Tag Archives Baha’i History

The Language of Abdu’l-Baha

Abdu’l‐Baha giving a souvenir of the Baha’i Temple Dedication to Charles Greenleaf (age 17). Photo courtesy of the Baha'is of the United States.

I think it goes without saying that Abdu’l-Baha communicated the principles of the Baha’i Faith through His actions: generosity, for example, was articulated when coins were placed in the hands of destitute men at the Bowery Mission in New York City and social justice was demonstrated when Louis Gregory, who had been excluded from a luncheon owing to his race, was personally invited to the table by Abdu’l-Baha and given the seat of honor.

This year, as we commemorate the centenary of His Passing, I have been thinking about the Westerners who were in His presence and I often wonder about the logistics of language for those who did not speak Persian, Arabic or Turkish as He did.

I have read accounts of His travels to Europe and North America that describe how there were interpreters in His entourage and that for the most part His communications were translated to those around Him. Stanwood Cobb describes the unique experience of what it was like to hear Abdu’l-Baha speak via a translator: Continue reading

When the Moon Set Over Haifa – A New Book About the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha

Angelina Diliberto Allen has penned a new historical book called When the Moon Set Over Haifa. This book shares the stories of six Westerners who were in Haifa at the time of the Passing of Abdu’l-Baha on November 28, 1921. There were five pilgrims: John Bosch and Louise Stapfer Bosch, Dr. Florian Krug and Grace Krug, and Fraulein Johanna Hauff. The only other Western believer present was Curtis Kelsey from New York, who was there to install electrical power plants to light the Shrines of the Bab and Baha’u’llah.

This book tells the story of these six Baha’is and explores how their experiences at the time of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha shaped their lives. Angelina’s book is such a gift, especially in this special commemorative year when we reflect on the Life of Abdu’l-Baha. You can hear Angelina talk about her book, and many other fascinating topics, in this episode of the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson but in this interview, we hear specifically about When the Moon Set Over Haifa. Here’s what Angelina graciously shared with us:

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My Study Aids for Reading the Works of Shoghi Effendi

The written works of Shoghi Effendi make up an important part of Baha’i literature as I believe they provide vital insights into the history and development of Baha’i communities, contextual information and interpretation of the Writings, and inspired insights about how one can participate in Baha’i community efforts. In this article I would like to provide a look at some resources that can assist us in beginning to read, relate to, and learn from Shoghi Effendi’s works. It should also be noted that I am considering the works Shoghi Effendi himself authored, and not his masterful translation work. Continue reading

The Beauty of Abdu’l-Baha

Portrait of Abdu’l-Baha in Paris, France, October 1911. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.

Ever since I was little I have been interested in historical clothes and I have often wondered what Abdu’l-Baha looked like. What did He wear? And how were His clothes and His physical appearance a manifestation of qualities such as cleanliness, purity, grace and a deep abiding love for everyone?

In this article, I’ve gathered a small collection of historical accounts on the beauty of Abdu’l-Baha and stories that describe what He looked like. I am so grateful for these historical recollections, even though they only offer us a glimpse of Him.

The first story relates to cleanliness and it’s found in Vignettes from the Life of Abdu’l-Baha:

The Master considered cleanliness of vital importance. He was indeed ‘the essence of cleanliness’ even as Baha’u’llah had taught His followers. Florence Khanum bore witness to this, for she found Him ‘dazzlingly, spotlessly shining, from snowy turban-cloth, to white, snowy hair falling upon his shoulders, to white snowy beard and long snowy garment. Although it was high noon, in summer His attire was crisp and fresh-looking, as though He had not been visiting the sick, and in prison, and toiling for mankind since early morning. Often a deliciously fresh rose was tucked in His belt.’

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Through Their Eyes – A New Animation about Meeting Abdu’l-Baha

Baha’i Blog is excited to have recently shared Through Their Eyes, a short animation that brings to life how Abdu’l-Baha touched the lives of certain notable individuals. Viewers get a glimpse of what the Lebanese poet, writer, and artist Khalil Gibran said about Abdu’l-Baha after they met in New York, how the Japanese poet Yone Nogushi described Abdu’l-Baha’s teachings, and also how Abdu’l-Baha’s unbounded love influenced Lady Blomfield, a humanitarian and child rights activist from Great Britain.

As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of Abdu’l-Baha, this film is part of an animated collection created by Flavio Azm Rassekh and PersianBMS which started with Breaking the Chains, a short film about the very first girls schools of Iran that were built by the Baha’i community under the guidance of Abdu’l-Baha.

I got in touch with the film’s creator, my dear friend from Brazil, Flavio Azm Rassekh, to find out more about this new animation and the inspiration behind it: Continue reading

A Story of Light – A 19 Day Journey of Music and Storytelling with Luke Slott

In preparation for the release of his new album in honor of the centenary of the Passing of Abdu’l-Baha, Home of Light, singer-songwriter Luke Slott took viewers on a 19 day journey of storytelling and music during the month of the Baha’i Fast.

Luke’s wonderful recounting of the events and stories of the history of the Baha’i Faith, coupled with his beautiful music, was captured in a series of 20 videos called ‘A Story of Light’. I wanted to connect with my dear friend Luke to find out more about this wonderful initiative and to share it with our readers. Here’s what he had to say: Continue reading

Dawn-Breaker: The Story of Nabil-i-Azam

Muhammad-i-Zarandi, surnamed Nabil-i-Azam. Photo from The Dawn-Breakers.

Nabil-i-Azam was a poet, his eloquence a “gift like a crystal stream,” his native genius “pure inspiration.” This is how Abdu’l-Baha described the famous chronicler of Baha’i history, renowned for his narrative of the early days of the Baha’i Faith, The Dawn-Breakers.

But what do we know about the life of this “man of mettle…on fire with passionate love,” counted by Shoghi Effendi as one of the 19 Apostles of Baha’u’llah?

Nabil was born Muhammad-i-Zarandi on July 29, 1831. As a boy, he learned the Qur’an and would travel more than 400 miles with his father from Zarand to the holy city of Qom, to listen to religious discourses. Working as a shepherd, the young Nabil tended his flock, praying and chanting the holy verses. At night, he would lie on the ground, contemplating the heavens. His was truly a poetic soul. Continue reading

Trilogy of Consecration: The Courier, the Historian and the Missionary – A New Book by Boris Handal

Author, Boris Handal, whom you may recognize from his previous books, Mirza Mihdi: The Purest Branch, and Varqa and Ruhu’llah: 101 Stories of Bravery on the Move, has just authored a new historical book called Trilogy of Consecration: The Courier, the Historian and the Missionary.

This book presents the lives of three personages closely related to the early years of the Baha’i Faith in Persia: Shaykh Salman, Nabil-i-A’zam and Mulla Sadiq.

Curious to find out more, here’s what Boris shared with us about his new book: Continue reading

The Art of Empowering Others – A Biography of Knight of Baha’u’llah Gayle Woolson

I have been thinking recently about what it genuinely means to empower others and George Ronald has released a biography of someone who did just that: Knight of Baha’u’llah, Gayle Woolson. Her life’s story was penned by Juliet Gentzkow, who very graciously agreed to tell us about her book called The Art of Empowering Others: The Life and Times of Gayle Woolson Knight of Baha’u’llah, and to give us a glimpse of who Gayle Woolson was. Here’s what she shared with me:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

By profession as a teacher of children, counsellor, and hospice worker, I have served in the United States, Guyana, and Haiti. I now live in Palo Alto California, near my son and his family. Limited to home by the pandemic, I continue a part-time counseling practice, Creative Transitions, and dedicate time to family, community building, biographical writing, and research.

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book?

‘The Art of Empowering Others’, a biography of Gayle Woolson (1913-2011), now joins the George Ronald series on the Knights of Baha’u’llah. Gayle was one of nine children born in Minnesota to parents of Syrian origin. In 1930, her father introduced his family to news of a new Faith, brought to his attention by a Syrian friend in St. Paul. Mr. Abas told his children of teachings for a new, spiritual worldwide civilization based on humanity’s oneness. He said the youth had an important part to play in its development. By 1933, Gayle was teaching a children’s class, which became a stepping stone to public speaking. She then participated in her Local Spiritual Assembly’s initial development and became one of the very first youth traveling teachers in the United States, accompanying Ms. Marguerite Reimer (Sears) and Mrs. Mabel Ives. Following a marriage tragically cut short by her husband’s unexpected death, she arose to serve internationally. In 1940, she and another Baha’i became the first to go to Costa Rica, beginning 29 years of service throughout Central and South America. She witnessed the emergence of Baha’i communities and institutions throughout the continent, becoming a Knight of Baha’u’llah for the Galapagos Islands and serving successively on four elected National Spiritual Assemblies and as part of the initial cohort of appointed Auxiliary Board Members for the Americas. As much at home in a Quechua village as in a president’s palace, her heart burned with love for all who crossed her path. She had a simple eloquence that was yet refined. She saw in each person a unique potential destiny needed in the building of a new civilization. In 1975, following five years of service at the Baha’i World Centre, Gayle returned to the United States, where, for 20 years, she taught and also developed her Children’s Public Speaking Program.

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