The afternoon of departure arrived. What am I to say? When the pen wanted to describe this mood, the pen broke and the paper was torn. [1]

The Offer of the Governor

Another distinguished visitor was the governor himself, Namiq Pasha, who, after expressing in the most respectful terms his regret at the developments which had precipitated Baha’u’llah’s departure, and assuring Him of his readiness to aid Him in any way he could, handed to the officer appointed to accompany Him a written order, commanding the governors of the provinces through which the exiles would be passing to extend to them the utmost consideration. “Whatever you require,” he, after profuse apologies, informed Baha’u’llah, “you have but to command. We are ready to carry it out. Extend thy consideration to Our loved ones,” was the reply to his insistent and reiterated offers, “and deal with them with kindness” – a request to which he gave his warm and unhesitating assent. [2]


Departure from the Garden

The departure of Baha’u’llah 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 eyewitness, “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.” [2]


Weeping and Wailing

The believers who were to stay behind in Baghdad were weeping and wailing in such wise that from their lamentation most believers who were to depart with Bahá’u’lláh began to sob and cry as well, as were the denizens of the Exalted Tabernacle, from whose eyes tears poured forth and the sound of weeping and wailing filled the air. In truth, each one like “a mother grieving over a lost son lamented and sobbed” to the highest pinnacles of heaven. The nonbelievers, including, the ‘ulamá, jurists, rulers and commoners – in short, every person who was present – were all crying and weeping as well. [1]


… Ahmad begged Baha’u’llah to be amongst His companions in exile, but Baha’u’llah did not accede to this request. He chose a few people and instructed the others to stay to teach and protect the Cause emphasizing that this would be better for the Faith of God. At the time of His departure, those who were left behind stood in a row and all were so overcome with sorrow that they burst into tears. Baha’u’llah again approached them and consoled them saying: “It is better for the Cause. Some of these people who accompany me are liable to do mischief; therefore I am taking them with Myself.” One of the friends could scarcely control his anguish and sorrow. He addressed the crowd reciting this poem of Sa’di:

“Let us all rise to weep like unto the clouds of the Spring Season. On the day when lovers are separated from their Beloved, one can even hear the lamentations of stones.”

Baha’u’llah then said, “Verily this was said for this day.” [3]


The Arabian Stallion

At last the mules were loaded, the kajavihs (howdahs) were settled on them, the ladies and children took their seats in the Kajavihs, and towards sunset the red roan stallion was brought out for Baha’u’llah to mount. [4]

When His blessed foot reached the stirrup, the Arabian stallion bent his knees and lowered himself, which caused the people to lament even louder. To the Arabian horse, Bahá’u’lláh said, “O Steed! Even you have perceived that the Temple of God is about to mount you!” In truth, this remark burnt the hearts in such a way that everyone became unconscious of himself. The Ancient Beauty showered all with His words of consolation and waved farewell to all. When the steed moved, everyone shouted, “God is most Glorious! Upon Him rest Majesty and Splendor, and thus has the Resurrection come to pass and its pre-conditions! And that Hour which all servants were awaiting has come to pass. The whole of the earth are but His handful, and the heavens were rolled up in His right hand: Glory be to Him! High is He above the Partners they attribute to Him!”[20] Each would tell the other and would speak of the mysteries of this Manifestation. “If ye did not see the Resurrection, behold it now!” [1]

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-traveler, “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,” Baha’u’llah 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.” These marks of homage and devotion continued to surround Him until He was installed in Constantinople. [2]


God is the Greatest

All those whose narratives have come down to us state that seeing Baha’u’llah in the saddle, and about to depart, evoked from the vast crowd heart-rending, unbearable cries of distress. The call: ‘Allah-u-Akbar’ – ‘God is the Greatest’ – rang out time and again. People threw themselves in the path of His horse, and as Aqa Rida expresses it, ‘it seemed as if that heavenly steed was passing over sanctified bodies and pure hearts’. On that day for the first time they witnessed Baha’u’llah’s splendid horsemanship. During all those years in Baghdad, although horses were never unavailable, Aqa Rida states that Baha’u’llah had always chosen to ride a donkey. Another symbolic sign of the divine authority that He now visibly wielded was the change in His headgear, on the first day of the Festival of Ridvan – the day He left His house in Baghdad for the last time, to take His residence in the Najibiyyih prior to His departure for the capital of the Turkish Empire. It was then seen that He was wearing a taj (crown), finely embroidered. [4]

Ahmad saw his Beloved disappear from his sight headed for an unknown destination. Little did he know that He was like unto the sun rising towards the zenith of might and power. Sad at heart and utterly distressed in soul, he returned to Baghdad, which to him seemed devoid of any attraction. He tried to make himself happy by gathering the friends and encouraging them to disperse and teach the Faith which had just been declared. Though actively serving the Cause, he was not happy. All that could keep him happy was nearness to his Beloved. [3]


[1] Memoirs of Aqa Husayn Ashchi (translated Ahang Rabbani).

[2] God Passes By

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

[4] King of Glory (H M Balyuzi)