The Prisoner

The edict of the Sultán condemning Bahá'u'lláh to solitary life imprisonment and forbidding Him to meet anyone, including His companions, was at the beginning carried out strictly. But very soon the prison authorities became aware of the striking majesty of Bahá'u'lláh, the loftiness of His standards and the exalted character of His person. They were also deeply impressed by the loving disposition of the Master, His divine qualities and virtues; they increasingly turned to Him for advice and guidance. As a result they became lenient and relaxed some of the restrictions.

As time went on the companions of Bahá'u'lláh were allotted rooms in different parts of the barracks. Some of them took on essential duties such as cooking, cleaning, water delivery or shopping and some were able to spend their free time in other useful work. At one stage 'Abdu'l-Bahá engaged a certain Egyptian by the name of Hájí 'Alíy-i-Misrí* to come to the barracks and teach the prisoners the art of making rush mats. As the restrictions were somewhat relaxed the companions were able to communicate with Bahá'u'lláh and even attain His presence.

An important point to bear in mind is that at no time did Bahá'u'lláh break the rules imposed upon Him, either in the prison or in later years. It was the authorities, sometimes encouraged by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who relaxed the restrictions. The story of His leaving the House of 'Abbúd and taking up


* As a result of coming into contact with 'Abdu'l-Bahá this man was deeply attracted to the Cause, and his son, who was a rebellious youth, was transformed into a new person and became an ardent believer.

residence outside the gates of the city, as we shall see later,* is a clear example of His total submission to the will of His enemies or those who were charged by them to guard His person.

Although the barracks was a depressing place to live in, soon the companions of Bahá'u'lláh, mainly through 'Abdu'l-Bahá's leadership and guidance, organized their daily lives in such a way as to create the best possible conditions for the whole community. Their greatest source of joy was nearness to their Lord, and sometimes Bahá'u'lláh visited them in their quarters where they entertained Him with what meagre food or refreshments they could provide.

Believers in the Holy Land

There is a Tablet1 revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in the barracks on the ninth day of the Festival of Ridván.† It was probably revealed during Ridván 1869, the first of the two Ridván Festivals that He celebrated in the prison, for in it He mentions the names of several believers who had tried to enter 'Akká and been stopped by the authorities.

In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh describes how on that day He was invited by one of the believers in the prison to honour his room with His presence and attend the celebration of that great Festival. His companions on that day were truly intoxicated with the wine of His presence. The believer who had invited Bahá'u'lláh entertained Him with the best food he could provide. Bahá'u'lláh refers to this and states that other believers had invited Him to their rooms during the Ridván period also. Each according to his capacity had provided some food and some had nothing to entertain Him with except a cup of tea.


* see below, pp. 414-17.

† 21 April to 2 May, in commemoration of the twelve days that Bahá'u'lláh spent in the Garden of Ridván in Baghdád in 1863 when He declared His mission to a few companions.

1. Published in Ishráq Khávarí, Risáliy-i-Ayyám-i-Tis'ih, p. 313.
[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
In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh showers His bounties upon His companions, and prays that they may remain steadfast in His Cause and united among themselves. When the Tablet was revealed there were two Persian believers living in 'Akká itself, there were some who were trying to come in, and some who were staying at Haifa; Bahá'u'lláh refers to them all in this Tablet. The two in 'Akká were Muhammad Ja'far-i-Tabrízí, entitled Mansúr, and Mírzá Hádí entitled 'Abdu'l-Ahad. The latter was the first to arrive in 'Akká. He had been sent there by 'Abdu'l-Bahá some time before Bahá'u'lláh's exile to that city, thus establishing a valuable contact. No one suspected him of being a Bahá'í. Helped by the Persian political agent in that city he had managed to open a shop but did not try to contact Bahá'u'lláh and His companions in the barracks when they arrived. However, the few Bahá'í prisoners who went to the market every day to purchase provisions met him and knew that he was a Bahá'í. Through him, and by other means, the news of Bahá'u'lláh's whereabouts soon reached the believers in Persia and a few of His followers travelled to 'Akká. 'Abdu'l-Ahad very discreetly helped some of the visitors who had managed to enter the city to approach the barracks. Sometimes he even had to hide the visitors in the back of his shop. The disciples of Bahá'u'lláh, most of whom had walked all the way from Persia, were only able to stand in front of the barracks and watch Bahá'u'lláh wave His blessed hand. This was sufficient to inspire them with faith and courage and uplift them to such heights that they were ready and longing to lay down their lives in His path.

Among those living at Haifa was Mírzá Ibráhím-i-Káshání,* a copper-smith by profession, whom Bahá'u'lláh refers to as Khalíl in the forementioned Tablet of Ridván. He was a devoted believer, on fire with the love of Bahá'u'lláh, and had been among the Bahá'í prisoners sent from Baghdád to Mosul.† Accompanied by some relatives he had managed to


* see 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials, pp. 81-2.

† see vol. 2, pp. 334-6.

leave Mosul and settle in Haifa. In those days, entering 'Akká was very difficult for the believers, but he managed to enter frequently by taking some of his copper implements for sale. He thus became an important channel of communication between the believers and Bahá'u'lláh.

Another believer mentioned in the Ridván Tablet, and one in whose heart the fire of love for Bahá'u'lláh burnt very brightly, was an old man, Ustád Ismá'íl. He was a master builder of wide experience who had worked for the government officials in Persia. When he became known as a Bábí, he had to leave his work. He then went to Baghdád where he was given the honour of carrying out construction work on the house of Bahá'u'lláh.* And when the believers in that city were exiled to Mosul, he managed to travel to 'Akká. In spite of old age he walked all the way until he came and stood in front of the Most Great Prison eagerly waiting to behold the face of his Beloved from across the moat.

But alas, because of his old age and the feebleness of his eyesight he failed to see the hand of Bahá'u'lláh waving from one of the windows of the barracks. This was a pitiful scene. He broke into tears which brought tears also to the eyes of the Holy Family and a few others who were watching the sad plight of that devoted believer. Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have said on that occasion that soon through the power of God restrictions would be relaxed and circumstances would make it possible for the believers to attain His presence.

Of course, not until Bahá'u'lláh left the barracks in 1870 was it possible for the Bahá'í pilgrims to come into His presence freely. However, during the time that He was in the prison, it was officially impossible for any outsider to come in and attain His presence, but as restrictions were gradually relaxed, the officials often turned a blind eye and in some cases they actually helped some of His disciples to enter.

Ustád Ismá'íl eventually succeeded in entering the prison where he stayed for a short while and attained the presence of


* see vol. 1, pp. 211-12.

His Lord. His usual place of residence in the Holy Land was a cave on Mount Carmel. He earned his living as a pedlar, carrying around a small tray on which he set out some needles, thimbles and other trifling articles for sale. He lived in poverty, but in the utmost happiness, his heart filled with the joy of nearness to His Lord.

As he wandered about with his shabby little tray, his heart was in communion with Bahá'u'lláh. Sometimes he would walk around the barracks in order to feel close to his Beloved. On one occasion Bahá'u'lláh was watching him from the prison window. He called His cook Husayn-i-Áshchí, who was a nephew of Ustád Ismá'íl, and asked him if he had ever seen the tray that his uncle carried around. When he replied that he had not, Bahá'u'lláh in an amusing tone told him that if he were to put on a pair of glasses he might see him in the distance carrying a few rusted needles placed on one side of the tray and a few rusted thimbles on the other! Bahá'u'lláh often praised him for his detachment from this world and his thankfulness to his Lord.

One of those whom Bahá'u'lláh mentions in the Tablet of Ridván is Nabíl-i-A'zam, who travelled to 'Akká but was expelled from the city. After being released from prison in Alexandria, Nabíl hastened to the abode of his Beloved. Although he was disguised* as a man from Bukhárá, he was nevertheless recognized by two of Bahá'u'lláh's enemies who reported him to the Government authorities and consequently he was expelled. These two men were Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání, the Anti-Christ of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation,† and Áqá Ján known as Kaj Kuláh.‡ Although they regarded themselves as followers of Mírzá Yahyá, they had been condemned to imprisonment in 'Akká, and accompanied


* For fear of being identified as followers of Bahá'u'lláh, most Bahá'ís who attempted to enter 'Akká in the early period of Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to that city adopted some form of disguise.

† see vols. 1 and 2.

‡ see vol. 2, pp. 326, 397, 402.

Bahá'u'lláh and His companions to the barracks. But very soon after their arrival they allied themselves with the authorities who transferred them to a room overlooking the land gate of the city. There they acted as spies and identified the followers of Bahá'u'lláh when they tried to enter.

According to a letter written by Nabíl from 'Akká to the Bahá'ís of Darakhsh in the province of Khurásán, he made the first attempt to enter the city around the end of October 1868. He succeeded in entering and stayed for three days but could not attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh before being expelled.

He retreated to the caves of Mount Carmel and roamed the countryside for about four months. But he could not endure separation from His Lord. The ardour of his love was increasing day by day until he found it impossible to remain away from the city of his Beloved.

In about the middle of February 1869 he made his second attempt to enter the city. This time he succeeded in remaining for a longer period. He met Mírzá Áqá Ján and a few other believers who had come out of the barracks to purchase provisions. But in his letter Nabíl mentions that at last he achieved his heart's desire of seeing Bahá'u'lláh on the 18th of Muharram 1286 (1 May 1869).

Some Early Pilgrims

The first pilgrims to succeed in entering the presence of Bahá'u'lláh were Hájí Sháh-Muhammad-i-Manshádí, entitled Amínu'l-Bayán (Trusted of the Bayán) by Bahá'u'lláh, and Hájí Abu'l-Hasan-i-Ardikání, entitled Amín-i-Ilahí (Trusted of God) by Bahá'u'lláh. Such were the services of these illustrious Trustees of Bahá'u'lláh that their story demands to be told in detail and will be found in Chapter 4.

Another eminent Bahá'í who came to 'Akká but was recognized and expelled from the city was Mullá Muhammad-'Alí, surnamed Nabíl-i-Qá'iní by Bahá'u'lláh.* He had known


* Not to be confused with Áqá Muhammad-i-Qá'iní, entitled Nabíl-i-Akbar, whose life story may be found in vol. 1, pp. 91-5. Both men were from Qá'in in the province of Khurásán.

Bahá'u'lláh in Tihrán some years before the Báb declared His mission. At that time he had recognized the superhuman qualities of Bahá'u'lláh and become an ardent admirer of His person. When Nabíl-i-Akbar returned from 'Iráq to his native town of Qá'in, he began to teach the Cause of the Báb openly to the public. As soon as Mullá Muhammad-'Alí heard the news of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, he became an ardent believer, saying that he had attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Tihrán and had been deeply attracted to Him then.

The next time he saw the face of His Lord was in the prison of 'Akká. At first he was driven out of the city. But he made other attempts and eventually plans were made for him to enter the barracks. This he did successfully and was ushered into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. The glory and majesty emanating from His person so overwhelmed Nabíl-i-Qá'iní that as soon as his eyes beheld Him he fainted and fell upon the ground.

This great man, who had lived many years of his life in luxury and honour and had been held in high esteem by the people of his native town, was now living in such poverty that like Ustád Ismá'íl he too had to sell needles and thimbles as a pedlar to the people of Nazareth. He earned his living in this way for about two years, selling to the women of Nazareth needles at the rate of three for an egg! During this time he succeeded in converting a number of her Christian citizens to the Faith.

Nabíl-i-Qá'iní was a shining example of faith and detachment; he will be always remembered as one who had recognized Bahá'u'lláh's powers prior to the Declaration of the Báb. He passed away in 'Akká.

A devoted follower of Bahá'u'lláh who found his way into the prison in an extraordinary fashion in the early days of Bahá'u'lláh's incarceration in the barracks was a certain


'Abdu'r-Rahím, a native of Bushrú'íyyih, the birthplace of Mullá Husayn, the first to believe in the Báb. His original name was Ja'far, but when he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh he was given the name Rahím (Compassionate). Before his conversion to the Faith, 'Abdu'r-Rahím had been a fanatical Muslim. Having noticed the growth of the Faith, he once sought guidance from a local clergyman as to his attitude towards the Bahá'ís. 'To fight them', the clergyman said, 'is as meritorious as taking part in the Jihád ( holy war), to kill them is praiseworthy in the sight of God, and to be killed is a privilege which bestows upon the individual Muslim the reward of martyrdom and entrance into the highest paradise.'

These words provoked in 'Abdu'r-Rahím a strong urge to kill some Bahá'ís. Armed with a weapon, he one day confronted an old believer by the name of Hájí Bábá, and told him in no uncertain terms that he had come to take his life because he had strayed from the path of truth and had embraced the Faith of the Bahá'ís.

Faced with the threat of death, Hájí Bábá displayed unruffled calm and spoke with tenderness such words that the heart of 'Abdu'r-Rahím was touched. Soon his mood changed. Instead of being an enemy intent upon killing, he now wanted to investigate the truth.

Hájí Bábá conducted 'Abdu'r-Rahím to the home of the sister of Mullá Husayn where the friends often held their meetings for teaching the Cause. That meeting with 'Abdu'r-Rahím lasted one day and one night, during which time he was most assiduously involved in discussion. At the end of that marathon meeting he recognized the truth of the Cause and became filled with such a new spirit of faith and enthusiasm that he could not rest in his native town any longer. Knowing that the Supreme Manifestation of God was on this earth he could not resist the urge to go and see Him face to face. So he set off on the long journey to attain His presence.

For six months 'Abdu'r-Rahím travelled on foot until he reached the abode of his Beloved--the prison city of 'Akká. He


arrived in the early days of Bahá'u'lláh's incarceration in the barracks when no visitor suspected of being a Bahá'í was permitted even to approach the vicinity of the prison. His arrival coincided with the period when Nabíl-i-A'zam was attempting in vain to get a glimpse of his Lord. Nabíl poured out his heart to 'Abdu'r-Rahím and lamented over his own inability to achieve his purpose. But 'Abdu'r-Rahím, undismayed, proceeded to attempt to circumambulate the prison.

Before undertaking such a holy mission, he decided that he must wash his clothes which were unclean, as they had been worn throughout the journey. He washed them in the sea and waited until they were dry. When he put them on, however, he looked very odd and shabby as the clothes had shrunk and were torn.

With the utmost devotion and a heart overflowing with the love of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'r-Rahím approached the prison and began to circumambulate it. Then to his surprise he noticed that a hand from a window of the prison was beckoning him to come inside. He knew it was the hand of Bahá'u'lláh summoning him to His presence. He rushed to the gate of the prison which was guarded by soldiers. But the soldiers seemed to him to be motionless and without life; they appeared not to see him. They did not even move an eyelid as he went through the gate.

Soon 'Abdu'r-Rahím found himself in the presence of His Lord, overwhelmed by emotion and carried away into the world of the Spirit, communing with the One who was the object of his adoration and love. Bahá'u'lláh told him that through the hands of power and might He had temporarily blinded the eyes of the guards so that he might attain His presence as a bounty on His part.

It is not clear how many days 'Abdu'r-Rahím remained in the prison. However, Bahá'u'lláh revealed a Tablet for him while he was there. In that Tablet He confirms that He had closed the eyes of the guards so that 'Abdu'r-Rahím could enter His presence and witness the glory of His countenance.




Bahá'í pilgrims would try to catch a glimpse of Bahá'u'lláh from this distance



Despite the presence of the soldiers guarding the prison, he went
inside the barracks and attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh



Commander of the Guard during Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the
barracks. He later became a believer



Trustee of Bahá'u'lláh and one of His Apostles



HÁJÍ ÁKHÚND (left) and HÁJÍ AMÍN (right)

HÁJÍ ÁKHÚND (left) and HÁJÍ AMÍN (right)

In the prison of Qazvín. Their feet are in stocks and their necks chained, with the gaoler in attendance

He calls him by the new name Rahím (Compassionate), showers His blessings upon him, and urges him to recount the experience of his pilgrimage to the friends on his return home.

Before leaving, Bahá'u'lláh entrusted 'Abdu'r-Rahím with Tablets to be delivered to some believers in Persia. While in Baghdád on his way to Persia, the guards saw him one day in the bazaar and became suspicious. They followed him, intending to arrest him. As soon as 'Abdu'r-Rahím realized this, he took the parcel containing the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh out of his pocket and as he was walking along threw it into the shop nearest to him. He did this so quickly that the guards did not see it. He took this action because he knew that if the guards had discovered the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, not only would they have destroyed or confiscated them, but his own life would have been endangered also.

As he threw the parcel into the unknown shop, he put his whole trust in Bahá'u'lláh, turned to Him in prayer and begged Him to protect these Tablets through His all-embracing power. This is reminiscent of the story of the mother of Moses who placed her babe, as it lay in a box, on the river, trusting that God would take care of it and deliver it into the right hands.

The guards arrested 'Abdu'r-Rahím and took him into custody. After some investigations into his identity, the authorities were satisfied that he was a man of God and a harmless person. They released him and gave him a small sum of money in compensation. As he looked at the money placed in the palm of his hand, 'Abdu'r-Rahím could not help complaining to Bahá'u'lláh in his heart saying: 'You took away from me the most precious of all the things in the world--the Tablets--and gave me instead a few coins!' He then returned to the bazaar with much trepidation to see what had happened to the parcel.

At first he strolled up and down the bazaar several times and occasionally stood near the shop and looked inside, but nothing happened. Eventually, toward the end of the day, he


went near the shop again. This time there were no customers there and he saw the shopkeeper beckoning him in. He went inside. To his great surprise the shopkeeper came forward, warmly embraced him, welcomed him with the Bahá'í greeting 'Alláh'u'Abhá!' and handed him the parcel. He happened to be one of the few Bahá'ís living in Baghdád. The two men marvelled at the power of God and regarded this incident as a miracle. For there were hundreds of shops in the bazaar, but on that fateful day and at the moment when the guards were approaching him, 'Abdu'r-Rahím, a complete stranger, happened to be passing in front of the only shop which was owned by a Bahá'í.

The joy and gladness of 'Abdu'r-Rahím in finding the Tablets knew no bounds. He stayed a few days in the house of the Bahá'í friend, the shopkeeper. Through him he met a few believers in Baghdád, and then departed for Persia. He visited several towns and delivered the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh to their owners. To each of the believers he recounted the stories of his pilgrimage and spoke of Bahá'u'lláh, of His power and majesty and of the unfailing confirmations which He had bestowed upon him throughout the journey. When 'Abdu'r-Rahím arrived in his native town he was like a ball of fire ignited by the hand of Bahá'u'lláh. The radiance of his face and the force of his utterance were evident to all. He began to teach the Faith fearlessly after his return from 'Akká, but this action provoked the wrath of the clergy and the fanatic populace who rose up against him and forced him out of his native town of Bushrú'íyyih. He took residence in another town, Fárán.*

Some years later Bahá'u'lláh conferred a great honour upon Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurásání, entitled Ismulláh'u'l-Asdaq (The name of God, the Most Truthful),† one of the most outstanding followers of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, by inviting him to travel


* A new name given by Bahá'u'lláh to the town of Tún in Khurásán.

† see 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials, pp. 5-8; also Taherzadeh, vol. 1, pp. 92-3; and below, pp. 252ff.

to 'Akká and attain His presence. But since he was very old, Bahá'u'lláh directed that on his journey to 'Akká Ismulláh'u'l-Asdaq be accompanied by a trustworthy man. The Bahá'ís of Mashhad could not agree among themselves who that person ought to be. Therefore they drew lots and 'Abdu'r-Rahím's name came up. In this way he was given the privilege of attaining the presence of Bahá'u'lláh for the second time. And when he arrived in 'Akká Bahá'u'lláh confirmed that by 'a trustworthy man' he had actually meant 'Abdu'r-Rahím.

In this life we observe that each individual can progress to the extent of his capacity. The bounties of God reach all created things as the rays of the sun reach every object. But an unpolished rock cannot reflect that light as a mirror could. Similarly man must acquire a greater spiritual capacity by cleansing his heart in order to receive a greater portion of the bounties of God. In a Tablet to Hádíy-i-Qazvíní',* Bahá'u'lláh reveals this basic principle in God's creation:

From the exalted source, and out of the essence of His favour and bounty He hath entrusted every created thing with a sign of His knowledge, so that none of His creatures may be deprived of its share in expressing, each according to its capacity and rank, this knowledge. This sign is the mirror of His beauty in the world of creation. The greater the effort exerted for the refinement of this sublime and noble mirror, the more faithfully will it be made to reflect the glory of the names and attributes of God, and reveal the wonders of His signs and knowledge. Every created thing will be enabled (so great is this reflecting power) to reveal the potentialities of its pre-ordained station, will recognize its capacity and limitations, and will testify to the truth that 'He verily is God, there is none other God besides Him'...

There can be no doubt whatever that, in consequence of the efforts which every man may consciously exert and as a


* One of the Letters of the Living; see vol. 2, pp. 144-5.

result of the exertion of his own spiritual faculties, this mirror can be so cleansed from the dross of earthly defilements and purged from satanic fancies as to be able to draw nigh unto the meads of eternal holiness and attain the courts of everlasting fellowship.2
There are many Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá in which They state that man's attainments in life depend on his spiritual capacity and perceptiveness. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His talks in 'Akká is reported to have said:

Pilgrimage should be carried out in a state of utter humbleness and devotion. Otherwise it is not true pilgrimage, it is a form of sight-seeing...

Many people used to come and attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. They saw His virtuous character, His blessed smile, His magnetic attraction and His infinite bounties, yet they remained unaffected by Him. Some others were instantly transformed by attaining His presence.

Jamál-i-Burújirdí* attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople. With him were two men from Burújird. One of them was called Mírzá 'Abdu'r-Rahím.† He was so influenced by the magnetic person of Bahá'u'lláh that he was completely transformed. The Blessed Beauty stated that this man within ten minutes took one step from this mortal world and placed it in the realms of eternity.

It is therefore necessary to acquire spiritual receptiveness. A deaf ear will not enjoy the melody of a beautiful song, and a diseased nostril will be insensible to the perfume of the rose. The sun shines, the breeze is wafted, and the rain falls, but where the land is a salt marsh nothing grows but weeds.

When Bahá'u'lláh was in Baghdád, some of the chiefs of the tribe of Jáf who had become His admirers in the days of Sulaymáníyyih had come to Baghdád by order of the Governor. While there, they would come to the house of Bahá'u'lláh, get permission and then attain His presence in


* see vol. 2.

† Not the believer by the same name whose story is recounted above, pp. 58-63.

2. Gleanings, CXXIV, 2.
the utmost humility and courtesy. Among them was a Kurd who was truly attracted to the Blessed Beauty. He said to me that he wished to see Shaykh Muhammad (i.e. Bahá'u'lláh) once more, and to gaze upon His luminous Countenance. I realized that he was enchanted by Bahá'u'lláh. Not wanting to keep him waiting, I sent him straight into His blessed room. Bahá'u'lláh received him with loving-kindness and permitted him to sit alongside the chiefs of the tribe. Should, however, all the bounties of God descend upon a person who has no perceptiveness and capacity, here will be no result whatsoever. In the days of Baghdád there was a man by the name Muhammad-Ridá who used to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh every day in the morning and in the evening...When the days of Baghdád came to an end he said proudly: 'I associated with these people for ten years and they could not influence me! 3
Citizens of 'Akká

An example of those who had spiritual perceptiveness to recognize the station of Bahá'u'lláh without being taught or approached by the Bahá'ís was Shaykh Mahmúd-i-'Arrábí, a native of 'Akká. Shaykh Mahmúd was one of the religious leaders of 'Akká when Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to that city. He was born into a family of devout Muslims. When he was about ten years of age, an old Shaykh, a religious man revered by Mahmúd's father, had a vision of the coming of the Person of the 'Promised One' to 'Akká. He intimated this to Mahmúd in the presence of his father and told him that his father and himself were old men and would not live to see that day. But he assured Mahmúd that he would then be a grown-up person and bade him watch out for the coming of the Lord. He even indicated to Mahmúd that He would speak in the Persian tongue and reside in an upper room at the top of a long flight of stairs.

Some years passed and the young boy grew up into a strong man, learned and pious, well respected by the community and


3. 27 October 1914, reported by Mu'ayyad, Khátirát-i-Habíb, pp. 171-2.
known as Shaykh Mahmúd. But he seldom thought of the vision, and when Bahá'u'lláh came to 'Akká it never occurred to him that He might be the One foretold by the old Shaykh. On the contrary, he deeply resented the action of the Government in sending Bahá'u'lláh, whom the authorities had described as an evil man and the 'God of the Persians', to the city of 'Akká. For some time he was in a state of agitation, wanting to do something to rid the city of such a person. It must be remembered that soon after the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh in the barracks, the prison authorities relaxed some of the restrictions which had at first been imposed and strictly adhered to. For instance, they agreed to allow a small party of Bahá'í prisoners to visit the city daily for shopping. At times 'Abdu'l-Bahá went out with them and this is how the people of 'Akká came into contact with His magnetic personality and began to unbend towards the company of exiles.

Shaykh Mahmúd was very perturbed one day to see 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the Mosque. He is reported to have grabbed 'Abdu'l-Bahá by the hand and exclaimed, 'Are you the son of God?' The Master with His characteristic charm pointed out that it was he who was saying it, and not 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He then reminded him of the injunction of Islám as stated in one of the Traditions: 'Be charitable toward the guest even though he be an infidel.'

The impact of these words and the loving personality of the Master affected Shaykh Mahmúd and he changed his attitude of aggressiveness towards Him. But being a religious leader, he could not remain indifferent to the presence of the group of exiles whom he considered ungodly. He therefore decided to put an end to all this by himself. One day he hid a weapon under his cloak and went straight to the barracks with the intention of assassinating Bahá'u'lláh. He informed the guards at the prison gate that he wished to see Bahá'u'lláh. Since he was an influential personality in 'Akká, the guards complied with his request and went to inform Bahá'u'lláh of the identity of the visitor. 'Tell him', Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have said,


'to cast away the weapon and then he may come in.'* On hearing this Shaykh Mahmúd was astounded, for he was sure that no one had seen the weapon under his cloak. In a state of utter confusion he returned home, but his agitated mind could not be at rest. He continued in this state for some time until he decided to go to the barracks again, but without any weapons this time. Being a strong man he knew he could take Bahá'u'lláh's life by the mere strength of his hands.

So he went again to the prison gate and made the same request to visit Bahá'u'lláh. On being informed of Shaykh Mahmúd's desire to meet Him, Bahá'u'lláh is reported to have said: 'Tell him to purify his heart first and then he may come in.'* Perplexed and confused at these utterances, Shaykh Mahmúd could not bring himself to visit Bahá'u'lláh that day. Later he had a dream in which his father and the old Shaykh appeared to him and reminded him of their vision regarding the coming of the Lord. After this dream Shaykh Mahmúd went to the barracks again and attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The words of the Master penetrated his heart and he was ushered into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. The majesty and glory of His countenance overwhelmed the Shaykh and he witnessed the fulfilment of the prophecy of the coming of the Lord to 'Akká. He prostrated himself at His feet and became an ardent believer.

After recognizing the station of Bahá'u'lláh, he arose to serve Him and His Cause. He played a significant part in assisting the believers to enter the city and then harbouring them until they were able to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. On some occasions he even ordered ropes to be lowered so that the Bahá'í visitors might be pulled up the walls which surrounded the city. Another method he sometimes employed was to leave the city and return at night accompanied by one of the believers who would be posing as a servant carrying a


* These are not the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh, but convey the message he is reported to have given.

lantern in front of his master.* After the believer had attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Shaykh Mahmúd would enable him to leave the city in the same manner that he had entered it. Shaykh Mahmúd was loved by the Master and served the Cause with great devotion till the end of his life. He made a compilation of the Islámic traditions related to 'Akká and its glorious future.

Well known among those whom Shaykh Mahmúd assisted to enter 'Akká was Mírzá Hasan-i-Mázindarání, who was brought into the city by the sea gate. He stayed at first in the Shaykh's house and later managed to enter the barracks where he stayed for about six months before returning to Persia. Mírzá Hasan was a cousin of Bahá'u'lláh and a devoted believer. His father, Mullá Zaynu'l-'Ábidín, was Bahá'u'lláh's paternal uncle. He was among Bahá'u'lláh's kinsmen who had been converted to the Bábí Faith by Bahá'u'lláh Himself in the early days of the ministry of the Báb. He had recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh and was very devoted to Him. It was this uncle who accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Ámul† and when He was to be bastinadoed, threw himself on the feet of Bahá'u'lláh as a shield. As a result he was beaten so much that he fainted.

Mírzá Hasan, who was much loved by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, made several trips to 'Akká and each time he carried back many Tablets for the believers living in the northern cities of Persia. We have already described in a previous volume the story of seventy Tablets that he was carrying on the last of these journeys and the circumstances which led to their disappearance.‡

Another person, a resident of 'Akká who independently recognized the station of Bahá'u'lláh was Ahmad-i-Jarráh, an officer in the Turkish Army. He witnessed the majesty of


* In the old days there was no public lighting and therefore it was necessary to carry a lantern at night. Important people always had servants who performed this service for them.

† see Nabíl-i-A'zam, The Dawn-Breakers.

‡ see vol. 1, p. 50.

Bahá'u'lláh in the barracks, but it was some years later that his heart was touched, when Bahá'u'lláh (Who was then residing in the house of 'Abbúd) was taken to the Governor's house and kept in custody for about three days. As we shall see later,* this humiliating treatment resulted from the murder of three Azalís in 'Akká. Ahmad-i-Jarráh was one of the officers present in the case and it was then that the majesty and glory of Bahá'u'lláh made a deep impression upon his soul. The mighty and powerful words He uttered on that occasion enabled Jarráh to realize that the Prisoner in his custody was not an ordinary man but One endowed with divine authority. After reading some of the Writings and becoming fully conscious of the station of Bahá'u'lláh, he entered the rank of the believers.

Amín Effendi, a brother of Jarráh and the head of the municipality of 'Akká, also recognized the truth of the Faith and became a believer. An interesting incident happened which confirmed their faith. One day, Amín and Ahmad sought permission to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. Permission was granted and they came. They wanted particularly to complain and seek advice about a certain superior officer by the name of Áqásí who was a bitter enemy of theirs. Before they were able to utter a word, Bahá'u'lláh turned to them and said, 'Praise be to God who has rescued you from the evil doings of Áqásí!'† The two brothers were surprised to hear this. Only two days later, the officer was dismissed by the order of the Sultán. A third brother of Ahmad was Khálid. He was a physician, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, and was attracted to Him and to His Cause. He showed much love to the believers and attended them when they were sick.

There were other inhabitants of 'Akká who either embraced the Faith or became admirers of Bahá'u'lláh and His supporters. Husayn-i-Áshchí has recounted the story of some


* see p. 234.

† These are not the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh, but convey the message he is reported to have given.

of these men in his memoirs. The following is a summary of his reminiscences:

After his recognition of the station of Bahá'u'lláh, Shaykh Mahmúd went to see a certain Sálih Effendi with whom he was very friendly. He reminded him that when they were young, they had both been present at a meeting when the old Shaykh the religious leader of the father of Shaykh Mahmúd, had prophesied the coming of the Lord to 'Akká, and had stated that they should both seek Him. Shaykh Mahmúd conveyed to his friend the glad tidings that the prophecy of the Shaykh had been fulfilled and that he had been led to the Lord in 'Akká and had attained His presence. He thus invited his friend to follow his example.

But Sálih Effendi, although he acknowledged the validity of the station of Bahá'u'lláh, did not embrace the Faith because he maintained that he lived a life which was not worthy of the exalted station of Bahá'u'lláh, and his deeds were not in conformity with His teachings. But he always expressed his love for the believers and he did not harm the Faith in any way. Some years later he became ill with tuberculosis, which was incurable in those days, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá provided regular medical help for him till the end of his life.

Another person of note was Shaykh 'Alíy-i-Mírí, the Muftí of 'Akká. He was a somewhat fanatical man. But later he changed as a result of his association with 'Abdu'l-Bahá. For he discovered that his own knowledge and learning was as a drop when compared with the ocean of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's innate knowledge. He therefore showed signs of humility and gradually became friendly.

One day he conveyed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá his desire to meet Bahá'u'lláh as he had some questions and wished to be enlightened. But in those days Bahá'u'lláh did not grant interviews to people, mainly because He did not wish to act against the orders of the Government. However, because of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's pleading, Bahá'u'lláh gave permission and the Muftí of 'Akká attained His presence in the barracks. He was shown to his seat while 'Abdu'l-Bahá stood by the


door. The kitchen in which I was working happened to be opposite the room of Bahá'u'lláh. I could see and hear Him. The Muftí asked some questions and then the Tongue of Grandeur began to speak. At one stage when the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh were still continuing, the Muftí was moved to say something. 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave him an emphatic and commanding signal with his hand that he should not interrupt the words of Bahá'u'lláh. He complied but his pride was hurt.

When the interview was over he left, 'Abdu'l-Bahá accompanying him to the prison gate, but he was annoyed because of the incident, for he was well respected by the inhabitants of the town and as he walked in the bazaars people showed their respect to him and kissed his hands. At that stage he was not aware of the truth of the Cause and the greatness of its Author, therefore he was displeased with the way 'Abdu'l-Bahá had bidden him be silent. But it did not take very long before he realized that in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he was as utter nothingness. He used to visit the Master and partake of His knowledge and wisdom. He therefore changed his attitude. In the streets and bazaars, whenever he accompanied 'Abdu'l-Bahá he always walked a few steps behind Him and was never found to be walking in front.* When Bahá'u'lláh was moved out of the barracks he used to come regularly to the outer apartment of the house--a room set aside for visitors--and sit at the feet of the Master. He diligently carried out every service that He referred to him.

As time went on the devotion of the Muftí of 'Akká towards Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá increased. He became so attracted that once he intimated to 'Abdu'l-Bahá that every time he stood up to pray, the majestic figure of Bahá'u'lláh appeared before him. 'Abdu'l-Bahá always showered his favours upon the Muftí, as indeed on other prominent people in the land. It is true to say that a time came when the Government of 'Akká used to revolve around the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Every one of the


* In the East it is considered disrespectful to walk in front of an eminent person when accompanying him.

officials was longing to receive His blessings and favours. And because of His qualities and prestige the condition of the believers changed from abasement into honour.

Another person from 'Akká who became a believer was 'Uthmán Effendi. When the exiles were residing in the barracks, he had a grocery shop in town. He used to supply Bahá'u'lláh's daily provisions and was paid on a monthly basis. He was attracted to the Cause by the good deeds and honest dealings of the believers. He embraced the Faith and attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh who promised him that he would become a wealthy and influential man. Soon 'Uthmán Effendi acquired considerable wealth. He owned half the village of Kasra which is one of the Druze villages. He also became a man of considerable influence well respected in government circles in 'Akká.4


4. Unpublished memoirs.