Last Days Within the Citadel

The promulgation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, which according to Shoghi Effendi may well rank as the most significant act of the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh, should be regarded as a potent source for the regeneration of mankind. The mysterious forces which the revelation of this Book released in the world may be said to have been a major factor in turning the tide of the fortunes of the Faith and its Author in 'Akká.

We recall, as we survey the history of those days, how Bahá'u'lláh and His companions were engulfed in a sea of tribulations as a result of the murder of the three followers of Mírzá Yahyá, a reprehensible act which had cast a shadow upon the community of the Most Great Name. Now, a year later, the gloom was beginning to lift and the prestige of the Faith had begun to rise. All the believers who had been put in gaol, with the exception of the seven actually responsible for that heinous act, were released. Once again confidence was restored among the inhabitants of the city towards the company of exiles whose integrity and uprightness had dispelled all the false accusations which had temporarily tarnished their good name.

The marriage of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to Munírih Khánum* took place in the same year that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was revealed. 'Abbúd, Bahá'u'lláh's next-door neighbour, who had through fear earlier on reinforced the partition between the two houses, was now moved to open a room from his own house to Bahá'u'lláh's in order to provide accommodation for 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His bride. And then the partition between the houses


* see vol. 2, pp. 204-9.

was removed and 'Abbúd left his house to Bahá'u'lláh and went to live elsewhere. In this way more accommodation became available for Bahá'u'lláh and His family.

Bahá'u'lláh Himself moved into a more spacious room with a veranda facing the sea and 'Abdu'l-Bahá moved into the room which Bahá'u'lláh had occupied up until then. Compared to the old one, the new room of Bahá'u'lláh was a delightful place. Here He could see the sea as He walked on the veranda. Also the believers could attain His presence in more comfortable and brighter surroundings.

It was in this room that for some years the pilgrims from Persia came to His presence, and it was here that many important Tablets were revealed.

Bahá'u'lláh often walked on the veranda in front of His room where He could be in the open air and gaze out to sea. Usually he did this in the afternoon. The believers from 'Akká who had shared His imprisonment and sufferings with the greatest joy and fortitude and were now living and working in different parts of the city were immensely delighted by this new development.

Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, an eye-witness to the events of those days, has left for posterity these reminiscences:*

There were about one hundred believers in 'Akká consisting of those who resided there and the visitors. Most of these people were engaged in some trade or business. There was tremendous love and unity among these souls. They derived great joy from associating with each other and were very proud to have the privilege of serving one another. All this made them feel that they were living in paradise.

It had become Bahá'u'lláh's established practice to summon some of the believers to attain His presence. This usually took place from three hours before sunset up to two or three hours after sunset. Therefore, all the believers would leave their work three hours before sunset and


* This account relates to the year 1877, a few months before Bahá'u'lláh left the house of 'Abbúd and took up residence in Mazrá'ih. (A.T.)

assemble in the street outside the house of Bahá'u'lláh. Some would walk around the house, others would stand and some would sit in groups. There were those who were inside the reception room of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as they had some duties to perform...

The believers were thus able to see their Lord as He walked on the veranda of the house. Many a time through His bounty and loving-kindness, He would, with His blessed hand, signal to some to come up to His presence...The unity which existed among the believers was such that they were as one body; each one was ready to sacrifice his life for the other. And when one individual or a group was summoned in this way, the joy which flooded their hearts was indescribable. The person would run inside with such speed that even the door and the walls vibrated with excitement. He would be so thrilled at that moment that he could not recognize anybody, and if someone talked to him, he could not hear it. He would be on his way to meet his Lord, to reach the paradise of Divine Presence which is much more glorious than paradise itself, a paradise which cannot be seen or felt or heard by those who have not experienced it. And, after being dismissed from Bahá'u'lláh's presence, the individual was so carried away that it would take him some time to regain consciousness, when he would be able to recognize his friends and talk to them. Only one out of many could perhaps recount, in a very inadequate way, the words that he had heard in His presence. But no one was ever able to describe the spiritual experiences of his meeting with his Lord.1

The devotion and love which Bahá'u'lláh's companions had for Him were beyond measure. There was a believer in 'Akká, Mírzá Muhammad-Hádiy-i-Sahháf (bookbinder), who wanted to make sure that the eyes of Bahá'u'lláh would not fall on any unclean sight when He emerged from His room on to the veranda. Although he was an outstanding artist engaged in illuminating the Books and Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, he nevertheless took upon himself the task of cleaning and

1. Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 156-7.



Bahá'u'lláh's head-dress has been placed in the corner of the divan where He usually sat



Restored to use at Bahá'u'lláh's request, the aqueduct brought fresh water to 'Akká

Sweeping* the area around the house of 'Abbúd. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has written his story in these words:

...among those who emigrated and came to settle near Bahá'u'lláh was the bookbinder, Muhammad-Hádí. This noted man was from Isfahán, and as a binder and illuminator of books he had no peer. When he gave himself up to the love of God he was alert on the path and fearless. He abandoned his home and began a dreadful journey, passing with extreme hardship from one country to another until he reached the Holy Land and became a prisoner. He stationed himself by the Holy Threshold, carefully sweeping it and keeping watch. Through his constant efforts, the square in front of Bahá'u'lláh's house was at all times swept, sprinkled and immaculate.

Bahá'u'lláh would often glance at that plot of ground, and then He would smile and say: 'Muhammad-Hádí has turned the square in front of this prison into the bridal-bower of a palace. He has brought pleasure to all the neighbours and earned their thanks.'

When his sweeping, sprinkling and tidying was done, he would set to work illuminating and binding the various books and Tablets. So his days went by, his heart happy in the presence of the Beloved of mankind. He was an excellent soul, righteous, true, worthy of the bounty of being united with his Lord, and free of the world's contagion...

He was a man short of stature, lofty of station and mind. His heart was pure, his soul luminous. During all those days when he served the Holy Threshold, he was loved by the friends and favoured by God. From time to time, a smile on His lips, the Blessed Beauty would speak to him, expressing kindness and grace2...

The extraordinary love and devotion that the companions of

* The streets of 'Akká were covered in earth. There was no proper system of refuse collection at the time, and people often threw litter into the streets. This is why many householders would sweep the approaches to their houses, and sprinkle the ground with water.

2. Memorials, pp. 67-9.
Bahá'u'lláh entertained in their hearts for Him, and their enthusiasm to attain His presence as described by Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí were mainly due to two things. One was the staunchness of their faith in Bahá'u'lláh as the Supreme Manifestation of God, and the other their complete surrendering of their own wills to His. To the extent that His disciples acquired these two qualities were they able to draw near to Him. There were also believers who gained admittance into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, witnessed the outpourings of His Revelation, were awed at His majesty and were filled with the spirit of faith. But as they were not detached from the things of this world and could not subdue their self and ego, they remained remote from His bountiful favours.

In one of His Tablets3 Bahá'u'lláh states that there were some believers who attained His presence day and night,* and yet did not draw nigh to Him because they were spiritually remote. And there were those who never attained His presence outwardly, but enjoyed nearness to Him spiritually.

In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh declares that the reward which God has destined for a sincere and pure-hearted believer who has attained His presence is far greater than the reward for all the good deeds in the world put together. Indeed, the reward for such a bounty, He testifies, cannot be described in words. Only God is aware of it.

Bahá'u'lláh states in this Tablet that even those who visit the land in which the throne of the Manifestation of God is established will be bountifully blessed in the world to come, how much more will be the reward of those who actually have attained His presence.

To subdue one's self and to surrender one's will to the will of the Manifestation of God may prove to be the most difficult task for man to achieve. When the individual achieves this exalted goal of submitting himself to God, he becomes the


* Mírzá Áqá Ján is an example of this. He was in Bahá'u'lláh's service most of the time, but at the end he became a Covenant-breaker and destroyed a forty-year life of service to Bahá'u'lláh.

3. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 1, pp. 59-60.
recipient of His boundless favours.

All living creatures submit themselves in a physical sense to the forces of nature. A tree shows no resistance to the rain and the rays of the sun. It receives their life-giving energies and as a result it grows and flourishes. In a spiritual sense, man must do the same if he is to receive the bounties of God. The only difference is that whereas other living creatures submit themselves involuntarily to the forces of nature, man has free will to decide his options.

'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His Tablets4 states that the highest degree of sacrifice in the path of God for a believer is to surrender his will entirely to the will of God, and become a true servant of the loved ones of the Blessed Beauty. For God, in His essence, is exalted above man's servitude to Him. Therefore to become a servant of God, one must serve His loved ones. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in this Tablet reiterates His station of servitude stating that in His innermost heart, He considers Himself to be the lowliest servant of the believers, and that His greatest ambition is to be able to render devoted service to each and every one of the friends.

The story of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's servitude is widely acknowledged by those who came in contact with Him. His Writings also bear ample testimony to his unique life of service to all the human race. As the 'perfect Exemplar' of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, the embodiment of every Bahá'í ideal', and 'the incarnation of every Bahá'í virtue',5 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life has already inspired many, and will continue to inspire countless generations of the future in their endeavour to become selfless and live a life of humility and servitude.

Dr Yúnis Khán-i-Afrúkhtih* served the Master for some years in 'Akká. His love for 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His constant association with Him left an abiding impression upon his life. He became one of the spiritual giants of this Faith, a magnetic personality and an illumined soul endowed with great humour


* see p. 361.

4. Makátíb-i-'Abdu'l-Bahá, vol. 4, p. 14.

5. Shoghi Effendi, 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 134.

and talent. He has written a great deal in His memoirs about the Master. In them he states that after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, the Covenant-breakers arose in opposition against 'Abdu'l-Bahá. They did everything in their power to discredit Him and belittle His station as the Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. The reaction of the steadfast believers was to exalt the station of the Master to the point of exaggeration. This displeased Him immensely, for He always considered Himself to be only a servant. The following is a translation of Dr Yúnis Khán's thoughts and recollections concerning 'Abdu'l-Bahá's station of servitude.

As the Covenant-breakers intensified their campaign of trouble-making for the Master and went on belittling His station, many of the steadfast believers, due to their enormous love for Him, exaggerated His station. Eventually all this resulted in a situation that if a believer was moved, for instance, to compose a poem about 'Abdu'l-Bahá's servitude, he would assuredly become the recipient of the Master's unbounded favours and bounties. But if, on the contrary, he would sing His praises and exalt His name, He would be displeased, and even ask the writer to repent and beg forgiveness.

The only station that He retained for Himself was that of the appointed Interpreter of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. And this He did so that if a person ever sought to glorify His station by referring to the many exalted titles* by which Bahá'u'lláh had designated Him, He then would merely say, 'I am the Interpreter of the Words of God and my interpretation of all these designations is 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of Bahá'u'lláh)'...At one stage He wrote many Tablets and prayers concerning His own station of servitude. Among them was a prayer which is now used as a Prayer of Visitation for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Concerning this prayer He wrote, 'Whoso reciteth this prayer with lowliness and fervour will bring gladness and joy to the heart of this servant; it will be even as meeting Him face to face.'

In this prayer He describes His station of servitude in


* see vol. 2, pp. 395-6

such lowly terms: 'Lord! Give me to drink from the chalice of selflessness; with its robe clothe me, and in its ocean immerse me. Make me as dust in the pathway of Thy loved ones, and grant that I may offer up my soul for the earth ennobled by the footsteps of Thy Chosen ones in Thy path, O Lord of Glory in the Highest.'

O dear reader! Most of the believers know this prayer by heart and are in the habit of reciting it every morning. This is why this servant has not quoted its full text here. My appeal to you now is to recite this prayer* first and then read the flowing which is entitled:

The story of a bitter-sweet experience

In those days when the friends in Persia were aflame with the fire of love, and at the same time, with a spirit of forbearance, burning in that fire of envy and hatred, of calumny and slander, created by the people of malice and the Covenant-breakers, Bahá'í poets and people of letters in that country used to write poems in praise and glorification of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In laudatory and most eloquent language they used to acclaim His exalted station.

But we, the resident Bahá'ís of 'Akká, the spot round which the Concourse on High† circle in adoration, were very careful not to breathe a word about the station of sovereignty and lordship of the blessed Person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. We knew well that He had often advised the poets that instead of singing His praise they ought to exalt His station of servitude and utter self-effacement.

During this time, one day I received a letter from one of the handmaidens of God‡...This letter, composed in verse, and laudatory in its tone, was addressed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the form of a supplication to the holy presence of God. I handed the poem to the Master as He was coming down the steps of the house in front of the sea. I thought it


* 'Tablet of Visitation' of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in most Bahá'í prayer books. (A.T.)

† See p. 180n. (A.T.)

‡ Bahá'u'lláh often designated the male believers as 'servants of God' and the female as 'handmaidens of God'. (A.T.)

was the right moment to give it to Him. He had hardly read one or two lines when He suddenly turned His face towards me and with the utmost sadness and a deep sense of grief said: 'Now even you hand me letters such as this! Don't you know the measure of pain and sorrow which overtakes me when I hear people addressing me with such exalted titles? Even you have not recognized me! If you have not appreciated this, then what can be expected of others?...Don't you see all that I do day and night, and everything I write in my letters...I swear by Almighty God that I consider myself lowlier than each and every one of the loved ones of the Blessed Beauty. This is my firm conviction...Tell me if I am wrong. This is my greatest wish. I don't even wish to make this claim, because I dislike every claim. He then turned towards the Qiblih and said, 'O Blessed Beauty, grant me this station'...

'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke angrily in this vein with such vigour that my heart almost stopped. I had a sensation of choking, my whole body became numb. Truly, I felt that life was going out of me. Not only was the power of speech taken from me, but energy for breathing seemed to have gone also. I wished the earth would open and swallow me up so that I might never again see my Lord so grief-stricken as this. Truly for a moment I was not present in this world. Only when the Master resumed His walking down the stairs, the sound of His shoes jolted me. I quickly followed Him. I heard Him say: 'I told the Covenant-breakers that the more they hurt me, the more will the believers exalt my station to the point of exaggeration...'

Now that the blame was removed from the believers and placed on the Covenant-breakers, I somewhat regained consciousness and a little life. I listened carefully to His words, but my thoughts were elsewhere. I now understood that it was the iniquities and transgressions perpetrated by these ruthless Covenant-breakers which had produced a strong reaction among the believers who could not control their feelings and sentiments.

This bitter experience of mine was ended now. The Master was pacing up and down the hall and speaking more


about the machinations of the Covenant-breakers. But I was not in a position to think properly or meditate deeply. I was very perturbed that I had brought such grief upon the Master, and I did not know what to do. Then I heard Him say: 'This is in no way the fault of the friends. They say these things because of their steadfastness, their love and devotion...' Again my thoughts were directed to His words. Then I heard Him say to me: 'You are very dear to Me, etc...'* From these utterances I realized that it was always the Master's way never ever to allow a soul to be hurt. And now this was a time for giving me comfort and encouragement. The pressure in my heart was now released. All the anguish pent up in me was gone. I burst into tears which flowed in great profusion upon my cheeks and I listened more carefully. I heard His utterances as He showered His bounties upon me in such heartwarming and affectionate terms that they went far beyond the normal limits of encouragement. So much loving kindness and favour He bestowed upon me that when I considered my limited capacity and worth, I could not bear to hear Him; therefore I never allowed those words to enter into my memory. Nevertheless, I was filled with such an indescribable joy and ecstasy that I wished the doors of heaven would open and I could ascend to the Kingdom on high.

When He dismissed me from His presence I went towards the Pilgrim House in such a state of intoxication and excitement that I walked all around the streets of 'Akká, not knowing where I was going!

And now, my dear reader, you can see how a bitter experience turned into a sweet one, and how it all ended. The earth did not open up to swallow me, neither did the heavens open to let me go up! And, so I can write down the stories of those days and in memory of His radiant countenance may say to you: 'Allah'u'Abhá!'† 6


* It is obvious that through his modesty and humility Dr Yúnis Khán does not wish to reveal all the praise and encouragement which the Master had showered upon him.

† Literally: God is most glorious.

6. Khátirát-i-Nuh-Sáliy-i-'Akká, pp. 331-6.
During the time that Bahá'u'lláh resided in the house of 'Abbúd, His fellow exiles had fully settled down in the city of 'Akká, and most of them were successful in their humble professions. During the governorship of Ahmad Big Tawfíq, they enjoyed relative peace in their work. But with the arrival of a new Governor, 'Abdu'r-Rahmán Páshá, the situation changed. For he proved to be one of the most hostile Governors towards Bahá'u'lláh and His companions. He was very covetous and when his designs to extract money from the company of exiles failed, he submitted an inflammatory report to the authorities in Istanbul. He complained that instead of imprisonment, all the Bahá'ís in 'Akká were free and working. The response from the Sublime Porte--the office of the Grand Vizir in Istanbul--was that the edict of the Sultán must be obeyed, that they were prisoners and had no right to work.

Husayn-i-Áshchí has given a detailed account of this episode in his memoirs. It must be noted that Áqá Husayn was at the time serving a sentence in prison because of his part in the slaying of the three Azalís in 'Akká, but through the goodwill of some of the authorities, he was allowed to go every morning to the house of Bahá'u'lláh where he used to work as a cook and return to the prison at night. The following is a summary of his notes:

When 'Abdu'r-Rahmán Páshá received the note from the Sublime Porte condemning the exiles to imprisonment, it boosted his arrogance. He decided to use it as a means of extracting some money for himself...Having failed to do this, one evening he called on Shaykh 'Alíy-i-Mírí, the Muftí* of 'Akká who was an admirer of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and shared with him his plan of arresting the Bahá'ís in the morning. His plan was to arrest them as they came to open their shops and send them to prison. He also planned to restrict 'Abdu'l-Bahá's freedom of movement in the city. He solicited the support of the Muftí in this plan...That

* The religious leader of the city who usually wielded greater influence and authority than a governor.

same night the Muftí went to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, told him the news and strongly urged the Master to bribe the Governor, as otherwise everyone would be arrested in the morning. Disapproving the Muftí's solution, 'Abdu'l-Bahá assured him that God was compassionate and merciful, and that He would leave this matter in the hand of God. He advised him to go home and to rest assured of the outcome. It was late and Bahá'u'lláh had just retired. Nevertheless, 'Abdu'l-Bahá went to Him and gave Him the news. Bahá'u'lláh ordered that the believers be advised not to go to work in the morning. Everyone was informed and they all assembled in the reception room of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the morning.

I was, at the time, confined to prison...but each morning was permitted to go to the house of Bahá'u'lláh where I worked as a cook and at night I returned to prison. On that morning, on my way, I noticed that the shop of Áqá Muhammad-Ibráhím, the coppersmith, was closed and so were other shops belonging to the believers. I was very surprised and wondered what had happened. I hastened to the house of Bahá'u'lláh where I found all the shopkeepers assembled in the reception room. I was told the news and went into the kitchen to work. It was approximately two hours after sunrise when a man pushed aside the curtain in front of the door with his walking stick. I looked up and it was Iskandar Effendi, the head of the telegraph office. He was in great haste but signs of joy could be detected in his appearance. He wanted to see the Master who was upstairs at the time. I went up and found that He was in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. I told the Master that Iskandar Effendi had come to see Him and he was in a happy mood. The Blessed Beauty smiled and said 'Go downstairs, Áqá!* He has good news. No one can frustrate God in His purpose.'

'Abdu'l-Bahá went to the reception room where He was shown a telegram just receive containing the order of dismissal of 'Abdu'r-Rahmán Páshá.† After a few minutes


* The Master, one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's titles given to Him by Bahá'u'lláh. He usually addressed 'Abdu'l-Bahá as Áqá.

† It was not unusual for a telegraph office to share such news with people, as there were no other news media. The fact that 'Abdu'l-Bahá received the news before the Governor shows the deep regard some officials had for the Master.

He went hurriedly upstairs. Halfway up, I asked Him if he could tell me the news. He smiled and said in a loud voice, 'God has struck a severe blow at the Páshá.' He then went to convey the news to Bahá'u'lláh.

As to 'Abdu'r-Rahmán Páshá, in the morning, accompanied by a few soldiers, he went to arrest the believers at their shops and send them to prison. To his surprise he found the shops were closed. At first he thought the late opening was perhaps due to the month of Ramadán when people were going late to work. Soon after, he went to the Police Station where he waited for the shops to open up. During this time he was unaware of God's intervention...The above telegram was addressed to Shaykh 'Alíy-i-Mírí, the Muftí of 'Akká, who communicated its content to the Páshá...The Muftí had been truly astonished by this event. For it was late in the evening when the Governor's scheme had come to light, and in the morning the telegram arrived. He considered this incident to have been a miracle. He said to the Master, 'I am almost on the verge of losing my mind over this episode. Please tell me, what did Bahá'u'lláh say late that evening when you informed Him of the plot?' 'Abdu'l-Bahá responded by saying that the Blessed Beauty ordered the believers not to open their shops in the morning and advised them to leave their affairs in the hand of God. Bahá'u'lláh also declared that when a person leaves his affairs to God, he ought not to take any other measures himself, otherwise he could frustrate the plan of God.7

In a Tablet8 Bahá'u'lláh describes 'Abdu'r-Rahmán Páshá as an embodiment of Satan, one who ruled over God in 'Akká. He asserts that God assisted him in his evil schemes for some time, until suddenly He took hold of him with might and power. Admonishing the ousted Governor, Bahá'u'lláh states that he was unable to prevent God from executing His will, and reminds him that men greater than him did not succeed in frustrating His purpose. He also refers to the fate of other

7. Unpublished memoirs.

8. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 8, p. 63.

hostile governors and officials who were either dismissed or stricken with disease through the power of God.

Other Governors who followed 'Abdu'r-Rahmán Páshá were friendly. First Asa'd Effendi was dispatched to 'Akká. He was Acting Governor for a short time and was especially commissioned to investigate the condition of the exiles. Although Bahá'u'lláh did not usually give interviews to anyone outside the circle of His followers, He gave permission to Asa'd Effendi to see Him. This was a result of repeated requests by Asa'd Effendi and the intercession of 'Abbúd. Asa'd Effendi was so impressed by the glory of Bahá'u'lláh's countenance that he knelt before Him and when he was leaving, he kissed the hem of His garment.

The next Governor was Faydí Páshá to whom we have referred previously.* During his short stay of about two months in 'Akká as Governor, he became one of the ardent admirers of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. One day he noticed that some religious leaders, including the Muftí of 'Akká, were taking part in religious discussions in the Mosque. He conveyed to them his displeasure at seeing that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was not there to conduct such classes. He was told that the reason was the order of the Sultán which prohibited such an activity. On another occasion, when he noticed that 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not leave the city boundaries, he sent word that He should feel free to visit other localities outside 'Akká. Faydí Páshá was a man of action. His admiration for and support of 'Abdu'l-Bahá boosted the prestige of the community. This is a summary of Husayn-i-Áshchí's memoirs concerning Faydí Páshá:

One day the Master was in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and was talking about Faydí Páshá. I was present on that occasion when the Master was recounting in detail some of the activities of the Governor and praising his steadfastness, his services and his sincerity. Bahá'u'lláh said, 'Áqá! this Páshá is a great personality. A man as great as he will not be

* see p. 25.

allowed to remain here very long. You will find that he will be summoned to Istanbul suddenly by a telegram. If there were a few personalities such as this among the Ottoman rulers, the Government would have made good progress.'

Then 'Abdu'l-Bahá left and went to the reception room downstairs. It did not take more than one hour and a half before a telegram arrived from the Sublime Porte directing Faydí Páshá to go to Istanbul. The telegram was first shown to the Master by the chief of the telegraph office and then was taken to the Governor...When he came to say farewell, he particularly offered his help if in his absence any difficulties should be created for the company of exiles. He told us to send him a telegram and he would do his best to assist. He was a very influential man. He treated us with loving-kindness and in various gatherings he spoke highly of the community.9

After Faydí Páshá, Ibráhím Páshá, who was friendly, was installed as Governor, and after him Mustafá Díyá Páshá, who was so impressed with 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the whole community that, although it was against the edict of the Sultán, he indicated that Bahá'u'lláh was free to pass through the gates of the city. However, Bahá'u'lláh declined his suggestion and remained in the House of 'Abbúd until June 1877 when the Muftí of 'Akká, as we shall see, literally fell on his knees and begged Him to leave 'Akká.

For almost nine years since His arrival in 'Akká, Bahá'u'lláh had not left the confines of His residence. Although, as we have already stated, the water supply was brought in, the air purified and the brackish water of the wells changed into fresh water, yet the city, devoid of all greenery, was a gloomy prison in itself. From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh we have learned that the Manifestation of God abides in a spiritual realm far from the ken of men. In that station, imprisonment and calamities have no effect on Him. But the human part feels pain and suffering.


9. Unpublished memoirs.
When we survey events in the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh, these nine years spent in the city of 'Akká can be regarded as the most depressing in His earthly life. For He was, from a human point of view, extremely enamoured of the beauty of nature. He loved oriental gardens with their perfumed flowers and shrubs. In His youth, before the birth of the Bábí Revelation until He was deprived of all His possessions at the time of Síyáh-Chál,* He spent much of His time during spring and summer in the open countryside. In His ancestral home in the village of Tákúr, in the district of Núr, He lived in beautiful surroundings. For days He used to tarry in gardens of exquisite beauty. And when the Bábí Faith was born, He used to entertain the believers on His regal estates.

'Abdu'l-Bahá in a Tablet10 describes the beauty of the scenery of a summer residence where Bahá'u'lláh stayed one summer. This was in one of the villages in the area of Shimírán close to the Alburz mountain near Tihrán. This place had beautiful gardens and a lake. A huge stone platform was built in the middle of the lake. Upon it a tent was pitched surrounded by flowers. This was in the early days of the Bábí Faith and the believers used to come there, sometimes a hundred and fifty of them. Enchanted by the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, they would all sit around and chant the divine verses amid the charm of the surroundings. This is just an example of how He loved to spend His days in the countryside.

In Baghdád too, where Bahá'u'lláh lived an austere life for many years, He was free to walk along the banks of the Tigris in the open air, or to pitch his tent in certain of the garden parks outside the city, and stay there for some time. And in Adrianople there were occasions when Bahá'u'lláh was able to spend some time in gardens which He rented. But in 'Akká for nine years He did not see even a blade of grass to rejoice His heart. Once He had made a remark to this effect and 'Abdu'l-Bahá knew that through the creative power of His Father's


* see vol. 1, pp. 7-11.

10. A Tablet to Bashíru's-Sultán.
words, it was time for Him to move out of 'Akká. 'Abdu'l-Bahá tells the story of how Bahá'u'lláh's confinement came to an end:

Bahá'u'lláh loved the beauty and verdure of the country. One day He passed the remark: 'I have not gazed on verdure for nine years. The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies.' When I heard indirectly of this saying I realized that He was longing for the country, and I was sure that whatever I could do towards the carrying out of His wish would be successful. There was in 'Akká at that time a man called Muhammad Páshá Safwat, who was very much opposed to us. He had a palace called Mazra'ih, about four miles north of the city, a lovely place, surrounded by gardens and with a stream of running water. I went and called on this Páshá at his home. I said: 'Páshá, you have left the palace empty, and are living in 'Akká.' He replied: 'I am an invalid and cannot leave the city. If I go there it is lonely and I am cut off from my friends.' I said: 'While you are not living there and the place is empty, let it to us.' He was amazed at the proposal, but soon consented. I got the house at a very low rent, about five pounds per annum, paid him for five years and made a contract. I sent labourers to repair the place and put the garden in order and had a bath built. I also had a carriage prepared for the use of the Blessed Beauty. One day I determined to go and see the place for myself. Notwithstanding the repeated injunctions given in successive firmans that we were on no account to pass the limits of the city walls, I walked out through the city gate. Gendarmes were on guard, but they made no objection, so I proceeded straight to the palace. The next day I again went out, with some friends and officials, unmolested and unopposed, although the guards and sentinels stood on both sides of the City Gates. Another day I arranged a banquet, spread a table under the pine trees of Bahjí, and gathered round it the notables and officials of the town. In the evening we all returned to the town together.

One day I went to the Holy Presence of the Blessed Beauty and said: 'The palace at Mazra'ih is ready for you,


and a carriage to drive you there.' (At that time there were no carriages in 'Akká or Haifa.) He refused to go, saying: 'I am a prisoner.' Later I requested Him again, but got the same answer. I went so far as to ask Him a third time, but he still said 'No!' and I did not dare to insist further. There was, however, in 'Akká a certain Muhammadan Shaykh a well-known man with considerable influence, who loved Bahá'u'lláh and was greatly favoured by Him. I called this Shaykh and explained the position to him. I said, 'You are daring. Go tonight to His Holy Presence, fall on your knees before Him, take hold of His hands and do not let go until He promises to leave the city!' He was an Arab...He went directly to Bahá'u'lláh and sat close to His knees. He took hold of the hands of the Blessed Beauty and kissed them and asked: 'Why do you not leave the city?' He said: 'I am a prisoner.' The Shaykh replied: 'God forbid! Who has the power to make you a prisoner? You have kept yourself in prison. It was your own will to be imprisoned, and now I beg you to come out and go to the palace. It is beautiful and verdant. The trees are lovely, and the oranges like balls of fire!' As often as the Blessed Beauty said: 'I am a prisoner, it cannot be,' the Shaykh took His hands and kissed them. For a whole hour he kept on pleading. At last Bahá'u'lláh said, 'Khaylí khub (very good)' and the Shaykh's patience and persistence were rewarded. He came to me with great joy to give the glad news of His Holiness's consent. In spite of the strict firman of 'Abdu'l-'Azíz which prohibited my meeting or having any intercourse with the Blessed Perfection, I took the carriage the next day and drove with Him to the palace. No one made any objection.11
This episode alone demonstrates the spiritual supremacy of Bahá'u'lláh, His majesty and greatness. Although the decree of the despotic Sultán condemning Him to solitary life imprisonment was still in force, it was the highest dignitary of the city of 'Akká who with great humbleness knelt before Him and insisted that He leave the prison city and take up residence wherever He wished. 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes this event as one

11. Quoted in Esslemont, Bahá'u'lláh and New Era, pp. 34-5.
of Bahá'u'lláh's greatest miracles. These are the words of the Master:

For the Most Great Name was held prisoner and confined nine years in the fortress-town of 'Akká; and at all times, both in the barracks and afterward, from without the house, the police and farráshes had Him under constant guard. The Blessed Beauty lived in a very small house, and He never set foot outside that narrow lodging, because His oppressors kept continual watch at the door. When, however, nine years had elapsed, the fixed and predetermined length of days was over; and at that time, against the rancorous will of the tyrant, 'Abdu'l-Hamíd, and all his minions, Bahá'u'lláh proceeded out of the fortress with authority and might, and in a kingly mansion beyond the city, made His home.

Although the policy of Sultán 'Abdu'l-Hamíd was harsher than ever; although he constantly insisted on his Captive's strict confinement--still, the Blessed Beauty now lived, as everyone knows, with all power and glory. Some of the time Bahá'u'lláh would spend at the Mansion, and again, at the farm village of Mazra'ih; for a while He would sojourn in Haifa, and occasionally His tent would be pitched on the heights of Mount Carmel. Friends from everywhere presented themselves and gained an audience. The people and the government authorities witnessed it all, yet no one so much as breathed a word. And this is one of Bahá'u'lláh's greatest miracles: that He, a captive, surrounded Himself with panoply and He wielded power. The prison changed into a palace, the jail itself became a Garden of Eden. Such a thing has not occurred in history before; no former age has seen its like: that a man confined to a prison should move about with authority and might; that one in chains should carry the fame of the Cause of God to the high heavens, should win splendid victories in both East and West, and should, by His almighty pen, subdue the world. Such is the distinguishing feature of this supreme Theophany.12

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, has also

12. Memorials, pp. 26-7.
referred to the same subject. Citing some passages from the words of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, he writes:

'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 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 everyone. 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 the 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.' 13
The sufferings of Bahá'u'lláh during the nine years of His confinement within the walls of the prison city of 'Akká and especially the two years in the barracks, were the most grievous of His ministry. Yet it was in this period that some of the most momentous Writings were revealed by His Pen. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Mother Book of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, described by Shoghi Effendi as the 'brightest emanation of the mind of Bahá'u'lláh', was revealed, as we have noted, at this time of great afflictions and sorrows. The proclamation of His Message to the kings and rulers of the world reached its final consummation during this period. And it is significant that most of His summons to the crowned heads of the world were delivered from within the confines of that prison city. It was also in this period that the foundations of the Bahá'í community in the land of its birth were greatly strengthened, on the one hand by the heroism and self-sacrifice of its martyrs such as Badí', and on the other by the appearance of dedicated and highly gifted teachers of His Cause, among them the learned apologist Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl.

And, significantly, it was during these calamitous years, and as a direct result of the afflictions and sufferings which were heaped upon the Supreme Manifestation of God in this Most Great Prison, that enormous spiritual forces were released causing humanity to be freed of all fetters which had been placed upon it in the course of past ages and centuries. As testified by Bahá'u'lláh in the following Tablet, revealed in 'Akká, He had consented to be bound in chains so that generations yet unborn might find themselves freed from the curse of oppression and injustice and be enabled to live a noble life in real freedom and peace.

The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty

13. God Passes By, pp. 195-6.
Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness. This is of the mercy of your Lord, the Compassionate, the Most Merciful. We have accepted to be abased, O believers in the Unity of God, that ye may be exalted, and have suffered manifold afflictions, that ye might prosper and flourish. He Who hath come to build anew the whole world, behold, how they that have joined partners with God have forced Him to dwell within the most desolate of cities! 14

14. Gleanings, XLV.