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This lesson revolves around Bahá’u’lláh’s fourth and final exile to the prison-city of ‘Akká, We will get a sense of the ordeals and hardships He endured there for the sake of humanity. Yet the purpose of the lesson is to help us understand that Bahá’u’lláh’s banishment to ‘Akká would become the means, as ordained by God, for the further promotion of His Cause. To prepare for the discussion, let us review what they learned in previous lessons, particularly in the last lesson.
Here are a few questions:
- Do you remember where Bahá’u’lláh was first exiled and what the Bábí community was like when He reached there?
- How did the community change during Bahá’u’lláh’s ten-year stay in Baghdád?
- What wonderful event occurred at the end of His stay?
- We know, of course, that Bahá’u’lláh was then exiled to Constantinople and eventually to Adrianople. Why did His enemies exile Him farther and farther away from His homeland?
- Did they succeed in achieving their purpose?”
Today you are going to learn about Bahá’u’lláh’s fourth and final banishment. It was to the prison-city of ‘Akká. Bahá’u’lláh referred to ‘Akká as the ‘most desolate of cities’ and the ‘Most Great Prison’, so immense were His sufferings there.
What does the word ‘desolate’ mean?
You know that all the Manifestations of God have suffered at the hands of leaders concerned only with their own wealth and power. They used their influence over the people who blindly followed them to convince them to rise up against God’s Manifestations. We have seen that Bahá’u’lláh, too, lived a life of suffering and affliction. In ‘Akká His sufferings grew even greater. But He accepted every affliction patiently because He was chosen by God and did only that which God commanded. He loved humanity and knew that the knowledge He brought from God would finally conquer ignorance.
When Bahá’u’lláh arrived in ‘Akká, He was outwardly a prisoner, forcibly sent there by two powerful kings. The people of the city had been told lies about Him, and they called out to Him with insults. But Bahá’u’lláh knew that soon the hearts of the people would change and that, from ‘Akká, His Cause would spread throughout the East and the West, to all parts of the world. Of course, He had foreseen His exile to ‘Akká years before His enemies had even decided to banish Him there. In a Tablet revealed much earlier, He refers to His arrival in that desolate spot, saying that He was welcomed with banners of light and received God’s assurance that soon all the peoples of the world would follow these banners.
You will memorize His words yourselves later in our class today. Imagine how beautiful the world will become when more and more people are enlisted under the banner of the Cause and following the light of God’s teachings.
MEMORIZATION AID FOR PRAYERS
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Upon our arrival, We were welcomed with banners of light, whereupon the Voice of the Spirit cried out saying: ‘Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these bannersBaha’u’llah
MEANING OF SOME OF THE WORDS IN THE QUOTE
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- The Shores of ‘Akká By Leslie Garrett
- We Are the People of Bahá By Donna Taylor
- Who Is the Prophet of God for Today By Saul Accouche
This historical episode describes events surrounding Bahá’u’lláh’s fourth and final exile, to the fortress town of ‘Akká. We will divide the episodes as follows: first, the journey to ‘Akká and the conditions of Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment there, and second, the tragic passing of His beloved son, Mírzá Mihdí.
We previously learned about Bahá’u’lláh’s exiles to Constantinople and Adrianople. With each exile, the corrupt leaders of Persia and the Ottoman Empire foolishly thought that they would succeed in putting an end to Bahá’u’lláh’s growing influence among the people. But you know, of course, that through the heroic efforts of dedicated believers like Aḥmad, the number of Bahá’u’lláh’s followers was steadily increasing. And so the authorities decided to exile Him once again, this time to the fortress of ‘Akká, a desolate prison city in which, they were sure, the new Faith would soon die.
Suddenly one morning, the house of Bahá’u’lláh in Adrianople was surrounded by soldiers, and everyone was told to prepare for immediate departure. For some time, no one knew what their destiny would be. The greatest fear of most was to be separated from their Beloved, for there were rumors that Bahá’u’lláh and His family would be exiled to one place and that the others would be forced to disperse.
On 12 August 1868, Bahá’u’lláh and the small group of exiles set out by land, under guard, for the port city of Gallipoli. For three nights, they remained in that city near the sea, still uncertain of what was to come. Then finally it became clear that Bahá’u’lláh was to be banished to ‘Akká, together with some seventy of His companions, including His beloved family.
Early in the morning, they were taken hurriedly to a steamer waiting in the harbor. They only had a few loaves of bread and a little cheese for the voyage ahead. The conditions were unspeakable, and they were all crowded together, with ten soldiers and two officers guarding them. Bahá’u’lláh had warned His companions of the dangers and trials that awaited them. “This journey will be unlike any of the previous journeys,” He told them. Sadly, one of their companions never reached their destination but died along the way. Then, after ten difficult and miserable days, in the sweltering summer heat, they finally approached the shores of the prison city of ‘Akká. Built as a fortress many years earlier, it was now used to confine the most unwanted prisoners. It was an unhealthy place to live; there was a saying at the time that, if a bird flew over ‘Akká, it would die, so polluted was the air.
Many of the townspeople had assembled to see the new arrivals disembark from their boat. They were yelling curses and abuse. You see, the inhabitants of ‘Akká were told that Bahá’u’lláh and His companions were enemies of God’s religion. The Sulṭán’s orders had been read out loud in a public place, and everyone understood that these Persians were condemned to life imprisonment and that it was strictly forbidden to associate with them.
Upon landing, the exiles were taken immediately to the army barracks. A section of the barracks was to be their prison. The first night, they were deprived of food and drink, and afterward they were each assigned three loaves of low-quality bread a day. Soon everyone, except for two, fell sick, and, shortly after, three of them died. The guards refused to bury the dead without receiving the money to cover the necessary expenses. A small carpet was sold, and the sum was given to the guards. Later it was learned that they had not kept their word and had buried the dead unwashed, unshrouded, and without coffins. They had in fact been given twice the amount required for the burial.
For the next two years, the conditions of imprisonment only slightly improved. Four of the prisoners were allowed to go out daily to buy food, but even they were heavily guarded. However, in spite of the order of the Sulṭán that no one should associate with Bahá’u’lláh and His family, a number of believers in Persia made the long journey to ‘Akká, often on foot, with the hope that they might be admitted into His presence. Upon arrival, these devoted souls, unable to approach Him, would stand at a distance facing His prison, content to catch even a glimpse of His figure through the bars of His window. A wave of His blessed Hand was sufficient reward for months of travel, and most would then turn homeward, thankful for the bounty they had received.
The most tragic event of this period was the sudden death of Bahá’u’lláh’s son Mírzá Mihdí, known as the Purest Branch, at the tender age of twenty-two. Mírzá Mihdí was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s younger brother. When his Father was first exiled from Persia, he was too small a child to make the difficult journey and had to be left behind with relatives. Eventually, he was reunited with his parents in Baghdád some years later and accompanied Bahá’u’lláh on the rest of His exiles. He had a beautiful character, and all his friends were attracted to his noble spirit. By the time he and his family reached ‘Akká, he served his Father as a scribe, writing and copying the Tablets He ceaselessly revealed.
Often, after transcribing Bahá’u’lláh’s words in the evening, Mírzá Mihdí would go to the roof of the prison to walk and pray. One evening, about two years after he and his family arrived in that forsaken place, he was pacing up and down the rooftop, deep in prayer, when he failed to notice the open skylight in front of him. He fell through it and landed on a wooden crate on the floor below that pierced his chest. Hearing the sound of his fall and the cries of the friends, Bahá’u’lláh rushed to His son’s side. Mírzá Mihdí explained to his Father that he had always counted his steps to the unguarded skylight so that he knew when to stop, but had become so engrossed in prayer that he had forgotten to do so. Bahá’u’lláh asked the Purest Branch what he wished. He replied, “I wish the people of Bahá to be able to attain Your presence.” “And so it shall be,” Bahá’u’lláh said; “God will grant your wish.”
Within twenty-two hours of the fall, Mírzá Mihdí’s soul had winged its flight to the next world. Now the loss of a son He loved so much was added to Bahá’u’lláh’s many other sufferings. But of course, Bahá’u’lláh could see past all these sufferings and knew that His Cause would spread throughout the world and hundreds of thousands would begin to follow His teachings. Remember that, long before the Sulṭán gave the order to banish Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Akká, He described His arrival in the prison-city in this way:
“Upon Our arrival, We were welcomed with banners of light, whereupon the Voice of the Spirit cried out saying: ‘Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.’”
Remembering the ordeals and hardships suffered by Bahá’u’lláh makes us firm in His love, and this is one of the insights we should glean from the above episode. What are some others?
For any of the figures we heard about, use the biography page to write down the information you would like to remember
- Bahá’u’lláh and His family were exiled from Adrianople to ‘Akká in 1868.
- In ‘Akká, Bahá’u’lláh and His companions were imprisoned in an army barracks.
- The phrase the “Most Great Prison” refers to ‘Akká.
- Mírzá Mihdí was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s younger brother.
- Mírzá Mihdí was known as the Purest Branch.
- The Purest Branch was twenty-two years old when he died.
Download the fact cards here
Act out the scene below as one of the pilgrims who have left Persia on the way to ‘Akka, or tell someone about this trip. Remember we do not portray the figure of Baha’u’llah.
However, in spite of the order of the Sulṭán that no one should associate with Bahá’u’lláh and His family, a number of believers in Persia made the long journey to ‘Akká, often on foot, with the hope that they might be admitted into His presence. Upon arrival, these devoted souls, unable to approach Him, would stand at a distance facing His prison, content to catch even a glimpse of His figure through the bars of His window. A wave of His blessed Hand was sufficient reward for months of travel, and most would then turn homeward, thankful for the bounty they had received.
Paper Circut That Lights Up
“…He was welcomed with banners of light and received God’s assurance that soon all the peoples of the world would follow these banners.”
Baha’u’llah has now reached the last location of his exiles. In this activity, we will “map” the various dates and places in a fun way. (It’s easier than it sounds!)
You will need:
- Copper conductive tape. I got mine from Amazon (graphite pencils, and tin foil can be used but are not reliable)
- light bulbs (diodes) again from Amazon or Christmas bulb replacements with the wires accessible. There are more expensive options and the one that is very reliable is CHIBITRONICS
- My template modified from CHIBITRONICS website for more lights on the switch
- 3-volt battery
Once you have the copper tape on all the lines of the template
Use clear scotch tape to keep the battery in place.
Line up the light with the dot on the template and check that it lights up.
Adhere the light in place with tape.
The grey circles on the opposite side need to be cut so that the light bulbs stick out. Add the labels.
Now when you slide your finger the light will come on and go off in progression from Tehran to Akka.
You can also just have a light at Akka and the quote regarding banners of light.
the tape can tear and then no electricity will pass through. You can “mend” with pieces of tape.
Lights can be a bit finicky and may need a helping hand to hold in place until secured by tape.
Place tape only on the “legs” of the light and the tape strip it sits on. try not to tape all the way over to the next strip as we found it did interfere with the flow.
don’t let the “legs” of the lights touch
Here is an example of what a slider switch looks like in action
1. Pictures of the barracks in ‘Akká where Bahá’u’lláh and His companions were imprisoned upon their arrival.
Do a drawing, and remember some of the events that occurred there.
2. Draw the scene of pilgrims crossing the desert to go to ‘Akká. Many times they carried tulip bulbs with them as they knew Baha’ullah missed seeing greenery.
Plant Tulips in memory of Bahá’u’lláh
DAYSPRING MAGAZINE AND BRILLIANT STAR MAGAZINE HAVE GREAT RESOURCES FOR THE LIFE OF BAHA’U’LLAH
The source of all good is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment with His holy will and pleasure.Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
Review quote aid here