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

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28, 1913 Burdens . . .

Earl Redman writes: 

On 28 June most of the pilgrims left, but other cares fell on the Master. Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl became ill, which concerned Him greatly. 

Can He never rest? We cannot imagine all that weighed Him down during His days. But He still connected to spiritual joy--and therein is one of the mysteries of the Mystery of God. 

Oh, for a few more details of His days in Egypt. Mahmúd, we can't wait to have vol. 2! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 24, 1913 Attacks on Distortions of Islam

Earl Redman writes: 

On 24 June a group of rather antagonistic Christian missionaries came and, even though He was quite tired from a very busy day, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to meet them with His usual warmth and openness. The group quickly began attacking Islam and its followers. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá responded saying that their complaints were about distortions and imitations of Islam and were not true of Islam itself. When their complaints continued, the Master proved to them that some of their own expressed beliefs were not supported by the Bible when it was interpreted accurately.

ah! How He would help us out today!          

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 1913 Egypt: A golden network of correspondence!

We don't have to be too sad about His departure from Europe, when we can visit Him in Egypt, for awhile: 

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


‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in Port Said on 17 June 1913. One of the first things He did was to send a telegram to Haifa, instructing the many pilgrims awaiting his return to come to Port Said. His hotel proved too small for the great crowds that appeared to see Him, so a large tent was erected on the hotel roof.
            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also wrote to the Greatest Holy Leaf saying, ‘My eagerness knows no bounds. I have not seen thee for such a long time. My coming to Haifa is somewhat delayed. If possible, come soon to Port Said’. 
            The Master was very tired after almost three years of travelling. He stayed in Egypt until December, a span of five and a half months, trying to rebuild His physical strength before returning to Haifa, where a large amount of work awaited Him. It appeared He had little rest because ‘. . . pilgrims arrived constantly and had to be accommodated and entertained. He was never alone or free from demands. He could never refuse one who came to Him for whatever purpose’.  
            In spite of His exhaustion, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to meet anyone who came. The pilgrims from Haifa occupied much of His time and His ever-increasing volume of correspondence consumed most of what was left. Ahmad Sohrab wrote about the Master’s endless letter writing:

The many difficult problems of the Bahai world are solved by him. Now he writes to Persia on how to hold an election, then to far-off America on how to rent a hall. One Bahai desires to know whether she should cook food for her child; another person asks how to proceed to buy a piece of land. There are some misunderstandings in this assembly to be removed; the feelings of some person are ruffled, and must be smoothed down. One man’s mother or father is dead, he requests a Tablet of visitation, another desires to have a wife. To one a child is born, she begs for a Bahai name; another has taught several souls, he asks for Bahai rings for them. This man has had business reverses, he must be encouraged, another has fallen from a ladder, he implores for a speedy recovery. One has quarrelled with his wife, and he wants advice on how to be reconciled; another supplicates for blessings upon his marriage. The Master goes over these one by one with infinite patience and with his words of advice, creates order out of chaos. The sorrows of the world troop along in review before him, and as they pass, lo, the transformation happens! The sorrowful becomes joyful, the ill-tempered good-natured, the lazy active, the sleepy one awakened. With magical words he transmutes iron into gold and darkness into light. At last he rises from his seat and for a while walks to and fro, still dictating Tablets to the philosopher and to the simple; soaring toward the empyrean of spirituality, giving us a vision of sanctity, and of the roses of Paradise, and for a while we roam, guided by him, in those delectable gardens of Abha, intoxicated with the fragrance of God; and then we find ourselves in the streets, walking home upborne on the wings of light.

But not all of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s correspondence was about personal desires. One day Ahmad Sohrab brought a large quantity of letters from Bahá’ís in America and Europe and the Master quite happily began dictating His replies. Ahmad described how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá dictated:

. . . the words of wisdom like unto a sparkling stream flowed from his blessed mouth, he was a transfigured person. He sat immovable on the sofa, his eyes most of the time shut, but his heart a waving ocean of revelation. Now he revealed a Tablet to a believer in Constantinople, and again to a friend in Rangoon, India; Stuttgart and Switzerland, London and Paris, New York and Honolulu, Washington and Boston were represented. How wonderful and significant appears to me this golden network of spiritual correspondence, reaching to the different parts of the earth! This correspondence is not based upon any commercial or material scheme. It is the eternal plan of God, to diffuse the fragrance of the spiritual rose and scatter the rays of the Divine Sun! Every day an ideal Congress of religions and nations is held in the rather small room of the Beloved and he presides over the proceedings with a dignity and wisdom that is nothing short of miraculous . . . Toward the end, the Master was so moved that he got up from his seat and began to walk to and fro while continuing dictation. I tried to keep up with the rapidity of his uttered words. When I mentioned the name of one of the believers, his whole countenance changed, and he was very happy, saying that he loved him, because he was very sincere in the Cause.
Wouldn't we love to change the countenance of the Master--as a result of our own sincerity!  And isn't that a wonderful image--a golden network of spiritual correspondence! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 12, 1913 The End of the Western Sojourn

Oh--is it true? Have we reached the end of His western sojourn?  Of course, He doesn't return to Haifa until December 5, 1913--a full year since departing from America.  I am strangely affected and unaffected at the same time--since He is always present with us, transcending either coming or going.

Earl Redman writes: 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His party left the hotel [in Paris] at 8 o’clock in the morning of 12 June for the train station. After some final words to His followers, urging them to be united, He departed for Marseilles. Twelve hours later He reached the city, then left the following morning at 9 a.m. aboard the steamer Himalaya, bound for Egypt.

Where is Mahmúd's volume 2 when we need it? Oh, for more details. What were His final words?

Since I did not cover the first European journey in this blog, I will put an earlier story here, in the absence of details re. this departure from Paris.

Earl Redman writes: 
Two days before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Paris, a woman came anxiously into a gathering at the Avenue de Camöens. Breathlessly, the woman said:

Oh, how glad I am to be in time! I must tell you the amazing reason of my hurried journey from America. One day, my little girl astonished me by saying: ‘Mummy, if dear Lord Jesus was in the world now, what would you do?’ ‘Darling baby, I would feel like getting on to the first train and going to Him as fast as I could’. ‘Well, Mummy, He is in the world’. I felt a sudden great awe come over me as my tiny one spoke. ‘What do you mean, my precious? How do you know’, I said. ‘He told me Himself, so of course He is in the world’. Full of wonder, I thought: Is this a sacred message which is being given to me out of the mouth of my babe? And I prayed that it might be made clear to me.
      The next day she said, insistently and as though she could not understand: ‘Mummy darlin’, why isn’t you gone to see Lord Jesus? He’s told me two times that He is really here, in the world’. ‘Tiny love, Mummy doesn’t know where He is, how could she find Him?’
      ‘We see, Mummy, we see’.
      I was naturally perturbed. The same afternoon, being out for a walk with my child, she suddenly stood still and cried out, ‘There He is! There He is!’ She was trembling with excitement and pointed at the window of a magazine store where there was a picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I bought the paper, found this address, caught a boat the same night, and here I am. [i]

On 1 December, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said goodbye to Europe:

I bid a loving farewell to the people of France and England. I am very much pleased with them. I counsel them that they may day by day strengthen the bond of love and amity to this end – that they may become the sympathetic embodiment of one nation – that they may extend themselves to a universal Brotherhood to guard and protect the interests of all the nations of the East – that they may unfurl the Divine Banner of justice – that they may realize and treat each nation as a family composed of the individual children of God and may know that before the sight of God the rights of all are equal . . .
      Beware! Beware! Lest ye offend any heart.
      Beware! Beware! Lest ye hurt any soul.
      Beware! Beware! Lest ye deal unkindly toward any person.
      Beware! Beware! Lest ye be the cause of hopelessness to any creature.[ii]

[i] ibid. p. 185.
[ii] Star of the West, vol. II, no. 16 (31 December 1911), p. 6.

So now we are at the departure of 1913--and He will never again be in Europe or North America--except that, of course, He is always here--and everywhere. 

What a blessing it has been to recount the Travels of One who remains a Mystery, eternally. And to grow just a wee bit closer to Him.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 6, 1913 Visits of former enemies

Well, I missed posting this on June 6--I think I am dragging my heels a bit because I don't want 'Abdu'l-Bahá to leave the West. (Do you realize that on June 12th He'll be going back to Egypt--and from there back to Haifa on Dec. 5?) Of course, his family and others were surely missing Him. And news must have travelled very slowly. No blogs, email, or texting back then, you know. Ok, back to Paris:

Earl Redman writes: 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s final days were marked by the humble visits of a number of former enemies. On 6 June He was visited by Ahmad ‘Izzat shá, who had been Sultán Abdu’l-Hamid’s chief counsellor before the Ottoman Empire succumbed to the Young Turks. He had escaped Turkey ahead of the rebellion. Now, he gave a dinner party for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. A couple days later, a Persian prince stopped by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s hotel. The prince acted in an arrogant manner until the very humble Ahmad ‘Izzat Páshá arrived and, by his attitude of complete deference to the Master, taught the upstart an important lesson.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June 1, 1913 Pilgrims awaiting His return

Earl Redman writes: 

On 1 June Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar Nakhjavání, who had accompanied the Master during his visit to America, arrived from Haifa and told ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that there were many pilgrims awaiting His return.


This man is the father of Ali Nakhjavani!  There are some great photos of him with 'Abdu'l-Baha, especially at Green Acre. I can just imagine how loyal he must have felt toward the Master. 

May 27, 1913 A new hotel in Paris; story of a poor man

I'm late with this, but it's a marvelous story--so read on!

Earl Redman writes: 

On 27 May ‘Abdu’l-Bahá moved to a new hotel on Rue Lauriston where He was forced to rest for several days. The hotel food did not suit the Master so the Dreyfus-Barneys and Ahmad shá cooked for Him at their homes, though He asked them not to do so.
            As always, the poor were just as attracted to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as were the rich, but didn’t always have the same reception. This wasn’t due to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but to those around Him. At one of the hotels the Master stayed in while He was in Paris, a poor black man came to see Him. The man was not a Bahá’í, but was completely in love with the Master. When the man tried to enter the hotel, someone told him that the management of the hotel did not want him there because ‘it was not consistent with the standards of the hotel’. The man was forced to leave. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá learned of this, He was very unhappy and called for the person responsible, whom He immediately sent off to find the rejected man and to bring him to His Presence. Said the Master, ‘I did not come to see expensive hotels or furnishings, but to meet My friends. I did not come to Paris to conform to the customs of Paris, but to establish the standard of Bahá’u’lláh‘.[iii]