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Memories of Nine Years in Akka

by Youness Khan Afroukhteh

translated by Riaz Masrour.
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Chapter 4

[page 208]


He is the Glory of the Most Glorious!

The Prison City again-one year later

In the days following the first anniversary of the renewal of confinement in the Most Great Prison, Eastern pilgrims would arrive to visit the Master, either separately or in small groups, so keeping the pilgrim house lively. The resident friends thought that in the absence of any further mischief, the time had come to gradually lift the restrictions calling for confinement within the Prison City of 'Akka. This idea was reinforced by the fact that the Governor of 'Akka, as well as other officials, considered it a shameful act to imprison a blessed personage such as 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was an advocate of spiritual values and a promoter of the principles of love and humanity. Sometimes the Governor himself, while in the Master's presence, would entreat Him to feel free to leave the town and take his walks in the open countryside outside the city walls, but 'Abdu'l-Bahá would not accept this. The friends also felt that the Covenant-breakers, having failed in their seditious activities and having lost all hope of carrying out any further mischief, should feel grateful to have regained their freedom through the Master's intercession. They had succeeded in their efforts to acquire the government order for the reincarceration of the Beloved of the world, and yet owed their own freedom to His compassion and benevolence. Doing evil, they had received goodness in

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return; unfaithful themselves, yet they had witnessed love and fidelity. Having regained their freedom, they had returned to their happy lives in the Mansion of Bahji. It was to be hoped that they felt ashamed of what they had done, that they would now cease their mischief-making and having learned their lesson would choose peaceful coexistence. But alas, alas, the truth was quite otherwise. Not only were they free of remorse, but their hostility was now even greater, demonstrating their true nature even more clearly than before. As the poet says:

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

Yes, they had misused their freedom, sending their agents to various cities to sow more seeds of mischief They had been in communication with the governors of various provinces to submit their allegations and charges; all this now resulted in new restrictions and hardships afflicting 'Abdu'l-Bahá, closing the gates of reunion to the faces of the pilgrims. The pilgrim house was now empty, and more important, it was no longer possible to use the city of Haifa as the centre for all correspondence, for secret agents of the Government were assigned to confiscate all incoming communications there. Even the letters which arrived in Haifa in care of the late Haji Siyyid Taqi Manshadi-who was also responsible for forwarding 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets -were no longer safe, and so the centre for correspondence was shifted to Port Said in accordance with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions. Aqa Ahmad Yazdi was appointed at that location to receive all correspondence from both East and West and to transmit it to 'Akka by all means available. Similarly, he was to receive and dispatch the Tablets revealed in response so that they might be kept safe from being opened and confiscated by government officials, and from the Covenant-breakers' hostile schemes. The progress of the construction work on the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel was very slow at this time, but

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thank God, it never slowed to a halt. Only, for a long period of time permission for pilgrimage was denied to all applicants and so in the second year of the renewal of confinement, the city of 'Akka did not witness the busy traffic of pilgrims coming and going; for a time Mirza Haydar-'Ali was even sent by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to other cities to teach the Faith, which for all practical purposes left the pilgrim house deserted. However, the flood of correspondence from East and West continued to pour into 'Akka. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's time was totally occupied; meanwhile no one was granted permission to travel to 'Akka and thus every applicant privately cursed the Covenant-breakers for having precipitated this situation. But this renewal of confinement, with all its resulting hardships, gave new lustre to the Cause of God around the world. Although the city of 'Akka was quiet, every corner of the world was abuzz with activity. The friends in various parts of the globe began to take action, sending heart-rending letters to 'Akka. Several letters from the Western friends, signed by seven hundred to eight hundred individuals, expressed their readiness to sacrifice their lives so that the decree of imprisonment might be lifted. In short, as the hardships increased, so did the intensity of the attention and attraction of the friends around the world; the more pressure was applied at the centre, the stronger became the eruption of heavenly light from every nook and cranny. In fact, like the power of pressurized steam, which when confined in a closed space will begin to spew out at the sides, this power, too, began to erupt from various parts of the globe. They tried to impede the flow of its uncontrollable energy, but its abundance flooded the world. When these letters from the West arrived and I could see the progress of the Faith, I was reminded of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words when He had sent me to Haifa bearing the frightful news of the renewal of His incarceration within the walls of 'Akka. He had said, "This imprisonment will lead to the advancement of the Cause and is the comfort of my heart." And therefore, when the friends were facing the onslaught of

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the harshest tests and difficulties in 'Akka, and suffering pangs of melancholy and despair, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's joyful demeanour and encouraging attitude transformed that sadness into gladness, that despair into hope. At the same time the rapid progress of the Cause increased their wonder and astonishment. This was especially true of me, for I was the translator of these letters, and at times I became so overcome with joy and delight at the incoming glad tidings that I lost all sense of reality. Sometimes the contents of the letters were verses of love; sometimes, religious and philosophical issues; and at other times , scientific questions that I was incapable of understanding and for which, therefore, I could prepare only a literal translation. However, I derived a great deal of knowledge from reading the replies to them. In accordance with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions many of these translations were sent to Tehran so that Aqa Mirza 'Ali Khan Rawhani, the Secretary of the Assembly, could copy and distribute them to the community. Verses either in the lyrical{126} or laudatory{127} style, and their translations into Persian verse, received 'Abdu'l-Bahá's commendation. Sometimes He particularly wished English verse to be translated into Persian verse, and of course whatever He particularly wished acquired heavenly confirmation, so that the resulting translation received His approval. And now I give some of the poems that were received and translated. Here is one written by Mr. Walter George of New York and entitled "The Star of 'Akka".{128} Here are the first few lines of the poem:

Above the darkened earth, in God's heavenly throne The Star of Bethlehem once again has shone. Peace, love and brotherhood have found true meaning, Loss and hardship no more-victory's light is beaming. He is the All Glorious!

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This is the translation of the poem written by Margaret Kern, which appears in her book proving the truth of the Cause.{129} These soul-stirring verses were written for 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Of Throne of Glory Thou art King, O Master, to serve Thee is my calling. I long to sacrifice in Thy path My heart and soul, my life's last breath.

Among the famed poets who wrote beautiful lyric verses for the Master was Mrs. Louisa Spencer.{130} Here is a sample of her poetry:

His glorious Sun has risen, to set for us no more; The echo of His praises now rings from shore to shore; He came to banish darkness, to show the perfect way. This is the radiant morning of the millenial day!

Go tell the joyous tidings: His Kingdom now hath come! Wherein all pain and sorrow, and every doubt succumb; Established here on earth it is, and "whosoever will" May enter in, and love divine and peace his heart shall fill.

He came and dwelt among us, with all His wondrous Powers; His Love embraced all nature-the birds, the trees, the flowers; King of a Royal Kingdom, we praise Thy Holy name; The glorious Sun has risen, its Light no more to wane!

Numerous wonderful verses full of meaning were speedily translated, and in accordance with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions recited aloud in the presence of the friends and also sent to Iran. There were also certain letters which possessed a special quality. They came from gnostics and Sufi mystics and contained certain subtle terminology and mystical concepts which no one but 'Abdu'l-Bahá could understand. But as I translated His replies, the hidden meanings were revealed.

[page 213]

One such correspondent, who seemed to live in a trancelike state of dreams and spiritual discovery, was none other than Amatu'llah Miss Sarah Farmer, the founder of Green Acre Bahá'í School. Many of her visions and prognostications came true. Her approach to the discovery and understanding of truth, her method of reasoning and her logical arguments not only closely resembled those of the early Babis, but also served to elucidate their many mystical and obscure concepts.

There were many such believers, both men and women, at that time; some of them posed substantial and abstruse questions and received cogent replies, which I sent to Iran along with their respective translations.

The believers in the Millenium, those who awaited the impending return of Jesus Christ and expected His reign to last no less than a thousand years, showed great interest and submitted a number of enquiries. In addition to the correspondence from the believers, there were many newspaper articles containing favourable references to the Faith. The dissemination of these in Iran by Mirza 'Ali-Akbar Khan Rawhani, who was responsible for such proclamation efforts, served to awaken and admonish the heedless. Many of the American believers, whose efforts to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá had been frustrated by His imprisonment, spent much time in prayer and wrote heart-rending letters imploring 'Abdu'l-Bahá for the reopening of the doors of reunion. In short, the second year of imprisonment, more than any other period, brings to mind the painful sighs and lamentations of the believers of the West.

The arrival of certain Western believers wearing the fez in the Ottoman style

At this time, not unlike the period of the incarceration of Bahá'u'lláh, those friends who desperately longed to attain the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá would have been satisfied to travel long distances from far-off lands so that, standing outside the

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gates of the city, they too could gaze unwaveringly at the wall of the prison fortress and focus their adoring glances on the window of His cell which overlooked the open fields and the moat circling the fortress, that perchance they might steal one glimpse of the Beloved and then return to their homes.

But praise be to God, hardship had not as yet reached that level of intensity. The grandeur and glory of the Head of the Cause was intact and the gates of 'Akka were open to all; no one expressed any discourtesy towards the followers of 'Abbas Effendi unless they were foreigners, or unless the Covenant-breakers had discovered their identity and informed the authorities at Beirut or the government headquarters at Istanbul. Therefore, if rarely one of the Western friends arrived in an Ottoman-style fez{131} and stayed only briefly, the time would be too short for the Covenant-breakers to initiate any mischief. And so, every so often one of the Western friends, having fervently implored 'Abdu'l-Bahá to attain His presence, and having applied endlessly and persistently for that precious opportunity, would be granted permission to make the journey. Once at Port Said, he would receive proper instructions and a report on the situation in 'Akka; armed with that information and a fez in the Ottoman style, he would arrive at Haifa, and avoiding contact with foreign guests at any of the hotels, he would cautiously travel directly to 'Akka. For a period of one or two days he would attain the presence of the Master without meeting anyone else. After that, happy and contented, and with great caution, he would return to Port Said. Thus rejuvenated and filled with heavenly joy, he would become the bearer of glad-tidings of the well-being of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the friends of the West. But the journey of the ladies was uncomplicated. Firstly, these visitors were dressed in the habit of the Christian women of 'Akka; secondly, they never left the Master's House unless accompanied by the ladies of the household, and then only to visit the Most Holy Shrine; third, if someone recognized them, the position of English teacher was an obvious

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and acceptable explanation to justify their presence. Examples of these were Mrs. Lua Getsinger, Mrs. Jackson, Amatu'l-Baha Miss Barney, and others who in recent years had come quite frequently and stayed in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's residence for long periods. But the men were not received in this manner, since at the Covenant-breakers' instigation they could easily become objects of suspicion. Spying and political conspiracy were the most frequent charges on which they could be accused. These suspicions and accusations had grown to such far-fetched levels that they [the Covenant-breakers] had tried to convince the Ottoman authorities that the Shrine of the Bab was in fact a storehouse for military arms.

Mr. and Mrs. Winterburn

Two of the visitors to the exalted threshold during that time of turmoil and suffering, and in the midst of the harshest onslaught of tests and difficulties, were Mr. and Mrs. Winterburn. It had been a year since this couple had received their permission to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Suspending the normal course of their lives, they had embarked on their journey. Once in Paris, because of the outbreak of fresh crises and the subsequent onset of restrictions and hardships in 'Akka, they had received a telegram instructing them to postpone their travel plans until further notice. They had spent several months in a state of anxiety and prayer, until they received permission to travel to Port Said. But again, further unrest the gales of fresh test and trials-halted their journey; on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions they stayed in Egypt for some time, bewildered and disconcerted. At last, after a full year, permission was granted for them to travel. Practising much caution and prudence, they arrived at 'Akka and attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá at His residence. This was at a time when the pilgrim house was totally deserted. Even Haji Mirza Haydar-'ali had been sent to "Ishqabad by the Master. There remained only an old

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Zoroastrian Bahá'í from Bombay with his ten-year-old child, who for some reason were unable to secure transportation to depart. At that time, the hardships were so intense that even the daily comings and goings of the friends were carried out with extreme caution. Even the nightly gatherings at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's biruni reception room had been suspended.

The arrival of these two guests was so secret that not even the resident Bahá'ís were aware of it. Mrs. Winterburn was housed with the ladies of the household and Mr. Winterburn was given a small room. A pilgrim who had endured so much pain and agony to achieve his heart's desire obviously had great appreciation for the blessing granted to him. He hardly ever left his room and spent much time in prayer and meditation. He committed to memory everything he observed and wrote down all that he heard. In the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he sat in a state of utter awe and wonderment while beholding the countenance of the Beloved, and since he had endured much suffering in his year-long odyssey in Europe and Egypt, he became the recipient of much love and compassion. One day he asked me, "Is it possible for me to meet one of my Persian brothers?"

I was quite moved by this request and gave him a not too definitive response. It just so happened that the old Zoroastrian Bahá'í expressed the same desire to meet Mr. Winterburn. I left the issue open pending 'Abdu'l-Bahá's permission. Happily, having secured the permission and with great caution and care, the meeting between the old man and his son and the Winterburns took place the next day.

As soon as the old man, in his long, faded 'aba and domelike hat, his black beard unkempt, reached the entrance of the room along with his child and was greeted by the American couple, there was an indescribable outburst of feelings; cries of joy filled the room. Mr. Winterburn ran to meet the old man and embraced him, while his wife took the child in her arms, as tears of happiness flowed and the meaning of the phrase, "East shall embrace the West", was truly demonstrated.

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In such a meeting the social conventions and the ceremonies of introduction had no meaning or application, for in addition to the effects of their warm handshakes and loving embraces, their spirits were so united and their hearts so attracted that any words spoken by the introducer and translator would have been superfluous. There was no need to talk or translate. The one, in pure Persian{132} and with a Parsi accent repeated, "May my life be a sacrifice for you," while the other, in English and with an American accent, returned the sentiments with words of love and affection. So I had nothing to do. I just stood there and shared in this outburst of intense emotion, until at last each wiped away the other's tears from his own face and they sat down.

I asked Mr. Winterburn the reason for so much tearful emotion. He said, the Parsis are the lost brothers, as mentioned in the Holy Scriptures,{133} and now they have been found. Having said this, he looked at his brother again, rose and joyfully shook his hand, and then returned to his seat.

There was not much else to say. Whatever was necessary had already been said in a way which is sanctified above words and letters. After a few more minutes and further expressions of salutations and best wishes, the meeting ended. But for me, the memory of it shall endure forever, and the account of it in these pages shall, I hope, bring joy and inspiration to many hearts.

Mr. Frank Frank

Another of the American friends who visited 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the midst of these restrictions and hardships was Mr. Frank Frank. His first and last names were an indication of his honesty and sincerity-truly befitting, for he was characterized by truthfulness and simplicity of conduct. Having accepted the Cause, and filled with love and anticipation, he had decided to visit the Holy Land. In Port Said he had received a message detaining him until further notice. The local believers had pleaded in his behalf, beseeching 'Abdu'l-Bahá

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for permission, and it had been decided that he could come, but with great caution and vigilance.

On his arrival in Haifa, one of the Christian troublemakers, an enemy of the Faith who was a translator and guide for foreign travellers, deceived him by claiming devotion to the Faith and firmness in the Covenant and accompanied him to 'Akka, functioning as his translator. When Mirza Nuru'd-Din and I were in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence, the news was brought of this American pilgrim by the name of Frank who had just arrived accompanied by that deceitful spy.

'Abdu'l-Bahá was quite annoyed. He instructed me to "go and attend to that traveller downstairs and send the troublemaker to me". I immediately found Mr. Frank, and after the exchange of loving greetings I asked him, "When you were in Port Said, did you receive any instructions regarding observance of caution when travelling from Haifa to 'Akka?"

"Yes, I travelled with extreme care and prudence," he answered.

"Where did you get to know this rascal?" I asked.

"This man came to me as soon as I got here and greeted me with the Bahá'í greeting of Allah'u'Abha. He told me the latest news of the Cause and asked after the health of many of the American believers by name and background. He even claimed that he had been awaiting my arrival for some time. Then he declared his devotion and obedience to 'Abdu'l-Bahá expressed his gratitude to Him for having sent his children to school abroad, and added, 'We owe our whole existence to 'Abdu'l-Bahá.' I asked him if he had any occupation other than his translation work and he explained, 'Here, there is no freedom of the press. So with the help of 'Abdu'l-Bahá I have started a small manual print shop where I print business cards.' And so I promised to help him and brought him here with me."

"Everything that he has said is true, except that he has just left out one detail: he happens to be a deceitful man, a collaborator of the Covenant-breakers and an associate of the

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enemies of the Faith," I informed him. In brief, I advised him of the situation in the Holy Land and explained the verse: "Do not believe everything you hear and do not trust all who approach you." Indirectly, I awakened him to the fact that, as the poet says,

So often does Satan appear in human form, Do not shake just any hand that is offered.

Once Mr. Frank realized what had happened, he was very taken aback but remained quiet. At this point we were summoned to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, just as the deceitful guide was being dismissed from His presence. Once in the Master's presence, and while Mr. Frank was expressing his sentiments of humble devotion and servitude, I wondered by what heavenly strategy and celestial skill had 'Abdu'l-Bahá got rid of that insidious character.

As soon as we left His presence I found Mirza Nuru'd-Din and asked him, "How was Mr. Guide thrown out?"

"Whatever it was," he said, "it was heaven-sent, because he repented and promised never to approach any of the friends of God again. Here are the details: as he entered the room, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to him sternly and warned him: 'What sort of deception and hypocrisy is this that you commit against your own religion? You are a Christian and receive an income from the Protestant Society, and yet you betray your own Faith by bringing American travellers to me so that I may invite them into the Bahá'í Faith? To them you say negative things about me and you receive a salary for teaching your Faith. But by guiding them to me you betray your own conscience. Do you want me to write a few words which would cause your dismissal?'-and other words in this vein. The guide was taken aback. He began to tremble, grasped 'Abdu'l-Bahá's 'aba and said, 'O my Master, I repent. I did wrong. Please don't take away my livelihood! "Very well, I forgive you this time. But if you commit such an act of betrayal again, I will acquaint the Christian Mission with the details of

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your activities,' responded 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Then the guide swore that he would never again meet with any American Bahá'í pilgrims or even approach them. So he was dismissed, and ran all the way back to Haifa."

Mr. Frank was given the small room upstairs and was offered hospitality at the dinner table of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He had had no idea that he would be treated as a guest and receive so much kindness and attention. He whispered to me, "I imagined that I would have to prostrate myself from afar, like visiting the Pope, approach on my knees and be dismissed after a short visit. And now I see that we eat at the same table! Since I never considered myself worthy of such a station, please ask if I may be excused."

When I communicated his request, 'Abdu'l-Bahá showed him even more kindness and bestowed on him an even larger measure of His heart-warming attention and regard.

In addition to the dinner table, which was the customary place and time of meetings, 'Abdu'l-Bahá summoned him on other occasions as well. Yet while expressing himself with utter simplicity and without any preconceived design, he used to say curious things and ask for odd favours. For example, he had purchased a small Egyptian silk rug to offer as a gift to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. As he presented it, he remarked, "I wish to make You a gift of this rug, but with the condition that whoever may in the future be the recipient of this gift from the hand of the Master must be a Bahá'í. I would not be happy if a non-Bahá'í were to step on it."

'Abdu'l-Bahá smiled lovingly, agreeing to the condition. "Rest assured, I will find a good place for it so that no non-Bahá'í may tread on it," the Master assured him. I thought that it would be earmarked for the Most Holy Shrine, but later I discovered that the station of that rung was even loftier than what I had imagined. This rug became the site bore which thousands of sincere believers would prostrate themselves in worship: it draped the bench upon which the two or three photographs of Bahá'u'lláh and the Primal Point were placed.

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From that time on and for many years, when the pilgrims came to behold these pictures, it was this rug that they kissed in reverence as they prostrated themselves, and perhaps it still remains so. In any case, the utter simplicity and true sincerity of this man brought joy to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. His words created a happy atmosphere. After two full days, he received permission to depart and for some time the friends continued to mention his name.

One night, when the Master was remembering this man and praising his simplicity and inner purity, the late Aqa Riday-i-Qannad said, "I see that the American friends have overtaken us Persian believers and have surpassed us in every service."

'Abdu'l-Bahá remarked, "From America, I await the appearance of a few people. Soon they will appear. And then you will behold unprecedented victories for the Cause." And then He brought up a matter which He had repeatedly mentioned before. He said,

"The Persian friends have been tested and therefore they are firmly established. This will not happen in other places. The Persian friends have witnessed tests the like of which will not be seen again in the world. I am not saying that the Western friends will not experience tests and difficulties; they may, indeed, experience the harshest tests and in the realm of sacrifice and self-consecration, like the Persian friends, be subjected to much hardship and agony, since faith without test is not possible. However, the tests that the Persian friends have endured, others in the world will not experience their like. But tests are not of just one or two kinds and therefore they will somehow be tested and you will witness their triumph in enduring and overcoming those tests. And yet, the like of those tests experienced by the Persian Bahá'ís will not be witnessed again. For example, one of those tests was the rebellion of Mirza Yahya. The world will not witness another Mirza Yahya rising against the Cause. But you will see how they will overcome their own tests. That is why I say that Persian friends have established themselves. For example, was

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the uprising of the Covenant-breakers a small matter? This type of rebellion will not take place again in the world. Yes, the Persian friends have been subjected to this type of tests and that is why they have become confirmed. Obviously the Western friends will witness grave tests, but the tests of the Persian friends were a different thing." And again He added, "I await the emergence of those few; they will soon appear."

It is clear that after some thirty-two years, the words and expressions used in these accounts cannot be the exact words of the Master. However, this was His theme, and He had frequently made these remarks before, emphasizing the fact that the Persian Bahá'ís were most firmly established, in such a way that is not forgettable. After these words, He once again praised the sincerity and honesty of Mr. Frank.

Further progress of the Faith in the East; construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkarin'Ishqabad

In the years 1902 and 1903 the progress of the Faith in Iran, India and Russia was very rapid. The increased restrictions in 'Akka brought about a swift expansion of the frontiers of the Faith around the globe. While the actions of the Covenant-breakers elicited in reaction feelings of aversion and disgust in the friends, the receipt of news from abroad brought comfort, joy and hope in similar measure. Bahá'í institutions began to be formed. Local Spiritual Assemblies were established in major cities. The foundation of the Cause of God gained strength and power. As sorrow and distress increased at the centre, joy and solace poured in from abroad. We all waited impatiently to receive glad tidings from faraway lands, to heal the wounds and relieve the pain. And praised be God, we were never disappointed or discouraged. And while the Post Office in 'Akka was controlled by the enemies of the Cause, life-giving news and glad-tidings from the East reached the friends every week and infused a spirit of joy in their hearts. The crisis of Yazd passed, yielding its expected

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fruits. The blood shed in the path of God produced marvellous results; the gatherings and meetings which had been held in secret became open and free; the Government adopted a more conciliatory approach; the injustices of the clergy were cut short; the Covenant-breakers failed in their plots to sow further seeds of doubt, as the more they wrote, the more disgrace they brought upon themselves; and so the vision of 'Abdu'l-Bahá slowly began to find its fulfilment. There appeared an especially great movement in 'Ishqabad. The sanctified blood of Mirza Rida the martyr{134} left its effect, in that the friends were able to begin the construction of the first Bahá'í House of Worship (Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in the world. This happy news brought much joy to the friends in 'Akka and much pain and disappointment to the violators of the Covenant. The news was announced to the friends by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in a wonderful and happy meeting.

One night, when all the resident believers were gathered in the biruni reception area, 'Abdu'l-Bahá made an announcement: 'Although the scope of Jinab-i-Haji Vakilu'd-Dawlih's business activities has become severely restricted, nevertheless, having estimated the total worth of his wealth to be some twenty thousand tumans, he has decided to consecrate the whole sum to the construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar. Moreover, despite his state of health and weakened condition, he has taken it upon himself to begin the construction activities and has therefore started on the excavation work. I have written to him that the construction of this type of public Bahá'í institution requires the participation of the entire Bahá'í community."{135}

After this, He bestowed on him many blessings and again explained the importance and necessity of universal participation in such projects; that a single individual should not undertake alone the construction of a great edifice, but that everyone should participate, no matter how modestly. He repeated that universal participation was necessary and required. Thus He concluded his remarks: "Since all the friends will

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participate in this sacred undertaking, it will be befitting that the believers who reside at this sanctified Threshold collect and dispatch a sum, as a gesture of love and sacrifice, to attract divine confirmations." Then again He added, "It is obvious that the friends here possess no wealth. However, regardless of the size of their contribution, it will still have a vital impact on erecting such a divinely ordained institution. I myself have sent a certain sum, and anyone who wishes to make a pledge can remit the equivalent amount to Aqa Rida once all the pledges are collected the sum will be sent."

He uttered these words in such a state of heavenly delight that all spirits soared with transports of joy. It should be obvious how intense were the emotions of joy and ecstasy of a people who had been wronged, who had suffered subjugation and imprisonment in the Prison City of 'Akka, and who over the course of many years had received no news but reports of suffering, anguish, and accusations, both from within the prison fortress and abroad-when suddenly they receive so explicitly from the lips of the Beloved of the world such tidings of success and victory as to discover that the foundation stone of the first Bahá'í temple in the world has been laid!

Utterly enthralled and oblivious of self, as he drank heartily from the intoxicating wine of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words, was Aqa Habib Mesgar (coppersmith), one of the indigent friends among the emigrants.{136} Rising, he walked up to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, then knelt and prostrated himself in thanksgiving and said "Beloved, I ask that nine liras be written in my name."

"Come now, you don't have the means to contribute nine liras," replied 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

At this, Aqa Habib began to weep loudly.

"Very well, very well," said 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "whatever you want. My purpose is that a small contribution from the Most Great Prison may be made in order to attract divine blessings." With this, He rose and left the room.

The friends, each according to his own means, informed

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Aqa Rida of their pledges and the following week the contributions were collected and sent off. In the meantime, Aqa Rida wished to make a clear record of each contribution from 'Akka and Haifa as well as the overall amount transmitted, so that later no question regarding the correct amounts contributed might arise. Such a record would clearly protect all contributors against any lapses of memory or possible errors in arithmetic, and at the same time prevent the enemies from spreading false rumours. He therefore decided to request that 'Abdu'l-Bahá seal and sign the receipt of each sum contributed.

But as soon as this was done and news of it reached the ears of the friends in 'Ishqabad, they too asked for the Master's seal and signature. Soon this news spread to all regions of Qafqaz, and the friends there too requested signed and stamped receipts.

In brief, the assorted difficulties and hardships associated with the administration of the project fell squarely on the shoulders of the peerless person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. And so the construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar created numerous problems for the Master. Neither were the Iranian Bahá'ís who participated in this undertaking exempt from the rule. All the friends in the provinces and villages, whether man, woman or child, who were by in large poor in the material world and rich in the eternal one, needed stamped and signed receipts for each penny contribution in order to attract divine blessings and worldly prosperity And so for a period of two years they added another care to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's already backbreaking tasks. Every week several stacks of receipts, issued locally, were received for signature. Each and every one of them was signed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá with joy and pleasure.

One afternoon, as I walked up the stairs to attain His presence, the Master was just stepping out of the biruni reception room. Standing at the doorway, He leaned against the wall looking exhausted. Addressing me He said, "Jinab-i-Khan I am very tired. I wish to take a short walk. They sent me several stacks of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar receipts to

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endorse. I have finished them all , but it tired me out to sign so many. The amounts were negligible. Today I realized the truth of something they have frequently written to me fro 'Ishqabad. They wrote that the construction of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar has become a real test. Those from whom much was expected have not assisted at all, or contributed very little, while on the contrary, those from whom nothing was expected have truly sacrificed everything they had, especially the poor and the downtrodden. They have truly done their utmost. Even the very poor gave a few shahi or a few qeran. I sign their receipts with pleasure and joy."

Since the signs of fatigue were quite apparent in 'Abdu'l-Bahá blessed face, I decided not to present the matter which had brought me to Him, so that I might not add to His many cares. In support of His remarks, I began to tell corroborating stories and for some time droned on with my endless chatter. I commented, "Yes, Beloved, I have seen a story told in pictures in the Bible, that one day as Jesus was seated on the ground leaning against the wall of the Temple with His disciples. He noticed a charity box hanging on the wall, into which everyone dropped some coins as they passed by. A strongly built and wealthy Jew, quite pleased with himself, dropped a handful of gold coins in the box. Another Jew followed, adding a handful of silver pieces. Then a poor, disabled old woman, in ragged clothes and with trembling hands and feet, dropped a single nehas in the box. Jesus said, 'This woman has given the most.' One of the disciples replied, 'Beloved, you did not notice, but I saw the large man with the broad neck put in a handful of liras.' Another disciple said, 'This woman only put in a single sahtoot, while I saw that young man put in a handful of yellow and white coins.' Jesus replied, 'This woman has given the most, because that Proud, wealthy Jew who contributed a handful of liras gave only a fraction of his wealth, and the other who gave a handful of yellow and white coins did the same, whereas that woman gave all she had, and it is in that light that she will be accepted in the Kingdom of God.'"

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As I told the story, 'Abdu'l-Bahá affirmed my words: "Yes, that has always been the way."

And so, one should be aware that this Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the land of love ('Ishqabad), constructed in the midst of much hardship and pain, was an added ordeal in the everyday life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Happy is he who hastens to this Mashriqu'l-Adhkar at the hour of dawn.

Rapid progress of the Cause of God in the West

Generally, whenever new crises arose and harsher restrictions were imposed, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's promises of success and victory became more explicit and emphatic and were fulfilled before long. He specifically and repeatedly referred to the Battle of Khandaq,{137} where some faint-hearted followers of the Prophet Muhammad could not believe that they would soon achieve great victories. But once they had conquered Persia and seized such abundance of unexpected riches, they all confessed, "This is what was promised to us by the Prophet of God."

Here too, the pernicious activities of the Government's secret inspectors, induced by the Covenant-breakers, which had brought about the suspension of all travel to and from 'Akka and led to the search for and seizure of all incoming Bahá'í correspondence, resulted in a major crusade by the Persian Bahá'ís to teach and spread the Word of God. Soon the Faith grew in strength and stature, the clergy were pacified, and the Government became more agreeable in its treatment of the friends.

The friends in India also arose in great numbers and eradicated all vestiges of Covenant-breaking in Bombay. In its Place they planted the seeds of the love of God, and also made great strides in teaching the Faith. In Turkmenistan, too, the friends raised the banner of the Faith: the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar was completed and the Cause of God was firmly established in Russia. This is a brief account of the situation in the East.

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In the West, however, the news was overwhelming. My connection with the Western believers was through the flood of their correspondence. Two things stood out: on the one hand the reports of the progress of the teaching work, and on the other the deeply moving sentiments of tenderness and sympathy that the friends felt for the Master because of His subjugation and mistreatment at the hands of His enemies. One of the teachers of the Cause at that time was Amatu'llah{138} Mrs. Brittingham. Arriving in the midst of all the troubles and difficulties, she stayed for a few days, witnessed 'Abdu'l-Bahá's forbearance and serenity, and returned home. When she departed she was so transformed that she began inviting people to the Faith in groups. Every week she sent letters of declaration from a number of new believers. One of her distinguished converts was Amatu'llah Dr. Moody, whose service and sacrifice are world-renowned. In any case, Mrs. Brittingham taught the Faith so energetically that one day, when I submitted a translation of a letter from her, together with the letters of declaration of those she had taught, the Master remarked, "The Blessed Beauty named Shaykh Salman a 'Babi-maker', for whenever he returned from a journey to Iran he used to submit a long list of newly declared believers and ask that Tablets might be revealed in their honour. Now Mrs. Brittingham has turned out to be our 'Bahá'í-maker'. No one has taught so much."

This is a brief account of the teaching work. But the new believers' intensity of feeling was something to behold. The fame of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His suffering called for urgent action, for their love for Him had generated fresh enthusiasm in their hearts.

Some entertained thoughts of freeing 'Abdu'l-Bahá from the clutches of His enemies. They wrote Him a string of letters and prayed constantly for His release. They sent letters signed by a thousand individuals who expressed their desire to sacrifice property and life in order to acquire His release. Mme. Jackson and the late M. Dreyfus and two others collected a large sum of money with the intention of travelling

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to Istanbul to do whatever necessary to bring 'Abdu'l-Bahá's imprisonment to an end.

Kazim Pasha, the Governor of Beirut, stood to profit handsomely from such a venture, based on the influence he could exert. However, as soon as 'Abdu'l-Bahá heard the news He cabled instructions to put a stop to the notion. As a result, the Covenant-breakers found a new excuse to rekindle the fires of the hatred and enmity of the Ottoman officials and enemies of the Faith towards 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In fact, one day the Master remarked to me, "My freedom is in the hands of God. No other attempt should be made. But as soon as I telegraphed Paris to stop further attempts to bring about my freedom, the Covenant-breakers discovered the matter, found a new excuse and wrote to Kazim Pasha saying that if the Effendi had not prevented the undertaking, you would have stood to gain a minimum of thirty thousand liras, and that was done out of contempt for you. In return, Kazim Pasha arose against Us."

In brief, in various cities of the West there appeared tremendous movements. The opposition of the enemies galvanized and spurred the friends into the arena of service. The clergy began to whisper words of opposition and the friends unhesitatingly accepted the challenge; the renown of the Faith of God reached the far corners of the globe; the newspapers widely reported relevant stories, published strange and unusual pictures, and described 'Abu'l-Fadl as the "Eastern philosopher" wherever he went. Scholars and thinkers arose in opposition to the Faith and the arena of teaching became so vast that its clamour and commotion were heard everywhere.

All this news, as described in letters and newspapers, reached 'Akka and was rapidly translated; some of it was sent to Iran. It was these reports that brought delight to the hearts of the resident believers and imbued their spirits with joy. Nevertheless, the confinement and utter submission of the Beloved of the world filled the hearts with sorrow and pain. At the beginning of spring, after our daily work was over

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we used to take restful walks in the open fields outside the gates of 'Akka. On our return, 'Abdu'l-Bahá would sometimes ask, 'Are the fields green? How tall is the grass on Tel Fakhkhar?{139} Have the anemones of 'Akka blossomed yet?" In short, the incarceration of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was so difficult to bear that the resident believers, who were free to go where they pleased, stopped going for a stroll in the gardens and green fields.

But the Master was always concerned about the happiness of the friends. Visiting the Most Holy Shrine twice a week was one of the requirements of their lives. Whenever there was some relaxation of the rules and a measure of freedom could be enjoyed, He would decide that a feast should be held in the Garden of Ridvan, so that the friends would not become deprived of the beauties of nature and suffer melancholy or despair. Moreover, with the power of His utterances and glad tidings, He kept their hopes high and their spirits cheerful.

Many of the translated letters or newspaper articles were read aloud in the biruni reception room. And at the same time, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets to the American friends were revealed with the frequency of spring rain. In these He praised them, encouraged them and inspired them liberally, so that they too might not be distraught or depressed at His imprisonment and the resulting impossibility of reunion.

As a result of such encouragement, the friends arose to establish Bahá'í institutions. In the land of liberty and freedom of conscience, such rapid progress was possible that they climbed the ladder of success and achievement two (and sometimes three) steps at a time. Their success reached such dizzying heights that, as farmers say: "Before reaching the bitterness of the unripe grape they achieved the sweetness of the raisin, and before experiencing the life of a chick they fulfilled the promise of an eagle." They established and expanded their organizations, and in 1902 they formally elected a body of believers in Chicago and called it the "House of justice"; it performed great service. Once the Faith was established

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there and the friends became thoroughly acquainted with the tenets of the Faith, they modified the name of the elected body to "House of Spirituality".

The essence of the above is that all the pressures and restrictions brought about these victories for the Faith of God. This brilliant Light could not be concealed behind the veil of accusations and calumnies of the Covenant-breakers, but continued to illumine the horizons of the world. That was our yesterday; this is our today. Happy are they who will witness our tomorrow.

The condition of the Covenant-breakers

It has already been noted that after Mirza Badi'u'llah broke the divine Covenant as well as his repentance, he spent some time at home in idleness. Then, reunited with his brother, together they renewed a bold agreement with the various enemies of the Faith. Thus united, they hoped for ultimate success. Mirza Shu'a'u'llah was sent to America to aid Ibrahim Khayru'llah (Kheiralla) in his attempt to counter the work of Mirza 'Abu'l-Fadl. Mirza Ghulamu'llah received the assignment to go to Europe to prepare the way for their evil, mischievous plots.

Once the means required to misrepresent the Faith and instil doubt and suspicion in the minds of the believers were in place, all the violators of the Covenant, both within and without, began suddenly to put their plans into action. They began, little by little, to deny even the most obvious, self-evident issues. And at such a time-when the intense restrictions Of the Prison City had brought the feelings of the Eastern and Western friends to a boil and sapped their patience and endurance-at such a time, they denied everything.

They told the Westerners that no trace of the Faith was left In the East, and informed the Easterners that no sign of the Cause could be detected in the West. One day they claimed that the 'Ishqabad Mashriqu'l-Adhkar did not really exist but Was only a figment of the imagination, saying, "How can one

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determine the truth or fallacy of such fantasies?" They complained to some that the people of America were too proud to accept the Faith, and told others that the friends in Iran were too divided to make any progress in the teaching work.

At times they spread the rumour that the Master had advanced a claim [to the station of Manifestation] "which has resulted in separation of the people of Baha from us", and at other times they recommended: "Read the verse 'Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God ", or "and see the verse, 'We have chosen ' ,{140} Sometimes it was the fundamental principles they objected to, while at other times they resorted to interpreting allegorical verses. {141}

And so for some time they manufactured all sorts of rumours, buzzing about like flies and making a great deal of noise, all in order to influence the believers. It was not long before they received their answer: "It has been said: 'O, fly, the heavens where the Phoenix soars is not your field of play.'"{142} Defeated at last on all sides, they gradually curtailed the scope of their propaganda as well as their plans to undermine the devotion and firmness of the believers. In Tehran the Old Hyena met with eternal damnation. The two mischief-makers of Tabriz{143} received their due reward: one died and the other found sanctuary with the Protestants. And in Bombay, Jahrumi failed miserably.

Of the 'Akka Covenant-breakers, some returned to the fold while others found themselves cast out and beyond redemption. Those notorious traitors who had appeased both sides in pursuance of their own interests were abandoned and forgotten. About the year 1904, the Centre of Sedition and a few of his helpers crawled back like spiders into their den of seclusion and wove webs of vain imaginings, superstition and deception, biding their time for the opportunity to trap any naive, simple-minded individual and fill his heart and mind with doubt and suspicion-as they had managed to do with the naive Ottoman official whose story, along with that of the money-changing Shaykh, has been told under the title 'Kashku] or pumpkin bowl'.

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However, even this inactivity did not signal the end of their struggle: like the germs of infectious diseases such as anthrax and diphtheria they concealed themselves, while continuing to inject their poison into the bloodstream of the sublime temple of the Faith of God in the hope of injuring and eventually disabling it.

They lay hidden in this way for some time while their poison circulated. In 1906 it resulted in the arrival of the Government's Commission of Enquiry, a committee bent on dispensing pain and grief for the community. Now they emerged once again from their seclusion and asserted themselves, like horrible viruses entering the circulatory system, but at that point, in the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "the cannon blast of divine confirmation was heard". The details of this story will be told in the last chapter.

Visits by non-Bahá'í Westerners

As soon as the Western believers, making use of all means at their disposal, began their efforts to proclaim the name and fame of the Faith of God, many American and European scholars began to examine the Cause. Reaching various conclusions about the Faith, they hastened to 'Akka to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Some came to visit a Persian prophet who had a vision of the future. They understood the term "prophet" to mean a visionary, a prophesier, as referred to in the Old Testament. Others came to visit an erudite philosopher who had shaken the very foundation of the creeds and religions of the world. They came, and spurred by curiosity and an urge to discover future events, brought with them a list of questions. Since the war between Russia and Japan was going on, the date of the end of the war and the identity of the victor were at the top of their list.{144} These people were not readily admitted into the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá; the same restrictions which limited the visits of the believers applied to them too. Any such visit could have provided ammunition for the enemies of

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the Faith and consequently might have led to more restrictions and hardships.

More often than not, I suspected that some of these visitors were government spies sent by the Sublime Porte{145} for its own purposes. In any case, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's response to these people was simple and direct: "We are a prisoner of the Government and are not allowed to meet visitors freely. If you wish to investigate the truth and learn the tenets of the Bahá'í Faith, there are special centres in America that you may contact." However, many of the visitors did not give up that easily, and insisted on attaining His presence and asking their questions. At times, they came wearing an Ottoman fez, although they were Europeans or Americans.

Some came bearing their hateful prejudices. It was not clear what their intentions were in mind and heart. They would bring with them a translator of the kind who had accompanied Mr. Frank, mentioned earlier. But it was extraordinary that despite their feelings of contempt and bias, however onerous their questions, and however demanding they appeared in the course of the interview, they left His presence contented, convinced, grateful and even in humility. One day when we were in His presence in the reception room on the second floor, news came that a few European men and women were asking to be permitted to attain 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence. He said, "Tell them that we are prisoners and under the surveillance of the Ottoman government, and therefore a meeting is not possible." Word was brought back again to the effect that, "We are from America and have travelled two thousand miles, and beg to be granted a five-minute audience." And so at last they attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, accompanied by a Christian translator of the type who had accompanied Mr. Frank.

After a few perfunctory words of greeting devoid of any genuine regard, the young translator, speaking on behalf of the other three, asked, "We wish to ask, for what purpose have you come to the world and what is it you teach?"

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'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "First, my own translator is present and our conversation should be through him.

The visitors said, "We have brought our own special translator to translate our words."

"I do not wish your translator to be our intermediary. My translator knows both English and French," 'Abdu'l-Bahá repeated.

"Since you have granted us permission for this meeting, we ask that you permit our translator to be our intermediary."

"Very well then," 'Abdu'l-Bahá agreed, "but I will ask my translator to pay close attention to the conversation so that he can tell me whenever your translator commits an error."

Then the Master told me, "Listen closely, and if he fails to translate properly, let me know."

After that, the Western translator began the conversation, asking again, "What is your mission and purpose?"

'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "We have no purpose other than the promotion of love and unity in the world of humanity and the establishment of world peace."

"By what authority do you promote these teachings?" he asked.

"I have no title except servitude at the threshold of the Blessed Beauty," was the Master's reply.

"Who is the Blessed Beauty?" he asked. 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied , "The supreme Manifestation of God, Bahá'u'lláh, is the Promised One of all the Holy Books and scriptures."

Here, the conversation began to gain momentum as religious proofs were presented. The translator could not countenance the arguments, lost his concentration, and either deliberately or inadvertently mistranslated. The visitors asked for clarification; the translator, speaking his own mind, offered an incorrect interpretation. I immediately interrupted his elaboration and described the details to 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

"Tell them, now you see that your translator is not equal to the task," He remarked.

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The translator presented an excuse worse than the original error, but then expressed his apologies on behalf of the listeners and yielded. And so I began to translate and the interview began again. At this point the gardener of the Ridvan Garden came in, bringing a bouquet of flowers for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Indicating one of the guests, the Master told him, "Give the flowers to that elderly lady."

As she was handed the flowers, the four visitors gave each other meaningful glances as if they were secretly relieved to have got rid of the sorry translator.

And now the true purpose of the interview had been realized; an attitude of humility and reverence replaced the objections and protests. They lowered their heads and acknowledged the truth of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words. I don't remember exactly which part of His utterances affected them most. It reminded me of the Egyptian, Mirza Hasan, who was mentioned in Chapter I. I said to myself. Haji Sadr should have been here. Soon a state of utter devotion replaced the sentiments of humility and reverence. And then 'Abdu'l-Bahá reminded them that they had asked for only five minutes and had taken two hours. While they expressed their apologies, it came to light that the speaker was a Frenchman and the other man and the two ladies were Americans. They explained that they were the leaders of a sect which believed the intellect to be the master and ruler of the world of existence. As they said their farewells, the Frenchman said, "We came here with preconceived notions and perceptions which were unworthy of your exalted rank. Now we realize that the universal intellect speaks through you."

Since they were to sail next day for America, they asked for addresses of Bahá'í centres there. They were referred to Aqa Ahmad Yazdi in Port Said for details of these. As they said their goodbyes, they asked to kiss 'Abdu'l-Bahá's hand, and when the Master declined the gesture, the two ladies suddenly knelt and kissed the hem of His robe, then rose and departed.

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Many individuals of this kind were admitted to His presence, received their fill according to their capacity, and left. Most of them wished to know the outcome of the war between Russia and Japan, and asked about a possible world war. They even enquired about the ultimate destiny of Palestine, wishing to know whether or not the day was coming when the power and sovereignty of the Jewish people would be established in this land.

I particularly remember that on several occasions the American believers asked if in the future the lands comprising Palestine would fall into the hands of the Jews and that 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave an affirmative answer. They asked if this ascendancy would come about as a result of their favourable response to the Bahá'í Faith-in other words, if their return to the Holy Land would take place subsequent to their acceptance of the Cause. 'Abdu'l-Bahá responded, "No. Their control will not be the result of their acceptance of the Faith. These lands will come into the possession of these very Jews." This view was expressed at a time when the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power, and when a world war was unthinkable to anyone at that time. In any case, non-Bahá'ís were not the only ones asking such questions. One day several European visitors arrived and attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as described previously, with much insistence and stubbornness. First they asked about political questions, to which 'Abdu'l-Bahá refused to reply. "We have no involvement in the world of politics," He said.

So they approached the question from a religious point of view, adopting a more civil attitude in their questioning and enquiring about the future political outlook. To the question of future domination by the Jews, they received an affirmative response. Then they remarked, 'All the politicians are of the view that a world war will envelop the earth," and asked if the Bahá'ís shared such a view.

"Yes," replied 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

"When will it happen?" they enquired.

"It is near," replied the Master.

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The youngest member of the group asked, "Will I be a witness to it?"

"You will all witness it," 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied.

Then they said, "Many politicians feel that the war between Russia and Japan will lead to the major world conflict."

"No," was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's answer.

"Who will win the war?" they asked. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá remained silent, they realized that they had trespassed the bounds of courtesy, and so they modified the political nature of the issues, adopted a moral approach, and asked, "Of course, we know that Japan was the instigator and invader, but could Russia have avoided engaging the Japanese in the conflict?"

The Master replied, "Yes, they could have, since they were the ones who initiated the declaration of world peace and were the spearhead in motivating other governments in the establishment of the World Peace Conference at The Hague.{146} It would have been better had they not gone to war, but had adopted a defensive position. Then, in collaboration with other governments, they could have issued an ultimatum to Japan." 'Abdu'l-Bahá continued in this vein, uttering astonishing concepts which left His stunned listeners overwhelmed.

Using a world map, He pointed out the frontiers of Russia, gave the number of their warships and categorized them in groups, indicating the role of each group in battle. He then explained how Russia could have effected a general retreat, in the meantime communicating with neighbouring governments and inviting their participation in the issuing of an ultimatum for a ceasefire. Then He elaborated on the design and execution of a comprehensive peace plan. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's descriptions were so clear and lucid that His listeners were beside themselves with astonishment and delight. One of them said, "I wish the politicians of the world were aware of these possibilities."

As they appeared to be receptive to spiritual matters, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke to them about the Faith for a few minutes. As they took their leave they exhibited a wonderful attitude.

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Their thoughts and ideas had been completely transformed and were contrary to those with which they had arrived. They had thought to visit a visionary, or an astrologer, or at least a Jewish prophet, one who could prophesy future political events. But once the sound of spiritual melodies reached their cars, their attitudes changed and their hearts were transformed. They realized that they had met the educator of the world of humanity, the well-wisher of the human race. And so at the moment of departure, after expressing their inability to give adequate thanks, they asked for blessing and confirmation for themselves and their people.

Account of the conversion of an American lady in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence

Another of the anti-religious visitors who entered the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as an implacable adversary of the whole concept of spirituality, and yet left it after having declared her belief in the Cause of God, was an American lady who arrived quite suddenly, and accepting no excuse almost forced her way to the biruni reception room on the upper floor. In her arms she held a dog of an unsightly colour and with a hideous snout, which she petted incessantly.

Her first question to 'Abdu'l-Bahá was this: "I have heard a lot in America about your greatness. They tell stories about You, but I really have not understood the reality of the situation and I want to know what the truth of the matter is."

Of course, I do not recall the opening questions and answers, I just remember that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, using Bahá'í terminology. uttered a few words regarding the unity of God and gave proof of His existence with great eloquence. Suddenly she laughed and said, "I am astonished that you can compose so spontaneously, and with such eloquence and fluency such sophisticated verses of poetry in proof of an imaginary thing. What does 'God' mean? It is truly a pity" I immediately realized what she meant by the words "eloquence and fluency" and "sophisticated verses of poetry".

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'Abdu'l-Bahá had not spoken in the simple vernacular of this woman, but had used the literary expressions of the Faith; moreover, I had not shown any understanding of the situation and had translated the words parrot-like in the same manner. As the poet says,

I was taught the parrot's art by the Master divine, Parrot-like I repeat His words, yet none that is mine.

And so this woman, being unfamiliar with these expressions, had thought the eloquent utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to be merely verses of high-flown poetry. I explained the matter to the Master. He broke into a broad smile but made no change in the manner of His speech as He presented additional proofs. At this point the woman remarked, "I am not capable of understanding such concepts; moreover, I am in no way willing to lose my freedom; and furthermore, I have no attachment to any imaginary being. But I do wonder what purpose all this knowledge, wisdom and philosophy serve? If you only knew what high-ranking scientists and scholars have written books refuting all such thoughts! And now your followers in America walk in your path. But if you come to my home town of Boston in America, you will see that this kind of talk enjoys no support. The atheists of Boston are world-renowned."

'Abdu'l-Bahá smiled again and then uttered some words of counsel and guidance, but without any apparent result. She wished to take more of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's time, but fortunately that wretched dog began to show signs of restlessness like a spoiled brat, and so she rose to take her leave. Her parting words were, "If your God is the true God, then ask Him to guide me as He has guided your followers, otherwise I "

She stopped, then went on: "Tomorrow, I intend to leave 'Akka and visit the nearby towns; I am returning in five days time. Let's see what this God of yours will do for me." But no sooner than she had stepped outside than she turned around

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and said, "But you have a God to whom you look for guidance; where can I look, who have no such beliefs?"

'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "Very well, leave that to me too. Go in God's care."

It was interesting that despite her many discourtesies 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not show the slightest hint of displeasure, and treated her with extreme gentleness and compassion. In the afternoon of the next day she returned from Haifa, and again presented herself to 'Abdu'l-Bahá unannounced. Confessing her feelings, she said, "I spent a restless night and so missed my planned trip this morning. Before I came here I was quite confident in my beliefs, but now I am anxious and unsure. Please, either grant me guidance or confirm me in my original belief"

This time she observed all the requirements of courtesy, as she listened to 'Abdu'l-Bahá for almost an hour. At times she questioned and argued, and at other times she acknowledged His utterances. At last she said, "I now realize that there is something of substance here. There are realities, the understanding of which is beyond my capability." As she left, she asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá for His blessing.

Next day nothing was heard from her. We thought she had left Haifa. But back she came, weary and distressed, and was taken to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. She asked a few questions and then admitted that she had been able to see a glimpse of hope. She left revived and happy. For four or five days there was no news of her. And then I heard that she had arrived from Haifa, had taken refuge in the andaruni of the Master's House and had vowed her intention not to leave until she could recover her peace of mind. When 'Abdu'l-Bahá summoned me to translate, I saw her walking out of the andaruni in a state of humility and reverence, without her constant companion in her arms.

Reverently and with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's permission she took her seat, listened to the Master's words, and in a state of lowliness and selflessness demonstrated her submission and obedience. For a few days she was in the company of the

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ladies of the household, and then she returned to America contented and joyful; the heavenly fragrances of her faith and certitude spread to every part of that land.


From the day when the contents of the Kitab-i-'Ahd were disclosed and other Tablets and verses revealed by the Most Exalted Pen came to light (as contained in various other writings) in praise of "Him round Whom all names revolve",{147} those of the friends who had no desire for position or rank in the Faith considered the rank of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to be coequal with that of Bahá'u'lláh and the Primal Point, based on these verses and their own observations and experience. They viewed the rising of this Sun of Truth as a movement of the original Sun from the most exalted point on the horizon of revelation to the ultimate and concluding point. And their firm and indisputable proof was this: that whatever they had witnessed in the revelation of the Supreme Manifestation of God which had guided them to accept the Cause, they now witnessed without the slightest difference in the Person of the Centre of the Covenant. Furthermore, due to the changing requirements of time and place, the nature of revelation, and the appearance of various signs and evidences, they considered the first to be the Herald, the second the Supreme Manifestation of God, and the third the Interpreter and the Branch sprung forth from the Ancient Root.

This was the understanding of the generality of the true believers. Of course, above and beyond this, each individual had formed his own opinion reflecting his corresponding mode of conduct and manners, just as one's outward appearance is governed by one's thoughts, beliefs and disposition, and of course no two people are the same. In their understanding of the divine verse, "We have chosen the 'Greater'"{148} after the 'Most Great' ' the friends considered the Greater Branch Mirza Muhammad-'Ali to be the future successor to 'Abdu'l-Bahá; they interpreted the word 'after' in the above

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verse in the context of time (rather than rank), totally unaware of its veiled and hidden meaning as well as its implications for the future of the Faith. They regarded all the Branches after the manner of the sanctified Imams of Shi'i Islam-as the successive spiritual rulers of the Faith of God, to whom all unanimously and unitedly had pledged their allegiance and obedience in their service to the Cause. However, those who were contemplating the attainment of a position of leadership in the Faith regarded the setting of the Sun of Truth as an opportunity for the rise of the darkness of waywardness; like bats of the night they came to life again. First they declared the major principles of the Faith to be "null and void", then they resorted to allegorical and mystical references and through misinterpretation spread doubt and suspicion, as has been described in the first chapter of this book. Unitedly, they arose against the Faith of God and brought a variety of accusations against it. And yet, for four long years the Centre of the Covenant of God counselled and guided them without disclosing any of their actions-until the Covenant-breakers at last, openly and under their own seal and signature, declared and spread the news of their opposition.

It should be said that in the course of those four years, concealing their opposition and contempt was not without its problems, for the pilgrims, resident pioneers and local believers wished to communicate to Iran their observations of the Covenant-breakers' actions in order to alert the friends and keep them informed of the latest developments. At the same time, out of their intense love for and attachment to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the friends had begun to regard the Master in the same light as the Abha Beauty, praising and venerating Him with the same expressions. However, both were contrary to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's wishes. During those years, therefore, an letters to Iran written by the friends had to be reviewed and corrected by the Master and receive His stamp of approval, so that no one could communicate even a whisper of the disunity among the Aghsan or exaggerate and magnify the

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position of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as His lovers were wont to do. These concerns are reflected in all the Tablets revealed at that time. But when the self-incriminating correspondence of the Covenant-breakers was disseminated, the secret was divulged, their identity was exposed, and the friends of God recognized those who had renounced and violated the Faith of God. Also, those pilgrims who had observed the injustices of the Covenant-breakers but had remained silent in accordance with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions were now free to tell what needed to be told.

I was one of those pilgrims who had witnessed Mirza Aqa Jan's rebellion, as well as other acts of opposition, in the fifth year after the ascension of the Blessed Beauty. As soon as I returned to Tehran I had therefore revealed all that I had seen. As described in the first chapter of this book, when I returned to Tehran from 'Akka things had come to such a pass that one day 'Abdu'l-Bahá remarked to me, "You see what they are doing to me? Go to Iran and recount whatever you have seen here. Whatever I have refused to disclose, you reveal fully. Whatever I cannot reveal, you expose." Because of this emphasis on "you tell all", I did tell all at that time, and I still consider it relevant to repeat it.

In brief, the intense opposition and hostility of the enemies in those years emblazoned the fire of the love of God and generated an atmosphere of great enthusiasm and excitement among the friends. If the Covenant-breakers misinterpreted the blessed verse: "Turn "{149} in accordance with their own whim and fancy, and not unlike the Sunnis in the early years of Islam adopted the verse: "The book of God shall be sufficient unto us" as their justification for breaking away from the body of the Faith, some of the Bahá'ís out of their intense love and devotion for 'Abdu'l-Bahá now became Nusayri.{150} They extended the interpretation of the verse "Turn " to the furthest extremes of its meaning, interpreting the word "after" in accordance with the verse: "after God there is naught but utter darkness".

I had heard the word Aliyu'llahi{151} from the lips of

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'Abdu'l-Bahá numerous times. He frequently stated: 'All the friends know how I have emphasized my rank of servitude and lowliness, with both heart and tongue, both inwardly and outwardly. Now if one of the friends against my wishes treads the path of exaggeration, what fault can be ascribed to me? Once I even heard that when Yusuf Khan-i-Vujdani was in 'Akka he had once faced the darb-khanih{152} while performing his obligatory prayer. I rebuked him and expressed my disapproval of his action. He was about to resort to the verse: 'Turn '. I asked him, 'Where is the Point of Adoration according to the Text?' and as soon as he began to quote the verse: 'Wherever thou art, there is the face of God'{153} -I told him, 'You are wrong, don't you know where my Point of Adoration is?' At this, he immediately repented his action." In brief, however much the Covenant-breakers denigrated 'Abdu'l-Bahá, many of the believers just as intensely exaggerated His station out of their boundless love and devotion for Him. However, His emphasis on His station of servitude was so marked that if someone composed an ode in praise of that station, he received 'Abdu'l-Bahá's approval and praise, while on the contrary, any statement which glorified His being met with absolute rejection. He would even say: "Repent, repent."

The only rank that the Master assumed exclusively for Himself was the position of Interpreter of the Book. And the reason for this was that if anyone, based on the divine utterances and Tablets revealed in praise of the one "Who had branched from the Ancient Root" tried to glorify 'Abdu'l-Bahá, He would respond: "I am the Interpreter of the Book and all these appellations mean 'Abdu'l-Bahá." And if someone made reference to the verse: "Servitude is the quintessence of divinity," He would reply: "This interpretation is wrong. My servitude is clearly established beyond all such stations." And when the dispute was raging about the two greetings "Allah'u'A'zam" and "Allah'u'Abha" {154} thousands of prayers and Tablets regarding His station of servitude were revealed. Among them was this particular prayer, above which the following words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá appear:

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"Whoever recites this prayer with lowliness and fervour will bring gladness and joy to the heart of this Servant; it will be even as meeting Him face to face."{155} This prayer, as He ordained, is observed as the Tablet of Visitation for that Beloved of the world; for the last thirty years or so, we Persian Bahá'ís recite it every morning after our obligatory prayer. Here, He takes the station of servitude and selflessness to the loftiest heights: "Lord, give me to drink from the chalice of selflessness; with its robe clothe me, and in its ocean immerse me. Make me as dust in the pathway of Thy loved ones and grant that I may offer up my soul for the earth ennobled by the footsteps of Thy chosen ones in Thy path, O Lord of Glory in the Highest."

O my dear reader: since most of the friends know this prayer by heart and recite it every morning, I have not reproduced it here. However, I ask that if you also know it by heart, recite it now; then you can continue with the rest of the story

A bittersweet story

In the days when the friends in Iran were on fire with the love of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and yet patiently enduring the fires of jealousy ignited by the enemies of the Faith and the slander of the Covenant-breakers, poets and scholars were composing beautiful odes in praise and glorification of 'Abdu'l-Bahá , lauding the greatness of His station without any misgivings. But we, the residents of 'Akka and the servants of the Most Holy Threshold, committed no such errors. We whispered not a word about His divinely ordained station and His holiness, for He had frequently counselled His eulogizers to compose, instead, words of praise about His station of servitude and self-effacement.

It was during these days that a letter containing some verses of poetry arrived in care of this servant, composed by one of the handmaidens of God, Tahirih Khanum. The verses had been constructed in the form of a prayer to the

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sanctified threshold of the Divine Being.

At a suitable time, I handed the letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá as He came down the steps of His house by the sea. As soon as He had read one or two verses He turned His blessed face to me and said with profound sadness and indignation, "You, too, hand me this kind of letter? Don't you know how sad these appellations make me? Is it possible that even you do not know me yet? If you don't know this, then who can be expected to know? Don't you see everything I do and everything I write, day and night? I swear by God, beside Whom there is no other God, I consider myself more insignificant than all the lovers of the Blessed Beauty. This is my belief. If I have misunderstood the point, then tell me I have misunderstood. This is my longing. I don't claim even this, for I am weary of all claims." Then He turned in the direction of the Most Holy Shrine and said, "O, Blessed Beauty, assist me to attain this station."

He uttered these words with such passion that my heart almost stopped beating. My breath was arrested in my chest; all movement ceased. Life itself seemed suspended. I lost the strength to speak, nay, even to breathe. I longed for the earth to open up and swallow me whole so that I might never again behold such sorrow in the face of my Master.

For a moment I was not in this world. As He resumed His descent, the creaking of His boots on the marble stairs under the rain brought me back to reality. I immediately followed Him down the stairs and heard Him say, "I told the Covenant-breakers: the more you persecute me, the more the friends will glorify my station "

Since this statement seemed to exonerate the friends and place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Covenant-breakers, I began to recover my senses and energy. I tried to listen carefully to His words but, having lost my concentration, My thoughts were elsewhere. I realized that it was in reaction to the harassment and torment inflicted by the Covenant-breakers on the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá that the believers felt an uncontrollable urge to respond. Now that the Covenant-breakers

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emerged as the true culprits, the worst part of this bitter experience of mine was over.

I could hear 'Abdu'l-Bahá talking as He paced the floor in the vast hall, but I had lost my sense of concentration and my ability to understand His words. I was blaming myself in this wise: Would that I had died before bringing so much distress to my Beloved. I was confused and upset. Suddenly, I heard 'Abdu'l-Bahá say, "This is not the fault of the friends. They say what they say out of love, dedication and steadfastness." Again my thoughts drifted away, and then again I heard His words, "You who are so dear to me "

This statement brought back to me the fact that the deeds and actions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá were the same as His words: "Beware, beware lest thou offend any heart."{156} And now was the time for giving consolation and comfort. At His words, my heart melted, the lump in my throat exploded, and my tears began to flow uncontrollably. I tried to pay closer attention to what He was saying, but His heartwarming utterances and kindly words went far beyond the bounds of consolation, to such an extent that when I measured those loving words against my utter unworthiness I could no longer endure such tenderness and compassion, and therefore did not allow myself to commit any part of it to memory.

However, I was overtaken by such feelings of joy and bliss, and felt such intense devotion and ecstasy, that I wished the heavens would open so that I could soar up to the kingdom of reunion. In brief, once I was dismissed from His presence I was so intoxicated by happiness that, having taken the wrong street, I found myself wandering around lost in the city of 'Akka.

And now, my dear reader, you can see how my bitter story found such a sweet ending, and came to a happy conclusion. Neither earth nor heavens opened up, whether to swallow me up or to draw me into the Abha kingdom, so that I am now able to present to you these memories of bygone years, and in remembrance of that radiant and holy Countenance, may extend to you the greeting, "Allah'u'Abha".

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I had frequently heard the Master speak about the practice of medicine. On a number of occasions He talked about Jinab-Kalim{157} and his skills in the medicine of the old days, and how he used to treat those who came to him with medical problems. 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself had formerly prescribed medicine for those who sought His advice. However, Bahá'u'lláh had told them that such medical practices should cease, so that the believers might not develop the habit of consulting anyone but actual physicians, or of receiving medical advice from anyone except qualified practitioners. The intention was that the verse: "Resort ye, in times of sickness, to competent physicians" {158} might be understood and applied.

Despite this, and while we all knew that because of this blessed verse, the Healer of all spiritual infirmities would not interfere in cases of physical disorder, nevertheless whenever anyone had fallen ill and had at last lost all hope of recovery through the conventional means practised by the physicians, he would seek a cure at the threshold of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, imploring, "O Thou panacea of our every incurable pain, and O Healer of all of our maladies and afflictions." And since to disregard a plea or refuse an appeal had no place in the ocean of compassion and loving-kindness of that quintessence of generosity, and none had ever come away empty-handed or disappointed, so through the use of some material means or approach He would impart healing to the supplicant. What was even more astonishing was that non-Bahá'ís too, who had no knowledge of the principles and beliefs of the Faith, applied even more than the believers for the healing balm of the Master, never losing hope in the eventual effectiveness of the prescribed cure.

One of the remedies readily available to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and one that could be freely prescribed for anybody, was a heavenly mixture with a delicious taste. It was nothing but a sauce made of pomegranates from the Garden of Ridvan. The Master would prescribe it for the patient, saying, "This

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sauce is prepared from pomegranates picked from trees in the Garden of Ridvan which have been blessed by the gaze of the Blessed Beauty."

Whether its efficacy was due to the patient himself, or to the medicine, or to the will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, I cannot say. All I know is that experience showed that this heavenly and tasty panacea cured many a suffering patient.

This subject had become a frequent topic of conversation in the pilgrim house. Another of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's methods of healing was through diet, or a simple reduction in the amount of food consumed; this, of course, is in line with today's scientific knowledge. But the third approach to healing on the part of that Physician of the souls was a specific method; no psychologist can ever comprehend or discover its mystery unless he is one of those true and sincere believers who understand the power of the supernatural and possess pure and radiant hearts. I will now tell the stories of two people, one a believer and the other a non-believer. One was healed through material means, the other without the use of such means. The believer, who was healed without resorting to any physical means, was none other than myself, and the story is as follows.

In the days when the late Dr. Arastu Khan resided in the pilgrim house, I suffered over the course of three to four weeks from a disease which caused the appearance of numerous boils and abscesses all over my body. Although the disease persisted and the excruciating pain increased, I still refused as long as I could to ask 'Abdu'l-Bahá for a cure. The doctor called upon his whole range of skills, based on his long experience, but without success. The older men of the community came to his aid, even suggesting remedies, but the pain persisted.

One night the pain grew intense and my incessant moaning and groaning so disturbed and annoyed the pilgrims that at two in the morning we finally agreed to send Aqa Muhammad Hasan, the servant of the pilgrim house, to the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and beg His assistance on my behalf

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Whether 'Abdu'l-Bahá was asleep or awake at that hour of the morning I cannot say, for by the time Muhammad Hasan returned I had fallen asleep.

The next day I awoke around noon, feeling free of pain. By late afternoon I realized that I could move about without much trouble. And since during the previous twenty-five or -six days, when I had been ailing, and the few days that I had actually been bedridden, I had not attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, I decided to walk ever so slowly toward the darb-khanih.

In the front entrance hall I found myself in His presence. He asked after my health and imparted to me words of kindness and sympathy. I decided it was a good time to ask for a definitive cure. He remarked, "Very well, but you must submit to bleeding."{159}

The word "bleeding" scared me half to death, and so like a spoiled child I raised my shoulders and began to mumble something to the effect that I could not bear the idea of the blade and the letting of blood, especially mine. The Master replied, "Well, well, I want to send you to face swords, and you are afraid of losing a few drops of blood?"

Remaining true to my nature as a reckless blabbermouth, I rejoined, "Until that time comes, God is most merciful. Besides, if I wanted to be cured through the torture of bloodletting, why would I have pleaded my case before the Master?" 'Abdu'l-Bahá smiled, began to pace the floor, and continued talking. Thus my last definitive cure took place in this fashion, and did not involve any material means.

Now, the story of healing with material means is as follows: Shaykh Salih, a wealthy and well known leader of the Druze community,{160} and who at the time was 80 or go years old, was the Persian Consul in 'Akka. He had a son, Shaykh Mahmud. about 60 years old and one of the leading Druze clerics, who lived some distance from 'Akka. Having been taken ill with sciatica,* Shaykh Mahmud had been taken to 'Akka, but all the doctors there had failed to produce a cure.

*Sciatica: A condition characterized by pain in the back of the hip and thigh, formerly ascribed to inflammation of the sciatic nerve but now believed to be due usually to pressure of the lumbar vertebrae on the spinal nerve roots. -Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

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The pain, however, which stemmed from the irritation of the sciatic nerve, increased daily.

We heard that Shaykh Salih had already appealed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá for a cure for his son, but that he had not received a response from the Master. This time, he knelt down, seized 'Abdu'l-Bahá's robe and weeping aloud, pleaded, "I beg from you the recovery of my son." So greatly did he weep and lament that at last 'Abdu'l-Bahá accepted his appeal and summoned me to His presence. At that time there had been no mention or thought regarding my possible future study of medicine, or that one day I might actually become a practising doctor. As I entered His presence, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, "Shaykh Mahmud, son of Shaykh Salih, is seriously ill, you must cure him."

The thought of the famous pomegranate sauce came to mind. I asked the Master what I should do. He told me, "Take a piece of mustard plaster, sprinkle some essence of opium onto it and place it on the painful spot." I did not know what "essence of opium" was, but assumed that the pharmacist would be familiar with it, so I rushed over to the pharmacy of Aqa Husayn-i-Aschchi. Shaykh Salih followed me briskly, albeit with a pronounced limp and praying all the way.

The mustard plaster was easily identified and purchased, but the essence of opium remained an unsolvable mystery. I was perplexed. Then, after some consultation and as a last resort, and relying wholly on God, I put nineteen drops of liquid laudanum onto the plaster, rushed to the patient's house and placed it on the sore spot. Since I had no other instructions, I did not wait to evaluate the results. The next day I heard that the patient had had a comfortable night, and the following morning he ate a big breakfast. Two days later I saw him in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá expressing his gratitude and receiving permission to depart for his home. At the time, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was explaining to him that the frequently used expression "erqu'l-nesa" (sciatic nerve) was incorrect and that the original and correct term was "erqu'l-nes".

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Trusting the road to the highwayman

Any friend who had spent years in the service of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and become familiar with His way of doing things knew that that dawning-place of heavenly wisdom accomplished many a task in a way seemingly contrary to logic and human reason. The angel of blessing and confirmation accompanied His every act, while the demon of failure had no access to that threshold.

For instance, to leave the goat in the care of the wolf, or to entrust the calf to the protective claws of the leopard, or to assign the cat to watch over the sparrow, or to keep the fragile glass next to the solid rock-all of which are signs of the Day of Revelation{161}-were among the routine accomplishments of that Beloved Being.

Many a secret locked in the memory of the Ottoman government's spies and informers, or of the Covenant-breakers' secret detectives-the disclosure of any one of which might have led to ma or disasters-remained unrevealed because of the force of His will. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's will was so dominant that if He appointed a highwayman to keep a road safe, the brigand would perform his task with heart and soul. This was but one manifestation of the power and influence of His blessed word. I have witnessed examples of it many times and present one such case here.

One of the second-generation Bahá'ís of that community was a man whose childhood had passed without the benefit of proper training and discipline. Encouraged by the Covenant-breakers, with whom he had established an intimate relationship, his youth had been spent in pursuit of worldly pleasures. He was so captivated by their fancy lifestyle that he kept aloof from the friends, gradually withdrew from the Faith and became a willing tool of the Covenant-breakers.

However, because of his close relationship with a number of the most faithful and steadfast friends he was not formally rejected or severed from the Faith. But, as far as possible, 'Abdu'l-Bahá prohibited the young people from associating

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with him, because he was, according to the Arabs, a hoodlum, and according to us Persians, a profligate and a thug. He carried assorted weapons; typically a dagger hung from his belt. He got drunk and was vociferous in public. Whenever there was any trouble he was a willing tool of the Covenant-breakers, and routinely reported to them any local Bahá'í news which he received from his relatives.

When the Commission of Enquiry arrived in 'Akka from the Sublime Porte, they instituted a variety of restrictions and took over the Post and Telegraph Offices as well as other important buildings. Moreover, they installed a number of their public inspectors and informers just outside of the front door of the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The details of this have already been covered briefly and will be further described in Chapter 5.

In these days, the entire group of the resident friends was fearful of the trouble and mischief that this young man might cause. What if he stole some Tablets, or pilfered certain letters and handed them over to the Covenant-breakers to provide ammunition for their many accusations? Although the gates of reunion were closed to all, yet in the event of a sudden arrival by a Western pilgrim it would be a daunting task to shield him from the clutches of this person, since he had access to the community of the believers and would inform the opposition of the arrival of such a guest. So this added another dilemma to the many other cares that confronted the community of believers.

Now, this very thing that the resident Bahá'í community feared the most came to pass unexpectedly. A recently declared Western believer, innocent, unsuspecting and sporting an Ottoman fez, arrived in 'Akka. While the Commission of Enquiry's informers were engaged in their investigations and harassment, this believer, with or without permission, attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the biruni reception room of His residence.

If, like Mr. Winterburn, he had been deepened in the Faith, he might perhaps have been able to spend a few cautious

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but happy days in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's house before returning to his home. But he wanted to visit all the Holy Places, and also to quench his spiritual thirst with the crystal waters of the Master's blessings and confirmations-and be able to complete all this and depart in the early evening. And so, after a one-hour meeting with 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Master sent someone out to summon that wilful troublemaker.

As soon as he arrived, 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave him the following instructions, addressing him by name: "This person is one of our friends and an American. His name is 'such and such', his last name is 'such and such', and tonight he must depart on the ship 'such and such'. Take him in the carriage to all the Holy Places: first, the Most Holy Shrine, then 'Akka, then the Firdaws Garden, and then the Garden of Ridvan. You must tell him the name of each place and describe it properly, so that he may perform the rites of pilgrimage. But as you know, the inspectors are lying in wait, so be very careful that no one learns about this. Don't even mention to any of the friends that such a guest has arrived. Beware, beware, lest anyone find out. Bring him back here before sunset for another visit before he leaves. Go in God's care."

This service was completed in fine fashion, and two or three hours later the troublemaker-now friendly-arrived, bowed, delivered the precious guest, and left with the words "Go in God's care" in his ears. That night the pilgrim left for Haifa and from there departed for Europe, happy and grateful. Even after the event, nothing further was heard from any quarter. This was the effect of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words on His listeners. This power was not exclusive to His utterances, but was also inherent to the highest degree in His Writings and even in His messages. It was not infrequent that when the friends complained about an action of the enemies, He issued instructions that the enemies themselves should be solicited for help. The following story is presented as an example.

Jinab-i-Aqa Mirza Musa, entitled "the Immortal Letter" Harf-i-Baqa, to whom reference was made in the first chapter of this book, possessed great wealth including

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assorted properties and real estate holdings in Baghdad. These had been seized from him by a court judgement and awarded to his enemies. The legal battle to recover the fortune had gone on for many years without success. Mirza Musa had never uttered a single word about material and worldly matters to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. However, now that he was over 80 years of age and his life had entered its twilight season, and the fragrant breezes of the immortal Kingdom were being inhaled by the "Immortal Letter", he realized that while his debts had mounted, none of his properties had been recovered. In utter helplessness, he therefore briefly mentioned the matter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The answer came that he should solicit the help of the same troublesome judge [who had rewarded the properties to others]. As soon as he received the Tablet, summoning his courage and determination he sought out the judge and boldly asked for a just consideration of his rights and recovery of his properties. The judge, who did not expect such a strong and unequivocal petition and was therefore utterly taken aback, asked, "How can you expect a helping hand from me?" Mirza Musa replied, "It is the command of my Master." At this the judge was visibly shaken. He asked to see the written command. Mirza handed him 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet. The judge was contrite. Humbly, he picked up his pen and wrote the order for the release and return of the properties, appointing the Governor of Baghdad as the executor of the order. In a short time the properties were recovered and subsequently sold and, according to his [Mirza, Musa's] wishes, the funds collected were kept under the jurisdiction of the court. All his creditors were summoned by public announcement to the court and were paid in full, both principal and interest. A few days after the settlement of all of his debts, the Immortal Letter ascended to the immortal Kingdom, and was buried with all due pomp and ceremony. The mercy of' God be upon him, and upon him be the Glory of Glories.

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