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Become as true brethren in the one and indivisible religion of God, free from distinction, for verily God desireth that your hearts should become mirrors unto your brethren in the Faith, so that ye find yourselves reflected in them, and they in you. This is the true Path of God, the Almighty, and He is indeed watchful over your actions. – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 56.
The French writer Comte de Gobineau, a contemporary who traveled to Persia in the mid-nineteenth century, was deeply moved by what he learned of the Bab’s life, his teachings, and his severe treatment at the hands of the authorities. He wrote:
He [the Prime Minister] was picturing him [the Bab] as a vulgar charlatan, a weak dreamer who did not have courage enough to conceive, still less to direct the daring enterprises of his . . . apostles, or even to take part in them. Such a man, taken to Tihran and brought face to face with the most subtle dialecticians of Islam, could not but surrender shamefully. His influence would vanish the more rapidly than if, while destroying his body, one allowed to linger in the minds of the people the phantom of a superiority which death would have consecrated. It was therefore decided to arrest him and bring him to Tihran and, on the way, to exhibit him publicly in chains and humiliated; to make him debate everywhere with the Mullas, silencing him whenever he would become too audacious; briefly, to engage him in a series of unequal encounters in which he would inevitably meet defeat, as he would have been previously demoralized and heartbroken. It was a lion that they were eager to unnerve, hold in chains and strip of claws and teeth, then turn him over to the dogs to show how easily they could overpower him. Once defeated, his ultimate fate was of little importance.
This plan was not devoid of sense, but it rested upon premises which were far from proven. It was not enough to imagine that the Bab was without courage and firmness, it was necessary that he be really so. But his conduct in the fort of Chihriq [where he was incarcerated] gave no such evidence.
He prayed and worked unceasingly. His meekness was unfailing. Those who came near him felt in spite of themselves the fascinating influence of his personality, of his manner and of his speech. His guards were not free from that weakness. He (the Bab) felt that his death was near and he would frequently refer to it as to a thought that was not only familiar but even pleasant. Suppose, for a moment, that thus exhibited throughout Persia he would still remain undaunted? Suppose he would display neither arrogance nor fear but would rise far above his misfortune? Suppose that he succeeded in throwing into confusion the learned, subtle, and eloquent doctors arraigned against him? Suppose he would remain more than ever the Bab for his old followers and become so for the indifferent and even for his enemies? It was risking much in order to gain much, without doubt, but also perhaps to lose much and, after having weighed the matter with care, they dared not take the chance. – Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale, pp. 211-213.
Summing up the life of the Bab, A. L. M. Nicolas, another Frenchman who traveled to Persia in the years immediately after the death of the Bab, wrote:
. . . Christians believe that if Jesus Christ had wished to come down from the cross he could have done so easily; he died of his own free will because it was written that he should and in order that the prophecies might be fulfilled. The same is true of the Bab, so the Babis say, who, in this way, gave a clear sanction to his teachings. He likewise died voluntarily because his death was to be the salvation of humanity. . . . His life is one of the most magnificent examples of courage which it has been the privilege of mankind to behold, and it is also an admirable proof of the love which our hero felt for his fellow countrymen. He sacrificed himself for humanity, for it he gave his body and his soul, for it he endured privations, insults, torture and martyrdom. He sealed, with his very lifeblood, the covenant of universal brotherhood.
Like Jesus he paid with his life for the proclamation of a reign of concord, equity and brotherly love. More than anyone he knew what dreadful dangers he was heaping upon himself. He had been able to see personally the degree of exasperation that a fanaticism, shrewdly aroused, could reach; but all these considerations could not weaken his resolve. Fear had no hold upon his soul and, perfectly calm, never looking back, in full possession of all his powers, he walked into the furnace. – Siyyid ‘Ali Muhammad, dit le Bab, pp. 203-204, p. 376.
In all of these respects the life of the Bab showed striking parallels to that of Jesus. And there is another similarity. In the aftermath of his dramatic career, it appeared for a time as if the Bab had spent his life in vain.
The shah and his ministers, the clergy and their followers rejoiced. The Bab—an impostor in their eyes—was dead. Thousands of the new believers had been killed, including virtually all of the leading disciples. The rest of them, under relentless persecution, had been driven underground or banished. The established powers seemed in every respect to have won a resounding and complete victory over the Bab. The future, they imagined, was in their hands.
Yet the Bab had foretold his own martyrdom and had made it clear that he was the Herald of a still greater revelation from God. Indeed, the entire purpose of his ministry, according to his own testimony, had been to prepare the way for “Him Whom God would make manifest.” The Bab had made it clear that this revelation was imminent and that it would bring in its wake the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth, as foretold in all of the holy scriptures of the world’s major religions.
As we have seen, the light of that new revelation broke during the darkest hour of persecution, at the very moment when it seemed that all had been lost. And by the inscrutable decree of Providence, the Bearer of that light, the only survivor among the effective leaders of the Babi Faith, had been forced to leave His native land forever. Little did his self-satisfied enemies realize that this humiliating banishment would make it possible for Baha’u’llah to reinvigorate the Babi community and to prepare them for His own revelation.
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