A Message from Abdu'l-Baha, Head of the Baha'ispublished in New York Times
The Time Has Come, He Says, for Humanity to Hoist the Standard of the Oneness of the Human World, So That Dogmatic Formulas and Superstitions May End.
Within the last week there has come to New York an old man, with a worn and beautiful face, who wears a long, brown gown and a white turban, and speaks the strange-sounding guttural language of Persia. On the pier his welcomed by hundreds of people, for he is Abdul Baha, or "The Servant of God," the head of the Bahaist movement, and he is known to tens of thousands of followers all over the world as the "Master."
For forty years he has been in prison, and his father, the former head of the Bahaists, died in prison. Their offense was indeed great, for they taught a doctrine against which no autocratic power could stand. They preached the love of God and the brotherhood of man and for this the Persian Government exiled and the Turkish Government imprisoned them.
Four years ago, in July, 1908, the young Turks came into the control of the Government and a constitution was given to the country. Then the prison doors opened for Abdul Baha and he found himself free. He had gone into the prison a boy; he left it an old man.
He had not complained and indeed for some years it had been made easy for him by the affection of his jailer and the gradual perception, by the Government, of the fact that a man who teaches the common brotherhood of all humanity may not be personally violent: but none the less he rejoiced in his freedom. With the passing of the years his followers had grown rapidly and he had a wish to see them, especially those who lived in foreign countries.
Although he was old and had not for more than forty years gone beyond the city of Acre, in Syria, he was attracted by the thought of seeing the big world. The Bahai believe above all things in education and broadening the mind by contact with all nations and races, so it was eminently consistent for Abdul Baha to go first to London and then to come to America to see many disciples in this country.
The Bahai movement is not yet seventy years old and has grown amasingly. It has suffered persecutions which may be equaled but hardly be surpassed by the martyrdoms of the early Christians.
A young Persian, who call himself the Bab or the "Gate," arose in 1844 and began to preach a doctrine of spirituality. He rated the Mohammedan harisees, and declared that the truth of religion had been so encumbered with ceremonies and [....] the name of Baha Ullah, (Glory of God,) and in the early '60s be revived the persecuted faith and gathered together its scattered followers. The movement, which had seemed to be on the verge of collapse, suddenly became more vigorous than ever.
His property was promptly confiscated, and he was exiled. To be rid of his wealth was a satisfaction to Baha Ullah -- "Praise be to God," he cried, "I am now free" -- but the exile entailed great hardships.
He went with his family to Bagdad, where he taught what seemed to the mind of the Government pernicious doctrines. "The army of the Bahai dispensation," he said "is the love of God; its victory is the ecstasy of the knowledge of God; its battle is that of truth; its warfare is against selfishness; its patience is its reserve; its entire meekness is its conquering power and its love for all is a glory for ever more." It was too much for any autocracy. He was summoned to Constantinople and then sent to prison at Acre.
In his prison Baha Ullah wrote a book of laws which govern his followers and he simplified the teachings of the Bab and made the movement universal rather than Persian and Mohammedan. Despite his sufferings, which were great at the beginning of his confinement, he accomplished a vast deal of work and later on when his jailer had learned to love and trust him he received freinds from time to time and was able to spread his teaching in that manner.
In 1892 he died and his son, Abbas Effendi now known as Abdul Baha the Servant of God, took his place as leader. There is no tradition that the leadership should pass from father to son; there is indeed no priesthood among Bahais. It was the spirituality of Abdul Baha which made him the person best suited to interpret the movement to the world.
Like his father he teaches that the love of God and man are the only things that count. To be a Bahai one does not have to give up the religion in which one has been born. A Christian remains a Christian, a Mohammedan remains a Mohammedan, a Buddhist is still a Buddhist. Only they emphasize not the doctrines of their faiths but the spirit. And they are all brothers to one another.
To do away with prejudices--this is the lesson Abdul Baha preaches. Prejudices of nationality, or race, of religion--all these are hindrances to the love of God and of man, and we must forget them. Up to the present perhaps as many as 50,000 persons have died for this belief.
Then he began to speak to abort sentences, without waiting for replies. The interpreter translated them in perfect English.
"Praise be to God, the women of America are progressing. This is as it should be. Every day they are making more and more progress. I hope that they will be the peers of men. They should progress equality with men. n the kingdom of animals there is male and female, but they are equals. In the vegetable kingdom also there is male and female, but one is the equal of the other. So should it be with mankind. In idealism women are the superiors of men in kindness and in gentleness, but they are now their inferiors in intellectually. This should not be. Women should progress intellectually until they stand side by side with men. The women of America are progressing toward this, and they will attain it, for it is just. Women shall indeed be the equals and the companions of men."
The words delivered in this fashion, in short epigrams, took one miles and miles away from New York. Outside the window was Broadway; under the building the subway; downstairs was all the paraphernalia of a big hotel, but all these things were far less real than the picture the old teacher called up. The only things that seemed near were the mountains of Carmel, so near the Village of Nasareth, and the fields where the lilies grow more beautiful than Solomon in his glory.
The strangeness of it all, the manner of speaking, the curious language, the unfamiliar dress might well have made the listener awkward and ill at ease; but one does not feel awkward with Abdul Baha. The reporter had wondered just how to address him, but that seemed a foolish matter now. It really made no difference what you did or what you said, this kind old teacher would know that you meant well.
When he had spoken his words in the cause of women Abdul Baha paused and inquired graciously if the visitor wished to ask a question.
"Ask him," ventured the reporter, "for a message to Americans. Tell him that a great newspaper sent me, and that many thousands will read what he says."
When this was translated to him the Teacher's face lighted up with the charming smile. He was evidently pleased and interested that a big newspaper should have sent a woman--so, at least, the smile seemed to signify.
With some gestures and with his bright eyes now on his interpreter and now on his visitor, he began again to speak in short sentences.
"Praise to be God, the dark ages have passed. A new age of great brilliancy has been ushered in. The minds of men have developed. Man has made discoveries in the mysteries of nature. The great capabilities of the human world have become manifest. The susceptibilities of the heart have became more acute. The time has arrived for the world of humanity to hoist the standard of the [....]"
"It is the bond which can unite all the human race. It is the attainment of the benefits of the most great peace; it is the discarding of warfare. It is progressiveness; it is the undertaking of colossal tasks in life; it is the oneness of public opinion. Therefore strive oh ye people and put forth your efforts that this reality may overcome the lesser forces in life, [....] this king of reality may alone rule all of humanity [....]"
Note: this image, as originally posted at uga.edu/bahai/News", does not seem to match the text of the above article. I do not know the source of the image. [J.W., 2010]