Chapter 2 The Chosen Highway file #4
PART II: BAHA'U'LLAH
A Spoken Chronicle
"The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain!"
Professor Edward Granville Browne.
THE SPOKEN CHRONICLE known to the Persian friends as Varaqiyih 'Ulya, the Greatest Holy Leaf of the Tree of Life.
Bahiyyih Khanum, Daughter of Bahá'u'lláh,
Most of the following details were given to me in conversations with Khanum (Bahiyyih Khanum) the daughter of Bahá'u'lláh, sister of 'Abdu'l-Bahá called by the Persian Bahá'ís "Varaqiyih 'Ulya (the Greatest Holy Leaf)" I remember dimly very happy days with my beloved father and mother, and my brother aAbbas, who was two years my senior.
My father was Mirza Husayn-'Ali of Nur, who married my beautiful mother, Asiyih Khanum, when she was very young. She was the only daughter of a Persian Vizier, of high degree, Mirza Ismaaik, He, as well as Mirza Abbas Buzurg, my paternal grandfather, possessed great wealth.
When the brother of my mother married my father's sister, the double alliance of the two noble families roused much interest throughout the land. "It is adding wealth to wealth," the people said. Asiyih Khanum's wedding treasures were extensive, in accordance with the usual custom in families of their standing; forty mules were loaded with her possessions when she came to her husband's home.
For six months before the marriage a jeweller worked at her home, preparing jewellry - even the buttons of her garments were of gold, set with precious stones. (These buttons were destined to be exchanged for bread, on the terrible exile journey from Tihran to Baghdad.)
I wish you could have seen her as I first remember her, tall, slender, graceful, eyes of dark blue - a pearl, a flower amongst women.
I have been told that even when very young, her wisdom and
intelligence were remarkable. I always think of her in those earliest days of my memory as queenly in her dignity and loveliness, full of consideration for everybody, gentle, of a marvelous unselfishness, no action of hers ever failed to show the loving-kindness of her pure heart; her very presence seemed to make an atmosphere of love and happiness wherever she came, enfolding all comers in the fragrance of gentle courtesy.
Even in the early years of their married life, they, my father and mother, took part as little as possible in State functions, social ceremonies, and the luxurious habits of ordinary highly-placed and wealthy families in the land of Persia; she, and her noble-hearted husband, counted these worldly pleasures meaningless, and preferred rather to occupy themselves in caring for the poor, and for all who were unhappy, or in trouble.
From our doors nobody was ever turned away; the hospitable board was spread for all comers.
Constantly the poor women came to my mother, to whom they poured out their various stories of woe, to be comforted and consoled by her loving helpfulness.
Whilst the people called my father "The Father of the Poor," they spoke of my mother as "The Mother of Consolation," though, naturally, only the women and little children ever looked upon her face unveiled.
So our peaceful days flowed on.
We used to go to our house in the country sometimes; my brother Abbas and I loved to play in the beautiful gardens, where grew many kinds of wonderful fruits and flowers and flowering trees; but this part of my early life is a very dim memory.
One day I remember very well, though I was only six years old at the time. It seems that an attempt had been made on the life of the Shah by a half-crazy young Babi.
My father was away at his country house in the village of Niaviran, which was his property, the villagers of which were all and individually cared for by him.
Suddenly and hurriedly a servant came rushing in great distress to my mother.
"The master, the master, he is arrested - I have seen him!
He has walked many miles! Oh, they have beaten him! They say he has suffered the torture of the bastinado! His feet are bleeding! He has no shoes on! His turban has gone! His clothes are torn! There are chains upon his neck!
My poor mother's face grew whiter and whiter.
We children were terribly frightened and could only weep bitterly.
Immediately everybody, all our relations, and friends, and servants fled from our house in terror, only one man-servant, Isfandiya remained, and one woman. Our palace, and the smaller houses belonging to it were very soon stripped of everything; furniture, treasurers, all were stolen by the people.
Mirza Musa, my father's brother, who was always very kind to us, helped my mother and her three children to escape into hiding. She succeeded in saving some few of the marriage treasurers, which were all of our vast possessions left to us. These things were sold; with the money my mother was able to pay the gaolers to take food to my father in the prison, and to meet other expenses incurred later on.
We were now in a little house, not far from the prison. Mirza Yahya (Subh-i-Azal) had run away in terror to Mazindaran, where he remained in hiding.
Oh, the terrible anxiety my beloved mother suffered at that time! Surely greater than any woman, about to become a mother (as I afterwards knew), could possibly have strength to bear.
The prison into which my father had been cast was a terrible place, seven steps below the ground; it was ankle-deep in filth, infested with horrible vermin, and of an indescribable loath-someness. Added to this, there was no glimmer of light in that noisome place. Within its walls forty the Babis were crowded; murderers and highway robbers were also imprisoned there.
My noble father was hurled into this black hold, loaded with heavy chains; five other the Babis were chained to him night and day, and here he remained for four months. Picture to yourself the horror of these conditions.
Any movement caused the chains to cut deeper and deeper not only into the flesh of one, but of all who were chained together; whilst sleep or rest of any kind was not possible. No
food was provided, and it was with the utmost difficulty that my mother was able to arrange to get any food or drink taken into that ghastly prison.
Meanwhile, the spirit which upheld the Babis never quailed for a moment, even under these conditions. To be tortured to a death, which would be the Martyr's Crown of Life, was their aim and great desire.
They chanted prayers night and day.
Every morning one or more of these brave and devoted friends would be taken out to be tortured and killed in various ways of horror.
When religious fanaticism was aroused against a person or persons, who were accused of being infidels, as was now the case with the Babis, it was customary not simply to condemn them to death and have them executed by the State executioner, but to hand the victims over to various classes of the populace.
The butchers had their methods of torture; the bakers theirs; the shoemakers and blacksmiths yet others of their own. They were all given opportunities of carrying out their pitiless inventions on the the Babis.
The fanatics became more and more infuriated when they failed to quench the amazing spirit of these fearless, devoted ones, who remained unflinching, chanting prayers, asking God to pardon and bless their murderers, and praising Him, as long as they were able to breathe. The mob crowded to these fearful scenes, and yelled their execrations, whilst all through the fiendish work, a drum was loudly beaten.
These horrible sounds I well remember, as we three children clung to our mother, she not knowing whether the victim was her own adored husband. She could not find out whether he was still alive or not until late at night, or very early in the morning, when she determined to venture out, in defiance of the danger to herself and to us, for neither women or children were spared.
How well I remember cowering in the dark, with my little brother, Mirza Mihdi, the Purest Branch, at that time two years old, in my arms, which were not very strong, as I was only six. I was shivering with terror, for I knew of some of the
horrible things that were happening, and was aware that they might have seized even my mother.
So I waited and waited until she should come back. Then Mirza Musa, my uncle, who was in hiding, would venture in to hear what tidings my mother had been able to gather.
My brother `Abbas usually went with her on these sorrowful errands.
We listened eagerly to the accounts she gave to my uncle. This information came through the kindness of a sister of my grandfather, who was married to Mirza Yusif, a Russian subject, and a friend of the Russian Consul in Tihran. This gentleman, my great uncle by marriage, used to attend the courts to find out some particulars as to the victims chosen for execution day by day, and thus was able to relieve to some extent my mother's overwhelming anxiety as these appalling days passed over us.
It was Mirza Yusif, who was able to help my mother about getting food taken to my father, and who brought us to the two little rooms near the prison, where we stayed in close hiding. He had to be very careful in thus defying the authorities, although the danger in this case was mitigated by the fact of his being under the protection of the Russian Consulate, as a Russian subject.
Nobody at all, of all our friends and relations, dared to come to see my mother during these days of death, but the wife of Mirza Yusif, the aunt of my father.
One day the discovery was made by Mirza Yusif that our untiring enemies, the most fanatical of the mullas, were plotting the death of Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri, my father.
Mirza Yusif consulted the Russian Consul; that powerful friend determined that this plan should be at once frustrated.
An amazing scene took place in the Court, where the sentences of death were passed. The Russian Consul rose and fearlessly addressed those in court:
"Hearken to me! I have words of importance to say to you" (his voice rang out, the president and officials were too amazed to reply).
"Have you not taken enough cruel revenge? Have you not already murdered a large enough number of harmless people,
because of this accusation, of the absurd falseness of which you are quite aware? Has there not been sufficient of this orgy of brutal torture to satisfy you? How is it possible that you can even pretend to think that this august prisoner planned that silly attempt to shoot the Shah?
"It is not unknown to you that the stupid gun, used by that poor youth, could not have killed a bird. Moreover, the boy was obviously insane. You know very well that this charge is not only untrue, but palpably ridiculous.
"There must be an end to all this.
"I have determined to extend the protection of Russia to this innocent nobleman; therefore beware! For if one hair of his head be hurt from this moment, rivers of blood shall flow in your town as punishment.
"You will do well to heed my warning, my country is behind me in this matter."
An account of this scene was given to my mother by Mirza Musa, when he came for tidings.
Needless to say how eagerly my brother and I listened, and how we all wept for joy.
Very soon afterwards we heard that, fearing to disregard the stern warning of the Russian Consul, the Governor gave orders that my father should be permitted to come forth from that prison with his life. It was also decreed that he and his family were banished.
They were to leave Tihran for Baghdad. Ten days were allowed for preparation, as the beloved prisoner was very ill indeed.
And so he came to our two little rooms.
Oh, the joy of his presence!
Oh, the horror of that dungeon, where he had passed those four terrible months.
Jamal-i-Mubarak (a name given to my father, i.e., literally the Blessed Beauty) spoke very little of the terrible sufferings of that time! We, who saw the marks of what he had endured, where the chains had cut into the delicate skin, especially that of his neck, his wounded feet so long untended, evidence of the torture of the bastinado, how we wept with my dear mother.
He, on his part, told of the steadfast faith of the friends, who had gone forth to meet their death at the hands of their torturers, with joy and gladness, to attain the crown of martyrdom.
The glory had won so great a victory that the shame, and pain, and sorrow, and scorn were of comparatively no importance whatever!
Jamal-i-Mubarak had a marvellous divine experience whilst in that prison.
We saw a new radiance seeming to enfold him like a shining vesture, its significance were to learn years later. At that time we were only aware of the wonder of it, without understanding, or even being told the details of the sacred event.
My mother did her best to nurse our beloved, that he might have some strength to set out upon that journey on which we were to start in ten days' time.
Now was a time of great difficulty.
How could she prepare?
The poor, dear lady sold almost all that remained of her marriage treasurers, jewels, embroidered garments, and other belongings for which she received about four hundred tumans. With this money she was able to make some provision for the terrible journey. (The Government provided nothing for those whom they exiled.)
This journey was filled with indescribable difficulties. My mother had no experience, no servants, no provisions, and very little money left. My father was extremely ill, not having recovered from the ordeals of the torture and the prison. No one of all of our friends and relations dared to come to our help, or even to say good-bye, but one old lady, the grandmother of Asiyih Khanum.
Our faithful servant, Isfandiyar, and the one negro woman who did not fear to remain with us, did their best. But we three children were very young, my brother eight, and I six years old. Mirza Mihdi, the "Purest Branch," was very delicate, and my mother allowed herself to be persuaded to leave the little fellow, only two years old, with her grandmother, though the parting with him was very sad.
At length we started on that fearful journey, which lasted
about four weeks; the weather was bitterly cold, snow was upon the ground.
On the way to Baghdad we sometimes encamped in wilderness places, but in that month of December, the cold was intense, and we were not well prepared!
My poor mother! How she suffered on this journey, riding in a takht-i-ravan, borne on a jolting mule! And this took place only six weeks before her youngest son was born!
Never did she utter one word of complaint. She was always thinking of some kindness for somebody, and sympathy she gave unsparingly to all in their difficulties.
Seeing tears in my eyes while listening to this story, Khanum said: "This time is very sad, Laydee, I shall make you grieve if I tell of it." "Oh, I want to be with you in my heart through all your sadness, dearest Khanum," I said. "Well, well! If I did not live in my thoughts all through the events of the sad days of our lives, I should have naught else in my life, for it has been all sorrow; but sorrow is really joy, when suffered in the path of God!"
When we came to a city, my dear mother would take the clothes and wash them at the public baths; we also were able to have baths at those places. She would carry the cold, wet clothes away in her arms - drying them was an almost impossible task; her lovely hands, being unused to such coarse work, became very painful.
We sometimes stayed at a caravanserai - a sort of rough inn. Only one room was allowed for one family, and for one night - no longer. No light was permitted at night, and there were no beds. Sometimes we were able to have tea, or again a few eggs, a little cheese, and some coarse bread.
My father was so ill that he could not eat the rough food - my mother was very distressed and tried to think of some way of getting different food, as he grew more weak through eating nothing.
One day she had been able to get a little flour, and at night, when we arrived at the caravanserai she made a sweet cake for him. Alas! - the misfortune - being dark, she used salt instead of sugar. So the cake was uneatable! Quite a tragedy in it way.
The Governor of Tihran sent soldiers with us to the frontier, where Turkish soldier met us and escorted us to Baghdad.
When we first arrived there, we had a very little house, consisting of my father's room, and another one which was my mother's and in which were also my eldest brother, the baby, and myself.
When Arab ladies came to see us, this was the only reception room. These ladies came because they had been taught by Tahirih, Qurratu'l-`Ayn, during her visit to Baghdad.
One day when an old lady was there, I was told to prepare the samovar - it was very heavy to carry upstairs, for my arms were not extremely strong. The old lady said: "One proof that the Babi teaching is wonderful is that a very little girl served the samovar!"
My father was amused, he used to say, "Here is the lady converted by seeing your service at the samovar!"
Among the Arabians taught by Tahirih was Shaykh Sultan, whose daughter married Mirza Musa, brother of Bahá'u'lláh. Their daughter eventually married Muhammad-`Ali, half-brother of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Mirza Musa and his wife were always devoted to Bahá'u'lláh. This uncle, Mirza Musa, who came into exile with us, was a very kind helper in everything. At one time he did almost all the cooking, for which he had a talent; he would also help with the washing.
Asiyih Khanum, my dear mother, was in delicate health, her strength was diminished by the hardships she had undergone, but she always worked beyond her force.
Sometimes my father himself helped in the cooking, as that hard work was too much for the dainty, refined, gentle lady. The hardships she had endured saddened the heart of her divine husband, who was also her beloved Lord. He gave this help both before his sojourn in the wilderness of Sulaymaniyyih, and after his return.
The Intrigues of Subh-i-Azal
Meanwhile, Mirza Yahya (Subh-i-Azal), a younger half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh, who was afterwards the cause of many of our troubles and difficulties, arrived in Baghdad.
He had fled into hiding at Mazindaran, at the time of the episode of the mad youth shooting at the Shah, and remained hidden for some time, then he thought that Baghdad might be a safer abode for him than any part of Persia, and for that reason he came.
Now Mirza Yahya was filled with pride, arrogance, and fierce jealousy of Bahá'u'lláh. When he arrived at Baghdad he much resented the attitude of reverence shown by all the friends to his majestic elder brother. He claimed the leadership of the the Babis, asserting that His Holiness the the Bab had named him His successor.
This was manifestly an untruth.
* * *
Mirza Husayn-`Ali Nuri wrote on one occasion a letter to the Bab, at the request of His young half-brother, he being too illiterate to write it himself. The Bab, in His reply, referred to this youth as "a Mirror." Thereupon Sub-i-Azal assumed the title of "the Mirror", as being particularly bestowed upon him; the fact being that the title, if not quite a general one, at least had been given to a number of the Babis.
Now the Bab had thought out a plan of protecting Bahá'u'lláh by veiling Him from general recognition until the "appointed time." For, if it had been noised abroad prematurely that He was the "One Whom God shall make Manifest," the opposing
forces would undoubtedly have plotted to put Him to death, and the Great Design would, for that reason, have suffered delay. It was therefore above all things necessary to make sure and certain plans in two matters: (1) Bahá'u'lláh must be known (eventually by all the world) to have been recognized by the Bab as "Him Whom God shall make Manifest," of Whom He was the Forerunner, the Herald! Of this recognition there must be no shadow of a doubt, no possibility of uncertainty - no ground for controversy in the future. This was the sublime meaning of the Mission, for which He, the Bab, endured scorn and persecution and imprisonment, and would in a short time sacrifice His life. (2) The proclamation must not be made prematurely. The "Great One" must, for obvious reasons, be veiled until the "appointed time."
In order that these two most important plans should be successful, the Bab confided in Mirza Husayn-`Ali Nuri, Bahá'u'lláh, when "an event"should have happened to Himself.
This charge was faithfully carried out by Mirza `Abdu'l-Karim Qazvini, and these precious things remained in the possession of Bahá'u'lláh until the days of Adrianople.
When Subh-i-Azal asked to be permitted to see them Bahá'u'lláh consented - but they were never returned. Subh-i-Azal kept them to support his claim to leadership, asserting that the Bab had given to them to him!
To return to the arrangements made by the Bab for the protection of Bahá'u'lláh, by veiling His recognition until the "appointed time."
Subh-i-Azal, not one of the nineteen Letters of the Living (he was one of the "Mirrors" - not the Mirror, as he afterwards declared), might well be thought by the uninitiated of these days of confusion, as well as by the uncomprehending open
enemies of the Cause, to be a sort of leader of the Babis after the death of the Herald, the Bab. Her certainly could be counted upon to assume that position, so overwhelming was his vanity.
Subh-i-Azal would thus, unconsciously, serve as a screen in attracting the attention of the people to himself, thus preventing the premature recognition of "Him Whom God should make Manifest" until His Own appointed time.
One point has been raised, i.e., the danger to Subh-i-Azal himself of such a prominent position.
Now it was his own arrogance which prompted him to seize the leadership, for which he was ludicrously unfitted, both by nature and by training - his character being weak, his intelligence small, and his indolence great. Moreover, he could be relied upon to hide himself very effectively when danger threatened, till it should be overpast!
The Babis, in general, concerned themselves very little with the pretensions of Subh-i-Azal, and the true disciples looked upon him as an ignorant and presumptuous youth, whose claims were absurd, but they had the desired effect of diverting attention from the personality of Bahá'u'lláh.
When Subh-i-Azal arrived in Baghdad he tried to get the friends to acknowledge him as their leader. They paid scant attention to him, and just laughed at his haughty airs.
He asserted that Jamal-i-Mubarak (Bahá'u'lláh) was preventing the acknowledgment of his position by the people.
* * *
At length my father decided to leave Baghdad for a time. During his absence, Subh-i-Azal could convince himself whether or not the Babis desired to turn their faces to him as their leader, as he, in the petty conceit of a small mind and undisciplined nature, asserted, would, if given an opportunity, prove to be the case.
Before my father left for his retreat into the wilderness, he commanded the friends to treat Subh-i-Azal with consideration. He offered him and his family the shelter and hospitality of our house.
He asked Mirza Musa, my mother and me, to care for them and to do everything in our power to make them comfortable.
Our grief was intense when my father left us. He told none of us either where he was going or when he would return. He took no luggage, only a little rice, and some coarse bread. So we, my mother, my brother `Abbas and I, clung together in our sorrow and anxiety.
Subh-i-Azal rejoiced, hoping to gain his ends, now that Jamal-i-Mubarak was no longer present.
Meanwhile, he was a guest in our house. He gave us much trouble, complaining of the food. Though all the best and most dainty things were invariably given to him.
He became at this time more than ever terrified lest he should one day be arrested. He hid himself, keeping the door of our house locked, and stormed at anybody who opened it.
As for me, I led a very lonely life, and would have liked sometimes to make friends with other children. But Subh-i-Azal would not permit any little friends to come to the house, neither would he let me go out!
Two little girls about my own age lived in the next house. I used to peep at them; but our guest always came and shouted at me for opening the door, which he promptly locked. He was always in fear of being arrested, and cared for nothing but his own safety.
We led a very difficult life at this time as well as a lonely one. He would not even allow us to go to the Hamman to take our baths. Nobody was permitted to come to the house to help us and the work therefore was very hard.
For hours every day I had to stand drawing water from a deep well in the house; the ropes were hard and rough, and the bucket was heavy. My dear mother used to help, but she was not very strong, and my arms were rather weak. Our guest never helped.
My father having told us to respect and obey this tyrannical person, we tried to do so, but this respect was not easy, as our lives were made so unhappy by him.
During this time the darling baby brother, born after our arrival in Baghdad, became seriously ill. Our guest would not allow a doctor, or even any neighbour to come to our help.
My mother was heart-broken when the little one died; even then we were not allowed to have anybody to prepare him for burial.
The sweet body of our beautiful baby was given to a man, who took it away, and we never knew even where he was laid. I remember so clearly the sorrow of those days.
A little while after this, we moved into a larger house - fortunately Subh-i-Azal was too terrified of being seen, if he came with us - so he preferred to occupy a little house behind ours. We still sent his food to him, also provided for his family now increased, as he had married another wife, a girl from a neighbouring village.
His presence was thus happily removed from our daily life; we were relieved and much happier.
Now our great anxiety was concerning the whereabouts of Jamal-i-Mubarak.
All this time my mother and Mirza Musa made every possible inquiry. My brother's distress at the prolonged absence was pathetic. On one occasion he prayed the whole night a certain prayer with the one intention, that our father might be restored to us.
The very next day, he and our uncle, Mirza Musa, overheard two people speaking of a marvellous one, living as a dervish in the wold mountain district of Sulaymaniyyih; they described him as "The Nameless One," who had magnetized the country-side with his love. And they immediately knew that this must be our Beloved.
Here at last was a clue!
Without delay, Shaykh Sultan, our faithful friend, with one of the other disciples, set forth on their quest. Needless to say how our hearts went with them, and that our prayers for their success were unceasing.
Hope now brought its brilliance into the dark shadow of our anxiety, which had saddened our lives for two years.
As these days of intensified waiting passed by, our faith as well as our hope increased and grew. We knew that in the days that were very near at hand, our wanderer, our father, would be once more with us.
My mother had made a coat for him out of some pieces of precious Persian stuff (Tirmih - red cloth),* which she had carefully kept for the purpose out of the remains of her marriage treasures. It was now ready for him to put on.
At last! At last! As my mother, my brother, and I sat in a *See page 242
breathless state of expectancy, we heard a step. It was a dervish. Through the disguise we saw the light of our beloved one's presence!
Our joy cannot be described as we clung to him.
I can see now my beloved mother, calm and gentle, and my brother holding his father's hand fast, as though never again could he let him go out of his sight, the lovely boy almost enfolded in the uncouth garment of the dervish disguise. I could never forget this scene, so touching and so happy.
Many were the incidents of that two years' sojourn in the wilderness, which were told to us; we were never tired of listening.
The food was easy to describe - coarse bread, a little cheese was the usual diet; sometimes, but very rarely, a cup of milk; into this would be put some rice, and a tiny bit of sugar. When boiled together, these scanty rations provided the great treat of a sort of rice pudding.
One day, near a village in the mountains, Bahá'u'lláh saw a young boy weeping bitterly.
My father, always compassionate for anyone in sorrow, especially if it were a child, said, "Little man, why art thou weeping?"
The boy looked up at the one who spoke, and saw a dervish!
"Oh Sir!" and he fell to weeping afresh. "The schoolmaster has punished me for writing so badly. I cannot write, and now I have no copy! I dare not go back to school"
"Weep no longer. I will set a copy for thee, and show thee how to imitate it. And now thou canst take this; show it to thy schoolmaster.'
When the schoolmaster saw the writing which the boy had brought, he was astonished, for he recognized it as of the royal penmanship, this amazing script.
"Who gave this to the?" said the master.
"He wrote it for me, the dervish on the mountain."
"He is no dervish the writer of this, but a royal personage," said the schoolmaster.
This story being noised abroad, caused certain of the people to set out to find this one, of whom many wonderful things were said. So great was the throng which pressed in upon him, that he had to go further away; again and again, he moved from place to place, hiding himself from the crowds, in the caves of the mountains, and in the desert places of that desolate land.
One evening the Sufis of that country-side, assembled together, were discussing a mystical poem, when a dervish arose in their midst and gave so wonderful an interpretation of its meaning that awe fell upon the gathering. All his hearers were silent for awhile, and then they came together close round him and entreated him to come again to teach them.
But his time was not yet.
When one said sorrowfully, "Oh Master! Shall we then see thee no more?"
"In a time to come, but not yet, go to the city of Baghdad, ask for the house of Mirza Musa Irani. There shalt thou hear tidings of me." the "Nameless One" replied.
He went out from their midst and again retreated into the desolate places.
0* * * Many were the events of importance to the progress of the Cause that took place during the sojourn at Baghdad.
The following was told by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the friends at Abu-Sinan in 1915.
Whilst at Baghdad many learned mullas and others came into the Holy Presence, several of whom became His devoted friends; one of those was Kayvan Mirza, grandson of Fath - `Ali Shah. This gentleman came and asked Mirza Muhit to obtain permission for an audience at some midnight in secret.
The reply was:
"When I was in the wilderness of Kurdistan I composed this poem:
If thou hast in thine heart one desire for thy life, then come not hither! But shouldst thou be prepared to sacrifice soul, and heart and life, come and bring others! Such is the path if thou desire to enter the Kingdom of Light, If thou art not of those able to walk this path-- Begone, and trouble us not!
Mirza Muhit conveyed this reply to Kayvan Mirza. He chose to "Begone," his heart failed him!
Of another kind was Aqa Siyyid Mujtahid said: "I had been told that these the Babis were wine-bibbers, that there was much wine in the room of the Bab, that, moreover, they had no moral principles whatsoever!
I went to investigate for myself and found Purity within Purity. I was filled with amazement at the sanctity of that place, and bewildered to find the exact opposite of that which I had heard. I am firmly convinced that
"This is the Truth."
* * *
Now followed a period when we might have had a little peace. The Governor had become a friend; the fanatics did not dare to show openly a very fierce hostility. Some of the proceeds of our property, which our friends had succeeded in rescuing and keeping for us, had begun to arrive from Persia. Several of the faithful the Babis, who had followed Bahá'u'lláh and his family into exile, had opened little shops, where their absolute honesty had begun to attract buyers.
Many learned and interesting people gathered round Bahá'u'lláh, appreciating his wisdom, and the helpful counsel he gave when different perplexing problems were laid before him: "Surely his knowledge must be from Heaven!" the people said. As he spoke to them of the "Most Great Peace"
which will come to the world, and shewed his kindness to all who were in trouble and in want, and became known to the poor as "Our Father of Compassion," they understood how it was that for the teaching of true peace and brotherhood and loving-kindness he was driven into exile, and all his vast possessions taken from him. As the truth of the matter was gradually realized, more and yet more people came to him from all the surrounding country.
"There is something of another world in this Majestic Person," they said.
Accounts of what had taken place during his sojourn in the wilderness of Sulaymaniyyih were also told abroad.
As the people pondered on these things, many were amazed, and referenced the mysterious and majestic guest who tarried in their midst.
When his ever-watchful enemies, the most fanatical and bigoted of the mullas, became aware of the influence of his mere presence on all who came to him, and of the profound impression he had made in the land, they again set themselves to work against him.
The authorities at Constantinople were approached with sundry plausible tales of the harm that was being done by him to the religion of the people, and requests that he might be driven from Baghdad.
At length the Governor came to Bahá'u'lláh in great distress, telling him that a decree had arrived from Constantinople. By this decree Bahá'u'lláh was commanded to leave Baghdad; He would be escorted by Turkish soldiers to an unknown destination.
Our peace was at an end!
When it became known that this departure was to take place, great was the consternation among the friends. We had to make preparation for a journey, we knew not how long, to a place we knew not where. The friends came weeping helplessly, "What shall we do? What is going to happen to our Beloved? What?" There was such turmoil that we could not proceed with our preparations.
At this juncture Najib Pasha, who had become a reverent
admirer of Bahá'u'lláh, invited him to bring some of the friends, and come to stay in his garden, a short distance outside Baghdad.
This relieved some of the turmoil, and we worked hard to make ready for the departure.
* * *
It was during Bahá'u'lláh's stay in this garden that the declaration was made to His eldest son, `Abbas Effendi, and a few friends, that He was "Him Whom God shall make Manifest," and in commemoration of this event the Feast of Ridvan (meaning Feast of Paradise) was instituted, and continues to be observed annually by the Bahá'ís throughout the world.
The story of this Declaration is told by H. M. Balyuzi in his short biography "Bahá'u'lláh." The following is an extract:
"Bahá'u'lláh moved to the garden of Ridvan, outside the gates of Baghdad. The Babis thronged there to see the last of their Beloved so cruelly torn from their midst. It was the twenty-first day of April. With tears in their eyes they gathered around Him. He was calm, serene, and unruffled. The hour had struck. To that company Bahá'u'lláh revealed Himself - He was the Promised One in Whose path the Bab had sacrificed his life, "Him Whom God will make Manifest,' the Shah Bahram, the Fifth Buddha, the lord of Hosts, the Return of Christ, the Master of the Day of Judgment. A deep silence fell upon the audience. Heads were gent as the immensity of that Declaration touched the consciousness of men. Not a breath of dissent - one and all they threw themselves at His feet. Sadness had vanished; joy, celestial joy, prevailed."
Constantinople and Adrianople
Sub-i-Azal, always in fear for his own safety, left Baghdad about a fortnight before our departure, and joined our party on the way, having discovered our whereabouts.
He, therefore, had heard nothing of the Declaration in the Ridvan. When we arrived at Constantinople; our band, being augmented by the way, numbered over seventy persons. We were taken by the Governor to an inn, where we were crowded together into the small space allotted to us. The Master asked the Governor to let Bahá'u'lláh and His family have a house apart. The house was given, but Subh-i-Azal and his family were invited by my father to share this house with us.
Amongst the the Babis were members of all classes, simple tradesmen, mullas, and nobles. The latter, as disguise, described themselves as tailors, cooks, confectioners, bakers, etc., so that they might be permitted to remain near Him they revered.
The Persian Consul-General became a friend of Bahá'u'lláh, and was a great help to the Bahá'ís. He suggested to my father that He should pay a visit to the court officials.
The reply was: "I have no wish to ask favour from them. I have come here at the Sultan's command. Whatsoever additional commands he may issue, I am ready to obey. My work is not of their world; it is of another realm, far removed from their province. Why, therefore, should I seek these people?"
This Consul was full of respect for such a majestic mind, and described this occurrence on his return to Tihran, saying:
"I was extremely proud of my august compatriot. Frequently I feel ashamed of my fellow-countrymen, with good reason, for their almost invariable custom is to pursue high officials, begging for favours. The dignified aloofness of Bahá'u'lláh was a very refreshing experience."
After the return to Tihran of this consul he met Mirza Rida-Qula, to whom he said, "Mirza Husayn-`Ali Nuri is a wonderful and great man; you are his brother I believe."
To which Mirza Rida-Quli replied: "No indeed, Oh no! I am not his brother!"
Such was the attitude of Bahá'u'lláh's kindred, and His own father's house; that is when they were not actively vindictive, like Subh-i-Azal.
Whilst at Constantinople, the fame of the wisdom of Bahá'u'lláh had gone abroad, and many noble-minded people were anxious to come into His Presence. Such a profound impression was made on these visitors, that they spoke of the majesty of His person, and the holiness of His teaching to their friends. This made His enemies again uneasy, and they plotted on some pretext or another to get Him removed from Constantinople. This plan was successful, and our Beloved One was sent to Adrianople.
When we arrived at Adrianople we were at first in an inn, but we were permitted at length to abide in a hired house.
Bahá'u'lláh at this time made a fuller Declaration of Himself as the expected "Him Whom God shall make Manifest," and Who had been heralded by the Bab. He wrote the Tablet of Declaration (Lawh-i-Amr), directing His amanuensis to take it to Subh-i-Azal, who, when he had read this, became very angry and "jealous fire consumed him."
He invited Bahá'u'lláh to a feast and shared a dish with Him, one half of which he had mixed with poison. For twenty-one days Bahá'u'lláh was seriously ill from the effects of this attempt.
Incensed at this failure, Subh-i-Azal tried another plan. He asked the bath attendant (for a bribe) to assassinate Bahá'u'lláh whilst he should be taking His bath, suggesting how easily it could be done without fear of detection.
This man was so shocked and horrified that he rushed out into the street unclothed.
* * *
Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani related to the writer, that when the friends brought the Tablet from Adrianople to Baghdad
they spoke of the nefarious conduct of Subh-i-Azal, and that he had been forbidden all intercourse with the Holy Family.
The friends were so enraged with him, that only the express command of Bahá'u'lláh prevented them from ridding the world of "so perjured a traitor."
Siyyid `Ali Yazdi narrated how Mirza Ja`far brought the wonderful Tablet to Yazd, telling that Jamal-i-Mubarak (Bahá'u'lláh) had, at Adrianople, made the Great Public Declaration, that He was "Him Whom God shall make Manifest."
And so we, too, heard the soul-stirring news.
We had always known in our hearts that Subh-i-Azal was not, could not be, the Promised One; he showed none of the signs; on the other hand, he had many faults, well known to the friends.
"But Mirza Husayn-`Ali Nuri," they said, "He shows forth the Heavenly Attributes."
Therefore it was that when the blessed Tablet came, we were ready and well prepared to recognize Him.
* * *
Subh-i-Azal's high claims were proven to be absurd as well as false, and the friends, when not enraged at his teaching, laughed him to scorn.
At this time the trouble Sub-i-Azal caused, and the mischief he made, was so constant that the authorities lost patience, and it was decided to exile the Beloved One and His family yet again.
Subh-i-Azal's conduct was, however, not the only cause of this further exile. Our ever-watchful enemies, fearing the great influence of Bahá'u'lláh, made use of the persistent annoyance of the traitorous half-brother as a pretext to induce the Government to banish the august prisoner to a place where no learned and important people would have access to Him.
Subh-i-Azal's libels were amplified, and the Government officials were induced to believe them with this result:
We were sitting one day in our house, when we heard discordant music, loud, insistent! We wondered what could be causing this uproar. Looking from the windows we found that we were surrounded by many soldiers.
The Governor was reluctant to tell Bahá'u'lláh that the order had come for still another banishment. He explained this to Sarkar-i-Aqa* ('Abdu'l-Bahá), and we were told that we had three days to prepare for the journey to `Akka. Then we learnt that we were all to be separated. Bahá'u'lláh to one place, the Master to another, and the friends to still another place.
I well remember, as though it were only yesterday, the fresh misery into which we were plunged; to be separated from our Beloved; and He, what new grief was in store for Him?
He accepted all vicissitudes with His calm, beautiful smile, cheering us with wonderful words.
One of the friends, Karbila'i Ja`far, in despair at the threatened separation, attempted to kill himself; he was saved, but was too ill to travel. Bahá'u'lláh refused to leave him unless the Governor of Adrianople undertook to have him well cared for, and sent after us when he should be recovered. This was done, and forty days after we arrived at `Akka, Karbila'i Ja`far joined us.
During our sojourn in Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh's custom was to walk only in the garden of the house, which was also His prison.
Here the friends crowded, weeping and wailing, refusing to be comforted. They determined to resist the separation; great was the tumult. Many telegrams were sent to the Government at Constantinople. At length we all started together on the journey to Gallipoli, and in three days we arrived, having travelled in carts and wagons.
Here the Governor announced that he had received orders for our separation. He came to see Bahá'u'lláh and the Master, and becoming friendly, he tried to help us in our distress. Again many telegrams were sent to Constantinople; we stayed for a week waiting for the replies.
At last permission was given for us all to embark together in
a Turkish boat. In this small boat we, seventy-two persons, were crowded together in unspeakable conditions, for eleven days of horror. Then soldiers and two officers were out escort.
There was an appalling smell in the boat, and most of us were very ill indeed.
* * *
At Adrianople were written some of the Epistles to the Kings and Queens of the earth, in which Bahá'u'lláh called upon them as "Servants of the Most High God and Guardians under Him of the people entrusted to their guidance," to join with Him, Bahá'u'lláh, to form an International Arbitration Council, that humanity should never again suffer the disgrace and misery of war.
He proclaimed now more publicly that His authority was Divine, being directly given to Him by God-that He was the Chosen One, Whom, under various names, all the religions of the earth were awaiting.
The turmoil was great; the sacred influence radiating from Him reached a wider and still wider circle.
The fanatics, fearing anew this wonderful Personage, and foreseeing the loss of their prestige, and the end of their acquisition of worldly power and wealth if His teachings were accepted, that holy things were not to be sold to mankind, but must be given untarnished "without money and without price," decided to renew their attacks upon Him.
The result was the further exile to `Akka that unhealthy town, the penal convict city, where Turkey sent the most hardened criminals. The idea was that Bahá'u'lláh's influence could not radiate from that pestilential city, where He would be closely guarded, also there was hope that He would not be able to live long in that place, where the air was so poisonous that "If a bird flies over 'Akka it dies!" became the proverb.
Therefore it was that the Great One, with the band of exiles who refused to be separated from Him, set forth on this fourth and last journey of banishment; they were, thanks to the traitor brother and bigoted religious enemies, labelled as malefactors, sowers of sedition, hardened criminals, enemies of the pure religion of God and of man. The faithful were commanded to shun these outcasts.
Such was the character which preceded Bahá'u'lláh and His disciples to `Akka.
The list of false charges was, moreover, directed to be read to the worshippers in the Mosques, so that all who injured the captives might flatter themselves that they "did God service."
In this way was manufactured the atmosphere of hatred which awaited the "Followers of the Light" when they arrived at the prison fortress city of `Akka "by way of the sea beyond Jordan - the valley of Anchor, which should be given as a door of hope."
Thus, the world unknowing, were the prophecies being daily fulfilled.
Arriving at `Akka, Bahá'u'lláh said to the Master: "Now I concentrate on My work of writing commands and counsels for the world of the future, to thee I leave the province of talking with and ministering to the people. Servitude is the essence of worship. I have finished with the outer world, henceforth I meet only the disciples."
We had embarked so hurriedly that we had been unable to provide for the voyage - a few loaves and a little cheese, brought by one of the friends, was all the food we had for those indescribable days.
A dear friend of the family, Jinab-i-Munib, was taken seriously ill. When the boat stopped at Smyrna, Sarkar-i-Aqa ('Abdu'l-Bahá) and Mirza Musa carried him ashore, and took him to a hospital. The Master brought a melon and some grapes; returning with the refreshing fruit for him - He found that he had died. Arrangements were made with the director of the hospital for a simple funeral. The Master chanted some prayers, then, heartsore, came back to the boat.
Arrived at Alexandria, again came that spectre, the rumour of our immediate separation.
The friends, though prostrated by sickness, worn out by the wretchedness of the voyage, and crushed by this repeated blow, determined to refuse submission. One friend, in his dire distress, jumped into the sea, but was saved.
Bahá'u'lláh and the Master cheered us. "Why did you jump into the sea? Did you wish to give a banquet to the fishes?" asked Bahá'u'lláh.
Nabil, the historian, and another of the Bahá'ís, were in the prison near the port at Alexandria. In their chains they stood, gazing out of the small windows. To their amazement they saw Bahá'u'lláh and the Master standing amongst the friends on the deck of our boat.
The prisoners succeeded in attracting the attention of one of our servants, who very cautiously went to them and heard them say: "We were brought here a week ago, we know not to what fate we are destined."
Thence we proceeded to Haifa.
There was no place in which we could lie down in that vessel. There were also some Tartar passengers in the boat. To be near them was very uncomfortable; they were dirty beyond description.
Our lack of food had reduced us to a seriously weak state of health.
At length we arrived at Haifa, where we had to be carried ashore in chains. Here we remained for a few hours. Now we embarked again for the last bit of our sea journey. The heat of that month of July was overpowering. We were put into a sailing boat. There being no wind, and no shelter from the burning rays of the sun, we spent eight hours of positive misery, and at last we had reached `Akka, the end of our journey.
The landing at this place was achieved with much difficulty; the ladies of our party were carried ashore.
All the townspeople had assembled to see the arrival of the prisoners. Having been told that we were infidels, criminals, and sowers of sedition, the attitude of the crowd was threatening. Their yelling of curses and execrations filled us with fresh misery. We were terrified of the unknown! We knew not what the fate of our party, the friends and ourselves would be.
We were taken to the old fortress of `Akka, where we were crowded together. There was no air; a small quantity of very bad coarse bread was provided; we were unable to get fresh water to drink; our sufferings were not diminished. Then an epidemic of typhoid broke out. Nearly all became ill.
The Master appealed to the Governor, but he was at first very little inclined to relax the strict rules, which he had been directed to enforce.
The Mufti had read to the people in the Mosque a Farman full of false accusations.
We were described as enemies of God, and as the worst kind of criminals. The people were exhorted to shun these vile malefactors; this naturally caused the attitude of intense hatred and bitter antagonism with which we were regarded.
After a while the Governor was persuaded by the Master to allow a little money instead of the uneatable rations which had been allotted to us; he also permitted one of the servitors, Mirza Ja`far, to go into the town, accompanied by a soldier
to buy food. By this our condition was considerably bettered.
Bahá'u'lláh and His family were imprisoned in three little rooms, up many steps, for two years.
During this time Dr. Petro, a Greek, became a friend, and having been able to make investigations, he assured the Governor that these prisoners, far from being vile criminals were high-minded persons and innocent of all harm.
So closely were we watched that we had been in `Akka six or seven months without being able to get into touch with Mirza `Abdu'l-A-Ahad, a devoted Babi disciple, who had been sent by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to `Akka some time before our arrival and had opened a shop.
So great would his danger have been, had his connexion with the Bahá'ís been suspected, that the strictest caution was absolutely necessary.
Having heard a rumour that the Beloved Ones had been sent to `Akka, a friend, Abu'l-Qasim Khan, and his wife, made that long and dangerous journey from Persia in order to find out the truth. Arrived in `Akka they met Mirza `Abdu'l-Ahad. He, fearing lest his secret should be disclosed, hurriedly hid the pair behind stacks of boxes at the back of his shop.
The news of their arrival was, with much difficulty, conveyed to Bahá'u'lláh. He sent them back to Persia, after a stay of only three days, so grave was the risk. These friends accordingly left `Akka. They had not even seen Bahá'u'lláh, but they were able to carry the news back to Persia that the Beloved Ones were really imprisoned in this desolate place.
The first Persian friends to telegraph to `Akka were the "King of the Martyred" and his brother, "The Beloved of the Martyred." The help they succeeded in sending was much needed, as we were past the end of our resources. Little by little the news of our whereabouts filtered through to the other friends in Persia. Shaykh Salman's self-constituted mission was to carry news from Bahá'u'lláh to Persia, and to bring back letter to Him.
Many were the difficult and dangerous journeys made, mostly on foot.
Shaykh Salman it was who, when he was arrested at Aleppo, bearing a most important supplication from a friend in Persia
to Bahá'u'lláh, wondering how he could prevent the enemy finding it, knowing the dire consequences of its falling into their hands, swallowed it.
It was this devoted and resourceful friend who was entrusted with the significant mission of bringing Munirih Khanum from Isfahan to `Akka, she who was to become the wife of Sarkar-i-Aqa ('Abdu'l-Bahá) the Master, and my much loved sister.
When Nabil, the historian, came to `Akka he was unable to get into the city. He lived for some time in the cave of Elijah on Mount Carmel. Thence he used to walk (about ten miles) to a place beyond the wall of the fortress. From this point he could see the windows of those three little rooms of our prison; here he would wait and watch for the rare and much-coveted happiness of seeing the hand of Bahá'u'lláh waving from the small middle window.
Meanwhile the war between Russia and Turkey was in progress. More barrack room was required for the soldiers. By that time the Governor had become friendly and consented to allow the family to leave the fortress, and live in a little house which a Christian merchant had let to us.
How we rejoiced in our liberty, restricted though it was. Only three times had we been permitted to go out, for even an hour, from the prison barracks during the whole of that first two years.
How tired we were of those three little rooms!
* * *
During the period of the sojourn in Baghdad, Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf, was her mother's loving helper, working always beyond her strength, in the various household tasks No childish pleasures or companions were hers. Always with eyes on her mother, alert to spare her any fatigue, she rejoiced beyond measure when she could minister in any way to her or her illustrious father.
"My mother," she said, sometimes gave lessons to my brother `Abbas; at other times Mirza Musa would teach Him, and on some occasions he would be taught by His father."
"And your lessons?" I asked.
"But I never had any time for studies," she said, in a tone which spoke volumes of absolute self-effacement, and this is the keynote of her whole life, no thought of her unselfishness entered her mind.
Her thoughtfulness and consideration for all who came near her; the countless acts of never-failing kindness, were, in her eyes, all to be taken as a matter of course. Her one joy was to devote every moment of her existence to being of use to her mother and father, to whom she was passionately attached. This loving service was extended, as He grew older, to her brother `Abbas, Sarkar-i-Aqa, and these three were her being's end and aim.
Her life was spent in prayer to God and service to her loved ones, from the time when, as a small child of six, she cowered in the dark house alone with the tiny Purest Branch, a baby of two, in her little arms, listening in terror to the yells of the infuriated, cruel mob, not knowing if they were murdering her father, or whether they had seized her mother and the little eight-year-old `Abbas.
After those terrible days in Tihran, and the not less terrible journey to Baghdad, during the sojourn in this city, she grew into a beautiful girl, very much like her lovely mother in grace of body and character, a gentle, slender maiden with large, grey-blue eyes, golden-brown hair, and warm, ivory-coloured skin. Her sense of humour was keen and her intelligence remarkable.
As she grew up, she implored her father to allow her to remain unmarried, that she might the better devote herself to her three dearly loved ones.
And so it was.
An old man, a friend of Bahá'u'lláh, told me that He once said to him: "I know no man worthy to marry such purity as my daughter."
I said, "Khanum must have been very lovely?"
"I have been told so; naturally, I never saw her."
THE SPOKEN CHRONICLE
wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Greatest Branch of the Tree of Life.
One night during dinner, Mirza Ibrahim turned to the Bab and said "My brother, Mirza Muhammad-`Ali, has had no children. Bless him, I entreat Thee, and grant unto him his heart's desire."
The Bab took a portion of the food with which He had been served, placed it in a platter, and handed it to His host, saying "Take this to Mirza Muhammad-`Ali and his wife. Let them partake of this food; their wish shall be fulfilled."
By virtue of that portion which the Bab had bestowed upon her, the wife of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali conceived, and in due time gave birth to a child, who eventually was joined in wedlock with the Most Great Branch, and therefore became the consummation of the highest hopes of her parents.
Nabil: The Dawn-breakers.
* * *
"The next event in the order of time was the arrival of Munirih Khanum, who was destined to become the loving wife, the staunch helpmate, the adoring friend of the Master.
"She is a majestic woman, stately yet simple, with an innate dignity and strength of character."
Munirih Khanum, as the writer knew her, in the first days of mourning for the beloved Master's passing - wiping away the tears of the sorrow-stricken friends, which poured afresh as they came into her presence, comforting them with her love, whilst her own grief was infinitely greater than theirs.
The wonderful, the perfect wife!
The devoted, the Holy Mother, not only to her own daughters and their children, but to all the friends who came to Haifa!
She has a most beautiful voice, and her eyes are large, dark, still, with a serenity in their depths that holiness alone can give.
She lives in Heaven, whilst she is on earth, and, like Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf, she takes upon herself the burden of everybody's trouble.
These two saints, who lives so near their sacred Beloved Ones, whilst they sojourned in this world, and whose whole happiness lay in ministering to them!
Munirih Khanum, the wife of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahiyyih Khanum, their lovely daughter, Munirih Khanum, the Holy Mother, and the four daughters of the Master, have ever bemoaned the difficulties of their daily lives. The conditions of suffering in all the prison period called forth a superhuman patience and self-sacrifice in trying to mitigate the misery of their fellow-exiles.
The fortitude of these gentle ladies never wavered in face of incredible hardships - endured for others' good - in that sorrow-laden time, when the days lengthened out into years of privation, where the simplest comforts of life were lacking.
Radiant acquiescence met all the incredible vicissitudes of the life in `Akka, from their arrival in 1868 to the release of 'Abdu'l-Bahá forty years later.
None of these difficulties seemed to them worthy of being remembered; they were all a matter of course, even as the air they breathed; it never occurred to them to mention them; it is only by inference that we have glimpse into the depths of the pain which has been theirs, which has made up their laborious days.
Upheld by that holy preoccupation of the spirit, its courage and its joy, they are calm and loving to all, yet aloof, dwelling consciously in that "Peace which passeth understanding" in the presence of God, in Whose path all the sufferings and persecutions, heaped upon them by uncomprehending persons, count as less than nothing.
It is this attitude of theirs, this spirit, which is more arresting, more amazing, than the mere events; this spirit it is that gives the great significance, which envelops all the episodes and incidents of their existence with its radiant atmosphere.
We stand, trying to absorb something of its all-pervading influence, and gaining an inkling of the inadequacy of every kind of worldly plan with which ken think to accomplish the Coming of the Kingdom, without seeking first this spirit.
If we do not realize somewhat of this attitude of the beloved ladies, we cannot but fail to grasp the meaning of the following events as told by Munirih Khanum, the Holy Mother.
The Spoken Chronicle of Munirih Khanum
Visit to Shiraz
If I were to tell you all the vicissitudes of my journey from Isfshan to `Akka, you would be able to fill a large book with them alone. Therefore I will limit the story to my visit to Shiraz.
Always before my mind is the evening of our arrival in Shiraz - the Dayspring of the Light of God - the birthplace of His Holiness the Bab.
My feelings of exaltation were indescribable. The whole air seemed to be full of the sweet songs of glad tidings, to which I listened with joy; all my soul and spirit vibrated to the voiceless sounds of the music I heard that day.
I was taken to the khan (a sort of hotel), in which there is a part reserved for ladies.
Some of the Afnan* family came to welcome me, and cordially invited me to their houses. I went to the house of Siyyid Muhammad, uncle of the Holy One. So dainty was the room, it seemed like a guest chamber in Paradise.
The ladies of the house consisted of the daughter of Siyyid Muhammad and two daughters-in-law; they were not absolutely Bahá'ís, though interested in the Cause.
Therefore I thought it wise not to confide to them my destination.
After our ablutions, and when we had all joined in chanting the sunset prayer, they, being pleased that I had stood and prayed with them, questioned me.
"Where are you going? Is it to some far distant country?"
"I am going to the Holy Land."
"Because your love for God is so great, therefore are you journeying to the Holy Land?"
*The collateral relations of the Bab and their descendants are called "Afnan." It is a sort of surname.
Now the Holy Land was to them Mecca, the place of pilgrimage of Islam, and Bahá'u'lláh had directed us to journey through this Holy Place on our way to `Akka.
When one of the ladies said to me: "The widow of the Bab will come to visit you in the morning," I was so moved that my tears flowed, and my heart was full.
Oh to see the wife of the Bab!
We greeted each other meaningly; I saw that she knew my journey's aim and end.
She took me to her home.
"I will first take thee to the room where He was born."
This room was kept sacred.
Here the dear Khadijih Khanum embraced me, and gave way to her heart's sorrow. I wept with her; my soul seemed filled with her sorrow, yet this sorrow was mingled with the joyful songs of the Glad Tidings, those which I had heard at the sunset hour of my arrival.
Dear, dear lady, how beautiful she was, even then, with her dark hair and eyes, lovely still for all their weeping, and her soft, creamy skin.
She took me to the house of the martyred uncle of the Bab, he who had cared for Him, and brought Him up from the time when, His father having died, His widowed mother brought Him to live with her at her brother's house.
Khadijih-Sultan-Bagum's eldest sister was the wife of this uncle. She was now growing old, and had suffered terribly; all the more terribly because she had not been able to share in the joy of the Glad Tidings of the Coming of the Herald of "Him Whom God shall make Manifest," nor to understand that the Great One also had come. She was firmly attached to the orthodox ordinary Muslim religion, notwithstanding the martyrdom of her husband and his holy nephew.
She moaned "Why should religion cause so much bloodshed? Surely it should be a cause of peace. I am perplexed and distressed, and my heart is full of sorrow."
I tried to help her, I longed to do so. Being a stranger, she listened to me. I chanted some prayers, and she wept, but understood not at all.
This condition of mind was very usual amongst those Persians
who, far from being enemies, were kind and good, but whose eyes had not been opened.
Whilst she talked, Khadijih-Bagum was silent. Then I said, "Please tell me of the childhood of the Bab, what thou rememberest of Him."
Gently she spoke: "The child came to us when He was four years old. From the first He was quite different from other children, so wise and gentle and serene. When He was seven years old He was taken to the school of Shaykh Abid.
"The schoolmaster came to my husband and said:
"`The fees thou givest for teaching `Ali Muhammad I can only accept as a present. He has no need of my teaching!
"`For instance, I said to him "Repeat this verse of the Qur'an after me. "'"I wish first to know the meaning, then I will repeat it unto thee."
"`I said to Him "No, Thou say it first, then its signification will be told unto Thee."
"`He amazed me by saying, "I, then, will explain it to thee." "`The verse was "He is the All-knowing." His explanation of this was so marvellous that I was profoundly impressed.'"
(Shaykh`Abid became a believer in the Bab)
"Now, Khadijih-Bagum, tell me, I pray thee, some of the many things thou must remember of Him."
"We were three sisters; our father was the least prosperous of the great-uncles of my Beloved. We were far from being wealthy when we married, as the world counts wealth. Therefore there was little money amongst our relations and friends at our union. But this was of no importance to us; the memory of my dream of two years before was always with me, and filled the time of my engagement with great happiness.
"I will tell of that dream, should you desire to hear it.*
"Whilst the Bab was at Bushihr, I again dreamed a dream:
"I saw Him in an attitude of prayer, His vesture was marvellous and beautiful, embroidered with fine needlework, and round its borders were written, in gold and in silver, verses from the Qur'an. The radiance of a sacred light shone round Him.
"When I told my sisters of this dream, they also recognized the truth that "He must be the Chosen One!"
I tarried with Khadijih-Bagum for twenty-one days of joy and wonderment.
* * *
She told me of those sad days, when he was in prison. How that she was full of anxiety, longing for news of Him. She was very closely watched - none of the friends were permitted to visit her. Very rarely would one of them, disguised as a beggar, succeed in reaching her door, bringing her such news as he had been able to gather. But this took place, oh! so seldom, and her lonely days dragged on, full of an anxious uncertainty as to His fate.
At length the devoted uncle, the father by adoption of the dear young husband, left Shiraz secretly to try if haply he could find out where they had imprisoned Him; perchance, with great care and trouble, he might even be able to discover some means of seeing Him.
Alas! never did he arrive, for he was arrested in Tihran, and went to his cruel death, one of the "Seven Martyrs."
Such a spirit of ecstasy and devotion did they show, chanting prayers and smiling with joy in the faces of their torturers, that all were amazed.
But their praise to God never wavered, that they were counted worthy by Him to attain the Crown of Martyrdom.
When at length the terrible story of the martyrdom of her husband came, even her mother, who had been staying with her in her isolation, was taken away from her, so that Khadijih-Bagum had no earthly comforter in this time of anguish.
* * * She told me of those sad days, when He was in prison. How that she was full of anxiety, longing for news of Him. She was very closely watched - none of the friends were permitted to visit her. Very rarely would one of them, disguised as a beggar, succeed in reaching her door, bringing her such news as he had been able to gather. But this took place, Oh! so seldom, and her lonely days dragged on, full of an anxious uncertainty as to his fate.
At length the devoted uncle, the father by adoption of the dear young husband, left Shiraz secretly to try if haply he could find out where they had imprisoned Him; perchance, with great care and trouble, he might even be able to discover some means of seeing Him.
Alas! never did he arrive, for he was arrested in Tihran, and went to his cruel death, one of the "Seven Martyrs."
Such a spirit of ecstasy and devotion did they show, chanting prayers and smiling with joy in the faces of their torturers, that all were amazed.
But their praise to God never wavered, that they were counted worthy by Him to attain the Crown of Martyrdom.
When at length the terrible story of the martyrdom of her husband came, even her mother, who had been staying with her in her isolation, was taken away from her, so that Khadijih-Bagum had no earthly comforter in this time of anguish.
* * *
During my visit to Shiraz, I seemed to be all ears, so eagerly did I listen to the stories of those days when agony and joy, the depths of earthly agony, and the height of sacred joy were the only companions of this dear, gentle lady, at that time little more than a girl, so young was she.
She gave me two supplications to convey to Bahá'u'lláh, for she knew that it was to Him I was journeying.
One was to pray that the two families, the Afnan (relations of herself and of her husband the Bab) and the family of Bahá'u'lláh should be united in marriage.
The other was that she might receive permission to make the pilgrimage to `Akka.
Bahá'u'lláh granted both her wishes.
The first came to pass when my eldest daughter, DiyaKhanum, married Aqa Mirza Muhsin, respectively grandson and son of the brothers-in-law of the Bab, therefore also one of the Afnan.
How I longed to take Khadijih-Bagum with us, my brother and me. to ~Akka, but the journey, we knew, would have been too unsafe, as well as too wearisome for her.
So we left her with great sorrow and weeping, never were we to meet again on this sad earth.
Some time afterwards a party of pilgrims were starting from Yazd on a pilgrimage to `Akka. They arranged to go by way of Shiraz, so that she might journey with them.
This plan gave her the utmost happiness, and she made ready for the great pilgrimage with much joyful looking forward.
Alas! the conditions at Shiraz became so increasingly dangerous that the Yazd pilgrims were obliged to give up their intention of passing through that town.
They managed with difficulty to get a letter taken to her saying:
"To our regret and sorrow, we are compelled to go to that place without thee, but we will send one of the Afnan as thine escort, to the place where it is thy desire to be."
Thus the bitter disappointment came to her; but in a life filled with all possible griefs, sorrows, and sufferings this was to be the last, for, when the letter arrived, she was so distressed that she fell ill, and, chanting:
"We are from God and to God do we return.
"Praise be unto Him for the Coming of His Great Day, and
for all the glory of my life,"
her gentle spirit returned to its celestial shelter.
The following is a paraphrase of what Munirih Khanum related to me about the early life of the Master.
* * *
`Abdu'l-Bahá, even in early childhood, shared in the woes of His family, upon whom the most terrible troubles descended.
The teaching of the Bab had caused a great turmoil in all the land of Persia. The Babis, feeling forced to defend themselves and their families, took refuge in various towns and forts of Mazindaran, Zanjan, and Nayriz. Being besieged, their supplies of food were diminished and they were in dire straits.
Bahá'u'lláh, Who had become a disciple of the Bab led rescue parties, carrying food and money to the brave and sorely pressed garrisons.
He thereby incurred the hatred of the most fanatical of the mullas. These men were unscrupulous in their methods, employing spies to watch, so that some pretext might be found for the active persecutions which they were plotting.
When the insane youth shot at the Shah, the fanatics rejoiced. Here was a grand opportunity!
'Abdu'l-Bahá, then only eight years old, was broken-hearted at the ruthless treatment of His adored Father. The child suffered agonies, as a description of the tortures was related in His hearing - the cruel scourging of the feet, the long miles Bahá'u'lláh had to walk afterwards, barefooted, heavy chains cutting into the delicate flesh, the loathsome prison; the excruciating anxiety lest His very life should be taken - made a load of suffering, piteous for so young and sensitive a child to endure.
All the former luxury of the family was at an end. deserted as they were by relations and friends. Homeless, utterly
impoverished, engulfed in trouble, and misery, suffering from sheer want and extraordinary privations - such were the conditions under which His childhood's life was spent.
These things counted not at all whilst He was with His Father; so that the exile and the earlier days in Baghdad were happy, in spite of outside miseries. But when Bahá'u'lláh retreated into the wilderness of Sulaymaniyyih the dear child was beside Himself with grief.
He occupied Himself with copying those Tablets of the Bab which had remained with them. He tried to help His dear mother, Asiyih Khanum, in her arduous tasks.
During this time He was taken by His uncle, Mirza Musa, to some of the meetings of the friends. There He spoke to them with a marvellous eloquence, even at that early age of eleven or twelve years. The friends wondered at His wisdom and the beauty of His person, which equalled that of His mind.
He prayed without ceasing for the return of Bahá'u'lláh. He would sometimes spend a whole night through praying a certain prayer. One day after a night so spent they found a clue! Very soon the Beloved One returned!
Now His joy was as great as His grief had been!
Many were the gatherings of the friends on the banks of the Tigris, to which the young boy was taken by His Father. These meetings, necessarily secret, were not His greatest pleasure. He drank in the teaching of divine things which were to educate the world, with an understanding of universal conceptions astounding in such a young child.
So life went on; He grew into a beautiful youth, beloved by all who knew Him.
And now came fresh sorrow!
The ever-active enemies, fearing the growing influence of Bahá'u'lláh, petitioned that He, with His disciples, should be again exiled.
The Governor of Baghdad requested Bahá'u'lláh to attend at the Court House, to hear a Farman read, which had been sent by the Sultan. The Governor was loath to inform Bahá'u'lláh of the decree, being unwilling that any discourtesy should be shown to the kingly exile, for Whom he himself felt a profound reverence.
The reply came:
"My mission is not with the rulers of this world, neither with their statesmen, nor their officials. For what reason, therefore, should I enter their Court House?"
The Governor was bewildered, and knew not what to do in his perplexity. At length, he said within himself:
"If I invite Him to the mosque, He will surely come, for is it not the House of God? In the holy place the Farman can be read to Him."
Bahá'u'lláh consented to go to the mosque, where the decree was announced to Him, that He and His family were to be exiled from Baghdad to an unknown destination.
The family and the friends were very sad at this new uprooting.
The preparations for the journey were extremely difficult.
The Master, as He was now called, shielded His adored Father in all ways that lay in His power from undesirable intruders, from the world's insistence, and from those who merely wanted idly to see and to hear something new.
He made the arrangements for the Beloved One to go to the Ridvan, there to abide until the family should have been able to make preparations for the departure.
Whilst He tarried in the Ridvan, the appointed time had arrived for the momentous proclamation.
Bahá'u'lláh confided to the eldest son, `Abbas, the Master, that He Himself was "He Whom God shall make Manifest," heralded by the Forerunner, the Bab.
As the Master heard the soul-stirring words, and realized that His own beloved Father was He Who should educate mankind in universal conceptions, abolish prejudices, bring unity and the most Great Peace into the distracted world, establish the Kingdom of God upon this sad earth, by making religion again a healing spring for all woes of the world, He understood why the Manifestation had once again become the cause of evil men's hatred and malignant persecution.
As these things were pondered by the Master, His mind, well-endowed with a peculiar receptiveness that was inborn, and strengthened by the education given to Him by His Father, saw, as in a radiant vision, the world of the future, when the divine Message, having become known and comprehended by "men of goodwill," would change the heart of the world, and
the Kingdom where God's will shall be done on earth - for which we have been praying for nigh two thousand years - would be established.
Henceforth a new joy and increased devotion to His Father, Bahá'u'lláh (The Glory of God) took possession of Him. He consecrated Himself, body and soul and spirit, to the sacred work of the Bahá'í Cause, spreading abroad the new message of Love and Justice, that message which His Holiness the Lord Christ had brought to man, and which mad had grown to disregard, forgetting his loyalty to the Lord of Compassion, and, as of old, worshipping the Golden Calf.
And now the preparations being completed, they set forth on their journey of exile to an unknown destination.
Bahá'u'lláh, the Master, and the ladies of the family rode horses and mules, and some were in Kasjafihs, a sort of erection (of the most jolting description) on the back of a mule, and the rest rode horses and mules.
They were escorted by some Turkish soldiers, who behaved very respectfully to the exiles, although they were prisoners. So great was the influence of the majestic personality of Bahá'u'lláh, that it affected all who came within its lines of force. Discourtesy shrank abashed from His Presence.
At length the tedious journey by land from Baghdad to Constantinople was accomplished - that being the "unknown destination."
Many were attracted to Bahá'u'lláh at Constantinople, and again the enemy, fearing anew His influence, plotted the further exile to Adrianople.
The account of the sojourn in this place, and the intrigues of another type of enemy, Bahá'u'lláh's half-brother, Subh-i-Azal, are written in another place.
Henceforth, His bitterest and most unscrupulous foe was "of His own kindred, and His own Father's house."
Consumed with the burning flame of jealousy, as soon as Bahá'u'lláh sent the Tablet of Declaration to this half-brother, acquainting him with the proclamation of His station as the Chosen One, every mischief which wounded vanity, joined with cunning and ruthless hatred, could devise was plotted and carried out.
The Bride of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Munirih Khanum, having spoken of some of the incidents, aspects, and sufferings of the Master's life before she met Him, now said:
When I was a young girl, I loved to think over the lives of the Holy Ones, the Lord Christ, Muhammad, and the other prophets of God. I used to weep and lament that I had not lived in their time.
My father went to Baghdad to visit Bahá'u'lláh when I was about nine years old.
I became aware that my parents were enthralled with their devotion to a new and secret religion. I used to meditate on what it could be, indeed I grew to have some suspicion in my mind regarding it, and to have even a little fear of its importance as I watched its effect upon my dear ones.
Once a dream came to me, of which, even now, I retain the impression.
In my dream, I carried many things in my arms; wearily I walked, dragging my feet across the endless desolation of desert sand. My strength seemed to be ebbing away, and my burden too heavy to hold. I was, oh! so tired, almost unable to walk one more step, when suddenly, to my surprise, I came to two rivers. A bridge connected these two rivers. Leaning against the wall of this bridge, I saw in my dream one of the disciples, an old Siyyid. He came forward to me and asked:
"What dost thou want? Where dost thou wish to go?"
I replied earnestly:
"I desire greatly to go to the blessed cities of Jerusalem - Love - and Baha."
The Siyyid said solemnly:
"Carrying those things that burden thee, thou canst not journey to those cities, neither canst thou enter therein. First
cast away thy burden, then shalt thou have strength and power to attain thy desire."
Instantly I let fall all the things of my burden.
The old Siyyid thereupon, looking approvingly, took me by the arm and plunged me into the rivers, first into the one, then into the other. When I emerged I suddenly found myself flying without effort, as if were floating, over amazingly beautiful country. I was awe-struck at its sacred loveliness, as of Paradise. During my flight, my joy was so overwhelming as to seem a celestial gladness.
I arrived at a radiant city of shining glory. On its walls were written in Arabic in letters of brilliant light:
"Love, Baha. Jerusalem.
Jerusalem. Love. Baha.
Baha. Jerusalem. Love." In the great temple of this city were all the Holy Ones, the Prophets of God, in Whose presence I had so ardently longed to stand - His Holiness the Lord Christ, Moses, Isaiah, and every other Prophet of Whom I knew.
At one altar was Muhammad; He gave to me a radiant necklace of diamonds. This I handed to my mother, and, trying again to fly, I awoke!
It seemed that this golden dream had come in answer to my eager wishes and prayers.
I remember when I was a girl the news came to Isfahan from Nabil that Jamal-i-Mubarak was imprisoned in the fortress town of `Akka, shut in behind iron doors, never going out!
As I thought of Him in that poisonous climate - He Who loved the seas, the hills, and the plains, gardens, flowers and quick movement in the open air - my heart seemed broken, and I shut myself into my room alone, that I might weep river of tears.
An now came the never-to-be-forgotten days, when Shaykh Salman arrived at Isfahan, bringing word from Bahá'u'lláh that He wished me to come to Him.
I was beside myself with joy, that I should, whilst I lived, see my Lord! Even though the journey should be full of difficulty and danger, of suffering indescribable, of risks uncountable,
none of these considerations weighed anything in the balance against the gladness of starting on a pilgrimage, with my face steadfastly set towards the presence of the Holy One.
Accordingly, I set forth with my brother and Shaykh Salman on the journey from Isfahan to `Akka.
Extreme caution was necessary - we refrained from intercourse with any of the friends - especially we took care that, not through any word or action of ours, should it become known that the two devoted brothers, Mirza Hasan and Mirza Hasayn of Isfahan, were Babis. These two dear first cousins of mine were always of great help to any of the friends who were in trouble, but that aid was necessarily given in strict secrecy, so terrible was the danger to property, limb, and life incurred by any, upon whom the suspicion of being a Babi might fall.
These two brothers were the first to send material help to the exiles at `Akka, and the friends, sojourning at Mosul, were rescued from sheer starvation by supplies of corn and money, promptly despatched to them by these generous disciples.
The tragedy of their martyrdom in 1878, when they were given the glorious names of "King of the Martyrs" and "Beloved of the Martyrs," was indeed a work of evil, by base hands wrought; truly one of the "dark deeds without a name."
Shaykh Salman had brought directions from Bahá'u'lláh for our journey.
We gave out that we were going to Mecca.
On our return from the holy shine, we were directed to stay at Jiddah until all the twenty Babis who had accompanied us had gone back to their homes, having accomplished the pilgrimage to Mecca; none of them being permitted, because of the perilous conditions, to proceed to `Akka.
We waited at Jiddah, exercising the greatest circumspection; extreme danger surrounded all.
Bahá'u'lláh was in strictest confinement.
We had grown accustomed to looking into the face of sudden death and numberless other perils, with the fortitude inspired by our gladness and heart of grace; for were we not pilgrims,
making our ways to the presence of our beloved Lord at His own express command?
At length we left Jiddah; my brother and myself, Shaykh Salman, and one servant, such was the little party of four who were permitted to make this pilgrimage to `Akka.
To describe all the incidents of that memorable journey would be to fill a great book.
My wonderful stay at Shiraz - my precious friendship with Khadijih Khanum, that gentle, sorrow-stricken lady, the widow of the Supreme Bab - all this you know.
Always exercising the greatest discretion we proceeded on our way. We embarked at Alexandria for `Akka; a telegram came:
"Do not land until fetched."
We thought that our boat would depart with us still on board. At the last moment we saw a small boat coming swiftly towards us. "Shaykh Salman"! We heard the cry; our joyful hearts were singing glad songs as we climbed down into the tiny skiff.
And we had arrived at `Akka.
Permission to enter the city was obtained in this way.
`Abbud, a Christian merchant, landlord of the 'little house,' as it came to be called, where Bahá'u'lláh and His family were then living, had stated that he expected some friends to visit him. As his friends we entered `Akka, and went straightway to his house.
The room prepared for me was that of which the door was eventually opened into the 'little house." This room was to become my bridal chamber, my nursery night and day, my sitting-room, my all! Glorious was my happiness! I am living it all over again in telling it to you, dear Ladyee, now.
In a few days I went to stay at the house of Mirza Musa, the brother of Bahá'u'lláh; here I remained for six months.
My brother and I used to stand at a window and watch `Abbas Effendi swimming; such a strong and graceful swimmer. Every afternoon about five o'clock the wife of Mirza Musa
would go with me to visit Bahá'u'lláh. I cannot describe the wonder and gladness and happiness of being in His presence. My soul was wrapt in an ecstasy of utter joy, and seemed to float in a celestial atmosphere of peace and loving-kindness.
Many beautiful daughters were offered from time to time by parents anxious that their child should have the honour of becoming the wife of the Master.He refused to consider any of them, until I arrived; we met each other once, and our marriage was arranged.
There was a delay because there was no room available in the "little house."
Now `Abbud, the landlord of the "little house," and of the larger one next to it, had become devoted to the Master, in whom he recognized qualities like unto those of the Lord Christ.
One day he asked to be received by Bahá'u'lláh, to Whom he said:
"Wherefore the delay in the marriage?" Being told the reason, he exclaimed:
"I can arrange about the room. I pray Thee, let me have the honour of preparing a place for the Master and His bride."
He hastened to have the door opened through into an extra room, which he furnished simply and comfortably.
"The room is now ready, O Master."
The next day, Bahá'u'lláh asked Khanum, His daughter, not to let their visitor (Munirih Khanum) return to her abode. Khanum brought a dainty white frock (which Asiyih Khanum and she had made for me of white batiste) and put it on to me, with a fresh white niqab (head-dress) on my head - and I was adorned for my wedding.
The guests were few, Asiyih Khanum, Bahiyyih Khanum, the wife of `Abbud, her three daughters (one of these wished to dress my hair more elaborately than usual, but I preferred to leave it in its two plaits), and the wife of Mirza Musa.
Bahá'u'lláh spoke wonderful words to me;
"Oh Munirih! Oh my Leaf! I have destined you for the wife of My Greatest Branch. This is the bounty of God to you. In earth or in heaven there is no greater gift. Many have come, but We have rejected them and chosen you. Oh Munirih! Be worthy of Him, and of Our generosity to you."
If I were to try to describe my elation, my ecstasy of joy, "Mathnavi would become seventy volumes" (Persian proverb; "Mathnavi" a book of poems).
Oh that this hour had been everlasting!
Bahá'u'lláh had previously revealed a Tablet for us which the guests wished me to chant to them.
"When the gates of the sacred garden are set open, and the holy youth issues forth, verily he hath come with a Message of great import.
"Great tidings! Glad tidings!
"This is that holy youth who hath come, bringing the Message of great joy."
(In Persian this is remarkably beautiful, and the guests were deeply touched by the poetry of the language, chanted by the lovely voice of Munirih Khanum.)
Bahá'u'lláh had said to the Master:
"Come back early this afternoon, the wedding must take place today."
Bahá'u'lláh chanted the prayers.
Oh the spiritual happiness which enfolded us! It cannot be described in earthly words.
The chanting ended, the guests left us. I was the wife of my Beloved. How wonderful and noble He was in His beauty. I adored Him. I recognized His greatness, and thanked God for bringing me to Him.
It is impossible to put into words the delight of being with the Master; I seemed to be in a glorious realm of sacred happiness whilst in His company.
You have known Him in His later years, but then, in the youth of His beauty and manly vigour, with His unfailing love, His kindness, His cheerfulness, His sense of humour, His untiring consideration for everybody, He was marvellous, without equal, surely in all the earth!
At the wedding there was no cake, only cups of tea; there were no decorations, and no choir, but the blessing of Jamal-i-Mubarak; the glory and beauty of love and happiness were beyond and above all luxury and ceremony and circumstance.
For fifty years my Beloved and I were together. Never were
we separated save during His visits to Egypt, Europe, and America.
O my Beloved husband and my Lord! How shall I speak of Him?
You, who have known Him, can imagine what my fifty years have been - how they fled by in an atmosphere of love and joy and the perfection of that Peace which passeth all understanding, in the radiant light of which I await the day when I shall be called to join Him, in the celestial garden of transfiguration.
Five of my children died in the poisonous climate of `Akka.
The bad air was, in truth, only the outside material reason. The inner spiritual reason was that no son of the Master should grow into manhood.
When my darling little son Husayn passed away, Bahá'u'lláh wrote the following:
"The knowledge of the reason why your sweet baby has been called back is in the mind of God, and will be manifested in His own good time. To the prophets of God the present and the future are as one."
Therefore I understand how that wisdom has ordained the uniting of the two families, that of Bahá'u'lláh and of the Bab, in the person of Shoghi Effendi, eldest son of our daughter, Diyaiyyih Khanum, by her marriage with Aqa Mirza Hadi Afnan.
I have been writing to the friends in Persia;
"You are longing to meet us, we are longing to meet you; what is the wisdom in our separation?"
Let us understand that if Bahá'u'lláh had not been exiled to Baghdad, Constantinople, Adrianople, and `Akka, the Divine Message could not have been so quickly spread, and the prophecies in the Holy Books would not have been fulfilled.
THE SPOKEN CHRONICLE
daughter of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
I remember our beloved grandmother, Asiyih Khanum very well, though I was only seven years old when she passed from us.
Bahá'u'lláh used to address her as "Navvab," a title of great courtesy and respect, used by Persian noblemen to their wives. She was very beautiful, kind, and gentle. Everybody in trouble went to her for comfort. If any were ill, it was she who nursed them, and soothed and cared for them.
As no laundress was allowed to come whilst we were all in the barrack prison at 'Akka, she did much of the washing and cooking, helped always by my dear aunt Khanum.
The only servant they had, a negress, had neither time nor strength to do all that was needed. My grandmother and Khanum, then quite young, did much of the hard work. so that this servant should not be overtired.
They also made and mended the garments of the family, a formidable undertaking.
I was told how my grandmother and Khanum made a wonderful coat for Bahá'u'lláh, to be ready for Him when He should return from the retreat in the wilderness of Sulaymaniyyih. They worked at this labour of love, using small pieces of red tirmih, very precious stuff, which had survived, in some way, the loss of nearly all her extensive and rare wedding treasurers. For six months they sewed and fitted these pieces together, and a beautiful coat was the result. Very acceptable indeed, for He came back in the coarse, rough coat of a dervish. And they had no money for buying coats at that time in Baghdad.
Asiyih Khanum lived through the imprisonment time, and afterwards, in the little hired house in the town of Akka.
Her tiny room was simple and bare - the narrow, white bed, which was also the divan in the daytime; a very small table,
on which was her prayer and other holy books, her "qalam-dan" (pen case), and leaflets for writing; there was also her rosary, sometimes a flower in a pot, and lastly an old painted box holding her other frock and her other under-garment.
Bahá'u'lláh had only two coats (made of Barak, a Persian woollen cloth); they were apt to wear out, and much of her time was spent, as I remember her, in patching darning them and His stockings.
My eyes will always see her in her blue dress, with a white "niqab" on her head, and little black slippers on her tiny feet, Her sweet, smiling face, and her wrapt expression, as she chanted prayers in her musical voice.
One sad day I came in from my lessons, finding many people gathered together in a troubled way. I asked "What is the matter?"
"Your grandmother is very ill."
I saw Bahá'u'lláh go into her room; after a time He came out; she had passed from the sadness and grief-filled days of her life on earth.
How we all wept! We missed her beautiful presence; her unfailing loving-kindness, and her perfect unselfishness had endeared her to us all.
Lovely and loving, refined and dainty, keenly intelligent, with more strength of character than of physique. A strong sense of humour was also one of her many gifts.
The terrible hardships and anxieties of her life had impaired her health; she had always exerted her strength, however failing, to its utmost.
Bahá'u'lláh in Akka
My first continuous memories began in 1892, when I was twelve years old.
Before that there were impressions of episodes, a sort of patchwork of mind-pictures, strung together on the thread of love for those, whose sacredness I very early began to realize, accepting this atmosphere as in the natural order of daily life; not analysing it, neither reasoning about it, but, childlike breathing it in without question.
I remember that Bahá'u'lláh had suffered acutely from the close confinement in one room. He loved gardens, flowers, stretches of country, riding, walking, picnics under the trees, and all open-air simple pleasures.
As time went on, the Mufti of `Akka and the Pasha, who was the Governor, became attached friends of the Master, mainly through witnessing the beauty of the life He led, in which ministering service to all was manifested before their eyes. They had begun to comprehend something of the holiness of the ideals of the exiles, and came to look upon Bahá'u'lláh with awe and respect and great honour.
The Governor, who had become friendly, would from time to time be recalled, and would be replaced by another who would take up his post in an attitude of unfriendliness to the exiles; his mind having been filled with false reports.
As these suspicious translated themselves into action, stricter rules would be made; our little freedom would be curtailed, and our lives become more and more restricted. As the days passed on, the enmity of the Governor would melt away under the warmth of the Master's invariable loving-kindness, rules would relax, and our lives become again happy, so that the friendship of the Governor made a marvellous difference to our comfort.
After Bahá'u'lláh had been imprisoned in one room for nine years, the Governor of that time consented to the Master's request that He might be at liberty to visit the Ridvan.
* * * The Ridvan is a beautiful garden, which the Master had planted in a plot of land which He had acquired. It is on the bank of a brook. There is a large mulberry tree with seats round its trunk. Many beautiful blossoming trees are now flourishing there, also flowers innumerable, and sweet-smelling herbs; it is a blaze of glorious colour and wonderful beauty. The scent of attar roses, of rosemary, bergamot, mint and thyme and balm, lemon-scented verbena, and musk makes the air sweet with their wealth of various fragrances. Scented white and scarlet and rose-coloured geraniums are there in wild luxuriance, and trees of pomegranate with their large, brilliant scarlet blossoms, also other lovely blooming shrubs. Each a symbol of devoted, loving service.
Most of the flowering plants have been brought from Persia by the pilgrims.
These wonderful pilgrims! How they came on that long, toilsome journey on foot, braving numberless dangers, malignant human enemies and bad weather, and through all the fatigue, carrying, as the greatest treasure, some p[lant for their adored one's garden. Often the only water, which the devoted pilgrims so urgently needed for themselves, was given to the plant.
Some of the gardeners who had been in the employ of Bahá'u'lláh in His glorious gardens at the beautiful country house, His former home in Persia, remembered that a particular white rose was a favourite flower of Bahá'u'lláh's. This rose, single with golden centre, brownish stalks, shiny leaves, and a peculiarly delightful scent, is now flourishing in the Ridvan. Many bushes of these beautiful roses are in full bloom; the waxen cream and gold of their blossoms, and their burnished leaves, make a pure and peaceful note in the love-laden harmony of the glory of that garden.
One seems to sense the atmosphere of devotion, which made this garden out of the desert.
The pilgrims who carried the plants through the difficulties of the pilgrimages tended them by the way, successfully and joyfully presenting their previous gift, alive and full of the power of growth, to their beloved Lord.
Friends from California and from Europe brought their offerings later on, so that the Ridvan is a veritable joining together of the East, and the West, symbolic of the great Mission of Bahá'u'lláh, which is to unite, in one great and vital unity, the members of the human family from every religion, race, and nation in the world.
All different colours, roses and trees, fruits and herbs gathered into God's Garden of joyful, harmonious, loving friendship.
* * *
On! the joy of the day when Bahá'u'lláh went to the beautiful Ridvan, which had been prepared for Him with such loving care by the Master, the friends, and the pilgrims!
The Master's heart was gladdened indeed to see the enjoyment of His beloved Father, resting under the big mulberry tree, by the side of the little river rippling by, the fountain which they had contrived splashing and gurgling in sounds refreshing indeed after the long years of confinement in the pestilential air of the penal fortress of `Akka. Only those who were present there could realize in any degree what it meant to be surrounded by such profusion flowers, their colours and their scents, after the dull walls and unfragrant odours of the prison city.
I remember well the greatest of our joys was to go with Bahá'u'lláh for the occasional picnics to the Ridvan.
How happy we were with Him. He was indeed the brightness of our lives in that time of difficulty.
Our days were then very monotonous. We saw little of our Father, so much was He occupied with the affairs of those who constantly came to beg for His help.
We loved our early morning tea, when He would chant prayers and tell us stories of the Lord Christ and His Mother, of Muhammad, of Moses and other Prophets.
After that we were taken by a servant to the school at the Khan; it was rather dull to sit there from seven in the morning till five in the afternoon listening to readings of the Qur'an, of which no explanation was given. A little reading and writing - no pleasant breaks for play - rather tasteless and scanty midday dinner, which we took with us.
We children looked upon Bahá'u'lláh as another loving Father; to Him we carried all our little difficulties and troubles.He took an interest in everything which concerned us.
He used to send a servant to Beirut every year to buy stuff for our clothes. Bahá'u'lláh would then call for us to choose which we liked best for our frocks. My mother, my aunt, and the children would make this cotton material into garments.
He was always punctual, and loved daintiness and order.
He was very particular and refined in his personal arrangements, and liked to see everybody well groomed, and as neatly dressed as possible. Above all things, cleanliness was desirable to Him.
"Why not put on your prettiest frocks: He would say to us. All our holidays, all our treats and our happiness came from Him in those days; when boxes of sweets were brought to Him He would set some aside for us.
"Put that box of sweets over there, or Aqa will give it away to the people," He would say in fun.
"Let the dear children come in, and have some dessert," He often said, when we were being sent off to bed - my Father and my mother not wishing that we should disturb Him - but He always welcomed us with loving words.
How we adored Him!
"Now children, to-morrow you shall come with Me for a picnic to the Ridvan," He would say, and our night was so full of joy we could scarcely sleep.
The Master was not often able to come with us to these wonderful picnics, so much did the people take up all His days.
'Abdu'l-Bahá in `Akka
The time came shen Bahá'u'lláh went to live at Bahji, and the Master, my mother, my aunt, and my three sisters lived in the larger house at `Akka.
Bahá'u'lláh for some time had rarely received any but the Bahá'í friends, to whom He gave audience nearly every afternoon. His arrangements were very regular.
I remember that Nabil, the historian, was received every Tuesday.l
The Master, by making all arrangements, doing all the business, seeing applicants and pilgrims, planning interviews at stated hours, protected His Father from every troublesome detail, and made it possible for Him to lead a peaceful life, with leisure in which to write His Tablets and to formulate laws and instructions for the world of the future.
The Master occupied Himself with the affairs and interests of the people of the place, all outside news being brought to Him by the governor and the Mufti.
Every week the Master went to Bahji, carrying all the news which would be of interest to Bahá'u'lláh.
He would tell him particularly of the affairs of the Persian pilgrims, many of whom had settled in `Akka, keeping shops of various kinds, carrying on their several trades and professions. A number of these devoted disciples, rich and great in their own land, had sacrificed everything, their property and their positions, barely escaping with their lives, and were now working humbly for their daily bread, joyful to be near Him Whom they looked upon as the Great Manifestation of God. And thus they lived their beautiful and happy lives.
The Master would tell Bahá'u'lláh how Christians came to ask explanation of difficult sayings in the Bible. Or again, how Muslims came with questions of Qur'an perplexities. He would
tell how people in trouble would come for advice and help.
Bahá'u'lláh always wished to know what answers were given by the Master. "Khayli Khub, very good, Aqa," He would say,
The Master would also tell news from different countries far and near, related in the newspapers, which the Governor used to bring for discussion and explanation.
The life of the Master in 'Akka was full of work for others' good.
He would rise very early, take tea, then go forth to His self-imposed labours of love. Often He would return very late in the evening, having had no rest and no food.
He would go first to the Biruni, a large reception room, which had been hired, on the opposite side of the street to our house. We often used to watch from our windows, the people crowding there to ask for help from the Master.
A man who wished to take a shop must ask advice from Him. Another would request a letter of introduction, or recommendation for some government post Again, it would be a poor woman whose husband had been falsely accused, or had been taken for a soldier, whilst she and the children were left to starve. One would tell Him of children who were ill-treated, or of a woman beaten by husband or brother.
`Abbas Effendi would send a competent person with these poor people to state the case to the judge at the Court House, so that they might have justice.
The Biruni also received other guests; it came to be looked upon as a centre of interest.
The Mufti, the Governor, Shaykhs, and officials of the Court came singly or in groups to call on the Master at the Biruni. Here they would be offered a specially delicious make of 'qahviyi-khanigi" (coffee). Sipping this, they would talk over all the news, appealing for explanations, advice, or comment, to the Master, Whom they grew to look upon as learned, wise, full of compassion, practical help, and counsel for all.
When the Court rose the judge invariably came to the Biruni, where he would speak of any complicated case, sure that `Abbas Effendi would solve the problem, however difficult. In this way He was often able to steer the course of law,
preventing the triumph of the tyrant, and bringing comfort to the oppressed.
Some days He hardly saw His own family, so hard pressed was He by those who crowded to the Biruni for some kind of help.
The many sick people, Bahá'í and others, were His constant care; whenever they wished to see Him, He went.
e poor old couple, who were ill in bed for a month, had twenty visits from the Master during that time.
To every sick person He sent each day a servant to ask "Did you sleep? How are you? Do you need anything?" All their needs He supplied.
Never did He neglect anything but His own rest, His own food; the poor were always His first care.
All sweets, fruits, and cakes which had been sent to Him He would take to the Biruni for the friends, whom He made very happy.
The Arabs called Him the "Lord of Generosity."
To this day, if anybody be hospitable he is praised thus:
"His house is like the Biruni, the home of `Abbas Effendi."
As there was no hospital in `Akka, the Master paid a doctor, Nikolaki Bey, a regular salary to look after the very poor. This doctor was asked not to say who was responsible for this, "His right hand was not to know what His left wrought."
For for those other things the poor needed when they were ill, numberless, various, always to the Master did they turn their eyes.
One instance - the poor, crippled woman named Na`um used to come every week for alms; one day a man came running:
"Oh! Master, that poor Na`um has measles. She is lying by the hot room of the Hammam; everybody is keeping away from her. What can be done about her?"
The Master immediately engaged a woman to care for her; took a room, put comfortable bedding (His own) into it, called the doctor, sent food and everything she needed. He went to see that she had every attention, and when she died in peace and comfort, He it was Who arranged her simple funeral, paying all charges.
Another instance out of many:
A notoriously bad man, calling himself a Christian, being about to die, sent to pray `Abbas Effendi to come to him: O Master, I have been a wicked man. Forgive me all my sins and mistakes and help me, I pray; my wife will be so alone, my family will oppress her, and if not prevented, will rob her of all her sustenance. I beg of you, Master, to protect her and guide her when I am gone."
The promise was given - the man died in peace, his mind at rest, knowing that his poor wife would be helped and protected.
Another call to `Abbas Effendi came in this way:
`Abdu'llah Pasha Dili of San`a, a city in the province of Yemen, Arabia, had been banished to `Akka, with only one old servant to attend him. He lived in one room in the Mosque. Now `Abbas Effendi had a room near his, to which He would retire for quiet meditation and prayer, whenever He could spare any time from His multitudinous works of ministration.
The Master was very kind to the poor, lonely, exiled Pasha, who one day being struck with illness, felt his death drawing near, and prayed that the Master would come to him.
"O `Abas Effendi, I have a secret, I want your help. One daughter only is left to me of all my family; I know not where she is now; her husband is not kind to her. You, and you only, can I trust.
"I have here (my servant is out of hearing?) a bag of gold, 70,000 piastre (p700). This sum I wish my dear daughter to have, after deducting 500 piastres for my funeral. I do not wish this money to get into the hands of that cruel man, her husband."
The Master agreed to endeavour to find this lady, and to have the bag of gold given into her own hands.
The next day the Pasha died at peace.
A witness from the court being sent for to count the gold, the receipt was signed.
The Master chose certain of the Pasha's few belongings for the daughter, and gave the rest to the old servant. He then arranged an honourable funerals, befitting the station of the Pasha, defraying all expenses Himself, so that the bag of gold might not be lessened.
The state allowance to the exiled Pasha was owing. This the
Governor paid, after much insistence, and it was added to the daughter's gold.
Then to arrange to get the gold safely taken to San`a. A difficult task in those lawless days!
Now there was a dervish, named Muhammad-`Ali, a devoted disciple, whose joy it was to serve his Master in toilsome and dangerous journeys. This servant was entrusted with the mission of safely conveying the bag of gold and her father's belongings to the daughter of the exiled Pasha.
The dervish, Muhammad-`Ali, set forth on his quest, being furnished with minute instructions for seeking the lady, and with sufficient money for his long, laborious journey.
In five months he returned to `Akka. He had reached San`a and, though encompassed with difficulties and risk, had achieved his task, escaping the cruelty and avarice (which had been feared by the Pasha) of the husband. He had succeeded in delivering the bag of gold, and the little treasures of her father, into the beloved daughter's own hands. All was accomplished, and his faithful messenger returned, bringing a receipt from the lady, signed and witnessed by the V'al'i of San`'a.
It would be impossible to write even a small part of the many compassionate acts of love and charity wrought by the Master; all His life was spent in ministering service to every unhappy creature who came to Him, and in being the devoted son to His Father.
When my little sister, Ruh-AngiAsiyih, arrived, there was some disappointment that she was not a boy.
Bahá'u'lláh said "I will love her more than all the rest; you must not wish that she had been a boy."
Little Ruh-Angiz loved Bahá'u'lláh very fervently. When He had passed from earth she was full of sadness:
"I want to go through that same door to Heaven; didn't He go through it?"
"No thank you," she would say, "I do not wish for anything. I would like best of all to go to Him."
So often she spoke of the other world, that she seemed to grow nearer and nearer to it. The next year she passed from earth to the Heaven where she wished to be.
The Master hardly saw the dear child in her illness. His time was so constantly taken up by the needs of the poor, that only His tired moments were spared to His own family from His incessant work for all in trouble. Indeed, my mother and sisters tried to conceal their difficulties and trials, not wishing to add to the heavy burden of others' griefs, which were so constantly borne by Him.
At this period the pilgrims who came to `Akka were taken care of at the Khan (the inn). Mirza Muhammad cooked their food. They seldom had more than soup and rice, sometimes a "palau" (stewed rice, with a little meat, and some herbs and vegetables) was provided as a great treat.
The Passing of Bahá'u'lláh
And now a very sad day dawned for us all.
My mother, my Aunt Khanum, my three sisters, and I lived in the bigger house at `Akka with our beloved Father; Bahá'u'lláh lived at Bahji.
At this time the people of the place greatly respected and honoured Him and the Master, and we were as happy as was possible in the unhealthy atmosphere of `Akka.
On this day of sadness a servant rode in from Bahji with a tablet for the Master from Bahá'u'lláh: "I am not well, come to Me and bring Khanum."
The servant, having brought horses for them, my Father and my aunt set off immediately for Bahji; we children stayed at home with my mother, full of anxiety. Each day the news came that our adored Bahá'u'lláh's fever had not abated. He had a kind of malaria.
After five days we all went to Bahji; we were very distressed that the illness had become serious.
On the fifteenth day of the illness the Persian pilgrims and Bahá'í friends from `Akka were admitted to His presence.
Mirza `Andalib from Shiraz, Mirza Bassar, the blind poet, were there. They, weeping, circled round and round His bed, praying and beseeching Bahá'u'lláh to permit them to be a sacrifice for the saving of His precious life for the world, if only for a short time longer.*
Bahá'u'lláh spoke loving words of peace and calm to them, exhorting them to be faithful to the Cause of God, to be loyal, true, and steadfast, letting their characters speak to the world.
"I am very pleased with you all. My hope is that your deeds
*It is a Persian custom that a lamb should be sacrificed to prolong a greatly beloved life - and these friends wished to take the place of the sacrificial lamb - for their Lord's life.
will be examples worthy of the Bahá'í Faith - that you may ever be true followers of the Light of God's Law."
Two lambs were brought into His room, then the Master went into `Akka to arrange various matters, to see the friends, giving the good news that His Father was slightly better. He then superintended the distribution of the two sacrificial lambs amongst the poor prisoners of `Akka.
In the evening He came back to Bahji.
Bahá'u'lláh asked for us, the ladies and children, to go to Him. He told us that He had left in His will directions for our future guidance; that the Greatest Branch, `Abbas Effendi, would arrange everything for the family, the friends, and the Cause.
"The loving devotion of `Andalib has touched me very much, also the love of them all. I hope they will every one be true and faithful servants."
On the nineteenth day of His illness He left us at dawn. Immediately a horseman galloped into `Akka to carry the news to the Mufti.
Forthwith from the seven minarets of the mosque the event was proclaimed:
"God is Great.
He Giveth Life! He Taketh it Again!
He Dieth No, but Liveth for Evermore!"
This proclamation from the minarets is a custom of Islam at the passing of a very greatly honoured, learned, and holy man.
The tidings spread throughout the land, and were proclaimed from the minarets of every mosque. People from all the villages of the country-side crowded to Bahji to show their respect, and to join in the mourning. Many Shaykhs brought lambs, rice, sugar and sale. This is an Arab custom: the idea is, that as these gifts are distributed to the poor, they will, in return, pray for the soul of the departed.
Muslim friends, the Mufti, mullas, Governor and officials, Christian priests, Latin and Greek, Druses from Ab<'u-Sinan, and surrounding villages, and many other friends gathered together in great numbers in honour of the Beloved One.
Marthiyih, songs in His praise, were chanted by poets. Laments and prayers were chanted by Shaykhs. Funeral
orations were spoken, describing His wonderful life of self-sacrifice.
Many of the guests encamped under the trees round the Palace of Bahji, where more than five hundred were entertained for nine days.
This hospitality entailed much trouble on the Master, Who made all the arrangements and superintended every detail; money also was given by Him on each of the nine days to the poor.
At dawn on these days the "Call to Prayer" and some of the "Munajats" (prayers chanted) of Bahá'u'lláh were chanted from the balcony of the palace.
Very touching and impressive it was to hear the beautiful voice of our Arabian Bahá'í friend, chanting the call to prayer.
At its sound the Master arose, and we all followed Him to the tomb-shrine, where He chanted the funeral prayer and the
Tablet of Visitation (The following is a translation by Shoghi Effendi, guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.)
The praise which hath dawned from Thy most august Self, and the glory which hath shown forth from Thy most effulgent Beauty, rest upon Thee, O Thou Who are the Manifestation of Grandeur, and the King of Eternity, and the Lord of all who are in Heaven and on earth. I testify that through Thee the sovereignty of God and His dominion, and the majesty of God and His grandeur, were revealed, and the Day-Stars of ancient splendour have shed their radiance in the Heaven of Thine irrevocable decree, and the Beauty of the Unseen hath shone forth above the horizon of creation. I testify, moreover, that with but a movement of Thy pen Thine injunction "Be Thou" hath been enforced, and God's hidden Secret hath been divulged, and all created things have been called into being, and all the Revelations have been sent down.
I bear witness, moreover, that through Thy beauty the beauty of the Adored One hath been unveiled, and through Thy face the face of the Desired One hath shown forth, and that through a word from Thee Thou hast decided between all created things, causing them who are devoted to Thee to ascend unto the
summit of glory, and the infidels to fall into the lowest abyss. I bear witness that he who hath known Thee hath known God, and he who hath attained Thy presence hath attained unto the presence of God. Great, therefore, is the blessedness of him who hath believed in Thee, and in Thy signs, and hath humbled himself before Thy sovereignty, and hath been honoured with meeting Thee, and hath attained the good pleasure of Thy will, and circled around Thee, and stood before Thy throne. Woe betide him that hath transgressed against Thee, and hath denied Thee, and repudiated Thy signs, and gainsaid Thy sovereignty,and risen up against Thee, and waxed proud before Thy face, and hath disputed Thy testimonies, and fled from Thy rule and Thy dominion, and been numbered with the infidels whose names have been inscribed by the fingers of Thy behest upon Thy holy Tablets.
Waft then, unto me, O my God and my Beloved, from the right hand of Thy mercy and Thy loving-kindness, the holy breaths of Thy favours, that they may draw me away from myself and from the world unto the courts of Thy nearness and Thy presence. Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee. Thou, truly, hast been supreme over all things.
The remembrance of God and His praise, and the glory of God and His splendour, rest upon Thee, O Thou Who art His Beauty! I bear witness that the eye of creation hath never gazed upon one wronged like Thee. Thou wast immersed all the days of Thy life beneath an ocean of tribulations. At one time Thou wast in chains and fetters; at another Thou wast threatened by the sword of Thine enemies. Yet, despite all this, Thou didst enjoin upon all men to observe what hath been prescribed unto Thee by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
May my spirit be a sacrifice to the wrongs Thou didst suffer, and my soul be a ransom for the adversities Thou didst sustain. I beseech God by Thee and by them whose faces have been illumined with the splendours of the light of Thy countenance, and who, for love of Thee, have observed all whereunto they were bidden, to remove the veils that have come between Thee and Thy creatures and to supply me with the good of this
world and the world to come. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Compassionate.
Bless Thou, O Lord my God, the Divine Lote-Tree and its leaves, and its boughs, and its branches, and its stems, and its offshoots, as long as Thy most excellent titles will endure and Thy most august attributes will last. Protect it, then, from the mischief of the aggressor and the hosts of tyranny. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the Most Powerful. Bless Thou, also, O Lord my God, Thy servants and Thy handmaidens who have attained unto Thee. Thou, truly, art the All-Bountiful, Whose grace is infinite. No God is there save Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.
* * *
The Master sent to `Akka for the box in which the Will of Bahá'u'lláh had been locked up for two years. On the ninth day after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh the Will was read by Mirza Majdi'd-Din* to all the men friends, in the presence of the Master.
The friends showed great joy that their beloved Master had been appointed by Jamal-i-Mubarak to be their Protector, their Leader, their Guide.
The Master then came to see us, the ladies of the household. We called together the servitors, and, when we were all assembled, the Will was read to us by Majdi'd-Din, at the request of the Master.
The mother of Muhammad-`Ali, expressed herself, at that time, as being pleased at the appointment of the eldest son.
Whilst we were all at Bahji there was a serious outbreak of cholera in the town of `Akka. Now it was the custom that members of the family should remain in the house of the departed one for a period of forty days. But the mother of Muhammad-`Ali, and her other sons, showed us by many discourtesies that they did not wish us to remain. *The son of Bahá'u'lláh's brother, Miza Musa.
Accordingly, in spite of the raging cholera, we all, Sarkar-i-Aqa, Khanum, my mother, my sisters, and I, left Bahji and returned to our house at `Akka, trusting in the protection of God.
We were almost the only family left in Akka. Most of the people had fled in fear of the terror; others had died in great numbers. We children were much frightened, the sight of the poor dead people being carried out for burial appalled us.
We heard that Sarka-i-Aqa asked for those Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh which He had revealed for many of the friends, and for others, concerning the Cause. Muhammad-`Ali replied: "There are no such papers."
After bringing us back to `Akka, the Master went back to the shrine at Bahji, returning to us next day very sad; the two younger half-brothers were with Him. My mother asked them to stay and help Sarkar-i-Aqa with the numberless matters needing to be done. They refused, saying that they were too busy. There was no man of the family to assist our beloved Father in all the work of that difficult time.
After nine days Sarkar-i-Aqa wrote a Tablet telling the sad news, directing that it be copied and sent to all the friends in Persia.
* * * The first message of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to His friends throughout the world after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh.*
He Is the All-Glorious The world's great Light, once resplendent upon all mankind has set, to shine everlastingly from the Abha Horizon, His Kingdom of fadeless glory, shedding splendour upon His loved ones from on high, and breathing into their hearts and souls the breath of eternal life. O ye beloved of the Lord! Beware, beware lest ye hesitate and waver. Let not fear fall upon you, neither be troubled nor
dismayed. Take ye good heed lest this calamitous day slacken the flames of your ardour, and quench your tender hopes. To-day is the day for steadfastness and constancy. Blessed are they that stand firm and immovable as the rock, and brave the storm and stress of this tempestuous hour. They, verily, shall be the recipients of God's grace, shall receive His divine assistance, and shall be truly victorious. The Sun of Truth, that most great Light, has set upon the horizon of the world to rise with deathless splendour over the Realm of the Limitless. In His Most Holy Book He calleth the firm and steadfast and His friends: "O peoples of the world! Should the radiance of My beauty be veiled, and the temple of My body be hidden, feel not perturbed, nay arise and bestir yourselves, that My Cause may triumph, and My Word be heard by all mankind."
The Marriage of Diyaiyyih Khanum
The ladies of the family were helpless, as according to the Muslim law, they were unable to speak to any man, even on business affairs; so that it was only within the house that we were able to do anything at all to lighten the burden of our beloved Master.
The time passed on until about three years after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, when the conditions of our lives, owing to the ceaseless action of the enemy (cunningly devised false representations and accusations), became much more difficult.
Suddenly the Master went to Tiberias to spend some time in retreat. He was accompanied by one servant only.
We, the ladies of the family,* were much in despair; we had no man to do anything for us; none that we could trust; our veiling kept us, of necessity, almost prisoners.
There was a certain young man, of the family of the Bab (the members of which were given the name of "Afnan"), who had for some time been wishing to be accepted by the family of Bahá'u'lláh as husband of the eldest granddaughter.
Bahá'u'lláh had once asked His daughter, Bahiyyih Khanum, to tell Aqa(the Master) "that this young man Aqa Mirza Hadi Afnan, is very good indeed, I think most highly of him."
The mother of Aqa Mirza Hadi was very fond of Diyaiyyih Khanum.
After the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Aqa Mirza Hadi and his mother went back to their own country, Shiraz in Persia. They constantly wrote letters to the Master, my mother, and my aunt, in which frequent reference was made to their desire for the marriage. *Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf; Munirih Khanum, wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá; Diyaiyyih Khanum, their eldest daughter; Tuba Khanum, Ruha Khanum and Munavvar Khanum, the three younger daughters.
The mother would speak of her great liking for D'iy'a'iyyih Khanum and add praises of her son.
Now, whilst the Master was in retreat at Tiberias, we, the ladies of the household, were in much distress because of being without any man in the family to make whatever necessary arrangements were required from time to time, to which we, because of being veiled, were unable to attend. Our difficulties grew and increased.
We therefore determined to write to the Master, asking Him to permit the marriage of Diyaiyyih Khanum to that spiritually minded young man, Aqa Mirza Hadi Afnan, who was so anxious to be accepted as son-in-law by the Master, and who had been approved by Bahá'u'lláh
At this time Aqa Mirza Hadi Afnan was actually in `Akka, as about two years after the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh he had received permission to come back.
The tablet giving consent to the marriage arrived from the Master.
Tablet from the Master Every season hath its own condition. Every place hath its own beauties. In the time of spring the blossoming of the wilderness gives loving pleasure. It is a joy to look upon the flowers blooming in the garden. Our ears are charmed by listening to the jocund voices of song birds. Our nostrils delight in the fresh sweetness of thyme and mint, in the fragrance of flowering jasmine, and of hyacinth. We enjoy the delicious fruits, as of the delectable paradise. All these are welcomed with love and joy in the season of spring. But, in the season of falling leaves, it is well to seek shelter and rest within a house. In the time of winter a small room in the simplest dwelling is desired. To retreat into a peaceful cell is a longing. Now, because it is the day of separation, and the time of mourning, the fire of anxiety is flaming; the heat of burning sorrow is, as it were, shrivelling up the universe!
The calamities of my family are beyond endurance, and the troubles of those sorrowful leaves (sister, wife, daughters) are without end.
From all directions the arrows of hardship are being showered upon them, like rain-drops in spring, and the spears of the unfaithful are being hurled upon them without ceasing.
The breezes of peace are being cut off in every direction, so that to breathe is impossible.
Eyes are weeping bitter tears.
Hearts are sore wounded. With hidden wounds are they smitten, Lamentations rend the soul, and the shaft of grief, piercing through all our hearts, joins them together.
This must needs be, for the Sun of the world has gone down below the horizon!
On the table of His departure is set out every kind of harmful viand, and every kind of death-dealing poison!
Verily the table of disaster is spread with every imaginable food!
Oh, family of this sorrowful one, all is sacrifice.
No pleasure is desired by you.
I know your sorrows.
The Mufti may be asked to chant the Marriage Chant at the Holy Shrine on Sunday.
* * *
My aunt invited the family of Muhammad-`Ali to come in the evening. They came and jeered at the simplicity of the wedding with great ridicule.
None of our friends knew that it was a day of marriage.
My mother, my aunt, and we four girls were together.
Aqa Mirza Hadi Afnan arrived.
We said "Bismi'l-lah!"
He kissed the hands of my aunt, my mother, and Diyaiyyih Khanum.
The Mufti chanted the Marriage Chants, and the marriage ceremony was accomplished.
We were all full of sorrow because of the Master's sufferings for the good of the Cause of God.
There was no ordinary marriage happiness. A sense of difficulty and danger oppressed us. We seemed to be under a dark cloud of grief and sorrow, but we all welcomed Aqa irza adi as a great help and comfort in our distress.
THE SPOKEN CHRONICLES
of Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani, and Siyyid `Ali Yazdi
Some incidents illustrating certain aspects of the progress of the Babis teaching during the Baghdad exile period, narrated by
Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani whose life had been linked with the Cause from his early youth:
I well remember the agitation amongst our family and friends when my eldest brother became a Babi.
He had heard a mulla preach in a mosque, expounding the prophecies concerning the coming Imam, and had accepted the Truth. Now, being a Babi, he no longer followed the mulla, to whom (according to the Muslim custom) he had been attached.
Therefore this man became a bitter enemy.
One day he obliged my brother to go to a barber, and have his head shaved; not content with having caused this indignity, the mulla broke a pitcher, from which "the infidel" had drunk, as to his mind it had thereby become unclean!
This was a well-known sign.
It being unsafe to remain, after this, in Kashan, my brother and a friend left for the holy shrine at M`asumih.
They carried brass and copper vessels, the making of which was their trade; these they sold, using the money gained for the journey to Baghdad, which it was their secret intention to accomplish.
One night I dreamed a dream:
Flying through the air towards Baghdad, I arrived at the river separating the old and the new towns. His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh dwelt in old Baghdad, in a part of the town called Karkh. In my dream I saw the thin "Dividing Line of the Day of God" above the river. I flew over that line and came to the house in which Jamal-i-Mubarak dwelt. I saw a window over the door; through this window I gazed, and saw a room
into which five or six steps led. I went down into that room, and there I saw Jamal-i-Mubarak.
After this dream I could not rest for the great desire I had to journey to Baghdad to serve the Blessed One.
At this time one of the friends came from Baghdad to Kasjan; when I asked for news of Him, this reply was given to me:
"Thou asked a question. He will give the answer, though far distant."
At this I knew that I would set forth at once. I gave it out that I was ging on a pilgrimage to M`asumih, a holy place between Kashan and Tihran.
On foot I left the city, walking day and night. I slept, with a stone pillow, full of happiness, because of the purpose of my journey. When I needed money, I worked at my trade of coppersmith in the towns through which I passed. Thus Baghdad was reached, where I rested with my brother, he having already safely arrived.
For the first time, I saw with my outer, waking eyes, Jamal-i-Mubarak, as in my dream I had seen Him.
I was quite ill for a time, about a month, because of the hardships of the journey. Mirza Musa (called Aqayi Kalim, i.e., "Moses who talked with God" by the friends) cared for me until I recovered. My food was sent to me by the holy household.
Five or six friends used to take it in turns to prepare food; after a time we all joined in this plan; it saved trouble, and, moreover, economized the scanty provender we were able to obtain.
Morning and evening we came into the Blessed Presence.
Some mornings He would come to this house of the friends.
In the evenings we used to gather round Him on the river bank, where there was a small garden (Bahá'u'lláh had bought the land, and Aqayi Kalim employed workers to cultivate and plant it). A sort of shed was made here, covered with branches of flowering trees; when sprinkled with water, it was cool and fragrant.
Bahá'u'lláh was very, very fond of this little garden, which was about half an hour's walk from the city of Baghdad. He often went to this garden, where He would be joined by the friends, one by one, very carefully, because of the unscrupulous and bitter enemies, who were always ready to seize pretexts for fresh persecutions.
In this garden we had many blessed meetings in the presence of Him we revered.
At this time He had two houses, one for the holy household, His own family, the other where the pilgrims and friends stayed.
One never-to-be-forgotten day Bahá'u'lláh came to the pilgrim house, and said to us "Aftabam! Aftabam! Dar Amadam - I am the Sun! I am the Sun! I have arisen!"
As we heard these blessed words, it seemed as though all the happiness of the whole world had come to live in our hearts. As we looked upon His shining face, we were in an ecstasy - beside ourselves with joy. Our hearts were flaming within us!*
So enraptured were we, so high our hearts were beating that we could hardly sleep for thinking "In the morning! In the morning we are coming again into His Presence!"
We seemed to be living in an air of spiritual enchantment, of soul-stirring joy.
I can find no words to tell you of what our delight was.
Nothing on earth was of any importance, of any meaning, but that His Holy Presence was here with us.
A friend, being given a piece of bread by Bahá'u'lláh, asked "Give me spiritual food I implore." Some words were spoken to him, we knew not what. The friend became so excited and unbalanced that he committed suicide.
Bahá'u'lláh then said:
"How much better had he made other use of his enthusiasm; if he had gone to Persia to teach the Cause, rather than to uselessly take his own life!"
One day, when He was walking in the garden, we heard Him say:
"No leaf, no flower, no fruit, no bark.
"All wonder why the gardener cultivates me, this tree."
This, I heard, was a quotation from His poems.
There was in the neighbourhood of Baghdad the holy shrine of an Imam; at Kazimayn. The friends used to follow Bahá'u'lláh at a distance, as he rode on a donkey to visit this shrine.
We were alert and ready to protect our Beloved should an enemy attack Him.
On some occasions the Persian Consul, and others of the Shi`ah sect, were at the shrine when Bahá'u'lláh arrived; they agitated themselves vastly, and were much perplexed, not comprehending the majesty in the personality of the wonderful visitor.
* * *
I was told that this Mirza Asadu'llah Kashani was a self-constituted guard, and hid a formidable weapon under his `aba, as he followed the Beloved Master about in those days of danger, although Bahá'u'lláh had made a law that nobody was to carry arms!
* * *
Whilst Bahá'u'lláh was encamped in the Ridvan, there was much wind for some days.
His tent swayed; we thought it might be blown down, therefore we took it in turns to sit and hold the tent ropes so that it might be steady; night and day we held the ropes, so glad, in this way, to be near our Glorious Lord.
All the city came, friends and others, to see Him leave for the Ridvan. There was a great crowd. Weeping women pressed forward and laid their babes and young children at His feet. He tenderly raised those infants, one by one, blessing them, gently and lovingly replacing them in their sorrowing mothers' arms, and charging them to bring up those dear flowers of humanity to serve God in steadfast faith and truth.
What a soul-stirring day!
Men threw themselves in His path; if only His blessed feet might touch them as He passed.
Our Beloved One got into a boat to cross the river, the people pressing round Him waiting, not to lose one of the remaining chances of being in His Presence.
At length the boat put off, and we watched it with sorrowing hearts.
Then we were aware of an extraordinary exhilaration, some marvellous exaltation in the atmosphere of that day.
The reason for this phenomenon we were in due time to learn. When we had seen that the boat was on the other side of the river, we started off to walk to the Ridvan, where we set up His tent, and five or six others for the friends. I helped Mirza Muhammad Baqir to cook, and to make tea for the friends.
The family of Bahá'u'lláh joined Him in the Ridvan on the ninth day; and on the twelfth day, in the afternoon, they went from us, under the escort of Turkish soldiers to an unknown destination.
Although Bahá'u'lláh had commanded the friends not to follow them, I was so loath to let Him go out of my sight, that I ran after them for three hours.
He saw me, and getting down from His horse, waited for me, telling me with His beautiful voice, full of love and kindness, to go back to Baghdad, and, with the friends to set about our work, not slothfully, but with energy:
"Be not overcome with sorrow - I am leaving friends I love in Baghdad. I will surely send to them tidings of our welfare. Be steadfast in your service to God, who doeth whatsoever He willeth. Live in such peace as will be permitted to you."
We watched them disappear into the darkness with sinking hearts, for their enemies were powerful and cruel! And we knew not where they were being taken.
An unknown destination!
Weeping bitterly, we turned our faces towards Baghdad, determining to live according to His command.
We had not been, at that time, informed of the great event of the "Declaration," that our revered and beloved Bahá'u'lláh was He Who should come - "He Whom God shall make Manifest" - but we again felt that unspeakable joy, which surged within us, overcoming our bitter sorrow, with a great and mysterious radiancy.
Before the departure, the Governor of Baghdad had come to offer his services. "Is there not anything I can do?"
"One thing I ask of thee - protect the friends after I am gone.
This only I wish from thee."
The Governor respected the wish of Bahá'u'lláh, and protected the friends at Baghdad, particularly on one occasion which led to our migrating to Mosul:
It happened in this way:
A year after the departure of the Holy One, the days of the "Feast of the Ridvan," which we were keeping with all the joy of our souls, coincided with the Muharram, the days of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn and his friends.
The Shi`ites, being angry that we were not joining the mourning, attacked us. One Bahá'í friend was killed, and several wounded, amongst whom was Badi`, whose marvellous martyrdom was to take place later on.
The Vali (Governor of Baghdad), hearing of the tumult, gathered us into the Governorate for protection from the fury of the mob. He said to us:
"There are many places in the Turkish Empire; if you would be in safety, it is well to choose where to go."
So we knew that we must leave Baghdad.
"Go in two groups - one the week after the starting of the other - I will send a soldier to protect each of you whilst you sell some of your goods; pack up others and make preparations for the journey."
Some of the friends, and I with them, chose to go to Mosul, situated between Baghdad and Aleppo.
A number of soldiers were sent with us for our protection, and indeed they were needed, for, in all the towns and villages through which we went, the people stoned us, spat upon us, yelling execrations, crying "Accursed Babis!"
At length our journey ending, we were promptly locked into an inn - none allowed to go out, none to enter. This was for our protection, so furious were the people!
Thus we remained until the second party arrived.
Remembering the request of Bahá'u'lláh, the Governor of Baghdad had sent word to the Vali of Mosul, requesting him to protect and provide shelter for the Babis. He accordingly had several houses placed at our service, which, though not comfortable, still gave us shelter.
There were about an hundred of us in all, men, women, and children.
As soon as possible we set about our various trades; I to that of coppersmith, and, on the whole, the people were not very unfriendly.
Before we left Baghdad a Tablet arrived, brought by one of the friends, from Adrianople, telling us of the welfare of Bahá'u'lláh, of the declaration in the Ridvan, and of the more public proclamation at Adrianople; so that we started on our toilsome journey with our hearts lightened of the terrible anxiety in which we lived, not knowing the fate of the Holy Family.
Now we were upheld by a preoccupation of the spirit, so that outside privations, stonings, cursings, scorn, and all other ill-usages, seemed to us of small importance as we remembered the joy of that day at the Ridvan, and now knew the sublime reason of that sacred atmosphere.
As we chanted our prayers of praise unto God that the Holy One was safe, that the Great Light which should come into the world had not been "blown out by contrary winds," we were full of happiness, for ourselves and for all humanity.
Time went on at Mosul; we were always hoping for further news.
One day a Tablet arrived by post, which, under the prevailing conditions, seemed marvellous, indeed miraculous.
This Tablet brought the tidings that our revered Beloved One, with His Family, were at `Akka.
* * *
As soon as we knew that the Beloved Ones were at `Akka, I started off with a Persian Bahá'í, who, having escaped from Dahaji, had joined the band of exiles at Mosul. We determined to make our way to `Akka. We walked six or seven hours a day, and coming to Aleppo we rested; thence we walked to Damascus.
Oh, how happy we were as we walked, each step bringing us
nearer to the presence of Jamal-i-Mubarak and Sarkar-i-Aqa.
Sometimes we sheltered for a night in the tent of a Bedouin, who welcomed us with unfailing kind hospitality; again we slept under the stars, with stones for our pillows, always with songs of joy in our hearts, because of our destination.
That preoccupation of the Spirit, as in our journey from Baghdad to Mosul, upheld us, and made all hardships so unimportant that we forgot them.
At length we came to Damascus, where, finding a friend from my native village, also a coppersmith, I tarried with him for ten days.
Then we started off again over the beautiful snowy Lebanon mountains, where the hospitable Bedouins were as ever our friends, and so we came to Beirut, where we rested for a week.
And now the last part of our pilgrimage from Beirut to `Akka. I disguised myself as a dervish. Very seldom did I think it wise to ask to be directed, therefore we often wandered out of our way.
Our exaltation grew. Oh, the loveliness of the land through which we walked, the fragrance of the orange groves, the beauty of the many coloured flowers which carpeted the plains!
We stayed one night in the town of Sidon, surrounded with its luxuriant fruit trees, the scent of which is so delicious; then a night at Tyre. As we walked the "Ladder of Tyre" we saw `Akka in the distance, shining in the sun, and there, in that place were our Beloved Ones.
Great was the caution needed. We arrived separately.
My disguise allowed me to enter the city unquestioned. I wandered about in perplexity, for I did not dare to ask for information as to the abode of the Holy Ones. Fatigue was beginning to overwhelm me.
At length I went to the mosque, where I found a Shaykh who lived near by. I discovered that he was a Bahá'í; "Allah'u'Abha." When he knew of my journey and of my aim, he said"
"Stay here with me, the Master will come when it is evening time."
I waited, breathless with anticipation.
Then from the mosque came our beloved Master!
He was young then and very beautiful.
"Ahval-i-Shuma? Marhaba! Marhaba! Khayli Khush amadid." ("How are you? Welcome! Welcome! Your coming gives me most great pleasure and delight.")
His loving-kindness restored my soul. I was ready to sacrifice my life to once hear His "Marhaba!"
"How tired you must be after that long, long, toilsome journey. I will send one of the friends to you in the morning."
So I rested in ecstatic peace, having achieved the desire of my heart.
In the morning 'Aqa Faraj came and took me to the Khan (inn) where four or five friends were staying. This was, of course, very secretly and cautiously arranged because of the threatened grave danger, at this time never absent from any suspected of being Bahá'ís. I rested quietly at the Khan, recovering from the physical fatigues of the journey.
After fifteen days, I was commanded to fetch my mother and my younger brother from Aleppo, where they were awaiting directions, having journeyed from Mosul, sometimes by steamer, and sometimes riding on mules.
How glad I was that my dear ones were to come into the presence of Jamal-i-Mub'arak and the Master, Sarkar-i-Aqa! I joyfully departed on my errand, walking to Haifa, thence by boat to Alexandretta, thence to Aleppo. Returning with my family the same way, we arrived at Haifa. There we heard that my mother would be received into the holy household, to her extreme delight. My brother and I, however, were to remain at Haifa, not being suffered to go inside the town of Akka.
We therefore remained at Haifa, working at our trade of coppersmith. We opened a little shop. I went round to the houses, selling things that we had made.
My brother and I prospered at our work.
We used frequently to walk over by way of the sea, wading through the brook Kishon to Akka.
We would stand in a certain place, without the wall of the prison, and watch a particular window; sometimes we had the joy of seeing the hand of Bahá'u'lláh waving a greeting to us. We would then walk back to Haifa, delighted to have had our reward.
How we prayed that the Blessed One might have His freedom. It was heartbreaking to think of Him being imprisoned in the pestilential atmosphere of that most unhealthy town.
After some time, when rules were less strict, the Master asked me to come and live in `Akka.
In these days Jamal-i-Mubarak was at liberty to walk freely about the town, and to live in His own hired house.
Our happiness was great when He would come to the Khan to speak to the friends, or when we were invited to the house of His Holiness, where He would receive us with such divine loving-kindness, and wonderful words of gladness and joy, that our hearts and souls were wrapt in an indescribable atmosphere of purity and peace.
No words could possibly convey to you the majesty and glory of His Presence. It is needless to attempt to do so; if only my spirit could speak. But you have known Sarka-i-Aqa, you can understand something of what those days were to us.
* * *
The sincerity and simplicity of this dear old man seemed to make themselves felt in other ways than by the mere words. It might well be that his spirit was speaking; but it was a never-to-be-forgotten experience - one saw the scenes and breathed the atmosphere of the spirit which he described.
Sakinih-Sultan Khanum told me other details of this time:
My husband, Jinabi-Zayn, was exiled from Tihran for being a Babi. We came to join these, whose happiness it was to live near Bahá'u'lláh at Baghdad. When He was taken away for "an unknown destination," we were of those who were bidden to remain.
At length, the time arrived when we were all to be driven forth. Jinabi-Zayn, who was a very learned man, incurred the especially malicious fury of the mod, which, in spite of the protection of the Governor, and incited by the fanatics, took every opportunity of injuring us.
They seized him, and scourged him severely. He, however, in company with a friend, escaped from Baghdad.
The infuriated mob seized all our belongings, so that we were able to save very few necessaries for the journey.
As we left the city, the people, filled with the hatred of bigotry, danced before us beating drums, and with other clashing noises the din was terrible. Those that went before and those who followed after, shouted, yelled curses, and stoned us.
Thus we were driven forth in a headlong flight, the stones wounding many of us; the soldiers, who were supposed to protect us, being powerless to do so in the fact of such unbridled fury.
As we fled, we lost many of our belongings, which we had with difficulty saved out of our looted and wrecked homes.
Many fell and were kicked and otherwise hurt, my poor sister had a knife stuck through her arm; a lady, riding on a mule, with her baby in the takht-i-ravan (similar to a howdah)found that, in the confusion of the flight, the dear infant had gone!
At her entreaty, friends went back and found the sweet, wee girl, lying unhurt on the road; she was smiling, having been protected by her voluminous swaddling clothes.
We suffered much on this journey, both from hunger and thirst, having succeeded in bringing very little food with us in the turmoil of our departure.
The villages through which we passed were filled with bitter enemies, who reviled us, spat upon us, stoned us, rushed at us with sticks, yelling "Let the infidels die of hunger and thirst, let them die."
When we arrived at Mosul, the people of the town behaved in the same unfriendly manner, so that our condition was deplorable.
However, being locked into the Khan (the inn) to save us from injury from the people, the Vali, at the request of the Governor of Baghdad, had some food and water taken to us.
Eventually my husband and his friend arrived in so terrible a plight that we were aghast, and despaired for their lives.
Having escaped from Baghdad, they lost their way in the wilderness. So filled with malignity were the people they encountered, that they dared not ask their way, nor for food nor for water. Their sufferings were beyond description; driven by hunger and appalling thirst to venture near a village, the people rushed out to kill them, and they had to turn and flee for their lives.
Then, with strength almost gone, they reached Mosul.
They were brought to the Khan.
Five days they had struggled on without a drop of water; their tongues were badly swollen; they seemed about to die! We gave them what care we could, and they recovered.
The exiles at Mosul began to call my husband the "Father of the Exiles."
He was not able to do much to mitigate their misery, for all our belongings had been taken from us.
News had been taken to the "King of the Martyred" at Isfahan, explaining the plight of the Babis at Mosul. He, with his usual kindness and generosity, promptly sent corn and other help to them, conditions thereby being vastly improved.
Stray fugitives, escaping from the threatened death in Persia, joined us from time to time, until we were about one hundred and eighty persons.
These exiles gradually made their way to `Akka and to Haifa.
Told By Siyyid `Ali Yazdi
When I was a boy of fourteen (A.D. 1858) I remember a Babi, a doctor named Radiu'r-Ruh; he had been in the presence of Jamal-i-Mubarak during each of the sojourns in Baghdad.
Radiu'r-Ruh created a profound sensation by going into a mosque on the day of mourning, the day of the commemoration of the martyrdom of Husayn.
He cried aloud:
"Oh, people! Ye are waiting for the Imam. But He has come! He is here! He is here!"
He then chanted "God is greatest. Muhammad is His Prophet."
The people said, "Why that chant on our day of mourning, O Radiu'r-Ruh?
"Because the Promised One is here! You wait and wait, and know it now."
I remember seeing him as he rode off, carrying a flag over his shoulder; Bahá'u'lláh had sent him to teach in Persia.
He came to the village of Manshad, where he held meetings, with great caution, because of danger to everybody who was present, as well as to himself. I found out that there were meetings, that my father went in with others. I heard chanting when I listened; sometimes, when I watched them coming out, I saw that they had been weeping.
I ardently desired to know what it all meant.
One day I knocked at the door of Radiu'r-Ruh; he looked with surprise when I said: What is happening? I want to know the meaning of all this; what are you doing - what?"
"My child, it cannot be told to you."
"but I want to know, I must know."
"If you know, and tell what you know, you will cause my death, that of your father, and of many, many others."
"I will tell nothing; only let me know, I promise to tell nothing."
"Very good," said Radiu'r-Ruh. "You shall know."
He taught me, and, my eyes being opened, I saw what he said was the truth, and I believed.
Ten days before his death, Radiu'r-Ruh came again to our village. He read a Tablet from Bahá'u'lláh.
"Human life without the spirit is absolutely of no importance - the spiritual life is the only real life."
The doctor Radiu'r-Ruh kissed this Tablet; to him it was a missive of command from on High.
"My stay in this world is now very short; it behoves me to make ready." He sent last messages to his family with various directions and requests.
When he was therefore prepared for his end, he was summoned to a village near by, where he was received by a fellow-doctor; this man offered him tea into which he had put strychnine.
In a few hours this fearless "Waiting Servant," this faithful disciple, rendered up that human life, which was to him of no importance, to attain, by being steadfast unto death, "the spiritual life, the only real life."
With his latest breath, in agony, he sang praises to God the Beloved, in that He had accepted the sacrifice of his life.