November 1, 2017

‘Abdu’l-Baha had the Power of Ether

Here is a fascinating insight about the Master, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, which Juliet Thompson, heard from Valíyu’lláh Varqa, a member of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s entourage during His visit to America in 1912. The following is an entry from her diary:

The next morning, Thursday, though I [Juliet Thompson] went unusually early to the Master, He had already left the house. But Lua, Valíyu’lláh Khán [son of the great Baha’i poet and martyr, Varqa], and I had a wonderful morning. Valíyu’lláh told us so many things.

“My father,” he said, “spent much time with the Blessed Beauty. The Blessed Beauty Himself taught him.

“One time when my father was in His room, Bahá’u’lláh rose and strode back and forth till the very walls seemed to shake. And He told my father that once in an age the Mighty God sent a Soul to earth endowed with the power of the Great Ether, and that such a Soul had all power and was able to do anything. ‘Even this walk of Mine’ said Bahá’u’lláh, ‘has an effect in the world.’

“Then He said that His Holiness Jesus Christ had also come with the power of the Great Ether, but the haughty priesthood of His day thought of Him as a poor, unlettered youth and believed that if they should crucify Him, His Teachings would soon be forgotten. Therefore they did crucify Him. But because His Holiness Jesus possessed the power of the Great Ether, He could not remain underground. This ethereal power rose and conquered the whole earth. ‘And now,’ the Blessed Beauty said, ‘look to the Master, for this same Power is His.’

October 12, 2017

1848: Baha’u’llah suffered the humiliating bastinado punishment

Town of Ámul, circa 1935
About nine miles from Fort Tabarsi, where Baha’u’llah had planned to join the heroic believers, He and His companions were arrested by the soldiers of the acting governor of the area and taken to the town of Ámul, Mazindran in northern Iran.

The hostile clerics of Ámul had created a major commotion in the town. Having Baha’u’llah and His companions in their midst, the situation was further exacerbated by the divines calling upon the people to protect their religion by demanding severe punishment upon the captives – including murder. People were told to come to the mosque, fully armed -- the butcher with his axe, the carpenter with his hatchet – prepared to make a rush at Baha'u'llah and murder Him. The divines of Ámul were particularly marked for their rapacity.

The Acting Governor realized that any indulgence on his part would be fraught with personal danger. By inflicting a befitting punishment upon the captives, he sought to check the mob’s passions. He ordered punishment by bastinado - a form of torture that involves being beaten on the soles of the feet with a rod. He also promised that the captives would be kept in custody following this punishment until the return of the governor.

October 2, 2017

Baha’u’llah visits Mulla Husayn and his companions at Fort Tabarsi

Taking refuge from the attacks of the people of Barfurúsh and neighbouring villages at the persistent instigation of the vindictive leading divine of that district, Mulla Husayn and his companions arrived at the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi on October 12, 1848. This shrine was situated about fourteen miles S.E. of the town of Barfurúsh in the heart of the forests of Mazindaran. Upon their arrival, Mullá Husayn gave one of the believers who had built the Bábíyyih house in Mashhad preliminary instructions for the design of a fort which was to be constructed for their defense around the shrine. Through Mulla Husayn’s guidance and encouragement his companions began building the fort according that design.  Despite continual harassment and fierce attacks by the people of the surrounding villages, who hemmed them in on every side, they valiantly defended themselves. When construction of the fort was completed, Mullá Ḥusayn undertook the necessary preparations for the siege which the fort was destined to sustain, and provided, despite the obstacles which stood in his way, whatever provisions seemed essential for the safety of its occupants.

Meanwhile, news of the situation facing Mulla Husayn and his 300 plus companions reached Baha’u’llah who was staying at his ancestral home of Nur. He learned how, because of the treachery and broken pledges of the authorities in Sari and Barburush, they had been forced to use arms to defend themselves, and had hurriedly thrown up a wall and built a fortress around the mausoleum of Shaykh Tabarsi and were now beleaguered within it. Baha'u'llah decided to visit them and when His preparations were complete, travelled to the village of Afra [located in the vicinity of the shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi], which belonged to a certain Nazar-'Ali Khan. When He arrived in Afra, He ordered for a sumptuous dinner to be prepared for the inmates of the fortress and sent one of the believers to inform them of His impending arrival.

September 13, 2017

The first example of Mulla Husayn’s amazing heroism and swordsmanship

Mulla Husayn was still in Mashhad during the conference of Badasht as a guest of the Governor-General of the province of Khurasan - where he was treated with courtesy and consideration. After leaving the camp of the Governor-General, he was preparing his anticipated trip to Karbila when a messenger arrived bearing to him the Báb’s turban and conveying the news that a new name, that of Siyyid ‘Alí, had been conferred upon him by his Master.

“Adorn your head,” was the message, “with My green turban, the emblem of My lineage, and, with the Black Standard unfurled before you, hasten to the Jazíriy-i-Khadrá, [literally: ‘Verdant Isle’] and lend your assistance to My beloved Quddús.”

As soon as that message reached him, Mullá Husayn arose to execute the wishes of his Master. Leaving Mashhad for a place situated at a farsang’s distance [about 3 miles] from the city, he hoisted the Black Standard, placed the turban of the Báb upon his head, assembled his companions, mounted his steed, and gave the signal for their march to the Jazíriy-i-Khadrá. His companions, who were two hundred and two in number, enthusiastically followed him. That memorable day was July 21st, 1848.

Wherever they tarried, at every village and hamlet through which they passed, Mullá Husayn and his fellow-disciples would fearlessly proclaim the message of the New Day, would invite the people to embrace its truth, and would select from among those who responded to their call a few whom they would ask to join them on their journey.

August 13, 2017

Baha’u’llah’s servant: Isfandiyar - "the essence of love, radiant with sanctity and perfection, luminous with light"

Isfandiyar was a gem from Africa, pure and untarnished, and yet firm and steadfast as a diamond under all pressures and persecutions. He manifested his inherent qualities when faced with perils which endangered his life as a Babi. His wonderful countenance reflected the rays of love and courage.

Isfandiyar was a servant in the house of Baha'u'llah and, as a fruitful tree planted in good soil, he yielded a spiritual harvest. His love for Baha'u'llah was unlimited and, though many Ministers and other high government officials coveted him as a servant in their household, he remained ever-faithful to his own Master.

At the time when the persecution of the Babis began in the capital and Baha'u'llah was taken to the Siyah-Chal, the enemies of the new Faith were looking for Isfandiyar so that they could force him to betray the followers of the Bab whom he had seen in the house of Baha'u'llah. The Shah had commanded many people to find Isfandiyar and they were searching for him everywhere. But when he heard of the misfortune which had befallen the family of his beloved Master, nothing could keep him away from them.

We can imagine Isfandiyar standing among the ruins of his Master's house, drowned in an ocean of tribulation, his heart heavy with the weight of anguish. He seemed to have lost everything in the world. He did not think of all the rich furnishings, clothes and jewels which had been looted from the house of Baha'u'llah. But the thought of his Master in the Siyah-Chal and the members of that noble family now dispersed and at the mercy of their foes was more than he could bear. "Where are the children?" he asked himself. "What has befallen their saintly mother?" Isfandiyar decided to find them, but there was no trace of the family in the surrounding neighbourhood. No one knew where they had gone or what fresh misfortune had overtaken them.

July 3, 2017

1848: Baha’u’llah describes the consternation that seized the Bábís when Tahirih suddenly appeared unveiled at the conference of Badasht

We soon joined her [Táhirih] at Badasht, where We rented a garden for her use, and appointed the same Muhammad-Hádí who had achieved her deliverance, as her doorkeeper. About seventy of Our companions were with Us and lodged in a place in the vicinity of that garden. 

We fell ill one day, and were confined to bed. Táhirih sent a request to call upon Us. We were surprised at her message, and were at a loss as to what We should reply. Suddenly We saw her at the door, her face unveiled before Us. How well has Mírzá Áqá Ján [1] commented upon that incident. “The face of Fátimih,” he said, “must needs be revealed on the Day of Judgment and appear unveiled before the eyes of men. At that moment the voice of the Unseen shall be heard saying: ‘Turn your eyes away from that which ye have seen.’” [2]

How great was the consternation that seized the companions on that day! Fear and bewilderment filled their hearts. A few, unable to tolerate that which was to them so revolting a departure from the established customs of Islám, fled in horror from before her face. Dismayed, they sought refuge in a deserted castle in that neighbourhood. Among those who were scandalised by her behaviour and severed from her entirely were the Siyyid-i-Nahrí and his brother Mírzá Hádí, to both of whom We sent word that it was unnecessary for them to desert their companions and seek refuge in a castle. Our friends eventually dispersed, leaving Us at the mercy of Our enemies. 
- Bahá’u’lláh  (Quoted by Nabil in ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)
[1] Bahá’u’lláh’s amanuensis
[2] According to Islámic traditions, Fátimih, Muhammad’s daughter, will appear unveiled as she crosses the bridge “Sirat“ on the Day of Judgment. At her appearance a voice from heaven will declare: “Turn your eyes away, O concourse of people!”

June 15, 2017

How Mulla Husayn received his famous sword

The whole province of Khurásán was in those days [1848] in the throes of a violent agitation. The activities which Quddús and Mullá Husayn had initiated, their zeal, their courage, their outspoken language, had aroused the people from their lethargy, had kindled in the hearts of some the noblest sentiments of faith and devotion, and had provoked in the breasts of others the instincts of passionate fanaticism and malice. A multitude of seekers constantly poured from every direction into Mashhad, eagerly sought the residence of Mullá Husayn, and through him were ushered into the presence of Quddús.

Their numbers soon swelled to such proportions as to excite the apprehension of the authorities. The chief constable viewed with concern and dismay the crowds of agitated people who streamed unceasingly into every quarter of the holy City [Mashhad]. In his desire to assert his rights, intimidate Mullá Husayn, and induce him to curtail the scope of his activities, he issued orders to arrest immediately the latter’s special attendant, whose name was Hasan, and subject him to cruel and shameful treatment. They pierced his nose, passed a cord through the incision, and with this halter led and paraded him through the streets.

Mullá Husayn was in the presence of Quddús when the news of the disgraceful affliction that had befallen his servant reached him. Fearing lest this sad intelligence might grieve the heart of his beloved chief, he arose and quietly retired. His companions soon gathered round him, expressed their indignation at this outrageous assault upon so innocent a follower of their Faith, and urged him to avenge the insult. Mullá Husayn tried to appease their anger. “Let not,” he pleaded, “the indignity that has befallen Hasan afflict and disturb you, for Husayn is still with you and will safely deliver him back into your hands to-morrow.”

May 10, 2017

The story of Tahirih’s house arrest and her bold prediction of upcoming release

Upon their return from Karbila, [circa 1848] Tahirih and her few companions were falsely accused of having been involved in the murder of her husband, Mullá Taqí, who was a fiercest opponent of the Báb’s teachings that she was promoting.

Nabil records: “The circumstances of the murder fanned to fury the wrath of the lawful heirs of Mullá Taqí, who now determined to wreak their vengeance upon Táhirih. They succeeded in having her placed in the strictest confinement in the house of her father, and charged those women whom they had selected to watch over her, not to allow their captive to leave her room except for the purpose of performing her daily ablutions. They accused her of really being the instigator of the crime. ‘No one else but you,” they asserted, ‘is guilty of the murder of our father. You issued the order for his assassination.’”

Following devious schemes and false promises the kinsmen of murdered Mullá Taqí managed to murder those few remarkable companions of Tahirih, among them were “Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí, one of the Letters of the Living and her brother-in-law, and Siyyid ‘Abdu’l-Hádí, who had been betrothed to her daughter, travelled with her all the way from Karbilá to Qazvín.” (Nabil, ‘The Dawn-Breakers’, translated and edited by Shoghi Effendi)

While “still in confinement, Táhirih, as soon as she was informed of the designs of her enemies, addressed the following message to Mullá Muhammad… the Imám-Jum’ih of Qazvín”: (ibid) 


April 7, 2017

circa 1848: Baha’u’llah’s first imprisonment

Baha’u’llah’s first imprisonment took place in Tihran when He was informed of the plight of a number of companions and supporters of Táhirih who were brought as prisoners to the Capital from Qazvin. They were falsely charged with the murder of Táhirih’s father-in-law, while Táhirih herself was placed in the strictest confinement in the house of her father in Qazvin. Bahá’u’lláh was at that time residing in Ṭihrán.

Nabil explains:

As He [Baha’u’llah] was already acquainted with the kad-khudá [alderman] in whose home they [the companions and supporters of Táhirih] were incarcerated, He decided to visit them and intervene in their behalf. That avaricious and deceitful official, who was fully aware of the extreme generosity of Bahá’u’lláh, greatly exaggerated in the hope of deriving a substantial pecuniary advantage for himself, the misfortune that had befallen the unhappy captives.”

“They are destitute of the barest necessities of life,” urged the kad-khudá. “They hunger for food, and their clothing is wretchedly scanty.” Bahá’u’lláh extended immediate financial assistance for their relief, and urged the kad-khudá to relax the severity of the rule under which they were confined.

The kad-khudá consented to relieve a few who were unable to support the oppressive weight of their chains, and for the rest did whatever he could to alleviate the rigour of their confinement. Prompted by greed, he informed his superiors of the situation, and emphasised the fact that both food and money were being regularly supplied by Bahá’u’lláh for those who were imprisoned in his house. These officials were in their turn tempted to derive every possible advantage from the liberality of Bahá’u’lláh. They summoned Him to their presence, protested against His action, and accused Him of complicity in the act for which the captives had been condemned.

April 2, 2017

The Furutan family's first pilgrimage during WW II

Hand of the Cause Mr Furutan 1953
Early in 1941, during the Second World War, means were miraculously provided for me and my family to go on pilgrimage. In the company of my mother, my wife, and my eight-year-old daughter, together with other pilgrims, we set out on our journey. Passing through Qazvin, Hamadan, Kermanshah and Qasr-i-Shirin, we reached Baghdad.

We stayed for two days in that historical city, holy to Baha'is, and met with the friends there. Then via Rutbah, we arrived at Zemakh, which was then on the border of Palestine. Our luggage was inspected at the border, and since we carried two very expensive silk rugs, which were the gift of a believer, we were asked to pay a considerable amount of duty. However, when we explained that these rugs were brought for the House of 'Abdu'l-Baha, they were released without charge.

The director of Customs, who was Christian and a handsome and courteous man, happened to travel in the same bus with us to Haifa, and asked me about the value of the rugs. I said that I did not know as they were the gift of another believer. He offered to pay me an equivalent amount for an identical pair if I would promise to buy and send them to him in Zemakh on my return to Iran. I had to excuse myself from accepting this responsibility while the War was continuing, explaining that I had no experience in these affairs. He said that he would trust me with such a large amount only because I was a Baha'i and could not understand why I refused his request. I replied that I had to excuse myself precisely because I was a Baha'i! When we reached Haifa we parted as friends.

March 14, 2017

Mullá Husayn finds “God’s hidden treasure” in Mázindarán

In about 1848, four years after recognizing the Báb and becoming His first believer, and receiving the title of Bábu’l-Báb (the Gate of the Gate), Mulla Husayn left the city of Mashhad, in the province of Khurasan, north-east of Tihran, where he had lived since 1844. Desiring to see his Lord Who was imprisoned in the castle of Mah-Ku in the province of Adhirbayjan, north-west of Tihran, he told his friends: “I have vowed to walk the whole distance that separates me from my Beloved.” (a distance of about 900 miles). “I shall not relax in my resolve until I shall have reached my destination.”

His friends offered to arrange for a more conventional and comfortable mode of travel for this long and arduous journey, but Mulla Husayn declined their help. Upon his insistence, he finally allowed one of his friends to accompany him and to act as his servant throughout his pilgrimage to Ádhirbayján. On his way to Tihran, Mulla Husayn was enthusiastically greeted by the believers in the towns through which he passed. They too offered him the same assistance and received from him the same reply.

When Mulla Husayn arrived in Tihran he was visited by many believers. Nabil, the great Baha’i historian, recorded what he heard from Áqáy-i-Kalím, Bahá’u’lláh’s faithful brother, about Mulla Husayn:

“When Mulla Husayn arrived at Tihran, I, together with a large number of believers, went to visit him. He seemed to us the very embodiment of constancy, of piety and virtue. He inspired us with his rectitude of conduct and passionate loyalty. Such were the force of his character and the ardour of his faith that we felt convinced that he, unaided and alone, would be capable of achieving the triumph of the Faith of God.”

February 15, 2017

An example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ability to see the light of the spirit of a human being at a considerable distance – narrated by the Master

In the days of Bahá’u’lláh, during the worst times in the Most Great Prison, they would not permit any of the friends either to leave the Fortress or to come in from the outside. … [two Azalís] lived by the second gate of the city, and watched there at all times, day and night. Whenever they spied a Bahá’í traveler they would hurry away to the Governor and tell him that the traveler was bringing in letters and would carry the answers back. The Governor would then arrest the traveler, seize his papers, jail him, and drive him out. This became an established custom with the authorities and went on for a long time—indeed, for nine years until, little by little, the practice was abandoned.

It was at such a period that the Afnán, Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí—that great bough of the Holy Tree [1] — journeyed to Akká, coming from India to Egypt, and from Egypt to Marseilles. One day I was up on the roof of the caravanserai. Some of the friends were with me and I was walking up and down. It was sunset. At that moment, glancing at the distant seashore, I observed that a carriage was approaching. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I feel that a holy being is in that carriage.” It was still far away, hardly within sight.
“Let us go to the gate,” I told them. “Although they will not allow us to pass through, we can stand there till he comes.” I took one or two people with me and we left.

At the city gate, I called to the guard, privately gave him something and said: “A carriage is coming in and I think it is bringing one of our friends. When it reaches here, do not hold it up, and do not refer the matter to the Governor.” He put out a chair for me and I sat down.

January 4, 2017

Language barrier...

In a talk about our need for an international language, given at the Esperanto Society in Edinburgh, Scotland, on January 7, 1913, ‘Abdu’l-Baha cited the following funny incident to demonstrate how language barriers could cause misunderstandings:

I recall an incident which occurred in Baghdad. There were two friends who knew not each other's language. One fell ill, the other visited him, but not being able to express his sympathy in words resorted to gesture, as if to say, "How do you feel?” - with another sign the sick replied, "I shall soon be dead;” and his visitor, believing the gesture to indicate that he was getting better, said, "God be praised!” 
(Star of the West, vo. 4, no. 2, April 9, 1913)