Visiting Bahá’í Shrines Electronically
The Bahá’í Shrines in Haifa and Acre, Israel, are familiar and iconic symbols of the Bahá’í Faith. But do you know about the Bahá’í shrines in Burma (also known as Myanmar) and Canada?
Burma: The Shrine of the Hand of the Cause of God Mustafa Rumi
For a short video of the Shrine of the Hand of the Cause of God Mustafa Rumi (c. 1845 or 1849–1945), see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfr2uFP72DI.
Siyyid Mustafa Rumi, whose merchant family from Baghdad settled in Madras, India, was taught by Jamal Effendi, whom Bahá’u’lláh had instructed to go to India. Rumi became a Bahá’í in 1877 while traveling with Jamal Effendi. The two then traveled extensively in India, Burma, and Southeast Asia.
Rumi eventually settled in Burma. He helped pay for the marble sarcophagus that the Burmese Bahá’ís sent to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the remains of the Báb. He also was part of the group who escorted the sarcophagus to Haifa.
As a teacher, Rumi was known for his ability to encourage seekers to strip away misconceptions and find truth for themselves. As an administrator, he had the gift of encouraging new believers to organize themselves and raise up new Bahá’í communities.
A scholar familiar with Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism; a writer; and a translator, Rumi stood firm in the Covenant when Covenant-breakers emerged after the passing of Bahá’u’lláh and again after the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. In the 1930s he served for several years on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India and Burma.
In his later years Rumi lived in Daidanaw, an entire Bahá’í village known to Bahá’ís as “the village of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” When the village was attacked on March 13, 1945, the Bahá’í school, the Haziratu’l-Quds, and many Bahá’í homes were burned, Rumi was killed along with ten other Bahá’ís. Rumi was beheaded and his body chopped to pieces. Later the Bahá’ís gathered the pieces and buried him in front of the Bahá’í Center.
Shoghi Effendi cabled the Bahá’ís of India and Burma on July 14, 1945, elevating Rumi posthumuosly to the rank of a Hand of the Cause of God and designating his burial place a shrine:
Hearts griefstricken passing Supreme Concourse distinguished pioneer Faith Bahá’u’lláh dearly beloved staunch high minded noble soul Siyyid Mustafa. Long record his superb services both teaching administrative fields shed lustre on both Heroic and Formatives ages Bahá’í Dispensation. His magnificent achievements fully entitle him join ranks Hands Cause Bahá’u’lláh. His resting place should be regarded foremost shrine community Burmese believers. Advise holding memorial gatherings throughout India honor his imperishable memory. Urge Indian Burmese Bahá’ís participate construction tomb. Cabling three hundred pounds my personal contribution so praiseworthy purpose. (Messages of Shoghi Effendi to the Indian Subcontinent: 1923–1957 260)
After World War II, the Indian and Burmese Bahá’ís collaborated in erecting a shrine for Mustafa Rumi in Daidanaw.
A longer account of Rumi’s life can be found here.
Canada: The Bahá’í Shrine in Montreal
Another Bahá’í shrine is in Montreal, Canada. In June 1953 Shoghi Effendi said the Maxwell home in Montreal “should be viewed in the nature of a national Shrine, because of its association with the beloved Master, during His visit to Montreal.”
The Maxwell home in Montreal is a place of pilgrimage. The upper floor and the room in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed constitute’s a Shrine; the entire building is an historic monument.
For a photographs of the exterior of the Maxwell house and the room in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed, see http://www.ca.bahai.org/shrine.
Other Bahá’í Shrines?
Only time will tell whether we will see more Bahá’í shrines. About Marion Jack, who stayed at her post in Bulgaria during World War II and died there, Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf to the European Teaching Committee, states that her “tomb will become a national shrine, immensely loved and revered, as the Faith rises in stature in that country” (Lights of Guidance 573).