Stories and articles


One of my favorite phrases is "Insha'Allah".  God willing.

It's very amusing to me when I use that phrase and friends from the middle-east are surprised that I know it.  "How do you know that phrase?"

What? You have to be fluent in Arabic to know it? I often want to ask them how they know an English phrase, but that would just seem rude to me.

And really, insha'Allah indicates such wonderful perspective, that everything is always conditional upon God's pleasure.  We may make our plans, but God's plans always triumph. Sort of like the old phrase "man proposes, but God disposes".

{josquote}Next time, just tell them that yes, you'll be home by eleven, insha'Allah.{/josquote}

There is that wonderful story in the history of the Faith where Mulla Husayn was having tea with the Bab during that first fireside, and wanted to excuse himself saying that he told his companions he would be back for evening prayers.  The story in the Dawn-Breakers says, "With extreme courtesy and calm He replied: 'You must surely have made the hour of your return conditional upon the will and pleasure of God. It seems that His will has decreed otherwise. You need have no fear of having broken your pledge.'

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The knower as an artist, revisited

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About 10 days ago, I began a new course of study, which will last for four months. Last year, I took some books out of the library about writing fiction. I got to thinking about it because I loved watching movies so much, and I wondered how stories were dreamed up and written. When I read the books, I didn't think that I would consider trying it myself. But by the end of the year, I had made some fundamental shift within, and opened up to the possibility. As it turned out, I noticed an advertisement in a magazine for an online course in fiction writing, and after looking into it, I realised it was just what I wanted and needed. So I here I am, surrounded and committed.

Despite my initial apprehension, by the time the course began in mid-February, I couldn't stop thinking about it, I was so excited. And the first week and a half have not disappointed. The book used as a textbook for the course is Janet Burroway's Writing fiction. From reading that, I was introduced to some amazing things that I never realised had anything to do with writing fiction. She said things like that stories do not come out of ideas but rather out of images and obsessions. And she said things like that

"Fiction is written not so much to inform as to find out, and if you force yourself into a mode of informing when you haven't yet found out, you're likely to end up pontificating or lying some other way." (p5)

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Well, of course, when I read this, I could see how it related to what the Baha'is are doing with telling people about the Baha'i revelation. The Baha'is are completely given over to 'informing' and not 'finding out' and end up 'pontificating'. You see, the principle applies across the board. Sometimes, of course, it is appropriate to pontificate, such as in some teaching situations. But when it comes to things like fiction and revelations - hey, what's the difference, in that both are founded on stories; it's just that revelations are divine stories and fiction is made of human-made stories - then pontificating isn't going to get you very far.

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750 muskets

It’s the season of family movies, and Christmas miracle stories. If you don’t have cable, it’s hard to find anything else. But who would want to? I love them. I don’t believe them, of course, but I believe in them. I think the world’s a better place with them, and I go soppy-eyed every time the director pulls a tear-jerker. They work for me.

I feel the same way about other miracle stories. I believe in them, even if I can’t believe them. Take the 750 muskets at the martyrdom of the Bab, for example. The way Abdu’l-Baha tells the story:

By one rope the Báb was suspended and by the other rope Aqa Muhammad-’Ali, both being firmly bound in such wise that the head of that young man was on the Báb’s breast. The surrounding housetops billowed with teeming crowds. A regiment of soldiers ranged itself in three files. The first file fired; then the second file, and then the third file discharged volleys. From the fire of these volleys a mighty smoke was produced. When the smoke cleared away they saw that young man standing and the Báb seated by the side of His amanuensis Aqa Siyyid Husayn in the very cell from the staircase of which they had suspended them. To neither one of them had the slightest injury resulted.
(Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 26-7)

The way Shoghi Effendi tells it, it goes like this:

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Shoghi Effendi in Oxford and Earlier

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Book Review: Riaz Khadem, Shoghi Effendi in Oxford, George Ronald, Oxford, 1999

I just finished "Shoghi Effendi in Oxford," an unassuming study of the early years of the Guardian by Riaz Khadem, son of the Hand of the Cause Dhikru’llah Khadem. Riaz Khadem, supported financially by his father, had the bounty in the 1960's of attending the same college, Balliol, that the Guardian had lived and studied in some forty years before. This placed him in a unique position to do the research that resulted in this book. For instance, he wrote the surviving members of Shoghi Effendi's classes, and a surprisingly large number responded, considering how brief was his time at Balliol.

One classmate replied who had known Shoghi Effendi in late 1921, at the end of his stay there, the time when he discovered Gibbon's Decline and Fall. He read it wherever he went, even going for walks about campus while reading,

"It was quite a thing to watch, and I always thought he would trip over something. However, dignity and a look of profound inspiration always seemed to be preserved." (Riaz Khadem, Shoghi Effendi in Oxford, p. 129)

Of course we cannot be certain that it was Decline and Fall that the Guardian was holding. It may have been the KJV, which he also discovered around this time. "In addition to Gibbon's work, Shoghi Effendi loved the style of English in the King James version of the Bible, which he read while he was at Balliol." Some of the classmates had the impression that Shoghi Effendi had just discovered the Bible itself. Khadem points out that this was not the case, since he had already taken several courses on the Bible as an undergraduate. It was the English style of the King James translation that was a new discovery. Here is how Khadem describes the long term effects of his discovery of the Decline and Fall,

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Ahang's witnesses: volume 3, part 3

I continue my review of volume 3 of Ahang's witnesses series, a memoir of Dr Mu'ayyad titled "Eight Years Near Abdu'l-Baha". In part 1, I focused on the first two chapters; in part 2, I covered chapters 3-5; in this installment, I cover chapters 6-8. In part 2, I noted that I could not access volume 3 on Ahang's site and assumed that this was a temporary glitch. However, the problem continues, indicating that it's been taken down indefinitely. Therefore, this installment will be the last I'll do on volume 3. There's no point in my reviewing volumes my readers can't access. I'll move on to something else that everyone can read.

Chapter 6 is a different kettle of fish from the previous chapters. The events take place in Abu Sinan in November 1914; in other words, it is the beginning of the war and life changes a great deal. Footnote 241 tells us that "Abu Sinan is a village on the eastern side of Akka." Dr Mu'ayyad explains that the war made life hell. He describes it this way:

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