Post Reply
Switch to Forum Live View The Persian Prisoner
3 years ago  ::  Nov 06, 2011 - 1:57AM #1
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,892

Blessed Birth of Bahá'u'lláh on 12 November 2011 to all the dear Bnet Bahá'í friends! Eid-e shoma mubarak! Here are some early draft chapters from a personal little book project to commemorate the occasion.




“We spend our lives trying to unlock the mystery of the universe, but there was a prisoner in Akka, Palestine, who had the Key.”


- Leo Tolstoy, 1908


 


I. The Prisoner and the Queen


A prisoner once wrote to a queen. His hands were shaking. The trembling was not due to fear nor trepidation. The ill-effects of the poisoned food were to last until the end of his days. His stature was bent. Iron chains – equal to his body weight – had hunched him for life and cut into his flesh. He had borne their weight on his shoulders for four months some fifteen years earlier. But that was another land, another time, and another prison. His long black beard seemed untrimmed and his hackneyed face belied his age. At fifty-one he was younger than he looked. His worn body no longer bore any testimony to his silken youth as the favoured son of the Sháh’s venerated vizier. ‘Why did he not take up his father’s high office?’ ‘Why did he opt for humiliation when he could have soaked in the glory of the Sháh’s court?’, the courtiers once murmured.


But now his minister-father could not run to his aid from his grave, nor his royal ancestors rescue him from his plight. The Persian kings of old, to whom his family traced his ancestry, lay motionless in their majestic tombs. Their noble seed lay in house-arrest in Ottoman Turkey, awaiting a transfer order from the Sultan. The prisoner’s proximity to the great Caliph was a matter of concern to his ministers and the Persian ambassador.


The prisoner’s letter was delivered to Queen Alexandrina Victoria of Great Britain, the sovereign of the greatest empire the world had yet seen. The same message was also sent to Napoleon III of France, the most powerful ruler of his time. Yet the list of addressees was longer. It included Czar Alexander II of Russia, William I the Emperor of a unified Germany, Emperor Francis Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Azíz of the Ottoman Empire, Násiri’d-Dín Sháh of Persia and Pope Pius IX of the Papal States. None of these potentates were strangers to letters from prisoners asking for royal pardon. But the Persian prisoner asked no such thing. Neither did he ask for favours.


He issued a warning.


Ye are but vassals, O kings of the earth!


The Kingdom is God’s, the omnipotent Protector, the Self-Subsisting.


Your people are your treasures.


Do not rob them to rear palaces for yourselves;
nay rather choose for them that which ye choose for yourselves.


Deal with them with undeviating justice,
so that none among them may either suffer want,
or be pampered with luxuries. This is but manifest justice.


By them ye rule, by their means ye subsist, by their aid ye conquer.
Yet, how disdainfully ye look upon them!


Know ye that the poor are the trust of God in your midst.
Watch that ye betray not His trust.


Inquire into their affairs, and ascertain, every year, nay every month, their condition, and be not of them that are careless of their duty.


It behoveth every king to be as bountiful as the sun,
which fostereth the growth of all beings, and giveth each its due.


Be united, O Kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your people find rest. Should anyone among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice.


O ye the elected representatives of the people in every land! Take ye counsel together, and let your concern be only for that which profiteth mankind,
and bettereth the condition thereof.


Regard ye the world as a man’s body, which is afflicted with divers ailments,
and the recovery of which dependeth upon the harmonizing of
all its component elements.


If ye pay no heed unto the counsels . . . We have revealed in this Tablet,
Divine chastisement shall assail you from every direction. On that day ye shall have no power to resist Him, and shall recognize your own impotence.


Happy is the man that hearkeneth and observeth My counsel.
Woe unto him that faileth to fulfil My wish.



The year was 1869. The prisoner was Bahá’u’lláh.


 

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
Quick Reply
Cancel
3 years ago  ::  Nov 06, 2011 - 3:01AM #2
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,892

II. Silk and Satin


Bahá’u’lláh, born Husayn-‘Alí, was a child of kind demeanour. Since infancy his serenity and composure struck his mother. Khadijih Khanum could not recall if he ever cried or waxed restless. His mind captured his father’s attention. “He is a little short in stature”, the mother once remarked to her husband Mírzá Buzurg while watching the child walk. “That matters not. Do you not know how intelligent he is and what a wonderful mind he has!” the father exclaimed with pride.


Bahá’u’lláh was the scion of one of the great aristocratic families of Persia. Opulence and privilege were his lot, respect and adoration his birth-right. His summer months were usually spent in the countryside outside the capital Tehran in the district of Núr. He had great love for nature and spent much of his time outdoors roaming in the meadows and woodlands that belonged to his father. Sometimes he ventured out on foot, other times on horseback. The indoors were no less princely. Mírzá Buzurg had built a stately mansion in Takúr. The mansion was erected in the best traditions of Persian masonry and carpentry. The palatial halls would merit only the most valuable carpets and the high walls showcased the vizier’s own masterful calligraphy. “Buzurg”, or “great”, was the title given by the Sháh to Mírzá Abbás-i-Núrí in recognition of his skill as a calligrapher. The scent of rose water filled the rooms and the warble of nightingales entered the halls through oriental windows and arched doorways. Silver samovars lovingly supplied exquisite porcelain teacups with afternoon tea with fresh mint leaves adding to the aroma. The tea leaves came straight from the nearby estates. A dedicated staff of servants did all the work, including the preparation of saffron rice with tender lamb garnished with local herbs. Fruits of the season, rock melons, grapes, pomegranates and cherries, were ever-ready for a royal bite in the embrace of hand-crafted bowls representing the finest Persian pottery. Master-gardeners tended to the vizier’s rose gardens with maternal care and attention. Mírzá Buzurg was still a rich man and his properties included a number of country estates as well as a complex of houses in Tehran. In addition to his ministerial duties in Tehran, Mírzá Buzurg was the appointed governor of Burujird and Lorestan provinces.


The boons of wealth and power however held little sway over Husayn-‘Alí. Precociously insightful, he was early to see beyond their seeming luster. Once he was taken to see a puppet show in Tehran. The play was called Sháh Sultán Salím. Princes, dignitaries and notables from the capital attended the occasion, as much for entertainment as for making an appearance. Bahá’u’lláh was sitting in one of the upper rooms of the building, observing the scene. A tent was pitched in the courtyard and soon small puppet-like figures appeared. One of them, a town crier, raised the call: “His Majesty is coming! Arrange the seats at once!” The play was a ridiculous imperial fanfare, a delightful feast to the senses. The puppets vividly portrayed a menagerie of characters -- proud princes with hats and sashes, footmen wielding battle axes, executioners carrying bastinadoes and a haughty king marching along with great pomp and circumstance. The show began with a scene of a royal entourage appearing at a venue of execution. Some thieves were decapitated with blood-like liquid pouring out, trumpets were sounded, and shortly wars were waged and a pall of smoke enveloped the whole tent. An evil rebellion was quelled and cannons boomed at the final battle, establishing the heroic king triumphant over his nefarious enemies.


The vizier’s son watched the play with great amazement. When the play had ended and the curtain was lifted, the lone puppeteer emerged from behind the tent carrying a box under his arm. Young Bahá’u’lláh asked the man about the contents of the box. The puppeteer described to the child how the impressive and lavish display he saw is now contained within the little box under his arm.


The sight of that box made a piercing impression on young Bahá’u’lláh. All the trappings of this world seemed to him like that same spectacle. “Erelong these outward trappings, these visible treasures, these earthly vanities, these arrayed armies, these adorned vestures, these proud and overweening souls, all shall pass into the confines of the grave, as though into that box”, he recalled the play some half a century later.


The world is but a show, vain and empty, a mere nothing, bearing the semblance of reality. Set not your affections upon it.


In the eyes of those possessed of insight all this conflict, contention and vainglory hath ever been, and will ever be, like unto the play and pastimes of children.


Young Husayn-‘Alí had a pleasing bearing and appearance. Once, at five years of age, he dreamed a dream which woke him up. He shared the dream with his father. The father was so astonished that he invited, with the permission of the Sháh, the Royal Soothsayer to interpret the dream. After offering his interpretation the seer was taken to look at the child. With unabashed admiration he looked intently on Bahá’u’lláh’s face and studied carefully his features. His appearance, expressions and the traits of his face moved him to praise the child profusely. So great was his adoration and so generous his praise that it served to steel the vizier’s devotion to his son.


Bahá’u’lláh had dreamt he was in a garden and great birds flew over and attacked him. Yet they were unable to harm him. Next, he was swimming in a vast ocean and his body shone on the waters with a radiance that lit up the sea. Around his head which was above the surface his long black locks of hair floated in all directions. Fishes in great numbers and of various kinds gathered around him, each holding on to the end of one hair. Drawn by the light of his face they followed him wherever he swam. Though great in number, and however fast they held their grip, he lost not a single hair nor would any harm inflict him. Free and unrestrained, he moved ahead above the waters and all followed him. Upon hearing about the dream the soothsayer was moved to declare: “The vast ocean, O vizier, is none other than the world of being. Single-handed and alone your son will achieve ascendancy over it. Wherever he may please, he will proceed unhindered. No one will resist his march, no one will hinder his progress. The multitude of fishes signifies the turmoil which he will stir up amongst the peoples of the earth. Around him will they gather and to him will they cling. Assured of the unfailing protection of the Almighty this tumult will never harm his person, nor will his loneliness upon the sea of life endanger his safety.”


Yet for a while at least the young princeling continued to be lulled in the embrace of comfort and security which for most of his less fortunate compatriots were only the stuff of fairy tales. Despite his social standing, the aloofness and arrogance of the nobility failed to infect his spirit or to harden his heart. Scenes of abject poverty and stories of violent aggression moved him at depth. His was a sensitive heart.


Once he came across a written account of a story relating a mass execution which was carried out at the time of the Prophet. So saddened was he by that account that for over a week he lingered in a state of shock and grief. Bahá’u’lláh later recalled that for twelve days his speech, manners and thought were thrown into confusion. He finally emerged out of the episode grateful and glad. His spirit revitalized, the vizier’s son began to display an unbecoming yet palpable determination to root out causes of discord and oppression in the world.

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
Quick Reply
Cancel
3 years ago  ::  Nov 06, 2011 - 11:47AM #3
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,892

III. From Boy to Man, From Riches to Rags


Núr, Bahá’u’lláh’s native district, lay nestled between the southern coast of the Caspian Sea and the Elburz mountain range. The entire province of Mazíndarán is renowned as the greenest in all Persia. In April wild roses and other blossoms play out a symphony of colours over the meadows of Núr in the foreground of the majestic snow-capped Elburz peaks. Many who have been privileged to witness the beauty of Núr have later longed to return to its serene embrace.


A well-respected scholar of Islam, famed throughout Persia, used to spend his summers in Tákur, his hometown. His name was Muhammad-Taqí and he was a mujtahid (a high-ranking religious judge). The famed mujtahid was always surrounded by an inquisitive entourage of students of divinity posing complex questions for him. Due to his distant relations to Mírzá Buzurg, he allowed the vizier’s young son to be seated in his presence while he discussed the intricacies of Islam with his theological students. An unturbaned state official’s son was not often seen in a madrasih (religious school), seated with white-turbaned ulamá (religious scholars) and green-turbaned siyyids (lineal descendants of the Prophet). Once the mujtahid was addressing an audience of some two hundred disciples. The mujtahid was presented with a question that baffled them greatly. An Islamic tradition states that “Fátimih, the daughter of the Prophet, is the best of the women of this world, except for the one born of Mary.” But how could it thus be since Mary, mother of Jesus, never gave birth to a daughter? Young Bahá’u’lláh spoke up before the mujtahid could throw in a word. He tersely illustrated to his well-turbaned audience how the statement about Mary’s daughter is deliberately untrue and serves as an eloquent literary device to emphasize the truth about Fátimih; as if to say that a certain king is the greatest of all the kings of the world except for the one who comes down from the sky. Since no king comes down from the sky, the statement highlights the greatness of that one king. Bahá’u’lláh’s answer left the mujtahid spellbound. The following day he was heard reprimanding his students for letting him down: “For years I have instructed you and have patiently tried to impart to you the profoundest truths of the Faith. And yet you allow this youth, a wearer of a lambskin hat, without any scholarly training, to demonstrate his superiority over you!”


After Bahá’u’lláh had returned to his house in Tehran, the mujtahid shared with his students a dream which he thought was of great consequence. “In my dream,” the mujtahid related, “I found myself in a place where I was surrounded by coffers which belonged to Husayn-‘Alí. As I opened them I found them to be filled with books. Every word and letter in these books was set with jewels of great beauty. Their brilliance dazzled me and grew so intense that I was overwhelmed and suddenly I awoke from my dreams.”


Mírzá Buzurg, despite his routine association with royalty and state officials, was at heart a man of culture. His home was frequented by poets, scholars and clergy. Before long the fame of the Vizier’s Son had spread amid the Shah’s courtiers and reached prominent men of learning. The rare qualities of his beloved son evoked both admiration and envy in equal measure. Those who knew him were astonished by his precocity. Many would say ‘such a child will not live long’ as it was commonly held that precocious children do not live beyond maturity. By fourteen Bahá’u’lláh was widely reputed among people of prominence and laity alike for his insight, eloquence and lucid reasoning. His counsel and knowledge was sought to baffling questions. He also earned a reputation for his works of charity. His compassion for the destitute was genuine, generous and constant, starkly contrasted by the aloof indulgence characteristic to his social class. Only fleeting pangs of guilt would, on a rare occasion, awaken the dormant moral consciousness of the Persian gentry and sporadically erupt in short-lived bursts of theatrical alms-giving.


Despite having earned a reputation for incisive wit and unschooled knowledge, Bahá’u’lláh was known to respond with courtesy and patience to his critics and to remain unruffled during provocative encounters. He never argued nor asserted his intellectual superiority. An irreverent reference to the Messengers of God alone provoked his indignation. Even then he was known to maintain his composure. A celebrated teacher of Sufism, Mírzá Nazár-‘Alí, was once addressing a gathering of divines in Tehran. His theme was spiritual detachment and the degrees to which humans could attain it. His own detachment, the Sufi braggart proclaimed, was so great that were Jesus Christ himself to appear at his door and call for him, he would feel no desire to see him. Everyone murmured in flattery except the youthful son of the vizier. He courteously asked the Sufi if he would feel any agitation at the appearance of the Sháh’s Chief Executioner at his door calling for him. The Sufi admitted he would indeed feel somewhat anxious to which Bahá’u’lláh instantly responded: “Then you shouldn’t have made your claim.”


For the time being the social prestige of the vizier’s son and the good favour of the empire’s chief powerbrokers saved Bahá’u’lláh’s person from harm. Yet, to repeatedly emerge unscathed from perilous social encounters in a cultural environment where social etiquette surpassed divine writ in importance, was considered by many as nothing short of a miracle. Nevertheless, the seeds of jealousy and future animosity were firmly sown already in his early years.


The Secretary of State, Mírzá Áqá Khán, envied the high esteem in which the Grand Vizier, Hájí Mírzá Áqasí, held Bahá’u’lláh while he was still a youth. He begrudged Bahá’u’lláh’s preferential treatment in the vizier’s presence. Mírzá Áqá Khán had long coveted the Hájí’s position. As to the Hájí himself, he had a score to settle with Bahá’u’lláh’s father. Despite plotting against and eventually succeeding in bringing Mírzá Buzurg down, he showed his son every mark of consideration and favour. Even after the father’s death the Grand Vizier would visit Bahá’u’lláh in his home and address him as his own son.


After the passing of Mírzá Buzurg of Núr, the Grand Vizier offered his son, then twenty-two, a ministerial career in the Sháh’s court. Bahá’u’lláh politely declined the offer. “Leave him to himself,” the vizier was reported to have said; “Such a position is unworthy of him.”


Turning his back to the glory of the Sháh’s court, Bahá’u’lláh and his wife Asiyih Khánum, a daughter of one of the wealthiest families of Persia, consecrated their home to charity. They soon earned the twin titles of ‘Father of the Poor’ and ‘Mother of Consolation.’ A room in their house in Tehran was transformed into a ward for tending sick women and children, and a constant flow of derelicts, dispossessed and sick would flock their house.


"O Children of Dust! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues."


"The world and its vanities, and its glory, and whatever delights it can offer, are all, in the sight of God, as worthless as . . . dust and ashes."

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
Quick Reply
Cancel
3 years ago  ::  Nov 11, 2011 - 11:48PM #4
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,892

Wishing you the happiest of holy days!


With loving regards,


LilWabbit

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
Quick Reply
Cancel
3 years ago  ::  Nov 15, 2011 - 8:27PM #5
Bob_the_Lunatic
Posts: 3,458

I thought this was a debate forum, not story time.  I think this thread would make more sense in the regular section there Bunnyboy, not in the debate forum-it's clearly a lecture, a monologue, not a debate.  Please respect the rules of the forum and post things in the right place. 


Cheers

Quick Reply
Cancel
3 years ago  ::  Nov 16, 2011 - 12:38PM #6
world citizen
Posts: 5,461

Nov 15, 2011 -- 8:27PM, Bob_the_Lunatic wrote:


I thought this was a debate forum, not story time.  I think this thread would make more sense in the regular section there Bunnyboy, not in the debate forum-it's clearly a lecture, a monologue, not a debate.  Please respect the rules of the forum and post things in the right place. 


Cheers



Bob... (and all) ~


Most of Beliefnet's religion forums consist of four discussion boards, one of which, as with this one, also permits debate.  Threads of any topic regarding the Baha'i Faith may be authored here by anyone, including a Baha'i whose purpose is to invite discussion (or debate) about that subject.


World Citizen, moderator
Beliefnet Baha'i Faith forum


P.S.  Yes, the off-topic and ad hominem posts have been removed.  Wink

Blessed is he who mingleth with all men in a spirit of utmost kindliness and love. ~Baha'u'llah
Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  Apr 28, 2012 - 2:52AM #7
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,892

Blessed Ridvan everyone! May it be a season of rejuvenation and inspiration for all your respective Baha'i communities!


I'm writing this snippet at Heathrow. I'm on my way back from a two-week trip to the US. At the New York Baha'i Center there was a lovely Ridvan celebration complete with an excellent drama performance and some music. It was a great pleasure to have IDBC with me. He's great company and a good sport. It also felt very meaningful to be in New York at the centenary of 'Abdu'l-Baha's visit there. Thank you!


LilWabbit

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  May 01, 2012 - 10:59AM #8
mytmouse57
Posts: 9,782

I'm a bit envious.


I'm an isolated believer, in a small, rural area. So I see other Baha'is every couple months or so.


Glad to hear you had a good time in NYC.

Quick Reply
Cancel
2 years ago  ::  May 01, 2012 - 1:55PM #9
Seefan
Posts: 3,922

Apr 28, 2012 -- 2:52AM, Lilwabbit wrote:


Blessed Ridvan everyone! May it be a season of rejuvenation and inspiration for all your respective Baha'i communities!


I'm writing this snippet at Heathrow. I'm on my way back from a two-week trip to the US. At the New York Baha'i Center there was a lovely Ridvan celebration complete with an excellent drama performance and some music. It was a great pleasure to have IDBC with me. He's great company and a good sport. It also felt very meaningful to be in New York at the centenary of 'Abdu'l-Baha's visit there. Thank you!


LilWabbit 



Hi LilWabbit.  Glad you has a nice trip.  Is IDBC the same as the guy on beliefnet?  If so I like talking to him and reading his responses.  He's so polite and kind with his opinions.  I can see him being a friend/acquientance of yours. 


Later .......



 

Today the one overriding need is unity and harmony among the beloved of the Lord, for they should have among them but one heart and soul and should, so far as in them lieth, unitedly withstand the hostility of all the peoples of the world ... (Baha'i Writings)
Quick Reply
Cancel
 
    Viewing this thread :: 0 registered and 1 guest
    No registered users viewing
    Advertisement

    Beliefnet On Facebook