Touching the individual known as the Báb and the true nature of this sect diverse tales are on the tongues and in the mouths of men, and various accounts are contained in the pages of Persian history and the leaves of European chronicles. But because of the variety of their assertions and the diversity of their narratives not one is as worthy of confidence as it should be. Some have loosed their tongues in extreme censure and condemnation; some foreign chronicles have spoken in a commendatory strain; while a certain section have recorded what they themselves have heard without addressing themselves either to censure or approbation.
Now since these various accounts are recorded in other pages, and since the setting forth thereof would lead to prolixity, therefore what relates to the history of this matter (sought out with the utmost diligence during the time of my travels in all parts of Persia, whether far or near, from those without and those within, from friends and strangers), and that whereon the disputants are agreed, shall be briefly set forth in writing, so that a summary of the facts of the case may be at the disposal of those who are athirst after the fountain of knowledge and who seek to become acquainted with all events.
The Báb was a young merchant of the Pure Lineage. He was born in the year one thousand two hundred and thirty-five [A.H.] on the first day of Muḥarram, and when after a few years His father Siyyid Muḥammad-Riḍá died, He was brought up in Shíráz in the arms of His maternal uncle Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí the merchant. On attaining maturity He engaged in trade in Búshihr, first in partnership with His maternal uncle and afterwards independently. On account of what was observed in Him He was noted for godliness, devoutness, virtue, and piety, and was regarded in the sight of men as so characterized.
In the year one thousand two hundred and sixty [A.H.], when He was in His twenty-fifth year, certain signs became apparent in His conduct, behavior, manners, and demeanor whereby it became evident in Shíráz that He had some conflict in His mind and some other flight beneath His wing. He began to speak and to declare the rank of Báb-hood. Now what He intended by the term Báb [Gate] was this, that He was the channel of grace from some great Person still behind the veil of glory, Who was the possessor of countless and boundless perfections, by Whose will He moved, and to the bond of Whose love He clung. And in the first book which He wrote in explanation of the Súrih of Joseph, He addressed Himself in all passages to that Person unseen from Whom He received help and grace, sought for aid in the arrangement of His preliminaries, and craved the sacrifice of life in the way of His love.
Amongst others is this sentence: “O Remnant of God, I am wholly sacrificed to Thee; I am content with curses in Thy way; I crave naught but to be slain in Thy love; and God the Supreme sufficeth as an Eternal Protection.”
He likewise composed a number of works in explanation and elucidation of the verses of the Qur’án, of sermons, and of prayers in Arabic; inciting and urging men to expect the appearance of that Person; and these books He named
Conscience.” But on investigation it was discovered that He laid no claim to revelation from an angel.
Now since He was noted amongst the people for lack of instruction and education, this circumstance appeared in the sight of men supernatural. Some men inclined to Him, but the greater part manifested strong disapproval; whilst all the learned doctors and lawyers of repute who occupied chairs, altars, and pulpits were unanimously agreed on eradication and suppression, save some divines of the Shaykhí party who were anchorites and recluses, and who, agreeably to their tenets, were ever seeking for some great, incomparable, and trustworthy person, whom they accounted, according to their own terminology, as the “Fourth Support” and the central manifestation of the truths of the Perspicuous Religion.
Of this number Mullá Ḥusayn of Bushrúyih, Mírzá Aḥmad of Azghand, Mullá Ṣádiq Muqaddas [the Holy], Shaykh Abú-Turáb of Ishtihárd, Mullá Yúsuf of Ardibíl, Mullá Jalíl of Urúmíyyih, Mullá Mihdí of Kand, Shaykh Sa‘íd the Indian, Mullá ‘Alí of Basṭám, and the like of these came out unto Him and spread themselves through all parts of Persia.
The Báb Himself set out to perform the circumambulation of the House of God On His return, when the news of His arrival at Búshihr reached Shíráz, there was much discussion, and a strange excitement and agitation became apparent in that city. The great majority of the doctors set themselves to repudiate Him, decreeing slaughter and destruction, and they induced Ḥusayn Khán Ájúdán-Báshí, who was the governor of Fárs, to inflict a beating on the Báb’s missionaries, that is on Mullá Ṣádiq Muqaddas; then, having burnt his moustaches and beard together with those of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí of Bárfurúsh and Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar of Ardistán, they put halters on all the three and led them round the streets and bazaars.
Now since the doctors of Persia have no administrative capacity, they thought that violence and interference would cause extinction and silence and lead to suppression and oblivion; whereas interference in matters of conscience causes stability and firmness and attracts the attention of men’s sight and souls; which fact has received experimental proof many times and often. So this punishment caused notoriety, and most men fell to making inquiry.
The governor of Fárs, acting according to that which the doctors deemed expedient, sent several horsemen, caused the Báb to be brought before him, censured and blamed Him in the presence of the doctors and scholars, and loosed his tongue in the demand for reparation. And when the Báb returned his censure and withstood him greatly, at a sign from the president they struck Him a violent blow, insulting and contemning Him, in such wise that His turban fell from His head and the mark of the blow was apparent on His face. At the conclusion of the meeting they decided to take counsel, and, on receiving bail and surety from His maternal uncle Ḥájí Siyyid ‘Alí, sent Him to His house forbidding Him to hold intercourse with relations or strangers.
One day they summoned Him to the mosque urging and constraining Him to recant, but He discoursed from the pulpit in such wise as to silence and subdue those present and to stablish and strengthen His followers. It was then supposed that He claimed to be the medium of grace from His Highness the Lord of the Age (upon Him be peace); but afterwards it became known and evident that His meaning was the Gatehood [Bábíyyat] of another city and the mediumship of the graces of another Person Whose qualities and attributes were contained in His books and treatises.
At all events, as has been mentioned, by reason of the doctors’ lack of experience and skill in administrative science, and the continual succession of their decisions, comment was rife; and their interference with the Báb cast a clamor throughout Persia, causing increased ardor in friends and the coming forward of the hesitating. For by reason of these occurrences men’s interest increased, and in all parts of Persia some [of God’s] servants inclined toward Him, until the matter acquired such importance that the late king Muḥammad Sháh delegated a certain person named Siyyid Yaḥyá of Dáráb, who was one of the best known of doctors and Siyyids as well as an object of veneration and confidence, giving him a horse and money for the journey so that he might proceed to Shíráz and personally investigate this matter.