Deviations of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali (4)
6-WI' What deviation can be more infamous than the vain and
feeble interpretations of the people of doubt!
'The people of doubt' may be understood to be a reference to the Covenant-breakers in the Holy Land and those who were misled by them. Engaged for years in opposing the Covenant, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, assisted by his evil-minded companions, continuously fabricated false stories to promote his plans to foment dissension within the Bahá'í community and create confusion and mistrust among the well-wishers of the Master. One may marvel at the Covenant-breakers' creativity, for every day they concocted and disseminated new falsehoods. While a detailed description of their propaganda lies beyond the scope of this book, a few misleading statements will be mentioned.
In the 'Infernal Letters' that he disseminated among the believers, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali maintained that contrary to the provisions of the Kitab-i-'Ahd, 'Abdu'l-Bahá should not be the sole Centre of authority in the community. He contended that the Aghsan, meaning the three half-brothers of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, should be involved in the decision-making process in all affairs of the Cause. The reason given was that 'Abdu'l-Bahá could not be trusted since He had allegedly claimed the station of the Divine Being for Himself — a preposterous allegation. At other times 'Abdu'l-Bahá was accused of claiming the station of a Manifestation of God. The Covenant-breakers levelled all these accusations, and many more, against the Master and publicized them far and wide.
In 1903 a bloody upheaval took place in the city of Yazd and its surrounding villages. Within a few days, a great number of believers were martyred, demonstrating to the public the intensity of their faith and proclaiming with their life-blood the truth of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. The scenes of their heroism and self-sacrifice are all recorded in detail in the annals of the Faith. The news of the martyrdom of so many devoted believers brought great sorrow to the heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates, knowing too well that these souls had laid down their lives in the path of Bahá'u'lláh, spread the news among the inhabitants of the Holy Land in general, and to
prominent citizens in particular, that the followers of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Yazd were all criminals and had therefore been put to death. Dr Yunis Khan recounts an interesting story which demonstrates the genius of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in the art of perverting the truth. The following is a summary translation of his words:
As the news of the sufferings of the Master reached the believers
in the West, it stirred them up and aroused the spirit of loving
devotion for Him in their hearts. Some believers decided to try to
relieve Him horn His sufferings. They wrote letters to 'Abdu'l-Bahá
and expressed their readiness to do anything in their power to
bring about His freedom. They sent letters to this effect signed by
a great many souls. Among those who wanted to take action were
Mme. Jackson and Hippolyte Dreyfus and two others who collected
a large sum of money with a view to journeying to Istanbul and
trying to secure 'Abdu'l-Bahá's release from incarceration[*] in the
Most Great Prison. In so doing they intended to give a considerable
sum as an award to Kazim Pasha, the Governor of Beirut, for
his assistance in this matter.
[* For further details of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's incarceration see chapter 20.]
As soon as this news reached the Master, He immediately put
a stop to it by sending a telegram and forbidding them to take such
action... One day 'Abdu'l-Bahá told me that His freedom from
incarceration was in the hands of God and that it was not permitted
for anyone to take action in this regard. As soon as He heard of
the plan to try to bring about His freedom, He sent a telegram to
Paris and stopped the intended plan. He then told me how the
Covenant-breakers exploited this action by the Master. They wrote
a letter to Kazim Pasha and told the whole story to him. They made
a false statement accusing 'Abdu'l-Bahá of harbouring animosity
towards the Pasha and maintained that because of this animosity,
'Abdu'l-Bahá had stopped His followers from sending him a large
sum of money (about thirty thousand liras) which he otherwise
would have received. It was because of this devilish misinformation
that the Pasha rose up in enmity against 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
[189 Yunis Khan, Khatirat-i-Nuh-i-Salih, pp. 309-10.]
Dr Khan further describes the machinations of the Covenant-breakers in casting doubts in the hearts of the people about the activities of the friends, as seen in the following summary translation:
When Mirza Badi'u'llah broke his repentance,[**] rejoined his brother,
and reunited with the rebellious and the deniers, all the
Covenant-breakers joined forces in order to arrest the onward progress of
the Faith. Mirza Shu'a'u'llah went to the United States to assist
Khayru'llah and to confront Mirza Abu'l-Fadl. Thus preparations
were made to embark upon a campaign of misrepresentation of
the Cause — a campaign in which all Covenant-breakers were to
take part including those in the Holy Land and abroad. Soon they
began to deny the indisputable facts connected with the progress
of the Faith. In those days, the believers in the East and the West
were highly excited about the unprecedented advance of the Faith.
The Covenant-breakers in their publications in the West stated that
there was no grain of truth concerning the progress of the Cause
in the East. Similarly, to the Bahá'ís of the East they emphatically
declared the statements about entry into the Faith by the Western
people to be untrue. They even publicly announced that there was
no truth in the news of the building of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in
'Ishqabad and that it was merely a propaganda campaign of the
[** See chapter 16]
They continued fabricating false statements for some time.
Eventually, there came a time when they saw the futility of their
efforts and these activities came to a halt... In the meantime some
of the Covenant-breakers in 'Akka repented and returned to the
community, others were disillusioned and became helpless and
began to wander around. In the year 1904 the Arch-breaker of the
Covenant, along with two or three of his close allies, crept into
the den of oblivion, and like unto a spider, made a web of vain
imaginings and feeble interpretations around himself, waiting for
some poor soul to be caught in his net, to be indoctrinated and led
astray... For about two years they remained inactive until the year
1906 , when they crept out of their abodes of heedlessness and
became active again with the arrival of the Commission of
[190 ibid. pp. 313-15. (Yunis Khan, Khatirat-i-Nuh-i-Salih.)]
As we shall see in the following pages, they soon became impotent and lost their cause altogether.
6-WT What deviation can be more wicked than joining hands
with strangers and with the enemies of God!
As we have already noted, in their struggle to achieve ascendancy over the Master, the Covenant-breakers did everything in their power to undermine the foundation of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. The basis on which they always acted was falsehood, a universal tool with which they manipulated every situation. They found sympathy among the enemies of the Cause who were longing to harm the Faith. Not satisfied with sowing the seeds of disunity among the Bahá'ís, not content with spreading falsehood among the inhabitants of 'Akka and the neighbouring lands, they took their tales of woe to foreign nationals who were antagonistic towards the Faith. Disguised as paupers, they claimed to have been treated cruelly by 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
One such person in whom the Covenant-breakers confided was Rosamond Dale Owen, the wife of Laurence Oliphant, the Victorian traveller and writer who lived for several years in the Holy Land. Mrs Oliphant, a staunch Christian committed to the defence of her religion, became alarmed at the progress of the Faith, as can be seen from her book My Perilous life in Palestine. Mirza Badi'u'llah deceitfully complained to her that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had usurped his rights and those of his brothers and that consequently he was in dire financial need. He and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali made other preposterous claims, all designed to discredit 'Abdu'l-Bahá. These brothers knew only too well that Mrs Oliphant was very unhappy about the growth of the Faith and its spread among Christians in the West; they hoped that their slanderous remarks about 'Abdu'l-Bahá might serve as ammunition in her opposition to the Faith and to the Master as its head. And this is exactly what happened.
The following few passages gleaned from Mrs Oliphant's book show the extent to which the calumnies and falsehoods that Mirza Badi'u'llah had uttered played into the hands of its author, who used them to discredit the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh:
He [Mirza Badi'u'llah] was a political prisoner in St Jean d'Acre
for a number of years, and I found that he and his family of seven
persons were about to starve...
Abbas Effendi and his family live comfortably, whereas Bedi-Allah
[sic] and his family would almost have starved had I not come
to the rescue...
I understand that Mohammed Ali [sic] the second son, is as
great a sufferer, having been saved from extreme poverty only by
the exertions of some relatives in America...
If the numerous Christian followers of Abbas Effendi, in England
and America, consider this a noble course of action, their
ideas of brotherly love, must be, so it seems to me, somewhat
I understand that there are at least three million Christians who
are followers and admirers of Abbas Effendi. This scarcely seems
possible, but if it be true, then it is for these people to determine
whether a man of the character of Abbas Effendi, letting his
brother almost starve while he lived comfortably, is fitted to teach
Christians a more Christ-like mode of life.
[191 Owen, My Perilous Life in Palestine, pp. 230-5.]
Much has happened since these uncomplimentary remarks were written about the Master. It is evident today that the darkness of falsehood has been vanquished by the light of truth. The Christ-like person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the perfect Exemplar of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and a stainless mirror reflecting His light, provided a noble example for men to follow in this Dispensation. These disparaging remarks about the Master, whose virtuous life of service to humanity has been acclaimed by friend and foe alike, would have brought great satisfaction to the Covenant-breakers, had it not been for the fact that by the time Mrs Oliphant's book was published they had become powerless and were on the verge of extinction.