hardly rejoined His family and kindred when a decree from Násiri'd-Dín Sháh was communicated to Him, bidding Him leave the territory of Persia, fixing a time-limit of one month for His departure and allowing Him the right to choose the land of His exile.
The Russian Minister, as soon as he was informed of the Imperial decision, expressed the desire to take Bahá'u'lláh under the protection of his government, and offered to extend every facility for His removal to Russia. This invitation, so spontaneously extended, Bahá'u'lláh declined, preferring, in pursuance of an unerring instinct, to establish His abode in Turkish territory, in the city of Baghdád. "Whilst I lay chained and fettered in the prison," He Himself, years after, testified in His Epistle addressed to the Czar of Russia, Nicolaevitch Alexander II, "one of thy ministers extended Me his aid. Whereupon God hath ordained for thee a station which the knowledge of none can comprehend except His knowledge. Beware lest thou barter away this sublime station." "In the days," is yet another illuminating testimony revealed by His pen, "when this Wronged One was sore-afflicted in prison, the minister of the highly esteemed government (of Russia)--may God, glorified and exalted be He, assist him!-- exerted his utmost endeavor to compass My deliverance. Several times permission for My release was granted. Some of the `ulamás of the city, however, would prevent it. Finally, My freedom was gained through the solicitude and the endeavor of His Excellency the Minister. ...His Imperial Majesty, the Most Great Emperor--may God, exalted and glorified be He, assist him!--extended to Me for the sake of God his protection--a protection which has excited the envy and enmity of the foolish ones of the earth."
The Sháh's edict, equivalent to an order for the immediate expulsion of Bahá'u'lláh from Persian territory, opens a new and glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá'í century. Viewed in its proper perspective it will be even recognized to have ushered in one of the most eventful and momentous epochs in the world's religious history. It coincides with the inauguration of a ministry extending over a period of almost forty years--a ministry which, by virtue of its creative power, its cleansing force, its healing influences, and the irresistible operation of the world-directing, world-shaping forces it released, stands unparalleled in the religious annals of the entire human race. It marks the opening phase in a series of banishments, ranging over a period of four decades, and terminating only with the death of Him Who was the Object of that cruel edict. The process which it set in motion, gradually progressing and unfolding, began by establishing
His Cause for a time in the very midst of the jealously-guarded stronghold of Shí'ah Islám, and brought Him in personal contact with its highest and most illustrious exponents; then, at a later stage, it confronted Him, at the seat of the Caliphate, with the civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm and the representatives of the Sultán of Turkey, the most powerful potentate in the Islámic world; and finally carried Him as far as the shores of the Holy Land, thereby fulfilling the prophecies recorded in both the Old and the New Testaments, redeeming the pledge enshrined in various traditions attributed to the Apostle of God and the Imáms who succeeded Him, and ushering in the long-awaited restoration of Israel to the ancient cradle of its Faith. With it, may be said to have begun the last and most fruitful of the four stages of a life, the first twenty-seven years of which were characterized by the care-free enjoyment of all the advantages conferred by high birth and riches, and by an unfailing solicitude for the interests of the poor, the sick and the down-trodden; followed by nine years of active and exemplary discipleship in the service of the Báb; and finally by an imprisonment of four months' duration, overshadowed throughout by mortal peril, embittered by agonizing sorrows, and immortalized, as it drew to a close, by the sudden eruption of the forces released by an overpowering, soul-revolutionizing Revelation.
This enforced and hurried departure of Bahá'u'lláh from His native land, accompanied by some of His relatives, recalls in some of its aspects, the precipitate flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the sudden migration of Muhammad, soon after His assumption of the prophetic office, from Mecca to Medina; the exodus of Moses, His brother and His followers from the land of their birth, in response to the Divine summons, and above all the banishment of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land--a banishment which, in the multitudinous benefits it conferred upon so many divers peoples, faiths and nations, constitutes the nearest historical approach to the incalculable blessings destined to be vouchsafed, in this day, and in future ages, to the whole human race, in direct consequence of the exile suffered by Him Whose Cause is the flower and fruit of all previous Revelations.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, after enumerating in His "Some Answered Questions" the far-reaching consequences of Abraham's banishment, significantly affirms that "since the exile of Abraham from Ur to Aleppo in Syria produced this result, we must consider what will be the effect of the exile of Bahá'u'lláh in His several removes from
Tihrán to Baghdád, from thence to Constantinople, to Rumelia and to the Holy Land."
On the first day of the month of Rabí'u'th-Thání, of the year 1269 A.H., (January 12, 1853), nine months after His return from Kárbilá, Bahá'u'lláh, together with some of the members of His family, and escorted by an officer of the Imperial body-guard and an official representing the Russian Legation, set out on His three months' journey to Baghdád. Among those who shared His exile was His wife, the saintly Navváb, entitled by Him the "Most Exalted Leaf," who, during almost forty years, continued to evince a fortitude, a piety, a devotion and a nobility of soul which earned her from the pen of her Lord the posthumous and unrivalled tribute of having been made His "perpetual consort in all the worlds of God." His nine-year-old son, later surnamed the "Most Great Branch," destined to become the Center of His Covenant and authorized Interpreter of His teachings, together with His seven-year-old sister, known in later years by the same title as that of her illustrious mother, and whose services until the ripe old age of four score years and six, no less than her exalted parentage, entitle her to the distinction of ranking as the outstanding heroine of the Bahá'í Dispensation, were also included among the exiles who were now bidding their last farewell to their native country. Of the two brothers who accompanied Him on that journey the first was Mírzá Músá, commonly called Aqáy-i-Kalím, His staunch and valued supporter, the ablest and most distinguished among His brothers and sisters, and one of the "only two persons who," according to Bahá'u'lláh's testimony, "were adequately informed of the origins" of His Faith. The other was Mírzá Muhammad-Qulí, a half-brother, who, in spite of the defection of some of his relatives, remained to the end loyal to the Cause he had espoused.
The journey, undertaken in the depth of an exceptionally severe winter, carrying the little band of exiles, so inadequately equipped, across the snow-bound mountains of Western Persia, though long and perilous, was uneventful except for the warm and enthusiastic reception accorded the travelers during their brief stay in Karand by its governor Hayat-Qulí Khán, of the Allíyu'lláhí sect. He was shown, in return, such kindness by Bahá'u'lláh that the people of the entire village were affected, and continued, long after, to extend such hospitality to His followers on their way to Baghdád that they gained the reputation of being known as Bábís.
In a prayer revealed by Him at that time, Bahá'u'lláh, expatiating
upon the woes and trials He had endured in the Síyáh-Chál, thus bears witness to the hardships undergone in the course of that "terrible journey": "My God, My Master, My Desire!... Thou hast created this atom of dust through the consummate power of Thy might, and nurtured Him with Thine hands which none can chain up.... Thou hast destined for Him trials and tribulations which no tongue can describe, nor any of Thy Tablets adequately recount. The throat Thou didst accustom to the touch of silk Thou hast, in the end, clasped with strong chains, and the body Thou didst ease with brocades and velvets Thou hast at last subjected to the abasement of a dungeon. Thy decree hath shackled Me with unnumbered fetters, and cast about My neck chains that none can sunder. A number of years have passed during which afflictions have, like showers of mercy, rained upon Me.... How many the nights during which the weight of chains and fetters allowed Me no rest, and how numerous the days during which peace and tranquillity were denied Me, by reason of that wherewith the hands and tongues of men have afflicted Me! Both bread and water which Thou hast, through Thy all-embracing mercy, allowed unto the beasts of the field, they have, for a time, forbidden unto this servant, and the things they refused to inflict upon such as have seceded from Thy Cause, the same have they suffered to be inflicted upon Me, until, finally, Thy decree was irrevocably fixed, and Thy behest summoned this servant to depart out of Persia, accompanied by a number of frail-bodied men and children of tender age, at this time when the cold is so intense that one cannot even speak, and ice and snow so abundant that it is impossible to move."
Finally, on the 28th of Jamádiyu'th-Thání 1269 A.H. (April 8, 1853), Bahá'u'lláh arrived in Baghdád, the capital city of what was then the Turkish province of Iraq. From there He proceeded, a few days after, to Kazímayn, about three miles north of the city, a town inhabited chiefly by Persians, and where the two Kázims, the seventh and the ninth Imáms, are buried. Soon after His arrival the representative of the Sháh's government, stationed in Baghdád, called on Him, and suggested that it would be advisable for Him, in view of the many visitors crowding that center of pilgrimage, to establish His residence in Old Baghdád, a suggestion with which He readily concurred. A month later, towards the end of Rajab, He rented the house of Hájí `Alí Madad, in an old quarter of the city, into which He moved with His family.
In that city, described in Islámic traditions as "Zahru'l-Kúfih,"
designated for centuries as the "Abode of Peace," and immortalized by Bahá'u'lláh as the "City of God," He, except for His two year retirement to the mountains of Kurdistán and His occasional visits to Najaf, Kárbilá and Kazímayn, continued to reside until His banishment to Constantinople. To that city the Qur'án had alluded as the "Abode of Peace" to which God Himself "calleth." To it, in that same Book, further allusion had been made in the verse "For them is a Dwelling of Peace with their Lord ... on the Day whereon God shall gather them all together." From it radiated, wave after wave, a power, a radiance and a glory which insensibly reanimated a languishing Faith, sorely-stricken, sinking into obscurity, threatened with oblivion. From it were diffused, day and night, and with ever-increasing energy, the first emanations of a Revelation which, in its scope, its copiousness, its driving force and the volume and variety of its literature, was destined to excel that of the Báb Himself. Above its horizon burst forth the rays of the Sun of Truth, Whose rising glory had for ten long years been overshadowed by the inky clouds of a consuming hatred, an ineradicable jealousy, an unrelenting malice. In it the Tabernacle of the promised "Lord of Hosts" was first erected, and the foundations of the long-awaited Kingdom of the "Father" unassailably established. Out of it went forth the earliest tidings of the Message of Salvation which, as prophesied by Daniel, was to mark, after the lapse of "a thousand two hundred and ninety days" (1290 A.H.), the end of "the abomination that maketh desolate." Within its walls the "Most Great House of God," His "Footstool" and the "Throne of His Glory," "the Cynosure of an adoring world," the "Lamp of Salvation between earth and heaven," the "Sign of His remembrance to all who are in heaven and on earth," enshrining the "Jewel whose glory hath irradiated all creation," the "Standard" of His Kingdom, the "Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful" was irrevocably founded and permanently consecrated. Upon it, by virtue of its sanctity as Bahá'u'lláh's "Most Holy Habitation" and "Seat of His transcendent glory," was conferred the honor of being regarded as a center of pilgrimage second to none except the city of Akká, His "Most Great Prison," in whose immediate vicinity His holy Sepulcher, the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world, is enshrined. Around the heavenly Table, spread in its very heart, clergy and laity, Sunnís and Shí'ahs, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, princes and nobles, peasants and dervishes, gathered in increasing numbers from far and near, all partaking, according to their needs and capacities, of a measure of that Divine sustenance
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