Bahá'u'lláh at the Mansion of Mazra'ih
The departure of Bahá'u'lláh from the prison-city in June 1877 and His transfer to the Mansion of Mazra'ih, a beautiful summer residence of 'Abdu'lláh Páshá in the quiet countryside north of 'Akká, constitute a turning-point in the fortunes of His Ministry. The building at Mazra'ih stood in the middle of a garden, situated on a vast plain. From one side the view was of the Galilee hills and from the other, the sea. One room on the ground floor was used as a reception room by Bahá'u'lláh, and many of the believers attained His presence there. His own room was on the upper floor with a nearby balcony* overlooking beautiful countryside.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, His Mother the saintly Navváb, and His cherished sister the Greatest Holy Leaf all stayed behind in 'Akká. They visited Bahá'u'lláh from time to time, especially the Master, who attained His presence whenever He could.
The Life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 'Akká
'Abdu'l-Bahá's main reason for not joining His Beloved Father at Mazra'ih and later at the Mansion of Bahjí was the staggering weight of cares and responsibilities which He had taken upon Himself ever since the days of Adrianople in order to relieve Bahá'u'lláh of the burden of having to attend to daily affairs. In
* see vol. 1, pp. 290-91, for an interesting story of Mírzá Ja'far, who fell down from that balcony.
'Akká these responsibilities weighed so heavily upon Him that He had to remain in the city and take care of a multitude of problems relating to the Bahá'í community as well as to the inhabitants of 'Akká and its neighbouring towns. He was busy from the early hours of the morning until after midnight meeting government officials, religious dignitaries and men of culture and commerce, as well as attending to the needs of the citizens, the poor, the sick, the old, the dying, the widows and the orphans. Governors and officials often sought His advice on matters of great importance to their work. Religious leaders likewise sat at His feet, and all received a measure of His knowledge and wisdom. He was a counsellor to every man, a true and loving father to the poor and the downtrodden. He would spend many hours every day visiting the sick, providing medical treatment, food and clothing for those who needed them. He was indeed the 'Master of 'Akká'.
His attention to the affairs of the Bahá'í community was no less important and time-consuming. Not only did He guide and direct the individual Bahá'ís living in 'Akká in their personal and community affairs, but He made detailed arrangements for the stream of pilgrims who were coming to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. The Master ensured that each one of the pilgrims was made comfortable in the Pilgrim House, or accommodated elsewhere. He surrounded them with His all-encompassing love, counselled them in their manifold affairs, and prepared them spiritually for that greatest moment in their lives when they would be ushered into the presence of their Lord. In some cases, He even inspected their clothes and if they were found to be worn out or unsuitable, He would arrange for them to wear new outfits worthy of entering the presence of Bahá'u'lláh.
The following are the reminiscences of Tuba Khánum, one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's daughters, concerning Him in those days:
The life of the Master in 'Akká was full of work for others' good.
the evening, having had no rest and no food.
As there was no hospital in 'Akká, the Master paid a doctor, Nikolaki Bey, a regular salary to look after the very poor. This doctor was asked not to say who was responsible for this, 'His right hand was not to know what His left wrought.'In doing all this 'Abdu'l-Bahá truly shielded His Father from the outside world so that, freed from any involvement in the affairs of the community, He could devote all His time to the Revelation of the Word of God and meeting the believers. 'Abdu'l-Bahá used to visit His beloved Father whenever He could, and this brought much joy to the heart of Bahá'u'lláh.
Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí,* that spiritual giant immortalized by the title 'The Angel of Carmel', has recorded the following reminiscences of one of his memorable audiences with Bahá'u'lláh. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí recounts the words of Bahá'u'lláh† concerning the important role of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in shielding Him from the pressures of the outside world.
During the days of Baghdád We ourself used to visit the coffee house‡ and meet with everyone. We associated with people whether they were in the community or outside, whether acquaintances or strangers, whether they came from far or near.
* For his story see vol. 2.
† These are not to be taken as the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh; they are only recollections of His utterances recalled by Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí.
‡ see vol. 3, pp. 250-51. (A.T.)
1. Blomfield, Chosen Highway, pp. 100-101.
and the enemies who fought against it were comparatively few and far between.'Abdu'l-Bahá's staying in 'Akká served another purpose as well. His brothers, especially Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí† and his mother, were highly jealous of Him. It was this brother who, after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, became the Arch-breaker of His Covenant and rose up with all his power to destroy 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Cause He was promoting. By staying away from Bahá'u'lláh, Who cherished His eldest Son and extolled His station in glowing terms, 'Abdu'l-Bahá succeeded in somewhat dampening the fire of jealousy which was fiercely burning within their breasts. As well as this, Bahá'u'lláh's own practice over the years was, as far as possible, to keep in His company those who were likely to cause trouble or were inwardly unfaithful to Him, so that He could control their mischief and keep them in check. And now that some freedom was given to Him, Bahá'u'lláh chose to live with those members of His household who would prove, in the end, to be disloyal to His Cause.
* Non-Bahá'ís. (A.T.)
2. Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 251-2.
An explanation has been given in a previous volume* as to why those who were so close to Bahá'u'lláh, such as His brother, His sons and daughters and other members of His family, should have been the first to rebel against His Cause and become a source of dissension among His followers.
An Air of Freedom
In order to appreciate the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's move to Mazra'ih, and why it opened up a new chapter in the annals of the Faith, we may recall the tumultuous years of His Ministry preceding this historic step. As we survey Bahá'u'lláh's eventful life at this juncture, we note that for over a quarter of a century He was the main target of attack by a relentless enemy.
Prior to the birth of His own Revelation, He suffered greatly through persecutions directed at the Bábí community. The appalling bastinado, which was inflicted upon Him in public in His native province of Mázindarán, is one example. The humiliating circumstances in which He was conducted on foot and in chains with bare feet and bared head in the heat of the summer to the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán, His imprisonment in that darksome underground dungeon; the chain of Qará-Guhar which was placed on His neck and which cut through His flesh and left its marks on Him all His life; the hardships He endured during His first exile from His native country to Iraq; the deprivations and sufferings during His solitary retirement in the snow-bound mountains of Kurdistán; His further exile to the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, a city described by Him as the 'seat of tyranny'; His humiliating banishment to Adrianople, the 'remote Prison', travelling in horse-driven carts in sub-zero temperatures; the sufferings He endured in that 'Land of Mystery'; the hardships He was exposed to and the restrictions He underwent on His exile to the desolate city of 'Akká; the unbearable conditions of His solitary cell in the barracks of that city, designated by Him as the 'Most Great Prison'; and His confinement for almost seven years within the walls of a small
* see vol. 1, pp. 130-31.
house devoid of any greenery to please the eye--all these tribulations which He, the Wronged One of the world, had endured with such resignation and forbearance, were at long last coming to an end. His departure from the prison-city signalized the opening of a new era of relative peace and tranquillity in His life.
It was not only the fresh air of the countryside at Mazra'ih and the open fields around it which enhanced the circumstances in which He lived. The major factor which brought about a new phase in His ministry was the unveiling of His greatness, His power and His authority to friends and foe alike. This was made manifest when the highest religious leader in the land knelt before Him in a state of humble adoration and begged Him to leave the prison-city,* a move which the Governor of 'Akká, notwithstanding the strict edict of the Sultán, had approved.
The establishment of Bahá'u'lláh's residence in the summer mansion of Mazra'ih also created much excitement and joy in the hearts of His companions. The prophecy uttered by Him on His arrival at 'Akká, that the doors of the prison would be opened, had already been fulfilled when He left the barracks. Now that His confinement within the walls of the city had come to an end the prophecy was fully realized.
Bahá'u'lláh loved the beauty of nature and was fond of the outdoor life. Living in the Mansion of Mazra'ih enabled Him to enjoy the scenery after nine years of confinement within the walls of a depressing prison-city. In His Tablets revealed in this period Bahá'u'lláh refers to the beauty of the countryside. In a Tablet to the illustrious Afnán, Áqá Mírzá Áqá, entitled Núru'd-Dín,† He writes about the delightful scenery at Mazra'ih. He describes in cheerful language the view of the sea on the one side and the hills on the other, and speaks of the charm of the trees laden with oranges which He likens to balls of fire!
The believers who came on pilgrimage at this time were also rejoicing in Bahá'u'lláh's freedom. There were many who attained
* see vol. 3, pp. 416-17, for details.
† see below, pp. 329-37.
His presence in this Mansion, in an atmosphere far different from that of former times in Adrianople or 'Akká. There was an air of freedom, of victory and ascendancy of the Cause which exhilarated every believing heart. It had been the custom from the days of Baghdád for some of the believers to hold a feast and beg Bahá'u'lláh to honour them with His presence. This practice, however, depended upon His permission and sometimes He obliged the believers by accepting their invitation. Even when He was in the barracks, some of the believers used to save the very meagre rations they received so that they could hold a feast on a special occasion for Bahá'u'lláh to attend.* It is also apparent from some of His Tablets that certain friends in Persia would send funds to Mírzá Áqá Jan, Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, and ask him to seek permission to hold a feast in their name for Bahá'u'lláh to attend.
When Bahá'u'lláh moved out of the city, this practice became easier. After seeking His permission, the friends held feasts in the countryside in various outdoor locations. The bounty of God to those disciples who had the unique privilege of being in the presence of their Lord is immeasurable. It is not possible for us who live a hundred years later to fully appreciate, or even to imagine, the oceans of love, of ecstasy, of devotion and of thanksgiving which must have surged in the hearts of these God-intoxicated people who sat with the Supreme Manifestation of God in places of beauty, or stood as He mingled among them, speaking to them individually or collectively and even joining them in partaking of the food. To what heights of spirituality these souls were uplifted as a result of such gatherings we shall never know. Some who attained His presence have tried to describe the life-giving energies which flowed through their hearts as He spoke to them but have admitted their inability to do so adequately, because to attain the presence of One who embodies within Himself the 'Most Great Spirit† of God is not an experience one can ever describe.
* see vol. 3, p. 53.
† see vol. 3, pp. 144-5.
Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí* attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh around 1878-9. When asked by the friends to describe His impressions of the Blessed Beauty, he always recited in answer a Persian poem:
The same believer has left to posterity an account of one of the feasts at which he had the honour to be present. These are his words recorded in his memoirs:And wonder at the vision I have dreamed,
In the spring season Bahá'u'lláh used to stay at Mazra'ih for some time.† Mazra'ih is situated at a distance of about two farsangs [about 12 kilometres] from the city of 'Akká. To attain His presence I used to go to Mazra'ih in the daytime and at night I stayed at the Pilgrim House. On the first day of the Ayyám-i-Há [Intercalary days] one of the pilgrims had invited Bahá'u'lláh and all the believers in 'Akká to lunch. I too went to Mazra'ih. Early in the morning a large tent was pitched in front of the entrance to the garden on a delightful open space. That morning all the believers, numbering almost two hundred, consisting of those who were living in the Holy Land and the pilgrims, came to Mazra'ih.
* The father of the present author. For a story of his life see vol. 1.
† Bahá'u'lláh did not live at Mazra'ih or Bahjí all the time. He used to go and stay in 'Akká sometimes; for details see below, p. 105.
[Fast] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas; The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 39-40; Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 109; Prayers and Meditations; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3, vol. 4 p. 9
in the middle of the tent. His blessed person and all the Aghsán* sat around the table and since there was more room, He called some by name to join Him. Among these my name was called; He said, 'Áqá Táhir, come and sit.' So I went in and sat at the table in His presence. At some point Bahá'u'lláh said, 'We have become tired of eating. Those who have had enough may leave.' I immediately arose and His blessed Person left. At first the food which was left over on His plate was divided among the friends, and then group after group entered the tent and had their meal. Everyone at this feast partook of both physical, and spiritual food. I got the prayer of fasting from Mírzá Áqá Ján and copied it for myself. Then in the evening all the friends returned to 'Akká. But the Master was not present that day.
* The male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)