There was once a man who lived in a place where the land was very rocky and difficult to farm. In this land there was a law: it is forbidden to move stones from your land onto public land.
This man was clearing one of his fields so that he could plant it with crops, but he kept running into stone after stone. After thinking about it, he shrugged his shoulders and began throwing them from his field onto the public land that was nearby. A neighbor saw this and asked him “Why are you moving stones from land that is not yours onto land that is yours?”
The man laughed, because his neighbor seemed confused. Wasn’t it obvious that his own land was the land he was clearing of stones?
It was not long after this that the man ran into hardship, and needed to sell his land. As he walked through the land in the village that belonged to the public, he stubbed his toe on one of the rocks he had thrown there months before.
“How well my neighbor knew what I was doing!” he said. “I wish I had realized that I was throwing rocks from land that was only mine for a while onto land that belongs to all of us, always.”
You may know that all Bahá’ís are encouraged to go on a pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime—a journey to visit the most sacred places connected to the Bahá’í Faith. You may have seen photos of the beautiful holy places in Haifa and ‘Akká, such as the Twin Holy Shrines of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. Every year, many thousands of Bahá’ís from all around the world are given the privilege of visiting these Shrines, where they offer prayers and meditate, striving to draw closer to God and feel His presence.
But did you know that, besides these, there are two very sacred places where Bahá’ís will come for pilgrimage in the future? In His Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh revealed a law which states that Bahá’ís must make a pilgrimage to one of two Sacred Houses: His House in the city of Baghdad, and the House of the Báb in Shiráz. These places are considered sacred because of the great events that took place within their walls. Although both were humble homes built of stones, they were blessed by the presence of the Twin Manifestations of God for this Day, who came to fulfill God’s promise to guide humanity.
One glorious spring night long ago, in His home in Shiráz, the Báb declared that he was the Promised One from God. The sun had set in the west, and He was entertaining a guest named Mullá Husayn, a traveller whom He had met by the gates of the city. As the Báb’s faithful servant lovingly poured them tea, they spoke at length about the new Day that was about to dawn, and about this “Promised One” who would soon appear. The Báb asked His guest: How could you tell if someone was the Promised One? And Mullá Husayn began to describe Him: Who He would be, what He would do, how He would look, how He would act. The Báb paused, and then said in a vibrant voice: “Behold, all these signs are manifest in Me!” That night, as they sat together by the light of a lamp, the Báb declared His mission as the Promised One, whose coming humanity had awaited since ancient times. Mullá Husayn became the first to believe in Him, becoming known as the gate of the Gate. From that house, on that blessed night, the message of the Báb spread across the land of Persia, renewing God’s Covenant with humanity, and preparing the way for Bahá’u’lláh, Who the Báb called “He Whom God shall make manifest”.
Nineteen years later, Bahá’u’lláh was living in Baghdád, a city that belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Banished from Persia because He believed in the Báb’s message, Bahá’u’lláh had settled there with His family, and had become much loved and respected by all who knew Him. So loved, in fact, that the rulers of Persia had begun to fear His growing influence. They complained to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, pleading with him to move Bahá’u’lláh to a far-away land. The Sultan gave in to their demands, and asked Bahá’u’lláh to leave Baghdád and come to Constantinople, the imperial capital. Bahá’u’lláh accepted the Sultan’s request, and He and His family began preparing for the long journey.
Outside the home of Bahá’u’lláh, there was a great commotion. Tears streaming down their faces, the people of Baghdád had come to plead with Bahá’u’lláh not to leave them. So many people came to see Him, in fact, that they overran the house, and His family was unable to continue with their preparations. Because of this, He made plans to move to a garden across the river where He would receive His guests. As the days passed and His departure for the garden drew near, Bahá’u’lláh met with His close friends and fellow believers, chanting beautiful prayers and soul-stirring Writings He had newly revealed. Little by little, those who gathered in His home came to understand that something great was in store. The sadness of the approaching departure, they realized, was to be accompanied by something unbelievably more glorious and joyful. In the garden a great tent was raised for Bahá’u’lláh, surrounded by green trees and streams of water, and helpers arrived to pick bright red roses from the bushes. On the appointed day, Bahá’u’lláh emerged from the inner room of His house, wearing a beautifully decorated táj, or tall felt hat, which no one had seen Him wear before. Men, women and children from all around the city surrounded the house, observing in wonder and awe as He stepped outside with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and set out towards the garden. It was in this garden, which He called the Garden of Ridván, that Bahá’u’lláh would declare to his closest companions that He was the One Whose advent the Báb had foretold, the Supreme Manifestation of God, the Ancient Beauty Who had consented to be bound with chains that the whole of mankind might be freed from its bondage.
Although the Houses where these wonderful events took place are no longer standing today, the places where they once stood are still sacred places. They were blessed by the presence of the Twin Manifestations of God. Because it has not always been easy for Bahá’ís to travel in these areas, not many have been able to go there for pilgrimage. But one day, in the future, it will become much easier. The houses will be rebuilt, stone by stone, brick by brick, just the way they were in the time of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. And many Bahá’ís from all around the world will come to visit them, as Bahá’u’lláh said they would.
The following is an account recorded in Nabil’s Narrative/The Dawn Breakers, translated by the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi.
When Bahá’u’lláh was still a child, the Vazír, His father, dreamed a dream. Bahá’u’lláh appeared to him swimming in a vast, limitless ocean. His body shone upon the waters with a radiance that illumined the sea. Around His head, which could distinctly be seen above the waters, there radiated, in all directions, His long, jet-black locks, floating in great profusion above the waves. As he dreamed, a multitude of fishes gathered round Him, each holding fast to the extremity of one hair. Fascinated by the effulgence of His face, they followed Him in whatever direction He swam. Great as was their number, and however firmly they clung to His locks, not one single hair seemed to have been detached from His head, nor did the least injury affect His person. Free and unrestrained, He moved above the waters and they all followed Him.
The Vazír, greatly impressed by this dream, summoned a soothsayer, who had achieved fame in that region, and asked him to interpret it for him. This man, as if inspired by a premonition of the future glory of Bahá’u’lláh, declared: “The limitless ocean that you have seen in your dream, O Vazír, is none other than the world of being. Single-handed and alone, your son will achieve supreme ascendancy over it. Wherever He may please, He will proceed unhindered. No one will resist His march, no one will hinder His progress. The multitude of fishes signifies the turmoil which He will arouse amidst the peoples and kindreds of the earth. Around Him will they gather, and to Him will they cling. Assured of the unfailing protection of the Almighty, this tumult will never harm His person, nor will His loneliness upon the sea of life endanger His safety.”
That soothsayer was subsequently taken to see Bahá’u’lláh. He looked intently upon His face, and examined carefully His features. He was charmed by His appearance, and extolled every trait of His countenance. Every expression in that face revealed to his eyes a sign of His concealed glory. So great was his admiration, and so profuse his praise of Bahá’u’lláh, that the Vazír, from that day, became even more passionately devoted to his son. The words spoken by that soothsayer served to fortify his hopes and confidence in Him. Like Jacob, he desired only to ensure the welfare of his beloved Joseph, and to surround Him with his loving protection.
The following is an account of the Báb’s childhood, as recorded in Nabil’s Narrative/The Dawn Breakers, translated by the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi.
The Báb, whose name was Siyyid ‘Alí-Mu?ammad, was born in the city of Shíráz, on the first day of Muharram, in the year 1235 A.H. He belonged to a house which was renowned for its nobility and which traced its origin to Mu?ammad Himself. The date of His birth confirmed the truth of the prophecy traditionally attributed to the Imám ‘Alí: “I am two years younger than my Lord.” Twenty-five years, four months, and four days had elapsed since the day of His birth, when he declared His Mission. In His early childhood He lost His father, Siyyid Mu?ammad-Ri?á, a man who was known throughout the province of Fárs for his piety and virtue, and was held in high esteem and honour. Both His father and His mother were descendants of the Prophet, both were loved and respected by the people. He was reared by His maternal uncle, ?ájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí, a martyr to the Faith, who placed Him, while still a child, under the care of a tutor named Shaykh Abid. The Báb, though not inclined to study, submitted to His uncle’s will and directions.
Shaykh Abid, known by his pupils as Shaykhuna, was a man of piety and learning. He had been a disciple of both Shaykh A?mad and Siyyid Kázim. “One day,” he related, “I asked the Báb to recite the opening words of the Qur’án: ‘Bismi’lláhi’r-Rahmáni’r-Ra?ím.’ He hesitated, pleading that unless He were told what these words signified, He would in no wise attempt to pronounce them. I pretended not to know their meaning. ‘I know what these words signify,’ observed my pupil; ‘by your leave, I will explain them.’ He spoke with such knowledge and fluency that I was struck with amazement. He expounded the meaning of ‘Alláh,’ of ‘Rahmán,’ and ‘Ra?ím,’ in terms such as I had neither read nor heard. The sweetness of His utterance still lingers in my memory. I felt impelled to take Him back to His uncle and to deliver into his hands the Trust he had committed to my care. I determined to tell him how unworthy I felt to teach so remarkable a child. I found His uncle alone in his office. ‘I have brought Him back to you,’ I said, ‘and commit Him to your vigilant protection. He is not to be treated as a mere child, for in Him I can already discern evidences of that mysterious power which the Revelation of the ?á?ibu’z-Zamán alone can reveal. It is incumbent upon you to surround Him with your most loving care. Keep Him in your house, for He, verily, stands in no need of teachers such as I.’ ?ájí Mírzá Siyyid ‘Alí sternly rebuked the Báb. ‘Have You forgotten my instructions?’ he said. ‘Have I not already admonished You to follow the example of Your 76 fellow-pupils, to observe silence, and to listen attentively to every word spoken by Your teacher?’ Having obtained His promise to abide faithfully by his instructions, he bade the Báb return to His school. The soul of that child could not, however, be restrained by the stern admonitions of His uncle. No discipline could repress the flow of His intuitive knowledge. Day after day He continued to manifest such remarkable evidences of superhuman wisdom as I am powerless to recount.” At last His uncle was induced to take Him away from the school of Shaykh Abid, and to associate Him with himself in his own profession. There, too, He revealed signs of a power and greatness that few could approach and none could rival.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s generosity was natural to Him already in childhood. A story is recorded of the time when young ‘Abbas Effendi went to the mountains to see the thousands of sheep which His Father then owned. The shepherds, wishing to honour their young Guest, gave Him a feast. Before ‘Abbas was taken home at the close of the day, the head shepherd advised Him that it was customary under the circumstances to leave a present for the shepherds. ‘Abbas told the man that He had nothing to give. Yet the shepherd persisted that He must give something. Whereupon the Master gave them all the sheep.
We are told that when Bahá’u’lláh heard about this incident, He laughted and commented, ‘We will have to protect ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from Himself—some day he will give himself away.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 69)
Today’s story was about three little fish who were curious about the wall at the end of their lake. They had asked their grandfather about it and he explained “It is a dam! It keeps us safe. It keeps out the crocodiles, the big hungry fish and the other animals that would eat us. The dam makes the water stay in the lake. It is because of the dam that we do not have to worry about anything. The dam protects us. It is our stronghold.”
One day the three little fish decided to jump over the dam to see what was on the other side. They had to jump very hard and it took them several tries to reach the river on the other side. They were almost swept away by the strong current. They saw a crocodile eat a fish and it almost ate them. A big hungry fish came very close and the three little fish were very scared. The fright gave them so much strength that they jumped high enough to make it up and over the dam, falling once again into their lake on the other side.
“We will never again leave our stronghold!” they cried, and swam towards their mother.