Src : 1921.12.31 Star of West S7-V12-N16-P252
"The Master and his whole family narrowly escaped crucifixion"
Letter from Major W. Tudor-Pole.
London, England, December 2, 1921.
To the STAR OF THE WEST:
We have not cabled to you this week in any official way, as the news from Haifa will have reached you direct by cable as soon as it came here, and our hands have been pretty full in doing all in our power to make the arrangements which are referred to in the enclosed memorandum.
The writer, on behalf of the English friends, and on his own behalf, would like to join with the American friends in prayer and praise for a great and noble life wonderfully lived and finally crowned by a peaceful passing into the Wider Realms. Probably there is no one who knows so well as the present writer that the Master and his whole family narrowly escaped crucifixion on the Mount of Carmel two days before we entered Haifa in August, 1918. This tragic event was only frustrated by the unexpectedly swift advance of Allenby's troops, which forced the Turkish authorities out of Haifa before they even had time to carry out their terrible threat, or to take the Master and his family with them into the hills as hostages. Knowing all the facts at first hand, I can join with the friends throughout the world in thanksgiving that the last few years of the Master's life were spent in comparative peace and tranquillity, and that his passing over was not marred by any tragic or untoward events.
Shoughi Rabbani and his sister will be returning to Haifa towards the end of the present month, and they will be accompanied by Lady Blomfield, and by Ziaoullah Asgarzade.
We have not yet received any further details from Haifa beyond the first cablegram, dated 3 p.m., 11/28/21, as follows: "HIS HOLINESS ABDUL-BAHA ASCENDED TO ABHA KINGDOM. INFORM FRIENDS. (Signed) GREATEST HOLY LEAF," but we expect further news hourly and daily, and shall be only too glad to share with you all that is received.
Although it is perhaps early days to discuss the matter, I anticipate that the
American friends will be considering the production of a Memoir, and if the present writer, or any of the other friends in London who have recently been in the East, can be of service in helping you with the material for this volume, we shall be pleased. We are of course, not satisfied with the references that have been made in the Times, Morning Post, Daily Mail, and other papers to the event, but we have done the best we could, and so far as the New York World was concerned, writer saw their representative here late last night, and he hopes that the cable that was sent out to New York was of an accurate and satisfactory character.
The pressure here is so great that at the moment we cannot enter into further details, much as we should like to do so - this is simply a note to assure the American friends that we are one with them in profound sympathy, as is indeed the case with friends throughout the world.
Yours in faith and friendship,
1921.12.03 - Johanna Hauff (Haifa) to parents (Stuttgart)
Star of West Vol 12 No 19 - p296-299
Letter from Johanna Hauff to her parents in Stuttgart, Germany:
December 3, 1921.
As in a dream these last days have passed. Since I wrote to you on Monday, after the incredible had happened - incredible because it happened so unexpectedly - much has come to pass. Before I tell you something about it, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart, that you let me come here, that I was allowed to be here during these wonderful, hard, and indescribably beautiful times.... Only after I had been here for days an understanding gradually arose within me of what it meant, and it was so indescribably spiritualized in the human form - always kind, always loving; already partly absent, yet among us and talking to us.
I am not worth it, that those radiant, luminous, penetrating blue eyes should have rested on me, that that kind mouth should have spoken loving, beautiful words to me - and useless my life would appear to me if the power of the experience does not give me strength to really remold my life and to lead it to a high purpose.
Monday Night - Last Glimpses
Mr. and Mrs. [John] Bosch, Dr. and Mrs. [Florian] Krug and I, were almost constantly in the most intimate family circle. On Monday night, we were permitted to see the face of the Master once more - the only ones besides the family. How beautiful it was! Such peace! such rest! I do not believe that I shall ever in my life see again such an unspeakably beautiful face as that of 'Abdu'I-Bahá in life and in death. All day long and the night afterwards I was still stunned, hardly able to think, hardly able to bear the grief and look on - until the next morning; then everything changed. We had gone over at eight o'clock and stood once more - for the last time, in the room in which He talked to us when He was not well and in which He passed away - before the bed on which rested the beautiful, white-clad figure....
Mr. and Mrs. Bosch and I were alone in the big hall as the sons-in-law passed by to get the casket; they called Mr. Bosch, who helped to carry the casket into the death-chamber and to put the body into it. For a short time the casket was left in the hall and Muhammedan priests, who had asked permission to come, as did Jews and Christians, said a short prayer.
Carrying the Casket
Then the casket was carried up the mountain on the shoulders of eight men who frequently changed. Never in my life will I forget that walk. More than an hour we followed the bier which covered the human form of the beloved Master - after stormy, rainy
days, radiant weather; dark blue the sea, dark blue the sky - slowly, slowly followed the crowd, reverently and shyly they followed the ruler who had gone to deep silence and rest. Whoever could, went along, people and soldiers on both sides of the road. The government and the nobility to accompany "Sir 'Abbás Effendi"; the poor, their benefactor; the inhabitants of Haifa, their counselor; others, their greatest scholar, philosopher and sage - men of all languages, nations and creeds, who were but passingly or not at all interested in his Cause, crowded around his casket. A triumphant procession it was, the first fruit, at least the first visible fruit, of his life of sufferings in this region afflicted with spiritual blindness.
But before I noticed all that, the new uplifting feeling had come over me; while we slowly ascended the steep mountain and were looking at the deep, blue sea, the white city of Baha'u'llah ['Akka] and the radiant, blue sky, all mourning left me and a feeling of strength and comfort came over me; it seemed as if 'Abdu'l-Baha had not gone, as if the spirit of power and beauty that speaks from out his words, had suddenly, inexplicably, come over me and was comforting and guiding me past the sorrowing crowd into the nearness of His love and life. (I cannot possibly give an impression of what I felt; nor can I find the words.) Mrs. Bosch had similar feelings, and Mrs. Krug said: "It was the most wonderful experience."
On the summit the casket was put down in front of the Tomb of the Bab and about five or six Arabic eulogies and one French address were given - all by non-Bahá'is who knew little of his teachings. I hope to get the translations. The Frenchman said that all stood deeply moved at the bier of a man who had proclaimed the religion of the soul, whose words and deeds were in perfect harmony, who gave the world the most beautiful teachings of all philosophies and all religions in such a way that it could accept them; and he ended with about these words: "Not only the inhabitants of 'Akka, Haifa and the Persians in his country, but all civilized people are weeping today, at the bier of this great one." The Arabic addresses are said to have been very beautiful, too.
To all in Haifa, to the government which lowered its flag to half-mast, even to the people who were indifferent or opposed him because they could not get away from their fanatical prejudices, to all came a presentiment that one of the greatest had gone from them. Just as at Christ's departure "the curtain of the temple was rent in twain," the curtain which does not let the real light penetrate into the temple of religion. God grant that it may remain rent and that the light can get in! (Two years ago, 'Abdu'l-Baha was asked when the carnage and dreadful riots in the world would stop. He answered: "When the world will have become wise enough to accept the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.)
After the speeches were over, the casket was put down in the Tomb where it will remain until the orders which 'Abdu'l-Baha has left and his last Will and Testament will have been read, which will be done by his oldest grandson [Shoghi Effendi] who is shortly expected back from London.
The heart-breaking grief of the family, especially of the poor locked-in women1 whose sole spiritual life he was, is still harder, still more terrible and painful than that of the men. It is an irreplaceable loss for them. It had come so suddenly for all of them, although the Master had spoken for months continually of his going - they had not understood, probably because they simply could not believe it. Now only do they begin to realize it.
His Last Days
And he was so weary, so tired! He said it to us, he said it to everybody. Mrs. Bosch told me even on the first day: "His work is done, completely done, everything has been said. Every further day is a gift of grace." We did not dare to ask questions, nor dare to deliver the letters, because we heard four hundred letters were still lying there unanswered. But in his great love and kindness for Germany, he wanted to
have them nevertheless, and his very last Tablet is going to Germany.
The Krugs said, too, a veil seemed to be about him, that he was quite different than before. I felt the strangeness at first as something too high, too incomprehensible at the first meeting and later, when his kindness bridged it over, I felt that he was hardly a human being any longer. On Sunday, when he was so much better again that we were all quite happy, he told his family that he was leaving them now, that they should faithfully serve the Cause of God and should not let any enemies enter therein. He said: "This is my last day." But nobody realized what he meant; they thought he wanted to undertake a sudden journey, as he often did. When he said it, he smiled as if joking, and since he liked to joke, they did not take it seriously. Then he told his daughter Ruha that he needed nothing, that he was well, and all should go to bed - only she remained with him. At one o'clock at night, he complained about difficulty of breathing and she threw back the mosquito netting, and wanted to give him milk, but he said: "You want to give me milk now that I am dying?"
She had Dr. Krug called at once. (By this calling I woke up too.) But when he got there, the Master had already passed away. "As a thief in the night" was his coming and going, so that this prophecy too should be fulfilled!
Task Ahead and Grief
But now the time has come for every one to work, for the Germans particularly whom he loved so dearly, to whom his last message goes - to work in order to maintain unity and to definitely overcome all children's diseases. Hardest to bear for me was the grief of the unhappy helpless women, who locked up in their houses and hidden behind their black veils, cannot work as we do and cannot divert themselves to get over their sorrow. Moreover, the horrid Oriental custom which forces them to accept callers for seven days from morning till night and to listen to the weeping and wailing of all Syrian women, who are entire strangers to them. Turkish and Arabic women are there, too; all day long it continues, without mercy; the nobler and more honored the deceased, the more wailing and the longer the call. It hurts my very soul, but I can scarcely be of any help, because I do not speak the language. We are often over there. Day before yesterday, they even sent for us. Our presence, with our poise and true sympathy and understanding, seems to help them, their only joy it is to have the friends with them and to pray to become worthy to enact the Master's will.
(From the Sun of Truth. Translated from the German by Mrs. Aubrey J. Kempner.)