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The Centenary

‘Abbás Al-‘Aqqad’s Visit to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Wherever ‘Abdu’l-Baha went there were meetings well attended by scholars and leaders of thought. Some traveled from country to country to attend such gatherings to learn more from His knowledge and wisdom. The famous Islamic writer Shakíb Arslan, who was living in Beirut, gives a description of some of these meetings for which he often traveled to ‘Akká with the sole purpose of listening to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. 1

This was the case also when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited Egypt. Many were the journalists, scholars and leaders who hastened to learn more about Him and about His Faith. We spoke earlier about the visit of Shaykh ‘Alí Yusif and the report he published in his newspaper. 2 We will see here the memories of ‘Abbás Mahmúd Al-‘Aqqad of a visit he paid to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which he published under the title of “An Hour with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”:

“Among the religions they [the people of the West] discuss these days and write about extensively is the Bahá’í religion, which amazes them because of its novelty, in addition to the mysterious East [sic]. It creates in their hearts a hope they have never experienced before, and brings to them a new kind of sacredness that pleases those who, without discarding science and technology, admire the sacred.

“A recent book about the Bahá’í religion and that discusses some of the prophesies Bahá’ís are making about the future world brought to mind a story I wish to recount for the readers of Al-Hilál. It took place during the time the Bahá’í leader ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was residing in Alexandria—about ten years ago. In those days I was fond of studying religions and beliefs.

“I was visiting a friend in Alexandria who was regularly attending ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talks at His residence about embracing His Faith. ‘You will see with your own eyes one of those scholars about whom you can only read in books,’ said my friend, and we agreed to pay Him a visit.

“When we were ushered into His presence, we saw a reverent old man whose face expressed the signs of learning and worldly experience. Beside Him was sitting a secretary taking dictation. We learned later it was a letter to Shawkat Basha, the Turkish Minister of War. He invited us to sit down while He continued dictating the rest of the letter. A rich Persian believer brought us tea and waited with reverence until we finished drinking it. Then he took back the cups and, out of reverence, went backwards so as not to turn his back to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

“We were sitting on a terrace with large glass windows and could watch the rain falling outside over the trees moving in the wind. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was watching this beautiful scene and, as if He was awakening us from a dream, said: ‘Praised be God, He provides everything with means for its subsistence. Where there are trees there falls rain.’ I interjected, ‘Where the rain falls trees grow.’ He answered thoughtfully, ‘Or that way.’

“With a spirit full of desire to debate, I asked: ‘But which of these statements is true?’ ‘Both are true,’ He said in a calm tone, and after a short pause He continued: ‘We focus on the point where statements agree, not where they differ. Thus we find (or see) connections in statements despite their apparent disagreement.’

“He went on in this tone that knows no tiredness from reiterating the same truth over and over in guiding the people. ‘Many differences between people are rather more close in agreement than they think. Are not all religions of one nature? Are not all nations composed of one race? Nevertheless they disagree. Why? Because they do not know how to reach agreement.