to satisfy his curiosity and treating the Bab well, despite the meeting turning to a more serious way under the effects of HK and others, who will have known the PM's purpose. In this respect, the clergy-meeting could, to the Prince, be a case of establishing the Bab's orthodoxy so He could go home.
• The Prince summons the clergy to debate with the Bab but they refuse.
GOB SIP AHM: The Prince summons the clergy with the desire that they debate with the Bab but the clergy dismiss the idea of hearing the Bab.
GOB AHM: Saying that the time for discussion has passed and the Bab must be executed without delay.
JAD DAW: Omit this event.
- Presumably this event follows out Msg #2 to 'make plain His heresy'.
- If the message had also requested execution, this would have created a great sense of urgency. (See Msg #2 'Evolving Instructions'.)
- As simply a meeting to establish a meeting, this would probably have happened quickly after Msg #2.
- Given their refusals to meet, it doesn't appear HK and his helpers have done prior groundwork with them.
- Later on, Anis and others take letters to clergy, it seems after this event for reasons later given (perhaps as a response to their refusal), but if beforehand their delivery may have strengthened the refusal of the clergy to meet.
• A royal edict (farman) arrives at some time, saying that the Bab and any adherents should be executed.
DAW TRN : as summarised.
DAW implied: Using the Urumiyyih regiment under Sam Khan.
- Given contemplations of other execution methods, it maybe just said to execute the Bab, with the specific method left either vague or at least flexible (until Msg #4 is sent) - See Msg #2 'Evolving Instructions'.
- If the arrival of this #3 introduces the notion of execution, then combined with the pressure of HK would occasion some urgency.
- It may have arrived before, between or after the two meetings (of the clergy's refusal and Prince's).
- If the 2 meetings were on the same day, as reported, probably Msg #2 came before the clergy refusal (as placed here), and maybe #3 also, but #3 could have been tactically delayed being given to the Prince until these meetings had completed (as indicated by the Prince's arrangement of the meeting for curiosity), and if so the pressure of HK might occasion them on the same day if reports of their sequential timing are accurate (see top note about use of 'next day' to mean 'soon'). Since the clergy-refusal is just a meeting to establish a meeting, that meeting would probably happen quickly after Msg #2.
• The Prince is appalled at the execution order.
DAW TRN: The Prince dissents at the farman/execution to HK (DAW: to HK who bears the farman).
- It is notable that the farman is not sent directly to the Prince but to HK to give to him, suggesting the way the PM is operating the matter through HK to ensure a timely and appropriate unfolding of tasks and instructions.
- DAW TRN do not say that this dissent is on immediate receipt of the farman, so this could either occur on its receipt or just after his lay assessment (if received before it) (see following), or both, a second dissent reiterating a first, as might be expected from the Prince's association with and good treatment of the Bab. The details of the dissent are therefore placed after the Prince's meeting since that is where the big break with what is happening comes and would certainly have aroused some comment from the Prince.
• The Prince arranges his own lay assessment with many important non-religious figures. The Prince is respectful but the meeting which centres on religious questions seems itself disrespectful. On its close the Prince sends the Bab back and washes his hands of the matter to HK.
JADn GOB SIP (AHM mentions): With the clergy refusing to meet the Bab, the Prince arranges his own lay assessment (JADn: out of curiosity).
DAW: Omits this event.
- This meeting is presumably occasioned by the refusal of the clergy, and an urgency to assess the Bab at least through HK's pressure. If it is indeed the same night as the clergy-refusal, that would fit with urgency.
- A curious question is why DAW omits also a mention of this very significant meeting.
Time and Place
GOB: On the same night as the clergy's refusal; at the citadel.
SIP: At the governor's residence.
GOB: Prince, HK, Háji Mirzá 'Alí (son of Háji Mírzá Mas’úd, the former minister of foreign affairs under Muhammad Sháh), Sulaymán Khán the Afshár (=Tehran delegate).
JADn: Prince, Babi in the Prince's service, SH, Tehran delegate.
• Respect and disrespect in the questioning.
JADn: The delegate from Tehran conveys the Bab disrespectfully to the meeting of laymen, in a room in the citadel to assess the religious questions, with only SH allowed to be with him. The Prince himself acts respectfully, with the Bab opposite and SH between. The Prince asks about insurrections, the Bab replying He's an innocent prisoner. The Bab states He is the Qa'im. The Prince asks Him to extemporise on light which He does for an hour and then is asked to repeat it but the two differ. The Prince sends Him respectfully back to His lodging.
GOB: Háji Mirzá (Ali) questions the Bab on the traditions of the Prophets and the Imáms, gets worsted by the Bab, becomes haughty, and has Him speak on light. The Prince has the verses written down and tries to get the Bab to repeat them word for word as they would have been engraved on the mind of a prophet, but the results differ.
JADn: The Prince entrusts some of the Bab's letters to the Babi in his service, which the reviser Nabil-i-Akbar saw, which seems to favour stories of the Prince's kindness/sympathy.
BEK: Has the Prince assertive at the Square on the execution day regarding the blood shed in the land.
SIP: (Incident recounted, but only summary available: several officials including HK, and questions and arguing on obscure Islamic passages and traditions.)
BRO: The Bab asserts being the Qa'im, which elicits the assessors' preconceptions about the Qa'im.
- JADn has an hour of extemporisation noted down and then repeated, which is rather long and a lot to write down - most likely the hour could encompass other things. JADn indicates some good sources.
• The Prince won't involve himself further.
JADn: Next morning, the Prince washes his hands of the Bab's fate to the Tehran delegate and won't involve himself further, handing him to the delegate and HK. (So -- potential time gap -- the delegate then drags the Bab off before the clergy.)
DAW TRN: The Prince dissents at the farman/execution to HK (DAW: to HK who bears the farman).
- This dissent could be on the farman's arrival, if before the lay assessment, or after the lay assessment, or (quite naturally) both.
- See also Dissent #1, where it is noted that the farman is not sent directly to the Prince but to HK to give to him, suggesting the way the PM is operating the matter through HK as his man on the scene to ensure a timely and appropriate unfolding of tasks and instructions.
- It seems likely that the Prince would only hand over the Bab from his own control when higher powers than his own were formally instructing it through a royal decree, and this would suggest that the farman was shown to him about this time at the close of the meeting or in the morning.
• Initial thoughts of an immediate private execution are thought better of.
GOB: The Bab is about to be put to death privately but it is then decided it would be better done publicly.
SIP: Afraid to execute in secret they decide a public parade.
- The timing is obscure and could be anywhere from the end of the lay meeting but most likely after the Prince had handed the Bab to HK. However there are too many messages being described with instructions for a public execution to view it as happening after Msg #4, so it fits best after the Prince's lay meeting and before Msg #4 (below, which is a response to HK's report-back for instruction).
• The Prince's reaction is reported.
DAW TRN: HK writes to the PM reporting the Prince's dissent at the instructions (and presumably a progress report).
- There are two reasons for HK's conferring with the PM. Firstly it is the Prince who had authority to act, and HK needs now to have that authority, although the Prince has in a sense conferred him authority in a vague way in handing the Bab over. Secondly, if the farman had prescribed execution but not the details, or given flexibility, preceded by a clerical fatwa, then HK's impulse to kill the Bab on the spot in response to the farman whilst also in the absence of the requested clerical fatwas (because they refused to meet) and the revised thought of a public execution would call for HK to report back for instruction on what to do (for instance, he might ask if the fatwas are really necessary after all).
- This incident again suggests evolving plans and instructions. Newspapers also report plans to fire the Bab from a mortar early on in the events (31 Jun), which may likewise suggests such evolution. See Msg #2 'Evolving Instructions'.
• Gap of a week whilst messages travel.
• HK's report back to the PM and the reply would have taken 5-7 days (being 1260 km).
- What will have happened in those days? One such event follows.
• Anis with three companions run letters to the clergy, are imprisoned, and secretly released.
JAD (NQK): At some point [either when the Bab was in the Prince's care or perhaps even before the Bab's arrival] the Bab sends four people - Anis, S Ahmad + two others - with letters to the clergy of Tabriz. Defending the letters from a particular cleric's contempt causes a disturbance, and the Prince imprisons them; but he (also NQK) secretly releases them except (also NQK) Anis who stays in prison until he has the honour of meeting the Bab. (It then mentions the alternative standard account of two of them having been not released but poisoned in that prison but seems to give more value to the account of their being released.)
BEK: Anis and S Ahmed are already in prison (citadel or barracks?) for several days when the Bab is put there, Anis being a most ardent propagandist; "they left it to march to death" (BEK is a brief treatment).
GOB: Anis' relatives were still making extraordinary efforts before and after the Tabriz arrival. (This suggests Anis is 'active' despite Anis' original success at being restrained, and this is entirely to be expected given the passion and ardour Anis shows in various accounts. One has to wonder what the 'extraordinary efforts' entailed.)
AHM: Anis, one of the Bab's most respected and loyal followers.
DAW: Omits this clergy letter event.
- Place - It is worth wondering where Anis would have been first put in prison, the citadel or the barracks (or somewhere else)? considering his family, his crime and also the Prince's attitude and his release, perhaps the citadel is as much an option as others.
- Timing - BEK, if followed, may suggest a timing for this letter-run to be several days before either the Bab's arrival (if the Bab being 'added' is His arrival), the (hypothetical, if it happened) Bab's move internally in the citadel somewhere tighter under HK's influence, or the Bab's placement in the barracks prior to execution. The first two would account for the Bab being added to Anis, although another interpretation may be made where the Bab being incarcerated in the citadel 'along with Anis' could be taken as 'added to Anis'. JAD places the letter-run 'before this event', which, depending on which 'event' is meant, could be before the Bab's placement in the barracks (three days before martyrdom) just mentioned in JAD or before the meeting with the Prince (also just described, ending with the barracks). On balance the most likely placing is just before the barracks, and this reading of JAD's intent is reinforced by its statement that the Bab sent these letters 'to complete the proof'.
- Rationale - There's little reason to doubt the story of Anis running letters and being put into prison, whilst the secret release of Anis' companions fits with the Prince's kindness and possibly the need to appear to imprison them for a day or two with a warning as a practical way of keeping the peace, though one has to ask why Anis isn't released with the others; perhaps Anis is seen as the most animated in confronting the clergy and probably couldn't promise not to get himself involved in further trouble, making it difficult to release him immediately; or perhaps his stepfather and kin, who had earlier failed to confine him and were working assiduously to change his direction, himself requests the Prince to hold Anis longer to keep him out of trouble, the family from embarrassment, and for Anis to experience the cooler whilst all these events with the Bab were coming to a climax. It's hard to imagine the Prince failing to have a conversation with Anis' stepfather, initiated by either. A very simple approach is if Anis was in fact released with the others or shortly after, but immediately rushing and rejoining the Bab and being put back in prison again would be remembered as just continuing in prison whilst the others are released, with the natural corollary then assumed that the Bab must have been 'added' to them. From BEK one might gather that S Ahmad must have done likewise along with Anis.
- Release - Anis' extended imprisonment and reports that the Bab is added to him are to be reconciled with Anis' rushed appearance in DAW at the Bab's march to the barracks. It could well be that Anis, secretly released just like his prison companions a little earlier, appears dramatically in DAW straight from jail. As well as the release being motivated by respect for Anis' prominent family or simply a release much as the others, it could however most particularly be because of the major collision occurring between HK and the Prince, with the Prince thwarting what HK is doing by releasing Anis whilst he is able, who HK lacks sufficient authority over yet - but Anis like a moth immediately rushes to rejoin the Bab, still haggard from his time in prison as depicted in DAW.
- Anis' early connection with the Bab in this final Tabriz chapter can connect with GOB portraying Anis himself coming with the Bab to Tabriz. But if he had not come with or trailed Him, perhaps he was in contact with Him. YAY states that Anis is a merchant.
- (A rather hypothetical approach to reconciling accounts is that Anis' appearance in DAW might fall at an earlier stage, such as at the time of the Bab's arrival in Tabriz, but there seems little to require that.)
• After 5-7 days, instructions arrive for HK to carry it all out himself.
DAW: HK should himself get the sentence from the clergy and do the execution before Ramadan (= sunset 10 Jul 1850), which suggests a view that the details were in the farman (Msg #3).
TRN: The first instance of mentioning the clergy, regiment and public execution.
DAW: HK tries to inform the Prince : but the Prince pretends illness.
- Pretending illness suggests a real personality collision between the Prince and HK, with the Prince being overawed by HK's forcefulness, which hasn't just happened at this moment but will have been present earlier at the lay assessment, as indicated by the Prince giving in and handing the Bab over.
- During the month of Ramadan, a period of fasting and especial peace, they would not have been able to execute the Bab. We see Jesus analogously martyred the night before Passover.
• With HK fully in command the Bab is moved to the barracks, and this appears to have been made a public spectacle.
DAW TRN GOB: On receiving Msg #4.
JAD: Indeterminable, being narrated after a witness record.
Who is Transferred
DAW: Those (plural) in His company in the house the Prince had arranged (but then only mentions SH - since 'those' is plural, perhaps SHas is included?)
BEK: Bab, SH, SHas thrown into a dungeon where Anis and S Ahmad had been for several days...
TRN: He and 4 followers moved to barracks.
- DAW potentially has 6+ people in the barracks - Bab and 2+ companions ('those'), and then Anis with 2+ companions.
TRN DAW: Turban and sash are removed.
AHM: Paraded round town with Anis. Then to the clergy.
DAW TRN: Immediately after the Msg #4, the Bab is transferred (TRN: by farrash-bashi) to the barracks with a guard from Sam Khan's men. Cell guards number 10 (DAW) or 40 (TRN).
DAW: The transfer convulses the city in an unmatched way.
- The Bab was a Siyyid, a descendent of Muhammad, and as such wore a distinctive sash and green turban. Since people would have extra sympathy for a descent of Muhammad, they remove these.
- 10 v 40 guards could be reconciled as the difference between 10 simultaneous guards versus 40 total doing shifts (or on standby). There is a similar but more explicit description in DAW of the guard over the Bab's body that 'Four companies, each consisting of ten sentinels, were ordered to keep watch in turn over them'.
• Anis appears and is imprisoned with the Bab.
DAW: On the way Anis appears with 2 others and are put in the cell where the Bab + SH (+?SHas+) also go.
BEK: Bab, SH, SHas are thrown into a dungeon where Anis and S Ahmad had been for several days... S Ahmad later renounces the Bab.
- The wording of DAW almost suggests a different timing for Anis and companions being added to the Bab and companions, but need not be. The appearance of Anis would make sense if the Prince had discreetly released Anis after Anis' imprisonment from the clergy-letters incident (See 'Anis and others take Letters to the Clergy'). BEK's narration would suggest S Ahmad was one of the two who appear in DAW with Anis and one can guess the second could have been one of the other letter-runners (unless hypothetically SHas).
- (Hypothetically to consider, Anis' persistence in prison till the Bab's arrival could be evaluated by placing the DAW account of Anis' arrival for example at the Bab's arrival in Tabriz.)
• The new imprisonment lasts 1-3 days.
JAD: Barracks prison lasts 3 days with clergy meeting incidentally narrated before in a witness report.
TRN: Lasts 1 day with clergy meeting uncertain but probably on the execution day.
DAW: Lasts 1 day with clergy meeting on the execution day.
- Possible ways to explore the 1 day versus 3 day versions:
- The direction to Sam Khan for execution could have got its timing confused with the direction to Sam Khan to guard them, leading to a 1-day version.
- There is merit in a 1 day version as HK would act quickly and would want to avoid a revolt rescuing the Bab.
- There may be merit in the 3-day version for logistical reasons.
- The major emotion and narrative happening on the last day could lead to a 3-day stay becoming truncated to 1 day.
- Anis' letter from the cell expecting death, a few days before martyrdom, as detailed shortly, is in favour of a 3-day barrack stay.
- DAW does at times narrate events in chronologically-compressed form where JAD gives details often with more clarity over a period.
- Another reconciliation is that JAD's extended stay of Anis in prison (several days in BEK) gets added to a 1 day stay by the Bab, although the meaning of JAD is clear that they are distinct durations.
• Bab, SH, SHas, Anis, S Ahmad + 1 may have been present in the cell.
TRN: The Bab is put with four followers in the cell.
DAW: Bab, SH + 1+ and Anis + 2 others.
BRO: Bab, SH, Anis.
JAD: Bab, SH, SHas; Anis already there.
BEK: Bab, SH, SHas; Anis and S Ahmad already there.
• Anis writes to his elder brother.
JADn: 2-3 days before execution Anis writes to his elder brother in reply to his brother's urging him to 'come back'. The letter shows Anis awaiting possible death, seeking forgiveness.
- JAD's reviser Nabil-i-Akbar seems to have access to Anis' brother, and this would be a good source of information on Anis' more overt movements. The letter is written therefore on the first or second day of the 3-day (JAD) barracks, or if instead of 3 days (JAD) the barracks were 1-day (DAW) with Anis already there, then whilst Anis is in prison before the Bab arrives. However it is written with a sense of martyrdom which would likely have been at the time of being in the barracks with the Bab, and as his brother would recollect well when it was written to him, this is suggestive of the 3 day barrack stay.
• At Anis' insistence the Bab allows his martyrdom.
JAD DAW: On the night before the execution morning.
DAW JAD (NQK): Discussion in the cell that Anis be martyred (JAD: and that the others renounce Him).
JAD: Anis is also meant to renounce Him but Anis insists and is allowed to be martyred.
DAW: The Bab is aglow that night.
- As DAW has a 1-day barracks stay, the events happen on the final night too.
- Source of DAW is SH, which suggests other details sourced from him, and similar scenes in JAD will likewise have been sourced from those present in the cell.
- DAW might be taken to suggest only the Bab was expected to be executed at this point, which fits later with DAW having Anis put in the cell while the Bab is taken to execution. One wonders what the whole meeting with the clergy and the Bab's companions is therefore for.
• The Bab requests the other cell companions renounce him and avoid martyrdom.
JAD: On the night before the execution morning (noted above).
DAW: On the execution morning.
- The prior conversation the night before about Anis being martyred with the Bab suggests by corollary that the others avoid it and is therefore the natural time for how to achieve that (by renouncing), as JAD narrates it - leaving the question to the next morning seems a little last-second and also out of place. However, it would also be extremely natural if there is a reaffirmation in the morning of the last night's decisions, just when it is needed, which would fit with the mention in DAW.
• The Martydom happens at noon.
- Sunrise, Noon and Sunset on 9 Jul in Tabriz are 07:09, 14:29, 21:49 under current time systems (Tabriz = 38.066667, 46.3, +4.5 hrs). The important thing though is the relative time, that it was 7 hours from sunrise to noon. Dawn prayers ended at sunrise, after which the activities of the day would follow, then afternoon prayers could be held from noon/zenith onwards (to 10 mins before sunset).
- Once sunrise has come, time needs to be allowed for their meeting the clergy sequentially (2-3 hours) and/or the government (30 mins), public parade after sentence (several hours in BRO), orders to be made and communicated, setup (30 mins), crowd-control, responding to the Bab's disappearance and then finding another detachment (1 hour perhaps, but 2 hours in BNE), which brings toward 14:00 when the martyrdom is commemorated. BNE has the first suspension at 2 hours before noon with the second suspension at noon. Other accounts also suggest the final shots were at noon.
• They are led out to face several leading clergy so that religious orders for their can be utilised.
DAW GOB: To face the clergy.
TRN : To face the clergy (maybe).
JAD: A little while after sunrise to the Government House.
BRO: To face the civil (not clerical) sentence.
- For convenience, the clergy meeting can follow the timing of DAW by being on the execution morning and the JAD government house follow it, but a note could be made that future information could possibly change the clergy meeting to a previous day as JAD and BRO seem to have it.
DAW: The execution morning.
JAD: The timing in JAD is ambiguous, but unlikely the execution morning (logistically).
AHM: The morning after Prince's meeting, but may hide a time gap since the narrative is brief.
BRO: Some prior day during the barracks, not the execution morning.
- There is likely confusion/conflation of this clergy-meeting with the subsequent government house meeting that would be required to endorse the sentence and logistics of the large public execution, with the result that some have the renunciations of the Bab at the clergy meeting, and others at the government house. This confusion is in fact in favour of the clergy meeting being held on the execution morning and followed by the government house.
- There may also be confusion in DAW between this clergy meeting and the earlier meeting where the clergy refuse to meet the Bab, such that DAW has the clergy refusing to meet the Bab on this occasion also, despite the fact that they on the whole clearly met him here (as per MHK). The DAW presentation may have further been encouraged by Baqir declining to meet the Bab and the others not really 'engaging' with Him.
- JAD is ambiguous with the timing of the clergy-meeting because whilst at first glance it appears to fall after the Prince's meeting and before the 3-day barracks, it is being narrated as part of a witness report and therefore isn't to be assumed in chronological order with the barracks event narrated after. However it is unlikely to be on the final morning (unless done surreptitiously at night!) since JAD has the government sentence a little while after sunrise on the last morning, which would suggest everything else had been made in order, but in that framework a fast meeting with the clergy from sunrise itself would be conceivable, allowing little though for clergy-parade but with plenty of post-civil-order parade.
- It may be possible that some confusion could also arise because the Islamic day begins after the sunset prayers the day before.
Who Faced the Clergy
JAD: The Bab, leaving others unspoken of.
SIP GOB: Bab, SH and Anis.
DAW: Bab, SH (uncertain) and Anis.
JAD GOB SIP AHM BRO BEK: (JAD: Delegate) uses (SIP GOB: Prince's)/(HK's) attendants (farashbashi etc) to drag/parade them publicly (JAD GOB) (so all could see and recognise them) to the houses of several clergy. GOB has full description.
MHK: Omits commotion before clergy, but mentions commotion after the governor's ratification.
DAW: Seemingly led there separately (but may not be, see comment below) and presented separately. Omits any parade/commotion.
- Why are only the three narrated as being taken to questioning, when there are more in cell? however some accounts maybe suggest SHas is present. Perhaps some renunciations were done early; but if so then why not all?
DAW: As the farrash-bashi is conducting the Bab from the barracks (to face the clergy) the Bab replies to SH not to confess. A confidential conversation follows with SH and is interrupted by the farrash-bashi causing a stern rebuke by the Bab and the farrash-bashi leads SH away.
GOB: Points out that clerical fatwa had little value in executions for centuries (at Tabriz previously the Bab was condemned but it was ignored and He was given a bastinado instead). However as the Bab had been in prison and not done anything He could hardly be indicted under any civil law for any actions and so He had to be condemned on the back of the usually-ignored religious fatwas. It would also have the double advantage of shifting any backlash onto the clergy, thus lessening the blame on the state and at the same time reducing the estimation of the clergy in the people's eyes.
- DAW comes across rather muddled in its expression and is capable of many readings:
The Bab is leaving the barracks, which may be the cell itself or perhaps already in the area outside the barracks, to face the clergy, and He advises SH (either leaving SH behind in the cell, or SH is travelling along with Him either in the cell or just outside it) not to confess. Here we may choose to add a hidden time gap during which the Bab with or without SH faces the clergy and returns. Then the Bab is seen having a confidential conversation with SH (clearly in the cell since SH is told to arise), which may be part of the 'don't confess' discussion just mentioned or may be an entirely different one being held later on return. When it happens, the farrash-bashi interrupts this confidential discussion and earns a stern rebuke from the Bab but he then leads SH away, which is peculiar as he was just being narrated leading the Bab away and this may reflect the hidden time gap (the Bab having returned, making it now SH's turn to face the clergy), or it may represent taking SH away for a brief word, or in fact a request for SH to follow him beside the Bab to face the clergy. The problem with no time gap is to wonder then how a confidential conversation can be held whilst you are in the very unconfidential situation of being led out of the barracks. In the scenario of a sequential visit to the clergy, after SH, Anis then goes to face the clergy as expressed by narrating Anis' clergy-encounter first, then back-followed by the Bab's and then with SH in the cell. A little further on SH is mentioned as being in the cell as if he had never left it to face the clergy, but that could perhaps be construed as an awkward wording for SH's having faced the clergy but not having needed to go and face the civil sentence, or simply a way of saying SH was not led to execution and Anis (coming back from the clergy or civil sentence) is then added to him whilst they convey the Bab to execution. In all the passage turns out to be fairly hard to fathom beyond the rebuke (picked up on later after the failed volley) and perhaps suggestive that Nabil too was, as would be quite natural, hazy of the connecting details in putting it down.
- Presumably the clerical meetings would before they happened be expected to be longer (how long?) than the government validation, so the clerical meetings could make sense arranged individually (unless a rotated simultaneity) and the government validation carried out as a group.
- Curiously DAW omits the parade and commotion but does mention it briefly on a day on the way to the barracks.
Mamaqani = Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani
Baqir = Mirza Baqir
Zunuzi = Aqa Siyyid Aliy-i-Zunuzi
Murtada-Quli = Mulla Murtada-Quli-i-Marandi
Sequence of Clergy
BEK: Baqir (fanatic conservative), Mamaqani (Sheiki).
DAW: The Bab goes to Mamaqani, Baqir son successor of Mirza Ahmad, then Murtada-Quli. For Anis only Mamaqani is named.
GOB SIP: Baqir, Mamaqani, Zunuzi. All 3 ratify.
JAD: 2-3 well-known clergy, including Mamaqani, and sundry others at one of their houses.
TRN: Mamaqani, Baqir, Murtada-Quli and others.
MHK: Baqir, Mamaqani, Zunuzi.
Balyuzi: Mamaqani, Murtida-Quli and Baqir, but as a no-meeting.
- The 'and others' of TRN accommodates the fact that some accounts give S Zunuzi whilst others give Murtada-Quli, suggesting both may be true. There is a complication that whilst a few houses were visited, other clergy (JAD) joined in, allowing for an expanded number of clergy compared to the number of homes.
- Zunuzi - S Zunuzi is in an awkward position in his personal relationship to Anis, and one could imagine that he might condemn the Bab's mission, but work to extricate Anis from a fate that has obviously been arranged for the Bab, possibly making off-scene arrangements, and this might explain why Anis is later seen being put in the cell whilst the Bab is led out to execution.
Content of Clergy Meeting
BEK: The Bab didn't reply to the questions asked and avoided contradicting Islam, limiting himself to His convictions, so He didn't merit execution. (ch. 13).
JAD: Fearlessly said He was the Qa'im and answered questions. A strong encounter with Mamaqani and others in the porch of one of the houses that explicitly condemns Him.
MHK: Baqir didn't meet because he was or pretended to be ill. Mamaqani welcomes Him on His entry and the Bab admitting authorship of books, being the Qa'im, not concealing His mission etc, Mamaqani condemns Him, the wording indicating Baqir had also done so. S Zunuzi talked with the Bab, with the outcome of execution.
DAW: All refuse to meet the Bab.
GOB: Muslims swear the Bab recanted.
SIP: The Bab met all, concealed convictions and begged protection. All three issued fatwas.
- It seems unlikely DAW's blanket refusals to meet are correct, particularly in the face of MHK. Possibilities explaining DAW could be a confusion with the earlier attempted clergy meeting with the Prince at which the clergy refused to meet, or perhaps because one cleric refused (as MHK says Baqir did) and that got mixed into the others, or perhaps an intention not to meet or the lighter 'refused to engage with the Bab' led to the portrayal of a blanket refusal by all. It is all too easy, as we often can experience, for a narrator when saying one of them refuses to meet to say 'they refused to meet him'. The converse, that the first (failed) clergy meeting was a misplaced account of this much later one doesn't hold very strongly, as the Prince needed to follow instructions and the only reason for his own lay meeting and the subsequent arrangements for one by HK would be if he had been unsuccessful in achieving their facing the Bab in the first instant. It would also make a poor misplacement since it has them not meeting the Bab and MHK, JAD and others are quite clear about what took place in the second one. The much more natural answer is that DAW has confused them, and this would also fit with DAW omitting the first one.
• SH, SHas and S Ahmad, as previously arranged, deny the Bab in order to benefit the community, at some time between the clergy and the government house.
- Some have the renunciations at the clergy, others at the government house. If the two events occurred one after the other, they could confuse the renunciation time and place.
- SH was a very important figure to preserve, having with his attendant brother SHas been the intimate companion of the Bab for so long, having at a time of persecution an intimate knowledge of His teachings to share with others. He endured confinement a long time, sharing the Siyah-Chal with Bahá'u'lláh, longing for the same martyrdom as the Bab, refusing to have his imprisonment lightened and tears raining from his eyes. See DAW for details.
- At another level, the request that His companions preserve themselves may be seen as a deep compassion on the part of the Bab that they should not have to go through what He was about to endure.
- Repudiation was also a normal thing for the times, and it may seem from the comfort of our desks a questionable thing today, but when persecutors stoop too low there can also be times when their actions do not merit being given the same plain responses you would give in more ordinary times.
GOB: SH on leaving Zunuzi's; went free immediately. Failure to persuade Anis also to.
SIP: SH after the clergy meeting and before the Square, loose timing. Went free, loose timing. Anis doesn't.
BEK: SH, SHas, S Ahmad at the sight of the preparations for execution. Anis doesn't.
JAD: SH and SHas at the Government House. Anis doesn't.
BRO: SH during their execution morning parade for hours through the streets and bazaars.
DAW TRN: Omit the scene, although DAW mentions the plan for it.
YAY: S Husayn, S Ahmad, at some time. Both continued in prison a while. YAY adds that he was to preserve himself.
- Renunciation has two elements, repudiation of belief and liberty of person. Perhaps the clergy meeting is the logical place for the belief element and the government house for the liberty element. As a result it is possible they could have to do their renunciation more than once, resulting in a confusion of timing.
- You might immediately set someone free as a public statement but as high-profile figures one might think it unlikely they would just be let free immediately without further thought. A number of sources certainly has some of the renouncers persisting in prison a while. Perhaps the Prince sets them free as he had done the others earlier.
SIP: SH has to spit at the Bab.
BEK: In front of the assembled people police obliged them to treat the Bab as hypocrite, impostor and seducer.
BRO: SH is immediately liberated.
- SIP is true to form although unverifiable and hostile; it would be understandable if others omit such detail, so much so that DAW is conspicuously brief altogether.
- A renunciation of SHas might also suggest other cell companions were taken or to be taken to the clergy or government house but not mentioned.
• After the clergy they are led out to their final civil sentence.
JAD: Led at sunrise in night attire to the Government House and sentenced to be shot. Anis is very forthright and gets sentenced with the Bab. SH and SHas renounce the Bab and their liberation occurs here at the Government House.
MHK: The governor (Prince) announces to the guard the fatwa of the ulama (clergy) and orders the Báb to be led along the big streets, through the bazaar, to Square, which happens, feet bare except for socks and nightcap, along with Anis, to execution.
SIP: On orders of the Prince he would be executed.
- Prayers would have ended at sunrise, and JAD would represent events beginning immediately.
- Presumably although the farman and clergy authorised it, exact timing and actual logistics still needed last moment go-ahead from the civil authorities.
- Would they have needed to go in person or could it be performed in absence?
- Perhaps the government house is the logical place for the liberation element of the renunciation.
- The Prince had been very kind-hearted before. It is impossible to tell what he felt during this, but it could be seen as a case of a forced hand, much as Sam Khan had in turn to execute the Bab.
• After the final civil sentence, the Bab is paraded round the streets and bazaars to execution.
BRO: For several hours 'through the endless streets and bazaars of Tabríz'.
MHK: 'led along the big streets of the town and through the bazaar' barefoot and in nightcaps.
JAD: After the government house, the Bab and Anis were 'dragged... to the barracks situated by the citadel'.
NQK: The Bab is paraded through the town on an ass previously to his execution.
• During the public parade, they try to sway Anis after their success with SH and others.
GOB SIP BEK: Anis is tempted after the clergy and before the return from them. GOB: at the Bazaar before return to citadel.
BEK: Anis' fortitude an inspiration and example even for all his enemies.
JAD: On way to or at Square. The placing in the narrative would naturally suggest at the Square although it also speaks of bystanders and could be being narrated in a loose position.
YAY: When about to be bound for execution.
DAW: Omits this scene.
ANITCH1850: Anis singularly firm in the face of temptations. Both face death gallantly.
- It is possible the temptations of Anis occurred at more than one point in trying to achieve it.
- A Muslim woman cannot be married to a non-Muslim man, and if this happens mid-marriage due to religious conversion, the marriage will be suspended. So whilst recanting would have earned Anis back his wife, failing to do so would as a matter of course lead to his losing his wife, and this may explain some of the detachment in this kind of circumstance.
- DAW below ('Anis Not To Be Executed'), as noted there, may suggest this temptation occurred at the Square after the return to the citadel, fitting with JAD's most natural meaning.
• The Bab is handed over to Sam Khan, and shortly after Anis is added to Him.
DAW: Farash-bashi having the necessary documents delivers Bab over to Sam Kham.
JAD: After the Government House the Bab and Anis are dragged to the barracks by the citadel, opposite the cells and suspended.
MHK: The governor (Prince) announces to the guard the fatwa of the ulama (clergy) and orders the Báb's parade (above) to the Square, which happens, to execution.
• The original plan was to execute only the Bab, not Anis.
DAW: Anis is placed with SH who had remained there the while (at least during the parade, but by one interpretation since the night) and the Bab is led to execution. At Anis' persistence, the farrash-bashi hands him to Sam Khan to execute also if he persists.
- It seems from DAW they lacked decisiveness with what to do with Anis. It seems they weren't planning on executing Anis with the Bab despite Anis' passionate adherence (contradicting the orders to execute any of the Bab's adherents - see Msg #2 DAW) however it is possible they planned to follow orders but with separate executions, akin to the notion (later) of Anis being executed separately from the Bab yet on the same stake, but wanted to see the Bab executed first to see if Anis would change and his execution be avoided, particularly given Anis' family's prominent position - they may even have wanted at first to make Anis an exception, certainly not rush it.
- This occurrence may suggest the temptation of Anis happened at this point as Anis is led to the square; it would certainly make little sense desperately to save Anis with temptations to renounce the Bab if he wasn't due to be executed.
• The colonel Sam Khan is deeply troubled by events.
DAW: Sam Khan is affected by the Bab's character and His treatment and begs to free himself. The Bab says to continue and that if he is sincere God will find a solution.
• The Bab and Anis are suspended, and a firing squad is lined up (sizes vary, most suggesting an ordinary size). The first attempt to execute the Bab fails and the Bab, disappearing in the gunsmoke, has to be refound. Early accounts have Anis not surviving, late accounts surviving. A second execution is successful (regiment varies). Their remains are left publicly in the Square (duration varies). Following this, they are dumped at the perimeter of the city and guarded, and a drawing is made. Some say the remains are briefly buried and unearthed, before at any rate being taken away by well-wishers, placed in a casket and sent to Tehran under Bahá'u'lláh's orders.
- Miraculous Elements - A tendency of later accounts of the execution is to be more miraculous and dramatic. This is particularly apparent in (i) the death of Anis, who in early accounts is killed (or heavily wounded) on the first volleys, but in later ones survives unscathed; and (ii) natural phenomena, where in early accounts nothing special occurs, whilst the land is plunged into darkness all day in a later account. Generally - and especially for such a public event as this - it's a rule of thumb that where earlier accounts are not miraculous but later accounts are, the earlier accounts are the accurate ones.
• Huge crowds flock to the execution, filling the streets and rooftops.
BEK: The streets leading to the square and roofs of the houses are covered with a crowd of spectators.
TRN: The surrounding housetops billow with crowds.
DAW: 10,000 people are on the roof of the barracks and adjoining houses.
- Crowds - The Bab was famous country-wide, and He was also a descendant of Muhammad (a siyyid), a position held in very great reverence particularly by Shi'a Islam; it was a cursed act to kill a siyyid. It is little surprise that a very large crowd turns up to the execution, and the authorities must have expected this, especially given the crowds up to this point so far in the proceedings. With such high emotions in the crowd, the authorities will have provided for a lot of 'crowd control', and we find accounts giving up to four regiments on the scene (❖), who may well have been present in anticipation of the crowds - although as Tabriz was a foremost city with a notable military framework and at the frictional military border with Russia, they may have been naturally present or not far distant. (❖ Mefta`he Bab Al-Abwab, pp.233-235.)
- 10,000 - Could 10,000 people really have fitted on the rooftops? assuming a person stood and required 0.5 x 0.3 m, then 10000*0.5*0.3 = 1500 m2, equivalent to a roofing area 150 m long and 10 m wide. It seems possible given the vast size of the square; although it can be assumed no one counted and so 10,000 simply represents an extremely broad guess and should not be taken with any precision.
• The Bab is brought in to the great Public Square and addressed, and is notably calm. Anis is brought in at some point to join him.
OTHER: 1850 - The Bab undergoes his punishment with a courage and coolness not at all common with persons of his class (1850-09-03 - The Morning Chronicle (London)).
OTHER: 1851 - They are shot in the public square (The Bab and his sect in Persia, 1851, A H Wright).
SHE1856 - They are brought to the great mai'dan, or square.
SIP: They are brought to Tabriz Square.
BEK: The condemned are brought in and the sentence immediately executed. The location is the courtyard of the barracks ('la cour de la caserne des sarbazes').
GOB: Facing them, on an immense square, was the surging crowd, and everyone could see the two condemned men perfectly. ('En face, sur une immense place, se pressait la foule, et chacun pouvait voir parfaitement les deux condamnés.') (Given the size of the square, such seeing 'perfectly' may have been limited in scope.)
AHM: They are brought to the Square in Tabriz.
JAD: They are brought to "the barracks situated by the citadel".
TRN: At the cells that are at the barrack square of Tabriz.
BRO: They lead the two prisoners to the great square by the citadel called ironically the "Square of the Lord of the age". (Is it possible it acquired this name after?)
MHK: They reach the 'Small Barracks' square and bring the Báb out through the first door that leads to the square. When they reach the roof of the cistern they stop, at the top of the stairs that lead to the square. Notables (the author's father and friends) approach him and beg him to give up his claim and not spill his blood in a city that so revers the siyyids, but the Bab pays no attention and remains calm.
OTHER 1906: The place of execution is the large public square of the arsenal, gunsmiths, prison, royal stables, and buildings belonging to the Crown Prince; he is suspended from the wall above a small shop pointed out to the author (in 1906) into which he took refuge after being freed by the shots (Persia Past and Present, 1906, A V Williams Jackson).
- Anis' Arrival - Earlier it is seen how the Bab is brought out whilst Anis is put in with SH, and only at Anis' insistence is Anis also brought out. So it seems Anis must have joined the Bab in the square separately.
- Small Barracks - MHK states that they lead the Bab to the Small Barracks square and then the Bab is led 'out' through the first door into the square. Are these squares different or the same? Later he quotes Nasikhu't tavarikh in the bodies being dragged through the streets to the gate of the main street and from there they reach the 'Barracks Square' (without the word 'Small', seemingly another square) and then throw the bodies into the moat. It seems there may have been a number of squares.
- Size of Square - Questions later arise about whether the square could take a large firing squad. GOB describes it as an 'immense' square. The 1940-44 Bahá'í World contains a picture of the barracks here, and there is a photo (with redrawn backdrop, presumably to correct an overexposure) on p133 of A ride through western Asia, 1897, by viscount Clive Bigham Mersey here. An actual photo of the square, with an area matching the scene of the photo in DAW, not available on the web, endorses the size of that last picture. The square could clearly fit 750 men in three lines of 250 if such a thing happened.
- Location - The barracks with a large area and plenty of soldiers was a safe way to ensure they remained in control during the execution whilst providing space for the public to watch, particularly since some of the Babis were planning to rescue the Bab, and also after the execution so the remains could be left on display and no one would venture to recover them.
In the picture in DAW, the arches are in the general style of a caravanserai. In the sets of three panels some reach slightly lower and these would be doors, the others wood screens. Various elements of water drainage can be seen: typically the roof would not be flat but sloped to form valleys, the water travelling along the valleys and onto an extension projecting beyond the roof where it then falls to the ground. The large building to the right may have been built in later.
- Cistern - Cisterns of the time collected runoff rainwater and were generally underground (giving them natural strength to hold water), but with a high raised roof above ground (often domed) with wind towers and steps leading down into them from the side (Images • Wikipedia).
- The statement that they stopped at the roof of the cistern at the top of the stairs that lead to the square might suggest the barracks and other buildings have for practicality been integrated with the high cistern roof and that they are high up.
- The alternative is for them to be at ground level and they are at (i.e. beside the base of) the cistern raised roof, but then it becomes very peculiar to say they stood at the top of the stairs that led to the square rather than cistern.
- GOB has them suspended by being lowered down from the roof which supports the first idea, whilst MHK mentions them being lifted up to position, supporting the second (the original arabic word in MHK does convey lifted).
• The head of execution will only obey the Colonel.
MHK: The governor's farrásh-báshí comes to the commander of the special regiment and shows him the order of the judge [qádí] for the execution. The officer refuses to obey the judge's order since his command is from the War Ministry. So the head of the gate keepers goes to Sam Khan the colonel of the Christian regiment and shows him the judge's order and he submits 'a detachment of the regiment' to carry it out. The head of the detachment is Qúch-'Alí Sultán, a Muslim of the town of Khuv.
- Hierarchy - There are three hierarchical figures mentioned here, the colonel (Sam Khan), the commander of the regiment, and the detachment head (Qúch-'Alí Sultán). It is the detachment under Qúch-'Alí Sultán that carries out the execution, clearly using only a portion of a regiment.
• Spike(s) are driven into the barracks' column of bricks at a height, just under the roof. Anis and the Bab are lowered from the roof on ropes or lifted up there; a rope runs over the spike for each, suspending each under the two arms high off the ground; some (NQK JAD) say Anis and the Bab are suspended at separate times, some say at the same time. (Photo with X.)
NQK: Anis is the first to be tied up to be shot. Just after this first volley is fired, the Bab exclaims as the body falls at his feet, "You are with me in Paradise'." The first shots are aimed at Anis not the Bab.
GOB: They are brought out to the rampart, of great height and formed by a perpendicular wall of fired bricks. Heavy ropes are passed under their arms and they are let down against the outer surface of the wall in such a way that they are left hanging a few feet from the ground. (GOB almost seems to imagine they are being lowered from the citadel building itself, but whatever his thinking, the element of the story is that they were lowered down from a roof to get them on the spike.)
JAD: Opposite to the cells on one side of the barrack, Anis is suspended from one of the stone gutters erected under the eaves of the cells. (The Bab is suspended later.) ('Opposite' here perhaps means 'facing', as they bound people for execution facing the wall, or otherwise maybe 'against' the wall.)
TRN: An iron nail is hammered into the middle of the staircase of the imprisonment cell. Two ropes are hung down, one suspending the Bab, the other Anis.
DAW: Sam Khan has a nail driven into the pillar between the door of Siyyid Husayn's room and the entrance to the adjoining one. Two ropes are fastened to it for suspending them severally. The nail survives.
BRO: They are suspended with ropes from staples set in one of the walls.
MHK: They are led to the spot where iron spikes had been driven in. Their shoulders are firmly bound with ropes and they are lifted three zars [three meters] off the ground. (Anis also asks to have his head at the Bab's feet.)
TZH: Each rope is knotted together at the end so the entire rope forms a loop, and placed so that the loop middle is at the chest, running under the arms, knotted at the back and then goes up to the iron nail, the two ropes, one for the Bab, one for Anis, being so arranged. The iron nail is on the wall between the imprisonment cell and a neighbouring cell. The brickwork is at most 90cm wide and they are in the middle of the wall (in height).
- Spikes - This spike (or spikes in MHK & BRO) would need to be fairly high up, having to be more than the height of two people (more than 3.4m) since 3m is explicitly given for their height off the ground and Anis wishes to have his head at the Bab's feet, assumedly standing as would need to be the case for execution.
From the photo of the barracks the spike would then be near the roof, which is the description GOB provides above, and JAD (NQK?) has it just under the eaves (the eaves being the roof overhang of the photo) which is about the same location.
- Suspension - The simple way to get anyone onto the spike is to lower them down from the roof. GOB describes this explicitly, and MHK has the Bab standing at the roof of the cistern and at the top of the stairs leading to the Square, which seems to be all taking place at a height (it goes on to say they were lifted three metres off the ground; perhaps 'lifted' could be a error for eg 'suspended', but it really is 'lifted' in the original) the alternative is from a ladder, looping the rope over and swinging them off. (See 'Cistern' note above.) The logic tends to favour the earlier portrayal of being lowered down with a miswording in MHK, after all you'd likely want people on the roof in either scenario; however what people do doesn't always follow logic.
- The X in the Photo - The 'X' on the picture in DAW (here, middle of the two rightmost doored arches) therefore fits with this as the location of the Bab/Anis themselves rather than the spike.
• Anis makes various requests for how he should be placed.
NQK: Anis is facing the wall with his back to the Bab who, being executed separately, is further away; Anis asks to face the other way so that he can face the Bab and not have his back to Him (it being improper to turn your back on your master, and undoubtedly a wish for one's last moments to gaze upon the beloved).
BEK: When they shoot criminals they tie them to a pillar with face to the wall so they do not see the preparations. Anis solemnly requests to be tied facing the public.
JAD: Anis is suspended and executed, following which the Bab is suspended and fired upon.
TRN: The head of Anis is placed on the Bab's breast.
YAY: Anis asks during his temptations, "If you love me, bind me opposite to the Lord". They bind Anis together with the Bab (for 'opposite' perhaps read 'facing' or 'against' the Bab (if Anis is expecting a separate execution (per NQK/JAD) it could mean facing toward Him, whilst DAW has Anis begging to shield the Bab, and also with his head on the Bab's chest, both of which can be seen as 'against'); however it potentially could also mean 'differently to' so that he does not die in an identical way, recalling Peter's request to be crucified upside down to be different to Christ).
DAW: (As they are being suspended) Anis begs Sam Khan to be placed to shield the Bab from the bullets. Anis is 'eventually' suspended so that his head rests on the Bab's chest ('eventually' suggests the arrangement was protracted; 'on' the chest could perhaps mean somewhat at the side of rather than squarely on).
MHK: Their shoulders are firmly bound with ropes and they are lifted three zars [three meters] off the ground. Their faces are turned to the wall. Anis begs the head of the detachment to turn him to face the soldiers so that he can see the bullets flying toward him. The officer grants this. Then he asks for his face to be placed at the Báb's feet, which is not accepted.
NIC: The two are tied before the Christian regiment of Bahadurans.
TZH: Anis requests to shield the Bab and face outward, with his head on the Bab's chest.
BNE1923: The two are suspended by ropes under their armpits in such a way that the head of Anis rests against the breast of the Bab.
Chosen Highway - The Bab and His friend are bound with ropes, and hung upon a wall, with their arms extended in the form of a cross. A company of soldiers stand ready.
- Shielding the Bab - Anis' request (DAW TZH) to shield the Bab from the bullets is a most illuminating aspect, as it indicates Anis understands he is being aimed at separately from the Bab, with the Bab only executed after him (even if immediately so) - Anis wouldn't want this to get transformed into a martyrdom of the Bab at the same time, since it is natural for the servant to wish to die before the master. It seems his request is not granted, either because this wasn't the plan, or more simply because from their point of view they don't want to rearrange a dead Anis in order then to execute the Bab. Some accounts are very specific in stating that Anis is executed separately from the Bab, even so far as having separate suspensions.
- Separate Suspensions? - Some accounts have Anis executed and only after is the Bab suspended. Clearly others (the majority) have them suspended together but with separate executions. This difference presumably arises by a simple evolution of the narrative. It is assumed the majority is correct here due to the many other details, such as Anis' requests. Here are some easy mechanisms for how such changes could have come about:-
- Presumably they had to suspend them one at a time even to get them up together (Anis first?), and then they are aimed at and executed separately, Anis by the first line, the Bab by the next, and even then, after Anis' execution by the first volleys (in early accounts) the Bab has to be found, suspended and executed, which will be given especial prominence, so the narrative could easily have become transformed into Anis simply being suspended and executed entirely separately before the Bab - it is very easy for words to be ambiguously narrated, misunderstood and misremembered.
- When you have a single event with two aspects, it is common practice to tell one aspect (Anis) and then tell the other (the Bab), making it sound like two events even though it is one. ("They are led to execution; the first shots at Anis were successful (perhaps a long comment about Anis here) but although the Bab was suspended in the same way, when they shot at Him he disappeared (long comment about the Bab here)...") This can very readily turn into a narrative of two entirely separated executions.
- Conversely, two separated events that are very similar are often narrated for convenience as a single thing ('they were both suspended in the same manner from ropes'), resulting in separate suspensions becoming retold with their being executed together.
- Another possibility is that some narrators might have come partway through the events and so just seen the Bab's resuspension and focussed particularly on telling how the Bab was suspended after Anis' execution.
- On balance, it seems from the numerous depictions of Anis' requests that they were suspended together and that a differentiation of the narrative has resulted in some accounts narrating entirely separate suspensions even on the first volleys.
- Face at Feet - Anis's request to have his face at the Bab's feet must indicate the Bab is very high above the ground, just as the accounts do describe. The reason for the request could be the wish to avoid bullets hitting the Bab by being further away (if Anis' expectation is of being aimed at separately as seems to have been the case) or simply humility (the servant wishing to be lower than the master, with his head on the master's feet).
- Direction of the Bab - It is not given whether the Bab also faced toward or away from the bullets. It would be a surprising scene if they faced different directions, and also curious that great play should be made on Anis facing the bullets without mention of the Bab. However DAW (TZH) have Anis on the first volley with his head on the Bab's chest which would suggest the Bab is facing forwards or otherwise somewhat sideways to the bullets.
- In Sum - In essence the basic elements are of separate executions but very close together in time and space, with volleys coming one after another. How this can look from different onlookers' perspectives and how the concepts can evolve, and the mixing in of the Bab's definite separate execution due to his escape, the sequential suspensions to get them up, and also the casual way people tell things, could easily lead to the variety of accounts we see here.
• Public recitations and speeches before the execution.
BEK: Anis calmly reads aloud excerpts from prayers composed by the Bab. The Báb is silent throughout.
- It is notable that the Bab is silent on the first volleys, but makes an address in the final one. Some may wish to see in this the Bab's foreknowledge that His time had not yet come, others that He is simply giving Anis space to do the speaking.
• A firing squad is drawn up in several lines. Due to questions surrounding the number of soldiers in the first volleys, original terms used or original translation terms are in quotes, with links to images for the terms on their first use. (For Sen McGlinn's treatment see here.)
SHE1856: A 'company of soldiers' are ordered to despatch the Bab by a volley - (company images).
SIP: Soldiers of the Bahádurán 'regiment' of Christian confession are to shoot them. The Bab misses the opportunity to stand before the crowd and say he escaped a thousand bullets (a thousand may actually indicate a large size since a regiment was about a thousand-strong, or simply Persian hyperbole meaning far more than necessary much as we would say 'a myriad bullets' - in English we have similar expressions such as 'I've told you a thousand times not to').
GOB: A 'company' (compagnie) of the Christian regiment of Behadéran. Muslims maintain it carried out its duty with repugnance, the Bábis maintain Christians were chosen because of the distrust of the Muslim soldiers.
BEK: A 'platoon' of the Christian regiment ('un peloton du régiment chrétien' - peloton images).
OTHER: 1865 - A small detachment of soldiers ('eine kleine Abtheilung Soldaten' - images) carry out the execution (Persien das Land und seine Bewohner by Jakob Eduard Polak). (This author is the Shah's personal physician, and he personally witnesses (and briefly describes) Tahirih's execution.)
AHM: They are brought to the Square in Tabriz to where the Bahadur regiment, composed of men who had formerly been Christians, is summoned and ordered to shoot them.
OTHER: 1866 - A 'company of soldiers' is drawn up in the great square of Tabriz (History of Persia by R Grant Watson).
OTHER 1868: The Bab is tied to a tree and 750 soldiers discharge their guns at him (1868 Letter of Reverend L Rosenberg to British Consul in Adrianople). (Here 'tree' could be a natural evolution from something like 'post' (either the divider, or the spike driven into it) in works such as NIC the term 'poteau' (post/stake) is used for the spike; this account is interesting for giving an early mention of the 750 soldiers later used in DAW and TZH.)
AHM: Bahadur 'regiment' of former Christians.
JAD: Shakaki 'regiment' (foj shaghaghi = "group of soldiers of schism/discord", presumably Muslim if they are the same as refuse to fire after the Bab is refound).
TRN: A 'regiment' of soldiers ranges itself in three files. (Literally foj "company/division" from a foj "regiment"; 'a company of soldiers' would be better.)
DAW: As soon as fastened, 750 soldiers ("regiment") are ranged in three files of 250; each line fires in turn until the whole "detachment" has discharged its bullets (detachment images, regiment images). (This account is notable (certainly in the English) for using detachment and regiment interchangeably. This might indicate difficulties or ambiguities in the original.)
MHK: The head of the 'detachment' (Qúch-'Alí Sultán, a Muslim) ranges his detachment in three files (then he takes the Bab and Anis to their spot.) On the eventual firing smoke fills the whole square.
TZH: The regiment (foj) of Sam Khan which is 750 people is divided into three parts, in lines. The distance from the first row to the Bab and Anis is 60 paces (40m). Then other government personnel move away. Sam Khan orders and the first line fires and sits, then the second fires, and finally the third fires at the two bodies.
OTHER : In addition, there are various records of Abdu'l-Bahá using 'a thousand bullets' (an expression He seems to be quoting from the official Persian histories, see SIP) to illustrate the sacrifice of the day and in general; it is not known whether this was a case of being free with numbers or not, since the purpose of mentioning them wasn't history. (Various.)
BNE1923: A regiment of Armenian soldiers is drawn up and receive the order to fire.
- Outline - Here we present particulars useful for understanding the situation with firing early guns, both in battle and in executions, in order to assess the scene:-
- Purpose of a Firing Squad - Why would a firing squad be used? It is much easier to execute someone with a gun to the head, so a firing squad is used for a specific purpose:-
- Group Responsibility - Since everyone is firing together, the soldiers or executioners do not feel personal responsibility. In particular typically only enough guns to complete the task have bullets in and the rest are blanks so that people feel they most likely fired a blank; it is easy to arrange this with cartridges since people cannot tell whether they have a blank even when they load the gun themself, but to achieve this with earlier guns where you insert an obvious bullet would require someone else loading the guns.
- Spectacle and Might - A firing squad in contrast to 'a bullet in the head' can be used as a public spectacle and show of state might, with a louder bang and more smoke, leaving everyone in no doubt that the person has been executed, by overwhelming state power, and that any rebel can expect the same fate if they are rebellient; we noted earlier how a private execution of the Bab seems to have been changed to a public one for this sort of reason; in this respect a large number executing the Bab would perform admirably, even though you might well have only the centre ones firing bullets and the rest blanks for effect, in effect a small squad with all the spectacle - bullets were also often in short supply, and so was gunpowder, and nobody would know the difference; but that might be overridden for an important requirement such as this, having them all fire. We are all familiar in life with hierarchies where management insists on very impractical things that look grand, and so it's quite possible Sam Khan could have been directed to use a whole regiment; however we also know that in these situations the person carrying out the impractical request generally adjusts things to make it more practical, whilst keeping everyone happy, and in this instance if a giant squad was demanded it would be reasonable if the commander fulfilled it by just having the centre soldiers with bullets in the guns (reassured by the fact that the original request never specified the guns had to have bullets in!)
- Habit - We all know the power of habit - a firing squad may be used just because that's what you do.
- Photo - The position of the Bab's suspension on the photo in Dawnbreakers is here, at the X.
- This looks a peculiar place for a public spectacle with a giant squad - it's hidden from view for viewers off the right of the picture, and you would have to fire in at a peculiar angle, suggesting a setup for a small squad with less interest in public viewing; it would seem better for a large, public execution to place them centrally against a wall or out in the open so you can fire straight on and all can see.
- On the other hand maybe not enough advance thought was given and they just tied them outside the cell, particularly as a prisoner's cell might be considered more expendable and appropriate for gunfire against whilst firing at an angle to walls causes much less damage and the bouncing bullets would safely hit the other building whilst the people could be safely on the roofs behind; or the cross could be shown on the wrong pillar. Another reasonable option is that if the large imposing building seen on the right in the photo was added at a later date, causing the open position to become more of a corner, then this position may at the time in question have been in the middle of the barrack face.
- Normal Size & Smoke - A firing squad would normally be small (see images) and a small number of guns (eg 30) would be ample to create the dense cloud of smoke recorded; even a large firing squad would normally be vanishingly small compared to 750. However, it is said that giant firing squads were at times used in the Qajar period (src ref).
- Persian Regiments and Companies - In Persia and the Persia Question, vol 1, Curzon, p600, Azherbaijani regiments in 1886 are given as having 800-1000 men (600-700 in practice) and regiments in general as 1000-strong (though they could be much larger), with divisions into companies of 70-100-strong mentioned, whilst very close to the time the Morning Chronicle (London, England) of 1851-07-22 similarly details the formation of an Azerbaijani regiment of Christians that is 1000-strong.
- Terminology/Size - It should be noted that terms like regiment, detachment, platoon, company are translations. However one cannot escape the impression from most of the accounts that it is not a regiment being drawn up, but soldiers 'from' a regiment, a potentially much smaller number, of uncertain size. The note above combined with the wording of accounts might suggest a company of 70-100 could perhaps have been drawn up. Whilst a truly gargantuan first squad on the lines of DAW is possible, it is little called for by the early accounts, which do not make an effort to convey any large size. Accounts that convey a large size are possibly SIP (1858) with its thousand bullets, Rev Rosenberg (1868), DAW, TZH, whilst also MHK states that the smoke fills the whole square (bearing in mind that it is an immense square).
- 750 Soldiers - The familiar portrayal (DAW) of 750 soldiers in three lines of 250 soldiers with say a half a metre room for each soldier in the line (perhaps soldiers could fire turned aside to save room), gives a firing squad 125 metres wide. When formed in an arc (eg a third of a circle), the firing distance will then be 60 metres (r: 2*pi*r/3 = 125) and the effective line width of 100m (L/pi*360/a*sin(a/2*pi/180), L=125, a=120), and if the Bab and Anis are 3m from the ground, the guns would need to aim up at 3 degrees (arctan(3/60)/pi*180) which is useful in scenarios where you are firing over the heads of people in front. Such an arrangement using the feeble/inaccurate guns of the time isn't wholly satisfactory to logic if you are maximising the efficacy of execution, however it is not impossible, particularly if the logic is for a spectacle rather than a smooth execution, and TZH does state a 40m distance (large, but shorter than 750 would require). It is quite possible that such a large execution could have been 'dictated from above', as considered just above under 'Spectacle and Might'.
- Size Assumptions - It is not only possible but somewhat plausible that 750 men could have arisen from a miscalculation. The easiest would be if the regiment had 750 men and DAW (or its source) simply assumed all of them were employed rather than a detachment from the regiment, and then divided that into three rows; DAW even itself vacillates between calling the whole group a regiment and then in the next breath a detachment (it is not known if this is an artefact of the English or the original). Or we could even wonder if instead of a line being 250 men it was the whole firing squad that was 250 men, which would still be giant, but a more manageable 40 metres wide able to stand at a third the distance away (20m). Or perhaps miscalculations arose due to Babi preoccupation with numerology, where words are thought to convey numbers and numbers mean words. These sorts of embroiderments are very easy as stories get handed down. Notwithstanding, 750 had clearly come onto the scene by 1868.
- First v Second Volley Sizes - Following the Bab's disappearance and faced with a crowd astonished at an apparent miracle, if the first squad was small they might have decided on a dramatic power for the second volley, or alternatively, if they felt the first missed because it was too large and inaccurate, they might have reduced it to a smaller one for the second and picked chosen men to carry it out. In the first case of a larger second volley, the size could easily become narrated onto the first volley, whilst, conversely, in the case of a smaller second squad to correct for the first, that smallness could likewise become narrated onto accounts of the first. That at least one of the two volleys was small seems likely from the accounts, and many might quite reasonably feel that both were.
- Psychology - It might also be that if Sam Khan (DAW) is apprehensive about executing the Bab on the first volleys he will try to adopt as much dignity as possible - a smaller squad, executing Anis first and then the Bab.
- Smoke - An issue with a large squad is that if the soldiers are too far away, the smoke will likely not obscure the view in time to prevent the roof-top spectators seeing what happened, and the Bab would not seem to miraculously disappear.
- Sam Khan - Sam Khan (the colonel) was a Russian renegade, and headed the Bahaduran who were recruited predominantly out of the remnants of Russian deserters who had defected to Iran during the second Russo-Persian war and was reinforced by native Assyrian recruits (src: Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal).
- Religion - Accounts vary whether the first firing squad is Muslim or Christian, most saying Christian. Since the colonel Sam Khan is Christian but the detachment head Qúch-'Alí Sultán is Muslim (and the regiment is described in AHM as ex-Christian), and if the first and second regiments were different, such a discrepancy might naturally arise.
- Christian Soldiers - The reason for the existence of Christian forces is that Muslims were against shooting other Muslims, most particularly a Siyyid, and so on this occasion Christians would make an intelligent choice; whilst use in general of a different culture to police another greatly reduces friendly fraternisation to the benefit of the ability to impose policing. BEK ($12) has it that they were strengthened early with a view to engaging the Babis, but perhaps strengthening might bring with it a membership lacking in accurate shooting practice. An additional advantage (noted but discounted in BEK) of a Christian regiment firing the shots is that any anger by people sympathetic to the Bab might go against Christians rather than Muslims. The 1851-07-22 Morning Chronicle (London) paints a stark picture of recruiting in the region. Tehran orders a 1000-strong regiment of Adherbaijani Christians, and 300, passing through Tabriz for seasonal work are pounced upon and forced to enlist, whilst on the announcement in Salmass and Oroomiah to form the regiment, Christians of all classes abandon their mothers, wives and children to potential starvation to flee to Bashkallah to seek Ottoman protection. The nature of the soldiers making up the regiment is important in regards to questions of their training and willingness to fire on the Bab.
• The gun volleys are fired, in various accounts aimed at Anis and Bab separately.
ANITCH1850: Both are shot. The soldiers little used to proceedings of this sort transform the punishment into complete torture. This could align with one notion that they were unused to accurate shooting.
NQK: (Summary) The first shots are fired only at Anis and not at the Bab. Anis falls dead at the Bab's feet. The Bab exclaims "Thou art with me in Paradise'." The second sever the Bab's ropes. The third take effect, three bullets enter the Bab's body to the number of Ali. (This number three may have arisen for symbolic reasons.)
SIP: The soldiers avoid shooting the Bab from fear.
GOB: The only thing Anis' tempters could get from him (prior to the leading into the square) was that if they desired to treat him with some humanity, to execute him before the Bab. Anis is distinctly heard to say to the Báb, "Master, are you not pleased with me?" and at that moment the company fire at Anis.
BEK: Anis is shot first, then the Báb. (Stated after the Bab is not hit.)
OTHER 1865 - The soldiers are most reluctant to obey the command and so fire their guns without aiming. The Bab amidst the smoke slips away through a gap in the water feeder. He is discovered, and shot. (The water feeders here represent the columnar walls between cells which carried the water drainage.) (Persien das Land und seine Bewohner by Jakob Eduard Polak.)
JAD: Anis is shot in the presence of the Bab. The Bab is then suspended and the Shakaki regiment fires in a single volley. JAD also tells a story of Sulayman Khan hearing three sounds of fire and knowing the execution has happened.
TRN: Each file fires in their turn.
YAY: They fire (too brief to draw any conclusions).
DAW: (As they are being suspended) Anis begs Sam Khan to be placed to shield the Bab from the bullets.
BRO: As the firing-party takes up position Anis is heard to say, "Master, are you content with me?" To this the Báb replies in Arabic, "Truly Muhammad 'Alí is with us in paradise!" The words hardly leave his lips and the guns ring out, cloud of smoke hiding them. As it lifts a great cry of wonder and awe arises. The lifeless body of the disciple is riddled with bullets swinging in the air, but the Báb has disappeared. The clamour arises that it is a miracle and the authorities fear the people might turn in the Bab's favour.
MHK: Colonel Sâm Khán orders and the soldiers raise their guns as for salute. The people fall silent. He commands again and there is utter silence. Sâm Khán glances towards the chief of the governor's gate keepers who holds in his hand the order for execution, the latter signals to carry it out. Sâm Khán signals the head of the squadron and orders the first file to fire. Bullets whistle and smoke fills the square. (Mention of the first file being ordered to fire suggests a methodical sequence to their firing.)
BNE1923: Promptly the volleys ring out.
- Smoke - The smoke produced by the guns of the time was incredible and in a battle men couldn't tell friend from foe. Even a small company of guns could produce the obscuring cloud described in the accounts of the martyrdom.
- Firing in Lines - The lines do not fire all together, but fire in turn.
- Firing Methods - The most sensible way to fire three lines of guns is to have one line fire first, then the next moves forward in front of the smoke and fires, and then the third the same, marching an advance like in a battle, so that the dense smoke from one line's fire doesn't obscure the sight of the next; or you might have one row kneeling and one standing and they fire at the same time, and if you wanted a third line you would have to have gaps for them to fire through, making the lines twice as long. However there were in fact a great variety of ways lines were fired in battles, not all of them ideal. You would often have three rows, the front row kneeling and firing, followed by the second, and the third row doesn't fire at all but reloads the guns, handing them forward and receiving a new gun to load. Kneeling was ideal because as well as allowing another row to fire over, a kneeling person makes for a smaller target but with the consequence that it causes soldiers to prefer to kneel in one place rather than march forward. Tacticians therefore preferred people to stand and so be more inclined to march forward, firers moving ahead whilst others reload, and to have a continuous roll of fire, employing a right-to-left firing of the volleys.
- Execution v Battle - An execution is a different situation from a battle, but might follow battle tactics if that's what the men know of - try something novel the men have not practised, and they might shoot themselves!
- In the Accounts - We maybe see some of these elements where in BEK's account at the signal a platoon 'advanced', in MHK the soldiers all get their guns aimed and the first line alone is first ordered to fire. whilst TZH has that the first fires from standing and sits and then the second fires (moving forward or not?), followed by the third; if they didn't each advance then only the first would have been accurate (aimed at Anis) and the next lines would only be accurate if time were left for the smoke to clear.
- In Sum - There is much to be wondered in how it was carried out, and even whether the third row was intended to fire at all, given its widespread role in reloading, or perhaps it was planned to reserve it for a coup de grace (as was commonly needed) if the executed were still found to have life in them, or for security if someone tried to rescue them or the crowd became unruly. Taken together it seems likely the first row fired at Anis and knelt, the second row fired at the Bab, perhaps having to fire blind through smoke, and knelt, and the third, unable to see, if it was used fired as best it could guess.
- Useful Reading Material - For details about muskets and tactics, see : Infantry Tactics • Russian Infantry • Volley Fire (Wikipedia) • Musket with Bayonet.
- Anis Aimed At First - Accounts generally indicate Anis is fired on by the first row, and then the Bab is fired on by the second row. Anis asks to be executed first (GOB) and particularly to shield the Bab (DAW; TZH), which make most sense if he is aware there would be a person-by-person execution, where the alternative is otherwise to be executed after the Bab, although the precise details may not have been obvious until the end (such as them being suspended together versus separately); he would have been ashamed to have the Bab die before him, and his greatest honour to take the bullets from the Bab in this way. Sequential execution also works naturally with a line-by-line sequence of firing. These plans and requests do not prohibit the firing squad in the end shooting without an order of who to aim at, but the descriptions do not suggest that was the plan. Statements that the first bullets were only fired at Anis would require inside knowledge if they were in quick succession, but only simple observation if there is a suitable time gap between the two; or it could simply be drawn as a presumption from seeing Anis succumbing but not the Bab.
- Reasons for the Method - It makes natural sense to shoot two people separately rather than at once, since without a single focus on who to shoot, the soldiers might decide (through fear or prejudice) entirely (or mostly) to aim in common at one of them only, given the choice of two targets. A commander would need either to tell different portions of the firing squad who to aim for (here different lines), or to have them all shoot one and then afterward all the other. It would furthermore fit that this particular commander, not wishing to carry out the execution, might desire to show a commander's respect for the Bab by executing Him last, rather than with or before Anis. Another reason would be to prepare the men mentally for executing a prophet by first executing Anis. Sam Khan is presented in Dawnbreakers as having the control of the execution, even though a Muslim carries out the orders.
- Onlookers' Perspective - From an onlooker's point of view, particularly those further away on the rooftops and all the smoke, it would be very difficult to tell the difference between volleys aimed in sequence or entirely at will, if they are carried out swiftly one after the other, and hard to recollect at a later date, especially with the resuspension and re-execution, whether the rows fired together or one immediately following another; the differences in the accounts may be seen as a natural result of the onlooking perspectives and multiplicity of very similar elements.
• The Bab disappears; in early accounts Anis dies or is severely wounded (or his fate is unmentioned), in later accounts he comes through unscathed.
JS1850: The balls break the ropes by which the Bab is bound. The smoke clears and he is not to be seen. The crowds proclaim that he has ascended to the skies.
ANITCH1850: No disturbances occur, thanks to the well-considered measures taken by the local authorities.
NQK: Anis is tied and killed, then the Bab is tied and shot, but He disappears in the smoke.
SHE1856: The smoke clears, and the Bab has disappeared.
SIP: Anis is struck by bullets and asks "Are you not satisfied with me?" At this moment an accidentally discharged bullet hits the Bab's rope and frees Him....
GOB: Anis is killed instantly but the Báb is not wounded - his rope is cut by a bullet. The crowd roars in admiration at the event.
BEK: Anis is shot first, then the Báb. (Stated after the Bab is not hit.)
OTHER: 1866 : The Bab disappears (no mention of Anis) (History of Persia by R Grant Watson).
AHM: Anis is riddled with bullets at the first volley, and a shot hits the rope which binds the Bab's hands, sets the Bab free and he runs away. (We should see this as the rope holding the Bab by His arms at the shoulders.)
JAD: Anis is shot by his volley. After Anis they suspend the Bab and two bullets strike the two ropes suspending the Bab. The Bab falls to the ground and goes into the adjacent room. A great clamour arises and a search is made.
OTHER: 1882 - An elderly man reports how as a boy he had witnessed a prodigy in Tabriz of a prophet being bound to a cross with two companions; he remains suspended for several hours; the companions are dispatched at the first volley but the prophet is unhurt, the cords are cut by the bullets and he falls to the ground on his feet. (This looks like a confusion with the plan of executing SH with them (or that the Bab's execution twice is inserted as an extra companion) and the fact that the arms may have been outwards a little like a cross with lowered arms; the description could also be influenced by Christ's story, perhaps due to the author writing it down later rather than the narrator himself, although the original narrator may have himself employed the resemblance to Christ for illustration.) (Future of Islam (Wilfrid Blunt).)
TRN: A great smoke is produced and when it clears the crowd sees Anis standing and the Bab seated by His amanuensis in the cell. Neither has been injured.
YAY: Anis is martyred but the Bab unhurt.
DAW: Smoke turns the noonday sun to darkness. The smoke clears, and Anis is standing alive, unhurt, tunic unsullied from the smoke, the Bab is vanished. The cords had been torn in pieces by the bullets. Everyone shouts the Bab has gone.
BRO: The smoke rises to reveal Anis riddled with bullets and swinging in the air, but the Báb has disappeared.
MHK: When the smoke clears it appears a bullet has struck Anis and he calls out to the Báb, "Are you content with me, O my master?" As for the Bab, a bullet hits the Bab's rope, He falls to the ground and immediately runs into one of the rooms of the barracks and disappears there. Spectators and soldiers cannot see this for the smoke. They raise a cry wondering whether the Bab flew in the air, ascended to heaven, or disappeared.
NIC: On firing Anis is seen covered with wounds, dying, running towards his Master, his words terrifying the witnesses: "Master," he said, "Master, are you content with me?" The bullets cut the Bab's cords, who drops to his feet without a scratch. (Although in order for the crowd to see Anis running to the Bab in this way, the Bab would need to be executed somewhat separately in time.)
Abdu'l-Bahá: 1919 - In a meticulously recorded Q&A with 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Abdu'l-Bahá is asked at which volley Anis is martyred, the first or the second, and Abdu'l-Bahá states: "With the first one he was killed. He was mutilated. But the body of His Holiness the Báb was not hit by the first discharge." He also is asked who authored Traveller's Narrative and he states that he didn't but he provided material (Pilgrim Notes of Abdu'l-Bahá by George Latimer, The Evening Meal 24 November 1919).
BNE1923: The bullets only sever the ropes by which they are suspended, so that they drop to the ground unhurt. When the smoke clears, it is found that the Bab and His companion are still alive.
Chosen Highway: Only the ropes by which He is suspended are severed. The smoke clears.
- Musket Guns Overview - Musket guns were not accurate, certainly in the stress and excitement of battle; however when fired outside battle conditions they could be much more accurate. The fundamental issues with musket accuracy are:-
- No Sights - Muskets had no sights, so aiming would vary with wherever your cheek was. The bayonet (sword spike) at the end could be used as a sight, but needed compensating for its position; it's not known if the execution was with bayonets on the guns, but presumably they would be if they were useful for aiming with. Image of Muskets with Bayonets.
- Bullet Departure - The bullet would come out slightly randomly from the nozzle.
- Recoil - The guns would throw upwards when fired, leading to over-shoot. The further away the guns (i.e. the larger the execution), the worse the overshoot becomes. This recoil can be seen on videos of their firing.
- Bullet Weight - The bullets were heavy and would descend in flight due to gravity (10cm at 45m, 25cm at 70m, 45cm at 90m) (Link).
- Training - Firing in a group in battle you will never learn and improve your accuracy because you will never know whose bullets hit and whose missed. Individual training and practice is required to see and improve the effect of your shots. However soldiers often had no or little training practice since ammunition and gunpowder were precious and often scarce, and battles were often seen as mostly about the sword-fights that followed, with leaders often preferring military marching drills and polishing shoes over practice, whilst the guns themselves would often be worn out and barely functional, with Russians particularly prone to drink. It is not known how practised Sam Khan's men were but under ordinary standards it might not be much.
- Battle & Execution Conditions - In battle conditions there was little emphasis on targeting anything accurately (as an execution would require): you just had one large formation of soldiers who would fire in the general direction of another large formation of enemy soldiers, and sometimes not a single bullet would hit such a large target even at 60 paces (40m), or sometimes the hits would be good if the soldiers were trained. The purpose of the guns was more often to create confusion and gain free distant hits (favouring the better technology and training if any) but the battle would really proceed with the bayonets/swords. Under an execution setting where you have time to plan and aim without stress, the muskets of the time, if they were in good condition and the soldier trained, could be quite accurate, even at 100 metres. This video shows the accuracy of muskets under execution conditions with trained men, at 90 metres, remembering that Sam Khan's men would be much closer, and even with the 750 men in DAW it would be the much lesser 60 metres, with any inaccuracy amply being made up for by the number of soldiers, and in fact you only need some of the men to be well-practised/good shooters to take effect, not all of them. An interesting observation in that video is that firing under command is less accurate than firing at will.
- Logistics - In the generally-attested scenario, the first row aims at Anis, and the second at the Bab. The smoke from the first firing will have made the second line poor in its aim at the Bab. Whether the second line was to fire immediately the first row had knelt or wait a significant time until the smoke was judged to have cleared enough before firing the next is unknown, but the second row may well have planned to fire on command like the first.
- The Bab's Survival - In all accounts, the Bab survives the execution unscathed, the ropes being cut. There would be a very sudden 3m drop to the ground, which is quite substantial.
- Accidental Bullets - Whilst waiting for the command to fire, typically what might happen with firing volleys is that with their fingers waiting on the triggers one soldier would accidentally fire a bullet and immediately the rest would all accidentally fire theirs in a hail of bullets without command or even aiming entirely properly, and SIP suggests this happened and that one of these accidental bullets hits the Bab's rope and frees Him (obviously no one counted how many, although the ropes might have revealed it, but one is more likely that two). Without proper aim, the bullets may have tended to overshoot and hit the ropes, as was the tendency of the guns.
- Poorly Aimed Bullets - Unpracticed Soldiers would anyway tend to overshoot due to gun recoil, tending to hit and cut the ropes.
- Anis Shields the Bab - We find in various accounts Anis eagerly wanting to shield the Bab from the first volley aimed at Anis. The ropes were under the shoulders and the arms free and one very moving possibility is that as the command to fire at Anis was given, Anis pulls himself suddenly in front of the Bab, taking all the bullets. It would seem rather in Anis' nature that he might try this. The result of achieving this would be Anis is hit, the Bab untouched, but the ropes cut and the Bab goes free, and this is the situation we find in the early accounts.
- Deliberate Missing - One simple explanation for the accounts where Anis also survives is that Sam Khan encourages the soldiers to miss or not shoot the Bab, or they choose not to, perhaps learning of Sam Khan's own apprehensions, perhaps discussing among themselves beforehand; there is a similar situation where Pilate, becoming sympathetic to Christ, did not wanting to crucify Him but went out of his way to avoid it and eventually evaded it by washing his hands of the matter. The idea that Sam Khan requested his troops to miss was perhaps a definite rumour since in portraying him unhappy at the task DAW has the Bab tell him to carry out his orders, as if to quell just such a rumour. There is a similar account in more modern history where the commander fails to carry out an execution here (From 'At the fall of Singapore in 1942...') and perhaps others. The question is what a colonel does when he conscientiously objects to a task. The difficulty with such an idea is that one might presume Sam Khan after a failed execution would be expected just to carry it out again and get it right, unless he pre-planned being shocked and marching off. Without accurate knowledge of his character it would be difficult to judge, but a person fearful of shooting the Bab might try any ruse to avoid doing so. (Issues arise for this happening naturally for a large inaccurate squad where Anis doesn't shield the Bab and succumbs but the Bab survives.) Some options for those asked to aim at the Bab are as follows, there may be others -
- Sam Khan orders or encourages the soldiers to miss. If he planned this, it would have been better to execute the Bab entirely separately, as some accounts suggest; otherwise the plan would entail missing them both. The fact that on the battlefield a company of men could fire at another company of soldiers not far away, and not a single bullet hit, could provide a perfect cover for deliberately missing.
- Each man deliberately fires aside to avoid hitting the Bab, thinking he would be the only one, but they all do this, some of the bullets cutting the rope.
- The soldiers pretend to load their guns with a bullet to avoid shooting the Bab, knowing no one would know they have not done so.
- See note earlier on Christian Soldiers in regards to their nature and character.
- Anis' Fate - Early accounts have Anis being hit by the first row, later accounts surviving with the Bab.
- Wounded v Killed - Of the early accounts having Anis hit, most have him killed, but some have him badly wounded. It should be noted that there was no doctor on the scene and even from nearby a dead person would look the same as a badly wounded one, whilst from a distance you would not be able to tell between someone alive and someone dead, so accounts from the crowd's perspective are unreliable but accounts from those closest are better. A person may also commonly be fatally wounded by an execution and then afterward die, which could lead to the differing accounts of Anis' being wounded or executed all in fact being equally true: for a wounded Anis the drop if his ropes were cut would be traumatic, and in the period of time taken to refind the Bab and bring him back, he could have expired. There are also many stories to be found even with modern firearms where people survive execution wounded (see for example the very amazing Wenseslao Moguel).
Early accounts often simply narrate what happened to the Bab and show no concept that anything surprising happened for Anis, which fits with Anis succumbing on the first volleys, and it would be rather surprising not to mention Anis' survival or to clearly state that he died if in fact he had survived. The natural presumption is that Anis did not come through unscathed, with most accounts recording that he died with the first volleys. Abdu'l-Bahá is given as replying with this version as late as 1919 when specifically asked whether Anis survives or not.
- Anis' Survival - If we presume with the general accounts that the Bab and Anis are tied together (not suspended quite separately as a few have), then the most natural version is that the fate of Anis and the Bab would be expected to be the same - both living or both escaping - since they are tied together, particularly with a large squad, favouring later accounts (TRN, DAW, TZH) that have Anis surviving, even though that version will have taken prominence due to its apparently more miraculous nature, it is in fact less miraculous; the earlier versions where Anis is hit are more surprising, except as we noted the important possibility that Anis carried out his heartfelt wish to sacrifice himself by shielding the Bab from the bullets just as the command was given.
- Narrative Mutations - Since the Bab survived unscathed and was resuspended with an alive or still-suspended dead or badly-wounded Anis, it might readily come to be told how Anis had also been unscathed, since he was also seen to be fired at again. On the converse, the wish to show the situation was a miracle for the Bab could have favoured narratives of Anis not surviving.
- The Miraculous - The suggestions so far have presented concepts that everyone can consider. In addition, people do differ on the idea of whether miraculous things can happen, and for those that consider such possibilities, the power of divine assistance or destiny is another explanation to look at; if there is a spiritual power in the universe, greater forces could be at play here, either intervening physically or influencing hearts and minds to achieve the result we see. Conventional history is materialistic in nature and does not allow such possibilities, but if such things do occur, it is a fundamental shortcoming not to think about them.
- Occam's Razor - Sometimes people use "Occam's Razor" to guide them in unusual situations, such as the Bab's survival, and try to use it to improse a certain view on others. This is incorrect - Occam's Razor is only there to suggest what might generally happen and does not tell you what happened on a particular occasion; if you take any unusual situation and try to apply Occam's Razor, you're very likely to come up with the wrong answer, because it is only as good as your fundamental understanding of both the principles and the particulars. In addition, it can only be used just for yourself personally, or in a group with shared principles and knowledge in regards to those shared principles and knowledge; it cannot be used in discussion with others in regards to principles or particulars they do not share, for to do so is in fact to use it inappropriately as a way of imposing personal views without debate.
- Bullet Numbers - MHK's story of a bullet striking Anis and accounts of Anis wounded (MHK SIP) envisage a small squad not a gigantic one, or a big one at too great a distance.
The account (JAD) that two bullets struck the ropes is likely derived from how two ropes were pictured suspending the Bab and how many bullets would therefore be needed to have created the effect; it could also have been an evolution from bullets striking the two ropes, since obviously no one counted the bullets in the air. It might take quite a bit of force to break a rope, if so, that might suggest something about the squad distance or number of bullets.
- Why - People often wonder 'why'... a few suggestions might be that • Anis died as a sacrifice that the Bab may survive unscathed; • as a way to relieve Sam Khan of the execution much as he had begged; • simply to fulfil Anis' request to die first; • the Bab survives to demonstrate the Divine, and that He was a true agent of the Divine; • to express that His death when it came was voluntary and not imposed. Undoubtedly there are others.
- Significance - The importance of the execution is not that a miracle may have happened, more that a great sacrifice happened. Abdu'l-Bahá when speaking of the event omits mentioning anything miraculous, and only mentions the sacrifice.
- In Sum - The accounts do present quite a variety of options, and this is part of their authenticity in such a situation, but it also means it's not the place for historians to recommend too strongly what happened but to lay open the possibilities, and individuals are encouraged to explore for themselves with an open mind what may have happened and how.
• The authorities fear the events and a riot.
ANITCH1850: No disturbances occur, thanks to the well-considered measures taken by the local authorities.
MHK: The colonel and commander of the detachment are filled with anxiety and sense fear. Sam Khan gives an order and the soldiers form a wedge and stop the people's rush. He orders the soldiers to search the rooms off the square and find the Báb.
• The Bab is found in the building and brought back out.
JS1850: The Bab is dragged from the recess after some search, and shot.
NQK: After being rediscovered in the same room, the Bab says, "O people, am I not after all the son of God's Apostle? Do not approve such injustice and cruelty towards me! Fear God, and have some shame before His Apostle! What is my crime, but that I have invited you to the knowledge of God, called you from the world of Plurality to the Kingdom of Unity, and cast myself into affliction and suffering for your sake?" and other moving words (presumably to the soldiers and those nearby).
SHE1856: The smoke clears, and the Bab has disappeared. He hides in the guard-room, is immediately discovered, brought out, and shot. Had he fled to the bazaar a few yards away he would probably have escaped and a miracle proclaimed.
SIP: The Bab hides in one of the soldiers' rooms. Qúch-Alí Sultán [the detachment head] takes the Bab, hits him several times on the back of his head, and returns him to the place of execution.
GOB: The Bab runs into a guardhouse. Infantry captain Qúch-’Alí comes in after him and cuts him down with his sword. The Báb falls without saying a word. Then the soldiers seeing him in a pool of blood approach and end his life.
BEK: On the ropes being cut, the Bab it is said runs forward and tries to show it is a miracle; Muslim soldiers might have been daunted but not Christian ones, who point out the ropes and rebind him (BEK is a Christian; this appears to be an evolution of the 'if he had run forward and claimed a miracle' notion into a fact that such happened).
JAD: They find the Bab in the cell writing a verse on the wall.
AHM: The Bab is arrested again and shot.
DAW: There is a frenzied search for the Bab. They find the Bab calmly seated in the same room completing His interrupted conversation with SH. He says "I have finished My conversation, now you may proceed." The Farrash-bashi quits and resigns; Sam Khan quits with his men, refusing to resume the task or anything harmful to the Bab even though he should be killed for so refusing.
BRO: Before the crowd recover from its amazement, a soldier sees the Báb whose bonds strangely have been cut sheltering in an adjacent guard-house, follows him there, and cuts at him with his sword. When the others see blood flow their fear goes and they hurry to complete the execution.
MHK: The head of the squadron Qúch-'Alí Sultán, finds the Báb in one of the rooms, drags him by force from the room, hits him on the back of his head, and shows him to the people... but MHK says his father did not see the hit on the head.
NIC: The soldiers take the Bab again and attach him to the pole, and this time he is executed.
BNE1923: They (the Bab and Anis) proceed to a room nearby, where they are found talking to one of their friends.
Chosen Highway: The Bab is seen seated in an adjoining room unharmed. He is calmly writing. He looks up as the official rushes in, and continues His work. Soon he lays down His pen, saying: "It is finished. I am ready." He is conducted to the place of martyrdom. The officials in terror and amazement give the word to fire again. The soldiers refuse saying what happened was from God. Another company is hastily brought in, and the execution carried out.
- Private Event & Its Source - What happened in the cell is out of sight and not something the majority of onlookers and narrators would know about; however naturally those in the cell and the farrashbashi would. DAW draws its information from the neighbour of the farrashbashi who learnt it from the farrashbashi himself; SH lived further to the these events and would also be a good source for NQK, JAD and DAW.
• The old soldiers refuse to fire again and a new reluctant detachment is lined up.
JS1850: The Bab is dragged from the recess after some search, and shot.
SIP: (Back in the Square:) This time without hurry and with deliberation they make him the aim of their shots. The author provides the reason for the first failure as human ill-discipline rather than divine intervention.
GOB: Infantry captain Qúch-’Alí comes in after him and cuts the Bab down with his sword, who falls without saying a word. Then the soldiers seeing him in a pool of blood approach and ended his life with their rifles at point-blank range. (This significantly differs from SIP, which suggests GOB thinks he has a better source; it is common to administer a 'coup de grace' to kill a person when an execution has failed to do so; but it differs from other accounts. However it is possible it reflects a narrative that after the first execution failed the second squad was far smaller and precise and fired from a very short range to ensure no mistakes, perhaps evoking coup de grace terminology.)
JAD: The Muslim soldiers refuse to fire and a Christian regiment is ordered to fire. (We might guess the Muslim soldiers here refusing had fired the first shots that missed the Bab, but the wording does not necessitate this: it could have been the replacement Muslim regiment that, knowing what happened and being superstitious of shooting a prophet-siyyid who had survived, refused, and another less concerned was chosen, here stated to be Christian. See Religion above about potential to confuse the religion of the regiment particularly due to disparate religious elements in the hierarchy. It could even be a relic of the first Christian regiment being brought into service for the first volleys due to the refusal of a Muslim regiment.)
TRN: Sam Khan the Christian asks to be excused. The turn of service comes to another regiment, and the chief of the farrashes withholds his hand (distances himself). Aqa Jan Big of Khamsih, colonel of the bodyguard, advances. They again bind the Bab together with Anis to the same nail. The Bab utters certain words which those few who know Persian understand, while the rest hear just the sound of His voice. The colonel of the regiment appears in person. ('Withhold his hand' is the opposite of the English expression 'have a hand in' (to be involved with); the exact expression is also used in the KJV Bible on occasions.)
DAW: Aqa Jan Khan-i-Khamsih, also known as "Nasiri", volunteers. He is colonel of the body-guard. The Bab and Anis are resuspended and the "regiment" forms in line.
Abdu'l-Bahá: 19xx - On a number of occasions Abdu'l-Bahá references the martyrdom for teaching sacrifice, and in so doing uses the expression "a thousand bullets", taken from the official histories.
OTHER : 1933 - Our guide's grandfather had been in Tabriz and had witnessed the execution. The Bab is to be shot with two of his disciples, but they are offered an opportunity to recant before they are pinioned. One succumbs to the temptation and is released; but the Bab and the other stand firm, and are suspended by the arms from gallows-like frames in front of the firing-squad. The order is given and the volley rings out; when the smoke has cleared away the Bab's friend hangs dead on his ropes, but the Bab himself has disappeared. The bullets had cut the ropes and he fell unharmed and escaped into the crowd. Of course he is discovered almost at once, and once again he is hoisted on to the gallows. But the first firing squad refuses to act again, and it is only with the greatest difficulty that other soldiers are found to take their place. This time there is no mistake, and the Bab dies. Afterwards his body is smuggled away by his friends and buried in a secret tomb, and even to-day none save the highest leaders of the Bahá'í religion know where he is buried. (Cairo to Persia and Back by Owen Tweedy). (It should be remembered that it is a common manner of speech when you know someone was at an event but you don't have their story, to state that they were present and immediately summarise the story from other sources, so it is not known how much of this is remembered from the grandfather; however it does contain fresh elements, particularly the (understandable) great reluctance of the new squad.)
- Religion - Babi/Bahai sources have a new regiment taking its place, whereas non-Babi sources do not indicate anything to suggest anything different from the same regiment completing the task again. The great problem with Babi accounts (except JAD) envisaging a Muslim regiment, is that if they were superstitious about shooting the Bab before, then after these events they would be incredibly jittery. This might favour the JAD account where a Christian regiment fires the repeat execution, although the other Babi accounts do not seem for it, and if a Christian regiment left it might leave only Muslim regiments; bearing in mind the matter of other accounts not having the first regiment depart. The elements of hitting the Bab on the head, or making a cut at him, if they happened, would make reluctant soldiers feel slightly better about shooting.
- Re-Targetting of Anis - If Anis had died earlier (or nearly so) as most accounts have or imply, then:-
- The resuspension of the Bab would involve resuspending him there with a hanging Anis. Low enough off the ground and they could have tied the Bab directly to Anis' ropes, which is quickest, or that as well as a suspension from the spike to avoid the ropes being cut again.
- It likely wouldn't be wanted to leave any doubt for the crowds that Anis was also executed. When this replacement squad was itself executed a few years later, it is said (DAW) they were riddled with a second volley to ensure their death. This conveys the need for executioners to ensure the execution has really been carried out when it was common executions were ineffectual.
• The execution is at noon.
TRN: Before noon the final shots are fired.
DAW: The final shots are at noon.
GOB: The execution is at sunset.
BNE: The first suspension is at 2 hours before noon and the resuspension 2 hours later at noon.
- Sunset - For GOB, perhaps sunset is a simple mishap for noon, or quite possibly it might simply reflect that (per DAW) the remains of the Bab and Anis were left hanging in public view until sunset and then removed to the moat. Alternatively if the land did go dark in some way on the Bab's martyrdom (per DAW), it could lead to a memory of sunset even if it was noon.
- Delay - You would expect a delay after the disappearance of the Bab - in locating him, tackling and calming crowds, arranging a replacement regiment, addressing the soldiers and convincing them to shoot, getting them arranged, communicating with other officials and authorities during all these tasks - perhaps at least an hour, with BNE1923 suggesting two hours.
• The new detachment fires, this time with great effect.
NQK: This time the bullets take effect, three bullets ("according to the name 'Ali, which bears the 'Support of Saintship'") entering his body
JAD: This time the bullets take effect and the Bab ascends (this is clear from its digression; JAD then mentions as an extra M. Jani's account (NQK) where the second time fails and only the third one makes its mark, but it is not clear if this is being quoted as confirmation (i.e. the second one overall fails) or as an alternative (i.e. the second one aimed at the Bab fails) but the version we have of that work fits with it being in confirmation). JAD mentions that in M. Jani's account a symbolic three bullets strike Him. The Story is given of Haji Suleyman Khan hearing the guns three times and of the Bab's prescient instructions to him to rescue His remains from the guards two days after it should happen and send them in a chest to Bahá'u'lláh.
YAY: Again they bind the Bab and complete what they wish, Anis and the Bab becoming mingled by the bullets. Haji Suleyman Khan is also among the crowds with a sword waiting to rescue them. He becomes faint and insensible, and sits down a while. When he comes to, he sees everything is over and the people are gone, and the Bab's body left with the guards (this is clear about the Bab being retied with a dead Anis, and suggests the remains were guarded in the Square whilst they were left there on show).
TRN: The breasts are riddled by bullets, their limbs completely dissected, except their faces which are hardly damaged.
DAW: Their bodies are shattered and blended into one. The Bab addresses the crowd (Had you believed in Me you would have followed Anis' example... you will come to recognise Me but I will not be with you...).
MHK: The Bab is retied and shot, hit by more than twenty bullets. His whole body is mangled except his face which remains whole.
OTHER: The Bab and Anis are mingled together. (Tablet revealed in Arabic in honour of "Ghasem", in Noghteh Ulla by M.A.Faydi (Fayzi), pp.348, 349)
NIC: The soldiers take the Bab again and attach him to the pole, and this time he is executed.
OTHER: 1911 - The breast of His Highness the Báb is riddled by dozens of bullets (Abdu'l-Bahá in the Diary of Juliet Thomson, 1911-08-25).
BNE1923: About noon they are again suspended. The Armenians, who consider the escape from their volleys a miracle, are unwilling to fire again, so another regiment of soldiers is brought on the scene, and fire when ordered. This time the volleys take effect. The bodies of both victims are riddled by bullets and horribly mutilated, although their faces are almost untouched.
- Faces - The faces are conspicuously unharmed and this perhaps suggests a close-range (accurate) fire by a small squad, carefully picked, or, it might suggest facing away from the guns as was the custom.
- Psychology - After the first failure, one can imagine stern instructions on how to shoot properly and suitable threats being given should they fail, which could account for the second squad's success in comparison to the first, particularly in overcoming any superstition.
• Various other accounts of interest relating to the execution itself.
DAW: Later on a neighbour of the farrashbashi shows the author Nabil around to the wall, the nail the Bab was suspended from, the cell room, and the very spot the Bab had sat. (From the text it sounds like the neighbour wasn't present at the events, so it follows this is Nabil's recollection of a neighbour's recollection of the farrashbashi's story. One therefore wonders how the neighbour could have known for example what spot the Bab was seated in; he was, though, a notable of Tabriz and might have learnt by some means - but then we don't know by what means, and so what at first seems a very useful testimony has its importance reduced.)
OTHER: 1900 - A Christian regiment fires at them but the bullets only kill the Secretary(!) and cut the ropes by which the Bab is bound so that he falls to the ground without harm. After the smoke of the guns clears the Bab is found writing with charcoal on the wall in an adjoining guard room. The regiment is ordered to fire again but they refuse. A Mahommedan regiment is called and the Bab is killed (Notes from Lessons by Abul Fazle, Port Said, 1900-01.) (Some mistakes may be expected from notes from lessons, but it is useful for looking at the prevailing narrative in 1900.)
OTHER : 193? - The martyrdoms of the Bab and His uncle are concealed from the women of the family, and whenever they mention rumours that have come to their ears, the men hotly deny them - all lies they say, knowing what has happened. The servants and maids of the house also do not know. It is impossible to talk of such matters with anyone. One of the servants purchases a broom with a green handle to sweep every day the courtyard of the Shrine of Imam Husayn, awaiting the Bab's return. Others are told the Bab and His uncle have gone to Bombay for trade. When the house is being repaired one maid is radiantly happy, saying all the time it must be that the Bab is on His way home. (Khadijih Bagum, Wife of the Bab by Balyuzi.)
• A wind or a whirlwind arises, one late account portraying the sun being obscured all day.
NQK: After the Bab is executed a strong wind blows (no mention of any darkness).
GOB: The execution is at sunset.
DAW: As the shots are fired, a gale sweeps over the city and a whirlwind of dust blacks out the sun and blinds people, with darkness from noon till night (and then by implication night till morning). The people are unmoved.
1922 in Chosen Highway - This story of Shaykh Mahmud is told by his granddaughter in Arabic, translated by Munavvar Khanum, and written down at the time by Lady Blomfield : At Ramadan of 1850 (in Akka it seems), the Shaykh and family fast till sundown and have their customary meal. When finished, it is dark, and the Shaykh, a little boy, cries out "Look! Look! The sun is risen again, the sun has come back!" The whole family stands looking at the western sky, where a brilliant gleam is shining, seemingly miraculous. The father hurries to consult an old Shaykh friend, afraid they have broken the law by eating when the sun is up. The Shaykh answers that a terrible crime has that day been committed in a far-off city of Persia, the murder of the Promised One who was a herald to the Great One. On the next day the old Shaykh comes and calls the boy and tells him the Great One will come to Akka as a prisoner, and that he should give their greetings to Him; both the boy's father and the Shaykh often remind him of this promise, to keep it in his mind for when the time should come. A little later, news of the martyrdom of the Bab had come, and after the deaths of his father and the Shaykh, the boy goes on to meet Bahá'u'lláh in a most remarkable way. (This narration could be considered as supporting the notion in DAW that at the execution the land went dark; however the execution happened at noon and most people have enough sense of time to know at noon that sunset has not had time to come, whilst a whirlwind in Tabriz would not be expected to affect the view of the sun from Akka. This story is furthermore about the dark becoming light rather than the light becoming dark. Perhaps the event could be considered as a visionary experience. Importantly, the execution happens before Ramadan, not during it, although sometimes different places might judge the moon differently and start the month one day apart.)
- Analysis - DAW narrates the blotting out of the sun for the day as a very notable event, very hard to omit certainly by Babis, yet in all the other accounts (including Babi) such a dramatic event is absent. DAW is remarkably similar to TZH in its overall description of the martyrdom, suggesting similar sources, but notably TZH lacks the whirlwind, as if the primary source lacked it and DAW has included it from somewhere else.
- Crowd Unmoved - In DAW in witnessing the Bab miraculously survive the first volleys and then a whirlwind hit them with a day of darkness on the second shots fired at the siyyid, the very superstitious crowd are described as 'unmoved'. This seems very unlikely for such a superstitious culture; even in the most atheistic culture of today if such events happened they would move people extremely and cause panic.
- Possible Explanations - Possible explanations for how the story could have evolved -
- The great cloud of gunsmoke which obscured everyone's sight became narrated with and influenced the telling of the wind (NQK) which people felt conscious of.
- A whirlwind did happen some time after the events, and is told to conclude the execution (without specifying time) to indicate God's retribution for the execution, and this naturally becomes told to actually occur after the shots, particularly under the influence of the gunsmoke and wind elements.
- In Sum - It would be reasonable for the reader to conclude that the whirlwind, as DAW describes, did not occur.
• The execution occurs c. 9 Jul 1850.
NQK: 27 Shaban of 1266 AH
SIP, GOB: Mon 27 Sha’bán.
JAD: Thu 27 Shaban 1266 AH.
TRN: 28 Sha'ban 1266 AH.
DAW: 28 Sha'ban 1266 AH [9 Jul 1850].
MHK: 27 Sha'bán AH 1265 according to official books or the morning of 18 Sha'bán AH 1266 as Babis think (18 could be a mistake for 28).
NIC: Monday 27 Sha'ban.
Chosen Highway - 9 July 1850.
JAD, DAW: Connect the execution with its being done as an auspicious act to enter Ramadan with, Chosen Highway (Shaykh Mahmud story) also connects its timing in connection with Ramadan.
- Date Calculations - Calculating dates is always an issue because the Islamic month is based on the moon being full and so different places may evaluate the matter differently, especially if clouds hide the moon; it is further complicated by the Islamic day spanning two western days (sunset of one day to sunset of the next). Calculating or converting dates retrospectively easily throws up extra problems, so it is no surprise if dates differ by a day.
- One simple resolution might be that since the execution took place before sunset but they were taken down after sunset, which are two different days (days change at sunset), this might account for the different date calculations.
- Date Groups of Texts - The date is perhaps a very simple but effective way to separate the texts into two groups, 27 & 28 Sha'ban.
• The execution occurs. Some then have the remains left for a varying period of insult in the Barrack Square. All have them removed and dumped in the moat, and drawn by an artist. Some have them buried, some have the guards gone. All have them recovered by Babis and placed in a casket.
To understand the schema of these events, the following table provides an outline, with letters D M A E N standing for Day Morning Afternoon Evening Night, eg N2 = second night. Some accounts only mention days without night or morning, making it difficult to tell if the day count includes the day of the martyrdom or not, and they are marked with * for which one may add a day to numbers to the right of the star (including in other table cells).
|Src||Day 0||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|TRN||D0 Exec + Moat||D1 Artist||N2 Rescue||D3 Bodies Missing|
|DAW||D0 Exec E0 Moat||M1 Artist||A2 SKhan arr N2 Rescue||D3 Casketed|
|MHK||D0 Exec||E2 Body but no Guard|
|TZH||D0 Exec + Square (Babis watching)||*D2 Moat A2 Artist, Burial N2 Rescue||M3 Casketed|
• The remains are left in the square for several days (DAW: an afternoon) of public humiliation and moved to the city ditch. Two Babis keep a watch for a chance to rescue the remains.
NEWSPAPERS 1850: Two of the Bab's disciples are chosen to proceed instantly to endeavour to obtain his body; they make three attempts, and on the third they are met with imprecations, and are told they should meet with the reward of their leader, when one of them instantly places himself before the soldiers ready to receive their fire, and in doing so falls, imploring the intercession of the Bab. (This should be read with the story of the two Babis in TZH below.) (1850-09-03 - The Morning Chronicle (London)).
NQK: The remains are exposed for two days after which they are buried.
GOB SIP: The body is paraded/dragged for several days in the streets then thrown outside the walls and abandoned to the animals.
DAW: The bodies stay there until evening and are then removed to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city. Next day the artist draws the Bab.
MHK: In the evening of the second day after the execution, MHK's father and others visit (and describe) the remains. There is no watch or guard.
TZH: They are left abandoned in the town square for people to humiliate the remains. No one was permitted to contemplate their burial. Aqa Siyyid Ibrahim and Zabih - two of the Bab's close companions and secretaries - were at that time hiding with a number of other Babis, plotting to free the remains or identify their whereabouts. They send two disguised as beggars to the square who act as if they are mentally unstable so they will receive little challenge, and they keep an eye on the remains night and day until a plan can be thought of, one of the members bringing them food and water as charity. They remain in the square for the first and second day, during which the public come in groups to visit the remains. Some appeared regretful and some applied all sorts of abuse. On the third day the remains are dumped in a large dug-out outside the city. That same afternoon the consul has them drawn, arranges their burial and that night the Babis unbury them. (Compare NEWSPAPERS 1850 just above).
- See above table for a summary of timing issues.
- Timing Issues - In the accounts with several days of insult before being thrown in the ditch, the wealth of detail in TZH prefers it over the multi-day street parade of SIP GOB. DAW (TRN) differ by moving them on the evening to the ditch. It seems the couple of days between execution and rescue of the remains is being placed differently in different accounts. If this period took place at the Barracks (TZH) it might explain why the rescue took so long; whilst rescuing at the outer ditch with 10 soldiers on patchy guard though still dangerous would have been more manageable. All in all there may be a preference for TZH's several days in the Square.
• The remains of the Bab and Anis are thrown into the city ditch. Popularly they are thought to be eaten by dogs, but are recovered and smuggled away.
ANITCH1850: The bodies of the victims are then thrown outside the gates of the town, and eaten by dogs.
JS1850, OTHER: 1850 - The remains by order of HK are thrown into the ditch to be devoured by dogs, which actually happens. (R. W. Stevens 1850-07-24 & JS1850.)
SHE1856: His body is thrown into the ditch of the town, where it is devoured by the half-wild dogs which abound outside a Persian city.
SIP: His body is dragged through the city for several days and then thrown outside the gates to be eaten by beasts.
GOB: The body is paraded/dragged for several days in the streets then thrown outside the walls and abandoned to the animals.
TRN: The two bodies are removed to the edge of the moat outside the city, and that night they remain by the edge of the moat.
DAW: The bodies stay in the courtyard of the barracks until evening and are then removed to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city.
BRO: The two bodies are dragged through the streets and cast out of the gate to feed the dogs and jackals.
MHK: Thereupon their bodies are lowered, ropes are tied to their legs, and they are dragged through the streets and the bazaar to the gate of the main street. From there they reach the Barracks Square. Then they throw the bodies in the moat opposite the middle tower, and there the bodies are eaten by beasts and birds. The author states this is from the official account and contrasts that his father, a notable eyewitness, did not confirm the part of their being dragged through the streets. (One may presume in this scenario the remains must be tied together to maintain integrity and dragged with heads above ground to maintain descriptions of their faces being intact.)
NIC: When the execution is complete, the troops retire, the crowd disperses and the bodies are entrusted to the soldiers on guard. NIC notes that GOB follows official historians in the body being marched through the streets for three days but that this is in general denied by tradition however accepted in being believable. Either way, night having come, the body is left alone and abandoned or guarded by soldiers... Persian guarding essentially consists of sleeping in front of their charge... news that they were eaten by dogs is spread by the authorities to avoid rebuke and by the Babis happy for no further investigation to happen. The surest testimonies of the eyewitnesses and actors leave the author in no doubt that the body of the Bab is received by pious hands. (Siyyid Ali-Muhammad dit le Báb by A L M. Nicolas.)
TZH: On the third day after being left in the Square the remains are dumped in a large dug-out outside the city.
- See above table for a summary of timing issues.
• About 10 men guard the remains.
JAD: 3 sentries.
DAW: 40 men : 4 companies, each of 10, watch in turn.
• A faithful drawing is made of the remains. The Bab's face is little hit.
NQK: The Empress of Russia sends the Russian consul in Tabriz to investigate and report back on the Bab's circumstances. On news of this they put the Bab to death. The consul summons SH to speak about the Bab but SH cannot speak openly however he manages to communicate by hints and provide some of the Bab's writings [backed up by the testimony of Dorn].
DAW: On the morning following the martyrdom, the Russian consul in Tabriz goes with an artist to the spot and arranges a sketch. No bullet has struck the Bab's forehead, His cheeks or His lips; a smile lingers; His body is severely mutilated. Anis' arms and head are recognisable and holding the Bab in an embrace. The portrait of the Bab is faithful. Later that day the sketch is seen by one who Nabil hears narrate at some time these details.
TRN: Next day (after moving the body) the Russian consul comes with an artist and takes a picture of those two bodies in the posture they have fallen in at the edge of the moat.
MHK: MHK's father shows him the arch under which the Báb and his comrade had been [executed] and the spot where his father had stood. Then he leads him to the moat and shows him the place where the bodies of the Báb and his comrade had been thrown and says to him, "In the evening of the second day after the Báb's execution, I, together with several persons... came to this place and saw the Body of Muhammad-'Alí. His body was in pieces and nothing remained of it. But the body of the Báb had not been mangled except for the right side of the pelvis and the right thigh. His shirt and qahá [outer garment] were on him. He lay on his left side, and on that spot, except for a group of onlookers, there was no watch or guard."
TZH: On the day they are put in the moat (the third day) the Russian Consul meets with local authorities and advises that in their country it is customary to free the captive if he survives the execution and the second attempt was illegal; that he wishes to visit the remains. That afternoon the Consul is accompanied by a Portrait Artist to the dug-out, who makes an impression of the Bab. (The Consul tips the soldiers to bury the two remains. They dig a hole in the vicinity and place the two bodies there.)
- Impact of the Bullets - Common in the descriptions is that the Bab's face was little-hit, and Anis' body was severely mangled, but other details differ. This may say a little bit about how they were suspended and executed (for example a large first squad with Anis moving to act as shield followed by a small precise squad, among other possibilities). One of the reasons narratives might highlight the clarity of features is to make it clear that the right remains were rescued and avoid people wondering if it might have been a substitute; since even MHK mentions it, it would clearly be seen to be the case.
- No Guard - The observation (MHK) that there was no guard is notable. NIC observes that the function of Persian guards, proven through history, 'consist principally in sleeping by the trust that they are given to watch over'.
- Timing - It seems this artist event was remembered as "on the same day the remains were thrown in the moat", with the result it has a different timing according to the placing of the moat scene in different accounts.
• In some accounts the remains are buried.
NQK: After execution the remains are exposed for two days after which they are buried.
TZH: On the day they are put in the moat (the third day) the Russian Consul with the artist tips the soldiers to bury the two remains. They dig a hole in the vicinity and place the two bodies there.
• Two nights in, the remains are bravely rescued. The authorities announce the dogs took them.
NEWSPAPERS 1850: Two of the Bab's disciples are chosen to proceed instantly to endeavour to obtain his body; they make three attempts, and on the third they are met with imprecations, and are told they should meet with the reward of their leader, when one of them instantly places himself before the soldiers ready to receive their fire, and in doing so falls, imploring the intercession of the Bab. (This quote was also placed above for the period of insult in the square.) (1850-09-03 - The Morning Chronicle (London)).
NQK: The remains are exposed for two days after which they are buried. Some Babis exhume them and take them to Subh-i-Azal who buries them in a secret place. (This is a very early work that suffers from partisan rescensions promoting Subh-i-Azal, however Subh-i-Azal's own later written statement (YAY below) disagrees with the suggestion that he received and buried them; they were clearly taken to Tehran on Bahá'u'lláh instruction.)
JAD: Haji Suleyman Khan has locked himself away at the Bab's request, but on hearing the three discharges of muskets realises the Bab has been executed. He opens a sealed letter which the Bab had told him to keep sealed until the greatest grief, and finds He has predicted the event, instructs patience and how to buy the remains off the guards, lay them, and send them to Bahá'u'lláh, leaving the clothes to him. Two nights after the execution he with 3 others come armed and offer the guards unlimited money or a fight to the death. They take the money, JADo: but the guards exchange the body for another. The enemies proclaim they had been eaten by beasts.
TRN: On the second day Sulayman Khan son of Yahya Khan arrives and proceeds to the house of his friend and confidential the mayor, that he with several others would try by any means to rescue the body or die. The mayor says not to and sends one of his private servants Haji Allah-Yar who by whatever means obtains the body without trouble and hands it over to Haji Sulayman Khan. At midnight the Babis carry away the two bodies. When it is morning on the third day the people do not find the bodies. The guards say that the wild beasts have eaten it, this is assumed and proclaimed from pulpits, that animals would not have touched holy bodies.
YAY: Haji Suleyman Khan sends certain people to rescue the Bab and Anis's remains and deliver them to him.
DAW: On the afternoon of the 2nd day after the martyrdom, Haji Sulayman Khan, son of Yahya Khan, arrives at Bagh-Mishih, having come planning to rescue the Bab. Instead he resolves to rescue the remains, at personal risk. The Kalantar advises him it would be certain death and to stay in another house and await the arrival that evening of Haji Allah-Yar. That same night Haji Sulayman Khan meets Haji Allah-Yar, who bear the bodies from the moat edge. The guards pretend that while they slept wild beasts carried away the bodies. Their superiors not wishing to lose face hide the fact from the authorities.
BRO: By night Suleymán Khán and one or two others come with gold in one hand and sword in the other, offering the choice of these to the guards appointed to prevent the burial of the bodies. The guards take the gold and surrender the bodies.
Chosen Highway - The bodies are taken in the dead of the night by Mirza Sulayman Khan.
TZH: On the day they are put in the moat (being the third day) the Russian Consul (who is with an artist) tips the soldiers to bury the two remains. They dig a hole in the vicinity and place the two bodies there. That same night Haji Suleyman Khan leads a group of people including Haji Allahyar there. Allahyar is asked to keep guard whilst Haji Suleyman Khan assisted by the others recovers the remains and places them in a bag. They leave in haste but are not followed. After travelling a distance, they retire Haji Allahyar and they set out towards the textile factory.
- It is in the nature of secret events such as this and officials needing to cover up failures, that accounts vary as to precisely what happened during and after the rescue. In contrast to public events, secret events result in early accounts at times being inaccurate.
- We can see parallels here with the disappearance of Jesus' remains from the tomb and the different reasons doing the course to account for it.
• The remains are taken to a silk factory, placed sensitively in a casket and subsequently transferred to Tehran at Bahá'u'lláh's request.
NQK: The remains are exposed for two days after which they are buried. Some Babis exhume them and take them to Subh-i-Azal who buries them in a secret place. (This paragraph was discounted just above, particularly as Subh-i-Azal himself denied it.)
JAD: The remains themself had not decayed.
TRN: That night (or the second night?) they shelter the body in the workshop of a Babi of Milan: next day they make a box, place it in the box, and leave it as a trust. Afterwards, in accordance with instructions from Tihran, they send it away from Adhirbayjan. This is kept completely secret.
YAY: They have been commingled by the bullets and are placed in one coffin and shrouded, removing their shirts and clothes as is the custom. Their underclothing, pierced by the bullets, Haji Suleyman Khan brings away. The remains are then stolen.
DAW: They bear the bodies from the moat edge to the silk factory, lay them the next day in a specially constructed wooden case, and transfer them according to Haji Sulayman Khan's directions to a place of safety. Haji Sulayman Khan reports to Bahá'u'lláh who arranges the transferral to Tehran. Nabil is there when the bodies arrive.
BRO: The bodies are wrapped in fine silk and placed in one coffin, and then conveyed secretly to Teherán, to be stored to a safe place.
Chosen Highway - The bodies are taken by Mirza Sulayman Khan, wrapped in one aba, to the house of Rahim Khan-i-Kalantar. From the house of the Kalantar, the two bodies are put into one wooden case, and taken and hidden in the warehouse of Mirza Ahmad-i-Milani. Here they remain until Bahá'u'lláh requests Mirza Sulayman Khan to bring them to Tihran.
TZH: After travelling a distance, they retire Haji Allahyar and they set out towards the textile factory. After their arrival, it is close to dawn and they need to conceal the remains quickly. A casket is prepared. Haji Suleyman Khan wraps the bag containing the remains in another cloth and places them in the casket with his own hands. Apparently one of the hands of Anis was separated. Haji Suleyman Khan places a local plant or flower commonly found in Tabrizi homes next to the Holy face of the Bab. They quickly seal the casket and place it in the wall cavity, covering it with mortar. It is transferred to Tehran at Bahá'u'lláh's instructions.