…the Holy Manifestations of God are even as a looking-glass, burnished and without stain, which gathereth streams of light out of that Sun, and then scattereth the glory over the rest of creation. In that polished surface, the Sun with all Its majesty standeth clearly revealed. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 50.
Baha’u’llah, after spending most of his adult life imprisoned in the worst imaginable conditions, finally had a respite in his later years.
Dr. John Esslemont, in his book Baha’u’llah and the New Era, offers a memorable depiction of Baha’u’llah’s life at Bahji during this period:
Although his life at Bahji has been described as truly regal, in the highest sense of the word, yet it must not be imagined that it was characterized by material splendor or extravagance. The Blessed Perfection (an appellation referring to Baha’u’llah) and his family lived in very simple and modest fashion, and expenditure on selfish luxury was a thing unknown in that household. Near his home the believers prepared a beautiful garden called Ridvan, in which he often spent many consecutive days or even weeks, sleeping at night in a little cottage in the garden. Occasionally he went further afield. He made several visits to Akka and Haifa, and on more than one occasion pitched his tent on Mount Carmel, as he had predicted when imprisoned in the barracks at Akka. – Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 38.
What was it like to be in the presence of a prophet of God?
Believers who later attempted to describe what it was like to be with Baha’u’llah found it very difficult to do so. Even those who did not give him their allegiance were deeply affected; they were inevitably awed and humbled when in his presence. It was common for individuals to come intending to ask certain questions, only to find themselves so overwhelmed as to forget them completely. This even happened to his foes. Often such persons would later attribute Baha’u’llah’s mysterious influence over them to sorcery!
One of the well-known early believers was named Haydar-Ali. He enjoyed the blessing of meeting Baha’u’llah on a number of occasions and observed his interactions with his guests:
Although he [Baha’u’llah] showed much compassion and loving-kindness, and approached anyone who came to His presence with tender care and humbleness, and often used to make humorous remarks to put them at ease, yet in spite of these, no one, whether faithful or disbelieving, learned or unlettered, wise or foolish, was able to utter ten words in his presence in the usual everyday manner. Indeed, many would find themselves to be tremulous with an impediment in their speech.
Some people asked permission to attain his presence for the sole purpose of conducting arguments and engaging in controversies. As a favour on his part, and in order to fulfill the testimony and to declare conclusively the proofs, he gave these permission to enter the court of his majesty and glory. As they entered the room, heard his voice welcoming them in, and gazed at his countenance beaming with the light of grandeur, they could not help but prostrate themselves at his door. They would then enter and sit down. When he showed them where to sit, they would find themselves unable to utter a word or put forward their questions. When they left they would bow to him involuntarily. Some would be transformed through the influence of meeting him and would leave with the utmost sincerity and devotion, some would depart as admirers, while others would leave his presence, ignorant and heedless, attributing their experience to pure sorcery.
. . . To be brief, the bounties which were vouchsafed to a person as a result of attaining His presence were indescribable and unknowable. The proof of the sun is the sun itself. – Haji Mirza Haydar Ali, Revelation of Baha’u’llah, Volume 3, pp. 248-249.
His blessed person appeared in the form of a human being, but his very movements, his manners, his way of sitting or standing, eating or drinking, even his sleep or wakefulness, were each a miracle to me. Because his perfections, his exalted character, his beauty, his glory, his most excellent titles and most august attributes revealed to me that he was peerless and without parallel. He was matchless with no one to join partners with him, unique with no peer or equal, the One and Single without a deputy . . . I saw a Person Who, from the human point of view, was like the rest of humanity. However, if one were to add the love, mercy and compassion of all the peoples of the world together, they would appear as a drop when compared with the ocean of his tender mercy and loving-kindness. I even seek God’s forgiveness for making such a comparison. Similarly, if one brought together all the knowledge of science, crafts, philosophy, politics, natural history and divinity possessed by mankind, it would seem, in comparison with His knowledge and understanding, as an atom compared to the sun. If one weighed the might and power of kings, rulers, prophets and messengers against his omnipotence and sovereignty, his grandeur and glory, his majesty and dominion, they would be as insignificant as a touch of moisture compared with the waters of the sea . . . As I observed every one of his attributes, I discovered my inability to emulate him, and realized that all the peoples of the world will never be able to attain to His perfections.” – ibid, Volume 4, pp. 135-136.