the point when all the people of these regions are manifesting their submissiveness unto Us." And again, as recorded in that same narrative: "The Ottoman Sultán, without any justification, or reason, arose to oppress Us, and sent Us to the fortress of Akká. His imperial farmán decreed that none should associate with Us, and that We should become the object of the hatred of every one. The Hand of Divine power, therefore, swiftly avenged Us. It first loosed the winds of destruction upon his two irreplaceable ministers and confidants, `Alí and Fu'ád, after which that Hand was stretched out to roll up the panoply of Azíz himself, and to seize him, as He only can seize, Who is the Mighty, the Strong."
"His enemies," `Abdu'l-Bahá, referring to this same theme, has written, "intended that His imprisonment should completely destroy and annihilate the blessed Cause, but this prison was, in reality, of the greatest assistance, and became the means of its development." "...This illustrious Being," He, moreover has affirmed, "uplifted His Cause in the Most Great Prison. From this Prison His light was shed abroad; His fame conquered the world, and the proclamation of His glory reached the East and the West." "His light at first had been a star; now it became a mighty sun." "Until our time," He, moreover has affirmed, "no such thing has ever occurred."
Little wonder that, in view of so remarkable a reversal in the circumstances attending the twenty-four years of His banishment to Akká, Bahá'u'lláh Himself should have penned these weighty words: "The Almighty ... hath transformed this Prison-House into the Most Exalted Paradise, the Heaven of Heavens."
Bahá'u'lláh's Incarceration in Akká
While Bahá'u'lláh and the little band that bore Him company were being subjected to the severe hardships of a banishment intended to blot them from the face of the earth, the steadily expanding community of His followers in the land of His birth were undergoing a persecution more violent and of longer duration than the trials with which He and His companions were being afflicted. Though on a far smaller scale than the blood baths which had baptized the birth of the Faith, when in the course of a single year, as attested by `Abdu'l-Bahá, "more than four thousand souls were slain, and a great multitude of women and children left without protector and helper," the murderous and horrible acts subsequently perpetrated by an insatiable and unyielding enemy covered as wide a range and were marked by an even greater degree of ferocity.
Násiri'd-Dín Sháh, stigmatized by Bahá'u'lláh as the "Prince of Oppressors," as one who had "perpetrated what hath caused the denizens of the cities of justice and equity to lament," was, during the period under review, in the full tide of his manhood and had reached the plenitude of his despotic power. The sole arbiter of the fortunes of a country "firmly stereotyped in the immemorial traditions of the East"; surrounded by "venal, artful and false" ministers whom he could elevate or abase at his pleasure; the head of an administration in which "every actor was, in different aspects, both the briber and the bribed"; allied, in his opposition to the Faith, with a sacerdotal order which constituted a véritable "church-state"; supported by a people preeminent in atrocity, notorious for its fanaticism, its servility, cupidity and corrupt practices, this capricious monarch, no longer able to lay hands upon the person of Bahá'u'lláh, had to content himself with the task of attempting to stamp out in his own dominions the remnants of a much-feared and newly resuscitated community. Next to him in rank and power were his three eldest sons, to whom, for purposes of internal administration, he had practically delegated his authority, and in whom he had invested the governorship of all the provinces of his kingdom. The province of
Ádhirbayján he had entrusted to the weak and timid Muzaffari'd-Dín Mírzá, the heir to his throne, who had fallen under the influence of the Shaykhí sect, and was showing a marked respect to the mullás. To the stern and savage rule of the astute Mas'úd Mírzá, commonly known as Zillu's-Sultan, his eldest surviving son, whose mother had been of plebeian origin, he had committed over two-fifths of his kingdom, including the provinces of Yazd and Isfahán, whilst upon Kámrán Mírzá, his favorite son, commonly called by his title the Nayibu's-Saltanih, he had bestowed the rulership of Gílán and Mazindarán, and made him governor of Tihrán, his minister of war and the commander-in-chief of his army. Such was the rivalry between the last two princes, who vied with each other in courting the favor of their father, that each endeavored, with the support of the leading mujtahids within his jurisdiction, to outshine the other in the meritorious task of hunting, plundering and exterminating the members of a defenseless community, who, at the bidding of Bahá'u'lláh, had ceased to offer armed resistance even in self-defense, and were carrying out His injunction that "it is better to be killed than kill." Nor were the clerical firebrands, Hájí Mullá Alíy-i-Kání and Siyyid Sádiq-i-Tabátabá'í, the two leading mujtahids of Tihrán, together with Shaykh Muhammad-Báqir, their colleague in Isfahán, and Mír Muhammad-Husayn, the Imám-Jum'ih of that city, willing to allow the slightest opportunity to pass without striking, with all the force and authority they wielded, at an adversary whose liberalizing influences they had even more reason to fear than the sovereign himself.
Little wonder that, confronted by a situation so full of peril, the Faith should have been driven underground, and that arrests, interrogations, imprisonment, vituperation, spoliation, tortures and executions should constitute the outstanding features of this convulsive period in its development. The pilgrimages that had been initiated in Adrianople, and which later assumed in Akká impressive proportions, together with the dissemination of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and the circulation of enthusiastic reports through the medium of those who had attained His presence served, moreover, to inflame the animosity of clergy and laity alike, who had foolishly imagined that the breach which had occurred in the ranks of the followers of the Faith in Adrianople and the sentence of life banishment pronounced subsequently against its Leader, would seal irretrievably its fate.
In Ábádih a certain Ustád `Alí-Akbar was, at the instigation of a local Siyyid, apprehended and so ruthlessly thrashed that he was
covered from head to foot with his own blood. In the village of Tákúr, at the bidding of the Sháh, the property of the inhabitants was pillaged, Hájí Mírzá Ridá-Qulí, a half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh, was arrested, conducted to the capital and thrown into the Síyáh-Chál, where he remained for a month, whilst the brother-in-law of Mírzá Hasan, another half-brother of Bahá'u'lláh, was seized and branded with red-hot irons, after which the neighboring village of Dar-Kalá was delivered to the flames.
Áqá Buzurg of Khurásán, the illustrious "Badí" (Wonderful); converted to the Faith by Nabíl; surnamed the "Pride of Martyrs"; the seventeen-year old bearer of the Tablet addressed to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh; in whom, as affirmed by Bahá'u'lláh, "the spirit of might and power was breathed," was arrested, branded for three successive days, his head beaten to a pulp with the butt of a rifle, after which his body was thrown into a pit and earth and stones heaped upon it. After visiting Bahá'u'lláh in the barracks, during the second year of His confinement, he had arisen with amazing alacrity to carry that Tablet, alone and on foot, to Tihrán and deliver it into the hands of the sovereign. A four months' journey had taken him to that city, and, after passing three days in fasting and vigilance, he had met the Sháh proceeding on a hunting expedition to Shimírán. He had calmly and respectfully approached His Majesty, calling out, "O King! I have come to thee from Sheba with a weighty message"; whereupon at the Sovereign's order, the Tablet was taken from him and delivered to the mujtahids of Tihrán who were commanded to reply to that Epistle--a command which they evaded, recommending instead that the messenger should be put to death. That Tablet was subsequently forwarded by the Sháh to the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, in the hope that its perusal by the Sultán's ministers might serve to further inflame their animosity. For a space of three years Bahá'u'lláh continued to extol in His writings the heroism of that youth, characterizing the references made by Him to that sublime sacrifice as the "salt of My Tablets."
`Abá-Básir and Siyyid Ashraf, whose fathers had been slain in the struggle of Zanján, were decapitated on the same day in that city, the former going so far as to instruct, while kneeling in prayer, his executioner as to how best to deal his blow, while the latter, after having been so brutally beaten that blood flowed from under his nails, was beheaded, as he held in his arms the body of his martyred companion. It was the mother of this same Ashraf who, when sent to the prison in the hope that she would persuade her only son to
recant, had warned him that she would disown him were he to denounce his faith, had bidden him follow the example of `Abá-Básir, and had even watched him expire with eyes undimmed with tears. The wealthy and prominent Muhammad-Hasan Khán-i-Káshí was so mercilessly bastinadoed in Burújird that he succumbed to his ordeal. In Shíráz Mírzá Aqáy-i-Rikáb-Sáz, together with Mírzá Rafí-i-Khayyát and Mashhadí Nabí, were by order of the local mujtahid simultaneously strangled in the dead of night, their graves being later desecrated by a mob who heaped refuse upon them. Shaykh Abu'l-Qásim-i-Mazkání in Káshán, who had declined a drink of water that was offered him before his death, affirming that he thirsted for the cup of martyrdom, was dealt a fatal blow on the nape of his neck, whilst he was prostrating himself in prayer.
Mírzá Báqir-i-Shirází, who had transcribed the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople with such unsparing devotion, was slain in Kirmán, while in Ardikán the aged and infirm Gul-Muhammad was set upon by a furious mob, thrown to the ground, and so trampled upon by the hob-nailed boots of two siyyids that his ribs were crushed in and his teeth broken, after which his body was taken to the outskirts of the town and buried in a pit, only to be dug up the next day, dragged through the streets, and finally abandoned in the wilderness. In the city of Mashhad, notorious for its unbridled fanaticism, Hájí `Abdu'l-Majíd, who was the eighty-five year old father of the afore-mentioned Badí and a survivor of the struggle of Tabarsí, and who, after the martyrdom of his son, had visited Bahá'u'lláh and returned afire with zeal to Khurásán, was ripped open from waist to throat, and his head exposed on a marble slab to the gaze of a multitude of insulting onlookers, who, after dragging his body ignominiously through the bazaars, left it at the morgue to be claimed by his relatives.
In Isfahán Mullá Kázim was beheaded by order of Shaykh Muhammad-Báqir, and a horse made to gallop over his corpse, which was then delivered to the flames, while Siyyid Áqá Ján had his ears cut off, and was led by a halter through the streets and bazaars. A month later occurred in that same city the tragedy of the two famous brothers Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan and Mírzá Muhammad-Husayn, the "twin shining lights," respectively surnamed "Sultanu'sh-Shuhada" (King of Martyrs) and "Mahbúbu'sh-Shuhadá" (Beloved of Martyrs), who were celebrated for their generosity, trustworthiness, kindliness and piety. Their martyrdom was instigated by the wicked and dishonest Mír Muhammad-Husayn, the Imám-Jum'ih, stigmatized by
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