‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s unexpected and dramatic release from His forty-year confinement dealt a blow to the ambitions cherished by the Covenant-breakers as devastating as that which, a decade before, had shattered their hopes of undermining His authority and of ousting Him from His God-given position. Now, on the very morrow of His triumphant liberation a third blow befell them as stunning as those which preceded it and hardly less spectacular than they. Within a few months of the historic decree which set Him free, in the very year that witnessed the downfall of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, that same power from on high which had enabled ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá to preserve inviolate the rights divinely conferred on Him, to establish His Father’s Faith in the North American continent, and to triumph over His royal oppressor, enabled Him to achieve one of the most signal acts of His ministry: the removal of the Báb’s remains from their place of concealment in Ṭihrán to Mt. Carmel. He Himself testified, on more than one occasion, that the safe transfer of these remains, the construction of a befitting mausoleum to receive them, and their final interment with His own hands in their permanent resting-place constituted one of the three principal objectives which, ever since the inception of His mission, He had conceived it His paramount duty to achieve. This act indeed deserves to rank as one of the outstanding events in the first Bahá’í century.
As observed in a previous chapter the mangled bodies of the Báb and His fellow-martyr, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, were removed, in the middle of the second night following their execution, through the pious intervention of Ḥájí Sulaymán Khán, from the edge of the moat where they had been cast to a silk factory owned by one of the believers of Mílán, and were laid the next day in a wooden casket, and thence carried to a place of safety. Subsequently, according to Bahá’u’lláh’s instructions, they were transported to Ṭihrán and placed in the shrine of Imám-Zádih Ḥasan. They were later removed to the residence of Ḥájí Sulaymán Khán himself in the Sar-Chashmih quarter of the city, and from his house were taken to the shrine of Imám-Zádih Ma‘ṣum, where they remained concealed until the year 1284 A.H. (1867–1868), when a Tablet, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in Adrianople, directed Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar-i-Shahmirzádí and Jamál-i-Burújirdí to transfer them without delay to some other spot, an instruction which, in view of the subsequent reconstruction of that shrine, proved to have been providential.
Unable to find a suitable place in the suburb of Sháh ‘Abdu’l-‘Aẓím, Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar and his companion continued their search until, on the road leading to Chashmih-‘Alí, they came upon the abandoned and dilapidated Masjid-i-Mashá’u’lláh, where they deposited, within one of its walls, after dark, their precious burden, having first re-wrapt the remains in a silken shroud brought by them for that purpose. Finding the next day to their consternation that the hiding-place had been discovered, they clandestinely carried the casket through the gate of the capital direct to the house of Mírzá Ḥasan-i-Vazír, a believer and son-in-law of Ḥájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alíy-i-Tafríshí, the Majdu’l-Ashráf, where it remained for no less than fourteen months. The long-guarded secret of its whereabouts becoming known to the believers, they began to visit the house in such numbers that a communication had to be addressed by Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar to Bahá’u’lláh, begging for guidance in the matter. Ḥájí Sháh Muḥammad-i-Manshádí, surnamed Amínu’l-Bayán, was accordingly commissioned to receive the Trust from him, and bidden to exercise the utmost secrecy as to its disposal.
Assisted by another believer, Ḥájí Sháh Muḥammad buried the casket beneath the floor of the inner sanctuary of the shrine of Imám-Zádih Zayd, where it lay undetected until Mírzá Asadu’lláh-i-Iṣfahání was informed of its exact location through a chart forwarded to him by Bahá’u’lláh. Instructed by Bahá’u’lláh to conceal it elsewhere, he first removed the remains to his own house in Ṭihrán, after which they were deposited in several other localities such as the house of Ḥusayn-‘Alíy-i-Iṣfahání and that of Muḥammad-Karím-i-‘Aṭṭár, where they remained hidden until the year 1316 (1899) A.H., when, in pursuance of directions issued by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, this same Mírzá Asadu’lláh, together with a number of other believers, transported them by way of Iṣfahán, Kirmánsháh, Baghdád and Damascus, to Beirut and thence by sea to ‘Akká, arriving at their destination on the 19th of the month of Ramaḍán 1316 A.H. (January 31, 1899), fifty lunar years after the Báb’s execution in Tabríz.
In the same year that this precious Trust reached the shores of the Holy Land and was delivered into the hands of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, He, accompanied by Dr. Ibráhím Khayru’lláh, whom He had already honored with the titles of “Bahá’s Peter,” “The Second Columbus” and “Conqueror of America,” drove to the recently purchased site which had been blessed and selected by Bahá’u’lláh on Mt. Carmel, and there laid, with His own hands, the foundation-stone of the edifice, the construction of which He, a few months later, was to commence. About that same time, the marble sarcophagus, designed to receive the body of the Báb, an offering of love from the Bahá’ís of Rangoon, had, at ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s suggestion, been completed and shipped to Haifa.
No need to dwell on the manifold problems and preoccupations which, for almost a decade, continued to beset ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá until the victorious hour when He was able to bring to a final consummation the historic task entrusted to Him by His Father. The risks and perils with which Bahá’u’lláh and later His Son had been confronted in their efforts to insure, during half a century, the protection of those remains were but a prelude to the grave dangers which, at a later period, the Center of the Covenant Himself had to face in the course of the construction of the edifice designed to receive them, and indeed until the hour of His final release from His incarceration.
The long-drawn out negotiations with the shrewd and calculating owner of the building-site of the holy Edifice, who, under the influence of the Covenant-breakers, refused for a long time to sell; the exorbitant price at first demanded for the opening of a road leading to that site and indispensable to the work of construction; the interminable objections raised by officials, high and low, whose easily aroused suspicions had to be allayed by repeated explanations and assurances given by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá Himself; the dangerous situation created by the monstrous accusations brought by Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí and his associates regarding the character and purpose of that building; the delays and complications caused by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s prolonged and enforced absence from Haifa, and His consequent inability to supervise in person the vast undertaking He had initiated—all these were among the principal obstacles which He, at so critical a period in His ministry, had to face and surmount ere He could execute in its entirety the Plan, the outline of which Bahá’u’lláh had communicated to Him on the occasion of one of His visits to Mt. Carmel.
“Every stone of that building, every stone of the road leading to it,” He, many a time was heard to remark, “I have with infinite tears and at tremendous cost, raised and placed in position.” “One night,” He, according to an eye-witness, once observed, “I was so hemmed in by My anxieties that I had no other recourse than to recite and repeat over and over again a prayer of the Báb which I had in My possession, the recital of which greatly calmed Me. The next morning the owner of the plot himself came to Me, apologized and begged Me to purchase his property.”
Finally, in the very year His royal adversary lost his throne, and at the time of the opening of the first American Bahá’í Convention, convened in Chicago for the purpose of creating a permanent national organization for the construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá brought His undertaking to a successful conclusion, in spite of the incessant machinations of enemies both within and without. On the 28th of the month of Ṣafar 1327 A.H., the day of the first Naw-Rúz (1909), which He celebrated after His release from His confinement, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá had the marble sarcophagus transported with great labor to the vault prepared for it, and in the evening, by the light of a single lamp, He laid within it, with His own hands—in the presence of believers from the East and from the West and in circumstances at once solemn and moving—the wooden casket containing the sacred remains of the Báb and His companion.
When all was finished, and the earthly remains of the Martyr-Prophet of Shíráz were, at long last, safely deposited for their everlasting rest in the bosom of God’s holy mountain, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, Who had cast aside His turban, removed His shoes and thrown off His cloak, bent low over the still open sarcophagus, His silver hair waving about His head and His face transfigured and luminous, rested His forehead on the border of the wooden casket, and, sobbing aloud, wept with such a weeping that all those who were present wept with Him. That night He could not sleep, so overwhelmed was He with emotion.
“The most joyful tidings is this,” He wrote later in a Tablet announcing to His followers the news of this glorious victory, “that the holy, the luminous body of the Báb … after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquility has, through the mercy of the Abhá Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Rúz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel … By a strange coincidence, on that same day of Naw-Rúz, a cablegram was received from Chicago, announcing that the believers in each of the American centers had elected a delegate and sent to that city … and definitely decided on the site and construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár.”
With the transference of the remains of the Báb—Whose advent marks the return of the Prophet Elijah—to Mt. Carmel, and their interment in that holy mountain, not far from the cave of that Prophet Himself, the Plan so gloriously envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, in the evening of His life, had been at last executed, and the arduous labors associated with the early and tumultuous years of the ministry of the appointed Center of His Covenant crowned with immortal success. A focal center of Divine illumination and power, the very dust of which ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá averred had inspired Him, yielding in sacredness to no other shrine throughout the Bahá’í world except the Sepulcher of the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation Himself, had been permanently established on that mountain, regarded from time immemorial as sacred. A structure, at once massive, simple and imposing; nestling in the heart of Carmel, the “Vineyard of God”; flanked by the Cave of Elijah on the west, and by the hills of Galilee on the east; backed by the plain of Sharon, and facing the silver-city of ‘Akká, and beyond it the Most Holy Tomb, the Heart and Qiblih of the Bahá’í world; overshadowing the colony of German Templars who, in anticipation of the “coming of the Lord,” had forsaken their homes and foregathered at the foot of that mountain, in the very year of Bahá’u’lláh’s Declaration in Baghdád (1863), the mausoleum of the Báb had now, with heroic effort and in impregnable strength been established as “the Spot round which the Concourse on high circle in adoration.” Events have already demonstrated through the extension of the Edifice itself, through the embellishment of its surroundings, through the acquisition of extensive endowments in its neighborhood, and through its proximity to the resting-places of the wife, the son and daughter of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, that it was destined to acquire with the passing of the years a measure of fame and glory commensurate with the high purpose that had prompted its founding. Nor will it, as the years go by, and the institutions revolving around the World Administrative Center of the future Bahá’í Commonwealth are gradually established, cease to manifest the latent potentialities with which that same immutable purpose has endowed it. Resistlessly will this Divine institution flourish and expand, however fierce the animosity which its future enemies may evince, until the full measure of its splendor will have been disclosed before the eyes of all mankind.
“Haste thee, O Carmel!” Bahá’u’lláh, significantly addressing that holy mountain, has written, “for lo, the light of the Countenance of God … hath been lifted upon thee … Rejoice, for God hath, in this Day, established upon thee His throne, hath made thee the dawning-place of His signs and the dayspring of the evidences of His Revelation. Well is it with him that circleth around thee, that proclaimeth the revelation of thy glory, and recounteth that which the bounty of the Lord thy God hath showered upon thee.” “Call out to Zion, O Carmel!” He, furthermore, has revealed in that same Tablet, “and announce the joyful tidings: He that was hidden from mortal eyes is come! His all-conquering sovereignty is manifest; His all-encompassing splendor is revealed. Beware lest thou hesitate or halt. Hasten forth and circumambulate the City of God that hath descended from heaven, the celestial Kaaba round which have circled in adoration the favored of God, the pure in heart, and the company of the most exalted angels.”