February 9, 2010

American Christian visited ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Haifa

Below is an extract from a letter written by an American visiting Palestine to her Baha’i friend in the United States. It was dated May, 1910:

I must tell you a little about Palestine and about one experience in particular. A visit to Palestine does certainly make the Bible seem like a new book and brings home to one's heart the reality of Christ's life and teachings. I felt this particularly at Nazareth, the home of His boyhood and at the Sea of Galilee, which is so associated with His ministry. We had a lovely early morning row on the peaceful lake, and the memories of Christ that came to us seemed to make His presence very real.

Now, I know you will be eager to hear of my interview with the one in Palestine whose teachings mean so much to yon, the Prophet, or Abbas Effendi, [‘Abdu’l-Baha] as he is generally called.

I found that he is not now kept a prisoner at Acca, but since the order of constitutional government in Turkey he is free to live in his home at Haifa (near by) and go and come as he will.

I planned my trip so that I could stop and see him, for I remember when you gave me some of the literature to read you said: "If you go to Egypt, Palestine is not far away and you will surely want to see him." So I planned for the interview with him when the others of the party went to Acca for a drive. (Perhaps you know that Haifa is a Pretty little town right at the foot of Mt. Carmel.)

Well, I sent ward to him of my wish to see him and he replied that he would see me in the afternoon, as his time was taken up that morning in seeing some people from India. So I went to his house at the time appointed and was shown into the presence of an old man, clothed in the flowing robe of a Persian, with white hair and a long white beard, with eyes that seemed to look me through and yet were most friendly, too. It was the Prophet! He received me most graciously, and his interpreter, a young Syrian, a student at the American Missionary College at Beyrout [sic]

I told him first about the little circle of his friends in far off Honolulu - you who meet together to discuss his teachings -- and I told him of your love and loyalty. He seemed very happy at this and his face lighted up as he asked for the names of those who knew and loved him….

He sent you all his love and blessing and said he would pray for each one of you, and he added: "Tell them that they have a great mission -- to make the blind eyes see, to make the deaf ears hear and to Shed the light of knowledge where the darkness of ignorance prevails." That was his message to you. He talked with me for some time, first telling me of his country, Persia, of his life and then of his teachings.

As he talked with me I felt my heart soften under the influence of his goodness and kindness, and the tears came to my eyes. He asked me about myself, if I were well and if I were happy. I replied to the latter question: "I have had many sorrows." "Forget them!" he answered. "When your heart is filled with the love of God there will be no room for sorrow. There will only be love and happiness." I cannot tell you the sweet sympathy of his voice as he said these beautiful and comforting wards.

Then he had the attendant bring in tea, a cup for him and a cup for me. We drank together, wishing each other health and happiness, and then he told me that he hoped I could take tea with me in the Kingdom of Heaven!

When 1 praised the tea he said it was real Persian tea and presented me with a package to take away with me. (I wish I could send you same of it. I am afraid it would lose its strength though before it reached yon.)

When I finally said goad-by he put his hand on my head and blessed me and wished that I might be a blessing … I went away feeling softened, uplifted and blessed. I am so glad you told me of him and urged me to see him. He wrote his name in my book for me and told me always to remember it.

I tell you all these little incidents as I know they will interest you.
(Star of the West, vol. 1, no. 9, Aug 20, 1910)