March 5, 2011

Journey from Baghdad to Constantinople – ‘Abdu’l-Baha describes some of the challenges

When the Blessed Perfection (Baha'u'llah) was exiled from Baghdad the large number of believers who went with him divided the work of the party among them. For example, Darvish Sedk Ali and Haji Ebrahim acted as equerries, Ustad Muhammad Ali locked after the baggage, Mirza Muhammad Goli supervised the pitching of the tents and I was, if we may here use a military term, a commissary officer and had to supply the party, including horses, etc. with food and the daily necessities.

Often, by day or by night we covered a distance of from twenty five to thirty miles. No sooner would we reach a caravanserai than from sheer fatigue everyone would lie down and go to sleep. Utter exhaustion having overtaken everybody -- they would be unable even to move.

But Mirza Mahmud and Aqa Reza rested not for a moment. After our arrival they would immediately become engaged in cooking for this party of nearly seventy-two people and this after their arduous work of guiding all day or all night the horses which carried the palanquin of the Blessed Perfection. When the meal was cooked and made ready all those who had slept would wake, eat and go to sleep again. These two men would then wash all the dishes and pack them up. By this time they would be so tired that they could have slept on even a hard boulder.

During the journey when they became utterly weary they would sleep while walking. Now and again I would see one of them take a bound and leap from one point to another. It would then become apparent that he was asleep and had dreamed that he had reached a wide creek hence the jump.

In a word, from Baghdad to Samson they served with rare faithfulness. Indeed no human being bad the fortitude to bear cheerfully all this heavy labor. But, because they were kindled (by the spirit of God) they performed all these services with greatest happiness. I remember how, in the early morning, when we wanted to start for another caravansary, we often saw these two men fast asleep. We would go and shake them and they would wake with much difficulty. While walking they always chanted communes and supplications.

In those days a famine raged all along the road. When we reached a station Mirza Jafar and I would ride from one village to another, from one Arab or Kurdish tent to another trying to get food, straw, barley, etc. for men and animals. Many a time we were out till midnight.

One day we happened to call on a Turk who was harvesting. Seeing his large pile of straw we thought we had come to the end of our search. I approached the Turk politely, and said, "We are your guests and one of the conditions of (religious) Faith is to honor the newly arrived guests. I have heard that you are a very liberal people, very generous, and that whenever you entertain a guest you kill and cook for him a whole sheep. Now, we desire such and such a thing, and are ready to pay any price that you demand. We hope this is sufficiently reasonable."

He thought for a moment, and then said, "Open your sack."

Mirza Jafar opened it and he put into it a few handfuls of straw.

I was amused, and said, "Oh, my friend! What can we do with this straw? We have thirty six animals and we want feed for every one of them!”

In brief, everywhere we encountered many difficulties, until we arrived in Karpout. Here, we saw that our animals had become lean, and walked with great difficulty. But we could not get straw and barley for them.

At Karpout the Acting Governor General came to call on us -- and with him brought ten car-loads of rice, ten sacks of barley, ten sheep, several baskets of rice, several bags of sugar, many pounds of butter, etc. These were sent as gifts by the Governor General, Izzat Pasha, to the Blessed Perfection.

After our experiences, and knowing how difficult it was to get anything from the farmers along the way when I looked at these things I knew that they were sent from God, and they were gladly accepted.

At that time Aqa Husayn Ashchi was the assistant cook. He worked day and night and had no time to sleep.

We stayed at Karpout one week and had a good rest. For two days and nights I did nothing but sleep.

The Governor General, Izzat Pasha, called on the Blessed Perfection. He was a very good man and showed much love and service. (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha recorded by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab; Star of the West, vol. 13, no. 10, January 1923)