February 22, 2010

Shoghi Effendi was an intensely active child

Shoghi Effendi was a small, sensitive, intensely active and mischievous child. He was not very strong in his early years and his mother often had cause to worry over his health. However, he grew up to have an iron constitution, which, coupled with the phenomenal force of his nature and will-power, enabled him in later years to overcome every obstacle in his path. ….

It may sound disrespectful to say the Guardian was a mischievous child, but he himself told me he was the acknowledged ringleader of all the other children. Bubbling with high spirits, enthusiasm and daring, full of laughter and wit, the small boy lead the way in many pranks; whenever something was afoot, behind it would be found Shoghi Effendi! This boundless energy was often a source of anxiety as he would rush madly up and down the long flight of high steps to the upper story of the house, to the consternation of the pilgrims below, waiting to meet the Master. His exuberance was irrepressible and was in the child the same force that was to make the man such an untiring and unflinching commander-in-chief of the forces of Bahá'u'lláh, leading them to victory after victory, indeed, to the spiritual conquest of the entire globe. We have a very reliable witness to this characteristic of the Guardian, 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself, Who wrote on a used envelope a short sentence to please His little grandson: "Shoghi Effendi is a wise man - but he runs about very much!"

It must not be inferred, however, that Shoghi Effendi was mannerless. Children in the East - how much more the children of 'Abdu'l-Bahá - were taught courtesy and manners from the cradle. Bahá'u'lláh's family was descended from kings and the family tradition, entirely apart from His divine teachings which enjoin courtesy as obligatory, ensured that a noble conduct and politeness would distinguish Shoghi Effendi from his babyhood. 
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 6-7) You can some some pictures of Shoghi Effendi as a child and youth at the following sites: http://communitybaha.blogspot.com/2010/02/first-western-pilgrims-ibrahim.html
http://communitybaha.blogspot.com/2010/02/bahais-in-baltimore-in-1909-kenosha.html
http://communitybaha.blogspot.com/2010/02/1913-some-bahai-students-with-their.html

February 20, 2010

The first American Baha’i, Thornton Chase meets ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Akka

Some one said, "The Master!"—and he came into the room with a free, striding step, welcomed us in a clear, ringing voice—"Marhabba! Marhabba!" (Welcome! Welcome!)—and embraced us with kisses as would a father his son, or as would brothers after a long absence. It is no wonder that some have thought that the Master loved them more than all others, because he hesitates not to express his love and he truly "loves all humanity in each one." He is the great Humanitarian and each friend is to him the representative of all mankind.

He bade us be seated on the little divan; he sat on the high, narrow bed at one side of the room, drew up one foot under him, asked after our health, our trip, bade us be happy, and expressed his happiness that we had safely arrived. Then, after a few minutes, he again grasped our hands and abruptly left us. The friends also went out and left us alone. We looked at each other. I think we had not spoken at all except to answer "yes" or "no." We could not. We knew not what to say. But our hearts were full of joyful tears, because we were "at home." His welcoming spirit banished strangeness, as though we had always known him. It was as if, after long journeyings, weariness, trials and searching, we had at last reached home. The world of wanderings was left at the outer gate, we had entered into peace, joy, love, home. Those were moments of deep happiness; yet I could not fully realize the great blessedness of that meeting, which was the goal of my hope; but now its remembrance has become my joy and the treasure of my heart. I was filled with wonder at his simplicity, with admiration for his strength and dignity and love for his tenderness; these, mingled with delight and thankfulness, possessed me. 
('In Galilee', by Thornton Chase)

February 19, 2010

The mystical spiritual bond between the Master and Shoghi Effendi

Ella Goodall Cooper, an early American Baha’i who along with her mother, Helen Goodall, went to Akka as pilgrims in 1899 and 1908, wrote the following touching account:

One day...I had joined the ladies of the Family in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf for early morning tea, the beloved Master was sitting in His favorite corner of the divan where, through the window on His right, He could look over the ramparts and see the blue Mediterranean beyond. He was busy writing Tablets, and the quiet peace of the room was broken only by the bubble of the samovar, where one of the young maidservants, sitting on the floor before it, was brewing the tea.

Presently the Master looked up from His writing with a smile, and requested Ziyyih Khanum to chant a prayer. As she finished, a small figure appeared in the open doorway, directly opposite 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Having dropped off his shoes he stepped into the room, with his eyes focused on the Master's face. 'Abdu'l-Bahá returned his gaze with such a look of loving welcome it seemed to beckon the small one to approach Him. Shoghi, that beautiful little boy, with his cameo face and his soulful appealing, dark eyes, walked slowly toward the divan, the Master drawing him as by an invisible thread, until he stood quite close in front of Him. As he paused there a moment 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not offer to embrace him but sat perfectly still, only nodding His head two or three times, slowly and impressively, as it to say - "You see? This tie connecting us is not just that of a physical grandfather but something far deeper and more significant." While we breathlessly watched to see what he would do, the little boy reached down and picking up the hem of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's robe he touched it reverently to his forehead, and kissed it, then gently replaced it, while never taking his eyes from the adored Master's face. The next moment he turned away, and scampered off to play, like any normal child...At that time he was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's only grandchild... and, naturally, he was of immense interest to the pilgrims. 
(Memoir of Ella Goodall Cooper quoted by Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl)

February 16, 2010

‘Abdu’l-Baha among the street children of Paris

After a morning talk given by Abdu’l-Baha at his apartment No. 4 Ave. de Camoens on October 15, 1911, all those present were invited that Sunday afternoon to meet him at four o'clock at 22 rue Seeden Rollin pre Saint Gernais (Seine) outside the walls of Paris, where a real Baha’i settlement work is carried on by Mons. V. Ponsonaille and his good wife. They are poor people. He is employed as a collector for one of the large department stores in Paris. Having received the Message, he felt his work for the Cause of God was among the very poor children, waifs and those who had no parents; so with his wife, some years ago settled his home here and by going without their noon day meal (which to the French means much) they could give it to these little ones. They started in an old car where they met together to read the Tablets and hear the Word of Baha’u’llah. It wasn’t long before many came and it grew so that the clergy of many sects desired to have it consolidated under them. Mons. Ponsonaille did not consider this the way to serve best and he declined all these offers. At last, they grew so very jealous that they, with the help of the priests, took the car from him. The Baha’i friends in Paris offered to build a place for his work and Mons. Ponsonaille told them if they would furnish him the boards and nails that he would build it himself, which he did, and it was here that we went, and after three months spent going around Paris every day, I assure you I had never seen such a dirty, miserable quarter.

February 15, 2010

An example of Baha’u’llah’s high sense of justice

When Baha’u’llah along with His family and a number of His companions were travelling from Baghdad to Constantinople an incident took place near the city of Mardin which provides us with a wonderful example of Baha'u'llah's high sense of justice, a principle greatly stressed in His Revelation.

The caravan had encamped for the night at a small village below the town. “There, during the night, two mules, belonging to an Arab travelling with the caravan, were stolen. The owner was beside himself with grief. Baha'u'llah asked the official who accompanied the caravan to try and find the missing animals. Other officials were called in, but no animal was forthcoming. As the caravan was on the point of departing, the poor Arab went crying to Baha'u'llah. ‘You are leaving,’ he moaned, ‘and I shall never get back my beasts.’ Baha'u'llah immediately called off the resumption of the journey. ‘We will go to Firdaws [a nearby estate] and stay there’, He said, ‘until this man's mules are found and restored to him.’ (King of Glory, by Hasan Balyuzi, pp. 187-8)

February 11, 2010

Baha’u’llah vindicating the miracles of all the Prophets

One of Baha’u’llah’s bitterest enemies by the name of Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn was sent by the Shah of Persia to Karbila (near Baghdad) to carry out the repair of the Muslim holy sites. He invited all ranks of clergy to a conference held at his home. There he forcefully condemned Baha'u'llah's activities, accused Him of destroying the Faith of Islam, and demanded that holy war should be proclaimed against the Babis of ‘Iraq. The body of the divines approved. However, the leading mujtahid [1] of the Shi’ah community, Shaykh Murtiday-i-Ansari, a man of justice and piety, refused to sanction their evil plans and arose and abruptly left the meeting.

Some time before this, Baha'u'llah had invited Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn [the one who had called the conference of the divines] to meet Him face to face so that the truth of His Cause might be established. But the Shaykh, who had accepted the invitation at first, was afraid to meet the challenge and did not appear at the appointed place.

February 9, 2010

American Christian visited ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Haifa

Below is an extract from a letter written by an American visiting Palestine to her Baha’i friend in the United States. It was dated May, 1910:

I must tell you a little about Palestine and about one experience in particular. A visit to Palestine does certainly make the Bible seem like a new book and brings home to one's heart the reality of Christ's life and teachings. I felt this particularly at Nazareth, the home of His boyhood and at the Sea of Galilee, which is so associated with His ministry. We had a lovely early morning row on the peaceful lake, and the memories of Christ that came to us seemed to make His presence very real.

Now, I know you will be eager to hear of my interview with the one in Palestine whose teachings mean so much to yon, the Prophet, or Abbas Effendi, [‘Abdu’l-Baha] as he is generally called.

February 6, 2010

The amazing story of Mulla Husayn finding the Mystery of God (Baha’u’llah) in Tihran

The story of Mulla Husayn as he tries to find a trace of His Beloved in Tihran is fascinating. The hand of providence brought him into close contact with a certain Mulla Muhammad who became immensely attracted to Mulla Husayn and the Message of the Báb. The story, recorded in the words of this Mulla Muhammad in The Dawn-Breakers, is as follows:

"'What is your name, and which city is your home?' 'My name,' I replied, 'is Mulla Muhammad, and my surname Mu'allim. My home is Nur, in the province of Mazindaran.' 'Tell me,' further enquired Mulla Husayn, 'is there to-day among the family of the late Mirza Buzurg-i-Nuri,[Baha’u’llah’s father] who was so renowned for his character, his charm, and artistic and intellectual attainments, anyone who has proved himself capable of maintaining the high traditions of that illustrious house?' 'Yea,' I replied, 'among his sons now living, one has distinguished Himself by the very traits which characterised His father. By His virtuous life, His high attainments, His loving-kindness and liberality, He has proved Himself a noble descendent of a noble father.' 'What is His occupation?' he asked me. 'He cheers the disconsolate and feeds the hungry,' I replied. 'What of His rank and position?' 'He has none,' I said, 'apart from befriending the poor and the stranger.' 'What is His name?' 'Husayn-'Ali.' 'In which of the scripts of His father does He excel?' 'His favourite script is shikastih-nasta'liq.' [an artistice style of handwriting] 'How does He spend His time?' 'He roams the woods and delights in the beauties of the countryside.' 'What is His age?' 'Eight and twenty.' The eagerness with which Mulla Husayn questioned me, and the sense of delight with which he welcomed every particular I gave him, greatly surprised me. Turning to me, with his face beaming with satisfaction and joy, he once more enquired: 'I presume you often meet Him?' 'I frequently visit His home,' I replied. 'Will you,' he said, 'deliver into His hands a trust from me?' 'Most assuredly,' was my reply. He then gave me a scroll wrapped in a piece of cloth, and requested me to hand it to Him the next day at the hour of dawn. 'Should He deign to answer me,' he added, 'will you be kind enough to acquaint me with His reply?' I received the scroll from him and, at break of day, arose to carry out his desire.

February 4, 2010

Tahirih’s last day in Tehran …

[in 1852] Tahirih, who was among the few remaining Letters of the Living, was … being held captive in Tehran. A delegation of religious leaders, in a series of seven conferences, had questioned her thoroughly about the Bab and His Cause. Tahrirh, in her own compelling style, presented clear proofs that the Bab was, indeed, the promised Qa’im.[1] She related verses from the Koran [Qur’an] that supported her arguments, but grew steadily more impatient with the mullas' insistence on a literal interpretation of the sacred scriptures. Finally, frustrated with their limited understanding, Tahirih spoke bluntly to her interrogators: "Your reasoning is that of an ignorant and stupid child; how long will you cling to these follies and lies? When will you lift your eyes toward the Sun of Truth?"

The delegation proceeded to formally denounce Tahirih and to recommend she be sentenced to death. Because she was a woman and of renowned family, she remained confined in a room at the house of the mayor of Tehran.

February 2, 2010

Reaction of Some Government Officials Seeing Baha’u’llah for the First Time

Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali has recounted a brief story in which he describes the reaction of some government officials in 'Akka when they saw Baha'u'llah for the first time. He writes in his book, the Bihjatu’s-Sudur:

... It was the festival of Ridvan, which was celebrated in the home of Jinab-i-Kalim (Mirza Musa, the faithful brother of Baha’u'llah). I was staying in the outer apartment of his house. There were other apartments occupied by non-Baha’is; one was the residence of a certain 'Big' or ' Pasha' who had arrived in 'Akka as the head of customs and excise.

In the afternoon of the first day of Ridvan Baha'u'llah came out of the inner apartment to the place where the head of the customs and his officers were seated. As soon as He arrived, they arose spontaneously and, although it was not their way, they bowed. Lost in bewilderment and filled with wonder, they remained standing. Their hearts were enamoured of His peerless and beauteous countenance. Baha’u’llah went to them and spoke words of loving kindness. He then went back to the inner section. Bewildered and perplexed, the officer asked, 'Who was this distinguished personage? Is He the Holy Spirit or the King of Kings?' We answered, 'He is the father of 'Abbas Effendi' ('Abdu'l-Baha). (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah volume 2, p. 11; also in Stories of Baha’u’llah and Some Notable Believers by Kiser Barnes, pp. 71-72)