Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mirza Mihdi and the Power of Sacrifice

Resting places of The Purest Branch and Navvab (Baha'u'llah's wife) in the Monument Gardens in Haifa, Israel

On January 5, the third day of pilgrimage, we were taken via bus to Akka. There we would see the barracks and prison cell where Baha’u’llah, and much of his family, was confined from 1868-1870. During Baha’u’llah’s time in this prison, pilgrims hoping ot attain Bah’u’llah’s presence were only able to catch distant glimpses of his figure or a wave of his hand from the prison window as they stood across one of the moats. Mirza Mihdi (The Purest Branch), Baha’u’llah’s son, was among the family members in the barracks. Mirza Mihdi often prayed on the roof of the barracks and during one such meditative walk, he was so absorbed in prayer that he fell through a skylight and landed on a crate below. Although Baha’u’llah offered to heal Mirza Mihdi, The Purest Branch instead “begged Baha’u’llah to accept his life as a ransom for the opening of the gates of the prison to the face of the many believers who were longing to come and enter the presence of their Lord.” Indeed, shortly after the death of twenty-two year old Mirza Mihdi, many of the restrictions in the barracks were lifted and after four months Baha’u’llah and His family were even allowed to leave the prison.

During our visit to the barracks we were able to visit this site and see the skylight. The skylight had been covered up at one point and the precise scene of the fall unknown. Eventually someone found old aerial photos and was able to identify the location of the skylight, which they then uncovered.

The death of The Purest Branch is particularly significant in that it is considered a sacrifice in exchange for the unity of the human race. Adib Taherzadeh writes in volume three of The Revelation of Baha’u’llah: “Being the sacrifice of Baha’u’llah Himself, the Purest Branch by offering his life as a ransom for the opening of the gates of the prison, released incalculable spiritual energies within human society, energies which in the fullness of time, according to Baha’u’llah, will bring about the unity of the human race” (213).

 The above retelling of the story was taken partially from my memory of our pilgrim guide’s words, and I filled in the details after reading Adib Taherzadeh’s chapter on “The Death of the Purest Branch” in The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, volume three.

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