October 12, 2017

1848: Baha’u’llah suffered the humiliating bastinado punishment

Town of Ámul, circa 1935
About nine miles from Fort Tabarsi, where Baha’u’llah had planned to join the heroic believers, He and His companions were arrested by the soldiers of the acting governor of the area and taken to the town of Ámul, Mazindran in northern Iran.

The hostile clerics of Ámul had created a major commotion in the town. Having Baha’u’llah and His companions in their midst, the situation was further exacerbated by the divines calling upon the people to protect their religion by demanding severe punishment upon the captives – including murder. People were told to come to the mosque, fully armed -- the butcher with his axe, the carpenter with his hatchet – prepared to make a rush at Baha'u'llah and murder Him. The divines of Ámul were particularly marked for their rapacity.

The Acting Governor realized that any indulgence on his part would be fraught with personal danger. By inflicting a befitting punishment upon the captives, he sought to check the mob’s passions. He ordered punishment by bastinado - a form of torture that involves being beaten on the soles of the feet with a rod. He also promised that the captives would be kept in custody following this punishment until the return of the governor.

The Mosque of Ámul, circa 1935
Taken to the mosque of the chief priest, the first to be bound in order to receive the bastinado was Mulla Baqir of Tabriz, one of the Letters of the Living. Said he, 'I am only a groom of Mirza Busayn-'Ali... [Baha’u’llah].' Whereupon Baha’u’llah intervened and succeeded in inducing his captors to release him. So too He interceded for Haji Mirza Jani, the merchant of Kashan who, He said, was a mere tradesman and whom He regarded as His guest, so that He himself was responsible for any charges brought against him. This merchant had earlier acted as host to the Báb in Kashan, he was also the first chronicler of His Faith. Mirza Yahya, His half-brother and ward, was also set free as soon as Baha’u’llah had declared him to be His attendant. . “None of these men,” Baha’u’llah told the acting governor, “are guilty of any crime. If you insist on inflicting your punishment, I offer Myself as a willing Victim of your chastisement.” The acting governor was reluctantly compelled to give orders that Bahá’u’lláh alone be chosen to suffer the indignity which he had intended originally for His companions.

When He had been bound in the humiliating bastinado position, His legs in the air, bare feet exposed and lashed to a bar held by assistants, Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, Baha’u’llah’s paternal uncle and one of the company, threw himself in front of Baha’u’llah, and was thrashed until he fainted from the pain. Baha’u’llah was then beaten with rods until His feet bled.  He was then removed, along with his companions, to one of the rooms of the mosque, and held there until the return of the Governor from his visit to Fort Shaykh Tabarsi. 
(Adapted from ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, by Nabil, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi; ‘Baha’u’llah, The King of Glory’, by Balyuzi; and ‘The Robe of Light, vol. 1’, by Ruhe)