Lest We Ever Forget (Ridvan) – by Tricia Hague-Barrett

Today, we are about to commemorate the Declaration of Bahá’ulláh in the Garden of Ridvan, in Baghdad, Iraq.  All around the world, in little villages, hamlets and cities, the Baha’is are gathering.  In homes, halls, and even in the fields, they gather together in unity with their friends who help to commemorate this event.
   
However, we might do well to remember that the long journey to The Garden of Ridvan, did not go well for The Blessed beauty.  He was very frail, small in stature, having spent 4 months and 2 days in the ‘black pit’ in Iran, near the residence of The Shah of Iran, and His Blessed shoulders were covered in wounds from the famous chains that had cut almost through His bones. The vermin and disease rampant in such a filthy dungeon were unable to kill Him.  
    
(Siyah-Chal – Literally “the Black Pit”. The dark, foul-smelling, subterranean dungeon in Tihran where Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned for four months in 1852. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 254))
    

Photograph of artist’s impression of the chains Bahá’u’lláh wore in the Prison. This replica is held in the Information Centre, on Mount Carmel in Israel.

The galling weight of the famous 100 lb collar He had worn during His imprisonment, left their mark on His body until the end of His earthly life. We often forget that it was during these hours and in these surroundings, that He received His station from God. That what He heard under these terrible conditions, was the call of God to ‘bear and endure’, and that “By Thy Pen, Thou shall inherit the earth.” However, now was not the time to reveal this to mankind.  Ten years would go by before His Revelation would be voiced in that Garden of Ridvan, (Paradise) in Baghdad.  It was during this event, that Bahá’u’lláh’s hair turned white.  What we also forget, is that all of this was prophesied in The Book of Revelation.

 

 

 

 

In that prison, but a few weeks later, Bahá’u’lláh, in his own words, experienced the following:

‘…lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious (God) 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 (God) bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven…This is but a leaf which the winds of the Will of thy Lord…have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing?’
[Bahá’í World Faith, 1943, p. 55.] – (William Sears, Thief in the Night)

   
One like unto the Son of Man

1:14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.  1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 1:19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.- (King James Bible, The Book of Revelation)

     

[Chapter 46] The Book of Enoch 

1 And there I saw One who had a head of days, And His head was white like wool, And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man, And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels.  
2
And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that

3 Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Head of Days? And he answered and said unto me: This is the son of Man who hath righteousness, With whom dwelleth righteousness, And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden, Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him, And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever. 
4
And this Son of Man whom thou hast seen Shall raise up the kings and the mighty from their seats,

[And the strong from their thrones] And shall loosen the reins of the strong, And break the teeth of the sinners. 
5 [And he shall put down the kings from their thrones and kingdoms] Because they do not extol and praise Him, Nor humbly acknowledge whence the kingdom was bestowed upon them. 
6 And he shall put down the countenance of the strong, And shall fill them with shame. And darkness shall be their dwelling, And worms shall be their bed, And they shall have no hope of rising from their beds, Because they do not extol the name of the Lord of Spirits. 
7
And these are they who judge the stars of heaven, [And raise their hands against the Most High], And tread upon the earth and dwell upon it. And all their deeds manifest unrighteousness, And their power rests upon their riches, And their faith is in the gods which they have made with their hands, And they deny the name of the Lord of Spirits, 

8 And they persecute the houses of His congregations, And the faithful who hang upon the name of the Lord of Spirits.

   
Was this what was indeed happening?  Has this prophecy been fulfilled?


On His Release from The Black Pit

Nine year old `Abdu’l-Baha was to see His Father, as they brought Him out of the pit.  His hair had turned white as the prophecy had revealed.  Of course, little did the people of that Day know, that He did indeed have the seven World Religions in His hands.  Not just the tiny little churches in Turkey, but the Seven Revelations gone before.  The seven stars were the seven Manifestations, Who had been before, Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus the Christ, and Mohammad?

He, Bahá’u’lláh, and the hundreds of others were kept in this dark underground prison and fed the smallest amount of food. His Blessed body was so thin, and in an emaciated state as He was sent in exile and while under armed guard to Baghdad one month after His release.
   

His Hair Turned White

Bahá’u’lláh’s reaction to this most distressful episode in His ministry was, as already observed, characterized by acute anguish. “He who for months and years,” He laments, “I reared with the hand of loving-kindness hath risen to take My life.” “The cruelties inflicted by My oppressors,” He wrote, in allusion to these perfidious enemies, “have bowed Me down, and turned My hair white. Shouldst thou present thyself before My throne, thou wouldst fail to recognize the Ancient Beauty, for the freshness of His countenance is altered, and its brightness hath faded, by reason of the oppression of the infidels.” “By God!” He cries out, “No spot is left on My body that hath not been touched by the spears of thy machinations.” -(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 169)

   
    
H. M. Balyuzi, in his book ‘Bahá’u’lláh, The King of Glory’ p. 101, writes:

At last, Násiri’d-Dín Sháh agreed to let Bahá’u’lláh go, and decreed that He should be banished from Iran. Bahá’u’lláh had lingered in chains for four agony-laden months. Mirza Aqa Khan sent a confidant named Haji ‘Ali to bring Him out of the Siyah-Chal. The sight of the appalling condition of the dungeon and the enfeebled condition of Bahá’u’lláh deeply shocked Haji ‘Ali, who assured Bahá’u’lláh that they had had no idea of the terrible circumstances He had endured all those months. Haji ‘Ali then offered his own cloak to Bahá’u’lláh, which He refused, preferring to appear before Mirza Aqa Khan and the others of the Government in the rags He was wearing.  

   

The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith writes: 

No sooner had He presented Himself before them than the Grand Vizir addressed Him saying: ‘Had you chosen to take my advice, and had you dissociated yourself from the Faith of the Siyyid-Bab, you would never have suffered the pains and indignities that have been heaped upon you.’ ‘Had you, in your turn,’ Bahá’u’lláh retorted, ‘followed My counsels, the affairs of the government would not have reached so critical a stage.’ Mirza Aqa Khan was thereupon reminded of the conversation he had had with Him on the occasion of the Báb’s martyrdom, when he had to be warned that ‘the flame that has been kindled will blaze forth more, fiercely than ever.’ ‘What is it that you advise me now to do?’ he inquired from Bahá’u’lláh. ‘Command the governors of the realm,’ was the instant reply, ‘to cease shedding the blood of the innocent, to cease plundering their property, to cease dishonoring their women, and injuring their children.’

   
That same day the Grand Vizir acted on the advice thus given him; but any effect it had, as the course of subsequent events amply demonstrated, proved to be momentary and negligible. Bahá’u’lláh was given one month to leave the country. At the time of His release from the Siyah-Chal, He was too ill to set out on a long journey. He had no home of His own now. His house had been wrecked and pillaged, and His two wives and children had found temporary accommodation in an obscure quarter of the capital. He went to live in the house of His brother, Mirza Rida-Quli, whose wife Maryam, the sister of Bahá’u’lláh’s second wife and devoted to Him, made adequate arrangements for Him to rest and recuperate. 
   
This enforced and hurried departure of Bahá’u’lláh from His native land, accompanied by some of His relatives, recalls in some of its aspects, the precipitate flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the sudden migration of Muhammad . . . from Mecca to Medina; the exodus of Moses, His brother and His followers from the land of their birth, in response to the Divine summons, and above all the banishment of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land a banishment which, in the multitudinous benefits it conferred upon so many divers peoples, faiths and nations, constitutes the nearest historical approach to the incalculable blessings destined to be vouchsafed, in this day, and in future ages, to the whole human race, in direct consequence of the exile suffered by Him Whose Cause is the flower and fruit of all previous Revelations. (H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u’llah – The King of Glory, p. 101-102)

   
He and His Blessed family had just one month to help Him recover from His ordeal, then they were sent on this long journey under guard, and in exile from His native land, across the mountains in Winter.  He would remain in Baghdad for 10 years, endure being poisoned twice, and then the orders to exile Him even further afield came.  The twelve Days of Ridvan began, in that beautiful Garden, (Now a hospital) In Iraq.
    
Today we commemorate this event.  We invite all of our friends to come and join us for the first of 3 Holy Days.
    
1st Day of Ridvan: Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh
9th Day of Ridvan, His family was able to join him after the floods went down.
12th Day of Ridvan, He and 70 of His followers were sent in exile to Constantinople in Turkey.