Posted by: samandal | August 17, 2009

Táhirih, I

Martyrdom of Táhirih

Although this is not a formal Holy Day, it is one of deep significance to many Bahá’ís, particularly those in sympathy with the ideal of human unity across boundaries of gender and gender identity.

Táhirih (Persianized Arabic, Pure) is the religious title of Fátimih Baraghání (1814–52), prophet-herald of Bábism.

Fátimih was born into a highly respected clerical family in Qazvín. Her father, Mullá Muhammad Sálih, was a prominent mujtahid (a Shí‘í cleric), as was his brother, Mullá Muhammad-Taqí Baraghání, one of the most hostile opponents of Shaykhism. Fátimih was encouraged to undertake religious studies and gained for herself a remarkable reputation for scholarship. When she was only fourteen, she married her uncle’s son, Muhammad, by whom she bore three sons and one daughter. She eventually entered into a secret correspondence with Sayyid Kázim Rashtí, who called her Qurratu’l-‘Ayn (Solace of the Eye). Her beliefs created tensions between her and her husband and, late in 1843, she separated from him.

Fátimih then traveled to Karbalá with her sister Mardiyyih to reside with the widow of Sayyid Kázim. She sent a clear message of recognition to the Báb in Shíráz and was enrolled by him as a Letter of the Living, the only Bábí woman so designated. Her promulgation of Bábism attracted many of the Shaykhís in Karbalá, but her personal disregard for religious convention generated considerable opposition from the more conservative believers (she appeared unveiled before her disciples and dressed in male attire). She left Karbalá for Baghdád to reside in the house of Shaykh Mahmúd Álúsí, the chief Sunní mufti of Iraq, who was impressed by her wisdom and devotion.

“O Thou who art the chosen one among women!”                                                (The Báb: Selections from the Writings of the Báb, page 163)

In March 1847, Fátimih was deported from Baghdád to western Iran. Accompanied by her supporters, she openly proclaimed Bábism to Shí‘ís, Súfís and Jews. She returned to Qazvín in July but fled to Tihrán in September after the subsequent murder of her uncle, in whose death she denied any involvement. At the conference of Badasht (June–July 1848), she advocated a radical break with Islám and proclaimed herself the Revealed Word of the Hidden Imám, none other than the Húrí Beheshtí, the Holy Maiden herself. The Báb bestowed upon Fátimih, whom he hereafter referred to as Táhirih, the designation of Shajárat’ul-Bahá (Tree of Splendor), also addressed as Nuqtat’ul-‘ilm (Point of Divine Knowledge).