Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The House of 'Abdu'llah Pasha


The house in 'Akká that 'Abdu'l-Bahá rented in 1896 and
that served as His residence until He moved to Haifa in 1910.
Historical photograph from

"Some of the most poignant, dramatic and historically significant events of the Heroic Age of our Faith are associated with this house, which derives its name from the Governor of 'Akká who built it and used it as his official residence during his term of Office, from 1820 to 1832.... It was in this house that ['Abdu'l-Baha's] celebrated table talks were given and compiled, to be published later under the title "Some Answered Questions." In this house and in the darkest hours of a period which the beloved Guardian describes as 'the most dramatic period of His ministry,' 'in the heyday of His life and in the full tide of His power' He penned the first part of His Will and Testament.... In this house was born the child ordained to hold the destiny of the Faith in his hands for thirty-six years and to become its 'beloved Guardian,' the child named 'Shoghi' by his Grandfather, who grew up under His loving and solicitous care ...."

[As Thornton Chase, the First American Baha'i, wrote of his Pilgrimage, when he visited Abdu'l-Baha in this house:] 

'We did not know we had reached our destination until we saw a Persian gentleman, and then another and another, step out at the entrance and smile at us. We alighted and they conducted us through the arched, red brick entrance to an open court, across it to a long flight of stone steps, broken and ancient, leading to the highest story and into a small walled court open to the sky, where was the upper chamber assigned to us, which adjoined the room of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The buildings are all of stone, whitewashed and plastered, and it bears the aspect of a prison.'

"As we contemplate the extraordinary focusing of powerful forces and events upon this house, we eagerly anticipate the day when it will be restored and made ready for pilgrims, who may inhale from its atmosphere, its grounds and sacred walls, the fragrances of a glorious past."
(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, Message 157)

"Freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. I was thankful for the prison, and the lack of liberty was very pleasing to me, for those days were passed in the path of service, under the utmost difficulties and trials, bearing fruits and results. Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes, he will not attain. To me prison is freedom, troubles rest me, death is life, and to be despised is honour. Therefore, I was happy all that time in prison."
(`Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 120)

~ ~ ~

O House! Who climbed your stairway? When the Master was a prisoner our spiritual forbears came to you in the night, hearts pounding, souls reaching and hoping: Lua and Sarah, and Phoebe and Robert, and Louis, and Laura, and Thornton -- the first in the West to hear the voice of their Shepherd, Christ, in His "New Name."

We hear their footsteps now, the dust crackling beneath their feet. We hear their spirits, crushing doubt, opening the doors of their hearts to the Light of the New Jerusalem.

A child was born here, too --one promised by Isaiah. He ran up and down your stairs, his praises of God filling the courtyard.

- The courtyard? His voice filled the earth, and fills it still, and will for ages to come!

O Palm Tree, witness of servitude and grandeur, bearer of beauty and joy! How sweet your form, how dear your shadow, caressing the room of the Beloved! We, too, would press our cheek against that wall, feel its coolness against our face, inhale its fragrance, and seek to hear the soul-uplifting Voice within, charting destinies, answering questions, granting certitude.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like an early photo, but there is no identifying information with it. Just as a guess -- it looks to me that it could have been taken during Abdu'l-Baha's lifetime; but I think it was not taken during the time He was renting it, but more likely taken after He and the rest of the Holy Family moved out of this house and across the Bay to Mount Carmel. In this photograph -- wonderful nonetheless -- there are signs that the house is in need of maintenance, and that would not have been the case when Abdu'l-Baha was living here. -- Brent