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A Traveler’s Narrative

  • Author:
  • ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 94
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Pages 60-80

[Pages 61–80]

correspondence?” Then the Royal Command was issued that their Reverences the learned doctors and honorable and accomplished divines should write a reply to that epistle. But when the most expert doctors of the capital became aware of the contents of the letter they ordained: “That this person, without regarding [the fact] that he is at variance with the Perspicuous Religion, is a meddler with custom and creed, and a troubler of kings and emperors. Therefore to eradicate, subdue, repress, and repel [this sect] is one of the requirements of the Well-established Path, and indeed the chief of obligations.”
This answer was not approved before the [Royal] Presence, for the contents of this epistle had no obvious discordance with the Law or with reason, and did not meddle with political or administrative matters, nor interfere with or attack the Throne of Sovereignty. They ought, therefore, to have discussed the real points at issue, and to have written clearly and explicitly such an answer as would have caused the disappearance of doubts and the solution of difficulties, and would have become a fulcrum for discussion to all.
Now of this epistle sundry passages shall be set forth in writing to conduce to a better understanding [of the matter] by all people. At the beginning of the epistle was a striking passage in the Arabic language [treating] of questions of faith and assurance; the sacrifice of life in the way of the Beloved; the state of resignation and contentment; the multiplicity of misfortunes, calamities, hardships, and afflictions; and falling under suspicion of seditiousness through the machinations of foes; the establishment of His innocence in the presence of His Majesty the King; the repudiation of seditious persons and disavowal of the rebellious party; the conditions of sincere belief in the verses of the Qur’án; the needfulness of godly virtues, distinction from all other creatures in this transitory abode, obedience to the commandments, and avoidance of things prohibited; the evidence of divine support in the affair 61 of the Báb; the inability of whosoever is upon the earth to withstand a heavenly thing; His own awakening at the divine afflux, and His falling thereby into unbounded calamities; His acquisition of the divine gift, His participation in spiritual God-given grace, and His illumination with immediate knowledge without study; the excusableness of His [efforts for the] admonition of mankind, their direction toward the attainment of human perfections, and their enkindlement with the fire of divine love; encouragements to the directing of energy towards the attainment of a state greater than the degree of earthly sovereignty; eloquent prayers [written] in the utmost self-abasement, devotion, and humility; and the like of this. Afterwards He discussed [other] matters in the Persian language. And the form of it is this:
“O God, this is a letter which I wish to send to the King; and Thou knowest that I have not desired aught of him save the display of his justice to Thy people, and the showing forth of his favors to the dwellers in Thy Kingdom. And verily, by My soul, I have not desired aught save what Thou hast desired, neither, by Thy Might, do I desire aught save what Thou desirest. Perish that being which desireth of Thee aught save Thyself! And, by Thy Glory, Thy good pleasure is the limit of My hope, and Thy Will the extremity of My desire! Be merciful then, O God, to this poor [soul] Who hath caught hold of the skirt of Thy richness, and to this humble [suppliant] Who calleth on Thee, for Thou art indeed the Mighty, the Great. Help, O God, His Majesty the King to execute Thy laws amongst Thy servants and to show forth Thy justice amidst Thy creatures, that he may rule over this sect as he ruleth over those who are beside them. Verily Thou art the Potent, the Mighty, the Wise.
“Agreeably to the permission and consent of the King of the age, this Servant turned from the place of the Royal Throne 1 62 toward ‘Iráq-i-‘Arab, and in that land abode twelve years. During the period of [His] sojourn [there] no description of His condition was laid before the Royal Presence, neither did any representation go to foreign states. Relying upon God did He abide in that land, until a certain functionary came to ‘Iráq, who, on his arrival, fell to designing the affliction of a company of poor unfortunates. Every day, beguiled by certain of the doctors of Persia, he persecuted these servants; although nothing prejudicial to Church or State, or at variance with the principles and customs of their countrymen had been observed in them. So this Servant [was moved] by this reflection: ‘May it not be that by reason of the deeds of the transgressors some action at variance with the world-ordering counsel of the King should be engendered!’ Therefore was an epitome [of the matter] addressed to Mírzá Sa’íd Khán, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that he might submit it to the [Royal] Presence, and that it might be done according to that which the Royal command might promulgate. A long while elapsed, and no command was issued; until matters reached such a state that it was to be feared that sedition might suddenly break out and the blood of many be shed. Of necessity, for the protection of the servants of God, a certain number [of the Bábís] appealed to the governor of ‘Iráq. If [the King] will consider what has happened with just regard, it will become clear in the mirror of his luminous heart that what occurred was [done] from considerations of expediency, and that there was apparently no resource save this. The Royal Personage can bear witness and testify to this, that in whatever land there were some few of this sect the fire of war and conflict was wont to be kindled by reason of the aggression of certain governors. But this Transient One after His arrival in ‘Iráq withheld all from sedition and strife; and the witness of this Servant is His action, for all are aware and will testify that the multitude of this faction in Persia at that time was more than [it had been] before, yet, notwithstanding this, none transgressed his proper 63 bounds nor assailed anyone. It is nigh on fifteen years that all continue tranquil, looking unto God and relying on Him, and bear patiently what hath come upon them, casting it on God. And after the arrival of this Servant in this city which is called Adrianople certain of this community enquired concerning the meaning of ‘victory.’ Diverse answers were sent in reply, one of which answers will be submitted on this page, so that it may become clear before the [Royal] Presence that this Servant hath in view naught save peace and reform. And if some of the divine favors, which, without merit [on My part], have been graciously bestowed [on Me], do not become evident and apparent, this much [at least] will be known, that [God], in [His] abounding grace and undeserved mercy, hath not deprived this Oppressed One of the ornament of reason. The form of words which was set forth on the meaning of ‘victory’ is this:
“‘He is God, exalted is He. “‘It hath been known that God (glorious is His mention) is sanctified from the world and what is therein, and that the meaning of “victory” is not this, that anyone should fight or strive with anyone. The Lord of He doeth what He will 2 hath committed the kingdom of creation, both land and sea, into the hand of kings, and they are the manifestations of the Divine Power according to the degrees of their rank: verily He is the Potent, the Sovereign. But that which God (glorious is His mention) hath desired for Himself is the hearts of His servants, which are treasures of praise and love of the Lord and stores of divine knowledge and wisdom. The will of the Eternal King hath ever been to purify the hearts of [His] servants from the promptings of the world and what is therein, so that they may be prepared for illumination by the effulgences of the Lord of the Names and Attributes. Therefore must no 64 stranger find his way into the city of the heart, so that the Incomparable Friend may come unto His own place—that is, the effulgence of His Names and Attributes, not His Essence (exalted is He), for that Peerless King hath been and will be holy for everlasting above ascent or descent. Therefore today “victory” neither hath been nor will be opposition to anyone, nor strife with any person; but rather what is well-pleasing is that the cities of [men’s] hearts, which are under the dominion of the hosts of selfishness and lust, should be subdued by the sword of the Word, of Wisdom, and of Exhortation. Everyone, then, who desireth “victory” must first subdue the city of his own heart with the sword of spiritual truth and of the Word, and must protect it from remembering aught beside God: afterwards let him turn his regards towards the cities of [others’] hearts. This is what is intended by “victory”: sedition hath never been nor is pleasing to God, and that which certain ignorant persons formerly wrought was never approved. If ye be slain for His good pleasure verily it is better for you than that ye should slay. Today the friends of God must appear in such fashion amidst [God’s] servants that by their actions they may lead all unto the pleasure of the Lord of Glory. I swear by the Sun of the Horizon of Holiness that the friends of God never have regarded nor will regard the earth or its transitory riches. God hath ever regarded the hearts of [His] servants, and this too is by reason of [His] most great favor, that perchance mortal souls may be cleansed and sanctified from earthly states and may attain unto everlasting places. But that Real King is in Himself sufficient unto Himself [and independent] of all: neither doth any advantage accrue to Him from the love of contingent beings, nor doth any hurt befall Him from their hatred. All earthly places appear through Him and unto Him return, and God singly and alone abideth in His own place which is holy above space and time, mention and utterance, sign, description, and definition, height and depth. And none knoweth this save Him and whosoever hath knowledge of the 65 Book. There is no God but Him, the Mighty, the Bountiful.’ Finis.
“But good deeds depend on this, that the Royal Person should himself look into that [matter] with just and gracious regard, and not be satisfied with the representations of certain persons unsupported by proof or evidence. We ask God to strengthen the King unto that which He willeth: and what He willeth should be the wish of the worlds.
“Afterwards they summoned this Servant to Constantinople. We reached that city along with a number of poor unfortunates, and after Our arrival did not hold intercourse with a single soul, for We had naught to say [unto them], and there was no wish save that it should be clearly demonstrated by proof to all that this Servant had no thought of sedition and had never associated with the seditious. And, by Him in praise of Whose spirit the tongues of all things speak, to turn in any direction was difficult in consideration of certain circumstances; but these things were done for the protection of lives. Verily My Lord knoweth what is in My soul, and verily He is witness unto what I say. The just king is the shadow of God in the earth; all should take refuge under the shadow of his justice and rest in the shade of his favor. This is not the place for personalities, or censures [directed] specially against some apart from others; for the shadow tells of him who casteth the shadow. God (glorious is His mention) hath called Himself the Lord of the worlds for that He hath nurtured and doth nurture all; exalted is His favor which hath preceded contingent beings and His mercy which hath preceded the worlds.
“This is sufficiently clear, that, [whether] right or wrong according to the imagination of the people, this community have accepted as true and adopted the religion for which they are notorious, and that on this account they have foregone what they had, seeking after what is with God. And this same renunciation of life in the way of love for the Merciful [God] is a faithful witness and an eloquent attest unto that whereunto 66 they lay claim. Hath it [ever] been beheld that a reasonable man renounced his life without proof or evidence [of the truth of that for which he died]? And if it be said, ‘This people are mad,’ this [too] is very improbable, for it is not [a thing] confined to one or two persons, but rather have a great multitude of every class, inebriated with the Kawthar of divine wisdom, hastened with heart and soul to the place of martyrdom in the way of the Friend. If these persons, who for God have foregone all save Him, and who have poured forth life and wealth in His way, can be belied, then by what proof and evidence shall the truth of that which others assert concerning that wherein they are be established in the presence of the King?
“The late Ḥájí Siyyid Muḥammad (may God exalt his station and overwhelm him in the depth of the ocean of His mercy and forgiveness), although he was of the most learned of the doctors of the age and the most pious and austere of his contemporaries, and although the splendor of his worth was of such a degree that the tongues of all creatures spoke in praise and eulogy of him and confidently asserted his asceticism and godliness, did nevertheless in the war against the Russians forego much good and turn back after a little contest, although he himself had decreed a holy war, and had set out from his native country with conspicuous ensign in support of the Faith. O would that the covering might be withdrawn, and that what is hidden from [men’s] eyes might appear!
“But as to this sect, it is twenty years and more that they have been tormented by day and by night with the fierceness of the Royal anger, and that they have been cast each one into a [different] land by the blasts of the tempests of the King’s wrath. How many children have been left fatherless! How many fathers have become childless! How many mothers have not dared, through fear and dread, to mourn over their slaughtered children! Many [were] the servants [of God] who at eve were in the utmost wealth and opulence, and at dawn were 67 beheld in the extreme of poverty and abasement! There is no land but hath been dyed with their blood and no air whereunto their groanings have not arisen. And during these few years the arrows of affliction have rained down without intermission from the clouds of fate. Yet, notwithstanding all these visitations and afflictions, the fire of divine love is in such fashion kindled in their hearts that, were they all to be hewn in pieces, they would not forswear the love of the Beloved of all the dwellers upon earth; nay rather with their whole souls do they yearn and hope for what may befall [them] in the way of God.
“O King! The gales of the mercy of the Merciful One have converted these servants and drawn them to the region of the [Divine] Unity—‘The witness of the faithful lover is in his sleeve’—but some of the doctors of Persia have troubled the most luminous heart of the King of the Age with regard to those who are admitted into the Sanctuary of the Merciful One and those who make for the Kaaba of Wisdom. O would that the world-ordering judgment of the King might decide that this Servant should meet those doctors, and, in the presence of His Majesty the King, adduce arguments and proofs! This Servant is ready, and hopeth of God that such a conference may be brought about, so that the truth of the matter may become evident and apparent before His Majesty the King. And afterwards the decision is in thy hand, and I am ready to confront the throne of thy sovereignty; then give judgment for Me or against Me. The Merciful Lord saith in the Furqán, which is the enduring proof amidst the host of existences, ‘Desire death, then, if ye be sincere.’ 3 He hath declared the desiring of death to be the proof of sincerity; and it will be apparent in the mirror of the [King’s] luminous mind which party it is that hath this day foregone life in the way of Him [Who is] adored by the dwellers upon earth. Had the doctrinal books of this people, [composed] in proof of that wherein they 68 are, been written with the blood which has been shed in His way (exalted is He), books innumerable would assuredly have been apparent and visible amongst mankind.
“How, then, can one repudiate this people, whose words and deeds are consistent, and accept those persons who neither have foregone nor will forego one atom of the consideration [which they enjoy] in the way of [God] the Sovereign?
“Some of the doctors of Persia who have denounced this Servant have never either met or seen Him, nor [even] become cognizant of [His] intent: nevertheless they said what they desired and do what they will. Every statement requires proof, and is not [established] merely by assertion or by outward gear of asceticism.
“A translation of some passages from the contents of the Hidden Book of Fátimih (upon her be the blessings of God) which are apposite to this place will [now] be submitted in the Persian language, in order that some things [now] concealed may be revealed before the [Royal] Presence. Those addressed in these utterances in the above-mentioned book (which is today known as ‘Hidden Words’) are those people who are outwardly notable for science and piety, but who are inwardly subservient to their passions and lust. He says:
“‘O faithless ones! Why do ye outwardly claim to be shepherds, while inwardly ye have become the wolves of My sheep? Your likeness is like unto the star before the morning, which is apparently bright and luminous, but really causeth the misguidance and destruction of the caravans of My city and country.’
“So likewise He saith:
“‘O outwardly fair and inwardly faulty! Thy likeness is like unto clear bitter water, wherein outwardly the utmost sweetness and purity is beheld, but when it falleth into the assaying hands of the taste of the [Divine] Unity He doth not accept a single drop thereof. The radiance of the sun is on the earth and on the mirror alike; but regard the difference as from the 69 guard-stars to the earth; nay, between them is a limitless distance.’
“‘So likewise He saith:
“‘O child of the world! Many a morning hath the effulgence of My grace come unto thy place from the day-spring of the placeless, found thee on the couch of ease busied with other things, and returned like the lightning of the spirit to the bright abode of glory. And I, desiring not thy shame, declared it not in the retreats of nearness to the hosts of holiness.’
“‘So likewise He saith:
“‘O pretender to My friendship! In the morning the breeze of My grace passed by thee, and found thee sleeping on the bed of heedlessness, and wept over thy condition, and turned back.’ Finis.
“In the presence of the King’s justice, therefore, the statement of an adversary ought not to be accepted as sufficient. And in the Furqán, which distinguisheth between truth and falsehood, He says, ‘O ye who believe, if there come unto you a sinner with a message, then discriminate, lest you fall upon a people in ignorance and on the morrow repent of what ye have done.’ 4 And it hath come down in holy tradition, ‘Credit not the calumniator.’ The matter hath been misapprehended by certain doctors, neither have they seen this Servant. But those persons who have met [Him] testify that this Servant hath not spoken contrary to that which God hath ordained in the Book, and recite this blessed verse: He saith (exalted is He) ‘Do ye disavow Us for aught save that We believe in God, and what hath been sent down unto Us, and what was sent down before?’ 5
“O King of the age! The eyes of these wanderers turn and gaze in the direction of the mercy of the Merciful One, and 70 assuredly to these afflictions shall the greatest mercy succeed, and after these most grievous hardships shall follow great ease. But [Our] hope is this, that His Majesty the King will himself turn his attention to [these] matters, which thing will be the cause of hope in [Our] hearts. And this is unmixed good which hath been submitted, and God sufficeth for a witness.
“Glory be to Thee, O God! O God, I bear witness that the heart of the King is between the fingers of Thy power: if Thou pleasest, turn it, O God, in the direction of mercy and kindliness: verily Thou art the Exalted, the Potent, the Beneficent: there is no God but Thee, the Mighty from whom help is sought.
“Concerning the qualifications of the doctors, He saith: ‘But amongst the lawyers he who guardeth himself, observeth his religion, opposeth his lust, and obeyeth the command of his Lord—it is incumbent on the people to follow him…’ unto the end. And if the King of the age will regard this utterance, which proceeded from the tongue of the recipient of divine inspiration, he will observe that those characterized by the qualities transmitted in the aforementioned tradition are rarer than the philosopher’s stone. Therefore the claim of every person pretending to science neither hath been nor is heard.
“So likewise in describing the lawyers of the latter time He says: ‘The lawyers of that time are the most evil of lawyers under the shadow of heaven: from them cometh forth mischief, and unto them it returneth.’
“And if any person deny these traditions, the establishing thereof is [incumbent] on this Servant; but since [Our] object is brevity therefore the detail of the authorities hath not been submitted.
“Those doctors who have indeed drunk of the cup of renunciation never interfered with this Servant, even as the late Shaykh Murtadá (may God exalt his station and cause him to dwell under the shadow of the domes of His grace) used to 71 show [Us] affection during the days of [Our] sojourn in ‘Iráq, and used not to speak concerning this matter otherwise than God hath permitted. We ask God to help all [men] unto that which He loveth and approveth.
“Now all people have shut their eyes to all [these] matters, and are bent on the persecution of this sect; so that should it be demanded of certain persons, who (after God’s grace) rest in the shadow of the King’s clemency and enjoy unbounded blessings, ‘In return for the King’s favor what service have ye wrought? Have ye by wise policy added any country to [his] countries? Or have ye applied yourselves to aught which would cause the comfort of the people, the prosperity of the kingdom, and the continuance of fair fame for the state?’, they have no reply save this, that, falsely or truly, they designate a number of persons in the presence of the King by the name of Bábís, and forthwith engage in slaughter and plunder; even as in Tabríz and elsewhere they sold certain ones, and received much wealth; and this was never represented before the presence of the King. All these things have occurred because of this, that they have found these poor people without a helper. They have foregone matters of moment, and have fallen upon these poor unfortunates.
“Many sects and diverse tribes rest tranquil in the shadow of the King, and of these sects one is this people. Were it not best that the lofty endeavor and magnanimity of those who surround the King should be so witnessed: that they should be scheming for all factions to come under the King’s shadow, and that they should govern amidst all with justice? To put in force the ordinances of God is unmixed justice, and with this all are satisfied; nay, the ordinances of God [ever] have been and will be the instrument and means for the protection of [His] creatures, as He saith (exalted is He) ‘And in retaliation ye have life, O people of understanding.’ 6 [But] it is far from the 72 justice of His Majesty the King that, for the fault of one person, a number of persons should become the objects of the scourges of wrath. God (glorious is His mention) saith: ‘None shall bear the burden of another.’ 7 And this is sufficiently evident, that in every community there have been and will be learned and ignorant, wise and foolish, sinful and pious. And to commit abominable actions is far from the wise man. For the wise man either seeketh the world or abandoneth it. If he abandoneth it, assuredly he will not regard aught save God, and, apart from this, the fear of God will withhold him from committing forbidden and culpable actions. And if he seeketh the world, he will assuredly not commit deeds which will cause and induce the aversion of [God’s] servants and produce horror in those who are in all lands; but rather will he practice such deeds as will cause the adhesion of mankind. So it hath been demonstrated that detestable actions have been and will be [wrought only] by ignorant persons. We ask God to keep His servants from regarding aught but Him, and to bring them near to Him: verily He is potent over all things.
“Glory be to Thee, O God! O My God, Thou hearest My groaning, and seest My state and My distress and My affliction, and knowest what is in My soul. If My cry be sincerely for Thy sake, then draw thereby the hearts of Thy creatures unto the horizon of the heaven of Thy recognition, and turn the King unto the right hand of the throne of Thy Name the Merciful; then bestow on him, O My God, the blessing which hath descended from the heaven of Thy favor and the clouds of Thy mercy, that he may sever himself from that which he hath and turn toward the region of Thy bounties. O Lord, help him to support the oppressed amongst [Thy] servants, and to raise up Thy Word amidst Thy people; then aid him with the hosts of the unseen and the seen, that he may subdue cities in Thy Name and rule over all who are upon the 73 earth by Thy power and authority, O Thou in Whose hand is the Kingdom of creation: and verily Thou art He who ruleth at the beginning and in the end: there is no God save Thee, the Potent, the Mighty, the Wise.
“They have misrepresented matters before the presence of the King in such a way that if any ill deed proceed from any one of this sect they account it as [a part] of the religion of these servants. But, by God, beside Whom there is none other God, this Servant hath not sanctioned the committing of sins, much less that whereof the prohibition hath been explicitly revealed in the Book of God! God hath prohibited unto men the drinking of wine, and the unlawfulness thereof hath been revealed and recorded in the Book of God, 8 and the doctors of the age (may God multiply the like of them) have unanimously prohibited unto men this abominable action; yet withal do some commit it. Now the punishment of this action falls on these heedless persons, while those manifestations of the glory of sanctity [continue] holy and undefiled: unto their sanctity all Being, whether of the unseen or the seen, testifieth.
“Yea, these servants [of God] regard God as ‘doing what He pleaseth and ordering what He willeth.’ 9 There is no retreat nor way of flight for anyone save unto God, and no refuge nor asylum but in Him. And at no time hath the caviling of men, whether learned or unlearned, been a thing to rely on, nor will it be so. The [very] prophets, who are the pearls of the Ocean of Unity and the recipients of Divine Revelation, have [ever] been the objects of men’s aversion and caviling; much more these servants. Even as He saith: ‘Every nation schemed against their apostle to catch him. And they contended with falsehood therewith to refute the truth.’ 10 So likewise He saith, ‘There came not unto them any apostle but they mocked 74 at him.’ 11 Consider the appearance of the Seal of the Prophets, the King of the Elect (the soul of the worlds be His sacrifice); after the dawning of the Sun of Truth from the horizon of the Ḥijáz what wrongs befell that Manifestation of the Might of the Lord of Glory at the hands of the people of error! So heedless were men that they were wont to consider the vexation of that Holy One as one of the greatest of good works and as the means of approaching God Most High. For in the first years the doctors of that age, whether Jews or Christians, turned aside from that Sun of the Highest Horizon; and, at the turning aside of those persons, all, whether humble or noble, girt up their loins to quench the radiance of that Light of the Horizon of Ideals. The names of all are recorded in books: amongst them were Wahb ibn Rahíb, Ka’b ibn Ashraf, ‘Abdu’lláh [ibn] Ubayy, and the like of these persons; till at length the matter reached such a point that they convened a meeting to take counsel as to the shedding of the most pure blood of that Holy One, as God (glorious is His mention) hath declared: ‘And when those who misbelieved plotted against thee to confine thee, or slay thee, or drive thee out; and they plotted, and God plotted; and God is the best of plotters.’ 12 So likewise He saith: ‘And if their aversion be grievous unto thee, then, if thou art able to seek out a hole down into the earth, or a ladder up into the sky, that thou mayest show them a sign—[do so]: but if God pleased He would assuredly bring them all to the true guidance: be not therefore one of the ignorant.’ 13 By God, the hearts of those near [unto God] are scorched at the purport of these two blessed verses; but the like of these matters certainly transmitted [to Us] are blotted out of sight, and [men] have not reflected, neither do reflect, what was the reason of the turning aside of 75 [God’s] servants at the appearance of the daysprings of divine lights.
“So, too, before the Seal of the Prophets, consider Jesus the Son of Mary. After the appearance of that Manifestation of the Merciful One all the doctors charged that Quintessence of Faith with misbelief and rebelliousness; until at length, with the consent of Annas, who was the chief of the doctors of that age, and likewise Caiaphas, 14 who was the most learned of the judges, they wrought upon that Holy One that which the pen is ashamed and unable to repeat. The earth with its amplitude was too strait for Him, until God took Him up into the heaven. But were a detailed account of the prophets to be submitted it is feared that weariness might result.
“O would that thou mightest permit, O King, that We should send unto Thy Majesty that whereby eyes would be refreshed, souls tranquilized, and every just person assured that with Him [i.e., Bahá’u’lláh] is knowledge of the Book. Were it not for the turning aside of the ignorant and the willful blindness of the doctors, verily I would utter a discourse whereat hearts would be glad and would fly unto the air from the murmur of whose winds is heard, ‘There is no God but He.’ But now, because the time admitteth it not, the tongue is withheld from utterance, and the vessel of declaration is sealed until God shall unclose it by His power: verily He is the Potent, the Powerful.
“Glory be to Thee, O God! O My God, I ask of Thee in Thy Name, whereby Thou hast subdued whomsoever is in the heavens and the earth, that Thou wilt keep the lamp of Thy religion with the glass of Thy power and Thy favors, so that the winds of denial pass not by it from the region of those who are heedless of the mysteries of Thy Sovereign Name: then increase its light by the oil of Thy wisdom: verily Thou art Potent over whomsoever is in Thy earth and Thy heaven. 76
“O Lord, I ask of Thee by the Supreme Word, whereat whosoever is in the earth and the heaven feareth save him who taketh hold of the ‘Most Firm Handle,’ 15 that Thou wilt not abandon Me amongst Thy creatures: lift Me up unto Thee, and make Me to enter in under the shadow of Thy mercy, and give Me to drink of the pure wine of Thy grace, that I may dwell under the canopy of Thy glory and the domes of Thy favors: verily Thou art powerful unto that Thou wishest, and verily Thou art the Protecting, the Self-Sufficing.
“O King! The lamps of justice are extinguished, and the fire of persecution is kindled on all sides, until that they have made My people captives. This is not the first honor which hath been violated in the way of God. It behooveth everyone to regard and recall what befell the kindred of the Prophet until that the people made them captives and brought them in unto Damascus the spacious; and amongst them was the Prince of Worshipers, the Stay of the elect, the Sanctuary of the eager (the soul of all beside him be his sacrifice). It was said unto them, ‘Are ye seceders?’ He said, ‘No, by God, we are servants who have believed in God and in His signs, and through us the teeth of faith are disclosed in a smile, and the sign of the Merciful One shineth forth; through our mention spreadeth Al-Bathá, 16 and the darkness which intervened between earth and heaven is dispelled.’ It was said, ‘Have ye forbidden what God hath sanctioned, or sanctioned what God hath forbidden?’ He said, ‘We were the first who followed the commandments of God: we are the source of command and its origin, and the firstfruits of all good and its consummation: we are the sign of the Eternal, and His commemoration amongst the nations.’ It was said, ‘Have ye abandoned the Qur’án?’ He said, ‘Through us did the Merciful One reveal it; and we are gales of the All-Glorious amidst [His] creatures; we are streams 77 which have arisen from the most mighty Ocean whereby God revived the earth after its death; from us His signs are diffused, His evidences are manifested, and His tokens appear; and with us are His mysteries and His secrets.’ It was said, ‘For what fault [then] were ye afflicted?’ He said, ‘For the love of God and our severance from all beside Him.’
“Verily We have not repeated his expressions (upon him be peace), but rather We have made manifest a spray from the Ocean of Life which was deposited in his words, that by it those who advance may live and be aware of what hath befallen the trusted ones of God on the part of an evil and most reprobate people. And today We see the people censuring those who acted unjustly of yore, while they oppress more vehemently than those oppressed, and know it not. By God, I do not desire sedition, but the purification of [God’s] servants from all that withholdeth them from approach to God, the King of the Day of Invocation.
“I was asleep on My couch: the breaths of My Lord the Merciful passed over Me and awakened Me from sleep: to this bear witness the denizens [of the realms] of His Power and His Kingdom, and the dwellers in the cities of His Glory, and Himself, the True. I am not impatient of calamities in His way, nor of afflictions for His love and at His good pleasure. God hath made affliction as a morning shower to this green pasture, and as a match for His lamp whereby earth and heaven are illumined.
“Shall that which anyone hath of wealth endure unto him, or avail him tomorrow with him who holdeth his forelock? If any should look on those who sleep under slabs and keep company with the dust, can he distinguish the bones of the king’s skull from the knuckles of the slave? No, by the King of Kings! Or doth he know governors from herdsmen, or discern the wealthy and the rich from him who was without shoes or carpet? By God, distinction is removed, save for him who fulfilled righteousness and judged uprightly. Where are the 78 doctors, the scholars, the nobles? Where is the keenness of their glances, the sharpness of their sight, the subtlety of their thoughts, the soundness of their understandings? Where are their hidden treasures and their apparent gauds, their bejeweled thrones and their ample couches? Alas! All have been laid waste, and the decree of God hath rendered them as scattered dust! Emptied is what they treasured up, and dissipated is what they collected, and dispersed is what they concealed: they have become [such that] thou seest naught but their empty places, their gaping roofs, their uprooted beams, their new things waxed old. As for the discerning man, verily wealth will not divert him from regarding the end; and for the prudent man, riches will not withhold him from turning toward [God] the Rich, the Exalted. Where is he who held dominion over all whereon the sun arose, and who spent lavishly and sought after curious things in the world and what is therein created? Where is the lord of the swarthy squadron and the yellow standard? Where is he who ruled Zawrá, 17 and where he who wrought injustice in [Damascus] the spacious? Where are they at whose bounty treasures were afraid, at whose openhandedness and generosity the ocean was dismayed? Where is he whose arm was stretched forth in rebelliousness, whose heart turned away from the Merciful One? Where is he who used to make choice of pleasures and cull the fruits of desires? Where are the dames of the bridal chambers, and the possessors of beauty? Where are their waving branches and their spreading boughs, their lofty palaces and trellised gardens? Where is the smoothness of the expanses thereof and the softness of their breezes, the rippling of their waters and the murmur of their winds, the cooing of their doves and the rustling of their trees? Where are their laughing hearts and their smiling teeth? Woe unto them! They have descended to the abyss and become companions to the pebbles; today no mention is heard of them 79 nor any sound; nothing is known of them nor any hint. Will the people dispute it while they behold it? Will they deny it when they know it? I know not in what valley they wander erringly: do they not see that they depart and return not? How long will they be famous in the low countries and in the high, descend and ascend? ‘Is not the time yet come to those who believe for their hearts to become humble for the remembrance of God?’ 18 Well is it with that one who hath said or shall say, ‘Yea, O Lord, the time is ripe and hath come,’ and who severeth himself from all that is. Alas! naught is reaped but what is sown, and naught is taken but what is laid up, save by the grace of God and His favor. Hath the earth conceived Him whom the veils of glory prevent not from ascending into the Kingdom of His Lord, the Mighty, the Supreme? Have We any good works whereby defects shall be removed or which shall bring Us near unto the Lord of causes? We ask God to deal with Us according to His grace, not His justice, and to make Us of those who turn toward Him and sever themselves from all beside Him.
“O King, I have seen in the way of God what no eye hath seen and no ear hath heard. Friends have disclaimed Me; ways are straitened unto Me; the pool of safety is dried up; the plain of ease is [scorched] yellow. How many calamities have descended, and how many will descend! I walk advancing toward the Mighty, the Bounteous, while behind Me glides the serpent. My eyes rain down tears until My bed is drenched; but My sorrow is not for Myself. By God, My head longeth for the spears for the love of its Lord, and I never pass by a tree but My heart addresseth it [saying], ‘O would that thou wert cut down in My name and My body were crucified upon thee in the way of My Lord’; yea, because I see mankind going astray in their intoxication, and they know it not: they have exalted their lusts, and put aside their God, as though they took the command 80 of God for a mockery, a sport, and a plaything; and they think that they do well, and that they are harbored in the citadel of security. The matter is not as they suppose: tomorrow they shall see what they [now] deny.
“We are about to shift from this most remote place of banishment 19 unto the prison of ‘Akká. And, according to what they say, it is assuredly the most desolate of the cities of the world, the most unsightly of them in appearance, the most detestable in climate, and the foulest in water; it is as though it were the metropolis of the owl; there is not heard from its regions aught save the sound of its hooting. And in it they intend to imprison the Servant, and to shut in Our faces the doors of leniency and take away from Us the good things of the life of the world during what remaineth of Our days. By God, though weariness should weaken Me, and hunger should destroy Me, though My couch should be made of the hard rock and My associates of the beasts of the desert, I will not blench, but will be patient, as the resolute and determined are patient, in the strength of God, the King of Preexistence, the Creator of the nations; and under all circumstances I give thanks unto God. And We hope of His graciousness (exalted is He) the freedom of Our necks from chains and shackles in this imprisonment: and that He will render [all men’s] faces sincere toward Him, the Mighty, the Bounteous. Verily He answereth him who prayeth unto Him, and is near unto him who calleth on Him. And We ask Him to make this dark calamity a buckler for the body of His saints, and to protect them thereby from sharp swords and piercing blades. Through affliction hath His light shone and His praise been bright unceasingly: this hath been His method through past ages and bygone times.
“The people shall know what today they understand not when their steeds shall stumble, their beds be rolled up, their
1. Ṭihrán.   [ Back To Reference]
2. Qur’án 3:35; 22:19.   [ Back To Reference]
3. Qur’án 2:88; 62:6.   [ Back To Reference]
4. Qur’án 49:6.   [ Back To Reference]
5. Qur’án 5:64.   [ Back To Reference]
6. Qur’án 2:175.   [ Back To Reference]
7. Qur’án 6:164; 17:16; 35:19; 39:9; 53:39.   [ Back To Reference]
8. Qur’án 5:92.   [ Back To Reference]
9. Qur’án 2:254; 3:35; 22:14, 19   [ Back To Reference]
10. Qur’án 40:5.   [ Back To Reference]
11. Qur’án 15:11; 36:29   [ Back To Reference]
12. Qur’án 8:30.   [ Back To Reference]
13. Qur’án 6:35.   [ Back To Reference]
14. See John 11:49–50; Acts 4:6–10; 18:13–28; Acts 4:6–10.   [ Back To Reference]
15. Qur’án 2:257; 31:21   [ Back To Reference]
16. Mecca.   [ Back To Reference]
17. Baghdád.   [ Back To Reference]
18. Qur’án 57:15.   [ Back To Reference]
19. Adrianople.   [ Back To Reference]