the unkind man

When `Abdu’l-Bahá was a prisoner in `Akká, there was a man in that city who behaved very badly towards the Bahá’ís. He thought that `Abdu’l-Bahá was not a good man and that God did not care how badly the Bahá’ís were treated. In fact, he believed that he was showing love for God by showing hatred to the Bahá’ís. He hated `Abdu’l-Bahá with all his heart. That hate grew and festered inside him, sometimes spilling out of him the way water spills out of a broken pot.

In the mosque, when people came to pray, this man would cry out against `Abdu’l-Bahá and say terrible things about Him. When he passed `Abdu’l-Bahá on the street, he would cover his face with his robe so that he would not see Him. Now, this man was very poor and had neither enough to eat nor warm clothes to wear. What do you think `Abdu’l-Bahá did about him? He showed him kindness, sent him food and clothes, and made sure he was being taken care of. For example, once when this man became very ill, `Abdu’l-Bahá sent him a doctor, paid for his medicine and food, and also gave him some money. He accepted the gifts from `Abdu’l-Bahá, but did not thank Him. In fact, this ignorant man held out one hand to the doctor to take his pulse, and with the other hand, covered his face so that he would not have to look upon the countenance of `Abdu’l-Bahá. And so it went for many long years. And then, one day, the man’s heart finally changed. He came to `Abdu’l- Bahá’s house, fell at His feet and with a very heavy heart and tears flowing down his face like twin rivers, cried, “Forgive me, Sir! For twenty-four years I have done evil to You. For twenty-four years You have shown only goodness to me. Now I know that I have been wrong. Please forgive me!” Thus, the great love of `Abdu’l-Bahá triumphed over hatred.

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.

the lion and the mouse

Once, as a lion lay sleeping in his den, a naughty little mouse ran up his tail, and onto his back and up his mane and danced and jumped on his head so that the lion woke up.

The lion grabbed the mouse and, holding him in his large claws, roared in anger. ‘How dare you wake me up! Don’t you know that I am King of the Beasts? Anyone who disturbs my rest deserves to die! I shall kill you and eat you!’

The terrified mouse, shaking and trembling, begged the lion to let him go. ‘Please don’t eat me Your Majesty! I did not mean to wake you, it was a mistake. I was only playing. Please let me go – and I promise I will be your friend forever. Who knows but one day I could save your life?’

The lion looked at the tiny mouse and laughed. ‘You save my life? What an absurd idea!’ he said scornfully. ‘But you have made me laugh, and put me into a good mood again, so I shall let you go.’ And the lion opened his claws and let the mouse go free.

‘Oh thank you, your majesty,’ squeaked the mouse, and scurried away as fast as he could.

A few days later the lion was caught in a hunter’s snare. Struggle as he might, he couldn’t break free and became even more entangled in the net of ropes. He let out a roar of anger that shook the forest. Every animal heard it, including the tiny mouse.

‘My friend the lion is in trouble,’ cried the mouse. He ran as fast as he could in the direction of the lion’s roar, and soon found the lion trapped in the hunter’s snare. ‘Hold still, Your Majesty,’ squeaked the mouse. ‘I’ll have you out of there in a jiffy!’ And without further delay, the mouse began nibbling through the ropes with his sharp little teeth. Very soon the lion was free.

‘I did not believe that you could be of use to me, little mouse, but today you saved my life,’ said the lion humbly.

‘It was my turn to help you, Sire,’ answered the mouse.

Even the weak and small may be of help to those much mightier than themselves.

the private carriage

One day `Abdu’l-Bahá was going from `Akká to Haifa and asked for a seat in the stage coach. The driver, surprised, said `Your Excellency surely wishes a private carriage.’ `No,’ replied the Master. While He was still in the coach in Haifa, a distressed fisherwoman came to Him; all day she had caught nothing and now must return to her hungry family. The Master gave her five francs, then turned to the driver and said: `You now see the reason why I would not take a private carriage. Why should I ride in luxury when so many are starving?’

the expensive coat

`Abdu’l-Bahá preferred inexpensive clothes for Himself. When He had extra clothes He always gave them away to others. One day He was going to entertain the Governor of `Akká. His wife felt that His coat was not good enough for the occasion. Well ahead of time she went to the tailor and ordered a fine coat for `Abdu’l-Bahá. She thought He surely would not notice that His old coat had been replaced; He desired, after all, only to be scrupulously clean. When the day of the Governor’s visit arrived, the new coat was laid out for `Abdu’l-Bahá, but He went searching for His old one. He asked for His old coat, saying that the one laid out could not be His. His wife attempted to explain that because of the occasion she had bought him a new coat, but He would not accept it. He told her that for the price of this one coat they could buy five simple ones like He normally wore. He told her that there was no reason to spend so much money on a coat just for Him. If He needed a new one, they could send the expensive coat back to the tailor and order five ordinary coats for the same amount of money. “Then, you see, I shall not only have a new one, but I shall also have four to give to others!”

the crystal water

Whenever possible `Abdu’l-Bahá attempted to avoid unnecessary fanfare. Once, wealthy visitors from the West planned an elaborate pre-meal, hand-washing scene for Him – it included a page boy, a clean bowl with `crystal water’ and even a scented towel! When the Master saw the group walking across the lawn, He knew their purpose. He hurried to a small water-trough, washed as usual and then wiped His hands on the cloth of the gardener. Radiantly, He then turned to meet His guests. The preparations meant for Him He used for them.