August 28, 2019


Not long after the Báb’s proclamation in the Vakil Mosque, the governor watched incredulously as the Báb’s star burned even brighter among the people. “I swear by the imperial crown of Muhammad Sháh that this very night, I shall have the Siyyid-i-Báb executed together with His wretched companions! By this act, I shall have destroyed a heresy whose survival poses the greatest menace to the interests of the State.”

The Báb and his companions were then arrested at His uncle’s home. He accepted events in His life as He always did, with great dignity and calm, but as they were being escorted under guard, He kept repeating the same verse from the Qu’rán: That which they are threatened is for morning. Is not the morning near? Soon the guards witnessed people running about in great fear and shrouded bodies being carried in the streets. A cholera epidemic had broken out. Confused, the constable in charge made his way to the governor’s palace only to find he had fled with his family, leaving only dying servants behind. Dread was growing his heart like a mighty tree as he led the Báb to his house, where he found his family weeping over his dying son.

“I adjure You, by Him who has elevated You to this exalted position, to intercede on my behalf and to offer a prayer for the recovery of my son. Punish him not for that which his father has committed. I repent of what I have done, and at this moment resign my post. I solemnly pledge my words that never again will I accept such a position even though I perish of hunger.”

The Báb, who was performing his ablutions for dawn prayers, told the constable to take some of the water He had washed his face with and have his son drink it. When the boy showed signs of recovery, the constable wrote to the governor and, tendering his resignation, advised him to let the Báb leave Shíraz peacefully, otherwise the whole city would fall victim to this plague. The cowardly governor agreed. The Báb then set out for Isfahán after entrusting his wife and mother to the care of his uncle. He would never see either of them again. When the Báb arrived in Isfáhán, He found himself under the protection of the governor there, Manúchihr Khán, whose admiration for the Báb only grew during their association.

Determined to save the Báb after some 70 religious authorities in the city declared the Báb a heretic who should be executed, the governor ordered a regiment of 500 soldiers to escort Him out of the city for His protection. These soldiers gradually divided into groups and left on different missions, eventually leaving Him with 10 of his most trusted soldiers who then escorted the Báb secretly back to the governor’s home, where He remained for four months. During His stay, the Báb informed Manúchihr Khán that his life would soon come to an end, which he accepted with joy, for he was now a Bábí. After the governor’s passing, a few days later the Báb was discovered and arrested by his successor, Gurgín Khán. The Sháh, however, was eager to meet the Báb and sent out a royal decree that He should be escorted to Tehrán.

There was one problem, however, and that was Hájí Mírzá Aqasí, the foolish and fearful Prime Minister to the Sháh. Once the Sháh’s tutor, his inexperience and ineptitude only brought about ruin and desolation. He amassed great wealth at the expense of others, made poor political decisions and destroyed people and lands with equal abandon. However, in the Sháh’s eyes, he could do no wrong.

Hájí Mírzá Aqasí had initially paid little attention to the Báb’s claims until Vahíd, the foremost religious scholar, had become a Bábí. Although the Báb had written tablets to the Sháh asking for an audience and even offering to cure him of his lifelong affliction – dropsy – the Prime Minister secretly decided that they were never to meet. Therefore, the Báb’s trek to Tehrán was circumvented and He was sent to the cold prison fortress of Mah-Kú in the mountains of Azerbaijan. This miserable prison was named the Open Mountain by the Báb, whose followers, once they discovered His whereabouts, nevertheless made the long pilgrimage to see their Beloved. This puzzled the arrogant and brutal prison warden, ‘Alí Khán, a great deal.

One morning, as ‘Alí Khán was making his way to the prison, he suddenly spotted the Báb chanting prayers, his hands upraised, by the river. He descended from his horse and planned to rebuke Him, but as he approached, he found he could not disturb His prayers, so he decided to punish the guards instead. When he reached the fortress, however, he was astounded to discover that the doors were locked and that he had to bang on them to be let in. When he entered the Báb’s cell, he was shocked to find Him there, quietly dictating to His secretary. ‘Alí Khán suddenly felt overwhelmed. His whole world shifted and, throwing himself at the Báb’s feet, begged Him to clear up his confusion.

“What you have witnessed”, replied the Báb, “is true and undeniable. You belittled this Revelation and have contemptuously disdained its Author. God, the All-Merciful, desiring not to afflict you with His punishment, has willed to reveal to your eyes the Truth. By His divine intercession, He has instilled into your heart the love of His Chosen One and caused you to recognize the unconquerable power of His Faith.”

From that moment on, ‘Alí Khán’s devotion knew no bounds. Soon, the fortress doors were opened wide to all the believers, and he made sure that the Báb had good food and enough light, treating him more like an esteemed guest than a prisoner. The Kurdish townspeople also fell in love with the Báb, and every morning they hoped to catch a glimpse of Him at his prison window or to hear His sweet voice chanting prayers.

Once Mullá Husayn received the news that the Báb was in Mah-Kú, he resolved to travel by foot to visit Him, along with a man named Qambar ‘Alí. The night before they arrived, ‘Alí Khán had a dream that the Prophet Muhammad and a companion were coming to visit the Báb. When he saw them arrive, he knelt at the Prophet Muhammad’s feet and was kissing the hem of His robe when he awoke. So real was this dream that the next morning he had three horses prepared for their arrival and left the fortress in search of the visitors. When he saw them approaching on foot, he instinctively fell at Mullá Husayn’s feet and offered his mounts for their comfort.

“No, I have vowed to accomplish the whole of my journey on foot” replied a surprised Mullá Husayn. “I will walk to the summit of this mountain and will there visit your prisoner.” When he spotted the Báb standing by the gate, he immediately stooped and bowed low before Him, his heart bursting with love and awe. They remained nine days at Mah-Kú.

When it was time for Mullá Husayn and Qambar ‘Alí to leave, the Báb told them that before long He would be transferred to another prison. He told Mullá Husayn that he must return as he came, on foot, but that his days of great horsemanship and astonishing bravery were still to come, and that his deeds would surpass the heroes of the past. He told him to visit the towns and villages on his way back and give His love and greetings to his loved ones, then to proceed to Mazíndarán where a hidden treasure would be made plain before his eyes.

It was not long before Hájí Mírzá Aqasí received reports that the Báb’s Faith was growing even among the fanatical Kurds and that ‘Alí Khán was permitting the Bábís to meet the Báb unimpeded. Anxious to nip this dangerous situation in the bud, nine months after His arrival at Mah-Kú, the Báb was sent to Chihríq, yet another mountain fortress in the region.

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