‘Abdu’l-Bahá Bids Farewell to Montreal 1
SEPTEMBER 8, 1912, WAS a wet Sunday and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spent his last day in Montreal at his hotel, saying farewell to the Maxwells and other Montreal friends and well-wishers. After a similar period of time, I, too am bidding farewell to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Montreal. If there was one overarching message I got from covering the week, it was his emphasis on the need for humanity to undergo a wholesale transformation.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá saw with clarity that Europe was headed towards an “appalling war,” and that economic injustice would lead to labor unrest on an unimagined scale. He defined the underlying spiritual principles of economic ills, international conflict, gender inequality and domestic poverty. His novel concepts defied conventional categories, yet were taken seriously by the mainstream media that could have all too easily represented him as a foreigner with exotic ideas.
During his time in Montreal, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met with the leading members of society, including the Archbishop of Montreal and the principal of McGill University, as well as ministers, rabbis, labor leaders and wealthy merchants. But he was not on what one might today call a profile-raising public relations tour. He was in Montreal to enunciate his father’s teachings, and to boldly invite social leaders to help actualize them. “Would you not like to serve such an ideal?” he said to a group of McGill professors.
Abdu’l-Bahá had taught and exhorted and given of Himself during ten days of ceaseless activity in Montreal. On September 8, His last full day with the friends, He said, “‘I have sown the seed. Now water it. You must educate the souls in divine morals, make them spiritual, and lead them to the oneness of humanity and to universal peace.’”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá consoled them with the glad tidings of certitude, spiritual nearness, assistance and heavenly grace 3
In the afternoon He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] gave an account of His imprisonment in the Most Great Prison and of His return to the Holy Land. Someone suggested that His return to ‘Akká might bring trouble to Him and again cause His imprisonment. ‘Oh no,’ He replied,
that organization has been rolled up; that system has been rendered null. Those days were so hard that all had believed that when the Commission of Investigation returned to Constantinople ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life and name would be effaced. But God did not will it. As we were imprisoned for the Cause of God and not for political reasons, while in prison we were not perturbed and had no worries. However, the others thought that after I was set free I would raise the banner of independence among the Arabs and unite them with me! See, how ill-informed was such a judgment!
As this was the last day of His stay in Montreal, all the friends, both old and new, expressed their sorrow. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá consoled them with the glad tidings of certitude, spiritual nearness, assistance and heavenly grace.
5 September 1912, Talk at St. James Methodist Church, Montreal, Canada 4
… In order that human souls, minds and spirits may attain advancement, tranquillity and vision in broader horizons of unity and knowledge, Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed certain principles or teachings, some of which I will mention.
First, man must independently investigate reality …
Second, the oneness of the world of humanity shall be realized, accepted and established. …
Third, religion must be the mainspring and source of love in the world, for religion is the revelation of the will of God, the divine fundamental of which is love. Therefore, if religion should prove to be the cause of enmity and hatred instead of love, its absence is preferable to its existence.
Fourth, religion must reconcile and be in harmony with science and reason. If the religious beliefs of mankind are contrary to science and opposed to reason, they are none other than superstitions and without divine authority, for the Lord God has endowed man with the faculty of reason in order that through its exercise he may arrive at the verities of existence. Reason is the discoverer of the realities of things, and that which conflicts with its conclusions is the product of human fancy and imagination.
- Michel, Tony. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Bids Farewell to Montreal.” 239 Days in America, 8 Sept. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/09/08/abdul-baha-bids-farewell-to-montreal/. [return]
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 137. [return]
- ’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. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=7#section168 [return]
- 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, 315-316. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/22#356279711 [return]