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Memories of Nine Years in Akka

by Youness Afroukhteh

translated by Riaz Masrour.
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Chapter 7


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CHAPTER 7

He is the Most Glorious!

This compilation of nine years of memories was prepared several years ago. The first six chapters were then submitted in six booklets to the sanctified threshold of the beloved Guardian of the Cause of God. Later, in order to collect additional information and supporting documentation covering events after my departure from 'Akka, I decided to ask the help of some of the devoted souls resident in that city at the time.

I therefore sent a letter to Aqa Mirza Hadi Afnan,{207} a request to Aqa Mirza Nuru'd-Din and a petition to Amatu'l-Baha Madame Dreyfus-Barney, asking them to provide descriptions of the events they had witnessed during my absence from 'Akka, so that these might be properly documented here. The honourable Afnan's reply was quite brief The events of that period were so many and varied that he could not be expected to remember the details regarding which I had solicited his help. And so I eagerly awaited an answer from the Amatu'l-Baha. I even sent her those extracts from the book that pertained to her role in the story. Since she had left 'Akka some time after I had, I hoped that she might have witnessed the heart-rending events that had followed, and that she might be able to provide an account of what she could recall, so as to confirm the accuracy of the information presented in this narrative.

Several letters were sent to her, and at last one reached hen Her reply took two years to arrive. This caused a long delay in completing this account, as over the course of time 1


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lost track of the story altogether. Several years then passed in idleness as I made no further attempt to continue the work. However, many of the friends who knew about the first part were expecting to see the remaining portion, and they persistently urged me to complete the work in view of its historical value. And so after this lengthy sabbatical I again took up the pen, in accordance with the wishes of the spiritual friends. Here follows the reply{208} from Amatu'l-Baha-the Glory of God be upon her:

Aug. 7th, 1937 Dr. Youness Khan care of Mr. Samimi, Tehran, Iran

Dear Dr. Youness Khan,

Your December letter and its attachments reached me only last week after a lengthy journey. Of course, the book that you have undertaken to write will be of much benefit, and I was delighted with what you had written about me. It was truly a great bounty for us to have spent such an extended time in the Holy Land and seen and heard 'Abdu'l-Bahá. If it is not too late, I wish to bring to your attention certain facts that will enable you to modify the pages that you have sent me.

In line 17 of the first page where reference is made to Miss Rosenberg, who had transcribed the English translation of the book [Some Answered Questions], no further explanation is provided and people may think that the published English version of the book reflects the exact words she recorded. However, this is not the case; the published English and French versions are translated directly from the Persian rendering which had been corrected by the Master. Also, in the middle of the third page, the following is stated: "Lately it was decided that the utterances of the Master should also be recorded in Persian." While I desired from the very beginning that the Master's utterances be recorded in Persian, it was only when the Master mentioned that at some time these transcripts would have to be reviewed and


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corrected, that He made the decision that His utterances be also recorded in Persian. Of course you know that the Master not only corrected Mirza Munir's first draft, but after the corrections were incorporated 'Abdu'l-Bahá again reviewed the corrected version and signed each corrected subject. Last winter I had Mrs. Angiz Khanum Tabrizi deliver to Shoghi Effendi the final draft of the book as corrected and signed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. I do not think that when the Commission of Enquiry arrived in 'Akka, any more than two thirds of the book had been completed.

I thank you for having asked me to write a few pages concerning the events during your absence from 'Akka. I do not think this would be of much benefit for the sort of book that you have in mind, however I do recommend that you study the Preface that I wrote for the book in 1907.{209} I cannot remember now whether the Preface written and published for the English and French versions is the same as the one for the Persian version, so may I refer you to either of the two copies. There are some points there which will be of benefit to your work. The first subject which the Master revealed is presented in the initial chapter of the book. I think this is the same chapter which was originally written in English. Also, much of the third section and some of the fifth are those which were recorded in English only.

As you know, it was on my third visit to 'Akka that I arrived with Miss Rosenberg. I spent the winter of 1904 there. I visited Egypt briefly and in the spring of 1905 paid a visit to my mother, after which we both returned to the Holy Land. I left again in the midsummer of 1905, returning to 'Akka in the fall of that year. I spent a part of that winter in Cairo and returned to 'Akka and Haifa by the end of spring. After that summer, I journeyed to Iran and then came back to Europe, and in the fall returned to Akk.A. On my return, Some Answered Questions had been corrected and permission had been granted for its publication.

The following year, the Persian version as well as the English and French versions of the book were published and


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distributed. In the second edition of the book two additional subjects were added.{210} In 1908 I returned to Haifa, and when the Master visited Europe I again gained admittance His presence. In the United States I had the honour of attaining His presence again, and after the War, in 1918, my husband and I travelled to 'Akka on pilgrimage. The last time I visited 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in 1921 when we were on our way to the Far East. In Rangoon, Burma, we heard of His passing. On my last visit, I had ample time to report a number of social issues to the Master, which today have come to pass and have revolutionized the present social order. I have many notes which, God willing, I will compile and send to Shoghi Effendi before publication and distribution.

Dear Youness Khan, please inform me of the progress of your book and call on me if I can be of any service.

Yours truly, L. Dreyfus-Barney

This was Amatu'llah Mrs. Dreyfus-Barney's response to my letter written in the summer of 1935. While acknowledging her comments, I wish to note that in Chapter 6 of this book these matters have been covered in the section on "Miss Barney and Some Answered Questions", although I was not aware that Miss Barney had desired a Persian compilation of the book from the outset. It was also quite clear that the notes taken by Miss Rosenberg could not possibly have been used exactly as they were and compiled into a properly sequenced book. Not unlike Mr. Phelps's book referred to in Chapter 3 above, under the title "Madame de Canavarro and Mr. Phelps", they would have required multiple revisions before formal approval could be granted. Although Madame de Canavarro was a devoted believer, since Mr. Phelps's heart had not been illumined by the light of faith he, while employing all his literary talents and a distinct flair for writing in compiling the book, had incorporated in it his own


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thoughts and thus had deviated from the real issues. But the Amatu'l-Baha, due to her strong faith and intense devotion, was able to compile her book properly and thus receive 'Abdu'l-Bahá's approval. It is certain that the English and French versions are both from her own pen{211} and not from the pen which hurriedly took the notes at the dinner table. Therefore, each word and line of that book should be considered as the revealed Word. Happy is the one who reads those words, who ponders their meaning and contemplates their significance.

The response from Jinab-i-Nuru'd-Din-i-Zayn dated the 17th of Shahru'l 'Ilm, 92 B.E.-equivalent to November of 1935-was written after those treacherous activities of the Covenant-breakers of which I was aware. This letter is reproduced in its entirety at the end of this chapter for my gentle readers.

Multiple investigators, both secret and open

In the blessed days of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, secret agents and official investigators played their part in the story from a year after the ascension of the Abha Beauty, when the Covenant-breakers established their evil organization and began to disseminate their seditious literature in all directions, inciting both the government and the people against the Cause of God. As described in Chapter I, their secret agents were exposed at the time of the rebellion of Mirza Aqa Jan, when the incident concerning Tabur Aqasi and the upheaval in 'Akka came to pass.

From that time forward, the birds of night{212} flew in all directions, especially to Beirut, Istanbul, and cities in Egypt, as Ottoman secret agents began to arrive in 'Akka from Istanbul. It was the policy of the Ottoman courts at that time to give credence to the words of any mischief-maker and accuser whenever a voice of dissent was heard from any direction. Sedition and rebellion were rampant in all parts of the Ottoman Empire, and the Covenant-breakers took advantage of the fear and apprehension at the court of the


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Sultan; every day they brought a new allegation and made fresh efforts to undermine and damage the Faith.

Because of these activities, there was always a group of secret agents in 'Akka. At times a commission would arrive to conduct open enquiries. An example was the sudden arrival of the Commission of Enquiry in 1902 or 1903 [sic, actually 1904], which conducted an investigation and then departed. After that, rumours began to be spread in 'Akka and there was real fear that the Master could be taken prisoner; the news papers in Egypt and Syria made frequent references to this issue.

At the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá all written materials were being collected as an Ottoman warship dropped anchor alternately at the Ports of 'Akka and Haifa and awaited the return of the inspectors. 'Akka was beset by turmoil and chaos. The resident friends were fearful and distressed, and some of the citizens of Haifa and 'Akka made innuendoes and intimations to the friends indicating their conviction that the Master would be taken prisoner. It is thought that the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was revealed at this time.{213}

At dangerous times such as this, Escobino, the Italian Consul in Haifa who was devoted to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and who was the official representative of the Italian shipping lines, several times invited 'Abdu'l-Bahá to board one of his ships and depart for whatever destination He wished.{214} This time, when he arrived in 'Akka and extended this offer he received a negative response. The rumour was circulating that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was to be exiled to the Fezzan desert of Western Libya. 'Abdu'l-Bahá had frequently mentioned the dreadful climate of that region and used to remark, "These people are heedless, for if God wills it, the climate of that place will change just as that of 'Akka did, and that desert too will be transformed into paradise."

On another occasion, one day when the friends were besieged by fear and agitation, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, with a bearing dignified and serene, slowly began to stroll towards the port. He walked out of the gate of the city to take a look at the sea. He threw a glance at the warship anchored at some distance from the shore and then came back. A few hours later, the


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ship pulled anchor and departed. It was not clear what had happened in Istanbul to bring about a recall of the inspectors. The matter was now dropped. This was two years before the events which necessitated my journey to Europe and subsequently to Beirut. In this connection I am reminded of a story which I present below.

interpretation of Mirza Nuru'd-Din's dream

Mirza Asadu'llah, a teacher of the Faith who ultimately went astray and turned Covenant-breaker, had been blessed by Bahá'u'lláh with the ability to interpret dreams. Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike, therefore, came to him to discover the meaning of their dreams, and his interpretations were invariably realized before long.

In the course of my stay almost every one of the friends sought his services two or three times, and later witnessed the accuracy of his interpretation. I myself had only one dream during my stay, and this was interpreted by the Master Himself, the truth of which has only recently been realized. I shall recount the details of that dream later at a more opportune moment.

Mirza Nuru'd-Din, who during the recent crisis was assigned the task of gathering up both the voided and the authorized copies of the Holy Writings accumulated over the years in various secret locations, had had a dream one night. When he saw Mirza Asadu'llah he asked him to interpret it. He described his dream in these words: 'A few nights ago I dreamt that a large jug of attar of rose (which at that time came from Istanbul and cost one gold lira per mithqal) broke and the fragrant contents were splashed all over the floor. I was labouring feverishly to recover all I could by picking up handfuls of the liquid and pouring it into a large drum. There seemed to be no end to the expensive fluid, and I was whispering to myself that every few drops that fell from my fingers was worth one gold lira, and so how precious must be the value of this much perfume."


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Mirza Asadu'llah responded, "You will be instructed to gather up the rough drafts and the obsolete copies of the divine verses revealed in recent years and put them in a safe place!" And indeed, that dream was realized that very night.

The moral of this story is, first, to demonstrate the gift that was granted to Mirza Asadu'llah despite his subsequent heedlessness and infidelity and the unfortunate end that awaited him, and secondly, to show that the government agents were active both covertly and openly, and generally on permanent assignment, which called for constant vigilance. Once or twice things became so critical that the Master gathered together all written materials, and I too collected all my papers and dispatched them to a safe place. In the meantime the Ottoman warship was making preparations to take the Master away, and so the friends were deeply agitated and distressed. On previous similar occasions, unexpected events in Istanbul creating a general state of fear and anxiety had prompted the government to abandon the idea of arresting 'Abdu'l-Bahá The most recent occasion had been the one which had precipitated my departure from 'Akka.

As I reviewed my recollection of these events some thirty years after my return to Tehran, I found my memory incapable of differentiating between these various episodes, and my pen unable to describe each case independently and accurately. Therefore, I had to seek help from the above-mentioned Honourable souls, and it took several years before Mrs. Barney's response was received. In the meantime sloth and apathy had won me over for a time and I lost track of the story. In any event, I have already commented on Amatu'l-Baha's letter, and will write my remarks concerning Jinab-i-Nuru'd-Din-i-Zayn's letter in the last part of this chapter.

Intrigues of the Covenant-breakers

Many of these events, as covered in Chapter 4, took place at a time when the upheavals and hardships were at their peak, and yet significantly this period of time, i.e. 1902 until 1905,


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saw the beginning of the great services that would be rendered during the period of the Covenant. Many of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's plans for the Western countries began to be put into action when He visited those countries, and many a prophecy made by Him during His years of imprisonment was fulfilled. The details of the seditious activities of the Covenant-breakers are as follows:

The Governor of 'Akka, that same pasha who due to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's intercession had freed the Covenant-breakers from their confinement in the Prison City of 'Akka, insisted that 'Abdu'l-Bahá should not consider Himself a prisoner and that He should feel free to move about as He wished. This insistence, of course, stemmed from his own devotion and attachment to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and the fact that he could not tolerate such an injustice as the imprisonment of the obviously exalted personage of the Master during the period of his administration. However, he certainly had received no official permission from the Sublime Porte approving such an instruction, and yet he continued to identify himself as a supporter and defender of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. But his many appeals and entreaties to the Master to move about freely failed to persuade 'Abdu'l-Bahá, until he devised a plan which he felt would produce the desired result. He officially asked for permission to visit the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, on condition that such pilgrimage should take place in the presence of the Master. His request was granted, and one day he visited the Shrine in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, performing all the required and customary rites of pilgrimage.

The Governor was hopeful that from that day on the Centre of the Covenant, in accordance with the same terms which He had presented to intercede on behalf of the Covenant-breakers, would consider Himself at liberty to reestablish His normal practice of visiting Bahji and Haifa as He had done in earlier years. As this hope was not realized, he again requested 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence in yet another visit to the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, this time with certain prominent members of the government. Again they made


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their pilgrimage and performed the required rites in the same manner as the believers, without the slightest deviation. Reportedly, that day proved to be one of the most disappointing and difficult days that the Covenant-breakers had experienced in their earthly lives. When the noise of the carriages arriving reverberated through the area as they came to a halt behind the Mansion, the Covenant-breakers rushed to the windows to watch. The sight of 'Abdu'l-Bahá leading prominent people, including the Governor of 'Akka, Fariq Pasha Lava Pasha and Badri Big, who humbly walked behind Him, bowed themselves before the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh and emulated 'Abdu'l-Bahá in kissing the Threshold as they entered the Shrine itself, must have been utterly frustrating and intolerable. All their attempts to renew 'Abdu'l-Bahá's incarceration, including the expenditure of the wealth left to them after the passing of Mirza Aqa Jan, had come to naught. They had witnessed with their own eyes the greatness of the Faith of God and its triumph. But once again these dormant germs came to life again, gathered together, summoned their colleagues from within and without, and after much consultation resolved to attack the very foundation of the Faith and try to extirpate the Cause of God altogether.

So they decided to bring together the means for the destruction of the Master, or at least cause His banishment from 'Akka. However, they were unable to decide on an effective strategy, until at last they saw their salvation in denouncing the representatives of the nation and the government officials. Bringing charges against the very Governor who had freed them from imprisonment, as well as against some of the high-ranking military officers who had brought honour and esteem to the Faith, and even discrediting the Mufti of 'Akka who had always viewed the Faith in a favourable light, was the approach they chose in order to implement their devious plan.

This was of course easy, for in the despotic reign of Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid the law allowed citizens to bring charges


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against anyone. Even if the charges were proved false, the accuser was not held responsible and was liable for no penalty or censure for slander. In this way, the royalists held absolute power and were able to remain in control. Anyone who held a grudge against another could destroy his opponent by bringing against him a well-thought-out allegation. In this way thousands of innocent people lost their lives, thrown into the sea without benefit of trial, while those who could get a hearing and prove their innocence became, by the end of such proceedings, totally discredited and disgraced without their accusers being held accountable in the slightest. This, then, was the policy of that Caliph who possessed the highest rank in Islam at that time.

When the Covenant-breakers, well practised in sedition and deception, perceived the favourable attitude of the government officials towards the Faith, they brought together a group of mischief-makers and drew up a document, signed by them all, which declared that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had captured the devotion and obedience of 'Akka's highest-ranking officers, had formed an army of some thirty thousand troops and aimed to soon raise the banner of revolt and usurp the very foundation of the Ottoman reign. This is a summary of the document attached to the report prepared by the government's chief investigator and sent to the Court of the Ottoman Sultan. The Covenant-breakers, however, far from being satisfied with this series of actions, intensified their efforts by entering another avenue as follows. Shaykh 'Abu'l-Huda, the Shaykh'u'l-Islam of the Ottoman Court, was the spiritual leader of the realm and regent to the Caliphate. He was a man who in the field of gnosticism [spiritual insight] was mentor and counsellor to the Sultan, and he enjoyed tremendous influence at the Sublime Porte. The devotion and esteem of the Sultan for the Shaykh was similar to Muhammad Shah's veneration of Haji Mirza Aqasi. The Shaykh had great influence even in political matters, reminiscent of Mula Baqir Majlisi's power at the court of Shah Sultan Husayn Safavi.{215} Abu'l-huda possessed pre-eminent


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authority and leadership in spreading the principles of various Sunni schools of Islam until some two thirds of the Ottoman nations had adopted Mawlavi or Yektai religious orders as well as other similar sects.{216}

It was reported that Shaykh Abu'l-Huda had some knowledge of the Faith, but because of his religious standing and elevated rank in the mystical and spiritual fields he did not openly display any opposition to it. However, on the prompting and provocation of the Covenant-breakers he now arose against the Cause. On the day when in response to the persistent entreaties of those prominent personages of 'Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá led the procession to visit the sanctified Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh as pilgrims, and directed them to circumambulate that holy Spot, the jealousy and hatred of the Covenant-breakers boiled over. With renewed energy they strove night and day to muddy the water at its source, and ultimately found a way to make the acquaintance of the above-mentioned Shaykh. Having provoked concern and fear in his mind, they brought a series of flagrant charges against the Centre of God's Covenant. Reportedly, they wrote that Bahá'u'lláh had been a dervish who in His spiritual visions had spread the teachings of Islam but that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had elevated his Father to the rank of divinity and was worshipping him as the Godhead; that he identified himself as the very religion of God and the manifestation of the Messiah and considered that he had the personal right to world sovereignty; that he had brought into his camp many Western Christians whom he was inviting to 'Akka in large numbers; that furthermore, he was planning to conquer Syria and Palestine and had been promised the cooperation of the high-ranking members of the Army; and that before long he intended to usurp the Ottoman Caliphate and destroy the Empire.{217} They had even written that various pieces of incriminating evidence were in their hands, that witnesses were readily available to testify, and that they only awaited the arrival of the Commission of Enquiry to present their case. In short, they published a variety of absurd and preposterous


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allegations and lies and spread them far and wide; they now awaited the arrival of the Commission of Enquiry in confident expectation.

The situation in 'Akka as the Covenant-breakers awaited the impending chaos

Whenever certain acts of mischief or dissent were about to take place in 'Akka, the Master would usually inform the believers, first implicitly and then openly, so that the friends would not become apprehensive and lose sight of caution and prudence, but at the same time would understand the future outlook of various affairs. And since most of the friends were familiar with the Master's tone, they immediately understood from His implied words that another major upheaval was in the offing. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances in these days were not unlike those at the time of Mirza Aqa Jan's rebellion as described in Chapter II under the title "Dismissal", as well as those in Chapter 2 in the section about 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances in Haifa. In short, the Master reminded us all of the approaching upheaval in 'Akka, and openly expressed His eagerness to endure whatever suffering and tribulations were in store for Him; yet at times He created before our minds' eyes a vision of the confirmations of the unseen paradise and the triumph of the Cause.

The situation in 'Akka had become generally chaotic. The enemies of the Faith had become openly hostile and overtly belligerent. From every corner one could hear whisperings, hints and allusions, while theft and slander had become rampant. The shopkeepers in the bazaar openly harassed their Bahá'í neighbours. In Haifa, the Arabs had become quarrelsome and vilified the friends. The reason for this maltreatment was that the Covenant-breakers had secretly informed them that before long the Ottoman officials would arrest and exile these same Bahá'ís, and in return would bestow manifold favours upon the Covenant-breakers who had delivered the Ottoman nation from the menace of these foreigners.


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The Covenant-breakers were so completely confident of their imminent success and final victory that they spread these rumours undaunted, until the friends too heard of their intentions. However, the utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá at this time revolved around the necessity of patience, calmness and perseverance, so that unseen confirmations and divine mercy might reach us. And then He would add, "Now the friends are free to go wherever they wish. They will encounter no obstacles and provoke no opposition. If the resident friends would take their leave, it would serve to ease my mind and would bring them much comfort. So while there is yet time, let whoever is able begin his journey, so that 'Akka may become quieter." Because of this, and before the matter became urgent, the Master dismissed all the pilgrims. It was at that time that Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali went to 'Ishqabad.{219}

Because of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's emphatic and persistent requests, some of the friends prepared to leave. Of that group only a few departed, while others procrastinated until they were arrested, although all were released later by various means.

The arrival of Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid's officials, and their departure due to the cannon blast of divine confirmation

Now that these rumours had spread all over the country, an Ottoman ship suddenly dropped anchor in Haifa, landing four or five pashas with the full authority of the Commission of Enquiry. Their first act was to seize the Post and Telegraph buildings in 'Akka and Haifa and to assign special officials, accountable to them only, at both sites. Next, as is customary in a coup d'etat, they replaced the Governor of 'Akka with his deputy, the vilest of men; dismissed the senior military officers such as Fariq Pasha, LAvA Pasha and Badri Big; established direct and secret telegraphic links with Istanbul; took up residence in the house of 'Abdu'l-Ghani Baydun, a collaborator of the Covenant-breakers; and began the task of collecting evidence. It was reported that they had located a few Palestinians


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of that same clan whom, nineteen hundred years before, Jesus had addressed as the "generation of vipers", and that these had drafted testimonials in accordance with the Covenant-breakers' wishes and filed them with the Commission. The irony was that these were the same people who had frequently solicited `'Abdu'l-Bahá's assistance and had invariably received a favourable response.

In this turmoil the violators of the Covenant, who considered themselves to be the direct instigators of this investigation, arrogantly gave ultimatums to whoever they came in contact with, saying, "Your days of glory are numbered; tomorrow this and that will happen." Even the Centre of Sedition, who for a long time had secluded himself in his ignominious lair, leapt out of his hole and began to accompany his comrades, visiting friends and celebrating their seemingly fast-approaching victory

The residents of 'Akka, some gloomy and upset, others dazed and dumbfounded, were making preparations either to attend the imminent auctions of Bahá'í possessions to get what they could at knock-down prices, or simply to pillage such belongings once their Bahá'í owners were arrested and exiled. Such was the condition of the Covenant-breakers and mischief-makers at that period.

The believers, relying on the Master's words that "a good end is the reward of the pious", tolerated the rebukes and taunts of the opposition in a spirit of peace and forbearance, and reacted with dignity and composure, smiling off the insults while at the same time eagerly awaiting with all their hearts the appearance of the heavenly angels of mercy and confirmation.

The area around the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was deserted, for the non-Bahá'ís dared not approach, and the trouble-makers, who were lying in wait for the opportunity to do mischief, did not risk coming near the house. Even the Friday beggars stopped coming round to receive their customary handouts, for fear of being wrongly accused. Spies were on the move all around the house, while the general inspectors openly harassed those who came to visit.


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The Centre of the Covenant, however, was in a state of utmost joy and serenity. Free of all concern, He spent His time planting trees and expanding the flowerbed. Any friend who came to call was in His presence suddenly uplifted into a world of cheerfulness and joy. This was a cause of astonishment and envy to the non-Bahá'ís. As reported by Mirza Nuru'd-Din-i-Zayn in his note to this servant, in the midst of all the turmoil the Commission of Enquiry secretly sent Shaykh Muhammad-i-Nabihani to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá so that on the pretext of a social visit he could rebuke the Master for not having paid a courtesy call on the Commission inspectors when they arrived, and for having failed to show them the proper marks of respect and hospitality. They hoped that such words would strike fear and trepidation into the heart of the Master. However, he found 'Abdu'l-Bahá adamant and unyielding. This he passed on to those who had planned his visit, which in turn increased their resentment and enmity.

This Commission had been empowered by Royal Decree. Its authority was unchallengeable and its decisions were final, with no possibility of appeal. One Friday morning, the Commission set out for Haifa to inspect the Shrine of the Bab, which had been described to them as a storehouse of arms and ammunition. The plan was that having confirmed the charges, they were to descend upon 'Akka in the darkness of night and arrest and imprison all those who had already been marked out for such an action. This was quite clear and obvious to the friends as they awaited the onslaught, and the pain and agony which it would entail. But suddenly Almighty God gave the signal to discharge the cannon blast of divine confirmation and mercy, and 'Abdu'l-Hamid's commands were in turn cast into the pit of oblivion. The situation was reversed; a secret telegram summoned the inspectors back with all due haste. The details are as follows.

On that same Friday, when Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid was returning to his palace from public prayers in all the pomp


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and grandeur of secular and religious sovereignty, his enemies hurled a bomb at his coach. While the attempt did not harm the Sultan, it caused many deaths. Having thus escaped death, he immediately summoned the inspectors-whom he considered astute and trustworthy-back to Court, so that they might through their considerable influence resolve the mystery and discover the source of the conspiracy. In the meantime, any further action regarding the matter of Haifa and 'Akka ceased. The Master generally referred to this incident as the "cannon blast of divine confirmation".

This is the letter from Nuru'd-Din-i-Zayn

To Dr. Youness Khan Afroukhteh, may my life be a sacrifice for you. The following is a summary description of the events associated with the arrival of the inspectors in 'Akka, so far as my memory permits.

Briefly, the dispatch of a number of testimonials to Istanbul, prepared at the instigation of the violators of the Covenant and signed and sealed by the malicious enemies of the Cause in 'Akka, bore witness to charges and allegations against 'Abdu'l-Bahá, including His supposedly strong fortress and mighty stronghold on the slopes of Carmel, and His presumed secret communications with foreigners. Furthermore, it charged that groups of these foreigners, both men and women, were arriving in 'Akka regularly, taking up residence in the Master's House (this is a reference to the pilgrims from Europe and America who arrived in groups to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá) and were being encouraged to join a new religion, which is entirely in conflict with the principles of Islam And that, in addition, they had already deceived a number of residents of 'Akka. It is quite obvious that to create apprehension and concern in the mind of a suspicious and cowardly king such as 'Abdu'l-Hamid, any one of these accusations would have sufficed to rob him of his self-control, how much more


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when he encountered such a variety of allegations and charges.

'Abdu'l-Bahá was aware of the nature of such documents sent to the headquarters of the Ottoman government, and thus warned the friends repeatedly that although the King was quite unconcerned about any mischief in these parts, yet the frequent transmission of such affidavits to the government would eventually trouble the King enough to bring about a state of turmoil and unrest.

One night, three or four days before the expected arrival of the inspectors, in a general meeting with all the friends 'Abdu'l-Bahá related, "Last night in a dream I witnessed the arrival of a ship at 'Akka. As it dropped anchor, I saw a number of birds in the shape of grenades fly up from the ship and over the city. They soared from one part of town to another, yet the grenades did not detonate, and the birds returned to the ship." He made no further comments. One of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's divine qualities was, as He Himself used to explain: "Whenever a difficult matter or an arduous circumstance presents itself, I say nothing until it passes, and then I make mention of it." It is clear that in His supreme compassion and divine wisdom, He concealed such situations, personally enduring all the associated hardship and torment and arising single-handed to diffuse the crisis and repel the assault.

In short, it was but a few days after the Master's dream that an Ottoman ship arrived in 'Akka and the four-member Commission of Enquiry entered the town and proceeded directly to the house of 'Abdu'l-Ghani Baydun, near the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh. Baydun was a prominent and wealthy resident of 'Akka and one of the few enemies of the Faith.

This created a major commotion in the town, for their arrival was quite unexpected, sudden and unannounced; neither the local government officials and senior military officers nor the political opposition had been informed about this sudden entry into 'Akka, and were ignorant of its


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true intent and purpose. And so a variety of rumours, speculations and conjectures began to spread like wildfire among the people. 'Abdu'l-Bahá now told us that his dream had come true and assured us that, God willing, the grenades would not explode. Yet to be on the safe side, He advised the majority of the friends in the Holy Land to leave 'Akka and travel in whatever direction they deemed suitable. Most of them went to Egypt, leaving their wives and children behind, and only a few remained in 'Akka.

Here, in order to clarify the authority of the inspectors in the performance of their duties, a point must be mentioned. Under Ottoman rule the administration of the affairs of the country proceeded from two centres of power: one was the Sublime Porte and the other was the Ottoman Court. Any command issued from the Sublime Porte, which was initiated by the Council of Ministers of the government of the day, was subject to revision, moderation, appeal and mitigation. But any instruction issued from the Ottoman Court, which was generally known as the Royal Decree -meaning the absolute command and injunction of the person of the Sultan-was definitive, unequivocal and unconditional and could not be modified, revised or mitigated.

For example, if an official or a commission was assigned the duty of investigating a certain area of the country by the Sublime Porte, it generally carried out an enquiry and then issued a report. Those accused or considered guilty had the right to defend themselves and prove their innocence; a further enquiry would then usually be carried out, which could ultimately lead to the vindication of the accused either through the payment of a large bribe, which was quite prevalent at the time, or through the recommendation of an influential party In rare cases and by sheer luck, the accused would be exonerated through the fairness and justice of the officials responsible. Otherwise the government usually won the case and punished the guilty party, thus bringing the matter to a conclusion.


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However, if an official or a commission was sent from the Ottoman Court to carry out an investigation, it was given the authority to simply prove the accusations or the substance of the charges under investigation without any effort to take into account any opposing evidence that might nullify the charges. In other words, regardless of what it took, the commission had to prove the accusations. On this basis the proper punishment would be issued directly by the Sultan himself The severity of the punishment specified by Royal Decree was decided by the sovereign himself without any input from anyone else. The order was absolute and the command final. This Commission of Enquiry had been sent by the Ottoman Court and was armed with the signed and sealed affidavits of the enemies of the Faith, as instigated by the intrigues of the Covenant-breakers. What was tragically comic was that they began their investigation by interrogating those who had signed the affidavits. In other words, the plaintiff and the witness were one and the same. The plaintiff was the witness, and the witness the plaintiff And it goes without saying that a plaintiff witness does not reject his own plaint but rather confirms it, since it is clear that if he even for a single instant manifested the slightest hesitation regarding the truth of his charge, he himself could become the subject of chastisement. Such was the due process of law during the tyrannical rule of 'Abdu'l-Hamid, and examples were numerous. Since the government was notorious at that time for deception, craftiness, corruption and distortion, the Commission of Enquiry announced on arrival that it had come to investigate certain issues of national, military and political importance, that the enquiry into the charges against 'Abdu'l-Bahá was to be carried out as an adjunct to their main task; and that in order to achieve a quick resolution of these problems they had seen fit to dismiss and exile certain officials of the government and the army, including the Governor of the city.


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The truth, however, was that the tone and contents of those depositions had aroused such fear and agitation in the heart of the King that the principal purpose of the Commission was to carry out the Royal Decree in confirming and proving the charges contained in those documents. In the midst of all this, the Master paid no attention to the officials and conducted Himself with supreme dignity, serenity, majesty and power, all the while withholding the slightest demonstration of welcome or hospitality to these men, all of whom were officers of the highest rank and the direct representatives of the Royal Court. This lack of regard on the part of 'Abdu'l-Bahá increased their indignation, astonishment and consternation to such an extent that losing all patience they found one of 'Akka's Islamic scholars, known as Shaykh Muhammad-i-Nabihaini-who outwardly appeared as a proponent of the Faith but was in fact a mischief-maker-instructed him appropriately and sent him to the sanctified presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá He arrived feigning humility, trepidation and concern, yet beheld the Master in a state of tranquillity, composure and grandeur, as if nothing had happened. And since he was only too aware of the deceptions and trickery of the Commission of Enquiry, he was astonished. He thought the Master's dignity, power and magnanimity to be due to His ignorance of the cruel plans they had in store for Him and the vicious practices of the people of tyranny. Otherwise surely this Lion of the Covenant would, like a fox at bay, adopt the ways of flattery, praise and appeasement of the Commission, if only for the sake of appearances, and would cease to evince such a disinterested and unconcerned attitude. In any case, this insincere scholar pleadingly put forth his case: "O my Master, this Commission is exceedingly ruthless and is currently plotting many schemes. Its members have stated, 'We had heard that, regardless of rank and standing, whenever an official arrives in 'Akka the exalted 'Abbas Effendi treats him with deference and shows him hospitality and kindness. We, however, who have come directly from the


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Sultan, each possessing high rank and position, and have now been in 'Akka for a number of days, have been totally disregarded, while all the city leaders as well as people of prominence and wealth have already paid their courtesy visits.' This has so outraged them that they are intent on harming 'Abdu'l-Bahá and there is a fear of great danger to His well-being. Therefore, it may be better for the Master to pay them a visit and show them kindness and consideration, so as to dispel hurt feelings and quench the fire of enmity which rages in their hearts." 'Abdu'l-Bahá smiled and replied, "Yes, that is true. I have always been the first to offer hospitality to a newly-arrived official, regardless of rank, and you yourself know well my gentle and loving nature. But this Commission has come to prove the false accusations made in those testimonials against me, and therefore if I express any greetings and or welcome them, or offer hospitality and friendliness, they may mistakenly consider my motive to be fear, flattery and appeasement, whereas we are innocent of these accusations. It is not befitting for me to express such sentiments, for they should be allowed to conduct their investigation free from all influences. 'We rely on none but God.` Astonished by such forthright words uttered with such supreme power, the enquirer received permission to take his leave. In the meantime, one day the Commission collectively visited Haifa and Mount Carmel and looked over the Shrine of the Bab One of them placed his hand on a corner of the building and commented in Turkish, "This is a solid fortress"-one of the accusations in the signed depositions.

In any event, from the date of their arrival they assigned a guard to the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá so as to prevent people from visiting the Master. No one dared to approach the house anyway. They stayed for some twenty days, sometimes in 'Akka and at other times in Haifa. Anxiety and uneasiness dominated the hearts and minds of the residents all this time, until suddenly and without advance notice, news


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reached 'Akka one day at sunset that the Commission of Enquiry had boarded the Ottoman ship in Haifa. Rumour had already been spread that it was the Commission's intention to take 'Abdu'l-Bahá away with them. As the ship approached 'Akka, the Greatest Holy Leaf and the Master's household became deeply anxious and the few believers present began to weep, especially when 'Abdu'l-Bahá paced up and down in the central hall of the house all alone, awaiting the descent of divine will. This servant, forgetful of self and in a state of near insanity, left the house and ran to a point from where the ship could be observed. I tarried a moment watching the ship approach the shores of AW, but suddenly its lights seemed to turn away; it changed direction and began to sail away from AW. I ran back with all the speed I could muster and entering the house saw 'Abdu'l-Bahá still pacing the floor in the darksome night. 1 approached.

"Well, what news?" He enquired.

"The ship is leaving 'Akka," I reported.

Then I shared the news with the members of the household. It brought about some peace of mind. Other friends, who had also gone to various parts of the city to observe the ship's movements, brought back the same news, and the grief and sorrow of the denizens of the tabernacle of purity and the friends of God was turned into relief and inexpressible joy. In those days of hardship and danger to the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, there was an Italian citizen called Escobino, who has since passed away, but at the time was the Vice-Consul for both the Persian and the Italian consulates.{213} Moreover, along with his nephews he was the official agent for the Italian commercial shipping line which served the port of Haifa. One night this man and his wife, who bore a sincere love for 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His family and exhibited deep humility and devotion in His presence, arrived in 'Akka secretly. As soon as the government guard left for the night they presented themselves at the door of the Master's House and in a state of great agitation and apprehension asked to be permitted to enter the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. On


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attaining the presence of the Master he pleaded and implored 'Abdu'l-Bahá in these words, "On the pretext of loading commercial freight I have kept an Italian ship in the port of 'Akka, and to ward off any suspicion I have told it to dock alternately at Haifa and 'Akka. At present the ship is at a preselected point between the two cities, and a small boat from the ship is currently at the shore in readiness. Time is short, the carriage is ready, there are no obstacles and the opportunity is at hand; therefore, it is best for the Master to accept to board the ship so that He may flee this tyranny and sail to whatever destination He chooses."

After a moment's pause, 'Abdu'l-Bahá responded to his request with words of encouragement: "My Lords the exalted Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, in situations far more dangerous than this, chose not to defend themselves and kept their peace and composure; so I, too, follow the path of those sanctified beings and choose to remain rather than flee. Therefore, I will not leave."

The more he persisted, the less 'Abdu'l-Bahá yielded. At last, he returned to Haifa that very night and released the ship to depart for its destination. Later I heard that the ship had been provided through the efforts of the American Bahá'ís in order to rescue the Master.

Now, what the reason was for the sudden departure of the Commission of Enquiry at the peak of their investigation, and why the unseen hand of divine power and might had chosen to put on such a show, was a mystery. All that was known was that a telegraph had been received from the Sultan commanding the Commission to return to Istanbul in haste.

Two or three days later came the news that on Friday, Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid had officially attended the Jam'ih Mosque to participate with all due ceremony in the observance of the public obligatory prayer. As he was mounting his horse to depart, a bomb had exploded, damaging a few of the carriages and wounding some of the horses. The King, however, sustained no injury. This incident produced much commotion and agitation in the city of Istanbul and


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was the main reason for the return of the Commission. After a few days, the Commission prepared its report and submitted it to the King. But because of that incident the matter was hardly noticed, for every faculty of the government, and the King's entire attention, were focused on uncovering the conspiracy and arresting the plotters. Some six months passed before the Sultan decided to study the reports in detail. But yet again the unseen hand of divine power intervened. Struggling to establish a democratic system of government, the Young Turks Party, which 'Abdu'l-Hamid had always feared and whose members he had over the course of his reign murdered by casting them in the sea in their hundreds-nay thousands-selected Salonika, which at the time was the headquarters of the ablest units of the Ottoman army, as the centre of their secret movement. They soon won the sympathy and cooperation of the military, and together marched on Istanbul to demand freedom and a constitutional government. Subsequently, by decree of the Sultan a constitutional government was established and all political prisoners were released; the people, overcome with joy, celebrated their deliverance in all four corners of the land.

But the hatred of the malicious, the personal prejudice of the local officials in 'Akka, and the viperous inclination of the people induced them to address a query to the central government asking whether or not the decree of the release of political prisoners also applied to 'Abbas Effendi. The immediate and affirmative response gave 'Abdu'l-Bahá complete and unconditional freedom. Some time later the King decided to go back on his word and dissolve the constitutional government. He was overthrown and exiled; the grand edifice of the supreme Sultanate began to tremble and finally collapsed, and that band of tyrants received their due chastisements.

He is the Exalted, the Powerful, the Mighty, the Everlasting.

1 November 1935/ 17 'Ilm 92 B.E. Nuru'd-Din Zayn


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The fulfilment of the prophecies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, now and in the future

While the preparation of this book, Memories of Nine rears, ha encountered many years of indolence and inactivity and it completion has been delayed for too long, yet fortunately the account of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's many promises and prophecies in the various chapters of the book regarding future triumphs of the Cause of God has coincided with the present realization of those promises. For example, the fall of the green, white and blue domes, the abasement of the clergy and the exaltation of the friends, the expansion of the Faith, the establishment of the great Bahá'í institutions, etc, etc, have all come true. And just as the truth of these has been established, so before long the rest of His promises will also be fulfilled.

In the course of His prophetic utterances regarding the friends, 'Abdu'l-Bahá would sometimes make reference to the enemies of the Faith, and at other times to the entire world and all that is therein. The significance of many of these was beyond my comprehension. For example, whenever the Persian friends complained of the cruelties and enmity of the people of sedition, the Master would give soul-stirring glad tidings that soon this or that would come to pass, the tabernacle of the Cause of God would be raised and the banner of the Faith would fly on the highest peaks. And yet, He would at times advise the youth and schoolchildren to the contrary: "I am not training you for a life of ease and comfort." His purpose was to assert that "during the descent of difficulties and afflictions, you must endure and persevere".

Sometimes, in response to the Western friends who desired to achieve the honour of martyrdom, 'Abdu'l-Bahá explained that in Europe and America too, the resistance and opposition of the enemies of the Faith would lead to the martyrdom of sanctified souls.

Today, too, the same truths may be perceived in the words of the beloved Guardian of the Faith of God. On the one hand, His recent telegrams bear the glad tidings of the establishment


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of new Spiritual Assemblies in Central and South America and the completion of the interior decoration of the American Mashriqu'l-Adhkar. These, of course, are the same dazzling triumphs which we have been anticipating for forty or fifty years. And then on the other hand, He cautions and warns the friends to be prepared for the emergence of events of ma or proportions.{220}

In short, the Master used to make references to the destructive World War, however implicitly.{221} I missed the point. He even mentioned it quite explicitly on one occasion, while interpreting a dream I had had, but again I could not understand His meaning and so in my ignorance I thought his utterances to be tactful words of wisdom, and proceeded to make my own interpretation. The details of this particular event follow.

In the days of the rebellion of Mirza Aqa Jan known as Khadim'u'llah, when the incessant hostile activities of the Covenant-breakers had forced the Ark of the Cause of God into the stormy waters of tests and difficulties, one day in the pilgrim house I had a strange and horrible dream. I saw myself, accompanied by a number of friends, sailing in a small fragile ship. I heard someone say, pointing to a gigantic ship approaching us from some distance away, that the ship was plague-ridden and that the government had ordered it to be destroyed.

As the ship approached, the officers of our small ship gave the command to attack. Cannons began to roar, mortar shells exploded and hand grenades were hurled. The large ship was on fire. Flames and a cloud of smoke, as well as the screams, weeping and wailing of those on board, rose heavenward. The shrieking sound of their weeping and sobbing was so heart-rending and harrowing that, as the ship began to sink, I awoke shaken and frightened. In that state of fear and shock, I interpreted the dream as signifying the destruction of the Covenant-breakers, and I was confident of the accuracy of my interpretation. Yet I waited for an opportunity to bring the matter to the attention of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, feeling quite certain


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that He would confirm my interpretation. The opportunity did present itself until one day in the presence of a group of resident Bahá'ís and pilgrims, as I gazed in humility and adoration at the sublime countenance of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, He suddenly said, "khan, why don't you say something?"

"I have had a dream," I responded. Receiving His permission, I recounted the details, anticipating His affirmation of my interpretation.

However, after a moment's pause, He spoke these words with power and authority: "The ship in which you found such comfort is the ship of the Cause of God and the large ship is the ship of the world. This ship is outwardly very small, but the ship of the world will sink, while the ship of the Cause of God will reach the safety of the shore."

He continued to speak for some time, but I can remember none of the details. He gave intimations of today's conflicts and wars, but at the time I was mentally incapable of understanding His allusions. At the time, I imagined that since a number of Covenant-breakers were also in attendance, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was being cautious in His comments so that they would not make of this a pretext to publish further false accusations and rumours. And for the past three or four years, the words and letters of the beloved Guardian are openly informing the friends of these same matters.

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