June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
On July 9th 1850, the Bab, the forerunner to Baha’u’llah, was executed in Tabriz, Persia by a firing squad of 750 men. The Bab, which means “the Gate” in Arabic, was a Messenger of God whose role was to herald the coming of the latest Manifestation of God: Baha’u’llah. In 1909, after being hidden away for more than half a century, the Bab’s remains were finally interred on Mount Carmel, Israel.
The significance of the Bab’s station and of His martyrdom is beyond what my mind can grasp. Shoghi Effendi tells us that this event can “be rightly acclaimed as unparalleled in the annals of the lives of all the Founders of the world’s existing religious systems.” 1
In an attempt to study and meditate on the station of the Bab and the historical meaning of His execution, I found myself thinking of Anis Zunuzi, the youth who shared the crown of Martyrdom with the Bab on July 9th, 1850. 2 Reflecting on Anis’ life and his deeds, as someone intoxicated with love for the Bab, may help me understand and better commemorate the Bab’s life.
Anis’ story is recounted in several places. For example, you can read about it in Shoghi Effendi’s translation of Nabil’s The Dawn-Breakers, Hasan Balyuzi’s The Bab, and William Sears’ Release the Sun – an excellent book, particularly for youth or younger readers. The retelling of Anis’ story is included in Midsummer Noon: A Narrative of the Life of the Bab, a dramatic audio recording produced by Jack Lenz (and available for purchase or download from 9StarMedia) which never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The details of his story are few, but here are some key points worth reflecting on.
Anis was a youth whose full name was Muhammad-Aliy-i-Zunuzi. He heard of the Bab’s message in Tabriz and was filled with the desire to meet Him. But Anis’ stepfather was a notable. Embarrassed and ashamed by Anis’ behaviour, he locked Anis in their house and would not let him leave. This anguished Anis’ heart, as was noted by a fellow-Babi who visited him. On one visit, however, Anis beamed with happiness and offered these words of explanation:
[…] one day, as I lay confined in my cell, I turned my heart to Him and besought Him in these words: ‘Thou beholdest, O my Best-Beloved, my captivity and helplessness, and knowest how eagerly I yearn to look upon Thy face. Dispel the gloom that oppresses by heart, with the light of Thy countenance.’ What tears of agonizing pain I shed that hour! I was so overcome with emotion that I seemed to have lost consciousness. Suddenly I heard the voice of the Bab, and, lo! He was calling me. He bade me arise. I beheld the majesty of His countenance as He appeared before me. He smiled and He looked into my eyes. I rushed forward and flung myself at His feet. ‘Rejoice,’ He said; ‘the hour is approaching when, in this very city, I shall be suspended before the eyes of the multitude and shall fall a victim to the fire of the enemy. I choose no one except you to share with Me the cup of martyrdom. Rest assured that this promise which I give you shall be fulfilled.’ 3
From that point onward, Anis was joyful and serene. His stepfather released him from confinement. The Dawn-Breakers attests that his behaviour towards his family and kinsmen was such that “on the day he laid down his life for his Beloved, the people of Tabriz all wept and bewailed him.” 4
Two years after recounting his vision of the Bab, Anis, haggard, barefoot, disheveled, and unafraid of the consequences, pushed his way through the fierce crowd around the Bab and threw himself at His feet. He was seized, along with a few others who followed his example, and imprisoned with the Bab in Tabriz’s barracks. Siyid Hasan, the Bab’s amanuensis, recounted this experience that further demonstrates Anis’ love and devotion to the Bab:
‘To-morrow,’ [the Bab] said to us, ‘will be the day of My martyrdom. Would that one of you might now arise and, with his own hands, end My life. I prefer to be slain by the hand of a friend rather than by that of the enemy.’ Tears rained from our eyes as we heard Him express that wish. We shrank, however, at the thought of taking away with our own hands so precious a life. [Anis] suddenly sprang to his feet and announced himself ready to obey whatever the Bab might desire. ‘This same youth who has risen to comply My wish,’ the Bab declared, as soon as we had intervened and forced him to abandon the thought, ‘will together with Me, suffer martyrdom. Him will I choose to share with Me its crown.’ 5
I grew up hearing these details but there is one detail of this story that I did not know until now: Anis’ stepfather attempted to save his life by encouraging him to recant his faith. While I knew that Anis was a youth, I did not realize he was a father. His young child, a little boy, was brought to him in the hopes it would convince him to change his mind. But Anis remained unshaken, and placed his trust in God that the child would be cared for and protected. 6 Now that I am a parent myself, this detail pierces by heart and gives me a glimpse of Anis’ steadfastness and how great his love for the Bab was.
At one point while on pilgrimage and offering prayers at the Shrine of the Bab, I realized that Anis must be buried there too. The historical accounts tell us how, under the rain of bullets, the flesh of the Bab and His disciple were united, and ultimately hidden in a casket until they were befittingly buried on Mount Carmel by Abdu’l-Baha. The beauty and majesty of the Shrine of the Bab are also allusions to the greatness of His station but the fact Anis is also buried there, without tombstone or engraving except the story of his unwavering love, is a testament of the greatness of His beloved.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
I love to hear the story again it’s really encouraging to see young youth sacrificing his life for the new faith I think we need to follow the examples of him although at present we can not sacrifice our life but we can sacrifice our time to teach the faith.
Thanks a lot
Frankline khaemba (July 7, 2016 at 3:19 AM)
Hi Frankline! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and yes! You are absolutely right! Now is the time to give generously of our time and resources! 🙂
Sonjel Vreeland (July 7, 2016 at 2:02 PM)
Anis is a wonderful model for us all, and perhaps particularly for the youth. But in the story you told so eloquently above, I think the most important feature may be his obedience. He was awarded the crown of martyrdom by the Bab because of his willingness to obey the Bab’s wish to be slain by a friend rather than by enemies. What a powerful example of obedience that is!
Alan Manifold (July 7, 2016 at 11:38 PM)
So true, Alan! Thank you for pointing that out!
Sonjel Vreeland (July 7, 2016 at 2:03 PM)
Thank you so much for posting this. It gently reminds me of the Holy Day to come in a few days. I am an ardent researcher and have not found the information you shared about Anise. It helped to make him a fuller personality to remember and thank.
Dolly Britzman (July 7, 2016 at 12:07 AM)
I am glad it helped. 🙂
Sonjel Vreeland (July 7, 2016 at 2:06 PM)
Apprecitions for reminding us may God bless you with that virtue of sharing Allah’u’bha
musa badawi (July 7, 2016 at 3:59 AM)
Thank you, Musa!
Sonjel Vreeland (July 7, 2016 at 5:28 PM)
This day 150 years ago.
Thank you for reminding us of Anis story. I did not realise he was dad to a little one this brings tears to my eyes and touches deep the heart
The following gem of a story shared by Sue Emmel adds yet another precious dimension to the story of the Bab and His faithful companion Anis .
” Precious to my heart and mind is this jacaranda tree, for a special reason. When it was planted beside the Shrine of the Bab during the days of the beloved Guardian, the gardener placed the seed of a Bougainville vine in its trunk as well. Since then, both life forms – the tree and the vine – have grown and matured so closely together that to try to separate one from the other might kill them both.
All this is said with Anís in mind, the youth who volunteered and was chosen by the Bab for their fateful execution on July 9, 1850. Their bodies were so pulverized by the bullets aimed at them in the barracks square of Tabriz, they too are inseparable. Thus they are entombed as one in the Shrine.
Some people who visit that Sacred Threshold don’t know this. Others don’t think about it, so enthralled are they in the spirit of this blessed Spot. Others of us know, but we forget. Allah’u’Abha! I can’t. The tree is always a reminder of the meaning of sacrifice.
Sacrifice: to make sacred
“It is better to guide one soul than to possess all that is on earth, for as long as that guided soul is under the shadow of the Tree of Divine Unity, he and the one who hath guided him will both be recipients of God’s tender mercy, whereas possession of earthly things will cease at the time of death. The path to guidance is one of love and compassion, not of force and coercion… ” – The Báb
Lynne (July 7, 2016 at 1:24 AM)
Thank you for sharing this, Lynne!
Sonjel Vreeland (July 7, 2016 at 5:29 PM)
Thank you for telling us about the fact that Anis had a child. I didn’t know that either. How sweet a person he must have been and his spirit still is!
Kelly Clark Boldt (July 7, 2016 at 1:23 PM)
You’re most welcome, Kelly. Yes, that one fact has really affected me and brings tears to my eyes!
Sonjel Vreeland (July 7, 2016 at 3:52 PM)
Thank you dear Sonjel Vreeland for very inspiring story, I am sorry that I have no access to all references you mentioned, would you kindly direct me to a source that indicate both bodies of The Bab and Anis Zunuzi are actually buried in the same spot (Shine of The Bob in Mount Carmel )
Thank you so much,
Bijan Goharriz (July 7, 2016 at 11:00 PM)
You’re very welcome! 🙂
To answer your question, here is a quotation from Shoghi Effendi’s God Passes By which charts what happened to the remains of the Bab and Anis:
“On the evening of the very day of the Bab’s execution, which fell on the ninth of July 1850 (28th of Sha’ban 1266 A.H.), during the thirty-first year of His age and the seventh of His ministry, the mangled bodies were transferred from the courtyard of the barracks to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city. Four companies, each consisting of ten sentinels, were ordered to keep watch in turn over them. On the following morning the Russian Consul in Tabriz visited the spot, and ordered the artist who had accompanied him to make a drawing of the remains as they lay beside the moat. In the middle of the following night a follower of the Bab, Haji Sulayman Khan, succeeded, through the instrumentality of a certain Haji Allah-Yar, in removing the bodies to the silk factory owned by one of the believers of Milan, and laid them, the next day, in a specially made wooden casket, which he later transferred to a place of safety. Meanwhile the mullas were boastfully proclaiming from the pulpits that, whereas the holy body of the Immaculate Imam would be preserved from beasts of prey and from all creeping things, this man’s body had been devoured by wild animals. No sooner had the news of the transfer of the remains of the Bab and of His fellow-sufferer been communicated to Baha’u’llah than He ordered that same Sulayman Khan to bring them to Tihran, where they were taken to the Imam-Zadih-Hasan, from whence they were removed to different places, until the time when, in pursuance of Abdu’l-Baha’s instructions, they were transferred to the Holy Land, and were permanently and ceremoniously laid to rest by Him in a specially erected mausoleum on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.”
Here is a link for God Passes By, which can be read online: http://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/shoghi-effendi/god-passes-by/
I hope this is the type of reference you were searching for.
Sonjel Vreeland (July 7, 2016 at 4:04 PM)
Thank you again dear Sonjel,
Bijan Goharriz (July 7, 2016 at 9:12 PM)
Such a tenderly beautiful rendition of the Martyrdom of the Bab that you have expressed. The story always makes my heart sing.
Anthony J Adams (July 7, 2016 at 6:02 PM)
Thank you Sonjel, for educating us. I have been hoping we can read more stories about The Bab and use them in commemorations. Please write one or two you know so I can share with community who does not read English. These stories refresh and make me happier.
Madlen Connor (June 6, 2019 at 12:30 PM)
You’re most welcome, Madlen. I’m so glad you found this helpful!
We’re hoping to publish a few more historical articles about the Bab and the Babis in the coming weeks and months. If you haven’t already read them, you might also find these articles useful: https://www.bahaiblog.net/2019/04/who-were-the-letters-of-the-living/
Sonjel Vreeland (June 6, 2019 at 1:01 AM)