Chapter Four: 'Abdu'l-Baha:
The Servant of Baha
When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the
Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed,
Who hath branched from this Ancient Root. -- BAHA'U'LLAH, Kitab-i-Aqdas.
Abbas Effendi, Who afterwards assumed the title of Abdu'l-Baha
(i.e. Servant of Baha), was the eldest son of Baha'u'llah.
He was born in Tihran before midnight on the eve of
the 23rd of May, 1844,1
the very same night
in which the Bab declared His mission.
was nine years of age when His father, to Whom even then He was devotedly attached,
was thrown into the dungeon in Tihran. A mob sacked their house, and the family
were stripped of their possessions and left in destitution. Abdu'l-Baha tells
how one day He was allowed to enter the prison yard to see His beloved father
when He came out for His daily exercise. Baha'u'llah was terribly altered, so
ill He could hardly walk, His hair and beard unkempt, His neck galled and swollen
from the pressure of a heavy steel collar, His body bent by the weight of His
chains, and the sight made a never- to-be-forgotten impression on the mind of
the sensitive boy.
the first year of their residence in Baghdad, ten years before the open Declaration
by Baha'u'llah of His Mission, the keen insight of Abdu'l-Baha, Who was then but
nine years of age, already led Him to the momentous discovery that His father
was indeed the Promised One Whose Manifestation all the Babis were awaiting. Some
sixty years afterwards He thus described the moment in which this conviction suddenly
overwhelmed His whole nature:
am the servant of the Blessed Perfection. In Baghdad I was a child. Then and there
He announced to me the Word, and I believed in Him. As soon as He proclaimed to
me the Word, I threw myself at His Holy Feet and implored and supplicated Him
to accept my blood as a sacrifice in His Pathway. Sacrifice! How sweet I find
that word! There is no greater Bounty for me than this! What greater glory can
I conceive than to see thick neck chained for His sake, these feet fettered for
His love, this body mutilated or thrown into the depths of the sea for His Cause!
If in reality we are His sincere lovers -- if in reality I am His sincere servant,
then I must sacrifice my life, my all at His Blessed Threshold. -- Diary of Mirza
Ahmad Sohrab, January 1914.
About this time He began to be called by His friends, "The Mystery of God," a
title given to Him by Baha'u'llah, by which He was commonly known during the period
of residence in Baghdad.
When His father went away for two years in the wilderness, Abbas was heartbroken.
His chief consolation consisted in copying and committing to memory the Tablets
of the Bab, and much of His time was spent in solitary meditation. When at last
His father returned, the boy was overwhelmed with joy.
From that time onwards, He became His father's closest
companion and, as it were, protector. Although a mere
youth, He already showed astonishing sagacity and discrimination,
and undertook the task of interviewing all the numerous
visitors who came to see His father. If He found they
were genuine truth seekers, He admitted them to His
father's presence, but otherwise He did not permit them
to trouble Baha'u'llah. On many occasions He helped
His father in answering the questions and solving the
difficulties of these visitors. For example, when of
the Sufi leaders, named Ali Shawkat Pasha, asked for
an explanation of the phrase: "I was a Hidden Mystery,"
which occurs in a well-known Muhammadan tradition,
Baha'u'llah turned to the "Mystery of God," Abbas, and
asked Him to write the explanation. The boy, who was
then about fifteen or sixteen years of age, at once
wrote an important epistle giving an exposition so illuminating
as to astonish the Pasha. This epistle is now widely
spread among the Bahá'ís, and is well
known to many outside the Bahá'í faith.
About this time Abbas was a frequent visitor to the mosques, where He would discuss
theological matters with the doctors and learned men. He never attended any school
or college, His only teacher being His father. His favorite recreation was horseback
riding, which He keenly enjoyed.
Baha'u'llah's Declaration in the Garden outside Baghdad, Abdu'l-Baha's devotion
to His father became greater than ever. On the long journey to Constantinople
He guarded Baha'u'llah night and day, riding by His wagon and watching near His
tent. As far as possible He relieved His father of all domestic cares and responsibilities,
becoming the mainstay and comfort of the entire family.
During the years spent in Adrianople, Abdu'l-Baha endeared Himself to everyone.
He taught much, and became generally known as the "Master." At Akka, when nearly
all the party were ill with typhoid, malaria, and dysentery, He washed the patients,
nursed them, fed them, watched with them, taking no rest, until utterly exhausted,
He Himself took dysentery, and for about a month remained in a dangerous condition.
In Akka, as in Adrianople, all classes, from the Governor to the most wretched
beggar, learned to love and respect Him.
The following particulars
regarding the marriage of Abdu'l-Baha were kindly supplied to the writer by a
Persian historian of the Bahá'í Faith: --
the youth of Abdu'l-Baha the question of a suitable
marriage for Him was naturally one of great interest
to the believers, and many people came forward, wishing
to have this crown of honor for their own family. For
a long time, however, Abdu'l-Baha showed no inclination
for marriage, and no one understood the wisdom of this.
Afterwards it became known that there was a girl who
was destined to become the wife of Abdu'l-Baha, one
whose birth came about through the Blessing which the
Bab gave to her parents in Isfahan. Her father was Mirza
Muhammad Ali, who was the uncle of the "King of Martyrs"
and the "Beloved of Martyrs," and she belonged to one
of the great and noble families of Isfahan. When the
Bab was in Isfahan, Mirza Muhammad Ali had no children,
but his wife was longing for a child. On hearing of
this, the Bab gave him a portion of His food and told
him to share it with his wife. After they had eaten
of that food, it soon became apparent that their long-cherished
hopes of parenthood were about to be fulfilled, and
in due course a daughter was born to them, who was given
the name of Munirih Khanum.1
Later on son was born, to whom they gave the name of
Siyyid Yahya, and afterwards they had some other children.
After a time, Munirih's father died, her cousins were
martyred by Zillu's-Sultan and the mullas, and the family
fell into great troubles and bitter persecutions because
of their being Bahá'ís. Baha'u'llah then
permitted Munirih and her brother Siyyid Yahya to come
to Akka for protection. Baha'u'llah and His wife, Navvab,
the mother of Abdu'l-Baha, showed such kindness and
favor to Munirih that others understood that they wished
her to become the wife of Abdu'l-Baha. The wish of His
father and mother became the wish of Abdu'l-Baha, too.
He had a warm feeling of love and affection for Munirih
which was fully reciprocated, and erelong they became
united in marriage.
The marriage proved exceedingly happy and harmonious. Of the children born to
them four daughters have survived the rigors of their long imprisonment, and,
through their beautiful
lives of service, have endeared themselves to all who have been privileged to
indicated in many ways the Abdu'l-Baha was to direct the Cause after His own ascension.
Many years before His death He declared this in a veiled manner in His Kitab-i-Aqdas.
He referred to Abdu'l-Baha on many occasions as "The Center of My Covenant," "The
Most Great Branch," "The Branch from the Ancient Root." He habitually spoke of
Him as "The Master" and required all His family to treat Him with marked deference;
and in His Will and Testament He left explicit instructions that all should turn
to Him and obey Him.
the death of the "Blessed Beauty" (as Baha'u'llah was generally called by His
family and believers) Abdu'l-Baha assumed the position which His father had clearly
indicated for Him as head of the Cause and authoritative Interpreter of the teachings,
but this was resented by certain of His relatives and others, who became as bitterly
opposed to Abdu'l-Baha as Subh-i-Azal had been to Baha'u'llah. They tried to stir
up dissensions among the believers, and, failing in that, proceeded to make various
false charges against Abdu'l-Baha to the Turkish Government.
accordance with instructions received from His father, Abdu'l-Baha was erecting
a building on the side of Mount Carmel, above Haifa, which was intended to be
the permanent resting-place of the remains of the Bab, and also to contain a number
of rooms for meetings and services. They represented to the authorities that this
building was intended as a fort, and that Abdu'l-Baha and His followers meant
to entrench themselves there, defy the Government, and endeavor to gain possession
of the neighboring region of Syria.
In consequence of this and other equally unfounded charges, in 1901, Abdu'l-Baha
and His family, who for more than twenty years had been allowed the freedom of
the country for
some miles around Akka, were again, for over seven years, strictly confined within
the walls of the prison city. This did not prevent Him, however, from effectively
spreading the Bahá'í message through Asia, Europe and America. Mr. Horace Holley
writes of this period as follows: --
Abdu'l-Baha, as a teacher and friend, came men and women from every race, religion
and nation, to sit at his table like favored guests, questioning him about the
social, spiritual or moral program each had most at heart; and after a stay lasting
from a few hours to many months, returning home, inspired, renewed and enlightened.
The world surely never possessed such a guest-house as this.
Within its doors the rigid castes of India melted away, the racial prejudice of
Jew, Christian and Muhammadan became less than a memory; and every convention
save the essential law of warm hearts and aspiring minds broke down, banned and
forbidden by the unifying sympathy of the master of the house. It was like a King
Arthur and the Round Table ... but an Arthur who knighted women as well as men,
and sent them away not with the sword but with the Word. -- The Modern Social
Religion, Horace Holley, p. 171.
During these years Abdu'l-Baha cared on an enormous correspondence with believers
and inquirers in all parts of the world. In this work He was greatly assisted
by His daughters and also by several interpreters and secretaries.
Much of His time was spent in visiting the sick and the afflicted in their own
homes; and in the poorest quarters of Akka no visitor was more welcome than the
"Master." A pilgrim who visited Akka at this time writes: --
is the custom of Abdu'l-Baha each week, on Friday morning, to distribute alms
to the poor. From his own scanty store he gives a little to each one of the needy
who come to ask assistance. This morning about one hundred were ranged in line,
seated and crouching upon the ground in the open street of the courts where Abdu'l-Baha's
house stands. And such a nondescript collection of humanity they were. All kinds
of men, women and children -- poor, wretched, hopeless in aspect, half-clothed,
many of them crippled and blind, beggars indeed, poor beyond expression -- waiting
expectant -- until from the doorway came Abdu'l-Baha. ... Quickly moving from
one to another, stopping sometimes to leave a word of sympathy and encouragement,
dropping small coins into each eager outstretched palm, touching the face of a
child, taking the hand of an old woman who held fast to the hem of his garment
as he passed along, speaking words of light to old men with sightless eyes, inquiring
after those too feeble and wretched to come for their pittance of help, and sending
them their portion with a message of love and uplift. -- Glimpses of Abdu'l-Baha,
M. J. M., p. 13.
Abdu'l-Baha's personal wants were few. He worked late and early. Two simple meals
a day sufficed Him. His wardrobe consisted of a very few garments of inexpensive
material. He could not bear to live in luxury while others were in want.
He had a great love for children, for flowers, and for the beauties of nature.
Every morning about six or seven, the family party used to gather to partake of
the morning tea together, and while the Master sipped His tea, the little children
of the household chanted prayers. Mr. Thornton Chase writes of these children:
-- "Such children I have never seen, so courteous, unselfish, thoughtful for others,
unobtrusive, intelligent, and swiftly self-denying in the little things that children
love. ..." -- In Galilee, p. 51.
"ministry of flowers" was a feature of the life at Akka, of which every pilgrim
brought away fragrant memories. Mrs. Lucas writes: -- "When the Master inhales
the odor of flowers, it is wonderful to see him. It seems as though the perfume
of the hyacinths were telling him something as he buries his face in the flowers.
It is like the effort of the ear to hear a beautiful
harmony, a concentrated attention!" -- A Brief Account of My Visit to `Akka, pp.
loved to present beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers to His numerous visitors.
Mr. Thornton Chase
sums up his impression of the prison life at Akka as follows: --
days we remained within those walls, prisoners with Him who dwells in that "Greatest
Prison." It is a prison of peace, of love and service. No wish, no desire is there
save the good of mankind, the peace of the world, the acknowledgement of the Fatherhood
of God and the mutual rights of men as His creatures, His children. Indeed, the
real prison, the suffocating atmosphere, the separation from all true heart desires,
the bond of world conditions, is outside of those stone walls, while within them
is the freedom and pure aura of the Spirit of God. All troubles, tumults, worries
or anxieties for worldly things are barred out there. -- In Galilee, p. 24.
To most people the hardships of prison life would appear as grievous calamities,
but for Abdu'l-Baha they had no terrors. When in prison He wrote: --
not because of my imprisonment and calamity; for this prison is my beautiful garden,
my mansioned paradise and my throne of dominion among mankind. My calamity in
my prison is a crown to me in which I glory among the righteous.
can be happy in the state of comfort, ease, health, success, pleasure and joy;
but if one be happy and contented in the time of trouble, hardship and prevailing
disease, that is the proof of nobility.
and 1907 commissions were appointed by the Turkish Government to inquire into
the charges against Abdu'l-Baha, and lying witnesses gave evidence against Him.
while refuting the charges, expressed His entire readiness to submit to any sentence
the tribunal chose to impose. He declared that if they should throw Him into jail,
drag Him through the streets, curse Him, spit upon Him, stone Him, heap upon Him
all sort of ignominy, hang Him or shoot Him, He would still be happy.
Between the sittings of the Commissions of Investigation He pursued His ordinary
life with the utmost serenity, planting fruit trees in a garden and presiding
at a marriage feast with the dignity and radiance of spiritual freedom. The Spanish
Consul offered to provide Him a safe passage to any foreign port He cared to select,
but this offer He gratefully but firmly refused, saying that whatever the consequences,
He must follow in the footsteps of the Bab and the Blessed Perfection, Who never
tried to save Themselves or run away from Their enemies. He encouraged most of
the Bahá'ís, however, to leave the neighborhood of Akka, which had become very
dangerous for them, and remained alone, with a few of the faithful, to await His
corrupt officials who constituted the last investigating commission arrived in
Akka in the early part of the winter of 1907, stayed one month, and departed for
Constantinople, after finishing their so-called "investigation," prepared to report
that the charges against Abdu'l-Baha had been substantiated and to recommend His
exile or execution. No sooner had they got back to Turkey, however, than the Revolution
broke out there and the four commissioners, who belonged to the old regime, had
to flee for their lives. The Young Turks established their supremacy, and all
political and religious prisoners in the Ottoman Empire were set free. In September
1890 Abdu'l-Baha was released was prison, and in the following year Abdu'l-Hamid,
the Sultan, became himself a prisoner.
After His release, Abdu'l-Baha continued the same holy life of ceaseless activity
in teaching, correspondence, ministering to the poor and the sick, with merely
the change from Akka to Haifa and from Haifa to Alexandria, until August 1911,
when He started
on His first visit to the Western world. During His tours in the West, Abdu'l-Baha
met men of every shade of opinion and amply fulfilled the command of Baha'u'llah
to "Consort with all the people with joy and fragrance." He reached London early
in September 1911, and spent a month there, during which, besides daily talks
with inquirers and many other activities, He addressed the congregations of the
Rev. R. J. Campbell at the City Temple, and of Archdeacon Wilberforce at St. John's,
Westminster, and breakfasted with the Lord Mayor. He then proceeded to Paris,
where His time was occupied in giving daily addresses and talks to eager listeners
of many nationalities and types. In December He returned to Egypt, and next spring,
in response to the earnest entreaty of the American friends, He proceeded to the
United States, arriving in New York in April 1912. During the next nine months
He traveled through America, from coast to coast, addressing all sorts and conditions
of men -- university students, Socialists, Mormons, Jews, Christians, Agnostics,
Esperantists, Peace Societies, New Thought Clubs, Women's Suffrage Societies,
and speaking in churches of almost every denomination, in each case giving addresses
suited to the audience and the occasion. On December 5 He sailed for Great Britain,
where He passed six weeks, visiting Liverpool, London, Bristol and Edinburgh.
In Edinburgh He gave a notable address to the Esperanto Society, in which He announced
that He had encouraged the Bahá'ís of the East to study Esperanto in order to
further better understanding between the East and the West. After two months in
Paris, spent as before in daily interviews and conference, He proceeded to Stuttgart,
where He held a series of very successful meetings with the German Bahá'ís; thence
to Budapest and Vienna, founding new groups in these places, returning, in May
1913, to Egypt, and on December 5, 1913, to Haifa.
He was then
in His seventieth year, and His long and arduous labors, culminating in these
strenuous Western tours, had
worn out His physical frame. After His return He wrote the following pathetic
Tablet to the believers in East and West: --
the time is coming when I shall be no longer with you. I have done all that could
be done. I have served the Cause of Baha'u'llah to the utmost of my ability. I
have labored night and day all the years of my life.
Oh, how I long to see the believers shouldering the responsibilities of the Cause!
Now is the time to proclaim the Kingdom of Abha (i.e. The Most Glorious!). Now
is the hour of union and concord! Now is the day of the spiritual harmony of the
friends of God! ...
am straining my ears toward the East and toward the West, toward the North and
toward the South, that haply I may hear the songs of love and fellowship raised
in the meetings of the believers. My days are numbered, and save this there remains
none other joy for me.
Oh, how I yearn to see the friends united, even as a shining strand of pearls,
as the brilliant Pleiades, as the rays of the sun, the gazelles of one meadow!
mystic nightingale is singing for them; will they not listen? The bird of paradise
is warbling; will they not hear? The Angel of the Kingdom of Abha is calling to
them; will they not hearken? The Messenger of the Covenant is pleading; will they
I am waiting, waiting to hear the glad news that the believers are the embodiment
of sincerity and loyalty, the incarnation of love and amity and the manifestation
of unity and concord!
they not rejoice my heart? Will they not satisfy my yearnings? Will they not heed
my pleadings? will they not fulfill my hopes? Will they not answer my call? I
am waiting, I am patiently waiting!
The enemies of the Bahá'í Cause, whose hopes had risen high when the Bab fell
a victim to their fury, when Baha'u'llah was driven from His native land and made
a prisoner for life, and again at the passing of Baha'u'llah -- these enemies
once more took heart when they saw the physical weakness and
weariness of Abdu'l-Baha after His return from His Western travels. But again
their hopes were doomed to disappointment. In a short time Abdu'l-Baha was able
to write: --
this physical body and human energy would have been unable to stand the constant
wear and tear...but the aid and help of the Desired One were the Guardian and
Protector of the weak and humble Abdu'l-Baha. ... Some have asserted that Abdu'l-Baha
is on the eve of bidding his last farewell to the world, that his physical energies
are depleted and drained and that ere long these complications will put an end
to his life. This is far from the truth. Although in the outward estimation of
the Covenant-breakers and defective-minded the body is weak on account of ordeals
in the Blessed Path, yet, Praise be to God! through the providence of the Blessed
Perfection the spiritual forces are in the utmost rejuvenation and strength. Thanks
be to God that now, through the blessing and benediction of Baha'u'llah, even
the physical energies are fully restored, divine joy is obtained, the supreme
glad-tidings are resplendent and ideal happiness overflowing.
Both during the European War and after its close Abdu'l-Baha, amidst countless
other activities, was able to pour forth a series of great and inspiring letters
which, when communications were reopened, roused believers throughout the world
to new enthusiasm and zeal for service. Under the inspiration of these letters
the Cause progressed by leaps and bounds and everywhere the Faith showed signs
of new vitality and vigor.
A remarkable instance
of the foresight of Abdu'l-Baha was supplied during the months immediately preceding
the war. During peacetimes there was usually a large number of pilgrims at Haifa,
from Persia and other regions of the globe. About six months before the outbreak
of war one of the old
Bahá'ís living at Haifa presented a request from several believers of Persia for
permission to visit the Master. Abdu'l-Baha did not grant the permission, and
from that time onwards gradually dismissed the pilgrims who were at Haifa, so
that by the end of July 1914 none remained. When, in the first days of August
the sudden outbreak of the Great War startled the world, the wisdom of His precaution
the war broke out, Abdu'l-Baha, Who had already spent fifty-five years of His
life in exile and prison, became again virtually a prisoner of the Turkish Government.
Communication with friends and believers outside Syria was almost completely cut
off, and He and His little band of followers were again subjected to straitened
circumstances, scarcity of food and great personal danger and inconvenience.
the war Abdu'l-Baha had a busy time in ministering to the material and spiritual
wants of the people about Him. He personally organized extensive agricultural
operations near Tiberias, thus securing a great supply of wheat, by means of which
famine was averted, not only for the Bahá'ís but for hundreds of the poor of all
religions in Haifa and Akka, whose wants He liberally supplied. He took care of
all, and mitigated their sufferings as far as possible. To hundreds of poor people
He would give a small sum of money daily. In addition to money He gave bread.
If there was no bread He would give dates or something else. He made frequent
visits to Akka to comfort and help the believers and poor people there. During
the time of war He had daily meetings of the believers, and through His help the
friends remained happy and tranquil throughout those troublous years.
Great was the rejoicing in Haifa when, on the 23rd day of September, 1918, at
3 P.M., after some twenty-four hours' fighting, the city was taken by British
and Indian cavalry, and the horrors of war conditions under the Turkish rule came
to an end.
the beginning of the British occupation, large numbers
of soldiers and Government officials of all ranks, even the highest, sought interviews
with Abdu'l-Baha, delighting in His illuminating talks, His breadth of view and
depth of insight, His dignified courtesy and genial hospitality. So profoundly
impressed were the Government representatives by His noble character and His great
work in the interests of peace conciliation, and the true prosperity of the people,
that a knighthood of the British Empire was conferred on Abdu'l-Baha, the ceremony
taking place in the garden of the Military Governor of Haifa on the 27th day of
winter of 1919-1920 the writer had the great privilege of spending two and half
months as the guest of Abdu'l-Baha at Haifa and intimately observing His daily
life. At that time, although nearly seventy-six years of age, He was still remarkably
vigorous, and accomplished daily an almost incredible amount of work. Although
often very weary He showed wonderful powers of recuperation, and His services
were always at the disposal of those who needed them most. His unfailing patience,
gentleness, kindliness and tact made His presence like a benediction. It was His
custom to spend a large part of each night in prayer and meditation. From early
morning until evening, except for a short siesta after lunch, He was busily engaged
in reading and answering letters from many lands and in attending to the multitudinous
affairs of the household and of the Cause. In the afternoon He usually had a little
relaxation in the form of a walk or a drive, but even then He was usually accompanied
by one or two, or a party, of pilgrims with whom He would converse on spiritual
matters, or He would find opportunity by the way of seeing and ministering to
some of the poor. After His return He would call the friends to the usual evening
meeting in His salon. Both at lunch and supper He used to entertain a number of
pilgrims and friends, and charm His guests with happy and humorous stories as
well as precious talks on a great variety of subjects. "My home is the home of
laughter and mirth," He declared, and indeed it
was so. He delighted in gathering together people of various races, colors, nations
and religions in unity and cordial friendship around His hospitable board. He
was indeed a loving father not only to the little community at Haifa, but to the
Bahá'í community throughout the world.
manifold activities continued with little abatement despite increasing bodily
weakness and weariness up till the last day or two of His life. On Friday, November
25, 1921, He attended the noonday prayer at the Mosque in Haifa, and afterwards
distributed alms to the poor with His own hands, as was His wont. After lunch
He dictated some letters. When He had rested He walked in the garden and had a
talk with the gardener. In the evening He gave His blessing and counsel to a loved
and faithful servant of the household who had been married that day, and afterwards
He attended the usual meeting of the friends in His own salon. Less that three
days later, about 1:30 A.M. on Monday, November 28, He passed away so peacefully
that, to the two daughters watching by His bedside, it seemed as if He had gone
quietly to sleep.
sad news soon spread throughout the town and was flashed over the wires to all
parts of the world. The next morning (Tuesday, November 29) the funeral took place:
a funeral the like of which Haifa, nay Palestine itself, had surely never seen
... so deep was the feeling that brought so many thousands of mourners together,
representative of so many religions, races and tongues.
The High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, the Governor of Jerusalem, the Governor
of Phoenicia, the Chief Officials of the Government, the Consuls of the various
countries, resident in Haifa, the heads of the various religious communities,
the notables of Palestine, Jews, Christians, Moslems, Druses, Egyptians, Greeks,
Turks, Kurds, and a host of his American, European and native friends, men, women
and children, both of high and low degree ... all, about ten thousand in number,
mourning the loss of their Beloved One. ...
God, my God!" the people wailed with one accord, "Our father has left us, our
father has left us!" ... they slowly wended their way up Mount Carmel, the Vineyard
of God. ... After two hours' walking, they reached the garden of the Tomb of the
Bab. ... As the vast concourse pressed round ... representatives of the various
denominations, Moslems, Christians and Jews, all hearts being ablaze with fervent
love of Abdu'l-Baha, some on the impulse of the moment, other prepared, raised
their voices in eulogy and regret, paying their last homage of farewell to their
loved one. So united were they in their acclamation of him, as the wise educator
and reconciler of the human race in this perplexed and sorrowful age, that there
seemed to be nothing left for the Bahá'ís to say. -- The Passing of Abdu'l-Baha,
by Lady Blomfield and Shoghi Effendi, pp. 11, 12.
speakers, all of them prominent representatives of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish
communities, bore eloquent and moving witness to their love and admiration of
the pure and noble life which had just drawn to its close. Then the casket was
slowly passed to its simple and hallowed resting-place.
here was a fitting tribute to the memory of One Who had labored all His life for
unity of religions, of races, of tongues -- a tribute, and also a proof, that
His lifework had not been in vain, that the ideals of Baha'u'llah, which were
His inspiration, nay, His very life, were already beginning to permeate the world
and to break down the barriers of sect and caste that for centuries had alienated
Muslim, Christian, Jew, and the other diverse factions into which the human family
has been riven.
The Writings of
Abdu'l-Baha are very numerous and are mostly in the form of letter to believers
and inquirers. A great
many of His talks and addresses have also been recorded and many have been published.
Of the thousands of pilgrims who have visited Him at Akka and Haifa a large number
have written descriptions of their impressions, and many of these records are
now available in printed form.
teachings are thus very completely preserved, and they cover a very wide range
of subjects. With many of the problems of both East and West He dealt more fully
than His Father had done, giving more detailed applications of the general principles
laid down by Baha'u'llah. A number of His Writings have not yet been translated
into any Western language but enough is already available to give deep and full
knowledge of the more important principles of His teaching.
spoke Persian, Arabic and Turkish. In His Western tours His talks and addresses
were always interpreted, obviously losing much of their beauty, eloquence and
force in the process, yet such was the power of the Spirit which accompanied His
words that all who heard Him were impressed.
The unique station assigned to Abdu'l-Baha by the Blessed Perfection is indicated
in the following passage written by the latter: -- "When the ocean of My presence
hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces towards Him
Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root." And again:
--" ... refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched
from this mighty Stock." Abdu'l-Baha Himself wrote the following: -- "In accordance
with the explicit text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha'u'llah hath made the Center of
the Covenant the Interpreter of His Word -- a Covenant so firm and mighty that
from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath
produced its like."
very completeness of the servitude with which Abdu'l-Baha promulgated the Faith
of Baha'u'llah in East and West resulted at times in a confusion of belief concerning
His station on the part of believers. Realizing the purity of the spirit animating
His word and
deed, surrounded by religious influences marking the breakdown of their traditional
doctrines, a number of Bahá'ís felt that they honored Abdu'l-Baha by likening
Him to a Manifestation, or hailing Him as the "return of Christ." Nothing caused
Him such intense grief as this failure to perceive that His capacity to serve
Baha'u'llah proceeded from the purity of the mirror turned to the Sun of Truth,
and not from the Sun itself.
Moreover, unlike previous Dispensations, the Faith of Baha'u'llah had within it
the potency of a universal human society. During Abdu'l-Baha's mission covering
the period 1892 to 1921, the Faith evolved through successive stages of development
in the direction of a true world order, Its development required continuous direction
and specific instruction from Abdu'l-Baha, Who alone knew the fullness of that
new potent inspiration brought to earth in this age. Until His own Will and Testament
was revealed after Abdu'l-Baha's departure from the flesh, and its significance
was expounded by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, the Bahá'ís almost
inevitably attributed their beloved Master's guidance a degree of spiritual authority
equaling that of the Manifestation.
effects of such naive enthusiasm are no longer felt
within the Bahá'í community, but with
a sounder realization of the mystery of that incomparably
devotion and servitude, the Bahá'ís can
today all the more consciously appreciate the unique
character of the mission which Abdu'l-Baha fulfilled.
The Faith which in 1892 seemed so weak and helpless
in the physical exile and imprisonment of its Exemplar
and Interpreter, has since, with irresistible power,
raised up communities in many countries,1
and challenges the weakness of a decaying civilization
with a body of teachings that alone reveal the future
of a despairing humanity.
The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha itself set forth with complete clarity the
mystery of the stations of the Bab and of Baha'u'llah, and His own mission:
is the foundation of the belief of the people of Baha (may my life be offered
up for them): "His Holiness, the Exalted One (the Bab), is the Manifestation of
the Unity and Oneness of God and the Forerunner of the Ancient Beauty. His Holiness
the Abha Beauty (may my life be a sacrifice for His steadfast friends) is the
Supreme Manifestation of God and the Dayspring of His Most Divine Essence. All
others are servants unto Him and do His bidding."
By this statement, and by numerous others in which Abdu'l-Baha emphasized the
importance of basing one's knowledge of the Faith upon His general Tablets, a
foundation for unity of belief was established, with the result that the differences
of understanding caused by reference to His Tablets to individuals, in which the
Master answered personal questions, rapidly disappeared. Above all, the establishment
of a definite administrative order, with the Guardian at its head, transferred
to institutions all authority previously wielded in the form of prestige and influence
by individual Bahá'ís in the various local groups.
Baha'u'llah was preeminently the Revealer of the Word. His forty years' imprisonment
gave Him but limited opportunities of intercourse with His fellowmen. To Abdu'l-Baha,
therefore, fell the important task of becoming the exponent of the Revelation,
the Doer of the Word, the Great Exemplar of the Bahá'í life in actual contact
with the world of today, in the most diverse phases of its myriad activities.
He showed that it is still possible, amid the whirl and rush of modern life, amid
the self-love and struggle for material prosperity that everywhere prevail, to
live the life of entire devotion to God and to the service of one's fellows, which
Christ and Baha'u'llah and all the Prophets have demanded of men. Through trial
and vicissitudes, calumnies, and treachery on the one hand, and through love and
praise, devotion and veneration on the other, He stood
like a lighthouse founded on a rock, around which wintry tempests rage and the
summer ocean plays, His poise and serenity remaining ever steadfast and unshaken.
He lived the life of faith, and calls on His followers to live it here and now.
He raised amid a warring world the Banner of Unity and Peace, the Standard of
a New Era, and He assures those who rally to its support that they shall be inspired
by the Spirit of the New Day. It is the same Holy Spirit which inspired the Prophets
and Saints of old, but it is a new outpouring of that Spirit, suited to the needs
of the new time.
Thursday, 5th Jamadi I, 1260 A.H. back
The tradition is quoted in a Tablet of Baha'u'llah; see Chapter 5 of this book.
It is interesting to compare this story with that of the birth of John the Baptist;
see St. Luke's Gospel, Chapter I. back
In 1969, 139 independent states and 173 significant territories and islands. (See
Go on to What
is a Bahá'í?, Chapter Five, or to the
table of contents.