Baha’u’llah had been subjected to banishment upon banishment until at last he arrived in the Holy Land, the place so closely associated with scriptural prophecies concerning the establishment of God’s Kingdom.
It was a land of expectation for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Indeed, one group of German Christians settled across the bay in Haifa, arriving only months after Baha’u’llah, to found a colony in anticipation of Christ’s imminent return. To this day one can visit the homes they built. Some of the lintels are inscribed with verses expressing their hopes for His advent. One, for example, reads, “Der Herr ist Nahe,” meaning “The Lord is Nigh.”
Among those who had foreseen the future of this land was the prophet Isaiah, who had written that:
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the Glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. – Isaiah 35:1-2.
Amos had said, “The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.” – Amos 1:2.
Micah had predicted the stages by which Baha’u’llah would arrive in this chosen land: “from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain.” – Micah 7:12.
And King David had sung the praises of the One Who would appear in one of his psalms: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, he is the King of Glory.” – Psalms 24:9-10.
Referring to Akka, the Prophet Muhammad had said, “Blessed the man that hath visited Akka, and blessed he that hath visited the visitor of Akka.” “He that raiseth therein the call to prayer, his voice will be lifted up unto Paradise.’’ – quoted by Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 184.
Baha’u’llah’s son Abdu’l-Baha would state years later:
When Baha’u’llah came to this prison in the Holy Land, the wise men realized that the glad tidings which God gave through the tongue of the Prophets two or three thousand years before were again manifested, and that God was faithful to His promise; for to some of the Prophets He had revealed and given the good news that “the Lord of Hosts should be manifested in the Holy Land.” All these promises were fulfilled; and it is difficult to understand how Baha’u’llah could have been obliged to leave Persia, and to pitch His tent in this Holy Land, but for the persecution of His enemies, His banishment and exile. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 32.
Baha’u’llah, like all of the Messengers and holy ones before him, had become the object of hatred and ridicule to all but a relatively small number of followers. But what had his crime been, other than to call people to God? He writes:
More grievous became Our plight from day to day, nay, from hour to hour, until they took Us forth from Our prison and made Us, with glaring injustice, enter the Most Great Prison. And if anyone ask them: “For what crime were they imprisoned?”, they would answer and say: “They, verily, sought to supplant the Faith with a new religion!” . . . If this be My crime, then Muhammad, the Apostle of God, committed it before Me, and before Him He Who was the Spirit of God [Jesus Christ], and yet earlier He Who conversed with God [Moses]. And if My sin be this, that I have exalted the Word of God and revealed His Cause, then indeed am I the greatest of sinners! Such a sin I will not barter for the kingdoms of earth and heaven. – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, pp. 140-141.
His purpose was not to decry or undermine the religions of the past, but rather to fulfill their promise of the day when God would unite all humanity under the shelter of one faith. Only then, Baha’is believe, will the human race enjoy true happiness and prosperity. Baha’u’llah said that he
…hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness. This is of the mercy of your Lord, the Compassionate, the Most Merciful. We have accepted to be abased, O believers in the Unity of God, that ye may be exalted, and have suffered manifold afflictions, that ye might prosper and flourish. He Who hath come to build anew the whole world, behold, how they that have joined partners with God have forced Him to dwell within the most desolate of cities! – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 99-100.
Baha’u’llah would spend some twenty-four years—the remaining third of his life and more than half of his total ministry—in Akka and the surrounding area.
In that time the fortunes of His faith would be restored, his humiliation would be reversed, and his Cause would be set firmly on the road towards ultimate triumph.