The Knighthood of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
During World War I when a blockade threatened the lives of many civilians in Haifa, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saved them from starvation. ‘He personally organized extensive agricultural operations near Tiberias, thus securing a great supply of wheat’. Preparation for war conditions had been made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá even before His return to Palestine, after His world tour. The people of the villages Nughayb, Samrih, and 'Adasiyyih were instructed by the Master how to grow corn, so as to produce prolific harvests, in the period before and during the lean years of the war. A vast quantity of this corn was stored in pits, some of which had been made by the Romans, and were now utilized for this purpose. These provisions were given out to the civilians of every nation living in Haifa. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did this in a military way as an army would give rations, and deep was the gratitude of those women and children who had been saved by His power to see into the future of tragedy and woe as early as 1912. So it came about that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was able to feed numberless poor of the people of Haifa, 'Akká, and the neighbourhood, in the famine years of 1914-1918.
These provisions were given out to the civilians of every nation living in Haifa. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did this in a military way as an army would give rations, and deep was the gratitude of those women and children who had been saved by His power to see into the future of tragedy and woe as early as 1912.
At war’s end the British were quick to recognize His painstaking accomplishments. He was to be kighted on 27 April 1920, at the residence of the British Governor in Haifa at a ceremony held especially for Him. British and religious dignitaries came to honour Him on this auspicious occasion.
His unselfish acts had won Him the love and respect of high and low alike. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá consented to accept the knighthood but He was not impressed with worldly honour or ceremony. Even a formality must be simplified. An elegant car was sent to bring Him to the Governor’s residence, but the chauffeur did not find the Master at His home. People scurried in every direction to find Him. Suddenly He appeared ‘alone, walking His kingly walk, with that simplicity of greatness which always enfolded Him.’ Isfandiyar, His long-time faithful servant, stood near at hand. Many were the times when he had accompanied the Master on His labours of love. Now, suddenly, with this elegant car ready to convey his Master to the Governor, he felt sad and unneeded.
Intuitively, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá must have sensed this. He gave him a sign. Isfandiyar dashed off and the horse was harnessed, the carriage brought to the lower gate and the Master was driven to a side entrance of the garden of the Governor. Isfandiyar was joyous he was needed even yet. Quietly, without pomp, ‘Abbas Effendi arrived at the right time at the right place and did honour to those who would honour Him when He was made Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas, K.B.E. a title which He almost never used.
- Excepts from Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by Annamarie Honnold and The Chosen Highway by Lady Blomfield.