Bahá'u'lláh in Constantinople

The five-year period that Bahá'u'lláh spent in Constantinople and Adrianople may be regarded as one of the most eventful and momentous times in His ministry. In this short period the sun of His Revelation mounted to its zenith and, in the plenitude of its splendour, shed its radiance upon the whole of mankind. This was also a most turbulent period in which He bore with much resignation and fortitude the pains, the betrayals and calamities heaped upon Him by His unfaithful brother Mírzá Yahyá who broke the Covenant of the Báb and rose up in rebellion against the One whom the world had wronged.

The arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in Constantinople, the capital city of the Ottoman empire, on 16 August 1863, marks a significant milestone in the unfoldment of His Mission. It was during Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in the capital that the conciliatory attitude of the authorities changed to that of hostility as a direct consequence of the intrigues and misrepresentations of Hájí Mírzá Husayn Khán, the Mushíru'd-Dawlih, the Persian Ambassador. It was also during the same eventful period that the initial phase of the proclamation of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh to the kings and rulers of the world was ushered in by the revelation of a Tablet addressed to Sultán 'Abdu'l-'Azíz and his ministers sternly rebuking them for their actions against the new-born Faith of God and its Leader.

Probably very few among His loved ones had the vision at that time to foresee this banishment as only a further stage in His exile to the Holy Land where, according to prophecy, the Lord of Hosts, the Everlasting Father, was to manifest His


glory to mankind. Some three thousand years before, Micah, the prophet of Israel, had foretold the appearance of the Lord in these words:

In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain.1

How strikingly accurate was the fulfilment of this prophecy! Bahá'u'lláh came from Assyria; Constantinople and 'Akká are both fortified cities--the latter a fortress; He voyaged upon the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and journeyed from the mountains of Kurdistán to Mount Carmel.

Amos, another prophet of Israel, refers to Bahá'u'lláh in Constantinople when he says:

For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name.2

In one of His Tablets revealed in 'Akká Bahá'u'lláh states that this prophecy refers to Him, that it concerns the year eighty (1280 A.H.-A.D. 1863) and that the 'high places of the earth' are Constantinople and the Holy Land (Mount Carmel). Furthermore, alluding to Mírzá Yahyá whose title was Subh-i-Azal (Morning of Eternity), He asserts that through His power the untrue morn was completely darkened.3

Bahá'u'lláh arrived in Constantinople in conspicuous majesty and was received by the authorities with great honour as He disembarked from the ship. He was driven with all the members of His family to the residence of Shamsí Big, an official who was present at the port and appointed by the Government to entertain its guests. His companions were given accommodation elsewhere in the city.

The house of Shamsí Big, a two-storey building in the vicinity of the Khirqiy-i-Sharíf mosque, proved to be too


1. Micah, vii. 12.

2. Amos, iv. 13.

3. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. VII, p. 192.

small a residence for Bahá'u'lláh and soon He was moved into the house of Vísí Páshá, a three-storey building more commodious than the first and situated near the mosque of Sultán Muhammad. Neither of these houses exists today in its original form.

The house of Vísí Páshá, like most houses in those days, consisted of an inner and an outer apartment. Each consisted of three storeys. Bahá'u'lláh resided in the inner section on the first floor, and His family occupied the remainder. In the outer apartment, 'Abdu'l-Bahá lived on the first floor, the believers on the second, while the third floor was turned into a store and a kitchen.

Shamsí Big, on behalf of the Government, used to call every morning and attend to any matter pertaining to the needs and well-being of Bahá'u'lláh and His companions. In the courtyard a tent was pitched for two Christian servants whom the Government had sent to attend to shopping and various other duties.

Several eminent personalities including state ministers called on Bahá'u'lláh to pay their respects to Him. Among them was Kamál Páshá, a former Sadr-i-A'zam (Prime Minister), who was at that time one of the ministers of the Sultán. He knew several languages well and prided himself on this accomplishment. Bahá'u'lláh recounts one of His conversations with him in these words:

One day, while in Constantinople, Kamál Páshá visited this Wronged One. Our conversation turned upon topics profitable unto man. He said that he had learned several languages. In reply We observed: 'You have wasted your life. It beseemeth you and the other officials of the Government to convene a gathering and choose one of the divers languages, and likewise one of the existing scripts, or else to create a new language and a new script to be taught children in schools throughout the world. They would, in this way, be acquiring only two languages, one their own native tongue, the other the language in which all the peoples of

the world would converse. Were men to take fast hold on that which hath been mentioned, the whole earth would come to be regarded as one country, and the people would be relieved and freed from the necessity of acquiring and teaching different languages.' When in Our presence, he acquiesced, and even evinced great joy and complete satisfaction. We then told him to lay this matter before the officials and ministers of the Government, in order that it might be put into effect throughout the different countries. However, although he often returned to see Us after this, he never again referred to this subject, although that which had been suggested is conducive to the concord and the unity of the peoples of the world.4

Many of the high-ranking authorities who visited Bahá'u'lláh had expected Him to solicit their help in securing the support of the Government for Himself and His Cause, but they soon discovered that He was far removed from the expedient practices current among men. His standards were exalted above human statesmanship which is based upon compromise, and often upon deceit and selfish exploits. The authorities became conscious of His spiritual powers born of God and were deeply impressed by His uprightness and dignity. Some of these men had urged Bahá'u'lláh to send a plea to the Sublime Porte for a thorough and just investigation of His case so that any misgivings in the minds of the Sultán and his ministers might be dispelled.

Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have made this response:

If the enlightened-minded leaders [of your nation] be wise and diligent, they will certainly make enquiry, and acquaint themselves with the true state of the case; if not, then [their] attainment of the truth is impracticable and impossible. Under these circumstances what need is there for importuning statesmen and supplicating ministers of the Court? We are free from every anxiety, and ready and prepared for the things predestined to us. 'Say, all is from God' is a sound and sufficient argument, and 'If God toucheth thee

4. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 137-8.
with a hurt there is no dispeller thereof save Him' is a healing medicine.5

In one of His Tablets revealed soon after His arrival in Constantinople, Bahá'u'lláh expresses disappointment in the people He had met, saying that their welcome for Him was an act of formality and that He found them cold as ice and lifeless as dead trees.6 In the Súriy-i-Mulúk (Súrih of the Kings), in a passage addressing the inhabitants of Constantinople, Bahá'u'lláh states that He found their leaders as 'children gathered about and disporting themselves with clay'. And He further comments:

We perceived no one sufficiently mature to acquire from Us the truths which God hath taught Us, nor ripe for Our wondrous words of wisdom. Our inner eye wept sore over them, and over their transgressions and their total disregard of the thing for which they were created. This is what We observed in that City, and which We have chosen to note down in Our Book, that it may serve as a warning unto them and unto the rest of mankind.7

The companions of Bahá'u'lláh, those faithful lovers of His glory who had travelled with Him to Constantinople, were given the privilege of attaining His presence from time to time. According to a list8 which bears the seal of Bahá'u'lláh* and which was presumably prepared under His direction for the authorities in Baghdád, altogether fifty-four people including the members of His family were to accompany Him to Constantinople. Of these one child died, and at least two people, including Mírzá Yahyá, joined Him on the way.

The list comprises the following:

Mírzá Husayn 'Alí [Bahá'u'lláh], 1 ; eldest son, 1 ; brothers, 2; female members of the household, 12;† children of all ages, 12


* For official purposes Bahá'u'lláh used His seal bearing the inscription 'Husayn-'Alí'.

† Among them were the wives of His brothers including Mírzá Yahyá.

5. Browne, (ed.), A Traveller's Narrative, p. 92.

6. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. IV, p. 369.

7. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section lxvi.

8. Unpublished.

(less one who died); servants, 20;* others, with their own mules, [who would return], 7; horses, 6.

It is interesting to note that Bahá'u'lláh rode a red roan Arab stallion some of the way, but travelled mostly in a howdah† which was shared by His wife Ásíyih Khánum.‡ 'Abdu'l-Bahá supervised the entire convoy and organized and directed the activities of those to whom certain tasks were allocated. He often used to ride Bahá'u'lláh's horse in order to keep in contact with various members of the party. About an hour before entering a town, He would usually bring the horse to Bahá'u'lláh who would then ride into the town, while 'Abdu'l-Bahá took His place in the howdah; and the same arrangements were made when the caravan was leaving the town.


Bahá'u'lláh on many occasions had warned His companions of their fate and of the calamities which would befall them in future. Now He predicted dire afflictions in the Lawh-i-Hawdaj (Tablet of the Howdah) revealed in Arabic in the port of Sámsún on His way to Constantinople. At the request of His amanuensis, Mírzá Áqá Ján, He revealed this Tablet as He sighted the Black Sea from His howdah. As far as we know this was the first Tablet revealed by Bahá'u'lláh after He left Baghdád. In it He referred to the forthcoming voyage by sea and stated that it had been foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. Thus he linked the Tablet of Hawdaj with the Holy Mariner and mentioned that the study of these two Tablets would enable the believers to understand the mysteries of the Cause of God and become strong in faith. The dire predictions already foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner would come to pass, He affirmed, and He further warned His companions of the 'grievous and tormenting


* Including His companions.

† See vol. 1, p. 284, f.n.

‡ See vol. 1, p. 15.

mischief' which would assail them from every direction, and would act as a divine touchstone through which the faith of every one would be severely tested and truth separated from falsehood.

Probably few among His companions realized that this 'grievous and tormenting mischief' would emanate from Bahá'u'lláh's own half-brother Mírzá Yahyá, precipitating a crisis of enormous proportions within the community, or that he would become the embodiment of man's rebelliousness, the centre of all the forces of darkness, who would arise to battle with the light of God's Supreme Manifestation.

By virtue of being close to the person of Bahá'u'lláh, the sincerity of His companions was tested to the utmost, for to associate with One who embodied within Himself the Spirit of God, and Who was the focal point of all His attributes and powers, required the highest degree of faith and detachment.* Any trace of self could destroy the soul of the believer. Another feature of this association was the way in which Bahá'u'lláh's awe-inspiring majesty affected those who came in contact with Him. The authority that emanated from Him, the radiance of His countenance and especially the magnetic power of His eyes, together with His all-encompassing love and compassion which surrounded all created things, exerted an influence which at once overwhelmed, vivified and comforted His disciples and transported them into the realms of the spirit.

Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí of Isfahán,† one of the most devoted disciples of Bahá'u'lláh and one who attained His presence in Adrianople and 'Akká on numerous occasions, has left some enlightening descriptions from his own observation. Referring to the effect which Bahá'u'lláh's presence had on the believers, he writes:

To describe a spiritual experience is impossible. For example two or more people may attain the presence of

* See also vol. 1, pp. 130-31.

† See Appendix III, also vol. 1.

Bahá'u'lláh together. Each will regard His loving-kindness, compassion and bounty as directed to himself alone, and will be moved to declare 'He is my God'. Although all have attained the presence of the same blessed Person, Whose words are not addressed to one alone, yet His Words penetrate into the veins and arteries, into the hearts, minds and souls. Each one will be affected in a personal way and will experience inner spiritual feelings which he finds impossible to describe to others. All that can be said is that one may address his friend and say: 'I was intoxicated and in a state of ecstasy.' His friend, who may have experienced similar effects at some time, can only appreciate this feeling to the extent of his own susceptibility...I mean to say that whatever concerns one's inward feelings, spiritual perceptiveness, inner enlightenment, and all that pertains to the realms of divinity, is far removed from, and exalted above, nature, material things, place, time, form and substance. For example, no one can explain the state of maturity or the mental faculties of a mature person to a child who has not come of age, even though these relate to the world of nature. For the child has not yet acquired the capacity to understand. How much less is it possible, then, to explain a spiritual matter, an abstract condition, to an individual.

Should a person be enabled to acquire, through the bounty and assistance of God and His Manifestations, an inner spiritual feeling [as a result of attaining the presence of Bahá'u'lláh], letting it penetrate his soul, not in the form of a temporary flash or vain imagining, but as imbuing his very being, then such an attainment will pave the way for his progress in the realms of spirit, provided it does not become mixed with self-glorification and egotism...

The import of these words is that it is impossible to describe the effusions of the grace [of Bahá'u'lláh] experienced in His presence or to recount the effulgent glories of the Speaker on the Mount*...9

Concerning the power and the authority of Bahá'u'lláh, Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí writes:


* Bahá'u'lláh.

9. Hájí Mírzá Haydar 'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 70-71.
A certain man, who was a follower of Azal,* once requested the late Hájí Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá'í...,† an early believer and one of the Mirrors of the Bábí Dispensation, to describe the countenance of the Báb...and its beauty. He said 'He was unsurpassed in beauty and sweetness; I saw in Him all the goodness and beauty ascribed to the person of Joseph.'

Since the questioner was an Azalí and a few other Azalís were also present, I felt that these men might deduce from the late Hájí Siyyid Javád's statement that he was also a follower of Azal. Therefore I asked him to tell us about the beauty of the One‡ in Whose holy presence the Kingdom of beauty prostrates itself and at whose threshold the most high realm of omnipotence and majesty raises a song of praise and glory. He replied, 'Know with absolute certainty that if anyone, whether friend or foe, claims that he was able to look directly into the blessed face of Bahá'u'lláh he is a liar. I tested this repeatedly and tried time and again to gaze upon His blessed countenance, but was unable to do so. Sometimes, when a person attains the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, he is so enamoured and carried away that in fact he becomes dumbfounded, awe-struck, oblivious of himself and forgetful of the world. And whenever he is not carried away, should he try to look into His blessed face with concentration, it would be like looking into the sun. In the same way that the eye is blinded by the effulgent rays of the sun, causing tears to flow, should one persist in gazing upon the countenance of the Blessed Beauty,§ tears will fill the eyes making it impossible to gain any impression of Him.'

I myself had this experience. During the seven months that I stayed in Adrianople, I was so carried away and dazzled [by His presence] that I was completely oblivious of myself and all creation. Fourteen or fifteen years later I arrived in the holy city of 'Akká, the luminous Spot round which

* Mírzá Yahyá.

† See The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, pp. 221-4.

‡ Bahá'u'lláh.

§ Bahá'u'lláh.

circle in adoration the Concourse on High,* the Sinai of Revelation unto Moses. I attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh for three months. During all this time I had wanted to know the colour of the blessed táj† He was wearing, and yet I forgot to think of it every time I was in His presence, until one day He adorned, perfumed and illumined the Garden of Ridván‡ with His blessed footsteps. The realities of the promised gardens of Paradise, both hidden and manifest, lay prostrate at that Garden of Ridván [Paradise]. He was having a midday meal in the room which pilgrims still visit and where a couch, chair, and some items used by Him are kept. Two or three people were standing inside and several outside the room. They were all enamoured of His peerless, imperishable and glorious Beauty. I saw the táj then...as I stood behind the friends and His companions...its colour was green...10

Another account which portrays the dazzling glory of the countenance of Bahá'u'lláh is to be found in the memoirs of Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí,§ who went on pilgrimage to 'Akká about 1878. He remained there for nine months and was permitted by Bahá'u'lláh to attain His presence every other day. During these memorable meetings he longed to gaze fully into the face of Bahá'u'lláh, but every time he came into His holy presence, he found himself dazzled by His beauty and spellbound by His utterance; until one day he happened to look into the face of Bahá'u'lláh. This is a translation of his own words:

One day, I attained the presence of the Blessed Beauty. Graciously He bade me be seated. When I sat down, He

* The gathering of the holy souls in the next world.

† A tall felt head-dress worn by Bahá'u'lláh.

‡ Literally 'Garden of Paradise', the designation of a garden outside 'Akká which Bahá'u'lláh used to visit. It is not to be confused with the Garden of Ridván outside Baghdád.

§ The father of the author; see The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1.

10. Hájí Mírzá Haydar 'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 69-71.
called Khádimu'lláh* and said, 'Bring tea for Áqá Táhir'. Khádimu'lláh brought a cup of tea and handed it to me. As I took the cup into my hands, my eyes fell upon the face of the Blessed Beauty and I became unconscious. I could not take my eyes from the transcendent beauty of His countenance. He then said to me, 'Oh, look what you have done! You have spilt the tea and spoilt your 'abá! † Protect this 'abá, it is going to be your only clothing all the way to Persia. We also had only one shirt and underwear on Our journey to Sulaymáníyyih.'‡ From these words of the Blessed Beauty, I realized that I held only the saucer in my hand and had dropped the cup. The hot tea had poured over the 'abá and penetrated my clothes, but I had not felt it at all.§ 11

Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, to whom we have referred previously, has recounted a brief story in which he describes the reaction of some government officials in 'Akká when they saw Bahá'u'lláh for the first time. He writes in his book, the Bihjatu's-Sudúr:

...It was the festival of Ridván, which was celebrated in the home of Jináb-i-Kalím.|| I was staying in the outer apartment of his house.¶ There were other apartments

* Literally 'the servant of God', a designation by which Bahá'u'lláh referred to Mírzá Áqá Ján, His amanuensis.

† A cloak worn by orientals.

‡ Hájí Muhammad-Táhir has written in detail the story of this 'abá, and how on the way back home, all his belongings were stolen from him. The only things he was able to recover were this 'abá and two envelopes. He wore the 'abá, a thin silk material, over his shirt and shivered in the cold of winter, remembering the words of Bahá'u'lláh that it would be his only clothing on his way to Persia, and realizing how much Bahá'u'lláh had suffered from the cold of Sulaymáníyyih.

§ Passages quoted from Bahá'u'lláh in this account are not to be taken as containing His exact words. But they convey the import of what He said.

|| Mírzá Músá, the faithful brother of Bahá'u'lláh.

¶ Houses in those days consisted of two sections; the inner part was strictly for private residence, the outer section was reserved for visitors or guests. Meetings were held in the outer part.

11. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished memoirs.
occupied by non-Bahá'ís; one was the residence of a certain 'Big' or 'Páshá'* who had arrived in 'Akká as the head of customs and excise.

In the afternoon of the first day of Ridván Bahá'u'lláh came out of the inner apartment to the place where the head of the customs and his officers were seated. As soon as He arrived, they arose spontaneously and, although it was not their way, they bowed. Lost in bewilderment and filled with wonder, they remained standing. Their hearts were enamoured of His peerless and beauteous countenance. Bahá'u'lláh went to them and spoke words of loving kindness. He then went back to the inner section. Bewildered and perplexed, the officer asked, 'Who was this distinguished personage? Is He the Holy Spirit or the King of Kings?' We answered, 'He is the father of 'Abbás Effendi'.† 12

These accounts give some impression of the glory of Bahá'u'lláh and His awe-inspiring majesty, and perhaps explain why none of His disciples was able to write a pen-portrait of Him. The only pen-portrait we have was written by the orientalist, Edward Granville Browne, who was not a Bahá'í. This is how he describes his visit to the Mansion of Bahjí in 1890 and his meeting with Bahá'u'lláh:

...my conductor paused for a moment while I removed my shoes. Then, with a quick movement of the hand, he withdrew, and, as I passed, replaced the curtain; and I found myself in a large apartment, along the upper end of which ran a low divan, while on the side opposite to the door were placed two or three chairs. Though I dimly suspected whither I was going and whom I was to behold (for no distinct intimation had been given to me), a second or two elapsed ere, with a throb of wonder and awe, I became definitely conscious that the room was not untenanted. In the corner where the divan met the wall sat a wondrous and venerable figure, crowned with a felt head-dress of the kind

* Titles for a high-ranking Turkish official.

† 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

12. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, p. 161.
called táj by dervishes (but of unusual height and make), round the base of which was wound a small white turban. The face of him on whom I gazed 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; while the deep lines on the forehead and face implied an age which the jet-black hair and beard flowing down in indistinguishable luxuriance almost to the waist seemed to belie. 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!

A mild dignified voice bade me be seated, and then continued: 'Praise be to God that thou hast attained!...Thou hast come to see a prisoner and an exile...We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment...That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled--what harm is there in this?...Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come...Do not you in Europe need this also? Is not this that which Christ foretold?...Yet do we see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind...These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family...Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind...'

Such, as far as I can recall them, were the words which, besides many others, I heard from Behá.* Let those who read them consider well with themselves whether such doctrines merit death and bonds, and whether the world is more likely to gain or lose by their diffusion.13


* Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)

13. A Traveller's Narrative, pp. xxxix-xl.
Concerning those who accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Constantinople, we know that a few among them were not pure in heart. Bahá'u'lláh had kept these men with Him so that their mischief could be checked. Only those who, through the grace of God, were able to submit themselves entirely to the will of God's Manifestation, who detached themselves from every desire, remained steadfast in His Cause and showed absolute faithfulness and humility, were worthy to be called His companions.

In future ages, when the station of Bahá'u'lláh will have been fully recognized, humanity will look back upon these souls, the embodiments of certitude and devotion, with feelings of praise and gratitude. For it was through their intense faith and love that they were enabled to receive the grace and bounties of God on behalf of all mankind. Had it not been for their loyalty and utter self-abnegation in the face of tests and calamities, the human race would have betrayed its God and postponed the establishment of the promised Kingdom upon this earth.

These disciples, many of whom laid down their lives in the path of Bahá'u'lláh, were the fruits of the Revelation of the Báb. It was He who created them especially for this Day. Indeed, the whole purpose of the Báb's Mission was to prepare His followers to become worthy to meet Bahá'u'lláh.

In one of His Writings14 the Báb stated that the moment an individual could be found ready and able to understand the Revelation which would follow His, God would without an instant's delay manifest Himself and reveal His Cause. The Báb also gave the example of His own Revelation and affirmed that had Mullá Husayn, the first to believe in Him, been ready to recognize Him even a few moments before he did, He would have announced His Mission that much earlier.

The person upon whom God had conferred the greatest capacity to understand the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh was His eldest son 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who at the age of nine instinctively knew the station of His Father. Soon after His arrival in


14. Quoted by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Badí', p. 176.
'Iráq, Bahá'u'lláh unfolded the Mission with which God had entrusted Him to 'Abdu'l-Bahá Who immediately acknowledged the truth of His Cause, prostrated Himself at His feet, and with great humility and earnestness begged the privilege of laying down His life in His Father's path.

Such momentous events do not come about casually. The hand of God was at work creating the means of manifesting His own Self to mankind. Not only was the Báb sent to pave the way for the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, but also 'Abdu'l-Bahá was created especially for the purpose of receiving the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh on behalf of mankind. How significant it is that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was to become the instrument of such a sublime Revelation, was born the same night that the Báb communicated His Mission to Mullá Husayn and set in motion the process of preparing His followers for the appearance of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.

Moreover, the history of the Bahá'í Faith demonstrates that the divine Power which raised up the incomparable figures of the Báb and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and delineated their sacred missions, also vivified many other souls who recognized Bahá'u'lláh and embraced His Faith.

In every Dispensation those who recognized the Manifestation of God and followed Him became a new creation endowed with new spirit. This is the rebirth spoken of in the Holy Books. In one of His Tablets15 best known for the beauty of its imagery, Bahá'u'lláh portrays a delightful panorama of divine mysteries. In allusive language He recounts some fascinating spiritual events in the worlds of God prior to the unveiling of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation. It is impossible to describe these enchanting scenes, but their essence is that since there was no one capable of understanding this Revelation, God ordained the birth of a new creation. Bahá'u'lláh affirms that He unveiled His glory to mankind only after it appeared, and describes in glowing terms the exalted character of this new creation.


15. Bahá'u'lláh, Majmú'iy-i-Alváh, pp. 272-4.
Having warned His companions of grievous tests which would descend upon them, Bahá'u'lláh in the Lawh-i-Hawdaj then addresses them in words of affection. He assures them of the bounties of God through which they may rid themselves of vain imaginings, purify their hearts from earthly desires and enter into the realms of nearness to God. He also reminds them that the Almighty has chosen them from among all humanity, has enabled them to recognize His Manifestation, bestowed upon them the unique distinction of being His companions, exalted their stations above all who dwelt on earth and has recorded their names in the 'Preserved Tablet'.*

The theme of the remainder of the Tablet is the greatness of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Addressing the whole of creation He bids mankind rejoice, for the Day of blissfulness has appeared, the day in which man has attained the presence of God.

The belief that one day man will attain the presence of his God is based on the Holy Scriptures of the past. In the Qur'án there are many references to this theme. In fact this is the clearest and most important promise given by the Prophet of Islám. The great Bahá'í scholar, Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, states that any man of insight who has a true knowledge of the Qur'án will bear witness that at least one-third of that Book deals with the advent of the great Day of God.

The following verses are only a few examples among many: 'As for those who believe not in the signs of God, or that they shall ever meet Him, these of my mercy shall despair, and for them doth a grievous chastisement await';16 and 'let him then who hopeth to attain the presence of His Lord work a righteous work';17 and again 'They who bear in mind that they shall attain unto the presence of their Lord, and that unto Him shall they return';18 and yet again 'He ordereth all things. He maketh His signs clear, that ye may have firm faith in attaining the presence of your Lord.'19


* This term is a symbol for the knowledge of God Who 'knoweth all things and is known of none'.

16. Qur'án, xxix. 23; quoted by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 88 (Brit.), pp. 138-9 (U.S.).

17. ibid., xviii. III.

18. ibid., ii. 46.

19. ibid., xiii. 2.

Similar prophecies appear in great number in the New Testament also. For example: 'And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face...';20 and again 'And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.'21

The Old Testament is also full of the promise of the coming of the Lord God. Here are a few instances: 'It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.'22 'Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.'23 'And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.'24 'For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.'25

In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has explained that God is beyond the comprehension of man and 'immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress...He standeth exalted beyond and above all separation and union, all proximity and remoteness.'26

The view that God will come in person is completely against the nature of God. Such an event would reduce Him instantly from the realm of the infinite to that of the finite. But man can attain the presence of God by attaining the presence of His Manifestation.* In the Persian Bayán (6:7) the Báb has clearly


* See The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, pp. 175-6, p. 185.

20. Revelation, xxii. 3 and 4

21. ibid., xxi. 3 and 4.

22. Isaiah, xxxv. 2.

23. ibid., xxxv. 4.

24. ibid., xl. 5.

25. ibid., lx. 2.

26. Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 63 (Brit.), p. 98 (U.S.).

stated that any reference in the Holy Scriptures to the presence of God means the presence of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.

Ever since recorded history began the Prophets and Messengers of God have foretold an age of consummation for mankind. The visions of all the Prophets, the thoughts of many poets and seers have focused on the coming of the Lord,* and yet when He manifested Himself all the peoples of the world failed to recognize Him. Only a few beheld His glory and recognized His station. Therefore, how awe-inspiring is it to look back upon those days when less than three score men, women and children accompanied their Lord in person from Baghdád, crowded into a Turkish steamer at the port of Sámsún and sailed with Him to Constantinople, while men in general were unaware of such stupendous happenings. God passed them by and they remained in deep slumber.


A beautiful tablet in Arabic and in Bahá'u'lláh's own hand was revealed in Constantinople on the eve of the 5th of Jamádíyu'l-Avval 1280 A.H. (19 October 1863), the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb.† This Tablet, because of its opening verse, is known as Lawh-i-Náqús (Tablet of the Bell) and is also referred to as the Subhánika-Yá-Hú. It was revealed following a request made through 'Abdu'l-Bahá by one of Bahá'u'lláh's companions, Áqá Muhammad-'Alíy-i-Tambákú-Furúsh-i-Isfahání.‡ The revelation of this Tablet on such


* There are innumerable prophecies in Islám, Judaism and Christianity which indicate the date of this event as 1844, the year of the Báb's declaration.

† The Declaration of the Báb was on the evening of 5 Jamádíyu'l-Avval, 1260 A.H. (22 May 1844), but at present in the East, the anniversary of this festival is celebrated according to the lunar calendar.

‡ This is the same Muhammad-'Alíy-i-Isfahání referred to in vol. 1, p. 287. See also p. 370 below.

an auspicious occasion brought immense joy to the hearts of those who were celebrating that historic festival. Bahá'u'lláh opens this Tablet with these words:

O Monk of the Incomparable One! Ring out the Bell, inasmuch as the Day of the Lord hath shone forth and the Beauty of the All-Glorious is established upon His holy and resplendent Throne.27

These few lines give us a glimpse of the majesty and sublimity of the Tablet. Like those revealed near the time of Bahá'u'lláh's declaration, this Tablet pulsates with an indescribable power that can emanate only from the Pen of the Supreme Manifestation of God. Here, the matchless utterances of Bahá'u'lláh, original and profound, are possessed of such beauty and rhythm as no pen can describe. Composed in a style that lends itself to collective chanting, this Tablet creates an atmosphere of ecstasy and joy when chanted by the believers.* Revealed soon after His departure from Baghdád, it announces in clear and majestic terms the rising of the Orb of His Revelation, asserts that He† who was hidden behind the veils of concealment is now made manifest, extols the potency and glory of His Cause, declares that the Day of God has come, summons the inhabitants of the highest Paradise to prepare themselves and acquire the capacity for attaining the presence of God,‡ bids his lovers rejoice and celebrate the coming of the Well-Beloved, and calls upon all created things to proclaim the glad-tidings of this Revelation to mankind. And finally, He prays for His companions: that they may become detached from everything besides Him, that their hearts may burn with the fire

* Not to be confused with congregational prayer, which (with the exception of the Prayer for the Dead) is forbidden by Bahá'u'lláh. Tablets in the original language are chanted by an individual. Occasionally, when there is a refrain in a Tablet, it has been customary for others to join in the refrain if it is suitable to do so.

† Bahá'u'lláh.

‡ See vol. 1, p. 299, footnote.

27. Quoted in The Bahá'í World, vol. XIV, p. 632.
of His love and become pure and without desire. He also prays that His companions, devoted to the promotion of His Cause, may become victorious over all who dwell on earth.

The history of the Faith amply demonstrates the fulfilment of this prayer. Through God's assistance, His disciples, though bitterly persecuted and lacking any earthly power, triumphed over the forces of darkness and won memorable victories for the Cause of their Lord. Two despotic monarchs, Násiri'd-Dín Sháh and Sultán 'Abdu'l-'Azíz were determined with unyielding hostility to uproot the foundation of the new-born Faith of God. The former, during whose reign the Báb was martyred and countless souls were massacred, tried his utmost to extinguish the light of the Faith and even to obliterate its very name from the pages of history, while the latter incarcerated its Author and imposed the harshest of restrictions upon Him and His companions. Yet today the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh is established in every part of the world and His followers, representing all colours, races and nations, are spreading His Cause with astonishing speed and earnestness. They have been, and are increasingly, bringing to the attention of a tormented humanity the fundamental verities of their Faith, its history, its teachings, its world-embracing institutions and its transforming power.

In past Dispensations, as in this Day, God has promoted His Faith through the work of men and women who were meek and humble. Of these people it is stated in the Qur'án: 'And We desire to show favour to those who were brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make of them Our heirs.'28

Similarly these words are recorded in the Gospels: 'Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.'29

By exalting His Cause through the aid of the lowliest among men, God has proved the ascendancy and power of His Manifestations. No one can accuse Them of having established religion through the influence of important people. For example, those few souls who first recognized and followed


28. Qur'án, xxviii. 5.

29. Matthew, v. 5.

Christ were not outstanding people. They were treated with contempt and were persecuted. Others who followed in their footsteps suffered the same fate and many of them died martyrs' deaths. Yet in spite of their seeming helplessness at the time, the Message of Christ was noised abroad and His Faith established. This is one of the proofs of the authenticity of His Mission.

Similarly, those who believed in Muhammad in the early days were among the lowly and the outcast. This is why many people ridiculed the Prophet saying: 'We see in thee but a man like ourselves; and we see not any who have followed thee except our meanest ones of hasty judgement, nor see we any excellence in you above ourselves: Nay, we deem you liars.'30 Muhammad Himself was bitterly opposed and persecuted by the people of Mecca and eventually fled to Medina for safety. Yet, through the power of God, He and His disciples, though downtrodden and debased, triumphed over their adversaries and gave spiritual life to great multitudes. The manner in which the Faith of Islám was established, however, is greatly criticized in the West. This is almost entirely due to distorted reports of fanatical Christians who, over the centuries, ignored the spiritual teachings and noble precepts of Islám, misinterpreted its doctrines, exaggerated its unfamiliar background and disseminated gross calumnies about its Author.

An interesting account of this is given by Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí in his memoirs, quoting the gist of a long interview he had in Yazd with a certain Christian missionary who knew the Persian language well. The object of the interview was to prove the authenticity of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh. In the course of discussion the subject of Islám was broached. The following is a translation of a small portion of this dialogue:

He [the Christian missionary] said to me 'How about Muhammad?' I said 'I think in a sense the efficacy of

30. Qur'án, xi. 27.
Muhammad's word was greater than that of Christ.' 'How could that be?' was his prompt response. I replied, 'You know Christ was born and bred in the Holy Land which is an Eastern country. There He declared His Mission, spent years of His ministry and there He was finally crucified. Yet for well over six centuries His Faith did not make appreciable headway in any of the Eastern countries, while today every Muslim you may come across in the East regards Jesus as the Spirit of God and the Bible as the Word of God. The belief in Christ and the appreciation of His divine mission were brought to Eastern peoples through the influence of Muhammad. Isn't that so?' 'That is right,' he said, 'but it was done by the sword.' I explained, 'During the thirteen years Muhammad lived in Mecca after declaring Himself a prophet no sword was used, although throughout the whole time He was the object of ever-growing ridicule and oppression. These attacks grew so fierce at times that He used to take refuge in caves and dug-outs, and at last had to flee to Medina for safety. The skirmishes that Muhammad took part in were entirely defensive in character. However, let us accept your assertions as correct. Let us assume that Muhammad established His religion with the aid of the sword, whereas Christ diffused His Faith solely by the aid of the Holy Spirit. You know the sword is a deadly weapon; it takes life, it destroys, rends asunder. However, in the hand of Muhammad it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It brought spiritual life to some three hundred million souls; it united many warring factions and diverse communities into a permanent bond of unity and brotherhood; it raised the savage Arab tribes to the fairest heights of knowledge and culture. Now, be fair in your judgement, which task is more difficult and wonderful--to give life by means of a sword or by spiritual means? Which one is more skilful, the physician who heals his patients at once by giving them poison or the one who gradually brings relief by administering soothing drugs?'

'All right,' he said, 'but Muhammad was a lustful polygamist whereas Christ did not even marry.' I replied 'If by saying Christ didn't marry you try to enhance His divine

virtues I am afraid you are mistaken. Because Christ's physical body was the same as any other man's, and the fact that He did not marry was probably because He found no place to settle down, as during the short period of His Ministry He was moving about the country. Or if you want to attribute lack of sexual urge to Christ then such an implication would indicate physical deficiency rather than divine virtue, whereas the Messengers of God are perfect in body as in soul. In addition Christ has never said anything against matrimony. But suppose we take your premise, nevertheless no one can deny that Muhammad was able to inculcate in His adherents the highest degree of chastity and moral rectitude, and to foster a wonderful measure of integrity and spiritual consciousness among a community so degenerate that in those days it had reached the lowest depths of savagery and ignorance. And today, well over 1300 years after Him, the evidence of His spiritual power, which still binds those multi-racial communities together, is quite discernible everywhere. Spirituality and sexual urge, like water and fire, are opposites. Muhammad reconciled these two contrasting powers within His own self, whereas you say Christ was solely of pure spirit and conferred life as such. Now I leave this to your unbiased judgement to determine whether Muhammad's nature was more spiritual or lustful. We must not, however, be misled by such material considerations. Christ taught: "Ye shall know the tree by its fruit." Then he said, "How about the truth of the mission of Bahá'u'lláh?"'...31

In most of the Tablets revealed in Constantinople and Adrianople, as in the Lawh-i-Náqús, Bahá'u'lláh urges His disciples to purge their hearts from worldly desires, and to cling fast to His Cause so that the words and evil whisperings of the unfaithful may not turn them from the path of Truth. When we study the events leading to the rebellion of Mírzá Yahyá in Adrianople we may realize the importance of such exhortations. As we shall see, several outstanding believers, some of whom were actually present in Constantinople when

31. Hájí Muhammad Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished memoirs.
the Lawh-i-Náqús was revealed, were caught in the clutches of this crisis which later engulfed the community, and fell victims to its evil force.

But in spite of this, the exhortations of Bahá'u'lláh continued unabated. Indeed, one of the remarkable features of His life was His loving kindness to everyone who came in contact with Him. His divine and all-embracing mercy encompassed believers and unbelievers alike. Only when someone was about to harm the Cause of God did He expel him from His presence. To His followers He extended the hand of protection and guided them every step of the way. This is evident in all His Writings. His Tablets are replete with counsels, exhortations and guidance on spiritual, moral and social aspects of life. Even on personal matters Bahá'u'lláh always guided His disciples. To cite one example which concerns His journey to Constantinople: before His departure from Baghdád, Bahá'u'lláh advised His companions who were to travel with Him to grow their hair long in the same fashion as the Baktáshes* did. This measure was taken to give them prestige and some protection, as the Baktáshes were highly influential in Turkey. This statement must not be taken to mean that Bahá'u'lláh had approved the practice of men growing their hair long. The advice was given that they might conform to the conditions prevailing at the time and thus ensure their safety and well-being.

In Persia, too, there was some regard for the dervishes.† People did not harass them, nor did they interfere in their beliefs and practices. In those days, if a stranger arrived in a town the inhabitants were anxious to find out his identity and the real purpose of his visit. But not so in the case of the dervishes who often travelled from town to town. The public was accustomed to seeing dervishes come from distant lands, and often did not investigate them. In the early days of


* A Súfí order very powerful at that time.

† Súfís from various orders in Persia are categorically referred to as dervishes.

the Faith this situation helped some Bahá'í teachers in Persia who grew their hair long and dressed in the garb of the dervish. In this way they managed to move freely throughout the country without being harassed or persecuted.

There were also some genuine dervishes who had embraced the Faith during the ministries of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. Notable among them was Mírzá Qurbán-'Alí,* one of the Seven Martyrs of Tihrán. Naturally, these men continued to appear as dervishes. They carried their alms-boxes and followed the custom of singing the praises of the Lord in the bazaars and public places. These songs of praise, often recited from the works of famous poets, were among the most exciting performances of a dervish. Although Bahá'u'lláh had exhorted His followers to be wise and discreet when teaching His Cause and had advised them not to announce their faith in public, nevertheless some of the more audacious among these dervishes dared to sing the praises of Bahá'u'lláh in the streets and bazaars. Such unwise action inevitably brought untold suffering in its wake. At last Bahá'u'lláh sent a strong message to a few dervishes telling them to stop this practice and urging them to exercise wisdom.

Because of their habits of mendicancy and renunciation, a few of the dervishes who became Bahá'ís began to interpret the laws and ordinances of the Faith to suit themselves. In a Tablet Bahá'u'lláh denounces the attitudes and practices of these men who sought a sequestered life, and declares that they cared for nothing except eating and sleeping.32

Since Bahá'u'lláh addressed The Seven Valleys to a Súfí, outlining the spiritual prerequisites for man to attain to his ultimate goal, and since He Himself went to Sulaymáníyyih in the garb of a dervish, some may be under the false impression that His teachings are in conformity with the practice of Súfism. The study of His Cause will demonstrate that this is not so. That Bahá'u'lláh appeared as a dervish for two years in the mountains of Kurdistán was entirely due to the cir-


* See The Dawn-Breakers.

32. Quoted by Fádil-i-Mázindarání in Asráru'l-Áthár, vol. III, p. 242.
cumstances of His solitary retirement, and cannot be construed as an approval of the Súfí way of life. The basic principle of Súfism is that it is possible for man to have direct experience of God by seeking contact with the Source of being and reality, and thus attain absolute spiritual freedom wherein his intuitive senses may be allowed full scope. But the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh teaches that there can be no direct relationship between the Creator and the created, the Infinite and the finite, and that 'the door of the knowledge of the Ancient of Days being...closed in the face of all beings',33 the only way that man can know God is through knowledge of His Manifestations. It is a major Bahá'í belief that man's spiritual advancement depends upon his obedience to, and practice of, the teachings of the Manifestations of God and not upon the promptings and dictates of his own life.

Another main difference between Súfí and Bahá'í belief is that Bahá'u'lláh has prohibited asceticism and mendicancy. He has given His followers a different understanding of detachment and renunciation which is, in fact, opposite to the views held by Súfís in general.

In one of His Tablets 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that The Seven Valleys* gives us guidance in treading the path of detachment.34 Its purpose is to teach the wayfarer how to love God. But in no way does it condone or justify the attitude adopted by many dervishes who claim to have renounced the world. Such men wander about like vagrants, are confused and lazy, live without work and are a burden to others. As already stated in an earlier volume, The Seven Valleys was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in response to the questions of Shaykh Muhyi'd-Dín, a man of learning who was well-versed in Súfí philosophy. Bahá'u'lláh mentions in a Tablet35 that The Seven Valleys was written before His Declaration in the idiom of the people concerned. In His divine wisdom, Bahá'u'lláh used the Súfí terminology current at the time, so that the questioner might comprehend it. In this Tablet he also affirms that anyone, who in this day has


* See The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, p. 96.

33. Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 64 (Brit.), p. 99 (U.S.).

34. Quoted by Fádil-i-Mázindarání in Asráru'l-Áthár, vol. III, p. 243.

35. From an unpublished Tablet.

turned to Him and truly recognized His station, has indeed attained all the seven stages mentioned in that book.

Bahá'u'lláh has condemned asceticism, mendicancy and monasticism.36 He states that there are people in certain islands who live among wild beasts, shut themselves away from humanity, abstain from eating and carry on an ascetic life. They consider themselves as leaders of men. Yet none of these acts is acceptable in the sight of God. In the same Tablet He describes His own observations while in Baghdád, where in a certain Súfí quarter a man was inflicting severe blows upon himself until he fell unconscious to the ground. This foolish exercise, presumably carried out to attain mastery over self, was considered by his co-religionists as highly meritorious and a supernatural act. Bahá'u'lláh affirms that God is weary of these people.

In one of his works Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, the celebrated Bahá'í scholar, has carefully traced the decline in the fortunes of Islám, attributing it to the rise of Súfism. After describing Islám's great contribution to mankind in fields of learning such as medicine, science, mathematics and astronomy he writes:

...And all the countries and cities of Islám from east to west were illumined with the light of knowledge. But alas, before the newly planted trees of learning and education had yielded their fruit, the thorn of piety grew in the garden of this shining nation [Islám]. When the disease of Súfism, which may be likened to paralysis and decay, afflicts the healthy organs of a nation, its joy, supremacy, advancement and influence will be completely obliterated. This disease has now been inflicted upon the nation of Islám. A great number of people in the name of ascetism and self-purification engaged in excessive prayer and meditation...Although in fairness it is admitted that some great men have appeared among these people and because of their genuine piety the hearts of some have been illumined with the splendours of the light of truth, yet, since the great majority were worshippers of their own selfish desires rather than God, and seekers after leadership instead of faith, they often invented

36. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. IV, pp. 31-2.
false devotions and introduced expressions alien to the principles of religion. Through their many deceitful acts they managed to turn towards themselves the hearts of kings and rulers. Consequently the vigour of the kings in disseminating science grew weak, and the diffusion of knowledge was replaced by adoration of the divines. The lights of learning began to dim slowly and the shadow of Súfism spread instead.37

37. Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, Kitábu'l-Fará'id, pp. 220-1.