December 10, 2020

A Sampler from Mahmud’s Diary – by Marzieh Gail

We tend to forget what a star 'Abdu'l-Baha was in the worldly sense, what a dazzling personality. We would be much mistaken if we thought of Him as an ivory-tower philosopher, a desert saint or One who spent His days only among the poor-although He loved them so much. The truth is that He Who was the perfect model for all Baha'is was splendid, sophisticated, in the good sense a man of the world; that He was equally at home in a palace or a hovel, with a beggar, scholar, or prince. He excluded no class from what Queen Marie of Rumania has referred to as the "wide embrace" - the Baha'i Faith - and none excluded Him. He would enter a city unknown, and His reception room would soon be overflowing. Weak and strong, known and unknown, they sought Him out, even Persian grandees who had persecuted His followers at home. Poets addressed odes to Him, artists painted Him, photographers took His picture. A number of word pictures exist, Browne's for example of 1890:

"Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more. A tall, strongly-built man holding himself straight as an arrow, with white turban and raiment, long black locks reaching almost to the shoulder, broad powerful forehead, indicating a strong intellect combined with an unswerving will, eyes keen as a hawk's, and strongly marked but pleasing features - such was my first impression of 'Abbas Effendi... Subsequent conversation with him served only to heighten the respect with which his appearance had from the first inspired me. One more eloquent of speech, more ready of argument, more apt of illustration, more intimately acquainted with the sacred books of the Jews, the Christians, and the Muhammadans, could, I should think, scarcely be found even amongst the eloquent, ready, and subtle race to which he belongs. These qualities, combined with a bearing at once majestic and genial, made me cease to wonder at the influence and esteem which he enjoyed even beyond the circle of his father's followers. About the greatness of this man and his power no one who had seen him could entertain a doubt."

And Lady Blomfield says of Him as He was in 1912: "He wore a low-crowned taj, round which was folded a small, fine-linen turban of purest white; His hair and short beard were of that snowy whiteness which had once been black; His eyes were large, blue-gray with long, black lashes and well-marked eyebrows; His face was a beautiful oval with warm, ivory-coloured skin, a straight, finely-modelled nose, and firm, kind mouth ... His figure was of such perfect symmetry, and so full of dignity and grace, that the first impression was that of considerable height... inner glory shone in every glance, and word, and movement as He came with hands outstretched."