Reflecting on The Martyrdom of the Báb

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A group of Baha’i friends and I once stuck 750 red pins into a board. One by one and meticulously we pushed them into foam core, making sure to arrange them into three neat rows. As we stood back to look at our work, more than one of us had tears in our eyes. “There’s so many of them,” someone remarked.

Of course, some reading this might imagine what the 750 pins symbolized. They stood for the 750 gunmen, lined in three rows, who fired the shots aimed at the Báb and his companion Anis, on this day in 1850, Tabriz—the day we now commemorate as the Martyrdom of the Báb. And though all of our participants had learned the story of the Báb and His martyrdom, this small exercise during a Baha’i study circle seemed to inspire a different kind of knowledge, something beyond mere facts and numbers.

Shrine of the Bab

Tamila Zeinalova ©

In Some Answered Questions, ‘Abdu’l-Baha is quoted as explaining:

“The Holy Manifestations are the source of miracles and the originators of wonderful signs. For Them, any difficult and impractical thing is possible and easy. For through a supernatural power wonders appear from Them; and by this power…They influence the world of nature. From all the Manifestations marvellous things have appeared.” (Some Answered Questions, p. 100)

Is Martyrdom of the Báb a miracle? It may have looked like a miracle to the thousands gathered to witness His execution, or to the men involved in carrying out the first orders of execution. But many Baha’is I’ve met seem neither to question that it was a miracle nor insist on its being one. The matter of miracles is not so important for Baha’is. The events simply were. The facts simply are. And we cannot fully understand how Sam Khan, a man of pure intentions, and his 750 riflemen failed to kill the Báb and Anis that morning—and instead released them from their ropes. It’s hard to imagine a second firing squad being commissioned and finally executing the Báb and Anis that day. And merely staring down 750 pins in a board, it’s hard to really appreciate the scope of the events of July 9, 1850.

Barracks of Bab's Martyrdom Tabriz

Photo: The Dawn-Breakers

For me personally, instead of considering the physics of that day or contemplating what constitutes a miracle, I turn to the Báb’s own words, which He addressed to the crowds before He and Anis were executed:

“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 have sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you.” (The Dawn-Breakers, p. 514)

For a more detailed account of the events of the Báb’s martyrdom, consider Hasan Balyuzi’s The Báb: The Herald of the Day of Days or a more brief synopsis here.

Wishing all a blessed commemoration on this Holy Day! We’d love to hear your reflections on this day in the comments section.

Caitlin is the Writing Editor at Nineteen Months, and makes her way in the world as a web editor and social media specialist. She has contributed to projects for Baha’i Publishing Trust, and her work has been published literary magazines like Chiron Review, The Journal of Baha’i Studies, and others. She is the founding editor of Vahid, a NM literary magazine currently seeking submissions. She lives in New York with her husband, and a cat whose namesake is a Chevy sedan.