The Rebellion of Mírzá Yaḥyá and the Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh’s Mission in Adrianople
A twenty-year-old Faith had just begun to recover from a series of successive blows when a crisis of the first magnitude overtook it and shook it to its roots. Neither the tragic martyrdom of the Báb nor the ignominious attempt on the life of the sovereign, nor its bloody aftermath, nor Bahá’u’lláh’s humiliating banishment from His native land, nor even His two-year withdrawal to Kurdistán, devastating though they were in their consequences, could compare in gravity with this first major internal convulsion which seized a newly rearisen community, and which threatened to cause an irreparable breach in the ranks of its members. More odious than the unrelenting hostility which Abú-Jahl, the relative of Muḥammad, had exhibited, more shameful than the betrayal of Jesus Christ by His disciple, Judas Iscariot, more perfidious than the conduct of the sons of Jacob towards Joseph their brother, more abhorrent than the deed committed by one of the sons of Noah, more infamous than even the criminal act perpetrated by Cain against Abel, the monstrous behavior of Mírzá Yaḥyá, one of the half-brothers of Bahá’u’lláh, the nominee of the Báb, and recognized chief of the Bábí community, brought in its wake a period of travail which left its mark on the fortunes of the Faith for no less than half a century. This supreme crisis Bahá’u’lláh Himself designated as the Ayyám-i-Shidád (Days of Stress), during which “the most grievous veil” was torn asunder, and the “most great separation” was irrevocably effected. It immensely gratified and emboldened its external enemies, both civil and ecclesiastical, played into their hands, and evoked their unconcealed derision. It perplexed and confused the friends and supporters of Bahá’u’lláh, and seriously damaged the prestige of the Faith in the eyes of its western admirers. It had been brewing ever since the early days of Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in Baghdád, was temporarily suppressed by the creative forces which, under His as yet unproclaimed leadership, reanimated a disintegrating community, and finally broke out, in all its violence, in the years immediately preceding the proclamation of His Message. It brought incalculable sorrow to Bahá’u’lláh, visibly aged Him, and inflicted, through its repercussions, the heaviest blow ever sustained by Him in His lifetime. It was engineered throughout by the tortuous intrigues and incessant machinations of that same diabolical Siyyid Muḥammad, that vile whisperer who, disregarding Bahá’u’lláh’s advice, had insisted on accompanying Him to Constantinople and Adrianople, and was now redoubling his efforts, with unrelaxing vigilance, to bring it to a head.
Mírzá Yaḥyá had, ever since the return of Bahá’u’lláh from Sulaymáníyyih, either chosen to maintain himself in an inglorious seclusion in his own house, or had withdrawn, whenever danger threatened, to such places of safety as Ḥillih and Basra. To the latter town he had fled, disguised as a Baghdád Jew, and become a shoe merchant. So great was his terror that he is reported to have said on one occasion: “Whoever claims to have seen me, or to have heard my voice, I pronounce an infidel.” On being informed of Bahá’u’lláh’s impending departure for Constantinople, he at first hid himself in the garden of Huvaydar, in the vicinity of Baghdád, meditating meanwhile on the advisability of fleeing either to Abyssinia, India or some other country. Refusing to heed Bahá’u’lláh’s advice to proceed to Persia, and there disseminate the writings of the Báb, he sent a certain Ḥájí Muḥammad Káẓim, who resembled him, to the government-house to procure for him a passport in the name of Mírzá ‘Alíy-i-Kirmánsháhí, and left Baghdád, abandoning the writings there, and proceeded in disguise, accompanied by an Arab Bábí, named Ẓáhir, to Mosul, where he joined the exiles who were on their way to Constantinople.
A constant witness of the ever deepening attachment of the exiles to Bahá’u’lláh and of their amazing veneration for Him; fully aware of the heights to which his Brother’s popularity had risen in Baghdád, in the course of His journey to Constantinople, and later through His association with the notables and governors of Adrianople; incensed by the manifold evidences of the courage, the dignity, and independence which that Brother had demonstrated in His dealings with the authorities in the capital; provoked by the numerous Tablets which the Author of a newly-established Dispensation had been ceaselessly revealing; allowing himself to be duped by the enticing prospects of unfettered leadership held out to him by Siyyid Muḥammad, the Antichrist of the Bahá’í Revelation, even as Muḥammad Sháh had been misled by the Antichrist of the Bábí Revelation, Ḥájí Mírzá Áqásí; refusing to be admonished by prominent members of the community who advised him, in writing, to exercise wisdom and restraint; forgetful of the kindness and counsels of Bahá’u’lláh, who, thirteen years his senior, had watched over his early youth and manhood; emboldened by the sin-covering eye of his Brother, Who, on so many occasions, had drawn a veil over his many crimes and follies, this arch-breaker of the Covenant of the Báb, spurred on by his mounting jealousy and impelled by his passionate love of leadership, was driven to perpetrate such acts as defied either concealment or toleration.
Irremediably corrupted through his constant association with Siyyid Muḥammad, that living embodiment of wickedness, cupidity and deceit, he had already in the absence of Bahá’u’lláh from Baghdád, and even after His return from Sulaymáníyyih, stained the annals of the Faith with acts of indelible infamy. His corruption, in scores of instances, of the text of the Báb’s writings; the blasphemous addition he made to the formula of the adhán by the introduction of a passage in which he identified himself with the Godhead; his insertion of references in those writings to a succession in which he nominated himself and his descendants as heirs of the Báb; the vacillation and apathy he had betrayed when informed of the tragic death which his Master had suffered; his condemnation to death of all the Mirrors of the Bábí Dispensation, though he himself was one of those Mirrors; his dastardly act in causing the murder of Dayyán, whom he feared and envied; his foul deed in bringing about, during the absence of Bahá’u’lláh from Baghdád, the assassination of Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar, the Báb’s cousin; and, most heinous of all, his unspeakably repugnant violation, during that same period, of the honor of the Báb Himself—all these, as attested by Áqáy-i-Kalím, and reported by Nabíl in his Narrative, were to be thrown into a yet more lurid light by further acts the perpetration of which were to seal irretrievably his doom.
Desperate designs to poison Bahá’u’lláh and His companions, and thereby reanimate his own defunct leadership, began, approximately a year after their arrival in Adrianople, to agitate his mind. Well aware of the erudition of his half-brother, Áqáy-i-Kalím, in matters pertaining to medicine, he, under various pretexts, sought enlightenment from him regarding the effects of certain herbs and poisons, and then began, contrary to his wont, to invite Bahá’u’lláh to his home, where, one day, having smeared His tea-cup with a substance he had concocted, he succeeded in poisoning Him sufficiently to produce a serious illness which lasted no less than a month, and which was accompanied by severe pains and high fever, the aftermath of which left Bahá’u’lláh with a shaking hand till the end of His life. So grave was His condition that a foreign doctor, named Shíshmán, was called in to attend Him. The doctor was so appalled by His livid hue that he deemed His case hopeless, and, after having fallen at His feet, retired from His presence without prescribing a remedy. A few days later that doctor fell ill and died. Prior to his death Bahá’u’lláh had intimated that doctor Shíshmán had sacrificed his life for Him. To Mírzá Áqá Ján, sent by Bahá’u’lláh to visit him, the doctor had stated that God had answered his prayers, and that after his death a certain Dr. Chúpán, whom he knew to be reliable, should, whenever necessary, be called in his stead.
On another occasion this same Mírzá Yaḥyá had, according to the testimony of one of his wives, who had temporarily deserted him and revealed the details of the above-mentioned act, poisoned the well which provided water for the family and companions of Bahá’u’lláh, in consequence of which the exiles manifested strange symptoms of illness. He even had, gradually and with great circumspection, disclosed to one of the companions, Ustád Muḥammad-‘Alíy-i-Salmání, the barber, on whom he had lavished great marks of favor, his wish that he, on some propitious occasion, when attending Bahá’u’lláh in His bath, should assassinate Him. “So enraged was Ustád Muḥammad-‘Alí,” Áqáy-i-Kalím, recounting this episode to Nabíl in Adrianople, has stated, “when apprized of this proposition, that he felt a strong desire to kill Mírzá Yaḥyá on the spot, and would have done so but for his fear of Bahá’u’lláh’s displeasure. I happened to be the first person he encountered as he came out of the bath weeping.… I eventually succeeded, after much persuasion, in inducing him to return to the bath and complete his unfinished task.” Though ordered subsequently by Bahá’u’lláh not to divulge this occurrence to any one, the barber was unable to hold his peace and betrayed the secret, plunging thereby the community into great consternation. “When the secret nursed in his (Mírzá Yaḥyá) bosom was revealed by God,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself affirms, “he disclaimed such an intention, and imputed it to that same servant (Ustád Muḥammad-‘Alí).”
The moment had now arrived for Him Who had so recently, both verbally and in numerous Tablets, revealed the implications of the claims He had advanced, to acquaint formally the one who was the nominee of the Báb with the character of His Mission. Mírzá Áqá Ján was accordingly commissioned to bear to Mírzá Yaḥyá the newly revealed Súriy-i-Amr, which unmistakably affirmed those claims, to read aloud to him its contents, and demand an unequivocal and conclusive reply. Mírzá Yaḥyá’s request for a one day respite, during which he could meditate his answer, was granted. The only reply, however, that was forthcoming was a counter-declaration, specifying the hour and the minute in which he had been made the recipient of an independent Revelation, necessitating the unqualified submission to him of the peoples of the earth in both the East and the West.
So presumptuous an assertion, made by so perfidious an adversary to the envoy of the Bearer of so momentous a Revelation was the signal for the open and final rupture between Bahá’u’lláh and Mírzá Yaḥyá—a rupture that marks one of the darkest dates in Bahá’í history. Wishing to allay the fierce animosity that blazed in the bosom of His enemies, and to assure to each one of the exiles a complete freedom to choose between Him and them, Bahá’u’lláh withdrew with His family to the house of Riḍá Big (Shavvál 22, 1282 A.H.), which was rented by His order, and refused, for two months, to associate with either friend or stranger, including His own companions. He instructed Áqáy-i-Kalím to divide all the furniture, bedding, clothing and utensils that were to be found in His home, and send half to the house of Mírzá Yaḥyá; to deliver to him certain relics he had long coveted, such as the seals, rings, and manuscripts in the handwriting of the Báb; and to insure that he received his full share of the allowance fixed by the government for the maintenance of the exiles and their families. He, moreover, directed Áqáy-i-Kalím to order to attend to Mírzá Yaḥyá’s shopping, for several hours a day, any one of the companions whom he himself might select, and to assure him that whatever would henceforth be received in his name from Persia would be delivered into his own hands.
“That day,” Áqáy-i-Kalím is reported to have informed Nabíl, “witnessed a most great commotion. All the companions lamented in their separation from the Blessed Beauty.” “Those days,” is the written testimony of one of those companions, “were marked by tumult and confusion. We were sore-perplexed, and greatly feared lest we be permanently deprived of the bounty of His presence.”
This grief and perplexity were, however, destined to be of short duration. The calumnies with which both Mírzá Yaḥyá and Siyyid Muḥammad now loaded their letters, which they disseminated in Persia and ‘Iráq, as well as the petitions, couched in obsequious language, which the former had addressed to Khurshíd Páshá, the governor of Adrianople, and to his assistant ‘Azíz Páshá, impelled Bahá’u’lláh to emerge from His retirement. He was soon after informed that this same brother had despatched one of his wives to the government house to complain that her husband had been cheated of his rights, and that her children were on the verge of starvation—an accusation that spread far and wide and, reaching Constantinople, became, to Bahá’u’lláh’s profound distress, the subject of excited discussion and injurious comment in circles that had previously been greatly impressed by the high standard which His noble and dignified behavior had set in that city. Siyyid Muḥammad journeyed to the capital, begged the Persian Ambassador, the Mushíru’d-Dawlih, to allot Mírzá Yaḥyá and himself a stipend, accused Bahá’u’lláh of sending an agent to assassinate Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, and spared no effort to heap abuse and calumny on One Who had, for so long and so patiently, forborne with him, and endured in silence the enormities of which he had been guilty.
After a stay of about one year in the house of Riḍá Big Bahá’u’lláh returned to the house He had occupied before His withdrawal from His companions, and thence, after three months, He transferred His residence to the house of ‘Izzat Áqá, in which He continued to live until His departure from Adrianople. It was in this house, in the month of Jamádíyu’l-Avval 1284 A.H. (Sept. 1867) that an event of the utmost significance occurred, which completely discomfited Mírzá Yaḥyá and his supporters, and proclaimed to friend and foe alike Bahá’u’lláh’s triumph over them. A certain Mír Muḥammad, a Bábí of Shíráz, greatly resenting alike the claims and the cowardly seclusion of Mírzá Yaḥyá, succeeded in forcing Siyyid Muḥammad to induce him to meet Bahá’u’lláh face to face, so that a discrimination might be publicly effected between the true and the false. Foolishly assuming that his illustrious Brother would never countenance such a proposition, Mírzá Yaḥyá appointed the mosque of Sulṭán Salím as the place for their encounter. No sooner had Bahá’u’lláh been informed of this arrangement than He set forth, on foot, in the heat of midday, and accompanied by this same Mír Muḥammad, for the afore-mentioned mosque, which was situated in a distant part of the city, reciting, as He walked, through the streets and markets, verses, in a voice and in a manner that greatly astonished those who saw and heard Him.
“O Muḥammad!”, are some of the words He uttered on that memorable occasion, as testified by Himself in a Tablet, “He Who is the Spirit hath, verily, issued from His habitation, and with Him have come forth the souls of God’s chosen ones and the realities of His Messengers. Behold, then, the dwellers of the realms on high above Mine head, and all the testimonies of the Prophets in My grasp. Say: Were all the divines, all the wise men, all the kings and rulers on earth to gather together, I, in very truth, would confront them, and would proclaim the verses of God, the Sovereign, the Almighty, the All-Wise. I am He Who feareth no one, though all who are in heaven and all who are on earth rise up against me.… This is Mine hand which God hath turned white for all the worlds to behold. This is My staff; were We to cast it down, it would, of a truth, swallow up all created things.” Mír Muḥammad, who had been sent ahead to announce Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival, soon returned, and informed Him that he who had challenged His authority wished, owing to unforeseen circumstances, to postpone for a day or two the interview. Upon His return to His house Bahá’u’lláh revealed a Tablet, wherein He recounted what had happened, fixed the time for the postponed interview, sealed the Tablet with His seal, entrusted it to Nabíl, and instructed him to deliver it to one of the new believers, Mullá Muḥammad-i-Tabrízí, for the information of Siyyid Muḥammad, who was in the habit of frequenting that believer’s shop. It was arranged to demand from Siyyid Muḥammad, ere the delivery of that Tablet, a sealed note pledging Mírzá Yaḥyá, in the event of failing to appear at the trysting-place, to affirm in writing that his claims were false. Siyyid Muḥammad promised that he would produce the next day the document required, and though Nabíl, for three successive days, waited in that shop for the reply, neither did the Siyyid appear, nor was such a note sent by him. That undelivered Tablet, Nabíl, recording twenty-three years later this historic episode in his chronicle, affirms was still in his possession, “as fresh as the day on which the Most Great Branch had penned it, and the seal of the Ancient Beauty had sealed and adorned it,” a tangible and irrefutable testimony to Bahá’u’lláh’s established ascendancy over a routed opponent.
Bahá’u’lláh’s reaction to this most distressful episode in His ministry was, as already observed, characterized by acute anguish. “He who for months and years,” He laments, “I reared with the hand of loving-kindness hath risen to take My life.” “The cruelties inflicted by My oppressors,” He wrote, in allusion to these perfidious enemies, “have bowed Me down, and turned My hair white. Shouldst thou present thyself before My throne, thou wouldst fail to recognize the Ancient Beauty, for the freshness of His countenance is altered, and its brightness hath faded, by reason of the oppression of the infidels.” “By God!” He cries out, “No spot is left on My body that hath not been touched by the spears of thy machinations.” And again: “Thou hast perpetrated against thy Brother what no man hath perpetrated against another.” “What hath proceeded from thy pen,” He, furthermore, has affirmed, “hath caused the Countenances of Glory to be prostrated upon the dust, hath rent in twain the Veil of Grandeur in the Sublime Paradise, and lacerated the hearts of the favored ones established upon the loftiest seats.” And yet, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, a forgiving Lord assures this same brother, this “source of perversion,” “from whose own soul the winds of passion had risen and blown upon him,” to “fear not because of thy deeds,” bids him “return unto God, humble, submissive and lowly,” and affirms that “He will put away from thee thy sins,” and that “thy Lord is the Forgiving, the Mighty, the All-Merciful.”
The “Most Great Idol” had at the bidding and through the power of Him Who is the Fountain-head of the Most Great Justice been cast out of the community of the Most Great Name, confounded, abhorred and broken. Cleansed from this pollution, delivered from this horrible possession, God’s infant Faith could now forge ahead, and, despite the turmoil that had convulsed it, demonstrate its capacity to fight further battles, capture loftier heights, and win mightier victories.
A temporary breach had admittedly been made in the ranks of its supporters. Its glory had been eclipsed, and its annals stained forever. Its name, however, could not be obliterated, its spirit was far from broken, nor could this so-called schism tear its fabric asunder. The Covenant of the Báb, to which reference has already been made, with its immutable truths, incontrovertible prophecies, and repeated warnings, stood guard over that Faith, insuring its integrity, demonstrating its incorruptibility, and perpetuating its influence.
Though He Himself was bent with sorrow, and still suffered from the effects of the attempt on His life, and though He was well aware a further banishment was probably impending, yet, undaunted by the blow which His Cause had sustained, and the perils with which it was encompassed, Bahá’u’lláh arose with matchless power, even before the ordeal was overpast, to proclaim the Mission with which He had been entrusted to those who, in East and West, had the reins of supreme temporal authority in their grasp. The day-star of His Revelation was, through this very Proclamation, destined to shine in its meridian glory, and His Faith manifest the plenitude of its divine power.
A period of prodigious activity ensued which, in its repercussions, outshone the vernal years of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry. “Day and night,” an eye-witness has written, “the Divine verses were raining down in such number that it was impossible to record them. Mírzá Áqá Ján wrote them as they were dictated, while the Most Great Branch was continually occupied in transcribing them. There was not a moment to spare.” “A number of secretaries,” Nabíl has testified, “were busy day and night and yet they were unable to cope with the task. Among them was Mírzá Báqir-i-Shírází.… He alone transcribed no less than two thousand verses every day. He labored during six or seven months. Every month the equivalent of several volumes would be transcribed by him and sent to Persia. About twenty volumes, in his fine penmanship, he left behind as a remembrance for Mírzá Áqá Ján.” Bahá’u’lláh, Himself, referring to the verses revealed by Him, has written: “Such are the outpourings … from the clouds of Divine Bounty that within the space of an hour the equivalent of a thousand verses hath been revealed.” “So great is the grace vouchsafed in this day that in a single day and night, were an amanuensis capable of accomplishing it to be found, the equivalent of the Persian Bayán would be sent down from the heaven of Divine holiness.” “I swear by God!” He, in another connection has affirmed, “In those days the equivalent of all that hath been sent down aforetime unto the Prophets hath been revealed.” “That which hath already been revealed in this land (Adrianople),” He, furthermore, referring to the copiousness of His writings, has declared, “secretaries are incapable of transcribing. It has, therefore, remained for the most part untranscribed.”
Already in the very midst of that grievous crisis, and even before it came to a head, Tablets unnumbered were streaming from the pen of Bahá’u’lláh, in which the implications of His newly-asserted claims were fully expounded. The Súriy-i-Amr, the Lawḥ-i-Nuqṭih, the Lawḥ-i-Aḥmad, the Súriy-i-Aṣḥáb, the Lawḥ-i-Sayyáḥ, the Súriy-i-Damm, the Súriy-i-Ḥajj, the Lawḥu’r-Rúḥ, the Lawḥu’r-Riḍván, the Lawḥu’t-Tuqá were among the Tablets which His pen had already set down when He transferred His residence to the house of ‘Izzat Áqá. Almost immediately after the “Most Great Separation” had been effected, the weightiest Tablets associated with His sojourn in Adrianople were revealed. The Súriy-i-Múlúk, the most momentous Tablet revealed by Bahá’u’lláh (Súrih of Kings) in which He, for the first time, directs His words collectively to the entire company of the monarchs of East and West, and in which the Sulṭán of Turkey, and his ministers, the kings of Christendom, the French and Persian Ambassadors accredited to the Sublime Porte, the Muslim ecclesiastical leaders in Constantinople, its wise men and inhabitants, the people of Persia and the philosophers of the world are separately addressed; the Kitáb-i-Badí‘, His apologia, written to refute the accusations levelled against Him by Mírzá Mihdíy-i-Rashtí, corresponding to the Kitáb-i-Íqán, revealed in defense of the Bábí Revelation; the Munájátháy-i-Ṣiyám (Prayers for Fasting), written in anticipation of the Book of His Laws; the first Tablet to Napoleon III, in which the Emperor of the French is addressed and the sincerity of his professions put to the test; the Lawḥ-i-Sulṭán, His detailed epistle to Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, in which the aims, purposes and principles of His Faith are expounded and the validity of His Mission demonstrated; the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, begun in the village of Káshánih on His way to Gallipoli, and completed shortly after at Gyáwur-Kyuy—these may be regarded not only as the most outstanding among the innumerable Tablets revealed in Adrianople, but as occupying a foremost position among all the writings of the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation.
In His message to the kings of the earth, Bahá’u’lláh, in the Súriy-i-Múlúk, discloses the character of His Mission; exhorts them to embrace His Message; affirms the validity of the Báb’s Revelation; reproves them for their indifference to His Cause; enjoins them to be just and vigilant, to compose their differences and reduce their armaments; expatiates on His afflictions; commends the poor to their care; warns them that “Divine chastisement” will “assail” them “from every direction,” if they refuse to heed His counsels, and prophesies His “triumph upon earth” though no king be found who would turn his face towards Him.
The kings of Christendom, more specifically, Bahá’u’lláh, in that same Tablet, censures for having failed to “welcome” and “draw nigh” unto Him Who is the “Spirit of Truth,” and for having persisted in “disporting” themselves with their “pastimes and fancies,” and declares to them that they “shall be called to account” for their doings, “in the presence of Him Who shall gather together the entire creation.”
He bids Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz “hearken to the speech … of Him Who unerringly treadeth the Straight Path”; exhorts him to direct in person the affairs of his people, and not to repose confidence in unworthy ministers; admonishes him not to rely on his treasures, nor to “overstep the bounds of moderation” but to deal with his subjects with “undeviating justice”; and acquaints him with the overwhelming burden of His own tribulations. In that same Tablet He asserts His innocence and His loyalty to the Sulṭán and his ministers; describes the circumstances of His banishment from the capital; and assures him of His prayers to God on his behalf.
To this same Sulṭán He, moreover, as attested by the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, transmitted, while in Gallipoli, a verbal message through a Turkish officer named ‘Umar, requesting the sovereign to grant Him a ten minute interview, “so that he may demand whatsoever he would deem to be a sufficient testimony and would regard as proof of the veracity of Him Who is the Truth,” adding that “should God enable Him to produce it, let him, then, release these wronged ones and leave them to themselves.”
To Napoleon III Bahá’u’lláh addressed a specific Tablet, which was forwarded through one of the French ministers to the Emperor, in which He dwelt on the sufferings endured by Himself and His followers; avowed their innocence; reminded him of his two pronouncements on behalf of the oppressed and the helpless; and, desiring to test the sincerity of his motives, called upon him to “inquire into the condition of such as have been wronged,” and “extend his care to the weak,” and look upon Him and His fellow-exiles “with the eye of loving-kindness.”
To Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh He revealed a Tablet, the lengthiest epistle to any single sovereign, in which He testified to the unparalleled severity of the troubles that had touched Him; recalled the sovereign’s recognition of His innocence on the eve of His departure for ‘Iráq; adjured him to rule with justice; described God’s summons to Himself to arise and proclaim His Message; affirmed the disinterestedness of His counsels; proclaimed His belief in the unity of God and in His Prophets; uttered several prayers on the Sháh’s behalf; justified His own conduct in ‘Iráq; stressed the beneficent influence of His teachings; and laid special emphasis on His condemnation of all forms of violence and mischief. He, moreover, in that same Tablet, demonstrated the validity of His Mission; expressed the wish to be “brought face to face with the divines of the age, and produce proofs and testimonies in the presence of His Majesty,” which would establish the truth of His Cause; exposed the perversity of the ecclesiastical leaders in His own days, as well as in the days of Jesus Christ and of Muḥammad; prophesied that His sufferings will be followed by the “outpourings of a supreme mercy” and by an “overflowing prosperity”; drew a parallel between the afflictions that had befallen His kindred and those endured by the relatives of the Prophet Muḥammad; expatiated on the instability of human affairs; depicted the city to which He was about to be banished; foreshadowed the future abasement of the ‘ulamás; and concluded with yet another expression of hope that the sovereign might be assisted by God to “aid His Faith and turn towards His justice.”
To ‘Álí Páshá, the Grand Vizir, Bahá’u’lláh addressed the Súriy-i-Ra’ís. In this He bids him “hearken to the voice of God”; declares that neither his “grunting,” nor the “barking” of those around him, nor “the hosts of the world” can withhold the Almighty from achieving His purpose; accuses him of having perpetrated that which has caused “the Apostle of God to lament in the most sublime Paradise,” and of having conspired with the Persian Ambassador to harm Him; forecasts “the manifest loss” in which he would soon find himself; glorifies the Day of His own Revelation; prophesies that this Revelation will “erelong encompass the earth and all that dwell therein,” and that the “Land of Mystery (Adrianople) and what is beside it … shall pass out of the hands of the King, and commotions shall appear, and the voice of lamentation shall be raised, and the evidences of mischief shall be revealed on all sides”; identifies that same Revelation with the Revelations of Moses and of Jesus; recalls the “arrogance” of the Persian Emperor in the days of Muḥammad, the “transgression” of Pharaoh in the days of Moses, and of the “impiety” of Nimrod in the days of Abraham; and proclaims His purpose to “quicken the world and unite all its peoples.”
The ministers of the Sulṭán, He, in the Súriy-i-Múlúk, reprimands for their conduct, in passages in which He challenges the soundness of their principles, predicts that they will be punished for their acts, denounces their pride and injustice, asserts His integrity and detachment from the vanities of the world, and proclaims His innocence.
The French Ambassador accredited to the Sublime Porte, He, in that same Súrih, rebukes for having combined with the Persian Ambassador against Him; reminds him of the counsels of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospel of St. John; warns him that he will be held answerable for the things his hands have wrought; and counsels him, together with those like him, not to deal with any one as he has dealt with Him.
To the Persian Ambassador in Constantinople, He, in that same Tablet, addresses lengthy passages in which He exposes his delusions and calumnies, denounces his injustice and the injustice of his countrymen, assures him that He harbors no ill-will against him, declares that, should he realize the enormity of his deed, he would mourn all the days of his life, affirms that he will persist till his death in his heedlessness, justifies His own conduct in Ṭihrán and in ‘Iráq, and bears witness to the corruption of the Persian minister in Baghdád and to his collusion with this minister.
To the entire company of the ecclesiastical leaders of Sunní Islám in Constantinople He addresses a specific message in the same Súriy-i-Múlúk in which He denounces them as heedless and spiritually dead; reproaches them for their pride and for failing to seek His presence; unveils to them the full glory and significance of His Mission; affirms that their leaders, had they been alive, would have “circled around Him”; condemns them as “worshippers of names” and lovers of leadership; and avows that God will find naught acceptable from them unless they “be made new” in His estimation.
To the wise men of the City of Constantinople and the philosophers of the world He devotes the concluding passages of the Súriy-i-Múlúk, in which He cautions them not to wax proud before God; reveals to them the essence of true wisdom; stresses the importance of faith and upright conduct; rebukes them for having failed to seek enlightenment from Him; and counsels them not to “overstep the bounds of God,” nor turn their gaze towards the “ways of men and their habits.”
To the inhabitants of Constantinople He, in that same Tablet, declares that He “feareth no one except God,” that He speaks “naught except at His (God) bidding,” that He follows naught save God’s truth, that He found the governors and elders of the city as “children gathered about and disporting themselves with clay,” and that He perceived no one sufficiently mature to acquire the truths which God had taught Him. He bids them take firm hold on the precepts of God; warns them not to wax proud before God and His loved ones; recalls the tribulations, and extols the virtues, of the Imám Ḥusayn; prays that He Himself may suffer similar afflictions; prophesies that erelong God will raise up a people who will recount His troubles and demand the restitution of His rights from His oppressors; and calls upon them to give ear to His words, and return unto God and repent.
And finally, addressing the people of Persia, He, in that same Tablet, affirms that were they to put Him to death God will assuredly raise up One in His stead, and asserts that the Almighty will “perfect His light” though they, in their secret hearts, abhor it.
So weighty a proclamation, at so critical a period, by the Bearer of so sublime a Message, to the kings of the earth, Muslim and Christian alike, to ministers and ambassadors, to the ecclesiastical heads of Sunní Islám, to the wise men and inhabitants of Constantinople—the seat of both the Sultanate and the Caliphate—to the philosophers of the world and the people of Persia, is not to be regarded as the only outstanding event associated with Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in Adrianople. Other developments and happenings of great, though lesser, significance must be noted in these pages, if we would justly esteem the importance of this agitated and most momentous phase of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry.
It was at this period, and as a direct consequence of the rebellion and appalling downfall of Mírzá Yaḥyá, that certain disciples of Bahá’u’lláh (who may well rank among the “treasures” promised Him by God when bowed down with chains in the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán), including among them one of the Letters of the Living, some survivors of the struggle of Ṭabarsí, and the erudite Mírzá Aḥmad-i-Azghandí, arose to defend the newborn Faith, to refute, in numerous and detailed apologies, as their Master had done in the Kitáb-i-Badí‘, the arguments of His opponents, and to expose their odious deeds. It was at this period that the limits of the Faith were enlarged, when its banner was permanently planted in the Caucasus by the hand of Mullá Abu-Ṭálib and others whom Nabíl had converted, when its first Egyptian center was established at the time when Siyyid Ḥusayn-i-Káshání and Ḥájí Báqir-i-Káshání took up their residence in that country, and when to the lands already warmed and illuminated by the early rays of God’s Revelation—‘Iráq, Turkey and Persia—Syria was added. It was in this period that the greeting of “Alláh-u-Abhá” superseded the old salutation of “Alláh-u-Akbar,” and was simultaneously adopted in Persia and Adrianople, the first to use it in the former country, at the suggestion of Nabíl, being Mullá Muḥammad-i-Fúrúghí, one of the defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Ṭabarsí. It was in this period that the phrase “the people of the Bayán,” now denoting the followers of Mírzá Yaḥyá, was discarded, and was supplanted by the term “the people of Bahá.” It was during those days that Nabíl, recently honored with the title of Nabíl-i-A‘ẓam, in a Tablet specifically addressed to him, in which he was bidden to “deliver the Message” of his Lord “to East and West,” arose, despite intermittent persecutions, to tear asunder the “most grievous veil,” to implant the love of an adored Master in the hearts of His countrymen, and to champion the Cause which his Beloved had, under such tragic conditions, proclaimed. It was during those same days that Bahá’u’lláh instructed this same Nabíl to recite on His behalf the two newly revealed Tablets of the Pilgrimage, and to perform, in His stead, the rites prescribed in them, when visiting the Báb’s House in Shíráz and the Most Great House in Baghdád—an act that marks the inception of one of the holiest observances, which, in a later period, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was to formally establish. It was during this period that the “Prayers of Fasting” were revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, in anticipation of the Law which that same Book was soon to promulgate. It was, too, during the days of Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to Adrianople that a Tablet was addressed by Him to Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar-i-Shahmírzádí and Jamál-i-Burújirdí, two of His well-known followers in Ṭihrán, instructing them to transfer, with the utmost secrecy, the remains of the Báb from the Imám-Zádih Ma‘ṣúm, where they were concealed, to some other place of safety—an act which was subsequently proved to have been providential, and which may be regarded as marking another stage in the long and laborious transfer of those remains to the heart of Mt. Carmel, and to the spot which He, in His instructions to ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, was later to designate. It was during that period that the Súriy-i-Ghuṣn (Súrih of the Branch) was revealed, in which ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s future station is foreshadowed, and in which He is eulogized as the “Branch of Holiness,” the “Limb of the Law of God,” the “Trust of God,” “sent down in the form of a human temple”—a Tablet which may well be regarded as the harbinger of the rank which was to be bestowed upon Him, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and which was to be later elucidated and confirmed in the Book of His Covenant. And finally, it was during that period that the first pilgrimages were made to the residence of One Who was now the visible Center of a newly-established Faith—pilgrimages which by reason of their number and nature, an alarmed government in Persia was first impelled to restrict, and later to prohibit, but which were the precursors of the converging streams of Pilgrims who, from East and West, at first under perilous and arduous circumstances, were to direct their steps towards the prison-fortress of ‘Akká—pilgrimages which were to culminate in the historic arrival of a royal convert at the foot of Mt. Carmel, who, at the very threshold of a longed-for and much advertised pilgrimage, was so cruelly thwarted from achieving her purpose.
These notable developments, some synchronizing with, and others flowing from, the proclamation of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and from the internal convulsion which the Cause had undergone, could not escape the attention of the external enemies of the Movement, who were bent on exploiting to the utmost every crisis which the folly of its friends or the perfidy of renegades might at any time precipitate. The thick clouds had hardly been dissipated by the sudden outburst of the rays of a Sun, now shining from its meridian, when the darkness of another catastrophe—the last the Author of that Faith was destined to suffer—fell upon it, blackening its firmament and subjecting it to one of the severest trials it had as yet experienced.
Emboldened by the recent ordeals with which Bahá’u’lláh had been so cruelly afflicted, these enemies, who had been momentarily quiescent, began to demonstrate afresh, and in a number of ways, the latent animosity they nursed in their hearts. A persecution, varying in the degree of its severity, began once more to break out in various countries. In Ádhirbáyján and Zanján, in Níshápúr and Ṭihrán, the adherents of the Faith were either imprisoned, vilified, penalized, tortured or put to death. Among the sufferers may be singled out the intrepid Najaf-‘Alíy-i-Zanjání, a survivor of the struggle of Zanján, and immortalized in the “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” who, bequeathing the gold in his possession to his executioner, was heard to shout aloud “Yá Rabbíya’l-Abhá” before he was beheaded. In Egypt, a greedy and vicious consul-general extorted no less than a hundred thousand túmáns from a wealthy Persian convert, named Ḥájí Abu’l-Qásim-i-Shírází; arrested Ḥájí Mírzá Ḥaydar-‘Alí and six of his fellow-believers, and instigated their condemnation to a nine year exile in Khartúm, confiscating all the writings in their possession, and then threw into prison Nabíl, whom Bahá’u’lláh had sent to appeal to the Khedive on their behalf. In Baghdád and Káẓimayn indefatigable enemies, watching their opportunity, subjected Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful supporters to harsh and ignominious treatment; savagely disemboweled ‘Abdu’r-Rasúl-i-Qumí, as he was carrying water in a skin, at the hour of dawn, from the river to the Most Great House, and banished, amidst scenes of public derision, about seventy companions to Mosul, including women and children.
No less active were Mírzá Ḥusayn-Khán, the Mushíru’d-Dawlih, and his associates, who, determined to take full advantage of the troubles that had recently visited Bahá’u’lláh, arose to encompass His destruction. The authorities in the capital were incensed by the esteem shown Him by the governor Muḥammad Pásháy-i-Qibrisí, a former Grand Vizir, and his successors Sulaymán Páshá, of the Qádiríyyih Order, and particularly Khurshíd Páshá, who, openly and on many occasions, frequented the house of Bahá’u’lláh, entertained Him in the days of Ramaḍán, and evinced a fervent admiration for ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. They were well aware of the challenging tone Bahá’u’lláh had assumed in some of His newly revealed Tablets, and conscious of the instability prevailing in their own country. They were disturbed by the constant comings and goings of pilgrims in Adrianople, and by the exaggerated reports of Fu’ád Páshá, who had recently passed through on a tour of inspection. The petitions of Mírzá Yaḥyá which reached them through Siyyid Muḥammad, his agent, had provoked them. Anonymous letters (written by this same Siyyid and by an accomplice, Áqá Ján, serving in the Turkish artillery) which perverted the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, and which accused Him of having conspired with Bulgarian leaders and certain ministers of European powers to achieve, with the help of some thousands of His followers, the conquest of Constantinople, had filled their breasts with alarm. And now, encouraged by the internal dissensions which had shaken the Faith, and irritated by the evident esteem in which Bahá’u’lláh was held by the consuls of foreign powers stationed in Adrianople, they determined to take drastic and immediate action which would extirpate that Faith, isolate its Author and reduce Him to powerlessness. The indiscretions committed by some of its over-zealous followers, who had arrived in Constantinople, no doubt, aggravated an already acute situation.
The fateful decision was eventually arrived at to banish Bahá’u’lláh to the penal colony of ‘Akká, and Mírzá Yaḥyá to Famagusta in Cyprus. This decision was embodied in a strongly worded Farmán, issued by Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz. The companions of Bahá’u’lláh, who had arrived in the capital, together with a few who later joined them, as well as Áqá Ján, the notorious mischief-maker, were arrested, interrogated, deprived of their papers and flung into prison. The members of the community in Adrianople were, several times, summoned to the governorate to ascertain their number, while rumors were set afloat that they were to be dispersed and banished to different places or secretly put to death.
Suddenly, one morning, the house of Bahá’u’lláh was surrounded by soldiers, sentinels were posted at its gates, His followers were again summoned by the authorities, interrogated, and ordered to make ready for their departure. “The loved ones of God and His kindred,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s testimony in the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, “were left on the first night without food … The people surrounded the house, and Muslims and Christians wept over Us… We perceived that the weeping of the people of the Son (Christians) exceeded the weeping of others—a sign for such as ponder.” “A great tumult seized the people,” writes Áqá Riḍá, one of the stoutest supporters of Bahá’u’lláh, exiled with him all the way from Baghdád to ‘Akká, “All were perplexed and full of regret … Some expressed their sympathy, others consoled us, and wept over us … Most of our possessions were auctioned at half their value.” Some of the consuls of foreign powers called on Bahá’u’lláh, and expressed their readiness to intervene with their respective governments on His behalf—suggestions for which He expressed appreciation, but which He firmly declined. “The consuls of that city (Adrianople) gathered in the presence of this Youth at the hour of His departure,” He Himself has written, “and expressed their desire to aid Him. They, verily, evinced towards Us manifest affection.”
The Persian Ambassador promptly informed the Persian consuls in ‘Iráq and Egypt that the Turkish government had withdrawn its protection from the Bábís, and that they were free to treat them as they pleased. Several pilgrims, among whom was Ḥájí Muḥammad Ismá‘íl-i-Káshání, surnamed Anís in the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís, had, in the meantime, arrived in Adrianople, and had to depart to Gallipoli, without even beholding the face of their Master. Two of the companions were forced to divorce their wives, as their relatives refused to allow them to go into exile. Khurshíd Páshá, who had already several times categorically denied the written accusations sent him by the authorities in Constantinople, and had interceded vigorously on behalf of Bahá’u’lláh, was so embarrassed by the action of his government that he decided to absent himself when informed of His immediate departure from the city, and instructed the Registrar to convey to Him the purport of the Sulṭán’s edict. Ḥájí Ja‘far-i-Tabrízí, one of the believers, finding that his name had been omitted from the list of the exiles who might accompany Bahá’u’lláh, cut his throat with a razor, but was prevented in time from ending his life—an act which Bahá’u’lláh, in the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, characterizes as “unheard of in bygone centuries,” and which “God hath set apart for this Revelation, as an evidence of the power of His might.”
On the twenty-second of the month of Rabí‘u’th-Thání 1285 A.H. (August 12, 1868) Bahá’u’lláh and His family, escorted by a Turkish captain, Ḥasan Effendi by name, and other soldiers appointed by the local government, set out on their four-day journey to Gallipoli, riding in carriages and stopping on their way at Uzún-Kúprú and Káshánih, at which latter place the Súriy-i-Ra’ís was revealed. “The inhabitants of the quarter in which Bahá’u’lláh had been living, and the neighbors who had gathered to bid Him farewell, came one after the other,” writes an eye-witness, “with the utmost sadness and regret to kiss His hands and the hem of His robe, expressing meanwhile their sorrow at His departure. That day, too, was a strange day. Methinks the city, its walls and its gates bemoaned their imminent separation from Him.” “On that day,” writes another eye-witness, “there was a wonderful concourse of Muslims and Christians at the door of our Master’s house. The hour of departure was a memorable one. Most of those present were weeping and wailing, especially the Christians.” “Say,” Bahá’u’lláh Himself declares in the Súriy-i-Ra’ís, “this Youth hath departed out of this country and deposited beneath every tree and every stone a trust, which God will erelong bring forth through the power of truth.”
Several of the companions who had been brought from Constantinople were awaiting them in Gallipoli. On his arrival Bahá’u’lláh made the following pronouncement to Ḥasan Effendi, who, his duty discharged, was taking his leave: “Tell the king that this territory will pass out of his hands, and his affairs will be thrown into confusion.” “To this,” Áqá Riḍá, the recorder of that scene has written, “Bahá’u’lláh furthermore added: ‘Not I speak these words, but God speaketh them.’ In those moments He was uttering verses which we, who were downstairs, could overhear. They were spoken with such vehemence and power that, methinks, the foundations of the house itself trembled.”
Even in Gallipoli, where three nights were spent, no one knew what Bahá’u’lláh’s destination would be. Some believed that He and His brothers would be banished to one place, and the remainder dispersed, and sent into exile. Others thought that His companions would be sent back to Persia, while still others expected their immediate extermination. The government’s original order was to banish Bahá’u’lláh, Áqáy-i-Kalím and Mírzá Muḥammad-Qulí, with a servant to ‘Akká, while the rest were to proceed to Constantinople. This order, which provoked scenes of indescribable distress, was, however, at the insistence of Bahá’u’lláh, and by the instrumentality of ‘Umar Effendi, a major appointed to accompany the exiles, revoked. It was eventually decided that all the exiles, numbering about seventy, should be banished to ‘Akká. Instructions were, moreover, issued that a certain number of the adherents of Mírzá Yaḥyá, among whom were Siyyid Muḥammad and Áqá Ján, should accompany these exiles, whilst four of the companions of Bahá’u’lláh were ordered to depart with the Azalís for Cyprus.
So grievous were the dangers and trials confronting Bahá’u’lláh at the hour of His departure from Gallipoli that He warned His companions that “this journey will be unlike any of the previous journeys,” and that whoever did not feel himself “man enough to face the future” had best “depart to whatever place he pleaseth, and be preserved from tests, for hereafter he will find himself unable to leave”—a warning which His companions unanimously chose to disregard.
On the morning of the 2nd of Jamádíyu’l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 21, 1868) they all embarked in an Austrian-Lloyd steamer for Alexandria, touching at Madellí, and stopping for two days at Smyrna, where Jináb-i-Munír, surnamed Ismu’lláhu’l-Muníb, became gravely ill, and had, to his great distress, to be left behind in a hospital where he soon after died. In Alexandria they transhipped into a steamer of the same company, bound for Haifa, where, after brief stops at Port Said and Jaffa, they landed, setting out, a few hours later, in a sailing vessel, for ‘Akká, where they disembarked, in the course of the afternoon of the 12th of Jamádíyu’l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 31, 1868). It was at the moment when Bahá’u’lláh had stepped into the boat which was to carry Him to the landing-stage in Haifa that ‘Abdu’l-Ghaffar, one of the four companions condemned to share the exile of Mírzá Yaḥyá, and whose “detachment, love and trust in God” Bahá’u’lláh had greatly praised, cast himself, in his despair, into the sea, shouting “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá,” and was subsequently rescued and resuscitated with the greatest difficulty, only to be forced by adamant officials to continue his voyage, with Mírzá Yaḥyá’s party, to the destination originally appointed for him.