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CHAPTER XI

SHIRAZ (continued)

     In attempting to convey a correct impression of past events, it is often difficult to decide how far their true sequence may be disregarded for the sake of grouping together things naturally related. To set down all occurrences day by day, as they actually took place, is undoubtedly the easiest, and, in some ways, the most natural plan. On the other hand, it often necessitates the separation of matters intimately connected with one another, while the mind is distracted rather than refreshed by the continual succession of topics presented to it. For this reason I have thought it best to include in a separate chapter all that I have to say concerning my intercourse with the Babis in Shiraz. Had this intercourse been more closely interwoven with the social life which I have endeavoured to portray in the preceding chapter, such dissociation might have been inadvisable, and even impossible. as it was, it was a thing apart; a separate life in a different sphere; a drama, complete in itself, with its own scenes and its own actors.

     Those who have followed me thus far on my journey will remember how, after long and fruitless search, a fortunate chance


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at length brought me into contact with the Babis at Isfahan. They will remember also that the Babi apostle to whom I was introduced promised to notify my desire for fuller instruction to his fellow-believers at Shiraz, and that he further communicated to me the name of one whose house formed one of their principal resorts. I had no sooner reached Shiraz than I began to consider how I should, without attracting attention or arousing comment, put myself in communication with the person so designated, who occupied a post of some importance in the public service which I will not more clearly specify. His name, too, I suppress for obvious reasons. Whenever I have occasion to allude to him, I shall speak of him as Mirza Muhammad.

     Whilst I was still undecided as to the course I should pursue, another unlooked-for event suddenly removed all difficulties. I have already mentioned Mirza 'Ali, a young Persian with whom I had previously been intimately acquainted in Europe. Three days after my arrival he came to pay me a visit. I hardly recognised him at first, in the tall lambskin cap and long cloak which he wore, and was equally surprised and delighted at this unexpected meeting. He did not stay long, but before leaving invited me to come and see him on the following day.

     I had scarcely entered the room where he was waiting to receive me, when the cursory glance which I cast round was riveted by an Arabic text which hung on the wall. Yet it was not so much the Arabic characters which attracted my attention (though these too seemed in some way strangely familiar), as a line of writing beneath them. There was no mistaking the parallel oblique strokes and the delicate curves and spirals which sprang from them. Only once before had I seen that character in the hands of the Babi dallal at Isfahan.

     I withdrew my eyes from the tablet and turned them on Mirza 'Ali, who had been attentively watching my scrutiny. Our glances met, and I knew at once that my conjecture was right.

     "Do you know Mirza Muhammad?" I asked presently.


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     "I know him well," he replied; "it was he who informed me that you were coming. You have not seen him yet? Then I will take you there one day soon, and you shall meet other friends. I must find out when he will be disengaged, and arrange a time."

     "I did not know," said I, "that you.... Tell me what you really think...."

     "I confess I am puzzled," he answered. "Such eloquence, such conviction, such lofty, soul-stirring words, such devotion and enthusiasm! If I could believe any religion it would be that."

     Before I left he had shown me some of the books which he possessed. One of these was a small work called Madaniyyat ("Civilisation"), lithographed in Bombay, one of the few secular writings of the Babis. Another was the Kitab-i-Akdas ("Most Holy Book"), which contains the codified prescriptions of the sect in a brief compass. The latter my friend particularly commended to my attention.

     "You must study this carefully if you desire to understand the matter," he said; "I will get a copy made for you by our scribe, whom you will also see at Mirza Muhammad's. You should read it while you are here, so that any difficulties which arise may be explained. I am acquainted with a young Seyyid well versed in philosophy, who would perhaps come regularly to you while you are here. This would excite no suspicion, for it is known that you have come here to study."

     Rejoiced as I was at the unexpected facilities which appeared to be opening out to me, there was one thing which somewhat distressed me. It was the Bab whom I had learned to regard as a hero, and whose works I desired to obtain and peruse, yet of him no account appeared to be taken. I questioned my friend about this, and learned (what I had already begun to suspect at Isfahan) that much had taken place amongst the Babis since those events of which Gobineau's vivid and sympathetic record had so strangely moved me. That record was written while Mirza


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Yahya, Subh-i-Ezel ("the Morning of Eternity") was undisputed vicegerent of the Bab, and before the great schism occurred which convulsed the Babi community. Now, I found, the Bab's writings were but little read even amongst his followers, for Beha had arisen as "He whom God shall manifest" (the promised deliverer foretold by the Bab), and it was with his commands, his writings, and his precepts that the Babi messengers went forth from Acre to the faithful in Persia. Of Mirza Yahya, whom I had expected to find in the place of authority, I could learn little. He lived, he was in Cypms, he wrote nothing, he had hardly any followers; that was all I was told, and I was forced to try to reconcile myself to the new, and at present, ill-comprehended, position of affairs. At any rate I had found the Babis, and I should be able to talk with those who bore the name and revered the memory of one whom I had hitherto admired in silence--one whose name had been, since I entered Persia, a word almost forbidden. For the rest, I should soon learn about Beha, and understand the reasons which had led to his recognition as the inaugurator of a new dispensation.

     A day or two after the events narrated above I received another visit from Mirza 'Ali, who was on this occasion accompanied by the young Babi Seyyid of whom he had spoken. They remained with me more than an hour, and the Seyyid talked much, asking me numberless questions about anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and other sciences, but speaking little about his own views. Before they left it was arranged that on the following afternoon I should accompany them to the house of Mirza Muhammad.

     On the following afternoon I sallied forth to the house of Mirza 'Ali, accompanied by my servant, Haji Safar, whom I would rather have left behind had I been able to find the way by myself. I met Mirza 'Ali at the door of his house, and we proceeded at once to the abode of Mirza Muhammad. He was not in when we arrived, but appeared shortly, and welcomed me


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very cordially. After a brief interval we were joined by another guest, whose open countenance and frank greeting greatly predisposed me in his favour. This was the scribe and missionary, Haji Mirza Hasan, to whose inopportune meeting with Murshid in my room I have already alluded. He was shortly followed by the young Seyyid who had visited me on the previous day, and another much older Seyyid of very quiet, gentle appearance, who, as I afterwards learned, was related to the Bab, and was therefore one of the Afnan ("Branches")--a title given by the Babis to all related, within certain degrees of affinity, to the founder of their faith. One or two of my host's colleagues completed the assembly.

     I was at first somewhat at a loss to know how to begin, especially as several servants were standing about outside, watching and listening. I enquired of Mirza 'Ali if I might speak freely before these, whereupon he signified to Mirza Muhammad that they should be dismissed.

     "Now," he said, when this order had been given and obeyed, "speak freely, for there is no 'ass's head' (ra' su'l-himar*) here."

     I then proceeded to set forth what I had heard of the Bab, his gentleness and patience, the cruel fate which had overtaken him, and the unflinching courage wherewith he and his followers, from the greatest to the least, had endured the merciless torments inflicted on them by their enemies.

     "It is this," I concluded, "which has made me so desirous to know what you believe; for a faith which can inspire a fortitude so admirable must surely contain some noble principle."

     Then began a discussion between myself on the one hand, and the young Seyyid and Haji Mirza Hasan on the other, of which I can only attempt to give a general outline. Disregarding those details of persons, past events, and literary history about which I was so desirous to learn, they proceeded to set forth the fundamental assumptions on which their faith is based in


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a manner which subsequent experience rendered familiar to me.

     "The object for which man exists," they said, "is that he should know God. Now this is impossible by means of his unassisted reason. It is therefore necessary that prophets should be sent to instruct him concerning spiritual truth, and to lay down ordinances for his guidance. From time to time, therefore, a prophet appears in the world with tokens of his divine mission sufficient to convince all who are not blinded by prejudice and wilful ignorance. When such a prophet appears, it is incumbent on all to submit themselves to him without question, even though he command what has formerly been forbidden, or prohibit what has formerly been ordained."

     "Stay," I interposed; "surely one must be convinced that such prohibition or command is sanctioned by reason. If the doctrine or ordinance be true, it must be agreeable to the idea of Absolute Good which exists in our own minds."

     "We must be convinced by evidence approved by reason that he who claims to be a prophet actually is so," they replied; "but when once we are assured of this, we must obey him in everything, for he knows better than we do what is right and wrong. If it were not so, there would be no necessity for revelation at all. As for the fact that what is sanctioned in one 'manifestation' is forbidden in another, and vice versa, that presents no difficulty. A new prophet is not sent until the development of the human race renders this necessary. A revelation is not abrogated till it no longer suffices for the needs of mankind. There is no disagreement between the prophets: all teach the same truth, but in such measure as men can receive it. One spirit, indeed, speaks through all the prophets; consider it as the instructor (murabbi) of mankind. As mankind advance and progress, they need fuller instruction. The child cannot be taught in the same way as the youth, nor the youth as the full-grown man. So it is with the human race. The instruction given by Abraham was suitable


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and sufficient for the people of his day, but not for those to whom Moses was sent, while this in turn had ceased to meet the needs of those to whom Christ was sent. Yet we must not say that their religions were opposed to one another, but rather that each 'manifestation' is more complete and more perfect than the last."

     "What you say is agreeable to reason," I assented; "but tell me, in what way is the prophet to be recognised when he comes? By miracles, or otherwise?"

     "By miracles (if by miracles you mean prodigies contrary to nature)--No!" they answered; "it is for such that the ignorant have always clamoured. The prophet is sent to distinguish the good from the bad, the believer from the unbeliever. He is the touchstone whereby false and true metal are separated. But if he came with evident supernatural power, who could help believing? who would dare oppose him? The most rebellious and unbelieving man, if he found himself face to face with one who could raise the dead, cleave the moon, or stay the course of the sun, would involuntarily submit. The persecutions to which all the prophets have been exposed, the mockery to which they have been compelled to submit, the obloquy they have borne, all testify to the fact that their enemies neither feared them nor believed that God would support them; for no one, however foolish, however froward, would knowingly and voluntarily fight against the power of the Omnipotent. No, the signs whereby the prophet is known are these:--Though untaught in the learning esteemed of men, he is wise in true wisdom; he speaks a word which is creative and constructive; his word so deeply affects the hearts of men that for it they are willing to forgo wealth and comfort, fame and family, even life itself. What the prophet says comes to pass. Consider Muhammad. He was surrounded by enemies, he was scoffed at and opposed by the most powerful and wealthy of his people, he was derided as a madman, treated as an impostor. But his enemies have


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passed away, and his word remains. He said, 'You shall fast in the month of Ramazan,' and behold, thousands and thousands obey that word to this day. He said, 'You shall make a pilgrimage to Mecca if you are able,' and every year brings thither countless pilgrims from all quarters of the globe. This is the special character of the prophetic word; it fulfils itself; it creates; it triumphs. Kings and rulers strove to extinguish the word of Christ, but they could not; and now kings and rulers make it their pride that they are Christ's servants. Against all opposition, against all persecution, unsupported by human might, what the prophet says comes to pass. This is the true miracle, the greatest possible miracle, and indeed the only miracle which is a proof to future ages and distant peoples. Those who are privileged to meet the prophet may indeed be convinced in other ways, but for those who have not seen him his word is the evidence on which conviction must rest. If Christ raised the dead, you were not a witness of it; if Muhammad cleft the moon asunder, I was not there to see. No one can really believe a religion merely because miracles are ascribed to its founder, for are they not ascribed to the founder of every religion by its votaries? But when a man arises amongst a people, untaught and unsupported, yet speaking a word which causes empires to change, hierarchies to fall, and thousands to die willingly in obedience to it, that is a proof absolute and positive that the word spoken is from God. This is the proof to which we point in support of our religion. What you have already learned concerning its origin will suffice to convince you that in no previous 'manifestation' was it clearer and more complete."

     "I understand your argument," I replied, "and it seems to me a weighty one. But I wish to make two observations. Firstly, it appears to me that you must include amongst the number of the prophets many who are ordinarily excluded, as, for example, Zoroaster; for all the proofs which you have enumerated were, so far as we can learn, presented by him. Secondly, though


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I admit that your religion possesses these proofs in a remarkable degree (at least so far as regards the rapidity with which it spread in spite of all opposition), I cannot altogether agree that the triumph of Islam was an instance of the influence of the prophetic word only. The influence of the sword was certainly a factor in its wide diffusion. If the Arabs had not invaded Persia, slaying, plundering, and compelling, do you think that the religion of Muhammad would have displaced the religion of Zoroaster? To us the great proof of the truth of Christ's teaching is that it steadily advanced in spite of the sword, not by the sword: the great reproach on Islam, that its diffusion was in so large a measure due to the force of arms rather than the force of argument. I sympathise with your religion, and desire to know more of it, chiefly because the history of its origin, the cruel fate of its founder, the tortures joyfully endured with heroic fortitude by its votaries, all remind me of the triumph of Christ, rather than the triumph of Muhammad."

     "As to your first observation," rejoined the Babi spokesman, "it is true, and we do recognise Zoroaster, and others whom the Musulmans reject, as prophets. For though falsehood may appear to flourish for a while, it cannot do so for long. God will not permit an utterly false religion to be the sole guide of thousands. But with Zoroaster and other ancient prophets you and I have nothing to do. The question for you is whether another prophet has come since Christ: for us, whether another has come since Muhammad."

     "Well," I interrupted, "what about the propagation of Islam by the sword? For you cannot deny that in many countries it was so propagated. What right had Muhammad--what right has any prophet--to slay where he cannot convince? Can such a thing be acceptable to God, who is Absolute Good?"

     "A prophet has the right to slay if he knows that it is necessary," answered the young Seyyid, "for he knows what is hidden from us; and if he sees that the slaughter of a few will prevent


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many from going astray, he is justified in cornmanding such slaughter. The prophet is the spiritual physician, and as no one would blame a physician for sacrificing a limb to save the body, so no one can question the right of a prophet to destroy the bodies of a few, that the souls of many may live. As to what you say, that God is Absolute Good, it is undeniably true; yet God has not only Attributes of Grace but also Attributes of Wrath--He is Al-Kahhar (the Compeller) as well as Al-Latif (the Kind); Al-Muntakim (the Avenger) as well as Al-Ghafur (the Pardoner). And these Attributes as well as those must be manifested in the prophet who is the God-revealing mirror."

     "I do not agree with you there," I answered. "I know very well that men have often attributed, and do attribute, such qualities as these to God, and it appears to me that in so doing they have been led into all manner of evil and cruelty, whereby they have brought shame on the name of their religion. I believe what one of your own poets has said:

and we cannot falsify the meaning of words in such wise as to say that qualities which we universally condemn in man are good in God. To say that revenge in man is bad, while revenge in God is good, is to confound reason, stultify speech, and juggle with paradoxes. But, passing by this question altogether, you can hardly imagine that a prophet in whom the 'Attributes of Wrath' were manifested could attract to himself such as have believed in a prophet in whom were reflected the 'Attributes of Grace.' Admitting even that a prophet sent to a very rude, ignorant, or froward people may be justified in using coercion to prepare the way for a better state of things, and admitting that Muhammad was so justified by the circumstances under which he was placed, still you cannot expect those who have learned the gentle teaching of Christ to revert to the harsher doctrines of Muhammad, for though the latter was subsequent


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as regards time, his religion was certainly not a higher development of the religion of Christ. I do not say that Muhammad was not a prophet; I do not even assert that he could or should have dealt otherwise with his people; but, granting all this, it is still impossible for anyone who has understood the teaching of Christ to prefer the teaching of Muhammad. You have said that the God-given message is addressed to the people of each epoch of time in such language as they can comprehend, in such measure as they can receive. Should we consider time only, and not place? May it not be that since the stages of development at which different peoples living at the same time have arrived are diverse, they may require different prophets and different religions? The child, as you have said, must be taught differently as he grows older, and the teacher accordingly employs different methods of instruction as his pupil waxes in years and understanding, though the knowledge he strives to impart remains always the same. But in the same school are to be found at one time pupils of many different ages and capacities. What is suitable to one class is not suitable to another. May it not be the same in the spiritual world?"

     At this point there was some dissension in the assembly; the young Seyyid shook his head, and relapsed into silence; Mirza 'Ali signified approval of what I had said; Haji Mirza Hasan strove to avoid the point at issue, and proceeded thus:

     "I have already said that what is incumbent on every man is that he should believe in the 'manifestation' of his own age. It is not required of him that he should discuss and compare all previous 'manifestations.' You have been brought up a follower of Christ. We have believed in this 'manifestation' which has taken place in these days. Let us not waste time in disputing about intermediate 'manifestations.' We do not desire to make you believe in Muhammad but in Beha. If you should be convinced of the tmth of Beha's teaching you have passed over the stage of Islam altogether. The last 'manifestation' includes and


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sums up all preceding ones. You say that you could not accept Islam because its laws and ordinances are harsher, and, in your eyes, less perfect than those laid down by Christ. Very well, we do not ask you to accept Islam; we ask you to consider whether you should not accept Beha. To do so you need not go back from a gentle to a severe dispensation. Beha has come for the perfecting of the law of Christ, and his injunctions are in all respects similar; for instance, we are commanded to prefer rather that we should be killed than that we should kill. It is the same throughout, and, indeed, could not be otherwise, for Beha is Christ returned again, even as He promised, to perfect that which He had begun. Your own books tell you that Christ shall come 'like a thief in the night,' at a time when you are not expecting Him."

     "True," I replied, "but those same books tell us also that His coming shall be 'as tbe lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven and shineth unto the other part under heaven.'"

     "There can be no contradiction between these two similes," answered the Babi; "and since the phrase 'like a thief in the night' evidently signifies that when Christ returns it will be in a place where you do not expect Him, and at a time when you do not expect Him--that is, suddenly and secretly--it is clear that the comparison in the other passage which you quoted is to the suddenness and swiftness of the lightning, not to its universal vividness. If, as the Christians for the most-part expect, Christ should come riding upon the clouds surrounded by angels, how could He be said in any sense to come 'like a thief in the night'? Everyone would see him, and, seeing, would be compelled to believe. It has always been through such considerations as these that men have rejected the prophet whose advent they professed to be expecting, because He did not come in some unnatural and impossible manner which they had vainly imagined. Christ was indeed the promised Messiah, yet the Jews, who had waited, and prayed, and longed for the coming of the Messiah,


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rejected Him when He did come for just such reasons. Ask a Jew now why he does not believe in Christ, and he will tell you that the signs whereby the Messiah was to be known were not manifest at His coming. Yet, had he understood what was intended by those signs, instead of being led away by vain traditions, he would know that the promised Messiah had come and gone and come again. So with the Christians. On a mountain* close by Acre is a monastery peopled by Christian priests and monks, assembled there to await the arrival of Christ on that spot as foretold. And they continue to gaze upwards into heaven, whence they suppose that He will descend, while only a few miles off in Acre He has returned, and is dwelling amongst men as before. O be not blinded by those very misapprehensions which you condemn so strongly in the Jews! The Jews would not believe in Christ because He was not accompanied by a host of angels; you blame the Jews for their obstinacy and frowardness, and you do rightly. But beware lest you condemn yourselves by alleging the very same reason as an excuse for rejecting this 'manifestation.' Christ came to the Jews accompanied by angels--angels none the less because they were in the guise of fishermen. Christ returns to you as Beha with angels, with clouds, with the sound of trumpets. His angels are His messengers; the clouds are the doubts which prevent you from recognising Him; the sound of trumpets is the sound of the proclamation which you now hear, announcing that He has come once more from heaven, even as He came before, not as a human form descending visibly from the sky, but as the Spirit of God entering into a man, and abiding there."

     "Well," I replied, "your arguments are strong, and certainly deserve consideration. But, even supposing that you are right in principle, it does not follow that they hold good in this particular case. If I grant that the return of Christ may be in such wise as you indicate, nevertheless mere assertion will not


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prove that Beha is Christ. Indeed, we are told by Christ Himself that many will arise in His name, saying, 'See here,' or 'See there,' and are warned not to follow them."

     "Many have arisen falsely claiming to be Christ," he answered, "but the injunction laid on you to beware of these does not mean that you are to refuse to accept Christ when He does return. The very fact that there are pretenders is a proof that there is a reality. You demand proofs, and you are right to do so. What proofs would suffice for you?"

     "The chief proofs which occur to me at this moment," I replied, "are as follows:--You admit, so far as I understand, that in each 'manifestation' a promise has been given of a succeeding 'manifestation,' and that certain signs have always been laid down whereby that 'manifestation' may be recognised. It is therefore incumbent on you to show that the signs foretold by Christ as heralding His return have been accomplished in the coming of Beha. Furthermore, since each 'manifestation' must be fuller, completer, and more perfect than the last, you must prove that the doctrines taught by Beha are superior to the teaching of Christ--a thing which I confess seems to me almost impossible, for I cannot imagine a doctrine purer or more elevated than that of Christ. Lastly, quite apart from miracles in the ordinary sense, there is one sign which we regard as the especial characteristic of a prophet, to wit, that he should have knowledge of events which have not yet come to pass. No sign can be more appropriate or more convincing than this. For a prophet claims to be inspired by God, and to speak of the mysteries of the Unseen. If he has knowledge of the Unseen he may well be expected to have knowledge of the Future. That we may know that what he tells us about other matters beyond our ken is true, we must be convinced that he has knowledge surpassing ours in some matter which we can verify. This is afforded most readily by the foretelling of events which have not yet happened, and which we cannot foresee. These three signs


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appear to me both sufficient and requisite to establish such a claim as that which you advance for Beha."

     "As regards knowledge of the future," replied Haji Mirza Hasan, "I could tell you of many occasions on which Beha has given proof of such. Not only I myself, but almost all who have been at Acre, and stood in his presence, have received warnings of impending dangers, or information concerning forthcoming events. Some of these I will, if it please God, relate to you at some future time. As regards the superiority of Beha's doctrines to those of Christ, you can judge for yourself if you will read his words. As regards the news of this 'manifestation' given to you by Christ, is it not the case that He promised to return? Did He not declare that one should come to comfort His followers, and perfect what He had begun? Did He not signify that after the Son should come the Father?"

     "Do you mean," I demanded in astonishment, "that you regard Beha as the Father? What do you intend by this expression? You cannot surely mean that you consider Beha to be God Himself?"

     "What do you mean by the expression 'Son of God'?" returned the Babi.

     "Our learned men explain it in different ways," I answered; "but let us take the explanation which Christ Himself gave in answer to the same question--'As many as do the will of God are the sons of God.' Christ perfectly fulfilled the will of God; He had--as I understand it--reached the stage which your Sufis call 'annihilation in God' (fena fi'llah); He had become merged in God in thought, in will, in being, and could say truly, 'I am God.' Higher than this can no one pass; how then can you call Beha 'the Father,' since 'the Father' is Infinite, Invisible, Omnipresent, Omnipotent?"

     "Suppose that in this assembly," replied the other, "there were one wiser than all the rest, and containing in himself all, and more than all, the knowledge which the others possessed


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collectively. That one would be, in knowledge, the Father of all the others. So may Beha be called 'the Father' of Christ and of all preceding prophets."

     "Well," I answered, by no means satisfied with this explanation, "apart from this, which I will pass by for the present, it appears to me that you confuse and confound different things. The coming of the Comforter is not the same thing, as we understand it, as the return of Christ, yet both of these you declare to be fulfilled in the coming of Beha. And whereas you spoke of Beha a little while ago as Christ returned, you now call him 'the Father.' As regards the Comforter, we believe that he entered as the Holy Spirit into the hearts of the disciples soon after the Jews had put Christ to death. I know that the Muhammadans assert that the prophecies which we apply to this descent of the Holy Spirit were intended to refer to Muhammad; that for the word [Greek word] they would substitute [Greek word] which is in meaning nearly equivalent to Ahmad or Muhammad, signifying one 'praised,' or 'illustrious.' But if you, as I suppose, follow the Muhammadans in this, you cannot apply the same prophecy to Beha. If the promise concerning the advent of the Comforter was fulfilled in the coming of Muhammad, then it clearly cannot apply to the coming of Beha. And, indeed, I still fail to understand in what light you regard Islam, and must return once more to the question concerning its relation to Christianity and to your religion which I put some time ago, and which I do not think you answered clearly. If news of the succeeding 'manifestation' is given by every messenger of God, surely it is confined to the 'manifestation' immediately succeeding that wherein it is given, and does not extend to others which lie beyond it. Assuming that you are right in regarding Islam as the completion and fulfilment of Christianity, your religion must be regarded as the completion and fulfilment of Islam, and the prophecies concerning it must then be sought in the Kur'an and Traditions rather than in the Gospel. It is therefore


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incumbent on you, if you desire to convince me, first of all to prove that Muhammad was the promised Comforter, and that his religion was the fulfilment of Christianity; then to prove that the coming of the Bab was foretold and signified by Muhammad; and only after this has been done, to prove that Beha is he whom the Bab foretold. For it is possible to believe in Muhammad and not to believe in the Bab, or to believe in the Bab and not to believe in Beha, while the converse is impossible. If a Jew becomes a Muhammadan he must necessarily accept Christ; so if a Muhammadan becomes a believer in Beha he must necessarily believe in the Bab."

     "To explain the relations of Islam to Christianity on the one hand, and to this manifestation on the other, would require a longer time than we have at our disposal at present," replied the Babi apologist; "but, in brief, know that the signs laid down by each prophet as characteristic of the next manifestation apply also to all future manifestations. In the books of each prophet whose followers still exist are recorded signs sufficient to convince them of the truth of the manifestation of their own age. There is no necessity for them to follow the chain link by link. Each prophet is complete in himself, and his evidence is conclusive unto all men. God does not suffer His proof to be incomplete, or make it dependent on knowledge and erudition, for it has been seen in all manifestations that those who have believed were men whom the world accounted ignorant, while those who were held learned in religion were the most violent and bitter opponents and persecutors. Thus it was in the time of Christ, when fishermen believed in Him and became His disciples, while the Jewish doctors mocked Him, persecuted Him, and slew Him. Thus it was also in the time of Muhammad, when the mighty and learned among his people did most furiously revile and reproach him. And although in this manifestation --the last and the most complete--many learned men have believed, because the proofs were such as no fair-minded man could resist,


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still, as you know, the Muhammadan doctors have ever shown themselves our most irreconcilable enemies, and our most strenuous opposers and persecutors. But those who are pure in heart and free from prejudice will not fail to recognise the manifestation of God, whenever and wherever it appears, even as Mawlana Jalalu'd-Din Rumi says in the Masnavi--

     As it was growing late, and I desired to make use of the present occasion to learn further particulars about the literature of the Babis, I allowed the discussion to stand at this point, and proceeded to make enquiries about the books which they prized most highly. In reply to these enquiries they informed me that Mirza 'Ali Muhammad the Bab had composed in all about a hundred separate treatises of different sizes; that the name Beyan was applied generally to all of them; and that the book which I described as having been translated into French by Gobineau must be that specially designated as the Kitabu'l-Ahkam ("Book of Precepts"). Beha, they added, had composed about the same number of separate books and letters. I asked if all these works existed in Shiraz, to which they replied, "No, they are scattered about the country in the hands of believers--some at Yezd, some at Isfahan, some in other places. In Shiraz the total number of separate works is altogether about a dozen."

     "If that be so," I remarked, "I suppose that some few works of greater value than the others are to be found in every community of believers; and I should be glad to know which these are, so that I may endeavour to obtain them."

     "All that emanates from the Source (masdar) is equal in importance," they answered, "but some books are more systematic, more easily understood, and therefore more widely read than others. Of these the chief are:--(I) The Kitab-i-Akdas ('Most


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Holy Book'), which sums up all the commands and ordinances enjoined on us; (2) The Ikan ('Assurance'), which sets forth the proofs of our religion; (3) Dissertations on Science-- astronomy, metaphysics, and the like--which we call Suwar-i- 'Ilmiyye; (4) Prayers (Munajat) and Exhortations (Khutab). Besides these there is a history of the early events of this 'manifestation,' written by one who desired to keep his name secret."

     "Can you get me these?" I enquired, "especially the Kitab-i- Akdas and the History (for I already possess the Ikan)? And was the writer of the History one of yourselves?"

     "I will get a transcript of the Kitab-i-Akdas made for you if I can," replied Mirza 'Ali, "and meanwhile I will borrow a copy for you to read. I daresay some of us can lend you the History also. It is not altogether good. The author devotes too large a portion of his work to abuse of the Muhammadan doctors and reflections on the Persian Government, while, on the other hand, he omits many events of real importance. Besides that, I do not like his pretence of being a French traveller; for we all know, and indeed anyone who reads his book can see, that he was not a European. I do not know his name, but I expect Haji Mirza Hasan does."

     "I know- it," answered the person appealed to, "but it is a secret which I am not entitled to divulge, though, as the writer is dead now, it could make very little matter even were it generally known. I may tell you this much, that he was one of the secretaries of Manakji* Sahib at Teheran. When he began to write he was quite impartial, but as he went on he became convinced by his investigations of the truth of the matter, and this change in his opinions is manifest in the later portion of the


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work. The book was sent to the Supreme Horizon1 when it was finished, but was not altogether approved there, and I believe that another and more accurate history is to be written2. However, you will learn a good deal from this one."

     "Have you got any of the poems of Kurratu'l'Ayn?" I demanded; "I have heard that she wrote poems, and should like very much to see some of them, and obtain copies."

     "Yes," they answered, "she wrote poems, and some of them are still extant; but we have none of them here in Shiraz. You would most likely find them, if anywhere, at Kazvin, her native place, at Hamadan, which she visited after her conversion, or at Teheran, where she suffered martyrdom. In Khurasan and Mazandaran, also, they might be found, but here in the South it is difficult."

     It was now past sunset, and dusk was drawing on, so I was reluctantly compelled to depart homewards. On the whole, I was well satisfied with my first meeting with the Babis of Shiraz, and looked forward to many similar conferences during my stay in Persia. They had talked freely and without restraint, had received me with every kindness, and appeared desirous of affording me every facility for comprehending their doctrines; and although some of my enquiries had not met with answers as clear as I could have desired, I was agreeably impressed with the fairness, courtesy, and freedom from prejudice of my new acquaintances. Especially it struck me that their knowledge of Christ's teaching and the gospels was much greater than that commonly possessed by the Musulmans, and I observed with pleasure that they regarded the Christians with a friendliness very gratifying to behold.

     Concerning the books, they were as good as their word. I received on the following day manuscripts of the History and of


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the Kitab-i-Akdas, and was told that I might keep them as long as I liked, but that a fresh copy of the latter would be made for me by Haji Mirza Hasan, the scribe. Both books were finally, ere I left Persia, made over to me as a free gift, and are now in my possession.

     Four days after the conference described above, I received a note from Mirza 'Ali informing me that Haji Mirza Hasan had come to see him, and that I might join them if I wished. Of course I hastened thither at once, taking with me the Kitab-i-Akdas (which I had meanwhile read through) to ask the explanation of certain passages which I had been unable fully to understand. Most of these Haji Mirza Hasan explained to me, but the very complicated law of inheritance he could not altogether elucidate. In answer to my question whether polygamy was sanctioned by their religion, he replied that two wives are allowed, but believers are recommended to limit themselves to one. I then enquired whether it was true, as asserted by Gobineau, that circumcision had been abolished. He answered that it was ignored, being a thing altogether indifferent. Sundry other points wherein the ordinances of the new religion differed from those of Islam, such as the prohibition of shaving the head or wearing long locks (zulf) like the Persians, and the regulations for prayer, were then discussed.

     Two days later Mirza 'Ali again paid me a visit, and remained for about two hours. From him I learned sundry particulars about the Babis of which his European education had enabled him to appreciate the interest, but which would probably never have been mentioned to me by Haji Mirza Hasan or my other friends, who, as is so often the case in the East, could not understand a mere desire for information as such, and who therefore would speak of little else but the essential doctrines of their religion. Amongst other things he told me that, besides the new writing (known only to a few), many of the Babis had cornelian seals on which was cut a curious device. These seals were all


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engraved by a certain dervish belonging to the sect, who spent his life in travelling from town to town. The device in question, which I subsequently saw, is shaped thus:--

     As to its significance* Mirza 'Ali professed himself ignorant. I questioned him about the prophecies of Beha alluded to at the house of Mirza Muhammad, and he replied that I had better ask Haji Mirza Hasan, who had been much at Acre, and knew far more about them than he did. One of the best known instances, he added, was connected with the history of the martyrs of Isfahan. Soon after their death, Sheykh Bakir, who had been chiefly instrumental in bringing it about, received a terrible letter of denunciation from Acre, wherein it was announced that he would shortly die in disgrace and ignominy, which actually occurred a little while afterwards. "Sheykh Bakir's miserable end is a matter of notoriety in Persia," concluded my friend, "but I will try to get Haji Mirza Hasan or one of the others to show you the epistle in which it is foretold, and to relate to you all the details of the matter, for I quite understand the importance which you attach to prophecy in the sense in which you commonly understand it in Europe." About sunset Mirza 'Ali rose to depart, but before leaving invited me to spend the next day in a garden near Masjid-Bardi which belonged to him. "I shall ask Haji Mirza Hasan and some other friends," he added, "and we can discuss matters undisturbed and


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uninterrupted, for I shall take care not to have any prating inquisitive servants about; only my faithful black, and one or two others on whom I can rely." I gladly accepted the invitation and we parted.

     Early next morning I met my friend and Haji Mirza Hasan at the gate of the city. As soon as I perceived them I gave Haji Safar permission to withdraw, telling him that I should not need him again before evening. When he was gone, Mirza 'Ali informed me that the other guests would proceed independently to the garden, as it was perhaps inadvisable for all of us to be seen together. After a pleasant walk of about forty minutes (for I had entreated my friend to dispense with horses) we reachcd the garden, and betook ourselves to an upper chamber in a little summer-house standing in its midst. Though the day was cloudy, no rain fell till 10.30 a.m., by which time all the other guests had arrived. These were three in number, all men past middle age, grave and venerable in appearance. Two of them, both Seyyids, and both of the number of the Afnan1, I had met already. The third wore a white turban, and brought with him, concealed beneath his cloak, two books.

     After the usual interchange of greetings, Mirza 'Ali suggested to the possessor of the books that he should read a portion aloud; and the Epistle addressed to Napoleon III, exhorting him to believe and warning him of his approaching humiliation, was accordingly chosen as containing one of the most remarkable prophecies of Beha. The prophecy in question I have published elsewhere2 in an account given to the Royal Asiatic Society of the Literature and Doctrines of the Babis, but two verses of it may be repeated here. They run as follows:--

     "Because of what thou hast done, affairs shall be changed in thy kingdom, and empire shall depart from thine hands, as a punishment for thine action....

     "Thy glory hath made thee proud. By my life! It shall not endure, but shall pass away, unless thou takest hold of this firm rope. We have seen humiliation hastening after thee, while thou art of those that sleep."


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     When the reader ceased, I asked for permission to examine the books, which was readily accorded. The one from which the Epistle to Napoleon had been read, contained, besides this, the whole of the Kitab-i-Akdas, and the other Epistles addressed to the rulers of the principal countries in Europe and Asia. These comprised letters to the Queen of England, the Emperor of Russia, the Shah of Persia, and the Pope of Rome, as well as one addressed to a Turkish minister who had oppressed the Babis. I asked when these were written, but no one present seemed to know the exact date, though they thought that it was about twenty years before, when Beha was in Adrianople. Besides these "Epistles to the Kings" (Alwa-i-Salatin) were one or two other letters addressed to believers, amongst which was one written to the Babi missionary whom I had met at Isfahan while he was in exile at Khartoum with Haji Mirza Hasan. These epistles were, as I learned, known collectively as the Sura-i-Heykal*.

     The other book was a larger volume, containing many suras without name or title, some of considerable length, some quite short. This collection was termed by my companions "The Perspicuous Book" (Kitab-i-Mubin). While I was engaged in examining it breakfast was announced, and we repaired to an adjoining room, where a sumptuous repast of savoury pilaws and chilaws, prawns, melons, and other delicacies was laid out. I wished to take my place on the floor with the other guests, but this Mirza 'Ali would not permit, saying that he knew I should be more comfortable if I would sit at the table which he had provided expressly for me.

     After the meal one or two of the guests lay down to sleep for a while, and in the narrower circle conversation seemed to flow more freely. I succeeded at length in inducing my Babi


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friends to give me some further account of the Bab, and of the history of their faith. The sum of what they told me was as follows:--

     Each of the prophets is the "manifestation" of one of the Names (or Attributes) of God. The name manifested in the Bab was the highest of all--Wahid, the One. Hence it is that 19 is amongst the Babis the sacred number according to which all things are arranged--the months of the year, the days of the month, the chapters in the Beyan, the fines imposed for certain offences, and many other things. For 19 is the numerical value of the word Wahid according to the abjad notation, in which each letter has a numerical equivalent, and each word a corresponding number, formed by the addition of its component letters. This sacred number was manifested even at the first appearance of the Bab, for eighteen of his fellow-students at once believed in him. These eighteen are called "the Letters of the Living" (Hurufat-i- Hayy), because they were the creative agents employed by the Bab for bestowing new life upon the world, and because the numerical value of the word Hayy is 18. All of them were inspired and pervaded by the Bab, the One (Wahid), and with him constitute the manifested Unity (Wahid) of 19. Thus the visible church on earth was a type of the one God, one in Essence, but revealed through the Names, whereby the Essence can alone be comprehended. But this is not all. Each of the nineteen members of the "Unity" gained nineteen converts, so that the primitive church comprised 361 persons in all. This is called "The Number of All Things" ('alad-i- kulli shey), for 361 is the square of 19 and the further expansion thereof, and it is also the numerical equivalent of the words kulli shey, which mean "All Things." This is why the Babi year, like the Beyan, is arranged according to this number in nineteen months of nineteen days each. But the Babi year is a solar year containing 366 days. These five additional days are added at the beginning of the last month, which is the month of fasting, and


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are commanded to be spent in entertaining one's friends and the poor, as it is written in the Kitab-i-Akdas--

     "Place the days which are in excess over the months before the month of fasting. Verily we have made them the manifestations of the [letter] HA [=5] amongst the nights and days. Therefore are they not comprised within the limits of the months. It is incombent on such as are in Beha to feed therein themselves, and their relatives; then the poor and distressed.... And when the days of giving [which are] before the days of withholding are finished, let them enter upon the fast."

     Immediately after the month of fasting comes the great festival of the Nawruz, which inaugurates a new year. That the old national festival, which marks the period when the sun again resumes his sway after the dark cold winter is past and the earth again clothes herself with verdure, should be thus consecrated again by the Babis is one sign amongst many of the Persian genius by which the new faith was inspired.

     Sheykh Ahmad Ahsa'i, who taught at Kerbela about the beginning of the nineteenth century, first began to hint darkly that the days wherein the promised Imam should appear were at hand. When he died (A.D. 1826) his pupil, Haji Seyyid Kazim of Resht, succeeded him, and spoke more clearly on the same theme, especially towards the end of his life. Amongst the number of those who attended his lectures were Mirza 'Ali Muhammad the Bab, and Haji Muhammad Karim Khan of Kirman. Now when the former arose and declared himself to be the promised Imam, foretold by the lately deceased teacher, the latter strenuously opposed him, and claimed the supremacy for himself. And some followed Karim Khan, whilst others (and these were the majority) recognised the claim of Mirza 'Ali Muhammad the Bab. These latter were henceforth called Babis, while the former retained the title of Sheykhis, thereby implying that they were the true exponents of the doctrine of Sheykh Ahmad, and that the Babis had departed therefrom; for before that time all alike who accepted the Sheykh's teaching were called by this name. Thus it is that, although the Bab and the majority of his disciples had previously to the "manifestation"


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been called Sheykhis, the Sheykhis of to-day (i.e. the followers of Karim Khan of Kirman) are the bitterest and fiercest enemies of the Babis.

     Beha, whose proper name is Mirza Huseyn 'Ali, of Nur, in Mazandaran, was one of those who believed in the Bab. He was arrested at Amul on his way to join the Babis, who, under the leadership of Mulla Huseyn of Bushraweyh, were entrenched at Sheykh Tabarsi. In 1852 he narrowly escaped death in the great persecution wherein the intrepid Suleyman Khan, the brilliant and beautiful Kurratu'l-'Ayn, and a host of others, suffered martyrdom. It was proved, however, that he had but just arrived at Teheran, and could not have had any share in the plot against the Shah wherein the others were accused of being involved, so his life was spared, and, after an imprisonment of about four months, he was allowed to leave Persia and take up his residence at Baghdad. Mirza Yahya, "Subh-i-Ezel" ("the Morning of Eternity"), Beha's half-brother (then only about twenty-two years of age), was at that time recognised as the Bab's successor, having been designated as such by the Bab himself, shortly before he suffered martyrdom at Tabriz. His supremacy was recognised, at least nominally, by all the Babis during the eleven years' sojourn of their chiefs at Baghdad, but even then Beha took the most prominent part in the organisation of affairs, the carrying on of correspondence, and the interviewing of visitors. In 1863 the Ottoman Government, acceding to the urgent requests of the Persian authorities, removed all the Babis, including Beha and Mirza Yahya, "Subh-i-Ezel," from Baghdad to Constantinople, and thence to Adrianople, where they arrived about the end of the year. Here at length Beha cast aside the veil, proclaimed himself as "He whom God shall manifest," whose coming the Bab had foretold, and called on all the Babis, including Mirza Yahya, "Subh-i-Ezel," to acknowledge his claim and submit to his authority. Many of the Babis did so at once, and their number increased as time went on, so that now the


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great majority of them are followers of Beha, though a few still adhere to Mirza Yahya, and these are called Ezelis. But at first the disproportion between the Beha'is and the Ezelis was but slight, and the rivalry between them was great, resulting, indeed, in some bloodshed. So the Turkish Government decided to separate them, and accordingly sent Beha and his followers to Acre in Syria, and Mirza Yahya and his family to Famagusta in Cyprus. Now the reason why Beha was sent to Acre was, as his followers assert, that its climate is exceedingly unhealthy, and that it was hoped that he might die there. For the Persian ambassador, the French minister, and 'Ali Pasha, the Turk, had consulted together as to the means whereby the new faith might be crushed. The Persian suggested that Beha should be killed, but the Turk refused to do this openly, saying that it would be a much better plan to send him and his followers to a place where they would soon die. But Beha divined their wicked intention, and rebuked it in the "Epistles to the Kings," declaring that 'Ali Pasha should die in exile, and the power of France fail before the foe, while he remained unharmed in the place whither they had sent him. And these things were fulfilled; for two years later France began to recoil before the German arms, while 'Ali Pasha died far from his native land. But Beha continued to live and prosper, and even dreary Acre smiled with fresh gardens and seemed to gain a purer air*.

     And now, the afternoon being far advanced, it was time to retrace our steps to the city. The rain had ceased and the evening was soft and balmy, but the roads were terribly muddy. In spite of this we had a pleasant walk back to the town, where we arrived a little before dusk, after a most delightful day.

     On the morrow, as I was sitting in my room after breakfast


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wondering what to do, a note came from Mirza 'Ali asking me to be ready at 3 p.m. to accompany him to the house of one of the Afnan (i.e. a member of the Bab's family), and meanwhile to prepare any questions which I might desire to ask, as I should meet there one of the most learned Babis in Shiraz, whose manifold and undisputed talents had caused his co-religionists to bestow on him the title of Kamil* ("Perfect"). Joyfully signifying my acceptance of the invitation, I sat down to glance hastily through the Kitab-i-Akdas and make notes of such passages as presented any difficulty. At the appointed time Mirza 'Ali's black servant came to conduct me to the place of meeting, where, besides some of those whom I had met in the garden on the previous day, the illustrious Kamil himself was present. After the customary greetings were over, I was invited to lay my difficulties before him, an invitation with which I hastened to comply.

     My first question related to the laws of inheritance and the partition of property, but here I was not more fortunate than on a previous occasion, even Kamil being compelled to admit that he could not altogether comprehend them. I therefore passed on to the passage in the Kitab-i-Akdas wherein the "Pilgrimage to the House" (Hajju'l-Beyt) is enjoined on all male believers who are able to perform it, and enquired what was meant by "the House" in question. To this Kamil replied that the house in Shiraz wherein the Bab formerly dwelt was intended. I asked eagerly if I might not be permitted to visit it while in Shiraz, whereat they looked doubtfully at one another, and said that they would try to manage it, but that it was difficult --firstly, because the present inmates of the house were all women; secondly, because the house was well-known to the Musulmans, who would not fail to remark so unusual an event as the visit of a Firangi to a Babi shrine.


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My third question related to the following verse:--

     "It is not meet for any one to demand pardon before another; repent unto God in presence of yourselves; verily He is Forgiving, Bounteous, Mighty, (and) Swift to repent."

     "What does this prohibition refer to?" I demanded of Kamil.

     "To the power which your priests claim of absolving men of sin," he replied.

     "But surely," I urged, "since this claim is in the first place confined to Christendom, and in the second place is limited to the priests of one sect amongst the Christians, it seems hardly necessary to prohibit it here."

     "It is not confined to Christians," he replied, "for the mullas here claim very similar powers, though perhaps they formulate them in a less definite manner. When a man has embezzled or extorted money, and his conscience pricks him, he goes before one of our clergy and states the case to him, whereupon the latter takes a small sum from him in the name of religion, and declares the remainder purified thereby. All such tricks of priests and mullas are forbidden in this verse."

     The fourth question which I put forward provoked a more fruitful discussion. It related to the verse wherein the Sufis and others who lay claim to inward knowledge are condemned in the following terms:--

     "And there are amongst them such as lay claim to the inner and the inmost (mystery). Say, 'O liar! By God, what thou hast is but husks which we have abandoned to you as bones are abandoned to the dogs.'"

     "Surely," I demanded, "not only is the doctrine of the Sufis in many ways near akin to your own, but it is also purer and more spiritual by far than the theology of the mullas. Do you condemn Mansur-i-Hallaj for saying, 'I am the Truth' (Ana'l- Hakk), when Beha makes use of the same expression? Do you regard Jalalu'd-Din Rumi as a liar when you continually make use of the Masnavi to illustrate your ideas?"

     "No," answered Kamil, "assuredly Mansur and Jalalu'd-Din


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spoke with a true inspiration. This verse in no wise applies to them, nor to any of the Sufis of past days; these were illumined with a true light in such wise that many of them clearly hinted at this 'manifestation,' as, for example, Hafiz does, where he says-- For it was in the fortress of Maku, by the Araxes, that His Highness the Point of Revelation (i.e. the Bab) spent the last three years of his life. Those intended by the verse in question are such as would oppose a pretended inward illumination to the full light of the present 'manifestation.'"

     "So far as I understand you, then," I replied, "you admit the Sufi doctrine, that a man may, by self-renunciation and intense abstraction, attain to the degree of 'Annihilation in God,' and that in this condition he may truly say, 'I am God,' inasmuch as he has forgone self, escaped from the illusions of plurality, and realised the unity of True Being. If this be so, I do not clearly understand in what way you regard the prophet as his superior, for surely no degree can be higher than this. As your proverb says, 'There is no colour beyond black' (bala-tar az siyah rangi nist). Still less do I see how you can speak of one prophet as superior to another, unless you place all but the highest in a lower rank than the Sufi who has attained to absorption into the Divine Essence."

     "When we speak of one prophet as superior to another," answered Kamil, "we speak in a manner purely relative, for the Universal Spirit (Ruh-i-Kulli) speaks through all of them alike. But inasmuch as they speak in divers manners, according to the capacity of their hearers, and according to the requirements of time and place, to us they appear in different degrees of perfection. The sun, for example, is the same to-day as it was


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yesterday, yet we say, 'To-day it is hotter than it was yesterday,' because we enjoy a fuller measure of its heat. But we do not by this expression mean to imply that there is any alteration in the sun itself. In the World of Ideas, regard the Universal Spirit as the sun which rises in each 'manifestation' from a different horizon. Or regard it as the Instructor of mankind, speaking always to those whom it addresses in a manner suitable to their comprehension, just as a teacher instructs children in the alphabet, boys in grammar, youths of riper age in logic, rhetoric, and other sciences, and full-grown men in philosophy. The teacher is always one and the same, but he manifests himself more or less perfectly according to the aptitude of those whom he addresses. So it is with the Universal Spirit, which speaks through all the prophets: only its outward vestment changes, and the phraseology of which it makes use; its essence and the message which it utters are ever the same. And since this Universal Spirit is Absolute Good, we must believe that it always has a manifestation in the world; for it is better that a tree should continually bear fruit than that it should only bear fruit at long intervals, and we are bound to attribute all that is best to the Spirit. Hence it follows that during the long intervals which separate one prophetic dispensation from the next, there must be in the world silent manifestations of the Spirit intrinsically not less perfect than the speaking manifestations whom we call prophets. The only difference is that a 'claim' (iddi'a) is advanced in the one case and not in the other. And it is only to this claim that the verse about which you enquire refers, as likewise does the verse, 'Whosoever claimeth a dispensation before the completion of a full thousand years is indeed a lying impostor.'"

     I now put to Kamil the following question, which I had already propounded in my first meetiing with the Babis of Shiraz:--"If the references to Christ's coming which occur in the Gospel refer to this manifestation, then they cannot be applied, as they are by the Muslims, to Muhammad; in which case


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Muhammad's coming was not foretold by Christ, and Islam loses a proof which, as I understand, you regard as essential to every dispensation, viz. that it shall have been foreshadowed by the bearer of the last dispensation." To this he replied that in each dispensation announcement was made of future manifestations in general, and that what Christ said concerning His return applied equally to the advent of Muhammad, and of the Bab, and of Beha. Muhammad's title, Khatamu'l-Anbiya ("Seal of the Prophets"), did not, he explained, signify, as the Muhammadans generally suppose, "the last of the Prophets," as is proved by a passage occurring in one of the prayers used by pilgrims to Kerbela and Nejef, wherein Muhammad is called "the Seal of the prophets who have gone before, and the Key of those who are to come."

     "Do you," I asked, "regard Zoroaster as a true prophet?"

     "Assuredly," he replied, "inasmuch as every religion which has become current in the world, and has endured the test of time, must have contained at least some measure of truth, however much it may have been subsequently corrupted. Only a Divine Word can strongly affect and continuously control men's hearts: spurious coin will not pass, and the uninterrupted currency of a coin is the proof of its genuineness. The architect is proved to be an architect by his ability to construct a house; the physician is shown to be a physician by healing sickness; and the prophet vindicates his claim to the prophetic office by establishing a religion. These two things are his sufficient proof, and these only: that he has wisdom immediate and God-given, not acquired from men; and that his word so penetrates and controls men that for its sake they are willing to give up all that they most prize, and even to lay down their lives."

     So completely was Kamil dominated by this conception of the nature of the proof required to establish a claim to prophethood, that I could not make him see the iniportance of any other evidence. "Had the Bab," I enquired, "explicitly or by


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implication signified the attributes, qualities, or personal peculiarities of his successor?" "No," he answered, "he merely spoke of him as 'Man yudh-hiruhu'llah ('He whom God shall manifest'), without further describing him." "Could not dates of publication be proved for some of the prophecies wherein, as I had heard, Beha had foretold the downfall of Napoleon the Third, the assassination of the late Emperor of Russia, and other events of general notoriety?" Kamil thought that very possibly they could, but he evidently attached no importance to the question, and did not consider that the power of foretelling future events was any proof of a divine mission. As to the right of a prophet to inflict death, openly or secretly, on those who stubbornly opposed him, he took exactly the same view as the young Babi Seyyid whom I had previously questioned on this matter. A prophet was no more to be blamed for removing an obdurate opponent than a surgeon for amputating a gangrenous limb.

     Before I left I was shown several books and epistles which I had not previously seen. Amongst the latter was one addressed to a Christian, and another containing consolations addressed to one of Mirza 'Ali's uncles on the occasion of his father's death and his own bankruptcy, on account of which (for he had failed to the extent of 60,000 tumans) he was then in sanctuary at the Masjid-i-Naw. I was also shown a specimen of the Khatt-i- tanzili, or "revelation-writing"; i.e. the almost illegible draft of Beha's utterances made by his amanuensis, Aka Mirza Aka Jan, called Khadimu'llah ("the Servant of God"), who, as I was informed, wrote with such speed that he could take down 1500 verses in an hour, this being, as it appears, the maximum of rapidity attained by Beha's revelations. Very few, however, save the amanuensis himself, could read this "revelation-writing."

     A seal, on which was inscribed the name Huseyn, both in the Arabic character and in the Khatt-i-badi', or new writing invented by the Babis, was also shown to me by one of those present. This


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new writing bears some superficial resemblance to the Armenian character. Each letter consists of a thick oblique stroke descending from right to left, to which are appended various fine curves and flourishes, all the thick lines being parallel and equidistant. I finally left at about eight o'clock, one of my Babi friends remarking on the quick flight of the time, which, he added, was due, in their belief, to the fact that in spiritual converse such as we had held the soul soars above the limitations of Time and Space, and ceases to take cognisance of them.

     A few days after this I again called on my friend Mirza 'Ali. Shortly after my arrival, Haji Mirza Hasan joined us, and for nearly three hours we talked without intermission about the Babi religion, save for a short time, when we were interrupted by an "ass's head1." The conversation ran, for the most part, on announcements of coming events by Beha, of which Haji Mirza Hasan related the following instances from his own personal experience:--

     "You have heard of the 'Martyrs of Isfahan,'"2 said he. "Well, shortly before their death I was at Acre with Haji Mirza Hasan 'Ali, whom you met at Isfahan, and Aka Seyyid Hadi. A day or two before the time fixed for our return to Persia we were with Beha, in a garden whither he sometimes repairs. He was seated, and we, according to our custom, were standing before him. Presently he bade us sit down, and ordered an attendant to give us tea. While we were drinking it he said, 'A great event will shortly take place in Persia.' In the evening Aka Seyyid Hadi privately enquired of him where this event would happen, and was informed that it would be in the 'Land of Sad'(Isfahan). Seyyid Hadi wrote to some of his friends in Persia, and in his letter mentioned this prophecy. When we reached Persia, Haji Mirza Hasan 'Ali remained at Teheran, while I continued my journey towards Isfahan. At Kashan I was met by the news of the martyrs' arrest. As they were very rich I


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confidently anticipated that they would be able to regain their liberty by means of a heavy bribe to the authorities; neither did I connect this news with Beha's prophecy, for I rather understood that as pointing to some general catastrophe, such as a plague, famine, or earthquake. Four or five days later, however, came the news of their martyrdom, and I, instead of proceeding to Isfahan, turned back to Teheran, knowing now that this was the event foreshadowed by Beha1. At the execution the Ima'm- Jum'a, seeing the headsman waver, had put his hand to his throat, and said, 'If there be any sin in this, let it be upon my neck!' Shortly afterwards he fell into disgrace, and retired to Mashhad, where he was attacked with abscesses in the throat (khanazir), of which he died. About a month after the death of the martyrs, Sheykh Bakir received a letter from Acre containing the most terrible denunciations and prophecies of misfortune2. He subsequently went to Kerbela. On returning thence to Isfahan he discovered that both his wife and his daughter (who was extremely beautiful) had been seduced by the prince- governor. His complaints and demands for redress resulted only in the production of a letter from his wife to her paramour, proving that she had made the first advances. Other troubles and misfortunes succeeded this, and Sheykh Bakir presently died, as Beha had foretold, without having been able to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. - -

     "This is one instance of Beha's prescience, about which you enquired. I will give you another, in which I myself was more closely concerned; but indeed such experiences are common to most of us who have been privileged to hold intercourse with our Master. I and Haji Mirza Hasan 'Ali, whom you saw at Isfahan, had been to visit Beha at Adrianople before he was


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transferred to Acre. We received instructions to proceed thence to Egypt to encourage the Babis resident there, and to avert a threatened schism. On the steamer in which we took our passage was a merchant of Tabriz, named Haji Muhammad Ja'far, who was also a believer. Just before we started we were ordered to avoid all conversation with him during the voyage. Although we were completely at a loss to understand the object of this prohibition, we obeyed it implicitly. In due course we safely reached Egypt, and there set ourselves diligently to confirm and encourage the believers, to check the schism which seemed impending, and to spread the faith amongst our compatriots in Egypt, so far as occasion served. The Persian Consul, unable to prevent our compatriots from visiting us, sent word to us that he was desirous of hearing about our religion, as he had been long absent from Persia, and had been unable to satisfy himself as to the truth of the matter. We, suspecting no evil (for we thought that in Egypt we ran no risk of arrest or imprisonment), accepted his invitation, and, on an evening which he appointed, visited him at the consulate. We sat talking with him till five or six hours after sunset, speaking freely and unreservedly about religious questions. When, however, we rose to take our leave, we were seized by the consul's servants and detained in his house, while messengers were sent to search our lodgings and seize our books and papers. Next day the consul accused us to Isma'il Pasha of heresy and sedition, representing us as confessedly belonging to a mischievous and dangerous sect, imbued with revolutionary ideas, which was hostile to all authority, and had already attempted the life of the Shah of Persia. Of our heresy, he added, the five or six books found in our lodgings books which we regarded as abrogating the Kur'an) would afford ample evidence. The case was laid before the Council of Enquiry (Majlis-i-istintak). We were declared infidels and apostates, and, without a hearing, condemned to transportation for life to Khartoum in the Soudan. Thither we were sent, together


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with six or seven of our brethren. Haji Muhammad Ja'far of Tabriz, our fellow-traveller from Adrianople, was amongst the accused, but he was acquitted, as it was proved that we had not spoken to him on board the ship, and this was taken as presumptive evidence that he had no acquaintance with us. Then we understood why Beha had forbidden us to speak with him on the voyage, for had we done so he would have been involved in our misfortune."

     "How long were you imprisoned at Khartoum?" I enquired; "and how did you effect your escape?"

     "We remained there for seven years," replied Haji Mirza Hasan, "and for some time we were unable to communicate with our Master, or even to ascertain whither he had been removed (for vague rumours of his removal from Adrianople reached us). At length we foregathered with some Christian missionaries, whose goodwill we won by manifesting an interest in their doctrines. By means of these we were able to send a letter to Beha, informing him of our condition. On receiving our letter, Beha at once indited an answer, consoling us in our misfortune and announcing that our oppressor, Isma'il Pasha, would shortly fall from power, and that we should in a little while again stand in the presence of our Master. This letter was entrusted to an Arab called Jasim*, who started at once for Khartoum, where he arrived six months later. When we received it there seemed to be no likelihood that the promises of deliverance which it contained would be fulfilled; but we were at least no longer wholly cut off from our friends, for the Arab not only took back with him our answer, but made arrangements


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with believers at Suez to forward our letters in the future. Soon after this your English general came to Khartoum; I forget his name, but you will probably remember it."

     "General Gordon," I answered.

     "Yes," rejoined Haji Mirza Hasan, "that was it. Well, soon after his arrival he enquired about the prisoners whom he found in Khartoum, and especially about us and the other Persians. As he could find no crime recorded against us, he interrogated us as to the reason of our confinement. We told him that we were innocent of any crime, and that we had been condemned unheard, without a chance of defending ourselves. Our statement was confirmed by the prison officials, and General Gordon accordingly telegraphed to Isma'il Pasha demanding the reason of our detention. The replies which he received were vague and unsatisfactory, and he accordingly released us, telling us that we were free to stay or go as we pleased. Haji Mirza Hasan 'Ali and myself at once availed ourselves of this permission, and set out for Acre, but our companions, having wives and families at Khartoum, chose to remain there. Soon after this, as you know, Isma'il Pasha was deposed, and the prophecy contained in the epistle was fulfilled.

     "You see that in all these cases when the prophecy was uttered there seemed to be no likelihood of its fulfilment; indeed, when we received instructions to act in a certain way, we seldom understood the reason till afterwards. For instance, on one occasion Haji Mirza Hasan 'Ali and myself were about to return to Persia from Acre by way of Diyar Bekr, Mosul, and Rawandiz. We were to take with us certain books destined for a believer at Tabriz; but, though we intended to proceed thither ourselves, we were instructed to convey them no farther beyond the Persian frontier than we could help, but to hand them over to some trustworthy person as soon as possible after entering Persia. Accordingly, when, on reaching Souch Bulak, we heard that a certain believing merchant was staying in the caravansaray,


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we sent a message to him, informing him that we wished to see him at once on a matter of importance. He understood the nature of our business and what was toward, and, though with no small trepidation, came out to us at once. We walked away from the town, he following us, till we came to a streamlet, where we sat down and signed to him to do likewise. We explained to him our object in seeking him, and handed over to him the books, which he took with some reluctance, promising to convey them to Tabriz on the first opportunity. Next day we started for Tabriz, but we had not gone one parasang when we were attacked by Kurdish robbers and stripped of everything save our shirts and drawers. Had the books been with us, they too would have been lost. As it was, we had to return in this plight to Souch Bulak. We laid a complaint before the Governor of Tabriz, Huseyn Khan, son of the Sahib-Divan, and he promised us a hundred tumans1 as compensation, but this we never received."

     "These are certainly very strange experiences," I said; "but of course the evidential value of prophecies referring to events of public notoriety, and existing in written form before those events came to pass, would be greater."

     "Well, is there not the epistle to 'Ali Pasha,'2 answered Haji Mirza Hasan, "in which his death in a foreign land, as well as the assassination of the Turkish ministers whom Cherkez Hasan slew, is clearly foreshadowed? And is there not also the epistle to Sheykh Bakir, by whom the martyrs of Isfahan were done to death, of which you have already heard? These epistles are well known, and the events to which they refer are notorious. But let me tell you how Haji Muhammad Ja'far, who escaped exile to Khartoum, showed his devotion to Beha. When it was


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decided by the Turkish Government to remove our Master and his family and relatives, as well as Mirza Yahya1, from Adrianople, they at first determined to dismiss his followers with their passports and a sum of money for their journey to Persia. Haji Muhammad Ja'far refused to agree to this, declaring that he would not be separated from his master. He was told that he must obey the Sultan's orders. Thereupon he drew his knife, and, before they could prevent him, inflicted a severe wound on his throat; neither would he allow the surgeon who was immediately summoned to sew it up until he had received an assurance that he should be allowed to accompany Beha to Acre. The Turkish authorities were therefore obliged to telegraph to Constantinople that Beha's followers could not be separated from him, as they would rather kill themselves than leave him. However, the Turks tried to send some of them with Mirza Yahya to Cyprus; but these, on discovering whither their ship was bound, cast themselves into the sea to swim to the ship in which Beha was a passenger. They were finally allowed to accompany him to Acre, and only Mirza Yahya and his family2 were conveyed to Cyprus, where they still remain."

     "Why," I asked, "do you speak of Mirza Yahya as though he were of no account? In the books about your religion which I read in Europe he is described as the Bab's chosen successor, and, after him, as the chief of your sect?"

     "Yes," replied Haji Mirza Hasan, "it is true that he was one of the early believers, and that at first he was accounted the successor and vicegerent of the Bab. But he was repeatedly


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warned not to withhold his allegiance from 'Him whom God shall manifest,' and threatened that if he did so he would fall from the faith, and become as one rejected. In spite of these clear warnings of his Master, he refused to acknowledge the new manifestation when it came; wherefore he is now regarded by us as of no account."

     "Has he any followers in Cyprus?" I asked.

     "Hardly any," answered Haji Mirza Hasan; "he writes absurd and meaningless letters to his partisans and to such as he hopes to persuade; but he is afraid to come to Persia (though the Turks have given him permission to do so*), fearing lest we should kill him."

     "And would you kill him?" I enquired.

     "I ask pardon of God! We are not authorised to kill anyone," replied the Babi missionary.

     Next day I again met Haji Mirza Hasan at the house of my friend Mirza 'Ali. He had with him a commentary on the Kitab-i- Akdas, with the aid of which we attempted, with but partial success, to unravel the complicated law of inheritance laid down by Beha. I was able, however, to learn from it something more about the arrangement of the Babi year. This consists of nineteen months of nineteen days each, the same names serving alike for the months of the year and the days of the month. These names are as follows:--(1) Beha, (2) Jalal, (3) Jemal, (4) 'Azimat, (5) Nur, (6) Rahmat, (7) Kalimat, (8) Kamal, (9) Asma, (10) 'Izzat, (11) Mashiyyat, (12) 'Ilm, (13) Kudrat, (14) Kawl, (15) Masa'il, (16) Sharaf, (17) Sultan, (18) Mulk, (19) 'Ula. According to this arrangement, the week is completely abolished; the third day of the eighth month, for example, is called Yawmu'l-Jemal min shahri'l-Kamal, "the day of Beauty (Jemal) in the month of Perfection (Kamal)." But, pending the retention of the week,


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new names have been given to the days composing it. as follows:--

     Sunday, Yawmu'l-Jemal.  Wednesday, Yawmu'l-'Idal.
     Monday,    "    Kamal.  Thursday,      "    Istijlal.
     Tuesday,   "    Fizal.  Friday,        "    Istiklal.
                   Saturday, Yawmu'l-Jalal[1].

      I learned a few more new facts about the Babis on this occasion. The relations of the Bab (of whom I saw several at ShIraz) are called "Afnan," and the sons of Beha "Aghsan," both of these words meaning "branches." Beha's eldest son, 'Abbas Efendi,[2] is called Ghusn-i-Akbar ("the Most Great Branch"), and also Akayi Sirru'llah (the Master, God's Mystery"), while another of his sons, named Mirza


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Muhammad 'Ali's entitled Ghusn-i-A'zam ("the Most Mighty Branch")[3]. I was also shown the epistle from Beha to Sheykh Bakir of which I had heard so much, and copied from it the passage which, as the Babis declared, foreshadowed the recent disgrace of the Zillu's-Sultan. The translation of this passage is as follows:--" Verily we heard that the provinces of Persia were adorned with the ornament of justice; but when we made enquiry we found them well-springs of injustice and sources of violence. Verily we see justice under the claws of oppression: We ask God to free it by an exercise of power and an act of authority on His part. Verily He is a Protector over whomsoever is in the earth and in the heavens."

     One of the older Babis whom I had previously met was present for a while; and I urgently repeated a request, which I had already made, that I might be taken to see the house (called "Beyt"--"the House" par excellence) formerly inilabited by the Bab. There had been some difficulty about this--firstly, because its inmates at that time were without exception women; and secondly, because it was feared that my visiting it would excite the suspicion of the Muhammadans, to whom also the honse was well known; but these difficulties appeared to have been surmounted, and I received a promise that on the next day but one my wish should be gratified. It was therefore in the highest spirits that I took leave of my Babi friends and turned homewards; but alas for my hopes, destined to disappointment; for, had I known it, there was already awaiting me there that which was to cut short my pleasant days in Shiraz, and debar me from the accomplishment of the visitation" which I so ardently desired to perform.









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