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The Chosen Highway

by Lady Sarah Louisa Blomfield (Sitarih Khanum)

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Chapter 4

PART IV: VARIOUS DOCUMENTS


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Letter from Sitarih Khanum to Her Daughter Parvin

(Mrs. Basil Hall). House of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Akka

2nd May, 1922.

I came here yesterday by train--Diya Khanum, Tuba Khanum, Ruha Khanum, with their three little boys (Riyad, Fu'ad, and Hasan), and a few servants made up our party.

It is impossible to convey in any words the interest of this visit.

Ruha Khanum and I went to the Barracks, and saw the very courteous Military Governor, a British officer in khaki, who himself arranged to conduct our party, when the rest should arrive, over all parts of the ancient fortress castle, the prison dwelling of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abbas Effendi, Their families, and the seventy devoted disciples, who would not consent to be separated from Him, whom they hailed as their Lord, as "Him Whom God should make Manifest," but followed Him into exile, prison, or death.

In the afternoon Mihrangz Khanum, Shoghi Effendi's younger sister, and I sallied forth, guided by the son of an old believer, Aqa Riuda Qannad, who had been with his Master throughout the terrible early days; this Persian Bahá'í took us to see the Khan. This was an inn, where the pilgrims used to stay in that time, when, at length, rules being a little relaxed, and the believers having discovered where their Beloved One was imprisoned, made long, arduous journeys, hoping to see Him. Here we came to the long, stone-floored room, where the friends used to spread out their bedding and rest, also the rows of little rooms where families encamped. There was a room where a school for little children was afterwards arranged--poor little scholars--from early morning till sunset in an airless room, with dull studies, nothing interesting, nothing amusing; no breaks now and then for play! Such scanty, tasteless scraps called dinner!

After the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh there was also a room set apart for the little girls, who were, if possible, in a worse case than even the boys.


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The Khan is a wonderfully picturesque building, built round a large court-yard, with rows of rounded arches and columns on three sides.

Here the Master's custom was to assemble all the poor, especially the children, of 'Akka, on Feast Days, both Christian and ;Muslim, also on the anniversary of the Sultan's coronation. Here He regaled them with sweets, cakes, fruit, and tea. He had the middle fountain filled with sharbat, which was a great treat. After this, we went through the narrow, winding streets of this unique historic town to the great mosque. There we met a polite Shaykh, who had become a devoted friend of 'Abbas Effendi; he turned back with us, and showed us the little room where the Master used to retreat, when He wished to meditate in peace and quiet.

It was here that the Pasha of Yaman lived and died in exile. Of him more in another place.

Then the Shaykh took us into the mosque--impressive in its silent and reverent atmosphere. He pointed out a small alcove apart, where the Master always prayed.

Upon the wall, in an honourable place, hung a wonderful, intricately-written prayer, from the pen of the famous Mishkin Qalam; it is conspicuously signed "Mishkin Qalam, who am Bahá'í."

Other treasures were shown to us: six pen-written sacred books, presented to the mosque by 'Abbas Effendi. Some others, marvellously illustrated with pen drawings (from India). Also many precious volumes, containing some thousands of the Hadiths (traditional utterances of Muhammad).

Standing about were numbers of Muslim religious students, charming-looking youths, who courteously greeted us.

Here was the large court-yard where the poor congregated ;every Friday to receive alms, and make their various appeals to their "Beloved Father of the Poor," 'Abbas Effendi.

Everybody said "Oh, what a loss to the world. He was Comforter, Protector, and Benefactor to all!"

'Abdu'l-Bahá lived forty years of His sanctified life in this fortress town, obeying the precepts of the following Tablet in an absolutely perfect manner.


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Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh

"Be generous when thou hast possessions.

"Be thankful if all be taken from thee.

"Be just to the dependents, reward them plenteously for their work.

"Show a smiling countenance to all.

"Be a treasure to the poor.

"Give good counsel to the wealthy.

"Be careful to answer the appeal of the unhappy.

"Be not deaf to the cry of the needy.

"Fulfil thine every promise.

"Be not full of words at the gatherings together.

"Be just in thy commands.

"Be humble in thy dealings with mankind.

"Be not arrogant when in power, neither cast down when the power is no longer thine."

I am writing this on the balcony outside the room where Bahá'u'lláh lived for about five years.

this house is spoken of as the large house--the house of 'Abbud, the Christian merchant.

Next to this house is the small house, where in one room Bahá'u'lláh lived for twelve years--eight years of which was spent without once going out, even across the street to the Biruni!

In this house were four rooms only:! For the pilgrims and for the family! (The men pilgrims who were single, and the families, were accommodated at the Khan.)

One room, the best, was always kept sacred to Bahá'u'lláh. The family, Asiyih Khanum, the Most Exalted Leaf, their daughter, and the Master surrounded their Beloved with all the devoted care that was possible.

In one of the rooms thirteen persons, pilgrims and the ladies, sometimes slept. A shelf was there, on which an agile pilgrim would repose, and on one occasion rolled off!

This plan was for those days before the marriage of 'Abbas Effendi--when the door was opened through to a room of the larger house. This is next to the smaller house where 'Abbas Effendi brought His bride, and where all His children were born.


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The incident of the opening of the door has already been described in various accounts of this time.

This is the house where the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, and many Tablets of sublime beauty were written. It was also this house which was one day surrounded with soldiers sent to arrest Bahá'u'lláh and the Master.

[Footnote: The story of the events which culminated in this deplorable occurrence are related in another chapter, partly from a Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh written to a friend in Persia, and from a talk by 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the subject, some of the details being given by the Most Exalted Leaf.]

I am sleeping in the room of Asiyih Khanum. I was conscious all night of its benign atmosphere!

After visiting the mosque, we went to see the house, taken four years after the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, where the American pilgrims first stayed, and where all the grandchildren of 'Abdu'l-Bahá were born. In this house, guarded by Turkish sentinels, the Master was imprisoned for seven years, because of false accusations. One of the Sisters in charge spoke English: "Yes, 'Abbas Effendi was a good friend to all. He came to see me, and gave fifty pounds to this hospital. He was a kind friend to my uncle and to me." This house is now a military hospital--British!

2nd May:

This morning the Holy Mother and Khanum arrived, having motored over ;from Haifa; also Ruhangiz, sister of Shoghi Effendi, and Aqa Mirza Hadi--rows of guests were already sitting here.

It was not very easy for us to leave, but all were anxious to visit the barracks, and the kind Captain would be expecting us. We were a party of nine ladies. Aqa Husayn, the cook, who had been with Bahá'u'lláh at Baghdad, and who had determined to accompany us, came to tell us reliable details about all the places, and scenes, of the captivity.

How could I convey the impression of this visit? The Saint Sister, daughter of Bahá'u'lláh, and the Holy Mother, wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, as they stood looking at the little, bare rooms, where their (and our) Beloved Ones were imprisoned! One imagined in what an intimate, poignantly heart-rending flood of memories they walked, as they gazed with grief-filled eyes upon this barrack building, the home for many years of those


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Two--destined to be the Great Educators of the world, West as well as East, that world which is also wet with tears!

There was the little room on the ground-floor, where Bahá'u'lláh stayed for a time, when He, with His family, arrived in 'Akka. This room is being carefully preserved untouched.

Close by is the vault-like room where the rest of the family and the seventy "Faithful Ones" who accompanied them, were shut in for those first appalling days. All fell sick with typhoid but two, 'Abbas Effendi and one man, who, therefore, was able to help Him. The Master nursed them, cooked for them, and Himself divided out the portions--seeing to tit that none were neglected nor forgotten.

The Greatest Holy Leaf, her eyes charged with memories, was with us while we listened. She had been there in that terrible time, and was sick of that same fever, from the effects of which she has occasionally suffered all through her life.

* * *

A Letter from Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper to

Lady Blomfield Sent as a Contribution to

"The Chosen Highway"

Early in 1898 I received a letter from Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, my life-long friend, from California, telling me of a wonderful new religious teaching with which she had come into touch. She said that she felt that it would be of great interest to me, and that when she came to London, she would tell me all about it.

A short time later I was searching in the encyclopaedia for some information about King David, about whom I had had an argument. In turning over the pages, my eye was caught by a name, "Bab." I read on after the name, and found it to be the history of a messenger of God Who had been martyred in Persia, after bringing a new interpretation of truth to the Muslims. There was something in this story of a martyr for His faith that so moved me that I went to the British Museum


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to search for further information regarding Him, and His teaching.

Later on, friends of Mrs. Hearst arrived on their way to the Turkish prison of 'Akka, near Mount Carmel. They were going in advance to make arrangements for Mrs. Hearst to visit the prison. This seemed an extraordinary voyage to make, but when I heard of the great Prisoner there, of His lifetime of martyrdomm, and of the station of His Father, Bahá'u'lláh, I eagerly began arrangements to accompany Mrs. Hearst on so sacred a mission. It was then I learned that Bahá'u'lláh was the Promised One of the dispensation and teaching of the Bab. So I had been prepared.

Mrs. Hearst and I arrived in Cairo, Egypt, after a terrible storm at sea, and remained there for a few days until all had been explained to us regarding our actual journey into the prison city.

We then took a small, miserable boat to Haifa. There was a storm here also, and we were beaten about unmercifully in our all too inadequate steamer. Upon arrival we went to an hotel, where we remained until nightfall as it was too dangerous for us, and for 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Whom we were to visit, for strangers to be seen entering the city of sorrow.

We took a carriage after the night had fallen, and drove along the hard ;sand by "way of the sea beyond Jordan," which led us to the gates of the prison city. There our trusted driver arranged for us to enter. Once inside we found the friends who were awaiting us, and we started up the uneven stairs that led to Him. Someone went before us with a small piece of candle, which cast strange shadows on the walls of this silent place.

Suddenly the light caught a form that at first seemed a vision of mist and light. It was the Master which the candle-light had revealed to us. His white robe, and silver, flowing hair, and shining blue eyes gave the impression of a spirit, rather than of a human being. We tried to tell Him how deeply grateful we were at His receiving us. "No," He answered, "you are kind to come." This was spoken in a very careful English.

Then He smiled, and we recognized the Light which He possessed n the radiance which moved over His fine and noble face. It was an amazing experience. We four visitors from the


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Western world felt that our voyage, with all its accompanying inconvenience was a small price to pay for such treasure as we received from the spirit and words of the Master, Whom we had crossed ;mountain and seas and nations to meet. This began our work to "spread the teaching," to "mention the Name of Bahá'u'lláh, and acquaint the world with the Message."

(Signed) Maryam Thornburgh-Cropper.


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Story of Mirza Ahmad (Eldest Son of Subh-i-Azal) at the

Pilgrim House, Haifa, Told to Sitarih Khanum

Translated by Mirza Aflatun

As Subh-i-Azal (the half-brother and enemy of Bahá'u'lláh) grew older, his eldest son, Mirza Ahmad, left Cyprus, to take up a post in a Constantinople bank.

Two of his brothers joined him for a time. The elder of these came to 'Akka a year or two after the Passing of Bahá'u'lláh, desiring to become a Bahá'í. Soon afterwards the younger brother came to 'Akka, also wishing to become a Bahá'í. He stayed about seven months, during which time the Master was very kind to him.

Early in the year 1921 a grandson of Subh-i-Azal, who had been employed under the British Government in the "Censor" department, wrote to 'Abdu'l-Bahá saying:

"I am very pleased to have become aware that I have do distinguished a cousin. Will you permit me to visit you?"

He came, his visit lasted some time. He told the Master that his eldest uncle, Mirza Ahmad, remembered Bahá'u'lláh being very kind to him as a child in Baghdad; he asked the the Master would permit him to come to visit Him.

He, himself, told the writer in Haifa in 1922 of the great joy it gave to come into the presence of the Master, after fifty-three years!

"All the bitterness of my life was turned into sweetness," said Mirza Ahmad.

"How glad you must be that you came in time to see the Master."

"Indeed yes, I used to wonder why the families should be separated through (as I thought) a difference in the Teaching."

"When did ;you become aware of the truth of the matter?'

"Not until my nephew told me."

"How did your nephew know?"

"It was in this wise: My nephew was engaged in the Censor's


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office during the war. He came across many letters concerning 'Abbas EFfendi, and began to realize something of His station from the reverent wording of the letters addressed to Him.

"It was with great joy that my nephew realized, in the person of this wonderful and holy Personage, the cousin of his father. When the Master's letter came, in answer to one of my nephew, he brought it to me to translate, he not being able to read the Persian language.

"By this letter I began to understand the truth and to deplore the ignorance ion which I had lived for so long.

"I lived in Constantinople for fifteen years engaged in banking work.

"I did not frequent the society of Persians, for I knew they would shun me because I was the son of Subh-i-Azal, the half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh.

"My father had the unfortunate habit of frequently marrying!"


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The Story of Shaykh Mahmud

Told by His Granddaughter, Now Living in 'Akka, 1922

The following story had an atmosphere of its own, spoken in Arabic, by a sweet-faced woman with a beautiful voice fraught with enthusiasm and sincerity, as she was sitting on the floor, near the feet of Munirih Khanum, the wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Listening to the translation by Munavvar Khanum, as the pictures were unfolded scene by scene, that morning, at the house of the Beloved Master, the occasion was one of those experiences most deeply engraved on my mind as I wrote the following:

It was the time of Ramadan in the 1850. The Shaykh and his family had fasted until sundown. Then they had their accustomed meal. When they had finished, my grandfather, then a little boy, cried out "Look! Look! The sun is risen again, the sun has come back!"

The whole family stood looking at the western sky, where a brilliant gleam was shining. It seemed to them miraculous, after the darkness which was there when they sat down to break their fast.

My great-grandfather hurried to consult an old Shaykh who was a much-revered friend. In a state of great distress he related to his friend the episode of the seeming return of the sun, being full of anxiety lest he and his family should have broken the law which requires them to fast until the setting of the sun.

The aged Shaykh made answer:

"You have not broken the law, but a terrible crime has this day been committed in a far-off city of Persia; they have murdered the Mihdi, for whom we have been waiting, who has come to herald the coming of the 'Great One' into this mortal world in fulfilment of the prophecies!

"Oh, the miserable blindness of man! How can such things be?"

On the next day the old Shaykh came to see my great-


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grandfather. He called the young son (My grandfather, Shaykh Mahmud) and said to him:

"Hearken unto me, my child:

"Unto this city of 'Akka will come one day the 'Great One,' He will abide in a high house with many, many steps. His sustenance will be provided by the Government (i.e., a prisoner). Now thou wilt be here, in this city, when He cometh. I and thy father will have passed form this mortal world, but mark well what I now say unto thee:

"We charge thee to deliver the salutation of our hearts' devoted worship unto Him, mine and thy father's."

My grandfather, Shaykh Mahmud, told us that, although still a child, his father and his friend, the old Shaykh, spoke often to him, charging him to keep this, their command, ever in his mind, and to obey "when the time should have come."

Meanwhile, after many days had gone by, the terrible tidings came to us that, on the day of the episode of the return gleam of the sun, His HOliness the Bab had been shot to death in the market-place of Tabriz in Persia.

Time flowed on. The old Shaykh and my great-grandfather, Shaykh Qasim 'Arabi, died, and my grandfather, Shakh Mahmud, grew up into manhood, being always full of love and devotion to his religion, that of Islam.

In the year 1868, my grandfather was told that a powerful enemy of Islam had been brought to 'Akka, where he was imprisoned in a little room at the top of a high flight of steps. My grandfather thought it was his duty to kill such an enemy of his beloved religion.

Accordingly, he armed himself with a weapon secretly hidden beneath his 'Aba (cloak).

He then requested to be permitted to speak with the Prisoner. The reply came:

"Thou hast permission to approach when thou shalt have cast away thy weapon!"

Shaykh Mahmud was greatly astonished at the mention of the weapon, of which he had spoken to nobody.

My grandfather then said within himself, "I am a strong man, I am able to kill this enemy by the strength of my hands, without the aid of a weapon."


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Again he sent his request to be received by the Prisoner. To which the reply came:

"When thou shalt have purified thy heart, then thou mayest come."

Again my grandfather more greatly marvelled.

Then a dream came. The old Shaykh and his father appeared to Shaykh Mahmud and thus spoke to him:

"Go to the gathering-place of the friends of this Prisoner and say unto them:

"Allah-u-Abha.

"They will take no heed of thee at first, then say a second time:

"Allah-u-Abha.

"Still they will ignore thee.

"Then cry aloud for the third time:

"Allah-u-Abha.

"Now one will question thee: 'What meanest thou by this word?' Then shalt thou speak of our charge unto thee, years ago, to deliver the salutations of our hearts' devoted worship."

As he heard these words, the eyes of my grandfather, Shaykh Mahmud, were opened, and he remembered all that the old Shaykh and his own father, Shaykh Qasim 'Arabi, had said to him of the "Great One" Who should come, even to 'Akka, and how He should abide in a tall dwelling at the top of a long flight of steps.

My grandfather sought out the gathering-together place of the friends of the Prisoner, the "Most Great Prisoner"; he was allowed to enter, and all things took place in accordance with the command given in his dream.

The one Who said to him: "What meanest thou by this word, Allah-u-Abha?" was our beloved Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, through Whom my grandfather, Shaykh Mahmud, was permitted to deliver the salutation of their hearts' devoted worship, the old Shaykhs' and that of my great-grandfather, Shaykh Qasim 'Arabi. And my grandfather, Shaykh Mahmud, believed, and all his family.

(Written down by Sitarih Khanum (Lady Blomfield), 7th January, 1922. Mansion of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Haifa, Palestine.)


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The Famous Red Robe "Tradition"

[Footnote: See page 53]

It is related that an account is given of an Indian Muslim, a holy man of the eighth century, A.D., who, speaking of the "Great Day of God" to come,uttered these words:

"In that day the Holy One will be found abiding in a land called Karkh. He will walk beside the river, wearing the dervish turban, and wrapped in a red robe. He will be teaching His followers on the banks of the river. Would that I might be privileged to enter His Presence, and to shed my life-blood in His Path."

The red robe which Bahá'u'lláh wore when He was teaching HIs followers on the banks of the River Tigris was made of some pieces of Persian Tirmih. The wife and daughter of Bahá'u'lláh fashioned this 'Aba in readiness for His return from the mountain land of Sulaymaniyyih. Karkh is the name of the district of Baghdad in which the Holy One dwelt.


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Notes on the Baghdad Period

During the sojourn of Bahá'u'lláh in the desert mountain places of Sulaymaniyyih, the Sufis of those districts, with a profound reverence for Him Whom they knew as the "Nameless One, Who has magnetized the land with His love," came to Him with their problems, craving for His explanations.

Bahá'u'lláh thus speaks of the time in the wilderness retreat:

"We took our departure ... to deserts of solitude, and spent two years in the wilderness of isolation. Many a night we were destitute of food, and many a day the body found no rest.

"Notwithstanding these showering afflictions and successive calamities ... we continued in perfect happiness and exceeding joy."

When He was about to depart from the neighbourhood, these mystical people were disconsolate, and begged to know when and where they should see Him again.

"I go to Baghdad," Bahá'u'lláh told them. "There you may find me."

Accordingly, later on, having discovered His abode, one of these Sufis came to ask Him to describe "the journey of man towards his Creator."

Thereupon Bahá'u'lláh wrote The Seven Valleys.

In that remarkable work He sets forth the lands through which a pilgrim must travel before reaching his destination, which is the "Recognition of the Manifestation of God."

Hasan Balyuzi describes The Seven Valleys as "a gem of mystical prose, unsurpassed in its beauty, simplicity, and profundity."

Whilst in exile in Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh unsealed The Hidden Words.

After His return from the mountain land of Sulaymaniyyih, walking on the bank of the river Tigris, or sheltering in the hut built by His devoted friends, clad in the red garment of


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prophecy Jamal-i-Mubarak, the Blessed Beauty, spoke thus of The Hidden Words :

"This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof, and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfil in their lives His trust, and in the realm of the spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue."

In The Hidden Words we have the true unchangeable heart of all religion, the Voice of the Creator of all things visible and invisible, telling of the Beginning:

"O Son of Man!

"Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, engraved on thee Mine image, and revealed to thee My beauty."

Thus the Voice calls upon us:

"I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name, and fill thy soul with the spirit of life."

It is Love, Love always; but we must do our part. The Voice commands:

"Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant!"

Doing our part, our destiny is assured:

"Thy Paradise is My love; thy heavenly home, reunion with Me. Enter therein and tarry not. This is that which hath been destined for thee in Our kingdom above, and Our exalted Dominion."

Beauty is our inheritance:

"Abandon not the everlasting Beauty for a beauty that must die...."

"O Son of Man!

"Rejoice in the gladness of thine heart, that thou mayest be worthy to meet Me and to mirror forth My beauty.

"Neglect not My commandments if thou lovest My beauty.

Death has no power over us:

"I have made death a messenger of joy to thee.

"Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendour. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?

"The gates that open on the placeless stand wide....

"O Son of Man! Thou art My dominion, and My dominion perisheth not, wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light, My light


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shall never be put out, why dost thou dread thine extinction? Thou art My glory, and My glory fadeth not; thou art ;My robe, My robe shall never be outworn. Abide therefore in thy love for Me. That thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory.

"My calam ity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy."

Our rest and peace are in God alone:

"O Son of Man!

"Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven, yet thou shouldst find no rest save n submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face.

"O Son of Spirit!

"There is no peace for thee, save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behoveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself, since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is.

"O Son of Glory!

"Be swift in the path of holiness, and enter the heaven of communion with Me. Cleanse thine heart with the burnish of the spirit, and hasten to the court of the Most High."

The "Kitab-i-Iqan"

It was during the Baghdad period that the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Book of Certitude, was written by Bahá'u'lláh. It is one of the most important of all the Writings. In it, Bahá'u'lláh "unseals the Book" and discloses the true meaning of the symbolism and allegory of past Scriptures.

"This servant will now share with thee a dewdrop out of the fathomless ocean of the truths treasured in these holy words, that haply discerning hearts may comprehend all the allusions and the implications of the utterances of the Manifestations of Holiness...."

The second part of the Kitab-i-Iqan is an exposition of the station and nature of the Manifestation of God, that Mysterious Being Who, at various times, and under different Names, restores vigour to the dead body of religion and reveals the Truth in progressive measure to the evolving consciousness of mankind.

"The door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being thus closed in the face of all beings, the Source of infinite grace ... hath caused those luminous Gems of Holiness to appear out of the realm of the spirit, in the noble form of the human temple, and be made manifest unto all men, that they may impart unto the world the mysteries of the unchangeable Being, and tell of the subtleties of His imperishable Essence. These sanctified Mirrors, these Day-springs of ancient glory are one and all the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the light that can never fade. Even as He hath said: "There is no distinction whatsoever between Thee and Them; except that they are Thy servants, and are created of Thee." This is the significance of the tradition: "I am He, Himself, and He is I, myself."

We have the privilege of reading this book in the beautiful translation of the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, Shoghi Effendi.


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From Memories of Nabil

[Footnote: Historian of the Bahá'í Faith; author of "The Dawn-Breakers."]

When I was transferred from the Cairo prison to that of Alexandria, the late Siyyid Husayn Appealed to Sharif Pasha on my behalf, protesting that I, being on Ottoman subject, was wrongfully imprisoned by order of the Persian Consular authorities (who possessed no authority over me). I was straightway removed from the lower story of the prison to the higher floor, where there was purer air.

At the same time the Consul was questioned concerning my case.

In this prison I made the acquaintance of M. Faris, a Christian doctor.

He tried to convert me to Christianity, and I endeavoured to make him into a Bahá'í; in this, I at length succeeded.

It came to pass that when I was in the Cairo prison, I dreamed a dream: "His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh, promised me, that after eighty-one days, the hardships under which I was suffering would be at an end."

Now the very day that I was removed from the lower to the upper story of the prison was the eighty-first day after my dream.

Towards the sunset hour I went up on the roof of the prison, where I amused myself by watching those who passed by.

To my amazement I saw, amongst those people, Aqa Muhammad Ibrahim, who was one of the servitors of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh.

He had landed, with an escort, to buy some necessary provisions for the continued voyage. I called out to him "Come up, come up."

He was able to persuade his guard to permit him to come up to me on the roof, the guard escort accompanying him.

Aqa Muhammad Ibrahim told me that His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh, His family, and His attendants had been once


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more exiled. This time their destination was the castle fortress in the city of 'Akka, and now they were on their way to that prison.

This servitor was not permitted to speak any more, but he promised me, ere he was hurried away, that on his return to the steamer, he would mention my name in the Holy Presence.

I was greatly agitated by this episode.

After a few minutes Dr. Faris found me in a very disturbed state of mind.

I had previously related my Cairo dream to him, and he now said:

"To-day is the eighty-first day after your dream, and instead of being happy you are more miserable than ever. Why is that?"

I told him what had happened, that the Beloved of my heart was in that steamer and I had no means of gaining access to His HOly Presence!

The doctor then became as gloomy as myself.

"Had it not been that to-morrow is Friday," he said, "I should have been able to plan some means by which we both could go on board that ship and have the joy of seeing His blessed face."

Doctor Faris said: "Write quickly what you wish to say to Him, and I will endeavour to have your letter, with mine also, taken on board early in the morning to the Blessed Beauty. I know a young man, a watchmaker, who is a Christian--he will doubtless render this service to us."

That night neither the doctor nor myself could sleep.

Early next morning we went up on to the roof to watch the ship, which was visible from our prison. After two hours we heard the whistle of the boat, and the steamer had started.

We trembled as we saw her steaming away, and were full of sorrow that Constantine had not succeeded in doing that great favour for us.

Again we saw the boat stop for a few minutes, then, alas! she started anew.

I cannot describe the turmoil of our minds and the excruciating agony of uncertainty and expectation in those few hours until the return of Constantine, the young Christian man, who


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had undertaken to deliver our message to His Holiness, our Beloved.

The young man, however, came towards us with a packet in his hand.

As he handed it to us, he cried:

"By Heaven, I have seen the Father of Christ."

Doctor Faris, in an ecstasy with tears streaming down his face, seized Constantine and kissed both his eyes, those eyes which had seen the "Beloved."

"O young man, ours was the burning desire, the longing, and the pain of separation. Yours was the bounty and the grace of entering the Presence of the Blessed Beauty."

The packet consisted of a handkerchief which contained a Tablet, written by Bahá'u'lláh's own hand, addressed to me, an epistle from the Greatest Branch, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and a package of sweetmeats sent by the Purest Branch.

In the Tablet, which was addressed to "Nabil," was also written the reply to the appeal of Dr. Faris. Bahá'u'lláh assured the doctor "that he would very soon be released form the prison, in spite of the ill-wishes of his enemies."

According to the promise of Bahá'u'lláh, the doctor was set free on the third day.

He became a devout believer, and began to spread the Holy Cause among the Christians.

One of the attendants wrote a short letter to us describing how Constantine had without any difficulty succeeded in gaining admission to the Holy Presence, when he was able to present our petitions.

Immediately Bahá'u'lláh revealed the Tablet in answer to those petitions.

He sent for the messenger and, pouring forth divine loving-kindness upon him, entrusted into his hands the Tablet.

After a while I, Nabil, was summoned to the Governor of the prison, who ordered me to begone, and to leave Alexandria, for, he said, my presence in the country created disorder and rebellion.


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The Azalis in 'Akka

The high claims of Subh-i-Azal have already been explained and their absurdity shown.

Nevertheless his mischievous intrigues continued to harass the band of exiles in 'Akka.

Subh-i-Azal, with the few who elected to follow him, was sent to Cyprus when the exiles came to 'Akka; two or three of the Bahá'í friends were ordered to proceed to Cyprus with that party, and three Azalis were told off to live in 'Akka with the Bahá'ís. These three, Siyyid Muhammad, Rida-Quli, and Aqa-Jan, continuing the Azali tactics, caused trouble from the first days of danger and difficulty.

The Muhammadan population of 'Akka, being of the Sunni division of Islam, had no love for the Shi'ah world, the other chief Muslims. There was a feud between these two communities.

This dislike was seized upon by the Azalis as a great help in their intrigues against the Bahá'ís.

They, obtaining some Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, altered some of the words, entirely perverting the meaning, thereby making it appear to support their accusation that Bahá'u'lláh was a fanatical Shi'ite and a bitter enemy of the Sunnis.

These enemies posed as devoted Sunnis, telling the already suspicious mullas that "We used to be Babis, but now we are better informed of the truth of ;religion, we desire to become Sunni Muslims. We are no friends of Bahá'u'lláh, who is your deadly enemy. These Babis are spies, and are always plotting against the true religion! The pilgrims who come from Persia are in reality fanatic Shi'ites, for ever working against the Sunnies."

They, the Azalis, being spies and full of cunning, sometimes were able to lay their hands upon Tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh; for this reason the names of the recipients were often omitted, as formerly in the case of the Bab, to avoid danger to the friends.

Another plan was to watch for pilgrims arriving from Persia;


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they would hasten to give information to thew Governor, with lists of false accusations against these innocent, devoted, and very tired Bahá'í friends, who would often be arrested, and rigorously treated.

Altogether these Azalis continued to create an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust, as harsh and uncomprehending as unwarrantable.

Several of the devoted Bahá'ís decided that these stirrers-up of mischief should be silenced.

No more should these traitors bring trouble and persecution and added hardships upon their Beloved One and the friends.

"If these spies and traitors kill us, then we shall have sacrificed our lives to protect the Holy Ones. If we kill them we shall have delivered the Bahá'ís from their most pernicious enemies. Bahá'u'lláh will excommunicate us--that is terrible! We shall then have sacrificed our souls! But this evil shall be destroyed! It shall be destroyed!

In pursuance of their solemn determination they went to the house where the Azalis lived--called upon them to give up their wickedness. They refused.

"Then you must be killed," sternly said the Bahá'ís!

There was a fierce fight, and the three Azalis were killed.

The avengers gave themselves up to the authorities, who were full of perplexity, thinking it highly improbably that either Bahá'u'lláh or the Master would instigate such a crime.

But the people caused a great turmoil, being incited by such fanatics as were enemies of the Bahá'ís.

They were encouraged to believe that it was a case of Sunni versus Shi'ah, that the Shi'ites, amongst whom they counted all the exiles, from Bahá'u'lláh down to the humblest of the friends, had conspired to kill three Sunnis, because of their devotion to their religion. The tumult was violent. The people rushed towards Bahá'u'lláh's house, yelling with rage!

Bahá'u'lláh, in a letter to a friend in Persia, tells how one day, sitting in His room in the "little house," engaged in dictating Tablets to His amanuensis, sounds of a violent commotion were heard.

The Governor, a company of soldiers with drawn swords,


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and a crowd of people shouting and yelling, were outside the house. The Master was in the Biruni (reception room) on the opposite of the street.

Hearing the turmoil, he came out. The Governor was calling to Bahá'u'lláh to come down.

With much difficulty the Master got through the crowd, which was growing denser and denser, and said to Bahá'u'lláh:

"The Governor is summoning you and me to come down to him. I know not why. Something must have happened."

They were both taken to the Governor's room at the Court House.

The officials present rose respectfully and conducted them to seats of honour.

The Governor and his officials were excitedly talking together. The former came to Bahá'u'lláh and the Master, saying:

"You will be more comfortable in another room whilst our consultation takes place."

They were accordingly conducted into the next room. Here they found a number of the Bahá'ís, who had also been arrested.

In this room they were detained for five hours.

During this time, a secretary tells us, the dictation of the Tablets, interrupted by the arrest, was continued.

About one o'clock in the morning the friends were taken to the horrible town prison.

At a later date I visited this prison. It is a vault-like, long, low room, very damp, with slime-covered walls and sticky mud floor. There is no light except that coming through the door when it is open, and the glimmer of a small lantern.

Across the end of the door is a stone seat; on this the jailer sat with a brutal scourge of thongs, weighted with lead, in his hand, ready for use on the slightest provocation, for instance, if a prisoner coughed too persistently, or spoke, or complained.

The prisoners, often too numerous to be able to lie down, were herded together in torturing, ghastly, unrestful misery, their chains eating into their flesh, causing excruciating agony as they and those to whom they were chained writhed in their wretchedness upon the filth of the floor--there were no beds. Sometimes a poor fellow, unable to bear his anguish any


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longer, would go mad and shriek out. The jailer would then stride to him, trampling on the bodies of those who were in his path, and ruthlessly beat him till he lay still, or, as often happened, he died. When he, the jailer, felt inclined, he would unchain him from those to whom he was fettered, drag the pitifully bruised and mutilated body to the door, and cast it out in the prison yard.

I cannot describe the expressions on the faces of the Greatest Holy Leaf, the dear Holy Mother, and the daughters of the Master, as they stood in this abode of horror. It was surely on the most agonizing landmarks of all their memories of the miseries heaped year ;after year upon their Beloved Ones Who were spending their lives for that humanity which, unworthy as it was, despised and tortured and scorned Them, and whom these Great Ones loved in spite of all, praying without ceasing for their pardon.

The old man, Aqa Husayn-i-Aschchi, who went with us when we visited this prison, was one of those Bahá'ís who had been imprisoned here at the time of the Azali affair; he was, therefore, well qualified to describe the conditions of the time and place.

Into this evil dungeon the Master was cast, whilst Bahá'u'lláh was confined in a room on the upper floor.

The next night a telegram arrived from the chief Vali (Governor) of Syria who was in Damascus, ordering that Bahá'u'lláh should be removed from the prison to an upper room, where He remained for thirty-eight hours.

The Master, all this time, was kept in the horror of the prison in chains!

On the third day Bahá'u'lláh was again taken to the Court House to be interrogated.

When He came into the assembly, He said:

"You obey your own law, and disregard the Law of God. Why have ;you not understood?"

The Governor said:

"Will you excuse me if I ask you some questions? We are compelled to do so. Otherwise we should be ourselves reprimanded. What is your name, and from what country do you come?"

Bahá'u'lláh replied:


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"You will find my description in your records. Read them and you will know who I am."

"Nay, but we wish that you should tell us your name, and from what country you come."

"My name is Bahá'u'lláh, and my country is Nur."

"Why are ;you gathered together? If it be your wish to find occasion against me whereby to take my life, my desire is as your desire. When I pass a tree, I say 'Would that thou wert a cross, Oh, tree! and that I were nailed upon thee.' If only you could understand, I would make you hear the melody of the nightingale, who is chanting on a branch of the tree of the Lord, then would it become manifest to you that Servitude is the Essence of Worship."

The Governor said:

"Now we know that the accusation is false, therefore thou shalt be set free to return to thine own house."

"I should prefer to go back to my prison and abide with my friends until the time of their release.'

"We cannot set them free," said the Governor, "because of the turmoil of the people; they must remain yet a few more days."

Bahá'u'lláh therefore returned to His house.

But the Master was left in the prison!

To Him, officials came demanding keys, saying:

"We must search the house for weapons.:

The Master said:

"There are ladies there alone; you must take me with you."

They did not object, but took Him through the streets with chains on His neck and on His feet.

He held His 'aba close, as He went into His mother's room, that she might not see the chains, but they could not be hidden from her loving eyes; she saw them and wept bitterly.

When no weapons were found, the Master explained to the officials how the tragic occurrence came to take place, and, when they understood, the Master was set free.

The men who had been concerned in the affray were tried by the court and sentenced to varying periods of imprisonment.

After a short time further investigations were made; the authorities found out what disturbers of the peace those men,


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the Azalis, were, and what great provocation the prisoners had endured; therefore because of these extenuating circumstances, the length of the sentences was shortened.

Such was the end of the malicious plotting of the Azalis at 'Akka.

(In another part of her manuscript, Lady Blomfield has the following account of this incident, with the notation: "Told by Tuba Khanum"; evidently when she visited this prison in company with the ladies of the Family.--Ed.)

When the Master was told, whilst here in this terrible place, that His house was to be searched, He said:

"I will go with you. You may search freely, but I go with you, that the ladies be not frightened."

The officials seemed too astonished by the authority in His voice to make any objection.

So our Beloved came to us, bearing still those heavy chains. He walked, thus manacled, through the streets of 'Akka.

When He came to His mother's room, He hid the chains under His 'Aba, but she and I saw them, and our hearts were so sore that, weeping bitterly, we felt that we could bear no more.

He cheered us, telling us that He would very soon be with us again. He left us, and this is the place ;to which He returned. His very heart was wounded as He saw the intolerable sufferings of the prisoners. These poor, ignorant children of God! Not a word of His own sufferings, but: "Oh, the prisoners! Surely of all the sorrowful sons of men, the most unhappy, the most hopeless!"

* * *

How often, in the years that were to come, did the Master intercede for prisoners, obtaining at least some amelioration of their condition; again, as frequently happened, He instituted enquiries which resulted in release or shortening of the sentence, according to the facts elicited by the investigations set on foot by Him. The Master spared HImself no trouble, and rested not day nor night whilst any hope remained for these pitifully helpless victims, as they sometimes proved to be, of ill-organized law administration or of a harsh and ruthless officialdom.


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Some Utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá Concerning Bahá'u'lláh

(Table talk at Abu-Sinan during the sojourn in the war days.)

One day in Baghdad He called all His friends together and spoke to them of God. Then He departed from them alone. Nobody knew just where He was. Even we were not informed.

Two years passed.

Some of the time He dwelt in the mountains, again He sheltered in grottoes, and part of the time He abode in the city of Sulaymaniyyih.

Though solitary and alone, and nobody knew Him, yet all through Kurdistan it was spread abroad in the ears of all men that "This unnamed person is the most remarkable personage in the land.

"He is exceedingly well learned.

"He is possessed of a great power.

"He has a colossal, powerful attraction, and all Kurdistan is magnetized by His Love."

But Bahá'u'lláh passed all this time in poverty, even His robes and clothes were of the poor. He ate the poor food of the indigent.

The radiance of Majesty, compelling reverence, was manifested from Him as from the sun at noonday, therefore He was so greatly reverenced in this life.

Then He left Kurdistan and arrived at home in Baghdad.

The Kurds came from Sulaymaniyyih to visit Him, and found Him in great comfort, and they were astonished at the appointments, and all they saw of His surroundings, after coming from the seclusion and poverty of His life in Kurdistan.

They were exceedingly amazed at the difference of condition.

In short, the Government of Persia thought and hoped that the banishment of Bahá'u'lláh, the Blessed Perfection, from the kingdom of Persia would be the means of exterminating the Cause in the land.


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Then they perceived that the Cause spread more and more rapidly. The fame became more widely circulated. The Teachings of the Blessed Perfection became more pronounced.

Then the Chief of Persia determined to expel Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdad.

He arrived in Constantinople.

Whilst in Constantinople He was regardless of any custom. He paid no attention to the ministers nor to the clergy.

Then the Persian ministers succeeded in having HIm banished from Constantinople--desiring to have Him kept at a great distance from Persia.

So His giving out of His Teaching had to be in secret.

In spite of all, the Cause still spread.

They they said:

"We, indeed, are endeavouring to banish Bahá'u'lláh from place to place, but each time the Cause is more spread abroad, and HIs proclamation is more widely circulated through the lands, and day by day His Lamp is shining with a brighter Light. The potency of His Cause is waxing more and more strong. The reason of this daily increasing power and knowledge of the Cause is that He has been sent to cities of so large a population; therefore it would be better to send Him to a penal colony, so that He may be considered as a suspect; so that all people may know that He is amongst criminals; that He is in the prison of murderers, of robbers, and other law-breakers; so that in a short time He and His followers may perish."

Therefore the Shah of Persia persuaded 'Abdu'l-'Azz to have Him banished to the prison of 'Akka.

When Bahá'u'lláh arrived at the prison of 'Akka, through the power of God, He was enabled to hoist His banner. It was at first a star.

It became a mighty sun.

The fame of the Cause of the Blessed Perfection went far and wide, into distant lands of the East and of the West.

From this prison, from within its walls, He wrote epistles to all the kings. He summoned them to arbitration and the Most Great Peace.

Some of the sovereigns received this summons with haughty pride. One of these was the Ottoman King, another the French


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Emperor; the latter sent no reply; then another epistle was addressed to Napoleon III stating: "I have already sent you an epistle, summoning you to the Cause, but you heeded it not. You once proclaimed that you were the defender of the oppressed, now it became evident that this is no true claim. You are not a protector of your own distressed and oppressed people. You are devoted to your own interests; and this pride of yours, which is supported by your commands, must be overthrown.

"Because of this arrogance of yours, therefore, in a short time God will destroy your sovereignty.

"France will fall away from you, and will be vanquished by a great conquest.

"[On] the banks of its rivers will be places of lamentation and mourning.

"The women of France will weep and bemoan the loss of their sons."

Such was the arraignment which was sent, and it has been published and spread abroad.

Were you to you read that epistle, you would perceive what an arraignment it is!

Now consider:

One prisoner, single and solitary, with no assistant, neither protector, moreover a foreigner, a stranger, imprisoned in the fortress of 'Akka, writing such epistles to kings! Writing such an epistle to the Sultan of Turkey, whilst He was a prisoner in 'Akka!

Bahá'u'lláh hoisted His banner within the walls of that prison.

Refer to all history. It has no parallel! No such event has ever taken place before. That a stranger, alone and a prisoner, has succeeded in advancing His Cause, and been enabled to spread broadcast His Teachings, so that, eventually, He was powerful enough to conquer the very king who banished Him.

His Cause continued to spread.

The Blessed Perfection was for twenty-five years in that prison. During all this time He was subjected to the persecutions of the people. He underwent the sorrow of the atrocities and banishments of the people of Persia.


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You may learn how they pillaged His property in Persia. How they chained Him in prison. HOw they banished Him from Persia to Baghdad. How a second time He was banished from Baghdad to Constantinople. A third banishment was from Constantinople to Roumelia (Adrianople).

A fourth time was He banished, from Roumelia to the Most Great Prison.

During all His lifetime He had no moment's rest! He did not pass one night in restful sleep for His body!

He bore all these ordeals and catastrophes and difficulties in order that, in the world of humanity, a selflessness might become apparent.

In order that the Most Great Peace might become a reality in the world of humanity.

In order that waiting souls might become manifest as the very angels of Heaven.

In order that Heavenly miracles might become perfected among men.

In order that the faith of humanity might become adequate.

In order that the priceless, precious bestowal of God in the human temple, the Mind of humanity, might develop to its fullest capacity.

In order that infants may be (in truth) likenesses of God, even as it has been written in the Bible:

"We shall create men in Our Own Image."

Bahá'u'lláh bore all these ordeals and catastrophes for this:

That our hearts might be illumined.

That our spirits might become glad.

That our imperfections might be replaced by virtues.

That our ignorance might be transformed into knowledge.

In order that we might acquire the fruits of humanity and obtain Heavenly graces.

Although we are now on earth, let us walk [travel] in the Kingdom.

Although we are needy, let us plead for Heavenly treasure.

Although we are needy, let us plead for Heavenly treasure.

For these bounties to us has the Blessed Perfection borne so great difficulties.


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Trust all to God.

The Light of God is resplendent.

The Blessed Epistles are spreading.

You will shortly see that the Heavenly Teachings have begun, that the Oneness of the World of Humanity is becoming a glorious Reality!

The Blessed Teachings are being spread in the East and in the West.

The Banner of the Most Great Peace has been unfurled, and the great Community of the Kingdom of God is at hand.

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