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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 95-99

The Collapse of the Caliphate

These same forces, operating in a collateral field, have effected a still more remarkable, and a more radical, revolution, culminating in the collapse and fall of the Muslim Caliphate, the most powerful institution of the whole Islamic world. This event of portentous significance has, moreover, been followed by a formal and definite separation of what was left of the Sunní faith in Turkey from the state, and by the complete secularization of the Republic that has arisen on the ruins of the Ottoman theocratic empire. This catastrophic fall, that stunned the Islamic world, and the avowed, the unqualified, and formal divorce between the spiritual and temporal powers, which distinguished the revolution in Turkey from that which occurred in Persia, I now proceed to consider.
Sunní Islám has sustained, not through the action of a foreign and invading Power, but at the hands of a dictator, avowedly professing the Faith of Muḥammad, a blow more grievous than that which fell, almost simultaneously, upon its sister-sect in Persia. This retributive act, directed 96 against the archenemy of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, recalls a similar disaster precipitated through the action of a Roman emperor, during the latter part of the first century of the Christian era—a disaster that razed to its foundations the Temple of Solomon, destroyed the Holy of Holies, laid waste the city of David, uprooted the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem, massacred thousands of the Jewish people—the persecutors of the religion of Jesus Christ—dispersed the remainder over the surface of the earth, and reared a pagan colony on Zion.
The Caliph, the self-styled vicar of the Prophet of Islám, exercised a spiritual sovereignty, and was invested with a sacred character, which the Sháh of Persia neither claimed nor possessed. Nor should it be forgotten that the sphere of his spiritual jurisdiction extended to countries far beyond the confines of his own empire, and embraced the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world. He was, moreover, in his capacity as the Prophet’s representative on earth, regarded as the protector of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the defender and propagator of Islám, and the commander of its followers in any holy war they might be called upon to wage.
So potent, so august, so sacred a personage was at first by virtue of the abolition of the Sultanate in Turkey, divested of that temporal authority which the exponents of the Sunní school have regarded as a necessary concomitant to his high office. The sword, emblem of temporal sovereignty, was thus wrested out of the hands of the commander who, for a brief period, was permitted to occupy such an anomalous and precarious position. It was soon, however, trumpeted to the Sunní world, which had not previously been in the least consulted, that the Caliphate itself had been extinguished, and that the country which had accepted it as an appanage to its Sultanate, for more than four hundred years, had now permanently disowned it. The Turks who had been the militant leaders of the Muḥammadan world, since the Arab decline, and who had carried the standard of Islám as far as the gates of Vienna, the seat of government of Europe’s premier Power, had resigned their leadership. The ex-caliph, shorn of his royal pomp, stripped of the symbols of his vicarship, and deserted by friend and foe alike, was forced to flee from Constantinople, the proud seat of a dual sovereignty, to the land of the infidels, resigning himself to that same life of exile to which a number of his fellow-sovereigns had been and were still condemned.
Nor has the Sunní world, despite determined efforts, succeeded in 97 designating anyone in his stead who, though deprived of the sword of a commander, would still act as the custodian of the cloak and standard of the Apostle of God—the twin holy symbols of the Caliphate. Conferences were held, discussions ensued, a Congress of the Caliphate was convened in the Egyptian capital, the City of the Fatimites, only to result in the widely advertised and public confession of its failure: “They have agreed to disagree!”
Strange, incredibly strange, must appear the position of this most powerful branch of the Islamic Faith, with no outward and visible head to voice its sentiments and convictions, its unity irretrievably shattered, its radiance obscured, its law undermined, its institutions thrown into hopeless confusion. This institution that had challenged the inalienable, divinely appointed rights of the Imáms of the Faith of Muḥammad, had, after the revolution of thirteen centuries, vanished like a smoke, an institution which had dealt such merciless blows to a Faith Whose Herald was Himself a descendant of the Imáms, the lawful successors of the Apostle of God.
To what else could this remarkable prophecy, enshrined in the Lawḥ-i-Burhán, allude if not to the downfall of this crowned overlord of Sunní Muslims? “O concourse of Muslim Divines! Because of you the people were abased, and the banner of Islám was hauled down, and its mighty throne subverted.” What of the indubitably clear and amazing prophecy recorded in the Qayyúm-i-Asmá? “Erelong We will, in very truth, torment such as waged war against Ḥusayn [Imám Ḥusayn], in the Land of the Euphrates, with the most afflictive torment, and the direst and most exemplary punishment.” What other interpretation can this Muḥammadan tradition be given? “In the latter days a grievous calamity shall befall My people at the hands of their ruler, a calamity such as no man ever heard to surpass it.”
This was not all, however. The disappearance of the Caliph, the spiritual head of above two hundred million Muḥammadans, brought in its wake, in the land that had dealt Islám such a heavy blow, the annulment of the sharí’ah canonical Law, the disendowment of Sunní institutions, the promulgation of a civil Code, the suppression of religious orders, the abrogation of ceremonials and traditions inculcated by the religion of Muḥammad. The Shaykhu’l-Islám and his satellites, including muftís, qádís, hujáhs, shaykhs, súfís, ḥájís, mawlavís, dervishes, and others, vanished at a stroke more determined, more open, 98 and drastic than the one dealt the Shí’ihs by the Sháh and his government. The mosques of the capital, the pride and glory of the Islamic world, were deserted, and the fairest and most famous of them all, the peerless St. Sophia, “the Second Firmament,” “the Vehicle of the Cherubim,” converted by the blatant creators of a secular regime into a museum. The Arabic tongue, the language of the Prophet of God, was banished from the land, its alphabet was superseded by Latin characters, and the Qur’án itself translated into Turkish for the few who still cared to read it. The constitution of the new Turkey not only proclaimed formally the disestablishment and disendowment of Islám, with all its attendant and, in the view of some, atheistic enactments, but also heralded various measures that aimed at its further humiliation and weakening. Even the city of Constantinople, “the Dome of Islám,” apostrophized in such condemnatory terms by Bahá’u’lláh, which, after the fall of Byzantium, had been hailed by the great Constantine as “the New Rome,” and exalted to the rank of the metropolis of both the Roman Empire and of Christendom, and subsequently revered as the seat of the Caliphs, was relegated to the position of a provincial city and stripped of all its pomp and glory, its soaring and slender minarets standing sentinel at the grave of so much vanished splendor and power.
“O Spot that art situate on the shores of the two seas!” Bahá’u’lláh has thus apostrophized the Imperial City, in terms that call to mind the prophetic words addressed by Jesus Christ to Jerusalem, “The throne of tyranny hath, verily, been stablished upon thee, and the flame of hatred hath been kindled within thy bosom, in such wise that the Concourse on high, and they who circle around the Exalted Throne, have wailed and lamented. We behold in thee the foolish ruling over the wise, and darkness vaunting itself against the light. Thou art indeed filled with manifest pride. Hath thine outward splendor made thee vainglorious? By Him Who is the Lord of mankind! It shall soon perish, and thy daughters, and thy widows, and all the kindreds that dwell within thee shall lament. Thus informeth thee the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”
Such was the fate that overtook both Shí’ih and Sunní Islám, in the two countries where they had planted their banners and reared their most powerful and far-famed institutions. Such was their fate in these two countries, in one of which Bahá’u’lláh died an exile, and in the other the Báb suffered a martyr’s death. Such was the fate of the self-styled Vicar of the Prophet of God, and of the favorite ministers of 99 the still awaited Imám. “The people of the Qur’án,” Bahá’u’lláh testifies, “have risen against Us, and tormented Us with such a torment that the Holy Spirit lamented, and the thunder roared out, and the clouds wept over Us…. Muḥammad, the Apostle of God, bewaileth, in the all-highest Paradise, their acts.” “A day shall be witnessed by My people,” their own traditions condemn them, “whereon there will have remained of Islám naught but a name, and of the Qur’án naught but a mere appearance. The doctors of that age shall be the most evil the world hath ever seen. Mischief hath proceeded from them, and on them it will recoil.” And again: “Most of His enemies will be the divines. His bidding they will not obey, but will protest saying: ‘This is contrary to that which hath been handed down unto us by the Imáms of the Faith.’” And still again: “At that hour His malediction shall descend upon you, and your curse shall afflict you, and your religion shall remain an empty word on your tongues. And when these signs appear amongst you, anticipate the day when the red-hot wind will have swept over you, or the day when ye will have been disfigured, or when stones will have rained upon you.”