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On the 23rd of May of this auspicious year the Bahá'í world will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. It will commemorate at once the hundreth anniversary of the inception of the Bábi Dispensation, of the inauguration of the Bahá'í Era, of the commencement of the Bahá'í Cycle, and of the birth of Abdu'l-Bahá. The weight of the potentialities with which this Faith, possessing no peer or equal in the world's spiritual history, and marking the culmination of a universal prophetic cycle, has been endowed, staggers our imagination. The brightness of the millennial glory which it must shed in the fullness of time dazzles our eyes. The magnitude of the shadow which its Author will continue to cast on successive Prophets destined to be raised up after Him eludes our calculation.
Already in the space of less than a century the operation of the mysterious processes generated by its creative spirit has provoked a tumult in human society such as no mind can fathom. Itself undergoing a period of incubation during its primitive age, it has, through the emergence of its slowly-crystallizing system, induced a fermentation in the general life of mankind designed to shake the very foundations of a disordered society, to purify its life-blood, to reorientate and reconstruct its institutions, and shape its final destiny.
To what else can the observant eye or the unprejudiced mind, acquainted with the signs and portents heralding the birth, and accompanying the rise, of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh ascribe this dire, this planetary upheaval, with its attendant destruction, misery and fear, if not to the emergence of His embryonic World Order, which, as He Himself has unequivocally proclaimed, has "deranged the equilibrium of the world and revolutionized mankind's ordered life"? To what agency, if not to the irresistible diffusion of that world-shaking, world-energizing, world-redeeming spirit, which the Báb has affirmed is "vibrating in the innermost realities of all created things" can the origins of this portentous crisis, incomprehensible to man, and admittedly unprecedented in the annals of the human race, be attributed? In the convulsions of contemporary society, in the frenzied, world-wide ebullitions of men's thoughts, in the fierce antagonisms inflaming races, creeds and classes, in the shipwreck of nations, in the downfall of kings, in the dismemberment of empires, in the extinction of dynasties, in the collapse of ecclesiastical hierarchies, in the deterioration of time-honored institutions, in the dissolution of ties, secular as well as religious, that had for so long held together the members of the human race -- all manifesting themselves with ever-increasing gravity since the outbreak of the first World War that immediately preceded the opening years of the Formative Age of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh -- in these we can readily recognize the evidences of the travail of an age that has sustained the impact of His Revelation, that has ignored His summons, and is now laboring to be delivered of its burden, as a direct consequence of the impulse communicated to it by the generative, the purifying, the transmuting influence of His Spirit.
It is my purpose, on the occasion of an anniversary of such profound significance, to attempt in the succeeding pages a survey of the outstanding events of the century that has seen this Spirit burst forth upon the world, as well as the initial stages of its subsequent incarnation in a System that must evolve into an Order designed to embrace the whole of mankind, and capable of fulfilling the high destiny that awaits man on this planet. I shall endeavor to review, in their proper perspective and despite the comparatively brief space of time which separates us from them, the events which the revolution of a hundred years, unique alike in glory and tribulation, has unrolled before our eyes. I shall seek to represent and correlate, in however cursory a manner, those momentous happenings which have insensibly, relentlessly, and under the very eyes of successive generations, perverse, indifferent or hostile, transformed a heterodox and seemingly negligible offshoot of the Shaykhi school of the Ithna-'Ashariyyih sect of Shi'ah Islam into a world religion whose unnumbered followers are organically and indissolubly united; whose light has overspread the earth as far as Iceland in the North and Magellanes in the South; whose ramifications have spread to no less than sixty countries of the world; whose literature has been translated and disseminated in no less than forty languages; whose endowments in the five continents of the globe, whether local, national or international, already run into several million dollars; whose incorporated elective bodies have secured the official recognition of a number of governments in East and West; whose adherents are recruited from the diversified races and chief religions of mankind; whose representatives are to be found in hundreds of cities in both Persia and the United States of America; to whose verities royalty has publicly and repeatedly testified; whose independent status its enemies, from the ranks of its parent religion and in the leading center of both the Arab and Muslim worlds, have proclaimed and demonstrated; and whose claims have been virtually recognized, entitling it to rank as the fourth religion of a Land in which its world spiritual center has been established, and which is at once the heart of Christendom, the holiest shrine of the Jewish people, and, save Mecca alone, the most sacred spot in Islam.
It is not my purpose -- nor does the occasion demand it, -- to write a detailed history of the last hundred years of the Bahá'í Faith, nor do I intend to trace the origins of so tremendous a Movement, or to portray the conditions under which it was born, or to examine the character of the religion from which it has sprung, or to arrive at an estimate of the effects which its impact upon the fortunes of mankind has produced. I shall rather content myself with a review of the salient features of its birth and rise, as well as of the initial stages in the establishment of its administrative institutions -- institutions which must be regarded as the nucleus and herald of that World Order that must incarnate the soul, execute the laws, and fulfill the purpose of the Faith of God in this day.
Nor will it be my intention to ignore, whilst surveying the panorama which the revolution of a hundred years spreads before our gaze, the swift interweaving of seeming reverses with evident victories, out of which the hand of an inscrutable Providence has chosen to form the pattern of the Faith from its earliest days, or to minimize those disasters that have so often proved themselves to be the prelude to fresh triumphs which have, in turn, stimulated its growth and consolidated its past achievements. Indeed, the history of the first hundred years of its evolution resolves itself into a series of internal and external crises, of varying severity, devastating in their immediate effects, but each mysteriously releasing a corresponding measure of divine power, lending thereby a fresh impulse to its unfoldment, this further unfoldment engendering in its turn a still graver calamity, followed by a still more liberal effusion of celestial grace enabling its upholders to accelerate still further its march and win in its service still more compelling victories.
In its broadest outline the first century of the Bahá'í Era may be said to comprise the Heroic, the Primitive, the Apostolic Age of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and also the initial stages of the Formative, the Transitional, the Iron Age which is to witness the crystallization and shaping of the creative energies released by His Revelation. The first eighty years of this century may roughly be said to have covered the entire period of the first age, while the last two decades may be regarded as having witnessed the beginnings of the second. The former commences with the Declaration of the Báb, includes the mission of Bahá'u'lláh, and terminates with the passing of Abdu'l-Bahá. The latter is ushered in by His Will and Testament, which defines its character and establishes its foundation.
The century under our review may therefore be considered as falling into four distinct periods, of unequal duration, each of specific import and of tremendous and indeed unappraisable significance. These four periods are closely interrelated, and constitute successive acts of one, indivisible, stupendous and sublime drama, whose mystery no intellect can fathom, whose climax no eye can even dimly perceive, whose conclusion no mind can adequately foreshadow. Each of these acts revolves around its own theme, boasts of its own heroes, registers its own tragedies, records its own triumphs, and contributes its own share to the execution of one common, immutable Purpose. To isolate any one of them from the others, to dissociate the later manifestations of one universal, all-embracing Revelation from the pristine purpose that animated it in its earliest days, would be tantamount to a mutilation of the structure on which it rests, and to a lamentable perversion of its truth and of its history.
The first period (1844-1853), centers around the gentle, the youthful and irresistible person of the Báb, matchless in His meekness, imperturbable in His serenity, magnetic in His utterance, unrivaled in the dramatic episodes of His swift and tragic ministry. It begins with the Declaration of His Mission, culminates in His martyrdom, and ends in a veritable orgy of religious massacre revolting in its hideousness. It is characterized by nine years of fierce and relentless contest, whose theatre was the whole of Persia, in which above ten thousand heroes laid down their lives, in which two sovereigns of the Qajar dynasty and their wicked ministers participated, and which was supported by the entire Shi'ah ecclesiastical hierarchy, by the military resources of the state, and by the implacable hostility of the masses. The second period (1853-1892) derives its inspiration from the august figure of Bahá'u'lláh, preeminent in holiness, awesome in the majesty of His strength and power, unapproachable in the transcendent brightness of His glory. It opens with the first stirrings, in the soul of Bahá'u'lláh while in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, of the Revelation anticipated by the Báb, attains its plenitude in the proclamation of that Revelation to the kings and ecclesiastical leaders of the earth, and terminates in the ascension of its Author in the vicinity of the prison-town of Akka. It extends over thirty-nine years of continuous, of unprecedented and overpowering Revelation, is marked by the propagation of the Faith to the neighboring territories of Turkey, of Russia, of Iraq, of Syria, of Egypt and of India, and is distinguished by a corresponding aggravation of hostility, represented by the united attacks launched by the Shah of Persia and the Sultan of Turkey, the two admittedly most powerful potentates of the East, as well as by the opposition of the twin sacerdotal orders of Shi'ah and Sunni Islam. The third period (1892-1921) revolves around the vibrant personality of Abdu'l-Bahá, mysterious in His essence, unique in His station, astoundingly potent in both the charm and strength of His character. It commences with the announcement of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, a document without parallel in the history of any earlier Dispensation, attains its climax in the emphatic assertion by the Center of that Covenant, in the City of the Covenant, of the unique character and far-reaching implications of that Document, and closes with His passing and the interment of His remains on Mt. Carmel. It will go down in history as a period of almost thirty years' duration, in which tragedies and triumphs have been so intertwined as to eclipse at one time the Orb of the Covenant, and at another time to pour forth its light over the continent of Europe, and as far as Australasia, the Far East and the North American continent. The fourth period (1921-1944) is motivated by the forces radiating from the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá, that Charter of Bahá'u'lláh's New World Order, the offspring resulting from the mystic intercourse between Him Who is the Source of the Law of God and the mind of the One Who is the vehicle and interpreter of that Law. The inception of this fourth, this last period of the first Bahá'í century synchronizes with the birth of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í Era, with the founding of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh -- a system which is at once the harbinger, the nucleus and pattern of His World Order. This period, covering the first twenty-three years of this Formative Age, has already been distinguished by an outburst of further hostility, of a different character, accelerating on the one hand the diffusion of the Faith over a still wider area in each of the five continents of the globe, and resulting on the other in the emancipation and the recognition of the independent status of several communities within its pale.
These four periods are to be regarded not only as the component, the inseparable parts of one stupendous whole, but as progressive stages in a single evolutionary process, vast, steady and irresistible. For as we survey the entire range which the operation of a century-old Faith has unfolded before us, we cannot escape the conclusion that from whatever angle we view this colossal scene, the events associated with these periods present to us unmistakable evidences of a slowly maturing process, of an orderly development, of internal consolidation, of external expansion, of a gradual emancipation from the fetters of religious orthodoxy, and of a corresponding diminution of civil disabilities and restrictions.
Viewing these periods of Bahá'í history as the constituents of a single entity, we note the chain of events proclaiming successfully the rise of a Forerunner, the Mission of One Whose advent that Forerunner had promised, the establishment of a Covenant generated through the direct authority of the Promised One Himself, and lastly the birth of a System which is the child sprung from both the Author of the Covenant and its appointed Center. We observe how the Báb, the Forerunner, announced the impending inception of a divinely-conceived Order, how Bahá'u'lláh, the Promised One, formulated its laws and ordinances, how Abdu'l-Bahá, the appointed Center, delineated its features, and how the present generation of their followers have commenced to erect the framework of its institutions. We watch, through these periods, the infant light of the Faith diffuse itself from its cradle, eastward to India and the Far East, westward to the neighboring territories of Iraq, of Turkey, of Russia, and of Egypt, travel as far as the North American continent, illuminate subsequently the major countries of Europe, envelop with its radiance, at a later stage, the Antipodes, brighten the fringes of the Arctic, and finally set aglow the Central and South American horizons. We witness a corresponding increase in the diversity of the elements within its fellowship, which from being confined, in the first period of its history, to an obscure body of followers chiefly recruited from the ranks of the masses in Shi'ah Persia, has expanded into a fraternity representative of the leading religious systems of the world, of almost every caste and color, from the humblest worker and peasant to royalty itself. We notice a similar development in the extent of its literature -- a literature which, restricted at first to the narrow range of hurriedly transcribed, often corrupted, secretly circulated, manuscripts, so furtively perused, so frequently effaced, and at times even eaten by the terrorized members of a proscribed sect, has, within the space of a century, swelled into innumerable editions, comprising tens of thousands of printed volumes, in diverse scripts, and in no less than forty languages, some elaborately reproduced, others profusely illustrated, all methodically and vigorously disseminated through the agency of world-wide, properly constituted and specially organized committees and Assemblies. We perceive a no less apparent evolution in the scope of its teachings, at first designedly rigid, complex and severe, subsequently recast, expanded, and liberalized under the succeeding Dispensation, later expounded, reaffirmed and amplified by an appointed Interpreter, and lastly systematized and universally applied to both individuals and institutions. We can discover a no less distinct gradation in the character of the opposition it has had to encounter -- an opposition, at first kindled in the bosom of Shi'ah Islam, which, at a later stage, gathered momentum with the banishment of Bahá'u'lláh to the domains of the Turkish Sultan and the consequent hostility of the more powerful Sunni hierarchy and its Caliph, the head of the vast majority of the followers of Muhammad -- an opposition which, now, through the rise of a divinely appointed Order in the Christian West, and its initial impact on civil and ecclesiastical institutions, bids fair to include among its supporters established governments and systems associated with the most ancient, the most deeply entrenched sacerdotal hierarchies in Christendom. We can, at the same time, recognize, through the haze of an ever-widening hostility, the progress, painful yet persistent, of certain communities within its pale through the stages of obscurity, of proscription, of emancipation, and of recognition -- stages that must needs culminate in the course of succeeding centuries, in the establishment of the Faith, and the founding, in the plenitude of its power and authority, of the world-embracing Bahá'í Commonwealth. We can likewise discern a no less appreciable advance in the rise of its institutions, whether as administrative centers or places of worship -- institutions, clandestine and subterrene in their earliest beginnings, emerging imperceptibly into the broad daylight of public recognition, legally protected, enriched by pious endowments, ennobled at first by the erection of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of Ishqabad, the first Bahá'í House of Worship, and more recently immortalized, through the rise in the heart of the North American continent of the Mother Temple of the West, the forerunner of a divine, a slowly maturing civilization. And finally, we can even bear witness to the marked improvement in the conditions surrounding the pilgrimages performed by its devoted adherents to its consecrated shrines at its world center -- pilgrimages originally arduous, perilous, tediously long, often made on foot, at times ending in disappointment, and confined to a handful of harassed Oriental followers, gradually attracting, under steadily improving circumstances of security and comfort, an ever swelling number of new converts converging from the four corners of the globe, and culminating in the widely publicized yet sadly frustrated visit of a noble Queen, who, at the very threshold of the city of her heart's desire, was compelled, according to her own written testimony, to divert her steps, and forego the privilege of so priceless a benefit.Page 1
May 23, 1844, signalizes the commencement of the most turbulent period of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Era, an age which marks the opening of the most glorious epoch in the greatest cycle which the spiritual history of mankind has yet witnessed. No more than a span of nine short years marks the duration of this most spectacular, this most tragic, this most eventful period of the first Bahá'í century. It was ushered in by the birth of a Revelation whose Bearer posterity will acclaim as the "Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve," and terminated with the first stirrings of a still more potent Revelation, "whose day," Bahá'u'lláh Himself affirms, "every Prophet hath announced," for which "the soul of every Divine Messenger hath thirsted," and through which "God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets." Little wonder that the immortal chronicler of the events associated with the birth and rise of the Bahá'í Revelation has seen fit to devote no less than half of his moving narrative to the description of those happenings that have during such a brief space of time so greatly enriched, through their tragedy and heroism, the religious annals of mankind. In sheer dramatic power, in the rapidity with which events of momentous importance succeeded each other, in the holocaust which baptized its birth, in the miraculous circumstances attending the martyrdom of the One Who had ushered it in, in the potentialities with which it had been from the outset so thoroughly impregnated, in the forces to which it eventually gave birth, this nine-year period may well rank as unique in the whole range of man's religious experience. We behold, as we survey the episodes of this first act of a sublime drama, the figure of its Master Hero, the Báb, arise meteor-like above the horizon of Shiraz, traverse the sombre sky of Persia from south to north, decline with tragic swiftness, and perish in a blaze of glory. We see His satellites, a galaxy of God-intoxicated heroes, mount above that same horizon, irradiate that same incandescent light, burn themselves out with that self-same swiftness, and impart in their turn an added impetus to the steadily gathering momentum of God's nascent Faith.Page 4
He Who communicated the original impulse to so incalculable a Movement was none other than the promised Qa'im (He who ariseth), the Sahibu'z-Zaman (the Lord of the Age), Who assumed the exclusive right of annulling the whole Qur'anic Dispensation, Who styled Himself "the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things ... the Countenance of God Whose splendor can never be obscured, the Light of God Whose radiance can never fade." The people among whom He appeared were the most decadent race in the civilized world, grossly ignorant, savage, cruel, steeped in prejudice, servile in their submission to an almost deified hierarchy, recalling in their abjectness the Israelites of Egypt in the days of Moses, in their fanaticism the Jews in the days of Jesus, and in their perversity the idolators of Arabia in the days of Muhammad. The arch-enemy who repudiated His claim, challenged His authority, persecuted His Cause, succeeded in almost quenching His light, and who eventually became disintegrated under the impact of His Revelation was the Shi'ah priesthood. Fiercely fanatic, unspeakably corrupt, enjoying unlimited ascendancy over the masses, jealous of their position, and irreconcilably opposed to all liberal ideas, the members of this caste had for one thousand years invoked the name of the Hidden Imam, their breasts had glowed with the expectation of His advent, their pulpits had rung with the praises of His world-embracing dominion, their lips were still devoutly and perpetually murmuring prayers for the hastening of His coming. The willing tools who prostituted their high office for the accomplishment of the enemy's designs were no less than the sovereigns of the Qajar dynasty, first, the bigoted, the sickly, the vacillating Muhammad Shah, who at the last moment cancelled the Báb's imminent visit to the capital, and, second, the youthful and inexperienced Nasiri'd-Din Shah, who gave his ready assent to the sentence of his Captive's death. The arch villains who joined hands with the prime movers of so wicked a conspiracy were the two grand vizirs, Haji Mirza Aqasi, the idolized tutor of Muhammad Shah, a vulgar, false-hearted and fickle-minded schemer, and the arbitrary, bloodthirsty, reckless Amir-Nizam, Mirza Taqi Khan, the first of whom exiled the Báb to the mountain fastnesses of Adhirbayjan, and the latter decreed His death in Tabriz. Their accomplice in these and other heinous crimes was a government bolstered up by a flock of idle, parasitical princelings and governors, corrupt, incompetent, tenaciously holding to their ill-gotten privileges, and utterly subservient to a notoriously degraded clerical order. The heroes whose deeds shine upon the record of this fierce spiritualPage 5
contest, involving at once people, clergy, monarch and government, were the Báb's chosen disciples, the Letters of the Living, and their companions, the trail-breakers of the New Day, who to so much intrigue, ignorance, depravity, cruelty, superstition and cowardice opposed a spirit exalted, unquenchable and awe-inspiring, a knowledge surprisingly profound, an eloquence sweeping in its force, a piety unexcelled in fervor, a courage leonine in its fierceness, a self-abnegation saintly in its purity, a resolve granite-like in its firmness, a vision stupendous in its range, a veneration for the Prophet and His Imams disconcerting to their adversaries, a power of persuasion alarming to their antagonists, a standard of faith and a code of conduct that challenged and revolutionized the lives of their countrymen.
The opening scene of the initial act of this great drama was laid in the upper chamber of the modest residence of the son of a mercer of Shiraz, in an obscure corner of that city. The time was the hour before sunset, on the 22nd day of May, 1844. The participants were the Báb, a twenty-five year old siyyid, of pure and holy lineage, and the young Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in Him. Their meeting immediately before that interview seemed to be purely fortuitous. The interview itself was protracted till the hour of dawn. The Host remained closeted alone with His guest, nor was the sleeping city remotely aware of the import of the conversation they held with each other. No record has passed to posterity of that unique night save the fragmentary but highly illuminating account that fell from the lips of Mulla Husayn.
"I sat spellbound by His utterance, oblivious of time and of those who awaited me," he himself has testified, after describing the nature of the questions he had put to his Host and the conclusive replies he had received from Him, replies which had established beyond the shadow of a doubt the validity of His claim to be the promised Qa'im. "Suddenly the call of the Mu'adhdhin, summoning the faithful to their morning prayer, awakened me from the state of ecstasy into which I seemed to have fallen. All the delights, all the ineffable glories, which the Almighty has recounted in His Book as the priceless possessions of the people of Paradise -- these I seemed to be experiencing that night. Methinks I was in a place of which it could be truly said: 'Therein no toil shall reach us, and therein no weariness shall touch us;' 'no vain discourse shall they hear therein, nor any falsehood, but only the cry, "Peace! Peace!"'; 'their cry therein shall be, "Glory to Thee, O God!" and their salutation therein, "Peace!", and the close of their cry, "Praise be to God, Lord of all creatures!"'Page 6
Sleep had departed from me that night. I was enthralled by the music of that voice which rose and fell as He chanted; now swelling forth as He revealed verses of the Qayyumu'l-Asma', again acquiring ethereal, subtle harmonies as He uttered the prayers He was revealing. At the end of each invocation, He would repeat this verse: 'Far from the glory of thy Lord, the All-Glorious, be that which His creatures affirm of Him! And peace be upon His Messengers! And praise be to God, the Lord of all beings!'"
"This Revelation," Mulla Husayn has further testified, "so suddenly and impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time, seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling splendor and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now, however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanized my being. I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: 'Awake, for, lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He Who is your promised One is come!'"
A more significant light, however, is shed on this episode, marking the Declaration of the Mission of the Báb, by the perusal of that "first, greatest and mightiest" of all books in the Bábi Dispensation, the celebrated commentary on the Surih of Joseph, the first chapter of which, we are assured, proceeded, in its entirety, in the course of that night of nights from the pen of its divine Revealer. The description of this episode by Mulla Husayn, as well as the opening pages of that Book attest the magnitude and force of that weighty Declaration. A claim to be no less than the mouthpiece of God Himself, promised by the Prophets of bygone ages; the assertion that He was, at the same time, the Herald of One immeasurably greater than Himself; the summons which He trumpeted forth to the kings and princes of the earth; the dire warnings directed to the Chief Magistrate of the realm, Muhammad Shah; the counsel imparted to Haji Mirza Aqasi to fear God, and the peremptory command to abdicate hisPage 7
authority as grand vizir of the Shah and submit to the One Who is the "Inheritor of the earth and all that is therein"; the challenge issued to the rulers of the world proclaiming the self-sufficiency of His Cause, denouncing the vanity of their ephemeral power, and calling upon them to "lay aside, one and all, their dominion," and deliver His Message to "lands in both the East and the West" -- these constitute the dominant features of that initial contact that marked the birth, and fixed the date, of the inception of the most glorious era in the spiritual life of mankind.
With this historic Declaration the dawn of an Age that signalizes the consummation of all ages had broken. The first impulse of a momentous Revelation had been communicated to the one "but for whom," according to the testimony of the Kitáb-i-Iqan, "God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory." Not until forty days had elapsed, however, did the enrollment of the seventeen remaining Letters of the Living commence. Gradually, spontaneously, some in sleep, others while awake, some through fasting and prayer, others through dreams and visions, they discovered the Object of their quest, and were enlisted under the banner of the new-born Faith. The last, but in rank the first, of these Letters to be inscribed on the Preserved Tablet was the erudite, the twenty-two year old Quddus, a direct descendant of the Imam Hasan and the most esteemed disciple of Siyyid Kazim. Immediately preceding him, a woman, the only one of her sex, who, unlike her fellow-disciples, never attained the presence of the Báb, was invested with the rank of apostleship in the new Dispensation. A poetess, less than thirty years of age, of distinguished birth, of bewitching charm, of captivating eloquence, indomitable in spirit, unorthodox in her views, audacious in her acts, immortalized as Tahirih (the Pure One) by the "Tongue of Glory," and surnamed Qurratu'l-'Ayn (Solace of the Eyes) by Siyyid Kazim, her teacher, she had, in consequence of the appearance of the Báb to her in a dream, received the first intimation of a Cause which was destined to exalt her to the fairest heights of fame, and on which she, through her bold heroism, was to shed such imperishable luster.
These "first Letters generated from the Primal Point," this "company of angels arrayed before God on the Day of His coming," these "Repositories of His Mystery," these "Springs that have welled out from the Source of His Revelation," these first companions who, in the words of the Persian Bayan, "enjoy nearest access to God," these "Luminaries that have, from everlasting, bowed down, and will everlastinglyPage 8
continue to bow down, before the Celestial Throne," and lastly these "elders" mentioned in the Book of Revelation as "sitting before God on their seats," "clothed in white raiment" and wearing on their heads "crowns of gold" -- these were, ere their dispersal, summoned to the Báb's presence, Who addressed to them His parting words, entrusted to each a specific task, and assigned to some of them as the proper field of their activities their native provinces. He enjoined them to observe the utmost caution and moderation in their behavior, unveiled the loftiness of their rank, and stressed the magnitude of their responsibilities. He recalled the words addressed by Jesus to His disciples, and emphasized the superlative greatness of the New Day. He warned them lest by turning back they forfeit the Kingdom of God, and assured them that if they did God's bidding, God would make them His heirs and spiritual leaders among men. He hinted at the secret, and announced the approach, of a still mightier Day, and bade them prepare themselves for its advent. He called to remembrance the triumph of Abraham over Nimrod, of Moses over Pharaoh, of Jesus over the Jewish people, and of Muhammad over the tribes of Arabia, and asserted the inevitability and ultimate ascendancy of His own Revelation. To the care of Mulla Husayn He committed a mission, more specific in character and mightier in import. He affirmed that His covenant with him had been established, cautioned him to be forbearing with the divines he would encounter, directed him to proceed to Tihran, and alluded, in the most glowing terms, to the as yet unrevealed Mystery enshrined in that city -- a Mystery that would, He affirmed, transcend the light shed by both Hijaz and Shiraz.
Galvanized into action by the mandate conferred upon them, launched on their perilous and revolutionizing mission, these lesser luminaries who, together with the Báb, constitute the First Vahid (Unity) of the Dispensation of the Bayan, scattered far and wide through the provinces of their native land, where, with matchless heroism, they resisted the savage and concerted onslaught of the forces arrayed against them, and immortalized their Faith by their own exploits and those of their co-religionists, raising thereby a tumult that convulsed their country and sent its echoes reverberating as far as the capitals of Western Europe.
It was not until, however, the Báb had received the eagerly anticipated letter of Mulla Husayn, His trusted and beloved lieutenant, communicating the joyful tidings of his interview with Bahá'u'lláh, that He decided to undertake His long and arduous pilgrimage to thePage 9
Tombs of His ancestors. In the month of Sha'ban, of the year 1260 A.H. (September, 1844) He Who, both on His father's and mother's side, was of the seed of the illustrious Fatimih, and Who was a descendant of the Imam Husayn, the most eminent among the lawful successors of the Prophet of Islam, proceeded, in fulfillment of Islamic traditions, to visit the Kaaba. He embarked from Bushihr on the 19th of Ramadan (October, 1844) on a sailing vessel, accompanied by Quddus whom He was assiduously preparing for the assumption of his future office. Landing at Jaddih after a stormy voyage of over a month's duration, He donned the pilgrim's garb, mounted a camel, and set out for Mecca, arriving on the first of Dhi'l-Hajjih (December 12). Quddus, holding the bridle in his hands, accompanied his Master on foot to that holy Shrine. On the day of Arafih, the Prophet-pilgrim of Shiraz, His chronicler relates, devoted His whole time to prayer. On the day of Nahr He proceeded to Muna, where He sacrificed according to custom nineteen lambs, nine in His own name, seven in the name of Quddus, and three in the name of the Ethiopian servant who attended Him. He afterwards, in company with the other pilgrims, encompassed the Kaaba and performed the rites prescribed for the pilgrimage.
His visit to Hijaz was marked by two episodes of particular importance. The first was the declaration of His mission and His open challenge to the haughty Mirza Muhit-i-Kirmani, one of the most outstanding exponents of the Shaykhi school, who at times went so far as to assert his independence of the leadership of that school assumed after the death of Siyyid Kazim by Haji Muhammad Karim Khan, a redoubtable enemy of the Bábi Faith. The second was the invitation, in the form of an Epistle, conveyed by Quddus, to the Sherif of Mecca, in which the custodian of the House of God was called upon to embrace the truth of the new Revelation. Absorbed in his own pursuits the Sherif however failed to respond. Seven years later, when in the course of a conversation with a certain Haji Niyaz-i-Baghdadi, this same Sherif was informed of the circumstances attending the mission and martyrdom of the Prophet of Shiraz, he listened attentively to the description of those events and expressed his indignation at the tragic fate that had overtaken Him.
The Báb's visit to Medina marked the conclusion of His pilgrimage. Regaining Jaddih, He returned to Bushihr, where one of His first acts was to bid His last farewell to His fellow-traveler and disciple, and to assure him that he would meet the Beloved of their hearts. He, moreover, announced to him that he would be crowned with aPage 10
martyr's death, and that He Himself would subsequently suffer a similar fate at the hands of their common foe.
The Báb's return to His native land (Safar 1261) (February- March, 1845) was the signal for a commotion that rocked the entire country. The fire which the declaration of His mission had lit was being fanned into flame through the dispersal and activities of His appointed disciples. Already within the space of less than two years it had kindled the passions of friend and foe alike. The outbreak of the conflagration did not even await the return to His native city of the One Who had generated it. The implications of a Revelation, thrust so dramatically upon a race so degenerate, so inflammable in temper, could indeed have had no other consequence than to excite within men's bosoms the fiercest passions of fear, of hate, of rage and envy. A Faith Whose Founder did not content Himself with the claim to be the Gate of the Hidden Imam, Who assumed a rank that excelled even that of the Sahibu'z-Zaman, Who regarded Himself as the precursor of one incomparably greater than Himself, Who peremptorily commanded not only the subjects of the Shah, but the monarch himself, and even the kings and princes of the earth, to forsake their all and follow Him, Who claimed to be the inheritor of the earth and all that is therein -- a Faith Whose religious doctrines, Whose ethical standards, social principles and religious laws challenged the whole structure of the society in which it was born, soon ranged, with startling unanimity, the mass of the people behind their priests, and behind their chief magistrate, with his ministers and his government, and welded them into an opposition sworn to destroy, root and branch, the movement initiated by One Whom they regarded as an impious and presumptuous pretender.
With the Báb's return to Shiraz the initial collision of irreconcilable forces may be said to have commenced. Already the energetic and audacious Mulla Aliy-i-Bastami, one of the Letters of the Living, "the first to leave the House of God (Shiraz) and the first to suffer for His sake," who, in the presence of one of the leading exponents of Shi'ah Islam, the far-famed Shaykh Muhammad Hasan, had audaciously asserted that from the pen of his new-found Master within the space of forty-eight hours, verses had streamed that equalled in number those of the Qur'an, which it took its Author twenty-three years to reveal, had been excommunicated, chained, disgraced, imprisoned, and, in all probability, done to death. Mulla Sadiq-i-Khurasani, impelled by the injunction of the Báb in the Khasa'il-i-Sab'ih to alter the sacrosanct formula of the adhan, soundedPage 11
it in its amended form before a scandalized congregation in Shiraz, and was instantly arrested, reviled, stripped of his garments, and scourged with a thousand lashes. The villainous Husayn Khan, the Nizamu'd-Dawlih, the governor of Fars, who had read the challenge thrown out in the Qayyumu'l-Asma', having ordered that Mulla Sadiq together with Quddus and another believer be summarily and publicly punished, caused their beards to be burned, their noses pierced, and threaded with halters; then, having been led through the streets in this disgraceful condition, they were expelled from the city.
The people of Shiraz were by that time wild with excitement. A violent controversy was raging in the masjids, the madrisihs, the bazaars, and other public places. Peace and security were gravely imperiled. Fearful, envious, thoroughly angered, the mullas were beginning to perceive the seriousness of their position. The governor, greatly alarmed, ordered the Báb to be arrested. He was brought to Shiraz under escort, and, in the presence of Husayn Khan, was severely rebuked, and so violently struck in the face that His turban fell to the ground. Upon the intervention of the Imam-Jum'ih He was released on parole, and entrusted to the custody of His maternal uncle Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali. A brief lull ensued, enabling the captive Youth to celebrate the Naw-Ruz of that and the succeeding year in an atmosphere of relative tranquillity in the company of His mother, His wife, and His uncle. Meanwhile the fever that had seized His followers was communicating itself to the members of the clergy and to the merchant classes, and was invading the higher circles of society. Indeed, a wave of passionate inquiry had swept the whole country, and unnumbered congregations were listening with wonder to the testimonies eloquently and fearlessly related by the Báb's itinerant messengers.
The commotion had assumed such proportions that the Shah, unable any longer to ignore the situation, delegated the trusted Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, surnamed Vahid, one of the most erudite, eloquent and influential of his subjects -- a man who had committed to memory no less than thirty thousand traditions -- to investigate and report to him the true situation. Broad-minded, highly imaginative, zealous by nature, intimately associated with the court, he, in the course of three interviews, was completely won over by the arguments and personality of the Báb. Their first interview centered around the metaphysical teachings of Islam, the most obscure passages of the Qur'an, and the traditions and prophecies of the Imams. InPage 12
the course of the second interview Vahid was astounded to find that the questions which he had intended to submit for elucidation had been effaced from his retentive memory, and yet, to his utter amazement, he discovered that the Báb was answering the very questions he had forgotten. During the third interview the circumstances attending the revelation of the Báb's commentary on the surih of Kawthar, comprising no less than two thousand verses, so overpowered the delegate of the Shah that he, contenting himself with a mere written report to the Court Chamberlain, arose forthwith to dedicate his entire life and resources to the service of a Faith that was to requite him with the crown of martyrdom during the Nayriz upheaval. He who had firmly resolved to confute the arguments of an obscure siyyid of Shiraz, to induce Him to abandon His ideas, and to conduct Him to Tihran as an evidence of the ascendancy he had achieved over Him, was made to feel, as he himself later acknowledged, as "lowly as the dust beneath His feet." Even Husayn Khan, who had been Vahid's host during his stay in Shiraz, was compelled to write to the Shah and express the conviction that his Majesty's illustrious delegate had become a Babi.
Another famous advocate of the Cause of the Báb, even fiercer in zeal than Vahid, and almost as eminent in rank, was Mulla Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zanjani, surnamed Hujjat. An Akhbari, a vehement controversialist, of a bold and independent temper of mind, impatient of restraint, a man who had dared condemn the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy from the Abvab-i-Arba'ih down to the humblest mulla, he had more than once, through his superior talents and fervid eloquence, publicly confounded his orthodox Shi'ah adversaries. Such a person could not remain indifferent to a Cause that was producing so grave a cleavage among his countrymen. The disciple he sent to Shiraz to investigate the matter fell immediately under the spell of the Báb. The perusal of but a page of the Qayyumu'l-Asma', brought by that messenger to Hujjat, sufficed to effect such a transformation within him that he declared, before the assembled ulamas of his native city, that should the Author of that work pronounce day to be night and the sun to be a shadow he would unhesitatingly uphold his verdict.
Yet another recruit to the ever-swelling army of the new Faith was the eminent scholar, Mirza Ahmad-i-Azghandi, the most learned, the wisest and the most outstanding among the ulamas of Khurasan, who, in anticipation of the advent of the promised Qa'im, had compiled above twelve thousand traditions and prophecies concerning thePage 13
time and character of the expected Revelation, had circulated them among His fellow-disciples, and had encouraged them to quote them extensively to all congregations and in all meetings.
While the situation was steadily deteriorating in the provinces, the bitter hostility of the people of Shiraz was rapidly moving towards a climax. Husayn Khan, vindictive, relentless, exasperated by the reports of his sleepless agents that his Captive's power and fame were hourly growing, decided to take immediate action. It is even reported that his accomplice, Haji Mirza Aqasi, had ordered him to kill secretly the would-be disrupter of the state and the wrecker of its established religion. By order of the governor the chief constable, Abdu'l-Hamid Khan, scaled, in the dead of night, the wall and entered the house of Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali, where the Báb was confined, arrested Him, and confiscated all His books and documents. That very night, however, took place an event which, in its dramatic suddenness, was no doubt providentially designed to confound the schemes of the plotters, and enable the Object of their hatred to prolong His ministry and consummate His Revelation. An outbreak of cholera, devastating in its virulence, had, since midnight, already smitten above a hundred people. The dread of the plague had entered every heart, and the inhabitants of the stricken city were, amid shrieks of pain and grief, fleeing in confusion. Three of the governor's domestics had already died. Members of his family were lying dangerously ill. In his despair he, leaving the dead unburied, had fled to a garden in the outskirts of the city. Abdu'l-Hamid Khan, confronted by this unexpected development, decided to conduct the Báb to His own home. He was appalled, upon his arrival, to learn that his son lay in the death-throes of the plague. In his despair he threw himself at the feet of the Báb, begged to be forgiven, adjured Him not to visit upon the son the sins of the father, and pledged his word to resign his post, and never again to accept such a position. Finding that his prayer had been answered, he addressed a plea to the governor begging him to release his Captive, and thereby deflect the fatal course of this dire visitation. Husayn Khan acceded to his request, and released his Prisoner on condition of His quitting the city.
Miraculously preserved by an almighty and watchful Providence, the Báb proceeded to Isfahan (September, 1846), accompanied by Siyyid Kazim-i-Zanjani. Another lull ensued, a brief period of comparative tranquillity during which the Divine processes which had been set in motion gathered further momentum, precipitating a series of events leading to the imprisonment of the Báb in thePage 14
fortresses of Mah-Ku and Chihriq, and culminating in His martyrdom in the barrack-square of Tabriz. Well aware of the impending trials that were to afflict Him, the Báb had, ere His final separation from His family, bequeathed to His mother and His wife all His possessions, had confided to the latter the secret of what was to befall Him, and revealed for her a special prayer the reading of which, He assured her, would resolve her perplexities and allay her sorrows. The first forty days of His sojourn in Isfahan were spent as the guest of Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, the Sultanu'l-'Ulama, the Imam-Jum'ih, one of the principal ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm, in accordance with the instructions of the governor of the city, Manuchihr Khan, the Mu 'Tamidu'd-Dawlih, who had received from the Báb a letter requesting him to appoint the place where He should dwell. He was ceremoniously received, and such was the spell He cast over the people of that city that, on one occasion, after His return from the public bath, an eager multitude clamored for the water that had been used for His ablutions. So magic was His charm that His host, forgetful of the dignity of his high rank, was wont to wait personally upon Him. It was at the request of this same prelate that the Báb, one night, after supper, revealed His well-known commentary on the surih of Va'l-'Asr. Writing with astonishing rapidity, He, in a few hours, had devoted to the exposition of the significance of only the first letter of that surih -- a letter which Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i had stressed, and which Bahá'u'lláh refers to in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas -- verses that equalled in number a third of the Qur'an, a feat that called forth such an outburst of reverent astonishment from those who witnessed it that they arose and kissed the hem of His robe.
The tumultuous enthusiasm of the people of Isfahan was meanwhile visibly increasing. Crowds of people, some impelled by curiosity, others eager to discover the truth, still others anxious to be healed of their infirmities, flocked from every quarter of the city to the house of the Imam-Jum'ih. The wise and judicious Manuchihr Khan could not resist the temptation of visiting so strange, so intriguing a Personage. Before a brilliant assemblage of the most accomplished divines he, a Georgian by origin and a Christian by birth, requested the Báb to expound and demonstrate the truth of Muhammad's specific mission. To this request, which those present had felt compelled to decline, the Báb readily responded. In less than two hours, and in the space of fifty pages, He had not only revealed a minute, a vigorous and original dissertation on this noble theme, but had also linked it with both the coming of the Qa'im and the returnPage 15
of the Imam Husayn -- an exposition that prompted Manuchihr Khan to declare before that gathering his faith in the Prophet of Islam, as well as his recognition of the supernatural gifts with which the Author of so convincing a treatise was endowed.
These evidences of the growing ascendancy exercised by an unlearned Youth on the governor and the people of a city rightly regarded as one of the strongholds of Shi'ah Islam, alarmed the ecclesiastical authorities. Refraining from any act of open hostility which they knew full well would defeat their purpose, they sought, by encouraging the circulation of the wildest rumors, to induce the Grand Vizir of the Shah to save a situation that was growing hourly more acute and menacing. The popularity enjoyed by the Báb, His personal prestige, and the honors accorded Him by His countrymen, had now reached their high watermark. The shadows of an impending doom began to fast gather about Him. A series of tragedies from then on followed in rapid sequence destined to culminate in His own death and the apparent extinction of the influence of His Faith.
The overbearing and crafty Haji Mirza Aqasi, fearful lest the sway of the Báb encompass his sovereign and thus seal his own doom, was aroused as never before. Prompted by a suspicion that the Báb possessed the secret sympathies of the Mu'tamid, and well aware of the confidence reposed in him by the Shah, he severely upbraided the Imam-Jum'ih for the neglect of his sacred duty. He, at the same time, lavished, in several letters, his favors upon the ulamas of Isfahan, whom he had hitherto ignored. From the pulpits of that city an incited clergy began to hurl vituperation and calumny upon the Author of what was to them a hateful and much to be feared heresy. The Shah himself was induced to summon the Báb to his capital. Manuchihr Khan, bidden to arrange for His departure, decided to transfer His residence temporarily to his own home. Meanwhile the mujtahids and ulamas, dismayed at the signs of so pervasive an influence, summoned a gathering which issued an abusive document signed and sealed by the ecclesiastical leaders of the city, denouncing the Báb as a heretic and condemning Him to death. Even the Imam-Jum'ih was constrained to add his written testimony that the Accused was devoid of reason and judgment. The Mu'tamid, in his great embarrassment, and in order to appease the rising tumult, conceived a plan whereby an increasingly restive populace were made to believe that the Báb had left for Tihran, while he succeeded in insuring for Him a brief respite of four months in the privacy of the Imarat-i-Khurshid, the governor's private residence in Isfahan. ItPage 16
was in those days that the host expressed the desire to consecrate all his possessions, evaluated by his contemporaries at no less than forty million francs, to the furtherance of the interests of the new Faith, declared his intention of converting Muhammad Shah, of inducing him to rid himself of a shameful and profligate minister, and of obtaining his royal assent to the marriage of one of his sisters with the Báb. The sudden death of the Mu'tamid, however, foretold by the Báb Himself, accelerated the course of the approaching crisis. The ruthless and rapacious Gurgin Khan, the deputy governor, induced the Shah to issue a second summons ordering that the captive Youth be sent in disguise to Tihran, accompanied by a mounted escort. To this written mandate of the sovereign the vile Gurgin Khan, who had previously discovered and destroyed the will of his uncle, the Mu'tamid, and seized his property, unhesitatingly responded. At the distance of less than thirty miles from the capital, however, in the fortress of Kinar-Gird, a messenger delivered to Muhammad Big, who headed the escort, a written order from Haji Mirza Aqasi instructing him to proceed to Kulayn, and there await further instructions. This was, shortly after, followed by a letter which the Shah had himself addressed to the Báb, dated Rabi'u'th-thani 1263 (March 19-April 17, 1847), and which, though couched in courteous terms, clearly indicated the extent of the baneful influence exercised by the Grand Vizir on his sovereign. The plans so fondly cherished by Manuchihr Khan were now utterly undone. The fortress of Mah-Ku, not far from the village of that same name, whose inhabitants had long enjoyed the patronage of the Grand Vizir, situated in the remotest northwestern corner of Adhirbayjan, was the place of incarceration assigned by Muhammad Shah, on the advice of his perfidious minister, for the Báb. No more than one companion and one attendant from among His followers were allowed to keep Him company in those bleak and inhospitable surroundings. All-powerful and crafty, that minister had, on the pretext of the necessity of his master's concentrating his immediate attention on a recent rebellion in Khurasan and a revolt in Kirman, succeeded in foiling a plan, which, had it materialized, would have had the most serious repercussions on his own fortunes, as well as on the immediate destinies of his government, its ruler and its people.Page 17
The period of the Báb's banishment to the mountains of Adhirbayjan, lasting no less than three years, constitutes the saddest, the most dramatic, and in a sense the most pregnant phase of His six year ministry. It comprises His nine months' unbroken confinement in the fortress of Mah-Ku, and His subsequent incarceration in the fortress of Chihriq, which was interrupted only by a brief yet memorable visit to Tabriz. It was overshadowed throughout by the implacable and mounting hostility of the two most powerful adversaries of the Faith, the Grand Vizir of Muhammad Shah, Haji Mirza Aqasi, and the Amir-Nizam, the Grand Vizir of Nasiri'd-Din Shah. It corresponds to the most critical stage of the mission of Bahá'u'lláh, during His exile to Adrianople, when confronted with the despotic Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz and his ministers, Ali Pasha and Fu'ad Pasha, and is paralleled by the darkest days of Abdu'l-Bahá'í ministry in the Holy Land, under the oppressive rule of the tyrannical Abdu'l-Hamid and the equally tyrannical Jamal Pasha. Shiraz had been the memorable scene of the Báb's historic Declaration; Isfahan had provided Him, however briefly, with a haven of relative peace and security; whilst Adhirbayjan was destined to become the theatre of His agony and martyrdom. These concluding years of His earthly life will go down in history as the time when the new Dispensation attained its full stature, when the claim of its Founder was fully and publicly asserted, when its laws were formulated, when the Covenant of its Author was firmly established, when its independence was proclaimed, and when the heroism of its champions blazed forth in immortal glory. For it was during these intensely dramatic, fate-laden years that the full implications of the station of the Báb were disclosed to His disciples, and formally announced by Him in the capital of Adhirbayjan, in the presence of the Heir to the Throne; that the Persian Bayan, the repository of the laws ordained by the Báb, was revealed; that the time and character of the Dispensation of "the One Whom God will make manifest" were unmistakably determined; that the Conference of Badasht proclaimed the annulment of the old order; and that the great conflagrations of Mazindaran, of Nayriz and of Zanjan were kindled.Page 18
And yet, the foolish and short-sighted Haji Mirza Aqasi fondly imagined that by confounding the plan of the Báb to meet the Shah face to face in the capital, and by relegating Him to the farthest corner of the realm, he had stifled the Movement at its birth, and would soon conclusively triumph over its Founder. Little did he imagine that the very isolation he was forcing upon his Prisoner would enable Him to evolve the System designed to incarnate the soul of His Faith, and would afford Him the opportunity of safeguarding it from disintegration and schism, and of proclaiming formally and unreservedly His mission. Little did he imagine that this very confinement would induce that Prisoner's exasperated disciples and companions to cast off the shackles of an antiquated theology, and precipitate happenings that would call forth from them a prowess, a courage, a self-renunciation unexampled in their country's history. Little did he imagine that by this very act he would be instrumental in fulfilling the authentic tradition ascribed to the Prophet of Islam regarding the inevitability of that which should come to pass in Adhirbayjan. Untaught by the example of the governor of Shiraz, who, with fear and trembling, had, at the first taste of God's avenging wrath, fled ignominiously and relaxed his hold on his Captive, the Grand Vizir of Muhammad Shah was, in his turn, through the orders he had issued, storing up for himself severe and inevitable disappointment, and paving the way for his own ultimate downfall.
His orders to Ali Khan, the warden of the fortress of Mah-Ku, were stringent and explicit. On His way to that fortress the Báb passed a number of days in Tabriz, days that were marked by such an intense excitement on the part of the populace that, except for a few persons, neither the public nor His followers were allowed to meet Him. As He was escorted through the streets of the city the shout of "Allah-u-Akbar" resounded on every side. So great, indeed, became the clamor that the town crier was ordered to warn the inhabitants that any one who ventured to seek the Báb's presence would forfeit all his possessions and be imprisoned. Upon His arrival in Mah-Ku, surnamed by Him Jabal-i-Basit (the Open Mountain) no one was allowed to see Him for the first two weeks except His amanuensis, Siyyid Husayn, and his brother. So grievous was His plight while in that fortress that, in the Persian Bayan, He Himself has stated that at night-time He did not even have a lighted lamp, and that His solitary chamber, constructed of sun-baked bricks, lacked even a door, while, in His Tablet to Muhammad Shah, HePage 19
has complained that the inmates of the fortress were confined to two guards and four dogs.
Secluded on the heights of a remote and dangerously situated mountain on the frontiers of the Ottoman and Russian empires; imprisoned within the solid walls of a four-towered fortress; cut off from His family, His kindred and His disciples; living in the vicinity of a bigoted and turbulent community who, by race, tradition, language and creed, differed from the vast majority of the inhabitants of Persia; guarded by the people of a district which, as the birthplace of the Grand Vizir, had been made the recipient of the special favors of his administration, the Prisoner of Mah-Ku seemed in the eyes of His adversary to be doomed to languish away the flower of His youth, and witness, at no distant date, the complete annihilation of His hopes. That adversary was soon to realize, however, how gravely he had misjudged both his Prisoner and those on whom he had lavished his favors. An unruly, a proud and unreasoning people were gradually subdued by the gentleness of the Báb, were chastened by His modesty, were edified by His counsels, and instructed by His wisdom. They were so carried away by their love for Him that their first act every morning, notwithstanding the remonstrations of the domineering Ali Khan, and the repeated threats of disciplinary measures received from Tihran, was to seek a place where they could catch a glimpse of His face, and beseech from afar His benediction upon their daily work. In cases of dispute it was their wont to hasten to the foot of the fortress, and, with their eyes fixed upon His abode, invoke His name, and adjure one another to speak the truth. Ali Khan himself, under the influence of a strange vision, felt such mortification that he was impelled to relax the severity of his discipline, as an atonement for his past behavior. Such became his leniency that an increasing stream of eager and devout pilgrims began to be admitted at the gates of the fortress. Among them was the dauntless and indefatigable Mulla Husayn, who had walked on foot the entire way from Mashad in the east of Persia to Mah-Ku, the westernmost outpost of the realm, and was able, after so arduous a journey, to celebrate the festival of Naw-Ruz (1848) in the company of his Beloved.
Secret agents, however, charged to watch Ali Khan, informed Haji Mirza Aqasi of the turn events were taking, whereupon he immediately decided to transfer the Báb to the fortress of Chihriq (about April 10, 1848), surnamed by Him the Jabal-i-Shadid (the Grievous Mountain). There He was consigned to the keeping of Yahya Khan,Page 20
a brother-in-law of Muhammad Shah. Though at the outset he acted with the utmost severity, he was eventually compelled to yield to the fascination of his Prisoner. Nor were the kurds, who lived in the village of Chihriq, and whose hatred of the Shi'ahs exceeded even that of the inhabitants of Mah-Ku, able to resist the pervasive power of the Prisoner's influence. They too were to be seen every morning, ere they started for their daily work, to approach the fortress and prostrate themselves in adoration before its holy Inmate. "So great was the confluence of the people," is the testimony of a European eye-witness, writing in his memoirs of the Báb, "that the courtyard, not being large enough to contain His hearers, the majority remained in the street and listened with rapt attention to the verses of the new Qur'an."
Indeed the turmoil raised in Chihriq eclipsed the scenes which Mah-Ku had witnessed. Siyyids of distinguished merit, eminent ulamas, and even government officials were boldly and rapidly espousing the Cause of the Prisoner. The conversion of the zealous, the famous Mirza Asadu'llah, surnamed Dayyan, a prominent official of high literary repute, who was endowed by the Báb with the "hidden and preserved knowledge," and extolled as the "repository of the trust of the one true God," and the arrival of a dervish, a former navvab, from India, whom the Báb in a vision had bidden renounce wealth and position, and hasten on foot to meet Him in Adhirbayjan, brought the situation to a head. Accounts of these startling events reached Tabriz, were thence communicated to Tihran, and forced Haji Mirza Aqasi again to intervene. Dayyan's father, an intimate friend of that minister, had already expressed to him his grave apprehension at the manner in which the able functionaries of the state were being won over to the new Faith. To allay the rising excitement the Báb was summoned to Tabriz. Fearful of the enthusiasm of the people of Adhirbayjan, those into whose custody He had been delivered decided to deflect their route, and avoid the town of Khuy, passing instead through Urumiyyih. On His arrival in that town Prince Malik Qasim Mirza ceremoniously received Him, and was even seen, on a certain Friday, when his Guest was riding on His way to the public bath, to accompany Him on foot, while the Prince's footmen endeavored to restrain the people who, in their overflowing enthusiasm, were pressing to catch a glimpse of so marvelous a Prisoner. Tabriz, in its turn in the throes of wild excitement, joyously hailed His arrival. Such was the fervor of popular feeling that the Báb was assigned a place outside the gates of the city.Page 21
This, however, failed to allay the prevailing emotion. Precautions, warnings and restrictions served only to aggravate a situation that had already become critical. It was at this juncture that the Grand Vizir issued his historic order for the immediate convocation of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of Tabriz to consider the most effectual measures which would, once and for all, extinguish the flames of so devouring a conflagration.
The circumstances attending the examination of the Báb, as a result of so precipitate an act, may well rank as one of the chief landmarks of His dramatic career. The avowed purpose of that convocation was to arraign the Prisoner, and deliberate on the steps to be taken for the extirpation of His so-called heresy. It instead afforded Him the supreme opportunity of His mission to assert in public, formally and without any reservation, the claims inherent in His Revelation. In the official residence, and in the presence, of the governor of Adhirbayjan, Nasiri'd-Din Mirza, the heir to the throne; under the presidency of Haji Mulla Mahmud, the Nizamu'l-'Ulama, the Prince's tutor; before the assembled ecclesiastical dignitaries of Tabriz, the leaders of the Shaykhi community, the Shaykhu'l-Islam, and the Imam-Jum'ih, the Báb, having seated Himself in the chief place which had been reserved for the Vali-'Ahd (the heir to the throne), gave, in ringing tones, His celebrated answer to the question put to Him by the President of that assembly. "I am," He exclaimed, "I am, I am the Promised One! I am the One Whose name you have for a thousand years invoked, at Whose mention you have risen, Whose advent you have longed to witness, and the hour of Whose Revelation you have prayed God to hasten. Verily, I say, it is incumbent upon the peoples of both the East and the West to obey My word, and to pledge allegiance to My person."
Awe-struck, those present momentarily dropped their heads in silent confusion. Then Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani, that one-eyed white-bearded renegade, summoning sufficient courage, with characteristic insolence, reprimanded Him as a perverse and contemptible follower of Satan; to which the undaunted Youth retorted that He maintained what He had already asserted. To the query subsequently addressed to Him by the Nizamu'l-'Ulama the Báb affirmed that His words constituted the most incontrovertible evidence of His mission, adduced verses from the Qur'an to establish the truth of His assertion, and claimed to be able to reveal, within the space of two days and two nights, verses equal to the whole of that Book. In answer to a criticism calling His attention to an infraction by Him of the rulesPage 22
of grammar, He cited certain passages from the Qur'an as corroborative evidence, and, turning aside, with firmness and dignity, a frivolous and irrelevant remark thrown at Him by one of those who were present, summarily disbanded that gathering by Himself rising and quitting the room. The convocation thereupon dispersed, its members confused, divided among themselves, bitterly resentful and humiliated through their failure to achieve their purpose. Far from daunting the spirit of their Captive, far from inducing Him to recant or abandon His mission, that gathering was productive of no other result than the decision, arrived at after considerable argument and discussion, to inflict the bastinado on Him, at the hands, and in the prayer-house of the heartless and avaricious Mirza Ali-Asghar, the Shaykhu'l-Islam of that city. Confounded in his schemes Haji Mirza Aqasi was forced to order the Báb to be taken back to Chihriq.
This dramatic, this unqualified and formal declaration of the Báb's prophetic mission was not the sole consequence of the foolish act which condemned the Author of so weighty a Revelation to a three years' confinement in the mountains of Adhirbayjan. This period of captivity, in a remote corner of the realm, far removed from the storm centers of Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tihran, afforded Him the necessary leisure to launch upon His most monumental work, as well as to engage on other subsidiary compositions designed to unfold the whole range, and impart the full force, of His short-lived yet momentous Dispensation. Alike in the magnitude of the writings emanating from His pen, and in the diversity of the subjects treated in those writings, His Revelation stands wholly unparalleled in the annals of any previous religion. He Himself affirms, while confined in Mah-Ku, that up to that time His writings, embracing highly diversified subjects, had amounted to more than five hundred thousand verses. "The verses which have rained from this Cloud of Divine mercy," is Bahá'u'lláh's testimony in the Kitáb-i-Iqan, "have been so abundant that none hath yet been able to estimate their number. A score of volumes are now available. How many still remain beyond our reach! How many have been plundered and have fallen into the hands of the enemy, the fate of which none knoweth!" No less arresting is the variety of themes presented by these voluminous writings, such as prayers, homilies, orations, Tablets of visitation, scientific treatises, doctrinal dissertations, exhortations, commentaries on the Qur'an and on various traditions, epistles to the highest religious and ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm, and laws andPage 23
ordinances for the consolidation of His Faith and the direction of its activities.
Already in Shiraz, at the earliest stage of His ministry, He had revealed what Bahá'u'lláh has characterized as "the first, the greatest, and mightiest of all books" in the Bábi Dispensation, the celebrated commentary on the surih of Joseph, entitled the Qayyumu'l-Asma', whose fundamental purpose was to forecast what the true Joseph (Bahá'u'lláh) would, in a succeeding Dispensation, endure at the hands of one who was at once His arch-enemy and blood brother. This work, comprising above nine thousand three hundred verses, and divided into one hundred and eleven chapters, each chapter a commentary on one verse of the above-mentioned surih, opens with the Báb's clarion-call and dire warnings addressed to the "concourse of kings and of the sons of kings;" forecasts the doom of Muhammad Shah; commands his Grand Vizir, Haji Mirza Aqasi, to abdicate his authority; admonishes the entire Muslim ecclesiastical order; cautions more specifically the members of the Shi'ah community; extols the virtues, and anticipates the coming, of Bahá'u'lláh, the "Remnant of God," the "Most Great Master;" and proclaims, in unequivocal language, the independence and universality of the Bábi Revelation, unveils its import, and affirms the inevitable triumph of its Author. It, moreover, directs the "people of the West" to "issue forth from your cities and aid the Cause of God;" warns the peoples of the earth of the "terrible, the most grievous vengeance of God;" threatens the whole Islamic world with "the Most Great Fire" were they to turn aside from the newly-revealed Law; foreshadows the Author's martyrdom; eulogizes the high station ordained for the people of Baha, the "Companions of the crimson-colored ruby Ark;" prophesies the fading out and utter obliteration of some of the greatest luminaries in the firmament of the Bábi Dispensation; and even predicts "afflictive torment," in both the "Day of Our Return" and in "the world which is to come," for the usurpers of the Imamate, who "waged war against Husayn (Imam Husayn) in the Land of the Euphrates."
It was this Book which the Bábis universally regarded, during almost the entire ministry of the Báb, as the Qur'an of the people of the Bayan; whose first and most challenging chapter was revealed in the presence of Mulla Husayn, on the night of its Author's Declaration; some of whose pages were borne, by that same disciple, to Bahá'u'lláh, as the first fruits of a Revelation which instantly won His enthusiastic allegiance; whose entire text was translated into Persian by the brilliant and gifted Tahirih; whose passages inflamedPage 24
the hostility of Husayn Khan and precipitated the initial outbreak of persecution in Shiraz; a single page of which had captured the imagination and entranced the soul of Hujjat; and whose contents had set afire the intrepid defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi and the heroes of Nayriz and Zanjan.
This work, of such exalted merit, of such far-reaching influence, was followed by the revelation of the Báb's first Tablet to Muhammad Shah; of His Tablets to Sultan Abdu'l-Majid and to Najib Pasha, the Vali of Baghdad; of the Sahifiy-i-baynu'l-Haramayn, revealed between Mecca and Medina, in answer to questions posed by Mirza Muhit-i-Kirmani; of the Epistle to the Sherif of Mecca; of the Kitábu'r-Ruh, comprising seven hundred surihs; of the Khasa'il-i-Sab'ih, which enjoined the alteration of the formula of the adhan; of the Risaliy-i-Furu'-i-'Adliyyih, rendered into Persian by Mulla Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Harati; of the commentary on the surih of Kawthar, which effected such a transformation in the soul of Vahid; of the commentary on the surih of Va'l-'Asr, in the house of the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan; of the dissertation on the Specific Mission of Muhammad, written at the request of Manuchihr Khan; of the second Tablet to Muhammad Shah, craving an audience in which to set forth the truths of the new Revelation, and dissipate his doubts; and of the Tablets sent from the village of Siyah-Dihan to the ulamas of Qasvin and to Haji Mirza Aqasi, inquiring from him as to the cause of the sudden change in his decision.
The great bulk of the writings emanating from the Báb's prolific mind was, however, reserved for the period of His confinement in Mah-Ku and Chihriq. To this period must probably belong the unnumbered Epistles which, as attested by no less an authority than Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb specifically addressed to the divines of every city in Persia, as well as to those residing in Najaf and Karbila, wherein He set forth in detail the errors committed by each one of them. It was during His incarceration in the fortress of Mah-Ku that He, according to the testimony of Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi, who transcribed during those nine months the verses dictated by the Báb to His amanuensis, revealed no less than nine commentaries on the whole of the Qur'an -- commentaries whose fate, alas, is unknown, and one of which, at least the Author Himself affirmed, surpassed in some respects a book as deservedly famous as the Qayyumu'l-Asma.
Within the walls of that same fortress the Bayan (Exposition) -- that monumental repository of the laws and precepts of the new Dispensation and the treasury enshrining most of the Báb's referencesPage 25
and tributes to, as well as His warning regarding, "Him Whom God will make manifest" -- was revealed. Peerless among the doctrinal works of the Founder of the Bábi Dispensation; consisting of nine Vahids (Unities) of nineteen chapters each, except the last Vahid comprising only ten chapters; not to be confounded with the smaller and less weighty Arabic Bayan, revealed during the same period; fulfilling the Muhammadan prophecy that "a Youth from Bani-Hashim ... will reveal a new Book and promulgate a new Law;" wholly safeguarded from the interpolation and corruption which has been the fate of so many of the Báb's lesser works, this Book, of about eight thousand verses, occupying a pivotal position in Babi literature, should be regarded primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations. This Book at once abrogated the laws and ceremonials enjoined by the Qur'an regarding prayer, fasting, marriage, divorce and inheritance, and upheld, in its integrity, the belief in the prophetic mission of Muhammad, even as the Prophet of Islam before Him had annulled the ordinances of the Gospel and yet recognized the Divine origin of the Faith of Jesus Christ. It moreover interpreted in a masterly fashion the meaning of certain terms frequently occurring in the sacred Books of previous Dispensations such as Paradise, Hell, Death, Resurrection, the Return, the Balance, the Hour, the Last Judgment, and the like. Designedly severe in the rules and regulations it imposed, revolutionizing in the principles it instilled, calculated to awaken from their age-long torpor the clergy and the people, and to administer a sudden and fatal blow to obsolete and corrupt institutions, it proclaimed, through its drastic provisions, the advent of the anticipated Day, the Day when "the Summoner shall summon to a stern business," when He will "demolish whatever hath been before Him, even as the Apostle of God demolished the ways of those that preceded Him."
It should be noted, in this connection, that in the third Vahid of this Book there occurs a passage which, alike in its explicit reference to the name of the Promised One, and in its anticipation of the Order which, in a later age, was to be identified with His Revelation, deserves to rank as one of the most significant statements recorded in any of the Báb's writings. "Well is it with him," is His prophetic announcement, "who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayan." It is with that self-same Order that the Founder of the promisedPage 26
Revelation, twenty years later -- incorporating that same term in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas -- identified the System envisaged in that Book, affirming that "this most great Order" had deranged the world's equilibrium, and revolutionized mankind's ordered life. It is the features of that self-same Order which, at a later stage in the evolution of the Faith, the Center of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and the appointed Interpreter of His teachings, delineated through the provisions of His Will and Testament. It is the structural basis of that self-same Order which, in the Formative Age of that same Faith, the stewards of that same Covenant, the elected representatives of the world-wide Bahá'í community, are now laboriously and unitedly establishing. It is the superstructure of that self-same Order, attaining its full stature through the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth -- the Kingdom of God on earth -- which the Golden Age of that same Dispensation must, in the fullness of time, ultimately witness.
The Báb was still in Mah-Ku when He wrote the most detailed and illuminating of His Tablets to Muhammad Shah. Prefaced by a laudatory reference to the unity of God, to His Apostles and to the twelve Imams; unequivocal in its assertion of the divinity of its Author and of the supernatural powers with which His Revelation had been invested; precise in the verses and traditions it cites in confirmation of so audacious a claim; severe in its condemnation of some of the officials and representatives of the Shah's administration, particularly of the "wicked and accursed" Husayn Khan; moving in its description of the humiliation and hardships to which its writer had been subjected, this historic document resembles, in many of its features, the Lawh-i-Sultan, the Tablet addressed, under similar circumstances, from the prison-fortress of Akka by Bahá'u'lláh to Nasiri'd-Din Shah, and constituting His lengthiest epistle to any single sovereign.
The Dala'il-i-Sab'ih (Seven Proofs), the most important of the polemical works of the Báb, was revealed during that same period. Remarkably lucid, admirable in its precision, original in conception, unanswerable in its argument, this work, apart from the many and divers proofs of His mission which it adduces, is noteworthy for the blame it assigns to the "seven powerful sovereigns ruling the world" in His day, as well as for the manner in which it stresses the responsibilities, and censures the conduct, of the Christian divines of a former age who, had they recognized the truth of Muhammad's mission, He contends, would have been followed by the mass of their co-religionists.Page 27
During the Báb's confinement in the fortress of Chihriq, where He spent almost the whole of the two remaining years of His life, the Lawh-i-Huru'fat (Tablet of the Letters) was revealed, in honor of Dayyan -- a Tablet which, however misconstrued at first as an exposition of the science of divination, was later recognized to have unravelled, on the one hand, the mystery of the Mustaghath, and to have abstrusely alluded, on the other, to the nineteen years which must needs elapse between the Declaration of the Báb and that of Bahá'u'lláh. It was during these years -- years darkened throughout by the rigors of the Báb's captivity, by the severe indignities inflicted upon Him, and by the news of the disasters that overtook the heroes of Mazindaran and Nayriz -- that He revealed, soon after His return from Tabriz, His denunciatory Tablet to Haji Mirza Aqasi. Couched in bold and moving language, unsparing in its condemnation, this epistle was forwarded to the intrepid Hujjat who, as corroborated by Bahá'u'lláh, delivered it to that wicked minister.
To this period of incarceration in the fortresses of Mah-Ku and Chihriq -- a period of unsurpassed fecundity, yet bitter in its humiliations and ever-deepening sorrows -- belong almost all the written references, whether in the form of warnings, appeals or exhortations, which the Báb, in anticipation of the approaching hour of His supreme affliction, felt it necessary to make to the Author of a Revelation that was soon to supersede His own. Conscious from the very beginning of His twofold mission, as the Bearer of a wholly independent Revelation and the Herald of One still greater than His own, He could not content Himself with the vast number of commentaries, of prayers, of laws and ordinances, of dissertations and epistles, of homilies and orations that had incessantly streamed from His pen. The Greater Covenant into which, as affirmed in His writings, God had, from time immemorial, entered, through the Prophets of all ages, with the whole of mankind, regarding the newborn Revelation, had already been fulfilled. It had now to be supplemented by a Lesser Covenant which He felt bound to make with the entire body of His followers concerning the One Whose advent He characterized as the fruit and ultimate purpose of His Dispensation. Such a Covenant had invariably been the feature of every previous religion. It had existed, under various forms, with varying degrees of emphasis, had always been couched in veiled language, and had been alluded to in cryptic prophecies, in abstruse allegories, in unauthenticated traditions, and in the fragmentary and obscure passages of the sacred Scriptures. In the Bábi Dispensation, however,Page 28
it was destined to be established in clear and unequivocal language, though not embodied in a separate document. Unlike the Prophets gone before Him, Whose Covenants were shrouded in mystery, unlike Bahá'u'lláh, Whose clearly defined Covenant was incorporated in a specially written Testament, and designated by Him as "the Book of My Covenant," the Báb chose to intersperse His Book of Laws, the Persian Bayan, with unnumbered passages, some designedly obscure, mostly indubitably clear and conclusive, in which He fixes the date of the promised Revelation, extols its virtues, asserts its pre-eminent character, assigns to it unlimited powers and prerogatives, and tears down every barrier that might be an obstacle to its recognition. "He, verily," Bahá'u'lláh, referring to the Báb in His Kitáb-i-Badi', has stated, "hath not fallen short of His duty to exhort the people of the Bayan and to deliver unto them His Message. In no age or dispensation hath any Manifestation made mention, in such detail and in such explicit language, of the Manifestation destined to succeed Him."
Some of His disciples the Báb assiduously prepared to expect the imminent Revelation. Others He orally assured would live to see its day. To Mulla Baqir, one of the Letters of the Living, He actually prophesied, in a Tablet addressed to him, that he would meet the Promised One face to face. To Sayyah, another disciple, He gave verbally a similar assurance. Mulla Husayn He directed to Tihran, assuring him that in that city was enshrined a Mystery Whose light neither Hijaz nor Shiraz could rival. Quddus, on the eve of his final separation from Him, was promised that he would attain the presence of the One Who was the sole Object of their adoration and love. To Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi He declared while in Mah-Ku that he would behold in Karbila the countenance of the promised Husayn. On Dayyan He conferred the title of "the third Letter to believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest," while to Azim He divulged, in the Kitáb-i-Panj-Sha'n, the name, and announced the approaching advent, of Him Who was to consummate His own Revelation.
A successor or vicegerent the Báb never named, an interpreter of His teachings He refrained from appointing. So transparently clear were His references to the Promised One, so brief was to be the duration of His own Dispensation, that neither the one nor the other was deemed necessary. All He did was, according to the testimony of Abdu'l-Bahá in "A Traveller's Narrative," to nominate, on the advice of Bahá'u'lláh and of another disciple, Mirza Yahya, who would act solely as a figure-head pending the manifestation of thePage 29
Promised One, thus enabling Bahá'u'lláh to promote, in relative security, the Cause so dear to His heart.
"The Bayan," the Báb in that Book, referring to the Promised One, affirms, "is, from beginning to end, the repository of all of His attributes, and the treasury of both His fire and His light." "If thou attainest unto His Revelation," He, in another connection declares, "and obeyest Him, thou wilt have revealed the fruit of the Bayan; if not, thou art unworthy of mention before God." "O people of the Bayan!" He, in that same Book, thus warns the entire company of His followers, "act not as the people of the Qur'an have acted, for if ye do so, the fruits of your night will come to naught." "Suffer not the Bayan," is His emphatic injunction, "and all that hath been revealed therein to withhold you from that Essence of Being and Lord of the visible and invisible." "Beware, beware," is His significant warning addressed to Vahid, "lest in the days of His Revelation the Vahid of the Bayan (eighteen Letters of the Living and the Báb) shut thee out as by a veil from Him, inasmuch as this Vahid is but a creature in His sight." And again: "O congregation of the Bayan, and all who are therein! Recognize ye the limits imposed upon you, for such a One as the Point of the Bayan Himself hath believed in Him Whom God shall make manifest before all things were created. Therein, verily, do I glory before all who are in the kingdom of heaven and earth."
"In the year nine," He, referring to the date of the advent of the promised Revelation, has explicitly written, "ye shall attain unto all good." "In the year nine, ye will attain unto the presence of God." And again: "After Hin (68) a Cause shall be given unto you which ye shall come to know." "Ere nine will have elapsed from the inception of this Cause," He more particularly has stated, "the realities of the created things will not be made manifest. All that thou hast as yet seen is but the stage from the moist germ until We clothed it with flesh. Be patient, until thou beholdest a new creation. Say: 'Blessed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!'" "Wait thou," is His statement to Azim, "until nine will have elapsed from the time of the Bayan. Then exclaim: 'Blessed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!'" "Be attentive," He, referring in a remarkable passage to the year nineteen, has admonished, "from the inception of the Revelation till the number of Vahid (19)." "The Lord of the Day of Reckoning," He, even more explicitly, has stated, "will be manifested at the end of Vahid (19) and the beginning of eighty (1280 A.H.)." "Were He to appear this very moment," He,Page 30
in His eagerness to insure that the proximity of the promised Revelation should not withhold men from the Promised One, has revealed, "I would be the first to adore Him, and the first to bow down before Him."
"I have written down in My mention of Him," He thus extols the Author of the anticipated Revelation, "these gem-like words: 'No allusion of Mine can allude unto Him, neither anything mentioned in the Bayan.'" "I, Myself, am but the first servant to believe in Him and in His signs...." "The year-old germ," He significantly affirms, "that holdeth within itself the potentialities of the Revelation that is to come is endowed with a potency superior to the combined forces of the whole of the Bayan." And again: "The whole of the Bayan is only a leaf amongst the leaves of His Paradise." "Better is it for thee," He similarly asserts, "to recite but one of the verses of Him Whom God shall make manifest than to set down the whole of the Bayan, for on that Day that one verse can save thee, whereas the entire Bayan cannot save thee." "Today the Bayan is in the stage of seed; at the beginning of the manifestation of Him Whom God shall make manifest its ultimate perfection will become apparent." "The Bayan deriveth all its glory from Him Whom God shall make manifest." "All that hath been revealed in the Bayan is but a ring upon My hand, and I Myself am, verily, but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest... He turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, is the Help in Peril, the Most High." "Certitude itself," He, in reply to Vahid and to one of the Letters of the Living who had inquired regarding the promised One, had declared, "is ashamed to be called upon to certify His truth ... and Testimony itself is ashamed to testify unto Him." Addressing this same Vahid, He moreover had stated: "Were I to be assured that in the day of His manifestation thou wilt deny Him, I would unhesitatingly disown thee... If, on the other hand, I be told that a Christian, who beareth no allegiance to My Faith, will believe in Him, the same will I regard as the apple of My eye."
And finally is this, His moving invocation to God: "Bear Thou witness that, through this Book, I have covenanted with all created things concerning the mission of Him Whom Thou shalt make manifest, ere the covenant concerning My own mission had been established. Sufficient witness art Thou and they that have believed in Thy signs." "I, verily, have not fallen short of My duty to admonish that people," is yet another testimony from His pen, "...If on the day ofPage 31
His Revelation all that are on earth bear Him allegiance, Mine inmost being will rejoice, inasmuch as all will have attained the summit of their existence.... If not, My soul will be saddened. I truly have nurtured all things for this purpose. How, then, can any one be veiled from Him?"
The last three and most eventful years of the Báb's ministry had, as we have observed in the preceding pages, witnessed not only the formal and public declaration of His mission, but also an unprecedented effusion of His inspired writings, including both the revelation of the fundamental laws of His Dispensation and also the establishment of that Lesser Covenant which was to safeguard the unity of His followers and pave the way for the advent of an incomparably mightier Revelation. It was during this same period, in the early days of His incarceration in the fortress of Chihriq, that the independence of the new-born Faith was openly recognized and asserted by His disciples. The laws underlying the new Dispensation had been revealed by its Author in a prison-fortress in the mountains of Adhirbayjan, while the Dispensation itself was now to be inaugurated in a plain on the border of Mazindaran, at a conference of His assembled followers.
Bahá'u'lláh, maintaining through continual correspondence close contact with the Báb, and Himself the directing force behind the manifold activities of His struggling fellow-disciples, unobtrusively yet effectually presided over that conference, and guided and controlled its proceedings. Quddus, regarded as the exponent of the conservative element within it, affected, in pursuance of a pre-conceived plan designed to mitigate the alarm and consternation which such a conference was sure to arouse, to oppose the seemingly extremist views advocated by the impetuous Tahirih. The primary purpose of that gathering was to implement the revelation of the Bayan by a sudden, a complete and dramatic break with the past -- with its order, its ecclesiasticism, its traditions, and ceremonials. The subsidiary purpose of the conference was to consider the means of emancipating the Báb from His cruel confinement in Chihriq. The first was eminently successful; the second was destined from the outset to fail.
The scene of such a challenging and far-reaching proclamation was the hamlet of Badasht, where Bahá'u'lláh had rented, amidst pleasant surroundings, three gardens, one of which He assigned to Quddus, another to Tahirih, whilst the third He reserved for Himself. The eighty-one disciples who had gathered from various provincesPage 32
were His guests from the day of their arrival to the day they dispersed. On each of the twenty-two days of His sojourn in that hamlet He revealed a Tablet, which was chanted in the presence of the assembled believers. On every believer He conferred a new name, without, however, disclosing the identity of the one who had bestowed it. He Himself was henceforth designated by the name Baha. Upon the Last Letter of the Living was conferred the appellation of Quddus, while Qurratu'l-'Ayn was given the title of Tahirih. By these names they were all subsequently addressed by the Báb in the Tablets He revealed for each one of them.
It was Bahá'u'lláh Who steadily, unerringly, yet unsuspectedly, steered the course of that memorable episode, and it was Bahá'u'lláh Who brought the meeting to its final and dramatic climax. One day in His presence, when illness had confined Him to bed, Tahirih, regarded as the fair and spotless emblem of chastity and the incarnation of the holy Fatimih, appeared suddenly, adorned yet unveiled, before the assembled companions, seated herself on the right-hand of the affrighted and infuriated Quddus, and, tearing through her fiery words the veils guarding the sanctity of the ordinances of Islam, sounded the clarion-call, and proclaimed the inauguration, of a new Dispensation. The effect was electric and instantaneous. She, of such stainless purity, so reverenced that even to gaze at her shadow was deemed an improper act, appeared for a moment, in the eyes of her scandalized beholders, to have defamed herself, shamed the Faith she had espoused, and sullied the immortal Countenance she symbolized. Fear, anger, bewilderment, swept their inmost souls, and stunned their faculties. Abdu'l-Khaliq-i-Isfahani, aghast and deranged at such a sight, cut his throat with his own hands. Spattered with blood, and frantic with excitement, he fled away from her face. A few, abandoning their companions, renounced their Faith. Others stood mute and transfixed before her. Still others must have recalled with throbbing hearts the Islamic tradition foreshadowing the appearance of Fatimih herself unveiled while crossing the Bridge (Sirat) on the promised Day of Judgment. Quddus, mute with rage, seemed to be only waiting for the moment when he could strike her down with the sword he happened to be then holding in his hand.
Undeterred, unruffled, exultant with joy, Tahirih arose, and, without the least premeditation and in a language strikingly resembling that of the Qur'an, delivered a fervid and eloquent appeal to the remnant of the assembly, ending it with this bold assertion: "I am the Word which the Qa'im is to utter, the Word which shallPage 33
put to flight the chiefs and nobles of the earth!" Thereupon, she invited them to embrace each other and celebrate so great an occasion.
On that memorable day the "Bugle" mentioned in the Qur'an was sounded, the "stunning trumpet-blast" was loudly raised, and the "Catastrophe" came to pass. The days immediately following so startling a departure from the time-honored traditions of Islam witnessed a veritable revolution in the outlook, habits, ceremonials and manner of worship of these hitherto zealous and devout upholders of the Muhammadan Law. Agitated as had been the Conference from first to last, deplorable as was the secession of the few who refused to countenance the annulment of the fundamental statutes of the Islamic Faith, its purpose had been fully and gloriously accomplished. Only four years earlier the Author of the Bábi Revelation had declared His mission to Mulla Husayn in the privacy of His home in Shiraz. Three years after that Declaration, within the walls of the prison-fortress of Mah-Ku, He was dictating to His amanuensis the fundamental and distinguishing precepts of His Dispensation. A year later, His followers, under the actual leadership of Bahá'u'lláh, their fellow-disciple, were themselves, in the hamlet of Badasht, abrogating the Qur'anic Law, repudiating both the divinely-ordained and man-made precepts of the Faith of Muhammad, and shaking off the shackles of its antiquated system. Almost immediately after, the Báb Himself, still a prisoner, was vindicating the acts of His disciples by asserting, formally and unreservedly, His claim to be the promised Qa'im, in the presence of the Heir to the Throne, the leading exponents of the Shaykhi community, and the most illustrious ecclesiastical dignitaries assembled in the capital of Adhirbayjan.
A little over four years had elapsed since the birth of the Báb's Revelation when the trumpet-blast announcing the formal extinction of the old, and the inauguration of the new Dispensation was sounded. No pomp, no pageantry marked so great a turning-point in the world's religious history. Nor was its modest setting commensurate with such a sudden, startling, complete emancipation from the dark and embattled forces of fanaticism, of priestcraft, of religious orthodoxy and superstition. The assembled host consisted of no more than a single woman and a handful of men, mostly recruited from the very ranks they were attacking, and devoid, with few exceptions, of wealth, prestige and power. The Captain of the host was Himself an absentee, a captive in the grip of His foes. The arena was a tiny hamlet in the plain of Badasht on the border of Mazindaran. The trumpeter was a lone woman, the noblest of her sex in that Dispensation, whom evenPage 34
some of her co-religionists pronounced a heretic. The call she sounded was the death-knell of the twelve hundred year old law of Islam.
Accelerated, twenty years later, by another trumpet-blast, announcing the formulation of the laws of yet another Dispensation, this process of disintegration, associated with the declining fortunes of a superannuated, though divinely revealed Law, gathered further momentum, precipitated, in a later age, the annulment of the Shari'ah canonical Law in Turkey, led to the virtual abandonment of that Law in Shi'ah Persia, has, more recently, been responsible for the dissociation of the System envisaged in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas from the Sunni ecclesiastical Law in Egypt, has paved the way for the recognition of that System in the Holy Land itself, and is destined to culminate in the secularization of the Muslim states, and in the universal recognition of the Law of Bahá'u'lláh by all the nations, and its enthronement in the hearts of all the peoples, of the Muslim world.Page 35
The Báb's captivity in a remote corner of Adhirbayjan, immortalized by the proceedings of the Conference of Badasht, and distinguished by such notable developments as the public declaration of His mission, the formulation of the laws of His Dispensation and the establishment of His Covenant, was to acquire added significance through the dire convulsions that sprang from the acts of both His adversaries and His disciples. The commotions that ensued, as the years of that captivity drew to a close, and that culminated in His own martyrdom, called forth a degree of heroism on the part of His followers and a fierceness of hostility on the part of His enemies which had never been witnessed during the first three years of His ministry. Indeed, this brief but most turbulent period may be rightly regarded as the bloodiest and most dramatic of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Era.
The momentous happenings associated with the Báb's incarceration in Mah-Ku and Chihriq, constituting as they did the high watermark of His Revelation, could have no other consequence than to fan to fiercer flame both the fervor of His lovers and the fury of His enemies. A persecution, grimmer, more odious, and more shrewdly calculated than any which Husayn Khan, or even Haji Mirza Aqasi, had kindled was soon to be unchained, to be accompanied by a corresponding manifestation of heroism unmatched by any of the earliest outbursts of enthusiasm that had greeted the birth of the Faith in either Shiraz or Isfahan. This period of ceaseless and unprecedented commotion was to rob that Faith, in quick succession, of its chief protagonists, was to attain its climax in the extinction of the life of its Author, and was to be followed by a further and this time an almost complete elimination of its eminent supporters, with the sole exception of One Who, at its darkest hour, was entrusted, through the dispensations of Providence, with the dual function of saving a sorely-stricken Faith from annihilation, and of ushering in the Dispensation destined to supersede it.
The formal assumption by the Báb of the authority of the promised Qa'im, in such dramatic circumstances and in so challenging a tone, before a distinguished gathering of eminent Shi'ahPage 36
ecclesiastics, powerful, jealous, alarmed and hostile, was the explosive force that loosed a veritable avalanche of calamities which swept down upon the Faith and the people among whom it was born. It raised to fervid heat the zeal that glowed in the souls of the Báb's scattered disciples, who were already incensed by the cruel captivity of their Leader, and whose ardor was now further inflamed by the outpourings of His pen which reached them unceasingly from the place of His confinement. It provoked a heated and prolonged controversy throughout the length and breadth of the land, in bazaars, masjids, madrisihs and other public places, deepening thereby the cleavage that had already sundered its people. Muhammad Shah, at so perilous an hour, was meanwhile rapidly sinking under the weight of his physical infirmities. The shallow-minded Haji Mirza Aqasi, now the pivot of state affairs, exhibited a vacillation and incompetence that seemed to increase with every extension in the range of his grave responsibilities. At one time he would feel inclined to support the verdict of the ulamas; at another he would censure their aggressiveness and distrust their assertions; at yet another, he would relapse into mysticism, and, wrapt in his reveries, lose sight of the gravity of the emergency that confronted him.
So glaring a mismanagement of national affairs emboldened the clerical order, whose members were now hurling with malignant zeal anathemas from their pulpits, and were vociferously inciting superstitious congregations to take up arms against the upholders of a much hated creed, to insult the honor of their women folk, to plunder their property and harass and injure their children. "What of the signs and prodigies," they thundered before countless assemblies, "that must needs usher in the advent of the Qa'im? What of the Major and Minor Occultations? What of the cities of Jabulqa and Jabulsa? How are we to explain the sayings of Husayn-ibn-Ruh, and what interpretation should be given to the authenticated traditions ascribed to Ibn-i-Mihriyar? Where are the Men of the Unseen, who are to traverse, in a week, the whole surface of the earth? What of the conquest of the East and West which the Qa'im is to effect on His appearance? Where is the one-eyed Anti-Christ and the ass on which he is to mount? What of Sufyan and his dominion?" "Are we," they noisily remonstrated, "are we to account as a dead letter the indubitable, the unnumbered traditions of our holy Imams, or are we to extinguish with fire and sword this brazen heresy that has dared to lift its head in our land?"
To these defamations, threats and protestations the learned andPage 37
resolute champions of a misrepresented Faith, following the example of their Leader, opposed unhesitatingly treatises, commentaries and refutations, assiduously written, cogent in their argument, replete with testimonies, lucid, eloquent and convincing, affirming their belief in the Prophethood of Muhammad, in the legitimacy of the Imams, in the spiritual sovereignty of the Sahibu'z-Zaman (the Lord of the Age), interpreting in a masterly fashion the obscure, the designedly allegorical and abstruse traditions, verses and prophecies in the Islamic holy Writ, and adducing, in support of their contention, the meekness and apparent helplessness of the Imam Husayn who, despite his defeat, his discomfiture and ignominious martyrdom, had been hailed by their antagonists as the very embodiment and the matchless symbol of God's all-conquering sovereignty and power.
This fierce, nation-wide controversy had assumed alarming proportions when Muhammad Shah finally succumbed to his illness, precipitating by his death the downfall of his favorite and all-powerful minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi, who, soon stripped of the treasures he had amassed, fell into disgrace, was expelled from the capital, and sought refuge in Karbila. The seventeen year old Nasiri'd-Din Mirza ascended the throne, leaving the direction of affairs to the obdurate, the iron-hearted Amir-Nizam, Mirza Taqi Khan, who, without consulting his fellow-ministers, decreed that immediate and condign punishment be inflicted on the hapless Babis. Governors, magistrates and civil servants, throughout the provinces, instigated by the monstrous campaign of vilification conducted by the clergy, and prompted by their lust for pecuniary rewards, vied in their respective spheres with each other in hounding and heaping indignities on the adherents of an outlawed Faith. For the first time in the Faith's history a systematic campaign in which the civil and ecclesiastical powers were banded together was being launched against it, a campaign that was to culminate in the horrors experienced by Bahá'u'lláh in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran and His subsequent banishment to Iraq. Government, clergy and people arose, as one man, to assault and exterminate their common enemy. In remote and isolated centers the scattered disciples of a persecuted community were pitilessly struck down by the sword of their foes, while in centers where large numbers had congregated measures were taken in self-defense, which, misconstrued by a cunning and deceitful adversary, served in their turn to inflame still further the hostility of the authorities, and multiply the outrages perpetrated by the oppressor. In the East at Shaykh Tabarsi, in the south in Nayriz, in the west in Zanjan, andPage 38
in the capital itself, massacres, upheavals, demonstrations, engagements, sieges, acts of treachery proclaimed, in rapid succession, the violence of the storm which had broken out, and exposed the bankruptcy, and blackened the annals, of a proud yet degenerate people.
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.
It will be unnecessary to attempt even an abbreviated narrative of this tragic episode, however grave its import, however much misconstruedPage 39
by adverse chroniclers and historians. A glance over its salient features will suffice for the purpose of these pages. We note, as we conjure up the events of this great tragedy, the fortitude, the intrepidity, the discipline and the resourcefulness of its heroes, contrasting sharply with the turpitude, the cowardice, the disorderliness and the inconstancy of their opponents. We observe the sublime patience, the noble restraint exercised by one of its principal actors, the lion-hearted Mulla Husayn, who persistently refused to unsheathe his sword until an armed and angry multitude, uttering the foulest invectives, had gathered at a farsang's distance from Barfurush to block his way, and had mortally struck down seven of his innocent and staunch companions. We are filled with admiration for the tenacity of faith of that same Mulla Husayn, demonstrated by his resolve to persevere in sounding the adhan, while besieged in the caravanserai of Sabsih-Maydan, though three of his companions, who had successively ascended to the roof of the inn, with the express purpose of performing that sacred rite, had been instantly killed by the bullets of the enemy. We marvel at the spirit of renunciation that prompted those sore pressed sufferers to contemptuously ignore the possessions left behind by their fleeing enemy; that led them to discard their own belongings, and content themselves with their steeds and swords; that induced the father of Badi', one of that gallant company, to fling unhesitatingly by the roadside the satchel, full of turquoises which he had brought from his father's mine in Nishapur; that led Mirza Muhammad-Taqiy-i-Juvayni to cast away a sum equivalent in value in silver and gold; and impelled those same companions to disdain, and refuse even to touch, the costly furnishings and the coffers of gold and silver which the demoralized and shame-laden Prince Mihdi-Quli Mirza, the commander of the army of Mazindaran and a brother of Muhammad Shah, had left behind in his headlong flight from his camp. We cannot but esteem the passionate sincerity with which Mulla Husayn pleaded with the Prince, and the formal assurance he gave him, disclaiming, in no uncertain terms, any intention on his part or that of his fellow-disciples of usurping the authority of the Shah or of subverting the foundations of his state. We cannot but view with contempt the conduct of that arch-villain, the hysterical, the cruel and overbearing Sa'idu'l-'Ulama, who, alarmed at the approach of those same companions, flung, in a frenzy of excitement, and before an immense crowd of men and women, his turban to the ground, tore open the neck of his shirt, and, bewailing the plight into which Islam had fallen, implored his congregation to fly to armsPage 40
and cut down the approaching band. We are struck with wonder as we contemplate the super-human prowess of Mulla Husayn which enabled him, notwithstanding his fragile frame and trembling hand, to slay a treacherous foe who had taken shelter behind a tree, by cleaving with a single stroke of his sword the tree, the man and his musket in twain. We are stirred, moreover, by the scene of the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh at the Fort, and the indefinable joy it imparted to Mulla Husayn, the reverent reception accorded Him by His fellow-disciples, His inspection of the fortifications which they had hurriedly erected for their protection, and the advice He gave them, which resulted in the miraculous deliverance of Quddus, in his subsequent and close association with the defenders of that Fort, and in his effective participation in the exploits connected with its siege and eventual destruction. We are amazed at the serenity and sagacity of that same Quddus, the confidence he instilled on his arrival, the resourcefulness he displayed, the fervor and gladness with which the besieged listened, at morn and at even-tide, to the voice intoning the verses of his celebrated commentary on the Sad of Samad, to which he had already, while in Sari, devoted a treatise thrice as voluminous as the Qur'an itself, and which he was now, despite the tumultuary attacks of the enemy and the privations he and his companions were enduring, further elucidating by adding to that interpretation as many verses as he had previously written. We remember with thrilling hearts that memorable encounter when, at the cry "Mount your steeds, O heroes of God!" Mulla Husayn, accompanied by two hundred and two of the beleaguered and sorely-distressed companions, and preceded by Quddus, emerged before daybreak from the Fort, and, raising the shout of "Ya Sahibu'z-Zaman!", rushed at full charge towards the stronghold of the Prince, and penetrated to his private apartments, only to find that, in his consternation, he had thrown himself from a back window into the moat, and escaped bare-footed, leaving his host confounded and routed. We see relived in poignant memory that last day of Mulla Husayn's earthly life, when, soon after midnight, having performed his ablutions, clothed himself in new garments, and attired his head with the Báb's turban, he mounted his charger, ordered the gate of the Fort to be opened, rode out at the head of three hundred and thirteen of his companions, shouting aloud "Ya Sahibu'z-Zaman!", charged successively the seven barricades erected by the enemy, captured every one of them, notwithstanding the bullets that were raining upon him, swiftly dispatched their defenders, and had scattered their forces when, in the ensuing tumult,Page 41
his steed became suddenly entangled in the rope of a tent, and before he could extricate himself he was struck in the breast by a bullet which the cowardly Abbas-Quli Khan-i-Larijani had discharged, while lying in ambush in the branches of a neighboring tree. We acclaim the magnificent courage that, in a subsequent encounter, inspired nineteen of those stout-hearted companions to plunge headlong into the camp of an enemy that consisted of no less than two regiments of infantry and cavalry, and to cause such consternation that one of their leaders, the same Abbas-Quli Khan, falling from his horse, and leaving in his distress one of his boots hanging from the stirrup, ran away, half-shod and bewildered, to the Prince, and confessed the ignominious reverse he had suffered. Nor can we fail to note the superb fortitude with which these heroic souls bore the load of their severe trials; when their food was at first reduced to the flesh of horses brought away from the deserted camp of the enemy; when later they had to content themselves with such grass as they could snatch from the fields whenever they obtained a respite from their besiegers; when they were forced, at a later stage, to consume the bark of the trees and the leather of their saddles, of their belts, of their scabbards and of their shoes; when during eighteen days they had nothing but water of which they drank a mouthful every morning; when the cannon fire of the enemy compelled them to dig subterranean passages within the Fort, where, dwelling amid mud and water, with garments rotting away with damp, they had to subsist on ground up bones; and when, at last, oppressed by gnawing hunger, they, as attested by a contemporary chronicler, were driven to disinter the steed of their venerated leader, Mulla Husayn, cut it into pieces, grind into dust its bones, mix it with the putrified meat, and, making it into a stew, avidly devour it.
Nor can reference be omitted to the abject treachery to which the impotent and discredited Prince eventually resorted, and his violation of his so-called irrevocable oath, inscribed and sealed by him on the margin of the opening surih of the Qur'an, whereby he, swearing by that holy Book, undertook to set free all the defenders of the Fort, pledged his honor that no man in his army or in the neighborhood would molest them, and that he would himself, at his own expense, arrange for their safe departure to their homes. And lastly, we call to remembrance, the final scene of that sombre tragedy, when, as a result of the Prince's violation of his sacred engagement, a number of the betrayed companions of Quddus were assembled in the camp of the enemy, were stripped of their possessions, and sold as slaves,Page 42
the rest being either killed by the spears and swords of the officers, or torn asunder, or bound to trees and riddled with bullets, or blown from the mouths of cannon and consigned to the flames, or else being disemboweled and having their heads impaled on spears and lances. Quddus, their beloved leader, was by yet another shameful act of the intimidated Prince surrendered into the hands of the diabolical Sa'idu'l-'Ulama who, in his unquenchable hostility and aided by the mob whose passions he had sedulously inflamed, stripped his victim of his garments, loaded him with chains, paraded him through the streets of Barfurush, and incited the scum of its female inhabitants to execrate and spit upon him, assail him with knives and axes, mutilate his body, and throw the tattered fragments into a fire.
This stirring episode, so glorious for the Faith, so blackening to the reputation of its enemies -- an episode which must be regarded as a rare phenomenon in the history of modern times -- was soon succeeded by a parallel upheaval, strikingly similar in its essential features. The scene of woeful tribulations was now shifted to the south, to the province of Fars, not far from the city where the dawning light of the Faith had broken. Nayriz and its environs were made to sustain the impact of this fresh ordeal in all its fury. The Fort of Khajih, in the vicinity of the Chinar-Sukhtih quarter of that hotly agitated village became the storm-center of the new conflagration. The hero who towered above his fellows, valiantly struggled, and fell a victim to its devouring flames was that "unique and peerless figure of his age," the far-famed Siyyid Yahyay-i-Darabi, better known as Vahid. Foremost among his perfidious adversaries, who kindled and fed the fire of this conflagration was the base and fanatical governor of Nayriz, Zaynu'l-'Abidin Khan, seconded by Abdu'llah Khan, the Shuja'u'l-Mulk, and reinforced by Prince Firuz Mirza, the governor of Shiraz. Of a much briefer duration than the Mazindaran upheaval, which lasted no less than eleven months, the atrocities that marked its closing stage were no less devastating in their consequences. Once again a handful of men, innocent, law-abiding, peace-loving, yet high-spirited and indomitable, consisting partly, in this case, of untrained lads and men of advanced age, were surprised, challenged, encompassed and assaulted by the superior force of a cruel and crafty enemy, an innumerable host of able-bodied men who, though well-trained, adequately equipped and continually reinforced, were impotent to coerce into submission, or subdue, the spirit of their adversaries.
This fresh commotion originated in declarations of faith as fearlessPage 43
and impassioned, and in demonstrations of religious enthusiasm almost as vehement and dramatic, as those which had ushered in the Mazindaran upheaval. It was instigated by a no less sustained and violent outburst of uncompromising ecclesiastical hostility. It was accompanied by corresponding manifestations of blind religious fanaticism. It was provoked by similar acts of naked aggression on the part of both clergy and people. It demonstrated afresh the same purpose, was animated throughout by the same spirit, and rose to almost the same height of superhuman heroism, of fortitude, courage, and renunciation. It revealed a no less shrewdly calculated coordination of plans and efforts between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities designed to challenge and overthrow a common enemy. It was preceded by a similar categorical repudiation, on the part of the Bábis, of any intention of interfering with the civil jurisdiction of the realm, or of undermining the legitimate authority of its sovereign. It provided a no less convincing testimony to the restraint and forbearance of the victims, in the face of the ruthless and unprovoked aggression of the oppressor. It exposed, as it moved toward its climax, and in hardly less striking a manner, the cowardice, the want of discipline and the degradation of a spiritually bankrupt foe. It was marked, as it approached its conclusion, by a treachery as vile and shameful. It ended in a massacre even more revolting in the horrors it evoked and the miseries it engendered. It sealed the fate of Vahid who, by his green turban, the emblem of his proud lineage, was bound to a horse and dragged ignominiously through the streets, after which his head was cut off, was stuffed with straw, and sent as a trophy to the feasting Prince in Shiraz, while his body was abandoned to the mercy of the infuriated women of Nayriz, who, intoxicated with barbarous joy by the shouts of exultation raised by a triumphant enemy, danced, to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals, around it. And finally, it brought in its wake, with the aid of no less than five thousand men, specially commissioned for this purpose, a general and fierce onslaught on the defenseless Babis, whose possessions were confiscated, whose houses were destroyed, whose stronghold was burned to the ground, whose women and children were captured, and some of whom, stripped almost naked, were mounted on donkeys, mules and camels, and led through rows of heads hewn from the lifeless bodies of their fathers, brothers, sons and husbands, who previously had been either branded, or had their nails torn out, or had been lashed to death, or had spikes hammered into their hands and feet, or had incisions made in their noses throughPage 44
which strings were passed, and by which they were led through the streets before the gaze of an irate and derisive multitude.
This turmoil, so ravaging, so distressing, had hardly subsided when another conflagration, even more devastating than the two previous upheavals, was kindled in Zanjan and its immediate surroundings. Unprecedented in both its duration and in the number of those who were swept away by its fury, this violent tempest that broke out in the west of Persia, and in which Mulla Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zanjani, surnamed Hujjat, one of the ablest and most formidable champions of the Faith, together with no less than eighteen hundred of his fellow-disciples, drained the cup of martyrdom, defined more sharply than ever the unbridgeable gulf that separated the torchbearers of the newborn Faith from the civil and ecclesiastical exponents of a gravely shaken Order. The chief figures mainly responsible for, and immediately concerned with, this ghastly tragedy were the envious and hypocritical Amir Arslan Khan, the Majdu'd-Dawlih, a maternal uncle of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, and his associates, the Sadru'd-Dawliy-i-Isfahani and Muhammad Khan, the Amir-Tuman, who were assisted, on the one hand, by substantial military reinforcements dispatched by order of the Amir-Nizam, and aided, on the other, by the enthusiastic moral support of the entire ecclesiastical body in Zanjan. The spot that became the theatre of heroic exertions, the scene of intense sufferings, and the target for furious and repeated assaults, was the Fort of Ali-Mardan Khan, which at one time sheltered no less than three thousand Babis, including men, women and children, the tale of whose agonies is unsurpassed in the annals of a whole century.
A brief reference to certain outstanding features of this mournful episode, endowing the Faith, in its infancy, with measureless potentialities, will suffice to reveal its distinctive character. The pathetic scenes following upon the division of the inhabitants of Zanjan into two distinct camps, by the order of its governor -- a decision dramatically proclaimed by a crier, and which dissolved ties of worldly interest and affection in favor of a mightier loyalty; the reiterated exhortations addressed by Hujjat to the besieged to refrain from aggression and acts of violence; his affirmation, as he recalled the tragedy of Mazindaran, that their victory consisted solely in sacrificing their all on the altar of the Cause of the Sahibu'z-Zaman, and his declaration of the unalterable intention of his companions to serve their sovereign loyally and to be the well-wishers of his people; the astounding intrepidity with which these same companions repelledPage 45
the ferocious onslaught launched by the Sadru'd-Dawlih, who eventually was obliged to confess his abject failure, was reprimanded by the Shah and was degraded from his rank; the contempt with which the occupants of the Fort met the appeals of the crier seeking on behalf of an exasperated enemy to inveigle them into renouncing their Cause and to beguile them by the generous offers and promises of the sovereign; the resourcefulness and incredible audacity of Zaynab, a village maiden, who, fired with an irrepressible yearning to throw in her lot with the defenders of the Fort, disguised herself in male attire, cut off her locks, girt a sword about her waist, and, raising the cry of Ya Sahibu'z-Zaman!" rushed headlong in pursuit of the assailants, and who, disdainful of food and sleep, continued, during a period of five months, in the thick of the turmoil, to animate the zeal and to rush to the rescue of her men companions; the stupendous uproar raised by the guards who manned the barricades as they shouted the five invocations prescribed by the Báb, on the very night on which His instructions had been received -- an uproar which precipitated the death of a few persons in the camp of the enemy, caused the dissolute officers to drop instantly their wine-glasses to the ground and to overthrow the gambling-tables, and hurry forth bare-footed, and induced others to run half-dressed into the wilderness, or flee panic-stricken to the homes of the ulamas -- these stand out as the high lights of this bloody contest. We recall, likewise, the contrast between the disorder, the cursing, the ribald laughter, the debauchery and shame that characterized the camp of the enemy, and the atmosphere of reverent devotion that filled the Fort, from which anthems of praise and hymns of joy were continually ascending. Nor can we fail to note the appeal addressed by Hujjat and his chief supporters to the Shah, repudiating the malicious assertions of their foes, assuring him of their loyalty to him and his government, and of their readiness to establish in his presence the soundness of their Cause; the interception of these messages by the governor and the substitution by him of forged letters loaded with abuse which he dispatched in their stead to Tihran; the enthusiastic support extended by the female occupants of the Fort, the shouts of exultation which they raised, the eagerness with which some of them, disguised in the garb of men, rushed to reinforce its defences and to supplant their fallen brethren, while others ministered to the sick, and carried on their shoulders skins of water for the wounded, and still others, like the Carthaginian women of old, cut off their long hair and bound the thick coils around the guns to reinforce them; the foul treacheryPage 46
of the besiegers, who, on the very day they had drawn up and written out an appeal for peace and, enclosing with it a sealed copy of the Qur'an as a testimony of their pledge, had sent it to Hujjat, did not shrink from throwing into a dungeon the members of the delegation, including the children, which had been sent by him to treat with them, from tearing out the beard of the venerated leader of that delegation, and from savagely mutilating one of his fellow-disciples. We call to mind, moreover, the magnanimity of Hujjat who, though afflicted with the sudden loss of both his wife and child, continued with unruffled calm in exhorting his companions to exercise forbearance and to resign themselves to the will of God, until he himself succumbed to a wound he had received from the enemy; the barbarous revenge which an adversary incomparably superior in numbers and equipment wreaked upon its victims, giving them over to a massacre and pillage, unexampled in scope and ferocity, in which a rapacious army, a greedy populace and an unappeasable clergy freely indulged; the exposure of the captives, of either sex, hungry and ill-clad, during no less than fifteen days and nights, to the biting cold of an exceptionally severe winter, while crowds of women danced merrily around them, spat in their faces and insulted them with the foulest invectives; the savage cruelty that condemned others to be blown from guns, to be plunged into ice-cold water and lashed severely, to have their skulls soaked in boiling oil, to be smeared with treacle and left to perish in the snow; and finally, the insatiable hatred that impelled the crafty governor to induce through his insinuations the seven year old son of Hujjat to disclose the burial-place of his father, that drove him to violate the grave, disinter the corpse, order it to be dragged to the sound of drums and trumpets through the streets of Zanjan, and be exposed, for three days and three nights, to unspeakable injuries. These, and other similar incidents connected with the epic story of the Zanjan upheaval, characterized by Lord Curzon as a "terrific siege and slaughter," combine to invest it with a sombre glory unsurpassed by any episode of a like nature in the records of the Heroic Age of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
To the tide of calamity which, during the concluding years of the Báb's ministry, was sweeping with such ominous fury the provinces of Persia, whether in the East, in the South, or in the West, the heart and center of the realm itself could not remain impervious. Four months before the Báb's martyrdom Tihran in its turn was to participate, to a lesser degree and under less dramaticPage 47
circumstances, in the carnage that was besmirching the face of the country. A tragedy was being enacted in that city which was to prove but a prelude to the orgy of massacre which, after the Báb's execution, convulsed its inhabitants and sowed consternation as far as the outlying provinces. It originated in the orders and was perpetrated under the very eyes of the irate and murderous Amir-Nizam, supported by Mahmud Khan-i-Kalantar, and aided by a certain Husayn, one of the ulamas of Kashan. The heroes of that tragedy were the Seven Martyrs of Tihran, who represented the more important classes among their countrymen, and who deliberately refused to purchase life by that mere lip-denial which, under the name of taqiyyih, Shi'ah Islam had for centuries recognized as a wholly justifiable and indeed commendable subterfuge in the hour of peril. Neither the repeated and vigorous intercessions of highly placed members of the professions to which these martyrs belonged, nor the considerable sums which, in the case of one of them -- the noble and serene Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali, the Báb's maternal uncle -- affluent merchants of Shiraz and Tihran were eager to offer as ransom, nor the impassioned pleas of state officials on behalf of another -- the pious and highly esteemed dervish, Mirza Qurban-'Ali -- nor even the personal intervention of the Amir-Nizam, who endeavored to induce both of these brave men to recant, could succeed in persuading any of the seven to forego the coveted laurels of martyrdom. The defiant answers which they flung at their persecutors; the ecstatic joy which seized them as they drew near the scene of their death; the jubilant shouts they raised as they faced their executioner; the poignancy of the verses which, in their last moments, some of them recited; the appeals and challenges they addressed to the multitude of onlookers who gazed with stupefaction upon them; the eagerness with which the last three victims strove to precede one another in sealing their faith with their blood; and lastly, the atrocities which a bloodthirsty foe degraded itself by inflicting upon their dead bodies which lay unburied for three days and three nights in the Sabzih-Maydan, during which time thousands of so-called devout Shi'ahs kicked their corpses, spat upon their faces, pelted, cursed, derided, and heaped refuse upon them -- these were the chief features of the tragedy of the Seven Martyrs of Tihran, a tragedy which stands out as one of the grimmest scenes witnessed in the course of the early unfoldment of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Little wonder that the Báb, bowed down by the weight of His accumulated sorrows in the Fortress of Chihriq, should have acclaimed and glorified them, in the pagesPage 48
of a lengthy eulogy which immortalized their fidelity to His Cause, as those same "Seven Goats" who, according to Islamic tradition, should, on the Day of Judgment, "walk in front" of the promised Qa'im, and whose death was to precede the impending martyrdom of their true Shepherd.Page 49
The waves of dire tribulation that violently battered at the Faith, and eventually engulfed, in rapid succession, the ablest, the dearest and most trusted disciples of the Báb, plunged Him, as already observed, into unutterable sorrow. For no less than six months the Prisoner of Chihriq, His chronicler has recorded, was unable to either write or dictate. Crushed with grief by the evil tidings that came so fast upon Him, of the endless trials that beset His ablest lieutenants, by the agonies suffered by the besieged and the shameless betrayal of the survivors, by the woeful afflictions endured by the captives and the abominable butchery of men, women and children, as well as the foul indignities heaped on their corpses, He, for nine days, His amanuensis has affirmed, refused to meet any of His friends, and was reluctant to touch the meat and drink that was offered Him. Tears rained continually from His eyes, and profuse expressions of anguish poured forth from His wounded heart, as He languished, for no less than five months, solitary and disconsolate, in His prison.
The pillars of His infant Faith had, for the most part, been hurled down at the first onset of the hurricane that had been loosed upon it. Quddus, immortalized by Him as Ismu'llahi'l-Akhir (the Last Name of God); on whom Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Kullu't-Ta'am later conferred the sublime appellation of Nuqtiy-i-Ukhra (the Last Point); whom He elevated, in another Tablet, to a rank second to none except that of the Herald of His Revelation; whom He identifies, in still another Tablet, with one of the "Messengers charged with imposture" mentioned in the Qur'an; whom the Persian Bayan extolled as that fellow-pilgrim round whom mirrors to the number of eight Vahids revolve; on whose "detachment and the sincerity of whose devotion to God's will God prideth Himself amidst the Concourse on high;" whom Abdu'l-Bahá designated as the "Moon of Guidance;" and whose appearance the Revelation of St. John the Divine anticipated as one of the two "Witnesses" into whom, ere the "second woe is past," the "spirit of life from God" must enter -- such a man had, in the full bloom of his youth, suffered, in the Sabzih-Maydan of Barfurush, a death which even Jesus Christ, as attested by Bahá'u'lláh,Page 50
had not faced in the hour of His greatest agony. Mulla Husayn, the first Letter of the Living, surnamed the Bábu'l-Báb (the Gate of the Gate); designated as the "Primal Mirror;" on whom eulogies, prayers and visiting Tablets of a number equivalent to thrice the volume of the Qur'an had been lavished by the pen of the Báb; referred to in these eulogies as "beloved of My Heart;" the dust of whose grave, that same Pen had declared, was so potent as to cheer the sorrowful and heal the sick; whom "the creatures, raised in the beginning and in the end" of the Bábi Dispensation, envy, and will continue to envy till the "Day of Judgment;" whom the Kitáb-i-Iqan acclaimed as the one but for whom "God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory;" to whom Siyyid Kazim had paid such tribute that his disciples suspected that the recipient of such praise might well be the promised One Himself -- such a one had likewise, in the prime of his manhood, died a martyr's death at Tabarsi. Vahid, pronounced in the Kitáb-i-Iqan to be the "unique and peerless figure of his age," a man of immense erudition and the most preeminent figure to enlist under the banner of the new Faith, to whose "talents and saintliness," to whose "high attainments in the realm of science and philosophy" the Báb had testified in His Dala'il-i-Sab'ih (Seven Proofs), had already, under similar circumstances, been swept into the maelstrom of another upheaval, and was soon to quaff in his turn the cup drained by the heroic martyrs of Mazindaran. Hujjat, another champion of conspicuous audacity, of unsubduable will, of remarkable originality and vehement zeal, was being, swiftly and inevitably, drawn into the fiery furnace whose flames had already enveloped Zanjan and its environs. The Báb's maternal uncle, the only father He had known since His childhood, His shield and support and the trusted guardian of both His mother and His wife, had, moreover, been sundered from Him by the axe of the executioner in Tihran. No less than half of His chosen disciples, the Letters of the Living, had already preceded Him in the field of martyrdom. Tahirih, though still alive, was courageously pursuing a course that was to lead her inevitably to her doom.
A fast ebbing life, so crowded with the accumulated anxieties, disappointments, treacheries and sorrows of a tragic ministry, now moved swiftly towards its climax. The most turbulent period of the Heroic Age of the new Dispensation was rapidly attaining its culmination. The cup of bitter woes which the Herald of that Dispensation had tasted was now full to overflowing. Indeed, He Himself hadPage 51
already foreshadowed His own approaching death. In the Kitáb-i-Panj-Sha'n, one of His last works, He had alluded to the fact that the sixth Naw-Ruz after the declaration of His mission would be the last He was destined to celebrate on earth. In His interpretation of the letter Ha, He had voiced His craving for martyrdom, while in the Qayyumu'l-Asma' He had actually prophesied the inevitability of such a consummation of His glorious career. Forty days before His final departure from Chihriq He had even collected all the documents in His possession, and placed them, together with His pen-case, His seals and His rings, in the hands of Mulla Baqir, a Letter of the Living, whom He instructed to entrust them to Mulla Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qazvini, surnamed Mirza Ahmad, who was to deliver them to Bahá'u'lláh in Tihran.
While the convulsions of Mazindaran and Nayriz were pursuing their bloody course the Grand Vizir of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, anxiously pondering the significance of these dire happenings, and apprehensive of their repercussions on his countrymen, his government and his sovereign, was feverishly revolving in his mind that fateful decision which was not only destined to leave its indelible imprint on the fortunes of his country, but was to be fraught with such incalculable consequences for the destinies of the whole of mankind. The repressive measures taken against the followers of the Báb, he was by now fully convinced, had but served to inflame their zeal, steel their resolution and confirm their loyalty to their persecuted Faith. The Báb's isolation and captivity had produced the opposite effect to that which the Amir-Nizam had confidently anticipated. Gravely perturbed, he bitterly condemned the disastrous leniency of his predecessor, Haji Mirza Aqasi, which had brought matters to such a pass. A more drastic and still more exemplary punishment, he felt, must now be administered to what he regarded as an abomination of heresy which was polluting the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of the realm. Nothing short, he believed, of the extinction of the life of Him Who was the fountain-head of so odious a doctrine and the driving force behind so dynamic a movement could stem the tide that had wrought such havoc throughout the land.
The siege of Zanjan was still in progress when he, dispensing with an explicit order from his sovereign, and acting independently of his counsellors and fellow-ministers, dispatched his order to Prince Hamzih Mirza, the Hishmatu'd-Dawlih, the governor of Adhirbayjan, instructing him to execute the Báb. Fearing lest the infliction of such condign punishment in the capital of the realm would set in motionPage 52
forces he might be powerless to control, he ordered that his Captive be taken to Tabriz, and there be done to death. Confronted with a flat refusal by the indignant Prince to perform what he regarded as a flagitious crime, the Amir-Nizam commissioned his own brother, Mirza Hasan Khan, to execute his orders. The usual formalities designed to secure the necessary authorization from the leading mujtahids of Tabriz were hastily and easily completed. Neither Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani, however, who had penned the Báb's death-warrant on the very day of His examination in Tabriz, nor Haji Mirza Baqir, nor Mulla Murtada-Quli, to whose houses their Victim was ignominiously led by the farrash-bashi, by order of the Grand Vizir, condescended to meet face to face their dreaded Opponent.
Immediately before and soon after this humiliating treatment meted out to the Báb two highly significant incidents occurred, incidents that cast an illuminating light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the opening phase of His martyrdom. The farrash-bashi had abruptly interrupted the last conversation which the Báb was confidentially having in one of the rooms of the barracks with His amanuensis Siyyid Husayn, and was drawing the latter aside, and severely rebuking him, when he was thus addressed by his Prisoner: "Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me. Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall it be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention." To the Christian Sam Khan -- the colonel of the Armenian regiment ordered to carry out the execution -- who, seized with fear lest his act should provoke the wrath of God, had begged to be released from the duty imposed upon him, the Báb gave the following assurance: "Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you of your perplexity."
Sam Khan accordingly set out to discharge his duty. A spike was driven into a pillar which separated two rooms of the barracks facing the square. Two ropes were fastened to it from which the Báb and one of his disciples, the youthful and devout Mirza Muhammad-'Ali-i-Zunuzi, surnamed Anis, who had previously flung himself at the feet of his Master and implored that under no circumstances he be sent away from Him, were separately suspended. The firing squad ranged itself in three files, each of two hundred and fifty men. Each file in turn opened fire until the whole detachment had discharged its bullets. So dense was the smoke from the seven hundred and fifty rifles that the sky was darkened. As soon as the smoke hadPage 53
cleared away the astounded multitude of about ten thousand souls, who had crowded onto the roof of the barracks, as well as the tops of the adjoining houses, beheld a scene which their eyes could scarcely believe.
The Báb had vanished from their sight! Only his companion remained, alive and unscathed, standing beside the wall on which they had been suspended. The ropes by which they had been hung alone were severed. "The Siyyid-i-Báb has gone from our sight!" cried out the bewildered spectators. A frenzied search immediately ensued. He was found, unhurt and unruffled, in the very room He had occupied the night before, engaged in completing His interrupted conversation with His amanuensis. "I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn" were the words with which the Prisoner, so providentially preserved, greeted the appearance of the farrash-bashi, "Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention." Recalling the bold assertion his Prisoner had previously made, and shaken by so stunning a revelation, the farrash-bashi quitted instantly the scene, and resigned his post.
Sam Khan, likewise, remembering, with feelings of awe and wonder, the reassuring words addressed to him by the Báb, ordered his men to leave the barracks immediately, and swore, as he left the courtyard, never again, even at the cost of his life, to repeat that act. Aqa Jan-i-Khamsih, colonel of the body-guard, volunteered to replace him. On the same wall and in the same manner the Báb and His companion were again suspended, while the new regiment formed in line and opened fire upon them. This time, however, their breasts were riddled with bullets, and their bodies completely dissected, with the exception of their faces which were but little marred. "O wayward generation!" were the last words of the Báb to the gazing multitude, as the regiment prepared to fire its volley, "Had you believed in Me every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and would have willingly sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you."
Nor was this all. The very moment the shots were fired a gale of exceptional violence arose and swept over the city. From noon till night a whirlwind of dust obscured the light of the sun, and blinded the eyes of the people. In Shiraz an "earthquake," foreshadowed in no less weighty a Book than the Revelation of St. John, occurred in 1268 A.H. which threw the whole city into turmoil and wrought havoc amongst its people, a havoc that was greatly aggravated byPage 54
the outbreak of cholera, by famine and other afflictions. In that same year no less than two hundred and fifty of the firing squad, that had replaced Sam Khan's regiment, met their death, together with their officers, in a terrible earthquake, while the remaining five hundred suffered, three years later, as a punishment for their mutiny, the same fate as that which their hands had inflicted upon the Báb. To insure that none of them had survived, they were riddled with a second volley, after which their bodies, pierced with spears and lances, were exposed to the gaze of the people of Tabriz. The prime instigator of the Báb's death, the implacable Amir-Nizam, together with his brother, his chief accomplice, met their death within two years of that savage act.
On the evening of the very day of the Báb's execution, which fell on the ninth of July 1850 (28th of Sha'ban 1266 A.H.), during the thirty-first year of His age and the seventh of His ministry, the mangled bodies were transferred from the courtyard of the barracks to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city. Four companies, each consisting of ten sentinels, were ordered to keep watch in turn over them. On the following morning the Russian Consul in Tabriz visited the spot, and ordered the artist who had accompanied him to make a drawing of the remains as they lay beside the moat. In the middle of the following night a follower of the Báb, Haji Sulayman Khan, succeeded, through the instrumentality of a certain Haji Allah-Yar, in removing the bodies to the silk factory owned by one of the believers of Milan, and laid them, the next day, in a specially made wooden casket, which he later transferred to a place of safety. Meanwhile the mullas were boastfully proclaiming from the pulpits that, whereas the holy body of the Immaculate Imam would be preserved from beasts of prey and from all creeping things, this man's body had been devoured by wild animals. No sooner had the news of the transfer of the remains of the Báb and of His fellow-sufferer been communicated to Bahá'u'lláh than He ordered that same Sulayman Khan to bring them to Tihran, where they were taken to the Imam-Zadih-Hasan, from whence they were removed to different places, until the time when, in pursuance of Abdu'l-Bahá'í instructions, they were transferred to the Holy Land, and were permanently and ceremoniously laid to rest by Him in a specially erected mausoleum on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.
Thus ended a life which posterity will recognize as standing at the confluence of two universal prophetic cycles, the Adamic Cycle stretching back as far as the first dawnings of the world's recordedPage 55
religious history and the Bahá'í Cycle destined to propel itself across the unborn reaches of time for a period of no less than five thousand centuries. The apotheosis in which such a life attained its consummation marks, as already observed, the culmination of the most heroic phase of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation. It can, moreover, be regarded in no other light except as the most dramatic, the most tragic event transpiring within the entire range of the first Bahá'í century. Indeed it can be rightly acclaimed as unparalleled in the annals of the lives of all the Founders of the world's existing religious systems.
So momentous an event could hardly fail to arouse widespread and keen interest even beyond the confines of the land in which it had occurred. "C'est un des plus magnifiques exemples de courage qu'il ait ete donne a l'humanite de contempler," is the testimony recorded by a Christian scholar and government official, who had lived in Persia and had familiarized himself with the life and teachings of the Báb, "et c'est aussi une admirable preuve de l'amour que notre heros portait a ses concitoyens. Il s'est sacrifie pour l'humanite: pour elle il a donne son corps et son ame, pour elle il a subi les privations, les affronts, les injures, la torture et le martyre. Il a scelle de son sang le pacte de la fraternite universelle, et comme Jesus il a paye de sa vie l'annonce du regne de la concorde, de l'equite et de l'amour du prochain." "Un fait etrange, unique dans les annales de l'humanite," is a further testimony from the pen of that same scholar commenting on the circumstances attending the Báb's martyrdom. "A veritable miracle," is the pronouncement made by a noted French Orientalist. "A true God-man," is the verdict of a famous British traveler and writer. "The finest product of his country," is the tribute paid Him by a noted French publicist. "That Jesus of the age ... a prophet, and more than a prophet," is the judgment passed by a distinguished English divine. "The most important religious movement since the foundation of Christianity," is the possibility that was envisaged for the Faith the Báb had established by that far-famed Oxford scholar, the late Master of Balliol.
"Many persons from all parts of the world," is Abdu'l-Bahá'í written assertion, "set out for Persia and began to investigate wholeheartedly the matter." The Czar of Russia, a contemporary chronicler has written, had even, shortly before the Báb's martyrdom, instructed the Russian Consul in Tabriz to fully inquire into, and report the circumstances of so startling a Movement, a commission that could not be carried out in view of the Báb's execution. In countries asPage 56
remote as those of Western Europe an interest no less profound was kindled, and spread with great rapidity to literary, artistic, diplomatic and intellectual circles. "All Europe," attests the above-mentioned French publicist, "was stirred to pity and indignation... Among the literatures of my generation, in the Paris of 1890, the martyrdom of the Báb was still as fresh a topic as had been the first news of His death. We wrote poems about Him. Sarah Bernhardt entreated Catulle Mendes for a play on the theme of this historic tragedy." A Russian poetess, member of the Philosophic, Oriental and Bibliological Societies of St. Petersburg, published in 1903 a drama entitled "The Báb," which a year later was played in one of the principal theatres of that city, was subsequently given publicity in London, was translated into French in Paris, and into German by the poet Fiedler, was presented again, soon after the Russian Revolution, in the Folk Theatre in Leningrad, and succeeded in arousing the genuine sympathy and interest of the renowned Tolstoy, whose eulogy of the poem was later published in the Russian press.
It would indeed be no exaggeration to say that nowhere in the whole compass of the world's religious literature, except in the Gospels, do we find any record relating to the death of any of the religion-founders of the past comparable to the martyrdom suffered by the Prophet of Shiraz. So strange, so inexplicable a phenomenon, attested by eye-witnesses, corroborated by men of recognized standing, and acknowledged by government as well as unofficial historians among the people who had sworn undying hostility to the Bábi Faith, may be truly regarded as the most marvelous manifestation of the unique potentialities with which a Dispensation promised by all the Dispensations of the past had been endowed. The passion of Jesus Christ, and indeed His whole public ministry, alone offer a parallel to the Mission and death of the Báb, a parallel which no student of comparative religion can fail to perceive or ignore. In the youthfulness and meekness of the Inaugurator of the Bábi Dispensation; in the extreme brevity and turbulence of His public ministry; in the dramatic swiftness with which that ministry moved towards its climax; in the apostolic order which He instituted, and the primacy which He conferred on one of its members; in the boldness of His challenge to the time-honored conventions, rites and laws which had been woven into the fabric of the religion He Himself had been born into; in the role which an officially recognized and firmly entrenched religious hierarchy played as chief instigator of the outrages which He was made to suffer; in the indignities heaped upon Him; in thePage 57
suddenness of His arrest; in the interrogation to which He was subjected; in the derision poured, and the scourging inflicted, upon Him; in the public affront He sustained; and, finally, in His ignominious suspension before the gaze of a hostile multitude -- in all these we cannot fail to discern a remarkable similarity to the distinguishing features of the career of Jesus Christ.
It should be remembered, however, that apart from the miracle associated with the Báb's execution, He, unlike the Founder of the Christian religion, is not only to be regarded as the independent Author of a divinely revealed Dispensation, but must also be recognized as the Herald of a new Era and the Inaugurator of a great universal prophetic cycle. Nor should the important fact be overlooked that, whereas the chief adversaries of Jesus Christ, in His lifetime, were the Jewish rabbis and their associates, the forces arrayed against the Báb represented the combined civil and ecclesiastical powers of Persia, which, from the moment of His declaration to the hour of His death, persisted, unitedly and by every means at their disposal, in conspiring against the upholders and in vilifying the tenets of His Revelation.
The Báb, acclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh as the "Essence of Essences," the "Sea of Seas," the "Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve," "from Whom God hath caused to proceed the knowledge of all that was and shall be," Whose "rank excelleth that of all the Prophets," and Whose "Revelation transcendeth the comprehension and understanding of all their chosen ones," had delivered His Message and discharged His mission. He Who was, in the words of Abdu'l-Bahá, the "Morn of Truth" and "Harbinger of the Most Great Light," Whose advent at once signalized the termination of the "Prophetic Cycle" and the inception of the "Cycle of Fulfillment," had simultaneously through His Revelation banished the shades of night that had descended upon His country, and proclaimed the impending rise of that Incomparable Orb Whose radiance was to envelop the whole of mankind. He, as affirmed by Himself, "the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things," "one of the sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God," the "Mystic Fane," the "Great Announcement," the "Flame of that supernal Light that glowed upon Sinai," the "Remembrance of God" concerning Whom "a separate Covenant hath been established with each and every Prophet" had, through His advent, at once fulfilled the promise of all ages and ushered in the consummation of all Revelations. He the "Qa'im" (He Who ariseth) promised to the Shi'ahs,Page 58
the "Mihdi" (One Who is guided) awaited by the Sunnis, the "Return of John the Baptist" expected by the Christians, the "Ushidar-Mah" referred to in the Zoroastrian scriptures, the "Return of Elijah" anticipated by the Jews, Whose Revelation was to show forth "the signs and tokens of all the Prophets", Who was to "manifest the perfection of Moses, the radiance of Jesus and the patience of Job" had appeared, proclaimed His Cause, been mercilessly persecuted and died gloriously. The "Second Woe," spoken of in the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine, had, at long last, appeared, and the first of the two "Messengers," Whose appearance had been prophesied in the Qur'an, had been sent down. The first "Trumpet-Blast", destined to smite the earth with extermination, announced in the latter Book, had finally been sounded. "The Inevitable," "The Catastrophe," "The Resurrection," "The Earthquake of the Last Hour," foretold by that same Book, had all come to pass. The "clear tokens" had been "sent down," and the "Spirit" had "breathed," and the "souls" had "waked up," and the "heaven" had been "cleft," and the "angels" had "ranged in order," and the "stars" had been "blotted out," and the "earth" had "cast forth her burden," and "Paradise" had been "brought near," and "hell" had been "made to blaze," and the "Book" had been "set," and the "Bridge" had been "laid out," and the "Balance" had been "set up," and the "mountains scattered in dust." The "cleansing of the Sanctuary," prophesied by Daniel and confirmed by Jesus Christ in His reference to "the abomination of desolation," had been accomplished. The "day whose length shall be a thousand years," foretold by the Apostle of God in His Book, had terminated. The "forty and two months," during which the "Holy City," as predicted by St. John the Divine, would be trodden under foot, had elapsed. The "time of the end" had been ushered in, and the first of the "two Witnesses" into Whom, "after three days and a half the Spirit of Life from God" would enter, had arisen and had "ascended up to heaven in a cloud." The "remaining twenty and five letters to be made manifest," according to Islamic tradition, out of the "twenty and seven letters" of which Knowledge has been declared to consist, had been revealed. The "Man Child," mentioned in the Book of Revelation, destined to "rule all nations with a rod of iron," had released, through His coming, the creative energies which, reinforced by the effusions of a swiftly succeeding and infinitely mightier Revelation, were to instill into the entire human race the capacity to achieve its organic unification, attain maturity and thereby reach the final stage in its age-long evolution. The clarion-call addressed to the "concourse of kings andPage 59
of the sons of kings," marking the inception of a process which, accelerated by Bahá'u'lláh's subsequent warnings to the entire company of the monarchs of East and West, was to produce so widespread a revolution in the fortunes of royalty, had been raised in the Qayyumu'l-Asma'. The "Order," whose foundation the Promised One was to establish in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and the features of which the Center of the Covenant was to delineate in His Testament, and whose administrative framework the entire body of His followers are now erecting, had been categorically announced in the Persian Bayan. The laws which were designed, on the one hand, to abolish at a stroke the privileges and ceremonials, the ordinances and institutions of a superannuated Dispensation, and to bridge, on the other, the gap between an obsolete system and the institutions of a world-encompassing Order destined to supersede it, had been clearly formulated and proclaimed. The Covenant which, despite the determined assaults launched against it, succeeded, unlike all previous Dispensations, in preserving the integrity of the Faith of its Author, and in paving the way for the advent of the One Who was to be its Center and Object, had been firmly and irrevocably established. The light which, throughout successive periods, was to propagate itself gradually from its cradle as far as Vancouver in the West and the China Sea in the East, and to diffuse its radiance as far as Iceland in the North and the Tasman Sea in the South, had broken. The forces of darkness, at first confined to the concerted hostility of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of Shi'ah Persia, gathering momentum, at a later stage, through the avowed and persistent opposition of the Caliph of Islam and the Sunni hierarchy in Turkey, and destined to culminate in the fierce antagonism of the sacerdotal orders associated with other and still more powerful religious systems, had launched their initial assault. The nucleus of the divinely ordained, world-embracing Community -- a Community whose infant strength had already plucked asunder the fetters of Shi'ah orthodoxy, and which was, with every expansion in the range of its fellowship, to seek and obtain a wider and still more significant recognition of its claims to be the world religion of the future, had been formed and was slowly crystallizing. And, lastly, the seed, endowed by the Hand of Omnipotence with such vast potentialities, though rudely trampled under foot and seemingly perished from the face of the earth, had, through this very process, been vouchsafed the opportunity to germinate and remanifest itself, in the shape of a still more compelling Revelation -- a Revelation destined to blossom forth, in a later period into the flourishingPage 60
institutions of a world-wide administrative System, and to ripen, in the Golden Age as yet unborn, into mighty agencies functioning in consonance with the principles of a world-unifying, world-redeeming Order.Page 61
The Faith that had stirred a whole nation to its depth, for whose sake thousands of precious and heroic souls had been immolated and on whose altar He Who had been its Author had sacrificed His life, was now being subjected to the strain and stress of yet another crisis of extreme violence and far-reaching consequences. It was one of those periodic crises which, occurring throughout a whole century, succeeded in momentarily eclipsing the splendor of the Faith and in almost disrupting the structure of its organic institutions. Invariably sudden, often unexpected, seemingly fatal to both its spirit and its life, these inevitable manifestations of the mysterious evolution of a world Religion, intensely alive, challenging in its claims, revolutionizing in its tenets, struggling against overwhelming odds, have either been externally precipitated by the malice of its avowed antagonists or internally provoked by the unwisdom of its friends, the apostasy of its supporters, or the defection of some of the most highly placed amongst the kith and kin of its founders. No matter how disconcerting to the great mass of its loyal adherents, however much trumpeted by its adversaries as symptoms of its decline and impending dissolution, these admitted setbacks and reverses, from which it has time and again so tragically suffered, have, as we look back upon them, failed to arrest its march or impair its unity. Heavy indeed has been the toll which they exacted, unspeakable the agonies they engendered, widespread and paralyzing for a time the consternation they provoked. Yet, viewed in their proper perspective, each of them can be confidently pronounced a blessing in disguise, affording a providential means for the release of a fresh outpouring of celestial strength, a miraculous escape from imminent and still more dreadful calamities, an instrument for the fulfillment of age-old prophecies, an agency for the purification and revitalization of the life of the community, an impetus for the enlargement of its limits and the propagation of its influence, and a compelling evidence of the indestructibility of its cohesive strength. Sometimes at the height of the crisis itself, more often when the crisis was past, the significance of these trials hasPage 62
manifested itself to men's eyes, and the necessity of such experiences has been demonstrated, far and wide and beyond the shadow of a doubt, to both friend and foe. Seldom, if indeed at any time, has the mystery underlying these portentous, God-sent upheavals remained undisclosed, or the profound purpose and meaning of their occurrence been left hidden from the minds of men.
Such a severe ordeal the Faith of the Báb, still in the earliest stages of its infancy, was now beginning to experience. Maligned and hounded from the moment it was born, deprived in its earliest days of the sustaining strength of the majority of its leading supporters, stunned by the tragic and sudden removal of its Founder, reeling under the cruel blows it had successively sustained in Mazindaran, Tihran, Nayriz and Zanjan, a sorely persecuted Faith was about to be subjected through the shameful act of a fanatical and irresponsible Babi, to a humiliation such as it had never before known. To the trials it had undergone was now added the oppressive load of a fresh calamity, unprecedented in its gravity, disgraceful in its character, and devastating in its immediate consequences.
Obsessed by the bitter tragedy of the martyrdom of his beloved Master, driven by a frenzy of despair to avenge that odious deed, and believing the author and instigator of that crime to be none other than the Shah himself, a certain Sadiq-i-Tabrizi, an assistant in a confectioner's shop in Tihran, proceeded on an August day (August 15, 1852), together with his accomplice, an equally obscure youth named Fathu'llah-i-Qumi, to Niyavaran where the imperial army had encamped and the sovereign was in residence, and there, waiting by the roadside, in the guise of an innocent bystander, fired a round of shot from his pistol at the Shah, shortly after the latter had emerged on horseback from the palace grounds for his morning promenade. The weapon the assailant employed demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt the folly of that half-demented youth, and clearly indicated that no man of sound judgment could have possibly instigated so senseless an act.
The whole of Niyavaran where the imperial court and troops had congregated was, as a result of this assault, plunged into an unimaginable tumult. The ministers of the state, headed by Mirza Aqa Khan-i-Nuri, the I'timadu'd-Dawlih, the successor of the Amir-Nizam, rushed horror-stricken to the side of their wounded sovereign. The fanfare of the trumpets, the rolling of the drums and the shrill piping of the fifes summoned the hosts of His Imperial Majesty on all sides. The Shah's attendants, some on horseback, others on foot,Page 63
poured into the palace grounds. Pandemonium reigned in which every one issued orders, none listened, none obeyed, nor understood anything. Ardishir Mirza, the governor of Tihran, having in the meantime already ordered his troops to patrol the deserted streets of the capital, barred the gates of the citadel as well as of the city, charged his batteries and feverishly dispatched a messenger to ascertain the veracity of the wild rumors that were circulating amongst the populace, and to ask for special instructions.
No sooner had this act been perpetrated than its shadow fell across the entire body of the Bábi community. A storm of public horror, disgust and resentment, heightened by the implacable hostility of the mother of the youthful sovereign, swept the nation, casting aside all possibility of even the most elementary inquiry into the origins and the instigators of the attempt. A sign, a whisper, was sufficient to implicate the innocent and loose upon him the most abominable afflictions. An army of foes -- ecclesiastics, state officials and people, united in relentless hate, and watching for an opportunity to discredit and annihilate a dreaded adversary -- had, at long last, been afforded the pretext for which it was longing. Now it could achieve its malevolent purpose. Though the Faith had, from its inception, disclaimed any intention of usurping the rights and prerogatives of the state; though its exponents and disciples had sedulously avoided any act that might arouse the slightest suspicion of a desire to wage a holy war, or to evince an aggressive attitude, yet its enemies, deliberately ignoring the numerous evidences of the marked restraint exercised by the followers of a persecuted religion, proved themselves capable of inflicting atrocities as barbarous as those which will ever remain associated with the bloody episodes of Mazindaran, Nayriz and Zanjan. To what depths of infamy and cruelty would not this same enemy be willing to descend now that an act so treasonable, so audacious had been committed? What accusations would it not be prompted to level at, and what treatment would it not mete out to, those who, however unjustifiably, could be associated with so heinous a crime against one who, in his person, combined the chief magistracy of the realm and the trusteeship of the Hidden Imam?
The reign of terror which ensued was revolting beyond description. The spirit of revenge that animated those who had unleashed its horrors seemed insatiable. Its repercussions echoed as far as the press of Europe, branding with infamy its bloodthirsty participants. The Grand Vizir, wishing to reduce the chances of blood revenge, divided the work of executing those condemned to death among the princesPage 64
and nobles, his principal fellow-ministers, the generals and officers of the Court, the representatives of the sacerdotal and merchant classes, the artillery and the infantry. Even the Shah himself had his allotted victim, though, to save the dignity of the crown, he delegated the steward of his household to fire the fatal shot on his behalf. Ardishir Mirza, on his part, picketed the gates of the capital, and ordered the guards to scrutinize the faces of all those who sought to leave it. Summoning to his presence the kalantar, the darughih and the kadkhudas he bade them search out and arrest every one suspected of being a Babi. A youth named Abbas, a former servant of a well-known adherent of the Faith, was, on threat of inhuman torture, induced to walk the streets of Tihran, and point out every one he recognized as being a Babi. He was even coerced into denouncing any individual whom he thought would be willing and able to pay a heavy bribe to secure his freedom.
The first to suffer on that calamitous day was the ill-fated Sadiq, who was instantly slain on the scene of his attempted crime. His body was tied to the tail of a mule and dragged all the way to Tihran, where it was hewn into two halves, each of which was suspended and exposed to the public view, while the Tihranis were invited by the city authorities to mount the ramparts and gaze upon the mutilated corpse. Molten lead was poured down the throat of his accomplice, after having subjected him to the torture of red-hot pincers and limb-rending screws. A comrade of his, Haji Qasim, was stripped of his clothes, lighted candles were thrust into holes made in his flesh, and was paraded before the multitude who shouted and cursed him. Others had their eyes gouged out, were sawn asunder, strangled, blown from the mouths of cannons, chopped in pieces, hewn apart with hatchets and maces, shod with horse shoes, bayoneted and stoned. Torture-mongers vied with each other in running the gamut of brutality, while the populace, into whose hands the bodies of the hapless victims were delivered, would close in upon their prey, and would so mutilate them as to leave no trace of their original form. The executioners, though accustomed to their own gruesome task, would themselves be amazed at the fiendish cruelty of the populace. Women and children could be seen led down the streets by their executioners, their flesh in ribbons, with candles burning in their wounds, singing with ringing voices before the silent spectators: "Verily from God we come, and unto Him we return!" As some of the children expired on the way their tormentors would fling their bodies under the feet of their fathers and sisters who, proudly treadingPage 65
upon them, would not deign to give them a second glance. A father, according to the testimony of a distinguished French writer, rather than abjure his faith, preferred to have the throats of his two young sons, both already covered with blood, slit upon his breast, as he lay on the ground, whilst the elder of the two, a lad of fourteen, vigorously pressing his right of seniority, demanded to be the first to lay down his life.
An Austrian officer, Captain Von Goumoens, in the employ of the Shah at that time, was, it is reliably stated, so horrified at the cruelties he was compelled to witness that he tendered his resignation. "Follow me, my friend," is the Captain's own testimony in a letter he wrote two weeks after the attempt in question, which was published in the "Soldatenfreund," "you who lay claim to a heart and European ethics, follow me to the unhappy ones who, with gouged-out eyes, must eat, on the scene of the deed, without any sauce, their own amputated ears; or whose teeth are torn out with inhuman violence by the hand of the executioner; or whose bare skulls are simply crushed by blows from a hammer; or where the bazaar is illuminated with unhappy victims, because on right and left the people dig deep holes in their breasts and shoulders, and insert burning wicks in the wounds. I saw some dragged in chains through the bazaar, preceded by a military band, in whom these wicks had burned so deep that now the fat flickered convulsively in the wound like a newly extinguished lamp. Not seldom it happens that the unwearying ingenuity of the Oriental leads to fresh tortures. They will skin the soles of the Bábi's feet, soak the wounds in boiling oil, shoe the foot like the hoof of a horse, and compel the victim to run. No cry escaped from the victim's breast; the torment is endured in dark silence by the numbed sensation of the fanatic; now he must run; the body cannot endure what the soul has endured; he falls. Give him the coup de grace! Put him out of his pain! No! The executioner swings the whip, and -- I myself have had to witness it -- the unhappy victim of hundredfold tortures runs! This is the beginning of the end. As for the end itself, they hang the scorched and perforated bodies by their hands and feet to a tree head downwards, and now every Persian may try his marksmanship to his heart's content from a fixed but not too proximate distance on the noble quarry placed at his disposal. I saw corpses torn by nearly one hundred and fifty bullets." "When I read over again," he continues, "what I have written, I am overcome by the thought that those who are with you in our dearly beloved Austria may doubt the full truth of thePage 66
picture, and accuse me of exaggeration. Would to God that I had not lived to see it! But by the duties of my profession I was unhappily often, only too often, a witness of these abominations. At present I never leave my house, in order not to meet with fresh scenes of horror... Since my whole soul revolts against such infamy ... I will no longer maintain my connection with the scene of such crimes." Little wonder that a man as far-famed as Renan should, in his "Les Apotres" have characterized the hideous butchery perpetrated in a single day, during the great massacre of Tihran, as "a day perhaps unparalleled in the history of the world!"
The hand that was stretched to deal so grievous a blow to the adherents of a sorely-tried Faith did not confine itself to the rank and file of the Báb's persecuted followers. It was raised with equal fury and determination against, and struck down with equal force, the few remaining leaders who had survived the winnowing winds of adversity that had already laid low so vast a number of the supporters of the Faith. Tahirih, that immortal heroine who had already shed imperishable luster alike on her sex and on the Cause she had espoused, was swept into, and ultimately engulfed by, the raging storm. Siyyid Husayn, the amanuensis of the Báb, the companion of His exile, the trusted repository of His last wishes, and the witness of the prodigies attendant upon His martyrdom, fell likewise a victim of its fury. That hand had even the temerity to lift itself against the towering figure of Bahá'u'lláh. But though it laid hold of Him it failed to strike Him down. It imperilled His life, it imprinted on His body indelible marks of a pitiless cruelty, but was impotent to cut short a career that was destined not only to keep alive the fire which the Spirit of the Báb had kindled, but to produce a conflagration that would at once consummate and outshine the glories of His Revelation.
During those somber and agonizing days when the Báb was no more, when the luminaries that had shone in the firmament of His Faith had been successively extinguished, when His nominee, a "bewildered fugitive, in the guise of a dervish, with kashkul (alms-basket) in hand" roamed the mountains and plains in the neighborhood of Rasht, Bahá'u'lláh, by reason of the acts He had performed, appeared in the eyes of a vigilant enemy as its most redoubtable adversary and as the sole hope of an as yet unextirpated heresy. His seizure and death had now become imperative. He it was Who, scarce three months after the Faith was born, received, through the envoy of the Báb, Mulla Husayn, the scroll which bore to Him the first tidingsPage 67
of a newly announced Revelation, Who instantly acclaimed its truth, and arose to champion its cause. It was to His native city and dwelling place that the steps of that envoy were first directed, as the place which enshrined "a Mystery of such transcendent holiness as neither Hijaz nor Shiraz can hope to rival." It was Mulla Husayn's report of the contact thus established which had been received with such exultant joy by the Báb, and had brought such reassurance to His heart as to finally decide Him to undertake His contemplated pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Bahá'u'lláh alone was the object and the center of the cryptic allusions, the glowing eulogies, the fervid prayers, the joyful announcements and the dire warnings recorded in both the Qayyumu'l-Asma' and the Bayan, designed to be respectively the first and last written testimonials to the glory with which God was soon to invest Him. It was He Who, through His correspondence with the Author of the newly founded Faith, and His intimate association with the most distinguished amongst its disciples, such as Vahid, Hujjat, Quddus, Mulla Husayn and Tahirih, was able to foster its growth, elucidate its principles, reinforce its ethical foundations, fulfill its urgent requirements, avert some of the immediate dangers threatening it and participate effectually in its rise and consolidation. It was to Him, "the one Object of our adoration and love" that the Prophet-pilgrim, on His return to Bushihr, alluded when, dismissing Quddus from His presence, He announced to him the double joy of attaining the presence of their Beloved and of quaffing the cup of martyrdom. He it was Who, in the hey-day of His life, flinging aside every consideration of earthly fame, wealth and position, careless of danger, and risking the obloquy of His caste, arose to identify Himself, first in Tihran and later in His native province of Mazindaran, with the cause of an obscure and proscribed sect; won to its support a large number of the officials and notables of Nur, not excluding His own associates and relatives; fearlessly and persuasively expounded its truths to the disciples of the illustrious mujtahid, Mulla Muhammad; enlisted under its banner the mujtahid's appointed representatives; secured, in consequence of this act, the unreserved loyalty of a considerable number of ecclesiastical dignitaries, government officers, peasants and traders; and succeeded in challenging, in the course of a memorable interview, the mujtahid himself. It was solely due to the potency of the written message entrusted by Him to Mulla Muhammad Mihdiy-i-Kandi and delivered to the Báb while in the neighborhood of the village of Kulayn, that the soul of the disappointed Captive was able to rid itself, at anPage 68
hour of uncertainty and suspense, of the anguish that had settled upon it ever since His arrest in Shiraz. He it was Who, for the sake of Tahirih and her imprisoned companions, willingly submitted Himself to a humiliating confinement, lasting several days -- the first He was made to suffer -- in the house of one of the kad-khudas of Tihran. It was to His caution, foresight and ability that must be ascribed her successful escape from Qasvin, her deliverance from her opponents, her safe arrival in His home, and her subsequent removal to a place of safety in the vicinity of the capital from whence she proceeded to Khurasan. It was into His presence that Mulla Husayn was secretly ushered upon his arrival in Tihran, after which interview he traveled to Adhirbayjan on his visit to the Báb then confined in the fortress of Mah-Ku. He it was Who unobtrusively and unerringly directed the proceedings of the Conference of Badasht; Who entertained as His guests Quddus, Tahirih and the eighty-one disciples who had gathered on that occasion; Who revealed every day a Tablet and bestowed on each of the participants a new name; Who faced unaided the assault of a mob of more than five hundred villagers in Niyala; Who shielded Quddus from the fury of his assailants; Who succeeded in restoring a part of the property which the enemy had plundered and Who insured the protection and safety of the continually harassed and much abused Tahirih. Against Him was kindled the anger of Muhammad Shah who, as a result of the persistent representations of mischief-makers, was at last induced to order His arrest and summon Him to the capital -- a summons that was destined to remain unfulfilled as a result of the sudden death of the sovereign. It was to His counsels and exhortations, addressed to the occupants of Shaykh Tabarsi, who had welcomed Him with such reverence and love during His visit to that Fort, that must be attributed, in no small measure, the spirit evinced by its heroic defenders, while it was to His explicit instructions that they owed the miraculous release of Quddus and his consequent association with them in the stirring exploits that have immortalized the Mazindaran upheaval. It was for the sake of those same defenders, whom He had intended to join, that He suffered His second imprisonment, this time in the masjid of Amul to which He was led, amidst the tumult raised by no less than four thousand spectators, -- for their sake that He was bastinadoed in the namaz-khanih of the mujtahid of that town until His feet bled, and later confined in the private residence of its governor; for their sake that He was bitterly denounced by the leading mulla, and insulted by the mob who, besieging the governor's residence, pelted Him withPage 69
stones, and hurled in His face the foulest invectives. He alone was the One alluded to by Quddus who, upon his arrival at the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi, uttered, as soon as he had dismounted and leaned against the shrine, the prophetic verse "The Baqiyyatu'llah (the Remnant of God) will be best for you if ye are of those who believe." He alone was the Object of that prodigious eulogy, that masterly interpretation of the Sad of Samad, penned in part, in that same Fort by that same youthful hero, under the most distressing circumstances, and equivalent in dimensions to six times the volume of the Qur'an. It was to the date of His impending Revelation that the Lawh-i-Hurufat, revealed in Chihriq by the Báb, in honor of Dayyan, abstrusely alluded, and in which the mystery of the "Mustaghath" was unraveled. It was to the attainment of His presence that the attention of another disciple, Mulla Baqir, one of the Letters of the Living, was expressly directed by none other than the Báb Himself. It was exclusively to His care that the documents of the Báb, His pen-case, His seals, and agate rings, together with a scroll on which He had penned, in the form of a pentacle, no less than three hundred and sixty derivatives of the word Baha, were delivered, in conformity with instructions He Himself had issued prior to His departure from Chihriq. It was solely due to His initiative, and in strict accordance with His instructions, that the precious remains of the Báb were safely transferred from Tabriz to the capital, and were concealed and safeguarded with the utmost secrecy and care throughout the turbulent years following His martyrdom. And finally, it was He Who, in the days preceding the attempt on the life of the Shah, had been instrumental, while sojourning in Karbila, in spreading, with that same enthusiasm and ability that had distinguished His earlier exertions in Mazindaran, the teachings of His departed Leader, in safeguarding the interests of His Faith, in reviving the zeal of its grief-stricken followers, and in organizing the forces of its scattered and bewildered adherents.
Such a man, with such a record of achievements to His credit, could not, indeed did not, escape either the detection or the fury of a vigilant and fully aroused enemy. Afire from the very beginning with an uncontrollable enthusiasm for the Cause He had espoused; conspicuously fearless in His advocacy of the rights of the downtrodden; in the full bloom of youth; immensely resourceful; matchless in His eloquence; endowed with inexhaustible energy and penetrating judgment; possessed of the riches, and enjoying, in full measure, the esteem, power and prestige associated with an enviably high andPage 70
noble position, and yet contemptuous of all earthly pomp, rewards, vanities and possessions; closely associated, on the one hand, through His regular correspondence with the Author of the Faith He had risen to champion, and intimately acquainted, on the other, with the hopes and fears, the plans and activities of its leading exponents; at one time advancing openly and assuming a position of acknowledged leadership in the forefront of the forces struggling for that Faith's emancipation, at another deliberately drawing back with consummate discretion in order to remedy, with greater efficacy, an awkward or dangerous situation; at all times vigilant, ready and indefatigable in His exertions to preserve the integrity of that Faith, to resolve its problems, to plead its cause, to galvanize its followers, and to confound its antagonists, Bahá'u'lláh, at this supremely critical hour in its fortunes, was at last stepping into the very center of the stage so tragically vacated by the Báb -- a stage on which He was destined, for no less a period than forty years, to play a part unapproached in its majesty, pathos and splendor by any of the great Founders of the world's historic religions.
Already so conspicuous and towering a figure had, through the accusations levelled against Him, kindled the wrath of Muhammad Shah, who, after having heard what had transpired in Badasht, had ordered His arrest, in a number of farmans addressed to the khans of Mazindaran, and expressed his determination to put Him to death. Haji Mirza Aqasi, previously alienated from the Vazir (Bahá'u'lláh's father), and infuriated by his own failure to appropriate by fraud an estate that belonged to Bahá'u'lláh, had sworn eternal enmity to the One Who had so brilliantly succeeded in frustrating his evil designs. The Amir-Nizam, moreover, fully aware of the pervasive influence of so energetic an opponent, had, in the presence of a distinguished gathering, accused Him of having inflicted, as a result of His activities, a loss of no less than five kururs upon the government, and had expressly requested Him, at a critical moment in the fortunes of the Faith, to temporarily transfer His residence to Karbila. Mirza Aqa Khan-i-Nuri, who succeeded the Amir-Nizam, had endeavored, at the very outset of his ministry, to effect a reconciliation between his government and the One Whom he regarded as the most resourceful of the Báb's disciples. Little wonder that when, later, an act of such gravity and temerity was committed, a suspicion as dire as it was unfounded, should at once have crept into the minds of the Shah, his government, his court, and his people against Bahá'u'lláh. Foremost among them was the mother of the youthfulPage 71
sovereign, who, inflamed with anger, was openly denouncing Him as the would-be murderer of her son.
Bahá'u'lláh, when that attempt had been made on the life of the sovereign, was in Lavasan, the guest of the Grand Vizir, and was staying in the village of Afchih when the momentous news reached Him. Refusing to heed the advice of the Grand Vizir's brother, Ja'far-Quli Khan, who was acting as His host, to remain for a time concealed in that neighborhood, and dispensing with the good offices of the messenger specially dispatched to insure His safety, He rode forth, the following morning, with cool intrepidity, to the headquarters of the Imperial army which was then stationed in Niyavaran, in the Shimiran district. In the village of Zarkandih He was met by, and conducted to the home of, His brother-in-law, Mirza Majid, who, at that time, was acting as secretary to the Russian Minister, Prince Dolgorouki, and whose house adjoined that of his superior. Apprised of Bahá'u'lláh's arrival the attendants of the Hajibu'd-Dawlih, Haji Ali Khan, straightway informed their master, who in turn brought the matter to the attention of his sovereign. The Shah, greatly amazed, dispatched his trusted officers to the Legation, demanding that the Accused be forthwith delivered into his hands. Refusing to comply with the wishes of the royal envoys, the Russian Minister requested Bahá'u'lláh to proceed to the home of the Grand Vizir, to whom he formally communicated his wish that the safety of the Trust the Russian government was delivering into his keeping should be insured. This purpose, however, was not achieved because of the Grand Vizir's apprehension that he might forfeit his position if he extended to the Accused the protection demanded for Him.
Delivered into the hands of His enemies, this much-feared, bitterly arraigned and illustrious Exponent of a perpetually hounded Faith was now made to taste of the cup which He Who had been its recognized Leader had drained to the dregs. From Niyavaran He was conducted "on foot and in chains, with bared head and bare feet," exposed to the fierce rays of the midsummer sun, to the Siyah-Chal of Tihran. On the way He several times was stripped of His outer garments, was overwhelmed with ridicule, and pelted with stones. As to the subterranean dungeon into which He was thrown, and which originally had served as a reservoir of water for one of the public baths of the capital, let His own words, recorded in His "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf," bear testimony to the ordeal which He endured in that pestilential hole. "We were consigned for four months to a place foul beyond comparison.... Upon Our arrivalPage 72
We were first conducted along a pitch-black corridor, from whence We descended three steep flights of stairs to the place of confinement assigned to Us. The dungeon was wrapped in thick darkness, and Our fellow-prisoners numbered nearly one hundred and fifty souls: thieves, assassins and highwaymen. Though crowded, it had no other outlet than the passage by which We entered. No pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe its loathsome smell. Most of those men had neither clothes nor bedding to lie on. God alone knoweth what befell Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place!" Bahá'u'lláh's feet were placed in stocks, and around His neck were fastened the Qara-Guhar chains of such galling weight that their mark remained imprinted upon His body all the days of His life. "A heavy chain," Abdu'l-Bahá Himself has testified, "was placed about His neck by which He was chained to five other Babis; these fetters were locked together by strong, very heavy, bolts and screws. His clothes were torn to pieces, also His headdress. In this terrible condition He was kept for four months." For three days and three nights, He was denied all manner of food and drink. Sleep was impossible to Him. The place was chill and damp, filthy, fever-stricken, infested with vermin, and filled with a noisome stench. Animated by a relentless hatred His enemies went even so far as to intercept and poison His food, in the hope of obtaining the favor of the mother of their sovereign, His most implacable foe -- an attempt which, though it impaired His health for years to come, failed to achieve its purpose. "Abdu'l-Bahá," Dr. J. E. Esslemont records in his book, "tells how, one day, He was allowed to enter the prison yard to see His beloved Father, where He came out for His daily exercise. Bahá'u'lláh was terribly altered, so ill He could hardly walk, His hair and beard unkempt, His neck galled and swollen from the pressure of a heavy steel collar, His body bent by the weight of His chains."
While Bahá'u'lláh was being so odiously and cruelly subjected to the trials and tribulations inseparable from those tumultuous days, another luminary of the Faith, the valiant Tahirih, was swiftly succumbing to their devastating power. Her meteoric career, inaugurated in Karbila, culminating in Badasht, was now about to attain its final consummation in a martyrdom that may well rank as one of the most affecting episodes in the most turbulent period of Bahá'í history.
A scion of the highly reputed family of Haji Mulla Salih-i-Baraqani, whose members occupied an enviable position in the Persian ecclesiastical hierarchy; the namesake of the illustriousPage 73
Fatimih; designated as Zarrin-Taj (Crown of Gold) and Zakiyyih (Virtuous) by her family and kindred; born in the same year as Bahá'u'lláh; regarded from childhood, by her fellow-townsmen, as a prodigy, alike in her intelligence and beauty; highly esteemed even by some of the most haughty and learned ulamas of her country, prior to her conversion, for the brilliancy and novelty of the views she propounded; acclaimed as Qurrat-i-'Ayni (solace of my eyes) by her admiring teacher, Siyyid Kazim; entitled Tahirih (the Pure One) by the "Tongue of Power and Glory;" and the only woman enrolled by the Báb as one of the Letters of the Living; she had, through a dream, referred to earlier in these pages, established her first contact with a Faith which she continued to propagate to her last breath, and in its hour of greatest peril, with all the ardor of her unsubduable spirit. Undeterred by the vehement protests of her father; contemptuous of the anathemas of her uncle; unmoved by the earnest solicitations of her husband and her brothers; undaunted by the measures which, first in Karbila and subsequently in Baghdad, and later in Qasvin, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities had taken to curtail her activities, with eager energy she urged the Bábi Cause. Through her eloquent pleadings, her fearless denunciations, her dissertations, poems and translations, her commentaries and correspondence, she persisted in firing the imagination and in enlisting the allegiance of Arabs and Persians alike to the new Revelation, in condemning the perversity of her generation, and in advocating a revolutionary transformation in the habits and manners of her people.
She it was who while in Karbila -- the foremost stronghold of Shi'ah Islam -- had been moved to address lengthy epistles to each of the ulamas residing in that city, who relegated women to a rank little higher than animals and denied them even the possession of a soul -- epistles in which she ably vindicated her high purpose and exposed their malignant designs. She it was who, in open defiance of the customs of the fanatical inhabitants of that same city, boldly disregarded the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn, commemorated with elaborate ceremony in the early days of Muharram, and celebrated instead the anniversary of the birthday of the Báb, which fell on the first day of that month. It was through her prodigious eloquence and the astounding force of her argument that she confounded the representative delegation of Shi'ah, of Sunni, of Christian and Jewish notables of Baghdad, who had endeavored to dissuade her from her avowed purpose of spreading the tidings of the new Message. She it was who, with consummate skill, defended herPage 74
faith and vindicated her conduct in the home and in the presence of that eminent jurist, Shaykh Mahmud-i-Alusi, the Mufti of Baghdad, and who later held her historic interviews with the princes, the ulamas and the government officials residing in Kirmanshah, in the course of which the Báb's commentary on the Surih of Kawthar was publicly read and translated, and which culminated in the conversion of the Amir (the governor) and his family. It was this remarkably gifted woman who undertook the translation of the Báb's lengthy commentary on the Surih of Joseph (the Qayyumu'l-Asma') for the benefit of her Persian co-religionists, and exerted her utmost to spread the knowledge and elucidate the contents of that mighty Book. It was her fearlessness, her skill, her organizing ability and her unquenchable enthusiasm which consolidated her newly won victories in no less inimical a center than Qasvin, which prided itself on the fact that no fewer than a hundred of the highest ecclesiastical leaders of Islam dwelt within its gates. It was she who, in the house of Bahá'u'lláh in Tihran, in the course of her memorable interview with the celebrated Vahid, suddenly interrupted his learned discourse on the signs of the new Manifestation, and vehemently urged him, as she held Abdu'l-Bahá, then a child, on her lap, to arise and demonstrate through deeds of heroism and self-sacrifice the depth and sincerity of his faith. It was to her doors, during the height of her fame and popularity in Tihran, that the flower of feminine society in the capital flocked to hear her brilliant discourses on the matchless tenets of her Faith. It was the magic of her words which won the wedding guests away from the festivities, on the occasion of the marriage of the son of Mahmud Khan-i-Kalantar -- in whose house she was confined -- and gathered them about her, eager to drink in her every word. It was her passionate and unqualified affirmation of the claims and distinguishing features of the new Revelation, in a series of seven conferences with the deputies of the Grand Vizir commissioned to interrogate her, which she held while confined in that same house, which finally precipitated the sentence of her death. It was from her pen that odes had flowed attesting, in unmistakable language, not only her faith in the Revelation of the Báb, but also her recognition of the exalted and as yet undisclosed mission of Bahá'u'lláh. And last but not least it was owing to her initiative, while participating in the Conference of Badasht, that the most challenging implications of a revolutionary and as yet but dimly grasped Dispensation were laid bare before her fellow-disciples and the new Order permanently divorced from the laws and institutions of Islam. Such marvelousPage 75
achievements were now to be crowned by, and attain their final consummation in, her martyrdom in the midst of the storm that was raging throughout the capital.
One night, aware that the hour of her death was at hand, she put on the attire of a bride, and annointed herself with perfume, and, sending for the wife of the Kalantar, she communicated to her the secret of her impending martyrdom, and confided to her her last wishes. Then, closeting herself in her chambers, she awaited, in prayer and meditation, the hour which was to witness her reunion with her Beloved. She was pacing the floor of her room, chanting a litany expressive of both grief and triumph, when the farrashes of Aziz Khan-i-Sardar arrived, in the dead of night, to conduct her to the Ilkhani garden, which lay beyond the city gates, and which was to be the site of her martyrdom. When she arrived the Sardar was in the midst of a drunken debauch with his lieutenants, and was roaring with laughter; he ordered offhand that she be strangled at once and thrown into a pit. With that same silken kerchief which she had intuitively reserved for that purpose, and delivered in her last moments to the son of Kalantar who accompanied her, the death of this immortal heroine was accomplished. Her body was lowered into a well, which was then filled with earth and stones, in the manner she herself had desired.
Thus ended the life of this great Babi heroine, the first woman suffrage martyr, who, at her death, turning to the one in whose custody she had been placed, had boldly declared: "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women." Her career was as dazzling as it was brief, as tragic as it was eventful. Unlike her fellow-disciples, whose exploits remained, for the most part unknown, and unsung by their contemporaries in foreign lands, the fame of this immortal woman was noised abroad, and traveling with remarkable swiftness as far as the capitals of Western Europe, aroused the enthusiastic admiration and evoked the ardent praise of men and women of divers nationalities, callings and cultures. Little wonder that Abdu'l-Bahá should have joined her name to those of Sarah, of Asiyih, of the Virgin Mary and of Fatimih, who, in the course of successive Dispensations, have towered, by reason of their intrinsic merits and unique position, above the rank and file of their sex. "In eloquence," Abdu'l-Bahá Himself has written, "she was the calamity of the age, and in ratiocination the trouble of the world." He, moreover, has described her as "a brand afire with the love of God" and "a lamp aglow with the bounty of God."Page 76
Indeed the wondrous story of her life propagated itself as far and as fast as that of the Báb Himself, the direct Source of her inspiration. "Prodige de science, mais aussi prodige de beaute" is the tribute paid her by a noted commentator on the life of the Báb and His disciples. "The Persian Joan of Arc, the leader of emancipation for women of the Orient ... who bore resemblance both to the mediaeval Heloise and the neo-platonic Hypatia," thus was she acclaimed by a noted playwright whom Sarah Bernhardt had specifically requested to write a dramatized version of her life. "The heroism of the lovely but ill-fated poetess of Qasvin, Zarrin-Taj (Crown of Gold) ..." testifies Lord Curzon of Kedleston, "is one of the most affecting episodes in modern history." "The appearance of such a woman as Qurratu'l-'Ayn," wrote the well-known British Orientalist, Prof. E. G. Browne, "is, in any country and any age, a rare phenomenon, but in such a country as Persia it is a prodigy -- nay, almost a miracle. ...Had the Bábi religion no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient ... that it produced a heroine like Qurratu'l-'Ayn." "The harvest sown in Islamic lands by Qurratu'l-'Ayn," significantly affirms the renowned English divine, Dr. T. K. Cheyne, in one of his books, "is now beginning to appear ... this noble woman ... has the credit of opening the catalogue of social reforms in Persia..." "Assuredly one of the most striking and interesting manifestations of this religion" is the reference to her by the noted French diplomat and brilliant writer, Comte de Gobineau. "In Qasvin," he adds, "she was held, with every justification, to be a prodigy." "Many people," he, moreover has written, "who knew her and heard her at different periods of her life have invariably told me ... that when she spoke one felt stirred to the depths of one's soul, was filled with admiration, and was moved to tears." "No memory," writes Sir Valentine Chirol, "is more deeply venerated or kindles greater enthusiasm than hers, and the influence which she wielded in her lifetime still inures to her sex." "O Tahirih!" exclaims in his book on the Bábis the great author and poet of Turkey, Sulayman Nazim Bey, "you are worth a thousand Nasiri'd-Din Shahs!" "The greatest ideal of womanhood has been Tahirih" is the tribute paid her by the mother of one of the Presidents of Austria, Mrs. Marianna Hainisch, "... I shall try to do for the women of Austria what Tahirih gave her life to do for the women of Persia."
Many and divers are her ardent admirers who, throughout the five continents, are eager to know more about her. Many are those whose conduct has been ennobled by her inspiring example, who havePage 77
committed to memory her matchless odes, or set to music her poems, before whose eyes glows the vision of her indomitable spirit, in whose hearts is enshrined a love and admiration that time can never dim, and in whose souls burns the determination to tread as dauntlessly, and with that same fidelity, the path she chose for herself, and from which she never swerved from the moment of her conversion to the hour of her death.
The fierce gale of persecution that had swept Bahá'u'lláh into a subterranean dungeon and snuffed out the light of Tahirih also sealed the fate of the Báb's distinguished amanuensis, Siyyid Husayn-i-Yazdi, surnamed Aziz, who had shared His confinement in both Mah-Ku and Chihriq. A man of rich experience and high merit, deeply versed in the teachings of his Master, and enjoying His unqualified confidence, he, refusing every offer of deliverance from the leading officials of Tihran, yearned unceasingly for the martyrdom which had been denied him on the day the Báb had laid down His life in the barrack-square of Tabriz. A fellow-prisoner of Bahá'u'lláh in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, from Whom he derived inspiration and solace as he recalled those precious days spent in the company of his Master in Adhirbayjan, he was finally struck down, in circumstances of shameful cruelty, by that same Aziz Khan-i-Sardar who had dealt the fatal blow to Tahirih.
Another victim of the frightful tortures inflicted by an unyielding enemy was the high-minded, the influential and courageous Haji Sulayman Khan. So greatly was he esteemed that the Amir-Nizam had felt, on a previous occasion, constrained to ignore his connection with the Faith he had embraced and to spare his life. The turmoil that convulsed Tihran as a result of the attempt on the life of the sovereign, however, precipitated his arrest and brought about his martyrdom. The Shah, having failed to induce him through the Hajibu'd-Dawlih to recant, commanded that he be put to death in any way he himself might choose. Nine holes, at his express wish, were made in his flesh, in each of which a lighted candle was placed. As the executioner shrank from performing this gruesome task, he attempted to snatch the knife from his hand that he might himself plunge it into his own body. Fearing lest he should attack him the executioner refused, and bade his men tie the victim's hands behind his back, whereupon the intrepid sufferer pleaded with them to pierce two holes in his breast, two in his shoulders, one in the nape of his neck, and four others in his back -- a wish they complied with. Standing erect as an arrow, his eyes glowing with stoic fortitude, unperturbedPage 78
by the howling multitude or the sight of his own blood streaming from his wounds, and preceded by minstrels and drummers, he led the concourse that pressed round him to the final place of his martyrdom. Every few steps he would interrupt his march to address the bewildered bystanders in words in which he glorified the Báb and magnified the significance of his own death. As his eyes beheld the candles flickering in their bloody sockets, he would burst forth in exclamations of unrestrained delight. Whenever one of them fell from his body he would with his own hand pick it up, light it from the others, and replace it. "Why dost thou not dance?" asked the executioner mockingly, "since thou findest death so pleasant?" "Dance?" cried the sufferer, "In one hand the wine-cup, in one hand the tresses of the Friend. Such a dance in the midst of the market-place is my desire!" He was still in the bazaar when the flowing of a breeze, fanning the flames of the candles now burning deep in his flesh, caused it to sizzle, whereupon he burst forth addressing the flames that ate into his wounds: "You have long lost your sting, O flames, and have been robbed of your power to pain me. Make haste, for from your very tongues of fire I can hear the voice that calls me to my Beloved." In a blaze of light he walked as a conqueror might have marched to the scene of his victory. At the foot of the gallows he once again raised his voice in a final appeal to the multitude of onlookers. He then prostrated himself in the direction of the shrine of the Imam-Zadih Hasan, murmuring some words in Arabic. "My work is now finished," he cried to the executioner, "come and do yours." Life still lingered in him as his body was sawn into two halves, with the praise of his Beloved still fluttering from his dying lips. The scorched and bloody remnants of his corpse were, as he himself had requested, suspended on either side of the Gate of Naw, mute witnesses to the unquenchable love which the Báb had kindled in the breasts of His disciples.
The violent conflagration kindled as a result of the attempted assassination of the sovereign could not be confined to the capital. It overran the adjoining provinces, ravaged Mazindaran, the native province of Bahá'u'lláh, and brought about in its wake, the confiscation, the plunder and the destruction of all His possessions. In the village of Takur, in the district of Nur, His sumptuously furnished home, inherited from His father, was, by order of Mirza Abu-Talib Khan, nephew of the Grand Vizir, completely despoiled, and whatever could not be carried away was ordered to be destroyed, while its rooms, more stately than those of the palaces of Tihran, were disfiguredPage 79
beyond repair. Even the houses of the people were leveled with the ground, after which the entire village was set on fire.
The commotion that had seized Tihran and had given rise to the campaign of outrage and spoliation in Mazindaran spread even as far as Yazd, Nayriz and Shiraz, rocking the remotest hamlets, and rekindling the flames of persecution. Once again greedy governors and perfidious subordinates vied with each other in despoiling the innocent, in massacring the guiltless, and in dishonoring the noblest of their race. A carnage ensued which repeated the atrocities already perpetrated in Nayriz and Zanjan. "My pen," writes the chronicler of the bloody episodes associated with the birth and rise of our Faith, "shrinks in horror in attempting to describe what befell those valiant men and women.... What I have attempted to recount of the horrors of the siege of Zanjan ... pales before the glaring ferocity of the atrocities perpetrated a few years later in Nayriz and Shiraz." The heads of no less than two hundred victims of these outbursts of ferocious fanaticism were impaled on bayonets, and carried triumphantly from Shiraz to Abadih. Forty women and children were charred to a cinder by being placed in a cave, in which a vast quantity of firewood had been heaped up, soaked with naphtha and set alight. Three hundred women were forced to ride two by two on bare-backed horses all the way to Shiraz. Stripped almost naked they were led between rows of heads hewn from the lifeless bodies of their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers. Untold insults were heaped upon them, and the hardships they suffered were such that many among them perished.
Thus drew to a close a chapter which records for all time the bloodiest, the most tragic, the most heroic period of the first Bahá'í century. The torrents of blood that poured out during those crowded and calamitous years may be regarded as constituting the fertile seeds of that World Order which a swiftly succeeding and still greater Revelation was to proclaim and establish. The tributes paid the noble army of the heroes, saints and martyrs of that Primitive Age, by friend and foe alike, from Bahá'u'lláh Himself down to the most disinterested observers in distant lands, and from the moment of its birth until the present day, bear imperishable witness to the glory of the deeds that immortalize that Age.
"The whole world," is Bahá'u'lláh's matchless testimony in the Kitáb-i-Iqan, "marveled at the manner of their sacrifice.... The mind is bewildered at their deeds, and the soul marveleth at their fortitude and bodily endurance.... Hath any age witnessed such momentous happenings?" And again: "Hath the world, since thePage 80
days of Adam, witnessed such tumult, such violent commotion?... Methinks, patience was revealed only by virtue of their fortitude, and faithfulness itself was begotten only by their deeds." "Through the blood which they shed," He, in a prayer, referring more specifically to the martyrs of the Faith, has significantly affirmed, "the earth hath been impregnated with the wondrous revelations of Thy might and the gem-like signs of Thy glorious sovereignty. Ere-long shall she tell out her tidings, when the set time is come."
To whom else could these significant words of Muhammad, the Apostle of God, quoted by Quddus while addressing his companions in the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi, apply if not to those heroes of God who, with their life-blood, ushered in the Promised Day? "O how I long to behold the countenance of My brethren, my brethren who will appear at the end of the world! Blessed are We, blessed are they; greater is their blessedness than ours." Who else could be meant by this tradition, called Hadith-i-Jabir, recorded in the Kafi, and authenticated by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Iqan, which, in indubitable language, sets forth the signs of the appearance of the promised Qa'im? "His saints shall be abased in His time, and their heads shall be exchanged as presents, even as the heads of the Turk and the Daylamite are exchanged as presents; they shall be slain and burned, and shall be afraid, fearful and dismayed; the earth shall be dyed with their blood, and lamentation and wailing shall prevail amongst their women; these are My saints indeed."
"Tales of magnificent heroism," is the written testimony of Lord Curzon of Kedleston, "illumine the blood-stained pages of Babi history.... The 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. The heroism and martyrdom of His (the Báb) followers will appeal to many others who can find no similar phenomena in the contemporaneous records of Islam." "Babism," wrote Prof. J. Darmesteter, "which diffused itself in less than five years from one end of Persia to another, which was bathed in 1852 in the blood of its martyrs, has been silently progressing and propagating itself. If Persia is to be at all regenerate it will be through this new Faith." "Des milliers de martyrs," attests Renan in his "Les Apotres," "sont accourus pour lui (the Báb) avec allegresse au devant de la mort. Un jour sans pareil peut-etre dans l'histoire du monde fut celui de la grande boucherie qui se fit des Babis a Teheran." "One of thosePage 81
strange outbursts," declares the well-known Orientalist Prof. E. G. Browne, "of enthusiasm, faith, fervent devotion and indomitable heroism ... the birth of a Faith which may not impossibly win a place amidst the great religions of the world." And again: "The spirit which pervades the Bábis is such that it can hardly fail to affect most powerfully all subjected to its influence.... Let those who have not seen disbelieve me if they will, but, should that spirit once reveal itself to them, they will experience an emotion which they are not likely to forget." "J'avoue meme," is the assertion made by Comte de Gobineau in his book, "que, si je voyais en Europe une secte d'une nature analogue au Babysme se presenter avec des avantages tels que les siens, foi aveugle, enthousiasme extreme, courage et devouement eprouves, respect inspire aux indifferents, terreur profonde inspiree aux adversaires, et de plus, comme je l'ai dit, un proselytisme qui ne s'arrete pas, et donc les succes sont constants dans toutes les classes de la societe; si je voyais, dis-je, tout cela exister en Europe, je n'hesiterais pas a predire que, dans un temps donne, la puissance et le sceptre appartiendront de toute necessite aux possesseurs de ces grands avantages."
"The truth of the matter," is the answer which Abbas-Quli Khan-i-Larijani, whose bullet was responsible for the death of Mulla Husayn, is reported to have given to a query addressed to him by Prince Ahmad Mirza in the presence of several witnesses, "is that any one who had not seen Karbila would, if he had seen Tabarsi, not only have comprehended what there took place, but would have ceased to consider it; and had he seen Mulla Husayn of Bushruyih, he would have been convinced that the Chief of Martyrs (Imam Husayn) had returned to earth; and had he witnessed my deeds, he would assuredly have said: 'This is Shimr come back with sword and lance...' In truth, I know not what had been shown to these people, or what they had seen, that they came forth to battle with such alacrity and joy.... The imagination of man cannot conceive the vehemence of their courage and valor."
What, in conclusion, we may well ask ourselves, has been the fate of that flagitious crew who, actuated by malice, by greed or fanaticism, sought to quench the light which the Báb and His followers had diffused over their country and its people? The rod of Divine chastisement, swiftly and with unyielding severity, spared neither the Chief Magistrate of the realm, nor his ministers and counselors, nor the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the religion with which his government was indissolubly connected, nor the governorsPage 82
who acted as his representatives, nor the chiefs of his armed forces who, in varying degrees, deliberately or through fear or neglect, contributed to the appalling trials to which an infant Faith was so undeservedly subjected. Muhammad Shah himself, a sovereign at once bigoted and irresolute who, refusing to heed the appeal of the Báb to receive Him in the capital and enable Him to demonstrate the truth of His Cause, yielded to the importunities of a malevolent minister, succumbed, at the early age of forty, after sustaining a sudden reverse of fortune, to a complication of maladies, and was condemned to that "hell-fire" which, "on the Day of Resurrection," the Author of the Qayyumu'l-Asma' had sworn would inevitably devour him. His evil genius, the omnipotent Haji Mirza Aqasi, the power behind the throne and the chief instigator of the outrages perpetrated against the Báb, including His imprisonment in the mountains of Adhirbayjan, was, after the lapse of scarcely a year and six months from the time he interposed himself between the Shah and his Captive, hurled from power, deprived of his ill-gotten riches, was disgraced by his sovereign, was driven to seek shelter from the rising wrath of his countrymen in the shrine of Shah Abdu'l-'Azim, and was later ignominiously expelled to Karbila, falling a prey to disease, poverty and gnawing sorrow -- a piteous vindication of that denunciatory Tablet in which his Prisoner had foreshadowed his doom and denounced his infamy. As to the low-born and infamous Amir-Nizam, Mirza Taqi Khan, the first year of whose short-lived ministry was stained with the ferocious onslaught against the defenders of the Fort of Tabarsi, who authorized and encouraged the execution of the Seven Martyrs of Tihran, who unleashed the assault against Vahid and his companions, who was directly responsible for the death-sentence of the Báb, and who precipitated the great upheaval of Zanjan, he forfeited, through the unrelenting jealousy of his sovereign and the vindictiveness of court intrigue, all the honors he had enjoyed, and was treacherously put to death by the royal order, his veins being opened in the bath of the Palace of Fin, near Kashan. "Had the Amir-Nizam," Bahá'u'lláh is reported by Nabil to have stated, "been aware of My true position, he would certainly have laid hold on Me. He exerted the utmost effort to discover the real situation, but was unsuccessful. God wished him to be ignorant of it." Mirza Aqa Khan, who had taken such an active part in the unbridled cruelties perpetrated as a result of the attempt on the life of the sovereign, was driven from office, and placed under strict surveillance in Yazd, where he ended his days in shame and despair.Page 83
Husayn Khan, the governor of Shiraz, stigmatized as a "wine-bibber" and a "tyrant," the first who arose to ill-treat the Báb, who publicly rebuked Him and bade his attendant strike Him violently in the face, was compelled not only to endure the dreadful calamity that so suddenly befell him, his family, his city and his province, but afterwards to witness the undoing of all his labors, and to lead in obscurity the remaining days of his life, till he tottered to his grave abandoned alike by his friends and his enemies. Hajibu'd-Dawlih, that bloodthirsty fiend, who had strenuously hounded down so many innocent and defenseless Babis, fell in his turn a victim to the fury of the turbulent Lurs, who, after despoiling him of his property, cut off his beard, and forced him to eat it, saddled and bridled him, and rode him before the eyes of the people, after which they inflicted under his very eyes shameful atrocities upon his womenfolk and children. The Sa'idu'l-'Ulama, the fanatical, the ferocious and shameless mujtahid of Barfurush, whose unquenchable hostility had heaped such insults upon, and caused such sufferings to, the heroes of Tabarsi, fell, soon after the abominations he had perpetrated, a prey to a strange disease, provoking an unquenchable thirst and producing such icy chills that neither the furs he wrapped himself in, nor the fire that continually burned in his room could alleviate his sufferings. The spectacle of his ruined and once luxurious home, fallen into such ill use after his death as to become the refuse-heap of the people of his town, impressed so profoundly the inhabitants of Mazindaran that in their mutual vituperations they would often invoke upon each other's home the same fate as that which had befallen that accursed habitation. The false-hearted and ambitious Mahmud Khan-i-Kalantar, into whose custody Tahirih had been delivered before her martyrdom, incurred, nine years later, the wrath of his royal master, was dragged feet first by ropes through the bazaars to a place outside the city gates, and there hung on the gallows. Mirza Hasan Khan, who carried out the execution of the Báb under orders from his brother, the Amir-Nizam, was, within two years of that unpardonable act, subjected to a dreadful punishment which ended in his death. The Shaykhu'l-Islam of Tabriz, the insolent, the avaricious and tyrannical Mirza Ali Asghar, who, after the refusal of the bodyguard of the governor of that city to inflict the bastinado on the Báb, proceeded to apply eleven times the rods to the feet of his Prisoner with his own hand, was, in that same year, struck with paralysis, and, after enduring the most excruciating ordeal, died a miserable death -- a death that was soon followed byPage 84
the abolition of the function of the Shaykhu'l-Islam in that city. The haughty and perfidious Mirza Abu-Talib Khan who, disregarding the counsels of moderation given him by Mirza Aqa Khan, the Grand Vizir, ordered the plunder and burning of the village of Takur, as well as the destruction of the house of Bahá'u'lláh, was, a year later, stricken with plague and perished wretchedly, shunned by even his nearest kindred. Mihr-'Ali Khan, the Shuja'u'l-Mulk, who, after the attempt on the Shah's life, so savagely persecuted the remnants of the Bábi community in Nayriz, fell ill, according to the testimony of his own grandson, and was stricken with dumbness, which was never relieved till the day of his death. His accomplice, Mirza Na'im, fell into disgrace, was twice heavily fined, dismissed from office, and subjected to exquisite tortures. The regiment which, scorning the miracle that warned Sam Khan and his men to dissociate themselves from any further attempt to destroy the life of the Báb, volunteered to take their place and riddled His body with its bullets, lost, in that same year, no less than two hundred and fifty of its officers and men, in a terrible earthquake between Ardibil and Tabriz; two years later the remaining five hundred were mercilessly shot in Tabriz for mutiny, and the people, gazing on their exposed and mutilated bodies, recalled their savage act, and indulged in such expressions of condemnation and wonder as to induce the leading mujtahids to chastise and silence them. The head of that regiment, Aqa Jan Big, lost his life, six years after the Báb's martyrdom, during the bombardment of Muhammarih by the British naval forces.
The judgment of God, so rigorous and unsparing in its visitations on those who took a leading or an active part in the crimes committed against the Báb and His followers, was not less severe in its dealings with the mass of the people -- a people more fanatical than the Jews in the days of Jesus -- a people notorious for their gross ignorance, their ferocious bigotry, their willful perversity and savage cruelty, a people mercenary, avaricious, egotistical and cowardly. I can do no better than quote what the Báb Himself has written in the Dala'il-i-Sab'ih (Seven Proofs) during the last days of His ministry: "Call thou to remembrance the early days of the Revelation. How great the number of those who died of cholera! That was indeed one of the prodigies of the Revelation, and yet none recognized it! During four years the scourge raged among Shi'ah Muslims without any one grasping its significance!" "As to the great mass of its people (Persia)," Nabil has recorded in his immortal narrative, "who watched with sullen indifference the tragedy that was being enactedPage 85
before their eyes, and who failed to raise a finger in protest against the hideousness of those cruelties, they fell, in their turn, victims to a misery which all the resources of the land and the energy of its statesmen were powerless to alleviate.... From the very day the hand of the assailant was stretched forth against the Báb ... visitation upon visitation crushed the spirit out of that ungrateful people, and brought them to the very brink of national bankruptcy. Plagues, the very names of which were almost unknown to them except for a cursory reference in the dust-covered books which few cared to read, fell upon them with a fury that none could escape. That scourge scattered devastation wherever it spread. Prince and peasant alike felt its sting and bowed to its yoke. It held the populace in its grip, and refused to relax its hold upon them. As malignant as the fever which decimated the province of Gilan, these sudden afflictions continued to lay waste the land. Grievous as were these calamities, the avenging wrath of God did not stop at the misfortunes that befell a perverse and faithless people. It made itself felt in every living being that breathed on the surface of that stricken land. It afflicted the life of plants and animals alike, and made the people feel the magnitude of their distress. Famine added its horrors to the stupendous weight of afflictions under which the people were groaning. The gaunt spectre of starvation stalked abroad amidst them, and the prospect of a slow and painful death haunted their vision.... People and government alike sighed for the relief which they could nowhere obtain. They drank the cup of woe to its dregs, utterly unregardful of the Hand which had brought it to their lips, and of the Person for Whose sake they were made to suffer."Page 86
The train of dire events that followed in swift succession the calamitous attempt on the life of Nasiri'd-Din Shah mark, as already observed, the termination of the Bábi Dispensation and the closing of the initial, the darkest and bloodiest chapter of the history of the first Bahá'í century. A phase of measureless tribulation had been ushered in by these events, in the course of which the fortunes of the Faith proclaimed by the Báb sank to their lowest ebb. Indeed ever since its inception trials and vexations, setbacks and disappointments, denunciations, betrayals and massacres had, in a steadily rising crescendo, contributed to the decimation of the ranks of its followers, strained to the utmost the loyalty of its stoutest upholders, and all but succeeded in disrupting the foundations on which it rested.
From its birth, government, clergy and people had risen as one man against it and vowed eternal enmity to its cause. Muhammad Shah, weak alike in mind and will, had, under pressure, rejected the overtures made to him by the Báb Himself, had declined to meet Him face to face, and even refused Him admittance to the capital. The youthful Nasiri'd-Din Shah, of a cruel and imperious nature, had, both as crown prince and as reigning sovereign, increasingly evinced the bitter hostility which, at a later stage in his reign, was to blaze forth in all its dark and ruthless savagery. The powerful and sagacious Mu'tamid, the one solitary figure who could have extended Him the support and protection He so sorely needed, was taken from Him by a sudden death. The Sherif of Mecca, who through the mediation of Quddus had been made acquainted with the new Revelation on the occasion of the Báb's pilgrimage to Mecca, had turned a deaf ear to the Divine Message, and received His messenger with curt indifference. The prearranged gathering that was to have taken place in the holy city of Karbila, in the course of the Báb's return journey from Hijaz, had, to the disappointment of His followers who had been eagerly awaiting His arrival, to be definitely abandoned. The eighteen Letters of the Living, the principal bastions that buttressed the infant strength of the Faith, had for the most part fallen. The "Mirrors," the "Guides," the "Witnesses"Page 90
comprising the Bábi hierarchy had either been put to the sword, or hounded from their native soil, or bludgeoned into silence. The program, whose essentials had been communicated to the foremost among them, had, owing to their excessive zeal, remained for the most part unfulfilled. The attempts which two of those disciples had made to establish the Faith in Turkey and India had signally failed at the very outset of their mission. The tempests that had swept Mazindaran, Nayriz and Zanjan had, in addition to blasting to their roots the promising careers of the venerated Quddus, the lion-hearted Mulla Husayn, the erudite Vahid, and the indomitable Hujjat, cut short the lives of an alarmingly large number of the most resourceful and most valiant of their fellow-disciples. The hideous outrages associated with the death of the Seven Martyrs of Tihran had been responsible for the extinction of yet another living symbol of the Faith, who, by reason of his close kinship to, and intimate association with, the Báb, no less than by virtue of his inherent qualities, would if spared have decisively contributed to the protection and furtherance of a struggling Cause.
The storm which subsequently burst, with unexampled violence, on a community already beaten to its knees, had, moreover, robbed it of its greatest heroine, the incomparable Tahirih, still in the full tide of her victories, had sealed the doom of Siyyid Husayn, the Báb's trusted amanuensis and chosen repository of His last wishes, had laid low Mulla Abdu'l-Karim-i-Qasvini, admittedly one of the very few who could claim to possess a profound knowledge of the origins of the Faith, and had plunged into a dungeon Bahá'u'lláh, the sole survivor among the towering figures of the new Dispensation. The Báb -- the Fountainhead from whence the vitalizing energies of a newborn Revelation had flowed -- had Himself, ere the outburst of that hurricane, succumbed, in harrowing circumstances, to the volleys of a firing squad leaving behind, as titular head of a well-nigh disrupted community, a mere figurehead, timid in the extreme, good-natured yet susceptible to the slightest influence, devoid of any outstanding qualities, who now (loosed from the controlling hand of Bahá'u'lláh, the real Leader) was seeking, in the guise of a dervish, the protection afforded by the hills of his native Mazindaran against the threatened assaults of a deadly enemy. The voluminous writings of the Founder of the Faith -- in manuscript, dispersed, unclassified, poorly transcribed and ill-preserved, were in part, owing to the fever and tumult of the times, either deliberately destroyed, confiscated, or hurriedly dispatched to places of safety beyond the confines of the land inPage 91
which they were revealed. Powerful adversaries, among whom towered the figure of the inordinately ambitious and hypocritical Haji Mirza Karim Khan, who at the special request of the Shah had in a treatise viciously attacked the new Faith and its doctrines, had now raised their heads, and, emboldened by the reverses it had sustained, were heaping abuse and calumnies upon it. Furthermore, under the stress of intolerable circumstances, a few of the Bábis were constrained to recant their faith, while others went so far as to apostatize and join the ranks of the enemy. And now to the sum of these dire misfortunes a monstrous calumny, arising from the outrage perpetrated by a handful of irresponsible enthusiasts, was added, branding a holy and innocent Faith with an infamy that seemed indelible, and which threatened to loosen it from its foundations.
And yet the Fire which the Hand of Omnipotence had lighted, though smothered by this torrent of tribulations let loose upon it, was not quenched. The flame which for nine years had burned with such brilliant intensity was indeed momentarily extinguished, but the embers which that great conflagration had left behind still glowed, destined, at no distant date, to blaze forth once again, through the reviving breezes of an incomparably greater Revelation, and to shed an illumination that would not only dissipate the surrounding darkness but project its radiance as far as the extremities of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Just as the enforced captivity and isolation of the Báb had, on the one hand, afforded Him the opportunity of formulating His doctrine, of unfolding the full implications of His Revelation, of formally and publicly declaring His station and of establishing His Covenant, and, on the other hand, had been instrumental in the proclamation of the laws of His Dispensation through the voice of His disciples assembled in Badasht, so did the crisis of unprecedented magnitude, culminating in the execution of the Báb and the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh, prove to be the prelude of a revival which, through the quickening power of a far mightier Revelation, was to immortalize the fame, and fix on a still more enduring foundation, far beyond the confines of His native land, the original Message of the Prophet of Shiraz.
At a time when the Cause of the Báb seemed to be hovering on the brink of extinction, when the hopes and ambitions which animated it had, to all human seeming, been frustrated, when the colossal sacrifices of its unnumbered lovers appeared to have been made in vain, the Divine Promise enshrined within it was about to be suddenly redeemed, and its final perfection mysteriously manifested.Page 92
The Bábi Dispensation was being brought to its close (not prematurely but in its own appointed time), and was yielding its destined fruit and revealing its ultimate purpose -- the birth of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh. In this most dark and dreadful hour a New Light was about to break in glory on Persia's somber horizon. As a result of what was in fact an evolving, ripening process, the most momentous if not the most spectacular stage in the Heroic Age of the Faith was now about to open.
During nine years, as foretold by the Báb Himself, swiftly, mysteriously and irresistibly the embryonic Faith conceived by Him had been developing until, at the fixed hour, the burden of the promised Cause of God was cast amidst the gloom and agony of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran. "Behold," Bahá'u'lláh Himself, years later, testified, in refutation of the claims of those who had rejected the validity of His mission following so closely upon that of the Báb, "how immediately upon the completion of the ninth year of this wondrous, this most holy and merciful Dispensation, the requisite number of pure, of wholly consecrated and sanctified souls has been most secretly consummated." "That so brief an interval," He, moreover has asserted, "should have separated this most mighty and wondrous Revelation from Mine own previous Manifestation is a secret that no man can unravel, and a mystery such as no mind can fathom. Its duration had been foreordained."
St. John the Divine had himself, with reference to these two successive Revelations, clearly prophesied: "The second woe is past; and, behold the third woe cometh quickly." "This third woe," Abdu'l-Bahá, commenting upon this verse, has explained, "is the day of the Manifestation of Bahá'u'lláh, the Day of God, and it is near to the day of the appearance of the Báb." "All the peoples of the world," He moreover has asserted, "are awaiting two Manifestations, Who must be contemporaneous; all wait for the fulfillment of this promise." And again: "The essential fact is that all are promised two Manifestations, Who will come one following on the other." Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, that luminous star of Divine guidance who had so clearly perceived, before the year sixty, the approaching glory of Bahá'u'lláh, and laid stress upon "the twin Revelations which are to follow each other in rapid succession," had, on his part, made this significant statement regarding the approaching hour of that supreme Revelation, in an epistle addressed in his own hand to Siyyid Kazim: "The mystery of this Cause must needs be made manifest, and the secret of this Message must needs be divulged. I can say no more.Page 93
I can appoint no time. His Cause will be made known after Hin (68)."
The circumstances in which the Vehicle of this newborn Revelation, following with such swiftness that of the Báb, received the first intimations of His sublime mission recall, and indeed surpass in poignancy the soul-shaking experience of Moses when confronted by the Burning Bush in the wilderness of Sinai; of Zoroaster when awakened to His mission by a succession of seven visions; of Jesus when coming out of the waters of the Jordan He saw the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descend like a dove and light upon Him; of Muhammad when in the Cave of Hira, outside of the holy city of Mecca, the voice of Gabriel bade Him "cry in the name of Thy Lord"; and of the Báb when in a dream He approached the bleeding head of the Imam Husayn, and, quaffing the blood that dripped from his lacerated throat, awoke to find Himself the chosen recipient of the outpouring grace of the Almighty.
What, we may well inquire at this juncture, were the nature and implications of that Revelation which, manifesting itself so soon after the Declaration of the Báb, abolished, at one stroke, the Dispensation which that Faith had so newly proclaimed, and upheld, with such vehemence and force, the Divine authority of its Author? What, we may well pause to consider, were the claims of Him Who, Himself a disciple of the Báb, had, at such an early stage, regarded Himself as empowered to abrogate the Law identified with His beloved Master? What, we may further reflect, could be the relationship between the religious Systems established before Him and His own Revelation -- a Revelation which, flowing out, in that extremely perilous hour, from His travailing soul, pierced the gloom that had settled upon that pestilential pit, and, bursting through its walls, and propagating itself as far as the ends of the earth, infused into the entire body of mankind its boundless potentialities, and is now under our very eyes, shaping the course of human society?
He Who in such dramatic circumstances was made to sustain the overpowering weight of so glorious a Mission was none other than the One Whom posterity will acclaim, and Whom innumerable followers already recognize, as the Judge, the Lawgiver and Redeemer of all mankind, as the Organizer of the entire planet, as the Unifier of the children of men, as the Inaugurator of the long-awaited millennium, as the Originator of a new "Universal Cycle," as the Establisher of the Most Great Peace, as the Fountain of the Most Great Justice, as the Proclaimer of the coming of age of the entirePage 94
human race, as the Creator of a new World Order, and as the Inspirer and Founder of a world civilization.
To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the "Everlasting Father," the "Lord of Hosts" come down "with ten thousands of saints"; to Christendom Christ returned "in the glory of the Father," to Shi'ah Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the "Spirit of God" (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.
In the name He bore He combined those of the Imam Husayn, the most illustrious of the successors of the Apostle of God -- the brightest "star" shining in the "crown" mentioned in the Revelation of St. John -- and of the Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, the second of the two "witnesses" extolled in that same Book. He was formally designated Bahá'u'lláh, an appellation specifically recorded in the Persian Bayan, signifying at once the glory, the light and the splendor of God, and was styled the "Lord of Lords," the "Most Great Name," the "Ancient Beauty," the "Pen of the Most High," the "Hidden Name," the "Preserved Treasure," "He Whom God will make manifest," the "Most Great Light," the "All-Highest Horizon," the "Most Great Ocean," the "Supreme Heaven," the "Pre-Existent Root," the "Self-Subsistent," the "Day-Star of the Universe," the "Great Announcement," the "Speaker on Sinai," the "Sifter of Men," the "Wronged One of the World," the "Desire of the Nations," the "Lord of the Covenant," the "Tree beyond which there is no passing." He derived His descent, on the one hand, from Abraham (the Father of the Faithful) through his wife Katurah, and on the other from Zoroaster, as well as from Yazdigird, the last king of the Sasaniyan dynasty. He was moreover a descendant of Jesse, and belonged, through His father, Mirza Abbas, better known as Mirza Buzurg -- a nobleman closely associated with the ministerial circles of the Court of Fath-'Ali Shah -- to one of the most ancient and renowned families of Mazindaran.
To Him Isaiah, the greatest of the Jewish prophets, had alluded as the "Glory of the Lord," the "Everlasting Father," the "Prince of Peace," the "Wonderful," the "Counsellor," the "Rod come forth out of the stem of Jesse" and the "Branch grown out of His roots," Who "shall be established upon the throne of David," Who "will come with strong hand," Who "shall judge among the nations," Who "shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips slay the wicked," and Who "shall assemble thePage 95
outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." Of Him David had sung in his Psalms, acclaiming Him as the "Lord of Hosts" and the "King of Glory." To Him Haggai had referred as the "Desire of all nations," and Zachariah as the "Branch" Who "shall grow up out of His place," and "shall build the Temple of the Lord." Ezekiel had extolled Him as the "Lord" Who "shall be king over all the earth," while to His day Joel and Zephaniah had both referred as the "day of Jehovah," the latter describing it as "a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers." His Day Ezekiel and Daniel had, moreover, both acclaimed as the "day of the Lord," and Malachi described as "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" when "the Sun of Righteousness" will "arise, with healing in His wings," whilst Daniel had pronounced His advent as signalizing the end of the "abomination that maketh desolate."
To His Dispensation the sacred books of the followers of Zoroaster had referred as that in which the sun must needs be brought to a standstill for no less than one whole month. To Him Zoroaster must have alluded when, according to tradition, He foretold that a period of three thousand years of conflict and contention must needs precede the advent of the World-Savior Shah-Bahram, Who would triumph over Ahriman and usher in an era of blessedness and peace.
He alone is meant by the prophecy attributed to Gautama Buddha Himself, that "a Buddha named Maitreye, the Buddha of universal fellowship" should, in the fullness of time, arise and reveal "His boundless glory." To Him the Bhagavad-Gita of the Hindus had referred as the "Most Great Spirit," the "Tenth Avatar," the "Immaculate Manifestation of Krishna."
To Him Jesus Christ had referred as the "Prince of this world," as the "Comforter" Who will "reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment," as the "Spirit of Truth" Who "will guide you into all truth," Who "shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak," as the "Lord of the Vineyard," and as the "Son of Man" Who "shall come in the glory of His Father" "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," with "all the holy angels" about Him, and "all nations" gathered before His throne. To Him the Author of the Apocalypse had alluded as the "Glory of God," as "Alpha and Omega," "the Beginning and the End," "the First and the Last." Identifying His Revelation withPage 96
the "third woe," he, moreover, had extolled His Law as "a new heaven and a new earth," as the "Tabernacle of God," as the "Holy City," as the "New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." To His Day Jesus Christ Himself had referred as "the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory." To the hour of His advent St. Paul had alluded as the hour of the "last trump," the "trump of God," whilst St. Peter had spoken of it as the "Day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." His Day he, furthermore, had described as "the times of refreshing," "the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets since the world began."
To Him Muhammad, the Apostle of God, had alluded in His Book as the "Great Announcement," and declared His Day to be the Day whereon "God" will "come down" "overshadowed with clouds," the Day whereon "thy Lord shall come and the angels rank on rank," and "The Spirit shall arise and the angels shall be ranged in order." His advent He, in that Book, in a surih said to have been termed by Him "the heart of the Qur'an," had foreshadowed as that of the "third" Messenger, sent down to "strengthen" the two who preceded Him. To His Day He, in the pages of that same Book, had paid a glowing tribute, glorifying it as the "Great Day," the "Last Day," the "Day of God," the "Day of Judgment," the "Day of Reckoning," the "Day of Mutual Deceit," the "Day of Severing," the "Day of Sighing," the "Day of Meeting," the Day "when the Decree shall be accomplished," the Day whereon the second "Trumpet blast" will be sounded, the "Day when mankind shall stand before the Lord of the world," and "all shall come to Him in humble guise," the Day when "thou shalt see the mountains, which thou thinkest so firm, pass away with the passing of a cloud," the Day "wherein account shall be taken," "the approaching Day, when men's hearts shall rise up, choking them, into their throats," the Day when "all that are in the heavens and all that are on the earth shall be terror-stricken, save him whom God pleaseth to deliver," the Day whereon "every suckling woman shall forsake her sucking babe, and every woman that hath a burden in her womb shall cast her burden," the Day "when the earth shall shine with the light of her Lord, and the Book shall be set, and the Prophets shall be brought up, and the witnesses; and judgment shall be given between them with equity; and none shall be wronged."Page 97
The plenitude of His glory the Apostle of God had, moreover, as attested by Bahá'u'lláh Himself, compared to the "full moon on its fourteenth night." His station the Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, had, according to the same testimony, identified with "Him Who conversed with Moses from the Burning Bush on Sinai." To the transcendent character of His mission the Imam Husayn had, again according to Bahá'u'lláh, borne witness as a "Revelation whose Revealer will be He Who revealed" the Apostle of God Himself.
About Him Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, the herald of the Bábi Dispensation, who had foreshadowed the "strange happenings" that would transpire "between the years sixty and sixty-seven," and had categorically affirmed the inevitability of His Revelation had, as previously mentioned, written the following: "The Mystery of this Cause must needs be made manifest, and the Secret of this Message must needs be divulged. I can say no more, I can appoint no time. His Cause will be made known after Hin (68)" (i.e., after a while).
Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti, Shaykh Ahmad's disciple and successor, had likewise written: "The Qa'im must needs be put to death. After He has been slain the world will have attained the age of eighteen." In his Sharh-i-Qasidiy-i-Lamiyyih he had even alluded to the name "Baha." Furthermore, to his disciples, as his days drew to a close, he had significantly declared: "Verily, I say, after the Qa'im the Qayyum will be made manifest. For when the star of the former has set the sun of the beauty of Husayn will rise and illuminate the whole world. Then will be unfolded in all its glory the 'Mystery' and the 'Secret' spoken of by Shaykh Ahmad.... To have attained unto that Day of Days is to have attained unto the crowning glory of past generations, and one goodly deed performed in that age is equal to the pious worship of countless centuries."
The Báb had no less significantly extolled Him as the "Essence of Being," as the "Remnant of God," as the "Omnipotent Master," as the "Crimson, all-encompassing Light," as "Lord of the visible and invisible," as the "sole Object of all previous Revelations, including The Revelation of the Qa'im Himself." He had formally designated Him as "He Whom God shall make manifest," had alluded to Him as the "Abha Horizon" wherein He Himself lived and dwelt, had specifically recorded His title, and eulogized His "Order" in His best-known work, the Persian Bayan, had disclosed His name through His allusion to the "Son of Ali, a true and undoubted Leader of men," had, repeatedly, orally and in writing, fixed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the time of His Revelation, and warned HisPage 98
followers lest "the Bayan and all that hath been revealed therein" should "shut them out as by a veil" from Him. He had, moreover, declared that He was the "first servant to believe in Him," that He bore Him allegiance "before all things were created," that "no allusion" of His "could allude unto Him," that "the year-old germ that holdeth within itself the potentialities of the Revelation that is to come is endowed with a potency superior to the combined forces of the whole of the Bayan." He had, moreover, clearly asserted that He had "covenanted with all created things" concerning Him Whom God shall make manifest ere the covenant concerning His own mission had been established. He had readily acknowledged that He was but "a letter" of that "Most Mighty Book," "a dew-drop" from that "Limitless Ocean," that His Revelation was "only a leaf amongst the leaves of His Paradise," that "all that hath been exalted in the Bayan" was but "a ring" upon His own hand, and He Himself "a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest," Who, "turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth." He had unmistakably declared that He had "sacrificed" Himself "wholly" for Him, that He had "consented to be cursed" for His sake, and to have "yearned for naught but martyrdom" in the path of His love. Finally, He had unequivocally prophesied: "Today the Bayan is in the stage of seed; at the beginning of the manifestation of Him Whom God shall make manifest its ultimate perfection will become apparent." "Ere nine will have elapsed from the inception of this Cause the realities of the created things will not be made manifest. All that thou hast as yet seen is but the stage from the moist-germ until We clothed it with flesh. Be patient until thou beholdest a new creation. Say: Blessed, therefore, be God, the Most Excellent of Makers!"
"He around Whom the Point of the Bayan (Bab) hath revolved is come" is Bahá'u'lláh's confirmatory testimony to the inconceivable greatness and preeminent character of His own Revelation. "If all who are in heaven and on earth," He moreover affirms, "be invested in this day with the powers and attributes destined for the Letters of the Bayan, whose station is ten thousand times more glorious than that of the Letters of the Qur'anic Dispensation, and if they one and all should, swift as the twinkling of an eye, hesitate to recognize My Revelation, they shall be accounted, in the sight of God, of those that have gone astray, and regarded as 'Letters of Negation.'" "Powerful is He, the King of Divine might," He, alluding to Himself in the Kitáb-i-Iqan, asserts, "to extinguish with one letter of His wondrousPage 99
words, the breath of life in the whole of the Bayan and the people thereof, and with one letter bestow upon them a new and everlasting life, and cause them to arise and speed out of the sepulchers of their vain and selfish desires." "This," He furthermore declares, "is the king of days," the "Day of God Himself," the "Day which shall never be followed by night," the "Springtime which autumn will never overtake," "the eye to past ages and centuries," for which "the soul of every Prophet of God, of every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted," for which "all the divers kindreds of the earth have yearned," through which "God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets, and beyond them those that stand guard over His sacred and inviolable Sanctuary, the inmates of the Celestial Pavilion and dwellers of the Tabernacle of Glory." "In this most mighty Revelation," He moreover, states, "all the Dispensations of the past have attained their highest, their final consummation." And again: "None among the Manifestations of old, except to a prescribed degree, hath ever completely apprehended the nature of this Revelation." Referring to His own station He declares: "But for Him no Divine Messenger would have been invested with the Robe of Prophethood, nor would any of the sacred Scriptures have been revealed."
And last but not least is Abdu'l-Bahá'í own tribute to the transcendent character of the Revelation identified with His Father: "Centuries, nay ages, must pass away, ere the Day-Star of Truth shineth again in its mid-summer splendor, or appeareth once more in the radiance of its vernal glory." "The mere contemplation of the Dispensation inaugurated by the Blessed Beauty," He furthermore affirms, "would have sufficed to overwhelm the saints of bygone ages -- saints who longed to partake for one moment of its great glory." "Concerning the Manifestations that will come down in the future 'in the shadows of the clouds,' know verily," is His significant statement, "that in so far as their relation to the source of their inspiration is concerned they are under the shadow of the Ancient Beauty. In their relation, however, to the age in which they appear, each and every one of them 'doeth whatsoever He willeth.'" And finally stands this, His illuminating explanation, setting forth conclusively the true relationship between the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and that of the Báb: "The Revelation of the Báb may be likened to the sun, its station corresponding to the first sign of the Zodiac -- the sign Aries -- which the sun enters at the vernal equinox. The station of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, on the other hand, is represented by the sign Leo, the sun's mid-summer and highest station. By this is meant that thisPage 100
holy Dispensation is illumined with the light of the Sun of Truth shining from its most exalted station, and in the plenitude of its resplendency, its heat and glory."
To attempt an exhaustive survey of the prophetic references to Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation would indeed be an impossible task. To this the pen of Bahá'u'lláh Himself bears witness: "All the Divine Books and Scriptures have predicted and announced unto men the advent of the Most Great Revelation. None can adequately recount the verses recorded in the Books of former ages which forecast this supreme Bounty, this most mighty Bestowal."
In conclusion of this theme, I feel, it should be stated that the Revelation identified with Bahá'u'lláh abrogates unconditionally all the Dispensations gone before it, upholds uncompromisingly the eternal verities they enshrine, recognizes firmly and absolutely the Divine origin of their Authors, preserves inviolate the sanctity of their authentic Scriptures, disclaims any intention of lowering the status of their Founders or of abating the spiritual ideals they inculcate, clarifies and correlates their functions, reaffirms their common, their unchangeable and fundamental purpose, reconciles their seemingly divergent claims and doctrines, readily and gratefully recognizes their respective contributions to the gradual unfoldment of one Divine Revelation, unhesitatingly acknowledges itself to be but one link in the chain of continually progressive Revelations, supplements their teachings with such laws and ordinances as conform to the imperative needs, and are dictated by the growing receptivity, of a fast evolving and constantly changing society, and proclaims its readiness and ability to fuse and incorporate the contending sects and factions into which they have fallen into a universal Fellowship, functioning within the framework, and in accordance with the precepts, of a divinely conceived, a world-unifying, a world-redeeming Order.
A Revelation, hailed as the promise and crowning glory of past ages and centuries, as the consummation of all the Dispensations within the Adamic Cycle, inaugurating an era of at least a thousand years' duration, and a cycle destined to last no less than five thousand centuries, signalizing the end of the Prophetic Era and the beginning of the Era of Fulfillment, unsurpassed alike in the duration of its Author's ministry and the fecundity and splendor of His mission -- such a Revelation was, as already noted, born amidst the darkness of a subterranean dungeon in Tihran -- an abominable pit that had once served as a reservoir of water for one of the public baths of the city.Page 101
Wrapped in its stygian gloom, breathing its fetid air, numbed by its humid and icy atmosphere, His feet in stocks, His neck weighed down by a mighty chain, surrounded by criminals and miscreants of the worst order, oppressed by the consciousness of the terrible blot that had stained the fair name of His beloved Faith, painfully aware of the dire distress that had overtaken its champions, and of the grave dangers that faced the remnant of its followers -- at so critical an hour and under such appalling circumstances the "Most Great Spirit," as designated by Himself, and symbolized in the Zoroastrian, the Mosaic, the Christian, and Muhammadan Dispensations by the Sacred Fire, the Burning Bush, the Dove and the Angel Gabriel respectively, descended upon, and revealed itself, personated by a "Maiden," to the agonized soul of Bahá'u'lláh.
"One night in a dream," He Himself, calling to mind, in the evening of His life, the first stirrings of God's Revelation within His soul, has written, "these exalted words were heard on every side: 'Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Ere long will God raise up the treasures of the earth -- men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him.'" In another passage He describes, briefly and graphically, the impact of the onrushing force of the Divine Summons upon His entire being -- an experience vividly recalling the vision of God that caused Moses to fall in a swoon, and the voice of Gabriel which plunged Muhammad into such consternation that, hurrying to the shelter of His home, He bade His wife, Khadijih, envelop Him in His mantle. "During the days I lay in the prison of Tihran," are His own memorable words, "though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear."
In His Suratu'l-Haykal (the Surih of the Temple) He thus describes those breathless moments when the Maiden, symbolizing the "Most Great Spirit" proclaimed His mission to the entire creation: "While engulfed in tribulations I heard a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My head. Turning My face, I beheld a Maiden -- the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of My Lord -- suspendedPage 102
in the air before Me. So rejoiced was she in her very soul that her countenance shone with the ornament of the good-pleasure of God, and her cheeks glowed with the brightness of the All-Merciful. Betwixt earth and heaven she was raising a call which captivated the hearts and minds of men. She was imparting to both My inward and outer being tidings which rejoiced My soul, and the souls of God's honored servants. Pointing with her finger unto My head, she addressed all who are in heaven and all who are on earth, saying: 'By God! This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you, could ye but understand. This is the Mystery of God and His Treasure, the Cause of God and His glory unto all who are in the kingdoms of Revelation and of creation, if ye be of them that perceive.'"
In His Epistle to Nasiri'd-Din Shah, His royal adversary, revealed at the height of the proclamation of His Message, occur these passages which shed further light on the Divine origin of His mission: "O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And he bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow.... This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of Thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred.... His all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of Thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me." "By My Life!" He asserts in another Tablet, "Not of Mine own volition have I revealed Myself, but God, of His own choosing, hath manifested Me." And again: "Whenever I chose to hold My peace and be still, lo, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, standing on My right hand, aroused Me, and the Most Great Spirit appeared before My face, and Gabriel overshadowed Me, and the Spirit of Glory stirred within My bosom, bidding Me arise and break My silence."
Such were the circumstances in which the Sun of Truth arose in the city of Tihran -- a city which, by reason of so rare a privilege conferred upon it, had been glorified by the Báb as the "Holy Land," and surnamed by Bahá'u'lláh "the Mother of the world," the "Day-spring of Light," the "Dawning-Place of the signs of the Lord," the "Source of the joy of all mankind." The first dawnings of that LightPage 103
of peerless splendor had, as already described, broken in the city of Shiraz. The rim of that Orb had now appeared above the horizon of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran. Its rays were to burst forth, a decade later, in Baghdad, piercing the clouds which immediately after its rise in those somber surroundings obscured its splendor. It was destined to mount to its zenith in the far-away city of Adrianople, and ultimately to set in the immediate vicinity of the fortress-town of Akka.
The process whereby the effulgence of so dazzling a Revelation was unfolded to the eyes of men was of necessity slow and gradual. The first intimation which its Bearer received did not synchronize with, nor was it followed immediately by, a disclosure of its character to either His own companions or His kindred. A period of no less than ten years had to elapse ere its far-reaching implications could be directly divulged to even those who had been intimately associated with Him -- a period of great spiritual ferment, during which the Recipient of so weighty a Message restlessly anticipated the hour at which He could unburden His heavily laden soul, so replete with the potent energies released by God's nascent Revelation. All He did, in the course of this pre-ordained interval, was to hint, in veiled and allegorical language, in epistles, commentaries, prayers and treatises, which He was moved to reveal, that the Báb's promise had already been fulfilled, and that He Himself was the One Who had been chosen to redeem it. A few of His fellow-disciples, distinguished by their sagacity, and their personal attachment and devotion to Him, perceived the radiance of the as yet unrevealed glory that had flooded His soul, and would have, but for His restraining influence, divulged His secret and proclaimed it far and wide.Page 104
The attempt on the life of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, as stated in a previous chapter, was made on the 28th of the month of Shavval, 1268 A.H., corresponding to the 15th of August, 1852. Immediately after, Bahá'u'lláh was arrested in Niyavaran, was conducted with the greatest ignominy to Tihran and cast into the Siyah-Chal. His imprisonment lasted for a period of no less than four months, in the middle of which the "year nine" (1269), anticipated in such glowing terms by the Báb, and alluded to as the year "after Hin" by Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, was ushered in, endowing with undreamt-of potentialities the whole world. Two months after that year was born, Bahá'u'lláh, the purpose of His imprisonment now accomplished, was released from His confinement, and set out, a month later, for Baghdad, on the first stage of a memorable and life-long exile which was to carry Him, in the course of years, as far as Adrianople in European Turkey, and which was to end with His twenty-four years' incarceration in Akka.
Now that He had been invested, in consequence of that potent dream, with the power and sovereign authority associated with His Divine mission, His deliverance from a confinement that had achieved its purpose, and which if prolonged would have completely fettered Him in the exercise of His newly-bestowed functions, became not only inevitable, but imperative and urgent. Nor were the means and instruments lacking whereby his emancipation from the shackles that restrained Him could be effected. The persistent and decisive intervention of the Russian Minister, Prince Dolgorouki, who left no stone unturned to establish the innocence of Bahá'u'lláh; the public confession of Mulla Shaykh Aliy-i-Turshizi, surnamed Azim, who, in the Siyah-Chal, in the presence of the Hajibu'd-Dawlih and the Russian Minister's interpreter and of the government's representative, emphatically exonerated Him, and acknowledged his own complicity; the indisputable testimony established by competent tribunals; the unrelaxing efforts exerted by His own brothers, sisters and kindred, -- all these combined to effect His ultimate deliverance from the hands of His rapacious enemies. Another potent if less evidentPage 105
influence which must be acknowledged as having had a share in His liberation was the fate suffered by so large a number of His self-sacrificing fellow-disciples who languished with Him in that same prison. For, as Nabil truly remarks, "the blood, shed in the course of that fateful year in Tihran by that heroic band with whom Bahá'u'lláh had been imprisoned, was the ransom paid for His deliverance from the hand of a foe that sought to prevent Him from achieving the purpose for which God had destined Him."
With such overwhelming testimonies establishing beyond the shadow of a doubt the non-complicity of Bahá'u'lláh, the Grand Vizir, after having secured the reluctant consent of his sovereign to set free his Captive, was now in a position to dispatch his trusted representative, Haji Ali, to the Siyah-Chal, instructing him to deliver to Bahá'u'lláh the order for His release. The sight which that emissary beheld upon his arrival evoked in him such anger that he cursed his master for the shameful treatment of a man of such high position and stainless renown. Removing his mantle from his shoulders he presented it to Bahá'u'lláh, entreating Him to wear it when in the presence of the Minister and his counsellors, a request which He emphatically refused, preferring to appear, attired in the garb of a prisoner, before the members of the Imperial government.
No sooner had He presented Himself before them than the Grand Vizir addressed Him saying: "Had you chosen to take my advice, and had you dissociated yourself from the Faith of the Siyyid-i-Bab, you would never have suffered the pains and indignities that have been heaped upon you." "Had you, in your turn," Bahá'u'lláh retorted, "followed My counsels, the affairs of the government would not have reached so critical a stage." Mirza Aqa Khan was thereupon reminded of the conversation he had had with Him on the occasion of the Báb's martyrdom, when he had been warned that "the flame that has been kindled will blaze forth more fiercely than ever." "What is it that you advise me now to do?" he inquired from Bahá'u'lláh. "Command the governors of the realm," was the instant reply, "to cease shedding the blood of the innocent, to cease plundering their property, to cease dishonoring their women, and injuring their children." That same day the Grand Vizir acted on the advice thus given him; but any effect it had, as the course of subsequent events amply demonstrated, proved to be momentary and negligible.
The relative peace and tranquillity accorded Bahá'u'lláh after His tragic and cruel imprisonment was destined, by the dictates of an unerring Wisdom, to be of an extremely short duration. He hadPage 106
hardly rejoined His family and kindred when a decree from Nasiri'd-Din Shah was communicated to Him, bidding Him leave the territory of Persia, fixing a time-limit of one month for His departure and allowing Him the right to choose the land of His exile.
The Russian Minister, as soon as he was informed of the Imperial decision, expressed the desire to take Bahá'u'lláh under the protection of his government, and offered to extend every facility for His removal to Russia. This invitation, so spontaneously extended, Bahá'u'lláh declined, preferring, in pursuance of an unerring instinct, to establish His abode in Turkish territory, in the city of Baghdad. "Whilst I lay chained and fettered in the prison," He Himself, years after, testified in His Epistle addressed to the Czar of Russia, Nicolaevitch Alexander II, "one of thy ministers extended Me his aid. Whereupon God hath ordained for thee a station which the knowledge of none can comprehend except His knowledge. Beware lest thou barter away this sublime station." "In the days," is yet another illuminating testimony revealed by His pen, "when this Wronged One was sore-afflicted in prison, the minister of the highly esteemed government (of Russia) -- may God, glorified and exalted be He, assist him! -- exerted his utmost endeavor to compass My deliverance. Several times permission for My release was granted. Some of the ulamas of the city, however, would prevent it. Finally, My freedom was gained through the solicitude and the endeavor of His Excellency the Minister. ...His Imperial Majesty, the Most Great Emperor -- may God, exalted and glorified be He, assist him! -- extended to Me for the sake of God his protection -- a protection which has excited the envy and enmity of the foolish ones of the earth."
The Shah's edict, equivalent to an order for the immediate expulsion of Bahá'u'lláh from Persian territory, opens a new and glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá'í century. Viewed in its proper perspective it will be even recognized to have ushered in one of the most eventful and momentous epochs in the world's religious history. It coincides with the inauguration of a ministry extending over a period of almost forty years -- a ministry which, by virtue of its creative power, its cleansing force, its healing influences, and the irresistible operation of the world-directing, world-shaping forces it released, stands unparalleled in the religious annals of the entire human race. It marks the opening phase in a series of banishments, ranging over a period of four decades, and terminating only with the death of Him Who was the Object of that cruel edict. The process which it set in motion, gradually progressing and unfolding, began by establishingPage 107
His Cause for a time in the very midst of the jealously-guarded stronghold of Shi'ah Islam, and brought Him in personal contact with its highest and most illustrious exponents; then, at a later stage, it confronted Him, at the seat of the Caliphate, with the civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm and the representatives of the Sultan of Turkey, the most powerful potentate in the Islamic world; and finally carried Him as far as the shores of the Holy Land, thereby fulfilling the prophecies recorded in both the Old and the New Testaments, redeeming the pledge enshrined in various traditions attributed to the Apostle of God and the Imams who succeeded Him, and ushering in the long-awaited restoration of Israel to the ancient cradle of its Faith. With it, may be said to have begun the last and most fruitful of the four stages of a life, the first twenty-seven years of which were characterized by the care-free enjoyment of all the advantages conferred by high birth and riches, and by an unfailing solicitude for the interests of the poor, the sick and the down-trodden; followed by nine years of active and exemplary discipleship in the service of the Báb; and finally by an imprisonment of four months' duration, overshadowed throughout by mortal peril, embittered by agonizing sorrows, and immortalized, as it drew to a close, by the sudden eruption of the forces released by an overpowering, soul-revolutionizing Revelation.
This enforced and hurried departure of Bahá'u'lláh from His native land, accompanied by some of His relatives, recalls in some of its aspects, the precipitate flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the sudden migration of Muhammad, soon after His assumption of the prophetic office, from Mecca to Medina; the exodus of Moses, His brother and His followers from the land of their birth, in response to the Divine summons, and above all the banishment of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land -- a banishment which, in the multitudinous benefits it conferred upon so many divers peoples, faiths and nations, constitutes the nearest historical approach to the incalculable blessings destined to be vouchsafed, in this day, and in future ages, to the whole human race, in direct consequence of the exile suffered by Him Whose Cause is the flower and fruit of all previous Revelations.
Abdu'l-Bahá, after enumerating in His "Some Answered Questions" the far-reaching consequences of Abraham's banishment, significantly affirms that "since the exile of Abraham from Ur to Aleppo in Syria produced this result, we must consider what will be the effect of the exile of Bahá'u'lláh in His several removes fromPage 108
Tihran to Baghdad, from thence to Constantinople, to Rumelia and to the Holy Land."
On the first day of the month of Rabi'u'th-Thani, of the year 1269 A.H., (January 12, 1853), nine months after His return from Karbila, Bahá'u'lláh, together with some of the members of His family, and escorted by an officer of the Imperial body-guard and an official representing the Russian Legation, set out on His three months' journey to Baghdad. Among those who shared His exile was His wife, the saintly Navvab, entitled by Him the "Most Exalted Leaf," who, during almost forty years, continued to evince a fortitude, a piety, a devotion and a nobility of soul which earned her from the pen of her Lord the posthumous and unrivalled tribute of having been made His "perpetual consort in all the worlds of God." His nine-year-old son, later surnamed the "Most Great Branch," destined to become the Center of His Covenant and authorized Interpreter of His teachings, together with His seven-year-old sister, known in later years by the same title as that of her illustrious mother, and whose services until the ripe old age of four score years and six, no less than her exalted parentage, entitle her to the distinction of ranking as the outstanding heroine of the Bahá'í Dispensation, were also included among the exiles who were now bidding their last farewell to their native country. Of the two brothers who accompanied Him on that journey the first was Mirza Musa, commonly called Aqay-i-Kalim, His staunch and valued supporter, the ablest and most distinguished among His brothers and sisters, and one of the "only two persons who," according to Bahá'u'lláh's testimony, "were adequately informed of the origins" of His Faith. The other was Mirza Muhammad-Quli, a half-brother, who, in spite of the defection of some of his relatives, remained to the end loyal to the Cause he had espoused.
The journey, undertaken in the depth of an exceptionally severe winter, carrying the little band of exiles, so inadequately equipped, across the snow-bound mountains of Western Persia, though long and perilous, was uneventful except for the warm and enthusiastic reception accorded the travelers during their brief stay in Karand by its governor Hayat-Quli Khan, of the Alliyu'llahi sect. He was shown, in return, such kindness by Bahá'u'lláh that the people of the entire village were affected, and continued, long after, to extend such hospitality to His followers on their way to Baghdad that they gained the reputation of being known as Babis.
In a prayer revealed by Him at that time, Bahá'u'lláh, expatiatingPage 109
upon the woes and trials He had endured in the Siyah-Chal, thus bears witness to the hardships undergone in the course of that "terrible journey": "My God, My Master, My Desire!... Thou hast created this atom of dust through the consummate power of Thy might, and nurtured Him with Thine hands which none can chain up.... Thou hast destined for Him trials and tribulations which no tongue can describe, nor any of Thy Tablets adequately recount. The throat Thou didst accustom to the touch of silk Thou hast, in the end, clasped with strong chains, and the body Thou didst ease with brocades and velvets Thou hast at last subjected to the abasement of a dungeon. Thy decree hath shackled Me with unnumbered fetters, and cast about My neck chains that none can sunder. A number of years have passed during which afflictions have, like showers of mercy, rained upon Me.... How many the nights during which the weight of chains and fetters allowed Me no rest, and how numerous the days during which peace and tranquillity were denied Me, by reason of that wherewith the hands and tongues of men have afflicted Me! Both bread and water which Thou hast, through Thy all-embracing mercy, allowed unto the beasts of the field, they have, for a time, forbidden unto this servant, and the things they refused to inflict upon such as have seceded from Thy Cause, the same have they suffered to be inflicted upon Me, until, finally, Thy decree was irrevocably fixed, and Thy behest summoned this servant to depart out of Persia, accompanied by a number of frail-bodied men and children of tender age, at this time when the cold is so intense that one cannot even speak, and ice and snow so abundant that it is impossible to move."
Finally, on the 28th of Jamadiyu'th-Thani 1269 A.H. (April 8, 1853), Bahá'u'lláh arrived in Baghdad, the capital city of what was then the Turkish province of Iraq. From there He proceeded, a few days after, to Kazimayn, about three miles north of the city, a town inhabited chiefly by Persians, and where the two Kazims, the seventh and the ninth Imams, are buried. Soon after His arrival the representative of the Shah's government, stationed in Baghdad, called on Him, and suggested that it would be advisable for Him, in view of the many visitors crowding that center of pilgrimage, to establish His residence in Old Baghdad, a suggestion with which He readily concurred. A month later, towards the end of Rajab, He rented the house of Haji Ali Madad, in an old quarter of the city, into which He moved with His family.
In that city, described in Islamic traditions as "Zahru'l-Kufih,"Page 110
designated for centuries as the "Abode of Peace," and immortalized by Bahá'u'lláh as the "City of God," He, except for His two year retirement to the mountains of Kurdistan and His occasional visits to Najaf, Karbila and Kazimayn, continued to reside until His banishment to Constantinople. To that city the Qur'an had alluded as the "Abode of Peace" to which God Himself "calleth." To it, in that same Book, further allusion had been made in the verse "For them is a Dwelling of Peace with their Lord ... on the Day whereon God shall gather them all together." From it radiated, wave after wave, a power, a radiance and a glory which insensibly reanimated a languishing Faith, sorely-stricken, sinking into obscurity, threatened with oblivion. From it were diffused, day and night, and with ever-increasing energy, the first emanations of a Revelation which, in its scope, its copiousness, its driving force and the volume and variety of its literature, was destined to excel that of the Báb Himself. Above its horizon burst forth the rays of the Sun of Truth, Whose rising glory had for ten long years been overshadowed by the inky clouds of a consuming hatred, an ineradicable jealousy, an unrelenting malice. In it the Tabernacle of the promised "Lord of Hosts" was first erected, and the foundations of the long-awaited Kingdom of the "Father" unassailably established. Out of it went forth the earliest tidings of the Message of Salvation which, as prophesied by Daniel, was to mark, after the lapse of "a thousand two hundred and ninety days" (1290 A.H.), the end of "the abomination that maketh desolate." Within its walls the "Most Great House of God," His "Footstool" and the "Throne of His Glory," "the Cynosure of an adoring world," the "Lamp of Salvation between earth and heaven," the "Sign of His remembrance to all who are in heaven and on earth," enshrining the "Jewel whose glory hath irradiated all creation," the "Standard" of His Kingdom, the "Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful" was irrevocably founded and permanently consecrated. Upon it, by virtue of its sanctity as Bahá'u'lláh's "Most Holy Habitation" and "Seat of His transcendent glory," was conferred the honor of being regarded as a center of pilgrimage second to none except the city of Akka, His "Most Great Prison," in whose immediate vicinity His holy Sepulcher, the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world, is enshrined. Around the heavenly Table, spread in its very heart, clergy and laity, Sunnis and Shi'ahs, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, princes and nobles, peasants and dervishes, gathered in increasing numbers from far and near, all partaking, according to their needs and capacities, of a measure of that Divine sustenancePage 111
which was to enable them, in the course of time, to noise abroad the fame of that bountiful Giver, swell the ranks of His admirers, scatter far and wide His writings, enlarge the limits of His congregation, and lay a firm foundation for the future erection of the institutions of His Faith. And finally, before the gaze of the diversified communities that dwelt within its gates, the first phase in the gradual unfoldment of a newborn Revelation was ushered in, the first effusions from the inspired pen of its Author were recorded, the first principles of His slowly crystallizing doctrine were formulated, the first implications of His august station were apprehended, the first attacks aiming at the disruption of His Faith from within were launched, the first victories over its internal enemies were registered, and the first pilgrimages to the Door of His Presence were undertaken.
This life-long exile to which the Bearer of so precious a Message was now providentially condemned did not, and indeed could not, manifest, either suddenly or rapidly, the potentialities latent within it. The process whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifested to the eyes of men was slow, painfully slow, and was characterized, as indeed the history of His Faith from its inception to the present day demonstrates, by a number of crises which at times threatened to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered.
One such crisis which, as it deepened, threatened to jeopardize His newborn Faith and to subvert its earliest foundations, overshadowed the first years of His sojourn in Iraq, the initial stage in His life-long exile, and imparted to them a special significance. Unlike those which preceded it, this crisis was purely internal in character, and was occasioned solely by the acts, the ambitions and follies of those who were numbered among His recognized fellow-disciples.
The external enemies of the Faith, whether civil or ecclesiastical, who had thus far been chiefly responsible for the reverses and humiliations it had suffered, were by now relatively quiescent. The public appetite for revenge, which had seemed insatiable, had now, to some extent, in consequence of the torrents of blood that had flowed, abated. A feeling, bordering on exhaustion and despair, had, moreover, settled on some of its most inveterate enemies, who were astute enough to perceive that though the Faith had bent beneath the grievous blows their hands had dealt it, its structure had remained essentially unimpaired and its spirit unbroken. The orders issued to the governors of the provinces by the Grand Vizir had had, furthermore,Page 112
a sobering effect on the local authorities, who were now dissuaded from venting their fury upon, and from indulging in their sadistic cruelties against, a hated adversary.
A lull had, in consequence, momentarily ensued, which was destined to be broken, at a later stage, by a further wave of repressive measures in which the Sultan of Turkey and his ministers, as well as the Sunni sacerdotal order, were to join hands with the Shah and the Shi'ah clericals of Persia and Iraq in an endeavor to stamp out, once and for all, the Faith and all it stood for. While this lull persisted the initial manifestations of the internal crisis, already mentioned, were beginning to reveal themselves -- a crisis which, though less spectacular in the public eye, proved itself, as it moved to its climax, to be one of unprecedented gravity, reducing the numerical strength of the infant community, imperiling its unity, causing immense damage to its prestige, and tarnishing for a considerable period of time its glory.
This crisis had already been brewing in the days immediately following the execution of the Báb, was intensified during the months when the controlling hand of Bahá'u'lláh was suddenly withdrawn as a result of His confinement in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, was further aggravated by His precipitate banishment from Persia, and began to protrude its disturbing features during the first years of His sojourn in Baghdad. Its devastating force gathered momentum during His two year retirement to the mountains of Kurdistan, and though it was checked, for a time, after His return from Sulaymaniyyih, under the overmastering influences exerted preparatory to the Declaration of His Mission, it broke out later, with still greater violence, and reached its climax in Adrianople, only to receive finally its death-blow under the impact of the irresistible forces released through the proclamation of that Mission to all mankind.
Its central figure was no less a person than the nominee of the Báb Himself, the credulous and cowardly Mirza Yahya, to certain traits of whose character reference has already been made in the foregoing pages. The black-hearted scoundrel who befooled and manipulated this vain and flaccid man with consummate skill and unyielding persistence was a certain Siyyid Muhammad, a native of Isfahan, notorious for his inordinate ambition, his blind obstinacy and uncontrollable jealousy. To him Bahá'u'lláh had later referred in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the one who had "led astray" Mirza Yahya, and stigmatized him, in one of His Tablets, as the "source of envy and the quintessence of mischief," while Abdu'l-Bahá had described thePage 113
relationship existing between these two as that of "the sucking child" to the "much-prized breast" of its mother. Forced to abandon his studies in the madrisiyi-i-Sadr of Isfahan, this Siyyid had migrated, in shame and remorse, to Karbila, had there joined the ranks of the Báb's followers, and shown, after His martyrdom, signs of vacillation which exposed the shallowness of his faith and the fundamental weakness of his convictions. Bahá'u'lláh's first visit to Karbila and the marks of undisguised reverence, love and admiration shown Him by some of the most distinguished among the former disciples and companions of Siyyid Kazim, had aroused in this calculating and unscrupulous schemer an envy, and bred in his soul an animosity, which the forbearance and patience shown him by Bahá'u'lláh had served only to inflame. His deluded helpers, willing tools of his diabolical designs, were the not inconsiderable number of Babis who, baffled, disillusioned and leaderless, were already predisposed to be beguiled by him into pursuing a path diametrically opposed to the tenets and counsels of a departed Leader.
For, with the Báb no longer in the midst of His followers; with His nominee, either seeking a safe hiding place in the mountains of Mazindaran, or wearing the disguise of a dervish or of an Arab wandering from town to town; with Bahá'u'lláh imprisoned and subsequently banished beyond the limits of His native country; with the flower of the Faith mown down in a seemingly unending series of slaughters, the remnants of that persecuted community were sunk in a distress that appalled and paralyzed them, that stifled their spirit, confused their minds and strained to the utmost their loyalty. Reduced to this extremity they could no longer rely on any voice that commanded sufficient authority to still their forebodings, resolve their problems, or prescribe to them their duties and obligations.
Nabil, traveling at that time through the province of Khurasan, the scene of the tumultuous early victories of a rising Faith, had himself summed up his impressions of the prevailing condition. "The fire of the Cause of God," he testifies in his narrative, "had been well-nigh quenched in every place. I could detect no trace of warmth anywhere." In Qasvin, according to the same testimony, the remnant of the community had split into four factions, bitterly opposed to one another, and a prey to the most absurd doctrines and fancies. Bahá'u'lláh upon His arrival in Baghdad, a city which had witnessed the glowing evidences of the indefatigable zeal of Tahirih, found among His countrymen residing in that city no more than a single Babi, while in Kazimayn inhabited chiefly by Persians, a mere handfulPage 114
of His compatriots remained who still professed, in fear and obscurity, their faith in the Báb.
The morals of the members of this dwindling community, no less than their numbers, had sharply declined. Such was their "waywardness and folly," to quote Bahá'u'lláh's own words, that upon His release from prison, His first decision was "to arise ... and undertake, with the utmost vigor, the task of regenerating this people."
As the character of the professed adherents of the Báb declined and as proofs of the deepening confusion that afflicted them multiplied, the mischief-makers, who were lying in wait, and whose sole aim was to exploit the progressive deterioration in the situation for their own benefit, grew ever more and more audacious. The conduct of Mirza Yahya, who claimed to be the successor of the Báb, and who prided himself on his high sounding titles of Mir'atu'l-Azaliyyih (Everlasting Mirror), of Subh-i-Azal (Morning of Eternity), and of Ismu'l-Azal (Name of Eternity), and particularly the machinations of Siyyid Muhammad, exalted by him to the rank of the first among the "Witnesses" of the Bayan, were by now assuming such a character that the prestige of the Faith was becoming directly involved, and its future security seriously imperiled.
The former had, after the execution of the Báb, sustained such a violent shock that his faith almost forsook him. Wandering for a time, in the guise of a dervish, in the mountains of Mazindaran, he, by his behavior, had so severely tested the loyalty of his fellow-believers in Nur, most of whom had been converted through the indefatigable zeal of Bahá'u'lláh, that they too wavered in their convictions, some of them going so far as to throw in their lot with the enemy. He subsequently proceeded to Rasht, and remained concealed in the province of Gilan until his departure for Kirmanshah, where in order the better to screen himself he entered the service of a certain Abdu'llah-i-Qasvini, a maker of shrouds, and became a vendor of his goods. He was still there when Bahá'u'lláh passed through that city on His way to Baghdad, and expressing a desire to live in close proximity to Bahá'u'lláh but in a house by himself where he could ply some trade incognito, he succeeded in obtaining from Him a sum of money with which he purchased several bales of cotton and then proceeded, in the garb of an Arab, by way of Mandalij to Baghdad. He established himself there in the street of the Charcoal Dealers, situated in a dilapidated quarter of the city, and placing a turban upon his head, and assuming the name of Haji Aliy-i-Las-Furush, embarked on his newly-chosen occupation.Page 115
Siyyid Muhammad had meanwhile settled in Karbila, and was busily engaged, with Mirza Yahya as his lever, in kindling dissensions and in deranging the life of the exiles and of the community that had gathered about them.
Little wonder that from the pen of Bahá'u'lláh, Who was as yet unable to divulge the Secret that stirred within His bosom, these words of warning, of counsel and of assurance should, at a time when the shadows were beginning to deepen around Him, have proceeded: "The days of tests are now come. Oceans of dissension and tribulation are surging, and the Banners of Doubt are, in every nook and corner, occupied in stirring up mischief and in leading men to perdition. ...Suffer not the voice of some of the soldiers of negation to cast doubt into your midst, neither allow yourselves to become heedless of Him Who is the Truth, inasmuch as in every Dispensation such contentions have been raised. God, however, will establish His Faith, and manifest His light albeit the stirrers of sedition abhor it. ...Watch ye every day for the Cause of God.... All are held captive in His grasp. No place is there for any one to flee to. Think not the Cause of God to be a thing lightly taken, in which any one can gratify his whims. In various quarters a number of souls have, at the present time, advanced this same claim. The time is approaching when ... every one of them will have perished and been lost, nay will have come to naught and become a thing unremembered, even as the dust itself."
To Mirza Aqa Jan, "the first to believe" in Him, designated later as Khadimu'-llah (Servant of God) -- a Babi youth, aflame with devotion, who, under the influence of a dream he had of the Báb, and as a result of the perusal of certain writings of Bahá'u'lláh, had precipitately forsaken his home in Kashan and traveled to Iraq, in the hope of attaining His presence, and who from then on served Him assiduously for a period of forty years in his triple function of amanuensis, companion and attendant -- to him Bahá'u'lláh, more than to any one else, was moved to disclose, at this critical juncture, a glimpse of the as yet unrevealed glory of His station. This same Mirza Aqa Jan, recounting to Nabil his experiences, on that first and never to be forgotten night spent in Karbila, in the presence of his newly-found Beloved, Who was then a guest of Haji Mirza Hasan-i-Hakim-Bashi, had given the following testimony: "As it was summer-time Bahá'u'lláh was in the habit of passing His evenings and of sleeping on the roof of the House.... That night, when He had gone to sleep, I, according to His directions, lay down forPage 116
a brief rest, at a distance of a few feet from Him. No sooner had I risen, and ... started to offer my prayers, in a corner of the roof which adjoined a wall, than I beheld His blessed Person rise and walk towards me. When He reached me He said: 'You, too, are awake.' Whereupon He began to chant and pace back and forth. How shall I ever describe that voice and the verses it intoned, and His gait, as He strode before me! Methinks, with every step He took and every word He uttered thousands of oceans of light surged before my face, and thousands of worlds of incomparable splendor were unveiled to my eyes, and thousands of suns blazed their light upon me! In the moonlight that streamed upon Him, He thus continued to walk and to chant. Every time He approached me He would pause, and, in a tone so wondrous that no tongue can describe it, would say: 'Hear Me, My son. By God, the True One! This Cause will assuredly be made manifest. Heed thou not the idle talk of the people of the Bayan, who pervert the meaning of every word.' In this manner He continued to walk and chant, and to address me these words until the first streaks of dawn appeared.... Afterwards I removed His bedding to His room, and, having prepared His tea for Him, was dismissed from His presence."
The confidence instilled in Mirza Aqa Jan by this unexpected and sudden contact with the spirit and directing genius of a new-born Revelation stirred his soul to its depths -- a soul already afire with a consuming love born of his recognition of the ascendancy which his newly-found Master had already achieved over His fellow-disciples in both Iraq and Persia. This intense adoration that informed his whole being, and which could neither be suppressed nor concealed, was instantly detected by both Mirza Yahya and his fellow-conspirator Siyyid Muhammad. The circumstances leading to the revelation of the Tablet of Kullu't-Ta'am, written during that period, at the request of Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din-i-Naraqi, a Babi of honorable rank and high culture, could not but aggravate a situation that had already become serious and menacing. Impelled by a desire to receive illumination from Mirza Yahya concerning the meaning of the Qur'anic verse "All food was allowed to the children of Israel," Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din had requested him to write a commentary upon it -- a request which was granted, but with reluctance and in a manner which showed such incompetence and superficiality as to disillusion Haji Mirza Kamalu'd-Din, and to destroy his confidence in its author. Turning to Bahá'u'lláh and repeating his request, he was honored by a Tablet, in which IsraelPage 117
and his children were identified with the Báb and His followers respectively -- a Tablet which by reason of the allusions it contained, the beauty of its language and the cogency of its argument, so enraptured the soul of its recipient that he would have, but for the restraining hand of Bahá'u'lláh, proclaimed forthwith his discovery of God's hidden Secret in the person of the One Who had revealed it.
To these evidences of an ever deepening veneration for Bahá'u'lláh and of a passionate attachment to His person were now being added further grounds for the outbreak of the pent-up jealousies which His mounting prestige evoked in the breasts of His ill-wishers and enemies. The steady extension of the circle of His acquaintances and admirers; His friendly intercourse with officials including the governor of the city; the unfeigned homage offered Him, on so many occasions and so spontaneously, by men who had once been distinguished companions of Siyyid Kazim; the disillusionment which the persistent concealment of Mirza Yahya, and the unflattering reports circulated regarding his character and abilities, had engendered; the signs of increasing independence, of innate sagacity and inherent superiority and capacity for leadership unmistakably exhibited by Bahá'u'lláh Himself -- all combined to widen the breach which the infamous and crafty Siyyid Muhammad had sedulously contrived to create.
A clandestine opposition, whose aim was to nullify every effort exerted, and frustrate every design conceived, by Bahá'u'lláh for the rehabilitation of a distracted community, could now be clearly discerned. Insinuations, whose purpose was to sow the seeds of doubt and suspicion and to represent Him as a usurper, as the subverter of the laws instituted by the Báb, and the wrecker of His Cause, were being incessantly circulated. His Epistles, interpretations, invocations and commentaries were being covertly and indirectly criticized, challenged and misrepresented. An attempt to injure His person was even set afoot but failed to materialize.
The cup of Bahá'u'lláh's sorrows was now running over. All His exhortations, all His efforts to remedy a rapidly deteriorating situation, had remained fruitless. The velocity of His manifold woes was hourly and visibly increasing. Upon the sadness that filled His soul and the gravity of the situation confronting Him, His writings, revealed during that somber period, throw abundant light. In some of His prayers He poignantly confesses that "tribulation upon tribulation" had gathered about Him, that "adversaries with one consent" had fallen upon Him, that "wretchedness" had grievously touchedPage 118
Him, and that "woes at their blackest" had befallen Him. God Himself He calls upon as a Witness to His "sighs and lamentations," His "powerlessness, poverty and destitution," to the "injuries" He sustained, and the "abasement" He suffered. "So grievous hath been My weeping," He, in one of these prayers, avows, "that I have been prevented from making mention of Thee and singing Thy praises." "So loud hath been the voice of My lamentation," He, in another passage, avers, "that every mother mourning for her child would be amazed, and would still her weeping and her grief." "The wrongs which I suffer," He, in His Lawh-i-Maryam, laments, "have blotted out the wrongs suffered by My First Name (the Báb) from the Tablet of creation." "O Maryam!" He continues, "From the Land of Ta (Tihran), after countless afflictions, We reached Iraq, at the bidding of the Tyrant of Persia, where, after the fetters of Our foes, We were afflicted with the perfidy of Our friends. God knoweth what befell Me thereafter!" And again: "I have borne what no man, be he of the past or of the future, hath borne or will bear." "Oceans of sadness," He testifies in the Tablet of Kullu't-Ta'am, "have surged over Me, a drop of which no soul could bear to drink. Such is My grief that My soul hath well nigh departed from My body." "Give ear, O Kamal!" He, in that same Tablet, depicting His plight, exclaims, "to the voice of this lowly, this forsaken ant, that hath hid itself in its hole, and whose desire is to depart from your midst, and vanish from your sight, by reason of that which the hands of men have wrought. God, verily, hath been witness between Me and His servants." And again: "Woe is Me, woe is Me!... All that I have seen from the day on which I first drank the pure milk from the breast of My mother until this moment hath been effaced from My memory, in consequence of that which the hands of the people have committed." Furthermore, in His Qasidiy-i-Varqa'iyyih, an ode revealed during the days of His retirement to the mountains of Kurdistan, in praise of the Maiden personifying the Spirit of God recently descended upon Him, He thus gives vent to the agonies of His sorrow-laden heart: "Noah's flood is but the measure of the tears I have shed, and Abraham's fire an ebullition of My soul. Jacob's grief is but a reflection of My sorrows, and Job's afflictions a fraction of my calamity." "Pour out patience upon Me, O My Lord!" -- such is His supplication in one of His prayers, "and render Me victorious over the transgressors." "In these days," He, describing in the Kitáb-i-Iqan the virulence of the jealousy which, at that time, was beginning to bare its venomous fangs, has written, "such odorsPage 119
of jealousy are diffused, that ... from the beginning of the foundation of the world ... until the present day, such malice, envy and hate have in no wise appeared, nor will they ever be witnessed in the future." "For two years or rather less," He, likewise, in another Tablet, declares, "I shunned all else but God, and closed Mine eyes to all except Him, that haply the fire of hatred may die down and the heat of jealousy abate."
Mirza Aqa Jan himself has testified: "That Blessed Beauty evinced such sadness that the limbs of my body trembled." He has, likewise, related, as reported by Nabil in his narrative, that, shortly before Bahá'u'lláh's retirement, he had on one occasion seen Him, between dawn and sunrise, suddenly come out from His house, His night-cap still on His head, showing such signs of perturbation that he was powerless to gaze into His face, and while walking, angrily remark: "These creatures are the same creatures who for three thousand years have worshipped idols, and bowed down before the Golden Calf. Now, too, they are fit for nothing better. What relation can there be between this people and Him Who is the Countenance of Glory? What ties can bind them to the One Who is the supreme embodiment of all that is lovable?" "I stood," declared Mirza Aqa Jan, "rooted to the spot, lifeless, dried up as a dead tree, ready to fall under the impact of the stunning power of His words. Finally, He said: 'Bid them recite: "Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!" Tell them to repeat it five hundred times, nay, a thousand times, by day and by night, sleeping and waking, that haply the Countenance of Glory may be unveiled to their eyes, and tiers of light descend upon them.' He Himself, I was subsequently informed, recited this same verse, His face betraying the utmost sadness. ...Several times during those days, He was heard to remark: 'We have, for a while, tarried amongst this people, and failed to discern the slightest response on their part.' Oftentimes He alluded to His disappearance from our midst, yet none of us understood His meaning."
Finally, discerning, as He Himself testifies in the Kitáb-i-Iqan, "the signs of impending events," He decided that before they happened He would retire. "The one object of Our retirement," He, in that same Book affirms, "was to avoid becoming a subject of discord among the faithful, a source of disturbance unto Our companions, the means of injury to any soul, or the cause of sorrow to any heart." "Our withdrawal," He, moreover, in that same passage emphaticallyPage 120
asserts, "contemplated no return, and Our separation hoped for no reunion."
Suddenly, and without informing any one even among the members of His own family, on the 12th of Rajab 1270 A.H. (April 10, 1854), He departed, accompanied by an attendant, a Muhammadan named Abu'l-Qasim-i-Hamadani, to whom He gave a sum of money, instructing him to act as a merchant and use it for his own purposes. Shortly after, that servant was attacked by thieves and killed, and Bahá'u'lláh was left entirely alone in His wanderings through the wastes of Kurdistan, a region whose sturdy and warlike people were known for their age-long hostility to the Persians, whom they regarded as seceders from the Faith of Islam, and from whom they differed in their outlook, race and language.
Attired in the garb of a traveler, coarsely clad, taking with Him nothing but his kashkul (alms-bowl) and a change of clothes, and assuming the name of Darvish Muhammad, Bahá'u'lláh retired to the wilderness, and lived for a time on a mountain named Sar-Galu, so far removed from human habitations that only twice a year, at seed sowing and harvest time, it was visited by the peasants of that region. Alone and undisturbed, He passed a considerable part of His retirement on the top of that mountain in a rude structure, made of stone, which served those peasants as a shelter against the extremities of the weather. At times His dwelling-place was a cave to which He refers in His Tablets addressed to the famous Shaykh Abdu'r-Rahman and to Maryam, a kinswoman of His. "I roamed the wilderness of resignation" He thus depicts, in the Lawh-i-Maryam, the rigors of His austere solitude, "traveling in such wise that in My exile every eye wept sore over Me, and all created things shed tears of blood because of My anguish. The birds of the air were My companions and the beasts of the field My associates." "From My eyes," He, referring in the Kitáb-i-Iqan to those days, testifies, "there rained tears of anguish, and in My bleeding heart surged an ocean of agonizing pain. Many a night I had no food for sustenance, and many a day My body found no rest.... Alone I communed with My spirit, oblivious of the world and all that is therein."
In the odes He revealed, whilst wrapped in His devotions during those days of utter seclusion, and in the prayers and soliloquies which, in verse and prose, both in Arabic and Persian, poured from His sorrow-laden soul, many of which He was wont to chant aloud to Himself, at dawn and during the watches of the night, He lauded the names and attributes of His Creator, extolled the glories andPage 121
mysteries of His own Revelation, sang the praises of that Maiden that personified the Spirit of God within Him, dwelt on His loneliness and His past and future tribulations, expatiated upon the blindness of His generation, the perfidy of His friends and the perversity of His enemies, affirmed His determination to arise and, if needs be, offer up His life for the vindication of His Cause, stressed those essential pre-requisites which every seeker after Truth must possess, and recalled, in anticipation of the lot that was to be His, the tragedy of the Imam Husayn in Karbila, the plight of Muhammad in Mecca, the sufferings of Jesus at the hands of the Jews, the trials of Moses inflicted by Pharaoh and his people and the ordeal of Joseph as He languished in a pit by reason of the treachery of His brothers. These initial and impassioned outpourings of a Soul struggling to unburden itself, in the solitude of a self-imposed exile (many of them, alas lost to posterity) are, with the Tablet of Kullu't-Ta'am and the poem entitled Rashh-i-'Ama, revealed in Tihran, the first fruits of His Divine Pen. They are the forerunners of those immortal works -- the Kitáb-i-Iqan, the Hidden Words and the Seven Valleys -- which in the years preceding His Declaration in Baghdad, were to enrich so vastly the steadily swelling volume of His writings, and which paved the way for a further flowering of His prophetic genius in His epoch-making Proclamation to the world, couched in the form of mighty Epistles to the kings and rulers of mankind, and finally for the last fruition of His Mission in the Laws and Ordinances of His Dispensation formulated during His confinement in the Most Great Prison of Akka.
Bahá'u'lláh was still pursuing His solitary existence on that mountain when a certain Shaykh, a resident of Sulaymaniyyih, who owned a property in that neighborhood, sought Him out, as directed in a dream he had of the Prophet Muhammad. Shortly after this contact was established, Shaykh Isma'il, the leader of the Khalidiyyih Order, who lived in Sulaymaniyyih, visited Him, and succeeded, after repeated requests, in obtaining His consent to transfer His residence to that town. Meantime His friends in Baghdad had discovered His whereabouts, and had dispatched Shaykh Sultan, the father-in-law of Aqay-i-Kalim, to beg Him to return; and it was now while He was living in Sulaymaniyyih, in a room belonging to the Takyiy-i-Mawlana Khalid (theological seminary) that their messenger arrived. "I found," this same Shaykh Sultan, recounting his experiences to Nabil, has stated, "all those who lived with Him in that place, from their Master down to the humblest neophyte, soPage 122
enamoured of, and carried away by their love for Bahá'u'lláh, and so unprepared to contemplate the possibility of His departure that I felt certain that were I to inform them of the purpose of my visit, they would not have hesitated to put an end to my life."
Not long after Bahá'u'lláh's arrival in Kurdistan, Shaykh Sultan has related, He was able, through His personal contacts with Shaykh Uthman, Shaykh Abdu'r-Rahman, and Shaykh Isma'il, the honored and undisputed leaders of the Naqshbandiyyih, the Qadiriyyih and the Khalidiyyih Orders respectively, to win their hearts completely and establish His ascendancy over them. The first of these, Shaykh Uthman, included no less a person than the Sultan himself and his entourage among his adherents. The second, in reply to whose query the "Four Valleys" was later revealed, commanded the unwavering allegiance of at least a hundred thousand devout followers, while the third was held in such veneration by his supporters that they regarded him as co-equal with Khalid himself, the founder of the Order.
When Bahá'u'lláh arrived in Sulaymaniyyih none at first, owing to the strict silence and reserve He maintained, suspected Him of being possessed of any learning or wisdom. It was only accidentally, through seeing a specimen of His exquisite penmanship shown to them by one of the students who waited upon Him, that the curiosity of the learned instructors and students of that seminary was aroused, and they were impelled to approach Him and test the degree of His knowledge and the extent of His familiarity with the arts and sciences current amongst them. That seat of learning had been renowned for its vast endowments, its numerous takyihs, and its association with Salahi'd-Din-i-Ayyubi and his descendants; from it some of the most illustrious exponents of Sunni Islam had gone forth to teach its precepts, and now a delegation, headed by Shaykh Isma'il himself, and consisting of its most eminent doctors and most distinguished students, called upon Bahá'u'lláh, and, finding Him willing to reply to any questions they might wish to address Him, they requested Him to elucidate for them, in the course of several interviews, the abstruse passages contained in the Futuhat-i-Makkiyyih, the celebrated work of the famous Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din-i-'Arabi. "God is My witness," was Bahá'u'lláh's instant reply to the learned delegation, "that I have never seen the book you refer to. I regard, however, through the power of God, ... whatever you wish me to do as easy of accomplishment." Directing one of them to read aloud to Him, every day, a page of that book, He was able to resolve theirPage 123
perplexities in so amazing a fashion that they were lost in admiration. Not contenting Himself with a mere clarification of the obscure passages of the text, He would interpret for them the mind of its author, and expound his doctrine, and unfold his purpose. At times He would even go so far as to question the soundness of certain views propounded in that book, and would Himself vouchsafe a correct presentation of the issues that had been misunderstood, and would support it with proofs and evidences that were wholly convincing to His listeners.
Amazed by the profundity of His insight and the compass of His understanding, they were impelled to seek from Him what they considered to be a conclusive and final evidence of the unique power and knowledge which He now appeared in their eyes to possess. "No one among the mystics, the wise, and the learned," they claimed, while requesting this further favor from Him, "has hitherto proved himself capable of writing a poem in a rhyme and meter identical with that of the longer of the two odes, entitled Qasidiy-i-Ta'iyyih composed by Ibn-i-Farid. We beg you to write for us a poem in that same meter and rhyme." This request was complied with, and no less than two thousand verses, in exactly the manner they had specified, were dictated by Him, out of which He selected one hundred and twenty-seven, which He permitted them to keep, deeming the subject matter of the rest premature and unsuitable to the needs of the times. It is these same one hundred and twenty-seven verses that constitute the Qasidiy-i-Varqa'iyyih, so familiar to, and widely circulated amongst, His Arabic speaking followers.
Such was their reaction to this marvelous demonstration of the sagacity and genius of Bahá'u'lláh that they unanimously acknowledged every single verse of that poem to be endowed with a force, beauty and power far surpassing anything contained in either the major or minor odes composed by that celebrated poet.
This episode, by far the most outstanding among the events that transpired during the two years of Bahá'u'lláh's absence from Baghdad, immensely stimulated the interest with which an increasing number of the ulamas, the scholars, the shaykhs, the doctors, the holy men and princes who had congregated in the seminaries of Sulaymaniyyih and Karkuk, were now following His daily activities. Through His numerous discourses and epistles He disclosed new vistas to their eyes, resolved the perplexities that agitated their minds, unfolded the inner meaning of many hitherto obscure passages in the writings of various commentators, poets and theologians, of which they had remainedPage 124
unaware, and reconciled the seemingly contradictory assertions which abounded in these dissertations, poems and treatises. Such was the esteem and respect entertained for Him that some held Him as One of the "Men of the Unseen," others accounted Him an adept in alchemy and the science of divination, still others designated Him "a pivot of the universe," whilst a not inconsiderable number among His admirers went so far as to believe that His station was no less than that of a prophet. Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, learned and illiterate, both high and low, young and old, who had come to know Him, regarded Him with equal reverence, and not a few among them with genuine and profound affection, and this despite certain assertions and allusions to His station He had made in public, which, had they fallen from the lips of any other member of His race, would have provoked such fury as to endanger His life. Small wonder that Bahá'u'lláh Himself should have, in the Lawh-i-Maryam, pronounced the period of His retirement as "the mightiest testimony" to, and "the most perfect and conclusive evidence" of, the truth of His Revelation. "In a short time," is Abdu'l-Bahá'í own testimony, "Kurdistan was magnetized with His love. During this period Bahá'u'lláh lived in poverty. His garments were those of the poor and needy. His food was that of the indigent and lowly. An atmosphere of majesty haloed Him as the sun at midday. Everywhere He was greatly revered and loved."
While the foundations of Bahá'u'lláh's future greatness were being laid in a strange land and amidst a strange people, the situation of the Bábi community was rapidly going from bad to worse. Pleased and emboldened by His unexpected and prolonged withdrawal from the scene of His labors, the stirrers of mischief with their deluded associates were busily engaged in extending the range of their nefarious activities. Mirza Yahya, closeted most of the time in his house, was secretly directing, through his correspondence with those Babis whom he completely trusted, a campaign designed to utterly discredit Bahá'u'lláh. In his fear of any potential adversary he had dispatched Mirza Muhammad-i-Mazindarani, one of his supporters, to Adhirbayjan for the express purpose of murdering Dayyan, the "repository of the knowledge of God," whom he surnamed "Father of Iniquities" and stigmatized as "Taghut," and whom the Báb had extolled as the "Third Letter to believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest." In his folly he had, furthermore, induced Mirza Aqa Jan to proceed to Nur, and there await a propitious moment when he could make a successful attempt on the life of the sovereign.Page 125
His shamelessness and effrontery had waxed so great as to lead him to perpetrate himself, and permit Siyyid Muhammad to repeat after him, an act so odious that Bahá'u'lláh characterized it as "a most grievous betrayal," inflicting dishonor upon the Báb, and which "overwhelmed all lands with sorrow." He even, as a further evidence of the enormity of his crimes, ordered that the cousin of the Báb, Mirza Ali-Akbar, a fervent admirer of Dayyan, be secretly put to death -- a command which was carried out in all its iniquity. As to Siyyid Muhammad, now given free rein by his master, Mirza Yahya, he had surrounded himself, as Nabil who was at that time with him in Karbila categorically asserts, with a band of ruffians, whom he allowed, and even encouraged, to snatch at night the turbans from the heads of wealthy pilgrims who had congregated in Karbila, to steal their shoes, to rob the shrine of the Imam Husayn of its divans and candles, and seize the drinking cups from the public fountains. The depths of degradation to which these so-called adherents of the Faith of the Báb had sunk could not but evoke in Nabil the memory of the sublime renunciation shown by the conduct of the companions of Mulla Husayn, who, at the suggestion of their leader, had scornfully cast by the wayside the gold, the silver and turquoise in their possession, or shown by the behavior of Vahid who refused to allow even the least valuable amongst the treasures which his sumptuously furnished house in Yazd contained to be removed ere it was pillaged by the mob, or shown by the decision of Hujjat not to permit his companions, who were on the brink of starvation, to lay hands on the property of others, even though it were to save their own lives.
Such was the audacity and effrontery of these demoralized and misguided Babis that no less than twenty-five persons, according to Abdu'l-Bahá'í testimony, had the presumption to declare themselves to be the Promised One foretold by the Báb! Such was the decline in their fortunes that they hardly dared show themselves in public. Kurds and Persians vied with each other, when confronting them in the streets, in heaping abuse upon them, and in vilifying openly the Cause which they professed. Little wonder that on His return to Baghdad Bahá'u'lláh should have described the situation then existing in these words: "We found no more than a handful of souls, faint and dispirited, nay utterly lost and dead. The Cause of God had ceased to be on any one's lips, nor was any heart receptive to its message." Such was the sadness that overwhelmed Him on His arrival that He refused for some time to leave His house, except for HisPage 126
visits to Kazimayn and for His occasional meeting with a few of His friends who resided in that town and in Baghdad.
The tragic situation that had developed in the course of His two years' absence now imperatively demanded His return. "From the Mystic Source," He Himself explains in the Kitáb-i-Iqan, "there came the summons bidding Us return whence We came. Surrendering Our will to His, We submitted to His injunction." "By God besides Whom there is none other God!" is His emphatic assertion to Shaykh Sultan, as reported by Nabil in his narrative, "But for My recognition of the fact that the blessed Cause of the Primal Point was on the verge of being completely obliterated, and all the sacred blood poured out in the path of God would have been shed in vain, I would in no wise have consented to return to the people of the Bayan, and would have abandoned them to the worship of the idols their imaginations had fashioned."
Mirza Yahya, realizing full well to what a pass his unrestrained leadership of the Faith had brought him, had, moreover, insistently and in writing, besought Him to return. No less urgent were the pleadings of His own kindred and friends, particularly His twelve-year old Son, Abdu'l-Bahá, Whose grief and loneliness had so consumed His soul that, in a conversation recorded by Nabil in his narrative, He had avowed that subsequent to the departure of Bahá'u'lláh He had in His boyhood grown old.
Deciding to terminate the period of His retirement Bahá'u'lláh bade farewell to the shaykhs of Sulaymaniyyih, who now numbered among His most ardent and, as their future conduct demonstrated, staunchest admirers. Accompanied by Shaykh Sultan, He retraced His steps to Baghdad, on "the banks of the River of Tribulations," as He Himself termed it, proceeding by slow stages, realizing, as He declared to His fellow-traveler, that these last days of His retirement would be "the only days of peace and tranquillity" left to Him, "days which will never again fall to My lot."
On the 12th of Rajab 1272 A.H. (March 19, 1856) He arrived in Baghdad, exactly two lunar years after His departure for Kurdistan.Page 127
The return of Bahá'u'lláh from Sulaymaniyyih to Baghdad marks a turning point of the utmost significance in the history of the first Bahá'í century. The tide of the fortunes of the Faith, having reached its lowest ebb, was now beginning to surge back, and was destined to roll on, steadily and mightily, to a new high water-mark, associated this time with the Declaration of His Mission, on the eve of His banishment to Constantinople. With His return to Baghdad a firm anchorage was now being established, an anchorage such as the Faith had never known in its history. Never before, except during the first three years of its life, could that Faith claim to have possessed a fixed and accessible center to which its adherents could turn for guidance, and from which they could derive continuous and unobstructed inspiration. No less than half of the Báb's short-lived ministry was spent on the remotest border of His native country, where He was concealed and virtually cut off from the vast majority of His disciples. The period immediately after His martyrdom was marked by a confusion that was even more deplorable than the isolation caused by His enforced captivity. Nor when the Revelation which He had foretold made its appearance was it succeeded by an immediate declaration that could enable the members of a distracted community to rally round the person of their expected Deliverer. The prolonged self-concealment of Mirza Yahya, the center provisionally appointed pending the manifestation of the Promised One; the nine months' absence of Bahá'u'lláh from His native land, while on a visit to Karbila, followed swiftly by His imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal, by His banishment to Iraq, and afterwards by His retirement to Kurdistan -- all combined to prolong the phase of instability and suspense through which the Bábi community had to pass.
Now at last, in spite of Bahá'u'lláh's reluctance to unravel the mystery surrounding His own position, the Bábis found themselves able to center both their hopes and their movements round One Whom they believed (whatever their views as to His station) capable of insuring the stability and integrity of their Faith. The orientationPage 128
which the Faith had thus acquired and the fixity of the center towards which it now gravitated continued, in one form or another, to be its outstanding features, of which it was never again to be deprived.
The Faith of the Báb, as already observed, had, in consequence of the successive and formidable blows it had received, reached the verge of extinction. Nor was the momentous Revelation vouchsafed to Bahá'u'lláh in the Siyah-Chal productive at once of any tangible results of a nature that would exercise a stabilizing influence on a well-nigh disrupted community. Bahá'u'lláh's unexpected banishment had been a further blow to its members, who had learned to place their reliance upon Him. Mirza Yahya's seclusion and inactivity further accelerated the process of disintegration that had set in. Bahá'u'lláh's prolonged retirement to Kurdistan seemed to have set the seal on its complete dissolution.
Now, however, the tide that had ebbed in so alarming a measure was turning, bearing with it, as it rose to flood point, those inestimable benefits that were to herald the announcement of the Revelation already secretly disclosed to Bahá'u'lláh.
During the seven years that elapsed between the resumption of His labors and the declaration of His prophetic mission -- years to which we now direct our attention -- it would be no exaggeration to say that the Bahá'í community, under the name and in the shape of a re-arisen Babi community was born and was slowly taking shape, though its Creator still appeared in the guise of, and continued to labor as, one of the foremost disciples of the Báb. It was a period during which the prestige of the community's nominal head steadily faded from the scene, paling before the rising splendor of Him Who was its actual Leader and Deliverer. It was a period in the course of which the first fruits of an exile, endowed with incalculable potentialities, ripened and were garnered. It was a period that will go down in history as one during which the prestige of a recreated community was immensely enhanced, its morals entirely reformed, its recognition of Him who rehabilitated its fortunes enthusiastically affirmed, its literature enormously enriched, and its victories over its new adversaries universally acknowledged.
The prestige of the community, and particularly that of Bahá'u'lláh, now began from its first inception in Kurdistan to mount in a steadily rising crescendo. Bahá'u'lláh had scarcely gathered up again the reins of the authority he had relinquished when the devout admirers He had left behind in Sulaymaniyyih started to flock to Baghdad, with the name of "Darvish Muhammad" on their lips, and the "housePage 129
of Mirza Musa the Bábi" as their goal. Astonished at the sight of so many ulamas and Sufis of Kurdish origin, of both the Qadiriyyih and Khalidiyyih Orders, thronging the house of Bahá'u'lláh, and impelled by racial and sectarian rivalry, the religious leaders of the city, such as the renowned Ibn-i-Alusi, the Mufti of Baghdad, together with Shaykh Abdu's-Salam, Shaykh Abdu'l-Qadir and Siyyid Dawudi, began to seek His presence, and, having obtained completely satisfying answers to their several queries, enrolled themselves among the band of His earliest admirers. The unqualified recognition by these outstanding leaders of those traits that distinguished the character and conduct of Bahá'u'lláh stimulated the curiosity, and later evoked the unstinted praise, of a great many observers of less conspicuous position, among whom figured poets, mystics and notables, who either resided in, or visited, the city. Government officials, foremost among whom were Abdu'llah Pasha and his lieutenant Mahmud Aqa, and Mulla Ali Mardan, a Kurd well-known in those circles, were gradually brought into contact with Him, and lent their share in noising abroad His fast-spreading fame. Nor could those distinguished Persians, who either lived in Baghdad and its environs or visited as pilgrims the holy places, remain impervious to the spell of His charm. Princes of the royal blood, amongst whom were such personages as the Na'ibu'l-Iyalih, the Shuja'u'd-Dawlih, the Sayfu'd-Dawlih, and Zaynu'l-Abidin Khan, the Fakhru'd-Dawlih, were, likewise, irresistibly drawn into the ever-widening circle of His associates and acquaintances.
Those who, during Bahá'u'lláh's two years' absence from Baghdad, had so persistently reviled and loudly derided His companions and kindred were, by now, for the most part, silenced. Not an inconsiderable number among them feigned respect and esteem for Him, a few claimed to be His defenders and supporters, while others professed to share His beliefs, and actually joined the ranks of the community to which He belonged. Such was the extent of the reaction that had set in that one of them was even heard to boast that, as far back as the year 1250 A.H. -- a decade before the Báb's Declaration -- he had already perceived and embraced the truth of His Faith!
Within a few years after Bahá'u'lláh's return from Sulaymaniyyih the situation had been completely reversed. The house of Sulayman-i-Ghannam, on which the official designation of the Bayt-i-Azam (the Most Great House) was later conferred, known, at that time, as the house of Mirza Musa, the Bábi, an extremely modest residence,Page 130
situated in the Karkh quarter, in the neighborhood of the western bank of the river, to which Bahá'u'lláh's family had moved prior to His return from Kurdistan, had now become the focal center of a great number of seekers, visitors and pilgrims, including Kurds, Persians, Arabs and Turks, and derived from the Muslim, the Jewish and Christian Faiths. It had, moreover, become a veritable sanctuary to which the victims of the injustice of the official representative of the Persian government were wont to flee, in the hope of securing redress for the wrongs they had suffered.
At the same time an influx of Persian Babis, whose sole object was to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, swelled the stream of visitors that poured through His hospitable doors. Carrying back, on their return to their native country, innumerable testimonies, both oral and written, to His steadily rising power and glory, they could not fail to contribute, in a vast measure, to the expansion and progress of a newly-reborn Faith. Four of the Báb's cousins and His maternal uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad; a grand-daughter of Fath-'Ali Shah and fervent admirer of Tahirih, surnamed Varaqatu'r-Ridvan; the erudite Mulla Muhammad-i-Qa'ini, surnamed Nabil-i-Akbar; the already famous Mulla Sadiq-i-Khurasani, surnamed Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq, who with Quddus had been ignominiously persecuted in Shiraz; Mulla Baqir, one of the Letters of the Living; Siyyid Asadu'llah, surnamed Dayyan; the revered Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i; Mirza Muhammad-Hasan and Mirza Muhammad-Husayn, later immortalized by the titles of Sultanu'sh-Shuhada and Mahbubu'sh-Shuhada (King of Martyrs and Beloved of Martyrs) respectively; Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Nahri, whose daughter, at a later date, was joined in wedlock to Abdu'l-Bahá; the immortal Siyyid Isma'il-i-Zavari'i; Haji Shaykh Muhammad, surnamed Nabil by the Báb; the accomplished Mirza Aqay-i-Munir, surnamed Ismu'llahu'l-Munib; the long-suffering Haji Muhammad-Taqi, surnamed Ayyub; Mulla Zaynu'l-Abidin, surnamed Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin, who had ranked as a highly esteemed mujtahid -- all these were numbered among the visitors and fellow-disciples who crossed His threshold, caught a glimpse of the splendor of His majesty, and communicated far and wide the creative influences instilled into them through their contact with His spirit. Mulla Muhammad-i-Zarandi, surnamed Nabil-i-Azam, who may well rank as His Poet-Laureate, His chronicler and His indefatigable disciple, had already joined the exiles, and had launched out on his long and arduous series of journeys to Persia in furtherance of the Cause of his Beloved.Page 131
Even those who, in their folly and temerity had, in Baghdad, in Karbila, in Qum, in Kashan, in Tabriz and in Tihran, arrogated to themselves the rights, and assumed the title of "Him Whom God shall make manifest" were for the most part instinctively led to seek His presence, confess their error and supplicate His forgiveness. As time went on, fugitives, driven by the ever-present fear of persecution, sought, with their wives and children, the relative security afforded them by close proximity to One who had already become the rallying point for the members of a sorely-vexed community. Persians of high eminence, living in exile, rejecting, in the face of the mounting prestige of Bahá'u'lláh, the dictates of moderation and prudence, sat, forgetful of their pride, at His feet, and imbibed, each according to his capacity, a measure of His spirit and wisdom. Some of the more ambitious among them, such as Abbas Mirza, a son of Muhammad Shah, the Vazir-Nizam, and Mirza Malkam Khan, as well as certain functionaries of foreign governments, attempted, in their short-sightedness, to secure His support and assistance for the furtherance of the designs they cherished, designs which He unhesitatingly and severely condemned. Nor was the then representative of the British government, Colonel Sir Arnold Burrows Kemball, consul-general in Baghdad, insensible of the position which Bahá'u'lláh now occupied. Entering into friendly correspondence with Him, he, as testified by Bahá'u'lláh Himself, offered Him the protection of British citizenship, called on Him in person, and undertook to transmit to Queen Victoria any communication He might wish to forward to her. He even expressed his readiness to arrange for the transfer of His residence to India, or to any place agreeable to Him. This suggestion Bahá'u'lláh declined, choosing to abide in the dominions of the Sultan of Turkey. And finally, during the last year of His sojourn in Baghdad the governor Namiq-Pasha, impressed by the many signs of esteem and veneration in which He was held, called upon Him to pay his personal tribute to One Who had already achieved so conspicuous a victory over the hearts and souls of those who had met Him. So profound was the respect the governor entertained for Him, Whom he regarded as one of the Lights of the Age, that it was not until the end of three months, during which he had received five successive commands from Ali Pasha, that he could bring himself to inform Bahá'u'lláh that it was the wish of the Turkish government that He should proceed to the capital. On one occasion, when Abdu'l-Bahá and Aqay-i-Kalim had been delegated by Bahá'u'lláh to visit him, he entertained themPage 132
with such elaborate ceremonial that the Deputy-Governor stated that so far as he knew no notable of the city had ever been accorded by any governor so warm and courteous a reception. So struck, indeed, had the Sultan Abdu'l-Majid been by the favorable reports received about Bahá'u'lláh from successive governors of Baghdad (this is the personal testimony given by the Governor's deputy to Bahá'u'lláh himself) that he consistently refused to countenance the requests of the Persian government either to deliver Him to their representative or to order His expulsion from Turkish territory.
On no previous occasion, since the inception of the Faith, not even during the days when the Báb in Isfahan, in Tabriz and in Chihriq was acclaimed by the ovations of an enthusiastic populace, had any of its exponents risen to such high eminence in the public mind, or exercised over so diversified a circle of admirers an influence so far reaching and so potent. Yet unprecedented as was the sway which Bahá'u'lláh held while, in that primitive age of the Faith, He was dwelling in Baghdad, its range at that time was modest when compared with the magnitude of the fame which, at the close of that same age, and through the immediate inspiration of the Center of His Covenant, the Faith acquired in both the European and American continents.
The ascendancy achieved by Bahá'u'lláh was nowhere better demonstrated than in His ability to broaden the outlook and transform the character of the community to which He belonged. Though Himself nominally a Babi, though the provisions of the Bayan were still regarded as binding and inviolable, He was able to inculcate a standard which, while not incompatible with its tenets, was ethically superior to the loftiest principles which the Bábi Dispensation had established. The salutary and fundamental truths advocated by the Báb, that had either been obscured, neglected or misrepresented, were moreover elucidated by Bahá'u'lláh, reaffirmed and instilled afresh into the corporate life of the community, and into the souls of the individuals who comprised it. The dissociation of the Bábi Faith from every form of political activity and from all secret associations and factions; the emphasis placed on the principle of non-violence; the necessity of strict obedience to established authority; the ban imposed on all forms of sedition, on back-biting, retaliation, and dispute; the stress laid on godliness, kindliness, humility and piety, on honesty and truthfulness, chastity and fidelity, on justice, toleration, sociability, amity and concord, on the acquisition of arts and sciences, on self-sacrifice and detachment, on patience, steadfastnessPage 133
and resignation to the will of God -- all these constitute the salient features of a code of ethical conduct to which the books, treatises and epistles, revealed during those years, by the indefatigable pen of Bahá'u'lláh, unmistakably bear witness.
"By the aid of God and His divine grace and mercy," He Himself has written with reference to the character and consequences of His own labors during that period, "We revealed, as a copious rain, Our verses, and sent them to various parts of the world. We exhorted all men, and particularly this people, through Our wise counsels and loving admonitions, and forbade them to engage in sedition, quarrels, disputes or conflict. As a result of this, and by the grace of God, waywardness and folly were changed into piety and understanding, and weapons of war converted into instruments of peace." "Bahá'u'lláh," Abdu'l-Bahá affirmed, "after His return (from Sulaymaniyyih) made such strenuous efforts in educating and training this community, in reforming its manners, in regulating its affairs and in rehabilitating its fortunes, that in a short while all these troubles and mischiefs were quenched, and the utmost peace and tranquillity reigned in men's hearts." And again: "When these fundamentals were established in the hearts of this people, they everywhere acted in such wise that, in the estimation of those in authority, they became famous for the integrity of their character, the steadfastness of their hearts, the purity of their motives, the praiseworthiness of their deeds, and the excellence of their conduct."
The exalted character of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh propounded during that period is perhaps best illustrated by the following statement made by Him in those days to an official who had reported to Him that, because of the devotion to His person which an evildoer had professed, he had hesitated to inflict upon that criminal the punishment he deserved: "Tell him, no one in this world can claim any relationship to Me except those who, in all their deeds and in their conduct, follow My example, in such wise that all the peoples of the earth would be powerless to prevent them from doing and saying that which is meet and seemly." "This brother of Mine," He further declared to that official, "this Mirza Musa, who is from the same mother and father as Myself, and who from his earliest childhood has kept Me company, should he perpetrate an act contrary to the interests of either the state or religion, and his guilt be established in your sight, I would be pleased and appreciate your action were you to bind his hands and cast him into the river to drown, and refuse to consider the intercession of any one on his behalf." In anotherPage 134
connection He, wishing to stress His strong condemnation of all acts of violence, had written: "It would be more acceptable in My sight for a person to harm one of My own sons or relatives rather than inflict injury upon any soul."
"Most of those who surrounded Bahá'u'lláh," wrote Nabil, describing the spirit that animated the reformed Babi community in Baghdad, "exercised such care in sanctifying and purifying their souls, that they would suffer no word to cross their lips that might not conform to the will of God, nor would they take a single step that might be contrary to His good-pleasure." "Each one," he relates, "had entered into a pact with one of his fellow-disciples, in which they agreed to admonish one another, and, if necessary, chastise one another with a number of blows on the soles of the feet, proportioning the number of strokes to the gravity of the offense against the lofty standards they had sworn to observe." Describing the fervor of their zeal, he states that "not until the offender had suffered the punishment he had solicited, would he consent to either eat or drink."
The complete transformation which the written and spoken word of Bahá'u'lláh had effected in the outlook and character of His companions was equalled by the burning devotion which His love had kindled in their souls. A passionate zeal and fervor, that rivalled the enthusiasm that had glowed so fiercely in the breasts of the Báb's disciples in their moments of greatest exaltation, had now seized the hearts of the exiles of Baghdad and galvanized their entire beings. "So inebriated," Nabil, describing the fecundity of this tremendously dynamic spiritual revival, has written, "so carried away was every one by the sweet savors of the Morn of Divine Revelation that, methinks, out of every thorn sprang forth heaps of blossoms, and every seed yielded innumerable harvests." "The room of the Most Great House," that same chronicler has recorded, "set apart for the reception of Bahá'u'lláh's visitors, though dilapidated, and having long since outgrown its usefulness, vied, through having been trodden by the blessed footsteps of the Well Beloved, with the Most Exalted Paradise. Low-roofed, it yet seemed to reach to the stars, and though it boasted but a single couch, fashioned from the branches of palms, whereon He Who is the King of Names was wont to sit, it drew to itself, even as a loadstone, the hearts of the princes."
It was this same reception room which, in spite of its rude simplicity, had so charmed the Shuja'u'd-Dawlih that he had expressed to his fellow-princes his intention of building a duplicate of it in his home in Kazimayn. "He may well succeed," Bahá'u'lláh is reportedPage 135
to have smilingly remarked when apprized of this intention, "in reproducing outwardly the exact counterpart of this low-roofed room made of mud and straw with its diminutive garden. What of his ability to open onto it the spiritual doors leading to the hidden worlds of God?" "I know not how to explain it," another prince, Zaynu'l-Abidin Khan, the Fakhru'd-Dawlih, describing the atmosphere which pervaded that reception-room, had affirmed, "were all the sorrows of the world to be crowded into my heart they would, I feel, all vanish, when in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. It is as if I had entered Paradise itself."
The joyous feasts which these companions, despite their extremely modest earnings, continually offered in honor of their Beloved; the gatherings, lasting far into the night, in which they loudly celebrated, with prayers, poetry and song, the praises of the Báb, of Quddus and of Bahá'u'lláh; the fasts they observed; the vigils they kept; the dreams and visions which fired their souls, and which they recounted to each other with feelings of unbounded enthusiasm; the eagerness with which those who served Bahá'u'lláh performed His errands, waited upon His needs, and carried heavy skins of water for His ablutions and other domestic purposes; the acts of imprudence which, in moments of rapture, they occasionally committed; the expressions of wonder and admiration which their words and acts evoked in a populace that had seldom witnessed such demonstrations of religious transport and personal devotion -- these, and many others, will forever remain associated with the history of that immortal period, intervening between the birth hour of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation and its announcement on the eve of His departure from Iraq.
Numerous and striking are the anecdotes which have been recounted by those whom duty, accident, or inclination had, in the course of these poignant years, brought into direct contact with Bahá'u'lláh. Many and moving are the testimonies of bystanders who were privileged to gaze on His countenance, observe His gait, or overhear His remarks, as He moved through the lanes and streets of the city, or paced the banks of the river; of the worshippers who watched Him pray in their mosques; of the mendicant, the sick, the aged, and the unfortunate whom He succored, healed, supported and comforted; of the visitors, from the haughtiest prince to the meanest beggar, who crossed His threshold and sat at His feet; of the merchant, the artisan, and the shopkeeper who waited upon Him and supplied His daily needs; of His devotees who had perceived the signs of His hidden glory; of His adversaries who were confoundedPage 136
or disarmed by the power of His utterance and the warmth of His love; of the priests and laymen, the noble and learned, who besought Him with the intention of either challenging His authority, or testing His knowledge, or investigating His claims, or confessing their shortcomings, or declaring their conversion to the Cause He had espoused.
From such a treasury of precious memories it will suffice my purpose to cite but a single instance, that of one of His ardent lovers, a native of Zavarih, Siyyid Isma'il by name, surnamed Dhabih (the Sacrifice), formerly a noted divine, taciturn, meditative and wholly severed from every earthly tie, whose self-appointed task, on which he prided himself, was to sweep the approaches of the house in which Bahá'u'lláh was dwelling. Unwinding his green turban, the ensign of his holy lineage, from his head, he would, at the hour of dawn, gather up, with infinite patience, the rubble which the footsteps of his Beloved had trodden, would blow the dust from the crannies of the wall adjacent to the door of that house, would collect the sweepings in the folds of his own cloak, and, scorning to cast his burden for the feet of others to tread upon, would carry it as far as the banks of the river and throw it into its waters. Unable, at length, to contain the ocean of love that surged within his soul, he, after having denied himself for forty days both sleep and sustenance, and rendering for the last time the service so dear to his heart, betook himself, one day, to the banks of the river, on the road to Kazimayn, performed his ablutions, lay down on his back, with his face turned towards Baghdad, severed his throat with a razor, laid the razor upon his breast, and expired. (1275 A.H.)
Nor was he the only one who had meditated such an act and was determined to carry it out. Others were ready to follow suit, had not Bahá'u'lláh promptly intervened, and ordered the refugees living in Baghdad to return immediately to their native land. Nor could the authorities, when it was definitely established that Dhabih had died by his own hand, remain indifferent to a Cause whose Leader could inspire so rare a devotion in, and hold such absolute sway over, the hearts of His lovers. Apprized of the apprehensions that episode had evoked in certain quarters in Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have remarked: "Siyyid Isma'il was possessed of such power and might that were he to be confronted by all the peoples of the earth, he would, without doubt, be able to establish his ascendancy over them." "No blood," He is reported to have said with reference to this same Dhabih, whom He extolled as "King andPage 137
Beloved of Martyrs," "has, till now, been poured upon the earth as pure as the blood he shed."
"So intoxicated were those who had quaffed from the cup of Bahá'u'lláh's presence," is yet another testimony from the pen of Nabil, who was himself an eye-witness of most of these stirring episodes, "that in their eyes the palaces of kings appeared more ephemeral than a spider's web.... The celebrations and festivities that were theirs were such as the kings of the earth had never dreamt of." "I, myself with two others," he relates, "lived in a room which was devoid of furniture. Bahá'u'lláh entered it one day, and, looking about Him, remarked: 'Its emptiness pleases Me. In My estimation it is preferable to many a spacious palace, inasmuch as the beloved of God are occupied in it with the remembrance of the Incomparable Friend, with hearts that are wholly emptied of the dross of this world.'" His own life was characterized by that same austerity, and evinced that same simplicity which marked the lives of His beloved companions. "There was a time in Iraq," He Himself affirms, in one of His Tablets, "when the Ancient Beauty ... had no change of linen. The one shirt He possessed would be washed, dried and worn again."
"Many a night," continues Nabil, depicting the lives of those self-oblivious companions, "no less than ten persons subsisted on no more than a pennyworth of dates. No one knew to whom actually belonged the shoes, the cloaks, or the robes that were to be found in their houses. Whoever went to the bazaar could claim that the shoes upon his feet were his own, and each one who entered the presence of Bahá'u'lláh could affirm that the cloak and robe he then wore belonged to him. Their own names they had forgotten, their hearts were emptied of aught else except adoration for their Beloved.... O, for the joy of those days, and the gladness and wonder of those hours!"
The enormous expansion in the scope and volume of Bahá'u'lláh's writings, after His return from Sulaymaniyyih, is yet another distinguishing feature of the period under review. The verses that streamed during those years from His pen, described as "a copious rain" by Himself, whether in the form of epistles, exhortations, commentaries, apologies, dissertations, prophecies, prayers, odes or specific Tablets, contributed, to a marked degree, to the reformation and progressive unfoldment of the Bábi community, to the broadening of its outlook, to the expansion of its activities and to the enlightenment of the minds of its members. So prolific was this period, thatPage 138
during the first two years after His return from His retirement, according to the testimony of Nabil, who was at that time living in Baghdad, the unrecorded verses that streamed from His lips averaged, in a single day and night, the equivalent of the Qur'an! As to those verses which He either dictated or wrote Himself, their number was no less remarkable than either the wealth of material they contained, or the diversity of subjects to which they referred. A vast, and indeed the greater, proportion of these writings were, alas, lost irretrievably to posterity. No less an authority than Mirza Aqa Jan, Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, affirms, as reported by Nabil, that by the express order of Bahá'u'lláh, hundreds of thousands of verses, mostly written by His own hand, were obliterated and cast into the river. "Finding me reluctant to execute His orders," Mirza Aqa Jan has related to Nabil, "Bahá'u'lláh would reassure me saying: 'None is to be found at this time worthy to hear these melodies.' ...Not once, or twice, but innumerable times, was I commanded to repeat this act." A certain Muhammad Karim, a native of Shiraz, who had been a witness to the rapidity and the manner in which the Báb had penned the verses with which He was inspired, has left the following testimony to posterity, after attaining, during those days, the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, and beholding with his own eyes what he himself had considered to be the only proof of the mission of the Promised One: "I bear witness that the verses revealed by Bahá'u'lláh were superior, in the rapidity with which they were penned, in the ease with which they flowed, in their lucidity, their profundity and sweetness to those which I, myself saw pour from the pen of the Báb when in His presence. Had Bahá'u'lláh no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient, in the eyes of the world and its people, that He produced such verses as have streamed this day from His pen."
Foremost among the priceless treasures cast forth from the billowing ocean of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation ranks the Kitáb-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude), revealed within the space of two days and two nights, in the closing years of that period (1278 A.H. -- 1862 A.D.). It was written in fulfillment of the prophecy of the Báb, Who had specifically stated that the Promised One would complete the text of the unfinished Persian Bayan, and in reply to the questions addressed to Bahá'u'lláh by the as yet unconverted maternal uncle of the Báb, Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, while on a visit, with his brother, Haji Mirza Hasan-'Ali, to Karbila. A model of Persian prose, of a style at once original, chaste and vigorous, and remarkably lucid, both cogent in argument and matchless in its irresistible eloquence,Page 139
this Book, setting forth in outline the Grand Redemptive Scheme of God, occupies a position unequalled by any work in the entire range of Bahá'í literature, except the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh's Most Holy Book. Revealed on the eve of the declaration of His Mission, it proffered to mankind the "Choice Sealed Wine," whose seal is of "musk," and broke the "seals" of the "Book" referred to by Daniel, and disclosed the meaning of the "words" destined to remain "closed up" till the "time of the end."
Within a compass of two hundred pages it proclaims unequivocally the existence and oneness of a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty; asserts the relativity of religious truth and the continuity of Divine Revelation; affirms the unity of the Prophets, the universality of their Message, the identity of their fundamental teachings, the sanctity of their scriptures, and the twofold character of their stations; denounces the blindness and perversity of the divines and doctors of every age; cites and elucidates the allegorical passages of the New Testament, the abstruse verses of the Qur'an, and the cryptic Muhammadan traditions which have bred those age-long misunderstandings, doubts and animosities that have sundered and kept apart the followers of the world's leading religious systems; enumerates the essential prerequisites for the attainment by every true seeker of the object of his quest; demonstrates the validity, the sublimity and significance of the Báb's Revelation; acclaims the heroism and detachment of His disciples; foreshadows, and prophesies the world-wide triumph of the Revelation promised to the people of the Bayan; upholds the purity and innocence of the Virgin Mary; glorifies the Imams of the Faith of Muhammad; celebrates the martyrdom, and lauds the spiritual sovereignty, of the Imam Husayn; unfolds the meaning of such symbolic terms as "Return," "Resurrection," "Seal of the Prophets" and "Day of Judgment"; adumbrates and distinguishes between the three stages of Divine Revelation; and expatiates, in glowing terms, upon the glories and wonders of the "City of God," renewed, at fixed intervals, by the dispensation of Providence, for the guidance, the benefit and salvation of all mankind. Well may it be claimed that of all the books revealed by the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation, this Book alone, by sweeping away the age-long barriers that have so insurmountably separated the great religions of the world, has laid down a broad and unassailable foundation for the complete and permanent reconciliation of their followers.
Next to this unique repository of inestimable treasures must rankPage 140
that marvelous collection of gem-like utterances, the "Hidden Words" with which Bahá'u'lláh was inspired, as He paced, wrapped in His meditations, the banks of the Tigris. Revealed in the year 1274 A.H., partly in Persian, partly in Arabic, it was originally designated the "Hidden Book of Fatimih," and was identified by its Author with the Book of that same name, believed by Shi'ah Islam to be in the possession of the promised Qa'im, and to consist of words of consolation addressed by the angel Gabriel, at God's command, to Fatimih, and dictated to the Imam Ali, for the sole purpose of comforting her in her hour of bitter anguish after the death of her illustrious Father. The significance of this dynamic spiritual leaven cast into the life of the world for the reorientation of the minds of men, the edification of their souls and the rectification of their conduct can best be judged by the description of its character given in the opening passage by its Author: "This is that which hath descended from the Realm of Glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue."
To these two outstanding contributions to the world's religious literature, occupying respectively, positions of unsurpassed preeminence among the doctrinal and ethical writings of the Author of the Bahá'í Dispensation, was added, during that same period, a treatise that may well be regarded as His greatest mystical composition, designated as the "Seven Valleys," which He wrote in answer to the questions of Shaykh Muhyi'd-Din, the Qadi of Khaniqayn, in which He describes the seven stages which the soul of the seeker must needs traverse ere it can attain the object of its existence.
The "Four Valleys," an epistle addressed to the learned Shaykh Abdu'r-Rahman-i-Karkuti; the "Tablet of the Holy Mariner," in which Bahá'u'lláh prophesies the severe afflictions that are to befall Him; the "Lawh-i-Huriyyih" (Tablet of the Maiden), in which events of a far remoter future are foreshadowed; the "Suriy-i-Sabr" (Surih of Patience), revealed on the first day of Ridvan which extols Vahid and his fellow-sufferers in Nayriz; the commentary on the Letters prefixed to the Surihs of the Qur'an; His interpretation of the letter Vav, mentioned in the writings of Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsa'i, and of other abstruse passages in the works of Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti; the "Lawh-i-Madinatu't-Tawhid" (Tablet of thePage 141
City of Unity); the "Sahifiy-i-Shattiyyih"; the "Musibat-i-Hurufat-i-'Aliyat"; the "Tafsir-i-Hu"; the "Javahiru'l-Asrar" and a host of other writings, in the form of epistles, odes, homilies, specific Tablets, commentaries and prayers, contributed, each in its own way, to swell the "rivers of everlasting life" which poured forth from the "Abode of Peace" and lent a mighty impetus to the expansion of the Báb's Faith in both Persia and Iraq, quickening the souls and transforming the character of its adherents.
The undeniable evidences of the range and magnificence of Bahá'u'lláh's rising power; His rapidly waxing prestige; the miraculous transformation which, by precept and example, He had effected in the outlook and character of His companions from Baghdad to the remotest towns and hamlets in Persia; the consuming love for Him that glowed in their bosoms; the prodigious volume of writings that streamed day and night from His pen, could not fail to fan into flame the animosity which smouldered in the breasts of His Shi'ah and Sunni enemies. Now that His residence was transferred to the vicinity of the strongholds of Shi'ah Islam, and He Himself brought into direct and almost daily contact with the fanatical pilgrims who thronged the holy places of Najaf, Karbila and Kazimayn, a trial of strength between the growing brilliance of His glory and the dark and embattled forces of religious fanaticism could no longer be delayed. A spark was all that was required to ignite this combustible material of all the accumulated hatreds, fears and jealousies which the revived activities of the Bábis had inspired. This was provided by a certain Shaykh Abdu'l-Husayn, a crafty and obstinate priest, whose consuming jealousy of Bahá'u'lláh was surpassed only by his capacity to stir up mischief both among those of high degree and also amongst the lowest of the low, Arab or Persian, who thronged the streets and markets of Kazimayn, Karbila and Baghdad. He it was whom Bahá'u'lláh had stigmatized in His Tablets by such epithets as the "scoundrel," the "schemer," the "wicked one," who "drew the sword of his self against the face of God," "in whose soul Satan hath whispered," and "from whose impiety Satan flies," the "depraved one," "from whom originated and to whom will return all infidelity, cruelty and crime." Largely through the efforts of the Grand Vizir, who wished to get rid of him, this troublesome mujtahid had been commissioned by the Shah to proceed to Karbila to repair the holy sites in that city. Watching for his opportunity, he allied himself with Mirza Buzurg Khan, a newly-appointed Persian consul-general, who being of the same iniquitous turn of mind as himself,Page 142
a man of mean intelligence, insincere, without foresight or honor, and a confirmed drunkard, soon fell a prey to the influence of that vicious plotter, and became the willing instrument of his designs.
Their first concerted endeavor was to obtain from the governor of Baghdad, Mustafa Pasha, through a gross distortion of the truth, an order for the extradition of Bahá'u'lláh and His companions, an effort which miserably failed. Recognizing the futility of any attempt to achieve his purpose through the intervention of the local authorities, Shaykh Abdu'l-Husayn began, through the sedulous circulation of dreams which he first invented and then interpreted, to excite the passions of a superstitious and highly inflammable population. The resentment engendered by the lack of response he met with was aggravated by his ignominious failure to meet the challenge of an interview pre-arranged between himself and Bahá'u'lláh. Mirza Buzurg Khan, on his part, used his influence in order to arouse the animosity of the lower elements of the population against the common Adversary, by inciting them to affront Him in public, in the hope of provoking some rash retaliatory act that could be used as a ground for false charges through which the desired order for Bahá'u'lláh's extradition might be procured. This attempt too proved abortive, as the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Who, despite the warnings and pleadings of His friends, continued to walk unescorted, both by day and by night, through the streets of the city, was enough to plunge His would-be molesters into consternation and shame. Well aware of their motives, He would approach them, rally them on their intentions, joke with them, and leave them covered with confusion and firmly resolved to abandon whatever schemes they had in mind. The consul-general had even gone so far as to hire a ruffian, a Turk, named Rida, for the sum of one hundred tumans, provide him with a horse and with two pistols, and order him to seek out and kill Bahá'u'lláh, promising him that his own protection would be fully assured. Rida, learning one day that his would-be-victim was attending the public bath, eluded the vigilance of the Bábis in attendance, entered the bath with a pistol concealed in his cloak, and confronted Bahá'u'lláh in the inner chamber, only to discover that he lacked the courage to accomplish his task. He himself, years later, related that on another occasion he was lying in wait for Bahá'u'lláh, pistol in hand, when, on Bahá'u'lláh's approach, he was so overcome with fear that the pistol dropped from his hand; whereupon Bahá'u'lláh bade Aqay-i-Kalim, who accompanied Him, to hand it back to him, and show him the way to his home.Page 143
Balked in his repeated attempts to achieve his malevolent purpose, Shaykh Abdu'l-Husayn now diverted his energies into a new channel. He promised his accomplice he would raise him to the rank of a minister of the crown, if he succeeded in inducing the government to recall Bahá'u'lláh to Tihran, and cast Him again into prison. He despatched lengthy and almost daily reports to the immediate entourage of the Shah. He painted extravagant pictures of the ascendancy enjoyed by Bahá'u'lláh by representing Him as having won the allegiance of the nomadic tribes of Iraq. He claimed that He was in a position to muster, in a day, fully one hundred thousand men ready to take up arms at His bidding. He accused Him of meditating, in conjunction with various leaders in Persia, an insurrection against the sovereign. By such means as these he succeeded in bringing sufficient pressure on the authorities in Tihran to induce the Shah to grant him a mandate, bestowing on him full powers, and enjoining the Persian ulamas and functionaries to render him every assistance. This mandate the Shaykh instantly forwarded to the ecclesiastics of Najaf and Karbila, asking them to convene a gathering in Kazimayn, the place of his residence. A concourse of shaykhs, mullas and mujtahids, eager to curry favor with the sovereign, promptly responded. Upon being informed of the purpose for which they had been summoned, they determined to declare a holy war against the colony of exiles, and by launching a sudden and general assault on it to destroy the Faith at its heart. To their amazement and disappointment, however, they found that the leading mujtahid amongst them, the celebrated Shaykh Murtaday-i-Ansari, a man renowned for his tolerance, his wisdom, his undeviating justice, his piety and nobility of character, refused, when apprized of their designs, to pronounce the necessary sentence against the Bábis. He it was whom Bahá'u'lláh later extolled in the "Lawh-i-Sultan," and numbered among "those doctors who have indeed drunk of the cup of renunciation," and "never interfered with Him," and to whom Abdu'l-Bahá referred as "the illustrious and erudite doctor, the noble and celebrated scholar, the seal of seekers after truth." Pleading insufficient knowledge of the tenets of this community, and claiming to have witnessed no act on the part of its members at variance with the Qur'an, he, disregarding the remonstrances of his colleagues, abruptly left the gathering, and returned to Najaf, after having expressed, through a messenger, his regret to Bahá'u'lláh for what had happened, and his devout wish for His protection.
Frustrated in their designs, but unrelenting in their hostility, thePage 144
assembled divines delegated the learned and devout Haji Mulla Hasan-i-'Ammu, recognized for his integrity and wisdom, to submit various questions to Bahá'u'lláh for elucidation. When these were submitted, and answers completely satisfactory to the messenger were given, Haji Mulla Hasan, affirming the recognition by the ulamas of the vastness of the knowledge of Bahá'u'lláh, asked, as an evidence of the truth of His mission, for a miracle that would satisfy completely all concerned. "Although you have no right to ask this," Bahá'u'lláh replied, "for God should test His creatures, and they should not test God, still I allow and accept this request.... The ulamas must assemble, and, with one accord, choose one miracle, and write that, after the performance of this miracle they will no longer entertain doubts about Me, and that all will acknowledge and confess the truth of My Cause. Let them seal this paper, and bring it to Me. This must be the accepted criterion: if the miracle is performed, no doubt will remain for them; and if not, We shall be convicted of imposture." This clear, challenging and courageous reply, unexampled in the annals of any religion, and addressed to the most illustrious Shi'ah divines, assembled in their time-honored stronghold, was so satisfactory to their envoy that he instantly arose, kissed the knee of Bahá'u'lláh, and departed to deliver His message. Three days later he sent word that that august assemblage had failed to arrive at a decision, and had chosen to drop the matter, a decision to which he himself later gave wide publicity, in the course of his visit to Persia, and even communicated it in person to the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mirza Sa'id Khan. "We have," Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have commented, when informed of their reaction to this challenge, "through this all-satisfying, all-embracing message which We sent, revealed and vindicated the miracles of all the Prophets, inasmuch as We left the choice to the ulamas themselves, undertaking to reveal whatever they would decide upon." "If we carefully examine the text of the Bible," Abdu'l-Bahá has written concerning a similar challenge made later by Bahá'u'lláh in the "Lawh-i-Sultan," "we see that the Divine Manifestation never said to those who denied Him, 'whatever miracle you desire, I am ready to perform, and I will submit to whatever test you propose.' But in the Epistle to the Shah Bahá'u'lláh said clearly, 'Gather the ulamas and summon Me, that the evidences and proofs may be established.'"
Seven years of uninterrupted, of patient and eminently successful consolidation were now drawing to a close. A shepherdless community, subjected to a prolonged and tremendous strain, from bothPage 145
within and without, and threatened with obliteration, had been resuscitated, and risen to an ascendancy without example in the course of its twenty years' history. Its foundations reinforced, its spirit exalted, its outlook transformed, its leadership safeguarded, its fundamentals restated, its prestige enhanced, its enemies discomfited, the Hand of Destiny was gradually preparing to launch it on a new phase in its checkered career, in which weal and woe alike were to carry it through yet another stage in its evolution. The Deliverer, the sole hope, and the virtually recognized leader of this community, Who had consistently overawed the authors of so many plots to assassinate Him, Who had scornfully rejected all the timid advice that He should flee from the scene of danger, Who had firmly declined repeated and generous offers made by friends and supporters to insure His personal safety, Who had won so conspicuous a victory over His antagonists -- He was, at this auspicious hour, being impelled by the resistless processes of His unfolding Mission, to transfer His residence to the center of still greater preeminence, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, the seat of the Caliphate, the administrative center of Sunni Islam, the abode of the most powerful potentate in the Islamic world.
He had already flung a daring challenge to the sacerdotal order represented by the eminent ecclesiastics residing in Najaf, Karbila and Kazimayn. He was now, while in the vicinity of the court of His royal adversary, to offer a similar challenge to the recognized head of Sunni Islam, as well as to the sovereign of Persia, the trustee of the hidden Imam. The entire company of the kings of the earth, and in particular the Sultan and his ministers, were, moreover, to be addressed by Him, appealed to and warned, while the kings of Christendom and the Sunni hierarchy were to be severely admonished. Little wonder that the exiled Bearer of a newly-announced Revelation should have, in anticipation of the future splendor of the Lamp of His Faith, after its removal from Iraq, uttered these prophetic words: "It will shine resplendently within another globe, as predestined by Him who is the Omnipotent, the Ancient of Days. ...That the Spirit should depart out of the body of Iraq is indeed a wondrous sign unto all who are in heaven and all who are on earth. Erelong will ye behold this Divine Youth riding upon the steed of victory. Then will the hearts of the envious be seized with trembling."
The predestined hour of Bahá'u'lláh's departure from Iraq having now struck, the process whereby it could be accomplished was setPage 146
in motion. The nine months of unremitting endeavor exerted by His enemies, and particularly by Shaykh Abdu'l-Husayn and his confederate Mirza Buzurg Khan, were about to yield their fruit. Nasiri'd-Din Shah and his ministers, on the one hand, and the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, on the other, were incessantly urged to take immediate action to insure Bahá'u'lláh's removal from Baghdad. Through gross misrepresentation of the true situation and the dissemination of alarming reports a malignant and energetic enemy finally succeeded in persuading the Shah to instruct his foreign minister, Mirza Sa'id Khan, to direct the Persian Ambassador at the Sublime Porte, Mirza Husayn Khan, a close friend of Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizir of the Sultan, and of Fu'ad Pasha, the Minister of foreign affairs, to induce Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz to order the immediate transfer of Bahá'u'lláh to a place remote from Baghdad, on the ground that His continued residence in that city, adjacent to Persian territory and close to so important a center of Shi'ah pilgrimage, constituted a direct menace to the security of Persia and its government.
Mirza Sa'id Khan, in his communication to the Ambassador, stigmatized the Faith as a "misguided and detestable sect," deplored Bahá'u'lláh's release from the Siyah-Chal, and denounced Him as one who did not cease from "secretly corrupting and misleading foolish persons and ignorant weaklings." "In accordance with the royal command," he wrote, "I, your faithful friend, have been ordered ... to instruct you to seek, without delay, an appointment with their Excellencies, the Sadr-i-A'zam and the Minister of Foreign Affairs ... to request ... the removal of this source of mischief from a center like Baghdad, which is the meeting-place of many different peoples, and is situated near the frontiers of the provinces of Persia." In that same letter, quoting a celebrated verse, he writes: "'I see beneath the ashes the glow of fire, and it wants but little to burst into a blaze,'" thus betraying his fears and seeking to instill them into his correspondent.
Encouraged by the presence on the throne of a monarch who had delegated much of his powers to his ministers, and aided by certain foreign ambassadors and ministers in Constantinople, Mirza Husayn Khan, by dint of much persuasion and the friendly pressure he brought to bear on these ministers, succeeded in securing the sanction of the Sultan for the transfer of Bahá'u'lláh and His companions (who had in the meantime been forced by circumstances to change their citizenship) to Constantinople. It is even reported that the first request the Persian authorities made of a friendly Power, afterPage 147
the accession of the new Sultan to the throne, was for its active and prompt intervention in this matter.
It was on the fifth of Naw-Ruz (1863), while Bahá'u'lláh was celebrating that festival in the Mazra'iy-i-Vashshash, in the outskirts of Baghdad, and had just revealed the "Tablet of the Holy Mariner," whose gloomy prognostications had aroused the grave apprehensions of His Companions, that an emissary of Namiq Pasha arrived and delivered into His hands a communication requesting an interview between Him and the governor.
Already, as Nabil has pointed out in his narrative, Bahá'u'lláh had, in the course of His discourses, during the last years of His sojourn in Baghdad, alluded to the period of trial and turmoil that was inexorably approaching, exhibiting a sadness and heaviness of heart which greatly perturbed those around Him. A dream which He had at that time, the ominous character of which could not be mistaken, served to confirm the fears and misgivings that had assailed His companions. "I saw," He wrote in a Tablet, "the Prophets and the Messengers gather and seat themselves around Me, moaning, weeping and loudly lamenting. Amazed, I inquired of them the reason, whereupon their lamentation and weeping waxed greater, and they said unto me: 'We weep for Thee, O Most Great Mystery, O Tabernacle of Immortality!' They wept with such a weeping that I too wept with them. Thereupon the Concourse on high addressed Me saying: '...Erelong shalt Thou behold with Thine own eyes what no Prophet hath beheld.... Be patient, be patient.'... They continued addressing Me the whole night until the approach of dawn." "Oceans of sorrow," Nabil affirms, "surged in the hearts of the listeners when the Tablet of the Holy Mariner was read aloud to them.... It was evident to every one that the chapter of Baghdad was about to be closed, and a new one opened, in its stead. No sooner had that Tablet been chanted than Bahá'u'lláh ordered that the tents which had been pitched should be folded up, and that all His companions should return to the city. While the tents were being removed He observed: 'These tents may be likened to the trappings of this world, which no sooner are they spread out than the time cometh for them to be rolled up.' From these words of His they who heard them perceived that these tents would never again be pitched on that spot. They had not yet been taken away when the messenger arrived from Baghdad to deliver the afore-mentioned communication from the governor."
By the following day the Deputy-Governor had delivered toPage 148
Bahá'u'lláh in a mosque, in the neighborhood of the governor's house, Ali Pasha's letter, addressed to Namiq Pasha, couched in courteous language, inviting Bahá'u'lláh to proceed, as a guest of the Ottoman government, to Constantinople, placing a sum of money at His disposal, and ordering a mounted escort to accompany Him for His protection. To this request Bahá'u'lláh gave His ready assent, but declined to accept the sum offered Him. On the urgent representations of the Deputy that such a refusal would offend the authorities, He reluctantly consented to receive the generous allowance set aside for His use, and distributed it, that same day, among the poor.
The effect upon the colony of exiles of this sudden intelligence was instantaneous and overwhelming. "That day," wrote an eyewitness, describing the reaction of the community to the news of Bahá'u'lláh's approaching departure, "witnessed a commotion associated with the turmoil of the Day of Resurrection. Methinks, the very gates and walls of the city wept aloud at their imminent separation from the Abha Beloved. The first night mention was made of His intended departure His loved ones, one and all, renounced both sleep and food.... Not a soul amongst them could be tranquillized. Many had resolved that in the event of their being deprived of the bounty of accompanying Him, they would, without hesitation, kill themselves.... Gradually, however, through the words which He addressed them, and through His exhortations and His loving-kindness, they were calmed and resigned themselves to His good-pleasure." For every one of them, whether Arab or Persian, man or woman, child or adult, who lived in Baghdad, He revealed during those days, in His own hand, a separate Tablet. In most of these Tablets He predicted the appearance of the "Calf" and of the "Birds of the Night," allusions to those who, as anticipated in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner, and foreshadowed in the dream quoted above, were to raise the standard of rebellion and precipitate the gravest crisis in the history of the Faith.
Twenty-seven days after that mournful Tablet had been so unexpectedly revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, and the fateful communication, presaging His departure to Constantinople had been delivered into His hands, on a Wednesday afternoon (April 22, 1863), thirty-one days after Naw-Ruz, on the third of Dhi'l-Qa'dih, 1279 A.H., He set forth on the first stage of His four months' journey to the capital of the Ottoman Empire. That historic day, forever after designated as the first day of the Ridvan Festival, the culmination of innumerable farewell visits which friends and acquaintances of every classPage 149
and denomination, had been paying him, was one the like of which the inhabitants of Baghdad had rarely beheld. A concourse of people of both sexes and of every age, comprising friends and strangers Arabs, Kurds and Persians, notables and clerics, officials and merchants, as well as many of the lower classes, the poor, the orphaned, the outcast, some surprised, others heartbroken, many tearful and apprehensive, a few impelled by curiosity or secret satisfaction, thronged the approaches of His house, eager to catch a final glimpse of One Who, for a decade, had, through precept and example, exercised so potent an influence on so large a number of the heterogeneous inhabitants of their city.
Leaving for the last time, amidst weeping and lamentation, His "Most Holy Habitation," out of which had "gone forth the breath of the All-Glorious," and from which had poured forth, in "ceaseless strains," the "melody of the All-Merciful," and dispensing on His way with a lavish hand a last alms to the poor He had so faithfully befriended, and uttering words of comfort to the disconsolate who besought Him on every side, He, at length, reached the banks of the river, and was ferried across, accompanied by His sons and amanuensis, to the Najibiyyih Garden, situated on the opposite shore. "O My companions," He thus addressed the faithful band that surrounded Him before He embarked, "I entrust to your keeping this city of Baghdad, in the state ye now behold it, when from the eyes of friends and strangers alike, crowding its housetops, its streets and markets, tears like the rain of spring are flowing down, and I depart. With you it now rests to watch lest your deeds and conduct dim the flame of love that gloweth within the breasts of its inhabitants."
The muezzin had just raised the afternoon call to prayer when Bahá'u'lláh entered the Najibiyyih Garden, where He tarried twelve days before His final departure from the city. There His friends and companions, arriving in successive waves, attained His presence and bade Him, with feelings of profound sorrow, their last farewell. Outstanding among them was the renowned Alusi, the Mufti of Baghdad, who, with eyes dimmed with tears, execrated the name of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, whom he deemed to be primarily responsible for so unmerited a banishment. "I have ceased to regard him," he openly asserted, "as Nasiri'd-Din (the helper of the Faith), but consider him rather to be its wrecker." Another distinguished visitor was the governor himself, Namiq Pasha, who, after expressing in the most respectful terms his regret at the developments which had precipitated Bahá'u'lláh's departure, and assuring Him of his readiness toPage 150
aid Him in any way he could, handed to the officer appointed to accompany Him a written order, commanding the governors of the provinces through which the exiles would be passing to extend to them the utmost consideration. "Whatever you require," he, after profuse apologies, informed Bahá'u'lláh, "you have but to command. We are ready to carry it out." "Extend thy consideration to Our loved ones," was the reply to his insistent and reiterated offers, "and deal with them with kindness" -- a request to which he gave his warm and unhesitating assent.
Small wonder that, in the face of so many evidences of deep-seated devotion, sympathy and esteem, so strikingly manifested by high and low alike, from the time Bahá'u'lláh announced His contemplated journey to the day of His departure from the Najibiyyih Garden -- small wonder that those who had so tirelessly sought to secure the order for His banishment, and had rejoiced at the success of their efforts, should now have bitterly regretted their act. "Such hath been the interposition of God," Abdu'l-Bahá, in a letter written by Him from that garden, with reference to these enemies, affirms, "that the joy evinced by them hath been turned to chagrin and sorrow, so much so that the Persian consul-general in Baghdad regrets exceedingly the plans and plots the schemers had devised. Namiq Pasha himself, on the day he called on Him (Bahá'u'lláh) stated: 'Formerly they insisted upon your departure. Now, however, they are even more insistent that you should remain.'"Page 151
The arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in the Najibiyyih Garden, subsequently designated by His followers the Garden of Ridvan, signalizes the commencement of what has come to be recognized as the holiest and most significant of all Bahá'í festivals, the festival commemorating the Declaration of His Mission to His companions. So momentous a Declaration may well be regarded both as the logical consummation of that revolutionizing process which was initiated by Himself upon His return from Sulaymaniyyih, and as a prelude to the final proclamation of that same Mission to the world and its rulers from Adrianople.
Through that solemn act the "delay," of no less than a decade, divinely interposed between the birth of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation in the Siyah-Chal and its announcement to the Báb's disciples, was at long last terminated. The "set time of concealment," during which as He Himself has borne witness, the "signs and tokens of a divinely-appointed Revelation" were being showered upon Him, was fulfilled. The "myriad veils of light," within which His glory had been wrapped, were, at that historic hour, partially lifted, vouchsafing to mankind "an infinitesimal glimmer" of the effulgence of His "peerless, His most sacred and exalted Countenance." The "thousand two hundred and ninety days," fixed by Daniel in the last chapter of His Book, as the duration of the "abomination that maketh desolate" had now elapsed. The "hundred lunar years," destined to immediately precede that blissful consummation (1335 days), announced by Daniel in that same chapter, had commenced. The nineteen years, constituting the first "Vahid," preordained in the Persian Bayan by the pen of the Báb, had been completed. The Lord of the Kingdom, Jesus Christ returned in the glory of the Father, was about to ascend His throne, and assume the sceptre of a world-embracing, indestructible sovereignty. The community of the Most Great Name, the "companions of the Crimson Colored Ark," lauded in glowing terms in the Qayyumu'l-Asma', had visibly emerged. The Báb's own prophecy regarding the "Ridvan," the scene of the unveiling of Bahá'u'lláh's transcendent glory, had been literally fulfilled.Page 152
Undaunted by the prospect of the appalling adversities which, as predicted by Himself, were soon to overtake Him; on the eve of a second banishment which would be fraught with many hazards and perils, and would bring Him still farther from His native land, the cradle of His Faith, to a country alien in race, in language and in culture; acutely conscious of the extension of the circle of His adversaries, among whom were soon to be numbered a monarch more despotic than Nasiri'd-Din Shah, and ministers no less unyielding in their hostility than either Haji Mirza Aqasi or the Amir-Nizam; undeterred by the perpetual interruptions occasioned by the influx of a host of visitors who thronged His tent, Bahá'u'lláh chose in that critical and seemingly unpropitious hour to advance so challenging a claim, to lay bare the mystery surrounding His person, and to assume, in their plenitude, the power and the authority which were the exclusive privileges of the One Whose advent the Báb had prophesied.
Already the shadow of that great oncoming event had fallen upon the colony of exiles, who awaited expectantly its consummation. As the year "eighty" steadily and inexorably approached, He Who had become the real leader of that community increasingly experienced, and progressively communicated to His future followers, the onrushing influences of its informing force. The festive, the soul-entrancing odes which He revealed almost every day; the Tablets, replete with hints, which streamed from His pen; the allusions which, in private converse and public discourse, He made to the approaching hour; the exaltation which in moments of joy and sadness alike flooded His soul; the ecstasy which filled His lovers, already enraptured by the multiplying evidences of His rising greatness and glory; the perceptible change noted in His demeanor; and finally, His adoption of the taj (tall felt head-dress), on the day of His departure from His Most Holy House -- all proclaimed unmistakably His imminent assumption of the prophetic office and of His open leadership of the community of the Báb's followers.
"Many a night," writes Nabil, depicting the tumult that had seized the hearts of Bahá'u'lláh's companions, in the days prior to the declaration of His mission, "would Mirza Aqa Jan gather them together in his room, close the door, light numerous camphorated candles, and chant aloud to them the newly revealed odes and Tablets in his possession. Wholly oblivious of this contingent world, completely immersed in the realms of the spirit, forgetful of the necessity for food, sleep or drink, they would suddenly discoverPage 153
that night had become day, and that the sun was approaching its zenith."
Of the exact circumstances attending that epoch-making Declaration we, alas, are but scantily informed. The words Bahá'u'lláh actually uttered on that occasion, the manner of His Declaration, the reaction it produced, its impact on Mirza Yahya, the identity of those who were privileged to hear Him, are shrouded in an obscurity which future historians will find it difficult to penetrate. The fragmentary description left to posterity by His chronicler Nabil is one of the very few authentic records we possess of the memorable days He spent in that garden. "Every day," Nabil has related, "ere the hour of dawn, the gardeners would pick the roses which lined the four avenues of the garden, and would pile them in the center of the floor of His blessed tent. So great would be the heap that when His companions gathered to drink their morning tea in His presence, they would be unable to see each other across it. All these roses Bahá'u'lláh would, with His own hands, entrust to those whom He dismissed from His presence every morning to be delivered, on His behalf, to His Arab and Persian friends in the city." "One night," he continues, "the ninth night of the waxing moon, I happened to be one of those who watched beside His blessed tent. As the hour of midnight approached, I saw Him issue from His tent, pass by the places where some of His companions were sleeping, and begin to pace up and down the moonlit, flower-bordered avenues of the garden. So loud was the singing of the nightingales on every side that only those who were near Him could hear distinctly His voice. He continued to walk until, pausing in the midst of one of these avenues, He observed: 'Consider these nightingales. So great is their love for these roses, that sleepless from dusk till dawn, they warble their melodies and commune with burning passion with the object of their adoration. How then can those who claim to be afire with the rose-like beauty of the Beloved choose to sleep?' For three successive nights I watched and circled round His blessed tent. Every time I passed by the couch whereon He lay, I would find Him wakeful, and every day, from morn till eventide, I would see Him ceaselessly engaged in conversing with the stream of visitors who kept flowing in from Baghdad. Not once could I discover in the words He spoke any trace of dissimulation."
As to the significance of that Declaration let Bahá'u'lláh Himself reveal to us its import. Acclaiming that historic occasion as the "Most Great Festival," the "King of Festivals," the "Festival of God,"Page 154
He has, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, characterized it as the Day whereon "all created things were immersed in the sea of purification," whilst in one of His specific Tablets, He has referred to it as the Day whereon "the breezes of forgiveness were wafted over the entire creation." "Rejoice, with exceeding gladness, O people of Baha!", He, in another Tablet, has written, "as ye call to remembrance the Day of supreme felicity, the Day whereon the Tongue of the Ancient of Days hath spoken, as He departed from His House proceeding to the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendors of His Name, the All-Merciful... Were We to reveal the hidden secrets of that Day, all that dwell on earth and in the heavens would swoon away and die, except such as will be preserved by God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. Such is the inebriating effect of the words of God upon the Revealer of His undoubted proofs that His pen can move no longer." And again: "The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching.... The Day-Star of Blissfulness shineth above the horizon of Our Name, the Blissful, inasmuch as the Kingdom of the Name of God hath been adorned with the ornament of the Name of Thy Lord, the Creator of the heavens.... Take heed lest anything deter Thee from extolling the greatness of this Day -- the Day whereon the Finger of Majesty and Power hath opened the seal of the Wine of Reunion, and called all who are in the heavens and all who are on earth.... This is the Day whereon the unseen world crieth out: 'Great is thy blessedness, O earth, for thou hast been made the footstool of thy God, and been chosen as the seat of His mighty throne' ...Say ... He it is Who hath laid bare before you the hidden and treasured Gem, were ye to seek it. He it is who is the One Beloved of all things, whether of the past or of the future." And yet again: "Arise, and proclaim unto the entire creation the tidings that He who is the All-Merciful hath directed His steps towards the Ridvan and entered it. Guide, then, the people unto the Garden of Delight which God hath made the Throne of His Paradise... Within this Paradise, and from the heights of its loftiest chambers, the Maids of Heaven have cried out and shouted: 'Rejoice, ye dwellers of the realms above, for the fingers of Him Who is the Ancient of Days are ringing, in the name of the All-Glorious, the Most Great Bell, in the midmost heart of the heavens. The hands of bounty have borne round the cups of everlasting life. Approach, and quaff your fill.'" And finally: "Forget the world of creation, O Pen, and turn Thou towards the face of Thy Lord, the Lord of all names. Adorn, then, the worldPage 155
with the ornament of the favors of Thy Lord, the King of everlasting days. For We perceive the fragrance of the Day whereon He Who is the Desire of all nations hath shed upon the kingdoms of the unseen and of the seen the splendors of the light of His most excellent names, and enveloped them with the radiance of the luminaries of His most gracious favors, favors which none can reckon except Him Who is the Omnipotent Protector of the entire creation."
The departure of Bahá'u'lláh from the Garden of Ridvan, at noon, on the 14th of Dhi'l-Qa'dih 1279 A.H. (May 3, 1863), witnessed scenes of tumultuous enthusiasm no less spectacular, and even more touching, than those which greeted Him when leaving His Most Great House in Baghdad. "The great tumult," wrote an eyewitness, "associated in our minds with the Day of Gathering, the Day of Judgment, we beheld on that occasion. Believers and unbelievers alike sobbed and lamented. The chiefs and notables who had congregated were struck with wonder. Emotions were stirred to such depths as no tongue can describe, nor could any observer escape their contagion."
Mounted on His steed, a red roan stallion of the finest breed, the best His lovers could purchase for Him, and leaving behind Him a bowing multitude of fervent admirers, He rode forth on the first stage of a journey that was to carry Him to the city of Constantinople. "Numerous were the heads," Nabil himself a witness of that memorable scene, recounts, "which, on every side, bowed to the dust at the feet of His horse, and kissed its hoofs, and countless were those who pressed forward to embrace His stirrups." "How great the number of those embodiments of fidelity," testifies a fellow-traveler, "who, casting themselves before that charger, preferred death to separation from their Beloved! Methinks, that blessed steed trod upon the bodies of those pure-hearted souls." "He (God) it was," Bahá'u'lláh Himself declares, "Who enabled Me to depart out of the city (Baghdad), clothed with such majesty as none, except the denier and the malicious, can fail to acknowledge." These marks of homage and devotion continued to surround Him until He was installed in Constantinople. Mirza Yahya, while hurrying on foot, by his own choice, behind Bahá'u'lláh's carriage, on the day of His arrival in that city, was overheard by Nabil to remark to Siyyid Muhammad: "Had I not chosen to hide myself, had I revealed my identity, the honor accorded Him (Bahá'u'lláh) on this day would have been mine too."
The same tokens of devotion shown Bahá'u'lláh at the time ofPage 156
His departure from His House, and later from the Garden of Ridvan, were repeated when, on the 20th of Dhi'l-Qa'dih (May 9, 1863), accompanied by members of His family and twenty-six of His disciples, He left Firayjat, His first stopping-place in the course of that journey. A caravan, consisting of fifty mules, a mounted guard of ten soldiers with their officer, and seven pairs of howdahs, each pair surmounted by four parasols, was formed, and wended its way, by easy stages, and in the space of no less than a hundred and ten days, across the uplands, and through the defiles, the woods, valleys and pastures, comprising the picturesque scenery of eastern Anatolia, to the port of Samsun, on the Black Sea. At times on horseback, at times resting in the howdah reserved for His use, and which was oftentimes surrounded by His companions, most of whom were on foot, He, by virtue of the written order of Namiq Pasha, was accorded, as He traveled northward, in the path of spring, an enthusiastic reception by the valis, the mutisarrifs, the qa'im-maqams, the mudirs, the shaykhs, the muftis and qadis, the government officials and notables belonging to the districts through which He passed. In Karkuk, in Irbil, in Mosul, where He tarried three days, in Nisibin, in Mardin, in Diyar-Bakr, where a halt of a couple of days was made, in Kharput, in Sivas, as well as in other villages and hamlets, He would be met by a delegation immediately before His arrival, and would be accompanied, for some distance, by a similar delegation upon His departure. The festivities which, at some stations, were held in His honor, the food the villagers prepared and brought for His acceptance, the eagerness which time and again they exhibited in providing the means for His comfort, recalled the reverence which the people of Baghdad had shown Him on so many occasions.
"As we passed that morning through the town of Mardin," that same fellow-traveler relates, "we were preceded by a mounted escort of government soldiers, carrying their banners, and beating their drums in welcome. The mutisarrif, together with officials and notables, accompanied us, while men, women and children, crowding the housetops and filling the streets, awaited our arrival. With dignity and pomp we traversed that town, and resumed our journey, the mutisarrif and those with him escorting us for a considerable distance." "According to the unanimous testimony of those we met in the course of that journey," Nabil has recorded in his narrative, "never before had they witnessed along this route, over which governors and mushirs continually passed back and forth between Constantinople and Baghdad, any one travel in such state, dispense such hospitalityPage 157
to all, and accord to each so great a share of his bounty." Sighting from His howdah the Black Sea, as He approached the port of Samsun, Bahá'u'lláh, at the request of Mirza Aqa Jan, revealed a Tablet, designated Lawh-i-Hawdaj (Tablet of the Howdah), which by such allusions as the "Divine Touchstone," "the grievous and tormenting Mischief," reaffirmed and supplemented the dire predictions recorded in the recently revealed Tablet of the Holy Mariner.
In Samsun the Chief Inspector of the entire province, extending from Baghdad to Constantinople, accompanied by several pashas, called on Him, showed Him the utmost respect, and was entertained by Him at luncheon. But seven days after His arrival, He, as foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner, was put on board a Turkish steamer and three days later was disembarked, at noon, together with His fellow-exiles, at the port of Constantinople, on the first of Rabi'u'l-Avval 1280 A.H. (August 16, 1863). In two special carriages, which awaited Him at the landing-stage He and His family drove to the house of Shamsi Big, the official who had been appointed by the government to entertain its guests, and who lived in the vicinity of the Khirqiy-i-Sharif mosque. Later they were transferred to the more commodious house of Visi Pasha, in the neighborhood of the mosque of Sultan Muhammad.
With the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh at Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire and seat of the Caliphate (acclaimed by the Muhammadans as "the Dome of Islam," but stigmatized by Him as the spot whereon the "throne of tyranny" had been established) the grimmest and most calamitous and yet the most glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá'í century may be said to have opened. A period in which untold privations and unprecedented trials were mingled with the noblest spiritual triumphs was now commencing. The day-star of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry was about to reach its zenith. The most momentous years of the Heroic Age of His Dispensation were at hand. The catastrophic process, foreshadowed as far back as the year sixty by His Forerunner in the Qayyumu'l-Asma', was beginning to be set in motion.
Exactly two decades earlier the Bábi Revelation had been born in darkest Persia, in the city of Shiraz. Despite the cruel captivity to which its Author had been subjected, the stupendous claims He had voiced had been proclaimed by Him before a distinguished assemblage in Tabriz, the capital of Adhirbayjan. In the hamlet of Badasht the Dispensation which His Faith had ushered in had been fearlessly inaugurated by the champions of His Cause. In the midstPage 158
of the hopelessness and agony of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, nine years later, that Revelation had, swiftly and mysteriously been brought to sudden fruition. The process of rapid deterioration in the fortunes of that Faith, which had gradually set in, and was alarmingly accelerated during the years of Bahá'u'lláh's withdrawal to Kurdistan, had, in a masterly fashion after His return from Sulaymaniyyih, been arrested and reversed. The ethical, the moral and doctrinal foundations of a nascent community had been subsequently, in the course of His sojourn in Baghdad, unassailably established. And finally, in the Garden of Ridvan, on the eve of His banishment to Constantinople, the ten-year delay, ordained by an inscrutable Providence, had been terminated through the Declaration of His Mission and the visible emergence of what was to become the nucleus of a world-embracing Fellowship. What now remained to be achieved was the proclamation, in the city of Adrianople, of that same Mission to the world's secular and ecclesiastical leaders, to be followed, in successive decades, by a further unfoldment, in the prison-fortress of Akka, of the principles and precepts constituting the bedrock of that Faith, by the formulation of the laws and ordinances designed to safeguard its integrity, by the establishment, immediately after His ascension, of the Covenant designed to preserve its unity and perpetuate its influence, by the prodigious and world-wide extension of its activities, under the guidance of Abdu'l-Bahá, the Center of that Covenant, and lastly, by the rise, in the Formative Age of that Faith, of its Administrative Order, the harbinger of its Golden Age and future glory.
This historic Proclamation was made at a time when the Faith was in the throes of a crisis of extreme violence, and it was in the main addressed to the kings of the earth, and to the Christian and Muslim ecclesiastical leaders who, by virtue of their immense prestige, ascendancy and authority, assumed an appalling and inescapable responsibility for the immediate destinies of their subjects and followers.
The initial phase of that Proclamation may be said to have opened in Constantinople with the communication (the text of which we, alas, do not possess) addressed by Bahá'u'lláh to Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz himself, the self-styled vicar of the Prophet of Islam and the absolute ruler of a mighty empire. So potent, so august a personage was the first among the sovereigns of the world to receive the Divine Summons, and the first among Oriental monarchs to sustain the impact of God's retributive justice. The occasion for this communication was provided by the infamous edict the Sultan had promulgated, less thanPage 159
four months after the arrival of the exiles in his capital, banishing them, suddenly and without any justification whatsoever, in the depth of winter, and in the most humiliating circumstances, to Adrianople, situated on the extremities of his empire.
That fateful and ignominious decision, arrived at by the Sultan and his chief ministers, Ali Pasha and Fu'ad Pasha, was in no small degree attributable to the persistent intrigues of the Mushiru'd-Dawlih, Mirza Husayn Khan, the Persian Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, denounced by Bahá'u'lláh as His "calumniator," who awaited the first opportunity to strike at Him and the Cause of which He was now the avowed and recognized leader. This Ambassador was pressed continually by his government to persist in the policy of arousing against Bahá'u'lláh the hostility of the Turkish authorities. He was encouraged by the refusal of Bahá'u'lláh to follow the invariable practice of government guests, however highly placed, of calling in person, upon their arrival at the capital, on the Shaykhu'l-Islam, on the Sadr-i-Azam, and on the Foreign Minister -- Bahá'u'lláh did not even return the calls paid Him by several ministers, by Kamal Pasha and by a former Turkish envoy to the court of Persia. He was not deterred by Bahá'u'lláh's upright and independent attitude which contrasted so sharply with the mercenariness of the Persian princes who were wont, on their arrival, to "solicit at every door such allowances and gifts as they might obtain." He resented Bahá'u'lláh's unwillingness to present Himself at the Persian Embassy, and to repay the visit of its representative; and, being seconded, in his efforts, by his accomplice, Haji Mirza Hasan-i-Safa, whom he instructed to circulate unfounded reports about Him, he succeeded through his official influence, as well as through his private intercourse with ecclesiastics, notables and government officials, in representing Bahá'u'lláh as a proud and arrogant person, Who regarded Himself as subject to no law, Who entertained designs inimical to all established authority, and Whose forwardness had precipitated the grave differences that had arisen between Himself and the Persian Government. Nor was he the only one who indulged in these nefarious schemes. Others, according to Abdu'l-Bahá, "condemned and vilified" the exiles, as "a mischief to all the world," as "destructive of treaties and covenants," as "baleful to all lands" and as "deserving of every chastisement and punishment."
No less a personage than the highly-respected brother-in-law of the Sadr-i-A'zam was commissioned to apprize the Captive of the edict pronounced against Him -- an edict which evinced a virtualPage 160
coalition of the Turkish and Persian imperial governments against a common adversary, and which in the end brought such tragic consequences upon the Sultanate, the Caliphate and the Qajar dynasty. Refused an audience by Bahá'u'lláh that envoy had to content himself with a presentation of his puerile observations and trivial arguments to Abdu'l-Bahá and Aqay-i-Kalim, who were delegated to see him, and whom he informed that, after three days, he would return to receive the answer to the order he had been bidden to transmit.
That same day a Tablet, severely condemnatory in tone, was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, was entrusted by Him, in a sealed envelope, on the following morning, to Shamsi Big, who was instructed to deliver it into the hands of Ali Pasha, and to say that it was sent down from God. "I know not what that letter contained," Shamsi Big subsequently informed Aqay-i-Kalim, "for no sooner had the Grand Vizir perused it than he turned the color of a corpse, and remarked: 'It is as if the King of Kings were issuing his behest to his humblest vassal king and regulating his conduct.' So grievous was his condition that I backed out of his presence." "Whatever action," Bahá'u'lláh, commenting on the effect that Tablet had produced, is reported to have stated, "the ministers of the Sultan took against Us, after having become acquainted with its contents, cannot be regarded as unjustifiable. The acts they committed before its perusal, however, can have no justification."
That Tablet, according to Nabil, was of considerable length, opened with words directed to the sovereign himself, severely censured his ministers, exposed their immaturity and incompetence, and included passages in which the ministers themselves were addressed, in which they were boldly challenged, and sternly admonished not to pride themselves on their worldly possessions, nor foolishly seek the riches of which time would inexorably rob them.
Bahá'u'lláh was on the eve of His departure, which followed almost immediately upon the promulgation of the edict of His banishment, when, in a last and memorable interview with the aforementioned Haji Mirza Hasan-i-Safa, He sent the following message to the Persian Ambassador: "What did it profit thee, and such as are like thee, to slay, year after year, so many of the oppressed, and to inflict upon them manifold afflictions, when they have increased a hundredfold, and ye find yourselves in complete bewilderment, knowing not how to relieve your minds of this oppressive thought. ...His Cause transcends any and every plan ye devise. Know this much: Were all the governments on earth to unite and take My lifePage 161
and the lives of all who bear this Name, this Divine Fire would never be quenched. His Cause will rather encompass all the kings of the earth, nay all that hath been created from water and clay.... Whatever may yet befall Us, great shall be our gain, and manifest the loss wherewith they shall be afflicted."
Pursuant to the peremptory orders issued for the immediate departure of the already twice banished exiles, Bahá'u'lláh, His family, and His companions, some riding in wagons, others mounted on pack animals, with their belongings piled in carts drawn by oxen, set out, accompanied by Turkish officers, on a cold December morning, amidst the weeping of the friends they were leaving behind, on their twelve-day journey, across a bleak and windswept country, to a city characterized by Bahá'u'lláh as "the place which none entereth except such as have rebelled against the authority of the sovereign." "They expelled Us," is His own testimony in the Suriy-i-Muluk, "from thy city (Constantinople) with an abasement with which no abasement on earth can compare." "Neither My family, nor those who accompanied Me," He further states, "had the necessary raiment to protect them from the cold in that freezing weather." And again: "The eyes of Our enemies wept over Us, and beyond them those of every discerning person." "A banishment," laments Nabil, "endured with such meekness that the pen sheddeth tears when recounting it, and the page is ashamed to bear its description." "A cold of such intensity," that same chronicler records, "prevailed that year, that nonagenarians could not recall its like. In some regions, in both Turkey and Persia, animals succumbed to its severity and perished in the snows. The upper reaches of the Euphrates, in Ma'dan-Nuqrih, were covered with ice for several days -- an unprecedented phenomenon -- while in Diyar-Bakr the river froze over for no less than forty days." "To obtain water from the springs," one of the exiles of Adrianople recounts, "a great fire had to be lighted in their immediate neighborhood, and kept burning for a couple of hours before they thawed out."
Traveling through rain and storm, at times even making night marches, the weary travelers, after brief halts at Kuchik-Chakmachih, Buyuk-Chakmachih, Salvari, Birkas, and Baba-Iski, arrived at their destination, on the first of Rajab 1280 A.H. (December 12, 1863), and were lodged in the Khan-i-'Arab, a two-story caravanserai, near the house of Izzat-Aqa. Three days later, Bahá'u'lláh and His family were consigned to a house suitable only for summer habitation, in the Muradiyyih quarter, near the Takyiy-i-Mawlavi, and were movedPage 162
again, after a week, to another house, in the vicinity of a mosque in that same neighborhood. About six months later they transferred to more commodious quarters, known as the house of Amru'llah (House of God's command) situated on the northern side of the mosque of Sultan Salim.
Thus closes the opening scene of one of the most dramatic episodes in the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh. The curtain now rises on what is admittedly the most turbulent and critical period of the first Bahá'í century -- a period that was destined to precede the most glorious phase of that ministry, the proclamation of His Message to the world and its rulers.Page 163
A twenty-year-old Faith had just begun to recover from a series of successive blows when a crisis of the first magnitude overtook it and shook it to its roots. Neither the tragic martyrdom of the Báb nor the ignominious attempt on the life of the sovereign, nor its bloody aftermath, nor Bahá'u'lláh's humiliating banishment from His native land, nor even His two-year withdrawal to Kurdistan, devastating though they were in their consequences, could compare in gravity with this first major internal convulsion which seized a newly rearisen community, and which threatened to cause an irreparable breach in the ranks of its members. More odious than the unrelenting hostility which Abu-Jahl, the uncle of Muhammad, had exhibited, more shameful than the betrayal of Jesus Christ by His disciple, Judas Iscariot, more perfidious than the conduct of the sons of Jacob towards Joseph their brother, more abhorrent than the deed committed by one of the sons of Noah, more infamous than even the criminal act perpetrated by Cain against Abel, the monstrous behavior of Mirza Yahya, one of the half-brothers of Bahá'u'lláh, the nominee of the Báb, and recognized chief of the Bábi community, brought in its wake a period of travail which left its mark on the fortunes of the Faith for no less than half a century. This supreme crisis Bahá'u'lláh Himself designated as the Ayyam-i-Shidad (Days of Stress), during which "the most grievous veil" was torn asunder, and the "most great separation" was irrevocably effected. It immensely gratified and emboldened its external enemies, both civil and ecclesiastical, played into their hands, and evoked their unconcealed derision. It perplexed and confused the friends and supporters of Bahá'u'lláh, and seriously damaged the prestige of the Faith in the eyes of its western admirers. It had been brewing ever since the early days of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in Baghdad, was temporarily suppressed by the creative forces which, under His as yet unproclaimed leadership, reanimated a disintegrating community, and finally broke out, in all its violence, in the years immediately preceding the proclamation of His Message. It brought incalculable sorrow to Bahá'u'lláh,Page 164
visibly aged Him, and inflicted, through its repercussions, the heaviest blow ever sustained by Him in His lifetime. It was engineered throughout by the tortuous intrigues and incessant machinations of that same diabolical Siyyid Muhammad, that vile whisperer who, disregarding Bahá'u'lláh's advice, had insisted on accompanying Him to Constantinople and Adrianople, and was now redoubling his efforts, with unrelaxing vigilance, to bring it to a head.
Mirza Yahya had, ever since the return of Bahá'u'lláh from Sulaymaniyyih, either chosen to maintain himself in an inglorious seclusion in his own house, or had withdrawn, whenever danger threatened, to such places of safety as Hillih and Basra. To the latter town he had fled, disguised as a Baghdad Jew, and become a shoe merchant. So great was his terror that he is reported to have said on one occasion: "Whoever claims to have seen me, or to have heard my voice, I pronounce an infidel." On being informed of Bahá'u'lláh's impending departure for Constantinople, he at first hid himself in the garden of Huvaydar, in the vicinity of Baghdad, meditating meanwhile on the advisability of fleeing either to Abyssinia, India or some other country. Refusing to heed Bahá'u'lláh's advice to proceed to Persia, and there disseminate the writings of the Báb, he sent a certain Haji Muhammad Kazim, who resembled him, to the government-house to procure for him a passport in the name of Mirza Aliy-i-Kirmanshahi, and left Baghdad, abandoning the writings there, and proceeded in disguise, accompanied by an Arab Babi, named Zahir, to Mosul, where he joined the exiles who were on their way to Constantinople.
A constant witness of the ever deepening attachment of the exiles to Bahá'u'lláh and of their amazing veneration for Him; fully aware of the heights to which his Brother's popularity had risen in Baghdad, in the course of His journey to Constantinople, and later through His association with the notables and governors of Adrianople; incensed by the manifold evidences of the courage, the dignity, and independence which that Brother had demonstrated in His dealings with the authorities in the capital; provoked by the numerous Tablets which the Author of a newly-established Dispensation had been ceaselessly revealing; allowing himself to be duped by the enticing prospects of unfettered leadership held out to him by Siyyid Muhammad, the Antichrist of the Bahá'í Revelation, even as Muhammad Shah had been misled by the Antichrist of the Bábi Revelation, Haji Mirza Aqasi; refusing to be admonished by prominent members of the community who advised him, in writing, to exercise wisdom andPage 165
restraint; forgetful of the kindness and counsels of Bahá'u'lláh, who, thirteen years his senior, had watched over his early youth and manhood; emboldened by the sin-covering eye of his Brother, Who, on so many occasions, had drawn a veil over his many crimes and follies, this arch-breaker of the Covenant of the Báb, spurred on by his mounting jealousy and impelled by his passionate love of leadership, was driven to perpetrate such acts as defied either concealment or toleration.
Irremediably corrupted through his constant association with Siyyid Muhammad, that living embodiment of wickedness, cupidity and deceit, he had already in the absence of Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdad, and even after His return from Sulaymaniyyih, stained the annals of the Faith with acts of indelible infamy. His corruption, in scores of instances, of the text of the Báb's writings; the blasphemous addition he made to the formula of the adhan by the introduction of a passage in which he identified himself with the Godhead; his insertion of references in those writings to a succession in which he nominated himself and his descendants as heirs of the Báb; the vacillation and apathy he had betrayed when informed of the tragic death which his Master had suffered; his condemnation to death of all the Mirrors of the Bábi Dispensation, though he himself was one of those Mirrors; his dastardly act in causing the murder of Dayyan, whom he feared and envied; his foul deed in bringing about, during the absence of Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdad, the assassination of Mirza Ali-Akbar, the Báb's cousin; and, most heinous of all, his unspeakably repugnant violation, during that same period, of the honor of the Báb Himself -- all these, as attested by Aqay-i-Kalim, and reported by Nabil in his Narrative, were to be thrown into a yet more lurid light by further acts the perpetration of which were to seal irretrievably his doom.
Desperate designs to poison Bahá'u'lláh and His companions, and thereby reanimate his own defunct leadership, began, approximately a year after their arrival in Adrianople, to agitate his mind. Well aware of the erudition of his half-brother, Aqay-i-Kalim, in matters pertaining to medicine, he, under various pretexts, sought enlightenment from him regarding the effects of certain herbs and poisons, and then began, contrary to his wont, to invite Bahá'u'lláh to his home, where, one day, having smeared His tea-cup with a substance he had concocted, he succeeded in poisoning Him sufficiently to produce a serious illness which lasted no less than a month, and which was accompanied by severe pains and high fever, the aftermath of which left Bahá'u'lláh with a shaking hand till the end of His life.Page 166
So grave was His condition that a foreign doctor, named Shishman, was called in to attend Him. The doctor was so appalled by His livid hue that he deemed His case hopeless, and, after having fallen at His feet, retired from His presence without prescribing a remedy. A few days later that doctor fell ill and died. Prior to his death Bahá'u'lláh had intimated that doctor Shishman had sacrificed his life for Him. To Mirza Aqa Jan, sent by Bahá'u'lláh to visit him, the doctor had stated that God had answered his prayers, and that after his death a certain Dr. Chupan, whom he knew to be reliable, should, whenever necessary, be called in his stead.
On another occasion this same Mirza Yahya had, according to the testimony of one of his wives, who had temporarily deserted him and revealed the details of the above-mentioned act, poisoned the well which provided water for the family and companions of Bahá'u'lláh, in consequence of which the exiles manifested strange symptoms of illness. He even had, gradually and with great circumspection, disclosed to one of the companions, Ustad Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Salmani, the barber, on whom he had lavished great marks of favor, his wish that he, on some propitious occasion, when attending Bahá'u'lláh in His bath, should assassinate Him. "So enraged was Ustad Muhammad-'Ali," Aqay-i-Kalim, recounting this episode to Nabil in Adrianople, has stated, "when apprized of this proposition, that he felt a strong desire to kill Mirza Yahya on the spot, and would have done so but for his fear of Bahá'u'lláh's displeasure. I happened to be the first person he encountered as he came out of the bath weeping.... I eventually succeeded, after much persuasion, in inducing him to return to the bath and complete his unfinished task." Though ordered subsequently by Bahá'u'lláh not to divulge this occurrence to any one, the barber was unable to hold his peace and betrayed the secret, plunging thereby the community into great consternation. "When the secret nursed in his (Mirza Yahya) bosom was revealed by God," Bahá'u'lláh Himself affirms, "he disclaimed such an intention, and imputed it to that same servant (Ustad Muhammad-'Ali)."
The moment had now arrived for Him Who had so recently, both verbally and in numerous Tablets, revealed the implications of the claims He had advanced, to acquaint formally the one who was the nominee of the Báb with the character of His Mission. Mirza Aqa Jan was accordingly commissioned to bear to Mirza Yahya the newly revealed Suriy-i-Amr, which unmistakably affirmed those claims, to read aloud to him its contents, and demand an unequivocal and conclusive reply. Mirza Yahya's request for a one day respite,Page 167
during which he could meditate his answer, was granted. The only reply, however, that was forthcoming was a counter-declaration, specifying the hour and the minute in which he had been made the recipient of an independent Revelation, necessitating the unqualified submission to him of the peoples of the earth in both the East and the West.
So presumptuous an assertion, made by so perfidious an adversary to the envoy of the Bearer of so momentous a Revelation was the signal for the open and final rupture between Bahá'u'lláh and Mirza Yahya -- a rupture that marks one of the darkest dates in Bahá'í history. Wishing to allay the fierce animosity that blazed in the bosom of His enemies, and to assure to each one of the exiles a complete freedom to choose between Him and them, Bahá'u'lláh withdrew with His family to the house of Rida Big (Shavval 22, 1282 A.H.), which was rented by His order, and refused, for two months, to associate with either friend or stranger, including His own companions. He instructed Aqay-i-Kalim to divide all the furniture, bedding, clothing and utensils that were to be found in His home, and send half to the house of Mirza Yahya; to deliver to him certain relics he had long coveted, such as the seals, rings, and manuscripts in the handwriting of the Báb; and to insure that he received his full share of the allowance fixed by the government for the maintenance of the exiles and their families. He, moreover, directed Aqay-i-Kalim to order to attend to Mirza Yahya's shopping, for several hours a day, any one of the companions whom he himself might select, and to assure him that whatever would henceforth be received in his name from Persia would be delivered into his own hands.
"That day," Aqay-i-Kalim is reported to have informed Nabil, "witnessed a most great commotion. All the companions lamented in their separation from the Blessed Beauty." "Those days," is the written testimony of one of those companions, "were marked by tumult and confusion. We were sore-perplexed, and greatly feared lest we be permanently deprived of the bounty of His presence."
This grief and perplexity were, however, destined to be of short duration. The calumnies with which both Mirza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad now loaded their letters, which they disseminated in Persia and Iraq, as well as the petitions, couched in obsequious language, which the former had addressed to Khurshid Pasha, the governor of Adrianople, and to his assistant Aziz Pasha, impelled Bahá'u'lláh to emerge from His retirement. He was soon after informed that this same brother had despatched one of his wives to thePage 168
government house to complain that her husband had been cheated of his rights, and that her children were on the verge of starvation -- an accusation that spread far and wide and, reaching Constantinople, became, to Bahá'u'lláh's profound distress, the subject of excited discussion and injurious comment in circles that had previously been greatly impressed by the high standard which His noble and dignified behavior had set in that city. Siyyid Muhammad journeyed to the capital, begged the Persian Ambassador, the Mushiru'd-Dawlih, to allot Mirza Yahya and himself a stipend, accused Bahá'u'lláh of sending an agent to assassinate Nasiri'd-Din Shah, and spared no effort to heap abuse and calumny on One Who had, for so long and so patiently, forborne with him, and endured in silence the enormities of which he had been guilty.
After a stay of about one year in the house of Rida Big Bahá'u'lláh returned to the house He had occupied before His withdrawal from His companions, and thence, after three months, He transferred His residence to the house of Izzat Aqa, in which He continued to live until His departure from Adrianople. It was in this house, in the month of Jamadiyu'l-Avval 1284 A.H. (Sept. 1867) that an event of the utmost significance occurred, which completely discomfited Mirza Yahya and his supporters, and proclaimed to friend and foe alike Bahá'u'lláh's triumph over them. A certain Mir Muhammad, a Babi of Shiraz, greatly resenting alike the claims and the cowardly seclusion of Mirza Yahya, succeeded in forcing Siyyid Muhammad to induce him to meet Bahá'u'lláh face to face, so that a discrimination might be publicly effected between the true and the false. Foolishly assuming that his illustrious Brother would never countenance such a proposition, Mirza Yahya appointed the mosque of Sultan Salim as the place for their encounter. No sooner had Bahá'u'lláh been informed of this arrangement than He set forth, on foot, in the heat of midday, and accompanied by this same Mir Muhammad, for the afore-mentioned mosque, which was situated in a distant part of the city, reciting, as He walked, through the streets and markets, verses, in a voice and in a manner that greatly astonished those who saw and heard Him.
"O Muhammad!", are some of the words He uttered on that memorable occasion, as testified by Himself in a Tablet, "He Who is the Spirit hath, verily, issued from His habitation, and with Him have come forth the souls of God's chosen ones and the realities of His Messengers. Behold, then, the dwellers of the realms on high above Mine head, and all the testimonies of the Prophets in My grasp.Page 169
Say: Were all the divines, all the wise men, all the kings and rulers on earth to gather together, I, in very truth, would confront them, and would proclaim the verses of God, the Sovereign, the Almighty, the All-Wise. I am He Who feareth no one, though all who are in heaven and all who are on earth rise up against me.... This is Mine hand which God hath turned white for all the worlds to behold. This is My staff; were We to cast it down, it would, of a truth, swallow up all created things." Mir Muhammad, who had been sent ahead to announce Bahá'u'lláh's arrival, soon returned, and informed Him that he who had challenged His authority wished, owing to unforeseen circumstances, to postpone for a day or two the interview. Upon His return to His house Bahá'u'lláh revealed a Tablet, wherein He recounted what had happened, fixed the time for the postponed interview, sealed the Tablet with His seal, entrusted it to Nabil, and instructed him to deliver it to one of the new believers, Mulla Muhammad-i-Tabrizi, for the information of Siyyid Muhammad, who was in the habit of frequenting that believer's shop. It was arranged to demand from Siyyid Muhammad, ere the delivery of that Tablet, a sealed note pledging Mirza Yahya, in the event of failing to appear at the trysting-place, to affirm in writing that his claims were false. Siyyid Muhammad promised that he would produce the next day the document required, and though Nabil, for three successive days, waited in that shop for the reply, neither did the Siyyid appear, nor was such a note sent by him. That undelivered Tablet, Nabil, recording twenty-three years later this historic episode in his chronicle, affirms was still in his possession, "as fresh as the day on which the Most Great Branch had penned it, and the seal of the Ancient Beauty had sealed and adorned it," a tangible and irrefutable testimony to Bahá'u'lláh's established ascendancy over a routed opponent.
Bahá'u'lláh's reaction to this most distressful episode in His ministry was, as already observed, characterized by acute anguish. "He who for months and years," He laments, "I reared with the hand of loving-kindness hath risen to take My life." "The cruelties inflicted by My oppressors," He wrote, in allusion to these perfidious enemies, "have bowed Me down, and turned My hair white. Shouldst thou present thyself before My throne, thou wouldst fail to recognize the Ancient Beauty, for the freshness of His countenance is altered, and its brightness hath faded, by reason of the oppression of the infidels." "By God!" He cries out, "No spot is left on My body that hath not been touched by the spears of thy machinations." And again: "ThouPage 170
hast perpetrated against thy Brother what no man hath perpetrated against another." "What hath proceeded from thy pen," He, furthermore, has affirmed, "hath caused the Countenances of Glory to be prostrated upon the dust, hath rent in twain the Veil of Grandeur in the Sublime Paradise, and lacerated the hearts of the favored ones established upon the loftiest seats." And yet, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, a forgiving Lord assures this same brother, this "source of perversion," "from whose own soul the winds of passion had risen and blown upon him," to "fear not because of thy deeds," bids him "return unto God, humble, submissive and lowly," and affirms that "He will put away from thee thy sins," and that "thy Lord is the Forgiving, the Mighty, the All-Merciful."
The "Most Great Idol" had at the bidding and through the power of Him Who is the Fountain-head of the Most Great Justice been cast out of the community of the Most Great Name, confounded, abhorred and broken. Cleansed from this pollution, delivered from this horrible possession, God's infant Faith could now forge ahead, and, despite the turmoil that had convulsed it, demonstrate its capacity to fight further battles, capture loftier heights, and win mightier victories.
A temporary breach had admittedly been made in the ranks of its supporters. Its glory had been eclipsed, and its annals stained forever. Its name, however, could not be obliterated, its spirit was far from broken, nor could this so-called schism tear its fabric asunder. The Covenant of the Báb, to which reference has already been made, with its immutable truths, incontrovertible prophecies, and repeated warnings, stood guard over that Faith, insuring its integrity, demonstrating its incorruptibility, and perpetuating its influence.
Though He Himself was bent with sorrow, and still suffered from the effects of the attempt on His life, and though He was well aware a further banishment was probably impending, yet, undaunted by the blow which His Cause had sustained, and the perils with which it was encompassed, Bahá'u'lláh arose with matchless power, even before the ordeal was overpast, to proclaim the Mission with which He had been entrusted to those who, in East and West, had the reins of supreme temporal authority in their grasp. The day-star of His Revelation was, through this very Proclamation, destined to shine in its meridian glory, and His Faith manifest the plenitude of its divine power.
A period of prodigious activity ensued which, in its repercussions, outshone the vernal years of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry. "Day and night,"Page 171
an eye-witness has written, "the Divine verses were raining down in such number that it was impossible to record them. Mirza Aqa Jan wrote them as they were dictated, while the Most Great Branch was continually occupied in transcribing them. There was not a moment to spare." "A number of secretaries," Nabil has testified, "were busy day and night and yet they were unable to cope with the task. Among them was Mirza Baqir-i-Shirazi.... He alone transcribed no less than two thousand verses every day. He labored during six or seven months. Every month the equivalent of several volumes would be transcribed by him and sent to Persia. About twenty volumes, in his fine penmanship, he left behind as a remembrance for Mirza Aqa Jan." Bahá'u'lláh, Himself, referring to the verses revealed by Him, has written: "Such are the outpourings ... from the clouds of Divine Bounty that within the space of an hour the equivalent of a thousand verses hath been revealed." "So great is the grace vouchsafed in this day that in a single day and night, were an amanuensis capable of accomplishing it to be found, the equivalent of the Persian Bayan would be sent down from the heaven of Divine holiness." "I swear by God!" He, in another connection has affirmed, "In those days the equivalent of all that hath been sent down aforetime unto the Prophets hath been revealed." "That which hath already been revealed in this land (Adrianople)," He, furthermore, referring to the copiousness of His writings, has declared, "secretaries are incapable of transcribing. It has, therefore, remained for the most part untranscribed."
Already in the very midst of that grievous crisis, and even before it came to a head, Tablets unnumbered were streaming from the pen of Bahá'u'lláh, in which the implications of His newly-asserted claims were fully expounded. The Suriy-i-Amr, the Lawh-i-Nuqtih, the Lawh-i-Ahmad, the Suriy-i-Ashab, the Lawh-i-Sayyah, the Suriy-i-Damm, the Suriy-i-Hajj, the Lawhu'r-Ruh, the Lawhu'r-Ridvan, the Lawhu't-Tuqa were among the Tablets which His pen had already set down when He transferred His residence to the house of Izzat Aqa. Almost immediately after the "Most Great Separation" had been effected, the weightiest Tablets associated with His sojourn in Adrianople were revealed. The Suriy-i-Muluk, the most momentous Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh (Surih of Kings) in which He, for the first time, directs His words collectively to the entire company of the monarchs of East and West, and in which the Sultan of Turkey, and his ministers, the kings of Christendom, the French and Persian Ambassadors accredited to the Sublime Porte, the MuslimPage 172
ecclesiastical leaders in Constantinople, its wise men and inhabitants, the people of Persia and the philosophers of the world are separately addressed; the Kitáb-i-Badi', His apologia, written to refute the accusations levelled against Him by Mirza Mihdiy-i-Rashti, corresponding to the Kitáb-i-Iqan, revealed in defense of the Bábi Revelation; the Munajathay-i-Siyam (Prayers for Fasting), written in anticipation of the Book of His Laws; the first Tablet to Napoleon III, in which the Emperor of the French is addressed and the sincerity of his professions put to the test; the Lawh-i-Sultan, His detailed epistle to Nasiri'd-Din Shah, in which the aims, purposes and principles of His Faith are expounded and the validity of His Mission demonstrated; the Suriy-i-Ra'is, begun in the village of Kashanih on His way to Gallipoli, and completed shortly after at Gyawur-Kyuy -- these may be regarded not only as the most outstanding among the innumerable Tablets revealed in Adrianople, but as occupying a foremost position among all the writings of the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation.
In His message to the kings of the earth, Bahá'u'lláh, in the Suriy-i-Muluk, discloses the character of His Mission; exhorts them to embrace His Message; affirms the validity of the Báb's Revelation; reproves them for their indifference to His Cause; enjoins them to be just and vigilant, to compose their differences and reduce their armaments; expatiates on His afflictions; commends the poor to their care; warns them that "Divine chastisement" will "assail" them "from every direction," if they refuse to heed His counsels, and prophesies His "triumph upon earth" though no king be found who would turn his face towards Him.
The kings of Christendom, more specifically, Bahá'u'lláh, in that same Tablet, censures for having failed to "welcome" and "draw nigh" unto Him Who is the "Spirit of Truth," and for having persisted in "disporting" themselves with their "pastimes and fancies," and declares to them that they "shall be called to account" for their doings, "in the presence of Him Who shall gather together the entire creation."
He bids Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz "hearken to the speech ... of Him Who unerringly treadeth the Straight Path"; exhorts him to direct in person the affairs of his people, and not to repose confidence in unworthy ministers; admonishes him not to rely on his treasures, nor to "overstep the bounds of moderation" but to deal with his subjects with "undeviating justice"; and acquaints him with the overwhelming burden of His own tribulations. In that same Tablet He assertsPage 173
His innocence and His loyalty to the Sultan and his ministers; describes the circumstances of His banishment from the capital; and assures him of His prayers to God on his behalf.
To this same Sultan He, moreover, as attested by the Suriy-i-Ra'is, transmitted, while in Gallipoli, a verbal message through a Turkish officer named Umar, requesting the sovereign to grant Him a ten minute interview, "so that he may demand whatsoever he would deem to be a sufficient testimony and would regard as proof of the veracity of Him Who is the Truth," adding that "should God enable Him to produce it, let him, then, release these wronged ones and leave them to themselves."
To Napoleon III Bahá'u'lláh addressed a specific Tablet, which was forwarded through one of the French ministers to the Emperor, in which He dwelt on the sufferings endured by Himself and His followers; avowed their innocence; reminded him of his two pronouncements on behalf of the oppressed and the helpless; and, desiring to test the sincerity of his motives, called upon him to "inquire into the condition of such as have been wronged," and "extend his care to the weak," and look upon Him and His fellow-exiles "with the eye of loving-kindness."
To Nasiri'd-Din Shah He revealed a Tablet, the lengthiest epistle to any single sovereign, in which He testified to the unparalleled severity of the troubles that had touched Him; recalled the sovereign's recognition of His innocence on the eve of His departure for Iraq; adjured him to rule with justice; described God's summons to Himself to arise and proclaim His Message; affirmed the disinterestedness of His counsels; proclaimed His belief in the unity of God and in His Prophets; uttered several prayers on the Shah's behalf; justified His own conduct in Iraq; stressed the beneficent influence of His teachings; and laid special emphasis on His condemnation of all forms of violence and mischief. He, moreover, in that same Tablet, demonstrated the validity of His Mission; expressed the wish to be "brought face to face with the divines of the age, and produce proofs and testimonies in the presence of His Majesty," which would establish the truth of His Cause; exposed the perversity of the ecclesiastical leaders in His own days, as well as in the days of Jesus Christ and of Muhammad; prophesied that His sufferings will be followed by the "outpourings of a supreme mercy" and by an "overflowing prosperity"; drew a parallel between the afflictions that had befallen His kindred and those endured by the relatives of the Prophet Muhammad; expatiated on the instability of human affairs; depicted thePage 174
city to which He was about to be banished; foreshadowed the future abasement of the ulamas; and concluded with yet another expression of hope that the sovereign might be assisted by God to "aid His Faith and turn towards His justice."
To Ali Pasha, the Grand Vizir, Bahá'u'lláh addressed the Suriy-i-Ra'is. In this He bids him "hearken to the voice of God"; declares that neither his "grunting," nor the "barking" of those around him, nor "the hosts of the world" can withhold the Almighty from achieving His purpose; accuses him of having perpetrated that which has caused "the Apostle of God to lament in the most sublime Paradise," and of having conspired with the Persian Ambassador to harm Him; forecasts "the manifest loss" in which he would soon find himself; glorifies the Day of His own Revelation; prophesies that this Revelation will "erelong encompass the earth and all that dwell therein," and that the "Land of Mystery (Adrianople) and what is beside it ... shall pass out of the hands of the King, and commotions shall appear, and the voice of lamentation shall be raised, and the evidences of mischief shall be revealed on all sides"; identifies that same Revelation with the Revelations of Moses and of Jesus; recalls the "arrogance" of the Persian Emperor in the days of Muhammad, the "transgression" of Pharaoh in the days of Moses, and of the "impiety" of Nimrod in the days of Abraham; and proclaims His purpose to "quicken the world and unite all its peoples."
The ministers of the Sultan, He, in the Suriy-i-Muluk, reprimands for their conduct, in passages in which He challenges the soundness of their principles, predicts that they will be punished for their acts, denounces their pride and injustice, asserts His integrity and detachment from the vanities of the world, and proclaims His innocence.
The French Ambassador accredited to the Sublime Porte, He, in that same Surih, rebukes for having combined with the Persian Ambassador against Him; reminds him of the counsels of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospel of St. John; warns him that he will be held answerable for the things his hands have wrought; and counsels him, together with those like him, not to deal with any one as he has dealt with Him.
To the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, He, in that same Tablet, addresses lengthy passages in which He exposes his delusions and calumnies, denounces his injustice and the injustice of his countrymen, assures him that He harbors no ill-will against him, declares that, should he realize the enormity of his deed, he wouldPage 175
mourn all the days of his life, affirms that he will persist till his death in his heedlessness, justifies His own conduct in Tihran and in Iraq, and bears witness to the corruption of the Persian minister in Baghdad and to his collusion with this minister.
To the entire company of the ecclesiastical leaders of Sunni Islam in Constantinople He addresses a specific message in the same Suriy-i-Muluk in which He denounces them as heedless and spiritually dead; reproaches them for their pride and for failing to seek His presence; unveils to them the full glory and significance of His Mission; affirms that their leaders, had they been alive, would have "circled around Him"; condemns them as "worshippers of names" and lovers of leadership; and avows that God will find naught acceptable from them unless they "be made new" in His estimation.
To the wise men of the City of Constantinople and the philosophers of the world He devotes the concluding passages of the Suriy-i-Muluk, in which He cautions them not to wax proud before God; reveals to them the essence of true wisdom; stresses the importance of faith and upright conduct; rebukes them for having failed to seek enlightenment from Him; and counsels them not to "overstep the bounds of God," nor turn their gaze towards the "ways of men and their habits."
To the inhabitants of Constantinople He, in that same Tablet, declares that He "feareth no one except God," that He speaks "naught except at His (God) bidding," that He follows naught save God's truth, that He found the governors and elders of the city as "children gathered about and disporting themselves with clay," and that He perceived no one sufficiently mature to acquire the truths which God had taught Him. He bids them take firm hold on the precepts of God; warns them not to wax proud before God and His loved ones; recalls the tribulations, and extols the virtues, of the Imam Husayn; prays that He Himself may suffer similar afflictions; prophesies that erelong God will raise up a people who will recount His troubles and demand the restitution of His rights from His oppressors; and calls upon them to give ear to His words, and return unto God and repent.
And finally, addressing the people of Persia, He, in that same Tablet, affirms that were they to put Him to death God will assuredly raise up One in His stead, and asserts that the Almighty will "perfect His light" though they, in their secret hearts, abhor it.
So weighty a proclamation, at so critical a period, by the Bearer of so sublime a Message, to the kings of the earth, Muslim and ChristianPage 176
alike, to ministers and ambassadors, to the ecclesiastical heads of Sunni Islam, to the wise men and inhabitants of Constantinople -- the seat of both the Sultanate and the Caliphate -- to the philosophers of the world and the people of Persia, is not to be regarded as the only outstanding event associated with Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in Adrianople. Other developments and happenings of great, though lesser, significance must be noted in these pages, if we would justly esteem the importance of this agitated and most momentous phase of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry.
It was at this period, and as a direct consequence of the rebellion and appalling downfall of Mirza Yahya, that certain disciples of Bahá'u'lláh (who may well rank among the "treasures" promised Him by God when bowed down with chains in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran), including among them one of the Letters of the Living, some survivors of the struggle of Tabarsi, and the erudite Mirza Ahmad-i-Azghandi, arose to defend the newborn Faith, to refute, in numerous and detailed apologies, as their Master had done in the Kitáb-i-Badi', the arguments of His opponents, and to expose their odious deeds. It was at this period that the limits of the Faith were enlarged, when its banner was permanently planted in the Caucasus by the hand of Mulla Abu-Talib and others whom Nabil had converted, when its first Egyptian center was established at the time when Siyyid Husayn-i-Kashani and Haji Baqir-i-Kashani took up their residence in that country, and when to the lands already warmed and illuminated by the early rays of God's Revelation -- Iraq, Turkey and Persia -- Syria was added. It was in this period that the greeting of "Allah-u-Abha" superseded the old salutation of "Allah-u-Akbar," and was simultaneously adopted in Persia and Adrianople, the first to use it in the former country, at the suggestion of Nabil, being Mulla Muhammad-i-Furughi, one of the defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi. It was in this period that the phrase "the people of the Bayan," now denoting the followers of Mirza Yahya, was discarded, and was supplanted by the term "the people of Baha." It was during those days that Nabil, recently honored with the title of Nabil-i-A'zam, in a Tablet specifically addressed to him, in which he was bidden to "deliver the Message" of his Lord "to East and West," arose, despite intermittent persecutions, to tear asunder the "most grievous veil," to implant the love of an adored Master in the hearts of His countrymen, and to champion the Cause which his Beloved had, under such tragic conditions, proclaimed. It was during those same days that Bahá'u'lláh instructed this same Nabil to recitePage 177
on His behalf the two newly revealed Tablets of the Pilgrimage, and to perform, in His stead, the rites prescribed in them, when visiting the Báb's House in Shiraz and the Most Great House in Baghdad -- an act that marks the inception of one of the holiest observances, which, in a later period, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was to formally establish. It was during this period that the "Prayers of Fasting" were revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, in anticipation of the Law which that same Book was soon to promulgate. It was, too, during the days of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Adrianople that a Tablet was addressed by Him to Mulla Ali-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi and Jamal-i-Burujirdi, two of His well-known followers in Tihran, instructing them to transfer, with the utmost secrecy, the remains of the Báb from the Imam-Zadih Ma'sum, where they were concealed, to some other place of safety -- an act which was subsequently proved to have been providential, and which may be regarded as marking another stage in the long and laborious transfer of those remains to the heart of Mt. Carmel, and to the spot which He, in His instructions to Abdu'l-Bahá, was later to designate. It was during that period that the Suriy-i-Ghusn (Surih of the Branch) was revealed, in which Abdu'l-Bahá'í future station is foreshadowed, and in which He is eulogized as the "Branch of Holiness," the "Limb of the Law of God," the "Trust of God," "sent down in the form of a human temple" -- a Tablet which may well be regarded as the harbinger of the rank which was to be bestowed upon Him, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and which was to be later elucidated and confirmed in the Book of His Covenant. And finally, it was during that period that the first pilgrimages were made to the residence of One Who was now the visible Center of a newly-established Faith -- pilgrimages which by reason of their number and nature, an alarmed government in Persia was first impelled to restrict, and later to prohibit, but which were the precursors of the converging streams of Pilgrims who, from East and West, at first under perilous and arduous circumstances, were to direct their steps towards the prison-fortress of Akka -- pilgrimages which were to culminate in the historic arrival of a royal convert at the foot of Mt. Carmel, who, at the very threshold of a longed-for and much advertised pilgrimage, was so cruelly thwarted from achieving her purpose.
These notable developments, some synchronizing with, and others flowing from, the proclamation of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and from the internal convulsion which the Cause had undergone, could not escape the attention of the external enemies of the Movement,Page 178
who were bent on exploiting to the utmost every crisis which the folly of its friends or the perfidy of renegades might at any time precipitate. The thick clouds had hardly been dissipated by the sudden outburst of the rays of a Sun, now shining from its meridian, when the darkness of another catastrophe -- the last the Author of that Faith was destined to suffer -- fell upon it, blackening its firmament and subjecting it to one of the severest trials it had as yet experienced.
Emboldened by the recent ordeals with which Bahá'u'lláh had been so cruelly afflicted, these enemies, who had been momentarily quiescent, began to demonstrate afresh, and in a number of ways, the latent animosity they nursed in their hearts. A persecution, varying in the degree of its severity, began once more to break out in various countries. In Adhirbayjan and Zanjan, in Nishapur and Tihran, the adherents of the Faith were either imprisoned, vilified, penalized, tortured or put to death. Among the sufferers may be singled out the intrepid Najaf-'Aliy-i-Zanjani, a survivor of the struggle of Zanjan, and immortalized in the "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf," who, bequeathing the gold in his possession to his executioner, was heard to shout aloud "Ya Rabbiya'l-Abha" before he was beheaded. In Egypt, a greedy and vicious consul-general extorted no less than a hundred thousand tumans from a wealthy Persian convert, named Haji Abu'l-Qasim-i-Shirazi; arrested Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali and six of his fellow-believers, and instigated their condemnation to a nine year exile in Khartum, confiscating all the writings in their possession, and then threw into prison Nabil, whom Bahá'u'lláh had sent to appeal to the Khedive on their behalf. In Baghdad and Kazimayn indefatigable enemies, watching their opportunity, subjected Bahá'u'lláh's faithful supporters to harsh and ignominious treatment; savagely disemboweled Abdu'r-Rasul-i-Qumi, as he was carrying water in a skin, at the hour of dawn, from the river to the Most Great House, and banished, amidst scenes of public derision, about seventy companions to Mosul, including women and children.
No less active were Mirza Husayn-Khan, the Mushiru'd-Dawlih, and his associates, who, determined to take full advantage of the troubles that had recently visited Bahá'u'lláh, arose to encompass His destruction. The authorities in the capital were incensed by the esteem shown Him by the governor Muhammad Pashay-i-Qibrisi, a former Grand Vizir, and his successors Sulayman Pasha, of the Qadiriyyih Order, and particularly Khurshid Pasha, who, openly and on many occasions, frequented the house of Bahá'u'lláh, entertainedPage 179
Him in the days of Ramadan, and evinced a fervent admiration for Abdu'l-Bahá. They were well aware of the challenging tone Bahá'u'lláh had assumed in some of His newly revealed Tablets, and conscious of the instability prevailing in their own country. They were disturbed by the constant comings and goings of pilgrims in Adrianople, and by the exaggerated reports of Fu'ad Pasha, who had recently passed through on a tour of inspection. The petitions of Mirza Yahya which reached them through Siyyid Muhammad, his agent, had provoked them. Anonymous letters (written by this same Siyyid and by an accomplice, Aqa Jan, serving in the Turkish artillery) which perverted the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and which accused Him of having conspired with Bulgarian leaders and certain ministers of European powers to achieve, with the help of some thousands of His followers, the conquest of Constantinople, had filled their breasts with alarm. And now, encouraged by the internal dissensions which had shaken the Faith, and irritated by the evident esteem in which Bahá'u'lláh was held by the consuls of foreign powers stationed in Adrianople, they determined to take drastic and immediate action which would extirpate that Faith, isolate its Author and reduce Him to powerlessness. The indiscretions committed by some of its over-zealous followers, who had arrived in Constantinople, no doubt, aggravated an already acute situation.
The fateful decision was eventually arrived at to banish Bahá'u'lláh to the penal colony of Akka, and Mirza Yahya to Famagusta in Cyprus. This decision was embodied in a strongly worded Farman, issued by Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz. The companions of Bahá'u'lláh, who had arrived in the capital, together with a few who later joined them, as well as Aqa Jan, the notorious mischief-maker, were arrested, interrogated, deprived of their papers and flung into prison. The members of the community in Adrianople were, several times, summoned to the governorate to ascertain their number, while rumors were set afloat that they were to be dispersed and banished to different places or secretly put to death.
Suddenly, one morning, the house of Bahá'u'lláh was surrounded by soldiers, sentinels were posted at its gates, His followers were again summoned by the authorities, interrogated, and ordered to make ready for their departure. "The loved ones of God and His kindred," is Bahá'u'lláh's testimony in the Suriy-i-Ra'is, "were left on the first night without food... The people surrounded the house, and Muslims and Christians wept over Us... We perceived that the weeping of the people of the Son (Christians) exceeded the weeping of others --Page 180
a sign for such as ponder." "A great tumult seized the people," writes Aqa Rida, one of the stoutest supporters of Bahá'u'lláh, exiled with him all the way from Baghdad to Akka, "All were perplexed and full of regret... Some expressed their sympathy, others consoled us, and wept over us... Most of our possessions were auctioned at half their value." Some of the consuls of foreign powers called on Bahá'u'lláh, and expressed their readiness to intervene with their respective governments on His behalf -- suggestions for which He expressed appreciation, but which He firmly declined. "The consuls of that city (Adrianople) gathered in the presence of this Youth at the hour of His departure," He Himself has written, "and expressed their desire to aid Him. They, verily, evinced towards Us manifest affection."
The Persian Ambassador promptly informed the Persian consuls in Iraq and Egypt that the Turkish government had withdrawn its protection from the Bábis, and that they were free to treat them as they pleased. Several pilgrims, among whom was Haji Muhammad Isma'il-i-Kashani, surnamed Anis in the Lawh-i-Ra'is, had, in the meantime, arrived in Adrianople, and had to depart to Gallipoli, without even beholding the face of their Master. Two of the companions were forced to divorce their wives, as their relatives refused to allow them to go into exile. Khurshid Pasha, who had already several times categorically denied the written accusations sent him by the authorities in Constantinople, and had interceded vigorously on behalf of Bahá'u'lláh, was so embarrassed by the action of his government that he decided to absent himself when informed of His immediate departure from the city, and instructed the Registrar to convey to Him the purport of the Sultan's edict. Haji Ja'far-i-Tabrizi, one of the believers, finding that his name had been omitted from the list of the exiles who might accompany Bahá'u'lláh, cut his throat with a razor, but was prevented in time from ending his life -- an act which Bahá'u'lláh, in the Suriy-i-Ra'is, characterizes as "unheard of in bygone centuries," and which "God hath set apart for this Revelation, as an evidence of the power of His might."
On the twenty-second of the month of Rabi'u'th-Thani 1285 A.H. (August 12, 1868) Bahá'u'lláh and His family, escorted by a Turkish captain, Hasan Effendi by name, and other soldiers appointed by the local government, set out on their four-day journey to Gallipoli, riding in carriages and stopping on their way at Uzun-Kupru and Kashanih, at which latter place the Suriy-i-Ra'is was revealed. "The inhabitants of the quarter in which Bahá'u'lláh hadPage 181
been living, and the neighbors who had gathered to bid Him farewell, came one after the other," writes an eye-witness, "with the utmost sadness and regret to kiss His hands and the hem of His robe, expressing meanwhile their sorrow at His departure. That day, too, was a strange day. Methinks the city, its walls and its gates bemoaned their imminent separation from Him." "On that day," writes another eye-witness, "there was a wonderful concourse of Muslims and Christians at the door of our Master's house. The hour of departure was a memorable one. Most of those present were weeping and wailing, especially the Christians." "Say," Bahá'u'lláh Himself declares in the Suriy-i-Ra'is, "this Youth hath departed out of this country and deposited beneath every tree and every stone a trust, which God will erelong bring forth through the power of truth."
Several of the companions who had been brought from Constantinople were awaiting them in Gallipoli. On his arrival Bahá'u'lláh made the following pronouncement to Hasan Effendi, who, his duty discharged, was taking his leave: "Tell the king that this territory will pass out of his hands, and his affairs will be thrown into confusion." "To this," Aqa Rida, the recorder of that scene has written, "Bahá'u'lláh furthermore added: 'Not I speak these words, but God speaketh them.' In those moments He was uttering verses which we, who were downstairs, could overhear. They were spoken with such vehemence and power that, methinks, the foundations of the house itself trembled."
Even in Gallipoli, where three nights were spent, no one knew what Bahá'u'lláh's destination would be. Some believed that He and His brothers would be banished to one place, and the remainder dispersed, and sent into exile. Others thought that His companions would be sent back to Persia, while still others expected their immediate extermination. The government's original order was to banish Bahá'u'lláh, Aqay-i-Kalim and Mirza Muhammad-Quli, with a servant to Akka, while the rest were to proceed to Constantinople. This order, which provoked scenes of indescribable distress, was, however, at the insistence of Bahá'u'lláh, and by the instrumentality of Umar Effendi, a major appointed to accompany the exiles, revoked. It was eventually decided that all the exiles, numbering about seventy, should be banished to Akka. Instructions were, moreover, issued that a certain number of the adherents of Mirza Yahya, among whom were Siyyid Muhammad and Aqa Jan, should accompany these exiles, whilst four of the companions of Bahá'u'lláh were ordered to depart with the Azalis for Cyprus.Page 182
So grievous were the dangers and trials confronting Bahá'u'lláh at the hour of His departure from Gallipoli that He warned His companions that "this journey will be unlike any of the previous journeys," and that whoever did not feel himself "man enough to face the future" had best "depart to whatever place he pleaseth, and be preserved from tests, for hereafter he will find himself unable to leave" -- a warning which His companions unanimously chose to disregard.
On the morning of the 2nd of Jamadiyu'l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 21, 1868) they all embarked in an Austrian-Lloyd steamer for Alexandria, touching at Madelli, and stopping for two days at Smyrna, where Jinab-i-Munir, surnamed Ismu'llahu'l-Munib, became gravely ill, and had, to his great distress, to be left behind in a hospital where he soon after died. In Alexandria they transhipped into a steamer of the same company, bound for Haifa, where, after brief stops at Port Said and Jaffa, they landed, setting out, a few hours later, in a sailing vessel, for Akka, where they disembarked, in the course of the afternoon of the 12th of Jamadiyu'l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 31, 1868). It was at the moment when Bahá'u'lláh had stepped into the boat which was to carry Him to the landing-stage in Haifa that Abdu'l-Ghaffar, one of the four companions condemned to share the exile of Mirza Yahya, and whose "detachment, love and trust in God" Bahá'u'lláh had greatly praised, cast himself, in his despair, into the sea, shouting "Ya Baha'u'l-Abha," and was subsequently rescued and resuscitated with the greatest difficulty, only to be forced by adamant officials to continue his voyage, with Mirza Yahya's party, to the destination originally appointed for him.Page 183
The arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in Akka marks the opening of the last phase of His forty-year long ministry, the final stage, and indeed the climax, of the banishment in which the whole of that ministry was spent. A banishment that had, at first, brought Him to the immediate vicinity of the strongholds of Shi'ah orthodoxy and into contact with its outstanding exponents, and which, at a later period, had carried Him to the capital of the Ottoman empire, and led Him to address His epoch-making pronouncements to the Sultan, to his ministers and to the ecclesiastical leaders of Sunni Islam, had now been instrumental in landing Him upon the shores of the Holy Land -- the Land promised by God to Abraham, sanctified by the Revelation of Moses, honored by the lives and labors of the Hebrew patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, revered as the cradle of Christianity, and as the place where Zoroaster, according to Abdu'l-Bahá'í testimony, had "held converse with some of the Prophets of Israel," and associated by Islam with the Apostle's night-journey, through the seven heavens, to the throne of the Almighty. Within the confines of this holy and enviable country, "the nest of all the Prophets of God," "the Vale of God's unsearchable Decree, the snow-white Spot, the Land of unfading splendor" was the Exile of Baghdad, of Constantinople and Adrianople condemned to spend no less than a third of the allotted span of His life, and over half of the total period of His Mission. "It is difficult," declares Abdu'l-Bahá, "to understand how Bahá'u'lláh could have been obliged to leave Persia, and to pitch His tent in this Holy Land, but for the persecution of His enemies, His banishment and exile."
Indeed such a consummation, He assures us, had been actually prophesied "through the tongue of the Prophets two or three thousand years before." God, "faithful to His promise," had, "to some of the Prophets" "revealed and given the good news that the 'Lord of Hosts should be manifested in the Holy Land.'" Isaiah had, in this connection, announced in his Book: "Get thee up into the high mountain, O Zion that bringest good tidings; lift up thy voice with strength, O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings. Lift it up, be not afraid;Page 184
say unto the cities of Judah: 'Behold your God! Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him.'" David, in his Psalms, had predicted: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory." "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence." Amos had, likewise, foretold His coming: "The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither."
Akka, itself, flanked by the "glory of Lebanon," and lying in full view of the "splendor of Carmel," at the foot of the hills which enclose the home of Jesus Christ Himself, had been described by David as "the Strong City," designated by Hosea as "a door of hope," and alluded to by Ezekiel as "the gate that looketh towards the East," whereunto "the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the East," His voice "like a noise of many waters." To it the Arabian Prophet had referred as "a city in Syria to which God hath shown His special mercy," situated "betwixt two mountains ... in the middle of a meadow," "by the shore of the sea ... suspended beneath the Throne," "white, whose whiteness is pleasing unto God." "Blessed the man," He, moreover, as confirmed by Bahá'u'lláh, had declared, "that hath visited Akka, and blessed he that hath visited the visitor of Akka." Furthermore, "He that raiseth therein the call to prayer, his voice will be lifted up unto Paradise." And again: "The poor of Akka are the kings of Paradise and the princes thereof. A month in Akka is better than a thousand years elsewhere." Moreover, in a remarkable tradition, which is contained in Shaykh Ibnu'l-'Arabi's work, entitled "Futuhat-i-Makkiyyih," and which is recognized as an authentic utterance of Muhammad, and is quoted by Mirza Abu'l-Fadl in his "Fara'id," this significant prediction has been made: "All of them (the companions of the Qa'im) shall be slain except One Who shall reach the plain of Akka, the Banquet-Hall of God."
Bahá'u'lláh Himself, as attested by Nabil in his narrative, had, as far back as the first years of His banishment to Adrianople, alluded to that same city in His Lawh-i-Sayyah, designating it as the "Vale of Nabil," the word Nabil being equal in numerical value to that of Akka. "Upon Our arrival," that Tablet had predicted, "We were welcomed with banners of light, whereupon the Voice of the Spirit cried out saying: 'Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.'"Page 185
The banishment, lasting no less than twenty-four years, to which two Oriental despots had, in their implacable enmity and shortsightedness, combined to condemn Bahá'u'lláh, will go down in history as a period which witnessed a miraculous and truly revolutionizing change in the circumstances attending the life and activities of the Exile Himself, will be chiefly remembered for the widespread recrudescence of persecution, intermittent but singularly cruel, throughout His native country and the simultaneous increase in the number of His followers, and, lastly, for an enormous extension in the range and volume of His writings.
His arrival at the penal colony of Akka, far from proving the end of His afflictions, was but the beginning of a major crisis, characterized by bitter suffering, severe restrictions, and intense turmoil, which, in its gravity, surpassed even the agonies of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, and to which no other event, in the history of the entire century can compare, except the internal convulsion that rocked the Faith in Adrianople. "Know thou," Bahá'u'lláh, wishing to emphasize the criticalness of the first nine years of His banishment to that prison-city, has written, "that upon Our arrival at this Spot, We chose to designate it as the 'Most Great Prison.' Though previously subjected in another land (Tihran) to chains and fetters, We yet refused to call it by that name. Say: Ponder thereon, O ye endued with understanding!"
The ordeal He endured, as a direct consequence of the attempt on the life of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, was one which had been inflicted upon Him solely by the external enemies of the Faith. The travail in Adrianople, the effects of which all but sundered the community of the Báb's followers, was, on the other hand, purely internal in character. This fresh crisis which, during almost a decade, agitated Him and His companions, was, however, marked throughout not only by the assaults of His adversaries from without, but by the machinations of enemies from within, as well as by the grievous misdeeds of those who, though bearing His name, perpetrated what made His heart and His pen alike to lament.
Akka, the ancient Ptolemais, the St. Jean d'Acre of the Crusaders, that had successfully defied the siege of Napoleon, had sunk, under the Turks, to the level of a penal colony to which murderers, highway robbers and political agitators were consigned from all parts of the Turkish empire. It was girt about by a double system of ramparts; was inhabited by a people whom Bahá'u'lláh stigmatized as "the generation of vipers"; was devoid of any source of water within its gates;Page 186
was flea-infested, damp and honey-combed with gloomy, filthy and tortuous lanes. "According to what they say," the Supreme Pen has recorded in the Lawh-i-Sultan, "it is the most desolate of the cities of the world, the most unsightly of them in appearance, the most detestable in climate, and the foulest in water. It is as though it were the metropolis of the owl." So putrid was its air that, according to a proverb, a bird when flying over it would drop dead.
Explicit orders had been issued by the Sultan and his ministers to subject the exiles, who were accused of having grievously erred and led others far astray, to the strictest confinement. Hopes were confidently expressed that the sentence of life-long imprisonment pronounced against them would lead to their eventual extermination. The farman of Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz, dated the fifth of Rabi'u'th-Thani 1285 A.H. (July 26, 1868), not only condemned them to perpetual banishment, but stipulated their strict incarceration, and forbade them to associate either with each other or with the local inhabitants. The text of the farman itself was read publicly, soon after the arrival of the exiles, in the principal mosque of the city as a warning to the population. The Persian Ambassador, accredited to the Sublime Porte, had thus assured his government, in a letter, written a little over a year after their banishment to Akka: "I have issued telegraphic and written instructions, forbidding that He (Bahá'u'lláh) associate with any one except His wives and children, or leave under any circumstances, the house wherein He is imprisoned. Abbas-Quli Khan, the Consul-General in Damascus ... I have, three days ago, sent back, instructing him to proceed direct to Akka ... confer with its governor regarding all necessary measures for the strict maintenance of their imprisonment ... and appoint, before his return to Damascus, a representative on the spot to insure that the orders issued by the Sublime Porte will, in no wise, be disobeyed. I have, likewise, instructed him that once every three months he should proceed from Damascus to Akka, and personally watch over them, and submit his report to the Legation." Such was the isolation imposed upon them that the Bahá'ís of Persia, perturbed by the rumors set afloat by the Azalis of Isfahan that Bahá'u'lláh had been drowned, induced the British Telegraph office in Julfa to ascertain on their behalf the truth of the matter.
Having, after a miserable voyage, disembarked at Akka, all the exiles, men, women and children, were, under the eyes of a curious and callous population that had assembled at the port to behold the "God of the Persians," conducted to the army barracks, where theyPage 187
were locked in, and sentinels detailed to guard them. "The first night," Bahá'u'lláh testifies in the Lawh-i-Ra'is, "all were deprived of either food or drink... They even begged for water, and were refused." So filthy and brackish was the water in the pool of the courtyard that no one could drink it. Three loaves of black and salty bread were assigned to each, which they were later permitted to exchange, when escorted by guards to the market, for two of better quality. Subsequently they were allowed a mere pittance as substitute for the allotted dole of bread. All fell sick, except two, shortly after their arrival. Malaria, dysentery, combined with the sultry heat, added to their miseries. Three succumbed, among them two brothers, who died the same night, "locked," as testified by Bahá'u'lláh, "in each other's arms." The carpet used by Him He gave to be sold in order to provide for their winding-sheets and burial. The paltry sum obtained after it had been auctioned was delivered to the guards, who had refused to bury them without first being paid the necessary expenses. Later, it was learned that, unwashed and unshrouded, they had buried them, without coffins, in the clothes they wore, though, as affirmed by Bahá'u'lláh, they were given twice the amount required for their burial. "None," He Himself has written, "knoweth what befell Us, except God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing... From the foundation of the world until the present day a cruelty such as this hath neither been seen nor heard of." "He hath, during the greater part of His life," He, referring to Himself, has, moreover, recorded, "been sore-tried in the clutches of His enemies. His sufferings have now reached their culmination in this afflictive Prison, into which His oppressors have so unjustly thrown Him."
The few pilgrims who, despite the ban that had been so rigidly imposed, managed to reach the gates of the Prison -- some of whom had journeyed the entire distance from Persia on foot -- had to content themselves with a fleeting glimpse of the face of the Prisoner, as they stood, beyond the second moat, facing the window of His Prison. The very few who succeeded in penetrating into the city had, to their great distress, to retrace their steps without even beholding His countenance. The first among them, the self-denying Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Ardikani, surnamed Amin-i-Ilahi (Trusted of God), to enter His presence was only able to do so in a public bath, where it had been arranged that he should see Bahá'u'lláh without approaching Him or giving any sign of recognition. Another pilgrim, Ustad Isma'il-i-Kashi, arriving from Mosul, posted himself on the far side of the moat, and, gazing for hours, in rapt adoration, at the windowPage 188
of his Beloved, failed in the end, owing to the feebleness of his sight, to discern His face, and had to turn back to the cave which served as his dwelling-place on Mt. Carmel -- an episode that moved to tears the Holy Family who had been anxiously watching from afar the frustration of his hopes. Nabil himself had to precipitately flee the city, where he had been recognized, had to satisfy himself with a brief glimpse of Bahá'u'lláh from across that same moat, and continued to roam the countryside around Nazareth, Haifa, Jerusalem and Hebron, until the gradual relaxation of restrictions enabled him to join the exiles.
To the galling weight of these tribulations was now added the bitter grief of a sudden tragedy -- the premature loss of the noble, the pious Mirza Mihdi, the Purest Branch, Abdu'l-Bahá'í twenty-two year old brother, an amanuensis of Bahá'u'lláh and a companion of His exile from the days when, as a child, he was brought from Tihran to Baghdad to join his Father after His return from Sulaymaniyyih. He was pacing the roof of the barracks in the twilight, one evening, wrapped in his customary devotions, when he fell through the unguarded skylight onto a wooden crate, standing on the floor beneath, which pierced his ribs, and caused, twenty-two hours later, his death, on the 23rd of Rabi'u'l-Avval 1287 A.H. (June 23, 1870). His dying supplication to a grieving Father was that his life might be accepted as a ransom for those who were prevented from attaining the presence of their Beloved.
In a highly significant prayer, revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in memory of His son -- a prayer that exalts his death to the rank of those great acts of atonement associated with Abraham's intended sacrifice of His son, with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn -- we read the following: "I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened, and all that dwell on earth be united." And, likewise, these prophetic words, addressed to His martyred son: "Thou art the Trust of God and His Treasure in this Land. Erelong will God reveal through thee that which He hath desired."
After he had been washed in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, he "that was created of the light of Baha," to whose "meekness" the Supreme Pen had testified, and of the "mysteries" of whose ascension that same Pen had made mention, was borne forth, escorted by the fortress guards, and laid to rest, beyond the city walls, in a spot adjacent to the shrine of Nabi Salih, from whence, seventy years later, his remains, simultaneously with those of his illustrious mother, were to bePage 189
translated to the slopes of Mt. Carmel, in the precincts of the grave of his sister, and under the shadow of the Báb's holy sepulcher.
Nor was this the full measure of the afflictions endured by the Prisoner of Akka and His fellow-exiles. Four months after this tragic event a mobilization of Turkish troops necessitated the removal of Bahá'u'lláh and all who bore Him company from the barracks. He and His family were accordingly assigned the house of Malik, in the western quarter of the city, whence, after a brief stay of three months, they were moved by the authorities to the house of Khavvam which faced it, and from which, after a few months, they were again obliged to take up new quarters in the house of Rabi'ih, being finally transferred, four months later, to the house of Udi Khammar, which was so insufficient to their needs that in one of its rooms no less than thirteen persons of both sexes had to accommodate themselves. Some of the companions had to take up their residence in other houses, while the remainder were consigned to a caravanserai named the Khan-i-'Avamid.
Their strict confinement had hardly been mitigated, and the guards who had kept watch over them been dismissed, when an internal crisis, which had been brewing in the midst of the community, was brought to a sudden and catastrophic climax. Such had been the conduct of two of the exiles, who had been included in the party that accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Akka, that He was eventually forced to expel them, an act of which Siyyid Muhammad did not hesitate to take the fullest advantage. Reinforced by these recruits, he, together with his old associates, acting as spies, embarked on a campaign of abuse, calumny and intrigue, even more pernicious than that which had been launched by him in Constantinople, calculated to arouse an already prejudiced and suspicious populace to a new pitch of animosity and excitement. A fresh danger now clearly threatened the life of Bahá'u'lláh. Though He Himself had stringently forbidden His followers, on several occasions, both verbally and in writing, any retaliatory acts against their tormentors, and had even sent back to Beirut an irresponsible Arab convert, who had meditated avenging the wrongs suffered by his beloved Leader, seven of the companions clandestinely sought out and slew three of their persecutors, among whom were Siyyid Muhammad and Aqa Jan.
The consternation that seized an already oppressed community was indescribable. Bahá'u'lláh's indignation knew no bounds. "Were We," He thus voices His emotions, in a Tablet revealed shortly after this act had been committed, "to make mention of what befell Us,Page 190
the heavens would be rent asunder and the mountains would crumble." "My captivity," He wrote on another occasion, "cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the conduct of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and yet perpetrate what causeth My heart and My pen to groan." And again: "My captivity can bring on Me no shame. Nay, by My life, it conferreth on Me glory. That which can make Me ashamed is the conduct of such of My followers as profess to love Me, yet in fact follow the Evil One."
He was dictating His Tablets to His amanuensis when the governor, at the head of his troops, with drawn swords, surrounded His house. The entire populace, as well as the military authorities, were in a state of great agitation. The shouts and clamor of the people could be heard on all sides. Bahá'u'lláh was peremptorily summoned to the Governorate, interrogated, kept in custody the first night, with one of His sons, in a chamber in the Khan-i-Shavirdi, transferred for the following two nights to better quarters in that neighborhood, and allowed only after the lapse of seventy hours to regain His home. Abdu'l-Bahá was thrown into prison and chained during the first night, after which He was permitted to join His Father. Twenty-five of the companions were cast into another prison and shackled, all of whom, except those responsible for that odious deed, whose imprisonment lasted several years, were, after six days, moved to the Khan-i-Shavirdi, and there placed, for six months, under confinement.
"Is it proper," the Commandant of the city, turning to Bahá'u'lláh, after He had arrived at the Governorate, boldly inquired, "that some of your followers should act in such a manner?" "If one of your soldiers," was the swift rejoinder, "were to commit a reprehensible act, would you be held responsible, and be punished in his place?" When interrogated, He was asked to state His name and that of the country from which He came. "It is more manifest than the sun," He answered. The same question was put to Him again, to which He gave the following reply: "I deem it not proper to mention it. Refer to the farman of the government which is in your possession." Once again they, with marked deference, reiterated their request, whereupon Bahá'u'lláh spoke with majesty and power these words: "My name is Bahá'u'lláh (Light of God), and My country is Nur (Light). Be ye apprized of it." Turning then, to the Mufti, He addressed him words of veiled rebuke, after which He spoke to the entire gathering, in such vehement and exalted language that none made bold to answer Him. Having quoted verses from the Suriy-i-Muluk,Page 191
He, afterwards, arose and left the gathering. The Governor, soon after, sent word that He was at liberty to return to His home, and apologized for what had occurred.
A population, already ill-disposed towards the exiles, was, after such an incident, fired with uncontrollable animosity for all those who bore the name of the Faith which those exiles professed. The charges of impiety, atheism, terrorism and heresy were openly and without restraint flung into their faces. Abbud, who lived next door to Bahá'u'lláh, reinforced the partition that separated his house from the dwelling of his now much-feared and suspected Neighbor. Even the children of the imprisoned exiles, whenever they ventured to show themselves in the streets during those days, would be pursued, vilified and pelted with stones.
The cup of Bahá'u'lláh's tribulations was now filled to overflowing. A situation, greatly humiliating, full of anxieties and even perilous, continued to face the exiles, until the time, set by an inscrutable Will, at which the tide of misery and abasement began to ebb, signalizing a transformation in the fortunes of the Faith even more conspicuous than the revolutionary change effected during the latter years of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in Baghdad.
The gradual recognition by all elements of the population of Bahá'u'lláh's complete innocence; the slow penetration of the true spirit of His teachings through the hard crust of their indifference and bigotry; the substitution of the sagacious and humane governor, Ahmad Big Tawfiq, for one whose mind had been hopelessly poisoned against the Faith and its followers; the unremitting labors of Abdu'l-Bahá, now in the full flower of His manhood, Who, through His contacts with the rank and file of the population, was increasingly demonstrating His capacity to act as the shield of His Father; the providential dismissal of the officials who had been instrumental in prolonging the confinement of the innocent companions -- all paved the way for the reaction that was now setting in, a reaction with which the period of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Akka will ever remain indissolubly associated.
Such was the devotion gradually kindled in the heart of that governor, through his association with Abdu'l-Bahá, and later through his perusal of the literature of the Faith, which mischief-makers, in the hope of angering him, had submitted for his consideration, that he invariably refused to enter His presence without first removing his shoes, as a token of his respect for Him. It was even bruited about that his favored counselors were those very exilesPage 192
who were the followers of the Prisoner in his custody. His own son he was wont to send to Abdu'l-Bahá for instruction and enlightenment. It was on the occasion of a long-sought audience with Bahá'u'lláh that, in response to a request for permission to render Him some service, the suggestion was made to him to restore the aqueduct which for thirty years had been allowed to fall into disuse -- a suggestion which he immediately arose to carry out. To the inflow of pilgrims, among whom were numbered the devout and venerable Mulla Sadiq-i-Khurasani and the father of Badi, both survivors of the struggle of Tabarsi, he offered scarcely any opposition, though the text of the imperial farman forbade their admission into the city. Mustafa Diya Pasha, who became governor a few years later, had even gone so far as to intimate that his Prisoner was free to pass through its gates whenever He pleased, a suggestion which Bahá'u'lláh declined. Even the Mufti of Akka, Shaykh Mahmud, a man notorious for his bigotry, had been converted to the Faith, and, fired by his newborn enthusiasm, made a compilation of the Muhammadan traditions related to Akka. Nor were the occasionally unsympathetic governors, despatched to that city, able, despite the arbitrary power they wielded, to check the forces which were carrying the Author of the Faith towards His virtual emancipation and the ultimate accomplishment of His purpose. Men of letters, and even ulamas residing in Syria, were moved, as the years rolled by, to voice their recognition of Bahá'u'lláh's rising greatness and power. Aziz Pasha, who, in Adrianople, had evinced a profound attachment to Abdu'l-Bahá, and had in the meantime been promoted to the rank of Vali, twice visited Akka for the express purpose of paying his respects to Bahá'u'lláh, and to renew his friendship with One Whom he had learned to admire and revere.
Though Bahá'u'lláh Himself practically never granted personal interviews, as He had been used to do in Baghdad, yet such was the influence He now wielded that the inhabitants openly asserted that the noticeable improvement in the climate and water of their city was directly attributable to His continued presence in their midst. The very designations by which they chose to refer to him, such as the "august leader," and "his highness" bespoke the reverence with which He inspired them. On one occasion, a European general who, together with the governor, was granted an audience by Him, was so impressed that he "remained kneeling on the ground near the door." Shaykh Aliy-i-Miri, the Mufti of Akka, had even, at the suggestion of Abdu'l-Bahá, to plead insistently that He might permitPage 193
the termination of His nine-year confinement within the walls of the prison-city, before He would consent to leave its gates. The garden of Na'mayn, a small island, situated in the middle of a river to the east of the city, honored with the appellation of Ridvan, and designated by Him the "New Jerusalem" and "Our Verdant Isle," had, together with the residence of Abdu'llah Pasha, -- rented and prepared for Him by Abdu'l-Bahá, and situated a few miles north of Akka -- become by now the favorite retreats of One Who, for almost a decade, had not set foot beyond the city walls, and Whose sole exercise had been to pace, in monotonous repetition, the floor of His bed-chamber.
Two years later the palace of Udi Khammar, on the construction of which so much wealth had been lavished, while Bahá'u'lláh lay imprisoned in the barracks, and which its owner had precipitately abandoned with his family owing to the outbreak of an epidemic disease, was rented and later purchased for Him -- a dwelling-place which He characterized as the "lofty mansion," the spot which "God hath ordained as the most sublime vision of mankind." Abdu'l-Bahá'í visit to Beirut, at the invitation of Midhat Pasha, a former Grand Vizir of Turkey, occurring about this time; His association with the civil and ecclesiastical leaders of that city; His several interviews with the well-known Shaykh Muhammad Abdu served to enhance immensely the growing prestige of the community and spread abroad the fame of its most distinguished member. The splendid welcome accorded him by the learned and highly esteemed Shaykh Yusuf, the Mufti of Nazareth, who acted as host to the valis of Beirut, and who had despatched all the notables of the community several miles on the road to meet Him as He approached the town, accompanied by His brother and the Mufti of Akka, as well as the magnificent reception given by Abdu'l-Bahá to that same Shaykh Yusuf when the latter visited Him in Akka, were such as to arouse the envy of those who, only a few years before, had treated Him and His fellow-exiles with feelings compounded of condescension and scorn.
The drastic farman of Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz, though officially unrepealed, had by now become a dead letter. Though "Bahá'u'lláh was still nominally a prisoner, "the doors of majesty and true sovereignty were," in the words of Abdu'l-Bahá, "flung wide open." "The rulers of Palestine," He moreover has written, "envied His influence and power. Governors and mutisarrifs, generals and local officials, would humbly request the honor of attaining His presence -- a request to which He seldom acceded."Page 194
It was in that same mansion that the distinguished Orientalist, Prof. E. G. Browne of Cambridge, was granted his four successive interviews with Bahá'u'lláh, during the five days he was His guest at Bahji (April 15-20, 1890), interviews immortalized by the Exile's historic declaration that "these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come." "The face of Him on Whom I gazed," is the interviewer's memorable testimony for posterity, "I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow.... No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain." "Here," the visitor himself has testified, "did I spend five most memorable days, during which I enjoyed unparalleled and unhoped-for opportunities of holding intercourse with those who are the fountain-heads of that mighty and wondrous spirit, which works with invisible but ever-increasing force for the transformation and quickening of a people who slumber in a sleep like unto death. It was, in truth, a strange and moving experience, but one whereof I despair of conveying any save the feeblest impression."
In that same year Bahá'u'lláh's tent, the "Tabernacle of Glory," was raised on Mt. Carmel, "the Hill of God and His Vineyard," the home of Elijah, extolled by Isaiah as the "mountain of the Lord," to which "all nations shall flow." Four times He visited Haifa, His last visit being no less than three months long. In the course of one of these visits, when His tent was pitched in the vicinity of the Carmelite Monastery, He, the "Lord of the Vineyard," revealed the Tablet of Carmel, remarkable for its allusions and prophecies. On another occasion He pointed out Himself to Abdu'l-Bahá, as He stood on the slopes of that mountain, the site which was to serve as the permanent resting-place of the Báb, and on which a befitting mausoleum was later to be erected.
Properties, bordering on the Lake associated with the ministry of Jesus Christ, were, moreover, purchased at Bahá'u'lláh's bidding, designed to be consecrated to the glory of His Faith, and to be the forerunners of those "noble and imposing structures" which He, in His Tablets, had anticipated would be raised "throughout the length and breadth" of the Holy Land, as well as of the "rich and sacred territories adjoining the Jordan and its vicinity," which, in those Tablets, He had permitted to be dedicated "to the worship and service of the one true God."Page 195
The enormous expansion in the volume of Bahá'u'lláh's correspondence; the establishment of a Bahá'í agency in Alexandria for its despatch and distribution; the facilities provided by His staunch follower, Muhammad Mustafa, now established in Beirut to safeguard the interests of the pilgrims who passed through that city; the comparative ease with which a titular Prisoner communicated with the multiplying centers in Persia, Iraq, Caucasus, Turkistan, and Egypt; the mission entrusted by Him to Sulayman Khan-i-Tanakabuni, known as Jamal Effendi, to initiate a systematic campaign of teaching in India and Burma; the appointment of a few of His followers as "Hands of the Cause of God"; the restoration of the Holy House in Shiraz, whose custodianship was now formally entrusted by Him to the Báb's wife and her sister; the conversion of a considerable number of the adherents of the Jewish, Zoroastrian and Buddhist Faiths, the first fruits of the zeal and the perseverance which itinerant teachers in Persia, India and Burma were so strikingly displaying -- conversions that automatically resulted in a firm recognition by them of the Divine origin of both Christianity and Islam -- all these attested the vitality of a leadership that neither kings nor ecclesiastics, however powerful or antagonistic, could either destroy or undermine.
Nor should reference be omitted to the emergence of a prosperous community in the newly laid out city of Ishqabad, in Russian Turkistan, assured of the good will of a sympathetic government, enabling it to establish a Bahá'í cemetery and to purchase property and erect thereon structures that were to prove the precursors of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Bahá'í world; or to the establishment of new outposts of the Faith in far-off Samarqand and Bukhara, in the heart of the Asiatic continent, in consequence of the discourses and writings of the erudite Fadil-i-Qa'ini and the learned apologist Mirza Abu'l-Fadl; or to the publication in India of five volumes of the writings of the Author of the Faith, including His "Most Holy Book" -- publications which were to herald the vast multiplication of its literature, in various scripts and languages, and its dissemination, in later decades, throughout both the East and the West.
"Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz," Bahá'u'lláh is reported by one of His fellow-exiles to have stated, "banished Us to this country in the greatest abasement, and since his object was to destroy Us and humble Us, whenever the means of glory and ease presented themselves, We did not reject them." "Now, praise be to God," He, moreover, as reported by Nabil in his narrative, once remarked, "it has reachedPage 196
the point when all the people of these regions are manifesting their submissiveness unto Us." And again, as recorded in that same narrative: "The Ottoman Sultan, without any justification, or reason, arose to oppress Us, and sent Us to the fortress of Akka. His imperial farman decreed that none should associate with Us, and that We should become the object of the hatred of every one. The Hand of Divine power, therefore, swiftly avenged Us. It first loosed the winds of destruction upon his two irreplaceable ministers and confidants, Ali and Fu'ad, after which that Hand was stretched out to roll up the panoply of Aziz himself, and to seize him, as He only can seize, Who is the Mighty, the Strong."
"His enemies," Abdu'l-Bahá, referring to this same theme, has written, "intended that His imprisonment should completely destroy and annihilate the blessed Cause, but this prison was, in reality, of the greatest assistance, and became the means of its development." "...This illustrious Being," He, moreover has affirmed, "uplifted His Cause in the Most Great Prison. From this Prison His light was shed abroad; His fame conquered the world, and the proclamation of His glory reached the East and the West." "His light at first had been a star; now it became a mighty sun." "Until our time," He, moreover has affirmed, "no such thing has ever occurred."
Little wonder that, in view of so remarkable a reversal in the circumstances attending the twenty-four years of His banishment to Akka, Bahá'u'lláh Himself should have penned these weighty words: "The Almighty ... hath transformed this Prison-House into the Most Exalted Paradise, the Heaven of Heavens."Page 197
While Bahá'u'lláh and the little band that bore Him company were being subjected to the severe hardships of a banishment intended to blot them from the face of the earth, the steadily expanding community of His followers in the land of His birth were undergoing a persecution more violent and of longer duration than the trials with which He and His companions were being afflicted. Though on a far smaller scale than the blood baths which had baptized the birth of the Faith, when in the course of a single year, as attested by Abdu'l-Bahá, "more than four thousand souls were slain, and a great multitude of women and children left without protector and helper," the murderous and horrible acts subsequently perpetrated by an insatiable and unyielding enemy covered as wide a range and were marked by an even greater degree of ferocity.
Nasiri'd-Din Shah, stigmatized by Bahá'u'lláh as the "Prince of Oppressors," as one who had "perpetrated what hath caused the denizens of the cities of justice and equity to lament," was, during the period under review, in the full tide of his manhood and had reached the plenitude of his despotic power. The sole arbiter of the fortunes of a country "firmly stereotyped in the immemorial traditions of the East"; surrounded by "venal, artful and false" ministers whom he could elevate or abase at his pleasure; the head of an administration in which "every actor was, in different aspects, both the briber and the bribed"; allied, in his opposition to the Faith, with a sacerdotal order which constituted a veritable "church-state"; supported by a people preeminent in atrocity, notorious for its fanaticism, its servility, cupidity and corrupt practices, this capricious monarch, no longer able to lay hands upon the person of Bahá'u'lláh, had to content himself with the task of attempting to stamp out in his own dominions the remnants of a much-feared and newly resuscitated community. Next to him in rank and power were his three eldest sons, to whom, for purposes of internal administration, he had practically delegated his authority, and in whom he had invested the governorship of all the provinces of his kingdom. The province ofPage 198
Adhirbayjan he had entrusted to the weak and timid Muzaffari'd-Din Mirza, the heir to his throne, who had fallen under the influence of the Shaykhi sect, and was showing a marked respect to the mullas. To the stern and savage rule of the astute Mas'ud Mirza, commonly known as Zillu's-Sultan, his eldest surviving son, whose mother had been of plebeian origin, he had committed over two-fifths of his kingdom, including the provinces of Yazd and Isfahan, whilst upon Kamran Mirza, his favorite son, commonly called by his title the Nayibu's-Saltanih, he had bestowed the rulership of Gilan and Mazindaran, and made him governor of Tihran, his minister of war and the commander-in-chief of his army. Such was the rivalry between the last two princes, who vied with each other in courting the favor of their father, that each endeavored, with the support of the leading mujtahids within his jurisdiction, to outshine the other in the meritorious task of hunting, plundering and exterminating the members of a defenseless community, who, at the bidding of Bahá'u'lláh, had ceased to offer armed resistance even in self-defense, and were carrying out His injunction that "it is better to be killed than kill." Nor were the clerical firebrands, Haji Mulla Aliy-i-Kani and Siyyid Sadiq-i-Tabataba'i, the two leading mujtahids of Tihran, together with Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, their colleague in Isfahan, and Mir Muhammad-Husayn, the Imam-Jum'ih of that city, willing to allow the slightest opportunity to pass without striking, with all the force and authority they wielded, at an adversary whose liberalizing influences they had even more reason to fear than the sovereign himself.
Little wonder that, confronted by a situation so full of peril, the Faith should have been driven underground, and that arrests, interrogations, imprisonment, vituperation, spoliation, tortures and executions should constitute the outstanding features of this convulsive period in its development. The pilgrimages that had been initiated in Adrianople, and which later assumed in Akka impressive proportions, together with the dissemination of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and the circulation of enthusiastic reports through the medium of those who had attained His presence served, moreover, to inflame the animosity of clergy and laity alike, who had foolishly imagined that the breach which had occurred in the ranks of the followers of the Faith in Adrianople and the sentence of life banishment pronounced subsequently against its Leader, would seal irretrievably its fate.
In Abadih a certain Ustad Ali-Akbar was, at the instigation of a local Siyyid, apprehended and so ruthlessly thrashed that he wasPage 199
covered from head to foot with his own blood. In the village of Takur, at the bidding of the Shah, the property of the inhabitants was pillaged, Haji Mirza Rida-Quli, a half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh, was arrested, conducted to the capital and thrown into the Siyah-Chal, where he remained for a month, whilst the brother-in-law of Mirza Hasan, another half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh, was seized and branded with red-hot irons, after which the neighboring village of Dar-Kala was delivered to the flames.
Aqa Buzurg of Khurasan, the illustrious "Badi'" (Wonderful); converted to the Faith by Nabil; surnamed the "Pride of Martyrs"; the seventeen-year old bearer of the Tablet addressed to Nasiri'd-Din Shah; in whom, as affirmed by Bahá'u'lláh, "the spirit of might and power was breathed," was arrested, branded for three successive days, his head beaten to a pulp with the butt of a rifle, after which his body was thrown into a pit and earth and stones heaped upon it. After visiting Bahá'u'lláh in the barracks, during the second year of His confinement, he had arisen with amazing alacrity to carry that Tablet, alone and on foot, to Tihran and deliver it into the hands of the sovereign. A four months' journey had taken him to that city, and, after passing three days in fasting and vigilance, he had met the Shah proceeding on a hunting expedition to Shimiran. He had calmly and respectfully approached His Majesty, calling out, "O King! I have come to thee from Sheba with a weighty message"; whereupon at the Sovereign's order, the Tablet was taken from him and delivered to the mujtahids of Tihran who were commanded to reply to that Epistle -- a command which they evaded, recommending instead that the messenger should be put to death. That Tablet was subsequently forwarded by the Shah to the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, in the hope that its perusal by the Sultan's ministers might serve to further inflame their animosity. For a space of three years Bahá'u'lláh continued to extol in His writings the heroism of that youth, characterizing the references made by Him to that sublime sacrifice as the "salt of My Tablets."
Aba-Basir and Siyyid Ashraf, whose fathers had been slain in the struggle of Zanjan, were decapitated on the same day in that city, the former going so far as to instruct, while kneeling in prayer, his executioner as to how best to deal his blow, while the latter, after having been so brutally beaten that blood flowed from under his nails, was beheaded, as he held in his arms the body of his martyred companion. It was the mother of this same Ashraf who, when sent to the prison in the hope that she would persuade her only son toPage 200
recant, had warned him that she would disown him were he to denounce his faith, had bidden him follow the example of Aba-Basir, and had even watched him expire with eyes undimmed with tears. The wealthy and prominent Muhammad-Hasan Khan-i-Kashi was so mercilessly bastinadoed in Burujird that he succumbed to his ordeal. In Shiraz Mirza Aqay-i-Rikab-Saz, together with Mirza Rafi'-i-Khayyat and Mashhadi Nabi, were by order of the local mujtahid simultaneously strangled in the dead of night, their graves being later desecrated by a mob who heaped refuse upon them. Shaykh Abu'l-Qasim-i-Mazkani in Kashan, who had declined a drink of water that was offered him before his death, affirming that he thirsted for the cup of martyrdom, was dealt a fatal blow on the nape of his neck, whilst he was prostrating himself in prayer.
Mirza Baqir-i-Shirazi, who had transcribed the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople with such unsparing devotion, was slain in Kirman, while in Ardikan the aged and infirm Gul-Muhammad was set upon by a furious mob, thrown to the ground, and so trampled upon by the hob-nailed boots of two siyyids that his ribs were crushed in and his teeth broken, after which his body was taken to the outskirts of the town and buried in a pit, only to be dug up the next day, dragged through the streets, and finally abandoned in the wilderness. In the city of Mashhad, notorious for its unbridled fanaticism, Haji Abdu'l-Majid, who was the eighty-five year old father of the afore-mentioned Badi' and a survivor of the struggle of Tabarsi, and who, after the martyrdom of his son, had visited Bahá'u'lláh and returned afire with zeal to Khurasan, was ripped open from waist to throat, and his head exposed on a marble slab to the gaze of a multitude of insulting onlookers, who, after dragging his body ignominiously through the bazaars, left it at the morgue to be claimed by his relatives.