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

Friday, July 19, 2013

July 19, 1913 Ramleh . . . a funny story and other details

Earl Redman writes: 

 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá moved back to Alexandria on 19 July because the climate at Ismailia was not what was hoped. Initially, He stayed at the Victoria Hotel, then moved into a house in Ramleh. Ahmad Sohrab gave his impressions of Ramleh:

From my room I see the great clock of the New Victoria Hotel, wherein the Beloved stayed from time to time. The manager with much pride shows to the guests the various rooms occupied by the Master. He knows something about the Cause, and recognizes the great honour and blessing bestowed upon him and his hotel . . . The homes of the Pashas are really wonderful specimens of the best Renaissance architecture. They very much resemble the houses and villas I have seen at Nice. Wonderful palaces, furnished with a taste truly magnificent, and are enclosed within gardens, the beauty and charm of which rival the fairy-lands of the artists and the poets. These “villas” are surrounded by walls from two to four yards high. The principal avenues are macadamized and clean and the narrow streets are also very much like the garden paths of Nice. As one walks through them the perfume of the flowers is inhaled, the branches of the trees overhanging the walls give a cool, inviting shade and the climbing vines add to the charming verdancy. A man passing through the streets and observing the houses, sees all the windows tightly shut. The stranger may think that they are not inhabited, but on inquiring about this custom of closing the windows, he is politely informed that as the owner is Mohammedan, the blinds are drawn, so that no foreign eyes may gaze upon the dark beauties of the women.

 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wanted to have Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl close to Him so He rented the upper floor of a nearby house for the tireless believer. Isabel Fraser was at Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl’s home one day when:

 . . . there were about twenty sheiks who had come over from Alexandria to visit him. One who seemed to be the leader was a very learned and gorgeously attired young sheik, who said with some pride that he had been educated in the oldest university in the world. He was the editor of a magazine in Alexandria and had come to interview Mirza Abul-Fazl, who for more than an hour had been listened to with absorbed attention. His talk was interspersed with an occasional jest and his sharp eye would glance from one face to another to see if his point was understood . . .
Suddenly Abdul-Baha appeared. Mirza Abul-Fazl . . . stood with his head bowed, his whole attitude changed. He immediately became the most humble and respectful of servitors. Then quickly arranging a chair for Abdul-Baha, he told him . . .  the subject under discussion. Abdul-Baha continued the subject . . . 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá related another story about Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl. Apparently Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl had difficulties with all the questions from American and English women and their persistence in wanting answers. One day a group of women went to Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl’s home and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Undeterred, they continued to knock until a voice, obvious Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl’s, spoke in English from the other side of the closed door: ‘‘Abu’l-Fadl not here’.  This convulsed the women with laughter so much so that the hidden object of their desire was also heard laughing from the inside.
            ‘Abdu’l-Bahá used the time in Ramleh to start catching up on the huge amount of correspondence He had been unable to answer. In a Tablet to the Persian believers, He wrote of His travels:

After my return from America and Europe, owing to the difficulties of the long voyage and to the innumerable inconveniences of the journey, a physical reaction set in and I became indisposed. Now, through the Favor and Bounty of the Blessed Perfection, I am feeling better; therefore, I am engaged in writing this letter, so that thou mayest realize that the friends of God are never forgotten under any circumstances . . . Now is the time when the believers of God may imitate the conduct and manner of Abdul Baha. Day and night they must engage in teaching the Cause of God but they must be in the same spiritual state which Abdul Baha manifested while traveling in America. When the teacher delivers an address, his words must first of all have a supreme and powerful effect over himself so that everyone may be in turn affected. His utterances must be like unto flames of fire, burning away the veils of dogmas, passion and desire. Moreover he must be in the utmost state of humility and evanescence – so that others may become mindful. He must have attained to the station of renunciation and annihilation. Then and not until then, will he teach the people with the Melody of the Supreme Concourse.
I have tarried in Egypt for a few days because I was weakened by the fatigue of traveling through the cities of Europe; by the variable climates of the American mountains and prairies and by the length and hardships of the voyage. While in Europe one day we were in London and another in Edinburgh; now in Paris and anon in Stuttgart; once in Budapest and again in Vienna. We were almost every hour in another place, delivering lengthy speeches and addresses, and notwithstanding the indisposition of the body, day and night I cried and raised my voice in large meetings and important churches . . . As there were many obstacles, the door of correspondence was closed; but the faces of the illumined friends were manifest at every hour in the Court of Consciousness, and at all times they were present in my memory. As I have now found a little leisure, I address you this letter so that I may occupy myself with the servitude of the believers of God, and become the means of the happiness of the hearts. This is the utmost desire of ’Abdu’l-Bahá.

ah! to have this as a foremost goal--to become the means of the happiness of hearts. . . . 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

July 11, 1913 Abdu'l-Baha's Sense of Humor

Sorry I am a couple of days late with this! 

Earl Redman writes: 

On 11 July ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the train to Ismailia in hopes that the change of climate would help improve His health. In spite of the effects of the heat, His sense of humour was undiminished when He wrote to Ali-Kuli Khan: ‘Praise be to God you are spending your days in a delectable, verdant and refreshing place. We too are, praise be to God, enjoying ourself  in the hot weather of Port Said with its excessive humidity, dust and dirt, while suffering with nerve fever. As the friends are comfortable, Abdul-Baha is in the utmost joy’.
            Before He left for Ismailia, He met with his attendants and a few pilgrims and told them of all the meetings He had in America and how He had found the Americans to be very spiritual people. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told His audience about Fred Mortensen who had ‘been so anxious to meet the Master that he risked his life by concealing himself under the train till he reached Green Acre, Maine’. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá praised Fred’s courage. The Master also said that He had again met Fred, along with his wife, when He went to Minneapolis. He called that later meeting a confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

Ok, we know it is a "proof of nobility" not to complain about things and even be happy in a state of poverty, discomfort, illness, and the like--but this is truly amazing! What an example! And what a mixture of humor and sincerity! 

Just yesterday, when someone asked how I was, I was very expressive about my dislike of the Texas heat and the summer in general. Hm. . . . And I am mostly in air conditioning, without excessive humidity, dust, dirt, and nerve fever! Always, there are lessons from the Master. 

ah, and dear Fred Mortensen. What a life he had!  Here's the account from The Diary of Juliet Thompson: 

A night when a horrifying young man came to a meeting at the
Kinneys’ house. From head to foot he was covered with soot. His
blue eyes stared out from a dark grey face. This was Fred
Mortenson. He had spent half his boyhood and young manhood in a
prison in Minneapolis. Our beloved Albert Hall, who was interested
in prison work, had found him and taken him out on parole and given him the Bahá’í Message. But Albert Hall was dead when the Master came to America.

Fred Mortenson, hearing that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in Green Acre, and
having no money to make the trip, had ridden the bumpers [on
freight trains] to His Presence.

He came into the meeting and sat down and was very unhappy when the Master, pacing back and forth as He talked, took no notice of him. “It must be that He knows I stole a ride,” thought Fred (who told me all about it afterward). But no sooner was the meeting over and
the Master upstairs in His room than He sent for Fred.
Fred had said nothing to anyone about his trip on the bumpers, but
the minute he entered that upstairs room the Master asked smiling
and with twinkling eyes: “How did you enjoy your ride?” then He
took from Fred’s hand his soot-covered cap and kissed it.

Years later, during the First World War, when the American
believers sent ten thousand dollars for the relief of the starving
Arabs, the messenger they chose to carry the money through the
warring countries was: Fred Mortenson. The Master declined the ten
thousand dollars, relieving the Arabs Himself by His own hard labour. He
went to His estate near Tiberius and Himself ploughed the fields
there; then stored all the grain in the Shrine of the Báb.

So, it is interesting that 'Abdul-Bahá is remembering certain things about His time in America, and that He reminds us of Fred's courage and transformation--a potent reminder than there is hope for anyone. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Film Screenings, Luminous Journey

During this interim, while I don't have any news of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Egypt, let me remind blog viewers that we have a FILM about 'Abdu'l-Bahá in America that is ALMOST finished!

While we don't yet have a DATE for DVD release (it is coming!) but hope for it in mid-August, we do have some screenings set up. You can see the basic places/dantes at: http://film-abdul-baha-in-america.blogspot.com/

Should you want details about these events, please contact us through our website: www.LuminousJourney.org