"I have found David my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face and plague them who hate him." "I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him." (Psalms 89:20-23 KJV and verse 23 RSV)
To the fate that has overtaken those kings, ministers and ecclesiastics, in the East as well as in the West, who have, at various stages of Baha'u'llah's ministry, either deliberately persecuted His Cause, or have neglected to heed the warnings He had uttered, or have failed in their manifest duty to respond to His summons or to accord Him and His message the treatment they deserved, particular attention, I feel, should at this juncture be directed. Baha'u'llah Himself, referring to those who had actively arisen to destroy or harm His Faith, had declared that "God hath not blinked, nor will He ever blink His eyes at the tyranny of the oppressor. More particularly in this Revelation hath He visited each and every tyrant with His vengeance." Vast and awful is, indeed, the spectacle which meets our eyes, as we survey the field over which the retributory winds of God have, since the inception of the ministry of Baha'u'llah, furiously swept, dethroning monarchs, extinguishing dynasties, uprooting ecclesiastical hierarchies, precipitating wars and revolutions, driving from office princes and ministers, dispossessing the usurper, casting down the tyrant, and chastising the wicked and the rebellious.
Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz, who with Nasiri'd-Din Shah was the author of the calamities heaped upon Baha'u'llah, and was himself responsible for three decrees of banishment against the Prophet; who had been stigmatized, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, as occupying the "throne of tyranny," and whose fall had been prophesied in the Lawh-i-Fu'ad, was deposed in consequence of a palace revolution, was condemned by a fatva (sentence) of the Mufti in his own capital, was four days later assassinated (1876), and was succeeded by a nephew who was declared to be an imbecile. The war of 1877-78 emancipated eleven million people from the Turkish yoke; Adrianople was occupied by the Russian forces; the empire itself was dissolved as a result of the war of 1914-18; the Sultanate was abolished; a republic was proclaimed; and a rulership that had endured above six centuries was ended.
The vain and despotic Nasiri'd-Din Shah, denounced by Baha'u'llah as the "Prince of Oppressors"; of whom He had written that he would soon be made "an object-lesson for the world"; whose reign was stained by the execution of the Bab and the imprisonment of Baha'u'llah; who had persistently instigated his subsequent banishments to Constantinople, Adrianople and Akka; who, in collusion with a vicious sacerdotal order, had vowed to strangle the Faith in its cradle, was dramatically assassinated, in the shrine of Shah Abdu'l-'Azim, on the very eve of his jubilee, which, as ushering in a new era, was to have been celebrated with the most elaborate magnificence, and was to go down in history as the greatest day in the annals of the Persian nation. The fortunes of his house thereafter steadily declined, and finally through the scandalous misconduct of the dissipated and irresponsible Ahmad Shah, led to the eclipse and disappearance of the Qajar dynasty.
Napoleon III, the foremost monarch of his day in the West, excessively ambitious, inordinately proud, tricky and superficial, who is reported to have contemptuously flung down the Tablet sent to him by Baha'u'llah, who was tested by Him and found wanting, and whose downfall was explicitly predicted in a subsequent Tablet, was ignominiously defeated in the Battle of Sedan (1870), marking the greatest military capitulation recorded in modern history; lost his kingdom and spent the remaining years of his life in exile. His hopes were utterly blasted, his only son, the Prince Imperial, was killed in the Zulu War, his much vaunted empire collapsed, a civil war ensued more ferocious than the Franco-German war itself, and William I, the Prussian king, was hailed emperor of a unified Germany in the Palace of Versailles.
William I, the pride-intoxicated newly-acclaimed conqueror of Napoleon III, admonished in the Kitab-i-Aqdas and bidden to ponder the fate that had overtaken "one whose power transcended" his own, warned in that same Book, that the "lamentations of Berlin" would be raised and that the banks of the Rhine would be "covered with gore," sustained two attempts on his life, and was succeeded by a son who died of a mortal disease, three months after his accession to the throne, bequeathing the throne to the arrogant, the headstrong and short-sighted William II. The pride of the new monarch precipitated his downfall. Revolution, swiftly and suddenly, broke out in his capital, communism reared its head in a number of cities; the princes of the German states abdicated, and he himself, fleeing ignominiously to Holland, was compelled to relinquish his right to the throne. The constitution of Weimar sealed the fate of the empire, whose birth had been so loudly proclaimed by his grandfather, and the terms of an oppressively severe treaty provoked "the lamentations" which, half a century before, had been ominously prophesied.
The arbitrary and unyielding Francis Joseph, emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, who had been reproved in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, for having neglected his manifest duty to inquire about Baha'u'llah during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was so engulfed by misfortunes and tragedies that his reign came to be regarded as one unsurpassed by any other reign in the calamities it inflicted upon the nation. His brother, Maximilian, was put to death in Mexico; the Crown Prince Rudolph perished in ignominious circumstances; the Empress was assassinated; Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were murdered in Serajevo; the "ramshackle empire" itself disintegrated, was carved up, and a shrunken republic was set up on the ruins of a vanished Holy Roman Empire - a republic which, after a brief and precarious existence, was blotted out from the political map of Europe.
Nicolaevitch Alexander II, the all-powerful Czar of Russia, who, in a Tablet addressed to him by name had been thrice warned by Baha'u'llah, had been bidden to "summon the nations unto God," and had been cautioned not to allow his sovereignty to prevent him from recognizing "the Supreme Sovereign," suffered several attempts on his life, and at last died at the hand of an assassin. A harsh policy of repression, initiated by himself and followed by his successor, Alexander III, paved the way for a revolution which, in the reign of Nicholas II, swept away on a bloody tide the empire of the Czars, brought in its wake war, disease and famine, and established a militant proletariat which massacred the nobility, persecuted the clergy, drove away the intellectuals, disendowed the state religion, executed the Czar with his consort and his family, and extinguished the dynasty of the Romanoffs.
Pope Pius IX, the undisputed head of the most powerful Church in Christendom, who had been commanded, in an Epistle addressed to him by Baha'u'llah, to leave his "palaces unto such as desire them," to "sell all the embellished ornaments" in his possession, to "expend them in the path of God," and hasten towards "the Kingdom," was compelled to surrender, in distressing circumstances, to the besieging forces of King Victor Emmanuel, and to submit himself to be depossessed of the Papal States and of Rome itself. The loss of "the Eternal City," over which the Papal flag had flown for one thousand years, and the humiliation of the religious orders under his jurisdiction, added mental anguish to his physical infirmities and embittered the last years of his life. The formal recognition of the Kingdom of Italy subsequently exacted from one of his successors in the Vatican, confirmed the virtual extinction of the Pope's temporal sovereignty.
But the rapid dissolution of the Ottoman, the Napoleonic, the German, the Austrian and the Russian empires, the demise of the Qajar dynasty and the virtual extinction of the temporal sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff do not exhaust the story of the catastrophes that befell the monarchies of the world through the neglect of Baha'u'llah's warnings conveyed in the opening passages of His Suriy-i-Muluk. The conversion of the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies, as well as the Chinese empire, into republics; the strange fate that has, more recently, been pursuing the sovereigns of Holland, of Norway, of Greece, of Yugoslavia and of Albania now living in exile; the virtual abdication of the authority exercised by the kings of Denmark, of Belgium, of Bulgaria, of Rumania and of Italy; the apprehension with which their fellow sovereigns must be viewing the convulsions that have seized so many thrones; the shame and acts of violence which, in some instances, have darkened the annals of the reigns of certain monarchs in both the East and the West, and still more recently the sudden downfall of the Founder of the newly established dynasty in Persia - these are yet further instances of the infliction of the "Divine Chastisement" foreshadowed by Baha'u'llah in that immortal Surih, and show forth the divine reality of the arraignment pronounced by Him against the rulers of the earth in His Most Holy Book.
No less arresting has been the extinction of the all-pervasive influence exerted by the Muslim ecclesiastical leaders, both Sunni and Shi'ah, in the two countries in which the mightiest institutions of Islam had been reared, and which have been directly associated with the tribulations heaped upon the Bab and Baha'u'llah.
The Caliph, the self-styled vicar of the Prophet of Islam, known also as the "Commander of the Faithful," the protector of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, whose spiritual jurisdiction extended over more than two hundred million Muhammadans, was by the abolition of the Sultanate in Turkey, divested of his temporal authority, hitherto regarded as inseparable from his high office. The Caliph himself, after having occupied for a brief period, an anomalous and precarious position, fled to Europe; the Caliphate, the most august and powerful institution of Islam, was, without consultation with any community in the Sunni world, summarily abolished; the unity of the most powerful branch of the Islamic Faith was thereby shattered; a formal, a complete and permanent separation of the Turkish state from the Sunni faith was proclaimed; the Shari'ah canonical Law was annulled; ecclesiastical institutions were disendowed; a civil code was promulgated; religious orders were suppressed; the Sunni hierarchy was dissolved; the Arabic tongue, the language of the Prophet of Islam, fell into disuse, and its script was superseded by the Latin alphabet; the Qur'an itself was translated into Turkish; Constantinople, the "Dome of Islam," sank to the level of a provincial city, and its peerless jewel, the Mosque of St. Sophia, was converted into a museum - a series of degradations recalling the fate which, in the first century of the Christian Era, befell the Jewish people, the city of Jerusalem, the Temple of Solomon, the Holy of Holies, and an ecclesiastical hierarchy, whose members were the avowed persecutors of the religion of Jesus Christ.
A similar convulsion shook the foundations of the entire sacerdotal order in Persia, though its formal divorce from the Persian state is as yet unproclaimed. A "church-state," that had been firmly rooted in the life of the nation and had extended its ramifications to every sphere of life in that country, was virtually disrupted. A sacerdotal order, the rock wall of Shi'ah Islam in that land, was paralyzed and discredited; its mujtahids, the favorite ministers of the hidden Imam, were reduced to an insignificant number; all its beturbaned officers, except for a handful, were ruthlessly forced to exchange their traditional head-dress and robes for the European clothes they themselves anathematized; the pomp and pageantry that marked their ceremonials vanished; their fatvas (sentences) were nullified; their endowments were handed over to a civil administration; their mosques and seminaries were deserted; the right of sanctuary accorded to their shrines ceased to be recognized; their religious plays were banned; their takyihs were closed and even their pilgrimages to Najaf and Karbila were discouraged and curtailed. The disuse of the veil; the recognition of the equality of sexes; the establishment of civil tribunals; the abolition of concubinage; the disparagement of the use of the Arabic tongue, the language of Islam and of the Qur'an, and the efforts exerted to divorce it from Persian - all these further proclaim the degradation, and foreshadow the final extinction, of that infamous crew, whose leaders had dared style themselves "servants of the Lord of Saintship" (Imam Ali), who had so often received the homage of the pious kings of the Safavi dynasty, and whose anathemas, ever since the birth of the Faith of the Bab, had been chiefly responsible for the torrents of blood which had been shed, and whose acts have blackened the annals of both their religion and nation.
A crisis, not indeed as severe as that which shook the Islamic sacerdotal orders - the inveterate adversaries of the Faith - has, moreover, afflicted the ecclesiastical institutions of Christendom, whose influence, ever since Baha'u'llah's summons was issued and His warning was sounded, has visibly deteriorated, whose prestige has been gravely damaged, whose authority has steadily declined, and whose power, rights and prerogatives have been increasingly circumscribed. The virtual extinction of the temporal sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff, to which reference has already been made; the wave of anti-clericalism that brought in its wake the separation of the Catholic Church from the French Republic; the organized assault launched by a triumphant Communist state upon the Greek Orthodox Church in Russia, and the consequent disestablishment, disendowment and persecution of the state religion; the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy which owed its allegiance to the Church of Rome and powerfully supported its institutions; the ordeal to which that same Church has been subjected in Spain and in Mexico; the wave of secularization which, at present, is engulfing the Catholic, the Anglican and the Presbyterian Missions in non-Christian lands; the forces of an aggressive paganism which are assailing the ancient citadels of the Catholic, the Greek Orthodox and the Lutheran Churches in Western, in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Balkans and in the Baltic and Scandinavian states - these stand out as the most conspicuous manifestations of the decline in the fortunes of the ecclesiastical leaders of Christendom, leaders who, heedless of the voice of Baha'u'llah, have interposed themselves between the Christ returned in the glory of the Father and their respective congregations.
Nor can we fail to note the progressive deterioration in the authority, wielded by the ecclesiastical leaders of the Jewish and Zoroastrian Faiths, ever since the voice of Baha'u'llah was raised, announcing, in no uncertain terms, that the "Most Great Law is come," that the Ancient Beauty "ruleth upon the throne of David," and that "whatsoever hath been announced in the Books (Zoroastrian Holy Writ) hath been revealed and made clear." The evidences of increasing revolt against clerical authority; the disrespect and indifference shown to time-honored observances, rituals and ceremonials; the repeated inroads made by the forces of an aggressive and often hostile nationalism into the spheres of clerical jurisdiction; and the general apathy with which, particularly in the case of the professed adherents of the Zoroastrian Faith, these encroachments are regarded - all provide, beyond the shadow of a doubt, further justification of the warnings and predictions uttered by Baha'u'llah in His historic addresses to the world's ecclesiastical leaders.
Such in sum are the awful evidences of God's retributive justice that have afflicted kings as well as ecclesiastics, in both the East and the West, as a direct consequence of either their active opposition to the Faith of Baha'u'llah, or of their lamentable failure to respond to His call, to inquire into His Message, to avert the sufferings He endured, or to heed the marvelous signs and prodigies which, during a hundred years, have accompanied the birth and rise of His Revelation.
"From two ranks amongst men," is His terse and prophetic utterance, "power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics." "If ye pay no heed," He thus warned the kings of the earth, "unto the counsels which ... We have revealed in this Tablet, Divine chastisement will assail you from every direction... On that day ye shall ... recognize your own impotence." And again: "Though aware of most of Our afflictions, ye, nevertheless, have failed to stay the hand of the aggressor." And, furthermore, this arraignment: "...We ... will be patient, as We have been patient in that which hath befallen Us at your hands, O concourse of kings!"
Condemning specifically the world's ecclesiastical leaders, He has written: "The source and origin of tyranny have been the divines... God, verily, is clear of them, and We, too, are clear of them." "When We observed carefully," He openly affirms, "We discovered that Our enemies are, for the most part, the divines." "O concourse of divines!" He thus addresses them, "Ye shall not henceforth behold yourselves possessed of any power, inasmuch as We have seized it from you..." "Had ye believed in God when He revealed Himself," He explains, "the people would not have turned aside from Him, nor would the things ye witness today have befallen Us." "They," referring more specifically to Muslim ecclesiastics, He asserts, "rose up against Us with such cruelty as hath sapped the strength of Islam..." "The divines of Persia," He affirms, "committed that which no people amongst the peoples of the world hath committed." And again: "...The divines of Persia ... have perpetrated what the Jews have not perpetrated during the Revelation of Him Who is the Spirit (Jesus)." And finally, these portentous prophecies: "Because of you the people were abased, and the banner of Islam was hauled down, and its mighty throne subverted." "Erelong will all that ye possess perish, and your glory be turned into the most wretched abasement, and ye shall behold the punishment for what ye have wrought..." "Erelong," the Bab Himself, even more openly prophesies, "We will, in very truth, torment such as waged war against Husayn (Imam Husayn) ... with the most afflictive torment..." "Erelong will God wreak His vengeance upon them, at the time of Our return, and He hath, in very truth, prepared for them, in the world to come, a severe torment."
Nor should, in a review of this nature, reference be omitted to those princes, ministers and ecclesiastics who have individually been responsible for the afflictive trials which Baha'u'llah and His followers have suffered. Fu'ad Pasha, the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, denounced by Him as the "instigator" of His banishment to the Most Great Prison, who had so assiduously striven with his colleague Ali Pasha, to excite the fears and suspicions of a despot already predisposed against the Faith and its Leader, was, about a year after he had succeeded in executing his design, struck down, while on a trip to Paris, by the avenging rod of God, and died at Nice (1869). Ali Pasha, the Sadr-i-A'zam (Prime Minister), denounced in such forceful language in the Lawh-i-Ra'is, whose downfall the Lawh-i-Fu'ad had unmistakably predicted, was, a few years after Baha'u'llah's banishment to Akka, dismissed from office, was shorn of all power, and sank into complete oblivion. The tyrannical Prince Mas'ud Mirza, the Zillu's-Sultan, Nasiri'd-Din Shah's eldest son and ruler over more than two-fifths of his kingdom, stigmatized by Baha'u'llah as "the Infernal Tree," fell into disgrace, was deprived of all his governorships, except that of Isfahan, and lost all chances of future eminence or promotion. The rapacious Prince Jalalu'd-Dawlih, branded by the Supreme Pen as "the tyrant of Yazd," was, about a year after the iniquities he had perpetrated, deprived of his post, recalled to Tihran, and forced to return a part of the property he had stolen from his victims.
The scheming, the ambitious and profligate Mirza Buzurg Khan, the Persian Consul General in Baghdad, was eventually dismissed from office, "overwhelmed with disaster, filled with remorse and plunged into confusion." The notorious Mujtahid Siyyid Sadiq-i-Tabataba'i, denounced by Baha'u'llah as "the Liar of Tihran," the author of the monstrous decree condemning every male member of the Baha'i community in Persia, young or old, high or low, to be put to death, and all its women to be deported, was suddenly taken ill, fell a prey to a disease that ravaged his heart, his brain and his limbs, and precipitated eventually his death. The high-handed Subhi Pasha, who had peremptorily summoned Baha'u'llah to the government house in Akka, lost the position he occupied, and was recalled under circumstances highly detrimental to his reputation. Nor were the other governors of the city, who had dealt unjustly with the exalted Prisoner in their charge and His fellow-exiles, spared a like fate. "Every pasha," testifies Nabil in his narrative, "whose conduct in Akka was commendable enjoyed a long term of office, and was bountifully favored by God, whereas every hostile Mutisarrif (governor) was speedily deposed by the Hand of Divine power, even as Abdu'r-Rahman Pasha and Muhammad-Yusuf Pasha who, on the morrow of the very night they had resolved to lay hands on the loved ones of Baha'u'llah, were telegraphically advised of their dismissal. Such was their fate that they were never again given a position."
Shaykh Muhammad-Baqir, surnamed the "Wolf," who, in the strongly condemnatory Lawh-i-Burhan addressed to him by Baha'u'llah, had been compared to "the last trace of sunlight upon the mountain-top," witnessed the steady decline of his prestige, and died in a miserable state of acute remorse. His accomplice, Mir Muhammad-Husayn, surnamed the "She-Serpent," whom Baha'u'llah described as one "infinitely more wicked than the oppressor of Karbila," was, about that same time, expelled from Isfahan, wandered from village to village, contracted a disease that engendered so foul an odor that even his wife and daughter could not bear to approach him, and died in such ill-favor with the local authorities that no one dared to attend his funeral, his corpse being ignominiously interred by a few porters.
Mention should, moreover, be made of the devastating famine which, about a year after the illustrious Badi' had been tortured to death, ravaged Persia and reduced the population to such extremities that even the rich went hungry, and hundreds of mothers ghoulishly devoured their own children.
Nor can this subject be dismissed without special reference being
made to the Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of the Bab, Mirza
Yahya, who lived long enough to witness, while eking out a
miserable existence in Cyprus, termed by the Turks "the
Island of Satan," every hope he had so maliciously conceived
reduced to naught. A pensioner first of the Turkish and later
of the British Government, he was subjected to the further
humiliation of having his application for British citizenship
refused. Eleven of the eighteen "Witnesses" he had
appointed forsook him and turned in repentance to Baha'u'llah.
He himself became involved in a scandal which besmirched his
reputation and that of his eldest son, deprived that son and
his descendants of the successorship with which he had previously
invested him, and appointed, in his stead, the perfidious
Mirza Hadiy-i-Dawlat-Abadi, a notorious Azali, who, on the
occasion of the martyrdom of the aforementioned Mirza Ashraf,
was seized with such fear that during four consecutive days
he proclaimed from the pulpit-top, and in a most vituperative
language, his complete repudiation of the Babi Faith, as well
as of Mirza Yahya, his benefactor, who had reposed in him
such implicit confidence. It was this same eldest son who,
through the workings of a strange destiny, sought years after,
together with his nephew and niece, the presence of Abdu'l-Baha,
the appointed Successor of Baha'u'llah and Center of His Covenant,
expressed repentance, prayed for forgiveness, was graciously
accepted by Him, and remained, till the hour of his death,
a loyal follower of the Faith which his father had so foolishly,
so shamelessly and so pitifully striven to extinguish.