"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 Baha'u'llah 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!"
Expansion of Writings
The enormous expansion in the scope and volume of Baha'u'llah'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 Babi 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, that
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, Baha'u'llah's amanuensis, affirms, as reported by Nabil, that by the express order of Baha'u'llah, 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, "Baha'u'llah 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 Bab had penned the verses with which He was inspired, has left the following testimony to posterity, after attaining, during those days, the presence of Baha'u'llah, 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 Baha'u'llah 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 Bab when in His presence. Had Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah's Revelation ranks the Kitab-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 Bab, 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 Baha'u'llah by the as yet unconverted maternal uncle of the Bab, 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,
this Book, setting forth in outline the Grand Redemptive Scheme of God, occupies a position unequalled by any work in the entire range of Baha'i literature, except the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha'u'llah'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 Bab'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 Baha'i 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 rank
that marvelous collection of gem-like utterances, the "Hidden Words" with which Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'u'llah 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 the
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 Bab'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 Baha'u'llah'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 Babis had inspired.
This was provided by a certain Shaykh Abdu'l-Husayn, a crafty and obstinate priest, whose consuming jealousy of Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah 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,
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.
(Influencing Governor Fails)
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 Baha'u'llah and His companions, an effort which miserably failed.
(Inventing Dreams, Interview with Baha'u'llah)
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 Baha'u'llah.
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 Baha'u'llah's extradition might be procured. This attempt too proved abortive, as the presence of Baha'u'llah, 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 Baha'u'llah, 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 Babis in attendance, entered the bath with a pistol concealed in his cloak, and confronted Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah, pistol in hand, when, on Baha'u'llah's approach, he was so overcome with fear that the pistol dropped from his hand; whereupon Baha'u'llah bade Aqay-i-Kalim, who accompanied Him, to hand it back to him, and show him the way to his home.
(Daily Fabricated Reports)
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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah 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.
General Assault on Exiles Planned
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 Babis. He it was whom Baha'u'llah 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-Baha 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 Baha'u'llah for what had happened, and his devout wish for His protection.
Questions Submitted, Miracle Requested
Frustrated in their designs, but unrelenting in their hostility, the
assembled divines delegated the learned and devout Haji Mulla Hasan-i-'Ammu, recognized for his integrity and wisdom, to submit various questions to Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah, 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," Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah, 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," Baha'u'llah 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-Baha has written concerning a similar challenge made later by Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah 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 both
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.
Declaration to the Potentates Mentioned
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."
Order for Exile Accomplished
The predestined hour of Baha'u'llah's departure from Iraq having now struck, the process whereby it could be accomplished was set
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 Baha'u'llah'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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah'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 Baha'u'llah 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, after
the accession of the new Sultan to the throne, was for its active and prompt intervention in this matter.
Fifth of Naw Rúz - Holy Mariner, Messenger Arrives
It was on the fifth of Naw-Ruz (1863), while Baha'u'llah 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, Baha'u'llah 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.
Dream - The Prophets and the Messengers Lamenting
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."
Holy Mariner - Effects
"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.
Tents Ordered Closed, Messenger Arrives
No sooner had that Tablet been chanted than Baha'u'llah 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."
Letter Delivered at Mosque
By the following day the Deputy-Governor had delivered to
Baha'u'llah in a mosque, in the neighborhood of the governor's house, Ali Pasha's letter, addressed to Namiq Pasha, couched in courteous language, inviting Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah'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 Baha'u'llah, 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 class 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 Baha'u'llah 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.
Alusi, the Mufti of Baghdad
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."
Governor, Namiq Pasha
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 Baha'u'llah's departure, and assuring Him of his readiness to 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 Baha'u'llah, "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 Baha'u'llah 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-Baha, 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 (Baha'u'llah) stated: 'Formerly they insisted upon your departure. Now, however, they are even more insistent that you should remain.'"
Declaration; Ridvan Festival
The arrival of Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'i 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.
Decade Hidden, Prophecies
Through that solemn act the "delay," of no less than a decade, divinely interposed between the birth of Baha'u'llah's Revelation in the Siyah-Chal and its announcement to the Bab'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 Bab, 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 Bab's own prophecy regarding the "Ridvan," the scene of the unveiling of Baha'u'llah's transcendent glory, had been literally fulfilled.
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, Baha'u'llah 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 Bab 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 Bab's followers.
"Many a night," writes Nabil, depicting the tumult that had seized the hearts of Baha'u'llah'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 discover 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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah Himself reveal to us its import. Acclaiming that historic occasion as the "Most Great Festival," the "King of Festivals," the "Festival of God," He has, in His Kitab-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 world 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."
Departure - Tumult and Lamentations
The departure of Baha'u'llah 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," Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah'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 (Baha'u'llah) on this day would have been mine too."
Devotion and Homage Upon the Journey
The same tokens of devotion shown Baha'u'llah at the time of 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 hospitality 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, Baha'u'llah, 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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'i 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 Baha'u'llah'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.
1844-1863 - Crisis and Victory
Exactly two decades earlier the Babi 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 midst 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 Baha'u'llah'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.
Proclamation in Adrianople (and beyond)
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-Baha, 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 Baha'u'llah 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 than 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.
Banishment to Adrianople (Reasons)
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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah the hostility of the Turkish authorities. He was encouraged by the refusal of Baha'u'llah 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 - Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah'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 Baha'u'llah'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 Baha'u'llah 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-Baha, "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."
Delivering the Edict
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 virtual 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 Baha'u'llah that envoy had to content himself with a presentation of his puerile observations and trivial arguments to Abdu'l-Baha 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.
Tablet to Ali Pasha (Grand Vizir)
That same day a Tablet, severely condemnatory in tone, was revealed by Baha'u'llah, 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," Baha'u'llah, 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.
Message to the Persian Ambassador
Baha'u'llah 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 life 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."
Departure for Adrianople - Extreme Cold
Pursuant to the peremptory orders issued for the immediate departure of the already twice banished exiles, Baha'u'llah, 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 Baha'u'llah 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, Baha'u'llah and His family were consigned to a house suitable only for summer habitation, in the Muradiyyih quarter, near the Takyiy-i-Mawlavi, and were moved 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 Baha'u'llah. The curtain now rises on what is admittedly the most turbulent and critical period of the first Baha'i 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.