O lord of the age!
The clarion call raised by the defenders of Fort Tabarsi.
The audacity of Mulla Husayn who, at the command of the Báb, had attired his head with the green turban worn and sent to him by his Master, who had hoisted the Black Standard, the unfurling of which would, according to the Prophet Muhammad, herald the advent of the vicegerent of God on earth, and who, mounted on his steed, was marching at the head of two hundred and two of his fellow-disciples to meet and lend his assistance to Quddus in the Jaziriy-i-Khadra (Verdant Isle) — his audacity was the signal for a clash the reverberations of which were to resound throughout the entire country.
The contest lasted no less than eleven months. Its theatre was for the most part the forest of Mazindaran. Its heroes were the flower of the Báb’s disciples. Its martyrs comprised no less than half of the Letters of the Living, not excluding Quddus and Mulla Husayn, respectively the last and the first of these Letters. The directive force which however unobtrusively sustained it was none other than that which flowed from the mind of Bahá’u’lláh.
It was caused by the unconcealed determination of the dawn-breakers of a new Age to proclaim, fearlessly and befittingly, its advent, and by a no less unyielding resolve, should persuasion prove a failure, to resist and defend themselves against the onslaughts of malicious and unreasoning assailants. It demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt what the indomitable spirit of a band of three hundred and thirteen untrained, unequipped yet God-intoxicated students, mostly sedentary recluses of the college and cloister, could achieve when pitted in self-defense against a trained army, well equipped, supported by the masses of the people, blessed by the clergy, headed by a prince of the royal blood, backed by the resources of the state, acting with the enthusiastic approval of its sovereign, and animated by the unfailing counsels of a resolute and all-powerful minister.
Its outcome was a heinous betrayal ending in an orgy of slaughter, staining with everlasting infamy its perpetrators, investing its victims with a halo of imperishable glory, and generating the very seeds which, in a later age, were to blossom into world-wide administrative institutions, and which must, in the fullness of time, yield their golden fruit in the shape of a world-redeeming, earth-encircling Order.
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 37)
Mulla Husayn quartered his host in a fort near the burial-place of Shaykh Tabarsi, and, being aware of the wishes of the community, relaxed and interrupted the march. This detachment was subsequently further reinforced by Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali of Mazindaran (Quddus) with a number of other persons, so that the garrison of the fort numbered three hundred and thirteen souls. Of these, however, all were not capable of fighting, only one hundred and ten persons being prepared for war. Most of them were doctors or students whose companions had been during their whole life books and treatises; yet, in spite of the fact that they were unaccustomed to war or to the blows of shot and sword, four times were camps and armies arrayed against them and they were attacked and hemmed in with cannons, muskets, and bomb-shells, and on all four occasions they inflicted defeat, while the army was completely routed and dispersed. On the occasion of the fourth defeat ‘Abbas-Quli Khan of Larijan was captain of the forces and Prince Mihdi-Quli Mirza commander in the camp. The Khan above mentioned used at nights to conceal and hide himself in disguise amongst the trees of the forest outside the camp, while during the day he was present in the encampment.
The last battle took place at night and the army was routed. The Bábís fired the tents and huts, and night became bright as day. The foot of Mulla Husayn’s horse caught in a noose, for he was riding, the others being on foot. ‘Abbas-Quli Khan recognized him from the top of a tree afar off, and with his own hand discharged several bullets. At the third shot he threw him from his feet. He was borne by his followers to the fort, and there they buried him. Notwithstanding this event [the troops] could not prevail by superior force. At length the Prince made a treaty and covenant, and swore by the Holy Imams, confirming his oath by vows plighted on the glorious Qur’án, to this effect: “You shall not be molested; return to your own places.” Since their provisions had for some time been exhausted, so that even of the skins and bones of horses naught remained, and they had subsisted for several days on pure water, they agreed. When they arrived at the army food was prepared for them in a place outside the camp. They were engaged in eating, having laid aside their weapons and armor, when the soldiers fell on them on all sides and slew them all. Some have accounted this valor displayed by these people as a thing miraculous, but when a band of men are besieged in some place where all avenues and roads are stopped and all hope of deliverance is cut off they will assuredly defend themselves desperately and display bravery and courage.
(Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 23)
Nine of the Bab’s Letters of the Living perished during the conflict. They are as follows:
Quddus – Executed May 19, 1849, just after the conflict.
Mirza Muhammad-Hasan – Brother of Mulla Husayn
Mirza Muhammad-Baqir – Nephew of Mulla Husayn