Abdu'l-Bahá's Encounter with Modernity during His Western Travels

By Wendi Momen

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #104
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 9–12, 2011
(see list of papers from #104)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 13, pages 273-307
© 2012, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    Having spent almost His whole life as a prisoner and an exile in the Middle East, `Abdu'l-Bahá, son of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, was set free in 1908. He travelled from the Middle East to Europe in 1911 and to Europe and North America in 1912-13, taking His father's message of the renewal of religion and how to build a new civilization based on the spiritual principles of peace, justice and unity to a western audience.

    On His travels `Abdu'l-Bahá encountered developments in material civilization — steam travel, the skyscrapers of New York, the telephone, the bright lights of cities; modern social movements — suffragettes, socialist politics, new religious thought; and people living in democracies in relative prosperity and comfort, who had still not cast off racist and sexist philosophies. This paper looks at some of these and `Abdu'l-Bahá's responses to them.

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