Quality of Service
Impressions on ‘Abdu’l-Baha
Quality of Service
Source: Chicago, 30 April 1919 from Star of the West, XI:3, 28 April 1920,pp 45-57.
Albert Vail wrote:
Baha’u’llah brought this great revelation to the world, but it came in Him with such sublime light that people were almost dazzled by its splendour. His splendour is so bright we can hardly look upon it. And so the next great Herald of the Kingdom takes the form of a servant, the humblest form a human being can assume. He lays aside His title; He calls himself simply, The Servant of the Glory of God (‘Abdu’l-Baha).
He comes down right into the midst of men, living their life. He plants his garden; He cooks the meals for the sick people; He makes them broth in the prison; He goes up and down the country like a ministering angel of God’s mercy; He is the tenderest, the simplest, the lowliest of beings in the world. When He is put in prison for teaching universal peace and universal brotherhood He counts this imprisonment the joy of His life. ‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us how when He was one day in the streets of ‘Akka and the chains were around His waist and His neck, the jailer, His tender-hearted jailer, said, “Why don’t you put a robe over those chains so the boys won’t throw stones at you?” ‘Abdu’l-Baha, turning to him, replied: “These chains are my badges of honour, my badges of glory, I could not conceal them.”
Now it is this quality of service, in annihilation of self, that makes God’s Holy Spirit manifest. When we visited ‘Abdu’l-Baha in Chicago and He met us there with all the freshness and joy of this eternal morning shining through His human spirit in its brightness and its beauty, and our hearts were thrilled with the consciousness that here was one who saw God face to face, nay, that made God’s love manifest right in our midst. And He said to us, “You know it doesn’t make any difference what happens to one in the physical world. I was a prisoner in a Turkish prison for forty years.” Then He told us how He slept upon the ground or upon the stone floor, how He was starved and chained and put into dungeons. “And yet,” He said, “every day when I awoke in the morning I praised God that another day was before me in which I could serve Him in His prison. And every night when I lay down on the stone floor of the prison I thanked God that He had allowed me to serve His Kingdom one more day in His prison.”
Then ‘Abdu’l-Baha, turning to us with a light in His face and a joy that was almost overwhelmingly beautiful said, “I was in prison for forty years, and every day was a day of perfect joy.” As he said “joy” His spirit shone so bright that in our hearts we thought we had never before known what joy and happiness meant. The people who were in the room said, “Isn’t it amazing; when we are talking here with this Servant of God, all we can think of is God; we do not even see ‘Abdu’l-Baha.” And one woman said: “I do not even know He is here; all I see is the Spirit of God shining in Him as in a crystal or a diamond.” When she went away she did not think anything about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the human personality; all she knew was that for one-half hour she had been in the presence of the eternal world. Like a door into the Kingdom was ‘Abdu’l-Baha, transmitting the light of eternity. As she left His presence she said for the first time in her life she knew that God was King, and that there was no God but the God of this universe, and we could trust our lives to Him, our fortunes to Him, everything to Him because God is the Reality of realities.