`Abdu’l-Bahá is a very special Person to Bahá’ís. In 1863 His Father,
Bahá’u’lláh, announced that He was the Promised One of all religions. At this
time `Abdu’l-Bahá was still in his teens. `Abdu’l-Bahá learned everything from
His Father and was appointed by Him to lead the Bahá’í Faith after His Father’s
death in 1892. He was also the perfect example of how a Bahá’í should behave. He
had spent His life, since the age of eight, in exile or prison with His Father
as He and His followers faced continual persecution. Their final exile was to
the city of Akká which was then part of the Turkish empire.
`Abdu’l-Bahá continued His Father’s work, drawing together people from different
religious and ethnic backgrounds, but He remained in Palestine as a prisoner of
the Turkish empire until 1908 when He was released as a result of the Young Turk
revolution. Although 67 years old, and in poor health from the long years of
prison and house arrest, He embarked upon two major tours of Europe and North
America, to visit the new Bahá’í communities there.
Trip to Britain
`Abdu’l-Bahá sailed to France and then on to Britain. He arrived in London on 4th
September and stayed at the house of Lady Blomfield, at 97 Cadogan Gardens.
Every day, streams of visitors of different nationalities and religions came to
the house. Philosophers, poets, clergymen, politicians, ordinary working people,
academics, tramps, journalists, all were received with the same heartfelt love
addition to the talks He gave in this house, He gave several public talks to
large numbers of people. He was invited first to the City Temple, in Holborn,
where He was the guest speaker of the Reverend R.J. Campbell. During His address
to the congregation on the 10th September, `Abdu’l-Bahá said:
of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of
the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations… There is
one God; mankind is one; the foundations of religion are one.”
address, He wrote some lines in the pulpit Bible, describing the Bible as
“the noble Gospel…. The mystery of the Kingdom… the sign of the guidance of
God.” Although this Bible was destroyed during World War II, a facsimile
copy of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s written remarks remains.
again at St. John’s, Westminster, on the 17th September, and His
words were reproduced in the “Christian Commonwealth” periodical. While talking
about the station of Christ in relation to God He said:
claim that the sun is seen in the mirror, we do not mean that the sun itself has
descended from the holy heights of his heaven and entered into the mirror! This
is impossible. The Divine Nature is seen in the Manifestations
[Messengers of God] … and its Light and Splendour are visible in extreme
building in Tavistock Place, London, now known as the Mary Ward Centre, was the
venue for over 400 people who came to hear `Abdu’l-Bahá’s third public address.
He talked about the mission of His Father, Bahá’u’lláh:
mission was to change ignorant fanaticism into universal love, to establish in
the minds of His followers the basis of the unity of humanity and to bring about
in practice the equality of mankind…”
`Abdu’l-Bahá also visited the Lord Mayor and commented on the freedom and
equality before the law which was enjoyed by the British people.
public talk was at the Theosophical Society, at the personal request of Mrs
Besant, and included a systematic presentation of some basic principles of
Among these He included the necessity of the search for truth; the equality of
men and women; the need to abolish prejudice; the need for universal equality;
and the establishment of true peace.
`Abdu’l-Bahá was also able to visit Bristol, where He stayed at the Clifton
Guest House from 23rd to 25th September. At a reception
held for Him there, He explained how religion is renewed from age to age, and
how Bahá’u’lláh had come to renew Christ’s message and Christ’s example of love
to all humanity.
small meetings were held in the homes of Bahá’ís in and around London and on one
occasion He was able to visit Richmond Park. While staying in the village of
Byfleet, He was taken to watch a biplane flying at the nearby Brooklands
airfield and enjoyed a picnic there.
interview given by `Abdu’l-Bahá to the “Weekly Budget” on 23rd
September, 1911, He was asked about His experiences in prison:
is not a matter of place. It is a condition. I was thankful for the prison, and
the lack of liberty was very pleasing to me, for those days were passed in the
path of service, under the utmost difficulties and trials, bearing fruits and
results... To me prison is freedom, troubles rest me, death is life, and to be
despised is honour. Therefore, I was happy all that time in prison. When one is
released from the prison of self, that is indeed release, for that is the
made a great impact on the Bahá’ís, their friends, and the public at large,
`Abdu’l-Bahá left for Paris on 3rd October , 1911.
`Abdu’l-Bahá returned to the Middle East and rested there for a while before
setting out again, in March 1912, for an even longer trip, across North America
and back through Europe. He arrived in Liverpool on December 13th,
1912, and began again His pattern of receiving visitors and giving talks. Visits
by `Abdu’l-Bahá include the talk He gave on Christmas Day to several hundred
inmates of a Salvation Army hostel. `Abdu’l-Bahá paid for every one of them to
receive further care. On a trip to Manchester College, Oxford, His address
discussed the relationship between science and religion. When speaking to a
meeting of the Suffragette movement, He talked about the Iranian poetess
Táhirih, who, together with Bahá’u’lláh, had ensured that the followers of the
new religion understood properly the role destined for women. Táhirih was put to
death because of her beliefs.
and Later Travels
to 10th January, 1913, `Abdu’l-Bahá was in Edinburgh, where He stayed
at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Alexander Whyte. He was driven along the Royal Mile
and shown many of the important sights. His first public talk was given to a
packed meeting of the Esperanto Society, where He spoke about the need for the
world to choose one language to be used for communication between people of all
countries. His second was at Rainy Hall, Edinburgh University, in which He
introduced many of the major principles of the Bahá’í Faith. The Scottish
newspapers covered `Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit most sympathetically, and some of the
talks were reprinted in full. After a further public talk, to the Theosophical
Society, `Abdu’l-Bahá returned to London.
`Abdu’l-Bahá again visited Bristol, where he gave a talk to nearly a hundred
people. Again he stayed at the Clifton Guest House. One other notable visit was
to the mosque at Woking. The numbers of people, of various religions, who
attended was so great that `Abdu’l-Bahá had to speak in the courtyard in front
of the building, instead of inside it!
`Abdu’l-Bahá left Britain on 21st January, 1913, and proceeded to
visit France, Germany, Hungary and Austria before returning home. One of the
subjects on which He frequently spoke was the high level of armaments held in
Europe, and the need to make great efforts to avoid war. Unfortunately His words
were not heeded and the First World War followed. Indeed, it was that very war
which prevented Him from making further visits abroad.
`Abdu’l-Bahá organised food supplies for the poor during that war, and even fed
the British army when it arrived in the Haifa area of Palestine. For these
services He was knighted by the British government in 1920. He died, exhausted
from His efforts, in 1921, but the memory of His shining example of love and
kindness lives on.
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