On the 23 of June 1870, the Purest Branch, offered up his life so that the Bahais could visit Bahaullah. Bahaullah testifies that “I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened and all that dwell on earth be united.

His sacrifice, particularly on this day, is worth remembering. This is the story of The Sacrifice of the Purest Branch.

On 22 June 1870, early in the evening, Bahá’u’lláh informed His son that he was not needed that day to write and that instead he could go up on the roof for prayer and meditation as was his custom [1].

Mírzá Mihdí was free, … , to climb the stairs to the flat prison roof, a favourite place for the prisoners to go. How good it felt at the end of a hot summer’s day to stand on the roof in the fresh evening air. [2]

There one gets a wonderful view of the pellucid blue of the Mediterranean, with the silhouette of Mount Carmel beyond the seascape; and to the other side lies stretched the plain of ‘Akka with the majestic peak of Mount Hermon in the background. [3]

Prison stairs from side

The stairs that lead to the roof of the prison in Akka

Mírzá Mihdí loved to walk on the roof, chanting his prayers or quitely meditating. The vast evening sky sprinkled with a few early stars made the prison seem farther away and God that much closer. Mírzá Mihdí always walked carefully around the unguarded skylight–a large hole in the roof that opened above the kitchen. This evening, like so many others, Mírzá Mihdí paced back and forth on the roof’s familiar space. Feelings of joy filled his soul as he wrapped himself deeply in prayer, and as his thoughts centered on the world within, his eyes closed to the world outside. [2]

Prison Cell Stairs to the roof

The stairs that lead to the roof of the prison from below.

… on that fateful evening as he chanted the verses of the Qasídiy-i-Varqá’íyyih, one of Bahá’u’lláh’s most moving poems revealed in Kurdistan, he was carried away in a state of utter detachment and joy. Mirza Mihdi, pacing up and down that roof-top engrossed with his thoughts and meditations, did not notice an open skylight and plunged through it to the floor below, falling upon a crate which pierced his chest. [3]

 

The Greatest Holy Leaf recounts:

The room into which he fell had a lofty ceiling; it was the living room of the family. No one was in the room at the time, but, hearing his cries, some of the family rushed in and found him lying in a heap on the floor with the blood pouring from his mouth. [4]

He was badly wounded, and bled profusely. He was so terribly injured that they had to remove his clothes by tearing them from him. [1]

 

Ashchi recounts:

We carried his precious person to his room and called a doctor who was an Italian, but he could not help… In spite of much pain and agony, and being weak, he warmly greeted those who came to his bedside, showered an abundance of love and favours upon them and apologized to everyone, saying he was ashamed that while they were all sitting, he had to lie down in their presence… [1]

Members of the Holy Family and some of the companions gathered around him and all were so distressed and grief-stricken that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with tearful eyes entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, prostrated Himself at His feet and begged for healing. Bahá’u’lláh is reported to have said ‘O my Greatest Branch, leave him in the hands of his God.’ He then proceeded to the bedside of his injured son, dismissed everyone from His presence and stayed beside him for some time. [1]

Bahá’u’lláh gently asked what had caused his fall. Mírzá Mihdí answered that he had been so carried away in prayer that he had forgotten about the hole in the roof as he walked and had accidently stepped through the skylight. [2]

At Mírzá Mihdí’s bedside, Bahá’u’lláh said that He wished to be alone with His son and dismissed everyone else from His presence. When the others had gone, father and son talked for some time. No one else knew what was said, except for one thing. Bahá’u’lláh promised Mírzá Mihdí that God could heal him completely. He had only to ask.

“What do you wish?” Bahá’u’lláh said gently to His son. “Tell Me.”

Despite his own pain, Mírzá Mihdí thought of all the Bahá’ís who longed to see their Lord. As he looked into his father’s loving face, the pure-hearted Mírzá Mihdí did not ask for his own healing. “I wish the people of Bahá to be able to attain Your presence, replied Mírzá Mihdí. Bahá’u’lláh accepted His beloved son’s final request. “And so it shall be,” He said, “God will grant your wish.” [2]

Within twenty-two hours of his fall he breathed his last. “Mihdí! O Mihdí!” Bahá’u’lláh lamented. [2]

Thus ended the life of one of whom Bahá’u’lláh states that he ‘was created of the light of Baha’, whose birth had taken place during some of the darkest hours in the history of the Faith, whose infancy had been spent within the cradle of adversity, whose soul at an early age had been set aglow with the fire of ordeal and separation, whose days of joy had been spent in exile and within the walls of a prison, and whose tragic death had clothed him with the crimson vesture of sacrifice, shedding thereby an imperishable lustre upon the Cause of his glorious Father. [1]

When the Purest Branch passed away, Shaykh Mahmud begged the Master to allow him to have the honour of washing the body and not to let anyone from the city of ‘Akká perform this service. The Master gave permission. A tent was pitched in the middle of the barracks. We placed his blessed body upon a table in the middle of the tent and Shaykh Mahmud began the task of washing it. The loved ones of God were wailing and lamenting with tearful eyes and, like unto moths, were circling around that candle which the hands of God had lighted. I (Ashchi) brought water in and was involved in washing the body. [1]

Glorified art Thou, O Lord, my God! Thou seest me in the hands of Mine enemies, and My son bloodstained before Thy face, O Thou in Whose hands is the kingdom of all names. I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened and all that dwell on earth be united.

The Most Great Branch, sorely stricken by the death of His dearly-loved brother, His grief, Ashchi remarks, imprinted on His visage, was during that period walking outside the tent with rapid paces, keeping watch. [3]

The Greatest Holy Leaf recounts:

As we could not leave the barracks, we could not bury our dead; nor had we the consolation of feeling that we could provide for him through others the grateful final tribute of a proper and befitting burial, as we had no means wherewith even to purchase a coffin. After some consideration and consultation among ourselves, finding that we had nothing to dispose of, and at a loss how to proceed, we told our Lord of the sad situation. He replied that there was a rug in His room which we could sell. At first we demurred, for in taking His rug we took the only comfort he had; but He insisted and we sold it. A coffin was then procured, and the remains of my deceased brother placed in it. [4]

“The death of this youngest and favourite child of a very gentle and sweet disposition―nearly broke his mother’s heart. We feared for her reason. When the Blessed Perfection was told of the condition of His wife, He went to her and said: ‘Your son has been taken by God that His people might be freed. His life was the ransom, and you should rejoice that you had a son so dear to give to the cause of God.’ When our mother heard these words she seemed to rally, ― knelt, and kissed the Blessed Perfection’s hands, and thanked him for what He had said. After that she did not shed a tear. [4]

The casket was carried high on the shoulders of men out of the barracks with utmost serenity and majesty. It was laid to rest outside ‘Akká in the graveyard of Nabi Salih … At the time of returning to the barracks an earth tremor shook the area and we all knew that it was the effect of the interment of that holy being. [1]

Nabil-i-A’zam has said that he, Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji and Nabil-i-Qa’ini were in Nazareth when the earth tremor occurred. It lasted for about three minutes and people were frightened. Later when they heard the news of the death of the Purest Branch they realized that it coincided with the timing of his burial and then they knew the reason for it. Bahá’u’lláh, in one of His Tablets referring to the Purest Branch, confirms the cause of the earth tremor in these words: When thou wast laid to rest in the earth, the earth itself trembled in its longing to meet thee. [1]

In December 1939 Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, in the face of great dangers and difficulties and in the company of a few friends, with great care and with his own hands, removed the remains of the Purest Branch, together with those of his illustrious mother, from two different cemeteries in ‘Akká, and at a profoundly moving ceremony on Christmas Day in the presence of a few believers, carried the caskets on his own shoulders and buried those sacred remains on the slope of Mount Carmel, adjacent to the resting place of the Greatest Holy Leaf and in the vicinity of the Shrine of the Báb. [1]

Monument_Gardens_Navvab_Mihdi

The remains of Mirza Mihdi, the Purest Branch, lies on the Monument Garden on the slope of Mount Carmel. The monument to the right is for the Purest Branch, next to his mothers monument.

Lauded be Thy name, O Lord my God! Thou seest me in this day shut up in my prison, and fallen into the hands of Thine adversaries, and beholdest my son (The Purest Branch) lying on the dust before Thy face. He is Thy servant, O my Lord, whom Thou hast caused to be related to Him Who is the Manifestation of Thyself and the Day-Spring of Thy Cause.At his birth he was afflicted through his separation from Thee, according to what had been ordained for him through Thine irrevocable decree. And when he had quaffed the cup of reunion with Thee, he was cast into prison for having believed in Thee and in Thy signs. He continued to serve Thy Beauty until he entered into this Most Great Prison. Thereupon I offered him up, O my God, as a sacrifice in Thy path. Thou well knowest what they who love Thee have endured through this trial that hath caused the kindreds of the earth to wail, and beyond them the Concourse on high to lament.

I beseech Thee, O my Lord, by him and by his exile and his imprisonment, to send down upon such as loved him what will quiet their hearts and bless their works. Potent art Thou to do as Thou willest. No God is there but Thee, the Almighty, the Most Powerful. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 34)

 

Glorified art Thou, O Lord, my God! Thou seest me in the hands of Mine enemies, and My son bloodstained before Thy face, O Thou in Whose hands is the kingdom of all names. I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened and all that dwell on earth be united.

Blessed art thou, and blessed he that turneth unto thee, and visiteth thy grave, and draweth nigh, through thee, unto God, the Lord of all that was and shall be…. I testify that thou didst return in meekness unto thine abode. Great is thy blessedness and the blessedness of them that hold fast unto the hem of thy outspread robe…. Thou art, verily, the trust of God and His treasure in this land. Erelong will God reveal through thee that which He hath desired. He, verily, is the Truth, the Knower of things unseen. When thou wast laid to rest in the earth, the earth itself trembled in its longing to meet thee. Thus hath it been decreed, and yet the people perceive not…. Were We to recount the mysteries of thine ascension, they that are asleep would waken, and all beings would be set ablaze with the fire of the remembrance of My Name, the Mighty, the Loving. 

At this very moment My son is being washed before My face, after Our having sacrificed him in the Most Great Prison. Thereat have the dwellers of the Abha Tabernacle wept with a great weeping, and such as have suffered imprisonment with this Youth in the path of God, the Lord of the promised Day, lamented. Under such conditions My Pen hath not been prevented from remembering its Lord, the Lord of all nations. It summoneth the people unto God, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful. This is the day whereon he that was created by the light of Baha has suffered martyrdom, at a time when he lay imprisoned at the hands of his enemies. 

Upon thee, O Branch of God! be the remembrance of God and His praise, and the praise of all that dwell in the Realm of Immortality, and of all the denizens of the Kingdom of Names. Happy art thou in that thou hast been faithful to the Covenant of God and His Testament, until Thou didst sacrifice thyself before the face of thy Lord, the Almighty, the Unconstrained. Thou, in truth, hast been wronged, and to this testifieth the Beauty of Him, the Self-Subsisting. Thou didst, in the first days of thy life, bear that which hath caused all things to groan; and made every pillar to tremble. Happy is the one that remembereth thee, and draweth nigh, through thee, unto God, the Creator of the Morn. (This Decisive Hour, sec. 64.10.)

 

References

[1] Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahaullah Vol 3

[2] Druzelle Cederquist, The Story of Bahaullah

[3] Balyuzi, The King of Glory

[4] Phelps, The Master in Akka

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