Exile to Baghdad

“My mother,” she said, sometimes gave lessons to my brother ‘Abbas; at other times Mírzá Músá would teach Him, and on some occasions he would be taught by His father.

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 69)

But Mirza Yahya was afraid to make contact with Bahá’u'lláh in Kirmanshah. Such was his state that when his half-brother, Mirza Musa, went to see him, he was apprehensive lest someone should discover his identity. At last he mustered enough courage to come and meet Bahá’u'lláh, and expressed his desire to go to Baghdad, engage in a trade there, and live incognito and alone in a house close to Bahá’u'lláh’s. With a small sum of money that Bahá’u'lláh gave him, he bought a few bales of cotton, disguised himself in the garb of an Arab and made his way to Baghdad.

Soon after his arrival he appeared outside the house of Bahá’u'lláh. Mírzá Músá, who answered the door, did not recognize him at first for he was dressed as a dervish, with a kashkul (alms box) hanging from his shoulder. He stayed there for a few days but asked that his arrival and identity should not be divulged to anyone in Baghdad. Thereafter he found accommodation in the Arab quarter of the city where no Persians lived, and moved there. During the day-time he refused to meet anybody. In the evenings after dark he often used to go to the house of Bahá’u'lláh and meet with Mirza Musa, returning to his quarters in the dead of night.

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u'llah v 1, p. 246)

Bahá’u'lláh was saddaned to see the hardships Navváb endured. He sometimes helped with the cooking to lighten her load, but He could do little else. He was still recovering from the ills of His days in prison.

It was Bahá’u'lláh’s kindhearted brother Mírzá Músá who came to their rescue. He pulled the heavy buckets of water from the well and helped with the never-ending laundry. Mírzá Músá’s best talent, though, was in cooking, and before long he had quite willingly taken over the task. Mírzá Músá’s kind help was especially welcome in the following weeks. Navváb gave birth to a baby boy–the sweet burden she had carried in her womb all through their bitter journey. Now their new home was blessed with new life.

Two months after their arrival in Baghdad, the exiles had a guest. Mírzá Músá opened the door to find a dervish standing with his begging box in hand. It was a good disguise. Not even Mírzá Músá recognized that the dervish standing before him was Mirza Yahya, once again seeking out Bahá’u'lláh. When Mirza Yahya revealed who he was, the family made him welcome.

(Druzelle Cederquist, The Story Of Bahá’u'lláh, p. 181)

Before my father left for his retreat into the wilderness, he commanded the friends to treat Subh-i-Azal with consideration. He offered him and his family the shelter and hospitality of our house. He asked Mírzá Músá, my mother and me, to care for them and to do everything in our power to make them comfortable.

Our grief was intense when my father left us. He told none of us either where he was going or when he would return. He took no luggage, only a little rice, and some coarse bread. So we, my mother, my brother ‘Abbas and I, clung together in our sorrow and anxiety.

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 50)

Mulla Muhammad-i-Zarandi, later entitled Nabil-i-A’zam, destined to become the most outstanding chronicler and historian of the Bábí-Bahá’í Faith, and who had himself made certain claims, reached Baghdad at a time when Bahá’u'lláh was at Sulaymaniyyih. By his own admission, he still believed that Mirza Yahya was a man of consequence and sought a meeting with him. Mírzá Músá; Aqay-i-Kalim, whom Nabil encountered on the bridge, took him home (to the house of ‘Ali Madad) to meet the Most Great Branch, then barely ten years old. From Mirza Musa he learned that Mirza Yahya did not meet anyone, and so it was, for not only did Mirza Yahya not show his face, but he sent Nabil a message, urging him to quit Baghdad and seek the safety of Karbila where Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani had stationed himself.

(H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u'llah – The King of Glory, p. 128)

Now our great anxiety was concerning the whereabouts of Jamal-i-Mubarak. All this time my mother and Mírzá Músá made every possible inquiry. My brother’s distress at the prolonged absence was pathetic. On one occasion he prayed the whole night a certain prayer with the one intention, that our father might be restored to us.

The very next day, he and our uncle, Mírzá Músá, overheard two people speaking of a marvellous one, living as a dervish in the wild mountain district of Sulaymaniyyih; they described him as “The Nameless One,” who had magnetized the country-side with his love. And they immediately knew that this must be our Beloved.

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 53)

One evening the Sufis of that country-side, assembled together, were discussing a mystical poem, when a dervish arose in their midst and gave so wonderful an interpretation of its meaning that awe fell upon the gathering. All his hearers were silent for awhile, and then they came together close round him and entreated him to come again to teach them.

But his time was not yet. When one said sorrowfully, “Oh Master! Shall we then see thee no more?”

“In a time to come, but not yet, go to the city of Baghdad, ask for the house of Mirza Musa Irani. There shalt thou hear tidings of me,” the “Nameless One” replied.

He went out from their midst and again retreated into the desolate places.

(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 55)

Bahá’u'lláh was still pursuing His solitary existence on that mountain when a certain Shaykh, a resident of Sulaymaniyyih, who owned a property in that neighborhood, sought Him out, as directed in a dream he had of the Prophet Muhammad. Shortly after this contact was established, Shaykh Isma’il, the leader of the Khalidiyyih Order, who lived in Sulaymaniyyih, visited Him, and succeeded, after repeated requests, in obtaining His consent to transfer His residence to that town. Meantime His friends in Baghdad had discovered His whereabouts, and had dispatched Shaykh Sultan, the father-in-law of Aqay-i-Kalim, to beg Him to return; and it was now while He was living in Sulaymaniyyih, in a room belonging to the Takyiy-i-Mawlana Khalid (theological seminary) that their messenger arrived. “I found,” this same Shaykh Sultan, recounting his experiences to Nabil, has stated, “all those who lived with Him in that place, from their Master down to the humblest neophyte, so enamoured of, and carried away by their love for Bahá’u'lláh, and so unprepared to contemplate the possibility of His departure that I felt certain that were I to inform them of the purpose of my visit, they would not have hesitated to put an end to my life.”

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 121)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá oftentimes walked among the learned who were wise with the wisdom of age and competent with experience, and conversed with them on their themes and topics. They respected the speech of the young boy, because it was mature and enlightening, and because the speaker was modest and charming. Once a redoubtable enemy of Bahá’u'lláh remarked that had He no other proof to substantiate His exceptional powers, it were sufficient that He had reared such a son as ‘Abbas Effendi.

The news was brought to Baghdad of a sage who had appeared in the mountains of the north, a remarkable person possessed of unique qualities. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recognized in this news tidings of His Father. His uncle, Mirza Musa, Bahá’u'lláh’s faithful brother, thought likewise. Shaykh Sultan, an outstanding Arab Bábí of Karbila, accompanied by Jawad the woodcutter, also a Bábí of Arab origin, set out to seek Bahá’u'lláh and entreat Him to return. Bahá’u'lláh’s long absence had shown beyond doubt that the community of the Báb stood in dire need of Him. He went back in March 1856 amidst joy and jubilation. Bahá’u'lláh gave the Bábís vision and hope and character which they had lost. But as yet only the chosen mind of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had received the full impact of the station of His Father. It was during this period that Bahá’u'lláh bestowed upon His Son the designation ‘Sirru’llah’ — the Mystery of God. Those who sought the presence of Bahá’u'lláh found in His eldest Son traits and qualities which evoked high praise and marvelling admiration.

(H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu’l-Baha – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 14)

Shaykh Sultan, accompanied by a Bábí woodcutter of Arab stock, named Jawad, set out to plead with Bahá’u'lláh at the instance of His eldest Son, barely twelve, of Mirza Musa (surnamed Kalim — the Speaker), His faithful brother, and of these Bábís who realized that only the presence of Bahá’u'lláh in their midst could save them from total disaster. True, Mirza Yahya had also written to ask Bahá’u'lláh to return, but it was a request, not a ‘summons’. The ‘Mystic Source’ which Bahá’u'lláh mentions in The Book of Certitude, from whence the summons came, is obviously the Godhead.

(H.M. Balyuzi, E.G. Browne and The Baha’i Faith, p. 78)

The prestige of the community, and particularly that of Bahá’u'lláh, now began from its first inception in Kurdistan to mount in a steadily rising crescendo. Bahá’u'lláh had scarcely gathered up again the reins of the authority he had relinquished when the devout admirers He had left behind in Sulaymaniyyih started to flock to Baghdad, with the name of “Darvish Muhammad” on their lips, and the “house of Mirza Musa the Bábí” as their goal.

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 128)

. . . About two months after Our arrival in ‘Iraq, following the command of His Majesty the Shah of Persia – may God assist him – Mirza Yahya joined Us. We said unto him: ‘In accordance with the Royal command We have been sent unto this place. It is advisable for thee to remain in Persia. We will send Our brother, Mirza Musa, to some other place. As your names have not been mentioned in the Royal decree, you can arise and render some service.’ Subsequently, this Wronged One departed from Baghdad, and for two years withdrew from the world. Upon Our return, We found that he had not left, and had postponed his departure. This Wronged One was greatly saddened.

(H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u'llah – The King of Glory, p. 107)

The sun was about to set when they reached Firayjat, three miles away, on the bank of the Tigris. Here too there was a verdant garden which contained a considerable mansion, and here the caravan halted for seven days. While Mirza Musa, the brother of Bahá’u'lláh, was busy tidying their affairs in Baghdad and seeing to the packing and loading of the rest of their goods, Bahá’u'lláh resided in that mansion. In Firayjat horses were made to run a course to test them, and once again Bahá’u'lláh’s masterly horsemanship was witnessed. He had two other horses besides the stallion, Sa’udi, one called Farangi and the other Sa’id. There were also two donkeys for the younger sons of Bahá’u'lláh to ride occasionally. At Firayjat people were still coming daily from Baghdad. They could not bear to be wrenched from the presence of Bahá’u'lláh.

(H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u'llah – The King of Glory, p. 176)

Within a few years after Bahá’u'lláh’s return from Sulaymaniyyih the situation had been completely reversed. The house of Sulayman-i-Ghannam, on which the official designation of the Bayt-i-Azam (the Most Great House) was later conferred, known, at that time, as the house of Mirza Musa, the Bábí, an extremely modest residence, situated in the Karkh quarter, in the neighborhood of the western bank of the river, to which Bahá’u'lláh’s family had moved prior to His return from Kurdistan, had now become the focal center of a great number of seekers, visitors and pilgrims, including Kurds, Persians, Arabs and Turks, and derived from the Muslim, the Jewish and Christian Faiths. It had, moreover, become a veritable sanctuary to which the victims of the injustice of the official representative of the Persian government were wont to flee, in the hope of securing redress for the wrongs they had suffered.

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 129)

On one occasion, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Aqay-i-Kalim had been delegated by Bahá’u'lláh to visit him, he entertained them with such elaborate ceremonial that the Deputy-Governor stated that so far as he knew no notable of the city had ever been accorded by any governor so warm and courteous a reception. So struck, indeed, had the Sultan Abdu’l-Majid been by the favorable reports received about Bahá’u'lláh from successive governors of Baghdad (this is the personal testimony given by the Governor’s deputy to Bahá’u'lláh himself) that he consistently refused to countenance the requests of the Persian government either to deliver Him to their representative or to order His expulsion from Turkish territory.

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 131)

The exalted character of the teachings of Bahá’u'lláh propounded during that period is perhaps best illustrated by the following statement made by Him in those days to an official who had reported to Him that, because of the devotion to His person which an evildoer had professed, he had hesitated to inflict upon that criminal the punishment he deserved: “Tell him, no one in this world can claim any relationship to Me except those who, in all their deeds and in their conduct, follow My example, in such wise that all the peoples of the earth would be powerless to prevent them from doing and saying that which is meet and seemly.” “This brother of Mine,” He further declared to that official, “this Mirza Musa, who is from the same mother and father as Myself, and who from his earliest childhood has kept Me company, should he perpetrate an act contrary to the interests of either the state or religion, and his guilt be established in your sight, I would be pleased and appreciate your action were you to bind his hands and cast him into the river to drown, and refuse to consider the intercession of any one on his behalf.” In another connection He, wishing to stress His strong condemnation of all acts of violence, had written: “It would be more acceptable in My sight for a person to harm one of My own sons or relatives rather than inflict injury upon any soul.”

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 133)

Water was then brought, and I soaped Bahá’u'lláh’s hair two or three times — the various soaps were from Aleppo — and then He withdrew to the place where henna would be applied and the body rubbed with a rough bath mitt. I then brought Him His own bath towel, and once He was dry He stretched out so that I could apply henna to His beard, after which He seated Himself and I used the henna on His hair. He then lay down again (and I placed a pillow under His head) so that I could rub Him with the mitt — and two or three times I kissed His feet. He rose again and seated Himself, and I took the mitt to the backs of His hands and arms. Very soon, He directed me to fetch the rinse water. I rinsed off the henna, added the dark dye, and finally soaped and rinsed Him off and He departed. I was in a state of utter bliss. The Master and the Branches and Aqay-i Kalim[1] used to frequent the same bathhouse. I worked there two or three months and every ten days or less they would come in.’

[1] “The Master” refers to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Most Great Branch. “The Branches is a reference to the other sons of Bahá’u'lláh: The Purest Branch (Mirza Mihdi), the Greater Branch (Mirza Muhammad-’Ali), and others. Aqay-i Kalim (also known as Mirza Musa) was one of the faithful brothers of Bahá’u'lláh.]

One day at the bath, Bahá’u'lláh said to me, “Tomorrow you are to be my guest at Vashshash.[1] I went there as bidden, and that very day a Tablet was revealed called the Tablet of the Holy Mariner.

[1] A field on the outskirts of Baghdad known as the Mazra’iy-i Vashshash.]

Finally, what with the others’ insistence, entreaties, supplications, and tears, He bade them prepare for the departure to Edirne, Mirza Musa went wherever he thought best to bid people good-bye. They rented a number of ox-drawn carts. The Master rode on a horse. Mirza Yahya was on a donkey Nothing new happened along the way, except that Bahá’u'lláh would say: “Why did we come?”

(Ustad Muhammad-’Aliy-i Salmani, My Memories of Baha’u'llah, p. 18)

Tablet of the Holy Mariner

On the occasion of Naw-Ruz[1] 1863, Bahá’u'lláh had pitched His tent in a field on the outskirts of Baghdad, known as the Mazra’iy-i-Vashshash — a place rented by His faithful brother Mirza Musa. Bahá’u'lláh was celebrating this festival with a number of His companions, who were likewise living in tents in the open countryside. Outings at this time of year when the spring season had just begun and the weather was mild were extremely pleasant, and Bahá’u'lláh always enjoyed nature and beautiful scenery and loved to be in the country.

[1] An ancient festival when the Persians celebrate their New Year on the day of the vernal equinox, usually on the 21st March. The Bahá’í calendar also begins with Naw-Ruz which is one of the Bahá’í Holy Days. In 1863, Naw-Ruz was celebrated on the 22nd March as the vernal equinox took place after sunset on the 21st.]

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u'llah v 1, p. 227)

Mirza Yahya waited in Mosul until Bahá’u'lláh’s caravan arrived. Then he sent his servant to inform Aqay-i-Kalim (Bahá’u'lláh’s most faithful brother, known also as Mirza Musa) of his whereabouts in the city. In one of His Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells the story in these words:

When we reached Mosul, and a camp was set up on the bank of the Tigris, where the notables of the town flocked group after group to come into His blessed presence [Bahá'u'lláh's], on a midnight that aforementioned Arab, Zahir, came to say that his Honour [Mirza Yahya] was staying at an inn outside the city, and wished to meet someone. My uncle, Mirza Musa, went there at midnight and met him. Mirza Yahya asked about his family, and was told that they were them and had their own tent and he could visit them. He said that he did not at all consider it advisable to do so, but he would accompany the caravan with which his family too would be travelling. Thus he continued to Diyarbakr, a black cord round his head, and a begging-bowl in his hand, consorting only with the Arabs and the Turks in the caravan. At Diyarbakr, he sent word that he would visit his family at night and join the main body of the caravan in the morning. That was done. Since Haji Siyyid Muhammad knew him, he gave out that he was a Persian dervish, an acquaintance of his, and visited him, but other friends because they had never seen him [Mirza Yahya], did not recognize him.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in Balyuzi, King of Glory, pp. 183-4)

In one of the coldest Decembers that Turkey had seen for years, Bahá’u'lláh and, His family — including His two faithful brothers Mirza Musa, entitled Aqay-i-Kalim, and Mirza Muhammad-Quli, together with Mirza Yahya[*] — set out on their journey to the city of Adrianople. The officer commissioned to take charge of the journey was ‘Ali Big Yuz-Bashi. According to a statement by Mirza Aqa Jan, it appears that Bahá’u'lláh was accompanied by 12 of His companions. Among them was the notorious Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani, whose evil spirit was increasingly casting its shadow upon the exiles. Through his satanic influence he brought much pain and anguish to their hearts and created severe tests and trials for them.

[* On leaving Baghdad he had acquired a passport in the name of Mirza 'Ali, a newly assumed name. During his sojourn in Adrianople and later in Cyprus, the authorities referred to him by this name.]

(Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 78)