Devotion and Generosity
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s devotion and generosity to the people of Haifa was expressed so beautifully in His actions during the period of famine which fell upon the Holy Land during the first World War. In the years leading up to the conflict, He had accumulated large amounts of wheat and corn in ancient underground storehouses. When the city was faced with starvation, He was able to take the stored grains, and purchase additional amounts in order to feed the people. This generosity was not confined to the Bahá’ís alone, but was extended to all people regardless of nationality or religion. For these actions He was made a Knight of the British Empire, and the goodwill of the city was further secured.
There are so many stories of the Master’s generosity that we have no difficulty in locating examples of detachment and sacrifice. These stories, spanning the period of time from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s childhood to the last days of His life, give us an example of a generosity which was so steadfast that the material conditions of His life played very little part. In prosperity and adversity, He rendered service and sustenance to those around Him with selfless devotion.
During the glorious celebrations of the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb, we drew such inspiration from the heroic actions of the martyrs of those early days of the Faith. Stories of the Báb and the passionate dedication of his followers give us examples of the way in which the love of God calls us to act, to let deeds and not words be our adorning.
Reflecting on those celebrations, in its message to the Bahá’ís of the world on 8 November 2019, the Universal House of Justice wrote:
“In this continuing period of special potency, at an hour when the world seems powerless in the face of overwhelming peril and souls have succumbed to dismay and despair, Bahá’u’lláh has shown us another glimpse of what the community that bears His name can accomplish through courage—even heroism—in the discharge of its God-given mission."
We could not have known then that we would be tested so soon by a global crisis which has become an “overwhelming peril”. The opportunity for each of us to reflect and act upon the experiences of the two Bicentennial celebrations in our sincere and devoted efforts towards the goals of the current Plan carries with it a greater element of conscious sacrifice in this time of economic and social uncertainty.
In the weeks since the beginning of the global health crisis, the Bahá’í community has shown resilience and growth in the face of extraordinary challenges. Across the world they continue to expand and strengthen the bonds of friendship as they adapt to these restrictions on physical engagement and community gatherings. Devotional gatherings, study circles, children’s classes, junior youth and youth gatherings are all continuing along with the steady work of the administrative order. This confident response to the significant challenges of our time gives all of us assurance in our collective ability to rise to new heights of self-sacrifice. In the words of the House of Justice in its Ridván 2020 message:
“From the devoted followers of the Blessed Perfection, how could we expect less?”