Tahirih (1814 – 1852) was the daughter of a family of Islamic clerics in Persia. She grew up to become a well-known poet. At a time of religious expectation in the Islamic world, Tahirih went to Karbila (Ottoman empire – now Iraq) to study under a famous ‘adventist’ cleric, Shayk Kasim. He passed away before she arrived but she stayed to study his work and while there had a dream of the appearance of the Promised One. She wrote a letter to Him and sent it with her brother-in-law who was traveling back to Persia, who she was sure would meet the Bab (The Gate).  “Say to Him, from me,” she said, ” ‘The effulgence of thy face flashed forth, and the rays of Thy visage rose on high. Then speak the word, “Am I not your Lord?” and “Thou art!” we will all reply.’ ” Her brother-in-law did meet the Bab who declared Tahirih on of His Letters of the Living. At the first major conference of the Babi Faith at Badasht, Tahirih removed her veil as a symbol of the renewal of religion. While many then tried to tarnish her name, the Bab titled her ‘Tahirih’ (the Pure One). For her efforts teaching the Cause of the Bab, she was eventually arrested by the authorities who executed her by strangling her with her own scarf. For this she is known as a martyr in the Baha’i Faith. A concise biography of the life of Tahirih can be found on Wikipedia. Further description of her life as a Babi here. She once received a marriage proposal from the Shah to which she replied in verse. You can read a tranlslation here. Or hear a Persian song of the poem here.

Note on the Babi Faith. The Bab (1819 – 1852) was a devot man who claimed to be the Promised One of Islam.  He inspired a major religious revival in Persia in the 19th Century that included religious students, mullas, merchants, nobility, and ordinary people. His main thesis was that his movement was to prepare for the advent of ‘Him whom God will make Manifest’ who will usher in a new religious era for the world. After His execution in 1852, one of His strongest followers, Baha’u’llah, eventually proved to the Babi’s that He was ‘Him whom God will make Manifest’. To fully understand the Baha’i Faith, the wondrous story of the Bab and  Baha’u’llah’s has to be read as one. Tahirih stood in the maelstrom of change that was motivated by the Bab and greatly facilitated by Baha’u’llah. She never met the Bab directly, but worked with Baha’u’llah and another famous Babi, Quddus, to orchestrate that conference at Badasht which occurred while the Bab was imprisoned in remote Northern Persia.


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