About two and a half years after the Báb’s martyrdom, Bahá’u’lláh received the first intimation of His Revelation. He declared Himself the One promised by all the great religions of the past. In an Epistle to the king of Persia, He describes His spiritual transformation by the divine power:
O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-
Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow. The learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not.208
He compared Himself to a frail leaf stirred by the Lord:
This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All- Praised, have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing? Nay, by Him Who is the Lord of all Names and Attributes! They move it as they list…His all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me.209
One night, in a dream, these exalted words were heard on every side: “Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Erelong will God raise up the treasures of the earth—men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name…210
Bahá’u’lláh, born into one of the most distinguished families in 19th-century Persia, and was expected to follow in the footsteps of His illustrious father. Instead of living the princely life, He endured and accepted a life of anguish and affliction, of tests and trials. He chose 40 years of imprisonment and exile in place of earthly joys and riches. A humble life in prison held more glories for Him than the pomp of kings; poverty excelled the pursuit of a princely life, and self-sacrifice surpassed “the ease and pleasures of a passing day.”
Like His Herald, the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh encountered severe opposition and oppression from the onset of His ministry to the very end, especially from those who feared the loss of their powers. And in spite of the grave danger to His life, Bahá’u’lláh declined to live in concealment. Instead of escaping afflictions, He welcomed them; instead of mourning, He rejoiced; instead of grieving, He gloried and exulted. To a cruel, cunning, and powerful religious leader, who had tortured and put to death some of the most distinguished disciples of the new Faith, Bahá’u’lláh wrote:
Thinkest thou that We fear thy cruelty? Know thou and be well assured that from the first day…We offered up Our souls, and Our bodies… in the path of God, the Exalted, the Great, and We glory therein amongst all created things…211
The masses, the religious leaders, and the state combined their efforts and powers against Bahá’u’lláh. They said, “This man wishes to suppress and destroy the religion, the law, the nation and the empire.”212 But the persecution of the new Faith in the land of its origin could not obscure the radiance or suppress the love and devotion of its determined believers; on the contrary, the oppression and cruelty intensified the ever-spreading flame of faith among the heroic followers. It also activated the dormant curiosities of the masses, strengthening the determination and enflaming the desire of the multitudes of devoted seekers athirst for truth.
The oppressors had to find a new solution—banishment. They banished Bahá’u’lláh from city to city, and from country to country, each time hoping that the next destination
would prove fatal, would at last stifle or extinguish Bahá’u’lláh’s overwhelming and ever-expanding influence. But it was a vain hope. Exile, like a wind, carried His message to the lands beyond.
At last, His adversaries found an “ideal” city—one that they thought would unquestionably contain the influence of the charming and persuasive prisoner. The city was ‘Akká, “a solitary desert,” an extremely desolate and remote place in the Holy Land, governed by the most deadly elements. So they banished Bahá’u’lláh for the fourth time, but they failed again. Bahá’u’lláh’s influence could not be contained; it continued to spread with an ever-increasing tempo. He prevailed over all adversities, all suppressions and oppositions.
In response to the efforts of His oppressors, Bahá’u’lláh wrote:
Though the forces of the nations be arrayed against Him, though the kings of the earth be leagued to undermine His Cause, the power of His might shall stand unshaken.213
In a talk given in Chicago in 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s Son and appointed interpreter of His teachings, described the suffering as well as the mission of Bahá’u’lláh:
For the betterment of the world Bahá’u’lláh endured all the hardships, ordeals and vicissitudes of life, sacrificing His very being and comfort, forfeiting His estates, possessions and honor—all that pertains to human existence—not for one year, nay, rather, for nearly fifty years. During this long period He was subjected to persecution and abuse, was cast into prison, was banished from His native land, underwent severities and humiliation and was exiled four times. He was first exiled from Persia to Baghdad, thence to Constantinople, thence to Rumelia and finally to the great prison-fortress of ‘Akká in Syria, where He passed the remainder of His life. Every day a new oppression and abuse was heaped upon Him until He winged His flight from the dungeon to the supreme world and returned to His Lord. He endured these ordeals and difficulties in order that this earthly human world might become heavenly, that the illumination of the divine Kingdom should become a reality in human hearts, that the individual members of mankind might progress…and the happiness of the world of humanity be assured.214
Although a prisoner and in exile, Bahá’u’lláh enjoyed unexampled freedom and honor during His later days in ‘Akká. People marveled at His powers to overcome His enemies, to rise above all obstacles. They said: “This man is a prince, not a prisoner.”
After Bahá’u’lláh’s exile to the Holy Land, many came to recognize the significance of the move. It fulfilled the myriads of Scriptural prophecies pointing to the Holy Land as the seat of the Lord of the last days, as “the solitary place” that shall “rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1), and to the Valley of Achor as “a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15), and as “a resting place” for all those who seek God (Isaiah 65:10). They noted with wonder and awe that the prophecies had been fulfilled, not by Bahá’u’lláh’s own choosing, but by the cunning of His adversaries, who had planned and plotted to extinguish His light.
Was it chance or destiny that Bahá’u’lláh should have been sent to the Promised Land as a prisoner, not of His own free Will but by the will of those who had sought to destroy
Him and everything He stood for? Is this how God chooses to fulfill His promises? Regarding the blessedness of the Holy Land, Bahá’u’lláh wrote:
This Holy Land hath been mentioned and extolled in all the sacred Scriptures. In it have appeared the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones. This is the wilderness in which all the Messengers of God have wandered, from which their cry, “Here am I, here am I, O my God” was raised. This is the promised Land in which He Who is the Revelation of God was destined to be made manifest. This is…the Land of unfading splendor. Whatever hath come to pass in this Day hath been foretold in the Scriptures of old.215
Bahá’u’lláh’s final place of banishment, the Holy Land, to this day continues to be the World Center of the Bahá’í Faith, fulfilling the words of the Holy Ones of the past. On the slopes of Mt. Carmel—adjacent to ‘Akká—stands the seat of the Universal House of Justice, the source of guidance and inspiration for the Bahá’í world and, in the future, for the entire planet:
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths”… They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. _Isaiah 2:2-4
Here on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, Bahá’u’lláh (meaning Glory of the Lord) pitched His tent with the utmost glory and grandeur, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that Carmel (literally, the Vineyard of the Lord) “shall see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God” (Isaiah 35:1-2). Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in the Vineyard of the Lord further fulfilled and made evident the purpose of Jesus’ prophetic words, pointing to the advent of the Lord of the Vineyard in the last days (Matt. 21:33-40).
Jesus’ prophecy reached full realization when the remains of Bahá’u’lláh’s martyred Herald, the Báb, were laid to rest on the slopes of Mt. Carmel. For He, too, had assumed a title similar to that of Bahá’u’lláh, namely Rabb, meaning the Lord.
In the following passages, Bahá’u’lláh exalts Carmel, also known as the Mountain of the Lord, in the most majestic and moving terms:
Rejoice, for God hath in this Day established upon thee His throne, hath made thee the dawning-place of His signs and the dayspring of the evidences of His Revelation. Well is it with him that circleth around thee, that proclaimeth the revelation of thy glory…Seize thou the Chalice of Immortality in the name of thy Lord, the All-Glorious, and give thanks unto Him, inasmuch as He, in token of His mercy unto thee, hath turned thy sorrow into gladness, and transmuted thy grief into blissful joy.216
Bahá’u’lláh also glorified Christ in the most moving terms:
Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh
capacity was infused into all created things…Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him.217
Note Bahá’u’lláh’s compassion for the sufferings Jesus endured, and also the supreme titles by which He glorified the Son of God:
Reflect how Jesus, the Spirit of God, was, notwithstanding His extreme meekness and perfect tender-heartedness, treated by His enemies. So fierce was the opposition which He, the Essence of Being and Lord of the visible and invisible, had to face, that He had nowhere to lay His head.218