He, afterwards, arose and left the gathering. The Governor, soon after, sent word that He was at liberty to return to His home, and apologized for what had occurred.
A population, already ill-disposed towards the exiles, was, after such an incident, fired with uncontrollable animosity for all those who bore the name of the Faith which those exiles professed. The charges of impiety, atheism, terrorism and heresy were openly and without restraint flung into their faces. Abbúd, who lived next door to Bahá'u'lláh, reinforced the partition that separated his house from the dwelling of his now much-feared and suspected Neighbor. Even the children of the imprisoned exiles, whenever they ventured to show themselves in the streets during those days, would be pursued, vilified and pelted with stones.
The cup of Bahá'u'lláh's tribulations was now filled to overflowing. A situation, greatly humiliating, full of anxieties and even perilous, continued to face the exiles, until the time, set by an inscrutable Will, at which the tide of misery and abasement began to ebb, signalizing a transformation in the fortunes of the Faith even more conspicuous than the revolutionary change effected during the latter years of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in Baghdád.
The gradual recognition by all elements of the population of Bahá'u'lláh's complete innocence; the slow penetration of the true spirit of His teachings through the hard crust of their indifference and bigotry; the substitution of the sagacious and humane governor, Ahmad Big Tawfíq, for one whose mind had been hopelessly poisoned against the Faith and its followers; the unremitting labors of `Abdu'l-Bahá, now in the full flower of His manhood, Who, through His contacts with the rank and file of the population, was increasingly demonstrating His capacity to act as the shield of His Father; the providential dismissal of the officials who had been instrumental in prolonging the confinement of the innocent companions--all paved the way for the reaction that was now setting in, a reaction with which the period of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Akká will ever remain indissolubly associated.
Such was the devotion gradually kindled in the heart of that governor, through his association with `Abdu'l-Bahá, and later through his perusal of the literature of the Faith, which mischief-makers, in the hope of angering him, had submitted for his consideration, that he invariably refused to enter His presence without first removing his shoes, as a token of his respect for Him. It was even bruited about that his favored counselors were those very exiles
who were the followers of the Prisoner in his custody. His own son he was wont to send to `Abdu'l-Bahá for instruction and enlightenment. It was on the occasion of a long-sought audience with Bahá'u'lláh that, in response to a request for permission to render Him some service, the suggestion was made to him to restore the aqueduct which for thirty years had been allowed to fall into disuse--a suggestion which he immediately arose to carry out. To the inflow of pilgrims, among whom were numbered the devout and venerable Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurasaní and the father of Badí, both survivors of the struggle of Tabarsí, he offered scarcely any opposition, though the text of the imperial farmán forbade their admission into the city. Mustafá Díyá Páshá, who became governor a few years later, had even gone so far as to intimate that his Prisoner was free to pass through its gates whenever He pleased, a suggestion which Bahá'u'lláh declined. Even the Muftí of Akká, Shaykh Mahmúd, a man notorious for his bigotry, had been converted to the Faith, and, fired by his newborn enthusiasm, made a compilation of the Muhammadan traditions related to Akká. Nor were the occasionally unsympathetic governors, despatched to that city, able, despite the arbitrary power they wielded, to check the forces which were carrying the Author of the Faith towards His virtual emancipation and the ultimate accomplishment of His purpose. Men of letters, and even `ulamás residing in Syria, were moved, as the years rolled by, to voice their recognition of Bahá'u'lláh's rising greatness and power. Azíz Páshá, who, in Adrianople, had evinced a profound attachment to `Abdu'l-Bahá, and had in the meantime been promoted to the rank of Valí, twice visited Akká for the express purpose of paying his respects to Bahá'u'lláh, and to renew his friendship with One Whom he had learned to admire and revere.
Though Bahá'u'lláh Himself practically never granted personal interviews, as He had been used to do in Baghdád, yet such was the influence He now wielded that the inhabitants openly asserted that the noticeable improvement in the climate and water of their city was directly attributable to His continued presence in their midst. The very designations by which they chose to refer to him, such as the "august leader," and "his highness" bespoke the reverence with which He inspired them. On one occasion, a European general who, together with the governor, was granted an audience by Him, was so impressed that he "remained kneeling on the ground near the door." Shaykh Alíy-i-Mírí, the Muftí of Akká, had even, at the suggestion of `Abdu'l-Bahá, to plead insistently that He might permit
the termination of His nine-year confinement within the walls of the prison-city, before He would consent to leave its gates. The garden of Na'mayn, a small island, situated in the middle of a river to the east of the city, honored with the appellation of Ridván, and designated by Him the "New Jerusalem" and "Our Verdant Isle," had, together with the residence of `Abdu'lláh Páshá,--rented and prepared for Him by `Abdu'l-Bahá, and situated a few miles north of Akká--become by now the favorite retreats of One Who, for almost a decade, had not set foot beyond the city walls, and Whose sole exercise had been to pace, in monotonous repetition, the floor of His bed-chamber.
Two years later the palace of Údí Khammár, on the construction of which so much wealth had been lavished, while Bahá'u'lláh lay imprisoned in the barracks, and which its owner had precipitately abandoned with his family owing to the outbreak of an epidemic disease, was rented and later purchased for Him--a dwelling-place which He characterized as the "lofty mansion," the spot which "God hath ordained as the most sublime vision of mankind." `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to Beirut, at the invitation of Midhát Páshá, a former Grand Vizir of Turkey, occurring about this time; His association with the civil and ecclesiastical leaders of that city; His several interviews with the well-known Shaykh Muhammad `Abdu served to enhance immensely the growing prestige of the community and spread abroad the fame of its most distinguished member. The splendid welcome accorded him by the learned and highly esteemed Shaykh Yúsúf, the Muftí of Nazareth, who acted as host to the valís of Beirut, and who had despatched all the notables of the community several miles on the road to meet Him as He approached the town, accompanied by His brother and the Muftí of Akká, as well as the magnificent reception given by `Abdu'l-Bahá to that same Shaykh Yúsúf when the latter visited Him in Akká, were such as to arouse the envy of those who, only a few years before, had treated Him and His fellow-exiles with feelings compounded of condescension and scorn.
The drastic farmán of Sultán `Abdu'l-`Azíz, though officially unrepealed, had by now become a dead letter. Though "Bahá'u'lláh was still nominally a prisoner, "the doors of majesty and true sovereignty were," in the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá, "flung wide open." "The rulers of Palestine," He moreover has written, "envied His influence and power. Governors and mutisárrifs, generals and local officials, would humbly request the honor of attaining His presence--a request to which He seldom acceded."
It was in that same mansion that the distinguished Orientalist, Prof. E. G. Browne of Cambridge, was granted his four successive interviews with Bahá'u'lláh, during the five days he was His guest at Bahjí (April 15-20, 1890), interviews immortalized by the Exile's historic declaration that "these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away and the `Most Great Peace' shall come." "The face of Him on Whom I gazed," is the interviewer's memorable testimony for posterity, "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.... 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 vain." "Here," the visitor himself has testified, "did I spend five most memorable days, during which I enjoyed unparalleled and unhoped-for opportunities of holding intercourse with those who are the fountain-heads of that mighty and wondrous spirit, which works with invisible but ever-increasing force for the transformation and quickening of a people who slumber in a sleep like unto death. It was, in truth, a strange and moving experience, but one whereof I despair of conveying any save the feeblest impression."
In that same year Bahá'u'lláh's tent, the "Tabernacle of Glory," was raised on Mt. Carmel, "the Hill of God and His Vineyard," the home of Elijah, extolled by Isaiah as the "mountain of the Lord," to which "all nations shall flow." Four times He visited Haifa, His last visit being no less than three months long. In the course of one of these visits, when His tent was pitched in the vicinity of the Carmelite Monastery, He, the "Lord of the Vineyard," revealed the Tablet of Carmel, remarkable for its allusions and prophecies. On another occasion He pointed out Himself to `Abdu'l-Bahá, as He stood on the slopes of that mountain, the site which was to serve as the permanent resting-place of the Báb, and on which a befitting mausoleum was later to be erected.
Properties, bordering on the Lake associated with the ministry of Jesus Christ, were, moreover, purchased at Bahá'u'lláh's bidding, designed to be consecrated to the glory of His Faith, and to be the forerunners of those "noble and imposing structures" which He, in His Tablets, had anticipated would be raised "throughout the length and breadth" of the Holy Land, as well as of the "rich and sacred territories adjoining the Jordan and its vicinity," which, in those Tablets, He had permitted to be dedicated "to the worship and service of the one true God."
The enormous expansion in the volume of Bahá'u'lláh's correspondence; the establishment of a Bahá'í agency in Alexandria for its despatch and distribution; the facilities provided by His staunch follower, Muhammad Mustafá, now established in Beirut to safeguard the interests of the pilgrims who passed through that city; the comparative ease with which a titular Prisoner communicated with the multiplying centers in Persia, Iraq, Caucasus, Turkistán, and Egypt; the mission entrusted by Him to Sulaymán Khán-i-Tanakábúní, known as Jamál Effendi, to initiate a systematic campaign of teaching in India and Burma; the appointment of a few of His followers as "Hands of the Cause of God"; the restoration of the Holy House in Shíráz, whose custodianship was now formally entrusted by Him to the Báb's wife and her sister; the conversion of a considerable number of the adherents of the Jewish, Zoroastrian and Buddhist Faiths, the first fruits of the zeal and the perseverance which itinerant teachers in Persia, India and Burma were so strikingly displaying --conversions that automatically resulted in a firm recognition by them of the Divine origin of both Christianity and Islám-- all these attested the vitality of a leadership that neither kings nor ecclesiastics, however powerful or antagonistic, could either destroy or undermine.
Nor should reference be omitted to the emergence of a prosperous community in the newly laid out city of Ishqábád, in Russian Turkistán, assured of the good will of a sympathetic government, enabling it to establish a Bahá'í cemetery and to purchase property and erect thereon structures that were to prove the precursors of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of the Bahá'í world; or to the establishment of new outposts of the Faith in far-off Samarqand and Bukhárá, in the heart of the Asiatic continent, in consequence of the discourses and writings of the erudite Fádil-i-Qa'iní and the learned apologist Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl; or to the publication in India of five volumes of the writings of the Author of the Faith, including His "Most Holy Book"--publications which were to herald the vast multiplication of its literature, in various scripts and languages, and its dissemination, in later decades, throughout both the East and the West.
"Sultán `Abdu'l-`Azíz," Bahá'u'lláh is reported by one of His fellow-exiles to have stated, "banished Us to this country in the greatest abasement, and since his object was to destroy Us and humble Us, whenever the means of glory and ease presented themselves, We did not reject them." "Now, praise be to God," He, moreover, as reported by Nabíl in his narrative, once remarked, "it has reached
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