The Barracks

On the morning of July 9, 1850, a great crowd of onlookers were gathering in Tabriz, Persia to witness the execution of the Bab, whom they were told was an apostate and a troublemaker. Many knew that the Bab had proclaimed He was the Promised One and that He had tens of thousands of followers in what was known as the Babi religion. Others knew by His speech, bearing, and reputation that the Bab was a saintly person; nonetheless, they did not speak out against His execution. Instead, some ten thousand spectators flooded into the square in front of the barracks – which had long been known as the “Square of the Lord of the Age” – and across the surrounding rooftops to watch. The event was such that emissaries of foreign governments were sent to witness and report the execution of the Bab.

After being marched barefoot and in heavy iron collars and chains through the streets and alleys of the city of Tabriz where He was jeered at and jostled by the hostile crowds for four hours, the Bab appeared unruffled and perfectly calm. Finally, He was taken to the barracks. Inside the barracks, with its iron bars and thick walls, the Bab began dictating letters to His secretary, which were to be sent to His family and certain of His followers. The cowardly Muslim clerics, whose machinations ended in the order for His execution, chose a Christian Colonel and his Christian regiment of 750 soldiers to execute the Bab. To keep the crowd from rebelling at the thought of killing a relative of the Prophet Muhammad, they removed the Bab’s green turban and sash, which signified His relationship to Prophet Muhammad. Before marching Him through the streets, the Christian Colonel who was to execute the Bab had been watching the Bab. The Colonel marvelled at the Bab’s gentility and calm demeanor and, he grew increasingly agitated, fearing that killing this innocent would call the wrath of God upon him and his family; the Colonel spoke to the Bab and said, “I profess the Christian Faith and entertain no ill will against you. If your Cause be the Cause of truth, enable me to free myself from the obligation to shed your blood.” The Bab told the Colonel to carry out his duty, and He also assured him, “Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity.”

When the Chief Aide and his assistants came to take the Bab from His prison cell to the square where He would be executed, the Bab was dictating to His secretary and said, “Not until I have told him all that I wish to say, can any earthly power silence Me. I shall not be deterred from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention.” The jailers were ruffled by His reply but they put Him in an iron collar and chains and brusquely took Him outside where, once again, He faced the clamorous and jeering multitude gathered there.

The Bab was reported to be completely at ease and showed no sign of confusion, fear, or the least bit of anxiety. The chains were removed and He was tied with heavy ropes and placed against the front wall of the barracks; then He was suspended on a nail embedded in the wall of the barracks with His hands stretched above His heads. The night before, Anis, a young follower of the Bab had begged to be executed with Him. The Bab consented, so the jailers tightly bound Anis and positioned him so that his head was tied to the Bab’s breast. Thus they were suspended against the barracks and above the ground.

The Colonel and his 750 Christian Armenian soldiers were marched in. The crowd fell silent when the Colonel called for his men to raise their arms and aim at the Bab. He ordered the first file of men to fire, and a vast hail of bullets were discharged. Then before the smoke cleared, the second file of men discharged their arms; then a third file fired their weapons. As the billowing smoke from the rifle fire wore off, the crowd gasped; the ropes that had firmly bound the Bab were cut to shreds and the Bab had disappeared. The ropes that bound Anis were also in shreds and Anis stood unscathed and alone in front of the wall facing the astonished crowd. A clamor arose among the authorities and they sent out forces to look for the Bab. Someone thought to look in the Bab’s jail cell and there He was calmly finishing the dictation to His secretary that had previously been interrupted by the jailers. There was not a mark on Him from the hail of bullets fired at Him. The Chief Aide was called and the Bab calmly addressed him, saying, “I have finished My conversation with My secretary, now you may proceed to fulfill your intention.”

On hearing this, the Chief Aide, remembering what the Bab had said previously, refused to take the Bab again, and instead left hurriedly and resigned his office. The Christian Colonel of the regiment who fired on the Bab recalled what the Bab had told him and refused to do anything that would result in injury to the Bab. He said he had performed his duty and would never do it again even if it meant forfeiting his own life.

The Colonel left the scene and took his Christian soldiers with him. They were replaced by a regiment of 750 Muslim solders. The Bab was once again put in an iron collar and chains and marched to the wall, and He and Anis were again securely bound by ropes, with the head of Anis positioned against the Bab’s breast, and both were suspended above the ground against the barracks wall. This time, the crowd witnessed what they came for. They saw the Bab killed by three successive hails of bullets. It was noon. As the smoke subsided, they saw the slumped and thoroughly perforated body of the Bab; and fear and consternation swept through the agitated multitude when a giant wind fell upon the entire city and a monstrous whirlwind of dust and grime obscured the sun for the rest of the day. The remains of the Bab and Anis were dumped unceremonious outside the gates of the city of Tabriz where the jackals and dogs were expected to eat them. Although the remains were heavily guarded, some followers of the Bab, at great personal risk of being discovered and killed, managed to stealthfully rescue the bodies and secretly hide and move them from place to place until, at last, they were safely taken out of Persia. Today, these sacred remains are interred in the Shrine of the Bab at the top of Mount Carmel, the Mountain of God.

Within a few years, everyone involved in ordering the execution of the Bab and those who participated in the execution were dead. Amir Kabir, the Prime Minister of Persia, who was responsible for killing many followers of the Bab, and who also ordered the execution of the Bab, was put to death in 1852 by his political superiors. Approximately half of the 750 Muslim riflemen and their commanders revolted and were hunted down and killed by the armies of the Shah. Elsewhere, the remainder of those soldiers who executed the Bab sought shelter from the blazing sun, where they rested in the shadow against a great wall; an earthquake struck and they were crushed and buried alive beneath the rubble of the wall.

The Bab spoke His last words as He faced His executioners. Referring to Anis, the youth who was bound to Him, He addressed the multitude of witnesses:

“Had you believed in Me, O wayward generation, every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and willingly would sacrifice himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you.”

This is all recorded history. It didn’t happen thousands of years ago when the passage of time and alterations of memory may erase the actual circumstances or replace them with fabrications. As of 2014, it happened less than 164 years ago. The drama of the lives of the Bab and Baha’u’llah, for all intents and purposes, happened in the modern age – not in the distant, obscured past. Much of these and other related events were reported in European newspapers and through Emissaries who witnessed these events. They were also reported to the courts of Kings, Queens, and Emperors.