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COLLECTIONBook excerpts
TITLEBehind the Veil in Persia and Turkish Arabia: An Account of an Englishwoman's Eight Years' Residence Amongst the Women of the East
AUTHOR 1M. E. Hume-Griffith
PUB_THISJ. B. Lippincott Company
ABSTRACTThree-page history of the Bab and his execution, with reference to the persecutions in Yazd.
NOTES This document is online at
TAGS- Persecution; - Persecution, Deaths; Báb, Martyrdom of; Iran (documents); Persecution, Iran; Tabríz, Iran; Yazd, Iran

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[page vii]

... I am indebted to Professor Brown’s valuable book entitled "A Year amongst the Persians" for information on the Babi religion, and to Sir A. H. Layard’s classical work on the excavations of Nineveh, which I have frequently had occasion to consult. ...

[page 116]

Chapter 10

Other Religious Sects

The founder of Babism was a native of Shiraz, by name Mirza Ali Muhammed, born in 1820; it was not till 1844 that he publicly proclaimed himself to be The Báb or Gate, through which all who wished for peace and happiness might pass into the inner chambers of mysticism and sacred mysteries. He soon gathered a large following around him, and in an astonishingly short time the fame of the Báb was noised abroad throughout the length and breadth of Persia. At first the Government and mullahs paid little attention to this new religion, thinking and believing it to be only a passing fancy of the people, but in its second year it took such rapid strides that they began to be alarmed, and to look about for means of checking its progress. The Báb was placed in prison, and his followers were forbidden, on pain

[page 117]

of death, to teach or discuss their new religion. Soon afterwards, however, the Báb escaped, and fled to Isphahan, where the governor of that city protected him for some months, but on the death of the governor the Báb was again cast into prison. During his imprisonment he was not idle, for he wrote many books, setting forth his doctrines, and exhorting his followers to remain firm to their new faith in the face of all opposition and persecution.

While the Báb was busy in prison, his followers were also busy, preaching and teaching, and by all means trying to extend the doctrines of their leader, and so great was the opposition and strife raised that the Government decided that the Báb must forfeit his life as a means of putting a stop once and for all to this new and dangerous sect. Accordingly the Báb was brought from Tabriz, where he had been imprisoned, and after a mock trial was sentenced to death. On the day appointed for his execution an enormous crowd gathered to witness his end—many from curiosity, and also many from love and pity for the youthful martyr, who to the last maintained the calmness and courage which had characterised his whole term of imprisonment.

To make the lesson more emphatic, it was decided that two of the Báb’s chief disciples were to be executed with him. One of these at the last moment recanted, and so was allowed to go free. It was said that his recantation arose not from cowardice or fear of death, but from a special revelation given to him, whereby he was commanded to recant in order to be able to carry

[page 118]

away all books and papers belonging to the Báb, and deposit them in a safe place: however that may be, it is known that after an interval of two years he too became a martyr. Efforts were made to entice the other disciple to recant, but all proved unavailing, and he and his master the Báb were suspended, by ropes placed under their arms, to a beam placed a few feet from the ground. As they hung thus the disciple was heard to say, "Master, art thou satisfied with me?" and then the order was given to fire. When the smoke cleared away the body of the disciple was found to be riddled with bullets, but no Báb was visible. What had happened? Had a miracle been performed, and an angel been sent to rescue him from the hand of his persecutors? This was the thought of some, and, indeed, a miracle had been performed, for in spite of the many bullets which had been aimed at him not one had touched the Báb, but had only brought him deliverance by severing the ropes which bound him, so that he fell to the ground unhurt. At first it seemed as if the multitude would have pity on the unfortunate man, and spare him a second attempt, but these feelings were only of short duration, and the Báb was again dragged forth from his hiding-place, where he had taken refuge, and was a second time suspended. A fresh batch of soldiers had to be told off for the execution, as the first company absolutely refused to fire again. This time there was no intervention, and in a second or two the body of the young martyr of Shiraz was pierced with bullets. The bodies were cast out to the jackals, but were afterwards recovered and buried

[page 119]

in Teheran by the order of the new Báb, Mirza Yahya.

This event took place in 1850, and in spite of persecutions, oppositions, and cruelties, the Babis continued to grow in number and strength, and to-day they form a very large and important community throughout Persia. In fact, by the very barbarity of the persecutors their own end was defeated, for all the people were astonished at the heroism and fortitude displayed by the martyrs. Professor Brown [footnote: A Year amongst the Persians] says, "Often have I heard Persians who did not themselves belong to the proscribed sect tell with admiration how Suleymán Khan, his body pierced with well-nigh a score of wounds, in each of which was inserted a lighted candle, went to his execution singing with exultation." The effect of such courage and heroism was only to stir up more people to be disciples of the Báb, as the following story shows.

During the persecutions in Yezd, a young man went to scoff and jeer, but when he saw with what courage the martyrs endured torture, and met death, he called out, "I am a Babi, kill me too." While we were in Yezd the Babis were keeping very quiet, but, nevertheless, a great work was going on amongst them, but none dared say, "I am a Babi." A year or two after our departure from Persia we heard of terrible cruelties and persecutions enacted against these suffering people, but in spite of all, their number continues to grow and increase throughout the whole land of Persia, and to-day the Babis are stronger and more numerous than ever before.

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