It is a curious fact of history that it was the successive banishments of Bahá’u’lláh by the Ottoman Sultan – finally to the prison-city of Akka – that placed Bahá’u’lláh in the Holy Land.
I don’t need to explain where the “Holy Land” is, because the reference is so well known. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all hold the land sacred, as does the Baha’i Faith. For a good proportion of the world “the Holy Land” is a spiritual heartland.
This was the land where the Prophet Isaiah had prophesied:
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. …
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.[Isaiah 2:4]
The vision appears several times in the Bible and a bronze statue outside the entry to the United Nations in New York symbolises Isaiah’s vision of the conversion of weapons of war into instruments of peace.
As Abdu’l Baha, Bahá’u’lláh’s son, was to say in one of his recorded talks:
When Bahá’u’lláh arrived at this prison in the Holy Land, discerning souls were awakened to the fact that the prophecies which God had voiced through the tongue of His Prophets two or three thousand years before had been realized and that His promises had been fulfilled, for He had revealed unto certain Prophets and announced unto the Holy Land that the Lord of Hosts would be manifested therein. All these promises were fulfilled, and, but for the opposition of His enemies and His banishment and exile, it can scarcely be imagined how Bahá’u’lláh could have left Persia and pitched His tent in this sacred land. His enemies intended that this imprisonment should completely destroy and annihilate His Cause, but His incarceration became instead the greatest confirmation and the means of its promotion.
Over time the incarceration of Bahá’u’lláh was relaxed. In the Holy Land Bahá’u’lláh wrote some of his most important works. He left the prison-city and lived in a mansion in a garden nearby. His followers were able to freely visit him.
Nearby, across the bay to the south, stood Mt Carmel. In 1891, Bahá’u’lláh visited the mountain and pointed out where a shrine was to be built for the remains of the Bab, Bahá’u’lláh’s prophet-herald. During another visit in the same period, on the crest of the mountain overlooking the sea, near to the cave of Elijah, Bahá’u’lláh wrote and proclaimed his Tablet of Carmel. In that Tablet (referring to Mt Carmel) he predicts that “Ere long will God sail His Ark upon thee“
An ark, of course calls to mind Noah’s ark, and is a symbol of human safety in a time of great danger.
Image Credits: View of Mt. Carmel, circa 1909. The circle of cypress trees marks the place where Bahá’u’lláh stood in 1891, when He indicated the site for the Shrine of the Báb. Copyright © Bahá’í International Community
(This article is the 18th in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)