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                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Shoghi Effendi’s diary

Posted by Sen on February 18, 2011

There are numerous ‘pilgrim’s notes’ recording people’s memories of the words of Abdu’l-Baha or of Shoghi Effendi, some more reliable than others. But the diary entries below are Shoghi Effendi’s reports of the words of Abdu’l-Baha, dated in 1919, as the First World War was ending. They include Shoghi Effendi’s translations of sections of Abdu’l-Baha’s tablets.

The first letter contains a citation from a Tablet of Abdu’l-Baha that, so far as I know, is not published elsewhere. The third letter, dated February 10, 1919, gives some insight into the motives of the British authorities in awarding a knighthood to Abdu’l-Baha on 27 April 1920, based on a recommendation submitted by the British Administrator, Major-General Money, on 18 July, 1919. The letter dated February 13, 1919, throws further light on the relationship between Abdu’l-Baha and General Allenby, who countersigned the recommendation for Abdu’l-Baha’s OBE award. I intend to post further documentation about this honour in a separate posting.

It is notable that Shoghi Effendi writes in English to Ahmad Sohrab, although both had Persian as their mother tongue: I take this as an indication that Shoghi Effendi intended these letters for publication in Star of the West.

Since there are quite a few letters, I have taken the liberty of making a contents list. The dates link to the relevant letters.

      The first selection: Star of the West volume 10, No. 11, September 27, 1919.

February 8, 1919: a Tablet to an American Bahai, regarding the Covenant and the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, and the new possibilities for teaching the Faith following the end of hostilities. Captain Agal Khan calls, news of Abbas Ali of Rangoon.

February 9, 1919: a letter from an American Bahai women who proposes making a subject index of the Bahai Writings. A gathering at the Shrine of the Bab. Reports from the Bahai students in Beirut. Abdul-Baha speaks on the Holy Books and their adaptation to their environments, the progression from one to the next.

February 10, 1919: the formation of the Haifa Relief Fund, an inter-religious effort for the relief of the poor, under the surveillance of the British authorities. Abdul-Baha’s contributions. A letter from Bombay, another from Lausanne, Switzerland, reporting the well-being of the friends. A letter from Sheik Amin Halabi in Palestine. A letter from Juanita Storch, quoted.

February 11, 1919: The first letters from the Bahais of Persia and India have arrived (following the end of the war); Bahai activities openly conducted in Tehran, “The Nationalists, the Reactionaries, the Liberals and the Democrats have made Persia a desolate country..” A Bahai selected to be Iran’s representative at the International Congress in Paris.

      The second selection: Star of the West volume 11, No. 3, April 28, 1920.

February 12, 1919: a letter from India, the sender invited to come to Palestine; news from Iran.

February 13, 1919: Abdu’l-Baha has called for the Bahais (in the East) to be openly active; news and a visitor (Haji Mohammed Yazdi) from Damascus, and from a prominent cleric in that city; “Deliver the divine message with prudence and wisdom.” Abdu’l-Baha calls on Sir Edmund Allenby; Major Tudor Pole coming.

February 14, 1919: Abdu’l-Baha’s bath; a British non-com comes to call, thanks to Tudor-Pole; he is told about peace and reconciliation, and the futility of war and peace conferences, “dead letters unless the Word of God and His supreme power comes to exercise its influence.”

February 15, 1919: the non-com (Private Sinclair) returns; news of the Bahai school in Teheran, and the schools of the Israelite Bahais; meetings in Yazd, the tombs of the martyrs there to be beautified; the Bahai women taking the lead; news from Yazd; the Parsi friends of Adassieh; Tudor Pole delayed.

February 16, 1919: a letter from Aspasia Diamesis, a Greek Bahai in Chicago.

February 17, 1919: a group of the Parsee friends of Adassieh arrive, a wedding is planned; a letter from group of the Alexandria friends; a letter from Mirza Muhammad Zarkani in Bombay, with news from Rangoon;

February 18, 1919, from Bahji: Abdu’l-Baha rest and devotions.

      Another entry, published in Star of the West, volume, 11 page 15 (March 21, 1920), Shoghi Effendi’s diary for
June 8, 1919: The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar of Ishqabad; the visit to the shrine of Baha’u’llah on Sunday; Abdu’l-Baha speaks of the effects of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar; plans for a Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in Tehran.

      +++

 
 
Haifa, Palestine.
February 8, 1919

Dear Ahmad:
The Tablet revealed yesterday to one of the tried and firm American friends disclosed general and important questions related to the future development of the Cause. I quote some of its leading passages:

O thou firm in the Covenant! Your letter dated November 23rd, 1918, was received. Its contents indicated your being engaged in the service of the Mashrekol-Azkar, that this universal edifice may be erected. Indeed, you spare no effort in this respect and I entertain the hope that this endeavor may grow day by day. Deeds are like unto trees; for to plant a shrub is no difficult matter while the care necessary for its growth and yielding fruit is hard and difficult. So far, effort was expended to lay the foundation of the Temple, but now its erection and completion is a difficult matter and my hope is that the friends of God may be therein assisted.

The second question which is of vital importance is that the friends of God must strive with heart and soul to promulgate heavenly teachings and spread far and wide the light of the Kingdom. For the world of humanity has acquired, as a result of this great carnage, a great capacity for the propagation of universal peace. Ears are longing to hearken to the call of the oneness of the world of humanity, to universal reconciliation and to the rejection of ignorant prejudices.

In fine, if all the friends of God engage in the promulgation of heavenly teachings, the establishment of universal peace shall be a foregone conclusion.

Praise be to God, whatever has been explicitly recorded in the divine Tablets has been fully realized and all the warnings and appeals of Abdul-Baha in the temples and gatherings of America, have come to pass. At present, we hope that all will engage in the service of the Kingdom and will promulgate whatever is the will of God.

The teachings of His Holiness BAHA’O’LLAH are today the spirit of life, the means of peace and reconciliation, the cause of amity and union, and the promoter of the oneness of mankind.
One should engage in such a service.

This afternoon our Indian officer, Captain Agal Khan of Lahore, Punjab, who is a devout Moslem, keenly interested in the role that the Cause will play in the future – a traveler and observer in different regions of the West as well as the Far East, a tourist to Spain and a resident for many years in Peking, Tientsin, Tokyo and Yokohama, a scholar of the religious movements in the East – called on Abdul-Baha carrying with him the article of Abbas Ali of Rangoon, published in one of the local Indian papers of Punjab, which he had translated for Abdul Baha into English.

The article was a lucid and at the same time a striking account of the teachings of the Cause, of the early life, the declaration, the persecution and the martyrdom of the Bab and the rise of BAHA’O’LLAH, his early trials, his exile, his declaration and his amazing power displayed in the distant fortress of Acca.

Abdul Baha entertained for over an hour this diligent scholar, told him that under chains and fetters BAHA’O’LLAH propagated his teachings, the mutual arrangements of the rulers of Turkey and of Persia to quench his Light and the utter failure of their plans and intentions. Agal Khan was amazed to know that the remains of the Bab, who was shot in Tabriz, were transferred to this Holy Mount on the slopes of which, and not far distant, his tent was pitched and his camp was established. He resolutely decided to visit the shrine and if possible to visit the Holy Tomb in Acca.

When he left he told Abdul Baha that next time he would bring with him some of his Indian friends and colleagues who expressed their wish to meet the Beloved.

 
 
February 9, 1919

Dear Ahmad:
This morning some Tablets were revealed to the friends in the United States of America. One of them, a devout and active soul has written these words to Abdul Baha:

“This humble maid servant especially wishes to ask thee at this time, concerning the publication of two indexes which she has prepared, one to the first eight volumes of the STAR OF THE WEST, the other to the three volumes of the Tablets of Abdul Baha. If this work does not interfere with carrying out thy instruction already given, this maid servant would like very much to go on and work on a complete and scholarly index of all the writings. This would take years of time and the efforts of many individuals, but this maid servant might be able to make a good beginning and she has been trained in science, mathematics and systematic arrangement, and has a steadfast longing to be engaged in this work.”

These are the efforts expended, such are the views that are being planned and so untiring are the services rendered. Although the answer to the supplication has not yet been revealed, yet one thing is sure, that Abdul-Baha will most deeply appreciate such services and will undoubtedly breathe into their life a new breath that will sustain them throughout their activities.

This afternoon being bright and warm, Abdul Baha ascended the mountain and visited the Tomb of the Bab where the friends had assembled for their weekly Sunday gatherings, where he inquired regarding the spiritual activities of the S.P.C. students (Beirut) to which one of its members, Mr. Bahader, who is still here for a short visit to Abdul Baha, replied that their weekly Sunday gatherings are uninterruptedly held within the college grounds. This leading to a certain statement made by the president of the college with respect to his Sunday morning Bible classes, Abdul-Baha referred to the relative standing of the Holy Books and their adaptation to their respective environment. The Old Testament, he said, is largely historical and partly states various commands and regulations. The Gospel, on the other hand, in addition to these two subjects, reveals a whole set of admonition and exhortation, of counsels and of advice. The Koran embodies all three of these and in addition reveals abstruse, scientific and mathematical problems. He then spoke in detail of the variety of the branches in mathematics and astronomy as expounded by the Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman and Persian leaders and scientists. He then referred to the rise of Ptolemy, his compilation of the different theories of past mathematicians, his school in Alexandria, his book being the essence and gist of previous laws and theories and his founding the well-known Ptolemaic system. He told us how all astronomers and philosophers believed in his system and although Pythagoras and Plato revealed contradictory facts, that the Ptolemaic system was considered the immutable and correct law. Then arose that illiterate, young, inexperienced Arab leader in the Arabian peninsula, who revealed his Koran wherein the following words are incorporated: “The sun moves in a fixed place and each star moves in its own heaven.” These bodily challenged the whole Ptolemaic system and shook it down to its very foundation. However, it was not until the 15th century, when the famous Copernicus discarded the baseless interpretation of the ulemas in their explanation of the two above mentioned verses, overthrew the Ptolemaic system and asserted the truth of the statement of the illiterate Arab youth, who declared the movement of the earth and the immobility of the sun. The whole scientific world arose to the consciousness of this truth. What clearer and stronger proof may be stated for the establishment of the truth of the Mohammedan Revelation? The Koran itself abounds with similar conclusive evidences.

 
 
February 10, 1919

Dear Ahmad:
The misery and need of the civil population of Haifa, at the time of British and allied occupation, has necessitated the formation of a Haifa Relief Fund composed of the heads of the different religious denominations and acting under the surveillance of the British authorities with a fund collected and deposited at the newly established branch of the Anglo Egyptian Bank. The first meeting which was held at the Governorate where from the bishop to the Jewish rabbi, the religious heads had all assembled and where Abdul-Baha, through the announcement made by the military governor, contributed the noble donation of 50 and inserted his name at the head of the list of contributors, which will stand as a token of his generosity, his approval of the means undertaken to alleviate the burden of the poor and his setting the noble example to the rich and leaders of the city. This morning again I was sent to the Governor and offered him a further sum for the relief of the poor. Colonel Stanton was indeed touched and, moved by this further donation, hastened to write these lines to Abdul Baha in token of his admiration and thanks, as follows:

Your Eminence: I have today received from your grandson the sum of  50 as a further donation from yourself to the Haifa Relief Fund. Please accept on behalf of the committee of management, my very sincerest and most grateful thanks for this further proof of your well-known generosity and care of the poor, who will forever bless you for your liberality on their behalf. Please accept the sincerest assurance of my deepest regards and respect.

(Signed) G. A. Stanton, Colonel,
Military Governor.

This undoubtedly will be a stimulus for the indifferent rich men of the city who will be urged to put their hands very deeply in their pockets in order to allay the suffering and distress which in spite of all these activities is still prevalent.

The supplications that have come today abound with refreshing news. A letter from Bombay discloses the rise of newly attracted friends, particularly Youssef Aledollah who is one of the well known Khagetes of India. He, with Mirza Muhammad Zargkani, is yearning to visit the Beloved and will be delighted to hear of the granting of their permission. From Lausanne, Switzerland, Mr. Riaz Selim writes that the friends of God including Mr. Schwarz, Miss Knobloch, Mr. Herrigel are all, large and small, old and young, healthy and sick, at home and abroad, glad of the events that have recently transpired; they are all one soul in different bodies, united, agreed, serving and aiming to serve the oneness of the world of humanity. From southern Palestine, a letter from Sheik Amin Halabi who had drunk plentifully from the fountain of inspiration during his last stay with Abdul-Baha, indicates the attraction of two souls, deeply interested, eagerly seeking and wide awake to the new spirit of the present age. His stay in Jerusalem on his way to Beersheba had yielded good fruits and of this he was proud and for it grateful.

A detailed supplication from Juanita Storch, exquisitely written, reveals the sentiments of love and of thankfulness. I have already quoted few of her characteristic lines and I cannot prevent myself from sharing with you some of its charming passages:

How quickly these days of whirling activities are passing. History is being made in the twinkling of an eye. How storm-tortured the world is. When will it recover from the storms of hatred of mental crashing, of heart-torn agonies? Yea, and still the great Spirit hovers over us, daily waiting, patiently holding out its loving arms silently growing more and more passionate in its desire for the love of its people.

An angel of hope walks through the Rizwan of Abha. Upon her shoulder is poised a vase filled with the rose petals of love and upheld by the right hand of wisdom. She walks through the olive groves of peace and by the beds of the sweet hyacinths of knowledge and over to the fountain of mercy. Here she kneels on the steps and sets her vase under the crystal spray of the fountain. The petals in the vase are soon covered with the water. Then this angel of hope sets this rose jar out in the brilliant Sun of Truth and leaves it there. After many days the essence of the roses gathers as oil on the surface of the water. O precious attar of the fragrances of God!

A picture of the Master comes to me as he holds his rosary in hand outstretched to all who heed to this heavenly call. A picture of the Master comes to me as he holds his rosary, thinking of friends both far and near as pearls of his heart. A picture of the Master comes to me as he holds his rosary, chanting in a prayerful hour, ‘Glory to the Most Great Power.’

To this profusion of genuine sentiments and to this authoress of tender feelings, Abdul-Baha not only spends the days in revealing his words of appreciation, but even until late at night when everything is hushed in silence and every tongue is at rest, then does the wakeful Beloved reveal his soothing words and his precious lines. The experience of last night afforded a striking illustration and evidenced the close attachment the Beloved feels for his friends and his maid-servants. As I am writing these lines, I am again moved to present myself in his presence and take down his words in response to the recently arrived supplications.


 
 
February 11, 1919

Dear Ahmad:
Another veil is lifted. News as contained in letters, the first so far since the outbreak of the war, have reached us from Persia as well as from India. Meager and insufficient as the news is at present, yet it assures us of the welfare of the friends. Although few have succumbed to the trials and calamities occasioned by the war, such as the reported death of Neyerre Lina, Bamandar and Mirza Naim of Teheran, three of the choicest friends in the Cause, yet consolation lies in the safety and well-being of the mass of the friends, their unanimous rise to herald the Kingdom, to tear asunder the veils of concealment and prudence and their unrestricted, unhampered activity in the Cause of God. Their meetings, notwithstanding famine, pestilence, rapine, internal war and isolation from the Holy Land, have been regularly conducted and elaborately organized. In Teheran, the most active center of Persia, the friends associate, deal and transact as Bahais, openly declaring their faith, emphatically and fearlessly delivering the message and gathering in their flood men of every class, of every denomination and of every sect – as Abdul-Baha has already repeatedly intimated in his blessed Tablets for Persia, Russia and Egypt, the only group and the one body which is able and wields the necessary power to assure for Persia her integrity, her weal and her prosperity. Factions and parties have failed in their aims and have met disappointment in the realization of their aspirations. The Nationalists, the Reactionaries, the Liberals and the Democrats have made Persia a desolate country, while these wanderers and strangers shall soon, God willing, render a distinguished service to Persia and to her sons, for we hold fast to effective means and are attached to powerful souls. Indeed, this wish of the Beloved is being realized and fulfilled, for at present amid the agitation and uproar that still prevails in Persia, the qualities of trustworthiness, truthfulness, obedience, frankness, conscientiousness and loyalty are exclusively embodies [sic] in the friends of God – so much so that a government that has persecuted, tortured, exiled, burned and devastated the homes of those who were related to this Cause, has now placed its full confidence and has elected a Bahai to be its representative at the great International Congress sitting at Paris.

Abdul-Baha spent the whole day indoors, with no outstanding event marking the activities of the day save a detailed telegram bearing your signature, dated February 10th, and reading as follows:

With thy divine assistance leave now on Yahoshi Maru Japanese steamer direct for New York via Gilera. All things perfect, traveling first class. Am only passenger, fare 38 pounds. Mahmond Noushogadi, one of friends helped me in this. Beg thy favor and Tablet for him.”

Your sailing directly to New York was providential and just the will and desire of the Beloved. A good start. I wish you a comfortable and speedy voyage.

Shoghi Rabbani.
 
 
 
    The second selection, published in Star of the West volume 11, No. 3, April 28, 1920.
 

 
 
Haifa, Palestine
February 12, 1919

Dear Ahmad:
This morning, some of the recently arrived supplications were answered in the form of short yet effective Tablets. The second supplication from India is signed by a certain influential person, a khajeh, who has been recently attracted to the Movement and is craving to attain the court of Abdul-Baha’s presence. As emanating from a soul that has been entangled in superstition and prejudice and immersed in a sea of imagination, his words embodied in his supplication are indeed significant:

Thy generosity is the elixir and thy bounty the solace for the weak heart of this humble servant, and the near prospect of attaining to the holy presence sustains his breath. O most beloved Lord, look not at the failings, short comings and weakness of this humble beseecher and entreater but towards the boundless ocean of thy love, mercy, bounty and grace. Grant the fervent prayer of this humble one to approach thy holy self, keep him not far away and separate from thee and confer upon him the high privilege of viewing thy beautiful, illumined face.

The prayer of this soul has been answered for soon he shall present himself at the Holy Land, shall view the beautiful face of his beloved Lord and shall quaff from the inexhaustible fountain of his love. The Tablet revealed to this friend this morning is a model of the sweetest and most gentle expressions that a beloved can reveal to his loving ones.

News reaches us to the effect that the friends of God in the different parts of Persia, devastated by famine, pestilence and internecine war, have been miraculously protected and saved. With this gratitude is coupled the sense of extreme rejoicing and heartfelt gratitude for the news of peace, for the restoration of communications and for the possibility of a long awaited pilgrimage to the land of desire. Letters have been received so far from Teheran, Shiraz and tonight from Najafabead, in the province of Isphahan, Persia, the same note is sounded as it was written just at the time when the armistice bells were ringing. It expressed the anticipation of the friends of God to see universal peace, as forecast so many years ago by BAHA’O’LLAH, firmly and securely established. However, one thing brought gloom and depression into this lively and clear atmosphere. One incident, revealing the still prevailing grudge and antipathy of the ulemas and mullahs for the friends of God, was the cause of grief. A certain friend, buried with respect and ceremony by his beloved and relatives, was disinterred, his coffin was smashed to pieces, his corpse was taken out and buried directly with no wooden case whatever, this being counter to the creed and law of their faith. From what may be judged and inferred, such sad incidents are still prevailing and causing more or less trouble and complication. One thing is sure, however, that as the Sun of Truth gains in splendor and brilliancy, the bats and owls proportionately double their vain and fruitless activities until they are assured of their helplessness and incompetence.

 
 
February 13, 1919

My dear Ahmad:
The call of Abdul-Baha bidding the friends of God to arise in one accord, to fling away the garb of concealment and to deliver the divine message has resounded throughout all regions and has propagated its waves to countries hitherto the bulwark of conservatism. The city of Damascus, upon which a new era has dawned has shaken off her somnolence and, thanks to the activity of a few enthusiastic friends, has awakened to the spirit of the new age. The prominent figure among its friends has attained the court of Abdul-Baha’s presence and has brought with him many a good news. When the permission to visit the holy sites was granted to our eager visitor, Haji Mohammed Yazdi the means of facility were miraculously provided. Within an exceptionally short period of time he secured his pass, was assigned a comfortable and uncrowded compartment in the train, enjoyed splendid weather and sunshine all throughout his travel, the latter lasting only ten hours – an exceptionally swift and comfortable journey.

This morning he was ushered into Abdul Baha’s presence and the first thing he did was to offer a supplication from an erudite Arab, a native of Medina, an influential and responsible personage in Damascus, an authority in the Moslem creed, who had been attracted and moved to write to Abdul-Baha as a result of the interview and discussions with Sheikh Aliasqae, that seemingly cold, indifferent and powerless soul. The believers are stirred with this appeal to spread the message and to be engaged in the diffusion of divine fragrances. The able and well-versed sons of Sheikh Morad who has had the matchless honor to visit the Blessed Beauty (Baha’o’llah) are all well and busily engaged in the furtherance of the Cause of God. Sheikh Bedreddine and Abdul Haijh in Homs, and Sheikh Said, the eldest, in the function of deputy assistant of the governor of the village of Zabadaneh, not far from Damascus, are each in their respective spheres trying to promote the ideals of the Kingdom.

In short, the news of our dear visitor, Agha Haji Mohammed Yazdi, was refreshing, numerous and significant. With a smile and a nod of appreciation Abdul-Baha greeted every bit of news and was glad to know that a reaction from the passiveness and inactivity of the past had set in. “Deliver the divine message with prudence and wisdom” was his recommendation to the teachers who are serving in these regions. Having said this he arose, again welcomed our guest and regained his room to correct the Tablets that had been revealed, leaving us with our friend whose source of news and glad tidings seemed inexhaustible.

Abdul-Baha remained in doors until 3 P.M., when Major Nott came and motored him to the house of the Commander in chief, Sir Edmund Allenby. This was the second time Abdul-Baha had called on the General and this time the conversation centered around the Cause and its progress. Interest seems to have been stimulated and eagerness to learn more of the Truth intensified. This time, as well as last, was particularly noted for the warmth, the reserve and the respect which characterized the conversation of General Allenby with the Master. He is a very gentle, modest and striking figure, warm in affection, yet imposing in his manners.

Tonight a telegram received from Ahmed Lafonat in Jerusalem, fixing Major Tudor Pole’s arrival at Jerusalem on the 14th inst. and his departure the 17th. We will be delighted to meet again this young and active friend who is doing what he can to bring about the comfort and the satisfaction of the Beloved.

 
 
February 14, 1919

Dear Ahmad:
Abdul Baha spent the whole forenoon in correcting and signing the sixty Tablets that had been made ready during the past days and as I am dropping you these lines he is having his fortnightly hot bath which ameliorates so much his health and strengthens his physical constitution.

Tonight we had another concrete evidence of the merit and value of Major Tudor-Pole’s article in the Palestine News. Indeed, inquirers and seekers multiply with astonishing rapidity, a keen interest is aroused and a wide demand is being pressed more and more. The contributor of the article, Miss Hiscox in Cairo and Miss Rosenberg in London, are in correspondence with many souls, most of them in active service, who desire to learn more about the Cause than this introductory article of Major Tudor-Pole presents.

Abdul Baha was weary, tired and sleepy as a result of the heat of his bath and was intending to sleep when a slight knock at the door revealed the presence of a non-commissioned officer at the door seeking an interview. Admittance was cordially granted and there was Private Sinclair, a Britisher, working as an assistant at the Red Cross Egyptian hospital in Haifa. During his sojourn in Cairo, when visiting its reading room, he had come across Bahai literature and had thereby caught the first glimpse of the Cause. The perusal of Major Tudor-Pole’s article raised his interest to its highest pitch and henceforth he became an ardent inquirer. From what could be gathered from his countenance, he was so lowly, so respectful, so gentle and so modest that the first words of the Beloved were to this effect: “I am glad to meet thee for thy face is illumined, thy brow is pure, thy heart is clear and thy purpose is right.” He then took from his pocket a letter of introduction from Major Tudor-Pole, referring him to Miss Hiscox for information about Bahai literature and giving the address of Miss Rosenberg in London, inviting him to quaff from the fountain-head. A search so sincere, an interest so lively, an earnestness of tone so genuine has hardly been remarked in any of the previous callers and inquirers. In view of his earnest inquiry and his lack of any preconception, the Master spoke in detail of the main purpose of the Bahai teachings, the idea of peace and reconciliation, the most immediate need of mankind. He told him the futility of men’s effort to establish a lasting peace, resting on secure foundations, through material means. Whenever such efforts have been exerted they were doomed to failure. History affords a striking illustration. “From what I can gather from the events during my life” said Abdul-Baha, “history clearly shows the wars that have been waged, the peace measures that were subsequently adopted, have proved inevitable failures. The Crimean war and the Treaty of Paris in 1856, the Austro-Italian war of 1859; the Danish war of 1864; the Austro-Prussian war of 1866; the Franco-Prussian war of 1870; the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and the Congress of Berlin, the Balkan war and subsequently this world war with its present Universal Peace Conference. Wars will succeed, peace measures and pacific documents will remain dead letters unless the Word of God and His supreme power comes to exercise its influence. Not until this is attained may lasting peace be realized.”

Our attentive visitor listened and was absorbed. He was glad to listen to this remarkable talk and was furthermore grateful to receive a copy of Mr. Remey’s Some Vital Bahai Principles which Abdul Baha put in his hands. When he retired, he was inwardly moved and outwardly satisfied and assured.

 
 
February 15, 1919

My dear Ahmad:
My head is in a whirl so busy and so eventful was the day. No less than a score of callers from prince and pasha to a simple private soldier have sought interview with Abdul-Baha.

Tonight again, our attracted friend, Private Sinclair of the Red Cross hospital, called. His eyes sparkled as he shook hands with the Beloved. He had read the pamphlet which had been given to him and was glad to receive another different one, published and edited by Mr. Remey, entitled The Message of Unity. He expressed his firm intention to correspond with the different booksellers in London, as soon as he is demobilized and thus to be able to gather more detailed information. When he rose to take his leave, he seemed full of the spirit of BAHA’O’LLAH, absorbed in meditation, and ablaze with His love.

“Thou art my son, my dear son, I love thee, and I pray for thee,” were the farewell words as the Beloved embraced him and patted him on his shoulders. …

Letters, or rather parcels, were today received from Port Said, London and America. Enclosed in Mr. Lotfullah’s letter from London, were two supplications that had been received last year from Teheran. They contained good news. The Bahai school in Teheran is advancing by leaps and bounds. The Israelite Bahais have established schools which are rapidly widening. The school of Tarbiat in Teheran, Miss Kappes describes as by far the greatest establishment among the 430 schools in Teheran; their public exercises were unequalled by any that have been so far held. A pavilion was pitched and everybody, high and low, nearby and distant, heard of its fame and responded to its call. In Yazd meetings of different character, each of no less than 60 to 70 attendants were organized. A great deal of effort has been expended of late to help the descendants and relatives of the glorious martyrs of Yazd. Vast contributions have been gathered and the tombs of the martyred are being beautifully erected, immune from any further aggression or danger and becoming the object of the pilgrimage of many a soul.

In Yazd also the maid servants of God have risen and are overshadowing (or rather have foreshadowed) the men in their spiritual activities. Of Kashan, the writer relates, “I had thought of it a mount of snow but later on I found it an active volcano. The friends were aflame with the fire of the Word of God.”

From Jaffa has come a devoted friend, by the name of Ali Effendi, who brings with him the news of the welfare of Abdul Sammad who has moved to Jaffa and is now settled. Both of them are enkindled and both are favored by the Beloved.

Tonight, around the Master’s table for supper sat Messrs. Ahmed Yazdi, Haji Mohammed Yazdi, Mirza Hussein Yazdi, Abha Mohammed Taghi, three of the Parsee friends of Adassish [Adassieh] who have recently arrived, Badi Effendi and my father. The Master was tired and did not converse long.

Major Tudor Pole, due to a slight indisposition has had to postpone his departure from Cairo, but, thank God, his illness is accidental and not at all serious.

 
 
February 16, 1919

My dear Ahmad:
From among the supplications recently received is one that is most significant and of particular interest as it emanates from a Greek friend who is one of the few, if not the only of her race, that has responded to the call of the Kingdom. Let me share with you its contents:

Our father, I am very glad because I am the first of the Greeks to believe in your name. Many years ago my heart was broken because my life was full of bitterness. I don’t know why fortune is so sad for me. Perhaps sometimes I am very whimsical, and of course the good Father sends punishment; however, I think otherwise with so much bitterness that I have every day. But I make my sweet prayers and then my feelings are at rest. I love God and I believe in the Father and I believe in the Apostles of God. O dear Father, how could I do otherwise than believe in you because many times my mind is so tired, but when I take youth picture, and I read one of your prayers, I feel just like a bird when it rains, and its feathers are wet and it cannot fly, but when the sun’s rays come out, is happy and flies from tree to tree – exactly I feel every minute when I make my prayers in your name. I shall not stop all my life, until I am an apostle for your name, to my people.

(Signed) Aspasia Diamesis, Chicago.

Behind this broken language and this urbane style is revealed a heart loving, compassionate and full with the joy of faith and the gratitude of assurance. She begs enlightenment and guidance for her people and appreciates the supreme favor that divine Providence has bestowed upon her. What the response of the Beloved will be, or rather how far the Lord’s favor and blessing will surround her, is one that we can hardly venture to forecast, but one thing is sure, that the Tablet that will be revealed to this soul will act as a mighty impetus in awakening the Greek people to this call.

This morning Abdul Baha went out for a long walk and returned an hour before noon, when he resumed his work which consisted mainly of the perusal of detailed supplications from Persia. I had a long interview this morning with Agha Mohammed Taghi covering a wide range of topics which were mostly related to the activity of the Egyptian friends and the news he had received from abroad during the war. From Ishkabad, in Russian Turkestan, letters had come which revealed the safety of the friends in that tumultuous region. He had been in constant correspondence with the Indian friends whose activity he highly commented upon and whose services he praised. It was on the whole a very profitable and interesting hour.

 
 
February 17, 1919

My dear Ahmad:
A day of jubilee is ahead of us. The arrival of a group of the Parsee friends of Adassieh, including men and women, has not been without a definite purpose. Another marriage festivity is to take place between Shahrey, the son of Tamshid the Parsee, and the daughter (the eldest) of a Tamal, who has been living for many years in the vicinity of Abdul Baha. The circle of the Adassieh friends is ever widening and the experiences along such lines has proved to be of great value and benefit. Preparations are now being made for that day and everybody is looking forward to the celebration, the first of that kind since the extinction of the fire of war.

This morning Agha Ahmed Yazdi, his elder brother and Abha Mohammed Taghi Esfahani were called to the Beloved’s presence. Tea was served and everybody assumed almost an uninterrupted silence for Abdul-Baha was all throughout perusing the supplications of the Egyptian friends, which had recently arrived. Supplications from every corner of the globe, of different length and character, written in different languages, enclosing clippings of papers, pamphlets, typewritten reports, petitions, etc. are ceaselessly pouring in and the time for their perusal is sufficient to exhaust all the time that one might possibly have at his disposal. Although the ways have not yet fully opened and communication with all parts has not yet been restored, one is baffled at the amount of letters, books and magazines that the postoffice daily delivers.

A joint supplication from a group of the Alexandria friends has been received today. The same note is struck and the same chorus is repeated – namely, rejoicing at the news from the Beloved and begging his confirmation. Although these friends have not multiplied as fast as their fellow brethren in Port Said yet they have maintained all throughout these trying times an esprit de corps necessary to give them the initiative in their future activities.

A letter from Mirza Muhammad Zarkani from Bombay to Haji Mirza Haider Ali reveals the great longing of the Parsee friends to meet Abdul Baha, whether this takes place in the Holy Land or in India. The writer, who has been recently granted the permission to visit the holy sites, and has been journeying throughout the center of India, had been in Rangoon and was there confirmed in manifold services to the Kingdom of Abha. His letter, however, contained sad and unexpected news, namely, the passing away of Abha Seyed Mehdi of Rangoon and his son, who were both active and tireless workers in the Cause. Assuredly their station in the realm beyond is a lofty one and their reward abundant and glorious.

 
 
Bahjeh, Acca.
February 18, 1919

My dear Ahmad:
Greetings with sweetest remembrances to you, my far-off friend, from this hallowed spot! From this solitary plain of Bahjeh, in this solemn solitude, away from life’s tumult and bustle, I take the pen in remembrance of a friend with whom I passed many days in this quiet, yet inspiring region. The Beloved has again decided to tarry for a time at the vicinity of the tomb of his father. Here he is, in the adjoining room, sitting by the candle light, viewing from his window the solitude from afar, the silent surroundings, which nothing breaks save the distant roar of the waves which die away in the immensity of space. He is engaged in his meditations, absorbed in his prayers, thinking of his friends across the seas, remembering their prayers and their supplications and communing with his heavenly Father on behalf of such souls. What a vivid contrast does this vicinity of the Holy Tomb represent with the increasing activity of the life in Haifa. The air over there was filed with gases and vapors which steam and motor engines continuously discharge, while the atmosphere here is as pure, as clear and as fragrant as it can be. The traffic accompanied with its deafening noise and bustle, gives way here to a stillness, a calmness and a quietude which nothing interrupts but the stillness of nature. The dazzling lights of the city are gone and nothing but a flickering taper’s light cheers this cold and starless night. The constant movement and circulation witnessed in the Beloved’s house has stopped, and tonight everything is at a stand still, everything quiet and at rest. The morning hour of prayer is maintained and even lengthened for twice a day, the Beloved visits the holy shrine, kneels in reverence and devotion, orders communes to be chanted and often spends an hour or more in silent prayer. His attendants, friends and relatives are absent and no one save Kosro, Esfandiar and myself, the two vigilant guardians of the Tomb, and Ali Eff, a friend who will leave tomorrow for Beirut, form his small retinue.

Everything, the environment, the atmosphere, the view, the stillness, all are uplifting, elevating and inspiring. One feels to have forgotten his cares and his concerns, his mind is refreshed and his burden alleviated. No matter how long the Master will tarry in this sanctified place, no feeling of monotony, and ennui overcomes the soul. It is the Spot which so many souls crave to attain and long to visit. Particularly is it magnificent at such a time when nature is smiling, the sky above is no more gloomy and threatening with clouds but serene and blue, the plains and meadows as if covered with a multicolored carpet, the shrubs sparkling with roses, jasmins, lilies, narcissus embalming the pure and refreshing air; the grass growing luxuriantly everywhere and the breeze wafting in every direction. Often is the Beloved seen in the open air, majestically walking to and fro upon the verdant plains and amid the wild flowers that abound in this gifted region. He treads the same ground that the blessed feet of his heavenly Father have trodden, circumambulates the shrine where for many years He has lived, waters the flowers and plants, many of which have been blessed by His hands and lives and moves and has his being in an atmosphere which fully reminds him of His manners and His conduct. What a dear and blessed spot to be privileged to live in!
Shoghi Rabbani
 
 
 
     Another entry, in Star of the West, volume, 11 page 15 (March 21, 1920)

 
 
From Shoghi Rabbani’s diary
June 8, 1919

The eternal edifice of the Mashrekol-Azkar of Ishkabad, Russia, its perfection, its importance and its unique role was the sole absorbing theme of our conversation and the subject of our thoughts.

This imposing monument is nearing perfection, its dome, large and brilliant, looms from afar. The Greatest Name, carved in gold and in large conspicuous characters, reflects the rays of the sun; while all of its accessories have been provided and many of its branches, such as schools for girls, orphanage, reception rooms, and hospital are nearing completion. Its nine attractive gardens completely encircle the Temple, intercepted by nine spacious walks and having each at their central portion a magnificent fountain with beautiful jets of water that add much to the beauty and charm of the place. Electric lights flash amid the trees that cover with their extended branches these fountains and in such a cool and lovely place the friends gather and offer to Almighty God their prayers and their praise. Although the public park in that city is wide and imposing, yet comparatively speaking, it is forlorn and forsaken – the attraction and charm of the gardens encircling the Temple by far surpassing the beauty of the park.

Not a visitor, not a passerby, not a resident comes to that city without visiting this matchless spot, none without expressing his admiration and astonishment at such an exceptional set of buildings, so strongly built, so magnificently designed, and so richly provided. Many have made the following remark: “He who erected this edifice and laid the foundation of such a monument is assuredly divine.”

Often it is the case that the construction of the Temple, its lovely gardens, its completeness and thoroughness in material, intellectual and spiritual equipments, the character of its occupants and owners, their hospitality, their fervor and their conduct – often these awaken the minds of the people and attract them to the Cause.

Such was the description given by Agha Mirza Mehdi as he with the friends in Acca gathered this afternoon around Abdul-Baha, at the Tomb of BAHA’O’LLAH for the Sunday afternoon visit.

When Abdul Baha inquired the condition and the association of the friends, it was intimated that unlike the days gone by the friends are intimately associating with all the people of every shade and opinion, of every sect, and social standing. He said: “Such is the way that must be adopted, for only through intimate association will the friends be able to teach and sow a seed in the heart of a seeker. The flower must be brought close and near in order to inhale its scent and fragrance.”

Then referring to the Mashrak el Azkar, Abdul Baha said:

The Temple of Ishkabad is unique in that it is the first temple of the kind that has been erected. Many such temples shall be constructed in the future, but this one will ever enjoy this unique privilege and preference. When its accessories are completed and its full machinery starts running, when the melody of vocal and instrumental music arises and bursts upon the air with its joyous trends, when the prayers and supplications addressed at dawn and at sunrise ascend to the Throne of the Almighty, then will the effect of the Mashrekol-Azkar be made evident and manifest. The Temple that is going to be erected in the United States will be an important and magnificent one, its influence and reaction upon the Cause will be tremendous, and the impetus it shall give to the movement, irresistible.

Soon shall the city of Teheran, Persia, witness the laying of the foundation of the Temple of Worship, for restrictions have been removed and hindrances eliminated.

It will be of interest to note that a hearty invitation has been extended to Abdul-Baha by the friends of Ishkabad, in writing and through an oral message, supplicating him to come to Ishkabad and thus rejoice those expectant friends.

      +++
 
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3 Responses to “Shoghi Effendi’s diary”

  1. Keil Gerald said

    In his letter of 8 June 1919 reproduced above, Shoghi Effendi quotes `Abdu’l-Bahá as saying:

    “When its accessories are completed and its full machinery starts running, when the melody of vocal and instrumental music arises and bursts upon the air with its joyous trends, when the prayers and supplications addressed at dawn and at sunrise ascend to the Throne of the Almighty, then will the effect of the Mashrekol-Azkar be made evident and manifest.”

    In a letter written on his behalf on 11 April 1947 to the US NSA, however, Shoghi Effendi’s instructions with regard to musical rendition in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár read as follows:

    “As regard the whole question of the Temple and services held in it: … Vocal music alone may be used. … Acoustics should certainly be the main consideration in placing the singers”
    (Lights of Guidance, p. 607). This ruling has been subsequently upheld by the UHJ in a letter to the US NSA on 13 March 1964 (ibid p. 608).

    Do you have any information which might help explain the apparent contradiction?

  2. Sen said

    So far as I know, there is nothing in the Writings to exclude instrumental music in the Mashriq, but there is a pilgrim’s note from Louise Waite, according to which Abdu’l-Baha said in 1910 that there would be only voices heard in the Mashriq itself, but that in an adjoining assembly hall, singing accompanied by instruments would be permissible. (Jackson Armstrong Ingram, Music, Devotions and Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, page 243). This pre-dates Shoghi Effendi’s pilgrim’s notes by a decade: perhaps Abdu’l-Baha changed his mind, perhaps only for Mashriqu’l-Adhkars in the West (the use of musical instruments in worship in Muslim countries would spark criticism unnecessarily). The practice adopted may also have been a compromise, between the more musical members who formed choirs and practiced with instruments, singing hymns, and people like Holley who wanted to exclude music of all sorts from the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (Music, Devotions, p 279), and spontaneous prayer as well (NSA statement, ibid p. 283).

    Because this issue rests on two pilgrim’s notes and a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, which may have been a solution specific to the Wilmette temple, or in answer to a specific question such as where to put the organ loft, it should be possible for the UHJ to revisit its current policy in the future. But it is also possible that there is a scriptural basis for the ban on instruments in the Mashriq.

  3. eric frost said

    ridvan 2012 png&congo

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