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Ridvan 1863, Taherzadeh’s Account

April 22, 2008

Excerpts from Volume 1 of Adib Taherzadeh’s (1983) The Revelation of Baha’u’llah: Baghdad 1853-63. pp. 261-290. This is in the editing process. I am replacing footnotes with exact references which I hope to eventually link to reliable digital sources. This overlong entry will be divided under subsections in the future with excerpts from sources mentioned in the text. Hopefully for now it may be of use to someone preparing for the upcoming holy days.

Taherzadeh, Adib. 1983. The Revelation of Baha’u’llah. Vol 1. Oxford: George Ronald. p. 261-290)

. . . “hands, a glance at His face. A Persian lady of noble birth, who was not herself a believer, pushed her way into the crowd and with a gesture of sacrifice threw her child at the feet of Bahá’u’lláh. These demonstrations continued all the way to the bank of the river (Taherzadeh 1983:261).”

Before crossing the river, Bahá’u’lláh addressed His companions who had gathered around Him, saying:

“O My companions, I entrust to your keeping this city of Baghdad, in the state ye now behold it, when from the eyes of friends and strangers alike, crowding its housetops, its streets and markets, tears like the rain of spring are flowing down, and I depart. With you it now rests to watch lest your deeds and conduct dim the flame of love that gloweth within the breasts of its inhabitants.(2)”

Bahá’u’lláh was then ferried across the river accompanied by three of His sons: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Mirza Mihdi (the Purest Branch) and Muhammad-‘Ali, who were eighteen, fourteen and ten years of age, respectively. With them also was His amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan. The identity of others who may have accompanied Him, or of those in the garden who had pitched His tent and were making preparations for His arrival, or of those who might have followed Him on that day, is not clearly known.

The call to afternoon prayer was raised from the mosque and the words ‘Allah’u’Akbar’ (God is the Greatest) chanted by the mu’adhdhin[1] reverberated through the garden as the King of Glory entered it. There, Bahá’u’lláh appeared in the utmost joy, walking majestically in its avenues lined with flowers and trees. The fragrance of the roses and the singing of the nightingales created an atmosphere of beauty and enchantment.
[1 Muezzin: the one who calls to prayer.]

The companions of Bahá’u’lláh had, for some time, known the Declaration of His station to be imminent. This realization came to them not only as a result of many remarks and allusions made by Him during the last few months of His sojourn in Baghdad, but also through a noticeable change in His demeanour. Another sign which unmistakably pointed to its approaching hour was the adoption, on the day of His departure from His house in Baghdad, of a different type of headdress known as taj (tall felt hat), which He wore throughout His ministry (Taherzadeh 1983:262).”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá has described how, upon His arrival in the garden, Bahá’u’lláh declared His station to those of His companions who were present, and announced with great joy the inauguration of the Festival of Ridvan.[1]
[1 See p. 260, n. 1.]

“Sadness and grief vanished and the believers were filled with delight at this announcement. Although Bahá’u’lláh was being exiled to far-off lands and knew the sufferings and tribulations which were in store for Him and His followers, yet through this historic Declaration He changed all sorrow into blissful joy and spent the most delightful time of His ministry in the Garden of Ridvan. Indeed, in one of His Tablets, He has referred to the first day of Ridvan as the ‘Day of supreme felicity’, and has called on His followers to ‘rejoice, with exceeding gladness’ in remembrance of that day.(3)”

The manner of the Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission is not clear, neither is the identity of all who heard Him. One thing, however, is clear. During His ten-years’ sojourn in Iraq, although Bahá’u’lláh had alluded to His station, and identified Himself with the utterances of God revealed in His Tablets, He had never designated Himself as ‘Him Whom God shall make manifest’. It was in the Garden of Ridvan that, in the course of His Declaration, He unequivocally did so, announcing Himself as the One Whose advent the Báb had proclaimed, for Whose sake He had sacrificed Himself and for Whom He had established a covenant with His followers. That day was one of the most eventful in the life of Bahá’u’lláh. The whole day He was occupied with important affairs, which culminated in the Declaration of His Mission — the most momentous event of His ministry.

One of the differences between the Manifestation of God and man is that the latter becomes easily overwhelmed when afflicted by sufferings and faced with insurmountable obstacles. Under such circumstances, even men of outstanding ability show their weakness and reveal their incompetence. Their minds can cope only with one problem at a time, and they often seek the help of experts and advisers when they make a decision (Taherzadeh 1983:263).”

This is not so with the Manifestation of God. In the first place, He acts independently and no individual can ever assist Him. His soul is not bound by the limitations of the world of humanity and His mind is not overwhelmed when He is faced with a large number of simultaneous problems. In the midst of calamities, when the ablest of men succumb under pressure, He can remain detached and channel His thoughts to whatever He desires. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Manifestation of God, and Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán has explained this by quoting the celebrated Islamic passage: ‘Nothing whatsoever keepeth Him from being occupied with any other thing’.(4) For instance, when Bahá’u’lláh declared His station, the believers who were in His presence became ecstatic. Their thoughts must have been focused only upon that momentous statement. But Bahá’u’lláh turned His attention to the events of a decade before, to the heroism and self-sacrifice of the followers of the Báb in the small town of Nayriz, in the province of Fars in Persia.

Lawh-i-Ayyub

He did this by revealing the Suriy-i-Sabr (Surih of Patience), otherwise known as Lawh-i-Ayyub (Tablet of Job), which is equal in length to almost one-quarter of the Kitáb-i-Íqán. This Tablet, in Arabic, was revealed in honour of Haji Muhammad-Taqi, a native of Nayriz, upon whom Bahá’u’lláh bestowed the title of Ayyub (Job). [See this provisional translation. ]

He was a man of wealth and culture, highly respected by his fellow citizens, who reposed such trust in him that they would deposit their savings with him and often exchange his receipts instead of money. When in 1850 Vahid arrived in Nayriz, awakening a spiritual turmoil far-reaching in its consequences, a considerable number of devoted souls were deeply affected, rallied around Vahid and embraced the Faith of the Báb.[1] Foremost among these was Haji Muhammad-Taqi, who offered to provide the means for the propagation of the Cause in that area (Taherzadeh 1983:264).”
[1 See Appendix III concerning Vahid.]

Zaynu’l-‘Abidin Khan, the Governor of Nayriz, was alarmed by the tumultuous reception accorded to Vahid by the people of the town, and was shocked and angered when he saw that great numbers were entering the Faith within the span of a few days. He decided to take immediate action, and ordered the army to wipe out the newly-formed community and kill its leader. Soon there was a great upheaval and the followers of the Báb were forced to take refuge in an old fort outside the town. Though vastly outnumbered by the army, and in spite of their lack of training, these defenders of the fort of Khajih fought with such courage and heroism that their enemies suffered humiliating defeat and were forced to withdraw in terror (Taherzadeh 1983:264).”

Having realized the futility of his armed intervention, Zaynu’l-‘Abidin Khan resorted to deception and treachery. Cunningly, he raised the cry of peace, sent a message in writing to the defenders of the fort to invite Vahid and other leaders to visit him in the army camp, and pledged his word to investigate the truth of the Cause of the Báb and to end all bloodshed and strife. In order to beguile those simple and pure-hearted men, he and his staff affixed their seal to the Qur’án and sent it with this message as a testimony of their honesty and truthfulness. Vahid knew their treachery, but to honour the Qur’án he emerged from the fort and went to the camp, where he was at first ceremoniously received. There he rebuked the authorities for their tyranny and blindness and called on them to investigate and embrace the new-born Faith of God. So penetrating were his words that the Governor and his men were confounded by the force of his argument. Recognizing the profundity of his knowledge and the sincerity of his beliefs, the Governor became apprehensive lest some of his men transfer their allegiance to Vahid. Within three days, through deceit and treachery, the Governor succeeded in evacuating the fort. But its heroic defenders walked into a trap, and most were massacred by the army. Vahid was shamefully put to death and his body was dragged through the streets and bazaars of Nayriz to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals, while men and women danced merrily around him (Taherzadeh 1983:265).”

Vahid’s martyrdom shed an imperishable lustre upon the Faith of God. The story of his life adorns the pages of the history of the Cause and the example he has left will guide and inspire countless generations throughout the ages. He was peerless in the realm of learning and knowledge, indomitable in his faith, challenging in his public discourse, heroic in the defence of the Cause of God and unsurpassed in his love for the Báb.

In the Suriy-i-Sabr Bahá’u’lláh describes the proclamation of the Faith by Vahid and the circumstances which led to the upheaval in Nayriz. He recounts, at some length, the events which led to the incarceration of the believers and lauds their heroism, self-sacrifice, and eventual martyrdom. He portrays the agony and sufferings which were inflicted upon the survivors, mainly women and children, who were forced to accompany the heads of the martyrs which were carried aloft on lances to Shiraz and paraded in the streets and bazaars of that city.[1] He severely condemns the perpetrators of such atrocities and warns them not to rejoice in their actions, but to fear the wrath of an almighty God who will justly, in the next world, punish them for the cruelties they have inflicted upon His loved ones (Taherzadeh 1983:265).”
[1 See p. 77, n. 1.]

Three years after the first upheaval, another massacre more brutal than the first came upon the believers of Nayriz. In his narrative, Nabil has briefly recorded some of the events associated with it:

“I shall not attempt to record the various circumstances that led to the carnage which marked the termination of that episode. I would refer my reader to the graphic and detailed account which Mirza Shafi’-i-Nayrizi has written in a separate booklet, in which he refers with accuracy and force to every detail of that moving event. Suffice it to say that no less than one hundred and eighty of the Báb’s valiant disciples suffered martyrdom. A like number were wounded and, though incapacitated by their injuries, were ordered to leave for Tihran. Only twenty-eight persons among them survived the hardships of the journey to the capital. Of these twenty-eight, fifteen were taken to the gallows on the very day of their arrival. The rest were thrown into prison and made to suffer for two years the most horrible atrocities. Though eventually released, many of them perished on their way to their homes, exhausted by the trials of a long and cruel captivity.

A large number of their fellow-disciples were slain in Shiraz by order of Tahmasb-Mirza. The heads of two hundred of these victims were placed on bayonets and carried triumphantly by their oppressors to Abadih, a village in Fars. They were intending to take them to Tihran, when a royal messenger commanded them to abandon their project, whereupon they decided to bury the heads in that village. As to the women, who were six hundred in number, half of them were released in Nayriz, while the rest were carried, each two being forced to ride together on an unsaddled horse, to Shiraz, where, after being submitted to severe tortures, they were abandoned to their fate. Many perished on their way to that city; many yielded up their lives to the afflictions they were made to endure ere they recovered their freedom. My pen shrinks in horror in attempting to describe what befell those valiant men and women who were made to suffer so severely for their Faith. The wanton barbarity that characterised the treatment meted out to them reached the lowest depths of infamy in the concluding stages of that lamentable episode.(5)”

The traditions of Islam record many signs concerning the appearance of the Promised One. In one of these, it is prophesied that the heads of some of His followers would be decapitated and used as gifts by the enemy. This prophecy was literally fulfilled during the two bloody massacres of Nayriz (Taherzadeh 1983:267).”

Bahá’u’lláh has quoted this tradition in the Kitáb-i-Íqán:

“[. . . E]ven as it hath been recorded … in the ‘Tablet of Fatimih’, concerning the character of the Qá’im: ‘He shall manifest the perfection of Moses, the splendour of Jesus, and the patience of Job. His chosen ones shall be abased in His day. Their heads shall be offered as presents even as the heads of the Turks and the Daylamites. They shall be slain and burnt. Fear shall seize them; dismay and alarm shall strike terror into their hearts. The earth shall be dyed with their blood. Their womenfolk shall bewail and lament. These indeed are my friends!'(6)”

In the Suriy-i-Sabr Bahá’u’lláh extols the station of Vahid in words no pen can befittingly describe. He pays glowing tribute to the staunchness of his faith and the loftiness of his vision, declares that he had remained faithful to the Covenant of God and affirms that he had fulfilled his pledge to his Lord. He bids him rejoice among the ‘Concourse on high'[1] for being remembered in this Tablet, a Tablet so exalted that the Holy Books of the past had derived their essence from it. [1 See p. 81, note. ]

Bahá’u’lláh also addresses the believers of Nayriz in this Tablet, with words of encouragement and praise. He asks them to recall their earlier days of heedlessness and ignorance, when God showered His favours upon them through the person of Vahid, enabled them to recognize His Manifestation, and guided them to the Ocean of Knowledge. He urges them to appreciate this wonderful gift, to thank the Almighty for having been made the recipients of His grace and to rejoice at the lofty station which He has conferred upon them. Should this station be revealed to the eyes of men, He states, they would unhesitatingly offer up their lives to attain it. The wisdom of its concealment is that men may be tested, that good may be distinguished from evil and the righteous from the wicked. With great love Bahá’u’lláh exhorts the believers of Nayriz to manifest 268 in their lives the attributes of God, to sanctify their souls from the dross of this world, and to be firm in faith and steadfast in the face of opposition.

The history of the martyrs of Nayriz demonstrates the devotion and heroism of the believers in that town. For several generations, these souls have been subjected periodically to bitter persecution by unrelenting enemies; yet they have remained faithful to the Cause of God, enduring with exemplary patience the tribulations heaped upon them.

It is interesting to note that Vahid and his companions sacrificed their lives in His path just ten days before the Báb was publicly executed. Almost sixty years later, on Naw-Ruz 1909, when the remains of the Martyr-Prophet were laid to rest on Mount Carmel, eighteen believers were assassinated in Nayriz by the vicious assault of the bloodthirsty Shaykh Zakariyya.[1] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has testified that the interment of so sacred a trust as the holy remains of the Báb called for a sacrifice, which was realized in the martyrdom of these believers; and He has paid warm tribute to the Bahá’ís of Nayriz for having won, by their sacrifice, a great honour.
[1 He entered Nayriz with a number of armed men, occupied the town and, among other things, launched a brutal attack against the Bahá’ís. Not only did his men seek out the Bahá’ís to kill them, but he offered to pay one hundred tumans for the decapitated head of a Bahá’í.]

In the Suriy-i-Sabr, Bahá’u’lláh pays glowing tribute to Haji Muhammad-Taqi. He recalls the major role he played in the upheaval of Nayriz, the material help he extended to Vahid, the fortune he expended in defence of the fort and the sufferings he bore with resignation and self-sacrifice. When the believers took refuge in the fort of Khajih, their food and other necessities were provided by Haji Muhammad-Taqi. Without his material aid, the Bábís would not have been able to defend themselves against the army. Haji Muhammad-Taqi was one of the survivors of the siege. The Governor of Nayriz, knowing that he was one of the key figures responsible for the spread of the Faith in that town, confiscated all his properties and imprisoned 269 him, intending to torture him to death, with a few others, including Siyyid Ja’far, the learned divine of Yazd, whom we mentioned earlier.

An account of Haji Muhammad-Taqi’s sufferings in prison, his subsequent release and his journey to Baghdad, culminating in his attaining the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, has already been given.[1] Referring to the spirit of resignation and forbearance shown by him during the massacre of Nayriz, Bahá’u’lláh states that the Almighty will always assist those who willingly sacrifice their possessions to promote the Cause of God, and who patiently endure trials in His path. Such souls, He states, never complain when afflicted with calamities; rather, they welcome hardships and persecution in the path of their Lord.[2]
[1 See pp. 139-41.] [2 When Haji Muhammad-Taqi travelled to Baghdad, he was accompanied by his wife, son and daughter. This son, Mohammad-‘Ali, while still a youth, was killed in Baghdad. He himself died a few years later in that city and Bahá’u’lláh honoured him by attending his funeral. Knowing that Haji Muhammad-Taqi’s wife was grief-stricken at the tragic loss of both son and husband, Bahá’u’lláh arranged for a certain Ahmad Ali, a youth of beautiful character, to go with her to Nayriz and live there as an adopted son.]

There are many mysteries hidden in God’s creation. One of these is the mystery of suffering. In his life, man experiences many trials and tribulations, but often does not understand their purpose. Although the full significance of suffering cannot be fully appreciated in this world, its effects upon the individual can be readily observed.

In the world of nature most objects are affected by external influences. For instance, a piece of iron left on its own is cold and becomes rusty. As a result of friction, however, it produces heat, its surface becomes shiny, and by increasing the force of friction it can become even a luminous body. But only pressure from without will cause these characteristics, which are latent within the iron, to be manifested.

Similarly, within a human being there are many qualities and virtues which remain dormant. Often, suffering helps to release 270 the potentialities within man, bringing to the surface noble qualities which had hitherto remained concealed. History has shown that many eminent men have achieved greatness merely by facing hardships and difficulties. Through perseverance and steadfastness they have overcome obstacles, demonstrated their strength of character and revealed the hidden powers latent within them. In contrast, the weak and feeble have often succumbed to such difficulties and perished. Clearly, suffering reveals the strength, the character and the faith of every human being. The greater the cause, the more strenuous are the tests and trials to which the individual is subjected. In this Dispensation, from amidst the blood-baths of martyrdom, great heroes have emerged whose lives have illumined the history of the Cause of God by their courage and self-sacrifice.

In the Suriy-i-Sabr Bahá’u’lláh recounts in great detail the story of Job, one of the Prophets of Israel. He states that God conferred upon Job the mantle of prophethood. He was wealthy, owned a vast area of land, and lived with his wife and family in great luxury and comfort. Having been entrusted by God to guide the people to righteousness and truth, he dedicated his life to fulfilling this mission among his community. He summoned them all to the Cause of God, but they became jealous and accused him of insincerity, saying that his devotion to God was due solely to his wealth and material possessions (Taherzadeh 1983:259).

In order to manifest his truthfulness to the eyes of men, God surrounded him with tribulations. Every day a fresh calamity descended upon him. First, his sons were taken from him, all his possessions were removed and his crops burnt. Then he was taken ill and his body was afflicted with disease and covered with boils. In spite of all these calamities, he remained thankful to his Lord and patiently endured hardships with a spirit of resignation and detachment. Yet his afflictions did not end there, for he was forced out of his village with no one to help him except his wife, who believed in him and did all she could to alleviate his pain. In the end he became destitute and was without food for many days (Taherzadeh 1983:271).

Bahá’u’lláh asserts that Job was so patient and resigned to the will of God that his thankfulness and devotion to his Lord increased with his trials. At last, having proved his detachment from earthly possessions, God again bestowed upon Job all that was taken from him. His teachings spread and his words penetrated into the hearts of the sincere, enabling them to recognize and acknowledge his station.

With this story in the Suriy-i-Sabr Bahá’u’lláh throws light upon patience, one of the most important virtues which God has bestowed on man. He extols the station of those believers who endured hardships and calamities with patience and resignation. Through their fortitude and constancy, their forbearance and long-suffering, these souls attained to such a lofty position that the Concourse on high seek their companionship and long for their blessings.

Bahá’u’lláh urges the people of the Bayan to do likewise, counselling them to adorn their beings with the mantle of resignation, to be steadfast in the Cause of God, and never to be dismayed or disheartened by adversity. And He reminds them that, whereas God rewards every good deed in accordance with its merit, in the case of patience and long-suffering, as attested in the Qur’án, the recompense is limitless.[1]
[1 ‘Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure.’ (Qur’án xxxix. 10. Translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.)]

These virtues God bestowed upon His Manifestations in a covenant with each of Them, Bahá’u’lláh states. Man should follow Their example. First, he should be patient with himself and learn to withhold himself from passion and desire and from deeds which are forbidden by God. Secondly, he should endure with fortitude any suffering which is inflicted upon him in this life and be steadfast in the Cause of God. Finally, he should be forbearing and patient with the believers and, for the sake of God and His religion, bear any ordeal which they may bring upon him.

This Tablet, revealed on the eve of Bahá’u’lláh’s departure from Iraq, had a tremendous effect upon the believers in that country. It prepared them for the days of test and trial which Bahá’u’lláh had been foreshadowing for some time. It also gave them faith and courage to bear the ordeal of separation from their Lord with a spirit of resignation and fortitude (Taherzadeh 1983:272).

Referring to His departure from Iraq, Bahá’u’lláh alludes to the future rebellion of Mirza Yahya and warns that, after the setting of the sun, ‘the birds of night’ would take to the air, meaning that in His absence satanic souls would arise and propagate their evil whisperings among the faithful. He exhorts His followers to protect the Cause of God from division and to remain firm and immovable as the mountain.

In this Tablet Bahá’u’lláh rejects the man-made doctrine of finality of religion, explains the meaning of the ‘Seal of the Prophets’,[1] upholds the principle of the continuity of Divine Revelation and states that God will send His Manifestations till the end which has no end. He moreover condemns the divines and the learned of Islam for their blindness and claims that they had never partaken of true knowledge nor discovered the mysteries of the Cause of God, and were wandering in the wilderness of self and passion. He rebukes them for denying the truth of the Revelation of the Báb and for putting Him to death, extols His station, testifies that He manifested the beauty of God, and states that ere long the whole of mankind will recognize Him.
[1 See p. 66.]

He makes a similar statement concerning the future victory of the Cause in another passage in which He rebukes those who have repudiated the Faith and arisen against it. He warns them that all their efforts to uproot the tree of the Cause of God will ultimately fail, and again prophesies that the day will come when all the peoples of the world will embrace His Faith.

In one of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh there is a statement that God has prescribed for Himself the task of assisting those who arise to serve Him. It indeed staggers the imagination, that God should lay upon Himself any specific task. Yet another instance is to be found in this Tablet, for Bahá’u’lláh asserts that God has pledged to gather the whole of the human race under the shadow of the tree of His Cause. This, Bahá’u’lláh states, is an irrevocable decree (Taherzadeh 1983:273).

Like many Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, the Suriy-i-Sabr may be described as an ocean containing wonderful gems of knowledge and wisdom. Revealed on the momentous occasion when its Author had just disclosed His station to His loved ones, when the hopes and visions of countless Prophets throughout the ages had been fulfilled, and when the sorrows and agonies of His companions had been turned into blissful joy, this Tablet stands out as an eternal monument to that Day of Days.

A few passages in this Tablet allude to Bahá’u’lláh’s Declaration and reveal glimpses of the unveiling of His glory in the Garden of Ridvan. In one of these He calls upon Himself to tear asunder the veils which had hitherto hidden His beauty from the eyes of men, to shed abroad the fragrances of the spirit which had remained sealed from the beginning of time, and to manifest His glory through the power of the Almighty. In another passage, referring to suffering which had been inflicted upon Him, He designates His own person as the ‘Manifestation of God Himself’. He extols the day, the hour and the moment of His Declaration, and asserts that in that very instant He addressed the whole of creation from the city of Baghdad, so that each being might receive that share of God’s glory which God had decreed for him. He further affirms that on that day all created things were illumined by the rising of the Sun of Truth from Iraq.

The Significance of Ridvan

In a number of Tablets, most of which have not yet been translated, Bahá’u’lláh has extolled the sacredness and glory of the days of Ridvan. One of these, revealed a few years after His Declaration, has been rendered into English by Shoghi Effendi (Taherzadeh 1983:274).

The following are some excerpts:

“The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching. Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new. Speak, and hold not thy peace. The day star of blissfulness shineth above the horizon of Our name, the Blissful, inasmuch as the kingdom of the name of God hath been adorned with the ornament of the name of thy Lord, the Creator of the heavens. Arise before the nations of the earth, and arm thyself with the power of this Most Great Name, and be not of those who tarry…

This is the Day whereon the unseen world crieth out: ‘Great is thy blessedness, O earth, for thou hast been made the foot-stool of thy God, and been chosen as the seat of His mighty throne.’ The realm of glory exclaimeth: ‘Would that my life could be sacrificed for thee, for He Who is the Beloved of the All-Merciful hath established His sovereignty upon thee, through the power of His Name that hath been promised unto all things, whether of the past or of the future.’
This is the Day whereon every sweet smelling thing hath derived its fragrance from the smell of My garment — a garment that hath shed its perfume upon the whole of creation. This is the Day whereon the rushing waters of everlasting life have gushed out of the Will of the All-Merciful. Haste ye, with your hearts and souls, and quaff your fill, O Concourse of the realms above!

Say: He it is Who is the Manifestation of Him Who is the Unknowable, the Invisible of the Invisibles, could ye but perceive it. He it is Who hath laid bare before you the hidden and treasured Gem, were ye to seek it. He it is Who is the one Beloved of all things, whether of the past or of the future. Would that ye might set your hearts and hopes upon Him!…

The Best-Beloved is come. In His right hand is the sealed Wine of His name. Happy is the man that turneth unto Him, and drinketh his fill, and exclaimeth: ‘Praise be to Thee, O Revealer of the signs of God!’ By the righteousness of the Almighty! Every hidden thing hath been manifested through the power of truth. All the favours of God have been sent down, as a token of His grace. The waters of everlasting life have, in their fullness, been proffered unto men. Every single cup hath been borne round by the hand of the Well-Beloved. Draw near, and tarry not, though it be for one short moment…

Rejoice with exceeding gladness, O people of Baha, as ye call to remembrance the Day of supreme felicity, the Day whereon the Tongue of the Ancient of Days hath spoken, as He departed from His House, proceeding to the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of His name, the All-Merciful. God is Our witness. Were We to reveal the hidden secrets of that Day, all they that dwell on earth and in the heavens would swoon away and die, except such as will be preserved by God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

Such is the inebriating effect of the words of God upon Him Who is the Revealer of His undoubted proofs, that His Pen can move no longer. With these words He concludeth His Tablet: ‘No God is there but Me, the Most Exalted, the Most Powerful, the Most Excellent, the All-Knowing.'(7)”

During the twelve days that Bahá’u’lláh remained in the Garden of Ridvan, great numbers came to pay their respects to Him. Among them were notables and dignitaries of the city of Baghdad, men of learning and culture, as well as the mass of the people who were His admirers. As to the believers, Bahá’u’lláh would summon a number of His companions to come to Him each day and would dismiss them in the evening. Only those without family ties were allowed to remain for the night, when some of them would keep vigil around His tent (Taherzadeh 1983:274).

Nabil has left to posterity the following vivid description of the joyous atmosphere of that historic time:

“Every day ere the hour of dawn, the gardeners would pick the roses which lined the four avenues of the garden, and would pile them in the centre of the floor of His blessed tent. So great would be the heap that when His companions gathered to drink their morning tea in His presence, they would be unable to see each other across it. All these roses Bahá’u’lláh would, with His own hands, entrust to those whom He dismissed from His presence every morning to be delivered, on His behalf, to His Arab and Persian friends in the city… One night, the ninth night of the waxing moon, I happened to be one of those who watched beside His blessed tent. As the hour of midnight approached, I saw Him issue from His tent, pass by the places where some of His companions were sleeping, and begin to pace up and down the moonlit, flower-bordered avenues of the garden. So loud was the singing of the nightingales on every side that only those who were near Him could hear distinctly His voice. He continued to walk until, pausing in the midst of one of these avenues, He observed: ‘Consider these nightingales. So great is their love for these roses, that sleepless from dust till dawn, they warble their melodies and commune with burning passion with the object of their adoration. How then can those who claim to be afire with the rose-like beauty of the Beloved choose to sleep?’ For three successive nights I watched and circled round His blessed tent. Every time I passed by the couch whereon He lay, I would find Him wakeful, and every day, from morn till eventide, I would see Him ceaselessly engaged in conversing with the stream of visitors who kept flowing in from Baghdad. Not once could I discover in the words He spoke any trace of dissimulation.(8)”

In one of His talks[1] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that the enemies of the Faith, determined to extinguish the fire of the Cause, did everything in their power to banish Bahá’u’lláh from Baghdad. They did not realize that this banishment would bring victory to His Faith. However, when Bahá’u’lláh moved to the Garden of Ridvan, they saw the greatness of His Cause, and were dismayed and disheartened by the marks of honour and respect which the inhabitants of Baghdad and its notables showered upon Him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá adds that, whereas banishment is normally a sad occasion, Bahá’u’lláh turned it into the most joyous event in His life. The days of Ridvan became the Most Great Festival, celebrating the Declaration of His Mission to His followers (Taherzadeh 1983:274).
[1 This talk was given on the ninth day of Ridvan 1916, at Bahji, ‘Akká.]

The Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh in the Garden of Ridvan may be regarded as the climax of ten years of His Revelation and the consummation of the first phase of His ministry. On that day the Hand of Omnipotence removed a ‘myriad veils of light’ from His countenance, vouchsafing to men a glimpse of His power and glory, and opening before them a new chapter in their life on this planet. Bahá’u’lláh has stated that on that day ‘the breezes of forgiveness were wafted over the entire creation’, and ‘all created things were immersed in the sea of purification’.(9)

In the Tablet just quoted (pp. 274-5) Bahá’u’lláh extols the glories of the Festival of Ridvan and describes its significance in these terms:

Verily, We have caused every soul to expire by virtue of Our irresistible and all-subduing sovereignty. We have, then, called into being a new creation, as a token of Our grace unto men. I am, verily, the All-Bountiful, the Ancient of Days.(10)

In one of His prayers revealed in Adrianople, Bahá’u’lláh refers to this new creation in these words:

“How great is Thy power! How exalted Thy sovereignty! How lofty Thy might! How excellent Thy majesty! How supreme is Thy grandeur — a grandeur which He Who is Thy Manifestation hath made known and wherewith Thou hast invested Him as a sign of Thy generosity and bountiful favour. I bear witness, O my God, that through Him Thy most resplendent signs have been uncovered, and Thy mercy hath encompassed the entire creation. But for Him, how could the Celestial Dove have uttered its songs or the Heavenly Nightingale, according to the decree of God, have warbled its melody? I testify that no sooner had the First Word proceeded, through the potency of Thy will no other Manifestation of God would appear before the expiration of a thousand years.”

In the Kitáb-i-Badi’, which He revealed in 280 Adrianople, Bahá’u’lláh confirmed this statement, and later in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas He referred to it again in these words:

“Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. We pray God that He may graciously assist him to retract and repudiate such claim. Should he repent, God will, no doubt, forgive him. If, however, he persisteth in his error, God will, assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him. Terrible, indeed, is God in punishing! Whosoever interpreteth this verse otherwise than its obvious meaning is deprived of the Spirit of God and of His mercy which encompasseth all created things. Fear God, and follow not your idle fancies. Nay, rather follow the bidding of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Wise.(13)”

Bahá’u’lláh’s third statement on the first day of Ridvan was that, the moment He uttered those words, all the names and attributes of God were fully manifested within all created things. By this He implied the advent of a new Day and the infusion of a fresh capacity into all beings.

The Báb’s Prophecies Fulfilled

With the Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh the prophecies of the Báb concerning the appearance of ‘Him Whom God shall make manifest’ were fulfilled. The Báb had alluded in His Writings to the scene of Bahá’u’lláh’s Declaration in ‘Ridvan’ and to the wafting of the breezes of His Revelation from ‘Baghdad’. He had also foretold in the Persian Bayan that He would be manifested on the completion of the first Vahid (nineteen years) of the Bábí Dispensation, which began in 1844. In the first chapter of the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá’, which was revealed when the Báb communicated His Message to Mulla Husayn, He referred to the ‘people of Baha’ as the only ‘companions of the Crimson-Coloured Ark’ moving upon the ‘Crimson Sea’. The ‘Crimson Ark’ was a reference to the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, which was 281 launched on the first day of Ridvan. The community of the Most Great Name emerged on that day, when the followers of Bahá’u’lláh acknowledged His station (Taherzadeh 1983:281).”

Of the twelve days that Bahá’u’lláh stayed in the Garden of Ridvan, three are regarded as Holy Days: the first day on which He declared Himself, the ninth day when all His family joined Him and rejoiced at His Declaration, and the twelfth day when He left that garden.

Bahá’u’lláh’s Departure from the Garden

A memorable account of Bahá’u’lláh’s departure has been given by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Faith:

“The departure of Bahá’u’lláh from the Garden of Ridvan, at noon, on the 14th of Dhi’l-Qa’dih 1279 A.H. (May 3, 1863), witnessed scenes of tumultuous enthusiasm no less spectacular, and even more touching, than those which greeted Him when leaving His Most Great House in Baghdad. ‘The great tumult,’ wrote an eye-witness, ‘associated in our minds with the Day of Gathering, the Day of Judgment, we beheld on that occasion. Believers and unbelievers alike sobbed and lamented. The chiefs and notables who had congregated were struck with wonder. Emotions were stirred to such depths as no tongue can describe, nor could any observer escape
their contagion.’

“Mounted on His steed, a red roan stallion of the finest breed, the best His lovers could purchase for Him, and leaving behind Him a bowing multitude of fervent admirers, He rode forth on the first stage of a journey that was to carry Him to the city of Constantinople. ‘Numerous were the heads,’ Nabil himself a witness of that memorable scene, recounts, ‘which, on every side, bowed to the dust at the feet of His horse, and kissed its hoofs, and countless were those who pressed forward to embrace His stirrups.’ ‘How great the number of those embodiments of fidelity,’ testifies a fellow-traveller, ‘who, casting themselves before that charger preferred death to separation from their Beloved! Methinks, that blessed steed trod upon the bodies of those pure-hearted souls.’ ‘He (God) it was,’ Bahá’u’lláh Himself declares, ‘Who enabled Me to depart out of the city (Baghdad), clothed with such majesty as none, except the denier and the malicious, can fail to acknowledge.'(14)”

(Taherzadeh 1983:283).”

The Journey to Constantinople

As Bahá’u’lláh was leaving the Garden of Ridvan, the call of adhan[1] was raised outside and the words ‘Allah’u’Akbar’ (God is the Greatest), which had greeted Him on His arrival, reverberated throughout that district again. Many people, including non-believers, paid their last homage by walking beside His horse as He went.
[1 The Muslim call to prayer. ]

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

A notable disciple who travelled with Bahá’u’lláh was Mirza Aqay-i-Kashani, whom He surnamed Ismu’llahu’l-Munib. As a youth he became attracted to the Cause of the Báb and joined the ranks of the Bábís. His father was a merchant of note in Kashan and was very hostile to this new-born Faith. On learning that his son had embraced the Cause of the Báb, he decided to kill him. One day he took him to a lonely desert near the town and was about to carry out his sinister design when his son convinced him that the Bábís of Kashan would not stand idly by, if his father killed him, but would take action to punish him for his crime. So his father released him on condition that he leave home for good (Taherzadeh 1983:284).”

After this tragic incident, Jinab-i-Munib travelled to Baghdad where he attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and was permitted to remain there for some time. He was an accomplished youth, keen and perceptive, full of charm and grace, handsome, well educated, a distinguished calligrapher and gifted poet. His radiant personality coupled with great spiritual capacity enabled him to become a worthy recipient of the outpourings of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation in Baghdad. His heart was so filled with the love of Bahá’u’lláh that all his thoughts and actions were wholly dedicated to Him. He used to live alone in a humble house with very little to eat, spending his time in transcribing the Writings. His own writings are lucid, inspiring and full of spirit, and his teaching exploits were truly remarkable.

After some time in Baghdad, about the year 1859, Bahá’u’lláh sent Jinab-i-Munib to Persia, where he visited the believers in Tihran, Qazvin and Tabriz. He then returned to Baghdad and was there at the time of Ridvan. When he was honoured to accompany Bahá’u’lláh to Constantinople, he decided to walk all the way instead of riding with his Lord. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá describes how, many nights, He and Jinab-i-Munib walked one on either side of the howdah[1] of Bahá’u’lláh. Another task on which he prided himself was to carry a lantern in front of Bahá’u’lláh’s howdah.
[1 The origin of the word is Arabic. It is a litter consisting of a pair of panniers in which two individuals can ride, and is carrier by a beast of burden, in this case a mule.]

Those who accompanied Bahá’u’lláh to Constantinople were members of His family including Aqay-i-Kalim and Mirza Muhammad-Quli, His faithful brothers, and twenty-six of His disciples. As mentioned previously, two people joined the party en route, Nabil-i-A’zam and Mirza Yahya.

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

“A caravan, consisting of fifty mules, a mounted guard of ten soldiers with their officer, and seven pairs of howdahs, each pair surmounted by four parasols, was formed, and wended its way, by easy stages, and in the space of no less than a hundred and ten days, across the uplands, and through the defiles, the woods, valleys and pastures, comprising the picturesque scenery of eastern Anatolia, to the port of Samsun, on the Black Sea. At times on horseback, at times resting in the howdah reserved for His use, and which was oftentimes surrounded by His companions, most of whom were on foot, He, by virtue of the written order of Namiq Pasha, was accorded, as He travelled northward, in the path of spring, an enthusiastic reception by the valis, the mutisarrifs, the qa’im-maqams, the mudirs, the shaykhs, the muftis and qadis, the government officials and notables belonging to the districts through which He passed.[1] In Karkuk, in Irbil, in Mosul, where He tarried three days, in Nisibin, in Mardin, in Diyar-Bakr, where a halt of a couple of days was made, in Kharput, in Sivas, as well as in other villages and hamlets, He would be met by a delegation immediately before His arrival, and would be accompanied, for some distance, by a similar delegation upon His departure. The festivities which, at some stations, were held in His honour, the food the villagers prepared and brought for His acceptance, the eagerness which time and again they exhibited in providing the means for His comfort, recalled the reverence which the people of Baghdad had shown Him on so many occasions.(1)”

[1 The titles of these officials and notables may be translated as follows: valis, governors; mutisarrifs, provincial governors; qa’im-maqams, viceregents; mudirs, district prefects; shaykhs, elders or chiefs; muftis, expounders of Muslim law who rule on points of religious jurisprudence; qadis, judges.]

Those who have travelled in the deserts or the valleys and uplands of the Middle East on the backs of mules and horses know how slow and monotonous the pace is. For miles there is no sign of life and those who travel in the party are not always able to talk and communicate easily with each other. Under these circumstances nothing can be more exhilarating than to hear a pleasant voice singing beautiful songs. Jinab-i-Munib was one of those whose melodious voice, chanting various odes and poems, rang out through the open fields and mountains of Turkey and brought joy and relaxation to those who travelled with Bahá’u’lláh. The odes that he sang were all indicative of his love for Bahá’u’lláh, and the prayers he chanted in the dead of night were a testimony to the yearning of his heart for his Lord (Taherzadeh 1983:286).”

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

When Jinab-i-Munib arrived in Tihran, he began to intimate the station of Bahá’u’lláh to some of the Bábís, at first very discreetly. After a short while Bahá’u’lláh sent him a Tablet from Adrianople, known as the Suriy-i-Ashab, which was addressed to a certain Mirza Habib-i-Maraghi’i. When Jinab-i-Munib received this Tablet, he began to unveil the station of Bahá’u’lláh to the mass of the believers in that land. This is a lengthy Tablet in which Bahá’u’lláh speaks about the greatness of His Cause and, alluding to Mirza Yahya, warns the people of the Bayan to beware of those who deny it. (More detail of this significant Tablet will be given in the next volume.)

During this period Jinab-i-Munib rendered memorable services to the Faith in Persia, especially in Tihran. After this, he journeyed to Adrianople, attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh again, and was in that city when Bahá’u’lláh was exiled to ‘Akká. About that time, however, he was taken ill and badly needed treatment. In spite of this, he begged Bahá’u’lláh to permit him to join in His exile as he longed to be with his Lord. 287 Eventually, his request was granted and he managed to reach Gallipoli with the others, but he was so weak that three men had to carry him aboard the steamer which was to take the exiles to ‘Akká. Soon after this his condition deteriorated and the captain forced him to leave the ship at Smyrna.

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

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

There were other disciples who accompanied Bahá’u’lláh to Constantinople. Among these was Aqa Muhammad-Sadiq of Isfahan, who embraced the Faith in Baghdad, where he lived close to the house of Bahá’u’lláh. He had an extraordinary spiritual perceptiveness and recognized the truth of the Faith the moment he heard it.(3) Another was Aqa Muhammad-‘Ali of Isfahan, a devoted believer who accompanied Bahá’u’lláh yet further, to Adrianople and to ‘Akká.(4) There was also Aqa Muhammad-‘Aliy-i-Sabbagh of Yazd, who stayed for about two years in Constantinople to assist the believers as they passed through the city. He then went to Adrianople and was exiled with Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Akká.(5)

Abdu’l-Ghaffar-i-Isfahani, being the only person among the entire company of exiles who spoke Turkish well, served as interpreter throughout the journey. He was one of Bahá’u’lláh’s companions in Adrianople who accompanied Him on His exile to ‘Akká. But when the steamer reached Haifa, the authorities chose him as one of the four Bahá’ís to be exiled with Mirza Yahya to Cyprus. Abdu’l-Ghaffar was so distressed by this that he threw himself into the sea, preferring to die rather than be separated from Bahá’u’lláh. The officers in charge dragged him out and in spite of his strong objections forcibly sent him to Cyprus. He was imprisoned in Famagusta, but managed to escape and hastened to ‘Akká, where he basked again in the sunshine of Bahá’u’lláh’s presence.(6) (Taherzadeh 1983:288).

Aqa Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Amir was another devoted believer who accompanied Bahá’u’lláh to Constantinople. He was a survivor of the upheaval in Nayriz, a brave and courageous man who remained in the service of Bahá’u’lláh day and night and was exiled further to Adrianople and ‘Akká.(7)

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

‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said that these two were the embodiments of detachment from this world and that Bahá’u’lláh always showered His blessings upon them. They lived in Baghdad in the utmost poverty, together with five other believers, in a single small room. This company of seven used to pool their modest earnings every day in order to buy their evening meal. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has recalled an occasion when only one of them 289 had earned any money and for that night they could buy only a handful of dates. Yet despite their poverty, Aqa Mirza Mahmud and Aqa Rida were content and happy. Their faces beamed with eternal joy and their hearts were filled with the love of Bahá’u’lláh. Their sole desire was to attain His good pleasure and their only aim was to serve Him (Taherzadeh 1983:289).”

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

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

Yet another who performed a difficult task on this journey was Mirza Ja’far-i-Yazdi, who was a learned divine.[1] After recognizing the truth of the Faith he came to Baghdad, attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and became filled with a new spirit. He gave up his position, discarded his clerical attire, put on a layman’s hat and engaged in working as a carpenter. In spite of his great learning he was humble and self-effacing, and for some time served in the household of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad. On the way to Constantinople he served the friends in every possible manner. While they were resting or sleeping at a stopping- place, Mirza Ja’far and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá used to go to surrounding villages to purchase straw and other provisions for the mules and horses. Sometimes this would take hours as there was a famine in the area and it was very difficult to obtain food. Mirza Ja’far remained in the service of Bahá’u’lláh in Adrianople and was exiled with Him to the Most Great Prison in ‘Akká (Taherzadeh 1983:290).”
[1 Not to be confused with Siyyid Ja’far-i-Yazdi. (See pp. 137-41.)]

Speaking of Mirza Ja’far, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has recounted the following story:

“The Prison was a garden of roses to him, and his narrow cell a wide and fragrant place. At the time when we were in the barracks he fell dangerously ill and was confined to his bed. He suffered many complications, until finally the doctor gave him up and would visit him no more. Then the sick man breathed his last. Mirza Aqa Jan ran to Bahá’u’lláh, with word of the death. Not only had the patient ceased to breathe, but his body was already going limp. His family were gathered about him, mourning him, shedding bitter tears. The Blessed Beauty said, ‘Go; chan . . .”

Taherzadeh, Adib. 1983. The Revelation of Baha’u’llah. Vol 1. Oxford: George Ronald. p. 261-290)

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