Detachment

In Europe, on one occasion, remembering the desperate days in Tihran when Bahá’u’lláh was incarcerated, their home sacked and their properties confiscated, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could yet say, ‘Detachment does not imply lack of means; it is marked by the freedom of the heart. In Tihran, we possessed everything at a nightfall, and on the morrow we were shorn of it all, to the extent that we had no food to eat. I was hungry, but there was no bread to be had. My mother poured some flour into the palm of my hand, and I ate that instead of bread. Yet, we were contented.’

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 164

Jinab-i-Haji Amin was a shining star who served the Cause as the Trustee of Huququ'lláh for forty-seven years with eagerness and zeal, showing magnanimity, courage and incredible steadfastness. During the Ministry of Bahá’u’lláh he was imprisoned twice, by order of Násiri'd-Dín Sháh and his son Kamran Mirza. In the course of his second imprisonment, in the prison of Qazvin, referred to as Sijn-i-Matin (the Mighty Prison) by Bahá’u’lláh in the opening verses of the Tablet of the World, he was with the Hand of the Cause Jinab-i-Haji Akhund. Here, Jinab-i-Haji Amin suffered gravely, his legs in fetters and a chain around his neck. His jailers, in order to torment him, would add castor oil to his food. With manifest resignation and submission, he would neither complain nor refuse the food, eating as though nothing were amiss. He was a symbol of magnanimity and detachment. He had no worldly possessions, no home or shelter of his own. His habitation was in the hearts and souls of the Bahá’í friends who would receive and entertain him with warmth and love. Each one would impatiently await his arrival, to enjoy the sweet melody of his prayers and chanting of the Tablets, and the glad-tidings and encouragement he would bring. Every day he would bid goodbye to one family to spend the night in another household, illumining another gathering with his presence. He was continually on the move, travelling to most Iranian cities and being the trusted adviser of many Bahá’í friends in their personal affairs.

Universal House of Justice, 2002 Jul 30, Revised - Development of Institution of Huququ'llah, p. 2

Many a night, no less than ten persons subsisted on no more than a pennyworth of dates. No one knew to whom actually belonged the shoes, the cloaks, or the robes that were to be found in their houses. Whoever went to the bazaar could claim that the shoes upon his feet were his own, and each one who entered the presence of Bahá’u’lláh could affirm that the cloak and robe he then wore belonged to him. Their own names they had forgotten, their hearts were emptied of aught else except adoration for their Beloved... O, for the joy of those days, and the gladness and wonder of those hours!

Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 214 -216

The exalted titles conferred upon Him by Bahá’u’lláh are indicative  of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's lofty station. Yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá never applied them to Himself. Instead, after the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, He took the title of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Servant of Bahá) and urged the believers to call Him only by this name. True servitude at the threshold of Bahá’u’lláh was all He prized. These are some of His words as He describes with utter self-effacement the reality of His station: "My name is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My qualification is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My reality is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My praise is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Thralldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion... No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory."

Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 25-26

Whereas riches may become a mighty barrier between man and God, and rich people are often in great danger of attachment, yet people with small worldly possessions can also become attached to material things. The following Persian story of a king and a dervish illustrates this. Once there was a king who had many spiritual qualities and whose deeds were based on justice and loving-kindness. He often envied the dervish who had renounced the world and appeared to be free from the cares of this material life, for he roamed the country, slept in any place when night fell and chanted the praises of his Lord during the day. He lived in poverty, yet thought he owned the whole world. His only possessions were his clothes and a basket in which he carried the food donated by his well-wishers. The king was attracted to this way of life. Once he invited a well-known dervish to his palace, sat at his feet and begged him for some lessons about detachment. The dervish was delighted with the invitation. He stayed a few days in the palace and whenever the king was free preached the virtues of a mendicant's life to him. At last the king was converted. One day, dressed in the garb of a poor man, he left his palace in the company of the dervish. They had walked together some distance when the dervish realized that he had left his basket behind in the palace. This disturbed him greatly and, informing the king that he could not go without his basket, he begged permission to return for it. But the king admonished him, saying that he himself had left behind his palaces, his wealth and power, whereas the dervish, who had preached for a lifetime the virtues of detachment, had at last been tested and was found to be attached to this world -- his small basket.

Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 1, p. 76-77

Whilst her beloved husband was in prison, Navvab, the wife of Bahá’u’lláh, a pearl, a flower amongst women, was pregnant and alone with their three children, most of their servants ran away, it was too dangerous to stay in their home. Gathering up her marriage treasures Navvab took the children and fled. They lived in fear, it seemed the whole city was baying for Bahá’u’lláh’s blood. Each day they heard that one of the Báb’is had been put to death, the streets rang with the sound of a beating drum, crowds jeering and cursing in the public square as another Bábí was martyred. They clung together, begging God that it was not Bahá’u’lláh. A great mob of men had burst into the house and plundered all their possessions. Their enemies clamoured for a death sentence for her Husband, but through all their hysterical demands one thing became clear. Bahá’u’lláh had had nothing to do with the attempt on the life of the King. After four months the authorities could prove no guilt, they had to release Him. “The condition of your release? Exile!” Having little else, Navab sold most of her precious wedding treasures, her jewels and embroidered garments to provide for the journey, they had barely enough to survive.

Ruhi Book 4