THE FIRST EXAMINATION OF THE BÁB AT
Of what took place in
this assembly we have four accounts besides that which is contained in the
present work, whereof two - those contained in the Rawzatu
's-Safá and the Kisasu 'l- 'Ulamá - are
almost identical. The version contained in the Násikhu 't- Tawárikh is
substantially a mere condensation of these, and contains little new matter,
though the order of the proceedings is somewhat differently given. The account
contained in the Táríkh-i-Jadíd is relatively very brief, and in the main
agrees with what is stated in the present work. Bábí tradition, in short,
supplies us with no detailed narrative of this event, the reason for this being
apparently that the assembly in question was held with closed doors, and
the Báb (so far as we can tell) was unsupported
by the presence of a single friend.
As to the
credibility of the Muhammadan version, Kazem- Beg has some very pertinent
remarks in his first article (pp. 360-363). While fully sharing the doubts which
he expresses as to the historical value of this version, I have nevertheless
thought it worth reproducing in this place, believing that, whether it be true
or false, it will not be found altogether uninteresting as a specimen of the
method of judicial enquiry adopted by an Ecclesiastical Court in Persia. I have
in the main followed the account given in the Rawzatu
's-Safá and the Kisasu 'l-'Ulamá, except
in a few cases where a question or answer seemed to be more clearly put in the
Násikhu 't- Tawáríkh.
Násikhu 't-Tawárikh this conference is described as having taken place in
the year A.H. 1263. If this were so,1 it must have
been at the close of that year (which ended on December 8th, A.D. 1847),
inasmuch as the Báb was, according to all authorities (including Dr A. H. Wright
of Urúmiyya), brought to Tabríz from Chihrík, whither (as I have
attempted to shew in the previous note) he was not transferred much before the
beginning of A.D. 1848.
The chief persons who
took part in this examination of the Báb were:-
Násiru 'd-Dín Mírzá, now King, then Crown-Prince, of
Persia, who was at this time about sixteen years old, and on whom the government
of Ázarbaiján had only recently been bestowed; Hájí Mullá Mahmúd
entitled Nizámu'l-'Ulamá, the young Prince's tutor; Mullá
Muhammad Mámakání entitled Hujjatu'l-Islám, an
eminent Sheykhí divine; Hájí Murtazá-Kulí Marandí entitled
'Ilmu 'l-Hudá; Hájí Mírzá 'Alí Asghar the
Sheykhu'l-Islám; and (according to the present work) Mírzá
Ahmad the Imám-Jum'a. Shortly after these had assembled the
Báb was brought in, and (according to the Musulmán, but not the Bábí, accounts)
was motioned to a seat of honour. The following dialogue then
Hájí Mullá Mahmúd. -
"The command of His Imperial Majesty the King is that you should set forth
1 But see remarks on
pp. 186-187 supra.
claims in the presence of the doctors of Islám,
so that the truth of falsehood thereof may be established. Although I myself am
not one of the learned and only occupy the position of an attendant, I am free
from prejudice, and my conversion will not be without importance. Now I have
three questions to ask of you. Firstly, are these books composed in the
fashion and style of the Kur'án, of Epistles, and of Prayers, and
disseminated through all parts and regions of Persia yours, and did you compose
them, or do men [wrongly] attribute them to you?"
Báb. - "They are from God"
H. M. M.- "I am no great scholar; if they are yours,
say so; and if not, don't"
- "They are mine."
H. M. M. - "The
meaning of your saying 'They are from God' is that your tongue is like the Tree
on Sinai1 -
[two lines of
of Persian/Arabic text]3
Báb. - "Mercy be upon you!"
H. M. M. - "They call you 'Báb.' Who gave you this
name, and where did they give it? What is the meaning of 'Báb'? And are
you content with this name or not?"
Báb. - "God gave me this name."
M. M. - "Where? In the House of the Ka'ba, or in the 'Holy
House,'4 or in the 'Frequented
1 i.e. The Burning Bush. Cf. Kur'án xxvii, 7-9; and xxviii,
2 "If [to say] 'I am the Truth'
(i.e. God) be right in a tree, Why should it not be right in some favoured
3 See note 1 at the foot of p.
5 See Kur'án lii, v.
4, and explanations in the commentaries.
"Wherever it was, it is a divine name."
M. M. - "In that case of course you are content with a 'divine name.' What
is the meaning of 'Báb'?"
Báb. - "The
same word 'Báb' in [the tradition]
M. M. - "Then you are the 'Gate of the City of Knowledge'?"
Báb. - "Yes"
H. M. M. - "Praise be to God! For forty years have I journeyed seeking to
meet with one of the 'Gates,' and it was not granted to me. Now, praise be to
God, you have come to me in my own country, even to my very pillow! If it be so,
and I can but assure myself that you are the 'Gate,' give me, I pray, the office
of shoe- keeper!"
Báb. - "Surely you
are Hájí Mullá Mahmúd?"
M. - "Yes"
Báb. - "Your dignity is
great; great offices should be bestowed upon you."
H. M. M. - "I only want that office, and it is sufficient for
The Prince. - "We too will leave
and deliver over this throne to you who are the 'Gate.'"
H. M. M. - "As the Prophet or some other wise man hath said
ask, then, in Medicine, what occurs in the stomach when a person suffers from
indigestion? Why are some cases amenable to treatment? Any why do some go on to
permanent dyspepsia or syncope,3 or terminate in
1 "I am
the City of Knowledge and 'Alí is its Gate (Báb)."
2 "Knowledge is twofold - knowledge of bodies, and
knowledge of religions;" i.e. Medicine and Theology are the only two branches of
science which are really worthy of attention."
3 ~~~ swooning or syncope. For fainting-fits in connection with
dyspepsia, see Avicenna's Kánún (Rome, A.D. 1593), vol. i, p.
Báb. - "I
have not studied Medicine."
- "If so be that you are the 'Gate of Knowledges,' yet say 'I have not
studied Medicine,' this is quite incompatible with your claim!"
H. M. M. - (To the Prince) "It is of no
consequence, for this is but the art of the veterinarian and is not included
amongst sciences; so that herein is no incompatibility with Báb-hood" (To
the Báb) "Theology consists of the sciences of 'Principles'
([~~~]) and 'Applications' ([~~~]).
The science of 'Principles' has a beginning ([~~~]) and a
conclusion ([~~~]). Say then: are [the Divine
Attributes of ] Knowledge, Hearing, Seeing, and Power identical with the
[Divine] Essence, or otherwise?"
Bab. - "Identical with the Essence."
H. M. M. - "Then God is multiple and composite; the
[Divine] Essence and the [Divine] Knowledge are
two things like vinegar and syrup which have yet become identical; [God
is] compounded of [the Divine] Essence plus
Knowledge, of [the Divine] Essence plus Power, and so on.
Besides this, the [Divine] Essence is 'without Opposite, without
Antithesis' But Knowledge, which is identical with the
[Divine] Essence, has an opposite, which is Ignorance.
Besides these two objections, God knows, the Prophet knows, and I know: we
[therefore] partake in Knowledge. We also have a 'ground of
distinction'; for the Knowledge of God is from Himself, while our knowledge is
from Him. Therefore God is compounded of a 'ground of distinction' and a 'ground
of identity.' But God is not composite."
Báb. - "I have not studied Philosophy." (The Prince smiles, but
H. M. M. -
"The science of 'Applications' is elucidated from the Book and the
Code1, and the understanding of the Book and the Code
depends on many sciences, such as Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic. Do you who are
the Báb conjugate Kála?"
Báb. - "What Kála?"
1 i.e. the Kur'án and the Traditions.
H. M. M. -
"Kála, yakúlu, kawlan." (Begins to say the past tense
after the fashion of a school-boy - "Kála, kálá, kálú;
kálat, kálatá, kulná." Then addressing the Báb) "Do you
say the rest."
Báb. - "I learned it in
childhood, but I have forgotten it"
H. M. M. - "Give the derivatives of Kála."
Báb. - "How give the derivatives?"
H. M. M. (after giving some of the
derivatives) - "Now give the rest."
Báb. - "I told you, I have forgotten."
H. M. M. - "Explain this verse of the Glorious
[one line of Persian/Arabic
and tell me also what is the
construction of ~~~?"
Báb. - "I don't
H. M. M. - "What is the
meaning of this tradition:-
[one line of Persian/Arabic
Báb. - "I don't know."
H. M. M.
- "Explain the meaning of this tradition of what passed between Ma'mún the
Caliph and His Highness Rizá the eighth Imám:-
1 "It is He who maketh you to behold the
lightning, a fear and a hope." Kur'án, xiii, 13.
2 "May God curse the eyes, for verily they have
acted unjustly towards the one eye." I regret to say that I have failed to
ascertain by whom and on what occasion these words were uttered or to what they
[two lines of Persian/Arabic
What was the nature of the
argument employed by Rizá (on him be peace), and what the point of
Ma'mún's objection and of Rizá's reply thereto?"
Báb. - "Is it a tradition?"
H. M. M. - "Yes" (Cites authorities) "The
circumstances under which the Súratu 'l-Kawthar was revealed were, as is
well known, the following:- His Highness the Prophet was passing by. 'Ás said,
'This is the childless man!' Shortly afterwards he died, leaving no children.
His Highness the Prophet was grieved, and so this Súra was revealed for his
consolation. Tell me now, what was the nature of the consolation which it
Báb. - "Were these indeed the circumstances under which it was
said, 'What is the proof for [the right to] the
Caliphate of thine ancestor 'Alí ibn Abí Tálib?' He [i.e.
Rizá] said, 'The sign of ourselves' He [i.e.
Ma'mún] said, 'If it were not for our wives!' He [i.e.
Rizá] said, 'If it were not for our sons!' Then Ma'mún was
silent" By his first answer the Imám Rizá means that the right
of 'Alí and his descendants to the Caliphate is sufficiently proved by their
being what they are and connected as they are with the Prophet. Ma'mún objects,
'Yes, that is all very well, but we too are related to the Prophet on the female
side;' to which objection the Imám Rizá replies, 'But our
connection is in the male line;' for connection in the male line is a much
closer tie, as expressed in the following verse from on old Arab poet for which
I am indebted to my friend Mr Khalíl Khayyát. of Beyrout:-
[one line of Persian/Arabic text]This, at least, appears to me to be the explanation of the
"Our sons' sons
are our sons, but as for our daughters
Their sons are the sons of strange
2 Concerning the
circumstances under which the Súratu'l-Kawthar was revealed see Ibn
Hishám's Life of Muhammad, ed. Wüstenfeld, p. 261.
H. M. M. -
"Yes" (Cites authorities.)
asks for time to think.)
H. M. M.
- "In the days of our youth we used, according to the dictates of our age,
jestingly to repeat this sentence of 'Alláma1
whereof I desire you now to explain to me the meaning:-
lines of Persian/Arabic
Why should this be so?"
(after reflecting for a while) "Is this sentence from
(unanimously). - "Yes!"
H. M. M. -
"Suppose it is not 'Alláma's but mine, do you nevertheless explain its
meaning. After all you are the 'Gate of Knowledge'!"
Báb. - "I cannot think of anything."
H. M. M. - "One of the miracles of the Arabian Prophet is the
Kur'án, and the miraculous character thereof is derived from its
fasáhat and its balághat. What is the definition of
fasáhat and balághat? Is the relation which
subsists between them tabáyun, tasáwí, 'umúm wa khusús. min wajh,
or 'umúm wa khusús-i-
1 The title of the 'Alláma ("the very
erudite"), is used by the Shi'ites to designate one of their great theologians
named Hasan ibn Yüsuf ibn 'Alí of Hilla. According to the
Kisasu'l-'Ulamá he was born on Ramazán 19th,
A.H. 648 (December 15th, A.D. 1250), and died on Muharram 11th, A.H. 726
(December 18th, A.D. 1325). No less than seventy-five of his works are
2 "Si vir cum
hermaphrodito, hermaphroditus cum muliere rem habet, ab hermaphrodito requiritur
ut aquâ se purget, non vero a viro et muliere."
3 Fasáhat and balághat both
signify in general "eloquence," but the former especially denotes correctness
of diction and chasteness of style, the latter moving and
affecting language which reaches the hearts of the hearers or
causes the speaker to reach his object. (See Lane's Arabic-English
Lexicon, sv. [~~~] and [Arabic
word].) [footnote goes onto page 285] The
"four relations" recognized by Muhammadan logicians and here enumerated are in
detail as follows:- (1) Tasáwí ("Equivalence" or "Co-extensiveness"), as
"man" and "endowed with articulate speech" (2) Tabáyun
("Diversity"), as "man" and "stone." (3) 'Umúm wa khusús.
i-mutlak. ("Relation of genus and species absolutely"), as "animal"
and "man." (4) 'Umúm wa khusús. min wajh ("Relation of genus and
species under one aspect"), as "animal" and "white."
Báb. - "I
don't know." (The audience manifest signs of anger and
H. M. M. - "If you
were in doubt between two and three [inclinations in prayer] what
would you do?"1
Báb. - "I would assume two."
Muhammad Mámákání:- "O impious one! You do not even know what
to do in cases of doubt in prayer, and yet you claim to be the
Báb. - "I would assume
1 This question,
with what immediately follows it, refers to the duty incumbent on a Musulmán
who, while engaged in the performance of one of the prescribed prayers, becomes
conscious of a doubt as to whether he has duly fulfilled some one or more of its
essential elements, e.g. as to whether he has performed two or three
inclinations (rak'a). Every possible case of doubt is provided for in
that section of Muhammadan jurisprudence which is entitled [Arabic
script] concerning which see Querry's Droit Musulman (Paris,
1871) vol. i, pp. 107-109. The general rule is thus stated at p. 21 of the
catechism called Su'ál ú Jawáb ("Questions and answers") composed by Hájí
Seyyid Muhammad Bákir of Isfahán and printed at Teherán in A.H.
1247 (A.D. 1831-2):- "He who is doubtful assumes the [performance of
the] act concerning which he doubts, whether it relates to the number of
inclinations (rak'a) or not; except in cases where [the
performance of] the act concerning which he doubts would cause nullity
[of the prayer], when he assumes its omission. If, then, he be
doubtful whether it is two or three inclinations [which he has
performed], he assumes three; if he be doubtful whether he has performed
the inclination or the prostration or not, he assumes that he has performed
them; and if he be doubtful whether he has performed the recitation
(kará'at), he assumes that he has performed it. But [on the
other hand] if he be doubtful whether he has inclined twice or once he
assumes that he has inclined [only] once; and if he be doubtful
whether he has performed four inclinations of prayer or five, he assumes that it
H. M. M. -
"Evidently if it is not two you must say three."
H. M. M. - "Three is also wrong. Why did you not ask whether it
was in the morning or evening prayer that I was in doubt, and whether it was
after the inclination or before the inclination, or after the completion of two
H. M. M. - "You ought
to give thanks, for had he said 'I would assume two' (inasmuch as engaging in an
indubitable duty demands fulfilment of that indubitable duty) what would you
have done then1?" (To the Báb)
Is this expression yours or
Báb. "Yes, it is
H. M. M. - "Then in that case
you were the leader and they were followers, and you must be superior to
Hájí Murtazá- Kulí
Marandí. - "The Lord of the Universe has said:-
of Persian/Arabic text]3
1 If I have understood this rather
obscure expression (~~~) it means that the undertaking of an obligation such as
prayer necessitates and requires the due discharge of all that is properly
involved therein, without which it is null and void. Hence if it were necessary
in a case of doubt such as is indicated above to assume that only two
inclinations had been performed (or, in other words, to assume the minimum
instead of the maximum), then all persons who had followed the rule ordinarily
received would have been guilty of numerous sins of omission for which they
would be held responsible.
first to believe in me was the Light of Muhammad and [the
Light of] 'Alí."
"And know that whenever ye seize anything as a spoil, to God belongs a fifth
thereof, and to His Apostle......" Kur'án, viii, 42.
while you in your Kur'án say
[Arabic script]1 . On what authority,
Báb. - "A third is the half
of a fifth. What difference does it make?"
H.M.-K. M. - "In
how many ways is nine divisible?"
(The Báb gives no
H. M. M. -
"[two lines of Persian/Arabic
I am not tied down to words; shew me a miracle suitable to your claims, so that
I may become your follower, and on my submission many will set their footsteps
within the circle of devotion to you, for I am well known as learned, and the
learned man will never follow the ignorant"
Báb. - "What miracle do you desire?"
H. M. M. - "His Majesty the King Muhammad Sháh is sick.
Restore him to health"
Prince. - "Why go so far? Are not you present? Let him exert an influence
over your being and restore you
1"A third thereof." As a matter of fact the ordinances
contained in the Persian Beyán relative to the disposal of spoils taken
from infidels do not accord with the statement here made, which is probably
quite fictitious. They will be found in Váhid v, ch. vi, and are
in substance as follows:- (1) One-fifth of the spoils, together with whatever is
incomparable in value or beauty, belongs to the Báb. If he be no longer alive it
is to be held in trust for "Him whom God shall manifest" (2) Of what
remains the warriors who have won it take what suffices for their needs. (3) The
residue is given to the poor, all of whom, so far as possible, are to be made
partakers in the bounty. Should anything still remain over, it may be expended
on building or repairing shrines etc.
"How long these words and this concealment and metaphor?
I would burn, burn, and
acquiesce in that burning."
Masnaví (ed. 'Alá'u'd-Dawla, p. 143, line 8).
to youthfulness, so that you may ever continue
in attendance on our stirrup. We too, on witnessing the accomplishment of this
miracle, will resign this throne to
- "It is not in my power."
H. M. M. -
"Then honour is not rendered without some reason. O dumb in the realms of words
and dumb in the realms of ideas, what virtue then do you possess?"
Báb. - "I can utter eloquent words" (Recites)
[one line of Persian/Arabic
(pronouncing the last
word with final fat-ha).
[two lines of
Báb. - "My name 'Alí Muhammad corresponds with
H. M. M. - "Every 'Alí Muhammad and Muhammad 'Alí
corresponds with Rabb. Besides in that case you should claim to be the
Lord rather than the Báb."
Báb. - "I
am that person for whose appearance ye have waited a thousand
H. M. M. - "That is to
say you are the Mahdí, the Lord of
1 There is something almost ludicrous in the eagerness wherewith the
Crown-Prince interposes to check the miracle designed to restore his dying
father to health"
be to God who created the heavens."
3 "That which forms its plural in alif and tá is
pointed with kesra alike in the adjective and in the dependent cases."
This sentence is from the well-known versified Arabic Grammar called the
Alfiyya, and will be found on p. 19 of Dieterici's edition of that work
4 The sum of the
letters in 'Alí Muhammad is 202, which is also the numerical
equivalent of Rabb.
5 i.e. the
Twelfth Imám. See Note O infra.
H. M. M. - "The same in person,
Báb. - "In
H. M. M. - "What is your
name, and what are the names of your father and mother? Where is your
birthplace? And how old are you?"
- "My name is 'Alí Muhammad; my mother was named Khadíja and my father
Mírzá Rizá the cloth-seller; my birth-place is Shíráz; and of my life,
behold, thirty-five years have elapsed"1 Kazem-Beg (i,
p. 334, note 4) bases the calculation whereby he arrives at the date of the
Báb's birth on this passage, which, as a matter of fact, affords a strong proof
of the falsity of the whole narrative wherein it occurs, since the Báb's age
certainly did not exceed 29 years at this time (see Note C
H. M. M. -
"The name of the Lord of Religion is Muhammad; his father was named
Hasan and his mother Narjis; his birth- place was Surra-man-Ra'a; and his
age is more than a thousand years. There is the most complete variance. And
besides I did not send you."
"Do you claim to be God?"
H. M. M. -
"Such an Imám is worthy of such a God"
Báb. - "I can in one day write two thousand verses. Who else can do
H. M. M. - "When I resided at
the Supreme Shrines I had a secretary who used to write two thousand verses a
day. Eventually he became blind. You must certainly give up this occupation, or
else you too will go blind"
conference then broke up, and the Báb was taken back to the house of
Muhammad Kázim Khán the Farráshbáshí. Next day he was again
brought before the Prince and the doctors, who sentenced him to the bastinado.
The Muhammadan historians admit that the farráshes were still, in spite
of what had taken place at the examination on the previous day, so strongly
inclined to sympathize with the Báb that they positively refused to take part in
administering the punishment decreed, the execution of which therefore devolved
on the servants of Hájí Mullá Muhmúd and the Sheyku 'l-Islám. It is of
by the Musulmán historians that the Báb again
recanted and revoked all his claims under the chastisement inflicted upon him,
whereupon he was released and sent back to Chihrík.
It is difficult to decide to what measure of credence the above
narrative is entitled. Very probably such questions as are there recorded - and
assuredly some of them are sufficiently frivolous and even indecent - were
asked; but, even though the Báb may have been unable to answer them, it is far
more likely that, as stated in the Táríkh-i-Jadíd, he preserved a
dignified silence than that he gave utterance to the absurdities attributed to
him by the Muhammadan writers. These, indeed, spoil their own case; for,
desiring to prove that the Báb was not endowed with superhuman wisdom, they
represent him as displaying an ignorance which we can scarcely credit. That the
whole examination was a farce throughout, that the sentence was a foregone
conclusion, that no serious attempt to apprehend the nature and evidence of the
Báb's claim and doctrine was made, and that from first to last a systematic
course of brow-beating, irony, and mockery was pursued appear to me to be facts
proved no less by the Muhammadan than by the Bábí accounts of these
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