Introduction


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[page vii]

INTRODUCTION.



    This book is the history of a proscribed and persecuted sect written
by one of themselves. After suffering in silence for nigh upon half a century, they at
length find voice to tell their tale and offer their apology. Of this voice I am the
interpreter.



    So many Persian works of universally acknowledged and
incontrovertible merit remain unpublished, not only in Europe but in the East, that
one who offers to the public as the result of his study and labour the translation and
text of a quite recent compilation, whereof the authorship must remain unknown,
and which must therefore rely solely on whatever intrinsic interest and merit it
may possess, may reasonably be expected to state the considerations which have led
him to select for publication such a work.



    This book is, as I have said, recent in composition; for, as appears
from a passage which will be found on p. 67, it was written probably during the year
1886. It is also anonymous. This could not well be otherwise; for what Persian
could, with ordinary prudence, acknowledge a work written in defence of a faith
whereof the name is scarce mentioned in Persia without fear and trembling? So that
these two things, which some might incline to account grave defects in the book,
and reasons against its publi-


[page viii]



cation, are, in truth, inherent in its very nature and character. It is of quite modern
origin, because it treats of a recent movement, of which the first beginnings are
remembered by many still living; it is anonymous, because every promoter of that
movement is, in the country which gave it birth, as a man “sitting beneath a sword
suspended by a single hair, who knoweth not when it shall descend upon him,
whether it shall descend instantly or after a while1.”



    If, then, the subject treated of in this book be of sufficient interest
and importance to merit careful study, and if the book itself, notwithstanding our
ignorance of its authorship, can be shewn to proceed from a trustworthy source, I
am sufficiently justified in having decided to edit and translate this “Traveller’s
Narrative.”



    Now it appears to me that the history of the Bábí
movement must be interesting in different ways to others besides those who are
directly engaged in the study of Persian. To the student of religious thought it will
afford no little matter for reflection; for here he may contemplate such
personalities as by lapse of time pass into heroes and demi-gods still unobscured by
myth and fable; he may examine by the light of concurrent and independent
testimony one of those strange outbursts of enthusiasm, faith, fervent devotion, and
indomitable heroism – or fanaticism, if you will – which we are accustomed to
associate with the earlier history of the human race; he may witness, in a word, the
birth of a faith which may not impossibly win a place amidst the great religions of
the world. To the ethnologist also it may yield food for thought as to the character
of a people, who, stigmatized as they often have been as selfish, mercenary,
avaricious, egotistical, sordid, and cowardly, are yet capable of exhibiting under
the



1 See p. 150 infra.


[page ix]



influence of a strong religious impulse a degree of devotion, disinterestedness,
generosity, unselfishness, nobility, and courage which may be paralleled in history,
but can scarcely be surpassed. To the politician, too, the matter is not devoid of
importance; for what changes may not be effected in a country now reckoned almost
as a cypher in the balance of national forces by a religion capable of evoking so
mighty a spirit? Let those who know what Muhammad made the Arabs, consider well
what the Báb may yet make the Persians.



    But to myself, and I believe to most others who have been or shall be
brought to consider this matter, the paramount interest thereof lies in this, that
here is something, whether wise or unwise, whether tending towards the
amelioration of mankind or the reverse, which seemed to many hundreds, if not
thousands, of our fellow-creatures worth suffering and dying for, and which, on this
ground alone, must be accounted worthy of our most attentive study.



    I have now to explain how this book came into my hands; what, so far
as I have been able to learn, were the causes which led to its composition; and why
(with certain reservations which will be presently specified) we are warranted in
regarding it as a true and authentic account of the events which it relates. In order
to make this explanation clear, it is necessary for me to describe briefly how my
attention was first directed towards this subject; how my interest in it was
kindled; how the means of investigating it were made available to me; and how the
investigation, whereof this book is at present the final outcome, was conducted.



    One day some seven years ago I was searching amongst the books in
the University Library of Cambridge for fresh


[page x]



materials for an essay on the Súfí philosophy, in the study of
which I was then chiefly engaged, when my eye was caught by the title of Count
Gobineau’s Religions et Philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale. I took down the
book, glanced through it to discover whether or no it contained any account of the
Súfís, and, finding that a short chapter was devoted to them,
brought it back with me to my rooms. My first superficial glance had also shewn me
that a considerable portion of the book was taken up with an account of the
Bábís, of which sect I had at that time no definite knowledge, save a
general idea that they had been subjected to a most severe persecution.



    The perusal of Gobineau’s chapter on the Súfís
caused me, I must frankly confess, no small mortification; for I was an ardent
admirer of these eloquent mystics, whose spirit has inspired so much of what is
best and finest in Persian literature, and a rude shock was inflicted on my
susceptibilities by such words as these:- “Le quiétisme, le beng et l’opium,
l’ivrognerie la plus abjecte, voilà surtout ce qu’elle [le soufysme] a
produit.”



    When, however, I turned from this mournful chapter to that portion of
the book which treated of the Bábí movement, the case was
altogether different. To anyone who has already read this masterpiece of historical
composition, this most perfect presentation of accurate and critical research in the
form of a narrative of thrilling and sustained interest, such as one may, indeed, hope
to find in the drama or the romance, but can scarcely expect from the historian, it is
needless to describe the effect which it produced on me. To anyone who has not read
it, I can only say let him do so forthwith, if he is in any way interested in the
history of the Bábís. Many new facts may be added to those recorded
by Gobineau, and the history which he carried down to A.D. 1852 needs to be


[page xi]



supplemented by an appendix detailing the events of the last thirty-eight years, but
the narrative of the first origin of Bábíism can hardly be told better
than he has told it; certainly not in a style more eloquent nor in a manner more
worthy of the subject.



    Count Gobineau’s book, then, effected in a certain sense a complete
revolution in my ideas and projects. I had long ardently desired to visit Persia and
above all Shíráz, and this desire was now greatly intensified. But
whereas I had previously wished to see Shíráz because it was the
home of Háfiz and of Sa’dí, I now wished to see it
because it was the birthplace of Mírzá ‘Alí Muhammad
the Báb. And, after Shíráz, not Tús and
Nishápúr, but Zanján, Mázandarán, and
Tabríz were the objects of my eager desire. My impatience, too, was greatly
increased; for I reflected that although there must be many still living who had
witnessed, or even taken part in, the events of which I was so anxious to discover
every slightest detail, each year that passed would materially lessen their number,
and render ever fainter the possibility of restoring the picture in its entirety.
Besides this, I was eager to know more of the doctrines which could inspire such
heroism, and to gain this knowledge, as I clearly perceived, there was but one
satisfactory and effectual method. As Anquetil du Perron had succeeded in unlocking
the secrets of the Zoroastrian religion by going amongst those who professed it,
winning their confidence, and eventually, after infinite patience and endeavour,
obtaining copies of their sacred books and a clue to their contents, so I, if I were to
succeed in fathoming the mysteries of the Bábí faith, must go to the
land of its origin, strive to become intimate with some of its votaries, and from
these obtain the knowledge which I sought. Let no one suppose that I am so
presumptuous as to institute any comparison between Anquetil du Perron


[page xii]



and myself. His task was one which only rare courage, perseverance, and genius
could bring to a successful issue. He had to induce the suspicious, taciturn, and
uncommunicative priests of an ancient national religion actuated by no desire of
making proselytes to impart to him a secret doctrine and ritual hitherto most
jealously guarded. And when at length the sacred books were gained, they were
books written in a language so long dead that over it had formed a deposit of
commentaries in a speed which had grown, flourished, and died since it had been a
spoken tongue. Added to this, Anquetil’s investigations were conducted amidst
hardships, privations, and dangers of an exceptional kind. The Bábís,
on the contrary, would, I was convinced, be eager to impart their doctrines to any
enquirer on whose discretion and fidelity they could place reliance. Their sacred
books, moreover, were either in Arabic, or in Persian, and, beyond a certain reserve
and obscurity necessitated by prudential motives, and a peculiar terminology such
as all sects, whether philosophical or religious, possess, I anticipated no particular
difficulty in understanding them. One special obstacle, it was true, did exist in this
case to the primary establishment of relations of intimacy. The Bábís
were a proscribed sect, whereof every member was practically liable to outlawry
and even death should he allow his creed to become known. It seemed probable
enough, therefore, that I should at first have some difficulty in discovering them
and putting myself into communication with them. Yet, could I but find means of
spending a few months in Persia, it would be hard, I thought, if some lucky chance
did not bring me in contact with some Bábí who would venture to take
me into his confidence. And, if the first step could be won, I relied on the fair
knowledge of colloquial Persian which I already possessed, the general acquaintance
with the Bábí doctrines


[page xiii]



which Gobineau’s work had given me, the genuine admiration which I felt for the
Báb and his apostles, and the close brotherhood which, according to all
analogy, must probably exist within the sect, to effect the rest.



    Meanwhile the first step was to get to Persia, and of this there
seemed to be but little chance. Anquetil du Perron would have gone, chance or no
chance, and either attained his object or perished in the search. I, not being
fashioned in so heroic a mould, waited for the means. I made several fruitless
attempts to obtain some appointment which would take me to the land of my quest,
and finally, as a last resource, offered myself as a candidate for a medical post in
the realms of the Nizám of Haydarábád, on the
chance that there I might find means of visiting Persia. Here again I was
unsuccessful; and I was beginning to despair of attaining my object when suddenly
and unexpectedly that thing befel me which is, as I believe, the greatest good-
fortune which can fall to the lot of one eager to pursue a scientific enquiry from
which he is debarred by lack of means. A fellowship became vacant at my college,
and to this fellowship I was elected. This happened on May 30th, 1887. Five months
later I had crossed the Turco-Persian frontier and was within three stages of
Tabríz.



    Of the disappointments and failures which I at first met with in my
attempts to discover and communicate with the Bábís; of the
fortunate chance which at length placed the clue in my hand; and of the fulfilment of
my hopes in a manner surpassing my most sanguine expectations I have already
spoken in another place.1 Of these and other things incidental to my
journey I may perhaps give a fuller account at some future time. Here it is



1 Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, for 1889, vol. xxi.
(New Series), pp. 486-489, 495-496, 501, &c.


[page xiv]



sufficient for me to state that I returned to England in October 1888, having visited
Zanján, Tabríz, Shíráz, and Sheykh
Tabarsí, the places most intimately associated with
Bábí history; having lived on terms of intimacy for periods varying
from a few days to many weeks with the principal Bábís at
Isfahán, Shíráz, Yezd, and Kirmán; and bringing with
me a number of Bábí books and writings, as well as journals wherein
the gist of every important conversation with any member of the sect was carefully
recorded.



    So soon as I had established myself once more in the college which
four years’ absence from Cambridge and a year’s travelling in Persia had served to
render yet more dear to me, I set to work to make a systematic examination of the
materials collected during my journey. The Persian Beyán, the
°kán, the Kitáb-i-Akdas, the Epistles
to the Kings
, the Táríkh-i-Jadíd, and a host of more
or less important letters, memoranda, poems, and abstracts, were read, digested,
and indexed; and the outcome of this and my previous labour, together with a brief
account of my journey, was laid before the public in two articles, comprising in all
170 pages, of which the first appeared in July, the second in October 1889, in the
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. To these articles I shall continually have
occasion to refer in the course of this work, and, for the sake of brevity, I shall
henceforth generally denote them as “B. i.” and “B. ii.”



    The preparation of these articles, in conjunction with other work,
kept me occupied till the autumn of 1889, when, the main results of my
investigations having been satisfactorily recorded, I was left at liberty to turn my
attention to matters of detail. It appeared to me extremely desirable that texts or
translations of the chief Bábí works should be published in
extenso
; the only question was which to begin with. Inasmuch as it seemed
likely that


[page xv]



the historical aspects of the movement would prove more generally interesting than
its doctrinal aspects, I finally determined to publish first the text and translation
of the Táríkh-i-Jadíd1, and this
determination was approved by several of my friends and correspondents whose
knowledge entitled them to speak with authority. This text and translation I
accordingly began to prepare; and the former was completely copied out for the
printer (awaiting only collation with the British Museum text)2, while
the latter was in an advanced stage of progress, when circumstances, immediately
to be detailed, occurred, which postponed the completion of that work, and
substituted for it another, the present.



    My researches amongst the Bábís in Persia had, at a
comparatively early stage, revealed to me the fact that since Count Gobineau
composed his work great changes had taken place in their organization and attitude.
I had expected to find Mírzá Yah
Subh-i-Ezel (“u>Hazrat-i-Ezel” as Gobineau
calls him) universally acknowledged by them as the Báb’s successor and the
sole head to whom they confessed allegiance. My surprise was great when I
discovered that, so far from this being the case, the majority of the
Bábís spoke only of Behá as their chief and prophet;
asserted that the Báb was merely his herald



1 Concerning the Táríkh-i-Jadíd see
Note A at end, pp. 192-197 infra.
2 This collation has since
been effected, and the variants offered by the British Museum MS. proved to be both
numerous and important. Should the publication of the work be proceeded with, it
would be necessary to collate also the defective MS. recently acquired by the St.
Petersburg Library, the closing words of which occur on p. 235 of my MS. See note 1
at the foot of p.192 infra, and the forthcoming (sixth) vol. of Baron Rosen’s
Collections Scientifiques, p. 244.


[page xvi]



and forerunner (those who had read the Gospels, and they were many, likened the
Báb to John the Baptist and Behá to Christ); and either entirely
ignored or strangely disparaged Mírzá Yahyá. It took me
some time fully to grasp this new and unexpected position of affairs, and perhaps I
should not have succeeded in doing so had it not been for the knowledge of the
former state of things which I had obtained from Gobineau’s work, and the
acquaintance which I subsequently made in Kirmán with five or six persons
who adhered to what I may call the “old dispensation” and regarded
Mírzá Yahyá “Subh-i-Ezel” as the
legitimate and sole successor of the Báb.



    To state briefly a long story, the case stands thus:-



    (1)   Mírzá ‘Alí Muhammad the
Báb during his life chose from amongst his most faithful and most gifted
disciples 18 persons called “Letters of the Living” (u>Hurúfát-
i-u>Hayy
), who, together with himself the “Point”
(Nukta), constituted that sacred hierarchy of 19 called the
“First Unity” (hid-i-Avval). Of these “Letters” I have not been
able to obtain a complete list, and indeed it would appear that the whole hierarchy
was never made known. Mírzá Yah
Subh-i-Ezel held the fourth place in this hierarchy, and, on the
death of the “Point” and the two first “Letters,” rose, by a natural process of
promotion, to the position of chief of the sect1. Behá, whose
proper name is Mírzá Huseyn ‘Alí of Núr, was
also, according to Gobineau2, included in the “Unity.” Gobineau has,
however, mistaken the relationship which existed between him and
Mírzá Yahyá. That the two are brothers (or rather half-
brothers, born of the same father by different wives) is a fact established by
convincing testimony3



1 See note 1 on p. 95 infra.
2 Religions et
Philosophies
, p. 277.
3 Cf. pp. 56, note 2; 63, top; and
373.


[page xvii]



    (2)   Mírzá ‘Alí Muhammad the
Báb declared explicitly and repeatedly in all his works that the religion
established by him and the books revealed to him were in no way final; that his
followers must continually expect the advent of “Him whom God shall manifest.”
who would perfect and complete this religion; that, though “He whom God shall
manifest,” would not, it was hoped, delay his appearance for more than 1511, or, at
most, 2001 years (these numbers being represented in cabbalistic fashion by the
words Ghiyáth and Mustagháth), he might appear at any
time; and that, whenever one should appear claiming to be “He whom God shall
manifest,” his very being, together with his power of revealing verses, would be his
sufficient signs. All who believed in the Báb were solemnly warned not to
reject one so characterized and making such a claim, and were commanded, in case
of doubt, to incline towards belief rather than disbelief.



    (3)   During the sojourn of the Bábí exiles at
Adrianople, Behá (according to Nabíl in A.D. 1866-7) suddenly claimed
to be “He whom God shall manifest,” in proof of which he revealed sundry “signs”
(áyát) in eloquent Arabic and Persian, wherein he summoned all
the Bábís to acknowledge him as their supreme and sole chief and
spiritual guide. Most of the Bábís eventually made this
acknowledgement, vowed allegiance to Behá, and thereby became
Behá’ís; some few refused to transfer their allegiance from
Mírzá YahSubh-i-Ezel (who
himself strenuously resisted Behá’s claims, which he regarded in the light of
an usurpation and a rebellion), and these were thenceforth known as
Ezelís.



    Thus did the great schism take place which divided the
Bábís into two unequal parties; a large majority, of whose unbounded
and almost incredible love and reverence the object is Behá; a small
minority, whose eager gaze is


[page xviii]



directed, not to Acre in Syria, but to Famagusta in Cyprus, where dwells the exiled
chief whom they refuse to disavow. Needless is it to say how bitter is the animosity
which subsists between the Behá’ís and the Ezelís. Amongst
both factions I have found good men and faithful friends, and from the chiefs of both
and their sons I have met with much kindness; wherefore I would for the present
touch as lightly as may be on this painful matter, leaving my readers to draw their
own conclusions from what is hereinafter set forth. The general nature of the
arguments for and against either side will be found summarized at pp. 514 and 515
of my first and pp. 997-998 of my second article on the Bábís in the
J.R.A.S., to which I refer such of my readers as are curious to examine the
matter more minutely. Of one thing there can, in my opinion, be but little doubt: the
future (if Bábíism, as I most firmly believe, has a future) belongs to
Behá and his successors and followers.



    With most of the facts summarized above I became acquainted during
my sojourn in Persia, but I was unable to learn for certain whether
Mírzá YahSubh-i-Ezel was still
alive, nor could I ascertain in what part of Cyprus he had fixed his residence. A
dervish with whom I became acquainted in Kirmán told me that he had
visited him, but could not remember the name of the town wherein he dwelt; and
none of the Ezelís whom I saw could give me any more precise information.
In my first paper on the Bábís in the J.R.A.S. (pp. 516-517) I
was therefore compelled to confess my failure in all attempts to elucidate this
point. At the same time I pointed out how much precious information might be
gained from Subh-i-Ezel if he were still alive, and how
extremely desirable it was in the interests of science that this matter should be
cleared up.


[page xix]



    After the publication of my first, and during the preparation of my
second paper, I began to institute enquiries on this point. My sister, who was then
travelling in the East, succeeded in obtaining the first clue from Mr G. L. Houston,
who was kind enough to procure for me definite proof that Subh-i-
Ezel
was still alive and was residing with his family at Famagusta. Shortly
after this, my friend Dr F. H. H. Guillemard, who had spent many months in Cyprus and
had friends in all parts of the island, very obligingly wrote to Mr C. D. Cobham,
Commissioner at Larnaca, and to Captain Young, Commissioner at Famagusta, asking
them to obtain for me the fullest information possible relative to the
Bábí exiles in Cyprus. I myself wrote at the same time, stating the
nature of the information which I sought. Both Captain Young and Mr Cobham
responded to my request with a kindness for which I cannot sufficiently express my
gratitude; and so vigorously and energetically did they push their enquiries that I
was soon in possession of all the chief facts relating to the Bábí
exiles. Captain Young, indeed, spared no pains to clear up every point connected with
the enquiry. The day after he received my letter he paid a visit to
Subh-i-Ezel; questioned him concerning his life, his adventures,
and his doctrines; asked for information on sundry points mentioned in my paper; and
forwarded to me a complete account of all that he had learned. Nor was this all; for
he succeeded so well in winning Subh-i-Ezel’s confidence that
with this first letter (dated July 28th, 1889) he was able to forward a MS. of one of
the Báb’s works, whereof, so far as I know, no copy had previously reached
Europe. Through Captain Young I was able to address directly to
Subh-i-Ezel letters containing questions on numerous matters
connected with the history, doctrine, and literature of the Bábís, to
all of which letters I received most full and courteous replies.


[page xx]



Subh-i-Ezel further sent me at different times several other
MSS., a complete list of such of the Báb’s works as had been in his own
possession at Baghdad1, and a brief history of the Bábí
movement written by himself, besides numerous letters, each one of which
contained most precious information.



    This correspondence, which opened out so rich a mine of new facts,
was but in an early stage when my second paper on the Bábís was
published in the J.R.A.S. for October 1889, but I was able to add to it an
appendix (pp. 994-998) embodying the more important results of the enquiry
undertaken by Captain Young, Mr Cobham, and Mr Houston. A fuller and more accurate
account of Subh-i-Ezel and the other Bábí exiles
in Cyprus, based on the enquiries of the above-mentioned gentlemen, the
examination of official documents, and the statements made to me by
Subh-i-Ezel, his sons, and others, will be found in Note W at the
end of this book. It is therefore unnecessary for me to allude further to this
correspondence at present.



    While I was in Persia I had already formed the intention of visiting
Acre and learning the doctrine of Behá from the fountain-head. From the
moment when I discovered that Subh-i-Ezel was still alive I
further resolved to visit him also, for from repeated personal interviews I
anticipated results which could not be obtained by a correspondence, however
elaborate. I was also anxious for my own satisfaction to see those who since the
Báb’s death had been the leaders of the Bábí movement.
Without this I felt that my researches would lack that completeness which I wished
to give them. The motives which impelled me towards Acre and Famagusta were
equally strong, but somewhat different. At the former place I expected to see



1 See Note U at end.


[page xxi]



the mainspring and fulcrum of a mighty force with the astonishing results of which
I had become practically acquainted in Persia, and from which I believed (as I still
believe) that results yet more wonderful might be expected in the future. At the
latter place I hoped to converse with one whom the Báb had recognized as his
immediate successor and vicegerent; one who had been personally acquainted with
Mullá Huseyn of Bushraweyh, Mullá Sheykh ‘Alí,
Suleymán Khán, Kurratu’ l-‘Ayn, and, in short, almost all of
those whose devoted lives and heroic deaths had first inspired my enthusiasm; one,
moreover, who represented the spirit and tradition of the old
Bábíism, which, in the hands of Behá, had already undergone
important modifications, and, indeed, become almost a new religion. Various
considerations decided me to visit Cyprus first, of which two only need be
mentioned here:- firstly, it was practically certain that no obstacle to my
seeing Subh-i-Ezel would arise, while it was by no means certain that
I should be able to see Behá; secondly, the logical order of procedure
was to begin with the investigation of the old order of things, and having completed
this, to continue the examination of the new. I hoped, however, to make one journey
suffice for the attainment of both objects; but, allowing for the time which must be
consumed in actual travelling, it was clear that at least two months would be
required for the enterprise. The Long Vacation was amply sufficient for the purpose,
but the summer was the most unsuitable season for such a journey, and I therefore
determined to petition the University for such extension of leave at Easter as would
enable me to absent from England for two months. The University, ever ready to
facilitate research of every kind, granted me permission to absent myself from
Cambridge from March 4th till May 3rd, 1890, and accordingly,


[page xxii]



leaving England on the date first mentioned, I landed at Larnaca in Cyprus on March
19th.



    Captain Young and Mr Cobham, on becoming acquainted with my
intention of visiting Cyprus, had, with that ready kindness and hospitality which, so
far as my experience goes, are rarely lacking in Englishmen resident in the East,
written to ask me to be their guest during such time as I might desire to remain in
Famagusta or Larnaca, so that I was entirely relieved of all anxiety as to the
possibility of finding a base of operations for my researches. Captain Young further
counselled me, in case I wished to gain access to the official records of the Island
Government, to obtain before leaving England such letters of recommendation as
might ensure the attainment of this object. I accordingly applied for help in
obtaining these to Major- General Sir Frederic Goldsmid, whose long residence in
Persia and intimate knowledge of the Persian people and language had led him to
take some interest in my communications on the subject of the Bábís
to the Royal Asiatic Society. He spared no pains to further my plans, and introduced
me to Sir Robert Biddulph, who very kindly gave me a letter to Sir Henry Bulwer, the
Governor-General of Cyprus, asking him to allow me, so far as might be permissible
or expedient, to inspect such official documents as might throw light on the object
of my investigations.



    In Larnaca I spent only one day, the shortness of the time at my
disposal and my eagerness to see Subh-i-Ezel compelling me
with great reluctance to forego the pleasure which a more prolonged sojourn under
Mr Cobham’s hospitable roof would have afforded me. That day passed most
pleasantly, for in my host I found not only an accomplished Oriental scholar and a
traveller to whom few regions of the habitable globe were unknown, but a genial


[page xxiii]



friend and a warm sympathizer in my researches. Mr Cobham had studied Persian for
some time with Mushkín-Kalam, one of the
Behá’í exiles sent with Subh-i-Ezel to
Cyprus1, and from him had learned much concerning the new religion.
Subh-i-Ezel, however, he had not seen; for Mushkín-
Kalam
, as was natural, had spoken only of Behá, and had entirely
ignored the existence of a chief whose authority he disavowed.



    On the following day (Thursday, March 20th, 1890) I bade farewell to
Mr Cobham, and, after some six hours spent in a somewhat antiquated vehicle
belonging to a loquacious Italian who had fought for Garibaldi, found myself at
Famagusta, or rather its suburb Varoshia, where I met with a most cordial welcome
from Captain and Lady Evelyn Young. Captain Young at once sent a message to
Subh-i-Ezel’s son ‘Abdu’l-‘Alí (who keeps a shop in
Varoshia) requesting him to come to the konák. In a
short time he appeared; and I was much struck by the refinement of his manner, the
intelligence revealed by his countenance and conversation, and the courteousness of
his address. Our conversation was conducted in Persian, which, though he had never
been in Persia, he spoke as his mother-tongue. It was soon arranged that I should
visit Subh-i-Ezel on the following day at whatever time he
should appoint.



    Next morning we received a message to the effect that
Subh-i-Ezel was prepared to receive us as soon as we could
come. At about 11 a.m., therefore, Captain Young drove me into the town, which is
situated about a mile from the suburb of Varoshia. As I had not entered within the
walls of Famagusta on the preceding day I now saw for the first time the massive
fortifications, the multitu-



1 Concerning Mushkín-Kalam see B. i, p.
516; B. ii, pp. 994-995; and Note W at end.


[page xxiv]



dinous churches (whereof the number, as is currently reported by the inhabitants,
equals the number of days in the year), and the desolate neglected streets of that
most interesting relic of the Middle Ages. After Captain Young had transacted some
other business we proceeded to Subh-i-Ezel’s abode, in the
court-yard of which we were received by his sons ‘Abdu’l-‘Alí,
Rizván-‘Alí, ‘Abdu’l-Wau>híd, and
Takí’u’d-Dín, and an old Bábí of Zanján
who had settled in the island so as to be near his master. Accompanied by these
(with the exception of the last-mentioned) we ascended to an upper room, where a
venerable and benevolent-looking old man of about sixty years of age, somewhat
below the middle height, with ample forehead on which the traces of care and
anxiety were apparent, clear searching blue eyes, and long grey beard, rose and
advanced to meet us. Before that mild and dignified countenance I involuntarily
bowed myself with unfeigned respect; for at length my long-cherished desire was
fulfilled, and I stood face to face with Mírzá Yah
Subh-i-Ezel (“the Morning of Eternity”), the appointed successor
of the Báb, the fourth “Letter” of the “First Unity.”



    This my first interview was necessarily short and somewhat formal,
for I had yet to win the confidence of Subh-i-Ezel and induce
him little by little to speak without reserve of those things whereof I so earnestly
desired to hear. In this, thanks to the confidence with which Captain Young’s
kindness had already inspired Subh-i-Ezel, and the very vivid
picture of the chief actors in the Bábí movement, which, first derived
from the perusal of Count Gobineau’s work, had continued to glow and grow in my
mind till it became almost as a part of my own personal experience, I was
completely successful. During the fortnight which I spent at Famagusta I visited
Subh-i-Ezel daily, remaining


[page xxv]



with him as a rule from two or three o’clock in the afternoon until sunset. Lack of
space forbids me from describing in detail and consecutive order the conversations
which took place on these occasions. Note-book and pencil in hand I sat before him
day by day; and every evening I returned to Varoshia with a rich store of new facts,
most of which will be found recorded in the notes wherewith I have striven to
illustrate or check the statements advanced in the following pages. Apart from the
delight inseparable from successful research my stay at Famagusta was a very
pleasant one, for from every one with whom I came in contact, but most of all from
Captain and Lady Evelyn Young, I met with a kindness which I can never forget.
Besides my visits to Subh-i-Ezel in the afternoon I often spent
some portion of the morning with his son ‘Abdu’l-‘Alí, and we were
sometimes joined by Rizván ‘Alí, or by one or other of the few
Ezelís who have settled in Famagusta. During these conversations I learned
many new facts of greater or less importance. The reserve which had at first been
apparent in Subh-i-Ezel gradually disappeared, and at each
successive interview I found him more communicative. Although our conversation
was chiefly on religious topics, and the history, biography, doctrine, and literature
of the Bábís, other matters were occasionally discussed. Of the
Báb and his first apostles and followers, as of his own life and adventures,
Subh-i-Ezel would speak freely, but concerning the origin of
the schism which for him had been attended with such disastrous results, and all
pertaining to Behá and the Behá’ís, he was most reticent, so
that, perceiving this subject to be distasteful, I refrained for the most part from
alluding to it. During these conferences Subh-i-Ezel’s sons
were always present, though they hardly spoke in the presence of their father,
towards whom they observed the utmost deference and respect.


[page xxvi]



Tea was always served in the Persian fashion, but tobacco in all forms was
conspicuous by its absence, the Ezelís, unlike the Behá’ís,
following the injunctions of the Báb in this matter. In the course of each
visit, or sometimes when I was leaving the house, Subh-i-
Ezel’s
youngest son Takí’u’d-Dín, a pretty, graceful child
about thirteen years of age, used to present me with a little bunch of roses or such
other flowers as the modest garden attached to the house would afford. On my walk
to and from Famagusta I was always accompanied by ‘Abdu’l-‘Alí and often by
one of his brothers.



    A few days after my arrival at Famagusta I wrote to Sir Henry
Bulwer stating what was my object in desiring to examine the official records
concerning the exiles which might be preserved at Nicosia, asking whether I might
be permitted to do so, and forwarding the letter of recommendation given me by Sir
Robert Biddulph. In response to my request Sir Henry Bulwer, having learnt that the
shortness of my stay in the island made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to
visit Nicosia, was kind enough to forward for my perusal all the more important
papers bearing on the subject. All of these, therefore, I was able to examine at my
leisure; and of all of them, with one exception, I received permission to make use.
An abstract of the important facts and dates established by these documents will be
found in Note W at the end of this book.



    The fifth of April, which was the ultimate limit whereunto my stay
in Cyprus could be protracted, unless I were prepared to postpone indefinitely my
visit to Acre, came at last. On the morning of that day, therefore, having with great
reluctance bade farewell to all my kind friends, I left Famagusta, and embarked the
same afternoon at Larnaca


[page xxvii]



on the Messageries steamer Gironde. I passed a pleasant evening with a
Turkish official and a Syrian who were the only other passengers besides myself,
and early next morning awoke to find myself at Beyrout.



    As I had now but two weeks at my disposal ere I must again turn my
face homewards I was naturally anxious to proceed as soon as possible to Acre,
especially as I learned that should I fail to find a steamer bound directly for that
port, three days at least would be consumed by the journey thither. It was, however,
necessary for me first to obtain permission from the Bábí head-
quarters; for though I could without doubt proceed to Acre if I so pleased without
consulting any one’s inclination save my own, it was certain that unless my journey
had previously received the sanction of Behá it would in all probability
result in naught but failure and disappointment. Now there reside at Beyrout, Port
Said, and Alexandria (by one of which places all desirous of proceeding to Acre by
sea must of necessity pass) Bábís of consequence to whom all
desirous of visiting Behá must in the first instance apply. Should such
application prove successful, the applicant is informed that he may proceed on his
journey, and receives such instruction, advice, and assistance as may be necessary.
To the Bábí agent at Beyrout (whose name I do not feel myself at
liberty to mention) I had a letter of recommendation from one of his relatives with
whom I had become acquainted in Persia. The first thing which I did on my arrival
was to send a messenger to discover his abode. The messenger shortly returned,
saying that he had indeed succeeded in finding the place indicated, but that the agent
was absent from Beyrout. This was a most serious blow to my hopes, for time was
against me, and every day was of vital importance. There was nothing for it,
however, but to make the best of the matter, and I therefore went in person to


[page xxviii]



the abode of the absent agent and presented myself to his deputy, who opened and
attentively perused my letter of recommendation, and then informed me that his
master was at Acre and was not expected back for ten days or a fortnight. In reply
to my anxious enquiries as to how I had best proceed, he advised me to write a
letter to his master explaining the state of the case, which letter, together with the
letter of recommendation, he undertook to forward at once, as the post fortunately
chanced to be leaving for Acre that very evening. I at once wrote as he directed, and
then returned to my lodging with the depressing consciousness that at least five or
six days must elapse ere I could receive an answer to my letter or start for Acre;
that even if permission was granted (as no steamer appeared likely to be sailing)
three more days would be spent in reaching my goal; and that consequently eight or
nine days out of the fourteen still remaining to me would be wasted before I could
even set foot in the land of my quest. Altogether I began to fear that the second part
of my journey was likely to prove far less successful than the first.



    Fortunately matters turned out much better than I expected. In the
first place I made the acquaintance of Mr Eyres, the British Vice-Consul, whose
kindness and hospitality did much to render my stay at Beyrout pleasant, and who, on
learning that I wished to proceed to Acre, told me that he himself intended to start
for Acre and Haifa on the following Friday (April 11th), and that I might if I
pleased accompany him. In the second place it occurred to me that I might save two
or three days’ delay by telegraphing to Acre so soon as my letter must, in the natural
course of things, have reached its destination, and requesting a telegram in reply to
inform me whether I might proceed thither. On Wednesday, April 9th, therefore, I
sent a telegram to this effect. On Thursday evening, returning


[page xxix]



after sunset to my hotel from a ride in the hills, I was met with the welcome news
that a Persian had called twice to see me during the afternoon stating that he had
important business which would not brook delay, and that he had left a note for me
which I should find upstairs. From this note, hurriedly scribbled in pencil on a scrap
of paper, I learned that permission had been granted, and that I was free to start as
soon as I pleased.



    On receiving this intelligence my first action was to verify it beyond
all doubt by calling at once on the deputy of the absent agent, whom I fortunately
found at home. He congratulated me warmly on the happy issue of my affairs, and
handed over to me the original telegram. It was laconic in the extreme, containing,
besides the address, two words only:- “Yatawajjahu ‘l-musáfir” (“Let
the traveller approach”). He then informed me that as no steamer was starting for
Acre I must of necessity proceed thither by land, and that the reason why he had
been so anxious to communicate with me earlier was that the post left that day at
sun-down and I might have accompanied it. I then told him of Mr Eyres’ kind offer;
which, as we agreed, was a most exceptional piece of good-fortune for me, inasmuch
as he proposed to start on the following morning, and expected to reach Acre on
April 13th.



    After bidding farewell to the deputy-agent and thanking him for the
effectual aid which he had rendered me, I visited Mr Eyres, and told him that I would
accept his kind offer if I could obtain a horse and make the necessary arrangements
for my journey on the following morning. He told me that he must start early, but
that if I left Beyrout by mid-day I could easily overtake him at Sidon, where he
would halt for the night; and he further placed at my disposal the services of one of
his kawwáses to assist me in my preparations.


[page xxx]



    Next morning (Friday, 11th) I was astir early, for there was much to
be done. With the help of my friend Jemálu’d-Dín Bey of the Imperial
Ottoman Bank, and the active co-operation of the
kawwás of the Consulate, all was at length
satisfactorily arranged; and shortly after midday I found myself on a sturdy, good-
looking, but somewhat indolent horse, with a khurjín (pair of saddle-
bags) containing the most indispensable of my effects behind me, plodding along a
sandy road bordered with cactus in the direction of Sidon, where (the road being
fortunately easy to follow) I arrived without mishap at sun-down.



    To speak of the delights of that three days’ journey, the beauty of the
scenery, the purity and fragrance of the soft spring air, the pleasant mid-day halts
by some rippling stream or in some balmy grove, and the hospitable receptions
accorded to me as Mr Eyres’ travelling companion by those in whose houses we
alighted at Sidon, Tyre, and Acre, would be to wander further than is permissible
from the subject in hand. Suffice it to say that, thanks to Mr Eyres’ kindness in
allowing me to accompany him, a journey, which, if performed in solitude, would
have lost more than half its charm, was rendered enjoyable in the highest degree.
The last day was perhaps the most delightful of all, and I was greatly astonished on
entering the Acre plain to behold a wealth of beautiful gardens and fragrant orange-
groves such as I had little expected to find in what Behá has stigmatized as
“the most desolate of countries” (akhrabu’l-bilád). I subsequently
mentioned this feeling of surprise to the Bábís at Acre, who replied
that had I seen it when Behá first came there nearly two and twenty years
ago I should not have deemed the title misapplied, but that since he had dwelt there
it had assumed this fair and comely aspect.


[page xxxi]



    We entered Acre towards sun-down on April 13th, and, wending our
way through the fine bazaars, on the smooth stone pavement of which our horses’
hoofs slipped as on ice, alighted at the house of a Christian merchant named
Ibrahím Khúrí, who accorded to us the usual hospitable
reception. That same evening I sent a note to the Bábí agent, which
was brought back by the messenger unopened, with the disagreeable news that my
mysterious correspondent had gone to Haifá with Behá’s eldest
son ‘Abbás Efendí. This was most unwelcome information; for as Mr
Eyres was leaving the next day for Haifá, and I did not wish to
trespass further on the hospitality of Ibrahím Khúrí, it was
absolutely essential that I should obtain help from the Bábís in
finding other quarters. Evidently there was nothing for it but to wait for the morrow
and what it might bring forth.



    Next morning I enquired if there was any representative of the absent
agent who might be cognizant of his movements, and was conducted to a shop in the
bazaar, where I found a tall handsome youth clothed entirely in white save for his
red fez, from beneath which a mass of glossy black hair swept back behind his ears,
at the lower level of which it terminated. 1 This youth, accosting me in Turkish,
enquired first somewhat haughtily what might be my business. I answered him in
Persian, whereat he appeared surprised; and, after hearing what I had to say, bade
me follow him. He led me to a house situated near the seashore, at the door of which
we were met by an old Persian



1 Concerning the characteristic manner in which the
Bábís arrange their hair, cf. B. i. pp. 499-500. The wearing of pure
white garments was from the first another special feature of theirs. Thus we learn
from the Táríkh-i-Jadíd that the defenders of Sheykh
Tabarsí used to issue forth to attack their foes clad in pure white
raiment and crying out “Sáhibu’z-
Zamán
” (“O Lord of the Age!”).


[page xxxii]



with long grizzled hair and beard, whose scrutinizing gaze was rendered more
rather than less formidable by an enormous pair of spectacles. This man, after
conversing for a few moments with my guide in an under tone, led me into a large
room devoid of all furniture save a sort of bench or divan which ran round its four
sides. I had scarcely seated myself when another Persian, evidently superior in
authority to the other two, entered and saluted me. He was a man of middle height
and middle age, with a keen and not unpleasing countenance, whereof the lower part
was concealed by a short crisp beard. After bidding me reseat myself (for I had of
course risen on his entrance) and ordering his servant (for such, I discovered, was
the old man who had met me at the door) to give me a cup of coffee, he proceeded to
subject me to a most minute cross-examination as to my nationality, my occupation,
my travels in Persia, the objects of my present journey, and the like. My answers
appeared to satisfy him; and when he had finished his questioning he asked me what
I proposed to do. I told him that I would be guided entirely by his advice. He then
asked me whether I would proceed to Haifá, where I was certain to
find the agent whom I sought with Behá’s son ‘Abbás Efendí.
To this I replied that as I had but a few days at my disposal, and as Acre and not
Haifá was the goal of my journey, I would rather remain than depart.
“In that case,” said he, “I myself will go to Haifá this afternoon and
bring back word tomorrow what you must do. Meanwhile will you remain where you
stayed last night till I return?” I answered that I would rather not trespass further
on a hospitality extended to me solely as Mr Eyres’ friend, and that if he could
suggest any other lodging for that night I should be glad. I was not, I added, exacting
in the matter of comfort, and would be quite content with a caravansary.


[page xxxiii]



He reflected for a few moments and then said, “Very well. If that be your wish you
can stay here. I myself shall be absent, but I will give instructions that you shall be
looked after. And after all it is only for one night: tomorrow I shall return, and we
will, if God please, find you better quarters. When the consul departs for
Haifá do you also leave the house where you are staying and bring your
effects here.” I then took my leave with many expressions of gratitude, and occupied
myself during the remainder of the morning in packing my saddle-bags and making
arrangements for the stabling of my horse during the time I expected to remain at
Acre.



    After lunch Mr Eyres departed for Haifá, and I, quitting
Ibrahím Khurí’s abode, found someone to carry my effects to the
house which I had visited in the morning. Here I was received by a sharp-looking boy
of about fourteen, who proved to be the son of my interlocutor of the morning, to
whom also, as I subsequently discovered, the house which I had now entered
belonged. I had expected to receive but the roughest accommodation, the resources
of the house being in nowise revealed by the room on the ground-floor where I had
been received in the morning. My experience of the hospitality of the Persians in
general and the Bábís in particular, and the deceptive exteriors of
Oriental houses, might, it is true, have led me to expect tolerable comfort, but could
hardly have prepared me for the positive luxury which the thoughtful kindness of my
host had provided. During the afternoon I was entertained by my host’s son, who
showed that admirable courtesy and savoir faire with which even quite young
Persian boys are capable, in the absence of their elders, of receiving the stranger
and doing the honours of the house. As it was Easter Monday the street outside was
filled with Syrian Christians, who continued so long as daylight lasted to


[page xxxiv]



express their joy in howls, gun-shots, and wild dances, at which we looked on in
amazement from the window. A more remarkable and discordant expression of
religious fervour it has never been my lot to witness. Towards the latter part of the
afternoon my host’s son, thinking, I suppose, that I needed further amusement, took
me to see an itinerant Greek photographer who was temporarily established in a sort
of cellar in the basement of the house. This Greek spoke French tolerably well, and
seemed an honest, kindly fellow. He was very anxious to make out that I was a free-
mason, and importuned me greatly to tell him the names of the pillars of Solomon’s
temple. Dim recollections of some book purporting to expose the secrets of that cult
prompted me to seek escape from his pertinacity by suggesting “Boaz,” whereupon
nothing would serve him but I must tell him the name of the other. As I had
forgotten this, and begun to weary of the subject, I took my leave.



    Towards evening I received another visitor, whose mien and bearing
alike marked him as a person of consequence. He was a man of perhaps thirty or
thirty-five years of age, with a face which called to one’s mind the finest types of
Iranian physiognomy preserved to us in the bas-reliefs of Persepolis, yet with
something in it beyond this, which involuntarily called forth in my mind the thought,
“What would not an artist desirous of painting a saint or an apostle give for such a
model!” My visitor (who, as I afterwards discovered, was a son of Behá’s
deceased brother Músá) was clothed, save for the tall red fez which
crowned his head, entirely in pure white; and everything about him, from his short
well-trimmed beard and the masses of jet-black hair swept boldly back behind his
ears, to the hem of his spotless garment, was characterized by the same scrupulous
neatness. He saluted me very graciously, and


[page xxxv]



remained conversing with me all the evening. Shortly after supper he bade me good-
night, saying that I must doubtless be fatigued with my journey. I was then
conducted by my host’s son and the old servant to the room where I had spent the
afternoon, where, to my astonishment, I found that a bed provided with the most
efficient mosquito-curtains and furnished with fair white sheets and soft mattress
had been prepared for me. The arrangement of the mosquito-curtains (called by my
new friends námúsí) was such as I had not previously
seen, and, as it appeared to me perfect in simplicity and efficiency, I shall describe
it for the benefit of other travellers. The námúsí, then,
consists of what may most easily be described as a large box or small chamber of
muslin, rectangular in shape, greater in length than in breadth, and furnished with a
single funnel-shaped aperture in one of its sides. This muslin chamber is suspended
by its corners by cords attached to the wall, and is entered through the funnel-
shaped aperture, the mouth of which is encircled by a cord. The bed is laid inside, its
component parts being introduced one by one. The occupant on entering draws tight
the constricting cord, and is thereby completely cut off from the attacks of gnats,
mosquitoes, and the like. The whole structure can, when not in use, be folded up into
a very small compass.



    I arose next morning (Tuesday, April 14th) after a most refreshing
sleep, and was served with tea by the old man with the spectacles. Soon after this a
sudden stir without announced the arrival of fresh visitors, and a moment after my
companion of the previous evening entered the room accompanied by two other
persons, one of whom proved to be the Bábí agent from Beyrout, while
the other, as I guessed from the first by the extraordinary deference shewn to him
by all present, was none other than Behá’s eldest son ‘Abbás


[page xxxvi]



Efendí. Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more. A tall
strongly-built man holding himself straight as an arrow, with white turban and
raiment, long black locks reaching almost to the shoulder, broad powerful forehead
indicating a strong intellect combined with an unswerving will, eyes keen as a
hawk’s, and strongly-marked but pleasing features – such was my first impression
of ‘Abbás Efendí, “the master” (Áká) as
he par excellence is called by the Bábís. Subsequent
conversation with him served only to heighten the respect with which his
appearance had from the first inspired me. One more eloquent of speech, more ready
of argument, more apt of illustration, more intimately acquainted with the sacred
books of the Jews, the Christians, and the Muhammadans, could, I should think,
scarcely be found even amongst the eloquent, ready, and subtle race to which he
belongs. These qualities, combined with a bearing at once majestic and genial, made
me cease to wonder at the influence and esteem which he enjoyed even beyond the
circle of his father’s followers. About the greatness of this man and his power no
one who had seen him could entertain a doubt.



    In this illustrious company did I partake of the mid-day meal. Soon
after its conclusion ‘Abbás Efendí and the others arose with a
prefatory “Bismi’lláh,” and signified to me that I should accompany
them, which I did, without having any idea whither we were going. I observed,
however, that the saddle-bags containing my effects were carried after us by one of
those present; from which I concluded that I was not intended to remain in my
present quarters. We left the house, traversed the bazaars, and quitted the town by
its solitary gate. Outside this gate near the sea is a large shed which serves as a
coffee-house, and here we seated ourselves, my companions evidently awaiting the
arrival of something or somebody from a large


[page xxxvii]



mansion half-hidden in a grove of trees situated about a mile or a mile and a half
inland, towards which they continually directed their glances. While we were
waiting thus, a weird-looking old man, who proved to be none other than the famous
Mushkín-Kalam,1 came and seated himself beside
us. He told me that he had heard all about me from a relation of his at
Isfahán (that same dallál who had been the means of my first
introduction to the Bábí community)2, and that he had
been expecting to see me at Acre ever since that time.



    Presently we discerned advancing towards us along the road from the
mansion above mentioned three animals, one of which was ridden by a man.
Thereupon we arose and went to meet them; and I soon found myself mounted on one
of those fine white asses which, in my opinion, are of all quadrupeds the most
comfortable to ride. A quarter of an hour later we alighted in front of the large
mansion aforesaid, whereof the name, Behjé (Joy), is said to be a
corruption (though, as the Bábís do not fail to point out, a very happy
corruption) of Bághcha (which signifies a garden). I was almost
immediately conducted into a large room on the ground-floor, where I was most
cordially received by several persons whom I had not hitherto seen. Amongst these
were two of Behá’s younger sons, of whom one was apparently about twenty-
five and the other about twenty-one years of age. Both were handsome and
distinguished enough in appearance, and the expression of the younger was
singularly sweet and winning. Besides these a very old man with light blue eyes and
white beard, whose green turban proclaimed him a descendant of the Prophet,
advanced to welcome me, saying, “We know not how we



1 See B. i, p. 516, B. ii, p. 994, and Note W at the end of this book.

2 See B. i, p. 487 et seq.


[page xxxviii]



should greet thee, whether we should salute thee with ‘as-selámu
‘aleykum
‘ or with ‘Alláhu abhá1.'” When I
discovered that this venerable old man was not only one of the original companions
of the Báb but his relative and comrade from earliest childhood, it may well
be imagined with what eagerness I gazed upon him and listened to his every
utterance.



    So here at Behjé was I installed as a guest, in the very
midst of all that Bábíism accounts most noble and most holy; and
here did I spend five most memorable days, during which I enjoyed unparalleled and
unhoped-for opportunities of holding intercourse with those who are the very
fountain-heads of that mighty and wondrous spirit which works with invisible but
ever-increasing force for the transformation and quickening of a people who
slumber in a sleep like unto death. It was in truth a strange and moving experience,
but one whereof I despair of conveying any save the feeblest impression. I might,
indeed, strive to describe in greater detail the faces and forms which surrounded
me, the conversations to which I was privileged to listen, the solemn melodious
reading of the sacred books, the general sense of harmony and content which
pervaded the place, and the fragrant shady gardens whither in the afternoon we
sometimes repaired; but all this was as nought in comparison with the spiritual
atmosphere with which I was encompassed. Persian Muslims will tell you often that
the Bábís bewitch or drug their guests so that these, impelled by a
fascination which they cannot resist, become similarly affected with what the
aforesaid Muslims regard as a strange and incomprehensible madness. Idle and
absurd as this belief is, it yet rests on a basis of fact stronger than that which
supports the greater part of what



1 i.e. with the salutation ordinarily used by the Muhammadans, or
with that peculiar to the Bábís.


[page
xxxix]



they allege concerning this people. The spirit which pervades the
Bábís is such that it can hardly fail to affect most powerfully all
subjected to its influence. It may appal or attract: it cannot be ignored or
disregarded. Let those who have not seen disbelieve me if they will; but, should that
spirit once reveal itself to them, they will experience an emotion which they are not
likely to forget.



    Of the culminating event of this my journey some few words at least
must be said. During the morning of the day after my installation at
Behjé one of Behá’s younger sons entered the room where I was
sitting and beckoned to me to follow him. I did so, and was conducted through
passages and rooms at which I scarcely had time to glance to a spacious hall, paved,
so far as I remember (for my mind was occupied with other thoughts) with a mosaic
of marble. Before a curtain suspended from the wall of this great ante-chamber my
conductor paused for a moment while I removed my shoes. Then, with a quick
movement of the hand, he withdrew, and, as I passed, replaced the curtain; and I
found myself in a large apartment, along the upper end of which ran a low divan,
while on the side opposite to the door were placed two or three chairs. Though I
dimly suspected whither I was going and whom I was to behold (for no distinct
intimation had been given to me), a second or two lapsed ere, with a throb of wonder
and awe, I became definitely conscious that the room was not untenanted. In the
corner where the divan met the wall sat a wondrous and venerable figure, crowned
with a felt head-dress of the kind called táj by dervishes (but of
unusual height and make), round the base of which was wound a small white turban.
The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it.
Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power


[page xl]



and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the forehead and face
implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable
luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No need to ask in whose presence I
stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which
kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!



    A mild dignified voice bade me be seated, and then continued:-
“Praise be to God that thou hast attained!… Thou hast come to see a prisoner and an
exile…. We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet
they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment….
That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds
of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that
diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled – what harm
is there in this?… Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars
shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come…. Do not you in Europe need
this also? Is not this that which Christ foretold?… Yet do we see your kings and
rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the
human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind…. These
strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and
one family…. Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather
glory in this, that he loves his kind….”



    Such, so far as I can recall them, were the words which, besides
many others, I heard from Behá. Let those who read them consider well with
themselves whether such doctrines merit death and bonds, and whether the world is
more likely to gain or lose by their diffusion.



    My interview lasted altogether about twenty minutes,


[page xli]



and during the latter part of it Behá read a portion of that epistle
(lawu>h) whereof the translation occupies the last paragraph on p. 70 and the
greater part of p. 71 of this book.



    During the five days spent at Behjé (Tuesday, April
15th to Sunday, April 20th), I was admitted to Behá’s presence four times.
These interviews always took place an hour or two before noon, and lasted from
twenty minutes to half-an-hour. One of Behá’s sons always accompanied me,
and once Áká Mírzá Aká
Ján (Jenáb-i-Khádimu’ lláh)1 the
amanuensis (kátib-i-áyát) was also present. In their
general features these interviews resembled the first, of which I have attempted to
give a description. Besides this, one afternoon I saw Behá walking in one of
the gardens which belong to him. He was surrounded by a little group of his chief
followers. How the journey to and from the garden was accomplished I know not:
probably under cover of the darkness of night.



    At length the last day to which my departure could possibly be
deferred if I were to reach Cambridge ere the expiration of my leave arrived. Loath
as I was to go, there was no help for it; and reluctantly enough I declined the
pressing invitations to prolong my stay which the kindness of my friends prompted
them to utter. Finding that I was bent on departure, and that I could remain longer
without running a great risk of breaking my promise, they ceased to try to dissuade
me from going, and, with most considerate kindness, strove to make such
arrangements for my return journey as might most conduce to my comfort. In spite
of all my assurances that I could easily return by myself, it was settled that the
Bábí agent of Beyrout should accompany me thither. I was very un-



1 See B. i, p. 519; and pp. 355, n. 2, 358, and 360-362
infra.


[page xlii]



willing to put him to such inconvenience, but was finally compelled to accede to
this arrangement, which, of course, made the return journey far pleasanter than it
would otherwise have been.



    In the course of a conversation which took place soon after my
arrival I had expressed a strong desire to become better acquainted with the later
history of the Bábí movement, adding that the only history written in
a friendly and sympathetic spirit which I had seen was the Táríkh-
i-Jadíd
, and that this only carried the narrative down to the year A.D.
1850. In reply I was told that a concise and authentic history carried down almost
to the present day had been compiled1; and that same day this book, of
which the text and translation are now published, was placed in my hands. I did not
at first understand that this was a gift, for many books were lent to me to read in
my room; and consequently I spent much time which, as the event turned out, might
have been more profitably employed, in copying out what I deemed the more
important passages of the work in question. When, at the moment of my departure, I
offered to return the book, I was told that it was a gift which I might take with me
in remembrance of my visit; whereat I rejoiced greatly. Besides this I received a
fine MS. copy of the Ikán written by the same scribe, “the
Letter Zá
” [footnote: See Note Z at end.]; for I had mentioned incidentally
that the copy of that work which I had obtained in Persia had unfortunately suffered
damages which rendered many passages almost illegible.



    At length the moment of departure came, and, after taking an
affectionate farewell of my kind friends, I once



1 For a fuller account of the circumstances which led to the
compilation of this history see that portion of Note A which is devoted to the
Táríkh-i-Jadíd (pp. 194-195 infra.


[page xliii]



more turned my face towards Beyrout. I was accompanied by the Bábí
agent; and a servant, who, left fatherless in childhood by one of the
Bábí persecutions in Persia, had since remained in the household of
Behá, went with us as far as Tyre. I have seldom seen one whose countenance
and conversation revealed a more complete contentment with his lot. That night we
slept in a caravansaray at Tyre. Next day the servant bade us farewell and turned
back towards Acre, while we continued on our way, and shortly after sunset passed
through the beautiful gardens which surround Sidon, that fairest and most fragrant
of Syria’s cities. Here we alighted at the house of a Bábí of Yezd,
whose kindly hospitality formed a pleasant contrast to our somewhat dreary
lodgings the previous night.



    On the evening of the following day (Tuesday, April 22nd) we entered
Beyrout, and halted for a while to rest and refresh ourselves with tea at the house
of a Bábí of Baghdad which was situated in the outskirts of the town.
This man had as a child gone with his father to Persia in the hope of seeing the
Báb. This he was unable to do, the Báb being at the time confined in
the fortress of Chihrík, but at Teherán he had seen
Mullá Huseyn of Bushraweyh. I asked him what manner of man
Mullá Huseyn was. “Lean and fragile to look at,” he answered, “but
keen and bright as the sword which never left his side. For the rest, he was not more
than thirty or thirty-five years old, and his raiment was white.”



    Next day soon after sun-down, the last farewells said, and the
precious MSS. carefully concealed about me, I was borne swiftly out of Beyrout
harbour by the Egyptian steamer Rau>hmániyya. Eight days later,
on Thursday, May 1st, I was back in Cambridge. So ended a most interesting, most
successful, and most pleasant journey.


[page xliv]



    Shortly after my return to Cambridge I addressed a note to the
Syndicate of the University Press, stating in brief outline the course and results of
the investigations which had occupied me during the last three years, and my desire
to place before the world some portion of these results by publishing the text and
translation of one or other of the two Bábí histories which I had
obtained. Of these two histories I briefly discussed the respective merits, adding
that, although the text of the Táríkh-i-Jadíd only
awaited collation with the British Museum MS., while the translation thereof was
far advanced towards completion, this newer history, owing to its comparatively
small bulk, could probably be got ready for publication quite as soon as the larger
work, while the MS. of it which I had obtained, being accurate, well written, and, to
the best of my knowledge, unique in Europe, might, with perfect propriety, be
reproduced in fac-simile by some process of photo-lithography. In reply to my
application, I was presently informed that the Syndicate was prepared to accept and
publish the smaller work so soon as it should be ready, while the expediency of
publishing the larger Táríkh-i-Jadíd was deferred for
future consideration. On learning the favourable result of my application I at once
applied myself vigorously to the work of translation and annotation, and by the end
of July 1890 the first proof-sheets were already before me. As it had been decided
that the text should be reproduced by photo-lithography, I had no anxiety on that
score; and the excellence of the facsimile produced in the workshops of the
Cambridge Engraving Company under the careful supervision of Mr Dew-Smith of
Trinity College, will, I am confident, more than reconcile the Persian scholar to the
necessity of dealing with a lithographed instead of a printed text.


[page xlv]



    It remains for me to speak briefly of the peculiarities of this history
both as regards tone and style. As to the former, the chief features which will
strike the attentive reader are:-



    (1)   The quite secondary importance accorded to the
Báb, whose mission is throughout depicted as a mere preparation for the
fuller and more perfect dispensation of Behá. In like manner the deeds and
sufferings of the early apostles of Bábíism are passed over very
lightly, and many of the most remarkable events of the older dispensation (such as
the deaths of the ‘Seven Martyrs1,’ and the great massacre at
Teherán in 1852 which Renan2 calls “un jour sans pareil peut-
être dans l’histoire du monde”) are almost or quite unnoticed. The martyrdoms
of Mírzá Badí3 and the two Seyyids of
Isfahán4, which belong to the new dispensation, are, on the other
hand, treated of very fully.



    (2)   Mírzá Yah
Subh-i-Ezel is throughout depicted as a person of no
consequence, enjoying for a while a merely nominal supremacy, bestowed upon him,
not for any special merit or capacity, but out of regard for certain considerations of
expediency5. No opportunity is lost of disparaging both his courage and
his judgement6, and of contrasting him in these respects with
Behá, who is everywhere described as the true and legitimate chief.



    (3)   Towards the Sháh of Persia an extraordinarily
temperate tone is observed, and in several places apologies are put forward for his
justification, the blame for the cruelties inflicted on the Bábís being
thrown either on his



1 See Note B at end.
2 Les Apôtres,
p. 378. See also Note T at end.
3 See pp. 102-106 infra.

4 See pp. 167-169 and 400 et seq. infra, and B. i, pp. 489-
491.
5 Cf. pp. 62-63 infra.
6 Cf. pp. 51-52; 63-
64; 89-90; and 93-101 infra.


[page xlvi]



ministers and courtiers, or on the Muhammadan doctors, who are repeatedly and
strongly denounced1.



    (4)   The resistance opposed to the government by the earlier
Bábís is deprecated even when evoked by the most wanton acts of
aggression and cruelty2, the attempt on the Sháh’s life in
particular being alluded to with the utmost horror3; and it is implied
that , although the Báb’s precepts were altogether those of peace, the
stronger will and influence of Behá were needed to give them actual
currency4.



    The chief peculiarities presented by the style of this work are as
follows:-



    (1)   A remarkable terseness and concision rare in Persian.



    (2)   An unusual preponderance of the Arabic element, and the
frequent employment of many uncommon Arabic words.



    (3)   An abundant use of the past participle in place of the past
tense where we should expect the latter. A good instance of this peculiarity occurs
in the first five lines of p. 3 of the text. Of these three peculiarities the second and
third are noticed by Gobineau (Religions at Philosophies, p. 312) as
characteristic of the Bábí style in general. He says:- “C’est un persan
où il ne paraît presque que des mots arabes choisis parmi les plus
relevés et les plus rares, et où se combinent les formes
grammaticales des deux langues de manière à exercer
singulièrement la sagacité et, il faut le dire aussi, la patience des
lecteurs dévots et confiants. Suivant un usage, qui est du reste assez
reçu dans les ouvrages philosophiques, les verbes persans employés
se présentent presque toujours sous la



1 Cf. pp. 20, 32-33, 34-35, 40-41, 52, and 104-106
infra.
2 Cf. p. 35 infra.
3 See pp. 49-51
infra.
4 Cf. pp. 65-69 infra.


[page xlvii]



forme concrète de participes passés, afin de ressembler autant que
possible à des verbes arabes.”



    (4)   A very noticeable tendency to omit the Persian auxiliary
verb after Arabic participles, whether active or passive, and generally speaking to
restrict the employment of the verb as much as possible. The following instances
(and the like will be found almost on every page) will suffice to illustrate this
feature:-



    (On p. 1, last line, and p. 2, first line):- [two lines of
Persian text
] – “Now since these various accounts [are] recorded in
other pages, and [since] the setting forth thereof [would be] the cause of prolixity,
therefore”…etc.



    (On p. 39, last line, and p. 40, first line):- [two lines of
Persian text
] – “Well, Persia [was] in this critical state and the learned
doctors perplexed and anxious, when the late Prince Muhammad Sháh
died.”



    (On p. 43, last line, and p. 44, first three lines):- [three
lines of Persian text
]
– “Their conceptions and ideas [were] after the
former fashion, and their conduct and behaviour in correspondence with ancient
usage. The way of approach to the Báb [was], moreover, closed, and the flame
of trouble visibly blazing on every side.”


[page xlviii]



    (5)   Two peculiar idioms common to all Bábí
compositions remain to be noticed. The first of these is the continual use of
[Persian text] in the sense of “for,” to the almost complete
exclusion of [Persian text], or the simple [Persian
text
], which are commonly employed in other works. The second
is the combination of the past and the present or the past and future tenses in
general assertions (an idiom which is even more common in the writings of the
Báb than in those of Behá). Of this usage the following instances may
be cited from the present work:-



    (At the bottom of p. 141):- [two lines of Persian
text
]… “for the Peerless King hath been and will be for
everlasting Holy above ascent or descent.”



    (In the sentence at the top of p. 142 which follows the above):-
[two lines of Persian text] – “Therefore to-day victory
neither hath been nor will be interference with any one, nor strife with any
person.”



    The peculiarities of style affected by the Báb have for the
most part received the sanction of Behá, and are copied with greater or less
fidelity by the majority of Bábís, so that one familiar with them
might often succeed in recognizing a letter or other document as of
Bábí authorship.



    It remains for me to say a few words as to the principles which have
guided me in my own work, viz. the translation and notes. As regards the former, I
have taken as my guide the canon laid down by the late Dr William Wright, whose


[page xlix]



death, mourned by all as an irreparable loss, was to such as were like myself
privileged to listen to his teaching and feel the genial influence of his constant and
unvarying kindness and encouragement, the saddest of bereavements. This canon he
states as follows (Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, Cambridge, 1882, pp. vi-
vii of the Preface):- “In my translation I have striven to be as literal as the
difference between the two idioms will allow. My method is first to translate as
closely as I can, and then to try if I can improve the form of expression in any way
without the sacrifice of truthfulness to the original. I also endeavour to preserve a
somewhat antiquated and Biblical style, as being peculiarly adapted to the rendering
into English of Oriental works, whether poetical or historical. The Old Testament
and the Ko’rân, which are, of course, in many ways strikingly similar in
their diction, can both be easily made ridiculous by turning them into our modern
vernacular, particularly if we vulgarize with malice prepense.” Now though I cannot
flatter myself that I have succeeded in making my translation of this history very
eloquent English, I can at least conscientiously declare that I have spared no pains
to reproduce faithfully not only the thought but also the style and diction of my
author. The desire to give a correct impression of the original has even led me to
preserve the Persian idiom where a slight alteration would have improved the
English. An instance of this occurs in the very first sentence on p. 1, where “on the
lips” would undoubtedly have been better English than “on the tongues.” Throughout
my translation I have unhesitatingly preferred fidelity to elegance; and, even if I
have gone too far in this, I trust that at least the English reader will obtain a
clearer idea of the peculiarities of the original than would otherwise have been
possible. Words of constant recurrence have been, so far as possible, rendered


[page l]



by the same English equivalent, which, according to the canon above referred to,
often bears the meaning which it has in the Bible rather than that which is given to
it in ordinary usage. Thus by “lawyers” ([Persian text]) are
intended the expounders of the Sacred Books and of the Law therein contained, and
by “doctors” ([Persian text]) those learned in theology and the
kindred sciences.



    As regards the notes with which I have endeavoured to elucidate,
control, and amplify the text, they are of two kinds; foot-notes containing
explanations necessary for the proper comprehension of the text, references,
supplementary details or varying traditions of events recorded in the body of the
work, brief notices of events intentionally or accidentally passed over, comments,
and the like; and the final notes designated by capital letters, to which perhaps the
term “Excursus” or “Appendix” might more fitly have been given. These latter have, I
confess, grown to proportions far exceeding what I originally intended, for the
printing of the translation was finished ere half of them was written, and ever as I
wrote fresh scraps of information which I could not persuade myself to omit kept
coming in. I cannot but feel that, partly in consequence of this, partly because of the
very nature of my original plan, portions of my work will appear discursive,
desultory, and disconnected, even if it be free (which I can scarcely hope) from
contradictions and repetitions. But my aim and object has been chiefly to record, for
the benefit of future historians, every fact which I have been able to learn, and
every varying tradition which I have heard in Persia, Turkey, Syria, or Cyprus. In the
case of divergent traditions I have, so far as was consistent with the safety of my
informants, give the isnád or chain of authorities by which they
reached me. When this could not be done, I have striven to give


[page li]



the reader some means of forming an estimate of the character of my informant.
The office of the chronicler and collector of traditions is, in comparison with that
of the historian, a humble one; yet the labours of the former are indispensable to
those of the latter, and must precede them. The immense superiority of
Tabarí to all other Oriental historians lies, as Professor Noeldeke
observes, in this, that he was content to record the various traditions of diverse
events which he learned from this one or that one without seeking prematurely to
blend them into one harmonious narrative. Let the oldest traditions of any historical
event once be gathered up, the credibility of their narrators being, as far as
possible, determined, and the chronicle may without prejudice to itself await in
patience, for centuries if need be, the magic touch of the true historian; but if once
the old traditions be lost the loss can never be made good. Through a fortunate
combination of circumstances unlikely to repeat itself I was placed in a singularly
good position for gathering together Bábí traditions from sources
many of which will in a few years be no longer available, and I was impatient to
place on record the mass of information thus arduously acquired; so that now, as I
write the last page of this work, I am conscious of a deep sense of relief and
thankfulness that no obstacle has intervened to prevent the conclusion of my
labours.



    Of the bibliography of Bábíism a full account will be
found in Note A at the end of the book, so that I need add nothing further on this
subject. My first and second articles on the Bábís in the
J.R.A.S. for 1889 (vol. xxi, new series, parts iii and iv) are, as already
explained, respectively denoted throughout this work as “B. i,” and “B. ii.” When
Gobineau is quoted, his work Les Religions et les Philosophies dans l’Asie
Centrale
(2nd edition, Paris, 1866) is referred to, unless otherwise specified.
Mirza


[page lii]



Kazem-Beg’s five articles on the Bábís in the Journal
Asiatique
, though all published in 1866, extend through two volumes of that
periodical, each of which volumes has a separate pagination. For convenience and
brevity, therefore, the first and second of these articles, included in vol. vii
(sixième série) of the Journal Asiatique, are together
denoted as “Kazem-Beg i,” while the third, fourth, and fifth, contained in vol. viii,
are called “Kazem-Beg ii.” Any other works whereof the full titles are not given in
the notes will be found described in detail in Note A.



    Concerning the fac-simile of the text some few words are
necessary. Thanks to the careful supervision of Mr A. G. Dew-Smith of Trinity
College, for whose sympathetic and cordial co-operation I desire to express my
warm gratitude, this leaves little to be desired, reproducing faithfully the features
of the original MS. In spite of all care, however, the reproduction of a letter or word
here and there would in the first instance prove defective, while now and then
points and dots not belonging to the original would creep in. Most of these defects
have, I hope, been removed, every page having been subjected two or three times to a
careful scrutiny. During this revision the original MS. was always before me, and
only when it appeared that a defect observed in the proof already existed there has
it been left untouched. In a word, so far as the text is concerned the object has been
to reproduce, not to correct of emend. From this general rule, however, I have been
compelled to deviate in certain special cases. Throughout the original MS. a
somewhat erratic system of punctuation by means of red dots prevails. These red
dots necessarily appeared as black dots in the fac-simile. Now and then it
happened that, owing to their situation, they came to simulate diacritical points,
thus creating a confusion, ambiguity, or unsightliness which was foreign to the


[page liii]



original MS. In such cases I have considered myself justified in removing these
marks of punctuation, but so far as possible they have been allowed to stand. The
Persian title-page does not belong to the original, but was subsequently written at
Acre by my request in black, and beautifully reproduced in colours by Mr Dew-
Smith.



    An investigation such as that whereof the course has been above
detailed can be brought to a successful issue only by the co-operation and
assistance of many persons, without whose kindly aid the desired information could
not be obtained. To each and all of those to whose aid I am thus indebted I have
striven, even at the risk of repetition, to express my indebtedness as occasion
arose. It only remains for me to tender my most sincere thanks to such of my friends
as have assisted me in the actual preparation of the work. In the tedious work of
revising the proof-sheets I have received most efficient and valuable help from Mr
R. A. Neil of this College. To the kindness and learning of Professor Robertson Smith,
of Christ’s College, and Mr A. A. Bevan, of Trinity College, I am indebted for many
suggestions and corrections. To the rare generosity of Baron Victor Rosen of St
Petersburg in allowing me to make full and free use of still unpublished work I have
had occasion to refer repeatedly in the course of my notes. Lastly, I desire to
express my gratitude to the Syndics of the University Press for that liberal
assistance without which the publication of this work might have been indefinitely
postponed.



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