Generosity

Another instance of His generosity concerned a rug, which was among 'the most exquisite' ever created in Persia. Woven of 'purest silk, patterned as a rose garden and bordered with heavy twisted cord of real gold', it was bought from merchants to Haifa by way of Afghanistan and India, due to transportation and travel problems. When the generous pilgrim arrived after tiring weeks of travel, he took the rug to the Pilgrim House adjacent to the Shrine of the Báb and spread it out on the floor. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived and 'immediately inquired of the caretaker whose carpet that was, and upon being told, He said that so valuable a work of art should not be on the floor where it might become soiled and He gave instructions for it to be rolled up and put away. The pilgrim then told ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that the carpet had been brought for Him and He replied that so beautiful a gift should be placed in the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, and that He would place it there Himself.' Within a few days resident believers and pilgrims went with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to Bahji. They boarded a train in Haifa for 'Akka. From 'Akka a carriage took the older friends to Bahji. The Master rode His now-famous white donkey, the younger ones walked. The pilgrim from the East 'offered the Master some chocolate and this He shared with some others.' He related that 'we asked permission of the Master to sing and when He graciously permitted us, we began to sing. I do not remember what the songs were, whether they were our chants or other songs, but I know that I never felt so happy in my life as then when singing in the presence of the Master, and I am sure all the others felt the same way. After we reached Bahji we had dinner and then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spread the carpet in the Holy Shrine and thus my hope was realized.'

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 70

Before He went for His drive He gave Jeffrey Boy [Agnes Parsons’ son] a very handsome Persian ink well. At lunch He presented Mr. Parsons with a manuscript book of Bahá’u’lláh done by one of the best Persian writers. It contains very interesting illuminations. Just before or after lunch (I cannot recall the exact time) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá handed me a pair of glasses, asking me to try them on, which I did but was obliged to tell him they did not suit me, so I gave them back to Him, but He put them in the case and handed them to me. Of course, I shall keep them and try them again. It was Mr. Parsons to whom the glasses were given first.

Agnes Parsons’ Diary, April 22, 1912

In a final touching tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's generosity this true story emerged in the 1990s, some 70 years after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's passing. The Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing Council of the Bahá’í world community, announced a major construction project on Mount Carmel, Haifa, of buildings that would, at last, meet the commands of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder. Accordingly, a tender was put out for Israeli construction companies to bid for, and a public call for engineers was made by the House of Justice. To everyone’s astonishment, a large number of Arab engineers emerged from the greater Haifa area offering their services. When the bemused Bahá’ís asked them why they had come forward they all said: “The Master, Abbas Effendi (‘Abdu’l-Bahá) gave our grandparents and great-grandparents money to start small businesses. Our family businesses prospered and our families were able to pay for our school and university education. We are here to give something back to Abbas Effendi.”

Extract from A Presentation on the Centenary of ‘Abdu’l- Bahá's Visit to the United Kingdom in 1911. Given on 10th September 2011 in Bourne Hall, Ewell Village , Surrey, by Trevor R. J. Finch

It is told that in the home of Bahá’u’lláh there was a beautiful rug upon which He used to sit. One day a poor Arab brought a load of wood to the house. He saw the rug and was very much attracted by its beauty. He handled it with great appreciation and exclaimed, "Oh, how wonderful it must be to have such a splendid rug to sit upon!' ‘Abdu’l-Bahá heard him and said, 'If you like the rug, take it.'

The man could not believe it was really a gift. Fearing he would lose it, he put it over his shoulder and began to run, looking back to see if anyone was coming to take it from him. With delicious humour ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, 'Go on, no one is going to take it away from you.'

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 70

‘Abdu’l-Bahá's generosity was natural to Him already in childhood. A story is recorded of the time when young 'Abbas Effendi went to the mountains to see the thousands of sheep which His Father then owned. The shepherds, wishing to honour their young Guest, gave Him a feast. Before 'Abbas was taken home at the close of the day, the head shepherd advised Him that it was customary under the circumstances to leave a present for the shepherds. 'Abbas told the man that He had nothing to give. Yet the shepherd persisted that He must give something. Whereupon the Master gave them all the sheep.

We are told that when Bahá’u’lláh heard about this incident, He laughted and commented, 'We will have to protect ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from Himself -- some day he will give himself away.'

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 69

A friend had sent some fur so that the Master could have a good warm coat; He had it cut up and made into twenty caps for the elderly men of the town.

Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of "‘Abdu’l-Bahá