January 13, 2010

One of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s secretaries describes the Master’s recollection of time in the prison of Akka

'Abdul Baha spoke on happiness, saying that the soul of man must be happy, no matter where he is. He must attain to that condition of inward beatitude and peace, where outward circumstances can not alter his spiritual calm and joyousness. No one can imagine a worse place than the barracks of Acca. The climate was bad, the water no better, the surroundings filthy and dirty, and the deportment of the officials unbearable, while he and his family were looked upon as enemies of religion and destroyers of morals. The Government had given orders that no one should address them during their stay in Acca and that they should not be allowed to converse with each other.

Upon their arrival, the officials found that there were not enough rooms in the barracks to imprison them separately, so all were put into two bare rooms. The court had a most gloomy aspect. It contained three or four fig trees, in the branches of which several ominous owls screeched all night. Everyone became ill and there were neither provisions nor medicines.

At the entrance to the barrack there was an undertaker's room. It was a horrible looking place, yet Abdu’l-Baha lived there for two years with the utmost happiness. Up to that period he had had no opportunity to read the Koran from cover to cover, but here he found ample time and used to study this Holy Book with fervor and enthusiasm, going over the incidents and events of the lives of former prophets and finding how parallel they were with the events of these latter days. Thus he was consoled and encouraged. He would read, for instance, the following verse:

"How thoughtless are the people ! Whenever a prophet is sent unto them they either ridicule him or persecute him."

And then he read this verse:

"Verily our host is victorious over them."

He was very happy, because he was a free man. Shut off in that room his spirit traveled throughout the immensity of space. At night he went up on the roof and communed with the countless brilliant stars. What a divine feast! What a heavenly procession! What spiritual freedom! What beatific bliss! What celestial Sovereignty! (Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Egypt, p. 15)