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Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

  • Author:
  • J. E. Esslemont

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 286
Go to printed page GO
Pages 34-38

Prison Gates Opened

Even when the imprisonment was at its worst, the Bahá’ís were not dismayed, and their serene confidence was never shaken. While in the barracks at ‘Akká, Bahá’u’lláh wrote to some friends, “Fear not. These doors shall be opened. My tent shall be pitched on Mount Carmel, and the utmost joy shall be realized.” This declaration was a great source of consolation to His followers, and in due course it was literally fulfilled. The story of how the prison doors were opened had best be told 35 in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as translated by His grandson, Shoghi Effendi:—
Bahá’u’lláh loved the beauty and verdure of the country. One day He passed the remark: “I have not gazed on verdure for nine years. The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies.” When I heard indirectly of this saying I realized that He was longing for the country, and I was sure that whatever I could do towards the carrying out of His wish would be successful. There was in ‘Akká at that time a man called Muḥammad Páshá Safwat, who was very much opposed to us. He had a palace called Mazra’ih, about four miles north of the city, a lovely place, surrounded by gardens and with a stream of running water. I went and called on this Páshá at his home. I said: “Páshá, you have left the palace empty, and are living in ‘Akká.” He replied: “I am an invalid and cannot leave the city. If I go there it is lonely and I am cut off from my friends.” I said: “While you are not living there and the place is empty, let it to us.” He was amazed at the proposal, but soon consented. I got the house at a very low rent, about five pounds per annum, paid him for five years and made a contract. I sent laborers to repair the place and put the garden in order and had a bath built. I also had a carriage prepared for the use of the Blessed Beauty. 1 One day I determined to go and see the place for myself. Notwithstanding the repeated injunctions given in successive firmans that we were on no account to pass the limits of the city walls, I walked out through the City Gate. Gendarmes were on guard, but they made no objection, so I proceeded straight to the palace. The next day I again went out, with some friends and officials, unmolested and unopposed, although the guards and sentinels stood on both sides of the city gates. Another day I arranged a banquet, spread a table under the pine trees of Bahjí, and gathered round 36 it the notables and officials of the town. In the evening we all returned to the town together.
One day I went to the Holy Presence of the Blessed Beauty and said: “the palace at Mazra’ih is ready for You, and a carriage to drive You there.” (At that time there were no carriages in ‘Akká or Haifa.) He refused to go, saying: “I am a prisoner.” Later I requested Him again, but got the same answer. I went so far as to ask Him a third time, but He still said “No!” and I did not dare to insist further. There was, however, in ‘Akká a certain Muḥammadan Shaykh, a well-known man with considerable influence, who loved Bahá’u’lláh and was greatly favored by Him. I called this Shaykh and explained the position to him. I said, “You are daring. Go tonight to His Holy Presence, fall on your knees before Him, take hold of His hands and do not let go until He promises to leave the city!” He was an Arab. … He went directly to Bahá’u’lláh and sat down close to His knees. He took hold of the hands of the Blessed Beauty and kissed them and asked: “Why do you not leave the city?” He said: “I am a prisoner.” The shaykh replied: “God forbid! Who has the power to make you a prisoner? You have kept yourself in prison. It was your own will to be imprisoned, and now I beg you to come out and go to the palace. It is beautiful and verdant. The trees are lovely, and the oranges like balls of fire!” As often as the Blessed Beauty said: “I am a prisoner, it cannot be,” the Shaykh took His hands and kissed them. For a whole hour he kept on pleading. At last Bahá’u’lláh said, “Khaylí khub (very good)” and the Shaykh’s patience and persistence were rewarded. He came to me with great joy to give the glad news of His Holiness’s consent. In spite of the strict firman of ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz which prohibited my meeting or having any intercourse with the Blessed Perfection, I took the carriage the next day and drove with Him to the palace. No one made any objection. I left Him there and returned myself to the city.
For two years He remained in that charming and 37 lovely spot. Then it was decided to remove to another place, at Bahjí. It so happened than an epidemic disease had broken out at Bahjí, and the proprietor of the house fled away in distress, with all his family, ready to offer the house free of charge to any applicant. We took the house at a very low rent, and there the doors of majesty and true sovereignty were flung wide open. Bahá’u’lláh was nominally a prisoner (for the drastic firmans of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz were never repealed), yet in reality He showed forth such nobility and dignity in His life and bearing that He was reverenced by all, and the Rulers of Palestine envied His influence and power. Governors and Mutasarrifs, generals and local officials, would humbly request the honor of attaining His presence—a request to which He seldom acceded.
On one occasion a Governor of the city implored this favor on the ground of his being ordered by higher authorities to visit, with a certain general, the Blessed Perfection. The request being granted, the general, who was a very corpulent individual, a European, was so impressed by the majestic presence of Bahá’u’lláh that he remained kneeling on the ground near the door. Such was the diffidence of both visitors that it was only after repeated invitations from Bahá’u’lláh that they were induced to smoke the narguileh (hubble-bubble pipe) offered to them. Even then they only touched it with their lips, and then, putting it aside, folded their arms and sat in an attitude of such humility and respect as to astonish all those who were present.
The loving reverence of friends, the consideration and respect that were shown by all officials and notables, the inflow of pilgrims and seekers after truth, the spirit of devotion and service that was manifest all around, the majestic and kingly countenance of the Blessed Perfection, the effectiveness of His command, the number of His zealous devotees-all bore witness to the fact that Bahá’u’lláh was in reality no prisoner, but a King of Kings. Two despotic sovereigns were against Him, two 38 powerful autocratic rulers, yet, even when confined in their own prisons, He addressed them in very austere terms, like a king addressing his subjects. Afterwards, in spite of severe firmans, He lived at Bahjí like a prince. Often He would say: “Verily, verily, the most wretched prison has been converted into a Paradise of Eden.”
Surely, such a thing has not been witnessed since the creation of the world.
1. Jamál-i-Mubárak (lit. Blessed Beauty) was a title frequently applied to Bahá’u’lláh by His followers and friends.   [ Back To Reference]