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Hardship

. . . if thy daily living become difficult, soon thy Lord will bestow upon thee that which will satisfy thee. Be patient in time of affliction and trial, endure every difficulty and hardship with a dilated heart, attracted spirit and eloquent tongue in remembrance of the Merciful. Verily this is the life of satisfaction, the spiritual existence, heavenly repose, divine benediction and the celestial table! Soon thy Lord will extenuate thy straitened circumstances even in this world!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Divine Art of Living, p. 93)

We all have times in life that are difficult.  That’s how we grow spiritually and attain our purpose in life, which is to draw closer to God and acquire the virtues we need in the next life.  In the middle of these times, though, it’s hard to remember.  We often compare ourselves with others, who seem to slide through life with a silver spoon.  Envy only makes things worse.  Here we see what we need to remember:

  • It won’t last forever
  • In the meantime, be patient
  • Endure these times with a dilated heart, attracted spirit and eloquent tongue in remembrance of God

Not only will this make the tests easier to bear, they give us a life of satisfaction, spiritual existence, heavenly repose, divine benediction and the celestial table. That seems reason enough to stop complaining and change my attitude!

Knowing how to survive times of hardship, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy

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Disaster Planning for Baha’i Communities

In many places in the world, our communities have faced sudden calamities, for which they weren’t prepared.  The NSA in the USA has given us some good guidelines on how to prepare and how to respond, and I thought would be helpful to share with all my readers.  Baha’i communities can be most effective when they are prepared for calamities and disasters, so they can best respond when they happen.

In times of national disaster, National Assemblies have 2 major lines of action:

Efforts at the national headquarters are, in time of crisis, divided between two major lines of action that operate from a broader perspective than regional or local levels of administration:

  • Meeting current needs: creating infrastructure and mechanisms for information and funds flows, resolving regional problems and communicating with the Bahá’ís nationally and globally
  • Thinking strategically: reaching out to non-Bahá’í sources for information, asking “what next” questions about recovery and future needs and assessing community and humanitarian resources for meeting them. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

National member databases should be up to date:

Community membership lists should be corrected and kept current in the National Membership Database at the Bahá’í National Center, so accurate records of believers are available for identifying and following up the Bahá’í population in the event of a disaster. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Regional Councils are intimately familiar with the human resources, development and conditions of the localities in their region:

Regional Councils are an essential link in the administrative network of the Faith, more intimately familiar with the human resources, development and conditions of the localities in their region, closer and better placed to respond to immediate needs than offices at the national level. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Local Assemblies should consider how they will function in carrying out their emergency plans:

An Assembly should consider how it will function to carry out its emergency plans and serve the community in the event its regular meetings are disrupted and/or one or more members become unavailable. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Assemblies should be familiar with guidance from the NSA re contact with officials:

Before making such contacts, Assemblies should be thoroughly familiar with guidance from the National Spiritual Assembly’s Office of Public Affairs regarding contact with officials and non-Bahá’í organizations, and should educate the community about such contacts. Contact the Office of Public Affairs at http://publicaffairs.bahai.us/, bahaisus@usbnc.org or (202)833-8990 for more information.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Assemblies should inform every one of the emergency plan:

An essential ingredient of any disaster recovery plan is to fully and effectively communicate the emergency plan to those it will affect, to be sure believers are informed about where they can turn for help, and to practice carrying out whichever components of the plan are possible to practice. The practice afforded believers through the institute process is what enabled Bahá’í communities affected by the hurricanes to effectively implement responses to the conditions presented.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27-28)

Assemblies should have a communications plan:

  • Each community should establish a communication plan that includes contacts who are likely to be outside a disaster-affected area. This plan should be shared with the Bahá’ís, so they know where to turn, and where to check in, when the need arises.
  • (800) 22-UNITE currently can serve as a supplement or backup, though not a replacement, for local provisions for locating displaced community members.
  • Email and text messaging after Hurricane Katrina often worked when land line and cellular phones did not; community email and cell phone lists should be considered by communities that do not already have them, and this information be included in the members’ contact information given each Local Spiritual Assembly.
  • Local Assemblies can identify commercial services that can assist with communications. For example: there are a variety of web-based services that automatically call an organization’s membership database and play a recorded message as a means of broadcasting information and alerts.
  • Local Assembly Secretaries should use their Assembly email accounts as the first place they turn for information and alerts from the National Assembly, if their internet connection is functioning. Assemblies that do not regularly check their agency email may not be as current and well-informed as those who do. Assemblies may wish to investigate acquiring solar-powered laptops, batteries, or other communications devices that would be able to operate independently during power outages.
  • The national Bahá’í community website at American.bahai.us is the National Spiritual Assembly’s primary method of up-to-date general communication.
  • As some members of the community may not have cell phones or computers, and for emergencies when available technologies fail to work, Assemblies may also wish to devise alternate plans for contacting community members. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should complete an Emergency Contact Information Sheet for all its members:

Assemblies are encouraged to collect information to better enable them to serve the friends in their care should an emergency occur, whether a widespread disaster or an individual situation such as the death of a community member without local family. Each Assembly should create a list of information it would need to suit the particular circumstances and needs of its community.

It is suggested that a broad range of information be gathered from believers, similar to the information on the sample form, Emergency Contact Information Sheet to facilitate:

  • Contacting relatives or friends
  • Locating a person who may have been evacuated from the area
  • Aiding and assisting disaster victims with health or other issues
  • Assessing community resources
  • Preparing a disaster plan
  • Being better able to respond to any number of unanticipated situations.

The Emergency Contact Information Sheet is available on the national Bahai community website in the Supplements to Guidelines section. All such information should be preserved with the utmost confidentiality and kept in a safe but readily accessible place. Assemblies should not send emergency information forms to the Bahá’í National Center. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should encourage personal safety plans:

Assemblies may want to encourage believers to prepare a personal safety plan and to collect emergency supplies and essential documents that might be needed in an emergency or disaster. There are many sources for information on what such a plan might entail and what supplies and documents might be needed.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should keep their members up to date with procedures to follow:

Each Assembly should be sure to let the members of its community know of various ways to contact it, the Regional Bahá’í Council, and the National Spiritual Assembly during emergencies and any procedures it would like them to follow. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

Assemblies should be a rock on which the friends can seek solace:

Local Spiritual Assemblies are the stewards of their communities. If the Local Assembly itself is not temporarily dislocated as a result of the disaster, it can be the rock upon which the friends can steady themselves and seek solace.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Local communities can work with relief agencies in planning and mobilizing community resources in times of crisis:

Local communities may wish to promote and achieve higher visibility vis-à-vis local relief agencies, non-profits and local governments as a way to participate in disaster response in the planning stages, especially on issues with implications for social values and attitudes. This could also streamline the process of mobilizing community resources in times of crisis, locating displaced Bahá’ís and assessing needs, since existing relief agencies often have vital information the Bahá’ís do not.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28)

Individuals provide selfless service in a manner consistent with Bahá’í principles:

It is impossible to anticipate the features of a future disaster, a fact which argues against elaborate response plans. Because Bahá’í communities and institutions are not relief agencies, there are limits to what they can and should do in response to a disaster. The focus of the friends on the Faith’s mission and on the goals of the current teaching plan have been instrumental in shaping a spiritually oriented response to disaster, whether on the part of those directly impacted, or of those who come to the aid of others in need.  While Bahá’ís should never lose sight of the mission of the Faith or goals of whichever Plan is in progress, they should not seek to take advantage of a crisis to teach in a crass way, or to claim credit for their services; the orientation must be toward selfless service in a manner consistent with Bahá’í principles. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

They respond to the needs of Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís alike:

The Bahá’í community’s experience with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita gave ample evidence of the friends’ spontaneous creativity, generosity and dedication as they responded to the needs of Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís alike. A wide latitude of action should be given the friends to follow the dictates of conscience and motivation, as they are capable of devising innovative solutions to urgent problems as they arise.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

They draw on people’s diversity:

One of the most salient strengths of the Bahá’í community is its diversity. Planners should do their best to appreciate and draw upon that diversity. Differences in personality, aptitudes, skills and training determine to a great extent the ways in which people are more or less effective in actual crisis situations. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

They adapt the core activities to the new needs:

Years of work in establishing children’s classes, devotional gatherings and study circles have provided local Bahá’í communities with a skill set and a structure of activities which they have used to good advantage in extreme situations. The Hurricane Katrina example showed how the ability to create and staff children’s activities was both recognized and valued in these new circumstances. Devotional gatherings were also used by the friends to offer a place where they and their fellow citizens could focus on the disaster, provide spiritual aid to the dispossessed and sort through the upheaval they were witnessing. Familiarity with the service or practice component of the study circle process enabled the friends more easily to organize food drives and other local forms of direct assistance adapted to situational needs.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

Resources

There are many disaster planning materials and websites that offer useful information and ideas for all aspects of personal safety and disaster recovery. Local governments may also be able to provide referrals to resources suitable and/or available in the area.

Just a few of the many useful internet resources are:

  • S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at www.fema.gov which provides a list of state emergency management planning offices that may offer useful planning resources and contact information to local communities.
  • Reuters Foundation AlertNet at www.alertnet.org which offers multiple resources, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) directory of humanitarian agencies, and resources for disaster response training.
  • One thorough and well-organized state-level planning site is www.readycolorado.com which offers checklists across a wide range of situational needs, information about different kinds of disasters, and links to further information. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below.

Calamities – Causing the Limbs of Mankind to Shake

There are 2 quotes, which, when taken together, tend to frighten many of us:

The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 118)

Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 63)

When I read about the Tanna (Vanuatu) community in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam in “Reflections on Growth”, and watched “The Resilience of the Tanna Baha’i Community”  these two quotes came together.

Background information on Tanna

Tanna is one of 83 small islands in the country of Vanuatu, which is located in the South Pacific east of Australia and west of Fiji.   It is 40 kilometres long and 19 kilometres wide, with a total area of 550 square kilometres . Its population of 30,000 is scattered in pockets across a volcanic outcrop.

In 2012, the House of Justice named Tanna as one of 5 clusters where the process of entry by troops was sufficiently well advanced and conditions in these national communities were favourable for them to build a House of Worship.  Progress was progressing nicely, with the whole island taking ownership of the building of the temple, Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í working together.

In 2015, within the space of just a few weeks, there was a measles outbreak; an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5; the volcano erupted for the first time in 100 years and finally there was cyclone Pam, one of the most powerful storms to rip through the south Pacific.  It was a category 5 storm, with sustained wind speeds of up to 320 km/hour lasting over a 24 hour period.  It was the second-most intense tropical cyclone on record worldwide and certainly one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vanuatu.

The cyclone crippled Vanuatu’s infrastructure.  90 percent of the homes, schools and hospital buildings were damaged or destroyed.  Telecommunications were paralyzed.  There was no drinkable water left on the island.  96 per cent of their food crops were destroyed.

People needed immediate assistance for clean water, food, shelter, healthcare and psycho-social care, but relief workers were battling poor weather and communications issues for days, hampering much of their efforts to reach the outer islands.  A lack of airstrips and deep water ports hampered the speed of relief operations.  It was not until two weeks after the cyclone struck, that aid finally reached all of the affected islands.

In April 2017, Tropical Cyclone Cook (a category two cyclone, which generated wind gusts of up to 130 kilometres per hour near its centre), buffeted Vanuatu with strong winds, heavy rain and rough seas, causing flash flooding in some parts of the country.  A month later, in May 2017, Tanna was again battered by Cyclone Donna for several days, with gale force winds of up to 205km/hr. It was another category 5 storm, listed as the strongest out-of-season storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

So here’s my question:  if this community, which was so united before all these calamities, that the House of Justice said they could have a local Mashrukul-Adkar, and yet, they still needed to be brought to their knees to achieve even more unity . . . then what’s it going to take for the West to be brought to her knees?  I can’t even imagine, and it terrifies me!  Nevertheless, I was inspired by this video, and continue to be!

Let’s look at what the Baha’i Writings have to share with us, on the topic of the coming calamity.  

Is humanity already in the middle of the calamity? 

Calamities are already occurring: 

Behold the disturbances which, for many a long year, have afflicted the earth, and the perturbation that hath seized its peoples. It hath either been ravaged by war, or tormented by sudden and unforeseen calamities.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p.163)

The House of Justice points out that calamities have been and are occurring and will continue to happen until mankind has been chastened sufficiently to accept the Manifestation for this day. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 15 April 1976)

When will our calamity come?

Since Baha’u’llah has said it’s “unforeseen”, we can’t predict it:

The House of Justice points out that Bahá’u’lláh in no uncertain terms has said ‘O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not that which ye have committed hath been effaced in My sight.’ Therefore it considers that it would be fruitless to attempt to foresee the time or the nature of a calamity which Bahá’u’lláh Himself said was ‘unforseen’.   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 128)

What form will it take? 

We do not know what form these upheavals will take, when exactly they will come, how severe they will be, nor how long they will last:

Although there is every reason to expect that the world will experience travails and testing as never before, we do not know what form these upheavals will take, when exactly they will come, how severe they will be, nor how long they will last.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 19 March 1981)

It won’t necessarily be another war:

While the Guardian envisaged the likelihood of further warfare in the world, he did not categorically identify such war with the “unforeseen calamity” foretold by Bahá’u’lláh. In fact, he wrote, on another occasion: “We have no indication of exactly what nature the apocalyptic upheaval will be: it might be another war.  (From a letter dated 21 November 1949, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)

We cannot be certain that it will be in the form of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tidal waves:

No doubt the remarkable progress being made in scientific endeavour holds true in the study by experts of geological upheavals. But we cannot be certain that predictions of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tidal waves caused by such phenomena can be identified as the cataclysmic events to which Bahá’u’lláh refers.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 128)

What are the signs of the calamity?

Criticism of others:

Vicious criticism is indeed a calamity. But its root is lack of faith in the system of Bahá’u’lláh, i.e., the Administrative Order—and lack of obedience to Him—for He has forbidden it! If the Bahá’ís would follow the Bahá’í laws in voting, in electing, in serving and in abiding by Assembly decision, all this waste of strength through criticizing others could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)

Other signs include:

The violent derangement of the world’s equilibrium; the trembling that will seize the limbs of mankind; the radical transformation of human society; the rolling up of the present-day Order; the fundamental changes affecting the structure of government; the weakening of the pillars of religion; the rise of dictatorships; the spread of tyranny; the fall of monarchies; the decline of ecclesiastical institutions; the increase of anarchy and chaos; the extension and consolidation of the Movement of the Left; the fanning into flame of the smouldering fire of racial strife; the development of infernal engines of war; the burning of cities; the contamination of the atmosphere of the earth—these stand out as the signs and portents that must either herald or accompany the retributive calamity which, as decreed by Him Who is the judge and Redeemer of mankind, must, sooner or later, afflict a society which, for the most part, and for over a century, has turned a deaf ear to the Voice of God’s Messenger in this day—a calamity which must purge the human race of the dross of its age-long corruptions, and weld its component parts into a firmly knit world-embracing Fellowship.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 332-333)

Why do we have disasters? 

We should try to understand why they occur:

Bahá’ís should not be diverted from the work of the Cause by the fear of catastrophes but should try to understand why they occur. The beloved Guardian, in innumerable places, has explained the reasons for these occurrences, and since they happen from time to time as explained above we should not be concerned as to when they occur.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 15 April 1976)

 The actions of men:

In Akká, January 1908, this question was asked of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Are great calamities like this flood, the San Francisco earthquake, etc., caused by the wickedness of the people?” To this He responded: “Events like these happen because of the connection between the parts of the universe, for every small part has connection with every great part, and what affects one affects the other or all others. On account of this connection, the actions of man have effect. Whenever a promise is broken, it causes a commotion. For instance, suppose two nations have a disagreement. It is a difference in ideas only, and not a physical thing, not anything we can touch or see; yet this disagreement has a physical effect. It causes war, and thousands of men are cut in pieces. So, when man breaks his promise to God, in other words when he “violates the Covenant,” the effect is physical, and calamities appear.  (Daily Lessons Received at Akká’ by Helen Goodall & Ella Cooper. Bahá’í Publishing Trust 1979, p. 21-22)

Disobedience to the Divine Commands:

According to the teaching of the Prophets, disease and all other forms of calamity are due to disobedience to the Divine Commands. Even disasters due to floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are attributed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indirectly to this cause. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 95)

How long will it last? 

The longer Bahá’u’lláh is withheld from healing the ills of the world, the more severe will be the crises:

… but as students of our Bahá’í writings it is clear that the longer the ‘Divine Physician’ (i.e. Bahá’u’lláh) is withheld from healing the ills of the world, the more severe will be the crises, and the more terrible the sufferings of the patient.  (From a letter dated 21 November 1949, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)

Will the Baha’is be protected?

In such a process of purgation, when all humanity is in the throes of dire suffering, the Bahá’ís should not hope to remain unaffected. Should we consider the beam that is in our own eye, we would immediately find that these sufferings are also meant for ourselves, who claimed to have attained. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 133)

How are we to respond? 

We will be affected:

Bewildered, agonized and helpless, [humanity] watches this great and mighty wind of God invading the remotest and fairest regions of the earth, rocking its foundations, deranging its equilibrium, sundering its nations, disrupting the homes of its peoples, wasting its cities, driving into exile its kings, pulling down its bulwarks, uprooting its institutions, dimming its light, and harrowing up the souls of its inhabitants. (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 3)

Fear doesn’t solve anything:

He does not feel that fear — for ourselves or for others — solves any problems, or enables us to better meet it if it ever does arise. We do not know what the future holds exactly, or how soon we may all pass through another ordeal worse than the last one. (Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, par. 252.3-252.4)

Our job is to labor serenely, confidently, and unremittingly to lend our share of assistance:

Ours rather the duty, however confused the scene, however dismal the present outlook, however circumscribed the resources we dispose of, to labor serenely, confidently, and unremittingly to lend our share of assistance, in whichever way circumstances may enable us, to the operation of the forces which, as marshaled and directed by Bahá’u’lláh, are leading humanity out of the valley of misery and shame to the loftiest summits of power and glory.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p.124)

 Our duty is to actively teach receptive souls and help in the consolidation of the institutions:

The important aspect for the Bahá’ís is that their attitude and actions in response to the pending catastrophe be correct. We all know that the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh is the world’s only salvation, and that our duty is to actively teach receptive souls, and to do our utmost to help in the consolidation of the institutions of the Faith. Only in this way can we contribute our share of servitude at His Threshold, and we should then leave the rest to Him. (Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, par. 252.3-252.4)

We need to teach, and build community:

Bahá’ís need to be prepared both spiritually and materially to respond to disastrous events, and to assist others to respond, as well. Recent natural disasters demonstrated some basic issues that local communities should address which are generalized below. In a real sense, Bahá’ís simply need to do two things they have always done and are becoming increasingly skilled at doing through the cluster and institute processes: teach and build community. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27)

How are we to look at these disasters?

There’s a great wisdom behind them:

Although outwardly cataclysms are hard to understand and to endure, yet there lies a great wisdom behind them which appears later. All the visible material events are inter-related with invisible spiritual forces. The infinite phenomena of creation are as interdependent as the links of a chain. When certain links become rusty, they are broken by unseen forces, to be replaced by newer and better ones. There are certain colossal events which transpire in the world of humanity which are required by the nature of the times. For example, the requirements of winter are cold, snow, hail and rain – but the birds and animals who live for six months, enjoying a short span of life, not realizing the wisdom of winter, chide and make lament and are discontent, saying, “Why this awful frost? Why this hail and storm? Why not the balmy weather? Why not the eternal springtime? Why this injustice on the part of the creator? Why this suffering? What have we done to be meted out with this catastrophe?” However, those souls who have lived many years and have acquired much experience and have weathered many severe winters realize that in order to enjoy the coming spring they must pass through the cold of winter.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 115)

They are bounties, gifts and God’s mercy and favor:

As to the calamities and afflictions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: These are not calamities, but bounties; they are not afflictions, but gifts; not hardships, but tranquillity; not trouble, but mercy—and we thank God for this great favor.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 128)

They are educative and remedial, so that we turn back to God:

The suffering that follows error is not vindictive, however, but educative and remedial. It is God’s Voice proclaiming to man that he has strayed from the right path. If the suffering is terrible, it is only because the danger of wrongdoing is more terrible, for “the wages of sin is death.  “Just as calamity is due to disobedience, so deliverance from calamity can be obtained only by obedience. There is no chance or uncertainty about the matter. Turning from God inevitably brings disaster, and turning to God as inevitably brings blessing.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 95)

They are paving the way for the world’s unification and ultimate redemption:

They should persevere in their task, undaunted by the rising tide of calamity and despair which afflicts the world, and which is mysteriously paving the way for its unification and ultimate redemption.  (Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, p. 87-88)

They help us attribute more importance to spiritual matters:

You seem to complain about the calamities, that have befallen humanity. In the spiritual development of man a stage of purgation is indispensable, for it is while passing through it that the over-rated material needs are made to appear in their proper light. Unless society learns to attribute more importance to spiritual matters, it would never be fit to enter the golden era foretold by Bahá’u’lláh. The present calamities are parts of this process of purgation, through them alone will man learn his lesson. They are to teach the nations, that they have to view things internationally, they are to make the individual attribute more importance to his moral, than his material welfare.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 133)

They help awaken us to the importance of our duty:

Such world crisis is necessary to awaken us to the importance of our duty and the carrying on of our task. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 133)

They will help us do a better job teaching the Cause:

Suffering will increase our energy in setting before humanity the road to salvation, it will move us from our repose for we are far from doing our best in teaching the Cause and conveying the Message with which we have been entrusted.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 133)

They promote the interests of the Faith in the world:

I am however assured and sustained by the conviction, never dimmed in my mind, that whatsoever comes to pass in the Cause of God, however disquieting in its immediate effects, is fraught with infinite Wisdom and tends ultimately to promote its interests in the world. Indeed, our experiences of the distant past, as well as of recent events, are too numerous and varied to permit of any misgiving or doubt as to the truth of this basic principle — a principle which throughout the vicissitudes of our sacred mission in this world we must never disregard or forget.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 27)

What can we do to prepare?

Move out of the cities:

Any intelligent person can understand from the experiences of the last world war, and keeping abreast of what modern science has developed in the way of weapons for any future war, that big cities all over the world are going to be in tremendous danger. This is what the Guardian has said to the pilgrims. Entirely aside from this, he has urged the Bahá’ís, for the sake of serving the Faith, to go out from these centers of intense materialism, where life nowadays is so hurried and grinding and, dispersing to towns and villages, carry the Message far and wide throughout the cities of the American Union. He strongly believes that the field outside the big Cities is more fertile, that the Bahá’ís in the end will be happier for having made this move, and that, in case of an outbreak of war, it stands to reason they will be safer, just the way any other person living in the country, or away from the big industrial areas, is safer. It is remarks such as these that the pilgrims have carried back in their notes. He sees no cause for alarm, but he certainly believes that the Bahá’ís should weigh these thoughts, and take action for the sake of spreading the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and for their own ultimate happiness as well. Indeed the two things go together.  (Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, 20 June 1954)

Don’t waste time dwelling on what might befall us:

He has been told that some of the friends are disturbed over reports brought back by the pilgrims concerning the dangers facing America in the future whenever another world conflagration breaks out. He does not feel that the Bahá’ís should waste time dwelling on the dark side of things. (Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, 20 June 1954)

The House of Justice is telling us the same thing they told the Tanna community, after Cyclone Pam:  concentrate every ounce of energy on the winning of the goals of the Five Year Plan:

In letters to other believers who have asked questions similar to yours, the House of Justice has emphasized that the friends should not waste their time and energies in fruitless speculations on this question. Rather, they should concentrate every ounce of energy on the winning of the goals of the Five Year Plan, which they have clearly before them, confident in the knowledge that whatever may happen in the world, however calamitous it may outwardly appear, will promote God’s unalterable purpose for the unification of mankind.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 128)

 What can we do in the middle of disaster?

 Have perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God:

When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 73)

Remember that we have the capacity to match any challenge that may confront us:

Having said all the foregoing, we pause to assure you of our full awareness of the great burdens you carry and of the ceaseless calls upon you to render services in the absence of adequate resources. Do not despair. Your capacity to respond will match any challenge that may confront you in these troubled times; you have only to act on principle. Your community’s past has been glorious; its future is great beyond calculation. The divine promises to your community are certain; the blessings of Bahá’u’lláh are assured as you strive to fulfill His purpose. The wings of the beloved Master remain spread over you that you may succeed in discharging the tasks He has especially entrusted to your care. And our love ever surrounds you and your cherished community, growing stronger at every moment. Step forward then to meet the requirements of the hour with undiminished hope and confidence.  (Universal House of Justice, Rights and Responsibilities: The Complementary Roles of the Individual and Institutions, p. 49-50)

 Use this prayer:

On the appearance of fearful natural events call ye to mind the might and majesty of your Lord, He Who heareth and seeth all, and say “Dominion is God’s, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation.”  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p 23)

When will the calamities end?

Humanity must suffer until it becomes spiritually awakened:

There is nothing in the teachings to tell us exactly how much longer the present turbulent state of the world is going to endure; but we do know that humanity must suffer until it becomes spiritually awakened, and that the Most Great Peace will come, as promised by Bahá’u’lláh.” (From a letter dated 26 February 1946, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)

It will end when the spirit of the Cause permeates the heart of man, and its universal teachings pull down the existing barriers:

The world with the various calamities that have befallen it, will be completely ravaged and its civilization demolished, if the Bahá’ís do not come to its help and embue it with the spirit that Bahá’u’lláh has brought to the world. The economic factions, political parties, national hatreds, racial prejudices, and religious antagonisms, will continue to bring about devastating wars until the spirit of the Cause permeates the heart of man, and its universal teachings pull down the existing barriers. Let us be reminded of our duty by the misery we see around us, and arise for the prosecution of our noble duty.” (From a letter dated 24 November 1931 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the American National Spiritual Assembly)

Conclusion:

So here’s the thing:  in the midst of all of this chaos, when they had to rebuild everything, the Tanna Baha’i community continued to fast, focused on finding ways to celebrate Naw Ruz with the whole villages (not just the Bahá’í community), and were totally obedient when the House told them to continue the core activities.  They didn’t say rebuild first – they said “keep going”.  And I think that’s what we all must do.  If the Bahá’ís get caught up in all the fear-mongering (no matter how real it may seem), we won’t have any energy to focus on what’s really important.

I really think we need to stay calm in the middle of the hurricane, knowing that (as the House of Justice said in this year’s Ridvan Message):

Far from disheartening you, let the world’s prejudices and hostilities be reminders of how urgently souls all around you need the healing balm that you alone can present to them.

How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below.

Redefining Miracles

 

The Bahá’í view concerning miracles is that the Manifestations of God derive their power and authority from Almighty God. They are the embodiments of His attributes and the manifestations of His glory in this world. They are therefore able to do what they will, even to change the laws of nature and perform miracles. For it is obvious that God, having established the laws of nature, is Himself able to change them if He so wishes. To entertain doubt that He can do this is tantamount to attributing impotence to Him. The followers of Bahá’u’lláh therefore do not deny the possibility of the performance of miracles by the Prophets and Messengers of God. However, such miracles, even when they have been performed, are valid as proof only for the few who have witnessed them. They cannot be regarded as a conclusive testimony to the authenticity of the message of the Prophet. For no one can prove that a certain miracle attributed to a Prophet has actually been performed. On the other hand, some of the miracles mentioned in the Holy Books such as the raising of the dead, the curing of lepers, or the ascending to heaven have spiritual significance. Bahá’u’lláh has revealed these meanings in many of His Writings and especially in the Kitáb-i-Íqán. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 38-39)

The true miracle is not what is outwardly seen, but what is inwardly felt:

In the Gospel of St. John, chapter 6, verse 26, it is written: “Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 97)

Bahá’ís have witnessed many miracles in the course of the Faith, which might not be seen as miraculous as we normally understand it. The most notable include:

1. Bahá’u’lláh’s appearance as a human being whose every actions were a miracle:

Once a Muslim clergyman from Isfahan requested Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali to recount his impressions of Bahá’u’lláh. He did not, he said, wish to enter into discussion concerning proofs of the authenticity of His claims, but rather was interested in hearing about some of the things Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali had witnessed with his own eyes. Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali writes about his conversation with the clergyman:

“Much as I tried to explain to him [the clergyman] that contrary to all physical phenomena, which are possible of explanation, one cannot describe a spiritual experience, he was not able to understand. So I said, ‘Before attaining His presence, I was hopeful of seeing many miracles — physical, intellectual and spiritual. Also I had stored up several questions in my mind and wished them answered. But when I beheld the light of His beauteous Countenance, I was transported into such a state that all the miracles I had hoped to see and all the physical and spiritual mysteries I had longed to understand, paled into insignificance. They all appeared to me as a mirage to which the thirsty hasten, not the pure water which quenches the thirst and gives life.’ He [the clergyman] asked me, ‘What did you see that enabled you to acquire such a state of mind and heart?’… I said, ‘His blessed person appeared in the form of a human being, but His very movements, His manners, His way of sitting or standing, eating or drinking, even His sleep or wakefulness, were each a miracle to me. Because His perfections, His exalted character, His beauty, His glory, His most excellent titles and most august attributes revealed to me that He was peerless and without parallel. He was matchless with no one to join partners with Him, unique with no peer or equal, the One and Single without a deputy, the Ever-Abiding God, the Incomparable Being. He who “begetteth not, neither is He begotten and there is not anyone like unto Him”‘ (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 194)

2. Bahá’u’lláh’s Unique and Incomparable Reality and the Persuasiveness of His Proofs:

Haji Siyyid Muhammad, the uncle of the Báb … came for a visit to Isfahan and brought with him the Kitáb-i-Íqán, revealed in answer to his own questions. As a result of reading the Kitáb-i-Íqán, I became a thousand times more enchanted with the blessed utterances of the Ancient Beauty. I used to mention quite openly that I regarded Bahá’u’lláh’s magnanimity, His unique and incomparable reality, the power of His utterance, the sway of His pen and the persuasiveness of His proofs to be supernatural and the greatest and foremost miracle of all. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 75)

3. Nothing Is Impossible To Achieve If The Will Of God Is The Motivating Influence

This is not surprising to the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, for they believe that every major development that takes place in this Dispensation is guided by His Will. Nothing is impossible of achievement if the Will of God becomes the motivating influence. It is the Will of God which enables nature to create life and to bring about an abundance of miracles — the miracle of a tiny seed turning into a mighty tree, producing branches, leaves, blossoms and fruits; the miracle of a single cell in the womb of a mother, multiplying in an orderly fashion, becoming at the end a perfect human being; the miracles of the atom, of the universe and of every other created thing. All these happen through the Will of God. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 4, p. 324)

4. The Power in the Creative Word of God:

In all of these the Word revealed by the Prophet is regarded as the most potent force in the world. The creativeness of the Word is a miracle which is everlasting and cannot be obliterated by the passage of time. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 106-107)

5. The Influence of the Words of the Manifestations:

The greatest miracle of the Manifestation of God is that He changes the hearts of people and creates a new civilization merely through the influence of His word. Every word that He utters is creative and endowed with such potency that all the powers of the world will not be able to resist the world-vivifying forces that are released through it. Like the animating energies of the spring season which are let loose in abundance and penetrate to the core of all living things, the creative Word of the Manifestation of God revolutionizes human society and by its resistless force breaks down man-made barriers of opposition, creating a new race of men and a new civilization. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 3, p. 44)

6. Material Progress And Spiritual Discoveries:

This century is, verily, the spring season. The world of mind and kingdom of soul have become fresh and verdant by its bestowals. It has resuscitated the whole realm of existence. On one hand, the lights of reality are shining; on the other, the clouds of divine mercy are pouring down the fullness of heavenly bounty. Wonderful material progress is evident, and great spiritual discoveries are being made. Truly, this can be called the miracle of centuries, for it is replete with manifestations of the miraculous. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 153)

7. The Changes In Civilization:

Reflect upon the miracles of accomplishment which have already characterized it, the discoveries in every realm of human research, inventions, scientific knowledge, ethical reforms and regulations established for the welfare of humanity, mysteries of nature explored, invisible forces brought into visibility and subjection, a veritable wonder-world of new phenomena and conditions heretofore unknown to man now open to his uses and further investigation. The east and west can communicate instantly. A human being can soar in the skies or speed in submarine depths. The power of steam has linked the continents. Trains cross the deserts and pierce the barriers of mountains; ships find unerring pathways upon the trackless oceans. Day by day discoveries are increasing. What a wonderful century this is! (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 228)

8. Inventions (electricity, the internet, MP3’s):

For example, electricity was once a hidden, or latent, natural force. It would have remained hidden if the human intellect had not discovered it. Man has broken the law of its concealment, taken this energy out of the invisible treasury of the universe and brought it into visibility. Is it not an extraordinary accomplishment that this little creature, man, has imprisoned an irresistible cosmic force in an incandescent lamp? It is beyond the vision and power of nature itself to do this. The East can communicate with the West in a few minutes. This is a miracle transcending nature’s control. Man takes the human voice and stores it in a phonograph. The voice naturally should be free and transient according to the law and phenomenon of sound, but man arrests its vibrations and puts it in a box in defiance of nature’s laws. All human discoveries were once secrets and mysteries sealed and stored up in the bosom of the material universe until the mind of man, which is the greatest of divine effulgences, penetrated them and made them subservient to his will and purpose. In this sense man has broken the laws of nature and is constantly taking out of nature’s laboratory new and wonderful things. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 351-352)

9. Enemies of the Faith were laid low; their lives snuffed out at the very instant they had anticipated victory:

We Bahá’ís have witnessed many miracles in the course of the one hundred and fifteen years which have elapsed since the inception of this supreme Dispensation. As the spread of the Cause of God gathered momentum the ever-increasing protection vouchsafed it from on High has been unfailing; over and over again its enemies have been laid low, their plans completely frustrated, their lives and their hopes snuffed out at the very instant when they had anticipated victory — the latest demonstration of this invariable spiritual law being the death a few days ago of Ahmad Sohrab at a moment when he must have felt his machinations held some promise of fruition. (Ministry of the Custodians, p. 96)

10. Many Bahá’ís Are Saved Amidst The Fire Of Oppression And Tyranny:

Throughout these years of disturbance and commotion when the world of humanity was physically and spiritually afflicted, the friends of God passed the day in rest, ease and comfort. In the western countries only a few shared in the hardship and affliction of other souls while the mass of the friends and the maid-servants of the Merciful … have been living quietly and peacefully. In the Orient every nation became distracted and every gathering dispersed save the friends of God who remained all protected and sheltered from every trouble and calamity in the Fort of Bahá’u’lláh’s protection. Verily this is a divine miracle — that we helpless, friendless, unprotected, unsupported wanderers in these regions should be saved amidst the fire of oppression and tyranny. This is God’s miracle. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 386-387)

11. People With Only A Little Faith Have Moved Mountains:

Stories of the heroism demonstrated by Bahá’u’lláh’s disciples and companions fill the pages of the Faith’s history. Though outwardly weak and helpless, they received such power from on high that their extraordinary courage and spirit made them appear as giants and they were enabled to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Indeed, they performed the miracles of which Christ speaks: ‘…If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’ (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 119-120)

12. Victories Are Won By Dedicated Souls Who Are Neither Rich, Famous Or Well Educated:

They must remember the glorious history of the Cause, which . . . was established by dedicated souls who, for the most part, were neither rich, famous, nor well educated, but whose devotion, zeal, and self-sacrifice overcame every obstacle and won miraculous victories for the Faith of God. (Shoghi Effendi, Victory Promises, p. 32)

13. The appearance of such a woman as Tahireh:

The appearance of such a woman as Qurratu’l-‘Ayn is in any country and any age a rare phenomenon, but in such a country as Persia it is a prodigy — nay, almost a miracle. Alike in virtue of her marvelous beauty, her rare intellectual gifts, her fervid eloquence, her fearless devotion and her glorious martyrdom, she stands forth incomparable and immortal amidst her country-women. Had the Bábí religion no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient — that it produced a heroine like Qurratu’l-‘Ayn. (Misc Baha’i, Appreciations of the Baha’i Faith, p. 16)

14. Woman’s Boldness When Enlisted in the Faith:

Abdu’l-Bahá has pointed out that ‘Among the miracles which distinguish this sacred Dispensation is this, that women have evinced a greater boldness than men when enlisted in the ranks of the Faith. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 617)

15. Unity Between East And West:

This is a very joyous evening, an evidence in itself of the possibility of uniting the East and the West — an eastern man appearing before an assemblage of reverent western people. The East and West, the Orient and Occident, shall be united. If we search history, we shall not find the record of such an occasion where one has traveled from the far East to the far West to address a meeting of this universal character. This is a miracle of the twentieth century which proves that the seemingly impossible may become real and possible in the kingdom of man. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 101)

16. The Unity of Mankind:

Truly, this can be called the miracle of centuries, for it is replete with manifestations of the miraculous. The time has come when all mankind shall be united, when all races shall be loyal to one fatherland, all religions become one religion, and racial and religious bias pass away. It is a day in which the oneness of humankind shall uplift its standard and international peace, like the true morning, flood the world with its light. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 168)

17. The Birth of Jesus Christ:

First regarding the birth of Jesus Christ. In the light of what Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have stated concerning this subject it is evident that Jesus came into this world through the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, and that consequently His birth was quite miraculous. This is an established fact. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 489)

18. The Manifestations Of God Are All Superior To Others:

But in the day of the Manifestation the people with insight see that all the conditions of the Manifestation are miracles, for They are superior to all others, and this alone is an absolute miracle. Recollect that Christ, solitary and alone, without a helper or protector, without armies and legions, and under the greatest oppression, uplifted the standard of God before all the people of the world, and withstood them, and finally conquered all, although outwardly He was crucified. Now this is a veritable miracle which can never be denied. There is no need of any other proof of the truth of Christ. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 100)

19. Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablets to the Kings and Rulers:

Referring to these Tablets addressed to the sovereigns of the earth, and which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has acclaimed as a “miracle . . . (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 46)

20. The Growth in the Number of Spiritual Assemblies:

Though the members of this community are still restricted in number, though its resources are as yet meagre, though its recent victories are as yet unconsolidated, though it has hardly recuperated from its recent labours, undertaken during a period of great national exhaustion and severe austerity, the mere act of launching upon so glorious, so fateful an enterprise, will, of necessity, create at this propitious hour the receptivity which will enable a swiftly marching, stout-hearted, virile community, now standing on the threshold of its mission beyond the seas, to attract a fresh measure of celestial potency adequate to its growing needs and its ever expanding responsibilities. The miracle its members have performed over so vast a territory, in so short a time, and under such adverse circumstances, cannot but augur well for the initial success of an enterprise infinitely more meritorious, of far greater promise, and endowed with vastly superior spiritual potentialities. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 251)

Undoubtedly the most important task facing the British community at the present time, is to increase its membership. It has performed miracles during the past ten years, through shifting around devoted volunteers from one centre to another, in order to maintain or to create Spiritual Assemblies. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 351)

21. The Flourishing of Religion:

The miracle of religions is no less remarkable. A religion comes into being as a seemingly insignificant movement at first, but through the power of God and His Will it flourishes and creates a civilization of its own. It is the miracle of the ascendancy of the Will of God which enables the Founders of all religions to triumph over their adversaries, and causes Their word to become creative. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 4, p. 324)

22. Earth-Blinded Eyes Open To The World Of Reality

Truly a miracle of miracles it is that earth-blinded eyes ever open to the World of Reality. (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 118)

23. The Conversion Of Jews And Zoroastrians To The Faith:

It will be readily seen that the conversion of Jews and Zoroastrians to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh which to all outward appearances was the extension of Islam, whose literature was in the Arabic language and whose followers were exclusively from Muslim background, was one of the miracles of the time. It also demonstrates the creative power of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh which, in spite of so many barriers, exerted a tremendous influence upon these people, vivified their souls, granted them a new vision, enrolled them under the banner of His Cause and enabled them to render meritorious services in spreading His message, first among their own communities and later the whole nation. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 262-263)

24. All of Creation:

Everything created in this world is a miracle in itself if we look at it with the eye of discernment. For example, the outpouring of energy from the sun is a miracle indeed, for the mind of man could never have believed in such a phenomenon if he had not actually seen the radiance of the sun with his own eyes. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 106)

Even Bahá’u’lláh’s enemies recognized His greatness, calling Him the miracle of humanity, even though they didn’t believe in Him:

Even His enemies acknowledge the greatness of Bahá’u’lláh, saying He was the miracle of humanity. This was their confession although they did not believe in Him. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 155)

How does this change the way you view miracles?  Post your comments below!

Famous Miracles in the Baha’i Faith

Bahá’u’lláh forbade His followers to attribute miracles to Him because this would have amounted to the degradation of His exalted station. Nevertheless, there are many accounts left to posterity by His disciples, describing the circumstances in which He either healed incurables or raised the dead.

None of these supernatural acts were considered by His followers to be a proof of the truth of His Cause, since they are only convincing to a limited number of people and they are not decisive proofs even for those who see them.

With this caveat in mind, it’s fun to look back on our history, and see how the Central Figures handled miracles.

The Bab

The Báb cured Munírih Khánum’s parents of infertility; and their daughter later became ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s wife:

One night during dinner, Mirza Ibrahim turned to the Bab and said “My brother, Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali, has had no children. Bless him, I entreat Thee, and grant unto him his heart’s desire.” The Bab took a portion of the food with which He had been served, placed it in a platter, and handed it to His host, saying “Take this to Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali and his wife. Let them partake of this food; their wish shall be fulfilled.” By virtue of that portion which the Bab had bestowed upon her, the wife of Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali conceived, and in due time gave birth to a child, who eventually was joined in wedlock with the Most Great Branch, and therefore became the consummation of the highest hopes of her parents. (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 72)

The Bab beseeched God that travels over the oceans of the world might become easier and safer:

In the 1840’s the sea journey from Bushihr to Jiddah was a dangerous and uncomfortable one; the distance was about 4000 kilometres and the journey took about two months. The seas were often rough, the storms frequent, water was scarce and there was very little food. The Bab and Quddus remained contented and peaceful throughout the long journey. They were absorbed in their prayers and devotions for many hours at a time, and the Bab revealed many writings, commentaries and letters which Quddus wrote down. However the rigors of the sea voyage caused the Bab to beseech God that travels over the oceans of the world might become easier and safer. (Mary Perkins, Hour of the Dawn: The Life of the Bab, p. 60)

Bahá’u’lláh

One time, the religious leaders in Persia asked Baha’u’llah to perform a miracle to prove the reality of His mission. Here’s what happened:

The ‘ulama 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 ‘ulama 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.’

Bahá’u’lláh replied, “Although you have no right to ask this, for God should test His creatures, and they should not test God, still I allow and accept this request. But the Cause of God is not a theatrical display that is presented every hour, of which some new diversion may be asked for every day. If it were thus, the Cause of God would become mere child’s play.

The ulamas must, therefore, assemble, and, with one accord, choose one miracle, and write that, after the performance of this miracle they will no longer entertain doubts about Me, and that all will acknowledge and confess the truth of My Cause. Let them seal this paper, and bring it to Me. This must be the accepted criterion: if the miracle is performed, no doubt will remain for them; and if not, We shall be convicted of imposture.” The learned man, Hasan ‘Amu, rose and replied, “There is no more to be said”; he then kissed the knee of the Blessed One although he was not a believer, and went. He gathered the ‘ulama and gave them the sacred message. They consulted together and said, “This man is an enchanter; perhaps he will perform an enchantment, and then we shall have nothing more to say.” Acting on this belief, they did not dare to push the matter further. [The penetrating judgment of Bahá’u’lláh upon this occasion overcame the malignity of His enemies, who, it was certain, would never agree in choosing what miracle to ask for.]         (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 29-30)

Baha’u’llah bore his ordeals, calamities and suffering so that heavenly miracles, among other things, would be wrought among men:

During His lifetime He [Baha’u’llah] was intensely active. His energy was unlimited. Scarcely one night was passed in restful sleep. He bore these ordeals, suffered these calamities and difficulties in order that a manifestation of selflessness and service might become apparent in  the world of humanity; that the Most Great Peace should become a reality; that human souls might appear as the angels of heaven; that heavenly miracles would be wrought among men; that human faith should be strengthened and perfected; that the precious, priceless bestowal of God, the human mind, might be developed to its fullest capacity in the temple of the body; and man become the reflection and likeness of God, even as it hath been revealed in the Bible: “We shall create man in Our own image. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 223)

Bahá’u’lláh seldom responded positively to those who demanded miracles from Him. But He often revealed a measure of His glory and power to those who had recognized Him in order to strengthen their Faith:

It is not right for man to test God. Bahá’u’lláh seldom responded positively to those who demanded miracles from Him. But He often revealed a measure of His glory and power to those who had recognized Him in order to strengthen their Faith. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 4, p. 54-55)

The following story by Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali confirms the power of the revealed Word. Haji was introduced to a person who was opposed to the Faith and found it very difficult to be convinced of its truth. This is a summary of his account:

A certain person who was a pious and devoted Muslim was introduced to me. No matter how much I spoke to him, he kept on insisting that he would never accept the Faith unless he was shown a miracle. In the end I was powerless to convince him of the truth of the Faith. So I said to him, ‘There is an inherent ability within every soul by which it can distinguish the words of God from the words of man.’ He agreed with me on this. I then said to him, ‘I will now recite some words for you, so incline your inner ears to them and judge for yourself who is the Speaker.’ I then chanted a Persian Tablet in which the overpowering majesty of the Words was clearly manifested. He had heard only a few verses when he lowered his head, prostrated himself or the ground, and said, ‘These are the words of God, exalted be His glory. There are many miracles hidden in each word. I testify that these utterances unmistakably proclaim the advent of the Day of God . . .’ He stayed with us for the whole night, during which he learnt about the teachings and the laws of the new Dispensation. This man became enraptured and set aglow with the fire of the love of God. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 4, p. 238)

During the new Governor’s short tenure of office he did a great deal to further the cause of education in ‘Akká, and also to secure for the city a good supply of fresh water. Towards the exiles he displayed a very friendly manner. And now another miracle was witnessed by all in ‘Akká, when, from deep wells that had carried only brackish water, fresh water suitable for human consumption gushed out. Describing this period, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith has written:

Though Bahá’u’lláh Himself practically never granted personal interviews, as He had been used to do in Baghdad, yet such was the influence He now wielded that the inhabitants openly asserted that the noticeable improvement in the climate and water of their city was directly attributable to His continued presence in their midst. (H.M. Balyuzi, Baha’u’llah – The King of Glory, p. 354)

Perhaps Bahá’u’lláh’s greatest miracle is that even though He was a captive, and bound in chains, He wielded power, moved about with authority and might, won victories in both East and West and subdued the world with His Writings:

And this is one of Bahá’u’lláh’s greatest miracles: that He, a captive, surrounded Himself with panoply and He wielded power. The prison changed into a palace, the jail itself became a Garden of Eden. Such a thing has not occurred in history before; no former age has seen its like: that a man confined to a prison should move about with authority and might; that one in chains should carry the fame of the Cause of God to the high heavens, should win splendid victories in both East and West, and should, by His almighty pen, subdue the world. Such is the distinguishing feature of this supreme Theophany. (Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 27)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Before the fall of Haifa, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá predicted that the taking of Haifa and ‘Akká would come about without bloodshed:

Before the fall of Haifa, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was discussing the British campaign with a few of His followers in His garden one day. He then predicted that, contrary to the general expectation, the taking of Haifa and the walled town of ‘Akka would come about almost without bloodshed. This prediction was verified by the facts. He also stated that the Turks would surrender ‘Akká (supposed to be impregnable) to two unarmed British soldiers. the resultant facts so far as I was able to gather them were as follows:– Subsequent to the entry of our troops into Haifa, the front line was pushed forward half-way across the Bay of ‘Akká, and outposts were placed in position on the sands of the Bay some four miles from ‘Akká itself. Akká, as a fortified and walled town, was believed to be filled with Turkish troops at this time. Very early one morning two British Army Service soldiers, who had lost their bearings in the night, found themselves at the gates of ‘Akká, believing erroneously that the town was already in British hands. However, the Turkish rearguard troops had been secretly evacuated only eight hours earlier, and the Mayor of the town, seeing British soldiers outside the gates, came down and presented them with the keys of the town in token of surrender! It is credibly stated that the dismayed Tommies, being unarmed, dropped the keys and made post haste for the British lines! (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)

A Commission of investigation arrived by ship from Turkey wanting to have ‘Abdu’l-Bahá hanged at the gate of ‘Akká, or taken away. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá prayed and sure enough, the ship turned away because of an attempt on the life of the Sultan. Some months later the ‘Young Turk’ Revolution freed all political and religious prisoners, including ‘Abdu’l-Bahá!:

Later, in 1907, four members of a second Commission of investigation arrived by ship from Turkey. ‘A few days before its arrival ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had a dream, which He recounted to the believers, in which He saw a ship cast anchor off ‘Akka, from which flew a few birds, resembling sticks of dynamite, and which, circling about His head, as He stood in the midst of a multitude of the frightened inhabitants of the city, returned without exploding to the ship.’ The members of the Commission remained in ‘Akka for approximately a month. They went to look at the stone edifice on the mountain. They asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to appear before them. Now, He refused to do so. Furious, the chairman wanted an ‘order from the Sultan to have Me hanged at the gate of ‘Akka,’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá later said in London. The ship stood ready to carry ‘Abdu’l-Bahá away with the Commission members. The Master remained calm and confident. He even told the believers who were yet in ‘Akka, ‘The meaning of the dream I dreamt is now clear and evident. Please God this dynamite will not explode.’ Then, mysteriously, one day the Commission’s ship began to leave the harbour in Haifa and move towards ‘Akka. The Bahá’ís and family of the Master were filled with anguish on learning of this. They feared the Master would be taken aboard and carried away. Meanwhile, He was ‘pacing, alone and silent, the courtyard of His house.’ But at dusk, wonder of wonders, the ship had obviously changed its direction. She was heading directly for Constantinople. There had been an attempt on the life of the Sultan. When the Commission submitted its report to him, it was not even considered, as the Sultan and his government were ‘too preoccupied to consider the matter‘. Some months later the ‘Young Turk’ Revolution of 1908 freed all political and religious prisoners of the old regime. This included ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – free at last in 1908! In 1909 the Sultan himself was deposed. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 156)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá calms the weather so people can enjoy their feast:

After His talk, a huge Persian feast, prepared by the Persians in His entourage, was offered to everyone. As people began to eat, Juliet Thompson wrote that … A storm blew up – a strange, sudden storm, without warning. There was a tremendous crash of thunder; through the tree tops we could see black clouds boiling up, and big drops of rain splashed on the tables. The Master rose calmly and followed by the Persians, walked out to the road, then to the end of it where there is a crossroad. A single chair had been left there and, as I watched from a distance, I saw the Master take it and sit down, while the Persians ranged themselves behind Him. I saw Him lift His face to the sky. He had gone a long way from the house; thunder still crashed in the clouds rolled frighteningly low, but He continued to sit perfectly motionless, that sacred powerful face upturned to the sky. Then came a strong, rush of wind; the clouds began to race away; blue patches appeared above and the sun shone out. And then the Master rose and walked back into the grove. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 147)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá cured Lua Getsinger of a rare blood disease

There are many stories of Lua Getsinger. This one was told me by Grace Ober, who heard it from Lua herself. It happened on one of Lua’s several visits to Acca and Haifa when she and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were walking together on the beach. Lua dropped behind slightly and began fitting her small feet, into His much larger foot prints. After a few moments the Master turned to ask what she was doing. “I am following in your footsteps,” said Lua. He, turned away and they walked on. A few moments later, He turned again, “Do you wish to follow in my foot steps?” He asked. “Oh, yes,” said Lua. They walked on – and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá turned again, “Lua! Do you wish to follow in my foot steps?” His tone was louder and stern. “Oh, yes,” said Lua again. Then, the third time he stopped and faced her. “Lua!” it was almost a shout, “Do you wish to follow in My foot steps?” “Oh, yes!” said Lua for the third time – and with that, a great tarantula jumped out from a hillock of sand and bit her ankle. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saw this and paid no attention, turning away and again walking. Lua followed, still fitting her footsteps into His. Her ankle swelled, the pain became excruciating, till, finally, she sank down with the agony of it. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá picked her up and carried her to the ladies quarters, where the Greatest Holy Leaf put her to bed. The agony increased. Lua’s temperature flamed; delirium set in. Finally, the Greatest Holy Leaf could stand it no longer and she implored ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to heal her. He examined her carefully then laid His hands gently on her forehead. The temperature drained away, her head cleared she was healed. And it was only later that it was explained to her that she had been suffering from a strange and virulent condition of her blood which the bite of the tarantula had cured. (Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 41-42)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá healed Corrine True’s daughter:

Corinne’s daughter Arna had a fever and cough and was afraid she had tuberculosis, a disease which had been in the True family and from which two of her brothers had been diagnosed and having died. She was understandably worried that she, too, had the disease. She had planned to marry Leo Perron, but felt it very unfair to do so if she actually had the fatal ailment. As she worried about what to do, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá touched her shoulder. One day, when Arna had just taken her temperature, still holding the thermometer, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took it from her and broke it in two, telling her that she would be well and could marry. Arna soon recovered and married Leo. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 193)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá cured Ruth Randall of tuberculosis in both lungs:

Harry Randall’s wife, Ruth, had tuberculosis in both lungs and, having been intensely affected by his first meeting with Abdu’l Bahá, Harry decided to ask ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for help. On Sunday, 28 August, Harry went to the home of Maria Wilson, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was staying in Malden. Harry thought that if ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was all the Bahá’ís were saying He was, then surely He could cure Ruth’s illness. When Harry arrived at the Wilson home, it was packed with people. He managed to get into the house and explained his request to one of the Master’s secretaries. The secretary said that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was reading His mail from Persia and that if He wished to see Harry, He would call for him. The secretary informed Harry that over 100 others had also either asked to see the Master or wanted to invite Him somewhere and that He never accepted any until the spirit moved Him to do so. With so many people ahead of him, Harry was pessimistic of seeing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, particularly since the Master didn’t even know he was there. He turned glumly, noticed Harlan Ober, so went over to talk with him. Suddenly, a voice called, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá will see Mr. Randall.” Shocked, Harry went to the porch where he found ‘Abdu’l-Bahá still reading His mail. When the Master finally looked up, Harry started to say, “I wanted to know if you …” , but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá simply said, “Yes, I will come to see your wife this afternoon.” At four o‘clock that afternoon, Harry returned to the Wilson home with a car and the chauffeur to take ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to see Ruth. Standing there ready to go with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – together with His complete set of Persian attendants and Harlan and Grace Ober. Ruth described what happened next:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá clapped His hands and the Persians got into the car, Grace and Harlan and my husband were standing on the sidewalk. The Master pointed to the Ober’s and said: “You wait here” – and motioned Harry to sit on the floor of the car. This did not please Harry but he did it. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughed and joked and seemed very happy. Several times He looked at Harry and laughed heartily. Harry knew later in life that he was being taught a lesson in humility. When they came to the driveway He ordered the chauffeur to stop and wait. They all got out and walked up the driveway. Upon reaching the porch ‘Abdu’l-Bahá changed to a white aba and a white turban.

My mother opened the door and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked right through the house to the porch where I was lying … When He opened the screen door He looked directly at me in that moment I was aware of the Fact that I had known him always. We had invited a number of people to meet Him and mother introduced them to Him and when she came to me He pushed His hand toward me and said: “I know her well!”

He took Margaret (Ruth’s five-year-old daughter, later named Bahiyyih by the Master) in his arms and asked her if she was happy. She was a little frightened because she had never seen such a long beard or such a wrinkled countenance …

Then He asked me why I thought I was sick and I made some senseless reply. He asked Dr. Farid to take my pulse. Then Abdu’l Bahá came and leaned over me and placed His hand on my forehead. He looked deep into my eyes. At that moment I knew that my life was a book which He could read at will. He then told me to do the same things that my physician told me, besides telling me to eat my noonday meal in the sun … He arose after a few minutes and went into the house. When He came to the library door he looked in and raised his eyes heavenwards saying: “This is a beautiful house, someday it will become a beautiful home.” Goodbyes were said and they walked down the driveway to the waiting car. Again He placed my husband on the floor of the car.

As they departed, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, through one of his interpreters, told Harry “not to mind if your wife does not like sweet things, that she will when she is better.” Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told Harry that he should always keep her in the light. Baffled by these comments, when he returned home later, Harry asked Ruth what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá meant. Each Sunday, Harry had brought home a box of fancy chocolates as a special treat for her and at that moment, she tearfully told him that she always struggled to eat even one of them to please him. Then she told him about the light: that because, as a child, she had to walk down a dark street each week to get the beans for dinner, she had been afraid of shadows ever since. After hearing these admissions, Harry was somewhat amazed at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s depth of understanding. Ruth wrote that within hours, she was feeling better. Two weeks later, she visited a regular doctor. He examined her and exclaimed, “What have you been doing? You are so well!” Soon Ruth was completely cured of tuberculosis. This was Harry’s second big step towards becoming a Bahá’í. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 175-177)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá cured the grand-daughter of Henry Birks, the founder of a chain of high-end Canadian jewellery stores:

The morning after His arrival in Montréal, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the home of Henry Birks, directly across the street from the Maxwells. Geraldine Birks was a very sickly child of about 12. Because she was not allowed out of the house due to her health, May would send two-year-old Mary over to play with her, almost like a live doll. On this day, Mrs. Birks asked if ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could visit their home and even sent a carriage from that side of the street to this side of the street out of courtesy to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Master, however, walked across the street, but so as not to offend Mrs. Birks, had May ride across the carriage. Once inside, He spoke with Geraldine and embraced her, then told her parents that she must be allowed to go out into the sunlight on or she would only get worse. When her parents began to follow the Master’s instructions, Geraldine rapidly improved until she was completely healthy. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 181)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá cured Juliet Thompson’s mother of bitterness:

At a time when Juliet Thompson’s mother was suffering much grief because her son’s fiancée, both brilliant and beautiful, did not want to make friends with his family, she received an invitation to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Though she was opposed to Juliet’s work for the Bahá’í Faith and a thunderstorm was raging, she got her rubbers and went to the Master. He was exhausted, lying on His bed. He had seen hundreds of people that day, literally. But she was warmly welcomed. His words of comfort included, ‘…I heard of your sorrow. And now I want to comfort you. Trust in God. God is kind. God is faithful. God never forgets you. If others are unkind what difference does it make when God is kind? When God is on your side it does not matter what men do to you.’ The next day ‘Mamma’ was able to say, ‘All my bitterness has gone.’ She regarded it as a miracle.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

Shoghi Effendi

Shoghi Effendi cures Rúhíyyih Khánum’s mother of a complete breakdown in health:

My mother was the one who had first known Shoghi Effendi as a child, when she came to the Holy Land at the end of the last century; she had come again, in 1909, with my father but I do not know how much contact, if any, they had at that time with Shoghi Effendi. Following the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá she suffered a complete break-down in health caused by the shock of his death, the news of which was broken to her very suddenly over the telephone, and for a year we did not know if she would live or die or lose her mind. My father felt that the only hope of dispelling the grief and dark thoughts that obsessed her – that she would never, because of her unworthiness, see the beloved Master in the next world – was for her to make a pilgrimage to Haifa again, this time to see the young successor of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. In April 1923 we arrived in Haifa and it was Shoghi Effendi who literally resurrected a woman who was so ill she could still not walk a step and could move about only in a wheel chair. From that time the love of my mother’s heart became entirely centred in the Guardian and when she was able to return to American . . . she once more served the Cause very actively. (Rúhíyyih Khánum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 150)

Shoghi Effendi cured Rúhiyyih Khánum’s father of dementia:

When my father fell desperately ill in the winter of 1949-50 his condition was despaired of by his doctors. He reached a point where he seemed to have no conscious mind left, could not recognize me, his only and idolized child, at all, and had no more control over himself than if he were six months old. If I had needed any convincing on the subject of whether man has a soul or not I received conclusive proof of its existence at that time. When Shoghi Effendi would come in to see my father, although he could not speak, and gave no conscious sign whatever of the Guardian’s nearness, a flutter, a tremor, some reaction wholly ephemeral but nevertheless visible, would pass over him because of the very presence of Shoghi Effendi. It was so extraordinary and so evident that his nurse (the best in Haifa) also noticed it was greatly puzzled by it. It went against all laws of the mind, which, as it fades, remembers the distant past more vividly than the immediate past. Shoghi Effendi determined my father should not die. At his insistence, when no one, including me, had the slightest hope, we took him with his nurse to Switzerland, where he rapidly recovered under the care of our own doctor, a recovery so complete that a few weeks later, when his new Swiss nurse and I took him for his first drive and he caught sight of a cafe in the midst of a garden, he promptly invited us to go in and have tea with him – an offer I accepted with feelings of wonder and gratitude that are indescribable. It was after this healing had taken place that the Guardian, in a message to America sent in July 1950, reporting progress in the construction of the Shrine of the Báb, was moved to allude to these events: “My gratitude is deepened by the miraculous recovery of its gifted architect, Sutherland Maxwell, whose illness was pronounced hopeless by physicians.”  (Rúhiyyih Khánum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 155)

Other Bahá’ís

Leroy Ios had faith in the power of God to work miracles, and this faith caused the covenant-breakers, who lived in a building next to the shrine of Bahá’u’lláh to be evicted and their dwelling demolished:

It seems almost inconceivable that Mr. Ioas could render any more extraordinary services, but he did.  There was one service that meant more than any other, to Shoghi Effendi. An apartment building in which the Covenant-breakers lived, was positioned immediately in front of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh and the Mansion of Bahji.  Every time ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the Shrine of His Father, every time Shoghi Effendi visited the Shrine, the Covenant-breakers were there.  Their poisonous presence had polluted the Most Holy Spot for more than six decades … Following the establishment of the state of Israel, the government proceeded to identify the holy places of all of the religions in the Holy Land, and to officially recognize them.  The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh was one of these officially-designated Holy Places. I heard, though I do not recall from whom, that Mr. Ioas learned that the government of Israel had passed a law prohibiting residential dwellings within a certain number of meters from a designated holy place.  He informed Shoghi Effendi of this, and stated that perhaps the Covenant-breaker dwelling could be removed.  The Guardian asked, (paraphrasing, not his exact words), “Leroy, do you really think you could do this?”  Mr. Ioas answered that he could not; however, he knew that God assisted everything Shoghi Effendi wanted done, and if Shoghi Effendi told Mr. Ioas to do it, he knew that it could be accomplished.  Shoghi Effendi then told him to proceed, and said that it would be a miracle to get the Covenant-breakers out … This was not merely removal of an ugly building from otherwise beautiful gardens, nor merely the eviction of undesirables.  This represented the death-blow to the violators of the Covenant … The Covenant-breakers appealed the dispossession order, and they were not finally evicted until just a few weeks before Shoghi Effendi’s passing. He was in London at the time, and Mr. Ioas cabled him, informing him that the Covenant-breakers had finally been evicted, and asking the Guardian if he wished him to proceed with the demolition of the building.  Shoghi Effendi cabled back that he would supervise it himself, upon his return. However, Shoghi Effendi passed away shortly thereafter, and never returned to the Holy Land.  The Hands of the Cause proceeded with this demolition immediately after their First Conclave. (Brent Poirier, Leroy Ioas, Champion of the Charters of the Bahá’í Faith)

The Biggest Miracle of All!

The biggest miracle of all happened in 1850, and was witnessed by at least ten thousand people – in the events surrounding the Martyrdom of the Bab.

On the 9th of July, 1850, the guards came to take The Báb away. He was still speaking of important things with His companion, Siyyid Husayn, when the guards interrupted Him.

The Báb said to the guard, “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me.”

The guard took no notice and led The Báb and Anis [who had beseeched the Bab for the honor of sharing martyrdom with Him] away. Iron collars were put round their necks and manacles around their wrists. The two young men were led by a long rope tied to their collars, and taken through the streets of the town. People in the crowds jostled with each other to get a look at the prisoners, and even climbed on each others shoulders.

The Báb and Anis were tied together and hung by a rope from a nail in the barracks wall. A great crowd of people gathered to see the execution, climbing onto the rooftops all around the square. Seven hundred and fifty riflemen in three lines took up their positions to shoot The Báb and Anis.

The soldiers took aim and fired. The crowds were deafened by the explosions. They strained and peered to see what had happened, but the square was dark with gunshot smoke. Gradually the smoke cleared and the crowd was able to see. They stared in amazement. Standing beneath the broken rope, with a smile on his face, was Anis. Of The Báb there was no sign. He had gone.

A frantic search began. Eventually The Báb was found by the same guard who had come for Him that morning. He was in the cell where He had spent the night. Calmly and quietly He was finishing the important conversation with Siyyid Husayn which had been so rudely interrupted early that morning.

The Báb said to him, “I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn.”

The guard was so astonished and frightened that he left the barracks and resigned from his post. The leader of the regiment felt the same. He ordered his men out and would have nothing more to do with the business of shooting The Báb. Another regiment had to be brought in.

Again The Báb and Anis were tied to a rope and hung from the nail. Anis rested his head upon the Báb’s chest in a vain attempt to protect Him from the bullets.

Once again the deafening explosions of rifle fire rang out. At the same time a great wind swept over the city, bringing a whirlwind of blinding dust so dense that it completely shut out the light of the sun. This was followed by a violent storm, and the darkness continued for the whole of the rest of the day.

This time The Báb and Anis had been hit by the bullets. Their bodies were completely blended together by their force. All except the face of The Báb, which was completely unmarked and was calm and serene. (Dayspring Magazine – Issue 25  )

In a turn of fate that has often characterised Bahá’í history, the people who harmed the Báb’s Faith came to sorry ends themselves. The officers of the regiment who carried out the execution together with a third of its soldiers died in an earthquake the same year, when a wall collapsed on top of them. The other two-thirds of the regiment were all executed in front of a firing squad in Tabriz, just like the Báb, after a failed mutiny a few years later. Interestingly, the details surrounding the execution are well-documented in the official report of a military officer who watched the events.

The night of the execution, the mangled remains of the two victims were taken outside the city gates and dumped by the moat where they would be eaten by wild animals. To prevent the Bábis removing the bodies and giving them a dignified burial, a total of 40 soldiers kept watch by the bodies outside the city. But one of the Bábis, Haji Sulayman Khan, who was staying with a local mayor, was so determined to rescue the bodies and risk his life that the mayor enlisted one of his assistants for the job instead. In the middle of the night, the mayor’s assistant took the bodies from under the guards’ noses while they slept, and laid them in a specially-made wooden casket in a safe hiding place nearby. When Bahá’u’lláh heard about this development he instructed Haji Sulayman Khan to bring the bodies to a local shrine in Tehran and there they were hidden.

From then on, the Báb’s remains had to be kept a close secret to keep them out of the hands of the Faith’s enemies. Whenever danger threatened or word got out about their whereabouts, Bahá’u’lláh, or later ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, would have the casket moved to a new location. It was a full sixty years before the Báb’s body was finally laid in the ground. In that time the bodies were moved around over a dozen hiding places: under the floorboards of a shrine; between the walls of an abandoned temple; concealed within various Bahá’ís’ houses – a secret from even the Bahá’í community – until at last they were laid to a proper rest in Haifa in 1909, by a tearful ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. (adapted from Shoghi Effendi’s God Passes By, Chapters 4 and 8; and The Dawnbreakers, Chapter 23)

 

 

Do Baha’is Believe in Miracles?

Miracles – One of the Most Misunderstood Subjects

The question of miracles is one of the most misunderstood subjects concerning the prophets and messengers of God.

On the one hand, God’s power is beyond any limitation – He is the sole Author of all the laws operating in the universe, is above them and can, therefore, if He deems it necessary, alter them at His Own Will:

The operation of miracles is not necessarily irrational or illogical. It does by no means constitute a limitation of the Omnipotence of God. The belief in the possibilities of miracles, on the contrary, implies that God’s power is beyond any limitation whatsoever. For it is only logical to believe that the Creator, Who is the sole Author of all the laws operating in the universe, is above them and can, therefore, if He deems it necessary, alter them at His Own Will. We, as humans, cannot possibly attempt to read His Mind, and to fully grasp His Wisdom. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 489)

God can do anything he wants, even if it breaches the laws of nature:

To reject miracles on the ground that they imply a breach of the laws of nature is a very shallow, well-nigh a stupid argument, inasmuch as God Who is the Author of the universe can, in His Wisdom and Omnipotence, bring any change, no matter how temporary, in the operation of the laws which He Himself has created. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 489)

All religions have their miracles and mysteries which can’t be explained by scientific theories:

Not only do all religions have their miracles and mysteries, but religion itself, and certain fundamental religious concepts, such as the nature of the Manifestations of God, are far from being explicable by present-day scientific theories.  (Universal House of Justice, 1996 Feb 16, Misc. Questions – Talisman, Bahá’í Encyclopaedia, Virgin Birth)

The Manifestations of God have all performed miracles:

The Holy Manifestations are the sources of miracles and the originators of wonderful signs. For Them, any difficult and impracticable thing is possible and easy. For through a supernatural power wonders appear from Them; and by this power, which is beyond nature, They influence the world of nature. From all the Manifestations marvelous things have appeared. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 99)

Where did a belief in Miracles Come From?

The belief in miracles comes from the study of the Holy Books of old religions. Over the centuries, many miracles were passed on from generation to generation, without their inner significance being understood. On these miracles, many doctrines and dogmas were created, which became barriers between God and man:

The followers of all religions have attributed many miracles to their Prophets, miracles which traditionally are passed on from generation to generation although their inner significances have not been fully understood. Upon these miracles have been built, over the centuries, many doctrines and dogmas which have become mighty barriers between God and man. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 107)

For example, the followers of a religion have come to regard their own Prophet as one who had a halo of light around his head and carried out supernatural acts to convince people of His station.

Consequently the followers of a religion regard their own Prophet as one who had a halo of light around his head and carried out supernatural acts to convince people of His station. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 38)

Bahá’í teachers have had to lead those who are strictly and fanatically adhering to these beliefs, to a rational recognition of the divine qualities and spiritual powers possessed by the Manifestations of God:

In the East, at the time of Bahá’u’lláh, when the light of religion was still burning brightly within the hearts of men, the followers of these religions adhered strictly, indeed often fanatically, to their beliefs. Bahá’í teachers had to lead them from blind belief in miracles to a rational recognition of the divine qualities and spiritual powers possessed by the Manifestations of God. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 107)

In the earlier days of the Bahá’í Faith when religion was still a vital force in society and exerted a far deeper influence upon the hearts of men than it does nowadays, people asked for religious proofs when they took part in discussion with Bahá’ís. One of the major questions was that of miracles. Many people believed blindly in them and the task of the Bahá’í teacher was to explain the reality and true significance of miracles in religion. But when beliefs are held fanatically a mere explanation is not always successful. This is why some of the old teachers of the Faith, when conversing with a dogmatic person whose religious beliefs bordered on vain imaginings, conducted their discussions in such a way as to enable him to first see the hollowness of his ideas, and then to present him with the Message of Bahá’u’lláh. This often helped those who were sincere and pure-hearted to see the light of truth. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 39)

The Authenticity of Miracles

Religious leaders have endeavoured to emphasize miracles as one of the most important proofs of the authenticity of their faiths, but are they?

The belief in the possibility of miracles has never been rejected in the Teachings. Their importance, however, has been minimized:

The belief in the possibility of miracles has never been rejected in the Teachings. Their importance, however, has been minimized. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 489)

Miracles are not a conclusive proof of the authenticity of Their Messages:

Bahá’u’lláh also speaks in this Tablet [the Sahifiy-i-Shattiyyih or Book of the River] about miracles which are attributed to the Prophets. He states that one should not deny the performance of miracles by these Holy Souls, but emphasizes that miracles are not a conclusive proof of the authenticity of Their Messages. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 106)

People tend to deny and refuse to acknowledge them:

We do not need to mention miracles, saying that out of rock water gushed forth, for such miracles and statements may be denied and refused by those who hear them. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 273)

Most miracles have an inner significance:

Also, most of the miracles of the Prophets which are mentioned have an inner significance … (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 37)

Many of the miracles of the past have an inner meaning, rather than proving the existence of God:

Also, most of the miracles of the Prophets which are mentioned have an inner significance. For instance, in the Gospel it is written that at the martyrdom of Christ darkness prevailed, and the earth quaked, and the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the dead came forth from their graves. If these events had happened, they would indeed have been awesome, and would certainly have been recorded in the history of the times. They would have become the cause of much troublings of heart. Either the soldiers would have taken down Christ from the cross, or they would have fled. These events are not related in any history; therefore, it is evident they ought not to be taken literally, but as having an inner significance. Our purpose is not to deny such miracles; our only meaning is that they do not constitute decisive proofs, and that they have an inner significance. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 37-38)

Miracles are proofs for eyewitnesses only; and even they may regard them not as miracles but as enchantments:

I do not wish to mention the miracles of Bahá’u’lláh, for it may perhaps be said that these are traditions, liable both to truth and to error, like the accounts of the miracles of Christ in the Gospel, which come to us from the apostles, and not from anyone else, and are denied by the Jews … Yes, miracles are proofs for the eyewitness only, and even he may regard them not as a miracle but as an enchantment. Extraordinary feats have also been related of some conjurors. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 37)

Why don’t we need miracles?

Miracles only offer proofs and arguments for those who are present and not those who are absent.

But in the Holy Books an especial terminology is employed, and for the Manifestations these miracles and wonderful signs have no importance. They do not even wish to mention them. For if we consider miracles a great proof, they are still only proofs and arguments for those who are present when they are performed, and not for those who are absent. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 99)

Those who believe miracles one day can become covenant-breakers the next:

Many prominent people of Haifa and ‘Akká who used to attribute miracles to Him in the past now shunned Him and secretly joined hands with Covenant-breakers against Him. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 151)

We want to exchange the divinely-revealed verses for our foul, vile and idle desires:

The people derisively observed saying: “Work thou another miracle, and give us another sign!” One would say: “Make now a part of the heaven to fall down upon us”; and another: “If this be the very truth from before Thee, rain down stones upon us from heaven.” Even as the people of Israel, in the time of Moses, bartered away the bread of heaven for the sordid things of the earth, these people, likewise, sought to exchange the divinely-revealed verses for their foul, their vile, and idle desires. (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 207)

We content ourselves with the stagnant waters of a briny lake, clamouring for guidance while ignoring the guidance we’ve been given:

In like manner, thou beholdest in this day that although spiritual sustenance hath descended from the heaven of divine mercy, and been showered from the clouds of His loving kindness, and although the seas of life, at the behest of the Lord of all being, are surging within the Ridvan of the heart, yet these people, ravenous as the dogs, have gathered around carrion, and contented themselves with the stagnant waters of a briny lake. Gracious God! how strange the way of this people! They clamour for guidance, although the standards of Him Who guideth all things are already hoisted. They cleave to the obscure intricacies of knowledge, when He, Who is the Object of all knowledge, shineth as the sun. (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 207)

There is a great difference between fact and belief.

There is a great difference between fact and belief. There are things in this life whose existence is proved and no one has ever denied them. For example, the existence of the sea on this planet is a proven fact and no person, including those who have never seen the sea, has ever denied its existence. But having a belief in something with which a number of people may disagree is a different matter. Such a belief may not be used as factual evidence for the simple reason that its authenticity is challenged, even though the belief in itself may be true. Miracles are examples of this. For instance, the followers of Christ believe that He performed many miracles. But since many people have denied the claim, one cannot consider these miracles as a factual reality, although they may well have been performed. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 39-40)

What miracles do we look for?

The miracles we pray for on the material plane are often transitory and of no importance to our eternal life:

The outward miracles have no importance for the people of Reality. If a blind man receives sight, for example, he will finally again become sightless, for he will die and be deprived of all his senses and powers. Therefore, causing the blind man to see is comparatively of little importance, for this faculty of sight will at last disappear. If the body of a dead person be resuscitated, of what use is it since the body will die again? But it is important to give perception and eternal life — that is, the spiritual and divine life. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 100)

Spiritual miracles are more important than physical miracles as this story demonstrates:

As the Master went up the aisle he stopped and greeted Mrs. Dealy lovingly. She reached for his hand and said, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, please put your hand on my four head, and I know I will see.” “Yes, my daughter,” He answered, “You will see. But you will have to choose. You may have your spiritual sight or your physical sight – which do you desire?” She said with emotion: “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that is no choice! I would be blind 1000 years before I would give up my spiritual sight!” “Well said, my daughter, well said,” replied the Master as He touched her shoulder, and continued on His way out. Sitting next to her on that bench, Leroy Ioas realized with a chill how in that moment she had decided on her own destiny. She was steadfast. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 116)

Bahá’u’lláh’s Miracles

In the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh there are many references to miracles.

Although there were many wonderful things done by Bahá’u’lláh, we do not recount them, as they do not constitute proofs and evidences for all the peoples of the earth; they are not decisive proofs even for those who see them; and they have an inner significance:

Briefly, my meaning is that many wonderful things were done by Bahá’u’lláh, but we do not recount them, as they do not constitute proofs and evidences for all the peoples of the earth, and they are not decisive proofs even for those who see them: they may think that they are merely enchantments . . . Our purpose is not to deny such miracles; our only meaning is that they do not constitute decisive proofs, and that they have an inner significance. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 37)

Although Bahá’u’lláh forbade His followers to attribute miracles to Him, nevertheless there are many accounts left to posterity by His disciples, describing the circumstances in which He either healed incurables or raised the dead. We don’t consider these supernatural acts to be a proof of the truth of His Cause, because this would amount to the degradation of His exalted station:

Although Bahá’u’lláh has forbidden His followers to attribute miracles to Him, nevertheless there are many accounts left to posterity by His disciples, describing the circumstances in which He either healed incurables or raised the dead. But none of these supernatural acts were considered by His followers to be a proof of the truth of His Cause, as otherwise this would amount to the degradation of His exalted station. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 3, p. 360)

Why don’t people believe the miracles they’ve been given?

Miracles are only convincing to a limited number of people:

Miracles are likewise convincing to a limited number only. For instance, a Buddhist would not be convinced by the miracles of Moses which are proofs only so far as the orthodox Jews are concerned, because they love Moses. On the other hand the miracles attributed to Jesus Christ are refuted by the Jews as a whole, saying “No one lives today who has seen these miracles performed, therefore, who can bear testimony to them? (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 43-44)

They have been taken out of context:

The meaning is not that the Manifestations are unable to perform miracles, for They have all power. But for Them inner sight, spiritual healing and eternal life are the valuable and important things. Consequently, whenever it is recorded in the Holy Books that such a one was blind and recovered his sight, the meaning is that he was inwardly blind, and that he obtained spiritual vision, or that he was ignorant and became wise, or that he was negligent and became heedful, or that he was worldly and became heavenly. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 101)

They blind us to the truth:

They see the sun with their own eyes, and yet question that brilliant Orb as to the proof of its light. They behold the vernal showers descending upon them, and yet seek an evidence of that bounty. The proof of the sun is the light thereof, which shineth and envelopeth all things. The evidence of the shower is the bounty thereof, which reneweth and investeth the world with the mantle of life. Yea, the blind can perceive naught from the sun except its heat, and the arid soil hath no share of the showers of mercy. “Marvel not if in the Qur’án the unbeliever perceiveth naught but the trace of letters, for in the sun, the blind findeth naught but heat.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 207)

On a personal level, often the miracles we’re looking for don’t come until the “eleventh hour” or almost the last possible minute:

He, as well as some of the other friends who are motivated by a great force of faith, believe firmly that God’s miracles will not fail to perform their wonders and at the very eleventh hour the full sum will be collected. (Shoghi Effendi, Extracts from the USBN)

I’m sure the purpose is to develop our patience and trust in God!

What’s been your experience with miracles? Post your comments below!