May 28, 2011

Ascension of Baha’u’llah – recounted by two believers

The ascension of Baha’u’llah took place in the Mansion of Bahji, and it caused indescribable consternation among His followers. Nabil-i-Az’am [the author of Dawn-Breakers], a true lover of the Blessed Beauty and one of His devoted Apostles, has left to posterity a moving description of this calamitous event. The following is a summary translation of his account:

As attested by the Most Great Branch,[‘Abdu’l-Baha] nine months before this most grievous event -- His ascension -- Bahá'u'lláh had voiced His desire to depart from this world. During these nine months, from the tone of His exhortations and remarks to those friends who attained His presence it became increasingly apparent that the end of His earthly life was approaching. He seemed to be arranging the affairs with a sense of urgency. But He never spoke openly about the approaching end of His life.

On the eve of Sunday, the eleventh of the month of Shavval 1309 AH (8 May 1892), fifty days after Naw-Ruz, He contracted a fever, though He did not mention it to anyone. The following morning a number of the friends attained His presence. Late in the afternoon the fever was intensified. In the evening only one of the companions who had an urgent demand was admitted to His presence. On Monday (the second day of His illness) only one of the friends was admitted. On Tuesday this helpless servant [Nabil-i-‘Az’am] was given the honour of an audience with His blessed Person. At noon He summoned me to His presence alone and spoke to me for about half an hour sometimes seated and sometimes pacing up and down. He vouchsafed unto me His infinite bounties and His exalted utterances reached the acme of perfection.

I wish I had known that this was going to be my last audience with Him, so that I could have clung to the hem of His holy vesture and begged Him to accept me as a sacrifice in His path, to relieve me from the vanity of this world and admit me into the realm of everlasting joy. Alas! Alas! what had been pre-ordained did come to pass.

In the afternoon of that day Haji Niyaz [a well-known believer] arrived from Egypt and, along with some others, was permitted to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. Till sunset a number of the friends were admitted into His presence in groups. The following day the door of union with Him was closed to the face of the believers, no one was able to attain His presence, and an atmosphere of gloom and sorrow descended upon the hearts of His forlorn lovers. This situation remained unchanged for a few days, until Monday (the ninth day) which proved to be the day of grief for the friends. On that day the Most Great Branch left the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and went to the Pilgrim House. He conveyed Bahá'u'lláh's greetings to all, and said that the Ancient Beauty had stated: 'All the friends must remain patient and steadfast, and arise for the promotion of the Cause of God. They should not become perturbed, because I shall always be with them, and will remember and care for them.' On hearing these piercing words the hearts of the believers were crying out with grief, for the tone of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's remarks indicated that the end of the earthly life of the One who was the Lord of all creation was fast approaching. The friends were thrown into such turmoil and dismay that they were about to expire.

This being so, the bounties of the Incomparable Beloved were vouchsafed unto all, and the following day, Tuesday (the tenth day), was turned into a joyful day. The day-star of delight and blissfulness shone forth and the Most Great Branch conveyed at the hour of dawn the joyful news of the well-being of His blessed Person. Happy and smiling, He arrived at the Pilgrim House, and like unto a musk-laden breeze which had wafted from the abode of the Beloved, or as the holy Spirit of the Mercy of the Lord, He awoke the friends one by one, bade them arise, drink their morning tea with the utmost joy, and offer thanksgiving to God, for, Praise be to His Most Exalted and Glorious Being, perfect health had returned to His blessed Person, and the signs of the most great favours were manifested in His countenance. Truly, on that day the joy and happiness of the friends, those who circled around the throne of the Beauty of their Lord, were such that all the inhabitants of 'Akká and indeed the people of Syria were influenced and affected by their condition. All the people both low and high were congratulating each other as in a day of festival.

The reason for this was that on the same day that Bahá'u'lláh contracted the fever, the government rounded up about one thousand farmers and poor people, clad them in military uniforms and held them against their will as conscripts. They were receiving military training to be dispatched to far-off lands in a few days' time. The tents of these oppressed people were near the grounds of the Mansion of Bahji,, and the cries of their weeping and lamenting and those of their families could be heard by day and by night. However, in the morning of the 'day of joy', a royal telegram was unexpectedly received ordering the release of the conscripts. This news was rapturously received by the people who were filled with delight. The Most Great Branch on that day distributed food among the conscripts, the poor, the inmates of prison and the orphans. Consequently the people of 'Akká and outside were heartily offering thanks to Bahá'u'lláh for His loving favours and gifts. No one among the inhabitants of Syria could remember having seen a day as blissful as that day.

That same day the Most Great Branch went to 'Akká visited every Bahá'í household and conveyed to every single believer, man and woman alike, loving greetings from the Blessed Beauty. On Sunday (the fifteenth day) afternoon, all the friends who were present at the Mansion, together with pilgrims and resident Bahá'ís, were summoned to Bahá'u'lláh's presence. The entire body of the friends, weeping and grief-stricken, attained His presence as He lay in bed leaning against the Most Great Branch (may my life be a sacrifice for Him). The Tongue of Grandeur gently and affectionately addressed them all saying: 'I am well pleased with you all, you have rendered many services, and been very assiduous in your labours. You have come here every morning and evening. May God assist you to remain united. May He aid you to exalt the Cause of the Lord of being.' This was the last audience with Him. The birds of the hearts of His lovers were addressed from on high: 'Verily the door of union is closed to all who are in heaven and on earth . . .' .(Nabi-i-Az’am, quoted by Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah vol. IV, 414-417)

Jinabi-i-Mirza Isma’il, a believer present in that audience with Baha’u’llah has recorded: “Tears flowed from my eyes and I was overcome with feelings of grief and sorrow after hearing these words. At this moment the Blessed Perfection [Baha’u’llah] bade me come close to Him, and I obeyed. Using a handkerchief which was in His hand, Baha’u’llah wiped the tears from my cheeks. As He did so, the words of Isaiah [25.8] “… and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces …” involuntarily came to my mind.” (Furutan, Stories of Baha’u’llah, p. 109)

On the eve of Saturday (twenty-first day after contracting fever), the 2nd of Dhi'l-Qa'dih 1309 AH (29 May 1892) . . . 13th of the month of 'Azamat 49, Bahá'í Era . . . seventy days after Naw-Ruz, while there was no sign of fever, the will of the King of Eternity to leave the prison of 'Akká and to ascend to His 'other dominions whereon the eyes of the people of names have never fallen', mentioned in the Tablet of Ru'ya revealed . . . nineteen years previously, was at long last realized. Methinks, the spiritual commotion set up in the world of dust had caused all the worlds of God to tremble. Eight hours after sunset on that darksome night when the heavens wept over the earth, what had been revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas was finally realized. My inner and outer tongue are powerless to portray the condition we were in . . . In the midst of the prevailing confusion, a multitude of the inhabitants of 'Akká and of the neighbouring villages, that had thronged the fields surrounding the Mansion, could be seen weeping, beating upon their heads, and crying aloud their grief . . .

For a full week after that great calamity, a great number of mourners, the rich, the poor, the orphans and the oppressed partook of the food that was generously dispensed by the bereaved family . . . From the second day of the ascension of the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Lord to His Most Holy and exalted Dominions on high, men of learning and poets, both Muslim and Christian, began to send telegrams of condolence to the presence of the Most Great Branch. They sent poems eloquently extolling the virtues and lamenting the loss of the Beloved . . .(Nabi-i-Az’am, quoted by Adib Taherzadeh, ‘The Revelation of Baha'u'llah vol. IV’, 414-417) (Susan J. Allen, ‘Gems from the Crown of Glory, Glimpses from the Life of Baha’u’llah)