Fort Shaykh Tabarsi
Updated: Apr 6
This is a story about how Mullá Husayn, Quddús, and the heroic Bábís defended the Faith of the Báb at Fort Shaykh Tabarsí.
Quddús had been arrested and taken to the city of Sárí where he was placed under house arrest in the home of the head priest. The Báb, now imprisoned in the fortress of Chihríq, sent a message to Mullá Husayn to rescue Quddús as soon as possible. He also sent Mullá Husayn His green turban to wear and told him to carry a special flag called "The Black Standard". Mullá Husayn enthusiastically set off to rescue Quddús.
Mullá Husayn mounted his horse and set forth with two hundred and two companions. On the way, a rich merchant joined them. His family owned a valuable turquoise mine, but he unhesitatingly followed Mullá Husayn, taking only a small bag of the precious jewels with him. Even a dear old man of eighty joined them. He insisted on accompanying Mullá Husayn on foot and never asked for any help.
In one town they were attacked by a mob of people.
"Leave your belongings behind,” Mullá Husayn told his companions. They were to leave behind everything except their horses and their swords, so that people would see they were not attached to the things of this world. They only wished to teach God's Message.
Instantly all obeyed, including the rich merchant, who threw his bag of precious jewels into a ditch by the wayside, even though he knew he would never see it again. The mob then rushed towards them, killing several of the believers, including the old man, who was shot through the heart. Mullá Husayn, who up until now had kept his sword sheathed, said a prayer and charged into the crowd of attackers. He saw the person who had killed the old believer hiding behind a small tree. With one stroke of his sword, Mullá Husayn cut through the trunk of the tree, the barrel of the attacker’s gun, and through the attacker himself! The enemies were amazed. They dropped their guns and fled.
During the rest of their journey, Mullá Husayn and his companions were attacked again and again. As they neared the village where Quddús was imprisoned, they were forced to take shelter in a shrine where a saintly man called Shaykh Tabarsí was buried. They built a fort around the shrine to protect themselves from their enemies.
It was just finished when Mullá Husayn received word that Bahá'u'lláh would visit them. As soon as Bahá'u'lláh arrived, Mullá Husayn ran towards Him and tenderly embraced Him. With reverence and love, he introduced Him to the rest of the believers.
Bahá'u'lláh inspected the fort to make sure the friends had everything they needed to protect themselves. "The only thing this fort and company require," He said, "is the presence of Quddús."
Baha'u'llah told him to now send seven men to free Quddús.
Bahá'u'lláh Himself then went to Tihrán to buy food and other things the believers needed.
Mullá Husayn sent seven men to free Quddús. Quddús arrived at the fort during the night. Mullá Husayn and one hundred of his men went on foot to meet him. Each man carried two lighted candles so that the forest was illuminated. As they escorted Quddus back to the fort, everyone sang until the whole forest was filled with the joyful sound of their voices.
After the rescue of Quddús and his safe arrival at the fort of Shaykh Tabarsí, the Báb instructed the friends from all over Persia to try to go to the fort to help their fellow believers. Over three hundred came.
For many weeks Quddús, Mullá Husayn and their companions were kept inside the fort by those who wished to harm them. They could not go out for food, for everyone who did so was shot. At last even water became scarce.
When someone spoke to Quddús about this, he said, "God willing, this very night a downpour of rain will overtake our opponents, followed by a heavy snowfall."
That very night a heavy rain fell and ruined the ammunition of the enemy. Enough water was gathered within the fort to last the men for a long time. And the next night there came a fall of snow so heavy that no one in the neighborhood of the fort could remember one like it, even in the middle of winter.
The little band inside the fort knew that the large army outside was getting ready to attack them. So Quddús decided to rush out upon them suddenly, and try to drive them back or scatter them. Two hours after sunrise he and two others mounted their horses and rode out of the fort. The rest followed on foot.
As soon as they were out they all shouted as loudly as they could, "O Lord of the Age!" This was one of the titles of the Báb.
The great roar of their shouts and the glitter of the sun on their weapons frightened the enemy. They ran in all directions, leaving behind all their possessions. And not one of the men from the fort lost his life.
Quddús would not let his men follow those who were running away. He did not wish to harm anyone if it were not necessary. He just wanted to show them the power of God so that the people would allow him and his followers to give their Message.
This same thing happened again and again. The tiny army in the fort would suddenly rush out, shouting "O Lord of the Age!" And always they were able to drive back the large trained army that had come against them. In one of these battles Quddús was struck by a bullet and wounded in the mouth and throat. But Mullá Husayn, with a sword in each hand, and followed by the rest of his men, drove the enemy back. Then they returned to the fort with Quddús, who was soon well again.
The old king had died in September 1848, and a new one was on the throne of Persia. He was only seventeen years old and did not know how to rule his country wisely. The prime minister and religious leaders took control of things and told him to kill the Báb and the Bábis as quickly as possible. So that is what he decided to do. He told his prime minister to send an army of twelve thousand men to attack the 313 gentle religious believers who were sheltering in the fort of Shaykh Tabarsí.
The prince who was leading the army sent a message to Mullá Husayn. The prince wanted to know what the aims of the believers were. Mullá Husayn sent a message back saying that the believers were loyal to the king and just wished to tell the religious leaders about the coming of the Promised One. And he asked the prince to arrange for the religious leaders of the region to come to the fort and speak with him.
If this were done, wrote Mullá Husayn, then the prince would be able to judge for himself whether the Cause of the Báb was true or not.
The messenger returned with a reply promising that after three days the religious leaders would come for the discussion. But the promise was never kept. Instead, three days later, just before dawn, the army marched towards the fort. At a signal from the prince, they opened fire.
In the dark, the cry, "Mount your steeds, O heroes of God!" rose from inside the fort. Then the gates were thrown open and the believers galloped out to face the enemy. There was fierce fighting, and after a while the prince returned to the army camp. When the prime minister heard that the army had neither managed to kill the Bábis in Fort Tabarsí nor forced them to surrender, he sent more troops and told the soldiers to build seven barricades around the fort so nobody could escape.
At midnight Mullá Husayn, wearing the Báb's green turban and followed by the believers, rode out of the fort, knocking down all seven barricades. The cry, “O Lord of the Age!” once more echoed through the forest as the soldiers fled before them.
As Mullá Husayn rode under a tree, his horse's hoof became entangled in a rope that was attached to a nearby tent. A soldier hiding in the tree aimed his gun and shot Mullá Husayn. Mullá Husayn slumped forward in his saddle and two of the friends carried him unconscious back to the fort and into the presence of Quddús.
When they carried him in, Quddús told the others to leave them alone. He said he wished to talk to Mullá Husayn. "Leave me alone with him," said Quddús, ‘there are some private matters I wish to tell him."
The friends did not understand how Quddús would be able to tell Mullá Husayn anything because he was unconscious, but they obediently left the room. As they waited outside, they were surprised to hear voices. Quddús was calling Mullá Husayn’s name, and Mullá Husayn was answering him.
One of the friends peeped through a crack in the door to see what was happening.
He saw Mullá Husayn get up at the sound of his name and kneel in front of Quddús. They spoke together for two hours. Then they heard Mullá Husayn asking, "Are you well pleased with me?" and Quddús saying he was. At last Quddús opened the door.
"I have said my last goodbye to him," he said as the friends crowded into the room.
Mullá Husayn was dead. He had a faint smile on his face and looked very peaceful. Quddús took off Mullá Husayn’s bloodstained shirt and dressed him in his own clean one. Then he kissed his forehead and eyes, and buried him in a secret place where the enemy would not find him.
Thirty-six other believers were also killed in the battle that night, and they were buried in a large grave next to the fort.
The prince continued to attack the fort, but still Quddús and his companions did not give in. Then the prince told a lie. He promised that if the believers came out of the fort and gave themselves up, no one would harm them. He wrote this promise on a copy of the holy Koran and sent it to Quddús.
Quddús reverently kissed the Koran. He knew the prince would not keep his promise, but because it had been written on the holy book revealed by Muhammad, he agreed to leave the fort.
As the Bábis came out, some were captured and sold as slaves. A few escaped. Others were killed. Quddús was arrested and taken by the prince to the house of the head religious leader in the nearby town of Bárfurúsh.
There in Bárfurúsh, Quddús was put to death. In his suffering he was heard to say, "Forgive, O my God, the trespasses of this people. Deal with them in Thy mercy, for they know not what we already have discovered and cherish. Show them, O God, the way of Truth, and turn their ignorance into faith."
When the Báb heard about the deaths of Mullá Husayn and Quddús, and about what had happened at the fort, the tears rained from His eyes. For nine days He would see none of His friends and He was unable to write for six long months.