31 Mar
Posted in: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, History, Peace, Spiritual Qualities
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‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Germany

While making several short trips to cities in Austria and Hungary, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent most of the month of April 1913 in Germany.  Balyuzi gives us the details of the intense daily pace with which the Master, despite His age and precarious health, received numerous visitors of all walks of life and spoke at diverse gatherings[1].  As elsewhere on His sojourn in the West, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasized the unity of religions and, in order to bring about unity of mankind, the need to let go the veils that over time have been wrapped around the truth:

The essence of the religion of God is love, and the Holy Books bear testimony to that, for the essence of the religion of God is the light of the world of humanity; but mankind today has forgotten what constitutes true religion. Each nation and each people today hold to some definite dogma. . . . These traditions and these dogmas are like the husks surrounding the kernel. We must release the kernel from the husk[2].

I am particularly fascinated by the way the Master spoke about the spiritual qualities of the German Bahá’ís and the radiant future He predicted for the country.  Why did He speak about a radiant future and yet, at the same time, predicted, on several occasions, the coming of a period of war and conflict which would set aflame the center of Europe and affect the whole world[3]?

The answer may be found in the specifics of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s interactions at the time and in His overall approach to life:  Repeatedly He pointed out the Germans’ qualities of sincerity and steadfastness, explaining that these are a prerequisite for success in the endeavor to build a peaceful and united world[4].  More broadly, His own life shows how dire circumstances are actually fertile:  despite having been imprisoned for 40 years He gave Himself completely in guiding and inspiring people all over the world.  In the following text, He provides the key to what seems to be the mystery of ‘true’ life, not only in relation to the particulars of the two World Wars and their aftermath (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!), but also in relation to the collective and individual lives of us all – past, present and future:

The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire, the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one becomes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the more greater his knowledge becomes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties …

Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows[5].



[1] Balyuzi, Hasan (2001), “Return to Europe” in `Abdu’l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh (Oxford: George Ronald), pp.378-391.

[2] Ibid, p.381.

[3] See Promulgation of Universal Peace (1982, 2nd edition), p.169 and p.532.

[4] See also Effendi, Shoghi (1985) The Light of Divine Guidance (volume 2) – Letters from the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith to individual believers, groups and Bahá’í communities in Germany and Austria (Bahá’í-Verlag,Hofheim-Langenhain), passim.

[5] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, vol. XIV, no. 2, p.41.

Photograph: Amy Sahba ‘dusk’ 20 March 2012 http://nineteendays.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/day-nineteen-5/

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