It is well known that the loved ones of ‘Abdu’-Bahá, in every part of the world, are anxiously waiting to receive some details of the closing events of His unique and wonderful life. For this reason the present account is being written.
We have now come to realize that the Master knew the day and hour when, His mission on earth being finished, He would return to the shelter of heaven. He was, however, careful that His family should not have any premonition of the coming sorrow. It seemed as though their eyes were veiled by Him, with His ever-loving consideration for His dear ones, that they should not see the significance of certain dreams and other signs of the culminating event. This they now realize was His thought for them, in order that their strength might be preserved to face the great ordeal when it should arrive, that they should not be devitalized by anguish of mind in its anticipation.
Out of the many signs of the approach of the hour when He could say of His work on earth, “It is finished ,” the following two dreams seem remarkable. Less than eight weeks before His passing the Master related this to His family:
I seemed to be standing within a great temple, in the inmost shrine, facing the east, in the place of the leader himself. I became aware that a large number of people were flocking into the temple; more and yet more crowded in, taking their places in rows behind me, until there was a vast multitude. As I stood, l raised loudly the “Call to Prayer”. Suddenly the thought came to me to go forth from the temple.
When I found myself outside I said within myself, “For what reason came I forth, not having led the prayer? But it matters not; now that I have uttered the call to prayer, the vast multitude will of themselves chant the prayer.”
When the Master had passed away, His family pondered over this dream and interpreted it thus:
He had called that same vast multitude—all peoples, all religions, all races, all nations, and all kingdoms—to unity and peace, to universal love and brotherhood; and, having called them, He returned to God the Beloved, at whose command He had raised the majestic call, had given the divine message. This same multitude—the peoples, religions, races, nations and kingdoms—would continue the work to which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had called them, and would of themselves press forward to its accomplishment.
A few weeks after the preceding dream the Master came in from the solitary room in the garden, which He had occupied of late, and said:
“I dreamed a dream and behold the Blessed Beauty [Bahá’u’lláh] came and said unto me, ‘Destroy this room!'”
The family, who had been wishing that He would come and sleep in the house, not being happy that He should be alone at night, exclaimed, “Yes, Master, we think Your dream means that You should leave that room and come into the house.” When He heard this from us, He smiled meaningly as though not agreeing with our interpretation. Afterwards we understood that by the ‘room’ was meant the temple of His body. …”
In the same week He revealed a Tablet to America, in which is the following prayer: “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá! [O Thou the Glory of Glories] I have renounced the world and the people thereof, and am heartbroken and sorely afflicted because of the unfaithful. In the cage of this world I flutter even as a frightened bird, and yearn every day to take my flight unto Thy kingdom.”
“Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá! Make me to drink of the cup of sacrifice and set me free. Relieve me from these woes and trials, from these afflictions and troubles. Thou art He that aideth, that succoureth, that protecteth, that stretcheth forth the hand of help.”
After lunch He dictated some Tablets, His last ones, to Rúhí Effendi. When He had rested He walked in the garden. He seemed to be in a deep reverie.
His good and faithful servant Ismá’il Áqá, relates the following:
Some time, about twenty days before my Master passed away, l was near the garden when I heard Him summon an old believer saying:
“Come with me that we may admire together the beauty of the garden. Behold, what the spirit of devotion is able to achieve! This flourishing place was, a few years ago, but a heap of stones, and now it is verdant with foliage and flowers. My desire is that after I am gone the loved ones may all arise to serve the divine cause and, please God, so it shall be. Ere long men will arise who shall bring life to the world.”
Three days before His ascension, whilst seated in the garden, He called me and said, “I am sick with fatigue. Bring two of your oranges for me that l may eat them for your sake.” This I did, and He, having eaten them, turned to me, saying, “Have you any of your sweet lemons?” He bade me fetch a few. … Whilst l was plucking them, He came over to the tree, saying, “Nay, but I must gather them with my own hands.” Having eaten of the fruit, He turned to me and asked “Do you desire anything more?” Then with a pathetic gesture of His hands, He touchingly, emphatically, and deliberately said, “Now it is finished, it is finished!”
These significant words penetrated my very soul. l felt each time He uttered them as if a knife were struck into my heart. I understood His meaning but never dreamed His end was so nigh.
It was Ismá’il Aqá who had been the Master’s gardener for well nigh thirty years and who, in the first week after his bereavement, driven by hopeless grief, quietly disposed of all his belongings, made his will, went to the Master’s sister, and craved her pardon for any misdeeds he had committed. He then delivered the key of the garden to a trusted servant of the household and, taking with him means whereby to end his life at his beloved Master’s tomb, walked up the mountain to that sacred place, three times circled round it, and would have succeeded in taking his life had it not been for the opportune arrival of a friend who reached him in time to prevent the accomplishment of his tragic intention. …
During the evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá attended the usual meeting of the friends in His own audience chamber.
In the morning of Saturday, November 26, He arose early, came to the tea-room, and had some tea. He asked for the fur-lined coat which had belonged to Bahá’u’lláh. He often put on this coat when He was cold or did not feel well, He so loved it. He then withdrew to His room, lay down on His bed, and said, “Cover me up. I am very cold. Last night I did not sleep well, I felt cold. This is serious, it is the beginning.”
After more blankets had been put on, He asked for the fur coat He had taken off to be placed over Him. That day He was rather feverish. In the evening His temperature rose still higher, but during the night the fever left Him. After midnight He asked for some tea.
On Sunday morning, November 27, He said. “I am quite well and will get up as usual and have tea with you in the tea-room.” After He had dressed, He was persuaded to remain on the sofa in His room.
In the afternoon He sent all the friends to the tomb of the Báb, where on the occasion of the anniversary of the declaration of the Covenant a feast was being held, offered by a Pársí pilgrim who had lately arrived from India.
At four in the afternoon, being on the sofa in His room, He said, “Ask my sister and all the family to come and have tea with me.”
His four sons-in-law and Rúhí Effendi came to Him after returning from the gathering on the mountain. They said to Him, “The giver of the feast was unhappy because You were not there”. He said unto them:
But I was there, though my body was absent, my spirit was there in you r midst. I was present with the friends at the tomb. The friends must not attach any importance to the absence of my body. In spirit I am, and shall always be, with the friends, even though I be far away.
The same evening He asked after the health of every member of the household, of the pilgrims, and of the friends in Haifa. “Very good, very good,” He said when told that none were ill. This was His very last utterance concerning His friends.
At eight in the evening He retired to bed after taking a little nourishment, saying, “I am quite well.”
He told all the family to go to bed and rest. Two of His daughters, however, stayed with Him. That night the Master had gone to sleep very calmly, quite free from fever. He awoke about 1.15 a.m., got up, and walked across to a table where He drank some water. He took off an outer night garment, saying, “I am too warm.” He went back to bed; and, when His daughter Rúhá Khánúm, later on, approached, she found Him lying peacefully; and, as He looked into her face, He asked her to lift up the net curtains saying:
“I have difficulty in breathing, give me more air.” Some rose water was brought of which He drank, sitting up in bed to do so, without any help. He again lay down, and as some food was offered Him, He remarked in a clear and distinct voice:
“You wish me to take some food, and I am going?” He gave them a beautiful look. His face was so calm, His expression so serene, they thought Him asleep.
He had gone from the gaze of His loved ones!
The eyes that had always looked out with loving-kindness upon humanity, whether friends or foes, were now closed. The hands that had ever been stretched forth to give alms to the poor and the needy, the halt and the maimed, the blind, the orphan and the widow, had now finished their labour. The feet that, with untiring zeal, had gone upon the ceaseless errands of the Lord of Compassion were now at rest. The lips that had so eloquently championed the cause of the suffering sons of men, were now hushed in silence. The heart that had so powerfully throbbed with wondrous love for the children of God was now stilled. His glorious spirit had passed from the life of earth, from the persecutions of the enemies of righteousness, from the storm and stress of well nigh eighty years of indefatigable toil for the good of others.
His long martyrdom was ended!
Early on Monday morning, November 28, the news of this sudden calamity had spread over the city, causing an unprecedented stir and tumult, and filling all hearts with unutterable grief.
The next morning, Tuesday, November 29, the funeral took place, a funeral the like of which Haifa, nay Palestine itself, had surely never seen, so deep was the feeling that brought so many thousands of mourners together, representative of so many religions, races and tongues.
The High Commissioner of Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, the Governor of Jerusalem, the Governor of Phoenicia, the chief officials of the government, the consuls of the various countries, resident in Haifa, the heads of the various religious communities, the notables of Palestine, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druses, Egyptians, Greeks, Turks, Kurds, and a host of his American, European and native friends, men, women and children, both of high and low degree, all, about ten thousand in number, mourning the loss of their beloved One.
This impressive, triumphal procession was headed by a guard of honour, consisting of the City Constabulary Force, followed by the Boy Scouts of the Muslim and Christian communities holding aloft their banners, a company of Muslim choristers chanting their verses from the Qur’an, the chiefs of the Muslim community headed by the Mufti, a number of Christian priests, Latin, Greek, and Anglican, all preceding the sacred coffin, upraised on the shoulders of His loved ones. Immediately behind it came the members of His family, next to them walked the British High Commissioner, the Governor of Jerusalem, and the Governor of Phoenicia. After them came the consuls and the notables of the land, followed by the vast multitude of those who reverenced and loved Him.
On this day there was no cloud in the sky, nor any sound in all the town and surrounding country through which they went, save only the soft, slow, rhythmic chanting of Islam in the call to prayer, or the convulsed sobbing moan of those helpless ones, bewailing the lo.:s of their one Friend, Who had protected them in all their difficulties and sorrows, Who e generous bounty had saved them and their little ones from starvation through the terrible years of the “Great Woe.”
“O God, my God!” the people wailed with one accord, “Our father has left us, our father has left us!”
O the wonder of that great throng! Peoples of every religion and race and colour, united in heart through the manifestation of servitude in the lifelong work of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá!
As they slowly wended their way up Mount Carmel, the Vineyard of God, the casket appeared in the distance to be borne aloft by invisible hands, so high above the heads of the people was it carried. After two hours walking, they reached the garden of the tomb of the Báb. Tenderly was the sacred coffin placed upon a plain table covered with a fair white linen cloth. As the vast concourse pressed around the tabernacle of His body, waiting to be laid in its resting place, within the vault, next to that of the Báb, representatives of the various denominations, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, all hearts being ablaze with fervent love of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, some on the impulse of the moment, others prepared, raised their voices in eulogy and regret, paying their last homage of farewell to their loved one. So united were they in their acclamation of Him, as the wise educator and reconciler of the human race in this perplexed and sorrowful age, that there seemed to be nothing left for the Bahá’ís to say.
The following are extracts from some of the speeches delivered on that memorable occasion.
The Muslim voicing the sentiments of his coreligionists spoke as follows:
O concourse of Arabians and Persians! Whom are ye bewailing? Is it He who but yesterday was great in this life and is today in His death greater still? Shed no tears for the one that hath departed to the world of eternity, but weep over the passing of virtue and wisdom, of knowledge and generosity. Lament for yourselves, for yours is the loss, whilst He, your lost one, is but a revered wayfarer, stepping from your mortal world into the everlasting home. Weep one hour for the sake of Him who, for well nigh eighty years, hath wept for you! Look to your right, look to your left, look East and look West and behold, what glory and greatness have vanished! What a pillar of peace hath crumbled! What eloquent lips are hushed! Alas! In this tribulation there is no heart but aches with anguish, no eye but is filled with tears. Woe unto the poor, for lo! goodness hath departed from them, woe unto the orphans, for their loving father is no more with them! Could the life of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás have been redeemed by the sacrifices of many a precious soul, they of a certainty would gladly have offered up their lives for His life. But fate hath otherwise ordained. Every destiny is predetermined and none can change the divine decree. What am I to set forth the achievements of this leader of mankind? They are too glorious to be praised, too many to recount. Suffice it to say, that He hath left in every heart the most profound impression, on every tongue most wondrous praise. And He that leaveth a memory so lovely, so imperishable, He, indeed, is not dead. Be solaced then, 0 ye people of Bahá! Endure and be patient; for no man, be he of the East or of the West, can ever comfort you, nay he himself is even in greater need of consolation.
The Christian then came forward and thus spoke:
I weep for the world, in that my Lord hath died; others there are who, like unto me, weep the death of their Lord . . . O bitter is the anguish caused by this heart-rending calamity! It is not only our country’s loss but a world affliction. . . He hath lived for well-nigh eighty years the life of the messengers and apostles of God. He hath educated the souls of men, hath been benevolent unto them, hath led them to the way of Truth. Thus He raised His people to the pinnacle of glory, and great shall be His reward from God, the reward of the righteous! Hear me 0 people! ‘Abbás is not dead, neither hath the light of Bahá been extinguished! Nay, nay! this light shall shine with everlasting splendour. The Lamp of Bahá, ‘Abbás, hath lived a goodly life, hath manifested in Himself the true life of the Spirit. And now He is gathered to glory, a pure angel, richly robed in benevolent deeds, noble in His precious virtues. Fellow Christians! Truly ye are bearing the mortal remains of this ever lamented One to His last resting place, yet know of a certainty that your ‘Abbás will live forever in spirit amongst you, through His deeds, His words, His virtues, and all the essence of His life. We say farewell to the material body of our ‘Abbás and His material body vanisheth from our gaze, but His reality, our spiritual ‘Abbás, will never leave our minds, our thoughts, our hearts, our tongues.
O great revered Sleeper! Thou hast been good to us, Thou hast guided us, Thou hast taught us, Thou hast lived amongst us greatly, with the full meaning of greatness, Thou hast made us proud of Thy deeds and of Thy words. Thou hast raised the Orient to the summit of glory, hast shown loving kindness to the people, trained them in righteousness, and hast striven to the end, till Thou hast won the crown of glory. Rest Thou happily under the shadow of the mercy of the Lord Thy God, and He, verily, shall well reward Thee.
Yet another Muslim, the Mufti of Haifa, spoke as follows:
I do not wish to exaggerate in my eulogy of this great One, for His ready and helping hand in the service of mankind and the beautiful and wondrous story of His life, spent in doing that which is right and good, none can deny, save him, whose heart is blinded …
O Thou revered voyager! Thou hast lived greatly and hast died greatly! This great funeral procession is but a glorious proof of Thy greatness in Thy life and in Thy death. But 0, Thou whom we have lost! Thou leader of men, generous and benevolent! To whom shall the poor now look? Who shall care for the hungry? And the desolate, the widow and the orphan?
May the Lord inspire all Thy household and Thy kindred with patience in this grievous calamity, and immerse Thee in the ocean of His grace and mercy! He, verily, is the prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God.
The Jew when his turn came, paid his tribute in these words:
[In a century of exaggerated positivism and unbridled materialism, it is astonishing and rare to find a philosopher of great scope, such as the lamented ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás, speak to our heart, to our feelings, and especially seek to educate our soul by inculcating in us the most beautiful principles, which are recognized as being the basis of all religion and of all pure morality. By His Writings, by His spoken Word, by His intimate conversations as well as by His famous dialogues with the most cultivated and the most fervent adepts of sectarian theories, He knew how to persuade; He was always able to win our minds. Living examples have a special power. His private and public life was an example of devotion and of forgetfulness of self for the happiness of others … His philosophy is simple, you will say, but it is great by that very simplicity, since it is in conformity with human character, which loses some of its beauty when it allows itself to be distorted by prejudices and superstitions … ‘Abbás died in Haifa, Palestine, the Holy Land which produced the prophets. Sterile and abandoned for so many centuries, it is coming back to life and is beginning to recover its rank and its original renown. We are not the only ones to grieve for this prophet; we are not the only ones to testify to His glory. In Europe, in America, yea, in every land inhabited by men conscious of their mission in this base world, athirst for social justice, for brotherhood, He will be mourned as well. He is dead after suffering from despotism, fanaticism, and intolerance. ‘Akká, the Turkish Bastille, was His prison for decades. Baghdad, the Abbassid capital, has also been His prison, and that of His Father. Persia, the ancient cradle of gentle and divine philosophy, has driven out her children, who brought forth their ideas within her. May one not see herein a divine will and a marked preference for the Promised Land which was and will be the cradle of all generous and noble ideas? He who leaves after Him so glorious a past is not dead He who has written such beautiful principles has increased His family among all His readers and has passed to posterity, crowned with immortality.]1Translated from French
The nine speakers having delivered their funeral orations, then came the moment when the casket which held the Pearl of loving servitude passed slowly and triumphantly into its simple, hallowed resting place.
O the infinite pathos! that the beloved feet should no longer tread this earth! that the presence which inspired such devotion and reverence should be withdrawn!
Of the many and diverse journals that throughout the East and West have given in their columns accounts of this momentous event, the following stand as foremost among them:
Le Temps, the leading French paper, in its issue of December 19, 1921, under the title ‘Un Conciliateur’ (A Peacemaker), portrays graphically the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. …
The London Morning Post, two days after His passing, among other highly favourable comments, concluded its report of the movement in the following words:
The venerated Bahá’u’lláh died in 1892 and the mantle of his religious insight fell on his son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, when, after forty years of prison life, Turkish constitutional changes permitted him to visit England, France and America. His persistent messages as to the divine origin and unity of mankind were as impressive as the Messenger himself. He possessed singular courtesy. At his table Buddhist and Mohammedan, Hindu and Zoroastrian, Jew and Christian, sat in amity. “Creatures”, he said, “were created through love; let them live in peace and amity.”
The New York World of December 1, 1921, published the following:
Never before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did the leader of an Oriental religious movement visit the United States. … As recently as June of this year a special correspondent of the World who visited this seer thus described him: “Having once looked upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, his personality is indelibly impressed upon the mind: the majestic venerable figure clad in the flowing ‘abá, his head crowned with a turban white as his head and hair; the piercing deep set eyes whose glances shake the heart; the smile that pours its sweetness over all.” …
Even in the twilight of his life ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the liveliest interest in world affairs. When General Allenby swept up the coast from Egypt he went for counsel first to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. When Zionists arrived in their Promised Land they sought ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for advice. For Palestine he had the brightest hopes. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá believed that Bolshevism would prove an admonition to the irreligious world. He taught the equality of man and woman, saying: “The world of humanity has two wings, man and woman. If one wing is weak, then the bird cannot fly.’ …
Nearly all representative American newspapers devoted attention to the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Evening Telegram, New York, December 4, 1921, found in the international peace movement a complete vindication for the Bahá’í ideals. “In all countries of the world today can be found mourners of the prophet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. … Churches of all denominations in New York City and Chicago were thrown open to him for, unlike the leaders of many cults, he preached not the errors of present religions but their sameness.” The New York Tribune on December 2 carried an editorial entitled ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “A prophet, as his followers believe, and the son of a prophet, was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who is now at rest with all prophetic souls bygone. He lived to see a remarkable expansion of the quietist cult of which he was the head … Bahá’u’lláh over sixty years ago set forth a peace plan not dissimilar to the aspirations of today.”
The magazine Unity, published in Chicago, included an article on the Master in its issue of December 22. “’Abdu’l-Bahá voiced and made eloquent the sacred aspiration that yearns dumbly in the hearts of men. He embodied in glorious, triumphant maturity that ideal which in others lies imprisoned behind the veil. Men and women of every race, creed, class, and colour are united in devotion to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá because ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has been a pure, selfless mirror reflecting only the noblest qualities of each.”
The Sphinx, of Cairo, Egypt, on December 17 described ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as a great leader of men. “In his personality and influence ‘Abdu’l-Bahá embodied all that is highest and most striking in both the Christian and Moslem faiths: living a life of pure altruism, he preached and worked for inter-racial and inter-religious unity. … When in the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá thoughtful inquirers soon realized that they were speaking to a man of unique personality, one endowed with a love and wisdom that had in it the divine quality.”
The Times of India, in its issue of January 1922, opens one of its editorial articles as follows:
In more normal times than the present the death of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which was sorrowfully referred to at the Bahá’í Conference in Bombay would have stirred the feelings of many who, without belonging to the Bahá’í brotherhood, sympathize with its tenets and admire the life-work of those who founded it. As it is we have learned almost by chance of this great religious leader’s death, but that fact need not prevent our turning aside from politics and the turmoil of current events to consider what this man did and what he aimed at.
Sketching then in brief an account of the history of the movement it [the Times of India] concludes as follows:
It is not for us now to judge whether the purity, the mysticism and the exalted ideas of Baha’ism will continue unchanged after the loss of the great leader, or to speculate on whether Baha’ism will some day become a force in the world as great or greater than Christianity or Islam; but we would pay a tribute to the memory of a man who wielded a vast influence for good, and who, if he was destined to see many of his ideas seemingly shattered in the world war, remained true to his convictions and to his belief in the possibility of a reign of peace and love, and who, far more effectively than Tolstoy, showed the West that religion is a vital force that can never be disregarded.
Out of the vast number of telegrams and cables of condolence that have poured in, these may be mentioned:
His Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Winston Churchill, telegraphing to His Excellency the High Commissioner for Palestine, desires him “to convey to the Bahá’í community, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, their sympathy and condolence on the death of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás, K.B.E.”
On behalf of the Executive Board of the Bahá’í American Convention, this message of condolence has been received:
He doeth whatsoever He willeth. Hearts weep at most great tribulation. American friends send through Unity Board radiant love, boundless sympathy, devotion. Standing steadfast, conscious of His unceasing presence and nearness.
Viscount Allenby, the High Commissioner for Egypt, has wired the following message, through the intermediary of His Excellency the High Commissioner for Palestine, dated November 29, 1921:
Please convey to the relatives of the late Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás Effendi and to the Bahá’í community my sincere sympathy in the loss of their revered leader.
The loved ones in Germany assure the Greatest Holy Leaf of their fidelity in these terms:
All believers deeply moved by irrevocable loss of our Master’s precious life. We pray for heavenly protection of Holy Cause and promise faithfulness and obedience to Centre of Covenant.
An official message forwarded by the Council of Ministers in Baghdád, and dated December 8, 1921, reads as follows:
His Highness Sayed Abdurrahman, the Prime Minister, desires to extend his sympathy to the family of His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in their bereavement.
The Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force sent through His Excellency the High Commissioner for Palestine these words of sympathy:
General Congreve begs that you will convey his deepest sympathy to the family of the late Sir ‘Abbás al-Bahá’í.
The Theosophical Society in London communicated as follows with one of the followers of the Faith in Haifa: “For the Holy Family Theosophical Society send affectionate thoughts.”
The thousands of Bahá’ís in Ṭihrán, the capital of Persia, remembering their Western brethren and sisters in London and New York assure them of their steadfast faith in these words: “Light of Covenant transferred from eye to heart. Day of teaching, of union, of self sacrifice.”
And lastly, one of the distinguished figures in the academic life of the University of Oxford, a renowned professor and an accomplished scholar, whose knowledge of the Cause stands foremost among that of his colleagues, in the message of condolence written on behalf of himself and wife, expresses himself as follows:
The passing beyond the veil into fuller life must be specially wonderful and blessed for One Who has always fixed His thoughts on high and striven to lead an exalted life here below.
On the seventh day after the passing of the Master, corn was distributed in His name to about a thousand poor of Haifa, irrespective of race or religion, to whom He had always been a friend and a protector. Their grief at losing the “Father of the Poor” was extremely pathetic. In the first seven days also from fifty to a hundred poor were daily fed at the Master’s house, in the very place where it had been His custom to give alms to them.
On the fortieth day there was a memorial feast, given to over six hundred of the people of Haifa, ‘Akká and the surrounding parts of Palestine and Syria, people of various religions, races and colours. More than a hundred of the poor were also fed on this day. The Governor of Phoenicia, many other officials and some Europeans were present.
The feast was entirely arranged by the members of the Master’s household. The long tables were decorated with trailing branches of bougainvillea. Its lovely purple blooms mingled with the white narcissus, and with the large dishes of golden oranges out of the beloved Master’s garden, made a picture of loveliness in those spacious lofty rooms, whose only other decoration was the gorgeous yet subdued colouring of rare Persian rugs. No useless trivial ornaments marred the extreme dignity of simplicity.
The guests received, each and all, the same welcome. There were no “chief places”. Here, as always in the Master’s home, there was no respecting of persons.
After the luncheon the guests came into the large central hall, this also bare of ornament, save only for the portrait of Him they had assembled to honour and some antique Persian tapestries hung upon one wall. Before this was placed a platform from which the speeches were made to the rapt and silent throng, whose very hearts were listening.
The Governor of Phoenicia, in the course of his address, spoke the following:
Most of us here have, I think, a clear picture of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás, of His dignified figure walking thoughtfully in our streets, of His courteous and gracious manner, of His kindness, of His love for little children and flowers, of His generosity and care for the poor and suffering. So gentle was He, and so simple that, in His presence, one almost forgot that He was also a great teacher and that His writings and His conversations have been a solace and an inspiration to hundreds and thousands of people in the East and in the West.
His [‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s] detailed and powerfully written Will and Testament reveals the following words of general counsel to all His friends:
O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God’s grace. It is incumbent upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and sincere kindliness unto alt the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving-kindness, that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations are earthly. Thus man must strive that his reality may manifest virtues and perfections. the fight whereof may shine upon every one. The light of the sun shineth upon all the world and the merciful showers of Divine Providence fall upon all peoples. The vivifying breeze reviveth every living creature and alt beings endued with life obtain their share and portion at His heavenly board. In like manner, the affections and loving-kindness of the servants of the One True God must be bountifully and universally extended to all mankind. Regarding this, restrictions and limitations are in no wise permitted.
Wherefore, O my loving Fiends! Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, goodwill and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Bahá, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancour may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst !he peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them, should they keep aloof from you attract them to yourselves, should they show their enmity be friendly towards them, should they poison your lives, sweeten their souls, should they inflict a wound upon you, be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere! Such are the attributes of the truthful!
O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive with all your heart to shield the Cause of God from the onslaught of the insincere, for souls such as these cause the straight to become crooked and all benevolent efforts to produce contrary results.
He prays for the protection of His friends:
O Lord, my God! Assist Thy loved ones to be firm in Thy Faith, to walk in Thy ways, to be steadfast in Thy Cause. Give them Thy grace to withstand the onslaught of self and passion, to follow the light of Divine Guidance. Thou art the Powerful the Gracious, the Self-Subsisting, the Bestower, the Compassionate, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful!
For His enemies this is His prayer:
I call upon Thee , O Lord, my God! with my tongue and with all my heart, not to requite them for their cruelty and their wrong-doings, their craft and their mischief, for they are foolish and ignoble and know not what they do. They discern not good from evil, neither do they distinguish right from wrong, nor justice from injustice. They follow their own desires and walk in the footsteps of the most imperfect and foolish amongst them. O my Lord! Have mercy upon them, shield them from all afflictions in these troubled times and grant that all trials and hardships may be the lot of this Thy servant, that hath fallen into this darksome pit. Single me out for every woe and make me a sacrifice for all Thy loved ones! O Lord, Most High! May my soul, my life, my being, my spirit, my all be offered up for them! O God, my God! Lowly, suppliant and fallen upon my face, I beseech Thee with all the ardour of my invocation to pardon whosoever hath hurt me, to forgive him that hath conspired against me and offended me, and to wash away the misdeeds of them that have wrought injustice upon me. Vouchsafe unto them Thy goodly gifts, give them joy, relieve them from sorrow, grant them peace and prosperity, give them Thy bliss and pour upon them Thy bounty.
Thou art the Powerful, the Gracious, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
And now, what appeal more direct, more moving, with which to close this sad yet stirring account of His last days, than these His most touching, most inspiring words?
Friends! The time is coming when l shall be no longer with you. I have done all that could be done. I have served the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh to the utmost of my ability. I have laboured night and day, all the years of my life. O how I long to see the loved ones taking upon themselves the responsibilities of the Cause! Now is the time to proclaim the Kingdom of Bahá! Now is the hour of love and union! This is the day of the spiritual harmony of the loved ones of God! All the resources of my physical strength I have exhausted, and the spirit of my life is the welcome tidings of the unity of the people of Bahá. I am straining my ears toward the East and toward the West, toward the North and toward the South that haply I may hear the songs of love and fellowship chanted in the meetings of the faithful. My days are numbered, and, but f or this, there is no joy left unto me. O how I yearn to see the friends united even as a string of gleaming pearls, as the brilliant Pleiades, as the rays of the sun, as the gazelles of one meadow!
The mystic nightingale is warbling for them all; will they not listen? The bird of paradise is singing; will they not heed? The angel of Abhá is calling to them; will they not hearken? The herald of the Covenant is pleading; will they not obey?
Ah me, I am waiting, waiting, to hear the joyful tidings that the believers are the very embodiment of sincerity and truthfulness, the incarnation of love and amity, the living symbols of unity and concord. Will they not gladden my heart? Will they not satisfy my yearning? Will they not manifest my wish? Will they not fulfil my heart’s desire? Will they not give ear to my call?
I am waiting, I am patiently waiting.