October 9, 2022

Letter from May Maxwell to Mason Remey – describing how Thomas Breakwell became a Baha’i

Montreal, Canada, Dec. 3, 1913

Dear Bahai brother:

. . . Regarding Thomas Breakwell, you will remember the year and the month that he came to me in Paris. when I was staying with Mrs. Jackson. I do not remember the date but I remember all the facts. Early in the spring my mother had written to ‘Abdu’l-Baha asking permission for me to leave when she and my brother would be leaving to spend the summer in Brittany. A Tablet had come in reply in which this permission was refused and ‘Abdu’l-Baha said as far as it was possible, not to absent myself from Paris at all. Then Mirza-Abul-Fazl wrote explaining the circumstances to him and asking for permission for me to leave. But the time came for my mother and brother to leave the city and the permission had not yet come. They closed the apartment and I went to stay with Mrs. Jackson.

During that month I spent in Paris we had wonderful meetings, Mons. Dreyfus and others received the teachings at that time. I had known, the previous winter, a Mrs. Milner who was a friend of Lillian James. She had gone to America and returned and on the steamer coming back she had met Thomas Breakwell. She had told him nothing of the teachings, but had spoken of me as a special friend in Paris, whom she wished to have him meet, and the day after they arrived in Paris, she brought him to my little apartment at Mrs. Jackson's.

I shall never forget opening the door and seeing him standing there. It was like looking at a veiled light. I saw at once his pure heart, his burning spirit, his thirsty soul, and over all was cast the veil which is over every soul until it is rent asunder by the power of God in this day. As I opened the door, Mrs. Milner said "he was a stranger and she took him in," then when we were seated she told me that he was a young Englishman who had been living in the southern states of America and that he was a Theosophist.

He stayed a short time. As he was leaving, he said that Mrs. Milner had told him that I had received some teachings which had had a great effect on my life and although he was only going to be in Paris a few days, he would like to call to see me and hear what I could tell him. We made an appointment for the following morning and then he left.

July 20, 2022

Táhirih's Message to the Modern World - by Martha Root

[Transcript of a radio address, Sunday April 21, 1940]

I am happy to speak to you this evening about one of the greatest young women in the world, one of the most spiritual, one of the greatest poets of Iran, and the first woman of her time in Central Asia to lay aside the veil and work for the equal education of the girl and the boy. She was the first suffrage martyr in Central Asia. The woman suffrage movement did not begin with Mrs. Pankhurst in the West, but with Táhirih, also often called Qurratu’l-‘Ayn of Iran. She was born in Qazvín, Persia, in 1817.

Picture to your mind one of the most beautiful young women of Iran, a genius, a poet, the most learned scholar of the Qur’an and the traditions, for she was born in a Muhammadan country; think of her as the daughter of a jurist family of letters, daughter of the greatest high priest of her province and very rich, enjoying high rank, living in an artistic palace, and distinguished among her young friends for her boundless, immeasurable courage. Picture what it must mean for a young woman like this, still in her twenties, to arise for the equality of men and women, in a country where, at that time, the girl was not allowed to learn to read and write!

The Journal Asiatic of 1866 presents a most graphic view of Táhirih, the English translation of which is this: “How a woman, a creature so weak in Iran, and above all in a city like Qazvín where the clergy possess such a powerful influence, where the ‘Ulamás, the priests, because of their number and importance and power hold the attention of the government officials and of the people, how can it be that in such a country and district and under such unfavourable conditions a woman could have organized such a powerful party of heretics? It is unparalleled in past history.”

As I said, in her day girls were not permitted to learn to read and write, but Táhirih had such a brilliant mind, and as a child was so eager for knowledge that her father, one of the most learned mullás of Irán, taught her himself and later had a teacher for her. This was most unusual, for in her day girls had no educational opportunities. She outdistanced her brothers in her progress and passed high in all examinations. Because she was a woman they would not give her a degree. Her father often said what a pity she had not been born a son, for then she could have followed in his career as a great mullá of the Empire.

April 20, 2022

The Guardian and the East – by Hand of the Cause Ali-Akbar Furutan

This servant twice had the bounty of going to the Holy Land, achieving his heart's desire by attaining the presence of the beloved Guardian of the Cause of God. This privilege has been and will ever be a source of great pride and joy for me in both this world and in the world to come.

After the passing of the beloved Master, the Mystery of God, the mantle of authority fell on Shoghi Effendi, who was the "most distinguished branch," "the Priceless Pearl," "the interpreter of the Word of God" and His "Sign on earth." It was he who was charged, through the provision of the Will and Testament of the Center of the Covenant of the Ancient Beauty with the leadership of the people of Baha in both the East and the West. It was he who, during thirty-six years of Guardianship took the Cause of God to such heights of ascendancy as to astonish all people.

In this essay, this servant wishes to describe briefly the conditions of the beloved friends in Iran and its neighboring countries, and to review the achievements of the Cause after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha, during the Guardianship of Shoghi Effendi. Thus, it will become clearer to the reader what bounty, what felicity and honor there is in being under the protecting shade of the Center of the Covenant of the Almighty.

When Shoghi Effendi assumed the office of Guardianship in 1922, only one spiritual assembly, known as the "Spiritual Assembly of Tehran," existed in Iran, the cradle of the Cause of God, and that assembly had been founded at the instruction of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Fifteen notable believers of the capital and four Hands of the Cause God comprised its membership. In Russian Turkistan, in the cities of Ishqabad and Marv, and in the Caucasia in Badklibih there also existed a spiritual assembly that attended to the affairs of the friends there.

February 14, 2022

The Challenge and Promise of Bahá'í Scholarship - by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1981

[This memorandum was referenced in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice dated 3 January 1979 to the Participants in the Baha'i Studies Seminar held in Cambridge on 30 September and 1 October 1978; 'Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986'. It was published in the Bahá'í World, vol. 17, pages 195-196.]

Bahá'í scholarship is of great importance in the development and consolidation of the Bahá’í community. Historical research, orientalism and Islamic studies are obvious fields in which Bahá’ís can render great service to the Faith; there are many others. Indeed, it is not difficult to visualize the House of Justice, as Baha’u’llah's World Order unfolds, requiring the services of distinguished Bahá’í scientists in all fields.

Inevitably a number of problems will confront Bahá’í scholars, who will themselves have to discover the solutions, both empirically and otherwise. Nonetheless it may be useful to offer at this early stage of the development of Bahá’í scholarship a few thoughts on these matters.

It has become customary in the West to think of science and religion as occupying two distinct — and even opposed — areas of human thought and activity. This dichotomy can be characterized in the pairs of antitheses: faith and reason; value and fact. It is a dichotomy which is foreign to Bahá’í thought and should be regarded with suspicion by Bahá’í’ scholars in every field. The principle of the harmony of science and religion means not only that religious teachings should be studied in the light of reason and evidence as well as of faith and inspiration, but also that everything in creation, all aspects of human life and knowledge, should be studied in the light of revelation as well as in that of purely rational investigation. In other words, a Bahá’í scholar, when studying a subject, should not lock out of his mind any aspect of truth that is known to him.

January 10, 2022

The Greatest Name – by Thornton Chase

"Abha” is the Greatest Name of God revealed to us in this age. God, the Infinite, who is above ascent or descent, beyond perception, knowledge or comprehension, is nameless as far as man is concerned. A name of anything expresses the qualities or manifestations of that thing. The essence of nothing whatever is known. The essence of everything is nameless. Therefore, the Greatest Name of God is the Name of His highest manifested attributes. The highest appearance of Himself which can be perceived by any creature anywhere in existence—that Name is "Abha." Its meaning is Splendor or The Most Shining Glory. It is The Most Holy Outpouring, The Radiant Energy from the Unseen, Unknown Infinite Entity.

Anything to appear must have some one to see it. No creature of existence can ever see the Infinite and, therefore, it is impossible for the Infinite to have a name; but the Highest Quality or Manifestation of that Infinite, which can be perceived by any creature in existence, can have a name and that name is "Abha." It is Light.

"Baha" is the same name on a different plane. "Baha" is the name of the Manifestation in humanity to human kind. "Abha" is the name of that Manifestation in His Heavens or Spiritual Spheres.

"Abha" is the highest, superlative Manifestation that can be perceived only by the highest possible existences.

God, the Infinite, is the Pre-Existent, which does not mean as to time, but as the Cause of causes. He is not a part of existence. He, Himself, is outside of all existences, but manifests Himself through all existence as the light from a flame manifests itself throughout a crystalline room. He, unknown in Himself, manifests His Glory through His chosen and prepared Representative in existence. That Representative among mankind is Baha’u’llah, the Glory of God, the Word Incarnate, the visible humanized Word. Above it is the Glory of God, the Word Invisible. Light Itself.

"Allah-u-Abha” is the Greeting of the Greatest Name. It is the Greeting of the Supreme Kingdom. "Ya Baha’u’l-Abha" is an exclamation. It means: O Thou, the Glory of the Most Glorious!

(Star of the West, vol. 4, no. 11, September 27, 1913)