26 Feb

‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Hospitality

While reading about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visits to the West one notices how the Master was not only welcomed by a diversity of hosts, but that He Himself extended hospitality too: He hosted several ‘Feasts’ and was, in the words of Shoghi Effendi, “bountiful as the rain in His generosity to the poor”[1].  This might be surprising if you, like myself, at first defined hospitality – “kindness in welcoming strangers or guests”[2] – as a value one puts into practice in the comfort of one’s own home.

The hospitality the Master showed, however, went much deeper than a material sharing:  people from different walks of lives, being rich or poor, felt at home in His presence, and even antagonism, towards ‘Abdu’l-Bahá or towards fellow visitors, would melt away like snow on the first day of Spring[3].  Moreover, on numerous occasions, the Master was very sick, and yet – in full reliance upon God – He went out and delivered talks, or welcomed guests in the hotel He was staying.

The virtue of hospitality exemplified by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, then, is one that is not restricted by worldly coordinates like time and place or by practical matters such as one’s comfort and health.  Instead, hospitality is extending a spiritual bounty: the home of a united human family.  This is the essence of the eternal Truth of God’s Religion which has been unfolding century after century, from Adam, to Krishna, Moses, Abraham, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed and more recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. The following description gives a glimpse of the impression He made at the time and the spiritual qualities of humility, a never failing love and gentleness, we, one century later, can bring out in our own acts of hospitality:

“When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited this country for the first time in 1912,” a commentator on His American travels has written, “He found a large and sympathetic audience waiting to greet Him personally and to receive from His own lips His loving and spiritual message. …Beyond the words spoken there was something indescribable in His personality that impressed profoundly all who came into His presence. The dome-like head, the patriarchal beard, the eyes that seemed to have looked beyond the reach of time and sense, the soft yet clearly penetrating voice, the translucent humility, the never failing love, — but above all, the sense of power mingled with gentleness that invested His whole being with a rare majesty of spiritual exaltation that both set Him apart, and yet that brought Him near to the lowliest soul, — it was all this, and much more that can never be defined, that have left with His many … friends, memories that are ineffaceable and unspeakably precious.”[4]



[1] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.282.

[2] “hospitality”, Reverso Dictionary Online http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-definition/hospitality [accessed 25 February 2013]

[3] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp.282-283.  Balyuzi, H.M. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, 2001, pp.369-396.

[4] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.290.

Photograph: Shahriar Erfanian http://www.nineteenmonths.com/splendour/splendour-vancouver-canada/

1 Comment

  • incredibly beautiful and uplifting to read, thank you