The Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh
5-WT O ye that stand fast and firm in the Covenant! The Centre
of Sedition, the Prime Mover of mischief Mirza Muhammad 'Ali
bath passed out from under the shadow of the Cause, hath
broken the Covenant...
In many of His Tablets, as in His Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá has referred to His half-brother Mirza Muhammad-'Ali as the Centre of Sedition, the Prime Mover of Mischief and the Arch-breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. These designations indicate that it was he who, immediately after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, initiated the act of Covenant-breaking, was the motivating force misleading many believers and was the one who, for over half a century, led the Covenant-breakers against 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.
Ambition for leadership of the Bahá'í community is the most common feature of those who have violated the Covenant. In the case of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, an excessive lust for leadership so possessed him that he was driven to commit acts of infamy and crime in his struggle to wrest the reins of the Cause of God from 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Another factor contributing greatly to his downfall was the uncontrollable jealousy he entertained in his heart for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. A feeling of inferiority in relation to Him had been engendered in his mind from childhood, mainly through the resentful attitude which his mother, Mahd-i-'Ulya, showed towards 'Abdu'l-Bahá The fire of jealousy burning in his heart intensified as a result of the outpouring of Bahá'u'lláh's abundant favours upon the one He designated as the Master when 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in His early teens in Baghdad. The many expressions of praise and glorification flowing from the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh as He extolled the virtues and superhuman qualities of 'Abdu'l-Bahá whom He appointed as the Centre of His Covenant and the Interpreter of His words, aggravated the feeling of enmity towards 'Abdu'l-Bahá which Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had concealed in his heart.
Indeed, one of the reasons that 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not join Bahá'u'lláh when He moved His residence from 'Akka to the Mansion of
Mazra'ih and then to Bahji was to ensure that by staying away from Bahá'u'lláh the fire of jealousy in Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's heart would be somewhat dampened. Bahá'u'lláh always cherished being close to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and whenever the Master came to visit Him, Bahá'u'lláh would show great excitement and, in glowing terms, would extol His station. On these occasions the radiance of His countenance betrayed such adoration and love towards the Master that the sincere believers became joyful and the few unfaithful became envious and dispirited.
During the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his mother, brothers and sisters were all subdued by His authority and kept under control through His loving exhortations. In those days, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, as a son of Bahá'u'lláh, was highly respected by the believers and basked in the sunshine of his father's majesty and greatness. His insincerity and lack of spirituality were apparent, however, to some of the believers who were endowed with insight and pure hearts. One such example is drawn from Khatirat-i-Malmiri, the memoirs of Haji Muhammad-Tahir-i-Malmiri[*] when he describes his arrival in 'Akka around 1878 and his first meeting with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali:
[* The father of the author. For a brief account of his life see Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1.]
When we[**] arrived in Haifa ... we were taken to the home of Aqa
Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Kashani. He was directed by Bahá'u'lláh
to make his residence in Haifa, to handle the distribution of letters
and to give assistance and hospitality to Bahá'í pilgrims. When
Bahá'u'lláh was informed that the three of us had arrived, He
advised, through Mirza Aqa Jan ... that in 'Akka I should stay
with my brother Haji 'Ali.[***] We were driven from Haifa to 'Akka
in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's carriage. I was taken to Haji 'Ali's residence, which
was situated in the Khan-i-Suq-i-Abiyad (White Market), in close
proximity to the residence of Mirza Musa, Bahá'u'lláh's brother,
and several other Bahá'ís such as Nabil-A'zam... That day I was
most happy. Joy and ecstasy filled my soul. The next day, Mirza
Muhammad- 'Ali, accompanied by his two brothers, Mirza Diya'u'llah
and Mirza Badi'u'llah, came to Nabil-i-A'zam's quarters to meet
me. Very eagerly my brother and I went there to meet them. But
no sooner had I met Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and Badi'u'llah than
I became depressed and all the joy in my heart was transformed
into sadness and grief. I was distressed ... and bitterly disappointed
with myself. I was wondering what had happened so suddenly that,
in spite of all the eagerness and excitement which had filled my
being on arrival in 'Akka, I had become so utterly gloomy and
dispirited. I was convinced at that time that I had been rejected
[**Haji Muhammad-Tahir and two of his fellow pilgrims.]
[*** See Bahá'í World, vol. 9, pp. 624-5.]
I was plunged into such a state of distress and anguish that I
wanted to leave that gathering forthwith but did not dare to do so.
In my heart I was communing with God ... anxiously waiting for
the visitors to leave so that I could go out and try to find a solution
for my sad condition. I noticed that whereas my brother and Nabil-i-A'zam
were enjoying themselves talking most happily with these
sons of Bahá'u'lláh, I was in a state of mental turmoil and agony
throughout the meeting... After about an hour, when the visitors
were leaving, my brother thanked them most warmly and joyfully.
In the evening he informed me that we were to go and attain
the presence of the Master in His reception room. Although
depressed and grief-stricken as a result of meeting Mirza Muhammad-'Ali,
I went with him. As soon as I came into the presence of
the Most Great Branch, a new life was breathed into me. My whole
being was filled with such joy and felicity that all the agonies and
disturbances of the past vanished in an instant.
A few days later my brother invited me to go with him to meet
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali again, but in spite of much persuasion on
his part I refused to go... During the period that I stayed in
'Akka, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali came several times to the residence
of Nabil-A'zam but I always found some excuse not to go there.
The breaking of the Covenant by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali began immediately after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh. Indeed, 28 May 1892 marks the beginning of the most turbulent period within the Bahá'í community, which witnessed the onslaught of the unfaithful against the Cause on a far greater scale than any so far encountered in the course of its eventful history, including the rebellion of Mirza Yahya. The blessed remains of Bahá'u'lláh were not yet laid to rest when Mirza Muhammad-'Ali revealed his true self. Until then he had given the appearance of being loyal to his father and to 'Abdu'l-Bahá but now he launched his ignoble plans to undermine the foundation of the Covenant and overthrow 'Abdu'l-Bahá, its Centre.
In a celebrated Tablet, the Lawh-i-Hizar Bayti (Tablet of One Thousand Verses) 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes the grievous events-which occurred immediately before and just after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh. He states that during the days of Bahá'u'lláh's illness, He, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in attendance on His blessed person by day and by night, most of the time in a state of deep sorrow and depression. One day as He lay in His sick-bed, Bahá'u'lláh ordered 'Abdu'l-Bahá to gather all of His papers that were in the room and place them in two special cases. It was Bahá'u'lláh's practice that whenever He left the Mansion for 'Akka or elsewhere, He would put all His papers in these
large cases. Aware of the implications of this command, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was shaken to the very depths of His being. As He hesitated to comply, Bahá'u'lláh reiterated His orders. With trembling hands and tearful eyes, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was beginning to gather the papers when Majdu'd-Din entered the room.
Majdu'd-Din was a son of Bahá'u'lláh's faithful brother Aqay-i-Kalim but he was utterly different from his father. The most treacherous among the family, he was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's most formidable enemy. Indeed, as we shall see later, he was the backbone, if not the principal instigator, of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the Arch-breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.
In the Lawh-i-Hizar Bayti, 'Abdu'l-Bahá describes the agony of His heart as He forced Himself to gather Bahá'u'lláh's papers. Seeing Majdu'd-Din, He asked for his assistance so that this task, so extremely painful to Him, might soon be finished. When all the papers, the seals and other items had been locked into the cases, Bahá'u'lláh said to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 'These two now belong to you.' These words, implying the approach of the final hours of Bahá'u'lláh's earthly life, pierced 'Abdu'l- Baha's heart like an arrow.
When the ascension took place, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's grief knew no bounds. The shock He sustained as a result of this calamitous event was so intense that He found it difficult to describe. He says that in the morning, along with His brother, He began the task of preparing the remains for burial. When they were about to wash Bahá'u'lláh's blessed body, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali suggested to 'Abdu'l-Bahá that since the floor would become wet, it would be better to move the two cases into Badi'u'llah's room. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was at that point in such a state of shock and grief that He was almost unconscious of His surroundings. He never thought that behind this suggestion could be a treacherous plot designed to rob Him of that precious trust.
He agreed, and the two cases were taken out and that was the last He saw of them.
The sacred remains were laid to rest that same day. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was disconsolate and heartbroken. He says that for three consecutive days and nights He could not rest a single moment. He wept for hours and was in a state of unbearable grief. The Light of the World had disappeared from His sight and all around Him had been plunged into darkness. On the fourth night after the ascension, He arose from His bed around midnight and walked a few steps, hoping that it might help to bring a measure of tranquillity to His agonized heart. As He began to pace the room, He saw through the window a scene His eyes could scarcely believe. His unfaithful brothers had opened the cases and were looking through Bahá'u'lláh's papers — those papers that had been entrusted to Him!
'Abdu'l-Bahá was deeply disturbed by the treachery of His brothers so soon after the ascension of their father. This act of unfaithfulness, committed so dishonourably against the most sacred trust of God, inflicted further pain and suffering upon His sorrow-laden heart. He returned to His bed immediately after this incident, for He did not wish His brothers to know He had seen them interfering with the contents of the cases. At this point 'Abdu'l-Bahá thought that since His brothers had not seen the Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh, which was in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's possession, they were trying to find some document among His writings with which to justify their intended action of undermining the foundation of the Cause of God and creating a division within the ranks of its avowed supporters. However, 'Abdu'l-Bahá hoped that when they saw the Will and Testament, their efforts would be frustrated and they would then return His trust to Him.
But alas, this did not happen! The Kitab-i-'Ahd was read by Aqa Riday-i-Qannad[*] on the ninth day after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh in the presence of nine witnesses chosen from among Bahá'u'lláh's companions and members of His family, including Mirza Muhammad-'Ali On the afternoon of the same day it was read by Majdu'd-Din in the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh before a large company of the friends, consisting of the Aghsan, the Afnan, the pilgrims and resident believers. 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that after the Kitab-i-'Ahd was read and its contents noted, some rejoiced with exceeding gladness and some grieved with great sorrow. The faces of the faithful were illumined with the light of joy and those of the falsehearted were covered in the dust of despondency and gloom. On that day, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states, the foundations of Covenant-breaking were laid, the ocean of vain imagining began to surge, and the fire of dissension and strife was lit, its flame burning more fiercely with the passage of time and consuming the hearts and souls of the faithful in its tormenting heat.
[* For a brief account of his life see Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2.]
Soon after the reading of the Kitab-i-'Ahd, one of the Afnan asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to use one of Bahá'u'lláh's seals on a Tablet which had been revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in his honour. When 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked His brothers to give Him the seals which had been placed in the two cases, they pleaded ignorance, saying they did not know anything about the cases! Bewildered and perplexed by such a remark, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was plunged further into sorrow and grief. He describes how His whole being began to tremble when He heard such a response from His brothers and He knew that great tests and trials lay ahead.
Indeed the Kitab-i-'Ahd had the same effect on the believers as an examination paper does on pupils: they were divided into two categories, those who pass and those who fail. Those who remained faithful to its sacred provisions rose to exalted realms of certitude and entered the ark of salvation. Those who violated the provisions were spiritually cast out of the community and returned to the deadly abodes of their own selves and passions.
Although the violation of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh began in earnest immediately after His ascension, 'Abdu'l-Bahá tried very hard to stop the foul odour of Covenant-breaking from spreading among the believers of the East and the West. He succeeded, through pains-taking effort; the news of the Covenant-breakers' defection was not made public for about four years.
This four-year lapse was made possible because the rebellion was at first covert and only those who were close to the Holy Family were aware of it. As the years went by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali became more vociferous in his opposition and the news of his dissension gradually leaked out. During these four years 'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed that all letters written by the believers in the Holy Land addressed to the friends in Persia were to be submitted to Him for approval. He usually placed His seal on the letters if the contents met with His approval. Even most of the dissidents used to comply. In this way 'Abdu'l-Bahá tried to contain the deadly disease of Covenant-breaking within the Holy Land. During this period He also made every effort to guide these misguided souls to the straight path of truth. He even intimated to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that since Bahá'u'lláh had appointed him to succeed 'Abdu'l-Bahá he could achieve his heart's desire at a later time.[*] But Mirza Muhammad-'Ali is reported have responded: 'How can I be sure that I shall survive you?'
[* For the significance and far-reaching consequences of this appointment by Bahá'u'lláh see chapter 26.]
Unfortunately, the more 'Abdu'l-Bahá showered loving counsel upon the Covenant-breakers, the more haughty and rebellious they became. At last it was they themselves who announced their rebellion by distributing their messages of calumny and falsehood to the believers in the East. They made subtle remarks in their letters to Persia designed to undermine the faith of the believers in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá The following is a summary translation of an account given by Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, that renowned teacher of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, of a letter he received in Persia from Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini,[**] one of the Covenant-breakers resident in the Holy Land.
[** See chapter 13.]
Since the days of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople I had a close relationship
with Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini. He was my correspondent
through whom I used to dispatch my letters to His Holy Presence.
I received a confidential letter from Javad [during the early years
of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry] in which he advised me that in my
letters to the friends, I should not write the usual words 'May
my life be a sacrifice for you' nor begin my letters [to 'Abdu'l-Bahá]
with words of praise or supplication to Him. Neither should I
address them to any single Ghusn [Branch], instead they should
be addressed to the Aghsan [Branches]. This letter indicated to me
that some form of secret opposition to the Centre of the Covenant
was taking place and that Muhammad-Javad himself was one of
In reply I wrote him a letter in which I rejected his proposals
and stated that unless 'Abdu'l-Bahá made such a demand, I would
not pay any attention to such advice. I also told him not to write
to me again. Since Muhammad-Javad did not respond to my letter
I was assumed that the buds of darkness were on the move and the
clamour of the foreboders of evil would be heard soon. I felt
certain that Javad and Jamal-i-Burujirdi[*] were both secretly
involved, so with all my heart and soul I used to pray on their
behalf so that the might return to the path of truth. I kept this
matter confidential, but it never occurred to me that the source of
sedition was Mirza Muhammad-'Ali along with other members
of Bahá'u'lláh's family because I did not think they were so foolish
[* A teacher of the Cause who rebelled against the Covenant. See Taherzadeh, Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 308-25.]
[154 Haydar-'Ali, Bihjatu's-Sudur, pp. 326-31.]
Soon after these developments, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's permission, proceeded to the Holy Land. En route he visited the believers in many towns and villages including Ishqabad, Baku Nakhjavan, Ganjih and Tiflis (Tbilisi). Everywhere he found the believers steadfast in the Covenant, enchanted by the utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Tablets and serving the Faith with enthusiasm and devotion. Being assured in his heart that severe tests and trials were about to engulf the community, Haji encouraged the believers to turn with heart and soul to no one but the Master, to regard His words and utterances to be as valid as the words of Bahá'u'lláh Himself and to refrain from any action which ran counter to His good-pleasure. The loving counsels of Haji were warmly welcomed everywhere and the believers vowed to remain steadfast in the Covenant, come what might.
When Haji arrived in Beirut he stayed with a devoted believer, Aqa Muhammad-Mustafay-i-Baghdadi, who intimated to him the opposition and rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and a few others, contained so far by 'Abdu'l-Bahá within the family and a small circle of friends. Immediately upon his arrival at the pilgrim house in 'Akka, Haji wrote a letter to the Master. In his memoirs he talks about his letter, tells the story of attaining the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and of other events associated with his pilgrimage during those turbulent months. This is a summary translation of his reminiscences:
In this letter I stated that I do not turn to anybody except the
Master and I do not wish to meet with any believer except those
whom the Beloved wishes me to meet. Even praying at the
Holy Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh and circumambulating that exalted
spot around which circle in adoration the Concourse on high, are
dependent on the will of the Master. Praise and thanksgiving be
to God that on the day of my arrival I was given the privilege
of praying at and circumambulating the Shrine in the presence of
'Abdu'l-Bahá who chanted the Tablet of Visitation Himself. In what
a radiant condition I found myself and to what heights of spirituality
I was carried as a result of this experience are impossible for
me to describe. With my inner eyes I saw the Heavenly Kingdom,
witnessed the Blessed Beauty, exalted be His glory, seated upon
the Throne of His majesty and authority, and was assured of the
penetration of His Holy Word in the hearts of men...
Through the flattery and empty compliments of some hypocrites,
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, in the prime of his youth,
entertained the thought of rebellion, cherished the inordinate
ambition of becoming great, and lusted for leadership ... and a
few others were watering the tree of his rebelliousness. They were
secretly engaged in intrigues and satanic ambitions. Some believers
were aware of their condition but for the sake of God they did
not reveal it. This situation continued until the last years of the
ministry of the Day-Star of the World [Bahá'u'lláh], when
Muhammad-Javad-Qazvini and Jamal-i-Burujirdi secretly united with
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in their plots to create discord and dissension
within the community. They succeeded in enlisting a few
others within their fold. These two men convinced Mirza Muhammad-'Ali
that since the bulk of the believers in Persia were looking
up to them, he would become the one to whom all would turn and
he could present himself as the Centre of the Cause. Their deceitfulness
and hypocrisy were fully disclosed through their misdeeds
after the setting of the Sun of Truth...
These insinuations continued until the believers noticed that
'Abdu'l-Bahá treated Mirza Muhammad-'Ali with much greater
respect than at the time of Bahá'u'lláh. On the other hand, the
Arch-breaker of the Covenant and his entourage had considerably
lessened the measure of honour and respect that they humbly used
to show the Master in the days of the Blessed Beauty. Added to this
treatment, the Covenant-breakers through their words and deeds
and by subtle hints were attempting to belittle the Master and to
dishonour Him. When the believers realized this, they kept away
from the unfaithful and as far as possible did not seek to associate
with them in private.
Two devoted believers, Aqa Muhammad-Riday-Shirazi and
Mirza Mahmud-i-Kashani, went together to meet Mirza Muhammad-'Ali.
They showed the utmost respect to him, and in a spirit
of humility and loving kindness counselled him with genuine
concern. By giving some hints or relating certain stories, they
conveyed to him the dire consequences of his rebellion. But instead
of taking to heart their admonitions and heeding their loving
advice to change his ways, he was hurt that they counselled him
in this manner.
The Master continued to overlook Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's
wrongdoings and treated him with the utmost love and kindness
in spite of his rebellion. Whereas in the days of the Blessed Beauty
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali showed so much respect to 'Abdu'l-Bahá
that he would not take a seat in His presence without His permission,
now it was different; it was the Master who as a sign of loving
respect would arise from His seat when he or his associates arrived
in a gathering. At first 'Abdu'l-Bahá's counsels were given to them
in private, through hints and suggestions which pointed the way
to their everlasting salvation and glory. But since through their
rebellion they gradually tore apart the veil which had until then
concealed their wrongdoings, the Master began to counsel them
publicly in words such as these: 'Do not by your actions quench the
fire and extinguish the light of God. Take not a step that would
lead to the degradation of the Word of God. Do not behave in such
a way as to cause the enemies to rejoice and the loved ones to
lament.'[*] 'Abdu'l-Bahá warned them lovingly and repeatedly about
the dire consequences of their evil doings but all these counsels
fell on deaf ears and they followed the path of pride, hate and
[* These are not the exact words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá but they convey the gist of what He said on that occasion.]
About three months after my arrival in the Holy Land, the
Master sent me to Egypt. Since 'Abdu'l-Bahá had warned the friends
not to discuss the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, I addressed
a letter to him when I was in Egypt, the gist of which was as follows:
'The people of Baha expected that after the setting of the Sun of
Truth, you would show the same measure of humility, submissiveness
and obedience to the Centre of the Covenant that you
demonstrated in the Holy Presence of Bahá'u'lláh. We have all
observed that in the days of the Blessed Beauty, you would not have
taken your seat in the presence of the Master without His permission.
Each time that He came to Bahji to attain the presence of His
beloved Father, you along with others, as commanded by Bahá'u'lláh,
went as a welcoming party as far as the Garden of Jammal[*]
to greet Him. Now we see that when any one of you arrives in the
room, it is the Master who as a token of respect for you arises from
His seat and will not sit down until the person takes his seat. We
have also noticed that when His Blessed Person arrives at Bahji after
having walked all the way from 'Akka as a token of His utter
humility to the sacred Threshold,[**] not only do you refuse to go
out to welcome Him but after He enters the Sacred Shrine, those
who are in your company come down the steps of the Mansion
slowly one by one and go towards the Shrine, and you yourself are
the last one to appear. Again, when He has come out of the Shrine
and is about to depart for 'Akka, you walk away towards the Mansion
before being dismissed from His presence.[***] Indeed, you are back
inside the Mansion before He leaves. Now that you do not go to
welcome Him at the entrance of the Garden of Jammal, you could
at least ask permission to leave His presence or wait outside the
Shrine until He departs.
[* Properties lying at the south entrance to the Mansion.]
[** It is an expression of humility and self-effacement for a servant to walk to his master rather than to ride.]
[*** It was considered highly discourteous for a man to take his seat in the presence of an eminent person without his permission. Similarly, it was discourteous to leave his presence before being dismissed. The believers always observed the utmost courtesy when they came into the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.]
'In the past you always addressed Him as "the Master" but now
refer to Him as "my brother". We are surprised and do not know
the reason for all this humiliating treatment to which you have
subjected His blessed Person. Is your contemptuousness because
of all the services that He has rendered to the Cause and to the
Person of the Blessed Beauty? Or is it because He was the One who
brought about your exaltation and honour among the people and
enabled you to live in the utmost comfort and luxury? While you
enjoyed a life of pleasure and engaged in pastimes such as hunting
and other recreations, His blessed Person did not have a moment
to rest. Do you behave towards Him in a disdainful manner
because it was He who, from the early days of the rising of the Day-Star
of the World [Bahá'u'lláh] from the horizon of Tihran and
Iraq was the Master and the leader of all the people of Baha? Or
is your behaviour towards Him due to all the sufferings and
hardships that were, and are, being inflicted upon His blessed
Person from every quarter? He has stood up with the utmost
firmness and strength in resisting the onslaught of the enemy and
has, singly and alone, exerted every effort in the promotion of the
word of God and the diffusion of its fragrances, while you are
conducting a life of luxury and spending your time in riding and
sightseeing. Does the particular text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas which was
later confirmed in the Kitab-i-'Ahd, that all the Aghsan must turn
to Him, and gird up their loins in His obedience, provide justification
for you to belittle His exalted station?
'Besides all this, when this servant and other believers notice
the extraordinary loving kindness and humility the Centre of the
Covenant shows to you, while you appear proud and haughty
before His peerless and incomparable Person, what conclusion do
we reach? In the light of all this, whom should we regard as a true
believer in the Blessed Beauty and whom should we consider
steadfast in His Covenant?
'The believers have endured all manner of oppression. They
have suffered imprisonment and exile and been inflicted with
hardship and persecution. These souls will not deviate from the
straight path. They will cling fast to the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh
and its Centre, He "who hath branched from this Ancient Root".
They will not loosen their hold on that "excellent and priceless
heritage" which Bahá'u'lláh has bequeathed to His heirs...'
[155 ibid. p. 323. (Haydar-'Ali, Bihjatu's-Sudur.)]
As the years passed, the clandestine opposition to 'Abdu'l-Bahá gathered further momentum. Soon after his violation of the Covenant, Muhammad-'Ali established secret links with Jamal-i-Burujiridi and a few others in Persia. Together they designed a strategy which was kept secret until, at a propitious time, they would make their rebellion public and divide the community. While the rank and file of the believers in Persia were not fully informed of what was happening in the Holy Land during this four-year period, a number of prominent Bahá'ís felt that there was a serious problem at the World Centre of the Faith. Some decided not to make any statements concerning the situation, except that they remained steadfast in the Covenant and adhered to the provision of the Kitab-i-'Ahd, the Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh. Notable among them was the renowned scholar of the Faith Mirza Abu'l-Fadl. For a few years, he, who used to write profusely to defend the Faith or to expound its teachings for the believers and others, refused to make a statement about the affairs of the Cause. Later he explained the reason for his silence on the matter, saying that he was waiting for 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of the Covenant, to make a statement, fearing that one word uttered by him could be the wrong one and might harm the Faith.
In His Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states:
49-WT When, in all parts of the earth, the enemies of God
profiting by the passing away of the Sun of Truth, suddenly and
with all their might launched their attack; at such a time and in
the midst of so great a calamity, the Covenant-breakers arose with
the utmost cruelty, intent upon harm and the stirring up of the
spirit of enmity. At every moment a misdeed they did commit
and bestirred themselves to sow the seeds of grievous sedition,
and to ruin the edifice of the Covenant. But this wronged one,
this prisoner, did his utmost to hide and veil their doings, that
haply they might regret and repent. His long-suffering and
forbearance of these evil deeds, however, made the rebellious
ones still more arrogant and daring; until, through leaflets
written with their own hands, they sowed the seeds of doubt,
printing these leaflets and scattering them broadcast throughout
the world, believing that such foolish doings would bring to
naught the Covenant and the Testament.
32-WT Adversities have waxed still more severe as they rose
with unbearable cruelty to overpower and crush me, as they
scattered far and wide their scrolls of doubt and in utter falsehood
hurled their calumnies upon me.
As previously stated, for four years 'Abdu'l-Bahá did everything in His power to guide these people to the straight path and He did not reveal their breaking of the Covenant to the Bahá'ís outside the Holy Land. However, after four years of strengthening their position, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his party felt that it was time to unmask themselves. They did this by printing letters loaded with falsehoods, misleading statements and calumnies against the Centre of the Covenant, casting themselves as the voice of truth trying to purify the Cause which they shamelessly claimed to have been polluted by those who were faithful to 'Abdu'l-Bahá In his propaganda, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali did not contest the authenticity of the Kitab-i-'Ahd, rather he expressed his grievance that he had been barred from partnership with 'Abdu'l-Bahá in directing the affairs of the Cause. He wanted to share with Him the station of the Centre of the Covenant.
As a result of these letters by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Tablets began openly to refer to the breaking of the Covenant by His unfaithful brother; from then on, right up to the end of His life, He explained in innumerable Tablets the significance of the Covenant, expelled the Covenant-breakers from the community of the Most Great Name and urged the friends to remain steadfast in the Cause of God.
Concerning the dispatch for the first time of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's letters to Persia, Dr Yunis Khan-i-Afrukhtih, one of the faithful secretaries of the Master, relates the following story.
'Abdu'l-Bahá often used to say: 'One day Mirza Diya'u'llah came
to see Me. I noticed he was looking at his fingers which were
stained with ink and was expecting Me to comment on them. I did
not say anything, so he himself volunteered the information,
saying, "Last night until the early hours of the morning we were
engaged in writing letters and gelatine printing, consequently my
fingers have been stained. My brother [Mirza Muhammad-'Ali] had
written a letter of which we printed several copies and sent them
away this morning." I asked him: Did you really write and dispatch
them? And when he answered in the affirmative, I said: I swear by
the Righteousness of God, a day shall come when Mirza Muhammad-'Ali
would wish that his fingers had been cut off so that he
could not have taken the pen to announce his breaking of the Covenant.
For four years I have concealed this matter so that the
beloved of God might not learn of your unfaithfulness to the Covenant.
It is now beyond my power to conceal it any longer. You
have announced yourselves to the believers.'
[156 Yunis Khan, Khatirat-i-Nuh-Salih, pp. 51-2.]
The timing of the public announcement of the Covenant-breakers' rebellion was no doubt influenced by their apparent success in converting a considerable number to their side, as well as the encouragement they received from Jamal-i-Burujirdi and others in Persia who were anxiously waiting and hoping to become the leaders of the community there — hopes which, through the power of the Covenant, were dashed forever.
However, for some time, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali used to dispatch his letters of propaganda which were stigmatized by the believers as Awraq-i-Nariyyih (the Infernal Letters). Soon after receiving the initial dispatches, the believers, as advised by the Hands of the Cause, did not open the envelopes and used to send them back to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali an intelligent way to deter him from sending further letters.