‘Abdu’l-Bahá Arrives in America 1
After being forty years a prisoner I can tell you that freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. . . . When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed a release.— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
First Days in America: New York City 2
His [‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s] first words were about the press, saying:
The pages of swiftly appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world… But it behooveth the editors of the newspapers to be sanctified from the prejudice of egotism and desire, and to be adorned with the ornament of equity and justice.” 3
Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney, 780 West End Avenue, New York
I am greatly pleased with the city of New York. Its harbor entrance, its piers, buildings and broad avenues are magnificent and beautiful. Truly, it is a wonderful city. As New York has made such progress in material civilization, I hope that it may also advance spiritually in the Kingdom and Covenant of God so that the friends here may become the cause of the illumination of America, that this city may become the city of love and that the fragrances of God may be spread from this place to all parts of the world. I have come for this. I pray that you may be manifestations of the love of Bahá’u’lláh, that each one of you may become like a clear lamp of crystal from which the rays of the bounties of the Blessed Perfection may shine forth to all nations and peoples. This is my highest aspiration. 4
Wednesday, April 10, 1912 [Thursday, April 11, 1912]
When the boat anchored, some newspaper reporters came on board to see ’Abdu’l-Bahá to ask Him about the purpose of His journey. He replied:
Our object is universal peace and the unity of humankind. I have traveled to Paris and London and now I have come to America to meet with those who seek universal peace and I hope that the peace societies of America will take the lead in promoting this end.
They asked, ‘How can universal peace be achieved?’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered:
Its realization is through the attraction and support of world public opinion. Today universal peace is the panacea for all human life.
They questioned, ‘What are these ills?’ He answered:
One of these ills is the people’s restlessness and discontent under the yoke of the war expenditures of the world’s governments. What the people earn through hard labor is extorted from them by the governments and spent for purposes of war. And every day they increase these expenditures. Thus the burden on men becomes more and more unbearable and the tribulations of the people become more and more severe. This is one of the great ills of the day. What a great tribulation there is in the countries of Italy and Turkey in these days! The fathers hear of the death of their sons and the sons are distressed on hearing the news of the death of their fathers. What cities are laid to ruin and what rising fortunes are thrown to the winds! The antidote for this great ill is world peace, which is the source of universal tranquillity.
They then asked: ‘Is it not possible that peace can become the cause of trouble and that war the means of progress?’ He replied:
No. It is war which is today the cause of all trouble. If all would lay down their arms, they would be freed from all difficulties and every misery would be changed into relief. However, this cannot be brought about except through education and the development of people’s thoughts and ideas. 5
Bahá’í s follow the teachings of the prophet and founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh – and they also attempt to follow the spiritual example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s son and successor.
Today ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s exemplary life – selfless, altruistic, and entirely devoted to world peace and oneness – inspires millions of people all over the world. It also has a special resonance for the Bahá’í s in North America, because he visited the United States and Canada for eight months in 1912.
Only with the passage of time can we truly appreciate the magnitude and the historic importance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit.
After a lifetime as an exile and a prisoner, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to the global West to spread the Bahá’í principles of justice, compassion, and unity. In conversations small and large, he bestowed love, guidance, knowledge, and vision to each soul he encountered. 6
- Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Arrives in America.” 239 Days in America, April 11, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/11/abdul-baha-arrives-in-america/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 13. ↩
- Dodge, Wendell Phillips. “ABDUL-BAHA’S ARRIVAL IN AMERICA.” Star of the West III, no. 3 (April 28, 1912): 3–5, https://bahai.works/Star_of_the_West/Volume_3/Issue_3/Text#ABDUL-BAHA.27S_ARRIVAL_IN_AMERICA..2A ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 3, https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/1#820079356. ↩
- Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=2#section17 ↩
- Ahdieh, Hussein. “Walking in Abdu’l-Baha’s (Actual) Footsteps.” BahaiTeachings.Org, 11 Apr. 2022, https://bahaiteachings.org/walking-in-abdul-bahas-actual-footsteps/. ↩