Do you have a favourite attribute of God? As I pass through different moods and understandings, I think to myself that, for example, the Clement, is my favourite attribute. The All-sufficing is one I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on, for obvious reasons. But the one I keep going back to is the All-Powerful. I think I have to put that one at the top of my list. Many names are closely associated with the All-Powerful, such as the Ordainer, the All-subduing, the Omnipotent, the Almighty, so in fact, all those names could appear at the top of my list. The reason I am drawn to the All-powerful is not due to some deep insight – it is simply because it means God always prevails, no matter what. When God appears not to prevail, then that is a game of reality that God is playing. Eventually God prevails. The name the All-powerful has kept me sane in the face of the grievous cruelty currently displayed by the Russians in Ukraine. Their behaviour is abominable, and the only thing that stops me from screaming is remembering that God is All-powerful.
I was meditating on this when suddenly I was reminded of an experience that proved to be a key reason I became Baha’i. I was reading Balyuzi’s book Abdul-Baha and was profoundly moved by the way Abdu’l-Baha responded to people who shunned him. As I recall it, a guy in Akka shunned Abdu’l-Baha for decades, having nothing to do with him and making a point of looking away from him if they walked passed each other. Eventually, the guy fell ill and Abdu’l-Baha sent Baha’is to care for him. Of course, the guy was deeply remorseful about his appalling behaviour.
One might characterise this as Abdu’l-Baha showing kindness to his enemy, which is true. But that wasn’t why it moved me. What excited me and mesmorised me was that it demonstrated Abdu’l-Baha’s power over his enemies. I saw that, if he could do that, he would not have anything to worry about in this world. He had already won. After that, I couldn’t keep away from him. I wanted what he had. I didn’t want to go down in a screaming heap, beaten down by cruel people and unfavourable conditions. What is the point of that? Why live if that is where you end up? If what Abdu’l-Baha did can be achieved, one’s purpose in life cannot be taken away from you. You always retain your independence, no matter what your circumstances. You always decide what you want to do in any situation, and no one tells you what to do or draws you into a losing game.
Abdu’l-Baha chose to help the guy because he was free to choose to do so, not because he was obliged to be charitable. Often, people struggle with the idea of being kind to enemies because they do not want to give to the undeserving. But I don’t think Abdu’l-Baha looked at his situation in that way. He lived in a different world to the guy who shunned him. And when the guy fell ill, he helped him because kind behaviour is the means for producing good results and supporting the Cause. That is what mattered to him. I don’t think he was caught up in an obligation to be charitable to the undeserving. That is not power; it is a loss of one’s true self.