Tag Archives: ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Bahiyyíh Khánum – Bahá’u’lláh’s daughter, also known as The Greatest Holy Leaf.

What a woman.

I have just finished reading a book about Bahiyyíh Khánum, the beloved heroine of the Baha’i Faith, daughter of Bahá’u’lláh and Asiyyíh Khánum (please note that the term khánum means a woman of rank or position especially in Turkey and Iran*1), and it was amazing.

When I was growing up, I would hear about this great personage and throughout my life, I have met a lot of women named after her. It seemed quite obvious that she was a special person in the Baha’i religion but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the magnitude of her contributions to her Father’s Cause as well as her importance in the establishment of the Bahá’í Faith throughout the entire world. There is so much to be said about her and I will do my best to give a brief summary that conveys the love and admiration I feel for this incredible woman.

Young age portraitFrom a young age she suffered poverty, need, banishment, imprisonment and all the torments her Father and family were subjected to. There are lots of letters and writings of her own describing these sad and extremely difficult times. If one pays attention, she very rarely expresses her own feelings and her own sufferings. Even as a young child she was her mother’s helper, her brothers’ carer and her Father’s dedicated servant. If you have visited the Bahá’í Holy places in Israel, there are numerous relics belonging to Bahá’u’lláh that we are lucky to have thanks to His beloved daughter.

Here is an excerpt from a Tablet He wrote to her:

“Let these exalted words be thy love-song on the tree of Bahá, O thou most holy and resplendent Leaf: ‘God, besides Whom is none other God, the Lord of this world and the next!’ Verily, We have elevated thee to the rank of one of the most distinguished among thy sex, and granted thee, in My court, a station such as none other woman hath surpassed. Thus have We preferred thee and raised thee above the rest, as a sign of grace from Him Who is the Lord of the throne on high and earth below. We have created thine eyes to behold the light of My countenance, thine ears to hearken unto the melody of My words, thy body to pay homage before My throne. Do thou render thanks unto God, thy Lord, the Lord of all the world.”*2

Portrait

Servitude to her Father and His Faith was not limited and did not come to a halt after His passing. Once Bahá’u’lláh designated His eldest son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as his successor, and the head of the Baha’is at the time, Bahiyyín Khánum dedicated all her efforts through loving support and great sacrifice to her brother. Both her Father and Brother loved and admired her dearly and held her in great esteem. Here are some quotes from letters of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed to or in mention of His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf:

“O my well-beloved, deeply spiritual sister! Day and night thou livest in my memory. Whenever I remember thee my heart swelleth with sadness and my regret groweth more intense. Grieve not, for I am thy true, thy unfailing comforter.”

“Dear sister, beloved of my heart and soul! The news of thy safe arrival and pleasant stay in the land of Egypt has reached me and filled my heart with exceeding gladness. I am thankful to Bahá’u’lláh for the good health thou dost enjoy and for the happiness He hath imparted to the hearts of the loved ones in that land.”

“To my honoured and distinguished sister do thou convey the expression of my heartfelt, my intense longing. Day and night she liveth in my remembrance. I dare make no mention of the feelings which separation from her has aroused in my heart, for whatever I should attempt to express in writing will assuredly be effaced by the tears which such sentiments must bring to my eyes.”*3

Aren’t these the most beautiful letters you have ever read a brother send to His sister? Their love trascended the limits of this world and family life. Their bond was completely spiritual, of mutual support and utmost love and respect.

Now, after the passing of their Father, things did not come easy especially from those individuals who stirred conflict and refused to recognize ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the Center of the Covenant as it was explicitly written by Bahá’u’lláh in His will. Both Bahiyyíh Khánum and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made great sacrifices that included cutting ties with members of their own family. As you can imagine, this took a great toll on The Greatest Holy Leaf’s loving heart, but she endured all calamities for the love of God. During ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s travels to Europe and North America, it was her, Bahiyyíh Khanúm who was left in charge of the affairs of the Faith in Israel. During this time she did not let the conventions of her gender or the criticism of the ill wishers to stop her from fulfilling this most great task. Amazing thing is that it was the first time in the history of religion that a woman had such a responsibility, – where she is publicly and openly given the same rank as her male counterparts. Equality of men and women at its best! And during that time and in that part of the world!! Isn’t that something?

Shoghi Effendi spoke very highly of this great aunt and he loved her dearly. As you may be aware, it was him who was appointed as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s successor after the latter’s passing. This time was one of great difficulty and several times he had to find strength in some absences from Haifa. Bahiyyíh Khánum was his support and companion in tests and difficulties, and in those moments of absence, it too was her who was left holding up the standard of the Faith and maintaining the unity of the Bahá’í world. Yes, the whole Baha’i world. Again, the individual who was temporarily holding it all together was a woman, a woman in a time and from a culture where women were not seen as equal to men; where little is known of their lives because they were spent in anonymity.

She was extraordinary. Not only did she dedicate her whole life to serve God; not only did she communicate extensively with institutions and individuals; not only did she build relationships to protect her Father, brother and great grandson; not only did she encourage the building of the Temple in Chicago, USA; not only did she manage the Holy household and hosted the pilgrims; above all, she was the archetype of every Baha’i believer.

To further show you the amount of love and admiration as well as Shoghi Effendi’s reliance on her, here is part of a letter to his great aunt:

Shoghi Effendi with Bahiyyiíh Khaánum

 

“O my sister in the spirit, and the companion of my heart!
God willing, the climate of Haifa hath proved favourable. I hope that out of the bounties of the Ancient Beauty thou wilt gain a measure of peace and health. I bring thee to mind both night and day. Just recently I had hoped to come to Haifa to visit thee, but various problems and the pressure of work have left me no time; for I want to see the travellers off, and every one of them presented a long list of names. God be thanked, I have written to them all.
Kiss the fresh flower of the garden of sweetness, Shoghi Effendi.”*4

 

After her passing, Shoghi Effendi really felt the loss. Her remains are buried on Mount Carmel, in the area called “The Arc” where Bahá’í administrative buildings exist today. Her resting place was established at the center of this significant mountain on purpose, and there is a beautiful meaning to the design of her monument. We might talk about that in another post 🙂

If you would like to know more about The Greatest Holy Leaf, you can read one of the many books written about her. The one I read is called “Prophet’s Daughter” by Janet A. Khan. There is also mention of her on Book 8 of the Ruhi Institute.

Whatever you study, I hope you enjoy, admire, thank and fall in love with her just like we did.

 

REFERENCES

*1 Definition on the Merriam-Webster dictionary

*2 Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf: A Compilation from Bahá’í Sacred Texts and Writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum’s Own Letters, Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 edition, Page 231

*3 Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf: A Compilation from Bahá’í Sacred Texts and Writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum’s Own Letters, Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 edition, Page 231

*4 Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf: A Compilation from Bahá’í Sacred Texts and Writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum’s Own Letters, Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 edition, Page 231

 

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Prayer for the dead. From the Bahá’í Writings.

Death is a natural part of life. When a loved one passes onto the next world, we are reminded of how this fleeting world means nothing and how all our material possessions and worries are vain and irrelevant. Constantly remembering them in our daily prayers, undertaking charity work on their behalf and giving to the Bahá’í fund (for Bahá’ís only) on their name are just some things we can do while still on this Earth to help the souls of those that have departed progress in all the worlds of God.

This is a beautiful prayer from the Bahá’í Writings written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the dead:

O my God! O Thou forgiver of sins, bestower of gifts, dispeller of afflictions! Verily, I beseech Thee to forgive the sins of such as have abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spiritual world.

O my Lord! Purify them from trespasses, dispel their sorrows, and change their darkness into light. Cause them to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse them with the most pure water, and grant them to behold Thy splendours on the loftiest mount.


From a Tablet written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regarding where to wear the Baha’i Ring.

“…the ring of the Greatest Name is very beautiful. The ring should be worn on the small finger of the right hand.”

I came across this enlightening quote while searching for Writings regarding Bahá’í jewellery. This seems to be the only quote that specifically talks about the finger on which to wear a Baha’i ring.

If another is found, please do let us know. Thanks!


Work is worship and mendicity and sloth are not permitted. Baha’i Writings.

I was thinking today about the possibility of just sitting back, relaxing and doing nothing and this is what came to mind! I had read about this and continue to read year after year and I thought I would share some insights of what I get from the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith.

Firstly, Bahá’u’lláh (Messenger of God, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith) continually stressed the importace of education for all. Back then, men and women were not considered equal and if preference was to be given to only one child in the home, it would be the male. He came and said that if it had to come down to making a decision between male or female, it should be the females since they are the first educators of the world! Furthermore, in His incredible generosity, God has allowed many different ways to worship Him, work being one of them. Here is a relevant quote by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that includes these two points:

The education of each child is compulsory…. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship….

In addition, Shoghi Effendi explained that “Bahá’u’lláh further states that mendicity should not only be discouraged but entirely wiped out from the face of society. It is the duty of those who are in charge of the organization of society to give every individual the opportunity of acquiring the necessary talent in some kind of profession, and also the means of utilizing such a talent, both for its own sake and for the sake of earning the means of his livelihood. Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, especially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Bahá’u’lláh, a form of worship. It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables to better grasp His purpose for us in this world.”

This is my understanding: if we think about work done in “the spirit of service”, we cannot limit ourselves to think only about professions such as medicine and education. For example, an artisan is worshipping God as she makes a vase in the same way a surgeon is worshipping God as he performs surgery on a patient so long as those acts are done to the fullest of their capacity and with the intention of bringing forth the attributes of God such as beauty and might. We must use our work and our talents -whatever they may be- to serve humanity. To sit around and beg in this day and age is not acceptable.

It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn. Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others.

From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.


This Christmas let’s think about His Holiness Jesus Christ.

He really was the essence of love and mercy. Jesus Christ was a Messenger of God that Bahá’ís believe in and recognize His station. Bahá’u’lláh as well as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have spoke and wrote extensively about Jesus and His station and exalted personage. Here are just a few quotes from the Bahá’í Writings I would like to share.

When the Messianic star of Jesus Christ dawned, he declared he had come to gather together the lost tribes or scattered sheep of Moses. He not only shepherded the flock of Israel, but brought together people of Chaldea, Egypt, Syria, ancient Assyria and Phoenicia. These people were in a state of utmost hostility, thirsting for the blood of each other with the ferocity of animals; but His Holiness Jesus Christ brought them together, cemented and united them in his cause and established such a bond of love among them that enmity and warfare were abandoned. It is evident therefore that the divine teachings are intended to create a bond of unity in the human world and establish the foundations of love and fellowship among mankind. Divine religion is not a cause for discord and disagreement. If religion becomes the source of antagonism and strife, the absence of religion is to be preferred. Religion is meant to be the quickening life of the body politic; if it be the cause of death to humanity, its nonexistence would be a blessing and benefit to man. Therefore in this day the divine teachings must be sought, for they are the remedies for the present conditions of the world of humanity.      –  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

This quote is from a talk given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “You must be thankful to God that you are poor, for Jesus Christ has said, “Blessed are the poor.” He never said, “Blessed are the rich.” He said, too, that the Kingdom is for the poor and that it is easier for a camel to enter a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom. Therefore, you must be thankful to God that although in this world you are indigent, yet the treasures of God are within your reach; and although in the material realm you are poor, yet in the Kingdom of God you are precious. Jesus Himself was poor. He did not belong to the rich. He passed His time in the desert, traveling among the poor, and lived upon the herbs of the field. He had no place to lay His head, no home. He was exposed in the open to heat, cold and frost—to inclement weather of all kinds—yet He chose this rather than riches. If riches were considered a glory, the Prophet Moses would have chosen them; Jesus would have been a rich man. When Jesus Christ appeared, it was the poor who first accepted Him, not the rich. Therefore, you are the disciples of Jesus Christ; you are His comrades, for He outwardly was poor, not rich.”

In another talk, He said:

You must follow the example and footprints of Jesus Christ. Read the Gospels. Jesus Christ was mercy itself, was love itself. He even prayed in behalf of His executioners—for those who crucified Him—saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” If they knew what they were doing, they would not have done it. Consider how kind Jesus Christ was, that even upon the cross He prayed for His oppressors. We must follow His example. We must emulate the Prophets of God. We must follow Jesus Christ. We must free ourselves from all these imitations which are the source of darkness in the world.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá further explains that “His Holiness Jesus Christ was an educator of humanity. His teachings were altruistic; his bestowal universal. He taught mankind by the power of the Holy Spirit and not through human agency, for the human power is limited whereas the divine power is illimitable and infinite. The influence and accomplishment of Christ will attest this. Galen, the Greek physician and philosopher, who lived in the second century A.D., wrote a treatise upon the civilization of nations. He was not a Christian but he has borne testimony that religious beliefs exercise an extraordinary effect upon the problems of civilization. In substance he says, “There are certain people among us, followers of Jesus the Nazarene who was killed in Jerusalem. These people are truly imbued with moral principles which are the envy of philosophers. They believe in God and fear Him. They have hopes in His favors, therefore they shun all unworthy deeds and actions and incline to praiseworthy ethics and morals. Day and night they strive that their deeds may be commendable and that they may contribute to the welfare of humanity; therefore each one of them is virtually a philosopher, for these people have attained unto that which is the essence and purport of philosophy. These people have praiseworthy morals even though they may be illiterate.””

Let us think of Him and focus on the spiritual essence of Christmas during these holidays. The more you read bout Him and all of God’s Messengers, the more your love for Them will grow. Guaranteed.

All Manifestations of God -like the name suggest, come from God. They are one in essence and the same in spirit. We tried to make that evident in our Manifestations ring and our 9 Messengers of God necklace.

 


From our Bahá’í jewellery shop, one of our newest rings…Chords.

Chords ring

“The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. If you meet those of different race and colour from yourself, do not mistrust them and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness. Think of them as different coloured roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá


What to buy these holidays? You think you don’t have enough? Shopping out of boredom?

Today I saw this picture online…

I really don’t need to ad a caption or to say anything more.

In a book by J.E. Esslemont: “The Bahá’í teaching is based on moderation, not as asceticism. Enjoyment of the good and beautiful things of life, both material and spiritual, is not only encouraged but enjoined. Bahá’u’lláh says: “Deprive not yourselves of that which has been created for you.” Again He says: “It is incumbent upon you that exultation and glad tidings be manifest in your faces.””

My beloved ‘Abdul-Bahá said: “All that has been created is for man, who is at the apex of creation, and he must be thankful for the divine bestowals. All material things are for us, so that through our gratitude we may learn to understand life as a divine benefit. If we are disgusted with life we are ingrates, for our material and spiritual existence are the outward evidences of the divine mercy. Therefore we must be happy and spend our time in praises, appreciating all things.”

Furthermore, He was the Perfect Example. Read on…

One of the assembled guests, the Governor of Phoenicia, paid a last tribute to the memory of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the following words: “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.”

Let Him be your example not only this holiday season but every day of your life.