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At last, in December of 1852, the King released Baha’u’llah from the Siyah-Chal. Soon after that came an order from the Shah that Baha’u’llah leave Persia within one month. The order of exile banished Baha’u’llah for life, and resulted in the confiscation of His land and all other possessions. What the mobs had not stolen by riot, the Prime Minister now took by fiat. He transferred the deeds to some of Baha’u’llah’s properties to his own name.
As the family considered the difficulties of travel to Baghdad in the middle of winter, they feared that Navvab’s youngest child, Mihdi, would not survive the exile. He was very young and in delicate health. For his protection, his parents reluctantly left him in the care of relatives in Persia. It would be several years before he was able to rejoin his parents.
The grueling exile of Baha’u’llah from Persia to Iraq required a three-month, six hundred-mile journey, from January to April. The seventy people in the party of exiles walked, or rode on horses or mules. They progressed slowly through that severe winter, particularly as they passed over the mountains, and because the impoverished exiles had no warm clothes to protect them from the weather. Frostbite afflicted Abdu’l-Baha’s hands and feet after riding all day in the frigid cold. They rode or walked through the raw stark whiteness of winter in the mountains, with no idea of what lay ahead.
As spring approached, the mountain passes receded behind them. Coming closer to Baghdad, Baha’u’llah and his family and followers camped in an orange grove in full blossom for the Persian new year holiday on the vernal equinox in March. Despite Baha’u’llah’s banishment from the government, and despite their escort of mounted guards from Persia, Baha’u’llah continued to teach the Babi Faith through the villages as they traveled. As they passed from Persia to Iraq, Baha’u’llah found followers among the Kurds and Arabs. Some of the Arab and Kurdish followers traveled with them to the gates of Baghdad.
In the mid-19th Century Baghdad was a major city of the Ottoman empire, well-known for its great mosques and city squares. Baha’u’llah and His family found a small house in the old quarter of Baghdad and began their exile. They would never return to their native country.
The flame kindled by The Bab and fueled by the hopes and lives of so many Babis was now nearly extinguished. The Persian Government’s campaign of genocidal extermination had done its terrible, bloody best to blot out the Babi Faith. The believers, now terrorized, traumatized and scattered, had to practice their new Faith in secret. Many that had not lost their lives had lost their hope. The Bab and most of the leaders of His new Faith had gone to their deaths at the hands of a brutally repressive government. The hopes of this new Faith had never ebbed lower.
After nearly a year in Baghdad, without telling people His intentions, Baha’u’llah left one morning for the rugged, desolate northern mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan near Sulaymaniyyih:
At length I gave up My home and all therein, and renounced life and all that appertaineth unto it, and alone and friendless, chose to go into retirement. I roamed the wilderness of resignation, travelling in such wise that in My exile every eye wept sore over Me, and all created things shed tears of blood because of My anguish. The birds of the air were My companions and the beasts of the field My associates… – Baha’u’llah – The King of Glory, p. 117.
He said it was a separation that “hoped for no return.”
Adapted from One With All The Earth, © Kalimat Press 2003, All Rights Reserved.