Who was `Abdu'l-Bahá, and why did He come to the West?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 2, 1913 A spell of wonder

Earl Redman writes (in Abdu'l-Baha in Our Midst):

"On 2 January ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the Cedar Club House, a place run by the Women’s Service League that provided food for the poorest working mothers and ensured that their youngest children were well fed.
            ‘Through an insistent rain and blustering wind, the motor bore us across the Albert Bridge to the borough of Battersea. We turned from one of the important high highways into a dark, narrow, drizzling street, to stop before an inviting open door’.[i] The Master arrived to find sixty women and over one hundred children gathered at two large tables festively decorated with Christmas cheer. Though given a formal, elevated platform from which to speak, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rather, ‘as the real friend of the poor . . .  walked straight among them, into the body of the room. This at once established the charm of comradeship’. As He walked ‘with light characteristic step’ between the tables beaming with happiness and love, He told them:

I am very glad to be among you, who are blessed in God’s name with children. They are the true signs of his spiritual love. The most divine gifts of God. These little ones will grow to be fruitful trees. We must look to them for the founders of many beautiful families. Let their education be directed in the ways of purity and useful service. Here are the seeds of the future race and upon them may be granted God’s blessing.[ii]

‘Abdu’l-Bahá then walked among the women and children giving encouraging words, ‘pausing for a few moments to bless each little upturned face, and bestow a silver coin. The remarkable tender hands caressed a baby’s cheek or chin. One could hear him pronounce distinct words of comfort to the tiniest members of the audience’.  One mother held sleeping twins. The Master placed a coin under the chin of each, whereupon ‘two pairs of deep blue eyes opened wide in the spell of wonder’.
            Those who were accompanying ‘Abdu’l-Bahá commented on ‘the thoughtful gaze of the women as they watched the distinguished visitor in white turban and brown burnous, moving in their midst. It is often too true that the very poor are keenly suspicious of foreigners, especially if their mission is a religious one, but Abdul-Baha brings into every environment a profound truth and sympathy that seems to crush the barriers  . . ‘. 
            As He left, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said,
 I am truly happy when among the gatherings of the poor. It brings full joy to my heart. I come in contact with those in high stations of life, and those rich in worldly possessions, but my joy is in being with those who are in material poverty, for their sufferings draw them nearer to God . . ."

[i] Star of the West, vol. III, no. 18 (7 February 1913), pp. 9–10.      [ii] ibid.

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