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Memories of Nine Years in Akka

by Youness Afroukhteh

translated by Riaz Masrour.
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Chapter 6


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CHAPTER 6

Again, never-ending tasks and severe hardships

In the course of the year 1904, when the victories of the Faith of God were on the rise in both the East and the West, the jealousy and rancour of the Covenant-breakers increased in intensity by the same proportion. Although outwardly they had kept themselves in seclusion, yet the wicked, malicious plans they had made in the past, and the seeds of sedition and corruption they had sown previously, began to bear fruit. The pressures and restrictions on the prisoners increased. Lies and accusations spread far and wide. Things reached such a point that an actual assault by the enemies and hate-mongers became a real possibility. In the streets of Haifa and 'Akka assorted rumours spread and a variety of false reports travelled from mouth to mouth. Sometimes it was rumoured that an Ottoman warship was on its way from Istanbul to 'Akka to take the Effendi into banishment. At other times it was heard that the police had made plans to take definitive and final action.

In the meantime, a flood of letters from East and West was pouring in and so 'Abdu'l-Bahá's occupations grew to levels in excess even of those described in Chapter 3 under the title "Burdens, sorrows and labours of 'Abdu'l-Bahá". Comfort and peace had become impossible; the few hours of rest and relaxation that had previously been available to Him now became completely out of the question. Many a night passed into day as He wrote uninterruptedly, and endless days turned into nights as He stood guard over the interests of the


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Faith and the well-being of the friends. The pressures of work had grown to such intolerable levels that Mirza Haydar-'ali and I both begged the Master to reduce His workload and implored Him to take a few days of rest by decreasing His work hours. But this was not accepted.

And now I present below a Tablet revealed in these times of enormous pressure and increasing problems, so that you may discover how He uses the language of humour and love to apologize for being late in His response to a letter:

He is God!

Tehran

Jinab-i-Muhammad Mihdi Khan, upon him be the Glory of God, the Most Glorious

O confidant of the heart,

It is dawn, and the fingertips, the eyes, the back, the knees and arms, even every strand of hair, are so exhausted and weary as to be beyond description. From sunset till now this pen has been in motion, and therefore consider and judge with fairness the intensity of love with which 'Abdu'l-Bahá's heart is connected with those of the friends of God. Thus, if there has been a delay in response, or if the handwriting resembles the intertwined strands of curly hair, it is not my fault but the fault of the overly long and darksome night.

An excessive volume of work has left only enough time for brief letters. Surely the friends will pardon me, as each word thereof is but a wave of the great ocean of love, and evidence of the attachment of the spirit. God willing, that honoured friend will, with the power of spiritual attraction and in all haste, cause all those who thirst to drink from the cup which bestoweth life everlasting.

'Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas{192}


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'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances in these days

In the nine-year period I spent in His service-either in 'Akka or in its proximity, but ever in close contact with that luminous spot -times of hardship alternated with times of relative comfort. One day the storm of misfortune and suffering would be so intense that the Ark of the Cause of God seemed lost beneath the overpowering surge of the waves of adversity, and yet the next day peace and tranquillity reigned and the affairs of the Faith would progress favourably. And so all these evil whisperings, like the buzzing of flies, had little effect on the friends unless such warnings of upheaval and turmoil were heard from the lips of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Unfortunately, in these days His intimations of such events were frequent. For example, He used to remark repeatedly, "If they banish me to the Desert of Fezzan{193} or cast me into the depths of the sea, or hang me by the neck in full public view, the friends should not become distressed and troubled; they should rely on the teachings of the Faith of God. When Jesus Christ was crucified, He had only eleven disciples, but the lovers of the Blessed Beauty, praise be to God, have conquered the world, therefore why fear? Why worry? Praise be to God, the Cause of God is well established. I have done what I had to do. Rest assured." The words, "I have done what I had to do" obviously referred to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament,{194} of whose existence we were at that time unaware, since the age of the beloved Guardian at that point was no more than 7 or 8, and the signs of power and authority in him did not reveal themselves until he was II, and even then the recognition of such signs was a blessing with which only a few were endowed, a blessing of which the generality of the friends remained deprived.

In any case, these utterances bore portents of troubled times ahead. On occasion 'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed that all Writings of the Faith be gathered up, which signalled the possibility that government officials might unexpectedly force their way into homes where such Writings and Tablets were


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kept. The room of Mirza Nuru'd-Din, who was responsible for transcription of the Tablets, and my room where I was engaged in translation, were both of particular interest to the foes and subject to rumours and allegations by the troublemakers. As described previously, the enemies and the Covenant-breakers portrayed the spiritual association of the Western world with 'Akka as a political relationship, and had generated an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in the minds of government officials. And so 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances in those days on the one hand gave glad tidings of the triumphs of the Cause of God, and on the other indicated that major changes were to take place. These became apparent a year later, and details will be presented in Chapter 7

My own circumstances at this time

In these times, that air of enthusiasm and joy which had animated the hearts of the friends in previous years had all but vanished; a strange silence and stillness overshadowed their lives. The pilgrim traffic had also ceased. The biruni area of the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was utterly deserted. Only the reciter of the Qur'an presented himself at night and earned his wages by chanting Quranic verses for a few minutes, in Egyptian style. The Master would arrive later than before and leave earlier. He spoke less, and His utterances mostly emphasized these points: "This land is in turmoil. The officials are engaged in various secret activities and have given the government ample reason to be in fear of us. Of course, whatever happens will eventually be of benefit to the Cause, but it would be helpful if the friends would not remain in 'Akka and would instead disperse to destinations elsewhere. This would give me the freedom to protect and guard the Cause of God."

In brief, the same utterances that He had imparted to us after the rebellion of Mirza Aqa Jan a few years earlier (briefly described in Chapter I in the section "Dismissal"), He


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now repeated, encouraging the friends to take their leave and depart from 'Akka. The only difference was that at that time the fame of the Cause of God had only just reached America, and so the volume of incoming correspondence was quite moderate. Now, however, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's workload had grown a hundred-fold and the flood of letters and messages could not even be properly evaluated. As already quoted in the first part of this chapter, in a Tablet to Muhammad Mihdi Khan 'Abdu'l-Bahá reveals the following: " the fingertips, the eyes, the back, the knees and arms, even every strand of hair, are so exhausted and weary as to be beyond description." Such was the effect of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's workload.

Meanwhile, His compassion and bounty to me were such that only a small drop of that endless ocean of work was entrusted to me. I was responsible for the translation of the incoming letters and the daily supervision of the lessons given to the youth. However, gone were those feelings of intoxication, enthusiasm and joy that we had felt before. There were no pilgrims to share experiences with, no companions to enjoy socializing with, and no time for such fellowship. Loneliness and excessive work brought boredom, fatigue and raw nerves. The noise from the caravanserai of the pilgrim house, formerly hardly noticeable, now hurt my eardrums, while the incessant commotion of the square just outside the west window of my room was so raucous and loud that it hardly allowed me a tranquil moment for my translation work. So on occasion I occupied the room in the pilgrim house, or at times I found a restful haven for an hour or so in the front garden of the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

But there were also those nights when the bellowing of the camels and the shouts of the Arab camel drivers from early evening hours until late at night were quite deafening. The reason for this was that lately great quantities of corn and grain had been shipped to 'Akka from the Huron desert to be later exported to Marseilles. And since the narrow streets and bazaars of 'Akka could not accommodate the two-way traffic of thousands of camels to and from the Huron,


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the evening hours had therefore been designated for the arrival of the products, and the daylight hours for shipping them out. Thus their entry into 'Akka was made through the land gate at night, and in the morning the loaded ships sailed through the sea gate.

In brief, all this noise and racket day and night made for sleeplessness and shattered nerves. One funny thing was that the voice of the muezzin{195} at the local mosque was so jarring and discordant that in comparison all other noises seemed pleasant and even musical. Every dawn the first sounds of "Allah'u'Akbar" made me jump, and as the poet says:

The shrill noise of your axe grinding on granite Fails to match the rasp of your call grating on my heart.

Things finally reached such a point that once, when the Master was referring to the harshness of a certain muezzin's chant, I too began to complain about this one. The Master remarked, "You are talking about him? Let me tell you a little about him. Some time ago, the French Consul used to live right across from the Mosque, and decided that he could no longer tolerate that hideous voice. So he summoned him and asked, 'How much are you earning for chanting the adhan?' 'Three majidi a month,' he replied. The Consul proposed, 'I will give you four majidi. Take the money and don't chant any more.' And so while the Consul was in residence he kept silent. But as soon as the Consul took a trip abroad the offensive chant filled the air again." Weary and irritated, I put up with the situation for a few months until on the Master's instructions I moved my office to the Persian Consulate building.

The Persian Consulate building

In those times most Persian Consuls were unpaid clerks who had no interest in extending a helping hand or support to the Persian residents in times of need. Both 'Akka and Haifa had


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a Consul and a Vice-Consul. The Haifa Vice-Consul was an Italian businessman who represented Italian shipping concerns. The Consul in 'Akka was that same Shaykh Salih whose son Shaykh Mahmud had recovered from a very painful case of sciatica as a result of medical advice given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Shaykh Salih was a landowner and hardly ever ventured into town.

The term "Consulate" was therefore a misnomer since the building was mostly unoccupied; on occasion it was the neighbours who raised the flag over the building. So these Consulate buildings were of no practical use until on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions one of them became my residence for a time; thus, under the flag of Iran the Bahá'í Faith's translation office received, at least outwardly, some measure of protection from the secret government inspectors. This small house was comprised of three small rooms and a hall, and was isolated from all the noise and clamour. While the rooms were not as airy as those in the pilgrim house, the silence and tranquillity they afforded was a natural sedative. So this servant was rescued at last from the deafening howl of the camel-drivers. Since summer had arrived and I had begun to frequent the beach, soon the problems related to my nerves, and my sleeplessness, which had been caused by the excessively loud noises of man and beast, were completely cured and I regained my ability to perform my daily tasks.

Miss Barney and Some Answered Questions

Miss Barney, who after marrying Monsieur Hippolyte Dreyfus earned renown as Madame Dreyfus-Barney, was endowed with an avid enthusiasm for acquiring spiritual qualities and heavenly attributes, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá therefore honoured her with the title of Amatu'l-Baha.{196} During my stay, she visited the Master three times.

On her last visit, she brought with her the maidservant of God Miss Rosenberg, a Londoner, as her secretary and amanuensis, and stayed for about a year immersing herself in


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the ocean of divine knowledge, where she discovered many a precious pearl. In her eagerness to grasp the realities of the teachings, she considered the Prison City of 'Akka and the small house of the Beloved of the world preferable to the most splendid mansions of Western countries. And although she was both wealthy and young, she had an intense affinity for life in her present surroundings. She spent much time with the ladies of the Holy Family helping them practise their English. In the heat and confusion of 'Akka, she joyfully pursued her solitary task of collecting the Writings of the Master. And as she meditated and soared in the realms of spirit, she beheld the light of the celestial flame in the Sinai of her heart and discovered many divine realities.

Because of her intense piety, she was greatly favoured by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Sometimes, in jest, the Master would remark to her, "In the heat of this summer season you should be living in the beautiful mountains of Switzerland in a palace or a mansion. What are you doing in this dilapidated city of 'Akka spending time with us prisoners?" In brief, she was the recipient of many a light-hearted loving comment such as this, which only served to increase her devotion and zeal.

During her one-year stay, she not only became familiar with the fundamental principles and mysteries of the Cause of God but also emerged as a source for the diffusion of these divine blessings among the people. In her service to the Cause she left as a memento for future generations a significant book from the utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. She compiled this precious divine philosophy in both Persian and English under the title Mufavidhat-i-'Abdu'l-Bahá{197} The manner of the compilation of the work was as follows.

Like the other Western friends, this lady received her share of spiritual education at the dinner table. As described in previous chapters, the Master's excessive workload only allowed time allotted for such question and answer sessions at the dinner table and then only at lunch time, at about 1 p.m. 'Abdu'l-Bahá usually did not eat more than one meal a day. During the days of the Fast the evening meal which


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broke the Fast replaced the daily lunch for these sessions.

These "table talks"-the actual tide of the book-served the auspicious purpose of setting a definite time for 'Abdu'l-Bahá to sit down at the table and enjoy a properly cooked meal, unlike those occasions when He simply made do with bread and a few olives, or bread and cheese. Unfortunately, the time He spent in explaining the concepts and delineating the issues left Him practically no time to eat, and so instead of receiving sustenance of body, He wound up imparting nourishment of the spirit. In any case, Abdu'l-Bahá was not annoyed by this inconvenience, nor did He complain of the fatigue that such an activity entailed.

One day as He rose from the table, while expressing a bit of weariness, He happily remarked, "It is encouraging that after all this labour, at least she understands the concepts. This is refreshing. What would I have done if after all this effort she still failed to comprehend the issues?"-the point being that the Master was content and happy to oblige this lady despite the burden of the work.

The seating order around the table which was observed most of the time placed 'Abdu'l-Bahá at the head of the table, with Miss Barney on His immediate left and Miss Rosenberg next to her; after this eight or nine of the pilgrims and resident friends were seated. This servant usually sat on 'Abdu'l-Bahá's right, opposite Miss Barney, and translated her questions from English into Persian; then I translated the Master's replies from Persian into English, while Miss Rosenberg swiftly recorded both. It must be said that things did not proceed smoothly or at all easily, for Miss Barney had first to explain the question to the translator; he then had to interpret his understanding of the concept to the Master and then again translate the response as accurately as possible into English-albeit with a Persian accent and using Bahá'í terminology, as Miss Rosenberg rapidly took down what she heard.

If the explanation was unconvincing to the enquirer, the issues had to be discussed again; this repetition lengthened


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the session so that eating was delayed or even suspended altogether. Fortunately, unlike Amatu'llah Madame de Canavarro, who has been mentioned in Chapter 3 of this book and who was a newly declared Bahá'í, this lady was not similarly uninformed of Bahá'í expressions and entertained no feelings of jealousy or envy towards the translator. Thus there were no protests, such as, "It is through the bounty of my knowledge that you have become the recipient of such great blessings and acquainted with such truths," and she never made any complaint against this servant. Furthermore, the recorder of the account was a well-known Bahá'í; unlike Mr. Phelps, she did not include in the record of the discussion any personal philosophical views. She was also perfectly familiar with Bahá'í terminology and Eastern expressions and so the discussions were concluded in an atmosphere of joy and amity. However, the matter of partaking of food and drink usually remained unresolved, as eating and drinking were interrupted and discontinued, since the nourishing of the soul took precedence over the feeding of the body.

As He explained and delineated the issues, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's manner of expression and utterance utterly enchanted and enraptured the listener. At times He Himself would raise the question or objection before the enquirer had posed them, and would then offer the answer. Once, as He spoke on the subject of "the nonexistence of evil", He suddenly remarked to me with a smile, "Now she will ask why, then, did God create the scorpion?" Hardly a minute had passed when the Amatu'l-Baha asked the question. 'Abdu'l-Bahá said: "What did I tell you? Now in response tell her that this is in the nature of things. It is true that the scorpion is evil, however it is only evil in relation to us; in relation to its own environment it is not evil. This poison is its means of defence; with its stinger it protects itself But since the nature of the poison is not conducive to our well-being we consider it evil."{198} Numerous similar references were made which generated a light-hearted and joyful atmosphere. Sometimes the Master was concerned that I did not take a fuller share of the variety


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of food spread before us, and would often say, "Now eat your food and talk later." But I was so completely immersed in the ocean of utterance, so intoxicated by the wine of His nearness, that physical food offered no true pleasure, especially when with that smiling and joyful countenance which was characteristic of His hospitality, He introduced humour into the discussion, transforming this material food into heavenly nourishment and celestial sustenance.

Once as He was encouraging me to eat first and talk later, while I was deeply involved in the discussion at hand, He suddenly asked Miss Barney, "How do you translate the word 'motarjim' into English?"

"Interpreter," she responded. Then He asked, "What is 'gorosneh' in English?"

"Hungry," she replied.

Then with His blessed finger He pointed at me and exclaimed, "Hungry interpreter, hungry interpreter."

I was deeply pleased with the Master's term. I wonder how someone else would have reacted, but afterwards I had a stamp made of it, so that this royal title stuck! I did not, however, relinquish my permanent title of "Jinab-i-Khan" granted to me by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. So the table talks continued in this vein for some time, until the members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family and other relatives who heard His words realized that if Miss Barney had not immersed herself in the depths of this divine Ocean, those precious gems would have remained undiscovered forever; those heavenly jewels would have been left concealed in the depths of the storehouse of meanings. And now that these hidden gems had come to light, what could be better than to record them in the Persian language so that they might remain intact and inviolate for posterity in the annals of the Faith. So they asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to assign an amanuensis to attend the meetings and take down in Persian each and every gem-like word.

Praise be to God, the request received His consent and Mirza Munir, son of the departed Mirza Muhammad-Quli,


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was assigned the task. Every day he sat next to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and recorded His words. This approach, however, was not without its difficulties for the Master either, for the review and correction of the transcripts was an additional burden on Him. Moreover, compiling the texts of the earlier table talks from their English translation, and their subsequent correction and orderly arrangement, was also added work for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. This compilation of His previous talks from their English translated versions proved lengthy, and for Miss Barney, fraught with much difficulty In any case, when some two thirds of the book was transcribed, my journey to Europe intervened and therefore the Master's daughters were assigned to take over the work of translation. In the meantime the Amatu'l-Baha had become quite fluent in Persian from her continual practice of it, as well as her study of the Holy Writings, and so she was able to complete the work and present this great service to the Bahá'í world, a gift that will cause her to be remembered eternally.

A change in conditions: The arrival of biased officials

In the first months of Amatu'l-Baha Miss Barney's work in compiling her book, the situation in 'Akka had eased somewhat. Several pilgrims arrived from Iran attained the presence of the Master, among them the now departed Adib.{199} News of the passing of my father reached me at that time. On 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions a splendid memorial service was held in his honour in the presence of the Master and was attended by many of the friends; this turned out to be the last grand assemblage of Bahá'ís to be convened in those years.

Before long, evil whisperings were renewed, and nonsensical, absurd allegations began to spread. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances gradually began to hint at major changes signalling the onset of fresh calamities. Not unlike the time of Mirza Aqa Jan's rebellion, He encouraged the Bahá'ís of 'Akka and Haifa to leave the cities. He would often say, "I can


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weather the difficulties better if I am afforded some measure of solitude. Also, the resident friends and pilgrims can easily take their leave now, for at present there are no restrictions to prevent their departure and no one can be held accountable. However, events may transpire which could result in a tightening of restrictions on travel and cause the onset of greater calamities. Whoever leaves now will have made it easier for himself and for me."

He repeated these admonitions frequently. Shortly afterwards the pilgrims received notice to depart, and gradually, not unlike the time of crisis over Mirza Aqa Jan some seven years earlier, the pilgrim house became deserted. Incoming mail was reduced and then completely suspended. A strange silence enveloped all. The comings and goings of the friends as well as of non-Bahá'ís ceased. The inhabitants of 'Akka, both high and low, Christian and Muslim, had been frightened by the false rumours and allegations and no longer visited the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Moreover, major changes were made in the government offices. Two of the senior officers, namely Fariq Pasha and Lava Pasha both of whom had been devoted friends of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, were accused by the scheming evil-mongers of open defiance and rebellion and were summarily dismissed from their posts in 'Akka, later being reassigned elsewhere. These two were replaced by a hateful, deceitful and crafty man also named Lava Pasha. This man's expressions of malice and rancour were instinctive; unlike his predecessors, he continually plotted and planned to bring disgrace upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He hardly ever I visited the Master, and when 'Abdu'l-Bahá would repay a visit He was received coldly and inhospitably.

I once accompanied 'Abdu'l-Bahá on a visit to his house. He received us in a manner so utterly devoid of the simple rules of civility and hospitality that on our way out I spontaneously and boldly expressed my feelings to the Master.

"How can such a discourteous person become the recipient of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's blessings?"

"You have no idea", replied 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "how many


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problems I have to deal with and how carefully I must protect and safeguard the lives of the friends of this realm. Within one or two years some of the Bahá'í youth will reach the age of military service and the Ottoman government could lay claim on them. I must treat people like this with love and affection so that when the time comes I will be able to safeguard the youth."

Problems such as these were many, and since the government of Iran did not have an able Consul in 'Akka, Iranian citizens were at the mercy of the Ottoman government and were the victims of its injustices and tyranny. In addition, there was assigned to 'Akka at that time a judge who treated the friends harshly and rudely, unlike the judges of previous years. When he attained the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he would have his servant carry his two to three-metre-long pipe about with him. At each and every opportunity he would ask for it, taking one end of it in his mouth as the other end was placed somewhere in the middle of the room with smoke rising from it to the ceiling. In the meantime, smoke would issue from his miserable throat like a chimney. To wit, in order to showcase his knowledge and erudition he would speak Arabic but with a Turkish accent, and talk incessantly of piety and godliness. For example, when the chanter of the Qur'an was reciting verses in the biruni area, he would make uncalled for remarks. At the end of each verse he would say, 'At this point an act of prostration must be performed," or "Why don't you cover the floors with carpets and prayer rugs so that Islamic traditions are properly observed?" It was obvious that he coveted owning a Persian carpet or two. And since he had heard of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's generous habits, his greed was running rampant. In the meantime, he had instructions from Istanbul to employ a discourteous and irreverent attitude and conduct towards 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the hope of exposing a weakness or flaw in the Master. However, praise the Lord, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's dignified bearing and behaviour defeated him at his own game. This, then, was the condition and conduct of the officials of that time.


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My journey to Europe

When government officials from Istanbul came to 'Akka with hostile intentions and plans against the Faith of God, 'Abdu'l-Bahá dismissed the entire company of pilgrims. Furthermore, He issued the instruction to stop the flow of incoming mail from Port Said, so as to prevent it from falling into the hands of the officials and inspectors. These actions were taken in order to establish some measure of peace and tranquillity.

And so, not unlike the closing days of the fifth year after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh [1897] as described in Chapter I, although things were outwardly calm and quiet, yet the smouldering embers of turmoil and sedition lay dormant, only waiting for the winds of defiance and dissension to blow and fan them into the blazing inferno of hatred and enmity. All visits to the house of 'Abdu'l-Bahá ceased. Even at night the chanter of the Qur'an could not attract an audience and so became his own solitary listener.

Whenever and wherever the friends did attain the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the conversation usually revolved around the activities of the enemies of the Faith. The Master frequently emphasized that whoever was able to save himself from this veritable danger would contribute to His peace of mind. Yet the resident Bahá'ís, most of whom had businesses and to whom 'Akka and Haifa were home, found it not easy to abandon such established lives. So although they lived in an environment of fear and trepidation, they continued to procrastinate in making a move from one day to the next, without ever budging an inch.

I, however, who had no involvement in business affairs and owned no property, decided to comply with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's command before anyone else did, so that haply others might follow. But deciding on a destination was very difficult: I considered a return to Iran to be out of the question, for any thought of remoteness from the threshold of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was deeply distressing to me. After much reflection I at last


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determined on Marseilles as more suitable than any other city, since it was not too distant from 'Akka. Moreover, I had previously established a good working relationship with a number of branches of the International Bank of Moscow, and so I felt it would be easy to find a position with the Marseilles branch of that bank. I planned to establish my residence there and then, as I had done in Tehran, organize a teaching campaign and attract the hosts of divine bounty as promised in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablet to me when I had lived in Tehran: "If thou longest to become the recipient of ceaseless divine confirmations, then array the seekers, prepare the battalions of the lovers of truth and then assault the legions of ignorance and superstition."{200}

And so I thought out the details of my plan and at a time which seemed suitable presented it to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Every part of the plan was received favoruably by the Master. He then added, "However short your journey turns out to be, it is necessary." Then He spoke a great deal about Paris, emphasizing the importance of meeting the friends and teaching souls in that city, and promising the definite bestowal of divine confirmations.

Since 'Abdu'l-Bahá had brought up the subject of Paris, the significance of that city began to dawn upon me, and I realized that the idea of Marseilles might have been only a product of my imagination and that possibly I should disregard Marseilles and consider Paris as my destination. Then the Master added, "You are not going there on your own. I am sending you there. And whenever you wish to return, this remains your own home." In short, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances filled my feeble being with hope.

And so I prepared the necessities of the journey. Next day I was summoned to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He enquired about the state of my finances. I reported the status of all that I owned. Immediately He handed me 27 gold liras, which I accepted with mixed feelings of embarrassment, apprehension and gratitude. Next day, the day of my departure for Port Said, I received my permission to leave.


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On the day of departure, my spirits resembled the emotions I had experienced on the occasion of my return to Iran a few years before. Of course, 'Abdu'l-Bahá entrusted me with certain special tasks and some minor assignments to be accomplished in Port Said. So I left with a heart filled with joy and happiness. But once we were about an hour outside 'Akka I suddenly began to see the world in a different light. My four-year stay in 'Akka seemed but a dream, as I reconstructed in my mind's eye and within the space of a fleeting moment the minutes, the hours and the days of those bygone years. But no matter how intensely I trained the telescope of my frail and helpless mind toward the future, I could see nothing. I compared the bright horizon of the past with the dark ou the future and was overcome with sorrow and remorse. I reproached myself, "My God, what have I done? All the resident believers kept their own counsel, but I had to show off nd play the leader, and now have lost the nearness of the Beloved of the world."

In short, as such thoughts flooded my whole being, life itself began to appear worthless and absurd. I could find no relief but through the flow of tears which streamed down copiously as I wept myself breathless:

Tears are the cure for the incurable pain, A weeping ye is the fountain of God's grace.

Such was my plight until the angel of bounty flew overhead and whispered in my ear the words of the Beloved: (I) However short your journey may turn out to be, it is necessary; (2) You are not going on your own-I am sending you; (3) Whenever you wish to return, this shall remain your own home. As soon as I heard these words I jumped up like a happy child and laughed at my own foolish thoughts.

Once in Port Said, I spent one night with Aqa Ahmad Yazdi and on the second day continued towards Marseilles.


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Arrival at Marseilles

On the way to Marseilles I almost succeeded in teaching the Faith to a Dutch citizen and when we arrived in the city we spent two days together. After his departure, however, I could find no one else to teach. On the second day of my arrival the very first thing Idid was to go to the bank. I discovered that that branch had been closed and so I immediately wrote a letter to the central bank in Moscow with which I had formerly established a favourable working relationship. The response was that the International Bank of that name had been dissolved and that the bank had been restructured under a different name, and so the directors of the main bank as well as all the branches had been replaced. The five or six days that I spent in that city, therefore, were among the bleakest and grimmest of my life. Observing the life of the city-its inhabitants' incessant striving after material and physical pleasures and their deprivation of the bounty of the spirit-filled me with such fury that many a time I was tempted to raise my voice in public in a cry of "Woe betide this people!", while at the same time I recalled the disciples of Jesus, who endured similar tribulations in order to raise the banner of Christ in strange lands stricken with ignorance and heedlessness. But since I could not find in myself such capabilities, I penned a long article expressly for the newspaper Matin in order to relieve my agitation and find peace of mind. In this article I expressed all that was in my heart, unburdening myself of a load that bore heavy on my conscience and my spirit. Some years back I had sent a similar article to the newspaper Debats in response to certain published reports containing false accusations against the people of Baha on 201 the occasion of the assassination of Nasiri'd-Din Shah.{201} While that effort had borne no encouraging results, yet the force of my convictions now forced me to write what I was unable to speak. Once I had penned what needed to be said I took it to the offices of the newspaper, and having regained


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my peace of mind fled that city and proceeded to Paris.

Arrival in Paris

However dark the horizon of Marseilles had appeared, and however intensely I had detested that city, yet by the same measure the horizon of Paris appeared bright and radiant, for the believers there at the time were most sincerely on fire with the love of God, and once there I became the recipient of the inebriating wine of their love. At that time the fire of the love of God had only recently been ignited and the light of faith and devotion had illumined the hearts of only a handful of individuals. The centre and essence of this fire and attraction was the revered person of Hippolyte Dreyfus, whose visit to 'Abdu'l-Bahá has been described in Chapter 3. He had taught the Faith to a few of his relatives, one of whom had formerly been a Mormon. Coincidentally, a number of recently declared American Bahá'ís were living in Paris at that time, and the Bahá'í population of the city was around fifty or sixty souls. In addition to this, some ten or twenty others had begun to investigate the principles of the Faith; some of them were sympathetic, others critical, and a few confused and perplexed. In short, Paris seemed to be longingly awaiting the arrival of someone bearing glad tidings from 'Akka. Now I realized why 'Abdu'l-Bahá had so emphasized the wisdom of my journey when He had said, "However short it may turn out to be, your journey is necessary." He had then specifically emphasized the friends of Paris, whereas my chosen destination had been Marseilles, and outwardly no news of the general receptivity and spiritual maturity of the people of Paris had been received in 'Akka.

In any case, after Marseilles Paris was a veritable paradise. My nights and days were arranged on an hourly basis, morning, noon, afternoon and evening, and each segment provided me with the opportunity of attending a Bahá'í meeting where an enthusiastic audience eagerly awaited news


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and glad tidings from the Holy Threshold. Since the majority of the American friends could not speak French, but still gathered with the French believers in one place, arrangements were made whereby the friends sat in two groups and in this way each person received the heavenly glad tidings in his own language. Meanwhile, those who understood both languages received the glad tidings of the Kingdom of mysteries twice, gave praise twice, and experienced the joy and elation a thousand times over.

Late one night I met a few seekers whose sympathetic response and subsequent acceptance were astonishing. One of them was Monsieur Engleman, who had composed some verses of poetry in praise of the Cause which I translated and dispatched to 'Akka forthwith, and also included in the book Irtibat-i-Sharq va Gharb.{202} Another seeker, a lady who was hard of hearing, presented many objections but once she accepted the Faith her heart was transformed and she arose to make up for lost time. The son of Aqa Rida Qannad, Mirza Habib entitled 'Aynu'l-Mulk [Eye of the Nation], who in his later years became over-ambitious and for the sake of tide and position forsook his service to the Faith, was at that time zealously active and would not accept a moment's rest. His nights and days were spent in service to the Cause and in assisting Monsieur Dreyfus to proclaim the teachings to the inhabitants of Paris. In short, with his help I was able to meet and speak with a number of important individuals. I spent a month in great joy and contentment, and yet the memory of my days in 'Akka and the unhappy events in that land were forever before my eyes. Once I considered attending one of the night schools whose notices I had seen everywhere in the city. I thought about studying philosophy in order to facilitate the translation of the Tablets, which called for the use of special terminology. But I lacked the financial means for that; all I owned at the time was a voucher issued by the State Bank of Russia which had to be sold in Moscow by the French bank. This delayed my final decision as to what I should do next. The idea of studying medicine presented other problems. In


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short, surrounded by multiple obstacles and difficulties, the decision to return to 'Akka became inevitable.

Return to 'Akka

While my stay in Paris was not without its charm and excitement, and meeting the friends had generated a heightened spirit of joy and delight, yet remoteness from the Holy Threshold and lack of news caused me such concern that after five or six weeks I decided to return, despite the friends' insistence that I should tarry longer. Leaving Paris, I reached 'Akka after seven days. On my arrival I proceeded directly to the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and attained His presence straight away. After receiving the blessings and bounty of that peerless Beloved I went to the pilgrim house. Here there was only one other believer, apart from Mirza Haydar-'Ali. This was Aqa Shaykh Muhammad-'Ali Nabili, who later received his permission to depart the next day.

A quiet and deadly calm dominated all quarters of the city. At night the only sound was the melody of the chanter of the Qur'an in the biruni area. The resident friends seldom showed up for a visit, and just like two or three months before, the utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá concerned the approach of turmoil and upheaval and therefore no permission was granted to anyone to enter 'Akka. Miss Barney hardly ever left the House of 'Abdu'l-Bahá except on certain occasions to visit the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, which was undertaken with great care and caution. In my absence, the task of translation had fallen on the shoulders of the daughters of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. On my arrival the Master conferred upon me many loving words of praise and welcome, and in the evening summoned me to His presence once more. I was in His presence for a long time as He paced up and down in the front area of the biruni.

I presented a detailed report of my journey, conveying to Him the various expressions of utter servitude and evanescence of the Paris friends, as well as their many entreaties and supplications. Despite the fact that these were days of


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extreme distress and difficulties in 'Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá appeared serene and joyful. His kind and loving utterances to this servant were beyond measure. I was so overwhelmed with feelings of pure joy and ecstasy that I no longer knew what I was saying. Once, acknowledging my gratitude and expressing my feelings of thanksgiving, I recounted how I had been the recipient of such unexpected bounty and divine grace on this journey that whenever I spoke, the friends whether English or French responded so warmly and enthusiastically and heaped upon me such words of praise as to make me feel unworthy and embarrassed. Suddenly 'Abdu'l-Bahá halted, and turning His blessed face to me asked, "How many years have you been with us?"

"Four years," I replied.

"In these four years you don't know what I have given you; you have no idea what you have absorbed from me. Let's leave this until the proper time."

These words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá ring in my ear always, and at times I witness their truth with my own eyes and find them realized in my own heart. O 'Abdu'l-Bahá, You are the source of all truth! The next day at the dinner table I was summoned to translate. That day I attained the Master's presence several times and described the sentiments of the Paris Bahá'ís in detail. I told Him of their deep devotion and enthusiasm. One day I again recounted the many acts of kindness they had shown me and my feelings of unworthiness and embarrassment. The Master said, "Yes, this is the result of service to 'Abdu'l-Bahá."

In any case, I spent a few days like this at a time when the doors of all correspondence were completely closed. There were no incoming letters to deal with and so no Tablets were being revealed in reply, for secret agents were everywhere and all sorts of rumours were being spread near and far. 'Abdu'l-Bahá reacted to all this with patience, tranquillity and dignity At the same time He spoke to us of the absolute certainty of disagreeable events to come.

One very early morning I was summoned to the presence


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of the Master. After imparting many expressions of kindness He said, "Last night I was thinking about you. I came up with a good plan for you. You must study."

When He said that, I thought He meant me to study philosophy, the plan I had considered pursuing in Paris and of which I had apprised Him in detail. "What should I study?" I asked.

"Whatever will be of benefit," He responded.

"Where?" I asked.

"In Beirut," He replied. "Go to Beirut and investigate the matter, and come back. Then I will tell you."

"Are there classes in literature and philosophy in Beirut?" I enquired.

"Something that will be of more benefit," He hinted.

The more I thought what could be of more benefit, the less I succeeded in finding an answer. Suddenly I said, "Should I study medicine?"

"Yes, yes, that is very good," was His response. "The Catholics have a very good medical school. The Americans have one too. Go and find out which one is right for you." He then talked about the seditious activities of the Covenant-breakers and the upheavals to be expected in 'Akka, and how beneficial it would be for the friends in residence to disperse.

These instructions from 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which I had not expected, left a marked effect on my being. All day long I was immersed in an ocean of thoughts. Giant obstacles presented themselves. How could I succeed in the study of medicine? How would I provide the necessary means? And how could I complete such studies in an unhappy condition, being so far from 'Akka and the threshold of 'Abdu'l-Bahá? Aside from all this, how was I to provide the financial means for such an enterprise?

I spent that day and the following night engrossed in these agitated thoughts. At times a ray of hope would emerge from the depths of my sombre ruminations and transform the darkness of ignorance into the light of understanding. I told myself: since this decision has emerged from the will of the


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Beloved, it will obviously be accompanied by divine confirmations In short, I spent that night filled with anxiety and apprehension and in a state of prayer.

Next morning I was again summoned to the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. As He walked the dark narrow alleys of 'Akka on His usual visits to the poor and the downtrodden, He continued with the theme He had begun to expound the previous day. He repeated the necessity of the dispersion of the resident believers, and then explained the importance of education, and the secrets which would lead to success. He considered success and progress in any field conditional first on divine confirmation and then on wholehearted perseverance. He also gave some astonishing examples of the power that is generated from focusing one's mental faculties on a single goal. He gave the example of the heat that is created through the concentration of light at one point, and the pressure that is generated by the concentration of steam in an enclosed space, and other similar examples.

These words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá again kindled the light of hope in my heart, and I suddenly discovered a newfound confidence. I felt that since the success of any enterprise is conditional upon divine bounty, I would therefore receive my share of that bounty, for this matter had emerged from the will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and that sacred will would attract divine confirmations. As this feeling of assurance penetrated my heart I asked, "When should I leave for Beirut?"

'Abdu'l-Bahá expressed delight at my acceptance of and enthusiasm for His plan and since the arrival of the next ship was scheduled for three days hence, He told me, "Leave on such-and-such a day. Stay in Beirut for three or four days, complete your investigations and then return to 'Akka."

And so for two days I awaited the arrival of the ship. Despite my new-born confidence in my eventual success in the study of medicine, my nights were filled with agitated thoughts and worry at my remoteness from 'Akka.


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A brief visit to Beirut

When I arrived in Beirut I found the friends of that land distressed and upset. Those same rumours that had troubled the friends in 'Akka and Haifa were being circulated a hundredfold by the government officials. Many of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's non-Bahá'í friends were constantly making enquiries of the believers, and this added to their general concern and distress. In the newspapers of Beirut and Egypt, certain intimations had been published which although devoid of truth brought sorrow and anguish to the friends.{203}

Praised be God, my four or five days' stay served to allay their fears. In that time I made an adequate study of the schools, and then returned to 'Akka to find the Amatu'l-Baha still persevering at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's dinner table with her question-and-answer sessions.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's teachings on how to attract divine confirmations

On my return to 'Akka I reported my findings to the Master. This served to finalize 'Abdu'l-Bahá's decision and made my departure certain. Yet to prepare for such a journey and to nourish the soul for such an expedition required heavenly provisions and divine guidance. This was especially true since despite His many counsels and promises of heavenly confirmations, the flame of confidence had not yet illumined my heart. At times I saw a glimmer of hope, and yet whenever I considered my utter unworthiness that glimmer disappeared and the darkness of hopelessness overshadowed every faculty of my being.

It was unimaginable that at that stage of my life, with all the pain and anguish which remoteness from the threshold of the Beloved would entail, I could muster enough strength and energy to begin and complete the study of a science in which I had no background. In any case, I spent three or four more days in 'Akka, and on every one of those I gained admittance


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to the threshold of the Beloved and was honoured by His words of encouragement. Every day bestowed a fresh bounty and every hour was endowed with a unique blessing. The words of the Beloved Master, each a priceless jewel uttered to fortify and comfort my despairing and melancholy heart, were so plenteous that their sheer abundance concealed their true value, and yet some of these gem-like utterances continue to ring in my ear and will eternally remain in my memory. For example, one day when strolling through the streets of 'Akka the Master made this specific remark: "Regard not thyself. Look to the Abha Kingdom so that the confirmations may reach thee. Education requires absolute concentration and wholehearted commitment so as to attract divine confirmations. Do not consider the attraction of divine bounty to be proportionate to your capabilities and talents. Rely upon the heaven of mercy and generosity and be confident. Be confident."

In short, as these loving utterances flowed from the lips of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, bewildering thoughts and strange visions filled my mind. Suddenly the story of Abraham and His communion with God as He was being entrusted with His prophetic mission came to mind. He had found Himself reluctant to believe God's promise that His progeny would number more abundantly than the stars in the heavens; for entertaining such doubts, He had been reprimanded by God until His heart had at last gained assurance and confidence.{204} As soon as this story crossed my mind, 'Abdu'l-Bahá suddenly turned His face towards me and asked, "Do you feel confident now?"

However, after such spiritual reprimand I lacked the Power of speech to make a reply and so I bowed my head and heard, with the ear of spirit, the voice of my heart as it exclaimed rather loudly, "Yes, I am confident, quite confident." As soon as this call came from the depths of my heart, the agitation of my mind subsided and the anxiety of my heart gave way to confidence. I knew of a certainty that I had succeeded in the study of medicine and in fact had already


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become a skilled physician, and all apprehension thus left me, and the only question that remained was the day that I was to leave for Beirut.

Although my agitation had disappeared, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances continued unabated. As He continued to walk the streets of 'Akka the Master expounded His approach and began to give specific instructions on how to attract divine confirmations and strengthen the powers of perseverance.

Regarding the power created by the concentration of forces on a single point and the application of a single idea uncluttered by any other, He gave wonderful examples which I now find myself incapable of remembering. However, regarding the importance of perseverance in the performance of any task, I heard Him reiterate an exhortation which I had heard frequently from His lips; now again, as a reminder, He repeated those words, reviving and awakening me.

"In any and all endeavours, divine confirmation is wholly dependent on action. Persevere, so that the hosts of divine bounty may assist you," were His words. I even remember that once in the course of His utterances, taking God as witness He said, "The hosts of divine blessings are poised behind this very window waiting for you to act. If you do not enter the arena of service, of what use are the hosts of heavenly confirmation? If the commander of the army remains idle and passive, bow can the army achieve victory?"

In short, He spoke on this subject a great deal, but I have now forgotten most of it. Only one point has stayed with me, and this continued to guide my way throughout my studies: "Divine confirmation is dependent on action." In any case, as soon as He noticed that I had become utterly enraptured by the wine of His love and tenderness, He dismissed me with the words, "May God go with you," and on the very next day and at the same hour again summoned me to His presence.


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Moving to Beirut

This time when I attained His presence, my sense of trust and confidence was so strong that I was about to ask about the date of my departure and settle it, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances began to flow. He issued further instructions concerning the strengthening of one's faith, some of which I am able to recall. He gave a detailed explanation of the virtue of piety and the benefits of the fear of God. Then He deliberated on the necessity of perseverance in studies and that one should not become discouraged at the emergence of difficulties and obstacles. And then He spoke on a matter which troubled me so deeply that I could not bear to listen. I was then unaware that that guidance would preserve me from a tremendous danger. Here is the story.

In the days when the rumours of the arrival of the Commission of Enquiry had filled the thoughts of friend and foe, the Covenant-breakers had deceived some of the Iranian residents of Beirut, and had generated an atmosphere of scepticism and apprehension about the Cause. Moreover, having been joined by an Azali collaborator,{205} they had gradually begun to infiltrate the schools and poison the minds of the students. As a result, all the Iranians in those Syrian lands, who used to bow in reverence at the name of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, had in these days become highly critical, derogatory and offensive, and like the Covenant-breakers were looking for opportunities to create trouble.

It was at such a time that I received my instructions to depart for Beirut, and since schools there were attended by a few Bahá'í students, it was essential that they too should receive 'Abdu'l-Bahá's counsels and instructions for their own protection. The Master spoke about the virtue of perseverance, then He made reference to the qualities of patience and forbearance, and then He said, "Put love for all the Persians in your heart; never express any displeasure or aversion towards anyone. The more they express enmity, respond with an added measure of kindness. It is not necessary to teach


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them the Faith in any formal way. Do what you can so that they may develop true sympathy towards the Faith of God. If you wish to succeed in your work, do not forget these counsels. Loving the friends is of no major merit. In this journey you must become a lover of your enemies, so that the purity of your love may attract the hearts."

In short, as He strolled through the narrow dark streets of 'Akka, these were the words that flowed from His lips. Little by little 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances gained in intensity until He said, "Never allow the enmity of the Persians in that city to make you unhappy. Confront them with a joyful face. Even if you see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears that they curse my name, smile at them, do not display displeasure, and take no offence. If you follow this you will succeed, but if you are unable to do this, tell me now and I will not send you, because I have a purpose in sending you there."

These words of the Master broke my heart and depressed me so utterly that my legs lost the strength to move, for I could not find in myself such tolerance and patience. At this, 'Abdu'l-Bahá turned His face towards me and said, "This is not a difficult thing to do. Come, I will tell you how. You must put this thought into your heart, that that poor individual does not know me. How can he be held responsible? You must pray for him. He who knows me as you do, and he who does not know me at all, are not the same. Let's assume you quarrel with him or allow yourself to hate him. Of what benefit is that to you, or to the Faith, or to me? However, if your heart is free from rancour and responds with kindness, it is possible that you may touch his heart. For the sake of God and for His pleasure as well as mine, you must not on this journey allow the hatred of anyone to enter your heart; so you may succeed in your purpose. On the other hand, consider: what damage can the calumny of the foolish inflict on my work? What difference can such words make to me? I pray for all of them. You must look at me and strive to gain my good pleasure. And my wish is that you do not take offence at anyone. When I am happy with you, how can you


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be unhappy?" In short, He continued with such utterances until tears began to stream uncontrollably down my face. In my heart I repeated a poem that says,

If my death a thousand foes pursue, I fear not, for I have a Friend in you.

While that day's utterances complemented His previous words, they contained many fine points which served to warn me of future events, the realization of which, I was sure, was not too far off. In fact, each episode came to pass as the Master had predicted. I shall present the detail of this in later chapters.

As I have described earlier, these days the Master did not appear to be overworked, in contrast with previous years, for the portals of reunion were closed to all and the pilgrim house was completely deserted. Also, there was no correspondence to deal with and therefore no response was required. Non-Bahá'ís, who had formerly come in groups to visit the Master, did not dare to approach lest they be accused of friendship with 'Abdu'l-Bahá and one day become the subject of a legal investigation.

At nights, the reciter of the Qur'an chanted for about half an hour, mostly for himself and one or two of the household servants. During the days, the biruni area was deserted and the Master spent His time mostly in building flowerbeds and planting trees in the front garden. At times He took long walks in the narrow streets of 'Akka, visiting the city's poor and downtrodden and bestowing on them His loving attention and encouraging words. At such times, He would take along any of the friends whom He wished to accompany Him, and I was one of these who in these last days was called upon regularly and was granted the honour of listening to His words of guidance.

The lessons He taught me in those three or four days became my constant guide for the rest of my life. All my scientific and medical achievements, nay, the very development


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and progress of my spiritual and physical existence, owe thei success, both outwardly and inwardly, to those loving counsels. And now, after some thirty-two years, any time I envision them my memory presents me with such a clear, lucid picture of those events that it seems as though they took place jus yesterday Even the very face of 'Abdu'l-Bahá appears before my tearful eyes, and His words ring in my ears so distinctly and clearly that I become convinced that over eighty per cent of those exalted utterances of His that I have reported in these last pages are in exactly His own exalted words.

And if I did not write those words on paper for the record, praised be God, I have written them in the pages of my memory as though etched in stone. Now, with the help of the angel of bounty, I have been able to reproduce them on paper so that they may endure the passage of time. It is to be hoped that those who long to receive heavenly confirmations in their material and spiritual affairs may take these words of guidance to heart and make of them a permanent pattern for their lives.

Let us return to the story. The last time 'Abdu'l-Bahá outlined those words of wisdom, He also imparted certain instructions specifically for Bahá'í youth, whether attending the schools of Beirut or not, in order to attract and kindle their hearts. He then added, "Whoever of the Persians whom you perceive as sympathetic to the Cause, you may, if you consider it prudent, send to me. And although I give nobody permission to come here, yet if you consider it prudent I will accept anyone you send to me."

The intention of the Master was that any of the Persians who were sympathetic towards the Cause of God might travel to 'Akka and receive His blessings. He even remarked, "Whoever you introduce with a few words and send to me, or whoever you bring to me yourself, I will receive as a very dear guest, and you yourself can come any time without a second permission. This is your own home. Whoever you send is your guest as well as mine."

'Abdu'l-Bahá wished to make me aware that in Beirut


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there were those who were destined to achieve important positions in the future and that if these were to accept the Faith formally, their words about the Faith would be considered as merely subjective and thus be discredited. Moreover, they would become fearful and try to conceal their belief But if they were not formally Bahá'ís and yet became sympathetic towards the Cause, they could serve the Faith fearlessly and their views would be generally received more objectively. As He spoke, He repeated His advice again about firmness and perseverance in studies, and then I heard from His lips some words which included the following: "Some of the teachers may show harshness. You must tolerate this in order to achieve your end." I quickly perceived that I might become the object of enmity on the part of the professors, and this would require patience and tolerance. Like His other advice, I took this to heart and wondered when it would come to pass.

The sailing date of the ship from Haifa to Beirut was set by this time and it was decided that I should receive my permission to leave the next day. On the day of departure, I again received another series of encouraging and hopeful utterances. As words of prayer for the attraction of blessings and confirmation began to flow from the lips of the Master, I bowed and kissed His hand and the hem of His 'aba. He drew me to Him, placed my head on His chest and conferred upon me His blessing and bounty.

With tearful eyes and a burning heart I left 'Akka. In the course of those four or five hours as I sailed towards Beirut there passed before my mind's eye with the speed of light all the events of the past four years. One by one I mentally paraded the many acts of love and kindness that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had shown me. I recalled that personification of supreme sacrifice, remembered His patience, serenity, tranquillity and dignity, and His bearing and demeanour in the face of all those unpleasant events and the wicked actions of the Covenant-breakers. I had no concerns about my own future, for the bounty of assurance bestowed upon me by His heavenly promises filled my whole being. Then, I considered


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all those events as a prolonged dream, leaving the interpretation of it to the future.

Having recalled the memories of the past with such clarity, I began to think about future events in 'Akka. But I realized that I had no access to that domain any more, and thus helpless, I resorted to chanting a prayer that I knew by heart until I reached the object of my desire. This prayer has always had, and continues to have, a happy and spiritual effect on my mortal existence which is beyond my power to describe. And so I reproduce it below to illumine the hearts of my dear readers.{206}

He is the Most Glorious! Make firm our steps, O Lord, in Thy path and strengthen Thou our hearts in thine obedience. Turn our faces toward the beauty of Thy oneness, and gladden our bosoms with the signs of Thy divine unity. Adorn our bodies with the robe of Thy bounty, and remove from our eyes the veil of sinfulness, and give us the chalice of Thy grace; that the essence of all beings may sing Thy praise before the vision of Thy grandeur. Reveal then Thyself, O Lord, by Thy merciful utterance and the mystery of Thy divine being, that the holy ecstasy of prayer may fill our souls-a prayer that shall rise above words and letters and transcend the murmur of syllables and sounds-that all things may be merged into nothingness before the revelation of Thy splendour.

Lord! These are servants that have remained fast and firm in Thy Covenant and Thy Testament, that have held fast unto the cord of constancy in Thy Cause and clung unto the hem of the robe of Thy grandeur. Assist them, O Lord, with Thy grace, confirm with Thy power and strengthen their loins in obedience to Thee. Thou art the Pardoner, the Gracious.

'Abdu'l-Bahá

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