A Calm Storm

The blog of Sholeh Samadani Munion

The Baha’i House of Worship – a story about a silk carpet

In looking for quotations about National Convention, I found this touching story.   I remember that a silk carpet was displayed in Foundation Hall when I was a child, but it is no longer hanging on the wall.  I love this story about the House of Worship.  It is an excerpt from “The Priceless Pearl”, the book that Shoghi Effendi’s wife, Ruhiyyih Khanum, wrote after his passing. She attended the dedication of the House of Worship in 1953 on behalf of the Guardian.  I have chosen select passages, but I suggest reading the book in its entirety.

Although the first Temple was built according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’í own instructions in Ishqabad during his lifetime, the Guardian assured us that the first Temple erected in the New World was the holiest for all time because the Master Himself had laid its foundation stone during His visit to North America and it had been one of the undertakings dearest to His heart. By 1921, when Shoghi Effendi became Guardian, its foundations had been laid but the building ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had so longed to see erected before His passing was only a hideous black waterproofed cylinder, resembling a gas tank, sticking up above the ground.

The Guardian conceived it as one of his major duties to complete this sacred edifice as soon as possible. It took him thirty-two years to accomplish this task which he called the greatest enterprise ever launched by the western followers of the Faith and the most signal victory won during the Formative Period of the Bahá’í Dispensation. One of his first acts was to send 19 [pounds] to its Temple Fund in 1922, and in 1926 he says he is “joyously pledging 95 dollars per month as my humble share”; throughout the years he frequently contributed towards its erection…by 1923 the Convention was held in what became known from then on as Foundation Hall; to embellish its walls he sent as he gift beautiful Persian rugs from the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh; until 1928, however, no progress was made in the erection of the Temple. To the Convention held that year he sent a strongly worded message pleading with the American believers to resume the construction of their great Temple and this influenced them to initiate what became known as the “Plan of Unified Action”, designed to raise money for the extremely costly work of the superstructure. In spite of this by 1929 the required sum had not been obtained and Shoghi Effendi, not himself at that time in a position to send a large amount, decided to sell the most precious thing the Faith possessed in the Holy Land. He cabled the Convention: “Am sacrificing the most valuable ornament Bahá’u’lláh’s Shrine in order consecrate and reinforce collective endeavours American believers speedily to consummate plan unified action appeal for unprecedented self-sacrifice.” It was typical of him that he first cabled the Persian donor of this priceless object: “Temple work America progressing three quarters sum required first storey actually subscribed. Strongly feel desirability sale silk carpet you donated. Wire views promptly regarding market and price. Appreciate your consent.” Only when he received a warm answer and advice to sell in New York did he inform America of his decision. So deeply touched were the Bahá’ís by this offering of their Guardian that they raised almost $300,000 before the Convention rose. Fearing that heavy debts might be incurred if the sum for the entire future work was not pledged in advance, Shoghi Effendi would not permit contracts to be signed. However, by the 1930 Convention the sum was pledged, the Guardian consented – and the Bahá’ís wanted to buy the precious carpet themselves, which in the meantime had reached the United States. His cabled replies were typical in every way: “Approve proceed construction entire Temple without external decorations provided believers are determined to consummate their sacrifice by adding decorations eventually. Feel we all should uphold design in its entirety as approved ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” “Consecrated carpet need neither be sold nor returned. Dedicated as permanent ornament first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar of West.” The Convention, overwhelmed, cabled its “deep gratitude for matchless gift”. The enthusiasm Shoghi Effendi engendered by such messages and acts as these was not produced by policy on his part, but rather by the deep unselfconscious instinct of a born leader with a singularly pure motive and heart…

…Year after year the messages went out and the fabulous Temple went up, until, at the second and last great Centenary to be celebrated during Shoghi Effendi’s lifetime, I was able to read those words: “On behalf of the Guardian of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, I have the great honour of dedicating this first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar of the Western World to public worship…I greet and welcome you on behalf of the Guardian of our Faith within these walls…”


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