Wealth… expended for the promotion of knowledge, the founding of elementary and other schools, the encouragement of art and industry, the training of orphans and the poor—in brief, if it is dedicated to the welfare of society—its possessor will stand out before God and man as the most excellent of all who live on earth and will be accounted as one of the people of paradise.
–‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 116
Hatred and Miracles
For almost ten years, Baha’u’llah lived in Baghdad, Iraq, meeting with the followers of the Bab, with the people living in the city, and with the Muslim holy men. Baha’u’llah was always kind, loving, and truthful with everyone He encountered. Since there were no radios, televisions, or telephones in those days, the only way news spread was by word-of-mouth. Gradually His reputation grew throughout the city as a Man of great wisdom and perfect character. Despite the lack of modern ways of communicating, hundreds of people knew of Him and came to love Him.
When Baha’u’llah was relatively unknown in the city, He was not a threat to the Muslim authorities. The more respected and well-known Baha’u’llah became, the more the authorities became uneasy and jealous of how many people listened to Him and followed Him. Two men in particular decided something needed to be done to discredit Baha’u’llah. One of these enemies of Baha’u’llah was Shaykh ‘Abdu’l-Husayn, and the other was the Persian Ambassador in Baghdad, Mirza Buzurg Khan.
What do you do if you want to harm someone, but that Someone is wise and good and most of the city respects Him? The only thing the Shaykh and Mirza Buzurg Khan could think to do was spread lies about Baha’u’llah to the authorities. Both men demanded that Baha’u’llah be sent away from Baghdad. They demanded that the authorities force Him to leave the city. They claimed that Baha’u’llah was dangerous to the faith of Islam, and to the people of Baghdad. The authorities refused to listen to them. When this plan didn’t work, they tried spreading lies and rumors among the people of Baghdad.
Mirza Buzurg Khan recruited people who were not well-educated or those with criminal backgrounds to help him. He persuaded them to challenge Baha’u’llah in public, hoping to get Baha’u’llah to lash out at them. Then Mirza Buzurg Khan could show the authorities how dangerous Baha’u’llah was and get Him banished from the city.
Baha’u’llah’s friends warned and begged Him not to walk the streets of Baghdad alone, but Baha’u’llah refused to be frightened. As you know, Baha’u’llah is a Messenger of God, and He knew very well what these troublemakers were trying do. Instead of trying to stay out of their way, He would walk straight up to them. He would then ask them what they were planning to do, and even joke with them! The troublemakers were confused and embarrassed.
The Shaykh’s next evil plot was to send letter after letter to the shah (or king) of Persia, telling of Baha’u’llah’s rising power. Eventually he got authority from the shah to join with Persian holy men living in Iraq to hunt down the Babis living there and make their lives miserable. The Shaykh got all these men in Baghdad together, and they decided to get rid of Babis once and for all. They thought they could show the people of Baghdad that the Babi’s were misguided.
This gathering of holy men decided to send one of their members (Haji Mulla Hasan-i-Ammu) to meet Baha’u’llah, ask Him questions, and find out what exactly He was telling people. They also wanted to give Him an impossible challenge.
Haji Mulla Hasan made an appointment to interview Baha’u’llah at His home. As soon as he arrived at Baha’u’llah’s home and introduced himself, an amazing thing happened. Haji Mulla Hasan was overwhelmed by the power and majesty of Baha’u’llah and could barely speak. He quickly understood that what he knew about spiritual truth was nothing compared to what Baha’u’llah knew. Haji Mulla Hasan’s understanding was like a small drop compared to Baha’u’llah’s ocean of knowledge. Baha’u’llah calmly and skillfully answered all of Haji Mulla Hasan’s questions.
He sat silently in Baha’u’llah’s presence. He felt foolish asking Baha’u’llah what the holy men wanted him to ask. The gathering of holy men had been convinced that they could prove how wrong Baha’u’llah was. Their plan was to make Him look like a fraud so the people of Baghdad would turn to them not Baha’u’llah, for guidance. They wanted Baha’u’llah to perform a miracle, but they did not expect that Baha’u’llah could actually make a miracle happen!
Slowly, Haji Mulla Hasan told Baha’u’llah that the holy men wanted Him to perform a miracle—to prove that the Babi religion was from God. With a deep sigh, Baha’u’llah looked into Haji Mulla Hasan’s eyes and said to him:
Although you have no right to ask this, for God should test His creatures, and they should not test God, still I allow and accept this request . . . [They] must assemble, and with one accord, choose one miracle, and write that, after the performance of this miracle they will no longer entertain doubts about Me, and that all will acknowledge and confess the truth of My Cause. Let them seal this paper, and bring it to Me. This must be the accepted criterion: if the miracle is performed, no doubt will remain for them; and if not, We shall be convicted of imposture.
So, Baha’u’llah accepted the challenge of performing a miracle—but on two conditions. The first condition was that everyone had to agree what the miracle would be. And then if Baha’u’llah performed an amazing act, the holy men had to accept the truth of Baha’u’llah’s words. They had to tell everyone that Baha’u’llah’s Message was truly from God.
Haji Mulla Hasan humbly thanked Baha’u’llah and said good-bye, promising to share His answer with the holy men.
Guess what happened next? The holy men of Islam in the city of Baghdad got together again and talked and argued and talked some more. They argued about what miracle they would ask Baha’u’llah to perform. It would have to be a big miracle, some said, something that many people would be able to see. Others argued that it didn’t matter how big the amazing act was, but that it had to be very difficult. It had to be so difficult that no one else could copy it. The holy men argued for days about what the miracle should be. They could not come to an agreement. They could not decide what to tell Baha’u’llah. Haji Mulla Hasan told Baha’u’llah about their dilemma. Baha’u’llah then said: “We have, through this all-satisfying, all-embracing message which We sent, revealed and vindicated the miracles of all the Prophets, inasmuch as We left the choice to the [holy men] themselves, undertaking to reveal whatever they would decide upon.”
Baha’u’llah showed the ignorant, suspicious holy men the biggest and most difficult-to-copy miracle of all—Himself! But most of them couldn’t see His perfection—His quiet wisdom, complete understanding, and absolute love for everyone. This is the true miracle of all the Messengers of God. (From Central Figures: Baha’u’llah, Vol 2, pp. 107-112).
- How long did Baha’u’llah live in Baghdad?
- What reputation did He have in the city of Baghdad?
- According to the story, who were the two main enemies of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad?
- Who was Haji Mulla Hasan-i-Ammu?
- What did Haji Mulla Hasan-i-Ammu ask Baha’u’llah for?
- What was Baha’u’llah’s response?
- What was the holy men’s reaction?
- What is Baha’u’llah’s biggest miracle?
Spiritual Teachings of Baha’u’llah
The Oneness of Humankind
“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own selves.” -Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 94
“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” -Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 286
The Bahá’í Faith maintains that the human race has gone through a process of social evolution. The family, the tribe, the city-state, the nation- these represent some of the stages in social evolution of man. The specific mission of Bahá’u’lláh is to provide the next stage of this evolution, namely the unity of mankind. With every new revelation from God comes larger and larger circles of unity. So far, humanity has successfully established the unities of clan, of tribe, of agricultural village, of city-state, and of nation.
The emphasis in the previous ages was on other subjects and it had to be the case since one half of mankind had no knowledge of the existence of the other half. It was not possible, for instance, for Buddha to speak of the unity of mankind because the people of his time would not have been able to understand it. It is likely that at that time most people’s perception of the world did not extend beyond their own village.
Consequently, the unification of mankind due to the absence of means was unattainable. Today, however, for the first time in the history of man the development of means of communication which provides for a growing social and economic interdependence of the world’s nations makes the unity of mankind a practical possibility.
The unity sought by the Bahá’í Faith, however, does not require uniformity. It is unity in diversity. The Bahá’ís maintain that it is not by the suppression of differences that we arrive at unity, but rather by an increased awareness of and respect for the intrinsic (belonging naturally; essential) value of each separate culture, and indeed, of each individual. They say that it is not diversity itself which is deemed the cause of conflict, but rather our immature attitude towards it, our intolerance and prejudice.
What is a city-state?
A city-state included a city or village and the farmlands around it. Each city-state had its own leaders and its own government. Sumer (4000 B.C.) in Mesopotamia (the land between two rivers) had 12 city-states.
Ella Bailey: A Story of Sacrifice
The beautiful Houses of Worship which Baha’is have erected around the world bring together followers of different religions to pray in unity and pay homage to the One Creator of all mankind. In the serene and peaceful atmosphere of these Temples selections are read from the Holy Scriptures of the world and the listener becomes acquainted with the guidance God has sent throughout the ages. The dross of prejudice against those of other Faiths is removed from the hearts of the sincere, and a bond of understanding unites them with the rest of the human race. Many of those who have felt the blessings emanating from the Houses of Worship are yet unaware of the love and sacrifice with which Baha’is have raised these precious buildings to offer them as gifts to their fellow men. The following story is one of hundreds of examples of their self-sacrifice:
At the time when a House of Worship, or Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, was being constructed in Wilmette, in the United States, there were not many Baha’is in America and, although the rest of the Baha’is in the world helped with donations, there was always a scarcity of funds. Once, at a rather critical period, when the work at the Temple was coming to a standstill because of lack of money, the American National Spiritual Assembly appealed to the Baha’is of their community for sacrificial contributions. The response of the friends was such that the crisis was met and the building of the Temple continued. Among those who gave all they had was an elderly lady—a pure soul with a generous heart, but destitute of worldly belongings. She had been saving for some time and had managed to set aside a sum of money for her own burial.
When the appeal came for donations to the Temple Fund, and she realized the urgency of the situation, she decided to give half the money she had saved to the House of Worship. After some time, when funds were still lacking for the completion of the Temple, she gave the other half, saying she could be buried in the free cemetery reserved for the destitute and did not need a stone to mark her grave.
This is not the end of the story. When the Guardian of the Cause raised the call for pioneers and asked the believers to take the healing Message of Baha’u’llah to people who had not heard of the Baha’i Faith, this dear lady, who was then almost ninety, a cripple in a wheelchair, went pioneering to Libya with a young couple who were going to settle in Tripoli. She said she wanted to bury her bones there for the sake of the Cause of God. She died in Libya shortly after her arrival, having won the admiration of the entire Baha’i world for her heroic deed. A loving group of Baha’i friends from different nationalities gave her a dignified burial and said prayers at her grave. The Guardian of the Cause named her a martyr, and had a beautiful monument erected over her resting-place. He said people who hear her story in the future will pour out their resources and they will arise to pioneer- people who never knew she existed. Her name was Ella Bailey. (Stories about Baha’i Funds, pp. 1-3).
- What is a Mashriqu’l-Adhkar?
- Give examples of a few Mashriqu’l-Adhkar you know.
- What do you know about Ella Bailey?
- What can we learn from Ella Bailey’s example?
Stories of the Master
When a Turkish man, living in Haifa, lost his position, he, his wife and children were in a desperate need. They went to ‘Abdu’l-Baha 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-Baha 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-Baha’ 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-Baha 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.
‘Abdu’l-Baha sorrowed with the sorrowful. He rejoiced with the truly joyous. Thousands thronged to His door to seek relief. . . To them all, ‘Abdu’l-Baha gave freely and abundantly. No one found His door shut . . . He did not merely wait for the oppressed and the bewildered and the fallen to come to Him. He went out to find them and to serve them.
Howard Colby Ives recalled one meal at which ‘Abdu’l-Baha ‘served me with His own hands most bountifully, urging me to eat, eat, be happy. He Himself did not eat but paced around the table, talking, smiling, serving.’ Later he wrote that ‘He has been known to go into the kitchen and prepare a meal for His guests. He never failed in such small attentions as seeing that the room where His visitors were entertained contained every possible comfort, though He paid no attention to His own comfort.’ His response when He was at one time asked to act as honorary chairman of a Baha’i Assembly was simply, “Abdu’l-Baha is a servant.’ (Thoughts : Education for Peace and One World, pp. 237-238)
Virtue of the week: Trust in God
The tender and simple seed, solitary though it may be, must not look upon its own lack of power. Nay, rather, its attention must ever be directed to the sun, in the rays of which it finds life and quickening…Therefore, let us ever trust in God and seek confirmation and assistance from Him. Let us have perfect and absolute confidence in the bounty of the Kingdom.
-Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, pp.420-421
Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. – The Bible, Psalm 34:19
God is our refuge and strength, a very pleasant help in trouble. –The Bible, Psalms 46:1
And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. –The Bible, Psalms 50:15
But even dearer to me are those who have faith and love, and who have me as their End Supreme. -The Bhagavad Gita 12:20