November 8, 2015

Mulla Husayn’s first assignment

Before Mulla Husayn met the Báb and became His first believer, he was a disciple of Siyyid Kázim, one of the two forerunners of the Báb – the other was Siyyid Kázim’s teacher, Shaykh Ahmad.

The passing of his beloved master, Shaykh Ahmad, brought unspeakable sorrow to the heart of Siyyid Kázim, who was his appointed successor. Inspired by the verse of the Qur’án, “Fain would they put out God’s light with their mouths; but God only desireth to perfect His light, albeit the infidels abhor it,” Siyyid Kázim arose with unswerving purpose to consummate the task with which his master Shaykh Ahmad had entrusted him. He found himself, after the removal of so distinguished a protector, a victim of the slanderous tongues and unrelenting enmity of the people around him. They attacked his person, scorned his teachings, and reviled his name.

At the instigation of a powerful and notorious shí’ah leader in Karbilá, Iraq, the enemies of Siyyid Kázim leagued together, and determined to destroy him. Thereupon Siyyid Kázim conceived the plan of securing the support and good will of one of the most formidable and outstanding ecclesiastical dignitaries of Persia who lived in the city of Isfáhán and whose authority extended far beyond the confines of that city. This friendship and sympathy, Siyyid Kázim thought, would enable him to pursue unhampered the course of his activities, and would considerably enhance the influence which he exercised over his disciples.

October 4, 2015

Ruhiyyih Khanum’s first encounter with Shoghi Effendi

Ruhiyyih Khanum often described her first encounter with the youthful Guardian [when she was 13 years old]. The day after their arrival in Haifa, [in 1923] she and her mother were in the old Pilgrim House opposite the home of 'Abdu'l-Baha on Persian Street, where they were staying, when a visitor came to the door. Mrs. Maxwell, who had suffered from insomnia on the voyage over, was finally sleeping after several broken nights, and Mary, in her concern for her mother, was determined that no one should disturb her. When the door opened a young man stepped into the hall and asked to see Mrs. Maxwell. Ruhiyyih Khanum recounts: 'I pulled myself up to my full height and said, "Mrs. Maxwell is resting; who is it who wants to see her?'"  

'I'm Shoghi Effendi,' was the young man's bemused reply - at which young Mary gasped and fled into her mother's room. Quite forgetting her concern to allow May an uninterrupted sleep, she dived beneath the pillows, 'like a puppy', as she always put it, and woke her up. When her mother asked her what on earth was the matter, Mary could only manage to say, 'He's here! He's here!' and, burrowing her head further into the pillows, point to the hall behind her. Upon realizing the situation, May said to her daughter, 'Now Mary, pull yourself together and go and tell him I am coming.' 
- Violette Nakhjavani  (‘The Maxwells of Montreal, vol. 2’)

September 10, 2015

During their time in Akka, ‘Abdu’l-Baha took every trouble upon Himself to allow His Father, Baha’u’llah, some relative peace and tranquility – Baha’u’llah recalled

In Baghdad We Ourselves would go and take a seat in the coffee-house to meet the people - friends and acquaintances, strangers and inquirers alike. We brought those who were remote near to the Faith, and led many a soul into the fold of the Cause. Thus We served the Cause of God, gave victory to His Word and exalted His Name. The Most Great Branch undertook the same task and served in the same way, to a much greater degree, in Adrianople, and then to a far greater extent and with greater efficacy, in 'Akka. The same hardships and afflictions which were Ours in the early days befell Him. In Baghdad We were not prisoners, and the Cause of God had not obtained even a fraction of the fame which it has gained today. At that time the number of its opponents and adversaries and ill-wishers was far less than today. In the Land of Mystery [Adrianople] We used to meet with some and let them come into Our presence. But in the Most Great Prison We do not meet the people who are not within the fold of the Cause. We have closed the doors of social intercourse. It is the Master Who has taken every trouble upon Himself. For Our sake, in order that We may have ease and comfort, He faces the world and its peoples. For Us He has become a mighty stronghold, a mighty armour. At first He rented the Mansion of Mazra'ih. We were there for a while. Then he secured for Us this Mansion of Bahji. He has arisen with all His power to serve the Faith, and confirmation crowns His effort. This work so occupies His days and nights that He is perforce kept away from Bahji for weeks. We consort with the Friends and reveal His [God's] Word. He, the Master, is the target and bears all hardships. 
- Baha’u’llah  (Words of Baha’u’llah recorded by Haji Mirza Haydar-Ali, quoted by Hand of the Cause Balyuzi in ‘’Abdu’l-Baha - The Center of the Covenant of Baha’u’llah’)

August 30, 2015

Lending a “shoulder” to ‘Abdu’l-Baha

On one of the occasions when the Master was in New York City in 1912 there were three automobiles awaiting Him and His party to take them from Hotel Ansonia to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kinney for luncheon. 'Abdu’l-Bahá stepped into the first one with two of the Persian friends. As there was a vacant seat next to Him one of the attendants beckoned John Bosch to come. John later told a friend that:

“As I reached the door, 'Abdu’l-Bahá seized me by the hand and pulled me into the car, seating me at His right. He seemed very tired. Immediately He put His arm around my waist, dropped His head on my left shoulder, and with a deep sigh went to sleep. During the entire hour's drive, while the friends in the automobiles looked at the sights, 'Abdu’l-Bahá slept.” 
(Adapted from ‘In Memoriam’ section of The Baha’i World 1946-1950: ‘John David Bosch’, by Charlotte M. Linfoot)

August 23, 2015

An overwhelming desire to see ‘Abdu’l-Baha...

When the news came that 'Abdu'l-Baha was on the way to America, John Bosch had such an overwhelming desire to see Him he started for New York on April 12, 1912. At Chicago, hearing that 'Abdu'l-Baha was in Washington, he went there instead, only to find that 'Abdu'l-Baha had not yet left New York. So he hurried on to that city, arriving very early on a cold and snowy morning. As soon as he had secured his room in the Hotel Ansonia he stole to 'Abdu'l-Baha's suite and was admitted almost immediately. Relating his experience to a friend, he said:

When I entered the room I had a pocketful of questions to ask 'Abdu'l-Baha, but when I saw Him I suddenly felt quite empty. I never took the questions out. Eventually 'Abdu'l-Baha told me all that I had wanted to ask Him. Foolishly I remarked that I had come three thousand miles to see Him, and He smilingly replied, "I came seven thousand miles to see you." I told Him that I, being a foreigner, had not the capacity of a speaker and that my work so far had been to circulate books and a few pamphlets. 'Abdu'l-Baha said: "You are doing very well; you are doing better than talking. With you it is not words or the movement of the lips; with you it is the heart that speaks. In your presence silence speaks and radiates." Then tea was brought in and after we had both partaken of it 'Abdu'l-Baha said: "You are now one of the family. You may come and go as you please." 
(Adapted from ‘In Memoriam’ section of The Baha’i World 1946-1950: ‘John David Bosch’, by Charlotte M. Linfoot)

August 19, 2015

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Montreal – Maxwell House

May and Sutherland Maxwell
Ruhiyyih Khanum explains that:

When 'Abdu'l-Baha consented to come to Montreal [in 1912] and arrangements were being made, my father [he wasn’t a Baha’i then] explained to Mother that though He would of course be their guest, he did not want to have the Master in his home but would engage a suite for him at the Windsor Hotel. All his sensitive Scots reticence shrank from the publicity and limelight that would be thrown on him as the host of such an attention-attracting guest as the Persian Prophet and His entourage would constitute. Mother was heartbroken, but she did not remonstrate, realizing perhaps that such things cannot be debated but must arise from the heart. The day before the scheduled arrival of 'Abdu'l-Baha, my father rushed into Mother's room, the largest bedroom, facing the garden and possessing three bay windows, and looking critically at her furniture declared: 'This is not good enough for ‘Abdu’l--Baha, I'm going right down to Morgans to buy a new set', and rushed off and immediately purchased and had delivered a bed, dressing table and chairs in white-painted Louis XV style. One can only imagine how great was her joy that her husband of his own accord should have felt the longing to have the Master under his own roof. He himself met the Master at the train and begged Him to accept the hospitality of his home. 
(Adapted from ‘The Maxwells of Montreal, vol. 1’, by Violette Nakhjavani)

August 10, 2015

The stone that became the “Cornerstone” of the House of Worship in Chicago

When the idea of constructing a Baha’i Temple in America was first proposed in 1903 there were very few Baha’is in the United States and Canada. By 1906 it is estimated that Baha’is resided in approximately 150 cities and that there were twenty-seven Spiritual Assemblies, including one in Honolulu and one in Montreal, Canada.

In preparation for this major undertaking, the Baha’is in various cities began holding meetings to increase support for the Temple, and several communities formed local treasuries to gather money for the project. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to send letters of encouragement, expressing His wish for the friends to be united and supportive of this undertaking.

One Baha'i who made a unique contribution to the Temple project in 1908 was Esther Tobin, known to her friends as Nettie. She was a loving, humble woman who earned a meager living as a seamstress. After her husband's death in Detroit in 1892, she moved to Chicago with her two small sons, brother, and half-sister. Yet once there she could barely support her children; oftentimes she would buy groceries for the evening meal with money she earned during the same day. She had not attended school, which may account for her peculiar habit of using words out of context, a trait that often sent herself and her friends into fits of laughter. Paul Dealy, an early Baha'i, invited her to several Baha'i meetings, including those at the True home. It was in that home that she became a Baha'i, probably in 1903. Shortly thereafter, she was employed by Corinne True as a dressmaker and visited the True home one or two days each week.

Although Nettie Tobin worked actively as a member of the Women's Assembly of Teaching, she was troubled by her financial inability to contribute to the building of the Temple. After praying often that God send her something to offer as a gift, she reportedly heard a voice on several occasions that told her to find a stone. This is what she told her nurse Gertrude Triebwasser three and a half years before her passing:

August 6, 2015

The youthful handsome sage

Bahiyyih Khanum, the daughter of Baha’u’llah, recalled many years later that during their time in Baghdad ‘Abdu’l-Baha “was accustomed to frequent the mosques and have discussions with the religious doctors and learned men. They were astonished at his knowledge and insights, and he came to be known as the youthful sage. They would ask him, ‘Who is your teacher -- where do you learn the things which you say?’ His reply was that his father had taught him. Although he had never been a day in school, he was as proficient in all that was taught as well-educated young men, which was the cause of much remark among those who knew him. In appearance my brother was at this time a remarkably fine-looking youth. He was noted as one of the handsomest men in Baghdad.” 
(Adapted from ‘Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi’ by Myron H. Phelps) 

July 25, 2015

The King and the Dervish

Whereas riches may become a mighty barrier between man and God, and rich people are often in great danger of attachment, yet people with small worldly possessions can also become attached to material things. The following Persian story of a king and a dervish [1] illustrates this:

Once there was a king who had many spiritual qualities and whose deeds were based on justice and loving-kindness. He often envied the dervish who had renounced the world and appeared to be free from the cares of this material life, for he roamed the country, slept in any place when night fell and chanted the praises of his Lord during the day. He lived in poverty, yet thought he owned the whole world. His only possessions were his clothes and a basket in which he carried the food donated by his well-wishers. The king was attracted to this way of life.

Once he invited a well-known dervish to his palace, sat at his feet and begged him for some lessons about detachment. The dervish was delighted with the invitation. He stayed a few days in the palace and whenever the king was free preached the virtues of a mendicant's life to him. At last the king was converted. One day, dressed in the garb of a poor man, he left his palace in the company of the dervish. They had walked together some distance when the dervish realized that he had left his basket behind in the palace. This disturbed him greatly and, informing the king that he could not go without his basket, he begged permission to return for it. But the king admonished him, saying that he himself had left behind his palaces, his wealth and power, whereas the dervish, who had preached for a lifetime the virtues of detachment, had at last been tested and was found to be attached to this world -- his small basket.

July 1, 2015

No peace in the city of Tabriz on July 9, 1850 – the martyrdom of the Báb

As the Bábís of Zanjan continued courageously to defend themselves against the assaults of the army, the Grand Vizier of Persia grew angrier than before. He had heard of the heroic ways in which the Bábís at Fort Tabarsi and Nayriz had managed to fight off their attackers, now he had to deal with a similar episode at Zanjan – a town located about 180 miles northwest of the Capital, Tehran.

The Grand Vizier was witnessing his own futile attempts to stifle the new Faith. He was getting frustrated and angrier than ever. He realized that the Báb might be imprisoned in a remote corner of the country, but His Cause continued to spread. Nothing seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of His followers. To crush their spirit, he felt he must eliminate their leader. Therefore he ordered that the Báb be brought one last time to Tabriz - this time to be executed.

Forty days before the Grand Vizier's orders arrived, the Báb gathered together His few belongings - His pen-case, His rings, His precious Writings, and the seals with which He stamped the wax that sealed His letters. The Báb sent all of these things with a trusted servant to Baha’u’llah, along with a special gift -a scroll of fine blue paper embellished with the design of a five-pointed star. The delicate lines of the star were lines of words written in the Báb's own elegant handwriting - five hundred words all related to the word "Baha," meaning "Glory." The scroll was a gift of praise from the Báb to Baha’u’llah.

June 18, 2015

'Abdu’l-Bahá relates a story as a metaphor

In ancient times there was a King who arranged a contest between his Chinese and Roman artists. He appointed a large hall in which both groups could paint. The Chinese artists asked for a curtain to be hung in the middle of the hall so that their competitor could not see what they are working on. The Chinese artists then worked steadily for six months, day and night. The Roman artists, on the other hand, did nothing. As a result, everybody thought that the Roman artists were going to lose the contest. Just a few days before the King was scheduled to judge the two groups and award the winner, the Roman artists set out to build a wall behind the curtain that separated them from the Chinese artists and polished it so well that it became like a mirror. When the time came to judge the final results, the King's ministers and courtiers went first to the Chinese section to see what they had been working so hard for six months. They were very impressed by their marvelous and beautiful painting! Wanting to see the Roman section they pulled the curtain and found a wall that was so polished that it fully reflected the paintings drawn by the Chinese artists – it was as if the paintings were actually in the wall! The King was so amused by their creativity that He awarded them the prize.

After relating this story the Master said that He hoped that our hearts would similarly become as pure and as transparent so that the pictures and images of the Kingdom of Abha would be reflected therein.
(Adapted from ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Edinburgh – Sohrab’s Diary Letters’, by Ahmad Sohrab)

June 14, 2015

The Blast of the Trumpet – the amazing way in which a woman announced the birth of a new cycle for humanity

It was the end of June, 1848. Outside the village of Badasht, located about 400 Km northeast of Tehran, Persia, on the other side of the Elburz Mountains in the Province of Semnan, there was a great open field that contained some gardens and a stream that flew through its center.

Warm breezes rustled the leaves of trees whose fruits would slowly ripen into peaches and pomegranates, cherries and apples-plump, juicy, and sweet. Amidst these pleasant surroundings Baha’u’llah had rented three gardens. One was assigned to Quddus, but according to ‘Abdu’l-Baha that “was kept a secret.” Another was set apart for Tahirih, and in a third was raised the pavilion of Bahá'u'lláh.  In each of the three gardens was a tent spread with soft carpets large enough for guests to gather.

There, near the gentle ripple and splash of a stream, with the mountains tall and purple in the distance, tents were pitched for the eighty-one Bábis who attended what would become later known as the Conference of Badasht. These disciples who had gathered from various provinces were Baha’u’llah’s guests from the day of their arrival to the day they dispersed. Tahirih was the only woman present among them. Mulla Husayn was unavoidably absent, since he had been detained by authorities in Mashhad.

May 14, 2015

An example of how ‘Abdu’l-Baha treated an unfriendly Christian missionary in ‘Akka

While in Edinburgh ‘Abdu’l-Baha is reported to have mentioned the following account to a group of Baha’is:

‘Abdu’l-Baha spoke to us about Miss Wardlaw Ramsey, a Scottish Christian missionary in Akka. She was a most zealous missionary; and though not friendly towards the Cause, the Master showed her all manner of kindness because she was very faithful to her Christ.

‘Abdu’l-Baha would tell her: "Miss Ramsey! Do you know how much I love you? Look in your heart and see how much you hate me; to that extent I love you!" In response, she would try to turn her back upon Him.

While holding the Bible in her hand, she used to go from house to house and read passages from it from morning till evening. For a long time she used to go to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s House and read passages from the Bible to the members of the Household. They would listen to her most attentively every time. Finally she thought that she had converted them. One day while she was reading a passage, one of the members of the family asked her about the meaning of the verse she had just read. Unable to provide an explanation, they told her that this was a prophecy about the appearance of Baha’u’llah and asked her if she could see it in that light. She became very upset and left the house.

May 10, 2015

Mulla Husayn is led to Shiraz in his quest for the Promised One

When Siyyid Kazim died in Karbila, Iraq, on December 31, 1843, his enemies became emboldened and renewed their hurtful activities to further discredit his teachings and ridicule those who followed them. For a time, fear and anxiety filled the hearts of Siyyid Kazim’s faithful disciples as they found themselves leaderless and unsure as to what course of action to take in such a gloomy setting. This condition however was drastically improved with the return of Mulla Husayn on January 22, 1844, from a highly successful mission to Iran that his teacher Siyyid Kazim had entrusted him with. Mulla Husayn was a man whose great learning and strength of character were acknowledged even by his enemies. He had devoted himself to study from early childhood and his progress in theology and jurisprudence had won him no little consideration.

Mulla Husayn cheered and strengthened the disconsolate disciples of his beloved chief, reminded them of his unfailing promise, and pleaded for unrelaxing vigilance and unremitting effort in their search for the concealed Beloved. Living in the close to the house that Siyyid Kazim had occupied, for three days he received visits from a considerable number of mourners who hastened to convey to him, as the leading representative of Siyyid Kazim’s disciples, their distress and sorrow at the passing of their leader.

Mulla Husayn afterwards summoned a group of his most distinguished and trusted fellow-disciples and enquired about the expressed wishes and the last exhortations of their departed leader. They told him that Siyyid Kazim had told them emphatically many times, during Mulla Husayn’s absence, to leave their homes, scatter far and wide, purge their hearts from every idle desire, and dedicate themselves to the quest of Him to whose advent he had so often alluded. Furthermore, they told Mulla Husayn that their teacher had told them, “that the Object of our quest was now revealed. The veils that intervened between you and Him are such as only you can remove by your devoted search. Nothing short of prayerful endeavour, of purity of motive, of singleness of mind, will enable you to tear them asunder. Has not God revealed in His Book: ‘Whoso maketh efforts for Us, in Our ways will We guide them’?” [Qura’n 29:69]

May 3, 2015

Catching a glimpse of the majesty of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

While on pilgrimage in 1906, Florence Khan, the wife of Ali-Kuli Khan [1] related the following heart-warming and incredible incident:

One evening, after sunset, Khan [Ali-Kuli Khan] came in great enthusiasm and excitement to our room. ‘Do you remember,’ he asked, ‘that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said He would answer all the letters we brought to Him from America before we left?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Then come quickly. It is too wonderful! The Master is pacing to and fro, in His sitting room- I cannot see the secretary—and He is replying to those letters, as if he had known the inmost secret of the writers’ hearts, from the cradle! Yet He has never met nor seen one of them. You can see Him from the corridor beyond the little room, each time He passes the open doorway!’ So, Rahím being peacefully asleep, I returned with Khan, to his post, outside the doorway which led to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s long room with its many windows looking over the Bay of ‘Akká to the Mediterranean and beyond.

I heard the dear Master’s beautiful voice, and then saw Him, as He strode by the doorway of His lighted room. We were in the dark, looking through the small darkened antechamber. I recalled how, never, at the daily luncheon table, and never at the late evening dinner, and never at any time, had I satisfied my longing to gaze more fully upon the Master’s beautiful, noble, and spiritual face. I used to glance admiringly at the snowy, scarf-enfolded headdress, and at the beautiful, silver-white hair falling softly to the shoulders; and at the lofty arch of His forehead, at the expression of His eyes, indescribable in human language; now they seemed blue-and now brown- and again partly of each colour, or hazel—but always illumined, loving and understanding; sometimes raised in holy reverence, in silent prayer, sometimes gently smiling-but always kingly and supreme. . . Then, I could never get my fill, so to speak, of the Divine perfection of spirituality—a gentleness-a holy patience—no sign whatsoever in lines or expression of the lower traits of human nature, only a Divine perfectness. It was astounding. I had never seen a face like it. Selfless. The stamp of suffering upon it; alas for humanity, which crucifies God’s messengers!

April 18, 2015

Bahá’u’lláh’s departure for the Garden of Ridván

The love and admiration of the people of Baghdad for Bahá'u'lláh was fully demonstrated on the day of His departure from His 'Most Great House' in Baghdad. Then His majesty and greatness were evident to both friend and foe. The news of His forthcoming departure for Constantinople had spread rapidly among the inhabitants of Baghdad and its neighbouring towns, and large numbers wished to attain His presence and pay their last tributes to Him. But soon it became apparent that His house was too small for the purpose. When Najib Pasha, one of the notables of the city of Baghdad heard of this, he immediately placed his garden-park, Najibiyyih, at the disposal of Bahá'u'lláh. This beautiful garden, designated by His followers as the Garden of Ridván (Paradise), was situated on the outskirts of Baghdad, across the river from Bahá'u'lláh's house.

Thirty-one days after Naw-Ruz, on 22 April 1863, [1] in the afternoon, Bahá'u'lláh moved to this garden, where He remained for twelve days. On the first day He declared His Mission to His companions. [2] These twelve days are celebrated by the Bahá'ís as the Festival of Ridván.

The departure of Bahá'u'lláh from His house witnessed a commotion the like of which Baghdad had rarely seen. People of all walks of life, men and women, rich and poor, young and old, men of learning and culture, princes, government officials, tradesmen and workers, and above all His companions, thronged the approaches of His house and crowded the streets and roof-tops situated along His route to the river. They were lamenting and weeping the departure of One Who, for a decade, had imparted to them the warmth of His love and the radiance of His spirit, Who had been a refuge and guide for them all.

April 5, 2015

The tragic death of Mirza Mihdi, “The Purest Branch”

A little under two years had passed since Bahá'u'lláh's confinement in the barracks, when suddenly a most tragic event occurred. It was the untimely death of Mirza Mihdi, entitled the Purest Branch, the younger brother of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was fatally wounded when he fell from the roof of the barracks.

In 1848, at a time when the followers of the Báb were engulfed by sufferings and persecutions, a son had been born in Tihran to Bahá'u'lláh and His illustrious wife Asiyih Khanum, entitled Navvab. He was four years younger than 'Abdu'l-Bahá and was given the name 'Mihdi', after a brother of Bahá'u'lláh who was dear to Him and had died a year before. Later the Pen of the Most High bestowed upon this son the title 'Ghusnu'llahu'l-Athar' (The Purest Branch).

Unlike 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Mirza Mihdi could not remember much of a life of luxury in Tihran, for when he was just over four years of age His father had been imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal, and all His possessions plundered and seized by the enemies of the Cause. During the four months that Bahá'u'lláh lay in that horrible dungeon, the Holy Family spent their days in anguish and fear, not knowing what would happen to Him. Often frightened and anxious, this child, tender in age and delicate by nature, found his only shelter and refuge within the arms of a loving and devoted mother. But Providence deprived him of this also. As the journey to Baghdad, undertaken in the severe cold of the winter, was laden with hardships and dangers unbearable for a child as delicate as Mirza Mihdi, he had to be left behind in Tihran in the care of relatives. For about seven years he tasted the agony and heartbreak of separation from his beloved parents.

March 24, 2015

A gift from Africa for the beloved Guardian

Hand of the Cause John Robarts recalled the following during his pilgrimage in 1955:

Audrey and I had brought a kaross to the Guardian from Bechuanaland [today part of South Africa] -- a mat made from the skin of a springbok, inlaid with designs in other animal skins, black and white. On our first evening we laid it out on the floor beside his chair. It was a lovely thing. He said, "That is beautiful! Beautiful! I shall put it in the mansion."

That was in 1955. He died in 1957, and then the Hands [of the Cause] met for the first conclave in the mansion [of Bahji], just after his funeral. The large conference hall has twelve rooms leading from it, one of which was Ruhiyyih Khanum's bedroom. I searched every room but that one. I told Audrey, "I don't think the Guardian put the kaross in the mansion." She said, "He must have. He said he would. It must be there."

A year later at the second conclave, I again looked for the kaross, and finally asked Ruhiyyih Khanum if Shoghi Effendi had brought it to the mansion. She said, "Yes, indeed he did. Come into my room and see it." There it was on the floor beside his bed. She said, "That was his prayer mat. He loved it." 

Hand of the Cause Mr. Collis Featherstone photographed it for me. I held it in front of me as high as I could reach, and all that can be seen of me are my fingers. How proud that springbok must have been in its exalted state!
(Hand of the Cause John Robarts, ‘A Few Reminiscences about Shoghi Effendi, taken from Pilgrim Notes of January 1955, from the Film Retrospective, and from  Some Other Words of the Beloved Guardian’)

March 21, 2015

An example of the effect of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings on early believers

An actual incident related by ‘Abdu’l-Baha:

A certain person violently molested and grievously injured a certain Bábí. The victim unclosed his hand in retaliation and arose to take vengeance, unsheathing his weapon against the aggressor. Becoming the object of censure and reprimand of this sect, however, he took refuge in flight.

When he reached Hamadán his character became known, and, as he was of the clerical class, the doctors vehemently pursued him, handed him over to the government, and ordered chastisement to be inflicted.

By chance there fell out from the fold of his collar a document written by Bahá’u’lláh, the subject of which was reproof of attempts at retaliation, censure and reprobation of the search after vengeance, and prohibition from following after lusts. Amongst other matters they found these expressions contained in it: “Verily God is quit of the seditious,” and likewise: “If ye be slain it is better for you than that ye should slay. And when ye are tormented have recourse to the controllers of affairs and the refuge of the people; and if ye be neglected then entrust your affairs to the Jealous Lord. This is the mark of the sincere, and the characteristic of the assured.”

When the governor became cognizant of this writing he addressed that person saying, “By the decree of that Chief whom you yourself obey correction is necessary and punishment and chastisement obligatory.”

“If,” replied that person, “you will carry out all His precepts I shall have the utmost pleasure in [submitting to] punishment and death.”

The governor smiled and let the man go. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, ‘A Traveler’s Narrative’)

March 9, 2015

The story of how Abdu’l-Bahá blessed May and Sutherland Maxwell with a child – Mary (Ruhiyyih Khanum)

The birth of Mary Sutherland Maxwell, on August 8th, in the Hahnemann Hospital, later known as The Fifth Avenue Hospital, in New York City, was the hottest news to hit the North American Baha'i community in the summer of 1910.

Ever since May Bolles had accepted the Faith of Baha'u'llah, she had been known and loved by all the early Baha'is as one of the foremost disciples of 'Abdu'l-Baha; her husband, Sutherland Maxwell, was a distinguished architect in Canada and their home in Montreal a place of culture and spiritual vitality.

When the Baha'is read the announcement: "A little daughter has come to bless the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Maxwell of Montreal. Canada", in Vol. 1, issue 9 of the Star of the West on August 20th, it must have caused many flutters of excited interest amongst them. There must have been many who expressed their congratulations and sent their good wishes.

Seven months later May received a Tablet from ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the Center of the Covenant, in which He said:

“In the garden of existence a rose hath bloomed with the utmost freshness, fragrance and beauty. Educate her according to the divine teachings so that she may grow up to be a real Baha’i and strive with all thy heart, that she may receive the Holy Spirit.”

March 1, 2015

Meeting Shoghi Effendi in Paris during the Summer of 1920

In the ‘Priceless Pearl’ Ruhiyyih Khanum tells us how in 1920 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sent Shoghi Effendi abroad for his studies, in the company of Lotfullah Hakim who was returning to England after his first pilgrimage to Haifa.

The Master had insisted that on his way to England Shoghi Effendi should first go to a sanatorium and take a good rest. It shows how solicitous for his health his grandfather was.  At that time Shoghi Effendi's nervous strength was largely depleted because of the intensity of the work he had performed in the Master's service and the strain caused by the long years of war and post-war recovery.

Shoghi Effendi took the rest that had been enjoined upon him in a sanatorium in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris. He was not ill, but run down; he associated with the believers there, played some tennis, went sight-seeing, becoming familiar with a city that is in itself so beautiful and houses one of the world's greatest museums, visited some Baha'is in the town of Barbizon, remained about two months and then proceeded to England in July. (Adapted from ‘Priceless Pearl’, by Ruhiyyih Rabbani)

It was during this time that one of the Persian believers who was on his way to Haifa to attain the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as a pilgrim met Shoghi Effendi in Paris. This believer’s name was Nuru’d-Din Mumtazi and the following is an excerpt from this his pilgrim notes:

February 8, 2015

The first Baha’i in England goes on pilgrimage

In 1902 the late Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper in company with a group of friends made the pilgrimage to Haifa. It was during a casual conversation with an acquaintance at a hotel that she first heard of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Some weeks later after making independent inquiries and carefully considering the real purport of the account of this remarkable Personage, she decided to take the journey with the intimate friends who had been fired by her enthusiasm.

They first went to Alexandria where they managed to secure accommodation on a steamer which would call at 'Akka, the ancient seaport of Syria. This was a notoriously rough sea passage at the best of times but on the day of their disembarkation it was necessary for the ship to lower boats as she could not make the port.

One can imagine the daring adventure for these ladies accoutred in the voluminous apparel of that day when they had to make the tricky descent into a rowing boat which had been brought alongside the ship on the crest of an accommodating wave! Except for a soaking wet trip to the pier the party were none the worse for their experiences.

January 17, 2015

An example of why not to read the Word of God with the eye of intellect only

The following story in the life of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, the outstanding scholar of the Cause and its famous apologist, is one which demonstrates that reading the Word of God with the eye of intellect can lead a man astray.

Mirza Abu’l-Fadl, himself, has recounted the story that soon after he came in contact with the believers, they gave him the Kitáb-i-Íqán to read. He read it with an air of intellectual superiority and was not impressed by it. He even commented that if the Kitáb-i-Íqán was a proof of Bahá'u'lláh's claims, he himself could certainly write a better book.

At that time he was the head of a theological college in Tihran. The following day a prominent woman arrived at the college and approached some students asking them to write an important letter for her. In those days people who were not educated often paid a small sum of money to a learned man to write letters for them. The essential requirements for writing good letters were good composition and fine penmanship.

The students referred her to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl saying that he was an outstanding writer, a master of eloquence and a man unsurpassed in the art of composition. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl took up his pen to write, but found himself unable to compose the first sentence. He tried very hard but was unsuccessful. For several minutes he scribbled in the corner of the page and even drew lines on his own fingernail, until the woman realized that the learned scribe was unable to write. Losing her patience she arose to go and mockingly said to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, 'If you have forgotten how to write a simple letter why don't you say so instead of keeping me here while you scrawl?'

January 4, 2015

The sudden arrest of the Báb and its agonizing impact on His wife – as recalled by Khadijih Bagum

…I will relate the incident of His capture briefly.

One night we were asleep. [the year was 1846] Suddenly, the chief of police, the accursed 'Abdu'l-Hamid Khan, entered with his men through the roof of the house and seized the Báb, who was clad only in a thin robe. They took Him away without any explanation. I never saw Him again. 

I cannot describe the terrible trials, ordeals, and difficulties that occurred after this. I did not see even one of His friends or followers after his arrest. The doors were shut on all sides, and communications were cut off completely.

One day I saw that Shiraz was in turmoil. [the year was 1850] The populace was in an uproar and I could hear the loud noises of bugles and trumpets. People were saying that the heads of the martyrs of Nayriz had been brought into the city. The next day, with the same tumult and violence, those captured at Nayriz were paraded through the city. How I longed to meet a relative of one of those prisoners, but it was impossible. Two of the captives came to our house in the guise of beggars, but no one dared speak to them. 

But time passed and so did those events. Now [circa 1870] you have come to visit us, and we can speak of any matter without fear. 
(Khadijih Bagum, quoted by Munirih Khanum, the wife of ‘Abdu’l-Baha; ‘Munirih Khanum: Memories and Letters’)