Next Stop … the Windy City 1

The clock at Grand Central Station reaches the noon hour. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was expected at a quarter to ten this morning, still hasn’t arrived. The watchers remain on the platform, easing forward in anticipation each time a train thunders in, only to step back and resume their peering right and left along the endless lines of tracks that crisscross Chicago.

Like clockwork, their routine goes on all day.

Then evening creeps in. The sun has set and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is nowhere to be found. A few remain on the platform, but the reporters have all gone home, or perhaps back to the office to face their editors without having gotten the story. One of them would find a clever solution to the conundrum by filing an article under the simple headline: “BAHAIST CHIEF MISSING!”

Chicago 2

“BAHAIST CHIEF MISSING,” proclaimed the Monday, April 29, Chicago Daily News:

Where is Abdul-Baha, son of Baha’o’llah, … who was coming to Chicago today to preach the universal brotherhood of man?

Chicago Bahaists—there are said to be some 40,000,000 followers in the world—asked each other this question and failed to find an answer. In the Corinthian hall in the Masonic Temple building 170 delegates attending the Bahai convention waited for the leader of the movement.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived on Monday evening, April 29, His nineteenth day in America, and drove to the Plaza Hotel next to Lincoln Park. The phone was already ringing with calls from reporter requesting interview time. “‘Tomorrow morning,’” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told them.

 April 29, 1912 Feast of Lights 3

The train reached Chicago at night. The city was so bright with lights it was as if it were the Feast of Lights. When the friends saw the Master at the train station, they were filled with excitement, crying out Alláh-u-Abhá’ and Yá Abdu’l-Bahá’, their voices resounding throughout the station.

The Master went to the Plaza Hotel. After a brief rest, He was visited by some of the Bahá’ís, to whom He said:

You have a good city. The call of God was first raised in this city. I hope that in Chicago the Cause of God will progress greatly and that it may be illumined by the light of the Kingdom just as it is brightened by electricity.

In Washington we always had audiences of one to two thousand in large meetings. Day and night I had no rest. A close friendship was created between the black and white people. Many came to the Faith. Even those who are not believers drew much closer. Notwithstanding all this, I like Chicago more because the call of Bahá’u’lláh was first raised in this city. I hope you will be assisted to do great service and to live together in the utmost love and harmony.

When the believers begged for protection from tests and trials, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said to them:

The severest tests were in Persia where properties were pillaged and the friends were martyred. They had not a moment’s security. In short, I had a great desire to see you. If I hadn’t this desire, the assistance of Bahá’u’lláh would not have encompassed me. It is His assistance that has brought me here, for, at the time of leaving Alexandria, when I boarded the ship, I was not well at all.

Some newspaper reporters telephoned, asking permission to interview the Master. He agreed that they could interview Him the following morning. After dinner, He looked out at the park and, gazing at the scenery before Him, said, ‘This building commands a good view; most of the parks, streets and the city’s lights can be seen.’ 4

  1. Sockett, Robert. “Next Stop … the Windy City.” 239 Days in America, April 29, 2012. [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 47-48. [return]
  3. Perry, Anne. “’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in the West …: April 29, 1912 Feast of Lights.” ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in the West … (blog), April 29, 2012. [return]
  4. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. [return]