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Ordered out of Baghdad by a government fearful of this “dangerous” new Faith, Baha’u’llah’s historic exile would ultimately have the opposite effect the authorities desired. Instead of suppressing or stamping out the Baha’is, it only made Baha’u’llah’s nascent movement stronger.
The time for Baha’u’llah’s final departure from the city provoked great demonstrations of love from the masses of the citizenry: “The great tumult,” wrote an eyewitness, “associated in our minds with the Day of Gathering, the Day of Judgment, we beheld on that occasion. Believers and unbelievers alike sobbed and lamented. The chiefs and notables who had congregated were struck with wonder. Emotions were stirred to such depths as no tongue can describe, nor could any observer escape their contagion.”
Mounted on his steed, a red roan stallion of the finest breed, the best his followers could purchase for him, and leaving behind him a bowing multitude of fervent admirers, he rode forth on the first stage of a journey that was to carry him to the city of Constantinople.
“Numerous were the heads,” Nabil himself a witness of that memorable scene, recounts, “which, on every side, bowed to the dust at the feet of His horse, and kissed its hoofs, and countless were those who pressed forward to embrace His stirrups.” “How great the number of those embodiments of fidelity,” testifies a fellow-traveler, “who, casting themselves before that charger, preferred death to separation from their Beloved!”
Baha’u’llah himself declared:
He (God) it was, Who enabled Me to depart out of the city (Baghdad), clothed with such majesty as none, except the denier and the malicious, can fail to acknowledge. – God Passes By, p. 155.
Baha’u’llah and his small group of companions traveled for a little over three months through various provinces of the Ottoman Empire, arriving in the capital city of Constantinople in August 1863. They had been invited by the sultan himself, but none knew what would happen next. Baha’u’llah took up residence in the city and made no attempt to contact the sultan, nor did he make an entreaty of any kind.
Throughout history the courts of kings and rulers have been centers of intrigue. The seat of the Ottoman government, known as the Sublime Porte, was no exception. Schemers, malcontents, and petitioners of every description swarmed the capital, jostling and competing to further their own interests. Exiles, political refugees, businessmen, persons of prominence, and various unfortunates crowded the court, all begging favors, considerations, or patronage. Bribery, corruption, and chicanery were the rule of the day. It was expected by many that Baha’u’llah would use the opportunity afforded by proximity to the rulers of the empire to solicit aid for himself. His friends encouraged him to do so, and his enemies, particularly the Persian ambassador, feared that he might win the support, even the allegiance, of influential members of the Turkish government. But Baha’u’llah refused to do anything that might associate the name of his faith with such sordid dealings. He submitted no petition nor made any other effort to make formal contact with the government. Even when ministers called upon him, he did not take advantage of the potential openings they provided.
Nevertheless, the Persian ambassador was far too anxious to allow the situation to remain as it was. He and his allies pressed the Ottoman authorities to remove Baha’u’llah from the capital to a place where he would not be able to exert any influence. They used Baha’u’llah’s silence as evidence that he was against the government.
At first the government resisted. The chief minister, impressed by Baha’u’llah’s “exemplary conduct,” considered his teachings “worthy of high esteem.” In the end, however, the forces arrayed against Baha’u’llah prevailed upon the government. After only a few months in Constantinople, Baha’u’llah and his companions were once again forced into banishment.