When the caliph's decree was conveyed to Baha'u'llah and He had to leave Baghdad for Istanbul, He left the town on the thirty-second day after Naw-Ruz for the Ridvan Garden. On that same day the river overflowed and only on the ninth day was it possible for His family to join Him in the Garden. The river then overflowed a second time, and on the twelfth day it subsided and all went to Him. Ahmad begged Baha'u'llah to be amongst His companions in exile, but Baha'u'llah did not accede to this request. He chose a few people and instructed the others to stay to teach and protect the Cause emphasizing that this would be better for the Faith of God. At the time of His departure, those who were left behind stood in a row and all were so overcome with sorrow that they burst into tears. Baha'u'llah again approached them and consoled them saying: "It is better for the Cause. Some of these people who accompany me are liable to do mischief; therefore I am taking them with Myself." One of the friends could scarcely control his anguish and sorrow. He addressed the crowd reciting this poem of Sa'di:
"Let us all rise to weep like unto the clouds of the Spring Season. On the day when lovers are separated from their Beloved, one can even hear the lamentations of stones."
Baha'u'llah then said, "Verily this was said for this day." Then He mounted His horse and one of the friends placed a sack of coins in front of the saddle and Baha'u'llah started to distribute the coins to the bewailing poor who were standing by. When they ran to Him and pushed one another, He plunged His hand in the sack and poured all the coins out saying, "Gather them yourselves!"
Ahmad saw his Beloved disappear from his sight headed for an unknown destination. Little did he know that He was like unto the sun rising towards the zenith of might and power. Sad at heart and utterly distressed in soul, he returned to Baghdad, which to him seemed devoid of any attraction. He tried to make himself happy by gathering the friends and encouraging them to disperse and teach the Faith which had just been declared. Though actively serving the Cause, he was not happy. All that could keep him happy was nearness to his Beloved.
1980 - King of Glory (H M Balyuzi)
The March of the King of Glory
Crossing the River
THE sun was westering on 22 April 1863 (the thirty-second day after Naw-Ruz) when Baha'u'llah walked, for the last time, out of the house that, for many years, had been His home in the city of the 'Abbasids, and made His way to the bank of the Tigris, where a quffih awaited to take Him to the further bank, to the garden of Najib Pasha (known as the Najibiyyih). The thoroughfare to the riverside brimmed with people, men and women, young and old, from all walks of life, who had gathered to see Him go and bewail His departure.
Baha'u'llah, as he walked to the bank of the Tigris, gave generously to the poor and the deprived, and consoled and comforted the people who were never to see Him again. But they were now so acutely conscious of their evident and grievous loss that words failed to console them. And it must be remembered that the vast majority of them were men and women not in any way connected with the Faith of the Bab. Ibn-Alusi, a leading cleric of the Sunni community, was seen weeping over their plight, and he was heard to heap imprecations on Nasiri'd-Din Shah, who was generally held responsible for Baha'u'llah's exile from Baghdad. 'This man is not Nasiri'd-Din - the Helper of Religion; he is Mukhdhili'd-Din - the Abaser of Religion.' Such being the reaction of men in high position not affiliated to the Faith of the Bab, one can better imagine the feelings of those Babis who, perforce, had to remain in Baghdad. Aqa Rida writes that so disconsolate were they that those who were to accompany Baha'u'llah sorrowed with them. 'God alone knows', he writes, 'how those believers who were not to come fared on that day.'
It was springtime and the garden of Najib Pasha, henceforth to become known to the Baha'is as the Garden of Ridvan (Paradise), was aflame with the brilliant hues of roses, and their bloom was super-abundant on that day. Those who have written of that April 22nd in the Garden of Ridvan linger particularly over the beauty of the roses and the bounties and blessings of nature. It was fitting for such a day, when nature was so gladsome and the hearts of men so weighed with sadness, that it should also bring the joyous tiding of the Divine Springtime. The Pen of Baha'u'llah wrote of that day: 'The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching. Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new. Speak, and hold not thy peace. 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. Arise before the nations of the earth, and arm thyself with the power of this Most Great Name, and be not of those who tarry.
'Methinks that thou hast halted and movest not upon My Tablet. Could the brightness of the Divine Countenance have bewildered thee, or the idle talk of the froward filled thee with grief and paralyzed thy movement? 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 the earth. Preferrest thou to tarry when the breeze announcing the Day of God hath already breathed over thee, or art thou of them that are shut out as by a veil from Him? 'No veil whatever have I allowed, O Lord of all names and Creator of the heavens, to shut me from the recognition of the glories of Thy Day - the Day which is the lamp of guidance unto the whole world, and the sign of the Ancient of Days unto all them that dwell therein. My silence is by reason of the veils that have blinded Thy creatures' eyes to Thee, and my muteness is because of the impediments that have hindered Thy people from recognizing Thy truth. Thou knowest what is in me, but I know not what is in Thee. Thou art the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. By Thy name that excelleth all other names! If Thy overruling and all-compelling behest should ever reach me, it would empower me to revive the souls of all men, through Thy most exalted Word, which I have heard uttered by Thy Tongue of power in Thy Kingdom of glory. It would enable me to announce the revelation of Thy effulgent countenance wherethrough that which lay hidden from
the eyes of men hath been manifested in Thy name, the Perspicuous, the sovereign Protector, the Self-Subsisting.
'Canst thou discover any one but Me, O Pen, in this Day? What hath become of the creation and the manifestations thereof? What of the names and their kingdom? Whither are gone all created things, whether seen or unseen? What of the hidden secrets of the universe and its revelations? Lo, the entire creation hath passed away! Nothing remaineth except My Face, the Ever-Abiding, the Resplendent, the All-Glorious .
'This is the Day whereon naught can be seen except the splendours of the Light that shineth from the face of Thy Lord, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful. Verily, We have caused every soul to expire by virtue of Our irresistible and all-subduing sovereignty. We have, then, called into being a new creation, as a token of Our grace unto men. I am, verily, the All-Bountiful, the Ancient of Days.
'This is the Day whereon the unseen world crieth out: "Great is thy blessedness, O earth, for thou hast been made the foot-stool of thy God, and been chosen as the seat of His mighty throne." The realm of glory exclaimeth: "Would that my life could be sacrificed for thee, for He Who is the Beloved of the All-Merciful hath established His sovereignty upon thee, through the power of His Name that hath been promised unto all things, whether of the past or of the future." This is the Day whereon every sweet-smelling thing hath derived its fragrance from the smell of My garment - a garment that hath shed its perfume upon the whole of creation. This is the Day whereon the rushing waters of everlasting life have gushed out of the Will of the All-Merciful. Haste ye, with your hearts and souls, and quaff your fill, O Concourse of the realms above!
'Say: He it is Who is the Manifestation of Him Who is the Unknowable, the Invisible of the Invisibles, could ye but perceive it. 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. Would that ye might set your hearts and hopes upon Him!
'We have heard the voice of thy pleading, O Pen, and excuse thy silence. What is it that hath so sorely bewildered thee?
'The inebriation of Thy presence, O Well-Beloved of all worlds, hath seized and possessed me.
'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. We have chosen thee to be our most mighty Trumpet, whose blast is to signalize the resurrection of all mankind.
'Say: This is the Paradise on whose foliage the wine of utterance hath imprinted the testimony: "He that was hidden from the eyes of men is revealed, girded with sovereignty and power!" This is the Paradise, the rustling of whose leaves proclaims: "O ye that inhabit the heavens and the earth! There hath appeared what hath never previously appeared. He Who, from everlasting, had concealed His Face from the sight of creation is now come." From the whispering breeze that wafteth amidst its branches there cometh the cry: "He Who is the sovereign Lord of all is made manifest. The Kingdom is God's," while from its streaming waters can be heard the murmur: "All eyes are gladdened, for He Whom none hath beheld, Whose secret no one hath discovered, hath lifted the veil of glory, and uncovered the countenance of Beauty."
'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 cup of everlasting life. Approach, and quaff your fill. Drink with healthy relish, O ye that are the very incarnations of longing, ye who are the embodiments of vehement desire!"
'This is the Day whereon He Who is the Revealer of the names of God hath stepped out of the Tabernacle of glory, and proclaimed unto all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth: "Put away the cups of Paradise and all the life-giving waters they contain, for lo, the people of Baha have entered the blissful abode of the Divine Presence, and quaffed the wine of reunion, from the chalice of the beauty of their Lord, the All-Possessing, the Most High."
'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 favours 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 splendour of the light of His most excellent names, and enveloped them with the radiance of the luminaries of His most gracious favours - favours which none can reckon except Him, Who is the omnipotent Protector of the entire creation.
'Look not upon the creatures of God except with the eye of kindliness and of mercy, for Our loving providence hath pervaded all created things, and Our grace encompassed the earth and the heavens. This is the Day whereon the true servants of God partake of the life-giving waters of reunion, the Day whereon those that are nigh unto Him are able to drink of the soft-flowing river of immortality, and they who believe in His unity, the wine of His Presence, through their recognition of Him Who is the Highest and Last End of all, in Whom the Tongue of Majesty and Glory voiceth the call: "The Kingdom is Mine. I, Myself, am, of Mine own right, its Ruler."
'Attract the hearts of men, through the call of Him, the one alone Beloved. Say: This is the Voice of God, if ye do but hearken. This is the Day-Spring of the Revelation of God, did ye but know it. This is the Dawning-Place of the Cause of God, were ye to recognize it. This is the Source of the commandment of God, did ye but judge it fairly. This is the manifest and hidden Secret; would that ye might perceive it. O peoples of the world! Cast away, in My name that transcendeth all other names, the things ye possess, and immerse yourselves in this Ocean in whose depths lay hidden the pearls of wisdom and of utterance, an ocean that surgeth in My name, the All-Merciful. Thus instructeth you He with Whom is the Mother Book.'
'The Best-Beloved is come. In His right hand is the sealed Wine of His name. Happy is the man that turneth unto Him, and drinketh his fill, and exclaimeth: "Praise be to Thee, O Revealer of the signs of God!" By the righteousness of the Almighty! Every hidden thing hath been manifested through the power of truth. All the favours of God have been sent down, as a token of His grace. The waters of everlasting life have, in their fullness, been proffered unto men. Every single cup hath been borne round by the hand of the Well-Beloved. Draw near, and tarry not, though it be for one short moment.
'Blessed are they that have soared on the wings of detachment and attained the station which, as ordained by God, overshadoweth the entire creation. whom neither the vain imaginations of the learned, nor
the multitude of the hosts of the earth have succeeded in deflecting from His Cause. Who is there among you, O people, who will renounce the world, and draw nigh unto God, the Lord of all names? Where is he to be found who, through the power of My name that transcendeth all created things, will cast away the things that men possess, and cling, with all his might, to the things which God, the Knower of the unseen and of the seen, hath bidden him observe? Thus hath His bounty been sent down unto men, His testimony fulfilled, and His proof shone forth above the Horizon of mercy. Rich is the prize that shall be won by him who hath believed and exclaimed: "Lauded art Thou, O Beloved of all worlds! Magnified be Thy name. O Thou the Desire of every understanding heart!"
'Rejoice with exceeding gladness, O people of Baha, 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 splendours of His name, the All-Merciful. God is Our witness. Were We to reveal the hidden secrets of that Day, all they 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 Him Who is the Revealer of His undoubted proofs, that His Pen can move no longer. With these words He concludeth His Tablet: "No God is there but Me, the Most Exalted, the Most Powerful, the Most Excellent, the All-Knowing.""1
While writers and chroniclers have left copious accounts of the throngs of people, their expression of sorrow, the excellence of the skilled work of the gardeners, nothing is said of how Baha'u'llah made His long-awaited Declaration. In the words of the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith:
'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."'2
Áqá Rida's Account
Aqa Rida also describes the constant stream of people who came each day from Baghdad to visit Baha'u'llah, who could not tolerate being parted from Him. Food, according to Aqa Rida, was brought from the house of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad, where His family was still in residence, and also from the house of Mirza Musay-i-Javahiri. Namiq Pasha himself came one day and offered to provide Baha'u'llah with whatever He required for the Journey, and asked to be forgiven for what had occurred. Baha'u'llah assured him that they had all they needed, and as Namiq Pasha insisted on being of some service, Baha'u'llah said: 'Be considerate to My friends and treat them kindly'. The Vali gave his word to this, and he also wrote a letter addressed to the officials on the way to Istanbul, instructing them to provide the travellers with all necessities, and entrusted this document to the officer who was detailed to accompany them. But, Aqa Rida states, all along the route Baha'u'llah never permitted them to accept such exactions, and they always bought their provisions and paid for them. Namiq Pasha had one more request to make: he had a very beautiful horse which he wanted to send to Constantinople, and he asked to be allowed to leave the horse with Baha'u'llah's men to look after. His request was granted.
Aqa Husayn-i-Ashchi has related that this horse, which was to be delivered to Namiq Pasha's son in Istanbul was left in the care of Siyyid Husayn-i-Kashi (Kashani). He must have been particularly instructed to lend it well. Siyyid Husayn was a simple soul and a man full of jest and humour. He always longed to be able to do and say something to amuse Baha'u'llah and make Him smile. Ashchi says that he used to dance and caper in front of Baha'u'llah's own horse, 'a red roan stallion of the finest breed' named Sa'udi. One day along the route, he went to Baha'u'llah's tent to complain that the Greatest Branch gave out sufficient barley and fodder to feed the other animals, but did not give him any for his horse, but noticing 'Abdu'l-Baha come into the tent, he took to his heels and ran off into the desert. Siyyid Husayn, Ashchi says, was in the retinue of Baha'u'llah until they were to move to Adirnih (Adrianople). Then, Baha'u'llah told him and a number of others who had joined them en route to return home. Still longing to offer Baha'u'llah some amusement, he implored the Baha'is who were to remain with Him not to forget to mention some of his comic doings that Baha'u'llah might smile, should at any time his name come up.
On the ninth day the family of Baha'u'llah also moved to the Najibiyyih, and the twelfth day was appointed for departure. Thus the Festival of Ridvan comprises twelve days. Throughout the twelfth day, people poured into the garden for their final farewells. At last the mules were loaded, the kajavihs (howdahs) were settled on them, the ladies and children took their seats in the Kajavihs, and towards sunset the red roan stallion was brought out for Baha'u'llah to mount. All those whose narratives have come down to us state that seeing Baha'u'llah in the saddle, and about to depart, evoked from the vast crowd heart-rending, unbearable cries of distress. The call: 'Allah-u-Akbar' - 'God is the Greatest' - rang out time and again. People threw themselves in the path of His horse, and as Aqa Rida expresses it, 'it seemed as if that heavenly steed was passing over sanctified bodies and pure hearts'. On that day for the first time they witnessed Baha'u'llah's splendid horsemanship. During all those years in Baghdad, although horses were never unavailable, Aqa Rida states that Baha'u'llah had always chosen to ride a donkey. Another symbolic sign of the divine authority that He now visibly wielded was the change in His headgear, on the first day of the Festival of Ridvan - the day He left His house in Baghdad for the last time, to take His residence in the Najibiyyih prior to His departure for the capital of the Turkish Empire. It was then seen that He was wearing a taj (crown), finely embroidered. A number of these tall felt headgears have been preserved: red, green, yellow and and white, beautifully adorned with embroidery of the highest quality and skill.
The sun was about to set when they reached Firayjat, three miles away, on the bank of the Tigris. Here too there was a verdant garden which contained a considerable mansion, and here the caravan halted for seven days. While Mirza Musa, the brother of Baha'u'llah, was busy tidying their affairs in Baghdad and seeing to the packing and loading of the rest of their goods, Baha'u'llah resided in that mansion. In Firayjat horses were made to run a course to test them, and once again Baha'u'llah's masterly horsemanship was witnessed. He had two other horses besides the stallion, Sa'udi, one called Farangi and the other Sa'id. There were also two donkeys for the younger sons of Baha'u'llah to ride occasionally. At Firayjat people were still coming daily from Baghdad. They could not bear to be wrenched from the presence of Baha'u'llah.
Mounted When Entering Towns and Villages
Baha'u'llah would, while on the move, take His seat in a kajavih, but would mount His horse when approaching a village or a town, to meet the officials and notables who would invariably come out to greet Him. A man named Haji Mahmud walked in front, holding the reins of the mule which bore His kajavih, and Mirza Aqa Jan, Mirza Aqay-i-Munir, surnamed Ismu'llahu'l-Munib, and Aqa Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Amir-i-Nayrizi walked on either side.
'Abdu'l-Baha has given a vivid and delightful account of the spirit of that journey, in His memoir of Mirza Aqay-i-Munir (Jinab-i-Munib; see Addendum V): 'At the time when, with all pomp and ceremony, Baha'u'llah and His retinue departed from Baghdad, Jinab-i-Munib accompanied the party on foot. The young man had been known in Persia for his easy and agreeable life and his love of pleasure also for being somewhat soft and delicate, and used to having his own way. It is obvious what a person of this type endured, going on foot from Baghdad to Constantinople. Still, he gladly measured out the desert miles, and he spent his days and nights chanting prayers, communing with God and calling upon Him.
'He was a close companion of mine on that journey. There were nights when we would walk, one to either side of the howdah of Baha'u'llah, and the joy we had defies description. Some of those nights he would sing poems; among them he would chant the odes of Hafiz, like the one that begins," Come let us scatter these roses let us pour out this wine," and that other:
"To our King though we bow the knee,
We are kings of the morning star.
No changeable colors have we -
Red lions black dragons we are!'3
On the seventh day, the caravan set its face in earnest towards Constantinople. Keeping to the bank of the Tigris, Judaydah was reached in late afternoon. There was no garden to be found there and tents were raised. And here at Judaydah they halted for another three days.
At Judaydah, Shatir-Rida reached the caravan, bringing with him Aqa Muhammad-Hasan, a young boy whose father, Aqa 'Abdu'r Rasul-i-Qumi, was then a prisoner in Tihran, and was to suffer martyrdom in Baghdad. This Aqa Muhammad-Hasan grew up in the household of Baha'u'llah and served Him faithfully. In later years he was put in charge of the Pilgrim House in 'Akka. The present writer well remembers Aqa Muhammad-Hasan, in his extreme old age, in 'Akka in the mid-twenties. When no longer able to serve in the Pilgrim House, Aqa Muhammad-Hasan lived in Bayt-i-'Abbud (Baha'u'llah's house in 'Akka) and looked after the place. The old man possessed a veritable treasure - many specimens of the handwriting of Baha'u'llah, kept in a trunk, which gave him great pleasure to show to visitors.
Four Return to Baghdad
Haji Muhammad-Taqi, the Nayibu'l-Iyalih, also came to Judaydah from Baghdad. But when the caravan broke camp to proceed on the journey, Baha'u'llah instructed him, Shatir-Rida, Shaykh Sadiq Yazdi and Ustad 'Abdu'l-Karim to return to Baghdad. Shaykh Sadiq was an old man greatly devoted to the person of Baha'u'llah. He felt so acutely the pangs of separation from Him that he could not rest, and not long after, started, a solitary figure, to walk to Istanbul. But he never finished the journey and died on the way, at Ma'dan-i-Nuqrih. (See p. 192)