Introducing The Principal Theme
It is hoped that, in this lesson, you will get a further glimpse of Bahá’u’lláh’s grandeur and majesty and gain an understanding that He was at all times and under all conditions victorious, achieving God’s Holy Purpose.
Let us review the following ideas:
We have already learned that Bahá’u’lláh’s life on this earth was filled with suffering. What were some of the afflictions and ordeals that He endured?
- In His homeland, Persia, He was imprisoned, put in chains, and stripped of His worldly possessions.
- He was then exiled four times. To where was He banished the last time, and what were the conditions like there?
Yet we also saw that, despite the efforts exerted by His enemies to still His Voice and destroy His Faith, Bahá’u’lláh continued to proclaim His Cause, to high and low alike, and He called upon the kings and rulers of the earth to uphold the principle of justice and to work for the welfare of the people of the world.
How did the kings and rulers respond to His summons?”
You will remember that when imprisoned and in chains in the Síyáh-Chál, Bahá’u’lláh heard these words on every side:
‘Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen.’
Years later He arrived in ‘Akká, outwardly a prisoner and an exile. But you know that what He saw in the spiritual world was different. He said that He was welcomed with banners of light and that the Voice of the Spirit cried out, saying: ‘Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.’
God promised Bahá’u’lláh that He would be made victorious.
Today you are going to see that soon in ‘Akká, as in other places, the hearts of the people were transformed by the loving words of Bahá’u’lláh, and the wish of His beloved son, Mírzá Mihdí, was fulfilled. His followers were able to attain His presence, and His Cause became stronger and spread wider each day. Though outwardly Bahá’u’lláh remained a prisoner, He continued to gain more and more ascendance over the powers of the earth. Every time His enemies had devised a new way to silence Him, His fame and following grew. The rulers of Persia and the Ottoman Empire were too blinded by ambition and greed to understand that they were powerless to inflict harm on His Cause.
In the passage you will memorize in this lesson, Bahá’u’lláh assures us that the Cause of God has the power to withstand all opposition. Think of all the forces that rose up against Bahá’u’lláh, and yet He was unshaken. Little did the rulers of the time realize that history would prove the Prisoner of ‘Akká to be the King of Glory.
“O Lord! Enable all the peoples of the earth to gain admittance into the Paradise of Thy Faith, so that no created being may remain beyond the bounds of Thy good- pleasure. From time immemorial Thou hast been potent to do what pleaseth Thee and transcendent above whatsoever Thou desirest.”The Báb
“I adjure Thee by Thy might, O my God! Let no harm beset me in times of tests, and in moments of heedlessness guide my steps aright through Thine inspiration. Thou art God, potent art Thou to do what Thou desirest. No one can withstand Thy Will or thwart Thy Purpose.”The Báb
“O my God, the God of bounty and mercy! Thou art that King by Whose commanding word the whole creation hath been called into being; and Thou art that All-Bountiful One the doings of Whose servants have never hindered Him from showing forth His grace, nor have they frustrated the revelations of His bounty. Suffer this servant, I beseech Thee, to attain unto that which is the cause of his salvation in every world of Thy worlds. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”Bahá’u’lláh
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Though the forces of the nations be arrayed against Him, though the kings of
the earth be leagued to undermine His Cause, the power of His might shall stand unshaken.Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh
MEANING OF SOME OF THE WORDS IN THE QUOTE
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This lesson is about the period of Bahá’u’lláh’s life spent in ‘Akká and its vicinity after being released from imprisonment in the barracks.
You know that Bahá’u’lláh’s suffering in the fortress-town of ‘Akká was so immense that He designated it the “Most Great Prison”.
Confined to the army barracks by order of the Sulṭán, He and the small band of exiles that accompanied Him were subjected to the severest hardship. The loss of His beloved son Mírzá Mihdí, the Purest Branch, was a source of unspeakable sorrow. But four months later, He and His companions were asked to leave the army barracks to make way for troops. They were moved from house to house, staying only a few months in each and kept watch over by guards.
Bahá’u’lláh and His family finally settled in what is now known as the House of ‘Abbúd.
They remained there for several years, and it was in that house that He revealed His Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, which you will learn more about in a later class period.
Gradually the restrictions on them were relaxed, as the inhabitants of the city began to recognize their innocence and to admire and revere Bahá’u’lláh. An increasing number of pilgrims from Persia were able to attain His presence during this period, and thus the wish of the Purest Branch that the gates of the city would be opened wide to his Father’s followers was fulfilled.
Although Bahá’u’lláh and the believers enjoyed much freedom in ‘Akká, He remained confined within the city walls, for the order of the Sulṭán was still in force. But this situation was not to last. People of influence and authority eventually grew friendly towards the Faith and came to respect Bahá’u’lláh.
There was even a governor of ‘Akká who seemed to have caught a glimpse of His station. He was so deeply moved by Bahá’u’lláh’s majesty that he begged Him to be given the privilege of serving Him in some way. Bahá’u’lláh refused, not wanting anything for Himself, but instead suggested that he restore a disused water canal for the city.
The water in ‘Akká was terribly foul, and the canal, once fixed, allowed the people of the city to have fresh water.
One day, Bahá’u’lláh mentioned that He had not seen greenery for nine years. The country, He commented, was the world of the soul and the city the world of the body. When ‘Abdu’l- Bahá heard these words, He realized that the time had come for His Father to go to the countryside and enjoy the beauty of nature.
There lived a prominent man in ‘Akká in those days who owned a lovely place in the country called Mazra‘ih. Unfortunately the man was not friendly to the Faith. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to his home and asked to rent Mazra‘ih from him. Surprisingly, the owner agreed. ‘Abdu’l- Bahá acquired the place at a low rent, repaired it, and beautified the garden.
He then went to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and informed Him that Mazra‘ih was ready for Him and that there was a carriage waiting for Him outside. But Bahá’u’lláh refused to go, saying that He was still a prisoner. There was a highly respected religious leader in ‘Akká who loved Bahá’u’lláh and was greatly favored by Him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained the situation to the man and asked him to go to the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, fall on his knees, take hold of Bahá’u’lláh’s hands and not let go until He promised to leave the city.
The man did exactly as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had asked him to do. But Bahá’u’lláh refused again, repeating that He was a prisoner. “God forbid! Who has the power to make You a prisoner?” insisted the man.
“You have kept Yourself in prison. It was Your Own Will to be imprisoned . . .”
He begged Bahá’u’lláh to leave the walls of the prison-city and go to Mazra‘ih. “It is beautiful and verdant,” he told Him. “The trees are lovely, and the oranges like balls of fire!” For a whole hour the man pleaded until finally his patience and persistence were rewarded, and Bahá’u’lláh agreed to move to Mazra‘ih.
The next day, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought the carriage and drove Bahá’u’lláh to His new residence. While everyone knew that Bahá’u’lláh was still a prisoner by the order of the Sulṭán, no one dared raise any objections. He was, in reality, as loved and respected as a king.
Two years after Bahá’u’lláh went to live in Mazra‘ih, a beautiful mansion not too far distant fell vacant. It had been built as a country home for a wealthy man and his family. The mansion was on a property called Bahjí, which means “delight”.
When an epidemic broke out in the area, killing many, people panicked and abandoned their homes. ‘Abdu’l- Bahá was thus able to rent Bahjí for His Father, and in the tranquility of its surroundings, Bahá’u’lláh would pass the remaining thirteen years of His life on this earth.
He was now held in esteem and veneration by people of all backgrounds, and the prestige of the community of His followers was well established. Leaders and local officials would often request the honor of attaining His presence.
And although His Faith had not yet spread to the Western world, there were some who were aware of the Prisoner of ‘Akká and the great influence He had on all those with whom He came into contact. One of these was Edward Granville Browne, a well-known British scholar, whom you will learn about in another class.
During this period of His life, Bahá’u’lláh visited the nearby town of Haifa three times. The third visit was the longest. He remained there for three months. It was while in Haifa, over the course of the visit, that news reached Bahá’u’lláh of the martyrdom of seven believers in the city of Yazd in Persia. All seven had been put to death in a single day, one after another, in the most cruel and barbarous ways, in front of the jeering and enthusiastic crowds.
Then the governor of the city called a holiday; shops were closed and the city lit into the night for the festivities. You see, Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, the king of Persia, never gave up his efforts to destroy the Faith in the land of its birth. Whenever it suited his own despotic purpose, his government and the religious leaders would tell lies and falsehoods about the Faith, so that people would feel hatred towards the followers of Bahá’u’lláh and would attack and harm them.
Many were called to the field of martyrdom. So deep was Bahá’u’lláh’s sorrow at learning the circumstances of the deaths of the seven believers in Yazd that, for nine days, no divine verses flowed from His pen, and no one was admitted into His presence. On the ninth day, He summoned the believers and foretold of the king’s doom.
Before long, Bahá’u’lláh said, Persia would be released from the king’s tyrannical reign. And, indeed, some years later, the night before the celebration of the anniversary of his rise to the throne, he was shot and killed by one of his own people, and his sons soon lost the throne and their family name faded into history.
What you should also know is that it was during that same visit to Haifa, while standing on the slopes of Mount Carmel, that Bahá’u’lláh pointed out to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the spot where the Shrine of the Báb was to be built. Later, of course, in the vicinity of the Holy Shrine of the Báb, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice was established. Today the twin cities of Haifa and ‘Akká have become the administrative and spiritual world center of the Bahá’í Faith, which has spread to countries throughout the globe.
Bahá’u’lláh raised the banner of universal peace and revealed the Word of God to humanity. Although the powers of the earth combined their forces against Him, He was victorious over them as God had promised Him when under chains in the Síyáh-Chál. During His own lifetime, His Message revived the hearts of thousands of people, and today His Cause continues its onward march.
The forces of the entire world are not capable of preventing it from achieving its ultimate goal, which is to unify humankind in one universal Cause and in one common Faith.
From the lessons in earlier grades, we already have a profound connection to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and this historical episode gives us an indication of how devoted He was to His beloved Father. You may wish to reflect for a moment on the station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the perfect Exemplar of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. What insights does it reveal into the greatness of the Cause? What other spiritual insights do the historical episode offer, and how will you ensure the children glean such insights as you narrate the events to them?
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 spent twenty-four years in ‘Akká and its vicinity, from 1868 to 1892.
- After nine years of confinement in ‘Akká, Bahá’u’lláh consented to leave its gates.
- Bahá’u’lláh spent the last thirteen years of His life on this earth in Bahjí.
- In one of His visits to Haifa, Bahá’u’lláh pointed out to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the spot on which the Shrine of the Báb was to be built.
- The twin cities of Haifa and ‘Akká are the administrative and spiritual world center of the Bahá’í Faith.
You are a fellow prisoner in Most Great Prison and you have come to love and respect Baha’ullah. You just heard that the new water canal will be fixed and water will start to flow again into the city.
Act out this scene, how you are feeling before the news, and after the news.
You and a group of your friends want to do something to help improve the living conditions of everyone in this prison.
In your groups discuss what you may be able to do. Share your idea(s) with your class.
Can you think of how you can make your neighborhoods a better place to live?
BASED ON: BAHA’U’LLAH MISSED SEEING GREENERY.
1. DESIGN A GARDEN FOR SOMEONE WHO ALSO MISSES GREEN STUFF
THIS WEBSITE HAS SOME FREE PRINTABLES TO HELP WITH THE PLANNING
2. Plant bulbs and watch them grow or give them to a friend. Did you know that pilgrims took bulbs on the trip to Akka?
Among the villagers who had travelled on that pilgrimage were two who bore the same name, Muhammad. As there were no family surnames to distinguish them one from the other, the friends called them Muhammad the first and Muhammad the second. Together they suggested to their fellow Bahá’ís that nothing could be more befitting than flowers for such a Beloved. And what flower better than the fragrant narcissus, in Persia a symbol of purity and love, a symbol too of the coming of the spring and the joyful passing of life out from the darkness and cold of winter!https://bahai-library.com/faizi_flowers_akka
3. Make Seed Paper
4. MAKE SOME SEED MATS TO GIVE TO SOMEONE TO GROW
5. MAKE GRASS SEED HEADS
Walk Through Paper
In Burlington we just did a lot of seed bombs at the Ayyam-i-Ha party so for the lesson, I focused on an activity. (walking through paper)
Baha’u’llah spent so many years as a prisoner, it is what the world saw, but we know that at any time, He could have been free.
One account explains:
Soon the believers from Sayessan became familiar with the prevailing bitter conditions of confinement within the fortress of ‘Akká. Their hearts brimmed with sorrow for the Holy Ones, for they were surprised that such inadequate food was given the exiles, with no fresh vegetables. The bad-tasting water, the poor diet, the prevalence of epidemics of every kind, the barren city with scarcely a blade of grass inside its forbidding double walls, all evoked sadness and a deep rage. Worst of all, the Blessed Beauty with His great love of the open spaces, of the mountains and the gardens, of flowers and trees and all the beauty of the natural world had not been able to walk abroad for about nine long years. Therefore, one day when in His presence the pilgrims opened their hearts and entreated Him:
“Come to our village,” they proposed. “Here in ‘Akká it is warm and damp, and there are no trees.”
“We cannot,” replied the Beloved.
“We promise that the weather will be more agreeable, and we will do everything we can to make you more comfortable.”
“We cannot. We are imprisoned here.”
“Imprisoned?” they replied, with tears in their eyes. “Imprisoned! Who could ever do that to you? You are the King of this world.”
But the Blessed Beauty could not be released from bondage even by these boldest and most resolute of His followers, for God’s destiny had ordained His lifetime stay in the Holy Land, that place of fulfillment of prophecies for all mankind.
Print (or draw) an image of a prison on one side and on the other a beautiful garden and a view.
Remind the class that Baha’u’llah willingly spent many years as a prisoner, and just like this demonstration or walking through paper, Baha’u’llah could have at any time NOT a prisoner.
Have them try to walk through the paper.
Here is the video (below) on how to cut the paper so that we can easily walk through it.
Sometimes when things look impossible, it is not!
DRAW THE GARDENS IN HAIFA
There are so many images that this lesson offers as possible ideas for drawings.
One, for example, is the Mansion of Bahjí.
Another example is a picture of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice as a symbol of the triumph of Bahá’u’lláh’s Cause over the forces that rose up against Him.
Suffer not yourselves to be shut out as by a veil from God after He hath revealed Himself.Selections from the Writings of the Báb
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