Posted on Behalf of Andrea Torrey Balsara
I have launched a Kickstarter campaign at Kickstarter Canada, until October 31, to fund the reprint of my picture book, The Nightingale’s Song. It’s the story of humanity, about how we are all ONE. Children of every colour, background, and faith (or no faith), will see themselves in the pages of the book, and will see themselves as BEAUTIFUL.
Prejudice is a scourge, and has no place in humanity’s brilliant future. We are meant to live in unity with one another, and to appreciate each other’s diversity and differences as strengths.
With Kickstarter, if it isn’t 100% funded, none of it gets funded. While I hope that you will contribute financially, I know that not everyone can, and I don’t want to pressure anyone. Sharing the link and the post/email will also be so helpful, and so appreciated!
Thank you for caring and sharing this!
The kickstarter campaign is 91% funded!! I have until Thursday night to raise the 9% remaining. I am hopeful it will make it. I have had a lot of support, including from Baha’is, and it has been very uplifting to me. One thing I would like to know is if anyone has Unity colouring sheets, games, discussion points (for children), or anything that could be adapted into a PDF colouring book on Unity in Diversity? I will be making one as one of the rewards for backing the project.
I will paste the campaign here; if you are able to share it, it would be much appreciated. However, if you aren’t able to, please don’t worry about it.
Thank you for your support!
Andrea Torrey Balsara can be contacted at: email@example.com
One of my readers posted the following story as a comment on my blog posting about Disaster Planning but it was so poignant I wanted it to stand on its own. This is printed with her permission, and she has asked to be anonymous.
There is another type of disaster that is in a different category than those caused by natural disasters. That is financial ruination and difficult for people with serious health handicaps.
I can speak from personal experience. Our story is similar to the stories of most working middle class Americans whose lives have drastically change due to medical catastrophe or a serious illness in oneself or the family.
We are Baha’is, and find that the Baha’is who are understandably not equipped to handle serious social/financial problems among the friends, but who also lack the knowledge to be resourceful in finding unconventional ways to be of assistance. So, I share my story with you, just to give one person’s narrative and efforts for solution.
My husband and I do work and research from the home which means we have a huge library. We also inherited lovely furniture and china. Work involves his professional consulting, my returning student’s school work and stuff, our Baha’i Books, spiritual literature, inspiring and help yourself types of books, books about illness, mental health and addiction (all related to my schoolwork).
We have made some mistakes along the way concerning our economic plight. When my husband underwent a major life changing surgery (the type that is physical to the point where everything changes: ambulation and how to do activities of daily life, etc.). I have major disabilities myself, physical and neurobiological which precludes us from working at most jobs.
Our Social Security income is not enough to live on and spouse’s business has taken a drastic downturn. Especially with his illness, like many Americans, our advice is, “Don’t get sick in America; you will lose your shirt.” Good bye house, good bye savings, good bye capabilities that non-handicapped people take for granted, good bye financial stability. Hello, depression, some bad decisions along the way, not wanting to downsize and give up comfortable lifestyle, debt. Bills dog us all the time.
We have drastically “downsized” our lifestyle, especially compared to most people, although still have some luxuries. We refuse to give up our dirt cheap wonderful health insurance, with no co-pays, not given our complex problems. Even if we applied for government poor peoples’ medical coverage which we may not even qualify for we would receive crappy care and have to pay co-pays for everything with fewer services and medications.
I have told my husband on more than one occasion that we are no longer economically sustainable. Sometimes he gets it and sometimes he doesn’t. He has profound grief and many losses due to his illness, which I believe are more devastating than mine. He is used to being boss of the house, stubborn, and understandably in a lot of fear. The resources of the Faith and 12-step programs don’t seem to be “in his vocabulary.” I have those resources but still slip into fear and worry. I also have a lousy short term memory.
I have been resourceful in getting as many free services as I can outside normal social services channels and being a part-time older student for dirt cheap opens a lot of possibilities for assistance and, believe it or not paying work! Work I can actually do, despite my many disabilities and not having worked at a paying job for several years. However, my work can be sporadic but it has helped a lot. It actually earns us money for me to be a student.
When we moved to our new town, our LSA saw our predicament. They helped us move things to a storage unit, and then to a new house when our landlord wanted to move back into the home we were renting.
Here is our part: we never adequately went through our possessions and there were a lot of things we should have thrown away and didn’t. Truthfully, we were too ill and depressed to do it, and I think I did not make certain decisions wisely. I opted for finding ways to be happy and find a new purpose in life, but that led to certain critical practical considerations being overlooked.
Now we are faced with another move, are both disabled, and are a few hundred dollars per month above the “poverty line” so we don’t qualify for most social services. My husband has dragged his feet, and obtained help from a professional disability counselor. On his suggestion, he put my husband in charge of house hunting since I was doing everything else and needed help. So we are now faced with moving again and, like before, at the last minute.
After my cancer last year, I spent hours looking for help with things like housecleaning. Several friends have been generous and have helped financially and with their free labor. Our friends, for some strange reason, have not given up on us and are still there (is God watching out after us?) For months we have had trouble paying our rent and often paying it late. We have had trouble financing mowing the lawn which our lease said we were supposed to do. We get the lawn moved by neighbors and a friend who loans us his lawnmower, a God send (He seems to be watching out after us); but that is not enough lawn care to please the landlord. He refused to renew the lease.
At one point I requested assistance from the National Assembly and they gave us a one-time grant to pay rent for a month. They had also talked to our Assembly about us and don’t know what was said in that conversation. In their letter with the grant, they advised me to focus on getting out of the financial mess and set school aside. Apparently, they did not know that school was a mental necessity for me that actually made us money and gives me a future, for the first time of better things to come. I consulted 5 of my medical professional care givers, and they all agreed that it was important for me to stay in school and that it would be bad if I quit. I have stopped most of my volunteer activities except for hosting a Ruhi class at one point and doing Baha’i teaching on my campus, with no college club! The teaching actually makes me happy and energizes me and I think it would be bad to give that up.
One member of the Assembly scolded me for not following advice of NSA. Eventually I got up the courage to write NSA with copy of letter to LSA, explaining my position.
In fairness to the LSA, I can see why they might not know how to help us. Most of them are either disabled themselves or to tapped out with family, work, and service commitments to do much of anything.
I don’t drive, so two members always make sure I get to Feast. That is a good thing.
One member accepted government poor peoples’ insurance and did lots of things to uplift herself from poverty and after several years got a part-time and then full-time job. Unfortunately, her way is not workable for us, and especially not for my husband. She has gotten good care with poor peoples’ insurance, with a very complex and difficult medical history. She has downsized and from what I can tell has more common sense and planning skills than we do.
I even went to the LSA on two occasions, asking for help. One idea was to sell things on the internet (I just don’t have the time or energy to do that; I would give away most of things first! A professional organizer was recommended to us, who would have helped us and when I talked to her seemed caring and good at her job, however, we couldn’t afford the down payment to get started. Our Disability counselor is now helping us with that stuff, and the services they can provide only go so far.
One Social Service agency that is highly recommended is purported to help people with housekeeping and other services. I have called or seen them on more than one occasion. They offered nothing too people who weren’t below the poverty line. We are in the same class as the “working poor,” who don’t get as many services as the poor people get.
I make no bones about the fact that I go to some food banks and am grateful to them. Most have great people, especially the one at the University. I see nothing wrong in talking about this as a very normal thing for people to do, as there is a lot of shame and stigma about this sort of thing.
My offers to help be of service in some way are generally turned down; I should be sensible and pay my debts first. However, per twelve step guidelines, a sensible amount of service activities is good for ones survival and especially one’s soul. One LSA member, and probably his wife, support my idea to start a College Club. The first activity is very simple; a monthly prayer meeting and making friends. I am happy with a meeting over the phone while I pray on campus. After months, I finally found another Baha’i on campus who is too busy to attend most things.
What can the LSA or even the NSA do for someone like me?
For one thing, they or community members could keep me company while I work.
They are praying for me, and one community member offered to help.
They could help me make phone calls. They wouldn’t have to do all my calls, just take some of the load off my back.
They can let everyone know that the Regional Council might have some resources (I didn’t know that until I read your post). I will be contacting them.
I am doing everything I can to help my profoundly depressed husband who is actually going to a Psychiatrist and staying on his medication. LSA members have tried to reach out to my husband, but he has not reciprocated. They have not given up on him. That is a wonderful thing. These good people need help too!
Another great thing they did: they moved a person who had cancer and no close family to a new apartment. They found an apartment for him too. They drove him to doctor’s appointments and found good medical help for him. These are all things he could not have done on his own. They invite them to see rented movies at their house. They found a beautiful apartment for him and he has even hosted a feast. So obviously these good people are doing something right.
There has to be a way, we can be helped by the same LSA but I don’t know what it is. Is it because my husband and I don’t appear to be making good decisions or have a different and incomprehensible sense of needs? Do we appear to be not letting go of our old life style or still making decisions that they don’t consider to be good ones?
If there is even an answer to dilemmas like ours, I say “bring it on.”
Perhaps the Regional Council could have a Ruhi class on how to help poor people with physical and mental limitations! Especially on helping poor people who are making what they consider to be bad choices. Also, do they know the whole story?
By Badi Shams
Sometimes we’re very hard on ourselves, and can’t forgive our mistakes in certain areas of life. Many of us lack self-esteem and consequently lose sight of life’s big picture.
When that happens to me, I often forget that life represents a collection of my good and bad actions—sort of a balance sheet that keeps track of my deeds, both good and bad. The negative side or the bad deeds are like an open account I have at a store or with a credit card company that keeps track of my purchases and payments. The expectation? Payments must be made by the end of the week or month at the most.
Our life’s open account is no different—because we are spiritually brought to account by the end of our physical existence. So when we know this tab is open, and understand that we are going to make many mistakes till we die, then why do we suddenly pick one mistake and become obsessed with it to the extent that we cannot forgive ourselves? Why one, when many could be singled out and made to be the stumbling block on the way of our human journey?
Forgiving others for what they have done is much easier for me than forgiving myself. The Bahá’í Teachings have a wealth of insight and knowledge on this subject to help us to forgive others—and ourselves. But my problem has always been being unable to forgive myself. For whatever reasons, my self-esteem has rarely been high enough to take me to the happier side of self-forgiveness. Even after finding out some great people too felt like me, not feeling worthy did not help me with my struggles. But when I read the holy scripture of many different Faiths, they take away some of the pain.
Even the great apostle Paul looked at his past with great regret:
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9)
Shoghi Effendi considered himself a failure to “Rise to the situation the Master’s passing had placed him in” – and this distressed him for many years. (Rúhíyyih Rabbání, The Priceless Pearl, p. 72)
Maybe we need to be reminded that our account with the Creator remains open, and not let one mistake stop us from moving on with our lives. He has not given up on us, so why are we writing ourselves off? We will eventually balance our account.
As the result of doing so many wrong things in my life, I sometimes feel unbearable and paralyzed, filled with deep regret. This negativity reaches so high that I have to find ways not to deal with it, postponing that intense and difficult reckoning to some future time so that hopefully by then I am better equipped to face it and deal with it. So when those intense guilt attack moments occur, I repeat this to myself: “Please God, put it on my tab.”
That way I buy myself some time to deal with it later—to pray, to silently ask God for forgiveness, to find the inner strength to resolve to be a better and more spiritual soul.
By using this method I have survived many moments of utter despair. It also proved to me that God’s account with us is very flexible. He is kind because he sees our weaknesses and gives us opportunities to try again. Were it not for His flexibility, we would have had to give up trying.
The Baha’i teachings say that the coming of Bahá’u’lláh can wash our consciences clean, if we let it:
Now hath the Truth appeared, and falsehood fled away; now hath the day dawned and jubilation taken over, wherefore men’s souls are sanctified, their spirits purged, their hearts rejoiced, their minds purified, their secret thoughts made wholesome, their consciences washed clean, their inmost selves made holy: for the Day of Resurrection hath come to pass, and the bestowals of thy Lord, the Forgiving, have encompassed all things. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 38).
I finally resolved this inner problem later in life, when I made a pilgrimage trip to the Baha’i World Centre in the Holy Land. There I met a very wise Bahá’í who noticed my troubles, when I could not find myself worthy enough to go to the Baha’i Shrines. This wise person asked me if I believed God is forgiving, and I said yes. He said do you think he has forgiven you for the bad things you have done? I said I am sure He has. Then he looked at me with a look of disappointment and said “then who the hell do you think you are? Are you higher than God? Forgive yourself! He has!”
In that moment, my spiritual eye opened for the first time and I could see my life clearly.
When we occupy our minds and souls obsessively with negative thoughts, we lose sight of the big picture and forget who runs the show. If God has forgiven all your shortcomings, please do yourself a favor and accept it with gratefulness. After all, our lives are God’s gift to us, and He wants us to live wisely, cheerfully and free from guilt and regrets.
For more on this topic:
God’s Love for Sinners
Learning How to Forgive Myself
By Badi Shams
In our community we had a soul-searching discussion about the role that service to humanity can play in teaching the Faith. That heart-felt consultation and realization that some friends wanted to do something but did not know where to start, encouraged me to write these few lines and make a list of possibilities of service open to us.
As Baha’is, we are often struggling to balance our time among our own efforts at spiritual growth, our family life, our work, our commitments in the Baha’i community, and our core activities and teaching. And no thanks to technological advancement with so many gadgets that enable us to multi-task more and more, we have been transformed from human beings to human doings. Added to that is also the rampant spread of materialism that is consuming our spiritual growth and draining our energy. How can we have time for one more thing- one more social action, one more commitment? Though providing a service may sound like one more thing to fit into our already busy lives, in reality it does not necessarily need to become a big project. Any look, gesture, word or action that helps others is an act of service.
The concept of service is nothing new to people of all religions and as Baha’is we have the wealth of Writings on this subject and we have read how Abdu’l-Baha exemplified service throughout His life.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
And do not forget to do good to one another. (Quran 2:238)
That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 250)
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Service to humanity is service to God. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8)
How else can our world become united if, as citizens, we don’t try to help each other? How else can the sufferings of the world be reduced? The ordinary people of the world like you and me will ultimately make a difference, and make this earth a better and more peaceful place—if we take one more extra step to help our fellow human beings.
The Baha’i Teachings encourage all people to extend themselves into the arena of service to others:
A Baha’i who serves others is like unto a candle which burns and sheds light upon all those who circle around it. The highest attainable station of the candle is to burn and brighten the dark room, and the loftiest pinnacle of our progress and perfection is to be confirmed in service… (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 8, p. 61)
Serving others has the added benefit of healing and can give peace and contentment to our souls. It helps us to deal with our problems and tests which can destroy or undermine our happiness.
Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to one who has to bear a heavier load than you — and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God. ([The Research] Department has found that these words were attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in an unpublished English translation of notes in German by Dr. Josephine Fallscheer taken on 5 August 1910. As the statement is a pilgrim note, it cannot be authenticated)
So perhaps it is a good idea to revisit this concept and with the help of the list below look at the possibilities of service open to us. Maybe we can get involved with some kind of service that fulfils our commitment and connects us to the larger community. This may also create more opportunities for enhancing the conversation and introducing Baha’u’llah’s message in the best light possible, through our actions. The list below may help you to find a service matching your talent or your passion:
- Doing one’s job the best way possible is not only a great service but an act of worship
- A kind gesture, a kind word, a kind act
- Random acts of kindness e.g. paying for someone’s coffee, paying for someone in front of you in line, giving your place in line for someone in a rush, presenting a stranger with a bouquet of flowers, mowing the neighbour’s lawn. Your imagination is the limit.
- Paying for the education of children who are poor
- Paying or contributing towards hospital bills
- Visiting in senior facilities
- Visiting in hospitals
- Volunteering to serve residents in group homes
- Driving people to appointments
- Shopping for your neighbours in need
- Cleaning homes
- Volunteering in women’s centres
- Volunteering for the Red Cross/ Red Crescent
- Volunteering in treatment facilities and organizations
- Cleaning roads and highways or cleaning garbage in your neighbourhood or on trails
- Teaching: Dance / Music / Painting / any other forms of the arts
- Coaching sports
- Picking fruits
- Calling or visiting those in need
- Offering companionship to lonely people
- Connecting with Baha’is outside of Baha’i meetings
- Offering services to literacy agencies
- Volunteering at homeless shelters and halfway houses
- Manning school crossings
- Teaching yoga / Tai Chi / martial arts/ any other exercise classes
- Self-help classes
- Teaching product-making classes like soap-making
- Teaching gardening classes
- Teaching farming classes
- Teaching woodwork classes
- Providing jewellery making classes
- Teaching bead work
- Teaching home decoration
- Providing food preserving classes
- Providing driving lessons
- Providing foreign language lessons
- Teaching house repairs
- Teaching appliance repair
- Teaching basic car repairs
- Teaching computer classes
- Helping refugees and newcomers
- Teaching adult education
- Volunteering with the Welcome Wagon for newcomers
- Picking up medicine or food
- Translating written materials or interpreting
- Cutting grass or doing landscaping
- Baby sitting
- Doing taxes
- House cleaning
- Giving financial advice
- Offering counseling
- Providing medical services
- Providing legal services
- Doing the makeup or costumes for plays
- Teaching others to apply makeup
- Volunteering in community gardens
- Connecting with volunteer organizations for possibilities
- Volunteering with food programs in schools
- Providing accommodation for the sick and needy
- Cooking for the sick
- Remembering in your prayers and supporting those who are going through a difficult time
As you embark on your quest to serve humanity, a few words of caution: Please make sure, while offering your services, that you respect the boundaries of agencies, individuals and families. Also, focus on why you’re there serving rather than the motives of others. Some people volunteer in organizations for self-recognition or out of boredom, and don’t really capture the essence of serving others with selfless intention. Be aware of this in any voluntary situation, so that it doesn’t discourage you or influence you in a negative manner.
If you approach the opportunity to serve others with a radiant countenance and the pure motivation of kindness and love, you’ll find that the gifts you give will come back to you a thousand fold.
Our Beloved Bahá’u’lláh
Remembrances of the Leaves of the Holy Family
Part I – The Early Years (1817–1853)
Monologues for Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of His Birthday
on 22 October 2017
The mother of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)
The Most Exalted Leaf, entitled Navváb, the wife of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)
I am Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of the One whom you call Bahá’u’lláh but whom I would always think of as my beloved son, Husayn-‘Alí. Let me tell you some stories of Him as a child and young man.
My husband, Mírzá Buzurg, and I were both born in the region of Núr in Mázindarán. I was most fortunate to be wedded to Mírzá Buzurg because he was renowned for his character, charm and artistic and intellectual attainments. My husband came from an ancient and noble family and he held high positions in service to the Sháh.
We were blessed with five children. Husayn-‘Alí, our third child, was born in Tihrán at the hour of dawn of October 22nd, 1817. In later years, the great chronicler, Nabíl, wrote that the world, while unaware of its significance, had nonetheless witnessed the birth of One who was destined to confer upon it incalculable blessings.
Simply as a mother, however, I counted myself lucky to have such a Child. Naturally, I loved all my children, but I could not bear for a moment to be separated from this One. His demeanour never failed to amaze me. Even as an infant, He had none of the behaviours expected of a baby: He never cried or screamed nor did He ever show any impatience or restlessness.
One day, when Husayn-‘Alí was seven years old, my husband and I were watching Him walking in the garden. I admired His gracefulness but remarked to Mírzá Buzurg that our Son was slightly short for His age. My husband replied that I was overlooking His capacity and aptitude and intelligence. He said that our Son was like a flame of fire and that even at His tender age, He was more mature than those who had reached adulthood. I readily conceded that whether He was tall or not mattered not in the slightest.
We knew, of course, that He had a special destiny. Some two years earlier, Husayn-‘Alí had a strange dream. After He described it to his father, my husband realized the dream had great significance and he summoned a man who could interpret dreams. Our Son related that He had been in a garden where huge birds flew down to assail Him, but the birds failed to hurt Him. Then He went to bathe in the sea and there He was assaulted by fishes, but they too were unable to injure Him. The dream interpreter explained that the birds and fishes represented peoples of the world attacking Him. They would, however, be powerless to harm Husayn-‘Alí and He would triumph over them to achieve a momentous matter.
We did not engage the usual tutors nobly-born male children would normally have. But Husayn-‘Alí showed remarkable aptitudes for horseback riding and calligraphy and He amazed everyone with His innate knowledge of our Holy Book, the Qur’án. Indeed, as He grew older, none could help but see His keen intelligence, alert mind, upright character, his compassionate and benevolent nature. This is not just a fond mother speaking. By the time Husayn-‘Alí was 14 years old, even learnèd adults noted His complete mastery of argument and unparalleled powers of exposition, always expressed with kindness and patience. I was so proud of Him.
Now, every mother wants little more than to have her children make advantageous marriages. In 1832, my daughter, Sárih Husayn-‘Alí’s older sister, made such a marriage into a noble family in our region. Sárih’s new sister-in-law was a vivacious and exceedingly beautiful young girl named Ásíyih. I was so happy when Ásíyih Khánum came of age and she and my beloved Son were united in marriage. The wedding took place in October 1835, just before Husayn-‘Alí turned 18 years old.
My dear husband, Mírzá Buzurg, passed away in 1839. After than, virtually nothing more is known of me. Even the date of my death is lost in the shadows of history; our culture simply paid no attention to the role of women. However, I always knew, in my heart of hearts, how blessed and privileged I was to have given birth to Husayn-‘Alí. While I may not have known that future generations would come to know Him as Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised One and the Glory of God, every sign indicated that He had a divine mission that only Allah could have destined.
I am Ásíyih Khánum and Husayn-‘Alí, later known as Bahá’u’lláh, was my beloved Husband. Let me tell you something of our life together.
We both came from wealthy families that lived in the same region of Núr. My father adored me. He indulged me by allowing me to learn how to read and write, skills almost unheard of among women in our society. When I was still a child, my older brother married a wonderful young woman named Sárih Khánum and we became fast friends. She had a younger brother named Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí and almost immediately, she conceived of the plan for Husayn-‘Alí and I to be married. Sárih Khánum said it was because I had “rare physical beauty and wonderful spiritual qualities” but I think it was because she loved her brother so much and wanted this extra tie between our families.
Pre-wedding negotiations for an elaborate wedding were soon completed to everyone’s satisfaction. For six months prior to the ceremony, a jeweller moved into our home and created beautiful and costly pieces for my dowry. Even the buttons of my garments were made of gold, set with precious jewels. My dowry also included two maidservants, one male servant, a considerable sum of money and a large piece of property. Forty mules were loaded with my clothing and other possessions when I moved to my husband’s home. And as soon as I was of age in October 1835, the marriage ceremony took place
We lived a quiet life. Neither of us were interested in an ostentatious life style or the lavish State functions attended by noble families of our rank. Such worldly pleasures held no meaning for us. Rather, we cared for the poor and those in distress. By extending such comfort and assistance, my Lord came to be called “The Father of the Poor” and some even referred to me as “The Mother of Consolation”.
Husayn-‘Alí’s father, who had by this time lost a great deal of the family wealth through the machinations of jealous government officials, died in 1839 and my Lord Husband subsequently took on the added responsibility of looking after the large extended family of His mother, step-mothers and siblings. Although younger than many of these dependants, I shouldered the burden along with Him of caring for the family and managing the household.
Sadly, I lost my first two babies, but our son ‘Abbás, named after his paternal grandfather but whom later generations would call ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was born in May of 1844, and survived to adulthood. Praise God, because even as a young child, He was my most stalwart helper whenever my Husband was away on His travels and later when He was imprisoned. I was blessed with two additional surviving children, my pure-hearted daughter, Bahíyyih, who was born in 1846, and my sweet little son, Mírzá, born in 1849.
For the first nine years of our marriage, my beloved Husband and I enjoyed peace and tranquility in what I think now was a time for building our strength and capacity for the turbulent years to come. I was utterly devoted to Him.
When ‘Abbás was a new-born infant, a courier named Mullá Husayn travelled from Shíráz to give Husayn-‘Alí the “Hidden Secret”. Soon we all came to know that the One entitled the Báb had revealed Himself as the promised Qá’im of Islam. My Husband accepted this Revelation instantly.
Rapid changes engulfed us. Our home became the focal point of the followers of the Báb, who were known as Bábís. Of course, social norms were such that I could not mingle with male guests or participate in their gatherings in our home, but from behind the curtain of my adjacent private parlour, I followed the developments. In other changes, my Husband began guide and inspire the Bábís and to travel extensively in aid of the Cause of the Báb.
Then Husayn-‘Alí invited Táhirih, the noted Persian poetess and ardent supporter of the Báb, to live in our house for a time. I heard her speak fearlessly of the advent of the Herald. One day the two of us sat in my parlour, with my little son ‘Abbás sitting on her lap. We were listening to the men’s discussion in the next room. Suddenly, Táhirih exclaimed from behind the curtain. “O Siyyid, this is not the time for arguments, for discussions, for idle repetitions of prophecies or traditions! It is the time for deeds! The day for words has passed! The Promised Herald has come! He has come, the Qá’im, the Imám, the Awaited One has come!”
How could I remain untouched by the spiritual ferment surrounding me? Of course, it was impossible for me to travel forth as Táhirih did or drink the cup of martyrdom as she was called to do. But I gladly accepted my role to be the helpmeet of my Husband and did everything in my power to provide a stable, loving home for our family and a welcoming atmosphere for His guests.
Turmoil and persecution increasingly afflicted the Bábís and then the Báb Himself was unjustly executed in 1850. My Husband left for Iraq to keep the Báb’s followers from despair. He was gone for over a year and even when He returned to Persia, He continued to travel to outlying areas, despite the unrelenting persecutions against the Bábís.
Then the unthinkable happened. My Husband was arrested, beaten, suffered the agonies of the bastinado, forced into heavy chains and thrown into the foulest prison in Tihrán, the infamous Síyáh Chál. You may have heard it called the Black Pit.
And then, it got worse. Every friend abandoned us and everybody in our household – every relation and every servant except one manservant, Isfandíyár, and one maidservant – fled from our house in terror. Then hearing of Husayn-‘Alí’s imprisonment as a Bábí, the mobs plundered our mansion and other properties and stripped them of every piece of furniture and all our goods, our kitchenware, our clothing.
We were destitute in an instant. Here I was a young noblewoman with three young children. ‘Abbás was 9, Bahíyyih 6, and little Mihdí barely 3 years old. I managed to rent a small house with two mean little rooms in an obscure quarter of the city. We lacked even the barest necessities of life. One of my aunts and one of my Husband’s sisters provided us with a few cents on some days. One day, we were in such dire straits that I had only a tiny amount of flour left in the house. I put it in the hand of ‘Abbás and He ate it like that.
Meanwhile, I lived in a state of constant terror over the prospects of my Husband. Thank God for Mírzá Majíd, the husband of one of my Father’s aunts. Mírzá Majíd was a Russian citizen and a secretary in the Russian consulate. He helped us get food to my Husband and brought us news as to which Bábí was to be executed next. You cannot imagine the crushing anxiety I felt in those days, from fearful expectation each dawn that it would be the last day of my beloved Husband’s life to sheer relief on learning that He would live one more day.
After four months of this torture, representations from the Russian Minister resulted in the release of my Husband, on the condition of His exile to ‘Iráq within a month. He had no time to properly heal and recuperate, but we did our best to nurse Him. I had managed to secure a few jewels and embroidered garments when we fled from our mansion. I sold them now for the sum of some four hundred túmáns so we had a little money to prepare for the journey to ‘Iráq.
The four months in that unspeakable hellhole had an odd effect on my Husband. While He was broken in body, His spirit had soared to a new plane. Even my children noticed a new radiance enfolding Him like a shining cloak. Of course, at that time we were so worried about restoring His health, and so harassed with getting ready for the exile, we did not comprehend the significance of this new plane of His spiritual essence. It was another decade before we learned the actual details.
We departed our homeland in the early days of January 1853, the midmost days of a brutal winter, and faced an arduous journey through snow-clogged mountain passes to an uncertain future.
Thus we have accounts of Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of Bahá’u’lláh and Ásíyih Khánum, His wife, upon whom He bestowed the titles of the Most Exalted Leaf, and Navváb, a title of honour meaning ‘noble’. Their recollections have described the early years of the life of Bahá’u’lláh.
In an undated prayer revealed for His mother, Khadíjih Khánum, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “The most honoured, esteemed and respected mother. He is God! Praised be Thou O Lord, My God! This is My mother who hath acknowledged Thy oneness, [and] confessed Thy unity…. I beseech Thee, therefore, O My God, to grant her the honour of beholding Thy Beauty, and vouchsafe unto her the gift of Thy Presence. Give her to drink then from the ocean of Thy mercy and the chalice of Thy forgiveness. Make her to dwell, O My God, in the precincts of Thy mercy in the Heaven of eternity. Grant her to hear Thy holy melodies that she may cast the veil from her head in her eagerness to meet Thee and speed through the domains of Thy nearness and union. Thou art verily powerful over all that Thou desirest, and Thou art verily the Mighty, the Most Luminous.”
In one of several Tablets revealed by Bahá’u’lláh to honour Ásíyih Khánum, He wrote, “O Navváb! O Leaf that hath sprung from My Tree, and been My companion! My glory be upon thee, and My loving-kindness, and My mercy that hath surpassed all beings. We announce unto thee that which will gladden thine eye, and assure thy soul, and rejoice thine heart. Verily, thy Lord is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful. God hath been and will be pleased with thee, and hath singled thee out for His own Self, and chosen thee from among His handmaidens to serve Him, and hath made thee the companion of His Person in the daytime and in the night-season.”
In a Tablet of visitation revealed after her death, Bahá’u’lláh testified that Ásíyih Khánum had gazed upon His Countenance, circled round His throne, gave ear to His Call, resided in His House and clung to the Cord of His Covenant. He bore witness that she endured patiently in the path of her Lord and that God had elevated her to a glorious station.
We esteem the legacy of Ásíyih Khánum to this day. Bahá’u’lláh informed His followers that, were they to visit her tomb, they are to say, “Salutation and blessing and glory upon thee, O Holy Leaf that hath sprung from the Divine Lote Tree! …” Her enduring fidelity to Bahá’u’lláh at every stage of their lives must have been one of the few private joys and comforts during His Life.
And we honour the legacy of Khadíjih Khánum who gave birth to, lovingly raised and then released her Son to the world, a Son Who was destined to be the Manifestation of God whose advent all past religions had promised, the Light of the World, the Sun of Truth, the Prince of Peace, the Glory of God.
Script taken primarily from Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, An In-Depth Study of the Lives of Women Closely Related to the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh by Baharieh Rouhani Ma‘ani, and Bahá’u’lláh The King of Glory by H.M. Balyuzi.