Deviations of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali (5)
6-WT What deviation can be more complete than falsely
accusing the loved ones of God! What deviation can be more evil
than causing their imprisonment and incarceration! What
deviation can be more severe than delivering into the hands of
the government the Holy Writings and Epistles, that haply they
(the government) might arise intent upon the death of this
wronged one! What deviation can be more violent than threatening
the ruin of the Cause of God, forging and slanderously
falsifying letters and documents so that this might perturb and
alarm the government and lead to the shedding of the blood of
this wronged one, — such letters and documents being now in the
possession of the government!
Much has been said in foregoing pages about the machinations of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his shameful accusations against the Master and His loved ones. In his endeavour to discredit 'Abdu'l-Bahá he devised every kind of malicious plot, which brought much sorrow to the hearts of the believers. He spread untrue stories in the Bahá'í community and misrepresented the Faith to the local people in the Holy Land. These activities continued unabated until the year 1900, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá began to build the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Cannel. This undertaking played into the hands of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, who exploited it to the utmost and brought about 'Abdu'l-Bahá's greatest sufferings. The difficulties which 'Abdu'l-Bahá had endured since the passing of Bahá'u'lláh until the building work started pale into insignificance when compared with the pain inflicted on the Master by the Covenant-breakers after the start of the construction of the Shrine.
To appreciate the extent of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's machinations, a brief account of the circumstances surrounding the building of the Shrine of the Bab is helpful. In the early part of 1900 Haifa became the focal point of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's attention. He rented three houses there: one for Himself and for occasional visits by members of His family; another, a four-roomed house, for Eastern pilgrims, in which one room was set aside for the Master Himself, another for the office
of Haji Siyyid Taqiy-i-Manshadi,[*] and the other two for pilgrims; and a third house with four rooms, suitably furnished for the increasing number of Western pilgrims who had begun to visit 'Abdu'l-Bahá since late 1898. Before 1900 several pilgrims stayed in these houses but once 'Abdu'l-Bahá began to build the Shrine on Mount Carmel, He discouraged Bahá'ís from coming on pilgrimage and so the houses remained for the most part untenanted.
[* This believer served Bahá'u'lláh and the Master in the Holy Land for many years. See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 54]
Dr Yunis Khan describes the state of affairs in Haifa just after the turn of the century. The following is a summary translation from his fascinating memoirs:
The work of building the foundation of the Shrine of the Bab was
proceeding well. The Blessed Master used to come to Haifa
frequently to supervise the construction work. He would stay a few
days during which the Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís attained His
Certain changes had taken place during the three or four years
preceding the year 1900.
Mirza Aqa Jan ... had passed away.
Mirza Diya'u'llah, the vacillating son of Bahá'u'lláh ... had also
The room on the ground floor of the Mansion of Bahji which was
used by the believers had been taken over by the Covenant-breakers...
The Covenant-breakers had given up their earlier practice of
demanding payment of their expenses from the Master; consequently,
the hardships in His own household resulting from the
shortage of funds in previous years had somewhat eased. However,
from time to time, He would find some reason to send funds to His
The activities of the chief of police of 'Akka, Yahya Tabur Aqasi,
against the Cause of God, had produced the opposite effect. He
himself was dismissed from his post and later, when he became
destitute, he went to the Master and received help from Him.
During these past three years, groups of pilgrims from both the
East and the West visited regularly. The town of Haifa had become
a centre for the believers where meetings and festive gatherings
were often held, but in obedience to the advice of the Master, these
gatherings had become less frequent.
The Covenant-breakers began to create fresh trouble by causing
alarm among the mischievous elements of the population. They
misrepresented 'Abdu'l-Bahá's plans for the construction of the
mausoleum of the Bab.
[192 Yunis Khan, Khatirat-i-Nuh-i-Salih, pp. 45-7.]
The construction of the Shrine of the Bab was the greatest undertaking in the Bahá'í Faith during the opening years of the 20th century. This was a sacred task which, during the last years of His life, Bahá'u'lláh had specifically asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to accomplish. The purchase of the site for the Shrine took a long time, for under the influence of the Covenant-breakers the owner at first refused to sell. After many difficulties, when negotiations for the sale of the property were completed and ownership passed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, it became necessary to purchase another piece of land situated on the south side to provide access to the building site. At the instigation of the Covenant-breakers, the owner demanded an exorbitant price for this land and even when 'Abdu'l-Bahá offered to pay a very large sum for it the owner was determined not to sell. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was heard to make the following remarks concerning this episode:
Every stone of that building, every stone of the road leading to it,
I have with infinite tears and at tremendous cost, raised and placed
One night I was so hemmed in by My anxieties that I had no other
recourse than to recite and repeat over and over again a prayer
of the Bab which I had in My possession, the recital of which
greatly calmed Me. The next morning the owner of the plot
himself came to Me, apologized and begged Me to purchase the
[193 'Abdu'l-Bahá quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 275-6.]
As the building work on Mount Carmel proceeded the believers were overjoyed at the prospect of the interment of the remains of the Bab in that holy spot. But the Covenant-breakers, who were continually frustrated in their devious activities and forced to witness the ascendancy of the Covenant, particularly in the arrival of pilgrims from the West, were aroused to inflict yet another blow upon the Master.
In 1901 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the course of His talks with the believers, foretold the approach of some impending tribulation that would be caused by the Covenant-breakers. He is reported to have intimated to the friends that the Covenant-breakers would create great trouble
for Him but that they themselves would be the first to be trapped in the mesh of their own devices and that only later would He Himself become a target of their schemes. 'Abdu'l-Bahá often spoke in this vein to His companions during those days. He intimated to them that whereas He welcomed afflictions in the path of God, His brothers would be the ones who would suffer. The believers were concerned about such predictions and did not know what kind of problems would be created for the Master. Their only prayer was that God might intervene and avert any ordeal which might be in store for Him.
By August 1901 the building work on Mount Carmel had reached an advanced stage and 'Abdu'l-Bahá was visiting Haifa frequently when suddenly a great upheaval occurred in 'Akka. On 20 August the believers celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab (according to the lunar calendar) at the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji. On His return to 'Akka 'Abdu'l-Bahá was informed that His brothers had been escorted by soldiers from Bahji and brought to 'Akka in great humiliation. Majdu'd-Din[*] had also been brought from Tiberias. The Master immediately went to the authorities to enquire about the reason for their arrest. It was then that the governor informed 'Abdu'l-Bahá of an order from the Sultan that He and His brothers were to be confined within the walls of the city of 'Akka and that the same restrictions previously imposed upon Bahá'u'lláh and His companions in the Most Great Prison were to be re-introduced. Furthermore, none of the believers were to be allowed to leave the city and all their activities were to be monitored by the authorities.
[* See chapter 13.]
Although in the early days of Bahá'u'lláh's arrival in 'Akka such restrictions were enforceable, now, after so many years, when the Master was loved and adored by the people, it was impossible to enforce this edict fully. Indeed, the governor himself, who was a great admirer of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, was so embarrassed by the order that he delayed its implementation for some time.
This re-incarceration was the direct result of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's misrepresentations to Nazim Pasha, the governor of the province of Syria. The circumstances of this episode are described by Mirza Badi'u'llah in his 'Epistle of Repentance',[**] written a few years after this incident. He states that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali sent Mirza Majdu'd-Din to Damascus to present a petition to the governor complaining about the activities of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The main purpose of this treacherous act was to alarm the authorities by misrepresenting the purpose of the building on Mount Carmel as a fortress designed
to raise rebellion and by informing them of large gatherings in 'Akka and the comings and goings of Americans, whom he described as military advisers!
[** See chapter 16]
It is known that Majdu'd-Din took expensive gifts to the governor as a bribe and asked his help in bringing about 'Abdu'l-Bahá's deportation. Indeed, at other times and in the course of their several appeals to the government authorities in Syria, the Covenant-breakers had to raise large sums of money to bribe various officials. Having used up the entire estate of Mirza Aqa Jan for this purpose, they sold a one-third share of the Mansion of Bahji for 1200 liras to Yahya Tabur Aqasi, the chief of police in 'Akka and an inveterate enemy of the Faith, and spent the whole sum in bribes to officials.
Majdu'd-Din arrived back from his mission to Damascus in a jubilant mood, having secured the governor's promise of aid. But events now took a different turn. Upon receiving the governor's report, Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid became alarmed and ordered that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His brothers and His followers be re-incarcerated. Consequently to the surprise of Majdu'd-Din, his plans misfired and he himself, as well as his chief, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, together with Mirza Badi'u'llah, were incarcerated in the city of 'Akka by the order of the Sultan. The prophecy of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was fulfilled: His brothers were the first to fall into their own trap.
The Master, as always, submitted Himself to the cruelties inflicted upon Him by His enemies. He accepted the new restrictions in a spirit of radiant acquiescence. The greatest deprivation for Him was His separation from the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, which He could not visit during this time. He was also cut off from the building work on Mount Carmel, although He made arrangements for it to continue. For about seven years while this incarceration was in force 'Abdu'l-Bahá continued to direct the affairs of the Bahá'í world in both the East and the West through the outpouring of His voluminous writings. As the years went by, more pilgrims and visitors were received in His rented house adjacent to the barracks, known as the house of 'Abdu'llah Pasha. On the upper storey of this house He built a small wooden cabin in which He could pray turning in the direction of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh.
As for His brothers, upon being brought to 'Akka where they were ordered to live, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali wrote two letters, one after the other, to the governor of Damascus (whom he had already bribed) desperately seeking assistance for his own release. But his letters were left unanswered. However, 'Abdu'l-Bahá met the civil and military authorities and interceded for the release of His brothers, saying that they were not able to endure such restrictions, and they were released. He also secured freedom for the other believers, who were allowed to resume the occupations in which they had been previously engaged,
but He assured the authorities that He Himself would remain within the walls of the city.
The cause of the restrictions, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, at first flatly denied having had any communication with the governor of Damascus, as did Majdu'd-Din. They both alleged that the edict of the Sultan for re-incarceration had been issued as a result of the publication of a book by Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, the great Bahá'í scholar, but the truth soon surfaced. In his memoirs Haji 'Ali Yazdi has described the circumstances which exposed the treachery of Majdu'd-Din and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. According to Haji 'Ali, Majdu'd-Din had delivered two petitions personally, one to Nazim Pasha and the other to Fariq Pasha, a high-ranking military officer friendly to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The second petition was presented in response to a question raised by Fariq Pasha, who wanted to know the nature of the disagreements between 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His brothers.
Fariq Pasha considered 'Abdu'l-Bahá to be possessed of super-human powers exclusive to the Prophet of God, as illustrated by the following summarized translation of the story by Dr Yunis Khan:
Sometime before the year 1900, there was a war between the
Ottomans and the Greeks. Fariq Pasha, a general in the army, was
ordered to take part in the battle. Because of his heartfelt belief
in the powers of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he asked Him to write a prayer for
him to take with him for his protection. The Master wrote a few
lines, sealed it and gave it to him to wear on his arm but told him
not to open it. He left the Master and went quite happily to the
battlefield. At the end of the war he returned victorious, and in a
spirit of humility and servitude, went straight to the presence of
'Abdu'l-Bahá, where he expressed his gratitude to Him. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
asked him if he had ever opened the prayer, and when he
answered in the negative, He asked him to open and read it. Upon
reading it, Fariq Pasha's belief in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's superhuman
powers was further strengthened when he discovered that 'Abdu'l-Bahá
had briefly foretold the events of the war and the highlights
of his personal circumstances.
[194 Yunis Khan, Khatirat-i-Nuh-i-Salih, pp. 174-5.]
Returning to the story of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's petition to the governor of Syria, Haji 'Ali Yazdi further describes that in order to confuse the issue for Fariq Pasha, who was a Sunni Muslim, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and Majdu'd-Din forged a document, which they attributed to Bahá'u'lláh, and sent it along with their petition. In this document they composed, in the name of Bahá'u'lláh, certain complimentary passages in praise of 'Umar, the second Caliph of Sunni Islam. In so doing, they made it seem that Bahá'u'lláh was a follower of Sunni Islam. The other document which they sent to the Pasha
contained parts of the Lawh-i-Hizar Bayti (Tablet of One Thousand Verses)[*] in which 'Abdu'l-Bahá condemned 'Umar in strong terms. In their petition they then alleged that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was inciting His followers to arise in enmity against the Sunnis, whereas the rest of Bahá'u'lláh's family were admirers of 'Umar and the Sunni community!
[* See chapter 4]
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and Majdu'd-Din continued to deny having sent any petition to Damascus until Fariq Pasha at last sent it to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who, upon receiving it, sent it to the mother of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali so that she could see the treachery of her offspring and son-in-law.
These preposterous activities opened the eyes of some of the Covenant-breakers, who had previously been duped into believing that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was a true follower of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. These simple-hearted men, who had been for so long deceived by the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, went to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, expressed remorse for their folly and were bountifully forgiven by Him.
As we look back upon these events, we can only be amazed at the craftiness of such a two-faced hypocrite who, on the one hand, professed to his misguided followers the divine origin of the Revelation of his Father, thereby posing as a holy and truthful person worthy to be emulated by all, and on the other, shamelessly announced that both he and Bahá'u'lláh were followers of Sunni Islam. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali knew only too well that Bahá'u'lláh had clearly taught His followers that 'Umar, the second Caliph of Sunni Islam, had broken the unwritten Covenant of Muhammad and unlawfully usurped the successorship of the Prophet from Imam 'Ali. He also knew that the holy Imams of the Shi'ah sect of Islam, whose stations Bahá'u'lláh has extolled in His writings, were the true successors of the Prophet. Despite this, there were no limits to which Mirza Muhammad-'Ali would not go in order to destroy 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He was a master in the art of falsification and continued in this vein for years, spreading falsehood and calumnies against the Centre of the Covenant.
When it became public knowledge that the cause of the imposition of this new incarceration of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was Majdu'd-Din's petition, the Covenant-breakers became subdued and chastened for some time. However, once released from incarceration within the prison city, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates became content with their own freedom and jubilant that the Master, whom they hated so bitterly was confined within the walls of 'Akka. They considered this a victory and foolishly thought that the end of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His
leadership was in sight. Little did they know that light cannot be put out by darkness and that the power of God cannot be made ineffective through the opposition of ignoble men.
During the years of His confinement in the city of 'Akka, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was engaged in writing numerous Tablets either in His own handwriting or by dictation to His secretaries. Through these He continued to guide the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in their service to the Cause, urging them to remain steadfast in the Covenant and to diffuse the divine fragrances with wisdom and perseverance. Though restricted in His movements, the Master was now living in relative peace, directing the construction of the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel, while the emanations of His pen continued to enrapture the souls of the faithful, thus enabling them to scale loftier heights of service in His Cause.
Many significant achievements in the history of the Faith occurred during this time. In 1902, through 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instruction and guidance, the foundation stone was laid of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar[*] in 'Ishqabad, the first Bahá'í House of Worship in the world.
[*Literally, 'Dawning Place of the Mention of God'; a Bahá'í House of Worship.]
Another significant development during this period was the rise of a new spirit of dedication and steadfastness in the Bahá'í communities of both the East and the West. This spirit was intensified as a result of the upheaval in the summer of 1903 in Yazd and neighbouring villages, when a great many souls were martyred in the most moving circumstances, shedding through their amazing steadfastness and exemplary heroism an imperishable lustre upon the annals of the Faith.
In the Holy Land, while the Covenant-breakers were rejoicing that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had been made a prisoner, many members of the public were moved to sympathize with the Cause. The friendly governor of 'Akka made several attempts to persuade 'Abdu'l-Bahá not to confine Himself within the city walls but to go and visit other places outside 'Akka; however, the Master declined the suggestion. Eventually the governor asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to accompany him on a visit to the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. The Master granted his wish and together they left the city and went to Bahji. In order to further circumvent the strict edict of the Sultan, the governor arranged another visit and this time he invited other high-ranking officials to accompany him, including Fariq Pasha.
When the party arrived at Bahji, the Covenant-breakers witnessed the majestic figure of 'Abdu'l-Bahá walking at the front of the procession and the dignitaries walking behind Him as a mark of respect.
When Mirza Muhammad-'Ali saw the honour and reverence which the governor and other officials paid to the Master, he became very disheartened and his hopes that incarceration might diminish 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ascendancy were dashed.
As the year 1902 passed, 'Abdu'l-Bahá again permitted pilgrims from the East and West to come. All who attained the presence of the Master became magnetized by the spiritual forces He released and when they returned home they warmed the hearts of the friends through the fire of the divine love that the Master ignited in their hearts. Far from impeding the progress of the Faith during those perilous years, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's incarceration in the city of 'Akka with all the hardships it entailed, coincided with an upsurge in activity among the friends and the expansion of the community throughout the world.
Eye-witnesses have testified that during this agitated period in His life the Master, in His own hand, used to pen no less than 90 Tablets a day. The outpouring of these Tablets in such profusion was chiefly responsible for the expansion of the Faith and the exhilaration and upliftment of the believers everywhere.