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Memories of Nine Years in Akka

by Youness Afroukhteh

translated by Riaz Masrour.
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Chapter 3


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CHAPTER THREE

Circumstances surrounding the renewal of confinement

The Most Great Prison was reinstated. It was decreed at the outset that the rules and regulations governing the administration of the Prison City were to be similar to those established at the time of the Blessed Beauty's arrival from Adrianople at the then army barracks of 'Akka. Those regulations proscribed the holding of jobs or owning of businesses by the friends, forbade the prisoners to pass through the gates of 'Akka, and restricted all forms of commerce. All visits were to be supervised by government officials and all correspondence from the prisoners was to cease. In other words, the harshest conditions were to be enforced. But while it had been possible to impose such severe constraints when the Holy Family arrived from Adrianople, they were no longer enforceable under the conditions now prevailing. This was because the influence and power of the creative Word of God had generated such awe in the minds of the general population, and also because 'Abdu'l-Bahá's countless acts of generosity and compassion had left such an indelible impression in their hearts, that while the issuing of such instructions by the Sublime Porte might have seemed a routine matter, enforcing them to the letter of the law was utterly impossible. For example, how could the Governor of 'Akka dare to enforce such severe regulations-he who had witnessed the greatness of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and had been the recipient of His


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many benevolent and charitable favours and who considered himself the servant of His servants? Even those who occupied higher positions than the Governor of 'Akka, such as the Pashas who commanded legions and armies and who owed their very lives to the Master's benevolence and untold acts of generosity, lacked the boldness to even breathe such impertinence. Their response to the new decree, therefore, was to prepare a secret report in which they assured Constantinople of their obedience to the instructions and pledged strict control over the Prison City. All the residents of 'Akka and Haifa, rich and poor, high and low, and the entire corps of government officials, had at one time or another been the recipients of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's kindness and generosity. The following is an example concerning one of the Pashas. During the war between the Ottoman Empire and Greece{91} before 1900 the head of the Ottoman Army assigned to the frontier between Palestine and Syria was General Fariq Pasha, who was an admirer of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. When lie was as selected to lead his army against the Greeks, because of his personal convictions he asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá for a prayer to take with him to protect him in the forthcoming struggle. 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a few words and told him to tie the piece of paper, unread, to his arm and never remove it. He did as bidden and led his army into battle. After his triumphant return, he attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to express his gratitude. 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked him if he had removed and read the prayer. He replied that he had done only as he had been commanded and nothing more. 'Abdu'l-Bahá then told him to take it off and read it. He was utterly amazed at what he read, for 'Abdu'l-Bahá had briefly described the events of the battle and his victorious return. The point is, all the government officials, even the judges and religious leaders, had Witnessed similar wonders and received similar favours from 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Therefore, this resumption of incarceration did not entail the harsh treatment and the severe restrictions of the previous confinement. The business activities of the resident friends were not curtailed.


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Some of these chose of their own accord not to depart from the city for a short time, but even that did not last long. However, the Master bore the full burden and hardship of the incarceration in the Most Great Prison. He never left the city until 'Abdu'l-Hamid was deposed from the office of Caliph, an event which will be described in Chapter 5 Of this narrative.

Details of the renewal of confinement

The source of the substantial sums which the Covenant-breakers had used to bribe the government officials in the hope of bringing about the expulsion and exile of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was eventually discovered. The influx of Western pilgrims into Haifa, together with the implementation of the Master's plan to acquire property for the construction of the Shrine of the Bab, had provided the Covenant-breakers with yet another opportunity to plant the seeds of dissension and discord. Supported by government secret agents and communicating assorted reports to the Sublime Porte, they had begun a new campaign of persecution against 'Abdu'l-Bahá, charging Him with the purchase of vast parcels of land overlooking Haifa, 'Akka and the sea, on behalf of neighbouring governments whose representatives travelled to and from Haifa in disguise to further their conspiracy. These properties, they alleged, were being used to build large warehouses for the storage of arms and ammunition. This story had spread far and wide, forcing the government to assign secret inspectors to investigate the situation. However, the falsehood of the claim of the Covenant-breakers was soon discovered and the issue was shelved.

But when Mirza Aqa Jan passed away, he left a substantial inheritance to the Covenant-breakers. With these funds they bribed some of the officials and convinced the Sublime Porte at last that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence in Haifa was dangerous. However, weary of the Covenant-breakers' incessant


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intrigues and conspiracies, the government had ordered the renewal of the same conditions that had been in force during the incarceration of the Blessed Beauty and His followers. These restrictions obviously applied to the Covenant-breakers as well.

Thus the last blow inflicted on 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Cause of God by Mirza Aqa Jan was through the expenditure of his small fortune by the Covenant-breakers to bribe the Ottoman officials. This had resulted in their own imprisonment, as they too fell into the very firetrap they had set for 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Release of the Covenant-breakers from prison due to the Master's intercession

The confinement of the Covenant-breakers within the Most Great Prison did not last long, for they had the Master to intercede for them. The incarceration of the believers and the Covenant-breakers was displeasing to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He exerted much energy in negotiations with the police as well as the army officers, and intervened on their behalf to secure their freedom. The officials, who were well aware of the reality of the situation and knew that this renewal of imprisonment had been bought and paid for by the Covenant-breakers themselves, were astonished at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's efforts. Eventually the Covenant-breakers regained their freedom and the government officials witnessed the difference between truth and falsehood. As the poem by Mawlavi says:

Moon shines and dog barks, Each according to its nature.

MY return to 'Akita

From the day when 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visits to Haifa ceased, the horizon of that land became as dark and gloomy as the lives


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of the resident believers. A feeling of despair and hopelessness dominated the lives of the friends.

For a few days my duties were unclear, although I continued the task of translation, until I was summoned to 'Akka by the Master and housed in the large room of the pilgrim house. Little by little the smaller room, which was being renovated, was made ready and became my translation office. Only a few occupied the pilgrim house. Mirza Haydar-'Ali who was considered the "anchor" of the pilgrim house, arrived later. And while the number of residents did not exceed three, yet the presence of the heavenly Mishkin-Qalam and the honoured Zayn, who spent a considerable time there, created an atmosphere of emotional and spiritual enthusiasm and attraction. This was an especially joyful time for me, for I was inebriated by the wine of nearness to the Beloved of the world. While living in Haifa had meant waiting many endless days to attain the presence of the Beloved, here in 'Akka I fulfilled my heart's desire freely. Morning, noon, evening and night, whenever I desired, I attained His presence. Sometimes He would stop by my office unannounced and with His usual kind and loving gestures and utterances enrapture my heart. The volume of translation work began gradually to increase. Letters expressing loving devotion, and verses of love and longing, began to arrive in batches from America. Soon I was drowned in work. I worked from dawn to dusk. In the evenings I left the house and took long strolls towards the gate of the city. At night, along with pilgrims and residents, I attained 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence in the reception room. Unfortunately, the long walks in the verdant fields and the strolls on the beach gazing at the waves did not bring the same pleasure and joy as in the past. In fact, they were poignant. While we were in the city, the Master's imprisonment was not noticeable. But when we stepped outside the gates of 'Akka and encountered the military guards and sentries, the reality of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's confinement became clear and tangible, and thus the pleasant verdant fields actually


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brought sorrow and frustration rather than pleasure and relaxation. This was especially true on Holy Days, when at the Shrine the Tablet of Visitation had customarily been chanted by 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself Now, as He remained incarcerated, that melodious heavenly tone no longer filled the ears and hearts of His lovers, and even on happy occasions our visits to the Shrine were devoid of those feelings of joy and excitement. But within the city of 'Akka nothing had changed. Whoever attained 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence became intoxicated with the joy of reunion. In 'Akka I was considered as both resident and pilgrim. Whenever the pilgrims were summoned, if work allowed the opportunity I too accompanied them, and when the residents were summoned I dashed headlong in front of the group. In addition to all this, I sometimes invented a question on a concocted issue as an excuse to be in His presence. After all, I was one of His servants and none of the servants required permission to see the Master. Little by little I became so completely accustomed to my lifestyle in 'Akka that one would have thought I had been born in 'Akka and would eventually die there. The Covenant-breakers, shaken by the turn of events, had grown despondent over the appalling renewal of their incarceration; they kept mostly to themselves and for some time had no communication with the outside world. This had created in their midst a general state of melancholy and hopelessness. So for some time, like bats, they crept into dark corners; only at nighttime did they emerge, hastening to visit their friends so that together they could appraise the possibilities of further acts of sedition and treachery. And if by chance they encountered a loyal believer, they turned and fled. As is said: "Evil flees from those who recite the Qur'an." At last the pilgrim house took on new life: Iranian, Indian, Egyptian and 'Ishqabadi pilgrims began to come and go. Before long a number of Western believers, too, began to arrive.


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"O Breakwell, O my dear one!"

This form of address revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in honour of a young Englishman after his passing is part of the Tablet of Visitation that the French believers were instructed to recite at his graveside.{92}

This young man, who had obtained permission to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá before the renewal of His incarceration, arrived from Paris in the opening days of the imprisonment. He attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá for two days and nights and stayed at the Master's house in the midst of those dreadfully anxious times. His devotion, attraction and love were so intense that his blessed name shall endure for centuries in the annals of the Faith of God, while his wonderful life shall be retold in many accounts. I do not know the story of his conversion,{93} but it was clear that he came from a Christian background, was endowed with spiritual sensitivity and ardour, and had accepted the Faith on the basis of the verses and prophecies of the divinely revealed scriptures of former religions, rather than a sentimental attraction to the Faith's contemporary social and philosophical principles. He would usually be seen reciting the verses of the Bible in glorification of the Kingdom of God, and while his pilgrimage was not long, yet the intensity of the fire of his love and the fervour of his longing and attraction moved the friends deeply. When in the presence of the Master he seemed enthralled by the matchless beauty of the Beloved, and as he completed his pilgrimage and received permission to depart, he evinced moving signs of deep adoration and veneration. He did not have the opportunity of meeting the believers of 'Akka, and when he left 'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed him, "Remain in Paris." In accordance with the Master's instructions I accompanied him to Haifa and to the port of embarkation. In Haifa he was received in the home of one of the friends for about two hours. As he awaited the arrival of his transport, he gazed longingly out of the window towards 'Akka, fervently reciting prayers. All those present were over


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come with emotion. Weeping, he asked my permission to correspond with me from time to time so that from my replies he might inhale the fragrance of 'Akka. At last a group of the friends tearfully bade him farewell as he embarked on his return journey. His first letter contained, in addition to expressions of sincere devotion and faithfulness, the question: "The Master has instructed me to continue to reside in Paris and not to return to London. I am currently living here as a student and wish to know if I would be permitted to go to London for a day or two for a funeral ceremony if either one of my parents were to die." But then immediately he added: "No, please disregard the question. Christ in His first coming told His followers, 'Let the dead bury the dead'. So please do not bother to mention me in the Master's presence. However, while you are in attendance, remember me in your heart. This will bring me all the happiness and joy of both worlds." Still, when the time was appropriate I related the story to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master said with a smile, "Write to him that today the living have to bury the dead."

Some two weeks later another letter arrived. It was brief, yet so heart-rending that the mere reading of it touched the soul deeply. After expressions of gratitude he wrote: "Your response is clear. But I ask God for calamity; I desire undiminishing pain. I long for suffering without respite; I yearn for enduring agony and torment so that I may not for a moment neglect the mention of my Beloved." Once, as the Master strolled up and down, I mentioned the letter. 'Abdu'l-Bahá said nothing. I wrote to him and acknowledged the receipt of his letter. After two weeks, another letter arrived: "My parents are asking me to go to London. I have told them that the Master's instructions are for me to remain in Paris. But, alas, my parents are old and have not recognized this supreme revelation. I ask that I may succeed in teaching them. How unworthy and undeserving I am. How did I come to merit this most supreme blessing? Please remember me in His presence."


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I mentioned the matter. The Master responded briefly "Write that he will be assisted. They will accept the Faith." Exactly two weeks later another letter came: "My parent have come to take me back. I have taught my father. His written declaration is attached. My mother is very loving. But I long for pain and anguish so that I may become closer to God. If I were a Persian, I would have yearned for martyrdom. Please pray for me. I shall not move from Paris." I apprised 'Abdu'l-Bahá of the contents of the letter and submitted a translated version of his elderly father's declaration of faith. 'Abdu'l-Bahá remained utterly silent. After a few days, a Tablet revealed in honour of the father was handed to me by the Master; I duly dispatched it. Two weeks later I received a strangely stirring letter: "I am ill and bedridden in the hospital for consumptives. The fire of love has well nigh consumed me. I am happy. Pray that God may not deprive me of this pain." I informed 'Abdu'l-Bahá of the situation. He made no reply. The wisdom of silence was quite apparent. In short, the letters continued to arrive every two weeks, and in all of them he continued to ask that he might be the recipient of the harshest torment and pain; as his illness advanced he expressed more joy and happiness. All his letters were written on small green sheets of paper, which I collected and kept with great care. Reading these letters created deep spiritual feelings. Their deep emotional impact and the dictates of my conscience obliged me to report all the details to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Sometimes He would say, "Pass on my greetings." And at those times when He remained silent I knew that the relationship between the lover and the Beloved, the seeker and the One sought, was such as to need no intervention from any intermediary. Then came his last letter: "I am intoxicated with the wine of suffering and pain and am prepared to receive the supreme blessing. The intensity of my torment and the magnitude of my agony have brought me infinitely closer to my Beloved. I still yearn for longer life to continue to bear this pain but my


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goal is obedience to His will. Remember me in His presence." This was the content of His last letter; two weeks later no further news was received. It was clear what had happened. A few days later, as Dr. Arastu and I were accompanying the Master from the pilgrim house to His residence, the Master suddenly said, "Honoured Khan, have you heard?" I responded negatively. "Breakwell has ascended. I was heartbroken. I have written a moving Tablet of Visitation for him. I wrote it with such emotion that I wept as I wrote. You must translate it well so that he who reads it will not be able to hold back his tears." I never learned who had informed 'Abdu'l-Bahá of his death. Whether the news had reached Him in English or French or whether it had been in the form of a written note or a telegram, I never discovered, although I would have been the recipient of all such correspondence. Two days later I received the Tablet of Visitation. It was heart-rending. Several times 'Abdu'l-Bahá repeats the words: "O Breakwell, O my dear one!" My tears flowed uncontrollably. According to His instructions I translated the Tablet into two languages-French, and with the help of Mrs. Lua Getsinger into English-and dispatched them. The deeply felt impressions left by that young man lingered in the hearts for a number of years. I received no further news concerning his parents for about a year. One day I was summoned to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to receive the incoming correspondence for translation. There were numerous envelopes from various cities, and as 'Abdu'l-Bahá reviewed each sealed envelope He suddenly selected one of them and said, "What pleasant fragrance emanates from this envelope, open it quickly and see where it comes from. Hurry up." Since I had often experienced similar circumstances where a certain envelope was chosen by 'Abdu'l-Bahá ahead of all the others, and these invariably contained significant spiritual matters, I hastily opened the envelope. Inside was a postcard and a sealed envelope. The gold-coloured handwriting on the colourful postcard, which had a single violet


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attached to it, read: "He is not dead, he lives in the Abha Kingdom." And there was the added note: "This flower was picked from Breakwell's grave."

As soon as I translated these words, 'Abdu'l-Bahá suddenly leapt from His seat , seized the postcard, placed it on His blessed forehead and wept. I too was utterly overcome. I opened the second envelope. It was from Breakwell's mother or father, expressing their deeply felt gratitude: "Praised be God, my dear son left this world having recognized the true station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and tasted the sweetness of His love." I don't remember the details of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's reaction to the letter, but I do remember that the spiritual impact of the letter was no less than that of the postcard. Although I have strayed from the main topic, yet I feel the need to complete this story. Three years later, when I was in Paris in the company of Monsieur Dreyfus, he told many stories about Breakwell. "When this young man was in the hospital," he related, "all the doctors, nurses and patients were overwhelmed by the intensity of his devotion and spiritual attraction, for he invited all to the divine Kingdom. Some were perplexed and moved, but some of the patients made spiteful and taunting remarks. Armed with only a few words of English, they sneered at him, pointing their fingers at him and repeating the words, 'You are dying, you are dying! to which he responded, laughing, 'I am not dying, I am going to the Kingdom of the heavenly Father. There, I will intercede for you."' In short, at his death all the nurses wept, and thus he left an enduring memory in the hearts of those who knew him in that hospital. One day M. Dreyfus and I visited his grave, and since I did not have the text of his Tablet of Visitation with me I repeated three times, "O Breakwell, O my dear one!".

The pilgrimage of Mr. Dodge's sons

We have strayed from the main theme. Let us now return to it. The friends from the East had begun to regain the opportunity


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of coming on pilgrimage and attaining the presence of ,'Abdu'l-Bahá, albeit with extreme caution. However, there were no facilities to receive the Western friends. Despite all the caution, and because of all the mischief, adverse propaganda and political allegations which the violators of the Covenant had attributed to the Master, the government inspectors were poised to take action and the Covenant-breakers were looking for any excuse or pretext to make a move. The three houses in Haifa which had been rented by 'Abdu'l-Bahá were closed up. And the dismal fortress of 'Akka could not accommodate any visitors, nor were there any decent hotels or guest houses in that city. In addition to the residence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá there was one other house under lease to the Master, and that was the house that had been occupied by the Blessed Beauty.{94} But even that house was mostly in the possession of non-Bahá'ís, who had asked and received 'Abdu'l-Bahá's permission to occupy it temporarily. On the other hand, the American friends, who in the years of freedom had attained the presence of the Master and had tasted the sweetness of reunion, continually besought His permission on behalf of themselves and their relatives to come on pilgrimage.

It was an accepted axiom among the friends that if the degree of eagerness and longing for pilgrimage of those friends who had never seen 'Abdu'l-Bahá could be measured as equal to I, the intensity of yearning of those who had attained, whose eyes had beheld the beauty of the Beloved of the world, was 100 times greater. And so in the days following the renewal of incarceration, numerous requests for permission to visit the Holy Land continued to pour in. The first Westerners who were given permission to visit 'Akka after Mr. Breakwell were the sons of Mr. Dodge of New York.{95} Following the Master's instructions, these two young men arrived wearing the Ottoman-style hats, as was customary amongst the friends, and were housed in one of the upstairs rooms. They had received an adequate Bahá'í education from their father, who had attained the presence of


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'Abdu'l-Bahá in Haifa two years earlier during the time of freedom. The two ]ads, aged eighteen and twenty, learned more about the teachings and received lessons on Bahá'í conduct and discipline from 'Abdu'l-Bahá. They usually attained the presence of the Master at the dinner table and in general did not pose too many questions. They visited a number of the Persian friends and other pilgrims with great caution and enthusiasm, and after three days they returned to their homeland happy and content.

Madame de Canavarro and Mr. Phelps Once Mr. Dodge's sons returned home to America, they began sharing with their many visitors such glowing descriptions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's kindliness and generosity that these too became enkindled and were encouraged to seek permission to visit Him. And so before long, group after group of such individuals submitted their humble requests for a visit. But since the conditions prevailing at the time did not allow for group pilgrimage, 'Abdu'l-Bahá cautiously gave permission to only a few individuals to make the journey. The first to arrive were Madame de Canavarro and Mr. Phelps, who had been in the company of Dr. Arastu Khan on the last leg of their journey from Beirut to 'Akka. At the time of their arrival, the house which had been the residence of Bahá'u'lláh was fortunately unoccupied and available, and so the late doctor was taken to the pilgrim house and the two Western friends were housed in that residence.{96} The American Mine. De Canavarro had previously been attracted to the Buddhist Faith, had become one of its ardent teachers and had spent large sums over the years in propagation of her views. She had sacrificed much in order to attain mastery of the Buddhist philosophy, and in the process had won distinction and renown. Sister Sanghamitta, as she was known, was an accomplished and well-respected member of her Faith and had a long-standing acquaintance with Western philosophy and a deep knowledge of Indian mysticism. She had


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translated and published the book of Buddha, in both English and French, under the title The Gospel of Buddha,{97} and had now found the Bahá'í Faith through the Buddhist Faith. She seemed to be about forty-five or fifty years old, and although suffering from physical infirmity was yet spiritually radiant and joyful. Mr. Phelps, on the other hand might be considered to be Sister Sanghamitta's spiritual brother. He professed belief in Buddhism, had literary ability, had journeyed to 'Akka with his spiritual sister and was keeping a journal of his observations and experiences. As she entered, she humbly kissed 'Abdu'l-Bahá's hand. The Master treated her with the utmost consideration and tenderness as she was led to the andaruni of the Master's residence. The dinner-table discussions began next day.

This lady, unlike Mr. Breakwell and the sons of Mr. Dodge, had a multitude of questions, and as the answers came Mr. Phelps took them down rapidly. The problem, though, was that the ideas and beliefs of the sister and brother were not in harmony, and since the record of the conversation obviously had to reflect the understanding of both of them, this created undue stress on 'Abdu'l-Bahá as He had to explain matters twice. The lady asked the question, I translated it and returned the response, and Mr. Phelps swiftly recorded it. But since the enquirer and the recorder had different views, they disagreed as to the meaning of the replies, and the frequent repetition of the concepts made the task that much more arduous for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The part that pertained to Buddha and other prophets was reasonably straightforward. The difficulty arose with the concept of reincarnation. Here the recorder insisted on including his own views in the journal, or at least wished to reflect the discussion in such a light as to make the future publication and sale of the book of interest to those Europeans who believed in reincarnation. This problem remained unresolved for the duration of the inter-view. On the second or the third day of the interview, as fresh and complicated issues began to emerge, there suddenly arose


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a fracas. The reason was that a subject that is considered to be one of the principal concepts of the Bahá'í Faith had proven too complex for the lady to grasp; she required repeated explanations. Suddenly, bursting out in furious objection, she addressed me angrily in harsh and unintelligible words. She was so irate that she was unable to speak clearly At the same time, the Master kept asking, "What is she saying?"-while the lady was not giving me the opportunity to understand the cause of her distress so that I could apprise 'Abdu'l-Bahá. At last, when

the commotion subsided, what I understood from her protests, addressed directly to me was: "Why is it that you Easterners must always be the pioneers and standard-bearers in the field of religion, although you obviously do not possess any particular qualifications or accomplishments to justify that status? In turn, we Westerners must become dependent on you to share such knowledge with us secondhand. First, you obviously have no erudition to qualify you to understand such spiritual concepts. We are the ones who introduce the subject matter and share with you the guidance to understand the issue. Then we must wait for your response. If it weren't for us Westerners, how could you hope to understand such issues? The problem is, once you comprehend the subject matter, you get the answer first and then I have to receive the answer from you. Worse still, you receive the mysteries of the Kingdom and the divine realities directly from the Master without any intermediary (meaning that you drink from the fountain head) whereas we have to obtain our knowledge from you (meaning that we drink stagnant water). Why should I focus my eyes and ears on your mouth and wait for the answer to my query?" As soon as I d Baha.

understood the problem I informed 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Yea, at such times the even-tempered, serene bearing of the Master, and His loving glances of understanding and sympathy, could transform the world. With a kindly smile He spoke:


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"Tell her that the effects and influences of the mysteries of the Kingdom are spiritual, not material. Ear and tongue are material faculties. If the soul is not susceptible to receiving the divine favours, of what use are ears and tongues? These spiritual concepts are directed to your heart. I speak to you with the power of spirit and you receive these heavenly concepts with your whole being, with pure intentions and a radiant heart. The essential requirement is true, sincere and heartfelt communication. Praised be God, that spiritual connection is established. Whatever you have heard so far are the blessings of the Holy Spirit. My connection with you is direct. The tongue of the translator is only a material and physical faculty." Then He gave further examples of those believers who had accepted and devoted their lives to the message of Christ, and demonstrated that in this wondrous age, too, people deprived of the physical faculties of hearing and sight had attained the honour of faith and reunion and become beacons of guidance to other souls.

In short, the lady was satisfied, and expressed her happiness and contentment. Peace and tranquillity were established between the two of us at last. They stayed for over a month. Many significant philosophical and religious problems were resolved, some of which Mr. Phelps recorded in his journal; others the lady committed to memory. The first part of Mr. Phelps's book,{98} which described his emotions and observations, was delightful, enchanting, and tenderly and effectively presented. The later chapters dealt with the description of Bahá'u'lláh and His family's journey in exile from Tehran to Baghdad, Adrianople, Constantinople and 'Akka. This part was written quite accurately, for the lady had received that information, properly translated into English by one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's daughters, directly from the Greatest Holy Leaf, and then had passed it on to Mr. Phelps. But the chapter dealing with the concept of reincarnation and other similar issues contained a great many errors. I translated half the book from English to Persian and presented it to 'Abdu'l-Bahá for His perusal. I subsequently


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made multiple retranslations of His Comments and corrections into English or explained them verbally to Mr. Phelps. Despite all these efforts, the published book contained sections that were contrary to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements. Sister Sanghamitta understood the issues, but Mr. Phelps wrote as he wished.

Their happy stay came to an end at last, and they received permission to depart. For some time afterwards, letters from the Sister containing expressions of her heartfelt regard for 'Abdu'l-Bahá and a description of her many acts of service were received in the Holy Land.

Mr. Dreyfus and Miss Sanderson

During the last days of Sister Sanghamitta's stay, when 'Akka was a little more peaceful and tranquil, Mr. Dreyfus and then Miss [Edith] Sanderson arrived and were housed in the same residence where the two American travellers had stayed.

Mr. Dreyfus's knowledge of the Faith, considering his recent conversion to it, was remarkable. He spent his time in acquiring further knowledge and discussions of philosophical and spiritual subjects continued at the lunch or dinner table. The discussions were obviously in French and he frequently took notes.

At that time the celebrated case of Alfred Dreyfus still dominated the Western press.{99} One day the Master asked Mr. Dreyfus if he was related to the famous Alfred Dreyfus. He replied that he was not. 'Abdu'l-Bahá then replied, "That Dreyfus found renown in the world of politics. I desire for you even greater fame in service the Faith of God."

This radiant young man made his first pilgrimage in 1901 at the age of thirty-on. He had become totally enkindled and attracted, longed to be of service to the Faith, and even yearned to sacrifice his life and gain a martyr's death. 'Abdu'l-Bahá granted that request, but only within the context of the spirit of the word.

He enjoyed philosophical and intellectual discussions. His


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stay was about three weeks long, and in accordance with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions I spent a great deal of time with him. One day at the dinner table he said, "Today I inadvertently played the role of Adam and was terribly embarrassed."

Not understanding the meaning of this statement, I translated the words. The Master said, "Tell him there is no shame. Because of my great love for him I wished to behold the entirety of his physical being."

Later, I asked him [Mr. Dreyfus] about this. He said, "Don't tell anyone, but today I turned into Adam."

I asked again, and he replied, "Don't ask! I am afraid I may be driven out of paradise. You see, I always lock the bathroom door when I bathe. This time I neglected to make sure that the door was locked. When the Master knocked on the bathroom door and called my name, without thinking I asked Him to come in. He opened the door while I was naked. I was terribly embarrassed: I realized I had done what Adam did!"

Before his pilgrimage, Mr. Dreyfus had been engaged in teaching the Faith. Among others, he had spoken to an Italian lady named Di Santo Amini,{100} the author of a series of very fervent, heart-stirring prayers in Italian which Mr. Dreyfus had translated into French and which I translated into Persian. I submitted the translations to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was greatly pleased by them.

Mr. Dreyfus had no knowledge of the East at that time. Because of his intense devotion, and his eagerness to read the Writings, he learned Persian and Arabic and became a renowned orientalist. He attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on one or two other occasions as a pilgrim. He travelled to Iran and China for teaching projects. After his marriage to Miss Barney. who then became well known as Mrs. Dreyfus-Barney, they continued their teaching trips to Eastern countries.

Before her marriage, Miss Barney had been a very shy young woman, the quintessence of purity and piety. She was


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an American citizen who during her stay in the Holy Land had been in the service of the daughters of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as a teacher After her marriage to Mr. Dreyfus they returned to Paris. She, too, made ceaseless efforts to learn Persian.

The late Dr. Arastu Khan

The pilgrim house was now in a buzz: loyal and steadfast friends were appearing from every direction. The atmosphere of love and unity infused a spirit of joy and elation into the hearts of all the believers, washing away the bitter anguish of the renewal of incarceration. Signs of happiness and gaiety were evident in every face. At times the pilgrims from the West and the East openly associated with each other. The letters from the West brought many happy tidings; some of them were read aloud in the pilgrim house. At times the Master visited the pilgrims. Mirza Haydar-'Ali, the anchor of the pilgrim house, shared loving and fatherly counsel with the newcomers, helping them to orient themselves in this happy paradise. Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin was the soul of the pilgrim house, while the wonderful Mishkin-Qalam brought delight and cheer to the hearts.

It was in these times that my dear old friend Dr. Arastu Khan arrived, and became a full participant in this festival of excitement, joy and pleasure. He established an intimate association with the Western believers and also became my helper in the translation work. Before long his sweet and heavenly demeanour not only endeared him to all the believers but won 'Abdu'l-Bahá's approval and praise. We were inseparable companions for about a year, after which he received his permission to return to Iran.

Mrs. Lua Getsinger

In the many years that I spent in the service of the Master there were many attracted and heavenly souls in far-off lands who longed to attain the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. And had


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it not been for the conditions in the Most Great Prison and the difficulty of obtaining the Master's permission, the world would surely have witnessed a great movement by Westerners in demonstration of their ardent desire and loving support of the Faith of God.

However, because of the autocratic nature of the ruling government, the intrigues of the Covenant-breakers and the intense hostility of the enemies of the Faith, only those few who could adapt themselves to the conditions of the Prison City and the many challenges requiring patience and discretion, and who also had the ability to appear similar to the natives of 'Akka in dress and bearing, could receive permission to make the journey.

One of these was Mrs. Lua Getsinger, who in her intense longing to attain the Master's presence had found within herself the capacity to bear the many hardships of that environment and yet conduct herself with the wisdom and forbearance required. In the earlier years of relative freedom and tranquillity, this lady along with her husband had attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Haifa{101} and had left in the hearts and minds of the friends an ineffable memory of her intense devotion, passionate attraction and profound spiritual attachment to 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Arriving in the Prison City in a state of utter humility and supplication, she now attained the presence of the Master, and for a period of a year or perhaps somewhat longer, and dressed in simple attire typical of the Christian women of 'Akka, became a member of the Bahá'í family and served as an English teacher for the ladies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's household.

The passion of her emotional expressions and the intensity of her devotion to the Faith of God were such that her every word and deed deeply moved all those with whom she came into contact. An inextinguishable fire seemed to rage in her soul. She wished for no rest, plunging headlong into any and all forms of service to the Faith. Correspondence with friends in foreign lands, translation of sacred verses and publication of various works were among her many activities.


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Aside from these, she had begun to entertain an obsession with the thought of achieving a martyr's death. Day and night she wept, appealing incessantly to the friends to pray that she might become deserving of such a blessing. Many a time she threw herself with tearful eyes at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's feet and begged to be granted her wish. Most of her nights were spent in prayer and supplication towards that end. She beseeched and entreated 'Abdu'l-Bahá for permission to journey to Iran and, like Tahirih, raise the call of the Kingdom from the pulpits of mosques and monasteries [sic], so that she might become worthy of acceptance in the sight of God. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, however, would not approve. She obtained a number of prayers and invocations revealed by the blessed Bab, asking that one's wish or desire be granted, recited them all and performed their specified genuflections, but with no success.

When the upheavals of Yazd and Isfahan{102} were at their peak and the friends in those cities rushed headlong in their hundreds to the glorious field of sacrifice and martyrdom, the fire of Lua's love raged with such intensity at the receipt of the news that she lost all self-control and began to plead her case to each and every person she met. She continually wept and asked for prayers so that perchance she might attain the desire of her heart. Her state was so pitiful and the impression she made on her listeners so moving that the friends began to pray for her. Her pleas even convinced a few of the friends to recite the prayers she had found, so that she might succeed in giving her life for the Cause. As the poet says:

Arrow-like, I release a prayer from every side, Hoping one will find its mark and be replied.

Both the late Dr. Arastu Khan and I agreed to recite this prayer at dawntide to the number of qadir.{103}

"Say: God sufficeth all things above all things, and nothing in the heavens or in the earth but God sufficeth. Verily, He is in Himself the Knower, the Sustainer, the Omnipotent."


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We also uttered the following verse in the early morning hours:

"Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants and all abide by His bidding!" In any case, Lua's constant pleading and heart-rending lamentations moved us so profoundly that we happily consented to get up at dawn just to pray for her. But even this failed to satisfy her: several times she turned directly to Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali and myself, begging us to beseech 'Abdu'l-Bahá to grant her wish of offering her life for the Faith. We, in turn, placed the matter before 'Abdu'l-Bahá several times, but He always responded in the same way: "Tell Lua that to be slain in itself bestows neither rank nor prestige. There are many souls who, while not having experienced outward martyrdom, are considered martyrs in the path of God, and there are many who lost their lives but did not attain the reality of a martyr's rank. Martyrdom is a supremely eminent station, granted by Bahá'u'lláh to whomever He chooses. A soul may not be killed and yet can attain this station. I will pray for you to achieve this rank. The reality of martyrdom is service and you, praise the Lord, have arisen to serve. I will pray for you and will implore that you may be granted this station. Rest assured." And then He would recall the names of some of the martyrs of the Faith. But His message to her, as I delivered it, only served to fan the fire of her love and increase the intensity of her emotions; back she would send us again to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Meanwhile, this intense spiritual attraction gave to her words an unusual and powerful effect. Because of this, any time a curious or insincere foreign traveller or an aggressive or argumentative antagonist came to visit, his schedule included-on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions-a meeting with Lua; I would serve as the translator at these meetings. On such occasions the magnetic force of her faith created in the trembling frames of her listeners such an impact that they acquiesced and withdrew, contrite and tearful.


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At her own request she once confronted one of the famous Covenant-breakers of Bombay, with this servant performing the task of translation. She so utterly routed her opponent with a sudden, courageous and fearless assault that, tearful and penitent, he admitted his shame and readily acknowledged the falseness of his beliefs. I present the details of this story later on.

In brief, for nearly a year and in a state of fervent supplication and passionate devotion, Lua savoured the nearness of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and continuously contemplated sacrificing her life for the Cause, until at last the loving counsel of her Master had its desired effect, and she yielded her will to His will and gave up her own desire to His wishes. In so doing, she attained to the reality of the station of martyrdom, finally arriving at the threshold of dying in self and living in God. And in that intensely spiritual state she received her permission to depart. One of the most astonishing things that I have ever witnessed in my service to the Cause was Lua's state when she came to say goodbye. It can never fade from my memory, nor can I find adequate words to describe it. Her face was so utterly luminous and spiritual, and her bearing so transformed, that it seemed as though an angel had been incarnated in the body of a human being. I was never more deeply moved than when I witnessed her tender and kindly disposition as we said our farewells. Never before had I beheld so wonderful and heavenly a countenance; I gazed at her in utter amazement. Next day the Master asked, "Did you see Lua when she left? Did you notice her face and her demeanour?" I responded that I had, and that I had been astonished by her state of spirituality The Master replied, "It is a pity, but she won't be able to maintain that spirit. It is impossible to remain in that state. Now consider where we find these wandering souls and how we educate them! The Covenant-breakers should educate souls similarly, if they can!"


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During the first two years after her departure, Lua taught a large number of souls and attracted a great many more to the Faith. Although she was not a poet, yet because of the intensity of her emotions she composed some verses, all of which are related to the Faith. One of the poems she wrote on the boat between Haifa and Alexandria was this:

Come on this journey with me, O beloved divine, To keep from breaking this restless heart of mine.

The world I have abandoned, Thy pleasure I would gain, Life itself I would sacrifice should Thy leave I obtain.

Though alone I must travel on this long road Yet Thee beside me I long to behold.

In this world, hub of sinfulness, den of sorrow, None is there to comfort me but Thee whom I follow.

Abandon me not, my Beloved, behold my plight, How in loneliness I pass my day and my night.

Life and soul I leave behind, without Thee I depart, Thou art my goal, the thought of Thee the only fiend of my heart.

At every moment in this broken heart of mine The water of life, the source of grace, is every word of Thine.

Deprive not Thy servant of Thy Holy Threshold, Hear my cry, my entreaty to my loving Lord.

While true it is I am unworthy of Thee, I remain Thy servant, my Master Thou wilt ever be.

Behold with the glance of Thy merciful eye My sinful life and my desperate plight.


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Give ear, O my King, Thou Lord of mercy, To my pleading day and night, to my entreaty.

Thou art my refuge wherever I go, too. In my seclusion, my despair, in my loneliness.{104}

Arrival of a Covenant-breaker from Bombay, Husayn-'Ali Jahrum surnamed Fitrat

Some of the Covenant-breakers resident in distant lands considered the defiance and opposition of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant to be a superficial matter or a curable disease, and having believed his many accusations and propaganda, they entertained the futile hope of playing the role of "go between" in order to reconcile the "sides". Their correspondence inviting a peaceful reconciliation and resolution of the disputes brought much sorrow to the heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Others, hiding behind a veil of innocent naivete and claiming ignorance of the issues, put certain questions to the Master, compared the response with the assertions of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, and then still maintained their inability to understand the situation.

One of these simpletons was Jabrumi, who after receiving answers to his many questions came to 'Akka so that he might -so he said-observe the situation objectively with his own eyes and judge it with his own mind.{105}

On his arrival, and to display his impartiality, he did not stay at the residence of his colleagues, nor did he appear at the pilgrim house. He took a room at a guest house in 'Akka and then asked for permission to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master summoned the late Haji Mirza Haydar-'ali and me to His presence and instructed us to meet with him separately, acquaint him with some preliminary issues, and then report back with the results. I met him first, after which the Haji had his opportunity. The man was tall, with a husky voice, glaring eyes and a


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frightening face. He looked like someone who had just committed murder and was fleeing from justice. He spoke to me with the uneasiness and anxiety of a man running away from the law. He asked for no proof of the authority of the Centre of the Covenant and showed no special regard for the Archbreaker of the Covenant. He insisted that he simply wished to understand certain issues directly from the Master. After I had concluded, the Haji, with that natural spiritual bearing of his, met with him but without any further success. Finally, he attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. I do not know what transpired in that meeting, but as soon as Lua heard about the ongoing consultations she begged 'Abdu'l-Bahá for permission to meet with him. Since the Covenant-breakers' heyday, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had forbidden everyone to exchange so much as a single word with any of them. Even if one of them asked a question, or cursed while passing in the street, no-one was permitted to utter a single word in response. But Lua at last succeeded in obtaining permission to meet with him and 'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed me to serve as translator. The meeting took place in the biruni reception room on the second floor. Lua entered the chamber with an angry demeanour and after a few cursory words of greeting began to speak about the issues. Logic and proof had no chance, since Fitrat was in fact an official promoter and supporter of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant and not a seeker after truth. Suddenly Lua asked, "Is Mirza Muhammad-'Ali a Bahá'í or not?" Jahrumi replied, "Surely you are aware of the nature of his kinship to the Blessed Beauty and his exalted station in the Faith of God, and that all these consultations are taking place to safeguard his rank." "I am not interested in his family connections nor is it my intention to rob him of his rank. I just wish to know if he is a believer in the station of the Blessed Beauty?" Lua retorted.


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"Who is more devoted than he?" he replied.

"Then where are the fruits of his faith and devotion?" Lua enquired. "Christ said that you can recognize a tree by its fruits. So where are the fruits of his devotion? How many souls has he taught? What sort of devotion is this, that the fragrance of its breezes has not as yet been detected by any soul? I am an American woman and not sufficiently deepened in the Faith; nevertheless, since I heard the Call I have taught over fifty souls. There are thousands of women in America, better than I, the fragrance of whose love and devotion has attracted numerous souls. What has Muhammad-'Ali done except work to weaken the devotion of the friends in America? A Bahá'í must be fair. Are these the fruits of his faith? Is creating disunity among the believers the fruits of this Branch? Is this his exalted rank in the Faith of God? Does a person like that expect to receive any attention or regard from the believers? A person like that?"

In brief, she continued in this vein with such passion and power that Jahrumi was left breathless and bewildered. At last, hanging his head in shame his tall stature bent in defeat he closed his terrible eyes and asked permission to leave.

"I have to recite a prayer," Lua responded. With tearful eyes, and in a state of humility and lowliness, she chanted a short Persian prayer. Jahrumi, weeping and stumbling all over himself, departed from the room. And what a departure!

Establishment of an English class

A few days after my return to 'Akka from Haifa, Mirza Nuru'd-Din and Mirza Munir began their English education under my tutelage, as instructed by the Master. Three times a week for one hour in the morning I was thus engaged in service. But the flood of correspondence from America hardly allowed me the three hours necessary for the proper discharge of my duties. However, the original Persian versions of the Tablets revealed in response to these letters were sent to America, where the honoured 'Ali-Quli Khan performed


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the translation work. Tablets destined for Europe, however, were generally translated into French or English by this servant.

The increasing volume of translation work heightened my enthusiasm and joy-so much so that I took it upon myself to translate the poems contained in many of the incoming letters into rhymed Persian verse. All these received the Master's approval and were accordingly sent to Iran for dissemination. One day, when I was totally absorbed in my translation work, suddenly feeling a presence I raised my head and beheld the blessed figure of the Master standing in front of my desk. I stood up and bowed. "Jinab-i-Khan, I have a favour to ask you and you have no choice but to accept," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Of course, my response to such kind and loving words was more bows, broad joyful smiles, and expressions of gratitude and delight. "One hour each day, you must teach English to the children of the friends. Aqa Mirza Nuru'd-Din will teach them Persian and you must teach them English," He thus instructed. From the following day, a room in the pilgrim house was allocated for this purpose. The room was prepared, benches and desks were brought in and I began the service with which I had been honoured by the Master. There were some twenty students divided into two groups. Lessons began and before long rapid progress was achieved. The children enjoyed quite a few benefits in their training, appropriate to the prevailing conditions of austerity and hardship in the Most Great Prison. In addition to the study of Persian, English, mathematics and other lessons, they had to master a trade or vocation. Despite a rampant scarcity of all goods, each child had to have a desk. Training in shoe-making, carpentry, and tailoring were more readily available to the children and therefore most of them were already engaged as apprentices in these trades. The Master paid a great deal of attention to all facets of education of the young. Each and every one of them, regardless of age or any other consideration was educated under His


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direct and close supervision. The young men, some loyal to the Faith and some violators of the Covenant, also received the same education. And while in their childhood they had been deprived of the opportunity to study foreign languages, here they received training in Arabic, literature, calligraphy and penmanship.

The late Mishkin-Qalam taught penmanship. Even the great Zaynul-Muqarrabin had been assigned to teach Arabic and Bahá'í Writings. The sun of generosity shone on all, the showers of confirmation fell upon everyone. But in the midst of this some were loyal and had arisen to serve, while others were Covenant-breakers and sought every opportunity for sedition and mischief While I was engaged in teaching English, I noted that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's desire for the education of the children was so intense that despite the overwhelming pressures of His all important work, to our amazement He found time to attend to the most minute details of their work. In addition to His personal visits every few weeks, which included His enquiring into each pupil's progress in school and reviewing the results of their quarterly exams, He spoke to them at length every Friday about the significance of their education and training. The details of this will be covered in a later chapter. This method of education continued until my departure from 'Akka. For some time after that, Mirza Nuru'd-Din continued my classes, and thus the children of the Emigrants,{106} who served the threshold of the Centre of the Covenant in that Most Great Prison where they faced great difficulty in even earning a meagre livelihood, were not deprived of the benefits of education.

News of the upheavals of Yazd and Isfahan

The smoothly proceeding affairs of the Faith in the Holy Land, its progress around the globe, the happy news flowing in from every direction, and the busy traffic of pilgrims from East and West were all cause for rejoicing and jubilation-so


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much so that the difficulties and trials of the Most Great prison were gradually forgotten, the many plots and machinations of the Covenant-breakers to destroy the foundation of the Cause proved ineffective and futile, so that the friends were in good heart. After these few happy months, events took a sudden turn. As it is written:

A new melody was heard from his lute.

The pogroms in Isfahan and Yazd came to pass.{107} Grievous, heart-rending news of the tragedies poured in ceaselessly, filling the tender heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá with indescribable pain and sorrow. This news did not come merely from one or two sources; every day a flood of agonizing, painful letters arrived, originating from most regions of Iran, and each one was perused by the Master. In addition to these, all correspondence received by the friends (whether resident or pilgrim) containing references to the tragedies was submitted to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which increased His sorrow and anguish.

In times past, whenever the vilification and persecution of 'Abdu'l-Bahá by His enemies brought grief and anguish to the hearts of the friends, the Master had been able to console and comfort them with His tender, heartwarming words. In fact, He always expressed His longing to experience a fuller measure of adversity and pain in the path of the Cause of God, solacing the grief-stricken friends with words of hope and encouragement and infusing a spirit of joy and enthusiasm into their beings. But alas, in this horrible tragedy, this grave calamity that had befallen the Persian friends, there was no comfort. It was through prayers and supplications that the friends beseeched God for merciful relief.

In accordance with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions, Mirza Haydar-'Ali was assigned to collect, sort and collate all incoming correspondence. Both in the pilgrim house and at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's residence, the mention of the martyrs dominated every conversation. At times the weeping and


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lamentation of the denizens of the kingdom of Abha could be heard. Sometimes the ladies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's household sent us messages asking us to resort to every possible means of distracting the Master's attention away from the painful and harrowing thoughts which must have crowded His mind. But alas, alas, no one had such power; to none was granted such a privilege. Some three hundred of the purest and most faithful believers drank from the chalice of martyrdom in the most brutal and agonizing circumstances. The details of each case, as described in a hundred different letters, a hundred assorted pieces of poetry, a hundred narratives and reports, reached the eyes and cars of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Anyone who had either heard or witnessed any event apprised Him of the details. All this information was subsequently given to the Haji to edit redundant versions, exclude exaggerated or distorted descriptions, and compile the rest into a systematic and orderly account of events. Once the compilation was completed, the resulting pamphlet{108} was translated into English on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions and published in Western countries.

What was the Covenant-breakers' attitude towards these tragedies? To the same extent that news of the progress of the Faith had always rekindled the fire of their contempt and jealousy and brought disappointment and sadness to their hearts (and not unlike today's opponents of the Faith, they too denied the veracity of such news), the reports of the pogroms, on the contrary, now brought them much happiness and encouragement. They publicized the events among the non-Bahá'í populace and the enemies of the Faith, making general statements to this effect: " "Abbas Effendi's followers in Iran are so commonly despised and rejected by their own countrymen that they are being massacred with impunity in their hundreds." Thus they used these reports as the basis of their negative propaganda, to renew feelings of hatred and disgust towards the Faith in the rank and file of the opponents of the Cause.

For the faithful believers, the bitterness of the circumstances had reached such dimensions that the scorn and


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condemnation of the non-Bahá'ís seemed more offensive and painful than the news of the tragedies themselves. In brief, this was one of the most difficult and agonizing periods in the lives of the resident friends. Even after the upheaval had eased somewhat, 'Abdu'l-Bahá continued to grieve. While before the renewal of His incarceration in 'Akka, and during His days of freedom in Haifa, He had found solitude for prayers in the open spaces at early dawn, or when in 'Akka had freely visited the Most Holy Shrine-now, in these days of confinement and captivity when these activities were no longer possible, 'Abdu'l-Bahá found undisturbed seclusion for prayer and meditation in a small room built entirely of wood above the biruni reception area of His residence, facing the Most Holy Shrine. In the early morning hours-nay, from midnight till dawn -He spent His time in prayer and supplication. Yes, in those days the Covenant-breakers rejoiced. Now we have to see what they are doing today and what they will do tomorrow.

The realization of one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's predictions: Mirza Badi'u'llah's story concluded

Any faithful believer who surveys the eventful history of the Cause, from the inception of which some 91 years have passed,{109} knows of a certainty that each and every prediction and prophecy made by 'Abdu'l-Bahá has been entirely realized; not a single one has failed to find fulfilment. One can, then, view the future of the Faith in the mirror of its past and compare the present time with what will emerge in the future.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's promises to the friends of the triumph of the Faith, and His vision of ignominy and dishonour which He foresaw afflicting the Covenant-breakers, were revealed at a time when they were the ones who outwardly enjoyed the upper hand of power and influence both in `'Akka and outside it.

Many times I heard the Master say, "When I was giving


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advice to Majdu'd-Din and gently admonishing him: 'Do not do these things, or you will regret your actions,' I spoke with such intensity that my tears spontaneously began to flow. Suddenly I noticed that Majdu'd-Din was laughing and thinking to himself, 'I have defeated Him completely' I shouted at him, 'You miserable man, I am weeping for you. Did you think that these are tears of weakness?"'

On another occasion the Master had warned the late Mirza Diya'u'llah: "You wrote the Covenant-breaker materials and sent them out. Tell Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that it won't be long before you reproach yourself: 'I wish my fingers had been broken so that I might never have used my pen against the Faith."'

It was possible to envision the realization of all these prophecies of the Master. However, His statements to some of the pilgrims regarding the misery and abasement which was to befall Mirza Badi'u'llah were beyond my capacity to grasp. I was therefore left with no choice but to resort to interpretation of His utterances. For four years from that moment, I kept a searching eye in all directions to perhaps discover the fulfilment of that prophecy of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. And what a discovery! The memory of that event can never fade.

As mentioned earlier, my days were usually heavy with work; I was kept continuously busy. So each evening our relaxation and recreation consisted of taking long walks outside the gate of 'Akka. In these promenades I was often accompanied by Mirza N6ru'd-Din and Mirza Munir, who made use of this opportunity to practise their English. After an hour, we usually returned to the biruni reception area and attained the presence of the Master along with the pilgrims and residents.

However, going for walks outside the city gate had, as of late, become extremely unpleasant and difficult, for going and coming between the open, fragrant fields necessitated crossing an unpleasant area, a veritable purgatory. just outside the gate of 'Akka, adjacent to the sentries' barracks and next to two coffee shops, there existed a dilapidated, shabby


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area covered with large piles of garbage and assorted heaps of refuse and trash. After a heavy rain and then under the sun's strong rays these heaps of waste generated such a stench as to sicken and disgust the passer-by-not unlike the foul odour of the writings of the Covenant-breakers. The problem was made even worse when showers of rain produced rivers of muck and slime, which ran in all directions on the public paths; once evaporated by the hot sun these made crossing that purgatory so difficult that one had to hold one's breath and run to safety. Because of this, we sometimes abandoned altogether the idea of taking walks in the countryside or on the beach-but still, at other times when the need for relaxation was too strong to resist, we prepared ourselves to endure the agony of that purgatory in order to reach the open fields.

One day, as my two companions and I were passing the purgatory in a state of utter misery and nausea, I protested angrily to my colleagues: "The people of this town and especially of this area are a pathetic and irresponsible bunch. If the town does not have a municipal administration, why don't the tenants of these coffee houses collect a few beshliks, dump this garbage into the sea and salvage the area? So much apathy and indifference is unbelievable."

My colleagues broke into laughter and explained that these were, in fact, not piles of garbage but an accumulation of wealth. They further informed me that this was actually the working capital of a business enterprise, a source of income. I thought they were jesting, so I jokingly added: "Yes, it must be a source of income for the Arabs."

They replied that in fact the business venture belonged to none other than Mirza Badi'u'llah. Still suspecting a ploy, I asked, "What does this have to do with Mirza Badi'u'llah?"

They explained that he and a few others had established a company transporting fertilizer from the Huron desert to this location and from here via freight vessels to Marseilles, France, earning a handsome profit. And that recently a dispute had caused a break-up of the partnership and the matter


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had been referred to the courts for resolution. In the meantime the fertilizer had been confiscated pending the decree of the court.

"God be praised, the Bahá'ís of this town buy wheat and barley from the Huron desert for export to Marseilles," I commented. "Why is it that Mirza Badi'u'llah has decided to export the very waste and refuse of that wheat and barley, especially in circumstances when the company itself is under investigation?"

Of course, the reason was obvious. This was so that the Master's words might be realized. Four years before, He had foreseen the circumstances and had predicted, "Soon you will see that Mirza Badi'u'llah will be content to haul manure between AWL and Bahji, and even that will not be possible for him."

The return of Mirza Badi'u'llah to the fold

For some time a whispering of a possible return of Mirza Badi'u'llah to the fold of the faithful had been heard. This information was received by some with scepticism and by others with a sense of welcome and relief, and while the former group expressed concern the latter was elated.

The concern and apprehension were felt by those believers who suspected a ploy and feared a fresh mischief or plot, whereas the joy and satisfaction were expressed by the evil ones and their followers, always on the look-out for those sly and crafty Covenant-breakers who could penetrate the circle of the faithful and make an attempt to regain some degree of credibility for that outcast group.

Outwardly, this would not be without its benefits, since Badi'u'llah had been a spendthrift who had liberally used up his wealth on utilizing all available means to oppose the Covenant, and had since tried his hand at various occupations to earn a living but without any apparent success. Trade had failed too, and so had farming. And as he had lost all he had, and had been denied the helping hand of the Covenant-Breakers,


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he must have said to himself. where else can I turn for help except the threshold of the Centre of the Covenant? As the poet says:

If thou art in need, raise up thy hand to thy Lord, For he is the Beneficent, the Merciful, the Forgiving and the Loving.

In brief, the news received a variety of interpretations. Those who were intimately acquainted with various religious scriptures likened it to the Bible story of the prodigal son who, having squandered all his inheritance on worldly pleasures and sunk to the depths of misery and poverty, eventually returns to the service of his father where his entreaty is accepted and he receives a warm welcome to the fold.

For a time such conversations and interpretations persisted, until at last the truth of the matter emerged. Mirza Badi'u'llah had accepted to repent, and had therefore produced a document which categorically declared his break from his wicked collaborators and his determination to rejoin the circle of his sincere well-wishers. Through the intercession of some of the friends his declaration was accepted at the sanctified threshold of the Centre of the Covenant. It was thus decided that on a certain day he would present himself at a gathering held in the biruni reception room of the House of Abdu'l-Bahá to read his letter of repentance, and there in the presence of all the friends demonstrate his remorse and contrition.

This was in fact an unforgettable historical occasion for those who witnessed it, and a manifest loss for those who did not. Since the belief of the Covenant-breakers rested on the theory of the three-pronged alliance, the usurpation of the Caliphate and the ousting of Imam 'Ali, the letter of repentance had therefore been constructed in the format of an oath of fealty. The Centre of the Covenant, who was informed of the past, present and future, accepted that document as the ultimate confession and repentance of His unfaithful brother. As the learned poet [Rumi] says:


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Whatever jealousies and intrigues may be hidden Are clear as the light of day in the sight of God.

In the afternoon of that fateful day [4 February 1903] and in the presence of all of the friends gathered in the biruni reception hall of the house, Mirza Badi'u'llah entered, and according to the prevailing custom demonstrated his sentiments of humble devotion and servitude to the Master. He read the letter of repentance and then fell at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's feet and begged forgiveness. 'Abdu'l-Bahá accepted him and showered him with loving-kindness.

The quality of the presentation of the document and the nature of its contents spoke volumes of the skill with which it had been prepared. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was charged as the main culprit and held responsible for all and wicked conduct, while he [Badi'u'llah the wrongdoing had quite inadvertently become an innocent participant. All the major issues, including the details of the rebellion and opposition, even the deceptions, pilfering and interpolation of the divine verses and the dissemination of accusatory publications were described in detail and properly supported by documentation.

Once the formalities of penitence were happily concluded, there began the process of welcoming his return to the Faith, which included much hugging and kissing and endless chatter and laughter. In the middle of all this, those present had a variety of reactions and impressions of the true nature of what had just transpired. Suddenly I noticed that one of the resident friends, out of pure excitement and joy, was kneeling before Mirza Badi'u'llah and kissing his feet. Looking around with pride and self-satisfaction, Badi'u'llah could obviously visualize the Bahá'í world humbled at his feet.

This repulsive act saddened me much, and I began to understand the intentions and desires of some of those in attendance. From that day I began to impress upon the friends our duty to pay close attention to the utterances of the Master, and to place each word before us as a guiding light,


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in order to remain alert to the ever-continuing machinations of the Covenant-breakers.

As to Mirza Badi'u'llah, he immediately gained all the comforts of life. Everything he needed for an easy and comfortable lifestyle was provided for him. On 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions a splendid house in the small city of `'Akka was obtained for him. All expenses and various means of comfort for himself and his family were provided; he was welcomed into the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and began to accompany Him in all His outings.

Mirza Badi'u'llah's letter of repentance, which was in the form of a declaration, was copied and despatched to Iran. Translations of the document were sent to all the friends in America and Europe. The friends in residence, however, were ambivalent about Badi'u'llah's return. Some viewed it favourably, but others were suspicious of his true intent. Because of this (and having detected certain intimations in Abdu'l-Bahá's words) they began to observe his every act, to examine his true intentions and bring the reality of the situation to light. In fact, this was quite necessary, for the purpose of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words was to alert the friends and prepare them for all possible future developments.

Through Mirza Badi'u'llah's confessions as contained in his signed and sealed testimonial, the past misdeeds of the Covenant-breakers had been brought to light. Now it was time for their future aspirations and plans to be brought to the attention of the friends, so that they might become cognizant of the nature of the forthcoming events. From the day when the news of Mirza Badi'u'llah's repentance and return was announced, no further speculation as to the plans and strategies of the Covenant-breakers was necessary for a past member of that group was now present among the friends, and moreover the details of their activities had been made public under his signature and seal. Now, regarding the future of the Faith, 'Abdu'l-Bahá suddenly began to continually emphasize the need for the Universal House of justice and the significance of its establishment. In clearly defined statements,


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He made us understand that the friends should not assume that after the setting of the Sun of the Covenant, the Cause of God would fall into the hands of the wicked and the corrupt. He emphasized this point repeatedly; one night He instructed us thus: "Write down My words, and communicate them to all parts of the world. Commit them to memory and mention them to anyone with whom you come into contact, so that no doubt may remain that after Me the Faith will be in the hands of the Universal House of Justice."

Since He had instructed that we should record His words, that night in the pilgrim house everyone wrote down whatever they could remember of His utterances. My notes are as follows:

The night of Monday, the 16th day of Jamadi'u'llah, A. H. 1319 [31 August 1903] we were in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá He made certain remarks regarding the Universal House of justice, which in accordance with His instructions are recorded as follows:

He stated: "Nothing causes me more unhappiness than disunity, and this can only be remedied by obedience to the command of the Universal House of justice. Even before the establishment of the House of Justice, the friends must be obedient to the existing Spiritual Assemblies even if they know of a certainty that their judgement is flawed. If this were not complied with, the mighty citadel of the Faith of God would not be safeguarded. All must obey the Universal House of justice. Obedience to it is obedience to the Cause. Opposition to it is opposition to the Blessed Beauty. Denial of it is denial of God, the True One. Renouncing any word of the House of Justice is like unto the renunciation of a word from the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Observe, how important this matter is! The Blessed Beauty has ordained the House of justice as the law-maker. If the votes of the members are not unanimous and there are differences of views, then the vote of the majority is the vote of the Blessed Beauty."

He then added: "Take this very moment. Should the Universal House of justice be operating, by the one True God,


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beside Whom there is no God, I would have been the first to obey its decree, even if it should be against me. It is true that that Body does not possess inherent infallibility, but it is under the shadow of the protection and shelter of the Blessed Beauty.{110} Its command is the Blessed Command. Discuss this matter amongst yourselves, so that it may not be forgotten. Speak of it to one another; even, make a written note of it."

Of course, what is written here does not reflect the exact words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. However, it does not contain any superfluous words. This sheet of paper has been kept in the files of this servant all these years.

What I do remember about the Spiritual Assembly of Tehran is that in those days the election process did not take place by the vote of the community at large. The Hands of the Cause of God, along with a few others, formed the Assembly and two or three of them stayed in Tehran at all times.

It was clear from the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá that hidden in Mirza Badi'u'llah's testimonial were many devilish designs. All the friends understood the situation, but yet in accordance with the verse of the Kitab-i-'Ahd which states: "It is incumbent upon everyone to show courtesy to, and have regard for the Aghsan, that thereby the Cause of God may be glorified,{111} they adopted a respectful attitude towards Mirza Badi'u'llah, who had now returned to the fold.

But he was not content with mere respect; he expected to receive reverence and prostration. He even entertained the thought that the friends should kiss his hands and even his feet, and this expectation disgusted the friends. In those days, the Master used to emphasize, "The friends who come to me should not bow before me; the use of the greeting 'Allah'u'Abha' will suffice. This will bring me happiness."

'Abdu'l-Bahá used to talk mostly (in those days) about the importance of the House of justice. One night, when He spoke on this subject again He said, "If the House of justice had been operating in this day and pronounced my death sentence, all would have to obey."

The late Muhammad Riday-i-Qannad was disturbed at


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this statement by the Master, and he asked, "Is the House of Justice of God, or is it not?"

"Of course it is," replied the Master.

"How then is it possible for that which is of God to condemn He Who is of God?" asked he.

"My object", 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "is that you may know that on that day the House of justice is the true one of God, for the Blessed Beauty has ordained it to be the law-maker."

In short , these words shattered the hopes of Mirza Badi'u'llah, frustrated his greed, and thwarted his ambitions for the future.

Conduct, manners and attitude of Mirza Badi'u'llah

Those friends who had not met Mirza Badi'u'llah imagined that because of his connection to the "Blessed and Sacred Tree" he would be endowed with heavenly talents and faculties, physical and spiritual gifts, and qualities of moral rectitude and spiritual discernment, for he had been raised and educated in the Cause of God. One would have thought him to be articulate and possessed of the power of eloquent speech. There was also much hope that once he was reconfirmed in the Covenant and had atoned for his past mistakes, he would in accordance with the command of the Exalted Pen "subdue the citadels of men's hearts with the swords of wisdom and of utterance"{112}-attract the world of humanity to the great ocean of divine wisdom.

But alas, this was not the case. Contrary to all expectations, he was utterly devoid of any knowledge of the Faith, and since he also lacked eloquence, he usually sat quietly at gatherings, and when he did participate in a conversation his choice of words were often indicative of his lack of understanding, which made his silence befitting and agreeable. As the poet has said:

To sit mute, quiet and silent in a corner Is better than to speak with a tongue devoid of wisdom.


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Once he desired to study the English language, and the late Mrs. Lua Getsinger happily accepted this service in the hope that from him she would be able to gain knowledge of the Writings as Well as heavenly attributes. After a few days of teaching, during which she also asked multitudes of questions in the hope of acquiring spiritual qualities, she realized that this was not the gushing fountain that she had imagined, but a bare illusion, an empty mirage incapable of quenching her thirst. And so she delicately and amiably suggested to him, "It is better that you do not learn English or study any foreign languages, so that your self-respect, and the dignity and reputation of the Faith, may not be tarnished. When crowds of Western pilgrims arrive at this spot in future, many of them may ask you questions to obtain first-hand knowledge of the Faith. Your inability to speak English would conceal your ineptitude and ignorance." (As the poet has said: So long as a man has not spoken, His virtue, or lack of it, remains hidden.) "It would be better for you to converse with the Western friends through an interpreter, so that with his help your reputation may remain unblemished." In short, while Mirza Badi'u'llah lacked any quality which could attract the hearts, he nevertheless always expected to be praised and adored by the believers. And at times, when he observed how the friends of God, like moths, lovingly circled around that radiant and heavenly Candle of love and with what joyful spirits they demonstrated their readiness to sacrifice their lives in His path, he was consumed with the fires of jealousy and contempt. In accordance with the verse, 'Jealousy consumeth the body and anger doth burn the liver,"{113} his jealousy and anger gradually broke down his health, weakened his body and filled his spirit with despair. Brokenhearted and depressed, he found comfort in seclusion.

Mirza Badi'u'llah breaks his vows of repentance When Mirza Badi'u'llah's letter of repentance was published, the Covenant-breakers became silent and dejected for some


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time. But after a few months, the flock of the birds of nigh began to flutter about again. Covenant-breaker writings began to reappear, their stench filling the nostrils of friend and stranger alike. Every week, reports from Iran reflected the sadness and distress of the friends over such disturbing activities. The Covenant-breakers publicized a variety of bizarre and far-fetched interpretations and explanations of the now famous letter of repentance, attributing to Mirza Badi'u'llah certain allegations. As I was told by Aqa Muhammad Riday-Qannad. a man of faith and honour, the Master-may our spirits be a sacrifice for Him-often urged Mirza Badi'u'llah "Why don't you deny these charges?" But he, citing a variety of excuses, refused to respond to them. While I was not told anything directly by the Master on this issue, it was rumoured that Mirza Badi'u'llah had begun to misbehave and demonstrate symptoms of discontent and unhappiness; that he had adopted a victimized attitude and so had secluded himself in his home refusing to go out, as a sign of his displeasure, even refusing to attend the presence of the Master. I know this much: that for a few months he was in deep seclusion and would not under any circumstances enter the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master, however, visited and comforted him, attended to his needs and avoided any mention of him in conversation with others. At times He even sent some of the pilgrims who had been previously acquainted with Mirza Badi'u'llah to visit him, offer solace and comfort, and enquire after his well-being. He also used to send departing pilgrims to visit him and say farewell to him. Badi'u'llah stayed in seclusion for three or four months. Having thus completed his secret agreement with his old collaborators, he suddenly, openly, and officially broke again from the ranks of the faithful and returned to the bosom of the violators of the Covenant, leaving the signed and sealed testimonial of his repentance behind as a memento for posterity


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Rapid progress of the Faith in East and West and the sending of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant's ,gent to America

The period between the years 1901 and 1903 constituted the height of the activities of the Covenant-breakers and enemies of the Faith, and the peak of the dissemination of their publications. In the closing stages of the upheavals in Yazd and Isfahan, the progress of the Faith gained such momentum as to astonish both friend and foe. The Persian divines, who had expressed contentment at the passing of the Blessed Beauty, considering the Faith to have run its course, were expressing disquiet and concern, realizing that they were utterly incapable of resisting that onrushing flood. The upheaval of Yazd had inflamed the emotions of the friends and had increased the intensity of their faith and the audacity of their endeavours-so much so that their boundless labours generated an awakening amongst the general population, whether ignorant or heedless. This brought about a spirit of enquiry which led to major successes in the teaching work, as the effort to raise the call among the masses reached its zenith in all parts of the country. The receipt of this news in 'Akka breathed a spirit of joy and tranquillity into the hearts of the faithful. Mirza Badi'u'llah's letter of repentance had one benefit. Once it was published, it brought awareness of the Covenant-breakers' secrets to those friends who lived in the far-off reaches of the globe. However, his craftiness in reentering the circle of the faithful and his subsequent dastardly return to his old ways were the cause of great sadness to the friends; everyone had discovered the nature of the greed and desire which dominated his life. But at the last, his opposition and dissent was a blessing; it heartened and elated the friends to see the removal of such an obstacle from the path of the advancing flood of the Cause of God, and the resumption of its normal progress. The news of these events roused the Western friends to


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action. The progress of the Faith became more rapid, and many eminent, sanctified souls in America and Europe entered the Faith. Whereas previously the letters from the new believers contained only their declarations of belief and expressions of regard and devotion, now the friends published articles and books of proof. The late 'Abu'l-Fadl, known as the Eastern philosopher, taught the scholars, the savants and the doctors. Teachers, both men and women, became everywhere engaged in service to the Faith; newspapers and magazines arrived in batches from America, and translations of relevant portions were forwarded to Iran on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions. In every land the call of the Kingdom was powerfully raised, and was followed by a tremendous awakening and response. In India all the friends were involved in service to the Faith; in 'Ishqabad the first Bahá'í temple or Mashriqu'l-Adhkar had been built, and in Russia the call of the Cause of God had been heard by all.

During all this, the pen of the Centre of the Covenant knew no rest. According to His own words: "This pen must create the most beautiful pearls in every ocean and flood each river with clear, sweet and rejuvenating water."{114} In short, the Bahá'í world was filled with enthusiasm and joy reflecting the essence of the Master's words: "To the firm in the Covenant [these utterances] are but shining rays of light, and to those who have wavered and are wandering in the paths of delusion, flames of burning fire."{115}

The three-pronged alliance of the Covenant-breakers was utterly defeated; the evil ones were gradually crushed and discarded; and the realization of the Master's words, "They fell into disgrace" came to pass as the followers of the Centre of Sedition{116} began to cry out: Woe betide us! Woe betide us! Some of them began to entertain thoughts of repentance and return to the fold, while others remonstrated with their chief in these words: "How long must we wait for you to fulfil your deceitful pledges and empty promises? The hope of their realization has left us wandering, aimless and miserable. Every day you promised that this week we should receive


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news of victory, that this month the banner of triumph would be raised, that next year the rule of the Caliphate would gain ascendancy. But we near the end of our lives, as well as of our endurance and patience. The cup of forbearance is overflowing. How long are we to wait? In Tehran the Old Hyena has died in utter poverty; in Azerbaijan the exalted Khalil{117} has experienced a miserable end; the uprising of Mirza Aqa Jan has produced no lasting effect; no further news was received from India; and whatever happened in Egypt? In America, Khayru'llah has not succeeded, for Anton Haddad rose in defence of the Cause. Abu'l-Fadl was a veritable success and we, lost and dejected, still await the realization of your promises."

In short, after much debate and consultation, they decided to send two experienced men to America in the hope that these grandsons of Bahá'u'lláh would be able to penetrate the circle of the friends, spread seeds of discord, create a major obstacle to the onrushing flow of the Faith of God, muddy up this clear and pristine water, and according to their plans, begin to "bring in the fish". These two were Mirza Shu'a'u'llah, the son of the Centre of Sedition, and-so we heard-Ghulamu'llah, the son of Muhammad Javad-i-Qazvini. These two departed-but nothing was ever heard or seen of them again.

Burdens, sorrows and labours of 'Abdu'l-Bahá

The upheavals of Isfahan and Yazd at last came to an end, yet the harrowing burdens and sorrows which assailed the Centre of the Covenant did not ease.

In all the cities of Iran the friends of God were encountering a variety of cruelties and injustices; each believer sought relief from his pain and anguish at the threshold of his loving Master. No day passed without letters bursting with the heart-rending sighs and groans of the Persian friends reaching Him, and no night saw the first light of dawn yet failed to find 'Abdu'l-Bahá in that small wooden


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cabin on the upper floor, engaged in supplication, or to hear His lamentations.

The return of Mirza Badi'u'llah to the fold did not in fact lessen the weight of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's burdens; rather, it increased His anxiety. The subsequent breaking of his pledge simply broke His heart, a heart already overflowing with sorrow. All this took its toll on His health, weakening His body with every passing day. And all the while the pressures and stresses of His manifold occupations continued to mount.

The reaction to the injustices and cruelties in Iran generated a new awakening among friends and strangers alike, and expanded the frontiers of the Faith of God. It created new occupations; it brought about new challenges which defied solution-and it was the Interpreter of the Book, the Centre of the Covenant, the Solver of all problems, who had to prescribe the remedy for all the ills. From Iran and around the world, scientific questions, spiritual queries and abstruse religious problems poured in, and comprehensive answers were given to each one. Many of these were in His own hand; some were dictated to Nuru'd-Din-i-Zayn a number of others to Mirza Munir, the son of the late Mirza Muhammad-Quli, and still others to a few other friends who were blessed with this privilege.

Mirza Munir-i-Zayn and this servant were the last to attain the honour of this service. The increased number of secretaries, however, did not lessen the problem, since 'Abdu'l-Bahá had to dictate the contents, then review and correct the draft, and then again read and correct the revised version.

It was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's habit to find relief from one tiring occupation by engaging Himself in another. For example, whenever He grew tired of writing, He would turn to the dictation of Tablets, and when He grew weary of this, He would summon the pilgrims and impart to them words of counsel and admonition. Once He felt tired out by writing, dictation or speaking, He would take long walks in the narrow winding streets of the Most Great Prison, and if in the process He


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encountered a believer or a non-believer, friend or foe, He would stop and spend a few minutes talking to him of matters of interest to that person. Thus, as He simply strolled down the streets of 'Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá actually performed the important task of attending to a great many side issues.

If He felt any weariness, He visited the sick and the poor. The sick received His prayers and blessings, and the needy the contents of His moneybag. As soon as the famous moneybag emerged from His pocket, the whole household would circle around that heavenly Personage like moths. The older ones received majidis and beshliks and the younger ones a few metliks.

As soon as the moneybag was empty He would return home. If there was any daylight left, He would summon Mirza Nuru'd-Din and pick up where He had left off. If it was early evening, and the chanter of the Qur'an was already in the biruni reception area, He would listen to the chant and permit some of the friends and certain others to attain His presence at the same time. If it were late at night, He would visit those pilgrims and residents who were gathered in the biruni area waiting for Him to come, and bestow upon them the expressions of His loving-kindness. He would then ask someone to chant a prayer, and afterwards he would retire to the andaruni where He busied Himself with managing the affairs of the house and attending to the education of each member of the blessed household.

After a short rest, He would be up before the first light of dawn and engaged in prayer and the revelation of divine verses until sunrise, when He would begin His busy day. Thus the only temporary respite and comfort for 'Abdu'l-Bahá was the time He spent at the dinner table-and even that time was taken up by the many questions of the Western friends. These required a variety of answers ranging from philosophical explanations to logical proofs, from abstract and traditional references to theological topics. Mr. Phelps's book, Some Answered Questions, and many others were revealed at the dinner table.


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Happy is the one who reads these books and marvels at the way the days and nights of 'Abdu'l-Bahá were spent.

Hardship fills my days and anguish my nights O, what days and nights do I pass without you!

The effect of difficulties and sorrows on 'Abdu'l-Bahá

Although the sorrow and pain which afflicted the body of that heavenly Personage caused a degree of anxiety and distress, yet the sanctified manifestations of the Divine Being, like the luminous heavenly sun, always dominate circumstances and influence the lives of all earthly creatures while remaining unaffected themselves by the upheavals and convulsions of the material world. They affect and remain unaffected; they generate change but remain unchanged. Therefore, while seemingly in the grasp of the fire of Nimrod and assailed by the hatred of His enemies, the reality of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's being remained cheerful and happy; at the emergence of adversity and tribulation, He even desired more. This is attested by the fact that all the most captivating verses and exhilarating Tablets, those which revive and rejuvenate melancholy souls, were revealed at such times. Whenever the lamentation of that dearly Beloved could be heard, it was due to His tender feelings for the weak and the helpless. As He once had told Mirza Majdu'd-Din: "You misguided man, My tears are for you, not that you have rendered me weak and powerless." He frequently sent messages to the Centre of Sedition, informing him: "Neither are you that 'Umar who can raise aloft the banner of this great Faith, nor am I that Ali who because of your disloyalty would weep in the palm groves."{118}

I could give many examples to show that the pain and sorrow that afflicted 'Abdu'l-Bahá, while weakening His body, had no effect on His heavenly powers; and that it was precisely at such times that the emanations of His pen infused a


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fresh spirit in the hearts of the devoted souls. Each Tablet or prayer revealed in this time of sorrow brought great happiness to the hearts of the friends; while His utterances generated feelings of hope and joy in His audience.

If we review the Tablets revealed in the honour of certain souls during that period, and consider the nature of the prevailing circumstances, then 'Abdu'l-Bahá's mental and spiritual state as He revealed these Tablets becomes clear. For example, during the rebellion of Mirza Aqa Jan, when "the wine of calamity overflowed", His words awakened the soul and raised one's spirit to the loftiest paradise. And during the upheavals of Isfahan and Yazd, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá's eyes were always tearful, every word that left His pen or His lips bestowed a spirit of hope and inspiration. And if faithful servants beseeched 'Abdu'l-Bahá for relief from the calamities, and a renewal of calm and tranquillity, He would with a gesture and a word create such feelings in the hearts that one found oneself afire with the desire for more calamity and a longing for more adversity. For instance, during the period of the tragedies I made several pleas in a state of humility and lowliness for some degree of relief from the intensity of the horrors. Despite receiving convincing answers, I continued to persist. One day, while I was accompanying 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the unfrequented alleyways of 'Akka, I took advantage of the opportunity to entreat Him further. Expressing my deep sorrow, I made several remarks in the hope that He might at last be persuaded to intercede, or that He might seek from the depths of His own heart an end to this cup of tribulation.

No matter what I said, His response was clear and convincing-yet although convinced, I could find no peace. And so, employing the most persuasive and heart-rending language that I could muster, and with tears of grief and pain streaming down, I cast at His feet my case. I felt certain that my words of supplication had been effective, that the arrow Of my prayerful entreaty had finally struck its target. But now hear what I was told. Turning His blessed face towards mine,


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and with a smile that melted the heart, He explained, "Jinab-i-Khan, this is what is intended. If it were not for this, the friends would lose their fire and the Cause of God would cease to progress. Now what do you want me to do? Do you want me to pray that the cup of calamity may not overflow? And then He uttered words which filled my heart with sue happiness and contentment that I longed to be in Yazd so that I could take a single gulp from that elixir of sacrifice. On returning to the pilgrim house I told Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali what had happened and reiterated my concern over the terrible effect of the news of tragedies on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's well-being. He promised to follow up another time, and with more eloquent and effective words, so that perchance 'Abdu'l-Bahá's will might incline towards a mitigation of the intensity of the tragedies. One day, when a tremendous storm had brought heavy rain, he was summoned to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to accompany Him in a walk through the streets of 'Akka. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the Haji opened the subject and humbly communicated, in some detail, his appeal to the Master. 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "Jinab-i-Mirza, have you noticed the intensity of the rain?" "Yes, Beloved, I have," replied Mirza. "Have you seen how much water flooded the area? Now, even with all this water, if you dig into the ground to the depth of one finger-joint, you will find it dry. We are the same way; these storms of tribulations have no effect on the reality of our existence." Mirza became convinced and did not bring up the issue again. And indeed, while all such calamities and tragedies had no effect on the reality of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's being, whenever He observed any trace of sorrow or distress in the friends He spoke about happy things and told delightfully humorous stories changing their mood. The spiritual humour of that sanctified and heavenly Being demonstrates those sentiments expressed by Bahá'u'lláh in His Tablet which opens with humour and ends in such a way as to fill the heart with delight


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and joy.{119} The following story is an example, which I offer as a memento to my dear readers.

A story

once, when the stones of allegations and calumnies were ceaselessly raining down from the war engines of the enemies, when acts of sedition and treachery were at their peak, a particularly painful spear of accusation struck the heart of that quintessence of gentleness. Its nature was unknown to me. His distress and sorrow were so intense that for some days He hardly visited the biruni reception room at all to meet the many pilgrims. The more intimate of the resident believers were aware of the facts of the problem, but did not disclose them to anyone, for the incident was disturbing and disruptive. While I had received no intimation from anyone about it, yet sensing the significance of the issue I did not permit myself to make any enquiries. In short, the friends were upset and subdued; it was as though they were in mourning. On the surface, it brought back memories of the time of Mirza Aqa Jan's rebellion when 'Abdu'l-Bahá had been entirely absorbed in dealing with endless problems. Then, the friends had been deprived of the heavenly pleasure of His presence, until He received this servant's few verses of poetry, which again inclined His attention towards the believers. This situation continued for a few days. One night the Master was present in the biruni reception room as the friends, somewhat subdued, waited longingly for Him to break the dark shadow of silence with the heavenly melody of His utterance. Aqa Riday-i-Qannad, one of the old and experienced believers who had been one of the original prisoners and emigrants, knew the source of the problem. No longer able to bear the pain, he suddenly broke the wall of silence. Tearing down the veil of meditation and reflection, he spoke out boldly: "Beloved, we cannot endure this any longer.


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Patience and forbearance are fine. But till when? Why is it the ocean of divine wrath has not surged? Why is it that the avenging sword of God has not left its scabbard? Why does Master show so much forbearance? Why is this happening?

He continued in this vein until his inner fire blazed fiercely that his tears began to flow uncontrollably, so easing the intensity of his emotions. The Master, who had serene and attentively listened to this emotional plea, broke His silence at last and with a heartwarming smile said , "Yes, in the path of the Blessed Beauty one must drink heartily from the overflowing cup of difficulties and afflictions in order to experience its consummate intoxicating effect. One type adversity only does not have the same effect; it does no bestow that inebriating pleasure. Wines of diverse flavour must be consumed in this divine banquet, until one is utterly intoxicated." He uttered these words with such joy and ardour that every atom of our beings soared with a sense of ecstasy and rapture. Then He added, "But you have never attended drinking party. To get completely drunk and ultimately lose all sense of himself, a drinker mixes his drinks. For instance, in one round they drink wine; in the following round they drink araq; this is then followed by a round of cognac, then by rounds of rum, whisky and champagne until they drink themselves into a stupor. We, too, must drink various tastes from the cup of tribulation." Suddenly, in a booming voice He asked, "Jinab-i-Khan, is that not so?"

All eyes were focused on me. And I without a moment's hesitation replied, "Yes, Beloved, that is so. By the way, they drink something else too."

"What is that, then?" asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

"They mix wine and whisky and say, we are drinking 'wineky'!"{120}

Suddenly His laughter rang out, His tearful eyes looked heavenward, and with a smile He said, "We, too, as the Khan says, drink wineky, drink wineky!"

In short, for some time that night He shared with us glad


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tidings of the future of the Faith, the ascendancy of the believers and the abasement of the Covenant-breakers. Since that time many-and possibly all-of those promises have been fulfilled. And so this has been a brief account of the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá at this time, an example of His sweet utterances at a time of test and difficulty. And now we must read a sample of His writings, revealed in a spirit of hope and reassurance and in honour of the friends at a time when opposition was at its peak.

He is God! O servant of God, arise and gird up the loins of endeavour and aspire to a rank loftier than the heavens. O servant of God , the fleet-footed stallion is at the ready, the vast arena beckoning, the ball of good fortune in play and the bat of divine confirmation at hand. It is the time of action and winning the ball from the field of play. I say unto you what it behoveth you to know. Hasten, hasten, for the time is short and the music of the minstrel about to end. If in such a feast, you don't clap your hands, play the tambourine and raise your voice in song, when then will you know true rapture and heavenly intoxication? The Glory of God be upon thee.{121}

One task does not distract Him from another

However generously a person is endowed with willpower and faith, however abundantly he possesses the capacity to dominate circumstances, and however great his outward means of control and authority, yet once he confronts the onrushing flood of events and is faced with assorted and unexpected difficulties and predicaments-and if it also falls to him to shoulder grave and at times conflicting responsibilities while facing great odds in fulfilling them-he will perforce experience such feelings of apprehension and anxiety as to render the attainment of a composed and tranquil mind an impossibility Such a condition may lead to occasions of over-indulgence or conversely lack of effort, errors of judgement in the


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conduct of affairs, and at times an excess of harshness or severity in pursuing his goal.

In the many years of my residence at the threshold of the Master's presence, I often wondered how and by what mean was that blessed Personage able to solve the manifold problems created by the raging storms of adversity and hardship How was He able, in matters large and small, to act with such dignity, composure and unwavering focus as to appear as though He had absolutely nothing else to do? At such a time, when the onrushing flood of destiny was fast approaching, when the tempestuous storm of adversity threatened, when the battered Ark of the Cause of God seemed to be overwhelmed by surging waves, and when even the very life of that heavenly Beloved was in danger, I was utterly perplexed, longing to understand the strategy-aside from the innate powers which distinguished His every act that enabled Him to master every situation and overcome every hardship. And one day He solved the puzzle in His own wonderful way and shared with me the answer to this longstanding enigma. That explanation, for which I had thirsted for so many years, was so significant and precious that if I were to write a hundred books from the utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, this one response would stand out as the highlight of His words. I now present it to my honoured readers in the same manner that He granted it to me -as a priceless gift. One dark night, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá paced up and down the long front hallway of the reception room, relaxing and easing the stresses of a busy day, He asked me the following question. I was the only one in His presence at the time, and for a span of one hour had the sole honour of listening to His heavenly utterances. "Do you know how I administer this Faith?" (I said to myself. that i to know.) Then He said, "I pull the sails of the ship firmly and fasten the ropes tight. I locate my destination and then by the power of My will I hold the wheel and head out. No matter


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how strong the storm, no matter how dangerous the threat to the safety of the ship, I do not change course. I do not become agitated or disheartened; I persevere until I reach my goal. If I were to hesitate or change direction at the sight of every danger, the Ark of the Cause of God would surely fail to reach its destination."

I had discovered a new principle and had understood the ways of the Master. I realized that the sails of the Ark of God were tightly bound and the helm was in powerful hands.

What need we fear when You are defending the fortress? None fear the ocean waves with Noah at the helm.

Then and there I resolved never to allow myself to become overwhelmed by undue worry or sorrow, but to put my reliance in the Beloved of the hearts, and to consider all future incidents or accidents as occasions of joy and contentment, for by their very nature they would aid the progress of the Cause. And yet, whenever I beheld 'Abdu'l-Bahá sorrowful, broken-hearted or dispirited, my ever-present joy faded into melancholy. In His presence I became a lifeless statue, and at home I was downhearted and sad, until I could detect the signs of happiness in His face once again. One evening, both pilgrims and residents were in His presence in the front hallway of the reception room. It was one of those difficult days when due to various events 'Abdu'l-Bahá was deeply grieved and quiet. His words were stern and severe, and all present were despondent and silent. A feeling of shame and remorse pervaded the room, for His state of sorrow was caused not only by the acts of enemies of the Faith and the Covenant-breakers. The misconduct and ill behaviour of some faithful believers had added to the problem. At this point one of the most respected believers, who was the subject of general regard and veneration, stepped out of the crowd and asked a meaningless, pointless and irrelevant question.


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Having received a dignified and convincing reply, he walked back to where he had stood. But I, being the youngest and least experienced member of the group, became furious at this untimely intrusion. Beside myself with indignation, as silence dominated the room and the Centre of the Covenant continued to pace the floor, I slowly found my way to where that man was standing. Impolitely and boldly, yet in a subdued tone, I reproached him: "Sir, this was no time to ask a question like that! Did you not see how upset the Master was? Considering His condition, why did you not show some consideration?" He, in contrast, gave me a reply which not only silenced me but also generated in me feelings of shame and regret for my bad manners as I realized that he knew 'Abdu'l-Bahá better than I did. His response, accompanied by a loving glance and a mirthful smile, was, "One task does not distract Him from another."

Kashkul or pumpkin bowl?

After the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh one of the Covenant-breakers' stratagems-as has been described in the first chapter of this book-was on one hand to burden 'Abdu'l-Bahá with exorbitant expense, and on the other to claim indigence, misery, starvation, privation and terrible hardship. At the same time, they had spread the rumour that the incoming Huququ'llah funds were being embezzled by the Master's close associates, and that having stolen His seal they were stamping the receipts and cashing them. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá frequently noted, their aim in spreading all these rumours was to dissuade the believers from sending in their Huququ'llah and thus upset Abdu'l-Bahá's financial affairs. Their well-publicized claims of poverty and misery, especially from the time they refused to accept their expenses from the Master, rejecting subsequent deliveries of their daily provisions and supplies, became so grave that their cries of seeming anguish and suffering could be heard from all quarters.


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Before long they adopted the appearance of paupers, begging their livelihood from anyone who would have pity on them, and hoping that such melodramatics would strike a blow against the dignity and reputation of the Cause of God.

This reminded me of the beggar who told his son, "Beg as hard as you can, so that you won't have to be obligated to anyone." In the days following their decision to reject their daily expenses from the Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá would from time to time send them certain sums of money on various pretexts. I even remember an occasion when He sent an amount of one hundred French francs to Mirza Diya'u'llah on the pretext that He owed him that sum. But as these acts of charity became more frequent, they increased their corn plaints of poverty and misery to non-Bahá'ís, which filled 'Abdu'l-Bahá's heart with aversion and disgust. News of this type used to reach 'Abdu'l-Bahá's cars regularly, and added to his pain and sorrow. One afternoon, when both pilgrims and residents were in His presence in the outer reception room, one of the respected Shaykhs of the area, whose name I have since forgotten, arrived. This person enjoyed the favour and blessings of the Master and had an important position in the Syrian and Palestinian communities. Formerly one of the most successful merchants of the area, he had since become renowned for piety and godliness, and had been appointed as the Mufti of 'Akka for several years now, enjoying the respect and regard of the community. This person entered and took his seat at the head of the room near 'Abdu'l-Bahá; after the exchange of the customary greetings he began to whisper to the Master. The room was now quiet, all eyes on the Master, whose face reflected a variety of moods-now angry, now astonished, now smiling. When the Mufti had completed his report, 'Abdu'l-Bahá turned to those present and said, "Aqa Shaykh has a strange tale to tell, and I would like all of you to hear it from his own lips." Then, turning to the Shaykh, He said, "Tell the story for our friends either in Turkish or Arabic, whichever you prefer, so that they may hear it too."


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"I can oblige in whichever language you prefer," replied he. The honoured Muhammad-Rida volunteered to translate from Arabic into Persian. The Shaykh accepted this offer and began his story:

"This morning I was in my office busy with work when a respected member of the community walked in for a visit. I saw that he was unduly upset and unhappy, for his face betrayed his chagrin. 'You seem agitated ?'I asked. 'I don't rightly know what to say' he replied. I thought he might be upset with me, so I enquired, 'You are not your usual self. What has upset you?' 'I just do not know what to say' he repeated. 'Then what was your purpose in coming here?' I asked. 'Where else could I go? With such people where can one go and what can one do?' he complained. I realized he was very upset, and so I persisted and told him that if he was upset with me he should tell me so that I could apologize. 'It is not you. I have no expectations of you. It is about someone whom I considered to be an Imam, the true guardian and a righteous Caliph. Not only that, I even considered him equal to the Prophet. Today I found out...' he agonized. But at this hesitation I lost my temper. So I closed my books, removed my glasses and expressed my true feelings: 'Friend, have you gone mad, using heretical words like "equal to the Prophet"? Why are you concealing the matter?' I protested. 'I have sworn not to confide in anyone or reveal the secret of one of God's creatures. But I can no longer bear this. Praise be to God. What a world. You cannot really know anyone.' Having said this, he sighed. Urged on by a strong sense of curiosity, I began to press


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him for more. But he was not about to reveal the secret of his heart. At last I said, 'Whatever you have sworn to, I also swear that I shall not reveal the matter to anyone.' 'Whether you do or not will depend on the purity of your devotion,' he retorted. 'Today I was with Muhammad-'Ali Effendi. He complained a great deal about his brother, 'Abbas Effendi, and told me stories about Him which astonished me. He wept and lamented and then swore me to silence on the Holy Qur'an. These poor people have fallen into the abyss of misery and misfortune. "Things have gotten so bad that—there is no point concealing it from you—we are in need of daily bread but we cannot provide it. This morning the children were crying and asking for bread, but there was none to be found in the house. Bread, bread! This is what we have come to. And we cannot trust this matter to anyone," he told me. In short, I was so upset that I wanted to offer to lend him a sum, but I was too embarrassed to do it. Now I am wondering how I can send them some wheat without hurting their sensitivities." The Shaykh then went on, "I continued to listen to the story with admirable patience. When he reached the words 'Bread, bread', I wanted to interrupt him, but his intensity would not have allowed my interruption and so I waited until he had finished. And then I said, 'You don't need to send any wheat. Go there right now and tell him that the Shaykh says that any time you need money, from one lira to one thousand liras, just send me a note and I will honour it.' Since it is contrary to customary financial practice, I did not wish to reveal the fact that Muhammad-'Ali actually had an account with me and that his money was in my safe-deposit box. I just said, 'Tell him to instruct me and I will pay the sum.' But my friend did not grasp my meaning, and retorted, 'O Shaykh, this man has integrity and cannot borrow money without collateral.' 'Excuse me,' I said, 'but in fact what he does have is money and what he is devoid of is integrity.' He shook his head and said, 'Maybe it is better to talk about something else.'


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'Let's do something else,' I replied. 'Go and tell him that the Shaykh says, change into coins one lira of the sixty liras I sent you only two days ago, and with the coins go and buy bread for the children.' 'What sort of talk is this?' he replied. 'If this man had even just enough to barely keep alive, he could not talk to me with that degree of desperation and sorrow. "' "In short," the Shaykh concluded, "I realized I had no alternative but to remove the veil and reveal the truth, and so I opened my safe-deposit box and extracted the note he had cashed the day before and showed it to him. I showed him the handwriting and the signature and told him, 'Now go to Muhammad-'Ali and tell him to stop his begging, for no one will pay him the least attention.' Once he saw the note he sighed and his face lost all colour. After a few minutes silence he said, 'May God be praised. I have made a terrible error of judgement. I was deceived by that devil and cursed my Master. Now what am I supposed to do?' Weeping, he asked me to come here and make apologies on his behalf He promised to present himself at a later time to kiss the hem of the Master's robe and personally ask forgiveness.

After that, the Shaykh added, "I have come to apologize on his behalf, and later he will come himself But, Beloved, you should know that in this world you have only one enemy, and that is none other than your own brother."

The Shaykh drank his sweet coffee and took his leave. The Master then uttered some words about the lengths to which the Covenant-breakers were prepared to go to destroy the Faith. But as soon as He saw that the friends were becoming saddened, He spoke about other things and gave glad tidings of the future of the Faith. For example, He said, "Before long these difficulties will be solved and the Covenant-breakers'


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schemes will be thwarted. Be assured. The Faith of God will not become the plaything of the ignorant. These unfortunate people wish to go to such lengths and endure such suffering and pain just to oppose me. They struggle so much, they wear the garb of beggary and hold out the kashkul towards anyone and everyone, and what have they gained from it all except 'Verily, this misery and beggary causes them injury'? Each of them might as well follow his leader, carry a kashkul and make the rounds." And then He joked with a smile, "If I could find a kashkul I would send it to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali as a gift, so that he could walk the streets officially as a dervish and beg." "Beloved," I said, "a kashkul would be wasted on him, for it is something rare and precious. They are normally carried by selfless dervishes who have not the least intention of begging. While they walk around praising the Lord, anyone according to his own desire may voluntarily drop some coins in it. The word kashkul is a misnomer, for a real dervish who wears the proper robe and carries the kashkul does not beg, nor does he make any demands. But the begging bowl carried by real beggars is made out of a half-pumpkin." 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked, "How does that work?" "They pierce the dried skin", I explained, "on both sides of the pumpkin, pass a string through each hole and tie a knot on each side, and then carry it on their arm and walk about in the streets and bazaars harassing people and persisting until they receive a derham or a dinar." The Master said, 'A pumpkin bowl! What a good idea." And then He stood up and left the room smiling. From then on the friends used to remark to each other, 'A pumpkin bowl for the beggar-what a good idea!"

The effect on the pilgrims of meeting 'Abdu'l-Bahá

The talents and capacities of all those who entered the shores of this Most Great Ocean differed, of course, each profiting according to his own potential. For example, one who was


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devoid of any depth Of Spiritual understanding would fin sufficient to merely behold this boundless Ocean and me at its beauty. Another, who came with a small cup, won receive his cupful; while he who possessed a chalice would partake of a larger share. But true contentment and joy belonged to the one who ventured further, who was, able tread the deeper waters and acquire the hidden and priceless pearls and precious gems. It is then clear that capacity, worthiness, volition and effort were the first requirements. And so these were the conditions of those who besought 'Abdu'l-Bahá's heavenly blessings. But the blessings of this Most Great Ocean, as ordained by its very nature, did not emanate with any uniform or predictable consistency This boundless Ocean was sometime calm; at other times it would surge; and at yet other times it was turbulent, leaving a variety of impressions in the minds of His listeners. When calm and tranquil, He filled every observer's hear and soul with joy, breathed into them the spirit of faith, and bestowed upon them visions of the world of spirit. At other times, He brought out in them feelings of wonder and astonishment. Sometimes the wine of the love of God was so intoxicating that , utterly unaware of self, a person's entire being was transformed into a pair of eyes fixed on the exalted beauty of the Beloved. Moreover, this state of selflessness and evanescence at the time of attaining His presence was the invariable, unchanging attitude of every believer, none of whom had any desire save His pleasure. It is said that a philosopher was asked, "What do you desire from God?" "I desire that I desire nothing," was His response. And while the effect of His words and blessings bestowed on the hearers wings to soar into the heavenly, sanctified worlds of the spirit, it was not infrequent that, as He spoke, their prayers were answered, their deepest hopes and longings were realized, and their perplexing problems found solutions. However, the essence of happiness and virtue was gained

THE EFFECT ON THE PILGRIMS


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by those who attained to the station of absolute nothingness and complete evanescence, as described in the revealed verse: "We are but drops which have hastened to join thy billowing ocean",{122} and who like drops entered the heaven of reunion and attained to the truth of "Verily we are of God, and to Him shall we return".{123}

The manner of revealing verses

Various accounts have been left by pilgrims of the way in which verses were revealed. One says that "during the revelation of the verses, my limbs trembled", another says "my spirit soared", or "I found myself in another world". One says, "I saw the Master speaking Turkish while serving His Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í guests and simultaneously revealing verses in Arabic, as the secretary in attendance recorded them"; another says, "I saw with my own eyes that with His blessed hand He wrote down Arabic verses while conversing in Turkish." Still another says, "I saw Him writing in Persian and yet dictating Arabic verses to the secretary." In short, one speaks about the speed of His pen while another recounts His awesome power while revealing verses. Although some of these claims may seem exaggerated or distorted, they are in fact true, with due allowance for the fact that each pilgrim has expressed the truth according to the depth of his own understanding; none, however, has trodden the path of exaggeration and fancy. For example, the one whose limbs trembled, or the one whose spirit soared, or who saw himself in another world, were obviously under the influence of the prevailing atmosphere of divine outpouring, as described in a previous chapter. And the one who observed the simultaneous performance of multiple tasks had witnessed yet another heavenly power possessed by that radiant Being, described earlier under the title, "One task does not distract Him from another". Of course, there are many matters that nobody can adequately explain. I give the following story as an example, and


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afterwards I shall recount the manner of the revelation o verses, so far as my limited understanding permits. Four years ago, two pilgrims returned from the holy threshold of the beloved Guardian of the Faith of God. On( was endowed with the gift of eloquence, while the other was devoid thereof In our meeting with the first one, he related to us in clear language the beloved Guardian's emphatic reminders regarding the maintenance of an up-to-date register of enrolment of the believers. As he continued his report, he quoted the Guardian: "Do not be overly concerned with the numerical size of the community. Do not enrol those who are not willing to declare their beliefs. One sincere, courageous believer is better than ten inactive weaklings." In the same manner, we met with the second pilgrim and enquired about the news from the Holy Threshold. After a pause he said, "The beloved Guardian stated something to the effect that 'a hundred souls are more than a thousand souls; ten souls are more than a hundred souls, and one soul is more than ten souls."' Now, it is clear that this person was not treading the path of exaggeration, but was expressing, however inadequately, his understanding of the same issue. And now, regarding the effect of the revelation of divine verses on those present: it was often more powerful than the effect of the reunion itself Once 'Abdu'l-Bahá was freed from His many daily engagements, He would call A Mirza Nuru'd-Din and begin dictating divine verses. At the same time, previously revealed Tablets were presented to 'Abdu'l-Bahá for His review, correction and signature. Here, He wrote in His own hand while simultaneously dictating verses, for He was the essential reality of the phrase "One task does not distract Him from another"; mental confusion had no meaning at that threshold. However, it was also necessary at this hour for the many pilgrims -who were scattered all over 'Akka, some at the pilgrim house, some in the reception room downstairs and yet others in the streets and bazaars, all longingly waiting-to be given the opportunity of attaining the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.


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In this way, while relishing the joys of reunion they could also benefit from the wisdom of His words revealed in response to various complex questions. Having been summoned to His presence, they would arrive and take their seats. After bestowing on each His expressions of love and greeting, He would again begin to reveal divine verses, at times uttering the words simply and distinctly in a powerful and commanding voice, at other times chanting the verses in that same melodious and heavenly tone which He used to chant Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Visitation. Those in attendance were utterly overwhelmed as they listened. Yet at the same time they perceived, either explicitly or implicitly, answers to many of their own deep-seated personal questions. Some of the pilgrims considered the Master's words to be admonitions directed specifically to them. The atmosphere became charged with an indefinable emotional intensity, as spirits became attracted to the Abha Kingdom. But alas, this warm and tender gathering, this retreat of love was often disrupted by the arrival of non-Bahá'ís, for the door of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's house was open to all: no doorkeeper or watchman blocked the way to any guest. Suddenly two or more guests would enter. If they were not enemies of the Cause, they would be received warmly by the Master with the words, "Welcome, welcome. How are you?" After imparting His expressions of love and greeting to each, the revelation of verses would begin again and that spiritual state would return. However, if they were not worthy, or if the number of people exceeded the capacity of the room, then with the words, "Go in the care of God," 'Abdu'l-Bahá would give permission for the friends to leave and would then return to His work. This is how Tablets were revealed when dictated to a secretary. But more often than not, the Tablets were revealed in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's own hand and under the circumstances already described. When He found some free time and a private setting, He would take up the pen and begin to write. Yet He did not wish to abandon the pilgrims to themselves, or to


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leave them in a state of expectation, anticipation and weariness, and so when He brought out batches of incoming letter from His Pocket and began to read them and write -replies , also remembered the pilgrims. Some of them might have been the originators of some of the letters, while a number o others might have been the couriers of these letters on behalf of other friends from various Eastern countries. In any case when the Pen of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in motion and no guest were in attendance, it was a good time for them to come in sit down and be enraptured by the pleasure of nearness to Him. As soon as they had been summoned and entered His presence they were greeted by His loving words, "Welcome, welcome, welcome". But while His words of loving greeting flowed uninterruptedly His pen was in motion all the time. Sometimes He would enunciate the revealed words as He wrote them; at other times, silence dominated the room. Sometimes He would break the silence and urge the friends, "Go ahead and talk, I can hear you." Of course, they were helpless to utter a word, utterly overwhelmed and bedazzled as they were by that magical, wondrous countenance. However, the arrival of uninvited guests usually broke the wall of silence. Whether an Arab Shaykh or an Ottoman dignitary, one or several would arrive. Now the proper courtesies would be observed according to custom and as appropriate to the rank of the arriving guest. After a formal exchange of greetings, the pen would recommence its dash across the paper while the words flowed from His lips. If no one spoke, He would address the Arabs in Arabic, "O Shaykh, how are you or if the guests were Turks and remained quiet out of respect, He, with that radiant face and enchanting smile, would repeatedly urge them in Turkish to open the conversation. And if the silence persisted and no other sound save the scratching of the pen could be heard, He would repeat His request in Turkish so that perhaps someone would break the silence; as others gave their attention to the conversation, 'Abdu'l-Bahá too could participate in it.


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of course, such sessions did not always pass peacefully. At times, while 'Abdu'l-Bahá was absorbed in His work, certain individuals would come in and bring up various topics for discussion; these sometimes led to arguments, shouting and even altercation. Above all the clamour and uproar, undisturbed, ,'Abdu'l-Bahá's pen continued its pace across the paper.

Lava Pasha was a case in point. He used to enter the Master's house through the back yard, shouting, "Hey, hey, Isma'il Aqa! Make me a delicious sweet cup of coffee". With his military boots and spurs clanking, he would climb the stairs rapidly and enter the room. Tall and lean, once inside he would bow before the Master and take 'Abdu'l-Bahá's hand in his with the intention of kissing it. When 'Abdu'l-Bahá refused the gesture by withdrawing His hand, Lava Pasha would humbly kiss his own fingertips as a sign of reverence and devotion; then he would immediately sit down and engage in conversation. Before long his ringing laughter would fill the room. Then without notice he would introduce a topic and enter into a heated debate, invariably asking 'Abdu'l-Bahá to endorse his views. During all this time the flow of divine revelation was neither interrupted nor suspended, until the work at hand was completed and Isma'il Aqa's sweet coffee was about to be served. Omy dear reader, the purpose of this lengthy description is so that we may understand the circumstances surrounding the revelation of all of these Writings, Tablets and prayers which enrapture our souls and transport us to the Abha paradise, while at the same time enabling us to appreciate the many obstacles that were encountered and had to be overcome. It is also interesting that while the act of witnessing the revelation of divine verses enthralled the devoted believers, it generated in non-believers and even those mischief-makers who might be present a state of humility and lowliness. The following story is presented as an example. Two high-ranking Muslim divines, returning to Iran from their pilgrimage to Mecca, stopped in 'Akka for a visit. Outwardly, they were Muslims, but inwardly they inclined


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somewhat toward Yahya or somewhere in between. Like all other pilgrims they were welcomed at the pilgrim house, an every day along with the rest of the pilgrims, and without receiving the slightest favour due to either background o rank, they too attained the Master's presence and left with the others. The visits to the Most Holy Shrine took place in similar fashion. One day, the Master told Mirza Haydar-'ali and myself, "These people are not here to seek the truth. Establish a warm, friendly relationship with them. Suspend all other work for a while, spend some time with them, and treat them with affection and kindness, so that they may return to their homes content and happy." We therefore deferred all normal duties and attended to them constantly. During the daytime we usually took them for long walks outside the gates of 'Akka, until word came of their permission to depart for Istanbul on a certain day and on a certain vessel. One night we were in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá along with the rest of the pilgrims. While busy writing, the Centre of the Covenant was also attending to all the incoming guests, both Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís. A few hours after sunset, the non-Bahá'ís were granted permission to take their leave, after which 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed the friends. Gradually, signs of weariness began to appear in His blessed face; He dismissed everyone with the words, "Go in God's care." When all stood up, the Muslim Shaykh humbly put forward a request: "I beg that a Tablet may be revealed in the honour of Shaykh Hadi so that I may carry it to him." (The late Aqa Shaykh Hadi was the most erudite and highest-ranking Muslim divine in Iran. He had a peculiar creed. Some suspected that he was secretly a Bahá'í and some believed him to be a Babi; in any case, he had a large and devoted following.) 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "I have written to him recently; that should suffice." But the Shaykh insisted, "I wish to be granted the honour of carrying to him such a gift."


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'Abdu'l-Bahá then consented, "Very well , I shall write it." As we all began to leave the room, the Master said to Aqa Mirza Nuru'd-Din, "I am very busy, but I do not want to put this off. I may as well write it now, or I won't have another opportunity to do so. So come and sit down and I will dictate a few words." Pen in hand, Aqa Mirza N6ru'd-Din complied immediately. The melodious chant of the Master filled the air, as divine verses in the Arabic tongue, indescribably eloquent and sublime and with the rapidity of copious rain, flowed from His lips. God be praised, the atmosphere that dominated the hearts and the minds of those present is beyond description. The awesome power of that long, eloquent Tablet so overwhelmed every faculty of my being that neither pen nor tongue can describe it. As the poet says:

As in a dream, yet indescribable, Nor is the world ready to hear it.

At last the Tablet was completed; at His command, "Go in God's care," we left the room, unconscious of ourselves and of each other and removed from this world as each of us sought our separate ways back to the pilgrim house. Darkness had enveloped the city, and I found myself walking in a very dark, narrow alleyway. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly I heard the voices of two men speaking Persian. One was saying, "It certainly was a strange phenomenon. It affected me deeply." The other agreed, "Yes, the words were not His; yet He who spoke them spoke the truth." They continued in this vein, to the effect that the words had been revealed through divine inspiration from the unseen world. These were the same two individuals who had asked to hand carry Mirza Hadi's Tablet to Tehran. That night at the dinner table they seemed intoxicated, as though they had just awakened from a trance. Next day, having received their instructions to depart, they began their return journey utterly


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transformed, carrying with them Mirza Hadi's Tablet.

It is thus clear that the magnetic attraction of the divine utterance enraptured not only the spirits of the believers, but also stole the unyielding hearts of the non-believers.

Fridays

Friday morning was a time of joy for the poor of 'Akka; a time of praise and reward for the schoolchildren; and a time of soul-searching, discovery and often astonishment for the pilgrims to the Holy Land. One part of this festivity of the poor and the disabled, which greatly resembled Jesus Christ's charity to the poor and needy, was observed one Friday morning by the above-mentioned Mr. Phelps from his window overlooking the front courtyard, and is exquisitely described in his book.{124} Other parts, namely the opening and closing ceremonies of this happy day, left lasting impressions and were recorded in the memories of those believers who observed and experienced these events.

It is Friday morning, and in the area in front of the biruni of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's house there is a commotion. Crowds of hopeful poor and disabled people from neighbouring villages have. come to town and have filled every available inch of space in the courtyard. Young, old, children, adults, men, women-all in a variety of worn-out clothes, all disabled and sickly, downtrodden, helpless and downcast, sighing and lamenting, await the return of the Master of the house. Having had their breakfasts, the pilgrims too have come to view the spectacle. The small children, the pupils of a modest school in 'Akka, each carrying their notebooks, their completed writing exercises, and their pens and ink pots, enter the area and run to the front yard. The servants have already swept the yard and watered the lawns and are busy with other things. But all impatiently await the arrival of the Master. No one knows where He might have gone so early on a Friday morning, before the rising of the sun. Unlike Haifa, the fortress of 'Akka is devoid of open spaces and wide


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beaches where He might have repaired for prayer and meditation. Possibly, He has gone to visit those of the poor who rise early to perform their obligatory prayers and await the coming of their beneficent and noble guest. Anyone who has ever accompanied 'Abdu'l-Bahá on such days to the humble dwellings of this group of the needy, knows that these are people who have encountered misfortune in their lives and have fallen from a position of wealth to the depths of poverty. And since they have never asked for a helping hand, they have gained a special place in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's heart. It is related that the Prophet Muhammad counselled: "Have pity on the wealthy who have fallen on hard times." Now, in those homes, the Master is caring for the needy: giving counsel to one, praying for another, offering hope of material success to a third , prescribing medical remedies for yet another, and giving glad tidings of the confirmations of the Holy Spirit to all. Then, as He begins to take His leave, with a radiant and happy face He hands each a sum of money that will cover his expenses for the week. On His return He enters through the front gate. The waiting poor press forward to reach Him, extending their hands; each according to his own beliefs begins to praise and glorify the name of the Lord. These poor people, usually numbering around sixty to seventy souls, have not come here only for money. One wants a prayer, one implores healing, one desires success in earning a livelihood. In short, whatever ails them, they confide in 'Abdu'l-Bahá and ask for a remedy. The crowd is unruly and troublesome as they press forward. With kind words, He consoles all and as He begins to disburse money, since there is no particular order or queue some stand up twice, and some pry out more than they deserve. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's command, therefore, is firm and loud: "Sit down, everyone sit down. Whoever refuses to sit down will miss out and whoever rises out of turn will not receive a share."

Some semblance of order returns. Now they are seated in two rows with a narrow space between them. And so, in an orderly fashion, from one side He begins to hand out money.


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After receiving it, no-one has the right to move, so that the Master may not confuse the one already rewarded with a newcomer. He sends away unrewarded the strong-bodied, lazy individuals. He refuses the children so that they may not develop the habit of begging. To those who are disabled, with whom He is better acquainted, He is more generous. In the meantime the pilgrims, standing around in corners leaning against the wall with their arms crossed on their chests, observe the proceedings with wonder and receive a lesson in true service, learning the meaning of kindliness and compassion.

Biting a finger in astonishment, Wisdom gazes As it contemplates that incomparable being that amazes

My longing for you consumes me to the core Like a candle that burns until it is no more

If on resurrection day any desired wish I am given I take the Beloved and leave for you earth and heaven

The festival of the poor has come to an end. The friends follow 'Abdu'l-Bahá into the outer yard. Here, a more delightful festival takes place. The festival of the poor ended, now is time for the celebration of the Bahá'í children. But 'Abdu'l-Bahá has not as yet found an opportunity to rest. The schoolchildren are standing in line according to their height, holding their completed handwriting exercises and waiting for 'Abdu'l-Bahá's arrival so that they too may receive His heart-warming attention, His generous favours and gifts, and His spiritual teachings. First, 'Abdu'l-Bahá walks quickly to the nearby sink to wash away the effects of the many blemishes and marks left on His hands by the hasty assaults of the poor, eager to extract their share from His hands. Then He prepares to meet the children. Here, some twenty-two or -three children are standing in line. After bestowing upon them words of affection and love,


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He first enquires from their teacher after their manner of conduct and behaviour. Then, He takes the completed exercise sheet from an older child and reviews it. The reed pen, already cut to a suitable tip, is ready in the hand of the student, who gives it to the Master. "This must be written this way. This letter should be written somewhat higher. The straight lines have not been adhered to." In short, He reviews each one, praising some and giving proper instruction to others. "This time you have written better," or "Your handwriting has got worse!" When He reaches the younger children He treats them with special affection and shares with them a few humorous words. Then at random, He takes their English homework and asks some of the students a few questions. He paces up and down the line, paying attention to the details of their lessons. He even examines the cleanliness of their hands. Finally, He offers some advice regarding certain general topics such as one's manners and conduct, then He talks about turning to God and about the nature of religion. Gradually His words gain momentum, and the pilgrims and residents who are standing some distance away move closer. As He paces up and down, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words become so moving that one feels transformed, finding oneself in a different world. The effect is so intense that while soaring in the world of spirit one becomes aware of one's past and future shortcomings. Each according to his capacity and understanding clearly discerns that reality which is sanctified beyond any Word or mention. On the one hand he forgets the world of being and all that is therein, and on the other he beholds the invisible and recognizes the unrecognizable. On the wings of spirit he soars to such heights that he would refuse the possession of this world were it to be offered to him.

God be praised, for the sake of these children the bounty of utterance has surged to such lofty heights, carrying His listeners to heavenly worlds beyond. It is to be hoped that through this bounty, worldly listeners may receive spiritual perfections and His earth-bound devotees may discover heavenly virtues.


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As soon as the talk ends, out comes the moneybag. There are plenty of quarter-majidi and two-qurushi pieces to go around. He starts with the top student and works down to the smaller children. What makes it more wonderful is that as He passes out the coins He continues to entertain the children with humorous remarks and funny stories. Having completed the task, He takes a seat in the biruni reception room, and along with the rest of the friends enjoys a round of sweet coffee. He spends a few more minutes attending to the pilgrims.

Suddenly He notices that His pockets are heavy. It is the letters from the friends that are as yet unanswered. He rises immediately, summons one of His secretaries and climbs the stairs to the upper floor. But Friday is a public holiday, and non-Bahá'ís, too, wish to see Him. They come in groups. And so the dictation of Tablets will have to wait for another time. In the afternoon, the pilgrims and residents arrive together to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá and visit Bahji in accordance with His command, some on foot and others using carriages.

So this is Friday's schedule. On Sundays, however, which is a Christian holiday, most of the visitors are Christians. On Sunday mornings 'Abdu'l-Bahá visits only the Christian poor, and in the evenings the Christian dignitaries come to visit Him.

My dear reader, in this third chapter of the book the pen has run wild and the story grown long. But alas, alas, not even this overly-long presentation can truly depict a drop from the ocean of what I can remember observing. What I experienced at that threshold requires another than I, a different pen than my inadequate one. Therefore, to comfort the minds and gladden the hearts of the friends, I present below one of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's short prayers revealed at a time of difficulties and troubles, to bring this chapter to a happy conclusion; and through the power of these transforming words I entreat Him for heavenly confirmations for you and for myself

O Thou Pure and Omnipotent God! O Thou my kind Lord! Grant me such power as to enable me to withstand the


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onslaught of the peoples and kindreds of the world, and give me such might as to cause the waves of my endeavours, like unto the Pacific Ocean, to reach the shores of both East and West.{125}

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