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Alone in the Wilderness

From the Editors | Nov 22, 2013

PART 10 IN SERIES One With All the Earth

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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From the Editors | Nov 22, 2013

PART 10 IN SERIES One With All the Earth

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Those who are near unto Thee have been abandoned in the darkness of desolation:  Where is the shining of the morn of Thy reunion, O Desire of the worlds? – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 213.

After leaving Baghdad, Baha’u’llah lived alone in the wilderness, at times in a cave or in a crude rock shelter. He lived as a wandering seeker, a poor dervish with no possessions or permanent home.  Despite the physical deprivation, despite deep grief over the decline of the Babi community, His soul spent blissful days in communion with God. In that loneliness Baha’u’llah’s spirit could be filled with the completeness of the love of God. The solitude that Baha’u’llah sought in the inhospitable mountains of Kurdistan reminds us of Moses wandering on Mount Sinai, or the communion Jesus sought with his Heavenly Father on the Mount of Olives, or Muhammad’s sojourn in the desert.  Every prophet, all the founders of the world’s great Faiths, spent a similar time alone, without human companionship, meditating on the message of God and the massive task it imposed.

Months into his retreat, Baha’u’llah one day encountered a young boy sitting by the side of the road, crying. He stopped to ask the boy what had made him cry. The child’s teacher had instructed each student to copy a certain passage. The child had lost the paper he was

Baha'u'llah pen

Cut-reed pen and ink spoon used by Baha’u’llah © Bahá’í International Community

supposed to copy and now feared his teacher’s punishment. Baha’u’llah sat down and wrote a few verses for the boy, and he happily ran to school. The child’s teacher, astonished at the calligraphy the boy showed him, could hardly believe that this work of art came from the solitary hermit they knew as Darvish Muhammad.  The fragment of Baha’u’llah’s writing made its way to the head of the local community of Sufi mystics. Intrigued by the calligraphy, the Sufi Shaykh began a friendship with Baha’u’llah. Soon he became a loved and respected figure among the Sufis of Kurdistan.

In time, stories of Darvish Muhammad spread from Sulaymaniyyih to Baghdad. In time, the family of Baha’u’llah realized that Darvish Muhammad must be Baha’u’llah. They sent a messenger to find him and beg him to return.  His two years of seclusion came to an end in March of 1856, when he returned to Baghdad. He did not wish to return, but Baha’u’llah felt a strong calling from God to revive the community that had lost both its integrity and its direction. Baha’u’llah said:

The mesh of divine destiny exceedeth the vastest of mortal conceptions, and the dart of His decree transcendeth the boldest of human designs.  None can escape the snares He setteth, and no soul can find release except through submission to His will. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 250. 

Baha’u’llah’s return echoed the return of Moses from his self-imposed exile on Mount Sinai, commanded by God to go back to His people when they returned to their pagan roots to worship a golden calf. Jesus retreated to the Mount of Olives to grieve over the death of John the Baptist, but He was impelled to come down from the mountain by the pressing needs of the people for his teaching and his healing.
Baha’u’llah’s daughter Bahiyyih recalled the family’s loneliness during his absence. Her brother ‘Abdu’l-Baha, during this time, would often go off by himself and the family would find him weeping. At other times, he kept himself busy transcribing the writings of the Bab. When Baha’u’llah returned they hardly recognized him, so much had his physical appearance changed during two years in the wilderness. In a heart-rending reunion, ‘Abdu’l-Baha fell at Baha’u’llah’s feet as father and son wept together.
When Baha’u’llah encountered the Babis, He:

…found no more than a handful of souls, faint and dispirited, nay utterly lost and dead. The Cause of God had ceased to be on any one’s lips, nor was any heart receptive to its message.  – Baha’u’llah, The King of Glory, p. 122.

His return to Baghdad began to revivify the Babi community. Many Sufis came from Kurdistan to visit Baha’u’llah in Baghdad. Although prejudice of class, nationality and religion ran strong in that society, at his home in Baghdad Baha’u’llah had guests every day from all ranks and classes of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim backgrounds. Many adversaries found themselves won over as much by Baha’u’llah’s kindness as by the clarity of His insights and arguments.  One prince of Persia who visited with Baha’u’llah said, “I know not how to explain it, were all the sorrows of the world to be crowded into my heart they would, I feel, all vanish, when in the presence of Baha’u’llah.  It is as if I had entered Paradise itself.”

Adapted from One With All The Earth, © Kalimat Press 2003, All Rights Reserved.

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