Deviations of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali (1)
6-WT What deviation can be greater than breaking the Covenant
of God! What deviation can be greater than interpolating and
falsifying the words and verses of the Sacred Text, even as
testified and declared by Mirza Badi'u'llah!
32-WT Not content with this, their chief, O my God, hath dared
to interpolate Thy Book, to fraudulently alter Thy decisive Holy
Text and falsify that which hath been revealed by Thy All-Glorious
Pen. He did also maliciously insert that which Thou
didst reveal for the one that hath wrought the most glaring
cruelty upon Thee, disbelieved in Thee and denied Thy wondrous
Signs into what Thou didst reveal for this servant of Thine
that hath been wronged in this world. All this he did that he
might beguile the souls of men and breathe his evil whisperings
into the hearts of Thy devoted ones. Thereunto did their second
chief testify, confessing it in his own handwriting, setting thereupon
his seal and spreading it throughout all regions. O my
God! Could there be a more grievous injustice than this?
38-WT Ye know well what the hands of the Centre of Sedition,
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, and his associates have wrought. Among
his doings, one of them is the corruption of the Sacred Text
whereof ye are all aware, the Lord be praised, and know that it
is evident, proven and confirmed by the testimony of his brother,
Mirza Badi'u'llah, whose confession is written in his own handwriting,
beareth his seal, is printed and spread abroad. This is
but one of his misdeeds. Can a transgression be imagined more
glaring than this, the interpolation of the Holy Text? Nay, by the
righteousness of the Lord! His transgressions are writ and
recorded in a leaflet by itself. Please God, ye will peruse it.
These passages refer to one of the most ignoble acts perpetrated by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, namely interpolation of the sacred writings of Bahá'u'lláh, which took place after His ascension. This was not the first time that the Arch-breaker of the Covenant had committed this offence. During the last years of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry he succeeded in altering certain passages of the revealed word. We shall refer to this episode further in this chapter. However, the interpolation of the writings described in the Will and Testament relates to the period after the ascension.
Having observed the ascendancy of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the loyalty of the rank and file of the believers to the Covenant, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in the early days of his rebellion embarked upon various dishonourable schemes to undermine 'Abdu'l-Bahá's influence in the community. An account of his stealing two cases containing various Tablets by Bahá'u'lláh which had been entrusted to 'Abdu'l-Bahá has been given in chapter 12. He went through these original Tablets and found certain ones, condemnatory in tone, which referred to Mirza Yahya. He easily removed Mirza Yahya's name and substituted that of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. As the ink used in those days was soluble in water or saliva, it was a usual practice by all scribes to remove part of a written page by licking it and, once it had dried, to write on it again. Being a writer himself, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was accustomed to this practice.
One of the people who informed the Master about Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's interpolation of the writings was Mirza Badi'u'llah, who conveyed the information to 'Abdu'l-Bahá by releasing a document known as the 'Epistle of Repentance'. We have, in chapter 13, referred to Mirza Badi'u'llah's iniquitous activities against the Covenant, when he acted in concert with his older brother, the Centre of Sedition. For some years he continued in this way until early in 1903 when rumours began to circulate that he intended to repent and return to the fold. While the friends who were steadfast in the Covenant were apprehensive that if the rumours were true there might be a fresh plan by the Covenant-breakers to deceive the believers, the news was soon confirmed and Mirza Badi'u'llah announced his repentance for all his activities against the Covenant.
This move proved to be of great material benefit to him because he had lived extravagantly and had spent all his possessions in promoting the cause of Covenant-breaking. When he found himself in financial need and realized that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's assistance was not forthcoming owing to a rift between the two brothers, Mirza Badi'u'llah took revenge by announcing his decision to leave the band of Covenant-breakers. He repented for his past actions, turned to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and begged for forgiveness. Of course the Master knew that he was not sincere and that his repentance was an expedient measure to satisfy his needs. But with the Master's characteristic loving kindness, he was forgiven.
Arrangements were made for him to make a public statement about this matter. On the appointed day, Mirza Badi'u'llah arrived in the Master's house where all the friends had gathered. He showed the utmost respect to everyone, prostrated himself at the feet of the Master, begged forgiveness and read his 'Epistle of Repentance'. Dr Yunis Khan in his memoirs describes that day as an historic occasion and states that some of the friends endowed with spiritual insight readily recognized Mirza Badi'u'llah's insincerity in that meeting. They knew that his association with the friends would create great problems for the community which certain unfaithful individuals had already infiltrated. Soon their fears were realized.
For some time after this event Mirza Badi'u'llah attended the gatherings of the friends who showed him every courtesy. The Master provided him and his family with a suitable residence in 'Akka and supplied his needs. He would often go to the Master's house and attain His presence. During this period Mrs Lua .Getsinger, an outstanding believer of the West, referred to by Shoghi Effendi as a Disciple of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, was in the Holy Land. Mirza Badi'u'llah asked her to teach him English. Lua very happily agreed, thinking that by coming in contact with him, she would become the recipient of knowledge, spirituality and divine virtues. But very soon, after the first two lessons, she realized her great mistake in this undertaking. She found him devoid of spiritual qualities and knowledge of the Faith and felt the influence of his dishonesty and treacherous nature. Knowing that if he learned English he could poison the minds of the Western believers, she refused to continue teaching him and told him, in no uncertain terms, to abandon the plan altogether.
The 'Epistle of Repentance', which was addressed to the people of Baha, was translated from Persian into English and printed and published in both languages. The original manuscript bears Mirza Badi'u'llah's signature and seal. In this document he reveals, among other things, some of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's ignoble works, including the interpolation of the writings carried out immediately after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh. The following is a summary translation of his account of this episode:
During His last illness, Bahá'u'lláh directed 'Abdu'l-Bahá to place
His papers and Tablets in two special large cases... These were
entrusted by Him to 'Abdu'l-Bahá... When the time came to wash
the sacred body of Bahá'u'lláh, they brought water into the room.
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali said to 'Abdu'l-Bahá that since water would
be poured around the room, it would be better to remove the two
cases to another room so that they would not get wet. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
assented and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali asked Majdu'd-Din to move
them to my room. This was done and the cases were placed in a
special cabinet and locked.
Three days after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali
asked me to give him the keys so that he might open the
cases. He said: 'Bahá'u'lláh has placed a certain document in these
cases which needs to be studied.' He took the keys from me. The
next thing I noticed was that with the help of Majdu'd-Din, 'Ali
Rida,[*] his sister, and the mother of Shu'a'u'llah the cases were
taken out of the window onto the balcony of the mansion and from
there into the room of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. He took out all the
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh which were addressed to individual believers.
When I protested at his action, he explained, among other
things, that the responsibility of the protection of the holy writings
had been given to him by Bahá'u'lláh and that he had a Tablet to
this effect. However, he did not show me any such Tablet... He
also indicated to me in a subtle way that the Most Great Branch
was against the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and if these holy writings were
to fall into His hands, He would destroy them and would obliterate
the name and every trace of the Blessed Beauty from this world!
[* A son of Aqay-i-Kalim, i.e. Majdu'd-Din's brother.]
Another violation by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was the interpolation
of the holy writings. For a long time ... he used to say that he
possessed a Tablet from the Supreme Pen concerning the person
of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and that if he were to publish it, the credibility of
'Abdu'l-Bahá would be finished and His name effaced forever. He
spoke of this on numerous occasions to members of the family. Some
time elapsed, during which a few individuals questioned me
concerning the Tablet in question. I, therefore, asked Mirza Muhammad-'Ali
to show it to us but every time I mentioned it to him, he
offered me an excuse and sought a pretext to avoid it. Then one
day he took out of the case a blessed Tablet which was revealed before
Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the Most Great Prison and gave it
to me to read. In it Bahá'u'lláh condemns the iniquities and wicked
deeds perpetrated by His brother Mirza Yahya, whom He addresses
as 'My brother'. I said to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that this Tablet
had no relevance to the present situation. He said: 'I have permission
from Bahá'u'lláh to use my pen and interpolate His writings for
the protection of the Cause. Now since some individuals have
exaggerated the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Master claims to
be the embodiment of divinity, I will erase the words "My brother"
and insert in its place "My Greatest Branch". This I will show to
some people in order to check His influence.'
...Alter a few minutes, he carried out this interpolation in front
of my eyes. Successfully, he changed the words 'My brother' to 'My
Greatest Branch'. I pointed out to him that this action amounted
to the betrayal of God's trust and constituted a sin. I warned him
that if he showed the Tablet in this form to anyone, I would divulge
the whole event and report the act of interpolation... On hearing
these words he became disturbed and promised that he would not
show the Tablet to anyone. He also requested me not to reveal the
In his 'Epistle of Repentance' Mirza Badi'u'llah discloses further interpolations of the holy Tablets. He states that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali interpolated all other Tablets which were addressed to the Babis who had rebelled against Bahá'u'lláh, replacing Mirza Yahya's name with that of the Most Great Branch.
Mirza Badi'u'llah's repentance was short-lived. It did not take him long to realize that there was no room for leadership in the Bahá'í community for him, especially as in those days 'Abdu'l-Bahá chose to talk at great length about the glorious future of the Faith under the leadership of the Universal House of Justice. Mirza Badi'u'llah did not attend the friends' meetings for some time, established secret links with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and eventually rejoined him and resumed his nefarious activities against the Centre of the Covenant. During the time that he was with the steadfast believers he created great tension within the community and it brought the friends a sense of relief when he left them and rejoined the ignoble band of Covenant-beakers. This matter is referred to by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the following passage of the Will and Testament:
40-WT Gracious God! After Mirza Badi'u'llah had declared in
his own handwriting that this man (Muhammad 'Ali) had broken
the Covenant and had proclaimed his falsification of the Holy
Text, he realized that to return to the True Faith and pay allegiance
to the Covenant and Testament would in no wise promote
his selfish desires. He thus repented and regretted the thing he
had done and attempted privily to gather in his printed confessions,
plotted darkly with the Centre of Sedition against me. and
informed him daily of all the happenings within my household.
He has even taken a leading part in the mischievous deeds that
have of late been committed. Praise be to God affairs recovered
their former stability and the loved ones obtained partial peace.
But ever since the day he entered again into our midst, he began
afresh to sow the seeds of sore sedition. Some of his machinations
and intrigues will be recorded in a separate leafiet.
It is interesting to note that Bahá'u'lláh had revealed a special Tablet addressed to His son Badi'u'llah. Had he followed the exhortations of His father in that celebrated Tablet, he could have become a brilliant light in the firmament of the Cause but his close association with the Arch-breaker of the Covenant extinguished the light of faith in his heart. The following is the text of the Tablet by Bahá'u'lláh:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy
of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and
friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich,
an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of
thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgement, and guarded in thy speech.
Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a
lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea
for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender
of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness
distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the
suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind,
and a guiding light unto e feet of the erring. Be an ornament to
the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar
of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of
mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the
horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on
the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on
the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy
generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.
[180 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 285.]
This Tablet begins with 'O Badi'' and ends with a passage (not yet translated into English) in which Bahá'u'lláh prays that God may protect Mirza Badi'u'llah from the all-consuming fire of envy and jealousy. However, through his violation of the Covenant, Bahá'u'lláh's prayer for him remained unfulfilled.
Returning to the activities of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, it is a well-known fact that he had also interpolated the writings of Bahá'u'lláh during His ministry. This may be regarded as his most successful act of interfering with the holy writings because the passage he altered was printed and published in a book whereas the other interpolations were made to Tablets that remain unpublished. The story behind this disloyal act is as follows. Since Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was highly skilled in the art of calligraphy, Bahá'u'lláh sent him from 'Akka on a mission to India to help print a few books including the Kitab-i-Aqdas and a selected compilation of His writings. This compilation, known as the Kitab-i-Mubin, contains some of His most important Tablets, including the Suriy-i-Haykal.[*] The book was printed in the handwriting of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali by the printing firm of Nasiri, which was part of a business organization established in Bombay by a few members of the Afnan family. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali took advantage of this opportunity and betrayed Bahá'u'lláh by changing an important passage in this book. The passage refers to the one who will come after Bahá'u'lláh. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali considered this passage to allude to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and therefore he deleted all reference to Him and substituted it with a few words of his own. Of course this treacherous act of interpolation was soon exposed by comparing the passage with the authentic writings of Bahá'u'lláh.
[* See Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3]