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ed early in the nineteenth century in the teaching of a certain Ahmed Ahsai. Space will not permit us to enter into the details of his teaching. Suffice it to say that it was characterized, first, by a veneration for the Imams which in intensity surpassed that of the most devout Shiites; and, secondly, by a doctrine known as that of the “Fourth Support,” which maintained that there must always be among the Shiites some “perfect man,” capable of serving as a channel of grace between the Hidden Imam and his church. Shaykh Ahmed was succeeded at his death by Hajji Sayyid Kazim, who held largely attended conferences at Kerbela, the principal place of veneration and object of pilgrimage of the Shiites. Now, among those who attended the lectures of Sayyid Kazim was a young man of Shiraz, named Mirza Ali Mohammad, who, though very reserved in manner, attracted the attention of his teacher by his earnestness and grave demeanor. Born of a good family, he had apparently enjoyed the advantages of a distinguished education; he showed a great predilection for the occult sciences, the philosophic theory of numbers, and the like. He, furthermore, had opportunities of intercourse with the Jews of Shiraz, and through Protestant missionary translations he became acquainted with the Gospels. He was strikingly handsome, and his charms of speech and manner were, it appears from all accounts, irresistible. At the age of twenty-two he married; and by his marriage had one son, who
died in infancy. He was at this period settled in business at Bushire; and, from that port of the Persian Gulf, he went to Kerbela and attended, as we have said, the conferences of Sayyid Kazim. Here he remained for a few months, and then departed as suddenly as he had come, returning to Shiraz. Not long after this, Sayyid Kazim died, without, however, nominating a successor; and this fact, as will be seen, is of the utmost importance in the history of the Bab.
Shortly after Sayyid Kazim's death, a certain Mulla Husayn of Bushrawayh, who had attended the Sayyid's lectures at the same time as Mirza Ali Mohammad, came to Shiraz, and, as was only natural, took that opportunity of visiting his former fellow-student. The two at once fell to talking of the death of their lamented teacher, and referred to the strange words he had spoken as death was approaching: “Do you not desire that I should go, so that the truth may become manifest?” though he gave no hint of the manner in which the truth should be revealed. At this point in the conversation, Mirza Ali Mohammad, to the utter amazement of his friend, suddenly declared that he himself was the promised guide, the new intermediary between the Hidden Imam and the faithful; in short, that he was the Bāb, or “Gate,” through which men might communicate with the Imam Mahdi. Mulla Husayn, though at first inclined to doubt, soon came to believe in the truth of this declaration with a faith that thenceforth
remained unshaken. This manifestation and conversion of the first disciple took place on May 23, 1844, almost exactly one thousand years after the “Lesser Occultation.” Mulla Husayn at once began to spread the “good news” among the followers of Sayyid Kazim, many of whom immediately set out for Shiraz, so that very soon was gathered round the Bāb a devoted band of believers, which included, besides the followers of Sayyid Kazim, others who were attracted by the new faith. The various kinds of persons who were thus attracted may be summed up as follows:
1. The Shaykhis.
2. Shiites, who believed that the Bab's teaching was the fulfilling of the Koran.
3. Men who saw in it a hope of national reform.
5. Those to whom the life and teaching of the Bāb and Beha appeal in a general way; and among these must be numbered those Western converts who do not fall under the next head.
6. Those who regard Bābism as a fulfilment of Christianity.
At this period the Bāb had already written several works, and these were now eagerly perused by his disciples, who, from time to time, were also “privileged to listen to the words of the master himself, as he depicted in vivid language the worldliness and immorality of the Mullas, or Mohammedan clergy, and the injustice and rapacity of
the civil authorities," and the like. He further prophesied that better days were at hand. At this time, however, he did not openly attack Islam.
Thus do we find Mirza Ali Mohammad in the first stage of his mission, setting forth claims to be the Bab, or channel of grace between the Imam Mahdi and his church, and inveighing against the corruptions of the clergy and the government, by whom he naturally came to be regarded with suspicion and dislike. Not long after his manifestation, when his fame had already spread throughout the country, he set out to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. It was probably in the Holy City itself that he, once and for all, freed himself from the prophet's faith, and conceived the thought of“ ruining this faith, in order to establish in its place something altogether differing from it." He returned from Mecca in August, 1845, possessed of more definite aims and ideals with regard to his own mission. Meanwhile, the clergy and the government had determined that the movement was dangerous, and that it bade fair to become more so. Active measures must, therefore, be taken for its suppression, while this was yet an easy matter. Several of the Bab's disciples were, accordingly, seized in Shiraz, and, having been bastinadoed, they were warned to desist from preaching. On landing in Bushire, the Bab was arrested and brought to Shiraz, where he underwent an examination by the clergy in the presence of the governor of that town. He was pronounced a heretic, and ordered to remain in his house until further orders. No very strict watch was, however, kept over him, and, like St. Paul before him, he was visited by and conferred with the faithful.
In the spring of 1846 he escaped to Ispahan, where he remained under the protection of the governor of that town. In the following year this governor died, and his successor in office immediately sent the Bab in the direction of Teheran under an armed escort. The Shah's ministers, however, deeming that the Bāb's presence in the capital might prove dangerous, gave orders that he should be taken off to the distant frontier-fortress of Maku. where he composed a great number of works and was in constant correspondence with his followers. In order to put a stop to this correspondence and to set him in closer confinement, the Bab was removed to Chihrik, whence not long after he was summoned to Tabriz, to undergo examination by some of the leading clergy in the presence of the Crown Prince (afterwards Shah Nasir-ud-Din). This examination was, of course, a pure farce and the verdict a foregone conclusion. His inquisitors hoped to catch him tripping, but their victim drove them to exasperation by the attitude of dignified silence which he adopted towards their bullying questions. Finally, they ordered him to be beaten and sent back to Chihrik, where he was now subjected to such close confinement that he was only able to communicate with his followers by means of the most peculiar devices: scraps of paper were,