October 10, 2012

An example of Baha’u’llah’s insistence on the pursuit of justice

The following two complementary accounts relate an incident that took place during Baha’u’llah’s exile from Baghdad to Constantinople in the summer of 1863. The first unpublished account is from Aqa Husayn-i-Ashchi, a youth from Kashan who served Bahá'u'lláh as a cook in His household in Adrianople and later in 'Akká and one of His devoted servants. The second account, complementing the first, is from Nabil’s unpublished narrative. They are compiled by the Hand of the Cause 'Ali-Akbar Furutan.

As our caravan was passing through a village at the foot of Mount Mardin we were joined by an Arab muleteer from Damascus. The Blessed Beauty invited him to stay with the caravan during the night, since the area was swarming with thieves, but the muleteer chose instead to sleep outside the encampment. In the night highwaymen robbed him of his mules.

Next morning the caravan had scarcely resumed its journey when the Arab rushed to Baha'u'llah's howdah [a litter, seat or covered pavilion, carried on the back of a camel, mule, horse, or elephant for travelling purposes] and, seizing the hem of His robe, implored His help: 'I want my mules back,' he cried. Baha'u'llah directed that the howdahs be lowered, and summoned the official appointed to accompany Him. 'Tell him,’ said to the Master ['Abdu'l-Baha], 'that the stolen mules must be recovered.'

The official sent for the Kad-khuda [headman] of the village, who, apprised of the situation, remarked: 'Although this man was advised to stay within the circle of tents with the rest of the travellers because the region is infested with thieves, he did not heed the warnings. Consequently, we are not to blame nor are we responsible. Some time ago an entire load of silk belonging to 'Umar Pasha, the governor of Baghdad, was stolen in this very spot. Since a regiment was unable to locate the stolen goods, what hope is there that we can find this man's mules?'

On hearing this, the Blessed Beauty stated: 'The words of 'Umar Pasha were limited in their influence and could not exceed those bounds, whereas the intention of My words is that they be carried out. My orders are not to remain unheeded.'

Lamenting his plight, the Kad-khuda again excused himself. 'Go with the Kad-khuda in the direction of the fortress of Mardin,' Baha'u'llah told the escorting official, 'and we will follow behind.' Thus the entire caravan moved towards Mardin, except for the tents and provisions of the Blessed Beauty which were sent ahead to Diyarbakr [further on the way towards Constantinople].

Just outside the gates of Mardin was a beautiful orchard surrounding a large mansion called Firdaws [Paradise]. Baha'u'llah chose this spot for the caravan's encampment, and in the next days the mutasarrif [Governor] of Mardin, the army commander, the judge, the mufti [a professional jurist responsible for the interpretation of Islamic law] and all the notables of the town came to call on Him.

'Our reason for coming here,' Baha'u'llah explained, 'is to recover three mules stolen from this muleteer; his property must be found.'

Innumerable excuses were offered by those assembled. 'This area is swarming with thieves,' they said; 'it is next to impossible to recover stolen property here, but we agree to pay for the value of the mules.'

'Even were you each to donate one hundred liras it would not be acceptable,' Baha'u'llah replied. 'If you cannot act, I shall telegraph the authorities in Constantinople for a solution.'

Since Baha'u'llah had emphasized so strongly the importance of apprehending the thieves, the dignitaries dispatched horsemen in all directions. By covering in four days distances which normally would have required eight, the horsemen were able to find and return the mules to their owner, who gratefully accepted them and went on his way.

The Blessed Beauty bestowed gifts and words of commendation on those who had engaged in the search, and on the third day departed for Diyarbakr.(Memoirs of Aqa Husayn-i-Ashchi, unpublished)

Nabil has given further details of this incident of the stolen mules, as described by Baha'u'llah:

Several mules had been stolen, and the muleteer held fast to the hem of My robe, declaring: 'In this spot, should the vast treasures of the Sultan be stolen, the recovery of even the smallest copper coin would prove impossible. But I am convinced that if it be your wish, you will have my mules returned to me.'

Observing his sincerity, We assured him that We would not move from there without first recovering his mules. Without delay We established Ourselves in the Garden of Firdaws, and a message was sent to the governor explaining that We had given Our word not to depart from Mardin until the lost mules were returned to their owner.

The governor was perplexed, and said: 'We will pay more than the value of the mules and you can cease searching for them, since they have been lost at a crossroads which is a den of thieves; it is impossible to I recover those exact same animals.'

'My words cannot be altered,' I said. 'Those same mules must needs be returned to their owner.'

Three days later they were found and were immediately repossessed by the muleteer. 'We do not know this Personage,' were the comments which spread near and far, 'nor are we able to fathom the force which enabled Him to recover and return those mules to their owner. It was an act beyond the power of leaders and ministers alike.' (Nabil, unpublished) (Stories of Baha’u’llah, compiled by Hand of the Cause ‘Ali-Akbar Furutan)