Leaving the “Most Holy Habitation”

On the thirty-first day after Naw-Ruz in 1863*, Bahá’u’lláh left “for the last time, amidst weeping and lamentation, His “Most Holy Habitation,” out of which had “gone forth the breath of the All-Glorious,” and from which had poured forth, in “ceaseless strains,” the “melody of the All-Merciful,” [1]

When Baha’u’llah appeared in the courtyard of His house, His companions, grief-stricken and disconsolate, prostrated themselves at His feet. For some time He stood there, amid the weeping and lamentations of His loved ones, speaking words of comfort and promising to receive each of them later in the garden. In a Tablet Baha’u’llah mentions that when He had walked some way towards the gate, amid the crowds, a child of only a few years ran forward and, clinging to His robes, wept aloud, begging Him in his tender young voice not to leave. In such an atmosphere, where emotions had been so deeply stirred, this action on the part of a small child moved the hearts and brought further grief to everyone.

Outside the house, the lamentation and weeping of those who did not confess to be His followers were no less spectacular and heartrending. Everyone in the crowded street sought to approach Him. Some prostrated themselves at His feet, others waited to hear a few words and yet others were content with a touch of His hands or 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 Baha’u’llah. These demonstrations continued all the way to the riverbank. [2]

What else can I say? In this manner, when the Ancient Beauty stepped outside [of the inner apartments], the people rushed forward from all directions. He descended the steps from the courtyard of the Blessed House into the narrow street before it joined the main road. The entire area was thronged with people, both believers and otherwise, in such a way that movement was not possible. Friends could not be distinguished from strangers. The sound of lamentation and grief was raised in all directions. … Everyone was crying. The Iranians were saying, “O God, we have been orphaned! We are dying! Our bright days have turned dark!” Their howling and weeping had reached the highest pitch. And the Arab friends, whether believers or otherwise, similarly were crying and sobbing, “O Master, O Siyyid! What are we to do when separated from Thee, O our Master?” Wailing, crying and lamentation reached the highest pinnacles. [2]

 

Crossing the River

Baha’u’llah, as he walked to the bank of the Tigris, gave generously to the poor and the deprived, and consoled and comforted the people who were never to see Him again. But they were now so acutely conscious of their evident and grievous loss that words failed to console them. And it must be remembered that the vast majority of them were men and women not in any way connected with the Faith of the Bab. Ibn-Alusi, a leading cleric of the Sunni community, was seen weeping over their plight, and he was heard to heap imprecations on Nasiri’d-Din Shah, who was generally held responsible for Baha’u’llah’s exile from Baghdad. ‘This man is not Nasiri’d-Din – the Helper of Religion; he is Mukhdhili’d-Din – the Abaser of Religion.’ Such being the reaction of men in high position not affiliated to the Faith of the Bab, one can better imagine the feelings of those Babis who, perforce, had to remain in Baghdad. Aqa Rida writes that so disconsolate were they that those who were to accompany Baha’u’llah sorrowed with them. ‘God alone knows’, he writes, ‘how those believers who were not to come fared on that day.’ [4]

Baha’u’llah arrived to “the bank of the Tigris, where a quffih (round boat made from woven reeds and waterproofed with tar) awaited to take Him to the further bank, to the garden of Najib Pasha (known as the Najibiyyih). The thoroughfare to the riverside brimmed with people, men and women, young and old, from all walks of life, who had gathered to see Him go and bewail His departure.” [4]

He, at length, reached the banks of the river, and was ferried across, accompanied by His sons and amanuensis, to the Najibiyyih Garden, situated on the opposite shore. “O My companions,” He thus addressed the faithful band that surrounded Him before He embarked, “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.” [1]

 

Arriving to the Ridván Garden

Baha’u’llah was then ferried across the river, accompanied by three of His sons: ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Mirza Mihdi (the Purest Branch) and Muhammad-‘Ali, who were 18, 14 and 10 years of age, respectively. With them also was His amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan. The identity of others who may have accompanied Him, of those in the garden who pitched His tent and made 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 muezzin (the one who calls to prayer), reverberated through the garden as the King of Glory entered it. There, Baha’u’llah appeared in the utmost joy, walking majestically in its flower-lined avenues and among its trees. The fragrance of the roses and the singing of the nightingales created an atmosphere of beauty and enchantment. [2]

Those who were entrusted to assist with this move, transferred all the provisions and raised the tabernacle of God’s mighty sovereignty in the midst of the Garden, and firmly planted the ropes of all tents throughout the Garden.

On that same day the river overflowed and only on the ninth day was it possible for His family to join Him in the Garden.[5]

At that time the Garden was filled with red roses, colorful flowers, divers tulips and green and verdant trees. With the utmost refinement, purity and gracefulness, a pool of water was situated in the middle of [Bahá’u’lláh’s] tent; and outside, everywhere streams of water flowed in all directions. Every believer was thoroughly devoted to ensuring utmost order and grace in all affairs in such wise that the Garden had never seen such beauty in all its days. [3]

 

So challenging a Claim

‘Abdu’l-Baha has described how, upon His arrival in the garden, Baha’u’llah declared His station to those of His companions who were present and announced with great joy the inauguration of the Festival of Ridvan. [2]

Undaunted by the prospect of the appalling adversities which, as predicted by Himself, were soon to overtake Him; on the eve of a second banishment which would be fraught with many hazards and perils, and would bring Him still farther from His native land, the cradle of His Faith, to a country alien in race, in language and in culture; acutely conscious of the extension of the circle of His adversaries, among whom were soon to be numbered a monarch more despotic than Nasiri’d-Din Shah, and ministers no less unyielding in their hostility than either Haji Mirza Aqasi or the Amir-Nizam; undeterred by the perpetual interruptions occasioned by the influx of a host of visitors who thronged His tent, Baha’u’llah chose in that critical and seemingly unpropitious hour to advance so challenging a claim, to lay bare the mystery surrounding His person, and to assume, in their plenitude, the power and the authority which were the exclusive privileges of the One Whose advent the Bab had prophesied. [1]

Rejoice with exceeding gladness, O people of Bahá, 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 splendors 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. [6]

Sadness and grief vanished and the believers were filled with delight. Although Baha’u’llah 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. [2]

 

The Three Statements

Although the manner of His Declaration is not clear, there is a Tablet …, which throws light on some of Bahá’u’lláh’s utterances. According to this Tablet, on the first day of Ridván Bahá’u’lláh made three particularly important statements to His followers.

The first was to forbid the use of the sword in His Dispensation. During the ministry of the Báb the believers defended themselves against their persecutors; Bahá’u’lláh clearly forbade this. In many Tablets He counselled His followers to teach the Cause with wisdom and prudence and not to arouse the antagonism of a fanatic enemy. He enjoined caution when teaching those who were determined to uproot the foundation of the Faith and harm its adherents. …

The second statement made by Bahá’u’lláh on the first day of Ridván, as attested in the aforementioned Tablet, was that no other Manifestation of God would appear before the expiration of a thousand years. …

Bahá’u’lláh’s third statement on the first day of Ridván 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. [7]

 

* Thirty-one days after Naw-Rúz (21 March) normally falls on 21 April. Occasionally, as in the year 1863, when the vernal equinox takes place after sunset, Naw-Rúz is celebrated on 22 March.

 

References

The excerpts above are not identical with their original source. Some minor modifications have been made such including an explanation of some words in parenthesis.

[1] God Passes By

[2] The Child of the Covenant (Adib Taherzadeh)

[3] Memoirs of Aqa Husayn Ashchi translated by Ahang Rabbani

[4] King of Glory (H M Balyuzi)

[5] A Flame of Fire (A. Q. Faizi)

[6] Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh nr XIV

[7] The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh (Adib Taherzadeh) Vol. Chapter 16

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