The Seven Proofs

On the other side of Europe in France, in 1905, the first full-length history of the Bab was published, Siyyid Ali Muhammad dit le Bab, by the French Consular official who served in Persia, A.L.M. Nicolas. Nicolas first came to know about the Bab because his father’s diplomatic service in Tihran overlapped with that of Gobineau. His father and Gobineau had gotten into a dispute over the nature of a manuscript acquired by the former. Nicolas found in his father’s papers a critique of Gobineau’s book on the religions of Central Asia, so he decided to research the subjects in the book, and, in this way, came into contact with the writings of the Bab. As he worked on understanding the Bab’s text, The Seven Proofs, he became so moved that he became a believer:

“My reflections on the strange book [The Seven Proofs by the Báb] that I had translated, filled me with a kind of intoxication and I became, little by little, profoundly and uniquely a Bábí. The more I immersed myself in these reflections, the more I admired the greatness of the genius of him who, born in Shíraz, had dreamt of uplifting the Muslim world….”

Nicolas wrote a thorough account based on Persian sources and observation of the history of the Bab and the Babi movement as well as translated three of the Bab’s major works. One appreciation by a later scholar stated:

“No European scholar has contributed so much to our knowledge of the life and teachings of the Bab as Nicolas. His study of the life of the Bab and his translations…remain of unsurpassed value.”

In his book, Nicolas devoted many pages to Tahirih. He pointed out that Tahirih had responded immediately to the Bab’s teachings and did not allow petty literal interpretations of the Qur’an to interfere. The whole of chapter twelve describes Tahirih’s execution. She is described as having attracted many women to the Bab by telling them of the liberty promised in the new Revelation and then having been subject to seven interviews about her beliefs and teachings by two prominent Mullas. She criticized the clerics for their literal interpretation of prophecy. The clerics declared her a heretic and left. Nicolas tells the story of her martyrdom in which, after sunset, the streets were emptied, and she was taken to the Il-Khani gardens, and there, one of the captain’s soldiers was ordered to strangle her.