December 26, 2010

A story told by ‘Abdu’l-Baha concerning the great influence of Prophet Muhammad over Arabs

When the Muslims conquered Persia, the chief of the Zoroastrian high priests went to drink wine. According to Muslim law wine is forbidden, and he who drinks it must be punished by eighty-one strokes of the whip. Therefore, the Muslims arrested the high priest and whipped him. At that time the Arabs were considered very low and degraded by the Persians, scarcely to be accounted as human beings. As Muhammad was an Arab, the Persians looked upon Him with disdain; but when the high priest saw the evidences of a power in Muhammad which controlled these despised people, he cried out, "O thou Arabian Muhammad, what hast thou done? What hast thou done which has made thy people arrest the chief high priest of the Zoroastrians for committing something unlawful in thy religion?" By this circumstance the prejudice which caused the Zoroastrian to shun the Muslim had been overcome, for he recognized in what had happened to him the great influence Muhammad exercised over these people.
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 42)

December 9, 2010

How Tahirih recognized the Bab

One of the most courageous of all the followers of the Bab was a woman. She was among His chosen disciples. She was known as Tahirih, which means "The Pure One." The members of her family ranked high among the religious leaders of Persia. Her father was one of the most famous of all. From her earliest childhood, she was regarded by her fellow-townsmen as a prodigy. Her knowledge and gifts were so outstanding that her father often was heard to lament, "Would that she had been born a boy, for he would have shed illumination upon my household, and would have succeeded me." ['Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 191]

She was renowned for both her intelligence and her beauty. Her brother, `Abdu'l-Vahhab said, "None of us, her brothers or her cousins dared to speak in her presence, her learning so intimidated us; and if we ventured to express some hypothesis upon a disputed point of doctrine, she demonstrated in such a clear, precise and conclusive manner that we were going astray, that we instantly withdrew confused." [A. L. M. Nicolas, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad dit la Bab, p. 273]

December 2, 2010

The immediate circumstances pertaining to Baha’u’llah’s arrest and imprisonment in Tehran and its impact on the Holy Family –- the Greatest Holy Leaf explains to a western pilgrim

He returned [following His return from abroad] to His own village. Here He rested, and while there, the news was brought of the shooting of the Shah. Immediately, Baha’u’llah was arrested and taken to prison. His family in Tehran knew nothing of this, and they were entertaining friends.

The servant rushed in, and said he had seen the Master [Baha’u’llah] being led through the street with bare head and feet, being taken to prison. The friends, realizing they risked imprisonment, left Baha’u’llah’s wife alone with her children – ages two, six, nine. A cousin urged them to spend the night with her, and she accepted, but soon realized even there she was causing anxiety, and so early in the morning, she returned to her home.

When she and Baha’u’llah were married, they were from the wealthiest families in the community, and it was said their wealth could never end. His wife, being an only child, had a marvelous trousseau, all her dresses were of the finest silk and the buttons and fastening were of rare jewels. At the time of His arrest, all of His property was confiscated as well as hers, and she was left with nothing to care for her children. She suffered most terribly from grief for her husband and because she could get no word as to His condition. For a week, she was without word, and finally through an aunt [whose husband was employed in the Russian legation in Tehran] … she was able to hear from her husband.

November 12, 2010

An exceptional example of spiritual ecstasy and joy felt by some early believers in a devotional gathering

Nabil [1] has recounted in his as yet unpublished narratives the story of a gathering held one evening in the house of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, sometime before His Declaration. He considered that gathering to have been one of the most memorable of his life.

That night a wonderful feast had been arranged and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, then eighteen years of age, was acting as host. His youthful and radiant personality added distinction to the assembly. A number of believers from Baghdad and Karbila were present, among them some eminent personalities such as Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i, [2] Shaykh Sultan [3], and Sayyah [4].

After partaking of food they began to chant the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, and soon the atmosphere became deeply spiritual. Hearts were filled with divine love and souls were illumined by the light of the New Day; so when the poem of Az-Bágh-i-Iláhí[(From the Garden of Holiness) -- a Tablet of Baha’u’llah. For a brief explanation about it please visit Baha’i Historical Facts] was chanted, its mysteries became apparent to them, revealing thereby the approaching hour of the unveiling of Bahá'u'lláh's divine station. Every sincere soul in that company experienced ecstasy and joy, and the atmosphere became alive with excitement and rapture.

November 5, 2010

Ali-Kuli Khan becomes one of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s secretaries and begins translating His correspondence with the American Baha'is

Ali-Kuli Khan (c. 1879-1966) was also known as Nabilu'd-dawlih. He was an eminent Iranian Baha'i who served briefly as 'Abdu'l-Baha’s English-language secretary between 1899-1901. He was subsequently sent to America where he was the first to translate into English some of the most important works of Baha’u’llah, such as the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Seven Valleys and the Glad-Tidings. He also continued to translate 'Abdu'l-Baha’s correspondence with the American Baha'is. Ali-Kuli Khan was appointed Iranian charge d'affaires in Washington in 1910 and later served in various high-ranking diplomatic positions. His marriage to Boston society girl Florence Breed (1875-1950) in 1904 not only caused comments on two continents, but was praised by 'Abdu'l-Baha as the first marriage between East and West, a symbol of the unity taught by the Baha’i Faith. Their daughter, Marzieh Gail (1908-93), also became an eminent Baha'i writer and translator. Her translations from Persian and Arabic include The Seven Valleys by Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s The Secret of Divine Civilization. (Adapted from Summon up Remembrance, by Marzieh Gail, and A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha’I Faith, by Peter Smith) Here is how his daughter Marzieh Gail composed from his memoir his first pilgrimage to Haifa, the resulting meeting with ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and the amazing way through which he became able to translate Arabic Tablets – a language he didn’t know prior to his pilgrimage.

October 24, 2010

The Holy Family enters the prison in Akka – recalls the Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahiyyih Khanum

The Greatest Holy Leaf told me that they were marvelously happy in the barracks, and that the second night they were there, they got laughing so hard Baha'u'llah came to the door and told them to stop, that He was afraid the guard would think they had gone crazy to be so happy in such a place.

I then asked the Greatest Holy Leaf if she would give us some of the incidents of her early life with Baha'u'llah and if she was with Him at 'Akka in the Barracks. She said that when they were coming to the 'Akka Prison they landed first at Haifa, seventy-two in number. They were kept in a little house here for a few hours and then put in sailboats. They sailed across the bay to 'Akka, and as there was no place to land, they were placed in chairs, carried by two men and taken to shore. Everybody had come to the shore to watch their arrival because everyone was interested to see what kind of people these prisoners were.

October 13, 2010

Meeting Shoghi Effendi for the first time – Recollection by Hand of the Cause, Ugo Giacherry

I have now only a vague memory of what happened or what I saw in the hours until I met Shoghi Effendi that evening of the middle of February 1952.

Those Baha'is who went on pilgrimage during the lifetime of Shoghi Effendi will remember the air of expectation which reigned all day until the coveted moment when, at dinner-time, one was ushered into the Guardian's presence. It was a custom to let the newcomer precede everyone else to the dining-room of the Western Pilgrim House -- an oval-shaped room at the northern end of the lower floor of the building. When my time came that evening, friendly, eager hands led me down the staircase into a large empty hall and through another room to a clear glass door of the French type which opened into the dining-room. Those loving hands literally pushed me through the door into the room where a large table was set for the evening meal. At the far north-eastern side of the table, almost facing the door, sat Shoghi Effendi, his handsome face absorbed in deep thought. A few seconds elapsed as I paused, unable to utter a word or a cry, while my heart was ready to burst. He was wearing a dark steel-grey coat and on his head rested a black tarboosh of unusual height and shape. He lifted his head in my direction and then I met his luminous penetrating gaze. As he rose to greet me a broad smile illumined his whole face, while his eyes seemed to probe my innermost being, as if searching for proofs of love and trust.

October 1, 2010

The Most Perfect Gentleman

Howard Colby Ives, a very distinguished early believer, was a former Unitarian Clergyman, who met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in April, 1912 when the Master came to New York. He wrote a fascinating autobiography entitled 'Portals to Freedom', from which the excerpt below has been taken:

'I have before spoken of His [‘Abdu’l-Baha’s] unfailing courtesy. It was really more than what that term usually connotes to the Western mind. The same Persian word is used for both reverence and courtesy. He "saw the Face of His Heavenly Father in every face" and reverenced the soul behind it. How could one be discourteous if such an attitude was held towards everyone!

'The husband of 'Abdu'l-Baha's hostess in Dublin, who, while never becoming an avowed believer, had many opportunities of meeting and talking with the Master, when asked to sum up his impressions of Him, responded, after a little consideration: "I think He is the most perfect gentleman I have ever known."’ (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 116)

September 23, 2010

The youth who was given the inestimable privilege of sharing “the cup of martyrdom” with the Manifestation of God

While the Bab was confined in the Castle of Chihriq in northwestern Iran, a youth in the nearby city of Tabriz by the name of Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Zunuzi learned about Him from a traveling teacher. The youth became so spiritually inflamed by what he heard, that he wanted to immediately hasten to the castle and attain the presence of the Bab. This youth was later surnamed Anis by the Bab, a title that literally means “close companion”, because he was subsequently martyred with Him in Tabriz in 1850. This was an inestimable privilege that Anis received --never before anything like it had happen in the history of religion.

This is how it happened.

September 13, 2010

An example of how ‘Abdu’l-Baha treated His enemies

When the Master came to `Akka there lived there a certain man from Afghanistan, an austere and rigid [Muslim]. To him the Master was a heretic. He felt and nourished a great enmity towards the Master, and roused up others against him. When opportunity offered in gatherings of the people, as in the Mosque, he denounced him with bitter words.

'This man,' he said to all, 'is an imposter. Why do you speak to him? Why do you have dealings with him?' And when he passed the Master on the street he was careful to hold his robe before his face that his sight might not be defiled.

Thus did the Afghan. The Master, however did thus: The Afghan was poor and lived in a mosque; he was frequently in need of food and clothing. The Master sent him both. These he accepted, but without thanks. He fell sick. The Master took him a physician, food, medicine, money. These, also, he accepted; but as he held out one hand that the physician might take his pulse, with the other he held his cloak before his face that he might not look upon the Master. For twenty-four years the Master continued his kindnesses and the Afghan persisted in his enmity. Then at last one day the Afghan came to the Master's door, and fell down, penitent and weeping, at his feet.

September 7, 2010

Baha’u’llah, His family and companions experienced exceptionally inhumane conditions in early days in ‘Akka prison

Life in the prison of 'Akka in the early days was extremely difficult and tortuous. The heat was severe during the day and there was no adequate water for washing. For three months, the authorities did not allow Bahi'u'llah to attend the public bath which in those days was the only place where people could take a bath. The guards had been given strict orders not to allow any person to visit Him. Even when a barber came to attend to Baha'u'llah's hair, he was accompanied by a guard and was not allowed to talk to Him. 'Abdu'l-Baha had to live in a room on the ground floor which had been formerly used as a morgue. Its moist air affected His health for the rest of His life. As for the prisoners, the filthy conditions under which they were living, the lack of proper food and hygiene, and the severity of restrictions, took their toll. Shortly after their arrival in the barracks, all but two fell sick. Nine of the ten guards were also struck down by illness. Malaria and dysentery added to their ordeal. The only two unaffected at that stage were 'Abdu'l-Baha and Aqa Riday-i-Qannad, although both of them were taken ill at a later time. The Master, helped by this believer, attended to the needs of the sick and nursed them day and night. The authorities did not call for a doctor to administer medicine. With the few provisions at His disposal all that 'Abdu'l-Baha could do was to cook for them a simple broth and some rice each day. But the hygienic conditions were appalling. The heat was severe during the day and there was no adequate water for washing.

August 30, 2010

An example of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s amazing patience, love and understanding …And, Myron Phelps’ book: The Master in ‘Akka

Among the early Western visitors who received permission to come were “Madame de Canavarro and Mr. [Myron] Phelps, who had been in the company of Dr. Arastu Khan on the last leg of their journey from Beirut to 'Akka. At the time of their arrival, the house which had been the residence of Baha’u’llah was fortunately unoccupied and available, and so the late doctor was taken to the pilgrim house and the two Western friends were housed in that residence. The American Mme. De Canavarro had previously been attracted to the Buddhist Faith, had become one of its ardent teachers and had spent large sums over the years in propagation of her views. She had sacrificed much in order to attain mastery of the Buddhist philosophy, and in the process had won distinction and renown. Sister Sanghamitta, as she was known, was an accomplished and well-respected member of her Faith and had a long-standing acquaintance with Western philosophy and a deep knowledge of Indian mysticism. She had translated and published the book of Buddha, in both English and French, under the title ‘The Gospel o f Buddha, and had now found the Baha’i Faith through the Buddhist Faith. She seemed to be about forty-five or fifty years old, and although suffering from physical infirmity was yet spiritually radiant and joyful. Mr. Phelps, on the other hand might be considered to be Sister Sanghamitta's spiritual brother. He professed belief in Buddhism, had literary ability, had journeyed to 'Akka with his spiritual sister and was keeping a journal of his observations and experiences. As she entered, she humbly kissed 'Abdu'l-Baha's hand. The Master treated her with the utmost consideration and tenderness as she was led to the andaruni of the Master's residence. The dinner-table discussions began next day.

August 24, 2010

The first human being to receive God’s Message brought to humanity by the Bab –- Mulla Husayn describes Its impact on him

Mulla Husayn … has left in everlasting language a memory of that first announcement by 'Ali Muhammad, the Báb. He could never forget the inner peace and serenity which he had felt in the life-creating presence of the Báb. He spoke often to his companions of that wondrous night. "I sat spellbound by His utterance," he said. "All the delights [of Paradise] I seemed to be experiencing that night. Methinks I was in a place of which it could be truly said: 'Therein no toil shall reach us,...but only the cry, Peace! Peace!'" Sleep had departed from Mulla Husayn as he listened to the music of his Beloved's voice. "'O thou who are the first to believe in Me. Verily, I am the Báb, the Gate of God.'" To Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in Him, the Báb gave the title: the Babu'l-Bab, the gate of the Gate. In that hour, the Báb proclaimed that He was the One foretold in all the holy Books of the past. He said that He had come to usher in a new era, a fresh springtime in the hearts of men. His name, the Báb, meant the door or gate. His teaching, He said, was to open the door or the gate to a new age of unity in which men would recognize one God and worship in one religion -- the same religion which all of God's prophets had taught from the beginning of time. It would be an age in which all men would live as brothers. The Báb cautioned Mulla Husayn not to tell either his companions or any other soul what he had seen and heard. In the beginning, eighteen souls must spontaneously and of their own accord seek and accept Him and recognize the truth of His Revelation. When their number was complete, He would send them forth to teach the Word of God. Mulla Husayn's long search was at an end. His own words can best describe the depth of that experience:

August 17, 2010

How did it feel to be near the Guardian -- his humility and selflessness

(Recalled by Hand of the Cause of God, Ugo Giachery. Mr. Giachery visited Haifa on several occasions and spent a number of months there.)

Humility of a kind not yet known elsewhere was one of Shoghi Effendi's many unique virtues, a humility which came from the conviction that man's faculties are not self-created but are a precious trust from God, not to be displayed or used overbearingly or with vanity. And yet he emanated true pride and dignity, such a regal dignity that raised him far above any man I have yet met or known.

When conversing with him, one could strongly sense this feeling of humility, while his ample brow and penetrating eyes reflected an inner light born of faith, courage and determination. One could feel an awareness that was amazing and rendered one speechless.

August 13, 2010

What one of the early believers experienced when he attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh

Every time I attained His [Bahá’u’lláh’s] presence, I would find the portals of His grace and revelation open before my eyes. Each of them was a mighty proof and a precious gift. All those supernatural acts that I witnessed in His blessed presence and the immense joy which flooded my soul as I sat before Him are indescribable and cannot be recorded here... In the gatherings of the friends, if the Blessed Beauty turned his face to a person, that individual was unable to gaze upon His countenance and see the effulgent rays of the Sun of Truth. It was therefore Bahá'u'lláh's practice to look to the right side as He spoke, so that the friends might find it easier to look at His face. And if He ever turned His face towards the friends, He would close His eyes and speak...

August 8, 2010

The episode of a roving Bedouin who stole the Bab’s saddlebag while He was on His way to Mecca

One day, when the Báb had dismounted close to a well in order to offer His morning prayer, a roving Bedouin suddenly appeared on the horizon, drew near to Him, and, snatching the saddlebag that had been lying on the ground beside Him, and which contained His writings and papers, vanished into the unknown desert. His Ethiopian servant set out to pursue him, but was prevented by his Master, who, as He was praying, motioned to him with His hand to give up his pursuit. "Had I allowed you," the Báb later on affectionately assured him, "you would surely have overtaken and punished him. But this was not to be. The papers and writings which that bag contained are destined to reach, through the instrumentality of this Arab, such places as we could never have succeeded in attaining. Grieve not, therefore, at his action, for this was decreed by God, the Ordainer, the Almighty." Many a time afterwards did the Báb on similar occasions seek to comfort His friends by such reflections. By words such as these He turned the bitterness of regret and of resentment into radiant acquiescence in the Divine purpose and into joyous submission to God's will. (Nabil , The Dawn-Breakers, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi, p. 132)

August 3, 2010

September 23rd, 1911, London, Britain -- ‘Abdu’l-Baha related the story of His life in prison at the request of a reporter who had asked for an interview

We sat in a circle facing 'Abdu'l-Bahá who inquired if there were any questions we would like to ask. I said my editor had sent me to ascertain something of his prison life, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá at once related in a simple impersonal way one of the most remarkable stories conceivable:

"At nine years of age, I accompanied my father, Bahá'u'lláh, in his journey of exile to Baghdad, seventy of his disciples going with us. This decree of exile, after persistent persecution, was intended to effectively stamp out of Persia what the authorities considered a dangerous religion. Bahá'u'lláh, with his family and followers, was banished, and travelled from one place to another. When I was about twenty-five years old, we were moved from Constantinople to Adrianople, and from there went with a guard of soldiers to the fortressed city of 'Akká, where we were imprisoned and closely guarded."

July 28, 2010

The story of how Nabil-i-Akbar acknowledged Baha’u’llah as the Supreme Manifestation of God

Nabil-i-Akbar [who was later named by the Guardian as one of the 19 Apostles of Baha’u’llah] was acknowledged as one of the most outstanding men of learning in Persia. His fame had spread throughout the country to such an extent that once, when he spoke incognito to a number of divines in far-off [city of] Kirman, his listeners were lost in admiration of his superb discourse and some were heard to say that the only person in the whole country who could rival such a man in the field of learning and knowledge would be the famous Mulla Muhammad-i-Qa'ini (that is, Nabil-i-Akbar himself).

He embraced the Bábí Faith about the year 1853. Some six years later [about 1859], while in Baghdad, he went to visit Bahá'u'lláh. [this is before Baha’u’llah’s Declaration in the Garden of Ridvan in 1863] There he was warmly received by Him, and was accorded the honour of staying in the outer apartments of His house, normally reserved for the reception of visitors. Mirza Aqa Jan [Baha’u’llah’s amanuensis] was instructed by Bahá'u'lláh to act as host to him. The following is an extract from the spoken chronicle of Nabil-i-Akbar relating the events of those few days that he spent in the house of Bahá'u'lláh:

July 26, 2010

Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah – Recollection by Hand of the Cause of God, Dr. Ugo Giachery

Dr. Ugo Giachery was appointed by Shoghi Effendi in 1948 as the Guardian’s personal representative for all the work in Italy associated with the erection of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab on Mr. Carmel. It was this service which brought him the immortal honour of having the south-western door of the original Shrine named after him as 'Bab-i-Giachery'. In 1951 Shoghi Effendi appointed Dr. Giachery Hand of the Cause of God, and in 1952 'Member at Large' of the international Baha'i Council, the forerunner of the Universal House of Justice. Below is the recollection of Dr. Giachery concerning the first time he entered the Shrine of Baha’u’llah:

“The first time I beheld the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, I was overcome by deep emotion and, as I walked close to it, trepidation and excitement made it almost impossible for me to advance further. Years of expectation surged in my mind, and the desire to prostrate myself upon the Holy Tomb for a long time the goal of my life which was now becoming reality, was at the same time urging and restraining me. Perplexity held me fastened to the ground, and if it had not been for the gentle calling of my escort, I should have remained in that state for quite a long time.

July 17, 2010

God Answers the prayer of Lua Getsinger’s mother …

Lua Getsinger was an outstanding early American Baha’i who accepted the Faith in Chicago in 1897 – she was then 26 years old. She was among the first Western pilgrims to visit ‘Abdu’l-Baha in 1898. She was given the title ‘Herald of the Covenant’ by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and was named a Disciple of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and ‘Mother Teacher of the West’ by Shoghi Effendi.

Both Lua and her mother were born in rural upstate New York in the village of Hume. Both shared an outer life of delight in the farm with its green fields and growing things, but an inner life of unrest and dissatisfaction. There was no one to answer their questions. They hungered for knowledge of every kind, especially knowledge of God And His creation, but each cup seemed to be empty.

It all began with Lua's mother. Ellen McBride Moore imbibed these ideas with her mother's milk. She was but five when the call for the first woman's rights convention in all history was made in that same upper New York at Seneca Falls. Change was in the air.

Ellen McBride Moore was born in 1843. It was the year of the great comet. All eyes stared up at the night skies searching the heavens in fear of the great fiery tail millions of miles long. Some said it heralded the end of the world.

July 14, 2010

The Story of Baha’u’llah – told by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Tonight I wish to tell you something of the history of the Bahá'í Revelation.

The Blessed Perfection, Bahá'u'lláh, belonged to the nobility of Persia. From earliest childhood He was distinguished among His relatives and friends. They said, "This child has extraordinary power." In wisdom, intelligence and as a source of new knowledge, He was advanced beyond His age and superior to His surroundings. All who knew Him were astonished at His precocity. It was usual for them to say, "Such a child will not live," for it is commonly believed that precocious children do not reach maturity. During the period of youth the Blessed Perfection did not enter school. He was not willing to be taught. This fact is well established among the Persians of Tihran. Nevertheless, He was capable of solving the difficult problems of all who came to Him. In whatever meeting, scientific assembly or theological discussion He was found, He became the authority of explanation upon intricate and abstruse questions presented.

Until His father passed away, Bahá'u'lláh did not seek position or political station notwithstanding His connection with the government. This occasioned surprise and comment. It was frequently said, "How is it that a young man of such keen intelligence and subtle perception does not seek lucrative appointments? As a matter of fact, every position is open to him." This is an historical statement fully attested by the people of Persia.

July 12, 2010

Hearing Baha’u’llah Chanting Verses of God -- an experience recalled by Haji Mirza Haydar 'Ali

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali [designated by 'Abdu'l-Baha as the 'Angel of Mount Carmel'] describes the effect of being in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh when He chanted a Tablet He had revealed for him:

This Tablet... was chanted by the Beauty of the All-Bountiful [Baha’u’llah]. What an effect it had on me! To what a world did I ascend! To what a paradise did I enter! What did I see! In what way did I hear that voice and that melody!... These I cannot tell. I entered that Paradise which no eye had seen, and no ear had heard, nor any heart had felt. I saw the Kingdom of grandeur and majesty, and felt the might, the transcendent power, the glory, and the sovereignty of the ever-living, the ever-abiding, the incomparable God. But to speak of it, write about it, give an image or likeness of it, exalt and sanctify it, allude to it, extol and praise it, or describe and narrate it, all these are impossible for this humble servant or anyone else in the world. We have only access to words and terms, whereas that experience and condition are exalted above all things. They cannot be put into words or described by talks. No one can interpret the inner feelings of one's conscience... But this condition remains only for a single moment. It is a fleeting experience. Its manifestation within the human being is due to a special bounty of God. Its duration, varying from the twinkling of an eye to a longer period, depends upon one's capacity to become the recipient of this bounty. The deeds and actions of the person demonstrate its existence. But it has never been heard that this condition lasted for three or four months in a person except in Badi' (the youth that carried Baha’u’llah’s Message to the King of Persia) … (Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, quoted by Adib Taherzadeh in ‘The Revelation of Baha'u'llah v 3’, p. 182)

July 6, 2010

Bahá'u'lláh recalled the endeavour and the achievement of His Son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha

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 'Akká. 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, quoted by Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali in his autobiography “The Delight of Hearts”; Balyuzi, “Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant”, p. 25)

June 14, 2010

How Juliet Thompson heard about the Baha’i Faith

Juliet Thompson, (1873-1956) was a prominent early American Baha’i and artist. She was in Paris where she learned about the Faith and became a Baha'i in 1901. After a few years she settled in New York. In 1909 she went to 'Akka on pilgrimage and met 'Abdu'l-Baha, to whom she became devoted. When He arrived in New York in 1912, she followed Him everywhere and He agreed to allow her to paint His portrait. Juliet wrote a moving story about Mary Magdalen which was published in 1940. She describes here how she first heard about the Faith from Laura Barney – Laura is the believer “whose imperishable service was to collect and transmit to posterity in the form of a book, entitled "Some Answered Questions," 'Abdu'l-Bahá's priceless explanations, covering a wide variety of subjects, given to her in the course of an extended pilgrimage to the Holy Land.” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 259)

June 7, 2010

Early believers recall witnessing the majesty, beauty, power and authority of Baha’u’llah

Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali, known by Western Baha’is as the ‘Angle of Carmel’ related the following story:

A certain man … once requested the late Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i . . ., an early believer and one of the Mirrors of the Babi Dispensation, to describe the countenance of the Bab ... and its beauty. He said 'He was unsurpassed in beauty and sweetness; I saw in Him all the goodness and beauty ascribed to the person of Joseph.' … I asked him to tell us about the beauty of the One (Baha'u'llah) in Whose holy presence the Kingdom of beauty prostrates itself and at whose threshold the most high realm of omnipotence and majesty raises a song of praise and glory. He replied, 'Know with absolute certainty that if anyone, whether friend or foe, claims that he was able to look directly into the blessed face of Baha'u'llah he is a liar. I tested this repeatedly and tried time and again to gaze upon His blessed countenance, but was unable to do so. Sometimes, when a person attains the presence of Baha'u'llah, he is so enamoured and carried away that in fact he becomes dumbfounded, awestruck, oblivious of himself and forgetful of the world. And whenever he is not carried away, should he try to look into His blessed face with concentration, it would be like looking into the sun. In the same way that the eye is blinded by the efflulgent rays of the sun, causing tears to flow, should one persist in gazing upon the countenance of the Blessed Beauty, tears will fill the eyes making it impossible to gain any impression of Him.'

June 2, 2010

A story recalled by Baha’u’llah on becoming selfless ..

The story is told of a mystic knower, who went on a journey with a learned grammarian as his companion. They came to the shore of the Sea of Grandeur. The knower straightway flung himself into the waves, but the grammarian stood lost in his reasonings, which were as words that are written on water. The knower called out to him, "Why dost thou not follow?" The grammarian answered, "O Brother, I dare not advance. I must needs go back again." Then the knower cried, "Forget what thou didst read in the books of …[rhetoric and grammar], and cross the water." The death of self is needed here, not rhetoric: Be nothing, then, and walk upon the waves. (Baha'u'llah, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, pp. 51-52)

June 1, 2010

Mulla Husayn describes the effect on him of his first meeting with the Bab

I felt possessed of such courage and power that were the world, all its peoples and its potentates, to rise against me, I would, alone and undaunted, withstand their onslaught. The universe seemed but a handful of dust in my grasp. I seemed to be the Voice of Gabriel personified, calling unto all mankind: "Awake, for, lo! the morning Light has broken. Arise, for His Cause is made manifest. The portal of His grace is open wide; enter therein, O peoples of the world! For He who is your promised One is come!" (The Dawn-Breakers, Nabil's Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Revelation,; translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi p.65)

May 26, 2010

Being in the presence of Baha’u’llah when Tables are revealed -- recalled by Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali

Once I requested to be in Baha'u'llah's room when He was revealing Tablets. This request met with His approval. As I entered His room, I heard streams of words sweeping along in a torrential flow from His lips. It seemed that the atmosphere, the floor, the walls, and every atom in the room was filled with perfume. Only those who have had this indescribable experience can ever imagine what I mean. The flow of revelation continued for about five minutes. Then Baha'u'llah said to me, "You have on several occasions been here when the revelation of Tablets has taken place. Should the people of the whole world wish to be present and hear the words of revelation, We would permit them. But since We have approved courtesy and ordained it upon men, we are reluctant to display this power publicly." 
- Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali  ('The Delight of Hearts')

May 23, 2010

Shoghi Effendi received his first Tablet from ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Dr Zia Baghdadi, an intimate of the family, in his recollections … tells us the story of Shoghi Effendi's first Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Dr Baghdadi states that when Shoghi Effendi was only five years old he was pestering the Master to write something for him, whereupon 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote this touching and revealing letter in His own hand:

"He is God!
O My Shoghi, I have no time to talk, leave me alone! You said 'write' - I have written. What else should be done? Now is not the time for you to read and write, it is the time for jumping about and chanting 'O My God!', therefore memorize the prayers of the Blessed Beauty and chant them that I may hear them, because there is no time for anything else."

It seems that when this wonderful gift reached the child he set himself to memorize a number of Bahá'u'lláh's prayers and would chant them so loudly that the entire neighbourhood could hear his voice; when his parents and other members of the Master's family remonstrated with him, Shoghi Effendi replied, according to Dr Baghdadi, "The Master wrote to me to chant that He may hear me! I am doing my best!" and he kept on chanting at the top of his voice for many hours every day. Finally his parents begged the Master to stop him, but He told them to let Shoghi Effendi alone. This was one aspect of the small boy's chanting. We are told there was another: he had memorized some touching passages written by 'Abdu'l-Bahá after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh and when he chanted these the tears would roll down the earnest little face. From another source we are told that when the Master was requested by a western friend, at that time living in His home, to reveal a prayer for children He did so, and the first to memorize it and chant it was Shoghi Effendi who would also chant it in the meetings of the friends. (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 8)

May 17, 2010

An Account of the meeting between Siyyid Kazim and the Bab (prior to His formal Declaration) – seen through the eyes of one of Siyyid Kazim’s students

Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi, who later became one of the secretaries of the Bab, related to Nabil, the great early historian of the Faith, a fascinating account of the first time he met the Bab – which occurred before the Bab’s Declaration on May 23rd, 1844. It happened in the city of Karbila, which is located about 55 miles southwest of Baghdad on the Euphrates. This city is viewed as a Holy city by Shi’ih Muslims since Imam Husayn was martyred and buried there. It is considered in Islam to be one of the two “supreme shrines”, the other being Najaf.

At the time of their meeting, Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi was in the company of his teacher and master, Siyyid Kazim, who was one of the two forerunners of the Bab. Siyyid Kazim was preaching about the advent of the Qa’im [the Promised One of Muslims, Whom the Bab later claimed to be]. Mulla Husayn and a number of others who would later embrace the faith of the Bab, were among the students of Siyyid Kazim at the time of his death on December 31, 1843.

This was a time when Siyyid Kazim, realizing the approaching Hour of the Bab’s Declaration, was exerting his utmost endeavor to “remove gradually, with caution and wisdom, whatever barriers might stand in the way of the full recognition of that Hidden Treasure of God.” For instance, he hinted at the presence of that Promised One in their very midst, but for fear of causing danger to His Blessed Person, refrained from identifying him clearly. He would tell them: “‘You behold Him with your own eyes and yet recognize Him not!’ To his disciples who questioned him regarding the signs of the Manifestation, he would say: ‘He is of noble lineage. He is a descendant of the Prophet of God, of the family of Hashim. He is young in age, and is possessed of innate knowledge. His learning is derived, not from the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad [their previous master before Siyyid Kazim], but from God. My knowledge is but a drop compared with the immensity of His knowledge; my attainments a speck of dust in the face of the wonders of His grace and power. Nay, immeasurable is the difference. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking, and is of extreme devoutness and piety.’”

May 9, 2010

The Beauty of His Face -- A western believer recalls being in the presence of the Master in the Holy Land

"It is very difficult to remember much of what of He said. Indeed, it was almost difficult to listen! I wished only to look and look at the beauty of His face! For that was what impressed me first, the exquisite beauty of the Master. It was like the most beautiful picture we have of Him, with life and color added. His is a face of living silver – the wonderful silver of hair and beard, and the blue of His eyes. The side face is majestic and sweet and loving. It was that which we saw most of the time. The full face is more dignified; to me it seemed more awe-inspiring. And yet, when He smiled, it was most exquisitely friendly, and human! But He looked very, very tired …and yet the weariness was not, I think, a weariness of spirit. I cannot tell why I feel that way, partly because He can reach, as no one else can, the infinite sources of spiritual strength.

"I had no desire to speak to the Master; there was nothing that I could say. I do not know what happened in my mind and heart. There was no shock, no surprise, no sadness, no thought of my own faulty past. But I came to understand that for one who has been long in His presence, there can be no desire except to serve Him; that one's life would be happy only as one pleased Him; that one would be sad only as one grieved Him. I felt then that I had begun to learn -- that the will to serve was becoming greater as I had prayed that it might.. ." (The Baha’i World 1963-1968, pp. 326-328)
Please see Baha'i Heroes and Heroines for a brief description about this beleiver.
To see some pictures of the Master please visit Portraits of 'Abdu'l-Baha and 'Abdu'l-Baha Visits the West.

May 2, 2010

Account of the conversion of an American lady in ‘Abdu'l-Baha's presence in Akka -- recalled by Dr. Youness Afroukhteh, 'Abdu'l-Baha's secretary and translator

Another of the anti-religious visitors who entered the House of ‘Abdu'l-Baha as an implacable adversary of the whole concept of spirituality, and yet left it after having declared her belief in the Cause of God, was an American lady who arrived quite suddenly, and accepting no excuse almost forced her way to the biruni reception room on the upper floor. In her Arms she held a dog of an unsightly colour and with a hideous snout, which she petted incessantly.

Her first question to 'Abdu'l-Baha was this: "I have heard a lot in America about your greatness. They tell stories about you but I really have not understood the reality of the situation and I want to know what the truth of the matter is."

Of course, I do not recall the opening questions and answers, I just remember that 'Abdu'l-Baha, using Baha'i terminology, uttered a few words regarding the unity of God and gave proof of His existence with great eloquence. Suddenly she laughed and said, "I am astonished that you can compose so spontaneously, and with such eloquence and fluency, such sophisticated verses of poetry in proof of an imaginary thing. What does 'God' mean? It is truly a pity."

I immediately realized what she meant by the words "eloquence and fluency" and "sophisticated verses of poetry". 'Abdu'l-Baha had not spoken in the simple vernacular of this woman, but had used the literary expressions of the Faith; moreover, I had not shown any understanding of the situation and had translated the words parrot-like in the same manner. As the poet says,

I was taught the parrot's art by the Master divine,
Parrot-like I repeat His words, yet none that is mine.

And so this woman, being unfamiliar with these expressions had thought the eloquent utterances of 'Abdu'l-Baha to be merely verses of high-flown poetry.

April 22, 2010

Baha’u’llah shows kindness to an elderly woman in Baghdad

Every day Baha'u'llah walked to the coffeehouses near the bridge of the boats [in Baghdad]. Each day an elderly woman stood alongside the road and waited for Him to pass. She was poor and lived in a broken-down house. Baha'u'llah stopped each day and spoke kindly to the woman. He would inquire after her health, then give her a little money.

Each day the elderly woman would kiss Baha’u’llah’s hands to show her thanks, but sometimes she wanted to kiss His face. She was rather short and could not quite reach, so Baha'u'llah would bend down to let her kiss Him on the cheek ‘She knows that I like her,' Baha'u'llah would tell His companions, ‘that is why she likes Me.’ (Baha’u’llah, quoted by Balyuzi, Baha’u’llah: King of Glory, p. 151) (Druzelle Cederquist, The Story of Baha’u’llah, p. 159)

April 14, 2010

The amazing story of how ‘Abdu’r-Rahim entered the presence of his Lord in the barracks of the prison city of Akka during the early days of Baha’u’llah’s incarceration

‘Abdu’r-Rahim, whose original name was Ja’far, was a native of the town of Bushru'iyyih in northern Persia – the same town that was the birthplace of Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in the Báb.

Before his conversion to the Faith, 'Abdu'r-Rahim had been a fanatical Muslim. Having noticed the growth of the Faith, he once sought guidance from a local clergyman as to what his attitude should be towards the Bahá'ís. The clergyman told him that 'to fight them is as meritorious as taking part in a holy war”, and that “to kill them is praiseworthy in the sight of God”!

“These words provoked in 'Abdu'r-Rahim a strong urge to kill some Bahá'ís. Armed with a weapon, he one day confronted an old believer by the name of Haji Baba, and told him in no uncertain terms that he had come to take his life because he had strayed from the path of truth and had embraced the Faith of the Bahá'ís.

Faced with the threat of death, Haji Baba displayed unruffled calm and spoke with tenderness such words that the heart of 'Abdu'r-Rahim was touched. Soon his mood changed. Instead of being an enemy intent upon killing, he now wanted to investigate the truth.

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.''

March 22, 2010

The Bab’s stay in Isfahan – the amazing initial reception by the clergy and the people

In September of 1846, the Bab, accompanied by one of His followers by the name of Siyyid Kazim-i-Zanjani, left Shiraz and proceeded north towards Isfahan – a distance of about 360 miles. As He approached the outskirts of the city, He wrote a letter to Manuchihr Khan, the governor of the province, in which He requested him to appoint a place where He should dwell with the sanction of the government. The letter was entrusted to His companion, Siyyid Kazim who delivered it to the governor prior to the Bab reaching the gate of the city of Isfahan. When the governor received the letter he became so touched by the expressions of courtesy that the Bab had exhibited and amazed at His exquisite penmanship that he felt moved to instruct the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan, the foremost ecclesiastical authority of that province, to receive the Bab in his own home and to accord Him a kindly and generous reception. The Imam-Jumi’h accordingly instructed his own brother to proceed with a number of his favorite companions to meet and escort the expected Visitor to the gate of the city. As the Bab approached, the Imam-Jum'ih went out to welcome Him in person, and conducted Him ceremoniously to his house. It should be noted that this Imam-Jum’ih, whose name was Mir Siyyid Muhammad, was acknowledged in Persia as the principle ecclesiastical dignitary of the entire country. The governor of Isfahan was reported to have been a man of vigor and courage who, about five years prior to the Bab’s coming to Isfahan, had completely crushed a rebellion by the a number of the tribes in the area and had secured peace and justice for the people of Isfahan.

March 11, 2010

Zenobia, Queen of the East

A story related by ‘Abdu’l-Baha to demonstrate the falsity of the notion that women are weaker and less capable than men:

It has been objected by some that woman is not equally capable with man and that she is deficient by creation. This is pure imagination. The difference in capability between man and woman is due entirely to opportunity and education. Heretofore woman has been denied the right and privilege of equal development. If equal opportunity be granted her, there is no doubt she would be the peer of man. History will evidence this. In past ages noted women have arisen in the affairs of nations and surpassed men in their accomplishments. Among them was Zenobia, Queen of the East, whose capital was Palmyra. Even today the site of that city bears witness to her greatness, ability and sovereignty; for there the traveler will find ruins of palaces and fortifications of the utmost strength and solidity built by this remarkable woman in the third century after Christ. She was the wife of the governor-general of Athens. After her husband's death she assumed control of the government in his stead and ruled her province most efficiently. Afterward she conquered Syria, subdued Egypt and founded a most wonderful kingdom with political sagacity and thoroughness.

March 8, 2010

Prisoner in the Siyah-Chal

Having been forced to walk before royal horsemen and at their pace from Niyavaran to Tihran, a distance of about fifteen miles, in the burning heat of a summer day, barefoot, in chains and without His hat, which in those days was the very symbol of a man's dignity, Baha’u’llah was cast together with some eighty Babis into the capital’s infamous Siyah Chal – the Black Pit of Tehran.

The Siyah-Chal (Black Pit) was no ordinary prison, but a huge underground pit which no ray of sunlight ever penetrated. It once had served as a reservoir for one of the public baths of the city and had only one entrance. It was situated in the heart of Tihran close to a palace of the Shah and adjacent to the Sabzih-Maydan, the scene of execution of the Seven Babi Martyrs of Tihran. This dungeon was occupied by many prisoners, some of whom were without clothes or bedding. Its atmosphere was humid and dark, its air fetid and filled with a loathsome smell, its ground damp and littered with filth, and these conditions were matched by the brutality of the guards and officials towards the Bábí victims who were chained together in that dismal place.

Many years later, Baha’u’llah recalled His experience in the Siyah-Chal:

March 3, 2010

Forerunners of the Bab - Shaykh Ahmad & Siyyid Kazim

Before Baha'u'llah was born Shaykh Ahmad, a Muslim scholar known as "the most learned among the most learned,"(1) had made a profound discovery. In his studies of Islamic scripture, he had determined that the time promised by all the Prophets of God was at hand -- a time in which the world would receive not just one, but two new divine Messengers. These two "Promised Ones" would come like two trumpet blasts, said the Koran, one shortly after the other.[a] According to the Shi’ih branch of Islam, [b] the first Messenger would herald and prepare His followers to recognize the Messenger yet to come. The title of the first would be the ‘Qa’im’, meaning in Arabic "He Who Shall Arise." The title of the great Messenger yet to come would be the ‘Qayyum’ meaning "The All-Compelling.” [c]

Human history had seen the appearance of such divine Messengers before. Their ranks had included Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Krishna, and Buddha. They were the world's great Teachers – each One "a pure and stainless Soul"(2) entrusted by God with a sacred mission! Unlike philosophers and other ordinary teachers, each divine Messenger not only infused the world with new knowledge, but also released a tremendous new spiritual energy that gave rise to the advancement of whole civilizations.

February 22, 2010

Shoghi Effendi was an intensely active child

Shoghi Effendi was a small, sensitive, intensely active and mischievous child. He was not very strong in his early years and his mother often had cause to worry over his health. However, he grew up to have an iron constitution, which, coupled with the phenomenal force of his nature and will-power, enabled him in later years to overcome every obstacle in his path. ….

It may sound disrespectful to say the Guardian was a mischievous child, but he himself told me he was the acknowledged ringleader of all the other children. Bubbling with high spirits, enthusiasm and daring, full of laughter and wit, the small boy lead the way in many pranks; whenever something was afoot, behind it would be found Shoghi Effendi! This boundless energy was often a source of anxiety as he would rush madly up and down the long flight of high steps to the upper story of the house, to the consternation of the pilgrims below, waiting to meet the Master. His exuberance was irrepressible and was in the child the same force that was to make the man such an untiring and unflinching commander-in-chief of the forces of Bahá'u'lláh, leading them to victory after victory, indeed, to the spiritual conquest of the entire globe. We have a very reliable witness to this characteristic of the Guardian, 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself, Who wrote on a used envelope a short sentence to please His little grandson: "Shoghi Effendi is a wise man - but he runs about very much!"

It must not be inferred, however, that Shoghi Effendi was mannerless. Children in the East - how much more the children of 'Abdu'l-Bahá - were taught courtesy and manners from the cradle. Bahá'u'lláh's family was descended from kings and the family tradition, entirely apart from His divine teachings which enjoin courtesy as obligatory, ensured that a noble conduct and politeness would distinguish Shoghi Effendi from his babyhood. 
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 6-7) You can some some pictures of Shoghi Effendi as a child and youth at the following sites:

February 20, 2010

The first American Baha’i, Thornton Chase meets ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Akka

Some one said, "The Master!"—and he came into the room with a free, striding step, welcomed us in a clear, ringing voice—"Marhabba! Marhabba!" (Welcome! Welcome!)—and embraced us with kisses as would a father his son, or as would brothers after a long absence. It is no wonder that some have thought that the Master loved them more than all others, because he hesitates not to express his love and he truly "loves all humanity in each one." He is the great Humanitarian and each friend is to him the representative of all mankind.

He bade us be seated on the little divan; he sat on the high, narrow bed at one side of the room, drew up one foot under him, asked after our health, our trip, bade us be happy, and expressed his happiness that we had safely arrived. Then, after a few minutes, he again grasped our hands and abruptly left us. The friends also went out and left us alone. We looked at each other. I think we had not spoken at all except to answer "yes" or "no." We could not. We knew not what to say. But our hearts were full of joyful tears, because we were "at home." His welcoming spirit banished strangeness, as though we had always known him. It was as if, after long journeyings, weariness, trials and searching, we had at last reached home. The world of wanderings was left at the outer gate, we had entered into peace, joy, love, home. Those were moments of deep happiness; yet I could not fully realize the great blessedness of that meeting, which was the goal of my hope; but now its remembrance has become my joy and the treasure of my heart. I was filled with wonder at his simplicity, with admiration for his strength and dignity and love for his tenderness; these, mingled with delight and thankfulness, possessed me. 
('In Galilee', by Thornton Chase)

February 19, 2010

The mystical spiritual bond between the Master and Shoghi Effendi

Ella Goodall Cooper, an early American Baha’i who along with her mother, Helen Goodall, went to Akka as pilgrims in 1899 and 1908, wrote the following touching account:

One day...I had joined the ladies of the Family in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf for early morning tea, the beloved Master was sitting in His favorite corner of the divan where, through the window on His right, He could look over the ramparts and see the blue Mediterranean beyond. He was busy writing Tablets, and the quiet peace of the room was broken only by the bubble of the samovar, where one of the young maidservants, sitting on the floor before it, was brewing the tea.

Presently the Master looked up from His writing with a smile, and requested Ziyyih Khanum to chant a prayer. As she finished, a small figure appeared in the open doorway, directly opposite 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Having dropped off his shoes he stepped into the room, with his eyes focused on the Master's face. 'Abdu'l-Bahá returned his gaze with such a look of loving welcome it seemed to beckon the small one to approach Him. Shoghi, that beautiful little boy, with his cameo face and his soulful appealing, dark eyes, walked slowly toward the divan, the Master drawing him as by an invisible thread, until he stood quite close in front of Him. As he paused there a moment 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not offer to embrace him but sat perfectly still, only nodding His head two or three times, slowly and impressively, as it to say - "You see? This tie connecting us is not just that of a physical grandfather but something far deeper and more significant." While we breathlessly watched to see what he would do, the little boy reached down and picking up the hem of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's robe he touched it reverently to his forehead, and kissed it, then gently replaced it, while never taking his eyes from the adored Master's face. The next moment he turned away, and scampered off to play, like any normal child...At that time he was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's only grandchild... and, naturally, he was of immense interest to the pilgrims. 
(Memoir of Ella Goodall Cooper quoted by Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl)

February 16, 2010

‘Abdu’l-Baha among the street children of Paris

After a morning talk given by Abdu’l-Baha at his apartment No. 4 Ave. de Camoens on October 15, 1911, all those present were invited that Sunday afternoon to meet him at four o'clock at 22 rue Seeden Rollin pre Saint Gernais (Seine) outside the walls of Paris, where a real Baha’i settlement work is carried on by Mons. V. Ponsonaille and his good wife. They are poor people. He is employed as a collector for one of the large department stores in Paris. Having received the Message, he felt his work for the Cause of God was among the very poor children, waifs and those who had no parents; so with his wife, some years ago settled his home here and by going without their noon day meal (which to the French means much) they could give it to these little ones. They started in an old car where they met together to read the Tablets and hear the Word of Baha’u’llah. It wasn’t long before many came and it grew so that the clergy of many sects desired to have it consolidated under them. Mons. Ponsonaille did not consider this the way to serve best and he declined all these offers. At last, they grew so very jealous that they, with the help of the priests, took the car from him. The Baha’i friends in Paris offered to build a place for his work and Mons. Ponsonaille told them if they would furnish him the boards and nails that he would build it himself, which he did, and it was here that we went, and after three months spent going around Paris every day, I assure you I had never seen such a dirty, miserable quarter.

February 15, 2010

An example of Baha’u’llah’s high sense of justice

When Baha’u’llah along with His family and a number of His companions were travelling from Baghdad to Constantinople an incident took place near the city of Mardin which provides us with a wonderful example of Baha'u'llah's high sense of justice, a principle greatly stressed in His Revelation.

The caravan had encamped for the night at a small village below the town. “There, during the night, two mules, belonging to an Arab travelling with the caravan, were stolen. The owner was beside himself with grief. Baha'u'llah asked the official who accompanied the caravan to try and find the missing animals. Other officials were called in, but no animal was forthcoming. As the caravan was on the point of departing, the poor Arab went crying to Baha'u'llah. ‘You are leaving,’ he moaned, ‘and I shall never get back my beasts.’ Baha'u'llah immediately called off the resumption of the journey. ‘We will go to Firdaws [a nearby estate] and stay there’, He said, ‘until this man's mules are found and restored to him.’ (King of Glory, by Hasan Balyuzi, pp. 187-8)

February 11, 2010

Baha’u’llah vindicating the miracles of all the Prophets

One of Baha’u’llah’s bitterest enemies by the name of Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn was sent by the Shah of Persia to Karbila (near Baghdad) to carry out the repair of the Muslim holy sites. He invited all ranks of clergy to a conference held at his home. There he forcefully condemned Baha'u'llah's activities, accused Him of destroying the Faith of Islam, and demanded that holy war should be proclaimed against the Babis of ‘Iraq. The body of the divines approved. However, the leading mujtahid [1] of the Shi’ah community, Shaykh Murtiday-i-Ansari, a man of justice and piety, refused to sanction their evil plans and arose and abruptly left the meeting.

Some time before this, Baha'u'llah had invited Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn [the one who had called the conference of the divines] to meet Him face to face so that the truth of His Cause might be established. But the Shaykh, who had accepted the invitation at first, was afraid to meet the challenge and did not appear at the appointed place.

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.

February 6, 2010

The amazing story of Mulla Husayn finding the Mystery of God (Baha’u’llah) in Tihran

The story of Mulla Husayn as he tries to find a trace of His Beloved in Tihran is fascinating. The hand of providence brought him into close contact with a certain Mulla Muhammad who became immensely attracted to Mulla Husayn and the Message of the Báb. The story, recorded in the words of this Mulla Muhammad in The Dawn-Breakers, is as follows:

"'What is your name, and which city is your home?' 'My name,' I replied, 'is Mulla Muhammad, and my surname Mu'allim. My home is Nur, in the province of Mazindaran.' 'Tell me,' further enquired Mulla Husayn, 'is there to-day among the family of the late Mirza Buzurg-i-Nuri,[Baha’u’llah’s father] who was so renowned for his character, his charm, and artistic and intellectual attainments, anyone who has proved himself capable of maintaining the high traditions of that illustrious house?' 'Yea,' I replied, 'among his sons now living, one has distinguished Himself by the very traits which characterised His father. By His virtuous life, His high attainments, His loving-kindness and liberality, He has proved Himself a noble descendent of a noble father.' 'What is His occupation?' he asked me. 'He cheers the disconsolate and feeds the hungry,' I replied. 'What of His rank and position?' 'He has none,' I said, 'apart from befriending the poor and the stranger.' 'What is His name?' 'Husayn-'Ali.' 'In which of the scripts of His father does He excel?' 'His favourite script is shikastih-nasta'liq.' [an artistice style of handwriting] 'How does He spend His time?' 'He roams the woods and delights in the beauties of the countryside.' 'What is His age?' 'Eight and twenty.' The eagerness with which Mulla Husayn questioned me, and the sense of delight with which he welcomed every particular I gave him, greatly surprised me. Turning to me, with his face beaming with satisfaction and joy, he once more enquired: 'I presume you often meet Him?' 'I frequently visit His home,' I replied. 'Will you,' he said, 'deliver into His hands a trust from me?' 'Most assuredly,' was my reply. He then gave me a scroll wrapped in a piece of cloth, and requested me to hand it to Him the next day at the hour of dawn. 'Should He deign to answer me,' he added, 'will you be kind enough to acquaint me with His reply?' I received the scroll from him and, at break of day, arose to carry out his desire.

February 4, 2010

Tahirih’s last day in Tehran …

[in 1852] Tahirih, who was among the few remaining Letters of the Living, was … being held captive in Tehran. A delegation of religious leaders, in a series of seven conferences, had questioned her thoroughly about the Bab and His Cause. Tahrirh, in her own compelling style, presented clear proofs that the Bab was, indeed, the promised Qa’im.[1] She related verses from the Koran [Qur’an] that supported her arguments, but grew steadily more impatient with the mullas' insistence on a literal interpretation of the sacred scriptures. Finally, frustrated with their limited understanding, Tahirih spoke bluntly to her interrogators: "Your reasoning is that of an ignorant and stupid child; how long will you cling to these follies and lies? When will you lift your eyes toward the Sun of Truth?"

The delegation proceeded to formally denounce Tahirih and to recommend she be sentenced to death. Because she was a woman and of renowned family, she remained confined in a room at the house of the mayor of Tehran.

February 2, 2010

Reaction of Some Government Officials Seeing Baha’u’llah for the First Time

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali has recounted a brief story in which he describes the reaction of some government officials in 'Akka when they saw Baha'u'llah for the first time. He writes in his book, the Bihjatu’s-Sudur:

... It was the festival of Ridvan, which was celebrated in the home of Jinab-i-Kalim (Mirza Musa, the faithful brother of Baha’u'llah). I was staying in the outer apartment of his house. There were other apartments occupied by non-Baha’is; one was the residence of a certain 'Big' or ' Pasha' who had arrived in 'Akka as the head of customs and excise.

In the afternoon of the first day of Ridvan Baha'u'llah came out of the inner apartment to the place where the head of the customs and his officers were seated. As soon as He arrived, they arose spontaneously and, although it was not their way, they bowed. Lost in bewilderment and filled with wonder, they remained standing. Their hearts were enamoured of His peerless and beauteous countenance. Baha’u’llah went to them and spoke words of loving kindness. He then went back to the inner section. Bewildered and perplexed, the officer asked, 'Who was this distinguished personage? Is He the Holy Spirit or the King of Kings?' We answered, 'He is the father of 'Abbas Effendi' ('Abdu'l-Baha). (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah volume 2, p. 11; also in Stories of Baha’u’llah and Some Notable Believers by Kiser Barnes, pp. 71-72)

January 29, 2010

Sutherland Maxwell’s conversation with Abdu’l-Baha about God

In 1909, May and Sutherland Maxwell made a pilgrimage together to the Prison City of 'Akka, to visit 'Abdu'l-Baha. Sutherland was not yet a convinced Baha’i. One day at table, he said to 'Abdu'l-Baha: "The Christians worship God through Christ; my wife worships God through You; but I worship Him direct." 'Abdu'l-Baha smiled and said: "Where is He?" "Why, God is everywhere," replied Sutherland. "Everywhere is nowhere," said 'Abdu'l-Baha. He then went on to demonstrate that such worship was worship of a figment of the imagination and had no reality; we must worship God through something tangible and real to us, hence the role of the Manifestations. Sutherland bowed his head in acceptance. The real seed of his faith germinated from that hour… 
(The Baha’i World 1950-1954)

January 28, 2010

Shoghi Effendi – News of the birth of Abdu’l-Baha’s first grandson and His successor

Since 'Abdu’l-Baha didn’t have any surviving sons so apparently when the news of His first grandson being born reached the West “a believer in America had written to Him that in the Bible is mentioned that after 'Abdu'l-Bahá ‘a little child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6) and does this mean a real, live child who exists?” (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 1) This question was answered by the Master in the following Tablet that was sent to this believer:

O Maidservant of God!

Verily, that child is born and is alive and from him will appear wondrous things that thou wilt hear of in the future. Thou shalt behold him endowed with the most perfect appearance, supreme capacity, absolute perfection, consummate power and unsurpassed might. His face will shine with a radiance that illumines all the horizons of the world; therefore forget this not as long as thou dost live inasmuch as ages and centuries will bear traces of him. Upon thee be greetings and praise. Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas” (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 1)

Since “there was practically no contact between the Bahá'ís of the West and East in those days and Tablets were circulated among the American friends by copy or word of mouth” (ibid, p. 1), the existence of such an important Tablet was not known to the believers in the East. It should also be noted that, as Ruhiyyih Khanum explains: “Many years before His passing, in answer to a question from some Persian believers as to whether there would be one person to whom all should turn after His death, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had written:

January 25, 2010

The Shah sent his special envoy to meet with the Bab and investigate the truth of His claims

Before long, news about the young man Who called Himself the Bab --"the Gate” -- traveled as far as the court of Persia's ruler, Muhammad Shah. The fact that so many of his people were drawn to the Cause of the Bab made the shah both curious and concerned. He decided he must find out more about the Bab and His claims. To investigate on his behalf, he called on the one man acknowledged throughout the land as the most brilliant of religious scholars. At whatever gathering he spoke, no matter how learned the participants, all others would choose to sit in respectful silence and listen to him. Knowledgeable and wise beyond all others, he was also a man of integrity, truthful and trustworthy. His name was Siyyid Yahya, but he would become known as Vahid, meaning "the Peerless One."

The shah commanded Vahid to meet with the Bab in Shiraz and there investigate the truth of His claims, then return to Tehran and report his findings. Vahid was pleased to obey. He, too, had heard of the Bab and His Cause and wished to satisfy his own desire for more information. On the journey from Tehran to Shiraz, he thought of the many questions with which he would test the Bab. Vahid did not plan to make the interview easy, but thorough and demanding. The truth deserved no less. Little did the brilliant Vahid know that nothing in his previous experience had prepared him for what lay ahead.

January 20, 2010

Story of Haji Abdu’llah and His conversation with ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Haji Abdu’llah is a Baha’i of eighty years of age. He has lived fifty years in Egypt and has ever been a devoted Baha’i; and a sincere believer. He is dressed in Eastern robes and has a long gray beard. Although advanced in age, he is vigorous and in good health. He has seen Egypt become most prosperous through the opening of the Suez Canal. He lives in one of the small towns in the interior of the country and having heard about the arrival of the Master has come to see him. Today he received permission to return to his work. He had a conversation with ‘Abdul Baha.

‘Abdu’l-Baha asked him how old he was. He said he was over eighty years old.

Well! He had lived a good long life and now he looked younger than ‘Abdu’l-Baha!

It was through the Favor of Baha’u’llah, voiced the old veteran.

It was true! ‘Abdu’l-Baha told him, and wished to know whether he desired to live much longer.

Haji Abdu’llah gave an affirmative answer.

‘Abdu’l-Baha was surprised. What? Was this life so sweet to the old man's taste for him to long for an extension of it? Why was this? As to ‘Abdu’l-Baha he was ready to leave this ephemeral world. It contained no attraction for him. ‘Abdu’l-Baha likened himself to a man who has heard that he must travel twenty days before reaching his destination. Having traveled already fifteen days, he is eager to hasten his trip and arrive at his goal. He is anticipating the eternal union with the Beloved at the end of his journey; therefore he is impatient!

The old man was deeply moved and spoke in a tremulous voice. He did not want to live for himself. Looking back at the map of his life, he saw many barren years stretching before his eyes, for he had not been confirmed in the service of the Cause. Therefore he desired to do something. He was hoping against hope that he might yet be enabled to render a great service to the Cause. He knew that he was very old, but his hope was young, and his eyes were filled with tears.
(Related by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, one of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s secretaries, ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Egypt)

January 18, 2010

The amazing way in which Shoghi Effendi wrote God Passes By - The touching history of the first century of the Cause

The method of Shoghi Effendi in writing God Passes By was to sit down for a year and read every book of the Bahá'í Writings in Persian and English, and every book written about the Faith by Bahá'ís, whether in manuscript form or published, and everything written by non-Bahá'ís that contained significant references to it. I think, in all, this must have covered the equivalent of at least two hundred books. As he read he made notes and compiled and marshalled his facts. Anyone who has ever tackled a work of an historical nature knows how much research is involved, how often one has to decided, in the light of relevant material, between this date given in one place and that date given in another, how back-breaking the whole work is. How much more so then was such a work for the Guardian who had, at the same time, to prepare for the forthcoming Centenary of the Faith and make decisions regarding the design of the superstructure of the Báb's Shrine. When all the ingredients of his book had been assembled Shoghi Effendi commenced weaving them into the fabric of his picture of the significance of the first century of the Bahá'í Dispensation. It was not his purpose, he said, to write a detailed history of those hundred years, but rather to review the salient features of the birth and rise of the Faith, the establishment of its administrative institutions, and the series of crises which had propelled it forward in a mysterious manner, through the release of the Divine power within it, from victory to victory. He revealed to us the panorama of events which, he wrote, "the revolution of a hundred years...has unrolled before our eyes" and lifted the curtain on the opening acts of what he asserted was one "indivisible, stupendous and sublime drama, whose mystery no intellect can fathom, whose climax no eye can even dimly perceive, whose conclusion no mind can adequately foreshadow."

January 15, 2010

A Story by 'Abdu'l-Baha concerning a finite mind attempting to explain the reality of Manifestation of God

It is said that once John of Chrysostom* was walking along the seashore thinking over the question of the trinity and trying to reconcile it with finite reason; his attention was attracted to a boy sitting on the shore putting water into a cup. Approaching him, he said, "My child, what art thou doing?" "I am trying to put the sea into this cup," was the answer. "How foolish art thou," said John, "in trying to do the impossible." The child replied, "Thy work is stranger than mine, for thou art laboring to bring within the grasp of human intellect the conception of the trinity." (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 152)
[*] c. 347-407. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches honor him as a saint and count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus. He is recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church as a saint and Doctor of the Church. Churches of the Western tradition, including the Roman Catholic Church, some Anglican provinces, and parts of the Lutheran Church, commemorate him on 13 September. Some Lutheran and many Anglican provinces commemorate him on the traditional Eastern feast day of 27 January.(Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia)

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.

January 9, 2010

An example of Christ's sin-covering eye

One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.

It happened one day in the time of Christ—may the life of the world be a sacrifice unto Him—that He passed by the dead body of a dog, a carcass reeking, hideous, the limbs rotting away. One of those present said: ‘How foul its stench!’ And another said: ‘How sickening! How loathsome!’ To be brief, each one of them had something to add to the list.

But then Christ Himself spoke, and He told them: ‘Look at that dog’s teeth! How gleaming white!’

The Messiah’s sin-covering gaze did not for a moment dwell upon the repulsiveness of that carrion. The one element of that dead dog’s carcass which was not abomination was the teeth: and Jesus looked upon their brightness.
(‘Abdu'l-Baha, 'Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha')

January 5, 2010

The story of how the Bab’s wife, Khadijih Bagum, became a believer

About a year after Ahmad's [the Bab’s son] birth and death, on the night of 22 May 1844, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad declared to Mulla Husayn in the upper chamber of His house in Shiraz that He was the promised Qa’im. Khadijih Bagum's response to the Bab's claim is recorded in The Dawn-Breakers:

"The wife of the Bab . . . perceived at the earliest dawn of His Revelation the glory and uniqueness of His Mission and felt from the very beginning the intensity of its force." (The Dawn-Breakers, p. 191)

Through her close association with the Bab and her observation of every aspect of His life, Khadijih Bagum, long before His declaration to Mulla Husayn, had discovered her husband's extraordinary spiritual endowments. However she was unaware of the claim He was to make and the nature of His mission until she experienced something unique which confirmed her belief in Him. (Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, p. 33)

In His historical manuscript, her great nephew, Haji Mirza Habibu’llah Afnan has recorded the following account which was related by the wife of the Bab, Khadijih Bagum: