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Title: God Passes By
Author: Shoghi Effendi, 1897-1957
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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God Passes By


by Shoghi Effendi



Edition 1, (September 2006)



                           BAHA’I TERMS OF USE


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                                 CONTENTS


Baha’i Terms of Use
Foreword
FIRST PERIOD: THE MINISTRY OF THE BÁB 1844–1853
   Chapter I: The Birth of the Bábí Revelation
   Chapter II: The Báb’s Captivity in Ádhirbayján
   Chapter III: Upheavals in Mázindarán, Nayríz and Zanján
   Chapter IV: The Execution of the Báb
   Chapter V: The Attempt on the Life of the Sháh and Its Consequences
SECOND PERIOD: THE MINISTRY OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH 1853–1892
   Chapter VI: The Birth of The Bahá’í Revelation
   Chapter VII: Bahá’u’lláh’s Banishment to ‘Iráq
   Chapter VIII: Bahá’u’lláh’s Banishment to ‘Iráq (Continued)
   Chapter IX: The Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission and His Journey to
   Constantinople
   Chapter X: The Rebellion of Mírzá Yaḥyá and the Proclamation of
   Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission in Adrianople
   Chapter XI: Bahá’u’lláh’s Incarceration in Akká
   Chapter XII: Bahá’u’lláh’s Incarceration in Akká (Continued)
   Chapter XIII: Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh
THIRD PERIOD: THE MINISTRY OF ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ 1892–1921
   Chapter XIV: The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh
   Chapter XV: The Rebellion of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí
   Chapter XVI: The Rise and Establishment of the Faith in the West
   Chapter XVII: Renewal of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Incarceration
   Chapter XVIII: Entombment of the Báb’s Remains on Mt. Carmel
   Chapter XIX: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Travels in Europe and America
   Chapter XX: Growth and Expansion of the Faith in East and West
   Chapter XXI: The Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
FOURTH PERIOD: THE INCEPTION OF THE FORMATIVE AGE OF THE BAHÁ’Í FAITH
1921–1944
   Chapter XXII: The Rise and Establishment of the Administrative Order
   Chapter XXIII: Attacks on Bahá’í Institutions
   Chapter XXIV: Emancipation and Recognition of the Faith and Its
   Institutions
   Chapter XXV: International Expansion of Teaching Activities
   Retrospect and Prospect



FOREWORD


On the 23rd of May of this auspicious year the Bahá’í world will celebrate
the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. It
will commemorate at once the hundreth anniversary of the inception of the
Bábí Dispensation, of the inauguration of the Bahá’í Era, of the
commencement of the Bahá’í Cycle, and of the birth of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The
weight of the potentialities with which this Faith, possessing no peer or
equal in the world’s spiritual history, and marking the culmination of a
universal prophetic cycle, has been endowed, staggers our imagination. The
brightness of the millennial glory which it must shed in the fullness of
time dazzles our eyes. The magnitude of the shadow which its Author will
continue to cast on successive Prophets destined to be raised up after Him
eludes our calculation.

Already in the space of less than a century the operation of the
mysterious processes generated by its creative spirit has provoked a
tumult in human society such as no mind can fathom. Itself undergoing a
period of incubation during its primitive age, it has, through the
emergence of its slowly-crystallizing system, induced a fermentation in
the general life of mankind designed to shake the very foundations of a
disordered society, to purify its life-blood, to reorientate and
reconstruct its institutions, and shape its final destiny.

To what else can the observant eye or the unprejudiced mind, acquainted
with the signs and portents heralding the birth, and accompanying the
rise, of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh ascribe this dire, this planetary
upheaval, with its attendant destruction, misery and fear, if not to the
emergence of His embryonic World Order, which, as He Himself has
unequivocally proclaimed, has “deranged the equilibrium of the world and
revolutionized mankind’s ordered life”? To what agency, if not to the
irresistible diffusion of that world-shaking, world-energizing,
world-redeeming spirit, which the Báb has affirmed is “vibrating in the
innermost realities of all created things” can the origins of this
portentous crisis, incomprehensible to man, and admittedly unprecedented
in the annals of the human race, be attributed? In the convulsions of
contemporary society, in the frenzied, world-wide ebullitions of men’s
thoughts, in the fierce antagonisms inflaming races, creeds and classes,
in the shipwreck of nations, in the downfall of kings, in the
dismemberment of empires, in the extinction of dynasties, in the collapse
of ecclesiastical hierarchies, in the deterioration of time-honored
institutions, in the dissolution of ties, secular as well as religious,
that had for so long held together the members of the human race—all
manifesting themselves with ever-increasing gravity since the outbreak of
the first World War that immediately preceded the opening years of the
Formative Age of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh—in these we can readily
recognize the evidences of the travail of an age that has sustained the
impact of His Revelation, that has ignored His summons, and is now
laboring to be delivered of its burden, as a direct consequence of the
impulse communicated to it by the generative, the purifying, the
transmuting influence of His Spirit.

It is my purpose, on the occasion of an anniversary of such profound
significance, to attempt in the succeeding pages a survey of the
outstanding events of the century that has seen this Spirit burst forth
upon the world, as well as the initial stages of its subsequent
incarnation in a System that must evolve into an Order designed to embrace
the whole of mankind, and capable of fulfilling the high destiny that
awaits man on this planet. I shall endeavor to review, in their proper
perspective and despite the comparatively brief space of time which
separates us from them, the events which the revolution of a hundred
years, unique alike in glory and tribulation, has unrolled before our
eyes. I shall seek to represent and correlate, in however cursory a
manner, those momentous happenings which have insensibly, relentlessly,
and under the very eyes of successive generations, perverse, indifferent
or hostile, transformed a heterodox and seemingly negligible offshoot of
the _Sh_ay_kh_í school of the I_th_ná-‘A_sh_’áríyyih sect of _Sh_í’ah
Islám into a world religion whose unnumbered followers are organically and
indissolubly united; whose light has overspread the earth as far as
Iceland in the North and Magellanes in the South; whose ramifications have
spread to no less than sixty countries of the world; whose literature has
been translated and disseminated in no less than forty languages; whose
endowments in the five continents of the globe, whether local, national or
international, already run into several million dollars; whose
incorporated elective bodies have secured the official recognition of a
number of governments in East and West; whose adherents are recruited from
the diversified races and chief religions of mankind; whose
representatives are to be found in hundreds of cities in both Persia and
the United States of America; to whose verities royalty has publicly and
repeatedly testified; whose independent status its enemies, from the ranks
of its parent religion and in the leading center of both the Arab and
Muslim worlds, have proclaimed and demonstrated; and whose claims have
been virtually recognized, entitling it to rank as the fourth religion of
a Land in which its world spiritual center has been established, and which
is at once the heart of Christendom, the holiest shrine of the Jewish
people, and, save Mecca alone, the most sacred spot in Islám.

It is not my purpose—nor does the occasion demand it,—to write a detailed
history of the last hundred years of the Bahá’í Faith, nor do I intend to
trace the origins of so tremendous a Movement, or to portray the
conditions under which it was born, or to examine the character of the
religion from which it has sprung, or to arrive at an estimate of the
effects which its impact upon the fortunes of mankind has produced. I
shall rather content myself with a review of the salient features of its
birth and rise, as well as of the initial stages in the establishment of
its administrative institutions—institutions which must be regarded as the
nucleus and herald of that World Order that must incarnate the soul,
execute the laws, and fulfill the purpose of the Faith of God in this day.

Nor will it be my intention to ignore, whilst surveying the panorama which
the revolution of a hundred years spreads before our gaze, the swift
interweaving of seeming reverses with evident victories, out of which the
hand of an inscrutable Providence has chosen to form the pattern of the
Faith from its earliest days, or to minimize those disasters that have so
often proved themselves to be the prelude to fresh triumphs which have, in
turn, stimulated its growth and consolidated its past achievements.
Indeed, the history of the first hundred years of its evolution resolves
itself into a series of internal and external crises, of varying severity,
devastating in their immediate effects, but each mysteriously releasing a
corresponding measure of divine power, lending thereby a fresh impulse to
its unfoldment, this further unfoldment engendering in its turn a still
graver calamity, followed by a still more liberal effusion of celestial
grace enabling its upholders to accelerate still further its march and win
in its service still more compelling victories.

In its broadest outline the first century of the Bahá’í Era may be said to
comprise the Heroic, the Primitive, the Apostolic Age of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh, and also the initial stages of the Formative, the
Transitional, the Iron Age which is to witness the crystallization and
shaping of the creative energies released by His Revelation. The first
eighty years of this century may roughly be said to have covered the
entire period of the first age, while the last two decades may be regarded
as having witnessed the beginnings of the second. The former commences
with the Declaration of the Báb, includes the mission of Bahá’u’lláh, and
terminates with the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The latter is ushered in by
His Will and Testament, which defines its character and establishes its
foundation.

The century under our review may therefore be considered as falling into
four distinct periods, of unequal duration, each of specific import and of
tremendous and indeed unappraisable significance. These four periods are
closely interrelated, and constitute successive acts of one, indivisible,
stupendous and sublime drama, whose mystery no intellect can fathom, whose
climax no eye can even dimly perceive, whose conclusion no mind can
adequately foreshadow. Each of these acts revolves around its own theme,
boasts of its own heroes, registers its own tragedies, records its own
triumphs, and contributes its own share to the execution of one common,
immutable Purpose. To isolate any one of them from the others, to
dissociate the later manifestations of one universal, all-embracing
Revelation from the pristine purpose that animated it in its earliest
days, would be tantamount to a mutilation of the structure on which it
rests, and to a lamentable perversion of its truth and of its history.

The first period (1844–1853), centers around the gentle, the youthful and
irresistible person of the Báb, matchless in His meekness, imperturbable
in His serenity, magnetic in His utterance, unrivaled in the dramatic
episodes of His swift and tragic ministry. It begins with the Declaration
of His Mission, culminates in His martyrdom, and ends in a veritable orgy
of religious massacre revolting in its hideousness. It is characterized by
nine years of fierce and relentless contest, whose theatre was the whole
of Persia, in which above ten thousand heroes laid down their lives, in
which two sovereigns of the Qájár dynasty and their wicked ministers
participated, and which was supported by the entire _Sh_í’ah
ecclesiastical hierarchy, by the military resources of the state, and by
the implacable hostility of the masses. The second period (1853–1892)
derives its inspiration from the august figure of Bahá’u’lláh, preeminent
in holiness, awesome in the majesty of His strength and power,
unapproachable in the transcendent brightness of His glory. It opens with
the first stirrings, in the soul of Bahá’u’lláh while in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál
of Ṭihrán, of the Revelation anticipated by the Báb, attains its plenitude
in the proclamation of that Revelation to the kings and ecclesiastical
leaders of the earth, and terminates in the ascension of its Author in the
vicinity of the prison-town of Akká. It extends over thirty-nine years of
continuous, of unprecedented and overpowering Revelation, is marked by the
propagation of the Faith to the neighboring territories of Turkey, of
Russia, of ‘Iráq, of Syria, of Egypt and of India, and is distinguished by
a corresponding aggravation of hostility, represented by the united
attacks launched by the _Sh_áh of Persia and the Sulṭán of Turkey, the two
admittedly most powerful potentates of the East, as well as by the
opposition of the twin sacerdotal orders of _Sh_í’ah and Sunní Islám. The
third period (1892–1921) revolves around the vibrant personality of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, mysterious in His essence, unique in His station,
astoundingly potent in both the charm and strength of His character. It
commences with the announcement of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, a document
without parallel in the history of any earlier Dispensation, attains its
climax in the emphatic assertion by the Center of that Covenant, in the
City of the Covenant, of the unique character and far-reaching
implications of that Document, and closes with His passing and the
interment of His remains on Mt. Carmel. It will go down in history as a
period of almost thirty years’ duration, in which tragedies and triumphs
have been so intertwined as to eclipse at one time the Orb of the
Covenant, and at another time to pour forth its light over the continent
of Europe, and as far as Australasia, the Far East and the North American
continent. The fourth period (1921–1944) is motivated by the forces
radiating from the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that Charter of
Bahá’u’lláh’s New World Order, the offspring resulting from the mystic
intercourse between Him Who is the Source of the Law of God and the mind
of the One Who is the vehicle and interpreter of that Law. The inception
of this fourth, this last period of the first Bahá’í century synchronizes
with the birth of the Formative Age of the Bahá’í Era, with the founding
of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh—a system which is
at once the harbinger, the nucleus and pattern of His World Order. This
period, covering the first twenty-three years of this Formative Age, has
already been distinguished by an outburst of further hostility, of a
different character, accelerating on the one hand the diffusion of the
Faith over a still wider area in each of the five continents of the globe,
and resulting on the other in the emancipation and the recognition of the
independent status of several communities within its pale.

These four periods are to be regarded not only as the component, the
inseparable parts of one stupendous whole, but as progressive stages in a
single evolutionary process, vast, steady and irresistible. For as we
survey the entire range which the operation of a century-old Faith has
unfolded before us, we cannot escape the conclusion that from whatever
angle we view this colossal scene, the events associated with these
periods present to us unmistakable evidences of a slowly maturing process,
of an orderly development, of internal consolidation, of external
expansion, of a gradual emancipation from the fetters of religious
orthodoxy, and of a corresponding diminution of civil disabilities and
restrictions.

Viewing these periods of Bahá’í history as the constituents of a single
entity, we note the chain of events proclaiming successfully the rise of a
Forerunner, the Mission of One Whose advent that Forerunner had promised,
the establishment of a Covenant generated through the direct authority of
the Promised One Himself, and lastly the birth of a System which is the
child sprung from both the Author of the Covenant and its appointed
Center. We observe how the Báb, the Forerunner, announced the impending
inception of a divinely-conceived Order, how Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised
One, formulated its laws and ordinances, how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the appointed
Center, delineated its features, and how the present generation of their
followers have commenced to erect the framework of its institutions. We
watch, through these periods, the infant light of the Faith diffuse itself
from its cradle, eastward to India and the Far East, westward to the
neighboring territories of ‘Iráq, of Turkey, of Russia, and of Egypt,
travel as far as the North American continent, illuminate subsequently the
major countries of Europe, envelop with its radiance, at a later stage,
the Antipodes, brighten the fringes of the Arctic, and finally set aglow
the Central and South American horizons. We witness a corresponding
increase in the diversity of the elements within its fellowship, which
from being confined, in the first period of its history, to an obscure
body of followers chiefly recruited from the ranks of the masses in
_Sh_í’ah Persia, has expanded into a fraternity representative of the
leading religious systems of the world, of almost every caste and color,
from the humblest worker and peasant to royalty itself. We notice a
similar development in the extent of its literature—a literature which,
restricted at first to the narrow range of hurriedly transcribed, often
corrupted, secretly circulated, manuscripts, so furtively perused, so
frequently effaced, and at times even eaten by the terrorized members of a
proscribed sect, has, within the space of a century, swelled into
innumerable editions, comprising tens of thousands of printed volumes, in
diverse scripts, and in no less than forty languages, some elaborately
reproduced, others profusely illustrated, all methodically and vigorously
disseminated through the agency of world-wide, properly constituted and
specially organized committees and Assemblies. We perceive a no less
apparent evolution in the scope of its teachings, at first designedly
rigid, complex and severe, subsequently recast, expanded, and liberalized
under the succeeding Dispensation, later expounded, reaffirmed and
amplified by an appointed Interpreter, and lastly systematized and
universally applied to both individuals and institutions. We can discover
a no less distinct gradation in the character of the opposition it has had
to encounter—an opposition, at first kindled in the bosom of _Sh_í’ah
Islám, which, at a later stage, gathered momentum with the banishment of
Bahá’u’lláh to the domains of the Turkish Sulṭán and the consequent
hostility of the more powerful Sunní hierarchy and its Caliph, the head of
the vast majority of the followers of Muḥammad—an opposition which, now,
through the rise of a divinely appointed Order in the Christian West, and
its initial impact on civil and ecclesiastical institutions, bids fair to
include among its supporters established governments and systems
associated with the most ancient, the most deeply entrenched sacerdotal
hierarchies in Christendom. We can, at the same time, recognize, through
the haze of an ever-widening hostility, the progress, painful yet
persistent, of certain communities within its pale through the stages of
obscurity, of proscription, of emancipation, and of recognition—stages
that must needs culminate in the course of succeeding centuries, in the
establishment of the Faith, and the founding, in the plenitude of its
power and authority, of the world-embracing Bahá’í Commonwealth. We can
likewise discern a no less appreciable advance in the rise of its
institutions, whether as administrative centers or places of
worship—institutions, clandestine and subterrene in their earliest
beginnings, emerging imperceptibly into the broad daylight of public
recognition, legally protected, enriched by pious endowments, ennobled at
first by the erection of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of I_sh_qábád, the
first Bahá’í House of Worship, and more recently immortalized, through the
rise in the heart of the North American continent of the Mother Temple of
the West, the forerunner of a divine, a slowly maturing civilization. And
finally, we can even bear witness to the marked improvement in the
conditions surrounding the pilgrimages performed by its devoted adherents
to its consecrated shrines at its world center—pilgrimages originally
arduous, perilous, tediously long, often made on foot, at times ending in
disappointment, and confined to a handful of harassed Oriental followers,
gradually attracting, under steadily improving circumstances of security
and comfort, an ever swelling number of new converts converging from the
four corners of the globe, and culminating in the widely publicized yet
sadly frustrated visit of a noble Queen, who, at the very threshold of the
city of her heart’s desire, was compelled, according to her own written
testimony, to divert her steps, and forego the privilege of so priceless a
benefit.



FIRST PERIOD: THE MINISTRY OF THE BÁB 1844–1853



Chapter I: The Birth of the Bábí Revelation


May 23, 1844, signalizes the commencement of the most turbulent period of
the Heroic Age of the Bahá’í Era, an age which marks the opening of the
most glorious epoch in the greatest cycle which the spiritual history of
mankind has yet witnessed. No more than a span of nine short years marks
the duration of this most spectacular, this most tragic, this most
eventful period of the first Bahá’í century. It was ushered in by the
birth of a Revelation whose Bearer posterity will acclaim as the “Point
round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve,” and
terminated with the first stirrings of a still more potent Revelation,
“whose day,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms, “every Prophet hath announced,”
for which “the soul of every Divine Messenger hath thirsted,” and through
which “God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers
and Prophets.” Little wonder that the immortal chronicler of the events
associated with the birth and rise of the Bahá’í Revelation has seen fit
to devote no less than half of his moving narrative to the description of
those happenings that have during such a brief space of time so greatly
enriched, through their tragedy and heroism, the religious annals of
mankind. In sheer dramatic power, in the rapidity with which events of
momentous importance succeeded each other, in the holocaust which baptized
its birth, in the miraculous circumstances attending the martyrdom of the
One Who had ushered it in, in the potentialities with which it had been
from the outset so thoroughly impregnated, in the forces to which it
eventually gave birth, this nine-year period may well rank as unique in
the whole range of man’s religious experience. We behold, as we survey the
episodes of this first act of a sublime drama, the figure of its Master
Hero, the Báb, arise meteor-like above the horizon of _Sh_íráz, traverse
the sombre sky of Persia from south to north, decline with tragic
swiftness, and perish in a blaze of glory. We see His satellites, a galaxy
of God-intoxicated heroes, mount above that same horizon, irradiate that
same incandescent light, burn themselves out with that self-same
swiftness, and impart in their turn an added impetus to the steadily
gathering momentum of God’s nascent Faith.

He Who communicated the original impulse to so incalculable a Movement was
none other than the promised Qá’im (He who ariseth), the Sáhibu’z-Zamán
(the Lord of the Age), Who assumed the exclusive right of annulling the
whole Qur’ánic Dispensation, Who styled Himself “the Primal Point from
which have been generated all created things ... the Countenance of God
Whose splendor can never be obscured, the Light of God Whose radiance can
never fade.” The people among whom He appeared were the most decadent race
in the civilized world, grossly ignorant, savage, cruel, steeped in
prejudice, servile in their submission to an almost deified hierarchy,
recalling in their abjectness the Israelites of Egypt in the days of
Moses, in their fanaticism the Jews in the days of Jesus, and in their
perversity the idolators of Arabia in the days of Muḥammad. The arch-enemy
who repudiated His claim, challenged His authority, persecuted His Cause,
succeeded in almost quenching His light, and who eventually became
disintegrated under the impact of His Revelation was the _Sh_í’ah
priesthood. Fiercely fanatic, unspeakably corrupt, enjoying unlimited
ascendancy over the masses, jealous of their position, and irreconcilably
opposed to all liberal ideas, the members of this caste had for one
thousand years invoked the name of the Hidden Imám, their breasts had
glowed with the expectation of His advent, their pulpits had rung with the
praises of His world-embracing dominion, their lips were still devoutly
and perpetually murmuring prayers for the hastening of His coming. The
willing tools who prostituted their high office for the accomplishment of
the enemy’s designs were no less than the sovereigns of the Qájár dynasty,
first, the bigoted, the sickly, the vacillating Muḥammad _Sh_áh, who at
the last moment cancelled the Báb’s imminent visit to the capital, and,
second, the youthful and inexperienced Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, who gave his
ready assent to the sentence of his Captive’s death. The arch villains who
joined hands with the prime movers of so wicked a conspiracy were the two
grand vizirs, Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, the idolized tutor of Muḥammad _Sh_áh, a
vulgar, false-hearted and fickle-minded schemer, and the arbitrary,
bloodthirsty, reckless Amír-Nizám, Mírzá Taqí _Kh_án, the first of whom
exiled the Báb to the mountain fastnesses of Á_dh_irbayján, and the latter
decreed His death in Tabríz. Their accomplice in these and other heinous
crimes was a government bolstered up by a flock of idle, parasitical
princelings and governors, corrupt, incompetent, tenaciously holding to
their ill-gotten privileges, and utterly subservient to a notoriously
degraded clerical order. The heroes whose deeds shine upon the record of
this fierce spiritual contest, involving at once people, clergy, monarch
and government, were the Báb’s chosen disciples, the Letters of the
Living, and their companions, the trail-breakers of the New Day, who to so
much intrigue, ignorance, depravity, cruelty, superstition and cowardice
opposed a spirit exalted, unquenchable and awe-inspiring, a knowledge
surprisingly profound, an eloquence sweeping in its force, a piety
unexcelled in fervor, a courage leonine in its fierceness, a
self-abnegation saintly in its purity, a resolve granite-like in its
firmness, a vision stupendous in its range, a veneration for the Prophet
and His Imáms disconcerting to their adversaries, a power of persuasion
alarming to their antagonists, a standard of faith and a code of conduct
that challenged and revolutionized the lives of their countrymen.

The opening scene of the initial act of this great drama was laid in the
upper chamber of the modest residence of the son of a mercer of _Sh_íráz,
in an obscure corner of that city. The time was the hour before sunset, on
the 22nd day of May, 1844. The participants were the Báb, a twenty-five
year old siyyid, of pure and holy lineage, and the young Mullá Ḥusayn, the
first to believe in Him. Their meeting immediately before that interview
seemed to be purely fortuitous. The interview itself was protracted till
the hour of dawn. The Host remained closeted alone with His guest, nor was
the sleeping city remotely aware of the import of the conversation they
held with each other. No record has passed to posterity of that unique
night save the fragmentary but highly illuminating account that fell from
the lips of Mullá Ḥusayn.

“I sat spellbound by His utterance, oblivious of time and of those who
awaited me,” he himself has testified, after describing the nature of the
questions he had put to his Host and the conclusive replies he had
received from Him, replies which had established beyond the shadow of a
doubt the validity of His claim to be the promised Qá’im. “Suddenly the
call of the Mu’a_dhdh_in, summoning the faithful to their morning prayer,
awakened me from the state of ecstasy into which I seemed to have fallen.
All the delights, all the ineffable glories, which the Almighty has
recounted in His Book as the priceless possessions of the people of
Paradise—these I seemed to be experiencing that night. Methinks I was in a
place of which it could be truly said: ‘Therein no toil shall reach us,
and therein no weariness shall touch us;’ ‘no vain discourse shall they
hear therein, nor any falsehood, but only the cry, “Peace! Peace!”’;
‘their cry therein shall be, “Glory to Thee, O God!” and their salutation
therein, “Peace!”, and the close of their cry, “Praise be to God, Lord of
all creatures!”’ Sleep had departed from me that night. I was enthralled
by the music of that voice which rose and fell as He chanted; now swelling
forth as He revealed verses of the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, again acquiring
ethereal, subtle harmonies as He uttered the prayers He was revealing. At
the end of each invocation, He would repeat this verse: ‘Far from the
glory of thy Lord, the All-Glorious, be that which His creatures affirm of
Him! And peace be upon His Messengers! And praise be to God, the Lord of
all beings!’”

“This Revelation,” Mullá Ḥusayn has further testified, “so suddenly and
impetuously thrust upon me, came as a thunderbolt which, for a time,
seemed to have benumbed my faculties. I was blinded by its dazzling
splendor and overwhelmed by its crushing force. Excitement, joy, awe, and
wonder stirred the depths of my soul. Predominant among these emotions was
a sense of gladness and strength which seemed to have transfigured me. How
feeble and impotent, how dejected and timid, I had felt previously! Then I
could neither write nor walk, so tremulous were my hands and feet. Now,
however, the knowledge of His Revelation had galvanized my being. I felt
possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples
and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted,
withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my
grasp. I seemed to be the voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all
mankind: ‘Awake, for, lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His
Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter
therein, O peoples of the world! For He Who is your promised One is
come!’”

A more significant light, however, is shed on this episode, marking the
Declaration of the Mission of the Báb, by the perusal of that “first,
greatest and mightiest” of all books in the Bábí Dispensation, the
celebrated commentary on the Súrih of Joseph, the first chapter of which,
we are assured, proceeded, in its entirety, in the course of that night of
nights from the pen of its divine Revealer. The description of this
episode by Mullá Ḥusayn, as well as the opening pages of that Book attest
the magnitude and force of that weighty Declaration. A claim to be no less
than the mouthpiece of God Himself, promised by the Prophets of bygone
ages; the assertion that He was, at the same time, the Herald of One
immeasurably greater than Himself; the summons which He trumpeted forth to
the kings and princes of the earth; the dire warnings directed to the
Chief Magistrate of the realm, Muḥammad _Sh_áh; the counsel imparted to
Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí to fear God, and the peremptory command to abdicate his
authority as grand vizir of the _Sh_áh and submit to the One Who is the
“Inheritor of the earth and all that is therein”; the challenge issued to
the rulers of the world proclaiming the self-sufficiency of His Cause,
denouncing the vanity of their ephemeral power, and calling upon them to
“lay aside, one and all, their dominion,” and deliver His Message to
“lands in both the East and the West”—these constitute the dominant
features of that initial contact that marked the birth, and fixed the
date, of the inception of the most glorious era in the spiritual life of
mankind.

With this historic Declaration the dawn of an Age that signalizes the
consummation of all ages had broken. The first impulse of a momentous
Revelation had been communicated to the one “but for whom,” according to
the testimony of the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “God would not have been established
upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory.” Not
until forty days had elapsed, however, did the enrollment of the seventeen
remaining Letters of the Living commence. Gradually, spontaneously, some
in sleep, others while awake, some through fasting and prayer, others
through dreams and visions, they discovered the Object of their quest, and
were enlisted under the banner of the new-born Faith. The last, but in
rank the first, of these Letters to be inscribed on the Preserved Tablet
was the erudite, the twenty-two year old Quddús, a direct descendant of
the Imám Ḥasan and the most esteemed disciple of Siyyid Kázim. Immediately
preceding him, a woman, the only one of her sex, who, unlike her
fellow-disciples, never attained the presence of the Báb, was invested
with the rank of apostleship in the new Dispensation. A poetess, less than
thirty years of age, of distinguished birth, of bewitching charm, of
captivating eloquence, indomitable in spirit, unorthodox in her views,
audacious in her acts, immortalized as Táhirih (the Pure One) by the
“Tongue of Glory,” and surnamed Qurratu’l-‘Ayn (Solace of the Eyes) by
Siyyid Kázim, her teacher, she had, in consequence of the appearance of
the Báb to her in a dream, received the first intimation of a Cause which
was destined to exalt her to the fairest heights of fame, and on which
she, through her bold heroism, was to shed such imperishable luster.

These “first Letters generated from the Primal Point,” this “company of
angels arrayed before God on the Day of His coming,” these “Repositories
of His Mystery,” these “Springs that have welled out from the Source of
His Revelation,” these first companions who, in the words of the Persian
Bayán, “enjoy nearest access to God,” these “Luminaries that have, from
everlasting, bowed down, and will everlastingly continue to bow down,
before the Celestial Throne,” and lastly these “elders” mentioned in the
Book of Revelation as “sitting before God on their seats,” “clothed in
white raiment” and wearing on their heads “crowns of gold”—these were, ere
their dispersal, summoned to the Báb’s presence, Who addressed to them His
parting words, entrusted to each a specific task, and assigned to some of
them as the proper field of their activities their native provinces. He
enjoined them to observe the utmost caution and moderation in their
behavior, unveiled the loftiness of their rank, and stressed the magnitude
of their responsibilities. He recalled the words addressed by Jesus to His
disciples, and emphasized the superlative greatness of the New Day. He
warned them lest by turning back they forfeit the Kingdom of God, and
assured them that if they did God’s bidding, God would make them His heirs
and spiritual leaders among men. He hinted at the secret, and announced
the approach, of a still mightier Day, and bade them prepare themselves
for its advent. He called to remembrance the triumph of Abraham over
Nimrod, of Moses over Pharaoh, of Jesus over the Jewish people, and of
Muḥammad over the tribes of Arabia, and asserted the inevitability and
ultimate ascendancy of His own Revelation. To the care of Mullá Ḥusayn He
committed a mission, more specific in character and mightier in import. He
affirmed that His covenant with him had been established, cautioned him to
be forbearing with the divines he would encounter, directed him to proceed
to Ṭihrán, and alluded, in the most glowing terms, to the as yet
unrevealed Mystery enshrined in that city—a Mystery that would, He
affirmed, transcend the light shed by both Ḥijáz and _Sh_íráz.

Galvanized into action by the mandate conferred upon them, launched on
their perilous and revolutionizing mission, these lesser luminaries who,
together with the Báb, constitute the First Vahíd (Unity) of the
Dispensation of the Bayán, scattered far and wide through the provinces of
their native land, where, with matchless heroism, they resisted the savage
and concerted onslaught of the forces arrayed against them, and
immortalized their Faith by their own exploits and those of their
co-religionists, raising thereby a tumult that convulsed their country and
sent its echoes reverberating as far as the capitals of Western Europe.

It was not until, however, the Báb had received the eagerly anticipated
letter of Mullá Ḥusayn, His trusted and beloved lieutenant, communicating
the joyful tidings of his interview with Bahá’u’lláh, that He decided to
undertake His long and arduous pilgrimage to the Tombs of His ancestors.
In the month of _Sh_a’bán, of the year 1260 A.H. (September, 1844) He Who,
both on His father’s and mother’s side, was of the seed of the illustrious
Fátimih, and Who was a descendant of the Imám Ḥusayn, the most eminent
among the lawful successors of the Prophet of Islám, proceeded, in
fulfillment of Islamic traditions, to visit the Kaaba. He embarked from
Bú_sh_ihr on the 19th of Ramadán (October, 1844) on a sailing vessel,
accompanied by Quddús whom He was assiduously preparing for the assumption
of his future office. Landing at Jaddih after a stormy voyage of over a
month’s duration, He donned the pilgrim’s garb, mounted a camel, and set
out for Mecca, arriving on the first of _Dh_i’l-Hájjih (December 12).
Quddús, holding the bridle in his hands, accompanied his Master on foot to
that holy Shrine. On the day of Árafih, the Prophet-pilgrim of _Sh_íráz,
His chronicler relates, devoted His whole time to prayer. On the day of
Nahr He proceeded to Muná, where He sacrificed according to custom
nineteen lambs, nine in His own name, seven in the name of Quddús, and
three in the name of the Ethiopian servant who attended Him. He
afterwards, in company with the other pilgrims, encompassed the Kaaba and
performed the rites prescribed for the pilgrimage.

His visit to Ḥijáz was marked by two episodes of particular importance.
The first was the declaration of His mission and His open challenge to the
haughty Mírzá Muhít-i-Kirmání, one of the most outstanding exponents of
the _Sh_ay_kh_í school, who at times went so far as to assert his
independence of the leadership of that school assumed after the death of
Siyyid Kázim by Ḥájí Muḥammad Karím _Kh_án, a redoubtable enemy of the
Bábí Faith. The second was the invitation, in the form of an Epistle,
conveyed by Quddús, to the Sherif of Mecca, in which the custodian of the
House of God was called upon to embrace the truth of the new Revelation.
Absorbed in his own pursuits the Sherif however failed to respond. Seven
years later, when in the course of a conversation with a certain Ḥájí
Níyáz-i-Ba_gh_dádí, this same Sherif was informed of the circumstances
attending the mission and martyrdom of the Prophet of _Sh_íráz, he
listened attentively to the description of those events and expressed his
indignation at the tragic fate that had overtaken Him.

The Báb’s visit to Medina marked the conclusion of His pilgrimage.
Regaining Jaddih, He returned to Bú_sh_ihr, where one of His first acts
was to bid His last farewell to His fellow-traveler and disciple, and to
assure him that he would meet the Beloved of their hearts. He, moreover,
announced to him that he would be crowned with a martyr’s death, and that
He Himself would subsequently suffer a similar fate at the hands of their
common foe.

The Báb’s return to His native land (Safar 1261) (February- March, 1845)
was the signal for a commotion that rocked the entire country. The fire
which the declaration of His mission had lit was being fanned into flame
through the dispersal and activities of His appointed disciples. Already
within the space of less than two years it had kindled the passions of
friend and foe alike. The outbreak of the conflagration did not even await
the return to His native city of the One Who had generated it. The
implications of a Revelation, thrust so dramatically upon a race so
degenerate, so inflammable in temper, could indeed have had no other
consequence than to excite within men’s bosoms the fiercest passions of
fear, of hate, of rage and envy. A Faith Whose Founder did not content
Himself with the claim to be the Gate of the Hidden Imám, Who assumed a
rank that excelled even that of the Sáhibu’z-Zamán, Who regarded Himself
as the precursor of one incomparably greater than Himself, Who
peremptorily commanded not only the subjects of the _Sh_áh, but the
monarch himself, and even the kings and princes of the earth, to forsake
their all and follow Him, Who claimed to be the inheritor of the earth and
all that is therein—a Faith Whose religious doctrines, Whose ethical
standards, social principles and religious laws challenged the whole
structure of the society in which it was born, soon ranged, with startling
unanimity, the mass of the people behind their priests, and behind their
chief magistrate, with his ministers and his government, and welded them
into an opposition sworn to destroy, root and branch, the movement
initiated by One Whom they regarded as an impious and presumptuous
pretender.

With the Báb’s return to _Sh_íráz the initial collision of irreconcilable
forces may be said to have commenced. Already the energetic and audacious
Mullá ‘Alíy-i-Bastamí, one of the Letters of the Living, “the first to
leave the House of God (_Sh_íráz) and the first to suffer for His sake,”
who, in the presence of one of the leading exponents of _Sh_í’ah Islám,
the far-famed _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad Ḥasan, had audaciously asserted that
from the pen of his new-found Master within the space of forty-eight
hours, verses had streamed that equalled in number those of the Qur’án,
which it took its Author twenty-three years to reveal, had been
excommunicated, chained, disgraced, imprisoned, and, in all probability,
done to death. Mullá Ṣádiq-i-_Kh_urásání, impelled by the injunction of
the Báb in the _Kh_asá’il-i-Sab‘ih to alter the sacrosanct formula of the
a_dh_án, sounded it in its amended form before a scandalized congregation
in _Sh_íráz, and was instantly arrested, reviled, stripped of his
garments, and scourged with a thousand lashes. The villainous Ḥusayn
_Kh_án, the Nizámu’d-Dawlih, the governor of Fárs, who had read the
challenge thrown out in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, having ordered that Mullá
Ṣádiq together with Quddús and another believer be summarily and publicly
punished, caused their beards to be burned, their noses pierced, and
threaded with halters; then, having been led through the streets in this
disgraceful condition, they were expelled from the city.

The people of _Sh_íráz were by that time wild with excitement. A violent
controversy was raging in the masjids, the madrisihs, the bazaars, and
other public places. Peace and security were gravely imperiled. Fearful,
envious, thoroughly angered, the mullás were beginning to perceive the
seriousness of their position. The governor, greatly alarmed, ordered the
Báb to be arrested. He was brought to _Sh_íráz under escort, and, in the
presence of Ḥusayn _Kh_án, was severely rebuked, and so violently struck
in the face that His turban fell to the ground. Upon the intervention of
the Imám-Jum’ih He was released on parole, and entrusted to the custody of
His maternal uncle Ḥájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí. A brief lull ensued, enabling
the captive Youth to celebrate the Naw-Rúz of that and the succeeding year
in an atmosphere of relative tranquillity in the company of His mother,
His wife, and His uncle. Meanwhile the fever that had seized His followers
was communicating itself to the members of the clergy and to the merchant
classes, and was invading the higher circles of society. Indeed, a wave of
passionate inquiry had swept the whole country, and unnumbered
congregations were listening with wonder to the testimonies eloquently and
fearlessly related by the Báb’s itinerant messengers.

The commotion had assumed such proportions that the _Sh_áh, unable any
longer to ignore the situation, delegated the trusted Siyyid
Yaḥyáy-i-Darábí, surnamed Vahíd, one of the most erudite, eloquent and
influential of his subjects—a man who had committed to memory no less than
thirty thousand traditions—to investigate and report to him the true
situation. Broad-minded, highly imaginative, zealous by nature, intimately
associated with the court, he, in the course of three interviews, was
completely won over by the arguments and personality of the Báb. Their
first interview centered around the metaphysical teachings of Islám, the
most obscure passages of the Qur’án, and the traditions and prophecies of
the Imáms. In the course of the second interview Vahíd was astounded to
find that the questions which he had intended to submit for elucidation
had been effaced from his retentive memory, and yet, to his utter
amazement, he discovered that the Báb was answering the very questions he
had forgotten. During the third interview the circumstances attending the
revelation of the Báb’s commentary on the súrih of Kaw_th_ar, comprising
no less than two thousand verses, so overpowered the delegate of the
_Sh_áh that he, contenting himself with a mere written report to the Court
Chamberlain, arose forthwith to dedicate his entire life and resources to
the service of a Faith that was to requite him with the crown of martyrdom
during the Nayríz upheaval. He who had firmly resolved to confute the
arguments of an obscure siyyid of _Sh_íráz, to induce Him to abandon His
ideas, and to conduct Him to Ṭihrán as an evidence of the ascendancy he
had achieved over Him, was made to feel, as he himself later acknowledged,
as “lowly as the dust beneath His feet.” Even Ḥusayn _Kh_án, who had been
Vahíd’s host during his stay in _Sh_íráz, was compelled to write to the
_Sh_áh and express the conviction that his Majesty’s illustrious delegate
had become a Bábí.

Another famous advocate of the Cause of the Báb, even fiercer in zeal than
Vahíd, and almost as eminent in rank, was Mullá Muḥammad-‘Alíy-i-Zanjání,
surnamed Hujjat. An A_kh_barí, a vehement controversialist, of a bold and
independent temper of mind, impatient of restraint, a man who had dared
condemn the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy from the Abváb-i-Arbá’ih down
to the humblest mullá, he had more than once, through his superior talents
and fervid eloquence, publicly confounded his orthodox _Sh_í’ah
adversaries. Such a person could not remain indifferent to a Cause that
was producing so grave a cleavage among his countrymen. The disciple he
sent to _Sh_íráz to investigate the matter fell immediately under the
spell of the Báb. The perusal of but a page of the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, brought
by that messenger to Hujjat, sufficed to effect such a transformation
within him that he declared, before the assembled ‘ulamás of his native
city, that should the Author of that work pronounce day to be night and
the sun to be a shadow he would unhesitatingly uphold his verdict.

Yet another recruit to the ever-swelling army of the new Faith was the
eminent scholar, Mírzá Aḥmad-i-Az_gh_andí, the most learned, the wisest
and the most outstanding among the ‘ulamás of _Kh_urásán, who, in
anticipation of the advent of the promised Qá’im, had compiled above
twelve thousand traditions and prophecies concerning the time and
character of the expected Revelation, had circulated them among His
fellow-disciples, and had encouraged them to quote them extensively to all
congregations and in all meetings.

While the situation was steadily deteriorating in the provinces, the
bitter hostility of the people of _Sh_íráz was rapidly moving towards a
climax. Ḥusayn _Kh_án, vindictive, relentless, exasperated by the reports
of his sleepless agents that his Captive’s power and fame were hourly
growing, decided to take immediate action. It is even reported that his
accomplice, Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, had ordered him to kill secretly the
would-be disrupter of the state and the wrecker of its established
religion. By order of the governor the chief constable, ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd
_Kh_án, scaled, in the dead of night, the wall and entered the house of
Ḥájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, where the Báb was confined, arrested Him, and
confiscated all His books and documents. That very night, however, took
place an event which, in its dramatic suddenness, was no doubt
providentially designed to confound the schemes of the plotters, and
enable the Object of their hatred to prolong His ministry and consummate
His Revelation. An outbreak of cholera, devastating in its virulence, had,
since midnight, already smitten above a hundred people. The dread of the
plague had entered every heart, and the inhabitants of the stricken city
were, amid shrieks of pain and grief, fleeing in confusion. Three of the
governor’s domestics had already died. Members of his family were lying
dangerously ill. In his despair he, leaving the dead unburied, had fled to
a garden in the outskirts of the city. ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd _Kh_án, confronted by
this unexpected development, decided to conduct the Báb to His own home.
He was appalled, upon his arrival, to learn that his son lay in the
death-throes of the plague. In his despair he threw himself at the feet of
the Báb, begged to be forgiven, adjured Him not to visit upon the son the
sins of the father, and pledged his word to resign his post, and never
again to accept such a position. Finding that his prayer had been
answered, he addressed a plea to the governor begging him to release his
Captive, and thereby deflect the fatal course of this dire visitation.
Ḥusayn _Kh_án acceded to his request, and released his Prisoner on
condition of His quitting the city.

Miraculously preserved by an almighty and watchful Providence, the Báb
proceeded to Iṣfáhán (September, 1846), accompanied by Siyyid
Kázim-i-Zanjání. Another lull ensued, a brief period of comparative
tranquillity during which the Divine processes which had been set in
motion gathered further momentum, precipitating a series of events leading
to the imprisonment of the Báb in the fortresses of Máh-Kú and _Ch_ihríq,
and culminating in His martyrdom in the barrack-square of Tabríz. Well
aware of the impending trials that were to afflict Him, the Báb had, ere
His final separation from His family, bequeathed to His mother and His
wife all His possessions, had confided to the latter the secret of what
was to befall Him, and revealed for her a special prayer the reading of
which, He assured her, would resolve her perplexities and allay her
sorrows. The first forty days of His sojourn in Iṣfáhán were spent as the
guest of Mírzá Siyyid Muḥammad, the Sulṭánu’l-‘Ulamá, the Imám-Jum’ih, one
of the principal ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm, in accordance
with the instructions of the governor of the city, Manú_ch_ihr _Kh_án, the
Mu Tamídu’d-Dawlih, who had received from the Báb a letter requesting him
to appoint the place where He should dwell. He was ceremoniously received,
and such was the spell He cast over the people of that city that, on one
occasion, after His return from the public bath, an eager multitude
clamored for the water that had been used for His ablutions. So magic was
His charm that His host, forgetful of the dignity of his high rank, was
wont to wait personally upon Him. It was at the request of this same
prelate that the Báb, one night, after supper, revealed His well-known
commentary on the súrih of Va’l-‘Asr. Writing with astonishing rapidity,
He, in a few hours, had devoted to the exposition of the significance of
only the first letter of that súrih—a letter which _Sh_ay_kh_
Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í had stressed, and which Bahá’u’lláh refers to in the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas—verses that equalled in number a third of the Qur’án, a feat
that called forth such an outburst of reverent astonishment from those who
witnessed it that they arose and kissed the hem of His robe.

The tumultuous enthusiasm of the people of Iṣfáhán was meanwhile visibly
increasing. Crowds of people, some impelled by curiosity, others eager to
discover the truth, still others anxious to be healed of their
infirmities, flocked from every quarter of the city to the house of the
Imám-Jum’ih. The wise and judicious Manú_ch_ihr _Kh_án could not resist
the temptation of visiting so strange, so intriguing a Personage. Before a
brilliant assemblage of the most accomplished divines he, a Georgian by
origin and a Christian by birth, requested the Báb to expound and
demonstrate the truth of Muḥammad’s specific mission. To this request,
which those present had felt compelled to decline, the Báb readily
responded. In less than two hours, and in the space of fifty pages, He had
not only revealed a minute, a vigorous and original dissertation on this
noble theme, but had also linked it with both the coming of the Qá’im and
the return of the Imám Ḥusayn—an exposition that prompted Manú_ch_ihr
_Kh_án to declare before that gathering his faith in the Prophet of Islám,
as well as his recognition of the supernatural gifts with which the Author
of so convincing a treatise was endowed.

These evidences of the growing ascendancy exercised by an unlearned Youth
on the governor and the people of a city rightly regarded as one of the
strongholds of _Sh_í’ah Islám, alarmed the ecclesiastical authorities.
Refraining from any act of open hostility which they knew full well would
defeat their purpose, they sought, by encouraging the circulation of the
wildest rumors, to induce the Grand Vizir of the _Sh_áh to save a
situation that was growing hourly more acute and menacing. The popularity
enjoyed by the Báb, His personal prestige, and the honors accorded Him by
His countrymen, had now reached their high watermark. The shadows of an
impending doom began to fast gather about Him. A series of tragedies from
then on followed in rapid sequence destined to culminate in His own death
and the apparent extinction of the influence of His Faith.

The overbearing and crafty Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, fearful lest the sway of the
Báb encompass his sovereign and thus seal his own doom, was aroused as
never before. Prompted by a suspicion that the Báb possessed the secret
sympathies of the Mu’tamíd, and well aware of the confidence reposed in
him by the _Sh_áh, he severely upbraided the Imám-Jum’ih for the neglect
of his sacred duty. He, at the same time, lavished, in several letters,
his favors upon the ‘ulamás of Iṣfáhán, whom he had hitherto ignored. From
the pulpits of that city an incited clergy began to hurl vituperation and
calumny upon the Author of what was to them a hateful and much to be
feared heresy. The _Sh_áh himself was induced to summon the Báb to his
capital. Manú_ch_ihr _Kh_án, bidden to arrange for His departure, decided
to transfer His residence temporarily to his own home. Meanwhile the
mujtahids and ‘ulamás, dismayed at the signs of so pervasive an influence,
summoned a gathering which issued an abusive document signed and sealed by
the ecclesiastical leaders of the city, denouncing the Báb as a heretic
and condemning Him to death. Even the Imám-Jum’ih was constrained to add
his written testimony that the Accused was devoid of reason and judgment.
The Mu’tamíd, in his great embarrassment, and in order to appease the
rising tumult, conceived a plan whereby an increasingly restive populace
were made to believe that the Báb had left for Ṭihrán, while he succeeded
in insuring for Him a brief respite of four months in the privacy of the
Imárat-i-_Kh_ur_sh_íd, the governor’s private residence in Iṣfáhán. It was
in those days that the host expressed the desire to consecrate all his
possessions, evaluated by his contemporaries at no less than forty million
francs, to the furtherance of the interests of the new Faith, declared his
intention of converting Muḥammad _Sh_áh, of inducing him to rid himself of
a shameful and profligate minister, and of obtaining his royal assent to
the marriage of one of his sisters with the Báb. The sudden death of the
Mu’tamíd, however, foretold by the Báb Himself, accelerated the course of
the approaching crisis. The ruthless and rapacious Gurgín _Kh_án, the
deputy governor, induced the _Sh_áh to issue a second summons ordering
that the captive Youth be sent in disguise to Ṭihrán, accompanied by a
mounted escort. To this written mandate of the sovereign the vile Gurgín
_Kh_án, who had previously discovered and destroyed the will of his uncle,
the Mu’tamíd, and seized his property, unhesitatingly responded. At the
distance of less than thirty miles from the capital, however, in the
fortress of Kinár-Gird, a messenger delivered to Muḥammad Big, who headed
the escort, a written order from Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí instructing him to
proceed to Kulayn, and there await further instructions. This was, shortly
after, followed by a letter which the _Sh_áh had himself addressed to the
Báb, dated Rabí’u’_th_-_th_ání 1263 (March 19-April 17, 1847), and which,
though couched in courteous terms, clearly indicated the extent of the
baneful influence exercised by the Grand Vizir on his sovereign. The plans
so fondly cherished by Manú_ch_ihr _Kh_án were now utterly undone. The
fortress of Máh-Kú, not far from the village of that same name, whose
inhabitants had long enjoyed the patronage of the Grand Vizir, situated in
the remotest northwestern corner of Á_dh_irbayján, was the place of
incarceration assigned by Muḥammad _Sh_áh, on the advice of his perfidious
minister, for the Báb. No more than one companion and one attendant from
among His followers were allowed to keep Him company in those bleak and
inhospitable surroundings. All-powerful and crafty, that minister had, on
the pretext of the necessity of his master’s concentrating his immediate
attention on a recent rebellion in _Kh_urásán and a revolt in Kirmán,
succeeded in foiling a plan, which, had it materialized, would have had
the most serious repercussions on his own fortunes, as well as on the
immediate destinies of his government, its ruler and its people.



Chapter II: The Báb’s Captivity in Ádhirbayján


The period of the Báb’s banishment to the mountains of Á_dh_irbayján,
lasting no less than three years, constitutes the saddest, the most
dramatic, and in a sense the most pregnant phase of His six year ministry.
It comprises His nine months’ unbroken confinement in the fortress of
Máh-Kú, and His subsequent incarceration in the fortress of _Ch_ihríq,
which was interrupted only by a brief yet memorable visit to Tabríz. It
was overshadowed throughout by the implacable and mounting hostility of
the two most powerful adversaries of the Faith, the Grand Vizir of
Muḥammad _Sh_áh, Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, and the Amír-Nizám, the Grand Vizir of
Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh. It corresponds to the most critical stage of the
mission of Bahá’u’lláh, during His exile to Adrianople, when confronted
with the despotic Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz and his ministers, ‘Alí Pá_sh_á and
Fu’ád Pá_sh_á, and is paralleled by the darkest days of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
ministry in the Holy Land, under the oppressive rule of the tyrannical
‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd and the equally tyrannical Jamál Pá_sh_á. _Sh_íráz had been
the memorable scene of the Báb’s historic Declaration; Iṣfáhán had
provided Him, however briefly, with a haven of relative peace and
security; whilst Á_dh_irbayján was destined to become the theatre of His
agony and martyrdom. These concluding years of His earthly life will go
down in history as the time when the new Dispensation attained its full
stature, when the claim of its Founder was fully and publicly asserted,
when its laws were formulated, when the Covenant of its Author was firmly
established, when its independence was proclaimed, and when the heroism of
its champions blazed forth in immortal glory. For it was during these
intensely dramatic, fate-laden years that the full implications of the
station of the Báb were disclosed to His disciples, and formally announced
by Him in the capital of Á_dh_irbayján, in the presence of the Heir to the
Throne; that the Persian Bayán, the repository of the laws ordained by the
Báb, was revealed; that the time and character of the Dispensation of “the
One Whom God will make manifest” were unmistakably determined; that the
Conference of Bada_sh_t proclaimed the annulment of the old order; and
that the great conflagrations of Mázindarán, of Nayríz and of Zanján were
kindled.

And yet, the foolish and short-sighted Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí fondly imagined
that by confounding the plan of the Báb to meet the _Sh_áh face to face in
the capital, and by relegating Him to the farthest corner of the realm, he
had stifled the Movement at its birth, and would soon conclusively triumph
over its Founder. Little did he imagine that the very isolation he was
forcing upon his Prisoner would enable Him to evolve the System designed
to incarnate the soul of His Faith, and would afford Him the opportunity
of safeguarding it from disintegration and schism, and of proclaiming
formally and unreservedly His mission. Little did he imagine that this
very confinement would induce that Prisoner’s exasperated disciples and
companions to cast off the shackles of an antiquated theology, and
precipitate happenings that would call forth from them a prowess, a
courage, a self-renunciation unexampled in their country’s history. Little
did he imagine that by this very act he would be instrumental in
fulfilling the authentic tradition ascribed to the Prophet of Islám
regarding the inevitability of that which should come to pass in
Á_dh_irbayján. Untaught by the example of the governor of _Sh_íráz, who,
with fear and trembling, had, at the first taste of God’s avenging wrath,
fled ignominiously and relaxed his hold on his Captive, the Grand Vizir of
Muḥammad _Sh_áh was, in his turn, through the orders he had issued,
storing up for himself severe and inevitable disappointment, and paving
the way for his own ultimate downfall.

His orders to ‘Alí _Kh_án, the warden of the fortress of Máh-Kú, were
stringent and explicit. On His way to that fortress the Báb passed a
number of days in Tabríz, days that were marked by such an intense
excitement on the part of the populace that, except for a few persons,
neither the public nor His followers were allowed to meet Him. As He was
escorted through the streets of the city the shout of “Alláh-u-Akbar”
resounded on every side. So great, indeed, became the clamor that the town
crier was ordered to warn the inhabitants that any one who ventured to
seek the Báb’s presence would forfeit all his possessions and be
imprisoned. Upon His arrival in Máh-Kú, surnamed by Him Jabál-i-Basít (the
Open Mountain) no one was allowed to see Him for the first two weeks
except His amanuensis, Siyyid Ḥusayn, and his brother. So grievous was His
plight while in that fortress that, in the Persian Bayán, He Himself has
stated that at night-time He did not even have a lighted lamp, and that
His solitary chamber, constructed of sun-baked bricks, lacked even a door,
while, in His Tablet to Muḥammad _Sh_áh, He has complained that the
inmates of the fortress were confined to two guards and four dogs.

Secluded on the heights of a remote and dangerously situated mountain on
the frontiers of the Ottoman and Russian empires; imprisoned within the
solid walls of a four-towered fortress; cut off from His family, His
kindred and His disciples; living in the vicinity of a bigoted and
turbulent community who, by race, tradition, language and creed, differed
from the vast majority of the inhabitants of Persia; guarded by the people
of a district which, as the birthplace of the Grand Vizir, had been made
the recipient of the special favors of his administration, the Prisoner of
Máh-Kú seemed in the eyes of His adversary to be doomed to languish away
the flower of His youth, and witness, at no distant date, the complete
annihilation of His hopes. That adversary was soon to realize, however,
how gravely he had misjudged both his Prisoner and those on whom he had
lavished his favors. An unruly, a proud and unreasoning people were
gradually subdued by the gentleness of the Báb, were chastened by His
modesty, were edified by His counsels, and instructed by His wisdom. They
were so carried away by their love for Him that their first act every
morning, notwithstanding the remonstrations of the domineering ‘Alí
_Kh_án, and the repeated threats of disciplinary measures received from
Ṭihrán, was to seek a place where they could catch a glimpse of His face,
and beseech from afar His benediction upon their daily work. In cases of
dispute it was their wont to hasten to the foot of the fortress, and, with
their eyes fixed upon His abode, invoke His name, and adjure one another
to speak the truth. ‘Alí _Kh_án himself, under the influence of a strange
vision, felt such mortification that he was impelled to relax the severity
of his discipline, as an atonement for his past behavior. Such became his
leniency that an increasing stream of eager and devout pilgrims began to
be admitted at the gates of the fortress. Among them was the dauntless and
indefatigable Mullá Ḥusayn, who had walked on foot the entire way from
Ma_sh_ad in the east of Persia to Máh-Kú, the westernmost outpost of the
realm, and was able, after so arduous a journey, to celebrate the festival
of Naw-Rúz (1848) in the company of his Beloved.

Secret agents, however, charged to watch ‘Alí _Kh_án, informed Ḥájí Mírzá
Aqásí of the turn events were taking, whereupon he immediately decided to
transfer the Báb to the fortress of _Ch_ihríq (about April 10, 1848),
surnamed by Him the Jabál-i-_Sh_adíd (the Grievous Mountain). There He was
consigned to the keeping of Yaḥyá _Kh_án, a brother-in-law of Muḥammad
_Sh_áh. Though at the outset he acted with the utmost severity, he was
eventually compelled to yield to the fascination of his Prisoner. Nor were
the kurds, who lived in the village of _Ch_ihríq, and whose hatred of the
_Sh_í’ahs exceeded even that of the inhabitants of Máh-Kú, able to resist
the pervasive power of the Prisoner’s influence. They too were to be seen
every morning, ere they started for their daily work, to approach the
fortress and prostrate themselves in adoration before its holy Inmate. “So
great was the confluence of the people,” is the testimony of a European
eye-witness, writing in his memoirs of the Báb, “that the courtyard, not
being large enough to contain His hearers, the majority remained in the
street and listened with rapt attention to the verses of the new Qur’án.”

Indeed the turmoil raised in _Ch_ihríq eclipsed the scenes which Máh-Kú
had witnessed. Siyyids of distinguished merit, eminent ‘ulamás, and even
government officials were boldly and rapidly espousing the Cause of the
Prisoner. The conversion of the zealous, the famous Mírzá Asadu’lláh,
surnamed Dayyán, a prominent official of high literary repute, who was
endowed by the Báb with the “hidden and preserved knowledge,” and extolled
as the “repository of the trust of the one true God,” and the arrival of a
dervish, a former navváb, from India, whom the Báb in a vision had bidden
renounce wealth and position, and hasten on foot to meet Him in
Á_dh_irbayján, brought the situation to a head. Accounts of these
startling events reached Tabríz, were thence communicated to Ṭihrán, and
forced Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí again to intervene. Dayyán’s father, an intimate
friend of that minister, had already expressed to him his grave
apprehension at the manner in which the able functionaries of the state
were being won over to the new Faith. To allay the rising excitement the
Báb was summoned to Tabríz. Fearful of the enthusiasm of the people of
Á_dh_irbayján, those into whose custody He had been delivered decided to
deflect their route, and avoid the town of _Kh_úy, passing instead through
Urúmíyyih. On His arrival in that town Prince Malik Qásim Mírzá
ceremoniously received Him, and was even seen, on a certain Friday, when
his Guest was riding on His way to the public bath, to accompany Him on
foot, while the Prince’s footmen endeavored to restrain the people who, in
their overflowing enthusiasm, were pressing to catch a glimpse of so
marvelous a Prisoner. Tabríz, in its turn in the throes of wild
excitement, joyously hailed His arrival. Such was the fervor of popular
feeling that the Báb was assigned a place outside the gates of the city.
This, however, failed to allay the prevailing emotion. Precautions,
warnings and restrictions served only to aggravate a situation that had
already become critical. It was at this juncture that the Grand Vizir
issued his historic order for the immediate convocation of the
ecclesiastical dignitaries of Tabríz to consider the most effectual
measures which would, once and for all, extinguish the flames of so
devouring a conflagration.

The circumstances attending the examination of the Báb, as a result of so
precipitate an act, may well rank as one of the chief landmarks of His
dramatic career. The avowed purpose of that convocation was to arraign the
Prisoner, and deliberate on the steps to be taken for the extirpation of
His so-called heresy. It instead afforded Him the supreme opportunity of
His mission to assert in public, formally and without any reservation, the
claims inherent in His Revelation. In the official residence, and in the
presence, of the governor of Á_dh_irbayján, Náṣiri’d-Dín Mírzá, the heir
to the throne; under the presidency of Ḥájí Mullá Maḥmúd, the
Nizámu’l-‘Ulamá, the Prince’s tutor; before the assembled ecclesiastical
dignitaries of Tabríz, the leaders of the _Sh_ay_kh_í community, the
_Sh_ay_kh_u’l-Islám, and the Imám-Jum’ih, the Báb, having seated Himself
in the chief place which had been reserved for the Valí-‘Ahd (the heir to
the throne), gave, in ringing tones, His celebrated answer to the question
put to Him by the President of that assembly. “I am,” He exclaimed, “I am,
I am the Promised One! I am the One Whose name you have for a thousand
years invoked, at Whose mention you have risen, Whose advent you have
longed to witness, and the hour of Whose Revelation you have prayed God to
hasten. Verily, I say, it is incumbent upon the peoples of both the East
and the West to obey My word, and to pledge allegiance to My person.”

Awe-struck, those present momentarily dropped their heads in silent
confusion. Then Mullá Muḥammad-i-Mamaqání, that one-eyed white-bearded
renegade, summoning sufficient courage, with characteristic insolence,
reprimanded Him as a perverse and contemptible follower of Satan; to which
the undaunted Youth retorted that He maintained what He had already
asserted. To the query subsequently addressed to Him by the
Nizámu’l-‘Ulamá the Báb affirmed that His words constituted the most
incontrovertible evidence of His mission, adduced verses from the Qur’án
to establish the truth of His assertion, and claimed to be able to reveal,
within the space of two days and two nights, verses equal to the whole of
that Book. In answer to a criticism calling His attention to an infraction
by Him of the rules of grammar, He cited certain passages from the Qur’án
as corroborative evidence, and, turning aside, with firmness and dignity,
a frivolous and irrelevant remark thrown at Him by one of those who were
present, summarily disbanded that gathering by Himself rising and quitting
the room. The convocation thereupon dispersed, its members confused,
divided among themselves, bitterly resentful and humiliated through their
failure to achieve their purpose. Far from daunting the spirit of their
Captive, far from inducing Him to recant or abandon His mission, that
gathering was productive of no other result than the decision, arrived at
after considerable argument and discussion, to inflict the bastinado on
Him, at the hands, and in the prayer-house of the heartless and avaricious
Mírzá ‘Alí-Aṣ_gh_ar, the _Sh_ay_kh_u’l-Islám of that city. Confounded in
his schemes Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí was forced to order the Báb to be taken back
to _Ch_ihríq.

This dramatic, this unqualified and formal declaration of the Báb’s
prophetic mission was not the sole consequence of the foolish act which
condemned the Author of so weighty a Revelation to a three years’
confinement in the mountains of Á_dh_irbayján. This period of captivity,
in a remote corner of the realm, far removed from the storm centers of
_Sh_íráz, Iṣfáhán, and Ṭihrán, afforded Him the necessary leisure to
launch upon His most monumental work, as well as to engage on other
subsidiary compositions designed to unfold the whole range, and impart the
full force, of His short-lived yet momentous Dispensation. Alike in the
magnitude of the writings emanating from His pen, and in the diversity of
the subjects treated in those writings, His Revelation stands wholly
unparalleled in the annals of any previous religion. He Himself affirms,
while confined in Máh-Kú, that up to that time His writings, embracing
highly diversified subjects, had amounted to more than five hundred
thousand verses. “The verses which have rained from this Cloud of Divine
mercy,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s testimony in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “have been so
abundant that none hath yet been able to estimate their number. A score of
volumes are now available. How many still remain beyond our reach! How
many have been plundered and have fallen into the hands of the enemy, the
fate of which none knoweth!” No less arresting is the variety of themes
presented by these voluminous writings, such as prayers, homilies,
orations, Tablets of visitation, scientific treatises, doctrinal
dissertations, exhortations, commentaries on the Qur’án and on various
traditions, epistles to the highest religious and ecclesiastical
dignitaries of the realm, and laws and ordinances for the consolidation of
His Faith and the direction of its activities.

Already in _Sh_íráz, at the earliest stage of His ministry, He had
revealed what Bahá’u’lláh has characterized as “the first, the greatest,
and mightiest of all books” in the Bábí Dispensation, the celebrated
commentary on the súrih of Joseph, entitled the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, whose
fundamental purpose was to forecast what the true Joseph (Bahá’u’lláh)
would, in a succeeding Dispensation, endure at the hands of one who was at
once His arch-enemy and blood brother. This work, comprising above nine
thousand three hundred verses, and divided into one hundred and eleven
chapters, each chapter a commentary on one verse of the above-mentioned
súrih, opens with the Báb’s clarion-call and dire warnings addressed to
the “concourse of kings and of the sons of kings;” forecasts the doom of
Muḥammad _Sh_áh; commands his Grand Vizir, Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, to abdicate
his authority; admonishes the entire Muslim ecclesiastical order; cautions
more specifically the members of the _Sh_í’ah community; extols the
virtues, and anticipates the coming, of Bahá’u’lláh, the “Remnant of God,”
the “Most Great Master;” and proclaims, in unequivocal language, the
independence and universality of the Bábí Revelation, unveils its import,
and affirms the inevitable triumph of its Author. It, moreover, directs
the “people of the West” to “issue forth from your cities and aid the
Cause of God;” warns the peoples of the earth of the “terrible, the most
grievous vengeance of God;” threatens the whole Islamic world with “the
Most Great Fire” were they to turn aside from the newly-revealed Law;
foreshadows the Author’s martyrdom; eulogizes the high station ordained
for the people of Bahá, the “Companions of the crimson-colored ruby Ark;”
prophesies the fading out and utter obliteration of some of the greatest
luminaries in the firmament of the Bábí Dispensation; and even predicts
“afflictive torment,” in both the “Day of Our Return” and in “the world
which is to come,” for the usurpers of the Imamate, who “waged war against
Ḥusayn (Imám Ḥusayn) in the Land of the Euphrates.”

It was this Book which the Bábís universally regarded, during almost the
entire ministry of the Báb, as the Qur’án of the people of the Bayán;
whose first and most challenging chapter was revealed in the presence of
Mullá Ḥusayn, on the night of its Author’s Declaration; some of whose
pages were borne, by that same disciple, to Bahá’u’lláh, as the first
fruits of a Revelation which instantly won His enthusiastic allegiance;
whose entire text was translated into Persian by the brilliant and gifted
Táhirih; whose passages inflamed the hostility of Ḥusayn _Kh_án and
precipitated the initial outbreak of persecution in _Sh_íráz; a single
page of which had captured the imagination and entranced the soul of
Hujjat; and whose contents had set afire the intrepid defenders of the
Fort of _Sh_ay_kh_ Tabarsí and the heroes of Nayríz and Zanján.

This work, of such exalted merit, of such far-reaching influence, was
followed by the revelation of the Báb’s first Tablet to Muḥammad _Sh_áh;
of His Tablets to Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Majíd and to Najíb Pá_sh_á, the Valí of
Ba_gh_dád; of the Sahífiy-i-baynu’l-Harámayn, revealed between Mecca and
Medina, in answer to questions posed by Mírzá Muhít-i-Kirmání; of the
Epistle to the _Sh_eríf of Mecca; of the Kitábú’r-Rúh, comprising seven
hundred súrihs; of the _Kh_asá’il-i-Sab‘ih, which enjoined the alteration
of the formula of the a_dh_án; of the Risáliy-i-Furú-i-‘Adlíyyih, rendered
into Persian by Mullá Muḥammad-Taqíy-i-Haratí; of the commentary on the
súrih of Kaw_th_ar, which effected such a transformation in the soul of
Vahíd; of the commentary on the súrih of Va’l-‘Asr, in the house of the
Imám-Jum’ih of Iṣfáhán; of the dissertation on the Specific Mission of
Muḥammad, written at the request of Manú_ch_ihr _Kh_án; of the second
Tablet to Muḥammad _Sh_áh, craving an audience in which to set forth the
truths of the new Revelation, and dissipate his doubts; and of the Tablets
sent from the village of Síyáh-Dihán to the ‘ulamás of Qazvín and to Ḥájí
Mírzá Aqásí, inquiring from him as to the cause of the sudden change in
his decision.

The great bulk of the writings emanating from the Báb’s prolific mind was,
however, reserved for the period of His confinement in Máh-Kú and
_Ch_ihríq. To this period must probably belong the unnumbered Epistles
which, as attested by no less an authority than Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb
specifically addressed to the divines of every city in Persia, as well as
to those residing in Najaf and Karbilá, wherein He set forth in detail the
errors committed by each one of them. It was during His incarceration in
the fortress of Máh-Kú that He, according to the testimony of _Sh_ay_kh_
Ḥasan-i-Zunúzí, who transcribed during those nine months the verses
dictated by the Báb to His amanuensis, revealed no less than nine
commentaries on the whole of the Qur’án—commentaries whose fate, alas, is
unknown, and one of which, at least the Author Himself affirmed, surpassed
in some respects a book as deservedly famous as the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá.

Within the walls of that same fortress the Bayán (Exposition)—that
monumental repository of the laws and precepts of the new Dispensation and
the treasury enshrining most of the Báb’s references and tributes to, as
well as His warning regarding, “Him Whom God will make manifest”—was
revealed. Peerless among the doctrinal works of the Founder of the Bábí
Dispensation; consisting of nine Vahíds (Unities) of nineteen chapters
each, except the last Vahíd comprising only ten chapters; not to be
confounded with the smaller and less weighty Arabic Bayán, revealed during
the same period; fulfilling the Muḥammadan prophecy that “a Youth from
Baní-Há_sh_im ... will reveal a new Book and promulgate a new Law;” wholly
safeguarded from the interpolation and corruption which has been the fate
of so many of the Báb’s lesser works, this Book, of about eight thousand
verses, occupying a pivotal position in Bábí literature, should be
regarded primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than a code of
laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future
generations. This Book at once abrogated the laws and ceremonials enjoined
by the Qur’án regarding prayer, fasting, marriage, divorce and
inheritance, and upheld, in its integrity, the belief in the prophetic
mission of Muḥammad, even as the Prophet of Islám before Him had annulled
the ordinances of the Gospel and yet recognized the Divine origin of the
Faith of Jesus Christ. It moreover interpreted in a masterly fashion the
meaning of certain terms frequently occurring in the sacred Books of
previous Dispensations such as Paradise, Hell, Death, Resurrection, the
Return, the Balance, the Hour, the Last Judgment, and the like. Designedly
severe in the rules and regulations it imposed, revolutionizing in the
principles it instilled, calculated to awaken from their age-long torpor
the clergy and the people, and to administer a sudden and fatal blow to
obsolete and corrupt institutions, it proclaimed, through its drastic
provisions, the advent of the anticipated Day, the Day when “the Summoner
shall summon to a stern business,” when He will “demolish whatever hath
been before Him, even as the Apostle of God demolished the ways of those
that preceded Him.”

It should be noted, in this connection, that in the third Vahíd of this
Book there occurs a passage which, alike in its explicit reference to the
name of the Promised One, and in its anticipation of the Order which, in a
later age, was to be identified with His Revelation, deserves to rank as
one of the most significant statements recorded in any of the Báb’s
writings. “Well is it with him,” is His prophetic announcement, “who
fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá’u’lláh, and rendereth thanks unto
his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed
irrevocably ordained it in the Bayán.” It is with that self-same Order
that the Founder of the promised Revelation, twenty years
later—incorporating that same term in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas—identified the
System envisaged in that Book, affirming that “this most great Order” had
deranged the world’s equilibrium, and revolutionized mankind’s ordered
life. It is the features of that self-same Order which, at a later stage
in the evolution of the Faith, the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and
the appointed Interpreter of His teachings, delineated through the
provisions of His Will and Testament. It is the structural basis of that
self-same Order which, in the Formative Age of that same Faith, the
stewards of that same Covenant, the elected representatives of the
world-wide Bahá’í community, are now laboriously and unitedly
establishing. It is the superstructure of that self-same Order, attaining
its full stature through the emergence of the Bahá’í World
Commonwealth—the Kingdom of God on earth—which the Golden Age of that same
Dispensation must, in the fullness of time, ultimately witness.

The Báb was still in Máh-Kú when He wrote the most detailed and
illuminating of His Tablets to Muḥammad _Sh_áh. Prefaced by a laudatory
reference to the unity of God, to His Apostles and to the twelve Imáms;
unequivocal in its assertion of the divinity of its Author and of the
supernatural powers with which His Revelation had been invested; precise
in the verses and traditions it cites in confirmation of so audacious a
claim; severe in its condemnation of some of the officials and
representatives of the _Sh_áh’s administration, particularly of the
“wicked and accursed” Ḥusayn _Kh_án; moving in its description of the
humiliation and hardships to which its writer had been subjected, this
historic document resembles, in many of its features, the Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán,
the Tablet addressed, under similar circumstances, from the
prison-fortress of Akká by Bahá’u’lláh to Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, and
constituting His lengthiest epistle to any single sovereign.

The Dalá’il-i-Sab‘ih (Seven Proofs), the most important of the polemical
works of the Báb, was revealed during that same period. Remarkably lucid,
admirable in its precision, original in conception, unanswerable in its
argument, this work, apart from the many and divers proofs of His mission
which it adduces, is noteworthy for the blame it assigns to the “seven
powerful sovereigns ruling the world” in His day, as well as for the
manner in which it stresses the responsibilities, and censures the
conduct, of the Christian divines of a former age who, had they recognized
the truth of Muḥammad’s mission, He contends, would have been followed by
the mass of their co-religionists.

During the Báb’s confinement in the fortress of _Ch_ihríq, where He spent
almost the whole of the two remaining years of His life, the
Lawḥ-i-Hurúfat (Tablet of the Letters) was revealed, in honor of Dayyán—a
Tablet which, however misconstrued at first as an exposition of the
science of divination, was later recognized to have unravelled, on the one
hand, the mystery of the Musta_gh_á_th_, and to have abstrusely alluded,
on the other, to the nineteen years which must needs elapse between the
Declaration of the Báb and that of Bahá’u’lláh. It was during these
years—years darkened throughout by the rigors of the Báb’s captivity, by
the severe indignities inflicted upon Him, and by the news of the
disasters that overtook the heroes of Mázindarán and Nayríz—that He
revealed, soon after His return from Tabríz, His denunciatory Tablet to
Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí. Couched in bold and moving language, unsparing in its
condemnation, this epistle was forwarded to the intrepid Hujjat who, as
corroborated by Bahá’u’lláh, delivered it to that wicked minister.

To this period of incarceration in the fortresses of Máh-Kú and
_Ch_ihríq—a period of unsurpassed fecundity, yet bitter in its
humiliations and ever-deepening sorrows—belong almost all the written
references, whether in the form of warnings, appeals or exhortations,
which the Báb, in anticipation of the approaching hour of His supreme
affliction, felt it necessary to make to the Author of a Revelation that
was soon to supersede His own. Conscious from the very beginning of His
twofold mission, as the Bearer of a wholly independent Revelation and the
Herald of One still greater than His own, He could not content Himself
with the vast number of commentaries, of prayers, of laws and ordinances,
of dissertations and epistles, of homilies and orations that had
incessantly streamed from His pen. The Greater Covenant into which, as
affirmed in His writings, God had, from time immemorial, entered, through
the Prophets of all ages, with the whole of mankind, regarding the newborn
Revelation, had already been fulfilled. It had now to be supplemented by a
Lesser Covenant which He felt bound to make with the entire body of His
followers concerning the One Whose advent He characterized as the fruit
and ultimate purpose of His Dispensation. Such a Covenant had invariably
been the feature of every previous religion. It had existed, under various
forms, with varying degrees of emphasis, had always been couched in veiled
language, and had been alluded to in cryptic prophecies, in abstruse
allegories, in unauthenticated traditions, and in the fragmentary and
obscure passages of the sacred Scriptures. In the Bábí Dispensation,
however, it was destined to be established in clear and unequivocal
language, though not embodied in a separate document. Unlike the Prophets
gone before Him, Whose Covenants were shrouded in mystery, unlike
Bahá’u’lláh, Whose clearly defined Covenant was incorporated in a
specially written Testament, and designated by Him as “the Book of My
Covenant,” the Báb chose to intersperse His Book of Laws, the Persian
Bayán, with unnumbered passages, some designedly obscure, mostly
indubitably clear and conclusive, in which He fixes the date of the
promised Revelation, extols its virtues, asserts its pre-eminent
character, assigns to it unlimited powers and prerogatives, and tears down
every barrier that might be an obstacle to its recognition. “He, verily,”
Bahá’u’lláh, referring to the Báb in His Kitáb-i-Badí’, has stated, “hath
not fallen short of His duty to exhort the people of the Bayán and to
deliver unto them His Message. In no age or dispensation hath any
Manifestation made mention, in such detail and in such explicit language,
of the Manifestation destined to succeed Him.”

Some of His disciples the Báb assiduously prepared to expect the imminent
Revelation. Others He orally assured would live to see its day. To Mullá
Báqir, one of the Letters of the Living, He actually prophesied, in a
Tablet addressed to him, that he would meet the Promised One face to face.
To Sáyyah, another disciple, He gave verbally a similar assurance. Mullá
Ḥusayn He directed to Ṭihrán, assuring him that in that city was enshrined
a Mystery Whose light neither Ḥijáz nor _Sh_íráz could rival. Quddús, on
the eve of his final separation from Him, was promised that he would
attain the presence of the One Who was the sole Object of their adoration
and love. To _Sh_ay_kh_ Ḥasan-i-Zunúzí He declared while in Máh-Kú that he
would behold in Karbilá the countenance of the promised Ḥusayn. On Dayyán
He conferred the title of “the third Letter to believe in Him Whom God
shall make manifest,” while to Aẓím He divulged, in the
Kitáb-i-Panj-_Sh_a’n, the name, and announced the approaching advent, of
Him Who was to consummate His own Revelation.

A successor or vicegerent the Báb never named, an interpreter of His
teachings He refrained from appointing. So transparently clear were His
references to the Promised One, so brief was to be the duration of His own
Dispensation, that neither the one nor the other was deemed necessary. All
He did was, according to the testimony of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in “A Traveller’s
Narrative,” to nominate, on the advice of Bahá’u’lláh and of another
disciple, Mírzá Yaḥyá, who would act solely as a figure-head pending the
manifestation of the Promised One, thus enabling Bahá’u’lláh to promote,
in relative security, the Cause so dear to His heart.

“The Bayán,” the Báb in that Book, referring to the Promised One, affirms,
“is, from beginning to end, the repository of all of His attributes, and
the treasury of both His fire and His light.” “If thou attainest unto His
Revelation,” He, in another connection declares, “and obeyest Him, thou
wilt have revealed the fruit of the Bayán; if not, thou art unworthy of
mention before God.” “O people of the Bayán!” He, in that same Book, thus
warns the entire company of His followers, “act not as the people of the
Qur’án have acted, for if ye do so, the fruits of your night will come to
naught.” “Suffer not the Bayán,” is His emphatic injunction, “and all that
hath been revealed therein to withhold you from that Essence of Being and
Lord of the visible and invisible.” “Beware, beware,” is His significant
warning addressed to Vahíd, “lest in the days of His Revelation the Vahíd
of the Bayán (eighteen Letters of the Living and the Báb) shut thee out as
by a veil from Him, inasmuch as this Vahíd is but a creature in His
sight.” And again: “O congregation of the Bayán, and all who are therein!
Recognize ye the limits imposed upon you, for such a One as the Point of
the Bayán Himself hath believed in Him Whom God shall make manifest before
all things were created. Therein, verily, do I glory before all who are in
the kingdom of heaven and earth.”

“In the year nine,” He, referring to the date of the advent of the
promised Revelation, has explicitly written, “ye shall attain unto all
good.” “In the year nine, ye will attain unto the presence of God.” And
again: “After Ḥin (68) a Cause shall be given unto you which ye shall come
to know.” “Ere nine will have elapsed from the inception of this Cause,”
He more particularly has stated, “the realities of the created things will
not be made manifest. All that thou hast as yet seen is but the stage from
the moist germ until We clothed it with flesh. Be patient, until thou
beholdest a new creation. Say: ‘Blessed, therefore, be God, the most
excellent of Makers!’” “Wait thou,” is His statement to Aẓím, “until nine
will have elapsed from the time of the Bayán. Then exclaim: ‘Blessed,
therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!’” “Be attentive,” He,
referring in a remarkable passage to the year nineteen, has admonished,
“from the inception of the Revelation till the number of Vahíd (19).” “The
Lord of the Day of Reckoning,” He, even more explicitly, has stated, “will
be manifested at the end of Vahíd (19) and the beginning of eighty (1280
A.H.).” “Were He to appear this very moment,” He, in His eagerness to
insure that the proximity of the promised Revelation should not withhold
men from the Promised One, has revealed, “I would be the first to adore
Him, and the first to bow down before Him.”

“I have written down in My mention of Him,” He thus extols the Author of
the anticipated Revelation, “these gem-like words: ‘No allusion of Mine
can allude unto Him, neither anything mentioned in the Bayán.’” “I,
Myself, am but the first servant to believe in Him and in His signs....”
“The year-old germ,” He significantly affirms, “that holdeth within itself
the potentialities of the Revelation that is to come is endowed with a
potency superior to the combined forces of the whole of the Bayán.” And
again: “The whole of the Bayán is only a leaf amongst the leaves of His
Paradise.” “Better is it for thee,” He similarly asserts, “to recite but
one of the verses of Him Whom God shall make manifest than to set down the
whole of the Bayán, for on that Day that one verse can save thee, whereas
the entire Bayán cannot save thee.” “Today the Bayán is in the stage of
seed; at the beginning of the manifestation of Him Whom God shall make
manifest its ultimate perfection will become apparent.” “The Bayán
deriveth all its glory from Him Whom God shall make manifest.” “All that
hath been revealed in the Bayán is but a ring upon My hand, and I Myself
am, verily, but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make
manifest... He turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and
through whatsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, is the Help in Peril, the Most
High.” “Certitude itself,” He, in reply to Vahíd and to one of the Letters
of the Living who had inquired regarding the promised One, had declared,
“is ashamed to be called upon to certify His truth ... and Testimony
itself is ashamed to testify unto Him.” Addressing this same Vahíd, He
moreover had stated: “Were I to be assured that in the day of His
manifestation thou wilt deny Him, I would unhesitatingly disown thee...
If, on the other hand, I be told that a Christian, who beareth no
allegiance to My Faith, will believe in Him, the same will I regard as the
apple of My eye.”

And finally is this, His moving invocation to God: “Bear Thou witness
that, through this Book, I have covenanted with all created things
concerning the mission of Him Whom Thou shalt make manifest, ere the
covenant concerning My own mission had been established. Sufficient
witness art Thou and they that have believed in Thy signs.” “I, verily,
have not fallen short of My duty to admonish that people,” is yet another
testimony from His pen, “...If on the day of His Revelation all that are
on earth bear Him allegiance, Mine inmost being will rejoice, inasmuch as
all will have attained the summit of their existence.... If not, My soul
will be saddened. I truly have nurtured all things for this purpose. How,
then, can any one be veiled from Him?”

The last three and most eventful years of the Báb’s ministry had, as we
have observed in the preceding pages, witnessed not only the formal and
public declaration of His mission, but also an unprecedented effusion of
His inspired writings, including both the revelation of the fundamental
laws of His Dispensation and also the establishment of that Lesser
Covenant which was to safeguard the unity of His followers and pave the
way for the advent of an incomparably mightier Revelation. It was during
this same period, in the early days of His incarceration in the fortress
of _Ch_ihríq, that the independence of the new-born Faith was openly
recognized and asserted by His disciples. The laws underlying the new
Dispensation had been revealed by its Author in a prison-fortress in the
mountains of Á_dh_irbayján, while the Dispensation itself was now to be
inaugurated in a plain on the border of Mázindarán, at a conference of His
assembled followers.

Bahá’u’lláh, maintaining through continual correspondence close contact
with the Báb, and Himself the directing force behind the manifold
activities of His struggling fellow-disciples, unobtrusively yet
effectually presided over that conference, and guided and controlled its
proceedings. Quddús, regarded as the exponent of the conservative element
within it, affected, in pursuance of a pre-conceived plan designed to
mitigate the alarm and consternation which such a conference was sure to
arouse, to oppose the seemingly extremist views advocated by the impetuous
Táhirih. The primary purpose of that gathering was to implement the
revelation of the Bayán by a sudden, a complete and dramatic break with
the past—with its order, its ecclesiasticism, its traditions, and
ceremonials. The subsidiary purpose of the conference was to consider the
means of emancipating the Báb from His cruel confinement in _Ch_ihríq. The
first was eminently successful; the second was destined from the outset to
fail.

The scene of such a challenging and far-reaching proclamation was the
hamlet of Bada_sh_t, where Bahá’u’lláh had rented, amidst pleasant
surroundings, three gardens, one of which He assigned to Quddús, another
to Táhirih, whilst the third He reserved for Himself. The eighty-one
disciples who had gathered from various provinces were His guests from the
day of their arrival to the day they dispersed. On each of the twenty-two
days of His sojourn in that hamlet He revealed a Tablet, which was chanted
in the presence of the assembled believers. On every believer He conferred
a new name, without, however, disclosing the identity of the one who had
bestowed it. He Himself was henceforth designated by the name Bahá. Upon
the Last Letter of the Living was conferred the appellation of Quddús,
while Qurratu’l-‘Ayn was given the title of Táhirih. By these names they
were all subsequently addressed by the Báb in the Tablets He revealed for
each one of them.

It was Bahá’u’lláh Who steadily, unerringly, yet unsuspectedly, steered
the course of that memorable episode, and it was Bahá’u’lláh Who brought
the meeting to its final and dramatic climax. One day in His presence,
when illness had confined Him to bed, Táhirih, regarded as the fair and
spotless emblem of chastity and the incarnation of the holy Fátimih,
appeared suddenly, adorned yet unveiled, before the assembled companions,
seated herself on the right-hand of the affrighted and infuriated Quddús,
and, tearing through her fiery words the veils guarding the sanctity of
the ordinances of Islám, sounded the clarion-call, and proclaimed the
inauguration, of a new Dispensation. The effect was electric and
instantaneous. She, of such stainless purity, so reverenced that even to
gaze at her shadow was deemed an improper act, appeared for a moment, in
the eyes of her scandalized beholders, to have defamed herself, shamed the
Faith she had espoused, and sullied the immortal Countenance she
symbolized. Fear, anger, bewilderment, swept their inmost souls, and
stunned their faculties. ‘Abdu’l-_Kh_áliq-i-Iṣfáhání, aghast and deranged
at such a sight, cut his throat with his own hands. Spattered with blood,
and frantic with excitement, he fled away from her face. A few, abandoning
their companions, renounced their Faith. Others stood mute and transfixed
before her. Still others must have recalled with throbbing hearts the
Islamic tradition foreshadowing the appearance of Fátimih herself unveiled
while crossing the Bridge (Ṣiraṭ) on the promised Day of Judgment. Quddús,
mute with rage, seemed to be only waiting for the moment when he could
strike her down with the sword he happened to be then holding in his hand.

Undeterred, unruffled, exultant with joy, Táhirih arose, and, without the
least premeditation and in a language strikingly resembling that of the
Qur’án, delivered a fervid and eloquent appeal to the remnant of the
assembly, ending it with this bold assertion: “I am the Word which the
Qá’im is to utter, the Word which shall put to flight the chiefs and
nobles of the earth!” Thereupon, she invited them to embrace each other
and celebrate so great an occasion.

On that memorable day the “Bugle” mentioned in the Qur’án was sounded, the
“stunning trumpet-blast” was loudly raised, and the “Catastrophe” came to
pass. The days immediately following so startling a departure from the
time-honored traditions of Islám witnessed a veritable revolution in the
outlook, habits, ceremonials and manner of worship of these hitherto
zealous and devout upholders of the Muḥammadan Law. Agitated as had been
the Conference from first to last, deplorable as was the secession of the
few who refused to countenance the annulment of the fundamental statutes
of the Islamic Faith, its purpose had been fully and gloriously
accomplished. Only four years earlier the Author of the Bábí Revelation
had declared His mission to Mullá Ḥusayn in the privacy of His home in
_Sh_íráz. Three years after that Declaration, within the walls of the
prison-fortress of Máh-Kú, He was dictating to His amanuensis the
fundamental and distinguishing precepts of His Dispensation. A year later,
His followers, under the actual leadership of Bahá’u’lláh, their
fellow-disciple, were themselves, in the hamlet of Bada_sh_t, abrogating
the Qur’ánic Law, repudiating both the divinely-ordained and man-made
precepts of the Faith of Muḥammad, and shaking off the shackles of its
antiquated system. Almost immediately after, the Báb Himself, still a
prisoner, was vindicating the acts of His disciples by asserting, formally
and unreservedly, His claim to be the promised Qá’im, in the presence of
the Heir to the Throne, the leading exponents of the _Sh_ay_kh_í
community, and the most illustrious ecclesiastical dignitaries assembled
in the capital of Á_dh_irbayján.

A little over four years had elapsed since the birth of the Báb’s
Revelation when the trumpet-blast announcing the formal extinction of the
old, and the inauguration of the new Dispensation was sounded. No pomp, no
pageantry marked so great a turning-point in the world’s religious
history. Nor was its modest setting commensurate with such a sudden,
startling, complete emancipation from the dark and embattled forces of
fanaticism, of priestcraft, of religious orthodoxy and superstition. The
assembled host consisted of no more than a single woman and a handful of
men, mostly recruited from the very ranks they were attacking, and devoid,
with few exceptions, of wealth, prestige and power. The Captain of the
host was Himself an absentee, a captive in the grip of His foes. The arena
was a tiny hamlet in the plain of Bada_sh_t on the border of Mázindarán.
The trumpeter was a lone woman, the noblest of her sex in that
Dispensation, whom even some of her co-religionists pronounced a heretic.
The call she sounded was the death-knell of the twelve hundred year old
law of Islám.

Accelerated, twenty years later, by another trumpet-blast, announcing the
formulation of the laws of yet another Dispensation, this process of
disintegration, associated with the declining fortunes of a superannuated,
though divinely revealed Law, gathered further momentum, precipitated, in
a later age, the annulment of the _Sh_arí’ah canonical Law in Turkey, led
to the virtual abandonment of that Law in _Sh_í’ah Persia, has, more
recently, been responsible for the dissociation of the System envisaged in
the Kitáb-i-Aqdas from the Sunní ecclesiastical Law in Egypt, has paved
the way for the recognition of that System in the Holy Land itself, and is
destined to culminate in the secularization of the Muslim states, and in
the universal recognition of the Law of Bahá’u’lláh by all the nations,
and its enthronement in the hearts of all the peoples, of the Muslim
world.



Chapter III: Upheavals in Mázindarán, Nayríz and Zanján


The Báb’s captivity in a remote corner of Á_dh_irbayján, immortalized by
the proceedings of the Conference of Bada_sh_t, and distinguished by such
notable developments as the public declaration of His mission, the
formulation of the laws of His Dispensation and the establishment of His
Covenant, was to acquire added significance through the dire convulsions
that sprang from the acts of both His adversaries and His disciples. The
commotions that ensued, as the years of that captivity drew to a close,
and that culminated in His own martyrdom, called forth a degree of heroism
on the part of His followers and a fierceness of hostility on the part of
His enemies which had never been witnessed during the first three years of
His ministry. Indeed, this brief but most turbulent period may be rightly
regarded as the bloodiest and most dramatic of the Heroic Age of the
Bahá’í Era.

The momentous happenings associated with the Báb’s incarceration in Máh-Kú
and _Ch_ihríq, constituting as they did the high watermark of His
Revelation, could have no other consequence than to fan to fiercer flame
both the fervor of His lovers and the fury of His enemies. A persecution,
grimmer, more odious, and more shrewdly calculated than any which Ḥusayn
_Kh_án, or even Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, had kindled was soon to be unchained, to
be accompanied by a corresponding manifestation of heroism unmatched by
any of the earliest outbursts of enthusiasm that had greeted the birth of
the Faith in either _Sh_íráz or Iṣfáhán. This period of ceaseless and
unprecedented commotion was to rob that Faith, in quick succession, of its
chief protagonists, was to attain its climax in the extinction of the life
of its Author, and was to be followed by a further and this time an almost
complete elimination of its eminent supporters, with the sole exception of
One Who, at its darkest hour, was entrusted, through the dispensations of
Providence, with the dual function of saving a sorely-stricken Faith from
annihilation, and of ushering in the Dispensation destined to supersede
it.

The formal assumption by the Báb of the authority of the promised Qá’im,
in such dramatic circumstances and in so challenging a tone, before a
distinguished gathering of eminent _Sh_í’ah ecclesiastics, powerful,
jealous, alarmed and hostile, was the explosive force that loosed a
veritable avalanche of calamities which swept down upon the Faith and the
people among whom it was born. It raised to fervid heat the zeal that
glowed in the souls of the Báb’s scattered disciples, who were already
incensed by the cruel captivity of their Leader, and whose ardor was now
further inflamed by the outpourings of His pen which reached them
unceasingly from the place of His confinement. It provoked a heated and
prolonged controversy throughout the length and breadth of the land, in
bazaars, masjids, madrisihs and other public places, deepening thereby the
cleavage that had already sundered its people. Muḥammad _Sh_áh, at so
perilous an hour, was meanwhile rapidly sinking under the weight of his
physical infirmities. The shallow-minded Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, now the pivot
of state affairs, exhibited a vacillation and incompetence that seemed to
increase with every extension in the range of his grave responsibilities.
At one time he would feel inclined to support the verdict of the ‘ulamás;
at another he would censure their aggressiveness and distrust their
assertions; at yet another, he would relapse into mysticism, and, wrapt in
his reveries, lose sight of the gravity of the emergency that confronted
him.

So glaring a mismanagement of national affairs emboldened the clerical
order, whose members were now hurling with malignant zeal anathemas from
their pulpits, and were vociferously inciting superstitious congregations
to take up arms against the upholders of a much hated creed, to insult the
honor of their women folk, to plunder their property and harass and injure
their children. “What of the signs and prodigies,” they thundered before
countless assemblies, “that must needs usher in the advent of the Qá’im?
What of the Major and Minor Occultations? What of the cities of Jabúlqá
and Jabúlsá? How are we to explain the sayings of Ḥusayn-ibn-Rúh, and what
interpretation should be given to the authenticated traditions ascribed to
Ibn-i-Mihríyár? Where are the Men of the Unseen, who are to traverse, in a
week, the whole surface of the earth? What of the conquest of the East and
West which the Qá’im is to effect on His appearance? Where is the one-eyed
Anti-Christ and the ass on which he is to mount? What of Súfyán and his
dominion?” “Are we,” they noisily remonstrated, “are we to account as a
dead letter the indubitable, the unnumbered traditions of our holy Imáms,
or are we to extinguish with fire and sword this brazen heresy that has
dared to lift its head in our land?”

To these defamations, threats and protestations the learned and resolute
champions of a misrepresented Faith, following the example of their
Leader, opposed unhesitatingly treatises, commentaries and refutations,
assiduously written, cogent in their argument, replete with testimonies,
lucid, eloquent and convincing, affirming their belief in the Prophethood
of Muḥammad, in the legitimacy of the Imáms, in the spiritual sovereignty
of the Sáhibu’z-Zamán (the Lord of the Age), interpreting in a masterly
fashion the obscure, the designedly allegorical and abstruse traditions,
verses and prophecies in the Islamic holy Writ, and adducing, in support
of their contention, the meekness and apparent helplessness of the Imám
Ḥusayn who, despite his defeat, his discomfiture and ignominious
martyrdom, had been hailed by their antagonists as the very embodiment and
the matchless symbol of God’s all-conquering sovereignty and power.

This fierce, nation-wide controversy had assumed alarming proportions when
Muḥammad _Sh_áh finally succumbed to his illness, precipitating by his
death the downfall of his favorite and all-powerful minister, Ḥájí Mírzá
Aqásí, who, soon stripped of the treasures he had amassed, fell into
disgrace, was expelled from the capital, and sought refuge in Karbilá. The
seventeen year old Náṣiri’d-Dín Mírzá ascended the throne, leaving the
direction of affairs to the obdurate, the iron-hearted Amír-Nizám, Mírzá
Taqí _Kh_án, who, without consulting his fellow-ministers, decreed that
immediate and condign punishment be inflicted on the hapless Bábís.
Governors, magistrates and civil servants, throughout the provinces,
instigated by the monstrous campaign of vilification conducted by the
clergy, and prompted by their lust for pecuniary rewards, vied in their
respective spheres with each other in hounding and heaping indignities on
the adherents of an outlawed Faith. For the first time in the Faith’s
history a systematic campaign in which the civil and ecclesiastical powers
were banded together was being launched against it, a campaign that was to
culminate in the horrors experienced by Bahá’u’lláh in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of
Ṭihrán and His subsequent banishment to ‘Iráq. Government, clergy and
people arose, as one man, to assault and exterminate their common enemy.
In remote and isolated centers the scattered disciples of a persecuted
community were pitilessly struck down by the sword of their foes, while in
centers where large numbers had congregated measures were taken in
self-defense, which, misconstrued by a cunning and deceitful adversary,
served in their turn to inflame still further the hostility of the
authorities, and multiply the outrages perpetrated by the oppressor. In
the East at _Sh_ay_kh_ Tabarsí, in the south in Nayríz, in the west in
Zanján, and in the capital itself, massacres, upheavals, demonstrations,
engagements, sieges, acts of treachery proclaimed, in rapid succession,
the violence of the storm which had broken out, and exposed the
bankruptcy, and blackened the annals, of a proud yet degenerate people.

The audacity of Mullá Ḥusayn who, at the command of the Báb, had attired
his head with the green turban worn and sent to him by his Master, who had
hoisted the Black Standard, the unfurling of which would, according to the
Prophet Muḥammad, herald the advent of the vicegerent of God on earth, and
who, mounted on his steed, was marching at the head of two hundred and two
of his fellow-disciples to meet and lend his assistance to Quddús in the
Jazíriy-i-_Kh_adrá (Verdant Isle)—his audacity was the signal for a clash
the reverberations of which were to resound throughout the entire country.
The contest lasted no less than eleven months. Its theatre was for the
most part the forest of Mázindarán. Its heroes were the flower of the
Báb’s disciples. Its martyrs comprised no less than half of the Letters of
the Living, not excluding Quddús and Mullá Ḥusayn, respectively the last
and the first of these Letters. The directive force which however
unobtrusively sustained it was none other than that which flowed from the
mind of Bahá’u’lláh. It was caused by the unconcealed determination of the
dawn-breakers of a new Age to proclaim, fearlessly and befittingly, its
advent, and by a no less unyielding resolve, should persuasion prove a
failure, to resist and defend themselves against the onslaughts of
malicious and unreasoning assailants. It demonstrated beyond the shadow of
a doubt what the indomitable spirit of a band of three hundred and
thirteen untrained, unequipped yet God-intoxicated students, mostly
sedentary recluses of the college and cloister, could achieve when pitted
in self-defense against a trained army, well equipped, supported by the
masses of the people, blessed by the clergy, headed by a prince of the
royal blood, backed by the resources of the state, acting with the
enthusiastic approval of its sovereign, and animated by the unfailing
counsels of a resolute and all-powerful minister. Its outcome was a
heinous betrayal ending in an orgy of slaughter, staining with everlasting
infamy its perpetrators, investing its victims with a halo of imperishable
glory, and generating the very seeds which, in a later age, were to
blossom into world-wide administrative institutions, and which must, in
the fullness of time, yield their golden fruit in the shape of a
world-redeeming, earth-encircling Order.

It will be unnecessary to attempt even an abbreviated narrative of this
tragic episode, however grave its import, however much misconstrued by
adverse chroniclers and historians. A glance over its salient features
will suffice for the purpose of these pages. We note, as we conjure up the
events of this great tragedy, the fortitude, the intrepidity, the
discipline and the resourcefulness of its heroes, contrasting sharply with
the turpitude, the cowardice, the disorderliness and the inconstancy of
their opponents. We observe the sublime patience, the noble restraint
exercised by one of its principal actors, the lion-hearted Mullá Ḥusayn,
who persistently refused to unsheathe his sword until an armed and angry
multitude, uttering the foulest invectives, had gathered at a farsang’s
distance from Barfurú_sh_ to block his way, and had mortally struck down
seven of his innocent and staunch companions. We are filled with
admiration for the tenacity of faith of that same Mullá Ḥusayn,
demonstrated by his resolve to persevere in sounding the a_dh_án, while
besieged in the caravanserai of Sabsih-Maydán, though three of his
companions, who had successively ascended to the roof of the inn, with the
express purpose of performing that sacred rite, had been instantly killed
by the bullets of the enemy. We marvel at the spirit of renunciation that
prompted those sore pressed sufferers to contemptuously ignore the
possessions left behind by their fleeing enemy; that led them to discard
their own belongings, and content themselves with their steeds and swords;
that induced the father of Badí, one of that gallant company, to fling
unhesitatingly by the roadside the satchel, full of turquoises which he
had brought from his father’s mine in Ni_sh_ápúr; that led Mírzá
Muḥammad-Taqíy-i-Juvayní to cast away a sum equivalent in value in silver
and gold; and impelled those same companions to disdain, and refuse even
to touch, the costly furnishings and the coffers of gold and silver which
the demoralized and shame-laden Prince Mihdí-Qulí Mírzá, the commander of
the army of Mázindarán and a brother of Muḥammad _Sh_áh, had left behind
in his headlong flight from his camp. We cannot but esteem the passionate
sincerity with which Mullá Ḥusayn pleaded with the Prince, and the formal
assurance he gave him, disclaiming, in no uncertain terms, any intention
on his part or that of his fellow-disciples of usurping the authority of
the _Sh_áh or of subverting the foundations of his state. We cannot but
view with contempt the conduct of that arch-villain, the hysterical, the
cruel and overbearing Sa’ídu’l-‘Ulamá’, who, alarmed at the approach of
those same companions, flung, in a frenzy of excitement, and before an
immense crowd of men and women, his turban to the ground, tore open the
neck of his shirt, and, bewailing the plight into which Islám had fallen,
implored his congregation to fly to arms and cut down the approaching
band. We are struck with wonder as we contemplate the super-human prowess
of Mullá Ḥusayn which enabled him, notwithstanding his fragile frame and
trembling hand, to slay a treacherous foe who had taken shelter behind a
tree, by cleaving with a single stroke of his sword the tree, the man and
his musket in twain. We are stirred, moreover, by the scene of the arrival
of Bahá’u’lláh at the Fort, and the indefinable joy it imparted to Mullá
Ḥusayn, the reverent reception accorded Him by His fellow-disciples, His
inspection of the fortifications which they had hurriedly erected for
their protection, and the advice He gave them, which resulted in the
miraculous deliverance of Quddús, in his subsequent and close association
with the defenders of that Fort, and in his effective participation in the
exploits connected with its siege and eventual destruction. We are amazed
at the serenity and sagacity of that same Quddús, the confidence he
instilled on his arrival, the resourcefulness he displayed, the fervor and
gladness with which the besieged listened, at morn and at even-tide, to
the voice intoning the verses of his celebrated commentary on the Sád of
Samad, to which he had already, while in Sarí, devoted a treatise thrice
as voluminous as the Qur’án itself, and which he was now, despite the
tumultuary attacks of the enemy and the privations he and his companions
were enduring, further elucidating by adding to that interpretation as
many verses as he had previously written. We remember with thrilling
hearts that memorable encounter when, at the cry “Mount your steeds, O
heroes of God!” Mullá Ḥusayn, accompanied by two hundred and two of the
beleaguered and sorely-distressed companions, and preceded by Quddús,
emerged before daybreak from the Fort, and, raising the shout of “Yá
Sáhibu’z-Zamán!”, rushed at full charge towards the stronghold of the
Prince, and penetrated to his private apartments, only to find that, in
his consternation, he had thrown himself from a back window into the moat,
and escaped bare-footed, leaving his host confounded and routed. We see
relived in poignant memory that last day of Mullá Ḥusayn’s earthly life,
when, soon after midnight, having performed his ablutions, clothed himself
in new garments, and attired his head with the Báb’s turban, he mounted
his charger, ordered the gate of the Fort to be opened, rode out at the
head of three hundred and thirteen of his companions, shouting aloud “Yá
Sáhibu’z-Zamán!”, charged successively the seven barricades erected by the
enemy, captured every one of them, notwithstanding the bullets that were
raining upon him, swiftly dispatched their defenders, and had scattered
their forces when, in the ensuing tumult, his steed became suddenly
entangled in the rope of a tent, and before he could extricate himself he
was struck in the breast by a bullet which the cowardly Abbás-Qulí
_Kh_án-i-Laríjání had discharged, while lying in ambush in the branches of
a neighboring tree. We acclaim the magnificent courage that, in a
subsequent encounter, inspired nineteen of those stout-hearted companions
to plunge headlong into the camp of an enemy that consisted of no less
than two regiments of infantry and cavalry, and to cause such
consternation that one of their leaders, the same Abbás-Qulí _Kh_án,
falling from his horse, and leaving in his distress one of his boots
hanging from the stirrup, ran away, half-shod and bewildered, to the
Prince, and confessed the ignominious reverse he had suffered. Nor can we
fail to note the superb fortitude with which these heroic souls bore the
load of their severe trials; when their food was at first reduced to the
flesh of horses brought away from the deserted camp of the enemy; when
later they had to content themselves with such grass as they could snatch
from the fields whenever they obtained a respite from their besiegers;
when they were forced, at a later stage, to consume the bark of the trees
and the leather of their saddles, of their belts, of their scabbards and
of their shoes; when during eighteen days they had nothing but water of
which they drank a mouthful every morning; when the cannon fire of the
enemy compelled them to dig subterranean passages within the Fort, where,
dwelling amid mud and water, with garments rotting away with damp, they
had to subsist on ground up bones; and when, at last, oppressed by gnawing
hunger, they, as attested by a contemporary chronicler, were driven to
disinter the steed of their venerated leader, Mullá Ḥusayn, cut it into
pieces, grind into dust its bones, mix it with the putrified meat, and,
making it into a stew, avidly devour it.

Nor can reference be omitted to the abject treachery to which the impotent
and discredited Prince eventually resorted, and his violation of his
so-called irrevocable oath, inscribed and sealed by him on the margin of
the opening súrih of the Qur’án, whereby he, swearing by that holy Book,
undertook to set free all the defenders of the Fort, pledged his honor
that no man in his army or in the neighborhood would molest them, and that
he would himself, at his own expense, arrange for their safe departure to
their homes. And lastly, we call to remembrance, the final scene of that
sombre tragedy, when, as a result of the Prince’s violation of his sacred
engagement, a number of the betrayed companions of Quddús were assembled
in the camp of the enemy, were stripped of their possessions, and sold as
slaves, the rest being either killed by the spears and swords of the
officers, or torn asunder, or bound to trees and riddled with bullets, or
blown from the mouths of cannon and consigned to the flames, or else being
disemboweled and having their heads impaled on spears and lances. Quddús,
their beloved leader, was by yet another shameful act of the intimidated
Prince surrendered into the hands of the diabolical Sa’ídu’l-‘Ulamá’ who,
in his unquenchable hostility and aided by the mob whose passions he had
sedulously inflamed, stripped his victim of his garments, loaded him with
chains, paraded him through the streets of Barfurú_sh_, and incited the
scum of its female inhabitants to execrate and spit upon him, assail him
with knives and axes, mutilate his body, and throw the tattered fragments
into a fire.

This stirring episode, so glorious for the Faith, so blackening to the
reputation of its enemies—an episode which must be regarded as a rare
phenomenon in the history of modern times—was soon succeeded by a parallel
upheaval, strikingly similar in its essential features. The scene of
woeful tribulations was now shifted to the south, to the province of Fárs,
not far from the city where the dawning light of the Faith had broken.
Nayríz and its environs were made to sustain the impact of this fresh
ordeal in all its fury. The Fort of _Kh_ájih, in the vicinity of the
_Ch_inár-Su_kh_tih quarter of that hotly agitated village became the
storm-center of the new conflagration. The hero who towered above his
fellows, valiantly struggled, and fell a victim to its devouring flames
was that “unique and peerless figure of his age,” the far-famed Siyyid
Yaḥyáy-i-Darábí, better known as Vahíd. Foremost among his perfidious
adversaries, who kindled and fed the fire of this conflagration was the
base and fanatical governor of Nayríz, Zaynu’l-Ábidín _Kh_án, seconded by
‘Abdu’lláh _Kh_án, the _Sh_ujá’u’l-Mulk, and reinforced by Prince Fírúz
Mírzá, the governor of _Sh_íráz. Of a much briefer duration than the
Mázindarán upheaval, which lasted no less than eleven months, the
atrocities that marked its closing stage were no less devastating in their
consequences. Once again a handful of men, innocent, law-abiding,
peace-loving, yet high-spirited and indomitable, consisting partly, in
this case, of untrained lads and men of advanced age, were surprised,
challenged, encompassed and assaulted by the superior force of a cruel and
crafty enemy, an innumerable host of able-bodied men who, though
well-trained, adequately equipped and continually reinforced, were
impotent to coerce into submission, or subdue, the spirit of their
adversaries.

This fresh commotion originated in declarations of faith as fearless and
impassioned, and in demonstrations of religious enthusiasm almost as
vehement and dramatic, as those which had ushered in the Mázindarán
upheaval. It was instigated by a no less sustained and violent outburst of
uncompromising ecclesiastical hostility. It was accompanied by
corresponding manifestations of blind religious fanaticism. It was
provoked by similar acts of naked aggression on the part of both clergy
and people. It demonstrated afresh the same purpose, was animated
throughout by the same spirit, and rose to almost the same height of
superhuman heroism, of fortitude, courage, and renunciation. It revealed a
no less shrewdly calculated coordination of plans and efforts between the
civil and ecclesiastical authorities designed to challenge and overthrow a
common enemy. It was preceded by a similar categorical repudiation, on the
part of the Bábís, of any intention of interfering with the civil
jurisdiction of the realm, or of undermining the legitimate authority of
its sovereign. It provided a no less convincing testimony to the restraint
and forbearance of the victims, in the face of the ruthless and unprovoked
aggression of the oppressor. It exposed, as it moved toward its climax,
and in hardly less striking a manner, the cowardice, the want of
discipline and the degradation of a spiritually bankrupt foe. It was
marked, as it approached its conclusion, by a treachery as vile and
shameful. It ended in a massacre even more revolting in the horrors it
evoked and the miseries it engendered. It sealed the fate of Vahíd who, by
his green turban, the emblem of his proud lineage, was bound to a horse
and dragged ignominiously through the streets, after which his head was
cut off, was stuffed with straw, and sent as a trophy to the feasting
Prince in _Sh_íráz, while his body was abandoned to the mercy of the
infuriated women of Nayríz, who, intoxicated with barbarous joy by the
shouts of exultation raised by a triumphant enemy, danced, to the
accompaniment of drums and cymbals, around it. And finally, it brought in
its wake, with the aid of no less than five thousand men, specially
commissioned for this purpose, a general and fierce onslaught on the
defenseless Bábís, whose possessions were confiscated, whose houses were
destroyed, whose stronghold was burned to the ground, whose women and
children were captured, and some of whom, stripped almost naked, were
mounted on donkeys, mules and camels, and led through rows of heads hewn
from the lifeless bodies of their fathers, brothers, sons and husbands,
who previously had been either branded, or had their nails torn out, or
had been lashed to death, or had spikes hammered into their hands and
feet, or had incisions made in their noses through which strings were
passed, and by which they were led through the streets before the gaze of
an irate and derisive multitude.

This turmoil, so ravaging, so distressing, had hardly subsided when
another conflagration, even more devastating than the two previous
upheavals, was kindled in Zanján and its immediate surroundings.
Unprecedented in both its duration and in the number of those who were
swept away by its fury, this violent tempest that broke out in the west of
Persia, and in which Mullá Muḥammad-‘Alíy-i-Zanjání, surnamed Hujjat, one
of the ablest and most formidable champions of the Faith, together with no
less than eighteen hundred of his fellow-disciples, drained the cup of
martyrdom, defined more sharply than ever the unbridgeable gulf that
separated the torchbearers of the newborn Faith from the civil and
ecclesiastical exponents of a gravely shaken Order. The chief figures
mainly responsible for, and immediately concerned with, this ghastly
tragedy were the envious and hypocritical Amír Arslán _Kh_án, the
Majdu’d-Dawlih, a maternal uncle of Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, and his
associates, the Sadru’d-Dawliy-i-Iṣfáhání and Muḥammad _Kh_án, the
Amír-Tumán, who were assisted, on the one hand, by substantial military
reinforcements dispatched by order of the Amír-Nizám, and aided, on the
other, by the enthusiastic moral support of the entire ecclesiastical body
in Zanján. The spot that became the theatre of heroic exertions, the scene
of intense sufferings, and the target for furious and repeated assaults,
was the Fort of ‘Alí-Mardán _Kh_án, which at one time sheltered no less
than three thousand Bábís, including men, women and children, the tale of
whose agonies is unsurpassed in the annals of a whole century.

A brief reference to certain outstanding features of this mournful
episode, endowing the Faith, in its infancy, with measureless
potentialities, will suffice to reveal its distinctive character. The
pathetic scenes following upon the division of the inhabitants of Zanján
into two distinct camps, by the order of its governor—a decision
dramatically proclaimed by a crier, and which dissolved ties of worldly
interest and affection in favor of a mightier loyalty; the reiterated
exhortations addressed by Hujjat to the besieged to refrain from
aggression and acts of violence; his affirmation, as he recalled the
tragedy of Mázindarán, that their victory consisted solely in sacrificing
their all on the altar of the Cause of the Sáhibu’z-Zamán, and his
declaration of the unalterable intention of his companions to serve their
sovereign loyally and to be the well-wishers of his people; the astounding
intrepidity with which these same companions repelled the ferocious
onslaught launched by the Sadru’d-Dawlih, who eventually was obliged to
confess his abject failure, was reprimanded by the _Sh_áh and was degraded
from his rank; the contempt with which the occupants of the Fort met the
appeals of the crier seeking on behalf of an exasperated enemy to inveigle
them into renouncing their Cause and to beguile them by the generous
offers and promises of the sovereign; the resourcefulness and incredible
audacity of Zaynab, a village maiden, who, fired with an irrepressible
yearning to throw in her lot with the defenders of the Fort, disguised
herself in male attire, cut off her locks, girt a sword about her waist,
and, raising the cry of Yá Sáhibu’z-Zamán!” rushed headlong in pursuit of
the assailants, and who, disdainful of food and sleep, continued, during a
period of five months, in the thick of the turmoil, to animate the zeal
and to rush to the rescue of her men companions; the stupendous uproar
raised by the guards who manned the barricades as they shouted the five
invocations prescribed by the Báb, on the very night on which His
instructions had been received—an uproar which precipitated the death of a
few persons in the camp of the enemy, caused the dissolute officers to
drop instantly their wine-glasses to the ground and to overthrow the
gambling-tables, and hurry forth bare-footed, and induced others to run
half-dressed into the wilderness, or flee panic-stricken to the homes of
the ‘ulamás—these stand out as the high lights of this bloody contest. We
recall, likewise, the contrast between the disorder, the cursing, the
ribald laughter, the debauchery and shame that characterized the camp of
the enemy, and the atmosphere of reverent devotion that filled the Fort,
from which anthems of praise and hymns of joy were continually ascending.
Nor can we fail to note the appeal addressed by Hujjat and his chief
supporters to the _Sh_áh, repudiating the malicious assertions of their
foes, assuring him of their loyalty to him and his government, and of
their readiness to establish in his presence the soundness of their Cause;
the interception of these messages by the governor and the substitution by
him of forged letters loaded with abuse which he dispatched in their stead
to Ṭihrán; the enthusiastic support extended by the female occupants of
the Fort, the shouts of exultation which they raised, the eagerness with
which some of them, disguised in the garb of men, rushed to reinforce its
defences and to supplant their fallen brethren, while others ministered to
the sick, and carried on their shoulders skins of water for the wounded,
and still others, like the Carthaginian women of old, cut off their long
hair and bound the thick coils around the guns to reinforce them; the foul
treachery of the besiegers, who, on the very day they had drawn up and
written out an appeal for peace and, enclosing with it a sealed copy of
the Qur’án as a testimony of their pledge, had sent it to Hujjat, did not
shrink from throwing into a dungeon the members of the delegation,
including the children, which had been sent by him to treat with them,
from tearing out the beard of the venerated leader of that delegation, and
from savagely mutilating one of his fellow-disciples. We call to mind,
moreover, the magnanimity of Hujjat who, though afflicted with the sudden
loss of both his wife and child, continued with unruffled calm in
exhorting his companions to exercise forbearance and to resign themselves
to the will of God, until he himself succumbed to a wound he had received
from the enemy; the barbarous revenge which an adversary incomparably
superior in numbers and equipment wreaked upon its victims, giving them
over to a massacre and pillage, unexampled in scope and ferocity, in which
a rapacious army, a greedy populace and an unappeasable clergy freely
indulged; the exposure of the captives, of either sex, hungry and
ill-clad, during no less than fifteen days and nights, to the biting cold
of an exceptionally severe winter, while crowds of women danced merrily
around them, spat in their faces and insulted them with the foulest
invectives; the savage cruelty that condemned others to be blown from
guns, to be plunged into ice-cold water and lashed severely, to have their
skulls soaked in boiling oil, to be smeared with treacle and left to
perish in the snow; and finally, the insatiable hatred that impelled the
crafty governor to induce through his insinuations the seven year old son
of Hujjat to disclose the burial-place of his father, that drove him to
violate the grave, disinter the corpse, order it to be dragged to the
sound of drums and trumpets through the streets of Zanján, and be exposed,
for three days and three nights, to unspeakable injuries. These, and other
similar incidents connected with the epic story of the Zanján upheaval,
characterized by Lord Curzon as a “terrific siege and slaughter,” combine
to invest it with a sombre glory unsurpassed by any episode of a like
nature in the records of the Heroic Age of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.

To the tide of calamity which, during the concluding years of the Báb’s
ministry, was sweeping with such ominous fury the provinces of Persia,
whether in the East, in the South, or in the West, the heart and center of
the realm itself could not remain impervious. Four months before the Báb’s
martyrdom Ṭihrán in its turn was to participate, to a lesser degree and
under less dramatic circumstances, in the carnage that was besmirching the
face of the country. A tragedy was being enacted in that city which was to
prove but a prelude to the orgy of massacre which, after the Báb’s
execution, convulsed its inhabitants and sowed consternation as far as the
outlying provinces. It originated in the orders and was perpetrated under
the very eyes of the irate and murderous Amír-Nizám, supported by Maḥmúd
_Kh_án-i-Kalántar, and aided by a certain Ḥusayn, one of the ‘ulamás of
Ká_sh_án. The heroes of that tragedy were the Seven Martyrs of Ṭihrán, who
represented the more important classes among their countrymen, and who
deliberately refused to purchase life by that mere lip-denial which, under
the name of taqíyyih, _Sh_í’ah Islám had for centuries recognized as a
wholly justifiable and indeed commendable subterfuge in the hour of peril.
Neither the repeated and vigorous intercessions of highly placed members
of the professions to which these martyrs belonged, nor the considerable
sums which, in the case of one of them—the noble and serene Ḥájí Mírzá
Siyyid ‘Alí, the Báb’s maternal uncle—affluent merchants of _Sh_íráz and
Ṭihrán were eager to offer as ransom, nor the impassioned pleas of state
officials on behalf of another—the pious and highly esteemed dervish,
Mírzá Qurbán-‘Alí—nor even the personal intervention of the Amír-Nizám,
who endeavored to induce both of these brave men to recant, could succeed
in persuading any of the seven to forego the coveted laurels of martyrdom.
The defiant answers which they flung at their persecutors; the ecstatic
joy which seized them as they drew near the scene of their death; the
jubilant shouts they raised as they faced their executioner; the poignancy
of the verses which, in their last moments, some of them recited; the
appeals and challenges they addressed to the multitude of onlookers who
gazed with stupefaction upon them; the eagerness with which the last three
victims strove to precede one another in sealing their faith with their
blood; and lastly, the atrocities which a bloodthirsty foe degraded itself
by inflicting upon their dead bodies which lay unburied for three days and
three nights in the Sabzih-Maydán, during which time thousands of
so-called devout _Sh_í’ahs kicked their corpses, spat upon their faces,
pelted, cursed, derided, and heaped refuse upon them—these were the chief
features of the tragedy of the Seven Martyrs of Ṭihrán, a tragedy which
stands out as one of the grimmest scenes witnessed in the course of the
early unfoldment of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. Little wonder that the Báb,
bowed down by the weight of His accumulated sorrows in the Fortress of
_Ch_ihríq, should have acclaimed and glorified them, in the pages of a
lengthy eulogy which immortalized their fidelity to His Cause, as those
same “Seven Goats” who, according to Islamic tradition, should, on the Day
of Judgment, “walk in front” of the promised Qá’im, and whose death was to
precede the impending martyrdom of their true Shepherd.



Chapter IV: The Execution of the Báb


The waves of dire tribulation that violently battered at the Faith, and
eventually engulfed, in rapid succession, the ablest, the dearest and most
trusted disciples of the Báb, plunged Him, as already observed, into
unutterable sorrow. For no less than six months the Prisoner of _Ch_ihríq,
His chronicler has recorded, was unable to either write or dictate.
Crushed with grief by the evil tidings that came so fast upon Him, of the
endless trials that beset His ablest lieutenants, by the agonies suffered
by the besieged and the shameless betrayal of the survivors, by the woeful
afflictions endured by the captives and the abominable butchery of men,
women and children, as well as the foul indignities heaped on their
corpses, He, for nine days, His amanuensis has affirmed, refused to meet
any of His friends, and was reluctant to touch the meat and drink that was
offered Him. Tears rained continually from His eyes, and profuse
expressions of anguish poured forth from His wounded heart, as He
languished, for no less than five months, solitary and disconsolate, in
His prison.

The pillars of His infant Faith had, for the most part, been hurled down
at the first onset of the hurricane that had been loosed upon it. Quddús,
immortalized by Him as Ismu’lláhi’l-Á_kh_ir (the Last Name of God); on
whom Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet of Kullu’t-Tá’am later conferred the sublime
appellation of Nuqṭiy-i-U_kh_rá (the Last Point); whom He elevated, in
another Tablet, to a rank second to none except that of the Herald of His
Revelation; whom He identifies, in still another Tablet, with one of the
“Messengers charged with imposture” mentioned in the Qur’án; whom the
Persian Bayán extolled as that fellow-pilgrim round whom mirrors to the
number of eight Vahíds revolve; on whose “detachment and the sincerity of
whose devotion to God’s will God prideth Himself amidst the Concourse on
high;” whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá designated as the “Moon of Guidance;” and whose
appearance the Revelation of St. John the Divine anticipated as one of the
two “Witnesses” into whom, ere the “second woe is past,” the “spirit of
life from God” must enter—such a man had, in the full bloom of his youth,
suffered, in the Sabzih-Maydán of Barfurú_sh_, a death which even Jesus
Christ, as attested by Bahá’u’lláh, had not faced in the hour of His
greatest agony. Mullá Ḥusayn, the first Letter of the Living, surnamed the
Bábu’l-Báb (the Gate of the Gate); designated as the “Primal Mirror;” on
whom eulogies, prayers and visiting Tablets of a number equivalent to
thrice the volume of the Qur’án had been lavished by the pen of the Báb;
referred to in these eulogies as “beloved of My Heart;” the dust of whose
grave, that same Pen had declared, was so potent as to cheer the sorrowful
and heal the sick; whom “the creatures, raised in the beginning and in the
end” of the Bábí Dispensation, envy, and will continue to envy till the
“Day of Judgment;” whom the Kitáb-i-Íqán acclaimed as the one but for whom
“God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor
ascended the throne of eternal glory;” to whom Siyyid Kázim had paid such
tribute that his disciples suspected that the recipient of such praise
might well be the promised One Himself—such a one had likewise, in the
prime of his manhood, died a martyr’s death at Tabarsí. Vahíd, pronounced
in the Kitáb-i-Íqán to be the “unique and peerless figure of his age,” a
man of immense erudition and the most preeminent figure to enlist under
the banner of the new Faith, to whose “talents and saintliness,” to whose
“high attainments in the realm of science and philosophy” the Báb had
testified in His Dalá’il-i-Sab‘ih (Seven Proofs), had already, under
similar circumstances, been swept into the maelstrom of another upheaval,
and was soon to quaff in his turn the cup drained by the heroic martyrs of
Mázindarán. Hujjat, another champion of conspicuous audacity, of
unsubduable will, of remarkable originality and vehement zeal, was being,
swiftly and inevitably, drawn into the fiery furnace whose flames had
already enveloped Zanján and its environs. The Báb’s maternal uncle, the
only father He had known since His childhood, His shield and support and
the trusted guardian of both His mother and His wife, had, moreover, been
sundered from Him by the axe of the executioner in Ṭihrán. No less than
half of His chosen disciples, the Letters of the Living, had already
preceded Him in the field of martyrdom. Táhirih, though still alive, was
courageously pursuing a course that was to lead her inevitably to her
doom.

A fast ebbing life, so crowded with the accumulated anxieties,
disappointments, treacheries and sorrows of a tragic ministry, now moved
swiftly towards its climax. The most turbulent period of the Heroic Age of
the new Dispensation was rapidly attaining its culmination. The cup of
bitter woes which the Herald of that Dispensation had tasted was now full
to overflowing. Indeed, He Himself had already foreshadowed His own
approaching death. In the Kitáb-i-Panj-_Sh_a’n, one of His last works, He
had alluded to the fact that the sixth Naw-Rúz after the declaration of
His mission would be the last He was destined to celebrate on earth. In
His interpretation of the letter Há, He had voiced His craving for
martyrdom, while in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá He had actually prophesied the
inevitability of such a consummation of His glorious career. Forty days
before His final departure from _Ch_ihríq He had even collected all the
documents in His possession, and placed them, together with His pen-case,
His seals and His rings, in the hands of Mullá Báqir, a Letter of the
Living, whom He instructed to entrust them to Mullá
‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Qazvíní, surnamed Mírzá Aḥmad, who was to deliver them to
Bahá’u’lláh in Ṭihrán.

While the convulsions of Mázindarán and Nayríz were pursuing their bloody
course the Grand Vizir of Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, anxiously pondering the
significance of these dire happenings, and apprehensive of their
repercussions on his countrymen, his government and his sovereign, was
feverishly revolving in his mind that fateful decision which was not only
destined to leave its indelible imprint on the fortunes of his country,
but was to be fraught with such incalculable consequences for the
destinies of the whole of mankind. The repressive measures taken against
the followers of the Báb, he was by now fully convinced, had but served to
inflame their zeal, steel their resolution and confirm their loyalty to
their persecuted Faith. The Báb’s isolation and captivity had produced the
opposite effect to that which the Amír-Nizám had confidently anticipated.
Gravely perturbed, he bitterly condemned the disastrous leniency of his
predecessor, Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, which had brought matters to such a pass. A
more drastic and still more exemplary punishment, he felt, must now be
administered to what he regarded as an abomination of heresy which was
polluting the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of the realm. Nothing
short, he believed, of the extinction of the life of Him Who was the
fountain-head of so odious a doctrine and the driving force behind so
dynamic a movement could stem the tide that had wrought such havoc
throughout the land.

The siege of Zanján was still in progress when he, dispensing with an
explicit order from his sovereign, and acting independently of his
counsellors and fellow-ministers, dispatched his order to Prince Ḥamzih
Mírzá, the Hi_sh_matu’d-Dawlih, the governor of Á_dh_irbayján, instructing
him to execute the Báb. Fearing lest the infliction of such condign
punishment in the capital of the realm would set in motion forces he might
be powerless to control, he ordered that his Captive be taken to Tabríz,
and there be done to death. Confronted with a flat refusal by the
indignant Prince to perform what he regarded as a flagitious crime, the
Amír-Nizám commissioned his own brother, Mírzá Ḥasan _Kh_án, to execute
his orders. The usual formalities designed to secure the necessary
authorization from the leading mujtahids of Tabríz were hastily and easily
completed. Neither Mullá Muḥammad-i-Mamaqání, however, who had penned the
Báb’s death-warrant on the very day of His examination in Tabríz, nor Ḥájí
Mírzá Báqir, nor Mullá Murtadá-Qulí, to whose houses their Victim was
ignominiously led by the farrá_sh_-bá_sh_í, by order of the Grand Vizir,
condescended to meet face to face their dreaded Opponent.

Immediately before and soon after this humiliating treatment meted out to
the Báb two highly significant incidents occurred, incidents that cast an
illuminating light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the opening
phase of His martyrdom. The farrá_sh_-bá_sh_í had abruptly interrupted the
last conversation which the Báb was confidentially having in one of the
rooms of the barracks with His amanuensis Siyyid Ḥusayn, and was drawing
the latter aside, and severely rebuking him, when he was thus addressed by
his Prisoner: “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish
to say can any earthly power silence Me. Though all the world be armed
against Me, yet shall it be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the
last word, My intention.” To the Christian Sám _Kh_án—the colonel of the
Armenian regiment ordered to carry out the execution—who, seized with fear
lest his act should provoke the wrath of God, had begged to be released
from the duty imposed upon him, the Báb gave the following assurance:
“Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty
is surely able to relieve you of your perplexity.”

Sám _Kh_án accordingly set out to discharge his duty. A spike was driven
into a pillar which separated two rooms of the barracks facing the square.
Two ropes were fastened to it from which the Báb and one of his disciples,
the youthful and devout Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí-i-Zunúzí, surnamed Anís, who
had previously flung himself at the feet of his Master and implored that
under no circumstances he be sent away from Him, were separately
suspended. The firing squad ranged itself in three files, each of two
hundred and fifty men. Each file in turn opened fire until the whole
detachment had discharged its bullets. So dense was the smoke from the
seven hundred and fifty rifles that the sky was darkened. As soon as the
smoke had cleared away the astounded multitude of about ten thousand
souls, who had crowded onto the roof of the barracks, as well as the tops
of the adjoining houses, beheld a scene which their eyes could scarcely
believe.

The Báb had vanished from their sight! Only his companion remained, alive
and unscathed, standing beside the wall on which they had been suspended.
The ropes by which they had been hung alone were severed. “The
Siyyid-i-Báb has gone from our sight!” cried out the bewildered
spectators. A frenzied search immediately ensued. He was found, unhurt and
unruffled, in the very room He had occupied the night before, engaged in
completing His interrupted conversation with His amanuensis. “I have
finished My conversation with Siyyid Ḥusayn” were the words with which the
Prisoner, so providentially preserved, greeted the appearance of the
farrá_sh_-bá_sh_í, “Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention.”
Recalling the bold assertion his Prisoner had previously made, and shaken
by so stunning a revelation, the farrá_sh_-bá_sh_í quitted instantly the
scene, and resigned his post.

Sám _Kh_án, likewise, remembering, with feelings of awe and wonder, the
reassuring words addressed to him by the Báb, ordered his men to leave the
barracks immediately, and swore, as he left the courtyard, never again,
even at the cost of his life, to repeat that act. Áqá Ján-i-_Kh_amsíh,
colonel of the body-guard, volunteered to replace him. On the same wall
and in the same manner the Báb and His companion were again suspended,
while the new regiment formed in line and opened fire upon them. This
time, however, their breasts were riddled with bullets, and their bodies
completely dissected, with the exception of their faces which were but
little marred. “O wayward generation!” were the last words of the Báb to
the gazing multitude, as the regiment prepared to fire its volley, “Had
you believed in Me every one of you would have followed the example of
this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and would have willingly
sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have
recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you.”

Nor was this all. The very moment the shots were fired a gale of
exceptional violence arose and swept over the city. From noon till night a
whirlwind of dust obscured the light of the sun, and blinded the eyes of
the people. In _Sh_íráz an “earthquake,” foreshadowed in no less weighty a
Book than the Revelation of St. John, occurred in 1268 A.H. which threw
the whole city into turmoil and wrought havoc amongst its people, a havoc
that was greatly aggravated by the outbreak of cholera, by famine and
other afflictions. In that same year no less than two hundred and fifty of
the firing squad, that had replaced Sám _Kh_án’s regiment, met their
death, together with their officers, in a terrible earthquake, while the
remaining five hundred suffered, three years later, as a punishment for
their mutiny, the same fate as that which their hands had inflicted upon
the Báb. To insure that none of them had survived, they were riddled with
a second volley, after which their bodies, pierced with spears and lances,
were exposed to the gaze of the people of Tabríz. The prime instigator of
the Báb’s death, the implacable Amír-Nizám, together with his brother, his
chief accomplice, met their death within two years of that savage act.

On the evening of the very day of the Báb’s execution, which fell on the
ninth of July 1850 (28th of _Sh_a’bán 1266 A.H.), during the thirty-first
year of His age and the seventh of His ministry, the mangled bodies were
transferred from the courtyard of the barracks to the edge of the moat
outside the gate of the city. Four companies, each consisting of ten
sentinels, were ordered to keep watch in turn over them. On the following
morning the Russian Consul in Tabríz visited the spot, and ordered the
artist who had accompanied him to make a drawing of the remains as they
lay beside the moat. In the middle of the following night a follower of
the Báb, Ḥájí Sulaymán _Kh_án, succeeded, through the instrumentality of a
certain Ḥájí Alláh-Yár, in removing the bodies to the silk factory owned
by one of the believers of Milán, and laid them, the next day, in a
specially made wooden casket, which he later transferred to a place of
safety. Meanwhile the mullás were boastfully proclaiming from the pulpits
that, whereas the holy body of the Immaculate Imám would be preserved from
beasts of prey and from all creeping things, this man’s body had been
devoured by wild animals. No sooner had the news of the transfer of the
remains of the Báb and of His fellow-sufferer been communicated to
Bahá’u’lláh than He ordered that same Sulaymán _Kh_án to bring them to
Ṭihrán, where they were taken to the Imám-Zádih-Ḥasan, from whence they
were removed to different places, until the time when, in pursuance of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s instructions, they were transferred to the Holy Land, and
were permanently and ceremoniously laid to rest by Him in a specially
erected mausoleum on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.

Thus ended a life which posterity will recognize as standing at the
confluence of two universal prophetic cycles, the Adamic Cycle stretching
back as far as the first dawnings of the world’s recorded religious
history and the Bahá’í Cycle destined to propel itself across the unborn
reaches of time for a period of no less than five thousand centuries. The
apotheosis in which such a life attained its consummation marks, as
already observed, the culmination of the most heroic phase of the Heroic
Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation. It can, moreover, be regarded in no other
light except as the most dramatic, the most tragic event transpiring
within the entire range of the first Bahá’í century. Indeed it can be
rightly acclaimed as unparalleled in the annals of the lives of all the
Founders of the world’s existing religious systems.

So momentous an event could hardly fail to arouse widespread and keen
interest even beyond the confines of the land in which it had occurred.
“C’est un des plus magnifiques exemples de courage qu’il ait été donné à
l’humanité de contempler,” is the testimony recorded by a Christian
scholar and government official, who had lived in Persia and had
familiarized himself with the life and teachings of the Báb, “et c’est
aussi une admirable preuve de l’amour que notre hèros portait à ses
concitoyens. Il s’est sacrifié pour l’humanité: pour elle il a donné son
corps et son âme, pour elle il a subi les privations, les affronts, les
injures, la torture et le martyre. Il a scellé de son sang le pacte de la
fraternité universelle, et comme Jesùs il a payé de sa vie l’annonce du
regné de la concorde, de l’équité et de l’amour du prochain.” “Un fait
étrange, unique dans les annales de l’humanité,” is a further testimony
from the pen of that same scholar commenting on the circumstances
attending the Báb’s martyrdom. “A veritable miracle,” is the pronouncement
made by a noted French Orientalist. “A true God-man,” is the verdict of a
famous British traveler and writer. “The finest product of his country,”
is the tribute paid Him by a noted French publicist. “That Jesus of the
age ... a prophet, and more than a prophet,” is the judgment passed by a
distinguished English divine. “The most important religious movement since
the foundation of Christianity,” is the possibility that was envisaged for
the Faith the Báb had established by that far-famed Oxford scholar, the
late Master of Balliol.

“Many persons from all parts of the world,” is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s written
assertion, “set out for Persia and began to investigate wholeheartedly the
matter.” The Czar of Russia, a contemporary chronicler has written, had
even, shortly before the Báb’s martyrdom, instructed the Russian Consul in
Tabríz to fully inquire into, and report the circumstances of so startling
a Movement, a commission that could not be carried out in view of the
Báb’s execution. In countries as remote as those of Western Europe an
interest no less profound was kindled, and spread with great rapidity to
literary, artistic, diplomatic and intellectual circles. “All Europe,”
attests the above-mentioned French publicist, “was stirred to pity and
indignation... Among the littèrateurs of my generation, in the Paris of
1890, the martyrdom of the Báb was still as fresh a topic as had been the
first news of His death. We wrote poems about Him. Sarah Bernhardt
entreated Catulle Mendès for a play on the theme of this historic
tragedy.” A Russian poetess, member of the Philosophic, Oriental and
Bibliological Societies of St. Petersburg, published in 1903 a drama
entitled “The Báb,” which a year later was played in one of the principal
theatres of that city, was subsequently given publicity in London, was
translated into French in Paris, and into German by the poet Fiedler, was
presented again, soon after the Russian Revolution, in the Folk Theatre in
Leningrad, and succeeded in arousing the genuine sympathy and interest of
the renowned Tolstoy, whose eulogy of the poem was later published in the
Russian press.

It would indeed be no exaggeration to say that nowhere in the whole
compass of the world’s religious literature, except in the Gospels, do we
find any record relating to the death of any of the religion-founders of
the past comparable to the martyrdom suffered by the Prophet of _Sh_íráz.
So strange, so inexplicable a phenomenon, attested by eye-witnesses,
corroborated by men of recognized standing, and acknowledged by government
as well as unofficial historians among the people who had sworn undying
hostility to the Bábí Faith, may be truly regarded as the most marvelous
manifestation of the unique potentialities with which a Dispensation
promised by all the Dispensations of the past had been endowed. The
passion of Jesus Christ, and indeed His whole public ministry, alone offer
a parallel to the Mission and death of the Báb, a parallel which no
student of comparative religion can fail to perceive or ignore. In the
youthfulness and meekness of the Inaugurator of the Bábí Dispensation; in
the extreme brevity and turbulence of His public ministry; in the dramatic
swiftness with which that ministry moved towards its climax; in the
apostolic order which He instituted, and the primacy which He conferred on
one of its members; in the boldness of His challenge to the time-honored
conventions, rites and laws which had been woven into the fabric of the
religion He Himself had been born into; in the rôle which an officially
recognized and firmly entrenched religious hierarchy played as chief
instigator of the outrages which He was made to suffer; in the indignities
heaped upon Him; in the suddenness of His arrest; in the interrogation to
which He was subjected; in the derision poured, and the scourging
inflicted, upon Him; in the public affront He sustained; and, finally, in
His ignominious suspension before the gaze of a hostile multitude—in all
these we cannot fail to discern a remarkable similarity to the
distinguishing features of the career of Jesus Christ.

It should be remembered, however, that apart from the miracle associated
with the Báb’s execution, He, unlike the Founder of the Christian
religion, is not only to be regarded as the independent Author of a
divinely revealed Dispensation, but must also be recognized as the Herald
of a new Era and the Inaugurator of a great universal prophetic cycle. Nor
should the important fact be overlooked that, whereas the chief
adversaries of Jesus Christ, in His lifetime, were the Jewish rabbis and
their associates, the forces arrayed against the Báb represented the
combined civil and ecclesiastical powers of Persia, which, from the moment
of His declaration to the hour of His death, persisted, unitedly and by
every means at their disposal, in conspiring against the upholders and in
vilifying the tenets of His Revelation.

The Báb, acclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh as the “Essence of Essences,” the “Sea
of Seas,” the “Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and
Messengers revolve,” “from Whom God hath caused to proceed the knowledge
of all that was and shall be,” Whose “rank excelleth that of all the
Prophets,” and Whose “Revelation transcendeth the comprehension and
understanding of all their chosen ones,” had delivered His Message and
discharged His mission. He Who was, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the
“Morn of Truth” and “Harbinger of the Most Great Light,” Whose advent at
once signalized the termination of the “Prophetic Cycle” and the inception
of the “Cycle of Fulfillment,” had simultaneously through His Revelation
banished the shades of night that had descended upon His country, and
proclaimed the impending rise of that Incomparable Orb Whose radiance was
to envelop the whole of mankind. He, as affirmed by Himself, “the Primal
Point from which have been generated all created things,” “one of the
sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God,” the “Mystic Fane,” the
“Great Announcement,” the “Flame of that supernal Light that glowed upon
Sinai,” the “Remembrance of God” concerning Whom “a separate Covenant hath
been established with each and every Prophet” had, through His advent, at
once fulfilled the promise of all ages and ushered in the consummation of
all Revelations. He the “Qá’im” (He Who ariseth) promised to the
_Sh_í’ahs, the “Mihdí” (One Who is guided) awaited by the Sunnís, the
“Return of John the Baptist” expected by the Christians, the
“U_sh_ídar-Máh” referred to in the Zoroastrian scriptures, the “Return of
Elijah” anticipated by the Jews, Whose Revelation was to show forth “the
signs and tokens of all the Prophets”, Who was to “manifest the perfection
of Moses, the radiance of Jesus and the patience of Job” had appeared,
proclaimed His Cause, been mercilessly persecuted and died gloriously. The
“Second Woe,” spoken of in the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine, had, at
long last, appeared, and the first of the two “Messengers,” Whose
appearance had been prophesied in the Qur’án, had been sent down. The
first “Trumpet-Blast”, destined to smite the earth with extermination,
announced in the latter Book, had finally been sounded. “The Inevitable,”
“The Catastrophe,” “The Resurrection,” “The Earthquake of the Last Hour,”
foretold by that same Book, had all come to pass. The “clear tokens” had
been “sent down,” and the “Spirit” had “breathed,” and the “souls” had
“waked up,” and the “heaven” had been “cleft,” and the “angels” had
“ranged in order,” and the “stars” had been “blotted out,” and the “earth”
had “cast forth her burden,” and “Paradise” had been “brought near,” and
“hell” had been “made to blaze,” and the “Book” had been “set,” and the
“Bridge” had been “laid out,” and the “Balance” had been “set up,” and the
“mountains scattered in dust.” The “cleansing of the Sanctuary,”
prophesied by Daniel and confirmed by Jesus Christ in His reference to
“the abomination of desolation,” had been accomplished. The “day whose
length shall be a thousand years,” foretold by the Apostle of God in His
Book, had terminated. The “forty and two months,” during which the “Holy
City,” as predicted by St. John the Divine, would be trodden under foot,
had elapsed. The “time of the end” had been ushered in, and the first of
the “two Witnesses” into Whom, “after three days and a half the Spirit of
Life from God” would enter, had arisen and had “ascended up to heaven in a
cloud.” The “remaining twenty and five letters to be made manifest,”
according to Islamic tradition, out of the “twenty and seven letters” of
which Knowledge has been declared to consist, had been revealed. The “Man
Child,” mentioned in the Book of Revelation, destined to “rule all nations
with a rod of iron,” had released, through His coming, the creative
energies which, reinforced by the effusions of a swiftly succeeding and
infinitely mightier Revelation, were to instill into the entire human race
the capacity to achieve its organic unification, attain maturity and
thereby reach the final stage in its age-long evolution. The clarion-call
addressed to the “concourse of kings and of the sons of kings,” marking
the inception of a process which, accelerated by Bahá’u’lláh’s subsequent
warnings to the entire company of the monarchs of East and West, was to
produce so widespread a revolution in the fortunes of royalty, had been
raised in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá. The “Order,” whose foundation the Promised
One was to establish in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and the features of which the
Center of the Covenant was to delineate in His Testament, and whose
administrative framework the entire body of His followers are now
erecting, had been categorically announced in the Persian Bayán. The laws
which were designed, on the one hand, to abolish at a stroke the
privileges and ceremonials, the ordinances and institutions of a
superannuated Dispensation, and to bridge, on the other, the gap between
an obsolete system and the institutions of a world-encompassing Order
destined to supersede it, had been clearly formulated and proclaimed. The
Covenant which, despite the determined assaults launched against it,
succeeded, unlike all previous Dispensations, in preserving the integrity
of the Faith of its Author, and in paving the way for the advent of the
One Who was to be its Center and Object, had been firmly and irrevocably
established. The light which, throughout successive periods, was to
propagate itself gradually from its cradle as far as Vancouver in the West
and the China Sea in the East, and to diffuse its radiance as far as
Iceland in the North and the Tasman Sea in the South, had broken. The
forces of darkness, at first confined to the concerted hostility of the
civil and ecclesiastical powers of _Sh_í’ah Persia, gathering momentum, at
a later stage, through the avowed and persistent opposition of the Caliph
of Islám and the Sunní hierarchy in Turkey, and destined to culminate in
the fierce antagonism of the sacerdotal orders associated with other and
still more powerful religious systems, had launched their initial assault.
The nucleus of the divinely ordained, world-embracing Community—a
Community whose infant strength had already plucked asunder the fetters of
_Sh_í’ah orthodoxy, and which was, with every expansion in the range of
its fellowship, to seek and obtain a wider and still more significant
recognition of its claims to be the world religion of the future, had been
formed and was slowly crystallizing. And, lastly, the seed, endowed by the
Hand of Omnipotence with such vast potentialities, though rudely trampled
under foot and seemingly perished from the face of the earth, had, through
this very process, been vouchsafed the opportunity to germinate and
remanifest itself, in the shape of a still more compelling Revelation—a
Revelation destined to blossom forth, in a later period into the
flourishing institutions of a world-wide administrative System, and to
ripen, in the Golden Age as yet unborn, into mighty agencies functioning
in consonance with the principles of a world-unifying, world-redeeming
Order.



Chapter V: The Attempt on the Life of the Sháh and Its Consequences


The Faith that had stirred a whole nation to its depth, for whose sake
thousands of precious and heroic souls had been immolated and on whose
altar He Who had been its Author had sacrificed His life, was now being
subjected to the strain and stress of yet another crisis of extreme
violence and far-reaching consequences. It was one of those periodic
crises which, occurring throughout a whole century, succeeded in
momentarily eclipsing the splendor of the Faith and in almost disrupting
the structure of its organic institutions. Invariably sudden, often
unexpected, seemingly fatal to both its spirit and its life, these
inevitable manifestations of the mysterious evolution of a world Religion,
intensely alive, challenging in its claims, revolutionizing in its tenets,
struggling against overwhelming odds, have either been externally
precipitated by the malice of its avowed antagonists or internally
provoked by the unwisdom of its friends, the apostasy of its supporters,
or the defection of some of the most highly placed amongst the kith and
kin of its founders. No matter how disconcerting to the great mass of its
loyal adherents, however much trumpeted by its adversaries as symptoms of
its decline and impending dissolution, these admitted setbacks and
reverses, from which it has time and again so tragically suffered, have,
as we look back upon them, failed to arrest its march or impair its unity.
Heavy indeed has been the toll which they exacted, unspeakable the agonies
they engendered, widespread and paralyzing for a time the consternation
they provoked. Yet, viewed in their proper perspective, each of them can
be confidently pronounced a blessing in disguise, affording a providential
means for the release of a fresh outpouring of celestial strength, a
miraculous escape from imminent and still more dreadful calamities, an
instrument for the fulfillment of age-old prophecies, an agency for the
purification and revitalization of the life of the community, an impetus
for the enlargement of its limits and the propagation of its influence,
and a compelling evidence of the indestructibility of its cohesive
strength. Sometimes at the height of the crisis itself, more often when
the crisis was past, the significance of these trials has manifested
itself to men’s eyes, and the necessity of such experiences has been
demonstrated, far and wide and beyond the shadow of a doubt, to both
friend and foe. Seldom, if indeed at any time, has the mystery underlying
these portentous, God-sent upheavals remained undisclosed, or the profound
purpose and meaning of their occurrence been left hidden from the minds of
men.

Such a severe ordeal the Faith of the Báb, still in the earliest stages of
its infancy, was now beginning to experience. Maligned and hounded from
the moment it was born, deprived in its earliest days of the sustaining
strength of the majority of its leading supporters, stunned by the tragic
and sudden removal of its Founder, reeling under the cruel blows it had
successively sustained in Mázindarán, Ṭihrán, Nayríz and Zanján, a sorely
persecuted Faith was about to be subjected through the shameful act of a
fanatical and irresponsible Bábí, to a humiliation such as it had never
before known. To the trials it had undergone was now added the oppressive
load of a fresh calamity, unprecedented in its gravity, disgraceful in its
character, and devastating in its immediate consequences.

Obsessed by the bitter tragedy of the martyrdom of his beloved Master,
driven by a frenzy of despair to avenge that odious deed, and believing
the author and instigator of that crime to be none other than the _Sh_áh
himself, a certain Ṣádiq-i-Tabrízí, an assistant in a confectioner’s shop
in Ṭihrán, proceeded on an August day (August 15, 1852), together with his
accomplice, an equally obscure youth named Fatḥu’lláh-i-Qumí, to Níyávarán
where the imperial army had encamped and the sovereign was in residence,
and there, waiting by the roadside, in the guise of an innocent bystander,
fired a round of shot from his pistol at the _Sh_áh, shortly after the
latter had emerged on horseback from the palace grounds for his morning
promenade. The weapon the assailant employed demonstrated beyond the
shadow of a doubt the folly of that half-demented youth, and clearly
indicated that no man of sound judgment could have possibly instigated so
senseless an act.

The whole of Níyávarán where the imperial court and troops had congregated
was, as a result of this assault, plunged into an unimaginable tumult. The
ministers of the state, headed by Mírzá Áqá _Kh_án-i-Núrí, the
I’timádu’d-Dawlih, the successor of the Amír-Nizám, rushed horror-stricken
to the side of their wounded sovereign. The fanfare of the trumpets, the
rolling of the drums and the shrill piping of the fifes summoned the hosts
of His Imperial Majesty on all sides. The _Sh_áh’s attendants, some on
horseback, others on foot, poured into the palace grounds. Pandemonium
reigned in which every one issued orders, none listened, none obeyed, nor
understood anything. Ardi_sh_ír Mírzá, the governor of Ṭihrán, having in
the meantime already ordered his troops to patrol the deserted streets of
the capital, barred the gates of the citadel as well as of the city,
charged his batteries and feverishly dispatched a messenger to ascertain
the veracity of the wild rumors that were circulating amongst the
populace, and to ask for special instructions.

No sooner had this act been perpetrated than its shadow fell across the
entire body of the Bábí community. A storm of public horror, disgust and
resentment, heightened by the implacable hostility of the mother of the
youthful sovereign, swept the nation, casting aside all possibility of
even the most elementary inquiry into the origins and the instigators of
the attempt. A sign, a whisper, was sufficient to implicate the innocent
and loose upon him the most abominable afflictions. An army of
foes—ecclesiastics, state officials and people, united in relentless hate,
and watching for an opportunity to discredit and annihilate a dreaded
adversary—had, at long last, been afforded the pretext for which it was
longing. Now it could achieve its malevolent purpose. Though the Faith
had, from its inception, disclaimed any intention of usurping the rights
and prerogatives of the state; though its exponents and disciples had
sedulously avoided any act that might arouse the slightest suspicion of a
desire to wage a holy war, or to evince an aggressive attitude, yet its
enemies, deliberately ignoring the numerous evidences of the marked
restraint exercised by the followers of a persecuted religion, proved
themselves capable of inflicting atrocities as barbarous as those which
will ever remain associated with the bloody episodes of Mázindarán, Nayríz
and Zanján. To what depths of infamy and cruelty would not this same enemy
be willing to descend now that an act so treasonable, so audacious had
been committed? What accusations would it not be prompted to level at, and
what treatment would it not mete out to, those who, however unjustifiably,
could be associated with so heinous a crime against one who, in his
person, combined the chief magistracy of the realm and the trusteeship of
the Hidden Imám?

The reign of terror which ensued was revolting beyond description. The
spirit of revenge that animated those who had unleashed its horrors seemed
insatiable. Its repercussions echoed as far as the press of Europe,
branding with infamy its bloodthirsty participants. The Grand Vizir,
wishing to reduce the chances of blood revenge, divided the work of
executing those condemned to death among the princes and nobles, his
principal fellow-ministers, the generals and officers of the Court, the
representatives of the sacerdotal and merchant classes, the artillery and
the infantry. Even the _Sh_áh himself had his allotted victim, though, to
save the dignity of the crown, he delegated the steward of his household
to fire the fatal shot on his behalf. Ardi_sh_ír Mírzá, on his part,
picketed the gates of the capital, and ordered the guards to scrutinize
the faces of all those who sought to leave it. Summoning to his presence
the kalantar, the darú_gh_ih and the kad_kh_udás he bade them search out
and arrest every one suspected of being a Bábí. A youth named Abbás, a
former servant of a well-known adherent of the Faith, was, on threat of
inhuman torture, induced to walk the streets of Ṭihrán, and point out
every one he recognized as being a Bábí. He was even coerced into
denouncing any individual whom he thought would be willing and able to pay
a heavy bribe to secure his freedom.

The first to suffer on that calamitous day was the ill-fated Ṣádiq, who
was instantly slain on the scene of his attempted crime. His body was tied
to the tail of a mule and dragged all the way to Ṭihrán, where it was hewn
into two halves, each of which was suspended and exposed to the public
view, while the Ṭihránís were invited by the city authorities to mount the
ramparts and gaze upon the mutilated corpse. Molten lead was poured down
the throat of his accomplice, after having subjected him to the torture of
red-hot pincers and limb-rending screws. A comrade of his, Ḥájí Qásim, was
stripped of his clothes, lighted candles were thrust into holes made in
his flesh, and was paraded before the multitude who shouted and cursed
him. Others had their eyes gouged out, were sawn asunder, strangled, blown
from the mouths of cannons, chopped in pieces, hewn apart with hatchets
and maces, shod with horse shoes, bayoneted and stoned. Torture-mongers
vied with each other in running the gamut of brutality, while the
populace, into whose hands the bodies of the hapless victims were
delivered, would close in upon their prey, and would so mutilate them as
to leave no trace of their original form. The executioners, though
accustomed to their own gruesome task, would themselves be amazed at the
fiendish cruelty of the populace. Women and children could be seen led
down the streets by their executioners, their flesh in ribbons, with
candles burning in their wounds, singing with ringing voices before the
silent spectators: “Verily from God we come, and unto Him we return!” As
some of the children expired on the way their tormentors would fling their
bodies under the feet of their fathers and sisters who, proudly treading
upon them, would not deign to give them a second glance. A father,
according to the testimony of a distinguished French writer, rather than
abjure his faith, preferred to have the throats of his two young sons,
both already covered with blood, slit upon his breast, as he lay on the
ground, whilst the elder of the two, a lad of fourteen, vigorously
pressing his right of seniority, demanded to be the first to lay down his
life.

An Austrian officer, Captain Von Goumoens, in the employ of the _Sh_áh at
that time, was, it is reliably stated, so horrified at the cruelties he
was compelled to witness that he tendered his resignation. “Follow me, my
friend,” is the Captain’s own testimony in a letter he wrote two weeks
after the attempt in question, which was published in the
“Soldatenfreund,” “you who lay claim to a heart and European ethics,
follow me to the unhappy ones who, with gouged-out eyes, must eat, on the
scene of the deed, without any sauce, their own amputated ears; or whose
teeth are torn out with inhuman violence by the hand of the executioner;
or whose bare skulls are simply crushed by blows from a hammer; or where
the bazaar is illuminated with unhappy victims, because on right and left
the people dig deep holes in their breasts and shoulders, and insert
burning wicks in the wounds. I saw some dragged in chains through the
bazaar, preceded by a military band, in whom these wicks had burned so
deep that now the fat flickered convulsively in the wound like a newly
extinguished lamp. Not seldom it happens that the unwearying ingenuity of
the Oriental leads to fresh tortures. They will skin the soles of the
Bábí’s feet, soak the wounds in boiling oil, shoe the foot like the hoof
of a horse, and compel the victim to run. No cry escaped from the victim’s
breast; the torment is endured in dark silence by the numbed sensation of
the fanatic; now he must run; the body cannot endure what the soul has
endured; he falls. Give him the coup de grâce! Put him out of his pain!
No! The executioner swings the whip, and—I myself have had to witness
it—the unhappy victim of hundredfold tortures runs! This is the beginning
of the end. As for the end itself, they hang the scorched and perforated
bodies by their hands and feet to a tree head downwards, and now every
Persian may try his marksmanship to his heart’s content from a fixed but
not too proximate distance on the noble quarry placed at his disposal. I
saw corpses torn by nearly one hundred and fifty bullets.” “When I read
over again,” he continues, “what I have written, I am overcome by the
thought that those who are with you in our dearly beloved Austria may
doubt the full truth of the picture, and accuse me of exaggeration. Would
to God that I had not lived to see it! But by the duties of my profession
I was unhappily often, only too often, a witness of these abominations. At
present I never leave my house, in order not to meet with fresh scenes of
horror... Since my whole soul revolts against such infamy ... I will no
longer maintain my connection with the scene of such crimes.” Little
wonder that a man as far-famed as Renan should, in his “Les Apôtres” have
characterized the hideous butchery perpetrated in a single day, during the
great massacre of Ṭihrán, as “a day perhaps unparalleled in the history of
the world!”

The hand that was stretched to deal so grievous a blow to the adherents of
a sorely-tried Faith did not confine itself to the rank and file of the
Báb’s persecuted followers. It was raised with equal fury and
determination against, and struck down with equal force, the few remaining
leaders who had survived the winnowing winds of adversity that had already
laid low so vast a number of the supporters of the Faith. Táhirih, that
immortal heroine who had already shed imperishable luster alike on her sex
and on the Cause she had espoused, was swept into, and ultimately engulfed
by, the raging storm. Siyyid Ḥusayn, the amanuensis of the Báb, the
companion of His exile, the trusted repository of His last wishes, and the
witness of the prodigies attendant upon His martyrdom, fell likewise a
victim of its fury. That hand had even the temerity to lift itself against
the towering figure of Bahá’u’lláh. But though it laid hold of Him it
failed to strike Him down. It imperilled His life, it imprinted on His
body indelible marks of a pitiless cruelty, but was impotent to cut short
a career that was destined not only to keep alive the fire which the
Spirit of the Báb had kindled, but to produce a conflagration that would
at once consummate and outshine the glories of His Revelation.

During those somber and agonizing days when the Báb was no more, when the
luminaries that had shone in the firmament of His Faith had been
successively extinguished, when His nominee, a “bewildered fugitive, in
the guise of a dervish, with ka_sh_kúl (alms-basket) in hand” roamed the
mountains and plains in the neighborhood of Ra_sh_t, Bahá’u’lláh, by
reason of the acts He had performed, appeared in the eyes of a vigilant
enemy as its most redoubtable adversary and as the sole hope of an as yet
unextirpated heresy. His seizure and death had now become imperative. He
it was Who, scarce three months after the Faith was born, received,
through the envoy of the Báb, Mullá Ḥusayn, the scroll which bore to Him
the first tidings of a newly announced Revelation, Who instantly acclaimed
its truth, and arose to champion its cause. It was to His native city and
dwelling place that the steps of that envoy were first directed, as the
place which enshrined “a Mystery of such transcendent holiness as neither
Ḥijáz nor _Sh_íráz can hope to rival.” It was Mullá Ḥusayn’s report of the
contact thus established which had been received with such exultant joy by
the Báb, and had brought such reassurance to His heart as to finally
decide Him to undertake His contemplated pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.
Bahá’u’lláh alone was the object and the center of the cryptic allusions,
the glowing eulogies, the fervid prayers, the joyful announcements and the
dire warnings recorded in both the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá and the Bayán, designed
to be respectively the first and last written testimonials to the glory
with which God was soon to invest Him. It was He Who, through His
correspondence with the Author of the newly founded Faith, and His
intimate association with the most distinguished amongst its disciples,
such as Vahíd, Hujjat, Quddús, Mullá Ḥusayn and Táhirih, was able to
foster its growth, elucidate its principles, reinforce its ethical
foundations, fulfill its urgent requirements, avert some of the immediate
dangers threatening it and participate effectually in its rise and
consolidation. It was to Him, “the one Object of our adoration and love”
that the Prophet-pilgrim, on His return to Bú_sh_ihr, alluded when,
dismissing Quddús from His presence, He announced to him the double joy of
attaining the presence of their Beloved and of quaffing the cup of
martyrdom. He it was Who, in the hey-day of His life, flinging aside every
consideration of earthly fame, wealth and position, careless of danger,
and risking the obloquy of His caste, arose to identify Himself, first in
Ṭihrán and later in His native province of Mázindarán, with the cause of
an obscure and proscribed sect; won to its support a large number of the
officials and notables of Núr, not excluding His own associates and
relatives; fearlessly and persuasively expounded its truths to the
disciples of the illustrious mujtahid, Mullá Muḥammad; enlisted under its
banner the mujtahid’s appointed representatives; secured, in consequence
of this act, the unreserved loyalty of a considerable number of
ecclesiastical dignitaries, government officers, peasants and traders; and
succeeded in challenging, in the course of a memorable interview, the
mujtahid himself. It was solely due to the potency of the written message
entrusted by Him to Mullá Muḥammad Mihdíy-i-Kandí and delivered to the Báb
while in the neighborhood of the village of Kulayn, that the soul of the
disappointed Captive was able to rid itself, at an hour of uncertainty and
suspense, of the anguish that had settled upon it ever since His arrest in
_Sh_íráz. He it was Who, for the sake of Táhirih and her imprisoned
companions, willingly submitted Himself to a humiliating confinement,
lasting several days—the first He was made to suffer—in the house of one
of the kad-_kh_udás of Ṭihrán. It was to His caution, foresight and
ability that must be ascribed her successful escape from Qazvín, her
deliverance from her opponents, her safe arrival in His home, and her
subsequent removal to a place of safety in the vicinity of the capital
from whence she proceeded to _Kh_urásán. It was into His presence that
Mullá Ḥusayn was secretly ushered upon his arrival in Ṭihrán, after which
interview he traveled to Á_dh_irbayján on his visit to the Báb then
confined in the fortress of Máh-Kú. He it was Who unobtrusively and
unerringly directed the proceedings of the Conference of Bada_sh_t; Who
entertained as His guests Quddús, Táhirih and the eighty-one disciples who
had gathered on that occasion; Who revealed every day a Tablet and
bestowed on each of the participants a new name; Who faced unaided the
assault of a mob of more than five hundred villagers in Níyálá; Who
shielded Quddús from the fury of his assailants; Who succeeded in
restoring a part of the property which the enemy had plundered and Who
insured the protection and safety of the continually harassed and much
abused Táhirih. Against Him was kindled the anger of Muḥammad _Sh_áh who,
as a result of the persistent representations of mischief-makers, was at
last induced to order His arrest and summon Him to the capital—a summons
that was destined to remain unfulfilled as a result of the sudden death of
the sovereign. It was to His counsels and exhortations, addressed to the
occupants of _Sh_ay_kh_ Tabarsí, who had welcomed Him with such reverence
and love during His visit to that Fort, that must be attributed, in no
small measure, the spirit evinced by its heroic defenders, while it was to
His explicit instructions that they owed the miraculous release of Quddús
and his consequent association with them in the stirring exploits that
have immortalized the Mázindarán upheaval. It was for the sake of those
same defenders, whom He had intended to join, that He suffered His second
imprisonment, this time in the masjid of Ámul to which He was led, amidst
the tumult raised by no less than four thousand spectators,—for their sake
that He was bastinadoed in the namáz-_kh_ánih of the mujtahid of that town
until His feet bled, and later confined in the private residence of its
governor; for their sake that He was bitterly denounced by the leading
mullá, and insulted by the mob who, besieging the governor’s residence,
pelted Him with stones, and hurled in His face the foulest invectives. He
alone was the One alluded to by Quddús who, upon his arrival at the Fort
of _Sh_ay_kh_ Tabarsí, uttered, as soon as he had dismounted and leaned
against the shrine, the prophetic verse “The Baqíyyatu’lláh (the Remnant
of God) will be best for you if ye are of those who believe.” He alone was
the Object of that prodigious eulogy, that masterly interpretation of the
Sád of Samad, penned in part, in that same Fort by that same youthful
hero, under the most distressing circumstances, and equivalent in
dimensions to six times the volume of the Qur’án. It was to the date of
His impending Revelation that the Lawḥ-i-Hurúfat, revealed in _Ch_ihríq by
the Báb, in honor of Dayyán, abstrusely alluded, and in which the mystery
of the “Musta_gh_á_th_“ was unraveled. It was to the attainment of His
presence that the attention of another disciple, Mullá Báqir, one of the
Letters of the Living, was expressly directed by none other than the Báb
Himself. It was exclusively to His care that the documents of the Báb, His
pen-case, His seals, and agate rings, together with a scroll on which He
had penned, in the form of a pentacle, no less than three hundred and
sixty derivatives of the word Bahá, were delivered, in conformity with
instructions He Himself had issued prior to His departure from _Ch_ihríq.
It was solely due to His initiative, and in strict accordance with His
instructions, that the precious remains of the Báb were safely transferred
from Tabríz to the capital, and were concealed and safeguarded with the
utmost secrecy and care throughout the turbulent years following His
martyrdom. And finally, it was He Who, in the days preceding the attempt
on the life of the _Sh_áh, had been instrumental, while sojourning in
Karbilá, in spreading, with that same enthusiasm and ability that had
distinguished His earlier exertions in Mázindarán, the teachings of His
departed Leader, in safeguarding the interests of His Faith, in reviving
the zeal of its grief-stricken followers, and in organizing the forces of
its scattered and bewildered adherents.

Such a man, with such a record of achievements to His credit, could not,
indeed did not, escape either the detection or the fury of a vigilant and
fully aroused enemy. Afire from the very beginning with an uncontrollable
enthusiasm for the Cause He had espoused; conspicuously fearless in His
advocacy of the rights of the downtrodden; in the full bloom of youth;
immensely resourceful; matchless in His eloquence; endowed with
inexhaustible energy and penetrating judgment; possessed of the riches,
and enjoying, in full measure, the esteem, power and prestige associated
with an enviably high and noble position, and yet contemptuous of all
earthly pomp, rewards, vanities and possessions; closely associated, on
the one hand, through His regular correspondence with the Author of the
Faith He had risen to champion, and intimately acquainted, on the other,
with the hopes and fears, the plans and activities of its leading
exponents; at one time advancing openly and assuming a position of
acknowledged leadership in the forefront of the forces struggling for that
Faith’s emancipation, at another deliberately drawing back with consummate
discretion in order to remedy, with greater efficacy, an awkward or
dangerous situation; at all times vigilant, ready and indefatigable in His
exertions to preserve the integrity of that Faith, to resolve its
problems, to plead its cause, to galvanize its followers, and to confound
its antagonists, Bahá’u’lláh, at this supremely critical hour in its
fortunes, was at last stepping into the very center of the stage so
tragically vacated by the Báb—a stage on which He was destined, for no
less a period than forty years, to play a part unapproached in its
majesty, pathos and splendor by any of the great Founders of the world’s
historic religions.

Already so conspicuous and towering a figure had, through the accusations
levelled against Him, kindled the wrath of Muḥammad _Sh_áh, who, after
having heard what had transpired in Bada_sh_t, had ordered His arrest, in
a number of farmáns addressed to the _kh_áns of Mázindarán, and expressed
his determination to put Him to death. Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, previously
alienated from the Vazír (Bahá’u’lláh’s father), and infuriated by his own
failure to appropriate by fraud an estate that belonged to Bahá’u’lláh,
had sworn eternal enmity to the One Who had so brilliantly succeeded in
frustrating his evil designs. The Amír-Nizám, moreover, fully aware of the
pervasive influence of so energetic an opponent, had, in the presence of a
distinguished gathering, accused Him of having inflicted, as a result of
His activities, a loss of no less than five kurúrs upon the government,
and had expressly requested Him, at a critical moment in the fortunes of
the Faith, to temporarily transfer His residence to Karbilá. Mírzá Áqá
_Kh_án-i-Núrí, who succeeded the Amír-Nizám, had endeavored, at the very
outset of his ministry, to effect a reconciliation between his government
and the One Whom he regarded as the most resourceful of the Báb’s
disciples. Little wonder that when, later, an act of such gravity and
temerity was committed, a suspicion as dire as it was unfounded, should at
once have crept into the minds of the _Sh_áh, his government, his court,
and his people against Bahá’u’lláh. Foremost among them was the mother of
the youthful sovereign, who, inflamed with anger, was openly denouncing
Him as the would-be murderer of her son.

Bahá’u’lláh, when that attempt had been made on the life of the sovereign,
was in Lavásán, the guest of the Grand Vizir, and was staying in the
village of Af_ch_ih when the momentous news reached Him. Refusing to heed
the advice of the Grand Vizir’s brother, Ja’far-Qulí _Kh_án, who was
acting as His host, to remain for a time concealed in that neighborhood,
and dispensing with the good offices of the messenger specially dispatched
to insure His safety, He rode forth, the following morning, with cool
intrepidity, to the headquarters of the Imperial army which was then
stationed in Níyávarán, in the _Sh_imírán district. In the village of
Zarkandih He was met by, and conducted to the home of, His brother-in-law,
Mírzá Majíd, who, at that time, was acting as secretary to the Russian
Minister, Prince Dolgorouki, and whose house adjoined that of his
superior. Apprised of Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival the attendants of the
Ḥajíbu’d-Dawlih, Ḥájí ‘Alí _Kh_án, straightway informed their master, who
in turn brought the matter to the attention of his sovereign. The _Sh_áh,
greatly amazed, dispatched his trusted officers to the Legation, demanding
that the Accused be forthwith delivered into his hands. Refusing to comply
with the wishes of the royal envoys, the Russian Minister requested
Bahá’u’lláh to proceed to the home of the Grand Vizir, to whom he formally
communicated his wish that the safety of the Trust the Russian government
was delivering into his keeping should be insured. This purpose, however,
was not achieved because of the Grand Vizir’s apprehension that he might
forfeit his position if he extended to the Accused the protection demanded
for Him.

Delivered into the hands of His enemies, this much-feared, bitterly
arraigned and illustrious Exponent of a perpetually hounded Faith was now
made to taste of the cup which He Who had been its recognized Leader had
drained to the dregs. From Níyávarán He was conducted “on foot and in
chains, with bared head and bare feet,” exposed to the fierce rays of the
midsummer sun, to the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán. On the way He several times
was stripped of His outer garments, was overwhelmed with ridicule, and
pelted with stones. As to the subterranean dungeon into which He was
thrown, and which originally had served as a reservoir of water for one of
the public baths of the capital, let His own words, recorded in His
“Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” bear testimony to the ordeal which He
endured in that pestilential hole. “We were consigned for four months to a
place foul beyond comparison.... Upon Our arrival We were first conducted
along a pitch-black corridor, from whence We descended three steep flights
of stairs to the place of confinement assigned to Us. The dungeon was
wrapped in thick darkness, and Our fellow-prisoners numbered nearly one
hundred and fifty souls: thieves, assassins and highwaymen. Though
crowded, it had no other outlet than the passage by which We entered. No
pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe its loathsome smell.
Most of those men had neither clothes nor bedding to lie on. God alone
knoweth what befell Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place!”
Bahá’u’lláh’s feet were placed in stocks, and around His neck were
fastened the Qará-Guhar chains of such galling weight that their mark
remained imprinted upon His body all the days of His life. “A heavy
chain,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself has testified, “was placed about His neck by
which He was chained to five other Bábís; these fetters were locked
together by strong, very heavy, bolts and screws. His clothes were torn to
pieces, also His headdress. In this terrible condition He was kept for
four months.” For three days and three nights, He was denied all manner of
food and drink. Sleep was impossible to Him. The place was chill and damp,
filthy, fever-stricken, infested with vermin, and filled with a noisome
stench. Animated by a relentless hatred His enemies went even so far as to
intercept and poison His food, in the hope of obtaining the favor of the
mother of their sovereign, His most implacable foe—an attempt which,
though it impaired His health for years to come, failed to achieve its
purpose. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá,” Dr. J. E. Esslemont records in his book, “tells
how, one day, He was allowed to enter the prison yard to see His beloved
Father, where He came out for His daily exercise. Bahá’u’lláh was terribly
altered, so ill He could hardly walk, His hair and beard unkempt, His neck
galled and swollen from the pressure of a heavy steel collar, His body
bent by the weight of His chains.”

While Bahá’u’lláh was being so odiously and cruelly subjected to the
trials and tribulations inseparable from those tumultuous days, another
luminary of the Faith, the valiant Táhirih, was swiftly succumbing to
their devastating power. Her meteoric career, inaugurated in Karbilá,
culminating in Bada_sh_t, was now about to attain its final consummation
in a martyrdom that may well rank as one of the most affecting episodes in
the most turbulent period of Bahá’í history.

A scion of the highly reputed family of Ḥájí Mullá Ṣáliḥ-i-Baraqání, whose
members occupied an enviable position in the Persian ecclesiastical
hierarchy; the namesake of the illustrious Fátimih; designated as
Zarrín-Táj (Crown of Gold) and Zakíyyih (Virtuous) by her family and
kindred; born in the same year as Bahá’u’lláh; regarded from childhood, by
her fellow-townsmen, as a prodigy, alike in her intelligence and beauty;
highly esteemed even by some of the most haughty and learned ‘ulamás of
her country, prior to her conversion, for the brilliancy and novelty of
the views she propounded; acclaimed as Qurrat-i-‘Ayní (solace of my eyes)
by her admiring teacher, Siyyid Kázim; entitled Táhirih (the Pure One) by
the “Tongue of Power and Glory;” and the only woman enrolled by the Báb as
one of the Letters of the Living; she had, through a dream, referred to
earlier in these pages, established her first contact with a Faith which
she continued to propagate to her last breath, and in its hour of greatest
peril, with all the ardor of her unsubduable spirit. Undeterred by the
vehement protests of her father; contemptuous of the anathemas of her
uncle; unmoved by the earnest solicitations of her husband and her
brothers; undaunted by the measures which, first in Karbilá and
subsequently in Ba_gh_dád, and later in Qazvín, the civil and
ecclesiastical authorities had taken to curtail her activities, with eager
energy she urged the Bábí Cause. Through her eloquent pleadings, her
fearless denunciations, her dissertations, poems and translations, her
commentaries and correspondence, she persisted in firing the imagination
and in enlisting the allegiance of Arabs and Persians alike to the new
Revelation, in condemning the perversity of her generation, and in
advocating a revolutionary transformation in the habits and manners of her
people.

She it was who while in Karbilá—the foremost stronghold of _Sh_í’ah
Islám—had been moved to address lengthy epistles to each of the ‘ulamás
residing in that city, who relegated women to a rank little higher than
animals and denied them even the possession of a soul—epistles in which
she ably vindicated her high purpose and exposed their malignant designs.
She it was who, in open defiance of the customs of the fanatical
inhabitants of that same city, boldly disregarded the anniversary of the
martyrdom of the Imám Ḥusayn, commemorated with elaborate ceremony in the
early days of Muharram, and celebrated instead the anniversary of the
birthday of the Báb, which fell on the first day of that month. It was
through her prodigious eloquence and the astounding force of her argument
that she confounded the representative delegation of _Sh_í’ah, of Sunní,
of Christian and Jewish notables of Ba_gh_dád, who had endeavored to
dissuade her from her avowed purpose of spreading the tidings of the new
Message. She it was who, with consummate skill, defended her faith and
vindicated her conduct in the home and in the presence of that eminent
jurist, _Sh_ay_kh_ Maḥmúd-i-Álúsí, the Muftí of Ba_gh_dád, and who later
held her historic interviews with the princes, the ‘ulamás and the
government officials residing in Kirman_sh_áh, in the course of which the
Báb’s commentary on the Súrih of Kaw_th_ar was publicly read and
translated, and which culminated in the conversion of the Amír (the
governor) and his family. It was this remarkably gifted woman who
undertook the translation of the Báb’s lengthy commentary on the Súrih of
Joseph (the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá) for the benefit of her Persian
co-religionists, and exerted her utmost to spread the knowledge and
elucidate the contents of that mighty Book. It was her fearlessness, her
skill, her organizing ability and her unquenchable enthusiasm which
consolidated her newly won victories in no less inimical a center than
Qazvín, which prided itself on the fact that no fewer than a hundred of
the highest ecclesiastical leaders of Islám dwelt within its gates. It was
she who, in the house of Bahá’u’lláh in Ṭihrán, in the course of her
memorable interview with the celebrated Vahíd, suddenly interrupted his
learned discourse on the signs of the new Manifestation, and vehemently
urged him, as she held ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, then a child, on her lap, to arise
and demonstrate through deeds of heroism and self-sacrifice the depth and
sincerity of his faith. It was to her doors, during the height of her fame
and popularity in Ṭihrán, that the flower of feminine society in the
capital flocked to hear her brilliant discourses on the matchless tenets
of her Faith. It was the magic of her words which won the wedding guests
away from the festivities, on the occasion of the marriage of the son of
Maḥmúd _Kh_án-i-Kalántar—in whose house she was confined—and gathered them
about her, eager to drink in her every word. It was her passionate and
unqualified affirmation of the claims and distinguishing features of the
new Revelation, in a series of seven conferences with the deputies of the
Grand Vizir commissioned to interrogate her, which she held while confined
in that same house, which finally precipitated the sentence of her death.
It was from her pen that odes had flowed attesting, in unmistakable
language, not only her faith in the Revelation of the Báb, but also her
recognition of the exalted and as yet undisclosed mission of Bahá’u’lláh.
And last but not least it was owing to her initiative, while participating
in the Conference of Bada_sh_t, that the most challenging implications of
a revolutionary and as yet but dimly grasped Dispensation were laid bare
before her fellow-disciples and the new Order permanently divorced from
the laws and institutions of Islám. Such marvelous achievements were now
to be crowned by, and attain their final consummation in, her martyrdom in
the midst of the storm that was raging throughout the capital.

One night, aware that the hour of her death was at hand, she put on the
attire of a bride, and annointed herself with perfume, and, sending for
the wife of the Kalantar, she communicated to her the secret of her
impending martyrdom, and confided to her her last wishes. Then, closeting
herself in her chambers, she awaited, in prayer and meditation, the hour
which was to witness her reunion with her Beloved. She was pacing the
floor of her room, chanting a litany expressive of both grief and triumph,
when the farrá_sh_es of Azíz _Kh_án-i-Sardár arrived, in the dead of
night, to conduct her to the Íl_kh_ání garden, which lay beyond the city
gates, and which was to be the site of her martyrdom. When she arrived the
Sardár was in the midst of a drunken debauch with his lieutenants, and was
roaring with laughter; he ordered offhand that she be strangled at once
and thrown into a pit. With that same silken kerchief which she had
intuitively reserved for that purpose, and delivered in her last moments
to the son of Kalantar who accompanied her, the death of this immortal
heroine was accomplished. Her body was lowered into a well, which was then
filled with earth and stones, in the manner she herself had desired.

Thus ended the life of this great Bábí heroine, the first woman suffrage
martyr, who, at her death, turning to the one in whose custody she had
been placed, had boldly declared: “You can kill me as soon as you like,
but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.” Her career was as dazzling
as it was brief, as tragic as it was eventful. Unlike her
fellow-disciples, whose exploits remained, for the most part unknown, and
unsung by their contemporaries in foreign lands, the fame of this immortal
woman was noised abroad, and traveling with remarkable swiftness as far as
the capitals of Western Europe, aroused the enthusiastic admiration and
evoked the ardent praise of men and women of divers nationalities,
callings and cultures. Little wonder that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá should have joined
her name to those of Sarah, of Ásíyih, of the Virgin Mary and of Fátimih,
who, in the course of successive Dispensations, have towered, by reason of
their intrinsic merits and unique position, above the rank and file of
their sex. “In eloquence,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself has written, “she was the
calamity of the age, and in ratiocination the trouble of the world.” He,
moreover, has described her as “a brand afire with the love of God” and “a
lamp aglow with the bounty of God.”

Indeed the wondrous story of her life propagated itself as far and as fast
as that of the Báb Himself, the direct Source of her inspiration. “Prodige
de science, mais aussi prodige de beauté” is the tribute paid her by a
noted commentator on the life of the Báb and His disciples. “The Persian
Joan of Arc, the leader of emancipation for women of the Orient ... who
bore resemblance both to the mediaeval Heloise and the neo-platonic
Hypatia,” thus was she acclaimed by a noted playwright whom Sarah
Bernhardt had specifically requested to write a dramatized version of her
life. “The heroism of the lovely but ill-fated poetess of Qazvín,
Zarrín-Táj (Crown of Gold) ...” testifies Lord Curzon of Kedleston, “is
one of the most affecting episodes in modern history.” “The appearance of
such a woman as Qurratu’l-‘Ayn,” wrote the well-known British Orientalist,
Prof. E. G. Browne, “is, in any country and any age, a rare phenomenon,
but in such a country as Persia it is a prodigy—nay, almost a miracle.
...Had the Bábí religion no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient
... that it produced a heroine like Qurratu’l-‘Ayn.” “The harvest sown in
Islamic lands by Qurratu’l-‘Ayn,” significantly affirms the renowned
English divine, Dr. T. K. Cheyne, in one of his books, “is now beginning
to appear ... this noble woman ... has the credit of opening the catalogue
of social reforms in Persia...” “Assuredly one of the most striking and
interesting manifestations of this religion” is the reference to her by
the noted French diplomat and brilliant writer, Comte de Gobineau. “In
Qazvín,” he adds, “she was held, with every justification, to be a
prodigy.” “Many people,” he, moreover has written, “who knew her and heard
her at different periods of her life have invariably told me ... that when
she spoke one felt stirred to the depths of one’s soul, was filled with
admiration, and was moved to tears.” “No memory,” writes Sir Valentine
Chirol, “is more deeply venerated or kindles greater enthusiasm than hers,
and the influence which she wielded in her lifetime still inures to her
sex.” “O Táhirih!” exclaims in his book on the Bábís the great author and
poet of Turkey, Sulaymán Nazím Bey, “you are worth a thousand Náṣiri’d-Dín
_Sh_áhs!” “The greatest ideal of womanhood has been Táhirih” is the
tribute paid her by the mother of one of the Presidents of Austria, Mrs.
Marianna Hainisch, “... I shall try to do for the women of Austria what
Táhirih gave her life to do for the women of Persia.”

Many and divers are her ardent admirers who, throughout the five
continents, are eager to know more about her. Many are those whose conduct
has been ennobled by her inspiring example, who have committed to memory
her matchless odes, or set to music her poems, before whose eyes glows the
vision of her indomitable spirit, in whose hearts is enshrined a love and
admiration that time can never dim, and in whose souls burns the
determination to tread as dauntlessly, and with that same fidelity, the
path she chose for herself, and from which she never swerved from the
moment of her conversion to the hour of her death.

The fierce gale of persecution that had swept Bahá’u’lláh into a
subterranean dungeon and snuffed out the light of Táhirih also sealed the
fate of the Báb’s distinguished amanuensis, Siyyid Ḥusayn-i-Yazdí,
surnamed Azíz, who had shared His confinement in both Máh-Kú and
_Ch_ihríq. A man of rich experience and high merit, deeply versed in the
teachings of his Master, and enjoying His unqualified confidence, he,
refusing every offer of deliverance from the leading officials of Ṭihrán,
yearned unceasingly for the martyrdom which had been denied him on the day
the Báb had laid down His life in the barrack-square of Tabríz. A
fellow-prisoner of Bahá’u’lláh in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán, from Whom he
derived inspiration and solace as he recalled those precious days spent in
the company of his Master in Á_dh_irbayján, he was finally struck down, in
circumstances of shameful cruelty, by that same Azíz _Kh_án-i-Sardár who
had dealt the fatal blow to Táhirih.

Another victim of the frightful tortures inflicted by an unyielding enemy
was the high-minded, the influential and courageous Ḥájí Sulaymán _Kh_án.
So greatly was he esteemed that the Amír-Nizám had felt, on a previous
occasion, constrained to ignore his connection with the Faith he had
embraced and to spare his life. The turmoil that convulsed Ṭihrán as a
result of the attempt on the life of the sovereign, however, precipitated
his arrest and brought about his martyrdom. The _Sh_áh, having failed to
induce him through the Ḥajíbu’d-Dawlih to recant, commanded that he be put
to death in any way he himself might choose. Nine holes, at his express
wish, were made in his flesh, in each of which a lighted candle was
placed. As the executioner shrank from performing this gruesome task, he
attempted to snatch the knife from his hand that he might himself plunge
it into his own body. Fearing lest he should attack him the executioner
refused, and bade his men tie the victim’s hands behind his back,
whereupon the intrepid sufferer pleaded with them to pierce two holes in
his breast, two in his shoulders, one in the nape of his neck, and four
others in his back—a wish they complied with. Standing erect as an arrow,
his eyes glowing with stoic fortitude, unperturbed by the howling
multitude or the sight of his own blood streaming from his wounds, and
preceded by minstrels and drummers, he led the concourse that pressed
round him to the final place of his martyrdom. Every few steps he would
interrupt his march to address the bewildered bystanders in words in which
he glorified the Báb and magnified the significance of his own death. As
his eyes beheld the candles flickering in their bloody sockets, he would
burst forth in exclamations of unrestrained delight. Whenever one of them
fell from his body he would with his own hand pick it up, light it from
the others, and replace it. “Why dost thou not dance?” asked the
executioner mockingly, “since thou findest death so pleasant?” “Dance?”
cried the sufferer, “In one hand the wine-cup, in one hand the tresses of
the Friend. Such a dance in the midst of the market-place is my desire!”
He was still in the bazaar when the flowing of a breeze, fanning the
flames of the candles now burning deep in his flesh, caused it to sizzle,
whereupon he burst forth addressing the flames that ate into his wounds:
“You have long lost your sting, O flames, and have been robbed of your
power to pain me. Make haste, for from your very tongues of fire I can
hear the voice that calls me to my Beloved.” In a blaze of light he walked
as a conqueror might have marched to the scene of his victory. At the foot
of the gallows he once again raised his voice in a final appeal to the
multitude of onlookers. He then prostrated himself in the direction of the
shrine of the Imám-Zádih Ḥasan, murmuring some words in Arabic. “My work
is now finished,” he cried to the executioner, “come and do yours.” Life
still lingered in him as his body was sawn into two halves, with the
praise of his Beloved still fluttering from his dying lips. The scorched
and bloody remnants of his corpse were, as he himself had requested,
suspended on either side of the Gate of Naw, mute witnesses to the
unquenchable love which the Báb had kindled in the breasts of His
disciples.

The violent conflagration kindled as a result of the attempted
assassination of the sovereign could not be confined to the capital. It
overran the adjoining provinces, ravaged Mázindarán, the native province
of Bahá’u’lláh, and brought about in its wake, the confiscation, the
plunder and the destruction of all His possessions. In the village of
Tákúr, in the district of Núr, His sumptuously furnished home, inherited
from His father, was, by order of Mírzá Abú-Talíb _Kh_án, nephew of the
Grand Vizir, completely despoiled, and whatever could not be carried away
was ordered to be destroyed, while its rooms, more stately than those of
the palaces of Ṭihrán, were disfigured beyond repair. Even the houses of
the people were leveled with the ground, after which the entire village
was set on fire.

The commotion that had seized Ṭihrán and had given rise to the campaign of
outrage and spoliation in Mázindarán spread even as far as Yazd, Nayríz
and _Sh_íráz, rocking the remotest hamlets, and rekindling the flames of
persecution. Once again greedy governors and perfidious subordinates vied
with each other in despoiling the innocent, in massacring the guiltless,
and in dishonoring the noblest of their race. A carnage ensued which
repeated the atrocities already perpetrated in Nayríz and Zanján. “My
pen,” writes the chronicler of the bloody episodes associated with the
birth and rise of our Faith, “shrinks in horror in attempting to describe
what befell those valiant men and women.... What I have attempted to
recount of the horrors of the siege of Zanján ... pales before the glaring
ferocity of the atrocities perpetrated a few years later in Nayríz and
_Sh_íráz.” The heads of no less than two hundred victims of these
outbursts of ferocious fanaticism were impaled on bayonets, and carried
triumphantly from _Sh_íráz to Ábádih. Forty women and children were
charred to a cinder by being placed in a cave, in which a vast quantity of
firewood had been heaped up, soaked with naphtha and set alight. Three
hundred women were forced to ride two by two on bare-backed horses all the
way to _Sh_íráz. Stripped almost naked they were led between rows of heads
hewn from the lifeless bodies of their husbands, sons, fathers and
brothers. Untold insults were heaped upon them, and the hardships they
suffered were such that many among them perished.

Thus drew to a close a chapter which records for all time the bloodiest,
the most tragic, the most heroic period of the first Bahá’í century. The
torrents of blood that poured out during those crowded and calamitous
years may be regarded as constituting the fertile seeds of that World
Order which a swiftly succeeding and still greater Revelation was to
proclaim and establish. The tributes paid the noble army of the heroes,
saints and martyrs of that Primitive Age, by friend and foe alike, from
Bahá’u’lláh Himself down to the most disinterested observers in distant
lands, and from the moment of its birth until the present day, bear
imperishable witness to the glory of the deeds that immortalize that Age.

“The whole world,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s matchless testimony in the
Kitáb-i-Íqán, “marveled at the manner of their sacrifice.... The mind is
bewildered at their deeds, and the soul marveleth at their fortitude and
bodily endurance.... Hath any age witnessed such momentous happenings?”
And again: “Hath the world, since the days of Adam, witnessed such tumult,
such violent commotion?... Methinks, patience was revealed only by virtue
of their fortitude, and faithfulness itself was begotten only by their
deeds.” “Through the blood which they shed,” He, in a prayer, referring
more specifically to the martyrs of the Faith, has significantly affirmed,
“the earth hath been impregnated with the wondrous revelations of Thy
might and the gem-like signs of Thy glorious sovereignty. Ere-long shall
she tell out her tidings, when the set time is come.”

To whom else could these significant words of Muḥammad, the Apostle of
God, quoted by Quddús while addressing his companions in the Fort of
_Sh_ay_kh_ Tabarsí, apply if not to those heroes of God who, with their
life-blood, ushered in the Promised Day? “O how I long to behold the
countenance of My brethren, my brethren who will appear at the end of the
world! Blessed are We, blessed are they; greater is their blessedness than
ours.” Who else could be meant by this tradition, called Hadí_th_-i-Jabír,
recorded in the Káfí, and authenticated by Bahá’u’lláh in the
Kitáb-i-Íqán, which, in indubitable language, sets forth the signs of the
appearance of the promised Qá’im? “His saints shall be abased in His time,
and their heads shall be exchanged as presents, even as the heads of the
Turk and the Daylamite are exchanged as presents; they shall be slain and
burned, and shall be afraid, fearful and dismayed; the earth shall be dyed
with their blood, and lamentation and wailing shall prevail amongst their
women; these are My saints indeed.”

“Tales of magnificent heroism,” is the written testimony of Lord Curzon of
Kedleston, “illumine the blood-stained pages of Bábí history.... The fires
of Smithfield did not kindle a nobler courage than has met and defied the
more refined torture-mongers of Ṭihrán. Of no small account, then, must be
the tenets of a creed that can awaken in its followers so rare and
beautiful a spirit of self-sacrifice. The heroism and martyrdom of His
(the Báb) followers will appeal to many others who can find no similar
phenomena in the contemporaneous records of Islám.” “Bábism,” wrote Prof.
J. Darmesteter, “which diffused itself in less than five years from one
end of Persia to another, which was bathed in 1852 in the blood of its
martyrs, has been silently progressing and propagating itself. If Persia
is to be at all regenerate it will be through this new Faith.” “Des
milliers de martyrs,” attests Renan in his “Les Apôtres,” “sont accourus
pour lui (the Báb) avec allegressé au devant de la mort. Un jour sans
pareil peut-être dans l’histoire du monde fut celui de la grande boucherie
qui se fit des Bábís à Teheran.” “One of those strange outbursts,”
declares the well-known Orientalist Prof. E. G. Browne, “of enthusiasm,
faith, fervent devotion and indomitable heroism ... the birth of a Faith
which may not impossibly win a place amidst the great religions of the
world.” And again: “The spirit which pervades the Bábís is such that it
can hardly fail to affect most powerfully all subjected to its
influence.... Let those who have not seen disbelieve me if they will, but,
should that spirit once reveal itself to them, they will experience an
emotion which they are not likely to forget.” “J’avoue même,” is the
assertion made by Comte de Gobineau in his book, “que, si je voyais en
Europe une secte d’une nature analogue au Babysme se présenter avec des
avantages tels que les siens, foi aveugle, enthousiasme extrème, courage
et devouément éprouvés, respect inspiré aux indifférents, terreur profonde
inspirée aux adversaires, et de plus, comme je l’ai dit, un prosèlytisme
qui ne s’arrête pas, et donc les succès sont constants dans toutes les
classes de la societé; si je voyais, dis-je, tout cela exister en Europe,
je n’hésiterais pas à prediré que, dans un temps donné, la puissance et le
sceptre appartiendront de toute necessité aux possesseurs de ces grands
avantages.”

“The truth of the matter,” is the answer which Abbás-Qulí
_Kh_án-i-Laríjání, whose bullet was responsible for the death of Mullá
Ḥusayn, is reported to have given to a query addressed to him by Prince
Aḥmad Mírzá in the presence of several witnesses, “is that any one who had
not seen Karbilá would, if he had seen Tabarsí, not only have comprehended
what there took place, but would have ceased to consider it; and had he
seen Mullá Ḥusayn of Bu_sh_rúyih, he would have been convinced that the
Chief of Martyrs (Imám Ḥusayn) had returned to earth; and had he witnessed
my deeds, he would assuredly have said: ‘This is _Sh_imr come back with
sword and lance...’ In truth, I know not what had been shown to these
people, or what they had seen, that they came forth to battle with such
alacrity and joy.... The imagination of man cannot conceive the vehemence
of their courage and valor.”

What, in conclusion, we may well ask ourselves, has been the fate of that
flagitious crew who, actuated by malice, by greed or fanaticism, sought to
quench the light which the Báb and His followers had diffused over their
country and its people? The rod of Divine chastisement, swiftly and with
unyielding severity, spared neither the Chief Magistrate of the realm, nor
his ministers and counselors, nor the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the
religion with which his government was indissolubly connected, nor the
governors who acted as his representatives, nor the chiefs of his armed
forces who, in varying degrees, deliberately or through fear or neglect,
contributed to the appalling trials to which an infant Faith was so
undeservedly subjected. Muḥammad _Sh_áh himself, a sovereign at once
bigoted and irresolute who, refusing to heed the appeal of the Báb to
receive Him in the capital and enable Him to demonstrate the truth of His
Cause, yielded to the importunities of a malevolent minister, succumbed,
at the early age of forty, after sustaining a sudden reverse of fortune,
to a complication of maladies, and was condemned to that “hell-fire”
which, “on the Day of Resurrection,” the Author of the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá had
sworn would inevitably devour him. His evil genius, the omnipotent Ḥájí
Mírzá Aqásí, the power behind the throne and the chief instigator of the
outrages perpetrated against the Báb, including His imprisonment in the
mountains of Á_dh_irbayján, was, after the lapse of scarcely a year and
six months from the time he interposed himself between the _Sh_áh and his
Captive, hurled from power, deprived of his ill-gotten riches, was
disgraced by his sovereign, was driven to seek shelter from the rising
wrath of his countrymen in the shrine of _Sh_áh ‘Abdu’l-‘Aẓím, and was
later ignominiously expelled to Karbilá, falling a prey to disease,
poverty and gnawing sorrow—a piteous vindication of that denunciatory
Tablet in which his Prisoner had foreshadowed his doom and denounced his
infamy. As to the low-born and infamous Amír-Nizám, Mírzá Taqí _Kh_án, the
first year of whose short-lived ministry was stained with the ferocious
onslaught against the defenders of the Fort of Tabarsí, who authorized and
encouraged the execution of the Seven Martyrs of Ṭihrán, who unleashed the
assault against Vahíd and his companions, who was directly responsible for
the death-sentence of the Báb, and who precipitated the great upheaval of
Zanján, he forfeited, through the unrelenting jealousy of his sovereign
and the vindictiveness of court intrigue, all the honors he had enjoyed,
and was treacherously put to death by the royal order, his veins being
opened in the bath of the Palace of Fín, near Ká_sh_án. “Had the
Amír-Nizám,” Bahá’u’lláh is reported by Nabíl to have stated, “been aware
of My true position, he would certainly have laid hold on Me. He exerted
the utmost effort to discover the real situation, but was unsuccessful.
God wished him to be ignorant of it.” Mírzá Áqá _Kh_án, who had taken such
an active part in the unbridled cruelties perpetrated as a result of the
attempt on the life of the sovereign, was driven from office, and placed
under strict surveillance in Yazd, where he ended his days in shame and
despair.

Ḥusayn _Kh_án, the governor of _Sh_íráz, stigmatized as a “wine-bibber”
and a “tyrant,” the first who arose to ill-treat the Báb, who publicly
rebuked Him and bade his attendant strike Him violently in the face, was
compelled not only to endure the dreadful calamity that so suddenly befell
him, his family, his city and his province, but afterwards to witness the
undoing of all his labors, and to lead in obscurity the remaining days of
his life, till he tottered to his grave abandoned alike by his friends and
his enemies. Ḥajíbu’d-Dawlih, that bloodthirsty fiend, who had strenuously
hounded down so many innocent and defenseless Bábís, fell in his turn a
victim to the fury of the turbulent Lurs, who, after despoiling him of his
property, cut off his beard, and forced him to eat it, saddled and bridled
him, and rode him before the eyes of the people, after which they
inflicted under his very eyes shameful atrocities upon his womenfolk and
children. The Sa’ídu’l-‘Ulamá’, the fanatical, the ferocious and shameless
mujtahid of Barfurú_sh_, whose unquenchable hostility had heaped such
insults upon, and caused such sufferings to, the heroes of Tabarsí, fell,
soon after the abominations he had perpetrated, a prey to a strange
disease, provoking an unquenchable thirst and producing such icy chills
that neither the furs he wrapped himself in, nor the fire that continually
burned in his room could alleviate his sufferings. The spectacle of his
ruined and once luxurious home, fallen into such ill use after his death
as to become the refuse-heap of the people of his town, impressed so
profoundly the inhabitants of Mázindarán that in their mutual
vituperations they would often invoke upon each other’s home the same fate
as that which had befallen that accursed habitation. The false-hearted and
ambitious Maḥmúd _Kh_án-i-Kalántar, into whose custody Táhirih had been
delivered before her martyrdom, incurred, nine years later, the wrath of
his royal master, was dragged feet first by ropes through the bazaars to a
place outside the city gates, and there hung on the gallows. Mírzá Ḥasan
_Kh_án, who carried out the execution of the Báb under orders from his
brother, the Amír-Nizám, was, within two years of that unpardonable act,
subjected to a dreadful punishment which ended in his death. The
_Sh_ay_kh_u’l-Islám of Tabríz, the insolent, the avaricious and tyrannical
Mírzá ‘Alí As_gh_ar, who, after the refusal of the bodyguard of the
governor of that city to inflict the bastinado on the Báb, proceeded to
apply eleven times the rods to the feet of his Prisoner with his own hand,
was, in that same year, struck with paralysis, and, after enduring the
most excruciating ordeal, died a miserable death—a death that was soon
followed by the abolition of the function of the _Sh_ay_kh_u’l-Islám in
that city. The haughty and perfidious Mírzá Abú-Talíb _Kh_án who,
disregarding the counsels of moderation given him by Mírzá Áqá _Kh_án, the
Grand Vizir, ordered the plunder and burning of the village of Tákúr, as
well as the destruction of the house of Bahá’u’lláh, was, a year later,
stricken with plague and perished wretchedly, shunned by even his nearest
kindred. Mihr-‘Alí _Kh_án, the _Sh_ujá’u’l-Mulk, who, after the attempt on
the _Sh_áh’s life, so savagely persecuted the remnants of the Bábí
community in Nayríz, fell ill, according to the testimony of his own
grandson, and was stricken with dumbness, which was never relieved till
the day of his death. His accomplice, Mírzá Na’ím, fell into disgrace, was
twice heavily fined, dismissed from office, and subjected to exquisite
tortures. The regiment which, scorning the miracle that warned Sám _Kh_án
and his men to dissociate themselves from any further attempt to destroy
the life of the Báb, volunteered to take their place and riddled His body
with its bullets, lost, in that same year, no less than two hundred and
fifty of its officers and men, in a terrible earthquake between Ardibíl
and Tabríz; two years later the remaining five hundred were mercilessly
shot in Tabríz for mutiny, and the people, gazing on their exposed and
mutilated bodies, recalled their savage act, and indulged in such
expressions of condemnation and wonder as to induce the leading mujtahids
to chastise and silence them. The head of that regiment, Áqá Ján Big, lost
his life, six years after the Báb’s martyrdom, during the bombardment of
Muḥammarih by the British naval forces.

The judgment of God, so rigorous and unsparing in its visitations on those
who took a leading or an active part in the crimes committed against the
Báb and His followers, was not less severe in its dealings with the mass
of the people—a people more fanatical than the Jews in the days of Jesus—a
people notorious for their gross ignorance, their ferocious bigotry, their
willful perversity and savage cruelty, a people mercenary, avaricious,
egotistical and cowardly. I can do no better than quote what the Báb
Himself has written in the Dalá’il-i-Sab‘ih (Seven Proofs) during the last
days of His ministry: “Call thou to remembrance the early days of the
Revelation. How great the number of those who died of cholera! That was
indeed one of the prodigies of the Revelation, and yet none recognized it!
During four years the scourge raged among _Sh_í’ah Muslims without any one
grasping its significance!” “As to the great mass of its people (Persia),”
Nabíl has recorded in his immortal narrative, “who watched with sullen
indifference the tragedy that was being enacted before their eyes, and who
failed to raise a finger in protest against the hideousness of those
cruelties, they fell, in their turn, victims to a misery which all the
resources of the land and the energy of its statesmen were powerless to
alleviate.... From the very day the hand of the assailant was stretched
forth against the Báb ... visitation upon visitation crushed the spirit
out of that ungrateful people, and brought them to the very brink of
national bankruptcy. Plagues, the very names of which were almost unknown
to them except for a cursory reference in the dust-covered books which few
cared to read, fell upon them with a fury that none could escape. That
scourge scattered devastation wherever it spread. Prince and peasant alike
felt its sting and bowed to its yoke. It held the populace in its grip,
and refused to relax its hold upon them. As malignant as the fever which
decimated the province of Gílán, these sudden afflictions continued to lay
waste the land. Grievous as were these calamities, the avenging wrath of
God did not stop at the misfortunes that befell a perverse and faithless
people. It made itself felt in every living being that breathed on the
surface of that stricken land. It afflicted the life of plants and animals
alike, and made the people feel the magnitude of their distress. Famine
added its horrors to the stupendous weight of afflictions under which the
people were groaning. The gaunt spectre of starvation stalked abroad
amidst them, and the prospect of a slow and painful death haunted their
vision.... People and government alike sighed for the relief which they
could nowhere obtain. They drank the cup of woe to its dregs, utterly
unregardful of the Hand which had brought it to their lips, and of the
Person for Whose sake they were made to suffer.”



SECOND PERIOD: THE MINISTRY OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH 1853–1892



Chapter VI: The Birth of The Bahá’í Revelation


The train of dire events that followed in swift succession the calamitous
attempt on the life of Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh mark, as already observed, the
termination of the Bábí Dispensation and the closing of the initial, the
darkest and bloodiest chapter of the history of the first Bahá’í century.
A phase of measureless tribulation had been ushered in by these events, in
the course of which the fortunes of the Faith proclaimed by the Báb sank
to their lowest ebb. Indeed ever since its inception trials and vexations,
setbacks and disappointments, denunciations, betrayals and massacres had,
in a steadily rising crescendo, contributed to the decimation of the ranks
of its followers, strained to the utmost the loyalty of its stoutest
upholders, and all but succeeded in disrupting the foundations on which it
rested.

From its birth, government, clergy and people had risen as one man against
it and vowed eternal enmity to its cause. Muḥammad _Sh_áh, weak alike in
mind and will, had, under pressure, rejected the overtures made to him by
the Báb Himself, had declined to meet Him face to face, and even refused
Him admittance to the capital. The youthful Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, of a
cruel and imperious nature, had, both as crown prince and as reigning
sovereign, increasingly evinced the bitter hostility which, at a later
stage in his reign, was to blaze forth in all its dark and ruthless
savagery. The powerful and sagacious Mu’tamíd, the one solitary figure who
could have extended Him the support and protection He so sorely needed,
was taken from Him by a sudden death. The Sherif of Mecca, who through the
mediation of Quddús had been made acquainted with the new Revelation on
the occasion of the Báb’s pilgrimage to Mecca, had turned a deaf ear to
the Divine Message, and received His messenger with curt indifference. The
prearranged gathering that was to have taken place in the holy city of
Karbilá, in the course of the Báb’s return journey from Ḥijáz, had, to the
disappointment of His followers who had been eagerly awaiting His arrival,
to be definitely abandoned. The eighteen Letters of the Living, the
principal bastions that buttressed the infant strength of the Faith, had
for the most part fallen. The “Mirrors,” the “Guides,” the “Witnesses”
comprising the Bábí hierarchy had either been put to the sword, or hounded
from their native soil, or bludgeoned into silence. The program, whose
essentials had been communicated to the foremost among them, had, owing to
their excessive zeal, remained for the most part unfulfilled. The attempts
which two of those disciples had made to establish the Faith in Turkey and
India had signally failed at the very outset of their mission. The
tempests that had swept Mázindarán, Nayríz and Zanján had, in addition to
blasting to their roots the promising careers of the venerated Quddús, the
lion-hearted Mullá Ḥusayn, the erudite Vahíd, and the indomitable Hujjat,
cut short the lives of an alarmingly large number of the most resourceful
and most valiant of their fellow-disciples. The hideous outrages
associated with the death of the Seven Martyrs of Ṭihrán had been
responsible for the extinction of yet another living symbol of the Faith,
who, by reason of his close kinship to, and intimate association with, the
Báb, no less than by virtue of his inherent qualities, would if spared
have decisively contributed to the protection and furtherance of a
struggling Cause.

The storm which subsequently burst, with unexampled violence, on a
community already beaten to its knees, had, moreover, robbed it of its
greatest heroine, the incomparable Táhirih, still in the full tide of her
victories, had sealed the doom of Siyyid Ḥusayn, the Báb’s trusted
amanuensis and chosen repository of His last wishes, had laid low Mullá
‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Qazvíní, admittedly one of the very few who could claim to
possess a profound knowledge of the origins of the Faith, and had plunged
into a dungeon Bahá’u’lláh, the sole survivor among the towering figures
of the new Dispensation. The Báb—the Fountainhead from whence the
vitalizing energies of a newborn Revelation had flowed—had Himself, ere
the outburst of that hurricane, succumbed, in harrowing circumstances, to
the volleys of a firing squad leaving behind, as titular head of a
well-nigh disrupted community, a mere figurehead, timid in the extreme,
good-natured yet susceptible to the slightest influence, devoid of any
outstanding qualities, who now (loosed from the controlling hand of
Bahá’u’lláh, the real Leader) was seeking, in the guise of a dervish, the
protection afforded by the hills of his native Mázindarán against the
threatened assaults of a deadly enemy. The voluminous writings of the
Founder of the Faith—in manuscript, dispersed, unclassified, poorly
transcribed and ill-preserved, were in part, owing to the fever and tumult
of the times, either deliberately destroyed, confiscated, or hurriedly
dispatched to places of safety beyond the confines of the land in which
they were revealed. Powerful adversaries, among whom towered the figure of
the inordinately ambitious and hypocritical Ḥájí Mírzá Karím _Kh_án, who
at the special request of the _Sh_áh had in a treatise viciously attacked
the new Faith and its doctrines, had now raised their heads, and,
emboldened by the reverses it had sustained, were heaping abuse and
calumnies upon it. Furthermore, under the stress of intolerable
circumstances, a few of the Bábís were constrained to recant their faith,
while others went so far as to apostatize and join the ranks of the enemy.
And now to the sum of these dire misfortunes a monstrous calumny, arising
from the outrage perpetrated by a handful of irresponsible enthusiasts,
was added, branding a holy and innocent Faith with an infamy that seemed
indelible, and which threatened to loosen it from its foundations.

And yet the Fire which the Hand of Omnipotence had lighted, though
smothered by this torrent of tribulations let loose upon it, was not
quenched. The flame which for nine years had burned with such brilliant
intensity was indeed momentarily extinguished, but the embers which that
great conflagration had left behind still glowed, destined, at no distant
date, to blaze forth once again, through the reviving breezes of an
incomparably greater Revelation, and to shed an illumination that would
not only dissipate the surrounding darkness but project its radiance as
far as the extremities of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Just
as the enforced captivity and isolation of the Báb had, on the one hand,
afforded Him the opportunity of formulating His doctrine, of unfolding the
full implications of His Revelation, of formally and publicly declaring
His station and of establishing His Covenant, and, on the other hand, had
been instrumental in the proclamation of the laws of His Dispensation
through the voice of His disciples assembled in Bada_sh_t, so did the
crisis of unprecedented magnitude, culminating in the execution of the Báb
and the imprisonment of Bahá’u’lláh, prove to be the prelude of a revival
which, through the quickening power of a far mightier Revelation, was to
immortalize the fame, and fix on a still more enduring foundation, far
beyond the confines of His native land, the original Message of the
Prophet of _Sh_íráz.

At a time when the Cause of the Báb seemed to be hovering on the brink of
extinction, when the hopes and ambitions which animated it had, to all
human seeming, been frustrated, when the colossal sacrifices of its
unnumbered lovers appeared to have been made in vain, the Divine Promise
enshrined within it was about to be suddenly redeemed, and its final
perfection mysteriously manifested. The Bábí Dispensation was being
brought to its close (not prematurely but in its own appointed time), and
was yielding its destined fruit and revealing its ultimate purpose—the
birth of the Mission of Bahá’u’lláh. In this most dark and dreadful hour a
New Light was about to break in glory on Persia’s somber horizon. As a
result of what was in fact an evolving, ripening process, the most
momentous if not the most spectacular stage in the Heroic Age of the Faith
was now about to open.

During nine years, as foretold by the Báb Himself, swiftly, mysteriously
and irresistibly the embryonic Faith conceived by Him had been developing
until, at the fixed hour, the burden of the promised Cause of God was cast
amidst the gloom and agony of the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán. “Behold,”
Bahá’u’lláh Himself, years later, testified, in refutation of the claims
of those who had rejected the validity of His mission following so closely
upon that of the Báb, “how immediately upon the completion of the ninth
year of this wondrous, this most holy and merciful Dispensation, the
requisite number of pure, of wholly consecrated and sanctified souls has
been most secretly consummated.” “That so brief an interval,” He, moreover
has asserted, “should have separated this most mighty and wondrous
Revelation from Mine own previous Manifestation is a secret that no man
can unravel, and a mystery such as no mind can fathom. Its duration had
been foreordained.”

St. John the Divine had himself, with reference to these two successive
Revelations, clearly prophesied: “The second woe is past; and, behold the
third woe cometh quickly.” “This third woe,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, commenting upon
this verse, has explained, “is the day of the Manifestation of
Bahá’u’lláh, the Day of God, and it is near to the day of the appearance
of the Báb.” “All the peoples of the world,” He moreover has asserted,
“are awaiting two Manifestations, Who must be contemporaneous; all wait
for the fulfillment of this promise.” And again: “The essential fact is
that all are promised two Manifestations, Who will come one following on
the other.” _Sh_ay_kh_ Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í, that luminous star of Divine
guidance who had so clearly perceived, before the year sixty, the
approaching glory of Bahá’u’lláh, and laid stress upon “the twin
Revelations which are to follow each other in rapid succession,” had, on
his part, made this significant statement regarding the approaching hour
of that supreme Revelation, in an epistle addressed in his own hand to
Siyyid Kázim: “The mystery of this Cause must needs be made manifest, and
the secret of this Message must needs be divulged. I can say no more. I
can appoint no time. His Cause will be made known after Ḥin (68).”

The circumstances in which the Vehicle of this newborn Revelation,
following with such swiftness that of the Báb, received the first
intimations of His sublime mission recall, and indeed surpass in poignancy
the soul-shaking experience of Moses when confronted by the Burning Bush
in the wilderness of Sinai; of Zoroaster when awakened to His mission by a
succession of seven visions; of Jesus when coming out of the waters of the
Jordan He saw the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descend like a dove
and light upon Him; of Muḥammad when in the Cave of Hira, outside of the
holy city of Mecca, the voice of Gabriel bade Him “cry in the name of Thy
Lord”; and of the Báb when in a dream He approached the bleeding head of
the Imám Ḥusayn, and, quaffing the blood that dripped from his lacerated
throat, awoke to find Himself the chosen recipient of the outpouring grace
of the Almighty.

What, we may well inquire at this juncture, were the nature and
implications of that Revelation which, manifesting itself so soon after
the Declaration of the Báb, abolished, at one stroke, the Dispensation
which that Faith had so newly proclaimed, and upheld, with such vehemence
and force, the Divine authority of its Author? What, we may well pause to
consider, were the claims of Him Who, Himself a disciple of the Báb, had,
at such an early stage, regarded Himself as empowered to abrogate the Law
identified with His beloved Master? What, we may further reflect, could be
the relationship between the religious Systems established before Him and
His own Revelation—a Revelation which, flowing out, in that extremely
perilous hour, from His travailing soul, pierced the gloom that had
settled upon that pestilential pit, and, bursting through its walls, and
propagating itself as far as the ends of the earth, infused into the
entire body of mankind its boundless potentialities, and is now under our
very eyes, shaping the course of human society?

He Who in such dramatic circumstances was made to sustain the overpowering
weight of so glorious a Mission was none other than the One Whom posterity
will acclaim, and Whom innumerable followers already recognize, as the
Judge, the Lawgiver and Redeemer of all mankind, as the Organizer of the
entire planet, as the Unifier of the children of men, as the Inaugurator
of the long-awaited millennium, as the Originator of a new “Universal
Cycle,” as the Establisher of the Most Great Peace, as the Fountain of the
Most Great Justice, as the Proclaimer of the coming of age of the entire
human race, as the Creator of a new World Order, and as the Inspirer and
Founder of a world civilization.

To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the
“Everlasting Father,” the “Lord of Hosts” come down “with ten thousands of
saints”; to Christendom Christ returned “in the glory of the Father,” to
_Sh_í’ah Islám the return of the Imám Ḥusayn; to Sunní Islám the descent
of the “Spirit of God” (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised
_Sh_áh-Bahrám; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the
Buddhists the fifth Buddha.

In the name He bore He combined those of the Imám Ḥusayn, the most
illustrious of the successors of the Apostle of God—the brightest “star”
shining in the “crown” mentioned in the Revelation of St. John—and of the
Imám ‘Alí, the Commander of the Faithful, the second of the two
“witnesses” extolled in that same Book. He was formally designated
Bahá’u’lláh, an appellation specifically recorded in the Persian Bayán,
signifying at once the glory, the light and the splendor of God, and was
styled the “Lord of Lords,” the “Most Great Name,” the “Ancient Beauty,”
the “Pen of the Most High,” the “Hidden Name,” the “Preserved Treasure,”
“He Whom God will make manifest,” the “Most Great Light,” the “All-Highest
Horizon,” the “Most Great Ocean,” the “Supreme Heaven,” the “Pre-Existent
Root,” the “Self-Subsistent,” the “Day-Star of the Universe,” the “Great
Announcement,” the “Speaker on Sinai,” the “Sifter of Men,” the “Wronged
One of the World,” the “Desire of the Nations,” the “Lord of the
Covenant,” the “Tree beyond which there is no passing.” He derived His
descent, on the one hand, from Abraham (the Father of the Faithful)
through his wife Katurah, and on the other from Zoroaster, as well as from
Yazdigird, the last king of the Sásáníyán dynasty. He was moreover a
descendant of Jesse, and belonged, through His father, Mírzá Abbás, better
known as Mírzá Buzurg—a nobleman closely associated with the ministerial
circles of the Court of Fatḥ-‘Alí _Sh_áh—to one of the most ancient and
renowned families of Mázindarán.

To Him Isaiah, the greatest of the Jewish prophets, had alluded as the
“Glory of the Lord,” the “Everlasting Father,” the “Prince of Peace,” the
“Wonderful,” the “Counsellor,” the “Rod come forth out of the stem of
Jesse” and the “Branch grown out of His roots,” Who “shall be established
upon the throne of David,” Who “will come with strong hand,” Who “shall
judge among the nations,” Who “shall smite the earth with the rod of His
mouth, and with the breath of His lips slay the wicked,” and Who “shall
assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of
Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Of Him David had sung in his
Psalms, acclaiming Him as the “Lord of Hosts” and the “King of Glory.” To
Him Haggai had referred as the “Desire of all nations,” and Zachariah as
the “Branch” Who “shall grow up out of His place,” and “shall build the
Temple of the Lord.” Ezekiel had extolled Him as the “Lord” Who “shall be
king over all the earth,” while to His day Joel and Zephaniah had both
referred as the “day of Jehovah,” the latter describing it as “a day of
wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a
day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day
of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high
towers.” His Day Ezekiel and Daniel had, moreover, both acclaimed as the
“day of the Lord,” and Malachi described as “the great and dreadful day of
the Lord” when “the Sun of Righteousness” will “arise, with healing in His
wings,” whilst Daniel had pronounced His advent as signalizing the end of
the “abomination that maketh desolate.”

To His Dispensation the sacred books of the followers of Zoroaster had
referred as that in which the sun must needs be brought to a standstill
for no less than one whole month. To Him Zoroaster must have alluded when,
according to tradition, He foretold that a period of three thousand years
of conflict and contention must needs precede the advent of the
World-Savior _Sh_áh-Bahrám, Who would triumph over Ahriman and usher in an
era of blessedness and peace.

He alone is meant by the prophecy attributed to Gautama Buddha Himself,
that “a Buddha named Maitreye, the Buddha of universal fellowship” should,
in the fullness of time, arise and reveal “His boundless glory.” To Him
the Bhagavad-Gita of the Hindus had referred as the “Most Great Spirit,”
the “Tenth Avatar,” the “Immaculate Manifestation of Krishna.”

To Him Jesus Christ had referred as the “Prince of this world,” as the
“Comforter” Who will “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and
of judgment,” as the “Spirit of Truth” Who “will guide you into all
truth,” Who “shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear,
that shall He speak,” as the “Lord of the Vineyard,” and as the “Son of
Man” Who “shall come in the glory of His Father” “in the clouds of heaven
with power and great glory,” with “all the holy angels” about Him, and
“all nations” gathered before His throne. To Him the Author of the
Apocalypse had alluded as the “Glory of God,” as “Alpha and Omega,” “the
Beginning and the End,” “the First and the Last.” Identifying His
Revelation with the “third woe,” he, moreover, had extolled His Law as “a
new heaven and a new earth,” as the “Tabernacle of God,” as the “Holy
City,” as the “New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared
as a bride adorned for her husband.” To His Day Jesus Christ Himself had
referred as “the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne
of His glory.” To the hour of His advent St. Paul had alluded as the hour
of the “last trump,” the “trump of God,” whilst St. Peter had spoken of it
as the “Day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved,
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” His Day he, furthermore,
had described as “the times of refreshing,” “the times of restitution of
all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets
since the world began.”

To Him Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, had alluded in His Book as the “Great
Announcement,” and declared His Day to be the Day whereon “God” will “come
down” “overshadowed with clouds,” the Day whereon “thy Lord shall come and
the angels rank on rank,” and “The Spirit shall arise and the angels shall
be ranged in order.” His advent He, in that Book, in a súrih said to have
been termed by Him “the heart of the Qur’án,” had foreshadowed as that of
the “third” Messenger, sent down to “strengthen” the two who preceded Him.
To His Day He, in the pages of that same Book, had paid a glowing tribute,
glorifying it as the “Great Day,” the “Last Day,” the “Day of God,” the
“Day of Judgment,” the “Day of Reckoning,” the “Day of Mutual Deceit,” the
“Day of Severing,” the “Day of Sighing,” the “Day of Meeting,” the Day
“when the Decree shall be accomplished,” the Day whereon the second
“Trumpet blast” will be sounded, the “Day when mankind shall stand before
the Lord of the world,” and “all shall come to Him in humble guise,” the
Day when “thou shalt see the mountains, which thou thinkest so firm, pass
away with the passing of a cloud,” the Day “wherein account shall be
taken,” “the approaching Day, when men’s hearts shall rise up, choking
them, into their throats,” the Day when “all that are in the heavens and
all that are on the earth shall be terror-stricken, save him whom God
pleaseth to deliver,” the Day whereon “every suckling woman shall forsake
her sucking babe, and every woman that hath a burden in her womb shall
cast her burden,” the Day “when the earth shall shine with the light of
her Lord, and the Book shall be set, and the Prophets shall be brought up,
and the witnesses; and judgment shall be given between them with equity;
and none shall be wronged.”

The plenitude of His glory the Apostle of God had, moreover, as attested
by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, compared to the “full moon on its fourteenth
night.” His station the Imám ‘Alí, the Commander of the Faithful, had,
according to the same testimony, identified with “Him Who conversed with
Moses from the Burning Bush on Sinai.” To the transcendent character of
His mission the Imám Ḥusayn had, again according to Bahá’u’lláh, borne
witness as a “Revelation whose Revealer will be He Who revealed” the
Apostle of God Himself.

About Him _Sh_ay_kh_ Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í, the herald of the Bábí Dispensation,
who had foreshadowed the “strange happenings” that would transpire
“between the years sixty and sixty-seven,” and had categorically affirmed
the inevitability of His Revelation had, as previously mentioned, written
the following: “The Mystery of this Cause must needs be made manifest, and
the Secret of this Message must needs be divulged. I can say no more, I
can appoint no time. His Cause will be made known after Ḥin (68)” (i.e.,
after a while).

Siyyid Kázim-i-Ra_sh_tí, _Sh_ay_kh_ Aḥmad’s disciple and successor, had
likewise written: “The Qá’im must needs be put to death. After He has been
slain the world will have attained the age of eighteen.” In his
_Sh_arh-i-Qásidiy-i-Lámíyyih he had even alluded to the name “Bahá.”
Furthermore, to his disciples, as his days drew to a close, he had
significantly declared: “Verily, I say, after the Qá’im the Qayyúm will be
made manifest. For when the star of the former has set the sun of the
beauty of Ḥusayn will rise and illuminate the whole world. Then will be
unfolded in all its glory the ‘Mystery’ and the ‘Secret’ spoken of by
_Sh_ay_kh_ Aḥmad.... To have attained unto that Day of Days is to have
attained unto the crowning glory of past generations, and one goodly deed
performed in that age is equal to the pious worship of countless
centuries.”

The Báb had no less significantly extolled Him as the “Essence of Being,”
as the “Remnant of God,” as the “Omnipotent Master,” as the “Crimson,
all-encompassing Light,” as “Lord of the visible and invisible,” as the
“sole Object of all previous Revelations, including The Revelation of the
Qá’im Himself.” He had formally designated Him as “He Whom God shall make
manifest,” had alluded to Him as the “Abhá Horizon” wherein He Himself
lived and dwelt, had specifically recorded His title, and eulogized His
“Order” in His best-known work, the Persian Bayán, had disclosed His name
through His allusion to the “Son of ‘Alí, a true and undoubted Leader of
men,” had, repeatedly, orally and in writing, fixed, beyond the shadow of
a doubt, the time of His Revelation, and warned His followers lest “the
Bayán and all that hath been revealed therein” should “shut them out as by
a veil” from Him. He had, moreover, declared that He was the “first
servant to believe in Him,” that He bore Him allegiance “before all things
were created,” that “no allusion” of His “could allude unto Him,” that
“the year-old germ that holdeth within itself the potentialities of the
Revelation that is to come is endowed with a potency superior to the
combined forces of the whole of the Bayán.” He had, moreover, clearly
asserted that He had “covenanted with all created things” concerning Him
Whom God shall make manifest ere the covenant concerning His own mission
had been established. He had readily acknowledged that He was but “a
letter” of that “Most Mighty Book,” “a dew-drop” from that “Limitless
Ocean,” that His Revelation was “only a leaf amongst the leaves of His
Paradise,” that “all that hath been exalted in the Bayán” was but “a ring”
upon His own hand, and He Himself “a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God
shall make manifest,” Who, “turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He
pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth.” He had unmistakably
declared that He had “sacrificed” Himself “wholly” for Him, that He had
“consented to be cursed” for His sake, and to have “yearned for naught but
martyrdom” in the path of His love. Finally, He had unequivocally
prophesied: “Today the Bayán is in the stage of seed; at the beginning of
the manifestation of Him Whom God shall make manifest its ultimate
perfection will become apparent.” “Ere nine will have elapsed from the
inception of this Cause the realities of the created things will not be
made manifest. All that thou hast as yet seen is but the stage from the
moist-germ until We clothed it with flesh. Be patient until thou beholdest
a new creation. Say: Blessed, therefore, be God, the Most Excellent of
Makers!”

“He around Whom the Point of the Bayán (Báb) hath revolved is come” is
Bahá’u’lláh’s confirmatory testimony to the inconceivable greatness and
preeminent character of His own Revelation. “If all who are in heaven and
on earth,” He moreover affirms, “be invested in this day with the powers
and attributes destined for the Letters of the Bayán, whose station is ten
thousand times more glorious than that of the Letters of the Qur’ánic
Dispensation, and if they one and all should, swift as the twinkling of an
eye, hesitate to recognize My Revelation, they shall be accounted, in the
sight of God, of those that have gone astray, and regarded as ‘Letters of
Negation.’” “Powerful is He, the King of Divine might,” He, alluding to
Himself in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, asserts, “to extinguish with one letter of
His wondrous words, the breath of life in the whole of the Bayán and the
people thereof, and with one letter bestow upon them a new and everlasting
life, and cause them to arise and speed out of the sepulchers of their
vain and selfish desires.” “This,” He furthermore declares, “is the king
of days,” the “Day of God Himself,” the “Day which shall never be followed
by night,” the “Springtime which autumn will never overtake,” “the eye to
past ages and centuries,” for which “the soul of every Prophet of God, of
every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted,” for which “all the divers kindreds
of the earth have yearned,” through which “God hath proved the hearts of
the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets, and beyond them those
that stand guard over His sacred and inviolable Sanctuary, the inmates of
the Celestial Pavilion and dwellers of the Tabernacle of Glory.” “In this
most mighty Revelation,” He moreover, states, “all the Dispensations of
the past have attained their highest, their final consummation.” And
again: “None among the Manifestations of old, except to a prescribed
degree, hath ever completely apprehended the nature of this Revelation.”
Referring to His own station He declares: “But for Him no Divine Messenger
would have been invested with the Robe of Prophethood, nor would any of
the sacred Scriptures have been revealed.”

And last but not least is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own tribute to the transcendent
character of the Revelation identified with His Father: “Centuries, nay
ages, must pass away, ere the Day-Star of Truth shineth again in its
mid-summer splendor, or appeareth once more in the radiance of its vernal
glory.” “The mere contemplation of the Dispensation inaugurated by the
Blessed Beauty,” He furthermore affirms, “would have sufficed to overwhelm
the saints of bygone ages—saints who longed to partake for one moment of
its great glory.” “Concerning the Manifestations that will come down in
the future ‘in the shadows of the clouds,’ know verily,” is His
significant statement, “that in so far as their relation to the source of
their inspiration is concerned they are under the shadow of the Ancient
Beauty. In their relation, however, to the age in which they appear, each
and every one of them ‘doeth whatsoever He willeth.’” And finally stands
this, His illuminating explanation, setting forth conclusively the true
relationship between the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and that of the Báb:
“The Revelation of the Báb may be likened to the sun, its station
corresponding to the first sign of the Zodiac—the sign Aries—which the sun
enters at the vernal equinox. The station of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, on
the other hand, is represented by the sign Leo, the sun’s mid-summer and
highest station. By this is meant that this holy Dispensation is illumined
with the light of the Sun of Truth shining from its most exalted station,
and in the plenitude of its resplendency, its heat and glory.”

To attempt an exhaustive survey of the prophetic references to
Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation would indeed be an impossible task. To this the
pen of Bahá’u’lláh Himself bears witness: “All the Divine Books and
Scriptures have predicted and announced unto men the advent of the Most
Great Revelation. None can adequately recount the verses recorded in the
Books of former ages which forecast this supreme Bounty, this most mighty
Bestowal.”

In conclusion of this theme, I feel, it should be stated that the
Revelation identified with Bahá’u’lláh abrogates unconditionally all the
Dispensations gone before it, upholds uncompromisingly the eternal
verities they enshrine, recognizes firmly and absolutely the Divine origin
of their Authors, preserves inviolate the sanctity of their authentic
Scriptures, disclaims any intention of lowering the status of their
Founders or of abating the spiritual ideals they inculcate, clarifies and
correlates their functions, reaffirms their common, their unchangeable and
fundamental purpose, reconciles their seemingly divergent claims and
doctrines, readily and gratefully recognizes their respective
contributions to the gradual unfoldment of one Divine Revelation,
unhesitatingly acknowledges itself to be but one link in the chain of
continually progressive Revelations, supplements their teachings with such
laws and ordinances as conform to the imperative needs, and are dictated
by the growing receptivity, of a fast evolving and constantly changing
society, and proclaims its readiness and ability to fuse and incorporate
the contending sects and factions into which they have fallen into a
universal Fellowship, functioning within the framework, and in accordance
with the precepts, of a divinely conceived, a world-unifying, a
world-redeeming Order.

A Revelation, hailed as the promise and crowning glory of past ages and
centuries, as the consummation of all the Dispensations within the Adamic
Cycle, inaugurating an era of at least a thousand years’ duration, and a
cycle destined to last no less than five thousand centuries, signalizing
the end of the Prophetic Era and the beginning of the Era of Fulfillment,
unsurpassed alike in the duration of its Author’s ministry and the
fecundity and splendor of His mission—such a Revelation was, as already
noted, born amidst the darkness of a subterranean dungeon in Ṭihrán—an
abominable pit that had once served as a reservoir of water for one of the
public baths of the city. Wrapped in its stygian gloom, breathing its
fetid air, numbed by its humid and icy atmosphere, His feet in stocks, His
neck weighed down by a mighty chain, surrounded by criminals and
miscreants of the worst order, oppressed by the consciousness of the
terrible blot that had stained the fair name of His beloved Faith,
painfully aware of the dire distress that had overtaken its champions, and
of the grave dangers that faced the remnant of its followers—at so
critical an hour and under such appalling circumstances the “Most Great
Spirit,” as designated by Himself, and symbolized in the Zoroastrian, the
Mosaic, the Christian, and Muḥammadan Dispensations by the Sacred Fire,
the Burning Bush, the Dove and the Angel Gabriel respectively, descended
upon, and revealed itself, personated by a “Maiden,” to the agonized soul
of Bahá’u’lláh.

“One night in a dream,” He Himself, calling to mind, in the evening of His
life, the first stirrings of God’s Revelation within His soul, has
written, “these exalted words were heard on every side: ‘Verily, We shall
render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy pen. Grieve Thou not for that
which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety.
Ere long will God raise up the treasures of the earth—men who will aid
Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the
hearts of such as have recognized Him.’” In another passage He describes,
briefly and graphically, the impact of the onrushing force of the Divine
Summons upon His entire being—an experience vividly recalling the vision
of God that caused Moses to fall in a swoon, and the voice of Gabriel
which plunged Muḥammad into such consternation that, hurrying to the
shelter of His home, He bade His wife, _Kh_adíjih, envelop Him in His
mantle. “During the days I lay in the prison of Ṭihrán,” are His own
memorable words, “though the galling weight of the chains and the
stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent
moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head
over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon
the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body
would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what
no man could bear to hear.”

In His Súratu’l-Haykal (the Súrih of the Temple) He thus describes those
breathless moments when the Maiden, symbolizing the “Most Great Spirit”
proclaimed His mission to the entire creation: “While engulfed in
tribulations I heard a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My
head. Turning My face, I beheld a Maiden—the embodiment of the remembrance
of the name of My Lord—suspended in the air before Me. So rejoiced was she
in her very soul that her countenance shone with the ornament of the
good-pleasure of God, and her cheeks glowed with the brightness of the
All-Merciful. Betwixt earth and heaven she was raising a call which
captivated the hearts and minds of men. She was imparting to both My
inward and outer being tidings which rejoiced My soul, and the souls of
God’s honored servants. Pointing with her finger unto My head, she
addressed all who are in heaven and all who are on earth, saying: ‘By God!
This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is
the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within
you, could ye but understand. This is the Mystery of God and His Treasure,
the Cause of God and His glory unto all who are in the kingdoms of
Revelation and of creation, if ye be of them that perceive.’”

In His Epistle to Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, His royal adversary, revealed at
the height of the proclamation of His Message, occur these passages which
shed further light on the Divine origin of His mission: “O King! I was but
a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the
All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that
hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and
All-Knowing. And he bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and
for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of
understanding to flow.... This is but a leaf which the winds of the will
of Thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred.... His
all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise
amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered.
The hand of the will of Thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful,
transformed Me.” “By My Life!” He asserts in another Tablet, “Not of Mine
own volition have I revealed Myself, but God, of His own choosing, hath
manifested Me.” And again: “Whenever I chose to hold My peace and be
still, lo, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, standing on My right hand,
aroused Me, and the Most Great Spirit appeared before My face, and Gabriel
overshadowed Me, and the Spirit of Glory stirred within My bosom, bidding
Me arise and break My silence.”

Such were the circumstances in which the Sun of Truth arose in the city of
Ṭihrán—a city which, by reason of so rare a privilege conferred upon it,
had been glorified by the Báb as the “Holy Land,” and surnamed by
Bahá’u’lláh “the Mother of the world,” the “Day-spring of Light,” the
“Dawning-Place of the signs of the Lord,” the “Source of the joy of all
mankind.” The first dawnings of that Light of peerless splendor had, as
already described, broken in the city of _Sh_íráz. The rim of that Orb had
now appeared above the horizon of the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán. Its rays
were to burst forth, a decade later, in Ba_gh_dád, piercing the clouds
which immediately after its rise in those somber surroundings obscured its
splendor. It was destined to mount to its zenith in the far-away city of
Adrianople, and ultimately to set in the immediate vicinity of the
fortress-town of Akká.

The process whereby the effulgence of so dazzling a Revelation was
unfolded to the eyes of men was of necessity slow and gradual. The first
intimation which its Bearer received did not synchronize with, nor was it
followed immediately by, a disclosure of its character to either His own
companions or His kindred. A period of no less than ten years had to
elapse ere its far-reaching implications could be directly divulged to
even those who had been intimately associated with Him—a period of great
spiritual ferment, during which the Recipient of so weighty a Message
restlessly anticipated the hour at which He could unburden His heavily
laden soul, so replete with the potent energies released by God’s nascent
Revelation. All He did, in the course of this pre-ordained interval, was
to hint, in veiled and allegorical language, in epistles, commentaries,
prayers and treatises, which He was moved to reveal, that the Báb’s
promise had already been fulfilled, and that He Himself was the One Who
had been chosen to redeem it. A few of His fellow-disciples, distinguished
by their sagacity, and their personal attachment and devotion to Him,
perceived the radiance of the as yet unrevealed glory that had flooded His
soul, and would have, but for His restraining influence, divulged His
secret and proclaimed it far and wide.



Chapter VII: Bahá’u’lláh’s Banishment to ‘Iráq


The attempt on the life of Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, as stated in a previous
chapter, was made on the 28th of the month of _Sh_avval, 1268 A.H.,
corresponding to the 15th of August, 1852. Immediately after, Bahá’u’lláh
was arrested in Níyávarán, was conducted with the greatest ignominy to
Ṭihrán and cast into the Síyáh-_Ch_ál. His imprisonment lasted for a
period of no less than four months, in the middle of which the “year nine”
(1269), anticipated in such glowing terms by the Báb, and alluded to as
the year “after Ḥin” by _Sh_ay_kh_ Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í, was ushered in,
endowing with undreamt-of potentialities the whole world. Two months after
that year was born, Bahá’u’lláh, the purpose of His imprisonment now
accomplished, was released from His confinement, and set out, a month
later, for Ba_gh_dád, on the first stage of a memorable and life-long
exile which was to carry Him, in the course of years, as far as Adrianople
in European Turkey, and which was to end with His twenty-four years’
incarceration in Akká.

Now that He had been invested, in consequence of that potent dream, with
the power and sovereign authority associated with His Divine mission, His
deliverance from a confinement that had achieved its purpose, and which if
prolonged would have completely fettered Him in the exercise of His
newly-bestowed functions, became not only inevitable, but imperative and
urgent. Nor were the means and instruments lacking whereby his
emancipation from the shackles that restrained Him could be effected. The
persistent and decisive intervention of the Russian Minister, Prince
Dolgorouki, who left no stone unturned to establish the innocence of
Bahá’u’lláh; the public confession of Mullá _Sh_ay_kh_ ‘Alíy-i-Tur_sh_ízí,
surnamed Aẓím, who, in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál, in the presence of the
Ḥajíbu’d-Dawlih and the Russian Minister’s interpreter and of the
government’s representative, emphatically exonerated Him, and acknowledged
his own complicity; the indisputable testimony established by competent
tribunals; the unrelaxing efforts exerted by His own brothers, sisters and
kindred,—all these combined to effect His ultimate deliverance from the
hands of His rapacious enemies. Another potent if less evident influence
which must be acknowledged as having had a share in His liberation was the
fate suffered by so large a number of His self-sacrificing
fellow-disciples who languished with Him in that same prison. For, as
Nabíl truly remarks, “the blood, shed in the course of that fateful year
in Ṭihrán by that heroic band with whom Bahá’u’lláh had been imprisoned,
was the ransom paid for His deliverance from the hand of a foe that sought
to prevent Him from achieving the purpose for which God had destined Him.”

With such overwhelming testimonies establishing beyond the shadow of a
doubt the non-complicity of Bahá’u’lláh, the Grand Vizir, after having
secured the reluctant consent of his sovereign to set free his Captive,
was now in a position to dispatch his trusted representative, Ḥájí ‘Alí,
to the Síyáh-_Ch_ál, instructing him to deliver to Bahá’u’lláh the order
for His release. The sight which that emissary beheld upon his arrival
evoked in him such anger that he cursed his master for the shameful
treatment of a man of such high position and stainless renown. Removing
his mantle from his shoulders he presented it to Bahá’u’lláh, entreating
Him to wear it when in the presence of the Minister and his counsellors, a
request which He emphatically refused, preferring to appear, attired in
the garb of a prisoner, before the members of the Imperial government.

No sooner had He presented Himself before them than the Grand Vizir
addressed Him saying: “Had you chosen to take my advice, and had you
dissociated yourself from the Faith of the Siyyid-i-Báb, you would never
have suffered the pains and indignities that have been heaped upon you.”
“Had you, in your turn,” Bahá’u’lláh retorted, “followed My counsels, the
affairs of the government would not have reached so critical a stage.”
Mírzá Áqá _Kh_án was thereupon reminded of the conversation he had had
with Him on the occasion of the Báb’s martyrdom, when he had been warned
that “the flame that has been kindled will blaze forth more fiercely than
ever.” “What is it that you advise me now to do?” he inquired from
Bahá’u’lláh. “Command the governors of the realm,” was the instant reply,
“to cease shedding the blood of the innocent, to cease plundering their
property, to cease dishonoring their women, and injuring their children.”
That same day the Grand Vizir acted on the advice thus given him; but any
effect it had, as the course of subsequent events amply demonstrated,
proved to be momentary and negligible.

The relative peace and tranquillity accorded Bahá’u’lláh after His tragic
and cruel imprisonment was destined, by the dictates of an unerring
Wisdom, to be of an extremely short duration. He had hardly rejoined His
family and kindred when a decree from Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh was communicated
to Him, bidding Him leave the territory of Persia, fixing a time-limit of
one month for His departure and allowing Him the right to choose the land
of His exile.

The Russian Minister, as soon as he was informed of the Imperial decision,
expressed the desire to take Bahá’u’lláh under the protection of his
government, and offered to extend every facility for His removal to
Russia. This invitation, so spontaneously extended, Bahá’u’lláh declined,
preferring, in pursuance of an unerring instinct, to establish His abode
in Turkish territory, in the city of Ba_gh_dád. “Whilst I lay chained and
fettered in the prison,” He Himself, years after, testified in His Epistle
addressed to the Czar of Russia, Nicolaevitch Alexander II, “one of thy
ministers extended Me his aid. Whereupon God hath ordained for thee a
station which the knowledge of none can comprehend except His knowledge.
Beware lest thou barter away this sublime station.” “In the days,” is yet
another illuminating testimony revealed by His pen, “when this Wronged One
was sore-afflicted in prison, the minister of the highly esteemed
government (of Russia)—may God, glorified and exalted be He, assist
him!—exerted his utmost endeavor to compass My deliverance. Several times
permission for My release was granted. Some of the ‘ulamás of the city,
however, would prevent it. Finally, My freedom was gained through the
solicitude and the endeavor of His Excellency the Minister. ...His
Imperial Majesty, the Most Great Emperor—may God, exalted and glorified be
He, assist him!—extended to Me for the sake of God his protection—a
protection which has excited the envy and enmity of the foolish ones of
the earth.”

The _Sh_áh’s edict, equivalent to an order for the immediate expulsion of
Bahá’u’lláh from Persian territory, opens a new and glorious chapter in
the history of the first Bahá’í century. Viewed in its proper perspective
it will be even recognized to have ushered in one of the most eventful and
momentous epochs in the world’s religious history. It coincides with the
inauguration of a ministry extending over a period of almost forty years—a
ministry which, by virtue of its creative power, its cleansing force, its
healing influences, and the irresistible operation of the world-directing,
world-shaping forces it released, stands unparalleled in the religious
annals of the entire human race. It marks the opening phase in a series of
banishments, ranging over a period of four decades, and terminating only
with the death of Him Who was the Object of that cruel edict. The process
which it set in motion, gradually progressing and unfolding, began by
establishing His Cause for a time in the very midst of the
jealously-guarded stronghold of _Sh_í’ah Islám, and brought Him in
personal contact with its highest and most illustrious exponents; then, at
a later stage, it confronted Him, at the seat of the Caliphate, with the
civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm and the representatives
of the Sulṭán of Turkey, the most powerful potentate in the Islamic world;
and finally carried Him as far as the shores of the Holy Land, thereby
fulfilling the prophecies recorded in both the Old and the New Testaments,
redeeming the pledge enshrined in various traditions attributed to the
Apostle of God and the Imáms who succeeded Him, and ushering in the
long-awaited restoration of Israel to the ancient cradle of its Faith.
With it, may be said to have begun the last and most fruitful of the four
stages of a life, the first twenty-seven years of which were characterized
by the care-free enjoyment of all the advantages conferred by high birth
and riches, and by an unfailing solicitude for the interests of the poor,
the sick and the down-trodden; followed by nine years of active and
exemplary discipleship in the service of the Báb; and finally by an
imprisonment of four months’ duration, overshadowed throughout by mortal
peril, embittered by agonizing sorrows, and immortalized, as it drew to a
close, by the sudden eruption of the forces released by an overpowering,
soul-revolutionizing Revelation.

This enforced and hurried departure of Bahá’u’lláh from His native land,
accompanied by some of His relatives, recalls in some of its aspects, the
precipitate flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the sudden migration of
Muḥammad, soon after His assumption of the prophetic office, from Mecca to
Medina; the exodus of Moses, His brother and His followers from the land
of their birth, in response to the Divine summons, and above all the
banishment of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land—a
banishment which, in the multitudinous benefits it conferred upon so many
divers peoples, faiths and nations, constitutes the nearest historical
approach to the incalculable blessings destined to be vouchsafed, in this
day, and in future ages, to the whole human race, in direct consequence of
the exile suffered by Him Whose Cause is the flower and fruit of all
previous Revelations.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, after enumerating in His “Some Answered Questions” the
far-reaching consequences of Abraham’s banishment, significantly affirms
that “since the exile of Abraham from Ur to Aleppo in Syria produced this
result, we must consider what will be the effect of the exile of
Bahá’u’lláh in His several removes from Ṭihrán to Ba_gh_dád, from thence
to Constantinople, to Rumelia and to the Holy Land.”

On the first day of the month of Rabí’u’_th_-_Th_ání, of the year 1269
A.H., (January 12, 1853), nine months after His return from Karbilá,
Bahá’u’lláh, together with some of the members of His family, and escorted
by an officer of the Imperial body-guard and an official representing the
Russian Legation, set out on His three months’ journey to Ba_gh_dád. Among
those who shared His exile was His wife, the saintly Navváb, entitled by
Him the “Most Exalted Leaf,” who, during almost forty years, continued to
evince a fortitude, a piety, a devotion and a nobility of soul which
earned her from the pen of her Lord the posthumous and unrivalled tribute
of having been made His “perpetual consort in all the worlds of God.” His
nine-year-old son, later surnamed the “Most Great Branch,” destined to
become the Center of His Covenant and authorized Interpreter of His
teachings, together with His seven-year-old sister, known in later years
by the same title as that of her illustrious mother, and whose services
until the ripe old age of four score years and six, no less than her
exalted parentage, entitle her to the distinction of ranking as the
outstanding heroine of the Bahá’í Dispensation, were also included among
the exiles who were now bidding their last farewell to their native
country. Of the two brothers who accompanied Him on that journey the first
was Mírzá Músá, commonly called Áqáy-i-Kalím, His staunch and valued
supporter, the ablest and most distinguished among His brothers and
sisters, and one of the “only two persons who,” according to Bahá’u’lláh’s
testimony, “were adequately informed of the origins” of His Faith. The
other was Mírzá Muḥammad-Qulí, a half-brother, who, in spite of the
defection of some of his relatives, remained to the end loyal to the Cause
he had espoused.

The journey, undertaken in the depth of an exceptionally severe winter,
carrying the little band of exiles, so inadequately equipped, across the
snow-bound mountains of Western Persia, though long and perilous, was
uneventful except for the warm and enthusiastic reception accorded the
travelers during their brief stay in Karand by its governor Hayat-Qulí
_Kh_án, of the Allíyu’lláhí sect. He was shown, in return, such kindness
by Bahá’u’lláh that the people of the entire village were affected, and
continued, long after, to extend such hospitality to His followers on
their way to Ba_gh_dád that they gained the reputation of being known as
Bábís.

In a prayer revealed by Him at that time, Bahá’u’lláh, expatiating upon
the woes and trials He had endured in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál, thus bears witness
to the hardships undergone in the course of that “terrible journey”: “My
God, My Master, My Desire!... Thou hast created this atom of dust through
the consummate power of Thy might, and nurtured Him with Thine hands which
none can chain up.... Thou hast destined for Him trials and tribulations
which no tongue can describe, nor any of Thy Tablets adequately recount.
The throat Thou didst accustom to the touch of silk Thou hast, in the end,
clasped with strong chains, and the body Thou didst ease with brocades and
velvets Thou hast at last subjected to the abasement of a dungeon. Thy
decree hath shackled Me with unnumbered fetters, and cast about My neck
chains that none can sunder. A number of years have passed during which
afflictions have, like showers of mercy, rained upon Me.... How many the
nights during which the weight of chains and fetters allowed Me no rest,
and how numerous the days during which peace and tranquillity were denied
Me, by reason of that wherewith the hands and tongues of men have
afflicted Me! Both bread and water which Thou hast, through Thy
all-embracing mercy, allowed unto the beasts of the field, they have, for
a time, forbidden unto this servant, and the things they refused to
inflict upon such as have seceded from Thy Cause, the same have they
suffered to be inflicted upon Me, until, finally, Thy decree was
irrevocably fixed, and Thy behest summoned this servant to depart out of
Persia, accompanied by a number of frail-bodied men and children of tender
age, at this time when the cold is so intense that one cannot even speak,
and ice and snow so abundant that it is impossible to move.”

Finally, on the 28th of Jamádiyu’_th_-_Th_ání 1269 A.H. (April 8, 1853),
Bahá’u’lláh arrived in Ba_gh_dád, the capital city of what was then the
Turkish province of ‘Iráq. From there He proceeded, a few days after, to
Kazímayn, about three miles north of the city, a town inhabited chiefly by
Persians, and where the two Kázims, the seventh and the ninth Imáms, are
buried. Soon after His arrival the representative of the _Sh_áh’s
government, stationed in Ba_gh_dád, called on Him, and suggested that it
would be advisable for Him, in view of the many visitors crowding that
center of pilgrimage, to establish His residence in Old Ba_gh_dád, a
suggestion with which He readily concurred. A month later, towards the end
of Rajab, He rented the house of Ḥájí ‘Alí Madad, in an old quarter of the
city, into which He moved with His family.

In that city, described in Islamic traditions as “Zahru’l-Kúfih,”
designated for centuries as the “Abode of Peace,” and immortalized by
Bahá’u’lláh as the “City of God,” He, except for His two year retirement
to the mountains of Kurdistán and His occasional visits to Najaf, Karbilá
and Kazímayn, continued to reside until His banishment to Constantinople.
To that city the Qur’án had alluded as the “Abode of Peace” to which God
Himself “calleth.” To it, in that same Book, further allusion had been
made in the verse “For them is a Dwelling of Peace with their Lord ... on
the Day whereon God shall gather them all together.” From it radiated,
wave after wave, a power, a radiance and a glory which insensibly
reanimated a languishing Faith, sorely-stricken, sinking into obscurity,
threatened with oblivion. From it were diffused, day and night, and with
ever-increasing energy, the first emanations of a Revelation which, in its
scope, its copiousness, its driving force and the volume and variety of
its literature, was destined to excel that of the Báb Himself. Above its
horizon burst forth the rays of the Sun of Truth, Whose rising glory had
for ten long years been overshadowed by the inky clouds of a consuming
hatred, an ineradicable jealousy, an unrelenting malice. In it the
Tabernacle of the promised “Lord of Hosts” was first erected, and the
foundations of the long-awaited Kingdom of the “Father” unassailably
established. Out of it went forth the earliest tidings of the Message of
Salvation which, as prophesied by Daniel, was to mark, after the lapse of
“a thousand two hundred and ninety days” (1290 A.H.), the end of “the
abomination that maketh desolate.” Within its walls the “Most Great House
of God,” His “Footstool” and the “Throne of His Glory,” “the Cynosure of
an adoring world,” the “Lamp of Salvation between earth and heaven,” the
“Sign of His remembrance to all who are in heaven and on earth,”
enshrining the “Jewel whose glory hath irradiated all creation,” the
“Standard” of His Kingdom, the “Shrine round which will circle the
concourse of the faithful” was irrevocably founded and permanently
consecrated. Upon it, by virtue of its sanctity as Bahá’u’lláh’s “Most
Holy Habitation” and “Seat of His transcendent glory,” was conferred the
honor of being regarded as a center of pilgrimage second to none except
the city of Akká, His “Most Great Prison,” in whose immediate vicinity His
holy Sepulcher, the Qiblih of the Bahá’í world, is enshrined. Around the
heavenly Table, spread in its very heart, clergy and laity, Sunnís and
_Sh_í’ahs, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, princes and nobles, peasants and
dervishes, gathered in increasing numbers from far and near, all
partaking, according to their needs and capacities, of a measure of that
Divine sustenance which was to enable them, in the course of time, to
noise abroad the fame of that bountiful Giver, swell the ranks of His
admirers, scatter far and wide His writings, enlarge the limits of His
congregation, and lay a firm foundation for the future erection of the
institutions of His Faith. And finally, before the gaze of the diversified
communities that dwelt within its gates, the first phase in the gradual
unfoldment of a newborn Revelation was ushered in, the first effusions
from the inspired pen of its Author were recorded, the first principles of
His slowly crystallizing doctrine were formulated, the first implications
of His august station were apprehended, the first attacks aiming at the
disruption of His Faith from within were launched, the first victories
over its internal enemies were registered, and the first pilgrimages to
the Door of His Presence were undertaken.

This life-long exile to which the Bearer of so precious a Message was now
providentially condemned did not, and indeed could not, manifest, either
suddenly or rapidly, the potentialities latent within it. The process
whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifested to the eyes of men
was slow, painfully slow, and was characterized, as indeed the history of
His Faith from its inception to the present day demonstrates, by a number
of crises which at times threatened to arrest its unfoldment and blast all
the hopes which its progress had engendered.

One such crisis which, as it deepened, threatened to jeopardize His
newborn Faith and to subvert its earliest foundations, overshadowed the
first years of His sojourn in ‘Iráq, the initial stage in His life-long
exile, and imparted to them a special significance. Unlike those which
preceded it, this crisis was purely internal in character, and was
occasioned solely by the acts, the ambitions and follies of those who were
numbered among His recognized fellow-disciples.

The external enemies of the Faith, whether civil or ecclesiastical, who
had thus far been chiefly responsible for the reverses and humiliations it
had suffered, were by now relatively quiescent. The public appetite for
revenge, which had seemed insatiable, had now, to some extent, in
consequence of the torrents of blood that had flowed, abated. A feeling,
bordering on exhaustion and despair, had, moreover, settled on some of its
most inveterate enemies, who were astute enough to perceive that though
the Faith had bent beneath the grievous blows their hands had dealt it,
its structure had remained essentially unimpaired and its spirit unbroken.
The orders issued to the governors of the provinces by the Grand Vizir had
had, furthermore, a sobering effect on the local authorities, who were now
dissuaded from venting their fury upon, and from indulging in their
sadistic cruelties against, a hated adversary.

A lull had, in consequence, momentarily ensued, which was destined to be
broken, at a later stage, by a further wave of repressive measures in
which the Sulṭán of Turkey and his ministers, as well as the Sunní
sacerdotal order, were to join hands with the _Sh_áh and the _Sh_í’ah
clericals of Persia and ‘Iráq in an endeavor to stamp out, once and for
all, the Faith and all it stood for. While this lull persisted the initial
manifestations of the internal crisis, already mentioned, were beginning
to reveal themselves—a crisis which, though less spectacular in the public
eye, proved itself, as it moved to its climax, to be one of unprecedented
gravity, reducing the numerical strength of the infant community,
imperiling its unity, causing immense damage to its prestige, and
tarnishing for a considerable period of time its glory.

This crisis had already been brewing in the days immediately following the
execution of the Báb, was intensified during the months when the
controlling hand of Bahá’u’lláh was suddenly withdrawn as a result of His
confinement in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán, was further aggravated by His
precipitate banishment from Persia, and began to protrude its disturbing
features during the first years of His sojourn in Ba_gh_dád. Its
devastating force gathered momentum during His two year retirement to the
mountains of Kurdistán, and though it was checked, for a time, after His
return from Sulaymáníyyih, under the overmastering influences exerted
preparatory to the Declaration of His Mission, it broke out later, with
still greater violence, and reached its climax in Adrianople, only to
receive finally its death-blow under the impact of the irresistible forces
released through the proclamation of that Mission to all mankind.

Its central figure was no less a person than the nominee of the Báb
Himself, the credulous and cowardly Mírzá Yaḥyá, to certain traits of
whose character reference has already been made in the foregoing pages.
The black-hearted scoundrel who befooled and manipulated this vain and
flaccid man with consummate skill and unyielding persistence was a certain
Siyyid Muḥammad, a native of Iṣfáhán, notorious for his inordinate
ambition, his blind obstinacy and uncontrollable jealousy. To him
Bahá’u’lláh had later referred in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the one who had
“led astray” Mírzá Yaḥyá, and stigmatized him, in one of His Tablets, as
the “source of envy and the quintessence of mischief,” while ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
had described the relationship existing between these two as that of “the
sucking child” to the “much-prized breast” of its mother. Forced to
abandon his studies in the madrisiyi-i-Sadr of Iṣfáhán, this Siyyid had
migrated, in shame and remorse, to Karbilá, had there joined the ranks of
the Báb’s followers, and shown, after His martyrdom, signs of vacillation
which exposed the shallowness of his faith and the fundamental weakness of
his convictions. Bahá’u’lláh’s first visit to Karbilá and the marks of
undisguised reverence, love and admiration shown Him by some of the most
distinguished among the former disciples and companions of Siyyid Kázim,
had aroused in this calculating and unscrupulous schemer an envy, and bred
in his soul an animosity, which the forbearance and patience shown him by
Bahá’u’lláh had served only to inflame. His deluded helpers, willing tools
of his diabolical designs, were the not inconsiderable number of Bábís
who, baffled, disillusioned and leaderless, were already predisposed to be
beguiled by him into pursuing a path diametrically opposed to the tenets
and counsels of a departed Leader.

For, with the Báb no longer in the midst of His followers; with His
nominee, either seeking a safe hiding place in the mountains of
Mázindarán, or wearing the disguise of a dervish or of an Arab wandering
from town to town; with Bahá’u’lláh imprisoned and subsequently banished
beyond the limits of His native country; with the flower of the Faith mown
down in a seemingly unending series of slaughters, the remnants of that
persecuted community were sunk in a distress that appalled and paralyzed
them, that stifled their spirit, confused their minds and strained to the
utmost their loyalty. Reduced to this extremity they could no longer rely
on any voice that commanded sufficient authority to still their
forebodings, resolve their problems, or prescribe to them their duties and
obligations.

Nabíl, traveling at that time through the province of _Kh_urásán, the
scene of the tumultuous early victories of a rising Faith, had himself
summed up his impressions of the prevailing condition. “The fire of the
Cause of God,” he testifies in his narrative, “had been well-nigh quenched
in every place. I could detect no trace of warmth anywhere.” In Qazvín,
according to the same testimony, the remnant of the community had split
into four factions, bitterly opposed to one another, and a prey to the
most absurd doctrines and fancies. Bahá’u’lláh upon His arrival in
Ba_gh_dád, a city which had witnessed the glowing evidences of the
indefatigable zeal of Táhirih, found among His countrymen residing in that
city no more than a single Bábí, while in Kazímayn inhabited chiefly by
Persians, a mere handful of His compatriots remained who still professed,
in fear and obscurity, their faith in the Báb.

The morals of the members of this dwindling community, no less than their
numbers, had sharply declined. Such was their “waywardness and folly,” to
quote Bahá’u’lláh’s own words, that upon His release from prison, His
first decision was “to arise ... and undertake, with the utmost vigor, the
task of regenerating this people.”

As the character of the professed adherents of the Báb declined and as
proofs of the deepening confusion that afflicted them multiplied, the
mischief-makers, who were lying in wait, and whose sole aim was to exploit
the progressive deterioration in the situation for their own benefit, grew
ever more and more audacious. The conduct of Mírzá Yaḥyá, who claimed to
be the successor of the Báb, and who prided himself on his high sounding
titles of Mir’atu’l-Azalíyyih (Everlasting Mirror), of Subh-i-Azal
(Morning of Eternity), and of Ismu’l-Azal (Name of Eternity), and
particularly the machinations of Siyyid Muḥammad, exalted by him to the
rank of the first among the “Witnesses” of the Bayán, were by now assuming
such a character that the prestige of the Faith was becoming directly
involved, and its future security seriously imperiled.

The former had, after the execution of the Báb, sustained such a violent
shock that his faith almost forsook him. Wandering for a time, in the
guise of a dervish, in the mountains of Mázindarán, he, by his behavior,
had so severely tested the loyalty of his fellow-believers in Núr, most of
whom had been converted through the indefatigable zeal of Bahá’u’lláh,
that they too wavered in their convictions, some of them going so far as
to throw in their lot with the enemy. He subsequently proceeded to
Ra_sh_t, and remained concealed in the province of Gílán until his
departure for Kirman_sh_áh, where in order the better to screen himself he
entered the service of a certain ‘Abdu’lláh-i-Qazvíní, a maker of shrouds,
and became a vendor of his goods. He was still there when Bahá’u’lláh
passed through that city on His way to Ba_gh_dád, and expressing a desire
to live in close proximity to Bahá’u’lláh but in a house by himself where
he could ply some trade incognito, he succeeded in obtaining from Him a
sum of money with which he purchased several bales of cotton and then
proceeded, in the garb of an Arab, by way of Mandalíj to Ba_gh_dád. He
established himself there in the street of the Charcoal Dealers, situated
in a dilapidated quarter of the city, and placing a turban upon his head,
and assuming the name of Ḥájí ‘Alíy-i-Lás-Furú_sh_, embarked on his
newly-chosen occupation. Siyyid Muḥammad had meanwhile settled in Karbilá,
and was busily engaged, with Mírzá Yaḥyá as his lever, in kindling
dissensions and in deranging the life of the exiles and of the community
that had gathered about them.

Little wonder that from the pen of Bahá’u’lláh, Who was as yet unable to
divulge the Secret that stirred within His bosom, these words of warning,
of counsel and of assurance should, at a time when the shadows were
beginning to deepen around Him, have proceeded: “The days of tests are now
come. Oceans of dissension and tribulation are surging, and the Banners of
Doubt are, in every nook and corner, occupied in stirring up mischief and
in leading men to perdition. ...Suffer not the voice of some of the
soldiers of negation to cast doubt into your midst, neither allow
yourselves to become heedless of Him Who is the Truth, inasmuch as in
every Dispensation such contentions have been raised. God, however, will
establish His Faith, and manifest His light albeit the stirrers of
sedition abhor it. ...Watch ye every day for the Cause of God.... All are
held captive in His grasp. No place is there for any one to flee to. Think
not the Cause of God to be a thing lightly taken, in which any one can
gratify his whims. In various quarters a number of souls have, at the
present time, advanced this same claim. The time is approaching when ...
every one of them will have perished and been lost, nay will have come to
naught and become a thing unremembered, even as the dust itself.”

To Mírzá Áqá Ján, “the first to believe” in Him, designated later as
_Kh_ádimu’-lláh (Servant of God)—a Bábí youth, aflame with devotion, who,
under the influence of a dream he had of the Báb, and as a result of the
perusal of certain writings of Bahá’u’lláh, had precipitately forsaken his
home in Ká_sh_án and traveled to ‘Iráq, in the hope of attaining His
presence, and who from then on served Him assiduously for a period of
forty years in his triple function of amanuensis, companion and
attendant—to him Bahá’u’lláh, more than to any one else, was moved to
disclose, at this critical juncture, a glimpse of the as yet unrevealed
glory of His station. This same Mírzá Áqá Ján, recounting to Nabíl his
experiences, on that first and never to be forgotten night spent in
Karbilá, in the presence of his newly-found Beloved, Who was then a guest
of Ḥájí Mírzá Ḥasan-i-Hakím-Bá_sh_í, had given the following testimony:
“As it was summer-time Bahá’u’lláh was in the habit of passing His
evenings and of sleeping on the roof of the House.... That night, when He
had gone to sleep, I, according to His directions, lay down for a brief
rest, at a distance of a few feet from Him. No sooner had I risen, and ...
started to offer my prayers, in a corner of the roof which adjoined a
wall, than I beheld His blessed Person rise and walk towards me. When He
reached me He said: ‘You, too, are awake.’ Whereupon He began to chant and
pace back and forth. How shall I ever describe that voice and the verses
it intoned, and His gait, as He strode before me! Methinks, with every
step He took and every word He uttered thousands of oceans of light surged
before my face, and thousands of worlds of incomparable splendor were
unveiled to my eyes, and thousands of suns blazed their light upon me! In
the moonlight that streamed upon Him, He thus continued to walk and to
chant. Every time He approached me He would pause, and, in a tone so
wondrous that no tongue can describe it, would say: ‘Hear Me, My son. By
God, the True One! This Cause will assuredly be made manifest. Heed thou
not the idle talk of the people of the Bayán, who pervert the meaning of
every word.’ In this manner He continued to walk and chant, and to address
me these words until the first streaks of dawn appeared.... Afterwards I
removed His bedding to His room, and, having prepared His tea for Him, was
dismissed from His presence.”

The confidence instilled in Mírzá Áqá Ján by this unexpected and sudden
contact with the spirit and directing genius of a new-born Revelation
stirred his soul to its depths—a soul already afire with a consuming love
born of his recognition of the ascendancy which his newly-found Master had
already achieved over His fellow-disciples in both ‘Iráq and Persia. This
intense adoration that informed his whole being, and which could neither
be suppressed nor concealed, was instantly detected by both Mírzá Yaḥyá
and his fellow-conspirator Siyyid Muḥammad. The circumstances leading to
the revelation of the Tablet of Kullu’t-Tá’am, written during that period,
at the request of Ḥájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín-i-Naráqí, a Bábí of honorable
rank and high culture, could not but aggravate a situation that had
already become serious and menacing. Impelled by a desire to receive
illumination from Mírzá Yaḥyá concerning the meaning of the Qur’ánic verse
“All food was allowed to the children of Israel,” Ḥájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín
had requested him to write a commentary upon it—a request which was
granted, but with reluctance and in a manner which showed such
incompetence and superficiality as to disillusion Ḥájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín,
and to destroy his confidence in its author. Turning to Bahá’u’lláh and
repeating his request, he was honored by a Tablet, in which Israel and his
children were identified with the Báb and His followers respectively—a
Tablet which by reason of the allusions it contained, the beauty of its
language and the cogency of its argument, so enraptured the soul of its
recipient that he would have, but for the restraining hand of Bahá’u’lláh,
proclaimed forthwith his discovery of God’s hidden Secret in the person of
the One Who had revealed it.

To these evidences of an ever deepening veneration for Bahá’u’lláh and of
a passionate attachment to His person were now being added further grounds
for the outbreak of the pent-up jealousies which His mounting prestige
evoked in the breasts of His ill-wishers and enemies. The steady extension
of the circle of His acquaintances and admirers; His friendly intercourse
with officials including the governor of the city; the unfeigned homage
offered Him, on so many occasions and so spontaneously, by men who had
once been distinguished companions of Siyyid Kázim; the disillusionment
which the persistent concealment of Mírzá Yaḥyá, and the unflattering
reports circulated regarding his character and abilities, had engendered;
the signs of increasing independence, of innate sagacity and inherent
superiority and capacity for leadership unmistakably exhibited by
Bahá’u’lláh Himself—all combined to widen the breach which the infamous
and crafty Siyyid Muḥammad had sedulously contrived to create.

A clandestine opposition, whose aim was to nullify every effort exerted,
and frustrate every design conceived, by Bahá’u’lláh for the
rehabilitation of a distracted community, could now be clearly discerned.
Insinuations, whose purpose was to sow the seeds of doubt and suspicion
and to represent Him as a usurper, as the subverter of the laws instituted
by the Báb, and the wrecker of His Cause, were being incessantly
circulated. His Epistles, interpretations, invocations and commentaries
were being covertly and indirectly criticized, challenged and
misrepresented. An attempt to injure His person was even set afoot but
failed to materialize.

The cup of Bahá’u’lláh’s sorrows was now running over. All His
exhortations, all His efforts to remedy a rapidly deteriorating situation,
had remained fruitless. The velocity of His manifold woes was hourly and
visibly increasing. Upon the sadness that filled His soul and the gravity
of the situation confronting Him, His writings, revealed during that
somber period, throw abundant light. In some of His prayers He poignantly
confesses that “tribulation upon tribulation” had gathered about Him, that
“adversaries with one consent” had fallen upon Him, that “wretchedness”
had grievously touched Him, and that “woes at their blackest” had befallen
Him. God Himself He calls upon as a Witness to His “sighs and
lamentations,” His “powerlessness, poverty and destitution,” to the
“injuries” He sustained, and the “abasement” He suffered. “So grievous
hath been My weeping,” He, in one of these prayers, avows, “that I have
been prevented from making mention of Thee and singing Thy praises.” “So
loud hath been the voice of My lamentation,” He, in another passage,
avers, “that every mother mourning for her child would be amazed, and
would still her weeping and her grief.” “The wrongs which I suffer,” He,
in His Lawḥ-i-Maryam, laments, “have blotted out the wrongs suffered by My
First Name (the Báb) from the Tablet of creation.” “O Maryam!” He
continues, “From the Land of Tá (Ṭihrán), after countless afflictions, We
reached ‘Iráq, at the bidding of the Tyrant of Persia, where, after the
fetters of Our foes, We were afflicted with the perfidy of Our friends.
God knoweth what befell Me thereafter!” And again: “I have borne what no
man, be he of the past or of the future, hath borne or will bear.” “Oceans
of sadness,” He testifies in the Tablet of Qullu’t-Tá’am, “have surged
over Me, a drop of which no soul could bear to drink. Such is My grief
that My soul hath well nigh departed from My body.” “Give ear, O Kamál!”
He, in that same Tablet, depicting His plight, exclaims, “to the voice of
this lowly, this forsaken ant, that hath hid itself in its hole, and whose
desire is to depart from your midst, and vanish from your sight, by reason
of that which the hands of men have wrought. God, verily, hath been
witness between Me and His servants.” And again: “Woe is Me, woe is Me!...
All that I have seen from the day on which I first drank the pure milk
from the breast of My mother until this moment hath been effaced from My
memory, in consequence of that which the hands of the people have
committed.” Furthermore, in His Qásidiy-i-Varqá’íyyih, an ode revealed
during the days of His retirement to the mountains of Kurdistán, in praise
of the Maiden personifying the Spirit of God recently descended upon Him,
He thus gives vent to the agonies of His sorrow-laden heart: “Noah’s flood
is but the measure of the tears I have shed, and Abraham’s fire an
ebullition of My soul. Jacob’s grief is but a reflection of My sorrows,
and Job’s afflictions a fraction of my calamity.” “Pour out patience upon
Me, O My Lord!”—such is His supplication in one of His prayers, “and
render Me victorious over the transgressors.” “In these days,” He,
describing in the Kitáb-i-Íqán the virulence of the jealousy which, at
that time, was beginning to bare its venomous fangs, has written, “such
odors of jealousy are diffused, that ... from the beginning of the
foundation of the world ... until the present day, such malice, envy and
hate have in no wise appeared, nor will they ever be witnessed in the
future.” “For two years or rather less,” He, likewise, in another Tablet,
declares, “I shunned all else but God, and closed Mine eyes to all except
Him, that haply the fire of hatred may die down and the heat of jealousy
abate.”

Mírzá Áqá Ján himself has testified: “That Blessed Beauty evinced such
sadness that the limbs of my body trembled.” He has, likewise, related, as
reported by Nabíl in his narrative, that, shortly before Bahá’u’lláh’s
retirement, he had on one occasion seen Him, between dawn and sunrise,
suddenly come out from His house, His night-cap still on His head, showing
such signs of perturbation that he was powerless to gaze into His face,
and while walking, angrily remark: “These creatures are the same creatures
who for three thousand years have worshipped idols, and bowed down before
the Golden Calf. Now, too, they are fit for nothing better. What relation
can there be between this people and Him Who is the Countenance of Glory?
What ties can bind them to the One Who is the supreme embodiment of all
that is lovable?” “I stood,” declared Mírzá Áqá Ján, “rooted to the spot,
lifeless, dried up as a dead tree, ready to fall under the impact of the
stunning power of His words. Finally, He said: ‘Bid them recite: “Is there
any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All
are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!” Tell them to repeat it
five hundred times, nay, a thousand times, by day and by night, sleeping
and waking, that haply the Countenance of Glory may be unveiled to their
eyes, and tiers of light descend upon them.’ He Himself, I was
subsequently informed, recited this same verse, His face betraying the
utmost sadness. ...Several times during those days, He was heard to
remark: ‘We have, for a while, tarried amongst this people, and failed to
discern the slightest response on their part.’ Oftentimes He alluded to
His disappearance from our midst, yet none of us understood His meaning.”

Finally, discerning, as He Himself testifies in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “the
signs of impending events,” He decided that before they happened He would
retire. “The one object of Our retirement,” He, in that same Book affirms,
“was to avoid becoming a subject of discord among the faithful, a source
of disturbance unto Our companions, the means of injury to any soul, or
the cause of sorrow to any heart.” “Our withdrawal,” He, moreover, in that
same passage emphatically asserts, “contemplated no return, and Our
separation hoped for no reunion.”

Suddenly, and without informing any one even among the members of His own
family, on the 12th of Rajab 1270 A.H. (April 10, 1854), He departed,
accompanied by an attendant, a Muḥammadan named Abu’l-Qásim-i-Hamadání, to
whom He gave a sum of money, instructing him to act as a merchant and use
it for his own purposes. Shortly after, that servant was attacked by
thieves and killed, and Bahá’u’lláh was left entirely alone in His
wanderings through the wastes of Kurdistán, a region whose sturdy and
warlike people were known for their age-long hostility to the Persians,
whom they regarded as seceders from the Faith of Islám, and from whom they
differed in their outlook, race and language.

Attired in the garb of a traveler, coarsely clad, taking with Him nothing
but his ka_sh_kúl (alms-bowl) and a change of clothes, and assuming the
name of Darví_sh_ Muḥammad, Bahá’u’lláh retired to the wilderness, and
lived for a time on a mountain named Sar-Galú, so far removed from human
habitations that only twice a year, at seed sowing and harvest time, it
was visited by the peasants of that region. Alone and undisturbed, He
passed a considerable part of His retirement on the top of that mountain
in a rude structure, made of stone, which served those peasants as a
shelter against the extremities of the weather. At times His
dwelling-place was a cave to which He refers in His Tablets addressed to
the famous _Sh_ay_kh_ ‘Abdu’r-Rahmán and to Maryam, a kinswoman of His. “I
roamed the wilderness of resignation” He thus depicts, in the
Lawḥ-i-Maryam, the rigors of His austere solitude, “traveling in such wise
that in My exile every eye wept sore over Me, and all created things shed
tears of blood because of My anguish. The birds of the air were My
companions and the beasts of the field My associates.” “From My eyes,” He,
referring in the Kitáb-i-Íqán to those days, testifies, “there rained
tears of anguish, and in My bleeding heart surged an ocean of agonizing
pain. Many a night I had no food for sustenance, and many a day My body
found no rest.... Alone I communed with My spirit, oblivious of the world
and all that is therein.”

In the odes He revealed, whilst wrapped in His devotions during those days
of utter seclusion, and in the prayers and soliloquies which, in verse and
prose, both in Arabic and Persian, poured from His sorrow-laden soul, many
of which He was wont to chant aloud to Himself, at dawn and during the
watches of the night, He lauded the names and attributes of His Creator,
extolled the glories and mysteries of His own Revelation, sang the praises
of that Maiden that personified the Spirit of God within Him, dwelt on His
loneliness and His past and future tribulations, expatiated upon the
blindness of His generation, the perfidy of His friends and the perversity
of His enemies, affirmed His determination to arise and, if needs be,
offer up His life for the vindication of His Cause, stressed those
essential pre-requisites which every seeker after Truth must possess, and
recalled, in anticipation of the lot that was to be His, the tragedy of
the Imám Ḥusayn in Karbilá, the plight of Muḥammad in Mecca, the
sufferings of Jesus at the hands of the Jews, the trials of Moses
inflicted by Pharaoh and his people and the ordeal of Joseph as He
languished in a pit by reason of the treachery of His brothers. These
initial and impassioned outpourings of a Soul struggling to unburden
itself, in the solitude of a self-imposed exile (many of them, alas lost
to posterity) are, with the Tablet of Kullu’t-Tá’am and the poem entitled
Ra_sh_h-i-‘Amá, revealed in Ṭihrán, the first fruits of His Divine Pen.
They are the forerunners of those immortal works—the Kitáb-i-Íqán, the
Hidden Words and the Seven Valleys—which in the years preceding His
Declaration in Ba_gh_dád, were to enrich so vastly the steadily swelling
volume of His writings, and which paved the way for a further flowering of
His prophetic genius in His epoch-making Proclamation to the world,
couched in the form of mighty Epistles to the kings and rulers of mankind,
and finally for the last fruition of His Mission in the Laws and
Ordinances of His Dispensation formulated during His confinement in the
Most Great Prison of Akká.

Bahá’u’lláh was still pursuing His solitary existence on that mountain
when a certain _Sh_ay_kh_, a resident of Sulaymáníyyih, who owned a
property in that neighborhood, sought Him out, as directed in a dream he
had of the Prophet Muḥammad. Shortly after this contact was established,
_Sh_ay_kh_ Ismá’íl, the leader of the _Kh_alídíyyih Order, who lived in
Sulaymáníyyih, visited Him, and succeeded, after repeated requests, in
obtaining His consent to transfer His residence to that town. Meantime His
friends in Ba_gh_dád had discovered His whereabouts, and had dispatched
_Sh_ay_kh_ Sulṭán, the father-in-law of Áqáy-i-Kalím, to beg Him to
return; and it was now while He was living in Sulaymáníyyih, in a room
belonging to the Takyíy-i-Mawlaná _Kh_álid (theological seminary) that
their messenger arrived. “I found,” this same _Sh_ay_kh_ Sulṭán,
recounting his experiences to Nabíl, has stated, “all those who lived with
Him in that place, from their Master down to the humblest neophyte, so
enamoured of, and carried away by their love for Bahá’u’lláh, and so
unprepared to contemplate the possibility of His departure that I felt
certain that were I to inform them of the purpose of my visit, they would
not have hesitated to put an end to my life.”

Not long after Baha’u’llah’s arrival in Kurdistán, _Sh_ay_kh_ Sulṭán has
related, He was able, through His personal contacts with _Sh_ay_kh_
U_th_mán, _Sh_ay_kh_ ‘Abdu’r-Rahmán, and _Sh_ay_kh_ Ismá’íl, the honored
and undisputed leaders of the Naq_sh_bandíyyih, the Qádiríyyih and the
_Kh_alídíyyih Orders respectively, to win their hearts completely and
establish His ascendancy over them. The first of these, _Sh_ay_kh_
U_th_mán, included no less a person than the Sulṭán himself and his
entourage among his adherents. The second, in reply to whose query the
“Four Valleys” was later revealed, commanded the unwavering allegiance of
at least a hundred thousand devout followers, while the third was held in
such veneration by his supporters that they regarded him as co-equal with
_Kh_álid himself, the founder of the Order.

When Bahá’u’lláh arrived in Sulaymáníyyih none at first, owing to the
strict silence and reserve He maintained, suspected Him of being possessed
of any learning or wisdom. It was only accidentally, through seeing a
specimen of His exquisite penmanship shown to them by one of the students
who waited upon Him, that the curiosity of the learned instructors and
students of that seminary was aroused, and they were impelled to approach
Him and test the degree of His knowledge and the extent of His familiarity
with the arts and sciences current amongst them. That seat of learning had
been renowned for its vast endowments, its numerous takyihs, and its
association with Saláhi’d-Dín-i-Ayyubí and his descendants; from it some
of the most illustrious exponents of Sunní Islám had gone forth to teach
its precepts, and now a delegation, headed by _Sh_ay_kh_ Ismá’íl himself,
and consisting of its most eminent doctors and most distinguished
students, called upon Bahá’u’lláh, and, finding Him willing to reply to
any questions they might wish to address Him, they requested Him to
elucidate for them, in the course of several interviews, the abstruse
passages contained in the Futúhát-i-Makkíyyih, the celebrated work of the
famous _Sh_ay_kh_ Muhyi’d-Dín-i-‘Arabí. “God is My witness,” was
Bahá’u’lláh’s instant reply to the learned delegation, “that I have never
seen the book you refer to. I regard, however, through the power of God,
... whatever you wish me to do as easy of accomplishment.” Directing one
of them to read aloud to Him, every day, a page of that book, He was able
to resolve their perplexities in so amazing a fashion that they were lost
in admiration. Not contenting Himself with a mere clarification of the
obscure passages of the text, He would interpret for them the mind of its
author, and expound his doctrine, and unfold his purpose. At times He
would even go so far as to question the soundness of certain views
propounded in that book, and would Himself vouchsafe a correct
presentation of the issues that had been misunderstood, and would support
it with proofs and evidences that were wholly convincing to His listeners.

Amazed by the profundity of His insight and the compass of His
understanding, they were impelled to seek from Him what they considered to
be a conclusive and final evidence of the unique power and knowledge which
He now appeared in their eyes to possess. “No one among the mystics, the
wise, and the learned,” they claimed, while requesting this further favor
from Him, “has hitherto proved himself capable of writing a poem in a
rhyme and meter identical with that of the longer of the two odes,
entitled Qásidiy-i-Ta’íyyih composed by Ibn-i-Faríd. We beg you to write
for us a poem in that same meter and rhyme.” This request was complied
with, and no less than two thousand verses, in exactly the manner they had
specified, were dictated by Him, out of which He selected one hundred and
twenty-seven, which He permitted them to keep, deeming the subject matter
of the rest premature and unsuitable to the needs of the times. It is
these same one hundred and twenty-seven verses that constitute the
Qásidiy-i-Varqá’íyyih, so familiar to, and widely circulated amongst, His
Arabic speaking followers.

Such was their reaction to this marvelous demonstration of the sagacity
and genius of Bahá’u’lláh that they unanimously acknowledged every single
verse of that poem to be endowed with a force, beauty and power far
surpassing anything contained in either the major or minor odes composed
by that celebrated poet.

This episode, by far the most outstanding among the events that transpired
during the two years of Bahá’u’lláh’s absence from Ba_gh_dád, immensely
stimulated the interest with which an increasing number of the ‘ulamás,
the scholars, the _sh_ay_kh_s, the doctors, the holy men and princes who
had congregated in the seminaries of Sulaymáníyyih and Kárkúk, were now
following His daily activities. Through His numerous discourses and
epistles He disclosed new vistas to their eyes, resolved the perplexities
that agitated their minds, unfolded the inner meaning of many hitherto
obscure passages in the writings of various commentators, poets and
theologians, of which they had remained unaware, and reconciled the
seemingly contradictory assertions which abounded in these dissertations,
poems and treatises. Such was the esteem and respect entertained for Him
that some held Him as One of the “Men of the Unseen,” others accounted Him
an adept in alchemy and the science of divination, still others designated
Him “a pivot of the universe,” whilst a not inconsiderable number among
His admirers went so far as to believe that His station was no less than
that of a prophet. Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, learned and illiterate,
both high and low, young and old, who had come to know Him, regarded Him
with equal reverence, and not a few among them with genuine and profound
affection, and this despite certain assertions and allusions to His
station He had made in public, which, had they fallen from the lips of any
other member of His race, would have provoked such fury as to endanger His
life. Small wonder that Bahá’u’lláh Himself should have, in the
Lawḥ-i-Maryam, pronounced the period of His retirement as “the mightiest
testimony” to, and “the most perfect and conclusive evidence” of, the
truth of His Revelation. “In a short time,” is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own
testimony, “Kurdistán was magnetized with His love. During this period
Bahá’u’lláh lived in poverty. His garments were those of the poor and
needy. His food was that of the indigent and lowly. An atmosphere of
majesty haloed Him as the sun at midday. Everywhere He was greatly revered
and loved.”

While the foundations of Bahá’u’lláh’s future greatness were being laid in
a strange land and amidst a strange people, the situation of the Bábí
community was rapidly going from bad to worse. Pleased and emboldened by
His unexpected and prolonged withdrawal from the scene of His labors, the
stirrers of mischief with their deluded associates were busily engaged in
extending the range of their nefarious activities. Mírzá Yaḥyá, closeted
most of the time in his house, was secretly directing, through his
correspondence with those Bábís whom he completely trusted, a campaign
designed to utterly discredit Bahá’u’lláh. In his fear of any potential
adversary he had dispatched Mírzá Muḥammad-i-Mázindarání, one of his
supporters, to Á_dh_irbayján for the express purpose of murdering Dayyán,
the “repository of the knowledge of God,” whom he surnamed “Father of
Iniquities” and stigmatized as “Tá_gh_út,” and whom the Báb had extolled
as the “Third Letter to believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest.” In
his folly he had, furthermore, induced Mírzá Áqá Ján to proceed to Núr,
and there await a propitious moment when he could make a successful
attempt on the life of the sovereign. His shamelessness and effrontery had
waxed so great as to lead him to perpetrate himself, and permit Siyyid
Muḥammad to repeat after him, an act so odious that Bahá’u’lláh
characterized it as “a most grievous betrayal,” inflicting dishonor upon
the Báb, and which “overwhelmed all lands with sorrow.” He even, as a
further evidence of the enormity of his crimes, ordered that the cousin of
the Báb, Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar, a fervent admirer of Dayyán, be secretly put to
death—a command which was carried out in all its iniquity. As to Siyyid
Muḥammad, now given free rein by his master, Mírzá Yaḥyá, he had
surrounded himself, as Nabíl who was at that time with him in Karbilá
categorically asserts, with a band of ruffians, whom he allowed, and even
encouraged, to snatch at night the turbans from the heads of wealthy
pilgrims who had congregated in Karbilá, to steal their shoes, to rob the
shrine of the Imám Ḥusayn of its divans and candles, and seize the
drinking cups from the public fountains. The depths of degradation to
which these so-called adherents of the Faith of the Báb had sunk could not
but evoke in Nabíl the memory of the sublime renunciation shown by the
conduct of the companions of Mullá Ḥusayn, who, at the suggestion of their
leader, had scornfully cast by the wayside the gold, the silver and
turquoise in their possession, or shown by the behavior of Vahíd who
refused to allow even the least valuable amongst the treasures which his
sumptuously furnished house in Yazd contained to be removed ere it was
pillaged by the mob, or shown by the decision of Hujjat not to permit his
companions, who were on the brink of starvation, to lay hands on the
property of others, even though it were to save their own lives.

Such was the audacity and effrontery of these demoralized and misguided
Bábís that no less than twenty-five persons, according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
testimony, had the presumption to declare themselves to be the Promised
One foretold by the Báb! Such was the decline in their fortunes that they
hardly dared show themselves in public. Kurds and Persians vied with each
other, when confronting them in the streets, in heaping abuse upon them,
and in vilifying openly the Cause which they professed. Little wonder that
on His return to Ba_gh_dád Bahá’u’lláh should have described the situation
then existing in these words: “We found no more than a handful of souls,
faint and dispirited, nay utterly lost and dead. The Cause of God had
ceased to be on any one’s lips, nor was any heart receptive to its
message.” Such was the sadness that overwhelmed Him on His arrival that He
refused for some time to leave His house, except for His visits to
Kazímayn and for His occasional meeting with a few of His friends who
resided in that town and in Ba_gh_dád.

The tragic situation that had developed in the course of His two years’
absence now imperatively demanded His return. “From the Mystic Source,” He
Himself explains in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “there came the summons bidding Us
return whence We came. Surrendering Our will to His, We submitted to His
injunction.” “By God besides Whom there is none other God!” is His
emphatic assertion to _Sh_ay_kh_ Sulṭán, as reported by Nabíl in his
narrative, “But for My recognition of the fact that the blessed Cause of
the Primal Point was on the verge of being completely obliterated, and all
the sacred blood poured out in the path of God would have been shed in
vain, I would in no wise have consented to return to the people of the
Bayán, and would have abandoned them to the worship of the idols their
imaginations had fashioned.”

Mírzá Yaḥyá, realizing full well to what a pass his unrestrained
leadership of the Faith had brought him, had, moreover, insistently and in
writing, besought Him to return. No less urgent were the pleadings of His
own kindred and friends, particularly His twelve-year old Son,
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Whose grief and loneliness had so consumed His soul that, in
a conversation recorded by Nabíl in his narrative, He had avowed that
subsequent to the departure of Bahá’u’lláh He had in His boyhood grown
old.

Deciding to terminate the period of His retirement Bahá’u’lláh bade
farewell to the _sh_ay_kh_s of Sulaymáníyyih, who now numbered among His
most ardent and, as their future conduct demonstrated, staunchest
admirers. Accompanied by _Sh_ay_kh_ Sulṭán, He retraced His steps to
Ba_gh_dád, on “the banks of the River of Tribulations,” as He Himself
termed it, proceeding by slow stages, realizing, as He declared to His
fellow-traveler, that these last days of His retirement would be “the only
days of peace and tranquillity” left to Him, “days which will never again
fall to My lot.”

On the 12th of Rajab 1272 A.H. (March 19, 1856) He arrived in Ba_gh_dád,
exactly two lunar years after His departure for Kurdistán.



Chapter VIII: Bahá’u’lláh’s Banishment to ‘Iráq (Continued)


The return of Bahá’u’lláh from Sulaymáníyyih to Ba_gh_dád marks a turning
point of the utmost significance in the history of the first Bahá’í
century. The tide of the fortunes of the Faith, having reached its lowest
ebb, was now beginning to surge back, and was destined to roll on,
steadily and mightily, to a new high water-mark, associated this time with
the Declaration of His Mission, on the eve of His banishment to
Constantinople. With His return to Ba_gh_dád a firm anchorage was now
being established, an anchorage such as the Faith had never known in its
history. Never before, except during the first three years of its life,
could that Faith claim to have possessed a fixed and accessible center to
which its adherents could turn for guidance, and from which they could
derive continuous and unobstructed inspiration. No less than half of the
Báb’s short-lived ministry was spent on the remotest border of His native
country, where He was concealed and virtually cut off from the vast
majority of His disciples. The period immediately after His martyrdom was
marked by a confusion that was even more deplorable than the isolation
caused by His enforced captivity. Nor when the Revelation which He had
foretold made its appearance was it succeeded by an immediate declaration
that could enable the members of a distracted community to rally round the
person of their expected Deliverer. The prolonged self-concealment of
Mírzá Yaḥyá, the center provisionally appointed pending the manifestation
of the Promised One; the nine months’ absence of Bahá’u’lláh from His
native land, while on a visit to Karbilá, followed swiftly by His
imprisonment in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál, by His banishment to ‘Iráq, and
afterwards by His retirement to Kurdistán—all combined to prolong the
phase of instability and suspense through which the Bábí community had to
pass.

Now at last, in spite of Bahá’u’lláh’s reluctance to unravel the mystery
surrounding His own position, the Bábís 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 Báb, as already observed, had, in consequence of the
successive and formidable blows it had received, reached the verge of
extinction. Nor was the momentous Revelation vouchsafed to Bahá’u’lláh in
the Síyáh-_Ch_ál productive at once of any tangible results of a nature
that would exercise a stabilizing influence on a well-nigh disrupted
community. Bahá’u’lláh’s unexpected banishment had been a further blow to
its members, who had learned to place their reliance upon Him. Mírzá
Yaḥyá’s seclusion and inactivity further accelerated the process of
disintegration that had set in. Bahá’u’lláh’s prolonged retirement to
Kurdistán seemed to have set the seal on its complete dissolution.

Now, however, the tide that had ebbed in so alarming a measure was
turning, bearing with it, as it rose to flood point, those inestimable
benefits that were to herald the announcement of the Revelation already
secretly disclosed to Bahá’u’lláh.

During the seven years that elapsed between the resumption of His labors
and the declaration of His prophetic mission—years to which we now direct
our attention—it would be no exaggeration to say that the Bahá’í
community, under the name and in the shape of a re-arisen Bábí community
was born and was slowly taking shape, though its Creator still appeared in
the guise of, and continued to labor as, one of the foremost disciples of
the Báb. It was a period during which the prestige of the community’s
nominal head steadily faded from the scene, paling before the rising
splendor of Him Who was its actual Leader and Deliverer. It was a period
in the course of which the first fruits of an exile, endowed with
incalculable potentialities, ripened and were garnered. It was a period
that will go down in history as one during which the prestige of a
recreated community was immensely enhanced, its morals entirely reformed,
its recognition of Him who rehabilitated its fortunes enthusiastically
affirmed, its literature enormously enriched, and its victories over its
new adversaries universally acknowledged.

The prestige of the community, and particularly that of Bahá’u’lláh, now
began from its first inception in Kurdistán to mount in a steadily rising
crescendo. Bahá’u’lláh had scarcely gathered up again the reins of the
authority he had relinquished when the devout admirers He had left behind
in Sulaymáníyyih started to flock to Ba_gh_dád, with the name of
“Darví_sh_ Muḥammad” on their lips, and the “house of Mírzá Músá the Bábí”
as their goal. Astonished at the sight of so many ‘ulamás and Súfís of
Kurdish origin, of both the Qádiríyyih and _Kh_alídíyyih Orders, thronging
the house of Bahá’u’lláh, and impelled by racial and sectarian rivalry,
the religious leaders of the city, such as the renowned Ibn-i-Álúsí, the
Muftí of Ba_gh_dád, together with _Sh_ay_kh_ ‘Abdu’s-Salám, _Sh_ay_kh_
‘Abdu’l-Qádir and Siyyid Dáwúdí, began to seek His presence, and, having
obtained completely satisfying answers to their several queries, enrolled
themselves among the band of His earliest admirers. The unqualified
recognition by these outstanding leaders of those traits that
distinguished the character and conduct of Bahá’u’lláh stimulated the
curiosity, and later evoked the unstinted praise, of a great many
observers of less conspicuous position, among whom figured poets, mystics
and notables, who either resided in, or visited, the city. Government
officials, foremost among whom were ‘Abdu’lláh Pá_sh_á and his lieutenant
Maḥmúd Áqá, and Mullá ‘Alí Mardán, 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 Ba_gh_dád 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
Ná’ibú’l-Íyálih, the _Sh_uja’u’d-Dawlih, the Sayfu’d-Dawlih, and
Zaynu’l-Ábidín _Kh_án, the Fa_kh_ru’d-Dawlih, were, likewise, irresistibly
drawn into the ever-widening circle of His associates and acquaintances.

Those who, during Bahá’u’lláh’s two years’ absence from Ba_gh_dád, had so
persistently reviled and loudly derided His companions and kindred were,
by now, for the most part, silenced. Not an inconsiderable number among
them feigned respect and esteem for Him, a few claimed to be His defenders
and supporters, while others professed to share His beliefs, and actually
joined the ranks of the community to which He belonged. Such was the
extent of the reaction that had set in that one of them was even heard to
boast that, as far back as the year 1250 A.H.—a decade before the Báb’s
Declaration—he had already perceived and embraced the truth of His Faith!

Within a few years after Bahá’u’lláh’s return from Sulaymáníyyih the
situation had been completely reversed. The house of Sulaymán-i-_Gh_annam,
on which the official designation of the Bayt-i-‘Aẓam (the Most Great
House) was later conferred, known, at that time, as the house of Mírzá
Músá, the Bábí, an extremely modest residence, situated in the Kar_kh_
quarter, in the neighborhood of the western bank of the river, to which
Bahá’u’lláh’s family had moved prior to His return from Kurdistán, had now
become the focal center of a great number of seekers, visitors and
pilgrims, including Kurds, Persians, Arabs and Turks, and derived from the
Muslim, the Jewish and Christian Faiths. It had, moreover, become a
veritable sanctuary to which the victims of the injustice of the official
representative of the Persian government were wont to flee, in the hope of
securing redress for the wrongs they had suffered.

At the same time an influx of Persian Bábís, whose sole object was to
attain the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, swelled the stream of visitors that
poured through His hospitable doors. Carrying back, on their return to
their native country, innumerable testimonies, both oral and written, to
His steadily rising power and glory, they could not fail to contribute, in
a vast measure, to the expansion and progress of a newly-reborn Faith.
Four of the Báb’s cousins and His maternal uncle, Ḥájí Mírzá Siyyid
Muḥammad; a grand-daughter of Fatḥ-‘Alí _Sh_áh and fervent admirer of
Táhirih, surnamed Varáqatu’r-Ridván; the erudite Mullá Muḥammad-i-Qá’iní,
surnamed Nabíl-i-Akbar; the already famous Mullá Ṣádiq-i-_Kh_urásání,
surnamed Ismu’lláhu’l-Asdaq, who with Quddús had been ignominiously
persecuted in _Sh_íráz; Mullá Báqir, one of the Letters of the Living;
Siyyid Asadu’lláh, surnamed Dayyán; the revered Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá’í;
Mírzá Muḥammad-Ḥasan and Mírzá Muḥammad-Ḥusayn, later immortalized by the
titles of Sulṭánu’_sh_-_Sh_uhudá and Maḥbúbu’_sh_-_Sh_uhadá (King of
Martyrs and Beloved of Martyrs) respectively; Mírzá
Muḥammad-‘Alíy-i-Nahrí, whose daughter, at a later date, was joined in
wedlock to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; the immortal Siyyid Ismá’íl-i-Zavari’í; Ḥájí
_Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad, surnamed Nabíl by the Báb; the accomplished Mírzá
Áqáy-i-Munír, surnamed Ismu’lláhu’l-Múníb; the long-suffering Ḥájí
Muḥammad-Taqí, surnamed Ayyúb; Mullá Zaynu’l-Ábidín, surnamed
Zaynu’l-Muqarrabín, who had ranked as a highly esteemed mujtahid—all these
were numbered among the visitors and fellow-disciples who crossed His
threshold, caught a glimpse of the splendor of His majesty, and
communicated far and wide the creative influences instilled into them
through their contact with His spirit. Mullá Muḥammad-i-Zarandí, surnamed
Nabíl-i-‘Aẓam, who may well rank as His Poet-Laureate, His chronicler and
His indefatigable disciple, had already joined the exiles, and had
launched out on his long and arduous series of journeys to Persia in
furtherance of the Cause of his Beloved.

Even those who, in their folly and temerity had, in Ba_gh_dád, in Karbilá,
in Qum, in Ká_sh_án, in Tabríz and in Ṭihrán, arrogated to themselves the
rights, and assumed the title of “Him Whom God shall make manifest” were
for the most part instinctively led to seek His presence, confess their
error and supplicate His forgiveness. As time went on, fugitives, driven
by the ever-present fear of persecution, sought, with their wives and
children, the relative security afforded them by close proximity to One
who had already become the rallying point for the members of a
sorely-vexed community. Persians of high eminence, living in exile,
rejecting, in the face of the mounting prestige of Bahá’u’lláh, the
dictates of moderation and prudence, sat, forgetful of their pride, at His
feet, and imbibed, each according to his capacity, a measure of His spirit
and wisdom. Some of the more ambitious among them, such as Abbás Mírzá, a
son of Muḥammad _Sh_áh, the Vazír-Nizám, and Mírzá Malkam _Kh_án, as well
as certain functionaries of foreign governments, attempted, in their
short-sightedness, to secure His support and assistance for the
furtherance of the designs they cherished, designs which He unhesitatingly
and severely condemned. Nor was the then representative of the British
government, Colonel Sir Arnold Burrows Kemball, consul-general in
Ba_gh_dád, insensible of the position which Bahá’u’lláh now occupied.
Entering into friendly correspondence with Him, he, as testified by
Bahá’u’lláh Himself, offered Him the protection of British citizenship,
called on Him in person, and undertook to transmit to Queen Victoria any
communication He might wish to forward to her. He even expressed his
readiness to arrange for the transfer of His residence to India, or to any
place agreeable to Him. This suggestion Bahá’u’lláh declined, choosing to
abide in the dominions of the Sulṭán of Turkey. And finally, during the
last year of His sojourn in Ba_gh_dád the governor Námiq-Pa_sh_á,
impressed by the many signs of esteem and veneration in which He was held,
called upon Him to pay his personal tribute to One Who had already
achieved so conspicuous a victory over the hearts and souls of those who
had met Him. So profound was the respect the governor entertained for Him,
Whom he regarded as one of the Lights of the Age, that it was not until
the end of three months, during which he had received five successive
commands from ‘Alí Pá_sh_á, that he could bring himself to inform
Bahá’u’lláh that it was the wish of the Turkish government that He should
proceed to the capital. On one occasion, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and
Áqáy-i-Kalím had been delegated by Bahá’u’lláh to visit him, he
entertained them with such elaborate ceremonial that the Deputy-Governor
stated that so far as he knew no notable of the city had ever been
accorded by any governor so warm and courteous a reception. So struck,
indeed, had the Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Majíd been by the favorable reports
received about Bahá’u’lláh from successive governors of Ba_gh_dád (this is
the personal testimony given by the Governor’s deputy to Bahá’u’lláh
himself) that he consistently refused to countenance the requests of the
Persian government either to deliver Him to their representative or to
order His expulsion from Turkish territory.

On no previous occasion, since the inception of the Faith, not even during
the days when the Báb in Iṣfáhán, in Tabríz and in _Ch_ihríq was acclaimed
by the ovations of an enthusiastic populace, had any of its exponents
risen to such high eminence in the public mind, or exercised over so
diversified a circle of admirers an influence so far reaching and so
potent. Yet unprecedented as was the sway which Bahá’u’lláh held while, in
that primitive age of the Faith, He was dwelling in Ba_gh_dád, its range
at that time was modest when compared with the magnitude of the fame
which, at the close of that same age, and through the immediate
inspiration of the Center of His Covenant, the Faith acquired in both the
European and American continents.

The ascendancy achieved by Bahá’u’lláh was nowhere better demonstrated
than in His ability to broaden the outlook and transform the character of
the community to which He belonged. Though Himself nominally a Bábí,
though the provisions of the Bayán were still regarded as binding and
inviolable, He was able to inculcate a standard which, while not
incompatible with its tenets, was ethically superior to the loftiest
principles which the Bábí Dispensation had established. The salutary and
fundamental truths advocated by the Báb, that had either been obscured,
neglected or misrepresented, were moreover elucidated by Bahá’u’lláh,
reaffirmed and instilled afresh into the corporate life of the community,
and into the souls of the individuals who comprised it. The dissociation
of the Bábí Faith from every form of political activity and from all
secret associations and factions; the emphasis placed on the principle of
non-violence; the necessity of strict obedience to established authority;
the ban imposed on all forms of sedition, on back-biting, retaliation, and
dispute; the stress laid on godliness, kindliness, humility and piety, on
honesty and truthfulness, chastity and fidelity, on justice, toleration,
sociability, amity and concord, on the acquisition of arts and sciences,
on self-sacrifice and detachment, on patience, steadfastness and
resignation to the will of God—all these constitute the salient features
of a code of ethical conduct to which the books, treatises and epistles,
revealed during those years, by the indefatigable pen of Bahá’u’lláh,
unmistakably bear witness.

“By the aid of God and His divine grace and mercy,” He Himself has written
with reference to the character and consequences of His own labors during
that period, “We revealed, as a copious rain, Our verses, and sent them to
various parts of the world. We exhorted all men, and particularly this
people, through Our wise counsels and loving admonitions, and forbade them
to engage in sedition, quarrels, disputes or conflict. As a result of
this, and by the grace of God, waywardness and folly were changed into
piety and understanding, and weapons of war converted into instruments of
peace.” “Bahá’u’lláh,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá affirmed, “after His return (from
Sulaymáníyyih) made such strenuous efforts in educating and training this
community, in reforming its manners, in regulating its affairs and in
rehabilitating its fortunes, that in a short while all these troubles and
mischiefs were quenched, and the utmost peace and tranquillity reigned in
men’s hearts.” And again: “When these fundamentals were established in the
hearts of this people, they everywhere acted in such wise that, in the
estimation of those in authority, they became famous for the integrity of
their character, the steadfastness of their hearts, the purity of their
motives, the praiseworthiness of their deeds, and the excellence of their
conduct.”

The exalted character of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh propounded during
that period is perhaps best illustrated by the following statement made by
Him in those days to an official who had reported to Him that, because of
the devotion to His person which an evildoer had professed, he had
hesitated to inflict upon that criminal the punishment he deserved: “Tell
him, no one in this world can claim any relationship to Me except those
who, in all their deeds and in their conduct, follow My example, in such
wise that all the peoples of the earth would be powerless to prevent them
from doing and saying that which is meet and seemly.” “This brother of
Mine,” He further declared to that official, “this Mírzá Músá, who is from
the same mother and father as Myself, and who from his earliest childhood
has kept Me company, should he perpetrate an act contrary to the interests
of either the state or religion, and his guilt be established in your
sight, I would be pleased and appreciate your action were you to bind his
hands and cast him into the river to drown, and refuse to consider the
intercession of any one on his behalf.” In another connection He, wishing
to stress His strong condemnation of all acts of violence, had written:
“It would be more acceptable in My sight for a person to harm one of My
own sons or relatives rather than inflict injury upon any soul.”

“Most of those who surrounded Bahá’u’lláh,” wrote Nabíl, describing the
spirit that animated the reformed Bábí community in Ba_gh_dád, “exercised
such care in sanctifying and purifying their souls, that they would suffer
no word to cross their lips that might not conform to the will of God, nor
would they take a single step that might be contrary to His
good-pleasure.” “Each one,” he relates, “had entered into a pact with one
of his fellow-disciples, in which they agreed to admonish one another,
and, if necessary, chastise one another with a number of blows on the
soles of the feet, proportioning the number of strokes to the gravity of
the offense against the lofty standards they had sworn to observe.”
Describing the fervor of their zeal, he states that “not until the
offender had suffered the punishment he had solicited, would he consent to
either eat or drink.”

The complete transformation which the written and spoken word of
Bahá’u’lláh had effected in the outlook and character of His companions
was equalled by the burning devotion which His love had kindled in their
souls. A passionate zeal and fervor, that rivalled the enthusiasm that had
glowed so fiercely in the breasts of the Báb’s disciples in their moments
of greatest exaltation, had now seized the hearts of the exiles of
Ba_gh_dád and galvanized their entire beings. “So inebriated,” Nabíl,
describing the fecundity of this tremendously dynamic spiritual revival,
has written, “so carried away was every one by the sweet savors of the
Morn of Divine Revelation that, methinks, out of every thorn sprang forth
heaps of blossoms, and every seed yielded innumerable harvests.” “The room
of the Most Great House,” that same chronicler has recorded, “set apart
for the reception of Bahá’u’lláh’s visitors, though dilapidated, and
having long since outgrown its usefulness, vied, through having been
trodden by the blessed footsteps of the Well Beloved, with the Most
Exalted Paradise. Low-roofed, it yet seemed to reach to the stars, and
though it boasted but a single couch, fashioned from the branches of
palms, whereon He Who is the King of Names was wont to sit, it drew to
itself, even as a loadstone, the hearts of the princes.”

It was this same reception room which, in spite of its rude simplicity,
had so charmed the _Sh_uja’u’d-Dawlih that he had expressed to his
fellow-princes his intention of building a duplicate of it in his home in
Kazímayn. “He may well succeed,” Bahá’u’lláh is reported to have smilingly
remarked when apprized of this intention, “in reproducing outwardly the
exact counterpart of this low-roofed room made of mud and straw with its
diminutive garden. What of his ability to open onto it the spiritual doors
leading to the hidden worlds of God?” “I know not how to explain it,”
another prince, Zaynu’l-Ábidín _Kh_án, the Fa_kh_ru’d-Dawlih, describing
the atmosphere which pervaded that reception-room, had affirmed, “were all
the sorrows of the world to be crowded into my heart they would, I feel,
all vanish, when in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. It is as if I had entered
Paradise itself.”

The joyous feasts which these companions, despite their extremely modest
earnings, continually offered in honor of their Beloved; the gatherings,
lasting far into the night, in which they loudly celebrated, with prayers,
poetry and song, the praises of the Báb, of Quddús and of Bahá’u’lláh; the
fasts they observed; the vigils they kept; the dreams and visions which
fired their souls, and which they recounted to each other with feelings of
unbounded enthusiasm; the eagerness with which those who served
Bahá’u’lláh performed His errands, waited upon His needs, and carried
heavy skins of water for His ablutions and other domestic purposes; the
acts of imprudence which, in moments of rapture, they occasionally
committed; the expressions of wonder and admiration which their words and
acts evoked in a populace that had seldom witnessed such demonstrations of
religious transport and personal devotion—these, and many others, will
forever remain associated with the history of that immortal period,
intervening between the birth hour of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation and its
announcement on the eve of His departure from ‘Iráq.

Numerous and striking are the anecdotes which have been recounted by those
whom duty, accident, or inclination had, in the course of these poignant
years, brought into direct contact with Bahá’u’lláh. Many and moving are
the testimonies of bystanders who were privileged to gaze on His
countenance, observe His gait, or overhear His remarks, as He moved
through the lanes and streets of the city, or paced the banks of the
river; of the worshippers who watched Him pray in their mosques; of the
mendicant, the sick, the aged, and the unfortunate whom He succored,
healed, supported and comforted; of the visitors, from the haughtiest
prince to the meanest beggar, who crossed His threshold and sat at His
feet; of the merchant, the artisan, and the shopkeeper who waited upon Him
and supplied His daily needs; of His devotees who had perceived the signs
of His hidden glory; of His adversaries who were confounded or disarmed by
the power of His utterance and the warmth of His love; of the priests and
laymen, the noble and learned, who besought Him with the intention of
either challenging His authority, or testing His knowledge, or
investigating His claims, or confessing their shortcomings, or declaring
their conversion to the Cause He had espoused.

From such a treasury of precious memories it will suffice my purpose to
cite but a single instance, that of one of His ardent lovers, a native of
Zavárih, Siyyid Ismá’íl by name, surnamed _Dh_abíh (the Sacrifice),
formerly a noted divine, taciturn, meditative and wholly severed from
every earthly tie, whose self-appointed task, on which he prided himself,
was to sweep the approaches of the house in which Bahá’u’lláh was
dwelling. Unwinding his green turban, the ensign of his holy lineage, from
his head, he would, at the hour of dawn, gather up, with infinite
patience, the rubble which the footsteps of his Beloved had trodden, would
blow the dust from the crannies of the wall adjacent to the door of that
house, would collect the sweepings in the folds of his own cloak, and,
scorning to cast his burden for the feet of others to tread upon, would
carry it as far as the banks of the river and throw it into its waters.
Unable, at length, to contain the ocean of love that surged within his
soul, he, after having denied himself for forty days both sleep and
sustenance, and rendering for the last time the service so dear to his
heart, betook himself, one day, to the banks of the river, on the road to
Kazímayn, performed his ablutions, lay down on his back, with his face
turned towards Ba_gh_dád, severed his throat with a razor, laid the razor
upon his breast, and expired. (1275 A.H.)

Nor was he the only one who had meditated such an act and was determined
to carry it out. Others were ready to follow suit, had not Bahá’u’lláh
promptly intervened, and ordered the refugees living in Ba_gh_dád to
return immediately to their native land. Nor could the authorities, when
it was definitely established that _Dh_abíh had died by his own hand,
remain indifferent to a Cause whose Leader could inspire so rare a
devotion in, and hold such absolute sway over, the hearts of His lovers.
Apprized of the apprehensions that episode had evoked in certain quarters
in Ba_gh_dád, Bahá’u’lláh is reported to have remarked: “Siyyid Ismá’íl
was possessed of such power and might that were he to be confronted by all
the peoples of the earth, he would, without doubt, be able to establish
his ascendancy over them.” “No blood,” He is reported to have said with
reference to this same _Dh_abíh, whom He extolled as “King and Beloved of
Martyrs,” “has, till now, been poured upon the earth as pure as the blood
he shed.”

“So intoxicated were those who had quaffed from the cup of Bahá’u’lláh’s
presence,” is yet another testimony from the pen of Nabíl, who was himself
an eye-witness of most of these stirring episodes, “that in their eyes the
palaces of kings appeared more ephemeral than a spider’s web.... The
celebrations and festivities that were theirs were such as the kings of
the earth had never dreamt of.” “I, myself with two others,” he relates,
“lived in a room which was devoid of furniture. Bahá’u’lláh entered it one
day, and, looking about Him, remarked: ‘Its emptiness pleases Me. In My
estimation it is preferable to many a spacious palace, inasmuch as the
beloved of God are occupied in it with the remembrance of the Incomparable
Friend, with hearts that are wholly emptied of the dross of this world.’”
His own life was characterized by that same austerity, and evinced that
same simplicity which marked the lives of His beloved companions. “There
was a time in ‘Iráq,” He Himself affirms, in one of His Tablets, “when the
Ancient Beauty ... had no change of linen. The one shirt He possessed
would be washed, dried and worn again.”

“Many a night,” continues Nabíl, depicting the lives of those
self-oblivious companions, “no less than ten persons subsisted on no more
than a pennyworth of dates. No one knew to whom actually belonged the
shoes, the cloaks, or the robes that were to be found in their houses.
Whoever went to the bazaar could claim that the shoes upon his feet were
his own, and each one who entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh could affirm
that the cloak and robe he then wore belonged to him. Their own names they
had forgotten, their hearts were emptied of aught else except adoration
for their Beloved.... O, for the joy of those days, and the gladness and
wonder of those hours!”

The enormous expansion in the scope and volume of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings,
after His return from Sulaymáníyyih, 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 Bábí
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 Nabíl, who was at that
time living in Ba_gh_dád, the unrecorded verses that streamed from His
lips averaged, in a single day and night, the equivalent of the Qur’án! 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 Mírzá Áqá Ján, Bahá’u’lláh’s
amanuensis, affirms, as reported by Nabíl, that by the express order of
Bahá’u’lláh, hundreds of thousands of verses, mostly written by His own
hand, were obliterated and cast into the river. “Finding me reluctant to
execute His orders,” Mírzá Áqá Ján has related to Nabíl, “Bahá’u’lláh
would reassure me saying: ‘None is to be found at this time worthy to hear
these melodies.’ ...Not once, or twice, but innumerable times, was I
commanded to repeat this act.” A certain Muḥammad Karím, a native of
_Sh_íráz, who had been a witness to the rapidity and the manner in which
the Báb had penned the verses with which He was inspired, has left the
following testimony to posterity, after attaining, during those days, the
presence of Bahá’u’lláh, and beholding with his own eyes what he himself
had considered to be the only proof of the mission of the Promised One: “I
bear witness that the verses revealed by Bahá’u’lláh were superior, in the
rapidity with which they were penned, in the ease with which they flowed,
in their lucidity, their profundity and sweetness to those which I, myself
saw pour from the pen of the Báb when in His presence. Had Bahá’u’lláh no
other claim to greatness, this were sufficient, in the eyes of the world
and its people, that He produced such verses as have streamed this day
from His pen.”

Foremost among the priceless treasures cast forth from the billowing ocean
of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation ranks the Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book of Certitude),
revealed within the space of two days and two nights, in the closing years
of that period (1278 A.H.—1862 A.D.). It was written in fulfillment of the
prophecy of the Báb, Who had specifically stated that the Promised One
would complete the text of the unfinished Persian Bayán, and in reply to
the questions addressed to Bahá’u’lláh by the as yet unconverted maternal
uncle of the Báb, Ḥájí Mírzá Siyyid Muḥammad, while on a visit, with his
brother, Ḥájí Mírzá Ḥasan-‘Alí, to Karbilá. 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 Bahá’í literature,
except the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh’s Most Holy Book. Revealed on the
eve of the declaration of His Mission, it proffered to mankind the “Choice
Sealed Wine,” whose seal is of “musk,” and broke the “seals” of the “Book”
referred to by Daniel, and disclosed the meaning of the “words” destined
to remain “closed up” till the “time of the end.”

Within a compass of two hundred pages it proclaims unequivocally the
existence and oneness of a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the
source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty;
asserts the relativity of religious truth and the continuity of Divine
Revelation; affirms the unity of the Prophets, the universality of their
Message, the identity of their fundamental teachings, the sanctity of
their scriptures, and the twofold character of their stations; denounces
the blindness and perversity of the divines and doctors of every age;
cites and elucidates the allegorical passages of the New Testament, the
abstruse verses of the Qur’án, and the cryptic Muḥammadan traditions which
have bred those age-long misunderstandings, doubts and animosities that
have sundered and kept apart the followers of the world’s leading
religious systems; enumerates the essential prerequisites for the
attainment by every true seeker of the object of his quest; demonstrates
the validity, the sublimity and significance of the Báb’s Revelation;
acclaims the heroism and detachment of His disciples; foreshadows, and
prophesies the world-wide triumph of the Revelation promised to the people
of the Bayán; upholds the purity and innocence of the Virgin Mary;
glorifies the Imáms of the Faith of Muḥammad; celebrates the martyrdom,
and lauds the spiritual sovereignty, of the Imám Ḥusayn; unfolds the
meaning of such symbolic terms as “Return,” “Resurrection,” “Seal of the
Prophets” and “Day of Judgment”; adumbrates and distinguishes between the
three stages of Divine Revelation; and expatiates, in glowing terms, upon
the glories and wonders of the “City of God,” renewed, at fixed intervals,
by the dispensation of Providence, for the guidance, the benefit and
salvation of all mankind. Well may it be claimed that of all the books
revealed by the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation, this Book alone, by
sweeping away the age-long barriers that have so insurmountably separated
the great religions of the world, has laid down a broad and unassailable
foundation for the complete and permanent reconciliation of their
followers.

Next to this unique repository of inestimable treasures must rank that
marvelous collection of gem-like utterances, the “Hidden Words” with which
Bahá’u’lláh was inspired, as He paced, wrapped in His meditations, the
banks of the Tigris. Revealed in the year 1274 A.H., partly in Persian,
partly in Arabic, it was originally designated the “Hidden Book of
Fátimih,” and was identified by its Author with the Book of that same
name, believed by _Sh_í’ah Islám to be in the possession of the promised
Qá’im, and to consist of words of consolation addressed by the angel
Gabriel, at God’s command, to Fátimih, and dictated to the Imám ‘Alí, for
the sole purpose of comforting her in her hour of bitter anguish after the
death of her illustrious Father. The significance of this dynamic
spiritual leaven cast into the life of the world for the reorientation of
the minds of men, the edification of their souls and the rectification of
their conduct can best be judged by the description of its character given
in the opening passage by its Author: “This is that which hath descended
from the Realm of Glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and
revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof
and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the
righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may
fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the
gem of Divine virtue.”

To these two outstanding contributions to the world’s religious
literature, occupying respectively, positions of unsurpassed preeminence
among the doctrinal and ethical writings of the Author of the Bahá’í
Dispensation, was added, during that same period, a treatise that may well
be regarded as His greatest mystical composition, designated as the “Seven
Valleys,” which He wrote in answer to the questions of _Sh_ay_kh_
Muhyi’d-Dín, the Qádí of _Kh_ániqayn, 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 _Sh_ay_kh_
‘Abdu’r-Rahmán-i-Kárkútí; the “Tablet of the Holy Mariner,” in which
Bahá’u’lláh prophesies the severe afflictions that are to befall Him; the
“Lawḥ-i-Huríyyih” (Tablet of the Maiden), in which events of a far remoter
future are foreshadowed; the “Súriy-i-Sabr” (Súrih of Patience), revealed
on the first day of Ridván which extols Vahíd and his fellow-sufferers in
Nayríz; the commentary on the Letters prefixed to the Súrihs of the
Qur’án; His interpretation of the letter Váv, mentioned in the writings of
_Sh_ay_kh_ Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í, and of other abstruse passages in the works of
Siyyid Kázim-i-Ra_sh_tí; the “Lawh-i-Madínatu’t-Tawhíd” (Tablet of the
City of Unity); the “Sahífiy-i-_Sh_attíyyih”; the
“Musibat-i-Hurúfat-i-‘Alíyat”; the “Tafsír-i-Hú”; the “Javáhiru’l-‘Asrár”
and a host of other writings, in the form of epistles, odes, homilies,
specific Tablets, commentaries and prayers, contributed, each in its own
way, to swell the “rivers of everlasting life” which poured forth from the
“Abode of Peace” and lent a mighty impetus to the expansion of the Báb’s
Faith in both Persia and ‘Iráq, quickening the souls and transforming the
character of its adherents.

The undeniable evidences of the range and magnificence of Bahá’u’lláh’s
rising power; His rapidly waxing prestige; the miraculous transformation
which, by precept and example, He had effected in the outlook and
character of His companions from Ba_gh_dád 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 _Sh_í’ah and Sunní enemies. Now that His residence was
transferred to the vicinity of the strongholds of _Sh_í’ah Islám, and He
Himself brought into direct and almost daily contact with the fanatical
pilgrims who thronged the holy places of Najaf, Karbilá and Kazímayn, 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 Bábís had inspired. This was provided by a certain _Sh_ay_kh_
‘Abdu’l-Ḥusayn, a crafty and obstinate priest, whose consuming jealousy of
Bahá’u’lláh was surpassed only by his capacity to stir up mischief both
among those of high degree and also amongst the lowest of the low, Arab or
Persian, who thronged the streets and markets of Kazímayn, Karbilá and
Ba_gh_dád. He it was whom Bahá’u’lláh had stigmatized in His Tablets by
such epithets as the “scoundrel,” the “schemer,” the “wicked one,” who
“drew the sword of his self against the face of God,” “in whose soul Satan
hath whispered,” and “from whose impiety Satan flies,” the “depraved one,”
“from whom originated and to whom will return all infidelity, cruelty and
crime.” Largely through the efforts of the Grand Vizir, who wished to get
rid of him, this troublesome mujtahid had been commissioned by the _Sh_áh
to proceed to Karbilá to repair the holy sites in that city. Watching for
his opportunity, he allied himself with Mírzá Buzurg _Kh_án, 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.

Their first concerted endeavor was to obtain from the governor of
Ba_gh_dád, Muṣṭafá Pá_sh_á, through a gross distortion of the truth, an
order for the extradition of Bahá’u’lláh and His companions, an effort
which miserably failed. Recognizing the futility of any attempt to achieve
his purpose through the intervention of the local authorities, _Sh_ay_kh_
‘Abdu’l-Ḥusayn began, through the sedulous circulation of dreams which he
first invented and then interpreted, to excite the passions of a
superstitious and highly inflammable population. The resentment engendered
by the lack of response he met with was aggravated by his ignominious
failure to meet the challenge of an interview pre-arranged between himself
and Bahá’u’lláh. Mírzá Buzurg _Kh_án, on his part, used his influence in
order to arouse the animosity of the lower elements of the population
against the common Adversary, by inciting them to affront Him in public,
in the hope of provoking some rash retaliatory act that could be used as a
ground for false charges through which the desired order for Bahá’u’lláh’s
extradition might be procured. This attempt too proved abortive, as the
presence of Bahá’u’lláh, Who, despite the warnings and pleadings of His
friends, continued to walk unescorted, both by day and by night, through
the streets of the city, was enough to plunge His would-be molesters into
consternation and shame. Well aware of their motives, He would approach
them, rally them on their intentions, joke with them, and leave them
covered with confusion and firmly resolved to abandon whatever schemes
they had in mind. The consul-general had even gone so far as to hire a
ruffian, a Turk, named Riḍá, for the sum of one hundred túmans, provide
him with a horse and with two pistols, and order him to seek out and kill
Bahá’u’lláh, promising him that his own protection would be fully assured.
Riḍá, learning one day that his would-be-victim was attending the public
bath, eluded the vigilance of the Bábís in attendance, entered the bath
with a pistol concealed in his cloak, and confronted Bahá’u’lláh in the
inner chamber, only to discover that he lacked the courage to accomplish
his task. He himself, years later, related that on another occasion he was
lying in wait for Bahá’u’lláh, pistol in hand, when, on Bahá’u’lláh’s
approach, he was so overcome with fear that the pistol dropped from his
hand; whereupon Bahá’u’lláh bade Áqáy-i-Kalím, who accompanied Him, to
hand it back to him, and show him the way to his home.

Balked in his repeated attempts to achieve his malevolent purpose,
_Sh_ay_kh_ ‘Abdu’l-Ḥusayn now diverted his energies into a new channel. He
promised his accomplice he would raise him to the rank of a minister of
the crown, if he succeeded in inducing the government to recall
Bahá’u’lláh to Ṭihrán, and cast Him again into prison. He despatched
lengthy and almost daily reports to the immediate entourage of the _Sh_áh.
He painted extravagant pictures of the ascendancy enjoyed by Bahá’u’lláh
by representing Him as having won the allegiance of the nomadic tribes of
‘Iráq. 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 Ṭihrán to induce the
_Sh_áh to grant him a mandate, bestowing on him full powers, and enjoining
the Persian ‘ulamás and functionaries to render him every assistance. This
mandate the _Sh_ay_kh_ instantly forwarded to the ecclesiastics of Najaf
and Karbilá, asking them to convene a gathering in Kazímayn, the place of
his residence. A concourse of _sh_ay_kh_s, mullás and mujtahids, eager to
curry favor with the sovereign, promptly responded. Upon being informed of
the purpose for which they had been summoned, they determined to declare a
holy war against the colony of exiles, and by launching a sudden and
general assault on it to destroy the Faith at its heart. To their
amazement and disappointment, however, they found that the leading
mujtahid amongst them, the celebrated _Sh_ay_kh_ Murtadáy-i-Ansárí, 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 Bábís. He it was whom
Bahá’u’lláh later extolled in the “Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán,” and numbered among
“those doctors who have indeed drunk of the cup of renunciation,” and
“never interfered with Him,” and to whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred as “the
illustrious and erudite doctor, the noble and celebrated scholar, the seal
of seekers after truth.” Pleading insufficient knowledge of the tenets of
this community, and claiming to have witnessed no act on the part of its
members at variance with the Qur’án, he, disregarding the remonstrances of
his colleagues, abruptly left the gathering, and returned to Najaf, after
having expressed, through a messenger, his regret to Bahá’u’lláh for what
had happened, and his devout wish for His protection.

Frustrated in their designs, but unrelenting in their hostility, the
assembled divines delegated the learned and devout Ḥájí Mullá
Ḥasan-i-‘Ammú, recognized for his integrity and wisdom, to submit various
questions to Bahá’u’lláh for elucidation. When these were submitted, and
answers completely satisfactory to the messenger were given, Ḥájí Mullá
Ḥasan, affirming the recognition by the ‘ulamás of the vastness of the
knowledge of Bahá’u’lláh, asked, as an evidence of the truth of His
mission, for a miracle that would satisfy completely all concerned.
“Although you have no right to ask this,” Bahá’u’lláh replied, “for God
should test His creatures, and they should not test God, still I allow and
accept this request.... The ‘ulamás 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 _Sh_í’ah divines, assembled in their time-honored stronghold,
was so satisfactory to their envoy that he instantly arose, kissed the
knee of Bahá’u’lláh, and departed to deliver His message. Three days later
he sent word that that august assemblage had failed to arrive at a
decision, and had chosen to drop the matter, a decision to which he
himself later gave wide publicity, in the course of his visit to Persia,
and even communicated it in person to the then Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Mírzá Sa’íd _Kh_án. “We have,” Bahá’u’lláh is reported to have
commented, when informed of their reaction to this challenge, “through
this all-satisfying, all-embracing message which We sent, revealed and
vindicated the miracles of all the Prophets, inasmuch as We left the
choice to the ‘ulamás themselves, undertaking to reveal whatever they
would decide upon.” “If we carefully examine the text of the Bible,”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written concerning a similar challenge made later by
Bahá’u’lláh in the “Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán,” “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 _Sh_áh Bahá’u’lláh said clearly, ‘Gather the ‘ulamás
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
Sunní Islám, the abode of the most powerful potentate in the Islamic
world.

He had already flung a daring challenge to the sacerdotal order
represented by the eminent ecclesiastics residing in Najaf, Karbilá and
Kazímayn. He was now, while in the vicinity of the court of His royal
adversary, to offer a similar challenge to the recognized head of Sunní
Islám, as well as to the sovereign of Persia, the trustee of the hidden
Imám. The entire company of the kings of the earth, and in particular the
Sulṭán and his ministers, were, moreover, to be addressed by Him, appealed
to and warned, while the kings of Christendom and the Sunní 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 ‘Iráq, 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 ‘Iráq is indeed a wondrous
sign unto all who are in heaven and all who are on earth. Erelong will ye
behold this Divine Youth riding upon the steed of victory. Then will the
hearts of the envious be seized with trembling.”

The predestined hour of Bahá’u’lláh’s departure from ‘Iráq 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 _Sh_ay_kh_ ‘Abdu’l-Ḥusayn and his confederate Mírzá Buzurg
_Kh_án, were about to yield their fruit. Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh and his
ministers, on the one hand, and the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople,
on the other, were incessantly urged to take immediate action to insure
Bahá’u’lláh’s removal from Ba_gh_dád. Through gross misrepresentation of
the true situation and the dissemination of alarming reports a malignant
and energetic enemy finally succeeded in persuading the _Sh_áh to instruct
his foreign minister, Mírzá Sa’íd _Kh_án, to direct the Persian Ambassador
at the Sublime Porte, Mírzá Ḥusayn _Kh_án, a close friend of ‘Alí Pá_sh_á,
the Grand Vizir of the Sulṭán, and of Fu’ád Pá_sh_á, the Minister of
foreign affairs, to induce Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz to order the immediate
transfer of Bahá’u’lláh to a place remote from Ba_gh_dád, on the ground
that His continued residence in that city, adjacent to Persian territory
and close to so important a center of _Sh_í’ah pilgrimage, constituted a
direct menace to the security of Persia and its government.

Mírzá Sa’íd _Kh_án, in his communication to the Ambassador, stigmatized
the Faith as a “misguided and detestable sect,” deplored Bahá’u’lláh’s
release from the Síyáh-_Ch_ál, 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-‘Aẓam and the
Minister of Foreign Affairs ... to request ... the removal of this source
of mischief from a center like Ba_gh_dád, 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, Mírzá Ḥusayn _Kh_án, by dint
of much persuasion and the friendly pressure he brought to bear on these
ministers, succeeded in securing the sanction of the Sulṭán for the
transfer of Bahá’u’lláh and His companions (who had in the meantime been
forced by circumstances to change their citizenship) to Constantinople. It
is even reported that the first request the Persian authorities made of a
friendly Power, after the accession of the new Sulṭán to the throne, was
for its active and prompt intervention in this matter.

It was on the fifth of Naw-Rúz (1863), while Bahá’u’lláh was celebrating
that festival in the Mazrá’iy-i-Va_shsh_á_sh_, in the outskirts of
Ba_gh_dád, 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 Námiq Pá_sh_á arrived and delivered into
His hands a communication requesting an interview between Him and the
governor.

Already, as Nabíl has pointed out in his narrative, Bahá’u’lláh had, in
the course of His discourses, during the last years of His sojourn in
Ba_gh_dád, alluded to the period of trial and turmoil that was inexorably
approaching, exhibiting a sadness and heaviness of heart which greatly
perturbed those around Him. A dream which He had at that time, the ominous
character of which could not be mistaken, served to confirm the fears and
misgivings that had assailed His companions. “I saw,” He wrote in a
Tablet, “the Prophets and the Messengers gather and seat themselves around
Me, moaning, weeping and loudly lamenting. Amazed, I inquired of them the
reason, whereupon their lamentation and weeping waxed greater, and they
said unto me: ‘We weep for Thee, O Most Great Mystery, O Tabernacle of
Immortality!’ They wept with such a weeping that I too wept with them.
Thereupon the Concourse on high addressed Me saying: ‘...Erelong shalt
Thou behold with Thine own eyes what no Prophet hath beheld.... Be
patient, be patient.’... They continued addressing Me the whole night
until the approach of dawn.” “Oceans of sorrow,” Nabíl 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
Ba_gh_dád was about to be closed, and a new one opened, in its stead. No
sooner had that Tablet been chanted than Bahá’u’lláh ordered that the
tents which had been pitched should be folded up, and that all His
companions should return to the city. While the tents were being removed
He observed: ‘These tents may be likened to the trappings of this world,
which no sooner are they spread out than the time cometh for them to be
rolled up.’ From these words of His they who heard them perceived that
these tents would never again be pitched on that spot. They had not yet
been taken away when the messenger arrived from Ba_gh_dád to deliver the
afore-mentioned communication from the governor.”

By the following day the Deputy-Governor had delivered to Bahá’u’lláh in a
mosque, in the neighborhood of the governor’s house, ‘Alí Pá_sh_á’s
letter, addressed to Námiq Pá_sh_á, couched in courteous language,
inviting Bahá’u’lláh to proceed, as a guest of the Ottoman government, to
Constantinople, placing a sum of money at His disposal, and ordering a
mounted escort to accompany Him for His protection. To this request
Bahá’u’lláh gave His ready assent, but declined to accept the sum offered
Him. On the urgent representations of the Deputy that such a refusal would
offend the authorities, He reluctantly consented to receive the generous
allowance set aside for His use, and distributed it, that same day, among
the poor.

The effect upon the colony of exiles of this sudden intelligence was
instantaneous and overwhelming. “That day,” wrote an eyewitness,
describing the reaction of the community to the news of Bahá’u’lláh’s
approaching departure, “witnessed a commotion associated with the turmoil
of the Day of Resurrection. Methinks, the very gates and walls of the city
wept aloud at their imminent separation from the Abhá 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
Ba_gh_dád, He revealed during those days, in His own hand, a separate
Tablet. In most of these Tablets He predicted the appearance of the “Calf”
and of the “Birds of the Night,” allusions to those who, as anticipated in
the Tablet of the Holy Mariner, and foreshadowed in the dream quoted
above, were to raise the standard of rebellion and precipitate the gravest
crisis in the history of the Faith.

Twenty-seven days after that mournful Tablet had been so unexpectedly
revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, and the fateful communication, presaging His
departure to Constantinople had been delivered into His hands, on a
Wednesday afternoon (April 22, 1863), thirty-one days after Naw-Rúz, on
the third of _Dh_i’l-Qádih, 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 Ridván
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 Ba_gh_dád 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 Najíbíyyih 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
Ba_gh_dád, in the state ye now behold it, when from the eyes of friends
and strangers alike, crowding its housetops, its streets and markets,
tears like the rain of spring are flowing down, and I depart. With you it
now rests to watch lest your deeds and conduct dim the flame of love that
gloweth within the breasts of its inhabitants.”

The muezzin had just raised the afternoon call to prayer when Bahá’u’lláh
entered the Najíbíyyih Garden, where He tarried twelve days before His
final departure from the city. There His friends and companions, arriving
in successive waves, attained His presence and bade Him, with feelings of
profound sorrow, their last farewell. Outstanding among them was the
renowned Álúsí, the Muftí of Ba_gh_dád, who, with eyes dimmed with tears,
execrated the name of Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, whom he deemed to be primarily
responsible for so unmerited a banishment. “I have ceased to regard him,”
he openly asserted, “as Náṣiri’d-Dín (the helper of the Faith), but
consider him rather to be its wrecker.” Another distinguished visitor was
the governor himself, Námiq Pá_sh_á, who, after expressing in the most
respectful terms his regret at the developments which had precipitated
Bahá’u’lláh’s departure, and assuring Him of his readiness 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 Bahá’u’lláh,
“you have but to command. We are ready to carry it out.” “Extend thy
consideration to Our loved ones,” was the reply to his insistent and
reiterated offers, “and deal with them with kindness”—a request to which
he gave his warm and unhesitating assent.

Small wonder that, in the face of so many evidences of deep-seated
devotion, sympathy and esteem, so strikingly manifested by high and low
alike, from the time Bahá’u’lláh announced His contemplated journey to the
day of His departure from the Najíbíyyih Garden—small wonder that those
who had so tirelessly sought to secure the order for His banishment, and
had rejoiced at the success of their efforts, should now have bitterly
regretted their act. “Such hath been the interposition of God,”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in a letter written by Him from that garden, with reference
to these enemies, affirms, “that the joy evinced by them hath been turned
to chagrin and sorrow, so much so that the Persian consul-general in
Ba_gh_dád regrets exceedingly the plans and plots the schemers had
devised. Námiq Pá_sh_á himself, on the day he called on Him (Bahá’u’lláh)
stated: ‘Formerly they insisted upon your departure. Now, however, they
are even more insistent that you should remain.’”



Chapter IX: The Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission and His Journey to
Constantinople


The arrival of Bahá’u’lláh in the Najíbíyyih Garden, subsequently
designated by His followers the Garden of Ridván, signalizes the
commencement of what has come to be recognized as the holiest and most
significant of all Bahá’í festivals, the festival commemorating the
Declaration of His Mission to His companions. So momentous a Declaration
may well be regarded both as the logical consummation of that
revolutionizing process which was initiated by Himself upon His return
from Sulaymáníyyih, and as a prelude to the final proclamation of that
same Mission to the world and its rulers from Adrianople.

Through that solemn act the “delay,” of no less than a decade, divinely
interposed between the birth of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation in the
Síyáh-_Ch_ál and its announcement to the Báb’s disciples, was at long last
terminated. The “set time of concealment,” during which as He Himself has
borne witness, the “signs and tokens of a divinely-appointed Revelation”
were being showered upon Him, was fulfilled. The “myriad veils of light,”
within which His glory had been wrapped, were, at that historic hour,
partially lifted, vouchsafing to mankind “an infinitesimal glimmer” of the
effulgence of His “peerless, His most sacred and exalted Countenance.” The
“thousand two hundred and ninety days,” fixed by Daniel in the last
chapter of His Book, as the duration of the “abomination that maketh
desolate” had now elapsed. The “hundred lunar years,” destined to
immediately precede that blissful consummation (1335 days), announced by
Daniel in that same chapter, had commenced. The nineteen years,
constituting the first “Vahíd,” preordained in the Persian Bayán by the
pen of the Báb, had been completed. The Lord of the Kingdom, Jesus Christ
returned in the glory of the Father, was about to ascend His throne, and
assume the sceptre of a world-embracing, indestructible sovereignty. The
community of the Most Great Name, the “companions of the Crimson Colored
Ark,” lauded in glowing terms in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, had visibly emerged.
The Báb’s own prophecy regarding the “Ridván,” the scene of the unveiling
of Bahá’u’lláh’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 Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, and ministers
no less unyielding in their hostility than either Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí or the
Amír-Nizám; undeterred by the perpetual interruptions occasioned by the
influx of a host of visitors who thronged His tent, Bahá’u’lláh chose in
that critical and seemingly unpropitious hour to advance so challenging a
claim, to lay bare the mystery surrounding His person, and to assume, in
their plenitude, the power and the authority which were the exclusive
privileges of the One Whose advent the Báb had prophesied.

Already the shadow of that great oncoming event had fallen upon the colony
of exiles, who awaited expectantly its consummation. As the year “eighty”
steadily and inexorably approached, He Who had become the real leader of
that community increasingly experienced, and progressively communicated to
His future followers, the onrushing influences of its informing force. The
festive, the soul-entrancing odes which He revealed almost every day; the
Tablets, replete with hints, which streamed from His pen; the allusions
which, in private converse and public discourse, He made to the
approaching hour; the exaltation which in moments of joy and sadness alike
flooded His soul; the ecstasy which filled His lovers, already enraptured
by the multiplying evidences of His rising greatness and glory; the
perceptible change noted in His demeanor; and finally, His adoption of the
táj (tall felt head-dress), on the day of His departure from His Most Holy
House—all proclaimed unmistakably His imminent assumption of the prophetic
office and of His open leadership of the community of the Báb’s followers.

“Many a night,” writes Nabíl, depicting the tumult that had seized the
hearts of Bahá’u’lláh’s companions, in the days prior to the declaration
of His mission, “would Mírzá Áqá Ján 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 Bahá’u’lláh actually uttered on
that occasion, the manner of His Declaration, the reaction it produced,
its impact on Mírzá Yaḥyá, 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 Nabíl is one of the very few authentic records we
possess of the memorable days He spent in that garden. “Every day,” Nabíl
has related, “ere the hour of dawn, the gardeners would pick the roses
which lined the four avenues of the garden, and would pile them in the
center of the floor of His blessed tent. So great would be the heap that
when His companions gathered to drink their morning tea in His presence,
they would be unable to see each other across it. All these roses
Bahá’u’lláh would, with His own hands, entrust to those whom He dismissed
from His presence every morning to be delivered, on His behalf, to His
Arab and Persian friends in the city.” “One night,” he continues, “the
ninth night of the waxing moon, I happened to be one of those who watched
beside His blessed tent. As the hour of midnight approached, I saw Him
issue from His tent, pass by the places where some of His companions were
sleeping, and begin to pace up and down the moonlit, flower-bordered
avenues of the garden. So loud was the singing of the nightingales on
every side that only those who were near Him could hear distinctly His
voice. He continued to walk until, pausing in the midst of one of these
avenues, He observed: ‘Consider these nightingales. So great is their love
for these roses, that sleepless from dusk till dawn, they warble their
melodies and commune with burning passion with the object of their
adoration. How then can those who claim to be afire with the rose-like
beauty of the Beloved choose to sleep?’ For three successive nights I
watched and circled round His blessed tent. Every time I passed by the
couch whereon He lay, I would find Him wakeful, and every day, from morn
till eventide, I would see Him ceaselessly engaged in conversing with the
stream of visitors who kept flowing in from Ba_gh_dád. Not once could I
discover in the words He spoke any trace of dissimulation.”

As to the significance of that Declaration let Bahá’u’lláh Himself reveal
to us its import. Acclaiming that historic occasion as the “Most Great
Festival,” the “King of Festivals,” the “Festival of God,” He has, in His
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, characterized it as the Day whereon “all created things
were immersed in the sea of purification,” whilst in one of His specific
Tablets, He has referred to it as the Day whereon “the breezes of
forgiveness were wafted over the entire creation.” “Rejoice, with
exceeding gladness, O people of Bahá!”, 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 Ridván 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.”

The departure of Bahá’u’lláh from the Garden of Ridván, at noon, on the
14th of _Dh_i’l-Qádih 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 Ba_gh_dád.
“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,” Nabíl himself a witness of that memorable scene,
recounts, “which, on every side, bowed to the dust at the feet of His
horse, and kissed its hoofs, and countless were those who pressed forward
to embrace His stirrups.” “How great the number of those embodiments of
fidelity,” testifies a fellow-traveler, “who, casting themselves before
that charger, preferred death to separation from their Beloved! Methinks,
that blessed steed trod upon the bodies of those pure-hearted souls.” “He
(God) it was,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself declares, “Who enabled Me to depart out
of the city (Ba_gh_dád), 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. Mírzá Yaḥyá, while hurrying on foot, by his own choice,
behind Bahá’u’lláh’s carriage, on the day of His arrival in that city, was
overheard by Nabíl to remark to Siyyid Muḥammad: “Had I not chosen to hide
myself, had I revealed my identity, the honor accorded Him (Bahá’u’lláh)
on this day would have been mine too.”

The same tokens of devotion shown Bahá’u’lláh at the time of His departure
from His House, and later from the Garden of Ridván, were repeated when,
on the 20th of _Dh_i’l-Qádih (May 9, 1863), accompanied by members of His
family and twenty-six of His disciples, He left Firayját, 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 Sámsun, 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 Námiq Pá_sh_á, was accorded, as He traveled
northward, in the path of spring, an enthusiastic reception by the valís,
the mutisárrifs, the qá’im-maqáms, the mudírs, the _sh_ay_kh_s, the muftís
and qádís, the government officials and notables belonging to the
districts through which He passed. In Kárkúk, in Irbíl, in Mosul, where He
tarried three days, in Nisíbín, in Mardín, in Díyár-Bakr, where a halt of
a couple of days was made, in _Kh_árpút, in Sívas, 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 Ba_gh_dád had shown Him on so many occasions.

“As we passed that morning through the town of Mardín,” 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 mutisárrif, 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 mutisárrif 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,” Nabíl has recorded in his
narrative, “never before had they witnessed along this route, over which
governors and mu_sh_írs continually passed back and forth between
Constantinople and Ba_gh_dád, 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
Sámsun, Bahá’u’lláh, at the request of Mírzá Áqá Ján, revealed a Tablet,
designated Lawḥ-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 Sámsun the Chief Inspector of the entire province, extending from
Ba_gh_dád to Constantinople, accompanied by several pá_sh_ás, 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 Rabí’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 _Sh_amsí Big, the
official who had been appointed by the government to entertain its guests,
and who lived in the vicinity of the _Kh_irqiy-i-_Sh_aríf mosque. Later
they were transferred to the more commodious house of Vísí Pá_sh_á, in the
neighborhood of the mosque of Sulṭán Muḥammad.

With the arrival of Bahá’u’lláh at Constantinople, the capital of the
Ottoman Empire and seat of the Caliphate (acclaimed by the Muḥammadans as
“the Dome of Islam,” but stigmatized by Him as the spot whereon the
“throne of tyranny” had been established) the grimmest and most calamitous
and yet the most glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá’í
century may be said to have opened. A period in which untold privations
and unprecedented trials were mingled with the noblest spiritual triumphs
was now commencing. The day-star of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry was about to
reach its zenith. The most momentous years of the Heroic Age of His
Dispensation were at hand. The catastrophic process, foreshadowed as far
back as the year sixty by His Forerunner in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, was
beginning to be set in motion.

Exactly two decades earlier the Bábí Revelation had been born in darkest
Persia, in the city of _Sh_íráz. 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 Tabríz, the capital
of Á_dh_irbayján. In the hamlet of Bada_sh_t 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 Síyáh-_Ch_ál
of Ṭihrán, nine years later, that Revelation had, swiftly and mysteriously
been brought to sudden fruition. The process of rapid deterioration in the
fortunes of that Faith, which had gradually set in, and was alarmingly
accelerated during the years of Bahá’u’lláh’s withdrawal to Kurdistán,
had, in a masterly fashion after His return from Sulaymáníyyih, 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
Ba_gh_dád, unassailably established. And finally, in the Garden of Ridván,
on the eve of His banishment to Constantinople, the ten-year delay,
ordained by an inscrutable Providence, had been terminated through the
Declaration of His Mission and the visible emergence of what was to become
the nucleus of a world-embracing Fellowship. What now remained to be
achieved was the proclamation, in the city of Adrianople, of that same
Mission to the world’s secular and ecclesiastical leaders, to be followed,
in successive decades, by a further unfoldment, in the prison-fortress of
Akká, of the principles and precepts constituting the bedrock of that
Faith, by the formulation of the laws and ordinances designed to safeguard
its integrity, by the establishment, immediately after His ascension, of
the Covenant designed to preserve its unity and perpetuate its influence,
by the prodigious and world-wide extension of its activities, under the
guidance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Center of that Covenant, and lastly, by the
rise, in the Formative Age of that Faith, of its Administrative Order, the
harbinger of its Golden Age and future glory.

This historic Proclamation was made at a time when the Faith was in the
throes of a crisis of extreme violence, and it was in the main addressed
to the kings of the earth, and to the Christian and Muslim ecclesiastical
leaders who, by virtue of their immense prestige, ascendancy and
authority, assumed an appalling and inescapable responsibility for the
immediate destinies of their subjects and followers.

The initial phase of that Proclamation may be said to have opened in
Constantinople with the communication (the text of which we, alas, do not
possess) addressed by Bahá’u’lláh to Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz himself, the
self-styled vicar of the Prophet of Islám 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
Sulṭán 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.

That fateful and ignominious decision, arrived at by the Sulṭán and his
chief ministers, ‘Alí Pá_sh_á and Fu’ád Pá_sh_á, was in no small degree
attributable to the persistent intrigues of the Mu_sh_íru’d-Dawlih, Mírzá
Ḥusayn _Kh_án, the Persian Ambassador to the Sublime Porte, denounced by
Bahá’u’lláh as His “calumniator,” who awaited the first opportunity to
strike at Him and the Cause of which He was now the avowed and recognized
leader. This Ambassador was pressed continually by his government to
persist in the policy of arousing against Bahá’u’lláh the hostility of the
Turkish authorities. He was encouraged by the refusal of Bahá’u’lláh to
follow the invariable practice of government guests, however highly
placed, of calling in person, upon their arrival at the capital, on the
_Sh_ay_kh_u’l-Islám, on the Sadr-i-‘Aẓam, and on the Foreign
Minister—Bahá’u’lláh did not even return the calls paid Him by several
ministers, by Kamál Pá_sh_á and by a former Turkish envoy to the court of
Persia. He was not deterred by Bahá’u’lláh’s upright and independent
attitude which contrasted so sharply with the mercenariness of the Persian
princes who were wont, on their arrival, to “solicit at every door such
allowances and gifts as they might obtain.” He resented Bahá’u’lláh’s
unwillingness to present Himself at the Persian Embassy, and to repay the
visit of its representative; and, being seconded, in his efforts, by his
accomplice, Ḥájí Mírzá Ḥasan-i-Safá, whom he instructed to circulate
unfounded reports about Him, he succeeded through his official influence,
as well as through his private intercourse with ecclesiastics, notables
and government officials, in representing Bahá’u’lláh as a proud and
arrogant person, Who regarded Himself as subject to no law, Who
entertained designs inimical to all established authority, and Whose
forwardness had precipitated the grave differences that had arisen between
Himself and the Persian Government. Nor was he the only one who indulged
in these nefarious schemes. Others, according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “condemned
and vilified” the exiles, as “a mischief to all the world,” as
“destructive of treaties and covenants,” as “baleful to all lands” and as
“deserving of every chastisement and punishment.”

No less a personage than the highly-respected brother-in-law of the
Sadr-i-‘Aẓam 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 Qájár dynasty. Refused an audience by Bahá’u’lláh that
envoy had to content himself with a presentation of his puerile
observations and trivial arguments to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Áqáy-i-Kalím, who
were delegated to see him, and whom he informed that, after three days, he
would return to receive the answer to the order he had been bidden to
transmit.

That same day a Tablet, severely condemnatory in tone, was revealed by
Bahá’u’lláh, was entrusted by Him, in a sealed envelope, on the following
morning, to _Sh_amsí Big, who was instructed to deliver it into the hands
of ‘Alí Pá_sh_á, and to say that it was sent down from God. “I know not
what that letter contained,” _Sh_amsí Big subsequently informed
Áqáy-i-Kalím, “for no sooner had the Grand Vizir perused it than he turned
the color of a corpse, and remarked: ‘It is as if the King of Kings were
issuing his behest to his humblest vassal king and regulating his
conduct.’ So grievous was his condition that I backed out of his
presence.” “Whatever action,” Bahá’u’lláh, commenting on the effect that
Tablet had produced, is reported to have stated, “the ministers of the
Sulṭán 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 Nabíl, was of considerable length, opened with
words directed to the sovereign himself, severely censured his ministers,
exposed their immaturity and incompetence, and included passages in which
the ministers themselves were addressed, in which they were boldly
challenged, and sternly admonished not to pride themselves on their
worldly possessions, nor foolishly seek the riches of which time would
inexorably rob them.

Bahá’u’lláh was on the eve of His departure, which followed almost
immediately upon the promulgation of the edict of His banishment, when, in
a last and memorable interview with the aforementioned Ḥájí Mírzá
Ḥasan-i-Safá, 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.”

Pursuant to the peremptory orders issued for the immediate departure of
the already twice banished exiles, Bahá’u’lláh, His family, and His
companions, some riding in wagons, others mounted on pack animals, with
their belongings piled in carts drawn by oxen, set out, accompanied by
Turkish officers, on a cold December morning, amidst the weeping of the
friends they were leaving behind, on their twelve-day journey, across a
bleak and windswept country, to a city characterized by Bahá’u’lláh as
“the place which none entereth except such as have rebelled against the
authority of the sovereign.” “They expelled Us,” is His own testimony in
the Súriy-i-Mulúk, “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 Nabíl, “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 Díyár-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 Kú_ch_ík-_Ch_akmá_ch_ih,
Buyuk-_Ch_akmá_ch_ih, Salvárí, Birkás, and Bábá-Iskí, arrived at their
destination, on the first of Rajab 1280 A.H. (December 12, 1863), and were
lodged in the _Kh_án-i-‘Arab, a two-story caravanserai, near the house of
‘Izzat-Áqá. Three days later, Bahá’u’lláh and His family were consigned to
a house suitable only for summer habitation, in the Murádíyyih quarter,
near the Takyíy-i-Mawlaví, 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’lláh (House of God’s command) situated on the northern side
of the mosque of Sulṭán Salím.

Thus closes the opening scene of one of the most dramatic episodes in the
ministry of Bahá’u’lláh. The curtain now rises on what is admittedly the
most turbulent and critical period of the first Bahá’í century—a period
that was destined to precede the most glorious phase of that ministry, the
proclamation of His Message to the world and its rulers.



Chapter X: The Rebellion of Mírzá Yaḥyá and the Proclamation of
Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission in Adrianople


A twenty-year-old Faith had just begun to recover from a series of
successive blows when a crisis of the first magnitude overtook it and
shook it to its roots. Neither the tragic martyrdom of the Báb nor the
ignominious attempt on the life of the sovereign, nor its bloody
aftermath, nor Bahá’u’lláh’s humiliating banishment from His native land,
nor even His two-year withdrawal to Kurdistán, devastating though they
were in their consequences, could compare in gravity with this first major
internal convulsion which seized a newly rearisen community, and which
threatened to cause an irreparable breach in the ranks of its members.
More odious than the unrelenting hostility which Abú-Jahl, the uncle of
Muḥammad, had exhibited, more shameful than the betrayal of Jesus Christ
by His disciple, Judas Iscariot, more perfidious than the conduct of the
sons of Jacob towards Joseph their brother, more abhorrent than the deed
committed by one of the sons of Noah, more infamous than even the criminal
act perpetrated by Cain against Abel, the monstrous behavior of Mírzá
Yaḥyá, one of the half-brothers of Bahá’u’lláh, the nominee of the Báb,
and recognized chief of the Bábí community, brought in its wake a period
of travail which left its mark on the fortunes of the Faith for no less
than half a century. This supreme crisis Bahá’u’lláh Himself designated as
the Ayyám-i-_Sh_idád (Days of Stress), during which “the most grievous
veil” was torn asunder, and the “most great separation” was irrevocably
effected. It immensely gratified and emboldened its external enemies, both
civil and ecclesiastical, played into their hands, and evoked their
unconcealed derision. It perplexed and confused the friends and supporters
of Bahá’u’lláh, and seriously damaged the prestige of the Faith in the
eyes of its western admirers. It had been brewing ever since the early
days of Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in Ba_gh_dád, was temporarily suppressed by
the creative forces which, under His as yet unproclaimed leadership,
reanimated a disintegrating community, and finally broke out, in all its
violence, in the years immediately preceding the proclamation of His
Message. It brought incalculable sorrow to Bahá’u’lláh, visibly aged Him,
and inflicted, through its repercussions, the heaviest blow ever sustained
by Him in His lifetime. It was engineered throughout by the tortuous
intrigues and incessant machinations of that same diabolical Siyyid
Muḥammad, that vile whisperer who, disregarding Bahá’u’lláh’s advice, had
insisted on accompanying Him to Constantinople and Adrianople, and was now
redoubling his efforts, with unrelaxing vigilance, to bring it to a head.

Mírzá Yaḥyá had, ever since the return of Bahá’u’lláh from Sulaymáníyyih,
either chosen to maintain himself in an inglorious seclusion in his own
house, or had withdrawn, whenever danger threatened, to such places of
safety as Ḥillih and Basra. To the latter town he had fled, disguised as a
Ba_gh_dád Jew, and become a shoe merchant. So great was his terror that he
is reported to have said on one occasion: “Whoever claims to have seen me,
or to have heard my voice, I pronounce an infidel.” On being informed of
Bahá’u’lláh’s impending departure for Constantinople, he at first hid
himself in the garden of Huvaydar, in the vicinity of Ba_gh_dád,
meditating meanwhile on the advisability of fleeing either to Abyssinia,
India or some other country. Refusing to heed Bahá’u’lláh’s advice to
proceed to Persia, and there disseminate the writings of the Báb, he sent
a certain Ḥájí Muḥammad Kázim, who resembled him, to the government-house
to procure for him a passport in the name of Mírzá ‘Alíy-i-Kirmán_sh_áhí,
and left Ba_gh_dád, abandoning the writings there, and proceeded in
disguise, accompanied by an Arab Bábí, named Záhir, to Mosul, where he
joined the exiles who were on their way to Constantinople.

A constant witness of the ever deepening attachment of the exiles to
Bahá’u’lláh and of their amazing veneration for Him; fully aware of the
heights to which his Brother’s popularity had risen in Ba_gh_dád, in the
course of His journey to Constantinople, and later through His association
with the notables and governors of Adrianople; incensed by the manifold
evidences of the courage, the dignity, and independence which that Brother
had demonstrated in His dealings with the authorities in the capital;
provoked by the numerous Tablets which the Author of a newly-established
Dispensation had been ceaselessly revealing; allowing himself to be duped
by the enticing prospects of unfettered leadership held out to him by
Siyyid Muḥammad, the Antichrist of the Bahá’í Revelation, even as Muḥammad
_Sh_áh had been misled by the Antichrist of the Bábí Revelation, Ḥájí
Mírzá Aqásí; refusing to be admonished by prominent members of the
community who advised him, in writing, to exercise wisdom and restraint;
forgetful of the kindness and counsels of Bahá’u’lláh, who, thirteen years
his senior, had watched over his early youth and manhood; emboldened by
the sin-covering eye of his Brother, Who, on so many occasions, had drawn
a veil over his many crimes and follies, this arch-breaker of the Covenant
of the Báb, spurred on by his mounting jealousy and impelled by his
passionate love of leadership, was driven to perpetrate such acts as
defied either concealment or toleration.

Irremediably corrupted through his constant association with Siyyid
Muḥammad, that living embodiment of wickedness, cupidity and deceit, he
had already in the absence of Bahá’u’lláh from Ba_gh_dád, and even after
His return from Sulaymáníyyih, stained the annals of the Faith with acts
of indelible infamy. His corruption, in scores of instances, of the text
of the Báb’s writings; the blasphemous addition he made to the formula of
the a_dh_án by the introduction of a passage in which he identified
himself with the Godhead; his insertion of references in those writings to
a succession in which he nominated himself and his descendants as heirs of
the Báb; the vacillation and apathy he had betrayed when informed of the
tragic death which his Master had suffered; his condemnation to death of
all the Mirrors of the Bábí Dispensation, though he himself was one of
those Mirrors; his dastardly act in causing the murder of Dayyán, whom he
feared and envied; his foul deed in bringing about, during the absence of
Bahá’u’lláh from Ba_gh_dád, the assassination of Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar, the
Báb’s cousin; and, most heinous of all, his unspeakably repugnant
violation, during that same period, of the honor of the Báb Himself—all
these, as attested by Áqáy-i-Kalím, and reported by Nabíl in his
Narrative, were to be thrown into a yet more lurid light by further acts
the perpetration of which were to seal irretrievably his doom.

Desperate designs to poison Bahá’u’lláh and His companions, and thereby
reanimate his own defunct leadership, began, approximately a year after
their arrival in Adrianople, to agitate his mind. Well aware of the
erudition of his half-brother, Áqáy-i-Kalím, in matters pertaining to
medicine, he, under various pretexts, sought enlightenment from him
regarding the effects of certain herbs and poisons, and then began,
contrary to his wont, to invite Bahá’u’lláh to his home, where, one day,
having smeared His tea-cup with a substance he had concocted, he succeeded
in poisoning Him sufficiently to produce a serious illness which lasted no
less than a month, and which was accompanied by severe pains and high
fever, the aftermath of which left Bahá’u’lláh with a shaking hand till
the end of His life. So grave was His condition that a foreign doctor,
named _Sh_í_sh_mán, was called in to attend Him. The doctor was so
appalled by His livid hue that he deemed His case hopeless, and, after
having fallen at His feet, retired from His presence without prescribing a
remedy. A few days later that doctor fell ill and died. Prior to his death
Bahá’u’lláh had intimated that doctor _Sh_í_sh_mán had sacrificed his life
for Him. To Mírzá Áqá Ján, sent by Bahá’u’lláh to visit him, the doctor
had stated that God had answered his prayers, and that after his death a
certain Dr. _Ch_upán, whom he knew to be reliable, should, whenever
necessary, be called in his stead.

On another occasion this same Mírzá Yaḥyá had, according to the testimony
of one of his wives, who had temporarily deserted him and revealed the
details of the above-mentioned act, poisoned the well which provided water
for the family and companions of Bahá’u’lláh, in consequence of which the
exiles manifested strange symptoms of illness. He even had, gradually and
with great circumspection, disclosed to one of the companions, Ustád
Muḥammad-‘Alíy-i-Salmání, the barber, on whom he had lavished great marks
of favor, his wish that he, on some propitious occasion, when attending
Bahá’u’lláh in His bath, should assassinate Him. “So enraged was Ustád
Muḥammad-‘Alí,” Áqáy-i-Kalím, recounting this episode to Nabíl in
Adrianople, has stated, “when apprized of this proposition, that he felt a
strong desire to kill Mírzá Yaḥyá on the spot, and would have done so but
for his fear of Bahá’u’lláh’s displeasure. I happened to be the first
person he encountered as he came out of the bath weeping.... I eventually
succeeded, after much persuasion, in inducing him to return to the bath
and complete his unfinished task.” Though ordered subsequently by
Bahá’u’lláh not to divulge this occurrence to any one, the barber was
unable to hold his peace and betrayed the secret, plunging thereby the
community into great consternation. “When the secret nursed in his (Mírzá
Yaḥyá) bosom was revealed by God,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms, “he
disclaimed such an intention, and imputed it to that same servant (Ustád
Muḥammad-‘Alí).”

The moment had now arrived for Him Who had so recently, both verbally and
in numerous Tablets, revealed the implications of the claims He had
advanced, to acquaint formally the one who was the nominee of the Báb with
the character of His Mission. Mírzá Áqá Ján was accordingly commissioned
to bear to Mírzá Yaḥyá the newly revealed Súriy-i-‘Amr, which unmistakably
affirmed those claims, to read aloud to him its contents, and demand an
unequivocal and conclusive reply. Mírzá Yaḥyá’s request for a one day
respite, during which he could meditate his answer, was granted. The only
reply, however, that was forthcoming was a counter-declaration, specifying
the hour and the minute in which he had been made the recipient of an
independent Revelation, necessitating the unqualified submission to him of
the peoples of the earth in both the East and the West.

So presumptuous an assertion, made by so perfidious an adversary to the
envoy of the Bearer of so momentous a Revelation was the signal for the
open and final rupture between Bahá’u’lláh and Mírzá Yaḥyá—a rupture that
marks one of the darkest dates in Bahá’í history. Wishing to allay the
fierce animosity that blazed in the bosom of His enemies, and to assure to
each one of the exiles a complete freedom to choose between Him and them,
Bahá’u’lláh withdrew with His family to the house of Riḍá Big (_Sh_avval
22, 1282 A.H.), which was rented by His order, and refused, for two
months, to associate with either friend or stranger, including His own
companions. He instructed Áqáy-i-Kalím to divide all the furniture,
bedding, clothing and utensils that were to be found in His home, and send
half to the house of Mírzá Yaḥyá; to deliver to him certain relics he had
long coveted, such as the seals, rings, and manuscripts in the handwriting
of the Báb; and to insure that he received his full share of the allowance
fixed by the government for the maintenance of the exiles and their
families. He, moreover, directed Áqáy-i-Kalím to order to attend to Mírzá
Yaḥyá’s shopping, for several hours a day, any one of the companions whom
he himself might select, and to assure him that whatever would henceforth
be received in his name from Persia would be delivered into his own hands.

“That day,” Áqáy-i-Kalím is reported to have informed Nabíl, “witnessed a
most great commotion. All the companions lamented in their separation from
the Blessed Beauty.” “Those days,” is the written testimony of one of
those companions, “were marked by tumult and confusion. We were
sore-perplexed, and greatly feared lest we be permanently deprived of the
bounty of His presence.”

This grief and perplexity were, however, destined to be of short duration.
The calumnies with which both Mírzá Yaḥyá and Siyyid Muḥammad now loaded
their letters, which they disseminated in Persia and ‘Iráq, as well as the
petitions, couched in obsequious language, which the former had addressed
to _Kh_ur_sh_íd Pá_sh_á, the governor of Adrianople, and to his assistant
Azíz Pá_sh_á, impelled Bahá’u’lláh to emerge from His retirement. He was
soon after informed that this same brother had despatched one of his wives
to the government house to complain that her husband had been cheated of
his rights, and that her children were on the verge of starvation—an
accusation that spread far and wide and, reaching Constantinople, became,
to Bahá’u’lláh’s profound distress, the subject of excited discussion and
injurious comment in circles that had previously been greatly impressed by
the high standard which His noble and dignified behavior had set in that
city. Siyyid Muḥammad journeyed to the capital, begged the Persian
Ambassador, the Mu_sh_íru’d-Dawlih, to allot Mírzá Yaḥyá and himself a
stipend, accused Bahá’u’lláh of sending an agent to assassinate
Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, and spared no effort to heap abuse and calumny on One
Who had, for so long and so patiently, forborne with him, and endured in
silence the enormities of which he had been guilty.

After a stay of about one year in the house of Riḍá Big Bahá’u’lláh
returned to the house He had occupied before His withdrawal from His
companions, and thence, after three months, He transferred His residence
to the house of Izzat Áqá, in which He continued to live until His
departure from Adrianople. It was in this house, in the month of
Jamádiyu’l-Avval 1284 A.H. (Sept. 1867) that an event of the utmost
significance occurred, which completely discomfited Mírzá Yaḥyá and his
supporters, and proclaimed to friend and foe alike Bahá’u’lláh’s triumph
over them. A certain Mír Muḥammad, a Bábí of _Sh_íráz, greatly resenting
alike the claims and the cowardly seclusion of Mírzá Yaḥyá, succeeded in
forcing Siyyid Muḥammad to induce him to meet Bahá’u’lláh face to face, so
that a discrimination might be publicly effected between the true and the
false. Foolishly assuming that his illustrious Brother would never
countenance such a proposition, Mírzá Yaḥyá appointed the mosque of Sulṭán
Salím as the place for their encounter. No sooner had Bahá’u’lláh been
informed of this arrangement than He set forth, on foot, in the heat of
midday, and accompanied by this same Mír Muḥammad, for the afore-mentioned
mosque, which was situated in a distant part of the city, reciting, as He
walked, through the streets and markets, verses, in a voice and in a
manner that greatly astonished those who saw and heard Him.

“O Muḥammad!”, are some of the words He uttered on that memorable
occasion, as testified by Himself in a Tablet, “He Who is the Spirit hath,
verily, issued from His habitation, and with Him have come forth the souls
of God’s chosen ones and the realities of His Messengers. Behold, then,
the dwellers of the realms on high above Mine head, and all the
testimonies of the Prophets in My grasp. Say: Were all the divines, all
the wise men, all the kings and rulers on earth to gather together, I, in
very truth, would confront them, and would proclaim the verses of God, the
Sovereign, the Almighty, the All-Wise. I am He Who feareth no one, though
all who are in heaven and all who are on earth rise up against me.... This
is Mine hand which God hath turned white for all the worlds to behold.
This is My staff; were We to cast it down, it would, of a truth, swallow
up all created things.” Mír Muḥammad, who had been sent ahead to announce
Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival, soon returned, and informed Him that he who had
challenged His authority wished, owing to unforeseen circumstances, to
postpone for a day or two the interview. Upon His return to His house
Bahá’u’lláh revealed a Tablet, wherein He recounted what had happened,
fixed the time for the postponed interview, sealed the Tablet with His
seal, entrusted it to Nabíl, and instructed him to deliver it to one of
the new believers, Mullá Muḥammad-i-Tabrízí, for the information of Siyyid
Muḥammad, who was in the habit of frequenting that believer’s shop. It was
arranged to demand from Siyyid Muḥammad, ere the delivery of that Tablet,
a sealed note pledging Mírzá Yaḥyá, in the event of failing to appear at
the trysting-place, to affirm in writing that his claims were false.
Siyyid Muḥammad promised that he would produce the next day the document
required, and though Nabíl, for three successive days, waited in that shop
for the reply, neither did the Siyyid appear, nor was such a note sent by
him. That undelivered Tablet, Nabíl, recording twenty-three years later
this historic episode in his chronicle, affirms was still in his
possession, “as fresh as the day on which the Most Great Branch had penned
it, and the seal of the Ancient Beauty had sealed and adorned it,” a
tangible and irrefutable testimony to Bahá’u’lláh’s established ascendancy
over a routed opponent.

Bahá’u’lláh’s reaction to this most distressful episode in His ministry
was, as already observed, characterized by acute anguish. “He who for
months and years,” He laments, “I reared with the hand of loving-kindness
hath risen to take My life.” “The cruelties inflicted by My oppressors,”
He wrote, in allusion to these perfidious enemies, “have bowed Me down,
and turned My hair white. Shouldst thou present thyself before My throne,
thou wouldst fail to recognize the Ancient Beauty, for the freshness of
His countenance is altered, and its brightness hath faded, by reason of
the oppression of the infidels.” “By God!” He cries out, “No spot is left
on My body that hath not been touched by the spears of thy machinations.”
And again: “Thou hast perpetrated against thy Brother what no man hath
perpetrated against another.” “What hath proceeded from thy pen,” He,
furthermore, has affirmed, “hath caused the Countenances of Glory to be
prostrated upon the dust, hath rent in twain the Veil of Grandeur in the
Sublime Paradise, and lacerated the hearts of the favored ones established
upon the loftiest seats.” And yet, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, a forgiving Lord
assures this same brother, this “source of perversion,” “from whose own
soul the winds of passion had risen and blown upon him,” to “fear not
because of thy deeds,” bids him “return unto God, humble, submissive and
lowly,” and affirms that “He will put away from thee thy sins,” and that
“thy Lord is the Forgiving, the Mighty, the All-Merciful.”

The “Most Great Idol” had at the bidding and through the power of Him Who
is the Fountain-head of the Most Great Justice been cast out of the
community of the Most Great Name, confounded, abhorred and broken.
Cleansed from this pollution, delivered from this horrible possession,
God’s infant Faith could now forge ahead, and, despite the turmoil that
had convulsed it, demonstrate its capacity to fight further battles,
capture loftier heights, and win mightier victories.

A temporary breach had admittedly been made in the ranks of its
supporters. Its glory had been eclipsed, and its annals stained forever.
Its name, however, could not be obliterated, its spirit was far from
broken, nor could this so-called schism tear its fabric asunder. The
Covenant of the Báb, to which reference has already been made, with its
immutable truths, incontrovertible prophecies, and repeated warnings,
stood guard over that Faith, insuring its integrity, demonstrating its
incorruptibility, and perpetuating its influence.

Though He Himself was bent with sorrow, and still suffered from the
effects of the attempt on His life, and though He was well aware a further
banishment was probably impending, yet, undaunted by the blow which His
Cause had sustained, and the perils with which it was encompassed,
Bahá’u’lláh arose with matchless power, even before the ordeal was
overpast, to proclaim the Mission with which He had been entrusted to
those who, in East and West, had the reins of supreme temporal authority
in their grasp. The day-star of His Revelation was, through this very
Proclamation, destined to shine in its meridian glory, and His Faith
manifest the plenitude of its divine power.

A period of prodigious activity ensued which, in its repercussions,
outshone the vernal years of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry. “Day and night,” an
eye-witness has written, “the Divine verses were raining down in such
number that it was impossible to record them. Mírzá Áqá Ján wrote them as
they were dictated, while the Most Great Branch was continually occupied
in transcribing them. There was not a moment to spare.” “A number of
secretaries,” Nabíl has testified, “were busy day and night and yet they
were unable to cope with the task. Among them was Mírzá
Báqir-i-_Sh_írází.... He alone transcribed no less than two thousand
verses every day. He labored during six or seven months. Every month the
equivalent of several volumes would be transcribed by him and sent to
Persia. About twenty volumes, in his fine penmanship, he left behind as a
remembrance for Mírzá Áqá Ján.” Bahá’u’lláh, Himself, referring to the
verses revealed by Him, has written: “Such are the outpourings ... from
the clouds of Divine Bounty that within the space of an hour the
equivalent of a thousand verses hath been revealed.” “So great is the
grace vouchsafed in this day that in a single day and night, were an
amanuensis capable of accomplishing it to be found, the equivalent of the
Persian Bayán would be sent down from the heaven of Divine holiness.” “I
swear by God!” He, in another connection has affirmed, “In those days the
equivalent of all that hath been sent down aforetime unto the Prophets
hath been revealed.” “That which hath already been revealed in this land
(Adrianople),” He, furthermore, referring to the copiousness of His
writings, has declared, “secretaries are incapable of transcribing. It
has, therefore, remained for the most part untranscribed.”

Already in the very midst of that grievous crisis, and even before it came
to a head, Tablets unnumbered were streaming from the pen of Bahá’u’lláh,
in which the implications of His newly-asserted claims were fully
expounded. The Súriy-i-‘Amr, the Lawḥ-i-Nuqtih, the Lawḥ-i-Ahmad, the
Súriy-i-A_sh_ab, the Lawḥ-i-Sáyyah, the Súriy-i-Damm, the Súriy-i-Hájj,
the Lawhu’r-Rúh, the Lawhu’r-Ridván, the Lawhu’t-Tuqá were among the
Tablets which His pen had already set down when He transferred His
residence to the house of Izzat Áqá. Almost immediately after the “Most
Great Separation” had been effected, the weightiest Tablets associated
with His sojourn in Adrianople were revealed. The Súriy-i-Mulúk, the most
momentous Tablet revealed by Bahá’u’lláh (Súrih of Kings) in which He, for
the first time, directs His words collectively to the entire company of
the monarchs of East and West, and in which the Sulṭán of Turkey, and his
ministers, the kings of Christendom, the French and Persian Ambassadors
accredited to the Sublime Porte, the Muslim ecclesiastical leaders in
Constantinople, its wise men and inhabitants, the people of Persia and the
philosophers of the world are separately addressed; the Kitáb-i-Badí’, His
apologia, written to refute the accusations levelled against Him by Mírzá
Mihdíy-i-Ra_sh_tí, corresponding to the Kitáb-i-Íqán, revealed in defense
of the Bábí Revelation; the Munájátháy-i-Síyám (Prayers for Fasting),
written in anticipation of the Book of His Laws; the first Tablet to
Napoleon III, in which the Emperor of the French is addressed and the
sincerity of his professions put to the test; the Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán, His
detailed epistle to Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, in which the aims, purposes and
principles of His Faith are expounded and the validity of His Mission
demonstrated; the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, begun in the village of Ká_sh_ánih on His
way to Gallipoli, and completed shortly after at Gyawur-Kyuy—these may be
regarded not only as the most outstanding among the innumerable Tablets
revealed in Adrianople, but as occupying a foremost position among all the
writings of the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation.

In His message to the kings of the earth, Bahá’u’lláh, in the
Súriy-i-Mulúk, discloses the character of His Mission; exhorts them to
embrace His Message; affirms the validity of the Báb’s Revelation;
reproves them for their indifference to His Cause; enjoins them to be just
and vigilant, to compose their differences and reduce their armaments;
expatiates on His afflictions; commends the poor to their care; warns them
that “Divine chastisement” will “assail” them “from every direction,” if
they refuse to heed His counsels, and prophesies His “triumph upon earth”
though no king be found who would turn his face towards Him.

The kings of Christendom, more specifically, Bahá’u’lláh, in that same
Tablet, censures for having failed to “welcome” and “draw nigh” unto Him
Who is the “Spirit of Truth,” and for having persisted in “disporting”
themselves with their “pastimes and fancies,” and declares to them that
they “shall be called to account” for their doings, “in the presence of
Him Who shall gather together the entire creation.”

He bids Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz “hearken to the speech ... of Him Who
unerringly treadeth the Straight Path”; exhorts him to direct in person
the affairs of his people, and not to repose confidence in unworthy
ministers; admonishes him not to rely on his treasures, nor to “overstep
the bounds of moderation” but to deal with his subjects with “undeviating
justice”; and acquaints him with the overwhelming burden of His own
tribulations. In that same Tablet He asserts His innocence and His loyalty
to the Sulṭán and his ministers; describes the circumstances of His
banishment from the capital; and assures him of His prayers to God on his
behalf.

To this same Sulṭán He, moreover, as attested by the Súriy-i-Ra’ís,
transmitted, while in Gallipoli, a verbal message through a Turkish
officer named Umar, requesting the sovereign to grant Him a ten minute
interview, “so that he may demand whatsoever he would deem to be a
sufficient testimony and would regard as proof of the veracity of Him Who
is the Truth,” adding that “should God enable Him to produce it, let him,
then, release these wronged ones and leave them to themselves.”

To Napoleon III Bahá’u’lláh addressed a specific Tablet, which was
forwarded through one of the French ministers to the Emperor, in which He
dwelt on the sufferings endured by Himself and His followers; avowed their
innocence; reminded him of his two pronouncements on behalf of the
oppressed and the helpless; and, desiring to test the sincerity of his
motives, called upon him to “inquire into the condition of such as have
been wronged,” and “extend his care to the weak,” and look upon Him and
His fellow-exiles “with the eye of loving-kindness.”

To Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh He revealed a Tablet, the lengthiest epistle to any
single sovereign, in which He testified to the unparalleled severity of
the troubles that had touched Him; recalled the sovereign’s recognition of
His innocence on the eve of His departure for ‘Iráq; adjured him to rule
with justice; described God’s summons to Himself to arise and proclaim His
Message; affirmed the disinterestedness of His counsels; proclaimed His
belief in the unity of God and in His Prophets; uttered several prayers on
the _Sh_áh’s behalf; justified His own conduct in ‘Iráq; stressed the
beneficent influence of His teachings; and laid special emphasis on His
condemnation of all forms of violence and mischief. He, moreover, in that
same Tablet, demonstrated the validity of His Mission; expressed the wish
to be “brought face to face with the divines of the age, and produce
proofs and testimonies in the presence of His Majesty,” which would
establish the truth of His Cause; exposed the perversity of the
ecclesiastical leaders in His own days, as well as in the days of Jesus
Christ and of Muḥammad; prophesied that His sufferings will be followed by
the “outpourings of a supreme mercy” and by an “overflowing prosperity”;
drew a parallel between the afflictions that had befallen His kindred and
those endured by the relatives of the Prophet Muḥammad; expatiated on the
instability of human affairs; depicted the city to which He was about to
be banished; foreshadowed the future abasement of the ‘ulamás; and
concluded with yet another expression of hope that the sovereign might be
assisted by God to “aid His Faith and turn towards His justice.”

To ‘Alí Pá_sh_á, the Grand Vizir, Bahá’u’lláh addressed the Súriy-i-Ra’ís.
In this He bids him “hearken to the voice of God”; declares that neither
his “grunting,” nor the “barking” of those around him, nor “the hosts of
the world” can withhold the Almighty from achieving His purpose; accuses
him of having perpetrated that which has caused “the Apostle of God to
lament in the most sublime Paradise,” and of having conspired with the
Persian Ambassador to harm Him; forecasts “the manifest loss” in which he
would soon find himself; glorifies the Day of His own Revelation;
prophesies that this Revelation will “erelong encompass the earth and all
that dwell therein,” and that the “Land of Mystery (Adrianople) and what
is beside it ... shall pass out of the hands of the King, and commotions
shall appear, and the voice of lamentation shall be raised, and the
evidences of mischief shall be revealed on all sides”; identifies that
same Revelation with the Revelations of Moses and of Jesus; recalls the
“arrogance” of the Persian Emperor in the days of Muḥammad, the
“transgression” of Pharaoh in the days of Moses, and of the “impiety” of
Nimrod in the days of Abraham; and proclaims His purpose to “quicken the
world and unite all its peoples.”

The ministers of the Sulṭán, He, in the Súriy-i-Mulúk, reprimands for
their conduct, in passages in which He challenges the soundness of their
principles, predicts that they will be punished for their acts, denounces
their pride and injustice, asserts His integrity and detachment from the
vanities of the world, and proclaims His innocence.

The French Ambassador accredited to the Sublime Porte, He, in that same
Súrih, rebukes for having combined with the Persian Ambassador against
Him; reminds him of the counsels of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the
Gospel of St. John; warns him that he will be held answerable for the
things his hands have wrought; and counsels him, together with those like
him, not to deal with any one as he has dealt with Him.

To the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, He, in that same Tablet,
addresses lengthy passages in which He exposes his delusions and
calumnies, denounces his injustice and the injustice of his countrymen,
assures him that He harbors no ill-will against him, declares that, should
he realize the enormity of his deed, he would mourn all the days of his
life, affirms that he will persist till his death in his heedlessness,
justifies His own conduct in Ṭihrán and in ‘Iráq, and bears witness to the
corruption of the Persian minister in Ba_gh_dád and to his collusion with
this minister.

To the entire company of the ecclesiastical leaders of Sunní Islám in
Constantinople He addresses a specific message in the same Súriy-i-Mulúk
in which He denounces them as heedless and spiritually dead; reproaches
them for their pride and for failing to seek His presence; unveils to them
the full glory and significance of His Mission; affirms that their
leaders, had they been alive, would have “circled around Him”; condemns
them as “worshippers of names” and lovers of leadership; and avows that
God will find naught acceptable from them unless they “be made new” in His
estimation.

To the wise men of the City of Constantinople and the philosophers of the
world He devotes the concluding passages of the Súriy-i-Mulúk, in which He
cautions them not to wax proud before God; reveals to them the essence of
true wisdom; stresses the importance of faith and upright conduct; rebukes
them for having failed to seek enlightenment from Him; and counsels them
not to “overstep the bounds of God,” nor turn their gaze towards the “ways
of men and their habits.”

To the inhabitants of Constantinople He, in that same Tablet, declares
that He “feareth no one except God,” that He speaks “naught except at His
(God) bidding,” that He follows naught save God’s truth, that He found the
governors and elders of the city as “children gathered about and
disporting themselves with clay,” and that He perceived no one
sufficiently mature to acquire the truths which God had taught Him. He
bids them take firm hold on the precepts of God; warns them not to wax
proud before God and His loved ones; recalls the tribulations, and extols
the virtues, of the Imám Ḥusayn; prays that He Himself may suffer similar
afflictions; prophesies that erelong God will raise up a people who will
recount His troubles and demand the restitution of His rights from His
oppressors; and calls upon them to give ear to His words, and return unto
God and repent.

And finally, addressing the people of Persia, He, in that same Tablet,
affirms that were they to put Him to death God will assuredly raise up One
in His stead, and asserts that the Almighty will “perfect His light”
though they, in their secret hearts, abhor it.

So weighty a proclamation, at so critical a period, by the Bearer of so
sublime a Message, to the kings of the earth, Muslim and Christian alike,
to ministers and ambassadors, to the ecclesiastical heads of Sunní Islám,
to the wise men and inhabitants of Constantinople—the seat of both the
Sultanate and the Caliphate—to the philosophers of the world and the
people of Persia, is not to be regarded as the only outstanding event
associated with Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in Adrianople. Other developments
and happenings of great, though lesser, significance must be noted in
these pages, if we would justly esteem the importance of this agitated and
most momentous phase of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry.

It was at this period, and as a direct consequence of the rebellion and
appalling downfall of Mírzá Yaḥyá, that certain disciples of Bahá’u’lláh
(who may well rank among the “treasures” promised Him by God when bowed
down with chains in the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán), including among them one
of the Letters of the Living, some survivors of the struggle of Tabarsí,
and the erudite Mírzá Aḥmad-i-Az_gh_andí, arose to defend the newborn
Faith, to refute, in numerous and detailed apologies, as their Master had
done in the Kitáb-i-Badí’, the arguments of His opponents, and to expose
their odious deeds. It was at this period that the limits of the Faith
were enlarged, when its banner was permanently planted in the Caucasus by
the hand of Mullá Abú-Talíb and others whom Nabíl had converted, when its
first Egyptian center was established at the time when Siyyid
Ḥusayn-i-Ká_sh_ání and Ḥájí Báqir-i-Ká_sh_ání took up their residence in
that country, and when to the lands already warmed and illuminated by the
early rays of God’s Revelation—‘Iráq, Turkey and Persia—Syria was added.
It was in this period that the greeting of “Alláh-u-Abhá” superseded the
old salutation of “Alláh-u-Akbar,” and was simultaneously adopted in
Persia and Adrianople, the first to use it in the former country, at the
suggestion of Nabíl, being Mullá Muḥammad-i-Furú_gh_í, one of the
defenders of the Fort of _Sh_ay_kh_ Tabarsí. It was in this period that
the phrase “the people of the Bayán,” now denoting the followers of Mírzá
Yaḥyá, was discarded, and was supplanted by the term “the people of Bahá.”
It was during those days that Nabíl, recently honored with the title of
Nabíl-i-‘Aẓam, in a Tablet specifically addressed to him, in which he was
bidden to “deliver the Message” of his Lord “to East and West,” arose,
despite intermittent persecutions, to tear asunder the “most grievous
veil,” to implant the love of an adored Master in the hearts of His
countrymen, and to champion the Cause which his Beloved had, under such
tragic conditions, proclaimed. It was during those same days that
Bahá’u’lláh instructed this same Nabíl to recite on His behalf the two
newly revealed Tablets of the Pilgrimage, and to perform, in His stead,
the rites prescribed in them, when visiting the Báb’s House in _Sh_íráz
and the Most Great House in Ba_gh_dád—an act that marks the inception of
one of the holiest observances, which, in a later period, the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas was to formally establish. It was during this period that
the “Prayers of Fasting” were revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, in anticipation of
the Law which that same Book was soon to promulgate. It was, too, during
the days of Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to Adrianople that a Tablet was
addressed by Him to Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar-i-_Sh_áhmírzádí and
Jamál-i-Burújirdí, two of His well-known followers in Ṭihrán, instructing
them to transfer, with the utmost secrecy, the remains of the Báb from the
Imám-Zádih Ma’ṣúm, where they were concealed, to some other place of
safety—an act which was subsequently proved to have been providential, and
which may be regarded as marking another stage in the long and laborious
transfer of those remains to the heart of Mt. Carmel, and to the spot
which He, in His instructions to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was later to designate. It
was during that period that the Súriy-i-_Gh_usn (Súrih of the Branch) was
revealed, in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s future station is foreshadowed, and in
which He is eulogized as the “Branch of Holiness,” the “Limb of the Law of
God,” the “Trust of God,” “sent down in the form of a human temple”—a
Tablet which may well be regarded as the harbinger of the rank which was
to be bestowed upon Him, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and which was to be later
elucidated and confirmed in the Book of His Covenant. And finally, it was
during that period that the first pilgrimages were made to the residence
of One Who was now the visible Center of a newly-established
Faith—pilgrimages which by reason of their number and nature, an alarmed
government in Persia was first impelled to restrict, and later to
prohibit, but which were the precursors of the converging streams of
Pilgrims who, from East and West, at first under perilous and arduous
circumstances, were to direct their steps towards the prison-fortress of
Akká—pilgrimages which were to culminate in the historic arrival of a
royal convert at the foot of Mt. Carmel, who, at the very threshold of a
longed-for and much advertised pilgrimage, was so cruelly thwarted from
achieving her purpose.

These notable developments, some synchronizing with, and others flowing
from, the proclamation of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and from the internal
convulsion which the Cause had undergone, could not escape the attention
of the external enemies of the Movement, who were bent on exploiting to
the utmost every crisis which the folly of its friends or the perfidy of
renegades might at any time precipitate. The thick clouds had hardly been
dissipated by the sudden outburst of the rays of a Sun, now shining from
its meridian, when the darkness of another catastrophe—the last the Author
of that Faith was destined to suffer—fell upon it, blackening its
firmament and subjecting it to one of the severest trials it had as yet
experienced.

Emboldened by the recent ordeals with which Bahá’u’lláh had been so
cruelly afflicted, these enemies, who had been momentarily quiescent,
began to demonstrate afresh, and in a number of ways, the latent animosity
they nursed in their hearts. A persecution, varying in the degree of its
severity, began once more to break out in various countries. In
Á_dh_irbayján and Zanján, in Ni_sh_ápúr and Ṭihrán, the adherents of the
Faith were either imprisoned, vilified, penalized, tortured or put to
death. Among the sufferers may be singled out the intrepid
Najaf-‘Alíy-i-Zanjání, a survivor of the struggle of Zanján, and
immortalized in the “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” who, bequeathing the
gold in his possession to his executioner, was heard to shout aloud “Yá
Rabbíya’l-Abhá” before he was beheaded. In Egypt, a greedy and vicious
consul-general extorted no less than a hundred thousand túmans from a
wealthy Persian convert, named Ḥájí Abu’l-Qásim-i-_Sh_írází; arrested Ḥájí
Mírzá Ḥaydar-‘Alí and six of his fellow-believers, and instigated their
condemnation to a nine year exile in _Kh_ártúm, confiscating all the
writings in their possession, and then threw into prison Nabíl, whom
Bahá’u’lláh had sent to appeal to the Khedive on their behalf. In
Ba_gh_dád and Kazímayn indefatigable enemies, watching their opportunity,
subjected Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful supporters to harsh and ignominious
treatment; savagely disemboweled ‘Abdu’r-Rasúl-i-Qumí, as he was carrying
water in a skin, at the hour of dawn, from the river to the Most Great
House, and banished, amidst scenes of public derision, about seventy
companions to Mosul, including women and children.

No less active were Mírzá Ḥusayn-_Kh_án, the Mu_sh_íru’d-Dawlih, and his
associates, who, determined to take full advantage of the troubles that
had recently visited Bahá’u’lláh, arose to encompass His destruction. The
authorities in the capital were incensed by the esteem shown Him by the
governor Muḥammad Pá_sh_áy-i-Qibrisí, a former Grand Vizir, and his
successors Sulaymán Pá_sh_á, of the Qádiríyyih Order, and particularly
_Kh_ur_sh_íd Pá_sh_á, who, openly and on many occasions, frequented the
house of Bahá’u’lláh, entertained Him in the days of Ramadán, and evinced
a fervent admiration for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. They were well aware of the
challenging tone Bahá’u’lláh had assumed in some of His newly revealed
Tablets, and conscious of the instability prevailing in their own country.
They were disturbed by the constant comings and goings of pilgrims in
Adrianople, and by the exaggerated reports of Fu’ád Pá_sh_á, who had
recently passed through on a tour of inspection. The petitions of Mírzá
Yaḥyá which reached them through Siyyid Muḥammad, his agent, had provoked
them. Anonymous letters (written by this same Siyyid and by an accomplice,
Áqá Ján, serving in the Turkish artillery) which perverted the writings of
Bahá’u’lláh, and which accused Him of having conspired with Bulgarian
leaders and certain ministers of European powers to achieve, with the help
of some thousands of His followers, the conquest of Constantinople, had
filled their breasts with alarm. And now, encouraged by the internal
dissensions which had shaken the Faith, and irritated by the evident
esteem in which Bahá’u’lláh was held by the consuls of foreign powers
stationed in Adrianople, they determined to take drastic and immediate
action which would extirpate that Faith, isolate its Author and reduce Him
to powerlessness. The indiscretions committed by some of its over-zealous
followers, who had arrived in Constantinople, no doubt, aggravated an
already acute situation.

The fateful decision was eventually arrived at to banish Bahá’u’lláh to
the penal colony of Akká, and Mírzá Yaḥyá to Famagusta in Cyprus. This
decision was embodied in a strongly worded Farmán, issued by Sulṭán
‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz. The companions of Bahá’u’lláh, who had arrived in the
capital, together with a few who later joined them, as well as Áqá Ján,
the notorious mischief-maker, were arrested, interrogated, deprived of
their papers and flung into prison. The members of the community in
Adrianople were, several times, summoned to the governorate to ascertain
their number, while rumors were set afloat that they were to be dispersed
and banished to different places or secretly put to death.

Suddenly, one morning, the house of Bahá’u’lláh was surrounded by
soldiers, sentinels were posted at its gates, His followers were again
summoned by the authorities, interrogated, and ordered to make ready for
their departure. “The loved ones of God and His kindred,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s
testimony in the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, “were left on the first night without
food... The people surrounded the house, and Muslims and Christians wept
over Us... We perceived that the weeping of the people of the Son
(Christians) exceeded the weeping of others— a sign for such as ponder.”
“A great tumult seized the people,” writes Áqá Riḍá, one of the stoutest
supporters of Bahá’u’lláh, exiled with him all the way from Ba_gh_dád to
Akká, “All were perplexed and full of regret... Some expressed their
sympathy, others consoled us, and wept over us... Most of our possessions
were auctioned at half their value.” Some of the consuls of foreign powers
called on Bahá’u’lláh, and expressed their readiness to intervene with
their respective governments on His behalf—suggestions for which He
expressed appreciation, but which He firmly declined. “The consuls of that
city (Adrianople) gathered in the presence of this Youth at the hour of
His departure,” He Himself has written, “and expressed their desire to aid
Him. They, verily, evinced towards Us manifest affection.”

The Persian Ambassador promptly informed the Persian consuls in ‘Iráq and
Egypt that the Turkish government had withdrawn its protection from the
Bábís, and that they were free to treat them as they pleased. Several
pilgrims, among whom was Ḥájí Muḥammad Ismá’íl-i-Ká_sh_ání, surnamed Anís
in the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís, had, in the meantime, arrived in Adrianople, and had
to depart to Gallipoli, without even beholding the face of their Master.
Two of the companions were forced to divorce their wives, as their
relatives refused to allow them to go into exile. _Kh_ur_sh_íd Pá_sh_á,
who had already several times categorically denied the written accusations
sent him by the authorities in Constantinople, and had interceded
vigorously on behalf of Bahá’u’lláh, was so embarrassed by the action of
his government that he decided to absent himself when informed of His
immediate departure from the city, and instructed the Registrar to convey
to Him the purport of the Sulṭán’s edict. Ḥájí Ja’far-i-Tabrízí, one of
the believers, finding that his name had been omitted from the list of the
exiles who might accompany Bahá’u’lláh, cut his throat with a razor, but
was prevented in time from ending his life—an act which Bahá’u’lláh, in
the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, characterizes as “unheard of in bygone centuries,” and
which “God hath set apart for this Revelation, as an evidence of the power
of His might.”

On the twenty-second of the month of Rabí’u’_th_-_Th_ání 1285 A.H. (August
12, 1868) Bahá’u’lláh and His family, escorted by a Turkish captain, Ḥasan
Effendi by name, and other soldiers appointed by the local government, set
out on their four-day journey to Gallipoli, riding in carriages and
stopping on their way at Üzün-Küprü and Ká_sh_ánih, at which latter place
the Súriy-i-Ra’ís was revealed. “The inhabitants of the quarter in which
Bahá’u’lláh had been living, and the neighbors who had gathered to bid Him
farewell, came one after the other,” writes an eye-witness, “with the
utmost sadness and regret to kiss His hands and the hem of His robe,
expressing meanwhile their sorrow at His departure. That day, too, was a
strange day. Methinks the city, its walls and its gates bemoaned their
imminent separation from Him.” “On that day,” writes another eye-witness,
“there was a wonderful concourse of Muslims and Christians at the door of
our Master’s house. The hour of departure was a memorable one. Most of
those present were weeping and wailing, especially the Christians.” “Say,”
Bahá’u’lláh Himself declares in the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, “this Youth hath
departed out of this country and deposited beneath every tree and every
stone a trust, which God will erelong bring forth through the power of
truth.”

Several of the companions who had been brought from Constantinople were
awaiting them in Gallipoli. On his arrival Bahá’u’lláh made the following
pronouncement to Ḥasan Effendi, who, his duty discharged, was taking his
leave: “Tell the king that this territory will pass out of his hands, and
his affairs will be thrown into confusion.” “To this,” Áqá Riḍá, the
recorder of that scene has written, “Bahá’u’lláh furthermore added: ‘Not I
speak these words, but God speaketh them.’ In those moments He was
uttering verses which we, who were downstairs, could overhear. They were
spoken with such vehemence and power that, methinks, the foundations of
the house itself trembled.”

Even in Gallipoli, where three nights were spent, no one knew what
Bahá’u’lláh’s destination would be. Some believed that He and His brothers
would be banished to one place, and the remainder dispersed, and sent into
exile. Others thought that His companions would be sent back to Persia,
while still others expected their immediate extermination. The
government’s original order was to banish Bahá’u’lláh, Áqáy-i-Kalím and
Mírzá Muḥammad-Qulí, with a servant to Akká, while the rest were to
proceed to Constantinople. This order, which provoked scenes of
indescribable distress, was, however, at the insistence of Bahá’u’lláh,
and by the instrumentality of Umar Effendi, a major appointed to accompany
the exiles, revoked. It was eventually decided that all the exiles,
numbering about seventy, should be banished to Akká. Instructions were,
moreover, issued that a certain number of the adherents of Mírzá Yaḥyá,
among whom were Siyyid Muḥammad and Áqá Ján, should accompany these
exiles, whilst four of the companions of Bahá’u’lláh were ordered to
depart with the Azalís for Cyprus.

So grievous were the dangers and trials confronting Bahá’u’lláh at the
hour of His departure from Gallipoli that He warned His companions that
“this journey will be unlike any of the previous journeys,” and that
whoever did not feel himself “man enough to face the future” had best
“depart to whatever place he pleaseth, and be preserved from tests, for
hereafter he will find himself unable to leave”—a warning which His
companions unanimously chose to disregard.

On the morning of the 2nd of Jamádiyu’l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 21, 1868)
they all embarked in an Austrian-Lloyd steamer for Alexandria, touching at
Madellí, and stopping for two days at Smyrna, where Jináb-i-Munír,
surnamed Ismu’lláhu’l-Múníb, became gravely ill, and had, to his great
distress, to be left behind in a hospital where he soon after died. In
Alexandria they transhipped into a steamer of the same company, bound for
Haifa, where, after brief stops at Port Said and Jaffa, they landed,
setting out, a few hours later, in a sailing vessel, for Akká, where they
disembarked, in the course of the afternoon of the 12th of
Jamádiyu’l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 31, 1868). It was at the moment when
Bahá’u’lláh had stepped into the boat which was to carry Him to the
landing-stage in Haifa that ‘Abdu’l-_Gh_affár, one of the four companions
condemned to share the exile of Mírzá Yaḥyá, and whose “detachment, love
and trust in God” Bahá’u’lláh had greatly praised, cast himself, in his
despair, into the sea, shouting “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá,” and was subsequently
rescued and resuscitated with the greatest difficulty, only to be forced
by adamant officials to continue his voyage, with Mírzá Yaḥyá’s party, to
the destination originally appointed for him.



Chapter XI: Bahá’u’lláh’s Incarceration in Akká


The arrival of Bahá’u’lláh in Akká marks the opening of the last phase of
His forty-year long ministry, the final stage, and indeed the climax, of
the banishment in which the whole of that ministry was spent. A banishment
that had, at first, brought Him to the immediate vicinity of the
strongholds of _Sh_í’ah orthodoxy and into contact with its outstanding
exponents, and which, at a later period, had carried Him to the capital of
the Ottoman empire, and led Him to address His epoch-making pronouncements
to the Sulṭán, to his ministers and to the ecclesiastical leaders of Sunní
Islám, had now been instrumental in landing Him upon the shores of the
Holy Land—the Land promised by God to Abraham, sanctified by the
Revelation of Moses, honored by the lives and labors of the Hebrew
patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, revered as the cradle of
Christianity, and as the place where Zoroaster, according to
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s testimony, had “held converse with some of the Prophets of
Israel,” and associated by Islám with the Apostle’s night-journey, through
the seven heavens, to the throne of the Almighty. Within the confines of
this holy and enviable country, “the nest of all the Prophets of God,”
“the Vale of God’s unsearchable Decree, the snow-white Spot, the Land of
unfading splendor” was the Exile of Ba_gh_dád, of Constantinople and
Adrianople condemned to spend no less than a third of the allotted span of
His life, and over half of the total period of His Mission. “It is
difficult,” declares ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “to understand how Bahá’u’lláh could
have been obliged to leave Persia, and to pitch His tent in this Holy
Land, but for the persecution of His enemies, His banishment and exile.”

Indeed such a consummation, He assures us, had been actually prophesied
“through the tongue of the Prophets two or three thousand years before.”
God, “faithful to His promise,” had, “to some of the Prophets” “revealed
and given the good news that the ‘Lord of Hosts should be manifested in
the Holy Land.’” Isaiah had, in this connection, announced in his Book:
“Get thee up into the high mountain, O Zion that bringest good tidings;
lift up thy voice with strength, O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings.
Lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: ‘Behold your God!
Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for
Him.’” David, in his Psalms, had predicted: “Lift up your heads, O ye
gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory
shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the
King of Glory.” “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.” Amos had, likewise,
foretold His coming: “The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice
from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the
top of Carmel shall wither.”

Akká, itself, flanked by the “glory of Lebanon,” and lying in full view of
the “splendor of Carmel,” at the foot of the hills which enclose the home
of Jesus Christ Himself, had been described by David as “the Strong City,”
designated by Hosea as “a door of hope,” and alluded to by Ezekiel as “the
gate that looketh towards the East,” whereunto “the glory of the God of
Israel came from the way of the East,” His voice “like a noise of many
waters.” To it the Arabian Prophet had referred as “a city in Syria to
which God hath shown His special mercy,” situated “betwixt two mountains
... in the middle of a meadow,” “by the shore of the sea ... suspended
beneath the Throne,” “white, whose whiteness is pleasing unto God.”
“Blessed the man,” He, moreover, as confirmed by Bahá’u’lláh, had
declared, “that hath visited Akká, and blessed he that hath visited the
visitor of Akká.” Furthermore, “He that raiseth therein the call to
prayer, his voice will be lifted up unto Paradise.” And again: “The poor
of Akká are the kings of Paradise and the princes thereof. A month in Akká
is better than a thousand years elsewhere.” Moreover, in a remarkable
tradition, which is contained in _Sh_ay_kh_ Ibnu’l-‘Arabí’s work, entitled
“Futúhát-i-Makkíyyih,” and which is recognized as an authentic utterance
of Muḥammad, and is quoted by Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl in his “Fará’íd,” this
significant prediction has been made: “All of them (the companions of the
Qá’im) shall be slain except One Who shall reach the plain of Akká, the
Banquet-Hall of God.”

Bahá’u’lláh Himself, as attested by Nabíl in his narrative, had, as far
back as the first years of His banishment to Adrianople, alluded to that
same city in His Lawḥ-i-Sáyyah, designating it as the “Vale of Nabíl,” the
word Nabíl being equal in numerical value to that of Akká. “Upon Our
arrival,” that Tablet had predicted, “We were welcomed with banners of
light, whereupon the Voice of the Spirit cried out saying: ‘Soon will all
that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.’”

The banishment, lasting no less than twenty-four years, to which two
Oriental despots had, in their implacable enmity and shortsightedness,
combined to condemn Bahá’u’lláh, will go down in history as a period which
witnessed a miraculous and truly revolutionizing change in the
circumstances attending the life and activities of the Exile Himself, will
be chiefly remembered for the widespread recrudescence of persecution,
intermittent but singularly cruel, throughout His native country and the
simultaneous increase in the number of His followers, and, lastly, for an
enormous extension in the range and volume of His writings.

His arrival at the penal colony of Akká, far from proving the end of His
afflictions, was but the beginning of a major crisis, characterized by
bitter suffering, severe restrictions, and intense turmoil, which, in its
gravity, surpassed even the agonies of the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán, and to
which no other event, in the history of the entire century can compare,
except the internal convulsion that rocked the Faith in Adrianople. “Know
thou,” Bahá’u’lláh, wishing to emphasize the criticalness of the first
nine years of His banishment to that prison-city, has written, “that upon
Our arrival at this Spot, We chose to designate it as the ‘Most Great
Prison.’ Though previously subjected in another land (Ṭihrán) to chains
and fetters, We yet refused to call it by that name. Say: Ponder thereon,
O ye endued with understanding!”

The ordeal He endured, as a direct consequence of the attempt on the life
of Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, was one which had been inflicted upon Him solely
by the external enemies of the Faith. The travail in Adrianople, the
effects of which all but sundered the community of the Báb’s followers,
was, on the other hand, purely internal in character. This fresh crisis
which, during almost a decade, agitated Him and His companions, was,
however, marked throughout not only by the assaults of His adversaries
from without, but by the machinations of enemies from within, as well as
by the grievous misdeeds of those who, though bearing His name,
perpetrated what made His heart and His pen alike to lament.

Akká, the ancient Ptolemais, the St. Jean d’Acre of the Crusaders, that
had successfully defied the siege of Napoleon, had sunk, under the Turks,
to the level of a penal colony to which murderers, highway robbers and
political agitators were consigned from all parts of the Turkish empire.
It was girt about by a double system of ramparts; was inhabited by a
people whom Bahá’u’lláh stigmatized as “the generation of vipers”; was
devoid of any source of water within its gates; was flea-infested, damp
and honey-combed with gloomy, filthy and tortuous lanes. “According to
what they say,” the Supreme Pen has recorded in the Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán, “it is
the most desolate of the cities of the world, the most unsightly of them
in appearance, the most detestable in climate, and the foulest in water.
It is as though it were the metropolis of the owl.” So putrid was its air
that, according to a proverb, a bird when flying over it would drop dead.

Explicit orders had been issued by the Sulṭán and his ministers to subject
the exiles, who were accused of having grievously erred and led others far
astray, to the strictest confinement. Hopes were confidently expressed
that the sentence of life-long imprisonment pronounced against them would
lead to their eventual extermination. The farmán of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz,
dated the fifth of Rabí’u’_th_-_Th_ání 1285 A.H. (July 26, 1868), not only
condemned them to perpetual banishment, but stipulated their strict
incarceration, and forbade them to associate either with each other or
with the local inhabitants. The text of the farmán itself was read
publicly, soon after the arrival of the exiles, in the principal mosque of
the city as a warning to the population. The Persian Ambassador,
accredited to the Sublime Porte, had thus assured his government, in a
letter, written a little over a year after their banishment to Akká: “I
have issued telegraphic and written instructions, forbidding that He
(Bahá’u’lláh) associate with any one except His wives and children, or
leave under any circumstances, the house wherein He is imprisoned.
Abbás-Qulí _Kh_án, the Consul-General in Damascus ... I have, three days
ago, sent back, instructing him to proceed direct to Akká ... confer with
its governor regarding all necessary measures for the strict maintenance
of their imprisonment ... and appoint, before his return to Damascus, a
representative on the spot to insure that the orders issued by the Sublime
Porte will, in no wise, be disobeyed. I have, likewise, instructed him
that once every three months he should proceed from Damascus to Akká, and
personally watch over them, and submit his report to the Legation.” Such
was the isolation imposed upon them that the Bahá’ís of Persia, perturbed
by the rumors set afloat by the Azalís of Iṣfáhán that Bahá’u’lláh had
been drowned, induced the British Telegraph office in Julfá to ascertain
on their behalf the truth of the matter.

Having, after a miserable voyage, disembarked at Akká, all the exiles,
men, women and children, were, under the eyes of a curious and callous
population that had assembled at the port to behold the “God of the
Persians,” conducted to the army barracks, where they were locked in, and
sentinels detailed to guard them. “The first night,” Bahá’u’lláh testifies
in the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís, “all were deprived of either food or drink... They
even begged for water, and were refused.” So filthy and brackish was the
water in the pool of the courtyard that no one could drink it. Three
loaves of black and salty bread were assigned to each, which they were
later permitted to exchange, when escorted by guards to the market, for
two of better quality. Subsequently they were allowed a mere pittance as
substitute for the allotted dole of bread. All fell sick, except two,
shortly after their arrival. Malaria, dysentery, combined with the sultry
heat, added to their miseries. Three succumbed, among them two brothers,
who died the same night, “locked,” as testified by Bahá’u’lláh, “in each
other’s arms.” The carpet used by Him He gave to be sold in order to
provide for their winding-sheets and burial. The paltry sum obtained after
it had been auctioned was delivered to the guards, who had refused to bury
them without first being paid the necessary expenses. Later, it was
learned that, unwashed and unshrouded, they had buried them, without
coffins, in the clothes they wore, though, as affirmed by Bahá’u’lláh,
they were given twice the amount required for their burial. “None,” He
Himself has written, “knoweth what befell Us, except God, the Almighty,
the All-Knowing... From the foundation of the world until the present day
a cruelty such as this hath neither been seen nor heard of.” “He hath,
during the greater part of His life,” He, referring to Himself, has,
moreover, recorded, “been sore-tried in the clutches of His enemies. His
sufferings have now reached their culmination in this afflictive Prison,
into which His oppressors have so unjustly thrown Him.”

The few pilgrims who, despite the ban that had been so rigidly imposed,
managed to reach the gates of the Prison—some of whom had journeyed the
entire distance from Persia on foot—had to content themselves with a
fleeting glimpse of the face of the Prisoner, as they stood, beyond the
second moat, facing the window of His Prison. The very few who succeeded
in penetrating into the city had, to their great distress, to retrace
their steps without even beholding His countenance. The first among them,
the self-denying Ḥájí Abu’l-Ḥasan-i-Ardikání, surnamed Amín-i-Iláhí
(Trusted of God), to enter His presence was only able to do so in a public
bath, where it had been arranged that he should see Bahá’u’lláh without
approaching Him or giving any sign of recognition. Another pilgrim, Ustád
Ismá’íl-i-Ká_sh_í, arriving from Mosul, posted himself on the far side of
the moat, and, gazing for hours, in rapt adoration, at the window of his
Beloved, failed in the end, owing to the feebleness of his sight, to
discern His face, and had to turn back to the cave which served as his
dwelling-place on Mt. Carmel—an episode that moved to tears the Holy
Family who had been anxiously watching from afar the frustration of his
hopes. Nabíl himself had to precipitately flee the city, where he had been
recognized, had to satisfy himself with a brief glimpse of Bahá’u’lláh
from across that same moat, and continued to roam the countryside around
Nazareth, Haifa, Jerusalem and Hebron, until the gradual relaxation of
restrictions enabled him to join the exiles.

To the galling weight of these tribulations was now added the bitter grief
of a sudden tragedy—the premature loss of the noble, the pious Mírzá
Mihdí, the Purest Branch, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s twenty-two year old brother, an
amanuensis of Bahá’u’lláh and a companion of His exile from the days when,
as a child, he was brought from Ṭihrán to Ba_gh_dád to join his Father
after His return from Sulaymáníyyih. He was pacing the roof of the
barracks in the twilight, one evening, wrapped in his customary devotions,
when he fell through the unguarded skylight onto a wooden crate, standing
on the floor beneath, which pierced his ribs, and caused, twenty-two hours
later, his death, on the 23rd of Rabí’u’l-Avval 1287 A.H. (June 23, 1870).
His dying supplication to a grieving Father was that his life might be
accepted as a ransom for those who were prevented from attaining the
presence of their Beloved.

In a highly significant prayer, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in memory of His
son—a prayer that exalts his death to the rank of those great acts of
atonement associated with Abraham’s intended sacrifice of His son, with
the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the martyrdom of the Imám Ḥusayn—we
read the following: “I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast
given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened, and all that dwell on earth
be united.” And, likewise, these prophetic words, addressed to His
martyred son: “Thou art the Trust of God and His Treasure in this Land.
Erelong will God reveal through thee that which He hath desired.”

After he had been washed in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, he “that was
created of the light of Bahá,” to whose “meekness” the Supreme Pen had
testified, and of the “mysteries” of whose ascension that same Pen had
made mention, was borne forth, escorted by the fortress guards, and laid
to rest, beyond the city walls, in a spot adjacent to the shrine of Nabí
Ṣáliḥ, from whence, seventy years later, his remains, simultaneously with
those of his illustrious mother, were to be translated to the slopes of
Mt. Carmel, in the precincts of the grave of his sister, and under the
shadow of the Báb’s holy sepulcher.

Nor was this the full measure of the afflictions endured by the Prisoner
of Akká and His fellow-exiles. Four months after this tragic event a
mobilization of Turkish troops necessitated the removal of Bahá’u’lláh and
all who bore Him company from the barracks. He and His family were
accordingly assigned the house of Malik, in the western quarter of the
city, whence, after a brief stay of three months, they were moved by the
authorities to the house of _Kh_avvám which faced it, and from which,
after a few months, they were again obliged to take up new quarters in the
house of Rabí’ih, being finally transferred, four months later, to the
house of Údí _Kh_ammár, which was so insufficient to their needs that in
one of its rooms no less than thirteen persons of both sexes had to
accommodate themselves. Some of the companions had to take up their
residence in other houses, while the remainder were consigned to a
caravanserai named the _Kh_án-i-‘Avámid.

Their strict confinement had hardly been mitigated, and the guards who had
kept watch over them been dismissed, when an internal crisis, which had
been brewing in the midst of the community, was brought to a sudden and
catastrophic climax. Such had been the conduct of two of the exiles, who
had been included in the party that accompanied Bahá’u’lláh to Akká, that
He was eventually forced to expel them, an act of which Siyyid Muḥammad
did not hesitate to take the fullest advantage. Reinforced by these
recruits, he, together with his old associates, acting as spies, embarked
on a campaign of abuse, calumny and intrigue, even more pernicious than
that which had been launched by him in Constantinople, calculated to
arouse an already prejudiced and suspicious populace to a new pitch of
animosity and excitement. A fresh danger now clearly threatened the life
of Bahá’u’lláh. Though He Himself had stringently forbidden His followers,
on several occasions, both verbally and in writing, any retaliatory acts
against their tormentors, and had even sent back to Beirut an
irresponsible Arab convert, who had meditated avenging the wrongs suffered
by his beloved Leader, seven of the companions clandestinely sought out
and slew three of their persecutors, among whom were Siyyid Muḥammad and
Áqá Ján.

The consternation that seized an already oppressed community was
indescribable. Bahá’u’lláh’s indignation knew no bounds. “Were We,” He
thus voices His emotions, in a Tablet revealed shortly after this act had
been committed, “to make mention of what befell Us, the heavens would be
rent asunder and the mountains would crumble.” “My captivity,” He wrote on
another occasion, “cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the conduct
of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and yet perpetrate
what causeth My heart and My pen to groan.” And again: “My captivity can
bring on Me no shame. Nay, by My life, it conferreth on Me glory. That
which can make Me ashamed is the conduct of such of My followers as
profess to love Me, yet in fact follow the Evil One.”

He was dictating His Tablets to His amanuensis when the governor, at the
head of his troops, with drawn swords, surrounded His house. The entire
populace, as well as the military authorities, were in a state of great
agitation. The shouts and clamor of the people could be heard on all
sides. Bahá’u’lláh was peremptorily summoned to the Governorate,
interrogated, kept in custody the first night, with one of His sons, in a
chamber in the _Kh_án-i-_Sh_avirdí, transferred for the following two
nights to better quarters in that neighborhood, and allowed only after the
lapse of seventy hours to regain His home. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was thrown into
prison and chained during the first night, after which He was permitted to
join His Father. Twenty-five of the companions were cast into another
prison and shackled, all of whom, except those responsible for that odious
deed, whose imprisonment lasted several years, were, after six days, moved
to the _Kh_án-i-_Sh_avirdí, and there placed, for six months, under
confinement.

“Is it proper,” the Commandant of the city, turning to Bahá’u’lláh, after
He had arrived at the Governorate, boldly inquired, “that some of your
followers should act in such a manner?” “If one of your soldiers,” was the
swift rejoinder, “were to commit a reprehensible act, would you be held
responsible, and be punished in his place?” When interrogated, He was
asked to state His name and that of the country from which He came. “It is
more manifest than the sun,” He answered. The same question was put to Him
again, to which He gave the following reply: “I deem it not proper to
mention it. Refer to the farmán of the government which is in your
possession.” Once again they, with marked deference, reiterated their
request, whereupon Bahá’u’lláh spoke with majesty and power these words:
“My name is Bahá’u’lláh (Light of God), and My country is Núr (Light). Be
ye apprized of it.” Turning then, to the Muftí, He addressed him words of
veiled rebuke, after which He spoke to the entire gathering, in such
vehement and exalted language that none made bold to answer Him. Having
quoted verses from the Súriy-i-Mulúk, He, afterwards, arose and left the
gathering. The Governor, soon after, sent word that He was at liberty to
return to His home, and apologized for what had occurred.

A population, already ill-disposed towards the exiles, was, after such an
incident, fired with uncontrollable animosity for all those who bore the
name of the Faith which those exiles professed. The charges of impiety,
atheism, terrorism and heresy were openly and without restraint flung into
their faces. Abbúd, who lived next door to Bahá’u’lláh, reinforced the
partition that separated his house from the dwelling of his now
much-feared and suspected Neighbor. Even the children of the imprisoned
exiles, whenever they ventured to show themselves in the streets during
those days, would be pursued, vilified and pelted with stones.

The cup of Bahá’u’lláh’s tribulations was now filled to overflowing. A
situation, greatly humiliating, full of anxieties and even perilous,
continued to face the exiles, until the time, set by an inscrutable Will,
at which the tide of misery and abasement began to ebb, signalizing a
transformation in the fortunes of the Faith even more conspicuous than the
revolutionary change effected during the latter years of Bahá’u’lláh’s
sojourn in Ba_gh_dád.

The gradual recognition by all elements of the population of Bahá’u’lláh’s
complete innocence; the slow penetration of the true spirit of His
teachings through the hard crust of their indifference and bigotry; the
substitution of the sagacious and humane governor, Aḥmad Big Tawfíq, for
one whose mind had been hopelessly poisoned against the Faith and its
followers; the unremitting labors of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, now in the full flower
of His manhood, Who, through His contacts with the rank and file of the
population, was increasingly demonstrating His capacity to act as the
shield of His Father; the providential dismissal of the officials who had
been instrumental in prolonging the confinement of the innocent
companions—all paved the way for the reaction that was now setting in, a
reaction with which the period of Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to Akká will
ever remain indissolubly associated.

Such was the devotion gradually kindled in the heart of that governor,
through his association with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and later through his perusal
of the literature of the Faith, which mischief-makers, in the hope of
angering him, had submitted for his consideration, that he invariably
refused to enter His presence without first removing his shoes, as a token
of his respect for Him. It was even bruited about that his favored
counselors were those very exiles who were the followers of the Prisoner
in his custody. His own son he was wont to send to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for
instruction and enlightenment. It was on the occasion of a long-sought
audience with Bahá’u’lláh that, in response to a request for permission to
render Him some service, the suggestion was made to him to restore the
aqueduct which for thirty years had been allowed to fall into disuse—a
suggestion which he immediately arose to carry out. To the inflow of
pilgrims, among whom were numbered the devout and venerable Mullá
Ṣádiq-i-_Kh_urásání and the father of Badí, both survivors of the struggle
of Tabarsí, he offered scarcely any opposition, though the text of the
imperial farmán forbade their admission into the city. Muṣṭafá Díyá
Pá_sh_á, who became governor a few years later, had even gone so far as to
intimate that his Prisoner was free to pass through its gates whenever He
pleased, a suggestion which Bahá’u’lláh declined. Even the Muftí of Akká,
_Sh_ay_kh_ Maḥmúd, a man notorious for his bigotry, had been converted to
the Faith, and, fired by his newborn enthusiasm, made a compilation of the
Muḥammadan traditions related to Akká. Nor were the occasionally
unsympathetic governors, despatched to that city, able, despite the
arbitrary power they wielded, to check the forces which were carrying the
Author of the Faith towards His virtual emancipation and the ultimate
accomplishment of His purpose. Men of letters, and even ‘ulamás residing
in Syria, were moved, as the years rolled by, to voice their recognition
of Bahá’u’lláh’s rising greatness and power. Azíz Pá_sh_á, who, in
Adrianople, had evinced a profound attachment to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and had in
the meantime been promoted to the rank of Valí, twice visited Akká for the
express purpose of paying his respects to Bahá’u’lláh, and to renew his
friendship with One Whom he had learned to admire and revere.

Though Bahá’u’lláh Himself practically never granted personal interviews,
as He had been used to do in Ba_gh_dád, yet such was the influence He now
wielded that the inhabitants openly asserted that the noticeable
improvement in the climate and water of their city was directly
attributable to His continued presence in their midst. The very
designations by which they chose to refer to him, such as the “august
leader,” and “his highness” bespoke the reverence with which He inspired
them. On one occasion, a European general who, together with the governor,
was granted an audience by Him, was so impressed that he “remained
kneeling on the ground near the door.” _Sh_ay_kh_ ‘Alíy-i-Mírí, the Muftí
of Akká, had even, at the suggestion of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, to plead insistently
that He might permit the termination of His nine-year confinement within
the walls of the prison-city, before He would consent to leave its gates.
The garden of Na’mayn, a small island, situated in the middle of a river
to the east of the city, honored with the appellation of Ridván, and
designated by Him the “New Jerusalem” and “Our Verdant Isle,” had,
together with the residence of ‘Abdu’lláh Pá_sh_á,—rented and prepared for
Him by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and situated a few miles north of Akká—become by now
the favorite retreats of One Who, for almost a decade, had not set foot
beyond the city walls, and Whose sole exercise had been to pace, in
monotonous repetition, the floor of His bed-chamber.

Two years later the palace of Údí _Kh_ammár, on the construction of which
so much wealth had been lavished, while Bahá’u’lláh lay imprisoned in the
barracks, and which its owner had precipitately abandoned with his family
owing to the outbreak of an epidemic disease, was rented and later
purchased for Him—a dwelling-place which He characterized as the “lofty
mansion,” the spot which “God hath ordained as the most sublime vision of
mankind.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to Beirut, at the invitation of Mi_dh_át
Pá_sh_á, a former Grand Vizir of Turkey, occurring about this time; His
association with the civil and ecclesiastical leaders of that city; His
several interviews with the well-known _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad ‘Abdu served to
enhance immensely the growing prestige of the community and spread abroad
the fame of its most distinguished member. The splendid welcome accorded
him by the learned and highly esteemed _Sh_ay_kh_ Yúsúf, the Muftí of
Nazareth, who acted as host to the valís of Beirut, and who had despatched
all the notables of the community several miles on the road to meet Him as
He approached the town, accompanied by His brother and the Muftí of Akká,
as well as the magnificent reception given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to that same
_Sh_ay_kh_ Yúsúf when the latter visited Him in Akká, were such as to
arouse the envy of those who, only a few years before, had treated Him and
His fellow-exiles with feelings compounded of condescension and scorn.

The drastic farmán of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz, though officially unrepealed,
had by now become a dead letter. Though “Bahá’u’lláh was still nominally a
prisoner, “the doors of majesty and true sovereignty were,” in the words
of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “flung wide open.” “The rulers of Palestine,” He moreover
has written, “envied His influence and power. Governors and mutisárrifs,
generals and local officials, would humbly request the honor of attaining
His presence—a request to which He seldom acceded.”

It was in that same mansion that the distinguished Orientalist, Prof. E.
G. Browne of Cambridge, was granted his four successive interviews with
Bahá’u’lláh, during the five days he was His guest at Bahjí (April 15–20,
1890), interviews immortalized by the Exile’s historic declaration that
“these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away and the ‘Most
Great Peace’ shall come.” “The face of Him on Whom I gazed,” is the
interviewer’s memorable testimony for posterity, “I can never forget,
though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very
soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow.... No need to ask in
whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of
a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain.”
“Here,” the visitor himself has testified, “did I spend five most
memorable days, during which I enjoyed unparalleled and unhoped-for
opportunities of holding intercourse with those who are the fountain-heads
of that mighty and wondrous spirit, which works with invisible but
ever-increasing force for the transformation and quickening of a people
who slumber in a sleep like unto death. It was, in truth, a strange and
moving experience, but one whereof I despair of conveying any save the
feeblest impression.”

In that same year Bahá’u’lláh’s tent, the “Tabernacle of Glory,” was
raised on Mt. Carmel, “the Hill of God and His Vineyard,” the home of
Elijah, extolled by Isaiah as the “mountain of the Lord,” to which “all
nations shall flow.” Four times He visited Haifa, His last visit being no
less than three months long. In the course of one of these visits, when
His tent was pitched in the vicinity of the Carmelite Monastery, He, the
“Lord of the Vineyard,” revealed the Tablet of Carmel, remarkable for its
allusions and prophecies. On another occasion He pointed out Himself to
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as He stood on the slopes of that mountain, the site which
was to serve as the permanent resting-place of the Báb, and on which a
befitting mausoleum was later to be erected.

Properties, bordering on the Lake associated with the ministry of Jesus
Christ, were, moreover, purchased at Bahá’u’lláh’s bidding, designed to be
consecrated to the glory of His Faith, and to be the forerunners of those
“noble and imposing structures” which He, in His Tablets, had anticipated
would be raised “throughout the length and breadth” of the Holy Land, as
well as of the “rich and sacred territories adjoining the Jordan and its
vicinity,” which, in those Tablets, He had permitted to be dedicated “to
the worship and service of the one true God.”

The enormous expansion in the volume of Bahá’u’lláh’s correspondence; the
establishment of a Bahá’í agency in Alexandria for its despatch and
distribution; the facilities provided by His staunch follower, Muḥammad
Muṣṭafá, now established in Beirut to safeguard the interests of the
pilgrims who passed through that city; the comparative ease with which a
titular Prisoner communicated with the multiplying centers in Persia,
‘Iráq, Caucasus, Turkistán, and Egypt; the mission entrusted by Him to
Sulaymán _Kh_án-i-Tanakábúní, known as Jamál Effendi, to initiate a
systematic campaign of teaching in India and Burma; the appointment of a
few of His followers as “Hands of the Cause of God”; the restoration of
the Holy House in _Sh_íráz, whose custodianship was now formally entrusted
by Him to the Báb’s wife and her sister; the conversion of a considerable
number of the adherents of the Jewish, Zoroastrian and Buddhist Faiths,
the first fruits of the zeal and the perseverance which itinerant teachers
in Persia, India and Burma were so strikingly displaying—conversions that
automatically resulted in a firm recognition by them of the Divine origin
of both Christianity and Islám—all these attested the vitality of a
leadership that neither kings nor ecclesiastics, however powerful or
antagonistic, could either destroy or undermine.

Nor should reference be omitted to the emergence of a prosperous community
in the newly laid out city of I_sh_qábád, in Russian Turkistán, assured of
the good will of a sympathetic government, enabling it to establish a
Bahá’í cemetery and to purchase property and erect thereon structures that
were to prove the precursors of the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the
Bahá’í world; or to the establishment of new outposts of the Faith in
far-off Samarqand and Bu_kh_árá, in the heart of the Asiatic continent, in
consequence of the discourses and writings of the erudite Fádil-i-Qa’iní
and the learned apologist Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl; or to the publication in India
of five volumes of the writings of the Author of the Faith, including His
“Most Holy Book”—publications which were to herald the vast multiplication
of its literature, in various scripts and languages, and its
dissemination, in later decades, throughout both the East and the West.

“Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz,” Bahá’u’lláh is reported by one of His
fellow-exiles to have stated, “banished Us to this country in the greatest
abasement, and since his object was to destroy Us and humble Us, whenever
the means of glory and ease presented themselves, We did not reject them.”
“Now, praise be to God,” He, moreover, as reported by Nabíl in his
narrative, once remarked, “it has reached the point when all the people of
these regions are manifesting their submissiveness unto Us.” And again, as
recorded in that same narrative: “The Ottoman Sulṭán, without any
justification, or reason, arose to oppress Us, and sent Us to the fortress
of Akká. His imperial farmán decreed that none should associate with Us,
and that We should become the object of the hatred of every one. The Hand
of Divine power, therefore, swiftly avenged Us. It first loosed the winds
of destruction upon his two irreplaceable ministers and confidants, ‘Alí
and Fu’ád, after which that Hand was stretched out to roll up the panoply
of Azíz himself, and to seize him, as He only can seize, Who is the
Mighty, the Strong.”

“His enemies,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, referring to this same theme, has written,
“intended that His imprisonment should completely destroy and annihilate
the blessed Cause, but this prison was, in reality, of the greatest
assistance, and became the means of its development.” “...This illustrious
Being,” He, moreover has affirmed, “uplifted His Cause in the Most Great
Prison. From this Prison His light was shed abroad; His fame conquered the
world, and the proclamation of His glory reached the East and the West.”
“His light at first had been a star; now it became a mighty sun.” “Until
our time,” He, moreover has affirmed, “no such thing has ever occurred.”

Little wonder that, in view of so remarkable a reversal in the
circumstances attending the twenty-four years of His banishment to Akká,
Bahá’u’lláh Himself should have penned these weighty words: “The Almighty
... hath transformed this Prison-House into the Most Exalted Paradise, the
Heaven of Heavens.”



Chapter XII: Bahá’u’lláh’s Incarceration in Akká (Continued)


While Bahá’u’lláh and the little band that bore Him company were being
subjected to the severe hardships of a banishment intended to blot them
from the face of the earth, the steadily expanding community of His
followers in the land of His birth were undergoing a persecution more
violent and of longer duration than the trials with which He and His
companions were being afflicted. Though on a far smaller scale than the
blood baths which had baptized the birth of the Faith, when in the course
of a single year, as attested by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “more than four thousand
souls were slain, and a great multitude of women and children left without
protector and helper,” the murderous and horrible acts subsequently
perpetrated by an insatiable and unyielding enemy covered as wide a range
and were marked by an even greater degree of ferocity.

Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, stigmatized by Bahá’u’lláh as the “Prince of
Oppressors,” as one who had “perpetrated what hath caused the denizens of
the cities of justice and equity to lament,” was, during the period under
review, in the full tide of his manhood and had reached the plenitude of
his despotic power. The sole arbiter of the fortunes of a country “firmly
stereotyped in the immemorial traditions of the East”; surrounded by
“venal, artful and false” ministers whom he could elevate or abase at his
pleasure; the head of an administration in which “every actor was, in
different aspects, both the briber and the bribed”; allied, in his
opposition to the Faith, with a sacerdotal order which constituted a
veritable “church-state”; supported by a people preeminent in atrocity,
notorious for its fanaticism, its servility, cupidity and corrupt
practices, this capricious monarch, no longer able to lay hands upon the
person of Bahá’u’lláh, had to content himself with the task of attempting
to stamp out in his own dominions the remnants of a much-feared and newly
resuscitated community. Next to him in rank and power were his three
eldest sons, to whom, for purposes of internal administration, he had
practically delegated his authority, and in whom he had invested the
governorship of all the provinces of his kingdom. The province of
Á_dh_irbayján he had entrusted to the weak and timid Muzaffari’d-Dín
Mírzá, the heir to his throne, who had fallen under the influence of the
_Sh_ay_kh_í sect, and was showing a marked respect to the mullás. To the
stern and savage rule of the astute Mas’úd Mírzá, commonly known as
Zillu’s-Sulṭán, his eldest surviving son, whose mother had been of
plebeian origin, he had committed over two-fifths of his kingdom,
including the provinces of Yazd and Iṣfáhán, whilst upon Kámrán Mírzá, his
favorite son, commonly called by his title the Nayibu’s-Saltanih, he had
bestowed the rulership of Gílán and Mázindarán, and made him governor of
Ṭihrán, his minister of war and the commander-in-chief of his army. Such
was the rivalry between the last two princes, who vied with each other in
courting the favor of their father, that each endeavored, with the support
of the leading mujtahids within his jurisdiction, to outshine the other in
the meritorious task of hunting, plundering and exterminating the members
of a defenseless community, who, at the bidding of Bahá’u’lláh, had ceased
to offer armed resistance even in self-defense, and were carrying out His
injunction that “it is better to be killed than kill.” Nor were the
clerical firebrands, Ḥájí Mullá ‘Alíy-i-Kání and Siyyid
Ṣádiq-i-Tabátabá’í, the two leading mujtahids of Ṭihrán, together with
_Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad-Báqir, their colleague in Iṣfáhán, and Mír
Muḥammad-Ḥusayn, the Imám-Jum’ih of that city, willing to allow the
slightest opportunity to pass without striking, with all the force and
authority they wielded, at an adversary whose liberalizing influences they
had even more reason to fear than the sovereign himself.

Little wonder that, confronted by a situation so full of peril, the Faith
should have been driven underground, and that arrests, interrogations,
imprisonment, vituperation, spoliation, tortures and executions should
constitute the outstanding features of this convulsive period in its
development. The pilgrimages that had been initiated in Adrianople, and
which later assumed in Akká impressive proportions, together with the
dissemination of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and the circulation of
enthusiastic reports through the medium of those who had attained His
presence served, moreover, to inflame the animosity of clergy and laity
alike, who had foolishly imagined that the breach which had occurred in
the ranks of the followers of the Faith in Adrianople and the sentence of
life banishment pronounced subsequently against its Leader, would seal
irretrievably its fate.

In Ábádih a certain Ustád ‘Alí-Akbar was, at the instigation of a local
Siyyid, apprehended and so ruthlessly thrashed that he was covered from
head to foot with his own blood. In the village of Tákúr, at the bidding
of the _Sh_áh, the property of the inhabitants was pillaged, Ḥájí Mírzá
Riḍá-Qulí, a half-brother of Bahá’u’lláh, was arrested, conducted to the
capital and thrown into the Síyáh-_Ch_ál, where he remained for a month,
whilst the brother-in-law of Mírzá Ḥasan, another half-brother of
Bahá’u’lláh, was seized and branded with red-hot irons, after which the
neighboring village of Dar-Kalá was delivered to the flames.

Áqá Buzurg of _Kh_urásán, the illustrious “Badí” (Wonderful); converted to
the Faith by Nabíl; surnamed the “Pride of Martyrs”; the seventeen-year
old bearer of the Tablet addressed to Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh; in whom, as
affirmed by Bahá’u’lláh, “the spirit of might and power was breathed,” was
arrested, branded for three successive days, his head beaten to a pulp
with the butt of a rifle, after which his body was thrown into a pit and
earth and stones heaped upon it. After visiting Bahá’u’lláh in the
barracks, during the second year of His confinement, he had arisen with
amazing alacrity to carry that Tablet, alone and on foot, to Ṭihrán and
deliver it into the hands of the sovereign. A four months’ journey had
taken him to that city, and, after passing three days in fasting and
vigilance, he had met the _Sh_áh proceeding on a hunting expedition to
_Sh_imírán. He had calmly and respectfully approached His Majesty, calling
out, “O King! I have come to thee from Sheba with a weighty message”;
whereupon at the Sovereign’s order, the Tablet was taken from him and
delivered to the mujtahids of Ṭihrán who were commanded to reply to that
Epistle—a command which they evaded, recommending instead that the
messenger should be put to death. That Tablet was subsequently forwarded
by the _Sh_áh to the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, in the hope
that its perusal by the Sulṭán’s ministers might serve to further inflame
their animosity. For a space of three years Bahá’u’lláh continued to extol
in His writings the heroism of that youth, characterizing the references
made by Him to that sublime sacrifice as the “salt of My Tablets.”

‘Abá-Básir and Siyyid A_sh_raf, whose fathers had been slain in the
struggle of Zanján, were decapitated on the same day in that city, the
former going so far as to instruct, while kneeling in prayer, his
executioner as to how best to deal his blow, while the latter, after
having been so brutally beaten that blood flowed from under his nails, was
beheaded, as he held in his arms the body of his martyred companion. It
was the mother of this same A_sh_raf who, when sent to the prison in the
hope that she would persuade her only son to recant, had warned him that
she would disown him were he to denounce his faith, had bidden him follow
the example of ‘Abá-Básir, and had even watched him expire with eyes
undimmed with tears. The wealthy and prominent Muḥammad-Ḥasan
_Kh_án-i-Ká_sh_í was so mercilessly bastinadoed in Burújird that he
succumbed to his ordeal. In _Sh_íráz Mírzá Áqáy-i-Rikáb-Sáz, together with
Mírzá Rafí-i-_Kh_ayyát and Ma_sh_hadí Nabí, were by order of the local
mujtahid simultaneously strangled in the dead of night, their graves being
later desecrated by a mob who heaped refuse upon them. _Sh_ay_kh_
Abu’l-Qásim-i-Mazkání in Ká_sh_án, who had declined a drink of water that
was offered him before his death, affirming that he thirsted for the cup
of martyrdom, was dealt a fatal blow on the nape of his neck, whilst he
was prostrating himself in prayer.

Mírzá Báqir-i-_Sh_írází, who had transcribed the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh in
Adrianople with such unsparing devotion, was slain in Kirmán, while in
Ardikán the aged and infirm Gul-Muḥammad was set upon by a furious mob,
thrown to the ground, and so trampled upon by the hob-nailed boots of two
siyyids that his ribs were crushed in and his teeth broken, after which
his body was taken to the outskirts of the town and buried in a pit, only
to be dug up the next day, dragged through the streets, and finally
abandoned in the wilderness. In the city of Ma_sh_had, notorious for its
unbridled fanaticism, Ḥájí ‘Abdu’l-Majíd, who was the eighty-five year old
father of the afore-mentioned Badí and a survivor of the struggle of
Tabarsí, and who, after the martyrdom of his son, had visited Bahá’u’lláh
and returned afire with zeal to _Kh_urásán, was ripped open from waist to
throat, and his head exposed on a marble slab to the gaze of a multitude
of insulting onlookers, who, after dragging his body ignominiously through
the bazaars, left it at the morgue to be claimed by his relatives.

In Iṣfáhán Mullá Kázim was beheaded by order of _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad-Báqir,
and a horse made to gallop over his corpse, which was then delivered to
the flames, while Siyyid Áqá Ján had his ears cut off, and was led by a
halter through the streets and bazaars. A month later occurred in that
same city the tragedy of the two famous brothers Mírzá Muḥammad-Ḥasan and
Mírzá Muḥammad-Ḥusayn, the “twin shining lights,” respectively surnamed
“Sulṭánu’_sh_-_Sh_uhudá” (King of Martyrs) and “Maḥbúbu’_sh_-_Sh_uhadá”
(Beloved of Martyrs), who were celebrated for their generosity,
trustworthiness, kindliness and piety. Their martyrdom was instigated by
the wicked and dishonest Mír Muḥammad-Ḥusayn, the Imám-Jum’ih, stigmatized
by Bahá’u’lláh as the “she-serpent,” who, in view of a large debt he had
incurred in his transactions with them, schemed to nullify his obligations
by denouncing them as Bábís, and thereby encompassing their death. Their
richly-furnished houses were plundered, even to the trees and flowers in
their gardens, all their remaining possessions were confiscated;
_Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad-Báqir, denounced by Bahá’u’lláh as the “wolf,”
pronounced their death-sentence; the Zillu’s-Sulṭán ratified the decision,
after which they were put in chains, decapitated, dragged to the
Maydán-i-_Sh_áh, and there exposed to the indignities heaped upon them by
a degraded and rapacious populace. “In such wise,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has
written, “was the blood of these two brothers shed that the Christian
priest of Julfá cried out, lamented and wept on that day.” For several
years Bahá’u’lláh in His Tablets continued to make mention of them, to
voice His grief over their passing and to extol their virtues.

Mullá ‘Alí Ján was conducted on foot from Mázindarán to Ṭihrán, the
hardships of that journey being so severe that his neck was wounded and
his body swollen from the waist to the feet. On the day of his martyrdom
he asked for water, performed his ablutions, recited his prayers, bestowed
a considerable gift of money on his executioner, and was still in the act
of prayer when his throat was slit by a dagger, after which his corpse was
spat upon, covered with mud, left exposed for three days, and finally hewn
to pieces. In Námiq Mullá ‘Alí, converted to the Faith in the days of the
Báb, was so severely attacked and his ribs so badly broken with a pick-axe
that he died immediately. Mírzá A_sh_raf was slain in Iṣfáhán, his corpse
trampled under foot by _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad Taqíy-i-Najafí, the “son of the
wolf,” and his pupils, savagely mutilated, and delivered to the mob to be
burnt, after which his charred bones were buried beneath the ruins of a
wall that was pulled down to cover them.

In Yazd, at the instigation of the mujtahid of that city, and by order of
the callous Maḥmúd Mírzá, the Jalúlu’l-Dawlih, the governor, a son of
Zillu’s-Sulṭán, seven were done to death in a single day in horrible
circumstances. The first of these, a twenty-seven year old youth,
‘Alí-Aṣ_gh_ar, was strangled, his body delivered into the hands of some
Jews who, forcing the dead man’s six companions to come with them, dragged
the corpse through the streets, surrounded by a mob of people and soldiers
beating drums and blowing trumpets, after which, arriving near the
Telegraph Office, they beheaded the eighty-five year old Mullá Mihdí and
dragged him in the same manner to another quarter of the city, where, in
view of a great throng of onlookers, frenzied by the throbbing strains of
the music, they executed Áqá ‘Alí in like manner. Proceeding thence to the
house of the local mujtahid, and carrying with them the four remaining
companions, they cut the throat of Mullá ‘Alíy-i-Sabzívarí, who had been
addressing the crowd and glorying in his imminent martyrdom, hacked his
body to pieces with a spade, while he was still alive, and pounded his
skull to a pulp with stones. In another quarter, near the Mihríz gate,
they slew Muḥammad-Báqir, and afterwards, in the Maydán-i-_Kh_án, as the
music grew wilder and drowned the yells of the people, they beheaded the
survivors who remained, two brothers in their early twenties,
‘Alí-Aṣ_gh_ar and Muḥammad-Ḥasan. The stomach of the latter was ripped
open and his heart and liver plucked out, after which his head was impaled
on a spear, carried aloft, to the accompaniment of music, through the
streets of the city, and suspended on a mulberry tree, and stoned by a
great concourse of people. His body was cast before the door of his
mother’s house, into which women deliberately entered to dance and make
merry. Even pieces of their flesh were carried away to be used as a
medicament. Finally, the head of Muḥammad-Ḥasan was attached to the lower
part of his body and, together with those of the other martyrs, was borne
to the outskirts of the city and so viciously pelted with stones that the
skulls were broken, whereupon they compelled the Jews to carry the remains
and throw them into a pit in the plain of Salsabíl. A holiday was declared
by the governor for the people, all the shops were closed by his order,
the city was illuminated at night, and festivities proclaimed the
consummation of one of the most barbarous acts perpetrated in modern
times.

Nor were the Jews and the Parsis who had been newly converted to the
Faith, and were living, the former in Hamadán, and the latter in Yazd,
immune to the assaults of enemies whose fury was exasperated by the
evidences of the penetration of the light of the Faith in quarters they
had fondly imagined to be beyond its reach. Even in the city of I_sh_qábád
the newly established _Sh_í’ah community, envious of the rising prestige
of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh who were living in their midst, instigated
two ruffians to assault the seventy-year old Ḥájí
Muḥammad-Riḍáy-i-Iṣfáhání, whom, in broad day and in the midst of the
bazaar, they stabbed in no less than thirty-two places, exposing his
liver, lacerating his stomach and tearing open his breast. A military
court dispatched by the Czar to I_sh_qábád established, after prolonged
investigation, the guilt of the _Sh_í’ahs, sentencing two to death and
banishing six others—a sentence which neither Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, nor the
‘ulamás of Ṭihrán, of Ma_sh_had and of Tabríz, who were appealed to, could
mitigate, but which the representatives of the aggrieved community,
through their magnanimous intercession which greatly surprised the Russian
authorities, succeeded in having commuted to a lighter punishment.

Such are some typical examples of the treatment meted out by the
adversaries of the Faith to the newly resurgent community of its followers
during the period of Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to Akká—a treatment which it
may be truly said testified alternately to “the callousness of the brute
and the ingenuity of the fiend.”

The “inquisition and appalling tortures,” following the attempt on the
life of Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, had already, in the words of no less eminent
an observer than Lord Curzon of Kedleston, imparted to the Faith “a
vitality which no other impulse could have secured.” This recrudescence of
persecution, this fresh outpouring of the blood of martyrs, served to
further enliven the roots which that holy Sapling had already struck in
its native soil. Careless of the policy of fire and blood which aimed at
their annihilation, undismayed by the tragic blows rained upon a Leader so
far removed from their midst, uncorrupted by the foul and seditious acts
perpetrated by the Arch-Breaker of the Báb’s Covenant, the followers of
Bahá’u’lláh were multiplying in number and silently gathering the
necessary strength that was to enable them, at a later stage, to lift
their heads in freedom, and rear the fabric of their institutions.

Soon after his visit to Persia in the autumn of 1889 Lord Curzon of
Kedleston wrote, in the course of references designed to dispel the “great
confusion” and “error” prevailing “among European and specially English
writers” regarding the Faith, that “the Bahá’ís are now believed to
comprise nineteen-twentieths of the Bábí persuasion.” Count Gobineau,
writing as far back as the year 1865, testified as follows: “L’opinion
genérale est que les Bábís sont répandus dans toutes les classes de la
population et parmi tous les religionnaires de la Perse, sauf les Nusayris
et les Chrètiens; mais ce sont surtout les classes éclairées, les hommes
pratiquant les sciences du pays, qui sont donnés comme très suspects. On
pense, et avec raison, ce semble, que beaucoup de mullás, et parmi eux des
mujtahids considèrables, des magistrats d’un rang élève, des hommes qui
occupent à la cour des fonctions importantes et qui approchent de près la
personne du Roi, sont des Bábís. D’après un calcul fait rècemment, il y
aurait a Ṭihrán cinq milles de ces religionnaires sur une population de
quatre-vingt milles âmes a peu près.” Furthermore: “...Le Bábisme a pris
une action considèrable sur l’intelligence de la nation persane, et, se
rependant même au délà des limites du territoire, il a débordé dans le
pachalik de Ba_gh_dád, et passé aussi dans l’Inde.” And again: “...Un
mouvement religieux tout particulier dont l’Asie Centrale, c’est-à-dire la
Perse, quelques points de l’Inde et une partie de la Turquie d’Asie, aux
environs de Ba_gh_dád, est aujourd’hui vivement préoccupée, mouvement
remarquable et digne d’être étudié à tous les titres. Il permet d’assister
à des développements de faits, à des manifestations, à des catastrophes
telles que l’on n’est pas habitué à les imaginer ailleurs que dans les
temps réculés où se sont produites les grandes religions.”

“These changes, however,” Lord Curzon, alluding to the Declaration of the
Mission of Bahá’u’lláh and the rebellion of Mírzá Yaḥyá, has, moreover
written, “have in no wise impaired, but appear on the contrary, to have
stimulated its propaganda, which has advanced with a rapidity inexplicable
to those who can only see therein a crude form of political or even of
metaphysical fermentation. The lowest estimate places the present number
of Bábís in Persia at half a million. I am disposed to think, from
conversations with persons well qualified to judge, that the total is
nearer one million.” “They are to be found,” he adds, “in every walk of
life, from the ministers and nobles of the Court to the scavenger or the
groom, not the least arena of their activity being the Musulmán priesthood
itself.” “From the facts,” is another testimony of his, “that Bábism in
its earliest years found itself in conflict with the civil powers, and
that an attempt was made by Bábís upon the life of the _Sh_áh, it has been
wrongly inferred that the movement was political in origin and Nihilist in
character... At the present time the Bábís are equally loyal with any
other subjects of the Crown. Nor does there appear to be any greater
justice in the charges of socialism, communism and immorality that have so
freely been levelled at the youthful persuasion ...The only communism
known to and recommended by Him (the Báb) was that of the New Testament
and the early Christian Church, viz., the sharing of goods in common by
members of the Faith, and the exercise of alms-giving, and an ample
charity. The charge of immorality seems to have arisen partly from the
malignant inventions of opponents, partly from the much greater freedom
claimed for women by the Báb, which in the oriental mind is scarcely
dissociable from profligacy of conduct.” And, finally, the following
prognostication from his pen: “If Bábism continues to grow at its present
rate of progression, a time may conceivably come when it will oust
Muḥammadanism from the field in Persia. This, I think, it would be
unlikely to do, did it appear upon the ground under the flag of a hostile
faith. But since its recruits are won from the best soldiers of the
garrison whom it is attacking, there is greater reason to believe that it
may ultimately prevail.”

Bahá’u’lláh’s incarceration in the prison-fortress of Akká, the manifold
tribulations He endured, the prolonged ordeal to which the community of
His followers in Persia was being subjected, did not arrest, nor could
they even impede, to the slightest degree, the mighty stream of Divine
Revelation, which, without interruption, had been flowing from His pen,
and on which the future orientation, the integrity, the expansion and the
consolidation of His Faith directly depended. Indeed, in their scope and
volume, His writings, during the years of His confinement in the Most
Great Prison, surpassed the outpourings of His pen in either Adrianople or
Ba_gh_dád. More remarkable than the radical transformation in the
circumstances of His own life in Akká, more far-reaching in its spiritual
consequences than the campaign of repression pursued so relentlessly by
the enemies of His Faith in the land of His birth, this unprecedented
extension in the range of His writings, during His exile in that Prison,
must rank as one of the most vitalizing and fruitful stages in the
evolution of His Faith.

The tempestuous winds that swept the Faith at the inception of His
ministry and the wintry desolation that marked the beginnings of His
prophetic career, soon after His banishment from Ṭihrán, were followed
during the latter part of His sojourn in Ba_gh_dád, by what may be
described as the vernal years of His Mission—years which witnessed the
bursting into visible activity of the forces inherent in that Divine Seed
that had lain dormant since the tragic removal of His Forerunner. With His
arrival in Adrianople and the proclamation of His Mission the Orb of His
Revelation climbed as it were to its zenith, and shone, as witnessed by
the style and tone of His writings, in the plenitude of its summer glory.
The period of His incarceration in Akká brought with it the ripening of a
slowly maturing process, and was a period during which the choicest fruits
of that mission were ultimately garnered.

The writings of Bahá’u’lláh during this period, as we survey the vast
field which they embrace, seem to fall into three distinct categories. The
first comprises those writings which constitute the sequel to the
proclamation of His Mission in Adrianople. The second includes the laws
and ordinances of His Dispensation, which, for the most part, have been
recorded in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His Most Holy Book. To the third must be
assigned those Tablets which partly enunciate and partly reaffirm the
fundamental tenets and principles underlying that Dispensation.

The Proclamation of His Mission had been, as already observed, directed
particularly to the kings of the earth, who, by virtue of the power and
authority they wielded, were invested with a peculiar and inescapable
responsibility for the destinies of their subjects. It was to these kings,
as well as to the world’s religious leaders, who exercised a no less
pervasive influence on the mass of their followers, that the Prisoner of
Akká directed His appeals, warnings, and exhortations during the first
years of His incarceration in that city. “Upon Our arrival at this
Prison,” He Himself affirms, “We purposed to transmit to the kings the
messages of their Lord, the Mighty, the All-Praised. Though We have
transmitted to them, in several Tablets, that which We were commanded, yet
We do it once again, as a token of God’s grace.”

To the kings of the earth, both in the East and in the West, both
Christian and Muslim, who had already been collectively admonished and
warned in the Súriy-i-Mulúk revealed in Adrianople, and had been so
vehemently summoned by the Báb, in the opening chapter of the
Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, on the very night of the Declaration of His Mission,
Bahá’u’lláh, during the darkest days of His confinement in Akká, addressed
some of the noblest passages of His Most Holy Book. In these passages He
called upon them to take fast hold of the “Most Great Law”; proclaimed
Himself to be “the King of Kings” and “the Desire of all Nations”;
declared them to be His “vassals” and “emblems of His sovereignty”;
disclaimed any intention of laying hands on their kingdoms; bade them
forsake their palaces, and hasten to gain admittance into His Kingdom;
extolled the king who would arise to aid His Cause as “the very eye of
mankind”; and finally arraigned them for the things which had befallen Him
at their hands.

In His Tablet to Queen Victoria He, moreover, invites these kings to hold
fast to “the Lesser Peace,” since they had refused “the Most Great Peace”;
exhorts them to be reconciled among themselves, to unite and to reduce
their armaments; bids them refrain from laying excessive burdens on their
subjects, who, He informs them, are their “wards” and “treasures”;
enunciates the principle that should any one among them take up arms
against another, all should rise against him; and warns them not to deal
with Him as the “King of Islám” and his ministers had dealt.

To the Emperor of the French, Napoleon III, the most prominent and
influential monarch of his day in the West, designated by Him as the
“Chief of Sovereigns,” and who, to quote His words, had “cast behind his
back” the Tablet revealed for him in Adrianople, He, while a prisoner in
the army barracks, addressed a second Tablet and transmitted it through
the French agent in Akká. In this He announces the coming of “Him Who is
the Unconstrained,” whose purpose is to “quicken the world” and unite its
peoples; unequivocally asserts that Jesus Christ was the Herald of His
Mission; proclaims the fall of “the stars of the firmament of knowledge,”
who have turned aside from Him; exposes that monarch’s insincerity; and
clearly prophesies that his kingdom shall be “thrown into confusion,” that
his “empire shall pass” from his hands, and that “commotions shall seize
all the people in that land,” unless he arises to help the Cause of God
and follow Him Who is His Spirit.

In memorable passages addressed to “the Rulers of America and the
Presidents of the Republics therein” He, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, calls upon
them to “adorn the temple of dominion with the ornament of justice and of
the fear of God, and its head with the crown of remembrance” of their
Lord; declares that “the Promised One” has been made manifest; counsels
them to avail themselves of the “Day of God”; and bids them “bind with the
hands of justice the broken” and “crush” the “oppressor” with “the rod of
the commandments of their Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise.”

To Nicolaevitch Alexander II, the all-powerful Czar of Russia, He
addressed, as He lay a prisoner in the barracks, an Epistle wherein He
announces the advent of the promised Father, Whom “the tongue of Isaiah
hath extolled,” and “with Whose name both the Torah and the Evangel were
adorned”; commands him to “arise ... and summon the nations unto God”;
warns him to beware lest his sovereignty withhold him from “Him Who is the
Supreme Sovereign”; acknowledges the aid extended by his Ambassador in
Ṭihrán; and cautions him not to forfeit the station ordained for him by
God.

To Queen Victoria He, during that same period, addressed an Epistle in
which He calls upon her to incline her ear to the voice of her Lord, the
Lord of all mankind; bids her “cast away all that is on earth,” and set
her heart towards her Lord, the Ancient of Days; asserts that “all that
hath been mentioned in the Gospel hath been fulfilled”; assures her that
God would reward her for having “forbidden the trading in slaves,” were
she to follow what has been sent unto her by Him; commends her for having
“entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of
the people”; and exhorts them to “regard themselves as the representatives
of all that dwell on earth,” and to judge between men with “pure justice.”

In a celebrated passage addressed to William I, King of Prussia and
newly-acclaimed emperor of a unified Germany, He, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
bids the sovereign hearken to His Voice, the Voice of God Himself; warns
him to take heed lest his pride debar him from recognizing “the Day-Spring
of Divine Revelation,” and admonishes him to “remember the one (Napoleon
III) whose power transcended” his power, and who “went down to dust in
great loss.” Furthermore, in that same Book, apostrophizing the “banks of
the Rhine,” He predicts that “the swords of retribution” would be drawn
against them, and that “the lamentations of Berlin” would be raised,
though at that time she was “in conspicuous glory.”

In another notable passage of that same Book, addressed to Francis-Joseph,
the Austrian Emperor and heir of the Holy Roman Empire, Bahá’u’lláh
reproves the sovereign for having neglected to inquire about Him in the
course of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; takes God to witness that He had
found him “clinging unto the Branch and heedless of the Root”; grieves to
observe his waywardness; and bids him open his eyes and gaze on “the Light
that shineth above this luminous Horizon.”

To ‘Alí Pá_sh_á, the Grand Vizir of the Sulṭán of Turkey He addressed,
shortly after His arrival in Akká, a second Tablet, in which He reprimands
him for his cruelty “that hath made hell to blaze and the Spirit to
lament”; recounts his acts of oppression; condemns him as one of those
who, from time immemorial, have denounced the Prophets as stirrers of
mischief; prophesies his downfall; expatiates on His own sufferings and
those of His fellow-exiles; extolls their fortitude and detachment;
predicts that God’s “wrathful anger” will seize him and his government,
that “sedition will be stirred up” in their midst, and that their
“dominions will be disrupted”; and affirms that were he to awake, he would
abandon all his possessions, and would “choose to abide in one of the
dilapidated rooms of this Most Great Prison.” In the Lawḥ-i-Fu’ád, in the
course of His reference to the premature death of the Sulṭán’s Foreign
Minister, Fu’ád Pá_sh_á, He thus confirms His above-mentioned prediction:
“Soon will We dismiss the one (‘Alí Pá_sh_á) who was like unto him and
will lay hold on their Chief (Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz) who ruleth the land,
and I, verily, am the Almighty, the All-Compelling.”

No less outspoken and emphatic are the messages, some embodied in specific
Tablets, others interspersed through His writings, which Bahá’u’lláh
addressed to the world’s ecclesiastical leaders of all
denominations—messages in which He discloses, clearly and unreservedly,
the claims of His Revelation, summons them to heed His call, and
denounces, in certain specific cases, their perversity, their extreme
arrogance and tyranny.

In immortal passages of His Kitáb-i-Aqdas and other Tablets He bids the
entire company of these ecclesiastical leaders to “fear God,” to “rein in”
their pens, “fling away idle fancies and imaginings, and turn then towards
the Horizon of Certitude”; warns them to “weigh not the Book of God
(Kitáb-i-Aqdas) with such standards and sciences as are current” amongst
them; designates that same Book as the “Unerring Balance established
amongst men”; laments over their blindness and waywardness; asserts His
superiority in vision, insight, utterance and wisdom; proclaims His innate
and God-given knowledge; cautions them not to “shut out the people by yet
another veil,” after He Himself had “rent the veils asunder”; accuses them
of having been “the cause of the repudiation of the Faith in its early
days”; and adjures them to “peruse with fairness and justice that which
hath been sent down” by Him, and to “nullify not the Truth” with the
things they possess.

To Pope Pius IX, the undisputed head of the most powerful Church in
Christendom, possessor of both temporal and spiritual authority, He, a
Prisoner in the army barracks of the penal-colony of Akká, addressed a
most weighty Epistle, in which He announces that “He Who is the Lord of
Lords is come overshadowed with clouds,” and that “the Word which the Son
concealed is made manifest.” He, moreover, warns him not to dispute with
Him even as the Pharisees of old disputed with Jesus Christ; bids him
leave his palaces unto such as desire them, “sell all the embellished
ornaments” in his possession, “expend them in the path of God,” abandon
his kingdom unto the kings, “arise ... amidst the peoples of the earth,”
and summon them to His Faith. Regarding him as one of the suns of the
heaven of God’s names, He cautions him to guard himself lest “darkness
spread its veils” over him; calls upon him to “exhort the kings” to “deal
equitably with men”; and counsels him to walk in the footsteps of his
Lord, and follow His example.

To the patriarchs of the Christian Church He issued a specific summons in
which He proclaims the coming of the Promised One; exhorts them to “fear
God” and not to follow “the vain imaginings of the superstitious”; and
directs them to lay aside the things they possess and “take fast hold of
the Tablet of God by His sovereign power.” To the archbishops of that
Church He similarly declares that “He Who is the Lord of all men hath
appeared,” that they are “numbered with the dead,” and that great is the
blessedness of him who is “stirred by the breeze of God, and hath arisen
from amongst the dead in this perspicuous Name.” In passages addressed to
its bishops He proclaims that “the Everlasting Father calleth aloud
between earth and heaven,” pronounces them to be the fallen stars of the
heaven of His knowledge, and affirms that His body “yearneth for the
cross” and His head is “eager for the spear in the path of the
All-Merciful.” The concourse of Christian priests He bids “leave the
bells,” and come forth from their churches; exhorts them to “proclaim
aloud the Most Great Name among the nations”; assures them that whoever
will summon men in His Name will “show forth that which is beyond the
power of all that are on earth”; warns them that the “Day of Reckoning
hath appeared”; and counsels them to turn with their hearts to their
“Lord, the Forgiving, the Generous.” In numerous passages addressed to the
“concourse of monks” He bids them not to seclude themselves in churches
and cloisters, but to occupy themselves with that which will profit their
souls and the souls of men; enjoins them to enter into wedlock; and
affirms that if they choose to follow Him He will make them heirs of His
Kingdom, and that if they transgress against Him, He will, in His
long-suffering, endure it patiently.

And finally, in several passages addressed to the entire body of the
followers of Jesus Christ He identifies Himself with the “Father” spoken
of by Isaiah, with the “Comforter” Whose Covenant He Who is the Spirit
(Jesus) had Himself established, and with the “Spirit of Truth” Who will
guide them “into all truth”; proclaims His Day to be the Day of God;
announces the conjunction of the river Jordan with the “Most Great Ocean”;
asserts their heedlessness as well as His own claim to have opened unto
them “the gates of the kingdom”; affirms that the promised “Temple” has
been built “with the hands of the will” of their Lord, the Mighty, the
Bounteous; bids them “rend the veils asunder,” and enter in His name His
Kingdom; recalls the saying of Jesus to Peter; and assures them that, if
they choose to follow Him, He will make them to become “quickeners of
mankind.”

To the entire body of Muslim ecclesiastics Bahá’u’lláh specifically
devoted innumerable passages in His Books and Tablets, wherein He, in
vehement language, denounces their cruelty; condemns their pride and
arrogance; calls upon them to lay aside the things they possess, to hold
their peace, and give ear to the words He has spoken; and asserts that, by
reason of their deeds, “the exalted station of the people hath been
abased, the standard of Islám hath been reversed, and its mighty throne
hath fallen.” To the “concourse of Persian divines” He more particularly
addressed His condemnatory words in which He stigmatizes their deeds, and
prophesies that their “glory will be turned into the most wretched
abasement,” and that they shall behold the punishment which will be
inflicted upon them, “as decreed by God, the Ordainer, the All-Wise.”

To the Jewish people, He, moreover, announced that the Most Great Law has
come, that “the Ancient Beauty ruleth upon the throne of David,” Who cries
aloud and invokes His Name, that “from Zion hath appeared that which was
hidden,” and that “from Jerusalem is heard the Voice of God, the One, the
Incomparable, the Omniscient.”

To the “high priests” of the Zoroastrian Faith He, furthermore, proclaimed
that “the Incomparable Friend” is manifest, that He “speaketh that wherein
lieth salvation,” that “the Hand of Omnipotence is stretched forth from
behind the clouds,” that the tokens of His majesty and greatness are
unveiled; and declared that “no man’s acts shall be acceptable in this day
unless he forsaketh mankind and all that men possess, and setteth his face
towards the Omnipotent One.”

Some of the weightiest passages of His Epistle to Queen Victoria are
addressed to the members of the British Legislature, the Mother of
Parliaments, as well as to the elected representatives of the peoples in
other lands. In these He asserts that His purpose is to quicken the world
and unite its peoples; refers to the treatment meted out to Him by His
enemies; exhorts the legislators to “take counsel together,” and to
concern themselves only “with that which profiteth mankind”; and affirms
that the “sovereign remedy” for the “healing of all the world” is the
“union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith,” which
can “in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled and
all-powerful and inspired Physician.” He, moreover, in His Most Holy Book,
has enjoined the selection of a single language and the adoption of a
common script for all on earth to use, an injunction which, when carried
out, would, as He Himself affirms in that Book, be one of the signs of the
“coming of age of the human race.”

No less significant are the words addressed separately by Him to the
“people of the Bayán,” to the wise men of the world, to its poets, to its
men of letters, to its mystics and even to its tradesmen, in which He
exhorts them to be attentive to His voice, to recognize His Day, and to
follow His bidding.

Such in sum are the salient features of the concluding utterances of that
historic Proclamation, the opening notes of which were sounded during the
latter part of Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to Adrianople, and which closed
during the early years of His incarceration in the prison-fortress of
Akká. Kings and emperors, severally and collectively; the chief
magistrates of the Republics of the American continent; ministers and
ambassadors; the Sovereign Pontiff himself; the Vicar of the Prophet of
Islám; the royal Trustee of the Kingdom of the Hidden Imám; the monarchs
of Christendom, its patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, priests and monks;
the recognized leaders of both the Sunní and _Sh_í’ah sacerdotal orders;
the high priests of the Zoroastrian religion; the philosophers, the
ecclesiastical leaders, the wise men and the inhabitants of
Constantinople—that proud seat of both the Sultanate and the Caliphate;
the entire company of the professed adherents of the Zoroastrian, the
Jewish, the Christian and Muslim Faiths; the people of the Bayán; the wise
men of the world, its men of letters, its poets, its mystics, its
tradesmen, the elected representatives of its peoples; His own
countrymen—all have, at one time or another, in books, Epistles, and
Tablets, been brought directly within the purview of the exhortations, the
warnings, the appeals, the declarations and the prophecies which
constitute the theme of His momentous summons to the leaders of mankind—a
summons which stands unparalleled in the annals of any previous religion,
and to which the messages directed by the Prophet of Islám to some of the
rulers among His contemporaries alone offer a faint resemblance.

“Never since the beginning of the world,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms,
“hath the Message been so openly proclaimed.” “Each one of them,” He,
specifically referring to the Tablets addressed by Him to the sovereigns
of the earth—Tablets acclaimed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as a “miracle”—has written,
“hath been designated by a special name. The first hath been named ‘The
Rumbling,’ the second ‘The Blow,’ the third ‘The Inevitable,’ the fourth
‘The Plain,’ the fifth ‘The Catastrophe,’ and the others ‘The Stunning
Trumpet-Blast,’ ‘The Near Event,’ ‘The Great Terror,’ ‘The Trumpet,’ ‘The
Bugle,’ and the like, so that all the peoples of the earth may know, of a
certainty, and may witness, with outward and inner eyes, that He Who is
the Lord of Names hath prevailed, and will continue to prevail, under all
conditions, over all men.” The most important of these Tablets, together
with the celebrated Súriy-i-Haykal (the Súrih of the Temple), He,
moreover, ordered to be written in the shape of a pentacle, symbolizing
the temple of man, and which He identified, when addressing the followers
of the Gospel in one of His Tablets, with the “Temple” mentioned by the
Prophet Zechariah, and designated as “the resplendent dawning-place of the
All-Merciful,” and which “the hands of the power of Him Who is the Causer
of Causes” had built.

Unique and stupendous as was this Proclamation, it proved to be but a
prelude to a still mightier revelation of the creative power of its
Author, and to what may well rank as the most signal act of His
ministry—the promulgation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Alluded to in the
Kitáb-i-Íqán; the principal repository of that Law which the Prophet
Isaiah had anticipated, and which the writer of the Apocalypse had
described as the “new heaven” and the “new earth,” as “the Tabernacle of
God,” as the “Holy City,” as the “Bride,” the “New Jerusalem coming down
from God,” this “Most Holy Book,” whose provisions must remain inviolate
for no less than a thousand years, and whose system will embrace the
entire planet, may well be regarded as the brightest emanation of the mind
of Bahá’u’lláh, as the Mother Book of His Dispensation, and the Charter of
His New World Order.

Revealed soon after Bahá’u’lláh had been transferred to the house of Údí
_Kh_ammár (circa 1873), at a time when He was still encompassed by the
tribulations that had afflicted Him, through the acts committed by His
enemies and the professed adherents of His Faith, this Book, this treasury
enshrining the priceless gems of His Revelation, stands out, by virtue of
the principles it inculcates, the administrative institutions it ordains
and the function with which it invests the appointed Successor of its
Author, unique and incomparable among the world’s sacred Scriptures. For,
unlike the Old Testament and the Holy Books which preceded it, in which
the actual precepts uttered by the Prophet Himself are non-existent;
unlike the Gospels, in which the few sayings attributed to Jesus Christ
afford no clear guidance regarding the future administration of the
affairs of His Faith; unlike even the Qur’án which, though explicit in the
laws and ordinances formulated by the Apostle of God, is silent on the
all-important subject of the succession, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, revealed from
first to last by the Author of the Dispensation Himself, not only
preserves for posterity the basic laws and ordinances on which the fabric
of His future World Order must rest, but ordains, in addition to the
function of interpretation which it confers upon His Successor, the
necessary institutions through which the integrity and unity of His Faith
can alone be safeguarded.

In this Charter of the future world civilization its Author—at once the
Judge, the Lawgiver, the Unifier and Redeemer of mankind—announces to the
kings of the earth the promulgation of the “Most Great Law”; pronounces
them to be His vassals; proclaims Himself the “King of Kings”; disclaims
any intention of laying hands on their kingdoms; reserves for Himself the
right to “seize and possess the hearts of men”; warns the world’s
ecclesiastical leaders not to weigh the “Book of God” with such standards
as are current amongst them; and affirms that the Book itself is the
“Unerring Balance” established amongst men. In it He formally ordains the
institution of the “House of Justice,” defines its functions, fixes its
revenues, and designates its members as the “Men of Justice,” the
“Deputies of God,” the “Trustees of the All-Merciful,” alludes to the
future Center of His Covenant, and invests Him with the right of
interpreting His holy Writ; anticipates by implication the institution of
Guardianship; bears witness to the revolutionizing effect of His World
Order; enunciates the doctrine of the “Most Great Infallibility” of the
Manifestation of God; asserts this infallibility to be the inherent and
exclusive right of the Prophet; and rules out the possibility of the
appearance of another Manifestation ere the lapse of at least one thousand
years.

In this Book He, moreover, prescribes the obligatory prayers; designates
the time and period of fasting; prohibits congregational prayer except for
the dead; fixes the Qiblih; institutes the Ḥuqúqu’lláh (Right of God);
formulates the law of inheritance; ordains the institution of the
Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár; establishes the Nineteen Day Feasts, the Bahá’í
festivals and the Intercalary Days; abolishes the institution of
priesthood; prohibits slavery, asceticism, mendicancy, monasticism,
penance, the use of pulpits and the kissing of hands; prescribes monogamy;
condemns cruelty to animals, idleness and sloth, backbiting and calumny;
censures divorce; interdicts gambling, the use of opium, wine and other
intoxicating drinks; specifies the punishments for murder, arson, adultery
and theft; stresses the importance of marriage and lays down its essential
conditions; imposes the obligation of engaging in some trade or
profession, exalting such occupation to the rank of worship; emphasizes
the necessity of providing the means for the education of children; and
lays upon every person the duty of writing a testament and of strict
obedience to one’s government.

Apart from these provisions Bahá’u’lláh exhorts His followers to consort,
with amity and concord and without discrimination, with the adherents of
all religions; warns them to guard against fanaticism, sedition, pride,
dispute and contention; inculcates upon them immaculate cleanliness,
strict truthfulness, spotless chastity, trustworthiness; hospitality,
fidelity, courtesy, forbearance, justice and fairness; counsels them to be
“even as the fingers of one hand and the limbs of one body”; calls upon
them to arise and serve His Cause; and assures them of His undoubted aid.
He, furthermore, dwells upon the instability of human affairs; declares
that true liberty consists in man’s submission to His commandments;
cautions them not to be indulgent in carrying out His statutes; prescribes
the twin inseparable duties of recognizing the “Dayspring of God’s
Revelation” and of observing all the ordinances revealed by Him, neither
of which, He affirms, is acceptable without the other.

The significant summons issued to the Presidents of the Republics of the
American continent to seize their opportunity in the Day of God and to
champion the cause of justice; the injunction to the members of
parliaments throughout the world, urging the adoption of a universal
script and language; His warnings to William I, the conqueror of Napoleon
III; the reproof He administers to Francis Joseph, the Emperor of Austria;
His reference to “the lamentations of Berlin” in His apostrophe to “the
banks of the Rhine”; His condemnation of “the throne of tyranny”
established in Constantinople, and His prediction of the extinction of its
“outward splendor” and of the tribulations destined to overtake its
inhabitants; the words of cheer and comfort He addresses to His native
city, assuring her that God had chosen her to be “the source of the joy of
all mankind”; His prophecy that “the voice of the heroes of _Kh_urásán”
will be raised in glorification of their Lord; His assertion that men
“endued with mighty valor” will be raised up in Kirmán who will make
mention of Him; and finally, His magnanimous assurance to a perfidious
brother who had afflicted Him with such anguish, that an “ever-forgiving,
all-bounteous” God would forgive him his iniquities were he only to
repent—all these further enrich the contents of a Book designated by its
Author as “the source of true felicity,” as the “Unerring Balance,” as the
“Straight Path” and as the “quickener of mankind.”

The laws and ordinances that constitute the major theme of this Book,
Bahá’u’lláh, moreover, has specifically characterized as “the breath of
life unto all created things,” as “the mightiest stronghold,” as the
“fruits” of His “Tree,” as “the highest means for the maintenance of order
in the world and the security of its peoples,” as “the lamps of His wisdom
and loving-providence,” as “the sweet smelling savor of His garment,” as
the “keys” of His “mercy” to His creatures. “This Book,” He Himself
testifies, “is a heaven which We have adorned with the stars of Our
commandments and prohibitions.” “Blessed the man,” He, moreover, has
stated, “who will read it, and ponder the verses sent down in it by God,
the Lord of Power, the Almighty. Say, O men! Take hold of it with the hand
of resignation... By My life! It hath been sent down in a manner that
amazeth the minds of men. Verily, it is My weightiest testimony unto all
people, and the proof of the All-Merciful unto all who are in heaven and
all who are on earth.” And again: “Blessed the palate that savoreth its
sweetness, and the perceiving eye that recognizeth that which is treasured
therein, and the understanding heart that comprehendeth its allusions and
mysteries. By God! Such is the majesty of what hath been revealed therein,
and so tremendous the revelation of its veiled allusions that the loins of
utterance shake when attempting their description.” And finally: “In such
a manner hath the Kitáb-i-Aqdas been revealed that it attracteth and
embraceth all the divinely appointed Dispensations. Blessed those who
peruse it! Blessed those who apprehend it! Blessed those who meditate upon
it! Blessed those who ponder its meaning! So vast is its range that it
hath encompassed all men ere their recognition of it. Erelong will its
sovereign power, its pervasive influence and the greatness of its might be
manifested on earth.”

The formulation by Bahá’u’lláh, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, of the fundamental
laws of His Dispensation was followed, as His Mission drew to a close, by
the enunciation of certain precepts and principles which lie at the very
core of His Faith, by the reaffirmation of truths He had previously
proclaimed, by the elaboration and elucidation of some of the laws He had
already laid down, by the revelation of further prophecies and warnings,
and by the establishment of subsidiary ordinances designed to supplement
the provisions of His Most Holy Book. These were recorded in unnumbered
Tablets, which He continued to reveal until the last days of His earthly
life, among which the “I_sh_ráqát” (Splendors), the “Bi_sh_árát” (Glad
Tidings), the “Tarazát” (Ornaments), the “Tajallíyát” (Effulgences), the
“Kalímát-i-Firdawsíyyih” (Words of Paradise), the “Lawḥ-i-Aqdas” (Most
Holy Tablet), the “Lawḥ-i-Dunyá” (Tablet of the World), the
“Lawḥ-i-Maqsúd” (Tablet of Maqsúd), are the most noteworthy. These
Tablets—mighty and final effusions of His indefatigable pen—must rank
among the choicest fruits which His mind has yielded, and mark the
consummation of His forty-year-long ministry.

Of the principles enshrined in these Tablets the most vital of them all is
the principle of the oneness and wholeness of the human race, which may
well be regarded as the hall-mark of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation and the
pivot of His teachings. Of such cardinal importance is this principle of
unity that it is expressly referred to in the Book of His Covenant, and He
unreservedly proclaims it as the central purpose of His Faith. “We,
verily,” He declares, “have come to unite and weld together all that dwell
on earth.” “So potent is the light of unity,” He further states, “that it
can illuminate the whole earth.” “At one time,” He has written with
reference to this central theme of His Revelation, “We spoke in the
language of the lawgiver; at another in that of the truth seeker and the
mystic, and yet Our supreme purpose and highest wish hath always been to
disclose the glory and sublimity of this station.” Unity, He states, is
the goal that “excelleth every goal” and an aspiration which is “the
monarch of all aspirations.” “The world,” He proclaims, “is but one
country, and mankind its citizens.” He further affirms that the
unification of mankind, the last stage in the evolution of humanity
towards maturity is inevitable, that “soon will the present day order be
rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead,” that “the whole earth
is now in a state of pregnancy,” that “the day is approaching when it will
have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the
loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly
blessings.” He deplores the defectiveness of the prevailing order, exposes
the inadequacy of patriotism as a directing and controlling force in human
society, and regards the “love of mankind” and service to its interests as
the worthiest and most laudable objects of human endeavor. He, moreover,
laments that “the vitality of men’s belief in God is dying out in every
land,” that the “face of the world” is turned towards “waywardness and
unbelief”; proclaims religion to be “a radiant light and an impregnable
stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world” and
“the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world”;
affirms its fundamental purpose to be the promotion of union and concord
amongst men; warns lest it be made “a source of dissension, of discord and
hatred”; commands that its principles be taught to children in the schools
of the world, in a manner that would not be productive of either prejudice
or fanaticism; attributes “the waywardness of the ungodly” to the “decline
of religion”; and predicts “convulsions” of such severity as to “cause the
limbs of mankind to quake.”

The principle of collective security He unreservedly urges; recommends the
reduction in national armaments; and proclaims as necessary and inevitable
the convening of a world gathering at which the kings and rulers of the
world will deliberate for the establishment of peace among the nations.

Justice He extols as “the light of men” and their “guardian,” as “the
revealer of the secrets of the world of being, and the standard-bearer of
love and bounty”; declares its radiance to be incomparable; affirms that
upon it must depend “the organization of the world and the tranquillity of
mankind.” He characterizes its “two pillars”—“reward and punishment”—as
“the sources of life” to the human race; warns the peoples of the world to
bestir themselves in anticipation of its advent; and prophesies that,
after an interval of great turmoil and grievous injustice, its day-star
will shine in its full splendor and glory.

He, furthermore, inculcates the principle of “moderation in all things”;
declares that whatsoever, be it “Liberty, civilization and the like,”
“passeth beyond the limits of moderation” must “exercise a pernicious
influence upon men”; observes that western civilization has gravely
perturbed and alarmed the peoples of the world; and predicts that the day
is approaching when the “flame” of a civilization “carried to excess”
“will devour the cities.”

Consultation He establishes as one of the fundamental principles of His
Faith; describes it as “the lamp of guidance,” as “the bestower of
understanding,” and as one of the two “luminaries” of the “heaven of
Divine wisdom.” Knowledge, He states, is “as wings to man’s life and a
ladder for his ascent”; its acquisition He regards as “incumbent upon
every one”; considers “arts, crafts and sciences” to be conducive to the
exaltation of the world of being; commends the wealth acquired through
crafts and professions; acknowledges the indebtedness of the peoples of
the world to scientists and craftsmen; and discourages the study of such
sciences as are unprofitable to men, and “begin with words and end with
words.”

The injunction to “consort with all men in a spirit of friendliness and
fellowship” He further emphasizes, and recognizes such association to be
conducive to “union and concord,” which, He affirms, are the establishers
of order in the world and the quickeners of nations. The necessity of
adopting a universal tongue and script He repeatedly stresses; deplores
the waste of time involved in the study of divers languages; affirms that
with the adoption of such a language and script the whole earth will be
considered as “one city and one land”; and claims to be possessed of the
knowledge of both, and ready to impart it to any one who might seek it
from Him.

To the trustees of the House of Justice He assigns the duty of legislating
on matters not expressly provided in His writings, and promises that God
will “inspire them with whatsoever He willeth.” The establishment of a
constitutional form of government, in which the ideals of republicanism
and the majesty of kingship, characterized by Him as “one of the signs of
God,” are combined, He recommends as a meritorious achievement; urges that
special regard be paid to the interests of agriculture; and makes specific
reference to “the swiftly appearing newspapers,” describes them as “the
mirror of the world” and as “an amazing and potent phenomenon,” and
prescribes to all who are responsible for their production the duty to be
sanctified from malice, passion and prejudice, to be just and fair-minded,
to be painstaking in their inquiries, and ascertain all the facts in every
situation.

The doctrine of the Most Great Infallibility He further elaborates; the
obligation laid on His followers to “behave towards the government of the
country in which they reside with loyalty, honesty and truthfulness,” He
reaffirms; the ban imposed upon the waging of holy war and the destruction
of books He reemphasizes; and He singles out for special praise men of
learning and wisdom, whom He extols as “eyes” to the body of mankind, and
as the “greatest gifts” conferred upon the world.

Nor should a review of the outstanding features of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings
during the latter part of His banishment to Akká fail to include a
reference to the Lawḥ-i-Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom), in which He sets forth
the fundamentals of true philosophy, or to the Tablet of Visitation
revealed in honor of the Imám Ḥusayn, whose praises He celebrates in
glowing language; or to the “Questions and Answers” which elucidates the
laws and ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; or to the “Lawḥ-i-Burhán”
(Tablet of the Proof) in which the acts perpetrated by _Sh_ay_kh_
Muḥammad-Báqir, surnamed “_Dh_i’b” (Wolf), and Mír Muḥammad-Ḥusayn, the
Imám-Jum’ih of Iṣfáhán, surnamed “Raq_sh_á” (She-Serpent), are severely
condemned; or to the Lawḥ-i-Karmil (Tablet of Carmel) in which the Author
significantly makes mention of “the City of God that hath descended from
heaven,” and prophesies that “erelong will God sail His Ark” upon that
mountain, and “will manifest the people of Bahá.” Finally, mention must be
made of His Epistle to _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad-Taqí, surnamed “Ibn-i-_Dh_i’b”
(Son of the Wolf), the last outstanding Tablet revealed by the pen of
Bahá’u’lláh, in which He calls upon that rapacious priest to repent of his
acts, quotes some of the most characteristic and celebrated passages of
His own writings, and adduces proofs establishing the validity of His
Cause.

With this book, revealed about one year prior to His ascension, the
prodigious achievement as author of a hundred volumes, repositories of the
priceless pearls of His Revelation, may be said to have practically
terminated—volumes replete with unnumbered exhortations, revolutionizing
principles, world-shaping laws and ordinances, dire warnings and
portentous prophecies, with soul-uplifting prayers and meditations,
illuminating commentaries and interpretations, impassioned discourses and
homilies, all interspersed with either addresses or references to kings,
to emperors and to ministers, of both the East and the West, to
ecclesiastics of divers denominations, and to leaders in the intellectual,
political, literary, mystical, commercial and humanitarian spheres of
human activity.

“We, verily,” wrote Bahá’u’lláh, surveying, in the evening of His life,
from His Most Great Prison, the entire range of this vast and weighty
Revelation, “have not fallen short of Our duty to exhort men, and to
deliver that whereunto I was bidden by God, the Almighty, the
All-Praised.” “Is there any excuse,” He further has stated, “left for any
one in this Revelation? No, by God, the Lord of the Mighty Throne! My
signs have encompassed the earth, and my power enveloped all mankind.”



Chapter XIII: Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh


Well nigh half a century had passed since the inception of the Faith.
Cradled in adversity, deprived in its infancy of its Herald and Leader, it
had been raised from the dust, in which a hostile despot had thrown it, by
its second and greatest Luminary Who, despite successive banishments, had,
in less than half a century, succeeded in rehabilitating its fortunes, in
proclaiming its Message, in enacting its laws and ordinances, in
formulating its principles and in ordaining its institutions, and it had
just begun to enjoy the sunshine of a prosperity never previously
experienced, when suddenly it was robbed of its Author by the Hand of
Destiny, its followers were plunged into sorrow and consternation, its
repudiators found their declining hopes revive, and its adversaries,
political as well as ecclesiastical, began to take heart again.

Already nine months before His ascension Bahá’u’lláh, as attested by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had voiced His desire to depart from this world. From that
time onward it became increasingly evident, from the tone of His remarks
to those who attained His presence, that the close of His earthly life was
approaching, though He refrained from mentioning it openly to any one. On
the night preceding the eleventh of _Sh_avval 1309 A.H. (May 8, 1892) He
contracted a slight fever which, though it mounted the following day, soon
after subsided. He continued to grant interviews to certain of the friends
and pilgrims, but it soon became evident that He was not well. His fever
returned in a more acute form than before, His general condition grew
steadily worse, complications ensued which at last culminated in His
ascension, at the hour of dawn, on the 2nd of _Dh_i’l-Qádih 1309 A.H. (May
29, 1892), eight hours after sunset, in the 75th year of His age. His
spirit, at long last released from the toils of a life crowded with
tribulations, had winged its flight to His “other dominions,” dominions
“whereon the eyes of the people of names have never fallen,” and to which
the “Luminous Maid,” “clad in white,” had bidden Him hasten, as described
by Himself in the Lawḥ-i-Ru’yá (Tablet of the Vision), revealed nineteen
years previously, on the anniversary of the birth of His Forerunner.

Six days before He passed away He summoned to His presence, as He lay in
bed leaning against one of His sons, the entire company of believers,
including several pilgrims, who had assembled in the Mansion, for what
proved to be their last audience with Him. “I am well pleased with you
all,” He gently and affectionately addressed the weeping crowd that
gathered about Him. “Ye have rendered many services, and been very
assiduous in your labors. Ye have come here every morning and every
evening. May God assist you to remain united. May He aid you to exalt the
Cause of the Lord of being.” To the women, including members of His own
family, gathered at His bedside, He addressed similar words of
encouragement, definitely assuring them that in a document entrusted by
Him to the Most Great Branch He had commended them all to His care.

The news of His ascension was instantly communicated to Sulṭán
‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd in a telegram which began with the words “the Sun of Bahá
has set” and in which the monarch was advised of the intention of
interring the sacred remains within the precincts of the Mansion, an
arrangement to which he readily assented. Bahá’u’lláh was accordingly laid
to rest in the northernmost room of the house which served as a
dwelling-place for His son-in-law, the most northerly of the three houses
lying to the west of, and adjacent to, the Mansion. His interment took
place shortly after sunset, on the very day of His ascension.

The inconsolable Nabíl, who had had the privilege of a private audience
with Bahá’u’lláh during the days of His illness; whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had
chosen to select those passages which constitute the text of the Tablet of
Visitation now recited in the Most Holy Tomb; and who, in his
uncontrollable grief, drowned himself in the sea shortly after the passing
of his Beloved, thus describes the agony of those days: “Methinks, the
spiritual commotion set up in the world of dust had caused all the worlds
of God to tremble.... My inner and outer tongue are powerless to portray
the condition we were in.... In the midst of the prevailing confusion a
multitude of the inhabitants of Akká and of the neighboring villages, that
had thronged the fields surrounding the Mansion, could be seen weeping,
beating upon their heads, and crying aloud their grief.”

For a full week a vast number of mourners, rich and poor alike, tarried to
grieve with the bereaved family, partaking day and night of the food that
was lavishly dispensed by its members. Notables, among whom were numbered
_Sh_í’ahs, Sunnís, Christians, Jews and Druzes, as well as poets, ‘ulamás
and government officials, all joined in lamenting the loss, and in
magnifying the virtues and greatness of Bahá’u’lláh, many of them paying
to Him their written tributes, in verse and in prose, in both Arabic and
Turkish. From cities as far afield as Damascus, Aleppo, Beirut and Cairo
similar tributes were received. These glowing testimonials were, without
exception, submitted to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who now represented the Cause of the
departed Leader, and Whose praises were often mingled in these eulogies
with the homage paid to His Father.

And yet these effusive manifestations of sorrow and expressions of praise
and of admiration, which the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh had spontaneously
evoked among the unbelievers in the Holy Land and the adjoining countries,
were but a drop when compared with the ocean of grief and the innumerable
evidences of unbounded devotion which, at the hour of the setting of the
Sun of Truth, poured forth from the hearts of the countless thousands who
had espoused His Cause, and were determined to carry aloft its banner in
Persia, India, Russia, ‘Iráq, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt and Syria.

With the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh draws to a close a period which, in many
ways, is unparalleled in the world’s religious history. The first century
of the Bahá’í Era had by now run half its course. An epoch, unsurpassed in
its sublimity, its fecundity and duration by any previous Dispensation,
and characterized, except for a short interval of three years, by half a
century of continuous and progressive Revelation, had terminated. The
Message proclaimed by the Báb had yielded its golden fruit. The most
momentous, though not the most spectacular phase of the Heroic Age had
ended. The Sun of Truth, the world’s greatest Luminary, had risen in the
Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán, had broken through the clouds which enveloped it
in Ba_gh_dád, had suffered a momentary eclipse whilst mounting to its
zenith in Adrianople and had set finally in Akká, never to reappear ere
the lapse of a full millenium. God’s newborn Faith, the cynosure of all
past Dispensations, had been fully and unreservedly proclaimed. The
prophecies announcing its advent had been remarkably fulfilled. Its
fundamental laws and cardinal principles, the warp and woof of the fabric
of its future World Order, had been clearly enunciated. Its organic
relation to, and its attitude towards, the religious systems which
preceded it had been unmistakably defined. The primary institutions,
within which an embryonic World Order was destined to mature, had been
unassailably established. The Covenant designed to safeguard the unity and
integrity of its world-embracing system had been irrevocably bequeathed to
posterity. The promise of the unification of the whole human race, of the
inauguration of the Most Great Peace, of the unfoldment of a world
civilization, had been incontestably given. The dire warnings,
foreshadowing catastrophes destined to befall kings, ecclesiastics,
governments and peoples, as a prelude to so glorious a consummation, had
been repeatedly uttered. The significant summons to the Chief Magistrates
of the New World, forerunner of the Mission with which the North American
continent was to be later invested, had been issued. The initial contact
with a nation, a descendant of whose royal house was to espouse its Cause
ere the expiry of the first Bahá’í century, had been established. The
original impulse which, in the course of successive decades, has
conferred, and will continue to confer, in the years to come, inestimable
benefits of both spiritual and institutional significance upon God’s holy
mountain, overlooking the Most Great Prison, had been imparted. And
finally, the first banners of a spiritual conquest which, ere the
termination of that century, was to embrace no less than sixty countries
in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres had been triumphantly planted.

In the vastness and diversity of its Holy Writ; in the number of its
martyrs; in the valor of its champions; in the example set by its
followers; in the condign punishment suffered by its adversaries; in the
pervasiveness of its influence; in the incomparable heroism of its Herald;
in the dazzling greatness of its Author; in the mysterious operation of
its irresistible spirit; the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, now standing at the
threshold of the sixth decade of its existence, had amply demonstrated its
capacity to forge ahead, indivisible and incorruptible, along the course
traced for it by its Founder, and to display, before the gaze of
successive generations, the signs and tokens of that celestial potency
with which He Himself had so richly endowed it.

To the fate that has overtaken those kings, ministers and ecclesiastics,
in the East as well as in the West, who have, at various stages of
Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry, either deliberately persecuted His Cause, or have
neglected to heed the warnings He had uttered, or have failed in their
manifest duty to respond to His summons or to accord Him and His message
the treatment they deserved, particular attention, I feel, should at this
juncture be directed. Bahá’u’lláh Himself, referring to those who had
actively arisen to destroy or harm His Faith, had declared that “God hath
not blinked, nor will He ever blink His eyes at the tyranny of the
oppressor. More particularly in this Revelation hath He visited each and
every tyrant with His vengeance.” Vast and awful is, indeed, the spectacle
which meets our eyes, as we survey the field over which the retributory
winds of God have, since the inception of the ministry of Bahá’u’lláh,
furiously swept, dethroning monarchs, extinguishing dynasties, uprooting
ecclesiastical hierarchies, precipitating wars and revolutions, driving
from office princes and ministers, dispossessing the usurper, casting down
the tyrant, and chastising the wicked and the rebellious.

Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz, who with Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh was the author of the
calamities heaped upon Bahá’u’lláh, and was himself responsible for three
decrees of banishment against the Prophet; who had been stigmatized, in
the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, as occupying the “throne of tyranny,” and whose fall
had been prophesied in the Lawḥ-i-Fu’ád, was deposed in consequence of a
palace revolution, was condemned by a fatvá (sentence) of the Muftí in his
own capital, was four days later assassinated (1876), and was succeeded by
a nephew who was declared to be an imbecile. The war of 1877–78
emancipated eleven million people from the Turkish yoke; Adrianople was
occupied by the Russian forces; the empire itself was dissolved as a
result of the war of 1914–18; the Sultanate was abolished; a republic was
proclaimed; and a rulership that had endured above six centuries was
ended.

The vain and despotic Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, denounced by Bahá’u’lláh as the
“Prince of Oppressors”; of whom He had written that he would soon be made
“an object-lesson for the world”; whose reign was stained by the execution
of the Báb and the imprisonment of Bahá’u’lláh; who had persistently
instigated his subsequent banishments to Constantinople, Adrianople and
Akká; who, in collusion with a vicious sacerdotal order, had vowed to
strangle the Faith in its cradle, was dramatically assassinated, in the
shrine of _Sh_áh ‘Abdu’l-‘Aẓím, on the very eve of his jubilee, which, as
ushering in a new era, was to have been celebrated with the most elaborate
magnificence, and was to go down in history as the greatest day in the
annals of the Persian nation. The fortunes of his house thereafter
steadily declined, and finally through the scandalous misconduct of the
dissipated and irresponsible Aḥmad _Sh_áh, led to the eclipse and
disappearance of the Qájár dynasty.

Napoleon III, the foremost monarch of his day in the West, excessively
ambitious, inordinately proud, tricky and superficial, who is reported to
have contemptuously flung down the Tablet sent to him by Bahá’u’lláh, who
was tested by Him and found wanting, and whose downfall was explicitly
predicted in a subsequent Tablet, was ignominiously defeated in the Battle
of Sedan (1870), marking the greatest military capitulation recorded in
modern history; lost his kingdom and spent the remaining years of his life
in exile. His hopes were utterly blasted, his only son, the Prince
Imperial, was killed in the Zulu War, his much vaunted empire collapsed, a
civil war ensued more ferocious than the Franco-German war itself, and
William I, the Prussian king, was hailed emperor of a unified Germany in
the Palace of Versailles.

William I, the pride-intoxicated newly-acclaimed conqueror of Napoleon
III, admonished in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and bidden to ponder the fate that
had overtaken “one whose power transcended” his own, warned in that same
Book, that the “lamentations of Berlin” would be raised and that the banks
of the Rhine would be “covered with gore,” sustained two attempts on his
life, and was succeeded by a son who died of a mortal disease, three
months after his accession to the throne, bequeathing the throne to the
arrogant, the headstrong and short-sighted William II. The pride of the
new monarch precipitated his downfall. Revolution, swiftly and suddenly,
broke out in his capital, communism reared its head in a number of cities;
the princes of the German states abdicated, and he himself, fleeing
ignominiously to Holland, was compelled to relinquish his right to the
throne. The constitution of Weimar sealed the fate of the empire, whose
birth had been so loudly proclaimed by his grandfather, and the terms of
an oppressively severe treaty provoked “the lamentations” which, half a
century before, had been ominously prophesied.

The arbitrary and unyielding Francis Joseph, emperor of Austria and king
of Hungary, who had been reproved in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, for having
neglected his manifest duty to inquire about Bahá’u’lláh during his
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was so engulfed by misfortunes and tragedies
that his reign came to be regarded as one unsurpassed by any other reign
in the calamities it inflicted upon the nation. His brother, Maximilian,
was put to death in Mexico; the Crown Prince Rudolph perished in
ignominious circumstances; the Empress was assassinated; Archduke Francis
Ferdinand and his wife were murdered in Serajevo; the “ramshackle empire”
itself disintegrated, was carved up, and a shrunken republic was set up on
the ruins of a vanished Holy Roman Empire—a republic which, after a brief
and precarious existence, was blotted out from the political map of
Europe.

Nicolaevitch Alexander II, the all-powerful Czar of Russia, who, in a
Tablet addressed to him by name had been thrice warned by Bahá’u’lláh, had
been bidden to “summon the nations unto God,” and had been cautioned not
to allow his sovereignty to prevent him from recognizing “the Supreme
Sovereign,” suffered several attempts on his life, and at last died at the
hand of an assassin. A harsh policy of repression, initiated by himself
and followed by his successor, Alexander III, paved the way for a
revolution which, in the reign of Nicholas II, swept away on a bloody tide
the empire of the Czars, brought in its wake war, disease and famine, and
established a militant proletariat which massacred the nobility,
persecuted the clergy, drove away the intellectuals, disendowed the state
religion, executed the Czar with his consort and his family, and
extinguished the dynasty of the Romanoffs.

Pope Pius IX, the undisputed head of the most powerful Church in
Christendom, who had been commanded, in an Epistle addressed to him by
Bahá’u’lláh, to leave his “palaces unto such as desire them,” to “sell all
the embellished ornaments” in his possession, to “expend them in the path
of God,” and hasten towards “the Kingdom,” was compelled to surrender, in
distressing circumstances, to the besieging forces of King Victor
Emmanuel, and to submit himself to be depossessed of the Papal States and
of Rome itself. The loss of “the Eternal City,” over which the Papal flag
had flown for one thousand years, and the humiliation of the religious
orders under his jurisdiction, added mental anguish to his physical
infirmities and embittered the last years of his life. The formal
recognition of the Kingdom of Italy subsequently exacted from one of his
successors in the Vatican, confirmed the virtual extinction of the Pope’s
temporal sovereignty.

But the rapid dissolution of the Ottoman, the Napoleonic, the German, the
Austrian and the Russian empires, the demise of the Qájár dynasty and the
virtual extinction of the temporal sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff do not
exhaust the story of the catastrophes that befell the monarchies of the
world through the neglect of Bahá’u’lláh’s warnings conveyed in the
opening passages of His Súriy-i-Mulúk. The conversion of the Portuguese
and Spanish monarchies, as well as the Chinese empire, into republics; the
strange fate that has, more recently, been pursuing the sovereigns of
Holland, of Norway, of Greece, of Yugoslavia and of Albania now living in
exile; the virtual abdication of the authority exercised by the kings of
Denmark, of Belgium, of Bulgaria, of Rumania and of Italy; the
apprehension with which their fellow sovereigns must be viewing the
convulsions that have seized so many thrones; the shame and acts of
violence which, in some instances, have darkened the annals of the reigns
of certain monarchs in both the East and the West, and still more recently
the sudden downfall of the Founder of the newly established dynasty in
Persia—these are yet further instances of the infliction of the “Divine
Chastisement” foreshadowed by Bahá’u’lláh in that immortal Súrih, and show
forth the divine reality of the arraignment pronounced by Him against the
rulers of the earth in His Most Holy Book.

No less arresting has been the extinction of the all-pervasive influence
exerted by the Muslim ecclesiastical leaders, both Sunní and _Sh_í’ah, in
the two countries in which the mightiest institutions of Islám had been
reared, and which have been directly associated with the tribulations
heaped upon the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

The Caliph, the self-styled vicar of the Prophet of Islám, known also as
the “Commander of the Faithful,” the protector of the holy cities of Mecca
and Medina, whose spiritual jurisdiction extended over more than two
hundred million Muḥammadans, was by the abolition of the Sultanate in
Turkey, divested of his temporal authority, hitherto regarded as
inseparable from his high office. The Caliph himself, after having
occupied for a brief period, an anomalous and precarious position, fled to
Europe; the Caliphate, the most august and powerful institution of Islám,
was, without consultation with any community in the Sunní world, summarily
abolished; the unity of the most powerful branch of the Islamic Faith was
thereby shattered; a formal, a complete and permanent separation of the
Turkish state from the Sunní faith was proclaimed; the _Sh_arí’ah
canonical Law was annulled; ecclesiastical institutions were disendowed; a
civil code was promulgated; religious orders were suppressed; the Sunní
hierarchy was dissolved; the Arabic tongue, the language of the Prophet of
Islám, fell into disuse, and its script was superseded by the Latin
alphabet; the Qur’án itself was translated into Turkish; Constantinople,
the “Dome of Islám,” sank to the level of a provincial city, and its
peerless jewel, the Mosque of St. Sophia, was converted into a museum—a
series of degradations recalling the fate which, in the first century of
the Christian Era, befell the Jewish people, the city of Jerusalem, the
Temple of Solomon, the Holy of Holies, and an ecclesiastical hierarchy,
whose members were the avowed persecutors of the religion of Jesus Christ.

A similar convulsion shook the foundations of the entire sacerdotal order
in Persia, though its formal divorce from the Persian state is as yet
unproclaimed. A “church-state,” that had been firmly rooted in the life of
the nation and had extended its ramifications to every sphere of life in
that country, was virtually disrupted. A sacerdotal order, the rock wall
of _Sh_í’ah Islám in that land, was paralyzed and discredited; its
mujtahids, the favorite ministers of the hidden Imám, were reduced to an
insignificant number; all its beturbaned officers, except for a handful,
were ruthlessly forced to exchange their traditional head-dress and robes
for the European clothes they themselves anathematized; the pomp and
pageantry that marked their ceremonials vanished; their fatvás (sentences)
were nullified; their endowments were handed over to a civil
administration; their mosques and seminaries were deserted; the right of
sanctuary accorded to their shrines ceased to be recognized; their
religious plays were banned; their takyihs were closed and even their
pilgrimages to Najaf and Karbilá were discouraged and curtailed. The
disuse of the veil; the recognition of the equality of sexes; the
establishment of civil tribunals; the abolition of concubinage; the
disparagement of the use of the Arabic tongue, the language of Islám and
of the Qur’án, and the efforts exerted to divorce it from Persian—all
these further proclaim the degradation, and foreshadow the final
extinction, of that infamous crew, whose leaders had dared style
themselves “servants of the Lord of Saintship” (Imám ‘Alí), who had so
often received the homage of the pious kings of the Safaví dynasty, and
whose anathemas, ever since the birth of the Faith of the Báb, had been
chiefly responsible for the torrents of blood which had been shed, and
whose acts have blackened the annals of both their religion and nation.

A crisis, not indeed as severe as that which shook the Islamic sacerdotal
orders—the inveterate adversaries of the Faith—has, moreover, afflicted
the ecclesiastical institutions of Christendom, whose influence, ever
since Bahá’u’lláh’s summons was issued and His warning was sounded, has
visibly deteriorated, whose prestige has been gravely damaged, whose
authority has steadily declined, and whose power, rights and prerogatives
have been increasingly circumscribed. The virtual extinction of the
temporal sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff, to which reference has already
been made; the wave of anti-clericalism that brought in its wake the
separation of the Catholic Church from the French Republic; the organized
assault launched by a triumphant Communist state upon the Greek Orthodox
Church in Russia, and the consequent disestablishment, disendowment and
persecution of the state religion; the dismemberment of the
Austro-Hungarian monarchy which owed its allegiance to the Church of Rome
and powerfully supported its institutions; the ordeal to which that same
Church has been subjected in Spain and in Mexico; the wave of
secularization which, at present, is engulfing the Catholic, the Anglican
and the Presbyterian Missions in non-Christian lands; the forces of an
aggressive paganism which are assailing the ancient citadels of the
Catholic, the Greek Orthodox and the Lutheran Churches in Western, in
Central and Eastern Europe, in the Balkans and in the Baltic and
Scandinavian states—these stand out as the most conspicuous manifestations
of the decline in the fortunes of the ecclesiastical leaders of
Christendom, leaders who, heedless of the voice of Bahá’u’lláh, have
interposed themselves between the Christ returned in the glory of the
Father and their respective congregations.

Nor can we fail to note the progressive deterioration in the authority,
wielded by the ecclesiastical leaders of the Jewish and Zoroastrian
Faiths, ever since the voice of Bahá’u’lláh was raised, announcing, in no
uncertain terms, that the “Most Great Law is come,” that the Ancient
Beauty “ruleth upon the throne of David,” and that “whatsoever hath been
announced in the Books (Zoroastrian Holy Writ) hath been revealed and made
clear.” The evidences of increasing revolt against clerical authority; the
disrespect and indifference shown to time-honored observances, rituals and
ceremonials; the repeated inroads made by the forces of an aggressive and
often hostile nationalism into the spheres of clerical jurisdiction; and
the general apathy with which, particularly in the case of the professed
adherents of the Zoroastrian Faith, these encroachments are regarded—all
provide, beyond the shadow of a doubt, further justification of the
warnings and predictions uttered by Bahá’u’lláh in His historic addresses
to the world’s ecclesiastical leaders.

Such in sum are the awful evidences of God’s retributive justice that have
afflicted kings as well as ecclesiastics, in both the East and the West,
as a direct consequence of either their active opposition to the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh, or of their lamentable failure to respond to His call, to
inquire into His Message, to avert the sufferings He endured, or to heed
the marvelous signs and prodigies which, during a hundred years, have
accompanied the birth and rise of His Revelation.

“From two ranks amongst men,” is His terse and prophetic utterance, “power
hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics.” “If ye pay no heed,” He thus
warned the kings of the earth, “unto the counsels which ... We have
revealed in this Tablet, Divine chastisement will assail you from every
direction... On that day ye shall ... recognize your own impotence.” And
again: “Though aware of most of Our afflictions, ye, nevertheless, have
failed to stay the hand of the aggressor.” And, furthermore, this
arraignment: “...We ... will be patient, as We have been patient in that
which hath befallen Us at your hands, O concourse of kings!”

Condemning specifically the world’s ecclesiastical leaders, He has
written: “The source and origin of tyranny have been the divines... God,
verily, is clear of them, and We, too, are clear of them.” “When We
observed carefully,” He openly affirms, “We discovered that Our enemies
are, for the most part, the divines.” “O concourse of divines!” He thus
addresses them, “Ye shall not henceforth behold yourselves possessed of
any power, inasmuch as We have seized it from you...” “Had ye believed in
God when He revealed Himself,” He explains, “the people would not have
turned aside from Him, nor would the things ye witness today have befallen
Us.” “They,” referring more specifically to Muslim ecclesiastics, He
asserts, “rose up against Us with such cruelty as hath sapped the strength
of Islám...” “The divines of Persia,” He affirms, “committed that which no
people amongst the peoples of the world hath committed.” And again:
“...The divines of Persia ... have perpetrated what the Jews have not
perpetrated during the Revelation of Him Who is the Spirit (Jesus).” And
finally, these portentous prophecies: “Because of you the people were
abased, and the banner of Islám was hauled down, and its mighty throne
subverted.” “Erelong will all that ye possess perish, and your glory be
turned into the most wretched abasement, and ye shall behold the
punishment for what ye have wrought...” “Erelong,” the Báb Himself, even
more openly prophesies, “We will, in very truth, torment such as waged war
against Ḥusayn (Imám Ḥusayn) ... with the most afflictive torment...”
“Erelong will God wreak His vengeance upon them, at the time of Our
return, and He hath, in very truth, prepared for them, in the world to
come, a severe torment.”

Nor should, in a review of this nature, reference be omitted to those
princes, ministers and ecclesiastics who have individually been
responsible for the afflictive trials which Bahá’u’lláh and His followers
have suffered. Fu’ád Pá_sh_á, the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs,
denounced by Him as the “instigator” of His banishment to the Most Great
Prison, who had so assiduously striven with his colleague ‘Alí Pá_sh_á, to
excite the fears and suspicions of a despot already predisposed against
the Faith and its Leader, was, about a year after he had succeeded in
executing his design, struck down, while on a trip to Paris, by the
avenging rod of God, and died at Nice (1869). ‘Alí Pá_sh_á, the
Sadr-i-‘Aẓam (Prime Minister), denounced in such forceful language in the
Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís, whose downfall the Lawḥ-i-Fu’ád had unmistakably predicted,
was, a few years after Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to Akká, dismissed from
office, was shorn of all power, and sank into complete oblivion. The
tyrannical Prince Mas’úd Mírzá, the Zillu’s-Sulṭán, Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh’s
eldest son and ruler over more than two-fifths of his kingdom, stigmatized
by Bahá’u’lláh as “the Infernal Tree,” fell into disgrace, was deprived of
all his governorships, except that of Iṣfáhán, and lost all chances of
future eminence or promotion. The rapacious Prince Jalálu’d-Dawlih,
branded by the Supreme Pen as “the tyrant of Yazd,” was, about a year
after the iniquities he had perpetrated, deprived of his post, recalled to
Ṭihrán, and forced to return a part of the property he had stolen from his
victims.

The scheming, the ambitious and profligate Mírzá Buzurg _Kh_án, the
Persian Consul General in Ba_gh_dád, was eventually dismissed from office,
“overwhelmed with disaster, filled with remorse and plunged into
confusion.” The notorious Mujtahid Siyyid Ṣádiq-i-Tabátabá’í, denounced by
Bahá’u’lláh as “the Liar of Ṭihrán,” the author of the monstrous decree
condemning every male member of the Bahá’í community in Persia, young or
old, high or low, to be put to death, and all its women to be deported,
was suddenly taken ill, fell a prey to a disease that ravaged his heart,
his brain and his limbs, and precipitated eventually his death. The
high-handed Subhí Pá_sh_á, who had peremptorily summoned Bahá’u’lláh to
the government house in Akká, lost the position he occupied, and was
recalled under circumstances highly detrimental to his reputation. Nor
were the other governors of the city, who had dealt unjustly with the
exalted Prisoner in their charge and His fellow-exiles, spared a like
fate. “Every pá_sh_á,” testifies Nabíl in his narrative, “whose conduct in
Akká was commendable enjoyed a long term of office, and was bountifully
favored by God, whereas every hostile Mutisárrif (governor) was speedily
deposed by the Hand of Divine power, even as ‘Abdu’r-Rahmán Pá_sh_á and
Muḥammad-Yúsúf Pá_sh_á who, on the morrow of the very night they had
resolved to lay hands on the loved ones of Bahá’u’lláh, were
telegraphically advised of their dismissal. Such was their fate that they
were never again given a position.”

_Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad-Báqir, surnamed the “Wolf,” who, in the strongly
condemnatory Lawḥ-i-Burhán addressed to him by Bahá’u’lláh, had been
compared to “the last trace of sunlight upon the mountain-top,” witnessed
the steady decline of his prestige, and died in a miserable state of acute
remorse. His accomplice, Mír Muḥammad-Ḥusayn, surnamed the “She-Serpent,”
whom Bahá’u’lláh described as one “infinitely more wicked than the
oppressor of Karbilá,” was, about that same time, expelled from Iṣfáhán,
wandered from village to village, contracted a disease that engendered so
foul an odor that even his wife and daughter could not bear to approach
him, and died in such ill-favor with the local authorities that no one
dared to attend his funeral, his corpse being ignominiously interred by a
few porters.

Mention should, moreover, be made of the devastating famine which, about a
year after the illustrious Badí had been tortured to death, ravaged Persia
and reduced the population to such extremities that even the rich went
hungry, and hundreds of mothers ghoulishly devoured their own children.

Nor can this subject be dismissed without special reference being made to
the Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of the Báb, Mírzá Yaḥyá, who lived long
enough to witness, while eking out a miserable existence in Cyprus, termed
by the Turks “the Island of Satan,” every hope he had so maliciously
conceived reduced to naught. A pensioner first of the Turkish and later of
the British Government, he was subjected to the further humiliation of
having his application for British citizenship refused. Eleven of the
eighteen “Witnesses” he had appointed forsook him and turned in repentance
to Bahá’u’lláh. He himself became involved in a scandal which besmirched
his reputation and that of his eldest son, deprived that son and his
descendants of the successorship with which he had previously invested
him, and appointed, in his stead, the perfidious Mírzá
Hádíy-i-Dawlat-Ábádí, a notorious Azalí, who, on the occasion of the
martyrdom of the aforementioned Mírzá A_sh_raf, was seized with such fear
that during four consecutive days he proclaimed from the pulpit-top, and
in a most vituperative language, his complete repudiation of the Bábí
Faith, as well as of Mírzá Yaḥyá, his benefactor, who had reposed in him
such implicit confidence. It was this same eldest son who, through the
workings of a strange destiny, sought years after, together with his
nephew and niece, the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the appointed Successor of
Bahá’u’lláh and Center of His Covenant, expressed repentance, prayed for
forgiveness, was graciously accepted by Him, and remained, till the hour
of his death, a loyal follower of the Faith which his father had so
foolishly, so shamelessly and so pitifully striven to extinguish.



THIRD PERIOD: THE MINISTRY OF ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ 1892–1921



Chapter XIV: The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh


I have in the preceding chapters endeavored to trace the rise and progress
of the Faith associated with the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh during the first
fifty years of its existence. If I have dwelt too long on the events
connected with the life and mission of these twin Luminaries of the Bahá’í
Revelation, if I have at times indulged in too circumstantial a narrative
of certain episodes related to their ministries, it is solely because
these happenings proclaim the birth, and signalize the establishment, of
an epoch which future historians will acclaim as the most heroic, the most
tragic and the most momentous period in the Apostolic Age of the Bahá’í
Dispensation. Indeed the tale which the subsequent decades of the century
under review unfold to our eyes is but the record of the manifold
evidences of the resistless operation of those creative forces which the
revolution of fifty years of almost uninterrupted Revelation had released.

A dynamic process, divinely propelled, possessed of undreamt-of
potentialities, world-embracing in scope, world-transforming in its
ultimate consequences, had been set in motion on that memorable night when
the Báb communicated the purpose of His mission to Mullá Ḥusayn in an
obscure corner of _Sh_íráz. It acquired a tremendous momentum with the
first intimations of Bahá’u’lláh’s dawning Revelation amidst the darkness
of the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán. It was further accelerated by the
Declaration of His mission on the eve of His banishment from Ba_gh_dád. It
moved to a climax with the proclamation of that same mission during the
tempestuous years of His exile in Adrianople. Its full significance was
disclosed when the Author of that Mission issued His historic summonses,
appeals and warnings to the kings of the earth and the world’s
ecclesiastical leaders. It was finally consummated by the laws and
ordinances which He formulated, by the principles which He enunciated and
by the institutions which He ordained during the concluding years of His
ministry in the prison-city of Akká.

To direct and canalize these forces let loose by this Heaven-sent process,
and to insure their harmonious and continuous operation after His
ascension, an instrument divinely ordained, invested with indisputable
authority, organically linked with the Author of the Revelation Himself,
was clearly indispensable. That instrument Bahá’u’lláh had expressly
provided through the institution of the Covenant, an institution which He
had firmly established prior to His ascension. This same Covenant He had
anticipated in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, had alluded to it as He bade His last
farewell to the members of His family, who had been summoned to His
bed-side, in the days immediately preceding His ascension, and had
incorporated it in a special document which He designated as “the Book of
My Covenant,” and which He entrusted, during His last illness, to His
eldest son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Written entirely in His own hand; unsealed, on the ninth day after His
ascension in the presence of nine witnesses chosen from amongst His
companions and members of His Family; read subsequently, on the afternoon
of that same day, before a large company assembled in His Most Holy Tomb,
including His sons, some of the Báb’s kinsmen, pilgrims and resident
believers, this unique and epoch-making Document, designated by
Bahá’u’lláh as His “Most Great Tablet,” and alluded to by Him as the
“Crimson Book” in His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” can find no
parallel in the Scriptures of any previous Dispensation, not excluding
that of the Báb Himself. For nowhere in the books pertaining to any of the
world’s religious systems, not even among the writings of the Author of
the Bábí Revelation, do we find any single document establishing a
Covenant endowed with an authority comparable to the Covenant which
Bahá’u’lláh had Himself instituted.

“So firm and mighty is this Covenant,” He Who is its appointed Center has
affirmed, “that from the beginning of time until the present day no
religious Dispensation hath produced its like.” “It is indubitably clear,”
He, furthermore, has stated, “that the pivot of the oneness of mankind is
nothing else but the power of the Covenant.” “Know thou,” He has written,
“that the ‘Sure Handle’ mentioned from the foundation of the world in the
Books, the Tablets and the Scriptures of old is naught else but the
Covenant and the Testament.” And again: “The lamp of the Covenant is the
light of the world, and the words traced by the Pen of the Most High a
limitless ocean.” “The Lord, the All-Glorified,” He has moreover declared,
“hath, beneath the shade of the Tree of Anísá (Tree of Life), made a new
Covenant and established a great Testament... Hath such a Covenant been
established in any previous Dispensation, age, period or century? Hath
such a Testament, set down by the Pen of the Most High, ever been
witnessed? No, by God!” And finally: “The power of the Covenant is as the
heat of the sun which quickeneth and promoteth the development of all
created things on earth. The light of the Covenant, in like manner, is the
educator of the minds, the spirits, the hearts and souls of men.” To this
same Covenant He has in His writings referred as the “Conclusive
Testimony,” the “Universal Balance,” the “Magnet of God’s grace,” the
“Upraised Standard,” the “Irrefutable Testament,” “the all-mighty
Covenant, the like of which the sacred Dispensations of the past have
never witnessed” and “one of the distinctive features of this most mighty
cycle.”

Extolled by the writer of the Apocalypse as “the Ark of His (God)
Testament”; associated with the gathering beneath the “Tree of Anísá”
(Tree of Life) mentioned by Bahá’u’lláh in the Hidden Words; glorified by
Him, in other passages of His writings, as the “Ark of Salvation” and as
“the Cord stretched betwixt the earth and the Abhá Kingdom,” this Covenant
has been bequeathed to posterity in a Will and Testament which, together
with the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and several Tablets, in which the rank and station
of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are unequivocally disclosed, constitute the chief
buttresses designed by the Lord of the Covenant Himself to shield and
support, after His ascension, the appointed Center of His Faith and the
Delineator of its future institutions.

In this weighty and incomparable Document its Author discloses the
character of that “excellent and priceless heritage” bequeathed by Him to
His “heirs”; proclaims afresh the fundamental purpose of His Revelation;
enjoins the “peoples of the world” to hold fast to that which will
“elevate” their “station”; announces to them that “God hath forgiven what
is past”; stresses the sublimity of man’s station; discloses the primary
aim of the Faith of God; directs the faithful to pray for the welfare of
the kings of the earth, “the manifestations of the power, and the
daysprings of the might and riches, of God”; invests them with the
rulership of the earth; singles out as His special domain the hearts of
men; forbids categorically strife and contention; commands His followers
to aid those rulers who are “adorned with the ornament of equity and
justice”; and directs, in particular, the A_gh_sán (His sons) to ponder
the “mighty force and the consummate power that lieth concealed in the
world of being.” He bids them, moreover, together with the Afnán (the
Báb’s kindred) and His own relatives, to “turn, one and all, unto the Most
Great Branch (‘Abdu’l-Bahá)”; identifies Him with “the One Whom God hath
purposed,” “Who hath branched from this pre-existent Root,” referred to in
the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; ordains the station of the “Greater Branch” (Mírzá
Muḥammad-‘Alí) to be beneath that of the “Most Great Branch”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá); exhorts the believers to treat the A_gh_sán with
consideration and affection; counsels them to respect His family and
relatives, as well as the kindred of the Báb; denies His sons “any right
to the property of others”; enjoins on them, on His kindred and on that of
the Báb to “fear God, to do that which is meet and seemly” and to follow
the things that will “exalt” their station; warns all men not to allow
“the means of order to be made the cause of confusion, and the instrument
of union an occasion for discord”; and concludes with an exhortation
calling upon the faithful to “serve all nations,” and to strive for the
“betterment of the world.”

That such a unique and sublime station should have been conferred upon
‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not, and indeed could not, surprise those exiled
companions who had for so long been privileged to observe His life and
conduct, nor the pilgrims who had been brought, however fleetingly, into
personal contact with Him, nor indeed the vast concourse of the faithful
who, in distant lands, had grown to revere His name and to appreciate His
labors, nor even the wide circle of His friends and acquaintances who, in
the Holy Land and the adjoining countries, were already well familiar with
the position He had occupied during the lifetime of His Father.

He it was Whose auspicious birth occurred on that never-to-be-forgotten
night when the Báb laid bare the transcendental character of His Mission
to His first disciple Mullá Ḥusayn. He it was Who, as a mere child, seated
on the lap of Táhirih, had registered the thrilling significance of the
stirring challenge which that indomitable heroine had addressed to her
fellow-disciple, the erudite and far-famed Vahíd. He it was Whose tender
soul had been seared with the ineffaceable vision of a Father, haggard,
dishevelled, freighted with chains, on the occasion of a visit, as a boy
of nine, to the Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán. Against Him, in His early
childhood, whilst His Father lay a prisoner in that dungeon, had been
directed the malice of a mob of street urchins who pelted Him with stones,
vilified Him and overwhelmed Him with ridicule. His had been the lot to
share with His Father, soon after His release from imprisonment, the
rigors and miseries of a cruel banishment from His native land, and the
trials which culminated in His enforced withdrawal to the mountains of
Kurdistán. He it was Who, in His inconsolable grief at His separation from
an adored Father, had confided to Nabíl, as attested by him in his
narrative, that He felt Himself to have grown old though still but a child
of tender years. His had been the unique distinction of recognizing, while
still in His childhood, the full glory of His Father’s as yet unrevealed
station, a recognition which had impelled Him to throw Himself at His feet
and to spontaneously implore the privilege of laying down His life for His
sake. From His pen, while still in His adolescence in Ba_gh_dád, had
issued that superb commentary on a well-known Muḥammadan tradition,
written at the suggestion of Bahá’u’lláh, in answer to a request made by
‘Alí-_Sh_awkat Pá_sh_á, which was so illuminating as to excite the
unbounded admiration of its recipient. It was His discussions and
discourses with the learned doctors with whom He came in contact in
Ba_gh_dád that first aroused that general admiration for Him and for His
knowledge which was steadily to increase as the circle of His
acquaintances was widened, at a later date, first in Adrianople and then
in Akká. It was to Him that the highly accomplished _Kh_ur_sh_íd Pá_sh_á,
the governor of Adrianople, had been moved to pay a public and glowing
tribute when, in the presence of a number of distinguished divines of that
city, his youthful Guest had, briefly and amazingly, resolved the
intricacies of a problem that had baffled the minds of the assembled
company—an achievement that affected so deeply the Pá_sh_á that from that
time onwards he could hardly reconcile himself to that Youth’s absence
from such gatherings.

On Him Bahá’u’lláh, as the scope and influence of His Mission extended,
had been led to place an ever greater degree of reliance, by appointing
Him, on numerous occasions, as His deputy, by enabling Him to plead His
Cause before the public, by assigning Him the task of transcribing His
Tablets, by allowing Him to assume the responsibility of shielding Him
from His enemies, and by investing Him with the function of watching over
and promoting the interests of His fellow-exiles and companions. He it was
Who had been commissioned to undertake, as soon as circumstances might
permit, the delicate and all-important task of purchasing the site that
was to serve as the permanent resting-place of the Báb, of insuring the
safe transfer of His remains to the Holy Land, and of erecting for Him a
befitting sepulcher on Mt. Carmel. He it was Who had been chiefly
instrumental in providing the necessary means for Bahá’u’lláh’s release
from His nine-year confinement within the city walls of Akká, and in
enabling Him to enjoy, in the evening of His life, a measure of that peace
and security from which He had so long been debarred. It was through His
unremitting efforts that the illustrious Badí had been granted his
memorable interviews with Bahá’u’lláh, that the hostility evinced by
several governors of Akká towards the exiled community had been transmuted
into esteem and admiration, that the purchase of properties adjoining the
Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan had been effected, and that the ablest
and most valuable presentation of the early history of the Faith and of
its tenets had been transmitted to posterity. It was through the
extraordinarily warm reception accorded Him during His visit to Beirut,
through His contact with Mi_dh_át Pá_sh_á, a former Grand Vizir of Turkey,
through His friendship with Azíz Pá_sh_á, whom He had previously known in
Adrianople, and who had subsequently been promoted to the rank of Valí,
and through His constant association with officials, notables and leading
ecclesiastics who, in increasing number had besought His presence, during
the final years of His Father’s ministry, that He had succeeded in raising
the prestige of the Cause He had championed to a level it had never
previously attained.

He alone had been accorded the privilege of being called “the Master,” an
honor from which His Father had strictly excluded all His other sons. Upon
Him that loving and unerring Father had chosen to confer the unique title
of “Sirru’lláh” (the Mystery of God), a designation so appropriate to One
Who, though essentially human and holding a station radically and
fundamentally different from that occupied by Bahá’u’lláh and His
Forerunner, could still claim to be the perfect Exemplar of His Faith, to
be endowed with super-human knowledge, and to be regarded as the stainless
mirror reflecting His light. To Him, whilst in Adrianople, that same
Father had, in the Súriy-i-_Gh_usn (Tablet of the Branch), referred as
“this sacred and glorious Being, this Branch of Holiness,” as “the Limb of
the Law of God,” as His “most great favor” unto men, as His “most perfect
bounty” conferred upon them, as One through Whom “every mouldering bone is
quickened,” declaring that “whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards
God,” and that “they who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch
are lost in the wilderness of error.” To Him He, whilst still in that
city, had alluded (in a Tablet addressed to Ḥájí Muḥammad
Ibráhím-i-_Kh_alíl) as the one amongst His sons “from Whose tongue God
will cause the signs of His power to stream forth,” and as the one Whom
“God hath specially chosen for His Cause.” On Him, at a later period, the
Author of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, in a celebrated passage, subsequently
elucidated in the “Book of My Covenant,” had bestowed the function of
interpreting His Holy Writ, proclaiming Him, at the same time, to be the
One “Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.” To
Him in a Tablet, revealed during that same period and addressed to Mírzá
Muḥammad Qulíy-i-Sabzívarí, He had referred as “the Gulf that hath
branched out of this Ocean that hath encompassed all created things,” and
bidden His followers to turn their faces towards it. To Him, on the
occasion of His visit to Beirut, His Father had, furthermore, in a
communication which He dictated to His amanuensis, paid a glowing tribute,
glorifying Him as the One “round Whom all names revolve,” as “the Most
Mighty Branch of God,” and as “His ancient and immutable Mystery.” He it
was Who, in several Tablets which Bahá’u’lláh Himself had penned, had been
personally addressed as “the Apple of Mine eye,” and been referred to as
“a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth,” as “a shelter for all
mankind” and “a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God.” It was on
His behalf that His Father, in a prayer revealed in His honor, had
supplicated God to “render Him victorious,” and to “ordain ... for Him, as
well as for them that love Him,” the things destined by the Almighty for
His “Messengers” and the “Trustees” of His Revelation. And finally in yet
another Tablet these weighty words had been recorded: “The glory of God
rest upon Thee, and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee.
Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it
with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is
Thy enemy.”

And now to crown the inestimable honors, privileges and benefits showered
upon Him, in ever increasing abundance, throughout the forty years of His
Father’s ministry in Ba_gh_dád, in Adrianople and in Akká, He had been
elevated to the high office of Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, and been
made the successor of the Manifestation of God Himself—a position that was
to empower Him to impart an extraordinary impetus to the international
expansion of His Father’s Faith, to amplify its doctrine, to beat down
every barrier that would obstruct its march, and to call into being, and
delineate the features of, its Administrative Order, the Child of the
Covenant, and the Harbinger of that World Order whose establishment must
needs signalize the advent of the Golden Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation.



Chapter XV: The Rebellion of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí


The immediate effect of the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh had been, as already
observed, to spread grief and bewilderment among his followers and
companions, and to inspire its vigilant and redoubtable adversaries with
fresh hope and renewed determination. At a time when a grievously traduced
Faith had triumphantly emerged from the two severest crises it had ever
known, one the work of enemies without, the other the work of enemies
within, when its prestige had risen to a height unequalled in any period
during its fifty-year existence, the unerring Hand which had shaped its
destiny ever since its inception was suddenly removed, leaving a gap which
friend and foe alike believed could never again be filled.

Yet, as the appointed Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and the authorized
Interpreter of His teaching had Himself later explained, the dissolution
of the tabernacle wherein the soul of the Manifestation of God had chosen
temporarily to abide signalized its release from the restrictions which an
earthly life had, of necessity, imposed upon it. Its influence no longer
circumscribed by any physical limitations, its radiance no longer
beclouded by its human temple, that soul could henceforth energize the
whole world to a degree unapproached at any stage in the course of its
existence on this planet.

Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous task on this earthly plane had, moreover, at the
time of His passing, been brought to its final consummation. His mission,
far from being in any way inconclusive, had, in every respect, been
carried through to a full end. The Message with which He had been
entrusted had been disclosed to the gaze of all mankind. The summons He
had been commissioned to issue to its leaders and rulers had been
fearlessly voiced. The fundamentals of the doctrine destined to recreate
its life, heal its sicknesses and redeem it from bondage and degradation
had been impregnably established. The tide of calamity that was to purge
and fortify the sinews of His Faith had swept on with unstemmed fury. The
blood which was to fertilize the soil out of which the institutions of His
World Order were destined to spring had been profusely shed. Above all the
Covenant that was to perpetuate the influence of that Faith, insure its
integrity, safeguard it from schism, and stimulate its world-wide
expansion, had been fixed on an inviolable basis.

His Cause, precious beyond the dreams and hopes of men; enshrining within
its shell that pearl of great price to which the world, since its
foundation, had been looking forward; confronted with colossal tasks of
unimaginable complexity and urgency, was beyond a peradventure in safe
keeping. His own beloved Son, the apple of His eye, His vicegerent on
earth, the Executive of His authority, the Pivot of His Covenant, the
Shepherd of His flock, the Exemplar of His faith, the Image of His
perfections, the Mystery of His Revelation, the Interpreter of His mind,
the Architect of His World Order, the Ensign of His Most Great Peace, the
Focal Point of His unerring guidance—in a word, the occupant of an office
without peer or equal in the entire field of religious history—stood guard
over it, alert, fearless and determined to enlarge its limits, blazon
abroad its fame, champion its interests and consummate its purpose.

The stirring proclamation ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had penned, addressed to the rank
and file of the followers of His Father, on the morrow of His ascension,
as well as the prophecies He Himself had uttered in His Tablets, breathed
a resolve and a confidence which the fruits garnered and the triumphs
achieved in the course of a thirty-year ministry have abundantly
justified.

The cloud of despondency that had momentarily settled on the disconsolate
lovers of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh was lifted. The continuity of that
unerring guidance vouchsafed to it since its birth was now assured. The
significance of the solemn affirmation that this is “the Day which shall
not be followed by night” was now clearly apprehended. An orphan community
had recognized in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in its hour of desperate need, its Solace,
its Guide, its Mainstay and Champion. The Light that had glowed with such
dazzling brightness in the heart of Asia, and had, in the lifetime of
Bahá’u’lláh, spread to the Near East, and illuminated the fringes of both
the European and African continents, was to travel, through the impelling
influence of the newly proclaimed Covenant, and almost immediately after
the death of its Author, as far West as the North American continent, and
from thence diffuse itself to the countries of Europe, and subsequently
shed its radiance over both the Far East and Australasia.

Before the Faith, however, could plant its banner in the midmost heart of
the North American continent, and from thence establish its outposts over
so vast a portion of the Western world, the newly born Covenant of
Bahá’u’lláh had, as had been the case with the Faith that had given it
birth, to be baptized with a fire which was to demonstrate its solidity
and proclaim its indestructibility to an unbelieving world. A crisis,
almost as severe as that which had assailed the Faith in its earliest
infancy in Ba_gh_dád, was to shake that Covenant to its foundations at the
very moment of its inception, and subject afresh the Cause of which it was
the noblest fruit to one of the most grievous ordeals experienced in the
course of an entire century.

This crisis, misconceived as a schism, which political as well as
ecclesiastical adversaries, no less than the fast dwindling remnant of the
followers of Mírzá Yaḥyá hailed as a signal for the immediate disruption
and final dissolution of the system established by Bahá’u’lláh, was
precipitated at the very heart and center of His Faith, and was provoked
by no one less than a member of His own family, a half-brother of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, specifically named in the book of the Covenant, and holding
a rank second to none except Him Who had been appointed as the Center of
that Covenant. For no less than four years that emergency fiercely
agitated the minds and hearts of a vast proportion of the faithful
throughout the East, eclipsed, for a time, the Orb of the Covenant,
created an irreparable breach within the ranks of Bahá’u’lláh’s own
kindred, sealed ultimately the fate of the great majority of the members
of His family, and gravely damaged the prestige, though it never succeeded
in causing a permanent cleavage in the structure, of the Faith itself. The
true ground of this crisis was the burning, the uncontrollable, the
soul-festering jealousy which the admitted preeminence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in
rank, power, ability, knowledge and virtue, above all the other members of
His Father’s family, had aroused not only in Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, the
archbreaker of the Covenant, but in some of his closest relatives as well.
An envy as blind as that which had possessed the soul of Mírzá Yaḥyá, as
deadly as that which the superior excellence of Joseph had kindled in the
hearts of his brothers, as deep-seated as that which had blazed in the
bosom of Cain and prompted him to slay his brother Abel, had, for several
years, prior to Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, been smouldering in the recesses
of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s heart and had been secretly inflamed by those
unnumbered marks of distinction, of admiration and favor accorded to
‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, His companions and His
followers, but by the vast number of unbelievers who had come to recognize
that innate greatness which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had manifested from childhood.

Far from being allayed by the provisions of a Will which had elevated him
to the second-highest position within the ranks of the faithful, the fire
of unquenchable animosity that glowed in the breast of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí
burned even more fiercely as soon as he came to realize the full
implications of that Document. All that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could do, during a
period of four distressful years, His incessant exhortations, His earnest
pleadings, the favors and kindnesses He showered upon him, the admonitions
and warnings He uttered, even His voluntary withdrawal in the hope of
averting the threatening storm, proved to be of no avail. Gradually and
with unyielding persistence, through lies, half-truths, calumnies and
gross exaggerations, this “Prime Mover of sedition” succeeded in ranging
on his side almost the entire family of Bahá’u’lláh, as well as a
considerable number of those who had formed his immediate entourage.
Bahá’u’lláh’s two surviving wives, His two sons, the vacillating Mírzá
Ḍíya’u’lláh and the treacherous Mírzá Badí’u’lláh, with their sister and
half-sister and their husbands, one of them the infamous Siyyid ‘Alí, a
kinsman of the Báb, the other the crafty Mírzá Majdi’d-Dín, together with
his sister and half-brothers—the children of the noble, the faithful and
now deceased Áqáy-i-Kalím—all united in a determined effort to subvert the
foundations of the Covenant which the newly proclaimed Will had laid. Even
Mírzá Áqá Ján, who for forty years had labored as Bahá’u’lláh’s
amanuensis, as well as Muḥammad-Javád-i-Qasvíní, who ever since the days
of Adrianople, had been engaged in transcribing the innumerable Tablets
revealed by the Supreme Pen, together with his entire family, threw in
their lot with the Covenant-breakers, and allowed themselves to be
ensnared by their machinations.

Forsaken, betrayed, assaulted by almost the entire body of His relatives,
now congregated in the Mansion and the neighboring houses clustering
around the most Holy Tomb, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, already bereft of both His mother
and His sons, and without any support at all save that of an unmarried
sister, His four unmarried daughters, His wife and His uncle (a
half-brother of Bahá’u’lláh), was left alone to bear, in the face of a
multitude of enemies arrayed against Him from within and from without, the
full brunt of the terrific responsibilities which His exalted office had
laid upon Him.

Closely-knit by one common wish and purpose; indefatigable in their
efforts; assured of the backing of the powerful and perfidious
Jamál-i-Burújirdí and his henchmen, Ḥájí Ḥusayn-i-Ká_sh_í,
_Kh_alíl-i-_Kh_ú’í and Jalíl-i-Tabrízí who had espoused their cause;
linked by a vast system of correspondence with every center and individual
they could reach; seconded in their labors by emissaries whom they
dispatched to Persia, ‘Iráq, India and Egypt; emboldened in their designs
by the attitude of officials whom they bribed or seduced, these
repudiators of a divinely-established Covenant arose, as one man, to
launch a campaign of abuse and vilification which compared in virulence
with the infamous accusations which Mírzá Yaḥyá and Siyyid Muḥammad had
jointly levelled at Bahá’u’lláh. To friend and stranger, believer and
unbeliever alike, to officials both high and low, openly and by
insinuation, verbally as well as in writing, they represented ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
as an ambitious, a self-willed, an unprincipled and pitiless usurper, Who
had deliberately disregarded the testamentary instructions of His Father;
Who had, in language intentionally veiled and ambiguous, assumed a rank
co-equal with the Manifestation Himself; Who in His communications with
the West was beginning to claim to be the return of Jesus Christ, the Son
of God, who had come “in the glory of the Father”; Who, in His letters to
the Indian believers, was proclaiming Himself as the promised _Sh_áh
Bahrám, and arrogating to Himself the right to interpret the writing of
His Father, to inaugurate a new Dispensation, and to share with Him the
Most Great Infallibility, the exclusive prerogative of the holders of the
prophetic office. They, furthermore, affirmed that He had, for His private
ends, fomented discord, fostered enmity and brandished the weapon of
excommunication; that He had perverted the purpose of a Testament which
they alleged to be primarily concerned with the private interests of
Bahá’u’lláh’s family by acclaiming it as a Covenant of world importance,
pré-existent, peerless and unique in the history of all religions; that He
had deprived His brothers and sisters of their lawful allowance, and
expended it on officials for His personal advancement; that He had
declined all the repeated invitations made to Him to discuss the issues
that had arisen and to compose the differences which prevailed; that He
had actually corrupted the Holy Text, interpolated passages written by
Himself, and perverted the purpose and meaning of some of the weightiest
Tablets revealed by the pen of His Father; and finally, that the standard
of rebellion had, as a result of such conduct, been raised by the Oriental
believers, that the community of the faithful had been rent asunder, was
rapidly declining and was doomed to extinction.

And yet it was this same Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí who, regarding himself as the
exponent of fidelity, the standard-bearer of the “Unitarians,” the “Finger
who points to his Master,” the champion of the Holy Family, the spokesman
of the A_gh_sán, the upholder of the Holy Writ, had, in the lifetime of
Bahá’u’lláh, so openly and shamelessly advanced in a written statement,
signed and sealed by him, the very claim now falsely imputed by him to
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that his Father had, with His own hand, chastised him. He it
was who, when sent on a mission to India, had tampered with the text of
the holy writings entrusted to his care for publication. He it was who had
the impudence and temerity to tell ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to His face that just as
Umar had succeeded in usurping the successorship of the Prophet Muḥammad,
he, too, felt himself able to do the same. He it was who, obsessed by the
fear that he might not survive ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had, the moment he had been
assured by Him that all the honor he coveted would, in the course of time,
be his, swiftly rejoined that he had no guarantee that he would outlive
Him. He it was who, as testified by Mírzá Badí’u’lláh in his confession,
written and published on the occasion of his repentance and his
short-lived reconciliation with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had, while Bahá’u’lláh’s
body was still awaiting interment, carried off, by a ruse, the two
satchels containing his Father’s most precious documents, entrusted by
Him, prior to His ascension, to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He it was who, by an
exceedingly adroit and simple forgery of a word recurring in some of the
denunciatory passages addressed by the Supreme Pen to Mírzá Yaḥyá, and by
other devices such as mutilation and interpolation, had succeeded in
making them directly applicable to a Brother Whom he hated with such
consuming passion. And lastly, it was this same Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí who,
as attested by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will, had, with circumspection and
guile, conspired to take His life, an intention indicated by the allusions
made in a letter written by _Sh_u‘á’u’lláh (Son of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí),
the original of which was enclosed in that same Document by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh had, by acts such as these, and others too
numerous to recount, been manifestly violated. Another blow, stunning in
its first effects, had been administered to the Faith and had caused its
structure momentarily to tremble. The storm foreshadowed by the writer of
the Apocalypse had broken. The “lightnings,” the “thunders,” the
“earthquake” which must needs accompany the revelation of the “Ark of His
Testament,” had all come to pass.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s grief over so tragic a development, following so swiftly
upon His Father’s ascension, was such that, despite the triumphs witnessed
in the course of His ministry, it left its traces upon Him till the end of
His days. The intensity of the emotions which this somber episode aroused
within Him were reminiscent of the effect produced upon Bahá’u’lláh by the
dire happenings precipitated by the rebellion of Mírzá Yaḥyá. “I swear by
the Ancient Beauty!,” He wrote in one of His Tablets, “So great is My
sorrow and regret that My pen is paralyzed between My fingers.” “Thou
seest Me,” He, in a prayer recorded in His Will, thus laments, “submerged
in an ocean of calamities that overwhelm the soul, of afflictions that
oppress the heart... Sore trials have compassed Me round, and perils have
from all sides beset Me. Thou seest Me immersed in a sea of unsurpassed
tribulation, sunk into a fathomless abyss, afflicted by Mine enemies and
consumed with the flame of hatred kindled by My kinsmen with whom Thou
didst make Thy strong Covenant and Thy firm Testament...” And again in
that same Will: “Lord! Thou seest all things weeping over Me, and My
kindred rejoicing in My woes. By Thy glory, O my God! Even amongst Mine
enemies some have lamented My troubles and My distress, and of the envious
ones a number have shed tears because of My cares, My exile and My
afflictions.” “O Thou the Glory of Glories!,” He, in one of His last
Tablets, had cried out, “I have renounced the world and its people, and am
heart-broken and sorely afflicted because of the unfaithful. In the cage
of this world I flutter even as a frightened bird, and yearn every day to
take My flight unto Thy Kingdom.”

Bahá’u’lláh Himself had significantly revealed in one of His Tablets—a
Tablet that sheds an illuminating light on the entire episode: “By God, O
people! Mine eye weepeth, and the eye of ‘Alí (the Báb) weepeth amongst
the Concourse on high, and Mine heart crieth out, and the heart of
Muḥammad crieth out within the Most Glorious Tabernacle, and My soul
shouteth and the souls of the Prophets shout before them that are endued
with understanding... My sorrow is not for Myself, but for Him Who shall
come after Me, in the shadow of My Cause, with manifest and undoubted
sovereignty, inasmuch as they will not welcome His appearance, will
repudiate His signs, will dispute His sovereignty, will contend with Him,
and will betray His Cause...” “Can it be possible,” He, in a no less
significant Tablet, had observed, “that after the dawning of the day-star
of Thy Testament above the horizon of Thy Most Great Tablet, the feet of
any one shall slip in Thy Straight Path? Unto this We answered: ‘O My most
exalted Pen! It behoveth Thee to occupy Thyself with that whereunto Thou
hast been bidden by God, the Exalted, the Great. Ask not of that which
will consume Thine heart and the hearts of the denizens of Paradise, who
have circled round My wondrous Cause. It behoveth Thee not to be
acquainted with that which We have veiled from Thee. Thy Lord is, verily,
the Concealer, the All-Knowing!’” More specifically Bahá’u’lláh had,
referring to Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí in clear and unequivocal language,
affirmed: “He, verily, is but one of My servants... Should he for a moment
pass out from under the shadow of the Cause, he surely shall be brought to
naught.” Furthermore, in a no less emphatic language, He, again in
connection with Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí had stated: “By God, the True One!
Were We, for a single instant, to withhold from him the outpourings of Our
Cause, he would wither, and would fall upon the dust.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Himself had, moreover, testified: “There is no doubt that in a thousand
passages in the sacred writings of Bahá’u’lláh the breakers of the
Covenant have been execrated.” Some of these passages He Himself compiled,
ere His departure from this world, and incorporated them in one of His
last Tablets, as a warning and safeguard against those who, throughout His
ministry, had manifested so implacable a hatred against Him, and had come
so near to subverting the foundations of a Covenant on which not only His
own authority but the integrity of the Faith itself depended.



Chapter XVI: The Rise and Establishment of the Faith in the West


Though the rebellion of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí precipitated many sombre and
distressing events, and though its dire consequences continued for several
years to obscure the light of the Covenant, to endanger the life of its
appointed Center, and to distract the thoughts and retard the progress of
the activities of its supporters in both the East and the West, yet the
entire episode, viewed in its proper perspective, proved to be neither
more nor less than one of those periodic crises which, since the inception
of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and throughout a whole century, have been
instrumental in weeding out its harmful elements, in fortifying its
foundations, in demonstrating its resilience, and in releasing a further
measure of its latent powers.

Now that the provisions of a divinely appointed Covenant had been
indubitably proclaimed; now that the purpose of the Covenant was clearly
apprehended and its fundamentals had become immovably established in the
hearts of the overwhelming majority of the adherents of the Faith; and now
that the first assaults launched by its would-be subverters had been
successfully repulsed, the Cause for which that Covenant had been designed
could forge ahead along the course traced for it by the finger of its
Author. Shining exploits and unforgettable victories had already
signalized the birth of that Cause and accompanied its rise in several
countries of the Asiatic continent, and particularly in the homeland of
its Founder. The mission of its newly-appointed Leader, the steward of its
glory and the diffuser of its light, was, as conceived by Himself, to
enrich and extend the bounds of the incorruptible patrimony entrusted to
His hands by shedding the illumination of His Father’s Faith upon the
West, by expounding the fundamental precepts of that Faith and its
cardinal principles, by consolidating the activities which had already
been initiated for the promotion of its interests, and, finally, by
ushering in, through the provisions of His own Will, the Formative Age in
its evolution.

A year after the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had, in a verse
which He had revealed, and which had evoked the derision of the
Covenant-breakers, already foreshadowed an auspicious event which
posterity would recognize as one of the greatest triumphs of His ministry,
which in the end would confer an inestimable blessing upon the western
world, and which erelong was to dispel the grief and the apprehensions
that had surrounded the community of His fellow-exiles in Akká. The Great
Republic of the West, above all the other countries of the Occident, was
singled out to be the first recipient of God’s inestimable blessing, and
to become the chief agent in its transmission to so many of her sister
nations throughout the five continents of the earth.

The importance of so momentous a development in the evolution of the Faith
of Bahá’u’lláh—the establishment of His Cause in the North American
continent—at a time when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had just inaugurated His Mission,
and was still in the throes of the most grievous crisis with which He was
ever confronted, can in no wise be overestimated. As far back as the year
which witnessed the birth of the Faith in _Sh_íráz the Báb had, in the
Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, after having warned in a memorable passage the peoples of
both the Orient and the Occident, directly addressed the “peoples of the
West,” and significantly bidden them “issue forth” from their “cities” to
aid God, and “become as brethren” in His “one and indivisible religion.”
“In the East,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself had, in anticipation of this
development, written, “the light of His Revelation hath broken; in the
West the signs of His dominion have appeared.” “Should they attempt,” He,
moreover, had predicted, “to conceal its light on the continent, it will
assuredly rear its head in the midmost heart of the ocean, and, raising
its voice, proclaim: ‘I am the lifegiver of the world!’” “Had this Cause
been revealed in the West,” He, shortly before His ascension, is reported
by Nabíl in his narrative to have stated, “had Our verses been sent from
the West to Persia and other countries of the East, it would have become
evident how the people of the Occident would have embraced Our Cause. The
people of Persia, however, have failed to appreciate it.” “From the
beginning of time until the present day,” is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own testimony,
“the light of Divine Revelation hath risen in the East and shed its
radiance upon the West. The illumination thus shed hath, however, acquired
in the West an extraordinary brilliancy. Consider the Faith proclaimed by
Jesus. Though it first appeared in the East, yet not until its light had
been shed upon the West did the full measure of its potentialities become
manifest.” “The day is approaching,” He has affirmed, “when ye shall
witness how, through the splendor of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, the West
will have replaced the East, radiating the light of Divine guidance.” And
again: “The West hath acquired illumination from the East, but, in some
respects, the reflection of the light hath been greater in the Occident.”
Furthermore, “The East hath, verily, been illumined with the light of the
Kingdom. Erelong will this same light shed a still greater illumination
upon the West.”

More specifically has the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation Himself chosen
to confer upon the rulers of the American continent the unique honor of
addressing them collectively in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His most Holy Book,
significantly exhorting them to “adorn the temple of dominion with the
ornament of justice and of the fear of God, and its head with the crown of
the remembrance” of their Lord, and bidding them “bind with the hands of
justice the broken,” and “crush the oppressor” with the “rod of the
commandments” of their “Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise.” “The continent
of America,” wrote ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “is, in the eyes of the one true God, the
land wherein the splendors of His light shall be revealed, where the
mysteries of His Faith shall be unveiled, where the righteous will abide
and the free assemble.” “The American continent,” He has furthermore
predicted, “giveth signs and evidences of very great advancement. Its
future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far
reaching. It will lead all nations spiritually.”

“The American people,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, even more distinctly, singling out
for His special favor the Great Republic of the West, the leading nation
of the American continent, has revealed, “are indeed worthy of being the
first to build the Tabernacle of the Most Great Peace, and proclaim the
oneness of mankind.” And again: “This American nation is equipped and
empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to
become the envy of the world, and be blest in both the East and the West
for the triumph of its people.” Furthermore: “May this American democracy
be the first nation to establish the foundation of international
agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind.
May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace.” “May
the inhabitants of this country,” He, moreover has written, “...rise from
their present material attainment to such heights that heavenly
illumination may stream from this center to all the peoples of the world.”

“O ye apostles of Bahá’u’lláh!,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has thus addressed the
believers of the North American continent, “...consider how exalted and
lofty is the station you are destined to attain... The full measure of
your success is as yet unrevealed, its significance still unapprehended.”
And again: “Your mission is unspeakably glorious. Should success crown
your enterprise, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which
waves of spiritual power will emanate, and the throne of the Kingdom of
God, will in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly
established.” And finally, this stirring affirmation: “The moment this
Divine Message is carried forward by the American believers from the
shores of America, and is propagated through the continents of Europe, of
Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the
Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the
throne of an everlasting dominion... Then will the whole earth resound
with the praises of its majesty and greatness.”

Little wonder that a community belonging to a nation so abundantly
blessed, a nation occupying so eminent a position in a continent so richly
endowed, should have been able to add, during the fifty years of its
existence, many a page rich with victories to the annals of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh. This is the community, it should be remembered, which, ever
since it was called into being through the creative energies released by
the proclamation of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, was nursed in the lap of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s unfailing solicitude, and was trained by Him to discharge
its unique mission through the revelation of innumerable Tablets, through
the instructions issued to returning pilgrims, through the despatch of
special messengers, through His own travels at a later date, across the
North American continent, through the emphasis laid by Him on the
institution of the Covenant in the course of those travels, and finally
through His mandate embodied in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. This is
the community which, from its earliest infancy until the present day, has
unremittingly labored and succeeded, through its own unaided efforts, in
implanting the banner of Bahá’u’lláh in the vast majority of the sixty
countries which, in both the East and the West, can now claim the honor of
being included within the pale of His Faith. To this community belongs the
distinction of having evolved the pattern, and of having been the first to
erect the framework, of the administrative institutions that herald the
advent of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Through the efforts of its
members the Mother Temple of the West, the Harbinger of that Order, one of
the noblest institutions ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and the most
stately edifice reared in the entire Bahá’í world, has been erected in the
very heart of the North American continent. Through the assiduous labors
of its pioneers, its teachers and its administrators, the literature of
the Faith has been enormously expanded, its aims and purposes fearlessly
defended, and its nascent institutions solidly established. In direct
consequence of the unsupported and indefatigable endeavors of the most
distinguished of its itinerant teachers the spontaneous allegiance of
Royalty to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh has been secured and unmistakably
proclaimed in several testimonies transmitted to posterity by the pen of
the royal convert herself. And finally, to the members of this community,
the spiritual descendants of the dawn-breakers of the Heroic Age of the
Bahá’í Dispensation, must be ascribed the eternal honor of having arisen,
on numerous occasions, with marvelous alacrity, zeal and determination, to
champion the cause of the oppressed, to relieve the needy, and to defend
the interests of the edifices and institutions reared by their brethren in
countries such as Persia, Russia, Egypt, ‘Iráq and Germany, countries
where the adherents of the Faith have had to sustain, in varying measure,
the rigors of racial and religious persecution.

Strange, indeed, that in a country, invested with such a unique function
among its sister-nations throughout the West, the first public reference
to the Author of so glorious a Faith should have been made through the
mouth of one of the members of that ecclesiastical order with which that
Faith has had so long to contend, and from which it has frequently
suffered. Stranger still that he who first established it in the city of
Chicago, fifty years after the Báb had declared His Mission in _Sh_íráz,
should himself have forsaken, a few years later, the standard which he,
single-handed, had implanted in that city.

It was on September 23, 1893, a little over a year after Bahá’u’lláh’s
ascension, that, in a paper written by Rev. Henry H. Jessup, D.D.,
Director of Presbyterian Missionary Operations in North Syria, and read by
Rev. George A. Ford of Syria, at the World Parliament of Religions, held
in Chicago, in connection with the Columbian Exposition, commemorating the
four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, it was announced
that “a famous Persian Sage,” “the Bábí Saint,” had died recently in Akká,
and that two years previous to His ascension “a Cambridge scholar” had
visited Him, to whom He had expressed “sentiments so noble, so
Christ-like” that the author of the paper, in his “closing words,” wished
to share them with his audience. Less than a year later, in February 1894,
a Syrian doctor, named Ibráhím _Kh_ayru’lláh, who, while residing in
Cairo, had been converted by Ḥájí ‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Ṭihrání to the Faith,
had received a Tablet from Bahá’u’lláh, had communicated with
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and reached New York in December 1892, established his
residence in Chicago, and began to teach actively and systematically the
Cause he had espoused. Within the space of two years he had communicated
his impressions to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and reported on the remarkable success
that had attended his efforts. In 1895 an opening was vouchsafed to him in
Kenosha, which he continued to visit once a week, in the course of his
teaching activities. By the following year the believers in these two
cities, it was reported, were counted by hundreds. In 1897 he published
his book, entitled the Bábu’d-Dín, and visited Kansas City, New York City,
Ithaca and Philadelphia, where he was able to win for the Faith a
considerable number of supporters. The stout-hearted Thornton Chase,
surnamed _Th_ábit (Steadfast) by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and designated by Him “the
first American believer,” who became a convert to the Faith in 1894, the
immortal Louisa A. Moore, the mother teacher of the West, surnamed Livá
(Banner) by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Dr. Edward Getsinger, to whom she was later
married, Howard MacNutt, Arthur P. Dodge, Isabella D. Brittingham, Lillian
F. Kappes, Paul K. Dealy, Chester I. Thacher and Helen S. Goodall, whose
names will ever remain associated with the first stirrings of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh in the North American continent, stand out as the most
prominent among those who, in those early years, awakened to the call of
the New Day, and consecrated their lives to the service of the newly
proclaimed Covenant.

By 1898 Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, the well-known philanthropist (wife of Senator
George F. Hearst), whom Mrs. Getsinger had, while on a visit to
California, attracted to the Faith, had expressed her intention of
visiting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the Holy Land, had invited several believers,
among them Dr. and Mrs. Getsinger, Dr. _Kh_ayru’lláh and his wife, to join
her, and had completed the necessary arrangements for their historic
pilgrimage to Akká. In Paris several resident Americans, among whom were
May Ellis Bolles, whom Mrs. Getsinger had won over to the Faith, Miss
Pearson, and Ann Apperson, both nieces of Mrs. Hearst, with Mrs.
Thornburgh and her daughter, were added to the party, the number of which
was later swelled in Egypt by the addition of Dr. _Kh_ayru’lláh’s
daughters and their grand-mother whom he had recently converted.

The arrival of fifteen pilgrims, in three successive parties, the first of
which, including Dr. and Mrs. Getsinger, reached the prison-city of Akká
on December 10, 1898; the intimate personal contact established between
the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and the newly arisen heralds of His
Revelation in the West; the moving circumstances attending their visit to
His Tomb and the great honor bestowed upon them of being conducted by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself into its innermost chamber; the spirit which, through
precept and example, despite the briefness of their stay, a loving and
bountiful Host so powerfully infused into them; and the passionate zeal
and unyielding resolve which His inspiring exhortations, His illuminating
instructions and the multiple evidences of His divine love kindled in
their hearts—all these marked the opening of a new epoch in the
development of the Faith in the West, an epoch whose significance the acts
subsequently performed by some of these same pilgrims and their
fellow-disciples have amply demonstrated.

“Of that first meeting,” one of these pilgrims, recording her impressions,
has written, “I can remember neither joy nor pain, nor anything that I can
name. I had been carried suddenly to too great a height, my soul had come
in contact with the Divine Spirit, and this force, so pure, so holy, so
mighty, had overwhelmed me... We could not remove our eyes from His
glorious face; we heard all that He said; we drank tea with Him at His
bidding; but existence seemed suspended; and when He arose and suddenly
left us, we came back with a start to life; but never again, oh! never
again, thank God, the same life on this earth.” “In the might and majesty
of His presence,” that same pilgrim, recalling the last interview accorded
the party of which she was a member, has testified, “our fear was turned
to perfect faith, our weakness into strength, our sorrow into hope, and
ourselves forgotten in our love for Him. As we all sat before Him, waiting
to hear His words, some of the believers wept bitterly. He bade them dry
their tears, but they could not for a moment. So again He asked them for
His sake not to weep, nor would He talk to us and teach us until all tears
were banished...”

...”Those three days,” Mrs. Hearst herself has, in one of her letters,
testified, “were the most memorable days of my life... The Master I will
not attempt to describe: I will only state that I believe with all my
heart that He is the Master, and my greatest blessing in this world is
that I have been privileged to be in His presence, and look upon His
sanctified face... Without a doubt Abbás Effendi is the Messiah of this
day and generation, and we need not look for another.” “I must say,” she,
moreover, has in another letter written, “He is the most wonderful Being I
have ever met or ever expect to meet in this world... The spiritual
atmosphere which surrounds Him and most powerfully affects all those who
are blest by being near Him, is indescribable... I believe in Him with all
my heart and soul, and I hope all who call themselves believers will
concede to Him all the greatness, all the glory, and all the praise, for
surely He is the Son of God—and ‘the spirit of the Father abideth in
Him.’”

Even Mrs. Hearst’s butler, a negro named Robert Turner, the first member
of his race to embrace the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh in the West, had been
transported by the influence exerted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the course of that
epoch-making pilgrimage. Such was the tenacity of his faith that even the
subsequent estrangement of his beloved mistress from the Cause she had
spontaneously embraced failed to becloud its radiance, or to lessen the
intensity of the emotions which the loving-kindness showered by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá upon him had excited in his breast.

The return of these God-intoxicated pilgrims, some to France, others to
the United States, was the signal for an outburst of systematic and
sustained activity, which, as it gathered momentum, and spread its
ramifications over Western Europe and the states and provinces of the
North American continent, grew to so great a scale that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Himself resolved that, as soon as He should be released from His prolonged
confinement in Akká, He would undertake a personal mission to the West.
Undeflected in its course by the devastating crisis which the ambition of
Dr. _Kh_ayru’lláh had, upon his return from the Holy Land (December, 1899)
precipitated; undismayed by the agitation which he, working in
collaboration with the arch-breaker of the Covenant and his messengers,
had provoked; disdainful of the attacks launched by him and his
fellow-seceders, as well as by Christian ecclesiastics increasingly
jealous of the rising power and extending influence of the Faith;
nourished by a continual flow of pilgrims who transmitted the verbal
messages and special instructions of a vigilant Master; invigorated by the
effusions of His pen recorded in innumerable Tablets; instructed by the
successive messengers and teachers dispatched at His behest for its
guidance, edification and consolidation, the community of the American
believers arose to initiate a series of enterprises which, blessed and
stimulated a decade later by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself, were to be but a
prelude to the unparalleled services destined to be rendered by its
members during the Formative Age of His Father’s Dispensation.

No sooner had one of these pilgrims, the afore-mentioned May Bolles,
returned to Paris than she succeeded, in compliance with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
emphatic instructions, in establishing in that city the first Bahá’í
center to be formed on the European continent. This center was, shortly
after her arrival, reinforced by the conversion of the illumined Thomas
Breakwell, the first English believer, immortalized by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
fervent eulogy revealed in his memory; of Hippolyte Dreyfus, the first
Frenchman to embrace the Faith, who, through his writings, translations,
travels and other pioneer services, was able to consolidate, as the years
went by, the work which had been initiated in his country; and of Laura
Barney, whose imperishable service was to collect and transmit to
posterity in the form of a book, entitled “Some Answered Questions,”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s priceless explanations, covering a wide variety of
subjects, given to her in the course of an extended pilgrimage to the Holy
Land. Three years later, in 1902, May Bolles, now married to a Canadian,
transferred her residence to Montreal, and succeeded in laying the
foundations of the Cause in that Dominion.

In London Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper, as a consequence of the creative
influences released by that never-to-be-forgotten pilgrimage, was able to
initiate activities which, stimulated and expanded through the efforts of
the first English believers, and particularly of Ethel J. Rosenberg,
converted in 1899, enabled them to erect, in later years, the structure of
their administrative institutions in the British Isles. In the North
American continent, the defection and the denunciatory publications of Dr.
_Kh_ayru’lláh (encouraged as he was by Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí and his son
_Sh_u‘á’u’lláh, whom he had despatched to America) tested to the utmost
the loyalty of the newly fledged community; but successive messengers
despatched by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (such as Ḥájí ‘Abdu’l-Karím-i-Ṭihrání, Ḥájí
Mírzá Ḥasan-i-_Kh_urásání, Mírzá Asadu’lláh and Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl)
succeeded in rapidly dispelling the doubts, and in deepening the
understanding, of the believers, in holding the community together, and in
forming the nucleus of those administrative institutions which, two
decades later, were to be formally inaugurated through the explicit
provisions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament. As far back as the year
1899 a council board of seven officers, the forerunner of a series of
Assemblies which, ere the close of the first Bahá’í Century, were to cover
the North American Continent from coast to coast, was established in the
city of Kenosha. In 1902 a Bahá’í Publishing Society, designed to
propagate the literature of a gradually expanding community, was formed in
Chicago. A Bahá’í Bulletin, for the purpose of disseminating the teachings
of the Faith was inaugurated in New York. The “Bahá’í News,” another
periodical, subsequently appeared in Chicago, and soon developed into a
magazine entitled “Star of the West.” The translation of some of the most
important writings of Bahá’u’lláh, such as the “Hidden Words,” the
“Kitáb-i-Íqán,” the “Tablets to the Kings,” and the “Seven Valleys,”
together with the Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as well as several treatises
and pamphlets written by Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl and others, was energetically
undertaken. A considerable correspondence with various centers throughout
the Orient was initiated, and grew steadily in scope and importance. Brief
histories of the Faith, books and pamphlets written in its defence,
articles for the press, accounts of travels and pilgrimages, eulogies and
poems, were likewise published and widely disseminated.

Simultaneously, travellers and teachers, emerging triumphantly from the
storms of tests and trials which had threatened to engulf their beloved
Cause, arose, of their own accord, to reinforce and multiply the
strongholds of the Faith already established. Centers were opened in the
cities of Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland,
Baltimore, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Seattle, St. Paul
and in other places. Audacious pioneers, whether as visitors or settlers,
eager to spread the new born Evangel beyond the confines of their native
country, undertook journeys, and embarked on enterprises which carried its
light to the heart of Europe, to the Far East, and as far as the islands
of the Pacific. Mason Remey voyaged to Russia and Persia, and later, with
Howard Struven, circled, for the first time in Bahá’í history, the globe,
visiting on his way the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, China, India and Burma.
Hooper Harris and Harlan Ober traveled, during no less than seven months,
in India and Burma, visiting Bombay, Poona, Lahore, Calcutta, Rangoon and
Mandalay. Alma Knobloch, following on the heels of Dr. K. E. Fisher,
hoisted the standard of the Faith in Germany, and carried its light to
Austria. Dr. Susan I. Moody, Sydney Sprague, Lillian F. Kappes, Dr. Sarah
Clock, and Elizabeth Stewart transferred their residence to Ṭihrán for the
purpose of furthering the manifold interests of the Faith, in
collaboration with the Bahá’ís of that city. Sarah Farmer, who had already
initiated in 1894, at Green Acre, in the State of Maine, summer
conferences and established a center for the promotion of unity and
fellowship between races and religions, placed, after her pilgrimage to
Akká in 1900, the facilities these conferences provided at the disposal of
the followers of the Faith which she had herself recently embraced.

And last but not least, inspired by the example set by their
fellow-disciples in I_sh_qábád, who had already commenced the construction
of the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world, and afire with the
desire to demonstrate, in a tangible and befitting manner, the quality of
their faith and devotion, the Bahá’ís of Chicago, having petitioned
‘Abdu’l-Bahá for permission to erect a House of Worship, and secured, in a
Tablet revealed in June 1903, His ready and enthusiastic approval, arose,
despite the smallness of their numbers and their limited resources, to
initiate an enterprise which must rank as the greatest single contribution
which the Bahá’ís of America, and indeed of the West, have as yet made to
the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. The subsequent encouragement given them by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the contributions raised by various Assemblies decided
the members of this Assembly to invite representatives of their
fellow-believers in various parts of the country to meet in Chicago for
the initiation of the stupendous undertaking they had conceived. On
November 26, 1907, the assembled representatives, convened for that
purpose, appointed a committee of nine to locate a suitable site for the
proposed Temple. By April 9, 1908, the sum of two thousand dollars had
been paid for the purchase of two building lots, situated near the shore
of Lake Michigan. In March 1909, a convention representative of various
Bahá’í centers was called, in pursuance of instructions received from
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The thirty-nine delegates, representing thirty-six cities,
who had assembled in Chicago, on the very day the remains of the Báb were
laid to rest by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the specially erected mausoleum on Mt.
Carmel, established a permanent national organization, known as the Bahá’í
Temple Unity, which was incorporated as a religious corporation,
functioning under the laws of the State of Illinois, and invested with
full authority to hold title to the property of the Temple and to provide
ways and means for its construction. At this same convention a
constitution was framed, the Executive Board of the Bahá’í Temple Unity
was elected, and was authorized by the delegates to complete the purchase
of the land recommended by the previous Convention. Contributions for this
historic enterprise, from India, Persia, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Russia,
Egypt, Germany, France, England, Canada, Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands, and
even Mauritius, and from no less than sixty American cities, amounted by
1910, two years previous to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s arrival in America, to no less
than twenty thousand dollars, a remarkable testimony alike to the
solidarity of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in both the East and the West,
and to the self-sacrificing efforts exerted by the American believers who,
as the work progressed, assumed a preponderating share in providing the
sum of over a million dollars required for the erection of the structure
of the Temple and its external ornamentation.



Chapter XVII: Renewal of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Incarceration


The outstanding accomplishments of a valiant and sorely-tested community,
the first fruits of Bahá’u’lláh’s newly established Covenant in the
Western world, had laid a foundation sufficiently imposing to invite the
presence of the appointed Center of that Covenant, Who had called that
Community into being and watched, with such infinite care and foresight,
over its budding destinies. Not until, however, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had emerged
from the severe crisis which had already for several years been holding
Him in its toils could He undertake His memorable voyage to the shores of
a continent where the rise and establishment of His Father’s Faith had
been signalized by such magnificent and enduring achievements.

This second major crisis of His ministry, external in nature and hardly
less severe than the one precipitated by the rebellion of Mírzá
Muḥammad-‘Alí, gravely imperiled His life, deprived Him, for a number of
years, of the relative freedom He had enjoyed, plunged into anguish His
family and the followers of the Faith in East and West, and exposed as
never before, the degradation and infamy of His relentless adversaries. It
originated two years after the departure of the first American pilgrims
from the Holy Land. It persisted, with varying degrees of intensity,
during more than seven years, and was directly attributable to the
incessant intrigues and monstrous misrepresentations of the Arch-Breaker
of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and his supporters.

Embittered by his abject failure to create a schism on which he had fondly
pinned his hopes; stung by the conspicuous success which the
standard-bearers of the Covenant had, despite his machinations, achieved
in the North American continent; encouraged by the existence of a régime
that throve in an atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion, and which was
presided over by a cunning and cruel potentate; determined to exploit to
the full the opportunities for mischief afforded him by the arrival of
Western pilgrims at the prison-fortress of Akká, as well as by the
commencement of the construction of the Báb’s sepulcher on Mt. Carmel,
Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, seconded by his brother, Mírzá Badí’u’lláh, and aided
by his brother-in-law, Mírzá Majdi’d-Dín, succeeded through strenuous and
persistent endeavors in exciting the suspicion of the Turkish government
and its officials, and in inducing them to reimpose on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the
confinement from which, in the days of Bahá’u’lláh, He had so grievously
suffered.

This very brother, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s chief accomplice, in a written
confession signed, sealed and published by him, on the occasion of his
reconciliation with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has borne testimony to the wicked plots
that had been devised. “What I have heard from others,” wrote Mírzá
Badí’u’lláh, “I will ignore. I will only recount what I have seen with my
own eyes, and heard from his (Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí) lips.” “It was arranged
by him (Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí),” he, then, proceeds to relate, “to dispatch
Mírzá Majdi’d-Dín with a gift and a letter written in Persian to Nazím
Pá_sh_á, the Valí (governor) of Damascus, and to seek his assistance....
As he (Mírzá Majdi’d-Dín) himself informed me in Haifa he did all he could
to acquaint him (governor) fully with the construction work on Mt. Carmel,
with the comings and goings of the American believers, and with the
gatherings held in Akká. The Pá_sh_á, in his desire to know all the facts,
was extremely kind to him, and assured him of his aid. A few days after
Mírzá Majdi’d-Dín’s return a cipher telegram was received from the Sublime
Porte, transmitting the Sulṭán’s orders to incarcerate ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
myself and the others.” “In those days,” he, furthermore, in that same
document, testifies, “a man who came to Akká from Damascus stated to
outsiders that Nazím Pá_sh_á had been the cause of the incarceration of
Abbás Effendi. The strangest thing of all is this that Mírzá
Muḥammad-‘Alí, after he had been incarcerated, wrote a letter to Nazím
Pá_sh_á for the purpose of achieving his own deliverance.... The Pá_sh_á,
however, did not write even a word in answer to either the first or the
second letter.”

It was in 1901, on the fifth day of the month of Jamádiyu’l-Avval 1319
A.H. (August 20) that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, upon His return from Bahjí where He
had participated in the celebration of the anniversary of the Báb’s
Declaration, was informed, in the course of an interview with the governor
of Akká, of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd’s instructions ordering that the
restrictions which had been gradually relaxed should be reimposed, and
that He and His brothers should be strictly confined within the walls of
that city. The Sulṭán’s edict was at first rigidly enforced, the freedom
of the exiled community was severely curtailed, while ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had to
submit, alone and unaided, to the prolonged interrogation of judges and
officials, who required His presence for several consecutive days at
government headquarters for the purpose of their investigations. One of
His first acts was to intercede on behalf of His brothers, who had been
peremptorily summoned and informed by the governor of the orders of the
sovereign, an act which failed to soften their hostility or lessen their
malevolent activities. Subsequently, through His intervention with the
civil and military authorities, He succeeded in obtaining the freedom of
His followers who resided in Akká, and in enabling them to continue to
earn, without interference, the means of livelihood.

The Covenant-breakers were unappeased by the measures taken by the
authorities against One Who had so magnanimously intervened on their
behalf. Aided by the notorious Yaḥyá Bey, the chief of police, and other
officials, civil as well as military, who, in consequence of their
representations, had replaced those who had been friendly to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
and by secret agents who traveled back and forth between Akká and
Constantinople, and who even kept a vigilant watch over everything that
went on in His household, they arose to encompass His ruin. They lavished
on officials gifts which included possessions sacred to the memory of
Bahá’u’lláh, and shamelessly proffered to high and low alike bribes drawn,
in some instances, from the sale of properties associated with Him or
bestowed upon some of them by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Relaxing nothing of their
efforts they pursued relentlessly the course of their nefarious
activities, determined to leave no stone unturned until they had either
brought about His execution or ensured His deportation to a place remote
enough to enable them to wrest the Cause from His grasp. The Valí of
Damascus, the Muftí of Beirut, members of the Protestant missions
established in Syria and Akká, even the influential _Sh_ay_kh_ Abu’l-Hudá,
in Constantinople, whom the Sulṭán held in as profound an esteem as that
in which Muḥammad _Sh_áh had held his Grand Vizir, Ḥájí Mírzá Aqásí, were,
on various occasions, approached, appealed to, and urged to lend their
assistance for the prosecution of their odious designs.

Through verbal messages, formal communications and by personal interviews
the Covenant-breakers impressed upon these notables the necessity of
immediate action, shrewdly adapting their arguments to the particular
interests and prejudices of those whose aid they solicited. To some they
represented ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as a callous usurper Who had trampled upon their
rights, robbed them of their heritage, reduced them to poverty, made their
friends in Persia their enemies, accumulated for Himself a vast fortune,
and acquired no less than two-thirds of the land in Haifa. To others they
declared that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá contemplated making of Akká and Haifa a new
Mecca and Medina. To still others they affirmed that Bahá’u’lláh was no
more than a retired dervish, who professed and promoted the Faith of
Islám, Whom Abbás Effendi, His son, had, for the purpose of
self-glorification, exalted to the rank of God-head, whilst claiming
Himself to be the Son of God and the return of Jesus Christ. They further
accused Him of harboring designs inimical to the interests of the state,
of meditating a rebellion against the Sulṭán, of having already hoisted
the banner of Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá, the ensign of revolt, in distant villages
in Palestine and Syria, of having raised surreptitiously an army of thirty
thousand men, of being engaged in the construction of a fortress and a
vast ammunition depot on Mt. Carmel, of having secured the moral and
material support of a host of English and American friends, amongst whom
were officers of foreign powers, who were arriving, in large numbers and
in disguise, to pay Him their homage, and of having already, in
conjunction with them, drawn up His plans for the subjugation of the
neighboring provinces, for the expulsion of the ruling authorities, and
for the ultimate seizure of the power wielded by the Sulṭán himself.
Through misrepresentation and bribery they succeeded in inducing certain
people to affix their signatures as witnesses to the documents which they
had drawn up, and which they despatched, through their agents, to the
Sublime Porte.

Such grave accusations, embodied in numerous reports, could not fail to
perturb profoundly the mind of a despot already obsessed by the fear of
impending rebellion among his subjects. A commission was accordingly
appointed to inquire into the matter, and report the result of its
investigations. Each of the charges brought against ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, when
summoned to the court, on several occasions, He carefully and fearlessly
refuted. He exposed the absurdity of these accusations, acquainted the
members of the Commission, in support of His argument, with the provisions
of Bahá’u’lláh’s Testament, expressed His readiness to submit to any
sentence the court might decide to pass upon Him, and eloquently affirmed
that if they should chain Him, drag Him through the streets, execrate and
ridicule Him, stone and spit upon Him, suspend Him in the public square,
and riddle Him with bullets, He would regard it as a signal honor,
inasmuch as He would thereby be following in the footsteps, and sharing
the sufferings, of His beloved Leader, the Báb.

The gravity of the situation confronting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; the rumors that
were being set afloat by a population that anticipated the gravest
developments; the hints and allusions to the dangers threatening Him
contained in newspapers published in Egypt and Syria; the aggressive
attitude which His enemies increasingly assumed; the provocative behavior
of some of the inhabitants of Akká and Haifa who had been emboldened by
the predictions and fabrications of these enemies regarding the fate
awaiting a suspected community and its Leader, led Him to reduce the
number of pilgrims, and even to suspend, for a time, their visits, and to
issue special instructions that His mail be handled through an agent in
Egypt rather than in Haifa; for a time He ordered that it should be held
there pending further advice from Him. He, moreover, directed the
believers, as well as His own secretaries, to collect and remove to a
place of safety all the Bahá’í writings in their possession, and, urging
them to transfer their residence to Egypt, went so far as to forbid their
gathering, as was their wont, in His house. Even His numerous friends and
admirers refrained, during the most turbulent days of this period, from
calling upon Him, for fear of being implicated and of incurring the
suspicion of the authorities. On certain days and nights, when the outlook
was at its darkest, the house in which He was living, and which had for
many years been a focus of activity, was completely deserted. Spies,
secretly and openly, kept watch around it, observing His every movement
and restricting the freedom of His family.

The construction of the Báb’s sepulcher, whose foundation-stone had been
laid by Him on the site blessed and selected by Bahá’u’lláh, He, however,
refused to suspend, or even interrupt, for however brief a period. Nor
would He allow any obstacle, however formidable, to interfere with the
daily flow of Tablets which poured forth, with prodigious rapidity and
ever increasing volume, from His indefatigable pen, in answer to the vast
number of letters, reports, inquiries, prayers, confessions of faith,
apologies and eulogies received from countless followers and admirers in
both the East and the West. Eye-witnesses have testified that, during that
agitated and perilous period of His life, they had known Him to pen, with
His own Hand, no less than ninety Tablets in a single day, and to pass
many a night, from dusk to dawn, alone in His bed-chamber engaged in a
correspondence which the pressure of His manifold responsibilities had
prevented Him from attending to in the day-time.

It was during these troublous times, the most dramatic period of His
ministry, when, in the hey-day of His life and in the full tide of His
power, He, with inexhaustible energy, marvelous serenity and unshakable
confidence, initiated and resistlessly prosecuted the varied enterprises
associated with that ministry. It was during these times that the plan of
the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world was conceived by Him,
and its construction undertaken by His followers in the city of I_sh_qábád
in Turkistán. It was during these times, despite the disturbances that
agitated His native country, that instructions were issued by Him for the
restoration of the holy and historic House of the Báb in _Sh_íráz. It was
during these times that the initial measures, chiefly through His constant
encouragement, were taken which paved the way for the laying of the
dedication stone, which He, in later years, placed with His own hands when
visiting the site of the Mother Temple of the West on the shore of Lake
Michigan. It was at this juncture that that celebrated compilation of His
table talks, published under the title “Some Answered Questions,” was
made, talks given during the brief time He was able to spare, in the
course of which certain fundamental aspects of His Father’s Faith were
elucidated, traditional and rational proofs of its validity adduced, and a
great variety of subjects regarding the Christian Dispensation, the
Prophets of God, Biblical prophecies, the origin and condition of man and
other kindred themes authoritatively explained.

It was during the darkest hours of this period that, in a communication
addressed to the Báb’s cousin, the venerable Ḥájí Mírzá Muḥammad-Taqí, the
chief builder of the Temple of I_sh_qábád, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in stirring
terms, proclaimed the immeasurable greatness of the Revelation of
Bahá’u’lláh, sounded the warnings foreshadowing the turmoil which its
enemies, both far and near, would let loose upon the world, and
prophesied, in moving language, the ascendancy which the torchbearers of
the Covenant would ultimately achieve over them. It was at an hour of
grave suspense, during that same period, that He penned His Will and
Testament, that immortal Document wherein He delineated the features of
the Administrative Order which would arise after His passing, and would
herald the establishment of that World Order, the advent of which the Báb
had announced, and the laws and principles of which Bahá’u’lláh had
already formulated. It was in the course of these tumultuous years that,
through the instrumentality of the heralds and champions of a firmly
instituted Covenant, He reared the embryonic institutions, administrative,
spiritual, and educational, of a steadily expanding Faith in Persia, the
cradle of that Faith, in the Great Republic of the West, the cradle of its
Administrative Order, in the Dominion of Canada, in France, in England, in
Germany, in Egypt, in ‘Iráq, in Russia, in India, in Burma, in Japan, and
even in the remote Pacific Islands. It was during these stirring times
that a tremendous impetus was lent by Him to the translation, the
publication and dissemination of Bahá’í literature, whose scope now
included a variety of books and treatises, written in the Persian, the
Arabic, the English, the Turkish, the French, the German, the Russian and
Burmese languages. At His table, in those days, whenever there was a lull
in the storm raging about Him, there would gather pilgrims, friends and
inquirers from most of the afore-mentioned countries, representative of
the Christian, the Muslim, the Jewish, the Zoroastrian, the Hindu and
Buddhist Faiths. To the needy thronging His doors and filling the
courtyard of His house every Friday morning, in spite of the perils that
environed Him, He would distribute alms with His own hands, with a
regularity and generosity that won Him the title of “Father of the Poor.”
Nothing in those tempestuous days could shake His confidence, nothing
would be allowed to interfere with His ministrations to the destitute, the
orphan, the sick, and the down-trodden, nothing could prevent Him from
calling in person upon those who were either incapacitated or ashamed to
solicit His aid. Adamant in His determination to follow the example of
both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, nothing would induce Him to flee from His
enemies, or escape from imprisonment, neither the advice tendered Him by
the leading members of the exiled community in Akká, nor the insistent
pleas of the Spanish Consul—a kinsman of the agent of an Italian steamship
company—who, in his love for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his anxiety to avert the
threatening danger, had gone so far as to place at His disposal an Italian
freighter, ready to provide Him a safe passage to any foreign port He
might name.

So imperturbable was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s equanimity that, while rumors were
being bruited about that He might be cast into the sea, or exiled to Fizán
in Tripolitania, or hanged on the gallows, He, to the amazement of His
friends and the amusement of His enemies, was to be seen planting trees
and vines in the garden of His house, whose fruits when the storm had
blown over, He would bid His faithful gardener, Ismá’íl Áqá, pluck and
present to those same friends and enemies on the occasion of their visits
to Him.

In the early part of the winter of 1907 another Commission of four
officers, headed by Árif Bey, and invested with plenary powers, was
suddenly dispatched to Akká by order of the Sulṭán. A few days before its
arrival ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had a dream, which He recounted to the believers, in
which He saw a ship cast anchor off Akká, from which flew a few birds,
resembling sticks of dynamite, and which, circling about His head, as He
stood in the midst of a multitude of the frightened inhabitants of the
city, returned without exploding to the ship.

No sooner had the members of the Commission landed than they placed under
their direct and exclusive control both the Telegraph and Postal services
in Akká; arbitrarily dismissed officials suspected of being friendly to
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, including the governor of the city; established direct and
secret contact with the government in Constantinople; took up their
residence in the home of the neighbors and intimate associates of the
Covenant-breakers; set guards over the house of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to prevent
any one from seeing Him; and started the strange procedure of calling up
as witnesses the very people, among whom were Christians and Moslems,
orientals and westerners, who had previously signed the documents
forwarded to Constantinople, and which they had brought with them for the
purpose of their investigations.

The activities of the Covenant-breakers, and particularly of Mírzá
Muḥammad-‘Alí, now jubilant and full of hope, rose in this hour of extreme
crisis, to the highest pitch. Visits, interviews and entertainments
multiplied, in an atmosphere of fervid expectation, now that the victory
was seen to be at hand. Not a few among the lower elements of the
population were led to believe that their acquisition of the property
which would be left behind by the deported exiles was imminent. Insults
and calumnies markedly increased. Even some of the poor, so long and so
bountifully succored by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, forsook Him for fear of reprisals.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, while the members of the Commission were carrying on their
so-called investigations, and throughout their stay of about one month in
Akká, consistently refused to meet or have any dealings with any of them,
in spite of the veiled threats and warnings conveyed by them to Him
through a messenger, an attitude which greatly surprised them and served
to inflame their animosity and reinforce their determination to execute
their evil designs. Though the perils and tribulations which had
encompassed Him were now at their thickest, though the ship on which He
was supposed to embark with the members of the Commission was waiting in
readiness, at times in Akká, at times in Haifa, and the wildest rumors
were being spread about Him, the serenity He had invariably maintained,
ever since His incarceration had been reimposed, remained unclouded, and
His confidence unshaken. “The meaning of the dream I dreamt,” He, at that
time, told the believers who still remained in Akká, “is now clear and
evident. Please God this dynamite will not explode.”

Meanwhile the members of the Commission had, on a certain Friday, gone to
Haifa and inspected the Báb’s sepulcher, the construction of which had
been proceeding without any interruption on Mt. Carmel. Impressed by its
solidity and dimensions, they had inquired of one of the attendants as to
the number of vaults that had been built beneath that massive structure.

Shortly after the inspection had been made it was suddenly observed, one
day at about sunset, that the ship, which had been lying off Haifa, had
weighed anchor, and was heading towards Akká. The news spread rapidly
among an excited population that the members of the Commission had
embarked upon it. It was anticipated that it would stop long enough at
Akká to take ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on board, and then proceed to its destination.
Consternation and anguish seized the members of His family when informed
of the approach of the ship. The few believers who were left wept with
grief at their impending separation from their Master. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could
be seen, at that tragic hour, pacing, alone and silent, the courtyard of
His house.

As dusk fell, however, it was suddenly noticed that the lights of the ship
had swung round, and the vessel had changed her course. It now became
evident that she was sailing direct for Constantinople. The intelligence
was instantly communicated to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who, in the gathering
darkness, was still pacing His courtyard. Some of the believers who had
posted themselves at different points to watch the progress of the ship
hurried to confirm the joyful tidings. One of the direst perils that had
ever threatened ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s precious life was, on that historic day,
suddenly, providentially and definitely averted.

Soon after the precipitate and wholly unexpected sailing of that ship news
was received that a bomb had exploded in the path of the Sulṭán while he
was returning to his palace from the mosque where he had been offering his
Friday prayers.

A few days after this attempt on his life the Commission submitted its
report to him; but he and his government were too preoccupied to consider
the matter. The case was laid aside, and when, some months later, it was
again brought forward it was abruptly closed forever by an event which,
once and for all, placed the Prisoner of Akká beyond the power of His
royal enemy. The “Young Turk” Revolution, breaking out swiftly and
decisively in 1908, forced a reluctant despot to promulgate the
constitution which he had suspended, and to release all religious and
political prisoners held under the old régime. Even then a telegram had to
be sent to Constantinople to inquire specifically whether ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was
included in the category of these prisoners, to which an affirmative reply
was promptly received.

Within a few months, in 1909, the Young Turks obtained from the
_Sh_ay_kh_u’l-Islám the condemnation of the Sulṭán himself who, as a
result of further attempts to overthrow the constitution, was finally and
ignominiously deposed, deported and made a prisoner of state. On one
single day of that same year there were executed no less than thirty-one
leading ministers, pá_sh_ás and officials, among whom were numbered
notorious enemies of the Faith. Tripolitania itself, the scene of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s intended exile was subsequently wrested from the Turks by
Italy. Thus ended the reign of the “Great Assassin,” “the most mean,
cunning, untrustworthy and cruel intriguer of the long dynasty of
U_th_mán,” a reign “more disastrous in its immediate losses of territory
and in the certainty of others to follow, and more conspicuous for the
deterioration of the condition of his subjects, than that of any other of
his twenty-three degenerate predecessors since the death of Sulaymán the
Magnificent.”



Chapter XVIII: Entombment of the Báb’s Remains on Mt. Carmel


‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s unexpected and dramatic release from His forty-year
confinement dealt a blow to the ambitions cherished by the
Covenant-breakers as devastating as that which, a decade before, had
shattered their hopes of undermining His authority and of ousting Him from
His God-given position. Now, on the very morrow of His triumphant
liberation a third blow befell them as stunning as those which preceded it
and hardly less spectacular than they. Within a few months of the historic
decree which set Him free, in the very year that witnessed the downfall of
Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, that same power from on high which had enabled
‘Abdu’l-Bahá to preserve inviolate the rights divinely conferred on Him,
to establish His Father’s Faith in the North American continent, and to
triumph over His royal oppressor, enabled Him to achieve one of the most
signal acts of His ministry: the removal of the Báb’s remains from their
place of concealment in Ṭihrán to Mt. Carmel. He Himself testified, on
more than one occasion, that the safe transfer of these remains, the
construction of a befitting mausoleum to receive them, and their final
interment with His own hands in their permanent resting-place constituted
one of the three principal objectives which, ever since the inception of
His mission, He had conceived it His paramount duty to achieve. This act
indeed deserves to rank as one of the outstanding events in the first
Bahá’í century.

As observed in a previous chapter the mangled bodies of the Báb and His
fellow-martyr, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, were removed, in the middle of the
second night following their execution, through the pious intervention of
Ḥájí Sulaymán _Kh_án, from the edge of the moat where they had been cast
to a silk factory owned by one of the believers of Milán, and were laid
the next day in a wooden casket, and thence carried to a place of safety.
Subsequently, according to Bahá’u’lláh’s instructions, they were
transported to Ṭihrán and placed in the shrine of Imám-Zádih Ḥasan. They
were later removed to the residence of Ḥájí Sulaymán _Kh_án himself in the
Sar-_Ch_a_sh_mih quarter of the city, and from his house were taken to the
shrine of Imám-Zádih Ma’ṣúm, where they remained concealed until the year
1284 A.H. (1867–1868), when a Tablet, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in
Adrianople, directed Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar-i-_Sh_áhmírzádí and
Jamál-i-Burújirdí to transfer them without delay to some other spot, an
instruction which, in view of the subsequent reconstruction of that
shrine, proved to have been providential.

Unable to find a suitable place in the suburb of _Sh_áh ‘Abdu’l-‘Aẓím,
Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar and his companion continued their search until, on the
road leading to _Ch_a_sh_mih-‘Alí, they came upon the abandoned and
dilapidated Masjid-i-Ma_sh_á’u’lláh, where they deposited, within one of
its walls, after dark, their precious burden, having first re-wrapt the
remains in a silken shroud brought by them for that purpose. Finding the
next day to their consternation that the hiding-place had been discovered,
they clandestinely carried the casket through the gate of the capital
direct to the house of Mírzá Ḥasan-i-Vazír, a believer and son-in-law of
Ḥájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alíy-i-Tafrí_sh_í, the Majdu’l-A_sh_raf, where it
remained for no less than fourteen months. The long-guarded secret of its
whereabouts becoming known to the believers, they began to visit the house
in such numbers that a communication had to be addressed by Mullá
‘Alí-Akbar to Bahá’u’lláh, begging for guidance in the matter. Ḥájí _Sh_áh
Muḥammad-i-Man_sh_adí, surnamed Amínu’l-Bayán, was accordingly
commissioned to receive the Trust from him, and bidden to exercise the
utmost secrecy as to its disposal.

Assisted by another believer, Ḥájí _Sh_áh Muḥammad buried the casket
beneath the floor of the inner sanctuary of the shrine of Imám-Zádih Zayd,
where it lay undetected until Mírzá Asadu’lláh-i-Iṣfáhání was informed of
its exact location through a chart forwarded to him by Bahá’u’lláh.
Instructed by Bahá’u’lláh to conceal it elsewhere, he first removed the
remains to his own house in Ṭihrán, after which they were deposited in
several other localities such as the house of Ḥusayn-‘Alíy-i-Iṣfáhání and
that of Muḥammad-Karím-i-‘Attár, where they remained hidden until the year
1316 (1899) A.H., when, in pursuance of directions issued by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
this same Mírzá Asadu’lláh, together with a number of other believers,
transported them by way of Iṣfáhán, Kirman_sh_áh, Ba_gh_dád and Damascus,
to Beirut and thence by sea to Akká, arriving at their destination on the
19th of the month of Ramadán 1316 A.H. (January 31, 1899), fifty lunar
years after the Báb’s execution in Tabríz.

In the same year that this precious Trust reached the shores of the Holy
Land and was delivered into the hands of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, He, accompanied by
Dr. Ibráhím _Kh_ayru’lláh, whom He had already honored with the titles of
“Bahá’s Peter,” “The Second Columbus” and “Conqueror of America,” drove to
the recently purchased site which had been blessed and selected by
Bahá’u’lláh on Mt. Carmel, and there laid, with His own hands, the
foundation-stone of the edifice, the construction of which He, a few
months later, was to commence. About that same time, the marble
sarcophagus, designed to receive the body of the Báb, an offering of love
from the Bahá’ís of Rangoon, had, at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s suggestion, been
completed and shipped to Haifa.

No need to dwell on the manifold problems and preoccupations which, for
almost a decade, continued to beset ‘Abdu’l-Bahá until the victorious hour
when He was able to bring to a final consummation the historic task
entrusted to Him by His Father. The risks and perils with which
Bahá’u’lláh and later His Son had been confronted in their efforts to
insure, during half a century, the protection of those remains were but a
prelude to the grave dangers which, at a later period, the Center of the
Covenant Himself had to face in the course of the construction of the
edifice designed to receive them, and indeed until the hour of His final
release from His incarceration.

The long-drawn out negotiations with the shrewd and calculating owner of
the building-site of the holy Edifice, who, under the influence of the
Covenant-breakers, refused for a long time to sell; the exorbitant price
at first demanded for the opening of a road leading to that site and
indispensable to the work of construction; the interminable objections
raised by officials, high and low, whose easily aroused suspicions had to
be allayed by repeated explanations and assurances given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Himself; the dangerous situation created by the monstrous accusations
brought by Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí and his associates regarding the character
and purpose of that building; the delays and complications caused by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prolonged and enforced absence from Haifa, and His
consequent inability to supervise in person the vast undertaking He had
initiated—all these were among the principal obstacles which He, at so
critical a period in His ministry, had to face and surmount ere He could
execute in its entirety the Plan, the outline of which Bahá’u’lláh had
communicated to Him on the occasion of one of His visits to Mt. Carmel.

“Every stone of that building, every stone of the road leading to it,” He,
many a time was heard to remark, “I have with infinite tears and at
tremendous cost, raised and placed in position.” “One night,” He,
according to an eye-witness, once observed, “I was so hemmed in by My
anxieties that I had no other recourse than to recite and repeat over and
over again a prayer of the Báb which I had in My possession, the recital
of which greatly calmed Me. The next morning the owner of the plot himself
came to Me, apologized and begged Me to purchase his property.”

Finally, in the very year His royal adversary lost his throne, and at the
time of the opening of the first American Bahá’í Convention, convened in
Chicago for the purpose of creating a permanent national organization for
the construction of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought His
undertaking to a successful conclusion, in spite of the incessant
machinations of enemies both within and without. On the 28th of the month
of Safar 1327 A.H., the day of the first Naw-Rúz (1909), which He
celebrated after His release from His confinement, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had the
marble sarcophagus transported with great labor to the vault prepared for
it, and in the evening, by the light of a single lamp, He laid within it,
with His own hands—in the presence of believers from the East and from the
West and in circumstances at once solemn and moving—the wooden casket
containing the sacred remains of the Báb and His companion.

When all was finished, and the earthly remains of the Martyr-Prophet of
_Sh_íráz were, at long last, safely deposited for their everlasting rest
in the bosom of God’s holy mountain, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who had cast aside His
turban, removed His shoes and thrown off His cloak, bent low over the
still open sarcophagus, His silver hair waving about His head and His face
transfigured and luminous, rested His forehead on the border of the wooden
casket, and, sobbing aloud, wept with such a weeping that all those who
were present wept with Him. That night He could not sleep, so overwhelmed
was He with emotion.

“The most joyful tidings is this,” He wrote later in a Tablet announcing
to His followers the news of this glorious victory, “that the holy, the
luminous body of the Báb ... after having for sixty years been transferred
from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from
fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity
has, through the mercy of the Abhá Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited,
on the day of Naw-Rúz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on
Mt. Carmel... By a strange coincidence, on that same day of Naw-Rúz, a
cablegram was received from Chicago, announcing that the believers in each
of the American centers had elected a delegate and sent to that city ...
and definitely decided on the site and construction of the
Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár.”

With the transference of the remains of the Báb—Whose advent marks the
return of the Prophet Elijah—to Mt. Carmel, and their interment in that
holy mountain, not far from the cave of that Prophet Himself, the Plan so
gloriously envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, in the evening of His life, had been
at last executed, and the arduous labors associated with the early and
tumultuous years of the ministry of the appointed Center of His Covenant
crowned with immortal success. A focal center of Divine illumination and
power, the very dust of which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá averred had inspired Him,
yielding in sacredness to no other shrine throughout the Bahá’í world
except the Sepulcher of the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation Himself, had
been permanently established on that mountain, regarded from time
immemorial as sacred. A structure, at once massive, simple and imposing;
nestling in the heart of Carmel, the “Vineyard of God”; flanked by the
Cave of Elijah on the west, and by the hills of Galilee on the east;
backed by the plain of Sharon, and facing the silver-city of Akká, and
beyond it the Most Holy Tomb, the Heart and Qiblih of the Bahá’í world;
overshadowing the colony of German Templars who, in anticipation of the
“coming of the Lord,” had forsaken their homes and foregathered at the
foot of that mountain, in the very year of Bahá’u’lláh’s Declaration in
Ba_gh_dád (1863), the mausoleum of the Báb had now, with heroic effort and
in impregnable strength been established as “the Spot round which the
Concourse on high circle in adoration.” Events have already demonstrated
through the extension of the Edifice itself, through the embellishment of
its surroundings, through the acquisition of extensive endowments in its
neighborhood, and through its proximity to the resting-places of the wife,
the son and daughter of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, that it was destined to
acquire with the passing of the years a measure of fame and glory
commensurate with the high purpose that had prompted its founding. Nor
will it, as the years go by, and the institutions revolving around the
World Administrative Center of the future Bahá’í Commonwealth are
gradually established, cease to manifest the latent potentialities with
which that same immutable purpose has endowed it. Resistlessly will this
Divine institution flourish and expand, however fierce the animosity which
its future enemies may evince, until the full measure of its splendor will
have been disclosed before the eyes of all mankind.

“Haste thee, O Carmel!” Bahá’u’lláh, significantly addressing that holy
mountain, has written, “for lo, the light of the Countenance of God ...
hath been lifted upon thee... Rejoice, for God hath, in this Day,
established upon thee His throne, hath made thee the dawning-place of His
signs and the dayspring of the evidences of His Revelation. Well is it
with him that circleth around thee, that proclaimeth the revelation of thy
glory, and recounteth that which the bounty of the Lord thy God hath
showered upon thee.” “Call out to Zion, O Carmel!” He, furthermore, has
revealed in that same Tablet, “and announce the joyful tidings: He that
was hidden from mortal eyes is come! His all-conquering sovereignty is
manifest; His all-encompassing splendor is revealed. Beware lest thou
hesitate or halt. Hasten forth and circumambulate the City of God that
hath descended from heaven, the celestial Kaaba round which have circled
in adoration the favored of God, the pure in heart, and the company of the
most exalted angels.”



Chapter XIX: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Travels in Europe and America


The establishment of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in the Western
Hemisphere—the most outstanding achievement that will forever be
associated with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry—had, as observed in the preceding
pages, set in motion such tremendous forces, and been productive of such
far-reaching results, as to warrant the active and personal participation
of the Center of the Covenant Himself in those epoch-making activities
which His Western disciples had, through the propelling power of that
Covenant, boldly initiated and were vigorously prosecuting.

The crisis which the blindness and perversity of the Covenant-breakers had
precipitated, and which, for several years, had so tragically interfered
with the execution of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s purpose, was now providentially
resolved. An unsurmountable barrier had been suddenly lifted from His
path, His fetters were unlocked, and God’s avenging wrath had taken the
chains from His neck and placed them upon that of ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, His royal
adversary and the dupe of His most implacable enemy. The sacred remains of
the Báb, entrusted to His hands by His departed Father, had, moreover,
with immense difficulty been transferred from their hiding-place in
far-off Ṭihrán to the Holy Land, and deposited ceremoniously and
reverently by Him in the bosom of Mt. Carmel.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá was at this time broken in health. He suffered from several
maladies brought on by the strains and stresses of a tragic life spent
almost wholly in exile and imprisonment. He was on the threshold of
three-score years and ten. Yet as soon as He was released from His
forty-year long captivity, as soon as He had laid the Báb’s body in a safe
and permanent resting-place, and His mind was free of grievous anxieties
connected with the execution of that priceless Trust, He arose with
sublime courage, confidence and resolution to consecrate what little
strength remained to Him, in the evening of His life, to a service of such
heroic proportions that no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of
the first Bahá’í century.

Indeed His three years of travel, first to Egypt, then to Europe and later
to America, mark, if we would correctly appraise their historic
importance, a turning point of the utmost significance in the history of
the century. For the first time since the inception of the Faith,
sixty-six years previously, its Head and supreme Representative burst
asunder the shackles which had throughout the ministries of both the Báb
and Bahá’u’lláh so grievously fettered its freedom. Though repressive
measures still continued to circumscribe the activities of the vast
majority of its adherents in the land of its birth, its recognized Leader
was now vouchsafed a freedom of action which, with the exception of a
brief interval in the course of the War of 1914–18, He was to continue to
enjoy to the end of His life, and which has never since been withdrawn
from its institutions at its world center.

So momentous a change in the fortunes of the Faith was the signal for such
an outburst of activity on His part as to dumbfound His followers in East
and West with admiration and wonder, and exercise an imperishable
influence on the course of its future history. He Who, in His own words,
had entered prison as a youth and left it an old man, Who never in His
life had faced a public audience, had attended no school, had never moved
in Western circles, and was unfamiliar with Western customs and language,
had arisen not only to proclaim from pulpit and platform, in some of the
chief capitals of Europe and in the leading cities of the North American
continent, the distinctive verities enshrined in His Father’s Faith, but
to demonstrate as well the Divine origin of the Prophets gone before Him,
and to disclose the nature of the tie binding them to that Faith.

Inflexibly resolved to undertake this arduous voyage, at whatever cost to
His strength, at whatever risk to His life, He, quietly and without any
previous warning, on a September afternoon, of the year 1910, the year
following that which witnessed the downfall of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd and
the formal entombment of the Báb’s remains on Mt. Carmel, sailed for
Egypt, sojourned for about a month in Port Said, and from thence embarked
with the intention of proceeding to Europe, only to discover that the
condition of His health necessitated His landing again at Alexandria and
postponing His voyage. Fixing His residence in Ramleh, a suburb of
Alexandria, and later visiting Zaytún and Cairo, He, on August 11 of the
ensuing year, sailed with a party of four, on the S.S. Corsica, for
Marseilles, and proceeded, after a brief stop at Thonon-les-Bains, to
London, where He arrived on September 4, 1911. After a visit of about a
month, He went to Paris, where He stayed for a period of nine weeks,
returning to Egypt in December, 1911. Again taking up His residence in
Ramleh, where He passed the winter, He embarked, on His second journey to
the West, on the steamship Cedric, on March 25, 1912, sailing via Naples
direct to New York where He arrived on April 11. After a prolonged tour of
eight months’ duration, which carried Him from coast to coast, and in the
course of which He visited Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh,
Montclair, Boston, Worcester, Brooklyn, Fanwood, Milford, Philadelphia,
West Englewood, Jersey City, Cambridge, Medford, Morristown, Dublin, Green
Acre, Montreal, Malden, Buffalo, Kenosha, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Omaha,
Lincoln, Denver, Glenwood Springs, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Oakland,
Palo Alto, Berkeley, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Cincinnati, and
Baltimore, He sailed, on the S.S. Celtic, on December 5, from New York for
Liverpool; and landing there He proceeded by train to London. Later He
visited Oxford, Edinburgh and Bristol, and thence returning to London,
left for Paris on January 21, 1913. On March 30 He traveled to Stuttgart,
and from there proceeded, on April 9, to Budapest, visited Vienna nine
days later, returned to Stuttgart on April 25, and to Paris on May first,
where He remained until June 12, sailing the following day, on the S.S.
Himalaya from Marseilles bound for Egypt, arriving in Port Said four days
later, where after short visits to Ismá’ílíyyih and Abúqír, and a
prolonged stay in Ramleh, He returned to Haifa, concluding His historic
journeys on December 5, 1913.

It was in the course of these epoch-making journeys and before large and
representative audiences, at times exceeding a thousand people, that
‘Abdu’l-Bahá expounded, with brilliant simplicity, with persuasiveness and
force, and for the first time in His ministry, those basic and
distinguishing principles of His Father’s Faith, which together with the
laws and ordinances revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock
of God’s latest Revelation to mankind. The independent search after truth,
unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human
race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the
basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice,
whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist
between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings
on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of
compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the
abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a
world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the
exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of
worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human
society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples
and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as
the supreme goal of all mankind—these stand out as the essential elements
of that Divine polity which He proclaimed to leaders of public thought as
well as to the masses at large in the course of these missionary journeys.
The exposition of these vitalizing truths of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh,
which He characterized as the “spirit of the age,” He supplemented with
grave and reiterated warnings of an impending conflagration which, if the
statesmen of the world should fail to avert, would set ablaze the entire
continent of Europe. He, moreover, predicted, in the course of these
travels, the radical changes which would take place in that continent,
foreshadowed the movement of the decentralization of political power which
would inevitably be set in motion, alluded to the troubles that would
overtake Turkey, anticipated the persecution of the Jews on the European
continent, and categorically asserted that the “banner of the unity of
mankind would be hoisted, that the tabernacle of universal peace would be
raised and the world become another world.”

During these travels ‘Abdu’l-Bahá displayed a vitality, a courage, a
single-mindedness, a consecration to the task He had set Himself to
achieve that excited the wonder and admiration of those who had the
privilege of observing at close hand His daily acts. Indifferent to the
sights and curiosities which habitually invite the attention of travelers
and which the members of His entourage often wished Him to visit; careless
alike of His comfort and His health; expending every ounce of His energy
day after day from dawn till late at night; consistently refusing any
gifts or contributions towards the expenses of His travels; unfailing in
His solicitude for the sick, the sorrowful and the down-trodden;
uncompromising in His championship of the underprivileged races and
classes; bountiful as the rain in His generosity to the poor; contemptuous
of the attacks launched against Him by vigilant and fanatical exponents of
orthodoxy and sectarianism; marvelous in His frankness while
demonstrating, from platform and pulpit, the prophetic Mission of Jesus
Christ to the Jews, of the Divine origin of Islám in churches and
synagogues, or the truth of Divine Revelation and the necessity of
religion to materialists, atheists or agnostics; unequivocal in His
glorification of Bahá’u’lláh at all times and within the sanctuaries of
divers sects and denominations; adamant in His refusal, on several
occasions, to curry the favor of people of title and wealth both in
England and in the United States; and last but not least incomparable in
the spontaneity, the genuineness and warmth of His sympathy and
loving-kindness shown to friend and stranger alike, believer and
unbeliever, rich and poor, high and low, whom He met, either intimately or
casually, whether on board ship, or whilst pacing the streets, in parks or
public squares, at receptions or banquets, in slums or mansions, in the
gatherings of His followers or the assemblage of the learned, He, the
incarnation of every Bahá’í virtue and the embodiment of every Bahá’í
ideal, continued for three crowded years to trumpet to a world sunk in
materialism and already in the shadow of war, the healing, the God-given
truths enshrined in His Father’s Revelation.

In the course of His several visits to Egypt He had more than one
interview with the Khedive, Abbás Ḥilmí Pá_sh_á II, was introduced to Lord
Kitchener, met the Muftí, _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad Ba_kh_it, as well as the
Khedive’s Imám, _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad Ra_sh_íd, and associated with several
‘ulamás, pá_sh_ás, Persian notables, members of the Turkish Parliament,
editors of leading newspapers in Cairo and Alexandria, and other leaders
and representatives of well-known institutions, both religious and
secular.

Whilst He sojourned in England the house placed at His disposal in Cadogan
Gardens became a veritable mecca to all sorts and conditions of men,
thronging to visit the Prisoner of Akká Who had chosen their great city as
the first scene of His labors in the West. “O, these pilgrims, these
guests, these visitors!” thus bears witness His devoted hostess during the
time He spent in London, “Remembering those days, our ears are filled with
the sound of their footsteps—as they came from every country in the world.
Every day, all day long, a constant stream, an interminable procession!
Ministers and missionaries, oriental scholars and occult students,
practical men of affairs and mystics, Anglicans, Catholics, and
Non-conformists, Theosophists and Hindus, Christian Scientists and doctors
of medicine, Muslims, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. There also called:
politicians, Salvation Army soldiers, and other workers for human good,
women suffragists, journalists, writers, poets and healers, dressmakers
and great ladies, artists and artisans, poor workless people and
prosperous merchants, members of the dramatic and musical world, these all
came; and none were too lowly, nor too great, to receive the sympathetic
consideration of this holy Messenger, Who was ever giving His life for
others’ good.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s first public appearance before a western audience
significantly enough took place in a Christian house of worship, when, on
September 10, 1911, He addressed an overflowing congregation from the
pulpit of the City Temple. Introduced by the Pastor, the Reverend R. J.
Campbell, He, in simple and moving language, and with vibrant voice,
proclaimed the unity of God, affirmed the fundamental oneness of religion,
and announced that the hour of the unity of the sons of men, of all races,
religions and classes had struck. On another occasion, on September 17, at
the request of the Venerable Archdeacon Wilberforce, He addressed the
congregation of St. John the Divine, at Westminster, after evening
service, choosing as His theme the transcendental greatness of the
Godhead, as affirmed and elucidated by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán.
“The Archdeacon,” wrote a contemporary of that event, “had the Bishop’s
chair placed for his Guest on the chancel steps, and, standing beside Him,
read the translation of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s address himself. The congregation
was profoundly moved, and, following the Archdeacon’s example, knelt to
receive the blessing of the Servant of God—Who stood with extended
arms—His wonderful voice rising and falling in the silence with the power
of His invocation.”

At the invitation of the Lord Mayor of London He breakfasted with him at
the Mansion House; addressed the Theosophical Society at their
headquarters, at the express request of their President, and also a
Meeting of the Higher Thought center in London; was invited by a
deputation from the Bramo-Somaj Society to deliver a lecture under their
auspices; visited and delivered an address on world unity at the Mosque at
Woking, at the invitation of the Muslim Community of Great Britain, and
was entertained by Persian princes, noblemen, ex-ministers and members of
the Persian Legation in London. He stayed as a guest in Dr. T. K. Cheyne’s
home in Oxford, and He delivered an address to “a large and deeply
interested audience,” highly academic in character, gathered at Manchester
College in that city, and presided over by Dr. Estlin Carpenter. He also
spoke from the pulpit of a Congregational Church in the East End of
London, in response to the request of its Pastor; addressed gatherings in
Caxton Hall and Westminster Hall, the latter under the chairmanship of Sir
Thomas Berkeley, and witnessed a performance of “Eager Heart,” a Christmas
mystery play at the Church House, Westminster, the first dramatic
performance He had ever beheld, and which in its graphic depiction of the
life and sufferings of Jesus Christ moved Him to tears. In the Hall of the
Passmore Edwards’ Settlement, in Tavistock Place, he spoke to an audience
of about four hundred and sixty representative people, presided over by
Prof. Michael Sadler, called on a number of working women of that
Settlement, who were on holiday at Vanners’, in Byfleet, some twenty miles
out of London, and paid a second visit there, meeting on that occasion
people of every condition who had specially gathered to see Him, among
whom were “the clergy of several denominations, a headmaster of a boys’
public school, a member of Parliament, a doctor, a famous political
writer, the vice-chancellor of a university, several journalists, a
well-known poet, and a magistrate from London.” “He will long be
remembered,” wrote a chronicler of His visit to England, describing that
occasion, “as He sat in the bow window in the afternoon sunshine, His arm
round a very ragged but very happy little boy who had come to ask
‘Abdu’l-Bahá for sixpence for his money box and for his invalid mother,
whilst round Him in the room were gathered men and women discussing
Education, Socialism, the first Reform Bill, and the relation of
submarines and wireless telegraphy to the new era on which man is
entering.”

Among those who called on Him during the memorable days He spent in
England and Scotland were the Reverend Archdeacon Wilberforce, the
Reverend R. J. Campbell, the Reverend Rhonddha Williams, the Reverend
Roland Corbet, Lord Lamington, Sir Richard and Lady Stapley, Sir Michael
Sadler, the Jalálu’d-Dawlih, son of the Zillu’s-Sulṭán, Sir Ameer Ali, the
late Maharaja of Jalawar, who paid Him many visits and gave an elaborate
dinner and reception in His honor, the Maharaja of Rajputana, the Ranee of
Sarawak, Princess Karadja, Baroness Barnekov, Lady Wemyss and her sister,
Lady Glencomer, Lady Agnew, Miss Constance Maud, Prof. E. G. Browne, Prof.
Patrick Geddes, Mr. Albert Dawson, editor of the Christian Commonwealth,
Mr. David Graham Pole, Mrs. Annie Besant, Mrs. Pankhurst, and Mr. Stead,
who had long and earnest conversations with Him. “Very numerous,” His
hostess, describing the impression produced on those who were accorded by
Him the privilege of a private audience, has written, “were these
applicants for so unique an experience, how unique only those knew when in
the presence of the Master, and we could partly divine, as we saw the look
on their faces as they emerged—a look as though blended of awe, of
marveling, and of a certain calm joy. Sometimes we were conscious of
reluctance in them to come forth into the outer world, as though they
would hold fast to their beatitude, lest the return of things of earth
should wrest it from them.” “A profound impression,” the aforementioned
chronicler has recorded, summing up the results produced by that memorable
visit, “remained in the minds and memories of all sorts and conditions of
men and women.... Very greatly was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sojourn in London
appreciated; very greatly His departure regretted. He left behind Him
many, many friends. His love had kindled love. His heart had opened to the
West, and the Western heart had closed around this patriarchal presence
from the East. His words had in them something that appealed not only to
their immediate hearers, but to men and women generally.”

His visits to Paris, where for a time He occupied an apartment in the
Avenue de Camoens, were marked by a warmth of welcome no less remarkable
than the reception accorded Him by His friends and followers in London.
“During the Paris visit,” that same devoted English hostess, Lady
Blomfield, who had followed Him to that city, has testified, “as it had
been in London, daily happenings took on the atmosphere of spiritual
events.... Every morning, according to His custom, the Master expounded
the principles of the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh to those who gathered round
Him, the learned and the unlearned, eager and respectful. They were of all
nationalities and creeds, from the East and from the West, including
Theosophists, agnostics, materialists, spiritualists, Christian
Scientists, social reformers, Hindus, Sufis, Muslims, Buddhists,
Zoroastrians and many others.” And again: “Interview followed interview.
Church dignitaries of various branches of the Christian Tree came, some
earnestly desirous of finding new aspects of the Truth.... Others there
were who stopped their ears, lest they should hear and understand.”

Persian princes, noblemen and ex-ministers, among them the Zillu’s-Sulṭán,
the Persian Minister, the Turkish Ambassador in Paris, Ra_sh_íd Pá_sh_á,
an ex-valí of Beirut, Turkish pá_sh_ás and ex-ministers, and Viscount
Arawaka, Japanese Ambassador to the Court of Spain, were among those who
had the privilege of attaining His presence. Gatherings of Esperantists
and Theosophists, students of the Faculty of Theology and large audiences
at l’Alliance Spiritualiste were addressed by Him; at a Mission Hall, in a
very poor quarter of the city, He addressed a congregation at the
invitation of the Pastor, whilst in numerous meetings of His followers
those already familiar with His teachings were privileged to hear from His
lips detailed and frequent expositions of certain aspects of His Father’s
Faith.

In Stuttgart, where He made a brief but never-to-be-forgotten stay, and to
which He traveled in spite of ill-health in order to establish personal
contact with the members of the community of His enthusiastic and dearly
beloved German friends, He, apart from attending the gatherings of His
devoted followers, bestowed His abundant blessings on the members of the
Youth group, gathered at Esslingen, and addressed, at the invitation of
Professor Christale, President of the Esperantists of Europe, a large
meeting of Esperantists at their club. He, moreover, visited Bad
Mergentheim, in Württemberg, where a few years later (1915) a monument was
erected in memory of His visit by one of His grateful disciples. “The
humility, love and devotion of the German believers,” wrote an eyewitness,
“rejoiced the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and they received His blessings and
His words of encouraging counsel in complete submissiveness. ...Friends
came from far and near to see the Master. There was a constant flow of
visitors at the Hotel Marquart. There ‘Abdu’l-Bahá received them with such
love and graciousness that they became radiant with joy and happiness.”

In Vienna, where He stayed a few days, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed a gathering
of Theosophists in that city, whilst in Budapest He granted an interview
to the President of the University, met on a number of occasions the
famous Orientalist Prof. Arminius Vambery, addressed the Theosophical
Society, and was visited by the President of the Turanian, and
representatives of the Turkish Societies, army officers, several members
of Parliament, and a deputation of Young Turks, led by Prof. Julius
Germanus, who accorded Him a hearty welcome to the city. “During this
time,” is the written testimony of Dr. Rusztem Vambery, “His
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá) room in the Dunapalota Hotel became a veritable mecca for
all those whom the mysticism of the East and the wisdom of its Master
attracted into its magic circle. Among His visitors were Count Albert
Apponyi, Prelate Alexander Giesswein, Professor Ignatius Goldziher, the
Orientalist of world-wide renown, Professor Robert A. Nadler, the famous
Budapest painter, and leader of the Hungarian Theosophical Society.”

It was reserved, however, for the North American continent to witness the
most astonishing manifestation of the boundless vitality ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
exhibited in the course of these journeys. The remarkable progress
achieved by the organized community of His followers in the United States
and Canada, the marked receptivity of the American public to His Message,
as well as His consciousness of the high destiny awaiting the people of
that continent, fully warranted the expenditure of time and energy which
he devoted to this most important phase of His travels. A visit which
entailed a journey of over five thousand miles, which lasted from April to
December, which carried Him from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast and
back, which elicited discourses of such number as to fill no less than
three volumes, was to mark the climax of those journeys, and was fully
justified by the far-reaching results which He well knew such labors on
His part would produce. “This long voyage,” He told His assembled
followers on the occasion of His first meeting with them in New York,
“will prove how great is My love for you. There were many troubles and
vicissitudes, but in the thought of meeting you, all these things vanished
and were forgotten.”

The character of the acts He performed fully demonstrated the importance
He attached to that visit. The laying, with His own hands, of the
dedication stone of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár, by the shore of Lake
Michigan, in the vicinity of Chicago, on the recently purchased property,
and in the presence of a representative gathering of Bahá’ís from East and
West; the dynamic affirmation by Him of the implications of the Covenant
instituted by Bahá’u’lláh, following the reading of the newly translated
Tablet of the Branch, in a general assembly of His followers in New York,
designated henceforth as the “City of the Covenant”; the moving ceremony
in Inglewood, California, marking His special pilgrimage to the grave of
Thornton Chase, the “first American believer,” and indeed the first to
embrace the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh in the Western world; the symbolic Feast
He Himself offered to a large gathering of His disciples assembled in the
open air, and in the green setting of a June day at West Englewood, in New
Jersey; the blessing He bestowed on the Open Forum at Green Acre, in
Maine, on the banks of the Piscataqua River, where many of His followers
had gathered, and which was to evolve into one of the first Bahá’í summer
schools of the Western Hemisphere and be recognized as one of the earliest
endowments established in the American continent; His address to an
audience of several hundred attending the last session of the
newly-founded Bahá’í Temple Unity held in Chicago; and, last but not
least, the exemplary act He performed by uniting in wedlock two of His
followers of different nationalities, one of the white, the other of the
Negro race—these must rank among the outstanding functions associated with
His visit to the community of the American believers, functions designed
to pave the way for the erection of their central House of Worship, to
fortify them against the tests they were soon to endure, to cement their
unity, and to bless the beginnings of that Administrative Order which they
were soon to initiate and champion.

No less remarkable were ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s public activities in the course of
His association with the multitude of people with whom He came in contact
during His tour across a continent. A full account of these diversified
activities which crowded His days during no less than eight months, would
be beyond the scope of this survey. Suffice it to say that in the city of
New York alone He delivered public addresses in, and made formal visits
to, no less than fifty-five different places. Peace societies, Christian
and Jewish congregations, colleges and universities, welfare and
charitable organizations, members of ethical cults, New Thought centers,
metaphysical groups, Women’s clubs, scientific associations, gatherings of
Esperantists, Theosophists, Mormons, and agnostics, institutions for the
advancement of the colored people, representatives of the Syrian, the
Armenian, the Greek, the Chinese, and Japanese communities—all were
brought into contact with His dynamic presence, and were privileged to
hear from His lips His Father’s Message. Nor was the press either in its
editorial comment or in the publication of reports of His lectures, slow
to appreciate the breadth of His vision or the character of His summons.

His discourse at the Peace Conferences at Lake Mohonk; His addresses to
large gatherings at Columbia, Howard and New York Universities; His
participation in the fourth annual conference of the National Association
for the Advancement of the Colored People; His fearless assertion of the
truth of the prophetic Missions of both Jesus Christ and Muḥammad in
Temple Emmanu-El, a Jewish synagogue in San Francisco, where no less than
two thousand people were gathered; His illuminating discourse before an
audience of eighteen hundred students and one hundred and eighty teachers
and professors at Leland Stanford University; His memorable visit to the
Bowery Mission in the slums of New York; the brilliant reception given in
His honor in Washington, at which many outstanding figures in the social
life of the capital were presented to Him—these stand out as the
highlights of the unforgettable Mission He undertook in the service of His
Father’s Cause. Secretaries of State, Ambassadors, Congressmen,
distinguished rabbis and churchmen, and other people of eminence attained
His presence, among whom were such figures as Dr. D. S. Jordan, President
of Leland Stanford University, Prof. Jackson of Columbia University, Prof.
Jack of Oxford University, Rabbi Stephen Wise of New York, Dr. Martin A.
Meyer, Rabbi Joseph L. Levy, Rabbi Abram Simon, Alexander Graham Bell,
Rabindranath Tagore, Hon. Franklin K. Lane, Mrs. William Jennings Bryan,
Andrew Carnegie, Hon. Franklin MacVeagh, Secretary of the United States
Treasury, Lee McClung, Mr. Roosevelt, Admiral Wain Wright, Admiral Peary,
the British, Dutch and Swiss Ministers in Washington, Yúsúf Díyá Pá_sh_á,
the Turkish Ambassador in that city, Thomas Seaton, Hon. William Sulzer
and Prince Muḥammad-‘Alí of Egypt, the Khedive’s brother.

“When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited this country for the first time in 1912,” a
commentator on His American travels has written, “He found a large and
sympathetic audience waiting to greet Him personally and to receive from
His own lips His loving and spiritual message. ...Beyond the words spoken
there was something indescribable in His personality that impressed
profoundly all who came into His presence. The dome-like head, the
patriarchal beard, the eyes that seemed to have looked beyond the reach of
time and sense, the soft yet clearly penetrating voice, the translucent
humility, the never failing love,—but above all, the sense of power
mingled with gentleness that invested His whole being with a rare majesty
of spiritual exaltation that both set Him apart, and yet that brought Him
near to the lowliest soul,—it was all this, and much more that can never
be defined, that have left with His many ... friends, memories that are
ineffaceable and unspeakably precious.”

A survey, however inadequate of the varied and immense activities of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His tour of Europe and America cannot leave without
mention some of the strange incidents that would often accompany personal
contact with Him. The bold determination of a certain indomitable youth
who, fearing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would not be able to visit the Western states,
and unable himself to pay for a train journey to New England, had traveled
all the way from Minneapolis to Maine lying on the rods between the wheels
of a train; the transformation effected in the life of the son of a
country rector in England, who, in his misery and poverty, had resolved,
whilst walking along the banks of the Thames, to put an end to his
existence, and who, at the sight of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s photograph displayed in
a shop window, had inquired about Him, hurried to His residence, and been
so revived by His words of cheer and comfort as to abandon all thought of
self-destruction; the extraordinary experience of a woman whose little
girl, as the result of a dream she had had, insisted that Jesus Christ was
in the world, and who, at the sight of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s picture exposed in
the window of a magazine store, had instantly identified it as that of the
Jesus Christ of her dream—an act which impelled her mother, after reading
that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in Paris, to take the next boat for Europe and
hasten to attain His presence; the decision of the editor of a journal
printed in Japan to break his journey to Tokyo at Constantinople, and
travel to London for “the joy of spending one evening in His presence”;
the touching scene when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, receiving from the hands of a
Persian friend, recently arrived in London from I_sh_qábád, a cotton
handkerchief containing a piece of dry black bread and a shrivelled
apple—the offering of a poor Bahá’í workman in that city—opened it before
His assembled guests, and, leaving His luncheon untouched, broke pieces
off that bread, and partaking Himself of it shared it with those who were
present—these are but a few of a host of incidents that shed a revealing
light on some personal aspects of His memorable journeys.

Nor can certain scenes revolving around that majestic and patriarchal
Figure, as He moved through the cities of Europe and America, be ever
effaced from memory. The remarkable interview at which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, while
placing lovingly His hand on the head of Archdeacon Wilberforce, answered
his many questions, whilst that distinguished churchman sat on a low chair
by His side; the still more remarkable scene when that same Archdeacon,
after having knelt with his entire congregation to receive His benediction
at St. John’s the Divine, passed down the aisle to the vestry hand in hand
with his Guest, whilst a hymn was being sung by the entire assembly
standing; the sight of Jalálu’d-Dawlih, fallen prostrate at His feet,
profuse in his apologies and imploring His forgiveness for his past
iniquities; the enthusiastic reception accorded Him at Leland Stanford
University when, before the gaze of well nigh two thousand professors and
students, He discoursed on some of the noblest truths underlying His
message to the West; the touching spectacle at Bowery Mission when four
hundred of the poor of New York filed past Him, each receiving a piece of
silver from His blessed hands; the acclamation of a Syrian woman in Boston
who, pushing aside the crowd that had gathered around Him, flung herself
at His feet, exclaiming, “I confess that in Thee I have recognized the
Spirit of God and Jesus Christ Himself”; the no less fervent tribute paid
Him by two admiring Arabs who, as He was leaving that city for Dublin, N.
H., cast themselves before Him, and, sobbing aloud, avowed that He was
God’s own Messenger to mankind; the vast congregation of two thousand Jews
assembled in a synagogue in San Francisco, intently listening to His
discourse as He demonstrated the validity of the claims advanced by both
Jesus Christ and Muḥammad; the gathering He addressed one night in
Montreal, at which, in the course of His speech, His turban fell from His
head, so carried away was He by the theme He was expounding; the
boisterous crowd in a very poor quarter of Paris, who, awed by His
presence, reverently and silently made way for Him as He passed through
their midst, while returning from a Mission Hall whose congregation He had
been addressing; the characteristic gesture of a Zoroastrian physician
who, arriving in breathless haste on the morning of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
departure from London to bid Him farewell, anointed with fragrant oil
first His head and His breast, and then, touching the hands of all
present, placed round His neck and shoulders a garland of rosebuds and
lilies; the crowd of visitors arriving soon after dawn, patiently waiting
on the doorsteps of His house in Cadogan Gardens until the door would be
opened for their admittance; His majestic figure as He paced with a
vigorous step the platform, or stood with hands upraised to pronounce the
benediction, in church and synagogue alike, and before vast audiences of
reverent listeners; the unsolicited mark of respect shown Him by
distinguished society women in London, who would spontaneously curtsy when
ushered into His presence; the poignant sight when He stooped low to the
grave of His beloved disciple, Thornton Chase, in Inglewood Cemetery, and
kissed his tombstone, an example which all those present hastened to
follow; the distinguished gathering of Christians, Jews and Muslims, men
and women and representative of both the East and the West, assembled to
hear His discourse on world unity in the mosque at Woking—such scenes as
these, even in the cold record of the printed page, must still have much
of their original impressiveness and power.

Who knows what thoughts flooded the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as He found
Himself the central figure of such memorable scenes as these? Who knows
what thoughts were uppermost in His mind as He sat at breakfast beside the
Lord Mayor of London, or was received with extraordinary deference by the
Khedive himself in his palace, or as He listened to the cries of
“Alláh-u-Abhá” and to the hymns of thanksgiving and praise that would
herald His approach to the numerous and brilliant assemblages of His
enthusiastic followers and friends organized in so many cities of the
American continent? Who knows what memories stirred within Him as He stood
before the thundering waters of Niagara, breathing the free air of a far
distant land, or gazed, in the course of a brief and much-needed rest,
upon the green woods and countryside in Glenwood Springs, or moved with a
retinue of Oriental believers along the paths of the Trocadero gardens in
Paris, or walked alone in the evening beside the majestic Hudson on
Riverside Drive in New York, or as He paced the terrace of the Hotel du
Parc at Thonon-les-Bains, overlooking the Lake of Geneva, or as He watched
from Serpentine Bridge in London the pearly chain of lights beneath the
trees stretching as far as the eye could see? Memories of the sorrows, the
poverty, the overhanging doom of His earlier years; memories of His mother
who sold her gold buttons to provide Him, His brother and His sister with
sustenance, and who was forced, in her darkest hours, to place a handful
of dry flour in the palm of His hand to appease His hunger; of His own
childhood when pursued and derided by a mob of ruffians in the streets of
Ṭihrán; of the damp and gloomy room, formerly a morgue, which He occupied
in the barracks of Akká and of His imprisonment in the dungeon of that
city—memories such as these must surely have thronged His mind. Thoughts,
too, must have visited Him of the Báb’s captivity in the mountain
fastnesses of Á_dh_irbayján, when at night time He was refused even a
lamp, and of His cruel and tragic execution when hundreds of bullets
riddled His youthful breast. Above all His thoughts must have centered on
Bahá’u’lláh, Whom He loved so passionately and Whose trials He had
witnessed and had shared from His boyhood. The vermin-infested
Síyáh-_Ch_ál of Ṭihrán; the bastinado inflicted upon Him in Ámul; the
humble fare which filled His ka_sh_kúl while He lived for two years the
life of a dervish in the mountains of Kurdistán; the days in Ba_gh_dád
when He did not even possess a change of linen, and when His followers
subsisted on a handful of dates; His confinement behind the prison-walls
of Akká, when for nine years even the sight of verdure was denied Him; and
the public humiliation to which He was subjected at government
headquarters in that city—pictures from the tragic past such as these must
have many a time overpowered Him with feelings of mingled gratitude and
sorrow, as He witnessed the many marks of respect, of esteem, and honor
now shown Him and the Faith which He represented. “O Bahá’u’lláh! What
hast Thou done?” He, as reported by the chronicler of His travels, was
heard to exclaim one evening as He was being swiftly driven to fulfil His
third engagement of the day in Washington, “O Bahá’u’lláh! May my life be
sacrificed for Thee! O Bahá’u’lláh! May my soul be offered up for Thy
sake! How full were Thy days with trials and tribulations! How severe the
ordeals Thou didst endure! How solid the foundation Thou hast finally
laid, and how glorious the banner Thou didst hoist!” “One day, as He was
strolling,” that same chronicler has testified, “He called to remembrance
the days of the Blessed Beauty, referring with sadness to His sojourn in
Sulaymáníyyih, to His loneliness and to the wrongs inflicted upon Him.
Though He had often recounted that episode, that day He was so overcome
with emotion that He sobbed aloud in His grief.... All His attendants wept
with Him, and were plunged into sorrow as they heard the tale of the
woeful trials endured by the Ancient Beauty, and witnessed the tenderness
of heart manifested by His Son.”

A most significant scene in a century-old drama had been enacted. A
glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá’í century had been
written. Seeds of undreamt-of potentialities had, with the hand of the
Center of the Covenant Himself, been sown in some of the fertile fields of
the Western world. Never in the entire range of religious history had any
Figure of comparable stature arisen to perform a labor of such magnitude
and imperishable worth. Forces were unleashed through those fateful
journeys which even now, at a distance of well nigh thirty-five years, we
are unable to measure or comprehend. Already a Queen, inspired by the
powerful arguments adduced by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the course of His addresses
in support of the Divinity of Muḥammad, has proclaimed her faith, and
borne public testimony to the Divine origin of the Prophet of Islám.
Already a President of the United States, imbibing some of the principles
so clearly enunciated by Him in His discourses, has incorporated them in a
Peace Program which stands out as the boldest and noblest proposal yet
made for the well-being and security of mankind. And already, alas! a
world which proved deaf to His warnings and refused to heed His summons
has plunged itself into two global wars of unprecedented severity, the
repercussions of which none as yet can even dimly visualize.



Chapter XX: Growth and Expansion of the Faith in East and West


‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s historic journeys to the West, and in particular His
eight-month tour of the United States of America, may be said to have
marked the culmination of His ministry, a ministry whose untold blessings
and stupendous achievements only future generations can adequately
estimate. As the day-star of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation had shone forth in
its meridian splendor at the hour of the proclamation of His Message to
the rulers of the earth in the city of Adrianople, so did the Orb of His
Covenant mount its zenith and shed its brightest rays when He Who was its
appointed Center arose to blazon the glory and greatness of His Father’s
Faith among the peoples of the West.

That divinely instituted Covenant had, shortly after its inception,
demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt its invincible strength through
its decisive triumph over the dark forces which its Arch-Breaker had with
such determination arrayed against it. Its energizing power had soon after
been proclaimed through the signal victories which its torch-bearers had
so rapidly and courageously won in the far-off cities of Western Europe
and the United States of America. Its high claims had, moreover, been
fully vindicated through its ability to safeguard the unity and integrity
of the Faith in both the East and the West. It had subsequently given
further proof of its indomitable strength by the memorable victory it
registered through the downfall of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, and the
consequent release of its appointed Center from a forty-year captivity. It
had provided for those still inclined to doubt its Divine origin yet
another indisputable testimony to its solidity by enabling ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
in the face of formidable obstacles, to effect the transfer and the final
entombment of the Báb’s remains in a mausoleum on Mt. Carmel. It had
manifested also before all mankind, with a force and in a measure hitherto
unapproached, its vast potentialities when it empowered Him in Whom its
spirit and its purpose were enshrined to embark on a three-year-long
mission to the Western world—a mission so momentous that it deserves to
rank as the greatest exploit ever to be associated with His ministry.

Nor were these, preeminent though they were, the sole fruits garnered
through the indefatigable efforts exerted so heroically by the Center of
that Covenant. The progress and extension of His Father’s Faith in the
East; the initiation of activities and enterprises which may be said to
signalize the beginnings of a future Administrative Order; the erection of
the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world in the city of
I_sh_qábád in Russian Turkistán; the expansion of Bahá’í literature; the
revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan; and the introduction of the
Faith in the Australian continent—these may be regarded as the outstanding
achievements that have embellished the brilliant record of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
unique ministry.

In Persia, the cradle of the Faith, despite the persecutions which,
throughout the years of that ministry, persisted with unabated violence, a
noticeable change, marking the gradual emergence of a proscribed community
from its hitherto underground existence, could be clearly discerned.
Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, four years after Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, had, on the
eve of his jubilee, designed to mark a turning-point in the history of his
country, met his death at the hands of an assassin, named Mírzá Riḍá, a
follower of the notorious Siyyid Jamálu’d-Dín-i-Af_gh_ání, an enemy of the
Faith and one of the originators of the constitutional movement which, as
it gathered momentum, during the reign of the _Sh_áh’s son and successor,
Muzaffari’d-Dín, was destined to involve in further difficulties an
already hounded and persecuted community. Even the _Sh_áh’s assassination
had at first been laid at the door of that community, as evidenced by the
cruel death suffered, immediately after the murder of the sovereign, by
the renowned teacher and poet, Mírzá ‘Alí-Muḥammad, surnamed “Varqá”
(Dove) by Bahá’u’lláh, who, together with his twelve-year-old son,
Rúhu’lláh, was inhumanly put to death in the prison of Ṭihrán, by the
brutal Ḥajíbu’d-Dawlih, who, after thrusting his dagger into the belly of
the father and cutting him into pieces, before the eyes of his son,
adjured the boy to recant, and, meeting with a blunt refusal, strangled
him with a rope.

Three years previously a youth, named Muḥammad-Riḍáy-i-Yazdí, was shot in
Yazd, on the night of his wedding while proceeding from the public bath to
his home, the first to suffer martyrdom during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry. In
Turbát-i-Haydaríyyih, in consequence of the _Sh_áh’s assassination, five
persons, known as the _Sh_uhadáy-i-_Kh_amsíh (Five Martyrs), were put to
death. In Ma_sh_had a well-known merchant, Ḥájí Muḥammad-i-Tabrízí, was
murdered and his corpse set on fire. An interview was granted by the new
sovereign and his Grand Vizir, the unprincipled and reactionary Mírzá
‘Alí-Aṣ_gh_ar _Kh_án, the Atábik-i-A’ẓam, to two representative followers
of the Faith in Paris (1902), but it produced no real results whatever. On
the contrary, a fresh storm of persecutions broke out a few years later,
persecutions which, as the constitutional movement developed in that
country, grew ever fiercer as reactionaries brought groundless accusations
against the Bahá’ís, and publicly denounced them as supporters and
inspirers of the nationalist cause.

A certain Muḥammad-Javád was stripped naked in Iṣfáhán, and was severely
beaten with a whip of braided wires, while in Ká_sh_án the adherents of
the Faith of Jewish extraction were fined, beaten and chained at the
instigation of both the Muḥammadan clergy and the Jewish doctors. It was,
however, in Yazd and its environs that the most bloody outrages committed
during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry occurred. In that city Ḥájí
Mírzáy-i-Ḥalabí-Sáz was so mercilessly flogged that his wife flung herself
upon his body, and was in her turn severely beaten, after which his skull
was lacerated by the cleaver of a butcher. His eleven-year-old son was
pitilessly thrashed, stabbed with penknives and tortured to death. Within
the space of half a day nine people met their death. A crowd of about six
thousand people, of both sexes, vented their fury upon the helpless
victims, a few going so far as to drink their blood. In some instances, as
was the case with a man named Mírzá Asadu’lláh-i-Sabbá_gh_, they plundered
their property and fought over its possession. They evinced such cruelty
that some of the government officials were moved to tears at the sight of
the harrowing scenes in which the women of that city played a
conspicuously shameful part.

In Taft several people were put to death, some of whom were shot and their
bodies dragged through the streets. A newly converted eighteen-year-old
youth, named Ḥusayn, was denounced by his own father, and torn to pieces
before the eyes of his mother, whilst Muḥammad-Kamál was hacked into bits
with knife, spade and pickaxe. In Man_sh_ad, where the persecutions lasted
nineteen days, similar atrocities were perpetrated. An eighty-year-old
man, named Siyyid Mírzá, was instantly killed in his sleep by two huge
stones which were thrown on him; a Mírzá Ṣádiq, who asked for water, had a
knife plunged into his breast, his executioner afterwards licking the
blood from the blade, while _Sh_átír-Ḥasan, one of the victims, was seen
before his death distributing some candy in his possession among the
executioners and dividing among them his clothing. A sixty-five year old
woman, _Kh_adíjih-Sulṭán, was hurled from the roof of a house; a believer
named Mírzá Muḥammad was tied to a tree, made a target for hundreds of
bullets and his body set on fire, whilst another, named Ustád
Riḍáy-i-Saffár, was seen to kiss the hand of his murderer, after which he
was shot and his corpse heaped with insults.

In Banáduk, in Dih-Bálá, in Fará_sh_áh, in Abbás-Ábád, in Hanzá, in
Ardikán, in Dawlat-Ábád and in Hamadán crimes of similar nature were
committed, an outstanding case being that of a highly respected and
courageous woman, named Fátimih-Bagum, who was ignominiously dragged from
her house, her veil was torn from her head, her throat cut across, her
belly ripped open; and having been beaten by the savage crowd with every
weapon they could lay hands on, she was finally suspended from a tree and
delivered to the flames.

In Sarí, in the days when the agitation for the constitution was moving
towards a climax, five believers of recognized standing, known later as
the _Sh_uhadáy-i-_Kh_amsíh (Five Martyrs), were done to death, whilst in
Nayríz a ferocious assault, recalling that of Yazd, was launched by the
enemy, in which nineteen lost their lives, among them the sixty-five year
old Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, a blind man who was shot and his body foully
abused, and in the course of which a considerable amount of property was
plundered, and numerous women and children had to flee for their lives, or
seek refuge in mosques, or live in the ruins of their houses, or remain
shelterless by the wayside.

In Sirján, in Dú_gh_-Ábád, in Tabríz, in Ávih, in Qum, in Najaf-Ábád, in
Sangsar, in _Sh_áhmírzád, in Iṣfáhán, and in Jahrum redoubtable and
remorseless enemies, both religious and political, continued, under
various pretexts, and even after the signing of the Constitution by the
_Sh_áh in 1906, and during the reign of his successors, Muḥammad-‘Alí
_Sh_áh and Aḥmad _Sh_áh, to slay, torture, plunder and abuse the members
of a community who resolutely refused to either recant or deviate a hair’s
breadth from the path laid down for them by their Leaders. Even during
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s journeys to the West, and after His return to the Holy
Land, and indeed till the end of His life, He continued to receive
distressing news of the martyrdom of His followers, and of the outrages
perpetrated against them by an insatiable enemy. In Dawlat-Ábád, a prince
of the royal blood, Habíbu’lláh Mírzá by name, a convert to the Faith who
had consecrated his life to its service, was slain with a hatchet and his
corpse set on fire. In Ma_sh_had the learned and pious _Sh_ay_kh_
‘Alí-Akbar-i-Qu_ch_ání was shot to death. In Sulṭán-Ábád, Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar
and seven members of his family including a forty day old infant were
barbarously massacred. Persecutions of varying degrees of severity broke
out in Ná’in, in _Sh_áhmírzád, in Bandar-i-Jaz and in Qamsar. In
Kirman_sh_áh, the martyr Mírzá Ya’qúb-i-Muttáhidih, the ardent twenty-five
year old Jewish convert to the Faith, was the last to lay down his life
during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry; and his mother, according to his own
instructions, celebrated his martyrdom in Hamadán with exemplary
fortitude. In every instance the conduct of the believers testified to the
indomitable spirit and unyielding tenacity that continued to distinguish
the lives and services of the Persian followers of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh.

Despite these intermittent severe persecutions the Faith that had evoked
in its heroes so rare a spirit of self-sacrifice was steadily and silently
growing. Engulfed for a time and almost extinguished in the sombre days
following the martyrdom of the Báb, driven underground throughout the
period of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry, it began, after His ascension, under the
unerring guidance, and as a result of the unfailing solicitude, of a wise,
a vigilant and loving Master, to gather its forces, and gradually to erect
the embryonic institutions which were to pave the way for the
establishment, at a later period, of its Administrative Order. It was
during this period that the number of its adherents rapidly multiplied,
that its range, now embracing every province of that kingdom, steadily
widened, and the rudimentary forms of its future Assemblies were
inaugurated. It was during this period, at a time when state schools and
colleges were practically non-existent in that country, and when the
education given in existing religious institutions was lamentably
defective, that its earliest schools were established, beginning with the
Tarbíyat, schools in Ṭihrán for both boys and girls, and followed by the
Ta’yíd and Mawhibat schools in Hamadán, the Vahdat-i-Ba_sh_ar school in
Ká_sh_án and other similar educational institutions in Barfurú_sh_ and
Qazvín. It was during these years that concrete and effectual assistance,
both spiritual and material, in the form of visiting teachers from both
Europe and America, of nurses, instructors, and physicians, was first
extended to the Bahá’í community in that land, these workers constituting
the vanguard of that host of helpers which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá promised would
arise in time to further the interests of the Faith as well as those of
the country in which it was born. It was in the course of these years that
the term Bábí, as an appellation, designating the followers of Bahá’u’lláh
in that country, was universally discarded by the masses in favor of the
word Bahá’í, the former henceforth being exclusively applied to the fast
dwindling number of the followers of Mírzá Yaḥyá. During this period,
moreover, the first systematic attempts were made to organize and
stimulate the teaching work undertaken by the Persian believers, attempts
which, apart from reinforcing the foundations of the community, were
instrumental in attracting to its cause several outstanding figures in the
public life of that country, not excluding certain prominent members of
the _Sh_í’ah sacerdotal order, and even descendants of some of the worst
persecutors of the Faith. It was during the years of that ministry that
the House of the Báb in _Sh_íráz, ordained by Bahá’u’lláh as a center of
pilgrimage for His followers, and now so recognized, was by order of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and through His assistance, restored, and that it became
increasingly a focus of Bahá’í life and activity for those who were
deprived by circumstances of visiting either the Most Great House in
Ba_gh_dád or the Most Holy Tomb in Akká.

More conspicuous than any of these undertakings, however, was the erection
of the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world in the city of
I_sh_qábád, a center founded in the days of Bahá’u’lláh, where the initial
steps preparatory to its construction, had been already undertaken during
His lifetime. Initiated at about the close of the first decade of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry (1902); fostered by Him at every stage in its
development; personally supervised by the venerable Ḥájí Mírzá
Muḥammad-Taqí, the Vakílu’d-Dawlih, a cousin of the Báb, who dedicated his
entire resources to its establishment, and whose dust now reposes at the
foot of Mt. Carmel under the shadow of the Tomb of his beloved Kinsman;
carried out according to the directions laid down by the Center of the
Covenant Himself; a lasting witness to the fervor and the self-sacrifice
of the Oriental believers who were resolved to execute the bidding of
Bahá’u’lláh as revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, this enterprise must rank
not only as the first major undertaking launched through the concerted
efforts of His followers in the Heroic Age of His Faith, but as one of the
most brilliant and enduring achievements in the history of the first
Bahá’í century.

The edifice itself, the foundation stone of which was laid in the presence
of General Krupatkin, the governor-general of Turkistán, who had been
delegated by the Czar to represent him at the ceremony, has thus been
minutely described by a Bahá’í visitor from the West: “The
Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár stands in the heart of the city; its high dome
standing out above the trees and house tops being visible for miles to the
travelers as they approach the town. It is in the center of a garden
bounded by four streets. In the four corners of this enclosure are four
buildings: one is the Bahá’í school; one is the traveler’s house, where
pilgrims and wayfarers are lodged; one is for the keepers, while the
fourth one is to be used as a hospital. Nine radial avenues approach the
Temple from the several parts of the grounds, one of which, the principal
approach to the building, leads from the main gateway of the grounds to
the principal portal of the Temple.” “In plan,” he further adds, “the
building is composed of three sections; namely, the central rotunda, the
aisle or ambulatory which surrounds it, and the loggia which surrounds the
entire building. It is built on the plan of a regular polygon of nine
sides. One side is occupied by the monumental main entrance, flanked by
minarets—a high arched portico extending two stories in height recalling
in arrangement the architecture of the world famous Taj Mahal at Agra in
India, the delight of the world to travelers, many of whom pronounce it to
be the most beautiful temple in the world. Thus the principal doorway
opens toward the direction of the Holy land. The entire building is
surrounded by two series of loggias—one upper and one lower—which opens
out upon the garden giving a very beautiful architectural effect in
harmony with the luxuriant semi-tropical vegetation which fills the
garden... The interior walls of the rotunda are treated in five distinct
stories. First, a series of nine arches and piers which separate the
rotunda from the ambulatory. Second, a similar treatment with balustrades
which separate the triforium gallery (which is above the ambulatory and is
reached by two staircases in the loggias placed one on either side of the
main entrance) from the well of the rotunda. Third, a series of nine blank
arches filled with fretwork, between which are escutcheons bearing the
Greatest Name. Fourth, a series of nine large arched windows. Fifth, a
series of eighteen bull’s eye windows. Above and resting on a cornice
surmounting this last story rises the inner hemispherical shell of the
dome. The interior is elaborately decorated in plaster relief work... The
whole structure impresses one by its mass and strength.”

Nor should mention be omitted of the two schools for boys and girls which
were established in that city, of the pilgrim house instituted in the
close vicinity of the Temple, of the Spiritual Assembly and its auxiliary
bodies formed to administer the affairs of a growing community, and of the
new centers of activity inaugurated in various towns and cities in the
province of Turkistán—all testifying to the vitality which the Faith had
displayed ever since its inception in that land.

A parallel if less spectacular development could be observed in the
Caucasus. After the establishment of the first center and the formation of
an Assembly in Bákú, a city which Bahá’í pilgrims, traveling in increasing
numbers from Persia to the Holy Land via Turkey, invariably visited, new
groups began to be organized, and, evolving later into well-established
communities, cooperated in increasing measure with their brethren both in
Turkistán and Persia.

In Egypt a steady increase in the number of the adherents of the Faith was
accompanied by a general expansion in its activities. The establishments
of new centers; the consolidation of the chief center established in
Cairo; the conversion, largely through the indefatigable efforts of the
learned Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl, of several prominent students and teachers of
the Azhar University—premonitory symptoms foreshadowing the advent of the
promised day on which, according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the standard and emblem
of the Faith would be implanted in the heart of that time-honored Islamic
seat of learning; the translation into Arabic and the dissemination of
some of the most important writings of Bahá’u’lláh revealed in Persian,
together with other Bahá’í literature; the printing of books, treatises
and pamphlets by Bahá’í authors and scholars; the publication of articles
in the Press written in defense of the Faith and for the purpose of
broadcasting its message; the formation of rudimentary administrative
institutions in the capital as well as in nearby centers; the enrichment
of the life of the community through the addition of converts of Kurdish,
Coptic, and Armenian origin—these may be regarded as the first fruits
garnered in a country which, blessed by the footsteps of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
was, in later years, to play a historic part in the emancipation of the
Faith, and which, by virtue of its unique position as the intellectual
center of both the Arab and Islamic worlds, must inevitably assume a
notable and decisive share of responsibility in the final establishment of
that Faith throughout the East.

Even more remarkable was the expansion of Bahá’í activity in India and
Burma, where a steadily growing community, now including among its members
representatives of the Zoroastrian, the Islamic, the Hindu and the
Buddhist Faiths, as well as members of the Sikh community, succeeded in
establishing its outposts, as far as Mandalay and the village of Daidanaw
Kalazoo, in the Hanthawaddy district of Burma, at which latter place no
less than eight hundred Bahá’ís resided, possessing a school, a court, and
a hospital of their own, as well as land for community cultivation, the
proceeds of which they devoted to the furtherance of the interests of
their Faith.

In ‘Iráq, where the House occupied by Bahá’u’lláh was entirely restored
and renovated, and where a small yet intrepid community struggled in the
face of constant opposition to regulate and administer its affairs; in
Constantinople, where a Bahá’í center was established; in Tunis where the
foundations of a local community were firmly laid; in Japan, in China, and
in Honolulu to which Bahá’í teachers traveled, and where they settled and
taught—in all of these places the manifold evidences of the guiding hand
of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the tangible effects of His sleepless vigilance and
unfailing care could be clearly perceived.

Nor did the nascent communities established in France, England, Germany
and the United States cease to receive, after His memorable visits to
those countries, further tokens of His special interest in, and solicitude
for, their welfare and spiritual advancement. It was in consequence of His
directions and the unceasing flow of His Tablets, addressed to the members
of these communities, as well as His constant encouragement of the efforts
they were exerting, that Bahá’í centers steadily multiplied, that public
meetings were organized, that new periodicals were published, that
translations of some of the best known works of Bahá’u’lláh and of the
Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were printed and circulated in the English, the
French, and German languages, and that the initial attempts to organize
the affairs, and consolidate the foundations, of these newly established
communities were undertaken.

In the North American continent, more particularly, the members of a
flourishing community, inspired by the blessings bestowed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
as well as by His example and the acts He performed in the course of His
prolonged visit to their country, gave an earnest of the magnificent
enterprise they were to carry through in later years. They purchased the
twelve remaining lots forming part of the site of their projected Temple,
selected, during the sessions of their 1920 Convention, the design of the
French Canadian Bahá’í architect, Louis Bourgeois, placed the contract for
the excavation and the laying of its foundations, and succeeded soon after
in completing the necessary arrangements for the construction of its
basement: measures which heralded the stupendous efforts which, after
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ascension, culminated in the erection of its superstructure
and the completion of its exterior ornamentation.

The war of 1914–18, repeatedly foreshadowed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the dark
warnings He uttered in the course of His western travels, and which broke
out eight months after His return to the Holy Land, once more cast a
shadow of danger over His life, the last that was to darken the years of
His agitated yet glorious ministry.

The late entry of the United States of America in that world-convulsing
conflict, the neutrality of Persia, the remoteness of India and of the Far
East from the theater of operations, insured the protection of the
overwhelming majority of His followers, who, though for the most part
entirely cut off for a number of years from the spiritual center of their
Faith, were still able to conduct their affairs and safeguard the fruits
of their recent achievements in comparative safety and freedom.

In the Holy Land, however, though the outcome of that tremendous struggle
was to liberate once and for all the Heart and Center of the Faith from
the Turkish yoke, a yoke which had imposed for so long upon its Founder
and His Successor such oppressive and humiliating restrictions, yet severe
privations and grave dangers continued to surround its inhabitants during
the major part of that conflict, and renewed, for a time, the perils which
had confronted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during the years of His incarceration in Akká.
The privations inflicted on the inhabitants by the gross incompetence, the
shameful neglect, the cruelty and callous indifference of both the civil
and military authorities, though greatly alleviated through the bountiful
generosity, the foresight and the tender care of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, were
aggravated by the rigors of a strict blockade. A bombardment of Haifa by
the Allies was a constant threat, at one time so real that it necessitated
the temporary removal of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His family and members of the local
community to the village of Abú-Sínán at the foot of the hills east of
Akká. The Turkish Commander-in-Chief, the brutal, the all-powerful and
unscrupulous Jamál Pá_sh_á, an inveterate enemy of the Faith, through his
own ill-founded suspicions and the instigation of its enemies, had already
grievously afflicted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and even expressed his intention of
crucifying Him and of razing to the ground the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself still suffered from the ill-health and exhaustion
brought on by the fatigues of His three-year journeys. He felt acutely the
virtual stoppage of all communication with most of the Bahá’í centers
throughout the world. Agony filled His soul at the spectacle of human
slaughter precipitated through humanity’s failure to respond to the
summons He had issued, or to heed the warnings He had given. Surely sorrow
upon sorrow was added to the burden of trials and vicissitudes which He,
since His boyhood, had borne so heroically for the sake, and in the
service, of His Father’s Cause.

And yet during these somber days, the darkness of which was reminiscent of
the tribulations endured during the most dangerous period of His
incarceration in the prison-fortress of Akká, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whilst in the
precincts of His Father’s Shrine, or when dwelling in the House He
occupied in Akká, or under the shadow of the Báb’s sepulcher on Mt.
Carmel, was moved to confer once again, and for the last time in His life,
on the community of His American followers a signal mark of His special
favor by investing them, on the eve of the termination of His earthly
ministry, through the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, with a
world mission, whose full implications even now, after the lapse of a
quarter of a century, still remain undisclosed, and whose unfoldment thus
far, though as yet in its initial stages, has so greatly enriched the
spiritual as well as the administrative annals of the first Bahá’í
century.

The conclusion of this terrible conflict, the first stage in a titanic
convulsion long predicted by Bahá’u’lláh, not only marked the extinction
of Turkish rule in the Holy Land and sealed the doom of that military
despot who had vowed to destroy ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but also shattered once and
for all the last hopes still entertained by the remnant of
Covenant-breakers who, untaught by the severe retribution that had already
overtaken them, still aspired to witness the extinction of the light of
Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant. Furthermore, it produced those revolutionary
changes which, on the one hand, fulfilled the ominous predictions made by
Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and enabled, according to Scriptural
prophecy, so large an element of the “outcasts of Israel,” the “remnant”
of the “flock,” to “assemble” in the Holy Land, and to be brought back to
“their folds” and “their own border,” beneath the shadow of the
“Incomparable Branch,” referred to by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His “Some Answered
Questions,” and which, on the other hand, gave birth to the institution of
the League of Nations, the precursor of that World Tribunal which, as
prophesied by that same “Incomparable Branch,” the peoples and nations of
the earth must needs unitedly establish.

No need to dwell on the energetic steps which the English believers as
soon as they had been apprized of the dire peril threatening the life of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá undertook to insure His security; on the measures
independently taken whereby Lord Curzon and others in the British Cabinet
were advised as to the critical situation at Haifa; on the prompt
intervention of Lord Lamington, who immediately wrote to the Foreign
Office to “explain the importance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s position;” on the
despatch which the Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, on the day of the
receipt of this letter, sent to General Allenby, instructing him to
“extend every protection and consideration to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His family and
His friends;” on the cablegram subsequently sent by the General, after the
capture of Haifa, to London, requesting the authorities to “notify the
world that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is safe;” on the orders which that same General
issued to the General Commanding Officer in command of the Haifa
operations to insure ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s safety, thus frustrating the express
intention of the Turkish Commander-in-Chief (according to information
which had reached the British Intelligence Service) to “crucify
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His family on Mt. Carmel” in the event of the Turkish
army being compelled to evacuate Haifa and retreat northwards.

The three years which elapsed between the liberation of Palestine by the
British forces and the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were marked by a further
enhancement of the prestige which the Faith, despite the persecutions to
which it had been subjected, had acquired at its world center, and by a
still greater extension in the range of its teaching activities in various
parts of the world. The danger which, for no less than three score years
and five, had threatened the lives of the Founders of the Faith and of the
Center of His Covenant, was now at long last through the instrumentality
of that war completely and definitely lifted. The Head of the Faith, and
its twin holy Shrines, in the plain of Akká and on the slopes of Mt.
Carmel, were henceforth to enjoy for the first time, through the
substitution of a new and liberal régime for the corrupt administration of
the past, a freedom from restrictions which was later expanded into a
clearer recognition of the institutions of the Cause. Nor were the British
authorities slow to express their appreciation of the rôle which
‘Abdu’l-Bahá had played in allaying the burden of suffering that had
oppressed the inhabitants of the Holy Land during the dark days of that
distressing conflict. The conferment of a knighthood upon Him at a
ceremony specially held for His sake in Haifa, at the residence of the
British Governor, at which notables of various communities had assembled;
the visit paid Him by General and Lady Allenby, who were His guests at
luncheon in Bahjí, and whom He conducted to the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh; the
interview at His Haifa residence between Him and King Feisal who shortly
after became the ruler of ‘Iráq; the several calls paid Him by Sir Herbert
Samuel (later Viscount Samuel of Carmel) both before and after his
appointment as High Commissioner for Palestine; His meeting with Lord
Lamington who, likewise, called upon Him in Haifa, as well as with the
then Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs; the multiplying evidences
of the recognition of His high and unique position by all religious
communities, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish; the influx of pilgrims
who, from East and West, flocked to the Holy Land in comparative ease and
safety to visit the Holy Tombs in Akká and Haifa, to pay their share of
homage to Him, to celebrate the signal protection vouchsafed by Providence
to the Faith and its followers, and to give thanks for the final
emancipation of its Head and world Center from Turkish yoke—these
contributed, each in its own way, to heighten the prestige which the Faith
of Bahá’u’lláh had been steadily and gradually acquiring through the
inspired leadership of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

As the ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá drew to a close signs multiplied of the
resistless and manifold unfoldment of the Faith both in the East and in
the West, both in the shaping and consolidation of its institutions and in
the widening range of its activities and its influence. In the city of
I_sh_qábád the construction of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár, which He Himself
had initiated, was successfully consummated. In Wilmette the excavations
for the Mother Temple of the West were carried out and the contract placed
for the construction of the basement of the building. In Ba_gh_dád the
initial steps were taken, according to His special instructions, to
reinforce the foundations and restore the Most Great House associated with
the memory of His Father. In the Holy Land an extensive property east of
the Báb’s Sepulcher was purchased through the initiative of the Holy
Mother with the support of contributions from Bahá’ís in both the East and
the West to serve as a site for the future erection of the first Bahá’í
school at the world Administrative Center of the Faith. The site for a
Western Pilgrim House was acquired in the neighborhood of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
residence, and the building was erected soon after His passing by American
believers. The Oriental Pilgrim House, erected on Mt. Carmel by a believer
from I_sh_qábád, soon after the entombment of the Báb’s remains, for the
convenience of visiting pilgrims, was granted tax exemption by the civil
authorities (the first time such a privilege had been conceded since the
establishment of the Faith in the Holy Land). The famous scientist and
entomologist, Dr. Auguste Forel, was converted to the Faith through the
influence of a Tablet sent him by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—one of the most weighty the
Master ever wrote. Another Tablet of far-reaching importance was His reply
to a communication addressed to Him by the Executive Committee of the
“Central Organization for a Durable Peace,” which He dispatched to them at
The Hague by the hands of a special delegation. A new continent was opened
to the Cause when, in response to the Tablets of the Divine Plan unveiled
at the first Convention after the war, the great-hearted and heroic Hyde
Dunn, at the advanced age of sixty-two, promptly forsook his home in
California, and, seconded and accompanied by his wife, settled as a
pioneer in Australia, where he was able to carry the Message to no less
than seven hundred towns throughout that Commonwealth. A new episode began
when, in quick response to those same Tablets and their summons, that
star-servant of Bahá’u’lláh, the indomitable and immortal Martha Root,
designated by her Master “herald of the Kingdom” and “harbinger of the
Covenant,” embarked on the first of her historic journeys which were to
extend over a period of twenty years, and to carry her several times
around the globe, and which ended only with her death far from home and in
the active service of the Cause she loved so greatly. These events mark
the closing stage of a ministry which sealed the triumph of the Heroic Age
of the Bahá’í Dispensation, and which will go down in history as one of
the most glorious and fruitful periods of the first Bahá’í century.



Chapter XXI: The Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s great work was now ended. The historic Mission with which
His Father had, twenty-nine years previously, invested Him had been
gloriously consummated. A memorable chapter in the history of the first
Bahá’í century had been written. The Heroic Age of the Bahá’í
Dispensation, in which He had participated since its inception, and played
so unique a rôle, had drawn to a close. He had suffered as no disciple of
the Faith, who had drained the cup of martyrdom, had suffered, He had
labored as none of its greatest heroes had labored. He had witnessed
triumphs such as neither the Herald of the Faith nor its Author had ever
witnessed.

At the close of His strenuous Western tours, which had called forth the
last ounce of His ebbing strength, He had written: “Friends, the time is
coming when I shall be no longer with you. I have done all that could be
done. I have served the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh to the utmost of My ability.
I have labored night and day all the years of My life. O how I long to see
the believers shouldering the responsibilities of the Cause!... My days
are numbered, and save this there remains none other joy for me.” Several
years before He had thus alluded to His passing: “O ye My faithful loved
ones! Should at any time afflicting events come to pass in the Holy Land,
never feel disturbed or agitated. Fear not, neither grieve. For whatsoever
thing happeneth will cause the Word of God to be exalted, and His Divine
fragrances to be diffused.” And again: “Remember, whether or not I be on
earth, My presence will be with you always.” “Regard not the person of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá,” He thus counselled His friends in one of His last Tablets,
“for He will eventually take His leave of you all; nay, fix your gaze upon
the Word of God... The loved ones of God must arise with such
steadfastness that should, in one moment, hundreds of souls even as
‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself be made a target for the darts of woe, nothing
whatsoever shall affect or lessen their ... service to the Cause of God.”

In a Tablet addressed to the American believers, a few days before He
passed away, He thus vented His pent-up longing to depart from this world:
“I have renounced the world and the people thereof... In the cage of this
world I flutter even as a frightened bird, and yearn every day to take My
flight unto Thy Kingdom. Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá! Make Me drink of the cup of
sacrifice, and set Me free.” He revealed a prayer less than six months
before His ascension in honor of a kinsman of the Báb, and in it wrote:
“‘O Lord! My bones are weakened, and the hoar hairs glisten on My head ...
and I have now reached old age, failing in My powers.’... No strength is
there left in Me wherewith to arise and serve Thy loved ones... O Lord, My
Lord! Hasten My ascension unto Thy sublime Threshold ... and My arrival at
the Door of Thy grace beneath the shadow of Thy most great mercy...”

Through the dreams He dreamed, through the conversations He held, through
the Tablets He revealed, it became increasingly evident that His end was
fast approaching. Two months before His passing He told His family of a
dream He had had. “I seemed,” He said, “to be standing within a great
mosque, in the inmost shrine, facing the Qiblih, in the place of the Imám
himself. I became aware that a large number of people were flocking into
the mosque. More and yet more crowded in, taking their places in rows
behind Me, until there was a vast multitude. As I stood I raised loudly
the call to prayer. Suddenly the thought came to Me to go forth from the
mosque. When I found Myself outside I said within Myself: ‘For what reason
came I forth, not having led the prayer? But it matters not; now that I
have uttered the Call to prayer, the vast multitude will of themselves
chant the prayer.’” A few weeks later, whilst occupying a solitary room in
the garden of His house, He recounted another dream to those around Him.
“I dreamed a dream,” He said, “and behold, the Blessed Beauty
(Bahá’u’lláh) came and said to Me: ‘Destroy this room.’” None of those
present comprehended the significance of this dream until He Himself had
soon after passed away, when it became clear to them all that by the
“room” was meant the temple of His body.

A month before His death (which occurred in the 78th year of His age, in
the early hours of the 28th of November, 1921) He had referred expressly
to it in some words of cheer and comfort that He addressed to a believer
who was mourning the loss of his brother. And about two weeks before His
passing He had spoken to His faithful gardener in a manner that clearly
indicated He knew His end to be nigh. “I am so fatigued,” He observed to
him, “the hour is come when I must leave everything and take My flight. I
am too weary to walk.” He added: “It was during the closing days of the
Blessed Beauty, when I was engaged in gathering together His papers which
were strewn over the sofa in His writing chamber in Bahjí, that He turned
to Me and said: ‘It is of no use to gather them, I must leave them and
flee away.’ I also have finished My work. I can do nothing more. Therefore
must I leave it, and take My departure.”

Till the very last day of His earthly life ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to
shower that same love upon high and low alike, to extend that same
assistance to the poor and the down-trodden, and to carry out those same
duties in the service of His Father’s Faith, as had been His wont from the
days of His boyhood. On the Friday before His passing, despite great
fatigue, He attended the noonday prayer at the mosque, and distributed
afterwards alms, as was His custom, among the poor; dictated some
Tablets—the last ones He revealed—; blessed the marriage of a trusted
servant, which He had insisted should take place that day; attended the
usual meeting of the friends in His home; felt feverish the next day, and
being unable to leave the house on the following Sunday, sent all the
believers to the Tomb of the Báb to attend a feast which a Pársí pilgrim
was offering on the occasion of the anniversary of the Declaration of the
Covenant; received with His unfailing courtesy and kindness that same
afternoon, and despite growing weariness, the Muftí of Haifa, the Mayor
and the Head of the Police; and inquired that night—the last of His
life—before He retired after the health of every member of His household,
of the pilgrims and of the friends in Haifa.

At 1:15 A.M. He arose, and, walking to a table in His room, drank some
water, and returned to bed. Later on, He asked one of His two daughters
who had remained awake to care for Him, to lift up the net curtains,
complaining that He had difficulty in breathing. Some rose-water was
brought to Him, of which He drank, after which He again lay down, and when
offered food, distinctly remarked: “You wish Me to take some food, and I
am going?” A minute later His spirit had winged its flight to its eternal
abode, to be gathered, at long last, to the glory of His beloved Father,
and taste the joy of everlasting reunion with Him.

The news of His passing, so sudden, so unexpected, spread like wildfire
throughout the town, and was flashed instantly over the wires to distant
parts of the globe, stunning with grief the community of the followers of
Bahá’u’lláh in East and West. Messages from far and near, from high and
low alike, through cablegrams and letters, poured in conveying to the
members of a sorrow-stricken and disconsolate family expressions of
praise, of devotion, of anguish and of sympathy.

The British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Winston Churchill,
telegraphed immediately to the High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir
Herbert Samuel, instructing him to “convey to the Bahá’í Community, on
behalf of His Majesty’s Government, their sympathy and condolence.”
Viscount Allenby, the High Commissioner for Egypt, wired the High
Commissioner for Palestine asking him to “convey to the relatives of the
late Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbás Effendi and to the Bahá’í Community” his
“sincere sympathy in the loss of their revered leader.” The Council of
Ministers in Ba_gh_dád instructed the Prime Minister Siyyid ‘Abdu’r-Rahmán
to extend their “sympathy to the family of His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in
their bereavement.” The Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary
Force, General Congreve, addressed to the High Commissioner for Palestine
a message requesting him to “convey his deepest sympathy to the family of
the late Sir Abbás Bahá’í.” General Sir Arthur Money, former Chief
Administrator of Palestine, wrote expressing his sadness, his profound
respect and his admiration for Him as well as his sympathy in the loss
which His family had sustained. One of the distinguished figures in the
academic life of the University of Oxford, a famous professor and scholar,
wrote on behalf of himself and his wife: “The passing beyond the veil into
fuller life must be specially wonderful and blessed for One Who has always
fixed His thoughts on high, and striven to lead an exalted life here
below.”

Many and divers newspapers, such as the London “Times,” the “Morning
Post,” the “Daily Mail,” the “New York World,” “Le Temps,” the “Times of
India” and others, in different languages and countries, paid their
tribute to One Who had rendered the Cause of human brotherhood and peace
such signal and imperishable services.

The High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, sent immediately a message
conveying his desire to attend the funeral in person, in order as he
himself later wrote, to “express my respect for His creed and my regard
for His person.” As to the funeral itself, which took place on Tuesday
morning—a funeral the like of which Palestine had never seen—no less than
ten thousand people participated representing every class, religion and
race in that country. “A great throng,” bore witness at a later date, the
High Commissioner himself, “had gathered together, sorrowing for His
death, but rejoicing also for His life.” Sir Ronald Storrs, Governor of
Jerusalem at the time, also wrote in describing the funeral: “I have never
known a more united expression of regret and respect than was called forth
by the utter simplicity of the ceremony.”

The coffin containing the remains of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was borne to its last
resting-place on the shoulders of His loved ones. The cortège which
preceded it was led by the City Constabulary Force, acting as a Guard of
Honor, behind which followed in order the Boy Scouts of the Muslim and
Christian communities holding aloft their banners, a company of Muslim
choristers chanting their verses from the Qur’án, the chiefs of the Muslim
community headed by the Muftí, and a number of Christian priests, Latin,
Greek and Anglican. Behind the coffin walked the members of His family,
the British High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, the Governor of
Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, the Governor of Phoenicia, Sir Stewart
Symes, officials of the government, consuls of various countries resident
in Haifa, notables of Palestine, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Druze,
Egyptians, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Europeans and Americans, men,
women and children. The long train of mourners, amid the sobs and moans of
many a grief-stricken heart, wended its slow way up the slopes of Mt.
Carmel to the Mausoleum of the Báb.

Close to the eastern entrance of the Shrine, the sacred casket was placed
upon a plain table, and, in the presence of that vast concourse, nine
speakers, who represented the Muslim, the Jewish and Christian Faiths, and
who included the Muftí of Haifa, delivered their several funeral orations.
These concluded, the High Commissioner drew close to the casket, and, with
bowed head fronting the Shrine, paid his last homage of farewell to
‘Abdu’l-Bahá: the other officials of the Government followed his example.
The coffin was then removed to one of the chambers of the Shrine, and
there lowered, sadly and reverently, to its last resting-place in a vault
adjoining that in which were laid the remains of the Báb.

During the week following His passing, from fifty to a hundred of the poor
of Haifa were daily fed at His house, whilst on the seventh day corn was
distributed in His memory to about a thousand of them irrespective of
creed or race. On the fortieth day an impressive memorial feast was held
in His memory, to which over six hundred of the people of Haifa, Akká and
the surrounding parts of Palestine and Syria, including officials and
notables of various religions and races, were invited. More than one
hundred of the poor were also fed on that day.

One of the assembled guests, the Governor of Phoenicia, paid a last
tribute to the memory of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the following words: “Most of us
here have, I think, a clear picture of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbás, of His
dignified figure walking thoughtfully in our streets, of His courteous and
gracious manner, of His kindness, of His love for little children and
flowers, of His generosity and care for the poor and suffering. So gentle
was He, and so simple, that in His presence one almost forgot that He was
also a great teacher, and that His writings and His conversations have
been a solace and an inspiration to hundreds and thousands of people in
the East and in the West.”

Thus was brought to a close the ministry of One Who was the incarnation,
by virtue of the rank bestowed upon Him by His Father, of an institution
that has no parallel in the entire field of religious history, a ministry
that marks the final stage in the Apostolic, the Heroic and most glorious
Age of the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh.

Through Him the Covenant, that “excellent and priceless Heritage”
bequeathed by the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation, had been proclaimed,
championed and vindicated. Through the power which that Divine Instrument
had conferred upon Him the light of God’s infant Faith had penetrated the
West, had diffused itself as far as the Islands of the Pacific, and
illumined the fringes of the Australian continent. Through His personal
intervention the Message, Whose Bearer had tasted the bitterness of a
life-long captivity, had been noised abroad, and its character and purpose
disclosed, for the first time in its history, before enthusiastic and
representative audiences in the chief cities of Europe and of the North
American continent. Through His unrelaxing vigilance the holy remains of
the Báb, brought forth at long last from their fifty-year concealment, had
been safely transported to the Holy Land and permanently and befittingly
enshrined in the very spot which Bahá’u’lláh Himself had designated for
them and had blessed with His presence. Through His bold initiative the
first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world had been reared in Central
Asia, in Russian Turkistán, whilst through His unfailing encouragement a
similar enterprise, of still vaster proportions, had been undertaken, and
its land dedicated by Himself in the heart of the North American
continent. Through the sustaining grace overshadowing Him since the
inception of His ministry His royal adversary had been humbled to the
dust, the arch-breaker of His Father’s Covenant had been utterly routed,
and the danger which, ever since Bahá’u’lláh had been banished to Turkish
soil, had been threatening the heart of the Faith, definitely removed. In
pursuance of His instructions, and in conformity with the principles
enunciated and the laws ordained by His Father, the rudimentary
institutions, heralding the formal inauguration of the Administrative
Order to be founded after His passing, had taken shape and been
established. Through His unremitting labors, as reflected in the treatises
He composed, the thousands of Tablets He revealed, the discourses He
delivered, the prayers, poems and commentaries He left to posterity,
mostly in Persian, some in Arabic and a few in Turkish, the laws and
principles, constituting the warp and woof of His Father’s Revelation, had
been elucidated, its fundamentals restated and interpreted, its tenets
given detailed application and the validity and indispensability of its
verities fully and publicly demonstrated. Through the warnings He sounded,
an unheeding humanity, steeped in materialism and forgetful of its God,
had been apprized of the perils threatening to disrupt its ordered life,
and made, in consequence of its persistent perversity, to sustain the
initial shocks of that world upheaval which continues, until the present
day, to rock the foundations of human society. And lastly, through the
mandate He had issued to a valiant community, the concerted achievements
of whose members had shed so great a lustre on the annals of His own
ministry, He had set in motion a Plan which, soon after its formal
inauguration, achieved the opening of the Australian continent, which, in
a later period, was to be instrumental in winning over the heart of a
royal convert to His Father’s Cause, and which, today, through the
irresistible unfoldment of its potentialities, is so marvellously
quickening the spiritual life of all the Republics of Latin America as to
constitute a befitting conclusion to the records of an entire century.

Nor should a survey of the outstanding features of so blessed and fruitful
a ministry omit mention of the prophecies which the unerring pen of the
appointed Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant has recorded. These foreshadow
the fierceness of the onslaught that the resistless march of the Faith
must provoke in the West, in India and in the Far East when it meets the
time-honored sacerdotal orders of the Christian, the Buddhist and Hindu
religions. They foreshadow the turmoil which its emancipation from the
fetters of religious orthodoxy will cast in the American, the European,
the Asiatic and African continents. They foreshadow the gathering of the
children of Israel in their ancient homeland; the erection of the banner
of Bahá’u’lláh in the Egyptian citadel of Sunní Islám; the extinction of
the powerful influence wielded by the _Sh_í’ah ecclesiastics in Persia;
the load of misery which must needs oppress the pitiful remnants of the
breakers of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant at the world center of His Faith; the
splendor of the institutions which that triumphant Faith must erect on the
slopes of a mountain, destined to be so linked with the city of Akká that
a single grand metropolis will be formed to enshrine the spiritual as well
as the administrative seats of the future Bahá’í Commonwealth; the
conspicuous honor which the inhabitants of Bahá’u’lláh’s native land in
general, and its government in particular, must enjoy in a distant future;
the unique and enviable position which the community of the Most Great
Name in the North American continent must occupy, as a direct consequence
of the execution of the world mission which He entrusted to them: finally
they foreshadow, as the sum and summit of all, the “hoisting of the
standard of God among all nations” and the unification of the entire human
race, when “all men will adhere to one religion ... will be blended into
one race, and become a single people.”

Nor can the revolutionary changes in the great world which that ministry
has witnessed be allowed to pass unnoticed—most of them flowing directly
from the warnings which were uttered by the Báb, in the first chapter of
His Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, on the very night of the Declaration of His Mission in
_Sh_íráz, and which were later reinforced by the pregnant passages
addressed by Bahá’u’lláh to the kings of the earth and the world’s
religious leaders, in both the Súriy-i-Mulúk and the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The
conversion of the Portuguese monarchy and the Chinese empire into
republics; the collapse of the Russian, the German and Austrian empires,
and the ignominious fate which befell their rulers; the assassination of
Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh, the fall of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd—these may be said to
have marked further stages in the operation of that catastrophic process
the inception of which was signalized in the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh by
the murder of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz, by the dramatic downfall of Napoleon
III, and the extinction of the Third Empire, and by the self-imposed
imprisonment and virtual termination of the temporal sovereignty of the
Pope himself. Later, after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, the same process was to
be accelerated by the demise of the Qájár dynasty in Persia, by the
overthrow of the Spanish monarchy, by the collapse of both the Sultanate
and the Caliphate in Turkey, by a swift decline in the fortunes of
_Sh_í’ah Islám and of the Christian Missions in the East, and by the cruel
fate that is now overtaking so many of the crowned heads of Europe.

Nor can this subject be dismissed without special reference to the names
of those men of eminence and learning who were moved, at various stages of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry, to pay tribute not only to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself
but also to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. Such names as Count Leo Tolstoy,
Prof. Arminius Vambery, Prof. Auguste Forel, Dr. David Starr Jordan, the
Venerable Archdeacon Wilberforce, Prof. Jowett of Balliol, Dr. T. K.
Cheyne, Dr. Estlin Carpenter of Oxford University, Viscount Samuel of
Carmel, Lord Lamington, Sir Valentine Chirol, Rabbi Stephen Wise, Prince
Muḥammad-‘Alí of Egypt, _Sh_ay_kh_ Muḥammad ‘Abdu, Mi_dh_át Pá_sh_á, and
_Kh_ur_sh_íd Pá_sh_á attest, by virtue of the tributes associated with
them, the great progress made by the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh under the
brilliant leadership of His exalted Son—tributes whose impressiveness was,
in later years, to be heightened by the historic, the repeated and written
testimonies which a famous Queen, a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, was
impelled to bequeath to posterity as a witness of her recognition of the
prophetic mission of Bahá’u’lláh.

As for those enemies who have sedulously sought to extinguish the light of
Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, the condign punishment they have been made to
suffer is no less conspicuous than the doom which overtook those who, in
an earlier period, had so basely endeavored to crush the hopes of a rising
Faith and destroy its foundations.

To the assassination of the tyrannical Náṣiri’d-Dín _Sh_áh and the
subsequent extinction of the Qájár dynasty reference has already been
made. Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, after his deposition, was made a prisoner of
state and condemned to a life of complete obscurity and humiliation,
scorned by his fellow-rulers and vilified by his subjects. The
bloodthirsty Jamál Pá_sh_á, who had resolved to crucify ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and
raze to the ground Bahá’u’lláh’s holy Tomb, had to flee for his life and
was slain, while a refugee in the Caucasus, by the hand of an Armenian
whose fellow-compatriots he had so pitilessly persecuted. The scheming
Jamálu’d-Dín Af_gh_ání, whose relentless hostility and powerful influence
had been so gravely detrimental to the progress of the Faith in Near
Eastern countries, was, after a checkered career filled with vicissitudes,
stricken with cancer, and having had a major part of his tongue cut away
in an unsuccessful operation perished in misery. The four members of the
ill-fated Commission of Inquiry, despatched from Constantinople to seal
the fate of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, suffered, each in his turn, a humiliation hardly
less drastic than that which they had planned for Him. Árif Bey, the head
of the Commission, seeking stealthily at midnight to flee from the wrath
of the Young Turks, was shot dead by a sentry. Adham Bey succeeded in
escaping to Egypt, but was robbed of his possessions by his servant on the
way, and was in the end compelled to seek financial assistance from the
Bahá’ís of Cairo, a request which was not refused. Later he sought help
from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who immediately directed the believers to present him
with a sum on His behalf, an instruction which they were unable to carry
out owing to his sudden disappearance. Of the other two members, one was
exiled to a remote place, and the other died soon after in abject poverty.
The notorious Yaḥyá Bey, the Chief of the Police in Akká, a willing and
powerful tool in the hand of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, the arch-breaker of
Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, witnessed the frustration of all the hopes he had
cherished, lost his position, and had eventually to beg for pecuniary
assistance from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. In Constantinople, in the year which
witnessed the downfall of ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, no less than thirty-one
dignitaries of the state, including ministers and other high officers of
the government, among whom numbered redoubtable enemies of the Faith,
were, in a single day, arrested and condemned to the gallows, a
spectacular retribution for the part they had played in upholding a
tyrannical régime and in endeavoring to extirpate the Faith and its
institutions.

In Persia, apart from the sovereign who had, in the full tide of his hopes
and the plenitude of his power, been removed from the scene in so
startling a manner, a number of princes, ministers and mujtahids, who had
actively participated in the suppression of a persecuted community,
including Kámrán Mírzá, the Ná’ibú’s-Salṭanih, the Jalálu’d-Dawlih and
Mírzá ‘Alí-Aṣ_gh_ar _Kh_án, the Atábik-i-A’ẓam, and _Sh_ay_kh_
Muḥammad-Taqíy-i-Najafí, the “Son of the Wolf,” lost, one by one, their
prestige and authority, sank into obscurity, abandoned all hope of
achieving their malevolent purpose, and lived, some of them, long enough
to behold the initial evidences of the ascendancy of a Cause they had so
greatly feared and so vehemently hated.

When we note that in the Holy Land, in Persia, and in the United States of
America certain exponents of Christian ecclesiasticism such as Vatralsky,
Wilson, Richardson or Easton, observing, and in some cases fearing, the
vigorous advances made by the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in Christian lands,
arose to stem its progress; and when we watch the recent and steady
deterioration of their influence, the decline of their power, the
confusion in their ranks and the dissolution of some of their old standing
missions and institutions, in Europe, in the Middle East and in Eastern
Asia—may we not attribute this weakening to the opposition which members
of various Christian sacerdotal orders began, in the course of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry, to evince towards the followers and institutions
of a Faith which claims to be no less than the fulfilment of the Promise
given by Jesus Christ, and the establisher of the Kingdom He Himself had
prayed for and foretold?

And finally, he who, from the moment the Divine Covenant was born until
the end of his life, showed a hatred more unrelenting than that which
animated the afore-mentioned adversaries of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who plotted more
energetically than any one of them against Him, and afflicted his Father’s
Faith with a shame more grievous than any which its external enemies had
inflicted upon it—such a man, together with the infamous crew of
Covenant-breakers whom he had misled and instigated, was condemned to
witness, in a growing measure, as had been the case with Mírzá Yaḥyá and
his henchmen, the frustration of his evil designs, the evaporation of all
his hopes, the exposition of his true motives and the complete extinction
of his erstwhile honor and glory. His brother, Mírzá Ḍíya’u’lláh, died
prematurely; Mírzá Áqá Ján, his dupe, followed that same brother, three
years later, to the grave; and Mírzá Badí’u’lláh, his chief accomplice,
betrayed his cause, published a signed denunciation of his evil acts, but
rejoined him again, only to be alienated from him in consequence of the
scandalous behavior of his own daughter. Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s
half-sister, Furú_gh_íyyih, died of cancer, whilst her husband, Siyyid
‘Alí, passed away from a heart attack before his sons could reach him, the
eldest being subsequently stricken in the prime of life, by the same
malady. Muḥammad-Javád-i-Qazvíní, a notorious Covenant-breaker, perished
miserably. _Sh_u‘á’u’lláh who, as witnessed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will,
had counted on the murder of the Center of the Covenant, and who had been
despatched to the United States by his father to join forces with Ibráhím
_Kh_ayru’lláh, returned crestfallen and empty-handed from his inglorious
mission. Jamál-i-Burújirdí, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s ablest lieutenant in
Persia, fell a prey to a fatal and loathsome disease; Siyyid
Mihdíy-i-Dahájí, who, betraying ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, joined the
Covenant-breakers, died in obscurity and poverty, followed by his wife and
his two sons; Mírzá Ḥusayn-‘Alíy-i-Jahrúmí, Mírzá
Ḥusayn-i-_Sh_írázíy-i-_Kh_urṭúmí and Ḥájí Muḥammad-Ḥusayn-i-Ká_sh_ání, who
represented the arch-breaker of the Covenant in Persia, India and Egypt,
failed utterly in their missions; whilst the greedy and conceited
Ibráhím-i-_Kh_ayru’lláh, who had chosen to uphold the banner of his
rebellion in America for no less than twenty years, and who had the
temerity to denounce, in writing, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His “false teachings, His
misrepresentations of Bahaism, His dissimulation,” and to stigmatize His
visit to America as “a death-blow” to the “Cause of God,” met his death
soon after he had uttered these denunciations, utterly abandoned and
despised by the entire body of the members of a community, whose founders
he himself had converted to the Faith, and in the very land that bore
witness to the multiplying evidences of the established ascendancy of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Whose authority he had, in his later years, vowed to uproot.

As to those who had openly espoused the cause of this arch-breaker of
Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, or who had secretly sympathized with him, whilst
outwardly supporting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, some eventually repented and were
forgiven; others became disillusioned and lost their faith entirely; a few
apostatized, whilst the rest dwindled away, leaving him in the end, except
for a handful of his relatives, alone and unsupported. Surviving
‘Abdu’l-Bahá by almost twenty years, he who had so audaciously affirmed to
His face that he had no assurance he might outlive Him, lived long enough
to witness the utter bankruptcy of his cause, leading meanwhile a wretched
existence within the walls of a Mansion that had once housed a crowd of
his supporters; was denied by the civil authorities, as a result of the
crisis he had after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing foolishly precipitated, the
official custody of his Father’s Tomb; was compelled, a few years later,
to vacate that same Mansion, which, through his flagrant neglect, had
fallen into a dilapidated condition; was stricken with paralysis which
crippled half his body; lay bedridden in pain for months before he died;
and was buried according to Muslim rites, in the immediate vicinity of a
local Muslim shrine, his grave remaining until the present day devoid of
even a tombstone—a pitiful reminder of the hollowness of the claims he had
advanced, of the depths of infamy to which he had sunk, and of the
severity of the retribution his acts had so richly merited.



FOURTH PERIOD: THE INCEPTION OF THE FORMATIVE AGE OF THE BAHÁ’Í FAITH
1921–1944



Chapter XXII: The Rise and Establishment of the Administrative Order


With the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the first century of the Bahá’í era,
whose inception had synchronized with His birth, had run more than three
quarters of its course. Seventy-seven years previously the light of the
Faith proclaimed by the Báb had risen above the horizon of _Sh_íráz and
flashed across the firmament of Persia, dispelling the age-long gloom
which had enveloped its people. A blood bath of unusual ferocity, in which
government, clergy and people, heedless of the significance of that light
and blind to its splendor, had jointly participated, had all but
extinguished the radiance of its glory in the land of its birth.
Bahá’u’lláh had at the darkest hour in the fortunes of that Faith been
summoned, while Himself a prisoner in Ṭihrán, to reinvigorate its life,
and been commissioned to fulfil its ultimate purpose. In Ba_gh_dád, upon
the termination of the ten-year delay interposed between the first
intimation of that Mission and its Declaration, He had revealed the
Mystery enshrined in the Báb’s embryonic Faith, and disclosed the fruit
which it had yielded. In Adrianople Bahá’u’lláh’s Message, the promise of
the Bábí as well as of all previous Dispensations, had been proclaimed to
mankind, and its challenge voiced to the rulers of the earth in both the
East and the West. Behind the walls of the prison-fortress of Akká the
Bearer of God’s newborn Revelation had ordained the laws and formulated
the principles that were to constitute the warp and woof of His World
Order. He had, moreover, prior to His ascension, instituted the Covenant
that was to guide and assist in the laying of its foundations and to
safeguard the unity of its builders. Armed with that peerless and potent
Instrument, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His eldest Son and Center of His Covenant, had
erected the standard of His Father’s Faith in the North American
continent, and established an impregnable basis for its institutions in
Western Europe, in the Far East and in Australia. He had, in His works,
Tablets and addresses, elucidated its principles, interpreted its laws,
amplified its doctrine, and erected the rudimentary institutions of its
future Administrative Order. In Russia He had raised its first House of
Worship, whilst on the slopes of Mt. Carmel He had reared a befitting
mausoleum for its Herald, and deposited His remains therein with His Own
hands. Through His visits to several cities in Europe and the North
American continent He had broadcast Bahá’u’lláh’s Message to the peoples
of the West, and heightened the prestige of the Cause of God to a degree
it had never previously experienced. And lastly, in the evening of His
life, He had through the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan
issued His mandate to the community which He Himself had raised up,
trained and nurtured, a Plan that must in the years to come enable its
members to diffuse the light, and erect the administrative fabric, of the
Faith throughout the five continents of the globe.

The moment had now arrived for that undying, that world-vitalizing Spirit
that was born in _Sh_íráz, that had been rekindled in Ṭihrán, that had
been fanned into flame in Ba_gh_dád and Adrianople, that had been carried
to the West, and was now illuminating the fringes of five continents, to
incarnate itself in institutions designed to canalize its outspreading
energies and stimulate its growth. The Age that had witnessed the birth
and rise of the Faith had now closed. The Heroic, the Apostolic Age of the
Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh, that primitive period in which its Founders
had lived, in which its life had been generated, in which its greatest
heroes had struggled and quaffed the cup of martyrdom, and its pristine
foundations been established—a period whose splendors no victories in this
or any future age, however brilliant, can rival—had now terminated with
the passing of One Whose mission may be regarded as the link binding the
Age in which the seed of the newborn Message had been incubating and those
which are destined to witness its efflorescence and ultimate fruition.

The Formative Period, the Iron Age, of that Dispensation was now
beginning, the Age in which the institutions, local, national and
international, of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh were to take shape, develop and
become fully consolidated, in anticipation of the third, the last, the
Golden Age destined to witness the emergence of a world-embracing Order
enshrining the ultimate fruit of God’s latest Revelation to mankind, a
fruit whose maturity must signalize the establishment of a world
civilization and the formal inauguration of the Kingdom of the Father upon
earth as promised by Jesus Christ Himself.

To this World Order the Báb Himself had, whilst a prisoner in the mountain
fastnesses of Á_dh_irbayján, explicitly referred in His Persian Bayán, the
Mother-Book of the Bábí Dispensation, had announced its advent, and
associated it with the name of Bahá’u’lláh, Whose Mission He Himself had
heralded. “Well is it with Him,” is His remarkable statement in the
sixteenth chapter of the third Vahíd, “who fixeth his gaze upon the Order
of Bahá’u’lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord! For He will assuredly
be made manifest...” To this same Order Bahá’u’lláh Who, in a later
period, revealed the laws and principles that must govern the operation of
that Order, had thus referred in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Mother-Book of His
Dispensation: “The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the
vibrating influence of this Most Great Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath
been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous
System, the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.” Its features
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, its great Architect, delineated in His Will and Testament,
whilst the foundations of its rudimentary institutions are now being laid
after Him by His followers in the East and in the West in this, the
Formative Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation.

The last twenty-three years of the first Bahá’í century may thus be
regarded as the initial stage of the Formative Period of the Faith, an Age
of Transition to be identified with the rise and establishment of the
Administrative Order, upon which the institutions of the future Bahá’í
World Commonwealth must needs be ultimately erected in the Golden Age that
must witness the consummation of the Bahá’í Dispensation. The Charter
which called into being, outlined the features and set in motion the
processes of, this Administrative Order is none other than the Will and
Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His greatest legacy to posterity, the brightest
emanation of His mind and the mightiest instrument forged to insure the
continuity of the three ages which constitute the component parts of His
Father’s Dispensation.

The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh had been instituted solely through the direct
operation of His Will and purpose. The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
on the other hand, may be regarded as the offspring resulting from that
mystic intercourse between Him Who had generated the forces of a God-given
Faith and the One Who had been made its sole Interpreter and was
recognized as its perfect Exemplar. The creative energies unleashed by the
Originator of the Law of God in this age gave birth, through their impact
upon the mind of Him Who had been chosen as its unerring Expounder, to
that Instrument, the vast implications of which the present generation,
even after the lapse of twenty-three years, is still incapable of fully
apprehending. This Instrument can, if we would correctly appraise it, no
more be divorced from the One Who provided the motivating impulse for its
creation than from Him Who directly conceived it. The purpose of the
Author of the Bahá’í Revelation had, as already observed, been so
thoroughly infused into the mind of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and His Spirit had so
profoundly impregnated His being, and their aims and motives been so
completely blended, that to dissociate the doctrine laid down by the
former from the supreme act associated with the mission of the latter
would be tantamount to a repudiation of one of the most fundamental
verities of the Faith.

The Administrative Order which this historic Document has established, it
should be noted, is, by virtue of its origin and character, unique in the
annals of the world’s religious systems. No Prophet before Bahá’u’lláh, it
can be confidently asserted, not even Muḥammad Whose Book clearly lays
down the laws and ordinances of the Islamic Dispensation, has established,
authoritatively and in writing, anything comparable to the Administrative
Order which the authorized Interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings has
instituted, an Order which, by virtue of the administrative principles
which its Author has formulated, the institutions He has established, and
the right of interpretation with which He has invested its Guardian, must
and will, in a manner unparalleled in any previous religion, safeguard
from schism the Faith from which it has sprung. Nor is the principle
governing its operation similar to that which underlies any system,
whether theocratic or otherwise, which the minds of men have devised for
the government of human institutions. Neither in theory nor in practice
can the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh be said to
conform to any type of democratic government, to any system of autocracy,
to any purely aristocratic order, or to any of the various theocracies,
whether Jewish, Christian or Islamic which mankind has witnessed in the
past. It incorporates within its structure certain elements which are to
be found in each of the three recognized forms of secular government, is
devoid of the defects which each of them inherently possesses, and blends
the salutary truths which each undoubtedly contains without vitiating in
any way the integrity of the Divine verities on which it is essentially
founded. The hereditary authority which the Guardian of the Administrative
Order is called upon to exercise, and the right of the interpretation of
the Holy Writ solely conferred upon him; the powers and prerogatives of
the Universal House of Justice, possessing the exclusive right to
legislate on matters not explicitly revealed in the Most Holy Book; the
ordinance exempting its members from any responsibility to those whom they
represent, and from the obligation to conform to their views, convictions
or sentiments; the specific provisions requiring the free and democratic
election by the mass of the faithful of the Body that constitutes the sole
legislative organ in the world-wide Bahá’í community—these are among the
features which combine to set apart the Order identified with the
Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh from any of the existing systems of human
government.

Nor have the enemies who, at the hour of the inception of this
Administrative Order, and in the course of its twenty-three year
existence, both in the East and in the West, from within and from without,
misrepresented its character, or derided and vilified it, or striven to
arrest its march, or contrived to create a breach in the ranks of its
supporters, succeeded in achieving their malevolent purpose. The strenuous
exertions of an ambitious Armenian, who, in the course of the first years
of its establishment in Egypt, endeavored to supplant it by the
“Scientific Society” which in his short-sightedness he had conceived and
was sponsoring, failed utterly in its purpose. The agitation provoked by a
deluded woman who strove diligently both in the United States and in
England to demonstrate the unauthenticity of the Charter responsible for
its creation, and even to induce the civil authorities of Palestine to
take legal action in the matter—a request which to her great chagrin was
curtly refused—as well as the defection of one of the earliest pioneers
and founders of the Faith in Germany, whom that same woman had so
tragically misled, produced no effect whatsoever. The volumes which a
shameless apostate composed and disseminated, during that same period in
Persia, in his brazen efforts not only to disrupt that Order but to
undermine the very Faith which had conceived it, proved similarly
abortive. The schemes devised by the remnants of the Covenant-breakers,
who immediately the aims and purposes of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will became known
arose, headed by Mírzá Badí’u’lláh, to wrest the custodianship of the
holiest shrine in the Bahá’í world from its appointed Guardian, likewise
came to naught and brought further discredit upon them. The subsequent
attacks launched by certain exponents of Christian orthodoxy, in both
Christian and non-Christian lands, with the object of subverting the
foundations, and distorting the features, of this same Order were
powerless to sap the loyalty of its upholders or to deflect them from
their high purpose. Not even the infamous and insidious machinations of a
former secretary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who, untaught by the retribution that
befell Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis, as well as by the fate that overtook
several other secretaries and interpreters of His Master, in both the East
and the West, has arisen, and is still exerting himself, to pervert the
purpose and nullify the essential provisions of the immortal Document from
which that Order derives its authority, have been able to stay even
momentarily the march of its institutions along the course set for it by
its Author, or to create anything that might, however remotely, resemble a
breach in the ranks of its assured, its wide-awake and stalwart
supporters.

The Document establishing that Order, the Charter of a future world
civilization, which may be regarded in some of its features as
supplementary to no less weighty a Book than the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; signed and
sealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; entirely written with His own hand; its first
section composed during one of the darkest periods of His incarceration in
the prison-fortress of Akká, proclaims, categorically and unequivocally,
the fundamental beliefs of the followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh;
reveals, in unmistakable language, the twofold character of the Mission of
the Báb; discloses the full station of the Author of the Bahá’í
Revelation; asserts that “all others are servants unto Him and do His
bidding”; stresses the importance of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; establishes the
institution of the Guardianship as a hereditary office and outlines its
essential functions; provides the measures for the election of the
International House of Justice, defines its scope and sets forth its
relationship to that Institution; prescribes the obligations, and
emphasizes the responsibilities, of the Hands of the Cause of God; and
extolls the virtues of the indestructible Covenant established by
Bahá’u’lláh. That Document, furthermore, lauds the courage and constancy
of the supporters of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant; expatiates on the sufferings
endured by its appointed Center; recalls the infamous conduct of Mírzá
Yaḥyá and his failure to heed the warnings of the Báb; exposes, in a
series of indictments, the perfidy and rebellion of Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí,
and the complicity of his son _Sh_u‘á’u’lláh and of his brother Mírzá
Badí’u’lláh; reaffirms their excommunication, and predicts the frustration
of all their hopes; summons the Afnán (the Báb’s kindred), the Hands of
the Cause and the entire company of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh to arise
unitedly to propagate His Faith, to disperse far and wide, to labor
tirelessly and to follow the heroic example of the Apostles of Jesus
Christ; warns them against the dangers of association with the
Covenant-breakers, and bids them shield the Cause from the assaults of the
insincere and the hypocrite; and counsels them to demonstrate by their
conduct the universality of the Faith they have espoused, and vindicate
its high principles. In that same Document its Author reveals the
significance and purpose of the Ḥuqúqu’lláh (Right of God), already
instituted in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; enjoins submission and fidelity towards
all monarchs who are just; expresses His longing for martyrdom, and voices
His prayers for the repentance as well as the forgiveness of His enemies.

Obedient to the summons issued by the Author of so momentous a Document;
conscious of their high calling; galvanized into action by the shock
sustained through the unexpected and sudden removal of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá;
guided by the Plan which He, the Architect of the Administrative Order,
had entrusted to their hands; undeterred by the attacks directed against
it by betrayers and enemies, jealous of its gathering strength and blind
to its unique significance, the members of the widely-scattered Bahá’í
communities, in both the East and the West, arose with clear vision and
inflexible determination to inaugurate the Formative Period of their Faith
by laying the foundations of that world-embracing Administrative system
designed to evolve into a World Order which posterity must acclaim as the
promise and crowning glory of all the Dispensations of the past. Not
content with the erection and consolidation of the administrative
machinery provided for the preservation of the unity and the efficient
conduct of the affairs of a steadily expanding community, the followers of
the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh resolved, in the course of the two decades
following ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, to assert and demonstrate by their acts
the independent character of that Faith, to enlarge still further its
limits and swell the number of its avowed supporters.

In this triple world-wide effort, it should be noted, the rôle played by
the American Bahá’í community, since the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá until the
termination of the first Bahá’í century, has been such as to lend a
tremendous impetus to the development of the Faith throughout the world,
to vindicate the confidence placed in its members by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself,
and to justify the high praise He bestowed upon them and the fond hopes He
entertained for their future. Indeed so preponderating has been the
influence of its members in both the initiation and the consolidation of
Bahá’í administrative institutions that their country may well deserve to
be recognized as the cradle of the Administrative Order which Bahá’u’lláh
Himself had envisaged and which the Will of the Center of His Covenant had
called into being.

It should be borne in mind in this connection that the preliminary steps
aiming at the disclosure of the scope and working of this Administrative
Order, which was now to be formally established after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s
passing, had already been taken by Him, and even by Bahá’u’lláh in the
years preceding His ascension. The appointment by Him of certain
outstanding believers in Persia as “Hands of the Cause”; the initiation of
local Assemblies and boards of consultation by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in leading
Bahá’í centers in both the East and the West; the formation of the Bahá’í
Temple Unity in the United States of America; the establishment of local
funds for the promotion of Bahá’í activities; the purchase of property
dedicated to the Faith and its future institutions; the founding of
publishing societies for the dissemination of Bahá’í literature; the
erection of the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world; the
construction of the Báb’s mausoleum on Mt. Carmel; the institution of
hostels for the accommodation of itinerant teachers and pilgrims—these may
be regarded as the precursors of the institutions which, immediately after
the closing of the Heroic Age of the Faith, were to be permanently and
systematically established throughout the Bahá’í world.

No sooner had the provisions of that Divine Charter, delineating the
features of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh been
disclosed to His followers than they set about erecting, upon the
foundations which the lives of the heroes, the saints and martyrs of that
Faith had laid, the first stage of the framework of its administrative
institutions. Conscious of the necessity of constructing, as a first step,
a broad and solid base upon which the pillars of that mighty structure
could subsequently be raised; fully aware that upon these pillars, when
firmly established, the dome, the final unit crowning the entire edifice,
must eventually rest; undeflected in their course by the crisis which the
Covenant-breakers had precipitated in the Holy Land, or the agitation
which the stirrers of mischief had provoked in Egypt, or the disturbances
resulting from the seizure by the _Sh_í’ah community of the House of
Bahá’u’lláh in Ba_gh_dád, or the growing dangers confronting the Faith in
Russia, or the scorn and ridicule which had greeted the initial activities
of the American Bahá’í community from certain quarters that had completely
misapprehended their purpose, the pioneer builders of a divinely-conceived
Order undertook, in complete unison, and despite the great diversity in
their outlook, customs and languages, the double task of establishing and
of consolidating their local councils, elected by the rank and file of the
believers, and designed to direct, coordinate and extend the activities of
the followers of a far-flung Faith. In Persia, in the United States of
America, in the Dominion of Canada, in the British Isles, in France, in
Germany, in Austria, in India, in Burma, in Egypt, in ‘Iráq, in Russian
Turkistán, in the Caucasus, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa,
in Turkey, in Syria, in Palestine, in Bulgaria, in Mexico, in the
Philippine Islands, in Jamaica, in Costa Rica, in Guatemala, in Honduras,
in San Salvador, in Argentina, in Uruguay, in Chile, in Brazil, in
Ecuador, in Colombia, in Paraguay, in Peru, in Alaska, in Cuba, in Haiti,
in Japan, in the Hawaiian Islands, in Tunisia, in Puerto Rico, in
Balú_ch_istán, in Russia, in Transjordan, in Lebanon, and in Abyssinia
such councils, constituting the basis of the rising Order of a
long-persecuted Faith, were gradually established. Designated as
“Spiritual Assemblies”—an appellation that must in the course of time be
replaced by their permanent and more descriptive title of “Houses of
Justice,” bestowed upon them by the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation;
instituted, without any exception, in every city, town and village where
nine or more adult believers are resident; annually and directly elected,
on the first day of the greatest Bahá’í Festival by all adult believers,
men and women alike; invested with an authority rendering them
unanswerable for their acts and decisions to those who elect them;
solemnly pledged to follow, under all conditions, the dictates of the
“Most Great Justice” that can alone usher in the reign of the “Most Great
Peace” which Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed and must ultimately establish;
charged with the responsibility of promoting at all times the best
interests of the communities within their jurisdiction, of familiarizing
them with their plans and activities and of inviting them to offer any
recommendations they might wish to make; cognizant of their no less vital
task of demonstrating, through association with all liberal and
humanitarian movements, the universality and comprehensiveness of their
Faith; dissociated entirely from all sectarian organizations, whether
religious or secular; assisted by committees annually appointed by, and
directly responsible to, them, to each of which a particular branch of
Bahá’í activity is assigned for study and action; supported by local funds
to which all believers voluntarily contribute; these Assemblies, the
representatives and custodians of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, numbering, at
the present time, several hundred, and whose membership is drawn from the
diversified races, creeds and classes constituting the world-wide Bahá’í
community, have, in the course of the last two decades, abundantly
demonstrated, by virtue of their achievements, their right to be regarded
as the chief sinews of Bahá’í society, as well as the ultimate foundation
of its administrative structure.

“The Lord hath ordained,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction in His
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, “that in every city a House of Justice be established,
wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Bahá (9), and should it
exceed this number, it doth not matter. It behoveth them to be the trusted
ones of the Merciful among men, and to regard themselves as the guardians
appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to
take counsel together, and to have regard for the interests of the
servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests,
and to choose that which is meet and seemly.” “These Spiritual
Assemblies,” is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s testimony, in a Tablet addressed to an
American believer, “are aided by the Spirit of God. Their defender is
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Over them He spreadeth His Wings. What bounty is there
greater than this?” “These Spiritual Assemblies,” He, in that same Tablet
has declared, “are shining lamps and heavenly gardens, from which the
fragrances of holiness are diffused over all regions, and the lights of
knowledge are shed abroad over all created things. From them the spirit of
life streameth in every direction. They, indeed, are the potent sources of
the progress of man, at all times and under all conditions.” Establishing
beyond any doubt their God-given authority, He has written: “It is
incumbent upon every one not to take any step without consulting the
Spiritual Assembly, and all must assuredly obey with heart and soul its
bidding, and be submissive unto it, that things may be properly ordered
and well arranged.” “If after discussion,” He, furthermore has written, “a
decision be carried unanimously, well and good; but if, the Lord forbid,
differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail.”

Having established the structure of their local Assemblies—the base of the
edifice which the Architect of the Administrative Order of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh had directed them to erect—His disciples, in both the East and
the West, unhesitatingly embarked on the next and more difficult stage, of
their high enterprise. In countries where the local Bahá’í communities had
sufficiently advanced in number and in influence measures were taken for
the initiation of National Assemblies, the pivots round which all national
undertakings must revolve. Designated by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will as the
“Secondary Houses of Justice,” they constitute the electoral bodies in the
formation of the International House of Justice, and are empowered to
direct, unify, coordinate and stimulate the activities of individuals as
well as local Assemblies within their jurisdiction. Resting on the broad
base of organized local communities, themselves pillars sustaining the
institution which must be regarded as the apex of the Bahá’í
Administrative Order, these Assemblies are elected, according to the
principle of proportional representation, by delegates representative of
Bahá’í local communities assembled at Convention during the period of the
Ridván Festival; are possessed of the necessary authority to enable them
to insure the harmonious and efficient development of Bahá’í activity
within their respective spheres; are freed from all direct responsibility
for their policies and decisions to their electorates; are charged with
the sacred duty of consulting the views, of inviting the recommendations
and of securing the confidence and cooperation of the delegates and of
acquainting them with their plans, problems and actions; and are supported
by the resources of national funds to which all ranks of the faithful are
urged to contribute. Instituted in the United States of America (1925)
(the National Assembly superseding in that country the institution of
Bahá’í Temple Unity formed during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry), in the British
Isles (1923), in Germany (1923), in Egypt (1924), in ‘Iráq (1931), in
India (1923), in Persia (1934) and in Australia (1934); their election
renewed annually by delegates whose number has been fixed, according to
national requirements, at 9, 19, 95, or 171 (9 times 19), these national
bodies have through their emergence signalized the birth of a new epoch in
the Formative Age of the Faith, and marked a further stage in the
evolution, the unification and consolidation of a continually expanding
community. Aided by national committees responsible to and chosen by them,
without discrimination, from among the entire body of the believers within
their jurisdiction, and to each of which a particular sphere of Bahá’í
service is allocated, these Bahá’í National Assemblies have, as the scope
of their activities steadily enlarged, proved themselves, through the
spirit of discipline which they have inculcated and through their
uncompromising adherence to principles which have enabled them to rise
above all prejudices of race, nation, class and color, capable of
administering, in a remarkable fashion, the multiplying activities of a
newly-consolidated Faith.

Nor have the national committees themselves been less energetic and
devoted in the discharge of their respective functions. In the defense of
the Faith’s vital interests, in the exposition of its doctrine; in the
dissemination of its literature; in the consolidation of its finances; in
the organization of its teaching force; in the furtherance of the
solidarity of its component parts; in the purchase of its historic sites;
in the preservation of its sacred records, treasures and relics; in its
contacts with the various institutions of the society of which it forms a
part; in the education of its youth; in the training of its children; in
the improvement of the status of its women adherents in the East; the
members of these diversified agencies, operating under the aegis of the
elected national representatives of the Bahá’í community, have amply
demonstrated their capacity to promote effectively its vital and manifold
interests. The mere enumeration of the national committees which,
originating mostly in the West and functioning with exemplary efficiency
in the United States and Canada, now carry on their activities with a
vigor and a unity of purpose which sharply contrast with the effete
institutions of a moribund civilization, would suffice to reveal the scope
of these auxiliary institutions which an evolving Administrative Order,
still in the secondary stage of its development, has set in motion: The
Teaching Committee, the Regional Teaching Committees; the Inter-America
Committee; the Publishing Committee; the Race Unity Committee; the Youth
Committee; the Reviewing Committee; The Temple Maintenance Committee; the
Temple Program Committee; the Temple Guides Committee; the Temple
Librarian and Sales Committee; the Boys’ and Girls’ Service Committees;
the Child Education Committee; the Women’s Progress, Teaching, and Program
Committees; the Legal Committee; the Archives and History Committee; the
Census Committee; the Bahá’í Exhibits Committee; the Bahá’í News
Committee; the Bahá’í News Service Committee; the Braille Transcriptions
Committee; the Contacts Committee; the Service Committee; the Editorial
Committee; the Index Committee; the Library Committee; the Radio
Committee; the Accountant Committee; the Annual Souvenir Committee; the
Bahá’í World Editorial Committee; the Study Outline Committee; the
International Auxiliary Language Committee; the Institute of Bahá’í
Education Committee; the World Order Magazine Committee; the Bahá’í Public
Relations Committee; the Bahá’í Schools Committee; the Summer Schools
Committee; the International School Committee; the Pamphlet Literature
Committee; the Bahá’í Cemetery Committee; the Hazíratu’l-Quds Committee;
the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár Committee; the Assembly Development Committee;
the National History Committee; the Miscellaneous Materials Committee; the
Free Literature Committee; the Translation Committee; the Cataloguing
Tablets Committee; the Editing Tablets Committee; the Properties
Committee; the Adjustments Committee; the Publicity Committee; the East
and West Committee; the Welfare Committee; the Transcription of Tablets
Committee; the Traveling Teachers Committee; the Bahá’í Education
Committee; the Holy Sites Committee; the Children’s Savings Bank
Committee.

The establishment of local and national Assemblies and the subsequent
formation of local and national committees, acting as necessary adjuncts
to the elected representatives of Bahá’í communities in both the East and
the West, however remarkable in themselves, were but a prelude to a series
of undertakings on the part of the newly formed National Assemblies, which
have contributed in no small measure to the unification of the Bahá’í
world community and the consolidation of its Administrative Order. The
initial step taken in that direction was the drafting and adoption of a
Bahá’í National constitution, first framed and promulgated by the elected
representatives of the American Bahá’í Community in 1927, the text of
which has since, with slight variations suited to national requirements,
been translated into Arabic, German and Persian, and constitutes, at the
present time, the charter of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the
Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, of the British Isles, of Germany,
of Persia, of ‘Iráq, of India and Burma, of Egypt and the Sudan and of
Australia and New Zealand. Heralding the formulation of the constitution
of the future Bahá’í World Community; submitted for the consideration of
all local Assemblies and ratified by the entire body of the recognized
believers in countries possessing national Assemblies, this national
constitution has been supplemented by a similar document, containing the
by-laws of Bahá’í local assemblies, first drafted by the New York Bahá’í
community in November, 1931, and accepted as a pattern for all local
Bahá’í constitutions. The text of this national constitution comprises a
Declaration of Trust, whose articles set forth the character and objects
of the national Bahá’í community, establish the functions, designate the
central office, and describe the official seal, of the body of its elected
representatives, as well as a set of by-laws which define the status, the
mode of election, the powers and duties of both local and national
Assemblies, describe the relation of the National Assembly to the
International House of Justice as well as to local Assemblies and
individual believers, outline the rights and obligations of the National
Convention and its relation to the National Assembly, disclose the
character of Bahá’í elections, and lay down the requirements of voting
membership in all Bahá’í communities.

The framing of these constitutions, both local and national, identical to
all intents and purposes in their provisions, provided the necessary
foundation for the legal incorporation of these administrative
institutions in accordance with civil statutes controlling religious or
commercial bodies. Giving these Assemblies a legal standing, this
incorporation greatly consolidated their power and enlarged their
capacity, and in this regard the achievement of the National Spiritual
Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada and the Spiritual
Assembly of the Bahá’ís of New York again set an example worthy of
emulation by their sister Assemblies in both the East and the West. The
incorporation of the American National Spiritual Assembly as a voluntary
Trust, a species of corporation recognized under the common law, enabling
it to enter into contract, hold property and receive bequests by virtue of
a certificate issued in May, 1929, under the seal of the Department of
State in Washington and bearing the signature of the Secretary of State,
Henry L. Stimson, was followed by the adoption of similar legal measures
resulting in the successive incorporation of the National Spiritual
Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India and Burma, in January, 1933, in Lahore,
in the state of Punjab, according to the provisions of the Societies
Registration Act of 1860; of the National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá’ís of Egypt and the Sudan, in December, 1934, as certified by the
Mixed Court in Cairo; of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of
Australia and New Zealand, in January, 1938, as witnessed by the Deputy
Registrar at the General Registry Office for the state of South Australia;
and more recently of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the
British Isles, in August, 1939, as an unlimited non-profit company, under
the Companies Act, 1929, and certified by the Assistant Registrar of
Companies in the City of London.

Parallel with the legal incorporation of these National Assemblies a far
larger number of Bahá’í local Assemblies were similarly incorporated,
following the example set by the Chicago Bahá’í Assembly in February,
1932, in countries as far apart as the United States of America, India,
Mexico, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, Costa Rica,
Balú_ch_istán and the Hawaiian Islands. The Spiritual Assemblies of the
Bahá’ís of Esslingen in Germany, of Mexico City in Mexico, of San José in
Costa Rica, of Sydney and Adelaide in Australia, of Auckland in New
Zealand, of Delhi, Bombay, Karachi, Poona, Calcutta, Secunderabad,
Bangalore, Vellore, Ahmedabad, Serampore, Andheri and Baroda in India, of
Tuetta in Balú_ch_istán, of Rangoon, Mandalay and Daidanow-Kalazoo in
Burma, of Montreal and Vancouver in Canada, of Honolulu in the Hawaiian
Islands, and of Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, San
Francisco, Philadelphia, Kenosha, Teaneck, Racine, Detroit, Cleveland, Los
Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Winnetka, Phoenix, Columbus,
Lima, Portland, Jersey City, Wilmette, Peoria, Seattle, Binghamton,
Helena, Richmond Highlands, Miami, Pasadena, Oakland, Indianapolis, St.
Paul, Berkeley, Urbana, Springfield and Flint in the United States of
America—all these succeeded, gradually and after submitting the text of
almost identical Bahá’í local constitutions to the civil authorities in
their respective states or provinces, in constituting themselves into
societies and corporations recognized by law, and protected by the civil
statutes operating in their respective countries.

Just as the formulation of Bahá’í constitutions had provided the
foundation for the incorporation of Bahá’í Spiritual Assemblies, so did
the recognition accorded by local and national authorities to the elected
representatives of Bahá’í communities pave the way for the establishment
of national and local Bahá’í endowments—a historic undertaking which, as
had been the case with previous achievements of far-reaching importance,
the American Bahá’í Community was the first to initiate. In most cases
these endowments, owing to their religious character, have been exempted
from both government and municipal taxes, as a result of representations
made by the incorporated Bahá’í bodies to the civil authorities, though
the value of the properties thus exempted has, in more than one country,
amounted to a considerable sum.

In the United States of America the national endowments of the Faith,
already representing one and three-quarter million dollars of assets, and
established through a series of Indentures of Trust, created in 1928,
1929, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1941 and 1942 by the National Spiritual Assembly
in that country, acting as Trustees of the American Bahá’í Community, now
include the land and structure of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár, and the
caretaker’s cottage in Wilmette, Ill.; the adjoining Hazíratu’l-Quds
(Bahá’í National Headquarters) and its supplementary administrative
office; the Inn, the Fellowship House, the Bahá’í Hall, the Arts and
Crafts Studio, a farm, a number of cottages, several parcels of land,
including the holding on Monsalvat, blessed by the footsteps of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in Green Acre, in the state of Maine; Bosch House, the
Bahá’í Hall, a fruit orchard, the Redwood Grove, a dormitory and Ranch
Buildings in Geyserville, Calif.; Wilhelm House, Evergreen Cabin, a pine
grove and seven lots with buildings at West Englewood, N.J., the scene of
the memorable Unity Feast given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in June, 1912, to the
Bahá’ís of the New York Metropolitan district; Wilson House, blessed by
His presence, and land in Malden, Mass.; Mathews House and Ranch Buildings
in Pine Valley, Colo.; land in Muskegon, Mich., and a cemetery lot in
Portsmouth, N.H.

Of even greater importance, and in their aggregate far surpassing in value
the national endowments of the American Bahá’í community, though their
title-deeds are, owing to the inability of the Persian Bahá’í community to
incorporate its national and local assemblies, held in trust by
individuals, are the assets which the Faith now possesses in the land of
its origin. To the House of the Báb in _Sh_íráz and the ancestral Home of
Bahá’u’lláh in Tákúr, Mázindarán, already in the possession of the
community in the days of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry, have, since His
ascension, been added extensive properties, in the outskirts of the
capital, situated on the slopes of Mt. Alburz, overlooking the native city
of Bahá’u’lláh, including a farm, a garden and vineyard, comprising an
area of over three million and a half square meters, preserved as the
future site of the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár in Persia. Other
acquisitions that have greatly extended the range of Bahá’í endowments in
that country include the House in which Bahá’u’lláh was born in Ṭihrán;
several buildings adjoining the House of the Báb in _Sh_íráz, including
the house owned by His maternal uncle; the Hazíratu’l-Quds in Ṭihrán; the
shop occupied by the Báb during the years He was a merchant in Bú_sh_ihr;
a quarter of the village of _Ch_ihríq, where He was confined; the house of
Ḥájí Mírzá Jání, where He tarried on His way to Tabríz; the public bath
used by Him in _Sh_íráz and some adjacent houses; half of the house owned
by Vahíd in Nayríz and part of the house owned by Hujjat in Zanján; the
three gardens rented by Bahá’u’lláh in the hamlet of Bada_sh_t; the
burial-place of Quddús in Barfurú_sh_; the house of Kalantar in Ṭihrán,
the scene of Táhirih’s confinement; the public bath visited by the Báb
when in Urúmíyyih, Á_dh_irbayján; the house owned by Mírzá
Ḥusayn-‘Alíy-i-Núr, where the Báb’s remains had been concealed; the
Bábíyyih and the house owned by Mullá Ḥusayn in Ma_sh_had; the residence
of the Sulṭánu’_sh_-_Sh_uhudá (King of Martyrs) and of the
Maḥbúbu’_sh_-_Sh_uhadá (Beloved of Martyrs) in Iṣfáhán, as well as a
considerable number of sites and houses, including burial-places,
associated with the heroes and martyrs of the Faith. These holdings which,
with very few exceptions, have been recently acquired in Persia, are now
being preserved and yearly augmented, and, whenever necessary, carefully
restored, through the assiduous efforts of a specially appointed national
committee, acting under the constant and general supervision of the
elected representatives of the Persian believers.

Nor should mention be omitted of the varied and multiplying national
assets which, ever since the inception of the Administrative Order of the
Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, have been steadily acquired in other countries such
as India, Burma, the British Isles, Germany, ‘Iráq, Egypt, Australia,
Transjordan and Syria. Among these may be specially mentioned the
Hazíratu’l-Quds of the Bahá’ís of ‘Iráq, the Hazíratu’l-Quds of the
Bahá’ís of Egypt, the Hazíratu’l-Quds of the Bahá’ís of India, the
Hazíratu’l-Quds of the Bahá’ís of Australia, the Bahá’í Home in Esslingen,
the Publishing Trust of the Bahá’ís of the British Isles, the Bahá’í
Pilgrim House in Ba_gh_dád, and the Bahá’í Cemeteries established in the
capitals of Persia, Egypt and Turkistán. Whether in the form of land,
schools, administrative headquarters, secretariats, libraries, cemeteries,
hostels or publishing companies, these widely scattered assets, partly
registered in the name of incorporated National Assemblies, and partly
held in trust by individual recognized believers, have contributed their
share to the uninterrupted expansion of national Bahá’í endowments in
recent years as well as to the consolidation of their foundations. Of
vital importance, though less notable in significance, have been,
moreover, the local endowments which have supplemented the national assets
of the Faith and which, in consequence of the incorporation of Bahá’í
local Assemblies, have been legally established and safeguarded in various
countries in both the East and the West. Particularly in Persia these
holdings, whether in the form of land, administrative buildings, schools
or other institutions, have greatly enriched and widened the scope of the
local endowments of the world-wide Bahá’í community.

Simultaneous with the establishment and incorporation of local and
national Bahá’í Assemblies, with the formation of their respective
committees, the formulation of national and local Bahá’í constitutions and
the founding of Bahá’í endowments, undertakings of great institutional
significance were initiated by these newly founded Assemblies, among which
the institution of the Hazíratu’l-Quds—the seat of the Bahá’í National
Assembly and pivot of all Bahá’í administrative activity in future—must
rank as one of the most important. Originating first in Persia, now
universally known by its official and distinctive title signifying “the
Sacred Fold,” marking a notable advance in the evolution of a process
whose beginnings may be traced to the clandestine gatherings held at times
underground and in the dead of night, by the persecuted followers of the
Faith in that country, this institution, still in the early stages of its
development, has already lent its share to the consolidation of the
internal functions of the organic Bahá’í community, and provided a further
visible evidence of its steady growth and rising power. Complementary in
its functions to those of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár—an edifice exclusively
reserved for Bahá’í worship—this institution, whether local or national,
will, as its component parts, such as the Secretariat, the Treasury, the
Archives, the Library, the Publishing Office, the Assembly Hall, the
Council Chamber, the Pilgrims’ Hostel, are brought together and made
jointly to operate in one spot, be increasingly regarded as the focus of
all Bahá’í administrative activity, and symbolize, in a befitting manner,
the ideal of service animating the Bahá’í community in its relation alike
to the Faith and to mankind in general.

From the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár, ordained as a house of worship by
Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the representatives of Bahá’í
communities, both local and national, together with the members of their
respective committees, will, as they gather daily within its walls at the
hour of dawn, derive the necessary inspiration that will enable them to
discharge, in the course of their day-to-day exertions in the
Hazíratu’l-Quds—the scene of their administrative activities—their duties
and responsibilities as befits the chosen stewards of His Faith.

Already on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the outskirts of the first
Bahá’í center established in the American continent and under the shadow
of the first Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the West; in the capital city of
Persia, the cradle of the Faith; in the vicinity of the Most Great House
in Ba_gh_dád; in the city of I_sh_qábád, adjoining the first
Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world; in the capital of Egypt, the
foremost center of both the Arab and Islamic worlds; in Delhi, the capital
city of India and even in Sydney in far-off Australia, initial steps have
been taken which must eventually culminate in the establishment, in all
their splendor and power, of the national administrative seats of the
Bahá’í communities established in these countries.

Locally, moreover, in the above-mentioned countries, as well as in several
others, the preliminary measures for the establishment of this
institution, in the form of a house, either owned or rented by the local
Bahá’í community, have been taken, foremost among them being the numerous
administrative buildings which, in various provinces of Persia, the
believers have, despite the disabilities from which they suffer, succeeded
in either purchasing or constructing.

Equally important as a factor in the evolution of the Administrative Order
has been the remarkable progress achieved, particularly in the United
States of America, by the institution of the summer schools designed to
foster the spirit of fellowship in a distinctly Bahá’í atmosphere, to
afford the necessary training for Bahá’í teachers, and to provide
facilities for the study of the history and teachings of the Faith, and
for a better understanding of its relation to other religions and to human
society in general.

Established in three regional centers, for the three major divisions of
the North American continent, in Geyserville, in the Californian hills
(1927), at Green Acre, situated on the banks of the Piscataqua in the
state of Maine (1929), and at Louhelen Ranch near Davison, Michigan
(1931), and recently supplemented by the International School founded at
Pine Valley, Colorado Springs, dedicated to the training of Bahá’í
teachers wishing to serve in other lands and especially in Latin America,
these three embryonic Bahá’í educational institutions have, through a
steady expansion of their programs, set an example worthy of emulation by
other Bahá’í communities in both the East and the West. Through the
intensive study of Bahá’í Scriptures and of the early history of the
Faith; through the organization of courses on the teachings and history of
Islám; through conferences for the promotion of inter-racial amity;
through laboratory courses designed to familiarize the participants with
the processes of the Bahá’í Administrative Order; through special sessions
devoted to Youth and child training; through classes in public speaking;
through lectures on Comparative Religion; through group discussion on the
manifold aspects of the Faith; through the establishment of libraries;
through teaching classes; through courses on Bahá’í ethics and on Latin
America; through the introduction of winter school sessions; through
forums and devotional gatherings; through plays and pageants; through
picnics and other recreational activities, these schools, open to Bahá’ís
and non-Bahá’ís alike, have set so noble an example as to inspire other
Bahá’í communities in Persia, in the British Isles, in Germany, in
Australia, in New Zealand, in India, in ‘Iráq and in Egypt to undertake
the initial measures designed to enable them to build along the same lines
institutions that bid fair to evolve into the Bahá’í universities of the
future.

Among other factors contributing to the expansion and establishment of the
Administrative Order may be mentioned the organized activities of the
Bahá’í Youth, already much advanced in Persia and in the United States of
America, and launched more recently in India, in the British Isles, in
Germany, in ‘Iráq, in Egypt, in Australia, in Bulgaria, in the Hawaiian
Islands, in Hungary and in Havana. These activities comprise annual
world-wide Bahá’í Youth Symposiums, Youth sessions at Bahá’í summer
schools, youth bulletins and magazines, an international correspondence
Bureau, facilities for the registration of young people desiring to join
the Faith, the publication of outlines and references for the study of the
teachings and the organization of a Bahá’í study group as an official
university activity in a leading American university. They include,
moreover, “study days” held in Bahá’í homes and centers, classes for the
study of Esperanto and other languages, the organization of Bahá’í
libraries, the opening of reading rooms, the production of Bahá’í plays
and pageants, the holding of oratorical contests, the education of
orphans, the organization of classes in public speaking, the holding of
gatherings to perpetuate the memory of historical Bahá’í personalities,
inter-group regional conferences and youth sessions held in connection
with Bahá’í annual conventions.

Still other factors promoting the development of that Order and
contributing to its consolidation have been the systematic institution of
the Nineteen Day Feast, functioning in most Bahá’í communities in East and
West, with its threefold emphasis on the devotional, the administrative
and the social aspects of Bahá’í community life; the initiation of
activities designed to prepare a census of Bahá’í children, and provide
for them laboratory courses, prayer books and elementary literature, and
the formulation and publication of a body of authoritative statements on
the non-political character of the Faith, on membership in non-Bahá’í
religious organizations, on methods of teaching, on the Bahá’í attitude
towards war, on the institutions of the Annual Convention, of the Bahá’í
Spiritual Assembly, of the Nineteen Day Feast and of the National Fund.
Reference should, moreover, be made to the establishment of National
Archives for the authentication, the collection, the translation, the
cataloguing and the preservation of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and for the preservation of sacred relics and historical
documents; to the verification and transcription of the original Tablets
of the Báb, of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the possession of
Oriental believers; to the compilation of a detailed history of the Faith
since its inception until the present day; to the opening of a Bahá’í
International Bureau in Geneva; to the holding of Bahá’í district
conventions; to the purchase of historic sites; to the establishment of
Bahá’í memorial libraries, and to the initiation of a flourishing
children’s Savings Bank in Persia.

Nor should mention be omitted of the participation, whether official or
non-official, of representatives of these newly founded national Bahá’í
communities in the activities and proceedings of a great variety of
congresses, associations, conventions and conferences, held in various
countries of Europe, Asia and America for the promotion of religious
unity, peace, education, international cooperation, inter-racial amity and
other humanitarian purposes. With organizations such as the Conference of
some Living Religions within the British Empire, held in London in 1924
and the World Fellowship of Faiths held in that same city in 1936; with
the Universal Esperanto Congresses held annually in various capitals of
Europe; with the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation; with the Century
of Progress Exhibition held in Chicago in 1933; with the World’s Fair held
in New York in 1938 and 1939; with the Golden Gate International
Exposition held in San Francisco in 1939; with the First Convention of the
Religious Congress held in Calcutta; with the Second All-India Cultural
Conference convened in that same city; with the All-Faiths’ League
Convention in Indore; with the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj Conferences
as well as those of the Theosophical Society and the All-Asian Women’s
Conference, held in various cities of India; with the World Council of
Youth; with the Eastern Women’s Congress in Ṭihrán; with the Pan-Pacific
Women’s Conference in Honolulu; with the Women’s International League for
Peace and with the Peoples Conference at Buenos Aires in Argentina—with
these and others, relationships have, in one form or another, been
cultivated which have served the twofold purpose of demonstrating the
universality and comprehensiveness of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh and of
forging vital and enduring links between them and the far-flung agencies
of its Administrative Order.

Nor should we ignore or underestimate the contacts established between
these same agencies and some of the highest governmental authorities, in
both the East and the West, as well as with the heads of Islám in Persia,
and with the League of Nations, and with even royalty itself for the
purpose of defending the rights, or of presenting the literature, or of
setting forth the aims and purposes of the followers of the Faith in their
unremitting efforts to champion the cause of an infant Administrative
Order. The communications addressed by the members of the National
Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada—the
champion builders of that Order—to the Palestine High Commissioner for the
restitution of the keys of the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh to its custodian; to
the _Sh_áh of Persia, on four occasions, pleading for justice on behalf of
their persecuted brethren within his domains; to the Persian Prime
Minister on that same subject; to Queen Marie of Rumania, expressing
gratitude for her historic tributes to the Bahá’í Faith; to the Heads of
Islám in Persia, appealing for harmony and peace among religions; to King
Feisal of ‘Iráq for the purpose of insuring the security of the Most Great
House in Ba_gh_dád; to the Soviet Authorities on behalf of the Bahá’í
communities in Russia; to the German authorities regarding the
disabilities suffered by their German brethren; to the Egyptian Government
concerning the emancipation of their co-religionists from the yoke of
Islamic orthodoxy; to the Persian Cabinet in connection with the closing
of Persian Bahá’í educational institutions; to the State Department of the
United States Government and the Turkish Ambassador in Washington and the
Turkish Cabinet in Ankara, in defense of the interests of the Faith in
Turkey; to that same State Department in order to facilitate the transfer
of the remains of Lua Getsinger from the Protestant Cemetery in Cairo to
the first Bahá’í burial-ground established in Egypt; to the Persian
Minister in Washington regarding the mission of Keith Ransom-Kehler; to
the King of Egypt with accompanying Bahá’í literature; to the Government
of the United States and the Canadian Government, setting forth the Bahá’í
teachings on Universal Peace; to the Rumanian Minister in Washington on
behalf of the American Bahá’ís, on the occasion of the death of Queen
Marie of Rumania; and to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, acquainting him
with Bahá’u’lláh’s summons issued in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas to the Presidents
of the American Republics and with certain prayers revealed by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá—such communications constitute in themselves a notable and
illuminating chapter in the history of the unfoldment of the Bahá’í
Administrative Order.

To these must be added the communications addressed from the world center
of the Faith as well as by Bahá’í national and local assemblies, whether
telegraphically or in writing, to the Palestine High Commissioner,
pleading for the delivery of the keys of the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh to its
original keeper; the appeals made by Bahá’í centers in East and West to
the Iráqí authorities for the restoration of the House of Bahá’u’lláh in
Ba_gh_dád; the subsequent appeal made to the British Secretary of State
for the Colonies, following the verdict of the Ba_gh_dád Court of Appeals
in that connection; the messages despatched to the League of Nations on
behalf of Bahá’í communities in the East and in the West, in appreciation
of the official pronouncement of the Council of the League in favor of the
claims presented by the Bahá’í petitioners, as well as several letters
exchanged between the International Center of the Faith, on the one hand,
and that archetype of Bahá’í teachers, Martha Root, on the other, with
Queen Marie of Rumania, following the publication of her historic
appreciations of the Faith, and the messages of sympathy addressed to
Queen Marie of Yugoslavia, on behalf of the world-wide Bahá’í Community,
on the occasion of the passing of her mother, and to the Duchess of Kent
following the tragic death of her husband.

Nor should we fail to make special mention of the petition forwarded by
the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of ‘Iráq to the Mandates
Commission of the League of Nations, as a result of the seizure of
Bahá’u’lláh’s house in Ba_gh_dád, or of the written messages sent to King
_Gh_ází I of ‘Iráq by that same Assembly, after the death of his father
and on the occasion of his marriage, or of its condolences conveyed in
writing to the present Regent of ‘Iráq at the time of the sudden death of
that King, or of the communications of the National Spiritual Assembly of
the Bahá’ís of Egypt submitted to the Egyptian Prime Minister, the
Minister of the Interior, and the Minister of Justice, following the
verdict of the Muslim ecclesiastical court in Egypt, or of the letters
addressed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Persia to
the _Sh_áh and to the Persian Cabinet in connection with the closing of
Bahá’í schools and the ban imposed on Bahá’í literature in that country.
Mention should, moreover, be made of the written messages despatched by
the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Persia to the King of
Rumania and the Royal Family on the occasion of the death of his mother,
Queen Marie, as well as to the Turkish Ambassador in Ṭihrán enclosing the
contribution of the Persian believers for the sufferers of the earthquake
in Turkey; of Martha Root’s letters to the late President Von Hindenburg
and to Dr. Streseman, the German Foreign Minister, accompanying the
presentation to them of Bahá’í literature; of Keith Ransom-Kehler’s seven
successive petitions addressed to the _Sh_áh of Persia, and of her
numerous communications to various ministers and high dignitaries of the
realm, during her memorable visit to that land.

Collateral with these first stirrings of the Bahá’í Administrative Order,
and synchronizing with the emergence of National Bahá’í communities and
with the institution of their administrative, educational, and teaching
agencies, the mighty process set in motion in the Holy Land, the heart and
nerve-center of that Administrative Order, on the memorable occasions when
Bahá’u’lláh revealed the Tablet of Carmel and visited the future site of
the Báb’s sepulcher, was irresistibly unfolding. That process had received
a tremendous impetus through the purchase of that site, shortly after
Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, through the subsequent transfer of the Báb’s
remains from Ṭihrán to Akká, through the construction of that sepulcher
during the most distressful years of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s incarceration, and
lastly through the permanent interment of those remains in the heart of
Mt. Carmel, through the establishment of a pilgrim house in the immediate
vicinity of that sepulcher, and the selection of the future site of the
first Bahá’í educational institution on that mountain.

Profiting from the freedom accorded the world center of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh, ever since the ignominious defeat of the decrepit Ottoman
empire during the war of 1914–18, the forces released through the
inception of the stupendous Plan conceived by Him could now flow
unchecked, under the beneficent influence of a sympathetic régime, into
channels designed to disclose to the world at large the potencies with
which that Plan had been endowed. The interment of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself
within a vault of the Báb’s mausoleum, enhancing still further the
sacredness of that mountain; the installment of an electric plant, the
first of its kind established in the city of Haifa, flooding with
illumination the Grave of One Who, in His own words, had been denied even
“a lighted lamp” in His fortress-prison in Á_dh_irbayján; the construction
of three additional chambers adjoining His sepulcher, thereby completing
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s plan for the first unit of that Edifice; the vast
extension, despite the machinations of the Covenant-breakers, of the
properties surrounding that resting-place, sweeping from the ridge of
Carmel down to the Templar colony nestling at its foot, and representing
assets estimated at no less than four hundred thousand pounds, together
with the acquisition of four tracts of land, dedicated to the Bahá’í
Shrines, and situated in the plain of Akká to the north, in the district
of Beersheba to the south, and in the valley of the Jordan to the east,
amounting to approximately six hundred acres; the opening of a series of
terraces which, as designed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, are to provide a direct
approach to the Báb’s Tomb from the city lying under its shadow; the
beautification of its precincts through the laying out of parks and
gardens, open daily to the public, and attracting tourists and residents
alike to its gates—these may be regarded as the initial evidences of the
marvelous expansion of the international institutions and endowments of
the Faith at its world center. Of particular significance, moreover, has
been the exemption granted by the Palestine High Commissioner to the
entire area of land surrounding and dedicated to the Shrine of the Báb, to
the school property and the archives in its vicinity, to the Western
pilgrim-house situated in its neighborhood, and to such historic sites as
the Mansion in Bahjí, the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Akká, and the garden of
Ridván to the east of that city; the establishment, as a result of two
formal applications submitted to the civil authorities, of the Palestine
Branches of the American and Indian National Spiritual Assemblies, as
recognized religious societies in Palestine (to be followed, for purposes
of internal consolidation, by a similar incorporation of the branches of
other National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the Bahá’í world); and the
transfer to the Branch of the American National Spiritual Assembly,
through a series of no less than thirty transactions, of properties
dedicated to the Tomb of the Báb, and approximating in their aggregate
fifty thousand square meters, the majority of the title-deeds of which
bear the signature of the son of the Arch-breaker of Bahá’u’lláh’s
Covenant in his capacity as Registrar of lands in Haifa.

Equally significant has been the founding on Mt. Carmel of two
international Archives, the one adjoining the shrine of the Báb, the other
in the immediate vicinity of the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf,
where, for the first time in Bahá’í history, priceless treasures, hitherto
scattered and often hidden for safekeeping, have been collected and are
now displayed to visiting pilgrims. These treasures include portraits of
both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh; personal relics such as the hair, the dust
and garments of the Báb; the locks and blood of Bahá’u’lláh and such
articles as His pen-case, His garments, His brocaded tájes (head dresses),
the ka_sh_kúl of His Sulaymáníyyih days, His watch and His Qur’án;
manuscripts and Tablets of inestimable value, some of them illuminated,
such as part of the Hidden Words written in Bahá’u’lláh’s own hand, the
Persian Bayán, in the handwriting of Siyyid Ḥusayn, the Báb’s amanuensis,
the original Tablets to the Letters of the Living penned by the Báb, and
the manuscript of “Some Answered Questions.” This precious collection,
moreover, includes objects and effects associated with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; the
blood-stained garment of the Purest Branch, the ring of Quddús, the sword
of Mullá Ḥusayn, the seals of the Vazír, the father of Bahá’u’lláh, the
brooch presented by the Queen of Rumania to Martha Root, the originals of
the Queen’s letters to her and to others, and of her tributes to the
Faith, as well as no less than twenty volumes of prayers and Tablets
revealed by the Founders of the Faith, authenticated and transcribed by
Bahá’í Assemblies throughout the Orient, and supplementing the vast
collection of their published writings.

Moreover, as a further testimony to the majestic unfoldment and
progressive consolidation of the stupendous undertaking launched by
Bahá’u’lláh on that holy mountain, may be mentioned the selection of a
portion of the school property situated in the precincts of the Shrine of
the Báb as a permanent resting-place for the Greatest Holy Leaf, the
“well-beloved” sister of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the “Leaf that hath sprung” from
the “Pre-existent Root,” the “fragrance” of Bahá’u’lláh’s “shining robe,”
elevated by Him to a “station such as none other woman hath surpassed,”
and comparable in rank to those immortal heroines such as Sarah, Ásíyih,
the Virgin Mary, Fátimih and Táhirih, each of whom has outshone every
member of her sex in previous Dispensations. And lastly, there should be
mentioned, as a further evidence of the blessings flowing from the Divine
Plan, the transfer, a few years later, to that same hallowed spot, after a
separation in death of above half a century, and notwithstanding the
protests voiced by the brother and lieutenant of the arch-breaker of
Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, of the remains of the Purest Branch, the martyred
son of Bahá’u’lláh, “created of the light of Bahá,” the “Trust of God” and
His “Treasure” in the Holy Land, and offered up by his Father as a
“ransom” for the regeneration of the world and the unification of its
peoples. To this same burial-ground, and on the same day the remains of
the Purest Branch were interred, was transferred the body of his mother,
the saintly Navváb, she to whose dire afflictions, as attested by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a Tablet, the 54th chapter of the Book of Isaiah has, in
its entirety, borne witness, whose “Husband,” in the words of that
Prophet, is “the Lord of Hosts,” whose “seed shall inherit the Gentiles,”
and whom Bahá’u’lláh in His Tablet, has destined to be “His consort in
every one of His worlds.”

The conjunction of these three resting-places, under the shadow of the
Báb’s own Tomb, embosomed in the heart of Carmel, facing the snow-white
city across the bay of Akká, the Qiblih of the Bahá’í world, set in a
garden of exquisite beauty, reinforces, if we would correctly estimate its
significance, the spiritual potencies of a spot, designated by Bahá’u’lláh
Himself the seat of God’s throne. It marks, too, a further milestone in
the road leading eventually to the establishment of that permanent world
Administrative Center of the future Bahá’í Commonwealth, destined never to
be separated from, and to function in the proximity of, the Spiritual
Center of that Faith, in a land already revered and held sacred alike by
the adherents of three of the world’s outstanding religious systems.

Scarcely less significant has been the erection of the superstructure and
the completion of the exterior ornamentation of the first
Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the West, the noblest of the exploits which have
immortalized the services of the American Bahá’í community to the Cause of
Bahá’u’lláh. Consummated through the agency of an efficiently functioning
and newly established Administrative Order, this enterprise has itself
immensely enhanced the prestige, consolidated the strength and expanded
the subsidiary institutions of the community that made its building
possible.

Conceived forty-one years ago; originating with the petition spontaneously
addressed, in March 1903 to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by the “House of Spirituality” of
the Bahá’ís of Chicago—the first Bahá’í center established in the Western
world—the members of which, inspired by the example set by the builders of
the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of I_sh_qábád, had appealed for permission to
construct a similar Temple in America; blessed by His approval and high
commendation in a Tablet revealed by Him in June of that same year;
launched by the delegates of various American Assemblies, assembled in
Chicago in November, 1907, for the purpose of choosing the site of the
Temple; established on a national basis through a religious corporation
known as the “Bahá’í Temple Unity,” which was incorporated shortly after
the first American Bahá’í Convention held in that same city in March,
1909; honored through the dedication ceremony presided over by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself when visiting that site in May, 1912, this
enterprise—the crowning achievement of the Administrative Order of the
Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in the first Bahá’í century—had, ever since that
memorable occasion, been progressing intermittently until the time when
the foundations of that Order having been firmly laid in the North
American continent the American Bahá’í community was in a position to
utilize the instruments which it had forged for the efficient prosecution
of its task.

At the 1914 American Bahá’í Convention the purchase of the Temple property
was completed. The 1920 Convention, held in New York, having been
previously directed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to select the design of that Temple,
chose from among a number of designs competitively submitted to it that of
Louis J. Bourgeois, a French-Canadian architect, a selection that was
later confirmed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself. The contracts for the sinking of
the nine great caissons supporting the central portion of the building,
extending to rock at a depth of 120 feet below the ground level, and for
the construction of the basement structure, were successively awarded in
December, 1920 and August, 1921. In August, 1930, in spite of the
prevailing economic crisis, and during a period of unemployment
unparalleled in American history, another contract, with twenty-four
additional sub-contracts, for the erection of the superstructure was
placed, and the work completed by May 1, 1931, on which day the first
devotional service in the new structure was celebrated, coinciding with
the 19th anniversary of the dedication of the grounds by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The
ornamentation of the dome was started in June, 1932 and finished in
January, 1934. The ornamentation of the clerestory was completed in July,
1935, and that of the gallery unit below it in November, 1938. The
mainstory ornamentation was, despite the outbreak of the present war,
undertaken in April, 1940, and completed in July, 1942; whilst the
eighteen circular steps were placed in position by December, 1942,
seventeen months in advance of the centenary celebration of the Faith, by
which time the exterior of the Temple was scheduled to be finished, and
forty years after the petition of the Chicago believers had been submitted
to and granted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

This unique edifice, the first fruit of a slowly maturing Administrative
Order, the noblest structure reared in the first Bahá’í century, and the
symbol and precursor of a future world civilization, is situated in the
heart of the North American continent, on the western shore of Lake
Michigan, and is surrounded by its own grounds comprising a little less
than seven acres. It has been financed, at cost of over a million dollars,
by the American Bahá’í community, assisted at times by voluntary
contributions of recognized believers in East and West, of Christian, of
Muslim, of Jewish, of Zoroastrian, of Hindu and Buddhist extraction. It
has been associated, in its initial phase, with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and in the
concluding stages of its construction with the memory of the Greatest Holy
Leaf, the Purest Branch, and their mother. The structure itself is a pure
white nonagonal building, of original and unique design, rising from a
flight of white stairs encircling its base; and surmounted by a majestic
and beautifully proportioned dome, bearing nine tapering symmetrically
placed ribs of decorative as well as structural significance, which soar
to its apex and finally merge into a common unit pointing skyward. Its
framework is constructed of structural steel enclosed in concrete, the
material of its ornamentation consisting of a combination of crystalline
quartz, opaque quartz and white Portland cement, producing a composition
clear in texture, hard and enduring as stone, impervious to the elements,
and cast into a design as delicate as lace. It soars 191 feet from the
floor of its basement to the culmination of the ribs, clasping the
hemispherical dome which is forty-nine feet high, with an external
diameter of ninety feet, and one-third of the surface of which is
perforated to admit light during the day and emit light at night. It is
buttressed by pylons forty-five feet in height, and bears above its nine
entrances, one of which faces Akká, nine selected quotations from the
writings of Bahá’u’lláh, as well as the Greatest Name in the center of
each of the arches over its doors. It is consecrated exclusively to
worship, devoid of all ceremony and ritual, is provided with an auditorium
which can seat 1600 people, and is to be supplemented by accessory
institutions of social service to be established in its vicinity, such as
an orphanage, a hospital, a dispensary for the poor, a home for the
incapacitated, a hostel for travelers and a college for the study of arts
and sciences. It had already, long before its construction, evoked, and is
now increasingly evoking, though its interior ornamentation is as yet
unbegun, such interest and comment, in the public press, in technical
journals and in magazines, of both the United States and other countries,
as to justify the hopes and expectations entertained for it by
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Its model exhibited at Art centers, galleries, state fairs
and national expositions—among which may be mentioned the Century of
Progress Exhibition, held in Chicago in 1933, where no less than ten
thousand people, passing through the Hall of Religions, must have viewed
it every day—its replica forming a part of the permanent exhibit of the
Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago; its doors now thronged by
visitors from far and near, whose number, during the period from June,
1932 to October, 1941 has exceeded 130,000 people, representing almost
every country in the world, this great “Silent Teacher” of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh, it may be confidently asserted, has contributed to the
diffusion of the knowledge of His Faith and teachings in a measure which
no other single agency, operating within the framework of its
Administrative Order, has ever remotely approached.

“When the foundation of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár is laid in America,”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself has predicted, “and that Divine Edifice is completed,
a most wonderful and thrilling motion will appear in the world of
existence... From that point of light the spirit of teaching, spreading
the Cause of God and promoting the teachings of God, will permeate to all
parts of the world.” “Out of this Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár,” He has affirmed
in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, “without doubt, thousands of
Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kárs will be born.” “It marks,” He, furthermore, has
written, “the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth.” And again: “It is
the manifest Standard waving in the center of that great continent.”
“Thousands of Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kárs,” He, when dedicating the grounds of
the Temple, declared, “...will be built in the East and in the West, but
this, being the first erected in the Occident, has great importance.”
“This organization of the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár,” He, referring to that
edifice, has moreover stated, “will be a model for the coming centuries,
and will hold the station of the mother.”

“Its inception,” the architect of the Temple has himself testified, “was
not from man, for, as musicians, artists, poets receive their inspiration
from another realm, so the Temple’s architect, through all his years of
labor, was ever conscious that Bahá’u’lláh was the creator of this
building to be erected to His glory.” “Into this new design,” he,
furthermore, has written, “...is woven, in symbolic form, the great Bahá’í
teaching of unity—the unity of all religions and of all mankind. There are
combinations of mathematical lines, symbolizing those of the universe, and
in their intricate merging of circle into circle, and circle within
circle, we visualize the merging of all the religions into one.” And
again: “A circle of steps, eighteen in all, will surround the structure on
the outside, and lead to the auditorium floor. These eighteen steps
represent the eighteen first disciples of the Báb, and the door to which
they lead stands for the Báb Himself.” “As the essence of the pure
original teachings of the historic religions was the same ... in the
Bahá’í Temple is used a composite architecture, expressing the essence in
the line of each of the great architectural styles, harmonizing them into
one whole.”

“It is the first new idea in architecture since the 13th century,”
declared a distinguished architect, H. Van Buren Magonigle, President of
the Architectural League, after gazing upon a plaster model of the Temple
on exhibition in the Engineering Societies Building in New York, in June
1920. “The Architect,” he, moreover, has stated, “has conceived a Temple
of Light in which structure, as usually understood, is to be concealed,
visible support eliminated as far as possible, and the whole fabric to
take on the airy substance of a dream. It is a lacy envelope enshrining an
idea, the idea of light, a shelter of cobweb interposed between earth and
sky, struck through and through with light—light which shall partly
consume the forms and make of it a thing of faery.”

“In the geometric forms of the ornamentation,” a writer in the well-known
publication “Architectural Record” has written, “covering the columns and
surrounding windows and doors of the Temple, one deciphers all the
religious symbols of the world. Here are the swastika, the circle, the
cross, the triangle, the double triangle or six pointed star (Solomon’s
seal)—but more than this—the noble symbol of the spiritual orb ... the
five pointed star; the Greek Cross, the Roman cross, and supreme above
all, the wonderful nine pointed star, figured in the structure of the
Temple itself, and appearing again and again in its ornamentation as
significant of the spiritual glory in the world today.”

“The greatest creation since the Gothic period,” is the testimony of
George Grey Barnard, one of the most widely-known sculptors in the United
States of America, “and the most beautiful I have ever seen.”

“This is a new creation,” Prof. Luigi Quaglino, ex-professor of
Architecture from Turin declared, after viewing the model, “which will
revolutionize architecture in the world, and it is the most beautiful I
have ever seen. Without doubt it will have a lasting page in history. It
is a revelation from another world.”

“Americans,” wrote Sherwin Cody, in the magazine section of the New York
Times, of the model of the Temple, when exhibited in the Kevorkian Gallery
in New York, “will have to pause long enough to find that an artist has
wrought into this building the conception of a Religious League of
Nations.” And lastly, this tribute paid to the features of, and the ideals
embodied in, this Temple—the most sacred House of Worship in the Bahá’í
world, whether of the present or of the future—by Dr. Rexford Newcomb,
Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of
Illinois: “This ’Temple of Light’ opens upon the terrain of human
experience nine great doorways which beckon men and women of every race
and clime, of every faith and conviction, of every condition of freedom or
servitude to enter here into a recognition of that kinship and brotherhood
without which the modern world will be able to make little further
progress ...The dome, pointed in form, aiming as assuredly as did the
aspiring lines of the medieval cathedrals toward higher and better things,
achieves not only through its symbolism but also through its structural
propriety and sheer loveliness of form, a beauty not matched by any
domical structure since the construction of Michelangelo’s dome on the
Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.”



Chapter XXIII: Attacks on Bahá’í Institutions


The institutions signalizing the rise and establishment of the
Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh did not (as the history
of their unfoldment abundantly demonstrates) remain immune against the
assaults and persecutions to which the Faith itself, the progenitor of
that Order, had, for over seventy years, been subjected, and from which it
is still suffering. The emergence of a firmly knit community, advancing
the claims of a world religion, with ramifications spread over five
continents representing a great variety of races, languages, classes and
religious traditions; provided with a literature scattered over the
surface of the earth, and expounding in several languages its doctrine;
clear-visioned, unafraid, alert and determined to achieve at whatever
sacrifice its goal; organically united through the machinery of a divinely
appointed Administrative Order; non-sectarian, non-political, faithful to
its civil obligations yet supranational in character; tenacious in its
adherence to the laws and ordinances regulating its community life—the
emergence of such a community, in a world steeped in prejudice,
worshipping false gods, torn by intestine divisions, and blindly clinging
to obsolescent doctrines and defective standards, could not but
precipitate, sooner or later, crises no less grave, though less
spectacular, than the persecutions which, in an earlier age, had raged
around the Founders of that community and their early disciples. Assailed
by enemies within, who have either rebelled against its God-given
authority or wholly renounced their faith, or by adversaries from without,
whether political or ecclesiastical, the infant Order identified with this
community has, since its inception, and throughout every stage in its
evolution, felt severely the impact of the forces which have sought in
vain to strangle its budding life or to obscure its purpose.

To these attacks, destined to grow in scope and severity, and to arouse a
tumult that will reverberate throughout the world, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself
had already, at the time the outlines of that Divine order were being
delineated by Him in His Will, significantly alluded: “Erelong shall the
clamor of the multitude throughout Africa, throughout America, the cry of
the European and of the Turk, the groaning of India and China, be heard
from far and near. One and all, they shall arise with all their power to
resist His Cause. Then shall the knights of the Lord ... reinforced by the
legions of the Covenant, arise and manifest the truth of the verse:
‘Behold the confusion that hath befallen the tribes of the defeated!’”

Already in more than one country the trustees and elected representatives
of this indestructible world-embracing Order have been summoned by civil
authorities or ecclesiastical courts, ignorant of its claims, or hostile
to its principles or fearful of its rising strength, to defend its cause,
or to renounce their allegiance to it, or to curtail the range of its
operation. Already an aggressive hand, unmindful of God’s avenging wrath,
has been stretched out against its sanctuaries and edifices. Already its
defenders and champions have, in some countries, been declared heretics,
or stigmatized as subverters of law and order, or branded as visionaries,
unpatriotic and careless of their civic duties and responsibilities, or
peremptorily ordered to suspend their activities and dissolve their
institutions.

In the Holy Land, the world seat of this System, where its heart pulsates,
where the dust of its Founders reposes, where the processes disclosing its
purposes, energizing its life and shaping its destiny all originate, there
fell, at the very hour of its inception, the first blow which served to
proclaim to high and low alike the solidity of the foundations on which it
has been established. The Covenant-breakers, now dwindled to a mere
handful, instigated by Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, the Arch-rebel, whose dormant
hopes had been awakened by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sudden ascension, and headed by
the arrogant Mírzá Badí’u’lláh, seized forcibly the keys of the Tomb of
Bahá’u’lláh, expelled its keeper, the brave-souled
Abu’l-Qásim-i-_Kh_urásání, and demanded that their chief be recognized by
the authorities as the legal custodian of that Shrine. Unadmonished by
their abject failure, as witnessed by the firm action of the Palestine
authorities, who, after prolonged investigations, instructed the British
officer in Akká to deliver the keys into the hands of that same keeper,
they resorted to other methods in the hope of creating a cleavage in the
ranks of the bereaved yet resolute disciples of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and of
ultimately undermining the foundations of the institutions His followers
were laboring to erect. Through their mischievous misrepresentations of
the ideals animating the builders of the Bahá’í Administrative Order;
through the maintenance, though not on its original scale, of a subversive
correspondence with individuals whose loyalty they hoped they could sap;
through deliberate distortions of the truth in their contact with
officials and notables whom they could approach; through attempts, made
through bribery and intimidation, to purchase a part of the Mansion of
Bahá’u’lláh; through efforts directed at preventing the acquisition by the
Bahá’í community of certain properties situated in the vicinity of the
Tomb of the Báb, and at frustrating the design to consolidate the
foundation of some of these properties by transferring their title-deeds
to incorporated Bahá’í assemblies, they continued to labor intermittently
for several years until the extinction of the life of the Arch-breaker of
the Covenant himself virtually sealed their doom.

The evacuation of the Mansion of Bahá’u’lláh by these Covenant-breakers,
after their unchallenged occupancy of it since His ascension, a Mansion
which, through their gross neglect, had fallen into a sad state of
disrepair; its subsequent complete restoration, fulfilling a long
cherished desire of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; its illumination through an electric
plant installed by an American believer for that purpose; the refurnishing
of all its rooms after it had been completely denuded by its former
occupants of all the precious relics it contained, with the exception of a
single candlestick in the room where Bahá’u’lláh had ascended; the
collection within its walls of Bahá’í historic documents, of relics and of
over five thousand volumes of Bahá’í literature, in no less than forty
languages; the extension to it of the exemption from government taxes,
already granted to other Bahá’í institutions and properties in Akká and on
Mt. Carmel; and finally, its conversion from a private residence to a
center of pilgrimage visited by Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís alike—these served
to further dash the hopes of those who were still desperately striving to
extinguish the light of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. Furthermore, the
success later achieved in purchasing and safeguarding the area forming the
precincts of the resting-place of the Báb on Mt. Carmel, and the transfer
of the title-deeds of some of these properties to the legally constituted
Palestine Branch of the American Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly, no
less than the circumstances attending the death of the one who had been
the prime mover of mischief throughout ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry,
demonstrated to these enemies the futility of their efforts and the
hopelessness of their cause.

Of a more serious nature, and productive of still greater repercussions,
was the unlawful seizure by the _Sh_í’ahs of ‘Iráq, at about the same time
that the keys of the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh were wrested by the
Covenant-breakers from its keeper, of yet another Bahá’í Shrine, the House
occupied by Bahá’u’lláh for well nigh the whole period of His exile in
‘Iráq, which had been acquired by Him, and later had been ordained as a
center of pilgrimage, and had continued in the unbroken and undisputed
possession of His followers ever since His departure from Ba_gh_dád. This
crisis, originating about a year prior to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ascension, and
precipitated by the measures which, after the change of régime in ‘Iráq,
had, according to His instructions, been taken for the reconstruction of
that House, acquired as it developed a steadily widening measure of
publicity. It became the object of the consideration of successive
tribunals, first of the local _Sh_í’ah Ja’faríyyih court in Ba_gh_dád,
second of the Peace court, then the court of First Instance, then of the
court of Appeal in ‘Iráq, and finally of the League of Nations, the
greatest international body yet come into existence, and empowered to
exercise supervision and control over all Mandated Territories. Though as
yet unresolved through a combination of causes, religious as well as
political, it has already remarkably fulfilled Bahá’u’lláh’s own
prediction, and will, in its own appointed time, as the means for its
solution are providentially created, fulfill the high destiny ordained for
it by Him in His Tablets. Long before its seizure by fanatical enemies,
who had no conceivable claim to it whatever, He had prophesied that “it
shall be so abased in the days to come as to cause tears to flow from
every discerning eye.”

The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ba_gh_dád, deprived of the use of
that sacred property through an adverse decision by a majority of the
court of Appeal, which had reversed the verdict of the lower court and
awarded the property to the _Sh_í’ahs, and aroused by subsequent action of
the _Sh_í’ahs, soon after the execution of the judgment of that court, in
converting the building into waqf property (pious foundation), designating
it “Ḥusayníyyih,” with the purpose of consolidating their gain, realized
the futility of the three years of negotiations they had been conducting
with the civil authorities in Ba_gh_dád for the righting of the wrong
inflicted upon them. In their capacity as the national representatives of
the Bahá’ís of ‘Iráq, they, therefore, on September 11, 1928, through the
High Commissioner for ‘Iráq and in conformity with the provisions of Art.
22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, approached the League’s
Permanent Mandates Commission, charged with the supervision of the
administration of all Mandated Territories, and presented a petition that
was accepted and approved by that body in November, 1928. A memorandum
submitted, in connection with that petition, to that same Commission, by
the Mandatory Power unequivocally stated that the _Sh_í’ahs had “no
conceivable claim whatever” to the House, that the decision of the judge
of the Ja’faríyyih court was “obviously wrong,” “unjust” and “undoubtedly
actuated by religious prejudice,” that the subsequent ejectment of the
Bahá’ís was “illegal,” that the action of the authorities had been “highly
irregular,” and that the verdict of the Court of Appeal was suspected of
not being “uninfluenced by political consideration.”

“The Commission,” states the Report submitted by it to the Council of the
League, and published in the Minutes of the 14th session of the Permanent
Mandates Commission, held in Geneva in the fall of 1928, and subsequently
translated into Arabic and published in ‘Iráq, “draws the Council’s
attention to the considerations and conclusions suggested to it by an
examination of the petition... It recommends that the Council should ask
the British Government to make representations to the ‘Iráq Government
with a view to the immediate redress of the denial of justice from which
the petitioners have suffered.”

The British accredited representative present at the sessions of the
Commission, furthermore, stated that “the Mandatory Power had recognized
that the Bahá’ís had suffered an injustice,” whilst allusion was made, in
the course of that session, to the fact that the action of the _Sh_í’ahs
constituted a breach of the constitution and the Organic Law of ‘Iráq. The
Finnish representative, moreover, in his report to the Council, declared
that this “injustice must be attributed solely to religious passion,” and
asked that “the petitioner’s wrongs should be redressed.”

The Council of the League, on its part, having considered this report as
well as the joint observations and conclusions of the Commission,
unanimously adopted, on March 4, 1929, a resolution, subsequently
translated and published in the newspapers of Ba_gh_dád, directing the
Mandatory Power “to make representations to the Government of ‘Iráq with a
view to the immediate redress of the injustice suffered by the
Petitioners.” It instructed, accordingly, the Secretary General to bring
to the notice of the Mandatory Power, as well as to the petitioners
concerned, the conclusions arrived at by the Commission, an instruction
which was duly transmitted by the British Government through its High
Commissioner to the ‘Iráq Government.

A letter dated January 12, 1931, written on behalf of the British Foreign
Minister, Mr. Arthur Henderson, addressed to the League Secretariat,
stated that the conclusions reached by the Council had “received the most
careful consideration by the Government of ‘Iráq,” who had “finally
decided to set up a special committee ... to consider the views expressed
by the Bahá’í community in respect of certain houses in Ba_gh_dád, and to
formulate recommendations for an equitable settlement of this question.”
That letter, moreover, pointed out that the committee had submitted its
report in August, 1930, that it had been accepted by the government, that
the Bahá’í community had “accepted in principle” its recommendations, and
that the authorities in Ba_gh_dád had directed that “detailed plans and
estimates shall be prepared with a view to carrying these recommendations
into effect during the coming financial year.”

No need to dwell on the subsequent history of this momentous case, on the
long-drawn out negotiations, the delays and complications that ensued; on
the consultations, “over a hundred” in number, in which the king, his
ministers and advisers took part; on the expressions of “regret,” of
“surprise” and of “anxiety” placed on record at successive sessions of the
Mandates Commission held in Geneva in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1933; on
the condemnation by its members of the “spirit of intolerance” animating
the _Sh_í’ah community, of the “partiality” of the Iráqí courts, of the
“weakness” of the civil authorities and of the “religious passion at the
bottom of this injustice”; on their testimony to the “extremely
conciliatory disposition” of the petitioners, on their “doubt” regarding
the adequacy of the proposals, and on their recognition of the “serious”
character of the situation that had been created, of the “flagrant denial
of justice” which the Bahá’ís had suffered, and of the “moral debt” which
the ‘Iráq Government had contracted, a debt which, whatever the changes in
her status as a nation, it was her bounden duty to discharge.

Nor does it seem necessary to expatiate on the unfortunate consequences of
the untimely death of both the British High Commissioner and the Iráqí
Prime Minister; on the admission of ‘Iráq as a member of the League, and
the consequent termination of the mandate held by Great Britain; on the
tragic and unexpected death of the King himself; on the difficulties
raised owing to the existence of a town planning scheme; on the written
assurance conveyed to the High Commissioner by the acting Premier in his
letter of January, 1932; on the pledge given by the King, prior to his
death, in the presence of the foreign minister, in February, 1933, that
the House would be expropriated, and the necessary sum would be
appropriated in the spring of the ensuing year; on the categorical
statement made by that same foreign minister that the Prime Minister had
given the necessary assurances that the promise already made by the acting
Premier would be redeemed; or on the positive statements made by that same
Foreign Minister and his colleague, the Minister of Finance, when
representing their country during the sessions of the League Assembly held
in Geneva, that the promise given by their late King would be fully
honored.

Suffice it to say that, despite these interminable delays, protests and
evasions, and the manifest failure of the Authorities concerned to
implement the recommendations made by both the Council of the League and
the Permanent Mandates Commission, the publicity achieved for the Faith by
this memorable litigation, and the defense of its cause—the cause of truth
and justice—by the world’s highest tribunal, have been such as to excite
the wonder of its friends and to fill with consternation its enemies. Few
episodes, if any, since the birth of the Formative Age of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh, have given rise to repercussions in high places comparable to
the effect produced on governments and chancelleries by this violent and
unprovoked assault directed by its inveterate enemies against one of its
holiest sanctuaries.

“Grieve not, O House of God,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself has significantly
written, “if the veil of thy sanctity be rent asunder by the infidels. God
hath, in the world of creation, adorned thee with the jewel of His
remembrance. Such an ornament no man can, at any time, profane. Towards
thee the eyes of thy Lord shall, under all conditions, remain directed.”
“In the fullness of time,” He, in another passage, referring to that same
House, has prophesied, “the Lord shall, by the power of truth, exalt it in
the eyes of all men. He shall cause it to become the Standard of His
Kingdom, the Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the
faithful.”

To the bold onslaught made by the breakers of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh
in their concerted efforts to secure the custodianship of His holy Tomb,
to the arbitrary seizure of His holy House in Ba_gh_dád by the _Sh_í’ah
community of ‘Iráq, was to be added, a few years later, yet another
grievous assault launched by a still more powerful adversary, directed
against the very fabric of the Administrative Order as established by two
long-flourishing Bahá’í communities of the East, culminating in the
virtual disruption of these communities and the seizure of the first
Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of the Bahá’í world and of the few accessory
institutions already reared about it.

The courage, the fervor and the spiritual vitality evinced by these
communities; the highly organized state of their administrative
institutions; the facilities provided for the religious education and
training of their youth; the conversion of a number of broad-minded
Russian citizens, imbued with ideas closely related to the tenets of the
Faith; the growing realization of the implications of its principles, with
their emphasis on religion, on the sanctity of family life, on the
institution of private property, and their repudiation of all
discrimination between classes and of the doctrine of the absolute
equality of men—these combined to excite the suspicion, and later to
arouse the fierce antagonism, of the ruling authorities, and to
precipitate one of the gravest crises in the history of the first Bahá’í
century.

As the crisis developed and spread to even the outlying centers of both
Turkistán and the Caucasus it resulted gradually in the imposition of
restrictions limiting the freedom of these communities, in the
interrogation and arrest of their elected representatives, in the
dissolution of their local Assemblies and their respective committees in
Moscow, in I_sh_qábád, in Bákú and in other localities in the
above-mentioned provinces and in the suspension of all Bahá’í youth
activities. It even led to the closing of Bahá’í schools, kindergartens,
libraries and public reading-rooms, to the interception of all
communication with foreign Bahá’í centers, to the confiscation of Bahá’í
printing presses, books and documents, to the prohibition of all teaching
activities, to the abrogation of the Bahá’í constitution, to the abolition
of all national and local funds and to the ban placed on the attendance of
non-believers at Bahá’í meetings.

In the middle of 1928 the law expropriating religious edifices was applied
to the Ma_sh_riqu’l-A_dh_kár of I_sh_qábád. The use of this edifice as a
house of worship, however, was continued, under a five-year lease, which
was renewed by the local authorities in 1933, for a similar period. In
1938 the situation in both Turkistán and the Caucasus rapidly
deteriorated, leading to the imprisonment of over five hundred
believers—many of whom died—as well as a number of women, and the
confiscation of their property, followed by the exile of several prominent
members of these communities to Siberia, the polar forests and other
places in the vicinity of the Arctic Ocean, the subsequent deportation of
most of the remnants of these communities to Persia, on account of their
Persian nationality, and lastly, the complete expropriation of the Temple
itself and its conversion into an art gallery.

In Germany, likewise, the rise and establishment of the Administrative
Order of the Faith, to whose expansion and consolidation the German
believers were distinctively and increasingly contributing, was soon
followed by repressive measures, which, though less grievous than the
afflictions suffered by the Bahá’ís of Turkistán and the Caucasus,
amounted to the virtual cessation, in the years immediately preceding the
present conflict, of all organized Bahá’í activity throughout the length
and breadth of that land. The public teaching of the Faith, with its
unconcealed emphasis on peace and universality, and its repudiation of
racialism, was officially forbidden; Bahá’í Assemblies and their
committees were dissolved; the holding of Bahá’í conventions was
interdicted; the Archives of the National Spiritual Assembly were seized;
the summer school was abolished and the publication of all Bahá’í
literature was suspended.

In Persia, moreover, apart from sporadic outbreaks of persecution in such
places as _Sh_íráz, Ábádih, Ardibíl, Iṣfáhán, and in certain districts of
Á_dh_irbayján and _Kh_urásán—outbreaks greatly reduced in number and
violence, owing to the marked decline in the fortunes of the erstwhile
powerful _Sh_í’ah ecclesiastics—the institutions of a newly-established
and as yet unconsolidated Administrative Order were subjected by the civil
authorities, in both the capital and the provinces, to restrictions
designed to circumscribe their scope, to fetter their freedom and
undermine their foundations.

The gradual and wholly unexpected emergence from obscurity of a
firmly-welded national community, schooled in adversity and unbroken in
spirit, with centers established in every province of that country, in
spite of the successive waves of inhuman persecution which had, for three
quarters of a century, swept over and had all but engulfed it; the
determination of its members to diffuse the spirit and principles of their
Faith, broadcast its literature, enforce its laws and ordinances, penalize
those who would transgress them, maintain a steady intercourse with their
fellow-believers in foreign lands, and erect the edifices and institutions
of its Administrative Order, could not but arouse the apprehensions and
the hostility of those placed in authority, who either misunderstood the
aims of that community, or were bent upon stifling its life. The
insistence of its members, while obedient in all matters of a purely
administrative character to the civil statutes of their country, on
adhering to the fundamental spiritual principles, precepts and laws
revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, requiring them, among other things, to hold fast
to truthfulness, not to dissimulate their faith, observe the ordinances
prescribed for marriage and divorce, and suspend all manner of work on the
Holy Days ordained by Him, brought them, sooner or later, into conflict
with a régime which, owing to its formal recognition of Islám as the state
religion of Persia, refused to extend any recognition to those whom the
official exponents of that religion had already condemned as heretics.

The closing of all schools belonging to the Bahá’í community in that
country, as a direct consequence of the refusal of the representatives of
that community to permit official Bahá’í institutions, owned and entirely
controlled by them, to transgress the clearly revealed law requiring the
suspension of work on Bahá’í Holy Days; the rejection of all Bahá’í
marriage certificates and the refusal to register them at government
License Bureaus; the ban placed on the printing and circulation of all
Bahá’í literature, as well as on its entry into the country; the seizure
in various centers of Bahá’í documents, books and relics; the closing, in
some of the provinces of the Hazíratu’l-Quds, and the confiscation in some
localities of their furniture; the prohibition of all Bahá’í
demonstrations, conferences and conventions; the strict censorship imposed
on, and often the non-delivery of, communications between Bahá’í centers
in Persia and between these centers and Bahá’í communities in foreign
lands; the withholding of good-record certificates from loyal and
law-abiding citizens on the ground of their avowed adherence to the Bahá’í
Faith; the dismissal of Government employees, the demotion or discharge of
army officers, the arrest, the interrogation, the imprisonment of, and the
imposition of fines and other punishments upon, a number of believers who
refused either to cast aside the moral obligation of adhering to the
spiritual principles of their Faith, or to act in any manner that would
conflict with its universal and non-political character—all these may be
regarded as the initial attempts made in the country whose soil had
already been imbued with the blood of countless Bahá’í martyrs, to resist
the rise, and frustrate the struggle for the emancipation, of a nascent
Administrative Order, whose very roots have sucked their strength from
such heroic sacrifice.



Chapter XXIV: Emancipation and Recognition of the Faith and Its
Institutions


While the initial steps aiming at the erection of the framework of the
Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh were being simultaneously
undertaken by His followers in the East and in the West, a fierce attack
was launched in an obscure village in Egypt on a handful of believers, who
were trying to establish there one of the primary institutions of that
Order—an attack which, viewed in the perspective of history, will be
acclaimed by future generations as a landmark not only in the Formative
Period of the Faith but in the history of the first Bahá’í century.
Indeed, the sequel to this assault may be said to have opened a new
chapter in the evolution of the Faith itself, an evolution which, carrying
it through the successive stages of repression, of emancipation, of
recognition as an independent Revelation, and as a state religion, must
lead to the establishment of the Bahá’í state and culminate in the
emergence of the Bahá’í World Commonwealth.

Originating in a country which can rightly boast of being the acknowledged
center of both the Arab and Muslim worlds; precipitated by the action,
taken on their own initiative, by the ecclesiastical representatives of
the largest communion in Islám; the direct outcome of a series of
disturbances instigated by some of the members of that communion designed
to suppress the activities of certain followers of the Faith who had held
a clerical rank among them, this momentous development in the fortunes of
a struggling community has directly contributed, to a considerable degree,
to the consolidation and the enhancement of the prestige of the
Administrative Order which that community had begun to erect. It will,
moreover, as its repercussions are more widely spread to other Islamic
countries, and its vast significance is more clearly apprehended by the
adherents of both Christianity and Islám, hasten the termination of the
period of transition through which the Faith, now in the formative stage
of its growth, is passing.

It was in the village of Kawmu’ṣ-Ṣa‘áyidih, in the district of Beba, of
the province of Beni Suef in Upper Egypt, that, as a result of the
religious fanaticism which the formation of a Bahá’í assembly had kindled
in the breast of the headman of that village, and of the grave accusations
made by him to both the District Police Officer and the Governor of the
province—accusations which aroused the Muḥammadans to such a pitch of
excitement as to cause them to perpetrate shameful acts against their
victims—that action was initiated by the notary of the village, in his
capacity as a religious plaintiff authorized by the Ministry of Justice,
against three Bahá’í residents of that village, demanding that their
Muslim wives be divorced from them on the grounds that their husbands had
abandoned Islám after their legal marriage as Muslims.

The Opinion and Judgment of the Appellate religious court of Beba,
delivered on May 10, 1925, subsequently sanctioned by the highest
ecclesiastical authorities in Cairo and upheld by them as final, printed
and circulated by the Muslim authorities themselves, annulled the
marriages contracted by the three Bahá’í defendants and condemned the mass
heretics for having violated the laws and ordinances of Islám. It even
went so far as to make the positive, the startling and indeed the historic
assertion that the Faith embraced by these heretics is to be regarded as a
distinct religion, wholly independent of the religious systems that have
preceded it—an assertion which hitherto the enemies of the Faith, whether
in the East or in the West, had either disputed or deliberately ignored.

Having expounded the fundamental tenets and ordinances of Islám, and given
a detailed exposition of the Bahá’í teachings, supported by various
quotations from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and
of Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl, with special reference to certain Bahá’í laws, and
demonstrated that the defendants had, in the light of these statements,
actually abjured the Faith of Muḥammad, his formal verdict declares in the
most unequivocal terms: “The Bahá’í Faith is a new religion, entirely
independent, with beliefs, principles and laws of its own, which differ
from, and are utterly in conflict with, the beliefs, principles and laws
of Islám. No Bahá’í, therefore, can be regarded a Muslim or vice-versa,
even as no Buddhist, Brahmin, or Christian can be regarded a Muslim or
vice-versa.” Ordering the dissolution of the contracts of marriage of the
parties on trial, and the “separation” of the husbands from their wives,
this official and memorable pronouncement concludes with the following
words: “If any one of them (husbands) repents, believes in, and
acknowledges whatsoever ... Muḥammad, the Apostle of God ... has brought
from God ... and returns to the august Faith of Islám ... and testifies
that ... Muḥammad ... is the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers, that no
religion will succeed His religion, that no law will abrogate His law,
that the Qur’án is the last of the Books of God and His last Revelation to
His Prophets and His Messengers ... he shall be accepted and shall be
entitled to renew his marriage contract...”

This declaration of portentous significance, which was supported by
incontrovertible proofs adduced by the avowed enemies of the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh themselves, which was made in a country that aspires to the
headship of Islám through the restoration of the Caliphate, and which has
received the sanction of the highest ecclesiastical authorities in that
country, this official testimony which the leaders of _Sh_í’ah Islám, in
both Persia and ‘Iráq, have, through a century, sedulously avoided
voicing, and which, once and for all, silences those detractors, including
Christian ecclesiastics in the West, who have in the past stigmatized that
Faith as a cult, as a Bábí sect and as an offshoot of Islám or represented
it as a synthesis of religions—such a declaration was acclaimed by all
Bahá’í communities in the East and in the West as the first Charter of the
emancipation of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh from the fetters of Islamic
orthodoxy, the first historic step taken, not by its adherents as might
have been expected, but by its adversaries on the road leading to its
ultimate and world-wide recognition.

Such a verdict, fraught with incalculable possibilities, was immediately
recognized as a powerful challenge which the builders of the
Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh were not slow to face and
accept. It imposed upon them a sacred obligation which they felt ready to
discharge. Designed by its authors to deprive their adversaries of access
to Muslim courts, and thereby place them in a perplexing and embarrassing
situation, it became a lever which the Egyptian Bahá’í community, followed
later by its sister-communities, readily utilized for the purpose of
asserting the independence of its Faith and of seeking for it the
recognition of its government. Translated into several languages,
circulated among Bahá’í communities in East and West, it gradually paved
the way for the initiation of negotiations between the elected
representatives of these communities and the civil authorities in Egypt,
in the Holy Land, in Persia and even in the United States of America, for
the purpose of securing the official recognition by these authorities of
the Faith as an independent religion.

In Egypt it was the signal for the adoption of a series of measures which
have in their cumulative effect greatly facilitated the extension of such
a recognition by a government which is still formally associated with the
religion of Islám, and which suffers its laws and regulations to be shaped
in a great measure by the views and pronouncements of its ecclesiastical
leaders. The inflexible determination of the Egyptian believers not to
deviate a hair’s breadth from the tenets of their Faith, by avoiding all
dealings with any Muslim ecclesiastical court in that country and by
refusing any ecclesiastical post which might be offered them; the
codification and publication of the fundamental laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
regarding matters of personal status, such as marriage, divorce,
inheritance and burial, and the presentation of these laws to the Egyptian
Cabinet; the issuance of marriage and divorce certificates by the Egyptian
National Spiritual Assembly; the assumption by that Assembly of all the
duties and responsibilities connected with the conduct of Bahá’í marriages
and divorces, as well as with the burial of the dead; the observance by
all members of that community of the nine Holy Days on which work, as
prescribed in the Bahá’í teachings, must be completely suspended; the
presentation of a petition addressed by the national elected
representatives of that community to the Egyptian Prime Minister, the
Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Justice (supported by a
similar communication addressed by the American National Spiritual
Assembly to the Egyptian Government), enclosing a copy of the judgment of
the Court, and of their national Bahá’í constitution and by-laws,
requesting them to recognize their Assembly as a body qualified to
exercise the functions of an independent court and empowered to apply, in
all matters affecting their personal status, the laws and ordinances
revealed by the Author of their Faith—these stand out as the initial
consequences of a historic pronouncement that must eventually lead to the
establishment of that Faith on a basis of absolute equality with its
sister religions in that land.

A corollary to this epoch-making declaration, and a direct consequence of
the intermittent disturbances instigated in Port Said and Ismá’ílíyyih by
a fanatical populace in connection with the burial of some of the members
of the Bahá’í community, was the official and no less remarkable fatvá
(judgment) issued, at the request of the Ministry of Justice, by the Grand
Muftí of Egypt. This, soon after its pronouncement, was published in the
Egyptian press and contributed to fortify further the independent status
of the Faith. It followed upon the riots which broke out with exceptional
fury in Ismá’ílíyyih, when angry crowds surrounded the funeral cortège of
Muḥammad Sulaymán, a prominent Bahá’í resident of that town, creating such
an uproar that the police had to intervene, and having rescued the body
and brought it back to the home of the deceased, they were forced to carry
it without escort, at night, to the edge of the desert and inter it in the
wilderness.

This judgment was passed as a result of the inquiry addressed in writing,
on January 24, 1939, by the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior to the
Ministry of Justice, enclosing a copy of the compilation of Bahá’í laws
related to matters of personal status published by the Egyptian Bahá’í
National Spiritual Assembly, and asking for a pronouncement by the Muftí
regarding the petition addressed by that Assembly to the Egyptian
Government for the allocation of four plots to serve as cemeteries for the
Bahá’í communities of Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said and Ismá’ílíyyih. “We
are,” wrote the Muftí in his reply of March 11, 1939, to the communication
addressed to him by the Ministry of Justice, “in receipt of your letter
... dated February 21, 1939, with its enclosures ... inquiring whether or
not it would be lawful to bury the Bahá’í dead in Muslim cemeteries. We
hereby declare that this Community is not to be regarded as Muslim, as
shown by the beliefs which it professes. The perusal of what they term
‘The Bahá’í Laws affecting Matters of Personal Status,’ accompanying the
papers, is deemed sufficient evidence. Whoever among its members had
formerly been a Muslim has, by virtue of his belief in the pretensions of
this community, renounced Islám, and is regarded as beyond its pale, and
is subject to the laws governing apostasy as established in the right
Faith of Islám. This community not being Muslim, it would be unlawful to
bury its dead in Muslim cemeteries, be they originally Muslims or
otherwise...”

It was in consequence of this final, this clearly-worded and authoritative
sentence by the highest exponent of Islamic Law in Egypt, and after
prolonged negotiations, resulting at first in the allocation to the Cairo
Bahá’í community of a cemetery plot forming a part of that set aside for
free thinkers, residing in that city, that the Egyptian government
consented to grant to that community, as well as to the Bahá’ís of
Ismá’ílíyyih, two tracts of land to serve as burial grounds for their
dead—an act of historic significance which was greatly welcomed by the
members of sore-pressed and long-suffering communities, and which has
served to demonstrate still further the independent character of their
Faith and enlarge the sphere of the jurisdiction of its representative
institutions.

It was to the first of these two officially designated Bahá’í cemeteries,
following the decision of the Egyptian Bahá’í National Assembly aided by
its sister-Assembly in Persia, that the remains of the illustrious Mírzá
Abu’l-Fadl were transferred and accorded a sepulture worthy of his high
position, thereby inaugurating, in a befitting manner, the first official
Bahá’í institution of its kind established in the East. This achievement
was, soon after, enhanced by the exhumation from a Christian cemetery in
Cairo of the body of that far-famed mother teacher of the West, Mrs. E.
Getsinger, and its interment, through the assistance extended by the
American Bahá’í National Assembly and the Department of State in
Washington, in a spot in the heart of that cemetery and adjoining the
resting-place of that distinguished author and champion of the Faith.

In the Holy Land, where a Bahá’í cemetery had, before these
pronouncements, been established during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry, the
historic decision to bury the Bahá’í dead facing the Qiblih in Akká was
taken—a measure whose significance was heightened by the resolution to
cease having recourse, as had been previously the case, to any Muḥammadan
court in all matters affecting marriage and divorce, and to carry out, in
their entirety and without any concealment whatever, the rites prescribed
by Bahá’u’lláh for the preparation and burial of the dead. This was soon
after followed by the presentation of a formal petition addressed by the
representatives of the local Bahá’í community of Haifa, dated May 4, 1929,
to the Palestine Authorities, requesting them that, pending the adoption
of a uniform civil law of personal status applicable to all residents of
the country irrespective of their religious beliefs, the community be
officially recognized by them and be granted “full powers to administer
its own affairs now enjoyed by other religious communities in Palestine.”

The acceptance of this petition—an act of tremendous significance and
wholly unprecedented in the history of the Faith in any country—according
official recognition by the civil authorities to marriage certificates
issued by the representatives of the local community, the validity of
which the official representative of the Persian Government in Palestine
has tacitly recognized, was followed by a series of decisions exempting
from government tax all properties and institutions regarded by the Bahá’í
community as holy sites, or dedicated to the Tombs of its Founders at its
world center. Moreover, through these decisions, all articles serving as
ornaments or furniture for the Bahá’í shrines were exempted from customs
duties, and the branches of both the American and Indian Bahá’í National
Spiritual Assemblies were enabled to function as “religious societies,” in
accordance with the laws of the country, and to hold and administer
property as agents of these Assemblies.

In Persia, where a far larger community, already numerically superior to
the Christian, the Jewish and the Zoroastrian minorities living in that
country, had, notwithstanding the traditionally hostile attitude of the
civil and ecclesiastical authorities, succeeded in rearing the structure
of its administrative institutions, the reaction to so momentous a
declaration was such as to inspire its members and induce them to exploit,
in the fullest measure possible, the enormous advantages which this wholly
unexpected testimonial had conferred upon them. Having survived the fiery
ordeals to which the cruel, the arrogant and implacable leaders of an
all-powerful priesthood, now grievously humiliated, had subjected it, a
triumphant community, just emerging from obscurity, was determined, more
than ever before, to press, within the limits prescribed for it by its
Founders, its claim to be regarded as an independent religious entity, and
to safeguard, by all available means, its integrity, the solidarity of its
members and the solidity of its elective institutions. It could no longer,
now that its declared adversaries had, in such a country, in such a
language, and on so important an issue, made so emphatic and sweeping a
pronouncement, and torn asunder the veil that had for so long been drawn
over some of the distinguishing verities lying at the core of its
doctrine, keep silent or tolerate without any protest the imposition of
restrictions calculated to circumscribe its powers, stifle its community
life and deny it its right to be placed on a footing of unqualified
equality with other religious communities in that land.

Inflexibly resolved to be classified no longer as Muslim, Jew, Christian
or Zoroastrian, the members of this community determined, as a first step,
to adopt such measures as would vindicate beyond challenge the distinctive
position claimed for their religion by its avowed enemies. Mindful of
their clear, their sacred and inescapable duty to obey unreservedly, in
all matters of a purely administrative character, the laws of their
country, but firmly determined to assert and demonstrate, through every
legitimate means at their disposal, the independent character of their
Faith, they formulated a policy and embarked in undertakings designed to
carry them a stage further towards the goal they had set themselves to
attain.

The steadfast resolution not to dissemble their faith, whatever the
sacrifices it might entail; the uncompromising position that they would
not refer any matters affecting their personal status to any Muslim,
Christian, Rabbinical or Zoroastrian court; the refusal to affiliate with
any organization, or accept any ecclesiastical post associated with any of
the recognized religions in their country; the universal observance of the
laws prescribed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas relating to obligatory prayers,
fasting, marriage, divorce, inheritance, burial of the dead, and the use
of opium and alcoholic beverages; the issue and circulation of
certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce, at the direction and
under the seal of recognized Bahá’í Assemblies; the translation into
Persian of “The Bahá’í Laws affecting Matters of Personal Status,” first
published by the Egyptian Bahá’í National Assembly; the cessation of work
on all Bahá’í Holy Days; the establishment of Bahá’í cemeteries in the
capital as well as in the provinces, designed to provide a common burial
ground for all ranks of the faithful, whatever their religious extraction;
the insistence that they no longer be registered as Muslim, Christian, Jew
or Zoroastrian on identity cards, marriage certificates, passports and
other official documents; the emphasis placed on the institution of the
Nineteen Day Feast, as established by Bahá’u’lláh in His Most Holy Book;
the imposition of sanctions by Bahá’í elective Assemblies, now assuming
the duties and functions of religious courts, on recalcitrant members of
the community by denying them the right to vote and of membership in these
Assemblies and their committees—all these are to be associated with the
first stirrings of a community that had erected the fabric of its
Administrative Order, and was now, under the propelling influence of the
historic judicial sentence passed in Egypt, intent upon obtaining, not by
force but through persuasion, the recognition by the civil authorities of
the status to which its ecclesiastical adversaries had so emphatically
borne witness.

That its initial attempt should have met with partial success, that it
should have aroused at times the suspicion of the ruling authorities, that
it should have been grossly misrepresented by its vigilant enemies, is not
a matter for surprise. It was successful in certain respects in its
negotiations with the civil authorities, as in obtaining the government
decree removing all references to religious affiliation in passports
issued to Persian subjects, and in the tacit permission granted in certain
localities that its members should not fill in the religious columns in
certain state documents, but should register with their own Assemblies
their marriage, their divorce, their birth and their death certificates,
and should conduct their funerals according to their religious rites. In
other respects, however, it has been subjected to grave disabilities: its
schools, founded, owned and controlled exclusively by itself, were
forcibly closed because they refused to remain open on Bahá’í holy days;
its members, both men and women, were prosecuted; those who held army or
civil service appointments were in some cases dismissed; a ban was placed
on the import, on the printing and circulation of its literature; and all
Bahá’í public gatherings were proscribed.

To all administrative regulations which the civil authorities have issued
from time to time, or will issue in the future in that land, as in all
other countries, the Bahá’í community, faithful to its sacred obligations
towards its government, and conscious of its civic duties, has yielded,
and will continue to yield implicit obedience. Its immediate closing of
its schools in Persia is a proof of this. To such orders, however, as are
tantamount to a recantation of their faith by its members, or constitute
an act of disloyalty to its spiritual, its basic and God-given principles
and precepts, it will stubbornly refuse to bow, preferring imprisonment,
deportation and all manner of persecution, including death—as already
suffered by the twenty thousand martyrs that have laid down their lives in
the path of its Founders—rather than follow the dictates of a temporal
authority requiring it to renounce its allegiance to its cause.

“If you cut us in pieces, men, women and children alike, in the entire
district of Ábádih,” was the memorable message sent by the fearless
descendants of some of those martyrs in that turbulent center to the
Governor of Fárs, who had intended to coerce them into declaring
themselves as Muslims, “we will never submit to your wishes”—a message
which, as soon as it was delivered to that defiant governor, induced him
to desist from pressing the matter any further.

In the United States of America, the Bahá’í community, having already set
an inspiring example, by erecting and perfecting the machinery of its
Administrative Order, was alive to the far-reaching implications of the
sentence passed by the Muslim court in Egypt, and to the significance of
the reaction it had produced in the Holy Land, and was stimulated by the
courageous persistence demonstrated by its sister-community in Persia. It
determined to supplement its notable achievements with further acts
designed to throw into sharper relief the status achieved by the Faith of
Bahá’u’lláh in the North American continent. It was numerically smaller
than the community of the Persian believers. Owing to the multiplicity of
laws governing the states within the Union, it was faced, in matters
affecting the personal status of its members, with a situation radically
different from that confronting the believers in the East, and much more
complex. But conscious of its responsibility to lend, once again, a
powerful impetus to the unfoldment of a divinely appointed Order, it
boldly undertook to initiate such measures as would accentuate the
independent character of a Revelation it had already so nobly championed.

The recognition of its National Spiritual Assembly by the Federal
authorities as a religious body entitled to hold as trustees properties
dedicated to the interests of the Faith; the establishment of Bahá’í
endowments and the exemption obtained for them from the civil authorities
as properties owned by, and administered solely for the benefit of, a
purely religious community, were now to be supplemented by decisions and
measures designed to give further prominence to the nature of the ties
uniting its members. The special stress laid on some of the fundamental
laws contained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas regarding daily obligatory prayers;
the observance of the fast, the consent of the parents as a prerequisite
of marriage; the one-year separation between husband and wife as an
indispensable condition of divorce; abstinence from all alcoholic drinks;
the emphasis placed on the institution of the Nineteen Day Feast as
ordained by Bahá’u’lláh in that same Book; the discontinuation of
membership in, and affiliation with, all ecclesiastical organizations, and
the refusal to accept any ecclesiastical post—these have served to
forcibly underline the distinctive character of the Bahá’í Fellowship, and
to dissociate it, in the eyes of the public, from the rituals, the
ceremonials and man-made institutions identified with the religious
systems of the past.

Of particular and historic importance has been the application made by the
Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Chicago—the first center established
in the North American continent, the first to be incorporated among its
sister-Assemblies and the first to take the initiative in paving the way
for the erection of a Bahá’í Temple in the West—to the civil authorities
in the state of Illinois for civil recognition of the right to conduct
legal marriages in accordance with the ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
and to file marriage certificates that have previously received the
official sanction of that Assembly. The acceptance of this petition by the
authorities, necessitating an amendment of the by-laws of all local
Assemblies to enable them to conduct Bahá’í legal marriages, and
empowering the Chairman or secretary of the Chicago Assembly to represent
that body in the conduct of all Bahá’í marriages; the issuance, on
September 22, 1939, of the first Bahá’í Marriage License by the State of
Illinois, authorizing the aforementioned Assembly to solemnize Bahá’í
marriages and issue Bahá’í marriage certificates; the successful measures
taken subsequently by Assemblies in other states of the Union, such as New
York, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Ohio, to procure for themselves similar
privileges, have, moreover, contributed their share in giving added
prominence to the independent religious status of the Faith. To these must
be added a similar and no less significant recognition extended, since the
outbreak of the present conflict, by the United States War Department—as
evidenced by the communication addressed to the American Bahá’í National
Spiritual Assembly by the Quartermaster General of that Department, on
August 14, 1942—approving the use of the symbol of the Greatest Name on
stones marking the graves of Bahá’ís killed in the war and buried in
military or private cemeteries, distinguishing thereby these graves from
those bearing the Latin Cross or the Star of David assigned to those
belonging to the Christian and Jewish Faiths respectively.

Nor should mention be omitted of the equally successful application made
by the American Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly to the Office of Price
Administration in Washington, D.C., asking that the chairmen and
secretaries of Bahá’í local Assemblies should, in their capacity as
officers conducting religious meetings, and authorized, in certain states,
to perform marriage services, be eligible for preferred mileage under the
provisions of the Preferred Mileage Section of the Gasoline Regulations,
for the purpose of meeting the religious needs of the localities they
serve.

Nor have the Bahá’í communities in other countries such as India, ‘Iráq,
Great Britain and Australia, been slow to either appreciate the advantages
derived from the publication of this historic verdict, or to exploit, each
according to its capacity and within the limits imposed upon it by
prevailing circumstances, the opportunities afforded by such public
testimonial for a further demonstration on their part of the independent
character of the Faith whose administrative structure they had already
erected. Through the enforcement, to whatever extent deemed practicable,
of the laws ordained in their Most Holy Book; through the severance of all
ties of affiliation with, and membership in, ecclesiastical institutions
of whatever denomination; through the formulation of a policy initiated
for the sole purpose of giving further publicity to this mighty issue,
marking a great turning-point in the evolution of the Faith, and of
facilitating its ultimate settlement, these communities, and indeed all
organized Bahá’í bodies, whether in the East or in the West, however
isolated their position or immature their state of development, have,
conscious of their solidarity and well aware of the glorious prospects
opening before them, arisen to proclaim with one voice the independent
character of the religion of Bahá’u’lláh and to pave the way for its
emancipation from whatever fetters, be they ecclesiastical or otherwise,
might hinder or delay its ultimate and world-wide recognition.

To the status already achieved by their Faith, largely through their own
unaided efforts and accomplishments, tributes have been paid by observers
in various walks of life, whose testimony they welcome and regard as added
incentive to action in their steep and laborious ascent towards the
heights which they must eventually capture.

“Palestine,” is the testimony of Prof. Norman Bentwitch, a former
Attorney-General of the Palestine Government, “may indeed be now regarded
as the land not of three but of four Faiths, because the Bahá’í creed,
which has its center of faith and pilgrimage in Akká and Haifa, is
attaining to the character of a world religion. So far as its influence
goes in the land, it is a factor making for international and
inter-religious understanding.” “In 1920,” is the declaration made in his
testament by the distinguished Swiss scientist and psychiatrist, Dr.
Auguste Forel, “I learned at Karlsruhe of the supraconfessional world
religion of the Bahá’ís, founded in the Orient seventy years ago by a
Persian, Bahá’u’lláh. This is the real religion of ‘Social Welfare’
without dogmas or priests, binding together all men of this small
terrestrial globe of ours. I have become a Bahá’í. May this religion live
and prosper for the good of humanity! This is my most ardent desire.”
“There is bound to be a world state, a universal language, and a universal
religion,” he, moreover has stated, “The Bahá’í Movement for the oneness
of mankind is, in my estimation, the greatest movement today working for
universal peace and brotherhood.” “A religion,” is yet another testimony,
from the pen of the late Queen Marie of Rumania, “which links all creeds
... a religion based upon the inner spirit of God... It teaches that all
hatreds, intrigues, suspicions, evil words, all aggressive patriotism
even, are outside the one essential law of God, and that special beliefs
are but surface things whereas the heart that beats with Divine love knows
no tribe nor race.”



Chapter XXV: International Expansion of Teaching Activities


While the fabric of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh
gradually arose, and while through the influence of unforeseen forces the
independence of the Faith was more and more definitely acknowledged by its
enemies and demonstrated by its friends, another development, no less
pregnant with consequences, was at the same time being set in motion. The
purpose of this was to extend the borders of the Faith, increasing the
number of its declared supporters and of its administrative centers, and
to give a new and ever growing impetus to the enriching, the expanding,
the diversifying of its literature, and to the task of disseminating it
farther and farther afield. Experience indeed proved that the very pattern
of the Administrative Order, apart from other distinctive features,
definitely encouraged efficiency and expedition in this work of teaching,
and its builders found their zeal continually quickened and their
missionary ardor heightened as the Faith moved forward to an ever fuller
emancipation.

Nor were they unmindful of the exhortations, the appeals and the promises
of the Founders of their Faith, Who, for three quarters of a century, had,
each in His own way and within the limits circumscribing His activities,
labored so heroically to noise abroad the fame of the Cause Whose destiny
an almighty Providence had commissioned them to shape.

The Herald of their Faith had commanded the sovereigns of the earth
themselves to arise and teach His Cause, writing in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá: “O
concourse of kings! Deliver with truth and in all haste the verses sent
down by Us to the peoples of Turkey and of India, and beyond them ... to
lands in both the East and the West.” “Issue forth from your cities, O
peoples of the West,” He, in that same Book, had moreover written, “to aid
God.” “We behold you from Our Most Glorious Horizon,” Bahá’u’lláh had thus
addressed His followers in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, “and will assist whosoever
will arise to aid My Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high, and a
cohort of the angels, who are nigh unto Me.” “...Teach ye the Cause of
God, O people of Bahá!” He, furthermore, had written, “for God hath
prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His message, and
regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds.” “Should a man all
alone,” He had clearly affirmed, “arise in the name of Bahá and put on the
armor of His love, him will the Almighty cause to be victorious, though
the forces of earth and heaven be arrayed against him.” “Should any one
arise for the triumph of Our Cause,” He moreover had declared, “him will
God render victorious though tens of thousands of enemies be leagued
against him.” And again: “Center your energies in the propagation of the
Faith of God. Whoso is worthy of so high a calling, let him arise and
promote it. Whoso is unable, it is his duty to appoint him who will, in
his stead, proclaim this Revelation...” “They that have forsaken their
country,” is His own promise, “for the purpose of teaching Our Cause—these
shall the Faithful Spirit strengthen through its power... Such a service
is indeed the prince of all goodly deeds, and the ornament of every goodly
act.” “In these days,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had written in His Will, “the most
important of all things is the guidance of the nations and peoples of the
world. Teaching the Cause is of the utmost importance, for it is the head
corner-stone of the foundation itself.” “The disciples of Christ,” He had
declared in that same Document, “forgot themselves and all earthly things,
forsook all their cares and belongings, purged themselves of self and
passion, and, with absolute detachment, scattered far and wide, and
engaged in guiding aright the peoples of the world, till at last they made
the world another world, illumined the earth, and to their last hour
proved self-sacrificing in the path of that Beloved One of God. Finally,
in various lands they suffered martyrdom. Let men of action follow in
their footsteps.” “When the hour cometh,” He had solemnly stated in that
same Will, “that this wronged and broken-winged bird will have taken its
flight unto the celestial concourse ... it is incumbent upon ... the
friends and loved ones, one and all, to bestir themselves and arise, with
heart and soul, and in one accord ... to teach His Cause and promote His
Faith. It behoveth them not to rest for a moment... They must disperse
themselves in every land ... and travel throughout all regions. Bestirred,
without rest, and steadfast to the end, they must raise in every land the
cry of Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá (O Thou the Glory of Glories) ... that throughout
the East and the West a vast concourse may gather under the shadow of the
Word of God, that the sweet savors of holiness may be wafted, that men’s
faces may be illumined, that their hearts may be filled with the Divine
Spirit and their souls become heavenly.”

Obedient to these repeated injunctions, mindful of these glowing promises,
conscious of the sublimity of their calling, spurred on by the example
which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself had set, undismayed by His sudden removal from
their midst, undaunted by the attacks launched by their adversaries from
within and from without, His followers in both the East and in the West
arose, in the full strength of their solidarity, to promote, more
vigorously than ever before, the international expansion of their Faith,
an expansion which was now to assume such proportions as to deserve to be
recognized as one of the most significant developments in the history of
the first Bahá’í century.

Launched in every continent of the globe, at first intermittent,
haphazard, and unorganized, and later, as a result of the emergence of a
slowly developing Administrative Order, systematically conducted,
centrally directed and efficiently prosecuted, the teaching enterprises
which were undertaken by the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in many lands, but
conspicuously in America, and which were pursued by members of all ages
and of both sexes, by neophytes and by veterans, by itinerant teachers and
by settlers, constitute, by virtue of their range and the blessings which
have flowed from them, a shining episode that yields place to none except
those associated with the exploits which have immortalized the early years
of the primitive age of the Bahá’í Dispensation.

The light of the Faith which during the nine years of the Bábí
Dispensation had irradiated Persia, and been reflected on the adjoining
territory of ‘Iráq; which in the course of Bahá’u’lláh’s thirty-nine-year
ministry had shed its splendor upon India, Egypt, Turkey, the Caucasus,
Turkistán, the Súdán, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Burma, and which had
subsequently, through the impulse of a divinely-instituted Covenant,
traveled to the United States of America, Canada, France, Great Britain,
Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Switzerland, Arabia,
Tunisia, China, Japan, the Hawaiian Islands, South Africa, Brazil and
Australia, was now to be carried to, and illuminate, ere the termination
of the first Bahá’í century, no less than thirty-four independent nations,
as well as several dependencies situated in the American, the Asiatic and
African continents, in the Persian Gulf, and in the Atlantic and the
Pacific oceans. In Norway, in Sweden, in Denmark, in Belgium, in Finland,
in Ireland, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Rumania, in Yugoslavia, in
Bulgaria, in Albania, in Afghanistan, in Abyssinia, in New Zealand and in
nineteen Latin American Republics ensigns of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh
have been raised since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, and the structural basis of
the Administrative Order of His Faith, in many of them, already
established. In several dependencies, moreover, in both the East and the
West, including Alaska, Iceland, Jamaica, Porto Rico, the island of Solano
in the Philippines, Java, Tasmania, the islands of Bahrayn and of Tahiti,
Baluchistan, South Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo, the bearers of the new
born Gospel have established their residence, and are bending every effort
to lay an impregnable basis for its institutions.

Through lectures and conferences, through the press and radio, through the
organization of study classes and fire-side gatherings, through
participation in the activities of societies, institutes and clubs
animated by ideals akin to the principles of the Faith, through the
dissemination of Bahá’í literature, through various exhibits, through the
establishment of teacher training classes, through contact with statesmen,
scholars, publicists, philanthropists and other leaders of public
thought—most of which have been carried out through the resourcefulness of
the members of the American Bahá’í community, who have assumed direct
responsibility for the spiritual conquest of the vast majority of these
countries and dependencies—above all through the inflexible resolution and
unswerving fidelity of pioneers who, whether as visiting teachers or as
residents, have participated in these crusades, have these signal
victories been achieved during the closing decades of the first Bahá’í
century.

Nor should reference be omitted to the international teaching activities
of the western followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and particularly the
members of the stalwart American Bahá’í community, who, seizing every
opportunity that presented itself to them, have either through example,
precept or the circulation of literature carried the Faith to virgin
fields, scattering the seeds which must eventually germinate and yield a
harvest as notable as those already garnered in the aforementioned
countries. Through such efforts as these the breezes of God’s vitalizing
Revelation have been blown upon the uttermost corners of the earth,
bearing the germ of a new spiritual life to such distant climes and
inhospitable regions as Lapland; the Island of Spitzbergen, the
northernmost settlement in the world; Hammerfest, in Norway, and
Magellanes, in the extremity of Chile—the most northerly and southerly
cities of the globe respectively; Pago Pago and Fiji, in the Pacific
Ocean; Chichen Itza, in the province of Yucatan; the Bahama Islands,
Trinidad and Barbados in the West Indies; the Island of Bali and British
North Borneo in the East Indies; Patagonia; British Guiana; Seychelles
Islands; New Guinea and Ceylon.

Nor can we fail to notice the special endeavors that have been exerted by
individuals as well as Assemblies for the purpose of establishing contact
with minority groups and races in various parts of the world, such as the
Jews and Negroes in the United States of America, the Eskimos in Alaska,
the Patagonian Indians in Argentina, the Mexican Indians in Mexico, the
Inca Indians in Peru, the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, the Oneida
Indians in Wisconsin, the Mayans in Yucatan, the Lapps in Northern
Scandinavia, and the Maoris in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Of special and valuable assistance has been the institution of an
international Bahá’í Bureau in Geneva, a center designed primarily to
facilitate the expansion of the teaching activities of the Faith in the
European continent, which, as an auxiliary to the world administrative
center in the Holy Land, has maintained contact with Bahá’í communities in
the East and in the West. Serving as a bureau of information on the Faith,
as well as a distributing center for its literature, it has, through its
free reading room and lending library, through the hospitality extended to
itinerant teachers and visiting believers, and through its contact with
various societies, contributed, in no small measure, to the consolidation
of the teaching enterprises undertaken by individuals as well as Bahá’í
National Assemblies.

Through these teaching activities, some initiated by individual believers,
others conducted through plans launched by organized Assemblies, the Faith
of Bahá’u’lláh which, in His lifetime, had included within its ranks
Persians, Arabs, Turks, Russians, Kurds, Indians, Burmese and Negroes, and
was later, in the days of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, reinforced by the inclusion of
American, British, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and
Armenian converts, could now boast of having enrolled amongst its avowed
supporters representatives of such widely dispersed ethnic groups and
nationalities as Hungarians, Netherlanders, Irishmen, Scandinavians,
Sudanese, Czechs, Bulgarians, Finns, Ethiopians, Albanians, Poles,
Eskimos, American Indians, Yugoslavians, Latin Americans and Maoris.

So notable an enlargement of the limits of the Faith, so striking an
increase in the diversity of the elements included within its pale, was
accompanied by an enormous extension in the volume and the circulation of
its literature, an extension that sharply contrasted with those initial
measures undertaken for the publication of the few editions of
Bahá’u’lláh’s writing issued during the concluding years of His ministry.
The range of Bahá’í literature, confined during half a century, in the
days of the Báb and of Bahá’u’lláh, to the two languages in which their
teachings were originally revealed, and subsequently extended, in the
lifetime of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, to include editions published in the English,
the French, the German, the Turkish, the Russian and Burmese languages,
was steadily enlarged after His passing, through a vast multiplication in
the number of books, treatises, pamphlets and leaflets, printed and
circulated in no less than twenty-nine additional languages. In Spanish
and in Portuguese; in the three Scandinavian languages, in Finnish and in
Icelandic; in Dutch, Italian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian, Serbian,
Bulgarian, Greek and Albanian; in Hebrew and in Esperanto, in Armenian, in
Kurdish and in Amharic; in Chinese and in Japanese; as well as in five
Indian languages, namely Urdu, Gujrati, Bengali, Hindi, and Sindhi, books,
mostly through the initiative of individual Bahá’ís, and partly through
the intermediary of Bahá’í assemblies, were published, widely distributed,
and placed in private as well as public libraries in both the East and the
West. The literature of the Faith, moreover, is being translated at
present into Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Tamil, Mahratti, Pushtoo,
Telegu, Kinarese, Singhalese, Malyalan, Oriya, Punjabi and Rajasthani.

No less remarkable has been the range of the literature produced and
placed at the disposal of the general public in every continent of the
globe, and carried by resolute and indefatigable pioneers to the
furthermost ends of the earth, an enterprise in which the members of the
American Bahá’í community have again distinguished themselves. The
publication of an English edition comprising selected passages from the
more important and hitherto untranslated writings of Bahá’u’lláh, as well
as of an English version of His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” and of a
compilation, in the same language, of Prayers and Meditations revealed by
His pen; the translation and publication of His “Hidden Words” in eight,
of His “Kitáb-i-Íqán” in seven, and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s “Some Answered
Questions” in six, languages; the compilation of the third volume of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Tablets translated into English; the publication of books
and treatises related to the principles of Bahá’í belief and to the origin
and development of the Administrative Order of the Faith; of an English
translation of the Narrative of the early days of the Bahá’í Revelation,
written by the chronicler and poet, Nabíl-i-Zarandí, subsequently
published in Arabic and translated into German and Esperanto; of
commentaries and of expositions of the Bahá’í teachings, of administrative
institutions and of kindred subjects, such as world federation, race unity
and comparative religion by western authors and by former ministers of the
Church—all these attest the diversified character of Bahá’í publications,
so closely paralleled by their extensive dissemination over the surface of
the globe. Moreover, the printing of documents related to the laws of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, of books and pamphlets dealing with Biblical prophecies, of
revised editions of some of the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
and of several Bahá’í authors, of guides and study outlines for a wide
variety of Bahá’í books and subjects, of lessons in Bahá’í Administration,
of indexes to Bahá’í books and periodicals, of anniversary cards and of
calendars, of poems, songs, plays and pageants, of study outlines and a
prayer-book for the training of Bahá’í children, and of news letters,
bulletins and periodicals issued in English, Persian, German, Esperanto,
Arabic, French, Urdu, Burmese and Portuguese has contributed to swell the
output and increase the diversity of Bahá’í publications.

Of particular value and significance has been the production, over a
period of many years, of successive volumes of biennial international
record of Bahá’í activity, profusely illustrated, fully documented, and
comprising among other things a statement on the aims and purposes of the
Faith and its Administrative Order, selections from its scriptures, a
survey of its activities, a list of its centers in five continents, a
bibliography of its literature, tributes paid to its ideals and
achievements by prominent men and women in East and West, and articles
dealing with its relation to present-day problems.

Nor would any survey of the Bahá’í literature produced during the
concluding decades of the first Bahá’í century be complete without special
reference being made to the publication of, and the far-reaching influence
exerted by, that splendid, authoritative and comprehensive introduction to
Bahá’í history and teachings, penned by that pure-hearted and immortal
promoter of the Faith, J. E. Esslemont, which has already been printed in
no less than thirty-seven languages, and is being translated into thirteen
additional languages, whose English version has already run into tens of
thousands, which has been reprinted no less than nine times in the United
States of America, whose Esperanto, Japanese and English versions have
been transcribed into Braille, and to which royalty has paid its tribute,
characterizing it as “a glorious book of love and goodness, strength and
beauty,” commending it to all, and affirming that “no man could fail to be
better because of this Book.”

Deserving special mention, moreover, is the establishment by the British
National Spiritual Assembly of a Publishing Trust, registered as “The
Bahá’í Publishing Co.” and acting as a publisher and wholesale distributor
of Bahá’í literature throughout the British Isles; the compilation by
various Bahá’í Assemblies throughout the East of no less than forty
volumes in manuscript of the authenticated and unpublished writings of the
Báb, of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; the translation into English of
the Appendix to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, entitled “Questions and Answers,” as
well as the publication in Arabic and Persian by the Egyptian and Indian
Bahá’í National Spiritual Assemblies respectively of the Outline of Bahá’í
Laws on Matters of Personal Status, and of a brief outline by the latter
Assembly of the laws relating to the burial of the dead; and the
translation of a pamphlet into Maori undertaken by a Maori Bahá’í in New
Zealand. Reference should also be made to the collection and publication
by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ṭihrán of a considerable
number of the addresses delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the course of His
Western tours; to the preparation of a detailed history of the Faith in
Persian; to the printing of Bahá’í certificates of marriage and divorce,
in both Persian and Arabic, by a number of National Spiritual Assemblies
in the East; to the issuance of birth and death certificates by the
Persian Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly; to the preparation of forms of
bequest available to believers wishing to make a legacy to the Faith; to
the compilation of a considerable number of the unpublished Tablets of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá by the American Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly; to the
translation into Esperanto, undertaken by the daughter of the famous
Zamenhof, herself a convert to the Faith, of several Bahá’í books,
including some of the more important writings of Bahá’u’lláh and of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá; to the translation of a Bahá’í booklet into Serbian by Prof.
Bogdan Popovitch, one of the most eminent scholars attached to the
University of Belgrade, and to the offer spontaneously made by Princess
Ileana of Rumania (now Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria) to render into her
own native language a Bahá’í pamphlet written in English, and subsequently
distributed in her native country.

The progress made in connection with the transcription of the Bahá’í
writings into Braille, should also be noted—a transcription which already
includes such works as the English versions of the “Kitáb-i-Íqán,” of the
“Hidden Words,” of the “Seven Valleys,” of the “I_sh_ráqát,” of the
“Súriy-i-Haykal,” of the “Words of Wisdom,” of the “Prayers and
Meditations of Bahá’u’lláh,” of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s “Some Answered Questions,”
of the “Promulgation of Universal Peace,” of the “Wisdom of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,”
of “The Goal of a New World Order,” as well as of the English (two
editions), the Esperanto and the Japanese versions of “Bahá’u’lláh and the
New Era” and of pamphlets written in English, in French and in Esperanto.

Nor have those who have been primarily responsible for the enrichment of
the literature of the Faith and its translation into so many languages,
been slow to disseminate it, by every means in their power, in their daily
intercourse with individuals as well as in their official contacts with
organizations whom they have been seeking to acquaint with the aims and
principles of their Faith. The energy, the vigilance, the steadfastness
displayed by these heralds of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh and their elected
representatives, under whose auspices the circulation of Bahá’í literature
has, of late years, assumed tremendous dimensions, merit the highest
praise. From the reports prepared and circulated by the chief agencies
entrusted with the task of the publication and distribution of this
literature in the United States and Canada the remarkable facts emerge
that, within the space of the eleven months ending February 28, 1943, over
19,000 books, 100,000 pamphlets, 3,000 study outlines, 4,000 sets of
selected writings, and 1800 anniversary and Temple cards and folders had
been either sold or distributed; that, in the course of two years, 376,000
pamphlets, outlining the character and purpose of the House of Worship,
erected in the United States of America, had been printed; that over
300,000 pieces of literature had been distributed at the two World Fairs
held in San Francisco and New York; that, in a period of twelve months,
1089 books had been donated to various libraries, and that, through the
National Contacts Committee, during one year, more than 2,300 letters,
with over 4,500 pamphlets, had reached authors, radio speakers, and
representatives of the Jewish and Negro minorities, as well as various
organizations interested in international affairs.

In the presentation of this vast literature to men of eminence and rank
the elected representatives, as well as the traveling teachers, of the
American Bahá’í community, aided by Assemblies in other lands, have,
likewise, exhibited an energy and determination as laudable as the efforts
exerted for its production. To the King of England, to Queen Marie of
Rumania, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the Emperor of Japan, to
the late President von Hindenburg, to the King of Denmark, to the Queen of
Sweden, to King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, to the Emperor of Abyssinia, to the
King of Egypt, to the late King Feisal of ‘Iráq, to King Zog of Albania,
to the late President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, to the Presidents of
Mexico, of Honduras, of Panama, of El-Salvador, of Guatemala, and of Porto
Rico, to General Chiang Kaishek, to the Ex-Khedive of Egypt, to the Crown
Prince of Sweden, to the Duke of Windsor, to the Duchess of Kent, to the
Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria, to Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, to Princess
Kadria of Egypt, to Princess Estelle Bernadotte of Wisborg, to Mahatma
Gandhi, to several ruling princes of India and to the Prime Ministers of
all the states of the Australian Commonwealth—to these, as well as to
other personages of lesser rank, Bahá’í literature, touching various
aspects of the Faith, has been presented, to some personally, to others
through suitable intermediaries, either by individual believers or by the
elected representatives of Bahá’í communities.

Nor have these individual teachers and Assemblies been neglectful of their
duty to place this literature at the disposal of the public in state,
university and public libraries, thereby extending the opportunity to the
great mass of the reading public of familiarizing itself with the history
and precepts of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. A mere enumeration of a
number of the more important of these libraries would suffice to reveal
the scope of these activities extending over five continents: the British
Museum in London, the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Library of Congress
in Washington, the Peace Palace Library at the Hague, the Nobel Peace
Foundation and Nansen Foundation Libraries at Oslo, the Royal Library in
Copenhagen, the League of Nations Library in Geneva, the Hoover Peace
Library, the Amsterdam University Library, the Library of Parliament in
Ottawa, the Allahabad University Library, the Aligarh University Library,
the University of Madras Library, the Shantineketan International
University Library in Bolepur, the U_th_máníyyih University Library in
Hyderabad, the Imperial Library in Calcutta, the Jamia Milli Library in
Delhi, the Mysore University Library, the Bernard Library in Rangoon, the
Jerabia Wadia Library in Poona, the Lahore Public Library, the Lucknow and
Delhi University Libraries, the Johannesburg Public Library, the Rio de
Janeiro Circulating libraries, the Manila National Library, the Hong Kong
University Library, the Reykjavik public libraries, the Carnegie Library
in the Seychelles Islands, the Cuban National Library, the San Juan Public
Library, the Ciudad Trujillo University Library, the University and
Carnegie Public libraries in Porto Rico, the Library of Parliament in
Canberra, the Wellington Parliamentary Library. In all these, as well as
in all the chief libraries of Australia and New Zealand, nine libraries in
Mexico, several libraries in Mukden, Manchukuo, and more than a thousand
public libraries, a hundred service libraries and two hundred university
and college libraries, including Indian colleges, in the United States and
Canada, authoritative books on the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh have been placed.

State prisons and, since the outbreak of the war, army libraries have been
included in the comprehensive scheme which the American Bahá’í community
has, through a special committee, devised for the diffusion of the
literature of the Faith. The interests of the blind, too, have not been
neglected by that alert and enterprising community, as is shown by the
placing of Bahá’í books, transcribed by its members in Braille, in thirty
libraries and institutes, in eighteen states of the United States of
America, in Honolulu (Hawaii), in Regina (Saskatchewan), and in the Tokyo
and Geneva Libraries for the Blind, as well as in a large number of
circulating libraries connected with public libraries in various large
cities of the North American continent.

Nor can I dismiss this subject without singling out for special reference
her who, not only through her preponderating share in initiating measures
for the translation and dissemination of Bahá’í literature, but above all
through her prodigious and indeed unique exertions in the international
teaching field, has covered herself with a glory that has not only
eclipsed the achievements of the teachers of the Faith among her
contemporaries the globe around, but has outshone the feats accomplished
by any of its propagators in the course of an entire century. To Martha
Root, that archetype of Bahá’í itinerant teachers and the foremost Hand
raised by Bahá’u’lláh since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, must be awarded, if
her manifold services and the supreme ac