Was it not He Who, at the early age of twenty-seven, spontaneously arose to champion, in the capacity of a mere follower, the nascent Cause of the Báb? Was He not the One Who by assuming the actual leadership of a proscribed and harrassed sect exposed Himself, and His kindred, and His possessions, and His rank, and His reputation to the grave perils, the bloody assaults, the general spoliation and furious defamations of both government and people? Was it not He—the Bearer of a Revelation, Whose day “every Prophet hath announced,” for which “the soul of every Divine Messenger hath thirsted,” and in which “God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets”—was not the Bearer of such a Revelation, at the instigation of Shí’ih ecclesiastics and by order of the Sháh himself forced, for no less than four months, to breathe, in utter darkness, whilst in the company of the vilest criminals and freighted down with galling chains, the pestilential air of the vermin-infested subterranean dungeon of Tihrán—a place which, as He Himself subsequently declared, was mysteriously converted into the very scene of the annunciation made to Him by God of His Prophethood?
“We were consigned,” He wrote in His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” “for four months to a place foul beyond comparison. As to the dungeon in which this Wronged One and others similarly wronged were confined, a dark and narrow pit were preferable.... The dungeon was wrapped in thick darkness, and Our fellow prisoners numbered nearly a hundred and fifty souls: thieves, assassins, and highwaymen. Though crowded, it had no other outlet than the passage by which We entered. No pen can depict that place, nor any tongue describe its loathsome smell. Most of these men had neither clothes nor bedding to lie on. God alone knoweth what befell Us in that most foul-smelling and gloomy place!” “‘Abdu’l-Bahá,” writes Dr. J.E. Esslemont, “tells how one day He was allowed to enter the prison-yard to see His beloved Father when He came out for His daily exercise. Bahá’u’lláh was terribly altered, so ill He could hardly walk. His hair and beard unkempt, His neck galled and swollen from the pressure of a heavy steel collar, His body bent by the weight of His chains.” “For three days and three nights,” Nabíl has recorded in his chronicle, “no manner of food or drink was given to Bahá’u’lláh. Rest and sleep were both impossible to Him. The place was infested with vermin, and the stench of that gloomy abode was enough to crush the very spirits of those who were condemned to suffer its horrors.” “Such was the intensity of His suffering that the marks of that cruelty remained imprinted upon His body all the days of His life.”
And what of the other tribulations which, before and immediately after this dreadful episode, touched Him? What of His confinement in the home of one of the kad-khudás of Tihrán? What of the savage violence with which He was stoned by the angry people in the neighborhood of the village of Níyálá? What of His incarceration by the emissaries of the army of the Sháh in Mázindarán, and His receiving the bastinado by order, and in the presence, of the assembled siyyids and mujtahids into whose hands He had been delivered by the civil authorities of Ámul? What of the howls of derision and abuse with which a crowd of ruffians subsequently pursued Him? What of the monstrous accusation brought against Him by the Imperial household, the Court and the people, when the attempt was made on the life of Násiri’d-Dín Sháh? What of the infamous outrages, the abuse and ridicule heaped on Him when He was arrested by responsible officers of the government, and conducted from Níyávarán “on foot and in chains, with bared head and bare feet,” and exposed to the fierce rays of the midsummer sun, to the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán? What of the avidity with which corrupt officials sacked His house and carried away all His possessions and disposed of His fortune? What of the cruel edict that tore Him from the small band of the Báb’s bewildered, hounded, and shepherdless followers, separated Him from His kinsmen and friends, and banished Him, in the depth of winter, despoiled and defamed, to ‘Iráq?
- Shoghi Effendi (from a letter dated 28 March 1941; ‘The Promised Day Is Come’)