Abdu’l-Baha: Unique

Baha'i Abdu’l-Baha Unique

Abdu’l-Baha (23 May 1844 – 28 November 1921). On November 28, members of the Baha’i Faith throughout the world commemorate the passing of Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son and successor of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith. Abdu’l-Baha passed away in His home in Haifa, Israel at the age of 77 and there are no prescribed ceremonies but gatherings usually involve prayers and devotional readings. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

One of the most common mistakes in English usage is the term “very unique,” and its close cousins, “most unique” and “so unique” — as in, “that is a very unique painting” or “that is one of the most unique songs I have ever heard.” We all commit this error from time to time because we mistake the word “unique” for the word “unusual.” In fact, “unique” means there is nothing else like it in existence. Like pregnancy, something either is unique or it is not; there are no degrees of uniqueness, as there are with unusualness.

Tonight, on the anniversary of His passage from this world to the next, we turn our thoughts and hearts toward Abdu’l-Baha, one who actually was in fact unique. Baha’u’llah wrote:

When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.

And again:

…refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock.

Abdu’l-Baha Himself wrote,

In accordance with the explicit text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha’u’llah hath made the Center of the Covenant the Interpreter of His Word—a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like.

Though there is no greater love on earth than that of a father for his son, the rapturous feeling that Baha’u’llah held for His eldest son far surpassed even that, as we read in this extraordinary passage from a letter from Baha’u’llah while Abdu’l-Baha was away from Akka on a visit to Beirut: Continue reading

The Mystery of Abdu’l-Baha

Abdu’l-Baha returning to his home on Haparsim Street in Haifa, Israel. (Image courtesy of Baha’i Media Bank)

Abdu’l-Baha was a global revolutionary.

In the Middle East, He led a household that practiced equality between women and men. In Europe, He spoke in churches about the oneness of all the religions. And in America, He emphatically practiced and preached about racial unity.

How one man, in a lifetime lived mostly in exile and imprisonment, managed to affect so many lives around him and lead a nascent faith to spread from one corner of the globe to become a world religion, is a remarkable expression of the mystery of Abdu’l-Baha.

Born the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha was not a prophet, and did not have any type of ‘mystic unity’ with Baha’u’llah. But He did perfectly reflect the teachings of His father – so much so that He was titled the Mystery of God.

In Abdu’l-Baha, the ‘incompatible characteristics of a human nature and a superhuman knowledge and perfection’ were blended and ‘completely harmonised’. There are endless accounts of Abdu’l-Baha’s magnetic personage, approachability, kindliness and love that personify His mystery.

One of the early American Baha’is said it is through the heart that we best glimpse Abdu’l-Baha’s special nature. So here I’ve given my personal top 5 reasons, from the heart, as to why Abdu’l-Baha was a mystery. Continue reading

Thank You Abdu’l-Baha

Baha'i Abdu’l-Baha

Photo taken of Abdu’l-Baha in 1912, New Hampshire, United States (Courtesy: Baha’i Media Bank)

There are thousands of reasons we can all be thankful for as Baha’is, and as there are two significant days on the Baha’i calendar this week — the Day of the Covenant followed a couple of days later by the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha — something I’ve been personally reflecting on recently is the gratitude we owe Abdu’l-Baha for so many of the things which we perhaps take for granted relating to the Faith.

I’m sure we each have our own special relationship with Abdu’l-Baha, and as we continue to work towards understanding the special station of Abdu’l-Baha and the significant role He played in the course of Baha’i history and the covenant, I’m sure we could come up with a list of hundreds of reasons we all need to thank Him.

On that note, in honour of celebrating the Day of the Covenant, I thought it would be interesting to see how many things we could thank Abdu’l-Baha for, by asking you all to leave something in the ‘Comments’ section below. It can be anything which comes to mind such as a book you’re reading like Paris Talks, a prayer by Abdu’l-Baha which you particularly like, or something you’ve been reflecting on lately. Continue reading

Searching for the Footsteps of Abdu’l-Baha

In 1912, Abdu’l-Bahá spent from April to December touring North America. He is shown here (at center) with Bahá’ís at Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. [Photo: Baha’i Media Bank]

In a small breakfast restaurant in downtown Chicago I received a jolt, a surprising reminder of what was really important to me.

“That’s a nice ring,” a young African-American waiter said to me, after glancing at my Baha’i ring with its symbols of unity, the fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith.

It was the first time that anybody had ever commented on it, and the remark came when there was strong competition for my attention.

In the final two weeks of the 2012 presidential election campaign, the media drumbeat was increasing in intensity as the people of the United States were subjected to special pleading to win their votes.

It was a fascinating and important time to be in that country, but the young man’s inquiry reminded me that the eternal realities, the things of the spirit are far more enduring and significant than current contests for political power.

The many personalities being promoted for political purposes seemed almost one dimensional in my eyes compared with one who had visited the United States in 1912.

I left the restaurant, and as planned, took the train to Wilmette where 100 years ago, the head of the Baha’i Faith, Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), laid the cornerstone for a Temple that is now one of the most outstanding architectural features of a city that is deservedly famous for its buildings. Continue reading

Reflections on the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha

The house of Abdu’l-Baha located in Haifa, Israel where He passed away at approximately 1:00a.m. on November 28, 1921. More than 10,000 mourners, representing all the diverse religions and ethnic communities in the Holy Land attended His funeral. (Photo courtesy Baha’i Media Bank)

At the commemoration of the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Montreal in 2012, I witnessed something profound at an event organized at St. James Methodist Church – the last place where the Master spoke publicly during His brief sojourn in Montreal. The current minister talked about the admirable qualities of Abdu’l-Baha and the unifying impact of His visit. I have never seen a person of authority of another religion lovingly praise this Cause at such length in their own place of worship. A feeling of unity between the congregation of the church and all the visiting Baha’is was palpable. I thought, this is what it must have been like in 1912!

Historical accounts of the life of the Master are bursting with similar exaltations and expressions of amity. Everywhere He went, notable religious leaders praised Him publicly and people were united in their love for Him. Perhaps most moving, is the symphony of tributes after His passing on November 28th, 1921 and the common grief everyone felt over losing Him. In his biography on the life of the Master, Hasan Balyuzi writes:

In the land we know as the Holy Land, in all its turbulent history of the last two thousand years, there had never been an event which could unite all its inhabitants of diverse faiths and origins and purposes, in a single expression of thought and feeling, as did the passing of Abdu’l-Baha. Jews and Christians and Muslims and Druzes, of all persuasions and denominations; Arabs and Turks and Kurds and Armenians and other ethnic groups were united in mourning His passing, in being aware of a great loss they had suffered.

Continue reading

An Introduction to the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha

As the Baha’i world prepares to commemorate the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s ascension and anticipates the construction of His shrine and final resting place, the time is ripe to review His talks and writings (which you can find online here at the Baha’i Reference Library). One of His most important writings is the Will and Testament, in which He appoints a successor and provides instructions on the administration of the global Baha’i community. To aid in the study of this crucial document, this article discusses its significance, its historical context, and its main themes. Continue reading

When I Meet Abdu’l-Baha

Most nights, as I lie in bed drifting closer to sleep, my mind meanders through the events of the day, one random thought leading to another as my consciousness streams away toward stranger and stranger scenarios, until at last the rational succumbs completely to the emotional and symbolic.

But on some nights, I direct my thoughts, and I picture what it will be like during those first few moments in whatever that next realm is, in the afterlife.

Continue reading

Howard MacNutt – Disciple of Abdu’l-Baha

Howard MacNutt, 13 July, 1859 - 26 December, 1926. (Photo courtesy of the Baha'is of the United States.)

To read about the life of Howard MacNutt is to learn a love story. Howard was born 13 July, 1859 in Philadelphia and he passed away on 26 December, 1926 in Miami. He was posthumously named by Shoghi Effendi as one of 19 Western Disciples of Abdu’l-Baha, or Heralds of the Covenant. Shoghi Effendi wrote that Howard MacNutt “will for ever remain associated with the rise and establishment of His Faith in the American continent, and will continue to shed on its annals a lustre that time can never dim.”

Perhaps of all Howard MacNutt’s services rendered to the early Baha’i community of North America, the one for which I am most grateful is the bringing together of the talks given by Abdu’l-Baha on His travels in the United States and Canada in 1912. Abdu’l-Baha requested that the volume be titled The Promulgation of Universal Peace and that Howard write its introduction. What an honour! It’s a beautiful introduction that sets out to explain Abdu’l-Baha’s Station. For example, he writes: Continue reading

“Abdu’l-Baha” by Dominique Sylvester [Audio Track]

Baha’i Blog’s “Studio Sessions” is an initiative where we invite Baha’is and their friends from around the world to come into a studio and share the Baha’i Writings put to music.

In this Baha’i Blog Studio Session, we’re in Johannesburg, South Africa with Dominique Sylvester who sings “Abdu’l-Baha” based on a tablet by Abdu’l-Baha. Continue reading

19 Beautiful Quotations of Abdu’l-Baha on Instagram

On Baha’i Blog’s Instagram account, you’ll find photos, artwork and Baha’i quotations put to images. We love to share photos from others, whether it’s a stunning photo of a House of Worship at dawn, or a beautiful handmade prayer book cover. But we also share content of our own. In honor of the Ascension of Abdu’-Baha and the Day of the Covenant, we wanted to share 19 of our most beloved quotations of Abdu’l-Baha. While the quotations shared on the images are short, you’ll find larger extracts in the description or caption. And if you feel so moved, you can read the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha online here at the Baha’i Reference Library.

Continue reading

Following the Example of Abdu’l-Baha – Tom Price

A couple of weeks ago Baha’i Blog sponsored our very first event at the Baha’i Centre in Sydney, Australia.

It was a talk by Tom Price called Following the Example of Abdu’l-Baha and we wanted to take advantage of the fact that he was passing through Australia on his way back to the US after speaking at the two recent summer schools in New Zealand.

Baha’i Blog has posted some of Tom Price’s other talks such as The Five Year Plan (which is still one of our most popular posts), and more recently Recreating Ourselves in the Image of the Master.

Abdu’l-Baha, (also referred to as the Master) was Baha’u’llah’s eldest son and appointed successor, and He is considered the perfect example of how to live according to the Baha’i teachings.

You can listen to Following the Example of Abdu’l-Baha by either streaming it live or by downloading it – and best of all, it’s completely free!

A special thanks to Tom Price for agreeing to do this, and to all the friends, especially Loretta Safajou, who made the event a reality!

Happy listening!

Luminous Journey: A Documentary about Abdu’l-Baha in America

After being exiled and imprisoned from the age of eight, Abdu’l-Baha at the age of 67 set sail in 1911 and travelled to Europe and North America to visit the Baha’i communities and to share the teachings of Baha’u’llah with others.

Abdu’l-Baha spent a good portion of this trip traveling from coast to coast in North America – 239 days to be exact – sharing the message of peace and unity amongst the thousands of people He met, including President Theodore Roosevelt, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, explorer Admiral Peary, reformer W.E.B. DuBois, and poet Kahlil Gibran.

This important chapter in America’s history has now been brought to the screen by Tim and Anne Perry in a wonderful two and a half-hour documentary film titled: Luminous Journey: Abdu’l-Baha in America, 1912.

Aimed at general audiences, Luminous Journey brings to light the events which took place and the people Abdu’l-Baha encountered during His visit to the US and Canada. After watching the film, one of the viewers Roland Maddela wrote: “It was like I was travelling, too, with the Master and felt the excitement on His arrival in every city and the sadness when He left. The settings and costumes captured the spirit of the 1900s. The music and the narrations are superb.”

I managed to get a hold of Anne and Tim Perry to find out more about this important and inspiring documentary: Continue reading

Abdu’l-Baha the Exemplar – A Talk by Dr. Vahid Rafati

In this talk, given at the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference (Phoenix, USA) in December, 2012, Dr. Vahid Rafati explores the life, achievements and works of Abdu’l-Baha.

Dr. Vahid Rafati received his B.A degree in Psychology from Tehran University. He subsequently completed his PhD in Islamic Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Rafati has been serving at the Research Department of the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel since 1980 and is the author of numerous articles and books in both Persian and English. Continue reading