"He . . . will also act treacherously toward his king."
Section 1- A Warning
Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, head of the Turkish House of 'Uthman, had conspired with the Shah of Persia on three successive occasions against the Messenger of God, in Whose coming he claimed to believe. Every day the Sultan, as Caliph of Islam, read the Qu'ran in which the divine promise was made. Whenever information concerning Baha'u'llah and His companions reached the ministers of the Sultan, it was immediately distorted and twisted into false accusations against Him. Baha'u'llah and His fellow-exiles were represented to the king as "a mischief to the world" and as "deserving of every chastisement and punishment."
Baha'u'llah wrote to Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, warning him against such deceit on the part of his advisors:
"Beware, O King, that thou gather not around thee such ministers as follow the desires of a corrupt inclination . . . and manifestly betrayed their trust."
Baha'u'llah was concerned more with which such unjust ministers would have upon the welfare of the king's subjects, rather than upon Himself.
"Beware, O King that thou . . . abandon not the interests of thy people to the mercy of such ministers as these . . . He that acteth treacherously towards God will, also, act treacherously towards his king. Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbor, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly."
Baha'u'llah understood only too well the graft with which the Sultanic empire was riddled. He knew how gravely the poor people suffered at the hands of these greedy and corrupt ministers of state. Baha'u'llah strongly emphasized this grave danger in His Letter to Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, saying:
"Take heed that thou resign not the reins of the affairs of thy state into the hands of others, and repose not thy confidence in ministers unworthy of thy trust . . . Beware that thou allow not the wolf to become the shepherd of God's flock, and surrender not the fate of His loved ones to the mercy of the malicious . . . walk not in the paths of the oppressor. -Proclamation of Baha'u'llah, page 48
Baha'u'llah counseled the king to be personally responsible for the welfare of his people. He warned the Sultan not to permit others to seize his power and to use it unjustly by persecuting those beneath them.
"Seize thou, and hold firmly within the grasp of thy might, the reins of the affairs of thy people, and examine in person whatever pertaineth unto them. Let nothing escape thee, for therein lieth the highest good . . . Thou canst best praise Him [God] if thou lovest His loved ones, and dost safeguard and protect His servants from the mischief of the treacherous, that none may any longer oppress them." -Gleanings, page 234
These warnings went unheeded. 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, enormously self-indulgent, surrendered all practical concerns into the hands of some of the most ambitious and amoral politicians in his domains. They could assure him stability and prosperity, he felt.
In fact their greed and injustice were to pull the Sultan and his throne down when they themselves fell.
"Leave it to God and history to judge between us."
Section 2- The Strong City
The tempo of Baha'u'llah's call to the rulers of the world was greatly increased and intensified during these "days of stress." The greater His sufferings, the more forceful was Baha'u'llah's call to the world to arise and eliminate all prejudice and injustice.
"O kings of the earth! We see you increasing every year your expenditures, and laying the burden thereof on your subjects. This, verily, is wholly and grossly unjust. Fear the sighs and tears of this wronged One, and lay not excessive burdens on your peoples."
And, in one of His most moving denunciations of such tyrant kings as Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz of Turkey, Baha'u'llah wrote:
Do not rob them (your people) to rear palaces for yourselves; nay rather choose for them that which ye choose for yourselves. Thus We unfold to your eyes that which profiteth you, if ye but perceive."
He urged the leaders of men to look upon their subjects as their most important and valued asset. He said:
"O kings of the earth . . . Your people are your treasures. Beware lest your rule violate the commandments of God, and ye deliver your wards to the hands of the robber. By them ye rule, by their means ye subsist, by their aid ye conquer. Yet, how disdainfully ye look upon them! How strange, how very strange!" -Gleanings, pages 253-254
Baha'u'llah's strong defense of the rights of the poor and downtrodden against the mighty rulers of earth was yet another of those remarkable events which had been foreseen so long ago in sacred Scripture. The Old Testament had prophesied:
"O give thanks unto the Lord . . . To him which smote great kings . . . Who remembered us in our low estate . . . And hath redeemed us from our enemies."
Baha'u'llah had done just that. The time for the redemption of all the peoples of the earth from such enemies had arrived. The hour for the "smiting" of great kings had come.
Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz ignored Baha'u'llah's Counsels. In spite of all his warnings, the Sultan permitted his ministers to continue their persecution of the Prisoner and His companions. Baha'u'llah then forecast the inevitable retribution that would soon overtake the king, reminding the Sultan in these words:
" . . . ye failed utterly to take heed . . . ye waxed more heedless . . . Be expectant, however, for the wrath of God is ready to overtake you. Erelong will ye behold that which hath been sent down from the Pen of My command."
Baha'u'llah's Words to the leaders of men made it unmistakably clear that this grave world-wide struggle in which entire kingdoms were involved, was not conflict between Himself and those who were in authority. It was a planetary clash between those who loved the things of God and those who loved the things of men. It was an inevitable battle between physical and moral forces. It was a world-wide struggle between the material and the spiritual; between age-old inequities on the one hand and true justice on the other.
All the tragedies now engulfing the world had come about because mankind had turned away from God and was drowning in purely materialistic concerns. Man's animal nature was conquering him, and until men turned back to God, they would continue to suffer greater tragedies and more violent calamities. For this reason, Baha'u'llah called upon the kings to assist Him in rescuing mankind from this threatening disaster. He could only point the way and give the guidance. The leadership must come from the temporal rulers of men.
Baha'u'llah challenged the Sultan, his ministers, and his priests to examine the Baha'i Teachings with an open mind. He made it plain that if this Faith was true, there was no king who could prevent its rising. No man can hold back the sun of a new day.
Baha'u'llah also pointed out that if this Faith was not the truth, then a sincere and thorough examination by the Sultan, his ministers and priests would immediately reveal its fraudulent nature, and they would easily be able to vanquish it. What were they afraid of finding out by an open and sincere investigation?
"If this Cause be of God, no man can prevail against it; and if it be not of God, the divines [religious leaders] amongst you . . . will surely suffice to overpower it." -Gleanings, page 220
Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz was not interested in investigating anything Baha'u'llah might have to say. He was only interested in silencing Him. The sooner the better. The Sultan had signed the edict banishing Baha'u'llah to the fortress of 'Akka so that he might put an end to His memory.
Even at that late date, Baha'u'llah was still trying to open the eyes of the king and the clergy by showing them the remarkable fulfillment of the promises from their own Holy Books. Baha'u'llah had been brought into the "Strong City" hailed by David, by the edict of the Sultan. Baha'u'llah pointed out that this was one of the least prophecies fulfilled by the acts of His enemies.
These words Baha'u'llah said simply and bluntly to all:
"Leave it to God and history to judge between us."
"Soon will We lay hold on the chief of the land."
Section 3- A Roll of Drums
Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, the "self-styled Vicar of the Prophet of Islam and the absolute ruler of a mighty empire" was "the first among the Oriental monarchs to sustain the impact of God's retributive justice." Baha'u'llah was not content to send only a verbal warning to the King of Turkey and his ministers. He also put it in writing. In forceful, unmistakable language for all men to see for all time, Baha'u'llah foretold their imminent downfall.
The Prime Minister, 'Ali Pasha, and the Foreign Minister, Fu'ad Pasha, and the Persian Ambassador, Mirza Husayn Khan, had all conspired in securing Baha'u'llah's successive banishments. Fu'ad Pasha was described by Baha'u'llah as the "instigator" of the fourth and final banishment to the prison of 'Akka. Fu'ad Pasha, to satisfy his foreign policy aims with relation to Persia, encouraged his fellow conspirator 'Ali Pasha to excite the fears and suspicions of Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz. The Sultan needed little encouragement.
There was nothing vague or ambiguous about the words which Baha'u'llah addressed to these ministers. It was an open challenge. Baha'u'llah directed it specifically to the ministers of the Turkish state. He warned them, and through them all leaders in a similar position of authority, about what would happen to those who were unjust and unscrupulous in their discharge of public trust:
"It behoveth you, O Ministers of State, to keep the precepts of God . . . and to be of them who are guided aright . . . Ye shall, erelong, discover the consequences of that which ye shall have done in this vain life, and shall be repaid for them." -Gleanings, page 123Baha'u'llah added the following words:
"The days of your life shall roll away, and all the things with which ye are occupied and of which ye boast yourselves shall perish . . . This is the day that shall inevitably come upon you, the hour that none can put back." -Gleanings, page 125
Fu'ad Pasha was the first to feel the sting of requital. Within a year following Baha'u'llah's arrival at the prison-city of 'Akka, the Foreign Minister was struck down while on a trip to Paris, and died at Nice, his plotting and ambitions perishing with him.
Baha'u'llah directed a second letter to the Turkish Prime Minister, 'Ali Pasha. He described that Minister as the type of leader who in every age denounces and persecutes the Messengers of God. 'Ali Pasha like Nasiri'd-din Shah of Persia, regarded himself as the hope of Turkey. His modernization program was to make the ramshackle empire a powerful nation. Far from weakening the Sultan's dictatorship, this program would give the government still greater control.
Baha'u'llah foretold the ruin of the Prime Minister. He warned 'Ali Pasha not to be misled because of his present authority and high position, but to meditate on the significant premature death of his colleague, and be warned.
Baha'u'llah foreshadowed the calamities which would soon strike both the Prime Minister and the Sultan himself. Baha'u'llah wrote openly of those forthcoming tragedies so that all the world might know that He had clearly predicted their downfall. Baha'u'llah wrote:
"Soon will We dismiss the one ['Ali Pasha] who was like unto him [Fu'ad Pasha] and will lay hold on their chief [Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz] who ruleth the land . . . "
The prophecy was dramatically fulfilled. Without warning, 'Ali Pasha was suddenly shorn of all his power. He was summarily dismissed from office and shortly afterward died in complete oblivion. The political career that was to be the "hope of Turkey" had been short-lived.
Baha'u'llah also prophesied concerning the city Adrianople. He described the tragedies that would befall the city and its peoples because of the neglect of justice not only by the King and his Ministers, but by the people themselves.
Baha'u'llah's words now echo like a "roll of drums":
"The day is approaching when the Land of Mystery [Adrianople], and what is beside it shall be changed, and shall pass out of the hands of the king, and commotions shall appear, and the voice of lamentation shall be raised . . . by reason of that which hath befallen these captives at the hands of the hosts of oppression."
Baha'u'llah also prophesied:
"The course of things shall be altered, and conditions shall wax so grievous, that the very sand on the desolate hills will moan, and the trees on the mountain will weep, and blood will flow out of all things. Then wilt thou behold the people in sore distress."
Baha'u'llah reminded Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, the head of the House of 'Uthman that, like his fellow-rulers, he had time and time again ignored the needs and requirements of this present day. 'Abdu'l-'Aziz was unmoved by the sufferings of his people. He was totally uninterested in any suggestions for reform which came from the Pen of the Prisoner.
In order that the Sultan should have no doubt whatsoever about the meaning of His words, Baha'u'llah stated:
"Soon will He [God] seize you in His wrathful anger, and sedition will be stirred up in your midst, and your dominions will be disrupted. Then will ye bewail and lament, and will find no one help or succor you . . . "
Like those to Napoleon III and other monarchs this prophecy was fulfilled with terrifying swiftness. 'Abdu'l-'Aziz' misrule, of which his mistreatment of Baha'u'llah was a classic example, drove elements in the empire to desperation. They were not inclined, as Baha'u'llah was, to trust in God for redress. We noted earlier in this book the events which followed. Without warning a palace revolution overthrew the imperial government. The Sultan, whose very person was regarded as sacred, was seized by rude hands and imprisoned. The revolutionaries deposed him in favor of his nephew, 'Abdu'l-Hamid, whom they believed they could rule.
The one remaining problem was what to do with the fallen monarch. The once all-powerful head of church and state had become merely an embarrassment.
The problem was solved in the same way that 'Abdu'l-'Aziz had solved his own problems. Early one morning the wretched king heard footsteps enter the room in which he was held. They were the last thing he heard.
"Fear God, inhabitants of the city."
Section 4- The Sixth Kingdom Falls!
Through the reign of 'Abdu'l-Hamid II uprisings increased in both intensity and violence. Finally, in 1909, an army sent by the Young Turks of Salonika marched in revenge upon the capital. It punished all who had opposed its plans for reform, and took steps to deal with Sultan 'Abdu'l- Hamid II himself.
'Abdu'l-Hamid was deserted by his friends and condemned by his subjects. He was already hated by his fellow-sovereigns of Europe. The Sultan was forced to abdicate his throne, and like 'Abdu'l-'Aziz was made a prisoner of the state. He was sent into perpetual exile.
Thus 'Abdu'l-Hamid II, as had his uncle before him, suffered the same punishments which they had inflicted upon Baha'u'llah and His family. An even more terrible fate awaited the imperial ministers who had encouraged the kings in their injustice and had profited handsomely in the course of doing so.
On one single day in 1909, no less than thirty-one leading ministers and officials were arrested and condemned to the gallows. Among the thirty-one were some of the most notorious enemies of Baha'u'llah's faith.
Constantinople itself, which had been honored as splendid metropolis of the Roman Empire, and which had been made the capital of the Ottoman government, was abandoned as a capital city by the revolution. The city was stripped of its pomp and glory. Even its ancient name was dropped in favor of the colloquial "Istanbul." Ankara became the new capital.
The fate of Constantinople brought sharply to mind Baha'u'llah's words. Baha'u'llah had spoken of the condition in which He found the city of Constantinople and its peoples when He arrived there as a Prisoner:
"We found, upon Our arrival in the City, its governors and elders as children gathered about and disporting themselves with clay . . . Our inner eye wept sore over them, and over their transgressions and their total disregard of the thing for which they were created.-Gleanings, pages 126-127
There was none to listen among the people of Constantinople. Baha'u'llah warned that the city of Constantinople would feel the fire of divine reprisal. "God, assuredly, dominateth the lives of them that wronged Us, and is well aware of their doings. He will, most certainly, lay hold on them for their sins. He, verily, is the fiercest of avengers."-Gleanings, page 130
Constantinople lost "in theory, as well as in fact, the position held well-nigh uninterruptedly for six centuries -- that of the headship of a vast empire." The Ottoman Empire was ended. The revolutionaries were determined that the capital should be dishonored as well. "No longer," they announced, "will Constantinople exact a tragic tribute of lives and treasure."
The mosques of the capital were deserted. The pride and joy of them all, the peerless St. Sophia, was converted into a museum. The Arabic tongue, the language of the Prophet, was banished from the land.
Baha'u'llah's words ring clearly for those who have "ears to hear":
"O Spot that art situate on the shores of the two seas (Constantinople)! The throne of tyranny hath, verily, been established upon thee, and the flame of hatred hath been kindled within thy bosom . . . We behold in thee the foolish ruling over the wise, and darkness vaunting itself against the light. Thou art indeed filled with manifest pride. Hath thine outward splendour made thee vainglorious? By Him Who is the Lord of mankind! It shall soon perish, and thy daughters and thy widows and all the kindreds that dwell within thee shall lament. Thus informeth thee the All-Knowing, the All-Wise."- The Kitab-i-Aqdas, pages 52-53
How similar are Baha'u'llah's words to those which the persecuted Christ pronounced against Jerusalem "because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation." The break was final and complete. The new capital of Turkey was transferred to Ankara. Constantinople, the "Dome of Islam," hailed by Constantine as the "New Rome," high-ranking metropolis of both Rome and Christendom, "revered as the seat of the Caliphs" of Islam, was relegated to the station of a provincial city, was stripped of all its pomp and glory: "its soaring and slender minarets standing sentinel at the grave of so much vanished splendor and power."
The sixth kingdom had fallen!