The Banishments of Baha'u'llah
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Shoghi Effendi beautifully encapsulates the exiles and banishments that Baha'u'llah was forced to endure over the majority of His life:
The Sháh's edict, equivalent to an order for the immediate expulsion of Bahá'u'lláh from Persian territory, opens a new and glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá'í century. Viewed in its proper perspective it will be even recognized to have ushered in one of the most eventful and momentous epochs in the world's religious history. It coincides with the inauguration of a ministry extending over a period of almost forty years--a ministry which, by virtue of its creative power, its cleansing force, its healing influences, and the irresistible operation of the world-directing, world-shaping forces it released, stands unparalleled in the religious annals of the entire human race. It marks the opening phase in a series of banishments, ranging over a period of four decades, and terminating only with the death of Him Who was the Object of that cruel edict. The process which it set in motion, gradually progressing and unfolding, began by establishing His Cause for a time in the very midst of the jealously-guarded stronghold of Shí'ah Islám, and brought Him in personal contact with its highest and most illustrious exponents; then, at a later stage, it confronted Him, at the seat of the Caliphate, with the civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm and the representatives of the Sultán of Turkey, the most powerful potentate in the Islamic world; and finally carried Him as far as the shores of the Holy Land, thereby fulfilling the prophecies recorded in both the Old and the New Testaments, redeeming the pledge enshrined in various traditions attributed to the Apostle of God and the Imáms who succeeded Him, and ushering in the long-awaited restoration of Israel to the ancient cradle of its Faith. With it, may be said to have begun the last and most fruitful of the four stages of a life, the first twenty-seven years of which were characterized by the care-free enjoyment of all the advantages conferred by high birth and riches, and by an unfailing solicitude for the interests of the poor, the sick and the down-trodden; followed by nine years of active and exemplary discipleship in the service of the Báb; and finally by an imprisonment of four months' duration, overshadowed throughout by mortal peril, embittered by agonizing sorrows, and immortalized, as it drew to a close, by the sudden eruption of the forces released by an overpowering, soul-revolutionizing Revelation.
This enforced and hurried departure of Bahá'u'lláh from His native land, accompanied by some of His relatives, recalls in some of its aspects, the precipitate flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the sudden migration of Muhammad, soon after His assumption of the prophetic office, from Mecca to Medina; the exodus of Moses, His brother and His followers from the land of their birth, in response to the Divine summons, and above all the banishment of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land--a banishment which, in the multitudinous benefits it conferred upon so many divers peoples, faiths and nations, constitutes the nearest historical approach to the incalculable blessings destined to be vouchsafed, in this day, and in future ages, to the whole human race, in direct consequence of the exile suffered by Him Whose Cause is the flower and fruit of all previous Revelations.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, after enumerating in His "Some Answered Questions" the far-reaching consequences of Abraham's banishment, significantly affirms that "since the exile of Abraham from Ur to Aleppo in Syria produced this result, we must consider what will be the effect of the exile of Bahá'u'lláh in His several removes from Tihrán to Baghdád, from thence to Constantinople, to Rumelia and to the Holy Land." - Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By p. 106-108
...an indestructible Faith...in this very hour it reached its meridian glory through the proclamation of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh to the kings, the rulers and ecclesiastical leaders of the world in both the East and the West. Close on the heels of this unprecedented victory had followed the climax of His sufferings, a banishment to the penal colony of `Akká, decreed by Sultán `Abdu'l-`Azíz. This had been hailed by vigilant enemies as the signal for the final extermination of a much feared and hated adversary, and it had heaped upon that Faith in this fortress-town, designated by Bahá'u'lláh as His "Most Great Prison," calamities from both within and without, such as it had never before experienced.
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By p. 404
The fateful decision was eventually arrived at to banish Bahá'u'lláh to the penal colony of `Akká...
On the morning of the 2nd of Jamádiyu'l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 21, 1868) they all embarked in an Austrian-Lloyd steamer for Alexandria, touching at Madellí, and stopping for two days at Smyrna, where Jináb-i-Munír, surnamed Ismu'lláhu'l-Múníb, became gravely ill, and had, to his great distress, to be left behind in a hospital where he soon after died. In Alexandria they transhipped into a steamer of the same company, bound for Haifa, where, after brief stops at Port Said and Jaffa, they landed, setting out, a few hours later, in a sailing vessel, for `Akká, where they disembarked, in the course of the afternoon of the 12th of Jamádiyu'l-Avval 1285 A.H. (August 31, 1868).
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By pp. 179, 182
The banishment, lasting no less than twenty-four years, to which two Oriental despots had, in their implacable enmity and shortsightedness, combined to condemn Bahá'u'lláh, will go down in history as a period which witnessed a miraculous and truly revolutionizing change in the circumstances attending the life and activities of the Exile Himself, will be chiefly remembered for the widespread recrudescence of persecution, intermittent but singularly cruel, throughout His native country and the simultaneous increase in the number of His followers, and, lastly, for an enormous extension in the range and volume of His writings.
- Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By p. 185
The arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in `Akká marks the opening of the last phase of His forty-year long ministry, the final stage, and indeed the climax, of the banishment in which the whole of that ministry was spent. - Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By p. 183