June 30, 2022

Some awe-inspiring “salient features” of the dawn-breakers at Fort Tabarsi – summarized by Shoghi Effendi

It will be unnecessary to attempt even an abbreviated narrative of this tragic episode, however grave its import, however much misconstrued by adverse chroniclers and historians. A glance over its salient features will suffice for the purpose of these pages.

  • We note, as we conjure up the events of this great tragedy, the fortitude, the intrepidity, the discipline and the resourcefulness of its heroes, contrasting sharply with the turpitude, the cowardice, the disorderliness and the inconstancy of their opponents.
  • We observe the sublime patience, the noble restraint exercised by one of its principal actors, the lion-hearted Mullá Husayn, who persistently refused to unsheathe his sword until an armed and angry multitude, uttering the foulest invectives, had gathered at a farsang’s distance from Bárfurúsh to block his way, and had mortally struck down seven of his innocent and staunch companions.
  • We are filled with admiration for the tenacity of faith of that same Mullá Husayn, demonstrated by his resolve to persevere in sounding the adhán, while besieged in the caravanserai of Sabsih-Maydán, though three of his companions, who had successively ascended to the roof of the inn, with the express purpose of performing that sacred rite, had been instantly killed by the bullets of the enemy.
  • We marvel at the spirit of renunciation that prompted those sore pressed sufferers to contemptuously ignore the possessions left behind by their fleeing enemy; that led them to discard their own belongings, and content themselves with their steeds and swords; that induced the father of Badí‘, one of that gallant company, to fling unhesitatingly by the roadside the satchel, full of turquoises which he had brought from his father’s mine in Níshápúr; that led Mírzá Muhammad-Taqíy-i-Juvayní to cast away a sum equivalent in value in silver and gold; and impelled those same companions to disdain, and refuse even to touch, the costly furnishings and the coffers of gold and silver which the demoralized and shame-laden Prince Mihdí-Qulí Mírzá, the commander of the army of Mázindarán and a brother of Muhammad Sháh, had left behind in his headlong flight from his camp.
  • We cannot but esteem the passionate sincerity with which Mullá Husayn pleaded with the Prince, and the formal assurance he gave him, disclaiming, in no uncertain terms, any intention on his part or that of his fellow-disciples of usurping the authority of the Sháh or of subverting the foundations of his state.
  • We cannot but view with contempt the conduct of that arch-villain, the hysterical, the cruel and overbearing Sa‘ídu’l-‘Ulamá, who, alarmed at the approach of those same companions, flung, in a frenzy of excitement, and before an immense crowd of men and women, his turban to the ground, tore open the neck of his shirt, and, bewailing the plight into which Islám had fallen, implored his congregation to fly to arms and cut down the approaching band.
  • We are struck with wonder as we contemplate the super-human prowess of Mullá Husayn which enabled him, notwithstanding his fragile frame and trembling hand, to slay a treacherous foe who had taken shelter behind a tree, by cleaving with a single stroke of his sword the tree, the man and his musket in twain.
  • We are stirred, moreover, by the scene of the arrival of Bahá’u’lláh at the Fort, and the indefinable joy it imparted to Mullá Husayn, the reverent reception accorded Him by His fellow-disciples, His inspection of the fortifications which they had hurriedly erected for their protection, and the advice He gave them, which resulted in the miraculous deliverance of Quddús, in his subsequent and close association with the defenders of that Fort, and in his effective participation in the exploits connected with its siege and eventual destruction.
  • We are amazed at the serenity and sagacity of that same Quddús, the confidence he instilled on his arrival, the resourcefulness he displayed, the fervor and gladness with which the besieged listened, at morn and at even-tide, to the voice intoning the verses of his celebrated commentary on the Sád of Samad, to which he had already, while in Sárí, devoted a treatise thrice as voluminous as the Qur’án itself, and which he was now, despite the tumultuary attacks of the enemy and the privations he and his companions were enduring, further elucidating by adding to that interpretation as many verses as he had previously written.
  • We remember with thrilling hearts that memorable encounter when, at the cry “Mount your steeds, O heroes of God!” Mullá Husayn, accompanied by two hundred and two of the beleaguered and sorely-distressed companions, and preceded by Quddús, emerged before daybreak from the Fort, and, raising the shout of “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!”, rushed at full charge towards the stronghold of the Prince, and penetrated to his private apartments, only to find that, in his consternation, he had thrown himself from a back window into the moat, and escaped bare-footed, leaving his host confounded and routed.
  • We see relived in poignant memory that last day of Mullá Husayn’s earthly life, when, soon after midnight, having performed his ablutions, clothed himself in new garments, and attired his head with the Báb’s turban, he mounted his charger, ordered the gate of the Fort to be opened, rode out at the head of three hundred and thirteen of his companions, shouting aloud “Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!”, charged successively the seven barricades erected by the enemy, captured every one of them, notwithstanding the bullets that were raining upon him, swiftly dispatched their defenders, and had scattered their forces when, in the ensuing tumult, his steed became suddenly entangled in the rope of a tent, and before he could extricate himself he was struck in the breast by a bullet which the cowardly ‘Abbás-Qulí Khán-i-Láríjání had discharged, while lying in ambush in the branches of a neighboring tree.
  • We acclaim the magnificent courage that, in a subsequent encounter, inspired nineteen of those stout-hearted companions to plunge headlong into the camp of an enemy that consisted of no less than two regiments of infantry and cavalry, and to cause such consternation that one of their leaders, the same ‘Abbás-Qulí Khán, falling from his horse, and leaving in his distress one of his boots hanging from the stirrup, ran away, half-shod and bewildered, to the Prince, and confessed the ignominious reverse he had suffered.
  • Nor can we fail to note the superb fortitude with which these heroic souls bore the load of their severe trials;
    • when their food was at first reduced to the flesh of horses brought away from the deserted camp of the enemy;
    • when later they had to content themselves with such grass as they could snatch from the fields whenever they obtained a respite from their besiegers;
    • when they were forced, at a later stage, to consume the bark of the trees and the leather of their saddles, of their belts, of their scabbards and of their shoes;
    • when during eighteen days they had nothing but water of which they drank a mouthful every morning;
    • when the cannon fire of the enemy compelled them to dig subterranean passages within the Fort, where, dwelling amid mud and water, with garments rotting away with damp, they had to subsist on ground up bones; and
    • when, at last, oppressed by gnawing hunger, they, as attested by a contemporary chronicler, were driven to disinter the steed of their venerated leader, Mullá Ḥusayn, cut it into pieces, grind into dust its bones, mix it with the putrified meat, and, making it into a stew, avidly devour it.

-Shoghi Effendi  (‘God Passes By’)