Táhirih as a young girl
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Part 1 of a 4 part summary
It was a dark and dismal time in 19th Century Persia (Iran). Prejudice, rigidity, superstition, and backward laws and customs mandated by the Muslim religious leaders kept the masses in fear and ignorance. Those who were poor and disadvantaged, or belonging to a religion other than Islam were subject to discrimination and often harsh persecution sanctioned by the authorities. And women, regardless of class, religion or race, were looked down upon as inferior. They were not even allowed to eat at the same table with men. When in public they were forced to cover their faces with a black chador (veil). Most females were kept illiterate, but some in the upper classes received a minimum of education. However, they were forbidden to study the Holy Book of Islam, the Koran, and were denied opportunities to pursue a career. Women were ruled by the men in their family, and had no freedom even to choose their own husband.
Táhirih grew up in this male-dominated, oppressive society. She was born Fátimah Umm-Salmá in 1817 in Qazvín, as the daughter of Muhammad Sálih Barághani, a prominent mujtahid (Muslim scholar and priest). Students came daily to their home to study the Koran under her father. Táhirih yearned to study the Holy Book, but she was forbidden by law to do so. She was not allowed to sit in her own father’s classroom.
As a young girl, however, Táhirih showed an extraordinary intelligence and curiosity for learning, which her father could not ignore. He selected a teacher who taught her various branches of knowledge and the arts, and she demonstrated astounding ability, particularly in literature. But she yearned for a spiritual education, and pleaded with her father to allow her to study the Koran. Her father relented, allowing her to sit behind a curtain while he would teach his class of male students in the parlor of his home.
When the father and daughter were alone discussing together various portions of the Koran, she never failed to amaze him with her astounding insight and understanding. She surpassed all of his students, and such was the degree of her brilliance and attainments that her father often lamented, “Would that she had been a boy, for he would have shed illumination upon my household, and would have succeeded me.”
By the time she was fourteen, she was known as a gifted poet and was recognized throughout the region as a child genius. Although as she grew older she would face many great obstacles and dangers in her quest for knowledge and spiritual truth, she would not be deterred. For this is only the beginning of Tahirih’s inspiring story, which tells of a triumphant journey of heroism, piety and sacrifice. A devout disciple of the Báb, she was a brilliant poet, chaste and holy, and a sign and token of surpassing beauty… who tore asunder ancient traditions by removing her veil and giving her life to promote the emancipation of women.