Some Babi Martyrs
by John Walbridgepublished in Essays and Notes on Babi and Bahá'í History
The Babi religion may be understood as a transitional phase between Shi`ism and the Baha’i Faith, and a theme that unites them is martyrdom. Whereas for Sunni Muslims the formative events of their religion were the triumphant conquests of early Islam, the formative event in Shi`ism was the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn. Husayn perished with a small band of followers in the plain of Karbala in 680. His dignity in defeat and his dauntless faith have provided the model for Shi`ite piety ever since. The figure of Husayn also provides a link connecting Shi`ism, the Babi religion, and the Baha’i Faith. In a dream the Bab drank seven handfuls of blood from the severed head of the Imam Husayn, and in the Baha’i symbolic universe, it is Bahaullah who is the return of the Imam Husayn. No Babi of Shi`ite background, as they all were, could fail to foresee the possibility of joining the returned Imam on some new plain of Karbala. And in the end some three thousand Babis did. We know the names of a few hundred of them and something about the lives of a few score.
Shaykh Salih Karimi the Arab
The first Babi martyr in Iran was a learned Arab cleric living in Karbala who had been converted by Mulla `Ali Bastami. An older man and a close disciple of Tahira, he was one of those who accompanied her to Baghdad and Iran after her expulsion from Karbala. He supported her in her disputations with her husband Mulla Muhammad Baraghani in Qazvin.
When Tahira’s maternal uncle and father-in-law, Haji Mulla Taqi Baraghani, was murdered, his heirs—particularly Tahira’s husband Mulla Muhammad—accused her of instigating the crime. Seventy Babis were arrested in Qazvin, and Shaykh Salih was among those accused of the actual murder. While imprisoned in the governorate in Qazvin, he was severely bastinadoed. Since the governor did not have the authority to order executions, the government was persuaded to have the five prisoners still suspected of the crime sent in chains to Tehran. One prisoner died in route and another, who had confessed to the crime, escaped soon after arriving. The remaining three were imprisoned in Tehran. They were interrogated individually by Mulla Muhammad, a mujtahid with Babi sympathies, who exonerated them. Nonetheless, Mulla Muhammad-i Baraqani was able to persuade the Shah to order the execution of Shaykh Salih. He faced his death steadfastly, reciting prayers and composing a couplet at the place of execution. He was blown from the mouth of a cannon in the Sabza-Maydan in Tehran. The pieces of his body were collected and buried in the courtyard of the Imamzada Zayd.
Shaykh Salih Karimi was the first Babi to be executed for his faith in Iran, though the elderly Haji Asadu’llah Farhadi, another of the Babis suspected in the murder, had earlier died of ill-treatment and exposure on the road to Tehran. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:77-81.)
Mulla `Abd al-Karim Qazvini, a secretary of the Bab.
Also called Mirza Ahmad Katib ("the Scribe") or Mirza Ahmad Qazvini, he was a secretary of the Bab, the teacher of the historian Nabil Zarandi, and a friend of Bahaullah. Though of a merchant family, he studied law and theology in his home city of Qazvin with Mulla `Abd al-Karim Èravani. When his teacher proclaimed him a mujtahid, authorized to interpret Islamic law independently, he doubted his worthiness. After a dream which the Shaykhi merchant Haji Allah-vardi Farhadi explained as being of the Shaykhi leader Sayyid Kazim Rashti, he went immediately to Karbala with his brother `Abd al-Hamid and spent the winter in Sayyid Kazim’s classes. After Naw-Ruz Sayyid Kazim sent him back to Qazvin where he worked as a merchant for a number of years. He was apparently married and had children.
Hearing of the Bab’s proclamation, he set out for Shiraz—immediately and on foot, according to one report. Learning in Tehran that the Bab had instructed his followers to meet him in Karbala, he went there, only to find that the Bab had changed his plans and gone to Bushihr and Shiraz. He joined a party of Shaykhis seeking the Bab, waited for a time in Isfahan, and finally met the Bab with the first group of believers allowed to enter Shiraz. There he became a confirmed believer.
When his followers caused disturbances in the city, the Bab sent most of them away but ordered Mulla `Abd al-Karim to stay and make fair copies of his writings as they were written, a task he shared with Shaykh Hasan Zunuzi and Sayyid Husayn Yazdi. Just before the Bab was sent to Isfahan, he sent these three ahead where they continued to act as his secretaries, receiving letters from believers and transcribing the replies. Later when the Bab was living secretly in the house of Manuchihr Khan, they continued this task and were the only believers allowed to see him. After the governor’s death in 1847, Mulla `Abd al-Karim followed the Bab to Kashan, Qum, and Kulayn, where he probably remained for the two to three weeks until the Bab left. He did not see the Bab again.
Mirza Lutf-`Ali reports that Mulla `Abd al-Karim tried to go to the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi with Aqa Muhammad-Ja`far Tabrizi but that the two were detained in Shir-Gah. Hearing this, Mulla Husayn sent out a party under Mirza Muhammad-Baqir Hirati that brought them to the fort. A few days later Mulla Husayn sent him to Sari to attend Quddus who was detained there. Quddus in turn sent him away with instruction to personally serve the Bab. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 2:232-33.) Another report states that he took part in the disturbances in Khurasan but did not reach the fort. (Mazandarani, Zuhur.) Both versions are open to doubt since they are not mentioned in Nabil, who otherwise has full particulars on Mulla `Abd al-Karim’s activities.
Soon after, he settled in Tehran where he lived under the protection of Bahaullah and worked as a scribe, spending his evenings making copies of the works of the Bab, which he gave as gifts. In late 1848 a young Babi, Nabil Zarandi, arrived in Tehran and settled at the Madrasiy-i Dar al-Shifay-i Masjid-i Shah where Mulla `Abd al-Karim was then living. He befriended Nabil and introduced him to the leading Babis of Tehran, including Bahaullah and his family.
It was through Mulla `Abd al-Karim that Bahaullah corresponded with the Bab after his return from Mazandaran. It is reported that he and Bahaullah originated the plan to proclaim Mirza Yahya as the Bab’s successor while keeping him in hiding—this in order to deflect attention from Bahaullah, who was well known to the authorities and the people. (`Abd al-Baha, Traveller’s 37/67-68. Bahaullah, Majmu`ah 174. Taherzadeh 1:53-54, 2:247-48.)
During the persecutions of February 1850, Mulla `Abd al-Karim took refuge in the Masjid-i Shah, the royal mosque adjacent to the madrasa in which he was living. Warned by Bahaullah that the prime minister, Amir-Kabir, had ordered the Imam-Jum`a to arrest him in the sanctuary, he escaped in disguise to Qum. From about this time he was generally known as Mirza Ahmad Katib "the scribe"—a name given him by Bahaullah, probably as an alias rather than as an honorific. In Qum, shortly before the Bab’s execution, he received a coffer from the Bab containing the last of his writings and his pen-case, seals, rings, and the famous pentacle tablet containing 350 derivatives of the word Baha’. He left the same day for Tehran, explaining that the Bab’s accompanying letter ordered him to deliver it to Bahaullah.
After the Bab’s martyrdom he and Bahaullah brother, Mirza Musa Kalim, received the remains of the Bab and his disciple. These they hid first in the shrine of Imam-Zada Hasan, then in the house of Haji Sulayman Khan in Tehran, and finally in the Imamzada Ma`sum, where they remained hidden until 1284/1867-68. (Nabil, 521, Taherzadeh 3:424-25.) In spring of 1851 Nabil found him living incognito in Kirmanshah. During Ramadan in the summer of 1851 Bahaullah visited them and sent them both back to Tehran. Mulla `Abd al-Karim passed the winter of 1851-52 living in a caravansary outside the New Gate of Tehran where he spent his time copying the Bab’s works.
When he and Nabil fell under suspicion once more, he fled to Qum. By summer he was back in Tehran and was arrested at the time of the Babi attempt on the life of the Shah. His brother `Abd al-Hamid, who had come to urge him to return to Qazvin, was arrested with him. The two brothers were imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal with Bahaullah until sometime between Aug. 22-26, when both were hacked to pieces with swords by the artillerymen of the royal bodyguard, probably in the present Maydan-i Arg, adjacent to the artillerymen’s camp and the passage to the Siyah-Chal.
Mirza Ahmad was important as an authority on the writings of the Bab. Several manuscripts in his hand of the Arabic and Persian Bayans survive. He handled the private correspondence of the Bab, Bahaullah, and Mirza Yahya with discretion. He was also one of Nabil’s principal informants for the inner history of the early Babi period. Modern Baha’is know him best as the source through which Mulla Husayn’s famous account of the Bab’s declaration reached Nabil.
The sincerity of his spiritual search is apparent from his own account preserved in Nabil, from the trust placed in him by the Bab and Bahaullah, and from his own actions: his contentment with the modest stations of merchant and scribe when his learning and piety would have given him an honored place among the `ulama, his abrupt departures in search of Sayyid Kazim and the Bab, and his refusal to rejoin his family in Qazvin. He enjoyed the respect and affection of Bahaullah and his family and the obvious devotion of Nabil.
Note: Nabil, xxxvii, lxiii, 52, 159-69, 176, 189, 192, 212, 214, 227-28, 331, 439, 504-6, 587-88, 592, 654. Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 2:232-33, 3:295-309. Momen, Babi 142.
Two Babi Youths
Mirza `Abd al-Wahhab Shirazi
In the summer of 1844, the Bab began dispatching his first believers, the Letters of the Living, on various missions, assigning Mulla `Ali Bastami to announce the advent of the Bab to the leading clerics in Najaf, the most prestigious center of Shi`ite learning. A young merchant, Mirza `Abd al-Wahhab, had had a dream in which the Imam `Ali was distributing indulgences in the market. When he went to his shop in the Wakil Bazaar in Shiraz the next morning, he saw Mulla `Ali reenacting the scene he had dreamed. He followed Mulla `Ali, who was leaving that day for `Iraq, and with some difficulty persuaded him to allow him to come. They had only gone a short distance when Haji `Abd al-Majid, Mirza `Abd al-Wahhab’s father, caught up with them. He severely beat Mulla `Ali, left him lying at the roadside, and took his son back to Shiraz. Nabil reports this story in the words of Haji `Abd al-Majid who was later a prominent Baha’i in `Iraq and told the story often. (Nabil, 87-90.)
Haji `Abd al-Majid some time later moved his family to Baghdad and then to Kazimayn where Mirza `Abd al-Wahhab established a business. Apparently he had no further contact with Babis until 1267/1851 when Bahaullah visited Baghdad and persuaded both him and his father to become Babis. When Bahaullah returned to Tehran, he refused to allow Mirza `Abd al-Wahhab to accompany him since he was the only child of his parents and even gave him some money to expand his business.
Nevertheless, `Abd al-Wahhab soon received his parents’ permission to go to Tehran. He arrived at the time of the assassination attempt on the Shah. When he asked the way to the house of Bahaullah, he was arrested, placed in the Siyah-Chal, and chained with four others to Bahaullah. Soon afterwards he was executed—wearing Bahaullah’s shoes because he had none of his own. He was hacked to pieces by the brother and sons of the Grand Vizier and their servants. The executioner later returned to the dungeon and praised the spirit with which he had faced death. Bahaullah often told the story of his execution and the dream that foretold it. (Nabil, 633-34.) `Abd al-Baha praised him in a Tablet and one of his American talks. His death date is fixed between August 22 and 26, 1852, by two dispatches of Sheil and the report of the government newpaper.
Note: On his death date see Momen, Babi 134-36, 141. On his life in general see `Abd al-Baha, Makatib 3:407-8. Nabil, 594. Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:284-94. Balyuzi, Baha’u’llah 68, 79, 94-98, 108. *** DJT 319-21. Cf. Balyuzi, `Abdu’l-Baha 221-22).
The reader may have noticed the precision of the reports of the executions of the Babis condemned after the attempt on the life of the Shah in 1852. The Shah, terrified of an imagined widespread Babi conspiracy, had involved as much of his entourage as possible in the executions, handing out prisoners to various government offices. The officials, in turn, had competed in the zeal and imagination with which they put their victims to death. The details were reported in exact detail in the recently established government newspaper.
Haydar Big Zanjani
Din-Muhammad Wazir, an unsung hero of the Babi revolts, was Hujjat’s military commander at the siege of Zanjan. His son Haydar Big was apparently in his late teens at the time of the siege and seems to have acted as a sort of aide-de-camp to his father. As the siege progressed, he took a more active role in the fighting. For example, he claims to have been the one who captured Farrukh Khan, an army officer who infiltrated the Babi lines in an ill-starred attempt to capture Hujjat.
When the Babis surrendered, Haydar Big was spared execution, apparently so he could be tortured to reveal the location of a treasure the Babis were thought to have hidden. No treasure was forthcoming, but he missed the intitial executions of the surviving Babi men and was sent to Tehran where he was spared execution at the last minute because of his youth. He was imprisoned for nearly two years. He spent some years in the service of an unnamed believer who was later martyred. He was reported to have been living in Tehran in the 1880s.
His lively first-person account of the siege of Zanjan is preserved in the London manuscript of the New History and was included in Browne’s translation of that book.
Note: Hamadani, New History 151-68 passim (in an interpolation added to the London MS by Haji Mirza Isma`il Kashani). `Abd al-Ahad, "Pers. Narr." 769 in which Browne quotes Shaykh `Ali-Bakhsh Zanjani as confirming several important particulars of Haydar Big’s account of his adventures. Husayn Zanjani, Waqayi` 74.
The Farhadis of Qazvin
Several members of this family are notable in Shaykhi and Babi history. They were a typical example of the merchant families drawn first to the Shaykhi movement and later to the Babi religion. The patriarch of the family was Haji Allah-vardi-(or virdi)-yi-Farhadi (ca. 1770–ca. 1830), a Shaykhi merchant of Qazvin. He was survived by his three sons Aqa Muhammad-Hadi, Muhammad-Mahdi, and Muhammad-Javad Farhadi, and one other child. His younger brother, Haji Asadu’llah Farhadi (ca. 1775–1263/1847–48, had three daughters, Khatun Jan, Hajiyyih Khanum, and Shirin Khanum, who were married to his nephews Hadi, Mahdi, and Javad respectively. Marriage to a cousin is quite respectable in the Islamic world, and marriage to a paternal cousin is often considered ideal since it strengthens the family, both socially and economically, while minimizing the inconveniences caused by prohibitions on association between men and women not related by blood.
A respected merchant, Haji Asadu’llah’s house was a meeting place for Shaykhis, including Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa’i himself when he visited Qazvin. When the Letter of the Living Mulla Jalil Urumiyya came to Qazvin, Haji Asadu’llah became a Babi, paid Mulla Jalil’s expenses, and gave him lodging in his house and one of his own wives to marry. The Farhadi house became a Babi meeting place and was visited by Quddus, Mulla Husayn, Tahira, and others.
Mulla Jalil’s classes attracted the jealousy of Tahira’s uncle Haji Mulla Taqi Baraghani, a leading anti-Shaykhi and anti-Babi cleric, who ordered the Farhadi house attacked and Mulla Jalil kidnapped. After Mulla Taqi’s murder by a man variously said to be a Shaykhi or a Babi, the house was again attacked and looted. Haji Asadu’llah was taken from his sickbed to prison and sent chained and on foot in midwinter to Tehran with four others to answer for the murder. Soon after his arrival he died, either because of the hardships of the journey or because he was secretly murdered by Mulla Taqi’s family. After he was denied burial at the shrine of Shah `Abd al-`Azim, he was buried at the nearby shrine of Bibi Zubayda.
Aqa Hadi Farhadi was the eldest son of Allah-vardi and the nephew and son-in-law of Asadu’llah. With his younger brother Javad, he led the Babi rescue of Mulla Jalil from the madrasa where he was being held and tortured. He made swords in the cellars of the Farhadi house intended for use at Shaykh Tabarsi. Suspected in the murder of Mulla Taqi, he fled to Tehran, and his wife and sisters-in-law and their children had to live in hiding in a ruined shrine in great hardship. Bahaullah sent him back to Qazvin to rescue Tahira, which he did. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:82-88, Nabil:281-82.)
Husayn Milani, who helped rescue the body of the Bab.
One of the followers of the heretic Usku, among whom he was known as Imam Humam Aba-`Abdi’llah al-Husayn, Husayn Milani was living in Tabriz at the time of the Bab’s execution and played a role in the rescue of the Bab’s remains. It is reported that he removed the Bab’s remains from the moat and conveyed them to the shop of Haji Muhammad-Taqi Milani or, according to another account, his own shop. It is said that he was one of those who claimed to be Him Whom God will make manifest after the Bab’s death and that he acquired a following.
In August1852 he was living in Tehran and was arrested after the attempted assassination of the Shah. Fadil Mazandarani states he was executed in Niyavaran the same day as Haji Sulayman Khan, which would have made him one of the earlier martyrs of that month and thus presumably one of the better known Babi’s of Tehran. A platoon of soldiers stripped him and killed him with bayonets. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:259. Momen, Babi:142.)
The Seven Martyrs of Tehran
In February 1850 a number of prominent Babis were arrested in Tehran. Seven of those who were condemned refused to recant and were publicly executed. The incident was significant on several grounds in the moral history of the conflict between the Babis and the secular and religious authorities of Iran. Browne later wrote:
They were men representing all the more important classes in Persia—divines, dervishes, merchants, shop-keepers, and government officials; they were men who had enjoyed the respect and consideration of all; they died fearlessly, willingly, almost eagerly, declining to purchase life by that mere lip-denial, which, under the name of ketman or takiya, is recognized by the Shi’ites as a perfectly justifiable subterfuge in case of peril; they were not driven to despair of mercy as were those who died at Sheykh Tabarsi and Zanjan; and they sealed their faith with their blood in the public square of the Persian capital wherein is the abode of the foreign ambassadors accredited to the court of the Shah. (`Abd al-Baha, Traveller’s, p. 216, quoted in Momen, Babi 100.)
The first of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran, and the most important, was Haji Mirza Sayyid `Ali, the maternal uncle and guardian of the Bab, known to the Iranian Baha’is as "Khal-i A`zam," "the Greater Maternal Uncle." He was a well-travelled merchant, prominent among the Shiraz merchants, known for his piety, and a Shaykhi. He and his two brothers traded with India. He was married to a maternal half-sister of the wife of the Bab and had one son, who had died the previous year in Jedda while on pilgrimage. The Bab’s father having died while the Bab was still a child, Haji Mirza Sayyid `Ali became his and his mother’s guardian. He raised the Bab in his own house, supervised his education, and set him up in business in the nearby port of Bushihr.
In 1845 he became a Babi through the efforts of Quddus. He was the only male member of the Bab’s family to become a Babi during his lifetime. When the Bab returned from pilgrimage and was arrested, this uncle posted bail. The Bab lived in his house for much of the time until his departure for Isfahan the following year. When the Bab was arrested and expelled from Shiraz in October 1846, his uncle was so severely beaten that he was bedridden for three months. During the following two years he sheltered the wife and mother of the Bab while keeping the news of the Bab’s imprisonments and sufferings from them. When the Bab was moved to Chihriq, he settled his affairs and went there to see him. He stayed a short time before he was forced to leave. Failing to reach Shaykh Tabarsi before the Babi defeat, he went to Tehran.
There he lived in the house of Muhammad Big Chaparchi, the commander of the Bab’s escort to Adharbayjan, by then a Babi. Despite warnings from Bahaullah’s brother Musa that he was identified as a Babi and should leave the capital, he remained and was one of those arrested in February 1850. He was interrogated by the prime minister Amir-Kabir himself, but refused to recant. Like others among the Seven Martyrs, he could easily have escaped execution had he chosen to conceal his faith, something perfectly acceptable by Shi`ite law. Before his execution he took God as his witness that he was to die only because of his religion, not for any transgression.
His house in Shiraz belonged to the Baha’is until the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when it was confiscated with other Baha’i properties. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:91–97. Faydi, Khandan 131–39. Amanat 149–50, 355, 384. Mazandarani, Zuhur 3:221–25. Nabil, 75–76, 143, 151–54, 192, 195–98, 442, 446–49.)
Mirza Qurban-`Ali Barfurushi was a well-known mystical leader and the second of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran. Originally from Barfurush in Mazandaran or Astarabad in Gurgan, he was a widely travelled Sufi master, a shaykh of the Ni`matu’llahi order. He also had associations with the other mystical orders of the time. His followers and admirers were to be found in many parts of Iran—in Tehran, Khurasan, Hamadan, Kirmanshah, Mandalij, Mazandaran, and Astrarabad—and included members of the royal family, notably the Shah’s mother. He was respected for his personal, moral, and spiritual qualities. He lived simply and always wore the simple garb and woolen cloak of the dervish.
Mirza Qurban-`Ali became a Babi in 1845 after a chance meeting with Mulla Husayn Bushru’i while travelling from Karbala to Iran. In Tehran he studied with Wahid Darabi, who later led the Babi revolt in Nayriz, and was closely associated with Tehran Babi community. When the Bab was at Kulayn near Tehran, Mirza Qurban-`Ali and some other believers were able to visit him there.
According to Nabil and Fadil Mazandarani, he was prevented by severe illness from going to join the Babis at Shaykh Tabarsi. However, Mirza Lutf-`Ali, a survivor of the siege, reports that he reached the government camp and, not being known as a Babi, was asked to serve as Mahdi-Quli Mirza’s emissary to the Babis. At the fort he told Quddus of the situation in the government camp and then returned to Mahdi-Quli Mirza with samples of the writings of the Bab. Later, when Wahid went to Yazd and Nayriz, Mirza Qurban-`Ali intended to join him but was arrested before he left.
Having taught his faith openly, he was one of the prominent Babis arrested in February 1850. Since he firmly maintained his faith even under the interrogation of the prime minister himself, intervention on his behalf by many friends, including even the Shah’s mother, was unable to save him. To the prime minister he said that his name, which means "sacrifice to `Ali," proved that he was destined to be a martyr for `Ali-Muhammad, the Bab. He spent his last night chanting poems of mystical love in the prison.
He was brought to the Sabza-Maydan after the execution of the Bab’s uncle. After the executioner’s first blow merely knocked off his turban, he recited the famous verse:
So hath overcome that scarce he knows
Whether at the feet of the Beloved
It be head or turban he throws!
The second blow struck off his head. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:98-104.)
Haji Mulla Isma`il Qumi (or Farahani) was a Babi cleric, the third of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran. He was born and raised in Farahan in `Iraq-i `Ajam but studied and lived in Qum for many years. Later he studied in Najaf and Karbala, where he became a distinguished and learned Shaykhi, greatly respected for his character. He became a Babi when Mulla `Ali Bastami came to Karbala. After participating in the disputes there with the `ulama, he went to Shiraz to meet the Bab. He then went to Khurasan and was involved in the disturbances there. He was present at Badasht where he received the title "Sirr al-Wujud" (Mystery of Being). He accompanied Bahaullah, Tahira, and Quddus as far as Niyala, where the party was dispersed, and then went to Tehran. He bitterly regretted the illness that prevented him from going to Shaykh Tabarsi. At this time he lived in the in the Madrasiy-i Dar al-Shifa where several other Babis also lived, notably Nabil Zarandi and Mulla `Abd al-Karim Qazvini. Nabil praises his eloquence in expounding the Qur’an and traditions. He actively taught the Babi Faith, always carrying an indexed Qur’an in his pocket in case he met a receptive person.
When in February 1850 orders were issued to arrest the known Babis in the capital, he happened to be at the house of Mirza Shafi`, the vazir of Tehran, who warned him that his name was on the list and that those arrested would be tortured and killed. He went into hiding but was arrested when he was recognized in a public bath and was chained and imprisoned with the others. When brought to the Sabza-Maydan, he was stoned and cursed by the spectators but replied with cheerful words. When he reached the execution site, he gave some money to the executioner to buy candy which he then shared with him. He then offered prayers and was executed. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:104-7.)
Aqa Sayyid Husayn Turshizi was Babi mujtahid, the fourth of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran. A native of Turshiz (Kashmar) in Khurasan, he did his initial studies in Khurasan then went to Najaf for advanced study. After he was accepted as a mujtahid there, it was decided that he would return to his native Khurasan to teach. On this journey he met a Babi acquaintance, the merchant Haji Muhammad-Taqi Kirmani, who was returning from Karbala to Tehran to wait permission to visit the Bab. On the journey the merchant was able to convince his friend of the truth of the new religion. In Tehran he met the Bab’s uncle and other Babis and became a confirmed member of the Babi community of the capital.
He and Haji Muhammad-Taqi were arrested in February 1850. Under interrogation he defended the validity of the proofs given by the Bab. Asserting that his knowledge and competence to judge such matters had been certified by the mujtahids of Najaf and Karbala, he demanded to be allowed to debate the `ulama of Tehran. He had, however, already been sentenced to death as an unbeliever by seven eminent mujtahids of the city in judgments solicited by the prime minister.
He was the fourth of the seven martyrs brought to the Sabza-Maydan for execution. Haji `Ali Khan, the Hajib al-Dawla, who was there at the orders of the Shah, later reported that at the last moment, he was very struck by the youth, beauty, and demeanor of Sayyid Husayn and on impulse offered him a high post in the government and his daughter’s hand if he would renounce his faith. Aqa Sayyid Husayn refused, saying he preferred to leve the world and its wealth to those who cared for it. Angered, Haji `Ali Khan struck him in the mouth and ordered his immediate execution. He died after Mulla Isma`il Qumi and before his friend Haji Muhammad-Taqi Kirmani. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:108-12.)
Haji Muhammad-Taqi Kirmani, the fifth of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran, was a well-known Babi merchant. In 1264/1847-48 he had set out from Kirman to make a pilgrimage to Karbala. In Shiraz he became a Babi through Haji Mirza Sayyid `Ali, the maternal uncle of the Bab. As the latter was about to visit the Bab in Chihriq, Haji Muhammad-Taqi asked permission to accompany him. Haji Mirza Sayyid `Ali told him to fulfill his original intention of making pilgrimage to Karbala and to wait there for the Bab’s instructions. As it happened, the Bab considered conditions too dangerous, so Haji Mirza Sayyid `Ali wrote him to come to Tehran where they would wait together until conditions allowed them to go to Chihriq.
Haji Muhammad-Taqi set out for Tehran in the autumn of 1849. In Baghdad he fell in with a friend, Aqa Sayyid Husayn Turshizi, who had become a mujtahid in `Iraq. During the journey to Iran Sayyid Husayn also became a Babi. All three were among those arrested and executed in Tehran in February 1850. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:108-12.)
Aqa Sayyid Murtada Zanjani was the sixth of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran. He was a merchant of Zanjan and brother of the Sayyid Kazim Zanjani who died at Shaykh Tabarsi. When brought to the execution place, he threw himself on the body of Haji Muhammad-Taqi Kirmani and insisted that being a Sayyid, his death would be more meritorious than that of his friend. (Nabil, 457-58. Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:112. cf. Hamadani, New History 252, 216. The New History and Nuqtat al-Kaf do not mention him.)
The last of the seven martyrs, Aqa Muhammad-Husayn Maraghi’i (or Tabrizi), was a servant. A native of Aharbayjan, he became a Babi in Tehran through Haji Mulla Isma`il Qumi, for whom he had a deep affection. He was a servant of `Azim, a prominent Tehran Babi, and was severely tortured to induce him to implicate others. He would neither speak nor cry out, and the guards thought he was dumb until Mulla Isma`il Qumi told them otherwise. When he would not recant, he was condemned to death with the others. When he was brought to the Sabza-Maydan and saw the body of his teacher, he hugged it and announced his unwillingness to be separated from his friend. He and the other two remaining prisoners each claimed the right to be executed first. Finally, all three were killed at the same moment. (Malik-Khusravi, Tarikh 3:113-14.)