This article tells the story of a moment in time. A small event – briefly told – yet an event that still echoes through time and space. A few evenings ago the words from that event echoed in song in the Australasian Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney. Here is the story.
Abdu’l Baha was travelling to West. In October 1911 he reflected on his arrival in Paris, one of the first western cities he visited:
I regret much that I have kept you waiting this morning, but I have so much to do in a short time for the Cause of the love of God.
You will not mind having waited a little to see me. I have waited years and years in prison, that I might come to see you now.
Yesterday evening when I came home from the house of Monsieur Dreyfus I was very tired—yet I did not sleep, I lay awake thinking.
I said, O God, Here am I in Paris! What is Paris and who am I? Never did I dream that from the darkness of my prison I should ever be able to come to you, though when they read me my sentence I did not believe in it.
They told me that ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd had ordered my everlasting imprisonment, and I said, ‘This is impossible! I shall not always be a prisoner. If ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd were immortal, such a sentence might possibly be carried out. It is certain that one day I shall be free. My body may be captive for a time, but ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd has no power over my spirit—free it must remain—that can no man imprison’.
Released from my prison by the Power of God I meet here the friends of God, and I am thankful unto Him.
By April 1912, Abdu’l Baha had journeyed on to America and was in its capital Washington DC. Day after day hundreds, sometimes thousands would come to see him, in multiple meetings a day. All of them wanting to know the news he had come to give them. All of them wanting to know about Bahá’u’lláh and his teachings.
On 23 April, Abdu’l Baha had been at Howard University, speaking to its African American students of the oneness of humanity, and had arranged for social segregation of blacks and whites to be challenged at a luncheon in his honour arranged by the Persian Legation. In the afternoon, he had spoken about equality of men and women at a women’s meeting. The day was not yet over. In the evening he attended a African American church where he had been invited to speak.
On the morning of 24 April, the day of our event in question, he had met with children at a Baha’i children’s conference, which had filled him with joy. Later in the day he had spoken at a mixed race couples home, and now he was in a carriage to go on to meet with the noted inventor Alexander Graham Bell.
Abdu’l Baha’s heart overflowed:
Abdu’l-Bahá was so filled with joy and happiness and His voice resonated so loudly that even the people walking along the street could hear Him:
O Bahá’u’lláh! What hast Thou done? O Bahá’u’lláh! May my life be sacrificed for Thee! O Bahá’u’lláh! May my soul be offered up for Thy sake!
How full were Thy days with trials and tribulations! How severe the ordeals Thou didst endure!
How solid the foundation Thou hast finally laid, and how glorious the banner Thou didst hoist!
In 1992, to mark the centenary of the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, Abdu’l Baha’s words were put to music. The video below is those words, set to that music, accompanied by images that tell the story of Bahá’u’lláh’s life and the fruit of his life’s work.
(This article is the 25th in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)