Courage & Sacrifice: Ali-Akbar-i-Hakkak

A fate that befell some early Bábís and Bahá'ís for refusing to recant their faith

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The Story of Ali-Akbar-i-Hakkak

from Adib Taherzadeh’s The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Volume 2

quoting from History of the Martyrs of Yazd by Hájí-Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí (Mr. Taherzadeh’s father)

Those who truly recognized the station of Bahá’u’lláh accepted persecutions and sufferings for His love. They knew that after embracing the Faith of God their lives would be endangered. Indeed, when they left their homes to go out they could not be sure they would ever return. The enemy was poised at all times to strike at any one who was identified with the new-born Faith. So, those who followed the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh in the early days clearly understood that at any time they might have to lay down their lives in the path of God. This was their test of faith and the great majority of them remained steadfast till the end.

The following account depicting the scene of the martyrdom of one of the early believers, demonstrates this faith.

Here is one who laid down his life in such a dramatic fashion that many among the multitude of spectators who had thronged the square to deride the victim and make merry at the sight of his execution were moved to tears. Even the hearts of those callous men who had been appointed to commit this heinous deed were deeply touched. The illustrious hero who appeared on this tragic scene was Ali-Akbar-i-Hakkak, a very attractive and handsome young man from Yazd, Persia. He was an engraver by profession and highly skilled in his art. He was married and had a four-year-old son by the name of Habibu’llah. As soon as the tragic news of the Nayriz upheaval reached Yazd, Ali-Akbar set out at once on a journey to visit the historic site where the peerless Vahid together with his band of valiant crusaders had fought and fallen. On his return to Yazd he manifested such a spiritual joy and overwhelming zeal in the teaching work that soon he was denounced and branded as a ‘Bábí’ whereupon the despotic Governor had him arrested on a charge of heresy and reported the matter to Tihran asking for instructions.

Nearly two months wore on and no word came from Tihran. Therefore a fine was exacted from the captive and then he was released on bail on the understanding that as soon as the decree was received he should place himself immediately at the disposal of the Governor.

Unruffled by the dire fate which awaited him, Ali-Akbar resumed his occupation in a spirit of complete resignation until after a lapse of three months a message came from Tihran to the effect that any person found to belong to the Bábí Faith should be put to death forthwith. This odious order invested the Governor with plenary powers to carry out his design. Therefore early in the morning of 15 July 1852 he sent his men to arrest Ali-Akbar at his home. Having done so they conducted him to the Governor’s office in the barracks where the Governor interviewed him.

Though the people in Yazd were steeped in prejudice against the new Faith and apt to fly into a fierce fury at the sight of anyone who was identified as ‘Bábí’, they nevertheless admired Ali-Akbar for his rare qualities and charming manners. Moreover, his reputation as the best engraver had won him real affection by all who had come to know him. Even the Governor and the officials felt reluctant to have him executed. They did everything in their power to make him utter a mere word of lip-denial against the new Faith and thus save his own life. They employed many a word of persuasion, threat and promise but none could induce this valiant hero to recant nor did the pomp and might of a ruthless potentate influence this stout-hearted man of God to compromise his cherished faith in favor of this fleeting life and its earthly vanities. The Governor grew  angry; he could not tolerate one who dared to challenge his authority and persist in his own ideas.

Furious with rage, the Governor summoned his Farrash-bashi (chief steward) and ordered him to put this defiant Bábí to death at once by blowing him from the mouth of a cannon. The order was immediately passed on to the artillery unit who hauled their gun out of the barracks to the adjoining public square. Then the Farrash-bashi accompanied by the executioner led the valiant victim to the square amidst a gathering multitude of spectators.

Eager to save Ali-Akbar from his fate, the Farrash-bashi employed ingenious ways of intimidation and inducement in a futile effort to break down his spirit and make him abjure his allegiance to the new Faith.

The cannon from which he was to be blown was an old type muzzle-loader, and the Farrash-bashi, knowing that it was as yet unloaded, hit upon the idea of staging a mock execution in the hope that the victim would succumb to the fright and terror that such an ordeal would usually provoke. Therefore, assuming a wild and serious look, he barked orders at the executioner to hurry up, tie down the victim tightly to the mouth of the gun and have him blown off without further delay. Thus Ali-Akbar was bound to the gun and left in this frightful position for quite a long while during which the gun crew kept running back and forth pretending to be adjusting their gun, as though they were just about to fire.

During the whole time the Farrash-bashi was watching the victim closely, urging him to recant. However, he was amazed to see that instead of becoming terrified and shaken Ali-Akbar had maintained his calm and fortitude throughout. The Farrash-bashi soon realized that intimidation had failed to bring about what he hoped for. He ran towards the gunner, stopped him from his false attempt at discharging the unloaded gun, and asked the executioner to set the victim free.

By that time (about ll a.m.) the whole square was fully packed with a seething mass of spectators who looked stupefied and bewildered.  

As soon as Ali-Akbar was unfastened the Farrash-bashi came over to him expressing his sympathy in a kindly manner. He then conducted him to an adjacent public cistern away from the crowd where he offered him a seat near to himself on a little platform. He reasoned with Ali-Akbar most earnestly, urged and persuaded him again and again to denounce the Faith and save his own life, but the effort proved unsuccessful. There sat Ali-Akbar solid as a rock, immovable and uncompromising, resisting the full force of these dire tests. As these painful moments dragged on, the Farrash-bashi began to perceive with bitter plainness that nothing whatever could induce this invincible youth to recant. Dismayed and disappointed, he led him back to the scene of death and ordered the gun crew to load their gun forthwith. Meanwhile a new idea occurred to him which might well prove effective in breaking down the victim’s fortitude. He sent his men to fetch Ali-Akbar’s poor wife and child to the scene — a very strong and challenging inducement indeed. After a few moments the unfortunate wife appeared in a state of panic holding the hand of their beloved child who looked sweet and attractive in this best suit.

She faced her husband and weeping bitterly implored, ‘Come and have pity on this child!’ ‘What am I to do without you?’ she sobbed. But Ali-Akbar did not answer; he turned his back on them. Again the wife and child came forward and stood in front of him. She flung herself at his feet, begging and imploring. But Ali-Akbar kept silent and once again turned away from them. Then the little child ran over to his father and grabbing the hem of his garment exclaimed ‘Daddy, Daddy, why do you turn away from me?
Don’t you love me any more?’

These simple, these piercing words must have movedAli-Akbar more than anything else. Perhaps he could not bear it, for he raised his head heavenward in such a gesture as to make an impassioned appeal. It seemed as if he were saying: ‘Oh God! I entreat Thee to spare me from further

The tragic episode had reached its climax. The occasion  had become so gripping, so heart-rending that many among the onlookers were stricken with grief and sympathy. Even the Farrash-bashi’s eyes were dimmed with tears. The heroic self-renunciation and superhuman fortitude manifested by this gallant martyr shattered the last scrap of hope which the Farrash-bashi entertained in making the victim abjure his faith. Browbeaten and dismayed, he decided to put an end to this sad spectacle by carrying out the Governor’s order at once.

So the victim was presently bound up once again to the mouth of the cannon in front of his unfortunate wife and child. As soon as this had been done the site was cleared of all those who stood nearby, but the child refused to be pushed further away. He became restive and kept crying and pleading, ‘Take me to my Daddy! Let me go near him!’

The dreadful end was now at hand. A tense feeling had seized upon the souls and a sense of dread and awe overwhelmed the whole mass of the people in the square. At a sharp signal from the Farrash-bashi the gunner ignited the explosive charge which was designed to send the victim sky-high, torn into bits in a split of a second. But to the profound amazement of all the gun didn’t go off! Again and again the charge was ignited but the gun still wouldn’t go off! Everybody looked stupefied and spellbound.

The Farrash-bashi ran towards the victim and calling  him by his name exclaimed, ‘We don’t want you to be killed; it seems that God does not wish it either. Now won’t you have sympathy for your child?!’ But he did not say a word, even when his horror-stricken wife and child rushed once again to his side. He stayed as calm and unconcerned as ever.

In the meantime the gunner was busy at the breech refilling the charge. The Farrash-bashi paused a moment in earnest expectation. Perhaps he would now give way. Perhaps he would say a word of denial. Perhaps something would happen that could save his life. However, to Ali-Akbar’s mind a compromise was utterly unthinkable… The soul longed and craved to sacrifice his puny frame for the love of his Lord and to take  his flight to the abode of the Beloved. Now the golden opportunity had offered itself… His prolonged and unexampled fortitude served increasingly to throw into relief the striking contrast between his own noble vision and the Farrash-bashi’s base pattern of thought.

Far from being grieved and shaken, how jubilant, how thrilled, how relaxed must have felt his soul when the Farrash-bashi in his utter despair and bewilderment signaled once again to fire.

And this time in a flash of a second the body of Ali-Akbar, blasted into bits amidst a tremendous burst of fire and smoke, flew sky-high, then came down from heaven like a swarm of tiny meteors, accompanied by a shower of crimson droplets, to be scattered far and wide all over the square.

The Governor ordered that the fragments of his body should be left exposed until sunset, that they might be trampled upon by men and animals.

This tragic martyrdom came as a shattering blow to the entire body of the early believers, particularly to his unfortunate wife. Her grief knew no bounds as she continued to weep and wail, and to beat her head.


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