Bahá'u'lláh's Lawh-i Istintáq (Tablet of the Interrogation) and the Murder of Three Azalís in Akka in 1872

By Necati Alkan

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #138
Centre for Baha'i Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 5–8, 2016
(see list of papers from #138)

    One of the saddest events in Bahá'u'lláh's life was the murder of three followers of His half-brother Mirza Yahya "Subh-i Azal" in 'Akka in 1872 by seven Bahá'ís. Like their master, Sayyid Muhammad Isfahani, Aqa Jan Kaj-Kulah and Mirza Rida-Quli Tafrishi were inveterate enemies of Bahá'u'lláh and had been discrediting Him and misrepresenting His Cause in Istanbul and Edirne. After they were exiled with Bahá'u'lláh to 'Akka, they continued their intrigue. Saddened and angered by this mischief, seven Bahá'ís who were in Bahá'u'lláh's entourage killed the three Azalis. In the wake of this Bahá'u'lláh, His son 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the seven Bahá'ís were arrested and interrogated.

    This talk will give an overview of this event based on Bahá'u'lláh's lengthy Lawh-i Istintáq, Bahá'í sources and the minutes of the court proceedings from Syria that is kept at the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul. In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh talks about the mischief of Isfahani, Kaj-Kulah and Tafrishi and recounts the shameful act by the Bahá'ís. And it is in the wake of this event that He expressed His grief with the following words: "Were We to make mention of what befell Us, the heavens would be rent asunder and the mountains would crumble." And: "My captivity cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the conduct of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and yet perpetrate what causeth My heart and My pen to groan." In the Lawh-i Istintáq Bahá'u'lláh relates His interrogation by Ottoman officials: "When interrogated, He was asked to state His name and that of the country from which He came. 'It is more manifest than the sun,' He answered. The same question was put to Him again, to which He gave the following reply: 'I deem it not proper to mention it. Refer to the farmán of the government which is in your possession.' Once again they, with marked deference, reiterated their request, whereupon Bahá'u'lláh spoke with majesty and power these words: 'My name is Bahá'u'lláh (Light of God), and My country is Núr (Light). Be ye apprized of it.'" (God Passes By, 189-91)

    While Bahá'u'lláh reprimands the act of the Bahá'ís in the Tablet, He also regards the death of the Azalis as divine punishment: "Verily the Mute [al-akhras, Isfahani] called himself 'Quddus' and hath claimed what the Evil Whisperer (al-khannas) claimed for himself. The other one [Aqá Ján] called himself the 'Sword of Truth' (sayfu'l-haqq);Í� he said: 'I, verily, am the conqueror of the cities'. God hath sent the one who hath smitten upon his mouth, so that all may firmly believe that through this Satan's tail hath been cut off by the sword of the Merciful (sayfu'r-rahmán)." (my provisional translation). We see here that despite the horrible act perpetrated by a group of Bahá'ís, Bahá'u'lláh clearly says that the three Azalis got what they deserved.

    And whereas Bahá'í sources state that the seven Bahá'ís killed the three Azalis actively based on their mischief, the minutes of the Ottoman court mention that the seven Bahá'ís acted based on money issues between the two parties and defended themselves after being attacked by the Azalis. We also learn the names of the eyewitnesses and their testimonies.

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