At the same time those who show forth envies, jealousies, etc., toward a servant, are depriving themselves of their own stations, and not another of his, for they prove by their own acts that they are not only unworthy of being called to any station waiting them, but also prove that they cannot withstand the very first test – that of rejoicing over the success of their neighbour, at which God rejoices . . . Envy closes the door of Bounty, and jealousy prevents one from ever attaining to the Kingdom of Abhá. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)
First of all, I wanted to understand the difference between envy and jealousy as they are often paired in the Bahá’í Writings. It seems that we envy people when we want what they have and we’re jealous when we want to keep for ourselves what belongs exclusively to us. Envy involves 2 people – me and the person who has what I want and it is what feeds the “keeping up with the Jones’s”.
If someone is jealous, on the other hand, they feel angry or bitter because they think that another person is trying to take a lover, friend or possession away from them, so it involves 3 people. It’s often what feeds suspicions of infidelity. Both come out of a lack of trust towards yourself (to manage your affairs) or to your partner (to be loyal).
With that in mind, we can understand the quote better. The problem is that when we give in to envy and jealousy, we deprive ourselves of our own station, close the door of bounty and prevent ourselves from ever attaining the Kingdom of Abha. If I don’t appreciate the bounties and blessings that are continually streaming forth for me, why would God give me any more?
Knowing that the solution to envy and jealousy is to rejoice over the success of my neighbors, 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation
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Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 50)
Wow, envy is such a test for me! I often fall into “compare and despair” where I compare myself to others and want what they have. It might be something material (a better house, car, job, vacation), or physical (longer legs, shorter nose) or relational (an ideal spouse, perfect kids, lots of family and friends) or something intangible (more confidence, better social skills). When I’m focused on what I don’t have or get caught up in “keeping up with the Jones’s” or wanting a better social status, it’s hard to be happy or reliant on God. Envy lowers my self-worth and self-esteem and deprives me of the opportunity to see and be grateful for what I do have.
The antidote to envy is to accept who we are, count our blessings, ask God to provide us with what we need, rejoice in the good fortune of others and believe in God’s perfect justice. Also, we can use envy wisely if it makes us aspire to be a better person and work hard to succeed in our endeavors.
Remembering that letting go of envy and embracing contentment will enable me to be loved and praised by God, 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation
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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 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)
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)
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 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)
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)
By Rachel Perry
Storms blowing from all sides,
Winds so strong breath is stolen,
Left gasping for air,
Hanging on to life with a hope,
Emerging Happiness from Despair.
Fierce storms with ancient winds,
Tearing down the land,
Not bike, nor tree, nor house does stand,
People cower, afraid, afraid, afraid
When will it end.
On my bare arms winds beat,
Hair strewn across face and eyes
Whipping like the ancient whips
Which have whipped slaves and
Prisoners for ages and ages and ages.
I love you and accept you storm
Without fear or pain or worry.
I thank you storm for clearing away the
Illusions and ghosts that I have danced with in the night.
I take you storm, whether wrong or right
And know you are mine, you are me, you are all in me.
I take you storm and dance with your wind,
Free me from the ancient night
With your Eternal Gaze of Serenity.
Here, now, and always,
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Divine Creator let me live
In this storm with peace.
Make of me a Divine Storm Chaser then
Make of me an instrument that
Transforms mighty winds of night
Into powerful streams of light.
I’ll stand here, on this broken ground,
With blood and broken homes around,
I’ll stand here smiling with arms outstretched
Free from harm and pain and hex
I’ll stand here a mighty Tree
Giving thanks to the Almighty.
Recently I was listening to a podcast on our relationship to money by my favorite minister, Jeremy McClung of the Muskoka Community Church, which left me asking the question: When is enough, enough? This is an important question to ask especially at this season of excess we call Christmas.
In his talk, Jeremy handed out index cards and asked us to write “stuff I have” on one side and to write “stuff I want” on the other. We were to make a detailed list of everything we own (land, cars, houses, clothes, electronics, appliances, toys etc).
What surprised me was how much was on my “want” side! Even though I have everything I need, and more, the list of what I wanted was longer than the list of what I owned. This was profound! I urge you to take out a sheet of paper right now and do this exercise for yourself.
My income comes from a small disability pension, supplemented by some paid work, and I live in a small one bedroom apartment in a “geared to income” building. Some people look at my lifestyle and long for me to be better off financially, and sometimes I wonder if they’re right. On the one hand, the Bahá’í Writings say:
Having attained the stage of fulfilment and reached his maturity, man standeth in need of wealth, and such wealth as he acquireth through crafts or professions is commendable and praiseworthy in the estimation of men of wisdom. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)
My well-wishers see the transformative path I’ve been on for the past couple of decades, and how far I’ve come in ridding myself of the anxiety and depression that robbed me of my life, and they think it’s time for me to get back into the “real world” and get paid for all the work I do.
I ask myself: can I make a living doing all the things I do, so that I can get off my disability pension? For years, I took the following Writing to heart, and tried to apply it.
The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words, 82)
Working in corrupt work places just made me sicker.
Now, this quotes shows how I long to live my life:
Thou hast asked regarding the means of livelihood. Trust in God and engage in your work and practice economy; the confirmations of God shall descend and you will be enabled to pay off your debts. Be ye occupied always with the mention of Bahá’u’lláh and seek ye no other hope and desire save Him. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 375)
Through quotes like this I’ve come to realize that my job is to take care of the work and God’s job is to take care of the money. It doesn’t say “paid work”, and God’s way of taking care of the money doesn’t always come from a paycheque! I have been taken care of in ways I couldn’t have imagined (from soup kitchens and food banks that treat me as a “guest”; to random strangers sending me money in the mail; to finding ways to barter; to people giving me clothes and yes, even from some paid employment. I have more than enough, and I am grateful.
The question is: do you want to live like that? It will mean a lifestyle very unlike the ones you’ve had to date.
Have you heard about the Peace Pilgrim? She’s one of my heroines. When she was in her mid-40’s, she decided to walk across the United States, and continued to do so for 28 years, to talk to people about the importance of peace. All she had were the clothes on her back; a smock with a pencil and a small pad of paper; a comb and toothbrush, and that was it. She had no organizational backing, carried no money, and would not even ask for food or shelter. She travelled in the south during the winter and the north during the summer. She had absolutely nothing – no means to support herself except total reliance on God. She said in all the years she did it, there were only 3 days in a row where she didn’t have anything to eat or anywhere to sleep. Every single other day, people would feed her and/or invite her to spend the night. One time she was walking in a freak snow storm. It was so snowy that she couldn’t see 5 feet in front of her, so she walked down an embankment to huddle under a bridge, out of the blinding snow, and there she found a fridge-size cardboard box, with a blanket and pillow in it! Without a word of a lie! God took care of her every need, even before she knew she had it. Click here to read reviews about her biography.
I found her total detachment really inspiring! Since then I’ve had many glimmers of how this works in my own life, which is “poor” by many people’s standards, and yet, I have had a rich and full life; totally blessed, to be able to do the work I love.
In terms of acquiring wealth, the Bahá’í Writings also say:
In earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 219)
There’s a great story which illustrates the principle that the best possible life is not by having more stuff, but by letting go.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá told a story about a Persian believer’s journeys and how he could not sleep at night while in the wilderness for fear of someone stealing his new shirt, a new gift from a prominent person. After several sleepless nights he decided to get rid of the shirt so he could relax. (Rafati, Vahid, Sources of Persian Poetry in the Baha’i Writings, Vol. lll, p. 80)
I understand what this means! One time I had so many journals filled with insights about my childhood and all that I’d suffered and how it made me the person I was. I was attached to these journals and longed for my son to read them someday, to know who I was. I was so afraid that they would get ruined in a flood or fire that I was actually contemplating buying metal boxes to put them in to keep them safe! I realized the folly of this thinking, and because I was soon going on pilgrimage and wanted to empty myself before I went, I threw them all into the garbage dump (where they belonged!) instead.
Another time I was going out with someone who lived in a small village where everyone knew everyone else. He was in fear that someone would steal his antiques and was considering buying an alarm system for the house. I couldn’t imagine living with so much fear and suspicion. It would be different if he was in downtown Detroit, but the crime rate in this village was next to nothing. Surely it would be better to live with just enough, than to live in fear all the time!
When you move, you find out how much stuff you have; and how much you want. When I was pioneering to Labrador, I took this quote seriously:
Reliance on God is indeed the strongest and safest weapon which the Bahá’í teacher can carry. (Shoghi Effendi, Power of Divine Assistance, p. 221).
What this meant to me was that I was to go with total reliance on God, trusting Him to meet all my needs, just as the Peace Pilgrim had. I sold or gave away just about all of my worldly goods. I arrived in Labrador City with 2 cats and 2 suitcases; one suitcase was filled with cat supplies and the other had my clothes; a sleeping bag and inflatable air mattress; a pot, pan, and dishes and cutlery for 2 (so I could invite someone over for a meal). I had enough! I had everything I needed to live quite comfortably. I got a 3 bedroom unfurnished apartment (which was easier to find than a 1 bedroom); and could have lived with so little forever! Unfortunately our culture demands a certain lifestyle, though, and within 6 months I had that apartment filled with furniture and kitchen supplies (mostly acquired through yard sales and moving sales). When is enough, enough? I had enough, but I wanted more. I wanted to look like everyone else, but I didn’t need any of it.
Most of our “stuff” makes our lives easier or better in some ways. What we fail to realize is that much of it also takes something from us in terms of storage, cleaning, repairs and maintenance. It’s not a wonder how stressed we feel! Houses are a good example. When we buy our first house, we have to furnish it; and then buy all the tools to maintain it (ladders, lawn mowers, snow blowers etc. The list is endless!). When I was a home owner, I was always caught unprepared when the roof leaked, or the furnace needed replacing or when the tiles fell off the bathroom walls. I couldn’t afford the repairs and didn’t know where the money was going to come from. Needless to say, it went on the credit card, and then I was so far in debt, I nearly faced bankruptcy more than once. Now I live in an apartment and all the energy I used to spend on mowing lawns and maintaining gardens and shovelling snow, can be used in service to others; and all the money I save in not having to maintain a home has gone into paying off my debts so I can live debt free. It’s a much simpler lifestyle and has freed me up both financially and emotionally.
Have you ever wondered why people in cultures where they have nothing, seem so much happier? It’s because the more stuff we have, the more stress we have. I think it’s why we love to go camping. We take everything we need with us, and leave the rest behind. Most Canadians take more stuff camping than most of the rest of the world owns.
Despite what the “Occupy” movement would have us believe, the average North Americans are some of the richest people on the globe. The following really puts it into perspective:
If you could fit the entire population of the world into a village consisting of 100 people, maintaining the proportions of all the people living on Earth, that village would consist of:
- 57 Asians
- 21 Europeans
- 14 Americans (North, Central and South)
- 8 Africans
There would be:
- 52 women and 48 men
- 30 Caucasians and 70 non-Caucasians
- 30 Christians and 70 non-Christians
- 6 people would possess 59% of the wealth and they would all come from the USA
- 80 would live in poverty
- 70 would be illiterate
- 50 would suffer from hunger and malnutrition
- 1 would be dying
- 1 would be being born
- 1 would own a computer
- 1 (yes, only one) would have a university degree
If we looked at the world in this way, the need for acceptance and understanding would be obvious. But, consider again the following…
- If you have never experienced the horror of war, the solitude of prison, the pain of torture, were not close to death from starvation, then you are better off than 500 million people
- If you can go to your place of worship without fear that someone will assault or kill you, then you are luckier than 3 billion (that’s right) people.
- If you have a full fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are wealthier than 75% of the world’s population.
- If you currently have money in the bank, in your wallet and a few coins in your purse, you are one of 8 of the privileged few amongst the 100 people in the world.
- If your parents are still alive and still married, you’re a rare individual.
Some people have suggested: “the more wealth I attain, the more I will be able to travel to developing countries to help others or donate to worthy causes”. I’m not sure that’s true. It’s certainly part of the prevailing wisdom, but only God knows what He wants from us. One the one hand He says:
If wealth and prosperity become the means of service at God’s Threshold, it is highly meritorious; otherwise it would be better to avoid them. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)
On the other, the Bahá’í Writings tell us that more and lasting things are accomplished by poor people, than by rich:
How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now? But those who have been servants of the divine beauty are never forgotten. The result of their works is everywhere visible. What king is there of two thousand years ago whose kingdom has lived in the hearts? But those disciples who were devoted to God – poor people who had neither fortune nor position – are to-day trees bearing fruit. Their banner is raised higher every day. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)
I’ve learned that a life well lived doesn’t consist of an abundance of possessions. Sometimes we use “stuff” to fill the holes in our soul, but we aren’t going to find what we want from more stuff. There’s danger in having more than you need, because it only creates more wants. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more; or having aspirations – but the danger is that it distracts us from what’s really important. We can spend so many hours focused on getting this “one thing” that we aren’t living in the present moment and we aren’t focused on what really matters – teaching, service and acquiring virtues.
For example, I knew that I would be getting some money from my father’s estate, so for the three years it took for the money to arrive, I was continually thinking of what I wanted to spend it on. I set up a spreadsheet to keep track of it all; spent hours researching every item carefully, to make sure I knew that I was buying the best possible quality for my money. I measured and remeasured to make sure it would fit. When the money finally came, I threw it all out and decided to buy a car instead! I wasted hours of my life on this endeavor! And even when I got the car, I didn’t like it and traded it in on another one, losing money in the process. What a waste! I was certainly heedless of this quote:
Some men’s lives are solely occupied with the things of this world; their minds are so circumscribed by exterior manners and traditional interests that they are blind to any other realm of existence, to the spiritual significance of all things! They think and dream of earthly fame, of material progress. Sensuous delights and comfortable surroundings bound their horizon, their highest ambitions centre in successes of worldly conditions and circumstances! They curb not their lower propensities; they eat, drink, and sleep! Like the animal, they have no thought beyond their own physical well-being. It is true that these necessities must be despatched. Life is a load which must be carried on while we are on earth, but the cares of the lower things of life should not be allowed to monopolize all the thoughts and aspirations of a human being. The heart’s ambitions should ascend to a more glorious goal, mental activity should rise to higher levels! Men should hold in their souls the vision of celestial perfection, and there prepare a dwelling-place for the inexhaustible bounty of the Divine Spirit. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 98)
We don’t like to think of ourselves as greedy, but when I looked at the list on the other side of my index card, and truly understood my position in the world, I had to realize that I was. We all need to be on guard against all kinds of greed, especially at Christmas. The Bahá’í Writings tell us:
He should be content with little and free from avarice. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 50)
Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber? (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 127)
There is a danger in becoming attached to what we have. Another story I like illustrates this point:
Whereas riches may become a mighty barrier between man and God, and rich people are often in great danger of attachment, yet people with small worldly possessions can also become attached to material things. The following Persian story of a king and a dervish illustrates this.
Once there was a king who had many spiritual qualities and whose deeds were based on justice and loving-kindness. He often envied the dervish who had renounced the world and appeared to be free from the cares of this material life, for he roamed the country, slept in any place when night fell and chanted the praises of his Lord during the day. He lived in poverty, yet thought he owned the whole world. His only possessions were his clothes and a basket in which he carried the food donated by his well-wishers. The king was attracted to this way of life. Once he invited a well-known dervish to his palace, sat at his feet and begged him for some lessons about detachment. The dervish was delighted with the invitation. He stayed a few days in the palace and whenever the king was free preached the virtues of a mendicant’s life to him. At last the king was converted. One day, dressed in the garb of a poor man, he left his palace in the company of the dervish. They had walked together some distance when the dervish realized that he had left his basket behind in the palace. This disturbed him greatly and, informing the king that he could not go without his basket, he begged permission to return for it. But the king admonished him, saying that he himself had left behind his palaces, his wealth and power, whereas the dervish, who had preached for a lifetime the virtues of detachment, had at last been tested and was found to be attached to this world — his small basket. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 76-77)
Contentment is being happy with what we have, and being grateful for it. This is what it means to be truly rich. The Bab has given us this prayer, which says in part:
Bestow upon me my portion, O Lord, as Thou pleasest, and cause me to be satisfied with whatsoever thou hast ordained for me. Thine is the absolute authority to command. (The Báb, Baha’i Prayers, p. 55)
We have enough. All of us! Ask yourself: If I never get another thing, could I be content with what I have? Most of us would have to answer yes!
I don’t think we’re all being called to get rid of everything we own and give it to the poor or pioneer to Africa, but to be able to get to the point where you could do it, is the kind of heart change God is looking for.
God might be calling you to let go of your stuff; or to change the way you relate to it; or to give it all to Him; or to pay Huqúq on it so it’s purified. Pray about what you’re learning here, and pay attention to what you’re being called on to do with this information. And realize that you have enough!