December 13, 2014

The King summons the Báb

Muhammad Shah, the king of Persia, was torn between two conflicting desires. He wanted to meet the Báb. He was anxious to see in person this young Man Who could win over to His Faith someone as learned and gifted as Vahid, and a man of such nobility, stature and wealth as Manuchihr Khan [the Governor of Isfahan]. He was eager to know more of this young Prophet Who could so powerfully affect such illustrious people. Yet he was alarmed at the same time. He was frightened of what might happen if the Báb gained too much popularity. His Prime Minister, Haji Mirza Aqasi, constantly warned him to beware of the Báb. The priests at Court spoke of the Báb in the same manner the religious authorities had spoken of Jesus, saying: "He is a political revolutionary.  He will undermine your state and destroy your influence over your subjects."

The king wavered.  He blew hot and cold. Prompted by the Prime Minister, he at one time issued instructions to do away with the Báb, then later withdrew them. Now, thinking it would have pleased his friend, the late Manuchihr Khan, the king again expressed his eagerness to meet the Báb in person. Therefore, he summoned the Báb to the capital city of Tihran.

The historian Nicolas wrote: "The Shah, whimsical and fickle, forgetting that he had, a short time before, ordered the murder of the Reformer [the Báb], felt the desire of seeing at last the man who had aroused such universal interest." [1]

December 6, 2014

Louis Gregory’s vision and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s interpretation

Louis G. Gregory was one of the first African-Americans in the United States to embrace the Baha'i Faith. He was later named a Hand of the Cause of God posthumously by Shoghi Effendi. Louis made a pilgrimage in May of 1911 to meet 'Abdu'l-Baha and visit the Holy Shrines. He wrote a journal of his experiences on pilgrimage. Below is an excerpt from his journal:

Soon after accepting the Revelation the writer [Louis Gregory] had a vision (Joel 2-28). Baha'u'llah was seen with head bent gently forward. His right arm was extended and from His right side flowed four layers of mellow golden light, each layer containing numberless spirals and beautiful figures. The light was of uniform brightness. This vision soon vanished and I found myself turning into a street in which some enemies of the Cause of God were menacing the believers. I raised my right hand above my head and shouted, "It is all true! Mine eyes have seen the Glory!" 

'Abdu'l-Baha explained. "There are four classes of people. The first is those who have accepted the teachings and occupy themselves spreading the Glad Tidings. The second is those who are good believers, but make no effort to guide others. The third is those who have heard the Message of the Kingdom but have not accepted it. The fourth is those who have not yet heard of this Revelation. As to the contention of those who deny and oppose, you have already had experience enough to know what this means." 
(Louis Gregory, ‘A Heavenly Vista, The Pilgrimage of Louis Gregory’)

November 30, 2014

Rúhá Khánum, one of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's daughters, was seriously ill when He left Alexandria, Egypt, aboard S. S. Cedric for the West on March 25, 1912

When ‘Abdu'l-Bahá was saying farewell amid the tears, lamentations and sadness of the friends and members of the Holy Family who watched their beloved's departure, one of `Abdu'l-Bahá's daughters, Rúhá Khánum, was seriously ill. It was evident that this deeply affected the Master. It was in these circumstances that `Abdu'l-Bahá left Alexandria on the morning of Monday, March 25, 1912. Although He had already bidden the friends farewell and had embraced most of them, many accompanied Him to the ship, expressing their sadness and anguish at their impending separation from Him. After visiting, walking about the ship and receiving His cabin assignment, `Abdu'l-Bahá went to the main hall where. He bestowed His love, affection and assurance on each of the friends. After an hour, the friends left the ship in tears. Then the S. S. Cedric, an Italian liner from the White Star Line, set sail, honored to be the means of transporting the Most Holy Being and becoming the focus of the envy of the whole earth.

The ship left the port of Alexandria with a burst of steam and great fanfare. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's companions numbered six: Shoghi Effendi, Siyyid Asadu'lláh-i-Qumí, Dr Amínu'lláh Faríd, Mírzá Munír-i-Zayn, Áqá Khusraw and this servant, Mahmúd-i-Zarqání. After the ship left, `Abdu'l-Bahá went to the first class dining room and gave permission to His companions to have lunch with Him. 
(Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, ‘Muhmud’s Diary’)

November 23, 2014

Shoghi Effendi had vivid and significant dreams during childhood

Shoghi Effendi was sometimes subject to vivid and significant dreams, both pleasant and unpleasant. It is reported that in his babyhood he woke one night crying and the Master told his nurse to bring Shoghi Effendi to Him so that He could comfort him; the Master said to His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, "See, already he has dreams!"
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, 'The Priceless Pearl')

November 9, 2014

Being in the presence of Baha’u’llah at the time of revelation

It was during one of his visits to 'Akká that Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali was allowed to enter the presence of Bahá'u'lláh at the time of revelation. He has left to posterity the following brief account of that memorable occasion: 

...When permission was granted and the curtain was withdrawn, I entered the room where the King of kings and the Ruler of this world and the next, nay rather the Ruler of all the worlds of God, was with great authority seated on His couch. The verses of God were being revealed and the words streamed forth as in a copious rain. Methought the door, the wall, the carpet, the ceiling, the floor and the air were all perfumed and illumined. They all had been transformed, each and every one, into ears and were filled with a spirit of joy and ecstasy. Each object had become refreshed and was pulsating with life... To which worlds I was transported and in what state I was, no one who has not experienced such as this can ever know. 
(Adib Taherzadeh, ‘The Revelation of Baha'u'llah vol. 1) 

November 2, 2014

Opposition to 'Abdu'l-Baha's proposed marriage

Bahá'u'lláh intended to give His niece, Shahr-Banu Khanum, in marriage to His eldest Son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha. She was the daughter of His faithful older half-brother, Mirza Muhammad-Hasan. That was also the great hope of Mirza Muhammad-Hasan who hurried to Baghdad and pleaded with Bahá'u'lláh to bring about this union. But Mirza Muhammad-Hasan passed away before the Most Great Branch came of age.

When Bahá'u'lláh and His family were exiled to Iraq, Shahr-Banu Khanum remained in the district of Nur in Mazindaran, until in 1285 A.H. (1868) when Bahá'u'lláh instructed His uncle, Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, to escort her to Tihran and from there to arrange her journey to Adrianople.

No sooner had this news reached Shah Sultan Khanum, a half-sister of Bahá'u'lláh and a follower of Mirza Yahya, than she arose in enmity and with the assistance of Mirza Rida-Quli, a half-brother of Baha’u’llah, and prevented the marriage from taking place. Mirza Rida-Quli, who had stood as father to Shahr-Banu Khanum after the death of her father, Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, was afraid that Násiri'd-Dín Sháh and his ministers would frown on this marriage and take him to task.

Shah Sultan Khanum took Shahr-Banu Khanum to her home in Tihran and practically forced her to marry instead Mirza Ali-Khan-i-Nuri, the son of the Prime Minister. Bahá'u'lláh has referred to this in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. This marriage, so rudely imposed upon her, plunged Shahr-Banu Khanum into a state of perpetual grief and misery. Her youngest brother, Mirza Nizamu'l-Mulk, a faithful and devoted follower of Bahá'u'lláh, has recorded in his memoirs that after her marriage Shahr-Banu Khanum prayed fervently to God for her deliverance from her tragic plight. It seems that her prayers were answered, as shortly afterwards she became afflicted with tuberculosis and died. 
(Adapted from ‘Baha’u’llah The King of Glory’, by Hassan Balyuzi, and ‘The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, vol. 2’, by Adib Taherzadeh)

October 26, 2014

Two examples of Baha’u’llah being fully aware of one’s thoughts and feelings

Haji Muhammad-Tahir-i-Malmiri, who was a historian, a teacher of wide repute and the father of Adib Taherzadeh, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká. He writes in his memoirs:

Whenever I came into the presence of the Blessed Beauty, if there were anything I wanted to ask, I would say it by the way of the heart, and He would invariably answer me. This is because, in His presence, the tongue was powerless to utter one word. I always sat in His presence spellbound, oblivious of my own self. One of the questions I wanted to ask concerned the station of the Holy Imams. [1] I wanted to know whether they were equal or, as I thought, some of them were exalted above others. For about six months I wanted to ask this question, but every time I attained His presence I forgot to think of it in my heart.

One day, as I was going to the Mansion to attain His presence, I kept on continuously reminding myself about this question so that I might remember to communicate it through the heart to Bahá'u'lláh. Even as I was climbing the steps of the Mansion I was thinking of it. Suddenly I heard the voice of Bahá'u'lláh greeting me saying 'Marhaba' (Welcome). I looked up and saw Him standing at the top of the stairs. I forgot everything! He went to His room, invited me in, and told me to be seated. I sat by the door. He then paced up and down and revealed a Tablet [2] in my name. The Tablet was in Persian and halfway through it he said, 'The Imams all came from God, spoke of God and all returned to Him.' [3] This answered my question and I realized that their station was equal. [4]

In another instance, Haji Muhammad-Tahir writes:

In my heart I often begged the Blessed Beauty to enable me to lay down my life as a martyr in His path. Every time that I turned to Him in my heart with this plea, he would smile at me and reveal to me the signs of His pleasure and bounties ... until one day when these thoughts entered my mind, he turned to me and said, 'You must live to serve the Cause...'[4]
(Adib Taherzadeh, ‘The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3’ - 'Akka, The Early Years - 1868-77)

[1] 'Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, was according to Bahá'í belief the legitimate successor of Muhammad, and the first Imam. Ten of his descendants succeeded him and are known as the holy Imams. The Qá'im is believed by Shí'ah Islam to be the return of the twelfth Imam.
[2] This Tablet was not recorded and therefore no copy exists.
[3] These are not the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh.
[4] Unpublished memoirs.

October 19, 2014

An example of the commanding power of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was about twenty-four years old, the most terrible crisis which Bahá'u'lláh and His family ever had to meet, developed in Adrianople, when once again they were on the eve of banishment. A banishment far more cruel than the three that had preceded it, for now this uniquely united family was to be torn asunder, Baha'u'llah sent to a distant city, a secret destination, His wife and children to another secret destination; forever parted, and forever lost, one to the other.

'Abdu’l-Bahá sought out the officials. Again and again He went to them. What He said has not been recorded--only that "He pleaded", "He persisted", and that the officials "seemed unable to put the measure into execution."

While this measure was pending, news of it reached the believers of Adrianople and they rushed in a body to the house of Baha'u'llah, frantic at the thought of separation from Him. In such a state of agitation and despair one old man seized a knife and crying, "If I must be separated from my Lord, I will go now and join my God," cut his throat.

A scene of wild confusion followed, during which a cordon of police surrounded the frenzied crowd and attempted brutally to control it.

It was then that 'Abdu’l-Bahá suddenly appeared in their midst. A lightning flash of power and a superhuman force was felt by all as they heard His "impassioned and vehement words", denouncing the cruelty of the police, demanding the presence of the governor.

In telling the story ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sister, Bahiyyih Khánum, told Juliet Thompson: "We had never before seen my brother angry."

So swift was the effect of this anger that the governor was at once sent for. He hurried to the scene and, witnessing it, said: "We cannot separate these people. It is impossible."

Thus it was that about seventy devotees were allowed to accompany their Divine Beloved, Baha’u’llah, to ‘Akka. 
(Adapted from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Center of the Covenant’, by Juliet Thompson)

October 1, 2014

Hand of the Cause Mr. Faizi’s first exposure to the Baha’i Faith as a child

Leaving the city of Qum, Faizi’s Muslim family settled well in Tehran. Shortly after they were joined by Faizi's newly married brother and his wife. Because their father was worried about his young son getting lost in the big, busy city, Faizi was left to studying on his own at home.  When his brother became aware of this situation, he was concerned that he had not been registered in any school and persuaded their father that it would be better to send him to school. Having already sent his eldest son to a school run by Baha'is, their father agreed to send Faizi to the Baha'i Tarbiyat School for boys, which was near where they lived, so there was no danger of him getting lost. His older brother arranged for him to be interviewed by the principal of the school. 

Early one morning, Faizi, accompanied by his older brother, set off for Tarbiyat School, the younger one in trepidation of what awaited him, the older one happy that he was going to entrust his dear brother to the daily care of a benevolent institution. The classes were already in session when they arrived and the principal, 'Aziz Misbah, was waiting for them in his office. How different was the young Faizi's reception at this school compared to what he had received earlier at the religious school (maktab) in Qum, how genial and kindly Mr. Misbah was compared to the so-called teachers in his hometown. No wonder that, as soon as Faizi met this much-loved principal he was immediately drawn to him. After welcoming the two brothers the principle asked Faizi a few questions to ascertain his level of literacy and decided to place his new pupil in grade five.

September 6, 2014

Baha’u’llah during His youthful prime – told by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

…from the beginning of the manifestation of the Báb there was in Tihrán (which the Báb called the Holy Land) a Youth of the family of one of the ministers and of noble lineage, gifted in every way, and adorned with purity and nobility. Although He combined lofty lineage with high connection, and although His ancestors were men of note in Persia and universally sought after, yet He was not of a race of doctors or a family of scholars. Now this Youth was from His earliest adolescence celebrated amongst those of the ministerial class, both relatives and strangers, for single-mindedness, and was from childhood pointed out as remarkable for sagacity, and held in regard in the eyes of the wise. He did not, however, after the fashion of His ancestors, desire elevation to lofty ranks nor seek advancement to splendid but transient positions. His extreme aptitude was nevertheless admitted by all, and His excessive acuteness and intelligence were universally avowed. In the eyes of the common folk He enjoyed a wonderful esteem, and in all gatherings and assemblies He had a marvelous speech and delivery. Notwithstanding lack of instruction and education such was the keenness of His penetration and the readiness of His apprehension that when during His youthful prime He appeared in assemblies where questions of divinity and points of metaphysic were being discussed, and, in presence of a great concourse of doctors and scholars loosed His tongue, all those present were amazed, accounting this as a sort of prodigy beyond the discernment natural to the human race. From His early years He was the hope of His kindred and the unique one of His family and race, nay, their refuge and shelter. 
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, ‘A traveler’s Narrative’)

August 9, 2014

Hand of the Cause Bill Sears' first glimpse of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Bill Sears was born on March 28, 1911 in Aitkin, Minnesota. At 18 months old his father took him to the Aitkin train station to pick up his aunt. Bill’s wife, Marguerite, later wrote:

As Bill related the story to me, he and his father stood hand-in-hand on the platform. Their ears perked up at the sound of the whistle and they strained their necks as they watched the train chug into sight and sigh to a stop.

Scanning the train, unsure from which car his aunt would alight, the young lad's focus suddenly locked on a man looking out from one of the exits. Ethereal in appearance, the stranger was a vision in white: flowing ankle-length robe, turban, and long, snowy beard to match. Never had the youngster seen anyone like him-not even in picture books.

Mesmerized by the sheer force of the gentleman's presence, the child stood stock still for a few moments, then tugged excitedly at his father's coat, in an unsuccessful attempt to draw his attention to the object of his fascination. But his father's immediate and sole concern lay with the aunt. Her arrival had gone unnoticed by the child whose gaze had not wavered from the sight of the unusual personage to whom he seemed magnetically drawn. The spell broke with the next blow of the whistle.

July 10, 2014

Generosity, love and devotion of the King and Beloved of Martyrs

The King of the Martyrs and Beloved of the Martyrs were born to a noble family in Isfahan. They were nine and ten years of age respectively when the Declaration of the Báb took place in 1844.

Their two illustrious uncles, Mirza Hadi and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali (the father of Munirih Khanum, the wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá) had embraced the Faith of the Báb in the early days of its Revelation. They both took part in the Conference of Badasht. But their father, Mirza Ibrahim, was not a believer at the time; he recognized the truth of the Faith later. He was engaged in the service of Mir Siyyid Muhammad, the Imam-Jum'ih [1] of Isfahan, as manager of his financial affairs. When the Báb went to that city He stayed part of the time as a guest in the home of the Imam-Jum'ih.

Because of his close association at that time with the Báb, Mirza Ibrahim, though not a believer, entertained Him one day in his home. On that occasion the two young brothers and their uncles attained the presence of the Báb. This meeting left an abiding impression on the two youths, who became ardent believers through the efforts of their uncles, especially Mirza Muhammad-'Ali who later accompanied them to Baghdad where they attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. As a result of their meeting with Him, they became aware of His exalted Station and were filled with the spirit of faith and certitude. The splendours of the Face of their Lord brightly illumined their beings and they returned home radiant as shining lights.

June 20, 2014

The King and the Gardener – a story told by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

A great king, walking in his garden one day, noticed a man, about ninety years old, planting some trees. The king asked what he was doing and the old man answered that he was planting date trees.

"How long before they will bear fruit?”, asked the king.

"Twenty years."

"But you will not live to enjoy the fruit; why then should you plant these trees?"

The old man answered, "The last generation planted trees that bore fruit for my benefit; so it is now my duty to plant for the benefit of the next generation."

The king was pleased at this answer so gave the man a piece of money. The gardener fell on his knees and thanked him. The king asked, "Why do you kneel before me?"

"Because, your majesty, not only have I had the pleasure, or gift, of planting these trees, but they have already borne fruit, since you give me this money." 

May 16, 2014

How the death warrant for the Báb was obtained from three leading priests in Tabriz

Early in the morning of July 9th, 1850, the chief-attendant of prison came to the barracks to conduct the Báb into the presence of the leading religious doctors of law in Tabriz. They were to authorize His execution by signing a death warrant, thus relieving the Prime Minister of the entire responsibility.

The Báb was engaged in a confidential conversation with Siyyid Husayn, one of His closest followers, who had been serving as His secretary. Husayn had been with the Báb throughout His imprisonment. The Báb was giving him last minute instructions.

"Confess not your Faith," the Báb advised Husayn. "Thereby you will be enabled, when the hour comes, to convey to those who are destined to hear you, the things of which you alone are aware."

The Báb was thus engaged when the chief-attendant arrived. He insisted upon the Báb's immediate departure. The Báb turned and rebuked the chief-attendant severely.

"Not until I have said to him all those things I wish to say," the Báb warned, "can any earthly power silence me. Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall they be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention."

April 13, 2014

Being in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh -- Varqá recalled his unique experiences

Mirza ‘Ali-Muhammad surnamed Varqá became one of the Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh. He has related the following two incidents that took place during his first pilgrimage in around 1878-9.

The first time he gazed upon the face of His Lord Varqá was surprised, because he thought that he had previously seen Him somewhere, but he could not remember the occasion or the place. He was puzzled by this until one day after several times coming into His presence, Bahá'u'lláh said to him, 'Varqá! Burn away the idols of vain imaginings!' On hearing these words, Varqá immediately recalled a dream he had had when he was a child. He was in a garden playing with some dolls when 'God' arrived, took the dolls from him and burned them in the fire. When he told this dream to his parents they pointed out to him that no one can see God. However, he had completely forgotten this dream until that day when the words of Bahá'u'lláh exhorting him to burn the idols aroused his memory, and he knew that he had seen Bahá'u'lláh in his dream as a child.

The other incident took place during one of the occasions when Varqa was in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. On that occasion a thought entered into his mind as he gazed in adoration upon the countenance of Bahá'u'lláh. He said to himself, 'I know that Bahá'u'lláh is the supreme Manifestation of God, but I wish He would give me a sign to this effect.' At that same instant the following verse from the Qur'án flashed into Varqa's mind:

March 20, 2014

The story of the Báb

'Báb' means 'Gate’! The Báb was the Gate to a new Kingdom -- the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Báb was very young when He told people about the Message which God had given Him. He was only twenty-five years old. A beautiful city in the south of Iran, called Shiraz, was the birthplace of the Báb. The people of Iran were Muhammadans, so He was given a name that was much used in that country. He was called Ali Muhammad, and was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad Himself. The Báb's father died soon after His birth, so He was placed under the care of His maternal uncle. As a child He was sent to a teacher who taught the Qur'an and elementary subjects. But from His early childhood, the Báb was different from other children. He was always asking difficult questions and then giving the answers Himself in a way that astonished His elders. Often when other children were busy at play, He would be found wrapped in prayer under the shade of a tree or in some other quiet spot.

Later, when the Báb revealed His reality as a Manifestation of God, both His uncle and His teacher believed in Him because they had known Him since His childhood, and seen the difference between Him and other children. His uncle even died as a martyr for the Cause of God revealed through his Nephew, the Báb.

Before the Báb declared His Mission as a Messenger of God, there were two famous teachers who said that according to the Qur'an and the holy traditions, the Promised One of Islam would soon appear. These two teachers were Sheikh Ahmad and his chief disciple Siyyid Kazim. Because they were holy men and very learned, many people believed what they said and prepared themselves to receive the Promised One.

February 15, 2014

The Master and little children -- a few occasions witnessed by a Western pilgrim

It is beautiful to see the Master with the little children and observe his consideration for their childish troubles. One morning his tiny grand-daughter, about two years old, was talking to the Master in the most serious way, telling him with expressive gesticulations her difficulty. Something had gone crosswise with her. The Master without a smile listened most attentively. This was a great lesson. When we consider what the Master has to bear — a man of ordinary strength could not endure it one hour — yet when a little child comes and confides in him her trouble, how tender, how loving he is! How forgetful of self!

Shall I ever forget the heavenly smile and love expressed in that beautiful face when this tiny maiden was chanting for him a Tablet! Every now and then she would forget a word, and he would gently chant it for her, while he drank his tea, seated in the corner of the divan. How the little children love him! 
(Mary L. Lucas, ‘A Brief Account of My Visit to Acca’, published by Chicago Baha'i Publishing Society in 1905)

January 19, 2014

A youth sees Bahá’u’lláh revealing Verses of God – recalled by Hand of the Cause Tarázu’lláh Samandari

The Hand of the Cause Tarázu'lláh Samandarí undertook his pilgrimage to the Holy Land when he was a youth. It took place during the last months of Bahá'u'lláh's life. He had the privilege of accompanying Bahá’u’lláh on visits to the Garden of Ridván (near Akka), and was present at the time of Bahá’u’lláh's ascension. Here is a portion of his recollections:

Twice I had the honour of being present in His room during the revelation of the Holy Verses. No one was there except His secretary, Mirzá Áqá Ján, and another time, Mirzá Badi’u’lláh[one of Bahá’u’lláh's sons] was there copying Tablets. On these two precious occasions, as the Essence of Glory and Dignity [Bahá’u’lláh] paced the room and chanted verses, I could gaze upon Him and contemplate His luminous face, and behold the vision of the majesty of God and His divine Kingdom. This was indeed a great blessing. As He revealed the verses of God, His face was radiant. Sometimes, He would gesture with His hands while He looked through the window onto the sea.

It was His custom to drink water while revealing the verses when His lips became dry. Mirzá Áqá Ján was occupied in taking down the revealed words. The floor of the room was covered with papers from the dictation. One might guess that they amounted to about one-fifth of the Qur’án, revealed during those few hours.