The Transfer of the Remains of the Báb

The remains of the Báb and His disciple Mírzá Muhammad-Alíy-i-Zunúzí who was martyred with Him were taken to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city of Tabríz on the evening of the day of martyrdom, 9 July 1850, and ten sentinels were posted to guard them.

The person who became instrumental in removing the remains of the Báb and His companion from the edge of the moat was His courageous and faithful follower Hájí Sulaymán Khán, the son of an officer in the service of the father of Muhammad Sháh. He was a highly influential man. Amír Nizám, the Prime Minister of the time, was induced to spare his life, in spite of the fact that many of his fellow believers were being put to death.

However, two years after the death of his Master, he too died as a martyr in a spirit of jubilant heroism, and shed a great lustre upon the infant Cause of God. It was he in whose body several incisions were made and burning candles inserted. He chanted the praises of His Lord as he was being paraded in the streets of Tihrán prior to his martyrdom with blood pouring all over his body and his flesh sizzling with the flame of the candles.*

The following words, uttered prior to his martyrdom and when he was informed that his life could be spared if he recanted his faith, are indicative of the courage and devotion of one who had set off from Tihrán for Tabríz with the intention of rescuing the Báb from the imminent danger that threatened His life. Having arrived two days too late, he instead had


* For details of his martyrdom see The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 610-21.

carried out the dangerous and most difficult task of removing the remains of the Báb from the hands of the enemy:

'Never, so long as my life-blood continues to pulsate in my veins, shall I be willing to recant my faith in my Beloved! This world which the Commander of the Faithful* has likened to carrion will never allure me from my heart's Desire.' He was asked to determine the manner in which he wished to die. 'Pierce holes in my flesh,' was the instant reply, 'and in each wound place a candle. Let nine candles be lighted all over my body, and in this state conduct me through the streets of Tihrán. Summon the multitude to witness the glory of my martyrdom, so that the memory of my death may remain imprinted in their hearts and help them, as they recall the intensity of my tribulation, to recognise the Light I have embraced. After I have reached the foot of the gallows and have uttered the last prayer of my earthly life, cleave my body in twain and suspend my limbs on either side of the gate of Tihrán, that the multitude passing beneath it may witness to the love which the Faith of the Báb has kindled in the hearts of His disciples, and may look upon the proofs of their devotion.' 1
He died exactly as he had wished.

Only a few hours after his arrival in Tabríz, Hájí Sulaymán Khán, with the help of the Mayor of the city (who was a personal friend) succeeded in planning his strategy for the rescue of the remains of the Báb. The Mayor called on the venturous Hájí Alláh-yár, a courageous and daring man, to render this service to his friend. In the middle of the night Hájí Alláh-yár took some of his men accompanied by two Bábís from Milán (a town in the province of Adhirbáyiján) to the spot where the remains of the Báb and His disciple lay. The soldiers guarding the bodies did not dare to challenge the Hájí's men, and in the morning they had no choice but to announce that the wild beasts at night had devoured the bodies!


* Imám 'Alí. (A.T.)

1. Nabíl-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 617-18.
The sacred remains were wrapped in the 'abá* of one of the believers and delivered to Hájí Sulaymán Khán who with the help of Husayn-i-Milání took them to the silk factory of Hájí Ahmad, a believer of Milán. Husayn-i-Milání (who was one of the two believers accompanying Hájí Alláh-yár on that historic night) was later martyred in Tihrán on the same day that Hájí Sulaymán Khán laid down his life in the path of his Beloved. For two days the remains were left in the silk factory. They were wrapped in shrouds and hidden under the bales of silk. They were then placed in a special casket and transferred to another place of safety. Hájí Sulaymán Khán communicated the news to Bahá'u'lláh and awaited His instructions.

It is important to realize that the arrival of Hájí Sulaymán Khán at Tabríz was an act of providence directed by Bahá'u'lláh Himself. As soon as He was informed that the martyrdom of the Báb was imminent, Bahá'u'lláh had summoned Hájí Sulaymán Khán to His presence and instructed him to proceed immediately and speedily to Tabríz.

Now, when the latest news reached Him, He directed His faithful brother, Mírzá Músá (entitled Áqáy-i-Kalím) to send a trusted person to Tabríz and bring the casket to Tihrán. This was done and the sacred remains were taken via Zanján (where they were kept for one night) to Tihrán. The casket arrived at a time when Bahá'u'lláh had departed from Tihrán for Karbilá. According to His instructions the casket containing the remains of the Báb and His companion was delivered to Áqáy-i-Kalím who placed it in the Shrine of Imám-Zádih Hasan† in a safe location. The only other person who was involved in this mission was Mírzá 'Abdu'l-Karím-i-Qazvíní, known as Mírzá Ahmad.

From there they transferred it after some time to the house of Hájí Sulaymán Khán in Tihrán; later it was placed in the Shrine of Imám-Zádih Ma'súm. It was concealed in a northern corner of the shrine and a wall was constructed in front of it.


* Cloak worn by Persian men at the time.

† A Muslim shrine in Tihrán.

No one except these men knew its whereabouts. But Mírzá 'Abdu'l-Karím and Hájí Sulaymán Khán were both martyred in Tihrán in 1852 during the great massacre of the Bábís following an attempt on the life of Násiri'd-Dín Sháh. The only person left who knew of its exact whereabouts was Áqáy-i-Kalím.

The sacred casket remained concealed in Imám-Zádih Ma'súm until AH 1284 (1867-68). From Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh directed Mírzá Áqá of Káshán (entitled Muníb*) to transfer the remains to another place. Áqáy-i-Kalím briefed him as to its exact location, but Muníb failed to find it. Bahá'u'lláh then addressed a Tablet to Mullá 'Alí-Akbar-i-Sháhmírzádí, known as Hájí Ákhúnd,† and Jamál-i-Burújirdí‡ instructing them to remove the casket immediately. The details of its whereabouts were again furnished by Áqáy-i-Kalím.

The transfer of the remains proved to be an act of providence directed by Bahá'u'lláh. For very soon after, the custodians of the Shrine of Imám-Zádih Ma'súm carried out extensive reconstruction work which would have definitely revealed the secret of that precious trust reposing behind one of the walls of the Shrine. Such a discovery could have had disastrous consequences for the protection of the sacred remains.

Hájí Ákhúnd and Jamál succeeded in finding the casket and removing it from the Shrine of Imám-Zádih Ma'súm. They carried it to a village outside Tihrán in which stands the celebrated shrine of Sháh 'Abdu'l-'Azím. Finding conditions unsatisfactory for depositing the casket in that area, they moved towards the village of Chashmih-Alí. On the way they came upon the Mosque of Máshá'u'lláh, an old and dilapidated building which was not commonly visited by people. They waited there until sunset. Hájí Ákhúnd opened the casket and


* see vol. 1, pp. 283-7.

† He was appointed later as a Hand of the Cause of God. We shall refer to his life and services in the next volume.

‡ He was an outstanding teacher of the Faith who later became a Covenant-breaker, see vol. 2.

in the dim twilight gazed upon the remains of the Martyr-Prophet of the Faith. What feelings of awe, reverence and grief must have descended upon his soul and what emotions must have erupted in his heart at that time, no one can tell. But knowing the degree of his faith and devotion to the Cause and the vibrant nature of his personality we can imagine the impact of such a mighty event on his soul. It is said that he found a flower which had dried up placed on the old shroud, probably a symbol of loving devotion by Hájí Sulaymán Khán.

Hájí Ákhúnd and Jamál wrapped yet another silken shroud around the remains and closed the casket. They placed it in a niche in a wall and bricked it up with old bricks which could be found in plenty in that dilapidated building.

That night the two returned to a village near by. The next morning they decided to visit the place on their way to the capital. Upon arrival at the spot they discovered to their consternation that someone had opened up the section of the wall and broken the casket. But soon they were relieved to find that the remains were untouched. This was the work of some men who must have seen the two placing the casket inside the old mosque and thought it was treasure of some sort, leaving it alone when they discovered it to be otherwise. Immediately Hájí Ákhúnd and Jamál closed the casket and took it away. Both were riding on donkeys; one of the men held the casket in front of him and in this way proceeded towards Tihrán.

In those days guards were placed at the gates of the cities and used to search people entering. Hájí Ákhúnd and Jamál were extremely worried in case the officials might attempt to open the casket. But Providence played its part in this episode. As the two approached the city gate, a severe gale unexpectedly arose, heavy rain began to pour and gusty winds blew it hard in every direction. Crowds of people ran through the city gate to find shelter and with them went Hájí Ákhúnd and Jamál.

They took the sacred casket to the home of Mírzá Hasan-i-Vazír, a believer of note. Hájí Ákhúnd rented that house and lived in it as a custodian of that sacred trust. For about fourteen


months it was kept in that house, but after some time its whereabouts were no longer a secret. Believers used to come from all over the country to visit the house and pray at the threshold of the room in which it was kept. Alarmed at the possible consequences of this discovery, Hájí Ákhúnd reported the matter to Bahá'u'lláh who by that time was imprisoned in the barracks of 'Akká. On receiving the news, Bahá'u'lláh ordered His Trustee Hájí Sháh-Muhammad to proceed immediately to Tihrán and remove the holy remains to another place of safety.

Soon after this Hájí Sháh-Muhammad arrived in Tihrán. He handed to Hájí Ákhúnd a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh addressed to him. In that Tablet Bahá'u'lláh had directed Hájí Ákhúnd to hand over the sacred casket to Hájí Sháh-Muhammad. The emphasis was on secrecy and Bahá'u'lláh had bidden Hájí Ákhúnd not to question the bearer of that sacred trust as to the place of its safe keeping. Once Hájí Ákhúnd had consigned the casket to the Trustee of Bahá'u'lláh, he did not even look to see in which direction it was carried.

Hájí Sháh-Muhammad, assisted by one of the believers, succeeded in burying the casket beneath the inner sanctuary of the Shrine of Imám Zádih Zayd, where it remained for about sixteen years.

In the year AH 1301 (1884-85) Bahá'u'lláh instructed Mírzá Asadu'lláh-i-Isfahání,* one of the believers resident in Tihrán, to remove the remains from Imám Zádih Zayn and take it to another place of safety. The exact location of the casket was charted by Bahá'u'lláh and the chart sent to Mírzá Asadu'lláh. It must be borne in mind here that the act of burying a casket in an Islámic shrine without anyone seeing it, and later removing it in similar circumstances, called for great wisdom, caution


* He had married the sister of Munírih Khánum (the wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá). Dr. Faríd was their son whose contemptible behaviour brought much sorrow to the heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and who was eventually announced as a Covenant-breaker. Mírzá Asadu'lláh himself also defected towards the end of his life.

and courage. There is no doubt that all those who were charged by Bahá'u'lláh to carry out this important mission were assisted by the invisible forces of divine Providence.

Mírzá Asadu'lláh succeeded in removing the casket from the Shrine. He first took it to his own house and kept it there for some time, then he transferred it to other localities including the houses of Husayn-'Alíy-i-Isfahání (entitled Núr) and Muhammad Karím-i-Attár where it remained hidden till the year AH 1316 (1899).

The manner in which the remains of the Báb were taken to these homes is interesting. It demonstrates that those who were charged with their protection carried out their task with great caution and wisdom.

The following is the translation of the spoken chronicle of Mírzá Husayn 'Alíy-i-Isfahání concerning the transfer of the remains of the Báb to his house:

It was about the year 1269 (AH solar) (AD 1891) that Mírzá Asadu'lláh-i-Isfahání accompanied by his wife came to stay with me at my home in Tihrán...After a few days they intimated to me that they were on their way to the Holy Land, and wished to entrust me with a case containing some important items. They indicated that they would collect it on their return home. But they emphasized that I should pay great attention to its safe keeping. I agreed. The next day, he and his wife brought a wooden case and with much reverence placed it in a room near the entrance to the house. He requested that the room be locked and no one enter it for a day or two. We locked the room and he took the key.

The following day Mírzá Asadu'lláh and his wife brought an empty steel case. They went into the room and pulled the curtains across. No one could see what they were doing inside. For about four hours they stayed inside the room. Then they opened the door and called me in and said 'This is the trust which is given to your care.'

I saw the steel case, which was new, placed in the middle of the room, padlocked and sealed; a strong scent of attar of rose had filled the room. We placed the case inside an alcove


in the room and one of the Bahá'í youths who was a bricklayer closed it in with bricks.*

The protection and safekeeping of any trust is a difficult task, especially if one suspects that the items he is entrusted with are Tablets and Holy Writings in the handwriting of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.

This is why after Mírzá Asadu'lláh's departure, I committed myself wholeheartedly to the safekeeping of his trust. At night I used to stay in that room for hours to guard it. For some time I used to sleep in that room, but after a while I gave up sleeping there.

About two years had passed when the enemies of the Faith in Tihrán renewed their persecution against the Bahá'ís and imprisoned certain believers...There were rumours that the houses of the friends could be plundered.

This news caused us great anxiety as we were afraid that the enemies might attack the house and take away the case which was entrusted to us. Therefore we held a family consultation and decided that it should be hidden in a safer place. Immediately we transferred the case into another room...We made an opening in one of the walls, placed the case vertically in the middle and re-built the wall in front of the case and plastered it during the night. We even lighted a big fire inside the room so that by morning the plaster had dried and it did not look different from the rest of the wall. That day I wrote a lettter to Mírzá Asadu'lláh-i-Isfahání informing him of the disturbances in Tihrán where the fanatical mob and the ruffians were threatening to harm this innocent community and if they found it possible they might attack and plunder the homes of the believers...Therefore I suggested to him to return to Tihrán as soon as possible and take away his trust.

Some time passed and a reply came from Mírzá Asadu'lláh saying that at an appropriate time he would mention the situation to the Master, and when permission was granted he would return to take away the case. He


* It was common practice by the believers in those days to place the Holy Writings in a steel case and bury it in the ground or place it inside a cavity in the wall and close it in with bricks, or other material.

arrived in Tihrán about one year later, and came to our house. We took out the case from the wall and handed it to him. After careful examination of the case, he took it away and deposited it in the house of another believer, Áqá Muhammad-Karím-i-Attár.

About six months passed by when I received a letter from Mírzá Asadu'lláh thanking me for all my efforts in protecting the case which had been entrusted to me for about four years. He went on to say that the trust which had been kept in my house was so precious that even my descendants in the future would pride themselves on its safekeeping in that house...He then revealed to me that the case contained the sacred remains of the blessed Báb!...

Immediately after reading this letter I invited some of the believers to the house and read the letter to them. We had such a glorious meeting, the like of which has seldom been experienced...The lovers of that Beloved of the world were ecstatic. They prostrated themselves at that holy place and chanted joyous melodies and prayers.

The remains of the Báb were kept in the house of Áqá Muhammad-Karím-i-Attár until the year AH 1316 (AD 1899). As directed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Mírzá Asadu'lláh, together with a number of other believers who did not know what the case contained, transported the sacred remains to the Holy Land via Baghdád, Damascus and Beirut. They arrived safely in 'Akká on 31 January 1899.

For ten years the sacred remains were secretly kept in the Holy Land, for a time in the home of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akká and later in a place on Mount Carmel. In the meantime 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in spite of great difficulties and in the midst of disturbances created by His enemies and misrepresentations by the Covenant-breakers, succeeded in building six rooms for the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel at a site chosen by Bahá'u'lláh Himself.* 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked the Bahá'ís of


* We shall refer to this in greater detail in the next volume when describing Bahá'u'lláh's visit to Mount Carmel.

Rangoon to order the construction of a marble sarcophagus. This was done and the sarcophagus was presented to 'Abdu'l Bahá as a gift. It was carved out of solid stone and had the Greatest Name in the handwriting of Mishkín-Qalam* engraved on its sides. This together with a casket made of hardwood arrived in Haifa by sea. As there were no vehicles for its transportation, the crate containing the sarcophagus was placed on wooden rollers and dragged by men from the pier all the way up the mountain.

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, describes the historic and moving occasion when 'Abdu'l-Bahá laid to rest the sacred remains of the Báb and His companion in the Shrine He had built on Mount Carmel:

Finally, in the very year His royal adversary lost his throne, and at the time of the opening of the first American Bahá'í Convention, convened in Chicago for the purpose of creating a permanent national organization for the construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, 'Abdu'l-Bahá brought His undertaking to a successful conclusion, in spite of the incessant machinations of enemies both within and without. On the 28th of the month of Safar 1327 AH, the day of the first Naw-Rúz (1909), which He celebrated after His release from His confinement, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had the marble sarcophagus transported with great labour to the vault prepared for it, and in the evening, by the light of a single lamp, He laid within it, with His own hands--in the presence of believers from the East and from the West and in circumstances at once solemn and moving--the wooden casket containing the sacred remains of the Báb and His companion.

When all was finished, and the earthly remains of the Martyr-Prophet of Shíráz were, at long last, safely deposited for their everlasting rest in the bosom of God's holy mountain, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who had cast aside His turban, removed His shoes and thrown off His cloak, bent low over the still open sarcophagus, His silver hair waving


* see vol. 1, pp. 26-8.

[Naw-Rúz] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas; Prayers and Meditations, p. 67; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4

about His head and His face transfigured and luminous, rested His forehead on the border of the wooden casket, and, sobbing aloud, wept with such a weeping that all those who were present wept with Him. That night He could not sleep, so overwhelmed was He with emotion.

'The most joyful tidings is this,' He wrote later in a Tablet announcing to His followers the news of this glorious victory, that the holy, the luminous body of the Báb...after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity has, through the mercy of the Abba Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Rúz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel...By a strange coincidence, on that same day of Naw-Rúz,* a cablegram was received from Chicago, announcing that the believers in each of the American centres had elected a delegate and sent to that city...and definitely decided on the site and construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár.' 2


* see vol. 1, p. 268, for another important incident on that day. (A.T.)

2. God Passes By, p. 276.
[Naw-Rúz] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas; Prayers and Meditations, p. 67; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4