Baha'u'llah's exile to Iraq in the Ottoman Turkish Empire did not leave Nasiri'd-Din Shah or the Persian clergy in peace. Iraq contained a number of Muslim shrines which Persians were accustomed to visit. The Persian clergy became concerned that the little party of exiles would begin to attract large numbers of these pilgrims to the new Cause.
The Shah's government therefore began to move the pressure to bear on the Sultan's ministers to move the Prisoner further away from the Persian borders. The Turkish and Persian empires had been antagonistic to one another, and the persecution of the exiles was one of the few points on which these two tyrannies agreed.
Accordingly, on April 22, 1863, Baha'u'llah was advised that He was to leave at once and move with His companions to the imperial capital, Constantinople.
Before this enforced departure, Baha'u'llah made the first formal declaration of His Mission. The day of "one fold and one Shepherd" had arrived, He said, and He was the One awaited by the followers of all the world's religions.
This historic Announcement took place in a garden outside the city of Baghdad. It was made during the twelve days between April 21st and May 2nd, 1863, and is celebrated by Baha'is today in every part of the world as the holiest and most joyful event in the entire Baha'i calendar. It is called the Festival of Ridvan (Paradise).
Visitors flowed constantly from Baghdad to that famous Garden so that all might make their last farewell to the Visitor Whom they had come to love dearly. It was hard to believe that these were the people who such a short time before had readily believed the slander spread about the exiles by agents of Nasiri'd-Din Shah.
A large concourse of people, men, women and children, thronged the approaches to Baha'u'llah's house in Baghdad on the day of His departure for the Garden of Ridvan outside the city. They came from all directions for one last glimpse of Him. City officials, clergymen, merchants and notables, as well as the poor, the orphaned, the beggar and the outcast, all watched Baha'u'llah depart out of their city amidst weeping and lamentation. A Persian historian has written of that hour, saying: "Tears like the rains of spring were flowing down."
The huge crowds that surrounded Baha'u'llah on the day of His departure from the Garden of Ridvan were even more impressive. Mounted on a red roan stallion which His loved ones had purchased for His journey, Baha'u'llah rode through the weeping crowds. They pressed in on Him from all sides. "Clothed in majesty" and surrounded by love, Baha'u'llah began the first stage of His historic exile to Constantinople.
Baha'u'llah, the Glory of God, left forever the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the spot where Ezekiel had seen the "Gory of God" in his vision. Baha'u'llah was now beginning His circuitous route westward to Israel. He would arrive at last in the land to which Ezekiel had promised that the "glory of God" would come from "the East."
His fame as a saint and teacher preceded Him. The same tokens of respect and devotion which were showered upon Baha'u'llah in Baghdad now followed Him all along the route of His travels northward. The journey to the port city of Samsun on the Black Sea took one hundred and ten days. As Baha'u'llah passed through the villages en route, a welcoming delegation would be waiting. They would rush out to meet Him immediately before His arrival, while another delegation would accompany Him for some distance as He departed out of their village.
Baha'u'llah and His companions came at last to the Black Sea. Sighting the shores of the Sea from His caravan, Baha'u'llah wrote a moving Tablet [letter] alluding to the "grievous and tormenting" sorrows that still awaited Him.
Baha'u'llah was put on board a Turkish steamer, crossed the Black Sea, and three days later disembarked at the famous port of Constantinople. The great capital city of Turkey had once been called the "dome of Islam." Because of the injustices and cruelty of Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, it was to be described by Baha'u'llah as "the throne of tyranny." Baha'u'llah knew that his brief hours of joy and rest were at an end, and that His "torments" were to begin again.
Baha'u'llah was to make yet another voyage, this time across the Mediterranean Sea. Two further banishments were still to come. Renewed attempts would be made on His life. All would be unsuccessful. Baha'u'llah, in the years ahead, would arrive at last in Israel and would walk on the side of the "mountain of God."
Baha'u'llah was traveling to the Holy Land, as promised by Isaiah, "by way of the sea." In one single chapter of praise for the Promised One of the last days, Isaiah declares that this "chosen" Servant of the "seed of Abraham" was that "righteous man from the east" Whom God had raised up to "rule over kings" and Who would "pass safely" to His destination, Israel, "even by the way that he had not gone by his feet."
Baha'u'llah was journeying as the Old Testament prophet, Micah, had also foreseen, "from sea to sea" on his way from the East to the Holy Land where he would redeem mankind.
But who was there to read and understand and come to His aid?
''The Grand Vizir turned the color of a corpse."
Section 2- The Throne of Tyranny
After the long, taxing journey to Constantinople, Baha'u'llah was permitted to remain in the capital less than four months. The Sultan of Turkey could not tolerate in the capital city the kind of honor that had been paid to Baha'u'llah along the route of His journey from Baghdad. Only the person of the king was considered a suitable object for such attention.
Baha'u'llah was summarily banished once again. This sudden and cruel further banishment represented "a virtual coalition between the Turkish and Persian imperial governments" against one Man and His tiny band of companions, their wives and their children, less than eighty persons in all. This time, Baha'u'llah did not accept the edict meekly. He replied with a forceful Letter of His own.
On that very same day, Baha'u'llah sent His reply by special messenger of 'Ali Pasha, the Prime Minister of the Sultan. This special messenger, Shamsi Big, delivered the Letter personally into the hands of 'Ali Pasha. He has left the following eye-witness account of that meeting.
"I know not what that letter contained far no sooner had the Grand Vizir 'Ali Pasha perused it that he turned the color of a corpse, and said: 'It is as if the King of Kings were issuing his behest to his humblest vassal king and regulating his conduct."
Shamsi Big added: "So grievous was the condition that I backed
out of his presence."
The order for Baha'u'llah's departure was executed at once. Baha'u'llah, His family and His companions unprepared, began their third successive banishment. Some rode in wagons. some on pack animals. Others sat silently among their few remaining possessions, atop of carts pulled by oxen.
It was a bitter cold December morning when the Turkish officers
pushed them along their way. Baha'u'llah Himself declared that
the cruelty and abasement which were heaped upon Himself and His
companions during that exile were unnecessary and unpardonable.
He has testified that none of those who accompanied Him had the
necessary clothing "to protect them from the cold in that
Nabil, a Persian historian, in his history of those days, writes: "A cold of such intensity prevailed that year, that nonagenarians could not recall its like." Animals froze and perished in the snows.
One of the companions of Baha'u'llah has left a record of that journey: "To obtain water from the springs, a great fire had to be lighted in their immediate neighborhood, and kept burning for a couple of hours before they thawed out.
It is not surprising therefore that Baha'u'llah addressed Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz in strong language:
"Hearken, O King, to the speech of Him that speaketh the truth . . . Bring thyself to account ere thou art summoned to a reckoning . . . Thou art God's shadow on earth. Strive, therefore, to act in such a manner as befitteth so eminent, so august a station . . . Let thine ear be attentive, O King, to the words We have addressed to thee. Let the oppressor desist from His tyranny, and cut off the perpetrators of in justice from among them that profess thy faith . . . Be not forgetful of the law of God in whatever thou desirest to achieve, now or in the days to come."
On the eve of His departure from Constantinople, Baha'u'llah wrote to the Persian, Ambassador who had incited the Turkish authorities to bring about His banishment by alarming their fears of the exiles. Baha'u'llah recalled to the ambassador's mind the more than twenty thousand followers who had already given their lives for this Faith in Persia. He explained the futility of trying to stamp out the fire of the love of God in men's hearts by persecution:
"What did it profit thee, and such as are like thee, to slay, year after year, so many of the oppressed, and to inflict upon them manifold afflictions, when they have increased a hundredfold . . . His [God's] Cause transcends any and every plan ye devise."
Then Baha'u'llah made a promise which time and history would soon bring to fulfillment:
"Know this much: Were all the governments on earth to unite and take My life and the lives of all who bear this Name [Baha'i], this Divine Fire would never be quenched. His Cause will rather encompass all the kings of the earth, nay all that hath been created from water and clay . . . Whatever may yet befall Us, great shall be our gain, and manifest the loss wherewith they shall be afflicted."
Baha'u'llah and His companions traveled toward Adrianople through snow, rain and storm. At times they were forced to make night marches, but at last they reached their destination. This was the furthest point in Baha'u'llah's repeated exiles. He called it the "remote prison."
Baha'u'llah was the first of the Founders of the great revealed religions to touch upon European soil. This was yet another way in which Baha'u'llah's mission linked together both the East and the West. Baha'u'llah was the first of these Messengers of God to proclaim His Faith from the West as well as from the East.
Nasiri'd-Din Shah had imprisoned Baha'u'llah in the Black Pit in Teheran, His native city in His own country. There Baha'u'llah's ministry had begun.
Baha'u'llah had been banished to another land to silence His tongue and weaken His influence.
There in the famed valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, Baha'u'llah had formally declared the purpose of His Mission to His companions and to the world. Alarmed at the Prisoner's growing prestige and power, Nasiri'd-Din Shah had conspired with Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz to banish Him to Constantinople, farther yet from the circle of His relatives, friends and followers. The kings sent Him to another continent, Europe. There, in the midst of the "throne of tyranny" Baha'u'llah, in the capital city of Constantinople, launched the first stage of the public proclamation of His Mission to the world.
Now, Baha'u'llah was sent on yet another banishment, this time to a remote outpost where it was felt He would be powerless to influence anyone of importance. He would be cut off from the world. There in Adrianople, contrary to the schemes of kings, Baha'u'llah's Mission reached its high-point. He wrote His historic Tablet to the kings and rulers of the world. There He launched in its flood-tide the proclamation of His Faith to the world on a scale unprecedented in the religious history of mankind.
Every persecution, every suppression designed by the kings to render Baha'u'llah impotent, however devastating in the physical sufferings He sustained, was followed by a greater outpouring of teaching and spirit. Sufferings the kings devised for their Prisoner proved only to be preludes to a greater unfolding of God's purpose for mankind.
The greatest suffering, and the full unfolding, lay ahead.
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh."
Section 3- The Final Banishment
For nearly five years Baha'u'llah was a prisoner and exile in the remote provincial city of Adrianople. During those turbulent years Baha'u'llah sustained three more attempts on His life. His enemies twice tried to poison Him and conspired to have Him slain in the public bath. All were unsuccessful.
Baha'u'llah now turned to the task of revealing God's guidance for the governments as well as the peoples of the world. Some of His most important and extensive writings date from this period. Nabil, the historian, writes: "A number of secretaries were busy day and night, and yet they were unable to cope with the task of transcribing the Revelation."
Baha'u'llah during His lifetime wrote over one hundred volumes dealing with the various problems facing man and his society. One of the most fruitful periods of His entire Mission was during His days in Adrianople. Baha'u'llah Himself affirms the copiousness of His Writings during those months in Turkey, saying:
"That which hath already been revealed in this land [Adrianople] are incapable of transcribing."
On another occasion, Baha'u'llah declared:
"In these days the equivalent of all that hath been sent down aforetime unto the Prophets hath been revealed."
These Writings were part of the historic world-wide proclamation of His Faith to the kings and rulers of the earth.
This Proclamation had its first beginnings in Constantinople when Baha'u'llah sent His powerful Letter to the Prime Minister of Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz following the king's decree banishing Him to Adrianople. This Proclamation reached its zenith in Adrianople.
There Baha'u'llah wrote His most momentous Letter to the crowned heads of the world. For "the first time He directed His words collectively to the entire company of the monarchs of East and West." Baha'u'llah warned these rulers that "divine chastisement" would "assail" them "from every direction" if they failed in their responsibility to consider the new social and spiritual principles which God was revealing for a united world. Baha'u'llah prophesied the triumph of this Cause even if "no king be found who would turn his face towards (God)."
Those who took the time to listen and grasp the significance of His Words and grasp the significance of His Teachings were deeply moved. The essence of His Message to the kings and rulers of the world, and to the peoples of the earth, can be found in those Writings which streamed constantly from His Pen during those years Adrianople.
Social justice was at the basis of almost every instruction which Baha'u'llah issued to the leaders of men. He constantly urged those in authority to shield and shelter the needy ones. He encouraged them to protect the rights of the underprivileged, and to uplift and instill hope in the downtrodden.
In Baha'u'llah's own words:
"O Ye Rich Ones on Earth! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease."
And in another place:
"Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor . . . to be poor in all save God is a wondrous gift, belittle not the value thereof; for in the end it will make thee rich in God . . . "
This "most glorious phase" in the Mission of Baha'u'llah is filled with His Counsels for the protection of the peoples of the world. It will forever remain as the "zenith" of His ministry on earth. Baha'u'llah urged all the leaders of the world to unite in a poverty program that would forever end the unjust extremes of wealth and destitution. This was a hundred years ago!
"O ye rulers of the earth! . . . Hearken unto the counsel given you . . . that haply both ye and the poor may attain unto tranquillity and peace. We beseech God to assist the kings of the earth to establish peace on earth."
During these fateful days in Adrianople, Baha'u'llah "arose with matchless power" to proclaim the Mission "with which He had been entrusted." He broadcast it to the rulers of men in both the East and the West, those leaders who held the reins of temporal power in their grasp.
Baha'u'llah was Himself "bent with sorrow" and still suffering from the effects of the last attempt on His life. He was well aware that a further banishment was impending. In spite of all these obstacles and perils, the Faith of Baha'u'llah during this period began to shine "in its meridian glory" and to demonstrate the power with which it was invested.
The Turkish government now yielded entirely to the pressure of the Persian ambassador and decided to send the exiles to a place which would both isolate them and assure their early deaths. A decree was issued commanding Baha'u'llah's fourth banishment to the dreaded penal colony of 'Akka.
The companions of Baha'u'llah were seized by the authorities in their homes and on the streets of Adrianople in a surprise arrest. They were questioned, deprived of their papers, and flung into prison. Several times members of the group were summoned before the authorities and questioned concerning the exact number of Baha'u'llah's family and friends.
Rumors ran through the village that "they were to be dispersed to different places or secretly put to death."
Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz had been assured by his ministers that neither Baha'u'llah nor His Faith could survive in the pestilential atmosphere of 'Akka. This fortress-city was the most dreaded prison in all the Turkish empire. The Sultan's advisors felt confident that Baha'u'llah would soon perish in that vile place.
In fact, they were taking part in a spiritual drama which the prophets of the past had foreseen and described.
By banishing Baha'u'llah to 'Akka, these enemies believed that they were carrying out the orders of their ruler, Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz. In reality, they were instruments for the fulfillment of "promises" made by God in sacred scripture long before.
Although Baha'u'llah's companions, until the last moment of their departure from Turkey, were uncertain where He would be sent, Baha'u'llah Himself, the "Ancient Beauty," the object of so many wonderful and thrilling prophecies in the Holy Books of the past, was only too aware of His ultimate destination. He knew where He would ultimately he banished years before the event.
As far back as the first years of His banishment to Adrianople, Baha'u'llah had already alluded to His future arrival at the fortress-city of 'Akka, the "door of hope" for mankind.
Baha'u'llah wrote about the world-wide triumph of His Faith which would follow that historic arrival. During those earliest years in Turkey, Baha'u'llah also hinted at the importance and significance of that future historic landing at 'Akka. His Words were, in reality, a prophecy. He wrote:
"Upon Our arrival, We were welcomed with banners of light, whereupon the Voice of the Spirit cried out saying, 'Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.'"
Note: One hundred years later, the author of this book was present at the Centenary commemoration of Baha'u'llah's arrival in the Holy Land. Already His prophecy had come true. News was being shared from all parts of the earth announcing the entry of great numbers of new Baha'is into the Faith of Baha'u'llah. They were flocking to His standard in America, Asia, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and in the islands of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean and Caribbean Sea. Peoples and races in all nations, especially among the youth of the world, were embracing the Baha'i Faith in over thirty thousand centers in almost every section of the world. Indeed, all segments of humanity were now "enlisting" beneath the "banner" of Baha'u'llah's Faith.
"Tell the king that this territory will pass out of his hands."
Section 4- The Journey by Sea
On August 12, 1868, Baha'u'llah and His family began their four day journey to Gallipoli, the first stage of their final banishment. They were escorted by a Turkish captain and a detachment of soldiers. The party stopped en route at several towns.
At Kashanih, Baha'u'llah began one of His most famous Letters to the Kings of the earth. It was completed a short time later at Gyawur-Kyuy. Before leaving Turkey, Baha'u'llah made it clear that He would never forget that land. He asserted that He had: " . . . deposited beneath every tree and every stone a trust, which God will erelong bring forth through the power of truth."
The significance of these words was soon to become apparent.
Baha'u'llah and His companions finally reached Gallipoli on the sea where they spent three nights. This was to be their last stop in Turkey. Even at that late hour, Baha'u'llah gave the Sultan, 'Abdu'l-'Aziz, one final opportunity to repent of his past actions. Baha'u'llah sent a verbal message to the king through a Turkish officer named 'Omar.
Baha'u'llah requested Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz to grant Him a ten minute interview during which he, the king could make any test he wished, so that he might determine for himself the truth or falsehood of Baha'u'llah's Faith.
The request was not granted.
Not one of Baha'u'llah's attempts at such a confrontation with the kings, their ministers or the clergy had ever been accepted. Baha'u'llah prepared to depart for 'Akka, a city which had once been part of the ancient land of Canaan. According to sacred Scripture, was the land which would be inherited in the last days by one of the "seed" of Abraham.
Baha'u'llah was descended from Abraham through His third wife, Katurah. How tender and beautiful is this story of Abraham and His "seed," Baha'u'llah. How closely their Missions were bound together. How remarkably Their stories paralleled each other.
In the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Abraham proclaimed the oneness of God. In that same valley, Baha'u'llah proclaimed the oneness of all religions, races and nations. Abraham was exiled from that valley to the land of Canaan. Baha'u'llah followed the same exile to that same land where He completed His Teachings and Laws for the salvation of all society.
In a Tablet revealed on the eve of His banishment to the penal colony of "Akka, Baha'u'llah declared: "Had Abraham attained it [this day], He too, falling prostrate on the ground . . . would have cried:
'Mine heart is filled with peace, O Thou Lord of all that is in heaven and on earth! I testify that Thou hast unveiled before mine eyes all the glory of Thy power and the full majesty of Thy law!'"
The hour had come at last for Baha'u'llah to leave European soil and begin His journey to the Holy Land. Hasan Effendi, the officer who had escorted Him from Adrianople, was taking leave of Baha'u'llah. Baha'u'llah spoke these final words to that Turkish captain. It was yet another message for the Sultan, 'Abdu'l-'Aziz.
"Tell the king that this territory will pass out of his hands, and that his affairs will be thrown into confusion."
Baha'u'llah wanted Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz to know that on this occasion, He, Baha'u'llah, was speaking not as a prisoner and an exile, but as a Messenger of God. He was addressing the king with the same authority with which Moses, Christ and Muhammad had spoken of old. Aqa Rida has recorded that scene for posterity.
"To this [statement] Baha'u'llah furthermore added: 'Not I speak these words, but God speaketh them.' In those moments He [Baha'u'llah] was uttering verses which we, who were downstairs, could overhear. They were spoken with such vehemence and power that, methinks, the foundations of the house itself trembled."
Baha'u'llah embarked for 'Akka via Egypt. The Persian Ambassador promptly informed the Persian consul in Egypt that the Turkish government had withdrawn its protection over the followers of Baha'u'llah.
"You are now free to treat them as you please was the essence of this information forwarded by that persistent enemy.
The threats and trials which faced Baha'u'llah as He headed toward His final exile were so grievous that He warned His companions about the dangers and hardships that lay ahead.
Baha'u'llah urged those who did not feel stout-hearted enough to face the sufferings yet to come to feel free to leave for any destination which they might desire. Those who chose to accompany Him, Baha'u'llah said, would find it impossible to leave in the future. Baha'u'llah warned them:
"this journey will be unlike any of the previous journeys."
"If a bird flies over 'Akka it dies!"
Section- 5 The King of Glory Enters the Gate
On August 21, 1868, Baha'u'llah and His companions were taken on board an Austrian-Lloyd steamer bound for the Holy Land. The ship touched first at Modelli and Smyrna. At Alexandria, Baha'u'llah was transferred to another ship which stopped at Port Said and Jaffa.
On August 31, the vessel arrived at the port of Haifa. It anchored at sea below the foot of Mount Carmel, the "nest of the Prophets" and the "vinyard of God."
The Glory of God had come home at last!
Baha'u'llah, the glory of God, had come "by way of the sea," as promised in sacred Scripture. He had, crossed the Black Sea, and now the Mediterranean Sea. He had arrived at His final destination, the "nest of all the Prophets."
It was a land "sanctified by the Revelation of Moses, honored by the lives and labors of the Hebrew patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets." It was revered "as the cradle of Christianity"; honored as the place where Zoroaster conversed "with some of the prophets of Israel"; a land associated with the "night journey" of the Apostle of Islam, Muhammad; a land linked with the Founders of Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Islam, and now with both the Herald and Founder of the Baha'i Faith, the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Whose Remains are entombed there.
Ezekiel had alluded to 'Akka as the "gate" through which "the glory of God" would come to "Israel" from "the East."
And at last He had come!
David not only described 'Akka as the Strong City in his Psalms, he also predicted that the "king of Glory" (Baha) would come through the "gates" and "not keep silence."
And at last He had come!
Hosea had described 'Akka as "a door of hope." Isaiah foretold that 'Akka would be a refuge for the "herds" of God to lie down in with safety in the last days.
The Arabian Prophet, Muhammad, Whose followers inhabited the city of 'Akka, had described that historic site as "a city in Syria to which God hath shown His special mercy," a city by the shore of the sea" and whose "whiteness is pleasing unto God."
By the action of His enemies Baha'u'llah, the Exile of Baghdad, of Constantinople and Adrianople" was to spend the last third of His entire life, and over half of the duration of His earthly Mission in that sacred land.
Baha'u'llah's Son. 'Abdu'l-Baha, was also a prisoner on that historical occasion. He wrote of Baha'u'llah's arrival in that land: "It is difficult to understand how Baha'u'llah could have been obliged to leave Persia, and to pitch His tent in this Holy Land, but for the persecution of His enemies, His banishment and exile."
The Shah of Persia and the Sultan of Turkey, the two supreme temporal rulers of the destinies of both Sunni and Shi'ih Islam, had imprisoned Baha'u'llah in what they considered the ultimate prison. They had shut Him up in a city so forlorn that it was described as "the metropolis of the owl." So unsanitary and foul was the atmosphere of the fortress-city with its prevalence of malaria, typhoid and dysentery that it was said in proverb: "If a bird flies over 'Akka, it dies!"
In retrospect these attempts on the part of the kings to destroy Baha'u'llah seem merely pathetic. The scriptures of the major religions make clear why every one of these efforts ended in disaster. In spite of the repeated and combined efforts of kings and clergy to prevent it, the Glory of God appeared at last on the side of God's holy mountain, Carmel.
These rulers of the world were foiled at every step. They were able to add immeasurably to Baha'u'llah's cup of sorrow, but they were powerless to prevent Him from fulfilling His destiny. That had been foretold. Every step along the way, Baha'u'llah fulfilled prophecy after prophecy from the Holy Books of those kings until in spite of them He came at last to God's "Holy Hill''.
This story itself, this tragedy of blind kings been clearly foreshadowed in everlasting language in the Book of Psalms.
The prophecy declared:
"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord . . . He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath . . . Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion . . . Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth . . . Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him."
The King of Turkey had failed to put his "trust" in Baha'u'llah. No matter how often that assistance had been offered to him, the king had rejected it. The judges, ministers, and leaders of that land following the lead of their sovereign, were not "wise" in their judgements. Their downfall and disappearance from living history was even then being fashioned by the Hand of God.
"All of them shall be slain
except one, who shall reach the plain of 'Akka."
Section-6 The Banquet-Hall of God
The arrival of Baha'u'llah at 'Akka begins the last and final phase of His "forty year long" Ministry, a period of time itself repeatedly emphasized in sacred Scripture. Baha'u'llah had come to the heart of Judaism and Christianity. Already His exile had taken Him to the ''strongholds" of Islam.
It is hard to understand the ignorance of these rulers of Islam, Sultan 'Abdu'l-'Aziz and Nasiri'd-Din Shah, concerning the references so prevalent throughout their own sacred Writings, to all these events. Unlike the kings of Christendom, these rulers of Islam, as many of their titles indicated, were an integral, everyday part of the religious system. Yet, they were oblivious of the traditional prophecies recorded in their own Holy Books, prophecies which they had brought to a staggering fulfillment by their own cruel acts against Baha'u'llah. Their attitude speaks volumes about the sincerity of their belief in their own faith.
For example: Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, had referred glowingly to this very prison-city of 'Akka. He called it: "A city . . . to which God hath shown His special mercy."
And in another place He described it as a city: "by the shore of the sea . . . whose whiteness is pleasing unto God."
From the traditional prophecies so highly honored in the sacred Writings of both Turkey and Persia could be found these further astonishing words which 'Abdu'l-'Aziz and Nasiri'd-Din Shah might have done well to ponder:
"Blessed the man that hath visited 'Akka, and blessed he that hath visited the visitor of 'Akka.''
"He that raiseth therein the call to prayer, his voice will be lifted up unto Paradise and the princes thereof."
"The poor of 'Akka are the kings of Paradise and the princes thereof."
"A month in 'Akka is better than a thousand years elsewhere."
Why? No one really understood the mystery until Baha'u'llah's arrival.
And finally, one of the most remarkable prophecies of all. It is especially significant when one studies the history of the martyrdom of the Herald of Baha'u'llah's Faith, the Bab. Some twenty thousand of His followers were slain--a fate which Baha'u'llah Himself escaped time after time in Persia, Iraq and Turkey. He was the only intimate of the Bab to escape Persia. The prophecies spoke repeatedly of the One Who would appear in the year 1260-(1844 AD.) He would be the first of two such Messengers. One of these traditional prophecies foretells the martyrdom of this holy Messenger and many of His followers, and declares:
"All of them shall he slain except One Who shall reach the plain of 'Akka, the Banquet-Hall of God."
After reaching the "plain of 'Akka" Baha'u'llah had written to the kings of the world concerning that mighty banquet-of-God which He had offered to them for the nourishment and unity of mankind.
"He Who is the Unconditioned is come . . . that He may quicken all created things . . . and unify the world, and gather all men around this Table which hath been sent down from heaven."
The arrival of Baha'u'llah in the Holy Land fulfilled as well the astonishing prophecies from the Book of Micah. Micah, as had Isaiah and Daniel, foretold both the first and second coming in the glory of the Father, Baha'u'llah. The prophecies fulfilled by Baha'u'llah seem almost a road-map of spiritual life. They describe His journeys from Persia to Mount Carmel. These prophecies alone should be enough for all mankind.
Micah prophecies that in the last days when corruption and hatred have filled the earth, the Redeemer will come from Babylon to Israel. Baha'u'llah was exiled to Israel from Baghdad, near the site of ancient Babylon.
Then in one chapter Micah gives an amazing answer to those who ridiculed him, saying: "Where is the Lord thy God?" Micah replies in one single chapter:
1- "In that day also, he shall come even to thee from Assyria . . . "
Baha'u'llah came from what was once in the midst of the Assyrian empire as known by Micah.
2- "In that day also he shall come even to thee . . . from
the fortified cities . . . "
Baha'u'llah came from the fortified city of Constantinople to the fortified city of 'Akka.
3- "In that day also he shall come even to thee . . . from
the fortress even to the river . . . "
Baha'u'llah came to the ancient river Belus from the fortress of 'Akka when he was released from prison.
4- "In that day also he shall come even to thee . . . from
sea to sea . . . "
Baha'u'llah came across the Black Sea in exile to Constantinople, and across the Mediterranean Sea on His last exile to the Holy Land.
5- "In that day also he shall come even to thee . . . from
mountain to mountain . . . "
Baha'u'llah came from Mt. Sar Galuint in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (from ancient Babylon) to Mt. Carmel, the vinyard of God, in Israel.
In the next verse, Micah says the "land shall be desolate" when the Redeemer arrives. 'Akka was described as the "most desolate of cities" at this time. After Baha'u'llah's coming that arid, "desolate" area began slowly to "blossom as the rose."
In the following verse, Micah says that this "Lord of Salvation"
will "feed" his flock "in the midst of Carmel."
Baha'u'llah announced on the side of Mount Carmel that all the prophecies had been fulfilled. The World Center of His Faith has its headquarters "in the midst of Carmel" from where Baha'u'llah's Teachings are now going out into all parts of the planet to "feed" the peoples and nations of the world.
In the next verse, Micah says that God will "shew unto him," the Redeemer, "marvellous things" for forty years. Baha'u'llah's mission lasted exactly forty years during which time He shared with the kings and leaders of men the "wonderful things" He had been "shewn" by God.
Micah prophesies that in the last days the "house of the Lord" will be "established" in the mountain, many nations will "flow" unto it, and the "law" shall "go forth" and Israel shall become "a strong nation." In Baha'u'llah's own Words, "Such words are in need of no commentary" as their truth is "self-evident."
Is there anywhere in history a more remarkable story? One would expect the banners to be flying and the bands to be playing and the hearts of men singing with joy at the arrival of the Promised One of all Ages on the side of God's holy mountain.
What really happened?
Baha'u'llah has written about His arrival in that dreaded prison, saying:
"None knoweth what befell Us, except God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing."
So grave and critical were the first nine years of His imprisonment in that penal-colony, that Baha'u'llah wrote:
"Know thou, that upon Our arrival at this Spot, We chose to designate it as the 'Most Great Prison.' Though previously subjected in another land [Persia] to chains and fetters, We yet refused to call it by that name . . . Ponder thereon, O ye endued with understanding!"
But He assured His followers that:
"Though afflicted with countless tribulations, which We have suffered at the hands of Our enemies, We have proclaimed unto all the rulers of the earth what God hath willed to proclaim, that all nations may know that no manner of affliction can deter the Pen of the Ancient of Days from achieving its purpose . . . the hosts of the earth can never dismay Thee, nor can the dominion of all peoples and nations deter Thee from executing Thy purpose."
The decree exiling Baha'u'llah to 'Akka was dated July 26, 1868. The text was read publicly, soon after the arrival of Baha'u'llah in 'Akka. It was read out in the principal mosques of the city as a warning to the population.
The Sultan feared that the people of 'Akka might fall under the seemingly magic charm of Baha'u'llah's spell as had the people in Baghdad and Adrianople. The king was determined that this time Baha'u'llah and His companions should be made objects of derision and hatred by the inhabitants of the city of 'Akka. The Sultan resolved to make no mistake this time.
His decree condemned Baha'u'llah, His family and His followers to perpetual banishment. It also "stipulated their strict incarceration, and forbade them to associate either with each other or with the local inhabitants." The townspeople of 'Akka were encouraged to persecute and humiliate Baha'u'llah, His family and His friends in every way possible. These captives were described to the people as enemies of both God and man.
By these acts of hatred, the Sultan set the final seal on the extinction of his own outward splendor. All these events led to the doom of Imperial Turkey, the "throne of tyranny."
Prisoner and the Kings by William Sears