The Prophet Leaves the Prison

Nine hard years passed in the prison-city of Akka, and Baha’u’llah’s forced confinement in exile finally neared its end. Confined without committing any crime, Baha’u’llah was jailed for teaching

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?

As in past confinements, Baha’u’llah’s jailers had softened toward him and the rest of the Baha’i captives, after seeing their kindly, peaceful ways. By the terms of his exile, Baha’u’llah could not leave house arrest in Palestine, but at least Baha’u’llah might leave his cell. One day in the prison-city of Akka, Baha’u’llah mentioned to his son and successor Abdu’l-Baha, “I have not gazed on verdure for nine years. The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies.” 

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Abdu’l-Baha immediately set his heart on finding a new place for Baha’u’llah to live. A Pasha in Akka owned a small property called Mazra’ih in a rural farming area about four miles north of Akka. The elderly Pasha no longer cared to visit his house in the country, so, with the meager funds some of the Baha’is had been able to earn, Abdu’l-Baha arranged to rent the estate from the Pasha at a reasonable rate. He hired some men to make some minor repairs. 

With the repairs finished, Abdu’l-Baha decided to inspect the work. Although still officially a prisoner not allowed to leave Akka, Abdu’l-Baha walked through the city gates, past the guards who did not stop him, and went on to Mazra’ih. Abdu’l-Baha next arranged for a banquet and invited the officials of Akka. At the banquet, he announced his intention to bring Baha’u’llah to Mazra’ih.

Abdu’l-Baha then tried to persuade Baha’u’llah to visit Mazra’ih. No matter how he insisted, Baha’u’llah would always respond, “I am a prisoner.” Abdu’l-Baha asked prominent officials of Akka to go to Baha’u’llah and personally invite him to leave the city and live at Mazra’ih, but Baha’u’llah responded, “I am a prisoner.” 

Finally one shaykh replied, “God forbid! Who has the power to make you a prisoner?… I beg you to come out and go … It is beautiful and verdant. The trees are lovely, and the oranges like balls of fire!” 

Soon, following much imploring, Baha’u’llah finally consented to go to Mazra’ih. After nine years, he could finally enjoy the beauty of nature there. The estate had a stream, a grove of pine trees and adjoined a small farm. In his book Memorials of the Faithful Abdu’l-Baha wrote about Baha’u’llah’s release, saying that Baha’u’llah:

… was held prisoner and confined nine years in the fortress-town of Akka; and at all times, both in the barracks and afterward, from without the house, the police and farrashes (prison guards) had Him under constant guard. [He] lived in a very small house, and He never set foot outside that narrow lodging, because His oppressors kept continual watch at the door. When, however, nine years had elapsed, the fixed and predetermined length of days was over; and at that time, against the rancorous will of the tyrant, Abdu’l-Hamid, and all his minions, Baha’u’llah proceeded out of the fortress with authority and might, and in a kingly mansion beyond the city, made His home.

RELATED: The Baha’i Faith Grows, and the Persecution Intensifies

Two years later, Abdu’l-Baha acquired a home at nearby Bahji, vacated by a Pasha during an epidemic, and his family and many of the other Baha’is left their prison quarters to move there. Although Baha’u’llah was still officially a prisoner, the decree of Sultan Aziz was in reality a dead letter. No official of Akka cared to enforce it. Baha’u’llah could now move about as he pleased. Some days he spent at Bahji, some days he went to the farm at Mazra’ih, and occasionally he pitched his tent on Mount Carmel near Haifa. 

In Memorials of the Faithful, Abdu’l-Baha wrote that the rulers of Palestine envied the respect Baha’u’llah received, and that the growing spiritual influence of his Faith made confinement impossible:

Although the royal [command] specifically decreed that Baha’u’llah was to be held in solitary confinement within the Akka fortress, in a cell, under perpetual guard; that He was never to set foot outside; that He was never even to see any of the believers – notwithstanding such a [command], such a drastic order, His tent was raised in majesty on the heights of Mount Carmel. What greater display of power could there be than this …?

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