May 3, 2015

Catching a glimpse of the majesty of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

While on pilgrimage in 1906, Florence Khan, the wife of Ali-Kuli Khan [1] related the following heart-warming and incredible incident:

One evening, after sunset, Khan [Ali-Kuli Khan] came in great enthusiasm and excitement to our room. ‘Do you remember,’ he asked, ‘that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said He would answer all the letters we brought to Him from America before we left?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Then come quickly. It is too wonderful! The Master is pacing to and fro, in His sitting room- I cannot see the secretary—and He is replying to those letters, as if he had known the inmost secret of the writers’ hearts, from the cradle! Yet He has never met nor seen one of them. You can see Him from the corridor beyond the little room, each time He passes the open doorway!’ So, Rahím being peacefully asleep, I returned with Khan, to his post, outside the doorway which led to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s long room with its many windows looking over the Bay of ‘Akká to the Mediterranean and beyond.

I heard the dear Master’s beautiful voice, and then saw Him, as He strode by the doorway of His lighted room. We were in the dark, looking through the small darkened antechamber. I recalled how, never, at the daily luncheon table, and never at the late evening dinner, and never at any time, had I satisfied my longing to gaze more fully upon the Master’s beautiful, noble, and spiritual face. I used to glance admiringly at the snowy, scarf-enfolded headdress, and at the beautiful, silver-white hair falling softly to the shoulders; and at the lofty arch of His forehead, at the expression of His eyes, indescribable in human language; now they seemed blue-and now brown- and again partly of each colour, or hazel—but always illumined, loving and understanding; sometimes raised in holy reverence, in silent prayer, sometimes gently smiling-but always kingly and supreme. . . Then, I could never get my fill, so to speak, of the Divine perfection of spirituality—a gentleness-a holy patience—no sign whatsoever in lines or expression of the lower traits of human nature, only a Divine perfectness. It was astounding. I had never seen a face like it. Selfless. The stamp of suffering upon it; alas for humanity, which crucifies God’s messengers!

So, I thought exultingly, ‘Now if only the Master would pause a moment in His doorway, as I am here in the dark, I could look upon His face to my heart’s content, and no one would notice me!’

Instantly, the Master stopped in His doorway.

Silhouetted against the light, I clearly saw Him in His beauty, and I began a sort of ‘visual devouring’ of that wonderful face! I looked, and I looked, and I looked. After a few moments, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá withdrew, and resumed His pacing to and fro and revelation of the Tablets.

After watching for a while, half timorously the thought arose in my heart, ‘Oh! if only He would stop once more in the doorway!’

At once the Master stood in the doorway, silent, and seemed to be looking upwards towards the stars. ‘Now, I will look!’ I thought in breathless joy.

This time as I gazed silently upon that matchless face, a golden light shone forth from His entire figure. This light intensified, and intensified, as I looked, and looked, until I began almost to be afraid.

I said to myself, ‘However bright it grows I am going to keep my eyes open! What a wonderful sight! What a miraculous opportunity!’

The outline of light grew more and more intense, yet I looked, and I looked, until it seemed to me, I must fall upon my knees. Just as it seemed I could no longer bear such a vision, the Master withdrew.” 

(Florence Khanum, ‘The Sheltering Branch’, by Marzieh Gail)

[1] Ali-Kuli Khán, also known as Nabílu'd-dawlih, was an eminent Iranian Bahá'í. He was born in Káshán (Persia) about 1879; his father was a mayor. About 1898, he became a Bahá'í and served briefly as 'Abdu'l-Bahá's English-language secretary (1899-1901), and was subsequently sent to America where he translated several Bahá'í books into English as well as continuing to translate 'Abdu'l-Bahá's correspondence with the American Bahá'ís and to act as a teacher. He was appointed Iranian chargé d'affaires in Washington in 1910 and later served in various high-ranking diplomatic posts, becoming Head of the Court of the Crown Prince Regent (Qájár), and ever maintaining a passion for linking together Persia and America. He married the American Florence Breed (1875-1950) in 1904, praised by 'Abdu'l-Bahá for being the first marriage between an Eastern and Western Bahá'í, and served the Faith for almost seventy years until his death in Washington DC on 7 April 1966. Their daughter, Marzieh Gail (1908-93), also became an eminent Bahá'í translator. 
(David Merrick, www.bahai-library.com)