Abdu’l-Baha on Baha’i Persecutions in 1903 (part 5)


In short, on that day, in course of this mighty cataclysm and the outbreak of this inferno of malice, gates and houses were burned, dwellings invaded, and they destroyed, beat, killed, and plundered all. The governor tried as far as possible to protect [the Baha’is], but he was unable to do so and his efforts remained futile. However, the aforementioned Sayyid Ibrahim, who was the Imam Jum’ih and the chief of the adversaries [of the Baha’is], together with a number of the mischief-makers, went to the governor’s house. There they outwardly denied being the instigators of the revolt and troubles, whereas in fact they secretly provoked the rabble, vagabonds and ruffians, and incited them with the prospect of booty, spoils and plunder.

The next day, provoked by the iniquitous clerics, the merciless mob carried out a greater assault, robbing and spoiling more than ever. With the severest tortures, they martyred six holy personages, cutting their bodies to pieces and throwing them into the town-square, after which they rode horses over the mutilated corpses of the martyrs and crushed them under the hooves of their steeds, mixing their blood and flesh with the dust.

Praise be unto God! For one thousand years, the Iranians, especially the Shi’ites, have been lamenting and loudly weeping over the tragedy of the Prince of the Martyrs [Imam Husayn] slain upon the plain of Karbala – a lamentation that reaches the highest pavilion of heaven – saying, ‘The army of the malicious Yazid mercilessly ran their horses over the body of that Martyred One, crushing Him under the hooves of their steeds!’

It is because of this that Jesus said, ‘Your fathers killed the Prophets of God, but you are building their tombs, visiting them, prostrating before them, and kissing them.’[11] And now this passage exactly reflects the present condition of the Iranians. With utmost cruelty and wickedness, certain people martyred Imam Husyan, and now the children of those murderers are mourning and lamenting, and building and adorning the tombs of the martyrs. How heedless and negligent are the people!

In summary, the idlers and vagabonds of Yazd, daily advancing in tyranny and mayhem, are becoming bolder and more impertinent. A brief report has reached us that by Friday the number of martyrs had exceeded one hundred. This special reporter, in a brief letter, written in great sorrow and sadness, states:

Alas! Alas! And again alas! Our hearts are burning! Our breasts are filled with sorrow and grief! The cry of lamentation is raised high and the shriek of mourning heard in all directions. The hand trembles in writing and the heart brims with utmost pain. The eye is tearful and the ears unable to hear the account of that persistent tyranny. Every day there is a greater calamity, and every moment brings a manifest outcry.

In the city of Yazd there are nearly five thousand Baha’i households – none have a moment of rest or peace. They have no supper at night and no meal during the day. By the depth of their sorrow and grief, their food has become pieces of their liver, and for water they drink their tears, expecting at each moment the attack of the pillaging and murdering enemies, to persecute and take captive the women and children. The majority are hungry, thirsty and naked. The women especially are suffering so keenly on account of the slaughter of their fathers and husbands and the martyrdom of their brothers, and in such despair that they know not how to care for their suckling babes.[12]

In brief, the steadfastness of these souls under the swords of persecution, their resignation and acquiescence while facing thousands of enemies, the joy and exhilaration of these luminous realities at the Divine Altar, the constancy of the confirmed women, the strength and faith of the holy maidservants, their patience in coping with massacre, beating, plunder, and the martyrdom of children, and the steadfastness of the young children themselves, are all the greatest proofs of the sincerity and faithfulness of the friends. Especially when in the time of this oppression and tyranny, they raised not a hand in defence of themselves, but rather considered self-sacrifice a great blessing and self-redemption as the greatest bounty of the world of humanity. They quaffed the overflowing cup of martyrdom as exhilarating wine. They sought not to withhold their lives from the sword, nor their throats from the dagger. They beheld destruction of their homes and dwellings, and yielded wealth and possessions to the plunderers and pillagers. Women and children were made helpless and homeless, and with utmost joy and gladness offered up their lives at the feet of the Divine Beloved, without uttering a single word at which their murderers could take offence. Rather, they entreated intercession for them, asking God’s forgiveness and blessing upon their persecutors.

Had they raised their hands in defence, a single soul could have withstood a large multitude, as was written by one of the friends from Yazd, his own words being as follows:

God has tied the hands of all, giving no permission for defence; otherwise no one would be able to be impertinent [towards us]. But, knowing that we never transgress the revealed ordinances by raising the hands of resistance, the enemies are able to massacre, rob, and shed pure blood with great audacity. Had they thought we would defend ourselves, the leaders and their followers would not have dared to breathe or utter a word against us. We yearn, however, for martyrdom in the Path of God, and ask it with all our hearts and souls. Only do we implore a refuge for our families, wives and children. Should we not do so, we fear we would be accused of neglect; otherwise, life itself has no merit and is not worthy to be offered as ransom in the Path of God. If it be accepted, it is our greatest honour and glory.

If such martyrdom, submission to pillage and plunder, loss of home and property, captivity of women and children, giving up of life with utmost joy, or such a cry in the throes of martyrdom as ‘Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!’ or the shout of ‘Ya Rabbiya’l-A’la!’ [O My Lord, the most Exalted!] or the roar of ‘You have done us no harm, we shall but return to our Lord!’ or the melody of ‘Is anyone truly capable of beholding, to come and behold me?’; if all these things do not prove steadfastness and constancy, and demonstrate the greatest evidence of faithfulness, spirituality and love in these holy souls, then from what shall we produce the evidence of steadfastness and firmness? Thus, ‘seek ye death, if ye are sincere!’[13] Should they write the description of what befell them with the ink of their blood, of a certainty the pages of the leaves of the world would not be sufficient. If these souls be condemned, then from what shall we prove the steadfastness of the Prophets, the firmness of the chosen ones, and the constancy of the believers during past centuries? For the greatest virtue, for which the Prophet [Muhammad] was commended, was only his ability to ‘stand steadfast as thou art commanded’.[14]


[11] Matthew 23:29-33 states, ‘Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say: If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up, then, the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ [King James Version]

[12] This Tablet was printed based on the original text. From this point until the verse ‘the rejectors shall be in great loss’ is based on a text in Abdu’l-Baha’s handwriting. [The editor of Makatib]

[13] Qur’an 2:94

[14] Qur’an 42:15


7 Responses

  1. Shahram

    August 3, 2009 1:14 am

    Wonderful info. Please include a hard link to previous Parts (part1, part2, etc.) so the viewers could easily find all segments.



  2. Anahid

    August 3, 2009 4:51 pm

    :زندگی بهائیان در ایران یک مهلکه و مخاطره ی دائمی است.چنانچه د ر تاریخ میخوانیم

    ظل السطان پسر ناصر الدین شاه , حاکم اصفهان به حاجی سیاح میگوید: حاجی سیاح! نمیدانی این عنوان بابی گری چه خدمت ها به اغراض امرا کرده.شاه هم خوب وسیله ای بدست اورده و عده ای از مردم را به این تهمت پامال نموده
    خاطرات حاج سیاح ص ٤١-

    امین الدوله در ” خاطرات سیاسی ” خود به همین قضیه اشاره زیرکانه ای کرده و مینویسد:مامورین دولت از این عنوان [بابی ] نان می برند.هر کاسب فقیر را که عصر به خانه خود بر میگشت به گوشش میخواندند که تو بابی یا شیخ جمالی [طرفدار سید جمال الدین اسد ابادی ] گفته اند , از اضطراب [ و وحشت ] هر چه از اندوخته روز ,در جیب داشت به مشت فراش می گذاشت
    خاطرات سیاسی امین الدوله ص١٤٤-

  3. Steven

    August 4, 2009 10:47 am

    There is one resource we have now that wasn’t available then – we have millions of Baha’is around the world. What would happen if say a million Baha’is would gather in Iran? Peaceful witnesses even if it just means sitting spread out in the city, connected by cell phones, wearing Baha’i t-shirts or etc but being from many of the countries of the planet. Visit the places mentioned in the histories and pray and visit the prisons and pray and visit the buildings of trials and pray. Obedient to the government where legal options are exercised, but not being simply reactive in our actions. If African Baha’is, Pacific Islander Baha’is, South American Baha’is, Asian Baha’is, Latin American Baha’is, etc were to show up for a week or a month…. To be visible and not disruptive, to be about a sacred process….

  4. sb

    August 4, 2009 3:13 pm

    Steve – Baha’is believe the world is one country and that people of all faiths have a part to play in advancing the cause of justice. What if several million people decided to pray at one time instead of traveling to any one place . . . ??? This is the sacred process. . . living the life according to the Teachings of Baha’u’llah.

  5. Steven

    August 4, 2009 4:27 pm

    That is certainly true and I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t do that. But we aren’t just one country and most people don’t live in that world. We need to see eachother, hear our words and see our behaviors to know that we are distinct and the same. And to discover that we can be friends with both our sameness and distinctiveness. And the people of Iran, for whom being a Baha’i is a common cultural.. pejorative…. Some of them need to learn that we are a wider and positive organization than the group trying to hide in a corner of the city or a neighboring village. And perhaps the government of Iran should learn that we are obedient to government not as a ploy but as a matter of a strength of character imbued into people from around the world. And to bear witness – which we can and must do where we are, but also there.

    All the religions went through phases where the majority perceived the Community of the Faithful as a misguided or even mischievous sect with some agenda.

  6. sb

    August 4, 2009 6:28 pm

    “. . . if all these things do not prove steadfastness and constancy, and demonstrate the greatest evidence of faithfulness, spirituality and love in these holy souls, then from what shall we produce the evidence of steadfastness and firmness? ”

    Indeed, from “what?” It seems that seven imprisoned individuals have done more to rouse the world’s awareness of the crying need for justice, have moved world leaders and whole parliments to speak out for human rights in Iran. A vast crowd could not do as much, I think. Such is the power of true sacrifice.


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