Kindness

Bahá’í poets and people of letters in Persia used to write poems in praise and glorification of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. But the resident Bahá’ís in Akká were very careful not to breathe a word about His glorious station. They knew He had often advised the poets that instead of singing His praise they ought to exalt His station of servitude and utter self-effacement. One day a laudatory letter arrived addressed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, composed in verse. Yunis Khan, who was serving the Master, handed the poem to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as He was coming down the steps of the house in front of the sea. It appeared the right moment to give it to Him. He had hardly read one or two lines when He suddenly turned His face towards Yunis Khan and with the utmost sadness and a deep sense of grief said: ‘Now even you hand me letters such as this! Don’t you know the measure of pain and sorrow which overtakes Me when I hear people addressing Me with such exalted titles? Even you have not recognized me!... I consider Myself lowlier than each and every one of the loved ones of the Blessed Beauty.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke angrily in this vein with such vigour that the heart of Yunis Khan almost stopped. His whole body became numb. He wished the earth would open and swallow him up so that he might never again see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá so grief-stricken. Only when the Master resumed His walking down the stairs was he jolted by the sound of His shoes. He quickly followed the Master and heard Him say, ‘I told the Covenant-breakers that the more they hurt Me, the more will the believers exalt My station to the point of exaggeration…’ He was very perturbed that he had brought such grief upon the Master and did not know what to do. Then he heard the Master say, ‘This is in no way the fault of the friends. They say these things because of their steadfastness, their love and devotion…’ Then He said to Yunis Khan, ‘You are very dear to Me…’ Yunis Khan realized that it was always the Master’s way never ever to allow a soul to be hurt. He received comfort and encouragement. His anguish was gone. He was filled with such an indescribable joy and ecstasy that he wished the doors of heaven would open and he could ascend to the Kingdom on high.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)


The dignitaries of the British crown from Jerusalem were gathered in Haifa, eager to do honour to the Master, Whom everyone 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 of Phoenicia.
So Isfandiyar was needed and happy.
(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)


During World War I when a blockade threatened the lives of many civilians in Haifa, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saved them from starvation. ‘He personally organized extensive agricultural operations near Tiberias, thus securing a great supply of wheat…’ Food was stored in underground pits and elsewhere. This He distributed to inhabitants, regardless of religion or nationality. The food was systematically rationed. Having started His preparations as early as 1912, He averted tragedy in the dark days of 1917 and 1918. At war’s end the British were quick to recognize His painstaking accomplishments. He was to be knighted on 27 April 1920, at the residence of the British Governor in Haifa at a ceremony held especially for Him. British and religious dignitaries came to honour Him on this auspicious occasion. His unselfish acts had won Him the love and respect of high and low alike. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá consented to accept the knighthood – but He was not impressed with worldly honour or ceremony. Even a formality must be simplified. An elegant car was sent to bring Him to the Governor’s residence, but the chauffeur did not find the Master at His home. People scurried in every direction to find Him. Suddenly He appeared ‘… alone, walking His kingly walk, with that simplicity of greatness which always enfolded Him.’ Isfandiyar, His long-time faithful servant, stood near at hand. Many were the times when he had accompanied the Master on His labours of love. Now, suddenly, with this elegant car ready to convey his Master to the Governor, he felt sad and unneeded. Intuitively, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá must have sensed this – He gave him a sign. Isfandiyar dashed off – the horse was harnessed, the carriage brought to the lower gate and the Master was driven to a side entrance of the garden of the Governor. Isfandiyar was joyous – he was needed even yet. Quietly, without pomp, ‘Abbas Effendi arrived at the right time at the right place and did honour to those who would honour Him when He was made Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas, K.B.E. – a title which He almost never used.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)


One day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked how one should live. His reply was, ‘Be kind to everyone.’ One must not ‘belittle the thought of another‘. This kindness must reach out even to those who may suffer mental illness, as the Master so beautifully demonstrated when Mirza Aqa Jan, who had been the amaneunsis of Bahá-u-llah, became very disturbed. In spite of the troubles that this ill man caused, the Master did not want him banished to Yemen as the mayor of ‘Akka suggested.
To Juliet Thompson the Master said, ‘Never let anyone speak of another unkindly in your presence. Should anyone do so, stop them. Tell them it is against the commands of Bahá’u’lláh, that He has commanded: “Love one another.” Never speak an unkind word, yourself, against anyone. If you see something wrong, let your silence be your only comment...’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of “‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 39)


One day in London the hour for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s private audiences had arrived. Appointments had been made and, of necessity, an attempt was made to adhere to them rigidly. But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a Man who taught moderation and consideration. A woman arrived without an appointment and was told it was not possible to fit her in, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was talking with some ‘most important people‘. Descending the stairway, she was greatly disappointed. Suddenly, to her astonishment, a messenger from the Master dashed down to her saying that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wished to see her. With authority His voice was heard, saying: ‘A heart has been hurt. Hasten, hasten, bring her to Me!’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 54)


One day the Maser, with one of His daughters, approached a native woman, dirty and almost savage-looking. Hers had been a hard life as the daughter of a desert chief. Though she was not a Bahá’í, she quite naturally loved the Master, who was so genuinely kind. Lingering a moment, she bowed and greeted the Master. Kindly He made reply and, somehow knowing her need, ‘pressed a coin into her hand’ as He passed by. Obviously, she was filled with appreciation. One of the Master’s daughters told an observer that this woman had, in that brief encounter, said to the Master that ’she would pray for Him‘, and graciously He had thanked her.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 91)


When a Turkish man, living in Haifa, lost his position, he, his wife and children were in desperate need. They went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for help and were naturally greatly aided. When the poor man became ill, again the Master stood ready to help. He provided a doctor, medicine and provisions to make him comfortable. When this man felt he was to die, he asked for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and called his children to him. ‘Here‘, he told the children, ‘is your father, who will take care of you when I am gone.’
One morning four small children arrived at the home of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and announced, ‘We want our father.’ The Master, hearing their voices, knew who they were. They shared their sorrow with Him—their own father had died. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought them in and gave them drink, sweets and cakes. He then went with them to their home. Their announcement had been premature—their father had merely fainted, but the next day he passed away. The Master arranged for the funeral and provided food, clothing and travel-tickets for the family to go to Turkey. His sympathetic heart was as wide as the universe.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 66)


When Aqa Ali Akbar was on his way to embark from Haifa, the Governor ordered his effects to be brought back and himself prevented from leaving! This was indeed very strange. The Governor then had his effects minutely examined, and the only ‘objectionable thing’ they could find was a page bearing, ‘Ya Bahá-ul-Abhá!’ They took this away, as if he should not be allowed to possess such an article! The Consul protested to the Governor for such treatment of foreign subjects, stating the Bahá’ís to be Persian subjects and entitled to equally good treatment with other foreigners. The Governor answered that the Bahá’ís were not to be classed with other foreign subjects; that they were hated by the Persian Government and it was not advisable for him, the Consul, to make a plea for their favor. “But see God’s power! Some time after, this very Governor fell into a strange plight and was found in a helpless position; but overlooking his behavior towards the Bahá’ís, I treated him with kindness during his troubles. I even made him the present of an Aba (robe). I showed him so much affection that he began to doubt my having the least knowledge of his ill-treatment of the Bahá’ís during the days of his authority. He imagined himself to have used such diplomacy by which his acts of sedition against us had remained unknown to us. For how could he, other-wise, think it possible that we would treat him as a friend and show him kindness in the days of his trials? To be brief; When he was for personal reasons arrested and imprisoned by the order of the government, and no one dared associate with him, I expressed sympathy for him by sending him word that I would have even called on him in person had I not thought it probable that, at this juncture, this might give his enemies further occasion to do him harm. In truth nothing is sweeter in man’s taste than to do good toward those who have done him ill. For, whenever one remembers such kindness to one’s enemies, one feels highly rejoiced. In short, I showed kindness to each one of the officials who, during those days of trouble, had ill-treated the friends. They found my kindness to them so unexpected that they imagined me ignorant of their former deeds. And I never displayed the slightest sign of my knowledge thereof, lest they might be confused and feel ashamed.
(Pilgrim Notes of Ali Kuli Khan, p. 47-48)