Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 210)
When I was in the deepest despair, remembering traumatic events of my childhood, I came across this quote, which helped to lift me out of my “self”. I was feeling a lot of “poor me” and “why did this have to happen to me”, and then I had to stop and remember Bahá’u’lláh’s days.
Bahá’u’lláh was born into a wealthy family and was expected to follow his father into an important position in the government of Persia (Iran). He didn’t want the position or the power. As a result, His life included a series of imprisonments, and banishments. At one point He was imprisoned for four months in an underground reservoir for a public bath, with its only outlet a single passage down three steep flights of stone steps. When He was freed from prison, He and His family were banished four times, sometimes on foot over the mountains in the middle of winter without enough food or proper clothing. He was discredited by His uncle, poisoned by his jealous half-brother and witnessed the death of His son. He was betrayed by people He trusted, stoned, and isolated from the Believers. He was the victim of ignorance, injustice, cruelty and fanaticism. To protect the Faith from the efforts of His half-brother, He even lived as a hermit for 2 years. But every crisis was followed by victory, and this, I believe, is what is important to remember.
Although my repressed memories included all the positive and neutral memories too, once they came back, I was able to see that, like Bahá’u’lláh, there were times in my life that were peaceful, and activities that weren’t abusive. From anger I learned to find my voice and take action. From poverty I was protected from materialism and learned to rely on God. From estrangement I gained knowledge of myself, and through it, knowledge of God. From being silenced, I was protected from backbiting and gossip.
Knowing I can focus on the victories instead of the negative things that happened to me, I am grateful!
What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation? I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!
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Our Beloved Bahá’u’lláh
Remembrances of the Leaves of the Holy Family
Part I – The Early Years (1817–1853)
Monologues for Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of His Birthday
on 22 October 2017
The mother of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)
The Most Exalted Leaf, entitled Navváb, the wife of Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí (Bahá’u’lláh)
I am Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of the One whom you call Bahá’u’lláh but whom I would always think of as my beloved son, Husayn-‘Alí. Let me tell you some stories of Him as a child and young man.
My husband, Mírzá Buzurg, and I were both born in the region of Núr in Mázindarán. I was most fortunate to be wedded to Mírzá Buzurg because he was renowned for his character, charm and artistic and intellectual attainments. My husband came from an ancient and noble family and he held high positions in service to the Sháh.
We were blessed with five children. Husayn-‘Alí, our third child, was born in Tihrán at the hour of dawn of October 22nd, 1817. In later years, the great chronicler, Nabíl, wrote that the world, while unaware of its significance, had nonetheless witnessed the birth of One who was destined to confer upon it incalculable blessings.
Simply as a mother, however, I counted myself lucky to have such a Child. Naturally, I loved all my children, but I could not bear for a moment to be separated from this One. His demeanour never failed to amaze me. Even as an infant, He had none of the behaviours expected of a baby: He never cried or screamed nor did He ever show any impatience or restlessness.
One day, when Husayn-‘Alí was seven years old, my husband and I were watching Him walking in the garden. I admired His gracefulness but remarked to Mírzá Buzurg that our Son was slightly short for His age. My husband replied that I was overlooking His capacity and aptitude and intelligence. He said that our Son was like a flame of fire and that even at His tender age, He was more mature than those who had reached adulthood. I readily conceded that whether He was tall or not mattered not in the slightest.
We knew, of course, that He had a special destiny. Some two years earlier, Husayn-‘Alí had a strange dream. After He described it to his father, my husband realized the dream had great significance and he summoned a man who could interpret dreams. Our Son related that He had been in a garden where huge birds flew down to assail Him, but the birds failed to hurt Him. Then He went to bathe in the sea and there He was assaulted by fishes, but they too were unable to injure Him. The dream interpreter explained that the birds and fishes represented peoples of the world attacking Him. They would, however, be powerless to harm Husayn-‘Alí and He would triumph over them to achieve a momentous matter.
We did not engage the usual tutors nobly-born male children would normally have. But Husayn-‘Alí showed remarkable aptitudes for horseback riding and calligraphy and He amazed everyone with His innate knowledge of our Holy Book, the Qur’án. Indeed, as He grew older, none could help but see His keen intelligence, alert mind, upright character, his compassionate and benevolent nature. This is not just a fond mother speaking. By the time Husayn-‘Alí was 14 years old, even learnèd adults noted His complete mastery of argument and unparalleled powers of exposition, always expressed with kindness and patience. I was so proud of Him.
Now, every mother wants little more than to have her children make advantageous marriages. In 1832, my daughter, Sárih Husayn-‘Alí’s older sister, made such a marriage into a noble family in our region. Sárih’s new sister-in-law was a vivacious and exceedingly beautiful young girl named Ásíyih. I was so happy when Ásíyih Khánum came of age and she and my beloved Son were united in marriage. The wedding took place in October 1835, just before Husayn-‘Alí turned 18 years old.
My dear husband, Mírzá Buzurg, passed away in 1839. After than, virtually nothing more is known of me. Even the date of my death is lost in the shadows of history; our culture simply paid no attention to the role of women. However, I always knew, in my heart of hearts, how blessed and privileged I was to have given birth to Husayn-‘Alí. While I may not have known that future generations would come to know Him as Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised One and the Glory of God, every sign indicated that He had a divine mission that only Allah could have destined.
I am Ásíyih Khánum and Husayn-‘Alí, later known as Bahá’u’lláh, was my beloved Husband. Let me tell you something of our life together.
We both came from wealthy families that lived in the same region of Núr. My father adored me. He indulged me by allowing me to learn how to read and write, skills almost unheard of among women in our society. When I was still a child, my older brother married a wonderful young woman named Sárih Khánum and we became fast friends. She had a younger brother named Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí and almost immediately, she conceived of the plan for Husayn-‘Alí and I to be married. Sárih Khánum said it was because I had “rare physical beauty and wonderful spiritual qualities” but I think it was because she loved her brother so much and wanted this extra tie between our families.
Pre-wedding negotiations for an elaborate wedding were soon completed to everyone’s satisfaction. For six months prior to the ceremony, a jeweller moved into our home and created beautiful and costly pieces for my dowry. Even the buttons of my garments were made of gold, set with precious jewels. My dowry also included two maidservants, one male servant, a considerable sum of money and a large piece of property. Forty mules were loaded with my clothing and other possessions when I moved to my husband’s home. And as soon as I was of age in October 1835, the marriage ceremony took place
We lived a quiet life. Neither of us were interested in an ostentatious life style or the lavish State functions attended by noble families of our rank. Such worldly pleasures held no meaning for us. Rather, we cared for the poor and those in distress. By extending such comfort and assistance, my Lord came to be called “The Father of the Poor” and some even referred to me as “The Mother of Consolation”.
Husayn-‘Alí’s father, who had by this time lost a great deal of the family wealth through the machinations of jealous government officials, died in 1839 and my Lord Husband subsequently took on the added responsibility of looking after the large extended family of His mother, step-mothers and siblings. Although younger than many of these dependants, I shouldered the burden along with Him of caring for the family and managing the household.
Sadly, I lost my first two babies, but our son ‘Abbás, named after his paternal grandfather but whom later generations would call ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was born in May of 1844, and survived to adulthood. Praise God, because even as a young child, He was my most stalwart helper whenever my Husband was away on His travels and later when He was imprisoned. I was blessed with two additional surviving children, my pure-hearted daughter, Bahíyyih, who was born in 1846, and my sweet little son, Mírzá, born in 1849.
For the first nine years of our marriage, my beloved Husband and I enjoyed peace and tranquility in what I think now was a time for building our strength and capacity for the turbulent years to come. I was utterly devoted to Him.
When ‘Abbás was a new-born infant, a courier named Mullá Husayn travelled from Shíráz to give Husayn-‘Alí the “Hidden Secret”. Soon we all came to know that the One entitled the Báb had revealed Himself as the promised Qá’im of Islam. My Husband accepted this Revelation instantly.
Rapid changes engulfed us. Our home became the focal point of the followers of the Báb, who were known as Bábís. Of course, social norms were such that I could not mingle with male guests or participate in their gatherings in our home, but from behind the curtain of my adjacent private parlour, I followed the developments. In other changes, my Husband began guide and inspire the Bábís and to travel extensively in aid of the Cause of the Báb.
Then Husayn-‘Alí invited Táhirih, the noted Persian poetess and ardent supporter of the Báb, to live in our house for a time. I heard her speak fearlessly of the advent of the Herald. One day the two of us sat in my parlour, with my little son ‘Abbás sitting on her lap. We were listening to the men’s discussion in the next room. Suddenly, Táhirih exclaimed from behind the curtain. “O Siyyid, this is not the time for arguments, for discussions, for idle repetitions of prophecies or traditions! It is the time for deeds! The day for words has passed! The Promised Herald has come! He has come, the Qá’im, the Imám, the Awaited One has come!”
How could I remain untouched by the spiritual ferment surrounding me? Of course, it was impossible for me to travel forth as Táhirih did or drink the cup of martyrdom as she was called to do. But I gladly accepted my role to be the helpmeet of my Husband and did everything in my power to provide a stable, loving home for our family and a welcoming atmosphere for His guests.
Turmoil and persecution increasingly afflicted the Bábís and then the Báb Himself was unjustly executed in 1850. My Husband left for Iraq to keep the Báb’s followers from despair. He was gone for over a year and even when He returned to Persia, He continued to travel to outlying areas, despite the unrelenting persecutions against the Bábís.
Then the unthinkable happened. My Husband was arrested, beaten, suffered the agonies of the bastinado, forced into heavy chains and thrown into the foulest prison in Tihrán, the infamous Síyáh Chál. You may have heard it called the Black Pit.
And then, it got worse. Every friend abandoned us and everybody in our household – every relation and every servant except one manservant, Isfandíyár, and one maidservant – fled from our house in terror. Then hearing of Husayn-‘Alí’s imprisonment as a Bábí, the mobs plundered our mansion and other properties and stripped them of every piece of furniture and all our goods, our kitchenware, our clothing.
We were destitute in an instant. Here I was a young noblewoman with three young children. ‘Abbás was 9, Bahíyyih 6, and little Mihdí barely 3 years old. I managed to rent a small house with two mean little rooms in an obscure quarter of the city. We lacked even the barest necessities of life. One of my aunts and one of my Husband’s sisters provided us with a few cents on some days. One day, we were in such dire straits that I had only a tiny amount of flour left in the house. I put it in the hand of ‘Abbás and He ate it like that.
Meanwhile, I lived in a state of constant terror over the prospects of my Husband. Thank God for Mírzá Majíd, the husband of one of my Father’s aunts. Mírzá Majíd was a Russian citizen and a secretary in the Russian consulate. He helped us get food to my Husband and brought us news as to which Bábí was to be executed next. You cannot imagine the crushing anxiety I felt in those days, from fearful expectation each dawn that it would be the last day of my beloved Husband’s life to sheer relief on learning that He would live one more day.
After four months of this torture, representations from the Russian Minister resulted in the release of my Husband, on the condition of His exile to ‘Iráq within a month. He had no time to properly heal and recuperate, but we did our best to nurse Him. I had managed to secure a few jewels and embroidered garments when we fled from our mansion. I sold them now for the sum of some four hundred túmáns so we had a little money to prepare for the journey to ‘Iráq.
The four months in that unspeakable hellhole had an odd effect on my Husband. While He was broken in body, His spirit had soared to a new plane. Even my children noticed a new radiance enfolding Him like a shining cloak. Of course, at that time we were so worried about restoring His health, and so harassed with getting ready for the exile, we did not comprehend the significance of this new plane of His spiritual essence. It was another decade before we learned the actual details.
We departed our homeland in the early days of January 1853, the midmost days of a brutal winter, and faced an arduous journey through snow-clogged mountain passes to an uncertain future.
Thus we have accounts of Khadíjih Khánum, the mother of Bahá’u’lláh and Ásíyih Khánum, His wife, upon whom He bestowed the titles of the Most Exalted Leaf, and Navváb, a title of honour meaning ‘noble’. Their recollections have described the early years of the life of Bahá’u’lláh.
In an undated prayer revealed for His mother, Khadíjih Khánum, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “The most honoured, esteemed and respected mother. He is God! Praised be Thou O Lord, My God! This is My mother who hath acknowledged Thy oneness, [and] confessed Thy unity…. I beseech Thee, therefore, O My God, to grant her the honour of beholding Thy Beauty, and vouchsafe unto her the gift of Thy Presence. Give her to drink then from the ocean of Thy mercy and the chalice of Thy forgiveness. Make her to dwell, O My God, in the precincts of Thy mercy in the Heaven of eternity. Grant her to hear Thy holy melodies that she may cast the veil from her head in her eagerness to meet Thee and speed through the domains of Thy nearness and union. Thou art verily powerful over all that Thou desirest, and Thou art verily the Mighty, the Most Luminous.”
In one of several Tablets revealed by Bahá’u’lláh to honour Ásíyih Khánum, He wrote, “O Navváb! O Leaf that hath sprung from My Tree, and been My companion! My glory be upon thee, and My loving-kindness, and My mercy that hath surpassed all beings. We announce unto thee that which will gladden thine eye, and assure thy soul, and rejoice thine heart. Verily, thy Lord is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful. God hath been and will be pleased with thee, and hath singled thee out for His own Self, and chosen thee from among His handmaidens to serve Him, and hath made thee the companion of His Person in the daytime and in the night-season.”
In a Tablet of visitation revealed after her death, Bahá’u’lláh testified that Ásíyih Khánum had gazed upon His Countenance, circled round His throne, gave ear to His Call, resided in His House and clung to the Cord of His Covenant. He bore witness that she endured patiently in the path of her Lord and that God had elevated her to a glorious station.
We esteem the legacy of Ásíyih Khánum to this day. Bahá’u’lláh informed His followers that, were they to visit her tomb, they are to say, “Salutation and blessing and glory upon thee, O Holy Leaf that hath sprung from the Divine Lote Tree! …” Her enduring fidelity to Bahá’u’lláh at every stage of their lives must have been one of the few private joys and comforts during His Life.
And we honour the legacy of Khadíjih Khánum who gave birth to, lovingly raised and then released her Son to the world, a Son Who was destined to be the Manifestation of God whose advent all past religions had promised, the Light of the World, the Sun of Truth, the Prince of Peace, the Glory of God.
Script taken primarily from Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees, An In-Depth Study of the Lives of Women Closely Related to the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh by Baharieh Rouhani Ma‘ani, and Bahá’u’lláh The King of Glory by H.M. Balyuzi.
Compiled by Marlene Macke, St Marys, ON, Canada
Transition from the Babi Faith to the Baha’i Faith
At a time when the Cause of the Bab seemed to be hovering on the brink of extinction, when the hopes and ambitions which animated it had, to all human seeming, been frustrated, when the colossal sacrifices of its unnumbered lovers appeared to have been made in vain, the Divine Promise enshrined within it was about to be suddenly redeemed, and its final perfection manifested. The Babi Dispensation was being brought to its close (not prematurely but in its own appointed time), and was yielding its destined fruit and revealing its ultimate purpose – the birth of the Mission of Baha’u’llah. – Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 91
A brief overview of the life of Baha’u’llah
Abdu’l-Baha said: I will speak to you today of Baha’u’llah…. [In Tihran] He was imprisoned in an underground dungeon, where the light of day was never seen. A heavy chain was placed upon His neck by which He was chained to five other Babis; these fetters were locked together by strong, very heavy bolts…. His clothes were torn to pieces, also His fez. In this terrible condition He was kept for four months…. After a time the Government liberated Him and exiled Him and His family to Baghdad, where He remained for eleven years…. At length the Turkish Governor exiled Him to Constantinople, whence He was sent to Adrianople; here He stayed for five years. Eventually, He was sent to the far off prison fortress of St. Jean d’Acre [Akka]. Here He was imprisoned in the military portion of the fortress and kept under the strictest surveillance. Words would fail me to tell you of the many trials He had to suffer, and all the misery He endured in that prison. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 75-79
When Baha’u’llah came to this prison in the Holy Land, the wise men realized that the glad-tidings which God gave through … the Prophets two or three thousand years before, were again manifested, and that God was faithful to His promise; for to some of the Prophets He had revealed … that ‘The Lord of Hosts should be manifested in the Holy Land.’ All these promises were fulfilled; and it is difficult to understand how Baha’u’llah could have been obliged to leave Persia, and to pitch His tent in this Holy Land, but for the persecution of His enemies, His banishment and exile…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 42
The First Stirrings of God’s Revelation
O King! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. – Baha’u’llah, cited in God Passes By, p. 102
‘One night in a dream’, He Himself, calling to mind, in the evening of His life, the first stirrings of God’s Revelation within His soul, has written, ‘these exalted words were heard on every side: “Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy pen. Grieve Thou not for that which hath befallen Thee, neither be Thou afraid, for Thou art in safety. Ere long will God raise up the treasures of the earth – men who will aid Thee through Thyself and through Thy Name, wherewith God hath revived the hearts of such as have recognized Him.”’ – Baha’u’llah, cited in God Passes By, p. 101
The Nature of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation
The Revelation of which I am the bearer is adapted to humanity’s spiritual receptiveness and capacity…. Whatever I manifest is nothing more or less than the measure of the Divine glory which God has bidden me to reveal. – Baha’u’llah, cited in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 60
Is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly….? – Baha’u’llah, cited in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 25
Purpose of Baha’u’llah’s Ministry
The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 135
Soon will the present day Order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. – Baha’u’llah, cited in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p.161
Far from aiming at the overthrow of the spiritual foundation of the world’s religious systems, its … purpose is to widen their basis, to restate their fundamentals, to reconcile their aims, to reinvigorate their life, to demonstrate their oneness, to restore the pristine purity of their teachings, … and to assist in the realization of their highest aspirations. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 114
The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, whose supreme mission is none other but the achievement of this organic and spiritual unity of the whole body of nations, should … be regarded as signalizing through its advent the ‘coming of age of the entire human race.’ It should be viewed not merely as yet another spiritual revival in the ever-changing fortunes of mankind, not only as a further stage in a chain of progressive Revelations, nor even as the culmination of one of a series of recurrent prophetic cycles, but rather as marking the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man’s collective life on this planet. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 163
God’s purpose is none other than to usher in … the Golden Age of … humanity. Its present state, indeed even its immediate future, is dark, distressingly dark. Its distant future, however, is radiant, gloriously radiant – so radiant that no eye can visualize it. – Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 116
… two great processes are at work in the world: the great Plan of God, tumultuous in its progress, working through mankind as a whole, tearing down barriers to world unity and forging humankind into a unified body in the fires of suffering and experience. This process will produce … the Lesser Peace, the political unification of the world. Mankind at that time can be likened to a body that is unified but without life. The second process, the task of breathing life into this unified body – of creating true unity and spirituality culminating in the Most Great Peace – is that of the Baha’is, who are labouring consciously, with detailed instructions and continuing Divine guidance, to erect … the Kingdom of God on earth…. – The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 133-34
The Power of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation
It is in Our power, should We wish it, to enable a speck of floating dust to generate, in less than the twinkling of an eye, suns of infinite, of unimaginable splendour, to cause a dewdrop to develop into vast and numberless oceans, to infuse into every letter such a force as to empower it to unfold all the knowledge of past and future ages. – Baha’u’llah, cited in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 107
Praise be to God, today the splendour of the Word of God hath illumined every horizon, and from all sects, races, tribes, nations and communities souls have come together in the light of the Word, assembled, united and agreed in perfect harmony. Oh! What a great number of meetings are held adorned with souls from various races and diverse sects! Anyone attending these will be struck with amazement, and might suppose that these souls are all of one land, one nationality, one community, one thought, one belief and one opinion; whereas, in fact, one is an American, the other an African, one cometh from Asia and another from Europe, one is a native of India, another is from Turkestan, one is an Arab, another is a Tajik, another a Persian and yet another a Greek. Notwithstanding such diversity they associate in perfect harmony and unity…. Verily, this is from the penetrative power of the Word of God! – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 292
[Baha’u’llah’s] ministry … by virtue of its creative power, its cleansing force, its healing influences, and the irresistible operation of the world-directing, world-shaping forces it released, stands unparalleled in the religious annals of the entire human race…. – Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 106
Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, Baha’u’llah
God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi
The Proofs of Baha’u’llah’s Mission, compiled by Paul Lample
Baha’u’llah, A Statement prepared by the Baha’i International Community
Baha’u’llah: The King of Glory, H.M. Balyuzi
Baha’u’llah, H.M. Balyuzi
Stories of Baha’u’llah, compiled by Ali-Akbar Furutan
The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, Vol 1-4, A. Tahrezedeh
New Heaven – New Earth: The Divine Order of Baha’u’llah, Heidi Lakshman
Studying the lives of the Central Figures of the Faith gives us a model to use in how they dealt with situations which would plunge any of us into self pity:
When Baha’u’llah was in the Síyáh-Chál with his fellow prisoners, He recounts this story. If ever people had a right to feel sorry for themselves, these prisoners did, but instead, look what they chose to do instead:
We were all huddled together in one cell, our feet in stocks, and around our necks fastened the most galling of chains. The air we breathed was laden with the foulest impurities, while the floor on which we sat was covered with filth and infested with vermin. No ray of light was allowed to penetrate that pestilential dungeon or to warm its icy-coldness. We were placed in two rows, each facing the other. We had taught them to repeat certain verses which, every night, they chanted with extreme fervour. ‘God is sufficient unto me; He verily is the All-sufficing!’ one row would intone, while the other would reply: ‘In Him let the trusting trust.’ The chorus of these gladsome voices would continue to peal out until the early hours of the morning. Their reverberation would fill the dungeon, and, piercing its massive walls, would reach the ears of Násiri’d-Dín Sháh, whose palace was not far distant from the place where we were imprisoned. ‘What means this sound?’ he was reported to have exclaimed. ‘It is the anthem the Bábís are intoning in their prison,’ they replied. The Shah made no further remarks, nor did he attempt to restrain the enthusiasm his prisoners, despite the horrors of their confinement, continued to display. (Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 631-632)
The Báb also immersed Himself in the Writings:
As He lay confined within the walls of the castle, He devoted His time to the composition of the Persian Bayan, the most weighty, the most illuminating and comprehensive of all His works. [. . . the writings which emanated from His inspired pen during this period were so numerous that they amounted in all to more than a hundred thousand verses]. (Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 247)
Bahá’u’lláh paid the price for our suffering when He consented to be bound in chains “that mankind may be released from its bondage”. Bondage is a kind of slavery – in this case to self pity; and liberty is freedom. He “drank the cup of sorrow” so that we could be filled with joy and gladness, so by staying stuck in the prison of our self-pity, we’re rejecting His gift.
The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness.
Bahá’u’lláh wants us to “Remember my days during thy days”, and perhaps one reason for this is so that we can see how he handled his time in prison:
I sorrow not for the burden of My imprisonment. Neither do I grieve over My abasement, or the tribulation I suffer at the hands of Mine enemies. By My life! They are My glory, a glory wherewith God hath adorned His own Self. Would that ye know it! The shame I was made to bear hath uncovered the glory with which the whole of creation had been invested, and through the cruelties I have endured, the Day Star of Justice hath manifested itself, and shed its splendor upon men. My sorrows are for those who have involved themselves in their corrupt passions, and claim to be associated with the Faith of God, the Gracious, the All-Praised. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 99)
Because then He goes on to tell us how we should behave, knowing all this. He wants us to detach from all earthly things, which includes all of our disappointments and hurts, so that something much better might transpire:
It behoveth the people of Baha to die to the world and all that is therein, to be so detached from all earthly things that the inmates of Paradise may inhale from their garment the sweet smelling savor of sanctity, that all the peoples of the earth may recognize in their faces the brightness of the All-Merciful, and that through them may be spread abroad the signs and tokens of God, the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 99)
You didn’t see ‘Abdul-Bahá fall into self pity. He could both sigh out in grief, then turn to God:
For thirty long years, from the hour of Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension until His own immaculate spirit passed into the light of the all-highest realm, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rested neither night nor day . . . All His life long, that quintessence of eternal glory, that subtle and mysterious Being, was subjected to trials and ordeals. He was the target of every calumny, of every false accusation, from enemies both without and within. To be a victim of oppression was His lot in this world’s life, and all He knew of it was toil and pain. In the dark of the night, He would sigh out His grief, and as He chanted His prayers at the hour of dawn, that wondrous voice of His would rise up to the inmates of Heaven. (Compilations, Bahiyyih Khánum, p. 152-153)
When life dealt Him hardship, He saw what needed to be done and He did it.
Single and alone, a prisoner, a victim of tyranny, He rose up to reform the world — to refine and train and educate the human race. He watered the tree of the Faith, He sheltered it from the whirlwind and the lightning bolt, He protected God’s holy Cause, He guarded the divine law, He defeated its adversaries, He frustrated the hopes of those who wished it ill. (Compilations, Bahiyyih Khánum, p. 152-153)
And even in prison, He chose to be cheerful:
Then know ye that Abdul-Bahá is in cheerfulness and joy and in the happiness of great glad-tidings though being in the far distant prison . . . this prison is my supreme paradise, my utmost desire, the joy of my heart and the dilation of my breast, my shelter, my asylum, my inaccessible cave and my high protection. By it I glory among the angels of heaven and the Supreme Concourse. Be rejoiced, O friends of God, with this confinement which is a cause of freedom, this prison which is a means of salvation (to many) and this suffering which is the best cause of great comfort. Verily, by God, I would not change this prison for the throne of the command of the horizons and would not exchange this confinement for all excursions and enjoyments in the gardens of the earth. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 4)
‘Abdul-Bahá, in prison, used to find things to laugh about every day:
He referred to His years in prison. Life was hard, He said, tribulations were never far away, and yet, at the end of the day, they would sit together and recall events that had been fantastic, and laugh over them. Funny situations could not be abundant, but still they probed and sought them, and laughed. (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 31)
When Mírzá Mihdi (Bahá’u’lláh’s son) fell from the skylight of the prison in ‘Akká, you didn’t see him fall into self pity. Instead, he begged Bahá’u’lláh to let him die, so that people could come and visit Bahá’u’lláh.
The Purest Branch, the martyred son, the companion, and amanuensis of Bahá’u’lláh, that pious and holy youth, who in the darkest days of Bahá’u’lláh’s incarceration in the barracks of ‘Akká entreated, on his death-bed, his Father to accept him as a ransom for those of His loved ones who yearned for, but were unable to attain, His presence. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, p. 31)
And we’ve been given the story of Bahiyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf to use as our example:
You should, however, take courage and resign to the will of God when you see what the Greatest Holy Leaf had to face during her life. All you may suffer is nothing compared to what she had to endure; and yet how joyous and hopeful she used always to be! (Shoghi Effendi, Bahiyyih Khánum, p. 87)
We must struggle with such promptings from within, setting our sights on the lofty example set by the Greatest Holy Leaf who, throughout a life replete with severe tests, chose not to take offence at the actions or lack of actions of other souls and, with full and radiant heart, continued to bestow on them love and encouragement. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)
The stories of the martyrs are also inspiring insights into how they dealt with situations that might plunge others into self pity. For example, Mona Mahmudnizhad kissed the noose before she was hung to death:
Well imagine being 16 years old and you and other women and girls have been teaching Baha’i children’s classes. You and nine other women and girls are arrested and charged with teaching children’s classes on the Baha’i Faith (Sunday School), Well, that is one happened in Shiraz, Iran on June 18, 1983. Mona Mahmudnizhad was teaching her religion (the Baha’i faith) to children, something we in the U.S. take for granted every day. In an attempt to make the women and girls recant their belief in the Baha’i Faith and Baha’u’llah, they were physically and mentally tortured. Yet, these ten women and girls, like most Baha’is arrested and tortured refused to recant their faith. The women knew that if they didn’t recant that they would be executed. The time came and the women were escorted from their cell, some could hardly walk, their feet had been beat until they were a bloody mess. The women cried quietly and stood steadfast to their knowledge that they would be reunited in heaven. When it was time for the first to be hung, Mona Mahmudnizhad a brave young girl walks forward, choosing to lead the way to Heaven, God and Baha’u’llah, and to give the others’ courage walked up to the rope. She kissed the noose reverently and placed it over her head, before the executioner had a chance. The remaining women and girls followed Mona Mahmudnizhad into heaven and forever in every Baha’is’ heart. (http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art27767.asp)
What other role models have helped you overcome self pity? Post your comments here:
Other articles in this series:
What is Self Pity?
How do we know if we’ve got it?
Where does it come from?
What are the effects?
Why should we stop feeling sorry for ourselves?
How can we transform it?
How do Baha’is respond to suffering?
We’re told to rejoice – a mental discipline that can be very difficult to achieve.
When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 73)
Grieve not at the divine trials. Be not troubled because of hardships and ordeals; turn unto God, bowing in humbleness and praying to Him, while bearing every ordeal, contented under all conditions and thankful in every difficulty. Verily thy Lord loveth His maidservants who are patient, believing and firm. He draws them nigh unto Him through these ordeals and trials. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 50)
We need to cling to this thought in tough times:
If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God’s all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one’s cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter. Our intent is that all the friends should fix their gaze on the Supreme Horizon, and cling to that which hath been revealed in the Tablets. (Bahá’u’lláh, Fire and Light, p. 10)
We’re told to:
Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Ahmad, Baha’i Prayers, p. 210)
Wrongly accused, imprisoned, beaten, chained, banished from country to country, betrayed, poisoned, stripped of material possessions, and “at every moment tormented with a fresh torment” . . . For two score  years, until the end of His earthly days, He remained a prisoner and exile . . . [and experienced such] grief no ordinary mortal could endure. But lest we give way to feelings of gloom and distress, we take recourse in the tranquil calm He induces with such meaningful words as these: “We have borne it all with the utmost willingness and resignation, so that the souls of men may be edified, and the Word of God be exalted. (The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 239-240)
And while we’re remembering His days, we can join with Him in His suffering, and trust these words:
Now ye, as well, must certainly become my partners to some slight degree, and accept your share of tests and sorrows. But these episodes shall pass away, while that abiding glory and eternal life shall remain unchanged forever. Moreover, these afflictions shall be the cause of great advancement. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 238-239)
He’s given us a prayer to use (The Tablet of Ahmad), in which He promises:
Should one who is in affliction or grief read this Tablet with absolute sincerity, God will dispel his sadness, solve his difficulties and remove his afflictions. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Ahmad, Baha’i Prayers, p. 211)
And in the meantime, we can finish with a prayer:
I ask God to grant thee by His favor and grace that which is thy utmost desire; that the closed doors become opened, the uneven roads become even, thy face shine by the love of God, thy sight become brighter by witnessing the signs of God; that thou mayest attain spiritual joy, eternal happiness and heavenly life. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 129-130)
How else can we respond to suffering? Post your comments here:
For more in this series:
Suffering is Inescapable
Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
Role of Free Will and Suffering
Misconceptions about Suffering
What Good Can Come From Suffering?
How Can We Help Someone Who is Suffering?
And previous blog postings on the same topic:
Why Does Life Have to Hurt So Much?
Suffering Through Tests:
Suffering is Not Optional, But We Can Change How Long We Stay Stuck: