Wrapped in its stygian gloom, breathing its fetid air, numbed by its humid and icy atmosphere, His feet in stocks, His neck weighed down by a mighty chain, surrounded by criminals and miscreants of the worst order, oppressed by the consciousness of the terrible blot that had stained the fair name of His beloved Faith, painfully aware of the dire distress that had overtaken its champions, and of the grave dangers that faced the remnant of its followers--at so critical an hour and under such appalling circumstances the "Most Great Spirit," as designated by Himself, and symbolized in the Zoroastrian, the Mosaic, the Christian, and Muhammadan Dispensations by the Sacred Fire, the Burning Bush, the Dove and the Angel Gabriel respectively, descended upon, and revealed itself, personated by a "Maiden," to the agonized soul of Bahá'u'lláh.
"One night in a dream," He Himself, calling to mind, in the evening of His life, the first stirrings of God's Revelation within His soul, has written, "these exalted words were heard on every side: `Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Ere long will God raise up the treasures of the earth--men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him.'" In another passage He describes, briefly and graphically, the impact of the onrushing force of the Divine Summons upon His entire being--an experience vividly recalling the vision of God that caused Moses to fall in a swoon, and the voice of Gabriel which plunged Muhammad into such consternation that, hurrying to the shelter of His home, He bade His wife, Khadíjih, envelop Him in His mantle. "During the days I lay in the prison of Tihrán," are His own memorable words, "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."
In His Súratu'l-Haykal (the Súrah of the Temple) He thus describes those breathless moments when the Maiden, symbolizing the "Most Great Spirit" proclaimed His mission to the entire creation: "While engulfed in tribulations I heard a most wondrous, a most sweet voice, calling above My head. Turning My face, I beheld a Maiden-- the embodiment of the remembrance of the name of My Lord--suspended
in the air before Me. So rejoiced was she in her very soul that her countenance shone with the ornament of the good-pleasure of God, and her cheeks glowed with the brightness of the All-Merciful. Betwixt earth and heaven she was raising a call which captivated the hearts and minds of men. She was imparting to both My inward and outer being tidings which rejoiced My soul, and the souls of God's honored servants. Pointing with her finger unto My head, she addressed all who are in heaven and all who are on earth, saying: `By God! This is the Best-Beloved of the worlds, and yet ye comprehend not. This is the Beauty of God amongst you, and the power of His sovereignty within you, could ye but understand. This is the Mystery of God and His Treasure, the Cause of God and His glory unto all who are in the kingdoms of Revelation and of creation, if ye be of them that perceive.'"
In His Epistle to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh, His royal adversary, revealed at the height of the proclamation of His Message, occur these passages which shed further light on the Divine origin of His mission: "O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And he bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow.... This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of Thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred.... His all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of Thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me." "By My Life!" He asserts in another Tablet, "Not of Mine own volition have I revealed Myself, but God, of His own choosing, hath manifested Me." And again: "Whenever I chose to hold My peace and be still, lo, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, standing on My right hand, aroused Me, and the Most Great Spirit appeared before My face, and Gabriel overshadowed Me, and the Spirit of Glory stirred within My bosom, bidding Me arise and break My silence."
Such were the circumstances in which the Sun of Truth arose in the city of Tihrán--a city which, by reason of so rare a privilege conferred upon it, had been glorified by the Báb as the "Holy Land," and surnamed by Bahá'u'lláh "the Mother of the world," the "Day-spring of Light," the "Dawning-Place of the signs of the Lord," the "Source of the joy of all mankind." The first dawnings of that Light
of peerless splendor had, as already described, broken in the city of Shíráz. The rim of that Orb had now appeared above the horizon of the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán. Its rays were to burst forth, a decade later, in Baghdád, piercing the clouds which immediately after its rise in those somber surroundings obscured its splendor. It was destined to mount to its zenith in the far-away city of Adrianople, and ultimately to set in the immediate vicinity of the fortress-town of Akká.
The process whereby the effulgence of so dazzling a Revelation was unfolded to the eyes of men was of necessity slow and gradual. The first intimation which its Bearer received did not synchronize with, nor was it followed immediately by, a disclosure of its character to either His own companions or His kindred. A period of no less than ten years had to elapse ere its far-reaching implications could be directly divulged to even those who had been intimately associated with Him--a period of great spiritual ferment, during which the Recipient of so weighty a Message restlessly anticipated the hour at which He could unburden His heavily laden soul, so replete with the potent energies released by God's nascent Revelation. All He did, in the course of this pre-ordained interval, was to hint, in veiled and allegorical language, in epistles, commentaries, prayers and treatises, which He was moved to reveal, that the Báb's promise had already been fulfilled, and that He Himself was the One Who had been chosen to redeem it. A few of His fellow-disciples, distinguished by their sagacity, and their personal attachment and devotion to Him, perceived the radiance of the as yet unrevealed glory that had flooded His soul, and would have, but for His restraining influence, divulged His secret and proclaimed it far and wide.
Bahá'u'lláh's Banishment to Iraq
The attempt on the life of Násiri'd-Dín Sháh, as stated in a previous chapter, was made on the 28th of the month of Shavval, 1268 A.H., corresponding to the 15th of August, 1852. Immediately after, Bahá'u'lláh was arrested in Níyávarán, was conducted with the greatest ignominy to Tihrán and cast into the Síyáh-Chál. His imprisonment lasted for a period of no less than four months, in the middle of which the "year nine" (1269), anticipated in such glowing terms by the Báb, and alluded to as the year "after Hin" by Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsá'í, was ushered in, endowing with undreamt-of potentialities the whole world. Two months after that year was born, Bahá'u'lláh, the purpose of His imprisonment now accomplished, was released from His confinement, and set out, a month later, for Baghdád, on the first stage of a memorable and life-long exile which was to carry Him, in the course of years, as far as Adrianople in European Turkey, and which was to end with His twenty-four years' incarceration in Akká.
Now that He had been invested, in consequence of that potent dream, with the power and sovereign authority associated with His Divine mission, His deliverance from a confinement that had achieved its purpose, and which if prolonged would have completely fettered Him in the exercise of His newly-bestowed functions, became not only inevitable, but imperative and urgent. Nor were the means and instruments lacking whereby his emancipation from the shackles that restrained Him could be effected. The persistent and decisive intervention of the Russian Minister, Prince Dolgorouki, who left no stone unturned to establish the innocence of Bahá'u'lláh; the public confession of Mullá Shaykh Alíy-i-Turshízí, surnamed Azím, who, in the Síyáh-Chál, in the presence of the Hajíbu'd-Dawlih and the Russian Minister's interpreter and of the government's representative, emphatically exonerated Him, and acknowledged his own complicity; the indisputable testimony established by competent tribunals; the unrelaxing efforts exerted by His own brothers, sisters and kindred,--all these combined to effect His ultimate deliverance from the hands of His rapacious enemies. Another potent if less evident
influence which must be acknowledged as having had a share in His liberation was the fate suffered by so large a number of His self-sacrificing fellow-disciples who languished with Him in that same prison. For, as Nabíl truly remarks, "the blood, shed in the course of that fateful year in Tihrán by that heroic band with whom Bahá'u'lláh had been imprisoned, was the ransom paid for His deliverance from the hand of a foe that sought to prevent Him from achieving the purpose for which God had destined Him."
With such overwhelming testimonies establishing beyond the shadow of a doubt the non-complicity of Bahá'u'lláh, the Grand Vizir, after having secured the reluctant consent of his sovereign to set free his Captive, was now in a position to dispatch his trusted representative, Hájí `Alí, to the Síyáh-Chál, instructing him to deliver to Bahá'u'lláh the order for His release. The sight which that emissary beheld upon his arrival evoked in him such anger that he cursed his master for the shameful treatment of a man of such high position and stainless renown. Removing his mantle from his shoulders he presented it to Bahá'u'lláh, entreating Him to wear it when in the presence of the Minister and his counsellors, a request which He emphatically refused, preferring to appear, attired in the garb of a prisoner, before the members of the Imperial government.
No sooner had He presented Himself before them than the Grand Vizir addressed Him saying: "Had you chosen to take my advice, and had you dissociated yourself from the Faith of the Siyyid-i-Báb, you would never have suffered the pains and indignities that have been heaped upon you." "Had you, in your turn," Bahá'u'lláh retorted, "followed My counsels, the affairs of the government would not have reached so critical a stage." Mírzá Áqá Khán was thereupon reminded of the conversation he had had with Him on the occasion of the Báb's martyrdom, when he had been warned that "the flame that has been kindled will blaze forth more fiercely than ever." "What is it that you advise me now to do?" he inquired from Bahá'u'lláh. "Command the governors of the realm," was the instant reply, "to cease shedding the blood of the innocent, to cease plundering their property, to cease dishonoring their women, and injuring their children." That same day the Grand Vizir acted on the advice thus given him; but any effect it had, as the course of subsequent events amply demonstrated, proved to be momentary and negligible.
The relative peace and tranquillity accorded Bahá'u'lláh after His tragic and cruel imprisonment was destined, by the dictates of an unerring Wisdom, to be of an extremely short duration. He had
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