After the Bab’s interrogation and torture in Tabriz, the persecutions of the Babis intensified. Hundreds were killed in various corners of the country. At last, the new prime minister, serving the recently crowned Nasiri’d-Din Shah, decided that the Bab must die in the interests of the state. In collusion with the religious leaders in Tabriz, the warrant was signed and the Bab was brought into a barracks inside the city to face execution by firing squad. Not only did the Bab receive this news calmly; those who were with him later recalled that he was more joyful than ever, now that his mission was reaching its climax.
The regiment assigned to execute the Bab was Armenian. Its commander, named Sam Khan, himself a Christian, observed the character of the Bab and was overcome with grave misgivings about the order to have him killed. He feared that such an act would incur the wrath of God. As the dreaded moment drew near, he approached the Bab. “‘I profess the Christian Faith,’” he said, “‘and entertain no ill will against you. If your Cause be the Cause of Truth, enable me to free myself from the obligation to shed your blood.’” – The Dawnbreakers, p. 512.
“Follow your instructions,” the Bab replied, “and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity.” – ibid, p. 522.
The Bab and one of his companions were suspended on a wall in the barracks square, facing a full regiment of soldiers. Thousands of onlookers had gathered to view the execution, some perhaps waiting to see if the Bab would miraculously save himself. The commander gave the order to fire. Three ranks of soldiers, each numbering two hundred and fifty, discharged their rifles. As the smoke cleared, the crowd was astonished to see the Bab’s companion standing alone and unharmed in front of the wall. The ropes that had suspended the two had been cut to pieces by the bullets, but the young man was uninjured. The Bab was nowhere to be seen.
A frenzy ensued, but soon the Bab was found in His cell, conversing with a few of his followers. The Christian commander left with his regiment, refusing to play any further part in the affair. A second regiment—this one under a Muslim commander—was then summoned, and the Bab and His companion were suspended once again.
As the order to fire was about to be given, the Bab addressed the throng of onlookers:
Had you believed in Me, O wayward generation, every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and willingly would have sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognised Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you. – ibid, p. 514.
This time the bullets had the intended effect. The Bab and his disciple were shattered into one mass of flesh. At the very moment of execution the entire city was engulfed in a gale that obscured the light of the sun for the rest of the day.
The authorities removed the mangled bodies to a moat outside the city and placed them under heavy guard. Nevertheless, a few devoted followers were able to steal past the guards and make off with the precious remains. Because of the dangers of that time, the Bab’s remains would be concealed for many years, not to be permanently interred until more than half a century later.
It is worth noting that the prime minister who ordered the execution soon met with a disgraceful death at the hands of his own sovereign. The clergyman who inflicted the bastinado upon the Bab was visited by a fatal illness not long after the Bab’s death. Even the regiment that killed the Bab met a grim fate. Five hundred of them were themselves executed after an attempted mutiny. The other two hundred and fifty were killed when a wall suddenly collapsed on them, leaving not one survivor. Some observers could not help but note the connection that all of them had played a role in the martyrdom of the Bab.