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Abstract:
One-third of a lengthy primary-source history, annotated by translator.
Notes:
See Persian text (offsite). Also available at archive.org. See some background of this text at rabbani_mcglinn_memories_ashchi.

A Lifetime with Bahá'u'lláh:
Events in Baghdad, Istanbul, Edirne and ‘Akká while in the Company of Bahá'u'lláh

by Aqa Husayn Ashchi

translated by Ahang Rabbani.
published in Witnesses to Babi and Bahá'í History, vol. 14
2007-03
Contents

Translator's Forward

Translator's Foreword

From the inception of his administration, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith (1921-57), had wanted a detailed biography of Bahá'u'lláh, drawing from many reliable sources and befitting the life of such a unique Figure, to be written. And while he himself produced a masterful and analytical outline of this noble life in God Passes By, he commented to others that a separate volume, detailing many events was yet to be prepared in English. His manifold duties as the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, particularly on the eve of launching the Ten-Year World Crusade, prevented him from undertaking this project. However, he told a cousin, Hasan M. Balyuzi, a Hand of the Cause and an Afnán, to research and write such a biography of Bahá'u'lláh.

Hasan Balyuzi had already written a 130-page long essay on the life of the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh: the Word Made Flesh, when he set out to do research for his trilogy on the life of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í religion. His volume on the life of the Bahá'u'lláh, titled, Bahá'u'lláh: the King of Glory, was published in 1980, shortly after his passing.

In order to compose his history, Balyuzi used a number of sources, perhaps the most important among them being:

  1. Nabíl Zarandí's narrative (unpublished section)
  2. Memories of Áqá Husayn Áshchí
  3. Narrative of Áqá Muhammad-Ridá Qannád Shírází
  4. Account of Mírzá Habíbu'lláh Afnán

With the present publication, of the above four primary manuscripts, so far two of them are published.

The first of these two published documents is by Mírzá Habíbu'lláh Afnán, who was a relative of the Báb and a son of Áqá Mírzá Áqá Afnán, surnamed Nuri'd-Dín. Together with his brothers (one of whom was a Hand of the Cause of God appointed by Bahá'u'lláh and named Áqá Siyyid Áqá Afnán) and their renowned father, Mírzá Habíbu'lláh, who was born and raised in the House of the Báb in Shiraz, visited Bahá'u'lláh in 1991-92 as a young man and stayed in Bahjí as Bahá'u'lláh's guest for nine months. He then moved to Egypt and helped establish family commercial business there. This enabled him to frequently visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akká and indeed he was the person to whom 'Abdu'l-Bahá entrusted the details of the rebellions of Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí and other sons of Bahá'u'lláh.

Mírzá Habíbu'lláh has left behind a marvelous narrative which recounts some unique stories of the childhood of the Báb, many glimpses of Khadijih Bagum (the Báb's widow) who had raised Mírzá Habíb as her own son, and of course many aspects of Bahá'u'lláh's daily activities as the author observed Him during his nine months of stay in the Holy Land (1891-92) and concludes with description of many events that occurred following the passing of Bahá'u'lláh. It is no exaggeration to say that this narrative is among the most valuable historical accounts of the Bahá'í Faith as it offers details about the events associated with the opening Age of the Cause that are not recorded elsewhere.[1]

In early 1920s, the renowned historian of the Bábí and Bahá'í Faiths, Mírzá Asadu'lláh Fádil Mázandarání, wrote to Shoghi Effendi suggesting systematic efforts to capture the recollection of those who had witnessed the days of Bahá'u'lláh. The Guardian readily agreed and issued instructions that a number of believers who were companions of Bahá'u'lláh and had witnessed many early episodes of the Cause to write down their recollection of the events. However, by then most of them had either passed away or were advanced in age and at least some 30 years had passed since the time of Bahá'u'lláh. Therefore, Shoghi Effendi requested a number of younger scribes to sit with these older believers and write down everything they could remember of the events they had witnessed during the time of Bahá'u'lláh. A simple, effective idea, vintage Shoghi Effendi!

One of the early believers suggested by Fádil Mazandarání for such an interview was Áqá Husayn Áshchí (c. 1847-1925) who was living in the Holy Land at the time and was about 80 years old. In way of introducing him, the following is a brief biography by Balyuzi:

Áqá Husayn was a native of Káshán. During the Báb's stay in Káshán, Áqá Husayn's father, Áqá Muhammad-Javád, had met Him at the house of his uncle, Hájí Mírzá Jání, and had become a believer. When Bahá'u'lláh was in Baghdad, Áqá Muhammad-Javád immigrated to Baghdad and settled there with his son. He was entrusted by Bahá'u'lláh with the mission of going to Tihran to ask for the hand of the daughter of His brother, Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan, in marriage to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. It was as he was returning from this mission that he fell ill at Kirmansháh, and he died as he reached Baghdad. Áqá Husayn was raised for a time in the care of his uncle, Ustád Ismá'íl, but when Bahá'u'lláh was about to leave Baghdad, Áqá Husayn was honored by being accepted into His household, initially to serve the womenfolk and later as cook. (Áshchí means cook or maker of broth.) He accompanied Bahá'u'lláh at all stages of His exile until 'Akká was reached. He was involved in the murder of the Azalís and served a term of imprisonment. After this he opened a small shop in 'Akká. He lived throughout the period of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry and into that of the Guardian of the Faith, and died in AH 1346 (1927-8).[2]

Balyuzi also tells of the circumstances that led to the preparation and composition of Áshchí's recollections:

When, in December 1924, Áqá Husayn-i-Áshchí was at an advanced age and on his death-bed, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, instructed Áqá 'Abdu'r-Rasul-i-Mansúr-i-Káshání[3] to sit by his bedside and take down all that the dying man could remember of the events of seven decades. It is a fascinating story that Áshchí had to tell; and what is particularly striking is the amazing rapport between the reminiscences of an elderly man, very soon to die, and the narrative of Áqá Ridáy-i-Qannád.[4]

In 1925, a copy of this narrative was sent to Fádil Mazandarání from the Holy Land to facilitate his research and studies and he made excellent use of it in his Táríkh Zuhúru'l-Haqq, particularly volumes 4 and 5. The following is a translation of a letter dated 9 July 1925 to Mazandarání:

May my life be a sacrifice for your precious being! God willing, your esteemed self is well-sheltered and safe under the protection of divine bounties.

A while back you recommended the composition of a history [of the Bábí and Bahá'í Faiths] which was approved [by the Guardian].[5] Last year, the late Áqá Husayn Áshchí, who was a fellow-traveler with the Blessed Beauty [Bahá'u'lláh], was instructed to commit to paper any recollections of the events of Baghdad and travels to Istanbul, Edirne and the Most Great Prison ['Akká]. While being in ill health, he shared his memories with another believer who wrote it all down and submitted them section by section.

After your suggestion was received, [the Guardian] said, "Even though Áqá Husayn's notes are not considered part of history, it is good to send them to that esteemed personage [i.e. Mázandarání], perchance he may find historical details in them that would be of benefit to his history project."[6] Therefore, a copy is being sent through mail by way of the honored Daváchí. You should also know that you are free to use, or not, any portion of this narrative and just because it is sent from the Holy Land it does not imply that accuracy is assured. The history of the Cause and associated events must be prepared based on solid evidences and not unworthy matters.

I recall that regarding the issue of the celebration of the Guardian's birth, and the reading and dissemination of ['Abdu'l-Bahá's] Will and Testament, you had earlier asked for the exact dates and I do not remember if I responded or due to many activities and forgetfulness I was prevented from so doing. The Guardian of God's Cause does not wish for these events to be celebrated because if the friends are to suspend work on the birth, announcement of the Guardianship and the passing of each Guardian, then the entire year will be devoted to such events and no day would remain for work. This is against the Cause's interest. He stated, "Only the days mentioned in the Writings are considered the Holy Days and other days should not be celebrated, nor work be suspended."

Praise unto God that at the present, because of the exertions of the courageous head of the government, security is established, and the friends are at ease and in comfort. We relish the hope that this security and order would increase day by day.[7]

I swore by your own precious life that I will offer prayers in the Shrine of our cherished Lord on your behalf and beseech confirmations and happiness for you.

'Azízu'lláh[8]

It appears that at some point later either through Fádil Mazandarání, or some other route, a copy was placed at the Iranian National Bahá'í Archives for safekeeping. This copy was 69 pages.

On 9 October 1967, Muhammad-'Alí Malik-Khusraví transcribed a copy, which on 3 December 1973 was given by Malik-Khusraví to Badí' Mansúr, son of Áqá 'Abdu'r-Rasul Káshání, the person who had originally transcribed Husayn Áshchí's reminiscences.[9] This copy is in 149 pages. A copy of Malik-Khusraví's transcription was kept by Yadu'lláh Ká'idí in his private library and was eventually published electronically at: http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/arabic/ashchi/ashchi.htm.[10]

The letter cited above from 'Azízu'lláh Bahádur appears on the first two pages of this published text.

Previous Translation Efforts

It appears that Shoghi Effendi in 1920s took steps to have this narrative translated and readied for publication.[11] Hollinger has shared with the present translator that in a letter from Emogene Hoagg to Ella Cooper, circa 1926-27, Hoagg informs Cooper of the Guardian's instruction for this narrative to be translated into English by the Bahá'ís in Iran. According to Hollinger, who in the summer of 1982 studied this letter and other correspondences between Hoagg and Cooper housed in San Francisco Bahá'í Archives, Hoagg was at the World Centre at the time of the letter. The two were longtime friends who had learned about the faith at the same time (in 1898) and because of their close relationship, Hoagg informed her of a number of activities at the World Centre, including Shoghi Effendi's effort to have Ashchí's narrative translated in Iran. It may indeed be possible to document the same facts through Shoghi Effendi's correspondence on file at the World Centre's International Archives, when these records are made accessible to researchers.

Hollinger further notes, "This letter from Hoagg also hints at the possible reason why the translation was never published, namely, that the translators were disheartened working under the direction of Shoghi Effendi because he was such a perfectionist who apparently re-translated everything they did. On the other hand, it does seem apparent that the Guardian intended to publish the Ashchi memoirs at one time and saw merits in doing so."

If indeed such a project was attempted in mid 1920s, the present translator is not familiar with any other details nor has he seen the communications cited by Hollinger.

Since Hasan Balyuzi had made extensive use of Áshchí's narrative in his 1980 seminal work, Bahá'u'lláh: the King of Glory, without actually offering a translation, naturally there was considerable interest in publishing both the Persian original and an English translation of this singularly important document. However, Kalimat Press' offer in 1982 to do so was not approved by the World Centre, nor was a similar request in 1996 by the Canadian Persian Institute for Bahá'í Studies to publish the Persian original. In the same year, the present translator's application to the World Centre for permission to translate and publish this account was not accepted.[12]

However, since I had already prepared a translation in 1996, in view of many requests for copies of this rendering, some months of 2007 were devoted to reworking parts of this translation and making it available electronically to those interested to learn about the august life of Bahá'u'lláh through the recollections of someone who had spent a lifetime with Him.

As the Universal House of Justice has advised the present translator in their 3 June 1996 letter, no doubt a befitting translation will be prepared by the World Centre at some future time. As such, the present rendering should be considered an aid to the students of history and a means of "sweetening one's mouth" until the World Centre devotes attention to this important project.

Notes on the Present Translation

In the course of this translation, every effort has been exerted to stay as close to the original document as possible, to the degree that a literal rendering has often been preferred to a more stylistic one. Footnotes have been added to augment information, clarify obscure points, and provide a more detailed perspective.

Occasionally, comments by the translator have been added to improve the clarity or continuity of the material. These comments are enclosed in square brackets, thus […]. All comments within parentheses are by the narrator, Áqá Husayn Áshchí.

The system of transliteration used in this monograph is consistent with the method used in other academic publications and varies from the system used in most Bahá'í publications by: (1) avoiding subdots and underlines (e.g., Fádil), and (2) dropping the izafih connecting the first name to the surname (e.g., Husayn-'Alí Núrí, instead of Husayn-'Alíy-i-Núrí).

Subheadings have been added to ease transition from one topic to the next. Several spots where the manuscript was unreadable have been marked. Page numbers of original manuscript (as published electronically) have been given every 5 pages in angle brackets, such as, . Pictures have been inserted to enhance the presentation.

Since any single Islamic year (denoted AH) typically overlaps with two Christian years, where only the Islamic year of the event is known, the equivalent Gregorian date is given as the first of the two years partially covered by that Islamic year.

Typically, the original text refers to the Central Figures by such honorific titles as "His Holiness" or "His blessed Person," and these honorifics have been omitted for the most part. Nor does the translation reproduce such expressions commonly used in the Iranian literature of the Bahá'í Faith as, "May my life be a sacrifice unto His Sacred Threshold."

Many key individuals are often referred to by titles, such as His Holiness the Exalted One, a reference to the Báb; or the Ancient Beauty or the Blessed Beauty, expressions used for Bahá'u'lláh; or, the Most Mighty Branch, a title of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. To remain faithful to the original text, even though such expressions may not be familiar to some readers, for the most part they have been maintained as authenticity in rendering such documents overrides other concerns.

It should be emphasized that the spoken words attributed to Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá in these pages cannot be ascribed with scriptural authority or equated with their authorized Writings. No one took notes at the time those words were uttered, although it cannot be ruled out that some may indeed be the very words spoken.

A Comment on the Text

As the reader will note, the narrative of Áqá Husayn Áshchí is not a well-organized, documented history. It is the reminiscences of a man, advanced in age and on his deathbed, striving to recall the events spanning some seven decades with which he had immense emotional ties and, as with any oral history, one has to recognize that the information is not necessarily given in their chronological and orderly manner. These recollections, however, are extremely valuable to those who seek knowledge of the Days of God and it may not be an overstatement one could dare say, far more so than any other historical account by any Bahá'í. Nevertheless, the limitation of the text should also be apparent to a careful reader.

Acknowledgement

The friends in Iran who graciously made this manuscript available for research into the life of Bahá'u'lláh have the profound gratitude of the present translator and all others who will benefit from this remarkable account. Adel Shafipour and Dr. Khazeh Fananapazir provided much assistance and are deeply thanked. With great care, Phillip Tussing, who has graciously collaborated on a number of projects, read the entire manuscript and offered many suggestions for its improvement. I also wish to thank participants on the Tarikh list for their valuable comments on this project. In addition, a debt of gratitude is recorded to the author's grandson, Tawfiq Ashchi, who was kind with providing considerable biographical information on the Ashchi family.

Ahang Rabbani
Houston, Texas
March 2007


Notes

    [1] See, Mirza Habíbu'lláh Afnán, Memories of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, translated by Ahang Rabbani; Witnesses to Babi and Bahá'í History, vol. 4, eBook: 2007; http://ahang.rabbani.googlepages.com/

    [2] Bahá'u'lláh: The King of Glory, pp. 473-474. The Bahadur letter cited later in the present Foreword is dated July 1925 and refers to Ashchí as "the late". As such, it appears the date of his passing must be during the first half of 1925.

    [3] The correct name should be given as: Áqá 'Abdu'r-Rasúl, the son of Khalíl Mansúr Káshání

    [4] Bahá'u'lláh: the King of Glory, p. 7.

    [5] Most likely a reference to Mázandarání's Táríkh Zuhúru'l-Haqq project.

    [6] It might be appropriate to read this comment in context of Shoghi Effendi's desire for history of Bahá'u'lláh's life – and perhaps the Bahá'í Faith in general – to be written in full context, placing many events in their proper perspective. Clearly, Áshchí's narrative is a vital element in assembling such a history, as demonstrated by Mazandarani's Táríkh Zuhúru'l-Haqq and Balyuzi's Bahá'u'lláh: the King of Glory.

    [7] This comment was made during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi who had restored order and security throughout Iran after the dismal performance of the Qajar monarchs.

    [8] Malik-Khusraví had added a notation at the conclusion of this letter stating, "I think the above letter is by 'Azízu'lláh Bahádur and is addressed to the honored Fádil Mazandarání."

    [9] Ashchi, p. iii, exchange of brief notes between Malik-Khusraví and Badí' Mansúr.

    [10] Ashchi, p. iv, based on a note by Yadu'lláh Ká'idí dated Farvardín 1374 Sh [March 1995].

    [11] Richard Hollinger, private communications, January 1996.

    [12] While the World Centre has not specified reasons for their reluctance in approving publication of such documents in either original or translation form, it is conjectured that the concern partly may have to do with the fact that often such documents contradict information given in God Passes By. While this may be of concern to some, historians deal with such issues all the time and recognize the eminent value of primary source documents, such as, the account by Áshchí.

Chapter 1: Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad and His Journey to Istanbul

Narrated by Áqá Husayn Áshchí

Scribe's Preamble

In the Name of God, the Most Holy, the Most Great, the Most Exalted, the Most Glorified.

After offering praise and salutation to the Lord, the Glorious, the Most Glorious[1], and tribute and glorification of His Holiness the Exalted One, the Most Exalted[2], and submissiveness and humility before the sacred threshold of 'Abdu'l-Bahá – may my spirit be a sacrifice to His luminous burial dust – and humility and obedience to the center of the divine Covenant and Testament, and servitude before the offshoot of the Twin Holy and Celestial Trees, the chosen branch and the Guardian of the Cause of God, the honored Shoghi Effendi Rabbani – may my spirit be a sacrifice for his favors – I submit that on 20 December 1924 by western [i.e. Gregorian] reckoning, this ephemeral servant, 'Abdu'r-Rasul Ibn Khalíl Mansúr Káshání, was instructed by the Guardian of the divine Cause to interview the illustrious Áqá Husayn Áshchí – upon him be the Glory of God, the Most Glorious – and to ask him regarding the peregrinations of the Ancient Beauty – may His name be exalted – from Baghdad until the end of His sanctified days, and regarding other events of the Cause and the entire ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá – may my spirit be a sacrifice to His remains. I was to ask about and gather recollections of each of these episodes, from the Ancient Beauty's departure from Baghdad through [the days of] 'Akká, and to present the Guardian with a written account. Therefore, I informed the honored Áqá Husayn Áshchí of this directive and in utmost obedience and humility, he accepted this task, and confident of divine confirmations and blessings, undertook to compose this history – "In God we trust and from Him we seek assistance."

Whatever is written has been spoken by the esteemed Á[qá] Husayn Áshchí Ibn Muhammad-Javád Káshání – may his station be exalted in God's most Glorious paradise.[3]

Áshchí's Account

When this servant [Áshchí] attained the presence of the Divine Countenance [Bahá'u'lláh], I was about thirteen years of age.[4]

[Previously,] in Kashan, because we were Bábís we became engulfed in difficulties and suffered extensively. My father was mostly in Baghdad and at the Blessed Beauty's [Bahá'u'lláh's] instructions, he traveled extensively.

Since my maternal uncles resided in Tihran, this lowly one, along with my mother and sister, traveled there. One of my uncles was the venerable Ustád Ismá'íl Mi'már-Banná ["master-builder"]. We stayed in Tihran for a while with the intention of journeying to Baghdad. However, the honored Áqá Mírzá Ridá-Qulí Núrí, one of the [half-] brothers of the Blessed Beauty through His father, discouraged us from leaving for Baghdad, saying, "Your father, Áqá Muhammad-Javád, will arrive from Baghdad any day and will bring a shawl and a ring for a blessed event[5]."

Plans for 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Marriage

It was not long before my father arrived bearing a shawl and a ring as a gift from the Ancient Beauty [Bahá'u'lláh] for the engagement of the daughter of the late esteemed Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan – upon him be [6] the Glory of God, the Most Glorious – a brother of the Ancient Beauty. This daughter was known as Shahr-Bánú Khánum and was intended for the Master, the Most Mighty Branch – meaning 'Abdu'l-Bahá, may my spirit be a sacrifice for His sanctified remains.

Since by that time Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan had passed away and was enveloped by God's Grace, his brother, Á[qá] Mírzá Ridá-Qulí, was the [legal] guardian of the household's affairs.

Regarding the proposed matrimony, he [i.e. Áqá Ridá-Qulí] was at first agreeable, but then he changed his mind and loosened his tongue to these words, "If I were to send this girl [to Baghdad ] and then the nobles of the Court and ministers later inquired [about her whereabouts] of me, how would I answer?" As such, he responded negatively and prevented nuptials between 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shahr-Bánú Khánum.

Regarding this matter, my father had many discussions with the esteemed Áqá Mírzá Ridá-Qulí, but to no avail. He remarked to my father, "Since you visit me often for this purpose, it may bring harm to us." To which my father responded, "If two or three more like you were found among your venerable family, surely the Cause [of the Báb] would disappear." One of his [Áqá Ridá-Qulí] complaints was, "How am I to answer the Prime Minister?" However, secretly, he intended to give her hand in marriage to the Prime Minister's son.[7]

At any rate, after losing all hope and becoming depressed, my father [and we] left Tihran for Baghdad. However, deeply grieved and saddened [by what had transpired], along the journey he fell ill. We stopped for a few days in Kirmánsháh in hopes of my father's recovery, but there was no improvement and in this state we conveyed him in a kajavih ["howdah"] to Baghdad .

Mír Muhammad Shírází

Our muleteer was the renowned Mír Muhammad Shírází, who during the days of the Primal Point [the Báb] – may the spirit of all else be a sacrifice to Him – was urged by Him to serve the friends.

[At our journey's conclusion,] several donkeys and some money were given to him. Á[qá] Mír Muhammad was firm and steadfast spiritually, but occasionally he yielded to fickleness.

From Baghdad, he accompanied the Blessed Beauty to Istanbul and then he was given his leave. When the Blessed Beauty moved to Edirne, the aforementioned Áqá Mír Muhammad remained in Istanbul engaged in earning a living.

When the incident of Mishkín-Qalam occurred[8], six believers were imprisoned: Mishkín-Qalam; Sayyáh Effendi; Áqá 'Abdu'l-Ghaffár Isfahání, known as Kahyá ["village chieftain"]; Áqá Muhammad-Báqir, the Qahvih-Chí ["coffeemaker"] of the Ancient Beauty; Ustád Muhammad-'Alí Salmání ["the barber"]; Áqá Jamshíd Bukhárá'í. These six were in an Ottoman prison until the blessed journey [of Bahá'u'lláh and the Holy Family] from Edirne to 'Akká occurred. At that time, four of them were sent to Gallipoli in order to prevent them from joining the Blessed Beauty. Ustád Muhammad-'Alí Salmání and Áqá Jamshíd Bukhárá'í were exiled to Iran. It was never determined what prompted such a decision.

Áqá Mír Muhammad Chárvádár ["the muleteer"], had ascertained that the four imprisoned believers had arrived at Gallipoli, but could not locate the whereabouts of the other two, namely, Ustád Muhammad-'Alí Salmání and Áqá Jamshíd Bukhárá'í. He only learned that these two men were not with the other four.[9] As such, greatly agitated and in a state of utmost indignation, Áqá Mír Muhammad went to the Sublime Court and roared like a ferocious lion, "The prisoners were six in number and now only four men have arrived at Gallipoli. Where are the remaining two? Tell me, or by God, I will burn down all of Istanbul !" And in such a manner, he continued to protest vociferously. When the officials saw him to be an old, simple man, they were not perturbed by his anxiety and informed him, "The two others were sent to Iran. If you do not accept or believe this, then send a telegram to Iran. If you did not receive an affirmative response declaring their arrival in good health, then you have a complaint." The government, however, sent the other four to Cyprus .

Arrival in Baghdad

At any event, we have strayed far from our purpose, even though all of it is related to the journeys in exile of the Blessed Person.

When this lowly one, with my father and mother, arrived in Kirmánsháh, the honored Áqá Shaykh Salmán – upon him be the Glory of God, the Most Glorious – was on his way to Baghdad. Together with him and Mír Muhammad we arrived in Baghdad. We settled in the home of an elderly woman who would rent rooms to believers. Since she had witnessed the consideration and benevolence of the believers, she reciprocated with every kindness. She was known as Yammí[10]. After we had stayed for five days, on the fifth night, our father was freed from the pains, sufferings, wants and complaints of this nether world, and took his abode in the everlasting paradise, which is beyond all descriptions and utterances. He reached his Beloved and now "dwells near God, Who provides food and drink."[11]

One morning this lowly one was taken to the residence of the Blessed Beauty, whereupon He spoke many expressions of kindness and sympathy in my regard. He stated, "I am your father." With His blessed hands, He caressed my hair and face, and said, "Your father did not die; he became a martyr." Thrice He repeated this expression. May my spirit be sacrifice to His most Holy bounties and clemencies. He did not permit me to participate in my father's funeral procession. My father was buried in Kázimayn.

In Baghdad

Occasionally, I was apprenticed in shops making 'abás or women's clothing. Since my father was a partner with the honored Áqá Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh Isfahání, the father of Áqá Ni'matu'lláh Falláh – upon whom rest the Glory of God – at times I would also work in his store as a salesman. Later, I worked in construction with my esteemed maternal uncle, Ustád Ismá'íl Banná. On occasions, when the Sacred House [of Bahá'u'lláh] needed certain repairs, I would go and attend to the upkeep and whatever was required of a construction worker. Three years passed in this way.

The honored Á[qá] Mírzá Hádí Javáhirí ["the jeweler"] had begun to raise a caravansary outside Baghdad, some eight hours distance. When he passed away, he bequeathed his entire estate[12] to the presence of the Blessed Beauty – may the spirit of both worlds be a sacrifice to His bounties.

His son, Á[qá] Mírzá Musá Javáhirí was one of those who firmly anticipated the manifestation of the Ancient Beauty. In accordance with Bahá'u'lláh's instructions, I undertook the repairs and completion of this caravansary, which was situated on the road to Karbala, intended to serve pilgrims to that location. Since it was His blessed [Bahá'u'lláh's] wish, my maternal uncle, Ustád Ismá'íl, and myself and some other believers became engaged in the construction of that inn. Some two hundred laborers and others were working [at the site]. My maternal uncle assigned me as the labors' supervisor, so I would specify their tasks. At times, Áqá Mírzá Musá Kalím and 'Abdu'l-Bahá would come for inspection and overseeing of the repairs and of the work of construction workers.

We were thus engaged when suddenly the news arrived that the Ancient Beauty's exile [to Istanbul ] was impending. We ceased work and all came to Baghdad, where we heard the details.

Bahá'u'lláh's Banishment from Tihran and the Role of the Russian Government

And the reasons for His blessed departure and travels in exile are recorded in important histories. At the conclusion of His incarceration in the Most Great Prison [Siyáh-Chál], the Ancient Beauty and the Most Great Name [Bahá'u'lláh], accompanied by Iranian guards and watchmen appointed by the Russian Consulate in Tihran, left for Baghdad, and in the utmost health and wellbeing ascended the throne of majesty [in Baghdad].

During that period, the Russian Consul exerted great might and influence in support of the Blessed Beauty. He attained the presence of Iran's monarch and spoke sternly in support and protection of the Ancient Beauty, "If a hair is lost from His sacred Head, Iran's future will be in ruins, the flames of war will rage, and they will burn even the stones and the bricks!" The reason for this [protest] was that some of Bahá'u'lláh's relatives worked in the Russian Consulate.

One day, Á[qá] Mírzá Musá Kalím entered the [Russian] Consulate. [However, on his way to the Consulate], the enemies had chased after him, intending to injure him. When Á[qá] Mírzá Musá reached the Consulate's entrance, those chasing after him robbed him of his 'abá. When the [Russian] Consul heard of this incident and learned that the Blessed Beauty was persecuted and subjected to utmost cruelty and ill-treatments in the prison, he immediately mounted the steed of action. He went before the Shah of Iran and insisted on the urgent release of that Sanctified Being [Bahá'u'lláh]. It was then that the Blessed Beauty was removed from prison and, by instructions of the government of Iran, journeyed to Baghdad. For this reason, the Russians appointed two guards so that no harm would come to the Ancient Beauty en route.

The Consul had secured an agreement from the government [to the effect that] "Upon reaching Baghdad, the Blessed Beauty would write me a letter expressing His approval of the manner and services of the Iranian guards, so that I would be assured [that they did not mistreat Bahá'u'lláh along the way]". Therefore, the Iranian authorities had given firm instructions to the guards, and the journey was conducted in the utmost joy, delight and ease until they reached their destination [ Baghdad ].

In truth, under such circumstances, this great service was rendered by the subjects of the mighty and distinguished Russian government. It was the authorities of the esteemed Russian government who won the choice trophy in the field of service in protection of the Divine Temple [Bahá'u'lláh], and placed this jeweled crown on her head. For the rest of eternity Russia could proudly say to the whole of humanity that she was able to win such a service, and was confirmed and sustained in this exertion. Of certainly, the authorities of the distinguished Russian government and the servants of that celestial monarchy will perceive in succeeding epochs and ages the great honor placed [on that country], and will protect the young tree that they planted in the highest celestial paradise from the whims of the world's ill-intentioned. With the water of recognition and firm conviction, they will nurture the tree planted in the wondrous heaven, until it bears luscious fruits, and many would take shelter beneath its shadow and dwell within its protection.

The author, within his own abilities and limitations, wishes to express his thanks and gratitude for the cherished service rendered in the path of humanity by that distinguished government and nation, and their benevolence to these wronged ones of the earth. On every occasion, she [i.e. the Russian government] has protected the divine friends from the onslaught of the wicked, has sheltered God's party, and the entire government has investigated and comprehended the depth of truthfulness, trustworthiness and well-wishing of the people of Bahá, and provided humanitarian support and means for the propagation [of the Cause] in that land. Through divine bounties and clemencies, I cherish the hope for that luminous land to spread the feast of sustenance for the entire horizon of humanity and, through the confirmations of divine bounties, to transform the surface of the earth into a radiant paradise. "And this is not possible except by God, the Almighty."

Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad

At any event, in the Abode of Peace [ Baghdad ] the Ancient Beauty spoke for twelve years, to the old and young, of the ascendancy and sovereignty of the Divine Cause. The prestige and might of His blessed Person became evident unto all, in such wise that fear and trepidation of His sacred Self quivered in every heart.

At that time, there were no more than forty believers, and according to the testimony of 'Abdu'l-Bahá – may the spirits of both worlds be a sacrifice to His services – the most courageous among them was Áqá Asadu'lláh Misgar ["the coppersmith"], brother of Khalí Mansúr Káshání, upon whom rest God's Mercy. The influence of the Blessed Word was most evident, and as manifest as the majesty, greatness and sovereignty of a monarch.

Decision to Remove Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdad

Through diverse routes, news [of Bahá'u'lláh's ascendancy in Baghdad ] had reached Tihran, where several meetings and gatherings were held to consult on the issue of the Ancient Beauty's removal from Baghdad. The greatness and prestige of the blessed Cause were mentioned before Iran's monarch, Násiri'd-Dín Shah, either through the Consulate in Baghdad, or by prominent personages, such as princes or khans who had visited Baghdad and had attained the blessed Presence [of Bahá'u'lláh] and had then returned to Tihran and informed the government. The authorities in Iran recognized that [Bahá'u'lláh's] influence was like the sun at noontime, and it greatly added to their envy and caused them to be deeply perturbed.

Since the senseless objective of these people was to quench this Cause and extinguish its vigorous flame through the removal of the Ancient Beauty from Tihran to Baghdad, and since they saw that the flames of the divine fire burnt more brightly in Baghdad, they decided to send the Blessed Beauty elsewhere. As Baghdad was a crossroads of Iranian pilgrims, fear seized the authorities that because of this, heralds of the field of mystical sovereignty would pursue those pilgrims, and aid the thirsty fish of the sea of certitude to reach the shore of spiritual life, and the gazelles of the wilderness of unity to be gathered and allowed to dwell in the Kingdom and attain the great bounty of everlasting life.

Therefore, Iran 's monarch, the illustrious Nasiri'd-Dín Shah, asked the Ottoman monarch, 'Abdu'l-'Azíz Khán, to relocate the Blessed Beauty from Baghdad to another location – a spot that would be far from the coming and going of Iranians – and to extinguish this divine flame. In complete agreement, the Ottoman Sultan and the Shah of Iran made a pact. 'Abdu'l-'Azíz Khán sent a telegraph to the Valí of Baghdad, Námiq Páshá, instructing that the Blessed Beauty should be moved with the utmost dignity from Baghdad to Istanbul.

The Valí of Baghdad was a distinguished and wise man, and completely humble and submissive before the Sanctified Presence [of Bahá'u'lláh]. Consequently, Námiq Páshá sent a message to Bahá'u'lláh, "I wish to attain Your sanctified presence to submit a particular matter." This news [i.e. Bahá'u'lláh's new banishment], however, spread [throughout the city] before the Valí could present it to the Sacred Presence. The Ancient Beauty told the Valí's messenger, "Very well; we will meet in the Baytu'lláh[13]," and as such, granted permission for this meeting and fixed its date and time.

When Bahá'u'lláh arrived at the mosque, the Valí was present already. He stated, "The Sultan of Iran, Nasiri'd-Dín Shah, has asked Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Azíz Khán to transfer your honored residence from Baghdad to somewhere else, and the Ottoman monarch assented to this request. As such, an official communication has been received that in whatever way meets with Your august approval and by whatever means You may wish, You, our esteemed Guest [i.e. Bahá'u'lláh], should be relocated to Istanbul."[14]

With utmost resignation and acquiescence, the Ancient Beauty consented. The decision to take the journey was entirely with Bahá'u'lláh and of His will.

Plans to Leave Baghdad

By the divine will and confirmations, the necessary supplies for the journey were arrayed, and a message was sent to the Valí: "We are ready." At Bahá'u'lláh's instructions, such provisions as a kajavih ["howdah"] and multiple tents were prepared, and the manner of His departure, with the greatest majesty, dignity, might and brilliance, became evident in fulfillment of the sacred verse, "That will be the day of Resurrection."[15]

Departure for the Ridvan Garden

When the appointed date arrived, Bahá'u'lláh emerged from the andarún[16] in the afternoon and, before leaving [the city], took His residence in the Garden of Najíb Páshá, outside of Mu'azzam City-gate, located about ten minutes distance from Baghdad – a distance similar to that of 'Akká from the Garden of Ridván[17], perhaps less. Those who were entrusted to assist with this move, transferred all the provisions and raised the tabernacle of God's mighty sovereignty in the midst of the Garden, and firmly planted the ropes of all tents throughout the Garden.

At that time the Garden was filled with red roses, colorful flowers, divers tulips and green and verdant trees. With the utmost refinement, purity and gracefulness, a pool of water was situated in the middle of [Bahá'u'lláh's] tent; and outside, everywhere streams of water flowed in all directions. Every believer was thoroughly devoted to ensuring utmost order and grace in all affairs in such wise that the Garden had never seen such beauty in all its days.

At the time of [Bahá'u'lláh's] departure from Baghdad, people gathered from all corners. The Bahá'í ladies had congregated by the afternoon in the House's courtyard and were wailing and crying, and were casting their young babes at the Blessed Beauty's feet in such wise that it would take Him several minutes for each step. Each person was bidden farewell and with His blessed hands He would caress and sooth them a way that is indescribable. In truth, each step witnessed a thousand renewals.

When thou stroll with such beauty and height,

Each step will cause a myriad of resurrections.

What else can I say? In this manner, when the Ancient Beauty stepped outside [of the inner apartments], the people rushed forward from all directions. He descended the steps from the courtyard of the Blessed House into the narrow street before it joined the main road. The entire area was thronged with people, both believers and otherwise, in such a way that movement was not possible. Friends could not be distinguished from strangers. The sound of lamentation and grief was raised in all directions. Suckling babes were cast under His feet – indeed, it would take half an hour for His foot to reach the ground. Everyone was crying. The Iranians were saying, "O God, we have been orphaned! We are dying! Our bright days have turned dark!" Their howling and weeping had reached the highest pitch. And the Arab friends, whether believers or otherwise, similarly were crying and sobbing, "O Master, O Siyyid! What are we to do when separated from Thee, O our Master?" Wailing, crying and lamentation reached the highest pinnacles.

The Garden of Ridvan

From the direction of Jámi' Mu'azzam [the Sublime Mosque], the Blessed Beauty made His way with the utmost difficulty to the waiting boat which conveyed Him to the Garden of Najíb Páshá. It was late afternoon when the Garden was honored by His footsteps.

On that first day of Ridván festivities, He manifested [His station] to the world as a brilliant sun. Bahá'u'lláh stayed in the Garden for twelve days and during the entire period, the eminent rulers, 'ulamá and jurists attained His blessed presence in a raised tabernacle and asked complex questions and received conclusive replies which resolved their perplexities. Some of the friends were engaged [in service] and those whose residence was in Baghdad would come during the day and return home at night, and yet return to the Garden the next morning. This lowly one was among those servants [in the Garden] who was engaged in carrying out whatever he was instructed.

When the twelfth day concluded, Bahá'u'lláh announced that He would leave on the afternoon of the thirteenth day. This news reached Baghdad. The Valí and government authorities came, bid farewell and returned.

I heard that it was remarked by the Valí, "According to solar reckoning, the hour of departure coincides with a [zodiac] sign which is not propitious for departure. That is, according to popular saying, it is an ominous hour." Through this comment, he had thought that perchance the Blessed Beauty would forego His departure. In wondering about this, he had ordered that a cannon should be fired at the moment that the Ancient Beauty mounted His steed so he could determine the zodiacal sign for that instant. When the cannon roar signaled the blessed departure [of Bahá'u'lláh], he calculated the horoscope for that moment and noticed that sun had moved beyond the limit of that zodiacal sign, thereby rendering that moment, and the journey, auspicious and favorable. Through this, he grew more confident and assured that the Ancient Beauty was not oblivious of anything – a fact that added to his wonderment and increased his astonishment over the sovereignty of the Blessed Person.

In short, the afternoon of departure arrived. What am I to say?

When the pen wanted to describe this mood,

The pen broke and the paper was torn[18]

Departure from Ridván Garden

The believers who were to stay behind in Baghdad were weeping and wailing in such wise that from their lamentation most believers who were to depart with Bahá'u'lláh began to sob and cry as well, as were the denizens of the Exalted Tabernacle,[19] from whose eyes tears poured forth and the sound of weeping and wailing filled the air. In truth, each one like "a mother grieving over a lost son lamented and sobbed" to the highest pinnacles of heaven. The nonbelievers, including, the 'ulamá, jurists, rulers and commoners – in short, every person who was present – were all crying and weeping as well.

Amidst all this, the Arabian horse was brought, which caused a great outpouring of grief. It is evident what condition must have overcome His blessed Person [of Bahá'u'lláh]. The lamentation and anguish of the divine friends and the sorrow and mourning of the people were such that "No one knows those circumstances save His own Self, the All-Informed, the All-knowing."

When His blessed foot reached the stirrup, the Arabian stallion bent his knees and lowered himself, which caused the people to lament even louder. To the Arabian horse, Bahá'u'lláh said, "O Steed! Even you have perceived that the Temple of God is about to mount you!" In truth, this remark burnt the hearts in such a way that everyone became unconscious of himself. The Ancient Beauty showered all with His words of consolation and waved farewell to all. When the steed moved, everyone shouted, "God is most Glorious! Upon Him rest Majesty and Splendor, and thus has the Resurrection come to pass and its pre-conditions! And that Hour which all servants were awaiting has come to pass. The whole of the earth are but His handful, and the heavens were rolled up in His right hand: Glory be to Him! High is He above the Partners they attribute to Him!"[20] Each would tell the other and would speak of the mysteries of this Manifestation. "If ye did not see the Resurrection, behold it now!"

The Journey to Istanbul

From the beginning of the journey until the very end, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in the blessed presence [of Bahá'u'lláh]. When the Ancient Beauty and the Most Great Name [Bahá'u'lláh] placed His feet in the stirrup, the Most Mighty Branch ['Abdu'l-Bahá] also mounted His steed. The world was wonderstruck by that might and splendor when the seat of divine sovereignty was forced to be a wanderer and the confirmations and affirmations of the victorious host of the denizens of the Concourse rushed forth to surround the Ancient Beauty on this journey. "Exalted, immeasurably exalted, is His majestic gait; exalted, immeasurably exalted, is His beauteous carriage; sublime, infinitely sublime, is His power and divine sovereignty; high, immensely high, is his might and dominion. The angels cry out: to Whom does dominion and sovereignty belong? The Divine Responder from the Unseen Beyond proclaims: Dominion belongeth to God, the Single, the All-subduing! Praised be our Lord, the All-Glorious!"[21]

Behind [Bahá'u'lláh] were the following believers on mounts: Á[qá] Mírzá Muhammad-Qulí; Áqá Muhammad-'Alí Isfahání; Áqá Muhammad-'Alí Sabbágh; Áqá 'Abdu'l-Ghaffár Isfahání; Hájí Mírzá Ahmad Káshání; Siyyid Muhammad Isfahání (the latter two later became opponents [of Bahá'u'lláh]); Áqá Muhammad-Báqir Qahvih-Chí; Ustád Báqir Khayyát, in whose hands were the tasks of the samovar and the tea; and Áqá Muhammad-Sádiq Bázár-Harájí, the brother of Dádásh Ibrahím and Dádásh 'Alí, who until their last day resided under the divine canopy [i.e. were with Bahá'u'lláh]. Dádásh Ibrahím passed away in Haifa, and Dádásh 'Alí ascended to the eternal realm in 'Akká.

The caravan and kajavih always set out before Bahá'u'lláh departed. The Holy Household would then proceed along with some of the believers. The government had assigned a special Yuz-Bashi[22] with several cavalrymen under his command to provide protection for Bahá'u'lláh until He reached Istanbul .

After His departure from Baghdad, at a distance of two hours, Bahá'u'lláh [and the entourage] arrived at a garden known as Faríját. There was no room or building there, so the believers' tents were pitched outside the garden. The party tarried there for about two days and two nights. During these two days, some of the friends from Baghdad came and visited, and attained [Bahá'u'lláh's] presence.

The caravan then moved from that location [to another place] of which I do not recall the name. Bahá'u'lláh's tabernacle[23] was raised near the Tigris River,[24] and approximately two nights were spent there.

It was there that the honored Á[qá] Muhammad-Hasan, the son of the martyr in the divine path Áqá 'Abdu'r-Rasul – upon him be the Glory of God, the Most Glorious – was summoned [by Bahá'u'lláh] since his lamentation and wailing over his separation from the Ancient Beauty had reached His ears. He was permitted to join the party, and was with the immigrants until Edirne. In Edirne, he stayed for three years. Also, his sister, the mother of Áqá 'Abdu's-Samad, joined the Household, because the blessed daughter[25] was pleased with her.

Through an inscrutable wisdom, Áqá 'Alí was summoned from Baghdad by a telegram. After he attained the presence [of Bahá'u'lláh] and partook of that immense bounty, Áqá 'Alí and his wife, [who was] the mother of Áqá 'Abdu's-Samad, together with Áqá Muhammad-Hasan, Áqá Shaykh Salmán and Ustád 'Abdu'l-Karím Isfahání, returned to Baghdad as result of His [Bahá'ú'lláh's] blessed instruction.

In short, [Bahá'u'lláh's] sacred tabernacle was removed from the shore of the Tigris River, and the Ancient Beauty commenced His journey, until the caravan reached a location that was called Kafrí, near the road to Sulaymaniyyih. For about one night, or perhaps two, the traveling party stayed at Kafrí.

Whenever we were about one hour from our destination, this lowly one and the honored Amír Nayrízí[26] would quickly lead the mules carrying [Bahá'ú'lláh's] blessed tent [to that spot] so it would be ready and prepared upon His arrival. When the Ancient Beauty arrived, the tent would be ready and He would ascend the throne of sovereignty within the tabernacle.

In every location, upon reaching our destination [for the evening] and raising the tents, the people in the surrounding region, both authorities and ordinary citizens, would come to welcome us, expressing respect and admiration. Before the Ancient Beauty's arrival, the Yuz-Bashi would send official communications to nearby locations, stating, "An honored Guest, Who is a distinguished Personage, will arrive among you. Prepare to meet and welcome Him." Therefore, in every place, the Mutisarrif or the Qa'im-Maqam, and the governor, local nobility, 'ulamá, jurists and the majority of people would all gather. At night, he would assemble a large number from among nearby inhabitants to surround His blessed tent and guard and protect it until the morning hours. They would stay awake for this purpose and admonish each other to ensure none failed in his protective duty. As such, the Blessed Beauty, the Holy Household and the divine friends would all be able to sleep comfortably through the night.

During the journey, whenever the Blessed Beauty would ride in the kajavih, the Master ['Abdu'l-Bahá] would ride the Arabian horse: sometimes riding behind the kajavih, at times on the right, or the left or in the midst of the caravan. With a glance, He would survey everything. Necessary instructions for the order and progress of the caravan were issued solely by the Most Mighty Branch ['Abdu'l-Bahá]. Sometimes during the journey, the Blessed Beauty would summon the Master and would converse with Him.

When we were an hour distant from our destination [each night], the Ancient Beauty would emerge from the kajavih and mount the Arabian horse, and the Master ['Abdu'l-Bahá] would be seated in the kajavih of the Ancient Beauty and the Greatest Name. Such was the way from our departure from Baghdad until our arrival in Istanbul .

In some villages, the inhabitants or the nobles would send gifts. This occurred in places where there was a governor, like a Mutisarrif or a Qá'im-Maqám. In most instances, the believers would purchase necessary provisions, such as meat, oil and other things, in the villages.

Siyyid Husayn Káshí

En route, most of time Siyyid Husayn Káshí would cause situations that would bring joy, delight and laughter to the Ancient Beauty. Námiq Pasha had sent a horse as a gift for his son in Istanbul, and this horse was entrusted to the care and attention of Áqá Siyyid Husayn Káshí. He was admonished to ensure that the horse of Námiq Pasha entrusted to him would not sustain any injuries and would arrive safely for his son in Istanbul .

One day, Áqá Siyyid Husayn Káshí entered the blessed tabernacle [of Bahá'u'lláh] and stated, "The Master gives barley to all horses, but He does not give any barley or hay to my horse." The Ancient Beauty summoned the Master. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá approached the tent, Á[qá] Siyyid Husayn Káshí ran away and quickly exited the tent. The Ancient Beauty laughed, "Why do you flee? Come here!" However, he ran further into the wilderness.

In short, the Ancient Beauty told the Master, "He had come complaining of You; that You withhold barley and hay from his horse. And now that You have come, he has run away."

He often performed such humorous acts before the Blessed Presence. For instance, when the Blessed Beauty mounted His Arabian horse, he would dance in front of it and mimic various gestures that would bring joy, delight and laughter to Bahá'u'lláh. He was with the blessed caravan until Istanbul. At the time of [the group's] departure from Istanbul for Edirne, he was dismissed together with some friends who had joined them along the way.

After he was dismissed, he made all the believers take an oath that, "Whenever mention is made of me in the presence of the Ancient Beauty, remind Him of some of my deeds, so they may bring a smile to His Blessed Self."

Travel Conditions

We were saying that two nights were spent in Kafrí and I was engaged in service. Many people came and attained the Presence [of Bahá'u'lláh] and asked question and received replies. Bahá'u'lláh [and the caravan] left Kafrí.

At times, we journeyed at night. This was especially the case when our destination was far and the heat of day would have caused harm. Therefore, we would rest during the day and travel at night. Sometimes we would reach our destination by morning, and at times before noon. When our destination was not far, we traveled under the sun and rested at night.

Some of the friends held to kajavahs as they walked, and at night would fall sleep along the way. While they were walking, they would dream that a brook was in their path, and like someone who is awakened and attempts to jump a brook, they would jump, fall and wake up.

One night I was very sleepy and decided to ride hard a little [and sleep along the path ahead] while the caravan was catching up. I went ahead and slept on the road, and when the caravan came, I woke up and joined it. However, I was actually still sleep, and because of that, lost my way and fell into a ditch. The travelers had thought that I was awake but perchance I had taken a different route than the caravan – otherwise, if they had known I was sleep, they would have called and awaken me.

At any rate, I slept in that same ditch until morning. When I woke up, I realized that morning had arrived and sun was high in the sky. I began to cry and weep and took to the road. I saw someone coming towards me. When he came near, I recognized him as the attendant of a person who had joined the caravan and was on his way to Istanbul. He, too, had fallen sleep. Together we proceeded and reached the summit of a hill. From afar, the tents appeared like a camp. Utmost joy and felicity came over us. With great haste, I ran to the divine tabernacle [i.e. Bahá'u'lláh's tent] and prostrated myself in thanksgiving. They had recently arrived [at that location], and had not been aware that I had been left behind on the road.

Several similar incidents occurred. The Ancient Beauty would send riders in all four directions to find the missing person and return him to the caravan.

One time the honored Áqá Muhammad-Ridá Qannád Shírází – upon him rest the Glory of God, the Most Glorious – fell sleep en route. When he woke up, greatly perplexed and agitated, he somehow found his way to the caravan and entered the divine tabernacle of clemencies. Bahá'u'lláh spoke kindly and lovingly to him. He would repeatedly say, "When I saw the blessed tabernacle, it was as though they had given me the entire world!"

The other thing that occurred often was that most of the friends who were riding would fall off their horses. The honored Áqá Muhammad-'Alí Sabbágh had sworn that he would not fall off and had forced his eyes open with both hands. Nevertheless, we found that he had fallen from his horse at one time, had placed his hands on eyes and yielded himself to slumber. They woke him up, and he was bewildered.

This story was often told by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and His point was to emphasize firmness and constancy in God's Covenant and Testament, and that divine tests are ever-present. It is observed very often that individuals consider themselves steadfast, steady and faithful, but when overcome with negligence, they find themselves bereft of divine bounties. Therefore, a person must at all times supplicate and implore the Almighty, the Self-Sufficient God, for spiritual bounties and celestial blessings to be bestowed upon him, and that he may be immune from the harm of ego and self-indulgence.

Stay in Mosul

At any rate, from Kafrí to Mosul the roads did not have names. Sometimes along the way, we would hear Bahá'u'lláh's blessed melody.[27] Some of His sanctified utterances were recorded, but most were not.

Eventually we reach Mosul Hadbá'[28], and our tents and the tabernacle [of Bahá'u'lláh] were pitched near the city by the river Euphrates. The eminent citizens of Mosul, such as the Mutasarrif, the Mufti, the Qadi [judge] and several government authorities, came to welcome [Bahá'u'lláh]. When they learned [of our arrival], the concourse of the 'ulamá and the jurists came to welcome Him as well.

We tarried there for about twelve days. Each day, government officials would come and attain the presence [of Bahá'u'lláh]. Most of the people were met by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who provided conclusive replies to their questions. Some of the scholars and the 'ulamá presented very elaborate queries to the Blessed Beauty and received sufficient and complete answers, which deepened their wonder. In various gatherings and assemblies, they loosened their tongues to give praise and glorification [of Bahá'u'lláh]. Thus, the grandeur and splendor of His Blessed Person became evident everywhere. "Unto Him were all heads bowed and [in His presence] were all voices silent."[29]

In Mosul, two other events occurred that there is no time now to recount – over all else, the remembrance of the Friend is the choicest.

At any event, tents and the tabernacle were removed from Mosul. We traveled from Mosul for six stops until we reached a village whose name and particulars I once knew, but these have now been erased from my memory. In that village, a Damascene muleteer joined the blessed caravan. For his protection and safety, he was urged to camp with the caravan at night, as there was a danger of highwaymen and thieves. However, this man did not accept and stayed outside [the circle of] the caravan. His mules were stolen in the middle of night.

In the morning, we prepared to leave. The manner of departure was thus: At first, the luggage, tabernacle and tents would be sent ahead. The kajavihs of the Household would be readied, and they would take their places therein. There was a small kajavih exclusive to the Blessed Beauty which would be readied as well. When His blessed tabernacle was dismantled, He would take seat in that kajavih. After the luggage and tents were sent ahead, then the kajavih of the Household would disembark and thereupon the kajavih of the Ancient Beauty would be brought for Him. There was a small stepladder that was used by the Blessed Beauty to ascend into the kajavih.

[On that morning,] as soon as His blessed foot reached the stepladder, the Damascene mule driver who had joined en route and whose mules were stolen, came forth and grabbed the helm of Bahá'u'lláh's garment and threw himself at His blessed feet, stating, "My mules were stolen last night, and I beseech You to help me regain them."

The Ancient Beauty commanded, "Return the kajavihs and call forth the Yuz-Bashí." When the Yuz-Bashi arrived, Bahá'u'lláh said to the Master, "Tell the Yuz-Bashi that he must locate the three mules belonging to this man." He responded, "[I swear to do so] on my eye!" Immediately, he sent for the village Kahya, that is, the Mukhtar [the headman], and when he arrived and heard that the three mules were stolen, he stated, "We repeatedly implored this muleteer to enter the circle of tents at night and be with other people, but he refused. He was told that this place had many thieves. We are not at fault. At a time pregnant with terror, 'Umar Pasha, the Valí of Baghdad was passing through this area and had a load of silk. However, with a battalion of soldiers, he could not recover his goods and the silk remained gone. As such, how am I to find these mules?"

The Ancient Beauty stated, "The influence of 'Umar Pasha was limited to his own sphere and did not exceed those bounds. However, My command must be fulfilled. Until now, I have not uttered a command that has not been fulfilled. Consequently, the Mukhtar yielded. At that time, in a distance of two hours were fortifications on the top of the mountain called Mardin, which was a town occupied by nobles.

Bahá'u'lláh ordered the Yuz-Bashí, "Place this Mukhtar before you on your steed and go towards Mardin, and We will come from behind." The Yuz-Bashí carried out His blessed instructions: he placed the Mukhtar, with tied hands, before him on his horse, and proceeded in haste towards Mardin. The Blessed Beauty ordered all the kajavihs and the Household to advance towards Mardin and the Ancient Beauty also went forward to Mardin. The luggage and the tabernacle were sent beforehand to Diyar-Bakr, where the tabernacle was raised in anticipation of His blessed arrival.

At any event, near Mardin, outside of the [town's] gate, was a large orchard. As the caravan was on the move, Bahá'u'lláh ordered all to enter the orchard, and He entered as well. From ancient times, this garden had been known as Bagh Firdaws ["the Garden of Paradise "]. However, none of us knew the name of the Garden, nor that it was called Bagh Firdaws. We tarried in that orchard for eight days.

The Pashá, Tabúr Áqásí, the Qadí, the Muftí and all the town's dignitaries came forth to welcome [Bahá'u'lláh]. After they had attained His presence, and had asked questions and received replies, the Blessed Beauty remarked to them, "The reason for Our coming to this location is that three mules have been stolen from this Damascene muleteer. These three mules must be found."

Once more, the Mukhtar and the noblemen offered excuses, saying, "This place has many thieves and to find the mules will be very difficult. We are willing, however, to pay for the mules." Bahá'u'lláh did not accept, stating, "Even if each of you were to offer one hundred lira, I would not accept. If you are unable [to find the mules], then I will telegraph Istanbul and will seek their intervention. The choice is yours."

Thereupon, when they realized that they had no choice, they sent mounted men with strict instructions to search intensely in every direction. When the equestrians saw that the Ancient Beauty was placing great importance on this matter, they departed on their mission with great purpose and determination. They covered a distance of eight days in four and found the three missing mules, returning them forthwith. They swore that they had found the three animals by the shore of the Araxes River, which was eight days journey. They had traversed this eight days distance in four.

The Damascene muleteer came forth and kissed Bahá'u'lláh's feet and received his mules. Tabúr Áqásí, who was the commander of the riders, stated, "I took this matter most seriously and did this and that." Bahá'u'lláh said, "Give him a fine, jeweled sword," which was given to him. Then the Mutisarrif came and said, "I, too, served this objective." He too was given an expensive silk shawl. The Muftí came and was given the choicest sweets, which he ate. An illuminated Qur'an was given to him as a gift as well. Then the Qadí and some of the officials each came and received a reward and tasted this bestowal. Noticing this generosity to others[30], the mule driver asked for the expense of these eight days and he was given two sheep, barley and hay for his mules that were reacquired through these blessed bounties. In sum, the gifts and charities of Bahá'u'lláh to various citizens exceeded the cost of the mules.

Final March to Istanbul

After the conclusion of these affairs, the Singular Beauty, the Master of the Day of Judgment[31], departed from Mardin and proceeded to Diyar-Bakr[32]. The tabernacle and the tents were already prepared. He stayed at Diyar-Bakr for almost eight days. The Pasha there was deeply fond of Bahá'u'lláh. Along with all the government officials, he would come each day and they all would attain the blessed Presence.

In Diyar-Bakr, the Sun of Godhead shone forth brilliantly from the horizon of Divine Might and burnt away every veil, destroyed every trace of vain imaginings and caused the night-bird of old traditions to flee from the shining brilliance of this Sun! Gradually, the divine friends were awakening from the slumber of negligence and beheld the Sun shining over a cloudless horizon. The Ancient Beauty proclaimed most resonantly the Might [of His Revelation], eliminating the word of negation and the letters of reversal and established the beginning of affirmation.

From there, we departed for the Port of Kharput.[33] The Pasha of that town had attained the blessed Presence in Sulaymaniyyih and cherished deep affection [for Bahá'u'lláh]. We remained there about four days. Each day, the Pasha would come and attain His presence. He would send rice and oil. Since it was warm, he would frequently send ice. Many gates of joy and felicity were thrown open at that location.

From there, we traveled, stage by stage, until the caravan and the caravan-master [Bahá'u'lláh] arrived in Samsun, the port of Istanbul. We boarded a ferry, which carried us to Istanbul .


Notes

    [1] Since derivatives of Bahá are used, this appears to be a salutation to Bahá'u'lláh.

    [2] A reference to the Báb.

    [3] Áshchí was on his deathbed and unable to write the narrative himself.

    [4] As noted earlier, if Áshchí was indeed 80 years of age in 1925 when he narrated this text and assuming that his reported age is based on lunar reckoning (which would be equivalent to 78 years of age by a solar calendar), then he must have arrived in Baghdad around 1860.

    [5] Amr khayr is a Persian expression for a marriage proposal.

    [6] As noted in the Foreword, every 5th page of the original text is marked in the present translation for ease of reference.

    [7] Áshchí appears to have been unaware that it was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's aunt 'Izziyyih Khánum, who had sided with Mirza Yahyá Subh Azal, (Bahá'u'lláh's half-brother and rival for leadership of the Bábi community), who was the main instigator of the rejection of the marriage.

    [8] The present translator is not certain what event this refers to, but it may have to do with Mishkin-Qalam's protests at the Ottoman royal court referred to later in this narrative.

    [9] A redundant sentence has not been translated.

    [10] The present translator is uncertain of the correct reading of this name.

    [11] This verse echoes a similar phrase in 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Makátíb, vol. 8, p. 80, and appears to be based on Qur'an 26:79.

    [12] An alternative, though less likely, reading of this phrase might be that Javáhirí had bequeathed the caravansary (as opposed to his entire wealth).

    [13] Literally, the House of God, it is a reference to mosques.

    [14] A variation of this event is given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá Who was in a better position to know the exact events (cited in H.M. Balyuzi, 'Abdu'l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant, p. 16):

    The third day after Ramadan when, in observance of the festival, my uncle and I called on the Pasha, he expressed his eagerness to meet Him [Bahá'u'lláh]. The Pasha, however, wanted the meeting to be at his own house. He [Bahá'u'lláh] replied that He did not wish to go to the Governorate, but if the Pasha desired to meet Him, the meeting could take place in the mosque. He went to the mosque, as did the Pasha, but on entering it the Pasha turned back and went away. Later he sent his own vizier to Bahá'u'lláh's presence, with letters from the Sadr-i-A'zam (prime minister), and also this message: 'I came to the mosque, but was ashamed to broach such matters at the first encounter.' The vizier gave an account of all that had transpired. Then he said: 'What the Pasha asked to know was this -- whether you preferred not to leave. Should it be so, if you will write and inform the Sadr-i-A'zam, we shall forward your letter to him. But if you should desire to leave, that would be your own choice.' He [Bahá'u'lláh] replied: 'If the Government displays proper respect, I will choose, for certain reasons, to reside awhile in those regions.' Then the Pasha sent Him this message: 'I shall carry out your wishes and do what you say.'

    [15] Qur'an 50:42. The full verse reads, "The day when they will hear a (mighty) Blast in (very) truth: that will be the day of Resurrection."

    [16] The inner section of a house.

    [17] A garden outside of 'Akká and acquired much later by Bahá'u'lláh, when He lived in Bahji, and named by Him after His name for the Najibiyyih Garden outside of Baghdad .

    [18] A variation of Rumi's poem, "When speech wanted to describe this mood, Every pen broke and every paper was torn;" Rumi, Mathnaví, Fourth edition, Tehran : Javidan Publication, 1978, p. 12.

    [19] A likely reference to Bahá'u'lláh's family who were traveling with Him.

    [20] Modification of Qur'an 39:67

    [21] The section in quotation is in Arabic.

    [22] Captain, commander of a hundred men.

    [23] The original text refers to Bahá'u'lláh's tent as sarápardih in counter-distinction from other tents. To maintain this distinction, the term tabernacle is used employed for this reference.

    [24] The original text refers to the Baghdad River .

    [25] Bint-i Mubarak (lit, the blessed daughter) is a reference to Bahá'u'lláh's daughter, mostly likely, Bahiyyih Khanum, known as the Greatest Holy Leaf.

    [26] A survivor of the 1853 Nayriz upheaval, he devoted his life to the service of Bahá'u'lláh in the Holy Land. For his biography see Ahang Rabbani, The Bábís of Nayriz: History and Documents; Houston: eBook; 2007, available at: http://ahang.rabbani.googlepages.com/

    [27] From the context and expression, it appears that Áshchí is referring to revelation of divine verses by Bahá'ú'lláh.

    [28] The name of the city in Arabic means, the "linking point." Mosul has other Arabic names such as Um Al-Rabi'ain [The City of Two Springs], because autumn and spring are alike there. It is also named Al-Faiha (The Paradise), Al-Khadhra (The Green), and Al-Hadba (The Humped). The Assyrians called the city by its ancient name of Nineveh .

    [29] This Arabic expression also appears in the writings of Shoghi Effendi: Tawqi'at Mubarakih (1922-1926); Tehran : 129BE, p. 295.

    [30] The present translator is uncertain that he has understood the original phrase correctly.

    [31] Qur'an 1:4; a title often used for Bahá'u'lláh.

    [32] Today it is better known as Diyarbakir .

    [33] There are discrepancies between Áshchí's account and the outline of Bahá'u'lláh's journey provided in God Passes By, p. 155.

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