Out of exile, a light to the world — 150th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s arrival in Holy Land: Part 2

August 31, 2018
This video shows the present-day old city of Akka. The prison where Baha'u'llah was held is the large structure toward the top of the frame, to the left of a blue dome.

The Baha’i World News Service is publishing a series of podcasts about the 150th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s arrival in the Holy Land. This brief article is the introduction to the second of the podcast episodes. Listen to part 1 in the series here.

BAHA'I WORLD CENTRE — The sailboat drifted slowly across the bay under the brutal summer sun, delivering Baha’u’llah and His fellow prisoners to Akka. It was 31 August 1868, 150 years ago Friday.

Podcast: Out of exile, a light to the world — 150th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s arrival in Holy Land: Part 2

This episode of the Baha’i World News Service podcast focuses on Baha’u’llah’s arrival 150 years ago to the fortress city of Akka and events in the period that immediately followed it.

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Akka did not have proper landing facilities, so the boat stopped in the shallow waters outside the city. As the prisoners waded in the water to the sea gate, they encountered a hostile and jeering crowd.

Baha’u’llah was taken from the sea gate, through the city’s narrow and winding alleys, to the barracks, used at the time as a prison.

“The arrival of Bahá’u’lláh in ‘Akká marks the opening of the last phase of His forty-year long ministry, the final stage, and indeed the climax, of the banishment in which the whole of that ministry was spent,” Shoghi Effendi writes in God Passes By, a history of the first century of the Baha’i Faith. “The period of His incarceration in ‘Akká brought with it the ripening of a slowly maturing process, and was a period during which the choicest fruits of that mission were ultimately garnered.”

15 images
Baha’u’llah entered Akka on 31 August 1868 through the sea gate, which can be seen left of center along the sea wall. This photo, from 1920, shows what the sea gate would have looked like at the time of Baha’u’llah’s arrival, with water running directly to the wall. Today, this area along the old sea wall is a paved promenade.

The horrible conditions of the city and the dreadful treatment Baha’u’llah and His companions received upon arrival were meant to signal their imminent demise and the end of Baha’u’llah’s Cause. Yet, Baha’u’llah’s description of that scene paints another picture entirely: "Upon Our arrival, We were welcomed with banners of light, whereupon the Voice of the Spirit cried out saying: ‘Soon will all that dwell on earth be enlisted under these banners.’” Akka would be the setting for some of the most extraordinary developments in Baha’i history.

It would be from His prison cell in Akka that Baha’u’llah would produce some of His most weighty writings. Among these were letters addressing individually a number of the kings and rulers of His time: Pope Pius IX, Napoleon III, Czar Alexander II, Queen Victoria, and Nasiri’d-Din Shah. It was also in Akka where He later revealed His Most Holy Book, the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

Baha’u’llah would live the remaining years of His life in the prison city and its surrounding area. His resting place at Bahji, just outside the old city of Akka, is the holiest place in the world for Baha’is.