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COLLECTIONHistorical documents
TITLEFive unpublished contemporary documents relating to The Bab's examination at Tabriz in 1848
CONTRIB 1E.G. Browne, trans.
TITLE_PARENTMaterials for the Study of the Babi Religion
TAGS- Báb, The; Báb, Trial of; Iran (documents); Tabríz, Iran

Handtyped and proofread by Alan Couper, formatted by Jonah Winters.
Online version is exact replica of original, except: underscore used to
indicate subdot; Ayn and hamza both indicated by straight apostrophe (').
Persian and Arabic text will be added later.



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   In February, 1912, I received from M. Hippolyte Dreyfus, the most eminent and learned European adherent of the Bahá'í doctrine, three photographs of documents connected with the interrogation to which the Báb was subjected at Tabríz in the presence of Násiru'd-Dín Mírzá (afterwards Sháh), at that time Wali-`ahd or Crown Prince, during the latter days of the reign of Muhammad Sháh, who died on Sept. 4, 1848. Concerning these documents M. Dreyfus wrote as follows in two letters dated respectively Feb.4 and Feb 9, 1912:


   "Cher Monsieur Browne,

      "J'ai grand plaisir à vous communiquer les deux documents ci-inclus, sur lesquels je serais très-heureux d'avoir votre opinion.
   "Le premier (A) est la photographie d'une lettre de Nacer-oud- Dín Mirza (alors Wali'ahd) à son père sur un prétendu interrogatoire du Bab à Tabriz. Croyez-vous que ce soit une relation plus ou moins exacte de l'interrogatoire rapporté également dans le Nuqtatu'l- Káf? Ou bien s'agit-il d'un autre interrogatoire?
   "Le deuxième (B) paraît bien être de l'écriture si caractéristique du Bab, et être adressé au même Nacer-ou-Dín Mirza. Il y nie toute prétention à une `Cause' ([ARABIC TEXT]) et implore la clémence.


   "B1 est la réponse des Mudjtahids.
   "Croyez-vous ce second document authentique? Il constituerait une seconde amende honorable, après le reniement de Chiraz dont parle Nicolas dans la traduction du Bayán persan.
   "Je serais très désireux d'avoir votre opinion sur ces documents, que je m'excuse de vous prier de bien vouloir me retourner quand vous les aurez lus, ayant eu grand peine à me les procurer. Il van sans dire que vous pouvez les faire photographier, car j'ai peur que le photographe de Téhéran ne les livre pas volontiers.
   "Avec mes meilleures sympathies, croyez moi toujours votre dévoué H. Dreyfus.          4. 2. 12."


   "Cher Monsieur,

      "Après avoir examiné un peu plus attentivement la lettre du Bab, je ne crois pas, vu sa forme, qu'elle soit adressée à Nacer-oud- Dín Mirza, et je me demande si ce n'est pas las lettre adressée au gouverneur de Chiraz dont parle Nicolas dans le préface du Bayán persan. Je fais rechercher les noms des Mudjtahids de Chiraz, ce qui pourra me fixer.
   "En tous cas je serais heureux d'avoir votre opinion.
   "Bien cordialement à vous, H. Dreyfus.      9. 2. 12."

   Here follow the texts and translations of these documents. As regards the first (A) it appears certain that the writer of it was Amír Aslán Khán (ín ghulám, "this servant," as he calls himself), who, as Mírzá Jání informs us, was present at this interrogatory, and was maternal uncle to Násiru'd-Dín Mírzá, who nominally presided at it. It would appear, from certain expressions used, to be addressed to the then reigning

1See my New History of...the Báb, p. 287, n.2 ad calc.

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[full page is facsimile of document A]


King, Muhammad Sháh. That it refers to the interrogatory of the Báb at Tabríz is clear from its agreement, as regards the questions asked and the replies given, with the accounts of the same transaction given both by the Bábí and the Muhammadan historians1.


[sixteen lines of ARABIC TEXT]

   1These accounts I have combined in Note M at the end of Vol. ii of my edition and translation of the Traveller's Narrative (pp.277—290).


[entire page is ARABIC TEXT]


[entire page is ARABIC TEXT]


[seven lines of ARABIC TEXT]


"HE is GOD, exalted is His State.

   "May I be the sacrifice of the dust of Thy blessed feet!

   "As concerning the Báb, the Command whose course is as that of Fate had been issued that the learned on both sides should be convened and dispute with him. Therefore, in accordance with the Imperial Command, I sent an officer to bring him in chains from Urumiyya [i.e., the Castle of Chihríq] and hand him over to Kázim Khán; and I wrote a note to His Holiness the [Chief] Mujtahid that he should come and hold discussion with him with the arguments, proofs and laws of the Perspicuous Religion [of Islám]. His Holiness the Mujtahid, however, wrote in reply, `From the declarations of numerous trustworthy persons and the perusal of documents, [it appears that] this person [i.e. the Báb] is devoid of religion, and that his infidelity is clearer than the sun and more obvious than yesterday. After such evidence of witnesses there is no obligation on your humble servant to renew the discussion.'


   "I therefore summoned Akhúndi-i-Mullá Muhammad1 and Mullá Murtazá-qulí2, while of [Your Majesty's] servants this slave Aslán Khán, Mírzá Yahyá and Kázim Khán were also present in the assembly.

   "First Hájji Mullá Mahmúd3 asked, saying: `It hath been heard that thou sayest, "I am the Imám's vicegerent and the Báb"; nay, that thou hast uttered certain words implying that thou art actually the Imám or a Prophet.' The Báb answered, 'Yes, my friend, my Qibla, I am the Imám's Vice-gerent and the Báb, and what I have said and you have heard is true. It is incumbent on you to obey me, by virtue of [the saying] "Enter the Door [Báb] with adoration." But I did not utter these words: He uttered them who uttered them.' They asked, `Who, then, is the speaker?' He answered, `He who shone forth on Mount Sinai:

   "[If to say] `I am the Truth' be seemly in a Tree,4

   Why should it not be seemly on the part of some favoured man5?" There is no I-ness in the case: God hath said these things, while I am but as the Tree [or Burning Bush] on Sinai At that time [the Divine Word] was created in it, and now in me. And I swear by God that I am that person whom you have been expecting from the beginning of Islám until now; I am he whom forty thousand doctors will deny.'

   1 Called Mámqání, a notable Shaykhí divine entitled Hujjatu'l-Islám.
   2 Of Marand, entitled `Alam'l-Hudá.
   3 The tutor of the Crown-Prince, entitled Mullá- báshí, and Nizámu'l-`Ulamá.
   4 Alluding to the Burning Bush.
   5 Alluding to the celebrated Súfí mystic Husayn ibn Mansúr-i-Halláj, who was put to death in A.D. 921 for heresy and blasphemy, and chiefly for his saying Ana'l-Haqq, "I am the Truth."


   "They enquired, `In what book is this tradition that forty thousand doctors will deny?' He replied, `If it be not forty thousand, it is at any rate four thousand.' Mullá Murtazá-qulí said, `Very well; then according to this statement, thou art the Author of a [new] Dispensation. But it is in the Traditions and a necessary part of our Faith that the [Promised] One shall appear from Mecca, and that the leaders of men and Jinn, together with forty-five thousand Jinnís will believe in him, and that he will have with him the heir-looms of the Prophets, such as David's coat-of-mail, the rod of Moses, Solomon's ring, and the White Hand1. Where, now are the rod of Moses and the White Hand?' The Báb answered, `I am not permitted to bring them.' Akhúnd-i- Mullá Muhammad said, `Thou didst err in coming without permission.' Then they asked him, `What hast thou of signs and miracles?' He replied, `My miracle is this, that I can cause verses to be revealed for my staff,' whereupon he began to recite the following words:

   "`In the Name of God the Merciful the Forgiving. Glory be to God the Holy the Glorified, Who created the Heavens and the Earth as He created this staff, as one of His signs.' But according to the rules of [Arabic] grammar he wrongly vocalized the word Samáwát (Heavens) as Samáwáta. They said, `Make its [final] vowel i.' Then he recited the word al-ard (the Earth) also with a [final] i. Amír Aslán Khán observed that if such words were of the nature of `Signs,' he likewise could produce such, and proceeded to recite: `Praise be to God who created the staff as He created the morning and the evening': whereat the Báb was greatly ashamed.

   "Afterwards Hájji Mullá Mahmúd enquired saying:

   1 i.e. the Hand of Moses, which he drew forth from under his cloak "as white as snow."


`It hath come down in Tradition that Ma'mún asked of His Holiness the Imám `Á'lí Rizá, "What is the proof of the [right to the] Caliphate of your grandfather?" His Holiness answered, "The sign of ourselves." Ma'mún said, "Were it not for our women." His Holiness said, "Were it not for our sons." Elucidate this dialogue and explain the point1.' The Báb reflected for a while, but answered nothing.

   "After that they asked some questions on Jurisprudence and other sciences, which he was unable to answer, not even the plainest juridical questions, such as those concerning doubt and error [arising during the performance of prayer2], but hung his head and again began to utter such meaningless words as, `I am that very Light which shone forth on Sinai, for it hath come down in tradition that that Light was the Light of one of the Shí`ís3.' Thereupon this servant remarked, `Wherefore shouldst thou be that Shí`í? Perhaps it was the Light of Mullá Murtazá-qulí.' Thereat he was more ashamed than before, and hung his head.

   "When the discussion was concluded, His Reverence the Shaykhu'l-Islám was summoned, who had the Báb beaten and inflicted on him an exemplary chastisement, so that he apologized, recanted, and repented of and asked pardon for his errors, giving a sealed undertaking that henceforth he would not commit such faults. Now he is in prison and bonds awaiting the decision of His Most Sacred, Royal and Imperial Majesty, may the souls of the worlds be his sacrifice!"

   1 The point is no clearer to me that it was 25 years ago when I published my translation of the Traveller's Narrative, q.v. (Vol.ii, pp.282—4 and n. 1 on p.283 ad calc.). My friend Muhammad Shafí` suggests that the allusion is to Qur'án, iii, 54.
   2 See ibid., pp.285—6 and footnotes
   3 i.e. of the followers of `Á'lí ibn Abí Tálib, the First Imám.


[full page is facsimile of document B]


   The second document, unsigned and undated, is apparently in the Báb's handwriting and consists of a complete recantation and renunciation of any superhuman claim which he may have advanced or have appeared to advance. There is nothing to show to whom it is addressed, or whether it is the recantation referred to in the last paragraph of the preceding document or another. The handwriting, though graceful, is not easily legible, and the text appears to run as follows:

[fourteen lines of ARABIC TEXT]

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[eight lines of ARABIC TEXT]


   "May my life be thy sacrifice! Praise be to God such as He deserves and merits, in that He hath caused [those who are] the Manifestations of His Grace and Mercy under all circumstances to comprehend all of His servants. Praise be to God, and again praise, that He hath deigned to make one like your Excellency1 the source of His Clemency and Mercy, by the manifestation of whose kindness He hath pardoned His servants, cast a veil over [the faults of] sinners, and shown mercy to the transgressors. I take God to witness on His part that this weak servant never intended aught contrary to the good pleasure of the Lord of the World and the Company of Saints. Although my very existence is in itself utterly faulty, yet since my heart firmly believes in the unity of God (glorious in His mention), and the Prophethood of His Apostle, and the Saintship of the Community of Saints, and since my tongue acknowledgeth all

   1 The title might equally be rendered "Highness," "Holiness," "Reverence," etc. according to the station of the person addressed.

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that hath been revealed on the part of God, I hope for His Mercy. Never have I desired aught contrary to the Will of God, and, if words contrary to His good pleasure have flowed from my pen, my object was not disobedience, and in any case I repent and ask forgiveness of Him. This servant has absolutely no knowledge connected with any [superhuman] claim. I ask forgiveness of God my Lord and I repent unto Him of [the idea] that there should be ascribed to me any [Divine] Mission. As for certain prayers and words which have flowed from my tongue, these do not imply any such Mission (amr), and any [apparent] claim to any special vicegerency for His Holiness the Proof of God (on whom be Peace!) is a purely baseless claim, such as this servant has never put forward, nay, nor any claim like unto it. Therefore it is thus hoped from the clemency of His Imperial Majesty and of Your Excellency, that they will exalt the head of him who continually prays for them by the favours and graces of their clement and compassionate court. Farewell."


   The third document, likewise undated, is addressed to Sayyid `Á'lí Muhammad the Báb, and contains the fatwá or ecclesiastical sentence of the `ulamá, by two of whom, Abu'l-Qásim al- Hasaní al- Husayní and `Á'lí Asghar al- Hasaní al-Husayní, it is formally sealed. The latter is probably the Shaykhu'l-Islám, who caused the Báb to be beaten after the Tabríz interrogatory; the former I have not yet been able to identify.

   1 Such as that he was the "Gate of Knowledge" (Bábu'l-`Ilm), or the like.
   2 i.e. the Twelfth Imám or Imám Mahdí.
   3 See Traveller's Narrative, ii, pp.20—21 and 278.

[full page is facsimile of document B1]


[eleven lines of ARABIC TEXT]


   "Sayyid `Á'lí Muhammad-i-Shírází:

   "In the Imperial Banquet-hall and August Assembly of His Highness the Crown Prince of the undeclining Empire [of Persia], (may God aid, support and strengthen him!) and of a number of learned doctors, thou didst admit certain matters each one of which separately implied thy apostasy and justified thy death. The repentance of an incorrigible apostate is not accepted, and the only thing which has caused the postponement of thy execution is a doubt as to thy sanity of mind. Should this doubt be removed, the sentence of an incorrigible apostate would without hesitation be executed upon thee."

  Sealed by {Abu'l Qásim al-Hasaní al- Husayní}
            {`Á'lí Asghar al-Hasaní al-Husayní}


   The last two documents, which are in English, were kindly communicated to me by Mr W. A. Shedd, who wrote concerning them as follows in a letter dated March 1, 1911:

   "Dear Professor Browne,

      "In going over papers of my father, I found something which I think may be of value from a historical point of view. I have no books here, nor are any accessible here, to be certain whether this bit of testimony (or rather these two bits) have been used or not. I think probably not, and I am sure that I can do nothing better than send them to you, with the wish that you may use them as you think best. Of the authenticity of the papers there can be no doubt.

      "Yours very truly,            W. A. Shedd."

   The first of these two documents is very valuable as giving the personal impression produced by the Báb, during the period of his imprisonment and suffering, on a cultivated and impartial Western mind. Very few Western Christians can have had the opportunity of seeing, still less of conversing with, the Báb, and I do not know of any other who has recorded his impressions. The second document, belonging to a later period, describes the circumstances attending the presentation to Násiru'd-Dín Sháh of the letter addressed to him by Bahá'u'lláh and transmitted by the hand of Mírzá Badí` in July, 18691.



    "You ask me for some particulars of my interview with the founder of the sect known as Bábís. Nothing of any

1 See Traveller's Narrative, ii, p. 393.


importance transpired in this interview, as the Báb was aware of my having been sent with two other Persian doctors to see whether he was of sane mind or merely a madman, to decide the question whether to put him to death or not. With this knowledge he was loth to answer any questions put to him. To all enquiries he merely regarded us with a mild look, chanting in a low melodious voice some hymns, I suppose. Two other Sayyids,1 his intimate friends, were also present, who subsequendy were put to death with him2, besides a couple of government officials. He only once deigned to answer me, on my saying that I was not a Musulmán and was willing to know something about his religion, as I might perhaps be inclined to adopt it. He regarded me very intently on my saying this, and replied that he had no doubt of all Europeans coming over to his religion. Our report to the Sháh at that time was of a nature to spare his life. He was put to death some time after by the order of the Amír-i-Nizám Mírzá Taqí Khán. On our report he merely got the bastinado, in which operation a farrásh, whether intentionally or not, struck him across the face with the stick destined for his feet, which produced a great wound and swelling of the face. On being asked whether a Persian surgeon should be brought to treat him, he expressed a desire that I should be sent for, and I accordingly treated him for a few days, but in the interviews consequent on this I could never get him to have a confidential chat with me, as some Government people were always present, he being a prisoner.

    1These were, no doubt, the two brothers Sayyid Hasan and Sayyid Husayn of Yazd, of whom the latter was especially his amanuensis.
    2 This is an error. Sayyid Husayn was put to death in the great persecution of 1852, two years after the Báb.


    "He was very thankful for my attentions to him. He was a very mild and delicate-looking man, rather small in stature and very fair for a Persian, with a melodious soft voice, which struck me much. Being a Sayyid, he was dressed in the habits of that sect, as were also his two companions. In fact his whole look and deportment went far to dispose one in his favour. Of his doctrine I heard nothing from his own lips, although the idea was that there existed in his religion a certain approach to Christianity. He was seen by some Armenian carpenters, who were sent to make some repairs in his prison, reading the Bible, and he took no pains to conceal it, but on the contrary told them of it. Most assuredly the Musulmán fanaticism does not exist in his religion, as applied to Christians, nor is there that restraint of females that now exists.



   "The story of the Bábís having reappeared in Tihrán, threatening the Sháh's life, etc. some time back, was partly true. The version of the story, as related to me by Sulaymán Khán, who was in Tihrán at the time and confirmed by others, is this. The Sháh, when out riding one day, perceived at some little distance a man mounted and equipped watching him attentively1. He immediately sent to have him seized and brought to him. The Sháh said, on his being brought, `I have observed you for some time past always following me when out riding, and as you are not a

   1 The man to whom reference is here made was undoubtedly Mírzá Badí`, who brought Bahá'u'lláh's letter to Násiru'd-Dín Sháh from `Akká to Tihrán in July, 1869.


servant of mine, you are most probably a Bábí? To this the man, nothing daunted, replied that he was. On further enquiry he added that he was the bearer of a letter to the Sháh, and that he was seeking a favourable opportunity to present it to him, and that the letter was sent by their Chief, who had at this moment 70,000 Bábís obeying his orders. The Sháh asked for the document, which, being presented to him, was found to be a petition praying him to allow his sect, viz. the Bábís, to establish themselves in Persia and exercise their religion openly the same as Christians and other sects, [undertaking] that they would live peaceably under his rule and infringe no laws, [and] that if any doubt existed in the Sháh's mind as to their religion being the true one or not, he prayed that a conference might be granted between some members of their religion and some Musulmán Mujtahids and chief Mullás of Tihrán to discuss the points of difference between them. If they should succeed in proving that they were in the right, what further cause was there for oppressing them? If not, they consented to undergo any oppression the Sháh might subject them to, beginning by putting to death the members sent to discuss the points.

   "This petition, it appears, had no effect upon the Sháh, for he ordered the bearer of it to be taken and tortured to find out if he had any accomplices in Tihrán; but he divulged nothing, saying that he was alone, and adding that the fact of his being killed was of no consequence, as the 70,000 Bábís under their Chief were all like him, ready to die for their religion, and no doubt other messengers would be sent to kill the Sháh at last, unless he granted the prayer of the petition. Under all the great tortures inflicted on him he remained firm, writing with a piece of stick on the ground till death put an end to his sufferings. After this


some little disturbance took place in Tihrán in searching for Bábís, but not with much result. The Bábís succeeded, however, in setting fire to an Imám-záda and burning it down. There was, however, no sign of any conspiracy existing. There are some people who think that both the Sháh and the Mustawfiyu'l-Mamálik with other great personages are disposed to allow the Bábís to exercise their religion openly in Persia, but the fear of the Mullás and their power to create a revolution against them, prevents them doing so."

(Extract from a letter to Mr Labaree.)

   "The above was found among papers belonging to the late Rev. J. H. Shedd, D.D., of the American Mission at Urúmiyya, Persia, in whose handwriting it is. Dr Cormick was an English physician long resident in Tabríz, where he was highly respected. The letter was certainly written and the copy of the extracts made before June, 1870. Mr Labaree is the Rev. Benjamin Labaree, D.D., of the same Mission as Dr Shedd. The letter was certainly written after 1862 and probably in 1869 or 1870, as Dr Labaree spent some months in Tabríz in 1869. An Imám-záda is the tomb of a reputed descendant of one of the Imáms, and, as such, a shrine. There are many such in Persia.

                           "W. A. Shedd."

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