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Baha’u’llah wrote those letters, called the Tablets to the Kings, from his prison cell. Tortured, exiled and imprisoned for his teachings, Baha’u’llah not only announced his mission in those tablets, he also commanded the world’s governmental and religious leaders to lay down their weapons and unite. Can you imagine it? A prisoner, addressing the kings and rulers of the world?
This was a first—a living messenger of God making a global proclamation of his mission to the world’s kings and rulers. In his Tablets, Baha’u’llah variously said:
We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem Us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment…. That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled — what harm is there in this?… Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come…. Yet do We see your kings and rulers lavishing their treasures more freely on means for the destruction of the human race than on that which would conduce to the happiness of mankind…. These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family…. Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind…. – The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. viii.
Every one of those remarkable Tablets was sent by mail to the world’s most powerful leaders at the time: Napoleon III, Queen Victoria, the German Kaiser, the Sultan of Turkey, the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, the American president, the Pope, and so on. Several were delivered, in countries where postal services functioned well, through intermediaries like governmental ministers and envoys. Only one of Baha’u’llah’s Tablets to the Kings was delivered by hand—the Tablet to the Shah of Persia, Nasiri’d-Din (or Naser al-Din)—by a young volunteer:
A youth named Mirza Badi, a native of Khurasan, took the epistle, and hastened toward the presence of His Majesty the King. The Royal Train [the king’s retinue] had its abode and station outside Tihran, so he took his stand alone on a rock in a place far off but opposite to the Royal Pavilion, and awaited day and night the passing of the Royal escort or the attainment of admission into the Imperial Presence. Three days did he pass in a state of fasting and vigilance: an emaciated body and enfeebled spirit remained. On the fourth day the Royal Personage was examining all quarters and directions with a telescope when suddenly his glance fell on this man who was seated in the utmost respectful attitude on a rock. It was inferred from the indications [perceived] that he must certainly have thanks [to offer], or some complaint or demand for redress and justice [to prefer]. [The King] commanded one of those in attendance at the court to inquire into the circumstances of this youth. On interrogation [it was found that] he carried a letter which he desired to convey with his own hand into the Royal Presence. On receiving permission to approach, he cried out before the pavilion with a dignity, composure, and respectfulness surpassing description, and in a loud voice, “O King, I have come unto thee from Sheba with a weighty message!”* [The King] commanded to take the letter and arrest the bearer. His Majesty the King wished to act with deliberation and desired to discover the truth, but those who were present before him loosed their tongues in violent reprehension…
So the ministers of the court signified [that he should suffer] punishment and ordered the torture. As the first torment they applied the chain and rack, saying, “Make known thy other friends that thou mayest be delivered from excruciating punishment, and make thy comrades captive that thou mayest escape from the torment of the chain and the keenness of the sword.” But, torture, brand, and torment him as they might, they saw naught but steadfastness and silence… So, when the torture gave no result, they [first] photographed him (the executioners on his left and on his right, and he sitting bound in fetters and chains beneath the sword with perfect meekness and composure), and then slew and destroyed him. This photograph I sent for, and found worthy of contemplation, for he was seated with wonderful humility and strange submissiveness, in utmost resignation. – Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 58-59.
The Shah and his court literally killed the messenger, Badi. The Shah later expressed great regret:
Now when His Majesty the King had perused certain passages [of Baha’u’llah’s tablet] and become cognizant of the contents of the epistle, he was much affected at what had taken place and manifested regret, because his courtiers had acted hastily and put into execution a severe punishment. It is even related that he said thrice, “Doth anyone punish [one who is but] the channel of correspondence?” – Ibid., pp. 59-60.
In his Tablet, Baha’u’llah asked the Shah several rhetorical questions:
Gazing upon those who sleep beneath the gravestones, embosomed in the dust, could one ever distinguish the sovereign’s crumbling skull from the subject’s mouldering bones? – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 129.
What armour hath not been pierced by the arrow of destruction, and what regal brow not divested by the hand of Fate? What fortress hath withstood the approach of the Messenger of Death? What throne hath not been shattered to pieces, what palace not reduced to rubble? – Ibid., p. 134.
As an answer to those questions, Baha’u’llah commanded the Shah, and the other rulers of the world, to practice justice and equity, to disarm, to stop their wars, to treat their subjects with fairness, to relieve the burdens of the poor, to stop oppressing others and to do everything in their power to unite the nations. He asked the world’s leaders to turn towards God, to renounce their riches and palaces, and to protect their people. He warned the Shah that the only legacy he would leave when he departed this world was his justice—or his lack of it:
By God! Every distinction hath been erased, save only for those who upheld the right and who ruled with justice. – Ibid., p. 128.