3 Stories about Justice
These three stories remind us how 'Abdu'l-Baha demonstrated the virtue of Justice.
'Abdu'l-Baha and the Governor of 'Akka
Soon after the arrival of Bahá’u’lláh and His party in 'Akka the Governor visited the barracks for inspection. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, accompanied by a few believers, went to see him. But the Governor was discourteous and spoke to them in a provocative manner. He threatened to cut the supply of bread if one of the prisoners went missing and then ordered them back to their room. One of the Master's attendants could not bear to remain silent after such insulting treatment. He retorted with rage and hurled back at the Governor some offensive remarks. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá immediately chastened His attendant by slapping him hard in the face in front of the Governor and ordering him to return to his room. This action by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only defused a dangerous situation but also opened the eyes of the Governor to the existence of a real leader among the prisoners, a leader who would act with authority and justice. Due to this action the Governor's attitude towards ‘Abdu’l-Bahá changed. He realized that, contrary to the wild rumours circulating in 'Akka at the time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His family were from a noble background, and not criminals as he had been led to believe. The Governor therefore began to act in a more humane way towards the prisoners. He eventually agreed to substitute the allotted ration of bread with a sum of money and allowed a small party of the prisoners, escorted by guards, to visit the markets of 'Akka daily to buy their provisions.
- Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 47
Charcoal and Justice
Bahiyyih Khánum, the sister of 'Abdu'l-Baha recounts:
After our liberation from the barracks and the termination of this affair, my brother was able to mingle freely with the people of Akká, and he at once began to establish friendly relations with them. As illustrating the manner in which he gradually won their good-will, an incident occurs to me which I will relate. The believers needed fuel, but the people would not sell it to them. They regarded us as heretics and thought there was merit for them in harshness and unkindness towards us. Abbas Effendi obtained permission to send out of the city for charcoal, and a camel-load was brought back. The driver was stopped by a Christian merchant. 'This is better charcoal than I can get,' he said, and without more ceremony took it for himself - nor would he return the money paid for it.
This was reported to my brother. He went to the merchant's shop and stood in the door. He was not noticed. Then he entered and sat down by the door. The merchant continuing to transact his business with those who came and paying him no attention, he waited in silence for three hours. At length, when the others had left and no more came, the merchant said to him : 'Are you one of those prisoners here?' Abbas Effendi assenting, he continued: 'What have you done that you are imprisoned?'
'Since you ask me,' replied Abbas Effendi, 'I will tell you. We have done nothing. We are persecuted as Christ was persecuted.'
'What do you know of Christ?' said the merchant.
My brother replied in such a manner that the merchant perceived that he was not ignorant of Christ and the Christian Bible. He then began to question him about the Bible and was interested in his replies, as my brother gave him explanations which he had never before heard.
Next he invited my brother to a seat beside him and continued the conversation for two hours. At its conclusion he seemed much pleased, and said: 'The coal is gone, - I cannot return you that, but here is the money.' He then escorted my brother to the door and down into the street, treating him with the greatest respect. Since that time he and Abbas Effendi have been fast friends, and the two families also.
- Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khánum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi, p. 77-79
Never be Cheated
Economic justice, even in small matters, was important to the Master. Once in Egypt ‘Abdu’l-Bahá obtained a carriage in order that He might offer a ride to an important Pasha, who was to be His luncheon guest. When they reached their destination, the driver asked an exorbitant fee. The Master was fully aware of this and refused to pay the full amount. The driver, big and rough, grabbed His sash and ‘jerked Him back and forth’, demanding his unfair price. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remained firm and the man eventually let go. The Master paid what He actually owed him and informed him that had he been honest, he would have received a handsome tip instead of only the fare. He then walked away.
Shoghi Effendi, His grandson, was present when this happened. He later admitted to being very embarrassed that this should have happened in front of the Pasha. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, on the other hand, was evidently ‘not at all upset’, but simply determined not to be cheated.
- Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 109