H-BahaiTranslations of Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Texts, vol. 4, no. 5 (June 2000)



 

  

  If Walls Could Speak ...

  Introduction to the Account of Sayyid Ibrahim Concerning Nayriz


                                                        By: Ahang Rabbani

 

            In the ancient times, man recorded his daily observations and history of important events through drawings on the cave walls. In the modern times, one would not expect important history to be written merely on walls, but as it turns out, an eyewitness account of the Babis of Nayris is just that: A history on the wall.

During 1850-53, the Babis of Nayriz were engulfed in defending their community against a most brutal and murderous campaign in the course of which many thousands on both sides perished. At the conclusion of those events, a citizen of that city inscribed the details of the occurrences on the inner wall of a popular mosque, the Masjid-i Jami` Saghir[1] (The Smaller Friday Mosque). In the colophon of this important historical document, the author introduces himself as Ibrahim, son of Áqá Siyyid Husayn Nayrízi, and the present translator knows no other biographical information about him.

M.A. Faizi reports that Shu`lih[2] in the introduction of his collection of poetry, known as Khusraw va Shirin, has written, “... Eventually the government provided support to the local forces and in the same way that is written on the wall of the Masjid-i Jami` Saghir by the hand of the late Siyyid Taqi Khushnivis Nayrízi, and is reflected with some minor differences and errors in the Nasikhu’t-Tavvarikh, Siyyid Yahyá was slain...”[3]

This particular mosque was located in the Bazar quarter of Nayríz and all along had been in the hand of the Muslims waging battles with the Bábís. Therefore, the fact that such a history was recorded and preserved on its wall indicates the deep impressions that this event had made on the consciousness of the people of Nayríz. Although written in a seemingly neutral language, and in a few parts even outwardly critical of Vahid and his followers, it does not fail to convey the depth of admiration and respect for the Bábís that had been evoked in the heart of the writer. Clearly the author, who resided in the quarter whose inhabitants had been extremely hostile to the Bábís and himself an observer, or perhaps a participant in the battles, had developed such admiration towards the besieged that he took the not inconsiderable risk of penning this sympathetic narrative in a public place. In this regard, about the author of this historic account, H.M. Balyuzi has noted, “Although he had to write with circumspection to avoid being denounced, he composed his narrative in such a way that one can, without difficulty, read more of it between the lines. His account bears out the fact that Vahíd was given solemn assurances, that he was received with great esteem and reverence, that those who had pledged their word broke their pledges, that the quarter of Chinar-Sukhtih, which was then a stronghold of the Bábís of Nayríz, and the quarter of Bazar were sacked, that houses were demolished, huge sums of money extorted, and Nayríz was reduced to a state of desolation.”[4]

            For many years this singularly important narrative remained unnoticed and protected under a cover of dust and dirt and only in 1940 did it come to notice, when an archaeologist examining historic buildings in Nayriz discovered its existence. The dust and debris was carefully removed from this inscription until finally the actual text became fully visible. This archaeologist, who according to Ruhani, was friendly towards the Baha’is, provided the Spiritual Assembly of that city with a copy of the inscription.[5] The full text was reproduced in Nayríz-i Mushkbiz and Lam`atu’l-Anvar[6], and while some minor differences exist between them, both sources have been utilized in this translation.[7] In terms of writing style, this document was composed in the customary Qájár mode, which included a generous dosage of abstruse language, excessive ambiguities and many laudatory titles. To the degree possible, these have been retained in the translation so that the reader can have an idea of this style of composition.

 



   [1] This mosque should not be confused with a larger mosque by the same name in the Chinar-Sukhtih quarter that served as a Babi stronghold.

   [2] Shu`lih [the flame] was the sobriquet of Mírzá Muhammad-Ja`far Khán. He was a nephew of the governor of Nayríz and engaged to the daughter of Siyyid Yahya Darabi, surnamed Vahid.

   [3] Nayriz Mukhkbiz 91-2.

   [4] The Báb 182.

   [5] Lam`atu’l-Anvar 1:306 n.1. The same source indicates that the Baha’i community was unaware of the existence of this document as none among them was permitted entrance into this mosque, situated in a quarter that was historically antagonistic towards the Bábís and Baha’is.

   [6] Nayriz Mushkbiz 92-102 and Lam`atu’l-Anvar 1:306-18.

   [7] Abu’l-Qasim Afnán has brought to my notice that the renowned compiler of historical documents, Dr. Iraj Afshar, has published a picture of the original text in one of his books, but I was unable to locate this source.

Text of Translation

Persian Text



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