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The Promised Day Is Come

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 revised edition
  • Pages:
  • 124
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Pages 62-65

The Doom of Imperial Turkey

A cataclysmic process, one of the most remarkable in modern history, was set in motion ever since Bahá’u’lláh, while a prisoner in Constantinople, delivered to a Turkish official His Tablet, addressed to Sulṭán Abdu’l-’Aziz and his ministers, to be transmitted to ‘Alí Páshá, the Grand Vizir. It was this Tablet which, as attested by that officer and affirmed by Nabíl in his chronicle, affected the Vizir so profoundly that he paled while reading it. This process received fresh impetus after the Lawḥ-i-Ra’ís was revealed on the morrow of its Author’s final banishment from Adrianople to ‘Akká. Relentless, devastating, and with ever-increasing momentum, it ominously unfolded, damaging the prestige of the Empire, dismembering its territory, dethroning its sulṭáns, sweeping away their dynasty, degrading and deposing its Caliph, disestablishing its religion, and extinguishing its glory. The “sick man” of Europe, whose condition had been unerringly diagnosed by the Divine Physician, and whose doom was pronounced inevitable, fell a prey, during the reign of five successive sulṭáns, all degenerate, all deposed, to a series of convulsions which, in the end, proved fatal to his life. Imperial Turkey that had, under ‘Abdu’l-Majíd, been admitted into the European Concert, and had emerged victorious from the Crimean War, 63 entered, under his successor, Abdu’l-’Aziz, upon a period of swift decline, culminating, soon after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, in the doom which the judgment of God had pronounced against it.
Risings in Crete and the Balkans marked the reign of this, the 32nd sulṭán of his dynasty, a despot whose mind was vacuous, whose recklessness was extreme, whose extravagance knew no bounds. The Eastern Question entered upon an acute phase. His gross misrule gave rise to movements which were to exercise far-reaching effects upon his realm, while his continual and enormous borrowings, leading to a state of semibankruptcy, introduced the principle of foreign control over the finances of his empire. A conspiracy, leading to a palace revolution, finally deposed him. A fatvá of the muftí denounced his incapacity and extravagance. Four days later he was assassinated, and was succeeded by his nephew, Murád V, whose mind had been reduced to a nullity by intemperance and by a long seclusion in the Cage. Declared to be imbecile, he, after a reign of three months, was deposed and was succeeded by the subtle, the resourceful, the suspicious, the tyrannical ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd II who “proved to be the most mean, cunning, untrustworthy and cruel intriguer of the long dynasty of Uthmán.” “No one knew,” it was written of him, “from day to day who was the person on whose advice the sulṭán overruled his ostensible ministers, whether a favorite lady of his harem, or a eunuch, or some fanatical dervish, or an astrologer, or a spy.” The Bulgarian atrocities heralded the black reign of this “Great Assassin,” which thrilled Europe with horror, and were characterized by Gladstone as “the basest and blackest outrages upon record in that [XIX] century.” The War of 1877–78 accelerated the process of the empire’s dismemberment. No less than eleven million people were emancipated from Turkish yoke. The Russian troops occupied Adrianople. Serbia, Montenegro and Rumania proclaimed their independence. Bulgaria became a self-governing state, tributary to the sulṭán. Cyprus and Egypt were occupied. The French assumed a protectorate over Tunis. Eastern Rumelia was ceded to Bulgaria. The wholesale massacres of Armenians, involving directly and indirectly a hundred thousand souls, were but a foretaste of the still more extensive bloodbaths to come in a later reign. Bosnia and Herzegovina were lost to Austria. Bulgaria obtained her independence. Universal contempt and hatred of an infamous sovereign, shared alike by his Christian and Muslim subjects, finally culminated in a revolution, swift and sweeping. 64 The Committee of Young Turks secured from the Shaykhu’l-Islám the condemnation of the sulṭán. Deserted and friendless, execrated by his subjects, and despised by his fellow-rulers, he was forced to abdicate, and was made a prisoner of state, thus ending a reign “more disastrous in its immediate losses of territory and in the certainty of others to follow, and more conspicuous for the deterioration of the condition of his subjects, than that of any other of his twenty-three degenerate predecessors since the death of Soliman the Magnificent.”
The end of so shameful a reign was but the beginning of a new era which, however auspiciously hailed at first, was destined to witness the collapse of the Ottoman ramshackle and worm-eaten state. Muḥammad V, a brother of ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd II, an absolute nonentity, failed to improve the status of his subjects. The follies of his government ultimately sealed the doom of the empire. The War of 1914–18 provided the occasion. Military reverses brought to a head the forces that were sapping its foundations. While the war was still being fought the defection of the Sherif of Mecca and the revolt of the Arabian provinces portended the convulsion which was to seize the Turkish throne. The precipitate flight and complete destruction of the army of Jamál Páshá, the commander-in-chief in Syria—he who had sworn to raze to the ground, after his triumphant return from Egypt, the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh, and to publicly crucify the Center of His Covenant in a public square of Constantinople—was the signal for the nemesis that was to overtake an empire in distress. Nine-tenths of the large Turkish armies had melted away. A fourth of the whole population had perished from war, disease, famine and massacre.
A new ruler, Muḥammad VI, the last of the twenty-five successive degenerate sulṭáns, had meanwhile succeeded his wretched brother. The edifice of the empire was now quaking and tottering to its fall. Muṣṭafá Kamál dealt it the final blows. Turkey, that had already shrunk to a small Asiatic state, became a republic. The sulṭán was deposed, the Ottoman Sultanate was ended, a rulership that had remained unbroken for six and a half centuries was extinguished. An empire which had stretched from the center of Hungary to the Persian Gulf and the Sudan, and from the Caspian Sea to Oran in Africa, had now dwindled to a small Asiatic republic. Constantinople itself, which, after the fall of Byzantium, had been honored as the splendid metropolis of the Roman Empire, and had been made the capital of the Ottoman government, 65 was abandoned by its conquerors, and stripped of its pomp and glory—a mute reminder of the base tyranny that had for so long stained its throne.
Such, in their bare outline, were the awful evidences of that retributive justice which so tragically afflicted Abdu’l-’Aziz, his successors, his throne and his dynasty. What of Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, the other partner in that imperial conspiracy which sought to extirpate, root and branch, the budding Faith of God? His reaction to the Divine Message borne to him by the fearless Badí, the “Pride of Martyrs,” who had spontaneously dedicated himself to this purpose, was characteristic of that implacable hatred which, throughout his reign, glowed so fiercely in his breast.