Bahá’u’lláh’s family were full of grief, they had not seen Him for almost two years. Even His jealous brother Mirza Yahyah wanted Him to return, but what could they do? There was no word of Him, they did not even know if he was still alive. His little son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá longed to see his father again, longed and longed till his heart ached. One night he was so lonely he could not sleep, in the moonlight all through the night he prayed the same prayer, begging for his father’s return. Now, the very next day walking in the streets of Baghdad with his uncle, they heard a snatch of conversation, a dervish, of incomparable wisdom, was living in the mountains of Soolaymania, He had magnetised all with His love. It could be no-one but his beloved Father! Immediately they sent word to the nameless dervish, begging Him to return, and He agreed. What months of waiting followed! The gentle Navab called her little daughter to her. ‘Bahiyyiah, you and I shall make something for our Beloved’s return!’ And she took pieces of Tirmih, precious red cloth that was all that remained of her wedding treasures, and they started to stitch. Little Bahiyyah’s face a glow, imagining the joy of being together again, how she would hug her father, and hold onto His hands, and kiss Him, how beautiful her mother would look in the new red dress, and her brother would be happy once more. As they stitched through the red cloth, piecing it together but by bit Navab told Bahiyyiah how her wedding treasures had been loaded onto forty mules, how for six months before her marriage a jeweller had made exquisite treasures, for even the buttons of her garments had once been gold, set with precious stones. Bahiyyih saw that Navab’s hands, once soft and smooth, were now rough and worn with work. At last, at last! A foot fall, a face at the door. Bahá’u’lláh had returned! After the tears had fallen, the kisses kissed, the joy laughed out, the red bundle was brought, Navab had made no dress for herself, but taking the last thing of beauty she had, she had made a red aba for the shoulders of her Beloved.
(Ruhi Book 4)
During ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s last days in America, the Bahá’ís were eager to show their love and gratitude by contributions of money, but these He refused. ‘I am pleased with your services,’ He told them, ‘and I am grateful for all you have done for Me…. Now you have brought presents for the members of My family. They are acceptable, but the best of all presents is the love of God which remains preserved in the treasuries of hearts. Material presents remain for a time but this lasts forever. These presents require chests and shelves for safe keeping while this is preserved in the repositories of the minds and hearts and remains eternal and immortal forever in the divine worlds. I shall, therefore, convey to them your love which is the most precious of all gifts. No one uses diamond rings in our homes and no one wants rubies. That house is free from all these things. ‘I, however, accept your presents but I leave them in your safe keeping with the request that you will kindly sell them and send the proceeds to the funds for the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
John took the first train East, fretting because it didn’t go fast enough. In Washington he phoned one of the believers and learned that the Master was still in New York. John left on the night train. At five-thirty the next morning he was at the Hotel Ansonia, and he went upstairs to see the door of the Master’s room. Dr. Getsinger (Lua’s husband) was there and recognized John from a photograph. John asked for an appointment and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sent word, ‘In a few minutes.’ Then Dr. Getsinger called John in.
‘I went as a business man. I had some questions to ask. When I saw Him I forgot everything. I was empty.’ Then, in the conversation that followed, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told John all the things he had wanted to know.
‘Foolishly I said, “Oh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I came three thousand miles to see you.” He gave a good hearty laugh--you know what a wonderful laugh He had (here John laughed as the Master had, that faraway morning, and I caught the sound of that world-shaking laughter: Olympian--knowledgeable--the laughter of omniscience--I don’t know how to say it. This was not the only time John seemed to me like a reflection of the Master. There was something about his presence; something spotless or fragrant, but not as we know the words. I had noted this in Haji-Amin, too, in Persia). And He said, “I came eight thousand miles to see you.”
(Marzieh Gail, Dawn Over Mount Hira, p. 207)
Into the lives of those He loved spilled ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s love of flowers, which He often shared with others. On one occasion a ‘little floor maid emerged from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s suite, her arms filled with roses – beautiful roses – a gift to Him from some of the Bahá’ís. Sensing that we were friends of the Master,’ continued Ella Quant, ‘all formality fell away and with a touching gesture she exclaimed, “See what He gave me! See what He gave me!” She probably knew nothing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Station as the Center of God’s Covenant and the Interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching to a needy world; she perhaps did not know His name or title, but He had shown her His love.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 97)
In 1909 Ethel Rosenberg made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Although He was free, the Master had not yet left ‘Akka to live in Haifa. Ethel asked Him what the friends could do to increase their numbers and to make their work more effective. He answered that ‘the members of the little groups should love each other very much and be devoted friends. The more they loved each other, the more the meetings would attract and draw others, and the more they loved, the more their influence would be felt … I say also in English, that you may understand how much I mean it, that love is the foundation of everything …’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 102)
Just before Mrs C left the household of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in ‘Akka, ‘He came into her room to say farewell, and seating Himself by the window looked off upon the sea in silence for so long a time that His guest began to wonder if He had forgotten her presence. ‘Then at length He turned to her and said, with that eager speech that is one of His peculiarities: “Mrs C when you go back to New York talk to people about the love of God. People in the world do not talk enough about God. Their conversation is filled with trivialities, and they forget the most momentous subjects. Yet is you speak to them of God they are happy, and presently they open their hearts to you. Often you can not mention this glorious Revelation, for their prejudice would interfere, and they would not listen. But you will find that you can always talk to them about the love of God."’ ‘Then He went away, and Mrs C sat a long time in the gathering darkness, while the glory of the sun descended upon the glittering waters of the Mediterranean. The fragrant shadows seemed to echo softly with the last words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “You will find that you can always talk to them about the love of God."’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 163)
Once when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked, ‘What is a Bahá’í?‘, He replied, ‘To be a Bahá’í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 95)
The Babis were in a pitiful state. They were shattered, disheartened, grief stricken and bitter from the king’s persecutions. Bloodstained and bedraggled they followed Bahá’u’lláh to Bagdad, not knowing what else to do. He received them all with boundless love and gently revived them with His tender words. Hope blossomed once again.
(Ruhi Book 1)
Munirih Khanum wrote about her companionship with her husband, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
‘If I were to write the details of the fifty years of my association with the Beloved of the world, of His love, His mercy and bounty, I would need fifty years more of time and opportunity in order to write it; yet, if the seas of the world were turned into ink and the leaves of the forest into paper, I would not render adequate justice to the subject.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 103)
Corinne True told the story of a cleaning woman who greatly wished to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but was too embarrassed by her rough, work – worn hands to do so in the public reception line. Mrs. True urged her to go to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and finally, hoping to simply touch His robe and dash away before He saw her hands, she approached the Master. As she bent over to touch His robe, He took one of her hands and raised her up. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá carefully examined the captive hand and with deep love and understanding gazed into her eyes. “Sacrifice!", He uttered simply.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 196)
"Mrs True, when you go back I want you to look at every human being and say to yourself, “you are a letter from my Beloved, and I must love you because of the Beloved Who wrote you. The letter may be torn, it may be blurred, but because the Beloved wrote the letter, you must love it.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the book, Corinne True)
The Master loved children and took great delight in them. He felt ‘they were nearer to the Kingdom of God’ than were adults. It was observed how He listened so attentively one day to a young granddaughter of His – He took her troubles seriously. Though she was only about two years old, she changed a Tablet in His presence. If a word failed her, He ‘gently’ chanted it. She won from Him a glorious smile for her effort, while He sat in the corner of the divan drinking tea.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 99)
Mary Bolles (Maxwell) took an early pilgrimage to the prison city. She heard that the food man eats is of no importance, as its effect endures but a short time. But the food of the spirit is life to the soul and its effects endure eternally. She heard ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tell the touching ’story of the hermit‘. Bahá’u’lláh ‘was traveling from one place to another with His followers’ and ‘He passed through a lonely country where, at some little distance from the highway, a hermit lived alone in a cave. He was a holy man, and having heard that Our Lord, Bahá’u’lláh, would pass that way, he watched eagerly for His approach. When the Manifestation arrived at that spot the hermit knelt down and kissed the dust before His feet and said to Him: “Oh, my Lord, I am a poor man living alone in a cave nearby; but henceforth I shall account myself the happiest of mortals if Thou wilt but come for a moment to my cave and bless it by Thy Presence.” Then Bahá’u’lláh told the man that He would come, not for a moment but for three days, and He bade His followers cast their tents, and await His return. The poor man was so overcome with joy and with gratitude that he was speechless, and led the way in humble silence to his lowly dwelling in a rock. There the Glorious One sat with him, talking to him and teaching him, and toward evening the man bethought himself that he had nothing to offer his great Guest but some dry meat and some dark bread, and water from a spring nearby. Not knowing what to do he threw himself at the feet of his Lord and confessed his dilemma. Bahá’u’lláh comforted him and by a word bade him fetch the meat and bread and water; then the Lord of the universe partook of this frugal repast with joy and fragrance as though it had been a banquet, and during the three days of His visit they ate only of this food which seemed to the poor hermit the most delicious he had ever eaten. Bahá’u’lláh declared that He had never been more nobly entertained nor received greater hospitality and love. “This,” explained the Master, when He had finished the story, shows us how little man requires when he is nourished by the sweetness of all foods – the love of God."’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
As he would go about, he would always be complimenting someone. The gardeners, even the gardeners taking care of the garden, he would say, “You planted that very beautifully. Your flowers are very beautiful. I am very pleased with the way that you are keeping up this lawn. And I would like you to do so and so, and it’s just very beautiful.” Everyone who worked for him, he was always thinking what he could say to make him happy. Everyone who had personal difficulties, he would say, what can I do to make that person happy? What can I do to lighten his load, so that he could carry on a little bit more efficiently, never thinking of himself. How could he have time, with all the world’s problems on his mind, to be thinking of all of these little things, all of those things which he did. It was amazing, his love! And he loved people. He loved everyone. He looked at everyone and he saw the face of God in everyone. He looked at their attributes of God. He looked at their accomplishments, he looked at their deeds, he didn’t look at their shortcomings. What registered before the Guardian was what the person was offering to God, and not his sins and shortcomings. The accomplishments, the good deeds, the character that he had developed, that’s what the Guardian saw. He didn’t see the other things. He wasn’t interested them. Always ready to forgive, always ready to help. So this love of the Guardian, this tenderness, this gentleness, the way the man who has to run the world would handle with his hands, it is a combination that is almost inconceivable, that a person could be so full of love and tenderness, and a tenderness that you can’t understand. No one would realize how he suffered from things, from mistreatment by some of the members of his family. Nobody knows what he suffered. You had to be there to see it. And anyone never said anything, but he would clearly suffer from those who had turned away from the Cause. His own kin. It was very difficult, because his love was so great. His forgiveness was so great. His forbearance was so great.
(In the Days of the Guardian – a Talk by Hand of the Cause of God Leroy Ioas in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1958)
He spoke to us at the time about a Miss Ramsey, from Scotland who was a most zealous missionary in Acca. She was not friendly to the Cause but the Master showed her all manner of kindness because she was very faithful to her Christ. “Miss Ramsey! do you know how much I love you? Look in your heart and see how how much you hate me; to that extent I love you.” the Master would tell her as she would try to turn her back upon Him. She had the Bible in her hand, and from morning till evening she would go from house to house and read it to the people. For a long time she used to come to our house and read it to the members of his Household. They did listen to her every time most attentively. Finally she thought that now I have converted them. One day she was reading, when one of the family asked her the meaning of the verse read. She could not give it. They told her this is a prophecy about the appearance of Bahá-o-llah. You see, it is so plain. She got very wrath and left the house. She was very charitable. She spent all her money in this work. She had 12 girls educated in the college in Beirut at her own account and often she gave money to the poor in Acca. For forty years she labored very faithfully and when she was 70 yrs old she said I must return now to Scotland, I have grown too old to be useful. [‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:] I gave her a farewell banquet. I liked her very much. I would like to see her in Scotland. I will tell her: see, how I have come to see you.
(Diary of Ahmad Sohrab)
Service to God, to Bahá’u’lláh, to family, to friends and enemies, indeed to all mankind – this was the pattern of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life. He wished only to be the Servant of God and man. To serve – rather than being demeaning and unfulfilling – was honour, joy and fulfilment. This motivated His entire day from Dawn to after midnight. He used to say, ‘Nothing is too much trouble when one loves, and there is always time.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 104)
In ‘Akka there lived a man who so hated ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that he would turn his back when he met Him, fearing lest he lost his hatred. One day they met in such a narrow street that the enemy was forced to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá face to face. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tapped the man upon the shoulder and said, ‘Wait a few moments until I speak. However great may be your hatred of Me it can never be as strong as My love for you.’ The man was startled, awakened, and made to feel the unconquerable power of love.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 102)
Gloria Faizi has beautifully explained the Master’s wide love: ‘When the heart of man is attracted to God through His Manifestation on earth, he has established a link of love with his Creator. And as the link grows stronger, he will feel an overflowing love for all that God has created. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá once gave the example of a soiled and crushed letter that reaches the hand of a lover from his beloved. That letter, He said, is no less precious because of the condition in which it has arrived. It is cherished because it has come from a loved one. In the same way, we can learn to love a fellow man, no matter who he is, because he is God’s creature.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 96)
There is no need to belabour the fact that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s every act spoke of love – a love for every human being, each created by God. His abundant love, universal and divine, transcended limited, ’semi-selfish’ loves – loves often born of race or religion, colour or country, family or friendship. Because His love of God and Bahá’u’lláh ran deep, His love for human beings followed naturally and sincerely. He knew what it meant when He said: ‘When you love a member of your family or a compatriot, let it be with a ray of the Infinite Love! Let it be in God, and for God!‘
He advised pilgrim Anna Kunz and her husband in 1921, ‘Just like a shepherd who is affectionate to all his sheep, without preference or distinction, you should be affectionate to all. You should not look at their short-comings. Consider that they are all created by God who loves them all.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 95)
Stanwood Cobb, a Bahá’í educator, recalled his last interview with the Master in the United States. His heart was so full he could scarcely recall what was said. He knew he was embraced and three times ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘Be on fire with the love of the Kingdom!’ A little mystified by what these words actually meant, Mr Cobb knew that these nine precious words summed up the essence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Teachings.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 163)
Once ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked, ‘Why do all the guests who visit you come away with shining countenances?‘
‘He said with his beautiful smile: “I cannot tell you, but in all those upon whom I look, I see only my Father’s Face.” (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 96)
One day when the Master was out on a carriage ride near Thonon-les-Bains on Lake Geneva in France, the party stopped for simple refreshments at an old inn nestled between two mountains. Sitting on an open porch, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was soon spotted by children, who were selling bunches of violets and seemed to have eyes only for Him. They clustered around Him. Spontaneously He dug into His pocket and came out with some francs to satisfy His small salesfolk.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 100)
In ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s household, in addition to Himself, His wife, His sister, two married daughters and husbands and children, and His two youngest daughters, there were some orphan children and widows of martyrs. Mary Lucas observed that” ‘These serve in some capacity in the household, and the sentiment of love and equality in every member of this home is a living example for the world. Everything is done in the spirit of love.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 92)
One day, in London, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was out driving with Lady Blomfield and Mrs Thornburgh-Cropper, the first Bahá’í in England. Mrs Cropper asked Him, ‘Master, are you not longing to be back at Haifa with your beloved family?’ He smiled and replied: ‘I wish you to understand that you are both as truly my dear daughters, as beloved by me, as are those of whom you speak.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 96)
Leroy Ioas, a young boy in 1912, was blessed to meet the Master on His visit to Chicago. One day, on the way to the Plaza Hotel to hear ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he decided to buy Him some flowers. Though he had but little money, he managed to find a large bouquet of flowers which he himself especially liked – white carnations! But in approaching the hotel, he had a change of heart: he would not give ‘Abdu’l-Bahá those flowers after all, he told his father. His dad was genuinely perplexed. Why, when the Master so loved flowers? Young Leroy gave his answer: ‘I come to the Master offering Him my heart, and I do not want Him to think I want any favours. He knows what’s in a person’s heart, and that is all I have to offer.’ With that for an answer Leroy’s father went upstairs and presented the flowers to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. How the Master enjoyed them! Their fragrance delighted Him and He buried His face in their midst, as He was inclined to do. During the talk, Leroy sat at the feet of this great Teacher, completely fascinated. Those dynamic, ever-changing eyes! Those ‘majestic movements‘! That charm! After the talk, the Master stood up and shook hands with each guest. To each He gave one white
carnation. Finally only a few remained. Leroy, standing behind ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, thought, ‘Gee, I wish He would turn around and shake hands with me before they are all gone!’ With that thought, the Master turned and saw him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wore a lovely, red rose, which He then pulled from His coat and gave it to the boy. Leroy knew the Master was aware that it was actually he would had brought those carnations.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 98)