As Baha’u’llah’s leadership of the Babis increased in effectiveness and scope the Faith grew in Iraq and Persia—but that growth only served to inflame its fundamentalist enemies.
In Baghdad, hired assassins and murderers threatened and even repeatedly tried to take Baha’u’llah’s life several times, but he seemed remarkably undisturbed by these attempts.
On one occasion, a member of the Persian consulate hired an assassin to murder Baha’u’llah. The assassin, named Reza Turk, approached Baha’u’llah as he walked along the banks of the Tigris. When he came face to face with Baha’u’llah, he fumbled and dropped his gun. Baha’u’llah turned to one of his companions and told him to pick up the man’s gun, hand it back to him, and point him towards his home, remarking, “He seems to have lost his way.”
Baha’u’llah took a daily walk to one of the local coffee houses in Baghdad where men typically gathered. Whichever coffee house he visited prospered as local clerics, government officials, merchants and others crowded around him. Loved and admired, the crowds around Baha’u’llah wherever he went grew in size and influence—which inflamed his enemies even further. Abdu’l-Baha explained:
He was exiled in the expectation that Persia would become quiet. His banishment, however, produced the opposite effect. New tumult arose, and the mention of His greatness and influence spread everywhere throughout the country. The proclamation of His manifestation and mission was made in Baghdad. He called His friends together there and spoke to them of God …. These rulers now realized that it spread more rapidly. His prestige increased; His teachings became more widely circulated. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 26.
As admiration for Baha’u’llah increased from the townspeople as well as from people coming in from Persia, the Persian consul-general in Baghdad and the Shi’ah clergy became increasingly agitated. They thought the Babi movement had been crushed, but its resurgence under the guidance of Baha’u’llah had become obvious. Also, the clergy claimed great distress that Baha’u’llah lived so near the Shi’ah holy places located close to Baghdad.
The mullas tried to persuade the Ottoman Sultan to extradite Baha’u’llah back to Persia where they could do with him as they pleased. Several clamored for his execution. However, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire had heard numerous reports over the years of the noble character of Baha’u’llah, and he refused to extradite him. He did, however, forward a message that Baha’u’llah would, as a guest of the Ottoman government and an exile, be asked to move farther away from Persia to Constantinople, now known as Istanbul.
When this dictate of yet another exile reached the Governor of Baghdad—an admirer of Baha’u’llah’s—the Governor ignored the order for three months. He felt ashamed to give such a message to a man he admired so deeply. Finally, after receiving five successive orders of banishment, he sent his deputy to meet with Baha’u’llah and give him the news that he was to be exiled to Constantinople.
Baha’u’llah accepted the order of banishment without protest. He took the sum of money the government gave him to pay for his transport, and distributed it to the poor. Then he prepared family and followers for another long journey into the unknown. But before their departure, Baha’u’llah declared his mission—and the Baha’i Faith came into being.