Consider this for a moment: do you have a favorite story about one of God’s messengers? Do they involve miracles?
Humanity has cherished and preserved many wonderful stories through time regarding our beloved prophets of God—Moses and the remarkable accounts of his being placed in a basket as a baby, the burning bush and the parting of the Red Sea; Buddha’s journey to enlightenment in the tale of Siddhartha; the story of Muhammad and the sour grapes, and the story of Jesus, his virgin birth, and the five loaves of bread and two fishes.
As with all the prophets of old, there are many anecdotes about Baha’u’llah, too. This one has special meaning to me.
One of the early devoted Baha’is named May Bolles Maxwell recounted a story about a now world-famous garden known as “The Garden of Ridvan” in the Holy Land. This is her story:
After driving for about half an hour we reached the garden where Baha’u’llah spent much of His time during His long years of exile in Akka. Although this garden is small it is one of the loveliest spots we had ever seen. Baha’u’llah frequently said to His gardener, Abu’l-Qasim, ‘This is the most beautiful garden in the world.’ With its tall trees, its wealth of flowers, and its fountains, it lies like a peerless gem surrounded by two limpid streams of water just as it is described in the Qur’an. Abu’l-Qasim made tea for us, and there he told us the story of the locusts. How that during one hot summer there had been a pest of locusts and they had consumed most of the foliage in the surrounding country. One day Abu’l-Qasim saw a thick cloud coming swiftly towards the garden, and in a moment thousands of locusts were covering the tall trees beneath which Baha’u’llah so often sat. Abu’l-Qasim hastened to the house at the end of the garden and coming before his Lord besought Him, saying: ‘My Lord, the locusts have come, and are eating away the shade from above Thy blessed head. I beg of Thee to cause them to depart.’ [Baha’u’llah] smiled, and said: ‘The locusts must be fed, let them be.’ Much chagrined, Abu’l-Qásim returned to the garden and for some time watched the destructive work in silence; but presently, unable to bear it, he ventured to return again to Baha’u’llah and humbly entreat Him to send away the locusts. [Baha’u’llah] arose and went into the garden and stood beneath the trees covered with the insects. Then He said: ‘Abu’l-Qasim does not want you; God protect you.’ And lifting up the hem of His robe He shook it, and immediately all the locusts arose in a body and flew away. When Abu’l-Qásim concluded this story he exclaimed with strong emotion as he touched his eyes: ‘Oh, blessed are these eyes to have seen such things; oh, blessed are these ears to have heard such things.’ – May Bolles Maxwell, An Early Pilgrimage, pp. 32-4.
Although many people, both Baha’is and others, reported that they had seen Baha’u’llah perform miracles, just as the prophets of old did, he did not wish for them to be signs of his revelation or proofs of his validity. The Baha’i Faith does not emphasize physical miracles because they are not considered sufficient proof of anything, except for those who actually witnessed them in person.
Moreover, the emphasis on miracles in past religions led to many superstitious and harmful practices, such as not seeking medical attention or believing in unsupportable, unscientific and irrational fears and legends:
… in the sight of the Manifestations these marvels and miracles are of no importance, so much so that they do not even wish them to be mentioned. For even if these miracles were considered the greatest of proofs, they would constitute a clear evidence only for those who were present when they took place, and not for those who were absent. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 113.
That being said, I was enchanted by this sweet story as a young Baha’i. I don’t know if it actually happened—but that’s not the point. Years later, to my family’s dismay, our home was temporarily overrun with mites. In the beginning they bit everyone, but after some abatement we were able to rid ourselves of the worst of them. Unfortunately, with a compromised immune system, the ones that remained took extra relish in feasting on me!
So later I remembered the story about Baha’u’llah and the locusts, and read it again. I took special delight in recounting it to my family and then said, “Oh how I wish Baha’u’llah could visit us, raise his cloak, and send these pests away!” Everyone laughed and I was filled with hope. Just the thought of it made me happy and gave me patience. I saw the symbolism of the story, too—that the spirit of true Faith can banish the most pestilential of our fears and problems—and I realized that the symbolism itself was the real message.
The gift that these wonderful stories, miracles and events offer us is to find the magic, the humor and the humanity that is deep inside, to renew our faith. They help us to see with spiritual eyes, hear with spiritual ears and to listen to the loving guidance and wisdom budding in all of our hearts.