The Reluctant Prophet
An edited translation of the following article was printed in the weekly color insert of "Dainik Bhaskar", India's largest newspaper - reaching an audience of over 13.1 million.
A Prisoner and an Exile
August 31, 1868. It was a swelteringly hot, humid stench that met Bahá’u’lláh on the shore of prison city of
‘Akká. Surrounded by Turkish soldiers, he made his way up the black muddy beach towards the sea gate. Exhausted,
humiliated, tortured, exiled, slandered, betrayed by his own brother - and now imprisoned in the most desolate penal colony
of the Turkish Empire. An angry mob had gathered to revile, curse and taunt him. It was not the first time he had been
pelted by a mob on his way to prison.
A Prince in Deed
Born in 1817 to wealth and nobility, eldest son of a leading Minister to the Royal Court of Persia, Bahá’u’lláh had inherited a care-free life including a vast estate, position and wealth. But from the earliest years there was much about this youth which did not fit the image of a spoiled young prince. Eschewing comforts and diversions of the privileged, he became renowned for generosity, compassion and a magnetic character.
Only 22 years of age when his father passed away, Bahá’u’lláh was immediately offered his father’s
position as Minister. Surprisingly, he refused the post. When asked about this refusal, the Prime Minister replied
“Such a position is unworthy of him... His thoughts are not like ours. Let him alone.”
The Break of Dawn
Five years later a millennial light broke on the somber horizon of Persia. From the city of Shiraz, an eloquent youth, known to history as the Báb, put forward the impossible claim that he had been sent by God to prepare for the coming of a great Universal Teacher whose Cause would unite the fragmented spiritual heritage of humankind. A passionate wave of inquiry swept across the land and the panicking clergy quickly denounced the Báb as a dangerous heretic. He was arrested, imprisoned in a remote mountain fortress and finally executed under dramatic circumstances. His followers and admirers were hounded out and slaughtered or bludgeoned into silence. Shocking friends and family, the young nobleman, Bahá’u’lláh, immediately arose in the face of great danger to champion this new Cause - abandoning rank, title, lands and wealth.
It was October 1852 in Tehran and Bahá’u’lláh was surrounded by brutal soldiers. For nine years he had championed the Báb’s Cause and for this he was now on his way to prison. The soldiers half-heartedly restrained a howling mob which pelted him with insults and stones as he stumbled forward towards the dreaded subterranean prison known as the “Black Pit”. As a special torture Bahá’u’lláh was freighted with a unique set of chains - fifty kilos of cold iron - tearing his clothing, cutting through flesh, pressing against and bending bone itself. Four long months he endured the black extremes of human cruelty. It was into this place, a place of unyielding darkness and agony, that the finger of God reached out and touched - placing a new light into the world of man.
“...though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in
those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a
mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would,
as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear.”
A Sacred Mission
Released from imprisonment, Bahá’u’lláh was a changed Being - charged with a divine mandate and galvanized with an overwhelming vision of the earth as one homeland of a united human race. And when he spoke, many recognized his voice. “Bend your minds and wills to the education of the peoples and kindreds of the earth...” “Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself?” “Let not a man glory in that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”
Assailed by forces of fanaticism and ignorance, Bahá’u’lláh was banished from his native land to Baghdad and thence to Constantinople, Adrianople and finally to the Turkish prison city of ‘Akká, in modern-day Israel, where he remained incarcerated and in whose neighborhood he passed away in 1892. “I have been, most of the days of My life, even as a slave, sitting under a sword hanging on a thread, knowing not whether it would fall soon or late upon him.”
Over the course of forty years of exile and imprisonment, Bahá’u’lláh expounded, in over a hundred volumes,
the elements of His Faith. He proclaimed his Cause to the kings and rulers of both East and West. He addressed the Pope,
the Caliph of Islam and the Chief Magistrates of the Republics of the American continent. In numerous epistles he boldly
challenged them to abandon petty selfish concerns, warning them of the consequences of failing to appreciate the forces of
a newly rising World Order. At times he described, with chilling accuracy, their impending downfall, such as in these words
to Napoleon III: “Hath thy pomp made thee proud? By My Life! It shall not endure...” “For what thou
hast done, thy kingdom shall be thrown into confusion, and thine empire shall pass from thine hands...”
The Reluctant Prophet
Such, in brief, were the life and teachings of Bahá’u’lláh; Sage, Saint, and modern-day Prophet. Although Bahá’u’lláh is widely known for his visionary and liberal teachings, what is not well known is the degree of his personal sacrifice required to make this mark in human history.
Were it not for the cold, how would the heat of Thy words prevail,
©Copyright 2002, Dainik Bhaskar (India)