The Martyrdom of the Bab

Members of the Bahá'í faith all over the world will mark Sunday, July 9, as aholy day. Bahá'ís are remembering the death, on that date in 1850, of oneof the founding figures of the faith. Mírzá Alí Muhammad, who assumed thetitle of the

Bab

(or "Gate"), arose in Persia to preach social andreligious reform, and foretold the coming of a new age of human development.He gained many followers, but his message aroused the enmity of the rulers,and he was arrested and finally executed by firing squad. Thousands of hisfollowers were put to death. However, his teachings did not die, and theylaid the basis for the present-day worldwide Bahá'í faith.

Ultimately, those opposed to the Báb argued that he was not only a heretic,but a dangerous rebel. The authorities decided to have him executed. On July 9, 1850, this sentence was carried out in the courtyard of the Tabrizarmy barracks. Some 10,000 people crowded the rooftops of the barracks andhouses that overlooked the square. The Báb and a young follower weresuspended by two ropes against a wall. A regiment of 750 Armenian soldiers,arranged in three files of 250 each, opened fire in three successivevolleys. So dense was the smoke raised by the gunpowder and dust that theentire yard was obscured.

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The report of the execution, written to Lord Palmerston, the BritishSecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, by Sir Justin Shiel, QueenVictoria's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, in Tehran onJuly 22, 1850, records: "When the smoke and dust cleared away after thevolley, Báb was not to be seen, and the populace proclaimed that he hadascended to the skies. The balls had broken the ropes by which he was boundbut he was dragged from the recess where, after some search he wasdiscovered and shot."

After the first attempt at execution, the Báb was found back in his cell,giving final instructions to one of his followers. Earlier in the day, whenthe guards had come to take him to the courtyard, the Báb had warned that no"earthly power" could silence him until he had finished all that he had tosay. When the guards arrived this second time, the Báb calmly announced:"Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention."

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