"His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?"
Section 1- Assassin! Assassin!
The hour had now come for the king of Persia himself to experience the retribution which his actions had entailed. Nasiri'd-Din Shah was soon to be made, as promised by Baha'u'llah, "an object-lesson for the world."
It happened on the occasion of the great jubilee celebration organized by the Shah to honor his own station. The king looked forward to this occasion as his most glorious hour. He had elaborately planned to inaugurate a new era, one which he hoped would perpetuate his name in history.
The Shah was greatly impressed by European civilization. Unlike his predecessors he had visited France and other Western nations, and sought to be remembered as the ruler who modernized Persia.
History had other plans.
Nasiri'd-Din Shah went into the shrine of 'Abdu'l-'Azim to offer prayers on the eve of this historic occasion. Tomorrow, he told himself, he would campaign to woo back the affections of his subjects.
Bonfires lighted the night skies. Banners proclaimed the titles of the king. Trumpets and cymbals and drums declared on all sides the might and majesty of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, the king of Persia. Suddenly, without warning, the hand of the assassin struck. The royal sovereign fell dead on the pavement, of the shrine. His ministers and companions were thrown into a panic. They were paralyzed by what had happened.
In order to delay the news of the Shah's slaying, they carried his body from the shrine, and propped it up in the royal carriage. The dead king was supported by the Prime Minister himself as the carriage rolled through the streets.
The banners waved, the band struck up the music, the intimidated crowd shouted aloud its empty praise of a king it neither loved nor respected. The great jubilee festival was underway. It proclaimed a king who had become a propped-up corpse.
The Shah's terror-stricken ministers, not knowing who might be next, passed along the dreaded words which were to become the signature of our modern political age:
The assassination of Nasiri'd-Din Shah was at first blamed on the Baha'i community. Like the Christians, in ancient Rome or the Jews under Nazism, whenever any difficulty arose anywhere in the kingdom, the Baha'is were the primary suspects, targets and victims. The actual assassin was a certain Mirza Rida, a follower of the notorious revolutionary Siyyid Mamalu'd-Din-i-Afghani, who was a bitter and outspoken enemy of the Baha'i Faith.
The fiendish minds which had slain over twenty thousand of the followers of this Faith, could not believe that their victims did not spend their days and nights in hatred, plotting revenge against their slayers. It was what they themselves would do, why not the Baha'is?
How little they knew of Baha'u'llah's Teachings. He had denounced violence, and had forbade the taking of life--"It is better to be killed than to kill another." His Teachings threw into sharp contrast the integrity of His followers and the cruelty and prejudice of Persia's rulers. Shortly before Nasiri'd-Din Shah's death, a renowned teacher and poet, called Varqa, had been seized along with his twelve year old son, Ruhu'llah. They were held together in the prison of Teheran.
A brutal officer, the Hajibu'd-Dawlih forced the son to stand and watch as he thrust a sword into the stomach of the boy's father. Unable to make Varqa plead for mercy, the enraged officer began to hack the father to pieces before the eyes of his son. Then he turned to Ruhu'llah.
"Now will you recant your faith?" he asked." The boy's refusal was firm: "Never! Never!" Frustrated with anger the Hajibu'd-Dawlih seized a rope and strangled the child.
It is nor surprising that Baha'u'llah included the people of Persia who had so ruthlessly persecuted His Faith in His declaration that no one could dim God's shining light in the hearts of men once it had been ignited. He said:
"Give heed to My warning, ye people of Persia! . . . He [God] shall perfect His light, albeit ye abhor it in the secret of your hearts." -Gleanings, pages 224-225
The House of the Qajar dynasty began to collapse about its kings. All the efforts to buttress it and prevent its downfall ended in failure.
The words of Isaiah the prophet seemed to echo from past centuries:
"The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked and the scepter of the rulers . . . For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?"
The dynasty of Nasiri'd-Din Shah was rapidly approaching extinction. The walls were caving in on all sides. Soon every last one of its mighty kings and princes would be buried beneath the avalanche.
"This is the hour that no one can hold back!"
Section 2- Prince of Oppressors
In one of His warnings Baha'u'llah foreshadowed the fate that overtook the Persian dynasty.
"Ye shall, erelong, discover the consequences of that which ye shall have done in this vain life, and shall be repaid for them . . . This is the day that shall inevitably come upon you, the hour that none can put back." -Gleanings, page 125
The rulers of the Qajar dynasty, more than any other kings, were responsible for trying to crush the Revelation of God. From the hour of its birth until their own downfall, the Qajar rulers never once softened their implacable hostility.
Baha'u'llah did all in His power to awaken these rulers to their opportunity as emblems of justice, not of hatred:
"If the rulers and kings of the earth, the symbols of the power of God, exalted be His glory, arise and resolve to dedicate themselves to whatever will promote the highest interests of the whole of humanity, the reign of justice will assuredly be established amongst the children of men, and the effulgence of its light will envelop the whole earth." -Gleanings, pages 218-219
Baha'u'llah had placed a grave responsibility upon the shoulders of Nasiri'd-Din Shah personally, describing the Shah as a "Prince of Oppressors." Nasiri'd-Din Shah had been personally responsible for the martyrdom of the Bab. He was equally responsible for the banishments and lifelong persecutions of Baha'u'llah. Finally, he had given approval to the unjust slaying over a long period of time, of thousands of innocent followers of the new Revelation.
Once again the Bible provides fascinating echoes of the events surrounding the story of Baha'u'llah. Is Nasiri'd-Din Shah the "king of fierce countenance" who Daniel said would appear in the "last time," the "king" who would destroy the "holy people?" Was he the king who Daniel said would "stand" against the "Prince of princes" of the Lord? Was this the "king" who would be "broken" by this Redeemer of men Who, in a "time of trouble" such as the world has never seen, would "stand up" and deliver the "children" of God?
One thing is certain, the day in which the king of Persia would be "broken" at last arrived.
"Wait thou, therefore, for what has been promised."
Section 3- The Fifth Kingdom Falls!
Baha'u'llah wrote to one of the ministers of Nasiri'd-Din Shah, a message which applied to the throne, the court, and the people of Persia. Although He had wished for them prosperity, security and an everlasting sovereignty, they had rejected this heritage:
"Erelong shall your days pass away, as shall pass away the days of those who now, with flagrant pride, vaunt themselves over their neighbor. Soon shall ye be gathered together in the presence of God, and shall be asked of your doings, and shall be repaid for what your hands have wrought, and wretched the abode of the wicked doers!" -Gleanings, page 226
To any sincere individual Baha'u'llah said such deeds could only bring remorse: "By God! Wert thou to realize what thou hast done, thou wouldst surely weep sore over thyself, and wouldst flee for refuge to God . . . " -Gleanings, page 226
When all his entreaties and admonitions were disregarded, Baha'u'llah wrote these ominous words:
"Wait thou, therefore, for what hath been promised . . . for this is a promise from Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise -a promise that will not prove untrue." -Gleanings, page 227Nasiri'd-Din Shah's assassination was the first sign of the revolution which was to depose his successors, and extinguish the Qajar dynasty.
Muzaffari'd-Din Shah, the successor to Nasiri'd-Din Shah, was a weak and timid creature who was forced to sign the constitution that limited the royal powers. His successor, Muhammad-'Ali Shah precipitated a revolution which led to his deposition.
Finally, Ahmad Shah, "a mere cipher and careless of his duties," ascended the throne. Anarchy increased, and the nation's financial condition which had long been deplorable, now approached bankruptcy. The king had practically abandoned the country. He preferred the life of the European capitals to the stern duties of kingship. While the Shah was abroad on one of his gay visits, parliament deposed him and proclaimed the extinction of the Qajar dynasty.
The House of Qajar had occupied the throne of Persia for one hundred and thirty years.
The document which ended the dynasty was signed in 1925. This final humiliation took place in the government buildings which stand but a stone's throw from the site of that underground prison into which Nasiri'd-Din Shah had cast Baha'u'llah. From that prison the sound of the voices of Baha'u'llah and His fellow-prisoners had been heard by Nasiri'd-Din Shah, the "Prince of Oppressors." Their song rang out in the hours of dawn and disturbed the Shah, as they chanted their prayers in praise of God, assured of that future victory:
"In Him let the trusting trust!"
Baha'u'llah had kept His promise. The fifth kingdom had fallen.