9 July 1850 – the Báb

Siyyid Ali Muhammad was a merchant and founder of the Persian religious movement, Bábism – which emerged from ‘the doctrines of a Muslim messianic Shi’ite sect’.1

He went by the name of the Báb meaning ‘Gate’ implying he was an avenue for divine revelation and set about establishing a new religious law.

He surrounded himself with disciples, known as the Letters of the Living, who spread the word across Iran and Iraq, amassing thousands of supporters as they went.

House arrest

Following a pilgrimage to Mecca where the Báb outlined his mission, the Islamic clergy ordered his arrest and he was confined for a time in the house of his uncle in Shiraz. As word spread, support continued to grow and he was eventually imprisoned in Tabriz, where he was tried for blasphemy and apostosy (the formal abandonment of one’s religion to you and me).

Although he was let off with a bastinadoing – which involved being beaten on the soles of the feet – there was continued pressure for his execution by the prominent clerics of the time and they eventually got their wish.

The night before he was due to die, a loyal supporter called Anis came forward and begged to be killed alongside the Báb. The guards granted him his wish and he too was thrown in the cells.

Smoke screen

On the morning of 9 July 1850, they were both taken to a courtyard where thousands of people had gathered to watch the execution. They were tied to a wall and the firing squad took aim. As the shots were fired the area filled with musket smoke and when it cleared the Báb had disappeared and Anis had not been hit.

Although some immediately claimed it was a miracle and the Báb had ascended to heaven, it actually transpired that the bullets had simply cut through the rope he was being held with and he was just hiding up on a nearby roof.

Quickly recaptured, the firing squad made sure they didn’t miss a second time.

1 This description of Bábism is quoted from ‘Encyclopedia.com’.

Also on this day

9 July 2004 – Riley Dobi Noel
9 July 1901 – Valeri Giovanni

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