The Handsomest Young Man in Baghdad 1

“IF ANYONE HAS NOT yet met me,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “or if anyone has some urgent business, call them. All others I will meet in the public gatherings because I have no time and it is impossible to see everyone individually.” It was the morning of June 12, 1912, at 309 West 78th Street in Manhattan, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was staying. And he was exhausted.

He was talking with one of his secretaries, Mahmúd. Perhaps polite New York society would have been piqued to encounter such forthrightness from ‘Abdu’l Bahá, but those friends who knew his life story would have understood completely.

When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was twelve years old — he was known as Abbás then — he began managing the crowds who came to see his father. Bahá’u’lláh had returned to Baghdad from the mountains of Kurdistan in 1856. The family was in exile; as prisoners of the Ottoman Empire they weren’t allowed to leave the city.

On his own door Abbás hung a placard: “Those who come for information may apply within,” it read, but, “those who come only because of curiosity had better stay away.” On his father’s door he hung another. “Those who are searching for God,” it said, “come and come and come.”

Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York 2

He has supplied all the necessities of life although we did not ask for any of these great gifts. With pure mercy and bounty He has prepared this great table. It is a mercy which precedes asking. There is another kind of mercy, which is realized after questioning and supplication. He has bestowed both upon us—without asking and with supplication. He has created us in this radiant century, a century longed for and expected by all the sanctified souls in past periods. It is a blessed century; it is a blessed day. The philosophers of history have agreed that this century is equal to one hundred past centuries. This is true from every standpoint. This is the century of science, inventions, discoveries and universal laws. This is the century of the revelation of the mysteries of God. This is the century of the effulgence of the rays of the Sun of Truth. Therefore, you must render thanks and glorification to God that you were born in this age. Furthermore, you have listened to the call of Bahá’u’lláh. Your nostrils are perfumed with the breezes of the paradise of Abhá. You have caught glimpses of the light from the horizon of the Orient. You were asleep; you are awakened. Your ears are attentive; your hearts are informed. You have acquired the love of God. You have attained to the knowledge of God. This is the most great bestowal of God. This is the breath of the Holy Spirit, and this consists of faith and assurance. This eternal life is the second birth; this is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God has destined this station for you all. He has prepared this for you. You must appreciate the value of this bounty and engage your time in mentioning and thanking the True One. You must live in the utmost happiness. If any trouble or vicissitude comes into your lives, if your heart is depressed on account of health, livelihood or vocation, let not these things affect you. They should not cause unhappiness, for Bahá’u’lláh has brought you divine happiness. He has prepared heavenly food for you; He has destined eternal bounty for you; He has bestowed everlasting glory upon you. Therefore, these glad tidings should cause you to soar in the atmosphere of joy forever and ever. Render continual thanks unto God so that the confirmations of God may encircle you all.

New York, Philadelphia, New York 3

About that hectic Tuesday, Juliet Thompson wrote on June 12:

… Yesterday morning I went up early to the mater’s house—that house whose door is open at seven-thirty and kept wide open till midnight …

… He talked for a long while to the people. But this I could see was pure sacrifice. His vitality seemed gone. At times He could scarcely bring forth the words, yet He gave and gave. When He had finished He hurriedly left the house and went again to “His Garden.” On the way to the bus I met Him returning alone.

He stopped me, put out His hand and took mine, with indescribable tenderness smiling at me.

Knowledge is composed of twenty-seven letters 4

He also spoke of the greatness of this dispensation:

In the Shí’í tradition concerning this dispensation it is recorded that knowledge is composed of twenty-seven letters and that the divine messengers of the past from first to last have revealed but two letters; however, when the promised Qá’im comes, He will appear with all twenty-seven.

Aside from the true meaning of this passage which pertains to the power and might of the Cause of God, to the revelation of verses and signs, to the solution of divine problems, to the disclosure of the mysteries of the Holy Book and to the spread of knowledge — each of which is a hundred times greater in this mighty revelation than in any previous one — materially, too, all the learned men of this age agree that the advancements in knowledge, the arts, industries and inventions of this century are equal to those of the last fifty centuries, indeed, even greater than that.

  1. Knight, Annabel. “The Handsomest Young Man in Baghdad.” 239 Days in America, 12 June 2012, [return]
  2. ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 188-189. [return]
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 89. [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]