Decreeing the Death of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
6-WT What deviation can be more grievous than decreeing the
death of the Centre of the Covenant, supported by the holy verse:
— 'He that layeth a claim ere the passing of a thousand years ...,'
whilst he (Muhammad 'Ali) without shame in the days of the
Blessed Beauty had advanced such a claim as this and been
confuted by Him in the aforementioned manner, the text of his
claim being still extant in his own handwriting and bearing
his own seal.
This passage in the Will and Testament concerns the secret plans of the Covenant-breakers to take 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life. For several years they had tried everything to discredit the Master but the more they intensified their campaign of opposition against Him, the greater was the progress of the Cause and the more desperate they became. Like Mirza Yahya, who found himself unable to withstand the power of Bahá'u'lláh and resorted to poisoning Him, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali tried different means by which to bring about 'Abdu'l-Bahá's death. One of his men, on two different occasions, placed poison in a jug of His drinking water. This was discovered in time. On another occasion one of the Covenant-breakers carried a dagger hidden under his clothes with the intention of taking 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life but he did not succeed in his attempt. Later both men regretted their actions. 'Abdu'l-Bahá forgave one and turned a blind eye to the other. These two later left the Holy Land and went to Tihran.
Before incarceration was imposed on Him, 'Abdu'l-Bahá used to frequent the city of Haifa to supervise the building work on the Shrine of the Bab. He used to meet the believers in the evenings and often late in the night He would proceed to His residence. Always, against His wishes, some believer concerned for His protection would walk a few yards behind Him. Late one night a gunman hired by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali fired three shots at the Master, all of which failed to hit Him. The believer who was walking behind rushed forward and the gunman ran away. 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not show the slightest sign of perturbation at this incident and kept on walking, as always, with great dignity and majesty. In this connection the following words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá concerning the sufferings which Mirza Muhammad-'Ali inflicted upon Him take on added meaning:
5-WT [Mirza Muhammad-'Ali] hath with bitter rancour endeavoured
to hurt 'Abdu'l-Bahá and hath assailed with the utmost
enmity this servant of the Sacred Threshold. Every dart he seized
and hurled to pierce the breast of this wronged servant, no
wound did he neglect to grievously inflict upon me, no venom
did he spare but he poisoned therewith the life of this hapless
one. I swear by the most holy Abha Beauty and by the Light
shining from His Holiness, the Exalted One (may my soul be
a sacrifice for Their lowly servants), that because of this iniquity
the dwellers in the Pavilion of the Abha Kingdom have
bewailed, the Celestial Concourse is lamenting, the Immortal
Maids of Heaven in the All-Highest Paradise have raised their
plaintive cries and the angelic company sighed and uttered
In another passage of the Will and Testament 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
48-WT O ye the true, the sincere, the faithful friends of this
wronged one! Everyone knoweth and believeth what calamities
and afflictions have befallen this wronged one, this prisoner, at
the hands of those who have broken the Covenant at the time
when, after the setting of the Day-Star of the world, his heart was
consumed with the flame of His bereavement.
In order to legitimize their plans for taking 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life, the Covenant-breakers needed to fabricate a reason that would warrant His death and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was well qualified in this regard. As previously outlined, false accusations had been made against the Master to the effect that He claimed to be a Manifestation of God and that He regarded the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh to be His forerunners. All these calumnies were widely spread among the Covenant-breakers who justified the death of 'Abdu'l-Bahá based on the following passage of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, in which Bahá'u'lláh regards anyone who claims a revelation from God as an imposter:
Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the
expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying
imposter: We pray God that He may graciously assist him to retract
and repudiate such claim. Should he repent, God will, no doubt,
forgive him. If, however, he persisteth in his error, God will,
assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him.
Terrible, indeed, is God in punishing!
[195 Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, para. 37.]
The phrase to 'deal mercilessly with him' was interpreted by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali as a decree for taking the life of the imposter. How wicked to calumniate 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the embodiment of servitude, by saying that He claimed the station of the Manifestation of God for Himself! It was common knowledge that in Adrianople Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had declared himself to be a partner with Bahá'u'lláh in divine revelation, provoking Bahá'u'lláh's wrathful reaction[*] to passages in Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's writings in which he announced himself to be the source of divine revelation. It is to this that 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers in His Will and Testament:
[* See chapter 15]
...whilst he (Muhammad 'Ali) without shame in the days of the
Blessed Beauty had advanced such a claim as this and been confuted
by Him in the aforementioned manner, the text of his claim
being still extant in his own handwriting and bearing his own seal.
Attempts on the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá continued for some time. Towards the end of 1905 Shu'a'u'llah, the eldest son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, disclosed a clandestine plot by the Covenant-breakers to achieve their aim, to which 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers in this passage of the Will and Testament:
9-WT In like manner, the focal Centre of Hate, hath purposed
to put 'Abdu'l-Bahá to death and this is supported by the testimony
written by Mirza Shu'a'u'llah himself and is here enclosed.
It is evident and indisputable that they are privily and with the
utmost subtlety engaged in conspiring against me. The following
are his very words written by him in this letter: — 'I curse at every
moment him that hath kindled this discord, imprecate in these
words "Lord! have no mercy upon him" and I hope ere long God
will make manifest the one that shall have no pity on him, who
now weareth another garb and about whom I cannot any more
explain.' Reference he doth make by these words to the sacred
verse that beginneth as follows: — 'He that layeth a claim ere the
passing of a thousand years...' Reflect! How intent they are
upon the death of 'Abdu'l-Bahá! Ponder in your hearts upon the
phrase 'I cannot any more explain' and realize what schemes
they are devising for this purpose. They fear lest, too fully
explained, the. letter might fall into alien hands and their
schemes be foiled and frustrated. The phrase is only foretelling
good tidings to come, namely that regarding this all requisite
arrangements have been made.
As already stated, Shu'a'u'llah was sent to the United States to assist the notorious Covenant-breaker Khayru'llah and to counter the activities of the Bahá'í community. Soon after his arrival in that country, however, he found himself unable to carry out effectively the mission entrusted to him by his father. He travelled to various parts of the United States and tried in vain to create dissension among the believers. One of the activities he was involved in while there was a secret plot to take the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, to which he clearly refers in a letter, dated 27 November 1905, to Majdu'd-Din. Somehow this letter fell into the hands of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who attached such importance to it that He quoted these words of Shu'a'u'llah in His Will and Testament:
'I curse at every moment him ['Abdu'l-Bahá] that hath kindled this
discord, imprecate in these words "Lord! have no mercy upon him"
and I hope ere long God will make manifest the one that shall have
no pity on him, who now weareth another garb and about whom
I cannot any more explain.'
The phrase 'Lord! have no mercy upon him' is a reference to the passage in the Kitab-i-Aqdas quoted above: 'Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation ... God will, assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him.'
Apart from this reference to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the plot against His life, the rest of the letter mostly concerns material things. Shu'a'u'llah refers to his shortage of funds and describes the ways he has been living in different quarters of the United States since his arrival in the summer of 1904. He also mentions that when he meets the believers, he finds himself inadequate to deal with them in discussions. Shu'a'u'llah (Light of God), to whom the Master referred as the darkened soul, remained in the United States for several years. There he used to meet with some of the new believers and introduce himself as the grandson of Bahá'u'lláh but when the friends became aware of his violation of the Covenant, they left him to his own devices and shunned his company.
Shu'a'u'llah was in the United States when the Master visited that country. He tried to undermine the influence which 'Abdu'l-Bahá exerted on the hearts of people. On one occasion, introducing himself as a blood relation of Bahá'u'lláh, he succeeded in misleading a newspaper editor who wrote about him as deserving to inherit the station of the chosen ones of God. 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not pay any attention to this but when asked by a journalist to comment on His nephew's statement, He is reported to have told the story of Christ when He learned His brothers were coming to see Him. Christ has said, 'They are not my brethren but you are my brethren and kindred.' As Christ had not paid attention to His brothers, 'Abdu'l-Bahá continued, the same was true in this case. He then said, 'Notwithstanding, my house is open to all. People are free to come in or go out.' The words of the Master as recorded by the journalist were published in the newspaper.
At one point during the Master's visit to the United States, Shu'a'u'llah, encouraged by his father, wrote a letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and published its contents in a newspaper. In this letter, written in Arabic, he invited 'Abdu'l-Bahá to meet with him and Khayru'llah in Chicago or elsewhere to resolve the differences that had arisen in the Faith. He had the temerity to accuse 'Abdu'l-Bahá of having divided the Faith and suggested ten points to be discussed in the meeting — all based on the preposterous accusation that 'Abdu'l-Bahá claimed to be and was acting as a Manifestation of God. The Master did not deign to respond.
Soon after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá Shu'a'u'llah wrote another letter, on behalf of His father, addressed to the believers in the United States. In it, quoting the verses of the Kitab-i-'Ahd concerning the station of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, he announced him to be the successor to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. None of the friends was influenced by his appeal to turn to the one who was the Arch-breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.