and the New Era:|
Chapter Three: Baha'u'llah:1 The Glory of God
O thou who art waiting, tarry no longer, for He is come. Behold His Tabernacle and His Glory dwelling therein. It is the Ancient Glory, with a new Manifestation. -- BAHA'U'LLAH.
Birth and Early Life
Mirza Husayn Ali, Who afterwards assumed the title of Baha'u'llah (i.e. Glory of God), was the eldest son of Mirza Abbas of Nur, a Vazir or Minister of State. His family was wealthy and distinguished, many of its members having occupied important positions in the Government and in the Civil and Military Services of Persia. He was born in Tihran (Teheran), the capital city of Persia, between dawn and sunrise on the 12th of November, 1817.2 He never attended school or college, and what little teaching He received was given at home. Nevertheless, even as a child He showed wonderful wisdom and knowledge. While He was still a youth His father died, leaving Him responsible for the care of His younger brothers and sisters, and for the management of the extensive family estates.
On one occasion Abdu'l-Baha, the eldest son of Baha'u'llah, related to the writer the following particulars about His Father's early days: --
From childhood He was extremely kind and generous. He was a great lover of outdoor life, most of His time being spent in the garden or the fields. He had an extraordinary power of attraction, which was felt by all. People always crowded around Him. Ministers and people of the Court would surround Him, and the children also were devoted to Him. When He was only thirteen of fourteen years old He became renowned for His learning. He would converse on any subject and solve any problem presented to Him. In large gatherings He would discuss matters with the Ulama (leading mullas) and would explain intricate religious questions. All of them used to listen to Him with the greatest interest.
Imprisoned as Babi
When the Bab declared His mission in 1844, Baha'u'llah, Who was then in His twenty-seventh year, boldly espoused the Cause of the new Faith, of which He soon became recognized as one of the most powerful and fearless exponents.
He had already twice suffered imprisonment for the Cause, and on one occasion had undergone the torture of the bastinado, when in August 1852, an event occurred fraught with terrible consequences for the Babis. One of the Bab's followers, a youth named Sadiq, had been so affected by the martyrdom of his beloved Master, of which he was an eyewitness, that his mind became deranged, and, in revenge, he waylaid the Shah and fired a pistol at him. Instead of using a bullet, however, he charged his weapon with small shot, and although a few pellets struck the Shah, no serious harm was done. The youth dragged the Shah from his horse, but was promptly seized by the attendants of his Majesty and put to death on the spot. The whole body of Babis was unjustly held responsible for the deed, and frightful massacres ensued. Eighty of them were forthwith put to death in Tihran with the most revolting tortures. Many others were seized and put into prisons, among them being Baha'u'llah. He afterwards wrote: --
By the righteousness of God! We were in no wise connected with that evil deed, and Our innocence was indisputably established by the tribunals. Nevertheless, they apprehended Us, and from Niyavaran, which was then the residence of His Majesty, conducted Us, on foot and in chains, with bared head and bare feet, to the dungeon of Tihran. A brutal man, accompanying Us on horseback, snatched off Our hat, whilst We were being hurried along by a troop of executioners and officials. We were consigned for four months to a place foul beyond comparison. As to the dungeon in which this Wronged One and other similarly wronged were confined, a dark and narrow pit were preferable. Upon Our arrival We were first conducted along a pitch-black corridor, from whence We descended three steep flights of stairs to the place of confinement assigned to Us. The dungeon was wrapped in thick darkness, and Our fellow-prisoners numbered nearly a hundred and fifty souls: thieves, assassins and highwaymen. Though crowded, it had no other outlet than the passage by which We entered. No pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe its loathsome smell. Most of these men had neither clothes nor bedding to lie on. God alone knoweth what befell Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place!
Exile to Baghdad
This terrible imprisonment lasted four months, but Baha'u'llah and His companions remained zealous and enthusiastic, in the greatest of happiness. Almost every day one or more of them was tortured or put to death and the others reminded that their turn might come next. When the executioners came to fetch one of the friends, the one whose name was called would literally dance with joy, kiss the hands of Baha'u'llah, embrace the rest of his fellow believers and then hasten with glad eagerness to the place of martyrdom.
It was conclusively proved that Baha'u'llah had no share in the plot against the Shah, and the Russian Minister testified to the purity of His character. He was, moreover, so ill that it was thought He would die. Instead, therefore, of sentencing Him to death, the Shah ordered that He should be exiled to Iraq-i-'Arab, in Mesopotamia; and thither, a fortnight later, Baha'u'llah set out, accompanied by His family and a number of other believers. They suffered terribly from cold and other hardships on the long winter journey and arrived in Baghdad in a state of almost utter destitution.
As soon as His health permitted, Baha'u'llah began to
teach inquirers and to encourage and exhort the believers,
and soon peace and happiness reigned among the Babis.1
This, however, was short-lived. Baha'u'llah's half brother,
Mirza Yahya, also
known as Subh-i-Azal, arrived in Baghdad, and soon afterwards
differences, secretly instigated by him, began to grow,
just as similar divisions had arisen among the disciples
of Christ. These differences (which later, in Adrianople,
became open and violent) were very painful to Baha'u'llah,
Whose whole aim in life was the promotion of unity among
the people of the world.
About a year after coming to Baghdad, He departed alone into the wilderness of Sulaymaniyyih, taking with Him nothing but a change of clothes. Regarding this period He write in the Book of Iqan as follows: --
In the early days of Our arrival in this land, when We discerned the signs of impending events, We decided, wilderness, and there, separated and alone, led for two years a life of complete solitude. From Our eyes there rained tears of anguish, and in Our bleeding heart there surged an ocean of agonizing pain. Many a night We had no food for sustenance, and many a day Our body found no rest. by Him Who hath My being between His hands! nothwithstanding these showers of afflictions and unceasing calamities, Our soul was wrapt in blissful joy, and Our whole being evinced an ineffable gladness. For in Our solitude We were unaware of the harm or benefit, the health or ailment, of any soul. Alone, We communed with Our spirit, oblivious of the world and all that is therein. We knew not, however, that the mesh of divine destiny exceedeth the vastest of mortal conceptions, and the dart of His decree transcendeth the boldest of human designs. None can escape the snares He setteth, and no soul can find release except through submission to His will. By the righteousness of God! Our withdrawal contemplated no return, and Our separation hoped for no reunion. The one object of Our retirement was to avoid becoming a subject of discord among the faithful, a source of disturbance unto Our companions, the means of injury to any soul, or the cause of sorrow to any heart. Beyond these, We cherished no other intention, and apart from them, We had no end in view. And yet, each person schemed after his own desire, and pursued his own idle fancy, until the hour when, from the Mystic Source, there came the summons bidding Us return whence We came. Surrendering Our will to His, We submitted to His injunction.
Opposition of Mullas\
After His return from this retirement, His fame became greater than ever and people flocked to Bahdad from far and near to see Him and hear His teachings. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, as well as Muhammadans, became interested in the new message. The Mullas (Muhammadan doctors), however, took up a hostile attitude and persistently plotted to effect His overthrow. On a certain occasion they sent one of their number to interview Him and submit to Him certain questions. The envoy found the answers of Baha'u'llah so convincing and His wisdom so amazing, although evidently not acquired by study, that he was obliged to confess that in knowledge and understanding Baha'u'llah was peerless. In order, however, that the Mullas who had sent him should be satisfied as to the reality of Baha'u'llah's Prophethood, he asked that some miracle should be produced as proof. Baha'u'llah expressed His willingness to accept the suggestion on certain conditions, declaring that if the Mullas would agree regarding some miracle to be performed, and would sign and seal a document to the effect that on performance of this miracle they would confess the validity of His mission and cease to oppose Him, He would furnish the desired proof or else stand convicted of imposture. Had the aim of the Mullas been to get at the truth, surely here was their opportunity; but their intention was far otherwise. Rightly or wrongly, they meant to secure a decision in their own favor. They feared the truth and fled from the daring challenge. This discomfiture, however, only spurred them on to devise fresh plots for the eradication of the oppressed sect. The Consul General of Persia in Baghdad came to their assistance and sent repeated messages to the Shah to the effect that Baha'u'llah was injuring the Muhammadan religion more than ever, still exerting a malign influence on Persia, and that He ought therefore to be banished to some more distant place.
was characteristic of Baha'u'llah that, at this crisis, when at the instigation
of the Muhammadan Mullas the Persian and Turkish Governments were combining their
efforts to eradicate the Movement, He remained calm and serene, encouraging and
inspiring His followers and writing imperishable words of consolation and guidance.
Abdu'l-Baha relates how the Hidden Words were written at this time. Baha'u'llah
would often go for a walk along the bank of the Tigris. He would come back looking
very happy and write down those lyric gems of wise counsel which have brought
help and healing to thousands of aching and troubled hearts. For years, only a
few manuscript copies of the Hidden Words were in existence, and these had to
be carefully concealed lest they should fall into the hands of the enemies that
abounded, but now this little volume is probably the best known of all Baha'u'llah's
works, and is read in every quarter of the globe. The Book of Iqan is another
well-known work of Baha'u'llah's written about the same period, towards the end
of His sojourn at Baghdad (1862-1863 A.D.)
After much negotiation, at the request of the Persian Government, an order was
issued by the Turkish Government
summoning Baha'u'llah to Constantinople. On receipt of this new His followers
were in consternation. They besieged the house of their beloved Leader to such
an extent that the family encamped in the Garden of Najib Pasha outside the town
for twelve days, while the caravan was being prepared for the long journey. It
was during these twelve days (April 22 to May 3, 1863, i.e. nineteen years after
the Bab's Declaration) that Baha'u'llah announced to several of His followers
the glad tidings that He was the One Whose coming had been foretold by the Bab
-- the Chosen of God, the Promised One of all the Prophets. The Garden where this
memorable Declaration took place has become known to Bahá'ís as the "Garden of
Ridvan," and the days Baha'u'llah spent there are commemorated in the "Feast of
Ridvan," which is held annually on the anniversary of those twelve days. During
those days Baha'u'llah, instead of being sad or depressed, showed the greatest
joy, dignity and power. His followers became happy and enthusiastic, and great
crowds came to pay their respects to Him. All the notables of Baghdad, even the
Governor himself, came to honor the departing prisoner.
The journey to Constantinople lasted between three and
four months, the party consisting of Baha'u'llah with
members of His family and twenty-six disciples. Arrived
in Constantinople they found themselves prisoners in
a small house in which they were very much overcrowded.
Later they got somewhat better quarters, but after four
months they were again moved on, this time to Adrianople.
The journey to Adrianople, although it lasted but a
few days, was the most terrible they had yet undertaken.
Snow fell heavily most of the time, and as they were
destitute of proper clothing and food, their sufferings
were extreme. For the first winter in Adrianople, Baha'u'llah
and His family, numbering twelve persons, were accommodated
in a small house of three rooms, comfortless and vermin
infested. In the spring they were given a more comfortable
abode. They remained in Adrianople over four and a half
years. Here Baha'u'llah resumed His teaching and gathered
about Him a large following. He publicly announced His
mission and was enthusiastically accepted by the majority
of the Babis, who were known thereafter as Bahá'ís.
A minority, however, under the leadership of Baha'u'llah's
half brother, Mirza Yahya, become violently opposed
to Him and joined with their former enemies, the Shi'ihs,
in plotting for His overthrow. Great troubles ensued,
and at last the Turkish Government banished both Babis
and Bahá'ís from Adrianople, exiling Baha'u'llah
and His followers to Akka, in Palestine, where they
arrived (according to Nabil)1
on August 31, 1868, while Mirza Yahya and his party
were sent to Cyprus.
About this time Baha'u'llah wrote His famous letter to the Sultan of Turkey, many of the crowned heads of Europe, the Pope, and the Shah of Persia. Later, in His Kitab-i-Aqdas2 He addressed other sovereigns, the rulers and Presidents of America, the leaders of religion in general and the generality of mankind. To all, He announced His mission and called upon them to bend their energies to the establishment of true religion, just government and international peace. In His letter to the Shah He powerfully pleaded the cause of the oppressed Babs and asked to be brought face to face with those who had instigated their persecution. Needless to say, this request was not complied with; Badi', the young and devoted Bahá'í who delivered the letter of Baha'u'llah, was seized and martyred with fearful tortures, hot bricks being pressed on his flesh!
In the same letter Baha'u'llah gives a most moving account of His own sufferings and longings:
O King, I have seen in the way of God what no eye hath seen and no ear hath heard. Friends have disclaimed me; ways are straitened unto me; the pool of safety is dried up; the plain of ease is [scorched] yellow. How many calamities have descended, and how many will descend! I walk advancing toward the Mighty, the Bounteous, while behind me glides the serpent. My eyes rain down tears until my bed is drenched; but my sorrow is not for myself. By God, my head longeth for the spears for the love of its Lord, and I never pass by a tree but my heart addresseth it [saying], "O would that thou wert cut down in my name and my body were crucified upon thee in the way of my Lord;" yea, because I see mankind going astray in their intoxication, and they know it not: they have exalted their lusts, and put aside their God, as though they took the command of God for a mockery, a sport, and a plaything; and they think that they do well, and that they are harboured in the citadel of security. The matter is not as they suppose: to-morrow they shall see what they [now] deny.
Imprisonment in Akka
At that time Akka (Acre) was a prison city to which the worst criminals were sent from all parts of the Turkish Empire. On arriving there, after a miserable sea journey, Baha'u'llah and His followers, about eighty to eighty-four in number, including men, women and children, were imprisoned in the army barracks. The place was dirty and cheerless in the extreme. There were no beds or comforts of any sort. The food supplied was wretched and inadequate, so much so that after a time the prisoners begged to be allowed to buy their food for themselves. During the first few days the children were crying continually, and sleep was almost impossible. Malaria, dysentery and other diseases soon broke out, and everyone in the company fell sick, with the exception of two. Three succumbed to their sickness, and the sufferings of the survivors were indescribable.1
This rigorous imprisonment lasted for over two years, during which time none of the Bahá'ís were allowed outside the prison door, except four men, carefully guarded, who went out daily to buy food.
During the imprisonment in the barracks, visitors were rigidly excluded. Several of the Bahá'ís of Persia came all the way on foot for the purpose of seeing their beloved leader, but were refused admittance within the city walls. They used to got to a place on the plain outside the third moat, from which they could see the windows of Baha'u'llah's quarters. He would show Himself to them at one of the windows and after gazing on Him from afar, they would weep and return to their homes, fired with new zeal for sacrifice and service.
At last the imprisonment was mitigated. A mobilization of Turkish troops occurred and the barracks were required for soldiers. Baha'u'llah His family were transferred to a house by themselves and the rest of the party were accommodated in a caravanserai in the town. Baha'u'llah was confined for seven more years in this house. In a small room near that in which He was imprisoned, thirteen of His household, including both sexes, had to accommodate themselves as best they could! In the earlier part of their stay in this house they suffered greatly from insufficiency of accommodation, inadequate food supply and lack of the ordinary conveniences of life. After a time, however, a few additional rooms were placed at their disposal and they were able to live in comparative comfort. From the time Baha'u'llah and His companions left the barracks, visitors were allowed to see them, and gradually the severe restrictions imposed by the Imperial firmans were more and more left in abeyance, although now and then reimposed for a time.
Even when the imprisonment was at its worst, the Bahá'ís were not dismayed, and their serene confidence was never shaken. While in the barracks at Akka, Baha'u'llah wrote to some friends, "Fear not. These doors shall be opened. My tent shall be pitched on Mount Carmel, and the utmost joy shall be realized." This declaration was a great source of consolation to His followers, and in due course it was literally fulfilled. The story of how the prison doors were opened had best be told in the words of Abdu'l-Baha, as translated by His grandson, Shoghi Effendi: --
Baha'u'llah loved the beauty and verdure of the country. One day He passed the remark: "I have not gazed on verdure for nine years. The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies." When I heard indirectly of this saying I realized that He was longing for the country, and I was sure that whatever I could do towards the carrying out of His wish would be successful. There was in Akka at that time a man called Muhammad Pasha Safwat, who was very much opposed to us. He had a palace called Mazra'ih, about four miles north of the city, a lovely place, surrounded by gardens and with a stream of running water. I went and called on this Pasha at his home. I said: "Pasha, you have left the palace empty, and are living in Akka." He replied: "I am an invalid and cannot leave the city. If I go there it is lonely and I am cut off from my friends." I said: "While you are not living there and the place is empty, let it to us." He was amazed at the proposal, but soon consented. I got the house at a very low rent, about five pounds per annum, paid him for five years and made a contract. I sent laborers to repair the place and put the garden in order and had a bath built. I also had a carriage prepared for the use of the Blessed Beauty.1 One day I determined to go and see the place for myself. Notwithstanding the repeated injunctions given in successive firmans that we were on no account to pass the limits of the city walls, I walked out through the City Gate. Gendarmes were on guard, but they made no objection, so I proceeded straight to the palace. The next day I again went out, with some friends and officials, unmolested and unopposed, although the guards and sentinels stood on both sides of the city gates. Another day I arranged a banquet, spread a table under the pine trees of Bahji, and gathered round it the notables and officials of the town. In the evening we all returned to the town together.
Having in His earlier years of hardship shown how to glorify God in a state of poverty and ignominy, Baha'u'llah in His later years at Bahji showed how to glorify God in a state of honor and affluence. The offering of hundreds of thousands of devoted followers placed at His disposal large funds which He was called upon to administer. Although His life at Bahji has been described as truly regal, in the highest sense of the word, yet it must not be imagined that it was characterized by material splendor or extravagance. The Blessed Perfection and His family lived in very simple and modest fashion, and expenditure on selfish luxury was a think unknown in that household. Near His home the believers prepared a beautiful garden called Ridvan, in which He often spent many consecutive days or even weeks, sleeping at night in a little cottage in the garden. Occasionally He went further afield. He made several visits to Akka and Haifa, and on more than one occasion pitched His tent on Mount Carmel, as He had predicted when imprisoned in the barracks at Akka. The time of Baha'u'llah was spent for the most part in prayer and meditation, in writing the Sacred Books, revealing Tablets, and in spiritual education of the friends. In order to give Him entire freedom for this great work, Abdu'l-Baha undertook the arrangement of all other affairs, even meeting the Mullas, poets, and members of the Government. All of these were delighted and happy through meeting Abdu'l-Baha, and entirely satisfied with His explanation and talks, and although they had not met Baha'u'llah Himself, they became full of friendly feeling towards Him, through their acquaintanceship with His son, for Abdu'l-Baha's attitude caused them to understand the station of His father.
The distinguished orientalist, the late Professor Edward G. Browne, of the University of Cambridge, visited Baha'u'llah at Bahji in the year 1890, and recorded his impressions as follows: --
Thus simply and serenely did Baha'u'llah pass the evening of His life on earth until, after an attack of fever, He passed away on the 29th of May, 1892, at the age of seventy-five. Among the last Tablets He revealed was His Will and Testament, which He wrote with His own hand and duly signed and sealed. Nine days after His death the seals were broken by His eldest son, in the presence of members of the family and a few friends, and the contents of the short but remarkable document were made known. By this will Abdu'l-Baha was constituted His father's representative and the expounder of His teachings, and the family and relatives of Baha'u'llah and all believers were instructed to turn to Him and obey Him. By this arrangement sectarianism and division were provided against and the unity of the Cause assured.
It is important to have clear ideas of Baha'u'llah's Prophethood. His utterances, like those of other divine "Manifestations," may be divided into two classes, in one of which He writes or speaks simply as a man who has been charged by God with a message to His fellows, while in the other class the words purport to be the direct utterance of God Himself.
He writes in the Book of Iqan: --
When Baha'u'llah speaks as a man, the station He claims for Himself is that of utter humility, of "annihilation in God." What distinguishes the Manifestation, in His human personality, from other men is the completeness of His self-abnegation as well as the perfection of His powers. Under all circumstances He is able to say, as did Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." Thus in His epistle to the Shah, Baha'u'llah says: --
As Jesus washed His disciples' feet, so Baha'u'llah used sometimes to cook food and perform other lowly offices for His followers. He was a servant of the servants, and gloried only in servitude, content to sleep on a bare floor if need be, to live on bread and water, or even, at times, on what He called "the divine nourishment, that is to say, hunger!" His perfect humility was seen in His profound reverence for nature, for human nature, and especially for the saints, prophets and martyrs. To Him, all things spoke of God, from the meanest to the greatest.
His human personality had been chosen by God to become the Divine Mouthpiece and Pen. It was not of His own will that He had assumed this position of unparalleled difficulty and hardship. As Jesus said: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," so Baha'u'llah said: "Had another exponent or speaker been found, We would not have made Ourself an object of censure, derision and calumnies on the part of the people" (Tablet of Ishraqat). But the divine call was clear and imperative and He obeyed. God's will became His will, and God's pleasure, His pleasure; and with "radiant acquiescence" He declared: -- "Verily I say: Whatever befalleth in the path of God is the beloved of the soul and the desire of the heart. Deadly poison in His path is pure honey, and every tribulation a draught of crystal water." -- Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 17.
At other times, as we have mentioned, Baha'u'llah speaks "from the station of Deity." In these utterances His human personality is so completely subservient that it is left out of account altogether. Through Him God addresses His creatures proclaiming His love for them, teaching them His attributes, making known His will, announcing His laws for their guidance and pleading for their love, their allegiance and service.
In the Writings of Baha'u'llah, the utterance frequently changes from one of these forms to another. Sometimes it is evidently the man who is discoursing, then without a break the writing continues as if God were speaking in the first person. Even when speaking as a man, however, Baha'u'llah speaks as God's messenger, as a living example of entire devotion to God's will. His whole life is actuated by the Holy Spirit. Hence no hard and fast line can be drawn between the human and divine elements in His life or teachings. God tells Him: --
Baha'u'llah's mission in the world is to bring about Unity -- Unity of all mankind in and through God. He says: -- "Of the Tree of Knowledge the All-glorious fruit is this exalted word: Of one Tree are all ye the fruits and of one Bough the leaves. Let not man glory in this that he loves his country, but let him rather glory in this that he loves his kind."
Previous Prophets have heralded an age of peace on earth, goodwill among men, and have given Their lives to hasten its advent, but each and all of Them have plainly declared that this blessed consummation would be reached only after the "Coming of the Lord" in the latter days, when the wicked would be judged and righteous rewarded.
Zoroaster foretold three thousand years of conflict before the advent of Shah Bahram, the world-savior, Who would overcome Ahrman the spirit of evil, and establish a reign of righteousness and peace.
Moses foretold a long period of exile, persecution and oppression for the children of Israel, before the Lord of Hosts would appear to gather them from all the nations, to destroy the oppressors and establish His Kingdom upon earth.
Christ said: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt. x, 34), and He predicted a period of wars and rumors of wars, of tribulations and afflictions that would continue till the coming of the Son of Man "in the glory of the Father."
Muhammad declared that, because of their wrongdoings, Allah had put enmity and hatred among both Jews and Christians that would last until the Day of Resurrection, when He would appear to judge them all.
Baha'u'llah, on the other hand, announces that He is the Promised One of all these Prophets -- the Divine Manifestation in Whose era the reign of peace will actually be established. This statement is unprecedented and unique, yet it fits in wonderfully with the signs of the times, and with the prophecies of all the great Prophets. Baha'u'llah revealed with incomparable clearness and comprehensiveness the means for bringing about peace and unity amongst mankind.
It is true that, since the advent of Baha'u'llah, there have been, until now, war and destruction on an unprecedented scale, but this is just what all the prophets have said would happen at the dawn of the "great and terrible Day of the Lord," and is, therefore, but a confirmation of the view that the "Coming of the Lord" is not only at hand, but is already an accomplished fact. According to the parable of Christ, the Lord of the Vineyard must miserably destroy the wicked husbandmen before He gives the Vineyard to others who will render Him the fruits in their seasons. Does not this mean that at the coming of the Lord dire destruction awaits those despotic governments, avaricious and intolerant priests, mullas, or tyrannical leaders who through the centuries have, like wicked husbandmen, misruled the earth and misappropriated its fruits?
There may be terrible events, and unparalleled calamities yet awhile on the earth, but Baha'u'llah assures us that erelong, these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the `Most Great Peace' shall come." War and strife have become so intolerable in their destructiveness that mankind must find deliverance from them or perish.
"The fullness of time" has come and with it the Promised Deliverer!
The Writings of Baha'u'llah are most comprehensive in their range, dealing with every phase of human life, individual and social, with things material and things spiritual, with the interpretation of ancient and modern scriptures, and with prophetic anticipations of both the near and distant future.
The range and accuracy of His knowledge was amazing. He could quote and expound the Scriptures of the various religions with which He correspondents or questions were familiar, in convincing the authoritative manner, although apparently He had never had the ordinary means of access to many of the books referred to. He declares, in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, that He had never read the Bayan, although in His own Writings He shows the most perfect knowledge and understanding of the Bab's Revelation. (The Bab, as we have seen, declared that His Revelation, the Bayan, was inspired by and emanated from "Him Whom God shall make Manifest"!) With the single exception of a visit from Professor Edward Granville Browne, to whom in the year 1890 He accorded four interviews, each lasting twenty to thirty minutes, He had no opportunities of intercourse with enlightened Western thinkers, yet His Writings show a complete grasp of the social, political and religious problems of the Western World, and even His enemies had to admit that His wisdom and knowledge were incomparable. The well-known circumstances of His long imprisonment render it impossible to doubt that the wealth of knowledge shown in His Writings must have been acquired from some spiritual source, quite independent of the usual means of study or instruction and the help of books or teachers.1
Sometimes He wrote in modern Persian, the ordinary language of His fellow countrymen, which is largely admixed with Arabic. At other times, as when addressing learned Zoroastrians, He wrote in the purest classical Persian. He also wrote with equal fluency in Arabic, sometimes in very simple language, sometimes in classical style somewhat similar to that of the Qur'an. His perfect mastery of these different languages and styles was remarkable because of His entire lack of literary education.
In some of His Writings the way of holiness is pointed out in such simple terms that "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" (Isaiah xxv, 8). In others there is a wealth of poetic imagery, profound philosophy and allusions to Muhammadan, Zoroastrian and other scriptures, or to Persian and Arabic literature and legends, such as only the poet, the philosopher or the scholar can adequately appreciate. Still others deal with advanced stages of the spiritual life and are to be understood only by those who have already passed through the earlier stages. His works are like a bountiful table provided with foods and delicacies suited to the needs and tastes of all who are genuine truth seekers.
is because of this that His Cause had effect among the learned and culture, spiritual
poets and well-known writers. Even some of the leaders of the Sufis and of other
sets, and some of the political ministers who were writers, were attracted by
His words, for they exceeded those of all other writers in sweetness and depth
of spiritual meaning.
From His place of confinement in distant Akka, Baha'u'llah stirred His native land of Persia to its depths; and not only Persia; He stirred and is stirring the world. The spirit that animated Him and His followers was unfailingly gentle, courteous and patient, yet it was a force of astonishing vitality and transcendent power. It achieved the seemingly impossible. It changed human nature. Men who yielded to its influence became new creatures. They were filled with a love, a faith, and enthusiasm, compared with which earthly joys and sorrows were but as dust in the balance. They were ready to face lifelong suffering or violent death with perfect equanimity, nay, with radiant joy, in the strength of fearless dependence on God.
Most wonderful of all, their hearts were so brimming over with the joy of a new life as to leave no room for thoughts of bitterness or vindictiveness against their oppressors. They entirely abandoned the use of violence in self-defense, and instead of bemoaning their fate, they considered themselves the most fortunate of men in being privileged to receive this new and glorious Revelation and to spend their lives or shed their blood testifying to its truth. Well might their hearts sing with joy, for they believed that God, the Supreme, the Eternal, the Beloved, had spoken to them through human lips, had called them to be His servants and friends, had come to establish His Kingdom upon earth and to bring the priceless boon of Peace to a warworn, strife-stricken world.
Such was the faith inspired by Baha'u'llah. He announced His own mission, as the Bab had foretold that He would, and, thanks to the devoted labors of His great Forerunner, there were thousands ready to acclaim His Advent -- thousands who had shaken off superstitions and prejudices, and were waiting with pure hearts and open minds for the Manifestation of God's Promised Glory. Poverty and chains, sordid circumstances and outward ignominy could not hide from them the Spiritual Glory of their Lord -- nay, these dark earthly surroundings only served to enhance the brilliance of His real Splendor.
2. 2nd of Muharram, 1233 A.H. back
1. This was early in the year 1853, or nine years after the Bab's Declaration, thus fulfilling certain prophecies of the Bab concerning "the year nine." back
1. Pronounced Rizwan. back
1. Author of an early history of the Faith, The Dawn-Breakers, Nabil was a participant in some of the scenes he describes and was personally acquainted with many of the early believers. back
2. The Aqdas, Kitab-i-Aqdas, The Book of Aqdas, and The Most Holy Book all refer to the same book. back
1. In order to bury two of those who died, Baha'u'llah gave His own carpet to be sold for the expenses of their burial, but instead of using this money for that purpose the soldiers appropriate it, and thrust the bodies into a hole in the ground. back
1. Jamal-i-Mubarak (lit. Blessed Beauty) was a title frequently applied to Baha'u'llah by His followers and friends. back
When asked whether Baha'u'llah had made a special study of Western writings and
founded His teachings in accordance with them Abdu'l-Baha said that the books
of Baha'u'llah, written and printed as long ago as the 1870's, contained the ideals
now so familiar to the West, although at that time these ideas had not been printed
or thought of in the West. back