visits to Kazímayn and for His occasional meeting with a few of His friends who resided in that town and in Baghdád.
The tragic situation that had developed in the course of His two years' absence now imperatively demanded His return. "From the Mystic Source," He Himself explains in the Kitáb-i-Iqán, "there came the summons bidding Us return whence We came. Surrendering Our will to His, We submitted to His injunction." "By God besides Whom there is none other God!" is His emphatic assertion to Shaykh Sultán, as reported by Nabíl in his narrative, "But for My recognition of the fact that the blessed Cause of the Primal Point was on the verge of being completely obliterated, and all the sacred blood poured out in the path of God would have been shed in vain, I would in no wise have consented to return to the people of the Bayán, and would have abandoned them to the worship of the idols their imaginations had fashioned."
Mírzá Yahyá, realizing full well to what a pass his unrestrained leadership of the Faith had brought him, had, moreover, insistently and in writing, besought Him to return. No less urgent were the pleadings of His own kindred and friends, particularly His twelve-year old Son, `Abdu'l-Bahá, Whose grief and loneliness had so consumed His soul that, in a conversation recorded by Nabíl in his narrative, He had avowed that subsequent to the departure of Bahá'u'lláh He had in His boyhood grown old.
Deciding to terminate the period of His retirement Bahá'u'lláh bade farewell to the shaykhs of Sulaymáníyyih, who now numbered among His most ardent and, as their future conduct demonstrated, staunchest admirers. Accompanied by Shaykh Sultán, He retraced His steps to Baghdád, on "the banks of the River of Tribulations," as He Himself termed it, proceeding by slow stages, realizing, as He declared to His fellow-traveler, that these last days of His retirement would be "the only days of peace and tranquillity" left to Him, "days which will never again fall to My lot."
On the 12th of Rajab 1272 A.H. (March 19, 1856) He arrived in Baghdád, exactly two lunar years after His departure for Kurdistán.
Bahá'u'lláh's Banishment to Iraq
The return of Bahá'u'lláh from Sulaymáníyyih to Baghdád marks a turning point of the utmost significance in the history of the first Bahá'í century. The tide of the fortunes of the Faith, having reached its lowest ebb, was now beginning to surge back, and was destined to roll on, steadily and mightily, to a new high water-mark, associated this time with the Declaration of His Mission, on the eve of His banishment to Constantinople. With His return to Baghdád a firm anchorage was now being established, an anchorage such as the Faith had never known in its history. Never before, except during the first three years of its life, could that Faith claim to have possessed a fixed and accessible center to which its adherents could turn for guidance, and from which they could derive continuous and unobstructed inspiration. No less than half of the Báb's short-lived ministry was spent on the remotest border of His native country, where He was concealed and virtually cut off from the vast majority of His disciples. The period immediately after His martyrdom was marked by a confusion that was even more deplorable than the isolation caused by His enforced captivity. Nor when the Revelation which He had foretold made its appearance was it succeeded by an immediate declaration that could enable the members of a distracted community to rally round the person of their expected Deliverer. The prolonged self-concealment of Mírzá Yahyá, the center provisionally appointed pending the manifestation of the Promised One; the nine months' absence of Bahá'u'lláh from His native land, while on a visit to Kárbilá, followed swiftly by His imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál, by His banishment to Iraq, and afterwards by His retirement to Kurdistán--all combined to prolong the phase of instability and suspense through which the Bábí community had to pass.
Now at last, in spite of Bahá'u'lláh's reluctance to unravel the mystery surrounding His own position, the Bábís found themselves able to center both their hopes and their movements round One Whom they believed (whatever their views as to His station) capable of insuring the stability and integrity of their Faith. The orientation
which the Faith had thus acquired and the fixity of the center towards which it now gravitated continued, in one form or another, to be its outstanding features, of which it was never again to be deprived.
The Faith of the Báb, as already observed, had, in consequence of the successive and formidable blows it had received, reached the verge of extinction. Nor was the momentous Revelation vouchsafed to Bahá'u'lláh in the Síyáh-Chál productive at once of any tangible results of a nature that would exercise a stabilizing influence on a well-nigh disrupted community. Bahá'u'lláh's unexpected banishment had been a further blow to its members, who had learned to place their reliance upon Him. Mírzá Yahyá's seclusion and inactivity further accelerated the process of disintegration that had set in. Bahá'u'lláh's prolonged retirement to Kurdistán seemed to have set the seal on its complete dissolution.
Now, however, the tide that had ebbed in so alarming a measure was turning, bearing with it, as it rose to flood point, those inestimable benefits that were to herald the announcement of the Revelation already secretly disclosed to Bahá'u'lláh.
During the seven years that elapsed between the resumption of His labors and the declaration of His prophetic mission--years to which we now direct our attention--it would be no exaggeration to say that the Bahá'í community, under the name and in the shape of a re-arisen Bábí community was born and was slowly taking shape, though its Creator still appeared in the guise of, and continued to labor as, one of the foremost disciples of the Báb. It was a period during which the prestige of the community's nominal head steadily faded from the scene, paling before the rising splendor of Him Who was its actual Leader and Deliverer. It was a period in the course of which the first fruits of an exile, endowed with incalculable potentialities, ripened and were garnered. It was a period that will go down in history as one during which the prestige of a recreated community was immensely enhanced, its morals entirely reformed, its recognition of Him who rehabilitated its fortunes enthusiastically affirmed, its literature enormously enriched, and its victories over its new adversaries universally acknowledged.
The prestige of the community, and particularly that of Bahá'u'lláh, now began from its first inception in Kurdistán to mount in a steadily rising crescendo. Bahá'u'lláh had scarcely gathered up again the reins of the authority he had relinquished when the devout admirers He had left behind in Sulaymáníyyih started to flock to Baghdád, with the name of "Darvísh Muhammad" on their lips, and the "house
of Mírzá Músá the Bábí" as their goal. Astonished at the sight of so many `ulamás and Súfís of Kurdish origin, of both the Qádiríyyih and Khalídíyyih Orders, thronging the house of Bahá'u'lláh, and impelled by racial and sectarian rivalry, the religious leaders of the city, such as the renowned Ibn-i-Álúsí, the Muftí of Baghdád, together with Shaykh Abdu's-Salám, Shaykh `Abdu'l-Qádir and Siyyid Dáwúdí, began to seek His presence, and, having obtained completely satisfying answers to their several queries, enrolled themselves among the band of His earliest admirers. The unqualified recognition by these outstanding leaders of those traits that distinguished the character and conduct of Bahá'u'lláh stimulated the curiosity, and later evoked the unstinted praise, of a great many observers of less conspicuous position, among whom figured poets, mystics and notables, who either resided in, or visited, the city. Government officials, foremost among whom were `Abdu'lláh Páshá and his lieutenant Mahmúd Áqá, and Mullá `Alí Mardán, a Kurd well-known in those circles, were gradually brought into contact with Him, and lent their share in noising abroad His fast-spreading fame. Nor could those distinguished Persians, who either lived in Baghdád and its environs or visited as pilgrims the holy places, remain impervious to the spell of His charm. Princes of the royal blood, amongst whom were such personages as the Ná'ibú'l-Íyálih, the Shuja'u'd-Dawlih, the Sayfu'd-Dawlih, and Zaynu'l-Ábidín Khán, the Fakhru'd-Dawlih, were, likewise, irresistibly drawn into the ever-widening circle of His associates and acquaintances.
Those who, during Bahá'u'lláh's two years' absence from Baghdád, had so persistently reviled and loudly derided His companions and kindred were, by now, for the most part, silenced. Not an inconsiderable number among them feigned respect and esteem for Him, a few claimed to be His defenders and supporters, while others professed to share His beliefs, and actually joined the ranks of the community to which He belonged. Such was the extent of the reaction that had set in that one of them was even heard to boast that, as far back as the year 1250 A.H.--a decade before the Báb's Declaration--he had already perceived and embraced the truth of His Faith!
Within a few years after Bahá'u'lláh's return from Sulaymáníyyih the situation had been completely reversed. The house of Sulaymán-i-Ghannam, on which the official designation of the Bayt-i-A'zam (the Most Great House) was later conferred, known, at that time, as the house of Mírzá Músá, the Bábí, an extremely modest residence,
situated in the Karkh quarter, in the neighborhood of the western bank of the river, to which Bahá'u'lláh's family had moved prior to His return from Kurdistán, had now become the focal center of a great number of seekers, visitors and pilgrims, including Kurds, Persians, Arabs and Turks, and derived from the Muslim, the Jewish and Christian Faiths. It had, moreover, become a véritable sanctuary to which the victims of the injustice of the official representative of the Persian government were wont to flee, in the hope of securing redress for the wrongs they had suffered.
At the same time an influx of Persian Bábís, whose sole object was to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, swelled the stream of visitors that poured through His hospitable doors. Carrying back, on their return to their native country, innumerable testimonies, both oral and written, to His steadily rising power and glory, they could not fail to contribute, in a vast measure, to the expansion and progress of a newly-reborn Faith. Four of the Báb's cousins and His maternal uncle, Hájí Mírzá Siyyid Muhammad; a grand-daughter of Fath-`Alí Sháh and fervent admirer of Táhirih, surnamed Varáqatu'r-Ridván; the erudite Mullá Muhammad-i-Qá'iní, surnamed Nabíl-i-Akbar; the already famous Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurasaní, surnamed Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq, who with Quddús had been ignominiously persecuted in Shíráz; Mullá Báqir, one of the Letters of the Living; Siyyid Asadu'lláh, surnamed Dayyán; the revered Siyyid Javád-i-Kárbilá'í; Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan and Mírzá Muhammad-Husayn, later immortalized by the titles of Sultanu'sh-Shuhada and Mahbúbu'sh-Shuhadá (King of Martyrs and Beloved of Martyrs) respectively; Mírzá Muhammad-`Alíy-i-Nahrí, whose daughter, at a later date, was joined in wedlock to `Abdu'l-Bahá; the immortal Siyyid Ismá'íl-i-Zavari'í; Hájí Shaykh Muhammad, surnamed Nabíl by the Báb; the accomplished Mírzá Aqáy-i-Munír, surnamed Ismu'lláhu'l-Múníb; the long-suffering Hájí Muhammad-Taqí, surnamed Ayyúb; Mullá Zaynu'l-Ábidín, surnamed Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín, who had ranked as a highly esteemed mujtahid--all these were numbered among the visitors and fellow-disciples who crossed His threshold, caught a glimpse of the splendor of His majesty, and communicated far and wide the creative influences instilled into them through their contact with His spirit. Mullá Muhammad-i-Zarandí, surnamed Nabíl-i-A'zam, who may well rank as His Poet-Laureate, His chronicler and His indefatigable disciple, had already joined the exiles, and had launched out on his long and arduous series of journeys to Persia in furtherance of the Cause of his Beloved.
unframe page frame page