December 14, 2013

Bahá’u’lláh’s marriage to Ásíyih Khánúm and their early lives together up until His recognition of the Báb

When Bahá’u’lláh was nearly eighteen years old, His older sister requested their father's permission for her Brother to marry her husband's sister, Ásíyih Khánúm. Ásíyih Khánúm, who was then fifteen years old, was exceedingly beautiful, lively and winsome. Their marriage, which took place in the fall of 1835, opened a new level of responsibility and fulfillment for the young nobleman. He was to share a lifetime of love and extreme difficulties with this great noblewoman who later was known by the title Navváb (her Highness, her Excellency).

The young married couple devoted themselves to charitable activities during the early years of their married life. Their daughter Bahíyyih Khánúm recounted many years later how her parents "took part as little as possible in State functions, social ceremonies, and the luxurious habits of ordinary highly-placed and wealthy families in the land of Persia. [They] … counted these worldly pleasures meaningless, and preferred rather to occupy themselves in caring for the poor, and for all who were unhappy, or in trouble.'" Their Son, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, also recalled His Father's role during those early years of His marriage:

"He was most generous, giving abundantly to the poor. None who came to Him were turned away. The doors of His house were open to all. He always had many guests. This unbounded generosity was conducive to greater astonishment from the fact that He sought neither position nor prominence. In commenting upon this His friends said He would become impoverished, for His expenses were many and His wealth becoming more and more limited. 'Why is He not thinking of His own affairs?' they inquired of each other; but some who were wise declared, 'This Personage is connected with another world; He has something sublime within Him that is not evident now; the day is coming when it will be manifested.'  In truth, the Blessed Perfection [Bahá’u’lláh] was a refuge for every weak one, a shelter for every fearing one, kind to every indigent one, lenient and loving to all creatures."

Due to such acts of charity and service Bahá’u’lláh and His wife earned widespread reputation as "The Father of Poor" and "The Mother of Consolation".

November 2, 2013

Visiting the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. – an example of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s thoroughness

During our dinner at 7:30 [on April 21, 1912] ‘Abdu’l-Baha' sat and talked with us. Mr. Parsons [Agnes Parsons’ husband] suggested going one evening to the Library of Congress to see it lighted, but never dreamed that ‘Abdu’l-Baha would wish to add another activity to this already full day. But ‘Abdu’l-Baha said "Let us go tonight."

We first went up on the elevator to the rotunda looking down on the reading room. Two of the bronze figures were examined, when Mr. Parsons turned to conduct the party to another part of the Library. When it was told to ‘Abdu’l-Baha that Mr. Parsons would like to show Him over some other part of the building, He replied, "When one undertakes to see a thing one should see it," and continued around the rotunda until He had looked carefully at and asked the name of each bronze figure. After doing this part of the Library, we went with Mr. Parsons to his Division and Abdu’l-Baha began to see it as thoroughly as He had examined the figures.

Mr. Parsons turned to me and said: If we go over this Division so thoroughly the lights will be turned off before we shall have finished. Just at this moment, Mr. [Bernard R.] Greene, the Superintendent of the building appeared, met ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and gave the order that the lights were to be left on and no doors were to be locked for the present. Thus there was time to show ‘Abdu’l-Baha the stacks, some of the machinery for moving books and also some Turkish books. And so ‘Abdu’l-Baha had the opportunity of giving us a lesson in thoroughness.

On our return home ‘Abdu’l-Baha had His evening meal and He soon went to His room, but who knows the hour this night when He ceased to pray for His children and allowed himself the so much needed rest! 
(Agnes Parsons, ‘Abdu’l-Baha in America, The Diary of Agnes Parson’)

October 13, 2013

An example of love and compassion shown by Munirih Khanum (‘Abdu’l-Baha’s wife)

May Maxwell, who was among the first group of Western pilgrims to visit ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Akka in 1898-99, has left a brief description of a touching and heart-warming incident. Munirih Khanum, the wife of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, whom she refers to as Holy Mother, was consoling a young American woman who was overcome by feelings of sadness because her parents had not accepted the Baha’i Faith:
On one occasion one of the American believers was distraught and crying and said to the Holy Mother that she felt like an orphan because her parents did not believe. The wife of our Master took the girl in her arms, laid her head on her breast and told her that she was now her mother; therefore she should be comforted. Then she took her into the presence of the Master and sitting on the floor before Him in the most natural manner, still holding the girl close to her loving heart, told Him all. 
(May Maxwell, ‘An Early Pilgrimage’)

September 14, 2013

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells the story of His prison life at the request of a reporter in Paris

(‘Abdu’l-Baha entered. With one impulse we arose, paying unconscious homage to the majesty of the station of servitude. Surely there can be no greater station than this! Instantly one felt an intangible something that stamped him as one apart. Try as one would it could not be defined. All that was tangible was the dome-like head with its patriarchal beard and eyes that suggested eternity. After greeting us he waved us to our seats and inquired if there were any questions we would like to ask. When informed that my editor had sent me to ascertain if he would speak of his prison life, ‘Abdu’l-Baha began at once to tell his story in a simple, impersonal way)

“At nine years of age, I was banished with my father, Baha’u’llah, on His journey of exile to Baghdad, Arabia; seventy of His followers accompanying us. This decree of exile after persistent persecution was intended to effectively stamp out of Persia what the authorities considered a dangerous movement. Baha’u’llah, His family and followers were driven from place to place.

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 Acca where we were imprisoned and closely guarded.

There was no communication whatever with the outside world. Each loaf of bread was cut open by the guard to see that it contained no message. All who believed in the universal precepts of Baha’u’llah, children, men and women, were imprisoned with us. At one time there were one hundred and fifty of us together in two rooms and no one was allowed to leave the place except four people who went to the bazaar to market each morning under guard. 

August 16, 2013

A funny incident while in the company of the Master

Although ‘Abdu’l-Baha was a serious expounder of the Baha’i Faith He had a fine sense of humor. One day at dinner, we were eating soup, a nice thick soup. Leaving my spoon in the plate I raised my hand to adjust my collar. As I brought down my hand my elbow came in contact with the handle of the spoon. And soup was spread upon the whiskers of the Persian believer on my right. Of course, I was terribly embarrassed. However, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, observing the incident quickly said: “Do not worry. That is a blessing” and laughed aloud. My brother Wendell, then remarked: “Who gets the blessing, Bill, you or the friend with the whiskers?” And ‘Abdu’l-Baha laughed again. Wendell and I were so glad to be with ‘Abdu’l-Baha. At some times we were quite jolly. We were mere boys of 18 and 21. 
(Excerpt from the transcript of a talk given by William Copeland Dodge relating the account of his pilgrimage to ‘Akka in 1901) (To listen to and read the entire talk please visit Baha’i Talks, Messages andArticles)

July 8, 2013

Be natural, be happy…

Wendell [Dodge] and I [William Dodge] were so glad to be with ‘Abdu’l-Baha [in ‘Akka, in 1901]. At some times we were quite jolly. We were mere boys of 18 and 21. Our interpreter, Ameen Fareed, told us that we must be reverent, that when we entered the presence of the Master we must bow our heads, clasp our hands, avoid smiling. Of course we felt the rebuke. So the next time we entered the dining room, our heads were bowed, our hands clasped, and we did not smile. ‘Abdu’l-Baha passed quickly by us. He seemed to ignore us. We felt further rebuked. Returning to our room we wondered why ‘Abdu’l-Baha seemed different in His attitude toward us. Well, we decided that we were not good actors. So when we entered the dining room for the next meal, we smiled. ‘Abdu’l-Baha smiled. He came over to us, took us in his arms and said: “That’s the way I want you, boys, to act -- be natural, be happy.” 
(Excerpt from the transcript of a talk given by William Copeland Dodge relating the account of his pilgrimage to ‘Akka in 1901) (To listen to and read the entire talk please visit Baha’i Talks,Messages and Articles) 

June 25, 2013

"I am only a drop from the vast ocean of Baha'u'llah's school"

Notable among those who had attained the station of true knowledge was Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, the great Baha'i scholar and one of the Apostles of Baha'u'llah. He is renowned for his vast knowledge, not only within the Baha'i community but throughout the East. He was an acknowledged authority on many subjects including history and divine philosophy and was an outstanding master of Arabic and Persian literature. Once in academic circles in Egypt he was referred to as 'God of the pen, a pillar of history and the comer-stone of knowledge and virtue.'

Dr. Habib Mu'ayyad, who knew him personally, has written a great deal in his memoirs concerning the greatness of this man. Here is one passage:

Once people asked him [Mirza Abu'l-Fadl] how he had acquired this vast erudition and how he had become the recipient of this God-given knowledge. He became so displeased with his questioners that he angrily remarked 'Who is Abu'l-Fadl! What is Abu'l-Fadl! I am only a drop from the vast ocean of Baha'u'llah's school. If you also, enter the same school, you will become the master of Abu'l-Fadl. If you don't believe me go to Gulpaygan[his home town], see my relatives and then you will understand.'

The following story gives us a glimpse of his greatness:

June 10, 2013

A Western woman telling ‘Abdu’l-Baha about her troubles …

One day, when Lua Getsinger was in 'Akká she noticed a Western woman was telling 'Abdu'l-Bahá all about her troubles. This was a strange thing to do for usually when people enter the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá they are so filled with the outpouring of His radiant love that they think only of their blessings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá with great kindness listened for half an hour to the western woman's troubles; they were really not very big troubles. At last he arose, and said he had another engagement and must be going. "But there," he said, pointing out of the window, "goes a man whom I will bring in to see you. His name is Mírzá Haydar-'Alí. We call him the 'Angel of Mount Carmel'. He walks on earth but he lives in heaven. He has had many troubles and he will tell you about them." 'Abdu'l-Bahá went out, but quickly returned with Mírzá Haydar-'Alí whom he presented to the woman, and then departed.

The "Angel of Mount Carmel" with great humility and sweetness of manner began to talk with the woman of the luminous century in which we live and the divine age that is to be. She listened for a while, impatiently, and at last broke in with, "But 'Abdu'l-Bahá said you would tell me about your troubles." Mírzá Haydar 'Alí looked up in amazement.

"Troubles?" he replied, "why madam, I never had any troubles, I don't know what troubles are." 
(The Baha’i Magazine (Star of the West), vol. 22, no. 8, November 1931)

May 22, 2013

Mulla Husayn’s childhood and youth

Here is a brief story of the early life of Mulla Husayn whose amazing station is summarized below by the beloved Guardian:

“Mulla Husayn, the first Letter of the Living, surnamed the Bábu'l-Báb (the Gate of the Gate); designated as the "Primal Mirror;" on whom eulogies, prayers and visiting Tablets of a number equivalent to thrice the volume of the Qur'án had been lavished by the pen of the Báb; referred to in these eulogies as "beloved of My Heart;" the dust of whose grave, that same Pen had declared, was so potent as to cheer the sorrowful and heal the sick; whom "the creatures, raised in the beginning and in the end" of the Bábí Dispensation, envy, and will continue to envy till the "Day of Judgment;" whom the Kitáb-i-Íqán acclaimed as the one but for whom "God would not have been established upon the seat of His mercy, nor ascended the throne of eternal glory;" to whom Siyyid Kazim had paid such tribute that his disciples suspected that the recipient of such praise might well be the promised One Himself …” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By)

Haji Mulla ‘Abdu’llah, the father of Mulla Husayn, was one of the wealthier residents of Bushruyih, a small town not far from Mashhad. Mulla Husayn’s mother was a distinguished lady, a poetess well known in the region for her many achievements, which were all the more remarkable because during that time the women in Iran were socially under very extreme restrictions – they were forbidden to show their faces to anyone outside their immediate families, and even their voices were not to be heard by anyone but close friends or relatives.

February 17, 2013

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells the story of Baha’u’llah’s agreement to perform any miracle agreed on by the divines

It often happened that in Baghdád certain Muhammadan ‘ulamá, Jewish rabbis and Christians met together with some European scholars, in a blessed reunion: each one had some question to propose, and although they were possessed of varying degrees of culture, they each heard a sufficient and convincing reply, and retired satisfied. Even the Persian ‘ulamá who were at Karbilá and Najaf chose a wise man whom they sent on a mission to Him; his name was Mullá Hasan ‘Amú. He came into the Holy Presence, and proposed a number of questions on behalf of the ‘ulamá, to which Bahá’u’lláh replied. Then Hasan ‘Amú said, “The ‘ulamá recognize without hesitation and confess the knowledge and virtue of Bahá’u’lláh, and they are unanimously convinced that in all learning he has no peer or equal; and it is also evident that he has never studied or acquired this learning; but still the ‘ulamá say, ‘We are not contented with this; we do not acknowledge the reality of his mission by virtue of his wisdom and righteousness. Therefore, we ask him to show us a miracle in order to satisfy and tranquilize our hearts.’”

January 10, 2013

Slow to Tell the Truth -- adapted from a story told by 'Abdu'l-Baha

There was once a king who went out travelling about his kingdom in the clothes of a poor and humble man in order to observe the conditions of his people. Eventually he journeyed into the desert where he soon became tired, hot and thirsty. Luck was with him, however, and he reached the door of an Arab tent.

The Arab found him outside, exhausted from heat, thirst and hunger, and pulled him inside into the shade. When the king had revived he asked the Arab for food and drink, which was duly brought to him.

The king now regretted travelling in disguise and wished he was back in his palace. He wished to have the Arab help him to return, but fearing that the Arab would not believe him if he announced who he was straight away, he decided to broach the subject gradually.