Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Enough is Enough"

On 10 April 1854, Baha'u'llah had disappeared.

His family awoke to discover that He was gone. Although we do not know what the daily life of the family looked like at the time, we can presume that they thought He had gone for a walk on a pleasant spring morning, perhaps for a cup of coffee, or something. They probably did not dream that it would be around two years before they would see Him again.

Baha'u'llah, for His part, was walking with His friend, Abu'l-Qasim-Hamadani, who, interestingly enough, was not a Babi. He was a devout Muslim. Together they walked 200 miles north of Baghdad to the small town of Sulaymaniyyih, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, where He gave Abu'l-Qasim a small sum of money to help him set up as a trader.

The question, though, is why did He leave?

For that, dear Reader, we must look back at the history of the Babi Faith of that time.

Just a few years earlier, the Babis were renowned for their uprightness, trustworthiness, integrity, and high moral conduct. Then the persecutions began in earnest. There was the misguided attempt on the life of the Shah, and the massacres, resulting in over 20,000 martyrs for the Faith. It is no exaggeration to say that every leader of the community, with the singular exception of Baha'u'llah, was killed at that time.

By the time Baha'u'llah was settled in Baghdad, the community was essentially leaderless. There were those who found comfort and inspiration in Baha'u'llah's presence, but Mirza Yahya, His half-brother, was ostensibly the one that the Babis were to turn to. And he was in hiding. He refused to meet with anyone, or go out on the street. He was so afraid for his life that he hid away in his home. And there were others, notably Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani, who were becoming jealous of Baha'u'llah's growing prestige. They began to spread rumours about Him, casting Him in a dim light and sowing the seeds of discord within the community.

The Babis, for their part, were also afraid. If they got together in small groups, there was the very real possibility that they would be killed. Many of the Bab's writings had been destroyed, so there was little guidance to which they could turn. And all their leaders had been killed. The very people to whom they could turn for help were no longer there.

And Baha'u'llah, the only One to Whom they could turn with any real hope, was in exile, and vicious rumours were coming back about Him.

In the end, Baha'u'llah seems to have said, "Enough is enough." If He continued to stay in Baghdad the flames of jealousy would only be further aroused, and so He left.

He left the Babis to their own devices, as if to say, "All right, you work it out for yourselves."

He went to the lonely mountains of the Zagros range, to Sar Galu, a three day walk to the nearest human habitation. Living in a cave, or occasionally in a small stone hut built by local farmers when the weather was especially bad, He communed with His own spirit, "oblivious of the world and all that is therein".

For One Who was so sensitive to the spiritual nature of those around Him, Who was witnessing the downward spiral of those who had professed belief in the Bab, it must have been absolutely heartbreaking to see what was happening in the community. And so, finding refuge in a cave in the distant mountains, spending all the time He desired in prayer and meditation, away from the spiritual turmoil that must have constantly wore on Him, was most likely a blessing, despite the physical deprivation such an isolation entailed.

It was during this time that He revealed such prayers as the one that begins, "Create in me a pure heart, O My God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O My Hope! Through the spirit of power confirm Thou me in Thy Cause, O my Best-Beloved, and by the light of Thy glory reveal unto me Thy path, O Thou the Goal of my desire!"

When I read this prayer, and contemplate the situation in which the Blessed Beauty found Himself at that time, it reads like a completely different prayer than when I just say it for myself.

Knowing of this time, reading the history of what was going on, I realize that it is ok to walk away from a bad situation. There are many times in which the very best thing you can do is just leave those involved to themselves.

There are a few times in Baha'i history, this being the most notable, when Baha'u'llah closed the door of His presence so that the friends could just take the time they needed to decide for themselves what they wanted, without the overpowering influence of His personality.

And there are times in our life, too, that we just need to walk away and look after our own needs, our own spiritual well-being.

I will write more about this tumultuous time in His life over the next few weeks, but I wanted to start with this, the background. Although we often talk about His retreat as if it is a bit of a blank, it was actually a time of great ferment. Many things happened, and there was a lot learned, too much for just one short story, as this.

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