Stories about 'Abdu'l-Bahá

A Photograph With ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Arches of the Years
April 24, 1912
Washington, D.C. DC

Ali Kuli Khan, a Bahá’í from Persia [now Iran] was the charge d’affaires at the Persian Embassy in Washington, D.C. in 1912. Married to an American, Florence Breed Khan, theirs was the first Persian-American Bahá’í marriage. Florence asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if He would consent to a photograph with the Khan children, and He assented. The Khans’ daughter Marzieh, the little girl on the left of the photo, when a grown woman wrote the following:

Abdu’l-Bahá had given Florence permission, much coveted, to have her three children photographed in His presence, and had assigned a definite hour and date… .

Florence and the children, having an appointment, were at once ushered upstairs to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s reception room. The room was full of light, with transparent white curtains. There was as usual a party atmosphere when He was present, a quickening. Comings and goings, flowers, candies, electric air, the people somehow enhanced… .

Now Florence worried, thinking that if the photographers did not come upstairs at once, the three active children would play about and crush their well-ironed clothes. Everyone’s garments were complicated then, for it was long decades before the era of do-it-yourself and a maid could spend half an hour ironing an infant’s lacy, layered dress.

The youngest began running back and forth, to the Master, then away from Him.

Come here!’ He said to the tiny girl. ‘Give me a kiss!’

Hamideh leaned toward Him and then coquettishly withdrew her face.

Florence called out, ‘Kiss the Master!’ The child tossed her head.

Very well,’ He said, ‘if you will not kiss me, I will kiss you.’

At which the little girl turned up the right side of her face to Him. He bent and, as if inhaling scent from a flower, kissed the soft cheek and as she darted away, He said, ‘Ah!’ as though He had tasted nectar.

… The children were told to hold very still because there was going to be a flash and a loud noise. The older girl braced herself, the right hand a tense fist, the left supporting her rigidly against the side of the Master’s chair. . .

He is shown seated for the photographer, one child at either side of Him, the third held before Him in a standing position and encircled by His arms. He is pressing candy into her hand, not making a special thing of it, not demonstratively but routinely, feeding her the way a bird feeds its young in the nest, because it has to: He could not help helping, He was all-bountiful. (Marzieh Gail, “Arches of the Years,” p. 84)