Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – How He Treated His Enemies

Hear how he treats his enemies. One instance of many I have heard will suffice.

When the Master came to Akka there lived there a certain man from Afghanistan [His name was Haji Siddiq], an austere and rigid Mussulman [Muslim]. To him the Master was a heretic. He felt and nourished a great enmity towards the Master, and roused up others against him. When opportunity offered in gatherings of the people, as in the Mosque, he denounced him with bitter words.

‘This man,’ he said to all, ‘is an imposter. Why do you speak to him? Why do you have dealings with him?’

And when he passed the Master on the street he was careful to hold his robe before his face that his sight might

not be defiled. Thus did the Afghan. The Master, however, did thus:

The Afghan was poor and lived in a mosque; he was frequently in need of food and clothing. The Master sent him both. These he accepted, but without thanks. He fell sick. The Master took him a physician, food, medicine, money. These, also, he accepted; but as he held out one hand that the physician might take his pulse, with the other he held his cloak before his face that he might not look upon the Master. For twenty-four years the Master continued his kindnesses and the Afghan persisted in his enmity. Then at last one day the Afghan came to the Master’s door, and fell down, penitent and weeping, at his feet.

‘Forgive me, sir!’ he cried. ‘For twenty-four years I have done evil to you, for twenty-four years you have done good to me. Now I know that I have been in the wrong.’


The Master bade him rise, and they became friends. This Master is as simple as his soul is great. He claims nothing for himself — neither comfort, nor honour, nor repose. Three or four hours of sleep suffice him; all the remainder of his time and all his strength are given to the succour of those who suffer, in spirit or in body. ‘I am,’ he says, ‘the servant of God.’

‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant, by H.M. Balyuzi, pp. 101 – 102, quoting from Abbas Effendi, His Life and Teachings, by Myron H. Phelps

Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – Helping the Poor in Akká

Imagine that we are in the ancient house of the still more ancient city of Akka [writes Myron Phelps], which was for a month my home. The room in which we are faces the opposite wall of a narrow paved street, which an active man might clear at a single bound. Above is the bright sun of Palestine; to the right a glimpse of the old sea-wall and the blue Mediterranean. As we sit we hear a singular sound rising from the pavement, thirty feet below — faint at first, and increasing. It is like the murmur of human voices. We open the window and look down. We see a crowd of human beings with patched and tattered garments. Let us descend to the street and see who these are.

It is a noteworthy gathering. Many of these men are blind; many more are pale, emaciated, or aged . . . Most of the women are closely veiled, but enough are uncovered to cause us well to believe that, if the veils were lifted, more pain and misery would be seen. Some of them carry babes with pinched and sallow faces. There are perhaps a hundred in this gathering, and besides, many children. They are of all the races one meets in these streets — Syrians, Arabs, Ethiopians, and many others.

These people are ranged against the walls or seated on the ground, apparently in an attitude of expectation; — for what do they wait? Let us wait with them.

We have not to wait long. A door opens and a man comes out. He is of middle stature, strongly built. He wears flowing light-coloured robes. On his head is a light buff fez with a white cloth wound about it. He is perhaps sixty years of age. His long grey hair rests on his shoulders. His forehead is broad, full, and high, his nose slightly aquiline, his moustaches and beard, the latter full though not heavy, nearly white. His eyes are grey and blue, large, and both soft and penetrating. His bearing is simple, but there is grace, dignity, and even majesty about his movements. He passes through the crowd, and as he goes utters words of salutation. We do not understand them, but we see the benignity and the kindliness of his countenance. He stations himself at a narrow angle of the street and motions to the people to come towards him. They crowd up a little too insistently. He pushes them gently back and lets them pass him one by one. As they come they hold their hands extended. In each open palm he places some small coins. He knows them all. He caresses them with his hands on the face, on the shoulders, on the head. Some he stops and questions. An aged negro who hobbles up, he greets with some kindly inquiry; the old man’s broad face breaks into a sunny smile, his white teeth glistening against his ebony skin as he replies. He stops a woman with a babe and fondly strokes the child. As they pass, some kiss his hand. To all he says, Marhabbah, marhabbah — ‘Well done, well done!

So they all pass him. The children have been crowding around him with extended hands, but to them he has not given. However, at the end, as he turns to go, he throws a handful of coppers over his shoulder, for which they scramble.

During this time this friend of the poor has not been unattended. Several men wearing red fezes, and with earnest and kindly faces, followed him from the house, stood near him and aided in regulating the crowd, and now, with reverent manner and at a respectful distance, follow him away. When they address him they call him ‘Master’.

This scene you may see almost any day of the year in the streets of Akka. There are other scenes like it, which come only at the beginning of the winter season. In the cold weather which is approaching, the poor will suffer, for, as in all cities, they are thinly clad. Some day at this season, if you are advised of the place and time, you may see the poor of Akka gathered at one of the shops where clothes are sold, receiving cloaks from the Master. Upon many, especially the most infirm or crippled, he himself places the garment, adjusts it with his own hands, and strokes it approvingly, as if to say, ‘There! Now you will do well.’ There are five or six hundred poor in Akka, to all of whom he gives a warm garment each year.

On feast days he visits the poor at their homes. He chats with them, inquires into their health and comfort, mentions by name those who are absent, and leaves gifts for all.

From ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, by H.M. Balyuzi (pp. 98-100), quoting an excerpt from a book by Myron H. Phelps entitled Abbas Effendi His Life And Teachings, based on Mr. Phelps visit to Akká in December 1902.

Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Educating Youth

GUIDANCE ON FAMILY LIFE

Instructing Youth

Source: Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá

Addressing the level of educating youth, `Abdu’l-Bahá explained:

“The root cause of wrongdoing is ignorance, and we must therefore hold fast to the tools of perception and knowledge. Good character must be taught. Light must be spread afar, so that, in the school of humanity, all may acquire the heavenly characteristics of the spirit, and see for themselves beyond any doubt that there is no fiercer hell, no more fiery abyss, than to possess a character that is evil and unsound; no more darksome pit nor loathsome torment than to show forth qualities which deserve to be condemned.

…Know that this matter of instruction, of character rectification and refinement, of heartening and encouraging the child, is of the utmost importance, for such are basic principles of God.

It is extremely difficult to teach the individual and refine his character once puberty is passed. By then, as experience hath shown, even if every effort be exerted to modify some tendency of his, it all availeth nothing. He may, perhaps, improve somewhat today; but let a few days pass and he forgetteth, and turneth backward to his habitual condition and accustomed ways. Therefore it is in early childhood that a firm foundation must be laid. While the branch is green and tender it can easily be made straight.

Our meaning is that qualities of the spirit are the basic and divine foundation, and adorn the true essence of man; and knowledge is the cause of human progress. The beloved of God must attach great importance to this matter, and carry it forward with enthusiasm and zeal.”

From www.bahai.us

Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Method of Teaching Souls

Source: Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom

And when, under His encouraging sympathy, the interviewer became emptied of his words, there followed a brief interval of silence. There was no instant and complete outpouring of explanation and advice. He sometimes closed His eyes a moment as if He sought guidance from above himself; sometimes sat and searched the questioner’s soul with a loving, comprehending smile that melted the heart… 

And He never argued, of course. Nor did He press a point. He left one free. There was never an assumption of authority, rather He was ever the personification of humility. He taught “as if offering a gift to a king.” He never told me what I should do, beyond suggesting that what I was doing was right. Nor did He ever tell me what I should believe. He made Truth and Love so beautiful and royal that the heart perforce did reverence. He showed me by His voice, manner, bearing, smile, how I should be, knowing that out of the pure soil of being the good fruit of deeds and words would surely spring. 

There was a strange, awe-inspiring mingling of humility and majesty, relaxation and power in His slightest word or gesture which made me long to understand its source. What made Him so different, so immeasurably superior to any other man I had ever met? … 

I have mentioned several times the impression He always made upon me of an all-embracing love. How rarely we receive such an impression from those around us, even from our nearest and dearest, we all know. All our human love seems based upon self, and even its highest expression is limited to one or to a very few. Not so was the love which radiated from ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Like the sun it poured upon all alike and, like it, also warmed and gave new life to all it touched…. 

No matter what subject was brought up He was perfectly at home in its discussion, yet always with an undercurrent of modesty and loving consideration for the opinions of others. I have before spoken of His unfailing courtesy. It was really more than what that term usually connotes to the Western mind. The same Persian word is used for both reverence and courtesy. He “saw the Face of His Heavenly Father in every face” and reverenced the soul behind it. How could one be discourteous if such an attitude was held towards everyone!… 

In all of my many opportunities of meeting, of listening to and talking with ‘Abdu’l-Baha I was impressed, and constantly more deeply impressed, with His method of teaching souls. That is the word. He did not attempt to reach the mind alone. He sought the soul, the reality of every one He met. Oh, He could be logical, even scientific in His presentation of an argument, as He demonstrated constantly in the many addresses I have heard Him give and the many more I have read. But it was not the logic of the schoolman, not the science of the class room. His lightest word. His slightest association with a soul was shot through with an illuminating radiance which lifted the hearer to a higher plane of consciousness. Our hearts burned within us when He spoke. 

From www.bahai.us/method-of-teaching-souls/

‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Center of the Covenant

The Master on the front steps of 7 Haparsim Street, Haifa, Israel (then Palestine)

Suddenly the atmosphere in the room became electrified. ‘Abdul-Bahá rose majestically from His chair and in a powerful voice declared: “I am the Center of the Covenant! I am the Center of the Covenant!”

The friends stood up. They seemed stunned by this great announcement and filled with indescribable emotion. Wonder, joy, and happiness showed in their faces. Gradually we became aware in Whose presence we stood: “The Mystery of God,” God’s special gift to all of mankind. Several moments passed before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke again. Then, looking at each one, almost pleading, He asked those who believed to spread the Teachings, to be firm and steadfast, to teach not by words alone but by deeds. He said, “These wonderful days are passing swiftly; and, once gone, will never return again.”

When He finished speaking, we knew that our last meeting with our beloved Master was over. Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, by Ramona Allen Brown, pp. 84-85

Life is a load which must be carried on while we are on earth, but the cares of the lower things of life should not be allowed to monopolize all the thoughts and aspirations of a human being. Paris Talks, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 99

The central purpose of the divine religions is the establishment of peace and unity among mankind. Their reality is one; therefore, their accomplishment is one and universal — whether it be through the essential or material ordinances of God. There is but one light of the material sun, one ocean, one rain, one atmosphere. Similarly, in the spiritual world there is one divine reality forming the center and altruistic basis for peace and reconciliation among various and conflicting nations and peoples. The Promulgation of Universal Peace, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 98

Black Lives Matter

Members of our community participated in “Pray in the Street for Racial Justice” on Saturday, June 27th.  The event was part of a “6 Feet in the Street” (6FITS) nationwide movement sponsored locally by the Tacoma Ministerial Alliance and their partners. This moment of prayer started at 12:00 noon in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. The Ministerial Alliance asked community members to show solidarity and support for racial justice by lining MLK Jr Way between Division and 27th and praying for 15 minutes, then walking together to People’s Park for a rally in conjunction with Black Lives Matter. The Ministerial Alliance points out that  these are extraordinary days of needs and opportunities, and that this is one step to build a community that is more humane, compassionate and just. We had an assigned prayer station on MLK Jr Way at the corner of South 19th Street, where we prayed until 12:15 and then went to join the rally. 

Here are photos of Bahá’ís and others at our prayer station and later at People’s Park.