1940 - Chosen Highway: Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani and Siyyid 'Ali Yazdi (Lady Blomfield)
THE SPOKEN CHRONICLES of Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani, and Siyyid 'Ali Yazdi
One never-to-be-forgotten day Baha'u'llah came to the pilgrim house, and said to us "Aftabam! Aftabam! Dar Amadam--I am the Sun! I am the Sun! I have arisen!"
As we heard these blessed words, it seemed as though all the happiness of the whole world had come to live in our hearts. As we looked upon His shining face, we were in an ecstasy--beside ourselves with joy. Our hearts were flaming within us!
[24 This incident did not, apparently, convey to Mirza Asadu'llah that Baha'u'llah was "He Whom God shall make Manifest."--Ed.]
So enraptured were we, so high our hearts were beating that we could hardly sleep for thinking "In the morning! In the morning we are coming again into His Presence!"
We seemed to be living in an air of spiritual enchantment, of soul-stirring joy.
I can find no words to tell you of what our delight was.
Nothing on earth was of any importance, of any meaning, but that His Holy Presence was here with us.
A friend, being given a piece of bread by Baha'u'llah, asked "Give me spiritual food I implore." Some words were spoken to him, we knew not what. The friend became so excited and unbalanced that he committed suicide.
Baha'u'llah then said:
"How much better had he made other use of his enthusiasm; if he had gone to Persia to teach the Cause, rather than to uselessly take his own life!"
One day, when He was walking in the garden, we heard Him say:
"No leaf, no flower, no fruit, no bark.
"All wonder why the gardener cultivates me, this tree."
This, I heard, was a quotation from His poems.
There was in the neighbourhood of Baghdad the holy shrine of an Imam; at Kazimayn. The friends used to follow Baha'u'llah at a distance, as he rode on a donkey to visit this shrine.
We were alert and ready to protect our Beloved should an enemy attack Him.
On some occasions the Persian Consul, and others of the Shi'ah sect, were at the shrine when Baha'u'llah arrived; they agitated themselves vastly, and were much perplexed, not comprehending the majesty in the personality of the wonderful visitor.
* * *
I was told that this Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani was a self-constituted guard, and hid a formidable weapon under his 'aba, as he followed the Beloved Master about in those days of danger, although Baha'u'llah had made a law that nobody was to carry arms!
* * *
Whilst Baha'u'llah was encamped in the Ridvan, there was much wind for some days.
His tent swayed; we thought it might be blown down, therefore we took it in turns to sit and hold the tent ropes so that it might be steady; night and day we held the ropes, so glad, in this way, to be near our Glorious Lord.
All the city came, friends and others, to see Him leave for the Ridvan. There was a great crowd. Weeping women pressed forward and laid their babes and young children at His feet. He tenderly raised those infants, one by one, blessing them, gently and lovingly replacing them in their sorrowing mothers' arms, and charging them to bring up those dear flowers of humanity to serve God in steadfast faith and truth.
What a soul-stirring day!
Men threw themselves in His path; if only His blessed feet might touch them as He passed.
Across the River
Our Beloved One got into a boat to cross the river, the people pressing round Him waiting, not to lose one of the remaining chances of being in His Presence.
At length the boat put off, and we watched it with sorrowing hearts.
Then we were aware of an extraordinary exhilaration, some marvellous exaltation in the atmosphere of that day.
The reason for this phenomenon we were in due time to learn. When we had seen that the boat was on the other side of the river, we started off to walk to the Ridvan, where we set up His tent, and five or six others for the friends. I helped Mirza Muhammad Baqir to cook, and to make tea for the friends.
The family of Baha'u'llah joined Him in the Ridvan on the ninth day; and on the twelfth day, in the afternoon, they went from us, under the escort of Turkish soldiers to an unknown destination.
Departure from Ridvan
Although Baha'u'llah had commanded the friends not to follow them, I was so loath to let Him go out of my sight, that I ran after them for three hours.
He saw me, and getting down from His horse, waited for me, telling me with His beautiful voice, full of love and kindness, to go back to Baghdad, and, with the friends to set about our work, not slothfully, but with energy:
"Be not overcome with sorrow - I am leaving friends I love in Baghdad. I will surely send to them tidings of our welfare. Be steadfast in your service to God, who doeth whatsoever He willeth. Live in such peace as will be permitted to you."
We watched them disappear into the darkness with sinking hearts, for their enemies were powerful and cruel! And we knew not where they were being taken.
An unknown destination!
Weeping bitterly, we turned our faces towards Baghdad, determining to live according to His command.
We had not been, at that time, informed of the great event of the "Declaration," that our revered and beloved Baha'u'llah was He Who should come - "He Whom God shall make Manifest" - but we again felt that unspeakable joy, which surged within us, overcoming our bitter sorrow, with a great and mysterious radiancy.
Governor Offers His Service
Before the departure, the Governor of Baghdad had come to offer his services. "Is there not anything I can do?"
"One thing I ask of thee - protect the friends after I am gone.
This only I wish from thee."
The Governor respected the wish of Baha'u'llah, and protected the friends at Baghdad, particularly on one occasion which led to our migrating to Mosul:
It happened in this way:
A year after the departure of the Holy One, the days of the "Feast of the Ridvan," which we were keeping with all the joy of our souls, coincided with the Muharram, the days of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn and his friends.
The Shi'ites, being angry that we were not joining the mourning, attacked us. One Baha'i friend was killed, and several wounded, amongst whom was Badi', whose marvellous martyrdom was to take place later on.
The Vali (Governor of Baghdad), hearing of the tumult, gathered us into the Governorate for protection from the fury of the mob. He said to us:
"There are many places in the Turkish Empire; if you would be in safety, it is well to choose where to go."
So we knew that we must leave Baghdad.
"Go in two groups--one the week after the starting of the other--I will send a soldier to protect each of you whilst you sell some of your goods; pack up others and make preparations for the journey."
Some of the friends, and I with them, chose to go to Mosul, situated between Baghdad and Aleppo.
A number of soldiers were sent with us for our protection, and indeed they were needed, for, in all the towns and villages through which we went, the people stoned us, spat upon us, yelling execrations, crying "Accursed Babis!"
At length our journey ending, we were promptly locked into an inn--none allowed to go out, none to enter. This was for our protection, so furious were the people!
Thus we remained until the second party arrived.
Remembering the request of Baha'u'llah, the Governor of Baghdad had sent word to the Vali of Mosul, requesting him to protect and provide shelter for the Babis. He accordingly had several houses placed at our service, which, though not comfortable, still gave us shelter.
There were about an hundred of us in all, men, women, and children.
As soon as possible we set about our various trades; I to that of coppersmith, and, on the whole, the people were not very unfriendly.
Learning the Meaning of Ridvan
Before we left Baghdad a Tablet arrived, brought by one of the friends, from Adrianople, telling us of the welfare of Baha'u'llah, of the declaration in the Ridvan, and of the more public proclamation at Adrianople; so that we started on our toilsome journey with our hearts lightened of the terrible anxiety in which we lived, not knowing the fate of the Holy Family.
Now we were upheld by a preoccupation of the spirit, so that outside privations, stonings, cursings, scorn, and all other ill-usages, seemed to us of small importance as we remembered the joy of that day at the Ridvan, and now knew the sublime reason of that sacred atmosphere.
As we chanted our prayers of praise unto God that the Holy One was safe, that the Great Light which should come into the world had not been "blown out by contrary winds," we were full of happiness, for ourselves and for all humanity.
Time went on at Mosul; we were always hoping for further news.
One day a Tablet arrived by post, which, under the prevailing conditions, seemed marvellous, indeed miraculous.
This Tablet brought the tidings that our revered Beloved One, with His Family, were at 'Akka.
* * *
As soon as we knew that the Beloved Ones were at 'Akka, I started off with a Persian Baha'i, who, having escaped from Dahaji, had joined the band of exiles at Mosul. We determined to make our way to 'Akka. We walked six or seven hours a day, and coming to Aleppo we rested; thence we walked to Damascus.
Oh, how happy we were as we walked, each step bringing us
nearer to the presence of Jamal-i-Mubarak and Sarkar-i-Aqa.
Sometimes we sheltered for a night in the tent of a Bedouin, who welcomed us with unfailing kind hospitality; again we slept under the stars, with stones for our pillows, always with songs of joy in our hearts, because of our destination.
That preoccupation of the Spirit, as in our journey from Baghdad to Mosul, upheld us, and made all hardships so unimportant that we forgot them.
At length we came to Damascus, where, finding a friend from my native village, also a coppersmith, I tarried with him for ten days.
Then we started off again over the beautiful snowy Lebanon mountains, where the hospitable Bedouins were as ever our friends, and so we came to Beirut, where we rested for a week.
And now the last part of our pilgrimage from Beirut to 'Akka. I disguised myself as a dervish. Very seldom did I think it wise to ask to be directed, therefore we often wandered out of our way.
Our exaltation grew. Oh, the loveliness of the land through which we walked, the fragrance of the orange groves, the beauty of the many coloured flowers which carpeted the plains!
We stayed one night in the town of Sidon, surrounded with its luxuriant fruit trees, the scent of which is so delicious; then a night at Tyre. As we walked the "Ladder of Tyre" we saw 'Akka in the distance, shining in the sun, and there, in that place were our Beloved Ones.
Great was the caution needed. We arrived separately.
My disguise allowed me to enter the city unquestioned. I wandered about in perplexity, for I did not dare to ask for information as to the abode of the Holy Ones. Fatigue was beginning to overwhelm me.
At length I went to the mosque, where I found a Shaykh who lived near by. I discovered that he was a Baha'i; "Allah'u'Abha." When he knew of my journey and of my aim, he said
"Stay here with me, the Master will come when it is evening time."
I waited, breathless with anticipation.
Then from the mosque came our beloved Master!
He was young then and very beautiful.
"Ahval-i-Shuma? Marhaba! Marhaba! Khayli Khush amadid." ("How are you? Welcome! Welcome! Your coming gives me most great pleasure and delight.")
His loving-kindness restored my soul. I was ready to sacrifice my life to once hear His "Marhaba!"
"How tired you must be after that long, long, toilsome journey. I will send one of the friends to you in the morning."
So I rested in ecstatic peace, having achieved the desire of my heart.
In the morning 'Aqa Faraj came and took me to the Khan (inn) where four or five friends were staying. This was, of course, very secretly and cautiously arranged because of the threatened grave danger, at this time never absent from any suspected of being Baha'is. I rested quietly at the Khan, recovering from the physical fatigues of the journey.
After fifteen days, I was commanded to fetch my mother and my younger brother from Aleppo, where they were awaiting directions, having journeyed from Mosul, sometimes by steamer, and sometimes riding on mules.
How glad I was that my dear ones were to come into the presence of Jamal-i-Mub'arak and the Master, Sarkar-i-Aqa! I joyfully departed on my errand, walking to Haifa, thence by boat to Alexandretta, thence to Aleppo. Returning with my family the same way, we arrived at Haifa. There we heard that my mother would be received into the holy household, to her extreme delight. My brother and I, however, were to remain at Haifa, not being suffered to go inside the town of 'Akka.
We therefore remained at Haifa, working at our trade of coppersmith. We opened a little shop. I went round to the houses, selling things that we had made.
My brother and I prospered at our work.
We used frequently to walk over by way of the sea, wading through the brook Kishon to 'Akka.
We would stand in a certain place, without the wall of the prison, and watch a particular window; sometimes we had the joy of seeing the hand of Baha'u'llah waving a greeting to us. We would then walk back to Haifa, delighted to have had our reward.
How we prayed that the Blessed One might have His freedom. It was heartbreaking to think of Him being imprisoned in the pestilential atmosphere of that most unhealthy town.
After some time, when rules were less strict, the Master asked me to come and live in 'Akka.
In these days Jamal-i-Mubarak was at liberty to walk freely about the town, and to live in His own hired house.
Our happiness was great when He would come to the Khan to speak to the friends, or when we were invited to the house of His Holiness, where He would receive us with such divine loving-kindness, and wonderful words of gladness and joy, that our hearts and souls were wrapt in an indescribable atmosphere of purity and peace.
No words could possibly convey to you the majesty and glory of His Presence. It is needless to attempt to do so; if only my spirit could speak. But you have known Sarka-i-Aqa, you can understand something of what those days were to us.
* * *
The sincerity and simplicity of this dear old man seemed to make themselves felt in other ways than by the mere words. It might well be that his spirit was speaking; but it was a never-to-be-forgotten experience--one saw the scenes and breathed the atmosphere of the spirit which he described.
Sakinih-Sultan Khanum told me other details of this time:
My husband, Jinabi-Zayn, was exiled from Tihran for being a Babi. We came to join these, whose happiness it was to live near Baha'u'llah at Baghdad. When He was taken away for "an unknown destination," we were of those who were bidden to remain.
At length, the time arrived when we were all to be driven forth. Jinabi-Zayn, who was a very learned man, incurred the especially malicious fury of the mob, which, in spite of the protection of the Governor, and incited by the fanatics, took every opportunity of injuring us.
They seized him, and scourged him severely. He, however, in company with a friend, escaped from Baghdad.
The infuriated mob seized all our belongings, so that we were able to save very few necessaries for the journey.
As we left the city, the people, filled with the hatred of bigotry, danced before us beating drums, and with other clashing noises the din was terrible. Those that went before and those who followed after, shouted, yelled curses, and stoned us.
Thus we were driven forth in a headlong flight, the stones wounding many of us; the soldiers, who were supposed to protect us, being powerless to do so in the face of such unbridled fury.
As we fled, we lost many of our belongings, which we had with difficulty saved out of our looted and wrecked homes.
Many fell and were kicked and otherwise hurt, my poor sister had a knife stuck through her arm; a lady, riding on a mule, with her baby in the takht-i-ravan (similar to a howdah) found that, in the confusion of the flight, the dear infant had gone!
At her entreaty, friends went back and found the sweet, wee girl, lying unhurt on the road; she was smiling, having been protected by her voluminous swaddling clothes.
We suffered much on this journey, both from hunger and thirst, having succeeded in bringing very little food with us in the turmoil of our departure.
The villages through which we passed were filled with bitter enemies, who reviled us, spat upon us, stoned us, rushed at us with sticks, yelling "Let the infidels die of hunger and thirst, let them die."
When we arrived at Mosul, the people of the town behaved in the same unfriendly manner, so that our condition was deplorable.
However, being locked into the Khan (the inn) to save us from injury from the people, the Vali, at the request of the Governor of Baghdad, had some food and water taken to us.
Eventually my husband and his friend arrived in so terrible a plight that we were aghast, and despaired for their lives.
Having escaped from Baghdad, they lost their way in the wilderness. So filled with malignity were the people they encountered, that they dared not ask their way, nor for food nor for water. Their sufferings were beyond description; driven by hunger and appalling thirst to venture near a village, the people rushed out to kill them, and they had to turn and flee for their lives.
Then, with strength almost gone, they reached Mosul.
They were brought to the Khan.
Five days they had struggled on without a drop of water; their tongues were badly swollen; they seemed about to die! We gave them what care we could, and they recovered.
The exiles at Mosul began to call my husband the "Father of the Exiles."
He was not able to do much to mitigate their misery, for all our belongings had been taken from us.
News had been taken to the "King of the Martyred" at Isfahan, explaining the plight of the Babis at Mosul. He, with his usual kindness and generosity, promptly sent corn and other help to them, conditions thereby being vastly improved.
Stray fugitives, escaping from the threatened death in Persia, joined us from time to time, until we were about one hundred and eighty persons.
These exiles gradually made their way to 'Akka and to Haifa.