Martyrdom of the Bab

Martyrdom of the Bab

On the 9th of July, 1850, the Bab Himself, Who was then in His thirty-first year, fell a victim to the fanatical fury of His persecutors. With a devoted young follower name Aqa Muhammad Ali, who had passionately begged to be allowed to share His martyrdom, He was led to the scaffold in the old barrack square of Tabriz. About two hours before noon the two were suspended by ropes under their armpits in such a way that the head of Muhammad Ali rested against the breast of his beloved Master. A regiment of Armenian soldiers was drawn up and received the order to fire. Promptly the volleys rang out, but when the smoke cleared, it was found that the Bab and His companion were still alive. The bullets had but severed the ropes by which they were suspended, so that they dropped to the ground unhurt. The Bab proceeded to a room nearby, where He was found talking to one of His friends. About noon they were again suspended. The Armenians, who considered the result of their volleys a miracle, were unwilling to fire again, so another regiment of soldiers had been brought on the scene, who fired when ordered. This time the volleys took effect. The bodies of both victims were riddled by bullets and horribly mutilated, although their faces were almost untouched.

By this foul deed the Barrack Square of Tabriz became a second Calvary. The enemies of the Bab enjoyed a guilty thrill of triumph, thinking that this hated tree of the Babi faith was now severed at the root, and its complete eradication would be easy! But their triumph was short-lived! They did not realize that the Tree of Truth cannot be felled by any material ax. Had they but known, this very crime of theirs was the means of giving greater vigor to the Cause. The martyrdom of the Bab fulfilled His own cherished wish and inspired His followers with increased zeal. Such was the fire of their spiritual enthusiasm that the bitter winds of persecution but fanned it to a fiercer blaze: The greater the efforts at extinction, the higher mounted the flames.

Tomb on Mount Carmel

After the Bab’s martyrdom, His remains, with those of His devoted companion, were thrown on the edge of the moat outside the city wall. On the second night they were rescued at midnight by some of the Babis, and after being concealed for years in secret depositories in Persia, were ultimately brought, with great danger and difficulty, to the Holy Land. There they are now interred in a tomb beautifully situated on the slope of Mount Carmel, not far from the Cave of Elijah, and only a few miles from the spot where Baha’u’llah spent His last years and where His remains now lie. Among the thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the world who come to pay homage at the Holy Tomb of Baha’u’llah, none omit to offer a prayer also at the shrine of His devoted lover and forerunner, the Bab.

Writings of Bab

The Writings of the Bab were voluminous, and the rapidity with which, without study or premeditation, He composed elaborate commentaries, profound expositions or eloquent prayers was regarded as one of the proofs of His divine inspiration.

The purport of His various Writings has been summarized as follows: –

Some of these [the Bab's Writings] were commentaries on, and interpretations of the verses of the Kur’an; some were prayers, homilies, and hints of [the true significance of certain] passages; other were exhortations, admonitions, dissertations on the different branches of the doctrine of the Divine Unity … encouragements to amendment of character, severance from worldly states, and dependence on the inspirations of God. But the essence and purport of his compositions were the praises and descriptions of that Reality soon to appear which was his only object and aim, his darling, and his desire. For he regarded his own appearance as that of a harbinger of good tidings, and considered his own real nature merely as a means for the manifestation of the greater perfections of that One. And indeed he ceased not from celebrating Him by night or day for a single instant, but used to signify to all his followers that they should expect His arising: in such wise that he declares in his writings, “I am a letter out of that most might book and a dew-drop from that limitless ocean, and, when He shall appear, my true nature, my mysteries, riddles, and intimations will become evident, and the embryo of this religion shall develop through the grades of its being and ascent, attain to the station of `the most comely of forms,’ and become adorned with the robe of `blessed be God, the Best of Creators.’ … and so inflamed was he with His flame that commemoration of Him was the bright candle of his dark nights in the fortress of Maku, and remembrance of Him was the best of companions in the straits of the prison of Chihrik. Thereby he obtained spiritual enlargements; with His wine was he inebriated; and at remembrance of Him did he rejoice. — A Traveller’s Narrative (Episode of the Bab), pp. 54-56.

He Whom God Shall Make Manifest

The Bab has been compared to John the Baptist, but the station of the Bab is not merely that of the herald or forerunner. In Himself the Bab was a Manifestation of God, the Founder of an independant religion, even though that religion was limited in time to a brief period of years. The Bahá’ís believe that the Bab and Baha’u’llah were Co-Founders of their Faith, the following words of Baha’u’llah testifying to this truth: “That so brief a span should have separated this most mighty and wondrous Revelation from Mine own previous Manifestation, is a secret that no man can unravel and a mystery such as no mind can fathom. Its duration had been foreordained, and no man shall ever discover its reason unless and until he be informed of the contents of My Hidden Book.” In His references to Baha’u’llah, however, the Bab revealed an utter selflessness, declaring that, in the day of “Him whom God shall manifest”: — “If one should hear a single verse from Him and recite it, it is better that he should recite the Beyan [i.e. the Revelation of the Bab] a thousand times.” — A Traveller’s Narrative (Episode of the Bab), p. 349.

He counted Himself happy in enduring any affliction, if by so doing He could smooth the path, be ever so little, for “Him Whom God shall make manifest,” Who was, He declared, the sole source of His inspiration as well as the sole object of His love.

Resurrection, Paradise, and Hell

An important part of the Bab’s teaching is His explanation of the terms Resurrection, Day of Judgment, Paradise and Hell. By the Resurrection is meant, He said, the appearance of a new Manifestation of the Sun of Truth. The raising of the dead means the spiritual awakening of those who are asleep in the graves of ignorance, heedlessness and lust. The Day of Judgment is the Day of the new Manifestation, by acceptance or rejection of Whose Revelation the sheep are separated from the goats, for the sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him. Paradise is the joy of knowing and loving God, as revealed through His Manifestation, thereby attaining to the utmost perfection of which one is capable, and, after death, obtaining entrance to the Kingdom of God and the life everlasting. Hell is simply deprivation of that knowledge of God with consequent failure to attain divine perfection, and loss of the Eternal Favor. He definitely declared that these terms have no real meaning apart from this; and that the prevalent ideas regarding the resurrection of the material body, a material heaven and hell, and the like, are mere figments of the imagination. He taught that man has a life after death, and that in the afterlife progress towards perfection is limitless.

Social and Ethical Teachings

In His Writings the Bab tells His followers that they must be distinguished by brotherly loved and courtesy. Useful arts and crafts must be cultivated. Elementary education should be general. In the new and wondrous Dispensation now commencing, women are to have fuller freedom. The poor are to be provided for out of the common treasury, but begging is strictly forbidden, as is the use of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.

The guiding motive of the true Babi must be pure love, without hope of reward or fear of punishment. Thus says in the Bayan: –

So worship God that if the recompense of thy worship of Him were to be the Fire, no alteration in thy worship of Him would be produced. If you worship from fear, that is unworthy of the threshold of the holiness of God. …

So also, if your gaze is on Paradise, and if you worship in hope of that; for then you have made God’s creation a Partner with Him. — Babis of Persia, II, Prof. E. G. Browne, J.R.A.S., vol. xxi, p. 931.

Passion and Triumph

This last quotation reveals the spirit which animated the Bab’s whole life. To know and love God, to mirror forth His attributes and to prepare the way for His coming Manifestation

– these were the sole aim and object of His being. For Him life had no terrors and death no sting, for love had cast out fear, and martyrdom itself was but the rapture of casting His all at the feet of His Beloved.

Strange! that this pure and beautiful soul, this inspired teacher of Divine Truth, this devoted lover of God and of His fellowmen should be so hated, and done to death by the professedly religious of His day! Surely nothing but unthinking or willful prejudice could blind men to the fact that here was indeed a Prophet, a Holy Messenger of God. Worldly greatness and glory He had none, but how can spiritual Power and Dominion be proved except by the ability to dispense with all earthly assistance, and to triumph over all earthly opposition, even the most potent and virulent? How can Divine Love be demonstrated to an unbelieving world save by its capacity to endure to the uttermost the blows of calamity and darts of affliction, the hated of enemies and the treachery of seeming friends, to rise serene above all these and, undismayed and unembittered, still to forgive and bless?

The Bab has endured and the Bab has triumphed. Thousands have testified to the sincerity of their love for Him by sacrificing their lives and their all in His service. Kings might well envy His power over men’s hearts and lives. Moreover, “He Whom the Lord shall make manifest” has appeared, has confirmed the claims and accepted the devotion of His forerunner, and made Him partaker of His Glory.