Interview with Lilian Crawford, a pilgrim to Haifa in 1919 who witnessed the ceremony of the knighthood of Abdu'l-Baha, published in New Era, short-lived Baha'i newsletter from Edinburgh; photo of the ceremony and identification of some attendees.
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Interview with Lilian Crawford on the Knighthood of Abdu'l-Baha
"How do you do? Is that the celebrated home of the ancestors of Sir 'Abdu'l-Bahá?". It is not every day that the secretary of a local Bahá'í community receives such an introduction to a telephone conversation. In this instance, the speaker was Mrs Lilian Crawford, who was phoning after having heard a radio interview with Richard St. Barbe Baker, and wished to let us know that she had met 'Abdu'l-Bahá many years ago in the Holy Land.
A member of the Edinburgh community recently went to visit Mrs Crawford. The following account is based on their conversation.
Mrs Crawford and her husband, who was a captain in the British Regiment, went to Haifa in the year 1919. Soon after their arrival, as with other new residents of the town, they were visited by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi (who interpreted for his grandfather) ate [sic] their home, which was just across the road from the house of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. "This", said Mrs Crawford, "'Abdu'l-Bahá did as a matter of courtesy, because He was a gentleman. He brought gifts for the new arrivals, which was the Arab custom. When He came to our house He brought me a gift of a beautiful ruby ring, which I am sorry to say was lost a few years later in a garden in Jerusalem." At this point Mrs Crawford left the room and returned a few moments later with a framed photograph of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which the Edinburgh Assembly had presented to her earlier in the year. "I keep this photograph in my bedroom and look at it every day", she said.
There continued an account of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to their home. "He brought His grandson, who had been to England, as His interpreter, because 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself spoke only a little English. Out of His kindness, 'Abdu'l-Bahá invited us to return His visit and go to His house."
When she was asked about Shoghi Effendi she could remember that he did not dress in the style of the East but wore a black suit. "He spoke English fluently, just as they speak it in Oxford. My husband often spoke to him about philosophy at his house."
When asked if she could remember anything of the knighthood ceremony of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, she replied, "I saw Him in Governor Stanton's large garden for his knighthood." (Governor Stanton was the governor of Haifa.) She was able to identify herself in a photograph of the ceremony. When asked how 'Abdu'l-Bahá was regarded, she said that he was a most popular man. "Politics He did not touch," she remarked emphatically. "He used to walk with a group of oriental men along the lanes near Mount Carmel. He had a beautiful house, with a garden full of orange and pineapple trees. He was so well known in America that some of His followers came to Haifa and built houses beside His, in order that they might be near Him."
"The only way I can describe Him is to say that He was truly a holy man."
3. Note, from H. M. Balyuzi's ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: the Centre of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 433
INVESTITURE AT HAIFA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 433
Left to right: Colonel E. A. Stanton, C.M.G., Military Governor of Haifa; W. F. Bustani,
Local Adviser to the Governor; Badi' Bushru'i, M.A., District Officer Haifa
Behind left: the Head of the Druze Community; Shaykh Muhammad Murad, Mufti of Haifa
On that same April 27th of 1920, in the garden of the Military Governor of Haifa, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was invested with the insignia of the Knighthood of the British Empire. That knighthood was conferred on Him in recognition of His humanitarian work during the war for the relief of distress and famine. He accepted the honour as the gift of a 'just king' but never used the title. Lady Blomfield [in The Chosen Highway] writes:
The dignitaries of the British crown from Jerusalem were
gathered in Haifa, eager to do honour to the Master,
Whom every one had come to love and reverence for
His life of unselfish service. An imposing motor-car
had been sent to bring 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the ceremony.
The Master, however, could not be found. People were
sent in every direction to look for Him, when suddenly
from an unexpected side he appeared, alone, walking His
kingly walk, with that simplicity of greatness which
always enfolded Him.
The faithful servant, Isfandiyar, whose joy it had been
for many years to drive the Master on errands of mercy,
stood sadly looking on at the elegant motor-car which
awaited the honoured guest.
'No longer am I needed.'
At a sign from Him, Who knew the sorrow, old
Isfandiyar rushed off to harness the horse, and brought the
carriage out at the lower gate, whence 'Abdu'l-Bahá was
driven to a side entrance of the garden of the Governorate