George Nathaniel Curzon – the first Marquess Curzon of Kedleston – was a British Conservative statesman who served as Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary. His extensive travels – including a year-long sojourn in Persia from 1889-1890, resulted in several books describing central and eastern Asia and related policy issues. 

“The lowest estimate places the present number of Bábís in Persia at half a million. I am disposed to think, from conversations with persons well qualified to judge, that the total is nearer one million. They are to be found in every walk of life, from the ministers and nobles of the Court to the scavenger or the groom, not the least arena of their activity being the Mussulman priesthood itself. It will have been noticed that the movement was initiated by Siyyids, Hajis and Mullas, i.e., persons who, either by descent, from pious inclination, or by profession, were intimately concerned with the Muhammadan creed; and it is among even the professed votaries of the faith that they continue to make their converts…

If one conclusion more than another has been forced upon our notice by the retrospect in which I have indulged, it is that a sublime and unmurmuring devotion has been inculcated by this new faith, whatever it be. There is, I believe, but one instance of a Bábí having recanted under pressure of menace of suffering, and he reverted to the faith and was executed within two years. Tales of magnificent heroism illumine the bloodstained pages of Bábí history. Ignorant and unlettered as many of its votaries are, and have been, they are yet prepared to die for their religion, and fires of Smithfield did not kindle a nobler courage than has met and defied the more refined torture-mongers of Tihran. Of no small account, then, must be the tenets of a creed that can awaken in its followers so rare and beautiful a spirit of self-sacrifice. From the facts that Babiism in its earliest years found itself in conflict with the civil powers and that an attempt was made by Bábís upon the life of the Shah, it has been wrongly inferred that the movement was political in origin and Nihilist in character. It does not appear from a study of the writings either of the Báb or his successors, that there is any foundation for such a suspicion…

The charge of immorality seems to have arisen partly from the malignant inventions of opponents, partly from the much greater freedom claimed for women by the Báb, which in the oriental mind is scarcely dissociable from profligacy of conduct…

The pure and suffering life of the Báb, his ignominious death, the heroism and martyrdom of his followers, will appeal to many others who can find no similar phenomena in the contemporaneous records of Islam….”

From Persia, Vol. 1 (1892)

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