the merchant and the coal

There was a Christian merchant in `Akka who, like many of his fellow-citizens, held the Baha’is in scant respect. It happened that he came upon a load of charcoal which some of the Baha’is had been permitted to buy outside `Akka. (Inside the town they were denied such purchases.) The merchant, noticing that the fuel was of a fine grade, took it for his own use. For him Baha’is were beyond the pale, and so their goods could be impounded. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá heard of the incident, He went to the place where the merchant transacted his business to ask for the return of the charcoal. There wer many people about in that office, bent on their trade, and they took no notice of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He sat and waited. Three hours passed before the merchant turned to Him and said: “Are you one of the prisoners in this town?” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said that He was, and the merchant then enquired: “What was the crime for which you were imprisoned?” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied: “The same crime for which Christ was indicted.” The merchant was taken aback. He was a Christian, and here was a man speaking of similarity between His action and the action of Christ. “What could you know of Christ?” was his retort. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá calmly proceeded to tell him. The arrogance of the merchant was confronted by the patience of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rose to go, the merchant also rose and walked with Him into the street, betokening his respect for this Man – one of the detested prisoners. From then on, he was a friend, even more, a stout supporter.’ But regarding the charcoal, the merchant could only say, ‘The coal is gone, – I cannot return you that, but here is the money.’

Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 29.

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