<127> CHAPTER VIII Baha'u'llah's Banishment to Iraq (Continued)
The return of Baha'u'llah from Sulaymaniyyih to Baghdad marks a turning point of the utmost significance in the history of the first Baha'i century. The tide of the fortunes of the Faith, having reached its lowest ebb, was now beginning to surge back, and was destined to roll on, steadily and mightily, to a new high water-mark, associated this time with the Declaration of His Mission, on the eve of His banishment to Constantinople. With His return to Baghdad a firm anchorage was now being established, an anchorage such as the Faith had never known in its history. Never before, except during the first three years of its life, could that Faith claim to have possessed a fixed and accessible center to which its adherents could turn for guidance, and from which they could derive continuous and unobstructed inspiration. No less than half of the Bab's short-lived ministry was spent on the remotest border of His native country, where He was concealed and virtually cut off from the vast majority of His disciples. The period immediately after His martyrdom was marked by a confusion that was even more deplorable than the isolation caused by His enforced captivity. Nor when the Revelation which He had foretold made its appearance was it succeeded by an immediate declaration that could enable the members of a distracted community to rally round the person of their expected Deliverer.
The prolonged self-concealment of Mirza Yahya, the center provisionally appointed pending the manifestation of the Promised One; the nine months' absence of Baha'u'llah from His native land, while on a visit to Karbila, followed swiftly by His imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal, by His banishment to Iraq, and afterwards by His retirement to Kurdistan--all combined to prolong the phase of instability and suspense through which the Babi community had to pass.
Now at last, in spite of Baha'u'llah's reluctance to unravel the mystery surrounding His own position, the Babis found themselves able to center both their hopes and their movements round One Whom they believed (whatever their views as to His station) capable of insuring the stability and integrity of their Faith. The orientation
which the Faith had thus acquired and the fixity of the center towards which it now gravitated continued, in one form or another, to be its outstanding features, of which it was never again to be deprived.
The Faith of the Bab, as already observed, had, in consequence of the successive and formidable blows it had received, reached the verge of extinction. Nor was the momentous Revelation vouchsafed to Baha'u'llah in the Siyah-Chal productive at once of any tangible results of a nature that would exercise a stabilizing influence on a well-nigh disrupted community. Baha'u'llah's unexpected banishment had been a further blow to its members, who had learned to place their reliance upon Him. Mirza Yahya's seclusion and inactivity further accelerated the process of disintegration that had set in. Baha'u'llah's prolonged retirement to Kurdistan seemed to have set the seal on its complete dissolution.
Now, however, the tide that had ebbed in so alarming a measure was turning, bearing with it, as it rose to flood point, those inestimable benefits that were to herald the announcement of the Revelation already secretly disclosed to Baha'u'llah.
During the seven years that elapsed between the resumption of His labors and the declaration of His prophetic mission--years to which we now direct our attention--it would be no exaggeration to say that the Baha'i community, under the name and in the shape of a re-arisen Babi community was born and was slowly taking shape, though its Creator still appeared in the guise of, and continued to labor as, one of the foremost disciples of the Bab. It was a period during which the prestige of the community's nominal head steadily faded from the scene, paling before the rising splendor of Him Who was its actual Leader and Deliverer. It was a period in the course of which the first fruits of an exile, endowed with incalculable potentialities, ripened and were garnered. It was a period that will go down in history as one during which the prestige of a recreated community was immensely enhanced, its morals entirely reformed, its recognition of Him who rehabilitated its fortunes enthusiastically affirmed, its literature enormously enriched, and its victories over its new adversaries universally acknowledged.
The prestige of the community, and particularly that of Baha'u'llah, now began from its first inception in Kurdistan to mount in a steadily rising crescendo. Baha'u'llah had scarcely gathered up again the reins of the authority he had relinquished when the devout admirers He had left behind in Sulaymaniyyih started to flock to Baghdad, with the name of "Darvish Muhammad" on their lips, and the "house
of Mirza Musa the Babi" as their goal. Astonished at the sight of so many ulamas and Sufis of Kurdish origin, of both the Qadiriyyih and Khalidiyyih Orders, thronging the house of Baha'u'llah, and impelled by racial and sectarian rivalry, the religious leaders of the city, such as the renowned Ibn-i-Alusi, the Mufti of Baghdad, together with Shaykh Abdu's-Salam, Shaykh Abdu'l-Qadir and Siyyid Dawudi, began to seek His presence, and, having obtained completely satisfying answers to their several queries, enrolled themselves among the band of His earliest admirers. The unqualified recognition by these outstanding leaders of those traits that distinguished the character and conduct of Baha'u'llah stimulated the curiosity, and later evoked the unstinted praise, of a great many observers of less conspicuous position, among whom figured poets, mystics and notables, who either resided in, or visited, the city. Government officials, foremost among whom were Abdu'llah Pasha and his lieutenant Mahmud Aqa, and Mulla Ali Mardan, a Kurd well-known in those circles, were gradually brought into contact with Him, and lent their share in noising abroad His fast-spreading fame. Nor could those distinguished Persians, who either lived in Baghdad and its environs or visited as pilgrims the holy places, remain impervious to the spell of His charm. Princes of the royal blood, amongst whom were such personages as the Na'ibu'l-Iyalih, the Shuja'u'd-Dawlih, the Sayfu'd-Dawlih, and Zaynu'l-Abidin Khan, the Fakhru'd-Dawlih, were, likewise, irresistibly drawn into the ever-widening circle of His associates and acquaintances.
Those who, during Baha'u'llah's two years' absence from Baghdad, had so persistently reviled and loudly derided His companions and kindred were, by now, for the most part, silenced. Not an inconsiderable number among them feigned respect and esteem for Him, a few claimed to be His defenders and supporters, while others professed to share His beliefs, and actually joined the ranks of the community to which He belonged. Such was the extent of the reaction that had set in that one of them was even heard to boast that, as far back as the year 1250 A.H.--a decade before the Bab's Declaration--he had already perceived and embraced the truth of His Faith!
Within a few years after Baha'u'llah's return from Sulaymaniyyih the situation had been completely reversed. The house of Sulayman-i-Ghannam, on which the official designation of the Bayt-i-Azam (the Most Great House) was later conferred, known, at that time, as the house of Mirza Musa, the Babi, an extremely modest residence,
situated in the Karkh quarter, in the neighborhood of the western bank of the river, to which Baha'u'llah's family had moved prior to His return from Kurdistan, had now become the focal center of a great number of seekers, visitors and pilgrims, including Kurds, Persians, Arabs and Turks, and derived from the Muslim, the Jewish and Christian Faiths. It had, moreover, become a veritable sanctuary to which the victims of the injustice of the official representative of the Persian government were wont to flee, in the hope of securing redress for the wrongs they had suffered.