Friday, January 8, 2010


As you know, in the Baha'i Faith, we don't drink alcohol.  Perhaps that's why so many of us turn to coffee.  Or tea.  I can't leave out the tea drinkers.  In fact, I'm an avid tea drinker, too.  Oh, and hot chocolate.  Let's not forget the hot chocolate (it's sort of the whiskey of non-alcohol drinkers).

But coffee seems to get the big bill.

There is a wonderful story about 'Abdu'l-Baha who, in jest, told Siyyid Assadu'llah, His faithful attendant, to fear God and bring Him some coffee.  Obviously this must have been before breakfast.

There's another story about the Master in which he was in a coffee shop where the owner was very fond of Him.  'Abdu'l-Baha began to talk about how bad coffee is for the body, and went on at some length talking about how much better tea is for you than coffee.  The poor owner was getting concerned, and went over and asked 'Abdu'l-Baha if there was anything He wanted to drink.  The Master turned to Him, with a twinkle in His eye, and ordered a coffee.  (Please note that this is only a story on hearsay.  I haven't found verification of it anywhere, but so what.  It's fun.)

Many of us have noted that coffee is becoming more of a verb these days than a noun.  "Hey, let's coffee somtime this week."  It means, "Let's go out in public, chat, and share some fun ideas."  At least that's what it means to me.

In fact, right now, at this very moment, I am sitting in a coffee shop waiting for a friend of mine so that we can continue our study of the Kitab-i-Iqan.  We're blogging this study (another example of a noun / verb switch), and I'll let you know about it as soon as we get something worthwhile happening.

In the meantime, let's get back to coffee and the Baha'i Faith.

I think coffee shops are a great place to teach the Faith.  And I'm not alone.  Mirza Abu'l-Fadl was said to have taught many people in coffee shops.  Baha'u'llah, Himself, often went to the coffee shops in Baghdad and would engage people in conversation.

When I first moved to Canada, I would go to the coffee shops near where I lived and talk with people about all sorts of spiritual issues.  I met many lifelong friends this way and still, when visiting a new city or town, will visit a coffee shop to begin meeting people.

One day, a friend of mine asked me if we could read The Dawn-Breakers together.  She said she had tried many times, but just couldn't make heads nor tails out of it.  She originally wanted to come over to my place and read it, but I suggested the coffee shop, so off we went.

The same day, at the same time, each week we would sit across from each other and take turns reading the book aloud.

While we were doing this, I would ask questions, or point out who someone was in the text, or indicate when Nabil would switch narrators.  It was great fun, and I found myself paying even greater attention to some of the details than I had before.

Her questions were also quite astute and led to many wonderful asides. (See, I've always gone off on asides.  It's not just here.)

One day, a few months into it, we noticed that the same people were always sitting around us.  A short time later, we realized that they were not turning the pages in their books or in their newspapers.  The following week, they weren't even pretending to read.  They were turned towards us and actively listening in on our conversation.

When we came back a week later, they had taken the tables and moved them all together, with two seats saved for us.  It was such a joyous moment.

We finished our reading of that great book with our new-found friends in attendance each week.

I wasn't sure if anything ever came of it, until five years later when I saw one of them again.  I was sitting over coffee with someone else, when this man came up to us.  We warmly greeted each other and he immediately turned to the friend I was with and he asked if I had told her about the martyrdom of the Bab.  He then described the entire story perfectly, in great detail.  It was a wonder to behold.

Oh, and that was the same coffee shop in which I proposed to my wife.

Yeah.  I just love coffee.


  1. I remember a having a wonderful time with you and some coffee. We were sitting in Kaffeine in Evanston, drinking ENORMOUS cappucinos, and laughing. I remember it well.

    P.S. Every time I see the movie "So I Married an Axe Murderer," the big cups of coffee remind me of you. Odd how we make these sorts of connections, isn't it?

  2. Cappuchino's with hazelnut syrup = love.

  3. Hi, do you know the full story of Siyyid Assadu'llah being told to fear God and bring coffee? It's really funny. I tried to google for it but I got no results.

    1. Not off-hand, but I'll see if I can find it again.

  4. Hi, i would love to have the reference from the story below! where did you get it from?!! please share <3 :)

    "There is a wonderful story about 'Abdu'l-Baha who, in jest, told Siyyid Assadu'llah, His faithful attendant, to fear God and bring Him some coffee. Obviously this must have been before breakfast."