THE PROCLAMATION TO THE KINGS
IMMEDIATELY after His Declaration at Riḍván, Bahá'u'lláh and His party
set out on the long journey to Constantinople. Here they remained only four
months, the Sulṭán sending
them in mid-winter and in the most severe conditions on a third journey into
exile. In Adrianople Bahá'u'lláh remained about four years and in 1868 was sent
on His fourth and last exile, this time to 'Akká, the dungeon city of which it
was said the very birds fell dead as they passed over it.
It was during this period and chiefly during His residence
in Adrianople that Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed in great Tablets His station and His
mission to the rulers of the world. Some of these are of especial moment to
Western and Christian readers; first His Tablet to the Kings of the earth
collectively, issued in 1864, and secondly His individual Tablets to the four
chief monarchs of Europe. The first of these is described by the Guardian as
the most momentous of all His Tablets,
and in it He summons all the kings and the ecclesiastical rulers of the world
to turn to Him and follow his dictates. What sublimer exordium could there be
to such a document than this:
1. The Guardian of the Bahá'í
Faith, Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'u'lláh's great-grandson. See chap. 15.
"O Kings of the
earth! Give ear unto the Voice of God . . . intoning the words: ’There is none
other God but He, the Mighty, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise.’ . . . Fear God,
O concourse of kings, and suffer not yourselves to be deprived of this most
sublime grace. Fling away, then, the things ye possess, and take fast hold on
the Handle of God, the Exalted, the Great. Set your hearts towards the Face of
God, and abandon that which your desires have bidden you to follow, and be not
of those who perish."
Bahá'u'lláh then tells them of the martyrdom of the Báb by
the unjust and cruel divines of Persia. He holds them one and all responsible
for this crime and requires that they make amends for it. He demands that they
follow that which He speaks unto them, with their hearts, and calls on them to
arise and set themselves towards the Holy Court of God.
Bahá'u'lláh made it clear He was going to establish the
Kingdom of God throughout the world; but He did not ask the kings to give Him
any aid whatsoever in the task. What He did ask was that they should consider
that their glory consisted in obedience to God, not in the width or wealth of
their dominions; that they should rule their subjects with the utmost nicety of
justice, should regard the poor among them as a particular trust from God; that
they should reduce taxation and heal their dissensions till they were able to
do without armies and their expensive upkeep except for police purposes.
Unless they obeyed the directions of this kind which He
gave, He warned them that assuredly calamities, heavy and many, would descend
upon them from every direction; they would not be able to escape but would be caught
For Himself, He demanded that the kings should scrutinize
the wrongs which He and His had had to endure through twenty years and judge
justly between Him and His enemies.
He assured the kings that God had promised to exalt His
Cause even if no king on earth helped Him.
This call, however, (which as He expressly stated was that
of the Most Great Peace) was immediately and with disdain rejected by the
kings, one and all.
By an act of forgiveness Bahá'u'lláh made to the Christian
kings of Europe a further offer. He addressed to the Emperor Napoleon III of
France, to Pope Pius IX, to Queen Victoria and to Czar Alexander, individual
letters in which He asked of them their aid in establishing God's Kingdom among
the nations. Napoleon was at the moment the most powerful and brilliant of the
European sovereigns and to him Bahá'u'lláh offered the leadership in this great
undertaking. He called on Napoleon to introduce the new Revelation and told him
that the clergy who held to the old worship and refused the new would be as
fallen stars and lose their status and authority. He revealed to Napoleon
several of the great new principles of the new Faith; explained the succession
of religions, Islám succeeding Christianity, Christianity succeeding Judaism,
Moses succeeding Abraham. He stated that His own Mission was to regenerate and
to unify the whole human race, which was to be regarded as one great family, in
fact as one individual, as one soul in many bodies. He asserted that force,
which had so long been used in teaching, must be abandoned, and methods of
persuasion and wisdom only should be used; and that effective teaching would
depend on the single-hearted
sincerity of the teacher. He said that the monks were to leave their
monasteries, to marry and mingle with the life of the people; and celibacy was
not and never had been approved by the Almighty as a better way of life than
He called on Napoleon to give up his crown, or if he
retained it, to use it only for the service of God, and promised to assure the
success of Napoleon in carrying out His, Bahá'u'lláh's programme. He would be
regarded as king of the world.
At the same time He told Napoleon that he had shown
insincerity and insolence; retribution was pursuing him and if he delayed in
obeying Bahá'u'lláh, he would be utterly humiliated and overthrown and would
Napoleon's rejoinder was a contemptuous refusal. Within a
year he was defeated at Sedan and lost his empire and his throne.
Bahá'u'lláh announced to Pope Pius IX "He Who is the Lord of Lords is come,"
and he who is the Rock (meaning Peter), crieth out "Lo, the Father is come, and that which ye were promised in the Kingdom
is fulfilled." He bade him "Arise
in the name of thy Lord, the God of Mercy, amidst the peoples of the earth, and
seize thou the Cup of Life with the hands of confidence, and first drink thou
therefrom, and proffer it then to such as turn towards it amongst the peoples
of all faiths. . . . sell all the embellished ornaments thou dost possess and
expend them in the path of God. . . . Abandon thy kingdom unto the kings, and
emerge from thy habitation . . . speak forth the praises of thy Lord betwixt
earth and heaven."
Bahá'u'lláh added an appeal couched in language of the
warmest love and longing to the followers of Christ,
urging them to recognize and flock into the Kingdom of God which others were
already entering though they had not the first right to it.
The Pope ignored the letter altogether, and the following
year by a stroke less spectacular than that which befell Napoleon, but equally
significant, was by force deprived of the temporal rule which he had refused to
surrender voluntarily, and became the prisoner of the Vatican.
Thus the year 1870 may be regarded as marking the
disruption and decline of Western civilization.
To Queen Victoria Bahá'u'lláh revealed that the Gospel
prophecies were fulfilled in His advent and He offered her a prayer exquisitely
tender in its feeling which she might use in turning to Him as He admonished
her to do. He commended her for two measures which had been recently adopted in
the spirit of the new age, one the stoppage of the slave-trade, the other the
extension of the franchise. He wrote at some length to her on the divine art of
government, tracing historically the causes of its failure and indicating that
it was now in a dangerous condition.
Through her He sent a reprimand to the kings for refusing
the Most Great Peace and urgently advised them to adopt the Lesser Peace which
would in some degree better their condition.
His fourth letter, addressed to Czar Alexander II was
couched in warm language and He advised the Czar to arise and make known this
Cause to the nations of the world.
It is reported that Queen Victoria, on reading His letter,
remarked, "If this is of God, it will stand. Otherwise it
can do no harm." But neither she nor any of the other Christian rulers
turned to Him, nor paid any heed whatever to His counsels.
He remarked of them that they were intoxicated with pride,
unable to see what was best for their own material interest, much less to
recognize so stupendous a Revelation.
Bahá'u'lláh had now been rejected by all the rulers of the
world and His removal to 'Akká cut Him off completely from active touch with
world affairs. It should be noted, however, that in exiling Him to 'Akká, the
Holy Land, the Sulṭán had
fulfilled the ancient prophecy to the effect that the Lord of Hosts would give
His Revelation there and thus made it impossible for anyone to say that
Bahá'u'lláh had fulfilled the prophecy of His own free will.
Bahá'u'lláh's trust in the Christians and in their support
of His teachings never weakened. Towards the end of His life He wrote the Holy
Tablet,[l] an important work addressed to them in which He rebukes them for
their slowness in recognizing Him, promises He will be faithful and pours forth
a succession of enthusiastic beatitudes on the Christians, who will turn to Him
with loving hearts and serve His Faith.
About the same time Professor Edward Granville Browne, of
Cambridge University, came in touch with the light of the Báb, became His
lifelong admirer and pursued a vigorous research of the Báb’s history which led
him in the end to 'Akká where he was received by Bahá'u'lláh and was thus
enabled to write, in that famous introduction to A Traveller's Narrative:
"The face of him on whom I gazed I can never forget,
though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one's very
soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow; while the deep lines on the
forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing
down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. No
need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the
object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in
And that other quotation from the lips of Bahá'u'lláh
Himself which, when quoted at the world parliament of religions in Chicago in
1893, proved to be the instrument of bringing Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation to the
knowledge of the Western world. The words were spoken to Browne during the
interview with Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká.
"Thou hast come
to see a prisoner and an exile . . . We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet
they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and
banishment. . . That all nations
should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection
and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of
religion should cease, and difference of race be annulled — what harm is
there in this . . . Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous
wars shall pass away, and the ’Most Great Peace’ shall come . . . Do not you in Europe need this also . .
. Is not this that which Christ foretold . . . Yet do we see your kings and
rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of
the human race
1. E.G. Browne, A
Traveller's Narrative, Introduction. Cambridge.
than on that which would conduce to the
happiness of mankind . . . These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must
cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family.. . . Let not a man glory
in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves
his kind . . . "
Bahá'u'lláh passed away in 1892. Communication between
America and 'Akká began soon after 1893 and before the end of the century
American pilgrims began to arrive after a difficult and uncertain journey, by
way of the sea, at the prison city where 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Son of Bahá'u'lláh, was