Mirza Muhammad-'Ali Claims Partnership with Bahá'u'lláh
5-WT Now, that the true Faith of God may be shielded and
protected, His Law guarded and preserved and His Cause
remain safe and secure, it is incumbent upon everyone to hold
East unto the Text of the clear and firmly established blessed
verse, revealed about him. None other transgression greater than
his can be ever imagined. He (Bahá'u'lláh) sayeth, glorious and
holy is His Word: — 'My foolish loved ones have regarded him
even as my partner, have kindled sedition in the land and they
verily are of the mischief-makers.' Consider, how foolish are the
people! They that have been in His (Bahá'u'lláh's) Presence and
beheld His Countenance, have nevertheless noised abroad such
idle talk, until, exalted be His explicit words, He said: — 'Should
he for a moment pass out from under the shadow of the Cause,
he surely shall be brought to naught.' Reflect! What stress He
layeth upon one moment's deviation: that is, were he to incline
a hair's breadth to the right or to the left, his deviation would be
clearly established and his utter nothingness made manifest.
The basis for Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's expulsion from the Faith and his disqualification to succeed 'Abdu'l-Bahá as anticipated in the Kitab-i-'Ahd is found in the above passage in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Central to this subject is the word 'deviation'. In the next five paragraphs of the Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá further elaborates on the same topic and establishes, beyond the shadow of doubt, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's ineligibility to succeed Him. To appreciate 'Abdu'l-Bahá's exhortation in the above passage, it is necessary to study a shameful episode in Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's life when he was a young teenager in Adrianople.
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was about ten years old when he accompanied Bahá'u'lláh to Adrianople. He left that city at the age of 15. Bahá'u'lláh granted him a special ability in his childhood — the power of utterance — and this became obvious to everybody who came into contact with him. But instead of using this gift to promote the Cause of God, he embarked on a career which hastened his downfall. When
he was in his early teens in Adrianople, he composed a series of passages in Arabic and, without Bahá'u'lláh's permission, disseminated them among some of the Persian Bahá'ís, introducing them as verses of God which, he claimed, were revealed to him. He intimated to the believers that he was a partner with Bahá'u'lláh in divine revelation. In Qazvin several believers were influenced by him and drawn to him, creating a great controversy and resulting in disunity among some of the believers there. The city was already notorious for its different factions among the Babis and them were some followers of Mirza Yahya actively disseminating false propaganda against the followers of Bahá'u'lláh.
Now, in the midst of these conflicting groups, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's claim to be the revealer of the verses of God brought about an added confusion among Bahá'u'lláh's followers. In his writings, which are of considerable length, the teenaged Muhammad-'Ali refers to himself as, among other things, 'the King of the spirit'; he calls on the believers to 'hear the voice of him who has been manifested to man', admonishes those who deny his verses revealed in his childhood, declares his revelation to be 'the greatest of God's revelations', asserts that 'all have been created through a word from him', considers himself to be 'the greatest divine luminary before whose radiance all other suns pale into insignificance', and proclaims himself to be 'the sovereign ruler of all who are in heaven and on earth'.
[175 Rahiq-i-Makhtum, vol. 2, p. 850.]
Such preposterous claims and such a display of personal ambition evoked the wrath of Bahá'u'lláh, who rebuked him vehemently and chastised him with His own hands. Meanwhile, the controversy in Qazvin continued for some time. Three believers in particular fell under the spell of Muhammad-'Ali: Mirza 'Abdu'llah, Haji Hasan and his brother, Aqa 'Ali. They and a few others, who considered their youthful candidate to be a partner with Bahá'u'lláh and of equal station to Him, entered into argument with several believers who refuted their claims. Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar,[*] a tower of strength for the Bahá'ís of Qazvin, emphatically rejected the claims of Muhammad-'Ali and declared that his writings amounted to no more than a string of Arabic sentences which in no way could be the Word of God.
[* See Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3, pp. 88-91.]
This controversy prompted Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim, entitled Khalil, to write a letter to Bahá'u'lláh begging Him to clarify His own station and the station of His sons. Haji Khalil was already confused about the claims of Mirza Yahya and wished to be enlightened and
find the truth. In his petition he also asked other questions. Bahá'u'lláh responded by revealing a Tablet in his honour, known as the Lawh-i-Khalil (Tablet of Khalil).[*]
[* Parts of this Tablet are translated by Shoghi Effendi in Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, nos. XXXIII, XXXVIII, LXXVII and CXXVII.]
In this Tablet He declares His own station and states that as long as His sons observe the commandments of God, persevere in edifying their souls, testify to what has been revealed by God, believe in 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', do not create divisions in His Cause and do not deviate from His revealed laws, they can be considered as the leaves and branches of His tree of holiness and members of His family. Through them will the light of God be diffused and the signs of His bounty be made manifest.
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali did not live up to these standards. Apart from his shameful claim of equality with Bahá'u'lláh, he became a source of sedition in the community, inflicted severe injuries upon the Cause of God and, after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension, broke His Covenant and rose up to extinguish the light of His Faith.
In the Tablet of Khalil Bahá'u'lláh alludes to 'Abdu'l-Bahá in terms which immensely exalt Him above His other sons. He refers to Him as One 'from Whose tongue God will cause the signs of His power to stream forth' and as the One Whom 'God hath specially chosen for His Cause'.
[176 Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 242.]
In another Tablet revealed at this time when a few believers had been influenced by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's claim, Bahá'u'lláh asserts that when Muhammad-'Ali was a child of tender years He conferred upon him the power of utterance, so that people might witness His might and glory. He grieves in this Tablet at the state of some of His foolish followers who have thought to recognize a partner with Him in revelation and who have made great mischief in the land. He expresses astonishment at the behaviour of some who have attained His presence and witnessed the outpouring of His Revelation and yet have spread such shameful rumours among the believers. Referring to Muhammad-'Ali in this Tablet, He further states:
[177 Ma'idiy-i-Asmani vol. 8, p. 40.]
He verily, is but one of My servants... Should he for a moment
pass out from under the shadow of the Cause, he surely shall be
brought to naught.
[178 Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 251.]
In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh further confirms that all beings are created through a word from Him and that no one can claim equality, likeness or partnership with Him. He and He alone is the possessor of the
Most Great Infallibility which is the prerogative of every Manifestation of God.
Concerning the three believers in Qazvin who were misled by Muhammad-'Ali's claim, Bahá'u'lláh invited Haji Hasan and his brother to come to Adrianople. Here they attained His presence and fully recognized their folly.
In distinct contrast to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's claim was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's utter self-effacement. Many believers during Bahá'u'lláh's ministry used to write letters to 'Abdu'l-Bahá but He would not respond to them. For instance, Mirza 'Ali-Muhammad-i-Varqa,[*] who was later martyred, wrote a great many letters to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. To none of these did 'Abdu'l-Bahá send a reply. In the end, Varqa wrote to Mirza Aqa Jan, Bahá'u'lláh's amanuensis, and complained. When Bahá'u'lláh was informed about this He summoned 'Abdu'l-Bahá to His presence and directed Him to send a reply to Varqa. 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a brief letter to him saying that when the Pen of the Most High is moving upon His Tablets, how could 'Abdu'l-Bahá be expected to write? Indeed, whatever 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote during the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh was directed by Him and received His sanction. This episode alone demonstrates the vast different between the two: 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a true servant, humble and lowly before His Lord; Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, ambitious, vain and faithless.
[* See Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4.]
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's claim was not the only sign pointing to his ambitious nature and his craving for leadership from this early age. His daily behaviour, even during Bahá'u'lláh's lifetime, gave clear indications of his lack of spirituality and purity of motive, and his jealousy of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was apparent to those who were close to him. As Mirza Muhammad-'Ali grew older, he acquired great prestige among the believers. He thrived on the special consideration shown him by Bahá'u'lláh's followers in order to honour his father. But many of Bahá'u'lláh's disciples who had spiritual eyes soon discovered his real nature and found him devoid of those divine virtues and spiritual qualities that characterize a true believer. Long before he broke the Covenant they were able to detect in him an air of superiority and self-glorification and a craving for leadership and power.
[179 As an example, see chapter 12, the story of Haji Muhammad Tahir-i-Malmiri's first meeting with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali.]