I. Onthe first afternoon, while driving, he expressed much interest in ruralEngland, marvelling at the century-old trees, and the vivid green of the woodsand downs, so unlike the arid East. “Though it is autumn it seems likespring,” he said. The houses with their little plots of ground, suggesteda quotation which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave from Bahá’u’lláh’s writings in which thelatter alludes to each family having a house with a piece of land. ‘Abdu’l-Bahálikened the country to the soul and the city to the body of man, saying,”The body without the soul cannot live. It is good,” he remarked,”to live under the sky, in the sunshine and fresh air.” Observing ayoung woman who rode by on horseback with her hair flying free and several whobicycled past on their bicyles unattended, he said, “This is the age of woman. She should receive the same education asher brother and enjoy the same privilege; for all souls are equal before God.Sex, in its relation to the exigencies of the physical plane, has no connectionwith the Spirit. In this age of spiritual awakening, the world has entered uponthe path of progress into the arena of development, where the power of thespirit surpasses that of the body. Soon the spirit will have dominion over theworld of humanity.” (`Abdu’l-Baha, `Abdu’l-Bahain London, p. 81)
II. Manand woman both should be educated equally and equally regarded. (`Abdu’l-Baha, `Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 28)
III. Woman’s Work
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’sinterest in women’s work and progress is well known, and among the notableleaders who came to see him, may be mentioned Mrs. Annie Besant, President ofthe Theosophical Society, the organizers of various suffrage bodies, civic and philanthropic workers, the principals of severalwoman’s colleges and lady doctors.
Aspirited conversation due to the visit of an ardent suffragist will be longremembered by those who had the privilege of being present. The room was fullof men and women, many Persians being seated in their familiar respectfulattitude on the floor.
Aftercontrasting the general position of the Eastern and the Western women, and thendescribing how in many respects the Eastern woman has the advantage of herWestern sister, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá turned and said to the visitor: “Give me yourreasons for believing that woman today should have the vote?”
Answer:”I believe that humanity is a divine humanity and that it must rise higherand higher; but it cannot soar with only one wing.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expressedhis pleasure at this answer, and smiling, replied: “But what will you doif one wing is stronger than the other?” Answer: “Then we muststrengthen the weaker wing, otherwise the flight will always be hampered.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahásmiled and asked: “What will you say if I prove to you that the woman isthe stronger wing?”
Theanswer came in the same bright vein: “You will earn my eternalgratitude!” at which all the company made merry.
‘Abdu’l-Baháthen continued more seriously: “The woman is indeed of the greaterimportance to the race. She has the greater burden and the greater work. Lookat the vegetable and the animal worlds. The palm which carriesthe fruit is the tree most prized by the date grower. The Arab knows that for along journey the mare has the longest wind. For her greater strength andfierceness, the lioness is more feared by the hunter than the lion.
“Themere size of the brain has been proved to be no measure of superiority. Thewoman has greater moral courage than the man; she has also special gifts whichenable her to govern in moments of danger and crisis. If necessary she canbecome a warrior.”
‘Abdu’l-Baháasked the company if they remembered the story of Zenobia and of the fall ofPalmyra. He then continued as follows, using his hands in the grave and simplegesticulations characteristic of him:
“Therewas once a Governor in Ancient Syria, who had a beautiful and clever wife. Shewas so capable that when the Governor died, she was made ruler in his stead.The land prospered under her sway, and men acknowledged that she was a betterruler than her husband. After a time the legions of Rome invaded the country,but again and again she drove them out with great confusion. She let down herbeautiful hair, and herself rode at the head of her army, clad in a scarletcloak, wearing a crown of gold, and wielding a two-edged sword in her hand. The Roman Caesar then withdrew his strength from five otherprovinces in order to subdue her. After a long and brave fight Zenobia retiredinto the city of Palmyra, which she strengthened with wonderful fortifications,and there she endured a siege of four months, Caesar being unable to dislodgeher. The food she had stored within the walls at last was gone, and the miseryof her starving and plague-stricken people compelled her to surrender.
“Caesarwas full of admiration for this great woman, because of her courage andendurance, and he asked her to become his wife. But she refused, saying thatshe would never consent to take as her husband the enemy of her people.Thereupon, Caesar was enraged, and determined to humble her. He took her backwith him in his ships to Rome. For his triumphal entry a great procession wasprepared, and the streets were filled with people. In the procession came firstelephants, after the elephants came the camels, after the camels came thetigers and the leopards, after the leopards came the monkeys, and lastly, afterthe monkeys, walked Zenobia with a gold chain round her neck. Still she carriedher head high, and was firm in her determination. Nothing could break herspirit! She refused to become the Empress of Caesar, so she was thrown into adungeon, and eventually she died.”
‘Abdu’l-Baháceased. Silence fell upon the room, and it was some time before it was broken.
Uponanother occasion ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said to a group of friends around him:”Taken in general, women today have a stronger sense of religion than men.The woman’s intuition is more correct; she is more receptive and herintelligence is quicker. The day is coming when woman will claim her superiorityto man.
“Womanhas everywhere been commended for her faithfulness. After the Lord Christsuffered, the disciples wept, and gave way to their grief. They thought thattheir hopes were shattered, and that the Cause was utterly lost, till MaryMagdalene came to them and strengthened them saying: ‘Do you mourn the body ofOur Lord or His Spirit? If you mourn His Spirit, you are mistaken, for Jesuslives! His Spirit will never leave us!’ Thus through her wisdom andencouragement the Cause of Christ was upheld for all the days to come. Herintuition enabled her to grasp the spiritual fact.”
‘Abdu’l-Baháthen added: “But in the sight of God sex makes no difference. He or she isgreatest who is nearest to God.”
Onemorning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, on entering the room looked about and said: “It isjust like a miracle, our being here together. There is no racial, political orpatriotic tie. We are drawn together by the words of Bahá’u’lláh, and in likemanner will all the races of the earth be drawn together. Of this, restassured!” (`Abdu’l-Baha, `Abdu’l-Bahain London, pp. 101-105)
“Theconfirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are bornwith (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strivewith infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life withradiant acquiescence.” (`Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Bahain London, p. 121)
Heestablishes the equality of man and woman. This is peculiar to the teachings ofBahá’u’lláh, for all other religions have placed man above woman. (`Abdu’l-Baha,Baha’i World Faith, p. 247)
Allwere shaken but Mary Magdalen. She was a veritable lioness. She gathered theothers together and said, “Why do ye mourn? Did not the Christ foretellhis crucifixion? Arise, and be assured. They have killed but the body; thereality can never die, for it is supreme, eternal, the word of God, the son ofGod. Why, therefore, are ye agitated?” Thus this heroine became the causeof re-establishing the faith of the apostles.
Myhope is that each one of you may become as Mary Magdalen – for this woman wassuperior to all the men of her time and her reality is ever shining from thehorizon of Christ.
Bepure – to be pure is to be selfless. (`Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 50)
VerilyI read thy letter which showed that thine inner heart is attracted to theBeauty of God and that thou hast entered the Kingdom of God. I beg of God tomake thy feet firm in this right path and to protect thee from violent testsand from calumnies on the part of every woman who hath, like unto JudasIscariot, turned away from the True One and who hath withdrawn herself and isdeprived of the mercy of God. (`Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 356)
Asto the question of women being chosen rather than men: In this cycle there weremen who arose through a divine power and who shone forth as the sun from thedawning-point of holiness; and, likewise, there appeared certain women whobecame side by side with men. The expression which you quote, “Every womanwho is directed to the guidance of God in this great age, will surpass men inevery respect,” signified that, in this age, certain women will appear whowill surpass some men. It does not mean that they will surpass all the men whohave given their lives as sacrifices in this Cause; for in this wonderful cyclethere appeared such men as his holiness Khudoos, his holiness Bab-el-Bab, hisholiness the “King of Martyrs” and his holiness the “Beloved ofMartyrs,” his holiness the great Vaheed, and such ones who have no equalsin the world of existence. (`Abdu’l-Baha, Tabletsof Abdu’l-Baha v2, pp. 335-336)
Today the maidservants of God are accountedas men [Imruz ama’u’llah az rijal mahsub].(Payam-i Malakut, p. 231).
Verily, in the eyes of Baha women are thesame as men. All are God’s creation, which He created in his image andlikeness, that is, they are manifestations of His names and attributes [Inna an-nisa’a `inda ‘l-Baha’i hukmuhunnahukmu ‘r-rijal. Fa ‘l-kullu khalqun li’llahi, khalaqahum `ala suratihi wamithalihi ay mazahiru asma’ihi wa sifatihi]. (Yazdani, Maqam va Huquq-iZan, p. 12).
O maidservants: Rise for the Cause of theTruth in a masculine way. How many are the women who are mentioned by God inthis day as men, while some men are considered women [Ay kanizan: Mardanih bar amr-i haqq qiyam nima’id. Basi az nisa’ kihal-yawm `ind Allah az rijal madhkur va ba`di-yi rijal kih az nisa’ mahsub].(Payam-i Malakut,, p. 232).
In this most great cycle and this century ofthe preexistent King, human limitations have been lifted and the laws of theworlds of being have been abrogated and annulled. Masculinity and femininity donot depend upon beards, moustaches, athletic strength, and wielding maces.[Masculinity] depends on courage, power, knowledge, steadfastness, uprightness,passion and attraction. How many mistresses of the bridal chamber have beensent forth and how many men have been consigned to headscarves and meekness [Dar in kawr-i a`zam va qarn-i malik-iqidam, hududat-i bashar murtafa` va ahkam-i `avalim-i kawn mansukh va munfasakhast. Dhakuriyyat va anathiyyat va mardanigi va farzanigi bilihyih va sablat vayal va kupal nabudih. Bi himmat va qudrat va ma`rifat va thibat va istaqamat vaishti`al va injidhab budih. Chih bisyar-i rabbat-i hijal mab`uth shudand vabasa mardan kih dar taht-i miqna`ih va havan mahshur shudand] (Yazdani,Maqam va Huquq-i Zan, pp. 13-14).