April 7, 2010

A Glimpse of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – by M M Holbach in the Christian Commonwealth

Haifa, January 8, 1914

I write this by a window that looks across an orange garden to the slopes of Mount Carmel, which rises almost abruptly beyond the red-roofed houses of the German colony. The “Mount of God” is but a hill in comparison with the mighty Alps, yet how great is its fascination, how beautiful it appears now in the moonlight! From time immemorial it has been the home of the prophets. It is here that ‘Abdu’l-Baha dwells today, and the simple Germans who left their native land to await "the second coming" of their Lord upon this mountain, are his neighbors! In my ears is the sound of the sea, for the blue Mediterranean laps the shores of Carmel, and across the bay Akka gleams white in the moonlight. “The Great Prison” it was called when Baha’u’llah dwelt there, a prisoner in a penal city. But a blessing surely rests upon it now, for the sun seems ever to shine there when the sea and the sky are grey. The soil upon which its houses are built has been many times soaked in blood. Christian and Saracen massacred one another there in turn. Many prisoners have languished there since Napoleon's pride was humbled by his failure to take "the petty town" which yet he designated "the key to the East.''

Since his return from Egypt, five weeks ago, ‘Abdu’l-Baha has more than once visited Akka and remained some time, visiting old friends who knew him in the days of his imprisonment. During one of his visits there he sent for the American Baha’is who are making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, that with him they might visit the Tomb of Baha’u’llah. Another day the Persian pilgrims were sent for, of whom a contingent have now returned to their native land. They left yesterday, on their long journey to Hamadan, the old capital of Persia, proceeding first by train to Damascus, thence to Aleppo, and from there by carriage and on horseback, the journey occupying three weeks. All those who have left are Jews!

It was my privilege to be present at two farewell gatherings given in their honor, which I shall never forget. At the first the men assembled at the Tomb of the Bab, which occupies a commanding position on the slope of Mount Carmel, and is a striking object from my window soon after dawn, when the rays of the rising sun illumine it. The tomb is surrounded by a garden on a terrace on the mountain side and the building has several chambers. In the largest of these about fifty to sixty Baha’is were assembled on the occasion to which I refer – Jews, Zoroastrians, Mohammedans, and Christians – to listen to an address by ‘Abdu’l-Baha. While he was speaking tea was served by the giver of the feast. Then all proceeded to an inner chamber, which in turn led to the tomb proper, and here the Tablets were chanted by one of the pilgrims, a very learned mullah and great orator. The reverence of the Oriental Baha’is for ‘Abdu’l-Baha must be witnessed to be understood.

When he came down the mountain side clad in his flowing robe and a white turban, and followed by his disciples from far and near, the scene was truly Biblical. (Star of the West, vol. V, no. 1, March 21, 1914)