Pilgrimage with ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Dr Youness Afroukhteh describes the experience of visiting the shrine of Baha’u’llah in the presence of Abdu’l Bahá. Taken from  “Memories of Nine Years in Akka” (page 25-26).

 Abdu'l-Baha-portrait

 Sometimes ‘Abdu’l-Baha travelled by carriage, but most of often on foot. Arriving in Bahji, He would rest briefly in the room adjoining the Shrine and then summon the friends inside, where in complete silence He would disperse rosewater on each and every visitor. After kneeling to kiss the threshold, He would rise to chant the Tablet of Visitation. As I write these words I can see with the eye of the spirit ‘Abdu’l-Baha standing before the threshold in supplication and I can hear His sublime powerful voice chanting the beautiful verses. Here memory plays no part, for it is the heart and the soul that in a state of utter attraction commit to the treasury of the spirit every word that leaves the blessed lips of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. My feeble heart trembles at the vibrations of His blessed voice as if there were a direct connection between that celestial chant and the nerve centre of my heart.

As He chants the verses in utmost humility, repeating the passage twice: “Waft, then, unto me, O my God and my Beloved, from the right hand of Thy mercy and Thy loving-kindness, the holy breaths of Thy favours, that they may draw me away from myself and from the world unto the courts of nearness and Thy presence” – the holy breaths of favours are indeed wafted and the divine fragrance is in truth inhaled by the spirit, cleansing the heart from attachment to the world and summoning the spirit to the divine rosegarden. The physical body is released from all that is earthly and the spirit is transported to the courts of nearness. O God, what world is this? How I long never to return to the world of darkness or hear the satanic whisperings of the evil ones. Ah, how I wish that I could live in a world where none but ‘Abdu’l-Baha would have claim on my heart. O God keep our hearts faithful in the love of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, for He is the light that will guide us to the Abha Paradise.

As the chanting of the Tablet of Visitation ends, we step back slowly out of the Shrine once more put on our shoes. ‘Abdu’l-Baha is nowhere to be seen. The friends stand around, waiting. Suddenly that celestial Being appears and silently walks out of the Shrine. Their hearts filled with the love of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the believers follow Him like a company of angels. There is absolute silence. Ah, what an atmosphere. Now ‘Abdu’l-Baha begins to chant some verses from Baha’u’llah. Surely, ears were given to us to hear such melodies. O, God, please, deprive not these servants of such bounty. O, behold the distinguished figure of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

Soon we arrive at the town gate and enter the Most Great Prison. It is dusk. People watch us with curious eyes. We enjoy the experience all the more. Now we are at the door of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s residence. The Beloved of the hearts climbs the stairs. We enter the reception room downstairs and take our seats. The chanter of the Quran arrives and begins to chant the verses: “I take refuge in Allah from Satan the accursed. In the name of Allah, the most benevolent, ever merciful. Verily I saw eleven stars…”! Now we come to our senses again.

O my dear readers, if perusing these lines thrills and inspires you and makes you thirst for a similar pilgrimage, do not despair; do not lose hope. In the presence of the Guardian of the Cause of God, as he chants the Tablet of Visitation at the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, you will experience the same emotions. So hasten, hasten; attain, attain.

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