February 8, 2011

Abdu’l-Baha’s Responses to Requests for Healing

Dr. Youness Afroukhteh who served 'Abdu'l-Baha as His trusted secretary and interpreter from 1900-1909 writes an interesting account in his memoirs:

I had frequently heard the Master speak about the practice of medicine. On a number of occasions He talked about Jinab-Kalim [Bahá'u'lláh's faithful brother] and his skills in the medicine of the old days, and how he used to treat those who came to him with medical problems. 'Abdu'l-Baha Himself had formerly prescribed medicine for those who sought His advice. However, Baha'u'llah had told them that such medical practices should cease, so that the believers might not develop the habit of consulting anyone but actual physicians, or of receiving medical advice from anyone except qualified practitioners. The intention was that the verse: "Resort ye, in times of sickness, to competent physicians" might be understood and applied.

Despite this, and while we all knew that because of this blessed verse, the Healer of all spiritual infirmities would not interfere in cases of physical disorder, nevertheless whenever anyone had fallen ill and had at last lost all hope of recovery through the conventional means practised by the physicians, he would seek a cure at the threshold of 'Abdu'l-Baha, imploring, "O Thou panacea of our every incurable pain, and O Healer of all of our maladies and afflictions." And since to disregard a plea or refuse an appeal had no place in the ocean of compassion and loving-kindness of that quintessence of generosity, and none had ever come away empty-handed or disappointed, so through the use of some material means or approach He would impart healing to the supplicant. What was even more astonishing was that non-Baha'is too, who had no knowledge of the principles and beliefs of the Faith, applied even more than the believers for the healing balm of the Master, never losing hope in the eventual effectiveness of the prescribed cure.

One of the remedies readily available to 'Abdu'l-Baha, and one that could be freely prescribed for anybody, was a heavenly mixture with a delicious taste. It was nothing but a sauce made of pomegranates from the Garden of Ridvan. The Master would prescribe it for the patient, saying, "This sauce is prepared from pomegranates picked from trees in the Garden of Ridvan which have been blessed by the gaze of the Blessed Beauty."

Whether its efficacy was due to the patient himself, or to the medicine, or to the will of 'Abdu'l-Baha, I cannot say. All I know is that experience showed that this heavenly and tasty panacea cured many a suffering patient.

This subject had become a frequent topic of conversation in the pilgrim house. Another of 'Abdu'l-Baha's methods of healing was through diet, or a simple reduction in the amount of food consumed; this, of course, is in line with today's scientific knowledge. But the third approach to healing on the part of that Physician of the souls was a specific method; no psychologist can ever comprehend or discover its mystery unless he is one of those true and sincere believers who understand the power of the supernatural and possess pure and radiant hearts. I will now tell the stories of two people, one a believer and the other a non-believer. One was healed through material means, the other without the use of such means. The believer, who was healed without resorting to any physical means, was none other than myself, and the story is as follows.

In the days when the late Dr. Arastu Khan resided in the pilgrim house, I suffered over the course of three to four weeks from a disease which caused the appearance of numerous boils and abscesses all over my body. Although the disease persisted and the excruciating pain increased, I still refused as long as I could to ask 'Abdu'l-Baha for a cure. The doctor called upon his whole range of skills, based on his long experience, but without success. The older men of the community came to his aid, even suggesting remedies, but the pain persisted.

One night the pain grew intense and my incessant moaning and groaning so disturbed and annoyed the pilgrims that at two in the morning we finally agreed to send Aqa Muhammad-Hasan, the servant of the pilgrim house, to the House of 'Abdu'l-Baha and beg His assistance on my behalf. Whether 'Abdu'l-Baha was asleep or awake at that hour of the morning I cannot say, for by the time Muhammad-Hasan returned I had fallen asleep.

The next day I awoke around noon, feeling free of pain. By late afternoon I realized that I could move about without much trouble. And since during the previous twenty-five or -six days, when I had been ailing, and the few days that I had actually been bedridden, I had not attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Baha, I decided to walk ever so slowly toward the darb-khanih. [Lit. the door of the house. The residential palaces of the Qajar kings in Tehran were referred to as the darb-khanih. Here it refers to the biruni of the residence of 'Abdu'l-Baha. The biruni of 'Abdu'l-Baha's residence, also known as the pilgrim house, provided modest accommodation consisting of four rooms.]

In the front entrance hall I found myself in His presence. He asked after my health and imparted to me words of kindness and sympathy. I decided it was a good time to ask for a definitive cure. He remarked, "Very well, but you must submit to bleeding." [The drawing of blood, or blood-letting, was used to cure a variety of illnesses]

The word "bleeding" scared me half to death, and so like a spoiled child I raised my shoulders and began to mumble something to the effect that I could not bear the idea of the blade and the letting of blood, especially mine. The Master replied, "Well, well, I want to send you to face swords, and you are afraid of losing a few drops of blood?"

Remaining true to my nature as a reckless blabbermouth, I rejoined, "Until that time comes, God is most merciful. Besides, if I wanted to be cured through the torture of bloodletting, why would I have pleaded my case before the Master?" 'Abdu'l-Baha smiled, began to pace the floor, and continued talking. Thus my last definitive cure took place in this fashion, and did not involve any material means. (Dr. Youness Afroukhteh, ‘Memories of Nine Years in ‘Akka’, pp. 249-251)