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Bahá'u'lláh's Arrival at 'Akká

The journey of Bahá'u'lláh from Adrianople to 'Akká, described briefly in the closing chapter of the former volume, was laden with enormous hardship and suffering. It once again high-lighted the abasement to which Bahá'u'lláh and His companions were subjected, and the indignities heaped upon Him by the actions of His enemies. And when He arrived in the prison of 'Akká, these sufferings were intensified to such an extent that He designated that city as the 'Most Great Prison'. Referring to the first nine years of His exile in 'Akká, the Pen of the Most High in one of His Tablets has recorded these moving words:

Know thou that upon Our arrival at this Spot, We chose to designate it as the 'Most Great Prison.' Though previously subjected in another land (Tihrán) to chains and fetters, We yet refused to call it by that name. Say: Ponder thereon, O ye endued with understanding! 1
One of the fascinating features of the life of Bahá'u'lláh is the contrast between His glory and majesty born of God, and the imprisonment and abasement to which He was subjected by His enemies. We may observe with amazement that Bahá'u'lláh, the Supreme Manifestation of God, One who held the powers of earth and heaven in His hands, the movement of whose pen could revolutionize the lives of all men, whose words were endowed with such potency as to subdue His adversaries; such a Being submitted Himself with utter resignation to those who had arisen with all their might and authority to take His life and extinguish the light of His Cause.

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1. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 185.
He did not exercise His God-given spiritual powers to stay the hands of the oppressors persecuting Him. He could have--as He Himself attests in many of His Tablets--conquered the hearts of His enemies with the utterance of one word, had He so wished. But this was not to be. For God has created man and has given him free will to choose between good and evil, to follow the Truth or tread the path of error.

If the Manifestations of God were to reveal fully the signs and tokens of their power, if they were to overwhelm and destroy their persecutors through the force of their spiritual might, such a revelation would run counter to the principle of free will which God has bestowed upon man. Because no one, whether good or bad, deserving or undeserving, when confronted with the manifold evidences of the overwhelming power of the Manifestation of God, would have any choice but to acknowledge His authority and accept the authenticity of His message. In such a case man would be reduced to a mere puppet who loses control over his actions, and those who have no spiritual merit would become equal to those who have.

This is why the Manifestations of God hide their powers from the eyes of men in general and occasionally (and to a certain extent) reveal them to a few who are endowed with spiritual qualities.* For instance, Christ enabled some of His disciples to witness the signs of His glory, but the great majority of the people in the Holy Land, their religious leaders and their rulers, were not affected by these. He did not use His spiritual ascendancy to prevent His own crucifixion.

The powers of the Manifestation of God remain hidden behind the veil of His human temple. He lives like the rest of the people and is subject to all the limitations which this imposes on Him. He has to eat and sleep in order to survive. He feels pain if He is afflicted with sufferings, He becomes ill at times and eventually dies. Indeed, He comes as if camouflaged by His mortal frame. And this prevents most of His contemporaries from recognizing His station. His actions

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* see vol. 2, p. 83, and p. 300 below.

also prove to be great barriers and stumbling blocks for those who come into contact with Him. The way He lives is similar to the life of His countrymen. He speaks the same language, obeys the same laws, and practises the same customs. He does not appear to know the future, has to be informed of the news of the day, and even some of His teachings and words may cast doubt into the minds of many who are veiled from His glory. Those intellectuals and men of learning who are spiritually blind, and who weigh His utterances with their own standards, will often find fault with His sayings and reject His message outright.

All these human characteristics which the Manifestation of God displays act as a thick cloud hiding the splendours of the light of His Revelation from the eyes of men. For He does not reveal Himself in His naked glory. Only those with spiritual eyes may penetrate through and witness the radiance of the Sun of Truth behind this cloud. Man has to make an effort in order to find the truth. This is an irrevocable law of creation, and through it man's free will is preserved. This free will is bestowed upon man by God. He has given him authority to rule over this world. Man has the power of life and death in his hands. He can lead a peaceful life and build a united world, or he can kindle the fire of enmity and bring destruction and death to great multitudes. And although God has sent His Messengers from time to time to show the way to the human race, and has thrown light upon its path, yet He has left man free to choose for himself. In each Dispensation a considerable number of people have been led to follow the path of truth by their own free will, whereas the majority of the peoples have rejected the call of God and followed the dictates of their own selves.

In this age humanity has strayed far from the path of truth, and the call of Bahá'u'lláh to recognize Him as the viceregent of God on earth has fallen on deaf ears. But a careful study of His writings leads us to believe that His Revelation, being the culmination of past Revelations and one which has ushered in

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the Day of God Himself, will exert such a potent influence upon mankind as a whole that eventually all the peoples of the world will recognize His station of their own free will and embrace His cause of their own volition. And this in turn will bring about, in the distant future, the appearance of a new race of men whose noble character and spiritual virtues we, in this age, are unable to visualize.

With this basic principle in mind that the Manifestations of God hide their glory from the eyes of men, we can appreciate more clearly the manner in which they have appeared and acted among the peoples of the world. We observe that they have always submitted themselves to their enemies, and yet through the power of God they have succeeded in firmly establishing the foundation of their Cause among men. The sufferings which were inflicted on Bahá'u'lláh by His enemies throughout His forty-year ministry and the forbearance and resignation with which He endured these, demonstrate this principle. This becomes especially apparent in 'Akká where those in authority inflicted on Him tribulations more severe than at any other period in His ministry.

Although Bahá'u'lláh submitted Himself to a hostile enemy who made Him a prisoner and condemned Him to solitary confinement for the rest of His life, yet no one could rob Him of His majesty and glory. Even those who had no spiritual eyes and who were blind to His divine authority were forcibly struck by the outward manifestations of His eminent and august personality.

As with other incidents in His life when people came face to face with Him, not one of the officials accompanying Bahá'u'lláh on His journey to 'Akká, nor others who either in the course of duty or for other reasons came into His presence, could fail to recognize His greatness. One such was a young man by the name of Constantine, a Christian, who went aboard the ship at Alexandria in Egypt and attained His presence. This young man was one of the characters in an important incident during Bahá'u'lláh's journey to 'Akká.

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The Alexandria Incident

Towards the end of His stay in Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh sent Nabíl-i-A'zam to Egypt on a mission. The Iranian Consul-General in Cairo, Mírzá Hasan Khán-i- Khú'í, was an inveterate enemy of the Faith. As soon as he learnt of Nabíl's visit, he approached the Egyptian authorities, brought false accusations against him and urged his arrest. Consequently Nabíl was sent to a prison in Cairo and later transferred to one in Alexandria. Completely unaware of the fate of Bahá'u'lláh and his imminent exile to 'Akká, Nabíl spent his days in Alexandria prison, which was located close to the sea where ships used to anchor.

As we have already stated in a previous volume,* a certain Christian physician, a Syrian by the name of Fáris, who had been put in the same prison for financial reasons, became attracted to Nabíl. At first the former tried to convert the latter to Christianity. But instead Nabíl gave his companion the tidings of the coming of the Father and the advent of the Day of God. He disclosed to his eyes the light of the new-born Faith and imparted to him the knowledge of His revelation.

Soon, as a result of Nabíl's teaching work inspired by his spirit of detachment from this world, and aided by his profound and intimate knowledge of the message of Bahá'u'lláh, Fáris became assured of the truth of the Cause. The fire of faith began to burn fiercely in his heart, and the love of Bahá'u'lláh possessed his whole being. He was filled with joy and ecstasy, the gloom of the prison life vanished and he found himself for the first time in the midst of paradise.

While Nabíl was in Cairo prison, one night Bahá'u'lláh appeared to him in a dream and assured him that after eighty-one days the hardships of prison life would come to an end. That day fell on Thursday, 27 August 1868, and it was on that day that the significance of Nabíl's dream came to light.†

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* vol. 1, pp. 203-4.

† According to the shipping records the Austrian Lloyd steamer was due to leave Gallipoli on 21 August 1868 and was due in Alexandria on Wednesday 26 August early in the morning. Bahá'u'lláh and His companions transshipped to another steamer of the same company in Alexandria bound for Cyprus via Haifa, which sailed on Friday 28 August.

Around the time of sunset he went on the roof of the prison and began to watch people passing by. Not long after he had settled in a corner on the roof, to his amazement Nabíl sighted Áqá Muhammad Ibráhím-i-Názir (caterer) among the passers-by, escorted by a guard. Áqá Muhammad Ibráhím used to do the work of catering for Bahá'u'lláh and His companions in Adrianople. Now in Alexandria he had left the ship to purchase provisions for the journey. Not knowing anything about Bahá'u'lláh's exile to 'Akká, the astonished Nabíl called out to Muhammad Ibráhím who succeeded in persuading his guard to allow him to visit his friend in the prison. There he told him of the fate of Bahá'u'lláh and His companions and pointed to the ship which carried the exiles and could be seen from the prison.

This amazing incident caused great agitation in the heart of Nabíl, for he found himself so close to his Beloved and yet so far. When Fáris Effendi was informed, he too became highly excited but frustrated at not being able to attain the presence of His Lord.

That night neither of the two could sleep. Both decided to write a letter to Bahá'u'lláh and the next morning Fáris Effendi made arrangements with a certain Christian youth, Constantine, who was a watch-maker in the city, to deliver their letters to Bahá'u'lláh on board the ship. They both stood on the roof of the prison to watch the ship, turned their hearts to Bahá'u'lláh and communed with His spirit with much devotion and love.

After a short while they were heart-broken to see the ship steaming away before Constantine could gain admittance. But amazingly, after a few minutes the ship stopped and Constantine, who was in a rowing boat, reached it and went

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aboard. He handed the envelope to one of the attendants who took it to Bahá'u'lláh. The news of Nabíl's whereabouts, and especially the letter of Fáris, which was read aloud by Bahá'u'lláh to those who had assembled in His presence, created great excitement on board the ship. Bahá'u'lláh revealed a Tablet in honour of Nabíl in which He bestowed His bounties and blessings upon Fáris, and assured him that soon he would be released from the prison. He then called the messenger to His presence, and handed him the Tablet with loving kindness and affection. 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Purest Branch also sent some gifts to Nabíl.

This short visit made an abiding impression upon Constantine. Having come face to face for a brief period with the Supreme Manifestation of God, and seen a glimpse of His glory, he left the ship overwhelmed and awestruck. When he came to deliver the parcel to Fáris Effendi, he was in such a state of excitement that he was heard shouting aloud, 'By God, I have seen the face of the Heavenly Father.' In a state of ecstasy and rapture Fáris embraced Constantine and kissed his eyes which had gazed upon the countenance of his Lord.

The Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh was in the handwriting of His amanuensis Mírzá Áqá Ján in the form of 'Revelation Writing'.* It imparted a new spirit of love and dedication to Fáris; it fanned into flame the fire of faith which had been ignited in his heart by Nabíl in that gloomy prison. As promised by Bahá'u'lláh, Fáris was released from prison three days later. After his release he arose in the propagation of the Faith among his people. Nabíl was also freed soon after, but being ordered to leave Egypt he proceeded to the Holy Land in pursuit of his Lord.

In more than one Tablet Bahá'u'lláh has Himself described the episode of Fáris in Alexandria as a token of the power of God. In a Tablet2 revealed soon after His arrival in 'Akká and addressed to Rada'r-Rúh,† a devoted follower from Manshád

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* see vol. 1, pp. 24-5, 35-7.

† see vols. 1 and 2. The date of his martyrdom is not clearly known but was probably around the time that Bahá'u'lláh arrived in 'Akká and sent him the above Tablet.


2. Unpublished Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh.
who died as a martyr, Bahá'u'lláh relates the story of His banishment from Adrianople, and the outpouring of the revelation of the Word of God in the course of that journey; he declares that the breezes of the revelation of the Words revealed in that period wafted over the entire planet. Referring to Himself as the 'Most Great Ocean', He describes in majestic language His boarding the ship and sailing upon the sea, while every drop of its waters was exhilarated and from it could be heard that which no one is capable of hearing.

Perhaps the highlight of this Tablet concerns the story of Fáris. Bahá'u'lláh relates that while the ship was anchored in Alexandria, He received from the hand of a Christian messenger a mighty letter from which He could inhale the fragrances of holiness. It was written by one who had detached himself from worldly ties and embraced His Cause. Bahá'u'lláh states that He wished Rada'r-Rúh had been present to hear the soul-stirring Voice of his Lord as He read aloud to His companions on board the ship the letter of supplication and declaration of faith. This letter, written in Arabic, is indicative of a passionate faith in the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, a deep understanding of His Revelation and a true recognition of His station. Bahá'u'lláh became so happy on receiving this moving letter that He wanted to share it with the believers. On His instructions, therefore, part of Fáris's letter was copied and sent to some individuals in Persia, that they might read and ponder upon the creative power of the Word of God which is capable of transforming the human heart and leading it to the world of the spirit.

This is a summary of part of Fáris's letter:

O Thou the Glory of the Most Glorious and the Exalted of the Most Exalted! I write this letter and present it to the One who has been subjected to the same sufferings as Jesus Christ...It is incumbent upon us to offer praise and
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thanksgiving to God, the All-glorious, the All-bountiful. And now I beseech Thee to grant me and my kindred a portion of the ocean of Thy bounty, O Thou who art the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting and the Wellspring of Purity and Sanctity.

I entreat Thee by the mystery of Thy most joyful Being, by Thy Prophet who conversed with Thee (Moses), by Thy Son (Jesus), by Thy Friend (Muhammad) and by Thy Herald (The Báb) who for the love of Thee offered up His life in Thy path, not to deprive me and my family, these poor ones, from beholding the glory of Thy countenance.

O Thou who hast endured for our sake sufferings and tribulations. Strengthen our faith, choose us for Thy service and accept us as martyrs in Thy path so that our blood may be shed for the love of Thee. We are weak and ignorant, confer upon us Thy glory so that we may not be among the losers. Grant us the distinction of love and faith, and cleanse our hearts from whatsoever runs counter to Thy good pleasure. Aid us to forget our own selves so that we may seek no rest in Thy service except by Thy leave and pleasure.

O Thou who knowest the secrets of the hearts! Art Thou sailing in an ark made of wood? O how I long to be a part of that vessel, for it is blessed to be a carrier of the Lord. O, the surging sea! is thy restlessness because of the fear of the glorious Lord? O Alexandria! art thou grief-stricken because He who is the Ever-living, the All-wise, is leaving thy shores? O, the desolate city of 'Akká! Thou art clapping thy hands in fervent joy and art in a state of rapture and ecstasy, for the Lord in His great glory will bless thy land with His footsteps...

In the aforementioned Tablet to Rada'r-Rúh Bahá'u'lláh makes an important statement which confirms one of the fundamental verities of the Cause of God. Referring to Fáris's recognition of His station, Bahá'u'lláh states that God transformed his heart and created him anew, and that such a creation is greater in the sight of God than the creation of earth and heaven. We may appreciate this statement when we reflect that the soul of man is the most precious reality in this creation,
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bestowed upon him by God. There is a spiritual and mysterious force of attraction between the soul and the Creator.* It is this love relationship that Bahá'u'lláh refers to in the Hidden Words when He says:

O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.3
But the soul becomes attached to this world and it is this attachment which becomes a barrier between the soul and its Creator. If the barriers are removed, however, the soul will draw nearer to God, will recognize Him, will acquire the spirit of faith† and become a new creation. The soul thus fulfils the purpose for which it was created, and this is the most meritorious event in the sight of God and more important than all that is, in this physical creation. It is in this connection that we can appreciate the exhortations of Bahá'u'lláh with regard to teaching His Faith‡ which result in bringing a soul to its God. It is not surprising that Bahá'u'lláh has enjoined upon every believer the duty of teaching His Cause and has regarded it as 'the most meritorious of all deeds'.

Fáris was probably the first Christian to embrace the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. Through the radiance of Nabíl's indomitable faith, and helped by his own knowledge of the Arabic language and of the Bible, Fáris became a faithful believer with a deep understanding of the station of Bahá'u'lláh. That Fáris and Nabíl should have met in the prison of Alexandria is no accident. God works in mysterious ways. When He is manifested to man, He attracts souls that are detached from this world to Himself. During the ministries of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, great numbers were led to the Fountain-head of God's Revelation in mysterious ways--through dreams and

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* In this context we are not referring to 'Creator' as the Essence of God, but God manifested to man.

† see vol. 1, pp. 73-4.

‡ see vol. 2, pp. 91-4; and below, p. 331.


3. Arabic no. 4.
visions, through intuition or even through miraculous circumstances. This is because the Manifestation of God was living among men and those who were pure in heart were drawn to Him.

By the righteousness of the one true God! If one speck of a jewel be lost and buried beneath a mountain of stones, and lie hidden beyond the seven seas, the Hand of Omnipotence would assuredly reveal it in this Day, pure and cleansed from dross.4
Fáris devoted his time to teaching the Cause among his own people. The Lawh-i-Aqdas* (The Most Holy Tablet) otherwise known in the West as the 'Tablet to the Christians', is reputed to have been revealed in his honour, but this cannot be substantiated. Up till now, it has not been possible to ascertain for whom this Tablet was revealed.

After this extraordinary contact which was made at Alexandria between Bahá'u'lláh and the two Bahá'í prisoners, the steamer headed towards its destination,† and after three days it arrived at Haifa in the early morning of Monday 31 August.

The Most Great Prison

Bahá'u'lláh and His companions--seventy in all--disembarked from the ship and were taken ashore in sailing boats. All their belongings were also ferried across with them. There, the prisoners were all counted and handed over to government officials.‡ A few hours later they were all taken

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* Published in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 9-17. Not to be confused with the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book. [vol 4. p. 227]

† According to the shipping records, the Austrian Lloyd steamer was due to leave Alexandria at 11 a.m. on Friday, arriving at Port Sa'íd on Saturday at 5 p.m., at Jaffa on Sunday at 6 p.m., at Haifa on Monday at 8 a.m., and at noon two days later at Cyprus.

‡ It was here that four of Bahá'u'lláh's followers were not allowed to land and were taken to Cyprus instead, and here that one of them, 'Abdu'l-Ghaffár, threw himself into the sea. See vol. 2, p. 411.


4. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, Advent, p. 67.
aboard a sailing vessel which took them to 'Akká in the afternoon of the same day. As there were no landing facilities at 'Akká, the men had to wade ashore from the boat and it was ordered that the women were to be carried on the backs of men. But at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's insistence the women were carried ashore one by one sitting in a chair which He Himself procured.

When Bahá'u'lláh arrived in 'Akká, that city was a penal colony. Its population in the 1880s was estimated to be about nine thousand. The Turkish Government had consigned to it from its vast empire a great number of criminals, murderers, political detainees and every type of troublemaker. The inhabitants, whom Bahá'u'lláh had stigmatized as 'The Generation of Vipers', had sunk to a very low level. Among these people wild rumours and false accusations were circulating concerning Bahá'u'lláh and His followers as they were about to arrive. The company of exiles, those God-intoxicated heroes who had accompanied their Lord to this most desolate of cities, were considered to be evil men, criminals of the worst type who deserved to be treated most cruelly. It is no wonder, therefore, that great numbers from among the inhabitants of 'Akká had assembled at the landing site to jeer at them and at their Leader whom they referred to as 'the God of the Persians'.

Yet among the crowd there were some endowed with a measure of spiritual perception. These, as they gazed upon the countenance of Bahá'u'lláh, were struck by His majesty and witnessed a glory they had never seen before. Among them was a certain Khalíl Ahmad 'Abdú, a venerable old man who used to say to the inhabitants of 'Akká that he could see in the face of Bahá'u'lláh signs of greatness and of majesty and truthfulness. He often said that the people of 'Akká should rejoice and be thankful to God for having ennobled their

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homeland by the footsteps of this great Personage. He prophesied that through Him the inhabitants would be blessed and prosper, and this of course literally came to pass.

Another man in the crowd watching the arrival of the exiles was known as 'Abdu'lláh Tuzih. He saw the radiance, the power, and the glory of Bahá'u'lláh's countenance and wasdrawn to Him. He later became a believer and his daughter (who was born on the same day that Bahá'u'lláh arrived in 'Akká) was some years later joined in wedlock with Husayn-i-Áshchí, a cook in Bahá'u'lláh's household and one of His devoted servants.*

How incomparable is the difference between the vision of those assembled at the sea gate of 'Akká to jeer at and demonstrate their hostility towards the company of exiles and their Leader, and the vision of Bahá'u'lláh Who a few years before, in the Tablet of Sayyáh† foreshadowing His arrival in the city of 'Akká, disclosed to those who were endowed with spiritual insight a vastly different spectacle:

Upon Our arrival We were welcomed with banners of light, whereupon the Voice of the Spirit cried out saying: 'Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.' 5
The attitude of these onlookers, blind to the world of the spirit and the all-encompassing vision of Bahá'u'lláh, is characteristic of man's attitude to the Revelation of God in every age. Over one hundred years have passed since Bahá'u'lláh uttered these words. The majority of mankind, its rulers and wise men, have so far failed to recognize their truth. They either remain unaware of the coming of the Lord or turn a deaf ear to His voice. But those who have embraced His Cause can believe in the vision of their Lord that 'soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners'.

The history of the rise of every religion demonstrates a similar situation. When Christ was on the cross He saw the

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* see vol. 2, pp. 169, 404.

† see vol. 2, p. 213.


5. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 184.
vision of His Cause spreading to the far ends of the world, while humanity, represented by His contemporaries in the Holy Land, was insensitive to such a vision. It saw in Christ only a man captive and helpless, dying on the cross. But it did not know the power of the Holy Spirit, a power which brought millions under the shadow of the Christian Faith.

When Muhammad and His disciples were on one occasion completely surrounded and greatly outnumbered by hosts of His enemies, and when there was no hope of survival among His followers, the Prophet is reported to have stood on a rock and forcefully struck it with His staff saying, 'I have conquered the Roman Empire,' and repeating the same act, 'I have conquered the Persian Empire'...Even some of His followers at that time did not have the vision to comprehend these words but soon they witnessed their fulfilment.

Thus the enemies of Bahá'u'lláh, unable to discern the power of the Almighty which was animating His Cause and the person of His own Manifestation, imagined that by confining Him to the prison they could succeed in putting out His light and destroying His Cause. It was for this reason that the authorities had been ordered to impose the harshest restrictions upon Him and His followers.

In the masterly language so characteristic of his divinely guided writings, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, has briefly touched upon the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's arrival in 'Akká. He writes:

The arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká marks the opening of the last phase of His forty-year-long ministry, the final stage, and indeed the climax, of the banishment in which the whole of that ministry was spent. A banishment that had, at first, brought Him to the immediate vicinity of the strongholds of Shí'ah orthodoxy and into contact with its outstanding exponents, and which, at a later period, had carried Him to the capital of the Ottoman empire, and led Him to address His epoch-making pronouncements to the Sultán, to his ministers and to the ecclesiastical leaders of
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Sunní Islám, had now been instrumental in landing Him upon the shores of the Holy Land--the Land promised by God to Abraham, sanctified by the Revelation of Moses, honoured by the lives and labours of the Hebrew patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, revered as the cradle of Christianity, and as the place where Zoroaster, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's testimony, had 'held converse with some of the Prophets of Israel,' and associated by Islám with the Apostle's night-journey, through the seven heavens, to the throne of the Almighty. Within the confines of this holy and enviable country, 'the nest of all the Prophets of God,' 'the Vale of God's unsearchable Decree, the snow-white Spot, the Land of unfading splendour' was the Exile of Baghdád, of Constantinople and Adrianople condemned to spend no less than a third of the allotted span of His life and over half of the total period of His Mission. 'It is difficult,' declares 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 'to understand how Bahá'u'lláh could have been obliged to leave Persia, and to pitch His tent in this Holy Land, but for the persecution of His enemies, His banishment and exile.'

Indeed such a consummation, He assures us, had been actually prophesied 'through the tongue of the Prophets two or three thousand years before.' God, 'faithful to His promise,' had, 'to some of the Prophets' 'revealed and given the good news that the "Lord of Hosts should be manifested in the Holy Land."' Isaiah had, in this connection, announced in his Book: 'Get thee up into the high mountain, O Zion that bringest good tidings; lift up thy voice with strength, O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings. Lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: "Behold your God! Behold the Lord God will come with strong band, and His arm shall rule for Him."' David, in his Psalms, had predicted: 'Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.' 'Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.' Amos had, likewise, foretold His coming: 'The Lord will roar from Zion, and

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utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.' 'Akká, itself, flanked by the 'glory of Lebanon,' and lying in full view of the 'splendour of Carmel,' at the foot of the hills which enclose the home of Jesus Christ Himself, had been described by David as 'the Strong City,' designated by Hosea as 'a door of hope,' and allude to by Ezekiel as 'the gate that looketh towards the East,' whereunto 'the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the East,' His voice 'like a noise of many waters.' To it the Arabian Prophet had referred as 'a city in Syria to which God hath shown His special mercy,' situated 'betwixt two mountains...in the middle of a meadow,' 'by the shore of the sea...suspended beneath the Throne,' 'white, whose whiteness is pleasing unto God.' 'Blessed the man,' He, moreover, as confirmed by Bahá'u'lláh, had declared, 'that hath visited 'Akká, and blessed he that hath visited the visitor of 'Akká.' Furthermore, 'He that raiseth therein the call to prayer, his voice will be lifted up unto Paradise.' And again: 'The poor of 'Akká are the kings of Paradise and the princes thereof. A month in 'Akká is better than a thousand years elsewhere,' Moreover, in a remarkable tradition, which is contained in Shaykh Ibnu'l-'Arabí's work, entitled 'Futúhát-i-Makkíyyih,' and which is recognized as an authentic utterance of Muhammad, and is quoted by Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl in his 'Fará'id,' this significant prediction has been made: 'All of them (the companions of the Qá'im) shall be slain except One Who shall reach the plain of 'Akká, the Banquet-Hall of God.' 6
Bahá'u'lláh and His party entered the prison city through the sea gate and were conducted along the narrow and twisting roads of 'Akká to the barracks. The hardships of the long and arduous journey from Adrianople to 'Akká in the burning heat of the midsummer season, with inadequate and primitive facilities on board the ships crowded by so many, had exhausted everyone. And now added to all this were the appalling conditions of their confinement in the barracks,
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6. God Passes By, pp. 183-4.
especially during the first night of their arrival there. Bahá'u'lláh was placed in a filthy room completely bare and devoid of any furniture. Later He was moved into a room on the upper floor of the barracks; this room, the interior of which is now kept in good condition and visited by Bahá'í pilgrims, was in the days of Bahá'u'lláh unfit for habitation. He Himself has recounted in a Tablet7 that its floor was covered with earth, and what plaster remained on the ceiling was falling.

Bahá'u'lláh's followers were huddled into another room, the floor of which was covered with mud. Ten soldiers were posted at the gate to guard the prisoners. The foul air and the stench in the prison, coupled with the sultry heat of the summer, were so offensive that Bahá'íyyih Khánum, the daughter of Bahá'u'lláh entitled the 'Greatest Holy Leaf', was overcome and fainted on arrival.

There was no water for drinking except that in a small pool which had already been used for washing. The water in this pool was so filthy that the mere thought of drinking it would make one sick. That first night, water was withheld from the prisoners. Everyone was thirsty in those hot surroundings and some of the women and children were overcome by thirst. Mothers with suckling babes were unable to feed them, and for hours the children were crying for food and water. 'Abdu'l-Bahá made several appeals to the guards to show mercy to the children and even sent a message to the Governor of 'Akká, but all was without avail. At last in the morning some water was given to the prisoners and three loaves of bread to each as a daily ration: the bread was unfit to eat but after some time they were allowed to take it to the market and exchange it for two loaves of a better quality.

Soon after the arrival of the prisoners the Governor visited the barracks for inspection. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, accompanied by a few believers, went to see him. But the Governor was discourteous and spoke to them in a provocative manner. He threatened to cut the supply of bread if one of the prisoners

17


7. Quoted by Ishráq Khávarí, Rahíq-i-Makhtúm, vol. 2, p. 771.
went missing and then ordered them back to their room. Husayn-i-Áshchí, one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's attendants, could not bear to remain silent after such insulting treatment. He retorted with rage and hurled back at the Governor some offensive remarks.

'Abdu'l-Bahá immediately chastised Husayn by slapping him hard in the face in front of the Governor and ordering him to return to his room. This action by 'Abdu'l-Bahá not only defused a dangerous situation but also opened the eyes of the Governor to the existence of a real leader among the prisoners, a leader who would act with authority and justice.

Husayn-i-Áshchí, who has recorded this incident in his memoirs, and who prided himself on being chastised by the Master on that occasion, recalls that because of this action the Governor's attitude towards 'Abdu'l-Bahá changed. He realized that, contrary to the wild rumours circulating in 'Akká at the time, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His family were from a noble background, and not criminals as he had been led to believe. The Governor therefore began to act in a more humane way towards the prisoners. He eventually agreed to substitute the allotted ration of bread with a sum of money and allowed a small party of the prisoners, escorted by guards, to visit the markets of 'Akká daily to buy their provisions.

Three days after the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh and His companions, the edict of the Sultán condemning Him to life imprisonment was read out in the Mosque. The prisoners were introduced as criminals who had corrupted the morals of the people. It was stated that they were to be confined in prison and were not allowed to associate with anyone.

In the course of a talk8 to the friends in Haifa, 'Abdu'l-Bahá has described His being summoned by the Governor of 'Akká to hear the contents of the edict. When it was read out to Him that they were to remain in prison for ever,* 'Abdu'l-Bahá responded by saying that the contents of the edict were

18

* In Arabic the term used for life imprisonment is often 'prisoner for ever'.


8. Reported in Fádil-i-Mázindarání, Asráru'l-Áthár, vol. 4, p. 349.
meaningless and without foundation. Upon hearing this remark, the Governor became angry and retorted that the edict was from the Sultán, and he wanted to know how it could be described as meaningless. 'Abdu'l-Bahá reiterated His comment and explained that it made no sense to describe their imprisonment as lasting for ever, for man lives in this world only for a short period, and that sooner or later the captives would leave this prison either dead or alive. The Governor and his officers were impressed by the vision of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and felt easier in His presence.

It is interesting to note that some time later, when the Master emerged as the most eminent and the most loved person in 'Akká and the neighbouring lands, when practically all the people of 'Akká, both high and low, turned to Him for help, and when the Governors and high officials sought His advice and sat at His feet to receive enlightenment, the edict of the Sultán together with other documents relating to the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh and His companions were removed from the government files and presented to 'Abdu'l-Bahá by a government official.

In the meantime, life in the prison of 'Akká in the early days was extremely difficult and tortuous. For three months, the authorities did not allow Bahá'u'lláh to attend the public bath which in those days was the only place where people could take a bath. The guards had been given strict orders not to allow any person to visit Him. Even when a barber came to attend to Bahá'u'lláh's hair, he was accompanied by a guard and was not allowed to talk to Him. 'Abdu'l-Bahá had to live in a room on the ground floor which had been formerly used as a morgue. Its moist air affected His health for the rest of His life. As for the prisoners, the filthy conditions under which they were living, the lack of proper food and hygiene, and the severity of restrictions, took their toll. Shortly after their arrival in the barracks, all but two fell sick. Nine of the ten guards were also struck down by illness. Malaria and dysentery added to their ordeal. The only two unaffected at

19

that stage were 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Áqá Ridáy-i-Qannád,* although both of them were taken ill at a later time. The Master, helped by this believer, attended to the needs of the sick and nursed them day and night. The authorities did not call for a doctor to administer medicine. With the few provisions at His disposal all that 'Abdu'l-Bahá could do was to cook for them a simple broth and some rice each day. But the hygienic conditions were appalling. The heat was severe during the day and there was no adequate water for washing.

In these circumstances three people died. The first victim was a certain Abu'l-Qásim-i-Sultán Ábádí. Then two brothers, Ustád Muhammad-Báqir and Ustád Muhammad-Ismá'íl, both tailors by profession, died one evening within a few hours of each other. They were locked in each other's arms as they lay on the floor. Bahá'u'lláh particularly expressed His grief at this tragic death, and stated that never before had two brothers passed away from this dark world and entered the realms of glory in such unity. He, as stated in a Tablet,9 praised them, showered His bounties upon them, and blessed their parents.

The burial of these three posed a difficult problem for the company of exiles. For the Government refused to allow anyone from among the prisoners to bury them, nor did they provide funds for their burial. The guards demanded payment of necessary expenses for burial before removing the bodies. And as there were very few possessions which could be sold, in order to raise the money Bahá'u'lláh ordered the sale of the only luxury He had, a small prayer carpet used by Him. This was done, and the proceeds were handed to the guards who then pocketed the money and buried the dead in the clothes they wore, withot coffins and without the customary Muslim rites of washing and wrapping the bodies in shrouds.

As they were not allowed to be buried inside the Muslim Cemetery they were laid to rest outside it. Some years later

20

* see vol. 1, pp. 288-9; vol. 2, pp. 403-4.


9. Quoted in Rahíq-i-Makhtúm, vol. 1, p. 367.
'Abdu'l-Bahá arranged for one of the believers to build their graves, which are joined together.

After the death of these three men, Bahá'u'lláh revealed a short healing prayer especially for the believers in the barracks and asked them to chant it repeatedly and with absolute sincerity. This the friends did and soon everyone recovered.

The Desolate City

Long before His departure from Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh had prophesied the impending calamities which were to befall Him in His forthcoming exile to 'Akká. In some of His Tablets revealed in Adrianople He had alluded to that city, in others He had mentioned 'Akká by name as being the next place of His exile. For instance in the Lawh-i-Sultán,* the Tablet to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh of Persia, He had clearly prophesied that the next place of His exile would be 'Akká. Concerning that city He writes in that Tablet: 'According to what they say, it is the most desolate of the cities of the world, the most unsightly of them in appearance, the most detestable in climate, and the foulest in water.' 10

In another Tablet11 revealed soon before His departure from Adrianople He predicts a new wave of calamities that would soon encompass Him in the fortress of 'Akká. He describes the conditions of the city in similar terms as those in the Lawh-i-Sultán, but declares that soon its climate would improve, because its Builder would enter it and adorn it with the ornament of His Greatest Name.

The foul air of 'Akká was often summed up by the proverb that a bird flying over the city would drop dead. But the climate changed soon after Bahá'u'lláh's arrival. To this the inhabitants of 'Akká testified, and many attributed it to the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. To cite one example: Mírzá' Abu'l-Fadl,† the famous Bahá'í scholar, has, in his well-known

21

* see vol. 2, ch. 16.

† see below, p. 91


10. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 186.

11. Unpublished Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh.

work Fará'id, quoted the testimony of one of the leading men of culture in 'Akká. These are his words:

In the year AH 1313 (1895-6) when the writer was staying in Syria, Ya'qúb-ibn-Betros of Lebanon, who is a learned doctor of divinity and linguistics in those parts and well known amongst the Christian community of 'Akká, composed the following statements in praise of the Holy Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká and offered this composition to His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and presented me with a copy of the composition as a gift.

'Set betwixt the twin mounts of Lebanon and Carmel is the Bahjí,
Therein is the resting place of Bahá, the Lord of Bounty and Mercy,
The Chosen Master, the Lamp of Guidance, Bahá--the Splendour and the Light of the Sun of Truth,
He Who is the Luminary of all names,
Therein the true joy, the Desire of all hearts, hearts that seek His lights,
The Solace of the eyes, the Fulfilment and Realization of all hope,
By His beneficent presence, the water that springs from the wells of those parts was purified (i.e. of 'Akká) and the air and clime of 'Akká and its environs were changed.'

In these words above there is a definite and clear reference to the transformation that occurred in the city of 'Akká as a result of the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. As this land as well known for its foul water, for its bad weather, for the bitterness and saltiness of its fountains and wells, so much so that it was the prison city for those who had gravely offended the Ottoman Government and it was the penal colony of those condemned to death, its peoples were all usually ill and had a sallow appearance because of its bad weather and climate. But when this territory became the place of exile of Bahá'u'lláh, its bitter waters were changed, its inclement weather transformed.12

When Bahá'u'lláh arrived in 'Akká there was no source of
22


12. Fará'id, pp. 523-4, translated by Kházeh Fanánápazir.
fresh water within the city gates fit to drink. There was a well, situated about ten minutes walk from the city, from which most of the people carried water to their homes. But its taste was very unpleasant. Bahá'u'lláh and His companions used this water, which was carried by the believers to the prison. There was one believer in particular, Áqá 'Azím-i-Tafrishí, who served Bahá'u'lláh and His companions as a water-supplier. It was a difficult task, as he had to make numerous trips to the well and carry skinfuls of water on his back to the friends in 'Akká. Later he managed to get water with a better taste from springs at Kabrí, which were situated in the same direction as Bahjí and about half an hour's walking distance from 'Akká.

Áqá 'Azím was a devoted believer who had first attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád and become the recipient of His bounties and favours. After some time he returned to Persia where he engaged himself in serving the friends. There he worked as a servant in the household of Mírzá Nasru'lláh-i- Tafrishí and when the latter went to Adrianople in company with his son and with his brother Mírzá Ridá'-Qulí, 'Azím also went with the party. Mírzá Nasru'lláh, who was a brother of Badrí-Ján, one of the wives of Mírzá Yahyá Azal,* died in Adrianople. However, 'Azím remained in Adrianople in the service of Mírzá Ridá-Qulí and his nephew.

The main reason for their journey to Adrianople was that their sister had deserted her husband and had taken refuge in the household of Jináb-i-Kalím,† Bahá'u'lláh's faithful brother. In these circumstances the two brothers were summoned to Adrianople to take their sister back to Persia. But soon after the death of Mírzá Nasru'lláh, Bahá'u'lláh and His companions were exiled to 'Akká'; Badrí-Ján, her brother Ridá'-Qulí, and nephew along with Áqá 'Azím were included in the party which accompanied Bahá'u'lláh. As we shall see later, Ridá'-Qulí and his sister joined hands in 'Akká' with

23

* see vols. 1 and 2; and below, p. 235.

† see vols. 1 and 2.

Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání,* the Anti-Christ of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, and were cast out of the community by Bahá'u'lláh; later Ridá-Qulí was murdered along with two other followers of Mírzá Yahyá.†

As to Áqá 'Azím, as soon as he discovered the signs of unfaithfulness towards Bahá'u'lláh in his master, he dissociated himself from him and continued to serve Bahá'u'lláh and His companions with great devotion and selflessness. Through his sincerity, faith, and services he acquired the good pleasure of his Lord who continued to shower upon him His blessings till the end of his life.

The water in 'Akká, of which 'Azím was a carrier for Bahá'u'lláh and His followers, improved considerably not merely in its quality but became more easily available through the restoration of a disused aqueduct, bringing fresh water to the city. This also happened through the influence of the word of Bahá'u'lláh.

When Bahá'u'lláh was in the house of 'Abbúd, He prophesied to him that God would raise up a person to restore the aqueduct, which had fallen into disuse, and expressed a desire that 'Abbúd might become the one to carry out this project. 'Abbúd was a Christian merchant of great influence in 'Akká and was highly respected by the people. It is said of him that when he walked through the city people stood up and showed their respect to him. But 'Abbúd did not follow Bahá'u'lláh's advice. Soon after this, Ahmad Big Tawfíq, the Governor of 'Akká who had become aware of Bahá'u'lláh's greatness and had evinced an ardent admiration for 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and who often sat at His feet for instruction and illumination, was allowed an audience with Bahá'u'lláh. It was in the course of that audience when the Governor offered to do some service for Him, that Bahá'u'lláh suggested the restoration of the aqueduct for the benefit of the people of

24

* see vols. 1 and 2.

† see below, pp. 235ff.

'Akká. To this suggestion, the Governor readily responded and arose to carry it out.

However, the restoration of the aqueduct was not completed until Faydí Páshá became Governor of 'Akká. He was a great personality in government circles in Istanbul and a man of action. It was he who completed this project, although his tenure of office was very short indeed. Husayn-i-Áshchí has left us with an account, summarized below, concerning the aqueduct.

When Faydí Páshá arrived in 'Akká, he noticed that water from the springs at Kabrí was now within easy reach of 'Akká but the work of completing the building of the aqueduct was at a standstill. He remonstrated with those responsible and ordered an immediate resumption of work. Municipal workers were drafted to complete this project...with his tremendous drive and personal supervision, a task which would normally have taken at least six months to accomplish was completed within six days. Fresh water arrived in 'Akká and the people of the city rejoiced. One hundred and one cannon shots were fired to celebrate the occasion.13
Lawh-i-Salmán (Tablet of Salmán)

This is a significant Tablet revealed in honour of Shaykh Salmán whose life story has been mentioned in the two previous volumes. He is the one who travelled every year between Persia and the places of Bahá'u'lláh's exile, carrying His Tablets for the friends to Persia and bringing their letters and messages back to Him. Salmán has several Tablets in his honour, two of which are known as Lawh-i-Salmán I and II. The first Tablet is described in volume 2, chapter 13. This is the second. This Tablet was revealed in 'Akká during the early part of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the barracks, for in it He refers to the believers exiled* to Mosul from Baghdád. This

25

* see vol. 2, pp. 334-6.


13. Unpublished memoirs.
happened in the summer of 1868. Bahá'u'lláh refers to this event also in His Tablet to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh of Persia which was written shortly before His departure from Adrianople.

In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh counsels Salmán to be resigned to the decrees of God and with acquiescence accept tests and trials in His path. He describes His own sufferings, states that although every door is closed to His face and the enemies are at all times at work trying to extinguish His light, yet it shines as brilliant as the sun, shedding light upon all who are in heaven and on earth. He urges Salmán to follow His example and never complain when afflicted by abasement or misery in this life, rather he should focus his attention upon God, and seek no one but Him. In one of His Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh cites His own celebrated utterance: 'He doeth what He pleaseth and ordaineth what He willeth.' He states that anyone who fully believes these words will remain steadfast in His Cause and will find himself possessed of such confidence and certitude that nothing in the world will make him falter or fill him with fear and dismay.

Bahá'u'lláh reminds Salmán that those who look for glory in this world and are proud of their position in it have grievously erred, for soon the messenger of death will bring an end to all earthly attachments.

In a Tablet to Nabíl-i-A'zam, Bahá'u'lláh reveals these words concerning the transitory nature of this world:

By the righteousness of God! The world and its vanities, and its glory, and whatever delights it can offer, are all, in the sight of God, as worthless as, nay, even more contemptible than, dust and ashes. Would that the hearts of men could comprehend it! Wash yourselves thoroughly, O people of Bahá, from the defilement of the world, and of all that pertaineth unto it. God Himself beareth Me witness. The things of the earth ill beseem you. Cast them away unto such as may desire them, and fasten your eyes upon this most holy and effulgent Vision.

That which beseemeth you is the love of God, and the

26

love of Him Who is the Manifestation of His Essence, and the observance of whatsoever He chooseth to prescribe unto you, did ye but know it.14
When the news of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment from Adrianople reached the people of Persia, the enemies together with the followers of Azal took heart and prophesied the downfall of the Cause and its Author. They fabricated false stories and widely spread them around to demoralize the believers. Among these was the rumour that Bahá'u'lláh and His companions had been drowned on their way to 'Akká. Many believers were alarmed and some even made enquiries about the circumstances of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment through the British Telegraph office in Julfá, the centre of the Christian community in the neighbourbood of Isfahán.

It was at this time that some of the teachers of the Cause, those whom Bahá'u'lláh had referred to15 as the 'learned ones in Bahá', and extolled as 'the billows of the most Mighty Ocean', 'the stars of the firmament of Glory' and the 'standards of triumph waving betwixt earth and heaven', arose with determination to refute these false rumours.

Foremost among them were the erudite Mírzá Ahmad-i-Azghandí and Mullá Muhammad-i-Fúrúghi. We have already referred to the former in a previous volume* and described the extent of his knowledge. We have also mentioned briefly the circumstances which had led the latter,† a survivor of the Fort of Tabarsí, to recognize the station of Bahá'u'lláh. In more than one Tablet Bahá'u'lláh has extolled the station of these two men from the Province of Khurásán, and has stated that God had chosen them especially to announce the glad-tidings of His Revelation to the peoples of the world.16 These two men, who were teaching the Faith and explaining the fulfilment of the prophecies of old concerning the coming of the Promised One of Islám and later of Bahá'u'lláh, were of

27

* vol. 1, p. 194.

† see vol. 2, pp. 114-15.


14. Gleanings, CXXXIX, 6.

15. Synopsis, p. 27.

16. Asráru'l-Áthár, vol. I, p. 103.

especially great help to the believers in this incident. Through their vast knowledge of the prophecies and their depth of understanding, they proclaimed to the friends the falsity of such rumours as the drowning of Bahá'u'lláh in the sea. They made it clear that if such a thing had happened, then all that had been revealed by God in past Dispensations--including the Revelation of the Báb--would have been invalid.

Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh's exile to 'Akká and the establishment of His Throne in the Holy Land is one of the great proofs of the authenticity of the Revelations of the past, which have in numerous passages and in glowing terms foretold the coming of the Lord to that land.

The Templers of Haifa

Significantly, many Bible scholars of the nineteenth century concluded that the second coming of Christ was at hand and that, according to many, it would happen around the year 1844.* Therefore, it is not surprising that a group of Germans known as the Templers left their homes in their enthusiasm to meet the Lord when He should come, and sailed to the Holy Land. They had concluded from the prophecies that the Messiah would appear there, that the people of all races would recognize Him and that He would establish His spiritual throne in that land. They began to arrive at the foot of Mount Carmel in the year of Bahá'u'lláh's Declaration in far-off Baghdád (1863), and built a colony (1868) which was located about a mile to the west of the then village of Haifa. On their doorways still remains the inscription 'Der Herr ist Nahe' (The Lord is near).

How significant it is that when in Haifa years later, Bahá'u'lláh even pitched His tent next door to them: God passed them by and they did not recognize Him. A Tablet was even revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in response to a letter from Georg David Hardegg, the head of the Templers in Haifa. This

28

* The year of the Declaration of the Báb, the Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh.

AN AERIAL VIEW OF 'AKKÁ

AN AERIAL VIEW OF 'AKKÁ

The barracks are shown in the centre foreground


THE SEA GATE OF 'AKKÁ

THE SEA GATE OF 'AKKÁ

Here Bahá'u'lláh entered the prison city


THE BARRACKS GATE

THE BARRACKS GATE

At the top of the stairway, on the east side of the barracks. Bahá'u'lláh
entered the Most Great Prison through this gate


THE CELL OF BAHÁ'U'LLÁH

THE CELL OF BAHÁ'U'LLÁH

'THE LORD IS NIGH'

'THE LORD IS NIGH'

Inscription over the doorway of one of the Templer houses


THE COURTYARD OF THE BARRACKS, C.1920

THE COURTYARD OF THE BARRACKS, C.1920

The waterpool is in the centre. It is probably in this courtyard that the tent was
pitched for the washing of the body of the Purest Branch

Tablet, known as the Lawh-i-Hirtík (Tablet of Hirtík), is in Arabic and appears to have been revealed in the house of 'Údí Khammár (see below, p. 221).

Bearing in mind that the Templers had come to the Holy Land for the sole purpose of witnessing the return of Christ, this Tablet assumes a special significance. Its perusal leads one to think that Hardegg, its recipient, must have been familiar with the language of mystery which is to be found in this Tablet. Bahá'u'lláh states that He had found in Hardegg's letter signs which pointed to his sincerity, and prays that God may assist him to understand the truths hidden in this Tablet, and enable him to hear the melodies of the Divine Nightingale. He urges him to meditate on the word of God, its power as well as its sweetness, reminds him that it was the power of the word of God which attracted the heart of the first believer in Christ, states that it is through their idle fancy and vain imaginings that the majority of the peoples have been kept back from recognizing their Lord, asserts that land and sea in this day are proclaiming the truth of God, and that when the appointed time had come, Mount Carmel became exhilarated by the breezes wafting from the direction of its Lord.

Bahá'u'lláh calls the attention of Hardegg to the days of Christ when the divines, the learned and the philosophers of the time denied Him, while a fisherman devoid of knowledge and learning recognized Him. He assures Hardegg that if he were to meditate sincerely on the history of the past while keeping God in his sight, he would behold the light of God manifest before his eyes. Bahá'u'lláh confirms Hardegg's views about the darkness which has fallen upon the earth and explains that darkness is vain imaginings which have enveloped the peoples and prevented them from turning to the Kingdom of God which is manifested in this Day.

Although Bahá'u'lláh in this Tablet speaks generally about the Revelation of God in this age, of the warbling of the Nightingale, of the flowing of the water of life, of the appearance of the light of God and of His Kingdom, He does

29

not explicitly state His own station nor does He refer to His own person in clear terms. Indeed, He declares that if He were to reveal the sign of the One who is veiled in mystery--meaning Himself--the hearts of the people would be filled with fear and consternation. Perhaps the reason for this is that Bahá'u'lláh, who had already forbidden His followers to teach His Faith to the people living under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, found it unwise to proclaim His station in an explicit manner to the members of the Christian colony living in Haifa.

Furthermore, part of this Tablet is revealed in the language of mystery. For instance, Bahá'u'lláh in a maze of several Arabic letters, and alluding to certain key words from His other Tablets or those of the Báb and even of Islám, constructs His own name. One needs to be well versed in the Holy Writings of these Faiths in order to grasp the significance of these symbolic utterances used by Bahá'u'lláh. Moreover, by employing the technique of using the numerical values of Arabic letters,* He produces the word 'Comforter' which is a reference to His own station in the terminology of the New Testament. It is hard to believe that the recipient of this Tablet would have been able to fathom some of the symbolic and mysterious terms deliberately used by Bahá'u'lláh. Probably it is for this reason that in the beginning of this Tablet, He prays that God may assist Hardegg to understand the significance of what is hidden in His words. He assures him that if he should meditate on what He has advised him and follow His counsels, he will find the truth in this day.

Needless to say, neither Hardegg nor any other member of the Christian colony was able to recognize the truth of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh. This in spite of the fact that from the early days some members of the colony, including Hardegg himself, had been in contact with the believers and with 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and that later, towards the end of His ministry, Bahá'u'lláh Himself visited Haifa and at one time stayed in one

30

* Each letter of the Arabic alphabet has a numerical value; therefore it is possible to express a word by a number and vice versa.

of the houses belonging to the Templers. That they failed to recognize Him may seem strange to an observer who is unfamiliar with the history of religions--a history which repeats itself every time a new Manifestation of God is revealed to mankind. Almost two thousand years before the German Templers came to the Holy Land, the inhabitants of that same land expected with much earnestness the coming of their Messiah, and yet when He manifested Himself in the person of Christ and appeared in their midst, they rejected Him. These words of Bahá'u'lláh are truly applicable to their case:

Consider the past. How many, both high and low, have, at all times, yearningly awaited the advent of the Manifestations of God in the sanctified persons of His chosen Ones. How often have they expected His coming, how frequently have they prayed that the breeze of Divine mercy might blow, and the promised Beauty step forth from behind the veil of concealment, and be made manifest to all the world. And whensoever the portals of grace did open, and the clouds of divine bounty did rain upon mankind, and the light of the Unseen did shine above the horizon of celestial might, they all denied Him, and turned away from His face--the face of God Himself...17
31


17. Gleanings, XIII, 1.