17

The Journey to Constantinople

As Bahá'u'lláh was leaving the Garden of Ridván, the call of adhán* was raised outside and the words 'Alláh'u'-Akbar' (God is the Greatest), which had greeted Him on His arrival, reverberated throughout that district again. Many people, including non-believers, paid their last homage by walking beside His horse as He went.

There was a man by the name of Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Hamíd who had a tremendous love for Bahá'u'lláh. He was a Muslim and never became a believer, but his devotion to Bahá'u'lláh knew no bounds. As a token of respect he escorted Him out of Baghdád by running a distance of about ten miles in front of His horse. One of his sons, Shaykh Muhammad-i-'Arab, became a Bahá'í and some years later walked all the way to 'Akká, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, and then went to Persia where he served the Faith with distinction as a teacher.

A notable disciple who travelled with Bahá'u'lláh was Mírzá Áqáy-i-Káshání, whom He surnamed Ismu'lláhu'l-Muníb. As a youth he became attracted to the Cause of the Báb and joined the ranks of the Bábís. His father was a merchant of note in Káshán and was very hostile to this new-born Faith. On learning that his son had embraced the Cause of the Báb, he decided to kill him. One day he took him to a lonely desert near the town and was about to carry out his sinister design when his son convinced him that the Bábís of Káshán would not stand idly by, if his father killed him, but would take action to punish him for his crime. So his father released him on condition that he leave home for good.

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* The Muslim call to prayer.



[Ridván] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas; The Kitáb-i-Íqán; Prayers and Meditations, p. 6; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 31; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4
After this tragic incident, Jináb-i-Muníb travelled to Baghdád where he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and was permitted to remain there for some time. He was an accomplished youth, keen and perceptive, full of charm and grace, handsome, well educated, a distinguished calligrapher and gifted poet. His radiant personality coupled with great spiritual capacity enabled him to become a worthy recipient of the outpourings of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation in Baghdád. His heart was so filled with the love of Bahá'u'lláh that all his thoughts and actions were wholly dedicated to Him. He used to live alone in a humble house with very little to eat, spending his time in transcribing the Writings. His own writings are lucid, inspiring and full of spirit, and his teaching exploits were truly remarkable.

After some time in Baghdád, about the year 1859, Bahá'u'lláh sent Jináb-i-Muníb to Persia, where he visited the believers in Tihrán, Qazvín and Tabríz. He then returned to Baghdád and was there at the time of Ridván. When he was honoured to accompany Bahá'u'lláh to Constantinople, he decided to walk all the way instead of riding with his Lord. 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes how, many nights, He and Jináb-i-Muníb walked one on either side of the howdah* of Bahá'u'lláh. Another task on which he prided himself was to carry a lantern in front of Bahá'u'lláh's howdah.

Those who accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Constantinople were members of His family including Áqáy-i-Kalím and Mírzá Muhammad-Qulí, His faithful brothers, and twenty-six of His disciples. As mentioned previously, two people joined the party en route, Nabíl-i-A'zam and Mírzá Yahyá.

Shoghi Effendi has described the journey to Constantinople in these terms:

A caravan, consisting of fifty mules, a mounted guard of ten soldiers with their officer, and seven pairs of howdahs, each pair surmounted by four parasols, was formed, and wended
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* The origin of the word is Arabic. It is a litter consisting of a pair of panniers in which two individuals can ride, and is carried by a beast of burden, in this case a mule.



[Ridván] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas; The Kitáb-i-Íqán; Prayers and Meditations, p. 6; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 31; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4
its way, by easy stages, and in the space of no less than a hundred and ten days, across the uplands, and through the defiles, the woods, valleys and pastures, comprising the picturesque scenery of eastern Anatolia, to the port of Sámsún, on the Black Sea. At times on horseback, at times resting in the howdah reserved for His use, and which was oftentimes surrounded by His companions, most of whom were on foot, He, by virtue of the written order of Námiq Páshá, was accorded, as He travelled northward, in the path of spring, an enthusiastic reception by the válís, the mutisarrifs, the qá'im-magáms, the mudírs, the shaykhs, the muftís and qadís, the government officials and notables belonging to the districts through which He passed.* In Karkúk, in Irbíl, in Mosul, where He tarried three days, in Nísíbín, in Márdín, in Díyár-Bakr, where a halt of a couple of days was made, in Khárpút, in Sívas, as well as in other villages and hamlets, He would be met by a delegation immediately before His arrival, and would be accompanied, for some distance, by a similar delegation upon His departure. The festivities which, at some stations, were held in His honour, the food the villagers prepared and brought for His acceptance, the eagerness which time and again they exhibited in providing the means for His comfort, recalled the reverence which the people of Baghdád had shown Him on so many occasions.1

Those who have travelled in the deserts or the valleys and uplands of the Middle East on the backs of mules and horses know how slow and monotonous the pace is. For miles there is no sign of life and those who travel in the party are not always able to talk and communicate easily with each other. Under these circumstances nothing can be more exhilarating than to hear a pleasant voice singing beautiful songs. Jináb-i-Muníb was one of those whose melodious voice, chanting various odes and
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* The titles of these officials and notables may be translated as follows: válís, governors; mutisarrifs, provincial governors; Qá'im-magáms, viceregents; mudírs, district prefects; shaykhs, elders or chiefs; muftís, expounders of Muslim law who rule on points of religious jurisprudence; qadís, judges.


1. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 156.
poems, rang out through the open fields and mountains of Turkey and brought joy and relaxation to those who travelled with Bahá'u'lláh. The odes that he sang were all indicative of his love for Bahá'u'lláh, and the prayers he chanted in the dead of night were a testimony to the yearning of his heart for his Lord.

Jináb-i-Muníb was among the companions of Bahá'u'lláh in Constantinople until His departure for Adrianople, when He summoned him to His presence and instructed him to go to Persia, where he could teach and spread the glad-tidings of the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh to the Bábís. In fact, it took some time for the news of Bahá'u'lláh's Declaration to reach the believers in Persia. In the first place, methods of communication were still primitive. Secondly, the dissemination of such important news had to be carried out with wisdom. Only the insight and devotion of Bahá'u'lláh's disciples could bring this about, which is one of the reasons that Bahá'u'lláh sent a number of the ablest among them to Persia to teach His Cause there.

When Jináb-i-Muníb arrived in Tihrán, he began to intimate the station of Bahá'u'lláh to some of the Bábís, at first very discreetly. After a short while Bahá'u'lláh sent him a Tablet from Adrianople, known as the Súriy-i-Asháb, which was addressed to him for his guidance and support. When Jináb-i-Muníb received this Tablet, he began to unveil the station of Bahá'u'lláh to the mass of the believers in that land. This is a lengthy Tablet in which Bahá'u'lláh speaks about the greatness of His Cause and, alluding to Mírzá Yahyá, warns the people of the Bayán to beware of those who deny it. (More detail of this significant Tablet will be given in the next volume.)

During this period Jináb-i-Muníb rendered memorable services to the Faith in Persia, especially in Tihrán. After this, he journeyed to Adrianople, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh again, and was in that city when Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to 'Akká. About that time, however, he was taken ill and badly needed treatment. In spite of this, he begged Bahá'u'lláh to permit him to join in His exile as he longed to be with his Lord.

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[Súriy-i-Asháb], God Passes By, p. 171; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2, p. 286
Eventually, his request was granted and he managed to reach Gallipoli with the others, but he was so weak that three men had to carry him aboard the steamer which was to take the exiles to 'Akká. Soon after this his condition deteriorated and the captain forced him to leave the ship at Smyrna.

Many times Jináb-i-Muníb had indicated to Bahá'u'lláh that his greatest desire in life was to sacrifice himself in His path. Now at last the time had come. Before being carried out of the ship he managed, in spite of his weakness, to drag his frail body before Bahá'u'lláh. He threw himself at His feet and with tearful eyes begged Him for the last time to accept his sacrifice. This Bahá'u'lláh did and his hopes and aspirations were finally fulfilled. He was taken to a hospital in Smyrna where, shortly afterwards, his soul took its flight to the immortal realms of the spirit.

Bahá'u'lláh, in a Tablet describing these events, says that when Jináb-i-Muníb's spirit ascended to his abode in the eternal worlds of God, all the angelic souls and the Concourse on high rushed forward to receive him with eagerness and love. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, one of those who carried him from the steamer to hospital, later asked the believers to try to locate his grave so that pilgrims might visit his resting-place and become inspired by his example.2

There were other disciples who accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Constantinople. Among these was Áqá Muhammad-Sádiq of Isfahán, who embraced the Faith in Baghdád, where he lived close to the house of Bahá'u'lláh. He had an extraordinary spiritual perceptiveness and recognized the truth of the Faith the moment he heard it.3 Another was Áqá Muhammad-'Alí of Isfahán, a devoted believer who accompanied Bahá'u'lláh yet further, to Adrianople and to 'Akká.4 There was also Áqá Muhammad-'Alíy-i-Sabbágh of Yazd, who stayed for about two years in Constantinople to assist the believers as they passed through the city. He then went to Adrianople and was exiled with Bahá'u'lláh to 'Akká.5

'Abdu'l-Ghaffár-i-Isfahání, being the only person among the

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2. See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 145-7.

3. ibid., pp. 77-9.

4. ibid., pp. 23-5.

5. ibid., pp. 57-9.

entire company of exiles who spoke Turkish well, served as interpreter throughout the journey. He was one of Bahá'u'lláh's companions in Adrianople who accompanied Him on His exile to 'Akká. But When the steamer reached Haifa, the authorities chose him as one of the four Bahá'ís to be exiled with Mírzá Yahyá to Cyprus. 'Abdu'l-Ghaffár was so distressed by this that he threw himself into the sea, preferring to die rather than be separated from Bahá'u'lláh. The officers in charge dragged him out and in spite of his strong objections forcibly sent him to Cyprus. He was imprisoned in Famagusta, but managed to escape and hastened to 'Akká, where he basked again in the sunshine of Bahá'u'lláh's presence.6

Áqá Muhammad-Ibráhím-i-Amír was another devoted believer who accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Constantinople. He was a survivor of the upheaval in Nayríz, a brave and courageous man who remained in the service of Bahá'u'lláh day and night and was exiled further to Adrianople and 'Akká.7

Áqá Mírzá Mahmúd of Káshán, together with Áqá Ridá of Shíráz, walked all the way to the port of Sámsún, ahead of the howdah of Bahá'u'lláh. They took up the task of preparing and cooking the food for the party at each halting-place. These two souls were so dedicated that, in spite of the fatigue and rigours of the journey, they were constantly engaged until each midnight in serving the friends with great devotion. Not only did they cook the meals and wash the dishes, but they ensured that every person was comfortable and had sufficient rest. They were the last to retire at night and the first to arise in the morning, rendering this vital service with an exemplary dedication each day of the journey from Baghdád to Constantinople.

'Abdu'l-Bahá has said that these two were the embodiments of detachment from this world and that Bahá'u'lláh always showered His blessings upon them. They lived in Baghdád in the utmost poverty, together with five other believers, in a single small room. This company of seven used to pool their modest earnings every day in order to buy their evening meal. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has recalled an occasion when only one of them

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6. See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 59-61.

7. ibid., pp. 94-5.

had earned any money and for that night they could buy only a handful of dates. Yet despite their poverty, Áqá Mírzá Mahmúd and Áqá Ridá were content and happy. Their faces beamed with eternal joy and their hearts were filled with the love of Bahá'u'lláh. Their sole desire was to attain His good pleasure and their only aim was to serve Him.

Later, they were exiled to 'Akká where they continued to serve their Lord with sincerity and love. After the passing of Bahá'u'lláh they served 'Abdu'l-Bahá with the same devotion and loyalty and were His trusted companions upon whom He relied during the darkest hours of His ministry. He has praised their humility and lowliness and has said that throughout their long years of service, they never uttered a word which had to do with self.8

Another soul who was truly enamoured of Bahá'u'lláh was Darvísh Sidq-'Alí. He begged Bahá'u'lláh to allow him to join the party travelling to Constantinople, and when permission was granted he undertook to serve as groom on the journey. He used to walk all day beside the convoy, singing poems which brought joy to the friends, and at night he attended to the horses. From Constantinople he accompanied Bahá'u'lláh on His exile to Adrianople, and then to 'Akká. He was originally a dervish who embraced the Faith in Baghdád and became detached from the things of this world. From then on he spent his time in the service of the believers, and till the end of his life was the recipient of the blessings of Bahá'u'lláh.9

Yet another who performed a difficult task on this journey was Mírzá Ja'far-i-Yazdí, who was a learned divine.* After recognizing the truth of the Faith he came to Baghdád, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and became filled with a new spirit. He gave up his position, discarded his clerical attire, put on a layman's hat and engaged in working as a carpenter. In spite of his great learning he was humble and self-effacing, and for some time served in the household of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád. On the way to Constantinople he served the friends in every possible

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* Not to be confused with Siyyid Ja'far-i-Yazdí. (See pp. 137-41.)


8. See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 39-41.

9. ibid., pp. 36-8.

manner. While they were resting or sleeping at a stopping place, Mírzá Ja'far and 'Abdu'l-Bahá used to go to surrounding villages to purchase straw and other provisions for the mules and horses. Sometimes this would take hours as there was a famine in the area and it was very difficult to obtain food. Mírzá Ja'far remained in the service of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople and was exiled with Him to the Most Great Prison in 'Akká.

Speaking of Mírzá Ja'far, 'Abdu'l-Bahá has recounted the following story:

The Prison was a garden of roses to him, and his narrow cell a wide and fragrant place. At the time when we were in the barracks he fell dangerously ill and was confined to his bed. He suffered many complications, until finally the doctor gave him up and would visit him no more. Then the sick man breathed his last. Mírzá Áqá Ján ran to Bahá'u'lláh, with word of the death. Not only had the patient ceased to breathe, but his body was already going limp. His family were gathered about him, mourning him, shedding bitter tears. The Blessed Beauty said, 'Go; chant the prayer of Yá Sháfí--O Thou, the Healer-and Mírzá Ja'far will come alive. Very rapidly, he will be as well as ever.' I reached his bedside. His body was cold and all the signs of death were present. Slowly, he began to stir; soon he could move his limbs, and before an hour had passed he lifted his head, sat up, and proceeded to laugh and tell jokes.

He lived for a long time after that, occupied as ever with serving the friends. This giving service was a point of pride with him: to all, he was a servant. He was always modest and humble, calling God to mind, and to the highest degree full of hope and faith.10

Some years later a similar incident happened to Mírzá Ja'far. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí was present on that occasion and has recorded the event in his memoirs. The following is a translation of his notes:

When Bahá'u'lláh was staying in the Mansion of Mazra'ih,

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10. See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 156-8, for an account of Mírzá Ja'far, including this quotation.
it was customary every night for Mírzá Ja'far, one of the servants of the household, to leave a jug of water outside the bedroom of the Ancient Beauty* on the upper floor of the Mansion. This was done in case He needed water during the night. In front of the Mansion there was a large balcony† and the Ancient Beauty often used to pace up and down it. One night, approximately four hours after sunset, Mírzá Ja'far as usual was carrying the jug of water up the stairs. That night was very dark and, through an error of judgement, he fell with the jug from the edge of the roof down into the garden below. This part of the garden was not in use and usually no one went there.

Early every morning, Mírzá Ja'far would first milk the cows and then attend to other housework. But that morning there was no sign of him and the friends looked everywhere but could not find him. Eventually they had to milk the cows, bring the milk to the household and attend to the other duties of Mírzá Ja'far. That day about three hours after sunrise the Blessed Beauty came upon the balcony to walk. He went straight to the very spot from which Mírzá Ja'far had fallen and called his name. Mírzá Ja'far immediately arose, picked up the empty jug and came out of the garden in perfect health. Whenever the friends asked Mírzá Ja'far to recount the incident, he would say, 'I lost consciousness as soon as I fell from the roof with the jug in my hand. It was not until the Ancient Beauty called my name that I regained consciousness.' ‡ 11

Apart from the notorious Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání who was travelling with Bahá'u'lláh, and Mírzá Yahyá who joined Him on the way, the disciples of Bahá'u'lláh on this journey, as always, demonstrated such love, devotion and humility towards

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* Bahá'u'lláh.

† The rooms which were added to the Mansion in later years have altered some features of the building, as it was in the days of Bahá'u'lláh.

‡ This and similar episodes should not be regarded as miracles, nor as proofs of the authenticity of Bahá'u'lláh's Message. He has deprecated the attributing of miracles to Himself, as this would degrade the station of the Manifestation of God.


11. Unpublished memoirs of Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí.
Him as no pen can ever describe. The inestimable privilege conferred upon them of accompanying Him to Constantinople had completely overwhelmed them. Joy and contentment so inspired them that the hardships of the journey, whether on foot or by mule, had very little effect upon their health.

The marks of respect and veneration which were shown to Bahá'u'lláh by the people along the way continued until He reached the port of Sámsún. From there He travelled by sea to Constantinople. Shoghi Effendi has recounted this in God Passes By:

In Sámsún the Chief Inspector of the entire province, extending from Baghdád to Constantinople, accompanied by several Páshás, called on Him, showed Him the utmost respect, and was entertained by Him at luncheon. But seven days after His arrival, He, as foreshadowed in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner, was put on board a Turkish steamer and three days later was disembarked, at noon, together with His fellow-exiles, at the port of Constantinople, on the first of Rabí'u'l-Avval 1280 A. H. (August 16, 1863). In two special carriages, which awaited Him at the landing-stage He and His family drove to the house of Shamsí Big, the official who had been appointed by the government to entertain its guests, and who lived in the vicinity of the Khirqiy-i-Sharíf mosque. Later they were transferred to the more commodious house of Vísí Páshá, in the neighbourhood of the mosque of Sultán Muhammad.

With the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh at Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire and seat of the Caliphate (acclaimed by the Muhammadans as 'the Dome of Islám,' but stigmatized by Him as the spot whereon the 'throne of tyranny' had been established), the grimmest and most calamitous and yet the most glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá'í century may be said to have opened. A period in which untold privations and unprecedented trials were mingled with the noblest spiritual triumphs was now commencing. The day-star of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry was about to reach its zenith. The most momentous years of the Heroic Age of His

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Dispensation were at hand. The catastrophic process, foreshadowed as far back as the year sixty by His Forerunner in the Qayyúmu'l-Asmá', was beginning to be set in motion.

Exactly two decades earlier the Bábí Revelation had been born in darkest Persia, in the city of Shíráz. Despite the cruel captivity to which its Author had been subjected, the stupendous claims He had voiced had been proclaimed by Him before a distinguished assemblage in Tabríz, the capital of Ádhirbáyján. In the hamlet of Badasht the Dispensation which His Faith had ushered in had been fearlessly inaugurated by the champions of His Cause. In the midst of the hopelessness and agony of the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán, nine years later, that Revelation had, swiftly and mysteriously been brought to sudden fruition. The process of rapid deterioration in the fortunes of that Faith, which had gradually set in, and was alarmingly accelerated during the years of Bahá'u'lláh's withdrawal to Kurdistán, had, in a masterly fashion after His return from Sulaymáníyyih, been arrested and reversed. The ethical, the moral and doctrinal foundations of a nascent community had been subsequently, in the course of His sojourn in Baghdád, unassailably established. And finally, in the Garden of Ridván, on the eve of His banishment to Constantinople, the ten-year delay, ordained by an inscrutable Providence, had been terminated through the Declaration of His Mission and the visible emergence of what was to become the nucleus of a world-embracing Fellowship.12

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12. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 157-8.

[Ridván] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas; The Kitáb-i-Íqán; Prayers and Meditations, p. 6; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 31; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4