June 13, 2018

1911 London: ‘Abdu’l-Baha used “the power of Baha’u’llah” -- an incident witnessed by Lady Blomfield

One day after a meeting when, as usual, many people had crowded round Him, 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived home very tired. We were sad at heart that He should be so fatigued, and bewailed the many steps to be ascended to the flat. Suddenly, to our amazement, the Master ran up the stairs to the top very quickly without stopping.

He looked down at us as we walked up after Him, saying with a bright smile, from which all traces of fatigue had vanished:

"You are all very old! I am very young!"

Seeing me full of wonder, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said: "Through the power of Bahá'u'lláh all things can be done. I have just used that power."

That was the only time we had ever seen Him use that power for Himself, and I feel that He did so then to cheer and comfort us, as we were really sad concerning His fatigue.

Might it not also have been to show us an example of the great Reserve of Divine Force always available for those of us who are working in various ways in the "Path of the Love of God and of Mankind." A celestial strength which reinforces us when our human strength fails. 
- Lady Blomfield  (‘The Chosen Highway’)

May 6, 2018

Adelaide Sharp – the first woman to be elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran

Born in Texas in 1896, Adelaide Sharp spent her childhood in Mexico, moved in company of her mother to California to pursue her studies, and after graduation from college took up teaching work in the Italian quarter of San Francisco. Her father, Horace M. Sharp who died during Adelaide's infancy, was a Christian but Adelaide, when still young, received the Message of Baha'u'llah from her mother, Clara Sharp - a devoted Baha'i - and accepted it.

In 1929, when the distinguished Baha'i, Dr. Susan I. Moody, who was then seventy-seven years of age, undertook to emigrate to Persia a second time at the Guardian's request, she received his permission and hearty approval to take Adelaide along with her to serve at the Tarbiyat School in the capital. The two pioneers covered the first stretch of their journey by ship to the Holy Land where the glory of pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines for twelve precious days was heightened by the guidance and spiritual strength received from the beloved Guardian, a bounty that would be their mainstay during the long and difficult years ahead.

May 1, 2018

One of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s secretaries recalled how the Master revealed the first Tablet of the Divine Plan

On Monday morning, March 26, 1916, he was sitting peacefully in his room in Bahji, now and then looking out of the window over the olive grove, beyond the sea and far it seemed into the infinitude. Suddenly he turned his wonderful, penetrating eyes upon me and asked me to chant one of the prayers of Baha’u’llah. As I continued my chant I felt a strange consciousness coming over me a realization of my unworthiness in being permitted to live so long and so near the divine presence of Abdu’l-Baha. When I finished the prayer he looked at me with charming sweetness, that soft, dancing light in his eyes and said: "Thou must be infinitely grateful to Baha’u’llah that He has chosen thee to be with me for so long a time. Surely it must be for a great purpose that is not apparent at the present time. It will become clear in the future. Now bring pen, paper and ink and I will dictate a Tablet for America. 
- Ahmad Sohrab  (From a talk by Ahmad Sohrab at the Eleventh Annual Mashriqu’l-Adhkar Convention and Baha’i Congress, held in McAlpin Hotel, New York City, April 26th 30th, 1919; Star of the West, vol. 10, no.4, May 17, 1919)

The original Tablet was addressed to Mr. Hooper Harris, New York City, N. Y. care J.  H. Hannen, Washington, D. C. Received August 19, 1916 (Star of the West, vol. 7, no.10, September 8, 1916)

This Tablet was first printed in Star of the West, Vol. 7, No. 10, September 8, 1916.

April 26, 2018

The Guardian’s sufferings

In this last visit to Haifa I came to understand as never before something of the agony our Guardian has endured. He spoke of it very simply one night and his uplifted gaze, the white purity and beauty of his face are forever graven on my heart. Nothing is too great to suffer for him, no daily discipline, effort or sacrifice, no surrender of all that is upon this earth can even touch the hem of his sacred suffering, the depths of the cup from which he has drunk. With all my heart and soul I thank the Beloved that He gave us such a daughter for him, who is, in the words of the Master, "The apple of His eye and the jewel of His heart." 
- May Maxwell  (From a letter to Katherine Baldwin, Honolulu. February 1939)

April 20, 2018

First Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Yaounde, Cameroon

First Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Yaounde, the Federal capital of the Republic of Cameroon, 1968. Seated (left to right): Louie Stewart (secretary), Alfred Defang (chairman), and Emmanuel Begoumenie (vice-chairman). Satnding (left o rifgt): David Eyong, Paul Nkono, Jacob Ayukotang, John Ayuk, and Elias Eta (treasurer). Ernest Ayompe was absent 
(Baha'i News, December 1968)

April 12, 2018

1925: The keys to the House of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad, the Most Holy House, are given to the Shí'ahs

“We received last night news that the keys of the houses in Baghdad have been given to the Shi'ites and they had made a regular demonstration on the occasion. We await to see what will be done at last....” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 14 December 1925; ‘The Unfolding Destiny’)

Ruhiyyih Khanum explains the background, the efforts made by the Guardian and the Baha’i World, and the final unfortunate result:

It was during these years, when Shoghi Effendi was trying so hard to gather about him a group of competent co-workers, that a crisis of unprecedented dimensions burst upon him. The sea of the Cause of God, whipped by the winds of both destiny and chance which blow upon it from the outside world, was now lashed into a storm whose waves beat remorselessly upon Shoghi Effendi's mind, his strength, his nerves and his resources. The blessed House occupied by Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, and ordained by Him, in Shoghi Effendi's words, as a "sacred, sanctified and cherished object of Bahá'í pilgrimage and veneration" had already in the days of 'Abdu'l-Bahá been seized by the "Shí'ahs, after a series of nefarious manoeuvres, but had been returned by the British authorities to its legitimate custodians. When news of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's passing reached the inveterate enemies of the Faith, they once again renewed their attack and laid claim to the House. In 1922 the government took over the keys of the House in spite of the assurance King Feisal had given that he would respect the claims of the Bahá'ís to a building that had been occupied by their representatives ever since Bahá'u'lláh's departure from Baghdad; His Majesty, for political reasons, now went back on his word and in 1923 the keys were most unjustly delivered once again to the "Shí'ahs. From shortly after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá until November 1925 there was a continuous struggle on the part of the Bahá'ís to protect the Most Holy House. The "Shí'ahs had first taken the case to their own religious court from which it was speedily lifted out to the Peace court and then brought before the local Court of First Instance, which decided in favour of the rights of the Bahá'ís. This decision was then taken to the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Iraq, which gave its verdict in favour of the "Shí'ahs.

April 9, 2018

December 1924: The first National Spiritual Assembly is formed in Africa

The National Spiritual Assembly of Egypt and the Sudan is formed, making it the first Baha’i national body on the continent of Africa. 
(Adapted from ‘God Passess By’, by Shoghi Effendi, and ‘The Babi and Baha’i Religions’, by, Peter Smith)

April 5, 2018

1912: Being alone with ‘Abdu’l-Baha -- by Howard Colby Ives

Before nine o'clock in the morning I was there, which meant; since I lived some distance from New York, an early start indeed. Already the large reception room was well filled. Evidently others also were conscious of a similar urge. I wondered if they too felt, as I, a burning in the breast.

I remember as if it were yesterday the scene and my impressions. I did not want to talk to anyone. In fact I would not. I withdrew to the window overlooking Broadway and turned my back upon them all. Below me stretched the great city but I saw it not. What was it all about? Why was I here? What did I expect from the coming interview: indeed how did I know there was to be any interview at all? I had no appointment. Plainly all those other folk had come expecting to see and talk with Him. Why should I expect any attention from such an eminent personage?

So I was somewhat withdrawn from the others when my attention was attracted by a rustling throughout the room. A door was opening far across from me and a group was emerging and 'Abdu'l-Baha appeared saying farewell. None had any eyes save for Him. Again I had the impression of a unique dignity and courtesy and love. The morning sunlight flooded the room to center on His robe. His fez was slightly tilted and as I gazed, His hand, with a gesture, evidently characteristic, raised and, touching, restored it to its proper place. His eyes met mine as my fascinated glance was on Him. He smiled and, with a gesture which no word but "lordly" can describe, He beckoned me. Startled gives no hint of my sensations. Something incredible had happened. Why to me, a stranger unknown, unheard of, should He raise that friendly hand? I glanced around. Surely it was to someone else that gesture was addressed, those eyes were smiling! But there was no one near and again I looked and again He beckoned and such understanding love enveloped me that even at that distance and with a heart still cold a thrill ran through me as if a breeze from a divine morning had touched my brow!

April 2, 2018

Some Western pilgrims in Akka in early 1901

Standing left to right: Charles Mason Remey, Sigurd Russell, Edward Getsinger and Laura Barney; Seated left to right: Ethel Rosenberg, Madam Jackson (in whose house in Paris Lua Getsinger often stayed), Shoghi Effendi, unknown (possibly Helen Ellis Cole), Lua Getsinger, unknown (possibly Emogene Hoagg)

March 30, 2018

Khadijih Khanum – the mother of Bahá'u'lláh

Khadijih Khanum's family belonged to the Namadsab tribe. Members of this tribe occupied areas in close proximity to Takur in the district of Núr in Mazandaran where Bahá'u'lláh's father and paternal ancestors came from. It is not known who Khadijih Khanum's parents were or whether she had any siblings. There is also no information available about Khadijih Khanum's childhood or early life. All aspects of her life before she married Mirza Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father, remain unexplored. The date and place of her birth are also unknown. She was likely born in one of the villages in the vicinity of the village of Takur.

Following the traditional pattern, Khadijih Khanum married probably very young to a certain Aqa Sultan. He died sometime after the birth of their third child. They had two daughters and one son and were probably residing in Tihran. Sometime after his death, Khadijih Khanum married Mirza Buzurg.

Khadijih Khanum’s family had preexisting ties to the family of Mirza Buzurg since an older sister of Mirza Buzurg was already married into the family. It is estimated that their wedding took place between 1810 and 1812. They had five children. The first-born of that marriage was a daughter, Sarih Khanum: she is generally known as 'Ukht’, Arabic for sister, because Baha’u’llah has thus referred to her. The next was a son, Mirza Mihdi, who died in his father's lifetime. Bahá'u'lláh was their third-born. The fourth was another son, Mirza Musa, entitled Aqay-i-Kalim in later years, and the fifth was another daughter, Nisa Khanum, who was married to Mirza Majid-i-Ahi, a secretary of the Russian Legation. It was the Custom of the family to spend the winter months in Tehran, where Mirza Buzurg would attend to his government duties, and the summer in the family home in Takur. It is not clear exactly when Khadijih Khanum passed away and where she has been buried.

March 29, 2018

Shoghi Effendi’s heart was like a mirror… it seemed to reflect all parts of the world

Shoghi Effendi completely dedicated his whole life to the Cause of God. He had no other thought. He ate, he slept, he was awake, he worked, every minute, day and night, was for the Cause of God. He thought of nothing else. Nothing else was of any interest to him. He didn’t talk about anything else. He talked about the conditions of the Plan. He talked about the services of the friends. And he was like a barometer. When any word came from any part of the world about successes of the believers in the teaching work they did, he was joyous and he was happy. But when word came of difficulties within the Faith, of persecutions of the some of the Baha’is, of difficulties that the pioneers were meeting with, the suffering of the believers, he became very sad. His heart was like a mirror, and it seemed reflect all parts of the world. And wherever he turned his heart, he saw what was there. He saw pictured before him the exact conditions of the believers themselves. So that if any of you, especially the pioneers, especially those of you who came into new areas to teach, and those of you who have been carrying on the teaching work in the new areas, have any idea that you are alone, that God is not with you, that the power of the Holy Spirit is not with you, dispel that from your mind, because the Power of God and the power of the Holy Spirit is with you all the time, every minute day and night. And the Guardian himself, even in his physical form, pledged to those things in the Holy Land, and he talked to us about them day after day and night after night. 
- Hand of the Cause of God Leroy Ioas  ([He was one of the Guardian’s secretaries], from a talk in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1958, ‘In the Days of the Guardian’)

March 28, 2018

1971: Faith Receives Official Recognition in Chad and the Central African Republic

At the end of January and mid-February 1971 the Baha'i Faith was officially recognized and registered by the authorities in the Republic of Chad, destined to have its First National Spiritual Assembly at Ridvan, and in the Central African Republic, which will also have its own National Spiritual Assembly for the first time at Ridvan, 1971.

The recognition and registration, which is the equivalent to Incorporation, is a vital step forward for the Faith in both these countries, and represents a double victory in each case due to the difficulties which preceded these registrations.

In Chad, where the number of believers in the capital, Fort Lamy alone, had reached more than one thousand, application for registration was submitted during 1970 and was rejected by the authorities on the grounds that no new religion had been registered since the country became independent. As an appeal against this decision, the Baha'is in Fort Lamy immediately began a proclamation campaign by presenting the case and Baha'i literature to different ministers in the Government, many of whom were most sympathetic and receptive to the Faith. However it was found that the matter would have to be submitted for a final decision to the Head of State.

March 27, 2018

The First Black Baha’i who arose “to guide others”

From a Tablet revealed by 'Abdu'l-Baha for Mrs. Pocohontas in Washington, USA:

Render thanks to the Lord that among that race thou art the first believer, [1] arisen to guide others. It is my hope that through the bounties and favours of the Abha Beauty thy countenance may be illumined, thy disposition pleasing, and thy fragrance diffused, that thine eyes may be seeing, thine ears attentive, thy tongue eloquent, thy heart filled with supreme glad-tidings, and thy soul refreshed by divine fragrances, so that thou mayest arise among that race and occupy thyself with the edification of the people, and become filled with light. Although the pupil of the eye is black, it is the source of light. Thou shalt likewise be. The disposition should be bright, not the appearance. Therefore, with supreme confidence and certitude, say: 'O God! Make me a radiant light, a shining lamp, and a brilliant star, so that I may illumine the hearts with an effulgent ray from Thy Kingdom of Abha....'
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha  (The Compilation of Compilations, vol. II, Women)
[1] This Tablet was addressed to one Mrs. Pocohontas in Washington. According to Fadil Mazandarani, the recipient of the Tablet was a black woman. See Tarikh-i-Zuhuru'l-Haq, vol. 8, part 2, p. 1209 (Tihrán: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 132 B.E.). Additional information provided by the Archives of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States indicates that Mr. Louis Gregory, in a history of the Washington, D.C. Bahá'í community, mentions a black Bahá'í, Mrs. Pocohontas Pope, who is likely the same person. Mrs. Pope learned of the Bahá'í Faith through Alma and Fanny Knobloch and Joseph and Pauline Hannen. There is, at present no other information on Mrs. Pope. (The Compilation of Compilations, vol. II, Women)

March 26, 2018

December 1934: Tarbiyat and other Baha'i schools are closed down by the order of the Persian government

The Tarbiyat Boys' School and the Girls' School by the same name, together with all the other Bahá'í schools in major cities, were closed down in December 1934 by order of the government for not heeding a warning by the Ministry of Education (headed by 'Ali-Asghar-i-Hikmat, a well-known Azali) that the schools would officially be closed if they failed to remain open during Bahá'í holy days. Despite several representations by the National Spiritual Assembly, the authorities remained adamant and all the Bahá'í schools in Persia were closed down after closing on a Bahá'í holy day. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah vol. 4)

The Tarbiyat boys' school was established in 1898 in Tihran, while the girls' school was founded by Dr Susan Moody after her arrival in Tihran in 1909. Both schools were owned and managed entirely by Baha’is, although children of all religions attended, particularly the children of government and civic officials. The schools had always closed on the nine Baha'i holy days but on the pretext that the Baha’is belonged to a denomination not officially recognized in Iran, the Ministry of Education in 1934 demanded that the schools remain open for these days. Shoghi Effendi refused to allow this and ordered the schools to close on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Báb. As he would not let the Baha'is deny their Faith, nor allow the schools to remain open on holy days, the government refused permission for the schools to re-open after the holy day. The Tarbiyat Schools remain closed to this day. (A Basic Baha’i Dictionary, by Wendi Momen)

March 25, 2018

December 1939: Lady Blomfield passed away

Given the name “Sitarih Khanum” by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Lady Sara Louisa Blomfield was an eminent early (1907) British Baha'i who is perhaps best remembered for her memoire detailing her meetings with 'Abdu'l-Baha (The Chosen Highway) and her assistance in the compilation of 'Abdu'l-Baha's talks while in Paris (Paris talks).

Born in Ireland in 1859, she married a distinguished architect, some 30 years her senior, Sir Arthur William Blomfield. They had two daughters, Mary Esther and Rose Ellinor Cecilia. When Sir Arthur died in 1899, Lady Blomfield and her two daughters moved from their London house. Later she began to develop a deep respect for Christianity as taught by Basil Wilberforce, then archdeacon of Westminster, and would take her daughters every Sunday to St. John's, Westminster, to hear him preach. Some eight years after the death of Sir Arthur, Lady Blomfield and her daughter Mary were in Paris, where they attended a reception at the home of Madam Lucien Monod. It was here that she met Miss Bertha Herbert, who introduced her to the Baha'i Message, saying, "If I look happy it is because I am happy. I have found the desire of my heart." Asked to say more, Miss Herbert said, "It is true! True! We have been taught to believe that a great Messenger would again be sent to the world. He would set forth to gather together all the peoples of good will in every race, nation, and religion on the earth. Now is the appointed time! He has come! He has come!" Miss Herbert explained that there was a woman in Paris who had recently visited 'Abdu'l-Baha and said that a meeting could be arranged for her to hear more. The woman was Miss Ethel Jenner Rosenberg, who had, in the summer of 1899, become the second Baha'i to enroll in the British Isles. The Blomfields met with Miss Rosenberg and the first French Baha'i, the scholar Hippolyte Dreyfus. During this meeting Lady Blomfield embraced the Baha'i Message. On returning to London the Blomfields contacted Ethel Rosenberg and Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper and dedicated themselves to spreading the Faith in England. They were then living at 97 Cadogan Gardens, London, and in early August 1911 when 'Abdu'l-Baha visited Great Britain, she invited Him to stay at her house. 'Abdu'l-Baha left London for Paris on 3 October 1911, and Lady Blomfield, her daughters, and a friend, Miss Beatrice Marion Platt, followed Him, took notes of His talks, and published them under the title  “Paris Talks”.