A Monologue by David Hoffman
My name is Sam. Sam Khan. I want to tell you my story. I grew up in Armenia. My father was a military man. My mother was a tailor. Ours was a very proper Christian home. My father was much disciplined. My mother was a compassionate woman, a trait my father struggled with at times. She was always dragging some down-on-their-luck stranger through the doors; feeding them, giving them shelter. My father didn’t approve.
My mother was of strong moral character. So was my father in his own way.
We moved to Tabriz where my father trained young army recruits when I was a child. It was a beautiful place.
As a youth, I studied all of the military arts – drilling, swordsmanship, and marksmanship. By the age of fourteen I was thought of as one of the finest marksmen in the country. I joined the army’s infantry division at sixteen. It wasn’t long before I was promoted to sergeant, earned my commission as a first lieutenant and later as Captain.
I was given my own regiment at twenty-one. It was a regiment of seven hundred and fifty strong. What wonderful men! Heroes they were. They’d have given their lives for me and I loved them for it. I served in this post for some nineteen years and then something happened that made it impossible for me to carry on.
It was early July in 1850 when I received the news that my regiment had been chosen to execute a political prisoner who had supposedly mounted an effort to destroy the security of Persia and to overthrow the King.
He was a man named Siyyid Ali-Muhammad. He had taken the title of the Bab, meaning the Gate in Arabic.
At first I was anxious to discharge the duty, to rid the country of such an evil. Then I saw Him - the Bab. He was so beautiful. I can never describe the power and majesty that sat on His brow. Nor can I place into words the sensation of fear that overtook me as I contemplated the issuing of the order or his execution to my men - an order that would take His life in such a violent manner!
I was torn in agony about this when I was finally able to attain His presence. I will never forget the brief exchange that we had. I entreated Him as such. “I profess the Christian Faith and entertain no ill will against you. If Your Cause be the Cause of Truth, enable me to free myself from the obligation to shed Your blood”.
I stood motionless, studying the exquisite features of His face and then he spoke in a most melodious voice. He said, “Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you from your perplexity”.
What happened next changed my life forever. It was impossible< I tell you and yet I witnessed it with my own eyes. And if that is not enough, you can ask any of the multitudes of ten thousand who were there!
The Bab was suspended with ropes hung by a nail from the exterior of the prison wall together with a valiant youth who had the title Anis. That youth had, of his own accord; chosen to die alongside the Bab, another phenomenon that defies imagination!
Obediently but reluctantly I acceded to His order to carry out my mission. I assembled my men in three ranks. Each rank comprised of two hundred and fifty men.
I think that I was trembling when I gave the order. As was customary procedure, each of the three ranks discharged their volleys, one after the other.
It seemed to take an eternity as I watched on in great anxiety. The musket smoke produced by that vehement release was so dense that it took quite some time to clear. When it did I could scarcely believe my eyes!
Young Anis was standing on the ground directly under the nail. He was unharmed! I mean to say that there was not the least trace of injury on his person! It took me a moment to realize that the Bab was gone. I think it was a voice in the crowd crying ‘The ‘Siyyid-i-Bab has gone from our sight’ that brought this fact to my attention.
Now mark you this. I know my men. They have been well trained. It is a rare occasion that one of them misses their mark. But, my God! All seven hundred and fifty of them had missed!
I felt as if I was in a dream. The crowd began to grow very restless on beholding this site. This spectacle was plenty enough for me. There was something extraordinary, even mystical; something glorious about this Man. And I am forever grateful to Him for allowing me to escape the fate of being His executioner.
I ordered my men to cease their activity and to quit the premises immediately.
Now, my friend - I had the opportunity to follow the sad fate of the Bab and His youthful companion and to learn of those who had a hand in His suffering.
First, the farrash-bashi who had employed my services and was later directed to assemble another regiment fled his post, never to return!
Then, Aqa Jan Khan-i-Khamsih and his Nasiri regiment were ordered to replace my men in the hideous task of executing the Bab. I hear that while the bodies of the Bab and Anis were mutilated beyond recognition, the Bab’s face was unmarred.
It is said that the Bab addressed the crowd before His execution and referring to His companion said, "Had you believed in Me, O wayward generation, every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and would have willingly sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you."
I know, too, that the instant the second round of shots were fired a sand storm of such magnitude the likes of which Tabriz had never known blotted the sun’s rays from sight until the sun herself set and rose on the following day.
That night, the bodies of the Bab and Anis were dragged through the streets and left to lie unceremoniously in a moat at the outskirts of the city. It is said that all those who signed the death warrant or had some business in the execution of the Bab soon died horrible deaths.
Even the Nasiri regiment, all seven hundred and fifty men perished soon after. That’s right. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s the truth. Two hundred fifty died in an earthquake that occurred within that very year. The remaining five hundred were done in by a firing squad some three years hence, as a result of a mutiny in which they had engaged. They died even as they had executed the Bab!
Now, you tell me, my friend – could this be some bizarre series of coincidences? The result of mere sorcery? Or was this all this have been driven by the hand of God, Himself?