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Abdu’l Baha: A messenger of equality

🔴 Zia Mody writes: He spoke of the futility of war, taught us how religion should engender love, not malice, spite or hate

Written by Zia Mody |
Updated: December 8, 2021 10:22:20 am
Lotus Temple in Delhi is a Baháʼí House of Worship (Express Archive)

“When thou traversest the regions of the world, thou shalt conclude that all progress is the result of association and cooperation, while ruin is the outcome of animosity and hatred.” — Abdu’l Baha

Today, on November 27, the Baha’is — followers of Baha’u’llah, the founder-prophet of the Baha’i Faith — in over 180 countries are observing the 100th anniversary of the passing of Abdu’l Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah.

Abdu’l Baha lived most of his life as a prisoner, accompanying his father in his exiles to Baghdad, Constantinople, Adrianople and finally to Akka. He was freed in 1908 after the Young Turk Revolution at the age of 64. He was knighted by the British for the charitable works he carried out and helped in averting the famine in Palestine following World War I. He was the perfect example of the teachings of Baha’u’llah and many stories of his life are a testament to those teachings.

Later in his life, in 1910, he traveled to Egypt and the West where he was welcomed by the people, eager to hear his talks on the future of humanity and unity of religions. During his meetings, he spoke about the oneness of God, the unity and harmony of religions, universal peace, equality between men and women, economic justice and spiritual values that seek to create cooperation and harmony and cultivate love and affection amongst people. He wished for his meetings to be open to all races, classes and ethnicities.

He talked of the futility of war and the destruction it caused. He said “flourishing countries have been reduced to rubble, cities have been leveled… Loud are the piercing cries of fatherless children; loud the mother’s anguished voices… And the breeding ground of all these tragedies is prejudice: Prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion; and the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past — imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics. So long as this aping of the past persisteth, just so long will the foundations of the social order be blown to the four winds, just so long will humanity be continually exposed to direst peril.” Independent investigation of truth is what he advocated.

He continued to speak about Baha’u’llah’s teachings for this age “religion is a mighty stronghold but that it must engender love, not malevolence and hate. Should it lead to malice, spite, and hate, it is of no value at all. For religion is a remedy, and if the remedy bring on disease, then put it aside.”

Abdu’l Baha said: “O God! We are weak; give us strength. We are poor; bestow upon us Thine illimitable treasures. We are sick; grant us Thy divine healing. We are powerless; give us of Thy heavenly power. O Lord! Make us useful in this world; free us from the condition of self and desire.”

During his meetings, he laid great emphasis on universal education, which is one of the cardinal principles of the Baha’i Faith quoting Baha’u’llah: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education alone can cause it to reveal its treasures and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”

He spoke about the equality of women and men and said “the world of humanity has two wings — one women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be.”

On November 27, 1921, Abdu’l Baha drew his last breath at his home in Haifa, which was then Palestine, but today is Israel. Thousands of mourners came to the funeral, people from all walks of life, all religious denominations, weeping at the loss of one they considered their father. Abdu’l Baha is no longer in our midst, but his lessons and his life serve as a guide.

This column first appeared in the print edition on November 27, 2021 under the title ‘Prophet against prejudice’. The writer, a lawyer, is co-founder, AZB & Partners

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