Participants ascending the terraces at the opening of the Terraces of the Shrine of the Bab, 23 May 2001. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
On one glorious evening twenty years ago, people from around the world gathered in person and via television to celebrate the inauguration of a wonder of the world.
They witnessed the spectacularly beautiful ceremony on 22 May, 2001 held to mark the opening of the Terraces of the Shrine of Bab on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. Continue reading
Edward Broomhall (1941-2020)
Entering the lounge room of Edward and Noel Broomhall’s flat in Haifa, was like stepping into Aladdin’s Cave.
Intriguing paintings and photographs of many different scenes adorned the walls. Suspended from the ceiling were exotic lamps probably from the bazaars of Turkey.
Balanced on coffee tables were books on fascinating subjects, some even of the pop-up variety. Collections of toys were piled up topsy-turvy in woven baskets. Models of mechanical people on shelves created tiny worlds of fun.
CDs of the latest music were set available to play. Racks of antique postcards kept visitors busy for ages. Weavings covered chairs. Persian carpets seemed to unite the whole colourful ensemble. Book shelves were full: novels, non-fiction, Baha’i books
And there, smiling in his arm chair, was collector-in-chief, Edward Broomhall. He would rise to lovingly hug his visitors, welcoming us into his extraordinary room.
Darling Edward, as we would call him out of his earshot, is now no doubt inhabiting some sort of oriental-Pacific paradise of a room in the Abha Kingdom.
Edward Mac James Broomhall, a world citizen from Australia, aged 79, passed away peacefully on – and how this symmetry would please him— 10/10/2020. Continue reading
If you were going to ask me to dive into the treasury of Baha’i prayers and select my favourite jewel, I would say that I love too many to be able to select just one. But if you insisted, I would choose the prayer that is my favorite at this particular moment.
I had been looking for prayers for protection (haven’t we all?) and came to the very last one in that section of my prayer book. In this prayer, which I’ve quoted in full at the bottom, Abdu’l-Baha rises above my already heightened expectations, and soars in the sublime regions attained only by the divinely inspired poets. Surely this prayer illustrates this wonderful tradition quoted by the blessed Bab in The Dawn-Breakers:
Treasures lie hidden beneath the throne of God; the key to those treasures is the tongue of poets.
While reading Remembrance Suite by the poet Shirin Sabri, I found myself getting caught up in emotion.
Thinking about my tearful reaction to these stunning poems, I traced them back to an unusual mixture of feelings of outrage and inspiration.
The poet tells of the wrongs done to some of the women in history but gowns the exposure with descriptions of their achievements, and their eternal glory. The vocabulary is rich, the images suffused with colour and beauty, the message as clear as a bell.
Most of the subjects of the poems are women unknown to most people in the world but they clearly made significant contributions to the great ongoing spiritual journey of humanity. We learn of Hajar and Hatshepsut, of Zenobia and Hypatia. For Baha’is we are treated to new perspectives on Khadijih Bagum, on Navaab, and on Ruhiyyih Khanum. Other subjects are Aseyeh, Maria the Jewess, The Magdalene, Tahirih and Bahiyyih Khanum.
In her poem “Grandmothers”, Shirin Sabri lives up to her own injunction in the final verse:
So, tell their stories, breathe upon history’s blood red ember
and light their lovely faces with that flame. We will remember.
I relished the opportunity to ask the poet some questions. Continue reading
After the announcement that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the media began quoting people who had listed their favourites Dylan songs.
Fans, and I include myself here, love his lyrics and melodies. We enjoy listening to his often idiosyncratic singing voice, his skill on his instruments, and his excellent bands. His memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, is superb.
If asked to name what I think is the best of the best of his works, I would go straight to one song, one that I believe has a deeply spiritual theme and which resonates with me as a Baha’i. Continue reading
There is surely something beyond fascinating characters and an exciting if familiar story that has been attracting people by their millions to see the new Star Wars movie.
My feeling is that a big part of the appeal is “the force”, the ongoing theme in the Star Wars series that gives the latest film its name: The Force Awakens.
In the Star Wars movies, the force seems to me to be roughly equivalent to the creative energy that pervades the universe, but there is also a dark side to it.
What might that mean in Baha’i terms? We are fine with the idea of a creative force and are familiar with the concept that “good has a positive existence; evil is merely its absence”. We could view the “dark side” of the force as the absence of the creative energy, a black hole of evil.
So, apart from the other factors mentioned, why do millions of people get attracted to a movie that has “the force” as an ongoing theme in the story?
Hard-wired into us all is a desire to transcend the mundane, the temporary physical realties of our lives. In my view, that desire is intended to motivate us to seek and ever approach the ultimate, everlasting reality, God. Continue reading
In 1995 Ruhiyyih Khanum published poems she had written after the death in 1957 of her husband, Shoghi Effendi, who had been the head of the Baha’i Faith for 36 years.
On the dust jacket of her book, Poems of the Passing, she explains what she wanted to achieve by finally making the verses public.
It is the author’s ardent hope that in sharing them with others they may echo the grief of separation in this world from our loved ones, and the confident hope of reunion with them in an eternal realm of spiritual progress and mercy.
Anybody expecting an easy journey with gentle poems of love and light and describing a calm acceptance of death is in for a big surprise. Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, who passed away 15 years ago, was unflinching in her realistic approach to life, and she applied the same approach to these poems.
In emotionally wrenching and spiritually challenging verses, she uses her sublime literary skills to lay bare an incandescent agony caused by the loss of her beloved.
So deep, so harrowing is the raw pain she describes – at one point writing of the “unspeakable poison of grief” — many people may find it difficult to keep on reading despite the great artistic beauty of the poetry. Tears are likely. Continue reading
Album cover for John Lennon's 'Imagine', released 9 September, 1971. John Lennon was born 9 October, 1940 and was murdered on 8 December, 1980.
When it comes to uplifting songs, few can match the popularity of Imagine by former Beatle, the late John Lennon (1940-1980).
It was the singer-songwriter’s best-selling single, and it is included in a list of the 100 most-performed songs of the 20th century.
I know many Baha’is who like to sing this song, although they may sometimes wonder about a few of the lyrics, so I thought that on this 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s passing on 8 December 1980 it would be interesting to have a look at Imagine to see how closely it agrees with our cherished Baha’i beliefs.
William Henry (Harry) Randall (19 April, 1863 - 11 Feb,1929)
Immediately after my plane touched down in Boston, my host whisked me away in her car with a promise that I would love our destination.
We did not head towards the recognised highlights of the city such as the historic Boston Common or Harvard University or the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
We drove instead to the historic suburb of Medford and arrived at a cemetery where, amidst the golden autumn leaves, was the simple grey slate headstone of William Henry (Harry) Randall (1863-1929).
To the outer world Harry Randall was a multi-millionaire Boston businessman who later lost his fortune.
To the Baha’i community Harry Randall is a true hero of the Faith, one loved by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. Continue reading
Religion has produced some of the greatest achievements of humanity but this fact is often obscured today as people and the media focus on the horrors resulting from its power.
By now we should all know that if people want to use religion as a method to get their own way, they have an ominous weapon.
Religion taps the very source of motivation because it has to do with the absolute and the eternal, so if somebody or a group successfully manipulates it for negative ends they can achieve their aims with the help of followers whose morale is sky high.
Down the centuries there have been many wars and atrocities because of this manipulation of religious feeling and allegiance. When that happens, religion becomes a counterfeit version of the real thing. Continue reading