The Ridván Garden
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
The Ridván Garden, located outside the city of ‘Akká, was rented by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1875 and prepared for Bahá’u’lláh's use. Bahá’u’lláh visited this garden many times during the latter part of His life. Although it shares the same name it does not have the same significance of the Garden of Ridván, Baghdad and no connection to the festival of Ridván.
The garden of Na'mayn, a small island, situated in the middle of a river to the east of the city, honoured with the appellation of Ridván, and designated by Him the "New Jerusalem" and "Our Verdant Isle," had, together with the residence of `Abdu'lláh Páshá,--rented and prepared for Him by `Abdu'l-Bahá, and situated a few miles north of Akká--become by now the favourite retreats of One Who, for almost a decade, had not set foot beyond the city walls, and Whose sole exercise had been to pace, in monotonous repetition, the floor of His bed-chamber.
The garden had water running on both sides, leading Bahá’u’lláh to refer to it as the "verdant isle." Some of the benches, including the one used by Bahá’u’lláh, had water flowing just below them.
When Bahá’u’lláh came to the Ridván Garden, He would often sit under the mulberry tree, with the water flowing by, and exult in the beauty of nature.
In one of His letters, Bahá’u’lláh refers to a vision that He had in the Ridván Garden:
"One day of days We repaired unto Our Green Island. Upon Our arrival, We beheld its streams flowing, and its trees luxuriant, and the sunlight playing in their midst. Turning Our face to the right, We beheld what the pen is powerless to describe; nor can it set forth that which the eye of the Lord of Mankind witnessed in that most sanctified, that most sublime, that blest, and most exalted Spot. Turning, then, to the left We gazed on one of the Beauties of the Most Sublime Paradise, standing on a pillar of light, and calling aloud saying: 'O inmates of earth and heaven! Behold ye My beauty, and My radiance, and My revelation, and My effulgence. By God, the True One! I am Trustworthiness and the revelation thereof, and the beauty thereof. I will recompense whosoever will cleave unto Me, and recognize My rank and station, and hold fast unto My hem. I am the most great ornament of the people of Baha, and the vesture of glory unto all who are in the kingdom of creation. I am the supreme instrument for the prosperity of the world, and the horizon of assurance unto all beings.' Thus have We sent down for thee that which will draw men nigh unto the Lord of creation."
For Bahá’u’lláh, the garden and the small building at the site provided a place of rest from the daily cares of His household and the pilgrims that thronged to see Him. The word "Ridván" means "Paradise."
Tuba Khanum, daughter of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, wrote:
"Most of the flowering plants have been brought from Persia by the pilgrims. Some of the gardeners who had been in the employ of Baha’u’llah in His glorious gardens at the beautiful country house, His former home in Persia, remembered that a particular white rose was a favourite flower of Baha’u’llah’s. This rose, single with golden centre, brownish stalks, shiny leaves, and a peculiarly delightful scent, is now flourishing in the Ridvan. Many bushes of these beautiful roses are in full bloom; the waxen cream and gold of their blossoms, and their burnished leaves, make a pure and peaceful note in the love-laden harmony of the glory of that garden. "
During one period, Bahá’u’lláh stayed at the Ridván Garden for nine days, meeting with the pilgrim groups that came out each day from ‘Akká to see Him.
Tuba Khanum, again wrote:
"On! the joy of the day when Baha’u’llah went to the beautiful Ridvan, which had been prepared for Him with such loving care by the Master, the friends, and the pilgrims! The Master’s heart was gladdened indeed to see the enjoyment of His beloved Father, resting under the big mulberry tree, by the side of the little river rippling by, the fountain which they had contrived splashing and gurgling in sounds refreshing indeed after the long years of confinement in the pestilential air of the penal fortress of ‘Akka. Only those who were present there could realize in any degree what it meant to be surrounded by such profusion flowers, their colours and their scents, after the dull walls and unfragrant odours of the prison city. "
There were many occasions when the believers held feasts in that garden and Bahá’u’lláh honoured them with His presence. Such gatherings engendered indescribable joy and spirituality, beyond our imagination. The garden became truly a place of celebration and rejoicing. Siyyid Asadu’lláh-i-Qumí, an eminent believer, has related that once Bahá’u’lláh Himself entertained all the believers with refreshments in the Garden of Ridván to celebrate the release of several Bahá’í prisoners in Tihrán. These included Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl, the Hand of the Cause Hájí Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar, and Siyyid Asadu’lláh himself. In His all-embracing knowledge Bahá’u’lláh had announced their release and celebrated the occasion, whereas the telegram bearing this news reached ‘Akká a day later.
In 1881, the Ridván Garden was purchased for Bahá’u’lláh. Pilgrims still go to the little house there for prayer and meditation.
During the 1930s and 1940s the island setting of the garden disappeared, as a result of a draining project against malaria. In 2010 a three-year restoration and conservation project of the garden and the original water canals surrounding it was completed, after which the Ridvan Garden, referred to by Bahá'u'lláh as 'Our Verdant Isle', became an island once again.