he Baha'i Movement is now well known throughout the world, and the time has come when Nabil's unique narrative of its beginnings in darkest Persia will interest many readers. The record which he sets down with such devoted care is in many respects extraordinary. It has its thrilling passages, and the splendour of the central theme gives to the chronicle not only great historical value but high moral power. Its lights are strong; and this effect is more intense because they seem like a sunburst at midnight. The tale is one of struggle and martyrdom; its poignant scenes, its tragic incidents are many. Corruption, fanaticisms and cruelty gather against the cause of reformation to destroy it, and the present volume closes at the point where a riot of hate seems to have accomplished its purpose and to have driven into exile or put to death every man, woman, and child in Persia who dared to profess a leaning towards the teaching of the Bab.
Nabil, himself a participant in some of the scenes which he recites, took up his lonely pen to recite the truth about men and women so mercilessly persecuted and a movement so grievously traduced.
He writes with ease, and when his emotions are strongly stirred his style becomes vigorous and trenchant. He does not present with any system the claims and teaching of Baha'u'llah and His Forerunner. His purpose is the simple one of rehearsing the beginnings of the Baha'i Revelation and of preserving the remembrance of the deeds of its early champions. He relates a series of incidents, punctiliously quoting his authority for almost every item of information. His work in consequence, if less artistic and philosophic, gains in value as a literal account of what he knew or could from credible witnesses discover about the early history of the Cause.
The main features of the narrative (the saintly heroic
figure of the Bab, a leader so mild and so serene, yet eager,
resolute, and dominant; the devotion of his followers facing
oppression with unbroken courage and often with ecstasy;
the rage of a jealous priesthood inflaming for its own purpose
the passions of a bloodthirsty populace--these speak a language
which all may understand. But it is not easy to
follow the narrative in its details, or to appreciate how stupendous
was the task undertaken by Baha'u'llah and His
Forerunner, without some knowledge of the condition of
church and state in Persia and of the customs and mental
outlook of the people and their masters Nabil took this
knowledge for granted. He had himself travelled little if at
all beyond the boundary of the empires of the Shah and the
Sultan, and it did not occur to him to institute comparisons
between his own and foreign civilisations. He was not addressing
the Western reader. Though he was conscious that
the material he had collected was of more than national or
Islamic importance and that it would before long spread
both eastward and westward until it encircled the globe, yet
he was an Oriental writing in an Oriental language for those
who used it, and the unique work which he so faithfully
accomplished was in itself a great and laborious task.