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Memories of Nine Years in Akka

by Youness Khan Afroukhteh

translated by Riaz Masrour.
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Chapter 5

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He is the Most Glorious!

Various Miscellaneous Events

"The triumph of the Cause of God is in his hands"

The first event to be described in this chapter pertains to glad tidings shared with us by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, as evidence of divine blessings and mercy, at a time when He was besieged by a whole host of difficulties and beset by untold hardships. When the heavy clouds of sedition and insurrection had darkened the firmament of the Faith of God, suddenly one day I received a letter from America addressed to this servant, in which the writer requested that I should ask a question of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and advise him directly of the reply. While the question seemed simple enough, yet to a Persian Bahá'í like myself its implications were unimaginable. Making the enquiry was not without its difficulties either. just as it would be impossible to be convinced that bright day is in fact darkest night, so it was equally unimaginable that a future day without 'Abdu'l-Bahá could prove to be more glorious than the one that had passed in His presence. And besides, when a beloved father is generously providing the means of a happy and joyful life for his loving children, how can one ask him about their future prospects once he has departed this transitory life, or about the identity of the one who is to provide their future livelihood? However, since every question deserves an answer and

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each request calls for a reply, I had no choice but to face up to the task. And so, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá was walking in front of the khan I approached and told Him, "Someone has written to me from America that we have heard the Master has said that the one whose appearance will follow me has recently been born and is in this world. If this is so we are answered, but if this is not so then ?"

After waiting a moment, with a look full of meaning and secret exaltation, He said, "Yes, this is true." Hearing these glad tidings my soul rejoiced; I felt assured that the Covenant-breaking would come to naught and the Cause of God would triumph throughout the world, and this world become the mirror of the heavenly world. However, to understand what He meant by "appearance", as we Bahá'ís conceive its meaning, was very difficult for me, and remained in my mind a mystery; seeking further information I therefore asked Him, "Does this mean a revelation?" If He had replied with "yes" or "no" this would have created more complications and aroused more questions, but fortunately His answer was conclusive and such as to silence any questioner, and in even clearer words He said, "The triumph of the Cause of God is in his hands!"{162}

In short, I wrote the reply to America accordingly but did not mention the matter to anyone in 'Akka. I did not even allow myself to wonder whether this child was in 'Akka or in another part of the world. The matter was resolved some five years later, when wondrous moral virtues and manifest marks of greatness were readily observable in the childhood and early youth of the Guardian of the Cause of God.

One day, quite confidentially, I related the matter to the late Mirza Haydar-'ali, while at the same time keeping the focus of my heart and mind on nothing else but the threshold of the One "round Whom all names revolve".{163} Some years later at a meeting of the Spiritual Assembly of Tehran, while reading a newly received Tablet from the Holy Threshold, I unwittingly disclosed a part of the story. Fortunately it did not arouse undue attention until the assumption of that august

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office by that scion{164} after the ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the reading of His Will and Testament in the Spiritual Assembly. As the reading was completed, the late Baqiroff, expressing his sentiments of obedience, acceptance and affirmation, spontaneously exclaimed, "Praised be God, the Faith has become young!"

This reminded me of the poet who, after the king's death and the prince's accession to the throne, expressed in a single verse his feelings o mourning and bereavement on one hand and his heartfelt sentiments of joy and delight on the other:

Why should I not shed tears of blood? Why should I not burst out laughing aloud? As the surging ocean recedes While the priceless pearl is revealed.

And so the promise was fulfilled and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterance that "The triumph of the Cause of God is in his hands" was realized; the Faith was formally recognized; National Spiritual Assemblies were formed and victory followed victory.

While all this was taking place, I was puzzled by a mystery, the solution of which became an all-consuming task. The mystery was that letter from America containing the information that " 'Abdu'l-Bahá has said that 'the one whose appearance will follow me has recently been born and is in this world'." I wondered about the basis of this statement and which particular document contained it.

This was constantly on my mind until once, on my way to Europe, I stopped off in Alexandria to meet the honoured Ha i Muhammad Yazdi. As we reminisced about past times, he said, "Yes, this matter was the subject of discussion and speculation until the Tablet revealed in honour of an American believer reached us. I have a copy of it." I was given a copy, which I immediately sent to Iran; I now reproduce it below in order to grace the completion of this section.

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He is God!

New York Miss E-

O Maidservant of God! Verily, that child is born and is alive and from him will appear wondrous things that thou shalt hear of in the future. Thou shalt behold him endowed with the most perfect appearance, supreme capacity, absolute perfection, consummate power and unsurpassed might. His face will shine with a radiance that illumines all the horizons of the world; therefore forget this not as long as thou dost live inasmuch as ages and centuries will bear traces of him.

Upon thee be greetings and praise 'Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas{165}

The definitive date for the end of the Covenant-breaking period

Ever since the advent of the Cause, and throughout the course of its growth and progress up to the present day, the believers have always been beset by a variety of tests and difficulties. One of their spiritual delights, and a true cause of joy and happiness to them, has always been the fulfilment of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's prophecies, the realization of their hopes and longings. Praise be to God, in no case was there ever a breach of those promises. Even the assurance of the exaltation of the believers and the abasement of the Covenant-breakers came to pass on the exact day specified by the Master.

In fact, if we consider the profound implications of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words and meditate on His utterances with a discerning heart, we note that none of them ever failed to come true. The story of Mirza Badi'u'llah and his fragrant business venture, as well as other examples presented in Chapters I and 3 of this book, corroborate this claim.

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One such example is as follows. One day at the dinner table and in the presence of two Western lady believers, the Master spoke about the injustices, misdeeds and cruelties of the Covenant-breakers and their intrigues and mischief in their hope of arresting the progress of the Faith. Everything we already knew of their activities 'Abdu'l-Bahá recounted to us, and also things He had concealed up to that time. The information was so saddening that all those present were moved to the core of their beings. Suddenly and spontaneously I asked, "Beloved, will they continue to thrive?" With a meaningful glance, 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "What are you saying, Khan? In four years they will be finished. They will cease to exist, although the followers of Yahya will continue to endure in the world. However, no trace of these Covenant-breakers shall remain. Mirza Badi'u'llah once told me, 'Master, we are finished."' The term "four years" stuck in my mind and I decided not to multiply it by ten or a hundred in order to somehow interpret or justify its fulfilment. I considered it to be a full period of four solar years. And then, in Istanbul, the "cannon blast of God's grace" sounded, the banner of Covenant-breaking was torn down forever, and the promised four years was fulfilled. The details of the "firing of the blast" will be presented in Chapter 7.

Collapse of the domes

At the outset of the Constitutional Revolution in Iran, one segment of the clerical class was for the new system while another was against it. Charging one another with heresy, the two contending groups arose to vanquish each other. Eventually, as a compromise, they decided to transform an inauspicious and ill-understood constitutional system into a legitimate and religiously lawful representative government. They agreed to place the final review and approval of all the laws passed by the majlis [parliament] under the jurisdictional authority of the two white and black domes, and included this requirement as a permanent and inviolable part of the

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country's Constitution.{166} However, since in the second or third year of the Constitutional era these multi-coloured "domes" collapsed by the force of nature, other "domes" too began to weaken and flounder, paving the way briefly for the development and progress of the country and the happiness of the people. But we had been unaware that under protection and regular financial support from the last monarch of the House of Qajar,{167} these public parasites had, like annoying and obnoxious insects, already laid their eggs in various nooks and crannies of the sacred institution of the National House of Representatives, as well as in the heart of every other significant national organization. And so it was not long before every crevice yielded a turban; these resolved collectively to take control of the minds of the people, and in so doing they again transformed society's happiness and prosperity into abasement and abomination, and reduced the overall health of the society into a variety of ills.

Once again, and for a few years more, the friends of God became the objects of the injustice and cruelty of these fanatical mullas, until the prophecies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá began to be fulfilled. The powerful hand of God emerged from the unseen realm and extirpated the very roots of that Qajar dynasty which had subsidized and supported the institution of the clergy, and consigned it to the bin of oblivion. At this time all heaven-sent helpers were given brooms to sweep out of every nook and cranny of the land the last traces of their existence, and flood out and destroy all vestiges of their miserable lives. After this, the Lord's command for the establishment of a uniform type of headdress freed the heads and filled the hearts with joy.{168}

In the midst of all the commotion many domes collapsed; only a few survived. Four years later another decree called for the removal of all types of headdress altogether, and the replacement of the Eastern garb with the Western mode of dress. Thus the malevolent and the wicked experienced such fear that the remaining domes were also discarded. All this happened so that the truth of the promises of the beloved

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Master of this gentle Faith might be demonstrated. He had promised that "these white and black domes" would ultimately collapse.

"Once I was embarrassed"

'Abdu'l-Bahá's admonitions typically included the necessity of shunning the dangers of moral corruption inherent in any association with the violators of the Covenant. He would say, "Covenant-breaking has an adverse effect on public morals. The result of sowing such seeds of corruption will incline the people of the world towards ungodliness and atheism. The friends must therefore evince such heavenly character and attributes as to remove the foul smell of Covenant-breaking from the world of being. The friends must also be alert lest the Covenant-breakers sway public opinion to their advantage, for their loathsome stench renders people's nostrils incapable of inhaling the heavenly fragrances, and blinds their eyes from beholding the divine light." In this vein, He would offer examples supported by verses from the Qur'an, presenting logical proofs and reminding the friends of their unequivocal duty to prevent the Covenant-breakers from penetrating the Bahá'í community He would give the same examples that the Blessed Beauty used to offer about the followers of Yahya One of these stressed the fact that in whatever city a follower of Yahya had lived, his foul odour would persist for a long time, slowing down the teaching work. Bahá'u'lláh had offered as an example the city of Kirman{169} to demonstrate that the whisperings of the Covenant-breakers were worse than the temptations of Satan.

Of course, the truth of these utterances was clear to us, for we had observed at first hand the effects of the Covenant-breakers' intrigues on the people of Syria and Palestine. It was plain to see that at least three-quarters of them would have accepted the Faith without the least effort in teaching them, had their minds not been poisoned by the machinations of the Covenant-breakers.

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One morning in the biruni reception room, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was addressing me on this very subject, only two other people being present. I was reminded of a certain story which I wished to tell in support of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words, and at the same time demonstrate the extent of my own services to the Cause as well as the service of certain others. So I remarked, "In Tehran, a school was established and Hubbu'llah, the son of the Old Hyena, was a candidate for a teaching position there. As soon as we heard the news, the Hands of the Cause, along with two others and myself, met and consulted on ways to block his acceptance by the school. Finally, it was decided that Mr... should meet with the school authorities and persuade them to reject Hubbu'llah." I expected to receive 'Abdu'l-Bahá's praise and encouragement confirming our great service, but even before I had completed my remarks, He interrupted: "What! You consulted on how to prevent a Covenant-breaker from earning a living? This is not how the Faith is served. In matters of earning a livelihood there is no difference between a believer and a Covenant-breaker. The friends must be the signs of God's generosity and charity. They should shine like the sun and be as bounteous as the spring rain. They should not consider the capacity or merit of a person." In short, He continued in this vein for some time, while I felt deep pangs of shame and remorse for my actions and words. I lowered my head, realizing that in my attempt to please the Master I had been too much of a meddler, and for once I was embarrassed.

The sweet fragrance of some of the letters

When 'Abdu'l-Bahá handed me the batches of incoming mail, He often selected one or two of the letters and instructed me to "translate these first". It was obvious that certain qualities were attached to those letters which could not be detected outwardly. One day, as I approached the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, I noticed from a distance Haji Siyyid

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Taqi Manshadi handing the Master a batch of recently arrived mail. As I arrived and bowed, 'Abdu'l-Bahá selected one of the letters and remarked, "This letter has such sweet fragrance. See what it contains." Since He had used the words "sweet fragrance", I spontaneously raised the letter to my nose and sniffed it, but did not detect any scent. Suddenly 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, "Hurry up and read it." I opened the letter immediately, following 'Abdu'l-Bahá outside. The envelope contained two pieces of paper, one blue and one white. With haste and anticipation I unfolded the blue paper. Again He asked, "What does it say?" Feeling somewhat confused and anxious at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's haste, I went over the blue sheet quickly Without grasping much of its meaning. From the subject and the power and authority of the words I concluded that it had to be a translation of one of the Tablets of the Blessed Beauty. I then unfolded the white sheet. It was a letter from Mr. Hoar, whose pilgrimage has been described in Chapter 2. As we walked, I read the letter aloud line by line and translated it for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The letter reported that Muzaffaru'l-Din Shah (since deceased) was in Europe and that he had written him a letter informing him of the Western Bahá'ís love and affection for the sacred land of Iran (a copy of the letter was in the envelope), and so implored him to treat the Persian Bahá'ís with justice and fairness. Now that the subject of the letter was clear, I reread the blue paper, the contents of which I had not originally understood. It was a copy of the letter to the Shah This time I read the letter and translated its contents. 'Abdu'l-Bahá then handed me a few other envelopes, and told me to go back to the pilgrim house, translate these two letters quickly and bring the translation to Him forthwith. The letter addressed to the Shah was so eloquent and powerful that on the first reading I had imagined it to be from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. On the following day, when I attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a Tablet in response to

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the letter was revealed. I discovered that my original impression had not been all that wide of the mark when I heard the Master's words of profound praise for Mr Hoar's initiative. The contents of his letter had proven to be so pleasing and praiseworthy that these words were contained in the Tablet revealed in his honour: "I swear by God, it seems as though I dictated that letter and you wrote it down." Clearly, he had been truly inspired. At that very moment I was reminded of the letter from Breakwell's father, mentioned in Chapter 2, about which 'Abdu'l-Bahá had used the same words before it was opened: "It has such sweet fragrance," and had told me to translate it straight away. So it is clear that purity of heart and selfless devotion on the part of the believers can result in divine inspiration. The sweet fragrance of some of the letters was an indication of those heavenly attributes.

You conquered my heart before I ever existed

In all my years of residence at that sanctified and radiant threshold, I read many strange and unusual statements in the letters from the Western believers to the Master; however, I never felt at liberty to reveal any of them, except those for which I had explicit permission from 'Abdu'l-Bahá In those times, my emotional sensitivity was so acute that the news of the joyful devotion and all-consuming love of the friends, who lived thousands of miles from the shores of nearness, and the anxious and anguished expressions of longing which filled their letters, moved me so intensely that at times I could not help but weep and ask God's confirmations on their behalf. I also tried, to the extent possible, to make mention of them while in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and prayed and implored God that they too might one day become intoxicated with the wine of reunion. An example of this was a letter from an American believer who had declared his faith in Bahá'u'lláh at the ripe old age of 108. This old man had been filled with such childlike

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joy and delight that it seemed as if he had been born into a new world and had just begun his growth and development anew. Despite trembling hands and feeble eyesight-as evidenced by the size of his handwriting, each page containing no more than four or five words-he had used thirty to forty pages to express his pent-up longing. His words were so moving that they deeply touched the reader. He wrote that he had belonged to the Millerite group{170} and that on the night of the Declaration of the Bab and birth of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he had awaited the second coming of the promised Messiah on the roof of his house; gazing up at the movements of the heavens he had beheld the dawning of the star of a new revelation, as well as changes in the configuration of other stars. These fulfilled the requirements of their beliefs, yet they had not grasped the significance or the true meaning of the descent of the Messiah in the form of the human temple. Since that time, however, he had remained true to his beliefs, telling himself, "Tonight the Messiah did assuredly descend from the heavens; while He did not appear to my physical eyes yet He filled my heart and soul with His presence." In fact, that fateful night in 1844, when all the astronomical transformations and shooting stars appeared to the Millerites, coincides with the 5th day of Jamadi of the lunar year 1260{171} and on that very night in the skies of Isfahan, as described by ......, a new star did appear.

However, this newly declared 108-year-old Bahá'í was with enthusiasm and erudition setting forth proofs: "On that very day I was convinced of the dawning of the Sun of Truth, and if my physical senses failed in recognizing the divine light, my spiritual consciousness failed nary a moment, for as soon as I heard the call from a Bahá'í , a vision of the Most Great Prison appeared before the eyes of my spirit and I beheld the very thing that had so completely penetrated my heart. And so I ask and implore you to accept my belief and devotion from that very day of my acknowledging the Faith of God and consider me to have been a true believer from the days of my youth, so that the youthful

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spirit of this worn-out body may experience true delight and happiness."

In short, he wrote with great eloquence and beauty, expressing his intense spiritual attraction and tender feelings. The reading of it touched the very depth of one's heart. He reiterated his request: "Fifty-eight years ago, before I found everlasting life through the spirit of faith, my heart continually yearned to become a throne worthy to receive the promised Messiah when He descended, and now that I have found a new life and am intoxicated with the wine of joy and delight, I ask that I may be accepted as a true believer from that time."

I was able to read the letter at last, though with much difficulty, and completed its translation with much care. However, since I always used to write a few words in red as a summary at the top of the page of every letter to facilitate 'Abdu'l-Bahá's subsequent reply, I wondered what brief words I could use to describe the gist of that letter. Then the blessings released by the purity of motive of that youth of the spirit brought to mind the opening verse of a love poem by the Nightingale of Shiraz Sa'di], a poem which had once been received with great acclaim by Tehran's Society of Poets, and so I wrote:

The name of the first Japanese Bahá'í was Yamamoto

While the identification and recognition of the first believer in any revelation encourages and motivates other believers, so too the recognition of the first believer of each country is naturally of much interest to the future believers of that land. But true felicity belongs to the soul who is the cause of the guidance of the first believer of any country. In the Far East, this honour belonged to Mrs. Helen Goodall of California,{172} who taught her Japanese servant. In her letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá

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she wrote, I have taught the Faith to my manservant, Yamamoto. I ask for divine confirmations to enable him to spread the glad tidings in his country."

Praised be God, that supplication was answered, and later on Jinab-i-Yamamoto arose to serve the Faith. Here is the story: When I received the letter from this new believer declaring his faith, along with the letter from his spiritual teacher, the only word I could read was his signature in English, and so I submitted the letter, just as it was, with a translation of Mrs. Goodall's letter, to the attention of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master mused, "Well now, you do not know Japanese."

"No, Beloved," I volunteered. "I hardly know English."

"So, what are we to do with this letter?" He remarked, smiling.

I bowed, and in my heart proposed, "The same thing you do with other letters."

"Very well, then," He said, "We will rely on the Blessed Beauty and will write him a reply."

Next day two Tablets were revealed in reply. I translated and sent them. Some time later other letters expressing gratitude arrived; these confirmed Jinab-i-Yamamoto's determination to arise and serve the Faith. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet{173} is reprinted below:

Care of Amat'u'llah Helen Goodall the Glory of God be Upon Her-California To Kanichi Yamamoto of Japan

He is God!

O thou who art the single one of Japan and the unique one of the extreme Orient!

That country hath been deprived of the divine breath until this time; now, God be praised! thou art initiated in the mysteries and conscious of the secrets of the lights. Thou hast been earthly, I hope that thou wilt become

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heavenly; thou hast been gloomy, I desire that thou wilt become luminous. Thou wert wandering in the wilderness, thou hast found a way to the abode of the Beloved One; thou wert a thirsty fish, thou hast attained to the endless Ocean; thou wert a roving bird, thou hast reached the divine Rose Garden; thou wert spiritually sick and thou hast found real health!

Now is the time that thou shouldst entirely abandon the comfort, ease, enjoyment and the life of this transient world, and wholly arise to guide the people of Japan, illuminating faces, perfuming nostrils and conquering, through the heavenly hosts and divine reinforcements, the hearts of the people of that region.

Do not wonder at the favour and bounty of the Lord. By the favour of God, how often a drop hath become undulating like a sea, and an atom become shining like the sun!

The Sun of Truth hath enlightened the divine world and illumined the universe. The rays of His grace have shone upon the East and West, and His heat hath caused vegetation in all countries. So the lights and the heat of the Sun of Truth being help and assistance, what more dost thou need?

Thou must warble, like the nightingale of significances, in the rose garden so that thou mayest inspire all the birds of the meadow to chant and to sing. Upon thee be greetings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas

His gait and bearing defy words

The best and happiest hours for one who has remained remote from the threshold of nearness for thirty years are those spent in remembering those bygone days, bringing to the mind's eye the Beloved of the world, that dawning-place of divine light-and reminiscing about His disposition, His manners, His gait and bearing.

In this respect, this unworthy servant considers himself the most fortunate of all the people of Baha, since despite suffering the ravages of a feeble memory and the lack of adequate notes, whenever I pick up the pen to write these

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memoirs, suddenly that radiant, heavenly countenance, that glorious figure, emerges in my memory with such lucidity and intensity that the hazy, disoriented faculties of my mind are suddenly transformed into shining mirrors reflecting ever so brightly that celestial Light, that embodiment of heavenly attributes. Many a detail of which I was either unaware or had lost all recollection manifests itself with bright clarity.

While I feel utterly powerless to ever express the depth of my gratitude for these divine gifts, I also feel a measure of embarrassment at my inability to express what is in my heart and mind. And while many features of the Master's manner and bearing clearly appear before my mind's eye, yet their description defies words; the pen is rendered powerless to leave a meaningful mark.

I have already mentioned, albeit briefly, the Master's busy schedule and have described, so far as I am able, the effect of the revelation of Tablets and utterances. I hope that in so doing I have been able to share with the reader a drop of the ocean of my experiences and observations. However, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's bearing and gait were not something that pen or tongue can describe. For example, His way of walking-the simplest of physical movements -did not in any shape or form resemble the walk of any other human being. This had become an established fact; the resident believers bore witness to having heard the Blessed Beauty remark, "Look how the Master walks. No one in the world has a more sublime gait."

The friends in those days used to say that when the Blessed Beauty resided in the Mansion of Bahji, He used to gaze at the fields from the balcony of the building and as soon as the blessed figure of the Master appeared, approaching the Mansion, Bahá'u'lláh would invite all who were in His presence, saying, "Come and see the Master walking."

In brief, the same applied to His eating, drinking, sitting and rising, all of which were in their way unique and matchless. And of course whatever quality or virtue that could merit Bahá'u'lláh's approval and praise is obviously beyond His servants' ability to adequately describe.

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While 'Abdu'l-Bahá's manner of speaking was ever pleasant and delightful, yet when it came to humour His anecdotes left such an effect in the hearts that His listeners were beside themselves with joy and delight, especially when He told a story to illustrate a point. And however commonplace such a story might be, His manner of presentation was such that it seemed as though a sublime and holy Tablet was being revealed. This is why stories told by 'Abdu'l-Bahá cannot have the same effect when repeated by anyone else.

And now I present below, in simple language, two or three stories which I have heard from the lips of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

A story to illustrate a point

In Chapter 3, as well as in the account in this book of the intense hardships and restrictions, it was related that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's heavy responsibilities were so time-consuming that He hardly found the opportunity at the dinner table to eat a full meal, or even the chance to take a bath. At these times, Mirza Haydar-'Ali and 1 collaborated on some ways to provide a respite for the Master.

It was decided that he would invite 'Abdu'l-Bahá one day to a public bathhouse. Fortunately the invitation received His acceptance. The Master, however, wished both of us participate in the festivity too. We fulfilled our duty by sitting outside the bath, biding our time until He came out. However, things did not go well, and even in the cloakroom much was left to be desired, as just out of spite the required services were not properly provided.

This facility, known as the Great Bathhouse, was the cleanest and best organised Turkish bath at that time.{174} When I visited it some four years ago, the building had completely deteriorated and had therefore been abandoned. In any case, the invitation to the bathhouse did not lead to a regular once a-week or twice-a-month event, and so after further consultation with the Haji we agreed that the architect Aqa Bala, who was in 'Akka on pilgrimage at the time, should beg

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'Abdu'l-Bahá's permission to build a small bath in His house. And so he submitted his request. Since he was one of the pure in heart, his request was granted. He immediately obtained the required construction materials and set out to build the facility under the stairs of the biruni area. He also wrote to the Bahá'ís in Beirut asking them to purchase a metal bathtub, as well as the other materials required, and to ship them as soon as possible. One night, only three days after work had started, when all the friends were in the presence of the Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá suddenly said, "Jinab-i-Ustad Aqa Bala, is the bath completed?" The architect anxiously replied, "No, Beloved, I am working on it, but there is no news from Beirut yet." "Well then, when will it be finished?" 'Abdu'l-Bahá enquired. I cannot quite remember how Aqa BAIA responded to that question, but suddenly 'Abdu'l-Bahá smiled broadly and remarked, "The story of you and I resembles the story of an Arab who went about without a hat for three years. In the streets and marketplace, in cold weather or hot, in rain or snow, he was without a head covering. A philanthropist, feeling sorry for him, decided to buy him a turban and so he took the Arab to a shop to buy the fabric. As soon as the salesman brought out the fabric roll to measure the length required, the bareheaded Arab suddenly grabbed the end of the fabric and began to wrap it around his head, without allowing the salesman to cut the proper length.

"'Wait, let me measure the material,' complained the salesman.

"'How long am I supposed to wait? If I wait any longer I will catch my death of cold!' protested the Arab."

The Master on health

'Abdu'l-Bahá often spoke about health. The scientific aspects of what He said have not remained with me, for at that time

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I was not yet a physician, but I could understand the practical aspects emphasized by the Master.

The harmful effects of eating meat and the benefits of vegetarianism were made clear by the Master; He offered a variety of natural, physical and rational proofs. He would explicitly show how the human body was predisposed towards the digestion of fruits, grains and vegetables, and that eating meat was a habit that had afflicted man over the course of time and generated dependence on the consumption of animal products. In fact, it was man's need and dependency that had prevented God's Manifestations from officially forbidding its use.

The Master Himself rarely ate animal products. One of the English friends had asked me to present a question to 'Abdu'l-Bahá about the Society of Vegetarians, and to advise him of the Master's response. 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied, "The truth is that it is not befitting for man to be carnivorous. However, man has accustomed himself to such a life and now it has become routine and acceptable. That is why its prohibition is not advisable at present."{175}

When there were no guests, there were no particular arrangements for 'Abdu'l-Bahá's meals. However, washing the hands before eating and brushing the teeth afterwards were customary and definite practices. Small portions of food, and regular change in the type of food served at each meal, were customary. For example, bread and cheese, or bread and olives, or merely bread, were at times quite usual. Sometimes He would take a small serving of kebab and would explain at the dinner table the reason for His choice.

The one bounty which was invariably available, whether in the andaruni or in the presence of guests in the biruni, was a most delicious bread baked by Isma'il Aqa, who performed this duty out of pure love and devotion. One or two loaves were always ready. And if there were guests around the table, the Master would divide the bread among them. The bread was so delicious that it was possible to forego other dishes in its favour.

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Whenever 'Abdu'l-Bahá sat at the dinner table He spoke of happy things, and if Western believers were present the answers to their questions were also presented in a state of joy and gaiety. In such cases dinnertime would last a long time.

When served in the andaruni, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's meals were very simple. The expenses of His lunch and dinner, if guests were not present, were much less than one could possibly imagine. Cleanliness and purity prevailed at all times. The Master would take some water with His meals. This was generally the arrangement of meals served to 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

The raiment that clothed that beloved body was abundantly soft and delicate, light and free-flowing, and while the air of 'Akka was not as laden with smoke and other pollutants as that of the cities of Europe, and a gentle breeze always cleared the air, yet the Master changed his shirt twice daily. This did not take much time, for it was not difficult to remove the 'aba and qaba{176} and then put them on again, for they were comfortably loose and conveniently devoid of any superfluous buttons. The brightness and delicacy of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's shirts and headgear dazzled the eyes. Most of the Master's clothes were made of cotton and quite inexpensive, and since the clothes were loose, His blessed body was always free. The shawl that He wore around His waist was soft and loosely held in place. The colour of His clothes was generally beige or a bit darker. I never saw 'Abdu'l-Bahá in black or other dark colours.

In brief, the Master's good health, maintained through eating little and adhering to absolute cleanliness and simplicity, complied perfectly with the requirements of nature. After I had become a physician and was spending my vacation at 'Akka, I once checked 'Abdu'l-Bahá's pulse at His request. While at that time the signs of age were quite apparent in the Master's eyes and face, yet there was no sign of hardening of the arteries. I shall write more about this in the final chapter of this book.

'Abdu'l-Bahá was hardly ever ill. He used to say that after the passing of the Blessed Beauty and the onset of the Covenant-breakers' activities, He had been afflicted with

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dulab disease{177} for a few days; this was diagnosed as diabetes caused by a nervous disorder and lasted no more than a few days, after which He regained perfect health. In my last days in His presence, He sometimes caught a cold and ran a slight fever. However, that mighty will, that innate and heavenly power, always maintained His delicate, precious and celestial body in perfect balance and health.

When in 1909 A.D. I was given permission to return to Iran, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in the sixty-fifth year of His life. His body was straight as an arrow and He enjoyed perfect health. He was the very embodiment of joy and cheerfulness.

Another illustrative story: "Six years of hard work did not go to waste!"

One of Akka's famous physicians, who held a deep-seated resentment towards the Faith, was once called upon to pay a professional visit at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's residence. He performed his duties with great enthusiasm and sacrifice, even visiting the patient two or three times daily, well beyond normal requirements. In the end, however, he submitted a bill which was so exorbitant that it astonished everyone. 'Abdu'l-Bahá paid the bill in full and then told the following story to illustrate a point.

"From the actions, facial features and general disposition of this doctor, it was quite obvious to what an extent the hatred and disgust prompted by religious prejudice had penetrated his every limb, and how strongly the signs of animosity showed on his face. We referred three patients to him. He applied himself with such a happy face and amiable disposition that I was amazed. I told myself, 'I know this person and how spiteful and malevolent he is, so how can this much care and service be possible?' However, when his work was finished and he sent in his bill I realized he had charged ten times the true worth of the services rendered. I paid the bill immediately, and I am happy that in this way I came to know him well!

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"There was once a young mulla who wished to become specialized in the evaluation of human character through the study of physiognomy. Leaving his home, he travelled to Egypt and for six years studied the science of facial features. After a great deal of the hardship which is the lot of any foreignerina strange land, he passed his tests in both theory and practice, and having been granted the required certificates he mounted his mule and happily headed back towards his homeland.

"On the way, he made it a point to study the face of anyone who crossed his path; through practising his science he was able to discover many truths about that individual. One day in the distance he saw a person whose face betrayed signs of meanness, jealousy, selfishness, greed and stinginess. He said to himself, 'Lord God, I take refuge in God from His anger, but this is a face the like of which I have never seen before. A person with such a sinister face and such terrible qualities is well worth knowing, so that I may test my scientific knowledge and observations.'

'As the mulla was deep in thought, the stranger approached and with a happy smile and a humble disposition greeted him warmly, took hold of the bridle of his mule and said, 'Honourable sir, where are you coming from and where are you bound for?'

"'I am coming from Egypt and returning to my native town; tonight I plan to stop in such-and-such a village,' the mulla replied.

"'But sir,' advised the stranger, 'the village is quite far away, it is late and my house is very near. It would be better if you honoured my house with your kind presence and filled our home with pride and joy.' As the poet says:

Though the house is unworthy and bleak, Yet thy noble presence I seek. Enter it then and banish the dark By the light that shines forth from thine eyes.

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"The mulla noted that the stranger's words and behaviour were in complete contrast to his evaluation of the man's facial features and gestures, and he began to have second thoughts about his technical competency. So in order to further test his true ability, he accepted the invitation and proceeded to the stranger's house.

"With joy and pleasure the host provided every possible comfort. Tea, coffee, sherbet, and the water pipe were served one after another, as he constantly and persistently invited his guest to partake of all manner of food and drink. Each time the host made a kind and affectionate remark while serving his guest, the mulla sighed deeply and said to himself, 'I worked for six futile years specializing in a science which has ultimately proved false and useless.'

"When the time came for dinner to be served the mulla took a look at the variety of food before him and sighed again, thinking, 'I have made a huge mistake in not distinguishing a great and generous man from a contemptible one.' Hardly touching his meal, he spent the night in a state of misery. Next day before dawn he arose and prepared to take his leave. But the host expressed his dismay at losing the companionship of such a friend, and insisted that he should at least remain for lunch, immediately providing all the means of comfort and pleasure.

"In short, after three days of this warm and kindly reception, this generous and even persistent hospitality, the guest finally persuaded his host of his decision to leave. The host groomed his guest's mule and prepared it for the journey, and with great courtesy helped him mount. As he held the reins fast for the mulla to mount, he handed him an envelope. The mulla thought it was a gift to help him on his journey and exclaimed, 'You should not have done this. What is it anyway?'

"'This is your bill,' replied the host.

"'Bill for what?' asked the astonished mull&

"The host, dropping his mask of deceit, frowned and replied, 'You thought all this was for free?'

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"The mulla having come to his senses, opened the envelope and gazed with horror at an itemized price list of what he had eaten and some of what he had not, totalling some one hundred times the real worth of the services he had received. Of course, he had no such funds available, and so he placed the bridle of the mule, with his saddle bag and his other belongings, in the hands of his host and began to walk home, frequently kneeling down and praising the Lord thus: 'Praised be God, those six years of hard work did not go to waste!"'

Charity devoid of hypocrisy

'Abdu'l-Bahá frequently spoke about charity, noble conduct, kindliness towards all and serving the cause of humanity. He especially emphasized the fact that showing kindness and performing a service is acceptable, laudable and worthy to be considered an act of devotion, only if it is sincere and devoid of any hint of hypocrisy. Otherwise, if an ulterior motive or intent prompt the act, even if that purpose and intent is in itself praiseworthy and sacred, the act of charity will be tainted with hypocrisy; it will be unacceptable as a goodly act in the path of God, and will have little effect in the world of being.

"Rays of sunlight, the heat of the sun, or the falling rain of divine bounty are bestowed unconditionally and without any ulterior motive. In the same manner, a Bahá'í must be the manifestation of divine generosity and charity. Like the sun, he must shine on all and bestow his light on every land. You see that the infinite mercy of God embraces the whole of creation and knows no bias. The people of Baha must be the manifestations of this mercy and perform their charity similarly without any condition or intent.

"Indeed, it is this charity that educates the world of humanity; it is this charity that turns nature green and beautiful I wish that you, the people of Baha, may attain this great blessing, so that from the bounteous outpourings of each one

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of you this world of nature may be transformed into the most glorious paradise. If you look to the Abha Kingdom and behold the outpouring mercy and divine blessings which are vouchsafed equally to the obedient and the rebellious, then you will learn how you can become the signs of divine mercy and how, while bestowing your gifts, you can remain free of all conditions and motives, even if that condition is for the sake of God.

"For example, it is clear that no intent or act is more praiseworthy than teaching the Faith of God, no act is more sacred than guiding the nations. Yet if you show someone kindliness and use this as a means to disarm and convert him, this, too, is hypocrisy and deceit. If you serve someone, do not allow this hypocrisy to enter your heart, so that your service and your charity may be true to God, and its effects more enduring. As far as you can, you must be charitable without the slightest hint of hypocrisy and without any expectation of result or reward. Only then will the heavenly blessings attained through your acts of generosity transform this contingent world into a reflection of the Abha Kingdom."

In short, the Master spoke a great deal on this subject, presenting many logical proofs which have been perused by the friends in a thousand Tablets. However, the many stories, proverbs and anecdotes which accompanied these admonitions and not only added humour but offered a deeper understanding of His utterances, are so indescribable that a thousand eloquent tongues and brilliant orators would fail in their attempt to recount them, much less the stammering tongue, trembling fingers and chaotic thoughts of this servant, who is even incapable of describing any particular feature and quality related to one such as himself

One night, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke about consecrating one's possessions and the pleasure of giving generously. Explaining the meaning of the verse of the Blessed Perfection that, "To give and be generous are attributes of Mine. well is it with him that adornest himself with My virtues,"{178} He spoke with fervour, citing some interesting points regarding the evils of

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greed and miserliness. Quoting this verse: "Woe betide every slanderer and defamer, him that layeth up riches and counteth them,"{179} He went on to explain, "Whoever, out of miserliness, selfishness and frugality, amasses great wealth for unlawful purposes, will certainly not succeed, and ultimately that wealth will be used for purposes contrary to his wishes." He then gave some examples, citing several of the wealthy men of Akka in the past who were well known to the resident Bahá'ís, described their intentions in amassing their fortunes, and how all that wealth was spent in ways contrary to their purposes when they eventually left this world.

One of the resident friends then made a remark, in response to which 'Abdu'l-Bahá related the following story: "Once a poor Arab was weeping and wailing in the wilderness while tending to his dying dog. A passerby asked the reason for his grief. The Arab replied: 'This animal has always been my companion; whether at home or on the road he has faithfully guarded me against danger, and now he is dying of starvation in this barren wilderness and I am left utterly powerless to save his life.'

"The passerby, who himself lacked provisions for his own journey, felt pity for the poor Arab, and wishing to be of some help began to console him: 'It is not right that you should shed so many tears, moaning and groaning over this dying animal.'

"The Arab's lament grew louder: 'But this is not an animal, this is a trained dog who has been my constant companion, accompanying me on all my travels. It has performed good and faithful service and has rescued me many a time from life-threatening danger.'

"In short, he enumerated a list of extraordinary qualities to describe his loving companion. These expressions were so moving that the passerby too began to weep. After about an hour the traveller prepared to take his leave. As he stood up, he leaned his hand against the Arab's travelling bag. As he pressed on the bag he heard a crackling noise, so he asked the Arab what he had in the bag. The Arab replied, 'It is dried bread for my journey.'

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"'Why do you not give some of it to this dying animal?' asked the traveller. Insulted, the Arab stared at him and exclaimed, 'I said I loved the dog, but not enough to share my own bread with him!"'

Infiltrating the Faith of God

'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke a great deal about the future of the Faith, giving glad tidings of the complete and final triumph of the Cause. Regarding the firmness of the structure and objectives of the institution of the Universal House of justice, and the necessity of avoiding any condition that might lead to instability or division in the Faith of God, He spoke in emphatic language. He would explain the reasons behind the instability and division in the different existing religions, and how certain capricious characters had infiltrated the Faith of God, formed various groups and beliefs, and thus destroyed the very spirit of the Cause. And furthermore, how these leaders had made their worldly and selfish desires appear to be heavenly aims, deceiving the naive and simple-minded in the name of following the Law of God. In so doing they had created disunity among the believers and weakened the pillars of the Faith. The strength of the Universal House of justice, however, would prevent this division and weakness. For now, the Spiritual Assemblies are responsible for the affairs of the Cause until the Universal House of justice is established.

In short, from the utterances of the Master it could be gleaned that nothing could be more harmful and destructive than division and disunity. And that while the Faith of God was protected against such afflictions, the friends of God must still be alert and aware, so that the circumstances besetting the fortunes of other religions did not repeat themselves. They should beware lest someone generate a following based on a personal interpretation of a divine verse, form a group similar to the dervishes, and thus deviate from the straight path of the Cause of God. The following warnings were specifically and repeatedly emphasized by the Master:

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"Whenever you see anyone who deviates to the extent of a needle's eye from the straight path of the Cause of God, who in the name of service or the practice of self-discipline or any other name tries to impress his own views on others, beware; for his purpose is to instil doubt and cause departure from the divine path so that he may acquire a following and form his own group. This departure from the straight path, though negligible at first, will lead after a time to remoteness from the path of guidance. And so from the very beginning any such deviation must be prevented.

"Of course, anyone who wants to gain a following and create division among the friends will at first resort to one of the divine verses and make himself appear to be sincere and deeply attached to the Faith. Words of humility and sacrifice flow from his tongue so that he may deceive the simple and the naive. For example, we repeat the Greatest Name ninety-five times a day. If someone proposes, 'What harm is there in repeating it ninety-six times?'-just once more, or 'We should repeat it twice ninety-five times,' you should know that his purpose is to infiltrate the Cause of God.

"In this Faith there are no hidden mysteries or esoteric allusions. The path of the Cause is straight. I too, in the position of Interpreter, have explained and written whatever was necessary. But the friends must be aware and alert, and eschew the company of such masters of deceit, and if they see someone who has supporters and followers, they must exercise great care and find out what plans are in his heart and what ambitions motivate his mind, since these people have no motive but to infiltrate the Faith."

The meaning of generosity

In the Islamic world His Holiness Ali, may peace be upon him, is considered a symbol of generosity, the quintessence of charity and magnanimity.{180} The record of his many acts of benevolence is ample proof of the veracity of this claim by the Muslims, and of the high regard in which he is held. The

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generosity of Hatem-i-Ta'i, too, is now a byword among the people of the East, to such an extent that any act of boundless giving is referred to as Hatem-giving.{181} This is absolute magnanimity, the gold standard by which acts of charity are measured. However, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's counsels and admonitions to the people were as described in the section entitled "Charity devoid of hypocrisy". 'Abdu'l-Bahá would offer the example of nature's greatest gifts such as the sun, the moon, the heavenly rain and the celestial breeze, and express His desire that the friends should learn from nature, bestowing boundless favour upon all and under no circumstances allowing the slightest hint of partiality to influence their judgement, never considering merit or worthiness; in this way they would become signs of divine generosity.

These were the Master's teachings. And it could be observed from His own actions that His own boundless charity knew no limits, even given the prevalent circumstances and the lack of material means. The highest pillars of greed and avarice of the most self-serving individual could not reach the loftiness of the edifice of His generosity and munificence.

Now, the meaning of generosity must be understood. First, helping the poor, caring for the downtrodden and receiving and serving the beggars and paupers of 'Akka on Fridays, as described earlier, cannot in my view be considered signs of generosity, for they were 'Abdu'l-Bahá's expressions of mercy and kindness to those who were in need of those blessings. Even if He refused monetary help to a few able-bodied men, that too was a form of mercy and affection, in the hope that they might come to their senses, take on the hardships of labour, and earn an honest living.

Secondly, if on a cold rainy day in the streets of 'Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave His 'aba to a needy person and returned home in only His qaba, this too could not be considered an act of generosity but rather an act of kindness and compassion towards the poor. Rochefoucauld, the French scholar, says:

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"Witnessing the hardship of the poor stimulates the sense of pity and compassion, and therefore giving up one's material possessions alleviates these feelings."{182} Therefore, such an act cannot be defined as generosity either. So what is the true meaning of generosity?

In the opinion of this servant, true generosity is the greatest divine virtue and is utterly unrelated to the feelings of satisfaction and pleasure that are derived from attending to people's needs and wants. The station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's generosity was the very embodiment of the divine verse contained in a prayer by the Abha Beauty: "From the billows of the ocean of Thy generosity the seas of eagerness and enthusiasm were revealed."{183} In truth, from the billowing ocean of this manifestation of generosity, this source of charity, oceans of desire and greed were ever-present, for whoever was acquainted with that beloved personage longed with his whole being to be the recipient of His limitless blessings and charity, whether he was from the class of the poor or from the ranks of the affluent.

What was unusual was that regardless of the size of His gift, He Himself was never satisfied with the offering and would increase it. All the non-Bahá'ís, therefore, had noticed that in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's charitable hands material means and wealth had no value, regardless of their worth. And so the greedy and the avaricious-especially the ever-acquisitive Arabs-were always drifting around 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The story of one such man is presented here.

One day, one of the Shaykhs of Sur and Seyda{184} who had frequently been the recipient of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's acts of charity was in the presence of the Master. I too was summoned, and as He went on writing He told me, "Help the Shaykh to put on this 'aba." The aba was a fine garment made in the city of Na'in (famed for that industry) and every year a few were shipped to 'Abdu'l-Bahá from Iran to give away. I unfolded the 'aba from its package, shook the wrinkles out, and with both hands placed it over the tall shoulders of the Shaykh, then I stood next to him and awaited permission to sit down.

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The Shaykh seemed distracted and pensive; with rapid hand movements he kept rubbing his fingers along the surface of the 'aba and muttering something. 'Abdu'l-Bahá raised His head and said, "O Shaykh, what is the matter?" But the Shaykh just stood there mumbling. The Master asked, "What do you wish to say?"

"But Effendi, this is cotton," He replied. In other words, this 'aba is made of cotton and is not worthy of my social rank.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's patience was wearing thin. He stood up and remarked, "This is not cotton. It is one of the best 'abas of Persia, it was made in the famous city of Na'in and arrived just yesterday, and I am offering it to you today. My own 'aba is made of cotton and I purchased it for two majidi, but your 'aba was purchased in Persia for ten majidi, not including the cost of shipping and customs." In making these remarks, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke with such an air of humility and melancholy that I was deeply moved. Again He spoke: "You know I am not the one to wear the better 'aba and hand you the inferior one. Now come, let us make a test." He then walked out of His small office and over to the adjoining room and stood near the window where He had the best light, and asked for a match. Then with much patience He removed some material from the surface of the fabric of the Shaykh 58 'aba and made it into a small ball. He then put the flame to it and held the rising smoke under the Shaykh's wretched nose. Then the Master held the burnt woollen ball in front of his eyes until he was convinced. Next, He removed some lint from his own 'aba, burned it, and placed the smoke under the nose of the Shaykh until he agreed that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's 'aba was of cotton.

When the test was over, the Master uttered a few more words which touched my heart to its very core. I don't know what you, the readers, might have done had you been the ones listening to His words. He said, "O Shaykh, if I had worn the good 'aba and offered you the ordinary one, then you would have had the right to protest,

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the better 'aba and kept the cheaper, the two-majidi 'aba, for myself But even if I had given you the cotton 'aba, it would have been more worthy of you to have accepted the gift and not offended me. You could then have asked me for another 'aba rather than breaking my heart by rejecting my gift." As soon as the Shaykh lowered his head 'Abdu'l-Bahá, not wishing to witness his shame, said, "Don't be sad, I will give you the price of another 'aba in cash." He then told me, "Go downstairs, find Aqa Rida and ask him to give fifteen majidi to the Shaykh."

I ran down the stairs, passed on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions and returned. The Shaykh was receiving permission to leave. Afterwards the Master told me, "You see what I have to put up with?" Then He added, "These are not my real concerns, my real worry is that this news might reach the ears of the Covenant-breakers who would then find the poor man and fill his head with doubt and untruth, just to add to my cares." In fact, the matter did not end there, for what 'Abdu'l-Bahá had envisioned came true. The Shaykh received the 'aba and the fifteen majidi and took his leave. But the Covenant-breakers did discover the matter; they found him and filled his head with stories, the nature of which I am unaware. The next day he returned the 'aba and the money to Aqa Riday'-i-Qannad 'Aqa Rida reported the matter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master remarked, "That is not a problem. Keep his trust for him. The Shaykh will regret his action and will return for them."

After a time the Shaykh did in fact return contrite and regretful, and confidentially took back his trust from Aqa Rida. Later on, whenever he attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he would always receive his share of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's charity and generosity. This is the true meaning of generosity.

"Eat the bread, but don't drink the wine"

Those who lived within the precincts of the Holy Threshold bear witness that whoever attained the presence of the

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Beloved, drank from the wine of nearness and became intoxicated by the ecstasy of such reunion, would lose control of his faculties, forget all the requirements of custom and convention, and fail to distinguish between the sublime and the unsightly I was one of these: I had become so inebriated with the wine of His favour and bounty that I was beside myself with joy and had lost the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. This was because I had recognized in my loving Master the tendency to consider the unworthy actions of human weaklings as true service, and their sins and shortcomings as non-existent.

Where Thy mercy abounds, The undone is considered done, The done undone.

I had no thought or concern about anything except that I constantly tried to do something-good or bad-in order to avoid the effects of idleness and sloth.

A way into the Friend's heart I must win, If virtue should fail me, then through sin.

Peace and calm had no place in my life, and inactivity was abhorrent to me. I considered action and motion to be the very essence of the life of the spirit and-as I have described in Chapter I under the title "My duties on this pilgrimage" through the intense devotion that burned in my heart I knew that the mercy and favour of my Master would cover my shortcomings and conceal my sins, and that while aware of the error of my ways He would respond with benevolence and forgiveness. It so happened that none of the pilgrims who arrived at that time were any wiser than I, especially those who had been rescued from the tragedy of Yazd or had fled the calamity of Isfahan, or those who had escaped the sneering

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and taunting of the enemies and had at last found tranquillity and safety under the protective shadow of the Beloved of the world. They were all intoxicated with the wine of the eternal Covenant and lived in the paradise of nearness in utter joy and peace. One of these pilgrims, who stayed for quite some time, was the honoured 'Ali-Muhammad Khan, known as Khan-i-Bahá'í. He had formerly been a close associate of Jalalu'd-Dawlih, the Governor of Yazd, the man who was the instigator of the holocaust and responsible for the murder of a large number of the martyrs who gave up their lives in the path of God.{185}

Khan-i-Bahá'í, of course, had witnessed all those dreadful, horrific events, and agonizing memories of the atrocities of Yazd were constantly in his mind. From the advent of the era of the Covenant [1892] he was held in such high regard by the Master that a Tablet was revealed in his honour every week or at least every month during a period of four years.

During his pilgrimage in 'Akka he was a constant recipient of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's blessings; while in His presence he received much of His attention. He was also called "Jinab-i-Khan" by the Master, and because of the abundance of His loving attention and kind favours, he, like me, had become spoiled and pampered. However, he was more deserving of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's blessings than I was, for he was weak and in ill health. He constantly complained of indigestion problems, consuming every day a handful of strange pills, herbs and seeds prescribed by Persian physicians. At that time he was less than 50 and more than 40, but the signs of age were quite apparent in his manners and behaviour, and while he was spiritually strong, his body was weak and feeble. However, now that he is over 80 years old he walks the fields and goes hunting, chasing his prey on foot. Furthermore, he never fails in his constant service to the Cause, and his only sign of age is a slight deafness which was discovered in his youth and which has stayed with him ever since. So the source of his physical health and energy should be clear. Rumour had it that he had

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asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá for healing and recovery of his powers. I do not know what instructions he received from 'Abdu'l-Bahá but the Master had prescribed for his indigestion that he should take nothing but pure milk for a time, and had told the servant of the pilgrim house to provide him with an abundance of fresh milk every day.

For the first two days he was quite committed to his diet. On the third and fourth days he had to force the liquid down with distaste, and so once in the presence of the Master he begged to be relieved from drinking any more milk. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, however, re-emphasized the diet and so by the fifth and sixth day he could hardly move and was unable to leave the pilgrim house. On the seventh day, which was the day for visiting the Most Holy Shrine, I suggested accompanying him to the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá where we could board a carriage. But then I realized that not only was he unable to walk, but that he even lacked the strength to talk.

Feeling sorry for him, I told him, 'Just a piece of bread and a cup of tea should not be harmful."

"If I cat bread, what will I say to the Master?" he replied. "Didn't you see how adamantly He forbade me to consume anything but milk?"

I thought I could lovingly persuade him to eat, and then in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá take the blame for his disobedience on myself. I was about to say, "Don't you know the saying of the Holy Imams about the believers in this Dispensation: 'May my life be sacrificed for your sins', which makes the whole idea of disobedience non-existent?" But I realized that he could not appreciate such profound wisdom on an empty stomach, and so I said, "Why are you worrying about disobedience so much? Answering 'Abdu'l-Bahá won't be all that difficult."

"What should I do then?" he asked.

"Eat the bread and think of it as though you have drunk wine, and then repent immediately," I replied. This answer was as spiritual food to his soul. He got up straight away, hastily ate some bread and drank half a cup of lukewarm tea,

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and got his old energy back. So we set out towards the Master's House.

On the way, he kept me amused by his threats to disclose my part in the story and show me up as the real culprit. That day we visited the Most Holy Shrine and on our return we attained the presence of the Master. Khan-i-Bahá'í waited anxiously for 'Abdu'l-Bahá to ask after his health so that he might throw the responsibility off his own shoulders and onto mine. But as it happened, 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not even mention the subject, and so at dinner time in the pilgrim house he had himself a full serving of abgusht which he ate with great relish, and the next morning he felt no shame in putting away a good size breakfast either, after which he hastened to the darb-khanih.

An hour later he came running back to the pilgrim house and found me. "I really had to cook your goose in order to get my release to eat bread," he shouted with joy.

"So what did you do?" I enquired.

"I attained 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence in the biruni and received so much kind attention and loving words that in my shame, I began to cry. He asked me, 'You are not eating any bread, are you?' 'Yes, Beloved, I am,' I replied. 'What had I told you?' asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá. 'Beloved, Youness tempted me. He told me to eat the bread and think of it as though I had drunk wine and repent immediately,' I responded. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's laughter rang out as He laid His hand on my shoulder and remarked, 'Very well, very well. Eat the bread but don't drink the wine!"'

Having said this, he attacked the bread basket once more and put away as much of the bread as he could hold, whispering all the while, "Very well, very well. Eat the bread but don't drink the wine."

What sort of place was 'Akka?

The walled and fortified citadel of 'Akka had served in the past as the central site for the storage of heavy military artillery and ammunition, as well as the garrison headquarters for the

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Ottoman army. Frequently coveted by the great conquerors of Europe, it had known bloody battles in the Napoleonic wars, when the Ottoman army gained ultimate victory.

The city's climate was so ghastly that it was used as a place of exile for murderers and other criminals who had been given the death sentence. And because of the foul stench of the fumes emanating from a variety of filth and sludge, infectious diseases were rampant. Even when the Blessed Beauty and other prisoners were brought here under the agreement between the Persian and Ottoman governments, the Persian ambassador had written to Nasiri'd-Din Shah, "The climate of the selected place of exile, namely the fort of 'Akka, is so terrible that if birds were to fly over it they would surely die."

In this dilapidated fortress there are structures several thousand years old. The ancestors of the inhabitants of 'Akka were either prisoners themselves, or military officials, or border guards of the citadel, and it was said that they were a physically feeble and frail people. It was frequently mentioned by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and acknowledged by all the resident believers that all the water from the city wells contained salt and was unpalatable, and that the only well which produced marginally drinkable water{186} was the 'Aynu'l-Baqar well located some two kilometres outside the city. All the residents of the town received their water from this well, carried into town on wagons drawn by oxen.

There are many Traditions about the exalted nature of this fortress. An example is the Tradition: "Blessed is the one that hath drunk from the Spring of the Cow", which recognizes the station of the well.{187}

From the day that this fortress became the place of exile of the Beloved of the world [Bahá'u'lláh], the climate gradually began to improve, the pollution of the atmosphere by those odious fumes ceased, the air quality improved and even the water from the city well turned fresh and drinkable. The change in the quality of water was so dramatic that the use of the famous 'Aynu'l-Baqar well was abandoned; it became a historical site about which elderly citizens of 'Akka told stories

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to the young. Furthermore, the once-rampant infectious and contagious diseases vanished. I frequently heard from 'Abdu'l-Bahá -and was once a witness to it myself-that in the forty-year period of the Most Great Prison plague and cholera epidemics several times engulfed many cities in the Holy Land but did not enter the gates of 'Akka, nor did they descend on the city from the air, despite the fact that the two most important agents for the spreading of these diseases, namely rats and flies, abounded in the area to such an extent that their numbers were beyond estimation. In this period, in addition to the climate changes, many municipal developments were undertaken due to the encouragement and persuasion of the Blessed Beauty. For example, an aqueduct was established and drinking water was piped to homes. And since the inhabitants of 'Akka had seen little of parks or gardens, through 'Abdu'l-Bahá's generous gifts and contributions a city park called Baladieh was built just outside 'Akka, although it has been abandoned of late. Also at the command of the Blessed Beauty the Gardens of Ridvan and 88 Firdaws, which were used by the public at large, were built.'

In short, due to the blessed presence of Bahá'u'lláh the dilapidated fortress of 'Akka was renovated and its environs developed into green fields and gardens bringing to mind the verdant gardens of Paradise itself. The villages and hamlets around 'Akka used to produce only dates, except in a few areas where citrus fruits and olives were grown. But after the change in the climate, summer and winter fruits such as dates, pecans, apples, pomegranates, figs and others became abundant. They used to say that the air of 'Akka was still and stagnant, but now a fresh breeze blows from all four sides. Some are of the belief that the reason for this air current is the opening of the Suez canal, which guides the current from Port Said, and that in summertime it brings with it the rain clouds of the Indian peninsula.

In any event, the people of 'Akka attributed these miraculous changes to the auspicious presence of Bahá'u'lláh; they were in no doubt about it. However, despite all these

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improvements in the climate and urban conditions, there still existed other difficulties and hardships in 'Akka The resident believers used to recall that Bahá'u'lláh referred to these as "effulgences of the Most Great Prison". A few of these "effulgences." (ishraqat) had disappeared with the passage of time, but some remained. I will now describe one such "effulgence"!

One "effulgence" of the Prison, the thirty-day fast

The resident believers used to say that the phrase "effulgences of the Prison" was a term which had been revealed by the Tongue of Glory{189} to characterize the hardships and tribulations associated with life in 'Akka; it had endured among the friends through word of mouth.

At the beginning these hardships were numerous, but many of them disappeared little by little, mainly because of the changes to the environment. Others still persisted. The various deadly epidemics, which during the time of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the barracks had annihilated a large number of the inhabitants, had disappeared leaving no trace, as had the foul-smelling fumes which had caused and spread infectious diseases.

Still, one of those "effulgences of the Prison" which the passing of time and change in the climate had failed to overcome was the assault of the fleas, mosquitoes, flies and ants, which confirmed the expression, "Blessed the one who is bitten by the insects of 'Akka". Another was the thirty-day fast, which according to the command of Bahá'u'lláh was to be observed until the end of the period of incarceration to commemorate the Islamic holy month. Every sincere and devoted believer was expected to observe it gladly and of his own free will.

This thirty-day fast, which according to the Islamic calendar is observed in the month of Ramadan, continued to be kept until the end of the period of imprisonment in 1909 A.D. For the pilgrims and resident believers, who led relatively comfortable and peaceful lives, observing the thirty-day fast

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was not a difficult undertaking. But for the blessed person of the Centre of the Covenant, whose life was filled with numerous occupations and hardships (as described in Chapter 3 of this chronicle), it can be imagined how arduous and exhausting such an observance was. This was especially true when in the month of Ramadan the Muslims of 'Akka, including all the government officials, switched their nights and days and conveniently slept during the daytime, while at night, after breaking the fast and observing the obligatory prayers, they crowded 'Abdu'l-Bahá's biruni to while away the night and disturb the Master until dawn.

But that spiritual and heavenly Being had to begin His many tasks before the rising of the sun, as has been described in previous chapters. And so in the month of Ramadan no comfort was possible for 'Abdu'l-Bahá; at times even the opportunity to partake of the meals did not present itself, and therefore His fast began without any breakfast and ended without any dinner. Thus the "effulgences of the Most Great Prison" sapped His strength and weakened His body. Many times during these days of fasting I saw the Master in such a state of exhaustion that I was deeply shaken.

On one such day He summoned me to His presence in the biruni area. As He spoke, signs of melancholy and weariness were apparent in His voice. He slowly paced the floor and then began to climb the stairs with difficulty. The symptoms of fatigue gave way to expressions of displeasure and weariness: "I don't feel well. Yesterday I did not cat any breakfast and when the time came to break the fast I had no appetite. Now I need a bit of rest." As He spoke, His face was so ashen that I became alarmed for His well-being. So I boldly exclaimed, "It is better for the Master to break the fast."

"No, it is not proper," was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's reply.

I persisted. "With the way the Master feels, fasting itself is not proper either."

"It is not important, I will rest a while," responded 'Abdu'l-Bahá

"The believers cannot endure to see the Master in such a

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state of physical weakness and exhaustion," I remained unyielding. 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave an effective and moving explanation in the hope of convincing me to relent. It did not work. In fact, it increased my ardour, and I continued to try to persuade Him to break the fast. As He would not yield, my words became mixed with tears and lamentations. But He would not let up.

Suddenly I realized that I had found a new quality in myself which did not allow me to give in, despite all the reasons that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had offered. And so, stubbornly holding my ground, I told myself, "Regardless of what may come of this, I will continue to beg, plead and implore until I achieve my purpose, for I can no longer behold the Beloved of the world in such a condition,"

While begging and supplicating, strange thoughts crowded my mind. It was as if I wished to discover in what light my servitude and devotion to that Threshold was regarded in the sight of God. As such, I would consider success in this to be a good omen. And so from the very depths of my heart I entreated the Most Holy Shrine for assistance. Spontaneously these words flowed from my lips, "So may I make a suggestion?"

"What do you want me to do?" 'Abdu'l-Bahá replied. Tears streaming from my eyes, I begged Him, "Come and for this once break your fast, to bring happiness to the heart of a sinful servant of Bahá'u'lláh."

God be praised, I know not where those words came from, but they brought such joy to the heart of that quintessence of kindness and love that quite loudly He exclaimed, "Of course, of course, of course."

Immediately He called for Nasir and told him, "Put some water in the pot and boil it and make a cup of tea for me." And then He put His blessed hand on my shoulder and said, 'Are you pleased with me now? If you wish, you can go back to your tasks now and I will drink the tea and pray for you."

Such feelings of joy and ecstasy flooded my being at that

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moment that I was rendered incapable of a reasonable response. Looking at me, 'Abdu'l-Bahá remarked, "Do you want to be present to see with your own eyes when I break my fast? Very well, come and sit down." He then withdrew to His small office, took up the pen and began to write, as I watched. Aqa Rida now came into the presence of the Master for some particular purpose. 'Abdu'l-Bahá remarked, "Today I do not feel well and in response to the request of one of the loved ones of God I want to break my fast." As Aqa Rida left the room, the teapot with a single glass and a bowl of sugar were brought in. Addressing me, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, "Jinab-i-Khan, you have performed a praiseworthy service. May God bless you. If I had not broken the fast now, I would surely have fallen ill and would have been forced to break the fast." And with every sip of the tea, He bestowed on me other kind and loving words. After that He arose and said, "Now that I feel better, I will go after my work and will continue to pray for you."

And then He started down the stairs. In the biruni reception room there was no one except the late Aqa Siyyid Ahmad-i-Afnan (the same Afnan upon whom the rank of martyr was bestowed posthumously). Addressing him, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, "Jinab-i-Afnan, today I was not feeling well and intended to rest, but at the request of a beloved friend I have broken my fast. I am happy to have done so, for otherwise I would have fallen ill. But now I feel well and can continue the work of the Cause." Having said this, He walked out of the room. Jinab-i-Afnan, his eyes shining with the light of pure joy and delight, said, "God Almighty, who was that 'beloved friend', so that I can sacrifice my life for him?" And I, drunk with manifest victory, exclaimed, "It was I, it was I."

In brief, rather than any attempt at sacrifice of life, and filled with heavenly joy, we embraced each other as our spirits soared. As we did so, I placed in the storehouse of my memory the fact that the thirty-day fast truly was an "effulgence of the Most Great Prison".

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"My well-being and its opposite are in the hands of the friends"

In certain chapters of this book I have presented short accounts of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's feelings and emotions during periods of hardship and suffering, and also in the section entitled "One thought cannot divert Him from another" I have briefly described His powers of endurance and perseverance in the face of a multitude of crises and predicaments. Now I wish to describe those types of hardship and calamity which caused Him the most pain and sorrow, and conversely, those conditions which brought joy and delight to His heart.

While I have already touched upon this issue as far as my failing memory can recall in some of the previous chapters, yet to elucidate the point I present the following account. And in this wondrous era, when the Sun of the Most Great Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh is shining from the horizon of the Guardianship of the Faith of God, I beseech God to help me succeed in bringing some measure of joy and happiness to the heart of the beloved Guardian. At the top of the list, the very first thing that distressed 'Abdu'l-Bahá and brought sadness to His blessed heart was disunity in the Cause of God. Compared to this, the breaking of the Covenant by the Covenant-breakers, the sedition of Mirza Aqa Jan, and the wickedness and mischief of the trouble-makers and enemies of the Faith paled into insignificance. I had heard frequently from the lips of 'Abdu'l-Bahá: "I forgave Mirza Aqa Jan and overlooked his many transgressions against me. However, forgiving him for the wounds he inflicted upon the Cause of the Blessed Beauty is not up to me."

Indeed, neither the opposition of the detractors, nor the refutation of the unbelievers, nor the infidelity of the Covenant-breakers displeased Him as much as the slightest odour of disunity detected in whatever quarter [among the Bahá'ís]. This was further demonstrated by the fact that while some of the Covenant-breakers were so brazen and impertinent that at times in the presence of the Master they were

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blatantly discourteous and even used slanderous words, none of this had the smallest effect on 'Abdu'l-Bahá. I heard the Master remark many times, "I have no complaints against Muhammad Javad-i-Qazvini. since he is openly and admittedly my enemy. I know where I stand with him. My complaint is against the unfaithful sceptics who create disunity).

So it was quite clear that there was nothing worse than creating disunity. Even the disunity created over the adoption of the Bahá'í greeting "Allah'u'Abha" compared to "Allah'u'A'Zam", which was described in the closing paragraphs of Chapter I of this book, was a source of great sadness to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. As soon as that storm was dissipated and the dark clouds of disunity were lifted, and the light of love and fellowship illumined the hearts, the Master's happiness and joy knew no bounds.

Secondly, what truly caused sadness and grief for the Master was the injustice of the enemies and the utter submissiveness of the friends-so much so that whenever the Persian friends suffered injury at the hands of their enemies, signs of deep sorrow could be detected on His blessed face for a long time. The account in Chapter 3 of this narrative of the holocausts in Yazd and Isfahan demonstrates the truth of this matter.

Thirdly, what really caused 'Abdu'l-Bahá much pain and sorrow was the misconduct and misdeeds of those who claimed attachment to the Faith. And conversely, the good deeds of any of the friends were a source of joy and happiness to the Master. The following story is presented as an example.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's health, as I witnessed it over the nine-year period of my stay, was such that He never took to bed when lie was unwell; whenever He developed a fever He would Simply endure the discomfort, not disclosing the matter to anyone; by adopting certain diets He was usually able to cure himself Only by the way He ate and drank at the dinner table With the Western pilgrims—or abstained from food and drink-could we tell that He was not feeling well.

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One day we heard that the Master was ill in bed and had not left the andaruni. Since an illness that would confine Him to bed was unprecedented, the resident friends became quite alarmed and for a few days whenever we enquired after His health we were given glad tidings of His recovery But the Master did not appear in the biruni area. After a while we began to lose patience and could no longer endure the situation. Every morning, every night, and at various other times we would show up at the biruni area and enquire after His health from any relative or servant who came down the stairs. But since they all gave hopeful replies, it was clear that they were obeying 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions to impart only good news, lest the friends become unhappy and worried.

After some eight or nine days I presented myself at the Master's House very early one morning, before the rising of the sun. For a while I walked around the flower beds waiting for one of the servants to come down the stairs so that I could enquire about His health. Suddenly I heard the sound of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's finger rapping on the windowpane of His study. I raised my face and looking up beheld the blessed countenance of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the first light of dawn. I was benumbed by the intensity of joy which flooded my whole being. With a movement of His finger, He beckoned me. Taking long jumps, I scaled the stairs and entered His presence. There stood the luminous figure of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Master seemed quite happy and fresh. I bowed.

"So you are here to enquire after my health? Praise God, I am quite well," He said. Then He told me to take a seat. As He began to write, the following utterances were revealed: "Nothing affects me more than the actions and conduct of the friends. The main reason I was ill over the last few days was a letter I had received from Persia describing the misdeeds deeds and misconduct of one of the believers. The news brought me such pain and sorrow that I fell ill and had to stay in bed until last night, when Mirza Haydar-'Ali delivered a letter from 'Ishqabad bearing news of the good deeds of one of the friends. It made me so happy that I became well. So if

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the believers wish for my happiness, they must adorn them heavenly character and conduct." He continued in this vein with further admonitions, until He said, "It is because of this that I have always said that my well-being and its opposite are in the hands of the friends."

A grand feast

From the dawn of the advent of the Cause down to the present day, all the feasts and gatherings held in either Haifa or 'Akka have possessed a particular grandeur and splendour which in their own way have remained unrivalled. This was especially true when such feasts were hosted by none other than the noble person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

We had heard that one or two years before the renewal of confinement, in 1898 and 1899, the grandest feasts were held in Haifa; travellers of different faiths and from various far-off lands of East and West all attended, attired in their diverse native dress. But since confinement in the Most Great Prison had resumed and the holding of gatherings and assemblies had been prohibited, this type of feast was no longer held, and thus the longing of the friends to experience such meetings went unfulfilled.

Until one day, when the hardships and restrictions caused mainly by the intrigues of the Covenant-breakers were at their peak, such a feast came to he held quite unexpectedly. At a time when the doors of case and comfort were closed on all sides, Mrs. Jackson, one of the renowned American believers, was visiting 'Abdu'l-Bahá at His residence along with another visitor. Other Eastern pilgrims, practising extreme caution and prudence, had been able to arrive unnoticed from various directions and had gathered in the pilgrim house. 'Abdu'l-Bahá decided that these assorted people should meet each other at a feast, and although none of them understood each other's language, the dinner table was set and prepared in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's House and the guests came together and occupied the seats around the table. Everyone

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was utterly enamoured of the matchless beauty of the Love Master's countenance and captivated by His every act.

Praised be God, the various religions and creeds were rep resented by at least one person, uniquely dressed as each came from a different background: Muslim, Christian, Jew, Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Buddhist, all of whom regarded each other as brothers, nay, as loved ones. Each was attired in his native dress and hat. Seeing the Persian hat, the Egyptian fez, the Indian turban, or the long Zoroastrian qaba, in contrast to the physical features and dress of the American pilgrims, all in one place, all so utterly different in appearance and yet united in their views, their convictions and ideals, gave the onlooker a special feeling. As instructed by the Master before the start of the meal, I stood at one end of the table while He stood at the other end and spoke for about ten minutes. As He spoke, the eyes of the participants were fastened on Him, their souls soaring in the loftiest paradise. Each person beheld his own Beloved, the object of the desire of his own Faith, clothed in the garment of humility. The simple words of the Master brought such joy to the hearts and delight to the souls that everyone became oblivious of the contingent world and soared in the kingdom of the spirit. I translated His words into English, but not all those twenty individuals knew Persian or English, and so an English speaking doctor took notes for the others.

The theme of His brief talk was as follows: "Meetings, celebrations and feasts where the participants come from diverse nations and backgrounds have been witnessed before, but that spirit of love and unity which brings the hearts and souls together has not been seen in this world except at this feast and under the shadow of the Word of God." Then He added: "Magnificent and splendid celebrations and feasts abound in this world, yet in this prison with all its hardships and restrictions, the like of such a lively and happy gathering has never been and never will be witnessed."

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The heavenly qualities manifested by 'Abdu'l-Bahá are beyond the power of description; their exalted station is out side the realm of understanding and comparison. None of these qualities could be appraised by the intellectual faculties, for they were an integral part of His being and His person was the quintessence of such qualities.

This was especially true of the quality of love. Like a flame, it radiated from the core of His being, igniting the fire of the love of God in the hearts of men. All that has existed in the past, and all that exists now in the contingent world, as well as in the divine Kingdom, is due to this love that has illumined the world of being.

Of course, if the light of such a love had not emanated from the heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, it could in no way have penetrated the pure hearts of the devoted servants, and thousands of eager souls would not have rushed to the arena of sacrifice. His own words bear witness to this assertion words that have filled the cars, eyes and spirits of thousands of souls, that endure in the deepest recesses of the hearts, and are recorded in unnumbered chronicles.

When He says:

Unless ye must, Bruise not the serpent in the dust, How much Less wound a man. And if ye can, No ant should ye alarm, 'go Much less a brother harm{190}

any man of understanding and discernment will testify that the fruits of such a love-namely, kindliness, compassion and mankind from the horrors of hatred, mercy-can rescue enmity and savagery.

In a previous section I presented a short account of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's generosity and had intended to write a few

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words concerning the love of that manifestation of mercy and blessing. But the pen was rendered helpless to reach such a threshold, and was unworthy to enter such an arena. And so I now present a brief account of the effects of this love emanating from the horizon of mercy and compassion.

One of the Covenant-breakers of old had raised his expressions of hatred and enmity to such a level that the pen is ashamed to make mention of it and the heart is chagrined to recall it. When his enmity and intrigues failed to bring any results, he wrote a letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. One afternoon, as the Master was pacing up and down in the front entrance of the biruni, talking on various subjects, He made mention of that person with love and sympathy, although in the past the man's flagrant misdeeds had become a byword among the friends. His conduct had been so disgraceful and outrageous that in the field of wickedness I considered him first and Muhammad Javad-i-Qazvini a close second. In any case, from the sympathetic nature of the Master's utterances I thought that he must have repented and that the depth of his abasement and degradation had moved the ocean of divine compassion. So I asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá , "Has he repented?" "You have no idea what has befallen that unfortunate man," He replied. "I feel very sorry for him." Again I thought that he must have been afflicted by some horrible calamity and fallen into the depths of misery. So I asked, "What has happened?" "He has fallen into disgrace and expressed his repentance," replied 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Then He added, "Come, I will show you his letter." We climbed the steps and entered the small and rather dark room situated on one side of the andaruni area. There He took the letter from His pocket and began to read. But the more I listened the less I detected any words of repentance and contrition. He simply attributed all the flagrant violations to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and presented himself as guiltless. He also described his own miserable condition-how he had experienced great loss in business ventures and had not done

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much better in farming either, and how furthermore, none of the promises of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, who had foretold great triumphs and glory, had been fulfilled. And now in the face of all this misery and misfortune he expressed great longing to rise to the heights of success, and hoped that his investments in commerce and agriculture might prove to be profitable.

During the reading of the letter, 'Abdu'l-Bahá expressed such tender, kind sentiments that I was deeply moved. At the same time, I recalled that man's many flagrant misdeeds, and wept over the tender heart of my beloved Master. At last 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, "I shall pray for him, and will write him a favourable reply." I don't know what the Master wrote him, but later I found out that while his business had improved, he had not abandoned his resentment and malice towards the Faith. Over the years I would think about him every so often. Eventually, after seven or eight years, I heard that he had repented. However, I could not believe he was sincere until I saw with my own eyes that he had not only expressed contrition but with all his strength of conscience, both outwardly and inwardly, and with all his words and actions, he had arisen to serve the Faith.

Another characteristic of the loving heart of the beloved Master was that He could never allow anyone either to think of or mention the misdeeds of anyone else in His presence, or utter any words of criticism, lest the pure stream of love become sullied. It frequently happened that under the influence of His love and compassion disagreements between friends melted away.

Yet another quality of His love was that whoever evinced a more hostile attitude received a larger measure of His attention and love. Among the fanatical Protestant missionaries was an old woman known as Mrs. Ramsey, who was consumed with the fire of religious prejudice and hatred. The Covenant-breakers found out about her and fanned her flames of rancour until she became a true enemy of the Faith. It just so happened that she had to pass 'Abdu'l-Bahá's house

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several times a day on her way to the American Protestant doctor who has been mentioned in Chapter I of this book. Each time, as her glance fell on the blessed person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, she would writhe in agony, grimace and lower her head while quickening her pace to a run. Several times 'Abdu'l-Bahá remarked to the friends, "You see how much Mrs. Ramsey dislikes me, and yet I love her very much."

One day as she passed, looking upset and perturbed, the Master called her over and remarked to her,

"Mrs. Ramsey, do you know how much I love you?" "How much?" she asked.

'As much as you dislike me," He responded.

Stunned by the answer, she began to stammer, and hurried away. I don't know what became of her. I just know that the magnetic power of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's love attracted any coldhearted person who came into contact with Him and in turn made his heart a magnet attracting other cold hearts. I have made implicit references to this point in some of the stories presented in this book.

And now I must put down the pen and open the heart and soul to the utterances of that noble Beloved, who some thirty years ago addressed an American friend in these words:

He is God!

O thou who art attracted by the fragrant breezes of God,

I have received thy recent letter, bearing thy sentiments of fervent love for 'Abdu'l-Bahá, thy trust in God and the purity and sincerity of thy purpose in service to the Cause of God. Thou hast well stated in thy noble letter the great need in those regions for love and fellowship between hearts and souls. This is but manifest truth, beyond which there is naught but error and perdition.{191}

Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God's holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings. Love is heaven's kindly light, the Holy Spirit's eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul. Love is the cause of God's revelation unto man, the vital bond

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inherent, in accordance with divine creation, in the realities of things. Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next. Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul. Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation.

Whatsoever people is graciously favoured therewith by God, its name shall surely be magnified and extolled by the Concourse from on high, by the company of angels, and the denizens of the Abha Kingdom. And whatsoever people turneth its heart away from this Divine Love-the revelation of the Merciful-shall err grievously, shall fall into despair, and be utterly destroyed. That people shall be denied all refuge, shall become even as the vilest creatures of the earth, victims of degradation and shame.

O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive to become the manifestations of the love of God, the lamps of divine guidance shining amongst the kindreds of the earth with the light of love and concord.

All hail to the revealers of this glorious light!

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