‘These pages will relate the story of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as the story of the retrogression of a nation under the yoke of the Qájárs.' With these words Mr. Balyuzi introduces this biography of the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. The life and times of Bahá'u'lláh are presented in their historical setting both in Iran and in the world at large. Much of its story is taken from the unpublished memoirs of His companions who themselves observed the events they describe. Details are given of Bahá'u'lláh's ancestry and family, His several journeys when banished from Iran, with the names of those who accompanied Him to Constantinople and into the citadel of 'Akká; the horrific martyrdom of Badí', His messenger to the Shah; the background of the marriage of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His eldest son; the machinations of the Azalís in Constantinople which brought Him anxiety and sorrow in His last years; and the closing months of His life at Bahjí.
Prior to anything else in this preface, I must express my deepest and ever-abiding gratitude to the Universal House of Justice, the Supreme Body of the Baha'i World Community, for their gracious encouragement at every stage, without which this book could never have been written. I am also most grateful for the approval accorded to I my translations from Scriptures.
Next, I wish to offer my sincere and grateful thanks to the Hands of the Cause resident in the Holy Land, for devoting much of their time to read and review for publication this book, which is the first of four volumes on the life and times of Baha'u'llah. This volume presents a complete biography.
Apart from a variety of documents and sundry accounts, my chief sources have been: the unpublished part of the immortal chronicle by Mulla Muhammad-i-Zarandi, Nabil-i-A'zam; the reminiscences of Aqa Husayn-i-Ashchi; and the narrative of Aqa Muhammad-Riday-i-Qannad-i-Shirazi.
Aqa Husayn was the son of Aqa Muhammad-Javad-i-Kashani, a Babi of early days. Orphaned, when a young boy, he was taken to Baghdad, where he grew up in the household of Baha'u'llah, eventually becoming His cook. For that reason he came to be known as Ashchi (Broth-maker).
When, in December 1924, Aqa Husayn-i-Ashchi was at an advanced age and on his death-bed, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'I Faith, instructed Aqa 'Abdu'r-Rasul-i-Mansur-i-Kashani to sit by his bedside and take down all that the dying man could remember of the events of seven decades. It is a fascinating story that Ashchi had to tell; and what is particularly striking is the amazing rapport between the reminiscences of an elderly man, very soon to die, and the narrative of Aqa Riday-i-Qannad.
Aqa Rida, a native of Shiraz and a confectioner (Qannad) by trade, was a devout follower of Baha'u'llah, and was closely beside Him from Baghdad days until His ascension. He later served 'Abdu'l-Baha with equal zeal and devotion, until his death in 1912, while 'Abdu'l-Baha was in America.
Aqa Rida states that he wrote his narrative at the request of Nabil-i-A'zam, and he put his pen to paper some time in the early eighties of the last century. The exact date is unknown because, unfortunately, in the copy made available to me, the final pages of his all-absorbing narrative are missing. It is to be hoped that somewhere a complete copy exists and will come to light, although it is possible that Aqa Rida may not have finished his invaluable account.
The great value of both Aqa Rida's narrative and Aqa Husayn's reminiscences lies in the fact that they are eye-witness accounts, and not recollections and anecdotes told them by someone else. Both men were personally involved in and with the events they describe.
The narrative of Nabil-i-A'zam hardly needs any introduction. That superb volume, The Dawn-Breakers, has already made it known. In that part of his chronicle which is unpublished, Nabil, like Aqa Rida and Aqa Husayn, relates mostly the events and incidents in which he himself was involved, which he saw with his own eyes.
The autobiography of Haji Mirza Habibu'llah Afnan, dealing as it does with months lived in close proximity to the residences of Baha'u'llah, has a unique importance. I am most grateful to my cousin, Abu'l-Qasim Afnan, for lending me this invaluable document from the pen of his father, and for providing me with other material of great historical interest.
It should be stressed that the spoken words of Baha'u'llah, quoted in these pages, cannot be equated with His Writings. No one could have been taking notes at the time, although it cannot be ruled out that some may be the very words spoken. The reporting of Nabil, however, is in a different category, because he usually read to Baha'u'llah what he had heard Him say. Nevertheless, none of these reported words of Baha'u'llah has scriptural value.
Quotations are reproduced in their original form, even though differing from the spelling and transliteration of Persian words adopted in this book. Translations from Arabic and Persian are my own, unless otherwise attributed. For Constantinople, Adrianople, and Smyrna, I have used at times their Turkish names: Istanbul, Edirne (Adirnih), Izmir, which are common usage today for referring to those cities.
That the many Persian names in the book may present difficulties to the Western reader is clear, but the innumerable persons, who, in one way or another, had some connection with Baha'u'llah, cannot be omitted from His biography. They can be identified only by the names they used, however difficult. For a guide to the construction of Persian names, the reader may wish to refer to my earlier book, The Báb, where a preliminary note deals with this subject.
Immense indeed, as in the past, is my indebtedness to Marion Hofman. Without her prodigious editorial work, the contents of this book would have remained loosely-jointed and diffused.
I am profoundly grateful to Moojan Momen, whose help and assistance to me have been of inestimable value. Throughout this book and its addenda, there are biographical notes, historical accounts of cities and localities in which Baha'u'llah dwelt, as well as other material written by him, based on his assiduous and able research.
I am very thankful to Mr. Horst Kolo for his excellent production of the frontispiece and a number of other photographs. The contribution of the Audio-Visual Department of the Baha'i World Centre, Haifa, Israel, in providing the major number of illustrations, is deeply appreciated, and I also acknowledge gratefully certain photographs from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iran, as well as from several others to whom due attribution is given. Some old engravings and photographs from books are reproduced and acknowledged (see bibliography for details).
For permission to quote from published works, I am much indebted to the Universal House of Justice, Baha'i World Centre, Haifa; to the Baha'i Publishing Trusts of the United States and the United Kingdom; and to Dorothy Anderson, Hutchinson & Co., Jonathan Cape Ltd, Macmillan (London and Basingstoke), and Oxford University Press. The extracts from the Public Record Office files are used with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. The text of the Authorized Version of the Bible is Crown copyright and the extracts used herein are reproduced by permission. A number of works now out of copyright have also been quoted. Full acknowledgement of all sources is given in the bibliography and notes.
I also wish to thank, in addition to those mentioned above, Mr. Stratford Caldecott for his meticulous copy editing, and Mr. Rustom Sabit for his additional careful proof reading.
And, finally, I wish to pay my tribute to my wife's share in the writing and the shaping of this book. Her support constantly eased my path.
H. M. BALYUZI
The Ancestry of Baha'u'llah
Childhood and Early Life
To the Capital City of Iran
In the Home of His Ancestors
The First Imprisonment
The Conference of Badasht
From Badasht to Shaykh Tabarsi
The Downfall of Haji Mirza Aqasi
The Second Imprisonment
A Momentous Year
One Year in Karbila
The Fall of Amir Kabir
The Mad Attempt to Assassinate Nasiri’d-Din Shah
The Birth of the Baha’i revelation
Babi Martyrs of 1852
The Story of a Shirazi Youth
Release and Exile
Baghdad – The First Year
Baghdad - Friend and Foe
Baghdad - Final Years
From the Most Exalted Pen
The March of the King of Glory
In the City of Constantine
Adrianople, the Remote Prison
Adrianople, the Last Years
Banishment to 'Akka
Arrival at 'Akka
The Lord of Hosts
Life in the Barracks
The Story of Badi'
The Great Sacrifice
The Gates Open
The Turn of the Tide
The Marriage of the Most Great Branch
Last Years within the City Walls
The Years at Bahji
The Activities of the Azalis in Constantinople
Pages of an Autobiography
The Ascension of Baha'u'llah
The Disastrous Reign of Nasiri'd-Din Shah
Representations to Consuls at the Time of Baha'u'llah's Banishment to 'Akka
The Aftermath of the Siege of Plevna
General Gordon in Haifa and Akka