Republished from Huffington Post (Religion)
Recently, my husband and I sat spellbound by The Prophet, a gorgeous film adaptation of the 1923 book of poems by Kahlil Gibran. In the film, the prophetic writer and artist, Almustafa (aka Mustafa), is a prisoner of an oppressive government, confined on a Mediterranean island called Orphalese. While the government is not named, various clues point to the Ottoman Empire. The only crime Almustafa has committed is using his faculty for words to advocate for the common folk—which endangers the authorities’ power.
Almustafa’s equanimity under the duress of unjust confinement reminded me of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who led the Bahá’í Faith from 1892 to 1921. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh, spent most of his life as a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire, starting in his childhood, when in 1853 his family was banished from their homeland of Persia (Iran), until 1908 when the Young Turks revolted.
Bahá’u’lláh and his family were punished for the crime of believing God continued to speak to humanity. They were prisoners of faith—prisoners of conscience.
During his decades of confinement, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá suffered intense privations. Even after his imprisonment ended, his life was still “under a sword hanging on a thread”—for example, in 1918, Turkish commander Cemal Paşa threatened to crucify him. Nevertheless, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remained utterly reliant on God; as he wrote,