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The Bab was executed on July 9, 1850. By this time many of his most devoted followers had also been killed, including Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in the Bab. Those who still survived anticipated the fulfillment of the Bab’s prophecies concerning the appearance of still another Messenger, who was destined to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. One reference is the following:
Of all the tributes I have paid to Him Who is to come after Me, the greatest is this, My written confession, that no words of Mine can adequately describe Him, nor can any reference to Him in my Book . . . do justice to His Cause. – The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 62.
Elsewhere the Bab had alluded to the imminent appearance of “Him Whom God will make manifest”:
Wait thou until nine [years] will have elapsed. . . . Then exclaim: “Blessed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!” – Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 142.
And in yet another instance:
Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Baha’u’llah, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it. . . . – God Passes By, p. 25.
Over the course of the eventful years leading up to this point, Mirza Husayn-Ali had risen to high prominence among the Babis. He had taught the new Faith with exemplary courage, facing many dangers without softening his resolve. Twice he was imprisoned and once suffered the bastinado at the hands of the clergy. By 1848 he had become known as Jinab-i-Baha (“His Honor Baha,” the latter word meaning “glory” or “splendor”), a title that had been approved by the Bab. Later, and forever after, He would be known as Baha’u’llah, meaning “The Glory of God.”
He had received many messages of praise from the Bab and had been entrusted by him to undertake various important matters. Because of Baha’u’llah’s outstanding qualities of leadership, his wisdom and courage, he enjoyed an esteem among the Babis that amounted to reverence. There were a few who suspected that he was none other than the one whose appearance the Bab had foretold.
Two years after the death of the Bab a new tragedy engulfed the community of His followers. Three Babi youths, blaming the shah for all of the tribulations that had been visited upon the Bab and His followers, waylaid the king at his summer resort near Tehran and attempted to assassinate him. The young men were by no means professional killers. Indeed, they were not at all competent, as the clumsy manner of their attempt revealed. Inadequate weapons—short daggers and pistols loaded with tiny birdshot—caused only superficial injuries to the sovereign.
The three were easily subdued by the shah’s guard and were soon killed. It was quickly established that the number of other conspirators was limited.
The instigator of the plot made a full confession before his death, convincing the authorities that Baha’u’llah, well known as the most prominent leader of the Babis, was completely innocent. Nevertheless, as word of the attempted murder spread through the city, the entire community of Babis was sought out for destruction. The shah’s mother was among those who cried out the loudest for their blood, and she specifically singled out Baha’u’llah, refusing to believe that he had not been complicit.
The new prime minister himself warned Baha’u’llah that he was being sought. At that time he was staying in the vicinity of Tehran as the guest of the minister, who was also a distant relative. His friends offered to hide him from the authorities, but Baha’u’llah refused. Instead of fleeing, he set out towards the headquarters of the imperial army, near Tehran.
Hearing of Baha’u’llah’s approach toward the city, the shah ordered his arrest.
Seized and chained, Baha’u’llah was led to prison. Years later, in a letter addressed to one of the leading divines of Persia, he recalled the episode:
By the righteousness of God! We were in no wise connected with that evil deed, and Our innocence was indisputably established by the tribunals. Nevertheless, they apprehended Us, and from Níyávarán, which was then the residence of His Majesty, conducted Us, on foot and in chains, with bared head and bare feet, to the dungeon of Tihrán. A brutal man, accompanying Us on horseback, snatched off Our hat, whilst We were being hurried along by a troop of executioners and officials. – Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 20.
Crowds gathered along the way to jeer and insult Baha’u’llah. Some even pelted him with rocks. Among his persecutors on this occasion was an old woman who attempted to strike him with a stone. She was frail, however, and could not keep pace. She begged the guards to give her the chance to fling her stone at Baha’u’llah’s face. Seeing this, Baha’u’llah said to the guards, “‘Suffer not this woman to be disappointed. Deny her not what she regards as a meritorious act in the sight of God.’” – The Dawnbreakers, pp. 607-608.