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‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Justice for the Poor

‘Abdu’l-Bahá never let anyone take advantage of Him.

When giving out money, He had people with Him to regulate the crowds:

During this time this friend of the poor has not been unattended. Several men wearing red fezes, and with earnest and kindly faces, followed him from the house, stood near him and aided in regulating the crowd, and now, with reverent manner and at a respectful distance, follow him away. When they address him they call him “Master.” (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

He liked discipline and order, so they could pass by Him one by one:

They crowd up a little too insistently. He pushes them gently back and lets them pass him one by one.   (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

His helpers made sure that everyone passed on as soon as they’d received money from Him:

The men accompanying Him kept order in great kindness, but firmness, and saw that each passed on as soon as he had received from the Master.   (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)

He kept a record of those who He gave to because He did not wish to be abused:

He gave where He felt it was merited and kept a record of the recipients.  He did not wish to be abused.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 76)

If He knew someone was just lazy, He would turn them away and reprimand them:

Once in a while we would see Him send some one away empty-handed and He would reprimand him for his laziness.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)

He called everyone His friends, but those who attempted to deceive Him were rebuked and told where they might obtain work:

Later, while resting, the Master told Mrs. True about His friends.  ‘These are My friends, My friends.  Some of them are My enemies, but they think I do not know it, because they appear friendly, and to them I am very kind, for one must love his enemies and do good to them.’  He explained that there simply was not sufficient work in ‘Akká.  Men could do but two kinds of work:  they could fish, but the sea had been too stormy lately, or they could carry loads on their backs, which required great strength.  Those who attempted to deceive Him were rebuked and told where they might obtain work.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)

If someone criticized a gift, He reproved them but He always gave them something else:

At one time the Master had a fine cloak of Persian wool, which had been given to Him.  When a poor man appealed to Him for a garment, He sent for this cloak and gave it to him.  The man took it but complained, saying it was only of cotton.  ‘No,’ ‘Abbas Effendi assured him, ‘it is of wool’; and to prove it He lighted a match and burned a little of the nap.  The man still grumbled that it was not good.  ‘Abbas Effendi reproved him for criticizing a gift, but He ended the interview by directing an attendant to give the man a mejidi (a coin then worth about four francs).  It was observed that if someone vexed the Master, He always gave him a gift.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 75)

One of the most well-known story is about how ‘Abdu’l-Baha refused to be cheated by a dishonest taxi driver:

Economic justice, even in small matters, was important to the Master.  Once in Egypt ‘Abdu’l-Bahá obtained a carriage in order that He might offer a ride to an important Pasha, who was to be His luncheon guest.  When they reached their destination, the driver asked an exorbitant fee.  The Master was fully aware of this and refused to pay the full amount.  The driver, big and rough, grabbed His sash and ‘jerked Him back and forth’, demanding his unfair price.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remained firm and the man eventually let go.  The Master paid what He actually owed him and informed him that had he been honest, he would have received a handsome tip instead of only the fare.  He then walked away.  Shoghi Effendi, His grandson, was present when this happened.  He later admitted to being very embarrassed that this should have happened in front of the Pasha.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, on the other hand, was evidently ‘not at all upset’, but simply determined not to be cheated. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 109)

They took a taxi to the train station, where the taxi driver demanded more than the usual fare.  Abdul-Bahá ignored him, saying, “A man may give $1000 without minding it, but he should not yield even a dollar to the person who wishes to take it wrongfully, for such wrongful behavior flouts justice and disrupts the order of the world.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 190)

He Gave Advice to the Poor

He reminded them to give thanks for the things they have been given, sometimes in His talks:

So, my comrades, you are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Your lives are similar to His life; your attitude is like unto His; you resemble Him more than the rich do. Therefore, we will thank God that we have been so blessed with real riches. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 34)

Sometimes through stories:

The Master sometimes made His points through telling stories.  Julia Grundy recorded the following story of His:  ‘A master had a slave who was completely devoted to him.  One day he gave the slave a melon which when cut open looked most ripe and delicious.  The slave ate one piece, then another and another with great relish (the day being warm) until nearly the whole melon had disappeared.  The master, picking up the last slice, tasted it and found it exceedingly bitter and unpalatable.  “Why, it is bitter!  Did you not find it so?” he asked the servant.  “Yes, my Master,” the slave replied, “it was bitter and unpleasant, but I have tasted so much sweetness from thy hand that one bitter melon was not worth mentioning.”’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 167)

He Gave Even More Advice to the Rich

Baha’u’llah set the standard:

O YE RICH ONES ON EARTH!

The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 54)

To those who were suffering because of the poor, He gave this advice, which had positive effects:

Then He added, “However you must strive to overcome these feelings, do everything in your power to help, pray, then leave it with God, because the world will grow steadily much worse, and if you suffer like this you will not be able to survive.  Nevertheless his words opened the door of help to those strike sufferers, and on my return to Montréal I went to a very wealthy and prominent Irishmen there, whom I had never seen, burst into tears in his office, to his astonishment and mine, and asked him what he was going to do about it.  Well, to end the story, he headed the committee to raise a fund which we sent to Dublin through private channels in which came just in time to succour thousands of women and children.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 186-187)

He reminded them why the poor are especially beloved of God:

What could be better before God than thinking of the poor? For the poor are beloved by our heavenly Father. When His Holiness Christ came upon the earth those who believed in him and followed him were the poor and lowly, showing the poor were near to God. When a rich man believes and follows the Manifestation of God it is a proof that his wealth is not an obstacle and does not prevent him from attaining the pathway of salvation. After he has been tested and tried it will be seen whether his possessions are a hindrance in his religious life. But the poor are especially beloved of God. Their lives are full of difficulties, their trials continual, their hopes are in God alone. (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36)

He reminded them of their responsibilities towards helping the poor:

Therefore you must assist the poor as much as possible, even by sacrifice of yourself. No deed of man is greater before God than helping the poor. Spiritual conditions are not dependent upon the possession of worldly treasures or the absence of them. When physically destitute, spiritual thoughts are more likely. Poverty is stimulus toward God. Each one of you must have great consideration for the poor and render them assistance. Organize in an effort to help them and prevent increase of poverty.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36)

He reminded them through stories, that we’re all one family and have a responsibility to each other:

A Persian king was one night in his palace, living in the greatest luxury and comfort. Through excessive joy and gladness he addressed a certain man, saying: “Of all my life this is the happiest moment. Praise be to God, from every point prosperity appears and fortune smiles! My treasury is full and the army is well taken care of. My palaces are many; my land unlimited; my family is well off; my honor and sovereignty are great. What more could I want!”  The poor man at the gate of his palace spoke out, saying: “O kind king! Assuming that you are from every point of view so happy, free from every worry and sadness — do you not worry for us? You say that on your own account you have no worries — but do you never worry about the poor in your land? Is it becoming or meet that you should be so well off and we in such dire want and need? In view of our needs and troubles how can you rest in your palace, how can you even say that you are free from worries and sorrows? As a ruler you must not be so egoistic as to think of yourself alone but you must think of those who are your subjects. When we are comfortable then you will be comfortable; when we are in misery how can you, as a king, be in happiness?”  The purport is this that we are all inhabiting one globe of earth. In reality we are one family and each one of us is a member of this family. We must all be in the greatest happiness and comfort, under a just rule and regulation which is according to the good pleasure of God, thus causing us to be happy, for this life is fleeting.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 41)

He reminded them that God has many mansions prepared for servants of the poor:

He admonished all that we must be the servants of the poor, helpers of the poor, remember the sorrows of the poor, associate with them; for thereby we may inherit the Kingdom of heaven. God has not said that there are mansions prepared for us if we pass our time associating with the rich, but He has said there are many mansions prepared for the servants of the poor, for the poor are very dear to God. The mercies and bounties of God are with them.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)

He reminded them to be grateful:

Day by day friends brought offerings of flowers and fruit, so that the dinner table was laden with these beautiful tokens of love for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Whilst cutting off bunches of grapes and giving them to various guests, He talked to us of the joy of freedom, of how grateful we should be for the privilege of dwelling in safety, under just laws, in a healthy city, with a temperate climate, and brilliant light – “there was much darkness in the prison fortress of `Akka!”  (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)

He reminded them to be moderate:

After His first dinner with us He said: “The food was delicious and the fruit and flowers were lovely, but would that we could share some of the courses with those poor and hungry people who have not even one.”  What a lesson to the guests present!  We at once agreed that one substantial, plentiful dish, with salad, cheese, biscuits, sweetmeats, fruits, and flowers on the table, preceded by soup and followed by coffee or tea, should be quite sufficient for any dinner. This arrangement would greatly simplify life, both as to cookery and service, and would undeniably be more in accordance with the ideals of Christianity than numerous dishes unnecessary and costly.  (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)

He reminded them that deeds were more important than words:

Later that evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was seated with a number of visitors to whom He was saying as He laughed: ‘Assuredly give to the poor! If you give them only words, when they put their hands into their pockets they will find themselves none the richer for you.’ (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 177)

He made sure they understood that service to others was to be given for the sake of God and not for praise or fame:

A day or two later, Abdul-Bahá talked about charitable works: “As charitable works become praiseworthy, people often perform them merely for the sake of fame and to gain benefit for themselves, as well as to attract people’s admiration.  But this does not render needless the teachings of the Prophets because it is spiritual morals that are the cause of training one’s innate nature and of personal progress.  Thus will people offer service to one another with all their hearts for the sake of God and in order to fulfill the duties of devotion to Him and service to humanity and not for the purpose of acquiring praise and fame. (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 158)

He reminded them to see everyone, no matter how blurred or torn, as a letter from God:

“Mrs True, when you go back I want you to look at every human being and say to yourself, “you are a letter from my Beloved, and I must love you because of the Beloved Who wrote you. The letter may be torn, it may be blurred, but because the Beloved wrote the letter, you must love it.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the book, Corinne True)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá once gave the example of a soiled and crushed letter that reaches the hand of a lover from his beloved.  That letter, He said, is no less precious because of the condition in which it has arrived.  It is cherished because it has come from a loved one.  In the same way, we can learn to love a fellow man, no matter who he is, because he is God’s creature.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 96)

How has this helped you understand how you should treat the poor?  Post your comments below!

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Love for The Poor

 

‘Abdu’l-Baha met with many groups of people, but He had a special love for the poor and downtrodden.

Poverty made ‘Abdu’l-Baha exceedingly sad and He wants us to become more sensitive to this issue:

‘When He reached the Occident, however, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá faced a condition which troubled Him greatly, because it was beyond His power to assuage the misery He saw constantly about Him.  Housed luxuriously at Cadogan Gardens, London, He knew that within a stone’s throw of Him were people who had never had enough to eat — and in New York there was exactly the same situation.  These things made Him exceedingly sad, and He said:  “The time will come in the near future when humanity will become so much more sensitive than at present that the man of great wealth will not enjoy his luxury, in comparison with the deplorable poverty about him.  He will be forced, for his own happiness, to expend his wealth to procure better conditions for the community in which he lives.”‘  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 67)

He hurt with them:

Many years later, Abdul-Bahá’s concern for the poor and suffering was described by May Maxwell in a letter describing the conversation that had taken place in their home: “I remember when the Master was in Montréal and there’d been a strike for months in Dublin, women and children starving and a generally desperate condition.  It affected me painfully; I had slept little and could barely eat, and had that terrific helpless feeling, not knowing what to do about it.  All this Sutherland told to the Master, begging Him to tell me that my attitude was all wrong; and as he spoke the Master turned very white and great beads of perspiration formed on His brow through His own agony in human sufferings; then He said, “If more people felt as your wife does, the world would not be in this dark and terrible state.”  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 186-187)

His motto was “frugality for Himself, generosity for others”.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave freely of what He had — love, time, care and concern, food and money, clothing and flowers, a bed, a rug!  His motto appeared to be:  frugality for Himself, generosity for others.  Stories of the Master’s self-denial in favour of others’ well-being are legion.  He was ‘bountiful as the rain in His generosity to the poor…’  Because He and His family were rich in the love of God, they accepted material deprivation for themselves gladly.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 68)

Service to others was always the pattern of His life:

Service to God, to Baha’u’llah, to family, to friends and enemies, indeed to all mankind – this was the pattern of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life.  He wished only to be the Servant of God and man.  To serve – rather than being demeaning and unfulfilling – was honour, joy and fulfilment.  This motivated His entire day from Dawn to after midnight.  He used to say, ‘Nothing is too much trouble when one loves, and there is always time.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 104)

He knew them all and treated them with kindness and respect:

A door opens and a man comes out. He is of middle stature, strongly built. He wears flowing light-coloured robes. On his head is a light buff fez with a white cloth wound about it. He is perhaps sixty years of age. His long grey hair rests on his shoulders. His forehead is broad, full, and high, his nose slightly aquiline, his moustaches and beard, the latter full though not heavy, nearly white. His eyes are grey and blue, large, and both soft and penetrating. His bearing is simple, but there is grace, dignity, and even majesty about his movements. He passes through the crowd, and as he goes utters words of salutation. We do not understand them, but we see the benignity and the kindliness of his countenance. He stations himself at a narrow angle of the street and motions to the people to come towards him . . . As they come they hold their hands extended. In each open palm he places some small coins. He knows them all. He caresses them with his hand on the face, on the shoulders, on the head. Some he stops and questions. An aged negro who hobbles up, he greets with some kindly inquiry; the old man’s broad face breaks into a sunny smile, his white teeth glistening against his ebony skin as he replies. He stops a woman with a babe and fondly strokes the child. As they pass, some kiss his hand. To all he says, “Marhabbah, marhabbah” – “Well done, well done!”  So they all pass him. (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

As interested as ‘Abdu’l-Baha was in helping the individual, He had a bigger vision always in His mind:

Ruhiyyih Khanum said she had a dream one night: she dreamed that the dam had burst and that there was a great flood, She rushed down to the water’s edge to try to save someone, but the current swept them past. She reached out to try to grasp and save another. She grasped one by the hair, and, with great effort, brought that one to shore. Then she tried to reach another, but the current swept him by. She looked up at the side of the mountain, and there she saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who looked like a Prophet of God, with his white turban and flowing beard, with his back to the flood, working very hard. She rushed up the mountain side, grasped His sleeves and said, “Oh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, come and help me save some of these people who are drowning in the flood.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went right on, working very rapidly and said nothing. She grasped his sleeve again and said, “Oh ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, these people are drowning, come help me save some of these people who are drowning in the flood.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, without stopping his work turned to her with a smile and Said, “‘Abdu’l-Bahá is building the machine to stop the flood.” (That is what is taking place in the world today)  (Ruhaniyyih Ruth Moffett, Visiting the Bahá’í World, 1954-09  http://bahai-library.com/moffett_pilgrims_notes)

In many quotes He tells us how we are to behave to the poor, sick and downtrodden, and in this quote, He tells us we aren’t a “true Baha’i” if we neglect it:

Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!  This is the work of a true Bahá’í, and this is what is expected of him. If we strive to do all this, then are we true Bahá’ís, but if we neglect it, we are not followers of the Light, and we have no right to the name.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 80)

How many of us serve these groups?

How many of us can count people such as these as our friends?

How many of us can truly claim we have a right to the name Baha’i?

Because ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved these groups of people so much, there is much that has been written about them, so in the next series of articles I will be looking at what we can learn about how He treated them, to help us claim our name, to help us too draw closer to the poor and help them in practical ways, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did.

What’s been your experience showering love on the poor?  Post your comments below!

Moving with the Rhythm of Life

We ought not to resist the shocks and upheavals of life, nor run counter to obstacles, we ought never to be impatient, we ought to be as incapable of impatience as we would revolt, this not being so much long‑suffering as a quiet awareness of the forces that operate in the hours, days, or years of waiting and inactivity. Always we ought to move with the larger rhythm, the wider sweep towards our ultimate goal, in the complete acquiescence, that perfect accord which underlies the spirit of the Faith itself.  (Bahiyyih Khánum, Bahá’í World, vol. 5, p.185)

I’m feeling a lot of impatience these days.  I’m registered for a conference I want to attend, I’ve got a partial scholarship and a potential person to carpool with, and yet, I’m still several hundred dollars short to fill in the missing pieces.  I’ve been in this place before, and God has come through and I want to trust that this time will be the same.  I have 5 days before confirming my attendance or I’ll lose my scholarship.  I’m not attached, either way.  There are equal pros and cons for going or staying home, and yet, I want God to make His will known and the only way I think I’ll know for sure is whether the money comes through or not.

So today’s reading is a reminder to continue to be aware of forces that operate while I wait, and instead of fretting, move with the day, finding ways to be of service to myself and others, and trust that in this moment, there is no fear, only love and acceptance.

Remembering to keep moving with the rhythm of life, I can relax and be grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through 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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5 Ways to Overcome Setbacks

We note that when learning accelerates, the friends grow more capable of overcoming setbacks, whether small or large – diagnosing their root causes, exploring the underlying principles, bringing to bear relevant experience, identifying remedial steps and assessing progress . . . (Universal House of Justice, Framework for Action, p. 35)

I love how the House of Justice is always giving us practical tools we can apply to our lives!  This quote is really about the community building process, but it’s easily transferable to any setback we have, not just in our Baha’i service.

A setback I’ve had recently is spending money on something I thought I had budgeted for, but after paying for it, I realized I didn’t.  Being debt-free and solvent is a high value of mine so this was a big deal.  With the help of this quote, here are the steps I took:

  1. diagnose the root causes: I’d forgotten that while there was money previously allocated for this purpose, I’d used it to cover a previous expense last month.  I’d recorded it, but forgot I’d done it, and forgot to check the budget.
  2. explore the underlying principles: I wanted to cross this item off the “to do” list before going on holidays (my will not God’s).  I ignored my intuition to check the budget first.
  3. bring relevant experience to bear: Having made mistakes in the past, and wanting to not beat myself up about it, thereby feeding my addiction to adrenaline, I reminded myself to forgive myself and ask God to find a way to cover the expense, from His hidden treasury, which He has done for me many times in the past.
  4. identify remedial steps: There was nothing I could do before leaving, except to give it to God and let Him work His magic.
  5. assess progress: When I get home, I can anticipate that God will show me ways to cover this expense.

Remembering to use the tools we’ve been given to help solve problems and move from the lower nature to the higher, I am grateful!

What setback are you experiencing in your life today and how can this process help?  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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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Getting Out of Debt  

 

I hope thou wilt become as a rising light and obtain spiritual health — and spiritual health is conducive to physical health — so that thou mayest be enabled to liquidate thy debts and be strengthened to attain the blessing of the Forgiving Lord; that thou mayest become a mirror of truth and reveal the spiritual brilliancy of the heavenly universe to all eyes, direct large numbers of people under the shadow of the Powerful Lord and guide all thy family and relations unto the Greatest Guidance; and that thou mayest be honored with a visit to the Holy Threshold after having attained to all these gifts.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, v2, p. 305)

In the western world, many of us carry heavy credit card debt and struggle with finding ways to pay it off.  Many have considered bankruptcy because they saw no other way out.  That’s why I love this quote – it shows us that the focus shouldn’t be on the money owed, but rather on our spiritual and physical health.  We’ve been putting our focus on the wrong things!

Embedded in the quote is also the bounties that will come our way as a result of liquidating our debts:

  • We’ll attain God’s forgiveness and blessing
  • We’ll become a mirror of truth
  • We’ll reveal the spiritual brilliancy of the heavenly universe to all eyes
  • We’ll direct large numbers of people under the shadow of the Powerful Lord
  • We’ll guide all our families and relations unto the Faith
  • We’ll be honored with an ability to go on pilgrimage

Starting today, I’ll focus on my spiritual and mental health, trusting that God will show me how to liquidate my debts and 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 Strengthening Your Relationship with God

 

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Do Bahá’ís Pay Bribes?

Recently I had an email from someone in a country where paying bribes is the norm.  She wrote:

Parents in my country buy gifts and give money to their children’s teachers, so they will treat them favorably.  A lot of teachers have a bad attitude towards children whose parents do not bribe them in this way.  I really do not want to do this, but if I choose not to follow this tradition, there could be harm to my son.  As a Bahai, I know we need to build a new community based on spiritual principles, so what kind of attitude and actions shall I take to face this challenge?

I replied:

God has given you good intuition and you can trust it!

Your heart knows the right answer:

  • I really do not want to do this.

It’s your head overriding what you know to be your truth:

  • the teacher’s attitude towards my son will not be good.
  • a lot of teachers will have a bad attitude to the children whose parents do not buy gifts or send money to them.

Every decision has both a material and spiritual dimension and this is why your head and heart are at war with each other.

It’s true, your son might suffer as a result of your decision, but he might not too!  Your imagination can think up one scenario, so why not imagine a more positive outcome?  To pass this test, it will be important to make your faith in God’s plan bigger than your fear of what might happen in the future.

Here are some quotes to consider:

Forsake thine own desires, turn thy face unto thy Lord, and walk not in the footsteps of those who have taken their corrupt inclinations for their god, that perchance thou mayest find shelter in the heart of existence, beneath the redeeming shadow of Him Who traineth all names and attributes.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 48-49)

If you make a different decision, you will draw closer to God (by finding shelter under His redeeming shadow), thereby achieving your purpose in life.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us there are many factors to consider before these practices disappear:

If bribery and corruption, known today by the pleasant names of gifts and favors, were forever excluded, would this threaten the foundations of justice? . . . Should anyone object that the above-mentioned reforms have never yet been fully effected, he should consider the matter impartially and know that these deficiencies have resulted from the total absence of a unified public opinion, and the lack of zeal and resolve and devotion in the country’s leaders. It is obvious that not until the people are educated, not until public opinion is rightly focused, not until government officials, even minor ones, are free from even the least remnant of corruption, can the country be properly administered. Not until discipline, order and good government reach the degree where an individual, even if he should put forth his utmost efforts to do so, would still find himself unable to deviate by so much as a hair’s breadth from righteousness, can the desired reforms be regarded as fully established.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 15-16)

These deficiencies have resulted from

  • the total absence of a unified public opinion
  • the lack of zeal and resolve and devotion in the country’s leaders

To overcome it will require:

  • people to be educated
  • public opinion to be rightly focused
  • government officials are free from even the least remnant of corruption
  • discipline, order and good government
  • individuals unable to deviate by so much as a hair’s breadth from righteousness

So by taking a stand in this area, you are doing your part to educate and help change public opinion.

As I understand it, it’s spiritually damaging for the teacher to receive such gifts, so by not participating in this practice, you are helping protect her soul:

How foolish and ignorant must a man be, how base his nature, and how vile the clay of which he is fashioned, if he would defile himself with the contamination of bribery, corruption and perfidy towards the state! Truly, the vermin of the earth are to be preferred to such people!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

If, however, he abuse his position through corrupt or mercenary behaviour, he will be held in detestation at the Threshold of Grandeur and incur the wrath of the Abhá Beauty—nay, he shall be forsaken by the one true God and all who adore Him.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

Here’s a prayer you can say for your son’s teachers:

O Lord! Dispel the darkness of these corrupt desires, and illumine the hearts with the lamp of Thy love.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 58)

You can also ask God to give you some creative ways to approach the teacher, and let her know of the absolute importance of her role.  These quotes might help you give her a priceless gift of inestimable value and win the confidence, respect and genuine support of those affected by your decisions:

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children… It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding Grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All- Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

Among the greatest of all great services is the education of children, and promotion of the various sciences, crafts and arts. Praised be God, ye are now exerting strenuous efforts toward this end. The more ye persevere in this most important task, the more will ye witness the confirmations of God, to such a degree that ye yourselves will be astonished.  This verily is a matter beyond all doubt, a pledge that shall certainly be redeemed.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 276)

Praise thou God that thou hast succeeded in becoming a teacher of young Bahá’ís, young trees of the Bahá Paradise, and at the same time art able to benefit the other children as well. According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with every breath, for you are educating your spiritual children.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

O thou teacher of the children of the kingdom! Thou hast arisen to perform a service which would justly entitle thee to vaunt thyself over all the teachers on earth. For the teachers of this world make use of human education to develop the powers, whether spiritual or material, of humankind, whilst thou art training these young plants in the gardens of God according to the education of Heaven, and art giving them the lessons of the Kingdom. The result of this kind of teaching will be that it will attract the blessings of God, and make manifest the perfections of man.  Hold thou fast to this kind of teaching, for the fruits of it will be very great. (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 274-275)

You can pray that your son is protected from the teacher’s bad attitude.  This is very important.  When he goes off to school (and every day of his life), you can say:

O Lord! Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. Verily, Thy protection over all things is unfailing.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 134)

At the same time, it’s possible that this prayer won’t be answered because God wants to strengthen both you and your son through this test.  Sometimes doing the right thing as Bahá’ís causes temporary problems, which, when directed towards our children, can be hard for mothers to bear!  It’s important, though, to remember that God’s plan is always better, and we WILL be rewarded for our “fortitude under His trials.”

You might also be interested in:

Religion and Ethical Attitudes toward Accepting a Bribe: A Comparative Study

Overcoming Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in Public Institutions: A Baha’i Perspective (a statement p Prepared by the Baha’i­ International Community and presented at the intergovernmental Global Forum on Fighting Corruption II, in The Hague, Netherlands—28 May 2001):

What’s been your experience with bribery?  Post your comments below.