‘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!
‘Abdu’l-Baha’s kind heart went out to those who were ill. If He could alleviate a pain or discomfort, He set about to do so.
Calling on the feeble and sick was a daily occurance:
Almost any morning, early, He may be seen making the round of the city, calling upon the feeble and the sick; many dingy abodes are brightened by His presence.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 81)
He never asked others to do something He wasn’t willing to do:
Lua Gestinger, one of the early Baha’is of America, tells of an experience she had in Akká. She had made the pilgrimage to the prison-city to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. One day He said to her that He was too busy today to call upon a friend of His who was very poor and sick. He wished Lua to go in His place. He told her to take food to the sick man and care for him as He had been doing.
Lua learned the address and immediately went to do as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had asked. She felt proud that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had trusted her with some of His own work. But soon she returned to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a state of excitement. “Master,” she exclaimed, “You sent me to a very terrible place! I almost fainted from the awful smell, the dirty rooms, the degrading condition of that man and his house. I left quickly before I could catch some terrible disease.” Sadly and sternly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gazed at her. If she wanted to serve God, He told her, she would have to serve her fellow man, because in every person she should see the image and likeness of God. Then He told her to go back to the man’s house. If the house was dirty, she should clean it. If the man was dirty, she should bathe him. If he was hungry, she should feed him. He asked her not to come back until all of this was done. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has done these things many times for this man, and he told Lua Getsinger that she should be able to do them once. This is how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá taught Lua to serve her fellow man. (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, Chapter 6)
One time ‘Abdu’l-Baha cancelled a meeting because one person was ill and could not go:
On pilgrimage May Maxwell came to realize that every word and every act of the Master’s had meaning and purpose. The pilgrim party was invited to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá under the cedar trees on Mount Carmel where He had been in the habit of sitting with Baha’u’llah. She recalled that ‘on Sunday morning we awakened with the joy and hope of the meeting on Mount Carmel. The Master arrived quite early and after looking at me, touching my head and counting my pulse, still holding my hand He said to the believers present: “There will be no meeting on Mount Carmel to-day…we could not go and leave one of the beloved of God alone and sick. We could none of us be happy unless all the beloved were happy.” We were astonished. That anything so important as this meeting in that blessed spot should be cancelled because one person was ill and could not go seemed incredible. It was so contrary to all ordinary habits of thought and action, so different from the life of the world where daily events and material circumstances are supreme in importance that it gave us a genuine shock of surprise, and in that shock the foundations of the old order began to totter and fall. The Master’s words had opened wide the door of God’s Kingdom and given us a vision of that infinite world whose only law is love. This was but one of many times that we saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá place above every other consideration the love and kindness, the sympathy and compassion due to every soul. Indeed, as we look back upon that blessed time spent in His presence we understand that the object of our pilgrimage was to learn for the first time on earth what love is, to witness its light in every face, to feel its burning heat in every heart and to become ourselves enkindled with this divine flame from the Sun of Truth, the Essence of whose being is love.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 87)
People came to understand the wisdom of their sicknesses:
I was a child in Tehran when at the age of seven I contracted tuberculosis. There was no hope of recovery. The wisdom of this sickness became clear later. If I had not been ill, I would have been obliged to go to Mazindaran but because of this sickness I stayed in Tehran…..This was when the Blessed Beauty was in prison in Tehran. Therefore, I was afforded the honor of being in His company during His journey to Iraq. When the right time arrived, I suddenly became well, after the doctors had given up all hope of recovery. (Stories Told by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 104)
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)
He Visited People in their Homes, even When Uninvited:
Harry Randall, the brother of Loulie Mathews, was a man of wealth and affairs. He had been a classmate of Harlan Ober at Harvard and so, when Harlan learned of the Faith and became a Baha’i, he very soon gave the Message to Harry, only to discover that, busy and occupied as he was with his manifold affairs, Harry Randall’s interest went no farther than a polite and courteous response, which was far from satisfactory to Harlan. He persisted in trying to interest Harry further and when Abdu’l-Bahá was to come to Boston, Harlan grew more and more pressing: Harry must go to hear Abdu’l-Bahá speak; Harry must meet Him; Harry really owed it to himself not to miss this wonderful opportunity. Finally, Harry still uninterested, but courteously anxious to please this eager friend of his, agreed to go with Harlan to hear Abdu’l-Bahá.
Ruth – Harry’s wife would not be able to go with him since she was a semi invalid, in and out of sanitariums for tuberculosis a great part of the time. Just then she had come home from one of these hospitals but she was far too frail to do anything but rest quietly at home.
Harlan and Harry Randall went to the meeting together and after it was over, Harlan insisted upon taking Harry to meet Abdu’l-Bahá. Harry, still uninterested but always courteous, did as Harlan wished, and what was his astonishment when Abdu’l-Bahá warmly accepted an invitation to have tea the following afternoon at Harry’s home! An invitation Harry had in no way extended.
Appalled, Harry asked Harlan what on earth he should do about it? Harlan said. “Give a tea for Him what else can you do?” “But how can I? Ruth is ill. I’m busy. How on earth – ?”
Harlan laughed, “You don’t know Abdu’l-Bahá or you’d know there’s some sort of reason for this, and it’ll get done. You have a houseful of servants – let them brew a cup of tea for the Master and invite a few friends in to share it.” So this is what Harry did and the next afternoon when Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at the lovely suburban home he found quite a group of people assembled on a wide verandah to receive Him.
Ruth Randall, delicate and lovely, was also there, seated in a far corner where she might be safe from any draft. And it was to her, ignoring all the others, that Abdu’l-Bahá strode, His white aba billowing with the swiftness of His tread; His beautiful eyes filled with light and love. Reaching her He bent above her, murmuring “My daughter My dear daughter” and lovingly He rested His hands on her shoulders Then He turned and, smilingly, met all the other guests.
The following day, Ruth had an appointment with her doctor, who had examined her the previous week and had said that it might be necessary for her to return to the sanitarium for further treatment. He would be sure after he had seen her again. Ruth went to this appointment fearfully she was so longing to remain at home, so very reluctant to be sent again to the hospital. The doctor examined her – and was amazed. What had she been doing? What could have happened to her? She was healed. There was not the least trace left of the tuberculosis. Of course, this was an experience that neither Harry nor Ruth could ignore, so it was the beginning of their long and glorious life-time of teaching and serving the Cause they came to love so well. (Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 23)
Many dingy abodes were brightened by His presence:
Almost any morning, early, He may be seen making the round of the city, calling upon the feeble and the sick; many dingy abodes are brightened by His presence.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 81)
He spent time with the sick:
His kind heart went out to those who were ill. If He could alleviate a pain or discomfort, He set about to do so. We are told that one old couple who were ill in bed for a month had twenty visits from the Master during that time. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)
A man, ill with tuberculosis, was avoided by his friends — even his family was fearful and hardly dared enter his room. The Master needed only to hear of it and ‘thereafter went daily to the sick man, took him delicacies, read and discoursed to him, and was alone with him when he died.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 44)
A dear friend of the family, Jinab-i-Munib, was taken seriously ill. When the boat stopped at Smyrna, Sarkar-i-Aqa (‘Abdu’l-Baha) and Mirza Musa carried him ashore, and took him to a hospital. The Master brought a melon and some grapes; returning with the refreshing fruit for him – He found that he had died. Arrangements were made with the director of the hospital for a simple funeral. The Master chanted some prayers, then, heartsore, came back to the boat. (Lady Blomfied, The Chosen Highway)
He gave them the necessities of life:
When a poor and crippled woman was shunned on contracting measles, the Master, on being informed, ‘immediately engaged a woman to care for her; took a room, put comfortable bedding (His own) into it, called the doctor, sent food and everything she needed. He went to see that she had every attention, and when she died in peace and comfort, He it was Who arranged her simple funeral, paying all charges.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)
He would feed them with His own hands:
Bahiyyih Randall was only thirteen years old when she went to Haifa to see the Master. She recalled that ‘there was a perfectly wonderful person who always sat on the right of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at dinner. His name was Haydar-‘Ali and he had been a follower of Baha’u’llah and was so meek and so beautiful. His hands would shake so that he could not eat. He was such an old, old man, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would feed him with such tenderness. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 94)
He would cheer their hearts, saying:
If there is a sick person and one wishes to cure him, let one cause joy and happiness in his heart. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 417)
Joy is the best cure for your illness. Joy is better than a hundred thousand medicines for a sick person. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 417)
Here’s how He did it:
While in San Francisco, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited a black believer, Mr Charles Tinsley, who had been confined to bed for a long time with a broken leg. The Master said to him: ‘You must not be sad. This affliction will make you spiritually stronger. Do not be sad. Cheer up! Praise be to God, you are dear to me.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 44)
One day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked about the health of Mr Haney. He told the Master quite frankly, ‘My body is always well, but I am receiving so much Spiritual Food while here that I fear I shall have Spiritual indigestion.’ But his Host assured him: ‘No, you are going to digest it, for He who gives you the Spiritual Food is going to give you digestive power.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 143)
To Mrs Smith, a new Baha’i, who belonged to a distinguished Philadelphia family and who was suffering with a headache, the Master said, ‘You must be happy always. You must be counted among the people of joy and happiness and must be adorned with divine morals. In a large measure happiness keeps our health while depression of spirit begets diseases. The substance of eternal happiness is spirituality and divine morality, which has no sorrow to follow it.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 129)
He showered love on people:
On the day I arrived at Haifa I was ill with a dysentery which I had picked up in the course of my travels. ‘Abdu’l-Baha sent His own physician to me, and visited me Himself. He said, “I would that I could take your illness upon Myself.” I have never forgotten this. I felt, I knew, that in making this remark ‘Abdu’l-Baha was not speaking in mere terms of sympathy. He meant just what He said. Such is the great love of the Kingdom, of which ‘Abdu’l-Baha spoke so often and so much. This is a love that is difficult, almost impossible, for us to acquire — though we may seek to approximate its perfection. It is more than sympathy, more than empathy. It is sacrificial love. (Some Warm Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Baha — by Stanwood Cobb http://bahaitalks.blogspot.ca/2012/06/some-warm-memories-of-abdul-baha-by.html#more )
He never judged:
I remember as though it were yesterday another illustration of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s divine technique. I was not at all well that summer. A relapse was threatening a return of a condition which had necessitated a major operation the year before. My nervous condition made me consider breaking the habit of smoking which had been with me all my adult life. I had always prided myself on the ability to break the habit at any time. In fact I had several times cut off the use of tobacco for a period of many months. But this time to my surprise and chagrin I found my nerves and will in such a condition that after two or three days the craving became too much for me. Finally it occurred to me to ask the assistance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I had read His beautiful Tablet beginning: “0 ye pure friends of God!” in which He glorified personal cleanliness and urged the avoidance of anything tending towards habits of self-indulgence. “Surely,” I said to myself, “He will tell me how to overcome this habit.”
So, when I next saw Him I told Him all about it. It was like a child confessing to His mother, and my voice trailed away to embarrassed silence after only the fewest of words. But He understood, indeed much better than I did. Again I was conscious of an embracing, understanding love as He regarded me. After a moment He asked quietly, how much I smoked. I told him. He said He did not think that would hurt me, that the men in the Orient smoked all the time, that their hair and beards and clothing became saturated, and often very offensive. But that I did not do this, and at my age and having been accustomed to it for so many years He did not think that I should let it trouble me at all. His gentle eyes and smile seemed to hold a twinkle that recalled my impression of His enjoyment of a divine joke.
I was somewhat overwhelmed. Not a dissertation on the evils of habit; not an explanation of the bad effects on health; not a summoning of my will power to overcome desire, rather a Charter of Freedom did He present to me. I did not understand but it was a great relief for somehow I knew that this was wise advice. So immediately that inner conflict was stilled and I enjoyed my smoke with no smitings of conscience. But two days after this conversation I found the desire for tobacco had entirely left me and I did not smoke again for seven years. (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 45)
He encouraged the care givers:
Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne, poetess, and her husband, Dr T. K. Cheyne, esteemed critic, lived in Oxford, England, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited them. Dr Cheyne’s health and strength were waning. ‘The beautiful loving care of the devoted wife for her gifted, invalid husband touched the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. With tears in His kind eyes He spoke of them’ to His companions on their way back to London, ‘”She is an angelic woman, an example to all in her unselfish love. Yes, she is a perfect woman. An angel.”’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 107)
He educated people on spiritual and material healing:
Mrs Parsons was at the luncheon. Before she became a Bahá’í she had been a Christian Scientist, and now she brought up the question of mental suggestion as a cure for physical disease. The Master replied that some illnesses, such as consumption and insanity, developed from spiritual causes — grief, for example — and that these could be healed by the spirit. But Mrs Parsons persisted. Could not extreme physical cases, like broken bones, also be healed by the spirit? A large bowl of salad had been placed before the Master, Who sat at the head of the table, Florence Khanum on His right.
“If all the spirits in the air,” He laughed, “were to congregate together, they could not create a salad! Nevertheless, the spirit of man is powerful. For the spirit of man can soar in the firmament of knowledge, can discover realities, can confer life, can receive the Divine Glad-Tidings. Is not this greater,” and He laughed again, “than making a salad?” (The Diary of Juliet Thompson, p. 105-106)
He made sure people had medical attention, hiring doctors and paying for them Himself:
In ‘Akká, He daily sent a servant to inquire about the welfare of the ill, and as there was no hospital in the town, He paid a doctor a regular salary to look after the poor. The doctor was instructed not to tell Who provided this service. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)
‘Abdu’l-Baha believed in using medicine as well as spiritual healing. As there was no hospital in Akka, He hired a doctor by the name of Nikolaki Bey. He gave the doctor a regular salary to look after the very poor, and He asked the doctor not to tell who paid for the service. (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)
But always, the poor turned to Abdu’l-Baha for help. For instance, there was a poor, crippled woman named Na’um who used to come to Abdu’l-Baha every week for a gift of money. One day, a man came running; “Oh Master!” he said, “Poor Na’um has the measles, and everybody is keeping away from her. What can be done?” Abdu’l-Baha immediately sent a woman to take care of her; He rented a room, put His own bedding in it, called the doctor, sent food and everything she needed. He went to see that she had every attention. And when she died in peace and comfort, He arranged a simple funeral and paid all the expenses Himself.” (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)
When a Turkish man, living in Haifa, lost his position, he, his wife and children were in desperate need. They went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for help and were naturally greatly aided. When the poor man became ill, again the Master stood ready to help. He provided a doctor, medicine and provisions to make him comfortable. When this man felt he was to die, he asked for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and . . . The Master arranged for the funeral and provided food, clothing and travel-tickets for the family to go to Turkey. His sympathetic heart was as wide as the universe. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 66)
He cured some:
Lua was so traumatized by the idea of leaving him that in an attempt to delay, she deliberately went into the woods and walked through poison ivy. Later, in bed with her feet terribly swollen: “Look at me, Julie,” she said. “Look at my feet. Oh, please go right back to the Master and tell Him about them and say: how can Lua travel now?” I did it, returned to the Master’s house, found Him in His room and put Lua’s question to Him. He laughed, then crossed the room to a table on which stood a bowl of fruit, and, selecting an apple and a pomegranate, gave them to me. “Take these to Lua,” He said. “Tell her to eat them, and she will be cured. Spend the day with her, Julie.” O precious Lua – strange mixture of disobedience and obedience – and all from love! I shall never forget her, seizing first the apple, then the pomegranate and gravely chewing them all the way through till Not even a pomegranate seed was left: thoroughly eating her cure, which was certain to send her to California. In the late afternoon we were happily surprised by a visit from the Master Himself. He drew back the sheet and looked at Lua’s feet, which by that time were beautifully slim. Then He burst out laughing. “See,” He said, “I have cured Lua with an apple and a pomegranate.” … So poor Lua had to go to California. There was no way out for her. (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 120-121)
Muhammad-Hadi was from Isfahan, and as a binder and illuminator of books he had no peer. When he gave himself up to the love of God he was alert on the path and fearless. He abandoned his home and began a dreadful journey, passing with extreme hardship from one country to another until he reached the Holy Land and became a prisoner. He stationed himself by the Holy Threshold, carefully sweeping it and keeping watch. Through his constant efforts, the square in front of Bahá’u’lláh’s house was at all times swept, sprinkled and immaculate . . . When his sweeping, sprinkling and tidying was done, he would set to work illuminating and binding the various books and Tablets. So his days went by, his heart happy in the presence of the Beloved of mankind. He was an excellent soul, righteous, true, worthy of the bounty of being united with his Lord, and free of the world’s contagion. One day he came to me and complained of a chronic ailment. “I have suffered from chills and fever for two years,” he said, “The doctors have prescribed a purgative, and quinine. The fever stops a few days; then it returns. They give me more quinine, but still the fever returns. I am weary of this life, and can no longer do my work. Save me!” “What food would you most enjoy?” I asked him. “What would you eat with great appetite?” “I don’t know,” he said. Jokingly, I named off the different dishes. When I came to barley soup with whey (ash-i-kashk), he said, “Very good! But on condition there is braised garlic in it.” I directed them to prepare this for him, and I left. The next day he presented himself and told me: “I ate a whole bowlful of the soup. Then I laid my head on my pillow and slept peacefully till morning.” In short, from then on he was perfectly well for about two years. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 68-69)
He couldn’t save everyone though:
One day a believer came to me and said: “Muhammad-Hadi is burning up with fever.” I hurried to his bedside and found him with a fever of 42 Centigrade. He was barely conscious. “What has he done?” I asked. “When he became feverish,” was the reply, “he said that he knew from experience what he should do. Then he ate his fill of barley soup with whey and braised garlic; and this was the result.” I was astounded at the workings of fate. I told them: “Because, two years ago, he had been thoroughly purged and his system was clear; because he had a hearty appetite for it, and his ailment was fever and chills, I prescribed the barley soup. But this time, with the different foods he has had, with no appetite, and especially with a high fever, there was no reason to diagnose the previous chronic condition. How could he have eaten the soup!” . . . Things had gone too far; Muhammad-Hadi was past saving. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 68-69)
Sometimes He gave people a choice about whether to be healed or not:
One brief incident that made a lasting impression on Leroy illustrates this power of the Master. It occurred one evening when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at the Masonic Temple [in Chicago]. More than a thousand people were present. The Ioas and Dealy families were very close, as it was through Paul Dealy that they had become Bahá’ís. The Ioases had brought Mrs. Dealy to the meeting, as she to her great distress was going blind. Following the Master’s talk, as hundreds milled around Him, she told her son he should have an interpreter ask ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to speak to her. Leroy, who was sitting next to her, remembers the son saying that would be impossible with all the people present. But she insisted and he went to pass on her request. The interpreter indicated she should sit on the aisle where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would leave. As the Master went up the aisle He stopped and greeted her lovingly. She reached for His hand and said, “’Abdu’l-Bahá, please put your hand on my forehead, and I know that I will see.‟ “Yes, my daughter,‟ He answered, “you will see. But you will have to choose. You may have your spiritual sight or your physical sight—which do you desire?‟ She said with emotion, “’Abdu’l-Bahá, that is no choice! I would be blind a thousand years before I would give up my spiritual sight!‟ “Well said, my daughter, well said,‟ replied the Master as He touched her shoulder and continued on His way out. Sitting next to her on that bench, Leroy realized with a chill how in that moment she had decided on her destiny. She was steadfast. (Leroy Ioas, Hand of the Cause of God by Anita Ioas Chapman, pp. 25-26)
Thomas [Breakwell] wrote to the Master, happily saying that, if he were Persian, he would have chosen to be a martyr. He had been admitted to hospital, and was in the tuberculosis ward. But news from the young man continued to reach ‘Akká, conveying an ever-increasing joy, despite his suffering. Sometimes, when Dr. Khan read Thomas’s letters to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Master would remain silent. Dr. Khan knew that the ‘mysterious communion between the lover and the Beloved had no need of the spoken word.’ At other times, the Master would ask his secretary simply to convey His greetings. Although Thomas could have asked for healing, he never did, but prayed always for greater suffering. The more his illness consumed him, the greater his joy became. Hippolyte Dreyfus, who was able to visit Thomas in hospital, relates how the young Englishman spoke to the other patients enthusiastically about the Bahá’í Faith. Some of his listeners were upset by his message, others criticized it. But Thomas, unperturbed, maintained his tranquility and told them that he was not going to die, but was merely departing for the Kingdom of God, and that he would pray for them in heaven. Writing of his pain, he said: ‘Suffering is a heady wine; I am prepared to receive that bounty which is the greatest of all; torments of the flesh have enabled me to draw much nearer to my Lord. All agony notwithstanding, I wish life to endure longer, so that I may taste more of pain. That which I desire is the good-pleasure of my Lord; mention me in His presence.’ (Lakshiman-Lepain – The Life of Thomas Breakwell, p. 37-45)
Finally, He gave them to God:
At one time Juliet Thompson asked the Master about His daughter, Ruha Khanum, who had been very ill. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘I have put her in the hands of the Blessed Perfection, and now I don’t worry at all.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 162)
How has this given you some new ideas of how you can help the sick? Post your comments below.
I believe that life is a series of instances, occasions, encounters that shape our personalities and form our path. And some encounters leave such profound mark in the soul, that it can change the whole perception of one’s existence.
I had such an encounter on 26th of November 2003 on the Day of the Covenant. It happened during a 9 day Baha’i Pilgrimage in Haifa and it became the most memorable and distinctive moment of my pilgrimage, a spiritual lesson and a lodestar, which enlightened the rest of my life.
That day our group went to Akka. There we saw the Greatest Prison, where Baha’u’llah and members of His family were kept, the house , in which Baha’u’llah revealed the Most Holy Book Kitab-i-Aqdas and many other Baha’i Holy Places. I was overwhelmed and full of impressions. But that wasn’t all for that day, as in the evening at the Pilgrims Reception Center we were supposed to meet with an outstanding person, the Hand of the Cause of God – Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan.
The meeting was supposed to start at 6 p.m. It wasn’t our first meeting with him. First time I saw him on the first day of pilgrimage – 24th of November. He gave a marvelous speech and promised us to come every other day. He said that before he used to come every day to meet with pilgrims, as Shoghi Effendi mentioned, that pilgrims were the guests of Baha’u’llah. But now doctors recommended him to come once in two days because of the age. No wonder! Mr Furutan was 98 years old.
I have to say that I heard about this unique person long before my pilgrimage. Once I heard one Baha’i sharing a conversation Mr. Furutan had with a group of pilgrims. When one of them asked him what he was afraid of most of all in life, he asnwered that he was afraid of dying comfortably in his bed and not being steadfast in the Cause of God till the last minute of His life. It was an amazing thing to hear, knowing how much Mr. Furutan has suffered and how faithfully he was serving the Baha’i Faith throughout his entire life.
Now you can imagine our disappointment, when we were told, that Mr. Furutan wouldn’t come. Then I remembered that when he first came to meet with pilgrims, he looked very weak and frail. It seemed that life giving energy was slowly leaving that fragile body. Of course, the first thing I thought was that he was not able to come because of the state of health.
Many pilgrims decided to go to their hotels, but some of us, quite few indeed, decided to stay, hoping that the meeting would still take place. How happy we were when ten minutes to six we were told that Mr. Furutan would come. As soon as this unique person entered the room, it became evident what efforts it took him to come here. He looked very pale and even transparent. It seemed that he no longer belonged to this earthly realm. However, notwithstanding the weakness, he went up the stage by himself andbuckled the microphone to his suit.
Mr. Furutan’s speech was dedicated to the Duty of teaching the Faith. First he read the quotation of Baha’u’llah from the “Gleanings”:
“Say: Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Baha, for God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His Message, and regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds. Such a deed is acceptable only when he that teacheth the Cause is already a firm believer in God, the Supreme Protector, the Gracious, the Almighty. He hath, moreover, ordained that His Cause be taught through the power of men’s utterance, and not through resort to violence. Thus hath His ordinance been sent down from the Kingdom of Him Who is the Most Exalted, the All-Wise.”
Then the Hand of the Cause shared with us his understanding of the word duty. As an example, he told us a story. “It happened in Russia, when Nikolai the II was the tsar. One day Nikolai the II was walking in the courtyard of his palace. He noticed the guard, who looked very ill, his face was red and swollen. He approached him and asked from what illness he suffered. The guard answered that he had malaria. Then the tsar told him that he needed special care and that he could go home. But the guard replied that he was not able to leave his post without the senior officer’s permission and that it was his duty to guard the palace till the last breath. Then Nikolai the II took his rifle and told him, that in such case, he would replace him at his post till the senior officer came and he would inform him that he personally let the guard go and that he fulfilled his duty. “This is what duty means” – Mr.Furutan said. “The reason I came here today is because it was my duty to come. And if it is a duty – you have to fulfill it.”
Many people know that Mr. Furutan lived and studied in Russia and that he lovedspeaking Russian whenever he had chance. Fortunately, all the Russian-speaking pilgrimswere present at the gathering. And when he was telling the story, he often translated some words into Russian, and especially, the words “duty” and “responsibility”. When the Hand of the Cause finished his speech, he immediately approached the Russian-speaking pilgrims and asked in Russian: “Friends, did you understand what I said? Did you understand what is duty?”
These words were almost the last words in his life, as in few minutes he passed away. He died before our eyes, peacefully and with dignity, on the pilgrims’ hands, whom he appreciated so much. His life and his passing became for me an example of true servitude, steadfastness in the Covenant, and faithfulness to the Cause of God. By his own life he showed us what duty was and how we had to fulfill it till the last breath!
This is a remarkable description of Mr. Furutan’s last minutes of his mortal
life. It is truly amazing …
I would like to share with you the most memorable and distinctive moment of my pilgrimage, which became a spiritual lesson and a lodestar, which enlightened the rest of my life. It happened 26th of November, on the Day of Covenant … In the evening at the Pilgrims Reception Center we were supposed to meet with the Hand of the Cause of God – Mr. Furutan. The meeting was appointed for 6 p.m.
It wasn’t our first meeting with him. First time I saw him on the first day of pilgrimage – 24th of November. He gave a marvelous speech and promised us to come every other day. He said that before he used to come every day to meet with pilgrims, as Shoghi Effendi mentioned, that pilgrims were the guests of Bahá’u’lláh. But now doctors recommended him to come once in two days because of the age. He asked us to come on Wednesday with children, as he was going to speak about teaching the Faith.
Now you can imagine our disappointment, when we were told, that Mr. Furutan wouldn’t come. Then I remembered that when he first came to meet with pilgrims, he looked very weak and fragile. It seemed to me that his energy was slowly disappearing. Of course, the first thing I thought was that he was not able to come because of the state of health.
Many pilgrims decided to go to their hotels, but some of us, among whom were Nabil and me, decided to stay, hoping that the meeting will still take place. How happy I was when ten minutes to six we were told that Mr. Furutan would come. As soon as this unique person entered the room, it became clear what efforts it took him to come here. He looked very pale and even transparent. It seemed that he no longer belonged to this world. However, notwithstanding this weakness, he went up the stage and put the
Mr. Furutan’s speech was dedicated to the Duty of teaching the Faith. First he read the quotation of Bahá’u’lláh from the “Gleanings”
“Say Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Bahá, for God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His Message, and regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds. Such a deed is acceptable only when he that teacheth the Cause is already a firm believer in God, the Supreme Protector, the Gracious, the Almighty. He hath, moreover, ordained that His Cause be taught through the power of men’s utterance, and not through resort to violence. Thus hath His ordinance been sent down from the Kingdom of Him Who is the Most Exalted, the All-Wise.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 278)
Then the Hand of the Cause shared with us his understanding of the word duty. As an example, he told us a story. It happened in Russia, when Nikolai the II was the tsar. One day Nikolai the II was walking in the courtyard of his palace. He noticed the guard, who looked very ill, his face was red and swollen. He approached him and asked what illness he had. The guard answered that he had malaria. Then the tsar told him that he needed special care and that he could go home. But the guard replied that he was not able to leave his post without the senior officer’s permission and that it was his duty to guard the palace till the last breath. Then Nikolai the II took his gun and told him, that in such case, he would replace him at his post till the senior officer came and he would inform him that he personally let the guard go and that he fulfilled his duty. “This is what duty means” – Mr.Furutan said. “The reason I came here today is because it was my duty to come. And if it is a duty – you have to fulfill it.”
Many people know that Mr. Furutan lived and studied in Russia and that he still loves to speak Russian and loves those who speak Russian. Fortunately, all the Russian-speaking friends were present at the gathering. And when he was telling the story, he often translated some words into Russian, and especially, the words “duty” and “responsibility”. When the Hand of the Cause finished his speech, he immediately approached the Russian-speaking pilgrims and asked in Russian “Friends, did you understand what I said? Did you understand what is duty and responsibility?”These words were almost the last words in his life, as in few minutes he passed away.
He died before our eyes, peacefully and with dignity, on the pilgrims’ hands, whom he appreciated so much. His life and his passing away became for me an example of true servitude, steadfastness in the Covenant, and faithfulness to the Cause of God. By his own life he showed us what duty is and how we have to fulfill it till the last breath!
(Irina Musuc, via Dennis Chee in Malaysia)
Prayer for the Hands of the Cause
Light and glory, greeting and praise be upon the Hands of His Cause, through whom the light of fortitude hath shone forth and the truth hath been established that the authority to choose rests with God, the Powerful, the Mighty, the Unconstrained, through whom the ocean of bounty hath surged and the fragrance of the gracious favors of God, the Lord of mankind, hath been diffused. We beseech Him—exalted is He—to shield them through the power of His hosts, to protect them through the potency of His dominion, and to aid them through His indomitable strength which prevaileth over all created things. Sovereignty is God’s, the Creator of the heavens and the Lord of the Kingdom of Names. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 83)
There are lots of books written about heroes of the Faith, but I’d like to introduce you to three of them, you may not have come across.
Champions of Oneness – Louis Gregory and His Shining Circle
Champions of Oneness: Louis Gregory and His Shining Circle by Janet Ruhe-Schoen, tells the story of the indomitable African-American lawyer who pioneered the integration of the Baha’i community and its surroundings during the first half of the 20th Century, traveling fearlessly through the deep south, braving stubborn prejudice, riots, lynchings, threats from the Klu Klux Klan and a myriad other obstacles. The activists detailed in the book, including Mirza Abu’l-Fadl, Roy Williams and Zia Bagdadi, and other men and women, black and white, from Iran as well as North America, championed the central principal of the Baha’i Faith that of oneness. This book truly brings these early pioneers to life and provides an excellent glimpse into the challenges of early Bahá’ís working to overcome racism.
Compassionate Woman – The Life and Legacy of Patricia Locke
Compassionate Woman The Life and Legacy of Patricia Locke by John Kolstoe is the biography of a woman of Lakota and Chippewa heritage, who was the winner of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1991 for her work to save tribal languages that were becoming extinct throughout the United States.
This fascinating biography of Patricia Locke, who was given the name Compassionate Woman, gives us a glimpse into the life of someone dedicated to restoring justice and helping those in need.
Her life of service began in Anchorage, Alaska, when she founded a community center aimed at assisting Native Americans, Eskimos, and Aleuts—who had moved to the city from villages—to cope with some of the problems they encountered. She then went on to work for the Western Interstate Counsel for Higher Education, where she focused much of her energy on establishing colleges on reservations. She was particularly concerned with improving education for American Indians and worked hard toward advancing education on reservations so that Native American culture and language could be woven into the curriculum.
In addition to the MacArthur Fellowship, Patricia Locke was the first American Indian to serve as a senior officer on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai’s of the United States, and she was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Patricia Locke is not a well-known American or even Bahá’i heroine, yet her legacy is an inspiration of what one person can accomplish when they stay true to their values and have strong convictions. She was strong and unafraid of speaking out to challenge authority to bring about social justice for Native Americans. Her life story is a great example of what true humility looks like. This book will help her become a role model for many girls and women for years to come.
Manijeh Saatchi, the author of this book, was a custodian of the House of the Báb in Bushehr, and her story is being told for the first time. It’s a story of love, belief and triumph, as it describes a degree of hardship to which very of us are subjected.
She describes how her beloved husband died an untimely death due to an assault instigated by those opposed to his religious beliefs. Her children were exposed to constant humiliation and discrimination, their education interrupted or terminated. Their family assets were confiscated by unscrupulous officials, with no legal justification or redress. Members of her family were reduced to poverty through the operation of schemes designed to deprive them of professional opportunities and income.
Despite being incredibly moving, this is not a book of lamentation, but rather a record of the power of the human spirit to withstand even the most perfidious oppressors and to emerge triumphant from persecution. It conveys a message of hope and optimism for all who value truth and who yearn for justice to prevail.
For those of us who live in the West, where we can only glimpse religious persecution in a detached sort of way, Manijeh’s autobiography offers us a personal encounter of what it looks like for the Bahá’ís in Iran even today. Her story will give you a glimpse into a life that may very well inspire you to live yours more fully.
The Life & Legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum – A Talk by Dr. Janet Khan
Dr. Janet Khan, author of ‘The Prophet’s Daughter – The Life and Legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum, gives a talk on her extraordinary life and legacy. Bahiyyih, the daughter of Baha’u’llah, was given the title “the Greatest Holy Leaf”. She contributed significantly to the early years of the Faith. Her steadfastness during a critical period in the history of the Faith and during her appointment as the head of the Baha’i Faith testifies to the greatness of her character.
The Greatest Holy Leaf is a superb role model to men and women everywhere who seek creative ways to deal with the forces of today’s society.
Awakening: The Babi Women of Nayriz
This video describes the heroism and suffering of the Bábí and Bahá’í women of Nayriz through three violent upheavals in 1850, 1853, and 1909. It brings to life, in words and images, the heroism and suffering of the early believers and shows the ultimate victories that grew from their sacrifices.
Recollections of Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga – by Hooper Dunbar
Enoch Olinga of Uganda, was one of the first Africans to accept the Baha’i Faith, a Knight of Baha’u’llah (Togo and Ghana) and the youngest and the only African Baha’i Hand of the Cause. He was fluent in six languages, trained as an economist and published two books. His dedication to the service of humanity took him throughout Africa, as well as to India, Southeast Asia, Australasia, the Pacific islands, the Americas and Europe. Despite all his accomplishments, he is most remembered for his radiant joyful spirit, true happiness, certitude, and nobility.
Danielle-Isabella is a Wellness Coach, Yoga Teacher, Integrative Counselor & Transformative Educator who is passionate about teaching authenticity, mindfulness and creativity as she helps her clients believe in themselves, so they can
know themselves well
eel present and grounded in everyday life
enter and develop friendships and relationships from a space of worthiness and nobility
pursue the things they love
Most people find her because they’re experiencing challenge around an area in their life, but they quickly learn that this is an opportunity into a profound level of healing that they never knew possible.
She helps us see that the challenges we have in life have little to do with our partner, work or family, but often provides an opportunity to heal deep-seated false beliefs about self-worth. Her approach is often described as low-key, gentle and encouraging, as she helps people believe in themselves and in their nobility.
Rannva Simonsen is an architect and designer with a passion for high quality fur clothing. Inspired by traditional Arctic shapes, textures and technology, her sealskin and fur outerwear creates an exciting alternative in winter clothing. The RANNVA brand reflects exquisite design, quality workmanship and attention to detail. Each item is unique.
Her work is widely distributed throughout Canada and as far away as USA, Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom, Greenland, Denmark, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Israel, Korea and Japan.
She also runs a “Sewing for Survival (and Success)” program which enables and empowers women of the Arctic to make money and improve their lives through the creative use of their indigenous skills. These women take pride in creating unique designs inspired by their cultural heritage and in producing quality products. All items are handmade. Materials include wool duffel, leather, sealskin, beads, bone and antler. Some are decorated with colorful hand embroidery. Her goal is to strengthen the Nunavut economy through jobs based on traditional knowledge. She tries to use 100% Nunavut sealskins and 100% Nunavut labour.
Thanks to all who write in! Your encouragement really keeps me going!
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See you next month! Hope it’s a month filled with honorable actions!
From Adib Taherzadeh’s The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Volume 2, Chapter 2
Warning: This story may be hard for some to read because of its violence.
Though the people in Yazd were steeped in prejudice against the new Faith and apt to fly into a fierce fury at the sight of anyone who was identified as ‘Bábí’, they nevertheless admired Ali-Akbar for his rare qualities and charming manners. Moreover, his reputation as the best engraver had won him real affection by all who had come to know him. Even the Governor and the officials felt reluctant to have him executed. They did everything in their power to make him utter a mere word of lip-denial against the new Faith and thus save his own life. They employed many a word of persuasion, threat and promise but none could induce this valiant hero to recant nor did the pomp and might of a ruthless potentate influence this stout-hearted man of God to compromise his cherished faith in favor of this fleeting life and its earthly vanities. The Governor grew angry; he could not tolerate one who dared to challenge his authority and persist in his own ideas.
Furious with rage, the Governor summoned his Farrash-bashi (chief steward) and ordered him to put this defiant Bábí to death at once by blowing him from the mouth of a cannon. The order was immediately passed on to the artillery unit who hauled their gun out of the barracks to the adjoining public square. Then the Farrash-bashi accompanied by the executioner led the valiant victim to the square amidst a gathering multitude of spectators.
Eager to save Ali-Akbar from his fate, the Farrash-bashi employed ingenious ways of intimidation and inducement in a futile effort to break down his spirit and make him abjure his allegiance to the new Faith.
The cannon from which he was to be blown was an old type muzzle-loader, and the Farrash-bashi, knowing that it was as yet unloaded, hit upon the idea of staging a mock execution in the hope that the victim would succumb to the fright and terror that such an ordeal would usually provoke. Therefore, assuming a wild and serious look, he barked orders at the executioner to hurry up, tie down the victim
tightly to the mouth of the gun and have him blown off without further delay. Thus Ali-Akbar was bound to the gun and left in this frightful position for quite a long while during which the gun crew kept running back and forth pretending to be adjusting their gun, as though they were just about to fire.
During the whole time the Farrash-bashi was watching the victim closely, urging him to recant. However, he was amazed to see that instead of becoming terrified and shaken Ali-Akbar had maintained his calm and fortitude throughout. The Farrash-bashi soon realized that intimidation had failed to bring about what he hoped for. He ran towards the gunner, stopped him from his false attempt at discharging the unloaded gun, and asked the executioner to set the victim free.
By that time (about ll a.m.) the whole square was fully packed with a seething mass of spectators who looked stupefied and bewildered.
As soon as Ali-Akbar was unfastened the Farrash-bashi came over to him expressing his sympathy in a kindly manner. He then conducted him to an adjacent public cistern away from the crowd where he offered him a seat near to himself on a little platform. He reasoned with Ali-Akbar most earnestly, urged and persuaded him again and again to denounce the Faith and save his own life, but the effort proved unsuccessful. There sat Ali-Akbar solid as a rock, immovable and uncompromising, resisting the full force of these dire tests. As these painful moments dragged on, the Farrash-bashi began to perceive with bitter plainness that nothing whatever could induce this invincible youth to recant. Dismayed and disappointed, he led him back to the scene of death and ordered the gun crew to load their gun forthwith. Meanwhile a new idea occurred to him which might well prove effective in breaking down the victim’s fortitude. He sent his men to fetch Ali-Akbar’s poor wife and child to the scene — a very strong and challenging inducement indeed. After a few moments the unfortunate wife appeared in a state of panic holding the hand of their beloved child who looked sweet and attractive in this best suit.
She faced her husband and weeping bitterly implored, ‘Come and have pity on this child!’ ‘What am I to do without you?’ she sobbed. But Ali-Akbar did not answer; he turned his back on them. Again the wife and child came forward and stood in front of him. She flung herself at his feet, begging and imploring. But Ali-Akbar kept silent and once again turned away from them. Then the little child ran over to his father and grabbing the hem of his garment exclaimed ‘Daddy, Daddy, why do you turn away from me?
Don’t you love me any more?’
These simple, these piercing words must have moved Ali-Akbar more than anything else. Perhaps he could not bear it, for he raised his head heavenward in such a gesture as to make an impassioned appeal. It seemed as if he were saying: ‘Oh God! I entreat Thee to spare me from further temptations.’
The tragic episode had reached its climax. The occasion had become so gripping, so heart-rending that many among the onlookers were stricken with grief and sympathy. Even the Farrash-bashi’s eyes were dimmed with tears.
The heroic self-renunciation and superhuman fortitude manifested by this gallant martyr shattered the last scrap of hope which the Farrash-bashi entertained in making the victim abjure his faith. Browbeaten and dismayed, he decided to put an end to this sad spectacle by carrying out the Governor’s order at once.
So the victim was presently bound up once again to the mouth of the cannon in front of his unfortunate wife and child. As soon as this had been done the site was cleared of all those who stood nearby, but the child refused to be pushed further away. He became restive and kept crying and pleading, ‘Take me to my Daddy! Let me go near him!’
The dreadful end was now at hand. A tense feeling had seized upon the souls and a sense of dread and awe overwhelmed the whole mass of the people in the square.
At a sharp signal from the Farrash-bashi the gunner ignited the explosive charge which was designed to send the victim sky-high, torn into bits in a split of a second. But to the profound amazement of all the gun didn’t go off! Again and again the charge was ignited but the gun still wouldn’t go off! Everybody looked stupefied and spellbound.
The Farrash-bashi ran towards the victim and calling him by his name exclaimed, ‘We don’t want you to be killed; it seems that God does not wish it either. Now won’t you have sympathy for your child?!’ But he did not say a word, even when his horror-stricken wife and child rushed once again to his side. He stayed as calm and unconcerned as ever.
In the meantime the gunner was busy at the breech refilling the charge. The Farrash-bashi paused a moment in earnest expectation. Perhaps he would now give way. Perhaps he would say a word of denial. Perhaps something would happen that could save his life.
However, to Ali-Akbar’s mind a compromise was utterly unthinkable… The soul longed and craved to sacrifice his puny frame for the love of his Lord and to take his flight to the abode of the Beloved. Now the golden opportunity had offered itself… His prolonged and unexampled fortitude served increasingly to throw into relief the striking contrast between his own noble vision and the Farrash-bashi’s base pattern of thought.
Far from being grieved and shaken, how jubilant, how thrilled, how relaxed must have felt his soul when the Farrash-bashi in his utter despair and bewilderment signaled once again to fire.
And this time in a flash of a second the body of Ali-Akbar, blasted into bits amidst a tremendous burst of fire and smoke, flew sky-high, then came down from heaven like a swarm of tiny meteors, accompanied by a shower of crimson droplets, to be scattered far and wide all over the square.
The Governor ordered that the fragments of his body should be left exposed until sunset, that they might be trampled upon by men and animals.
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)