Baha’u’llah continued to meet with the believers and to shower His love and blessings upon them. To a few he intimated that the span of his earthly life was drawing to a close.
Then, in the early hours of May 29, 1892, in his seventy-fifth year, Baha’u’llah breathed his last. His forty-year ministry, unique in the annals of religious history for its dramatic events and unprecedented outpouring of revelation, was over.
A telegram bearing the news to the sultan of Turkey, Abdu’l-Hamid, the tyrant who still nominally held Baha’u’llah prisoner, began with the words: “‘the Sun of Baha has set.’”
Crowds of people came to Bahji to pay their respects. These included government officials, men of learning, rich and poor, and leaders of all kinds. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others joined in tribute to the great personage now gone from their midst. For a full week such people came and went. From as far away as Cairo and Damascus people sent poems and tributes in honor of Baha’u’llah. Although most did not recognize him as the Redeemer of the world, they were all aware to some degree of his greatness.
Their grief, however, was as nothing compared to that of the thousands of Baha’is in various countries who poured out expressions of sorrow. Nabíl, the great historian, described the agony into which all of the believers and other admirers of Baha’u’llah were plunged:
Methinks, the spiritual commotion set up in the world of dust had caused all the worlds of God to tremble. . . . My inner and outer tongue are powerless to portray the condition we were in. . . . In the midst of the prevailing confusion a multitude of the inhabitants of Akka and of neighboring villages, that had thronged the fields surrounding the Mansion, could be seen weeping, beating upon their heads, and crying aloud their grief. – quoted in Shoghi Effendi’s God Passes By, p. 222.
How different this state of affairs was from the day in 1868 when Baha’u’llah had first arrived in the prison city of Akka! On that summer day he had been met by a throng of people who had come for the sole purpose of cursing and reviling him and his followers. Subjected to strict confinement, he had not been allowed even to leave his cell.
Now, twenty-four years later in 1892, the situation was entirely different. The sultan’s decree had long since become a dead letter. Baha’u’llah had spent his final years loved and respected by all but a handful of inveterate enemies. He had been able to come and go as he pleased. At his passing multitudes came to honor his memory. Yet on the day of his passing he was still nominally a prisoner of the Ottoman government. He had never been officially released from his sentence of perpetual confinement.
Once again, Baha’u’llah had emerged from apparent defeat to undeniable triumph.
Baha’u’llah was laid to rest in a small house adjacent to the mansion of Bahji. Since then this site has been visited by increasing numbers of people from every part of the earth. Today it is a beautiful shrine, considered by Baha’u’llah’s millions of followers to be the holiest spot on earth.
Next: The Afflictions of the Prophets