Tahirih in the West: Earliest mentions

The persistent, widespread, and long-term efforts to prevent the spread of the Babi Faith in Persia and later, the suppression of the Baha’i Faith and destruction of its institutions, failed completely. The Baha’i Faith today is a major independent and growing world religion with a unique international administration.

So spread the memory of the great mystic and poet, Tahirih, one of the early Apostles of the Bab, whose life of faith formed a moving narrative in the story of Baha’i origins.

Her name travelled westward almost immediately after her execution.

The first known mention of her execution was made by Sir Justin Sheil, who served as the representative of Queen Victoria to the royal court in Persia, in this dispatch dated August 22nd, 1852:

“Among those who have suffered death was a young woman, the daughter of a Teacher of the Law in Mazanderan of great celebrity who has been three years in confinement in Tehran. She was venerated as a prophetess by the Babees, and her designation among them was ‘Koorat ool ain’ – ‘Pupil of the eye.’ She has been strangled by the Shah’s order. The Sedr Azim has opposed some of these acts, but the Shah’s anger and vindictiveness have not allowed him to pay attention to advice.”[i]

Queen Victoria had been the recipient of a Tablet from Baha’u’llah in which she was praised for ending the slave trade and for trusting the reins of leadership in the hands of the people

“We have also heard that thou hast entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people. Thou, indeed, hast done well, for thereby the foundations of the edifice of thine affairs will be strengthened, and the hearts of all that are beneath thy shadow, whether high or low, will be tranquillized.” (173)

The next day, Prince Dolgorukov, the Russian ambassador to Persia sent this dispatch:

“…For a long time there has been imprisoned in Tihran under the surveillance of Mahmud Khan, Chief of Police, a Babi woman (Tahirih). In spite of this she apparently found means daily to gather around herself many members of her sect. She was strangled in a garden in the presence of Ajudan-Bashi….”[ii]

Queen Victoria’s long reign dominated the history of the 19th century British Empire, so much so that this period is called the “Victorian Age”. Click below to see original photos and footage of Queen Victoria.

[i] Moojan Momen, The Babi and Baha’i Religions, 1844-1944, Some Contemporary Western Accounts (Oxford, UK: George Ronald, 1981), 135.

[ii] Ibid., 143.