was flea-infested, damp and honey-combed with gloomy, filthy and tortuous lanes. "According to what they say," the Supreme Pen has recorded in the Lawh-i-Sultán, "it is the most desolate of the cities of the world, the most unsightly of them in appearance, the most detestable in climate, and the foulest in water. It is as though it were the metropolis of the owl." So putrid was its air that, according to a proverb, a bird when flying over it would drop dead.
Explicit orders had been issued by the Sultán and his ministers to subject the exiles, who were accused of having grievously erred and led others far astray, to the strictest confinement. Hopes were confidently expressed that the sentence of life-long imprisonment pronounced against them would lead to their eventual extermination. The farmán of Sultán `Abdu'l-`Azíz, dated the fifth of Rabí'u'th-Thání 1285 A.H. (July 26, 1868), not only condemned them to perpetual banishment, but stipulated their strict incarceration, and forbade them to associate either with each other or with the local inhabitants. The text of the farmán itself was read publicly, soon after the arrival of the exiles, in the principal mosque of the city as a warning to the population. The Persian Ambassador, accredited to the Sublime Porte, had thus assured his government, in a letter, written a little over a year after their banishment to Akká: "I have issued telegraphic and written instructions, forbidding that He (Bahá'u'lláh) associate with any one except His wives and children, or leave under any circumstances, the house wherein He is imprisoned. Abbás-Qulí Khán, the Consul-General in Damascus ... I have, three days ago, sent back, instructing him to proceed direct to Akká ... confer with its governor regarding all necessary measures for the strict maintenance of their imprisonment ... and appoint, before his return to Damascus, a representative on the spot to insure that the orders issued by the Sublime Porte will, in no wise, be disobeyed. I have, likewise, instructed him that once every three months he should proceed from Damascus to Akká, and personally watch over them, and submit his report to the Legation." Such was the isolation imposed upon them that the Bahá'ís of Persia, perturbed by the rumors set afloat by the Azalís of Isfahán that Bahá'u'lláh had been drowned, induced the British Telegraph office in Julfá to ascertain on their behalf the truth of the matter.
Having, after a miserable voyage, disembarked at Akká, all the exiles, men, women and children, were, under the eyes of a curious and callous population that had assembled at the port to behold the "God of the Persians," conducted to the army barracks, where they
were locked in, and sentinels detailed to guard them. "The first night," Bahá'u'lláh testifies in the Lawh-i-Ra'ís, "all were deprived of either food or drink... They even begged for water, and were refused." So filthy and brackish was the water in the pool of the courtyard that no one could drink it. Three loaves of black and salty bread were assigned to each, which they were later permitted to exchange, when escorted by guards to the market, for two of better quality. Subsequently they were allowed a mere pittance as substitute for the allotted dole of bread. All fell sick, except two, shortly after their arrival. Malaria, dysentery, combined with the sultry heat, added to their miseries. Three succumbed, among them two brothers, who died the same night, "locked," as testified by Bahá'u'lláh, "in each other's arms." The carpet used by Him He gave to be sold in order to provide for their winding-sheets and burial. The paltry sum obtained after it had been auctioned was delivered to the guards, who had refused to bury them without first being paid the necessary expenses. Later, it was learned that, unwashed and unshrouded, they had buried them, without coffins, in the clothes they wore, though, as affirmed by Bahá'u'lláh, they were given twice the amount required for their burial. "None," He Himself has written, "knoweth what befell Us, except God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing... From the foundation of the world until the present day a cruelty such as this hath neither been seen nor heard of." "He hath, during the greater part of His life," He, referring to Himself, has, moreover, recorded, "been sore-tried in the clutches of His enemies. His sufferings have now reached their culmination in this afflictive Prison, into which His oppressors have so unjustly thrown Him."
The few pilgrims who, despite the ban that had been so rigidly imposed, managed to reach the gates of the Prison--some of whom had journeyed the entire distance from Persia on foot--had to content themselves with a fleeting glimpse of the face of the Prisoner, as they stood, beyond the second moat, facing the window of His Prison. The very few who succeeded in penetrating into the city had, to their great distress, to retrace their steps without even beholding His countenance. The first among them, the self-denying Hájí Abu'l-Hasan-i-Ardikání, surnamed Amín-i-Iláhí (Trusted of God), to enter His presence was only able to do so in a public bath, where it had been arranged that he should see Bahá'u'lláh without approaching Him or giving any sign of recognition. Another pilgrim, Ustád Ismá'íl-i-Kashí, arriving from Mosul, posted himself on the far side of the moat, and, gazing for hours, in rapt adoration, at the window
of his Beloved, failed in the end, owing to the feebleness of his sight, to discern His face, and had to turn back to the cave which served as his dwelling-place on Mt. Carmel--an episode that moved to tears the Holy Family who had been anxiously watching from afar the frustration of his hopes. Nabíl himself had to precipitately flee the city, where he had been recognized, had to satisfy himself with a brief glimpse of Bahá'u'lláh from across that same moat, and continued to roam the countryside around Nazareth, Haifa, Jerusalem and Hebron, until the gradual relaxation of restrictions enabled him to join the exiles.
To the galling weight of these tribulations was now added the bitter grief of a sudden tragedy--the premature loss of the noble, the pious Mírzá Mihdí, the Purest Branch, `Abdu'l-Bahá's twenty-two year old brother, an amanuensis of Bahá'u'lláh and a companion of His exile from the days when, as a child, he was brought from Tihrán to Baghdád to join his Father after His return from Sulaymáníyyih. He was pacing the roof of the barracks in the twilight, one evening, wrapped in his customary devotions, when he fell through the unguarded skylight onto a wooden crate, standing on the floor beneath, which pierced his ribs, and caused, twenty-two hours later, his death, on the 23rd of Rabí'u'l-Avval 1287 A.H. (June 23, 1870). His dying supplication to a grieving Father was that his life might be accepted as a ransom for those who were prevented from attaining the presence of their Beloved.
In a highly significant prayer, revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in memory of His son--a prayer that exalts his death to the rank of those great acts of atonement associated with Abraham's intended sacrifice of His son, with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the martyrdom of the Imám Husayn--we read the following: "I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened, and all that dwell on earth be united." And, likewise, these prophetic words, addressed to His martyred son: "Thou art the Trust of God and His Treasure in this Land. Erelong will God reveal through thee that which He hath desired."
After he had been washed in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, he "that was created of the light of Bahá," to whose "meekness" the Supreme Pen had testified, and of the "mysteries" of whose ascension that same Pen had made mention, was borne forth, escorted by the fortress guards, and laid to rest, beyond the city walls, in a spot adjacent to the shrine of Nabí Salíh, from whence, seventy years later, his remains, simultaneously with those of his illustrious mother, were to be
translated to the slopes of Mt. Carmel, in the precincts of the grave of his sister, and under the shadow of the Báb's holy sepulcher.
Nor was this the full measure of the afflictions endured by the Prisoner of Akká and His fellow-exiles. Four months after this tragic event a mobilization of Turkish troops necessitated the removal of Bahá'u'lláh and all who bore Him company from the barracks. He and His family were accordingly assigned the house of Malik, in the western quarter of the city, whence, after a brief stay of three months, they were moved by the authorities to the house of Khavvám which faced it, and from which, after a few months, they were again obliged to take up new quarters in the house of Rabí'ih, being finally transferred, four months later, to the house of Údí Khammár, which was so insufficient to their needs that in one of its rooms no less than thirteen persons of both sexes had to accommodate themselves. Some of the companions had to take up their residence in other houses, while the remainder were consigned to a caravanserai named the Khán-i-`Avámid.
Their strict confinement had hardly been mitigated, and the guards who had kept watch over them been dismissed, when an internal crisis, which had been brewing in the midst of the community, was brought to a sudden and catastrophic climax. Such had been the conduct of two of the exiles, who had been included in the party that accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Akká, that He was eventually forced to expel them, an act of which Siyyid Muhammad did not hesitate to take the fullest advantage. Reinforced by these recruits, he, together with his old associates, acting as spies, embarked on a campaign of abuse, calumny and intrigue, even more pernicious than that which had been launched by him in Constantinople, calculated to arouse an already prejudiced and suspicious populace to a new pitch of animosity and excitement. A fresh danger now clearly threatened the life of Bahá'u'lláh. Though He Himself had stringently forbidden His followers, on several occasions, both verbally and in writing, any retaliatory acts against their tormentors, and had even sent back to Beirut an irresponsible Arab convert, who had meditated avenging the wrongs suffered by his beloved Leader, seven of the companions clandestinely sought out and slew three of their persecutors, among whom were Siyyid Muhammad and Áqá Ján.
The consternation that seized an already oppressed community was indescribable. Bahá'u'lláh's indignation knew no bounds. "Were We," He thus voices His emotions, in a Tablet revealed shortly after this act had been committed, "to make mention of what befell Us,
the heavens would be rent asunder and the mountains would crumble." "My captivity," He wrote on another occasion, "cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the conduct of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and yet perpetrate what causeth My heart and My pen to groan." And again: "My captivity can bring on Me no shame. Nay, by My life, it conferreth on Me glory. That which can make Me ashamed is the conduct of such of My followers as profess to love Me, yet in fact follow the Evil One."
He was dictating His Tablets to His amanuensis when the governor, at the head of his troops, with drawn swords, surrounded His house. The entire populace, as well as the military authorities, were in a state of great agitation. The shouts and clamor of the people could be heard on all sides. Bahá'u'lláh was peremptorily summoned to the Governorate, interrogated, kept in custody the first night, with one of His sons, in a chamber in the Khán-i-Shavirdí, transferred for the following two nights to better quarters in that neighborhood, and allowed only after the lapse of seventy hours to regain His home. `Abdu'l-Bahá was thrown into prison and chained during the first night, after which He was permitted to join His Father. Twenty-five of the companions were cast into another prison and shackled, all of whom, except those responsible for that odious deed, whose imprisonment lasted several years, were, after six days, moved to the Khán-i-Shavirdí, and there placed, for six months, under confinement.
"Is it proper," the Commandant of the city, turning to Bahá'u'lláh, after He had arrived at the Governorate, boldly inquired, "that some of your followers should act in such a manner?" "If one of your soldiers," was the swift rejoinder, "were to commit a reprehensible act, would you be held responsible, and be punished in his place?" When interrogated, He was asked to state His name and that of the country from which He came. "It is more manifest than the sun," He answered. The same question was put to Him again, to which He gave the following reply: "I deem it not proper to mention it. Refer to the farmán of the government which is in your possession." Once again they, with marked deference, reiterated their request, whereupon Bahá'u'lláh spoke with majesty and power these words: "My name is Bahá'u'lláh (Light of God), and My country is Núr (Light). Be ye apprized of it." Turning then, to the Muftí, He addressed him words of veiled rebuke, after which He spoke to the entire gathering, in such vehement and exalted language that none made bold to answer Him. Having quoted verses from the Súriy-i-Mulúk,
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