Even those who, in their folly and temerity had, in Baghdád, in Kárbilá, in Qum, in Káshán, in Tabríz and in Tihrán, arrogated to themselves the rights, and assumed the title of "Him Whom God shall make manifest" were for the most part instinctively led to seek His presence, confess their error and supplicate His forgiveness. As time went on, fugitives, driven by the ever-present fear of persecution, sought, with their wives and children, the relative security afforded them by close proximity to One who had already become the rallying point for the members of a sorely-vexed community. Persians of high eminence, living in exile, rejecting, in the face of the mounting prestige of Bahá'u'lláh, the dictates of moderation and prudence, sat, forgetful of their pride, at His feet, and imbibed, each according to his capacity, a measure of His spirit and wisdom. Some of the more ambitious among them, such as Abbás Mírzá, a son of Muhammad Sháh, the Vazír-Nizám, and Mírzá Malkam Khán, as well as certain functionaries of foreign governments, attempted, in their short-sightedness, to secure His support and assistance for the furtherance of the designs they cherished, designs which He unhesitatingly and severely condemned. Nor was the then representative of the British government, Colonel Sir Arnold Burrows Kemball, consul-general in Baghdád, insensible of the position which Bahá'u'lláh now occupied. Entering into friendly correspondence with Him, he, as testified by Bahá'u'lláh Himself, offered Him the protection of British citizenship, called on Him in person, and undertook to transmit to Queen Victoria any communication He might wish to forward to her. He even expressed his readiness to arrange for the transfer of His residence to India, or to any place agreeable to Him. This suggestion Bahá'u'lláh declined, choosing to abide in the dominions of the Sultán of Turkey. And finally, during the last year of His sojourn in Baghdád the governor Námiq-Pashá, impressed by the many signs of esteem and veneration in which He was held, called upon Him to pay his personal tribute to One Who had already achieved so conspicuous a victory over the hearts and souls of those who had met Him. So profound was the respect the governor entertained for Him, Whom he regarded as one of the Lights of the Age, that it was not until the end of three months, during which he had received five successive commands from `Alí Páshá, that he could bring himself to inform Bahá'u'lláh that it was the wish of the Turkish government that He should proceed to the capital. On one occasion, when `Abdu'l-Bahá and Aqáy-i-Kalím had been delegated by Bahá'u'lláh to visit him, he entertained them
with such elaborate ceremonial that the Deputy-Governor stated that so far as he knew no notable of the city had ever been accorded by any governor so warm and courteous a reception. So struck, indeed, had the Sultán `Abdu'l-Majíd been by the favorable reports received about Bahá'u'lláh from successive governors of Baghdád (this is the personal testimony given by the Governor's deputy to Bahá'u'lláh himself) that he consistently refused to countenance the requests of the Persian government either to deliver Him to their representative or to order His expulsion from Turkish territory.
On no previous occasion, since the inception of the Faith, not even during the days when the Báb in Isfahán, in Tabríz and in Chihríq was acclaimed by the ovations of an enthusiastic populace, had any of its exponents risen to such high eminence in the public mind, or exercised over so diversified a circle of admirers an influence so far reaching and so potent. Yet unprecedented as was the sway which Bahá'u'lláh held while, in that primitive age of the Faith, He was dwelling in Baghdád, its range at that time was modest when compared with the magnitude of the fame which, at the close of that same age, and through the immediate inspiration of the Center of His Covenant, the Faith acquired in both the European and American continents.
The ascendancy achieved by Bahá'u'lláh was nowhere better demonstrated than in His ability to broaden the outlook and transform the character of the community to which He belonged. Though Himself nominally a Bábí, though the provisions of the Bayán were still regarded as binding and inviolable, He was able to inculcate a standard which, while not incompatible with its tenets, was ethically superior to the loftiest principles which the Bábí Dispensation had established. The salutary and fundamental truths advocated by the Báb, that had either been obscured, neglected or misrepresented, were moreover elucidated by Bahá'u'lláh, reaffirmed and instilled afresh into the corporate life of the community, and into the souls of the individuals who comprised it. The dissociation of the Bábí Faith from every form of political activity and from all secret associations and factions; the emphasis placed on the principle of non-violence; the necessity of strict obedience to established authority; the ban imposed on all forms of sedition, on back-biting, retaliation, and dispute; the stress laid on godliness, kindliness, humility and piety, on honesty and truthfulness, chastity and fidelity, on justice, toleration, sociability, amity and concord, on the acquisition of arts and sciences, on self-sacrifice and detachment, on patience, steadfastness
and resignation to the will of God--all these constitute the salient features of a code of ethical conduct to which the books, treatises and epistles, revealed during those years, by the indefatigable pen of Bahá'u'lláh, unmistakably bear witness.
"By the aid of God and His divine grace and mercy," He Himself has written with reference to the character and consequences of His own labors during that period, "We revealed, as a copious rain, Our verses, and sent them to various parts of the world. We exhorted all men, and particularly this people, through Our wise counsels and loving admonitions, and forbade them to engage in sedition, quarrels, disputes or conflict. As a result of this, and by the grace of God, waywardness and folly were changed into piety and understanding, and weapons of war converted into instruments of peace." "Bahá'u'lláh," `Abdu'l-Bahá affirmed, "after His return (from Sulaymáníyyih) made such strenuous efforts in educating and training this community, in reforming its manners, in regulating its affairs and in rehabilitating its fortunes, that in a short while all these troubles and mischiefs were quenched, and the utmost peace and tranquillity reigned in men's hearts." And again: "When these fundamentals were established in the hearts of this people, they everywhere acted in such wise that, in the estimation of those in authority, they became famous for the integrity of their character, the steadfastness of their hearts, the purity of their motives, the praiseworthiness of their deeds, and the excellence of their conduct."
The exalted character of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh propounded during that period is perhaps best illustrated by the following statement made by Him in those days to an official who had reported to Him that, because of the devotion to His person which an evildoer had professed, he had hesitated to inflict upon that criminal the punishment he deserved: "Tell him, no one in this world can claim any relationship to Me except those who, in all their deeds and in their conduct, follow My example, in such wise that all the peoples of the earth would be powerless to prevent them from doing and saying that which is meet and seemly." "This brother of Mine," He further declared to that official, "this Mírzá Músá, who is from the same mother and father as Myself, and who from his earliest childhood has kept Me company, should he perpetrate an act contrary to the interests of either the state or religion, and his guilt be established in your sight, I would be pleased and appreciate your action were you to bind his hands and cast him into the river to drown, and refuse to consider the intercession of any one on his behalf." In another
connection He, wishing to stress His strong condemnation of all acts of violence, had written: "It would be more acceptable in My sight for a person to harm one of My own sons or relatives rather than inflict injury upon any soul."
"Most of those who surrounded Bahá'u'lláh," wrote Nabíl, describing the spirit that animated the reformed Bábí community in Baghdád, "exercised such care in sanctifying and purifying their souls, that they would suffer no word to cross their lips that might not conform to the will of God, nor would they take a single step that might be contrary to His good-pleasure." "Each one," he relates, "had entered into a pact with one of his fellow-disciples, in which they agreed to admonish one another, and, if necessary, chastise one another with a number of blows on the soles of the feet, proportioning the number of strokes to the gravity of the offense against the lofty standards they had sworn to observe." Describing the fervor of their zeal, he states that "not until the offender had suffered the punishment he had solicited, would he consent to either eat or drink."
The complete transformation which the written and spoken word of Bahá'u'lláh had effected in the outlook and character of His companions was equalled by the burning devotion which His love had kindled in their souls. A passionate zeal and fervor, that rivalled the enthusiasm that had glowed so fiercely in the breasts of the Báb's disciples in their moments of greatest exaltation, had now seized the hearts of the exiles of Baghdád and galvanized their entire beings. "So inebriated," Nabíl, describing the fecundity of this tremendously dynamic spiritual revival, has written, "so carried away was every one by the sweet savors of the Morn of Divine Revelation that, methinks, out of every thorn sprang forth heaps of blossoms, and every seed yielded innumerable harvests." "The room of the Most Great House," that same chronicler has recorded, "set apart for the reception of Bahá'u'lláh's visitors, though dilapidated, and having long since outgrown its usefulness, vied, through having been trodden by the blessed footsteps of the Well Beloved, with the Most Exalted Paradise. Low-roofed, it yet seemed to reach to the stars, and though it boasted but a single couch, fashioned from the branches of palms, whereon He Who is the King of Names was wont to sit, it drew to itself, even as a loadstone, the hearts of the princes."
It was this same reception room which, in spite of its rude simplicity, had so charmed the Shuja'u'd-Dawlih that he had expressed to his fellow-princes his intention of building a duplicate of it in his home in Kazímayn. "He may well succeed," Bahá'u'lláh is reported
to have smilingly remarked when apprized of this intention, "in reproducing outwardly the exact counterpart of this low-roofed room made of mud and straw with its diminutive garden. What of his ability to open onto it the spiritual doors leading to the hidden worlds of God?" "I know not how to explain it," another prince, Zaynu'l-Ábidín Khán, the Fakhru'd-Dawlih, describing the atmosphere which pervaded that reception-room, had affirmed, "were all the sorrows of the world to be crowded into my heart they would, I feel, all vanish, when in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. It is as if I had entered Paradise itself."
The joyous feasts which these companions, despite their extremely modest earnings, continually offered in honor of their Beloved; the gatherings, lasting far into the night, in which they loudly celebrated, with prayers, poetry and song, the praises of the Báb, of Quddús and of Bahá'u'lláh; the fasts they observed; the vigils they kept; the dreams and visions which fired their souls, and which they recounted to each other with feelings of unbounded enthusiasm; the eagerness with which those who served Bahá'u'lláh performed His errands, waited upon His needs, and carried heavy skins of water for His ablutions and other domestic purposes; the acts of imprudence which, in moments of rapture, they occasionally committed; the expressions of wonder and admiration which their words and acts evoked in a populace that had seldom witnessed such demonstrations of religious transport and personal devotion--these, and many others, will forever remain associated with the history of that immortal period, intervening between the birth hour of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation and its announcement on the eve of His departure from Iraq.
Numerous and striking are the anecdotes which have been recounted by those whom duty, accident, or inclination had, in the course of these poignant years, brought into direct contact with Bahá'u'lláh. Many and moving are the testimonies of bystanders who were privileged to gaze on His countenance, observe His gait, or overhear His remarks, as He moved through the lanes and streets of the city, or paced the banks of the river; of the worshippers who watched Him pray in their mosques; of the mendicant, the sick, the aged, and the unfortunate whom He succored, healed, supported and comforted; of the visitors, from the haughtiest prince to the meanest beggar, who crossed His threshold and sat at His feet; of the merchant, the artisan, and the shopkeeper who waited upon Him and supplied His daily needs; of His devotees who had perceived the signs of His hidden glory; of His adversaries who were confounded
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