Tuesday, December 28, 2010

100 Years Ago: An American journalist visits 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Ramleh, Alexandria, Egypt.

100 Years Ago: An American journalist visits 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Ramleh, Alexandria, Egypt.

Note:  The article that follows is presented as it appears in the Bahai News in that no change has been made in the
spelling of Bahá'í words i.e. spelling does not conform to the standard established by Shoghi Effendi.  

Bahá'í News, Vol. 1, #17, pages 7-9 (Jan 19, 1911,)  The following is a letter from Mr. Sydney Sprague written in 1910. 

    At present I am in Alexandria with Abdu'l-Baha, who has given me many supplications from America to translate; also Mrs.Ford's new book,"The Oriental Rose," which I am translating with Mirza Mahmud of India.  The book is finely written and ought to be of great help in attracting people to the Cause. I notice Mrs. Ford gives the number of oriental Bahais as twelve millions. A movement which is growing every day cannot have statistics. No one knows how many there are, and to make a statement that there are many millions only opens us to criticism. If we are asked the number of Bahais in the world, is it not better to reply that it is impossible to know, and that we care much more about the quality of the believers than the quantity? This is the policy of Abdul-Baha, as the following incident will show:

    Two nights ago, an American journalist, Mr. William Ellis, representing The Continent, came especially to Alexandria to interview Abdul-Baha. It was my privilege to be the translator on this occasion. One of the first questions Mr. Ellis asked was: "How many followers have you?"  The answer was: "We have no statistics and we do not consider these things important. It is the quality of the believers we care for. If a few are characterized with the attributes of God and live according to the divine Teachings, it is praiseworthy.  Five diamonds are worth more than five million stones."  Again the journalist asked: "Have you not many followers in America?" "I have a few friends in different cities who love me," was the reply. "Is it not true that half of Persia is Baha'i?" persisted the journalist. "No; it is not," replied Abdul-Baha, "but many there who are not Bahais, are influenced by our Teachings." "Are there not many followers in the Turkish Empire?"  "No," and again Abdul-Baha reiterated the non-importance of numbers. The journalist seemed very much taken aback. He evidently expect Abdul-Baha to boast of a large following. What an example Abdul-Baha has set us!

    Then Mr. Ellis asked briefly: "What are the Teachings of the Bahai revelation and in what does it differ from other religions?"  Abdul-Baha replied: "While all the other religions are hating and denouncing each other, the Bahais are the friends of all religions and the lovers of all peoples and their aim is to unite and harmonize all...." There were many other questions which drew forth wonderful, illuminating explanations from Abdul-Baha.  I have not the time to write them now, but be on the lookout for an account of this interview in The Continent.  Mr. Ellis is on his way to Persia to write articles about that country, so he may write of the Cause there. 

    There are two interesting English persons here, a Mr.and Mrs. Atwood, at one time prominent spiritualists in London. As Mr. Atwood is slightly paralyzed, Abdul-Baha went to see them, much to their great joy.  They are now eager to serve the Cause.

    There are pilgrims here from Persia, Russia, India and England, and every night we meet in Abdul-Baha's house and our cups are filled to overflowing.  His health is good. When Mr. Ellis asked Him if He was benefited by the change of air, He replied: "Certainly, one who has been a prisoner for forty years must be benefited to breath another air." I thought to myself, can we Bahais realize what those forty years mean?  The Christians think so much of the forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness and observe a penitential season to commemorate this, but forty years—for every day a year!

                                            (Signed)  Sydney Sprague

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