December 31, 2012

This is not an ordinary child, verily this is a precious and darling angel!

Dr. Baghdadi [an intimate of the Holy family who years later wrote a book about the time he spent with the family of Abdu’l-Baha] recounts how, on one of these visits [to Beirut] when Shoghi Effendi, a child of five or six years of age, accompanied his parents, the Greatest Holy Leaf and other members of the family there, he spent most of his time in Dr. Baghdadi's room, looking at the pictures in his medical books and asking questions. It seems Shoghi Effendi wanted to see something actually dissected; he was not satisfied with just pictures. This zeal for knowledge (and no doubt those large eyes, so insistent and intelligent) quite won over the young medical student who had a victim provided - a large wildcat - and proceeded to cut it up in front of Shoghi Effendi, one of his aunts and the servant who had shot it. They watched in absorbed silence. When it was over, and Dr. Baghdadi was asking himself how such a small child could have understood what it was all about, he was astonished to hear Shoghi Effendi recapitulating word for word the salient points of what he had described during his dissection. "I said to myself," Dr. Baghdadi then writes, "this is not an ordinary child, verily this is a precious and darling angel!" As one of Shoghi Effendi's subjects in 1916 was zoology, he must have recalled his first early lesson in anatomy. 
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl)

December 26, 2012

Shoghi Effendi’s desire to write even at a very young age

In his recollections of those early years one of the Bahá'ís has written that one day Shoghi Effendi entered the Master's room, took up His pen and tried to write. 'Abdu'l-Bahá drew him to His side, tapped him gently on the shoulder and said "Now is not the time to write, now is the time to play, you will write a lot in the future." Nevertheless the desire of the child to learn led to the formation of classes in the Master's household for the children, taught by an old Persian believer. I know that at one time in his childhood, most likely while he was still living in 'Akká, Shoghi Effendi and other grandchildren were taught by an Italian, who acted as governess or teacher; a grey-haired elderly lady, she came to call shortly after I was married. 
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, 'The Priceless Pearl')

December 20, 2012

Sarah’s Vision of Peace

On a hot June day in the year 1892, a middle-aged woman sat in a crowded lecture hall. Despite the heat, her face looked peaceful as she listened to the speaker talk about the life of the spirit.

Suddenly she grew tense, her expressive brown eyes lighting up with excitement. Drawing a pencil and paper from her purse, she wrote down these words: "Green Acre -- tent on riverbank -- all races -- religions -- music science -- understanding -- peace.''

That evening she told her father what had happened. "I was listening to a lecture, and the noise of traffic almost drowned the speaker's voice. I thought what a glorious thing it would be for poor, tired, struggling humanity to have some spot on earth where our bodies and souls might be refreshed at the same time.

"Suddenly I saw this need and with it how to begin to help. I saw a picture of Green Acre with its acres of beautiful fields and pines and the river with the Inn high above its bank. But instead of a small summer resort, it had become a great center of learning.. .There were all races and creeds there, and happy children and young people ready to learn how to make their lives of value. Peace was the aim of everyone's efforts…" The woman's face glowed with excitement and she continued. "I saw also that in the years ahead the conferences would grow into a school and the school into a university.. . dedicated to man's highest achievements in the arts, sciences, religion, and philosophy. The spiritual principles of the New Day would find their complete expression in the life of Green Acre. This is what you and Mother and I have always been working towards, but we saw only parts of the plan, and now I have seen it all!"

November 16, 2012

May Maxwell sees ‘Abdu’l-Baha for the first time

May Bolles Maxwell was one of the first group of pilgrims from the West who, in 1898-99, visited ‘Abdu’l-Baha while He was still a prisoner in ‘Akka. Below is a segment from her memoir:

We sailed from Marseilles on February 9th, 1898, on board the S.S. Carthage bound for Bombay and arrived in Port Said on February 13th. We were met on board by Ahmad Yazdi and Nurullah Effendi. They did everything for us, got us rooms at the hotel, attended to our baggage, and during the time we were there came to us almost every hour of the day and evening, inviting us to their homes, taking us to drive, and indeed showing us a love and kindness such as we had never seen before. At the time we could not understand the spirit which animated them, but afterwards we knew that we were dead and they were living and were quickened with the love of God.

On the afternoon of our arrival Nurullah Effendi called for us and drove us to his house, where we met his dear wife and daughters with the same radiant faces and wonderful love that we had seen in our two brothers, and there for the first time we beheld the face of our beloved Master. I could not remove my eyes from this picture, and these friends gave us each a copy and a lock of hair of the Blessed Perfection. Then we were entertained with tea and many sweet cakes, and when we left, although not a word had been spoken except through an occasional interpretation of our brother, we were united in an indissoluble bond of love, and we felt that no language could have been more eloquent than that silence in which our hearts alone had spoken.

October 10, 2012

An example of Baha’u’llah’s insistence on the pursuit of justice

The following two complementary accounts relate an incident that took place during Baha’u’llah’s exile from Baghdad to Constantinople in the summer of 1863. The first unpublished account is from Aqa Husayn-i-Ashchi, a youth from Kashan who served Bahá'u'lláh as a cook in His household in Adrianople and later in 'Akká and one of His devoted servants. The second account, complementing the first, is from Nabil’s unpublished narrative. They are compiled by the Hand of the Cause 'Ali-Akbar Furutan.

As our caravan was passing through a village at the foot of Mount Mardin we were joined by an Arab muleteer from Damascus. The Blessed Beauty invited him to stay with the caravan during the night, since the area was swarming with thieves, but the muleteer chose instead to sleep outside the encampment. In the night highwaymen robbed him of his mules.

Next morning the caravan had scarcely resumed its journey when the Arab rushed to Baha'u'llah's howdah [a litter, seat or covered pavilion, carried on the back of a camel, mule, horse, or elephant for travelling purposes] and, seizing the hem of His robe, implored His help: 'I want my mules back,' he cried. Baha'u'llah directed that the howdahs be lowered, and summoned the official appointed to accompany Him. 'Tell him,’ said to the Master ['Abdu'l-Baha], 'that the stolen mules must be recovered.'

The official sent for the Kad-khuda [headman] of the village, who, apprised of the situation, remarked: 'Although this man was advised to stay within the circle of tents with the rest of the travellers because the region is infested with thieves, he did not heed the warnings. Consequently, we are not to blame nor are we responsible. Some time ago an entire load of silk belonging to 'Umar Pasha, the governor of Baghdad, was stolen in this very spot. Since a regiment was unable to locate the stolen goods, what hope is there that we can find this man's mules?'

On hearing this, the Blessed Beauty stated: 'The words of 'Umar Pasha were limited in their influence and could not exceed those bounds, whereas the intention of My words is that they be carried out. My orders are not to remain unheeded.'

September 4, 2012

The story of the Tablet of Ahmad – by Hand of the Cause Abu’l-Qasim Faizi

There are two Tablets each bearing the name of Ahmad: one in Persian and the other in Arabic. The latter is the one used throughout the Baha'i world, which the beloved Guardian characterized as being imbued with a special potency. The Persian Tablet is quite a long one and is written to Ahmad of Kashan. Selections from this Persian Tablet appear in the Gleanings.

Ahmad of Kashan was a brother of Haji Mirza Jani, the first one to embrace the Báb's Faith in Kashan and in whose house the Báb sojourned some days and who was finally martyred in Tihran. Haji Mirza Jani had three brothers. One was never moved by his brother's faith, no matter how much the latter endeavored to teach him. He remained a Muslim and died as such. The second was called Ismai'l, entitled by Baha'u'llah Dhabib (sacrificed) and also Anis (companion); the third one who went to Baghdad was called Ahmad. He remained with the Ancient Beauty and had the honor to be amongst those who were chosen by Him as one of the companions in His exile to Istanbul. But unfortunately in the storms of tests and trials this Ahmad departed from the right path and sided with Azal. He then caused much suffering for the Blessed Beauty, His family and friends. In order to warn this man against such evil deeds and the detrimental consequences for the nascent Faith, Baha'u'llah sent him this long Persian Tablet full of exhortations, elucidations of the divine power and advice as to how a true seeker should act and behave. Ahmad remained heedless, unmoved and unchanged, but when he found out that he could no more live in Turkey, he returned to 'Iraq where he found his old associates and resumed his iniquitous life with them. One of his worst habits was to insult people and curse them in the most bitter and vile language. In one of his disputes with his evil friends, he lashed them with his sharp tongue and the victims, to get rid of him, killed him one night.

Ahmad begins his search

As to the Ahmad in whose honor the well-known Tablet is revealed, he was born in Yazd (circa 1805) to a very noble and rich family. His father and uncles were the chieftains of the town, but Ahmad even at the age of fourteen showed a great inclination towards mysticism and endeavored to find new paths to truth. When he was fifteen, he had already started his investigations during which he heard from some of the people that there are saints or holy men who know special prayers which if read and repeated so many times and in accordance with certain rituals would definitely enable the reader to behold the countenance of the Promised Qa'im (The Messiah of Muslims).

August 10, 2012

The marriage of the Báb with Khadijih-Bagum and their short life together – recalled by Munirih Khanum, the wife of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Munirih Khanum, who later became the wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, met Khadijih-Bagum before leaving Persia for Holy Land. She was living at the time in Isfahan, a city about 200 miles north of Shiraz, and was summoned to ‘Akka by Baha’u’llah.

Accompanied by a believer by the name of Shaykh Salman, who was instructed by Baha’u’llah to provide travel assistance, the party left Isfahan for the port city of Bushihr via Shiraz. Arrangements were made for her to stay a short while in Shiraz in the home of Haji Mirza Siyyid Muhammad, the uncle of the Báb. She arrived sometime between January and February of 1872 and had the privilege of meeting the wife of the Báb several times.

The following is taken from Munirih Khanum's memoirs concerning one of her interviews with Khadijih-Bagum:

...I asked the wife of the Báb to recount for me some reminiscences of her association with the Báb, of attaining His presence and of her marriage with Him. She said, 'I do not remember every detail but will tell you what I can remember...

July 2, 2012

Mulla Husayn promised one of the Bábis he would visit the Báb seven times

It was June of 1847. An immense crowd of people thronged the gate of the city of Tabriz to witness the very first time that the Báb entered their city. Some were merely curious, while others were earnestly trying to find out if the Báb were in truth such a wondrous figure as they had been told. Still others were moved by their faith and devotion, and sought to attain His presence so they could assure Him of their loyalty.

As He walked along the streets, the cries of welcome rang out on every side. The great majority of those who saw Him shouted aloud: "God is most great!" They cheered Him on His way.

So great was the clamor which His arrival had raised that a crier was sent out among the people to warn them of the danger of continuing this behavior.

"Whoever shall make any attempt to approach the Báb, "the people were warned, "or seek to meet him, at any time, all that person's possessions shall be seized and he shall be imprisoned."

The Báb spent the first night in the home of one of the residents by the name of Muhammad Big. From there He was transferred to a room in the Citadel (the Ark), a fortress-like structure, and then subsequently moved to one of the chief houses in that city, which had been reserved for His confinement. A detachment of soldiers stood guard at the entrance of His house. The soldiers were given rigid orders by their superiors not to let anyone to come in contact with the Báb. However these soldiers soon became His friends. They were entirely obedient to the instructions of the Báb, and permitted whomever He wished to visit Him. They were in reality a protection against the onrush of the multitude who thronged about the house, the Báb said, but they were powerless to prevent those Whom He desired to meet from attaining His presence.

June 18, 2012

The Master and the museum watchman

While ‘Abdu’l-Baha was in New York City in 1912, Juliet Thompson recorded the following touching incident, reminding us of so many mystical things in life on which one needs to ponder:

On Monday, 9 July, the Master invited me, with the Persians to go to the Natural History Museum. It was a broiling afternoon and I couldn’t imagine why He should want to go to that Museum, and in the hottest part of the day. But wherever He went, there I wanted to be.

When we reached the Ninth Avenue corner of the Museum the Master, exhausted by that time, sank to a low stone ledge to rest. Between us and the main door on the Central Park corner stretched a long cross-town block in glaring sun, not a single tree on the sidewalk.

“My Lord,” I said, “let me try to find a nearer entrance for You.” And I hurried along the grass, keeping close to the building, searching the basement for a door. The employees’ entrance was locked. Just beyond stood a sign: “No Thoroughfare.” I was rushing past this when a shrill whistle stopped me, and I turned to face the watchman of the grounds. He was a little bent old Jewish man with a very kind face.

May 31, 2012

What shall I do to please God? – a story by ‘Abdu’l-Baha quoted by Juliet Thompson

“There was once a disciple of Muhammad who asked of another disciple, ‘What shall I do to please God?’ And the other disciple replied: ‘Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not covet,’ etc., etc., etc. A great many ‘do nots.’" the Master laughed. "He asked still another, ‘What shall I do to become nearer to God?’ And this one said: ‘You must supplicate and pray. You must be generous. You must be courageous,’ etc., etc., etc. Then the disciple went to ‘Alí [the first Muslim Imam]. ‘What do you say I should do in order to please God and to become nearer to Him?’ ‘One thing only: be truthful.’”

“For,” continued the Master, “if you are truthful, you cannot commit murder. You would have to confess it! Neither can you steal. You would have to confess it. So, if one is truthful, he possesses all the virtues.” (The Diary of Juliet Thompson, pp. 332-333)

May 21, 2012

American believers made a cake for ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s 68th birthday

While the Master was in Boston, the Bahá'ís arranged a magnificent feast to commemorate the Declaration of the Bab as well as the birthday of ‘Abdu’l-Baha on May 23rd. They were in a state of utmost happiness and joy to have ‘Abdu’l-Baha in their midst for these two significant occasions to be held at the home of Mrs. Alice Breed.

Earlier that day the Master had gone to the town of Worcester, located about 50 miles from Boston. There He spoke to more than one thousand university students, faculty and others. Upon returning to Boston in the automobile especially provided for Him by the chancellor, the Master went directly to the home of Mrs. Alice Breed to join the friends in their commemoration of the Declaration of the Báb.

When ‘Abdu'l-Bahá arrived, He rested for awhile and then joined the gathering of the friends, illuminating the meeting with His presence. With joyful and shining faces, all eyes were directed towards the Master. The freshness and verdure of that gathering was like a flower garden and was proof that the Tree of the Cause of God has been firmly rooted in American soil and that it has produced leaves and blossoms of the utmost beauty.

The Master spoke briefly about the greenery of the surrounding countryside, the magnificence of the city of Boston, as well as the university. He then gave an account of the life of the Báb that gladdened the hearts and cheered the souls.

While tea, drinks and sweets were being served in another room Mrs. Breed brought before the Master a birthday cake with 68 candles, representing His age. At her request, He lit the first candle and then each of the friends in turn lit a candle, each person like a moth burning with the fire of love. When the cake was cut, each guest took a slice as a sacred relic.

Mrs. Breed, indeed, lit the candle of servitude and steadfastness that evening and, in doing so, became the recipient of bounty from ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's presence. (Adapted from Mahmud’s Diary)

May 10, 2012

An example of how the Guardian was impelled by forces which so mysteriously animated all his decisions -- a trip to England during the Second World War: Recalled by Ruhiyyih Khanum

At the time my father was invited by the Guardian to come and live with us in the Holy Land, after my mother's unexpected death in Argentina in March 1940, Shoghi Effendi decided, for reasons of his own, to go to England. For those who were not in the Middle East-European theatre of war, it is almost impossible to convey any picture of the infinite difficulties involved in such a move at such a moment in history. In spite of the prestige and influence of the Guardian, the fact remained that no visa for England could be granted by the authorities in Palestine and our application was therefore forwarded to London. Shoghi Effendi appealed to his old friend Lord Lamington and requested him to use his good offices in ensuring a visa was granted, but by the time it became imperative for us to leave at once for England if we were ever to reach there, no answer had yet been received by the Palestine authorities and Lord Lamington's reply was long delayed in reaching us.

Impelled by the forces which so mysteriously animated all his decisions, the Guardian decided to proceed to Italy, for which country we had obtained a visa. We left Haifa on 15 May in a small and smelly Italian aquaplane, with the water sloshing around under the boards our feet rested on as if we were in an old row-boat. A few days later we arrived in Rome and I went to Genoa to meet my father who arrived on the last sailing the S.S. Rex ever made as a passenger ship. As soon as we returned, the Guardian sent my father and me to the British Consul to inquire if our visa had by any chance been transferred from Palestine. But there was no news and the Consul said he was absolutely powerless to give us a visa as all authorizations had to come from London and he was no longer in a position to contact his government! We returned with this heart-breaking news to the Guardian.

May 1, 2012

Corinne True with ‘Abdu’l-Baha at Chicago Temple Site Dedication

The day after Davis's[Corinne True’s son] death Corinne was present at the Temple site at the corner of Linden Avenue and Sheridan Road in Wilmette. Being there was difficult. Her last son - gone. Would the human tragedy that seemed to stalk her ever cease, she wondered. But Corinne had to be there forthe dedication ceremony, not because of its historical significance, but because ‘Abdu'l-Baha was coming. It was a cool, cloudy and windy day, not the kind of day one expects on the first day of May. Nearly 400 people were waiting for ‘Abdu'l-Baha's arrival. He was to dedicate the Temple site in the tent behind the crowd. Some in attendance were surprised to see Corinne, for Davis had died the previous day. It simply wasn't customary to do something like that. But those who knew Corinne well weren't surprised. Certainly the Master wasn't. When His taxi drove up, a Persian stepped out of the vehicle, asking for Mrs. True. In a few minutes she appeared and was ushered into the car, the guest of her Beloved. The car didn't go far, only to the bridge on Sheridan Road that spans the canal bordering the Baha'i property. Why the Master singled her out isn't officially known. Was it because He wanted to see the new bridge and canal locks at the end of Wilmette harbor? Or to inspect the Temple site's boundaries? He didn't need Corinne with Him to do that. Surely it was an act of compassion considering her loss of Davis the previous day. But was it more than that? Was it also a demonstration of faith in Corinne True, directed at those who questioned, even openly criticized, her ability to work on the Temple project? Though the trees on the site prevented the crowd from seeing what was happening on the bridge, a group of children playing behind the gathering spotted ‘Abdu'l-Baha and Corinne walking toward the back entrance of the tent. He greeted them warmly, gently patting all of them.

April 1, 2012

Baha’u’llah’s Childhood and Youth

Husayn-‘Ali [later known as Baha’u’llah] was born November 12, 1817, at dawn when the birds begin their songs. He was born in the land of Persia, in the city of Tehran. According to the Muslim calendar used in Persia, the day of His birth was the second day of the month of Muharram in the year 1233 A.H. At that time, Fath-'Ali Shah ruled Persia, and King George III was King of England. James Monroe was President of the United States, which had only nineteen states, Abraham Lincoln was a boy of eight, living in Indiana, and Frederick Douglass was a baby, born into slavery in the state of Maryland.

Husayn-‘Ali was the third-born child of the honorable Mirza ‘Abbas Buzurg, a vizier (minister of state) of the shah, and his noble wife Khadijih Khanum. Only later, when the time was right, would He take the title "Baha’u’llah," meaning in Arabic "the Glory of God."

Early on, His parents recognized that Husayn-'Ali was an unusual child. His mother often wondered how a baby could be so happy and content all the time. "This child never cries!" she would exclaim.

But what truly astonished them as they watched their young son grow was His extraordinary knowledge and wisdom. His simple education was no different from that given to other sons of the Persian nobility. Tutors came to His home to teach reading, writing, and Persian culture, just as they did for the other boys. Husayn-‘Ali learned to read the great Persian poets - 'Attar, Hafez, Rumi - as the other boys did, and to recite from the Koran, the holy book of Islam. He did not study science, for science was viewed with suspicion in nineteenth-century Persia, nor did He study philosophy or religion. Those were left to the mullas and mujtahids -- Muslim scholars who spent long years studying the teachings, laws, and traditions of Islam.

Yet Husayn-'Ali showed a lively interest in spiritual topics, and from His boyhood He displayed a profound understanding of spiritual truth. His understanding was innate and reached far beyond the knowledge of His teachers. Although Husayn-‘Ali was never arrogant or boastful about the knowledge that came so easily to Him, neither was it something He could hide.

February 27, 2012

On the first day of Ayyam-i-Há, circa 1879, one of the believers invited Baha’u’llah and all the believers in 'Akká to lunch at Mazra’ih

Haji Muhammad-Tahir-i-Malmiri[father of Adib Taherzadeh] attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh around 1878-9. When asked by the friends to describe His impressions of the Blessed Beauty, he always recited in answer a Persian poem:

And wonder at the vision I have dreamed, A secret by my muted tongue concealed; Beauty that is beyond the poet's word, By an unhearing world remains unheard.

The same believer has left to posterity an account of one of the feasts at which he had the honour to be present. These are his words recorded in his memoirs:

In the spring season Bahá'u'lláh used to stay at Mazra'ih for some time.[ Bahá'u'lláh did not live at Mazra'ih or Bahji all the time. He used to go and stay in 'Akká sometimes] Mazra'ih is situated at a distance of about two farsangs [about 12 kilometers] from the city of 'Akká. To attain His presence I used to go to Mazra'ih in the daytime and at night I stayed at the Pilgrim House.

On the first day of the Ayyam-i-Há [Intercalary days] one of the pilgrims had invited Bahá'u'lláh and all the believers in 'Akká to lunch. I too went to Mazra'ih. Early in the morning a large tent was pitched in front of the entrance to the garden on a delightful open space. That morning all the believers, numbering almost two hundred, consisting of those who were living in the Holy Land and the pilgrims, came to Mazra'ih.

February 22, 2012

The amazing story of how Hand of the Cause Roy Wilhelm became a Baha’i

Roy's mother was a Baha’i, one of the earliest believers in the United States. But Roy, though tolerant of his mother's beliefs, couldn't see himself fitting into the Baha’i pattern. He was satisfied with his life-style. He was financially secure, a respected entrepreneur. So he pursued life as he had done for years. You might say he was a creature of habit. Every work day Roy would get up at the same time, wear dark conservative suits, buy the Herald Tribune from the same newstand, and take the same train to Wall Street. When he returned home in the afternoon, he would take the same train, and stop off at the same flower shop to buy his mother flowers. Upon arriving home, he would regularly go to his room, remove his suit coat, replacing it with a dinner-jacket, sit on his bed to remove his shoes and put on slippers.

One day that pattern was altered, but what happened was purely involuntary. He was sitting on his bed, changing his shoes, when his room was suddenly transformed. The walls were whitewashed, and there was a divan. Standing next to Roy was a majestic figure with a long black beard, dressed in what appeared to be an oriental gown. The figure approached Roy, taking off His ring and placing it on Roy's finger and removing Roy's ring and placing it on His finger.

Roy was riveted to the bed, too startled to feel fear, so awed that he couldn't utter a word. When whatever had developed before him faded away, he tried to analyze what had happened, but he was baffled. This practical man was not prone to psychic experiences. Visions were things he heard his mother's friends talk about; and he secretly felt that half of them were less than mentally balanced.

Roy didn't tell anyone about the experience. Certainly not his friends, because they would most certainly consider him crazy; and had he related the incident to his mother, she would resume her campaign to draw him into the Baha’i Faith. But eventually he shared his secret, despite the fact that he had planned never to reveal it. A power greater than him unlocked his heart.

February 7, 2012

How the Báb blessed the parents of Munirih Khanum (the future wife of ‘Abdu’l-Baha) before her birth

Being forced to leave His native city of Shiraz, the Báb reached Isfahan in the early Fall of 1846. As He approached the outskirts of the city, being escorted by armed guards, He wrote a letter to the governor of the province, Manuchihr Khan, in which He requested him to signify his wish as to the place where He could dwell. The letter was expressive of such courtesy and revealed such exquisite penmanship that the governor was moved to instruct the Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan, who was the foremost ecclesiastical authority of that province and was known as the Sultanu'l-'Ulama, to receive the Báb in his own home and to accord Him a kindly and generous reception. As the Báb approached the gate of the city, the Imam-Jum'ih went out to welcome Him in person, and conducted Him ceremoniously to his house. According to Mirza Abu’l-Fadl, the erudite Baha’i scholar, this Imam-Jum'ih of Isfahan was recognized in the land as the principal ecclesiastical dignitary of Persia at the time.

A believer by the name of Mirza Ibrahim was a friend of the Imam-Jum'ih and associated closely with him, managing all of his affairs. Two of his sons, many years later, gave their lives for the Faith and received from Baha’u’llah the inestimable bounty of being designated as the King and the Beloved of Martyrs. His younger brother, also a believer living in Isfahan, was named Mirza Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Nahri. He and his wife did not have any children at the time.

January 25, 2012

The Marriage of Shoghi Effendi – recalled by his wife Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum (nee, Mary Maxwell)

The marriage of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, with Mary Maxwell of Canada (later to be known as Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum - which means: Maidservant of Bahá, Lady Ruhiyyih) took place on 25 March 1937 in Haifa, Israel. Many years later in her book about Shoghi Effendi, ‘The Priceless Pearl’, Ruhiyyih Khanum describes the circumstances surrounding her wedding and help us appreciate the incredible simplicity of the event - reminiscent of the simplicity of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's own marriage in the prison-city of 'Akká – and its thought-provoking example to Bahá'ís everywhere:

No one, with the exception of his parents, my parents and a brother and two sisters of his living in Haifa, knew it was to take place. He felt strongly urged to keep it a secret, knowing from past experience how much trouble any major event in the Cause invariably stirred up. It was therefore a stunning surprise to both the servants and the local Baha'is when his chauffeur drove him off, with me beside him, to visit the Holy Tomb of Baha'u'llah on the afternoon of 25 March 1937. His heart drew him to that Most Sacred Spot on earth at such a moment in his life.. . . When we arrived at Bahji and entered the Shrine he requested me to give him his ring, which I was still wearing concealed about my neck, and this he placed on the ring-finger of my right hand, the same finger that corresponded to the one of his own on which he himself had always worn it. This was the only gesture he made. He entered the inner Shrine, beneath the floor of which Baha'u'llah is interred, and gathered up in a handkerchief all the dried petals and flowers that the keeper of the Shrine used to take from the threshold and place in a silver receptacle at the feet of Baha'u'llah. After he had chanted the Tablet of Visitation we came back to Haifa and in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf our actual marriage took place. . . . Except for this visit, the day he told me he had chosen to confer this great honour on me, and one or two brief moments in the Western Pilgrim House when he came over for dinner, I had never been alone with the Guardian. There was no celebration, no flowers, no elaborate ceremony, no wedding dress, no reception. His mother and father, in compliance with the laws of Baha'u'llah, signified their consent by signing our marriage certificate and then I went back to the Western Pilgrim House across the street and joined my parents (who had not been present at any of these events), and Shoghi Effendi went to attend to his own affairs. At dinner-time, quite as usual, the Guardian appeared, showering his love and congratulations on my mother and father. He took the handkerchief, full of such precious flowers, and with his inimitable smile gave them to my mother, saying he had brought them for her from the inner Shrine of Baha'u'llah. My parents also signed the marriage certificate and after dinner and these events were over I walked home with Shoghi Effendi, my suitcases having been taken across the street by Fujita while we were at dinner. We sat for a while with the Guardian's family and then went up to his two rooms which the Greatest Holy Leaf had had built for him so long ago.